Being brutally honest about books

Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Micro Reviews: July

In which I review the books I've finished reading this month in one sentence.
Covers link to Goodreads.

 

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Daughters of Time edited by
A short but shallow anthology about cool historical British women. 

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Last of the Amazons by


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The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan by



The Scarlet Pimpernel (The Scarlet Pimpernel #1) by


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Meditations by
I read this because it's referenced in Black Sails (no regrets! I feel wiser now) and I liked some of the messages but I struggled with the extremely old-fashioned language (thou hath doth, etc).

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Nights of Silk and Sapphire by

Saturday, 8 July 2017

The good, the bad, and the ugly: Last of the Amazons by Steven Pressfield

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Homer's style has gone out of fashion.

The good

  • The title - who wouldn't want to read Last of the Amazons?
  • It's about the Attic War, a lesser known Greek myth that's very similar to the Trojan War.
  • We know that the Amazons can't win against the Athenians, but it's still exciting and you want them to win.
  • The world building is pretty neat and I could picture the physical and cultural settings.
  • The Amazons seem to be polyamorous bisexual women who all live in triads, a cool and interesting concept, and mate with men once a year. I'm not marking this as LGBTQ characters though, because it's a very minor and brushed over part of the book.*

The bad

  • The characters should and do seem to believe in gods, plural, but but often speak about God, singular, which is confusing because are they pantheists or monotheists? Pantheists who focus on one god (Zeus?)? I'm still confused about this.
  • The songs and chants are kinda cool but definitely unnecessary.
  • Excessive repetition, especially of tribe names and character epithets and name meanings.
  • "Warrioresses". It sounds clumsy. What's wrong with calling them by their name: Amazons?

The ugly

  • The writing style mimics ancient epics, so it's very formal and old-fashioned and awkward all round. The sentence structure and word choice is strange and very difficult to understand. The endless (and pointless!) lists are very Homeric but very exhausting to read.
  • The structure is also very confusing as it's not linear and though it's written in the first person POV, it changes POVs (I often didn't know which character was talking) but I didn't realise these two things for ages.
  • The characters aren't fully developed so I had a hard time knowing who to like or not like.
  • Possible racism? At one point the Amazons paint themselves black and it's not really explained? Huh?
  • *Strangely, some Amazons slut shame and use homophobic language towards their enemies. Hypocrisy much?

The conclusion

The structure and writing style prevented me from enjoying this book and I just wanted to finish it so I could move on. I'm rounding up my rating from 2.5 stars because the concept and the title are so cool. However, I wouldn't recommend Last of the Amazons unless you're a huge fan of Homer's writing style.

The summary

In or around 1250 BC, so Plutarch tells us, Theseus, king of Athens and slayer of the Minotaur, set sail on a journey that brought him to the land of 'tal Kyrte', the 'Free People', a nation of fiercely proud and passionate warrior women whom the Greeks called 'Amazons'. Bound to each other as lovers as well as fighters and owing allegiance to no man, the Amazons distrusted the Greeks with their boastful talk of cities and civilization. And when their illustrious war queen Antiope fell in love with Theseus and fled to Athens with the king and his followers, so denying her people, the Amazon tribes were outraged. Seeking revenge, they raised a vast army and marched on Athens. History tells us they could not win, but for a brief and glorious moment the Amazons held the Attic world in thrall before vanishing into the immortal realms of myth and legend.

Add it on Goodreads

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Micro Reviews: June

In which I review the books I've finished reading this month in one sentence.
Covers link to Goodreads.

 

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All That is Lost Between Us by
 I really enjoyed this as a family drama, but it's not as psychologically thrilling as it promised.

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Rolling with the Punchlines by

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Far from Home by

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The Other Boleyn Girl by




Carolyn for Christmas by
The Further Adventures of Xena: Warrior Princess by various authors
 An expanded universe anthology in which all the stories rely too much on dialogue and not enough on showing instead of telling.

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Between Shades of Gray by
 Yet another WW2 book, and it didn't have the strongest plot line or climax in the world.

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Carmilla by



Storm Season by




Unknown Horizons (New Horizons #1) by


The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson and

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Review: Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

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Jamaica? No, she wanted to.

This is possibly the grittiest and most "literary" book I'll read this year. I mean it. It's the kind of book you study in high school and hate, but read on your own and love. It's one powerful piece of writing, and it reminded me of The Color Purple but even bleaker.

Here Comes the Sun is set in Jamaica in 1994. The basic plot is a queer, black woman (Margot) trying to build a better life for herself and her loved ones. This involves working for a posh, white hotel owner and prostituting herself.

It's a character-based novel written in the third person, present tense (my favourite) and switches POVs between Margot, her secret lover (Verdene), her sister (Thandi), and her mother (Delores). All four are very flawed and complex, and they feel real. I thought Thandi and Delores were interesting, but I was much more invested in Margot and Verdene's lives. They're opposites in some ways but similar in others, and their relationship is pretty complicated.

One interesting feature of this book is the dialogue, which is written phonetically/in the Jamaican dialect. This gives the setting and characters authenticity, but I struggled to understand a few of the words and phrases. I got the gist of what they were saying, though.

I enjoyed the writing style. The non-dialogue parts are quite sophisticated and flow well, and I could picture the setting in my head. It made me want to go to Jamaica and see what it's like for myself, the good and the bad.

I liked the idea that this island we think of as paradise is really not. The book deals with some horrible themes: poverty, racism, rape, homophobia, forced prostitution... It's not for the faint-hearted. But, as I said, it makes an interesting contrast with the island setting.

Remember I said this book is bleak? Yep. It doesn't have a happy ending. Margot achieves her goal of having money and owning her own big house, but she loses everyone. It's a warning to be careful what you wish for. I don't blame Margot for her ambition - she just wants to exit the cycle of poverty - but the way she goes about it is unethical and she betrays her family and her lover. The book ends on a bitter note.

Overall, I really enjoyed Here Comes the Sun. (Well, "enjoyed" is a bit strong for such a dark book...) If you're interested in reading about Jamaica or just want to read something that's not set in the UK/US/Australia, this might be worth a try. If you're looking for something gritty with queer women of colour as two of the main characters, I definitely recommend this one.

Summary

Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis-Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas.

At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman. As they face the impending destruction of their community, each woman—fighting to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves—must confront long-hidden scars.

Add it on Goodreads

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Micro Reviews: May Edition

In which I review the books I've finished reading this month in one sentence.
Covers link to Goodreads.


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The Mammoth Book of Extreme Science Fiction edited by

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Radio Girls by  
A fantastic, vivid historical fiction with important themes, lots of sass, and superb character growth from the protagonist.

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The Seafarer's Kiss by
and it felt like a dystopian set in a historical/mythological setting.

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Shaken to the Core by

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The Gustav Sonata by
 An interesting, well-written, and grim (no-one in it can be called happy) character-based novel set in Switzerland.

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The Sappho Companion by

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Heart Trouble by
I enjoyed this interesting (and hot) f/f medical paranormal(?) romance although the soulmates trope came through a little too heavy (even though that word wasn't mentioned once).

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Queens of Geek by


Here Comes the Sun by

I'm Alexandria, a 19-year-old reader/writer/blogger from New Zealand. I love language, history, and sci-fi. Hi! I'm always around if you want to talk, which you can do via comments, the contact form, or Facebook.

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