rynet_ii: A deoxys (alien-like pokemon) with a neutral expression. (I'm totally an alien u guise)

The City and the City by China Miéville


Murder mystery set in a very unusual pair of city states which are physically located in the exact same location, but the citizens of either city are trained from birth to "unsee" and "unsense" the presence of the other city and can only cross over under approved circumstances, lest they risk the wrath of a force known as Breach. The story starts with Inspector Tyador Borlú investigating the murder of a mysterious young woman found in the city of Besźel; over the course of the book he discovers the woman was involved in the conflict between Besźel and Ul Qoma and was quietly investigating the nature of Breach and of the rumored "third city," Orciny. Borlú thus has to piece together the woman's identity and just what she'd been involved in, while being mindful not to break the rules of Breach.

Spoilers. )

Pandemonium by Chris Wooding

You know those rejected cartoon pilots you sometimes see on youtube? The ones that were made to show off the concept for a new series and are still a little rough in the writing and art department but have enough potential and heart in them that you kind of feel sad about how it'll probably never get the chance to be polished up a bit and turned into a proper series? Pandemonium is kind of the comic book equivalent of that- it's very clearly the Volume One of a story but as I found out once I looked it up, there was never a volume two because the publisher doesn't want one. Which is slightly frustrating.

Anyway, the actual story itself is basically "The Prisoner of Zenda with cute anime-esque demon people." Our protagonist is a teenage boy named Seifer Tombchewer who lives in a tiny village in the mountains on the edge of the Darkling realm and dreams of More Out There. He gets his wish via a bunch of tiny minions knocking him out and abducting him to the palace, where he is forced to pretend to be the missing Prince Talon Pandemonium in order to thwart Clan Pandemonium's enemies. Naturally, although Seifer is initially disinterested, he turns out to have a knack for the role and is generally a nicer guy than the original Talon, earning him the loyalties of several people.

There's lots of goofy humor and I found the art a bit stiff in places, but it's a pretty cute comic overall, enough that I am genuinely disappointed it most likely won't get continued.

Art example. )

Flight Volume 1, edited/collected by Kazu Kibuishi

Anthology of various short comics all at least vaguely based around the theme of "flight." The stories/art range from cute, brooding, mechanically focused, to kind of incomprehensible. More "art" focused than... narrative focused, I guess? "Outside My Window" was probably my favorite of the lot.

Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi

In this volume Emily and the gang mostly gather their resources, and we get a bunch of info on our new antagonist, Max Griffin, as well as on the amulet and on Prince Trellis.

Thoughts:
rynet_ii: A deoxys (alien-like pokemon) with a neutral expression. (Default)
Karl Marx's Interpretation of History by M.M. Bober

One of the things I've noticed about the books I've been reading in my library's history section, especially the older ones, is that they generally do not have the pseudo-impartial, no-usage-of-the-first-person style I've come to expect in academic writing from wikipedia and high school English class. Instead, the authors will talk about the time period they currently live in, their opinions on other historians and philosophers and philosophies-of-history, and their personal opinions on the long dead people they talk about, which tends to make me feel less like I am reading Absolute Facts and more like I'm personally having... not a conversation with these authors, since I can't exactly comment back, but it's more akin to sitting down with them after dinner somewhere and politely listening while they infodump at me about their research. It's a bit exasperating sometimes and amusing at others, but I think I actually appreciate it in some ways over more impersonal academic writing. And I've gotten into the habit of googling the names of these authors, trying to find information on them which helps put their writing into further context.

Which brings me to this book, which was a bit of a departure from that- the first 3/4 or so of the book were mostly an impartial summarizing of many, many, many aspects of Marxism, though with the occasional bit of "this theory is flawed because X" criticism or "Marx and Engels were very vague on this point"- but it isn't until the last quarter of the book that Bober sits down and starts chewing out all the various flaws he sees in Marxist theory, particularly Marx's, er, interpretation of history.

About Bober himself I was able to find out about Bober himself is that 1) His full name is Mandell Morton Bober, 2) He is/was a scholar at Harvard University, 3) He seems to identify as a conservative, 4) He states that after the publication of the first edition of the book he received a lot of "abusive letters" from Marxists, and seems to consider Marxists overly worshipful of the guy, and 5) The second edition (the one I read) was probably being written during the mid 1940s, while the Great Depression was still weighing on people's minds. Meanwhile, I can't find any information on him through google beyond that he wrote this book, which was a bit of a surprise after being able to find wikipedia articles on authors I thought would be too obscure for people to bother with.

Anyway, this probably does not tell you much about the book itself, so I'm just going to copy+paste what I wrote on goodreads about it:

I found the book a bit tedious to get through, though I believe a lot of that had more to do with my general lack of background knowledge and interest in the subject, rather than any lack of quality on the book's part. When I did understand what the author was saying, I found the book very informative; there are a lot of little citations and it's very clear that the author knew what he was talking about and had put a lot of work into this.

The first few sections of the book mostly go into various aspects of Marx's theories, going over them and explaining them, dissecting bits of Marx and Engel's writings from over the year and trying to unify them into clear theories where possible. While bits of criticism get through, the first parts are mostly neutral. It isn't until the last section that the author really starts breaking down Marx's theories and pointing out why he doesn't agree with a lot of them; though the author considers Marx very intelligent and groundbreaking in terms of economical and philosophical theory, he considers various things Marx wrote to be demonstrably wrong, and that Marx's basis of economics as the only explanation for various social phenomena to basically be forcing a square peg through a round hole.

tl;dr: A bit long-winded, but informative.

The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi

The fourth volume in Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series, which I'm now giving its own tag. It took me a while to get my hands on this one- it was always checked out whenever I tried to look for it. I was really pleased to find it though, enough that I immediately snatched it up in spite of it being a busy day for me and having a backlog of other books I need to go through. I'd say it was worth the wait- in fact, I think this particular volume is in some ways stronger than the previous two were.

Anyway, in the last volume Emily and the gang had found the way to Cielis, where they were planning on meeting up with the Council of Cielis, a group of  Old And Important stonekeepers, to ask for their help in taking down the Elf King. They met a Council-hopeful named Max Griffin, a stonekeeper who I think is around Emily's age- but god knows, since I've missed things like Trellis being a Literal Teenager before- and a couple of mostly unimportant guards. Everyone got on a ship and they were headed for Cielis. This volume opens up with them on the ship, and Emily having a dream conversation with her stone, just before they arrive at Cielis.

Upon arrival, Luger and Trellis are dumped into a prison, the Hayes family brought to Council headquarters where Max and the others are insistent that Emily will undergo a dangerous trial to try and join the Council, and the furry brigade are told to just enjoy Cielis, whatever. Unfortunately, not only are the Elven duo imprisoned, but Emily- and Leon/Enzo/Enzo's Pal I Forgot The Name Of- discover that something is deeply, deeply wrong with the city of Cielis and the Council. Meanwhile, Miskit and Cogsley are rescued from a wyvern's nest by a stonekeeper named Vigo, who turns out to have a connection with their creator, Silas.

And here I'm going to copy paste my rambling/speculations from my tumblr.


The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater


First book in a series called The Raven Chronicles which I decided to pick up after seeing a tumblr post from the author (spoilers spoilers spoilers) about Which Disney Characters The Five Main Characters Would Be and decided I was intrigued. 

The story starts with a sixteen year old teenage girl called Blue Sargent, who lives in a house with her psychic aunt and various other psychic ladies who are like aunts and cousins and friends of her mother. Blue herself is not psychic but has the weird ability to amplify other people's psychic powers and is pretty much a giant rechargeable battery for psychic energy stuff. Blue also has the slight issue where every psychic she's met ever has pretty much taken one look at her and gone "You're going to kill your true love when you kiss him." Blue plans on dealing with that by not falling in love, ever.

Unfortunately for Blue's best laid plans, she's off on Saint Mark's Eve helping her Aunt Neeve do Psychic Errands by figuring out who's going to die soon based on who Aunt Neeve spots on the Corpse Road, when she encounters the ghost of a boy called Gansey. Neeve concludes if Blue is seeing him then that means she's destined to either A) Kill him or B) He's her true love, and in any case since he's there he's probably going to be dead within a year.

Gansey, as it turns out, is a boy at the local Rich Boy's Private School known as Aglionby, whose primary passion in life is the paranormal and tracking down a mythical Welsh king known as Glendower, who he's pretty sure is somewhere in the area. Gansey is accompanied by his friends Adam, overworked scholarship student with intense baggage thanks to his shitty abusive family and his need To Prove Himself, Ronan, walking attitude problem with Dead Dad Issues, and Noah, who is very quiet.

Gansey's quest to find Glendower and research into the local ley lines leads to him eventually crossing paths with Blue and her family- okay, his quest and the fact that he and his posse sometimes eat at the diner where Blue works- and things steadily become more and more worrying. Especially because a teacher at Aglionby- the unfortunately named Barrington Whelk- is also very interested in the ley line, and he happens to be a giant pissbaby.

Entertaining, and made me a bit nostalgic in an odd way since the random paranormal elements and things like the heroine whose specialness derives from her lack of specialness reminds me of the sort of stuff I tried writing as a teenager. (Which... probably sounds like an insult but was not intended as such. The writer is good at what she does.)

Spoilers. )
rynet_ii: A deoxys (alien-like pokemon) with a neutral expression. (Default)
The Martian by Andy Weir

Having really enjoyed the movie I thought I'd try reading the original book; turns out the movie matches the book pretty closely although the book has Watney go through a couple of other disasters I'm pretty sure didn't make it into the movie (Watney accidentally turning the Hab into a giant hydrogen bomb, the Rover flipping over during his journey to the MAV), and there were a few details that were changed. But again, the bulk of the story is the same "smartass astronaut tries to survive on Mars while NASA tries their damnedest to save his life" storyline. Lots more detail on Watney's resource management. I think I actually enjoyed the movie a bit more but I did enjoy the book itself.

The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi

In this third volume of The Amulet series, the next stop on the crew's journey is the lost city of Cielis, said to once be home to a guardian council of Stonekeepers before the Elf King invaded. Cielis is said to be in the sky, so the crew expands as they charter an airship and hire a feline captain and his first mate. The characters must deal with the perils of storms and wyverns and an assassin hired by the Elf King with the ability to erase people's memories.

Spoilers and speculation. )
rynet_ii: A deoxys (alien-like pokemon) with a neutral expression. (Default)
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Psuedo-fairytale kid's novel about an unusual mouse who lives in a castle and prefers reading books to chewing them, a dungeon rat with a fascination for light, a servant girl with a history of being abused, and a beloved princess named Pea. The desires and backstories of the characters all entwine, leading them through the opposing worlds of the glittering castle and the horrific maze-like dungeon below. The narration (which frequently features the author directly addressing the leader) will probably seem either cloying or charming depending on who you ask. I mostly enjoyed it though, although I was kind of "Hmmm" about the way the story treated Mig and Roscuro.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Autobiographical comic book detailing Raina Telgemeier's four years at the end of middle school and the beginning of high school. I think this used to be a webcomic before Raina Telgemeier got a publishing deal?

The story starts with her horrifically damaging her front teeth and the next four years deal with her basically having to have her entire jaw reconstructed in procedure after procedure, while dealing with the usual tweenage woes of body image issues, crushes, and toxic friendships. Also a bit of a "period piece" as we get to read about Raina seeing The Little Mermaid in theaters for the first time and living through the 1989 San Francisco Earthquake. Pretty cute overall. The art style reminds me vaguely of the For Better or For Worse comics.



Mary Coin by Marisa Silver

Novel based on Dorothea Lange's famous "Migrant Mother" photograph. In this story Dorothea Lange is replaced by a woman named Vera Dare, and Florence Owen Thompson becomes Mary Coin, while the author adds in a third character, Walker Dodge, a modern day historian and university professor who has a connection to the photograph that he's unaware of. The author chronicles the lives of these three characters, popping back and forth in time to slowly reveal more information as the three characters deal with their own issues: Vera Dare tries to figure out her career while dealing with her husband and sons, Mary Coin struggles with keeping herself and her children alive during extreme poverty, and Walker Dodge deals with the death of his distant father and the issues of his troubled teenage daughter. Not a very action packed book, as you might imagine, though I liked the family drama elements.

The Stonekeeper's Curse by Kazu Kibuishi

Second book in the Amulet series. (My thoughts on the first book here.) It's a bit less frightening, for lack of a better word, than the first book: Instead of the grey and blue forests full of toothy, slimy monsters from the previous installment this book starts off in a warmer fantasy city populated by anthropomorphic animals, the protagonists gain new allies, learn more about what exactly they're doing and what the rules of this new world are, are able to fight their enemies instead of just flee from them, Spoilers. )Still plenty of danger along the way though, and it's a very action packed book. I'm intrigued as to where the story's going next.

More spoilers/speculation. )
rynet_ii: A deoxys (alien-like pokemon) with a neutral expression. (Default)
Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas.

Historical romance novel about a country gentlewoman and author named Sara Fielding and a self-made man/gambling den owner named Derek Craven. I've bitched on my tumblr and twitter about this book, albeit obliquely, not so much because it's particularly bad but because it uses the Depraved Bisexual trope for the main antagonist (a noblewoman and former lover of Derek's) and as a queer girl that was kind of a slap in the face.

Anyway. The actual plot is that Sara's come to London to do research for one of her novels- she primarily writes about contemporary social issues, and her latest novel is about gambling- when she stumbles across the hero being assaulted by some strange men. She shoots one of Derek's attackers and drags him off to his club, where her whole "saved the beloved boss" and general Plucky Girl tendencies endears her to the staff, so she's allowed to drop by every now and then for research purposes. Derek isn't too happy about this, mostly because he's increasingly attracted to Sara but also believes she's too good for him and he's incapable of love and angst angst angst.

Besides Derek's Issues their relationship is also complicated by past romantic entanglements (the aforementioned Depraved Bisexual Lover of Derek's, and Sara's Respectable But Dull, Somewhat Sexist, And Wimpy Almost-Fiance) getting involved and a rather shortsighted decision on Sara's part. (Which made me cringe for like a solid chapter and a half, although I found her perfectly competent for the rest of the book, so.)

There's a bunch of sexual abuse/rape themes in the book. )

Anyway, if the plot super intrigues you and none of the stuff I've mentioned seems like it would bother you, you might want to give it a look? But otherwise, I'd skip over this one.

The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi.

So fun fact about this graphic novel: many years ago I was at a church convention down in Maine. The church itself was right near a library and, being a shy kid who liked exploring and got bored with most of the actual church activities easily, at one point I was able to head there and read. It's here I picked up The Stonekeeper, read it in a single sitting, and then was unable to read it again for what was probably over five years. I was thus very pleased to not only find a copy of it in the local library, but of other books in the series- not only did I get to refresh my memories, but it looks like after all this time I'll get to find out what happens next, whenever I next visit the library.

The story starts out with a girl called Emily and her parents, who are headed off somewhere to pick up Emily's brother Navin. Unfortunately the car gets into an accident on the way there, and in a rather horrifying sequence Emily and her mother are unable to rescue Emily's father from the car, and are forced to watch as he falls to his death off a cliff.

Two years later the family's dealing with financial issues as a result of said father's death, and as a result they've wound up moving to a spooky old house in the middle of nowhere that once belonged to their great-grandfather, a reclusive puzzlemaker named Silas. Emily and Navin soon find their great-grandfather's library, and a hidden amulet that Emily snatches up. Just when the family turns in for the night, they hear a strange noise in the basement... and when they go to investigate, their mother is kidnapped by a horrifying tentacled monstrosity.

The children are soon trapped in an alternate world known as Alledia, and must rescue their mother with the help of the amulet and a variety of machines created by their great-grandfather.

It's a pretty standard children-go-on-adventure-in-another-world setup, which distinguishes itself, to me, by being pretty fucking creepy. Alledia is not particularly colorful or pretty (though we only see a small part of it in this book) with a cold and foggy look to it that you'd expect more from a horror setting than a children's fantasy, and the majority of residents in the first book are slimy, tentacled creatures with too many sharp teeth. Not to mention I'm sideeying the amulet itself, which frequently reminds Emily of the importance of gaining power and encourages her, a literal child, to kill the man who kidnapped her mother.

Anyway, being a comic book, I went and googled for some images, so you can get an idea of the art for yourself:

Shiny pictures! )
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