Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mini Reviews

I have been doing more reading than the blog lets on, but I don't have enough time to dedicate to full reviews. Below, I've marked the books that I intend to review fully later on and provided brief reviews for the rest.

6. Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

I received an ARC from the publisher and there will be a longer review to come. Briefly, Shattered Pillars moves further from alternate history and closer to fantasy than Range of Ghosts and is one of those rare second books in a trilogy that outshines the first.

7. The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

Gregory opens with a teaser from Katherine of Aragon's divorce trial, but this book isn't really about that-it's about Katherine's time as a Princess of England-first, as Arthur's wife and then as the princess dowager who tempted both Henry VII and Henry VIII. I don't agree with Gregory's take on the central controversy of Katherine's life, i.e. whether or not she was a virgin when she married Henry VIII, but Gregory is back in form here, making a case filled with intrigue for a flawed but incredibly sympathetic protagonist. A must-read for fans of Tudor fiction.

8. The Joys of Love by Madeleine L'Engle

An early book from the late great Madeleine L'Engle. This honestly isn't anything impressive and is totally skippable, but it does provide insight into the character of the author as a young woman.

9. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I probably built this up too much in my head, but, frankly, I was incredibly disappointed. Without the closeness I felt for the characters, this book was choppy and jumped all over the place. There was too much going on and the character development that was clearly supposed to be there failed, at least for me. At this point, I don't even care what happens and I don't think I'm going to read the third book.

10. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

See my earlier post.

11. The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

A surprisingly well-written historical fiction romp into sixteenth century Venice and Malta. The plot was rather melodramatic and contrived, but the characters were likable and engaging, and the settings well-rendered. I'd recommend this as a pleasure read that's a step above the usual.

12. Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

I really enjoyed Cleopatra's Daughter and I'm glad I gave Moran another chance! With Selene as the only narrator, the problem I had with her other novel was satisfactorily solved, and I could really enjoy the fruits of her clearly extensive research. Moran hit just the right note between heart-rending and light-hearted, and the novel felt true to life in the way that, even after the worst has happened, life does go on. And after the tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra's defeat, life did go on for their daughter. Moran even imagines to create some sympathetic Romans, and though I fear that's more the product of her imagination than the reality, it makes for a better story.

13. Triton by Samuel R. Delaney

Longer review to come, but I will say I should probably be a little frightened by how much I related to Bron Helstrom, the protagonist. We are all a "type" and maybe there isn't one utopia for all of us, but "heterotopias" can exist side by side-or can they? Is there really a category for everyone or is there such a thing as a category of one?

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