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Gone home

Gone home

Gone home isn’t a book, but it is a novel. Sort of. Kind of. It’s a video game, except that it’s not.*

So I’m going to break out of my normal medium and do a video game review. Because I think it’s important. Yes, Gone home has already generated enough blog posts to circumnavigate the globe, but haven’t done one yet and a blog is nothing if not an inherently self-centered platform.

*I don’t actually buy this argument in the slightest. It’s absolutely a video game. I’ll address this later on.

Brief plot summary

It is, culturally, the height of the 1990s. You play the role of Caitlyn Greenbriar, a new college graduate returning home from their European adventure. Your great-uncle died while you were away your family has inherited his mansion and moved in. So you arrive on the doorstep of your home, where you have never been. But the door is locked. Nobody appears to be home. A note is pinned on the door: from your younger sister Sam, it says not to go looking for her.

Continue reading Gone home

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Disappearing nightly

Disappearing nightly / Laura Resnick

(I am currently experiencing some hardware issues so a link will hopefully be forthcoming)

Disappearing nightly is the first book featuring Esther Diamond, aspiring actress struggling to make ends meet in New York City. It’s one of those series where it’s unclear which book is first and so I accidentally read the second one first not that I’m bitter about that or anything.

Brief plot summary

When the female lead  of the off-Broadway show Sorcerer! disappears for real during the disappearing act, her understudy Esther Diamond is understandably nervous about stepping into the role. When a mysterious stranger appears with dire warnings, it’s up to Esther and an eccentric group of allies including a rhinestone cowboy and a team of enthusiastic drag queens to figure out who is really behind these disappearances.

So how is it?

It’s not that great, but don’t let that scare you off. It’s goofy and fun in a cheap romantic comedy kind of way. Esther is essentially a stock character: Jewish girl comes to New York City to make her dreams of stardom come true. She’s love able and klutzy but finds it easy to make friends with a wide variety of people.

There are a couple of things that distinguish this series from other urban fantasy … series.

First, the basic trope common to most urban fantasy is that the protagonist has some special power. Tobey is a changeling, Harry Dresden is a wizard, etc.  Esther Diamond is just a normal aspiring actor. While the people she interacts with have all sorts of mystical powers, she remains (at least as far as I have read) a regular person who succeeds with pluck and determination.

The second distinguishing trait is the generally irreverent tone. While it’s not totally unheard of in the genre, Resnick’s work is notably sillier than other “light” urban fantasy. Slapstick humor is pretty commonplace, and the plots themselves are pretty goofy. 

One of the things I like about these books is that the jokes are more than just simple wink-wink nudg-nudge references to other media and/or “look at how self aware I am!”

Not that I don’t enjoy that kind of humor, it’s just nice to see something more upfront.

One possible stumbling block for readers is that sometimes Esther falls a little bit too much into the stereotypical romantic comedy leading lady role. Think ice cream and weight complaints territory. She never goes full on Cathy but it’s still worthy of more than a few eye rolls.

In conclusion…

I’ve read the first three books in the series so far and I’ll probably continue to pick it up. I tend to use it as a palate cleanser in between books from more serious series.

As to recommendations, this is one that doesn’t really require any previous investment in the genre and could definitely appeal to readers who don’t normally “do” fantasy. It’s light and silly and there’s a definite lack of convoluted mythology that can be a barrier to entry in the genre.

Krampus : the Yule lord

Krampus: the Yule lord / Brom

Krampus : the Yule lord is another work by artist turned author Brom. Along the same lines as The child thief, Brom takes a well known story, adds the “lost” pagan version, and infuses it with a degree of moral ambiguity.

So, here’s a Christmas season post that’s actually about “Christmas”. Sort of.

Brief plot summary

Musician Jesse is miserable. After failing to get his daughter the Christmas present she wanted, Jesse witnesses what appears to be a fight between Santa Claus and a small group of mysterious attackers. Discovering that the battle sent Santa’s sack through the roof if his trailer, Jesse soon becomes embroiled in a centuries long conflict between Krampus and Santa Claus over the true meaning of Christmas.

Continue reading Krampus : the Yule lord

Bonus post : I can’t believe this conversation is necessary

Taking off my librarian hat for a moment to address this.

After spending a couple of days away from the whole #gamergate thing, I come back to find that the whole situation has somehow gotten worse.

 

This is a serious issue, and it’s escalated to the point where I feel obligated to speak out about it, partially because this new development hits on multiple levels.

For those of you not familiar with #gamergate, you are the lucky ones.

Continue reading Bonus post : I can’t believe this conversation is necessary

An introduction

This basic concept for this blog is something I’ve been kicking around for the last year.

Starting in 2013, I began keeping a list of all the books I read. This was partially to see just how many books I was reading in a year, and partially so I could do some analysis of what authors I was reading looking at gender, nationality, etc. It also game the opportunity to look at genres and themes more closely, and served as a handy reader’s advisory tool to boot, since I had a list of all the books I had read close at hand and could consult that when looking for book recommendations.

So this blog is basically a way for me to share my book reviews and recommendations. When I’ve recommended a book to someone, I’ll be including some general (anonymous) information about them and, if they gave me feedback, what they thought.

As for my tastes, here’s where they tend to drift:

I have a strong preference for fiction over nonfiction. While I do read lots of nonfiction, I generally read it in periodicals or online, and I don’t track this information. I still do read nonfiction books form time to time, and I’ll probably post some reviews there as well, but it’s not a major focus, especially since my current day job is exclusively nonfiction oriented.

When it comes to fiction, I generally prefer genre fiction. Most frequently I read science fiction/fantasy, but I also read lots of historical fiction and some mysteries and thrillers. When I read literary fiction, I tend towards the weirder stuff.

A couple procedural notes:

For the most part, I’ll be reviewing these books in the order I read them, starting in 2013, with a few exceptions. If I read several books by the same author/in the same series close together, I’ll split up the posts to keep a little more variety (although some series will get a single post for the whole thing, if individual titles aren’t sufficiently distinct to warrant a separate post). The other exception is that if the “next” book in the queue is not the first book of a series that I haven’t reviewed before, I’ll be reviewing the first book instead.

I won’t be assigning numerical values to these reviews. The purpose of this blog is not just critical analysis, it’s intended as a reader’s advisory tool and thus books that I enjoyed might not be great for everyone, and books I didn’t particularly enjoy can still be great for people with different tastes than mine (and there are a number of titles like that coming up).

While the scope is mostly limited to “adult” fiction, I’ll be reviewing a few YA books and even some children’s titles.

I’ll occasionally be reviewing foreign language materials. I’ll try to make it clear whether or not I read the original text or a translation. If I read the original, I’ll state that clearly, but I won’t dwell on the quality of translated versions if I haven’t read any.

I’m not concerning myself with the so-called “literary” value of the works in question. I’m a librarian, and have the perhaps stereotypical attitude that people can read whatever they want, for whatever reason they want. I might discuss some of the philosophical attributes of a book, but I’m not going to pass judgment on books for being insufficiently highfalutin. I do my best not to judge others for their genre/author/title preferences,  Daniel  Pennac’s Rights of the reader basically sums up my attitude about this. Ranganathan’s 2nd and 3rd laws of library science are also applicable here.