Book Review: Among Others ☆☆☆☆

517czt9ohil-_sx322_bo1204203200_Among Others was a joy to read, and yet I find it hard to describe exactly why. I don’t think there is any one thing, but a multitude of many elements that come together perfectly. I’ll try to touch on them briefly.

It is fantasy, but one firmly rooted in our world. Not just the setting which is England, but the magic system. Apparently it’s a sub genre called magical realism which was a first for me.

Basically there are no wizards walking around throwing fireballs or riding dragons. Magic is real and has real consequences, but instead of being fantastic it is almost mundane. As Morwenna, Mori, explains you can never truly tell when magic works, because there is always a rational explanation as to why it did.

While the presence of magic, and the fact that our heroine is able to use it, makes this a fantasy it is really a YA coming of age story. You have a teenage girl who has suffered a recent loss, runs away from home, has parental issues (seriously understated), gets sent to boarding school, is lonely, struggles to make friends, and stumbles her way through romance. So definitely YA. And yet it didn’t feel like a YA novel to me. Our heroine is intelligent, capable, and independent instead of the usual whiny, stupid, self-centered, immature characters that tend to populate YA.

I should note that while Mori can do magic, and is attending a boarding school in England it is nothing like Hogwarts. It is in fact very dull, but I enjoyed her interactions with her fellow students. Just don’t go in thinking this is a magical school. It’s not.

She also has a disability which is well written. I personally am in good health, but my mother has struggled with pain, and disability since her 20s. This representation was the best I have read in a book. It gets the thoughts and actions of the character right as well as the reactions of other people.

There is romance, but it is really a sub plot. I’ve obviously never been a teenage girl, but it felt authentic to me. Also, thankfully, it didn’t take over the story.

One of the best parts of the book was all the literary references. Mori loves to read. It is her one joy, and place of refuge from life, pain, and loneliness. Jo Walton lets us know what she is reading as well as her thoughts about the books. Almost all of these are SF/F which are my two favorite genres. I found myself comparing my opinions of books I had read, and writing down books/authors I had not in order to seek them out later.

Mori, and Jo Walton, have a deep appreciation of libraries which I think anyone reading this book will share. I personally enjoyed Mori’s forays into town to look for books. Or going to book club. It was almost enough to make me look up book clubs at my own library. Then I remembered that I love books; people not so much.

The format of this book is a journal which while not truly unique was well done. In the past I have not enjoyed this style in the least, but that might be because I’ve always seen it in classics which I generally struggle to read. Mostly I think it is because I’m a parent now, and it was so damn convenient having hundreds of natural stopping points.

I will say that in general the pacing is pretty slow. The journal format did help some with this as we get to skip ahead quite often. If you want to see the really cool magic, and the only real confrontation in the book you’ll have to wait until the end.

That’s not really what the book is about though. It’s about a young girl who has suffered a tragic loss, and who is lonely. It is about her dealing with these things, and trying to find her place in life the same as every teenager. The coming of age story is not my cup of tea, but Jo Walton’s Among Others kept me turning page after page. I highly recommend it.

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Edit: First, apparently Jo Walton herself suffers from the same disability as Mori so this is #ownvoices. I don’t particularly go in for #ownvoices if that is all it has going for it. If it so happens to be a great book, and is #ownvoices cool, but it isn’t something I seek out. I mention it because this explains how Walton got the disability dead on.

Secondly, I recently watched a review of this in which the reviewer felt very strongly that the Irish in Among Others are discriminated against. I didn’t get that at all when I read the book. I felt that it was more like how the South might currently view Yankees, and vice versa, in America. I mean sure some old timers, or the ignorant, might think all Northerners are carpet bagging idjits or that Southerners are all inbred rednecks, but overwhelmingly these are not really deeply held beliefs. I mean you can be a Yankee, and still an intelligent, good person. Right? =)

I include this however as I am an American, and am unfamiliar with Irish discrimination outside of basic world history. This review is from the perspective of an Irish woman, and she would know far better than I. Again personally I was not offended at all, but you decide.

 

 

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Book Review: Stardust ☆☆☆☆

519wepuhq6l-_sx348_bo1204203200_When I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane I was left in a state of contemplative melancholy that took days to shake off. Which might sound negative, but I love that book. I mention it to point out that by comparison Stardust left me with a feeling of light whimsy. Both have their places, and I enjoyed both books immensely.

Stardust has Gaiman’s unique something, but at the same time it is in many ways a more traditional fantasy. The youth we follow on his quest is likable and an all around good guy, if a bit naive. There are faeries, a living star, witches, princes fighting over a throne, magic, and a lion fighting a unicorn. Among other cool things.

For some reason I kept feeling that this was a YA novel even though I’m not entirely sure it was meant to be. Now generally this is the kiss of death for me. I’m not a teenager. I haven’t been for a long time. So reading about teenage angst, love triangles, and in general stupid, self-centered choices leaves me unsatisfied. Stardust wasn’t like that at all thankfully. When I say it felt YA I mean it felt YA like The Hobbit feels YA. And for me at least The Hobbit is the greatest compliment I can give a YA book.

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Book Review: Eldest ☆☆

eldest_book_coverThis review is a bit late as I finished reading this in 2016 before I read The Slow Regard of Silent Things which I have already posted a review of. Apparently even writing a review of this book is a struggle, and make no mistake I struggled to read Eldest. It took me over 3 weeks, and it would have taken longer, but I wanted to finish it before Christmas so I could begin reading books I would be gifted.

I don’t want to keep piling on negative reviews of this series or its author so I’ll try to be brief. Suffice it to say I wasn’t a big fan of Eragon. Everything I disliked about that book is once again present in Eldest. It is still very generic fantasy overall. The unrealistic romance takes up a large portion of the book. I know nothing has happened, but it will. Don’t get me started on a group of untrained civilians defeating well-trained, professional soldiers. And again I had guessed all the big reveals long before they happened. Foreshadow, but be subtle about it.

To be fair so are the good things I actually did like about Eragon, but there is a lot more I dislike which makes it hard to appreciate the good. I keep being told that it gets better in the next two books, but frankly I’ll believe that when I see it. I’m still committed to finishing this series so hopefully I’m wrong.

My Rating: ☆☆

Book Review: Eragon ☆☆

eragon_book_cover

I remember trying to read this shortly after it hit the shelves. I also remember hating it, and putting it down unfinished. My fiance loves the series which, along with her choice in men, confirms her questionable taste. Having excellent taste myself I flatly refused to ever pick this book up again.

So here I am forcing myself read not just Eragon, but the entire Inheritance Cycle. Joy. You can stop pouting now baby! That said while I love my fiance dearly I did not love this book. Or even like it.

The story itself is a generic Tolkien fantasy with elves, dwarves, orcs, and Nazgul. They aren’t called orcs or Nazgul, but that’s exactly what they are. By itself this wouldn’t be terrible. I mean you could argue Robert Jordan did the same thing in his Wheel of Time series with the trollocs, and myrddaal. And the WoT is my all time favorite fantasy series.

Along the same lines it was a travel log kind of adventure. Have to get from point A to point B. Now B to C. Now if we can only get to point D.. Again by itself not a terrible thing, but the general fantasy tropes are just so numerous in this book.

Then there is the flawless, beautiful elf maiden that he sees in his dreams, and having never met falls in love with immediately. Worse still you just know she will fall in love with him as well. This is despite the fact that we are led to believe she is older than any mortal man alive today, and he is a 16 year old boy. Because what grown woman wouldn’t fall romantically in love with child?

Also there is a talking cat. Why do authors love to do the talking cats? I was okay with him being able to kinda sorta communicate with animals. I’m all for that kind of druid/ranger magic, but of all the animals to talk back it had to be the cat?

Okay so that last one was personal. I hate cats. I know that makes me a bad person, but I do.

What isn’t personal was my disappointment at the lack of subtlety in this story. I knew each, and every twist in this story damn near the moment the characters/developments were introduced. No spoilers, but the thing with Brom was so obvious I did realize it was supposed to be a surprise until the mystery was revealed. It literally upset me that Eragon was himself surprised. I mean damn dude.

And you know the writing expression show don’t tell? Good for you because Christopher Paolini surely doesn’t. I never felt like I was getting to experience anything. Not the places Eragon went to, or the fights/battles etc. It was more like one very detailed summary.

I will say that he did a decent job with both the dragon, and magic in this book. The dragon, Saphira, was interesting, and intelligent. I would love to see the story from her POV. I’m not a huge fan of the true names have power system, but he does a decent job of it. Besides, Rothfuss uses it, and he is a Master of the craft.

Overall I was mostly bored as I read. I couldn’t get interested in the story or characters. It felt generic.

Now I know Paolini was 15 when he wrote this book, and I am told the series gets better as it goes on. I hope so because I’m committed to reading the series in its entirety. The things we do for love!

My Rating:☆☆