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Book Review: Working on a Song, the Lyrics of Hadestown

Working on a Song: the Lyrics of HADESTOWN
Anais Mitchell

Plume, 2020
★★★★★

There was no way I was going to rate this anything less than five stars, given my absolute sentimentality regarding HADESTOWN. For context: I first listened to and loved the original album way back in 2010, spent years and years hoping it would one day make it to the theater, rejoiced when it premiered at the New York Theater Workshop, and proceeded to attend three times. The NYTW production was a magical experience, all three times. When the Broadway cast recording came out, I listened to bits and pieces here and there, enough to know that, unfortunately it was a disappointment compared to the original album and the NYTW production.

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Book Review: A Border Passage by Leila Ahmed

A Border Passage: From Cairo to America — A Woman’s Journey
Leila Ahmed

Penguin, 1999
★★★★☆

It was as if there were to life itself a quality of music in that time, the era of my childhood, and in that place, the remote edge of Cairo. There the city petered out into a scattering of villas leading into tranquil country fields. On the other side of our house was the profound, unsurpassed quiet of the desert.

With these vivid, lyrical words, Leila Ahmed begins her memoir. With this almost languid imagery she establishes what will be the tone of her life story. At times incredibly personal, at others broad and historical, Ahmed interweaves her own personal history of growing up in Egypt with the more general history of the country itself, which was going through turbulent times as Ahmed was growing up.

It is, above all, a gorgeously told story, rich with colorful imagery and evocative prose. Ahmed’s writing skill is unparalleled. True, sometimes you can tell that she is an academic and not a novelist, in that at times the writing comes across a bit too formal, a bit too stilted, and perhaps a bit too detached, but it never stops being beautiful.

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Book Review: Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Harrow the Ninth
Tamsyn Muir

Tor.com, 2020
★★★★☆

So, the thing about Harrow the Ninth is that it is completely fucking incomprehensible. On purpose. It’s also kind of brilliant.

But like, here’s the thing. You don’t realize that it’s brilliant until after the fact, and the only reason I made it through the whole book for there to be an after the fact, is because I looked up spoilery articles and trawled reddit subforums for – I kid you not – hours. I read detailed summaries. I read discussion threads. I read theories. See, I’m the kind of reader who loathes being confused. Seriously, nothing will get me to DNF a book faster; it’s the main reason I was so frustrated with Gideon the Ninth. So, when I started this book and immediately felt myself sink into total confusion, I was like, fuck it, we’re going to Spoiler City.

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Book Review: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

The Dragon Republic
R.F. Kuang

Harper Voyager, 2019
★★★★★

There are some books that, while not perfect, just make you feel very strongly. I was on tenterhooks the whole time I was reading The Dragon Republic. I was so heavily invested in the characters and their relationships with one another that I really didn’t care about anything else in the book, so I easily overlooked the minor issues with pacing that may have bogged down another novel.

In The Dragon Republic, Rin finds her self dealing with the fallout of her actions at the end of The Poppy War. What this means, practically speaking, is that she is dealing guilt, or rather guilt at her lack of guilt, opium addiction, PTSD, and a a nation overrun with bitter Mugenese soldiers who have no home to return to. Then Yin Vaisra, the Dragon Warlord and Nezha’s father, strides into this mess and declares his intent to transform Nikan into a democracy, so he essentially begins to wage war against the Empress, Su Daji. Since Rin is intent on killing Su Daji, she allies herself with Vaisra.

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Book Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself the blade itself
Joe Abercrombie

Orbit/Gollancz, 2006
★★★★☆

The Blade Itself is a rather standard, basic high fantasy, which isn’t necessarily a criticism (I enjoy basic European-esque fantasy very much!), but I guess I just expected more from this series, since it’s often spoken of as one of the best in the genre. I enjoyed it, to be sure, but I wasn’t blown away. Much more classic fantasy than I was expecting, with some clear inspiration from A Song of Ice and Fire. Based on this book alone, I’d say this series is 1000% overrated and over-hyped, but I keep hearing that the sequels make up for it, so I’m withholding judgement. Continue reading “Book Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie”