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Archive for the ‘Sonika’s books’ Category


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I haven’t been neglecting this blog. The lack of updates might make you think so, but it’s not true. I also haven’t been neglecting to read. How is this possible, you are not asking yourself at all, that I read and yet don’t update and yet, have been updating regularly?

It’s because I’m reading The Song of Ice and Fire and Dragons and Wolves and Stuff series and after the end of the first book realized I couldn’t really post a review of it that wasn’t either simply the words “ZOMG! WTFBBQ!” (which ok, not actually words.) or a massive barrage of spoilers. So, I figured I’d finish the whole series and then write one review that would hopefully contain more than “And then that thing that I can’t talk about… but will allude to… but not actually say…” This series, in case you didn’t know, is five books long. Each book is assthousand pages. Give or take.

So, here I am. In the midst of book 3. Nothing but dragons on either side of me. And I’d really like a break. See, I don’t usually read fantasy. And it’s starting to grate on me. Not the dragons. Or the wolves. Or the giants. Or the alchemists. It’s the g-ddamn feudal society porn.

See, what I do read a lot of is historical fiction. I have an especial weakness for the Tudor period and will read just about anything if Anne Boleyn is slated to once again lose her head. So, I’m all too familiar with the clichés that keep sprouting up to remind us that LIFE WAS DIFFERENT, OK. I know that the author wants to remind us that no one was wearing jeans back in Tudor England, but it doesn’t feel sincere to have someone whining about her stomacher being laced up for the thousandth time. OK THEY WEAR STOMACHERS GREAT. The irony here though is that in Tudor England, a stomacher was as common as jeans are here and no one would be going ON about it for PAGES because it would just be “AND THEN I GOT DRESSED.”

I might have some unchecked aggression in Phillipa Gregory’s general direction.

Anyhow. The Ice the Fire the Swords the Blahblahblah.

If this is FANTASY, why is this necessary to adopt the whole medieval/early modern knights and Lords business? And ok, if we have to have that power structure for whatever reason, can we at least get new clichés? If have to read one more time about someone eating meat on a stick and the “juices dripped down his chin” I’m going to lose it. WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE PASS TYRION LANNISTER A FUCKING TACO, OK.

(See also: the phrase “he took his pleasure.” I’m sure he did. But let’s get new euphemisms. That one’s not really creative, sounds rape-y, and makes me sad in my angry place.)

The characters are brilliant. The plot keeps me up way later than my bedtime because George R.R. Martin is an evil genius in the art of the end-of-chapter-cliffhanger. BUT THE JUICES MUST BE STOPPED.

Please kindly recommend anything to me that does not discuss meat & mead, the milk of the poppy, juices dripping down any part of anyone’s person, or anyone’s finest cloaks. Thankyou.


Written by Sonja

November 9, 2011 at 2:54 am

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

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Yep. I did it. I went out and bought it in hardcover the first second I could. I scoured bookstores for the whole month of May (not knowing and being too lazy to look up the actual release date) anxiously awaiting the nanosecond when I could get TGWKTHN into my greedy little hands. I was even stalking TARGET. JUST IN CASE. It was on June 1st (a whole WEEK after its release!) that I found it in my local Borders and snapped it up. It certainly made that day redeemable as having an anxiously awaited book to read on the train makes going on said train up to Boston for a stupid routine doctor’s appointment that will only last ten minutes, yet you are on the train for an hour to get there – half hour on the T, which inevitably makes you motion sick – another half hour on the T back to South Station – and an hour on a rush hour train watching powerful women wielding TWO Blackberries simultaneously – it makes that day worthwhile.

I can’t say much without getting all spoilery, so I will just say that it was awesome. It was awesome and a corollary to its awesomeness is that I am now firmly pissed off that Steig Larsson is dead.

I kind of morbidly wonder if the Millenium trilogy would have been as popular if he’d been around. There’s a certain mystique to “… and then he DROPPED DEAD.” about the books. It’s also really amazing to think of how wildly they’ve been selling (the Borders clerk – one of my former coworkers – commented that they’ve been flying off the shelf) when the author of said books hasn’t been around to do book tours and interviews and shit like that. No one, NO ONE in the world has an autographed copy of these books. Kinda eerie.

And while I wouldn’t mind reading an interview talking about his inspiration for Lisbeth Salander, I’m really pissed off that he’s not writing more books. I expected TGWKTHN to kind of wrap up all lose ends, but it really ends rather ambiguously. The main plot line is resolved, but there’s no real sense of “finality” to the ending. There’s a lot more “And then?!” that could be explored in subsequent books.

Which, of course, could definitely go into the territory of “Should have quit while he was ahead.” But I’m pissed that WE’LL NEVER KNOW because he didn’t “quit.” He bit it. He wrote three amazing books and then had the audacity to die before they were published.

So, there you have it. I loved the book and Stieg Larsson is a jerk. A dead jerk.

(And because I know you want to read them. YOU WANT TO READ THEM, OK? My reviews of The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.)

UPDATE: According to Wikipedia, the Millennium series was supposed to contain up to 10 books!

Larsson left about three quarters of a fourth novel on a notebook computer in Gabrielsson’s possession; synopses or manuscripts of the fifth and sixth in the series, which was intended to contain an eventual total of ten books, may also exist.[12]


Written by Sonja

June 6, 2010 at 5:51 pm

The Girl Who Played With Fire.

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I’ve been waiting for this to come out in paperback since I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in paperback and I like my books to match. (YES HELLO VIRGO TENDENCIES. NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN.) Problem is, it took so long that it’s been nearly a year since I read TGWtDT… for the first time. Yep. I got two-thirds of the way through The Girl Who Played With Fire and went back, bought a new copy of TGWtDT (because I had “loaned” mine to Nuno’s brother in Portugal, where it still resides) and read it all over again.

I don’t necessarily think that you need to do this. The story of TGWPWF stands up on its own, certainly. There are a lot of references to TGWtDT, but they’re very well explained and there’s absolutely no reason that you need to have read it first – unless you’re a nrrrd like me. I went back because I couldn’t remember the details, which was making me mental. “Oh yes, I remember something about that… but, I don’t remember exactly how that happened…” As mentioned, I’m a Virgo and so there is this tendency towards completism that sometimes borders on neurosis. Certainly this is true with me and books.

My neurosis may have to bend on the “matching books” thing when The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest comes out. It’s either buy the hardback or re-read the first two in the series when the paperback comes out. CONUNDRUM. I could always buy the hardback, and then sell it to the used book store and buy a paperback copy later… IT IS VERY HARD TO BE ME.

… coming back to this draft, having now finished TGWPWF – it is no longer difficult. I will buy that book in hardcover the NANOSECOND that it is released. In fact, I am pre-ordering it on Amazon RIGHT. NOW.

The ending? I have never before read a book that literally got my heart rate up. I usually read at night, before I go to bed, and last night I got to the climax of the book. The perfectly paced book that leaves you a nice little trail of bread crumbs here and there. I figured out the big reveal about fifty pages before it’s unveiled, which is certainly what Larsson is aiming for and I don’t feel like any big genius for figuring it out. It’s not spelled out point blank, but any reasonably clever person who’s read a mystery before can figure out the mystery identity by the time it’s revealed. I honestly couldn’t keep reading as I’d taken a sedative before I started reading (a common occurrence for those of us who otherwise don’t fall asleep until 4AM and yet need to live normal lives), so the second I got up this morning I picked up the book.

Note: I never do this. Ever. I never read in the morning. Maybe in the afternoon, but it’s just not my habit to read first thing in the morning. Even on a Sunday. But I had to. I had to finish the book. And now I’m cursing myself that I finished it before TGWKTHN has been released because AAAHHHH EFFIN’ CLIFFHANGER GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH…

Which seems an appropriate note to end this post on.


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I started Quicksilver a bazillion years ago. It was the first book I started in 2010! I took a hiatus to read Wolf Hall because I was only on page 300 (of 927!) and I COULD. NOT. WAIT. for some quality Tudor time. I’ll say this for Quicksilver: it was remarkably easy to pick it back up again. I thought I might have to start over or back track a lot, but no, it was easy to jump right back in.

Which isn’t to say that the book was always easy to follow. Especially in the Jack Shaftoe/Eliza sections, I’m still not entirely sure the details of who got involved with what and with whom and why and how in the hell they ended up THERE, but I just let it go and it was possible to move on without necessarily knowing how the hell THAT happened. (Kind of like Lost, in a way…but without the flashbacks. Or the island. Just in that “Ok, I’m just going to pretend I know what happened and leave it at that” kind of way.)

Neal Stephenson has absolutely been cemented as one of my favorite authors and I’m totally looking forward to books 2 & 3 of the Baroque Cycle. I’ll admit it: it’s because they’re big. I like big books and I can not lie. If I see an exceptionally large book, I am COMPELLED to read it. Part of the initial attraction to Stephenson is that Cryptonomicon was so effin’ LARGE. It’s also what got me to pick up Infinite Jest the first time. Stephenson is my kind of writer: a triology of books each clocking in at 800+ pages. Excellent.

800+ pages that never drag. I read this pretty much exclusively before bed, and it was consistent that each evening, I would have trouble putting it down. Every 20 minute chunk was as good as the last. Some chunks were so good that they got extended to 45 minute to 1 hr chunks and kept me up past my bedtime. Well worth it.

The book is divided into three “sections” following three inter-related main characters: Daniel Waterhouse (a scientist with the “Royal Society” of London), “Half-Cocked” Jack Shaftoe (a Vagabond), and Eliza (who is originally found in a harem, which is really all I can say without getting spoiler-y). My favorite sections were the Daniel Waterhouse sections – I’m really fascinated with science history and the antics of nerds. I live with an engineer and my life kind of resembles The Big Bang Theory, so the Royal Society seemed exceptionally realistic to me. Isaac Newton is an especially well written character – very believable “crazy genius.” I found the Eliza sections kind of hard to suspend disbelief at times that a lady was doing all of this stuff back in the seventeenth century. I’m all down with feminism, but this seemed a bit “revisionist” to think that she’d be that audacious and not get her head cut off. Her adventures are certainly compelling, but they do skirt the “willing suspension of disbelief” line. I’m pretty neutral on the Jack Shaftoe sections. Advanced the plot and rather hilarious at times, but I don’t feel much other than a kind of dull fondness for the character. I would read a whole book on Waterhouse, and would probably enjoy a book focused on Eliza as well, but wouldn’t pick up a novel solely focused on Shaftoe.

On to Vol. 2 – The Confusion! Maybe I can finish this one in less than three months… Stay tuned.

Written by Sonja

March 23, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Wolf Hall.

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Oh man, I read Wolf Hall about a million years ago and haven’t written it up because I haven’t really solidified what I want to say about it. But now I’ve (finally) finished another book (in my defense, it’s 800+ pages, and while I’m a speed demon when it comes to reading, I’ve only been reading before bed and so it’s been 800+ pages in 20 minute chunks) and if I don’t write about Wolf Hall now, I never will.

First, I can’t see Thomas Cromwell except played by James Frain. I can picture Henry VIII as more his likeness than as Johnathn Rhys Myers, this isn’t a universal thing, but sometimes even without having seen a filmic adaptation of any kind, my mind just settles on one actor to play the part of a character in a novel and that THAT is the image in my head. Thinking about Thomas Cromwell as played by anyone other than James Frain just doesn’t work for me. I’ve cast entire “movies” in my head in the course of reading. I blame this on the fact that I’m entirely a visual thinker, so the process of reading is reading “the movie” that is the action of the novel. And movies need casts. Anyway, reading Wolf Hall with James Frain as Cromwell works really well. Much better than most of the casting of The Tudors. (Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn? Really? I mean, she’s beautiful, but Anne Boleyn was not classically beautiful. I haven’t definitively cast Anne in my mind yet.)

I’m way obsessed with all things Tudor and as a fictional history of the time, Wolf Hall is stunning. Thomas Cromwell is far and away one of the most intriguing characters of the era and his life makes for an incredible story. His point of view navigating the political alliances of the court as a “nobody” was nearly ruined with Cardinal Wolsey’s fall – the only thing saving him being his own innate cunning – gives a clear view of what was at stake in falling out of favor at any given moment. There’s not much point in my recounting the plot of the novel – if you know Tudor history, there aren’t any spoilers. It doesn’t deviate into speculation in the way that The Other Boleyn Girl, for example, does. It pretty much sticks to the story as it played out. If you don’t know Tudor history, this book is a good intro.

My one complaint with Mantel’s writing style is that she continually refers to Cromwell simply as “he” or “He,” which got HELL OF confusing when another male character was referred to in the same sentence. I had to go over some sentences two or three times to tease out which “he” was which (“He told him what he thought.” That sort of thing, only more detailed.), which seriously interrupted the flow of the novel. Just say “Cromwell told him what he thought.” or “He told him what Cromwell thought.” I’m not sure where the stylistic choice came from to use the third person singular pronoun rather than the dude’s NAME when referring to him, but at least she’s consistent. I kind of got the hang of it after a hundred or so pages, but it still tripped me up on occasion all the way up to the end.

And speaking of the end… is there going to be a sequel? This reads a bit like a part one of a larger work, which might just be because I WANT more. Always an endorsement.

Written by Sonja

March 23, 2010 at 12:21 am

Oryx and Crake.

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When I was younger and stupider, I eschewed all science-fiction as being for “geeks.” Oh, self. Why did you ever think you were above being a geek? You had no friends and enjoyed crossword puzzles from the age of ten, for the love of G-d. I suppose you have to draw the line somewhere, and for me it was sci-fi. Oh no, I was better than those geeks.

Now that I’m older and less likely to get shoved into a band locker, I’m really reveling in some good sci-fi – not the stuff with wizards and dragons, that is still too geeky for me – but more the stuff that I think is called “spec fic” among the kids these days. Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite writers in this genre, though I got into her via her more realist novels – specifically Cat’s Eye and The Robber Bride. I really hated A Handmaid’s Tale when I read it back in high school – perhaps I should give it another pass now that I’m better in touch with my inner geek.  (And yet, I loved loved loved 1984 when I read it for the first time at age 13. I think it’s because it had sex in it.)

Oryx and Crake deals with a human-created apocalypse in which the surviving species aren’t man… but are rather man-made. The protagonist, the Last Man on Earth, is Snowman – best friend of Crake, the scientist in charge of making the man-like species “The Crakers” who are shaping up to fill the human niche in a post-human world. The story is told Lost style, one linear story punctuated by flashbacks – which are in this case, thankfully, also linear. So, while you’re reading the story of Snowman’s struggle to survive (which if I’m calculating correctly, takes place over one week), you’re also reading the story of Snowman’s life from ages nine onwards. It flows together seamlessly, which is a testament to Atwood’s writing abilities.

There’s not too much I can say about the book that wouldn’t be a spoiler. The book is very obviously designed as the first chapter in a larger story, and I’m excited to read The Year of the Flood soon to see where this is going. Atwood very deftly tackles a lot of issues surrounding synthetic biology in a way that to me, as a layperson, makes the whole thing feel chillingly plausible. There’s a sign of some true postapocalyptic terror right there – imagining a scenario in which humans really do breed pigoons and wolvogs. While the names of the institutions involved are slightly hilarious (AnooYoo, for one), they aren’t at all hard to imagine springing up out of the ashes of current pharmaceutical research companies.  We’re already shooting botulism into our faces and growing ears on mice, why not have pigs raised for organ harvesting and potential full-on skin replacements?

(Really terrifying though: the ChickieNobs. Gives me the howling fantods just thinking about it.)

The only reason that I gave this book four out of five stars on Goodreads is that it was indeed possible to put it down for periods of time. That was the only way I could see it as being in any way deficient – normally it doesn’t take me over a week to read a book of this length, but for some reason, it just dragged out a bit. We’ll see how The Year of the Flood shapes up after I finish my to-read pile, which is itself entirely spec-fic. I sense that 2010 is going to be The Year of The Geek.

Written by Sonja

January 5, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Should be retitled “Her Absolutely Dreadful Symmetry.”

with 2 comments

Here I am, making my triumphant return for 2010! I don’t necessarily have more free time now, but I’ve definitely improved my time management skills and trying to do less *nothing* is something I’m working on, so in that spirit – hopefully more reading and definitely more blogging about what I’ve actually read.

Since my last update, it’s hard for me to remember everything I’ve read – which is what happens, I suppose, when you get neglectful about your blogging, so I’m going to start with the most recent book I’ve finished and just go from there. Maybe I’ll backlog a bit, but I’ll probably just resume blogging as I finish reading.

Anyhoo. Kinda ironically, I’m starting off with a book that I have a lot to say about… because I hated it.

Holy cow did I ever want to LOVE this book. Kat offered to lend me a copy and I said “Oh no, I’m going to buy it in hardcover to match my hardcover of Time Traveler’s Wife!” Another friend read it and wanted to know my opinion of it once I got around to it. So much buildup! I even saved it to read on the plane on my way to Lisbon for Christmas!

I left it in Lisbon. I would have burned it if I could, but leaving it in the oubliette of my partner’s family bookshelves was as close as I could get. I tried to think of some way I could abandon it in the airport or something, but that would have involved getting it there and there is only so much space in my bags. Space that I regret having used on this hunk of crap.

I started off loving the book, oh I did. I love Niffenegger’s characters. I’ll give her that, she can create some really charming characters, which is certainly what makes Time Traveler’s Wife so enchanting. She’s actually a mediocre writer in terms of plot and actual nuts-and-bolts sentence writing, but her characters are stunning and her ability to pull at your emotions is really unparalleled. I actually have found myself unable to re-read Time Traveler’s Wife now that I know how it ends. It’s too heartbreaking to relive. I suppose that’s a compliment of sorts. (I had to stop just short of the end of Infinite Jest on my second full go-round for the same reason.)

So, yes. Started off loving it. Even loved the notion of a previously sympathetic character with sinister plots. (Also: Niffenegger could use to tone down the foreshadowing just a TAD. Yes, yes, we get it, she wasn’t always a nice person. No, she can’t be trusted. WE UNDERSTAND. Less hamfisted than the allusions to Henry’s feet in TTW, but still. Let’s have more with the showing, less with the telling.) Definitely loved that notion, actually. Plot set up to be brilliant… until…

She apparently started smoking crack, came up with the worst possible way for the book to end including the most brain-twistingly STUPID “reveal” (that was in and of itself pretty obvious and really, the only creative thing about it is that we’re supposed to be surprised) and just went with it full speed. Niffenegger herself makes a quip about there being something “off” when the character with crippling OCD is the one who makes the most sense, and it’s true. By the end of the novel, Martin was the only one I had any stomach for, and even HIS story ended in the most trite, stupid way possible.

Never have I been so disappointed in a book. I don’t think I would have hated the ending so vehemently had I not WANTED to love it. Good G-d in heaven but that was a DUMB ending. I don’t want to put spoilers in here, but let it be known that my disappointment isn’t in that I wanted the book to end in some other specific way and it didn’t, but that I truly believe that ANY OTHER ENDING would have been a better fit to the book itself and would have done the characters more justice. My cat could have done a better job. And even if she went with the ending she chose, it needed fleshing out.

(Yes, yes, “My the food was horrible, and such small portions!”)

The beginning was paced well. The middle dragged a bit. And then the ending came crashing down like a piano. Do writers actually write the book in linear fashion? Because really, she should have STARTED with the ending and worked her way back from there to tell this particular story if that’s how she wanted it to end. Maybe she did and the result is just awful no matter what.

So there you have it. I’m back and I’m whiny.

Written by Sonja

January 4, 2010 at 7:40 pm