Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

This is a really cute and lovely little young adult fantasy romance. I saw a friend of mine on Good Reads read it and the synopsis seemed nice enough (“First female magician in alternate universe England”). I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I read it after Deluxe on a plane flight. It was the perfect dessert for a flight.

The romance is really nice but not the main focal point of the book. I was surprised about how well the author built the world, the characters, and the plot in such a short span of time.

It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a nice cozy novel. I look forward to more ebooks by the author.

Read on Kindle October 15, 2021.

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Lustre by Dana Thomas

I have wanted to read this book for a few years. It’s an analysis of the luxury fashion and goods market in the last few decades. This book was published in 2007. I usually do not read contemporary nonfiction that is older than 10 years. A lot has already changed in the fashion world. However, there is a lot of good history and interviews given in this book and it’s important as I continue to reflect on the nature of consumption and goods.

The book offers portraits of the marketing and business of the luxury markets including its triumphs in entering the middle class market and its problems with counterfeiting. A lot of it boils down to convincing wide swaths of people to like and aspire to owning things with logos. Thomas does go through the process of how luxury brands make their goods. She goes from Europe to Africa to China. The book offers stark reminders about the addiction and pursuit of luxury in the present world. I’ve seen it first hand.

I am not immune to it. I love window shopping. I like going into brightly lit department stores. I like being surrounded by expensive things even for a moment. I buy more perfumes than I need. Most of all, I love bags. I can’t explain it, but I have always liked bags and owning them. Even when I run, I usually bring a running vest. I even like and collect reusable bags like cotton totes and canvas bags. As I got older and started to make my own money, my options have widened. Thankfully, many designer bags with their logos has held little appeal to me even though I do acknowledge that brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Chanel have tight quality control and do produce quality bags. I want my bags to last a long time and I want to use them. I just can’t imagine owning a bag more than $1000 and going on errands with it or having it accidentally be exposed to precipitation. I also can’t deny that I like the look of some of the Hermes bags especially the Kelly and the Constance. Reading this book did not help as I read how much craftsmanship goes into a Hermes bag. However, I am realistic. I am not going to own a Hermes bag ever. They are more like pieces of art with their cost and quality.

The book is not perfect and sometimes I do feel there is a slight bias in her interviews with some designers. The ending’s point seems a bit geared to the elite classes and almost leaves them off the hook. Overall, I felt it was very well researched and well written. The book really made me wonder about society’s obsession with luxury especially logos and branding. It becomes me more self-aware. It does not mean I don’t notice bags or that I won’t buy an expensive modern bag, but I acknowledge it’ll be for myself. Being informed makes me second guess many things. A good book to help me contextualize the modern fashion industry.

Read Sept 23 – October 15, 2021.

Ancillary Justice and the Imperal Radch trilogy by Ann Leckie

I feel like I should write a review about the trilogy as a whole, but I think the first book is good enough to be stand alone. I also did not like the trilogy as a whole compared to the first book. I’ll do a short review of each.

Ancillary Justice

I’ve heard about this sci-fi novel for awhile. I generally do not read sci-fi. I am not against the genre. I grew up watching certain Star Trek shows and some sci-fi movies. I do read and watch a good number of fantasy related content. I just never got into reading sci-fi much. Some of it is because the genre was dominated by men and felt intended more for the male gaze. I know that has changed. There are more female sci-fi writers now and this novel is the only one that has won the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Arthur C Clarke.

I really enjoyed this novel. Like a lot of fantasy and sci-fi works, it was a bit disorienting the first few of chapters. It’s had two time periods and would switch between the two. I liked how well crafted the narrative and plotting was. I read that it took the author about seven years to write this novel. I did get the sense she put years into this novel.

These novels use a gender blind narrative wherein 95% of the pronouns used are “she/her”. I got use to this quickly. Interestingly, I think by using this device, the novels focus more on the class and political conflicts rather than one between gender.

The novel has some very interesting concepts about AI and consciousness. Like good sci-fi, it discusses what it means to be human. I liked the plot, pacing, and the character work as well..

The book itself is not overly descriptive about things or people. It’s harder to imagine the space ships and what some of the characters truly look like. I did get a sense of things. I also found Leckie used the word “angry” to describe characters reactions too much. Also maybe too much eyebrow descriptions.

I think if you are curious about the concepts in the book which include spaceships as people and diverse consciousness across bodies, this is a fun novel to checkout. I would not necessarily recommend the whole trilogy though.

Ancillary Sword

This book is my least favourite of the three. There is a lot less action in it and while there is a lot of character work, it’s the slowest of the three novels. It has a lot more politics in it and sometimes, it didn’t feel sci-fi enough. That’s fine except it deals more with colonialism and slavery more than say‚Ķ spaceships. There were spaceships, but unlike the other two novels, this whole book is completely set one Planet and Station. It did not feel particularly alien or space oriented. It sets up a lot of the action in the last book though.

Ancillary Mercy

A nice conclusion to the series. There was a lot of character development in all three books and things paid off from the second book. There was also a lot more action in this than the previous book. I enjoyed that. The ending actually left me wanting more because I had so many questions about the future for some of the characters and this political system. It made me wonder more about what happens to the AI and spaceships. There’s a lot more material there to be explored.

I am glad the ending left me wanting more because I did not enjoy the second book. Having said that, the series as a whole is not recommended reading unless you really like the first book. I am glad I finished the trilogy though as I liked book 3 as well.

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl

Years ago, I read Reichl’s memoir about her time as the NY Times restaurant critic and I remember enjoying her writing style. Even though I have never read a Gourmet magazine (and I wish I had), I’ve wanted to read this since she published it.

She really writes about people and food very well. There’s also a certain intimacy in her writing when she describes people in her life. It’s a storyteller’s way of depicting characters and they can come together very distinctly in Reichl’s descriptions. She appreciates the oddness of people and her own sometimes unusual relationships.

I thought the book also really captured the time. In the chapters set in the 90s, Reichl makes mentions of the trends and the world news. When 9/11 happens, it feels like life is never the same again. She really crafts a narrative. She is writing about events in retrospective almost 20 years later, but as a reader, this works very well. This a memoir about a writer and editor’s life. It’s not an academic’s biography about a political figure. I appreciated this look back at an almost simpler time. No times are simple of course but I grew up in the 90s so it brought back memories of life before the 21st century.

I love the her memoir style and had such a good time with this memoir. Looking forward to reading her first memoir as well and hoping she writes more books in the future.

Read August 19-21, 2021.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow

I have gotten out of the habit of writing book reviews right after finishing a book. I really have to get back into it because I’m reading more books this year than I have in a long time. Maybe that is part of the problem. There are some books that I won’t ever post about which makes me forget about blogging even more.

I did want to write a review for this one because I really enjoyed this debut fantasy novel. It’s what I wanted Starless Sea to be. It has nice world building. It even has a semi decent antagonist. I enjoyed the writing too but it really was the building of plot. Like a lot of urban and modern fantasy, the beginning is a bit disorienting. Once the reader learns more, it becomes more interesting and even a bit exciting.

It was a really fun read for fantasy story lovers. It had action, world building, coming of age, romance, and just fun. Wish there had been more to be honest. I’ve read more mixed reviews about Harrow’s second novel so I may not pick it up. However, I like what the author did here. Recommended for fantasy lovers.

Read August 11-18, 2021.

Two novels by Keigo Higashino

Devotion of Suspect X

I have heard about this author from a couple of people and decided to finally try it out. It was a good mystery mystery with a very good twist. I like how the author crafted it from the get go. I do not expect as much from mysteries other than to be enthralled for a few hours and this did the job. The only quibble I have with Higashino and other male Japanese authors is how I do not seem to get enough sense of the female characters. All the men are more developed and all the women seem to be thinking.

Read July 14, 2021.

Salvation of A Saint

Since I enjoyed my first Higashino, I was interested to try more. Now that I was more familiar with him, I saw most of the twists coming and early on. That does not negate my enjoyment of books. I like the guesswork. It was mildly predictable as a result. Mostly, I also found myself irked that all the women in these books seem to talk and focus on men. Oh well. They can’t all be Agatha Christie. I do like these books the Japanese culture and sociology. It’s a bit different. On a funny note, the translation had a few grammatical errors and someone had corrected them in pencil in my library copy.

Read Aug 5-7, 2021.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

This book is well reviewed and I heard some hype about it. It has a great title and cover. All in all, it was a nice read for me.

I found most of the book a bit slow. The ending really made it for me. It is very sweet and lovely. I do not know if it needed such a long build up. The writing in the good is nice. I think I expected more from the plot and the characters. It got there in the end but it took awhile. I would consider reading from Klune again.

Read June 23-29, 2021.

A Thousand ships by Nathalie Haynes

It feels like there is a literary trend for feminist interpretations of the Greek classics. Song of Achilles and Circe by Madeleine Miller were both popular in the mainstream. As a results, these kind of books are coming to the forefront. I read the classics for fun as a kid and as a teenager, I do gravitate to these kind of stories out of familiarity.

This was fine. It did not wow me too. Each chapter takes perspective from a woman or certain women from the Iliad and the Odyssey. I was not a big of the Penelope chapters which just ended up as a retelling of the Odyssey. Circe did a better job of it.

The ending of a couple of the women were retold quite well. I particularly liked Cassandra’s chapters. She’s always fascinated me and I have read one other interpretations for her. Haynes noted in her afterword of the book that Cassandra stayed with her too. I liked how Clymenestra’s story and perspective weaved with Cassandra’s in the end as well.

This book is favourably reviewed and perhaps it would be enjoyed by someone who was less familiar with the classics and wanted more of the female perspective.

Read June 16-21, 2021.

Lopi Braided Hat

It’s the third of the three hats I planned this winter. It’s been awhile since I actually finished this hat and a lot of things have happened in my life the last couple of months. I don’t remember all the details. I think most of the knitting was done in March and then I forgot about it. I finished it in April, blocked it, and left the weaving in ends and the photos until recently because of my hellish May.

I love lopi yarn. I received this skein also for free from my local Buy Nothing group. I knew I had to make something with it. Great colour. I wish I had more yarn to do an additional repeat of the cables but I was running out at the end. I wanted a folded brim as well for the extra cold days. As in my recent hat projects, I also made it tall for my hair bun.

Continue reading →

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

fter Midnight Library, I wanted to read more of Matt Haig’s works. Overall, while this was fun and interesting at times, I preferred Midnight Library.

I liked a lot of stuff from this novel. I liked the protagonist Tom and I could understand him. I also enjoyed the light supernatural magical realism aspect of being a very long living person. The concept of the novel was fascinating. I liked the chapters in the past as well. It was a mix of historical fiction and modern fiction. There were some interesting supporting characters too, but most of them were as developed as the protagonist. I wanted to know more about all the interesting female characters.

What did not work for me as much in this novel was the suspense and psychological thriller aspect. The villain was very one dimensional. The whole Albatross society aspect seemed to detract from the history of Tom’s life. While it was a sort of impediment to his character growth, it actually felt unnecessary in the novel. I do not think Haig needed this mafia stuff to tell the story of an older man who was heartbroken. The storyline took time away from interactions between Tom and the other characters. I rather the book had more of Tom’s self reflections of his life. The ending was abrupt too. I was left with questions at the end because the ending felt so hurried.

Being that this was an earlier book than Midnight Library, I saw that Haig has developed as a novelist. I will read more from him in the future.

Read June 9-12, 2021.

Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving by Celeste Headlee

I have been thinking more about the need to rest and take time off especially after a year of pandemic and lockdowns. I am extremely grateful to have weathered the pandemic relatively unscathed, but like many others, the restrictions and limitations did affect my mental health. Furthermore, my personal life has had been affected by the ill health and death of people very close to me. So yes, I have been thinking more about doing nothing and taking time off. I hope to do so more this summer too.

As someone who has always wanted to retire with books and crafts and food, this book is preaching to the choir. Most of the book is about the history of how western society views work and busyness. It has some economic and religious history. I did not learn anything new from the book. The last third offered some tips on how to take a break. I welcomed the reminders but I wish there was more of them.

All in all, an ok book for me. It was nice to read in a time where I have been thinking of it. It did not change my world view. I do think that the pandemic and recent economic times has recently taught us how destructive constant busyness or claims of busyness can be. It would be better if everyone didn’t find leisure so unreachable or useless.

Read June 5-8, 2021.

Bridgerton: The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

I continued my journey to find the heir to Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels. I had mostly given up on this quest but then the Netflix TV show became popular. I had to reconsider. I did not watch the TV show before reading the novel. I have started it as of this writing.

This is probably the second or third modern romance novel I’ve read. I do not count the Outlander series. I am finding that romance novels have a couple of tropes which include a lot of angst from the male lead. Back to this novel, it was not bad overall. I think there were a couple of really funny moments. I actually wanted to read more about the female characters like Daphne’s mother Lady Bidgerton and Lady Danbury.

I found the book a bit too long. Most of the novel, I just wanted it to get to the point. It seemed too many drawn out shenanigans. If one would resolve, another conflict would resolve. I did not relate to Daphne either as I am not really inclined to a large family. There was just not enough character development for me. I feel like Simon got the most and it became a bit too angsty for me.

So not a bad read, but I will not be reading the sequels. The TV show is fine. I like the visual, the music, and the casting. I am overlooking the writing to be honest.

Read May 23-25, 2021.