miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Books)
2014-12-15 02:34 pm
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On #PaydayBook

So those of you who follow me on twitter may have noticed that one a month I post what I've bought for my #paydaybook and might be wondering what the point of it is. Obviously books are awesome, and that's part of it, but it also has two other functions: firstly it makes me try new things, and secondly it makes me support actual real life bookshops.

The rules I follow are:
  1. The book must be one I have not read before - so no sneakily buying posh editions of old favourites
  2. It must be obtained by browsing or being recced something in an actual, physical bookshop - so no amazon
  3. the book must be bought on payday
  4. Once the book has been bought, take a photo and post it to twitter with the hashtag #paydaybook
Simple, eh?

It rarely costs me more than a tenner, even if Waterstones* have a buy-one-get-one-half-price offer on, and it gives me that feeling of smug satisfaction of helping to keep the high street nice and booky, and it gives me new books to read.

OfC, like all good ideas I nicked it from somebody else. So I suppose I really should credit my lovely PPC for Calder Valley, who introduced me to the concept.

* I realise that Waterstones are hardly a small independent bookseller, but my local one is the prettiest in the country, and so I go there often. I patronise small independent bookstores AS WELL, but Bradford Waterstones Cathedral of Books is on my way to work so it's nice and easy to nip in most paydays. LAST month, by contrast, my payday book came from the South Kensington Bookstore, which proclaimed itself to be proudly, fiercely independent - because I happened to be in That London.
miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Lee)
2014-06-07 10:19 pm
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On reading Dennis Wheatley Books

"What have you been up to then?"
"Oh I've been reading Dennis Wheatley"
"What?! What the fuck do you want to read Dennis Wheatley for? It's racist, classist, homophobic, misogynist, xenophobic, politically illiterate... worse than all that it's BADLY WRITTEN!"
"I know! That's what makes it SO HILARIOUS!"

One day my politically incorrect sense of humour is going to get me into big trouble. But honestly, if you want to piss yourself laughing, Wheatley is the way to go. The man in my icon would doubtless disagree, but he (like Wheatley) is a product of another time.
miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Books)
2014-01-15 10:45 am

PSA: Bad Brain Day

I am having one. Work was horrific yesterday, and there were various dramas outside of work as well, and work today looks as though it's not going to be any better. So I'm not tweeting, I'm not reading blogs, I'm only checking emails from people on my important list, and my phone is on block mode*. Cut down and shut down.

It's Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday, Nina Simone and various other bluesy jazzy type people on the playlist today.

Still, I did manage to nip into Waterstones and pick up a payday book** on my way into work today, so it's not all bad. I got this. Because how could I resist that when it was displayed so prominently?

*this means that if you try to phone or text me you will only get through if you are one of nine people. Four of whom are work-related, and one of whom doesn't have a working phone at the moment.
**yes, THANK YOU McGREGOR for that idea. Bloody candidates, costing me money.
miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Cthulhu the Six!Fan)
2013-01-07 06:08 pm
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Whoniversary Ebooks

So they've released the name of the first author of the Whoniversary Ebooks and it's Eoin Colfer. I have no problem with this, I like his work. I am now going to engage in rampant speculation about who else might be on the list. Apparently they are all children's authors. What the definition of children's author they are using is, I do not know. [personal profile] magister says he'd like to see Salman Rushdie on the list, and Mr R has written children's books... The ones I am willing to suggest might be on the list are as follows:
  • GNeil, obviously, because he's been tweeting about research for a Who project and his cybermen story for the Welsh series is all done and written because they've been filming it.

  • JKR is strongly rumoured too.

  • PTerry and/or Rihanna Pratchett would be on my wishlist.

  • Julia Donaldson, Michael Morpurgo, Anthony Horowitz, Cressida Cowell, Jaqueline Wilson, Charlie Higson and Babette Cole are also names I would put in the frame. And Allan Ahlberg. Possibly some of those are dead... Roald Dahl would be amazing if he were still going.
Who do you guys think might be put forward?
miss_s_b: (Pratchett: Nanny Ogg)
2012-12-15 11:16 pm

What has it got in its pocketses? A DISCWORLD book?

I had my first view of An Unexpected Journey tonight. I'm going to see it again tomorrow with Holly (who is mega excited for it) and my mum; will hopefully do a proper review tomorrow, but suffice to say it's bloody fabulous, EXTREMELY faithful to the book(s)*, and Gollum is the cutest most loveliest thing ever.

The thing I want to blog about tonight, though, is VINDICATION. There was argument about whether or not LotR dwarves are like Discworld dwarves (i.e. indeterminate gender identity). I am firmly on the side of HELL YES THEY ARE, and furthermore Gimli is clearly a bisexual lady who has an elf fetish. There are others who are... less convinced of this than I am. HOWEVER, in The Hobbit, when Gandalf is describing Radagast to the company he uses THE EXACT WORDS used to describe Ridcully the Brown when he is first introduced in the Discworld books. Obviously the desciption give of Ridcully is meant to conjure up images of Radagast, so it's a nice nod. But it also means that the writers have explicitly considered Discworld, THEREFORE it is quite legitimate to play guess the gender identity with the company dwarves.

Amirite? I ARE RITE!

Of those in the film, I don't want to make definitive pronouncements about any but two. Oin is definitely a boy; that type of campness is something I have never seen in anyone who wasn't cis male. And Thorin is definiely a girl. That lustrous hair, that silky beard, that way with using improvised weapons; she's the only one who organises things, she's the most sensible, and she's by far the huggiest of the dwarves**.

I lean towards saying that Bombur, Biffur, Balin and Fili and Kili are ladies too***, but I wouldn't say for definite. Dwalin I would say is probably a bloke. The others are, in my head at least, genderqueer.

Anyhew, I am a happy bunny, I enjoyed the film very much, and I thought Thorin was an excellent heroine :)

* as in, the bits that are in there which aren't in The Hobbit are almost all from Tolkein's expansions.
** You might say that I am being somewhat stereotypical about gender roles here; possibly I am. But it beats saying that the only girls in the film were Galadriel (who admittedly has a far bigger part to play than she was given by JRR), a few hobbit extras, and an unnamed elf playing the flute...
*** Which makes the regular fatshaming of Bombur extra depressing...
miss_s_b: (Mood: Gorgeous)
2012-04-16 01:13 pm
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Book "review": a First Look at the Reader's Digest Complete Guide To Sewing

When I was a youngun my dad had the Reader's Digest Complete DIY Manual, and it was bloody fabulous. Clear, concise, well illustrated, and comprehensive, The DIY Book (as it was referred to in our house) rarely ever got put back on the shelf, because it was so constantly in use. It had step by step instructions for how to do EVERYTHING a DIY enthusiast might possibly want to, and a few things that even my dad baulked at trying. So when I decided to take up machine sewing recently, and a couple of websites (yes I'm looking at you, patternreview.com) recommended the equivalent book for sewing, I figgered I'd give it a go.

Now, you CAN get this book in a brand new edition for upwards of twenty quid, but me being me I got it secondhand in an old edition for the princely sum of two pounds and eighty-six pence. Most of the discussion I had seen around this book seemed to agree that in terms of balance of illustrations to text, and topics covered, the 1976 edition was the one to go for, so that's what arrived in the post this morning. For a 35 year old huge great hardback book it's in pretty good condition, especially to say I paid less than three quid for it. The spine isn't damaged, it's got its dust cover, and none of the pages are falling out or damaged. I think the reasons it was so cheap is that it smells faintly of someone else's tobacco smoke. This is something I can happily live with.

But you don't want to hear about the physical book, do you? It's the contents that matter. Well, I've only had a flick through, but from first glance it appears to be everything The DIY Book was, but for sewing. With comprehensive and well-illustrated instructions on setting up a sewing area, looking after a machine, and all types of actual sewing and garment construction, I can see this book being very useful, and I'm very glad I spent that 2.86. Given that you can pick it up for so little (or even SEW little, ha, I kill myself) secondhand, it's certainly worth a look for anyone who is thinking about taking up sewing to see what's involved, too. It's certainly cheaper than taking a punt on a sewing course at the local adult education centre, which is what I have done. If you haven't got a good secondhand bookshop nearby, there's always ABEbooks.
miss_s_b: (Default)
2012-04-15 10:00 am
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The Blood is The Life 15-04-2012

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2012-04-10 10:00 am
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The Blood is The Life 10-04-2012

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2012-04-06 10:00 am

The Blood is The Life 06-04-2012

miss_s_b: (Default)
2012-03-29 05:00 pm

The Blood is The Life 29-03-2012

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2012-03-25 10:00 am

The Blood is The Life 25-03-2012

miss_s_b: (Default)
2012-03-04 09:00 am

The Blood is The Life 04-03-2012

miss_s_b: (feminist heroes: river song)
2012-03-04 03:58 am
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More Book Reviewage: Killer Instinct by Zoe Sharp

Here's my review for another kindling: Killer Instinct by Zoe Sharp
I am a female motorcyclist and occasional karateka who lives in the north of England: I therefore couldn't resist downloading this book.

Charlie Fox is a very well-realised character. She has an authentic voice, and the immediacy and quirks of her dialogue were all very familiar to me. The precision of the author's descriptions of motorcycling are matched by the delightfully eccentric descriptions she uses for characters - the one springing to mind is the minor character whose cleft chin hangs off his face "like a small pair of buttocks".

Charlie's initial characterisation, as a rape survivor who still has some elements of self-blame, was hard for me to cope with, but principally because it was so well done. There are few rape survivors who don't blame themselves to some degree, and Charlie's initial reaction of learning self defence and then teaching it to others is an understandable one, even if I have some political qualms about putting the responsibility of preventing rape onto the victims, rather than the perpetrators. Charlie's growing refusal to let herself be a victim, and her determination to help herself and others, are a tough but rewarding read.

Her growth throughout the story feels genuine and evolutionary, rather than forced as some Tough Female Leads (TM) can seem. Through the course of the book I really grew to like and respect her as a person; her thought processes are well-detailed, and her moral dilemmas resonate strongly. By the final passages I was almost literally cheering her on.

The plot of the story isn't massively original, and I'm a devourer of detective fiction in all media, so I had most of it worked out well before the revelations, but bits of how we get to the end still came as surprises. It's a reasonably good crime thriller plot, but nothing more.

In summary then: the plot is merely good, but the characters, especially the lead, are outstanding and the descriptive passages are a delight. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who likes detective fiction, but with a warning that there are some triggery passages in there for rape and domestic violence survivors.
I picked this up as a special offer freebie, but in my estimation it's well worth the three quid it would normally cost, so long as you like detective fiction and you can cope with the triggery bits.
miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Books)
2012-03-02 05:37 am
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Fulfilling a promise to @stealthmunchkin

I can't sleep, so I downloaded a book to my kindle app and read it. I did this by searching for free kindle books with high ratings and picking ones that looked vaguely interesting. Then I remembered that I promised Andrew that if I got a new book, I would review it. So I did. This is the book, and here is my review:
I'm not going to say that this is the best book I have ever read, but it's better than many. The present tense narrative grated at first, but you soon get used to it, and the story drags you in pretty quickly. There are a couple of scenes in the book that some people might find upsetting, and the language and concepts are definitely not for the faint-hearted. It's also mildly disappointing to discover that even a couple of hundred years into a dystopian future the gender roles are still fairly intact, and all the powerful characters (chief of police, president, etc. etc.) are male, even while the protagonist is female.

All that said, the world-building is competent, the characters are engaging, the story rattles along at a fair pace, and there are a couple of neat narrative touches subverting the genre (the cliche of violet eyes among them).

There are certainly worse ways to spend a couple of hours than reading this book, and I'll probably pick the next in the series up at some point, if only to find out what happens to Alice.
miss_s_b: (Default)
2012-02-23 09:00 am

The Blood is The Life 23-02-2012

miss_s_b: (Default)
2012-02-14 09:00 am
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The Blood is The Life 14-02-2012

miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Books)
2011-01-18 04:06 pm
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Booklist 2011: ##4-7 Winston's War by Michael Dobbs and a trio of Batbooks

#4: Winston's War - Michael Dobbs

A fictionalised account of Churchill's rise to power and his interactions with Guy Burgess. It's a fairly interesting "inspired by real events" tale, but the historical inaccuracies annoyed me too much for me to really enjoy this. The Churchill isn't as annoyingly inaccurate as Ian McNeice's in Victory of the Daleks, but there are still bits of the character that rankle. When a person is so well known from his own words and proper historical document, discrepancies tend to stick out like a sore thumb, and such is the case with Dobbs' characterisation of Churchill. An example being his political allegiances; any party was a flag of convenience for Churchill. He was as ideologically attached to the Liberals and the national liberals as he was to the Tories, and to pretend he was a true blue Tory is wishful thinking from this most Conservative of writers.

Another irritation was his portrayal of Chamberlain as a bumbling fool. This might accord with popular belief, but it doesn't accord with fact. Chamberlain was a tactician who bought us time, not an idiot who sold us down the river, and to pretend otherwise is an injustice.

If you're not bothered by this sort of thing, though, it's a fairly enjoyable and accessible pageturner. Just don't read it expecting the truth. 5/10

#5: Batman: Harley and Ivy - Paul Dini & Judd Winick (writers), Bruce Timm (artist and cover artist), Joe Chiodo, Shane Glines, Ronnie del Carmen and lots of other people (artists)

This is a compilation book of three distinct Harley and Ivy stories. The first follows the formula of the Harley and Ivy episode of Batman the Animated Series, albeit with a different plot. The second is my favourite; a short story which is entirely based on the friendship and interaction between the two titular characters. The third is different in artistic style, and suffers slightly from that in my view.

Poison Ivy is hands-down my favourite female batvillain. She's an ecowarrior and a feminist, and as such I find her somewhat of an identification character. I share her frustration with Harley and her inability to escape her abusive relationship with the Joker, and I love her confidence and don't-give-a-damn attitude.

Harley is more problematic for me. Her senseless unrequited love for the Joker annoys me no end. She's an intelligent woman, and she ought to have woken up by now. And yet, this aspect of her character is sadly believable also... That said, the way she and Ivy play off each other is beautiful. They are two women who, within the obvious constraints of appearing in the DC universe, are entirely believable characters, and not just ciphers.

I really enjoyed this book, despite my reservations about Joe Chiodo's art in the third story. Overall it gets 8/10.

Batman: Battle for the Cowl/Gotham Gazette - Tony S Daniel (writer, penciller, some covers), Fabian Nicieza (writer), Dustin Nguyen (artist and cover artist), Guillem March, Chris Cross, Jamie McKelvie, Alex Konat and Mark McKenna (artists), Sandu Florea (inker), Ian Hannin, Guy Major and Guillem March (colourists), Jared K Fletcher and Steve Wands (letterers)

Here I am catching up with the important stuff that's happened in the Batverse since The Long Halloween (more of which later), which was when I was last really embedded in Batfandom. I knew vaguely what had gone on in this series, but I wanted to actually read it.

Things I found out that I didn't know before include Jason Todd is still alive, Vicki Vale has returned to Gotham, and Dick Grayson/Nightwing definitely dresses to the left.

Toby S Daniel's art in Battle for the Cowl is stunning. One can quibble about his incredibly unrealistic portrayal of the human form, but the balance and composition of the pages is glorious. The writing, though, is more patchy. IMHO story and characters should drive each other, and there are several places in this where it feels like characters are there pointlessly, not adding to or being added to by the plot.

Gotham Gazette, on the other hand, has beautiful but less strikingly comic-book artwork, and the writing is very good indeed. Having fallen in love with Steph Brown while reading Batgirl Rising, it was lovely to see her concentrated on in such a sensitive fashion. Leslie Thompkins is another character I am fond of, and she gets some nice writing here too, cementing her as a strong moral compass in the series. And dear old Harvey Bullock gets to be his usual pain in the butt self.

One character I thought was underused in both these stories was Barbara Gordon - but that might be because I have been reading Birds of Prey too, and she's AWESOME in that (props to Gail Simone). I am now slightly worried that I am morphing into [personal profile] innerbrat, though...

The second part of this I find much preferable to the first part, but overall I'd recommend it. 7/10

Batman: The Long Halloween - Jeph Loeb (writer), Tim Sale (artist), Gregory Wright (colourist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letterers)

This originally came out in 1996/1997, and was the last batseries I got involved with before going to university. When I was at uni I totally failed to keep up with US comics (although I kept 2000AD on), and have only been a dabbler since. It's thus a milestone story for me, even if it isn't for Batman. I kept it going even when I abandoned all other Bats because of Two-Face. I've always felt him to be interesting, and he's generally just used as a goon in a lot of batsuff. The Animated Series used him well, and I wanted to see more of that kind of storyline.

What The Long Halloween is, is a fleshing out and retelling of the Two-Face origins story, set around and just after the events of Batman: Year One. Everyone knows that Harvey Dent became Two-Face when Boss Maroni threw acid in his face in the courtroom, but that tends to be the extent of popular knowledge. This is a thirteen issue examination of who he was before, his relationships with Batman and Jim Gordon, and his relationship with his wife, Gilda. It's beautifully and immersively written, and the art is stunning. The final twist is a sideswipe you do not see coming, but it makes perfect sense. HArvey is a person, and his motivations are believable, and so are all the other characters. Alfred is great in this too, even though his part is small.

The other thing this story does, is detail the development of Gotham, from an ordinary American city with it's share of Mafioso to a land of crazy supervillains. Jim Gordon, watching this happen to the city he loves, is particularly moving in this regard.

I really, really love this story. It's male-centric, and the female characters are only there because they are WAGs, but I can forgive it that for the beauty and scope of the story. The one other quibble I have is with the lettering: sometimes the lettering is hard to make out against the background colours. Those two issues in conjunction are enough for me to rob it of the perfect ten, so it gets 9/10

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miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Books)
2011-01-09 04:00 am
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Booklist 2011 #2 Batgirl Rising and #3 Ghost Stories of an Antiquary

Batgirl Rising - Writer: Bryan Q. Miller. Pencillers: Tim Levins, Trevor Scott & Lee Garbett. Inkers: Trevor Scott, Dan Davis, Aaron Sowd, Sandra Hope, & Oliver Nome. Colorist: Guy Major. Letterer: John J Hill. Covers: Phil Moto

Jeez, you can't just say "by" with a comic book, can you? I have been inactive in Batfandom for a while now - since the Long Halloween, really - although I've kept up with some of the important stuff via Debi. So I knew there was doing to be a new Batgirl, and I knew that she was going to be ex-Spoiler and one-time Robin, Stephanie Brown.

What I didn't really expect was how important original Batgirl (and one of my all-time favourite characters) Barbara Gordon was going to be in this story arc. I am loving the interaction between Steph and O, and the way they behave towards Dick Grayson Batman and the most annoying Robin ever, Damian. And, you know, first important villain was Scarecrow, who is also one of my faves, although I have to say he was a bit underused... The scene where Steph is almost beaten by him and then rises and fights back is beautiful, though. Beautifully written, beautifully drawn, and Barbara finally referring to her as Batgirl was earned, and well done.

Props for having a barely-commented-upon gay couple in this paperback too. I enjoyed this very much, and hope to keep up with how Steph is getting on. 9/10

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary - Montague Rhodes James

This is comfort reading for me. I am up very late tonight due to anxiety over something I can do nothing about, so I am reading a book I know backwards to take my mind off things. The Ash Tree. Lost Hearts. The Treasure of Abbot Thomas. And, of course, the amazing Oh Whistle and I'll Come To You, My Lad... I could probably recite them, if I tried.

Hopefully the anxiousness-causing-thing will be cleared up tomorrow, but until it is getting lost in Monty's dry, dusty, academic prose style will alleviate things a bit. You know how HP Lovecraft has an instantly recognisable style, and Poe? Well so does Monty, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, even though it's all about unknown and unknowable horrors from the beyond.


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miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Books)
2011-01-08 11:13 pm
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Booklist 2011 #1: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson

Yeah, I know, everybody else has already read it. I didn't like it, so this isn't going to be a long review. Something about the prose style put me off from caring about the characters, even though you'd think the titular Girl would be right up my alley. And I hated the torture porn and sexualised violence.

In style it struck me like a less well-written Jeffrey Deaver - even down to the real life stats at the beginning of sections. I'm a big fan of Jeffrey Deaver. I wasn't keen on this. Won't be reading the next two - in part because the excerpt from the next one in this one was all torture porn...

Next on the list: Batgirl Rising, which was one of Holly's Christmas presents from A Nonnymouse.

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