Category Archives: books/book review

Review of Spring, by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I won an ARC of Karl One Knausgaard‘s Spring.

Description from Goodreads:

Today is Wednesday the thirteenth of April 2016, it is twelve minutes to eleven, and I have just finished writing this book for you. What happened that summer nearly three years ago, and its repercussions, are long since over.

Sometimes it hurts to live, but there is always something to live for.

Spring follows a father and his newborn daughter through one day in April, from sunrise to sunset. A day filled with everyday routine, the beginnings of life and its light, but also its deep struggles and its darkness.

Review:

Generally lovely. It wonders a bit (as I’m told Knausgaard is known for), I had a certain nagging sense that this should have been his wife’s story to tell, not his, and narratives where people paint themselves too well are always a little suspect. But as a book written by a father to his newly born daughter (a fourth child), it is very sweet. There is real love apparent here. In a world saturated with stories of toxic masculinity it was a real pleasure to read about a father valuing his children and family. Despite not reading the previous books in the series (and my copy anomalously missing the 8 pages between 102-111) I followed this without issue and would be happy to read more.

Review of The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, by Alexis Hall

Book cover of The Affair of the Mysterious Letter

I pre-ordered a copy of Alexis Hall‘s The Affair of the Mysterious Letter.

Description from Goodreads:

Upon returning to the city of Khelathra-Ven after five years fighting a war in another universe, Captain John Wyndham finds himself looking for somewhere to live, and expediency forces him to take lodgings at 221b Martyrs Walk. His new housemate is Ms. Shaharazad Haas, a consulting sorceress of mercurial temperament and dark reputation.

When Ms. Haas is enlisted to solve a case of blackmail against one of her former lovers, Miss Eirene Viola, Captain Wyndham finds himself drawn into a mystery that leads him from the salons of the literary set to the drowned back-alleys of Ven and even to a prison cell in lost Carcosa. Along the way he is beset by criminals, menaced by pirates, molested by vampires, almost devoured by mad gods, and called upon to punch a shark. 

But the further the companions go in pursuit of the elusive blackmailer, the more impossible the case appears. Then again, in Khelathra-Ven reality is flexible, and the impossible is Ms. Haas’ stock-in-trade. 

Review:

This book came to me challenged. It simply had so much to live up to. Alexis Hall is one of my favorite authors. But more importantly, several years ago I came across a snippet they’d written that has haunted me ever since. I don’t remember if it was a piece of their then WIP or a standalone scene that had just come to them. But either way, it stuck with me and I’VE WANTED THAT STORY ever since. When I read the synopsis for The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, I desperately hoped this was the story that scrap of writing fit into. And if my memory of that scene serves, I think it is.

The challenge for The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, of course, is how can reality possibly stand up to something imagine by another (however vaguely) for years? In some ways it accomplishes this task admirably, in others it was me who posed an impediment to my own enjoyment.

John is everything I could want in a puritanic Watson- esque hero. Ms. Haas is everything I could hope for in a cryptic, sorcerous Holmes. Hall’s writing is crisp as ever, the story engaging, and (as so many others have said) the story is marvelously queer. However, I struggled with the frequent breaks in the narrative in which John attempted discourse with the reader (especially in the beginning) and the Lovecraftian world full of reality bending gods was at times hard to pin down. (On a side note, I kept waiting for Piccadilly and Co. to make a cameo. I really hope there wasn’t one that I missed. LOL)

All in all, however, once I’d gotten used to the pace, I truly enjoyed this book. Everything about John Wyndham is lovable and 100% hope I sensed a future romance in the works for him. I ship him and [deleted to avoid spoiler] hard core. I don’t know if Hall plans more books in this series. But I’d look forward to reading them if there are more.

Review of Land on Fire: The New Reality of Wildfire in the West, by Gary Ferguson

I won an ARC of Land on Fire, by Gary Ferguson, quite some time ago. It’s languished on my shelf ever since. But I finally read it.

Description from Goodreads:

Wildfire season is burning longer and hotter, affecting more and more people, especially in the west. Land on Fire explores the fascinating science behind this phenomenon and the ongoing research to find a solution. This gripping narrative details how years of fire suppression and chronic drought have combined to make the situation so dire. Award-winning nature writer Gary Ferguson brings to life the extraordinary efforts of those responsible for fighting wildfires, and deftly explains how nature reacts in the aftermath of flames. Dramatic photographs reveal the terror and beauty of fire, as well as the staggering effect it has on the landscape.

Review:

I thought this was a pretty informative introduction to fighting modern forest fires. I certainly learned a lot that I didn’t previously know; but I think the book is best suited to people like me. If you had any substantial knowledge going in, I don’t know that it would add much. I wouldn’t call this a research text.

I appreciated that Ferguson didn’t refer to all his hypothetical fire fighters as male (it’s the little things that make a difference sometimes) and the book is quite readable, with a lot of pictures to help visualize the subject matter. Further, while I expected the answer to the posed question of ‘Why are fires getting bigger, hotter and more frequent?’ to be ‘climate change,’ it was a lot more nuanced than I expected (even if climate change was a large part of it). 

I did notice that a lot of the quotes are from the same few people, much of the researched cited comes from the same few institutions (there apparently aren’t a lot funded to study fire), and there are fairly few citations (less than 10 for most chapters and many of those from online). So, it felt like the knowledge pool tapped was fairly shallow. But again, for an introduction to the subject, intended for lay people, I think it’s worth picking up.