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charlie, computer cat

August 2018

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Summer reading 3: A Skinful of Shadows, Winterglass and Exit West

Book: A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge
Amount read: 100%
Thoughts: I am oddly resistant to Frances Hardinge and I don't really know why. A piece of historical fantasy, with ghosts and characters learning how to come to terms with their own powers should be something I absolutely love. I did enjoy reading this - I thought the concept was interesting and properly unsettling, it clipped along at a really good pace (I read it over an afternoon/evening) and I generally liked the characters, although I did think that Makepeace was a little too willing to welcome random ghosts into her head, or that her fear of the idea was inconsistently expressed, perhaps. I also found the fact that it is mentioned that Makepeace is not her true name and then nothing happens with that faintly annoying. The thing is, while this was all well and good, it just didn't grab me in the way that, say Uprooted did last year. I doubt this is something I'd re-read particularly. Like all her writing, it feels Diana Wynne Jones like but missing some vital ingredient that would make it really take fire. I'm explaining this poorly (not being a proper reviewer, I suppose) but that's the closest I can come to conveying it.
Overall: Good, but lacking something and so not great.




Book: Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Amount read: 100%
Thoughts: I quite liked this! It was super weird and unsettling though and definitely had flaws. I loved the setting, which felt genuinely strange and fantastical. I took a little while to warm to the characters but I did generally quite enjoy inhabiting their point of view for a while. I was totally taken aback by the ending though, which was not what I expected at all - I couldn't decide if it was just a surprising twist that I should take at face value or if it was setting things up for something else that's part of a longer book? It was very short and, by the end, I actually kind of wished it had been longer/wanted to know what would happen next.

I did find the book's approach to gender a little distracting - I couldn't decide whether it was trying to do something clever that I wasn't understanding or if it was just being boundary pushing in places or what. I particularly found General Lussadh confusing - she's referred to by female pronouns throughout but clearly has male anatomy and I wasn't sure what that was supposed to convey to me in terms of the character and or her relationships. I also found the sex included in the story felt a little forced in places, but it is a thing which is hard to write well, so I'm not knocking off major points for that.
Overall: Intriguing. I would definitely read a sequel to this (I wonder if there is one)




Book: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Amount read: 21%
Gave up because: I just found the narrative incredibly stilted and found the air of disconnect that the story (such as it was) fostered unappealing. I picked it up in the first place because I found it in the shared kindle library, saw it was on the Booker shortlist and wondered whether those two things together implied something more interesting than run of the mill literary fiction. I have to say that if it did, it didn't keep me interested long enough to get to it.
Predictions for the rest of the story: Saeed and Nadia get together and try to leave the terrible war torn Middle East for the West but discover that things are bad for them there in different ways.
Overall: Standard issue lit fic without enough heart to grab the attention.

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