Monday, 18 January 2016

Kristine's thoughs on Shadowshaper

The first book I read this year (that I hadn't started in 2015) was Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older. I'd been meaning to read his books since early 2015, but kept reading other stuff, so I decided to just get on with it already, and I do not regret it.

Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world.

Shadowshaper has the best tagline, and a beautiful vibrant cover that really fits the story. The girl with the curls, the colors, the city skyline. This story is about Sierra who is spending her summer painting a mural and hanging out with her friends, but then already dead people start coming after her and the murals around town start to change. Sierra starts looking into things and discover shadowshaping "a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories." (Goodreads) an art that has deep ties in her family. As if that wasn't enough someone is after her.

I loved this book, I listened to it on audio and it was great. Sierra is a complex and recognizable character who is stubborn, smart and barrels on even though she feels like breaking down. She stands up for herself, loves her friends and is both unsure and confident at once. This is her experience of uncovering the truth, battling an elusive enemy and the business of just being alive.

There are quite a lot of characters here, and they all manage to stand out as individuals. Which I appreciate as a large supporting  cast often can feel like there's just two or three other characters that happen to have five different names. Not the case here, I never had any trouble remembering anyone, though of course there also wasn't that much room for character development here (though this also plays out over a relatively short time span, and there is limits to how much there is to be revealed).

This story is set in New York, a city that I don't know. It's big, full og people and it shows up on TV and in movies a lot. That's it. I have read a few books set there, but it is not familiar to me, and while the city (or mostly Brooklyn) is a presence (and maybe a character of its own in a way if you are familiar with it, but I can't really tell). Sierra has an ordinary life, she's a teenager who struggles with identity, family, self-image and then, as if out of the blue, she discovers this whole other aspect of the world, magic, and it has deep ties with her family and ancestry. It adds dimensions to the world, yet normalcy is still everywhere. I love that.

Sometimes the plot felt a bit convenient, other times I reacted to things that were either foreshadowing or red herrings that just pulled me a little out of the story. The ending was also a bit too neat for my tastes, though I appreciate that friendships were made stronger, forgiveness dealt and new relationships were formed. I would have liked a bit more.

Another "complaint" I have is that this isn't a movie or graphic novel, because I bet the visuals would be both stunning and terrifying.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

February readalong: The Swords of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard)

Remember when Kat and I used to read a book a month on here? That is literally why we started this blog, and stopped because of life reasons, and now we wanted to read something together for February! We decided on Rick Riordan's new series about Magnus Chase The Sword of Summer (affiliate link).

Here's what Goodreads has to say about the book:
Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.
One day, he’s tracked down by a man he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.
The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.
When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.
Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die

I (Kristine) have never read a Riordan book, but I do know that his other books are well loved and I have a pretty good idea about what rests within their covers, this seems to be in the same vein as his other works, but the mythology at play here is norse. This appeals to both of us since we are Scandis and have both had at least one period of our lives were we were obsessed with norse mythology (so much weirdness to be found there). So we're interested in seeing how it is handled here. This is a middle grade novel.

If you want to read with us we have a (somewhat dormant) Goodreads group: The Cat's Tale
Or you can leave a comment here until the end of the month when we will be wrapping up!

Edit: As some of us (erm, Kat) is very bad at managing her time, we have decided to extend our reading of this book until the 15th of March, and then we will try to wrap up with either a liveshow or a video where we discuss the book. Happy reading!

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

My 2015 in books!

In 2015 I kept a spreadsheet of all the books that I read, and I tracked a lot of things (the sheet ran all the way to Q), and most of it is barely interesting, or can be gleaned easily from just looking at my Goodreads, but I wanted to go through a few stats anyway. I started the sheet to examine my reading habits, not change them, and while I aim for a few changes this year I'll still mostly be reading with my gut.

I read 54 books total (over 17k pages), so that is the number too keep in mind when looking at percentages. I'm mostly interested in diversifying my reading in various ways, I want to read outside my genre norm for instance, and I want diverse authors, old and new books etc.

I'm starting with language:
Most of the books I read in 2015 were in English, only 5.6% were in my mother tongue, Norwegian. Shame on me. I hope that when I do this next year I'll find that raised to at least 10%, preferably more, but that at least is manageable. 

Gender, is something I don't think about when I choose books, but that I find interesting to look at in hindsight. I read more women than men. The "Other" is just an umbrella for mixed gender books (anthologies, writing duos etc) trans and non-binary people, which means there are both men and women in that category as well (mostly those really). I'm have no desire to change this pie, it fluctuates a lot, though I'd love to read some more from those who aren't gendered. 
Format is interesting, it shows that I read mostly digitally. Ebooks and Audiobooks make up more 60% of my reading. This is mostly because I've resolved not to do mindless book shopping. I'll buy something if I want to read it now, and if I really do want to read something immediately the internet is closer than my local bookstore (that for most of my reads don't have what I need anyway) or the library. I'm happy with these stats too, they're mostly just for logging my habits. Format doesn't matter to me.  

All those dots represent the year the books I read were published, as you can see I read 10 books from 2015 and the same for 2014. Most of the books I've read have been published in the past 5 years (almost a quarter of the books), and only 4 were published prior to 2000. I want to change this a little. I have a lot of older books I want to read, so I'm aiming for 10 pre-2000 and then I'll read at will everything else. 

Finally I wanted a look at the nationality of the writers. Too many people from the US compared to the UK and Norway. I'm not surprised by the fact that I've only read 7.8% Norwegians seeing as I've hardly read any books in the language, but I am surprised by the fact that I've read so many books by people from the US this year, especially in comparison to the UK number, and I'm also sad that no other nationalities turned up. I know that there might be some hidden in the sea of blue that is the US in my chart, as I'm fairly certain some of the authors are immigrants (based on info I found about them), but I don't know what their passports says etc. In those instances I put down where they've been living the past few years. Most info comes from the authors or their publishing houses (the author bio usually mentions where someone is from). I have also been tracking ethnicity/race, but those stats are super incomplete as I haven't found a sorting system that works for me. I can say that non-hispanic caucasians are in abundance, but also that I don't have a clue about a good percentage of the authors, which is why I can't and won't include a chart, but it's safe to say about 87% percent are for sure caucasian. So I'd like try and lower that to about 80%.

Finally I'd like to talk about genre. I have no charts for this as most books that I read fit into more than one category, but I read speculative fiction the most, and within that again urban fantasy. I read about 50/50 young adult and stuff not labeled as such. I've also been reading quite a few memoirs. I think in 2016 I'll try to find a better way to sort this stuff so that I have a better idea of what exactly I'm reading.