Krazykiwi @ Kiwitopia

I'm a kiwi (the kind from New Zealand) who lives in Sweden. I read a lot.


I sometimes write really long reviews. And sometimes I don't.  I rate books fairly hard, something has to be pretty spectacular and a long time favourite to get a 5. But I'll try to explain why I rated what I rated.


Much books. Very review. Wow.

Reading progress update: I've read 11%.

Venetia - Georgette Heyer

It's Sunday! I remembered to start reading the book! (I'm surprised, my self-organisational skills seem to have fallen to zero the last few months!)


And now that's enough exclamation marks.


I seem to have acquired a large print library book, which is highly entertaining. It's also very huge and heavy and my three-times-broken wrist complains a lot, so I'm probably going to only manage a couple of chapters a day.


First impressions: Venetia is full of spunk and really has had the short end of the stick, but seems to have made the best she could out of it so far. And she's just met our hero, who in typical regency romance fashion was acting like a complete tool during the whole encounter. 


Oh but sparks were flying, already. So far so good.


I also rather liked the observations about the dog, Flurry :)


The language and style was a little difficult initially, having just come off a bunch of contemporary UF! but I found myself settling into it, so it's not that hard.


(This helped: - annotations for quite a lot of the VERY thick on the ground regency pop culture allusions, literary and artistic and general background info.


I had another one as well, similar, but covered some things not on that page, but I lost the link or rather, I can't remember which browser history it's in. Although I did recognise a few of the poetry snippets and other quotes myself it was very far from all of them.)



The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians - Lev Grossman

I remember reading some essays of Lev Grossman's online and being a little enchanted with his writing. I've been meaning to pick up this series for about forever, but somehow never got around to it. Then daughter and I watched the Syfy series of The Magicians and rather liked it - sulky nerdy Quentin, shy stuck-up Alice, damaged and wild-eyed Julia, belligerent Penny and the fabulous pair of Margo and Elliot. So I thought I'd finally read the book, although I was aware the plot was wildly different.

So, I read the book. And I'm non-plussed, because I really liked the TV series much, much better.

Quentin here is not just sulky and nerdy, he's flat out whiny and self-absorbed to a ridiculous degree, and so so jaded. Alice is cripplingly shy, but has no edge to her. Penny practically isn't in the book (boo! TV Penny is great) and Julia even less so, and really only Elliot and Margo I mean Janet approach the same level of characterisation. And this is absolutely not me complaining about the fact they're different--I'm one of those weirdos who loves the LOTR books and the LOTR movies--but rather complaining about the fact they are all mostly as unlikeable as hell and when someone dies in the book, I simply don't care.

On the bright side, Grossman is a very engaging writer as always, and that is really the only thing that kept me reading. And I get it, I've read his explanations, that they're unlikeable, to a point, on purpose. It just didn't work for me. I didn't hate the book, and I'll read the other two, I'm certainly not regretting the time spent (and in fact, I found this a fast and easy read, because again, as mentioned, Grossman is a good writer.)

So pros: Excellent writing, great worldbuilding.

Cons: I just didn't give a flying fig what happened to the characters.


Conclusion: Watch the TV show. And read some other Lev Grossman writing, unless you find the idea of this one particularly enchanting.


ETA; A thought: Even if you didn't like the book, give the show a try. It takes until episode three or so to really settle in, but the plot is WILDLY different to the book, making all the characters older (Brakebills is a grad school, not a university), and it has an actual plot that creates some urgency. Relative to the book, all it really shares is some character names (and not even all of those)

Viking ship grave
Viking ship grave

I thought a few people might like to see why I didn't get my book finished on the weekend: Daughter and grandma dragged me off on a bike ride to go visit this: The first picture is a runestone, standing right on the side of the road just outside the ship. I forgot to write down the exact translation but it is basically "These three guys raised this stone in honour of their friend, the fourth guy", except with names. The second is a viking grave, with standing stones (they're about chest height on me) arranged in the shape of a ship. Whoever was buried there was probably very important.


These are both at Åsa Gravefield, out on the island (Selaön) very close to where I live, although it's one of those things you live right by and see all the time and never get around to taking photos. Behind where I was standing to take the pic of the ship arrangement, there's a huge graveyard with 30 odd burial mounds and maybe 100 standing stones. Of course I forgot to take a pic of *that* either (although, after a thousand years, it looks very like a hillside with some bumps and lots of rocks.) I will try to remember to take a picture of it in the spring though, because it's been preserved carefully for several hundred years, and it's a riot of plants and wildflowers in the spring, some of which are close to extinct anywhere else.


Following that one road, there are 20 actual runestones along a 10km stretch and several more nearby, which is I think the most concentrated patch of them left in the country (for those who have forgotten, or don't know, we're one island over from Birka, the original Swedish viking capital, and this area has been settled since at least the bronze age - for someone like me, who can trace written history from my home country only 160 years, and with my maori tradition tracing settlement back only 8-900 years, the idea that people have lived right here for thousands of years is really quite astounding. The fact all this history is on display, and virtually untouched right where it's always stood, even more so.


(ETA: That works a lot better if I ATTACH THE PICTURES doh.)

3 Dead Princes by Danbert Nobacon, illustrated by Alex Cox

3 Dead Princes: An Anarchist Fairy Tale - Danbert Nobacon, Alex Cox

So, if any book review ever needed a soundtrack, it's this one. That, and this is pretty much the explanation why I picked it up: Political ideology wrapped up in fairy tale allegory isn't exactly my normal reading fare.


( if the embed doesn't work)


Danbert Nobacon is one of the members of the British anarchist punk band Chumbawumba, which most people probably only know from the above song, but they've been around for over 30 years. He's the bald guy with the bullhorn in the video above btw. Anarchist punk doesn't even begin to describe them - they're anti-fascist, pro-feminist, pro gay rights and rather infamous. Notably, unlike many seminal punk bands, they're really good musicians too!


In one of my favourite stunts, they once took £70k from GM to use a song of theirs in a car ad, and gave it straight to an anti-GM lobby group :). Danbert himself is pretty famous for tipping a bucket of ice water over the head of the then Deputy Prime Minister during their performance of Tubthumping at the Brit Awards (think the Grammys) - a performance that also featured them changing the lyrics of the chorus to "New Labour sold out the dockers, and they'll sell out the rest of us".


Alex Cox is equally punk, but he's a film maker: If you're my age, you'll likely remember or at least heard of Repo Man and Sid & Nancy, although he's taken to making avant garde/indie films since the 80's. They're quite a pair.


In any case, this is a book I picked up purely because I saw who the authors were, with almost no idea what the book would be about.


So the story itself, here's the blurb again:


Princess Stormy lives in a semi-detached castle with her family and a Fool. When an unhappy neighboring kingdom decides to invade, Stormy must go on her quest, meeting giant Cats, Mermangels, Giggle Monkeys, a Gricklegrack, and Flying Lizards on the way. Oh, and she kills three princes. But that's by accident, and anyway it's their own fault . . .


While it takes the form of a fairy tale, it satirises, subverts and inverts and converts it just as you might expect given the authors. Stormy (a nickname, she's actually Princess Alexandra) lives with her father the king and her stepmother, who is very much not evil. Alex is effectively set up to go on a quest for "an accidental adventure", with the Fool for company, and that's exactly what happens. On the way, as you'd expect, she makes new friends, new discoveries, and eventually returns home and saves the kingdom from invasion. And yes, there's the three princes. But it was totally their own fault.


It's clearly informed by typically British humour, like Monty Python and Douglas Adams, and in places it's very funny. While it purports to be an anarchist fairy tale, it's also a supremely feminist one, and if my daughters were of the age where they still instantly picked up and read things I handed them, they'd both be getting a copy. As they have regrettably passed that age, I'll still send them a recommendation and note they can borrow mine if they want.


The illustrations are fantastic, like a wild cross between Maurice Sendak and a little of the Tenniel Alice in Wonderland illustrations. I loved them, there's a couple I would buy as posters.


Finally, this is actually a serious little book, despite it's gleeful silliness. There's a very easy to read section at the end that lays out Anarchy as an ideology (despite the book itself touting "Ideas before ideology", Anarchy is of course an ideology itself). It talks about Kropotkin and evolution and symbiosis and cooperative behaviour between not just humans, but interspecies examples, and it's actually a pretty good intro.


Actually, I can't really decide what to rate this. The fairy tale itself, before reading the authors note, I think a 3. It's cute, and funny, but I think perhaps I didn't quite "get" it as much as I should have. Having read the note, I realised how much I was actually thinking about the story, and gave it another half star. And just writing this review, I'm thinking about it even more, and wondering if it shouldn't go up to a 4.


It's also a little hard to recommend. I think you'll know just from this review if it's something you would enjoy or not. All I know is, I did - even if I can't figure out how much!

Reading progress update: I've read 91 out of 217 pages.

3 Dead Princes: An Anarchist Fairy Tale - Danbert Nobacon, Alex Cox

Didn't get it read, but nearly half way. And we're down one prince already.


This is exceedingly silly, and occasionally not quite as clever or funny as it wants to be. I'm kind of loving it in spite of that

Reading progress update: I've read 1%.

3 Dead Princes: An Anarchist Fairy Tale - Danbert Nobacon, Alex Cox

Princess Stormy lives in a semi-detached castle with her family and a Fool. When an unhappy neighboring kingdom decides to invade, Stormy must go on her quest, meeting giant Cats, Mermangels, Giggle Monkeys, a Gricklegrack, and Flying Lizards on the way. Oh, and she kills three princes. But that's by accident, and anyway it's their own fault . . 


Too late to start it tonight, but I am going to read this over the weekend if it kills me :)

So sorry for the rating spam

I just noticed that a ton of books I've reviewed (some of them years ago) had ratings on the reviews, but not on my shelf. I guess it was a BL glitch, but whatever it was only affected books I'd rated 2015 and earlier, so I suppose it's long fixed. In any case, I think I'm done now.

Kia and Gio by Daniel José Older

Kia and Gio: A Tor.Com Original - Daniel José Older

Tor short, you can read it on their website here:


I'm a huge fan of Older, after reading Shadowshaper, and if you're not familiar with him this is a pretty good intro. It's actually set in the world of his other series, but they are very similar, and he has a distinct style and rythym to his writing that I really enjoy. 


Things in the Mirror by D.J. Shaw

Things in the Mirror - D.J. Shaw

Well they can't all be good. Still working through my random kindle freebie mound.

Probably the best thing about this story is that it's short. On the other hand it could have been a whole lot shorter, it's not like there's anything original going on here, it's a very well worn plot

"the things you think you see out of the corner of your eye in the mirror are real and want out, but need to swap places with something to get there".

(show spoiler)

Just didn't work for me. One minute the main character doesn't know what's going on, the next she has known all about it for years. The ending is hardly the shock it's intended to be (and why the random POV shift for one final paragraph?). The protagonist's husband is mad unlikeable, and she's no peach herself. 

Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows #1) by Kim Harrison

Dead Witch Walking - Kim Harrison

It's really hard post-hoc reviewing books that begin long-running series you've already read. It's too easy to overlook things that gave pause on first read, or were unclear, because you know where it's going. On the other hand, it's sometimes hard to see the really clever flourishes in the world-building, the exact things that pulled you in the first time, because this world and it's inhabitants are already old friends.

In any case, the Hollows books are rip-roaring urban fantasy with a pretty great female protagonist. There's romance, but these are not PNR (although there's the odd sexytimes scene, maybe 4-5 times in the entire first ten books, unless I'm misremembering). I mention this because I'm so over reading poorly written "PNR" that's just an excuse for horribad erotica, and I know I'm not alone there.

As mentioned, long but completed series, I'm just gonna suggest you pick up the first book and see if you like it.

But if you're interested in more thoughts, read on. Consider yourselves warned, this might get long. Even for one of my reviews.


-read more-

Trapped by Cassie Black

Trapped - Cassie  Black

I can't even.


This kind of crap is why I stopped picking up freebies by unknowns. The only positive thing I can say about it is I didn't notice any spelling errors.


ETA: Decided to spoiler the nasty words.


What I did notice was a giant steaming pile of kidnapping, rape, manipulation, blackmail, coercion, and violence. With a HEA and a fucking baby to boot.  All in under 10k words.

(show spoiler)


Recommendation: Avoid harder than a shuffling dude during a zombie apocalypse.

A Bitter Veil by Libby Fischer Hellmann

A Bitter Veil - Libby Fischer Hellmann

Western woman marries handsome Iranian student and returns to his homeland with him, just in time for the revolution.


This was a real 3 star for me. I liked it well enough, but not more. It's well written, clearly well researched, and it certainly kept me turning pages. It just felt like it went off the rails at some point, and devolved into an weird murder mystery with a slightly too deus ex machina ending. For me at least.


Right up until then, I would have rated it somewhat higher probably. But since I can't unread that part, well, so be it.


If you're interested in the Iranian revolution (it's really a fascinating time and place to read about) I can highly recommend Marjan Satrapi's Persepolis which, despite being non-fiction, a graphic novel and from the perspective of a child, is really rather spectacular. If you're interested in life as a western woman in the middle east (and particularly how one might extricate oneself from there, a perspective I was hoping would be covered in this book, but was instead almost ignored), well there's plenty of those, probably the most well known being Betty Mahmoody's Not Without My Daughter (you may well have seen the film which I found a little bit hysterical, but the book is actually rather good).


I'd consider reading more by this author though, as said, the writing is good and for most of the book she had me.

Tristan och Isolde

Tristan och Isolde - Joseph Bédier, Lorenz von Numers The Romance of Tristan and Iseult - Hilaire Belloc, Joseph Bédier

*sigh* This is more of a ramble than a review, sorry.


tl;dr: Fantastic story, godawful versions.


Another post just reminded me of struggling through this last month when daughter had it as assigned reading.


Don't get me wrong, I love me some Tristan and Isolde. It's one of my favourite tales, it really is. But this translation.... daughter looked at me utterly blankly after a chapter and said she didn't understand any of it. I didn't make it that far, I got to about page 2 before throwing up my hands in despair.


So I made popcorn, and found her my DVD of the James Franco / Sofia Myles movie, and found a version of Lovespell, and we had a Tristan party. Then I got her the librivox audio version of the English translation of this same version (by Hilaire Belloc). Both of which are still not my preferred version of the tale: Belloc was a prude, and chopped out several bits of Bédier's text that he found inappropriate, but that is the version that is in the public domain, so it's also the source of the librivox audio.


Then we had a long talk about just how many versions there are, and how the movies differed from the Bédier version and she listened to it in English during her morning commute and somehow managed to ace her essay test. So go her, but boo on teachers assigning this to 16 year olds.


I may go to whatever circle of hell Dante has assigned for people who don't like great literature, but while this story itself is 11 stars out of 5 for romance and tragedy, I'd frankly avoid either of these versions like the plague unless you're assigned them.


Further cementing my place in the inferno: The 2006 movie is actually pretty good. James Franco is appropriately pretty, but he's not why it's good, it's rather despite him. Sophia Myles is absolutely luminous as Isolde, and Rufus Sewell (omg how I do love him!) portrays a King Mark who is utterly sympathetic to the point you can really understand how torn up everyone gets. Further, both Tristan and Isolde are given agency, by removing the "love potion" silliness, and giving them a real backstory. And a proper tragic ending (the Bédier version is the love potion version ,and the ending really lets everyone off pretty lightly).


I'd give a book recommendation on a better version or at least one I like better, but... seems I have read so many, I can't actually remember which one I like best. I suspect the Rosemary Sutcliffe one is pretty good though (I haven't read that one, but... it's Rosemary Sutcliffe, how bad could it be?) Another I'm going to try to hunt down is Arthur Quiller-Couch's version (he actually was Cornish too), left unfinished at his death and finished many years later by none other than Daphne du Maurier.

Been busy, but here have a reindeer.
Been busy, but here have a reindeer.

Daughter had a week off school, the so called Swedish late winter "sports holiday". Personally I am about done with snow, but reindeer are damn cute.

Got Audiobooks?

Hot tip courtesy my daughter, who heard about this at school:


Sync is a free audiobook summer program for teens, they are giving away 30 books, in themed pairs per week, over the summer.


Most of them are available internationally. There's quite a range of topics, from YA through Non-Fiction, lots of genres


Requires Overdrive to download, and you can only download the books during the week they are posted, but it says once you have downloaded them, you may keep them (and that they are mp3's and you can listen to them on other devices).


There's actually some really good books in this program, and although it's obviously aimed at kids, I can see a few things there I wouldn't mind listening to.


(Reblog/repost widely as you like, this is a really neat program I think).



Frostbite by David Wellington

Frostbite: A Werewolf Tale - David Wellington

3.5, almost a 4. Or a 4 with a few issues.


I could actually see this making a good movie, it has that kind of structure, and overall I really rather liked it.


The plot is actually rather fun. The title is in fact "Frostbite: A werewolf tale" so that there's werewolves in it isn't actually a spoiler, although saying much more about the rest of the plot would be so I'll just write myself a pros and cons list after the break.


-read more-

Currently reading

Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey, Jefferson Mays
Progress: 15%
Tiassa by Steven Brust