Awesome things done this month
June was surprisingly busy for me - I am gainfully employed now! I went to a four-day long gaming event and played new tabletop systems! I have successfully completed my first year of my Librarianship Masters - including a module where I built a terrible website for this blog! :D

In book-related news, I was a guest on the second episode Lady Business+, where Renay and I talked about The Scorpio Races! (Horses are mandatory.) (Dead mothers are not mandatory, but are a really annoying trope.) I had an excellent time, and Renay made us sound super smart. Plus twitter has brought me interesting facts in response, like "Butter tea is actually a thing that exists in Tibet", and "Character X] DID have a mother... But they died."

Media consumed this month:

Posts coming up next month!
  • Eight years after I started the series, I have finally got the last few volumes of Full Metal Alchemist and I'm starting a big re-read! Next month I'll be reviewing it up

  • I attempt to decide my feelings about The Shining Girls.

  • I have Opinions about Mass Effect Library Edition Volume 1 that may or may not be oscillating between "Bad art induced rage" and "fangirl squee".
cirquedesgeeks: Susan: She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. ([Susan])
I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but internet: I need your help finding stories with accurate depictions of male characters.

(This comes from discussing Looking For Alaska and being told that maybe I don't like the protagonist because he's a very well-written teenage boy, and from trying to discuss The Dresden Files and being told "It sounds like you just don't books with accurate male characters in them." Once is a co-incidence, twice is carelessness.)

In the spirit of not becoming what I hate - someone who dismisses or dislikes books based entirely on the gender of the main character without thinking through why: does anyone have any stories with accurate/realistic protrayals of male characters? I suspect that I need to read things to judge how accurate this suggestion is. :\

Don't worry - soon, we will return to your regularly scheduled flailing and ladies!
cirquedesgeeks: Susan: She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. ([Susan])
The cover of Gentleman's Alliance; a brown-haired girl scattering flowers.The Gentleman's Alliance Cross Volume 1 by Arina Tanemura // Published by ShojoBeat (Viz), 2007 // Borrowed from the library // Read and reviewed March 2013

In return for a business loan of 50 million yen, the prestigious Kamiya family gave their daughter Haine away to the Otomiya family. Haine, now an Otomiya, is appointed to the student council of the exclusive Imperial Academy, a private school for the aristocracy. Even though Haine is of proper lineage to be on the council, she finds herself struggling to find her place among the many secrets of its elite members, especially those of the president who holds her heart--Shizumasa Togu, aka "the Emperor."

A girl lying back on a bed in rumpled clothing, with an close-up of her face next to it.The Gentleman's Alliance Cross is very pretty! Whenever I think "shojo art", I think of something like this. (Other options include the art of Skip Beat! or CLAMP; that is what I know! I'm sorry!) All of the main female characters are large-eyed and lovely, with gorgeous costume design and fascinating hair - which has the disadvantage of sometimes making it really hard to tell anyone apart. There are some panels where I've actually had to sit and squint to work out who the hell is talking because I couldn't just couldn't tell, and sometimes the panels feel busy and cluttered. On the whole though: very pretty, and very much my style.

The story... Haine Otomiya is in love with Shizumasa Togo, Emperor of Imperial Academy, and is doing her best to earn her way to a ranking in school that means that she can actually see him. To that end she fights snake-bombing trouble-makers, "rescues" Togo from "kidnappers", joins the student council, attempts to reconcile the boy who convinced her to give up her delinquent lifestyle with the icy Emperor of Imperial Academy and change both him and the way the council operates for the better. I have no problem with the story, in theory - all of these elements can be interesting! It's just that they're put together in a way that I'm really... Not okay with.

Cut for some character-arc spoilers! )

BASICALLY: My primary interpretation of this manga is that I'm supposed to take away the message that Shizumasa is a terrible person, and the good end is that Haine realises this and starts dating someone nicer. I suspect that I might be wrong on that one. Shizumasa is actually the main reason I wasn't enjoying this manga (I don't like him! But everything and everyone revolves around him!), but I got the second one out of the library at the same time as I got the first one out, so I might as well read that too.

Verdict: The art is good and I like the secondary characters, but the lead male character and the heroine's obsession with him wore on me fast. Wouldn't specifically recommend it, but if it's in the library it's worth flicking through.
cirquedesgeeks: Susan: She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. ([Susan])
The cover of Pisces Rising by Peter Cave and Margaret Wredden; a red background and a dolphin leaping. Pisces Rising by Peter Cave and Margaret Wredden // Fontana Books, 1979 // Bought at a carboot sale // Read and reviewed February 2013

Fathoms deep they lay in wait, these sea creatures man had exploited for so long. Soon their concerted might would be ranged against mankind – the slashing, tearing jaws of the great sharks, the numbing shocks of the stingrays, the fury of the killer whales and the guile of the dolphins. Man would be taught a lesson, slowly and agonisingly, and he would have only himself to blame...

I read this pretty much entirely because cheap-and-rubbish-70s-scifi with bonus dolphins on the cover (Seriously, it has 85p printed on the cover as the recommended retail price - this thing is pretty much a historical artifact!)! And the best part is that it is exactly as good as it looks.

This book contains, in no particular order:

  • A fairly illogical story with the silliest, most anticlimatic ending. The blurb in my copy makes it sound like a story of Evil Corporations vs Noble Idealistic Scientist... Which is dropped fairly quickly. Along with pretty much everything else in the initial set up beyond ANGRY FISH.

  • Terrible stereotypes (the American scientist is heroic, any of the non-white characters are racial stereotypes are introduced to die and/or suffer, and of the female characters are ineffective peace keepers, mothers, secretaries, or Plot Point Children, the military people are pointlessly stupid, violent and cruel.

  • Some ridiculous names in this - seriously, there's names that sound like something from an aquarium ("Bluey the Blue-Ring Octopus"... Why are these the default names? Why the Shakespearean names... Why many of the names? I have no idea what the logic is behind them.).

  • Every problem in this book (every single one!) being caused by stupid military people (I include the fish/underwater mammals in this) or scientists doing something really stupid, pointless, and damaging to everyone. It is really annoying to see someone do something so blatantly ridiculous, so reading this book is sometimes really frustrating.

  • Lectures (whole pages!) on how Man (and it is always Man, never humanity - yeah, this book contains some really blatant background sexism.) is destroying the enviroment in general and fish/the ocean in specific. It's... Very pointed. Very preachy.

  • Decent world-building and underwater mythology. It's kinda interesting, but not great enough to justify... Well, the rest of the book.

  • Basic errors that even a layperson (i.e. me) can pick up - I'm gifting my copy to a friend who scuba-dives and is interested in this sort of thing to see if he picks up more than me, but there seems to be things like basic misgendering, inaccuracies in actions and statements... It doesn't make sense, some of the things they get wrong.

  • Some deaths and attacks that are genuinely atmospheric, horrifying, and inventive! Some of the effects a sudden lack of fish would have on the world are really well-thought through and interesting, with the obvious flaw of some of them are absolute nonsense.

  • FISH TELEPATHY. When telepathic fish is not the strangest thing in your novel, you should probably... Take a look at that.

BASICALLY, this is one sexy love-interest away from being the literary version of a made-for-TV "Syfy" original, so if you like those it may be worth trying to grab a copy. It is exactly of the quality and enjoyment level of one of those and the very least; pretty bad, but a decently entertaining read!
cirquedesgeeks: Susan: She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. ([Susan])
The cover of Looking For Alaska by John Green; a black cover with smoke rising up from a candle on it.Looking for Alaska by John Green // Penguin, 2005 // Gift from Renay // Read and reviewed February 2013

Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

As I said before, I was reading John Green's backlist as I was going to an event he and his brother Hank were doing (I went with Tonks and it was so much fun!). As I said before, I wasn't keen on the protagonist of Looking For Alaska.

I finished the book on Monday and I'm honestly not sure how I feel about it. It's very well-written; the prose is full of colour and life, easy to gulp down. Many points to John Green; he is readable. I have no complaints about the writing or the realism or the humour (this book is seriously funny when it wants to be, especially regarding the pranks.). My complaints are entirely about the content.

Part of it is that I don't actually like Miles/Pudge. It's generally okay when I'm reading (apart from specific scenes where I have to put the book down and fume for a few seconds because wow he is sometimes insensitive and annoying.) but when I stop reading, I realise that he's self-absorbed and annoying and kinda subsumes Alaska and her problems and in some ways he wants to take her whole existence into his own little story and I am not interested in that. This is entirely just me1, but I just couldn't get into it. On the flip side, I couldn't stop reading. Curse youWell! Time to stop caring about Alaska as a person, let's move on to seeing her as an object in Miles' character development! and I wasn't impressed. Miles doesn't seem to care as much about Alaska's absence as he does about himself and his feelings for her. ([personal profile] bookgazingraises interesting and spoilerific points about this - namely that this is what people actually do. I'm guilty of this myself, in some ways. That doesn't mean that it's not really annoying!) John Green himself explicitly acknowledges that this is a problem, and I believe that it is something he addresses in Paper Towns... But it's something that still bothers me in the here and now.

I can't honestly say that I like this book. I can acknowledge, objectively, that it is quite good, but there is nothing about this book that relates to to me - not as a student, a girl, a teenager, as someone falling in love for the first time, as someone grieving for the first time. It has funny parts and emotional parts (the Colonel is particularly good for these; his feelings about his mother and his last line are genuinely touching.), and parts with genuine emotional resonance. I just... Couldn't get into it. I think that I might get on great with a different John Green book - but not this one.

1I have been informed by Tonks that one of the reasons Miles might annoy me so much is that "he's a very well-written teenage boy", and as I was at an all-girl's school between the ages of eleven and eighteen and didn't really socialise outside of school, I managed to skip teenage boys entirely, which means I might have unreasonable expectations for how obnoxious teenage boys actually are.
cirquedesgeeks: Susan: She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. ([Susan])
"Week in..." is a regular post to let me discuss what I've been reading, watching or playing lately in fewer words than a full review. It's primarily here to be useful and let me talk about things that either I'm not planning to review, or won't be getting around to for a while.


No-Time Party Cakes // Looking For Alaska // To Write Like a Woman // The Scorpio Races )

Mass Effect 3 )

Web Original
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries )

So that's what I've been up to this week - how about everyone else?
cirquedesgeeks: Susan: She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. ([Susan])
The cover of Liar by Justine Larbalestier. A mixed-race girl stares at the viewer, pulling the collar of her jacket around her face.Liar by Justine Larbalestier // Bloomsbury, 2010 // Borrowed from the library // Read January 2013, reviewed January 2013

Micah will freely admit that she’s a compulsive liar, but that may be the one honest thing she’ll ever tell you. Over the years she’s duped her classmates, her teachers, and even her parents, and she’s always managed to stay one step ahead of her lies. That is, until her boyfriend dies under brutal circumstances and her dishonesty begins to catch up with her. But is it possible to tell the truth when lying comes as naturally as breathing? Taking readers deep into the psyche of a young woman who will say just about anything to convince them—and herself—that she’s finally come clean, Liar is a bone-chilling thriller that will have readers see-sawing between truths and lies right up to the end. Honestly.

After years of avoiding posts marked "IF YOU HAVE NOT READ LIAR THEN PLEASE MOVE ALONG OR THIS BOOK WILL BE FOREVER RUINED FOR YOU", I have finally read it! I am allowed to read posts and listen to podcasts and it won't ruin my reading experience!

... Guys, seriously, when people put that warning on a post, they're not joking! I am trying to recommend this book to everyone I know in person (everyone I know online having already read it), and all I am comfortable telling people is "It's about a death narrated by a compulsive liar and anything else I say is spoilers." It is best to go into it knowing AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE.

'I was born with a light covering of fur.' (Cut in case of spoilers - none intended, but cut as a preventative measure!) )

BASICALLY: I really love this book, I think it was clever and wonderful and exactly as good as the internet had been promising it would be. Definitely recommended, and everyone should read it! Especially before you read any posts about it!

Other people talking about this book (spoilers spoilers spoilers):
  • Galactic Suburbia

  • The Book Smugglers

  • Ana of Things Mean A Lot on the cover fiasco

  • Renay
  • cirquedesgeeks: Susan: She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. ([Susan])
    The cover of Wither by Lauren DeStefano; a girl in a ball gown sitting in a dark space, with circles highlighting her face, her wedding ring, and the caged bird next to her.Wither by Lauren DeStefano // Harper Collins, 2011 // Borrowed from the library // Read December 2011, reviewed January 2012 // Trigger warning: (skip) Forced marriage, underage sex and pregnancy.

    By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?

    Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

    I really didn't mean to read this one - I didn't know anything about it, but I'm generally wary of YA books with girls in floaty dresses on the cover. But then the sequel was stalking me around Waterstones (Every time I went in, I had a moment of "Ooh, that book looks interesting", picked it up, and only then remembered that I'd done this before.) so I decided to exorcise it by reading the first one in the series.

    ... It worked!

    (As an aside, I really liked the cover for this, and the way it throws subtlety to the wind to highlight all of the symbolism. It's nice, I like the design, and it is a floaty-dress cover where the floaty dress is actually appropriate!)

    'I wait.' (Cut for length of review and vague, unmarked spoilers. )

    In conclusion... I really enjoyed this book, much more than I expected to, but I'd be hard-pressed to tell you why. It's was fun, in a depressing sort of way, despite its flaws, and I guess that's enough!

    If you like this you might like:
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood or The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers if you like dystopian/post-apocalyptic futures where baby-production is the major societal concern and role for women, and the reactions people have to this.

  • In Time if you like the aspect of "genetic manipulation means we're all going to die really young!"

  • 1: I appreciate that it's not anyone's responsibility to educate anyone else, but I'm still not sure why Jenna and Rhine didn't explain about the truth - ANY of the truth - to Linden when they had the chance. I do wonder how the story would've gone if they had.
    cirquedesgeeks: Susan: She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. ([Susan])
    "Week in..." is a regular post to let me discuss what I've been reading, watching or playing lately in fewer words than a full review. It's primarily here to be useful and let me talk about things that either I'm not planning to review, or won't be getting around to for a while.

    I'm back! I apologise for the delay, I managed to complete and burn myself out on a ferociously difficult piece of coursework about book blogging (seriously, I didn't even read anything last week or the week before, that's how bad it was.). I will be endeavouring to catch up on posts and hopefully make up the discrepancy, I hope this is acceptable!


    Liar // Mr & Mrs Smith // To Write Like A Woman // The Scorpio Races )


    Mass Effect 1 // Mass Effect 3 // Resonance of Fate )


    Animal Man shorts )
    cirquedesgeeks: Susan: She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. ([Susan])
    The cover of The Ninth Circle by Alex Bell; a complicated black and white building on a colourful background.The Ninth Circle by Alex Bell // Gollancz, 2009 // Borrowed from the library // Read November-December 2011, reviewed December 2012

    A man comes to on the floor of a shabby apartment in the middle of Budapest. His head is glued to the floorboards with his own blood. There's a fortune in cash on the kitchen table. And he has no idea where, or who, he is. He can do extraordinary things—speak any number of languages fluently, go three days without food or sleep, and fight with extraordinary prowess. But without a name, without a past, he's isolated from the rest of the world; a stranger to everyone, including himself—until a chance encounter with a young scholar leads to his first friendship, and his first hint that someone out there knows more about him than he does. Someone is sending him clues about his past. Photographs hidden in books and crates of wine. Cryptic clues pointing towards a murdered woman. And clear warnings against Stephomi, his only friend. But that's not all; Gabriel Antaeus is seeing strange, impossible things: a burning man is stalking his dreams and haunting his mirrors, his dreams are filled with violence from the past, and his pregnant young neighbor is surrounded by an extraordinary golden aura. Something dark and violent in Gabriel's past is trying to resurface. And as he pieces the clues together, everything points towards an astounding war between angels and demons—a battle not just for the future of the world, but for the minds and souls of everyone in it.

    Oh, I was not keen on this one. The blurb made it sound really interesting, at least the first half - mysterious people plus angels plus demons sounds like the sort of thing I would gobble down in a heartbeat! And yet this... This felt like a slog. I kept picking it up resentfully, muttering about how I didn't want to read it, I'm not enjoying it - the only reason I did finish it was because it had been on my to-read list for years.

    (I am still really disappointed that the story isn't as good as the blurb. So disappointed.)

    Part of my problem was that I couldn't really stand the narrator. While paranoid/unstable narrators can be interesting in their own right, and I have no objections to characters taking time for very justified freak-outs, but Gabriel was just... I couldn't like him. Part of it was that he was extremely self-righteous - nothing is his fault, and everything he says or does is right (if he's wrong, then he'll either find another justification or be dramatic about it.). The rest of it is that he almost comes across as an unreliable narrator - I'm willing to believe that what Gabriel reports is factually right, but not the conclusions he draws - and that's not actually a trope I like. On top of that, his relationship with Casey comes across as really creepy, even in his own narration.

    The rest of my dislike for this book comes from the fact that it is so hamhanded. It is trying to make about good and evil not being so different, but it feels like the book is trying to beat me over the head with it. (See also: Devils are charming and friendly! Angels will terrorise and intimidate you! ... My notes for this do have "CHAOTIC GOOD DROW ARE A THING!" written on them in big letters, I'm sorry.) Worse than that, Gabriel and his mysteries actually bored me. There were Dramatic Reveals all over the last third of the book and I just didn't care.

    I was much more interested in Casey and her story, and that didn't get enough screentime. For something as important as Casey's pregnancy, I really felt like there should have been more time spent with her. Her story was actually more interesting than Gabriel's turned out to be - a teenager alone in a foreign country, trying to look after herself and her brother while dealing with her mysterious pregnancy - and quite frankly, I would probably read a book about her. I guess what I want is for Casey to be focused on as a person, rather than as an object in a cosmic struggle or of Gabriel's obsession, with a satisfactory conclusion to her story!

    I have to admit though, the writing does have its good points, despite some serious plot holes. It managed to portray Gabriel as an unsettling, genuinely creepy guy even as he's trying to convince himself that he's acting rationally/justified in acting irrationally. The way it handles the final chapter while staying in the limits of the diary format it uses actually worked really well, in my opinion! Just a bit too-little-too-late.

    The back labels this as a "Theological thriller", which makes me laugh. There's a lot of debate about "Could you kill baby Hitler?" and the like, and so much discussion of theology, but... I would have said it was more moral than theological, despite the presence of angels and demons, if that makes sense? Certainly I wouldn't have said that it was a thriller, theological or otherwise. (Suspicion: they made up this genre so that they wouldn't get lumped in with the fantasy novels, even though that's really the best fit for it.)

    Suffice to say, I didn't enjoy this book. It did have some good moments, but the amount of work it took to get to them didn't make it worth it for me.


    Cirque des Geeks

    About Us

    Welcome to Cirque Des Geeks! We are a trio of geeks who review books, manga, comics, tv shows, and films as the mood takes us. Our trio comprises Sam (the fez-wearing philosopher), Susan (the book-addled librarian), and Tonks (the shape-changing scientist). Our interests are wide and varied, but generally come back to science fiction and fantasy in all their forms.

    Sam and Tonks can also be found working with Black Stump Films (On Vimeo and Youtube) making short films.

    We do not have a formal posting schedule, but the current goal is at least two posts per week. If you wish to be kept in the loop of what's happening, please follow us on twitter - [personal profile] cirquedesgeeks.

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