#balisebooks – February 2019

(Version française ici : #balisebooks – Février 2019)

Short month, short #balisebooks!

Slayer – Kiersten White

I’m a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer… the TV series, that is. I could never quite get into the comics – to my great dismay, because I really want to know the story, but comics are definitely not my medium of choice. So you’ll understand my excitement when I heard “this is a novel set in the canon timeline of BTVS, although with a different cast of characters”. The hype was real, and I was in the mood for a lighter read, so I picked Slayer pretty close to its publication date.

Besides the initial premise, we meet Nina and her twin sister Artemis, both part of a larger “Watcher Academy” that aims at training Watchers for Slayers, as well as providing some infrastructure and services. The plot then loosely follows the structure of a long BTVS episode, or maybe a long multi-episode arc. I had initial misgivings at the beginning of the book: Nina hates Buffy and Slayers in general, and I think that, if the tone there and the amount of repetitive brooding had stayed the same, it would have been a problem. But the pace eventually picked up, and gave way to what really felt like a multi-episode arc story, with demons, villains, libraries, family and friendly relationships, and a non-zero amount of wit.

All in all, I enjoyed Slayer, and I think it’s a good addition to the BTVS canon. Looking forward to the next one! (Also: in the meantime, I started re-watching Buffy :P)

Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste – Bianca Bosker

Cork Dork is a memoir about the journey of Bianca Bosker, initially a tech reporter, who made her way through the world of wine tasting and wine serving. She recounts how she came to that idea, the people she met, all the things she learnt about wine, and how she went from basically “yup, that’s wine, and I think it’s white wine” to taking a Master Sommelier exam within a bit more than a year.

Bosker makes her journey memorable – she’s not afraid to show how clueless and clumsy she may have been, but she shows tremendous grit and a real passion for her topic. I’m thoroughly impressed and a little bit jealous 🙂 She also gives some actionable information about how to get better at smelling and tasting things, and I’m intrigued enough that I may give some of them a try. (Hell, I went to the restaurant the other day and I did choose the wine glass I really didn’t know on the menu, so there’s that 😉 ). Her writing is very engaging, although I found myself slightly distracted at times when I literally heard a few “transition questions” read in my mind by Carrie Bradshaw 😛

I thoroughly enjoyed Cork Dork: it opened the door to a world I do not know, and made me want to hazard a foot through it 🙂

Meet Me at the Museum – Anne Youngson

Tina, a farmer’s wife in England, writes a letter to a museum in Denmark, and the curator of the museum, Anders, answers her letter. It’s the start of a long correspondance that constitutes the whole book.

I haven’t read that many epistolary novels, but I seem to enjoy the form a lot – maybe I should read more of them 🙂 In this one, I liked the fact that the people involved are complete strangers at the beginning of the book and in pretty different places, which is a perfect justification for very vivid descriptions as the writers explain their environment to each other. Generally speaking, the writing is beautiful and the voices of Tina and Anders are pretty distinct. The first 80% felt very sweet and very restful to me, although by no mean boring. I was, however, not happy with the developments of the last 20% of the book (although I liked the very end), because I felt that the tone became suddenly more judgmental and I didn’t care for that; that part also felt more rushed and I didn’t care for that either.

Everything considered, it was still a “more than 80% positive read”, but I’m sad that the part I didn’t like really didn’t work for me.

Cibola Burn – James S.A. Corey

The titles of the Expanse books’ series are somewhat cryptic, and Cibola Burn is not an exception – and on top of that, I cannot read that and not think “cinnamon buns”. There, you’re welcome.

This is the fourth book of The Expanse, and the premise of it is very much a spoiler on the previous book – I don’t see how I can avoid that if I want to explain the premise. So, beware:

SPOILERS ON ABADDON’S GATE, THE THIRD BOOK OF THE EXPANSE, AHEAD!

The Ring from the previous book ended up being an inter-solar system traveling gate, so we’re going to (larger) space today! I must admit I was a bit disappointed by that development in the previous book – I really liked, in the first three books, that the plot stayed in our solar system. Hence, I was afraid to not like this one as much as the previous ones. I shouldn’t have feared: I actually liked it better than the third one.

So, a bunch of people have rushed through the gate and started a colony on Ilus / New Earth; since the planet is rich in lithium, it is also very relevant to corporate interests. Said corporate interests are RCE, and they have a Proper Colonization Charter, and they’re not going to get stopped by a bunch of squatters on The Planet That’s Rightfully Theirs. The situation escalates, and Jim Holden and his crew are sent to try to de-escalate.

LESS SPOILERY CONTENT AHEAD

We get a fair amount of what made the first books memorable: the mix of old friends and new characters, the multiple point of views narration, the drama and action (although the scale seems reduced here). The setting is basically “frontier, but IN SPACE and with SCIENTISTS”, and it was very enjoyable. Cibola Burn was hard to put down (I may or may not have made the VERY BAD DECISION to finish it last night and to continue reading past midnight) and managed the transition to the larger setting flawlessly. It can feel somewhat formulaic at times, but the formula definitely works for me, so everything’s shiny.

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