starlady: Mako's face in the jaeger, in profile (mako mori is awesome)
Wednesday is generally when you get the cheapest and emptiest flights (relatively speaking) and it's become my go-to travel day for that reason. But for once I am in California again, so it's time to talk about books.

Books Read
Kate Elliott, Shadow Gate (2008) and Traitor's Gate (2009) - Further comments forthcoming, but suffice it to say, I loved the whole Crossroads trilogy, and I highly recommend them to everyone looking to read more epic fantasy that pays due attention to female characters and to women's experiences. Also: GIANT JUSTICE EAGLES IJS

Helen Oyeyemi, Mr. Fox (2011) - I really enjoyed the other Oyeyemi book I read, White Is for Witching; I liked this one too, though (perhaps unsurprisingly since it's riffing on "Bluebeard") the themes of violence against women, against female characters, etc, felt a bit too close to reality. But in the end I really enjoyed the interplay between Daphne Fox, the titular Mr. Fox's wife, and Mary Foxe, his fourth wall-breaking muse; he doesn't deserve either of them, but that's how it goes. Oyeyemi is a wizard of prose, and I can't recommend her books enough.

Holly Black, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (2013) - I was talking to a friend of mine who bought and started reading this book the same time I did but stopped a bit of the way in because of vampire fatigue. Well, I finished it on the BART this evening and I am here to tell you, there's no question of vampire fatigue when someone reinvents the form as well as Black does here--I'd forgotten how a well-written feeding scene can be better than any sex scene outside of top-shelf fanfic, and more interesting besides. The main character's tenacity and general clear-headedness are refreshing, and the worldbuilding is very interesting. I really enjoyed it.

Currently Reading
Brit Mandelo, We Wuz Pushed - This is an Aqueduct Conversations piece about Joanna Russ. I'm quite liking it so far. It was Mandelo's master's thesis and it's really good.

Wendy Walker, Knots (2006) - Another Aqueduct Conversations book. I love Walker's prose. I need to try to get this book for my own; I'm borrowing it from a friend.

The rakugo manga - yes, I know

Book-Shaped Acquisitions Space
Andrea K. Höst's book Stray is free on amazon.com. Höst was recommended to me quite enthusiastically by a fellow Michelle West fan at Worldcon, and I'd been planning to buy some of her books in paper when I go to Australia next month. I expect interesting things!

Reading Next
These things are very difficult to predict. We'll see!
starlady: (lemons)
Black, Holly. Red Glove. New York: McElderry Books, 2011.
---------. Black Heart. New York: McElderry Books, 2012.

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] swan_tower for borrowing these to me.

Premise description, from my previous post: In brief, a certain segment of the population is born with the ability to work curses on others via their hands--but each worker can only work one type of curse, and each curse creates blowback directly in the worker, so that death-workers, for example, are always liable to lose fingers. To make things even more complicated, Prohibition outlawed curse-working in the States, and of course, to deal with that, workers have formed organized crime families.

I enjoyed White Cat, and though the latter two books aren't quite as shockingly twisty as the first one, I liked them a lot too. They are compulsively readable, and as always, Holly Black is really good at capturing the atmosphere of New Jersey and also the character of New Jersey people. I also really appreciated the very believable New Jersey-style politics and violence of the overarching plot - there's a scene in the third book that is basically straight-up pasticheing Jim McGreevy, the former governor who resigned over a gay affair. Spoilers realize they never should have left New Jersey )

I'm on the fence about whether to tag this post as "chromatic protagonist" or not. The end of Red Glove finally confirms that Cassel is brown-skinned (it was ambiguous but suggested in the first book), but…Black doesn't really do anything with it. (To be fair, Cassel doesn't know his own family history because he lives in a family of con men.) I don't know. That was one of the few sour notes for me, but overall, having read all of Black's YA novels, I think these are her best yet.
starlady: closeup on Lady Gaga wearing her totalitarian steampunk monocle (lady gaga is queen)
Related to the last post, via [personal profile] crossedwires, an interview with Hiromi Goto! I can't wait to read Chorus of Mushrooms.


Black, Holly. The Poison Eaters. Easthampton, MA: Big Mouth House, 2010.

This is the first collection of Holly Black's short stories to appear in print, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The stories tend to be wittier and a bit fleeter on their feet than her novels, which is a function of the form more than anything else, I think; they're certainly no less dark than her books, which I enjoy since I enjoy the North Jersey Gothic atmosphere of her books.

It's hard to pick a favorite in here: I particularly liked "In Vodka Veritas," which features the immortal line, "Dude, the Latin Club is totally evil" and is I believe set at the same central Jersey private boarding school as White Cat. "The Land of Heart's Desire" follows Black's trilogy of Modern Faerie Tales and checks in on Roiben and Corny, two of my favorite characters; it's particularly noteworthy for being partiall from Roiben's point of view. I also really liked "The Coat of Stars" and the title story, but really, they're all pretty great (particularly "A Reversal of Fortune" and "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown"). Several feature queer protagonists, while others are set entirely in secondary worlds; I want more of both. In the meantime, bring on Red Glove!
starlady: (impending)
Black, Holly. White Cat. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010.

So I heard Holly Black talk about the genesis of this book and this series, The Curse-Workers, in her Guest of Honor speech at Sirens and, as well as being utterly hilarious, her speech definitely made me glad that I had this book waiting for me at home in my room. (Yeah, you don't even want to know how many books I have here in my room.) And it's good. 

In brief, a certain segment of the population is born with the ability to work curses on others via their hands--but each worker can only work one type of curse, and each curse creates blowback directly in the worker, so that death-workers, for example, are always liable to lose fingers. To make things even more complicated, Prohibition outlawed curse-working in the States, and of course, to deal with that, workers have formed organized crime families.

When a white cat crosses your path... )
starlady: meralonne and kallandras in the wood (in a dark wood)
Black, Holly. Tithe. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2002.
--------------. Valiant. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2005.
--------------. Ironside. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007.

I borrowed these books from [personal profile] shveta_writes in preparation for Sirens 2010, where Holly Black is one of the guests of honor, and I liked them a lot--I was actually sort of surprised by that, because I have never particularly had any affinity for fairy stories, particularly in contemporary fantasy and YA. But these books have enough convincing detail, and vivid characters, and also they're set in north Jersey and New York, that I was taken under their spell.

The obvious comparand for these books is Emma Bull's War for the Oaks, and at one point Bull is actually name-checked in the text, just to make the point clear. In comparison with that book, though, Black's protagonists are younger, more desperate, poorer )

So, yeah. I really liked these books; I loved the characters, particularly Corny and Kaye (Corny gets what has to be the nerdiest coming-out scene in literature, even if it is told in reported discourse), but everyone feels incredibly real, and when characters suffer the reader is not indifferent. I liked that Black is insistent in her acknowledgment of pain, not as anything more than that but unequivocally as something that people have to learn to bear, or fail at trying. She exposes too the ways in which pleasure and pain can run side by side or even overlap each other; her writing is dark and rich, shot through with dazzling flashes, as befits her subject matter. I also like that balance she strikes in playing the reader versus the characters knowing but not knowing how they are being played, and how people figure out the intrigues, or don't. I've bought Black's short story collection, and look forward very much to reading it.

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