starlady: (abhorsen key)
I'm back in Bali. Due to various things, some of which I should have realized and some of which I should have been told, I am on my way to spending eleven hours here in the airport today. When I get to Tokyo I'll see whether they can change Indonesia rupiah, because the rates here were crap. For the record, the airport is very new and very nice, and don't worry, Lonely Planet, they have multiple duty-free shops now.

What I'm Reading
Clariel by Garth Nix - I had forgotten how much I love the Old Kingdom books; my copies of the first three and of Across the Wall and "The Creature in the Case" are in storage, so I haven't been able to do a proper reread, but even just from reading the preview of Sabriel in the back of the book, they're great. I also really like the way Nix manages to do several difficult things here: namely, to make an ostensibly unlikable protagonist sympathetic, and to build a plot and a coherent worldview despite said protagonist being rather disposed to obliviousness. I cannot wait for the fifth book, and I wonder to what extent Lirael's being a Rembrancer will come up. Also, I really do love Mogget more and more. I hope he's back too.

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie - "We can't go to space without dishes!" I love the imperial Radch so much, partly because they are Romans in space and partly because they drink a lot of tea, although my loving them does not make me neglect their many faults, no more than Breq is blinded. This is a different book than Ancillary Justice in many ways, and in many ways also funnier (Breq is hilarious when she wants to be) and I'm enjoying it heaps so far.

What I've Just Read
Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan - Finished on my plane from Sydney this morning. I was not prepared for the fact that it would make me cry multiple times. I liked these books a lot, although I feel like they could have been deeper than they were, I guess. Not that they were shallow! And I did like the way the characters grew and changed, and the feelings, and the story itself. Sigh. Maybe I'm just actually wanting more story.

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee - Finished on my train to Sydney on Sunday. I'd read some of Lee's stories in various online magazines, but it had been long enough that I'd forgotten almost all of them except "Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain" and "Blue Ink." Anyway they are great! Lots of maths, lots of Asian influences, lots of interesting and cool things. I need to read the rest of Lee's stories that are online and weren't in this book.

Love Is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson - Read in the airport this afternoon. I love ADJ's books, and I liked this one a lot, although nowhere near as much as I loved The Summer Prince, which was alchemical. This one is good, and very much drawing on Johnson's experiences growing up in the District, although it's changed a lot in the last few years and her D.C. is very much up to date; I daresay her childhood didn't include pandemic flu and the invasion of Venezuela. I liked the protagonist Bird and her slow, painful transformation into her self; I never understood her attraction to Coffee, per se, and I also sort of question this knee-jerk association of Brazil and freedom and justice, although characters poke holes in it at at least one point. They have favelas in São Paulo, IJS, I guess. And I liked the story--I liked what happened with what Bird knew, and what didn't--but yes, the government does horrible things and while I believed in Bird's self-delusion on that point, I'm already in Coffee's camp more or less, and so Bird twigging to the truth of that didn't really do much for me. Bizarrely, Johnson repeatedly minimized the death rate of the 1918 pandemic flu (she says 5-10%; it was somewhere between 10-20 on average, and higher in many places), which really bothered me, because you don't actually see the extreme social dislocation of a pandemic at anything much below 30%, or at least you didn't historically, and the plausibility of the whole story line kept bothering me because of that. I don't know; the book is really about they way we live now, I guess, and it's depressing, but also nothing new. This dynamic of "teenagers discover huge government plot!" worked better for me in Malinda Lo's Adaptation books because I don't believe the government is lying about aliens. But I'm quite sure it's lying about some of the things that are plot points in here.

What I'll Read Next
I got Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier in Australia, and also a classic Penguin cover edition of Northanger Abbey, the last Jane Austen I haven't read. I also got a little Penguin pamphlet about the Sydney Opera House (it kills me that we in the States don't get the best of Penguin's designs, which have really gotten awesome in the last five to ten years), so probably that too.
starlady: The Welcome to Night Vale Logo, with clouds over the moon (welcome to night vale)
No lie, I tried to picture where Triskelion was when I went over the bridge on the Metro today. And I walked past Steve's apartment building again. ♥


What Have I Read
Dia Reeves, Bleeding Violet (2009) - So, while I know that this book was written several years before the debut of Welcome to Night Vale, believe me when I tell you that this book could be a novel set within its universe, or an AU of its universe. The story concerns a half-Finnish, half-African American girl, Hanna, who moves to her mother's town in East Texas even though she's never met her mother before and her mother doesn't want her there. Hanna has mental health problems, but it turns out that her experience with her own crazy may actually stand her in good stead in a town where things really do go bump in the night, and even in broad daylight. There's even a scary female Mayor, and doors around the town play a huge role in the story--yes, it's basically Night Vale. I loved Hanna, and her pragmatic approach to her own mental health problems, and in many ways I don't think I've seen a more unsentimental portrayal of mental illness in YA. Her being mixed race, and also her sexual appetites, are similarly portrayed. I loved Hanna, and the book is dark and gripping. If you like Night Vale, I suspect you'll like this book, and vice versa. Highly recommended.

Sarah Rees Brennan, Untold (2013) - Sequel to Unspoken, which I liked a lot, and I liked this one a lot too, although it does (albeit believably, since the characters are emphatically not rational adults) rely on the Misunderstanding trope for much of its emotional tugging at the old heartstrings. I still like all the characters; they are still, especially the protagonist Kami, quite funny, and the story is still interesting, although this is definitely something of a middle book and I'm very much looking forward to Unmade. (Yes, I did wait to read this one until I could read the final one, which just came out.) I do think SRB keeps getting better as a writer; I'm looking forward to what she does next.

Alaya Dawn Johnson, Moonshine (2010) - After loving The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, I wanted some more vampires done right, and this book fit the bill. I absolutely love Johnson's books, all of them, that I've read, and this was no exception, although it's written for adults (and, unlike Johnson's first books, the tone never wavers from that). The story concerns one Zephyr Hollis, the so called "vampire suffragette," a social reformer in a 1920s New York City populated by vampires and djinn as well as bootleggers and immigrants. I really love the 1920s setting for multiple reasons, not least being that we're in a Second Gilded Age, a Jazz Age without the Jazz (more's the pity), and I liked the book a lot. Zephyr is very much a modern woman, and for a while her almost maniacal zeal for social reform seems almost a caricature, until eventually things click into place like bullets in the chamber of a revolver and you realize that she's a killer who is fundamentally lying to herself about her own nature, even to the point of adopting vegetarianism. Her capacity for violence, unfortunately, is part of her and part of what allows her to do what she does; one wonders whether she'll ever be forced to reckon with it. I desperately want to read the sequel Wicked City, partly because the romance is left at a juncture not unlike some of the happenings in Untold (Zephyr, like Kami, is a pistol), but unfortunately it's not available in ebook and my copy is in storage. I shall just have to read Johnson's new YA novel Love Is the Drug in the meantime.

What Am I Reading
Buoyed upon the 1920s vim of Moonshine, I started Libba Bray's The Diviners on the plane immediately after finishing the first book. I love it terribly so far--Evie is a pistol too, and Memphis is swell--although I'm reading it with the trepidatious knowledge that the second book has been delayed for years (understandably) and Bray is currently dealing with depression, which of course is both wholly individual and also really difficult. Be that as it may, I really want these books to be the (a) great American historical fantasy epic that I've been waiting for my whole life, it feels like (and yes, these thoughts are emphatically partly due to getting back to my own New World pirate fantasy novel after eons)--it's the 1920s, it's New York, it's urban, it's got magic, it's American in all its painful complexity and darkness--and yes, Bray has gotten much better on the representation front, to my mind, after her first books in which people in Raj India are said to eat snakes (hint: no.) in the first scene and things go downhill from there. But so far The Diviners is the berries.

What Have I Acquired
My problem with the New York Review of Books Classics is that I want to read all of them. I went down to my alma mater on Monday to meet some of my old professors, and for reasons that shall remain unenumerated in public, I was in a weird and dark mood when I got back, the kind of mood to read something terrible and true, so I picked up a copy of A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 by Alistair Horne. Apparently it was a secret bestseller amongst the U.S. army officer corps eight years ago, and may well be again, given that another September has brought yet more American violence to the Middle East. I have my doubts about this kind of history, but we'll see.

What's Next
Who knows?
starlady: (through the trapdoor)
Brennan, Sarah Rees. Unspoken. New York: Random House, 2012.

I think I liked this book best of all Sarah Rees Brennan's that I've read so far. Our hero is Kami Glass, the part-Japanese intrepid girl reporter of her sleepy Cotswolds town, Sorry-in-the-Vale. Sorry-in-the-Vale is distinguished by the Lynburn manor that looms over the town, but the Lynburns have been gone for the past few years--for most of Kami's life, actually. Of course, when the Lynburns return, and Kami learns that her imaginary friend is not all that imaginary, things start to happen.

I enjoyed this book--I enjoyed Kami, who has a wicked sense of humor and a wonderful fashion sense. I also enjoyed the diametrically opposite take on the "soul bonds" trope than is normal in fandom, and I enjoyed the modern update on Gothic novels. I also liked the secondary characters, and spoilery things that happen with them (I mean, here, Angela and Holly). I even enjoyed the mild melodrama and pathetic fallacies of the whole thing. Brennan carries it all off very well.

I do want to say, though, that even saying the fact that Kami and her brothers' names were chosen by their English mother does not really lampshade the fact that they are nothing like actual Japanese names. Brennan also biffs the way Kami refers to her grandmother (I don't think I've ever heard anyone use the word "sobo" in conversation--I had to look it up to figure out what she meant). So, with these caveats aside, this was a fun read with a plucky, brave female protagonist and a dramatic plot that I look forward to hearing more about, particularly after the ending. If you've liked Sarah Rees Brennan's other work, or if plucky girl reporters solving mysteries sound like your thing, I suspect you'll like this book.
starlady: (abhorsen key)
Larbalestier, Justine and Sarah Rees Brennan. Team Human. New York: HarperTeen, 2012.

I've enjoyed previous books I've read by Larbalestier and Brennan, and I've wanted to read this book since I heard them talk about it at Sirens 2011, when they said, "We wanted to write a book about the best friend in Twilight" and we all said, "What best friend in Twilight?"

The book follows Mel, a teenager in the vampire city of New Whitby, Maine, whose best friend falls in love with Victorian-era vampire Francis. Mel, needless to say, believes that friends don't let friends date vampires, and is determined to thwart this course of events; by the end of the book, everyone has been forced to examine their preconceptions, as well as who gets to make choices for whom.

I enjoyed Mel, who is Chinese-American and not afraid to tell people that they are racist (bonus: unambiguously non-whitewashed cover!), and I enjoyed Larbalestier and Brennan's hilarious writing, which is laid on particularly thick in the first part of the book, which is basically a straight-up, and very welcome, satire of Twilight. Eventually the book modulates to something more serious, but I didn't have a problem with the transition, and I enjoyed the story all the way through. It's not the deepest vampire romance ever, but it does very obviously subvert some of that subgenre's tropes in a very funny way, and it was a very enjoyable read.
starlady: (abhorsen key)
I told you I was going to post again. 

Rees Brennan, Sarah. The Demon's Lexicon. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.

I didn't love this book as much as [personal profile] bookshop did, but I did like it very well. Also, [personal profile] bravecows has some comments on the book and other books by authors who have written fanfic.

In passing and for the record, I write up my thoughts on the books I read both to share and because in my life I don't have enough time to reread many books any more; the first pass is all I get, and my memory can't hold all my thoughts about the books I read. So I suspect that my reaction to this book is not quite as appreciative as Aja's upon reread. C'est la vie; I have more books on my list.

That said, I did like this book, particularly after the ending, which revealed a lot of the characters to be (Secretly) Awesome. I do like Secretly Awesome characters revealing their awesome at the opportune moment.

Demon hunting: Not all fun and games )

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