starlady: (run)
What I'm Reading
I started reading Edmund de Waal's The Hare with the Amber Eyes on the plane somewhere over Malaysia last night, and it's excellent so far. The author is an Anglo-Jewish potter who is a scion of a very rich Jewish banking clan, sort of les petits Rothschilds, who inherits the netsuke collection of his great-uncle from his great-uncle's lifelong Japanese partner Jiro and who sets out to trace it to its source, returning always to the netsuke themselves, to the thingness of them, in a way that centers the tactile and the experiential, which is not something I've seen a lot in these kinds of books. de Waal is trying to give the netsuke the same close, conscious attention that their creators did, and so far (despite one deplorable factual oversight on the part of the copyeditor) it's brilliant. De Waal, who's spent several years in Japan and probably speaks the language better than I do, is also quite good at evoking Japan in several different periods. He knows his ground well. Bonus: I'm definitely going to the Japan Folk Crafts Museum, which is near me and featured in the book, after I get back.

What I've Just Read
Laurie J. Marks, Fire Logic - I devoured this in one sitting on the plane last night, and loved it. Really interesting magic, a conflict that is both profound but also subtly thought through, really memorable characters, most of them queer, quite a lot of philosophy served up right, in the form of characters and their actions--it's great, and I'm very much looking forward to the rest of the books.

Kate Elliott, the Highroad trilogy (A Passage of Stars, Revolution's Shore, The Price of Ransom) - So I'm trying to work my way through Kate Elliott's backlist because she's a Guest of Honor at Sirens this year (you should join us!) and I love her books to death; I picked these instead of the Jaran novels because, quite frankly, Open Road Media's e-book covers are much better than the ancient 90s covers of the Jaran books, only to find that Highroad and Jaran are in the same universe and Highroad takes place after Jaran, with some of the same characters, even. Well, not a big deal. The Highroad books follow one Lilyaka Ransome off her dull mining planet out to a place among the stars, chasing after her kidnapped mentor, and into the center of a revolution against a corrupt galactic government, and out the other side. I would recommend these books to just about everybody, and particularly to people who like Ankaret Wells' Requite books; though not quite as exuberant in their worldbuilding, there's plenty of rich and strange stuff here, alien people and laser swords and hand-to-hand combat, queer characters, Jewish characters, and a cast that is mostly POC, including the protagonist. I also note that Elliott was doing interesting things with the trilogy structure even 25 years ago, though not the same interesting variations that she did with the Spiritwalker books, because that would be boring. Highly recommended, and available quite readily, along with Elliott's other early novels. Also featuring a very sympathetic take on Trotsky--as for Lenin, well, getting to be the hinge of history is the point of Lenin, and the same happens in this take on him, too.

Justine Larbalestier, Razorhurst - After purchasing this at the end of October I finally sat down and read it (there's too many good books!) and I really liked it. It's the story of Dymphna Campbell and of Kelpie, two girls in the poor crime neighborhood of Razorhurst in Sydney, over the course of one day in 1932 that changes everything. Dymphna and Kelpie couldn't be more differerent, but they can both see ghosts, and they develop a certain mutual problem when they meet over Dymphna's latest boyfriend's corpse. There's a lot of fascinating Sydney and Australian history woven in here, but it's an equally good, bloody story that pulls no punches which really moves things along. I really like the way that Larbalestier plays with structure, and here she puts that to great effect as she moves between differing viewpoints.

Arakawa Hiromu, Silver Spoon vol. 6 - I finally finished it. It's still great!

What I'll Read Next
Well, I brought Silver Spoon vols. 7 and 8 with me, as well as Ôoku 10 and 11, and hopefully I'll get through at least some of them, but I'm also champing at the bit to read Laurie J. Marks' next two books, and…many other things. I got Saga book one from the Image Humble Bundle, and that seems the kind of thing I can definitely polish off on a plane ride. I also really want to read Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy after reading his hilarious, whacky, weird story of writing the trilogy in The Atlantic.
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.

Liar.

Jul. 2nd, 2012 09:20
starlady: Irene Adler, winking, partially inked out (irene)
Larbalestier, Justine. Liar. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009.

This book probably sets a new standard for ambiguous endings, and unreliable narrators. I liked it a lot, not least because I spotted the twist in the first part turned out to not be the important question of the book at all. Well, maybe.

There are several things I am certain of about this book, so here they are, in no particular order: Justine Larbalestier's writing is brilliant, as is this book. It is, like the reviews say, a psychological thriller in which readers are thrown into the deep end with Micah, the ultimate unreliable narrator, who is our only guide into the story as well as deeply manipulating and deeply in pain. Micah is of mixed race, and Liar was the subject of an intense an ultimately successful controversy in which Bloomsbury, her publisher, initially tried to whitewash the U.S. cover and then recanted in the face of sustained public opposition. Micah is also a liar.

I finished this book thinking one set of things, and then I immediately started thinking about it again, and now I don't quite know what I think. I do think that Micah's relationship with her parents and with her murdered secret boyfriend Zach deeply structure the book and her story, and that understanding just how messed up she is as a result of those two things is essential to getting any sort of grasp on her, although I didn't find her fully sympathetic by any means. I did find her story engrossing and ultimately, painfully real, despite the essentially unresolvable ambiguity of the ending.

Serious spoilers )

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