starlady: Galadriel in Caras Galadhon, with an ornate letter "G" (galadriel is a G)
Which is to say, it's a normal Wednesday around here. I wonder if in future my students will better understand how I feel about history thanks to #Hamiltunes?

What I'm Reading
James Tiptree, Jr., Brightness Falls from the Air (1982) - Tiptree's second novel about a motley group of people who show up to view the passage of a nova front on a very isolated planet. I'm about 25% in and already the outlines of the inevitable doomed ending are becoming clear, but it's good--compelling, with interesting worldbuilding, and things move along tautly.

What I've Read
Ann Leckie, Ancillary Mercy (2015) - Well, I loved it, but I think in some ways the first two books are still my favorite. Structurally, the pivot in this book I think comes a bit late, and a lot of the definitive action is reported by Breq rather than actually participated in by her, but these are in the end minor complaints--the same awesome things happening and crunchy thinking about identity and empire are here in spades, and all in all the book was great.

Aliette de Bodard, The House of Shattered Wings (2015) - A novel of postapocalyptic Paris, with the twist that the Great War was caused by warring Houses headed by Fallen angels; decades later, Vietnamese former Immortal Phillipe runs into a newly fallen angel, Isabelle, and is taken with her into House Silverspires, formerly led by Morningstar himself and now just struggling to hold on. I've liked everything I've read by de Bodard, and I liked this book quite a lot; I think her writing has gotten even stronger, and the whole concept is the sort of thing that really tickles my hindbrain where my Catholic worldview will never be fully extirpated. That said, more of actual Paris next time, please! 

Diana Wynne Jones, Witch Week (1982) - A Chrestomanci book set in a world very close to ours but not and following the misadventures of a motley crew of students from class 6B (at least in this edition) at Larwood School, whose lives all get decidedly complicated when someone writes a note to their teacher saying that someone in the class is a witch. Jones is hilarious when she wants to be, and the humor in this book is pretty freaking black, but I was struggling not to burst into laughter on my train repeatedly even though it's definitely on the slighter end in terms of thematic material. (It's a real gem of plotting, though.) I loved it.

Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon (2006) - It's been a while since I've read biography, and I absolutely devoured this one, about the long and frankly pretty tortured life of the woman who was James Tiptree, Jr. This old post by [personal profile] coffeeandink gets at a lot of what I thought made the biography so good--Phillips is very clear-eyed but sympathetic to just about everyone, and she explains Tiptree to the readers in a way that makes it clear that she was all too human and all too trapped by her constraints, self-imposed and otherwise.

Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce, eds., Letters to Tiptree (2015) - It's the centenary of Tiptree's birth this year, and this is the book that started it all for me. The bulk of it is letters from contemporary SFF writers to Tiptree, and it's sometimes painful going, given everything that's happened in the field over the last year. I also think some of the letter writers misread the Phillips biography in ways that were necessary and productive for them. But all in all, it was a really interesting work, and it accomplished its goal of making me want to read Tiptree.

Amitav Ghosh, River of Smoke (2011) - This is, ultimately, a painful and necessary and brilliant novel about the costs of imperialism and the impossible choices forced on people by colonialism. Ghosh does an excellent job bringing the free trade mania of the British and American traders to life (just as horrific and incomprehensible as the gold fever of the Spanish in the 16thC), and he succeeds as well at reanimating the strange vanished world of Canton in a prior age.
starlady: (abhorsen)
What I've Just Read
I finally finished Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves, a YA novel set in the same world--the same town, really--as Bleeding Violet. It feels weird to say this, but although Slice of Cherry was much darker (content notes: serial killers, child sexual abuse, I'm probably forgetting something), I still liked it a lot. Whereas Bleeding Violet was as much about introducing Portero as anything else, here the general Night Vale-style weirdness of the town takes a back seat to the psychodrama of Fancy and Kit Cordelle, the daughters of the so-called Bonesaw Killer, who take advantage of their unique heritage to follow in their father's footsteps in their own way, even as they learn, albeit painfully, that there are more ways to connect with people than just by killing them. If Bleeding Violet reminded me strongly of Welcome to Night Vale, this book reminded me a lot of Hannibal, if Hannibal and Will were two teenage girls who kind of wanted to get out of the murder game. I continue to really like Reeves' writing, and at points I was rather forcibly reminded that she is definitely not writing from a mainstream, middle-class white perspective. The characters are all quite frank about sex, in particular, but there are many other little things that make Reeves' voice original and valuable. I'm very glad to see from her Twitter that she's working on two more Portero books.

I also finished Silver Spoon vol. 2 by Arakawa-sensei. It's so great. I like Hachiken-kun a lot more now that he's got a bit more backstory to him, but it's also nice to just read a book which is about the small--but by no means inconsequential--dramas of daily life, in which everyone is just trying to do their best in that muddled human way. I'm also learning a lot of agricultural vocabulary, still.

I devoured Ancillary Sword on my way back from Australia; I think I liked it even better than Ancillary Justice, which is saying something. It really reminded me, in a weird way, of Jane Austen in space--Jane Austen in space with guns, of course, but etiquette is absolutely crucial in most of the book's central conflicts, as are the proper dishes. I loved how Breq is angry all the time too--she has a lot to be angry about, too--and I liked how this book made the whole situation more complex, even as it made the answers less simple. Breq does her best to right the injustices that she finds, but there's only so much that she can do, to her dismay. My favorite character of all was probably the Presger translator; I hope we'll see more of the Presger in future, although I'm sure Breq wouldn't. I also, frankly, would read about a million books set in this universe. In the meantime, AS is on my 2014 Hugo ballot for sure.

What I'm Reading
I'm trying to finish Clariel tonight. I really like it, and I basically read the high points of it in that skipping around way that I do when I bought it, but I'm enjoying my thorough reading very much. In addition to what I said before, I also really like that Clariel is so angry. In fact, she's a berserk (like Touchstone in the first books), and though it is something that she needs and wants to control, she isn't punished for it by the narrative. Mogget is about to show up, and I <3 Mogget.

What I'll Read Next
Silver Spoon, assuredly. I'm also looking forward to finally reading Stranger by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith!
starlady: (bibliophile)
Recently Read
Alaya Dawn Johnson, The Burning City (2010)
I really liked the first volume in this unfinished trilogy, Johnson's first novel, Racing the Dark--and though the trilogy is unfinished, I think this volume ties up enough of the loose ends that it's not an unsatisfying place to stop. The book traces the events immediately following the end of Racing the Dark, as well as events of 1000 years ago, the age of the great spirit bindings. I still found Lana to be somewhat annoying at times, so it was nice to break her perspective up with that of the dead witch Aoi, although Lana, by the end of the book, did start to come into her own as more of an adult than before. Semi-facetious note: This is one of several books I've read recently in which a threesome with better communication would have solved a lot of problems.

Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice (2013)
I already knew that I was going to vote for this book for Best Novel in the Hugos, and I was pleased to find that it totally lived up to all the buzz I'd heard. Aside from the absolutely gripping narrative and the compelling protagonist, Justice of Toren One Esk Nineteen alias Breq, who used to be a part of a millennia-old starship but isn't any longer, I love how the narrator just says "gender is confusing me, I can't see it correctly" and just uses "she" to refer to all of the other people she meets, including people she knows are male-bodied. One in the eye, fanboys! And, although Leckie denied it to some extent in the back matter, the Radch are totally Romans in space, and we all know how much I love the Romans. I can't wait for the follow-up, Ancillary Mercy.

Sarah McCarry, All Our Pretty Songs (2013)
A YA retelling of the Orpheus myth that reminded me of Francesca Lia Block (whom it name-checks) but better, because I never much liked Francesca Lia Block; I am tickled to note that in this book LA, the setting of most of Block's oeuvre, is emphatically identified with Hell, which I suppose would make mid-90s Seattle, where the book is set, something other than Elysium. I liked the book, though not as much as some people; wild teenagers Aurora and the unnamed protagonist grow up like sisters despite the fact that Aurora's Kurt Cobain father killed himself and her heroin addict mother Maia (probably meant to be Courtney Love) doesn't speak to her former best friend, the protagonist's mother Cass. Things get complicated when phenomenal guitarist Jake, a clear stand-in for Hendrix, rolls into town and the narrator falls in love with him. Given that Maia is black and Courtney Love is a rocker in her own right, I was uncomfortable with the clear "Cobain and Love" aspect of the characters, and in particular the way that Maia is totally out of touch with her own life, to say nothing of her daughter. Like other people, I felt like the few isolated attempts to discuss race were more shoehorned in than organic, albeit sincere. I felt like Jake's characterization was also a bit thin, particularly since he's basically Hendrix. The narrator is unnamed, of course, because there is no one like her in the Greek myths, and the book's language is gorgeous. I also thought the denouement was an interesting twist on a familiar set of tropes.

CLAMP, xxxHoLiC Rei vol. 1 (2014)
I bought this when I was in Japan last month and…I don't know. The art's still great, but I fail to see how the story can be anything but a retread of the less interesting (i.e. non-main plot arc, such as it was) parts of the original manga. And as much as I love the characters, for all the jokes Yuuko makes about couples' comedy routines, it's not like CLAMP are ever going to either fish or cut bait with the relationship between Watanuki and Doumeki, probably not in any way. Which I find more frustrating than I used to, I will admit. My own personal feeling is that Rei is set in the middle of the first series; on the cover and in the splash pages, Watanuki still has two blue eyes, so it's pre-Spider Lady. I imagine they want to cross over with Legal Drug, which has also restarted; it was possible to see, for a while after the latter was cancelled, the places in the former where crossovers had been intended. Which is fine, but for all that the first HoLiC series had pacing issues, it was still gorgeous and captivating. I am not captivated by Rei yet; unless I become so, I'll probably sell it back to Book-Off before I leave Japan next year.

Currently reading
Sofia Samatar, A Stranger in Olondria. I like it a lot so far; I have nothing to say yet.

Reading next
No idea!

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