starlady: a circular well of books (well of books)
What I'm reading
Gregory Pflugfelder, Cartographies of Desire. I started this on the plane today--it's a history of male/male sexuality in Japan from 1650-1950, and it's very, very good. If this sounds like something you're interested in, you should totally read this book.

What I've just read
I finished Lost Burgundy, the final volume of Ash: A Secret History, by Mary Gentle on the plane this morning. It's really, really good. I knew it would be, but she totally stuck the landing, and sold me completely on the frankly weird premise by the end. I was even reminded, a very little bit, of Anathem. Highly recommended. (Sidenote: it says a lot that the only one of the contemporary academics I liked was Vaughn Davies.)

I also read Malinda Lo's Natural Selection on the plane--it was in my Kobo app, and I'd forgotten about it. It was short, but I liked it; it's a story about Amber that's a prequel to the Adaptation duology (though it won't make any sense without having read the first book), and it expanded on Amber's background in a way that I really enjoyed. Write more books, Malinda!

What I'll read next
I'm on the cusp of a really intense three months of reading, so I can't make any promises, but I did get the first volume of Revival at the Strand in New York last weekend, and I have a lot of other comics stockpiled. We'll see.

starlady: (basket of secrets)
This book review is part of the A More Diverse Universe BlogTour. You can see the full schedule here.

A More Diverse Universe: Celebrating People of Color Speculative Fiction Authors


Lo, Malinda. Adaptation. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012.

Disclaimer: the author is a friend of mine.

I won an ARC of this book at Mythcon 43 by virtue of the fact that I knew that Mulder's sister was named Samantha, which is perhaps all the comment I need make on Mythcon 43. I've really enjoyed Lo's previous books, and though this one is a decided change of pace in several ways, I loved it too.

Adaptation is set in the near-future United States, San Francisco to be precise; rising senior Reese and her debate partner David are prevented from flying back home by a series of bird strikes causing plane crashes across the continent. Driving a rental car home through Nevada, they encounter a bird strike themselves, and after they wake up in a military hospital and finally get home to San Francisco, it quickly becomes clear that everything has, somehow, changed.

It was highly difficult to put this book down - Malinda talked at Mythcon about how she was inspired by her love of The X-Files, among other things, and how it was easier to write contemporary than pseudo-medieval fantasy dialogue, and it turns out that she's pretty handy with witty verbiage. I also really liked Reese; I sympathized a lot with her dilemmas, both practical and romantic, and the other characters are also very nicely drawn. Although Reese isn't herself a person of color, plenty of her friends including David are, and one of the things I really enjoyed, now that I live here, is how Lo brought out the reality of San Francisco and its diversity without being didactic about it. Without being spoilery about it, there are also several queer characters, and I particularly appreciated the way several characters' bisexuality is handled - realistically, and with acceptance from other characters rather than more stereotypical, skeptical attitudes. Lo's love for the city and its inhabitants shines through alongside the menace of the men in black.

Oh, are there a lot of men in black in this book. There's also a love triangle, conspiracy theories, and some plausibly creepy biological horror - the book opens with a quotation from Darwin's On the Origin of Species, and that's all I'll say on this point outside of a spoiler cut. Suffice it to say that this book is smart, sexy, and un-put-down-able, and I can't wait for the sequel (next year, sadly!).

Spoilers must adapt to survive )
starlady: (abhorsen)
Lo, Malinda. Huntress. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2011.

It took me way too long to find the time to read this novel, which is longer and less of a fairy tale than Lo's debut novel Ash, and I think, even better for it. Although it's set in the same Sino-Celtic world as Ash was, Huntress takes place many centuries earlier, when the Chinese influences of Lo's secondary world are much more evident, and the institution of King's Huntress had not yet been created, or transformed into what we saw of it in Ash. Happily, as in Ash, a queer love story lies at the heart of the book, and though it ends differently than I was expecting, it's very satisfying all the way through.

The meat of the novel concerns Kaede, a student at the Academy for sages who has no real talent with magic and whose powerful father, the King's Chancellor, wants to marry her off to someone who will make a good political alliance. Kaede is delayed from this unenviable fate when the sages declare that she must accompany a novice sage, Taisin, along with the King's son Prince Con, to the court of the Fairy Queen in the north at her invitation. Everyone presumes that the disorder in the natural world for the past two years--no seasons, no sun, and then no harvests--is due to some breakdown in the balance between fairy and human realms, and the hope is that Kaede and Taisin, who is besieged by the dubious gift of true visions, will somehow be able to restore it. Needless to say, the journey along the way, and what lies at the end of it, irrevocably changes them both.

I had the pleasure of being on a panel with Malinda Lo at Sirens 2010, and one of the things she said at some point that weekend was that Robin McKinley had been a huge influence on her as a writer and as a reader. I think you can see that in Lo's prose, which is perfectly pitched and measured; I couldn't tell you the last time I noticed someone using the word "gelid," but in her writing, it works, and it works beautifully. Without spoilers, I thought the way the plot resolved was innovative--at least, not what I was expecting, which was quite nice--and very real. All in all, an excellent book.

There is also a story at Subterranean Magazine, "The Fox," set two years after the end of the novel.
starlady: (utena myth)
Gaiman, Neil. Odd and the Frost Giants. New York: Harper, 2009.

The back cover bills this little volume as "short but perfectly formed," which is true as far as it goes: it's the Middle Ages in Scandinavia, and misunderstood stepson Odd, whose father died in a Viking raid and whose leg was smashed shortly after, falls in with a bear, an eagle and a fox in an effort to save Midgard by finding a rainbow bridge to Asgard so that the Æsir can be restored to power. This is another book that I'd be miffed to have paid full price for, but like most of Gaiman's books for younger readers it is charming and worth the time investment. Best line: "'We don't talk about that,' said the fox."


Lo, Malinda. Ash. New York: Little, Brown, 2009.

For someone who doesn't care for fairy stories, I've certainly been reading a lot of them lately. This book, a debut novel, takes the familiar story of Cinderella and inverts it in a number of key ways: Ash has a fairy godfather (or maybe it's better to say, a fairy sugar daddy?) by way of her late mother, and doesn't care a fig for the prince. Instead, she falls in love with an intriguing, liminal figure: Kaisa, the King's Huntress.

I read this book in a night--the language is beautiful, and the story is very skillfully told. As much as I loved Ash and rooted for her to escape her evil stepmother and stepsisters (though Lo follows more recent Cinderella stories, or at least the movie Ever After, in making the younger stepsister sympathetic), the backstory in the novel is just as interesting as the foregrounded tale: of Fairy and human realms that abutted each other, with the King's Huntress acting as a go-between, until the realms fell apart and fairy stories dwindled into superstition and unthinking tradition. The solution to Ash's dilemma was also beautifully worked out.

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