starlady: Toby from the West Wing with a sign that says, "Obama is the President."  (go vote bitches)
What I'm Reading
A.S. King, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future - A Sirens book, and while I'm enjoying it so far, it's very much that sort of contemporary YA voice which I can take or leave, and in this book in particular the narrative voice is thin enough that it's easy to lose a sense of the protagonist as a corporeal being. I was comparing the book to Court of Fives in my mind and actually forgot that Court of Fives is in first-person, not third, because of how much better Elliott is at conveying sensory details through the narration.

C.S. Pacat, Captive Prince - So I started reading the first book finally and on the very first page I had to stop for like 15 minutes because things on the very first page of the first book are matched beautifully on the very last page of the last book, I can't, that sort of shit is just irresistible to me. Anyway, it's amazing.

What I've Read
Seanan McGuire, A Red-Rose Chain - All caught up on Toby! Toby's adventures are only getting more serious! I continue to love these books and I can't really deal with the idea that it's going to be 15 years or so until we get the last of them.

Nova Ren Suma, The Walls Around Us - Another Sirens book, contemporary YA, first person, with a stronger voice than Glory O'Brien, and it very much earns the "Orange is the New Black Swan" description, but even in a very taut story there's a lot of there there. I liked it a lot.

Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows - Sirens again, and I liked this one quite a lot. It's Ocean's Eleven, but only six people, and it's a YA, so they're all extremely damaged teenagers, and it's set in and around a fantastical alt-Amsterdam that is much more interesting than actual Amsterdam. I gather that this book takes place in the same world as Bardugo's Grisha trilogy, which I have been universally assured is not worth reading, but this book was great and I can't wait for the follow-up, of which there is only one, due later this year.

N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season - Another stunning Jemisin book, another insta-Hugo nomination. I thought the book was amazing, both in terms of craft and in terms of concepts, and I really liked it, but I did think that Foz Meadows' very spoilery post on the book had some good points, and in general, I continue to think that all my quibbles with Jemisin's character arcs would be solved if she just gave the queer characters romance endings. At this point, though, it seems like that really isn't her project, which is unfortunate.

Kate Elliott, The Labyrinth Gate - Elliott's first book, published nearly 30 years ago, and you know? It totally holds up. The first chapter has some slightly awkward dialogue, but after that it's a fun, interesting romp through an interesting alt-Regency that is almost outright matriarchal, through the eyes of a pair of our-world protagonists who bring their own talents to the political struggles of the world they find themselves in. Badass old ladies! People of color! Thinky thoughts about political and social development! Awesome matriarchal tarot! You should read this book.

Caitlin R. Kiernan, The Dry Salvages - (Note, after Eliot, rhymes with 'assuages') I found an ARC of this novella in my stack when I unpacked my boxes of books, and frankly…I was totally underwhelmed. The narrator, Audrey, is an old woman narrating her part in an ill-fated exoplanetary expedition in post-climate change Paris, but the story makes Prometheus look like a genius work of fiction by comparison. There's not enough payoff in the vague 'I want to be spooky' hints, and all of Audrey's colleagues are assholes. Hell, Eliot is a better version of the book than the book is. I'm selling it at HPB.

What I'll Read Next
I don't know, but I do know that the lack of movement in my stacks of physical books is driving me batty. MUST READ.
starlady: a circular well of books (well of books)
As of right now I have read 66 books this year, which not only is 11 more than 2013, but is also four more than 2012! It's not entirely impossible that I'll finish another volume of Silver Spoon before midnight, either, in which case I will edit this post. This makes me very happy, as I only read five books from February through May (and none in March), meaning that more than 2/3 of these books were read in the latter seven months of the year. Clearly my goal for 2015 should be to read 70 books.

Moving on to the numbers…25 of 66 books were by chromatic authors, which is slightly less than 38% and decently respectable, as well as an improvement on 2013 and 2012. A 10% selection rate for "best of 2014" means I should be picking six books.
I've read too many excellent books this year, I really have. What should go in that blank? A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge? Moonshine by Alaya Dawn Johnson? The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black? We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler? The Diviners? The Goblin Emperor? Clariel? Stranger? Mary Gentle's Ash: A Secret History, which I finally finished this year? All of these books were great, and I enjoyed them immensely. I can only hope that 2015 provides a similar embarrassment of riches.

What I'm Reading
The Hawkwood War by Ankaret Wells (2010) - Direct sequel to The Maker's Mask, which I thoroughly enjoyed for its breakneck pacing, laugh-out-loud humor, banter, and wit, and throw-in-the-deep-end-and-swim approach to worldbuilding and explaining it. Tzenni is great, Innes is great, and the characters are interesting, varied, and believable. It's a teeny bit like Dune in the various secret orders running around, and I like it thoroughly so far. I'll definitely be picking up Heavy Ice (2013), set in the same world 200 years later, after this. Also, note that everyone in the books is some shade of black or brown as far as I can make out.

Silver Spoon vol. 5 by Arakawa-sensei - Still great. Hopefully I can read the remaining 7 volumes in time to buy vol. 13 when it comes out, which should be June-ish based on previous publication pace.

What I've Just Read
Ashes of Honor (2012), Chimes at Midnight (2013), The Winter Long (2014) by Seanan McGuire - Well, I was planning on trying to pace myself with the latest three volumes of the October Daye books in time for the ninth one in September, but that obviously didn't happen. I finished the sixth and started and finished the last two in the space of 24 hours on Boxing Day, which even for me is pretty remarkably fast. I <3 Toby, and I really like her team--and I like that they explicitly think of themselves as a team, and that [Romantic Interest] fits into the team so well. (Much better than [character] did.) I know everybody said 8 was a huge shocker, and I guess it was, except that I've honestly forgotten the details of so many of the first three books that some of the punch of various revelations was lost on me. Also, there's clearly so much that still hasn't been said, and a lot of that is what I was wondering about. Given McGuire's meticulous dropping of hints and her even-more-impressive-in-retrospect ability to leave threads very precisely untied until they turn into garrotes, I expect quite a lot of interesting things in the second act of the series, and in particular in the next book. Also, reading these books is like taking a trip home to the Bay Area, and that was just what I needed this Christmas.

The Maker's Mask (2010) by Ankaret Wells - See comments on The Hawkwood War. Highly recommended. Wells came out of fanfic, and it shows in the best ways.

Silver Spoon vol. 4 by Arakawa-sensei - I had a bit of a tough time with Hachiken's would-be white knighting in the second half of this volume, but as I've said before, it's still great.

What I'll Read Next
More Silver Spoon. Razorhurst. Not sure what else. It's a new year.

Favorite books for [personal profile] aria 

Goodness, this is a tough question. I think "favorite books" tends to be difficult to answer, because so many of one's favorites tend to be the books one read when one is very young and everything is still new and capable of making a ridiculously strong impression. Conversely, I've read many great books since my return to SFF in 2009, but which of them will stand the test of time? That said, I'll try to come up with a list of some favorites that mixes old and new.
  • The Young Wizards books by Diane Duane - Some are stronger than others, but all of them are well-considered, fiercely ethical, and beautiful, heartbreaking, and wonderful by turns.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis - I talked a lot about Narnia several years ago and I'm still basically obsessed. They're complicated texts, and imperfect, and I appreciate that about them as an adult even as I also remember my childhood reactions.
  • The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper - Well, obviously, warty gender issues and all. The Dark Is Rising is a perfect book.
  • Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge - I stumbled on this in a bookshop in Derry in Northern Ireland and loved it from the very first word. I love Mosca even more now than I did then.
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix - I haunted the books section of Zany Brainy (oh, the 90s) until this came out in paperback, and it was worth the wait.
  • The Alanna books by Tamora Pierce - I think Pierce's later books are objectively better, but I read these when I was nine, and they made a huge and much-needed impression.
  • The Honor Harrington books by David Weber - I've basically broken up with this series, but the first eight are great, and Honor was a great character for me to read about when I was 13. I have huge issues with much of Weber's worldbuilding now, but I still recommend the first eight, since they form a pretty self-contained arc.
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke - Huge, sprawling, wondrously detailed, the perfect winter novel. I have the red Christmas cover that they sold at Borders and I love it to death.
  • The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson - No one should be surprised to see this on this list at this point. :P To my mind, this is how you write historical fiction.
  • His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman - These books were a huge influence on me, and though I have some problems with Pullman now, they are still wondrous.
  • The Spiritwalker Chronicles by Kate Elliott - A latebreaking addition to this list, but the first one in particular felt like it was written for me, and I love all of them to death.
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell - Another perfect book.
  • The Michelle West novels - I find it difficult to pick a single book out of any of these, not least because the single story they are all telling has long since overwhelmed any individual volume in my mind. I discovered The Broken Crown when I was 12 and have loved them all ever since.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist by Arakawa Hiromu - My favorite manga, still, both for its action and its humor but also for its characters and its willingness to ask tough questions and to make hard choices.
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - I never think of this one at first blush, but the story (albeit mostly through The Muppet Christmas Carol) absolutely has had a huge effect on me, especially in the decade or so since high school when I was first faced with the question of how to be an ethical being in society. I worry about my own tendencies towards misanthropy, cynicism, and despair for humanity, as well as about being a good person--all things that Scrooge has to learn about! But the book also offers the most important lesson of all: that it's never too late to change, and to change one's life. May that truly be said of us, and all of us.
It's funny; I spent a lot of time in high school and college reading "the classics," and though there are a lot of writers on those lists whose works I love (Austen, the Brontës, Woolf, Dumas, Faulkner, Vanity Fair, Middlemarch, Tristram Shandy), none of them stuck in quite the same way, I suspect partly because they aren't asking quite the same kinds of questions as many of the books above, and also partly because none of them have magic. Well, we all have our faults.
starlady: Ramona Flowers wearing her delivery goggles (ramona flowers is awesome)
What I've Read
One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire--so, I actually quite like the Toby Daye books, which is funny because they're the sort of thing I'd have thought, four years ago, were not my cup of tea at all. But I've attended the parties for about half of the Toby Daye books, including this one, and liked them better and better…though I somehow failed to acquire this one in paper, which led to me acquiring it from (vomit) Amazon because I have a gift card there, and because the eighth book out and Everything Changes (again) and I didn't want to fall even further behind. I really liked it; I think in the Toby books in particular it's possible to see McGuire growing by leaps and bounds as a writer, and the climax takes place in one of my favorite parts of San Francisco. The books take place in a city but aren't typical "urban fantasy" by any means, and I do like Toby and her sarcasm and her need for coffee. I figured out the [spoiler] ages ago, and never really cared about that character anyway, but I liked them in this book more than I ever had before. I'm excited for the next three, when I get to them.

I also finished Silver Spoon volume 1. It's adorable and also very interesting. I find it really cool how Arakawa manages to make even the most mundane activities seem--not overly dramatic, but momentous in their own quotidian way. The horseback riding sequence is a good example of this. I also think it's interesting that this is the story she chose to do after FMA--she could have done whatever she wanted after FMA, and she started writing a manga about cows (and other things) set in Hokkaidou. Nice. Anyway, I love it, and it's great.

What I'm Reading Now
Yoon Ha Lee, Kate Elliott, and Rae Carson are the guests of honor at Sirens next year, and since I've loved some of Lee's short stories individually for a while, and had the collected volume of them, Conservation of Shadows, in my "to read" pile for a while, I started that on the plane this afternoon. It is also great; I love the math and science elements and Asian influences of Lee's space opera futures, and fantastic pasts.

Also, Silver Spoon vol. 2.

What I'm Reading Next
Well, more Silver Spoon when I get back to Japan. I'm also planning on buying Clariel by Garth Nix in paper when I get to Australia (bizarrely, the Australian cover is clearly the best of the lot), and possibly also Justine Larbalestier's Razorhurst (the Australian cover of that is better, too). Reading Yoon Ha Lee also makes me really want to read Ancillary Sword, so probably that soon too.

starlady: Abraham Lincoln, vampire hunter (alternate history)
Grant, Mira. Deadline. New York: Orbit Books, 2011.

Disclaimer: I know the author.

I read and enjoyed Feed, the first book in Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy which was nominated for a Hugo Award, earlier this summer. My subconscious would like you to know that it is both very difficult and very dangerous to run away from boarding school in this world, as I had a dream Monday morning in which I apparently succeeded in running away from boarding school but promptly realized that I had now greatly increased my risk of turning into a zombie. And then I woke myself up because things were getting freaky.

So, Deadline. There's not much I can say about this book without spoilers, but here's my attempt: this book follows Shaun Mason and his attempts to deal with the ramifications of the events in Feed, about a year and a half after the end of that book. It will surprise no one, methinks, that the truths Georgia and Shaun uncovered in Feed were only the tip of the iceberg, and in the meantime, the Kellis-Amberlee virus is also doing what viruses do best, i.e. mutating.

I enjoyed this book; I enjoyed the first one, and and the strengths of Feed have carried over into Deadline, namely sympathetic characters, page-turning suspense, and a strong background in virology and epidemiology and weapons know-how that never infodumps. Having gone through my own obsession with disease and pandemics (what I learned doing research in high school about the influenza pandemic of 1918 has led me to get a flu shot every year for the past decade), I think Grant has a real flair for bringing a society besieged by a virus to life. At the same time, her projection of what society and blogging will look like in thirty years, after thirty years of potential zombie apocalypse, are believable and interesting too.

Spoilers undergo amplification, though not for the ending )

I enjoy Grant | McGuire books, not least because just about everyone in them is snarky, sarcastic, jaded, and funny, and that hasn't changed. I very much will be reading Blackout next year.

Feed.

Jun. 16th, 2011 15:51
starlady: Abraham Lincoln, vampire hunter (alternate history)
Grant, Mira. Feed. New York: Orbit Books, 2010.

I feel like I spend a lot of these introductory paragraphs disclaiming any particular interest in whatever trend/subgenre of which the book I'm talking about is part, and I should stop doing that. That said, this is the first zombie book I can recall reading, and I enjoyed it. It's also been nominated for a Hugo Award for best novel, and looking at the ballot, I wouldn't be disappointed to see it win. Here's something I should disclaim: I am acquainted with the author, which is part of why I read this book, but not why I liked it.

I remember reading at one point, some years ago, in Newsweek an anonymous quote from some Hollywood screenwriter who claimed to have written a script very similar to The Matrix, except that unknown script didn't have kung fu. Feed, the first book in a trilogy (Deadline is out as of last week), takes the time-honored zombie apocalypse concept and marries it to some very well thought-out explorations of what journalism, and U.S. society, would look like 26 years after the zombie apocalypse, or as it's called, the Rising. If one half of the sibling duo of bloggers, Georgia Mason, the book's narrator, is named for George Romero, it shouldn't have taken me so long to realize why her brother Shaun Mason has the name he does.

Of zombies, page views, and presidential campaigns ) I'll be picking up Deadline when I get a chance, since the news cycle doesn't end, and neither does the potential for an outbreak.

I embed the (non-spoilery) trailer for the first two books below:

Happy hunting.
starlady: (abhorsen key)
McGuire, Seanan. Late Eclipses. New York: DAW Books, 2011.

This is the fourth book in Seanan McGuire's Toby Daye series, and at this point I am confident in stating that a) the books have thoroughly transmogrified themselves from their rather obviously urban fantasy origins in Rosemary and Rue, and b) I like this series a lot. I would, however, urge people to read the first book and skip the second, which is unquestionably the weakest of the four thus far. I think this one might be the strongest, though the third, An Artificial Night, is really good too.

The one who can is the one who must. )

I think it's possible to see McGuire becoming a better writer as the series goes along, and I'm very much looking forward to the next book, One Salt Sea. Nothing will be the same for Toby and her crew from here on out, but change is the way of everything, even those who are immortal. For those who like filk, you should check out "Oak and Ash and Rowan and Thorn," a filk by Cat Faber about Toby at the end of this book that was covered at its release party and that is quite awesome.
starlady: (through the trapdoor)
McGuire, Seanan. An Artificial Night. New York, 2010.

This is the third book in Seanan McGuire's Toby Daye series, and I actually got a signed copy from the author at the release party at Borderlands Books, because I was already going to be in the area and Borderlands is awesome. So was the release party! There was rosemary shortbread, and cake, and Sooj and her crew performing, and talking with people about books, and Seanan being herself, i.e. quite funny.

The series is looking up, I think. )I am, again, looking forward to the next book (and to the next release party).

ETA: Spoilers in the comments. 
starlady: a circular well of books (well of books)
Danticat, Edwidge. Brother, I'm Dying. New York: Knopf, 2007.

In this memoir Danticat tells the story of her uncle, who was like a father to her while her parents emigrated to New York City, and of her father, both of whom died within a few months of each other in 2004: her father from end-stage lung disease, her uncle at the hands of U.S. immigration officers' abuse and medical neglect after seeking temporary asylum from gang violence in his neighborhood of Bel Air in Port-au-Prince. The gang members were wrongly convinced that Danticat's uncle Joseph had given U.N. "peacekeepers" his authorization to use his church in their assault on the neighborhood.

It's a horrible story, and after the January earthquake it's impossible not to remember constantly while reading that Joseph's son, Danticat's cousin Maxo, was killed in the quake, and the neighborhood destroyed. But as much as the book is about their deaths, Danticat also writes eloquently about their lives, both in Haiti and in New York, apart and finally together: they are buried next to each other in Queens, since Danticat's Haitian family told them it was unsafe to repatriate Joseph's body for burial (the gangs wanted to behead his corpse). Having watched a parent die slowly in my own home, my heart went out to Danticat (who found out she was pregnant right after her father was given his terminal diagnosis, in an appallingly unprofessional manner) doing the same thing, and I wished uselessly that she and her family had been better able to accept her father's dying while he was doing it. But everyone's experiences with this (including my own) are ultimately personal, as [personal profile] jonquil pointed out in this post, which I really needed to hear without realizing it.

Anyway. I never used to like memoirs; I never used to like non-fiction, period. But I was missing out, and Danticat's book in particular is a wonderful example of what the genre can do.


McGuire, Seanan. A Local Habitation. New York: DAW Books, 2010.

I read and enjoyed the first book in the adventures of Toby Daye, Rosemary and Rue, last summer, but this book has many of the problems of a second novel: to wit, it doesn't move as fleetly, leaving me more time to realize all the ways in which Toby's non-conforming-conformity to urban fantasy stereotypes is grating. Also, I totally spotted the twist relating to Alex after about one chapter, and I passionately hate when I can out-observe the characters without the narration's complicity in keeping the wool over their eyes. At the same time Toby = Luddite is less amusing this time around, and I was rather thrown by the complete disappearance of her human baby-daddy and child from her thoughts. All the same, I'll probably keep reading, because I've been getting these out of the library.
starlady: (through the trapdoor)
Downum, Amanda. The Drowning City. London: Orbit Books, 2009.

I confess this book had me at the dedication: "For New Orleans," and the epigraph, from Emily Dickinson, and all in all Downum (aka [livejournal.com profile] stillsostrange) does not disappoint. The story follows one Isyllt Iskandur, necromancer and agent provacateur, as she attempts to incite a rebellion in the conquered city of Symir so as to subvert the expansionist Assar Empire's designs on her own country across the Inland Sea. Isyllt's an engaging character, very human despite her chosen professions, and for the most part the people she encounters are a well-rounded, believable bunch of mages, spies, conspirators, politicians and rebels. There's a definite feel of cultural melange to Symir; in some ways it seems very Middle Eastern, while in others it's very clearly Southeast Asian, and Downum modulates between both influences well. In some ways the book reminded me of nothing so much as Tamora Pierce by way of Sarah Monette--gemstones, volcanoes, mages, spies, and not too explicit sex, which frankly surprised me. There's even an unambiguous reference to Monette's Doctrine of Labyrinths in the epilogue. In any case, I'll definitely look out for the next book about Isyllt, The Bone Palace, when it appears.


McGuire, Seanan. Rosemary and Rue. New York: Daw Books, 2009.

Rosemary and Rue is the first book in a series chronicling the trials and tribulations of Sir October Daye, changeling (i.e. half-Faerie, half-human) and P.I. in contemporary San Francisco, by Seanan McGuire ([livejournal.com profile] seanan_mcguire). In the prologue of the book, Toby is turned into a koi for 14 years by her liege's brother and enemy, which naturally wreaks havoc on the life she'd built outside the Fay Court with her human lover and their four year-old daughter. Six months after the enchantment breaks, Toby's life as a night clerk at a 24-hour supermarket is interrupted by the murder of one of her oldest friends, Evening, Countess Winterrose, being recorded on her answering machine, and becoming blood- and curse-bound to find Evening's killer. Naturally, Toby is drawn--more like dragged kicking and screaming--back into life among the Faerie, and though as a changeling and a former P.I., she's tough, she spends most of the book injured, confused, and in pain. I like it when female protagonists go through the wringer not because of their gender but because of their profession or circumstances (The Drowning City does this too), so I appreciated that Toby gets injured and has realistic aftereffects of those injuries. The book is a cracking good read, a real pageturner, and I don't normally care for stories about the Fair Folk (War for the Oaks being a notable, and at least slightly comparable, exception in this regard), but I have to recommend this book. Toby is a fascinating, painfully real character, as are the people who surround her, and McGuire's evocation of San Francisco, as well as of the power dynamics in the Faerie Courts (in which changelings are only a few steps up from dirt), feels very believable. I'll be looking for the next book, A Local Habitation, which comes out in the spring.


Bear, Elizabeth. Dust. New York: Bantam, 2008.

I read this book on a whim, and on one level it's a fascinating take on--whose law is it again? Heinlein's?--that science looks like magic when it gets to be advanced enough. It follows Rien, a servant in the House of Conn, who must undertake a perilous journey to the other side of her world, to Engine, after she rescues her sister Sir Perceval from the dungeons of their cousin Ariane Conn. They must also deal with the machinations of Jacob Dust, the Angel of Memory, and his plans for Perceval and for their world, Jacob's Ladder. As usual, Bear writes beautifully, and the epigraphs to the chapters have gotten me interested in the New Evolutionist Bible. But the characters, who are all rich, complicated individuals, drive the narrative as much as the fact that the binary system around which the ship is orbiting is about to go nova. I liked this book a lot, and I very much will read Chill, which comes out at the end of this year. But then, it's hard not to like a book in which the answer to "Why are you called the Angel of Poison?" is "Because there is no ancient Hebrew word for 'mutagen.'"

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