starlady: (xmas penguins)
For today, [personal profile] seekingferret asked about my favorite toe. I have webbed feet, so my second and third toes are literally tied for my favorite toe(s). Interestingly, it's only on the right foot that the webbing goes up high enough to prevent me from wearing five-toed shoes.

Yesterday, [personal profile] rachelmanija asked me about five books I didn't enjoy, or enjoyed for the wrong reasons. This is actually a hard question! One of my achievements of the last few years has been ruthlessly cutting out books that I don't enjoy from my reading habits, mostly through pre-screening my choices. I didn't enjoy Guadalupe Garcia McCall's Summer of the Mariposas for the reasons enumerated at the post. I also didn't enjoy Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Witch (Viking, 2011) anywhere near as much as I wanted to, for many of the same reasons that Rachel noted in her review. The pacing was wonky and, as much as I liked Sunny, the stakes of the backdrop and the dimensions of her actual experience of being a Leopard Person were very mismatched. It'll be interesting to see what happens in the sequel, which I understand is coming out next year. Okorafor is still one of the most interesting writers I know, but I think The Shadow Speaker is still my favorite of her books (and at this point I've read almost all of them). And while reading volume 8 of Ôoku I inadvertently realized that the manga has straightwashed multiple notable historical figures, including Tsunayoshi, which has definitely colored my opinions about the manga henceforth.

ETA: I also didn't particularly enjoy Georgette Heyer's Sylvester, which I read earlier this year. I'm not well-versed in romance novels in general, and I know enough about the Regency period that the Regency slang felt layered on with a trowel. I also prefer Jane Austen's approach to the Regency period, which (being contemporary) was eminently sensible: most aristocrats are fools. I have False Colours on my shelf and I will probably read Cotillion at some point because it's the one everyone loves, but there it is. That said, I'd welcome recs for people's favorite Heyers that I should read instead.
starlady: (the last enemy)
Okorafor, Nnedi. Who Fears Death. New York: Daw Books, 2010.

This is an intense, roiling, powerful melange of a book. I read it in about three hours on a plane, which may not have been the strictly best thing for my mental state, but was a very interesting experience.

I borrowed my copy of this book to [personal profile] oliviacirce before I wrote this post, so my apologies if I get any of the names wrong; corrections welcome, as always.

The following contains discussion of weaponized rape, female genital mutilation, and genocide.  ) I can't wait to read Okorafor's newest, Akata Witch.
starlady: Anna Maria from PoTC at the helm: "bring me that horizon" (bring me that horizon)
Okorafor, Nnedi. Zahrah the Windseeker. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2005.

Since I enjoyed The Shadow Speaker thoroughly, and since Okarafor is a Guest of Honor at WisCon 34, which I'll be attending, I wanted to read more of her books. Zahrah the Windseeker is Okorafor's first novel; it's loosely connected to The Shadow Speaker in that it takes place in the Ooni Kingdom of Ginen, the planet to which in the later book Earth has become more closely connected. For young dada girl Zahrah, whose vine-shot hair marks her out as different no matter how much she wants to fit in, and her friend Dari, whose curiosity and acceptance of Zahrah's difference (and her burgeoning abilities of flight) makes him unusual, Earth is a legend; they're far more interested in the Forbidden Greeny Jungle, the borders of which are only a mile outside of their town.

Cut because cuts are policy now )
starlady: Kazuhiko & Suu landing (fly)
Okorafor, Nnedi. The Shadow Speaker. New York: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, 2007.

Nnedi Okorafor is one of the Guests of Honor at this year's WisCon, which I am planning to attend, so I thought I should probably read her books. This one is set in what we'd call Niger and Nigeria, in 2070, forty years after the Great Change in which nuclear weapons combined with "peace bombs" to produce a world in which there is no longer any division between science and magic, and in which the barriers between Earth and four other worlds--particularly Ginen, which lies particularly "close" to the Sahara desert, which is no longer a desert--have vanished completely. Camels talk, owls hunt by day, and metahumans like fourteen-year-old Ejii are born with cat's eyes and abilities ranging from flight to telepathy to rainmaking and everything in between.

I really, really liked this book. Ejii is an appealing, complex protagonist--a believer in peace who allies with the warrior woman who killed her father to stop a war, a Muslim who wrestles with when and whether to wear a burka or a veil but whose faith never wavers, a reluctant shadow speaker who undertakes a journey that may get her killed, or bring her abilities to fruition, despite the risk. Moreover, her relationships with her mother and her dead father are complex, and the boy Dikéogu, whom she meets along the way, is realistically but sympathetically characterized--a family friend sold him into slavery on a chocolate plantation after his parents cast him out. Given that child trafficking in Nigeria is a contemporary and not just a future problem, to say nothing of the book's larger philosophical and social concerns, particularly the role of women in society, and non-violence, the book strikes very close to home, I think. I also really like Jaa, the Red Queen, who seems to slide between roles as easily as she does between worlds, but remains herself. She's a fascinating adult woman character who isn't characterized according to stereotypes. I should note, though, that at the end the book does avail itself of the fat = evil cliché.

Perhaps inevitably, I was reminded a little bit of Nancy Farmer's The Eye, the Ear and the Arm while reading this book, because they remain the only two YA fantasies set in Africa that I've read. Clearly, though, there should be a lot more. Luckily, Okorafor has more books available.

P.S. Dear Jump at the Sun: Get a copyeditor who knows when to use a comma versus a semicolon versus a dash. Seriously.


starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)

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