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: 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: Mako's face in the jaeger, in profile (mako mori is awesome)
What I'm Reading
River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh - This is the sequel to Sea of Poppies, which I read and loved years back. The third book, Flood of Fire, came out this month and I got to hear Ghosh speak on the book, which was really cool! (Also the book is purple and he signed my copy!) Since I still hadn't read the second one, I got started on that. It's great, although with fewer female characters than the first book--necessarily, since large chunks of the action take place in and around the foreign enclave outside Canton, where women were barred--and with somewhat less of the variety of Englishes of the first as well. I told Ghosh that these novels are what history should be in my view, and I stand by that.

What I've Read
Melina Marchetta, Finnikin of the Rock (2008) - I don't think I can actually improve on [personal profile] skygiants' post on the book, but I quite enjoyed the way Melina Marchetta calmly flipped everything upside down by the end. It's very dark, I'm not sure the population numbers quite add up relative to the economic setup she's describing, but the book was pretty great.

Catherynne M. Valente, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland (2015) - I liked this better than The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland, and it didn't have the structural problems of that book, and Thomas the changeling is actually a pretty charming protagonist. But really all it did was make me want to read The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, which is coming out next year, even more.

Zen Cho, Sorceror to the Crown (2015) - AUGH, it was great, and I did not see the ending coming even though in retrospect I felt like I should have! Prunella and Zacharias were great, but really the lamiae stole the show in my book, and I cannot wait for the next one.

Rainbow Rowell, Carry On (2015) - I loved Fangirl, and I devoured this book in exactly one day. It's making a lot of intelligent comments on the Harry Potter books, of course, but it's more than enjoyable in its own right. Simon is a tragedy and a hot mess, just like Baz says, and the perspectives of Baz and Penny on him were great, but also Baz and Penny were just great, too. The book is also something of a commentary on Harry Potter fic, of course, and in that respect I thought Agatha was particularly interesting, as well as the Mage. (Man, fuck that dude.) All in all, I loved it, and I would read many more Simon Snow books.

Kate Elliott, Court of Fives (2015) - Another great book from Kate Elliott, one that (because YA) moves along pretty darn swiftly too. I loved it, and unusually for an Elliott book I was 200% behind the love interest from the beginning. I cannot wait for the next one.

starlady: Twitter quote: @magneto "come home" (my offer still stands)
What I'm Reading
G. Willow Wilson, Alif the Unseen - I'm falling behind on my Sirens reading challenge, but luckily this book is completely engrossing and even though I only started it this morning, I'm nearly finished. It's full of really smart observations as well as really interesting fantastical elements, and some really sharp things about politics. More when I'm finally finished, but this one is pretty great.

Urasawa Naoki, Billy Bat vol 1 - This is Urasawa's current series, and I'm kind of annoyed at how much it plays to my interests to be honest. I also really question why Urasawa has drawn all of the Japanese or Japanese-American characters with the exception of the current protagonist to look distinctly monkey-ish (it's even more noticeable given that the story opens in 1947). This may be a sophisticated point about representation or it may just be an oogie running bit. Anyway, it's Urasawa; of course it's good, though I'm not quite willing to commit to hauling home the other 15 volumes (it's still running).

What I've Just Read
Molly Gloss, The Dazzle of Day - Quakers in space! Except, well, this novel is actively trying to break the bounds of science fiction as a genre, and…I like science fiction as a genre. Well worth reading, but Joan Slonczewski is still first in my heart in terms of Quaker SF novels. (I've now read two of the four.) Partly that's because this is a very interior book, and Gloss gets at the Quakerism (and everything else) very indirectly, unlike Slonczewski, who puts her Quaker in conflict with or in contrast to other groups or even species.

Yoshinaga Fumi, Ôoku vol 11 & 12 - Immunology, gender, and power. I hope everyone's ready for what's looking to be a really grim ending. I'd estimate we have two and at most three volumes left. It's also interesting to me that Yoshinaga made the most incompetent shogun a hero for the sake of the narrative.

Arakawa Hiromu, Silver Spoon vol. 12 & 13 - Only Arakawa Hiromu could blow through an entire year of school in one volume (12) and make it feel totally fine in terms of pacing and character development. She also has a real sense of how to turn the tables on readers' expectations based on genre cliches: the team's performance at the national equestrian championships in 13 is a case in point. Sadly this series seems to be taking a bit of a backseat to Arslan Senki, but I still love it, and I'll be really interested to see where Hachiken and company wind up by the time they graduate. One thing I appreciate now that I didn't before I saw Bakemono no ko is how subversive it is--Hachiken chooses not to go to college even though he could, his brother fucking dropped out of Todai to be an independent Skype college exam tutor, Komaba drops out of high school to work odd jobs in Tokyo so he can buy a farm, Mikage only decides to go to college after she decides to not inherit her family's farm: and all of this is totally okay. That's very (and characteristically) independent-minded of Arakawa.

Bunn/Walta/Fernandez, Magneto: Infamous and Reversals - My one friend W handed me these two volumes of comics as I was basically walking out the door in Seattle on the grounds that I'm way more into the X-Men than he is, which is true, but in no way means I'm familiar with most of the comics except in broad outlines. Luckily this series, which picks up after Charles Xavier's latest death with Mags relatively depowered but still just as quick to perform vigilante justice (also bald, which I can't help but read as influenced by Charles), is actually pretty good at filling readers in on relevant events without info-dumping. The coloring is really striking, and though I thought the pacing was off at a few points in the second volume, overall the comic is asking some tough questions of just about everyone, including Mags himself, and not letting anyone off the hook. I'm interested to keep reading.

Fraction & Ward, ODY-C vol 1 - Yup, between the art and the diction, this comic is fucking trippy, and I'll be really interested to see how closely Fraction sticks to the actual events of the actual Odyssey: there are plenty of hints, even in this first volume, that things could go off the rails of the familiar narrative in really interesting directions; in some ways, they already have. The "not all men" joke was also pretty flipping fantastic. All in all, it's pretty great.

Tenea Johnson, Smoketown - I don't know if there's a name for the sub-genre that includes this book and Dia Reeves' books, but I put them together in my mind as "speculative fiction set in some version of the South, with POC characters," and like Reeves' books, Johnson doesn't pull her punches. The similarities end there, in some ways: whereas Portero is much more comparable to Night Vale, Johnson's post-climate change apocalypse city is decidedly futuristic but also just weird: the government controls a lot of things and birds are outlawed. Finding out what made the city the way it is, and working to change it, winds up being the crux of the novel, but the book goes at that widdershins, and while I really, really liked the book, I thought there were some plot developments that needed a bit more explanation, and some of the characters were much more vivid than others (but oh, when they're vivid, they're painfully alive). So, while I wanted a bit more of some parts of the book, what was there was wildly inventive and really engrossing, and I recommend it.
starlady: meralonne and kallandras in the wood (in a dark wood)
What I've Read
Max Gladstone, Three Parts Dead (2012) - There seems to be a surge of interest in Gladstone's books around these parts lately, and I am not immune to such things; I read and liked this book, a very self-consciously modern kind of fantasy following a semi-renegade magical lawyer (sort of? I'm not describing this well) named Tara Abernathy, who takes a job with a very high-profile Craft firm after being thrown out of her academy in the air and finding that sometimes you can't actually go home again. [personal profile] rachelmanija has better reviews of these books; I agree with her assessment that they kind of read like a cheerful, less socialist/Dickensian version of China Miéville's Bas Lag novels. I don't think I enjoyed this book quite as much as other people have seemed to, but Tara was a great protagonist and the worldbuilding was very interesting and pretty inventive, and Gladstone's prose is witty. I would happily read the other books in the Craft sequence, of which this is the first.

Michelle Sagara, Cast in Flame (2014) - And I am now caught up on the Elantra books until November! Kaylin returns to the city from the West March only to confront even more problems that have sprung up in her absence, chief among which is…finding a new place to live that will accept that she has a Dragon for a roommate. Naturally, complications arise in even this most mundane of tasks. One of the things I have really enjoyed in this series is seeing Kaylin put together a group of comrades and friends with diverse skills and equal capacity to stand by her in adversity, and for whatever reason, that aspect of the books felt like it was particularly strong in this one. More please! 

Michelle West, Oracle (2015) - West is at the top of her game, and this may be the best book in the series yet. I'm still amazed, after 20 years of information and events being doled out in a slow drip, at just how much shit happens in this book. I've also enjoyed the way that the format of The House War sequence overall has allowed different, and equally interesting, characters to come to the fore. Also, I fucking love Jester and Birgide. More please! 

NB: I'm trying this new thing where I'm going to post about comics separately because the tags were getting ridiculous.

What I'm Reading
In the interests of selling some stuff back at Book-Off I switched to reading Ôoku by Yoshinaga Fumi again; I'm still on volume 10. I think Hiraga Gennai is either a cross-dressing lesbian or a trans man, but it probably doesn't actually matter because a) anachronistic; b) queer sex and/or relationships are not really a thing in this series (though I should note, the first chapter of this volume did have a neutral depiction of a gay relationship which does not appear doomed!). Anyway, it's the early 1780s, and I expect things will turn pretty depressing (again) by the end of this volume and until the end; vol. 12 comes out on Friday.

What I'll Read Next
I got a bunch of great OOP books in Seattle--seriously, Seattle's used bookstore SFF selection is pretty great--and I also want to read the Steerswoman books this year, among many other things. We'll see.
starlady: (shiny)
Yes, it's the anniversary of another trip that I have made around the sun. Here's to more of the same, but better, next year. :D

What I've Read
Ms. Marvel Vol 1, G. Willow Wilson et al - I finally got Comixology and I am hopeful that it will result in increases of the numbers of comics I actually am able to read. I loved this, but you're not surprised. What I will say is that I spotted that Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure joke, and I laughed, and what really warmed my heart above and beyond the story itself was how goddamn Jersey it all is, the actual Jersey that doesn't often make it into media. ♥

The Tropic of Serpents and Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan - These books are so great. They operate in a familiar mode (lady Victorian naturalist/adventurer) but do everything completely opposite, except what they don't, and I really enjoy Brennan's ability to pack a lot of complex undercurrents into rather pulp-y yarns, and the way that Isabella is so willing to attempt to conform to the norms of the cultures among which she sojourns, because dragons.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge - Hardinge's newest, and with this I'm now back to having read all but one of her books. I liked it a lot! [personal profile] skygiants said a thing that I agree with a lot, which is that Hardinge's protagonists are perpetually encountering women who they think are standing in their way but instead are much more complex, and that goes double for Faith. The book actually makes a great pair with the Brennan novels since they are both about the same thing (women and natural science) but are totally different. Anyway, it was great, though still not my favorite Hardinge; that will always be Fly By Night, with an honorable mention for Gullstruck Island, which I still think is her most ambitious. But this one was great too. I would read oodles of fic about the badass lesbian couple on the island, IJS.

Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer - The final volume in the Southern Reach trilogy; I devoured it in less than a day and I loved it. I think I'm nearly alone in liking how Control is a sarcastic failboat, qualities which are not on display in this final book, but I did want to say that I appreciated VanderMeer's not having every character in the story be a straight white guy, because that could easily have happened, but instead the cast of the final book is a brown career spy, a black lesbian government agent, a part-Asian scientist, a gay white man, and a white woman psychologist. I think the Southern Reach trilogy is great; it's an attempt to deal with climate change and the horrors it's unleashed and revealed, it's a way of grappling with the latest realizations in ecology and biology, namely that humans aren't special; it's some of the most interesting and critically engaged SF I've read in a long time.

Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace - I blew through this book quite rapidly too, it's post apocalyptic YA scifi with a female protagonist, the eponymous Archivist Wasp, who makes a deal to journey to the underworld in the company of a ghost who's looking for his fallen comrade. It turns out the ghost and his comrade were genetically engineered super-soldiers before the world ended, and that everything Wasp thought she knew is wrong, and you're only as trapped in the past as you let yourself be. In a weird way, this reminded me powerfully of Sabriel crossed with…a really high-tech SF book about genetically engineered super-soldiers, who have got such style, I cannot even tell you. Anyway it was great and I have no idea where a sequel would go but I am so there.

Silver Spoon vol 9 by Arakawa Hiromu - Still great.

What I'm Reading
Silver Spoon vol 10 by Arakawa Hiromu - Still great.

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone - I don't think I'm quite as into this book as some other people have been, but I'm enjoying it a lot all the same. I really like Gladstone's determined mixing of magic and modernity, as well as how inventive he is.

What I'll Read Next
Probably some of Tanith Lee's Secret Books of Paradys, and also Michelle West's Oracle!!!
starlady: roy in the sunset at graveside (no rest for the wicked)
What I've Read
Ken Liu, The Grace of Kings - This book, my friends. This fucking book. It wasn't a DNF for me, but I did have to nope out for five days after one of two named female characters in the book to that point was introduced and then killed in a very sexist way after two pages just before the 50% mark. People have said that this book is innovative in terms of the epic fantasy genre. Well, kind of. If what you are looking for in epic fantasy is a return to the pre-modern writing styles of epic poetry, heroic sagas, and historical chronicles--spiced with just enough modern things like characterization to keep it interesting--then this is for you. But if, like me, you have struggled through epic writing in five languages as well as countless others in translation, you may be damn tired of all this already. If, like me, you have learned classical Chinese, you may be struck how this book reads exactly like Sima Qian's work, among many others. Without qualifiers, you may also be offended by the sexism of the book's structure as well as its content, in which the idea that women can play a crucial role in societal production beyond the invisible, denigrated women's work (to say nothing of women's relationships with each other, of any kind at all) of which Liu, or at least his narrative, has precisely zero consciousness from beginning to end. "Liu is playing a long game with the women!" Yeah, and the idea that you can take women out of this or any kind of story about a society in general and "play a long game" with them is fucking offensive.

Liu described this book as "silkpunk" a long while back, and because of that I was expecting things that are vastly different than what I got, such as…female characters who do things. (I exaggerate, but not by much.) It is punk, as I was discussing with [personal profile] seekingferret a while back, in that it's one of the most heterogeneous writing styles I've ever encountered. Someone else compared the book to Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy in terms of both authors' willingness to roll with verbal anachronisms, but having read both and knowing just as much about the 17th and early 18thC as anyone but a professional historian specializing in the period can--and ditto for Chinese history--I am here to tell you that Stephenson renders a much more credible facsimile of the speech of his chosen time period. Liu just doesn't care. People fight "mano a mano," he quotes Milton's "On His Blindness" (!) and various famous Chinese poems verbatim, there are "kids" running around--Ken Liu don't give a shit. This punk spirit of throwing everything and the kitchen sink into the mix extends to the landscape of the setting and the bits of Chinese history on which he is drawing; at times it's a clear mixture of the Spring and Autumn periods, the Qin dynasty, the Han dynasty, the Three Kingdoms period, and the Song dynasty, as well as being its own thing. The thing is, the book is completely readable despite or because of all this heterogeneity. But if I'm going to invest this much of my life into reading a book of epic fantasy, I'd much rather read a book by someone who knows that half the human race exists and goes about its own business even if men don't care about them. I could name names here, but this isn't a zero sum game, and the point is that Ken Liu has not won a fan in me with this book. (I want to be clear that despite the relentless violence, again right out of classical Chinese texts, this is a much less grim and depressing book than The Mirror Empire, and between the two, both of which I disliked in different ways, I'd be hard-pressed to pick, but I'd probably take this one. It has fewer onscreen rapes than TME, for one thing.) So, that happened. And as far as I can tell, there's not actually that much revolutionary here.

Genevieve Valentine, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
- I started reading this book in the middle of The Grace of Kings because it featured not one but twelve named female characters, in that it's a retelling of the story of the twelve dancing princesses set in Jazz Age New York City from the princesses' point of view. And in fact, there are more than twelve named female characters! Shocking! What ludicrous delusion is this! In all honesty and not just in comparison with Ken Liu, however, this is an excellent, engrossing novel. The twelve Hamilton sisters, led by the eldest Jo, are kept shut in by their father and their only freedom is sneaking out to speakeasies to dance all night. The book is excellent and engrossing, and even though it's told from Jo's perspective, Valentine manages to make all of the sisters individuals in a believable way. And though the girls literally only know their bedrooms and their regular hangout, the Kingfisher Club, there's more than enough drama inherent in what they do to survive, and how they find their freedom, to fuel the narrative. It was great.

Arakawa Hiromu, Silver Spoon vol. 8 - This one took a while because it's when some of the heavier stuff starts happening, and I feel bad for the characters. I continue to love this manga, and I did want to mention that one of things I appreciate about it is Hachiken's strained relationship with his parents and with his older brother, who is basically a self-interested flake (as well he might be at 20, to be honest, but he's a huge contrast to his younger brother). Anyway I need to read the next two volumes so I can read the new ones.

Kate Elliott, The Very Best of Kate Elliott - This anthology collects all of Kate Elliott's short fiction and a few of her essays, and I liked it very much. Some of them are set in the universe(s) of her novels, but only the Crossroads story was really intensely spoilery, I thought. And as much as I liked the stories that tied in with those larger universes, I thought the stand-alones such as "In the Queen's Garden" were some of the most effective pieces in the collection in terms of showing off Elliott's strengths as a writer. In any event, I loved it.

Laurie J. Marks, Water Logic - I think I liked this book the least of the three books, but that's partly because I am half air and half fire and find water logic totally incomprehensible. (I don't much understand earth logic either, but by earth logic, action is understanding, so reading that book on some level brings you to the understanding of its logic.) And to say I liked it the least is merely to say that it was not quite as transcendent as Earth Logic, which I think is my favorite (not least because it is secretly a Twelfth Night book), or Fire Logic, which of course is amazing. I will say that I also thought that what happens to Clement in Water Logic was actually harder to read than much of the injuries that Zanja endures at various points in the narrative. Other bits are equally tragic. I was also interested that it was in this book that Zanja's difference came back to the fore, and I don't actually think it's coincidental that this book is about the legacy of colonialism in much more overt ways. I fear that Air Logic will be a difficult and merciless book, just as air logic is. And finally on a more meta note, I'm disappointed in myself that it took me this long to realize how New England--and really specifically western Massachusetts, honestly--these books are, or Shaftal is. But once you see it, you realize it's everywhere.

What I'm Reading
This is kind of a hard question. I'm at the point of having just started a few different books but am not definitively in the middle of any of them except for Silver Spoon vol. 9. I've been busy. And jet lagged. Very jet lagged.

What I'll Read Next
I just got Comixology finally, and Ms. Marvel vol 1 is in my future! :D
starlady: Peter, Susan, Edmund & Lucy foment a revolution in Narnia (once & always a king or queen in narnia)
What I'm Reading
Water Logic by Laurie J. Marks - The Small Beer Press editions of these books cleverly contain large samples of of the next book in the series, and I was two chapters into this book after finishing Earth Logic before I realized that it was one thirty in the morning. I'd had vague ideas of keeping this book back to read later this year--there are rumors afoot that Air Logic may be published soon, finally--but no dice. I'm not sure what to say beyond the fact that I adore these books and the way they quite calmly turn every fantasy trope on its ear. Also, this may be the platonic ideal of found family stories.

Silver Spoon vol. 8 - Yes, I'm slow, but things are getting intense, and manga is visual enough that it flips my "I don't want to watch bad/awkward things happen to these characters!" switch--which is probably part of the reason I'm bad at TV, come to think of it. And also part of the reason I like going to movie theaters, where you have no choice but to watch the whole thing straight through. Anyway, it's great, with the exception of the fact that the one black teacher is still drawn using the "white circle around the mouth for black people's lips" visual trope.

What I've Read
Hostage by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith - I thought this was another excellent book in the series (in some ways I tend to like middle books better, because they build on already established relationships), with some very fine writing and interesting expansions of the worlds and the characters' stories. Given what did and didn't happen in this book, I'm very much looking forward to the next one, Rebel.

Annihilation and Authority by Jeff VanderMeer - Two of the three volumes of The Southern Reach Trilogy, which I'm very glad I nominated for the Hugo, because it's excellent. If you like(d) The X-Files or Welcome to Night Vale, I wager that you will greatly enjoy these books--they are very much down with "the unseen and imagined is way creepier than the seen," but there's plenty of creepy stuff going on in Area X and in the Southern Reach, the vaguely menacing government agency tasked with supervising it. I read these books in about 48 hours straight with the result that every creak in my apartment made me jumpy, but the characters are just as great as the atmosphere; Control and the biologist are of course wildly different, but also strikingly similar in some ways, and I can't wait for the last book, once I acquire it.

Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, ed. Kirsty Murray, Payal Dhar, and Anita Roy - A really great anthology of feminist speculative YA that is distinguished by the breadth of its contributions and the ways in which those contributions came into being. I didn't like every story, but many of the stories are excellent, and it's very strong overall.

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge - Now I only have Verdigris Deep left to read, not counting The Lie Tree, forthcoming this year, and while this wasn't my favorite of Hardinge's books (that's still split somewhere between Gullstruck Island and Fly By Night + Twilight Robbery), I thought it was in some ways a technical level-up, and I think its Carnegie nomination is very well-deserved. I think Hardinge's use of historical material in this book adds (and, to be fair, also subtracts) a dimension, and I'm really interested to see where she goes from here. And of course, the story in general was excellent. I particularly liked Violet; I thought her presence really added some complexity to the story.

Earth Logic by Laurie J. Marks - I adored this book for the reasons I outlined above re: Water Logic, and I also think the ending is one of the better candidates for an eucatastrophe that I've recently observed (NB I don't think an eucatastrophe is actually a deus ex machina; I think an eucastrophe makes much deeper thematic and structural sense than a deus ex machina). The image of Karis and the wall is one I won't easily forget.

Some thoughts on the Zanja plotline, and how it does make sense )

What I'll Read Next
I think it might be time to start Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman books. Or something from my Sirens list.
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: 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: (heaven's day)
What I'm Reading
Silver Spoon vol 4 by Arakawa Hiromu - It's still great. Also I'm really jealous of all their fresh vegetables.

The Maker's Mask by Ankaret Wells - After the disaster of The Three-Body Problem I wanted some sci-fi that was about as different as possible. I've only just started, but I'm quite enjoying the book so far. Ladies! Pseudo-medieval post-planetfall politics! Genderqueerness! Assassins!

Razorhurst by Justline Larbalestier - I bought this while I was in Australia, and it's just been short-listed for an Australian literary award, so I'm hoping to finish it soon!

What I've Read
Clariel by Garth Nix - I think the best thing to say is, it was worth the wait. I'm really impressed at how many writerly tricks Nix pulled off here, and how a book written 11 years after its predecessor but set 600 years before can so effortlessly set up the next book in the series. I also was impressed at how suspenseful I found the book to be, given that I knew the ending going in. MORE OLD KINGDOM NOW PLEASE.

Stranger by Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown - At long last the #YesGayYA book is available in the world, and I quite enjoyed it, which to be honest is no less than I expected. The book is set in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, but it's a very animanga kind of livable, quotidian postapocalypse, and the society it portrays is interesting and believable, with just enough vampiric plantlife thrown in to keep things interesting. Honestly I think this book may appeal to fans of X-Treme X-Men, as it really is "the X-Men in the Old West" in some ways, even as it's also one of the most LA books I've read--not Hollywood, but actual LA with actual people. The food descriptions alone nearly made me want to book a flight back to California; I did go out to the best Mexican restaurant in Tokyo because of it. And, of course, I also found the characters interesting, and wasn't fussed by the switching between multiple protagonists, or by what happens to them.

Essentially, I disagreed with the [community profile] ladybusiness review on basically all points, and in particular, I wanted to mention that I don't think that queer characters in books should be treated like they're made of glass. A story in which being gay and suffering for it in whatever way is not the only story that should be told about gay characters, but at the same time, it's not like nothing bad that isn't about being gay ever happens to gay people, and what some of the gay characters in this book have to deal with in terms of parents and family is stuff that everyone has to deal with. I think it's just as important to represent those kinds of things in fiction because they are universal, or the next best thing to it, and gay readers deserve to have that chance just as much as straight audiences. (I also appreciated that gayness isn't just for white boys. Indeed, most of the protagonists are people of color, which was refreshingly realistic for a book set in future!Los Angeles.) I will say, however, that if you haven't liked Sherwood Smith's other books, I don't think you'll like this one. She has a very distinctive close third person POV style that, quite frankly, took me a while to get used to when I first started reading her books, and though obviously this is a co-written book and the style isn't "strictly Sherwood," if you will, there's enough of it in the prose that I'm confident in this prediction. All that having been said, I loved it, and I'm very excited to hear that Hostage, the sequel, is coming very soon!

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison - I was not expecting to sit down and devour this book in less than a day but readers, I did. IT'S SO GOOD. It follows Maia, the despised youngest son of the elf emperor who unexpectedly inherits the throne after most of the rest of his family die in a suspicious airship accident. I'm still bitter about The Mirror Empire and grimdark, and I really appreciated a fantasy novel with goblins and elves and airships and bridges in which the struggles are about how to overcome one's own ignorance and how to enact good policy for one's realm. Maia is deeply sympathetic, and his relationship with his mother's family--he is essentially biracial, being half-goblin and and half-elf--was particularly interesting. I'm not sure I should even mention that Katherine Addison formerly wrote books under the name Sarah Monette, but I do think that assertions that this book is totally out of character with her previous work is somewhat wrong. It's true that this book is in many ways the polar opposite of something like Melusine and those books, but in some ways Maia's struggles to figure out how to interact with the world reminded me very much of my absolute favorite of Monette's works, namely the Kyle Murchison Booth stories. I do think there are subtle continuities between this book and Monette's earlier work, but I would also say that if you bounced off any aspect of the Melusine novels, I would heartily recommend giving this one a try. Her prose is a delight in and of itself.

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones - I read this because [personal profile] littlebutfierce mentioned it in a December meme post, and I devoured it. It's a masterpiece and if you haven't read it you must do so now--I especially recommend it to those of you who, like me, are rather over the whole Tam Lin thing or never even got into it in the first place. (Ironically, I've read a lot of Tam Lin books and will read more. But as Jones herself says in this book, if you can't find things worth reading in fairy tales that is your problem.) It is not very Tam Lin-ish even though it's a Tam Lin novel; there's far more of T.S. Eliot in here, which makes me happy because Four Quartets is my absolute favorite Eliot. That said, I am not ashamed to admit that I relied quite heavily on [personal profile] rushthatspeaks' two essays explicating the ending to understand what happened, and to those who may have found it confusing, I highly recommend those posts: We only live, only suspire/Consumed by either fire or fire and The way upward and the way downward are the same.

Silver Spoon vol. 3 by Arakawa Hiromu - Still excellent. I appreciate the peeks into Arakawa's philosophy, which was an aspect of FMA that was de-emphasized as things went on, understandably.

What I'll Read Next
Probably the book after the Wells one, since I'm given to understand that they're a very tightly knitted duology. Also more Diana Wynne Jones! And more Silver Spoon of course.
starlady: (serious business)
Liu Cixin. The Three-Body Problem. Trans. Ken Liu. New York: Tor Books, 2014.

I was quite excited to read this book, which was a bestseller in China and which is one of the few examples of Chinese-language SF available in English. After giving it the old college try, however (I got to position 173 of 593 in my ebook, or to chapter 9), I had to either give up or face death by boredom. I just don't get the hype, and even beyond that, there are a few things about the book that I actively object to. Here's a problem with ebooks that I discovered reading this one: how to throw across the room in disgust?

Stuff from the part I did read. Contains discussion of suicide )

Stuff gleaned from reading reviews )

The AV Club's review called the book more anthropological than exciting on account of translator Ken Liu's attributing the book's flaws to the Chinese literary tradition, but for a whole bunch of reasons I think this is a cop-out on Ken Liu's part. (The review is partly boneheaded [the rise of the Party was 40 years before the Cultural Revolution, WTF] but it makes good points overall.) First of all, I don't think the idea that "the Chinese literary tradition" is necessarily didactic, boring, and bereft of characters with emotions really holds water. I am not any kind of expert on every era of Chinese literature, but at the least Lu Xun and the May Fourth Movement were not for characters without emotions, to say nothing of writers I've loved such as Zhang Ailing (Eileen Chang) and Han Bangqing. Ken Liu's decision to render Liu Cixin's prose in this sort of flat manner--and even more, to lard an already overly expository text with even more in-text explanation rather than more footnotes--is the kind of mistake I would expect from a very inexperienced translator. Of course translation is a betrayal; if you're going to translate something, you have to decide what purpose your betrayal will serve, and Ken Liu has done the book and English-language readers no favors in his translation choices.

In conclusion: ARGH.

ETA: [personal profile] seekingferret finished the book and has some very interesting remarks on it (including corrections to some of my assumptions).
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: (abhorsen key)
I'm back in Bali. Due to various things, some of which I should have realized and some of which I should have been told, I am on my way to spending eleven hours here in the airport today. When I get to Tokyo I'll see whether they can change Indonesia rupiah, because the rates here were crap. For the record, the airport is very new and very nice, and don't worry, Lonely Planet, they have multiple duty-free shops now.

What I'm Reading
Clariel by Garth Nix - I had forgotten how much I love the Old Kingdom books; my copies of the first three and of Across the Wall and "The Creature in the Case" are in storage, so I haven't been able to do a proper reread, but even just from reading the preview of Sabriel in the back of the book, they're great. I also really like the way Nix manages to do several difficult things here: namely, to make an ostensibly unlikable protagonist sympathetic, and to build a plot and a coherent worldview despite said protagonist being rather disposed to obliviousness. I cannot wait for the fifth book, and I wonder to what extent Lirael's being a Rembrancer will come up. Also, I really do love Mogget more and more. I hope he's back too.

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie - "We can't go to space without dishes!" I love the imperial Radch so much, partly because they are Romans in space and partly because they drink a lot of tea, although my loving them does not make me neglect their many faults, no more than Breq is blinded. This is a different book than Ancillary Justice in many ways, and in many ways also funnier (Breq is hilarious when she wants to be) and I'm enjoying it heaps so far.

What I've Just Read
Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan - Finished on my plane from Sydney this morning. I was not prepared for the fact that it would make me cry multiple times. I liked these books a lot, although I feel like they could have been deeper than they were, I guess. Not that they were shallow! And I did like the way the characters grew and changed, and the feelings, and the story itself. Sigh. Maybe I'm just actually wanting more story.

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee - Finished on my train to Sydney on Sunday. I'd read some of Lee's stories in various online magazines, but it had been long enough that I'd forgotten almost all of them except "Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain" and "Blue Ink." Anyway they are great! Lots of maths, lots of Asian influences, lots of interesting and cool things. I need to read the rest of Lee's stories that are online and weren't in this book.

Love Is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson - Read in the airport this afternoon. I love ADJ's books, and I liked this one a lot, although nowhere near as much as I loved The Summer Prince, which was alchemical. This one is good, and very much drawing on Johnson's experiences growing up in the District, although it's changed a lot in the last few years and her D.C. is very much up to date; I daresay her childhood didn't include pandemic flu and the invasion of Venezuela. I liked the protagonist Bird and her slow, painful transformation into her self; I never understood her attraction to Coffee, per se, and I also sort of question this knee-jerk association of Brazil and freedom and justice, although characters poke holes in it at at least one point. They have favelas in São Paulo, IJS, I guess. And I liked the story--I liked what happened with what Bird knew, and what didn't--but yes, the government does horrible things and while I believed in Bird's self-delusion on that point, I'm already in Coffee's camp more or less, and so Bird twigging to the truth of that didn't really do much for me. Bizarrely, Johnson repeatedly minimized the death rate of the 1918 pandemic flu (she says 5-10%; it was somewhere between 10-20 on average, and higher in many places), which really bothered me, because you don't actually see the extreme social dislocation of a pandemic at anything much below 30%, or at least you didn't historically, and the plausibility of the whole story line kept bothering me because of that. I don't know; the book is really about they way we live now, I guess, and it's depressing, but also nothing new. This dynamic of "teenagers discover huge government plot!" worked better for me in Malinda Lo's Adaptation books because I don't believe the government is lying about aliens. But I'm quite sure it's lying about some of the things that are plot points in here.

What I'll Read Next
I got Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier in Australia, and also a classic Penguin cover edition of Northanger Abbey, the last Jane Austen I haven't read. I also got a little Penguin pamphlet about the Sydney Opera House (it kills me that we in the States don't get the best of Penguin's designs, which have really gotten awesome in the last five to ten years), so probably that too.
starlady: Twitter quote: @magneto "come home" (my offer still stands)
What I'm Reading
Silver Spoon volume 1 by Arakawa-sensei, because I'm going to be hanging out at an agricultural institute in Tochigi in January and three years ago I was defeated by the agricultural kanji and then by graduate school. (I was trying to be A Good Student and draw all the kanji rather than just look them up by the readings, but you know what, life is short and I'll pick them up visually eventually anyway, screw that.) Anyway it's an Arakawa manga about a dude who goes to an agricultural high school because it's a boarding school and that's literally all I know yet, but it could be about watching paint dry and I would love it because Arakawa. She is my all-time favorite. And you know, that's the great thing about manga--it can make me read about so many different things and love them all. But yeah, I bought all 12 volumes at Book-Off (which is rebranding as Yafu Off? Or maybe just the one in Shibuya? I don't know at all) for ¥2500; I'll just sell back the volumes I own in the States once I've read them.

What I've Just Read
I literally just finished Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and it was brilliant. I saw her at a signing this spring and thanked her for writing a book that didn't pathologize fandom and fanfiction without having read it, but I really loved the book itself, and Cath, and Simon Snow, and her relationship to fandom and the people in her life and also to freshman year of college. In some ways, I saw a lot of me and my sister in Cath and Wren; we were nothing like that, except for how we were, and how we could have been. It's a really good book and I'm kicking myself for not buying the necklace when it was available. Highly recommended.

Libba Bray, The Diviners - I really liked it. I just really liked that Evie drank and swore and was scandalous and the narrative didn't punish her for any of that, and I thought Bray did a really good job of bringing history to life. I do have questions about the larger structure of the series and some of the worldbuilding that can't be answered at this point because it's only one book of four, but if and when the next one comes out, I'll be reading avidly.

Michelle Sagara, Cast in Sorrow - I'm now only one book behind on the Elantra Chronicles, and I still really like Kaylin. It feels like she's grown a lot over the last few books, and I'm looking forward to watching that growth continue. I ship her and Severn shamelessly.

Kumota Haruko, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu vol. 1 - I finally finished the first volume of the rakugo manga! I bought it on a whim because it's popular and because the author was the subject of an exhibit at the Yonezawa Manga Library in June. It's set in the 80s (and yes, when you think about it, the Bubble really was the Showa Genroku) and follows the career of an ex-con who becomes an apprentice rakugo raconteur when he gets out. I expect many doujinshi at Comiket devoted to the rakugo sensei and the sensei's dead rival, who may or may not be haunting the sensei as a ghost? I had a friend who did her Fulbright research on rakugo, so I know about two knuckles' worth of stuff about it, but even that was enough to know that it's a pretty sexist sphere, and I'm glad that Kumota puts that front and center in the person of the sensei's dead rival's daughter, who he's raised in his household and wants to be a rakugo raconteur but simply can't. I don't really care about the protagonist much yet (except, since the mangaka made her name in BL, and this is shelved in BL/Ladies at Book-Off, wondering whether he or any of the other male characters will suddenly appear in a BL scene), but that's pretty normal for me, and also not a dealbreaker by any means.

What I'm Reading Next
More Silver Spoon and rakugo, I dare say.

What I've Bought
…A lot of manga. Two more volumes of rakugo; all of Silver Spoon; the first of the Roman bath manga, vol. 10 of Ôoku, Billy Bat 1 (again; my copies of all of these are in the States); xxxHoLiC Rei 2. Also One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire, because somehow I never bought it in paper. Oh, and a copy of Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy for ¥200 at the little bookstore next to the conbini, because it is my policy to always buy books from The Women's Press.
starlady: The Welcome to Night Vale Logo, with clouds over the moon (welcome to night vale)
No lie, I tried to picture where Triskelion was when I went over the bridge on the Metro today. And I walked past Steve's apartment building again. ♥


What Have I Read
Dia Reeves, Bleeding Violet (2009) - So, while I know that this book was written several years before the debut of Welcome to Night Vale, believe me when I tell you that this book could be a novel set within its universe, or an AU of its universe. The story concerns a half-Finnish, half-African American girl, Hanna, who moves to her mother's town in East Texas even though she's never met her mother before and her mother doesn't want her there. Hanna has mental health problems, but it turns out that her experience with her own crazy may actually stand her in good stead in a town where things really do go bump in the night, and even in broad daylight. There's even a scary female Mayor, and doors around the town play a huge role in the story--yes, it's basically Night Vale. I loved Hanna, and her pragmatic approach to her own mental health problems, and in many ways I don't think I've seen a more unsentimental portrayal of mental illness in YA. Her being mixed race, and also her sexual appetites, are similarly portrayed. I loved Hanna, and the book is dark and gripping. If you like Night Vale, I suspect you'll like this book, and vice versa. Highly recommended.

Sarah Rees Brennan, Untold (2013) - Sequel to Unspoken, which I liked a lot, and I liked this one a lot too, although it does (albeit believably, since the characters are emphatically not rational adults) rely on the Misunderstanding trope for much of its emotional tugging at the old heartstrings. I still like all the characters; they are still, especially the protagonist Kami, quite funny, and the story is still interesting, although this is definitely something of a middle book and I'm very much looking forward to Unmade. (Yes, I did wait to read this one until I could read the final one, which just came out.) I do think SRB keeps getting better as a writer; I'm looking forward to what she does next.

Alaya Dawn Johnson, Moonshine (2010) - After loving The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, I wanted some more vampires done right, and this book fit the bill. I absolutely love Johnson's books, all of them, that I've read, and this was no exception, although it's written for adults (and, unlike Johnson's first books, the tone never wavers from that). The story concerns one Zephyr Hollis, the so called "vampire suffragette," a social reformer in a 1920s New York City populated by vampires and djinn as well as bootleggers and immigrants. I really love the 1920s setting for multiple reasons, not least being that we're in a Second Gilded Age, a Jazz Age without the Jazz (more's the pity), and I liked the book a lot. Zephyr is very much a modern woman, and for a while her almost maniacal zeal for social reform seems almost a caricature, until eventually things click into place like bullets in the chamber of a revolver and you realize that she's a killer who is fundamentally lying to herself about her own nature, even to the point of adopting vegetarianism. Her capacity for violence, unfortunately, is part of her and part of what allows her to do what she does; one wonders whether she'll ever be forced to reckon with it. I desperately want to read the sequel Wicked City, partly because the romance is left at a juncture not unlike some of the happenings in Untold (Zephyr, like Kami, is a pistol), but unfortunately it's not available in ebook and my copy is in storage. I shall just have to read Johnson's new YA novel Love Is the Drug in the meantime.

What Am I Reading
Buoyed upon the 1920s vim of Moonshine, I started Libba Bray's The Diviners on the plane immediately after finishing the first book. I love it terribly so far--Evie is a pistol too, and Memphis is swell--although I'm reading it with the trepidatious knowledge that the second book has been delayed for years (understandably) and Bray is currently dealing with depression, which of course is both wholly individual and also really difficult. Be that as it may, I really want these books to be the (a) great American historical fantasy epic that I've been waiting for my whole life, it feels like (and yes, these thoughts are emphatically partly due to getting back to my own New World pirate fantasy novel after eons)--it's the 1920s, it's New York, it's urban, it's got magic, it's American in all its painful complexity and darkness--and yes, Bray has gotten much better on the representation front, to my mind, after her first books in which people in Raj India are said to eat snakes (hint: no.) in the first scene and things go downhill from there. But so far The Diviners is the berries.

What Have I Acquired
My problem with the New York Review of Books Classics is that I want to read all of them. I went down to my alma mater on Monday to meet some of my old professors, and for reasons that shall remain unenumerated in public, I was in a weird and dark mood when I got back, the kind of mood to read something terrible and true, so I picked up a copy of A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 by Alistair Horne. Apparently it was a secret bestseller amongst the U.S. army officer corps eight years ago, and may well be again, given that another September has brought yet more American violence to the Middle East. I have my doubts about this kind of history, but we'll see.

What's Next
Who knows?
starlady: (bibliophile)
Books Read
Sofia Samatar, A Stranger in Olondria (2013) - I was talking to [personal profile] jhameia about this book, and about how the writing reminded me a lot of The Secret Service, and she said, "It's so sad." Which it is. And it's also, to my mind, much less about reading than other people had led me to believe. It's about travel, and being a traveler in a strange land, and yes about the power of books but also about how books aren't everything and about how they can and can't save you. It's melancholy and gorgeously written and wonderful, you should read it.

Yangsze Choo, The Ghost Bride (2013) - I enjoyed this book about a young woman who receives an offer to marry a dead man in turn of the C20th Malaya, although I am sympathetic to those reviews who complained that Choo's prose is somewhat more telling than showing at times, and the conceit that the narrator's father educated her sometimes stretches a bit thin in the face of facts about Malaya that she supplies the reader. But the narrator and her personality, and the vivid country of the dead to which she journeys, are more than enough to carry the story through. I am ambivalent about the ultimate denouement, but only because I saw someone else on DW compare the choice the protagonist faces to Aeryn's at the end of The Blue Sword. All that having been said, I really liked the book and very much will read Choo's future books.

Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (2013) - Being spoiled for the essential conceit of this book did not make it any less awesome in the reading; at times while I was on the train reading it I had to laugh out loud. I've never read any of Fowler's work before, but this was awesome, and well deserving of all success. The narrator and her perspective are a treasure.

Kate Elliott, Spirit Gate (2007) - I started reading this, the first in the Crossroads trilogy, because one of Elliott's forthcoming 2015 books is set in the same world many decades later. I did not regret it. There are GIANT JUSTICE EAGLES and also, with two notable exceptions, all of the men are at best incompetent and all the women are badass in different ways. The setting is also entirely Asian-inspired, and the entire cast POC. I'm already 1/4 of the way into the next book.

Zen Cho, Spirits Abroad (2014) - This book was published in Malaysia, and I arranged with the author to purchase a paper copy for Loncon. I read it on the plane to Turkey and loved every second of it; I've previously read and quite enjoyed Cho's romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, but her short stories are also a true delight, particularly "Prudence and the Dragon" and "The Four Generations of Chang E" and…all of them, really. Many of Cho's characters speak Manglish, and having attended a few of the author's events at Worldcon, it was interesting to note bits of her personal experience reconfigured and reused throughout her work. I very much hope that her novel is picked up and published soon! 

Currently Reading
Kate Elliott, Shadow Gate (2008) - Second in the Crossroads trilogy. Has more of [spoilers] but also more of a character who I honestly wished had been killed at the end of the last book. I think I get the point of his plotline, but he's still damn annoying.

The rakugo manga - still

Book-shaped space for acquisitions
Various, Kaleidoscope (2014) - I downloaded my ecopy of this anthology, which I supported in Kickstarter, and can't wait to read it.
Hagio Moto & Komatsu Sakyo, Away vol. 1 (2014) - new manga by Hagio Moto from a Komatsu Sakyo story!!!!!

Reading next
I acquired an excellent badge ribbon emblazoned with the phrase "All power corrupts, but we need electricity" at Worldcon, which makes me want to read the book it's from, namely Diana Wynne Jones' Archer's Goon. Also probably Michelle Sagara, since I'm behind on the Cast books. Also Kameron Hurley because she won Hugos. Also Seanan McGuire because I am WAY behind on her books. Also…you get the picture.
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!

starlady: (bibliophile)
We're back and better than ever! Or at least, I'm reading for fun again for the first time since before my exams.

Just finished
Rachel Hartman, Seraphina (2012)
I really liked this YA novel about a girl caught between two worlds in conflict (humans and dragons, natch) in a for once believably plausibly medieval world, with much greater gender equality and non-stigmatized homosexuality, even. I was reminded of Frances Hardinge's Fly By Night in that respect, actually, which is very high praise indeed. I could barely put the book down, given how much I loved Phina, and sympathized with her struggles, and I think the book is also making some fairly sophisticated arguments about embodiment and what it means for who we are. The dragons were great too, and I'm looking forward to the sequel very much.

Michelle Sagara, Cast in Peril (2012)
I really enjoy the Cast books, even though I'm perpetually falling behind--the newest, Cast in Flame, is about to be published, and I still haven't read the one in between them. I was also thinking to myself while reading it that I really wished two characters would sleep together, and thinking that it would never happen, when it was explicitly discussed in text a few pages later (and rejected; I like that Sagara's characters often know and enforce their own boundaries). So there is indeed character development going on, and for a book that's all about a journey from Point A to Point B, it was surprisingly gripping. Anyway. If you like Sagara West's central protagonist type, you should totally check out the Cast books, since they really are Kaylin's story.

Frances Hardinge, A Face Like Glass (2012)
I think this is Hardinge's best book yet, at least of the ones that I've read. (I only have three left to read! Noooo! I've been trying to pace myself.) Neverfell isn't as brave as Mosca, and that makes her equally interesting in a different way, and the worldbuilding was spectacular. I can't recommend Hardinge's books highly enough to everyone, and I also want to say that I think that her books are a great example of art being found everywhere, even in denigrated categories such as middle grade.

N.K. Jemisin, The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun (2012)
I really liked both these books, though I thought that The Killing Moon stood better on its own, particularly since The Shadowed Sun was rather heavy in its subject matter at times. Everyone should read these books! Pseudo-Egyptian epic fantasy with interesting magic and an interesting and varied cast of characters and…ninja priests of death! All that being said, while I liked Hanani a lot, I didn't like the denouement to her story, or the ending of the book in general; I wanted more of the politics related to the resolution, and less of the personal. I also think that…how do I say this. Jemisin is clearly in conversation with certain romance novel tropes at times, and I'm not personally a romance fan; I also feel that giving female protagonists in fantasy novels romance novel endings feels conservative, even if it's actually not for the characters themselves. I'd rather see Jemisin give queer characters the romance novel endings; that would feel more revolutionary for me, and more satisfying. Also there should be another whole book about Nijiri; I found him annoying initially, but by the end he was my favorite character by a long shot.

N.K. Jemisin, The Kingdom of Gods (2011)
On the other hand, I really liked this conclusion to the Inheritance trilogy; I liked the politics, the magic, the godhood and its problems; I liked Sieh and his trio with the Arameri siblings. I actually mostly just wish it had been longer, really; Jemisin really managed to draw the threads of everything else that had come before together in a very satisfying way.

Sherwood Smith, Revenant Eve (2012)
I hadn't read the previous two books in this Dobrenica trilogy, but that turned out to be mostly okay as it's a time travel tale in which the viewpoint character isn't actually the protagonist, which is interesting structurally, and the book itself was a fun romp through largely under-explored back alleys of the Napoleonic period in France. I quite enjoy Smith's books, and this was very enjoyable. Awesome ladies with swords and pistols! What more could you want, I ask you.

Sherwood Smith, Banner of the Damned (2012)
That said, I enjoy Smith's epic fantasy sequence even more, and this is the next one in the main continuity, set about 800 years after the Inda books. I really, really liked that the main character was asexual (this may be the first book I've read where that was explicitly acknowledged as a thing, actually), and I liked the way that you could see glimpses of history changing and being retold in the background, even as by the ending of the book it became an explicit issue. I'm also really impressed in general at the way that Smith can make just about anything suspenseful, even things that rightly shouldn't be; her pacing is always a marvel. I also think she's a master worldbuilder who doesn't get anywhere near enough credit. Also highly recommended.

Currently reading
Alaya Dawn Johnson, The Burning City
Because I've been hearing a lot of buzz about Love Is the Drug on Twitter and I want to try to clear out the backlog. Currently I'm not very far in and I'm still trying to remember who everyone is (I've been consulting the pre-synopsis literally). I'm still really sad that there's currently no plans to finish the third volume, even as I both enjoy the book and recognize that it's weaker than her more recent books. Anyway, she's awesome, you should read everything she's ever written.

Recently acquired
CLAMP, Gate 7 vol. 4 (I don't think I finished 3?)
CLAMP, Gouhou Drug - Drug & Drop vol. 1
CLAMP, xxxHoLiC Rou vol. 1
Arakawa Hiromu, Silver Spoon vol. 10 (it was packaged with an ema from the shrine in the manga! I haven't even finished vol. 1)
Yoshimoto Banana, Kitchen
Short Stories in Japanese: New Penguin Parallel Text, ed. Michael Emmerich

Reading next
Probably Diana Wynne Jones or Kameron Hurley or Ann Leckie. Note to self: vote for the Hugos.
starlady: a barcode with my DW username & user ID (barcode)
Chauhan, Anuja. Those Pricey Thakur Girls. New Delhi: Harper Collins, 2013.

I read this as part of the Anuja Chauhan Reading Club organized by [personal profile] deepad. Short version: I really enjoyed it and you should totally read Chauhan's books if you can.

The plot follows the trials and tribulations of the Thakur family in the 1980s in India, when deregulation is the name of the game and fourth daughter Debjani (the Judge and his wife named their daughters in alphabetical order; daughters A through C have married and left the house, leaving Debjani and high school age Eshwari) lands a prize gig as a newsreader on the state television channel. Almost immediately she clashes with up-and-coming investigative journalist Dylan Shekhawat, who is attempting to pressure the government into taking action against the senior politicians who were indirectly responsible for the anti-Sikh riots several years previous. Although on the surface of it, this sounds like an odd mixture of tone, Chauhan managed to pull off the romance against the serious background material, and implicate them together in the ending, rather well, I thought.

It helps that the Thakurs are pretty hilarious, and that Chauhan has an eye for the telling and comedic detail. Like other people, I felt like Debjani herself was a bit underserved by the narrative, but I was happy to trade clearer character development for her for the focus on the wider family adventures, which as I said, were hilarious. In this the third person POV was quite an advantage, as it allows us to float through various characters' perspectives for maximum payoff.

I've not read much Indian literature (Salman Rushdie; Amitav Ghosh) and I'm not a big fan of romance, so I suspect that this was actually the ideal Chauhan book for me in that the third person POV means that the entire book isn't totally romance-centered. The downside is that, as several other people have remarked, some parts of the narrative feel somewhat awkwardly shoehorned in, particularly the parts about youngest daughter Eshwari's budding school romances. (Given that a sequel, set a generation after this book, is forthcoming, one suspects at least some of this material is setup for that novel.) I liked that Dylan and Debjani were often (but not always!) fairly mature and rational about their relationship, and that there was a balance between them and their families in how things progressed.

All in all, this was a fun book--I stayed up late reading it in about two sessions. Although there's a lot of Hinglish slang, I generally found it pretty easy to piece together what was going on from context, particularly since Chauhan was pretty good about bringing the feel of the setting alive without info-dumping. I would happily read more of her books, and in particular the new one about the Thakurs in the future--I hope I'll get the chance!

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