starlady: (bibliophile)
And damn am I feeling the love for the state of Hawaii on this particular Wednesday. 

What I'm Reading

I started Monstress vol. 1 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda on the feeling that I needed to start taking a bigger bite out of the Sirens reading challenge--25 books doesn't sound like a lot, but then it's September and it's just too late. I like it so far! The art is lovely and there are a lot of women. The story seems somewhat opaque but also honestly, I am prepared to reserve judgment for a very long time based on how much I like it.

Also still Jaran 3. I am trying to simultaneously have one physical and one ebook on the go, so I can read one based on whichever mode is most convenient. My problem with Jaran 3 is that…well, okay. I am not as engrossed as I was in Jaran, when the story was almost entirely Tess's POV. Also, I don't care about babies, and it's hard to escape the conviction that if Elliott were writing these books now they'd be three instead of four. 

What I've Read
I read Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky, also for Sirens, and was surprised just how much I liked it. It was hilarious and also very San Francisco, in a knowing and ironic but also affectionate way, and the execution managed to avoid the potential for gender essentialism that was obvious in the premise. And while there's a lot going on, it also reads very quickly. Definitely recommended.

Also, The Wicked and the Divine vol. 3, which has turned the corner for me into a series that I think is great as opposed to just intriguing--maybe because Prince and Bowie are dead now, I won't lie. Also Pretty Deadly vol. 1, which is not a comic that is well served by e-format, I have to say. But the art was lovely and the story was good, though maybe a little thinner than you might think. 

What I'll Read Next
Well, WicDiv 4 and also Pretty Deadly 2, because I have both of those sitting around in my stack. Other than that, probably more Sirens books.
starlady: (bibliophile)
What I'm Reading 
I'm separately slogging through Queens' Play, the second Lymond book, and have just started the third Jaran book by Kate Elliott, An Earthly Crown. I am enjoying the Jaran books so far but they are quite…long…and I am less engrossed in them than in any other Kate Elliott book I have ever read. Otoh, I did, after finishing the first one, finally obtain a Kate Elliott backlist bingo. I am also engrossed in Lymond, but I don't know what is going to take the last 125 pages of this book and the plot seems to have temporarily becalmed, which is saying something for a book in which Lymond mostly drinks and fucks his way through the French court in disguise (the latter of which is, of course, offscreen). I have at least managed to internalize that whenever a character is doing something and I don't understand why, it's because they want to fuck Lymond. I hope, but doubt, that the upcoming TV series will make some of this rather unsubtle subtext visible onscreen.

What I've Just Read
Well, Jaran 1 and 2 and Lymond 1. Jaran 1 and 2: good, long, I have no idea how Gwyn Jones gets from Point A in book 2 to where he winds up at the beginning of the Highroad trilogy, which at least does not have the problem of not much happening for long stretches of time. Lymond 1: every man in Scotland is an idiot except Lymond, and Will Scott at the critical moment. I felt like I was being beaten over the head by Scottish history for most of it, but in an enjoyable way. I have been texting [personal profile] oliviacirce about the books, because she told me to, and at some point I will probably transcribe our conversations with her permission, because they are at least hilarious.

What I'll Read Next

You guessed it…Jaran 4. I would also say Lymond 3, but apparently it's best not to break between books 3-6 and my copy of 4 is the wrong edition, so I may hold off until I can solve that problem. Also I have a pile of comics that I need to read before ECCC.
starlady: Galadriel in Caras Galadhon, with an ornate letter "G" (galadriel is a G)
What I'm Reading
A.S. King, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future - Still, yes. I'm increasingly annoyed that the horrible future Glory sees is just an update of The Handmaid's Tale for the 2010s, and increasingly irritated at people who write first person narratives that are horribly undescriptive of everything in the book including the characters. John Green, who blurbed this book, is clearly a pernicious idiot.

Natsume Soseki, Kokoro - "Everyone loves Kokoro," my advisor told me. "Except maybe you." My expectations are low.

What I've Read
C.S. Pacat, Captive Prince and Prince's Gambit - These books are so good, and Pacat subverts so many tropes, I love them so much, you should read them, the end.

Megan Whalen Turner, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings - Someone on tumblr remarked that these books are similar to Pacat's, and I devoured three of them on my plane back from Japan, and that tumblr person was right. I'm not sure I'll be able to take it if there's never a fifth one. If you haven't read them, you should read them, but start with the first one, The Thief, and don't read the backs of any of them. They are amazing.

Fran Wilde, Updraft - All the reviews say the worldbuilding is interesting but the plot and characters are predictable and paper-thin, respectively. All the reviews are right. I don't plan to read any of Wilde's future books; I for one didn't find the worldbuilding interesting so much as frustrating. They live in bone towers! Cool! BONE TOWERS OF WHAT?? NO ONE KNOWS OR CARES. ARGH.

Marie Rutkoski, The Winner's Kiss - Yes, this is the third book in a trilogy, no, I haven't read the first two. I liked Rutkoski's Cabinet of Wonders books quite a lot, and while this story seems more ambitious I'm not sure I was sold on it. On the other hand I stayed up til 2am and read it in four hours, so.

What I'll Read Next
Hopefully something I actually enjoy.
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: Korra looks out over Republic City (legend of korra)
What I'm Reading
Seanan McGuire, A Red-Rose Chain (2015) - The ninth and newest Toby Daye book. I'm enjoying it a lot so far, though at this point I feel like there isn't a lot to say about individual books except in terms of the overall series. At least, after the heavy revelations of The Winter Long, this book is less about heavy personal revelations and more about straight-up terrible things and Toby doing her hero thing, even in some very trying circumstances, viz. Portland.

What I've Read
Alaya Dawn Johnson, Wicked City (2012) - I said from the beginning that Zephyr Hollis was in denial about who she was, and I felt vindicated that Zephyr herself came to explicitly agree with that statement, but by the end of this book I was really irritated with her as a character; at some point in the middle, Zephyr's denial tips over into hypocrisy, and she treats her djinni boyfriend rather horribly throughout the course of the novel in a way that doesn't go unremarked in the text, but which does go unapologized for on Zephyr's part. The elements of the plot around Zephyr and Amir were engaging, and I would totally read a third book if Johnson wrote one based on the revelations in the last few pages, but Zephyr herself was just a bit too self-righteous, without the ethical chops to back it up, for me to enjoy this book as much as I did the first one.

Jeff VanderMeer, Shriek (2006) - I loved this book, if not uncritically, then quite a lot, and having come to VanderMeer's earlier work from the Southern Reach books, it's interesting to pick up the threads of thematic continuity that run back from those books into this one: the question of humans' place in an ecosystem, the idea of places as systems that exert a subtle influence, if not contamination, on their inhabitants; other ideas about decay. I appreciated the sibling dynamic of Duncan Shriek making marginal comments on his sister Janice's (posthumous? there's no way to know) manuscript, and I found myself disagreeing with Abigail Nussbaum's assessment that Janice is shriekingly ordinary but wholly ignorant of that fact and therefore boring. To my mind, Duncan, Janice, and Mary are all bad historians and unreliable narrators, but each in recognizably different ways. The mismatch between their approaches to their own stories is what makes the book go, along with some truly inventive worldbuilding and imagery. I need to read Finch.

Catherynne Valente, The Folded World (2011) - Prester John number two, with the third book on hold perhaps indefinitely. I enjoyed this book; I enjoy Valente's writing, though I suspect that were she to write this book now it would be a tauter manuscript--but I like her language so much that I don't mind the meandering in the tale here, and the fact that it ends with the world smashed but the shape of its shattering wholly unclear. Brother Hiob and company are still decidedly 16thC, not 18th. I need to read Radiance, and the other Valente books I've piled up in the TBR stack.

C.S. Pacat, Kings Rising (2016) - YES I READ THE FINAL ONE FIRST, WHATEVER, IT'S HOW I ROLL. I suspect everyone here knows what this book is about, but as someone who was recced the series for about six solid years before I finally tipped over into reading it, I want to record for posterity the fact that I think Pacat is commenting quite shrewdly not only on tropes of mainstream media but also of fandom in some interesting ways, and that all her choices together push the book firmly into romance territory, which may not be immediately obvious when people start throwing around the term "slave fic." The book was amazing, I think I might be dead, I need to read the first two, and, let me be clear: all of you were right.

What I'll Read Next
Hopefully The Steerswoman and other books!
starlady: (bibliophile)
What I'm Reading
Wicked City by Alaya Dawn Johnson - The second Zephyr Hollis book and the last ADJ book I haven't read. She needs to write more! I just started this, so no comments yet other than that I stand by my observation about Zephyr being in denial about who she is.

Shriek by Jeff VanderMeer - I loved the Southern Reach, and this is more obviously weird fantasy than those books, which has its pluses and minuses, but I love it so far, particularly the fact that it focuses on a sibling relationship.

What I've Read
Whoops, I've built up quite a backlog. Here goes!

Charles Soule et al, She-Hulk vol. 2 - Apparently this was always meant to be as short as it was. Siiiiiggh I would read many more volumes of this kind of thing, the "how X thing or Y institution or Z non-superhero person is affected by a world of superheroes" thing is honestly more interesting to me than many superhero stories. A+, will totally seek out more Charles Soule comics in the future. Has anyone read Letter 44?

Michelle Sagara, Cast in Honor - The newest Kaylin book, and with this, I have read all but one of Michelle Sagara West's novels (except the Sundered books, which I honestly found unreadable). I enjoyed it very much, I continue to enjoy Kaylin's growth as a person and the exploits of her motley crew (found family ftw), and I am looking forward to the next book on multiple levels, not the least of which is: Aerians!

Diane Duane, Interim Errantry - This is "the Young Wizards volume 9.5," and since it's been a few years since I read A Wizard of Mars, I'd forgotten a little how much I love Duane's writing and the Young Wizards in general. The bit in the Halloween story where Dairine is a Jedi, for example--perfection. And all the characters I've loved for so long getting to do things that are slightly less "stereotypical plot diagram," particularly in the novella in the collection, Lifeboats, which I adored. (Also, how married are Tom and Carl in Lifeboats? Super married.) In many ways these three stories were like the best kind of fanfic, which expands a slice of the canon beyond what we get to see in the actual published works. I can't wait for Games Wizards Play.

Martha Wells, Razor's Edge - Martha Wells wrote the last novel in the old Star Wars expanded universe, and it's about Princess Leia, set between ANH and ESB. I liked it a lot (particularly semicompetent!Luke, lol), and you know, I love Star Wars. You can put that on my tombstone. I also love Martha Wells' writing, and I'm psyched to read more of her books. (Even her SGA tie-in novels, because in the year of our lord 2K16 I am not going to apologize for enjoying tie-in novels.)

Diana Wynne Jones, Dogsbody - More DWJ! More terrible parents and parental figures! More plucky heroines and brilliant writing! I feel like I understood this book, which is told from the perspective of a star who gets reborn as a dog, which probably means I'm missing things. The ending felt abrupt, but also completely neat and tidy; it was brilliant and painful and great.

Gillen/McKelvie, The Wicked & the Divine vols. 1 & 2 - My dear sibling introduced this to me with "This is what American Gods wanted to be," and I stand by that assessment. The art is beautiful, the story interesting, the concepts compelling, but I have to say the characters mostly left me cold. That said, I'll still keep reading, because I want to find out what happens after the Shocking Twist!™ at the end of the second volume.

Kelly Sue DeConnick et al., Bitch Planet vol. 1 - I feel like most people have probably heard of this comic by now, with its non-compliant women and its smart take on exploitation tropes and intersectionality. I liked it; like The Handmaid's Tale, it seems both a bit too plausible for comfort and also in many ways a story about what's happening now, as well as a near-future fantasy.

Noelle Stevenson et al., Lumberjanes vol. 1 - This was so great! As a Girl Scout, I got an extra kick out of the story of a bunch of young Lumberjanes at summer camp, I loved it, and I need to read more of it. (I also loved the little in-jokes of the palindromes in the cave, ngl, and also the camp chief's name and appearance. AUGH, it's so good!)

Becky Cloonan et all, Gotham Academy vol. 1 - I've liked Becky Cloonan's work for a while, and this was exactly the kind of story I like, as I said above, following as it does a group of misfit students at Gotham City's most prestigious private school and inventing some old history for the city, as well as featuring an independent take on its present. Also, important to note, the Batman in here isn't the full-on manpain Batman, which makes the whole thing more palatable--there's darkness, but there's also light, and most important of all, I love Olive and Maps and would read many more volumes about them.

Gillen/McKelvie, Phonogram vol. 1 - This feels like a dry run for The Wicked & the Divine, and given that it was about an obnoxious dude, I was mostly into it for the liner notes. Who knew so many people had so many feelings about Britpop.

Octavia Butler, Bloodchild (2nd ed.) - This is the late Octavia Butler's only (and entire) short fiction collection. Xenogenesis, fraught parent/child relationships, taboo subjects--Butler was great, and reading the back of the book talk about her in the present tense is still a wrench.

Gail Simone et al., Wonder Woman: The Circle - This volume collects Simone's first issues on Wonder Woman, telling the story of Diana's attempt to save her mother from the DC-equivalent of HYDRA Nazis invading Themiscyra, mostly. It was good! I like Diana and her friends and her sense of honor! I am still going to drink in the Batman vs Superman movie!

What I'll Read Next
Who knows. Hopefully a lot of it.
starlady: Peggy in her hat with her back turned under the SSR logo (agent carter)
What I'm Reading
Well, kind of several different things including She-Hulk vol 2, and also none--I've been trying to get some reading done in Japanese, which takes a while and which means that I haven't been reading English books.

What I've Read
Jason Latour et al, Spider-Gwen Nos. 1-5 (2015) - So my friend B told me about this series when she came to visit me this year, it was for sale on Comixology, I bought it, and I loved it. Originally a throwaway concept in a multiverse event, Spider-Gwen (now webspinning again under the name Radioactive Spider-Gwen, post-Secret Wars) follows Gwen Stacey as she deals with the emotional trauma of Peter Parker's death and the problems of being the Spiderwoman in a New York that has no time for heroes…complicated by the fact that her dad is the police detective in charge of her case. I think I said on Twitter that the NYPD doing what the mayor says is the least believable thing about the comic; Gwen is great (though the art is pretty terrible), and I loved her sarcastic responses to the world, her problems with her friends/ex-bandmates in the wake of the changes in her life, and the glimpses we get of a villain-version of Matt Murdoch. Probably one of my favorite comics this year, ngl.

Charles Soule et al., She-Hulk vol. 1 (2014) - Cancelled too soon, this series follows She-Hulk as she struggles to set up an independent law practice and deal with being a superhero on the side. Soule has a legal background himself, and he's a great writer, so it's no surprise that the story and the character and the cases she takes are all top-notch, and that there's some interesting questions about what the law means and what it does floating around in the background. These stellar qualities are almost enough to make up for the fact that the art is frequently godawful; the covers are always the best thing about each issue. Still, I'm looking forward to the second, final volume, which I have waiting on my iPad.

Garth Nix, Newt's Emerald (2015) - Garth Nix does a Regency romance with magic, complete with cross-dressing, pining, and enough social engagements to satisfy even the ghost of Georgette Heyer. I loved it from start to finish and I would read a dozen more books set in this world, the end.

Garth Nix, To Hold the Bridge (2015) - This collects basically all the short stories Nix has written since Across the Wall and Other Stories, with the exception of the Sir Fitz and Master Hereward tales, and it opens with the eponymous Old Kingdom novella. All of the stories are excellent, though the publication of some of them evidently intersected with the period in which I was heavily into anthologies, as about half of them turned out to be ones with which I was already familiar. The one about the surfer boy vampire hunter is still one of my favorites.

Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor, Welcome to Night Vale (2015) - The Night Vale novel! Listeners, I enjoyed it quite a lot; it has remarkably few of the first novel problems you might expect, and all in all it did a very good job of carving out an experience that was still recognizably Night Vale weird but was also demonstrably different from the podcast in a way that took advantage of the medium. (The final chapter!) Bring on the next one!

James Tiptree Jr., Brightness Falls from the Air (1985) - Quite a good book, and probably as happy an ending as Tiptree could have written. On to the short stories.

What I'll Read Next
I have a pile of books I want to read before the end of the year, and doubtless I won't finish all of them. I would have to read 10 books in the next two weeks to tie my 2011 record of 87 books and 11 to beat it, which may or may not be doable, but on the other hand if I knock out a bunch of my comics backlog is probably possible. Wish me luck!
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: (bibliophile)
What I've Read
Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam (2012) - It's closing in on the end of the Sirens Reading Challenge, and this is one of a few books I've read in the last few weeks that are on that list. This book won the 2012 Tiptree Award, and while I agree with everything the jury said about the book, these stories also, by and large, just weren't my thing. I don't particularly care for myths, and I think the mythic aspect of Salaam's writing is part of why most of the stories in the collection didn't quite click for me.

Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce (2007) - This book, on the other hand, I loved so instantaneously from the first page that I found myself rationing the chapters to prolong the reading experience. Many people have read these books already, but the stories are set in an alternate 19thC version of San Francisco, the Republic of Califa, which is under the suzerainty of the Huitzil Empire after a losing war nearly a generation ago. Flora Fyrdraaca is the youngest daughter of the Republic's leading general, and her mother's stubbornness (matched by her own) gives Flora a lot of problems, particularly since she doesn't want to follow family tradition and enter the Army but rather become a Ranger. The fact that the Corps was disbanded at the end of said war doesn't phase her, which says something about Flora. There are many things to love in this book--gender equality! impressive 19thC worldbuilding (and yes, the 19thC was pretty great in some ways, and Wilce taps into many of them)--but what I really loved, missing my California home as I do at the moment, was how freaking Bay Area it was. The Bay Area drives me up the wall, but I love it at the same time, and Wilce's not!San Francisco is a real pleasure to spend time in for anyone who's ever thought that Emperor Norton was pretty great. At least there are sequels!

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link (2014) - I adore Kelly Link's short stories, and the fact that these were all bundled together in a neat package was almost enough to make me ignore the fact that most of them are quite old--the newest story in the collection, the one most obviously drawn from Link's own life experience, is also the only one that's never been published elsewhere. Compared to Pretty Monsters or Magic for Beginners, this collection is more somber and less optimistic, but I loved every word.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985) - I'd never read this book before, it's true; somehow I avoided it on summer reading lists, and for the past few years I've also felt that I didn't need to read the book; I could just read Twitter to find out the latest crap that GOP politicians have said they want to do. Having now read the actual novel, well, it's deservedly a classic, and I appreciated some of the stuff that never makes it into discussions of the book, particularly the skewering of academia at the end, though I also raise my eyebrows at the idea that anyone could take Atwood's claims to not be a feminist seriously. I don't think the book is too propagandistic to be effective, but I do think the background details of "ALL the apocalypses at once" were a bit much. And despite the frequent citations of the book on Twitter in reference to current Republican politicians--which are absolutely germane, to be clear, in a way that's hugely depressing to compare with 30 years ago--I also sort of don't think that this is the failure mode of the United States anymore. The breakup of the United States into little theocracies was an article of faith among science fiction writers in the 1980s (it's in the background of all of Gibson's novels from the period, for example), but I think the situation has changed sufficiently that there's no carbon copy of the Republic of Gilead in our future.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson (2013) - This is a very well deserved winner of the World Fantasy Award, in my opinion, though it was also clearly written in a very specific historical moment that even two years later feels very distant. The story concerns one mixed-race Saudi hacker, Alif, and his trials and tribulations trying to stay two steps ahead of the Kingdom's security forces, led by the sinister Hand, and to patch up his romance with an upper-class girl--all of which is made more complicated when jinni get involved. To be honest, I didn't really feel very emotionally involved in Alif's journey to maturity, but I was very interested in his friend and neighbor Dinah, the American convert they meet (whose story seems to be quite similar to Wilson's own background), and the ways in which fantastical elements were densely interwoven with politics, history, programming, and some very pointed comments about the United States' recent exploits in the region. Definitely recommended.

What I'll Read Next
The only thing left on my Sirens list is Melina Marchetta's Finnikin of the Rock! After that, I have Court of Fives, The House of Shattered Wings, and The Fifth Season winging their way to my tablet!
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: A typewriter.  (tool of the trade)
What I'm Reading
Hostage by Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown, the sequel to Stranger. I'm enjoying it quite a lot so far--it picks up something like six weeks after the end of the first book, and the time jump allows the authors to continue exploring the ramifications of what went down at the end of Stranger in a way that feels believable. I'm only about 1/6 of the way through, though, so I can't comment on much else yet!

Silver Spoon vol. 7 - I know, I know, I'm so slow. In my defense, my usual commute on the train is only 11 minutes long.

What I've Just Read
The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal - Really, really excellent. The book winds up being divided into three segments--Paris; Vienna; Tokyo--and somewhere in the beginning of the Vienna section, the central episode of the netsuke's history and the Ephrussis', the story flipped over and became violently engrossing. I'm not sure I've read such a particularly Viennese portrait of the lead-up to the Anschluss, and the book also brings home all over again the ways in which the inability to deal with Jewish people really seems to be the central problem of modern Europe, even as de Waal stays focused on his family in particular. (I saw a tumblr post the day after I finished the book talking about anti-Semitism in France after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The OP concluded that Europe's response to anti-Semitism will always be "be less Jewish." But in interwar Vienna, as de Waal points out, not embodying anti-Semitic stereotypes was equally an affront to non-Jewish society. It was a catch-22.) More than half of Vienna's population was Jewish at the turn of the C20, but that was immaterial to the hatred that was marshalled against Austrian Jews, and German Jews, and the Jews of France and Eastern Europe. The core of the Ephrussi family survived the war, but at the very high cost of their property and even in some sense, it seems (though de Waal never says this explicitly) their identity. Although brief, de Waal is equally good on the hypocrisy of the newly reconstructed Austrian government ("Austria was the first victim"…no) and its refusal to even consider reparations. It becomes very clear that without his grandmother, the indomitable lawyer and scholar Elizabeth Ephrussi, the story would have gone very differently.

I've lost the netsuke again in these remarks. They reappear after the war, a small collection of objects saved from the wreckage of a family, a city, a society; they make their way back to Japan with Iggie, de Waal's great uncle, and by the end of the book have emigrated again, this time back to London. De Waal refuses to sentimentalize their return in a way that fits with the netsuke themselves; there is no juxtaposition to be drawn between their survival and the destruction of six million people, including many of the Ephrusssis' extended family. I liked the Tokyo section of the book; Showa Japan is gone, but de Waal is very good at evoking it, and in particular Tokyo immediately after the surrender. There are more commonalities between what was going on in Japan and Europe throughout the entire scope of the book than de Waal admits, though to me that was an unavoidable element of the whole story. I also really appreciated the ways in which the Paris section acts as something of a key to Proust's novels, which are wonderful but have more issues than a weekly periodical. In any case, highly recommended. You might also be interested in [personal profile] liv's remarks on the book.

What I'll Read Next
Earth Logic by Laurie J. Marks. SO EXCITE.
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: Roy from FMA: "you say you want a revolution" (roy)
I'm up in Tochigi for a few days because of reasons, which has mostly been great so far. I got to see real mountains again, by which I apparently now mean "young, steep, not too high yet." Hopefully tomorrow we are going to an onsen, I could really use it.

What I'm Reading
Still Silver Spoon vol. 6, I know. But! I am confident that I will have it finished soon! It is great, I've just been sidetracked by other stuff. Namely…

What I've Just Read
Silver Spoon vol. 5 - enough said. 

The Hawkwood War by Ankaret Wells - The direct follow-up to The Maker's Mask, which I really enjoyed, and this was one was almost as good, which is to say, still excellent. As [personal profile] oyceter mentioned, I appreciated among many other things that there is such a variety of female characters doing and being very different things, and upon completion of the book, I really do stand by my assertion that on one level it's Dune but if the secret orders of ladies were doing interesting things instead.

The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson - It's winter now, and I like reading winter novels in winter, and you can't get more winter than Jansson. This novel, too, is definitely winter; Jansson could manage summer quite well when she put her mind to it too, of course. I'm not sure how much I have to add to what [personal profile] rushthatspeaks said about the book; except that the ending is perfect, and Anna and Katri are utterly believable, and it is a great novel.

The Fall of Ile-Rien by Martha Wells - Consisting of The Wizard Hunters, The Ships of Air, and The Gate of Gods. I'd had Wells on my radar for a while now, but after reading Kate Elliott's squee post about the trilogy recently I moved it to the top of my list. Much as she predicted, I got about halfway into the first one at a reasonable pace but then absolutely devoured the remaining 2.5 books. They are criminally unloved and Wells is criminally unknown in my book, and the only good thing about being finished with them is that I still have the rest of her backlist to work through.

The books are set (partly) in the eponymous Ile-Rien, an analog for early 20thC France which has sorcery coexisting with airships and automobiles and electricity, and which is losing the war against the sinister Gardier, badly. It falls to erstwhile playwright Tremaine Valiarde, not at all against her better judgment, to get mixed up in the last-ditch sorcerous war effort against the Gardier and to discover a whole bunch of things about magic, herself, and her own family while going at a breakneck pace to try to save her society. Not many spoilers, but some discussion of suicidality ) I am also totally glad for the setting, which we still need more of in fantasy--cities! modernity! the end to the false dichotomy between magic and science! I think the books' titles are clever but on a superficial level highly potentially misleading, and the paperback covers (still included in the ebooks) were terrible, so I urge people to look beyond those attributes and check them out. Luckily The Death of the Necromancer sounds like it should have at least some of what I loved about these books going for it, now that they're sadly finished.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carré - On the theme of "bloody-minded and ruthless," I immediately started reading this after The Fall of Ile-Rien, and not at all to my surprise, since I loved the recent movie with Gary Oldman and company, I devoured it in about twenty-four hours and loved it. It is in all senses of the word a perfect novel. Smiley is not as openly sarcastic as Tremaine, but he has his moments of acid wit, and the entire thing is a bitter, bloody delight.

What I'll Read Next
Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier - It is set in the 30s and it is violent, which is another way of saying that it is exactly what I have put myself in the mood for.

Also, probably, going to try to sneak in a few more potential Hugo nominees such as Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge.
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.

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