chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Life has been rather too much work-work-work this week. I realized I haven't checked up on Stand Still Stay Silent at all.

I'm about two-thirds of the way through The Hanging Tree, which is about to become the latest-less-one Rivers of London/Peter Grant book (the new one is due out in hardcover (!) next month). I'm enjoying it, although there's already been one kick in the gut. This is a good book to read near Mother's Day: some great and terrifying mums in here (especially Lady Ty and Peter's mum).

Before that, I did some comfort reading. I discovered two old favorites in ebook format: Shirley Rosseau Murphy's White Ghost Summer and The Sand Ponies. Both are pitched as horse stories, but actually, they're family stories with a dash of mystery. There are horses, and they're significant, but they're not actually what the stories are about.

Does anyone know whether it's worth trying to contact a publisher about scan errors in ebooks? These have repeated problems when the end of a paragraph coincides with the end of some dialog in quotation marks. Most of the time it wasn't too terrible for the flow of the story, but at one point several words were lost.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

So actually I have been doing quite a lot of reading, much of it trying to get caught up to make Hugo nominations (which I did do, yay).

I'm going to be doing really quick write-ups here, because I'm covering several weeks. If anyone wants to discuss any of this in more detail, I'll do my best!

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – Enjoyable ensemble cast SF: an accountant/business manager joins the crew of a small, independent working ship and finds a family of sorts. The setting is vaguely reminiscent of David Brin's Uplift series, in that Earth is a backwater planet joining a larger universe of many other sentient beings.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers – Nominally, the sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, although it follows only two of the characters from the original book. A ship's AI ends up in a humanoid (robot/android) body and has to learn to live with all that this implies; alternate chapters follow the backstory of the AI's new mentor/engineer as she grows up as a child slave in a robot-run factory. I actually enjoyed this more than the first book, but YMMV.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett – Interesting fantasy of an emerging industrialized world (trains are pretty well established, but rifles are new) that until recently featured living, active gods. The action takes place in the lands that used to be god-protected, now conquered by its former slaves. The equivalent Earth civilizations used for the cultures seem to be Eastern Europe (formerly god-protected) and South Asia (former slaves), which gives a different flavor from the usual Extruded Fantasy Product. Diplomat and operative Shara Thivani, of the now-ascendant culture, investigates the murder of an academic in the central city of the former ruling nation and discovers something very disturbing. Strong female characters, including the lead. Warning: the opening scene is deadly dull … but it's meant to be, I think.

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett – Takes place a few years after the previous novel. Former general Turyin Mulaghesh, an ally of Shara in the first book, is pulled out of her increasingly inebriated retirement to investigate the disappearance of an operative in backwater Voortyashtana, where an important new harbor is being built by the conquerors. Mulaghesh finds that the mysteries of what's happening in Voortyashtana have more significance to her than she could ever have imagined. I like Mulaghesh even better than Shara.

Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 20 by Yuki Midorikawa – This series remains its usual comforting, mildly spooky self, bless it. I do wonder whether the mangaka is ever again going to pick up the threads about the sinister exorcist Matoba, but he doesn't make an appearance in this volume.

Right now, I'm re-reading The Secret Garden as a break. Reading lots of new things tires me, even when I enjoy it. I have Cherryh's latest Foreigner book on my Kindle, and I'm still trying to make myself finish volume 1 of the manga A Case Study of Vanitas by Jun Mochizuki, which looks like something I *should* like (but as you can tell, it hasn't really grabbed me).

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

After I finished The Cuckoo's Song, I didn't feel like reading anything else substantive for a bit, which sometimes happens after I read something very involving. So I read some fanfiction, excerpts from a favorite comfort read (Rumer Godden's Thursday's Children), and magazine articles (in the Washington Post Magazine, National Geographic, and Washingtonian).

Monday (despite the holiday), I got some manga from Great Big River: Gangsta. vol. 7 (this is a hyper-violent and nihilistic seinen action series that deserves a more complete write-up) and vol. 1 of A Silent Voice.

A Silent Voice is about a restless, undisciplined young boy, Shoya, and the deaf girl he ends up tormenting and driving from their school. Actually, the most awful thing is how bad the other kids are, including the ones whom the teachers and administrators think are angelic. I'm hoping something humiliating happens to all of them eventually, especially the sweet-faced little meganeko who's the class representative. Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, especially when she's saying tearfully (paraphrased) "How could you possibly think that I'd do anything bad to Shoko? You know I'm the perfect class rep!"

But! This is only the first volume of a series that has seven volumes out. At the end of the volume, there's a time skip. Shoya, now old enough to leave school, is totally aimless and (for lack of any other focus) obsessed by what he did. He cuts all his ties to his current life and travels to find Shoko. He encounters her again on the last page. So I clearly have to order some more of the series!

(Fact: it seems to be a shounen series. Huh.)

Then the latest October Daye installment, Once Broken Faith, arrived on my Kindle. I'm now about a quarter of the way through it. It starts with a very silly, enjoyable pajama party for the teen fae contingent at Toby's house, but in no time we're up to our ears in dirty court politics and new types of fae and Toby is defying royalty in her typical headstrong fashion. Some of the people she loves are in danger and others are not speaking to her. You know, the usual!

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

I first read Roller Skates (1937) at around age 11, and The Year of Jubilo (1940) somewhere in junior high school (that is, middle school). I'm blogging them here because of Yuletide.

In New York City in 1890, 10-year-old Lucinda Wyman is the youngest of five children. Her four older brothers range from a teenager in prep school to a grown man who's headed out west for a career in mining. Lucinda, a book-loving tomboy, is an afterthought, considered at best an amusing pet and at worst an annoying duty, understood only by her Irish nursemaid, Johanna, and her beloved Uncle Earle. When Mrs. Wyman becomes ill and needs to recover in a milder climate, Lucinda is left behind to stay with Miss Peters, a teacher at her school, and Miss Peters' seamstress sister.

The Misses Peters prove to be ideal guardians from Lucinda's viewpoint. Once her lessons are done, she's allowed to roam at will along the streets of New York, usually on her roller skates. She makes friends with a number of people of whom her parents - and even more so, her bossy and uptight Aunt Emily - would not approve, including the cab driver who first takes her to the Miss Peters' boarding house, a local policeman, the son of an Italian immigrant fruit seller, the four-year-old daughter of the impoverished family upstairs, a girl of her own age who is the grandchild of a married couple of actors, and a mysterious "Asiatic" woman whom Lucinda calls "Princess Zayda."

During the course of the year, Lucinda learns a great deal about life - and death. Tragedy strikes twice, and by the time her parents are due home, she isn't the same child she was. The ending is bittersweet: at least one other blogger was convinced, as a child, that Lucinda killed herself, because she says that she doesn't want her next birthday, and that she wants to stay 10 always.

When the story resumes in The Year of Jubilo, Mr. Wyman has died, but even before that, his businesses were failing. Mrs. Wyman, thirteen-year-old Lucinda, and the three sons who still live at home can no longer afford to live in New York. They still own a summer home in Maine, and the family moves there permanently. Every member of the family suffers at first from loss of Mr. Wyman and of their well-to-do lifestyle, but they gradually start to make a go of it. The boys take up lobster fishing (they sell the lobsters to restaurants as far as Boston) and gardening, Mrs. Wyman turns to housekeeping and mending, and Lucinda takes up cooking (with predictably comical results at first) and whatever else she can talk her brothers into letting her do.

Lucinda faces a great deal of resistance from her brothers, especially her next-older brother Carter, who is bitter at being pulled from his prep school. Although some of Lucinda's growing maturity here is depicted as her becoming less of a hoyden, she still remains very much a stubborn and decidedly un-meek person - and a passing remark by the narrator at one point indicates that she eventually goes to college, which was not a given even for a girl of the upper middle class at the time.

More discussion, some including serious spoilers - and notes about problems with the stories )

Roller Skates won the Newbery Award in 1937 and is thus still in print in paperback. The Year of Jubilo is more difficult to find, but I bought a copy for less than $10 from AbeBooks.

chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (shigure-book)

I recently talked smillaraaq into reading this old favorite of mine, so it seemed like a good time to re-read it myself. This cheerful, comic space opera from the 1960s has no ax to grind and no pretenses of presenting anything but a cracking good time. However, it's strangely modern in its near-disregard of the sex-role stereotyping of its era. Most notably, our square-chinned young male protagonist spends most of the story depending on the skills, common sense, and knowledge of an 11-year-old girl - whose mother is also presented as a force to be respected.

Gallant but impecunious young Captain Pausert of the planetary Republic of Nikkeldepain (a place that sounds as though it's run by the descendants of Michael Bloomberg's arm of the GOP) has been given one last chance to redeem himself financially in the eyes of both his government and his secret fiancee's father. He's been given an aged starship and a cargo of leftover bits and pieces to sell, and turned loose on a trading mission. Things are going splendidly when he hits the planet of Porlumma, part of a classic space opera Empire where slavery is is legal, and encounters three enslaved young sisters - Maleen, Goth, and the Leewit (yes, the Leewit), ages 14, 11, and 6 - in need of rescuing. Good-hearted Pausert does so, at considerable cost and personal risk (slavery is illegal on Nikkeldepain), and even volunteers to take the girls back to their mysterious home planet, Karres.

He probably should have thought harder about the fact that the owners of the girls are only too happy to sell them off.

Soon Pausert is on the lam, wanted on his home planet and in the Empire, traveling to the far side of the galaxy with Goth as his advisor and becoming involved in interstellar politics on a grand scale. He learns (and we do too) about the ill-omened Chaladoor, a huge, forbidding section of space traversed only by the bold and the foolhardy; Uldune, an entire planet of successful interstellar crooks; Worm World, a noxious place inhabited by the Nuri Worms, whose activities turn the skies of planets yellow and cause their inhabitants to run screaming mad; the dread Agandar, a pirate lord of all-too-serious competence; psychic entities called vatches, which think that they are dreaming the lives of more corporeal beings; Sheem robots; Moander who Speaks with a Thousand Voices; the Megair Cannibals; grik-dogs; and much much more. It's a heady, frothy concoction that still manages to build to a genuinely scary climax that leaves the reader glad for the eventual happy ending.

It's the perfect companion to a cup of hot chocolate and a plate of cookies on a cold winter day. Read it. It will make you smile, as it has for me on every re-read since I was Goth's age.

Read on - spoilers! )

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