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

After I finished re-reading The Story of the Stone by Hughart, I continued on with Eight Skilled Gentlemen (also a re-read). Both books are considerably weaker than Bridge of Birds, but they're both still amusing and full of interesting little details.

Most of the other things I've read this week have been online articles that are research for the same project that got me re-reading Master Li and Number Ten Ox.

After several days of that (and writing, and work being chaotic and stressful), I wanted something pleasant and easy. So I spent some time on Big South American River, looking up favorite children's authors. I discovered that not only has someone put a number of my favorite Sally Watson historicals into e-books, they also included Poor Felicity (although the author herself seems to have re-named it The Delicate Pioneer, which strikes me as a really "dead" title). I first read this at a Girl Scout summer camp, where I was a pudgy bespectacled weirdo bookworm who hated sports but was totally unafraid of snakes and bugs, and I haven't seen it since.

Felicity Dare is a sickly, rather spoiled 19th-century Southern (U.S.) girl whose parents lose all their money in bad investments and decide to go out west to settle in Oregon/Washington territory. Both parents die along the way, leaving orphaned Felicity to her good-natured but hapless uncle. They end up in what eventually becomes Seattle, where Felicity gradually becomes healthier because of being out in nature (shades of The Secret Garden!), makes friends with kids who would definitely have been considered below her social class back East (include some Native Americans), and learns to forage, cook, and shoot a rifle. There's also an ongoing feud with a rough-hewn boy who despises her for most of the book. In the end, when her snooty cousins show up at last (they went by ship instead of overland), she has to confront their faulty assumptions and her own grudges.

It's fun, slight but with lots of interesting details, and an easy, fast read (aimed at about 10-13 year-old readers).

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

I finished my last-minute reading of Hugo short fiction items and did my voting on Saturday morning. I think that there were a LOT of very good "shorts" this year.

I am re-reading The Story of the Stone by Barry Hughart, which is the second of the Master Li and Number Ten Ox books. I also tried (really, I did) to read two Very Serious books, which turned out to be nearly unreadable and almost useless for their intended purpose. *looks shifty*

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

I finished All the Birds in the Sky. It wasn't bad, but it just sort of ended: too much build up, not enough resolution. And now I'm annoyed by the title, because although it sounds really nifty, it doesn't have all that much to do with the story. This is not going to be my top vote for best novel, I'm afraid.

Also in Hugo reading, I read through Ursula Le Guin's Words Are My Matter, a collection of recent short non-fiction pieces. I love Le Guin as an essayist, and the first part of the book contains some good examples. But the back half-and-a-bit is introductions to books and book reviews, and I found those less interesting. A number of them were for non-genre literary or magical realism works that didn't sound as though they'd appeal to me. She did mention a couple of Western (as in, Western U.S.) novels that I might want to look up, which I will mention here partially for my own reference: Crazy Weather by Charles McNichols and The Jump-Off Creek and The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss. Also, although Perdido Street Station pretty much put me off China Mielville for life, her review of Embassytown is making me reconsider.

Overall, unless the rest of the Related Works are very mediocre, I don't think this will be my top pick in that category.

I have just started Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, which is short-listed for Best Novel. A number of the readers on File 770 had trouble with this book, but I'm not finding it problematic thus far. Possibly the fact that I actually like Anthony Burgess' A Dead Man in Deptford (link goes to Kirkus review), which was also purposefully written in the style of an earlier era, has something to do with this. I'll have to see where the book goes, of course.

Finally, I'll be re-reading some of Fruits Basket, Because Reasons. Does anyone recall the number of the exact volume in which Machi shows up? It's when she wrecks the student council room, if the Wikia is to be believed.

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

Got very little serious reading done this week Because Reasons (sad RL event).

I read the openings to This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared, which I mentioned last week, and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (which I had forgotten that I'd bought a couple of weeks ago to support our local bookstore after killing some time there between appointments). More power of concentration will be needed to continue with either.

I read volumes 2 and 3 of the manga A Silent Voice, and now I am on the horns of a dilemma. The mangaka has ticked me off in a couple of ways, and even though I love the idea of the story and have become very fond of Shoko's tough, neglected tomboy little sister, I may decide to abandon the series, which rarely happens with me.

First, ex-bully Shoya is trying to arrange for more friends for his former victim, Shoko. The first girl he digs up is at Shoko's request, a girl who was kind to Shoko when they were all in middle school and who ended up getting bullied herself. That works out well enough that Shoya sometimes feels a bit of a third wheel around them. So when he encounters another former middle school classmate about whom he has no definite negative memories, he assumes that she's another potential friend. Actually, she is a manipulative little schemer in a very stereotypically Mean Schoolgirl way, and I cringe away from the book whenever she's on the page. (Can you tell that I was bullied in middle school for befriending a girl who was in Special Education?)

Then, the author introduces a Profound Misunderstanding between Sho and Sho, just so things will become even sadder. It takes a really good author to do this without pissing me off. Yoshitoki Ōima is simply not on that level. See, the two of them are starting to understand each other pretty well in sign language ... so instead, Shoko suddenly decides that she has to start trying to speak aloud! And won't go back to Sign even when it's clear that Shoya does not understand the Startling Confession she has just made!

I swear, I was grinding my teeth when that happened.

Does anyone know if things improve in this series?

On an even more frivolous note, I also started reading fanfiction for Stand Still, Stay Silent.

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

I have finished Hidden Figures. It was interesting and I am glad to have read it, but I wasn't enthralled. I realize that one of the factors in that was the lack of images. Most histories of recent times have photos and so on. This had absolutely none. I'm puzzled. NASA could have supplied a number of them, because you can find them online (examples here and here).

Next, I should start the book I just got in preparation for the Days of Awe: This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transfiguration, by Alan Lew (1944–2009). The author was a rabbi who was also an adherent of Buddhist thought: he's been called the "Zen rabbi."

However, I am sure that instead, I will start with volumes 2 and 3 of A Silent Voice, the manga I started last week.

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

I finished the latest October Daye novel, Once Broken Faith. I think it had less cutesy "Gee, I'm so awkward and blunt" than the previous ones, but not by much. It sort of ended in the middle of things. I think it's that the earlier books were each a self-contained story arc that had some sort of growth or change for Toby. Now McGuire is moving into the end game, as it were. There are three more books, according to McGuire's website, but I think they will all be part of the same uber-arc (hmm, rather like Samurai Deeper Kyo's huge Mibu arc ... although that was proportionally even longer).

I read this on my Kindle. It includes a bonus novella, about some of the recent events from the point of view of Arden Windermere, Queen in the Mists. And then Great Big River suggested another short work, the novelette "Full of Briars," which has Toby's squire Quentin as the POV. I sort of liked it? But I had to agree with a couple of online reviews I read that the event and idea at the very end seemed to come out of nowhere. TVTropes actually has some pointers to where this material was telegraphed earlier, so some other time I'll check that out.

But reading these works one after the other pointed out something: McGuire doesn't seem to have very distinctive voices for these characters. If you had some general statements from Toby, Arden, and Quentin, selected so as not to indicate directly who was talking, it might be hard to tell them apart. Huh.

I'm now reading Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, a nonfiction book about the African American women who were the "computers" for the U.S. space program. It's interesting but certainly not involving the way fiction is for me. Part of the issue may be the scope of the story. The author is not telling the story of just one of these women, and she is also giving the sociopolitical background against which they first came to work for the government (as part of the aviation research effort in WW II). This includes the situation of African Americans in the military during the war and afterward and will later include the 1960s Civil Rights Movement events. So the pace gets a rather uneven, I think. I'm a little less than halfway through it.

If you think you may have heard of the book and are not sure why, you may have, like me, been seeing ads for the movie based on it, which is due out in 2017. Those ads showed up on F-book even before the book was released (Sept. 6). There is some really impressive talent involved in the film (official movie site).

Not sure what I'll read next. I have some more nonfiction, but I think I will want some fiction at that point. I may do a re-read of something that was new to me in the past few months: I have a lot of choices there.

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

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones
Diana Wynne Jones: The Fantastic Tradition and Children's Literature by Farah Mendelsohn

When I was in high school and even when I was at university, I could never figure out why anyone would want to discuss the structure, symbolism, etc. of the books they liked. Surely that would kill your pleasure dead, like picking apart a joke to see why it was funny?

I'm really not sure when this changed, but it was probably fannish reading that did it, and I'm guessing perhaps it was the various online analyses of the Sandman and Terry Pratchett's Discworld books.

In the past few months, with the help of my perceptive daughter, who knew what Mom really wanted the most off her Amazon wish list, I was able to immerse myself in the inner workings of one of my favorite writers, British fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones (1934–2011). Mendlesohn's book, which generally rambles through various overarching themes of Jones' work rather than marching along by publication date, offers a number of great insights into what's going on in the books and in some of DWJ's short stories. The book by Jones herself is a collection of articles, essays, and talks, and would be worth the price of purchase (for me, at any rate) simply because it contains the famous essay "The Heroic Ideal—A Personal Odyssey," which explores DWJ's fascinating and mystifying YA novel Fire and Hemlock from her own point of view. Actually, the other items in the book are enjoyable and useful as well.

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

Yeah, I seem to be doing this monthly. *sigh*

What have you just finished reading?

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. YA fantasy with a Slavic-based setting. The heroine is a prickly, skinny girl who is a cartographer with the army, but she turns out to be The Chosen One and gets swept off for special magical training. She's a duck out of water in a way that reminds me a little of Menolly in the Harper Hall in McCaffrey's Pern books, with the queen bee girls being rude and prickly to her. About midway through she suddenly becomes healthier and prettier because Plot Reasons, and then she starts to like to try on dresses, and I realized that I didn't like her nearly as much. I then had to castigate myself for this, because I'm sure lots of the intended readers would love that part. There was some silly romantical stuff too, which I also disliked. And then Bardugo completely confounded my expectations about what the last part of the book was going to be like. Well done, author! I still don't think it's a great book: too many things happening with too little run-up (for example, Alina's relationship wth her childhood friend Mal would have been better with more showing, less telling, of their shared history), but I think I'm invested enough to get the sequel.

The Snake Stone, by Jason Goodwin, is the second Master Yashim book. I begin to see what [personal profile] flemmings was saying about the hero's sex life. It's annoying because Yashim might as well not be a eunuch, except that it means he can visit the seraglio in the palace. He's starting to read more like a man with a slightly low-ish sex drive instead. The cultural and culinary details remain interesting, and I liked the info about pre-Victorian archeology and book-collecting.

The Little Death by Michael Nava is the first volume of a mystery series about a gay lawyer, Henry Rios. It features a tragic Boyfriend in the Refrigerator and lots of Evil Plotting by the rich and the famous. I like Henry, although his situation is somewhat depressing. I will probably try the next one as well.

Four British Fantasists, which is a critical study and comparison of authors Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, and Diana Wynne Jones. The author, Charles Butler, is a member of the DWJ online mailing list. The book was interesting, and now I'm wondering whether I should fill in some of the books that I haven't read that are discussed, especially by Lively and Garner. Although I remember bouncing off Garner's Red Shift, and the things he wrote after that are apparently even more experimental.

What are you currently reading?

Another re-read for a writing challenge, and also volume 10 of the manga Bunny Drop, which basically short stories about Daikichi and Rin that didn't make it into the main series (which ended, plot-wise, with vol. 9).

What do you think you'll read next?

I just got an Amazon order that includes volume 1 of Fumi Yoshinaga's manga series What Did You Eat Yesterday? Also, volume 3 of the hard yaoi manga Crimson Spell (by Ayano Yamane), and the latest volumes of Marjorie Liu's Hunter Kiss series (Labyrinth of Stars) and Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series (Broken Homes). The Aaronovitch has been getting mixed reviews, but I have to at least give it a try because the earlier books were so awesome. (These are both urban fantasy, for those unfamiliar with them, but very different in tone and scope.)

 

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

What have you just finished reading?

Noel Streatfeild's Dancing Shoes and a Montreal travel guide.

What are you currently reading?

Peter Dickinson's The Blue Hawk, which I have almost finished (another re-read). I had forgotten how much I enjoyed that one! Really lovely use of language, and some interesting meditations on the nature of gods and those who worship them. Some of it echoes the points made in both Pratchett's Small Gods (1992) and Hodgell's God Stalk (1986) ... Dickinson's book was published in 1991, so make of that what you will. I'm also making my way through some manga re-reading for a writing project.

What do you think you'll read next?

I just downloaded the first two of E. Nesbit's "Bastables" series, which I have never read. I am very fond of her series featuring the Psammead, so we shall see. I'm also about to do a big book order for vacation reading, and I'll probably add on the next volumes of Natsume's Book of Friends and Black Butler, both of which came out recently.

(To my intense disgust, Ben Aaronovitch's next book is due out in the U.K. tomorrow ... but not due in the U.S. until 2014!)

 

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

What have you just finished reading?

Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper. I enjoyed it, although it had the trappings of its time: for example, one female human character who wasn't someone's secretary or mom. I was surprised by the ecology theme, which I don't remember becoming much of A Thing until the the end of the 1960s (book was published in 1962). It even had a big evil nature-exploiting company. The Fuzzies are pretty clearly the ancestors of Cherryh's Hisa (in Downbelow Station) and, as some others have pointed out, probably also of the Ewoks. The set-up also made me think of LeGuin's The Word for World Is Forest, although this is a much lighter take. I was feeling fairly offended at the notion of humans "adopting" Fuzzies ... until Piper hit me with the wham line at the end. OK, then! :-)

I also finished my research reading. Some of it was pretty cool. I'll have to remember to bring up the details later.

What are you currently reading?

I'm re-reading Noel Streatfeild's Dancing Shoes (a/k/a Wintle's Wonders), which is a straight-up comfort read. I'm also making my way through a couple of tour books for our trip.

What do you think you'll read next?

I really don't know! Anyone have any suggestions for anything that I could download to the phone for free? Feedbooks has a lot of stuff, but I'm not sure about most of it. It's not that I don't have any money to spend on reading material: I'm leary of using my phone for a financial transaction, frankly. Has anyone used Paypal for this purpose?

 

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

What have you just finished reading?

Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery and Thursday's Children by Rumer Godden.

Rilla of Ingleside has, in some ways, more depths than the rest of the series, because Canada goes through WWI during the time of the novel. Young men go off to war, and several of the young women go off to volunteer support work as well. Rilla, who is a rather silly, spoiled little girl at the start of the novel, ends up keeping the home fires burning and also taking care of an almost-orphan baby: his father is off in the war and his mother has died. Rilla ends up (with her family's support) bringing him up "by the book." It's interesting to see an early take on this: she's worried about germs and so on, yet at one point (strikingly similar to the scene in the first book where Anne saves Diana's little sister's life), the child's life is saved by a rather bizarre old-style medical treatment. The book's final scene happens rather abruptly – almost an afterthought – but the last line is a killer! XD

The Godden book was a comfort reread, and I skipped some scenes in the first part, because they make me too sad (and that's saying something: there are a lot of sad scenes in the book). Doone and Crystal Penny are the youngest children of a grocer and his wife, a former chorine. Ma is devoted to the idea of making Crystal into the ballerina she herself always yearned to be, but she has no concept of the serious, hard-working side of ballet training and spoils Crystal abominably. Doone, an unwanted afterthought baby, is enchanted with dance and music and shows real talent at both, but between Ma's focus on Crystal and Pa's conviction that ballet is only for girls and queers, he has a really tough row to hoe. It all comes right in the end, not only for Doone, but also for Crystal: as horrid and spoiled as she is, she's also been mistreated by her family, and she needs to go through emotional fire to earn her happy ending. This book always strikes me as "Rumer Godden writes Noel Streatfeild," and it has the strengths of both authors.

What are you currently reading?

More non-fiction and also some fiction for story research, plus Wild Adapter vol. 4 (re-read). Volumes 4 (where Kubota gets taken into police custody after being observed at a crime scene) and 5 (the flashback to where Kubota finds Tokito, narrated by their young neighbor Shouta) are my favorites in this series. Not coincidentally, they also have the most scenes with my favorite supporting characters: Detective Kasai (who is Kubota's uncle), Dr. Kou, Anna, Takizawa the reporter (now a freelance journalist), and Shouta himself.

What do you think you'll read next?

I have downloaded Little Fuzzy to my phone. I am also going to be reading a tour book or two for our upcoming vacation.

 

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

What have you just finished reading?

The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan (literally, only an hour or so ago), and Anne of Ingleside and Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery.

The Morgan book was very much a mixed bag. It had some terribly exciting scenes that made me grin or exclaim aloud, some hot male/male sex, character angst and betrayal, and a female character who gets to have All the Blades, with Names,* but also some scenes I really wish I could unsee.

What are you currently reading?

Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery, some non-fiction for story research, and The Life of Slang by Julie Coleman. The latter is a book I bought for my husband for Fathers Day, but he kindly left it on the Big Pile o' Reading Matter in the bathroom.

What do you think you'll read next?

My friend's MS is still eating my brain. Some more story research is also on the slate. I'm wondering whether I want to download and read The Blythes Are Quoted, which is apparently a number of short stories about characters from the Anne of Green Gables series and their descendants. I don't usually like short stories as much as novels, but so much of the Anne series is episodic that maybe it won't bother me.

*Did anyone else ever read Frostflower and Thorn by Phyllis Ann Karr? Thorn had named her blades, but Archeth in the Morgan book has much better names for hers, and more of them, too.

 

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

What have you just finished reading?

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones (re-read), Anne's House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery.

Enchanted Glass is, as I remembered it, OK, but rather flat, especially in comparison with classics such as The Homeward Bounders. Fire and Hemlock, and even The Lives of Christopher Chant (the Chrestomanci books are not super-favorites of mine, in general).

What are you currently reading?

Richard K. Morgan's The Steel Remains and Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery. Also, I'm doing some nonfiction reading for story research, which will remain unspecified for now.

What do you think you'll read next?

That MS is sucking up a lot of time and brainpower. I'll probably continue on my Montgomery kick: Feedbooks seems to have all of the Anne series for download. And I'm still working on the Morgan book. I was amused at my reactions to the smartass protagonists' reactions to their opponents in the combat scenes that just occurred: I was grinning and almost snickering. Too much Fritz Leiber at an early age, I suppose.

 

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

This memoir, recommended to me by b3nitora, is subtitled "A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother." However, when the author was a young boy, growing up in Queens, he frequently wished that his mother his mother was black, like the mothers of his classmates. Just as frequently - because he loved his mother dearly - he was terrified that she would be hurt or killed because of her differentness. As he grew older, he became aware that the mystery of his mother went beyond her skin color: she could speak Yiddish to the garment district merchants and insisted that her children attend predominantly Jewish schools. Yet she refused to discuss her past, insisting that her 12 children keep their minds on business: school and church.

Although the family was horrifyingly poor, and several of her children strayed from their mother's stern rule for a time, Ruth McBride Jordan managed managed to bring up 12 children through the 1950s, 1960, and 1970s and sent them all to college. It was not until James McBride became a journalist and was inspired to write his mother's story that the pieces started to fall into place: his mother was born the daughter of a rabbi and raised in the South, fled to relatives in New York when in her teens, and fell in love with and married an African American man who eventually founded a Baptist church.

This story is almost as much a mystery as it is a memoir. It is sometimes quite funny and often very sad. I enjoyed it.

Read on - includes spoilers )

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