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

Another drive-by. I worked from home today (snow/sleet closed things), then got into a computer graphics project, made dinner, cleaned up from dinner, and now it's nearly bedtime. (The Mr. cleaned up from breakfast/lunch, served me lunch, and made banana bread.)

I finished Circe: yeah, there was a slight twist to the ending. I saw half of it from about 50 pages out. I'm not 100% sure I believe in the other half. Not likely to be on my Hugo short list.

Then I digressed from my Hugo reading and re-read Andre Norton's Catseye, which I had bought some little while ago as a Kindle deal. I remembered some bits of it from my teen years but not others, and I'm definitely much more aware of her writing flaws now. (Um, you can call him "Troy" more than once, really you can; you don't have to keep alternating it with his surname and various epithets. Also, it's from his POV, so some of the editorializing about him comes off oddly.) But it was fun.

I'm now reading Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. She has finally written a book that I think I really like, although we'll see how the ending goes. Sadly, I was never better than lukewarm on her Napoleonic dragons series, and Uprooted was somehow not really my thing. I felt like Uprooted was dutiful. somehow? But this one is really drawing me in so that I can immerse myself in the story.

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

Driveby: I'm having a tiring week, and need to go to bed ASAP.

I finished The Calculating Stars, and it ends well enough for me to look forward to reading the sequel, The Fated Sky. It was also pubished in 2018, so I'm not sure what the rules are re Hugo Award.

I'm now reading Circe, by Madeline Miller. People seem to be excited by this book, including recommending it for Hugo nominations. I am about 70% of the way through, and it is grim, sad, grim. Man, the Titans are disgusting, and the gods are nasty. A seemingly "you are there" inside Circe's head re-telling does not help these facts. I'm also not sure I want to call it fantasy. It's well written, though?

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

Yesterday I had to finish some other things. So here's books on Thursday instead.

I finished Exit Strategy: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, and it was pretty good: a worthy finish to this series of novellas. Murderbot has to extract a hostage: always the best type of action scenario, as I learned long ago when I used to run RPG tournaments. (Grabbing treasure and running is pretty trivial by comparison.) There's also the question of whether its allies are more trouble than they're worth. The story rolls along fast and ends bittersweetly.

Then, down with a cold, I powered through Lies Sleeping, the latest Rivers of London installment by Ben Aaronovitch. Wow, that was good! I had the feeling Aaronovitch had been basically stringing out events for the last couple of books until he could arrive at this place in the story, because this was much, much meatier and more interesting than this series has been for a while, As I noted on Book of Faces, there was one place near the end where I dropped my Kindle into my lap and applauded. This would make a reasonable stopping place for the series, but Wikipedia says there will be more.

Now I'm about halfway through The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. I picked this up as Hugo reading. I'd been going back and forth on whether to read it until I saw it mentioned in the Hugo context. I'm a little ambivalent about it. It's a compelling story and I like the viewpoint character, but every time I put it down, I find myself thinking it's not my thing. I think it may be Kowal's writing style, and it may even be deliberate. It feels very much like a mainstream novel, and that may be the effect she wants.

The next several new reads will probably all be Hugo stuff: nominations close March 16. If you have any suggestions for SF&F novels or graphic novels published in 2018 that you think I would like, please mention them. Other Hugo-eligible things I've already read are:

  • Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

I have volume 3 of Monstress (graphic novel) Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda in hand but I have not read it yet.

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

*tap tap tap* Is this thing on?

So yeah, now that I'm back at work (finally!), I'm going to try to get this rolling again.

I got around to reading Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, which I'd had on my To Read list for ages. And ... meh? It wasn't for me. Sometimes I like Jane Austen-ish pastiche, but I was not so thrilled with this one. I could appreciate Zacharias' position (believe me, I could: that "stick with the job because you were entrusted with it, even while it kills you" is all too familiar), but at the same time, it made for a somewhat claustrophobic reading experience.

On the other hand, Prunella soon made me a little crazy. I'm not quite sure I believe her extremely sudden transformation from the dutiful behind-the-scenes manager to out-of-control sorcery prodigy. And frankly, I just didn't like her that much. I think I'm just the wrong audience for it. And I spotted the romance plot about a third of the way in, too.

My other big read was a bit of a disappointment as well. You all know I'm a super fan of C.J. Cherryh, and her Alliance-Union setting is one of my favorites (Chanur is the other). So I was anticipating Alliance Rising like crazycakes. But it's a really, really slow start. The info-dumping is on par with the opening of Downbelow Station, even though it's framed as the thoughts of the POV characters instead of third-person authorial narration. In fact, in terms of pacing and approach, this reads more like the start of a new "Foreigner" installment, with Bren reviewing all the events of the last three books.

About a third of the way in I nearly burst into tears: we were still on essentially the first real piece of action, the approach of one of the new jumpships to the creaky old Alpha space station at frightening speed. We read it from the viewpoint of a young local merchanter crewman, Ross, and then from the viewpoint of the sad, over-stressed station manager, and then from the viewpoint of a fairly high-up officer on the incoming starship, Finity's End. And OK, we learn something from each view, but hell! We're a third of the way into the book! Shouldn't we be seeing something else by now?

Perhaps as a result of the amount of time spent on this slow opening, I didn't feel as much engagement with the characters, and the station didn't feel as real to me, either, as most Cherryh settings do.

Anyway, I will certainly be following it up: lackluster CJC is still better than 90% of what comes out.

For where I'm going: I've just started Exit Strategy, the most recent Murderbot installment by Martha Wells. This is the finale of the series of "Murderbot Diaries," and I expect to like it, as I did the others. I was pleased to hear that she's sold a full-length Murderbot novel as well.

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

Well, it's been a while. I have been reading like crazy, but I doubt I can remember all I've been reading off the top of my head. Here's what I can recall at the moment:

For whatever reason, I have never previously read anything by Tamora Pierce. Recently, Big South American River had all three volumes of the Beka Cooper series on sale as ebooks for a pittance, so I bought them. And after a re-read for a writing project, I read them. And read them. Until I finished the whole thing.

Rebakah (Beka) Cooper is a child of the slums, but she, her siblings, and her mother come under the protection of a powerful nobleman and are taken into his household. The mother dies, and the children are trained in jobs that befit their station: the boys as couriers, the girls as maids ... except that Beka wants to be a Dog, one of the constables that their patron commands. She has a natural aptitude for it, as well as some supernatural powers that come in handy on the job (mages of various kinds are not uncommon in this world). The series opens as Beka as become a Puppy: a Dog trainee. It follows her as she becomes a full Dog and then one of the most skilled in her city's company.

It's very absorbing reading, vivid and enjoyable. I had a very strange feeling about the first two books versus the third, though. It was as though Pierce had conceived of and possibly even written the third book first, and then went back and wrote the first two. The first two are written as though they are the diary of teenaged Beka, and they work pretty well in that way. The third, where the stakes are much higher and where Beka and her team are crossing miles and miles of countryside, gets less plausible as a diary and also somewhat less engaging for me. There's also a plot twist that I'm not sure I buy as in-character for the person involved.

Is anyone here a Pierce fan? Which of her other books would you recommend?

I've also picked up the most recent volumes of the manga Black Butler (vol. 26) and The Ancient Magus Bride (vol. 9). When they arrived, I discovered that I had completely lost the plot of both series, and the previous volumes were lost somewhere in the house. The Mr. finally tracked them down for me.

Black Butler takes a serious turn after the arc about the mysterious doings in the popular music hall, in which we saw Victorian "boy bands" captivating the crowds (anachronisms mean nothing to mangaka Yana Toboso) as a front for far more sinister activities. Ceil discovers something momentous about his past... although this being Black Butler, I'm not sure of the truth of what he has discovered.

The Ancient Magus Bride covers the final part of the arc in which Chise has suffered grave effects after preventing a frightened young dragon from laying waste to London. She, Elias, and some fairy allies also put their main adversary to rest, at least for the time being. This is apparently not the end of the series, but a new major story arc seems to be next.

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

Hugo votes were due yesterday, so I hurriedly finished my Hugo reading over the past couple of weeks. I'm not going to comment individually on much of anything shorter than a novella: there are just too many of them. I may do an FFRiday post about one of them, though.

The Collapsing Empire (novel) by John Scalzi was better than I expected. He's grown a bit as a writer, and as [personal profile] viridian5 said, the characters are great. But it is very much Part 1 of a longer story and has a pretty cliffhanger-y ending.

And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker felt like a much shorter work than most of the other novellas. I keep wanting to say it's about clones, but it's not really: it's about duplicates caused by parallel universes, and they all end up at a convention together. It's also a locked-room mystery. I wasn't as impressed by it as a lot of others seem to be (and Pinsker's other nominee, the novelette "Wind Will Rove,” was much better).

River of Teeth (novella) by Sarah Gailey was a fun romp, a Weird Western with a flooded mid-America full of hippos, both scary Ferals and specialized domestic hippos used as riding animals. The cast members span a wide range of races and orientations. There are river boats, gambling, sharpshooters, and people of dubious virtue.

Binti: Home (novella) by Nnedi Okorafor will be liked by those who liked the earlier installments and disliked by their opposite numbers. The story takes a weird turn halfway through that seems unconnected with the earlier Binti novellas, as though Okorafor thought it up just recently, but the results of it were more interesting to me than Binti's previous adventures. I think one of the things that's been bothering me about this series and Akata Witch/Akata Warrior is that previously neutral characters seem to suddenly burst out nasty, with no previous indications of such issues.

The Black Tides of Heaven (novella) by JY Yang is SF that reads like mythic fantasy. It was beautiful and sad but somehow rather thin for me. And it is also clearly just Part 1.

I've read the first volume of Seanan McGuire's Incryptid series and am halfway through the second (it was up for Best Series). I'm enjoying them, but they are slighter than her October Daye series. My first choices for this award, both of which I read independent of their Hugo nominations, are in no danger from the adventures of Verity Price, journeyman cryptozoologist and ballroom dancer. Part of my problem is that Verity is a very girly girl, despite the guns and knives and parkour, and I get impatient with her constant commentary on hair and clothing.

The Art of Starving (Young Adult book) by Sam J. Miller is kind of mis-cast as SF&F. It's not clear to me that any of the magical stuff that Matt thinks is happening actually happens. Also, his family seems to have Judaism pasted on: although it's mentioned and his mother is described as buying Judaica/Jewish foods, she never reads to me as Jewish (which I am), and Matt's Judaism never seems to inform any of his actions. I appreciate that he is gay and eventually has a boyfriend, but the overboard angst and lack of anything that reads to me like actual SF&F made this one a non-starter for my consideration or this new award. But of course, I am not the intended audience for the book. Still, that didn't keep me from enjoying the other nominees in this category.

Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate (Best Related Work) by Zoë Quinn is an important book. The first two-thirds or so is the chronicle of her harassment by the Gamergate malfeasants after her ex-boyfriend posted an online hatchet job of her character, and the last third is very chunky, rich information about protecting yourself online and helping others who have been victimized this way. But she could really have used a better editor. The continuity gets rough sometimes.

Phew! That's it.


Anyone have any recs for vacation reading? I already have Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee queued up, and I will download the latest Murderbot as soon as it becomes available. Oh, and I think I have another Incryptid or two on my Kindle as well.

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

For Hugo reading, I read Sarah Rees Brennan's In Other Lands, which hit an awful lot of sweet spots in the fashion of a piece of fanfic. It's funny, because I believe that some of the other YA not-a-Hugo nominees are better pieces of writing on a technical scale: Summer in Orcus, A Skinful of Shadows, and The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage are all more accomplished in that way. But this appealed.

Young Elliot Schafer, 13, sarcastic, prickly, Jewish (although minimally devout), and possibly a bit onto the autism/Aspberger's scale, has the ability to see magical portals and so is given a transfer from his boring boarding school to the program over the (seemingly invisible) wall. Puny Elliot is clearly not warrior material, so in Borderlands he ends up in the less prestigious Councilor track. Seemingly despite his social ineptitude, he becomes friends with the warrior elf maid Serene and the promising young fighter Luke. But many things are not as they seem, and although Elliot never does have the type of magical adventure he thinks he wants, he has a very important role to play.

The books reads like "Derkholm" Diana Wynne Jones taking on "Narnia": a great deal of the time, Elliot reads strongly as a sympathetic take on or perhaps and answer to Eustace Scrub in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair (look at their initials!). He is also a queer teenager who has both boyfriends and girlfriends by the time the story comes to an end, and although a lot of that is awkward, it's awkward because teens are awkward in this arena, not because Brennan handles it badly.

The other thing I've read this week was Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett, Because Reasons. I've read it half a dozen times before, but this is the first time I can recall crying at the end: happy emotional release crying. The parts toward the end where Polly realizes that most of the authorities simply don't take the squad seriously as soldiers seemed to ring more bitterly true than usual, and so Polly's decision for action at the end, and her meeting up with the two young recruits, made the wonderful, silly last line hit very hard. When Pratchett was hot, he was on fire.

I think that next up is John Scalzi's The Collapsing Empire, which will finish me up for Best Novel nominees. I love Scalzi as a blogger, but I've always been less enthusiastic about him as a fiction writer. I don't expect that this is going to change my mind, but I owe him the good college try for all the enjoyment his blog has provided.

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

I don't generally "do" romances. A large part of this is simply that the couples in most romances don't interest me, either as targets for my own lusts/longing or as characters with whom I could identify. I realized this truth when I found myself passionately enjoying romantic fanfiction involving characters with whom I *do* identify.

So in retrospect, I shouldn't be surprised by how much I enjoyed The Covert Captain: Or, a Marriage of Equals, despite the fact that it is that generally loathed (by me) thing, a Regency romance, because I really did like and identify with both of the leads.

Harriet is the intelligent spinster sister of a dashing military officer, Major Sherbourne ("Sherry"), who still suffers from his war wounds, both physical and mental. His constant companion and junior officer is Captain Nathaniel Fleming, who has suffered less physical damage but is equally afflicted with PTSD from their mutual experiences in the Napoleonic Wars. Fleming and Harriet fall into a mutual liking that becomes love.

Cut for a variety of spoilers, some of which are telegraphed by the publisher's summary )

One of the things I value about this book is the relationship between Sherry and Nathaniel, whom Sherry calls "Spaniel" for his loyalty and as a joke about his name. Their friendship and shared experiences are important to them, and this very much affects how things play out in the course of Harriet and Fleming's romance. Likewise, Harriet and Sherry are an affectionate pair of siblings, and Sherry is in no way pressuring her to marry. (Of course, the fact that their three sisters all died in childbirth is part of this, but still.) Sherry's situation and feelings are part of the equation as well. I appreciate and approve of this.

Because I'm no fan of Regencies, I can't address the author's skill in evoking the setting and expected tropes. Most of the historical details seemed more or less appropriate, but again, I'm not well-versed in this period. But the writing has good pacing, effective language, and appealing details.

I imagine I will enjoy re-reading this too.

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

So I did a little Rosemary Sutcliff nostalgia re-reading: The Witch's Brat and Flame-Colored Taffeta. I enjoyed them, although they are not my favorites (those would be The Silver Branch and Dawn Wind).

Then I started something that I had seen listed on many people's lists of favorites in recent years but had never picked up for whatever reason, The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. I am enjoying it immensely! The jinni and the golem both end up in the New York City of (I think) the earliest 20th century. The book takes many digressions, telling side stories of people involved with the pasts of the two supposedly mythological beings, before returning to the the main storyline once more. The two have just met for the first time. I have no idea how this is going to end! "In tears" is a possibility, but given how many positive reactions I've heard for this book, I'm hoping for better.

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

I finished my Saga re-read, and I needed some comfort material. So I re-read The Long Secret, by Louise Fitzhugh. This is the sequel to Harriet the Spy. And having finished that, I started the next book in the series, Sport, which was published after the author's death.

And now it's bedtime. Well, that was not much of an evening. *grumbles*

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

Having finished Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones, I had to do the sequel, The Year of the Griffin. I like this one better, but it's strange. The book is set in a university, albeit a magical one, with lead characters who seem in the 17 - 20 age range, and yet the target audience seems much younger, maybe 11 - 14. Some adult-ish things happen, but they are described very simply. For example, some foreign griffins show up. They are crude and rather bestial, and they make lead character griffin Elda (who first showed up in Derkholm) feel weirdly like lying down and giving in ... to sex, clearly, from my much older viewpoint. And I'm not plucking this from nowhere: Elda acts protective toward one of her classmates, hiding him under her wings, and the strange griffins mock her, saying she's clearly ready to be a mother. But would the young pre-teens and teens glom onto what's going on here? I'm not sure.

Now I'm doing a Saga re-read Because Reasons. This is the first time since I started the series 3 years or so ago that I have done a re-read. Holy mackerel, the deaths and the angst.

(For those who don't know this work: Saga is a science fantasy comics series by Brian Vaughan (author) and Fiona Staples (artist). It's about war, and families, and what happens when the two come together. The leads are Alana and Marko, soldiers from the opposite sides of a very long-term war, who hook up, marry, and have a baby. And now the entire universe is pursuing them from planet to planet. It's very violent, sexually explicit, and has some lovely things to say about families, of all sorts.)

I need to make some Saga icons. Also, this series is becoming popular enough that there are Funko Pop! figurines of the most popular characters, including Marko, Alana (either with baby Hazel or a gun), The Will, Lying Cat, and Izabel. I love Izabel in the series, but I don't care for her Funko figurine. There are also some more realistic action-figure-type figurines available of the first four. I also saw a plush Lying Cat, but it was just awful.

I took a brief tour through TVTropes' article on Saga and found the following wonderful quote from the author, ca. 2012 when it was just starting: "This is an original fantasy book with no superheroes, two non-white leads and an opening chapter featuring graphic robot sex. I thought we might be cancelled by our third issue."

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

Missed another week ... mainly, I was off-kilter because we had a snow day, so I teleworked, which is not usual for me. And I forgot about book blogging.

I read Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, which seems likely to end up on the Hugo Award short list for novels. It's a very-locked-door mystery, given that it's set on a slow-boat space ship many years from both its launch point and destination. The care of the ship and its popsicle people passengers is in the hands of some clones: as they die off, they will be replaced by clones of themselves, and thus there will be continuity of care, because each clone supposedly *is* the same person, up to the point when the last "recording" of their brain was taken. This is not really a new idea— Cherryh's Voyager in Night comes to mind, for example—and I don't like it because it's not actually a continuum of consciousness, although Lafferty (or hir characters, anyway) seems to think it is.

At the beginning, it's a good thing I was intrigued with the mystery and the setting, because otherwise, I got a powerful case of the Eight Deadly Words ("I don't care what happens to these people"). Later on, as we learn more about them, I cared a bit more, but wow, are these boring, simplistic people at first. Even the first few background flashbacks didn't help. None of them seem to have much in the way of family or friends, for one thing. Anyway, as Dark Secrets were revealed, the characters and their situations became more intriguing, and Lafferty presents a variety of interesting scenarios regarding the issues of clones in a society. And I'm guessing that was really the point of the book anyway.

If you've read it, were you as annoyed as I am by the handwaving regarding the garden and what happens to it when the gravity fails?

Also, people worried about blood yuck should give this a pass. The opening scene is covered with it.

I restarted and this time finished T.J. Kingfisher's The Seventh Bride, which I had dropped after the first few pages for some reason (maybe when I got sick?). I enjoyed it quite a bit, although some of it didn't make a lot of sense if I stopped and thought about it: the bizarre coming-apart thing that happens to the sorcerer's castle from time to time, for example. I found myself wondering whether Kingfisher (a/k/a Ursula Vernon, author and artist of Digger and many other works) had a dream that inspired these scenes. Anyway, if you enjoy seeing classic fairytale tropes upended and women characters working together, you should enjoy this. Note that there is some grisly body horror stuff involving both animals and humans.

I read another volume of the "Rivers of London" comics: Night Witch. I'm still liking these, slight as they might be. I think part of it is that we spend less time in Peter's laddie-boy horndog head (although I don't mind that as much as some do). It's not just that he is a lusty young man: it's also that it takes some time to read and comprehend his descriptions of complex scenes, and in the comics, you just turn the page, and voila, there's the scene, all complete. I've just started the next volume, Black Mould. I really need to make some icons from Beverly's and Sahra's images in these, and maybe even DS Stephanopoulos as well. I'm sad that we haven't seen Lady Ty or Abigail yet, although we did have Nicky in an extra at the end of at Night Witch

Finally, I've started a re-read of Diana Wynne Jones' Dark Lord of Derkholm, and although the story and some of the characters (mainly the griffins) are keeping me going, I'm remembering why I don't like this one as much as most of DWJ's canon. Most of the plot hinges on a very dysfunctional marriage and the almost complete lack of communication between the partners. There's a reason for it, and DWJ lets us know that she does not entirely approve, but still! I suppose as a young teen I would have focused on the way that having the parents out of commission allows Dirk's very large family of children (human and not) show their ingenuity and grit. However, because it was published in 1998, when I was already the mother of a six-year-old, I can't quite put my married-partner/mother concerns out of the way, and it's a rather horrid book from that point of view.

I'm also vaguely uneasy with some of Dirk's biological ingenuity, but mad scientists have been creating creatures for millennia, so I suppose it's nice to see a basically benign practitioner of this particular magical art.

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

My, it's been a while since I've done this.

Last week and the first of this were spent having the flu, followed by bronchitis. This would have seemed a great opportunity to read, but I was too miserable. I read fanfiction and magazines and that's about it. The new manga series I meant to start (bought the first few volumes of each at Katsucon) remain untouched.

I did do a bit of manga series catchup:

Natsume's Book of Friends vol. 21 remains Natsume-ish: poignant little stories with gentle humor. There is one chapter with a young Natori/young Matoba flashback that is likely responsible for the lashings of Matobe/Natori slash and pre-slash fanfic I've been seeing. Matoba is the kind of dark, perhaps evil character that many fangirls love to love (like Ukoku in Saiyuki, yuck), but I'm not one of them, so the mangaka is going to need to give me more reason to like Matoba.

Behind the Scenes!! Vol. 5 explores high school crushes with a keen eye and much tenderness. We usually see Goda through Ranmaru's eyes as a charismatic and even brilliant leader, but at the end of the day, he's just as much of a geek perfectionist as rest of the Art Squad. It's unsurprising that he's not terrible perceptive about the nature of Ruka's reactions to him lately, nor that he's awkward in responding to her when he finally gets a clue. Mangaka Bisco Hatori (Ouran High School Host Club) is so sensitive in portraying these situations that I really wish se would cover even more groups of geeky teens. Still, I guess one series at a time, done well, is all I can reasonably demand.

Also, Goda's superpowered multifunction watch invention is all kinds of hilarious, especially to a former theater crew geek like me.

BTW, does anyone know the proper genre category for this manga? I would guess shoujo, like its elder sibling Ouran HSHC, but I can't find any such info.

And I remembered that my bro-in-law gave me (at my request) for Xmas the first of the "Rivers of London" comics volumes, Rivers of London: Body Work. The depictions of the characters aren't bad (although Nightingale really doesn't look like my idea of him), and the main story (about a strange sort of haunting involving an automobile junk yard and chop shop) was decent. Not enough Beverly, IMO (but Sahra Guleed does play a large role). But I really enjoyed the little one-shot side scenes at the end, There's one involving Molly, Toby, and an old car that never would have worked from Peter's POV, but as a comic, it's just delightful.

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

I finished the third book of Genevieve Cogman's Invisible Library series, The Burning Page. My impression is that she always intended for this to be a trilogy and for this point to be reached, and that much of the two earlier books was specifically pointed toward the climax of this volume, with its massive and well-executed climactic set piece.

Given this, I must confess I'm a little bemused by the news that a fourth volume is due out in January. I'll have to read it and see where she's going at this point

I have to give Cogman a lot of credit for relentlessly ignoring romance/sexuality as a plot element here. Many significant relationships are depicted, and none of them hinge on romantic love (although there's one that involves a large portion of infatuation).

Next, for reasons not entirely clear to me, I sought out the sequel to one of my long-time favorite mysteries, Peter Dickinson's King and Joker. I mentioned a few weeks ago that a re-read of the older book had left me flat, and my only memories of the sequel are that (1) when I discovered its existence, I was completely disoriented, because I'd often daydreamed that such a thing had been written and was shocked to find out that it was so, and (2) that the mystery had turned on a huge act of betrayal. Betrayal is in many ways a squick of mine, so I'm not sure why I wanted to re-read Skeleton-in-Waiting.

On this read, I was more interested in most of the story than I recalled being the first time around; perhaps my disenchantment with the original book made the sequel seem less unworthy. On the other hand, I recalled the identity of the betrayer (although not the details of the entire plot) the minute that character showed up early in the book. Not the best Dickinson, but not the worst, either. One thing I noticed: he had large blocks of dialog with no anchoring physical details to break them up. This is something I've done before myself, and I've been told it's not a Good Thing. Indeed, I found myself losing track of the identity of the two speakers in some of those passages. It was odd to observe it in a work by someone I consider a very good craftsman.

Now I'm reading a non-fiction book (wow, lately I've been reading a lot of these, for me), Rites and Symbols of Initiation by Mircea Eliade. It's research, actually, but fairly interesting.

Not sure what I'll read next. I've bought a few things cheap on Kindle special recently, and I should actually do something about them. I'd been hearing good things about Linda Nagata, for example, so I bought The Last Good Man when it was super-cheap.

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

So I have finished not only The Invisible Library but also its sequel, The Masked City. At this point I am enjoying the series enough to continue. And yet, and yet ... I keep feeling that author Genevieve Cogman is not making as good use of her elements as might be. There are bits and pieces here that remind me of many other fantasy works, ranging from Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" comics series through Diana Wynne Jones' Multiverse books (both Magids and Chrestomanci) to Jim C. Hines' "Magic Ex Libris" book series, and as I mentioned last week, the tone and settings remind me somewhat of Martha Wells' "Fall of Ile Rien" series. That's not meant to be a negative: I feel pleased rather than otherwise every time I spot a resemblance.

Still ... we have a series set mostly in a parallel Europe (or rather, a series of parallel Europes), we have a recurring minor character from India, we have dragons that are mostly based on Chinese legend ... but I don't have a feeling that somewhere across the ocean are the Americas, that there is Africa off to the south, that east Asia includes also Japan and Indonesia. The Fae are mostly the British Isles Fae: we don't even seem to have any of the European mythological peoples. The settings we see are fairly well drawn, but I don't have a feeling that anything lies beyond them. I'm not sure what Cogman could have done about this, but it's a lack I felt.

I will say that the series does turn out to have a bit of wit I'd been missing when I wrote last week; still, Irene is not as amusing a viewpoint character as (say) Martha Wells' Tremaine Valiarde. I think part of it is that Irene takes herself more seriously.

I realize that I never wrote about the new-to-me manga series I'd started. Golden Kamuy is a seinen (young men's) series about a whole heap o' gold that's hidden somewhere and the people who are trying to find it. It's set in the early 20th century, right after the Russo-Japanese War, and the two main characters are Saichi Sugimoto, known as "Immortal" Sugimoto, a former Japanese soldier with remarkable powers of recovery, and a petite young Ainu girl named Asirpa who is a superlative hunter and tracker. Weirdly, the series also has a dash of cooking manga: Asirpa's cooking is described with the same enthusiastic reverence shown toward traditional Japanese cuisine in the famous food manga Oishinbo. The rest of the series reminds me of Blade of the Immortal more than anything else, although the artwork is not quite as gorgeous as that (it's still well-drawn, though).

Complex Age is about a cosplay enthusiast, Nagisa Kataura, who is starting to have second thoughts about her hobby. She's 26, older than most of the other cosplayers she knows, and she is keeping her hobby a secret from her co-workers at the office and even to some extent from her parents, with whom she lives. The second volume is mostly taken up with a possible cautionary tale about her stern supervisor at work, who also turns out to be a cosplayer. When people at the office find some pictures online of the supervisor in revealing costumes, the disapproving gossip and sidelong looks get to the supervisor, and she quits. I have to say that this really hit home for me: mainstream folks can still indeed be obtuse and unkind about fannish pastimes. I find myself rather worried with where the series might be going with Nagisa. Note that this is also a seinen series (this is something that confused the hell out of me when I first encountered the idea, with the girls' kendo team series Bamboo Blade), so there are a certain number of panty shots etc. — although the series is self-aware enough that this very subject becomes a plot point in the first volume (someone takes an up-skirt photo of Nagisa when she's in costume).

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

So, yeah I haven't done this for several weeks. Let's see how much I can get through here... .

Finished The Undoing Project. In the end, it was a biography of a collaboration, and the ending was rather sad: as one half of the partnership (Amos Tversky) became more famous and was offered more opportunities, the other half (Daniel Kahneman) realized that his collaborator was to some extent stifling him, not because Tversky didn't want Kahneman to have success, but because he wanted his partner to always be there when he himself needed a sounding board. In the end, Tversky received a MacArthur Genius Grant and other honors, then died too young of cancer. Kahneman went on to win the Nobel in Economics, which he could not share with his former collaborator because the Nobel is only awarded to the living. The subject matter (basically, what goes into human decision-making) interested me enough that I have bought (on deep markdown) a book by one of their more casual collaborators, Richard Thaler, and have added Kahneman's award-winning popular book Thinking, Fast and Slow to my wishlist.

For something completely different, I turned to Jackalope Wives, a collection of shorter fiction by Ursula Vernon. The works include not only the award-winning title story, which I had not read, but The Tomato Thief, which I had, and which won the Hugo in August for best novelette. Vernon is a great writer with a natural yet elegant voice and a wicked sense of humor, and I enjoyed the book.

I then read Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Gypsy Game, a sequel to her The Egypt Game. Egypt was important to my childhood, but as an adult, I'm much more conscious of concepts such as cultural appropriation. For this reason, I had put off reading this sequel. Actually, Snyder does take a shot at dispelling some of the more harmful myths about the Rom, and I'm not sad I read the book. I may not ever re-read it, though: it was kind of slight.

Next up was Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Witch, which was available as a Kindle deal a few weeks ago. The deal did its work as a loss leader, because at the end, I discovered that a sequel, Akata Warrior, had just come out, and I bought it at the full price. Books are my kryptonite. The two volumes concern the adventures and growth of a young "akata" girl, Sunny, who is an albino and gets almost as much grief from her Nigerian classmates because of that as she does for being born and partially raised in the United States ("akata" means an African American and is not a flattering term). Sunny discovers that she is a "Leopard person," which is one who can use magic. She becomes part of a small team with a shared destiny involving the destruction of a great evil. The books make an interesting compare-and-contrast to the Harry Potter series, and the Nigerian setting was completely new to me. I enjoyed both books.

Currently, I'm reading The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. It's reminding me of Martha Wells' Ile Rien books in setting and tone, although Cogman doesn't seem to have as much of a sense of humor as Wells does. There are several sequels, so I am hoping I end up liking this one.

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

A digression. When I was a little cho, I loved books with main characters like Dido Twite in Joan Aiken's Wolves series and Goth in James Schmitz' The Witches of Karres: wiry, adventurous girls who could almost be mistaken for boys. I knew I would never be any of those girls, because I was chunky and unathletic and bookish and shy and near-sighted.

Last night I finished Provenance by Ann Leckie. People who wanted more hardcore space opera (and yes, I think it's OK to call it that) like the Ancillary trilogy have been grumpily posting their displeasure with the book around the Intarwebs. Because although Provenance is set in the same universe, and people in the story are talking about the events that occurred in that series, the star of Provenance is not an unstoppable corpse soldier turned engine of vengeance, like Breq. The protagonist is, instead, a chunky, self-deprecating, messy, naive young woman named Ingray Aughskold. And whether you enjoy Provenance, I suspect, will have a lot to do with whether you sympathize with Ingray or think she's a fool.

Ingray has Mommy issues. Mom is a powerful politician who adopted three children, intending to eventually make the most suitable one her heir. This is not an uncommon practice on the world of Hwae. One child made herself scarce as soon as she could legally do so, leaving Ingray to complete with their confident and obnoxious brother Danach. Both Ingray and Danach are certain that Danach will be the heir; nevertheless, Ingray would like to secure some of their mother's regard for herself. So she invests all her own money in a scheme that starts with breaking a famous thief out of the smarmily named prison world Compassionate Removal and goes on from there. As [personal profile] james_davis_nicoll puts it, it is "a very bold scheme, a scheme so well planned that it does not go off the rails until shortly before the book begins."

If the book sounds like a caper novel, that is indeed one part of what it is. It is also a coming-of-age story, a story that addresses the idea of symbols and what part they play in our personal and national stories, a novel that explores families and what parents can do to children, and a science fiction story full of aliens and robots and stolen starships. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Next, I've started a non-fiction book that is not much like anything I would have picked on my own, but a book club has started at work, and it involves some colleagues that I should get to know better, so. It's called The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds. The blurb describes it as "How a Nobel Prize–winning theory of the mind altered our perception of reality." I'm about 5% of the way into it, and so far author Michael Lewis has been discussing the idea of using statistics to help make better choices in selecting athletes for pro sports teams. I suppose this is a topic of great interest to many, but not to me, so I hope the book gets into something else quickly.

I also have waiting for me the first volumes of two new-to-me manga series, Golden Kamuy and Complex Age, and also the first collected volume of the comic The Wicked and the Divine.

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

Driveby, b/c I suck tonight. I have been killing time on Tumblr while a messy kitchen awaits me.

Finished DWJ's Time of the Ghost. Limp ending: endings are DWJ's chief weakness. (That is part of why the ending of The Homeward Bounders is such a shock: she nailed that one.)

Read Seanan McGuire's Down Among the Sticks and Bones. She seems to be getting her Catherynne Valente on in this one: it's told in a slightly distant myth/fairytale voice. It's the backstory for two of the characters from Every Heart a Doorway: Jack and Jill, a pair of twins who ended up in a dark fantasy world. Jill's half of the story seems to me much weaker and less interesting than Jack's, and I think the novella is the poorer for that.

Then I re-read Peter Dickinson's mystery King and Joker, which used to be a bulletproof comfort read for me. And sadly, it didn't really work for me this time. I'm not sure what's up. :-(

ETA: Next up will likely be Ann Leckie's Provenance. I'm more in the mood for a comfort read, but given how flat the last one fell, I don't want to try one.

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

*Tears myself away from the Yuletide tagset*

*Ahem*

When last we left our intrepid reader, she was about to finish Max Gladstone's Ruin of Angels. Holy crap, was that an enjoyable read! Violent as all get out, scary sometimes (Kai, survivor of the Penitents on Kavekana, is squicked out when the antagonist describes her culture's positive-reinforcement equivalent ... and I don't blame Kai one bit), full of action, and a very-much-earned happy ending.

Next up was Rebel, third volume of Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith's Changes series. We're back in the post-apocalypse Wild West town of Las Anclas, where teenagers have serious responsibilities (actual and critical jobs, for example) and yet remain kids, with raging hormones and still-developing communications and judgment skills. Ross, the titular "stranger" of the first book, starts remembering more of his past—and part of it comes to join him. Mia comes to terms with some parts of her relationship with Ross and Jennie that had been worrying her. Felicite's pampered life falls apart a little further (and she remains surprisingly three-dimensional and sympathetic). Kerry becomes more and more a part of the community (and continues to be haunted by the possibility that her terrifying father may yet show up at the town gates). This installment has no huge crisis with a correspondingly huge climax but is instead a series of satisfying mini-arcs.

I was going to read Seanan McGuire's Down Among the Sticks and Bones next, but decided instead to take a break from new plotlines with an old favorite, Diana Wynne Jones' The Time of the Ghost. I'm just at the point where the ghost has learned for sure which Melford sister she was in life; now the plan to save her, with the support of her three sisters and their two friends, is being set into motion. Mmm good!

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

It seems like I must have read more than I am remembering ... .

Anyway, I finished The Brightest Fell, by Seanan McGuire (October Daye #11), which ends pretty much on a cliffhanger. The Magic McGuffin puts Toby (mostly) back together again, but two characters she cares about very much are seriously traumatized and a slippery opponent has disappeared. Thus it goes when you are the Knight of Lost Words. My sister has suggested that I introduce my 15-year-old niece to these, and I might as well. Certainly they've kept me going for a good long while now.

I'm about three-quarters of the way through Max Gladstone's The Ruin of Angels (his new Craft novel), and I'm enjoying it immensely, despite the fact that the editor seems to have fallen down on the job. Several times, I've had to re-read sentences two or three times to make sense out of them. It's not that Gladstone blew it in any of these cases, according to the rules of grammar, but he wasn't terribly clear, and given that this is a fast-paced thriller, really, the pacing went off. Also, at one point, a character introduced as Marian becomes Miriam for a sentence, and then returns to her original name. Finally, did you know that the past tense of "sweat" (as in, what you do on a hot day, especially if you run) is also "sweat"? I, in fact, did not know that. But Gladstone does, and there's a lot of sweating going on, so I kept tripping over this.

Despite my confusion on these mechanical points, this is an awesome read. There's an extended and thrilling caper involving a Very Cool Train (making me wonder whether Gladstone has been reading Stand Still Stay Silent: see Dalahästen), and about a third of the way in, it occurred to me that all the leads, all the POV characters, and the most significant antagonist are all female, and several of them are also queer.

And Kai and Izza are back, as is Tara Abernathy. \o/

If I remember what I read between Fell and Ruin, I'll let you know.

February 2019

S M T W T F S
     12
3 456 78 9
1011 12 13141516
171819 20212223
2425262728  

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Feb. 22nd, 2019 10:15 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios