maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-07-04 09:15 pm
Entry tags:

Reading catchup

The dream-quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson. There was so much here to love! An older woman, once adventurer now retired to school mistress of a girls’ college, must take up her walking boots again to track down and bring back a student who’s gone off with a man from the waking world… The language is luscious and meditative and a pleasure to read but … nothing happens. I stopped at 50%, because all she’d done was journey from uncomplicated point to uncomplicated point. She gains a cat, which is charming, but while the setup is wonderful, it wasn’t enough to keep me going longer than half way through. I want to want to go back and finish it, but…

Penric and the shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold. Continuing tales of Penrice and his demon Desdemona. This was a lovely, if non-gripping read. The point of view switched helped keep me engaged, and there’s a wry humour and a warmth in both Penric’s thoughts and Bujold’s voice that’s a pleasure to read. I enjoyed spending time with them, and while neither the plot nor the set up hooked me as such, I finished it.

The ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle. This was the first one I read, so it’s fading slightly. I remember being wrenched by [character’s] murder, but the writing came across as slightly more wooden than I wanted, and I think I disliked the point of view shift, and particularly because it meant I was being asked to watch a previously liked main character go evil. Possibly I’m missing something.

Every heart’s a doorway by Seanne McGuire.
(About a third of the way in?) God. This is achingly good so far. A tiny bit clunky in itchingly-easy-to-fix ways, but otherwise a wonderful take down of portal fantasies, and what it feels like to go home, and what sort of world you’re in and what you had to do to survive. I give points for the first explicitly stated asexual character I’ve ever read, and a relatively matter-of-factly handled trans character, although there were levels of brow-beating/sexualities 101 that made me wince a little. It’s such a great set up, and there’s so many interesting, potentially dark, complex places (like all those portals!) McGuire could take the plot and … And then…WHAT.

(Now finished)
Plot gets pasted in, painfully, in the form of a murder mystery that includes the headmistress telling everyone to keep the murders of students hush-hush, and students doing their own autopsy and dissolving one of the bodies in acid to hide the murders from the police in case the authorities shut down the school and I just… This story feels like Binti from a while back - everyone loved it, and I. Just… What? The idea was so great! The idea was ripe with possibilities! And it did something as mundane (I use that word with many meanings) as a poorly thought out murder-mystery (seriously, a thorough search of that house should have had that wrapped up within an afternoon, never mind in time for a second murder). Maybe the sequel will do something better, but I am so wary.

A taste of honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
This is a ‘plunge straight into unkown fantasy world, paddle to keep up’ style of worldbuilding, and I drifted along, not really keeping track of the finer details, trusting the author would keep me in the loop about the very imprtant things, and enjoying watching two men flirt and then fall into bed and love. It reminded me of this piece. I wasn’t paying much attention to the world, frankly, and then it starts getting pointed out how homophobic this world is. I’m generally not one to tap out of stories for that -- I know several people who can’t stand homophobia in their escapeism, essentially -- but then there’s a passing, glancing reference to how this world’s government murders its queers, and the gruesome, agonising method, and Nope, I’m Out. I didn’t want that image in my head and now it’s There, and everything’s all abruptly, viscerally too much; I no longer wanted to try and put the effort in to understanding what was going on with this world. :/

So back to The dream-quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson, which continued to be the gentle adventure of an older woman, with more depth that made her feel like an old(er) woman -- some of those lines about past relationships and falling into bed with men made my chest ache for her, it was so lovely and real-feeling. Even when things take a turn for Holy Shit, Things Happening Now, lives in peril in grisly ways (shades of The stars are legion by Kameron Hurley, even), i was here for it, and with only a few pages to go I’m delighted by where Clarie Jurat has ended up. I wish the differences between the waking and dreaming world had been drawn a little earlier, but it’s still Good. [Having now finished the last few pages] I just about shouted with fierce delight at the denouement, and am left in the deeply satisfying position where there could be more story to tell, but I don't need to read it to love, love the closing scene. Also the author's notes point out this is her attempt to see her beloved-as-a-child Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath through adult (and female) eyes, which, yes good, full marks. Go to the top of the class/my voting ballot.

Up next: The Cenus-taker by China Miéville maybe. I keep lightly bouncing off it, and I also have the Dirk Gently novels being very very tempting. We’ll see.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-05-20 07:20 pm
Entry tags:

Interim Hugo reading post

Ninefox gambit by Yoo Ha Lee. This was such an odd reading experience. I wouldn't have picked it up had it not been for the Hugos, and I'm glad I read it, But! It felt like there was an amazing book under this layer of language that I wasn't literate in At All. So I had the gist of what was going on, and tantalising hints of what the world building must be under all of that, but none of the deep understanding. For all that I rail against clunky exposition and over explaining, I really could have used some here. The segments where we briefly follow soldiers on the ground, or an assassin going about their work, were legit pleasures of characterisation and storytelling and tension, but the overall work? *flails* I have no idea how to rank this one.

Up next:
Probably The obelisk gate frankly because it's only a hundred page sample, and I can knock that out relatively quickly.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-05-08 09:49 pm
Entry tags:

Reading meme, which is basically just "The Hugos" for a while

Have finished:
Death’s End by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu [sample chapter/s]. I read this a little while ago, so it’s blurring a bit. It’s the third in a series that naturally requires the first two books, by that read. The treatment of a voluntary euthanasia also left a bad taste in my mouth for indefinable reasons, so I’ll leave it at the sample chapter.

The city born great by N. K. Jeminsin: Huh. Not a bad read, but it only grabbed me for one elecrtifying paragraph 2/3rds of the way in and then it let go again. Well written and solid, but not outstanding on first read, or as the first short story of the lot.

“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong: holy hell. This was gripping and transfixing, but was sort of like watching a battle on a tightrope: I couldn’t look away, but I also wanted somewhere stable to stand. I’m super into time loop/reiterations but I wanted a touch more grounding. Top of the list so far for language alone, though.

“Our talons can crush galaxies” by Bo Bolander: fuck, I love her langauge so much. This gets a remarkable amount across for something so short, and does it well.

Paper girls, vol. 1 a group of girls in 1988 on their paper run ride into... welp. I wavered on this early on, and then I realised it was because boys get this story all the time, and this was Stranger Things with girls, and in fact was in many ways more original than Strangers Things and fuck yeah, I’m here for this and legit want to read more. The artwork didn’t do much for me, but the story was more than enough to keep me transfixed to the page. These girls are flawed and complicated and fundamentally just kids and <3. It's also interesting and original enough that I actively want to go find Vol. 2.

Black Panther: A nation under our feet by written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze.
This felt more like a part 3 that had to suddenly cater for an influx of new readers, rather than an actual start of a new series. It did it as best it could, but this new reader was still left confused and adrift for a good chunk of it. There were many things to love: Fierce elderly black matriarchs! Queer black female fighters! I didn’t care that I couldn’t tell whose side the fighters were on! Things pulled together in the last few parts (they were on the ... bad guys’ side? Maybe?), but I’m left hesitating about how to rank the volume as a whole. It has made me interested enough in Black Panther and Wakanda to make me want to go and pick up the first volume of the previous series, so that’s something.

Monstress by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda.
God. Okay, *this* is how you introduce a new world. They get all the advantages over Black Panther because they know everyone’s coming cold to Monstress, but still, this was skilled weaving of story, worldbuilding, and action in positively lush artwork. The first chapter was also viscerally, brutally violent (prisoners being tortured, characters being mutilated for cannibalism-type purposes) and so claustrophobically well done that I was left feeling sort of nauseated even though it’s still images. I’d seriously considered putting it down, but the violence eases and makes way for the characters and the rest of the world. There are women everywhere! Guards, antagonists, protagonists. It’s fascinating: magic and war and multiple factions and species within both sides. It really does feel like something I’ve never read before, and I’m interested to pick up the next volume.

Ms Marvel vol 5: Super famous by written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa.
I nearly didn’t pick this up - I bought it in support of the actual diverse side of Marvel, but I hadn’t really clicked with the comic a few years back; the comic already had a Hugo (Yay!), it was Volume 5 of a bunch I hadn’t read, blah blah blah. I am SO GLAD I picked this up. The bumpy backstory has made way for a character and narrative that in this volume hits the ground running and effortlessly powers through. There’s unremarked diversity all over the place (unremarked lesbian parents, a guy being raised by his grandparents, and of particular note: a fat girl gets a) drawn, b) drawn respectfully, and gets to be a love interest, and be funny and sharp, and utterly unashamed about the fact that she eats food and enjoys it <3 <3 <3). It’s also warm and funny and it’s made me laugh out loud on the train and want to hug the book to my chest. Seriously, this is so wonderfully feel-good and tackles things like work/life balance and figuring out what you want and hero-dom, and - I can’t believe I need to say it, but HYDRA are still the baddies! It’s going to be a *tough* call between this, Monstress, and Paper girls, Jesus.

(Side note: Vision is the last Hugo graphic novel nomination, but I’d already racked up a rather large comics book bill, and I’m sideeyeing the premise in ways I can’t immediately put my finger on. I’ll read it if it’s in the Hugo packet. Also Saga 6, which I have bought, but with limited reading time, and they’ve already won a Hugo, and there’s a bunch of volumes to catch up on... etc etc another one for the packet)

Currently reading:
Ninefox gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. Because it was cheap on Amazon, honestly, and right there when I opened up the app (curse easy purchase!). And the sample was good. And then I’m reading along and in the next few pages there’s a caual nbd mention of the main character “the last time she’d been playing this particular game had been against the pretty female communications technician she was dating, Shuos Alaia...” \o/. Feeling v good about my $4-or-so purchase :D

Up next:
Ninefox is going to take me a while, but then I'll jump to the short stories to knock those out.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-04-25 10:23 pm
Entry tags:

Wednesday reading meme.../ Hugo reading

Have read:
A closed and common orbit by Becky Chambers. Oh my god, this was a delight on so many levels. Long way was like the moon shot that didn’t quite make it, but the potential was So Close, and here she’s tightened her focus, taken the shot and freaking nailed it. I almost wish the blurb had been a paragraph shorter, and am glad I didn’t read it too closely as it was, because drawing the dots betweeJane and Sidra was this quiet little satisfying click all of its own.

The characterisation and the thinking about what it would be like to be an AI dropped into a body was so good -- Sidra wanting to stand in the corner on a table to mimic a security camera angle, for example. And wanting to be a ship again but also wanting to be a part of people’s worlds, and ugh, feels. The external tension of Jane’s survival is also wonderful and Owl <3 <3. I give particular brownie points for the narrative sounding like a 10/14/18 year olds as she ages. It was an interesting, curious thing to me that Chambers close to make the meat/threat animals so explicitly feral dogs when she could have created a different species of threat entirely. Content note for killing and eating of dogs, if that’s something you’d rather not read. But it’s so well worth reading. Strongly rec. Although I suspect the rest of the novel category is going to be just as strong, so voting this year is going to be hard.

Hugo sampling:
Context: I’m a slow reader, comparatively, so the novel category is the biggest ask of my time (I’m going to carefully turn aside from the new series category!) so I read the amazon samples of the books to make a judgement call on time vs payoff etc etc, and all these impressions are of the first chapter/s of each accordingly.

All the birds in the sky by Charlie Jane Anders. I was sideeyeing the voice of the bird So Hard, and not convinced by the narrative voice, either, and then I got totally sucked in by the invention of the wristwatch that timetravels ... two seconds forwards. That invention, and specfically how it’s handled, definitely got my interest enough to want to pick it up properly.

Ninefox gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. I... I had no idea what was going on for 80% of this. And yet, I read all of it, and ... and. Complicated thoughts. Had it been a year or two ago I would have put it down much earlier as a Puppy pick -- Very Srs Military Bizness. And yet it was Very Compelling very srs military bizness, even though reading it made me feel utterly non-fluent in whatever fantasy/sci-fi ness was going down here. A single kudos for a female protagonist (although having now consumed a steady diet of Kameron Hurley, one lone special female character just Doesn’t Cut It, there has to be women integrated throughout now for me to trust that. That said, it was a legit brave choice to have that dense a world building plus battle without explaination, AND to pull it off that compellingly. It gives me hope for the rest of the book. Will pick it up.

The Obelisk gate by N. K. Jemisin. For some reason I wanted to not like this, and not get sucked back into this world. I’m not even sure why now (I think there was a review that talked about how grim and bleak it was), but I’m pulled back in regardless. Will pick it up.

Currently reading: Am not so much in between books right now as in between sample chapters, but still....

Up next: Sample chapters of:

Death’s end by Cixin Liu. Final/3rd book in a series that I haven’t read is going to be a tall order to pull me in, but I’m curious given the first was 2015’s Hugo novel winner. Anyone able to tell me if knowing the first two is Essential or not?

Too like the lightning by Ada Palmer. It’s not available on that I can see (*curses*), so getting the sample chapters to my phone is slightly more cumbersome. But the first few chapters are also up on here so, score!

After these two I’ll probably jump straight to the novelettes (see here for an excellent compilation of Where to Find the 2017 Hugo Finalists For Free Online so I can start Finishing Things and have categories ticked off before the actual packet lands. So goes the theory!
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-04-20 04:34 pm
Entry tags:

Wednesday reading meme.../ Hugo reading

Have finished:
The geek feminist revolution by Kameron Hurley. Continued to be excellent. I’m so glad this made the Hugo finalists. I wanted a reference list/publication dates for the essays because there’s such a gulf in my head between pre-45th president and now (her article about the Affordable Care Act and how it saved her life is particularly gutting), that I wanted a context for how soon the Terrible Things were looming when she wrote various things. But this is still excellent. Going to vote it highly, I say not having cracked Carrie Fisher’s book yet.

The stars are legion by Kameron Hurley. The world building is fascinating (all-women populations on organic spaceships the size of worlds) and I want to know All The Details of this brutal, amazing creation. But the main character has amnesia (which is a trope that sometimes works for me, often doesn’t), and the other characters didn’t give me the details I craved. I’m hoping she might put out short stories after the fact, and would 100% join her Patreon to read whatever she put out about it.

Currently reading:
A closed and common orbit by Becky Chambers. A few pages in, and super delightedly charmed. This has that wavering potential to be awful for me, or excellent: I’m so distressingly squicked by the ‘aliens [or in this case AIs in first-time human bodies] fumble through human interactions for the lols’ trope, and so delighted and comforted by ‘people help newly-landed whoever integrate kindly and well’. I trust Chambers so far, but am reading carefully.

Up next:
Not sure. Might fall back on my old strategy of reading the Amazon samples of the rest of the Hugo novel finalists and seeing what hooks me in.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-04-04 08:20 pm
Entry tags:

Reading meme

Have finished:
Amulet 6: Escape from Lucien. - this took a sharp turn to the mecha. I’m not averse to giant human-controlled robots, but I wasn’t expecting them in my previously-solidly-fantasy story. Once I adjusted, though, we were back on track with cute characters and a rollicking story.

The long way to a small angry planet by Becky Chambers. This is a first novel, and it shows in ways that I itch to tweak (emotional beats that I want to strengthen, two-ish too many characters to handle, a little overtly barrow-pushy) but these are really just the quibbles that stand out because the book otherwise has such heart, and such a solid core. The more I read and settled into it, the more I grew to like it. Talk of humanity and cultural differences and queer relationships and found family and comfort touch. Near the end, when something actually happens, I was riveted and worrying for this found family and grieving with them. The sequel looks like it’s also going to give me so many pleasing tropes to roll around in, and I burningly want to get my hands even though I’ve got more pressing things on my to-read list.

I hadn’t wanted to nominate quite so blindly for the Hugos (the sequel was eligible, as was I guess both of them as a series), so I’m holding my breath for the reveal in a few hours.

Currently reading:
The geek feminist revolution by Kameron Hurley. So I said I didn’t want to nominate blindly, which is true, but I nominated this collection of essays before I bought it. In my defence it wasn’t quite blindly: I continue to be blown away by We have always fought from some years back; the Amazon sample came out swinging, and it was endorsed by George R. R. Martin.

Now that I’m actually reading it, it is such a personal and brutally honest take on her life and her writing. It’s at once the comfort of the feminist women who have come before, and the uncomfortable knowledge that she’s there in front of you/me and explaining that there’s no one else to do this work: we must stand together. I have the urge to highlight passages and write !!! in the margins. *watches clock for the Hugo finalists*

Up next: (space cleared for interesting-looking Hugo works :D :D)
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-03-17 09:42 pm

Reading meme

Have finished:
Amulet volumes 3, 4, & 5, too sleepy to look up the proper titles: continues to be charming of character and gorgeous of art. Has "And then the fire nation attacked!" level of worldbuilding that, like The Last Airbender, then builds on it to say pleasing things about loyalty and character and power (and who gets that power and why and how). Volume five made me gasp a "wow" out loud, and then an "oh fuck" at the end. I'm really impressed with all of it.

DNF (did not start?): Ghost talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal. I'd been so delighted by her short fiction a while back, and had been stoked to read a book of hers, but when I read the Amazon sample, I was startled and sadened by how clunky and wooden it was. Maybe it's the difference between first and third person, but sadface!

Just finished a minute ago: I'd been planning to Much Hugo short fiction reading from Abigail Nussbaum's short fiction post, but I only read a few, and nomination deadline is hard approaching.

I did read Gracia by Susana Vallejo, translated by Lawrence Schimel) which I haven't nominated. It was really good! But I find the 'genuine no-hope' stories, even (or maybe especially) the quiet ones, where no more children are being born and things are just drifting to a stop a-la Children of men really unsettling. It's not the story's fault, and I give it kudos for its effectiveness, even but still. I hope others can love it like it deserves.

Brushwork by Aliya Whiteley. This I did nominate. One of the complaints I have about Old man's war by John Scalzi (which I adored, btw) was that it never felt like the POV character was actually old. In Brushwork, they are that old, and they're feeling it, and feeling the eyes of the young people who come to raid the compound the characters are living/being held in and I'm too tired for a porper review but I really liked it, for all that it needed a final edit.

Up next: Now that the first part of the Hugos are essentially done, I can curl up with other reads. I'm looking foward to starting The long way to a small angry planet by Becky Chambers which is on my bedside table right now even.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-03-07 10:23 pm

Reading meme, to hell with Wednesdays :D

Have finished:
The stonekeeeper and The stonekeeper’s curse (vol 1 &2 of Amulet) by Kazu Kibuishi: After the tragic death of their father, Emily and Navin move with their mother to the home of her deceased great-grandfather, but the strange house proves to be dangerous. This graphic novel series has regularly past across my desk in both jobs I’ve been at, but it looked kinda childish and I only picked it up because I was assessing suitability for something ... I was so mistaken. I really felt for both the mother and the kids, and loved the characterisation of all of them. The art is simple but also gorgeous, and the characters and the everything is just..straightforward and charming and I found myself grinning indulgently at the page, and laughing aloud more than once with charmed. It’s the “And then the fire nation attacked!” level of simple, but it’s also The Last Air-Bender’s level of teamwork and found family and charm. I’d esp rec this for people with low English skills, but generally rec it for anyone who wants a charming graphic novel read.

Zombies, run! by Naomi Alderman and Six to Start: I’d expected a fitness book with a veneer of zombies. What it turned out to be was how to stay sane and healthy in the zombie apocalypse. Now that I’ve read it once and adjusted my expectations, it’s an excellent, straight-faced, delightful ‘how to stay sane and healthy in the zombie apocalypse’: home fitness and strengthening exercises, staying sane while homebound, building communities where you can, living in close quarters with strangers, recipes using canned goods, and throughout a pervasive message of “even a little bit is something”, “even a little bit is still progress”. I give them a little kudos for mentioning people with chronic illnesses, too.

Currently reading: Now finished!: God’s war by Kameron Hurley. Twitter has been eating all my transit reading time (I need to sort some political lists or something), so finishing this has been slower than expected, but I’m still loving the world building and the characters and their fraught relationships. I am so there for 'women have taken over the culture because the men are dead/warring'. The ending was legit satisfying. It’s similar to Ancilary Justice in that now I understand how things unfolded I want to go back and re-read with my new-found worldbuilding understanding and ‘properly’ understand how it all fit together (or jump straight into the next in the series, either would work)... but with the Hugo nominations so close I want to get at least some short fiction done.

Up next: The power by Naomi Alderman. I want to read this. I’m not sure I’m 100% up for its brutality right now, but maybe if I organise a ‘breather book’ in between...

(Reading the sample on Amazon) I was ready to be peeved by the artifice of the “letters bookending the ‘manuscript’ that one wrote” (it’s not something I like that much etc) and then I realised that letter-writer ‘Naomi’ has only ever lived in a female-controlled world and it shows, and I started to get interested. And then I read the second of the ‘Bible’ quotes, from the Book of Eve ("She cuppeth the lightning in her hand. She commandeth it to strike.") and is it too much of a pun to say that I’m electrified?

25% in update: oh my god. I needed this so much. I’ve read 25% in less than two days. I know it’s all about to get uncomfortably brutal, but right now it’s young women tipping the balance of social power and one teenage girl having the voice of God says yes to me in her head and creating a whole new religion that we know is going to last. I stumbled over a reread someone’s doing on Tor of The handmaid’s tale and between that and the current global political situation just makes The power even more like a desperately needed soothing balm. It might all be able to go to hell, writing and/or plot wise, but right now I want a physical copy just so I’ve always ‘got’ one to hand.

ETA: DONE in about 48 hours. and I'm left flinching and flailing. It was just as brutal as i'd feared and also just as good and i don't know how to feel about any of it except I'm going to go add it to my Hugo nominations. That last line was a shout of wry laughter/gut punch all in one.

Up next: The next of the Stonekeeper graphic novels. I'm very in need of light(er) and sweeter right now.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-02-21 09:40 pm

Wednesday...ish book meme

Finished reading:
Disobedience by Naomi Alderman. Queer woman goes home to her Orthodox Jewish community after her Rabbi father dies. I nearly bailed, hard, at the 50% mark, actually; I couldn't see how it was going to end happily for any of the main characters, and for a bit there it looked like it was heading down the "town gossips get the facts/rumours entirely wrong" squicky trope. But it was short, and I had an externally imposed deadline of the library loan period, and that was enough to keep me going, and I'm so glad I did.

Somewhere in there it all smoothed out into being okay, and if not happy as such, then definitely characters being content with their (actively reaffirmed) life choices. And the ending was pointing towards new directions and people making changes -- not dramatic overthrowing regime changes, but the first steps in generational changes that means so much. Um, that was all very vague, but I ended up really really liking this one. It was all that plus a fascinating insight into a religion I know almost nothing about, too. I'd tentatively call it the Oranges are not the only fruit for Orthodox Jews, but it's been so long since I read said that I don't know how accurate that actually is. Would rec.

Currently reading:
God's war by Kameron Hurley. That was the best opening page EVER. Like, hello yes I am here for your body-brutal sci-fi pronoun-game scene setting, holy shit sign me up. There are so many brilliant deft little world building touches.

I'm currently in the throes of much deeper political/cultural scene-setting/exposition at page 100ish tho, so it's slightly a slog, but I'm expecting it to pick back up and also flag the important things as reminders later on.

Up next: God. No idea.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-02-02 08:43 pm
Entry tags:

Wednesday...ish book meme

Just finished:
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. Surprised by how much I'm interested in seeing Breq's next chapters, so that's very pleasing.

Currently reading:
Disobedience by Naomi Alderman. I'd only known of Alderman via her spearheading/head writing for Zombies, run! which I really enjoy. Once I heard she had several books out, I went hunting. It turns out that even if they're still in print, they seem rather hard to get hold of. When I joined the public libraries of WA's e-book service (which is super excellent btw, do rec), I impulsively suggested they buy the lot of them. Public Libraries just informed me they've bought two! Which is super exciting. And I very long aside. Whatever.

I'm 13.5% into Disobedience and it's so far pervaded by a wonderfully calm, composed voice that's immensely soothing even as it describes a long-ill man dying abruptly in a synagogue. It's describing the lives of several very Orthodox (or former Orthodox) Jews, which is not a religion I have any second or even third hand experience, never mind first, so it's fascinating to me, along with being immensely soothing and somewhere I'm keen to curl up with each time for a few pages. Not to everyone's tastes, I imagine, but deeply mine.

What's next:

Not at all sure. So many books. So many series (well, two). Watch this space?
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-01-26 10:27 pm

Wednesday...ish book meme

Better late than never, I figure, and it was edging towards never, so...

The one in a million boy by Monica Wood. This was a birthday present from my Granny: not a book I ever would have picked up on my own, but I'm so glad she gave it to me. It's a wonderful, engrossing read. A Scout boy who had been helping a 104 year old woman dies very suddenly. The story follows pre and post death: the old woman, the boy's mother, the boy's enstranged father, and it's... I ached for these people, and their stories, and how human and understandable they were, and how hard they were all trying. In the end, don't get happy endings as such, but they got the endings they chose, and it's all deeply, surprisngly satisfying. Would rec.

Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King. Finished at last! The last few hundred pages were amazingly gripping all over again. non-specific-spoilers )

Night school by Lee Child. I've read and adored many of Child's, but this one ... It's not bad, but by page 50 one of the [bad guy] characters has casually murdered a sex worker, and Reacher has beaten up four guys for no reason at all other than they got up in his face -- despite the fact that he's supposed to be being discreet. Both of which threw me for varying levels of loop. I kept reading, and finished it, but I spent most of it glad I'd bought it second hand. The baddie characters were in several instances described with vaguely racist tropes -- the Arab characters are constantly surrounded by flies in their home; the female messenger is from 'tribal areas' which is apparently shorthand for 'seen a lot of brutality'. :/ This is actually the third Reacher that I've sat back from and winced in some way, sadly. Maybe a break for a while.

Currently reading: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. Still somewhat of an intellectual read, although I was gripped for a while there in the lead up to the splitting of the Justice of Toren. And there are touches of absolutely horrifying, fascinating things such as the creation of ancillaries that I'm hoping I'd see delved into mroe in later books. Still enjoying it well enough, not entirely convinced I'll pick up the next two, but there's time yet to change my mind.

Up next: I stumbled over a copy of Flashforward in a second hand bookshop, which I hadn't even realised was a book, but I remembered the potential of the TV series and figured it was a great chance to see about a (supposedly, perhaps) finished coherent narrative about the whole thing.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2016-12-28 09:17 pm
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Wednesday reading meme

May the Wednesday reading meme resume! I stopped pretty hard during Yuletide -- I couldn’t talk about what I was reading because I was writing in that fandom, and any other books I picked up I’d get stuck in the “stop reading, you should be writing!” So I’d stop reading ... and then didn’t write. Oh, self. However, Yuletide is done for the year, and I’m feeling the reading itch again at last!

What I’ve finished:
Station eleven by Emily St John. Billed in several circles as a gentle post-apocalypse novel. Or one that’s set well into picking up the pieces. I read it long enough ago that the details are blurred, but I remember curling up in the world, and liking many of the present day characters. Would rec, I think.

Redacted until the 1st Jan: I know no one really actually cares, but I was revisiting for Yuletide, and the mods ask that we not reveal anything about what we wrote until author reveals on 1st Jan, so!

Also redacted: See above.

Currently reading:
The wolves of Calla by Stephen King: picking this back up post-Yuletide, and even longer than that -- I put it aside because I’d been reading nothing but The Dark Tower series for many weeks. This feels like an easy read compared to the below. Currently in a gore-filled bit that’s making me hesitant to read the final battle, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m reading it on tablet/phone, and the itch to read an ‘actual’ book is settling back in hard and deep.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. Several people had raved about it, it’s a Hugo beloved, the bookshop didn’t have The parable of the sower that I wanted, did have this on its rec shelves... etc. It’s a fascinating read, and had me hooked within the first two pages. It’s also sort of heavy going -- I’m not a native SF reader, and there’s a certain amount of prior learning that goes into SF reading that I have to redo each time I pick one up -- so it’s not comfort or fully emmersive reading yet, but I’m definitely persevering. I love what she’s doing with gender and humanity and point of view.

What’s up next:
Not sure. I have a shortlist (Anything by Naomi Alderman, The parable of the sower by Octavia Butler, etc. But I’m left reeling unexpectedly hard at Carrie Fisher’s death. I might see, once I’m done with the above, if I’m up for reading some of her works.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2016-09-21 10:18 pm

Wednesday reading meme

What I finished: with two days to spare, even! \o/ Wizard and glass Book 4 of the Dark Tower by Stephen King.

I have... such astoundingly Mixed Feelings about this book. *blinks dazedly* There are no explicit spoilers under the cut, but there are many “I’m glad I got to read it cold and not knowing” things. So take that as you will.

First, not even a little spoiler:
Competency kink I didn’t realise I had: people riding/guiding their horses using only their legs/without their hands. Holy shit, I am so there for that.

Wizard )

So I opened the sample pages of...

What I'm reading now: Wolves of the Calla with a lot of built up WTF, and the sample pages in the back of my book (basically up to Andy announcing the first coming of the wolves. sub-chapter 1 -- do we have a proper word for those numbered sections? -- of the prologue) Did Not Help. At All. It rang as misogynistic POV character we were supposed to follow along with, plus the misogyny itself, plus apparent ableism and emotional/physical abuse and Welp. I was not in a good mood after that, and fully prepared to drop the lot.

...then I went onto Amazon and read the much longer sample provided and went 'Oh. Oh, wow. Huh. That's...Yeah, okay, hooked back in again." I've bought the ebook, and have just remembered I should go charge my tablet more. I swear, I have never had a book series drag me around quite like this.
*whiplashed, still here*
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2016-09-07 10:56 pm

Wednesday reading meme

Finished reading: The waste lands by Stephen King. Within the fortnight, even! \o/ Annnd I'm falling for this series. I am embarrassingly susceptible to lone-ranger-competence, and not only is Roland the fastest draw in the west (tm) but in this book he's revealed as a skilled diplomat/people (...manipulator? negotiator...? that's up for interpretation, and I love it), and as we're settling into that deliciousness, Roland is watching a team member and knowing he's possibly got someone maybe not as skilled, but definitely someone as smart and sharp and nggggh.

I loved watching all three of them and the dog come together as a ka-tet, and I feel so hard for all the people who had to wait so many years for that cliffhanger to resolve in

what I'm reading now: Wizard and glass (Book 4). This was a fantastic score in the Guildford Book Exchange (this place has AMAZING stock, it's well, well worth the trip out there). Now that our characters are settled in (for the most part) it's time to start exploring wtf is going on in the world/s, and as of page 115 or so, I'm fascinated. I'm also aiming to get this read in a fortnight, although it's a good three hundred pages longer than book 3, so we'll see how that goes.

Up next: Book 5, almost definitely.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2016-08-24 10:12 pm
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Wednesday reading meme

(Actually posted on Wednesday! Go me!)

Finished reading:
The drawing of the three by Stephen King. So I started this one sort of hesitantly, and it wavered between interesting and vaguely obligation reading, because I'd bought this as a paper book (yeah, I know I can still stop, but I Invested Money in it. It's been so long since I bought a fiction book, idek). And I read along, with that wavering interest, and then somewhere in the last hundred pages or so it slid into gear and I was going to bed early to keep reading and etc.

And I then I wavered over the third one, because I that's a goddamn seven book series I'm possibly staring down, and I wasn't sure about continuing, even after that gripped ending. Then I went and read [personal profile] rachelmanija's post (post contains big general spoilers for Book 2, and ... spoilers for book 3 that will be tasty tidbits if you've read 2, and probably brutal spoilers if you haven't read 2. If that makes sense.) And that post was enough to whet my appetite, and I've bought book 3 accordingly.

Currently reading: The waste lands by Stephen King, obv. I'm hoooping to try for a book a fortnight as general goal. We'll see how that goes.

Up next: If I don't fall straight into Dark Tower 4, definitely definitely going for Wake by Elizabeth Knox. My interest was piqued by Abigail Nussbaum's review, and I read the first few pages in the bookshop this afternoon, and dang, if I hadn't already committed to The waste lands I would have bought that instead. That looks to be some smooth writing, and I'm excite.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2016-08-03 09:44 pm
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Wednesday reading meme

Finished reading:
(DNF Sandman Overture Just didn’t care enough, nor have enough background to keep me reading.

The lady astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal. Good god. A novelette about a woman who helps colonise Mars but has never lost the craving to keep going, and what she does now that she’s old, her husband is dying, and she’s been offered another opportunity to get into space. (“I’m on Mars. It’s still a planet.”) THIS is how you do a short fiction -- take a concept and then build on it. Trust your reader to fill in the blanks, and that they'll take pleasure in doing so. *takes notes for self*

This was originally written for an anthology, Rip off, where an author takes a first line from a classic and runs with it. The Dorothy aspect could perhaps be slightly stronger, but was still a good fit. I felt like the ending could have had maybe a paragraph or two more to round it out, but none of that stops it from being a wrenching mediation on growing old, and mortality, and all of those things within the complexities of a life-long relationship. Excellent read, and I’m delighted to see she’s got a new book coming out in two weeks.

Currently reading: (By which I mean 'finished minutes ago')
The girl with all the gifts by M. R. Carey, Holy SHIT this is good. I inhaled it in three days, and am left reeling slightly and very satisfied. It starts out with the trappings of a YA dystopia and turns out to be a well-rounded adult zombie genre novel with strong characterisation and excellent world-building. It’s tightly written, well-plotted, and there are no less than three female characters doing differnent things and with complicated agendas. The two military men are written like people, too. I was startled to find out that while M. R. Carey is a pen name, it’s a pen name for a guy. Do rec!

What’s next: Settling properly into The drawing of the three (Dark Tower 2) by Stephen King with some trepidation. I had a love/hate relationship with Dark Tower 1 (loved and read the first half of it in two days, then it took me weeks to read the second half, for example). I’ve been told it gets better, and I’m definitely willing to give it a shot.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2016-07-27 10:46 pm
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Wednesday reading meme.../ Hugo reading

This is both recounting reading and doubling as my Hugo writeups, so!

What I finshed An absolute fuck-ton, for me, over the last two weeks.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit): aaahhhh! I read it, and then flailed a lot and was very spoilery in the comments of my last DW entry. After some debate and a lot of considering of the details, it’s going on the top of my Novel ballot.

“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed, Feb 2015) ahhhh! Reposting review here from a few weeks ago: I. Fucking. Loved it. It took me a while to settle into the sheer amount of swearing, but once I did I was making delighted little noises at my screen. I loved the main character, I believed wholeheartedly in her grudging admittance of her feelings, and grinned fiercely at the ending. I’ll be looking up other things by Bolander, for sure.

“Flashpoint: Titan” by CHEAH Kai Wai (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House) Chose not to read anything published by or directly associated with Theodore Beale. Life’s too short and he’s too gross.

“Obits” by Stephen King. *makes face* What a nasty little story. Guy who writes trashy, nasty obituaries for dead celebrities finds he can write the deaths of people still alive. Guy objectifies the shit out of the women he works with, and has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Plus, Character finds they have a Skill, Skill has unintended consequences, character stops doing Skill is… a nice set up, but it’s barely a story. I finished it because I usually really like King. This, not so much. The realisation that he’s still writing this type of male POV in 2015 is depressing. I’ve put this below No Award.

“Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan‐Feb 2015): That’s more like it. Well executed concept that’s woven into the tale of a character and his few days running illegal and profitable message running between the First and Second Spaces of Beijing that literally fold up the city at regular intervals. Well-crafted, and uses the physical division of the city to talk about class and labor and etc. It tempted with questions and answered at least one satisfyingly. The language was somewhat wooden, but I’ll chalk that up to translation. It could have gone into slightly more depth, maybe, but it’s still a solid entry in what was otherwise a rather weak/Castalia House field.

“What Price Humanity?” by David VanDyke (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House (see above)

The Divine written by Boaz Lavie, art by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka (First Second): Meh. Had good potential. I would have ranked it higher if I thought it was going to be an ongoing series of some kind, and therefore had the potential to achieve some depth. As it is, it’s a relatively shallow, macho-military hyper-violent type story, which… meh.

Erin Dies Alone written by Grey Carter, art by Cory Rydell ( Webcomic, and a delightful one. A mentally ill young woman (agoraphobic? Social anxiety? Hasn’t left her house in some years) uses computer games to cope. And then the characters from her games start rocking up. This is charming, funny, and touching. There’s speculation here that the rabid puppies nomination was for the title alone, and that Beale hates someone called Erin and has no idea what it’s actually about. I’m inclined to agree, and have stuck it at the top of my ballot. I read all of it, even the half that wasn’t eligible for a Hugo having been published in 2016, I’ll be checking back on this one every now and then to keep up with it, even. Hugo worthy? Close enough.

Full Frontal Nerdity by Aaron Williams ( Double-meh, or half a meh, depending on what’s weaker. A long-running stand-alone webcomic that from what I can see from google images is all deep within tabletop gaming and seems very, very male. Which is fine, but I’m noticeably not its audience.

Invisible Republic Vol 1 written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, art by Gabriel Hardman (Image Comics): Complicated and relatively compelling story of a journalist who finds an alternate take on the rise of the revolution/ruler that’s just fallen. Sci-fi was more of the backdrop, here, but the characters that inhabited the alternate take were suitably flawed and complicated and I liked many of them. Female lead (sort of. Mostly), and casually married gay characters! Nearly tempted to find the second volume, even.

(Side short story)
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong (found poking around the John W Campbell award finalists): Hella compelling tale, tightly crafted, confidently written, and very unsettling. Also queer as in NBD, and I read all 7000 words unhesitatingly in one sitting. A+. (Content notes for creepy as-fuck guys and a serial killer) This actually bumps Andy Weir off top spot for me -- mainly because while I loved The Martian, the guy now has a movie deal under his belt, and I'm betting Wong is waaaayy less known. So.

Currently reading:
The Sandman: Overture written by Neil Gaiman, art by J.H. Williams III (Vertigo): I’d read several of the original Sandman graphic novels, but they and I never quite clicked aside from the character of Death. As of writing, I'm half way through. The art is gorgeous but it’s so far-ever-so self-aware of itself as a book and verging on too smug for its own good. Still reading, but this isn't going to be the thing that gets me into Sandman proper, clearly. Ah, well.

Up next: OMG, still reeling. But probably the second Dark Tower by Stephen King.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2016-07-17 10:58 am
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The Fifth Season by N K Jemisin

Has anyone read it? I just finished it minutes ago, and I have no idea how to feel. I know the odds that anyone in my circle has read it are low, but anyone want to have a spoilery as fuck conversation in the comments?

ETA: Comments are now FULL of spoilers that will shift your whole reading of the book if you haven't read it. etc etc.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2016-07-08 09:08 pm
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Hugo novella reading

Novellas -- reviewed in order of reading. Aiming for non-spoilery, unless there's a cut.

  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor ( Currently reading. (45/100 pages) Not as tightly written as I might have hoped, but solid enough, and compelling complications that are keeping me interested. [On finishing, a few days later:] I really appreciate the non-white POV, and the paste was neat. But...but fridge light logic hit HARD with spoilers )

  • Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment): Confidently written, it flirts with really interesting ideas of what it means to be alive/human/have autonomy etc, and then removes the most useful hinge of that. It's also noticeably Written By A Man, which is on one hand a reasonable thing, the author presumably being male! On the other, I'm tired of the male gaze on female characters. Not a bad story, but not the best, either.

  • Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon): Okay, the opening paragraph of this one made me keen softly with pleasure. seriously:

    My mother had a fondness for poetry. When my sister died, but before the news of my own conscription, mother showed me passaged from a work by Giresun. It was a poem called “Morning Flowers”.
    This was an illegal act.

    That glorious moment of craft was not quite backed up by the rest of the story, but I still read its 200ish pages in an afternoon. One of my bugbears is setting up a “not-a-reader’s-now” but not grounding it enough in what “story’s-now” means in your worldbuilding. Which meant that when the story hurls forward early in the piece, I did in fact feel too adrift. That said, the plot and the idea behind it was compelling. Also, female soldiers, and a well-written female lead! A+ would read more Alistair Reynolds (yeah, I know, I’m coming to sci-fi late, okay?) Will rank highly.

  • The Builders by Daniel Polansky ( I was charmed by the Goodreads blurb, and the 10% or so that I read was well-written. A group of skilled anthropomorphized animals go on a heist after their last job went badly. It’s charming, and Daniel Polansky seems like a nice guy from my very brief background reading, I just don’t care enough about this story, and my reading time is limited. Didn’t finish, not through any particular fault of the story.

  • Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum): this was dense and delicious -- strong worldbuilding, and a very assured narrative voice (unsurprising, given it’s Bujold). It was dense enough that I couldn’t speed read it, and had to concentrate to settle into its rhythms, but that’s almost a plus. I liked Penric, and loved Desdemona (how the demon is also twelve others was...not a thing I retained during reading, and I’m still not clear on, but I was willing to roll with it). This was a pleasure, and I’d definitely read more in this world.

Current voting:
Penric’s demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
Slow bullets by Alistair Reynolds
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Perfect state by Brandon Sanderson
The builders by Daniel Polansky
No Award