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Paper Girls 2, comic. The main new conceit of this volume (as set up at the end of volume 1) is a hugely compelling premise for me. I kind of wish they'd been able to hit it harder/dig in deeper... I mean, the emotional tone was in keeping with the rest of the comic, but. Dude. Way to concretize what happens to be one of my core emotional conflicts. Maybe there'll be fic? Maybe I'll write some?

Raven Stratagem, Yoon Ha Lee. My reaction is under the cut, as is a GIANT MASSIVE PLOT SPOILER. Sufficient warning? MAJOR SPOILERS HERE? Read more... )
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Not Your Sidekick, C.B. Lee. Charming teen superhero YA science fiction romance. I suppose technically this is authorities-with-secrets but, I don't know, it never made me roll my eyes about it? Like there were reasons that these particular kids ended up in a position to uncover the lies and fight the system other than Their Innate Teen Resistance To Conformity or whatever. Anyways, I thought it was all pretty obvious but fun and nice and had some good character beats and I appreciate recommendable happy queer teen romance. I mean, adult readers might find it too young for them, but I like there being Good Books For Teens out there, if that's not too patronizing. I mean, I can see some young bisexual Asian girl being like "holy shit A Protagonist Like Me, and she gets the girl, eeee", I don't think we're even at the point yet where we have an abundance of those. I certainly remember compulsively rereading every teen romance I could get my hands on where the girl was taller than the boy (the pattern of many of my early crushes), which was, like, one Sweet Valley High novel and a novella in a collection I've never been able to track down again. Anyways, it turns out this is the first of a trilogy and the next one's going to focus on the trans shapeshifter character, yay.

When The Moon Was Ours, Anna-Marie McLemore. I picked this up because it won the 2016 Tiptree, and I admit I found it very slow going for awhile. Super-poetic magical realism family drama angst romance. I did eventually get through it and did enjoy some of the imagery and language, and how it unfolded, but I still kind of think it could have been about half as long for the actual story. But, much like the previous book, that may be because this book was not For Me; I totally think some young trans person is going to read this and it's going to be Their Book, the thing they write quotes from in their journal and get tattoos of when they turn 18, or at least put on their list of their ten books that most explain who they are. Older YA, if only because I'm not sure younger YA readers would have the patience for the style.

The Lotterys Plus One Emma Donoghue. Did I randomly find a book about a poly family on my library's middlegrade new books shelf? I *did*! Well, it turns out the two dads are married and the two moms are married and they're probably not polying much except to live in one giant house and have kids together, but, like, I am not trying to erase the distinctions here between romantic and familial love, but a middlegrade book probably isn't going to get much into that distinction anyways. This book is definitely from the wish-fulfillment-fantasy genre one might call "what kind of life would we make if money was no object" - there is an enormous lottery win in the backstory - and would probably make a fascinating period piece for people outside the contemporary-liberal cultural context, either past or future. The Lottery dream life is joyously racially and ethnically diverse, warmly accepting of disability and difference (we are very overtly taught the word "neurodiversity"), self-consciously Wacky (so many cutesy names and misheard words) and Unstructured (so much homeschooling) and Literate (some of the books that get name-dropped seem more random than others). I was... not entirely convinced on the main theme about adjusting to accepting a grandpa with dementia into their family instead of finding a dedicated care facility for him... his dementia is conveniently at just the right stage to elide some of the more gritty burdens of caregiving, and his racism and homophobia conveniently soften once he gets to know everybody (there is probably a book to be written that seriously grapples with the question of asking minor children to endure microaggressions in their own home in the name of non-institutionalized caregiving/loving generously, but it wasn't quite this book. probably needs to be own-voices.). And there's a few bits of other weirdness (an AFAB kid who says they're not a girl but is still given she/hers pronouns because they also don't claim to be a boy... I swear we have a good third pronoun for this situation...). But overall it was sweet and goofy and I've always had a fondness for the wacky slice-of-life adventures of characters with an abundance of family and money, going back to, like, Eight Cousins and Cheaper By The Dozen (which both have some uncomfortable racist content as I recall so yay for contemporary readevenvaguelyalikes). If you ever thought it would be cool if Dykes To Watch Out For and the Ramona Quimby series had a baby and it was a feelgood middlegrade, here you go!
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Things I have read for Hugo purposes:

The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle. I have to respect "white people are the real horror" as a theme but this didn't grab me as a story. (The POV switch away from the sympathetic first character kind of killed the momentum, alas, although I can see why LaValle didn't think he could do the whole thing from his POV.)

Penric and the Shaman, Lois McMaster Bujold. I didn't feel like this did anything that she hadn't already done better in Hallowed Hunt.

"Your Orisons May Be Recorded", Laurie Penny. Good gimmick but I have no strong reaction here.

"Blue Monday", Laurie Penny. Also enh.

The Jewel and her Lapidary, Fran Wilde. A bunch of authors I respect seem really into Wilde and I just don't get it. Here, she obviously had an ending she wanted to get to but I totally didn't understand the logic that was supposed to make it necessary? And (SPOILER)Read more... )

Infomocracy, Malka Older. A kickass near-future novel with interesting political mechanics, an awesome action scene, appealing characters, the works. On the one hand it is weird to be reading about election shenanigans that don't seem to have a lot of catastrophic real-world consequences, on the other hand it was delightfully escapist. Recommended. Minor spoiler:Read more... )
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I am so happy.

I can't write a review, because Megan Whalen Turner book. (The MATCHLESS SATISFACTION omg you guys.)

I did a complete reread of the series before reading it and am glad I did. I imagine some people might read this one and then go back and reread others and enjoy them in that direction too.

!!!!!!
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Volume 6 being the one presently up for a Hugo. I had last read Saga back in 2015 when volume 3 was nominated, so I started with 3 again and caught up. I'm not sure I recommend doing that - on the one hand, it's super page-turny, so not putting it down is a good solution to the problem of not wanting to put it down, on the other hand, it started to feel a little formulaic, in the pacing of the introduction of new characters/character deaths so that the cast size doesn't become completely unmanageable? And reading so much of it at once, it was hard to not start asking questions like "is there really a point to all this soap opera", which I think is an unfair question - is there a "point" to Girl Genius, or Astro City (which I just found out is apparently going again and has been for awhile), or Firefly, or any other serial story? But possibly it would be more fun to be reading Saga issue by issue, caught up in all the immediate dramas, speculating with other fans about what could happen next, etc.

I didn't do that, though, so here I am. I haven't read the rest of the nominees yet, but I strongly suspect it's going to be hard for a middle volume of a serial to compare with the introductory, world-establishing Volume One of something new, and there are four of those on the ballot. Saga vol 6 has some good beats but it's not like the Big New Idea rush of plunging into the story in the first place.
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The Girl Who Drank The Moon, Kelly Barnhill, 2017 Newbery. A fairy tale type fantasy that's mythic at its best, uncompelling at its worst - "plotless" would be the wrong word, there's a pretty satisfying core story, but there's not a lot of action, and particularly not of the rising action/falling action sort. The story sets itself up, and then about where I started to expect some kind of breakout that would catapult us into a more urgent, immediate storytelling mode, just kept right on unfolding in a sort of methodical, sometimes repetitive way, until eventually all the pieces came together in the sort of "Janet? Brad! Janet? Dr. Scott!" climax that I'm not even considering a spoiler, because, look, this is middle grade, Romeo's not passing the messenger on the road back from Mantua here. There are some good strands of the plot web meanwhile, though; this is probably the best take on the mother-whose-child-is-taken fairy tale trope I've ever seen, with a mother who refuses to vanish quietly out of the story. And I feel like the characters and metaphors in general might have more power for actual older-middle-grade readers, who might also have fewer expectations about pace and tone? Or maybe not. I wonder if it might actually be the right amount of story for a movie - maybe a bit too much backstory, but it would be gorgeous in, like, a Miyazaki adaptation (and already in the right tone, you wouldn't need a dubious tonal shift like the Howl's Moving Castle adaptation, this is right along the emotional lines of Spirited Away. Oh, man, now that this has occurred to me my brain is redrawing my vague mental pictures of all the characters into anime designs and it's *perfect*.)
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This is the adult novel that goes with One Half From The East, discussed here. I have to admit, I liked the middlegrade version a lot better, Pearl is pretty relentlessly about people being awful to the protagonists, and felt less clever in the writing, too. I didn't really need to be convinced that patriarchy and authoritarian societies suck. Warnings for child marriage/rape, child abuse, child death.
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Ada Palmer's sequel to Too Like the Lightning (reviewed here), book two of four. Major spoilers under the cut.

Read more... )

books

Apr. 4th, 2017 02:35 pm
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Like a River Glorious, Rae Carson, second in the trilogy that started with Walk on Earth a Stranger in which a girl who can sense gold dresses as a boy and plays Oregon Trail. I liked this one less well than the first one: [spoiler cut]
Read more... ) Anyways, I'll surely read the third one.

Frogkisser!, Garth Nix. Enjoyable, super-readable middle-grade fantasy, nice twists on fairy-tale tropes. Reminded me a great deal of Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest books which is an excellent thing for there to be more of in the world. I'm hoping I can get Junie to read it although it's got "kisser" in the title so she's reluctant.

Lagoon

Mar. 23rd, 2017 09:09 pm
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When I finally sorted/spreadsheetized my to-read list, Nnedi Okorafor's Lagoon was on it multiple times, suggesting that it kept coming up on contexts where I was picking up recs. Finally read it! Like Binti, I liked that it didn't feel quite like anything else I'd ever read - reading things that are actually different turns out to be a great way to avoid that feeling of reading the same plots over and over, who knew. I felt less spoonfed, not being quite sure what to make of parts of the story... like I didn't feel like I had the cultural context to be able to tell when Okorafor was being satirical about Lagos vs just straight-up storytelling? And she did something that I had also found striking in Shawl's Everfair where fantastical elements outside of the main sfnal premise are introduced relatively late in the story and taken at face value like of course there could be animal possession or demonic roads in this universe why would you be surprised. Anyways, I didn't love it, but I found it very interesting, and I still hope to read some of Okorafor's fantasy novels to compare if/when I ever get to that part of my reading list.
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Moonshine, Alaya Dawn Johnson. So I expected to really like this - Summer Prince is one of the best YA SF books I've ever read, and Love Is The Drug, which I wasn't thrilled with at the time, is looking more prescient by the day (when LITD made the case that the best hope for America was just to escape from it, I was pretty shocked... now, well...). And Moonshine is full of appealing elements - vampires in the roaring 20s, speakeasies and jazz singers, social justice, attractive djinn, etc. Unfortunately it just didn't quite take off for me, the plot strands felt like more of a jumble than a satisfying puzzle, and the emotional throughline seemed kind of all over the place too. It would make a *really* excellent movie or miniseries though - the costumes, the song numbers, the fight scenes, plus I think the sometimes jarring episodic-ness would work better in a dramatic medium? Man, I wish the world gave me the movies I want.

School's First Day of School, story by Adam Rex/pictures by Christian Robinson, is an adorable picture book about a new school finding out what happens at school. At the end of the day, the parents come to pick up their children, and then the janitor comes to pick up the school. :) I really liked that the janitor got to be an important character (the school at first thinks it might be the janitor's house, and then finds out that the janitor has a house of his own that he goes home to), and the whole thing was very sweet, a fine entry in the first-day-of-school genre.
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The Starlit Wood is an anthology edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe of fairy tale retellings. Star-studded TOC including Sofia Samatar, Naomi Novik, Aliette de Bodard, Max Gladstone, Garth Nix, and Charlie Jane Anders - this was where Amal El-Mohtar's excellent lesbian iron shoes/glass mountain remix "Seasons of Glass and Iron" was published, before it was reprinted in Uncanny where I read it. I very much enjoy a good fairytale remix and pretty much everything here was worth reading - standouts for me were Marjorie Liu's "The Briar and the Rose", a lesbian Sleeping Beauty/Rumpelstiltskin sort of deal (theory: pretty much all fairy tales are improved by de-heteronormicizing them) and Novik's story, "Spinning Silver", a very Novik Rumpelstiltskin retell with Jews and fairies and moneylending. (Almost tempted to swap in "Spinning Silver" in my novelette nominations... for "The Tomato Thief", I guess? I don't know, I'll have to think about that.)
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Powerful shorter-than-novel fiction piece about a human colony living in an uneasy incorporation into an alien society, and the relationships of two collaborators and two separatists. Some stuff here about slow change vs burning things to the ground that really packs a punch here in the age of the destruction of the American government. I am mildly unsure of the length of this story - Asimov's called it a novelette in their table of contents, but Locus listed it with the novellas - but I'm inclined to assume Locus can count, and nominate it as a novella. Not sure though whether I'm replacing Every Heart a Doorway, which I wasn't that enthusiastic about, or Last Days of New Paris, which I'm pretty sure is too long to qualify (Locus called it a novel, so if we're going by Locus...).
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One Half from the East is a middle-grade novel by Nadia Hashimi, an American child of parents from Afghanistan, set in contemporary Afghanistan, about a ten-year-old girl whose family decides to make her a bacha posh, a girl who is temporarily dressed as a boy so that the family will have a son. I've been obsessed with gender-disguise narratives my whole life (well, gender narratives more generally, gender-choice and transition and so forth, but as a kid in the 80s and 90s, what you got was mostly girls who wanted to wear pants so they could do stuff), so obviously I was going to read this. And it was very interesting! It wasn't clear from the book whether Hashimi had, like, interviewed people, or was working from secondhand sources, or just using her imagination - it turns out there's a companion novel for adults, following one of the other characters, which I'm hoping might have more extensive author's notes or a bibliography - anyways, it's hard to say how much of the story is an American sensibility of what this kind of gender situation would feel like, or how much is authentically Afghan, but it felt plausible and nuanced to me as an American reader. I actually thought the strongest part emotionally were the parallels between the protagonist and her father, who recently lost a leg in a terrorist attack, who are both struggling to accept the changes in their lives. Anyways, I thought it was very well-written, and interesting both for telling me about a real-world practice I didn't know about, and as a realistic-fiction contrast to the gender-adventure genre.
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Everfair has a dynamite elevator pitch: British Fabians team up with black American missionaries to purchase a big chunk of the Belgian Congo from Leopold and make it a safe haven for Africans being enslaved for the rubber trade, steampunk alternate history ensues! Lesbian motorcycle guerrillas! Dirigibles running on the power of one tribe's "sacred earths", that is, nuclear power! Nifty mechanical prosthetic hands for everyone whose hands the Belgians chopped off! But it is kind of weird in the whole aspect of a book where there is tension and resolution, or expectation and satisfaction of it. It feels a little uncomfortable to criticize the writing of someone who's best known for teaching writing ("Writing the Other"), but the best way I can explain it is that reading this book was sort of like walking past a series of dioramas, and sometimes what was in them was really cool, but you never really had any idea what might be in the next one. Not unenjoyable - I read it to the end - but not my personal taste in stories, either. (I like a more immersive reading experience where I know more about the characters' hopes/goals/intentions and can feel their story along with them.) The book is sharpest and clearest about how race and nationality shape everyone's interactions - I foresee its future on various syllabuses. (You could teach it with Years of Rice and Salt, you could teach it with Westerfeld's Leviathan, you could teach it with Jo Walton's Just City and with Butler's Earthseed books maybe, I hardly remember those but I think so.)
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Novella by Kij Johnson. This was so good, I picked it up from the library today and pretty much couldn't put it down. I have not read the Lovecraft novella it's based on (Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath) but have read enough Lovecraft to feel like I had the general literary context if not specifics? I've been a Johnson fan for awhile ("Man Who Bridged The Mist", "Ponies"), this novella combines great writing (if you like the descriptive fantasy sort of thing) with a killer denouement. Immediate addition to my Hugo nominations.
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The One Who Isn't, Ted Kosmatka. I like the way this one unfolded.

5x5, Jilly Dreadful. Teen geniuses at science camp.

Taste the Singularity at the Food Truck Circus, Jeremiah Tolbert. Wheee, cyberpunk food! Except I don't mean cyberpunk, I mean whatever we call the fun anticorporate futurism now. There are two kinds of stories like this, ones where it stays fun and ones with an unpleasant gotcha. I would like you to know that this one stays fun and you can safely enjoy it. * NOVELETTE

The Siren Son, Tristina Wright. Fairytale teen romance.

Unauthorized Access, An Owomoyela. Secretly a character piece dressed up like a data heist. *NOVELETTE

The Wilderness Within, Tim Pratt. Fun magical realism scenario, possibly a reprint though.

Also this fine NOVELLA, not from Lightspeed! Kai Ashante Wilson's A Taste Of Honey is from the same universe as his novella last year, Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. I loved Sorcerer; Taste isn't *quite* as powerful, but I'm still so in love with this world and with Wilson's writing, the mix of "high" and "low" language and the distinctive voices he gives characters. I would maybe read Sorcerer first for maximum impact but definitely recommend Taste, and if you don't have time to read them both and are looking for 2016 novellas, I think it would still stand alone just fine.
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The Case of the Phantom Frog and The Case of the Treetop Treasure. Something slightly Dark-Knight-esque in the extent to which the existence of McGurk's detective organization brings into being mysteries created by kids who want to hoax it. Am ever-so-vaguely starting to think about a 30fic about these guys, although there's a lot to figure out in what year exactly to pin their ages to, etc. But, you know, what have they all been *up* to as adults... one wonders...
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Every Heart a Doorway has a great premise - it's a school for kids who have come back from portal fantasies - but because this is Seanan McGuire, what she finds exciting about this premise is never quite what I find most compelling. I mean, it's well done, it's just that our respective senses of story zing are close enough that I'm constantly like "that sounds good!" but offset enough that I don't end up wowed. It is however A Novella and quite readable; I'm guessing we'll see it on the Hugo ballot and we could do much worse.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Justine Larbalestier's latest makes for very depressing reading given current events. It's well done, just, bleah. Nothing I needed. Major content warning behind the first spoiler cut, further discussion behind the second.
1.Read more... )
2.Read more... )

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