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2017-09-18 10:10 pm

books: two dinner parties and some funerals

First, the funerals: the Inexplicable Logic of my Life is a contemporary YA by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, the author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Three friends and one of their dads compare paths to the dead moms club. Definitely a crying book, I kept being reading this in public places and regretting it. I liked this less than Aristotle&Dante, probably because it's not a romance, and also Sáenz' teen voices worked a little better for me when they were set in the 80s than set now. The texting in this never sounded quite right, in particular. But Sáenz writes some powerful moments, and captures some subtle and complicated feelings. He's at his most interesting to me when he's exploring identity issues like what it means to be born Anglo but adopted and raised by a Mexican-American family, interesting stuff there. The main character chooses something at the end that bothered me, but I can see what Sáenz was getting at and it made sense for the character, just, eegh.

And then, the dinner parties. A Civil Contract (1961 Georgette Heyer Regency novel) and Home Again (2017 Reese Witherspoon film) might seem like an odd pair of works to want to pair up for reviewing, but actually they're perfect, because Civil Contract is a difficult novel because it refuses to give in to the pull of wish fulfillment, while Home Again is an enjoyable movie because it's wish fulfillment all the way down, and they both involve the male romantic lead standing up the female romantic lead for an important dinner party.

Civil Contract's dude hoped to be career military, but dad/untimely death/aristocratic responsibilities, you've heard this before if you read Regencies at all. He's in love with someone, but he's broke, so he has to marry her friend, the daughter of a rich businessman, instead, to save his estate. If Courtney Milan is writing this plot, he would discover that she had some kind of awesome interest or compelling backstory, he would fall in love with her, yay. Heyer, however, doesn't let us have that fantasy - while he does come to *appreciate* his wife's comparative lack of drama, and the comfort that he gets from her catering to him, there's no real indication that he finds her attractive, or is interested in her as a person. (She's been in love with him all along, which is why she's so willing to completely shape her life around his comfort, and do all the emotional labor of managing her feelings without ever bothering him with them.) In theory, I like the idea of a romance novel pairing that focuses more on in-jokes and child raising than bodice-ripping sex, but in practice, it doesn't even really feel like a romance. I am interested in the decentering of *desire* from the narrative, but what I really read romance for is the mutual passionate admiration! That's the stuff! It doesn't feel like a happy ending to me if she's in limerence with him and he's not with her. (There is a long and excellent discussion thread here with, among others, Courtney Milan herself basically making this argument.)

Home Again, in contrast, delivers passionate admiration in spades. Our 40-year-old recently-separated mom heroine has *three* nice young men fall for her; she's only ever romantic with one, but she gets to bask in attention (and emotional and household labor!) from all three of them. It's not just a fantasy of still being desirable, although that's obviously part of it, it's a fantasy of getting to enjoy the excitement and fun of a new romance even after already having had one good marriage. (Although her ex as we see him onscreen is awful, I think we're supposed to have the impression that it was a good relationship for a long time, until it wasn't anymore.) She eventually decides that the life-stage gap between her and her young man is too big for a relationship, but they all three will still be around as part of a found family with her and her kids and her mom, yay - she may have given up the sex, but she gets to keep the admiration.

Oh, and the dinner parties? I had curiously opposite reactions to them. In Home Again, the missed dinner party is the precipitating event for the end of the relationship - it's supposed to be their first "real date" beyond their fling at her house, he's going to meet her friends, but he stands her up rather than risk offending the guy he's hoping will help them get their movie made. She decides that this means their priorities are just too different, but I found myself more sympathetic to the dude than she was - the movie pushes how these guys are these aspiring filmmakers who Really Believe In Films, and he's young and new to navigating Hollywood, and believes this is an important chance. And unfortunately it falls into her ex's pattern of blowing her off for flimsy work reasons, so it makes sense that *she's* just like "I'm not doing this again", but it didn't make *me* think they wouldn't work. Civil Contract dude on the other hand has promised to be home for his sister's engagement party but instead borrows a ton of money to gamble wildly on a military outcome so that he can have money of "his own" instead of his wife's money - it turns out he's right but, ugh, he takes this enormous risk for no real important benefit, I lost so much sympathy for the character and of course his wife is just like "that's all right honey you know best, nice work honey". It's the climax of the book and I guess the idea is that now that he doesn't "owe" her he's more able to realize that he's fond of her and doesn't resent her for having had to marry her. In a way, these stories end the same - with a friendship rather than a romance - but what a difference, coming to it from opposite directions.
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2017-08-26 03:33 pm

Salt Roads

The Salt Roads, Nalo Hopkinson. I was surprised early in the book by a few scenes that seemed weirdly familiar - I think I must have started reading it once before and given up before I got very far, and then forgotten I did that. In fact, it didn't really work for me this time around either, but this time I finished it at least. The book follows three characters in different times and places, and various things happen to them, but there isn't really a plot in terms of wondering or anticipating how events will lead to other events? I kept waiting for the reveal of some sort of bigger connection between the three characters but that also doesn't really happen. It reminded me a bit of Everfair (my review here) in its directionlessness, which it turns out is not entirely a coincidence or a case of me lumping together black women writing sffnal historical fiction, Hopkinson and Shawl have actually co-written together, and might plausibly belong to the same artistic movement that I just don't know how to read or isn't to my taste or whatever. (But Everfair at least had a lot of awesome elements, so much of Salt Roads was... honestly just ugly? Like the Haiti parts were powerful in the way that anything about the reality of lives under chattel slavery is, and had a few vivid moments, but so much of the other two threads were cringeworthy, or squalid, or just so random...) Hopkinson said in an author's note that she "finds most science fiction/fantasy horribly badly written", so I think this may be a case where I just fundamentally disagree with this author about how stories work or what makes them good. Not every book needs to be for me, of course (white woman doesn't like book for Black audience, who the fuck cares) but I can only read as me. (And I feel like I don't need remedial reading on believing that black/queer/disabled people have existed throughout history, or that the whole "whites and castles" genre of historical fantasy is ahistorical and racist.)
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2017-08-20 10:05 pm

finished the child murder series!

(Is that still a spoiler at this point?) Anyways, yeah, The Stone Sky, NK Jemisin, conclusion of the Broken Earth trilogy.

Before I summon the spoiler cut, I want to mention the somewhat-relevant information that I looked up recently that there are two previous back-to-back Hugo winners, Bujold for Vor Game and Barrayar and Card for Ender's and Speaker, and there has never yet been a consecutive threepeat.

And now spoilers. Read more... )
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2017-08-18 08:16 pm

Six Wakes

Six Wakes, Mur Lafferty. I'm a huge sucker for this kind of thing - six clones wake up on a spaceship in deep space, their previous iterations murdered, what happened. The combination of the train/island murder mystery and the amnesia hook, And Then There Were None, They Were Eleven (which I hardly remember now, except that I was into the premise), the first season of Lost where they figure out that someone wasn't on the plane - and a couple of y'all may recall that I once ran a one-shot along similar lines. :) It's hard to say much else without undercutting the suspense, when part of the suspense, I think, is "is this well-constructed, is it going to be satisfying". So I will just say that it reminds me a lot of what it seemed like Lost wanted to be, with backstory character-revealing flashbacks and a foreground mystery, but is a nice standalone book instead of six seasons of inconclusive ad hoc bullshit, how about that?
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2017-08-17 12:15 pm

gap-filling reading

Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood. My note on my to-read list was just "prioritize this already", one of those must-reads I just kept not getting to. It is very powerful and well-done but I can't exactly say I *enjoyed* it; I admit I like the plucky survivalist fantasy of "fun" takes on the apocalypse like David Palmer's Emergence (a longtime favorite) much more than Atwood's realistic squalor. The world is too bleak right now to read anything this remorselessly non-escapist. Dubious choice, me.

The Human Division and The End of All Things, John Scalzi. I had read the rest of the series and always sort of intended to finish it, and I ran out of library ebooks and I had them on my phone because Josh had bought them, so. Scalzi is very, very good at writing books that keep you turning the pages, and then at the end you think, sure, that was fine, I would buy another one of these. I don't mean this as a criticism, I really admire Scalzi's professionalism and skill in producing A Satisfying Reading Experience. He - spoilers - did something so interesting in the Old Man's War universe, creating the United Federation of Planets and not letting humans be part of it - I can think of lots of stories where 20th century humans find out there's a League of Planets out there, judging them or whatever, but not a lot of future-set stories where aliens are doing the big good thing and spacefaring humans are left out or the enemy. Creates a good built-in tension to the world, that things are not how we would want them to be, and yet ultimately he has to either undermine that premise or leave it unsatisfying. I felt like in the end he tried to split the difference and it was kind of a meh ending. (Also, whatever happened to the whole "Special Forces want more rights/recognition" thread? I kept expecting that to come back in but it was just dropped.)

It's sort of funny, I was thinking of Oryx as a classic from quite awhile ago (I would have guessed the 90s) and the Old Man's War books as "recent", but Oryx is actually from 2003 and OMW from 2005. Of course Human Division and End are more recent, 2013 and 2015, but the world is still pinned down by the worldbuilding from 2005... I wonder if more "literary" works automatically seem older to me, hmm.
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2017-08-14 01:07 pm

YA YA

I'm not sure if that's funnier if it's like "yeah, yeah" or like "get your ya-yas out". Or neither. Anyways, books.

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, Mackenzi Lee, is a 2017 gay teen historical romance, written by someone who I would be shocked to learn was not in/formerly in fandom somewhere. Not that these particular characters ring a bell as fileoffs of any particular fandom; maybe it's just that it seems impossible that a person who likes this sort of thing wouldn't have discovered fanfiction. A young man pining for his best friend has his Grand Tour of Europe take an adventurous turn when he gets caught up in a plot that requires them to travel through various locations and action sequences, accompanied by bookish little sister and ultimately culminating in personal growth etc. Good stuff, recommended if you like Courtney Milan (Lee is doing some similar stuff with writing non-whitewashed historicals that don't erase race/disability/queerness/etc), or possibly, hm, I'm less sure about this comparison, but the Assassin's Curse books, or Meg Cabot? Meg Cabot did a couple of teen historicals I remember liking... anyways, I suspect that most people were either like "gay teen historical romance YES" or "nah", so I won't keep on. There is one minor speculative element, but I wouldn't call it enough to consider this an SFF work - it's more like the way some romance novels happen to have a helpful ghost, or the way Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has minor supernatural elements but is mostly action-adventure. (... although it turns out both Raiders and Last Crusade won the Hugo Dramatic in their years, so, gah, maybe this is an SFF work after all. Genre is hard.)

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo is unambiguously not speculative at all, just a teen contemporary novel. Trans teenager finally living as herself explores friendship and romance in the American South. Definitely felt like an "issue book", there's a lot of stuff here about What It Is Like for this girl to be trans, which, while very well done, felt more like it was aiming for people for whom this might be their first encounter with the topic. Given my personal areas of ignorance I actually felt like I learned more about stuff like what "mudding" is and the interior layout of a trailer home (... yes, my privilege is blinding) than the trans stuff. But, you know, put it in every school library in America and it might end up in some hands that could really use it. Well done and there was some good chemistry in the romance. Content notes: suicide attempt, forced outing, violence and threatened sexual violence against trans characters.

(I realize I didn't feel obligated to do a content note for the other one. Uh, period-typical attitudes? Genre-typical violence?)
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2017-08-04 07:16 pm

these books could not be more different

The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi. The opening of this was terrific - starts in a kind of classic YA set-up (although in a neat India-esque fantasy kingdom instead of Generic Faux-medieval Europe) but rapidly escalates/pivots until we're somewhere else entirely. I didn't think the rest of the book quite lived up to that opening, but I still enjoyed it - some good imagery, an unusual and funny talking animal sidekick, and a much more ambitious and original story than some YA bothers to try to tell. Very flowery language - we're definitely in the, like, Romantic/epic register here vs realistically developed characterization - but I thought it was worth it for the interesting setting and story. Would maybe rec to fans of Holly Black's Faerie books or N.K. Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. This was a 2017 Norton nominee (2016 book).

The Steerswoman, Rosemary Kirstein. This is a classic from 1989, the start of a series still in progress (four so far, two more in theory). Amusingly, Kirstein spoiled the main plot for me while speaking on a panel at Readercon, although I had already pretty much figured it out (and if I hadn't read a 1989 book yet I have only myself to blame). This starts off looking a lot like General Faux-medieval Fantasy Europe but It's Not, although we're only starting to see the whole picture of that as of this book, and I'm not sure if I'm going to read more of them to develop it further or not. I don't know, I really like the concept, and I think I probably would have *adored* it if I had actually read it back in the 90s, but it felt a little clunky to me? (In a way that makes me second-guess my reaction, like, would I cut a male character more slack with all of the "Rowan brilliantly counted the number of things and ascertained their number, she observed observationally" narration? I would like to think NOT AT ALL, but I can't prove that.) Anyways, my younger self would have been thrilled by a book where the hero bangs on about rationality and honesty and she's a woman, and my current self is pleased for another entry in my collection of books by women authors I can bring up in any possible conversation about SF, so, hey. (Niven, Heinlein, Vinge.) (Two female leads and 7 stories on AO3, o femslash fans.)
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2017-07-28 02:06 pm

belated/not-belated awards reading

The first two of these share the property of being things that went on my to-read list with an eye towards possible interest in Hugo-nominating them and then I didn't get to them in time.

Runtime, by S.B. Divya, is a 2016 novella Nebula finalist that I would very happily have put on my Hugos list instead of "Every Heart" or "Census-Taker" (and I would guess we'll see on the long list in a few weeks). Near-future, our cyborg protag is running an extreme race over the Sierras, it's the kind of perfectly-done small scope of plot that weaves together its survival-story strand, a look-at-society, and some bigger themes/questions about fairness and opportunity. Really interesting gender stuff, imagining a world where nonbinarity is becoming the dominant gender - I am automatically sympathetic to a protag wanting to ditch their gender but I thought Divya did a good job of showing how (like any gender orthodoxy) this is great for some people and less so for others. Anyways, recommended.

The Girl In The Road, by Monica Byrne, was a 2014 novel, so clearly I'm a little later catching up on this one. Coincidentally it also couples survival-story elements with its SF and dramatic themes - in this case a trek story, putting its protagonist on a floating bridge between India and Africa (and a secondary protagonist on a convoy across Africa). I think the last setting I found this striking might have been in Forest of Hands and Teeth except this one does so much more with its dramatic linearlly-constrained setting. It's possible that there's something suspect in my hunger for stories that don't center white people, something exotifying/appropriative or whatever, but I really liked that I had to go look at maps because this story took me through parts of the world my dumb ass could barely find on a map, that inter-national and inter-racial encounters were so much a part of the story without any Europeans or Americans around. It's definitely on the literary end of SF - unreliable narrators, recurring imagery and symbolism, references and foreshadowing - although not so much so that I felt like too much was going over my head. Recommended, but I feel I should mention that this is a pretty upsetting book, involving rape, child abuse, intimate partner violence, violence against trans people, self-harm, child harm, animal harm, and POV characters in manic, dissociated, and hallucinatory states. (I am always happy to have a more specific/spoilery conversation about content stuff if that is useful to anyone.)

The Djinn Falls In Love, edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin, is an anthology from this year. Although the name might make it sound like a YA anthology in search of this year's sparkly vampires, there is no YA or romance here, this is... how do I put this. "Serious adult SFF" makes it sound like I don't take YA or romance seriously. But, you know what I mean, it is tonally/thematically mainstream SFF on the Lightspeed/Clarkesworld type axis. Standout stories to me include "Majnun" by Helene Wecker, about a djinn who has converted to Islam, "Black Powder", by Maria Dahvana Headley, taking djinn into a tall tale/fable/Western context, "Reap", by Sami Shah, an unforgettable tense classic ghost story updated to drone surveillance and simultaneously a very contemporary story that could only be about drone surveillance - "Reap" is the one I'm putting a star by - and "Bring Your Own Spoon", by Saad Z. Hossain, about djinn and human survivors in a post-apocalyptic/dystopic future. The Gaiman piece here is in fact the djinn story from American Gods (only reprint in the collection) which on the one hand is the best thing in American Gods and on the other hand is not a new Gaiman story about djinn, phooey. Other authors I've recced stuff by before: JY Yang, Monica Byrne, Amal El-Mohtar, Usman T. Malik, Nnedi Okorafor. Content notes for intimate partner violence, child harm, maybe some other stuff... there was one in particular near the end that went somewhere really upsetting.
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2017-07-18 11:37 pm

sequels to Hugo nominees

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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2017-06-24 03:49 pm

misc queer youth lit

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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2017-05-31 11:44 am

it came from the packet, part 1

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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2017-05-19 01:04 pm

THICK AS THIEVES!!!!!!!

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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2017-05-08 10:19 pm

Saga volumes 4-7 but especially 6 I guess?

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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2017-05-08 09:20 pm

The Girl Who Drank The Moon

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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2017-04-29 12:28 am

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell

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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2017-04-25 01:24 pm

Seven Surrenders

Ada Palmer's sequel to Too Like the Lightning (reviewed here), book two of four. Major spoilers under the cut.

Read more... )
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2017-04-04 02:35 pm

books

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.
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2017-03-23 09:09 pm
Entry tags:

Lagoon

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.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
2017-03-17 04:30 pm

Moonshine + School's First Day

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.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
2017-03-06 09:47 pm

The Starlit Wood, anthology

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.)