lizbee: (Random: Book post)
But first: I've been lurking around DW and LJ less than usual, because my trusty early-2011 MacBook Pro died, and doing anything on an iPad is a pain, even with a Bluetooth keyboard.

(I was casting about re how to replace it -- buy a cheap Windows laptop to tide me over while I save for a new MacBook? That was the plan, but then I actually looked at cheap Windows laptops. Yikes.

So, no, I'm just going to (a) pay off my vacuum cleaner faster than planned -- said vacuum having been purchased on an interest-free card, because it was a VACUUM EMERGENCY -- and save enough of a lump sum that I can pay off the future MacBook within its interest-free period. I've saved $100 so far! AND I have a jar that's full of coins, there might be another $20 in there.

But rest assured that I'll be whinging about my iPad in the meantime, especially because it's unreasonably hard to borrow and read ebooks from the library via the app, and my TV and movie watching is limited to Australian streaming services and the DVDs I already own.)

Now, I actually haven't been reading a whole lot lately, because ... I dunno, I start things and have trouble getting into them, maybe I'm in a slump.

Click here for books. )
lizbee: A simple painting of a maroon squid (Random: SQUID!!!)

Watching:

Season 6 of Game of Thrones, which benefits enormously from overtaking the books. Suddenly stalled character arcs are moving again! Dany gets to do more than be a bit out of her depth (and Emilia Clarke gets to do more than look pensive)! More Diana Rigg! The Braavosi equivalent of "The Ember Island Players"!

Significant spoilers )As a palate cleanser, I then watched the three episodes of House that featured Lin-Manuel Miranda. I moved on from that series early in season 3, but such is the nature of the series that I had no trouble at all picking it up in season 6. (Shocking spoilers: beneath his gruff exterior, House cares a lot. I know, I know, it's news to me, too.)

Season 6 opens with House in a psychiatric hospital, and LMM is his roommate, a Puerto Rican rapper with bi-polar disorder. It's full of ableist cliches and also regular cliches, but LMM is a delightful human being in any situation, and Andre Braugher plays the guy in charge, so if you squint a bit, it looks like a really odd episode of Brooklyn 99.

Next: Stranger Things, followed, I think, by a Gravity Falls rewatch.

Reading:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child -- but you knew that. I'm still having a lot of feelings. It's a problem.

(It turns out that if you post a couple of times about Draco Malfoy to Tumblr, you start being followed by ... hunk blogs? Tumblrs dedicated to male models? I feel bad for them, I am absolutely the last person they should be following.)

Then I started reading American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century by Harold Blum, but it wasn't enough to overcome my MASSIVE BOOK HANGOVER, so I turned to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

(There are currently no plans to bring Cursed Child to Australia, but there are pretty close ties between the producers and the Australian theatre industry -- yes, I just googled -- so I feel like I should start putting money aside to buy tickets as soon as it's announced.)

Other things, not actually culture:

I've almost finished the quilt top I've been working on for the last few months -- my very first quilt that's just for me! It's a lap blanket for the couch. At my current speed, it will probably be finished by the end of summer.

I seem to have hayfever for the very first time in my life -- although it's winter, Melbourne has apparently been inundated by pollens from all over the place, and a lot of people have developed hayfever for the first time. I DON'T CARE FOR IT. I'm itchy all the time, my previously well-managed dermatitis is off the charts. I could go out and buy antihistamines, but I know there's a box around here ... somewhere. So I'm stubbornly suffering while I look for it. 

(Also, I kind of overspent this fortnight, so I'm on a really tight budget until I get paid on Wednesday. I'm not regretting my Cursed Child impulse purchase, mind, but I am quite itchy, and I'm running out of tissues fast.)

lizbee: (Random: lush (Lalla))
On No Award, about 5000 words of discussion of Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword. All those words, and we didn't even get around to complaining about the Ghost Gate, and foolish persons who DON'T GO THROUGH THE GHOST GATE WHEN IT'S RIGHT THERE, I MEAN, COME ON, PEOPLE.

Companion Piece is now available for pre-order from Amazon and BookDepository.  These are for the hardcopy editions; ebook pre-orders will be available in the near future.
lizbee: (Default)
...but Tansy Rayner Roberts is doing a serialised, gender- and racebent Three Musketeers in space.

But like I said, no one I know would be up for that.

(Oh, and she's totally the National Guest of Honour for next year's Continuum. Because I'm chairing, and I said so. Also I asked and she said yes.)
lizbee: (Random: Book post)
Kirstein, like Megan Whalen Turner, likes to leave her reader to join the dots. Only there's science here, so I'm even more in the dark than on my first read-through of A Conspiracy of Kings. Setting out for my own benefit what I think we know.

Spoilers up to 'The Language of Power' )
lizbee: (MR: Russell (brooding))
I made a Tumblr post about Tsaritsa Sophia Alekseyevna of Russia, which has clocked up about a thousand notes, making it my most popular Tumblr post ever. I was pretty pleased with it, so I shared it on my grown-up blog, where it caught the eye of editors Tehani Wessely and Tansy Rayner Roberts. And so the Cranky Ladies of History project was born.

That second link goes to a crowdfunding page. If they reach their goal, they will also qualify for a $2000 grant from the Tasmanian government, so if you have a few bucks to spare, I strongly encourage you to chuck them this way!
lizbee: (Random: Book hat!)
I like this meme a lot, I just don't do it very much because I have enough trouble making time for my monthly round up of books!

What are you reading now?

Re-reading The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.  [personal profile] violetisblue mentioned buying a copy, and I was overcome with the desire to read the whole series again.

I appreciate how Gen is, as Ambiades puts it, "not exactly stalwart".  He's a great big whinger, and as much as I cringe a bit, I also like that he has no intention of being the Stoic, Brooding Hero. 

I missed the actual get-together, but I put The Thief in my RL book club's hat, and no one liked it.  *shakes head*

What did you just finish reading?

1.  Avatar: the Last Airbender - The Search (part 1) -- actually, I cracked and read a scan last week, but I finally managed to buy the last copy in Melbourne last night, and it turned out the scan had missed a bunch of pages, so there was stuff I hadn't read yet!  IT WAS VERY EXCITING.

Basically, after I read the scan last week, I had feels-related insomnia, and then I had FEELS all the way from Tokyo to Melbourne.  Feels, not feelings, because they weren't articulate enough for that ings.  Mostly they are Ursa feels, but also Zuko and Azula feels, and my usual vague desire to set Ozai on fire.  Although I really like the way Gene Luen Yang writes Ozai and fleshes him out without softening him, like the secret chamber that's full of artifacts from other cultures.  If it was Iroh, you'd think he was interested and wanted to learn, but because it's Ozai, it's more like a serial killer's souvenirs, only his victims are entire cultures. 

I haven't sought out the general fannish reaction, because [personal profile] unjapanologist said it was stupid, and I have enough problems with Doctor Who fandom at the moment.  Remind me to make a post about how not liking a writer's tropes doesn't mean it's okay to decide he's a paedophile. 

2.  Doctor Who/Star Trek: The Next Generation - Assimilation2 -- I accidentally bought volume 2 instead of volume 1, 'cos I'm an idiot.  But I read half of volume 1, so I knew that the Borg and the Cybermen had formed an alliance, and the TARDIS had turned up on the Enterprise-D for wacky crossover shenanigans. 

I found the writing pretty clunky and exposition-heavy -- I strongly feel that if the heart of the TARDIS inhabits Data, that should be a crowning moment of awesome, not an afterthought -- and there was this weird thing where Starfleet officers addressed Amy as "Miss Pond" if she was on her own, but Amy-and-Rory were "Mr and Mrs Williams".  Which mostly takes me back to the time in 2000 when I caused great offence on a mailing list by suggesting that women would have stopped automatically taking their husband's names by the 24th century. 

On the other hand, the art -- hand-painted, although some of the photo references were a bit too identifiable -- was amazing, and completely justified the purchase.  And I would happily buy some of the covers as posters.

What do you expect to read next?

The next three Queen's Thief books, and then I have some more Japanese crime fiction to read.  I didn't love The Devotion of Suspect X, but I'm optimistic!

Updates

Jan. 30th, 2013 11:47 am
lizbee: Freema Agyeman in brightly coloured '80s regalia, winking (TV: Larissa Loughlin)
Work: returned yesterday.  I was assigned a job labelled as "assault/affray/serious bodily harm", which I took to mean that my run of sex offences was over.  NOPE!  It was mislabelled.  I'm not sorry I have Wednesdays off.

Arm: healing!  I mean, that's how I interpret the nagging itch.  Most of the redness has gone, too. 

Ankle: sore!  I think I overdid it yesterday.  For one thing, we control our audio with foot pedals, and it turns out I'm strongly right-footed.  And, yes, it's the right ankle that's sprained.  Even so, it's not unbearable.

Ovaries: HAH!  I HAVEN'T COMPLAINED ABOUT THESE YET!  I've had nagging pains in my right side since before Christmas, which at first I put down to some kind of phantom gallbladder syndrome, but I finally went to the doctor last week, and he poked and I yelped, and apparently it's probably something in the ovary department.  His money's on a cyst.  At least, unlike a surprising number of my friends, I made it through my US trip without an ovary literally exploding. 

White Lotus fic: remember how I was crowing that my prompt was exactly what I wanted to write?  Yeah, not so much.  I have 1014 words, none of which relate to the specific prompt except in terms of the pairing, but I'm sure I can fix that before it's due on, um, this weekend. 

TV:  Parks & Recreation is so amazing, you guys.  Well, not the first season.  I had a dream last night that I went back to watch the first season, and it was brilliant.  Then I woke up and remembered how terrible the pilot was.  But seasons 2-5 of Parks & Rec are so amazing, you guys.  The Carrie Diaries is less amazing, what with the post-pilot episodes so far being a bit generic, but I think it has the capacity to improve.  If not, at least it's a chance to admire Freema Agyeman in a series of improbable and terrible outfits.  Finally, Breaking Bad is quite brilliant, although I'm quite mystified by all the people who say Walt crosses the line in season 4 or 5.  Were they not paying attention to the attempted marital rape in the season 2 premiere?  Anyway, I'm convinced that, however the timeline works out, Walter White is actually the son of Pete Campbell and Peggy Olsen that was given up for adoption.  Turns out that Pete's sense of white, male, middle class American entitlement with a seething underscore of potential violence is genetic. 

Books: Are pretty great.  I just finished For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, a retelling of Persuasion set in a dystopian (or, more accurately, post-dystopian) New Zealand.  With steampunk elements.  It was quite excellent, and well worth the trouble I went to in order to get a copy.  (For some reason, I could buy a prequel novella from the Kindle store, but not the actual novel.  In the end, I had to buy a hardback edition from The Strand in New York.)  Now, naturally, I'm reading Persuasion again.  Turns out I own three copies.  This seems reasonable.
lizbee: (Random: Freema in close up)
Losers in Space by John Barnes: YA SF.  In the interests of having more content on my blog, I posted my fairly substantial response there.

The Carrie Diaries: CW TV series.  I was originally planning to skip all the bits that didn't have Freema Agyeman, but I got sucked into the story and wound up being unexpectedly charmed.  I've never watched more than a few minutes of Sex in the City, but this has the makings of a clever little show that stands on its own.  At the pilot stage it has some terrible lines (although Carrie's tedious voiceovers are more forgivable coming from a 16 year old than a grown woman), but also a lot of heart, and a solid cast.  (I was amused to see that Carrie's 14 year old sister, whom I'd dismissed as too mature and tall for the role, is in fact played by a 15 year old actress.)  Apparently the CW is hoping it will fill the void left by Gossip Girl, but so far it's way too nice for that.  And, I note, has a more diverse cast than Sex in the City and Girls combined.

And yes, Freema was lovely.  I don't think she's ever played a character as flighty and flirty as this before, but she does it well.  Although there are a few shots where her faint crows feet are visible, which made me cheer a little, because it's not often you get to see that kind of thing at all, but it seemed a bit odd in a character who declares that people are old when they turn 25.  But hey, it's set in 1984, a generation before Botox, and I can easily see Larissa as a person who latches onto very young, impressionable people and uses them to distract the world from her age. 

Elementary: I can't believe how this show has crept up on me.  It's gone from "Is Elementary on this week?" to "WHEN IS IT ON?  I NEED TO KNOW.  I CAN'T WAIT TWO WEEKS FOR THE NEXT EPISODE, CBS!"  So that's nice.  Unexpected for a procedural, but then, the emotional story of Sherlock and Joan coming to respect and like each other is serialised, and now that we have the characters established, the plots are getting a little bit meatier.  Sometimes they even verge on making sense!  Well done, team!

I have to say, though, with Watson established as a baseball fan, and all the soccer stuff last week, I really hope there's an episode where all investigations come to a halt because Holmes has to watch The Ashes.
lizbee: (Random: Book post)
I finished one last book for 2012 yesterday: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho.  It's a novella, which made it easy to inhale in a day, but I wouldn't have bothered if it hadn't been terribly funny and engaging.  It's the tale of a Malayan-Chinese woman making her way as a writer in 1920 London.  That's the bit that sold me; I was less keen on the genre being romance, which I generally find boring.  But, you know, novella, it's over quickly.  And it was incredibly well-written, contained one of my bulletproof kinks (which is, alas, spoilery), and the heroine is witty and clever and generally delightful.

Now, because I have nothing better to do -- it's not like I should go and rustle up breakfast or anything -- I've opened Excel and am playing with stats.

Warning: contains graphs. )
lizbee: (Random: Book hat!)

...I know I have two days of December left, but I honestly doubt I'm going to finish anything. BECAUSE I SUCK.

Come to that, October was pretty light-on as well. 

The lists. )



Book thoughts! )

lizbee: (Random: Book post)
Justice Hall - Laurie R King
The Game - Laurie R King
Locked Rooms - Laurie R King
Ba(nd) Romance - Sarah Billington (short story)
The Language of Bees - Laurie R King
God of the Hive - Laurie R King
The Pirate King - Laurie R King
Garment of Shadows - Laurie R King
Beekeeping for Beginners - Laurie R King (novella)
A Spy in the House - Y S Lee
Point of Honour - Madeleine E Robins
Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
The Casual Vacancy - J K Rowling

A bit of a light month, what with all the re-reads. Other than the Russell novels, the standout was obviously JKR's The Casual Vacancy. I wasn't totally blown away -- I found the realism jarred against the satire, and the ending didn't thrill me, but it was a good read, and I'm eager to see what she writes next.
lizbee: (Random: Book post)
VIII - H M Castor
Empress of Rome: The Life of Livia - Matthew Dennison
The Poisoner's Handbook - Deborah Blum
Alchemy and Meggy Swann - Karen Cushman
The Colour of Earth - Kim Dong Hwa
I Want My MTV - Craig Marks
The Beekeeper's Apprentice - Laurie R. King
A Monstrous Regiment of Women - Laurie R. King
A Letter of Mary - Laurie R. King
The Moor - Laurie R. King
O Jerusalem - Laurie R. King
Am I Black Enough For You? - Anita Heiss

The round-up:

VIII is a YA novel covering the life of Henry VIII. As such it breaks a bunch of sometimes-written rules of YA, in that the main character ages well past the target audience's age bracket and does things they might not have direct experience with, like marriage, divorce, spousal murder, ruling England, declaring war on France and Spain, etc. I don't think breaking that rule guideline was the reason why the book sort of floundered after Anne Boleyn died, though -- it's more that (as happens so often), the first two wives got all the characterisation, so after the beheading it felt more like a series of sketches about an increasingly unpleasant character. The first half, though, was really good.

I wanted to read Empress of Rome: The Life of Livia since I found it in Hill of Content back in 2010, but couldn't bring myself to pay $50 for the hardback. LIBRARIES, MAN. It was a good, clear biography with an increasingly hilarious hate-on for Robert Graves and I, Claudius and the general historiographical hatchet job on Livia. It could have done with some closer editorial attention, though, with unintentionally hilarious sentences like, "Augustus himself had given birth only to Julia." There's also an irritating trend through the book of praising Livia by putting other prominent Roman women of her era down.

Alchemy and Meggy Swann: decent middle-grade fiction about a disabled girl who comes to live with her father, an alchemist, in Elizabethan London. I was really impressed with Cushman's use of the slang and songs of the era, and the portrayal of Meggy's physical limitations.

The Colour of Earth is the first part in a manhwa trilogy. (That's the Korean graphic novel and comic form, I discovered when I went straight from Amazon to Wikipedia.) I was pretty mixed -- the art is gorgeous, but I kind of finished it going, "And this is three whole books about a mother and daughter who have no existence beyond their romantic dreams?" And then there was an afterword explaining that it's notable for its unusually feminist and layered portrayal of women. How to scare Liz off an entire genre in one easy move! (I did like the relationship between mother and daughter, I just kept waiting for them to have a conversation that wasn't about men or romance or sex.)

I Want My MTV is an oral history of the network, with various employees and celebrities sharing their memories and experiences. Parts of it were quite interesting, lots of it made me want to throw things, and the repeated complaints that it's all terrible now made me want to go and watch Pimp My Ride. Boomers v Gen X: no one wins, least of all Gen Y.

THEN, because I had a cold and was feeling sorry for myself, and also because the book I wanted to read is unavailable in Australia, I started re-reading the Mary Russell novels. Which are only intermittently objectively good, but I love them. And I also love the way Sherlock fans on Tumblr express OUTRAGE that any character could be written as a match for Sherlock Holmes, LET ALONE A WOMAN. The misogyny wasn't cute when it was coming from neckbeards; it's downright ugly coming from women.

Finally, the month's winner for book I liked most is Am I Black Enough For You? by Anita Heiss, which is part-memoir and part exploration of Aboriginal identity, expectations, stereotypes and more. (I especially enjoyed the chapter on Indigenous cultural expressions, copyright and cultural appropriation.) Heiss is an academic, writer, poet, activist and author of commercial women's fiction. You know, chick-lit. In this case, chick-lit about educated young Koori women with jetsetting lifestyles and complex romantic lives. (I've been circling her novels for a while, torn between, "But I don't really like chick-lit!" and "But if it had a different label you'd snap that up in an instant!")

Heiss was also an applicant in the Andrew Bolt racial discrimination case last year, for which I was part of the transcription team. (In fact, nearly a whole page of Am I Black Enough For You? is a quotation from transcript I did myself! SHUT UP, I WAS VERY PROUD OF OUR WORK THERE! There were fair amounts of research involved, and also it was 90% rage-typing!) I don't think I've ever before had a chance to read about a case I worked on from a party's point of view, and it was informative and interesting.

I was also interested that Heiss discusses race and racism in terms that the internet (okay, Tumblr) claims is unacceptable, which was a handy reminder that fandom's attitude towards discussing race is strongly US-centric and not universal. (Not that I discuss race much, online or elsewhere, but I read a lot.) One of the problems Heiss discusses is identity policing from people, black and white, who say she is too educated, urban, middle-class, etc, to be "really" Koori. Given that a few months ago, fandom was being told Korra, a brown-skinned fictional character, is "really" white because she has ... well, any privilege at all -- that rang pretty strongly. That identity-erasure was at the heart of the entire lawsuit last year, so I was kind of fascinated and horrified to see the Andrew Bolt Approach being taken up by people who are ostensibly anti-racist.

[ETA: One thing I meant to say in this post, and forgot, that if you're writing, or thinking of writing, anything involving Aboriginal people, cultural works, characters, etc, Am I Black Enough For You? also contains a wealth of information about authors, reports and guidelines to check out. I mention this because a major supporting character in Le Novel, who will have the POV if I ever get to the sequel, is a twelve year old Koori girl, and I'm really glad to have all these resources for the avoidance of offence and stereotypes.]

From politics to cartoons, and I still managed to get one nail painted! Saturday morning accomplishment: ACHIEVED!
lizbee: (Random: Book post)
[Forthcoming novel] - [an author]
Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City - Nelson Johnson
Gifts - Ursula K Le Guin
Worldshaker - Richard Harland
(Unfinished) If Walls Could Talk - Lucy Worsley
Virtuoso - Jessica Martinez
A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold - George R R Martin
All That I Am - Anna Funder
(Unfinished) Katherine - Anya Seton

Bit of a mixed bag this month! 

Boardwalk Empire started off well, but by the time it got into the modern era it was all a bit, AND THEN THERE WAS GAMBLING.  GAMLING'S SO GREAT, YOU GUYS.  SO GREAT. 

Gifts was one for the book club, and (shamefully) the first Le Guin I ever read.  (I tried Earthsea once, honestly!)  I enjoyed it a lot, although I felt like the structure was a bit meandering.  I shall, at some stage, read the sequels. 

Worldshaker was enjoyable, especially since I picked it up shortly after Someone Whose Name I Forgot declared steampunk a genre for fascists, and this is a YA novel about an essentially marxist revolution in a steampunk world.  Lots of good ideas and characters, but it was quite uneven -- the writing was quite simplistic, and sat awkwardly against the complexity of the situation and the rather shocking violence. 

I don't usually list unfinished books, but I got a fair chunk into If Walls Could Talk and Katherine.  I dropped Walls because, while it was an interesting-enough popular history (about the evolution of the European house, room by room), the author was incredibly irritating.  I could live with her insistence that everyone in the modern age is middle-class and enjoys exactly the same lifestyle as she does, but when she expressed amazement that it took skill as well as brute strength to print William Morris wallpaper, I gave up.

Katherine is a 1950s novel about the life of Katherine Swynford, mistress and later wife of John of Gaunt.  It was one of the very first popular historical romances, and I enjoyed what I read of it very much.  But the print was tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiny, and giving me a headache.  So I skipped ahead to see the outcomes for all the characters that I liked, and then stopped out of sheer self-preservation.  That was the library's copy, and very old;  apparently there's a new edition out with a foreword by Philippa Gregory that is presumably easier on the eyes.

Virtuoso was a perfectly good YA novel about a violin prodigy who, as she prepares for a competition that will decide her future career options, discovers a terrible secret.  I really liked this a lot, but I would have liked it even more if it had contained more about the main character's rather interesting relationship with her father and his family (who are uninterested in her, the illegitimate daughter of a failed opera singer, until it turns out she's hugely talented) and maybe a bit less about her romance with a rival violinist.  But the stuff about the pressure to succeed, the dependence on beta blockers and anti-anxiety medication, and her fraught relationship with her mother, were all great.

And All That I Am takes the prize for Best Book Last Month, which isn't surprising since it's winning all kinds of awards.  It was quite slow to start off with, and annoyed me in a lot of ways, since large parts of it are basically ERNST TOLLER'S MANPAIN, LET HIM SHOW YOU IT, but it was a fascinating story -- about the left-wing intellectuals of 1920s Germany, the rise of the Nazis and their exile and ultimate betrayal in Britain.  Most of the characters are based on real people, although some names are changed and several characters are composites. 

It's told via two first person narrators:  Toller, in New York in 1939, and Ruth, in Sydney in 2002.  Amazon reviewers seemed to find this profoundly confusing and difficult to follow, on account of how it required the reader to pay attention.  I'm not normally a fan of rotating first POV, but I liked it here.
lizbee: (Random: KGill is purdy)
Leviathan Wakes - James S A Corey
Last Call: The rise and fall of Prohibition - Daniel Okrent
A Clash of Kings - George R R Martin
Swift - R J Anderson
A Storm of Swords part 1: Steel and Snow - George R R Martin
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance - Lois McMaster Bujold

Yes, this is a paltry lot and I am ashamed.  On the other hand, the GRRMs contain, like, the textual equivalent of five YA novels (and about as much rape, if the YA novels are Issue Books).  And Last Call took forever.  It was an okay read, not very well written, but it just never seemed to end!  Which, I guess, could also have been said for Prohibition at the time. 

Leviathan Wakes is another Hugo nominee.  It was the first I actually enjoyed reading, being a straight-up action-adventure with a heavy dash of mystery and some slightly self-conscious noir.  And also spaceships, which I approve of in general.  Unfortunately, I feel like I can't actually give it my first preference in voting, because it just doesn't deserve it.  No new ideas, plot-wise, and a few diversions into hinkiness that made me side-eye the author(s) a bit, and wonder how the issues would have been dealt with in the hands of writers who weren't white men.  Which is sad, because they obviously put a lot of effort into writing a diverse range of stereotype-avoiding characters, and in general did quite a good job.  (Actually, now I think of it, possibly [female character] winding up in a refrigerator had more to do with the conventions of noir than anything else.  But it still sat ill.)

Things I wholeheartedly loved: Swift, which took [personal profile] rj_anderson's faery series away from its previous settings and characters.  Apparently this has earned her some hate mail, which is stupid, since the new characters and places are fascinating.  And the only familiar character is Martin, who would be the leather pants faery woobified by fandom if she had that kind of fandom, but he's not suddenly forgiven for his past sins etc.

Woobies I'm less in love with: nothing will ever convince me that Byerly Vorrutyer is remotely interesting, but luckily he doesn't overstay his welcome in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance.  I'm not sure if Ivan Vorpatril is a particularly interesting character either, but he's entertaining, which is just as good.  (I've realised that my dream Barrayar novel these days involves Gregor and Duv FIGHTING CRIME, with Alys as their long-suffering boss.)

(Because I was looking for it, I feel compelled to note that we STILL don't know what Alys's Vormaidenname was.  I think Bujold must be taunting me personally.)
lizbee: (Random: Book post)
A Certain Justice - P D James
The Killing - series 1 and 2: the best of the blog - The Guardian
Death in Holy Orders - P D James
The Murder Room - P D James
A Brief History of Montmaray - Michelle Cooper
The FitzOsbornes in Exile - Michelle Cooper
The FitzOsbornes at War - Michelle Cooper
Among Others - Jo Walton
Fields of Gold - Rachel Swirsky
Messy - Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Feed - M T Anderson
Avatar: the Last Airbender - The Promise (part 2) - Gene Luen Yang

Pretty much a mixed bag, but you've already heard my feelings about Among Others!

Definitely the highlight of the month was the Montmaray trilogy by Michelle Cooper. Like Among Others, it's historical fiction written as the diary of a teenage girl. Unlike Among Others, it's actually convincing, which is odd when you consider that the Montmaray trilogy is basically an Enid Blyton adventure with more social realism and gay people. Montmaray is a tiny fictional island kingdom roughly between England and Spain, and as the story opens it has less than ten inhabitants: the royal family and their four servants. Then there are Nazis! And everyone evacuates, and the self-sufficient, rather rough and tumble royals have to assimilate into upper-class English society! Even though the eldest princess is a socialist bluestocking who gets into fights with Oswald Mosley, and the crown prince is gay, and the middle princess is a sweet, clever girl who learned all the right lessons from Machiavelli, and the youngest is a semi-literate tomboy!

I kept reading along, going, "THIS SHOULD BE TERRIBLE! WHY IS IT SO GOOD?" (and it's true that the superficial terribleness of it all kept me from reading it for a couple of years), but I think it works because the main characters are so down to earth and funny, and also, in a world where the Mitford family exists, a ragtag group of minor royals stumbling through the Season and getting into fights with the Windsors seems fairly plausible. I didn't think the mood could be sustained through WW2, and it's true that I kept having to put The FitzOsbornes At War down while I had a little cry, but the story and the ending were very satisfying.

(I should also mention that Cooper is an Australian author, and now I totally have to read her other YA novel, The Rage of Sheep, but also the Montmaray books are available from the Kindle store now, and are being released in hardcopy in the American market with very pretty Cecil Beaton-style covers.)

Other than that, I really enjoyed Messy, which is the follow-up to last year's Spoiled, and has slightly less nutritional value than the chocolate-with-pop-rocks-and-jelly-beans on my desk, but it's terribly fun to read and makes me think of a contemporary Daria.

And, just to go for the minority opinion, I really enjoyed part 2 of "The Promise". Spoilers! )
lizbee: (Avatar: Chibi Zuko and Mai)
Having recovered somewhat from the overwhelming badness of Among Others, I moved onto attempting Mira Grant's Deadline. I say "attempting", because it's the second book in a trilogy I had otherwise decided not to read, and while I had to give it a go, I promised myself I could stop if I really hated it.

I MADE IT FIVE CHAPTERS, GUYS, YOU SHOULD BE PROUD OF ME.

To sum up: the Newsflesh trilogy is set in a sci-fi zombie apocalypse dominated by pop culture references that are already outdated now. (Strike one.) The protagonist in the second book has his dead twin sister living in his head, but that doesn't save him from being deeply annoying. (Strike two.) And then someone (thankfully) warned me that the trilogy's OTP are siblings. (Strike three.)

It wasn't HOLY SHIT, THIS IS BAD! on the scale of Among Others, but the little bit I read killed any desire to read any of Grant's other work ever.

Quick, potentially triggery rant about fannish attitudes to incest and also RL abuse. )

I'm now trying to read Ray of Light by Brad R. Torgersen, one of the nominated novelettes. I say "trying" because, while it's technically good and all, so far it suffers from All The Female Characters Are Symbols And Archetypes Syndrome, and also a bad case of PrecociousInnocentChildItis. I'm beginning to wonder if this year's nominations are actually an elaborate attempt at trolling.

Something I did like! I'm on a couple of YA panels at Continuum -- I also came third in the short story competition! -- so I've been catching up on some YA sci-fi. (I have to say, the contrast with the adult-oriented Hugo nominated novels is striking. And I'm still convinced that the really interesting stuff is being written for teens.) Really enjoyed Feed by M T Anderson, even though it is full of things I usually avoid -- cyberpunk, douchebag male protagonist who learns an important lesson from a borderline manic pixie dream girl, etc. Mostly because it is so well written that it turns the cliches inside out and into interesting origami shapes, and is also short enough that it doesn't overstay its welcome. I'm not saying that I was crying on the train as I finished it, but ... yeah, I was totally crying on the train.

As long as I'm kicking lots of popular genre works, here are four more unpopular opinions:

- The actress who played Sif in Thor was really embarrassingly bad...
- ...and Darcy is kind of not that interesting to me
- Korra/Asami is possibly the most boring f/f pairing on the entire planet, and I'm sure I have good reasons for believing this that aren't just "They get in the way of Korra/Lin"
- it kind of skeeves me out that so much of the Korra/Tahno fan art on my dash puts Korra in a stereotypically feminine nurturing role

OH YEAH, and I'm also on a Continuum panel about vidding! So I should probably maybe go watch some vids? Said panel is at 11pm Friday night, btw, so if you come -- it's gold coin entry on Friday! -- maybe bring me some Red Bull, because I turn into a pumpkin at 9.30.
lizbee: (MR: LANG cover (UK))
I was so disappointed in God of the Hive that I haven't even read the new Mary Russell book, and now there's ANOTHER ONE coming out! And it looks CRACKTACULAR with an option for good, so I guess I need to catch up.
lizbee: (Random: Book hat!)
So I bought a supporting membership for Chicon this year, for reasons that I'm sure seemed good at the time -- OH, RIGHT! I decided that I felt very strongly about "Remedial Chaos Therapy" deserving a first preference over "The Doctor's Wife" purely because people were being OUTRAGED that a MERE SITCOM was getting MAINSTREAM COOTIES all over their precious nerd awards. And also I wanted the option of nominating Legend of Korra Book 1 for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) next year. Because I really want to see my show getting crushed by The Avengers and Game of Thrones, I guess.

Anyway, with membership comes the voting pack, electronic copies of all nominated novels, novelettes, novellas and short stories. And this was pretty great, because I was really keen to read Jo Walton's Among Others, which has been universally praised by fannish reviewers, and now I can do so for free!

The problem is that I ... kind of hated it. A lot.

The plot is this: Mori (Morwenna, or Mor) is 15, Welsh and it's 1979. Following an accident that left her with a crippling injury and a dead twin, she runs away from her mother, who an evil witch, spends two months in a Children's Home, and winds up being sent to live in England with her father, who abandoned his family when she was a baby.

The novel is written in the form of Mori's diary, and much of it deals with the science fiction she's reading. I've read about 80% of the books mentioned, and I have to say, other than giving fellow fans a warm glow, I don't really see what the book talk adds to the novel. Mori could have been obsessed with romance, or thrillers, or 18th century gothic literature, or Sherlock Holmes, and very little would be different.

Mori also sees fairies. Which is nice for her, I guess. She's sent off to boarding school, where she discovers the class system, and eventually becomes part of a local SF book club, while getting a boyfriend and fending off her mother's magical attacks.

The good bits: the depiction of chronic pain is AMAZING, and I had to take Panadol because I was having sympathetic pain. The boarding school bits are okay. The scenes with Mori's paternal grandfather, a Polish Jew, are interesting, and could have formed the backbone of an entire (better) book.

The bad bits: the narrative voice. Maybe I was just spoiled by Michelle Cooper's Montmaray books, a YA trilogy which is also narrated through the diary of a teenage girl, but this reads more like a 40-something's LJ than a teenage girl's diary. There are flashes of the "real" voice, but they're few and far between. She doesn't sound like a teenager, even a very precocious teenager.

(Said my friend [personal profile] yiduiqie when I asked her to have a read and tell me if I'm being unfair, "I thought you were joking about the LJ thing, but then it opens with a quote from a LiveJournal comment!")

The rest is spoilery, and also includes incest! )

Especially disappointing is that I loved every one of Jo Walton's novels, so I know she can do better. And worse, not counting A Dance With Dragons, this is one of only two Hugo-nominated novels with female protagonists.

From there I went on and read Fields of Gold by Rachel Swirsky, one of the nominated novelettes, in which an Average Joe dies and finds out that (a) the afterlife is just ... the dead, still hanging out; and (b) his wife killed him.

What was most notable for me, after Among Others, was how vivid the characters' voices were, and how quickly they came to life. So even though I didn't really like them, I totally believed in them, and that was enough to carry me through the 40 pages.

(Fields of Gold also contained incest. I can only assume this year's Hugos are sponsored by the Game of Thrones kinkmeme.)
lizbee: (Random: Book post)

A bit late, on account of how I had other things to do the morning of May 1.  (Life without a gall bladder - pretty great so far!  This morning I managed to make my own breakfast!  And later I'm going to hobble a few metres to the train station, then hobble a few more to a cafe, and have lunch with a friend!  THIS IS EXCITING STUFF!)

Nothing to Envy: love, life and death in North Korea - Barbara Demick
Fourth Year Triumphs at Trebizon - Anne Digby
Cover Her Face - P D James
A Mind To Murder - P D James
Unnatural Death - P D James
Shroud for a Nightingale - P D James
The Black Tower - P D James
Death of an Expert Witness - P D James
Ran Away - Barbara Hambly
A Taste for Death - P D James
Devices and Desires - P D James
Original Sin - P D James

April's reading actually goes full circle, in that I finished Nothing to Envy in the waiting room at the Royal Melbourne hospital, and finished Original Sin a month later in the pre-operative assessment ward. 

Nothing to Envy and Ran Away were definitely the stand-outs for the month. Nothing to Envy is a straight up set of personal histories of life in North Korea, and the author makes no pretensions about her book being anything else.  And Ran Away was just a straight-up satisfying entry in the Benjamin January series.  A few months ago I said I really wanted fic about January and Ayasha fighting crime in Paris, and about a third of Ran Away was exactly that.  (Though I was slightly thrown by a character being named Shamira, which is my stepmother's name.) 

As for the rest, I decided on a whim to read all of P D James' Dalgliesh novels in order, which for some reason I had never done before.  It's proving somewhat unsatisfying -- I don't know if I'm just not in the mood for James' politics, or if her quirks are becoming a little too obvious, but the only reason I haven't taken a break is because I can't get into A Brief History of Montmaray

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