netgirl_y2k: (brand new day)
I was on holiday at the turn of last month, so this might be quite a long list, fortunately as I read a few of them in early September I can't really remember what I wanted to say about them.

Bad Feminist - Roxane Gay
The Paying Guests - Sarah Waters
Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living - Nick Offerman
Ask the Passengers - A.S. King
Astray - Emma Donogue
Full Fathom Five - Max Gladstone
Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer
Ascension - Jacqueline Koyanagi
The Duchess War - Cortney Milan
The Heiress Effect - Courtney Milan
The Countess Conspiracy - Courtney Milan
The Suffragette Scandal - Courtney Milan
The Governess Affair - Courtney Milan
A Kiss for Midwinter - Courtney Milan
Talk Sweetly to Me - Courtney Milan
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher - Hilary Mantel
Ancillary Sword - Ann Leckie


Bad Feminist is a collection of essays about feminism, and pop culture, and guilty pleasures. Clever stuff. I mean, I read and enjoy the likes of Caitlin Moran, but it's good to read anything about feminism that isn't quite so straight, white, and middle-class, you know?

Sarah Waters is one of my very favourite authors and The Paying Guests is my favourite of hers since Fingermsith. It's a bit of a return to form, I thought; I tell myself that I have other reasons for disliking The Little Stranger than the absence of lesbianism, but fair or not, queer women throughout history are why I read Sarah Waters. Anyway, this is about an upper-class mother and daughter in the interwar years who have to take in lodgers to make ends meet. It's half historical lesbian romance, half courtroom drama, and I really liked it a lot.

The Nick Offerman autobiography I read all in one night as I was fending off a panic attack. I don't actually watch Parks & Rec, but I'd seen enough gifsets of him on tumblr to think: this is a man who should have a manifesto, I would like to read that manifesto. The best bits were where he was talking about his marriage. My new romantic aspiration is to marry someone who talks about me the way Nick Offerman talks about Megan Mullally.

Ask the Passangers is YA novel about a teenaged girl's coming out, with a dash of magical realism thrown in. I think it suffered from my unfairly comparing it to The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which I'd read a few months ago and is similar on the surface, and they aren't remotely in the same league.

Astray is a collection of short stories about people moving to or around the US and Canada. What really struck me about it was that there wasn't a single story that I didn't like or was underwhelmed by; that never happens with short story collections. I continue to be knocked out by Emma Donogue's writing is what I'm saying.

Full Fathom Five... I just can't say enough good things about Max Gladstone's Craft sequence. Brilliantly wrought, diverse fantasy about gods and magic and all those stuck in between. This is a don't walk, run type of recommendation.

I had heard so many good things about the Southern Reach Trilogy, and I think maybe outside factors played a part. Because I was chugging through Annihilation cheerfully enough; then when I was about two thirds of the way though my dog died, and I lost interest in reading for a while. And when I finally picked the book up I found the last third really hard going and bleh, and have pretty much no interest in picking up the next two books in the series. So, yeah, sorry, book, it's not you, it's me.

Ascension had so many good things in it. Spaceships! A werewolf in space! Important sibling relationships! The protagonist is a non-white lesbian with a chronic illness! With all that it was kind of a shame that the plot never really came together for me, and by the time it turns out that half the ship's crew is in a poly relationship it had the feeling of some kind of bingo card being checked off. Not that you couldn't do something awesome with a poly spaceship crew, just that this book didn't do it. File under: books I wish I liked more than I did.

Historical Romance is not a genre I read much, or at all. But I heard Courtney Milan's name bandied about in connection with the [tumblr.com profile] ask-a-man tumblr, and I read the entire Brothers Sinister series, including the novellas, within about a fortnight. I couldn't get my grubby little hands on them quickly enough. I completely loved them, the heroines, beta male heroes, background queer relationships, inter-racial romances, lady scientists, feminist notes, and so so much fun. So, yeah, I'm taking this as a lesson on the benefits of reading outside my usual genres.

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher is the very definition of a book I bought because of the title. The title story is magnificent, the others slightly more hit and miss. There were a couple I didn't actually understand, but, hey, Hilary Mantel is smarter than I am, news at eleven.

Ancillary Sword I actually liked more than Ancillary Justice, and I fucking loved Ancillary Justice. I loved that the sequel is a little more tight focus on a small group of characters, but that still has the fascinating world-building and smart as heck gender and identity stuff.

I'm having a bit of a book slump at the moment, because all I really want to read is Ancillary Mercy, which, alas, will not be released for a year or more. So if you've read any good books recently, you should totally tell me about them.
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
Feet of Clay - Terry Pratchett (reread)
Parasite - Mira Grant
The Brides of Rollrock Island - Margo Lanagan
Fever - Megan Abbott
Two Serpents Rise - Max Gladstone


Kind of a slow month, book wise, partly because of one or two books that I found kind of hard going, but also because I did something a bit silly. I'd been hanging onto my old Kindle Keyboard in the hope that it might loop past obsolete to really quite retro and neat; but I saw a good deal on a refurbished Kindle Fire and got one of those instead. It is nice to have a wee tablet; but it's slightly too big, slightly too heavy, slightly too breakable feeling, and slightly too "hey, tumblr's right there; who's for a quick game of Angry Birds" to use as a dedicated e-reader.

Feet of Clay is, interesting enough, the first book I've reread this year. I used to reread books a lot, and now I hardly ever do. Partly it's because I feel my age, and realise that there are more interesting books in the world than I could possibly read even if I did nothing else. But it's also, and more honestly, because I used to have no money, live in a rubbish public library system, and own twelve books that I just reread on a loop. But it's always a good time for Discworld and the City Watch.

I think this is the point where I accept that, although she butters many parsnips, Mira Grant's fiction does nothing for me. Parasite is set in a near future where people are implanted with their own personal intestinal parasites which regulate their health, and it was just a roll call of meh for me. For one thing, although it was meant to be 2027, apart from the intestinal worm thing, it's indistinguishable from 2014. For another, the "plot twist" is so obvious and telegraphed from so early on that it barely qualifies for the name. The body horror angle that should be there in a story about personalised body-controlling tapeworms was so tepid as to be nonexistent. Oh! And Our Protagonist suffers from memory loss; she is either an adult woman with amnesia, or an entirely new person who is six years old; there's an entire subplot about whether her parents should have guardianship of her or not, and it keeps coming up that she's still relearning the English language, and yet no one questions her being a sexual relationship!? Bah!

I had read Tender Morsels last year and been utterly traumatised by the contents; two in the morning, ugly crying traumatised. But at the same time I'd thought that Margo Lanagan's writing was completely gorgeous. The Brides of Rollrock Island is about selkies, and is quietly, completely, desperately heartbreaking; but very lovely. I'd definitely recommend reading this one first.

Fever was one of those books that was so very Not For Me, that it's hard to tell if it's objectively any good. That's one of the things I don't like about the Kindle Fire: it's a bugger to sideload, and impossible to organise once you've got things on there; so unless something's absolutely awful I'll probably just plug on to the end. It's about a small town where teenage girls start coming down with a mysterious illness; and is it mass hysteria, is there foul play afoot, is it the polluted lake at the centre of town, or the HPV vaccine the girls have recently had..? Who knows, and by the end of the book, I really didn't care very much.

If I haven't already made a ringing endorsement of Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence books, then you should consider this a ringing endorsement of the Craft Sequence books. They're set in a fantasy, some sort of magic-punk, world where people have used magic to overthrow their gods, and are trying to figure out what happens next. They remind me in a way of China Mieville's Bas-Lag trilogy , although these are a little easier on the brain.

Two Serpents Rise is set in the same world as Three Parts Dead, but in a different city with a completely new set of characters, which I love. I have recently discovered that I have very strong feelings that books in a series should have a self contained story. I am particularly biased against series that are just one long story split into parts. I mean, Lord of the Rings has been hugely influential on the fantasy genre and on me as wee thing, but it turns out that, damn, I hate a lot of its tropes.

Book Meme

Aug. 12th, 2014 11:56 pm
netgirl_y2k: (brand new day)
I've seen this meme as a pick a letter and I'll answer whack-a-doodle, but I am contrary and like talking about books, so I'm going to answer them all.

books a go-go )
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
The Republic of Thieves - Scott Lynch
God's War - Kameron Hurley
The Miseducation of Cameron Post - Emily M Danforth
An Untamed State - Roxane Gay
The Queen of the Tearling - Erica Johansen
The Goblin Emperor - Katherine Addison
We Were Liars - E Lockheart


I was so so on the first Gentlemen Bastards book, freaking adored the second, but perhaps I was just blinded by the lady pirates, because The Republic of Thieves met with a resounding "meh" from me.

On the plus side, we finally get to meet the oft spoken of Sabetha, and there are some neat feminist bits on Sabetha's feelings about being the only girl Gentleman Bastard, and always being in Locke's shadow; there were lots of funny, charming, witty sections; say what you like about Scott Lynch, but the man can turn a phrase. On the minus, neither the current plot (Locke and Jean competing with Sabetha to rig an election) or the flashback section (the young Gentlemen Bastards stage a play; ostensibly to teach them to grift and work as a team, but really they just put on a play, and not a very good one, at that) ever really get going, and the pacing felt clunky as hell.

The city-destroying bondsmagi, which I'd though were fascinating when viewed from afar in The Lies of Locke Lamora, turned out to be much less interesting up close; where they seem to mostly bicker internally and interfere in local politics. Then there was the end, which took a sudden, awkward turn from shenanigans to grimdark, and a reveal about Locke's "mysterious origins". And my feeling on protagonists with "mysterious origins" can be summed up thusly: please keep them to yourself.

I wanted to like God's War more than I did. It's set in a matriarchal society because all the men automatically get drafted into a holy war that's been fought for so long that it's origins have basically been forgotten; there's a delightfully bizarre insect based magic/technology system. But. But, it's low on description, so it's hard to envisage the world, and what should be pretty significant world-building points, like the fact that there are shape-shifters, only merit a throwaway mention. The plot was occasionally hard to follow; it's fast paced and exciting, but often in a sort of: wait, wait, what happened? who are they? what's going on? type way. Then there were the characters; now I don't think that characters always have to be nice, but all the characters here were so viscerally unpleasant that I couldn't imagine willingly spending any more time with them.

I'm intermittently annoyed that everything seems to be a series these days, even sometimes things that would be better off as stand-alones; but that's the Gentlemen Bastards and Bel Dame Apocrypha that I don't feel like I have to keep up with.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is about a girl coming out in Montana in the early-mid 90s, and I couldn't put it down for two days. You know when a book just speaks to you--? Not the parts about making out with cowgirls, or being shipped away to pray away the gay camp parts, obviously.

My experiences ran more along the lines of being felt up in the sixth form art room, and coming out to my parents to such a thunderous lack of reaction that to this day I'm honestly not sure they actually heard me.

But about how things were in the days in before the internet (there's a great quote that's been floating around tumblr about how if you think the internet is making us lonelier then you were never lonely before 1995) and how desperate you can be to see yourself reflected somewhere. Cameron endlessly rewinds that one scene from Personal Best; at least I had Xena when I was doing my own teenaged coming out a few years later. Representation matters, etc. But at least kids coming out now have youtube and netflix and tumblr gifsets, and thank goodness they do.

An Untamed State was another one that I couldn't put down. It's about a Haitian American woman who's kidnapped for ransom while visiting her family in Haiti. Everything horrible that you worry might happen to a woman kidnapped by a group of men happens, but it's exactly as horrible as it needs to be, and not at all titillating. (This is my residual GoT S4 feelings speaking; I now consider a rape scene not being sexualised to be a selling point.) It's awful, and harrowing, and compelling, and recovery isn't easy or neat, but it's possible. If you think the sexual violence wouldn't upset you too much, then I highly recommend it.

First things first about The Queen of the Tearling, when I rule the world all books that are the first in a trilogy will be forced to declare so, on the first page, in bold print. It's about a queen who was raised in exile, and comes into her throne to undo some of the mistakes of her mother's rule. She has a circle of loyal guards, and the antagonist is an evil queen sorcerous type.

So far so much typical fantasy fare with a kind of Arthurian twist. But the thing that makes it a bit different is that apparently this is a post apocalyptic world, "post-crossing" they say in the book. So I think the answers to the questions posed by that (why does the post apocalyptic world look like feudal Eurpoe? Where did the magic come from? How did the people get here; the book says they sailed but that must have been metaphorical sailing, right?) will either lift it above the mediocre or make it crash and burn. Yeah, not bad, but too "first book-y" to really say much about it.

The Goblin Emperor is about the despised half-goblin son of the emperor of the Elflands who unexpectedly comes into the throne when his father and older brothers are killed. I'd sort of been side-eying this because... elves, golblins, boy characters. But it was brilliant, completely and totally brilliant! Totally immersive world-building, and sucked me into elven court intrigue, to the point where I finished it and came out blinking into the light, going, where will I find another book that good?

We Were Liars was not that book. There's a huge (over-rated, to my mind) twist at the end, so I won't say much about it. The experience of reading it reminded me most of Lev Grossman's The Magicians, not because the plots are at all alike, no, but because they were both books that came highly recommended and that I read going I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR WANKY PRETENTIOUS RICH KID PROBLEMS, FUCK'S SAKE.

Okay, it's possible I have some, ahem, class-related issues.

Anyway, now I'm dipping in and out of the Discworld, because I couldn't find a good follow-on to The Goblin Emperor, and I panicked.
netgirl_y2k: (fire cannot kill a dragon)
Pump Six and Other Stories - Paulo Bacigalupi
Kissing the Witch - Emma Donoghue
Three Parts Dead - Max Gladstone
The Round House - Louise Erdrich
The Tropic of Serpents: A Memoir by Lady Trent - Marie Brennan
Iron & Velvet - Alexis Hall
Shadows & Dreams - Alexis Hall
Talker 25 - Joshua McCune
The Girl With All The Gifts - M.R. Carey
Carmilla - J Sheridan LeFanu
The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)


Not that long ago I was talking to someone about short story collections and how I have a hit-and-miss relationship with them. There are a few authors, I think, who write amazing short stories; alas, there seem to be more who use these collections as dumping grounds for their more half-baked ideas.There's also the thing, I think, where fandom has the short story-to-novella length form down to a fine art, so that's where I go when I want shorter stories. So it's kind of weird that I started the month off with two collections of short stories.

Pump Six I've been meaning to read for years, because I'd really loved The Windup Girl by the same author, and I'd heard there were a couple of stories set in that universe. So of course I'm only getting around to reading it now, when I've forgotten everything about the novel. Of the ten stories in the collection I absolutely loved nine of them. Nine of them are, like, cynical dystopias about environmental/technological apocalypses and mistrust of corporations, all good stuff. But the tenth is a contemporary story about a man who "accidentally" kills his wife. This annoyed me for two reasons, 1) it felt really out of place, like it was breaking the established theme, and 2) man kills woman, begins new life, might have been dark and groundbreaking at some point, but now it feels like it should be a square on misogynistic cliche bingo.

Back when I was talking about how much I'd liked one of Emma Donoghue's novels, basically everyone said I should read Kissing the Witch. A collection of feminist, occasionally queer, fairytale retellings, about the women trapped inside traditional fairytales. I can't image why you guys thought I would like this? Hee, yes, highly recommend.

Three Parts Dead I bought almost randomly - I had a book token, it was a pound, I vaguely recalled hearing something good about it, though I couldn't remember what or from who - and I'm delighted I did, cause I really loved it. It's a sort of fantasy steampunk thing, set in a world years after magicians have gone to war with the Gods. The world-building is awesome, it reminded me a little of China Meiville's Bas-Lag trilogy, although I liked the plot a lot more. Don't get me wrong, I love the Bas-Lag books, but I do think they coast by on the world-building. Lots of interesting, diverse characters too. I really look forward to reading more in this series. And that's kind of saying something, given that I'm currently experiencing one of my periodic bouts of annoyance at why is everything a series?

The Round House is about the rape and attempted murder of a women on a native american reserve in the 1980s (a time and place about which I know shamefully little) and the effect this has on her adolescent son. I mostly read SF/F, and I love it, but sometimes I want something different, not as a palate cleanser, as such, but just as a change of pace. And I'm so glad this was recommended to me; it's beautiful and horrible and fascinating. The thing that horrified me the most, actually, wasn't the rape, of which we only see the aftermath, but the legal purgatory the family find themselves in because the mother can't remember where, on tribal, state, or federal land, the attack took place. Anyway, if you're up to it, recommended.

The Tropic of Serpents is the continuing adventures of a pseudo-Victorian lady dragon naturalist. Much like the first one, if the words Victorian lady dragon naturalist appeal to you then you should love this, and if they don't then we can't be friends don't bother.

Iron & Velvet and Shadow's & Dreams are the first two (currently the only two; alas, I would read twelve of them) volumes in the Kate Kane series. And lesbian urban fantasy is a genre there ought to be more of, as all right thinking people would surely agree. Anyway, as urban fantasies go it's pretty standard fare: London, vampires, werewolves, magic, a supernatural PI. But damn if they didn't hit me square in the ID. Everyone is a woman; the PI, the vampire prince, the alpha werewolf, the witch queen of London; and there's this sort of love quadrangle going on. They're fun, and sexy, and silly, and sort of embrace their own silliness, and I really loved them a lot.

Talker 25 I did not like at all. Which was surprising because... dragons. It's set in a world twenty years after dragons have mysteriously appeared in the world, and people have reacted about as well as you'd expect to hundreds of giant fire breathing lizards appearing out of thin air. It sounded so promising, but it was just bad. The world-building was nonsensical and half-arsed (where did the dragons come from? why can some people talk to them telepathically? why do all dragons sound like some kind of sub-par Smaug?) The writing read a lot like the younger end of YA, then two thirds of the way through it turns all rape threats and torture porn. Bah.

I went through a zombie phase a few years ago where I read every zombie book going (I'm an adult now; I like dragons) after which I felt like zombies had been done to absolute death. But The Girl With All The Gifts was written by the guy who wrote the Felix Castor, so I gave it a shot. I ended up really liking it. There were enough twists on a familiar formulae to keep me interested; the twist about the protagonist is pretty obvious almost from the first page, but the ending is fucking awesome! Good undead stuff.

I'd been meaning to read Carmilla for ages; novella, vampires, Victorian sapphism. Yay.

The Silkworm is the second mystery JK Rowling has written under her Robert Galbraith pseudonym. This is set in the world of writers and publishing, and I very much enjoyed reading her take down of a certain type of white male literary writer (I would love to know how much of that stuff is based on her real life experiences). It was a pretty engaging mystery, and I had no idea who the killer was until the reveal. Funny thing is, I know I read the first one last year but I can't remember a single thing about it; so yeah, enjoyable if not particularly memorable.
netgirl_y2k: (sansa wolf girl)
re: my continued world cup watching - mwhaha haha haha ha

Thinking about it, things like this are probably why a lot of English people would be quite pleased if Scotland were to declare independence and fuck off.

Still. Haha.

*

A meme thing, that I have already completed on tumblr, but otherwise this post would just be me mwhahaha-ing.

list ten books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take but a few minutes, and don’t think too hard — they don’t have to be the “right” or “great” works, just the ones that have touched you.

1. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkein
2. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
3. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
4. And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie
5. Guards! Guards! - Terry Pratchett
6. Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks - Christopher Brookmyre
7. Fingersmith - Sarah Waters
8. The Kraken Wakes - John Whyndam
9. Death and the Penguin - Andrey Kurkov
10. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood.

With the caveats that LotR was hugely influential on me as a wee thing, but adult me finds it a turgid, unreadable sausage fest; and while the Narnia books are the first books I remember properly loving, I've never even tried to revisit them as a grown up - I suspect grown up me would be annoyed by the religious stuff, and infuriated by the Problem of Susan.

That said, Scottish, geeky, lesbian, feminist, cynic, that's me in a list of books, really.

*

I am still slightly confused about using tumblr for things other than reblogging graphics. Like, I had some success posting those trope ficlets I was writing first over there, but then I felt weirdly guilty about it, because if tumblr isn't the worst venue ever for fic, it's not from lack of trying. On the other hand, it's nice when people notice that you're there, you know?

So, I shall compromise and answer a questions meme I got tagged in, but I shall do it here.

1. Does pineapple belong on pizza?

Not on a pizza. Not on anything I am going to be putting into my mouth. Eugh.

2. If you care about the World Cup, tell me about your team! If you don’t, then what’s something fun you’re looking forward to in the next month or so?

I am Scottish, and thus shit at football a true neutral. This week I'm feeling good about Uruguay and Costa Rica, for reasons that have nothing to do with a certain team which may or may not have been knocked out at the group stage.

(Mwahaha, etc.)

I think the smart money has to be on a South American team. I got Belgium (of all teams, Belgium?) in the sweepstakes. And my personal favourite is Germany.

3. What were the last 3 pieces of fictional/fannish media you consumed?

I just read the first Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator book. Which is an urban fantasy in the vein of the Dresden Files or Felix Castor, only with a lesbian main character. No one will ever accuse it of being great literature, but I ate it up with a spoon.

I'm dipping into the first series of Vikings, which I'm enjoying, although I expect to remain baffled as to why anyone would make Vikings when instead they could make the Lagertha Lothbrok is awesome show.

The series finale of Game of Thrones, which despite having spent most of S4 lurching from one misgiving to another left me optimistic for S5.

4. You’re in a zombie apocalypse, and your companions are the main characters from the pieces of media you named in the previous question. So, how fucked are you?

Are you kidding? I have a half-faery with a magic sword, the fiercest shieldmaiden in Scandinavia, and Brienne of Tarth. I'm going to fucking walk it.

5. What’s your ideal holiday destination?

When I visited my sister in Germany, her flat was next door to what appeared to be a combination pub/library; if any of the books had been in English I would not have come home.

Nice things to drink, and interesting things to read. I want very little out of life.

6. Tell me about your favourite item of clothing. Photos optional.

Today I am wearing battered converse with the Thundercats on them, a pair of drainpipe jeans that I really do not have the legs for, and a man's tuxedo shirt that I had to buy when I rented some formal wear earlier in the year.

I don't have a favourite item of clothing; pickin's are slim.

7. Sort yourself into your Hogwarts House. If you don’t know the Hogwarts Houses who are you tell me why you’ve resisted the siren call of Harry Potter.

Hmm. I am the least cunning person I know, and all but devoid of ambition. I'd also be hard pressed to describe myself as clever, at least not in the academic sense.

I am probably some manner of Gryffinpuff. Kind and loyal, yes, but thoughtless and bullheaded, too.

8. Dogs or cats?

Dogs, a million times dogs. I even lean towards especially stupid dogs because I find it discouraging to have a pet I suspect of being clever than me.

9. What’s the last news item or fic you read? Link?

The last news item was somebody else mwhahaha-ing about England's ignominious departure, so I shall spare you the link. The last fic was this porny Sansa/Margaery modern AU by [profile] mautadite who is one of my favourite authors in asoiaf fandom.

10. What’s your go-to comfort food?

Beer. Cheese.

11. What’s the story behind your tumblr username?

Oh, God. I made up this stupid pseudonym when I was fifteen, with the expectation that I'd be in fandom for about twelve minutes. Well, I'm not fifteen anymore, and it's been a damn sight more then twelve minutes. And changing my fandom name would feel weird, like I was killing off this persona I've created over the past *mumble mumble* years.

It's still a stupid name, though.
netgirl_y2k: (brand new day)
Life Mask - Emma Donoghue
Red Seas Under Red Skies - Scott Lynch
The Golem and the Jinni - Helene Wecker
Seraphina - Rachel Hartman


So, May was a banner month for reading; only four books, but I bloody loved all of them. It's not quantity that counts, it's quality, etc.

Life Mask takes place over the ten years between 1787 and 1797, and is about all sorts of things: the tory v. whig politics of that era, the French Revolution and the effect that had on the British Left, female friendships, and coming out late in life. Maybe I'm not making it sound as interesting as it is - it's not a quick read, but I didn't find it slow, more deliberately paced - but I found myself totally immersed in the characters and the details of the period.

I think part of the reason I liked this so much is the same reason I like Sarah Waters (queer women existed in history, yay!) but mostly it was just that it was so well written. I am now feeling a pressing need to read everything Emma Donoghue has ever, well, set down on paper.

While I didn't love the first Gentlemen Bastards book, I liked enough about it (the world building is terrific, and it was, at times, hilarious) that I proceeded to the second. And Red Seas Under Red Skies I did love for two reasons, 1) LADY PIRATES, and 2) LADY PIRATES AGAIN, and 2) Locke's Magnificent Bastardry is about a hundred times more appealing to me when he's backed against a wall, and not just conning relatively innocent people to prove how much cleverer than everybody else he is.

Interestingly, one of the things that annoyed me about the first book was Sabetha - how she was talked about as having been one of the Gentlemen Bastards but was never present in any of the flashbacks. And I thought maybe Lynch was trying to tick a box marked female character without actually having to write one. But that can't have been the case, because he wrote some fucking amazing women in Red Seas Under Red Skies. So now I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that there will be a payoff about Sabetha somewhere down the line.

Onward to book three! Although, I probably shouldn't get too excited about this series. I understand the Scott Lynch makes GRR Martin look like the soul of productivity.

The Golem and the Jinni is a book I actually felt a bit bereft for having finished. It begins in 1899 and follows the friendship between a golem and jinni in turn of the century New York; but that description doesn't do it justice at all. It's a mix of historical fiction, fantasy, fairytales, and mythology, and is just beautifully, beautifully realised, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Actually, this is the book that made me do something I've never done before. I had read it on my kindle, and while I'm of the school of thought that of course e-books are real books, I went out and bought the paperback because I wanted something to hold, and put on my shelf, and loan out.

Seraphina was one of the recs I received when I was asking for post-TGATJ suggestions. I had actually picked it up in a bookshop a while ago, and put it down with a "Pff, dragons who can take human shape, sounds a bit like sparkly vampires to me..." And I am so, so glad I decided to give it a shot, because it's not like that at all.

The worldbuilding, the characters, the writing (which could have very easily edged into being twee, but which I found utterly charming) I loved them all. It also did what I've long wished for a YA love triangle to do: Kiggs and Seraphina declared their love, kissed, then decided to take it no further both because Kiggs has to talk to his fiancé who neither of them want to hurt, and because there's giant dragon war coming, and they both really ought to be concentrating on that.

As an aside, I am choosing to believe that Selda will be chill about Kiggs' feelings for Seraphina because she's secretly in love with her lady-in-waiting.

Actually my only issue with it was the character ages - I know it was published as YA, and that all but obliges it to have teenagers as protagonists - but I was having to mentally age the characters up three or four years, because they didn't scan as teenagers at all. So that every time their canonical ages were mentioned it was a bit jarring.
netgirl_y2k: (brand new day)
I've not long finished reading The Golem and the Jinni, which is one of those rare books that actually made me slightly leery of plunging into a new fictional universe, because I was so immersed in, and in love with the last one.

Now, nothing sitting in my to-read pile is really grabbing me, but I do have a bunch of book tokens left over from my birthday so I ask -- read any good books recently?

Some things I like are: dragons, women, lesbians, fantasy, pop-science and history. But, really, anything you have read and loved. Your obligatory rec to everyone books.

*

I was thinking about how I'm asking you for book recs in this post, and I was asking for TV show recs in my last, and films have sort of fallen by the wayside. I hardly ever watch films anymore; I haven't been to the cinema at all in 2014. The last film I saw in there was Desolation of Smaug, a film I found such an appalling waste of time that it basically broke the medium of film for me. But when I was younger I was a huge, huge nut on films. It started to drop off as I no longer got a student discount at the cinema, and then I was a carer and being unreachable for two or three hours at a time was a rare luxury -- still, movies were a formative thing for me, perhaps more so than anything else.

Everyone should post their ten most CRUCIAL CRUCIAL CRUCIAL-ASS movies, like the movies that explain everything about yourselves in your current incarnations (not necessarily your ten favorite movies but the ten movies that you, as a person existing currently, feel would help people get to know you) (they can change later on obviously).

Monty Python and the Holy Grail
The Empire Strikes Back
Star Trek: First Contact
Galaxy Quest
All Dogs go to Heaven
Imagine Me & You
The Shawshank Redemption
The Lion King
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Trainspotting
netgirl_y2k: (power is power)
Salvage - Alexandra Duncan
The King's Peace - Jo Walton


Salvage is a dystopian YA, sort of. It's about a girl who's grown up on a deep space colony ship which has developed this deeply patriarchal culture, all the men have multiple wives, and a lot of the young boys get left behind planetside; I couldn't help but think of them as the space mormons. And when the protagonist gets kicked out of the space mormons she's got to adjust to life on Earth, both the culture, which is totally different, and the gravity, which is so much higher than she grew up with, first on a giant inhabited island of garbage in the Pacific, and later in Mumbai.

It's good, not massively subtle, but then, since when has dystopian YA ever been subtle. And all the different settings were pretty fascinating.

The King's Peace is a hold over from March that I finished in April; it's an alternate telling of Arthurian legend told from the POV of one of the king's female knights. It took me a long time to get into in, the plot meandered a lot. But I did end up liking it, certainly enough to read the rest of the trilogy. I think part of the reason it took me so long to get into it was that it was Jo Walton's first novel, and it's always a little frustrating to read an early effort by an author whose later works you adore. It reminded me a lot of The Deed of Paksenarrion, so if you liked that one--

I'm still dipping in and out of The Doomsday Book as well as Life Mask by Emma Donoghue, which I'm really liking.

*

I read so little this month, which I refuse to feel bad about. Books being one of the delights of my life which I refuse to attach feelings of guilt to. I also like scotch and cake; hard not to feel at least a little guilty about scotch and cake.

On the other hand I have finished my Remix and Rarewomen fics early, which isn't at all like me, hurrah!

I also did the Merlin remix, which I must confess I signed up for with less than the optimum amount of enthusiasm (if I have to write Merlin/Arthur I can always write five hundred and one words and then orphan it, I thought). But I'm glad I did because I ended up being quite pleased with the fic I wrote, which I can't talk about yet, but what I can do is rec you the awesome remix of my fic:

The One Where a Bear and a Dragon (and Morgana) Save the Ending From Being Eaten By Canon (The Grimm and Bear It Remix)

Which takes a daft wee OT4 fic I wrote in S2 and turns it into everything I could want about Morgana and Aithusa and the possibility of a better destiny.

*

The other things is, I've said that I'd been referred to a counsellor type person for some cognitive behavioural therapy, didn't I? So I've been doing that for the last couple of months, and my last session was yesterday.

I am now officially totally sane and normal... Well, at least as normal as NHS Scotland is prepared to pay for me to be.

I do think it's helped, though I was sceptical at first. I don't exactly feel like a bird on the wing, no, but I'm also not as paralysed by anxiety and my various neuroses as I was a few months ago. The most surprising thing is that I'm drinking a lot less now, I guess I didn't realise how much I was using alcohol as a crutch until I didn't feel like I had to, you know?
netgirl_y2k: (sansa wolf girl)
Hild - Nicola Griffith
When Will There Be Good News? - Kate Atkinson
Started Early, Took My Dog - Kate Atkinson
The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch
Adaptation - Malinda Lo


I thought that Hild was totally fucking brilliant. It's a fictionalised account of the early life of St Hilda of Whitby, and it's wonderfully immersive, it's like sinking into a warm bath, except instead of water you've just slid into seventh century Britain. The amount of research that must have gone into it boggles the mind. There are lots of Old English words and spellings, but not in a way that's jarring, but in a way that fits, like reading Tolkien for the first time, you know? I've read complaints that Hild's bisexuality was too modern and broke the spell, which I didn't find at all, I thought Hild's sexuality fit seamlessly in with the world and character that Griffith's had created - and taking dubious sexual advantage of a woman you're keeping as your slave isn't exactly the mark of a modern relationship - also, what, you don't think there was anybody who wasn't straight in early history? The complaint I did think had legs was that the book did end a bit abruptly, but I think that's because I didn't realise that it was book one of two, I'm really looking forward to the sequel. Highly, highly recommended.

I've been enjoying Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie mysteries, but having read a bunch of them in quick succession I've noticed a repeated theme, where a damaged young person ends up in the care of an equally damaged yet well meaning guardian figure through, er, unofficial means. Which is fine and all, it's just one of those things that makes you wonder what it is that keeps bringing the writer back to that particular story. Both of the Jackson Brodie's I read this month were good, but I think I preferred When Will There Be Good News?, I thought the mystery was better, and that Kate Atkinson's authorial tics were less apparent to me. Also, in Started Early, Took My Dog one of the rotating cast of POV characters was a woman in her seventies in the early stages of dementia, which I found really difficult and upsetting to read.

The Lies of Locke Lamora has been on my to-read list for some time, and when I got my [livejournal.com profile] rarewomen assignment I wasn't really feeling the request for the fandom I'd been matched, and one of the other requests was for Gentlemen Bastards fic, so I thought I'd check out the first book. Um, yeah, probably not. There were lots of things I liked about it, I thought the world building was astonishingly good, I especially liked the bit about the bondsmages. I loved the idea of an exclusive guild of wizards who would go all scorched Earth on anyone who opposed them, and I think that the endless narratives that try to frame magicians (mutants, telepaths, etc) as the oppressed underclass could stand to take notes. It took a long time for the main plot, with the Grey King, to kick into gear but once it did it moved along at a fair clip. I thought it could have done with a few more female characters, but the head of the secret police being an eccentric old lady who stabs people with knitting needles was pretty awesome. Locke himself is likeable enough but -- neither the Magnificent Bastard or Smarter Than You And Knows It are character types that do anything for me. And I was put off right at the beginning by Locke's con-artist shenanigans, especially as his victims were also quite likeable. I'll probably read more in the series but I'm in no rush, you know? Then again, given that this series seems to being published at about the same rate as ASOIAF maybe that's no bad thing.

Adaptation. Oh. Oh dear. So, this starts off quite promisingly with massive inexplicable bird strikes bringing down planes all over North America. I have a phobia of birds, so the idea that they may someday turn on us is genuinely scary to me. To this the book adds a government conspiracy, mysteriously developing superpowers, Area 51, and a bisexual love triangle (which manages to make it only slightly less hackneyed than every other love triangle in YA these days). Oh, and then the protagonist's female love interest turns out to be an alien... because aliens have been secretly living among us since Roswell. It manages to be both ludicrously overloaded and utterly bland. Very much not recommended.

I am currently jumping between The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis and the first of Jo Walton's Tir Tanagiri trilogy, both of which are proving to be quite slow burners. I'm loving the 13th century bits of The Doomsday Book, again, totally immersive in the best way, but its near future Oxford sections are letting it down. I think maybe it's just the book showing its age; I'm supposed to believe that in the future they have time machines but not mobile phones, really!? The King's Peace, an Arthurian legends AU with gender equality and a female knight as the protagonist, all the things I usually like, is proving a bit of let down. I think because Jo Walton's earlier books can't stand up to the expectations of her I have after reading Tooth & Claw and the Small Change trilogy. Also, lady knights are my catnip, and I read a lot of books featuring them, to the point where they have become something of cliche to me, and it's like this book is lampshading the cliche (look, a female knight!) and then not doing anything interesting with it.
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
London Falling - Paul Cornell
Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
Dangerous Women - George R.R Martin & Gardner Dozois
Case Histories - Kate Atkinson
Wildthorn - Jane Eagland
The Shattering - Karen Healey
Enduring Love - Ian McEwan


I think I mentioned that I'd started London Falling in December last year, and had been dipping in and out of it without ever really being gripped. Well-- it ended better than it started, but that's really the only good thing I can say about it. I mean, I'm not sure which was published first, but it felt like everything London Falling was trying to do was done better in the much more readable Rivers of London. Also, London Falling was the straw that broke the camel's back when it came to London centric urban fantasies. I officially no longer give a fuck about how super special and magical London is, if I want to read about the amazingness of London then I have my choice of news outlets for that; I read this stuff to escape from the real world, tell me about secret supernatural underworlds beneath Cambridge, or Newcastle, or Edinburgh, you know.

It wasn't just that, though, the characters all felt so utterly flat and same-y (except for Quill, who read like a refugee from a sub-par episode of Life on Mars) that it was hard to tell whose headspace you were in at any given moment, and the POVs ricocheted around so quickly that some of it I found genuinely hard to parse. There were awkward tonal shifts between "there's a wicked witch who kills any footballer who scores a hat-trick against West Ham" and "Oh, by the way, she does this by boiling children alive." Very much not recommended.

Lesson: No matter how much a book has been talked up, if you're not enjoying it, stop.

Life After Life, on the other hand, I really did like. It's about a woman born in the earlier half of the twentieth century who gets to live her life over and over again, giving us multiple perspectives on that time without ever having to change the pov character, which was quite clever, I thought. I most enjoyed the multiple takes on WWII, and thought the section where she was living in Berlin at the end of the war was especially affecting. Spoilers ) Recommended.

But, yeah, it was definitely more historical fiction than historical fantasy. Which actually got me thinking-- don't get me wrong, I still think London Falling was a genuinely poor book, but also that I am probably burnt out reading the SF/F genre almost exclusively, and I really ought to try and read more of other kinds of books, just to break things up sometimes.

Dangerous Women I talked about a bit when I read it, collected short stories notionally, at least, on the theme of dangerous women (Diana Gabaldon boy did you miss the point with your elaborate tale of faux Scottish manpain) leading up to the new historical A Song of Ice and Fire novella The Princess and the Queen which was-- fine. And if GRRM is going to be writing things that are not the next book I would far rather this than the likes of The Wit and Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister. But, still.

Unpopular opinion in ASOIAF fandom: I want the show to overtake the books in term of plot. There's a point where you just want to know how it all ends, you know?

Case Histories I read partly because I'd so liked Life After Life, and partly as part of my effort to read more widely. It's about a private investigator, Jackson Brodie, investigating three decades old crimes that actually come together surprisingly well by the end of the book. I liked it, I will probably read more in the series, but like a lot of the time when I read crime and mystery, I don't have an awful lot to say about it. Although, wait, I do have one minor thing to say, at the end of the book Jackson surprisingly inherits millions of pounds from a little old cat lady he's reluctantly befriended, and let me tell you as someone who's spent the better part of ten years working with elderly people in various ways, that has never happened, to anyone, not once. I mean, I read books about dragons, so I'm not sure why that minor plot point tripping up my suspension of disbelief so badly, but seriously, nope.

Wildthorn is about a young Victorian woman who wants to train as a doctor, and her family shuts her up in an asylum for her trouble. It's full of cliches and is kind of overwrought, but it also has female characters following their dreams against the odds, lesbians, and a happy ending, and as such it struck my id right on the head; I liked it a lot.

The Shattering I read because people had recommended Guardian of the Dead to me, but The Shattering was what they had the day I went to the library, so. And it was-- fine, it was about three teens investigating a series of suicides-cum-murders, and it took a peculiar turn towards magical realism about halfway through. The one thing that did stop me being resoundingly meh on it was the New Zealand setting, which was about as far way from London as you can get. I shall definitely try to get a hold of Guardian of the Dead at some point.

Ian McEwan is an excellent (Atonement) and overrated (everything else, also kind of Atonement) writer. The basic premise of Enduring Love is that two strangers meet at the scene of a freak accident and one of them becomes obsessed with the other. It was all very well written, but what did bug me about it was this-- as far as I know, stalking and stalkers turning violent is something that happens most often to women, so the hook of this novel seemed to be what if this terrible thing, that overwhelmingly affects women, happened to a middle aged straight man, wouldn't that be awful? Bah!

I am not sure what I'm going to read next, I have heard good things about Hild.
netgirl_y2k: (cersei fuck)
I have been in a sulk all week because of a really shit job interview I had on Monday. Of course I was asked about the fact that I've been out of work for a few years now, which is a fair enough question, and gives me the chance to go into my "As you know, Bob..." answer about being a carer, and how it was unplanned, but ultimately improving and character building, and the many things I learned doing it that could be applied to paid employment. All fine and dandy, until the interviewer asked if there was anyone they could call to verify that I really had been a carer...

It wasn't even that they asked, not really, it was they way they asked, the assumption that of course you were a liar until proven otherwise. I mean, I have my flaws, and I am not above the odd white lie - but I would not make up a loved one suffering from dementia to cover up the fact that I killed a man in Reno just to watch him die.

Anyway, I didn't get the job. Which is rather a relief. At the risk of sounding like someone David Cameron would like to see shot on the village green, I didn't really want it, I just wanted the interview practice. I would prefer not to work in a call centre again unless I'm really up against it. Plus, I've worked places where the management have that distrustful us-against-them attitude towards the staff and the atmosphere is invariably toxic and awful.

The other thing I have been doing this week is reading my way through the Dangerous Women anthology, which like a lot of people I was mainly reading for the new ASOIAF novella in it. I could have just skipped the rest of the book and read The Princess and the Queen, but it was the very last story in the book, and that would have felt, in some obscure and difficult to articulate way, like cheating.

My absolute least favourite story in the anthology was Diana Gabaldon's contribution, which was an overlong story about Jaime Fraser's manpain, and did nothing but reassure me that never reading the Outlander series has been a good life choice. It left me annoyed not only with Diana Gabaldon, but with the editors for not insisting that a tacked-on afterthought of a subplot about a woman thief didn't really count, and they would keep her in mind if they were ever putting together an anthology called faux-Scottish manpain. Indeed, a few of the contributors seemed to have missed the point (or, at least, what I wanted to be the point) writing stories about dude protagonists being led astray by femme fatals. Joe R. Lansdale and Lawrence Block (whose contribution was a protracted snuff-scene, eww) were particularly guilty of this.

But that's the nature of anthologies, isn't it, that you'll like some stories better than others. I unsurprisingly enjoyed the Brandon Sanderson one, and I really liked that Jim Butcher's contribution was a Dresden Files story from Molly's point of view. I still read and enjoy the Dresden Files, but one of my biggest nitpicks with it is that Butcher creates all these powerful female characters then seems to go to some pains to show how they are all less powerful than Harry, so it was refreshing to see Molly in her element and from her own pov. The Lev Grossman story was another example of how I like Lev Grossman's writing, but that he has never written a single character that I didn't think could be improved by the application of a partially defrosted haddock to the face. The Joe Abercrombie and Robin Hobb (dottie old women getting a new lease of life in an AU dystopia, squee!) contributions made me want to give both authors another shot.

I ended up really enjoying the historical fiction stories about female Russian fighter pilots during WWII, Constance of Sicily, and Nora, daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine (not in the same story, obviously). I think that part of the reason I've been having so much trouble getting into what I've been reading recently, is that I've been reading SF/F almost exclusively and I really should read more historical fiction, or literary, or crime fiction, just to break things up a bit. On this note, if anyone has any recs for fiction about interesting women of history (real or not) I'd love to hear them.

The Princess and the Queen --

Okay, obviously anyone suggesting that we should chain GRRM to a keyboard and only feed him if he meets a minimum daily wordcount is being an arse and should kindly shut up. But. But, if he's writing anyway, and he's writing in the ASOIAF universe anyway, and he's got the show coming up behind him (I know S4 is only covering the latter part of ASoS, but the trailers have reminded me how little the plot actually advances over the course of AFfC and ADwD) then I really think he ought to be spending that time writing The Winds of Winter.

But if he was going to write a historical novella I would much rather have had this than another Dunk and Egg instalment or heaven forfend, The Wit and Wisdom of Tyrion bloody Lannister. Because I was interested in The Dance of the Dragons, and fascinating Targaryen women are one of my niche interests in this universe. Maybe Aegon isn't a fake? Maybe he really is a Targaryen dude? Maybe that's why he's so utterly, utterly uninteresting to me?

But mainly two things:

1) Writing it as an historical account written by a maester years later was an interesting exercise in structure, but also made it seem like any halfway decent fanfiction writer could have tackled this, and seriously, George, Winds of Winter?

2) The dragon-riders, and the way the dragons were used in battle was a bit Temeraire-like, Temeraire-lite? And I had always liked the idea that the dragons had died out over a century or so as magic left the world and they became increasingly difficult to hatch. So the reveal that despite being nigh on un-killable, they were, to the last dragon, killed off in this super convenient Targaryen civil war felt a bit... contrived.

So, yes, it was good from a completionist point of view, but mainly... Winds of Winter?
netgirl_y2k: (fire cannot kill a dragon)
Elantris - Brandon Sanderson
The Rapture of the Nerds - Cory Doctorow & Charles Stross
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie


I've been slow to get off the mark with reading things this year, nothing was really catching my interest. Usually, I really love my kindle, but when you're having trouble deciding what to read there's something singularly uninspiring about a big long list of titles, especially when you can't remember what half of them are or why you wanted to read them in the first place.

Sometimes you just want to judge a book by its cover, you know? To that end I've been reading the paperbacks I got for Christmas.

I liked Elantris well enough, but it was Brandon Sanderson's first published book, and you know how you sometimes go back to read an early book by someone whose later work you enjoy, and the rough edges seem really obvious? It had a lot of reoccurring narrative tics that I'd encountered in Sanderson's later stuff - like a romance between an ordinary person and someone with nigh on godlike powers. I always like Sanderson's worldbuilding and magical systems, which I find endearingly coherent, even if here I find them... slighter than I did in Mistborn or Warbreaker.

The one thing that did annoy me in Elantris was the female protagonist, Sarene, or rather the trope she inhabits where she's convinced she is irredeemably unattractive because she's, um... tall and a bit strident, and that she's doomed to be alone forever, all the while the male hero and the male antagonist and probably some others too are falling hopelessly in love with her. It's just -- I'm not against having unattractive women in media, indeed I think it's actually pretty important that we do, just let them be genuinely unattractive, and stop pretending that unattractive and endearingly clumsy are even in the vicinity of being the same thing.

In conclusion, if you want to start reading Brandon Sanderson might I be so bold as to suggest starting with Warbreaker, which was by far the best of the two stand-alones I have read.

My sister got me The Rapture of the Nerds, and I really ought to have given her my too-buy list to work from, or at the very least taken it back and swapped it for something else. I would have done, too, except that I'd already used the receipt to return the Tom Holt book she gave me. I think she went into Waterstones and got book recommendations from someone who likes SF/F like me, but is much more into, um, boy-books I guess I'd call them, than I am.

Anyway, The Rapture of the Nerds, christ on a cupcake this was awful. You know how people will sometimes recommend Good Omens on the grounds that it gets you the best of Pratchett and the best of Gaiman, and that's actually true, I put my indifference to it entirely down to the fact that I don't care for Gaiman. The Rapture of the Nerds is the worst of Stross and Doctorow, and is little more than self-indulgent, meandering, incoherent claptrap. Very much not recommended.

Ancillary Justice was the first book of the year that I've really liked and found super interesting. The main character was once a spaceship, and also simultaneously thousands of bodies slaved to the ships AI, and after she, spaceship her (see, already it's interesting; and I am in awe of the author for being able to keep this up for however many hundred pages) is destroyed she's left with one human body. The other really interesting thing is that the dominant human culture in the book has no concept of gender, there are men and women, of course, but it defaults to female pronouns - she and her - for everyone. And what I found really fascinating about this was, right, I got that Breq is biologically female, and that Seviarden and the Lord of the Radch were biologically male, but I hadn't a clue as to whether the rest of the characters were men or women -- and it mattered not a whit, and didn't affect the plot in any way. I frickin' loved that. Highly recommended.

I've also been dipping in and out of Paul Cornell's London Falling (tbh, I've been dipping in and out of it since mid-December). I don't know why it hasn't been grabbing me, it's a perfectly good book (and if you're into diversity in urban fantasy you should probably read it) but I keep putting it down to read other things and feeling no pressing need to pick it back up. Maybe I'm just not in the mood for urban fantasy, or Rivers of London fulfils any need I have for "characters use traditional police methods to investigate the supernatural". Btw, if anyone knows of any UK set urban fantasies that don't take place in Bloody London they should tell me about them; if I want to read about the special-specialness of the Greater London area I'd pick up a newspaper.

Anyway, I'm like three quarters of the way through it so perhaps I'll try to push through it before I start something new; which will be Life after Life, The Doomsday Book or The Lies of Locke Lamora if anyone particularly recs or anti-recs any of them.
netgirl_y2k: (kahlan white dress)
Well, it's nearly year's end, and I doubt I'll finish another book. Yuletide fics to read, three seasons of Breaking Bad still to watch, and I've horribly stalled about a quarter of the way through London Falling.

A big long list of books )

-That's 71 books, minus 14 rereads, 57 new books. And let us all pretend that I didn't just use the calculator function on my phone to do that sum. Maybe next year less reading and more, like, sudoku.

-That's eighteen female authors to fourteen male, give or take a couple of cases where the names are ambiguous, plus that includes the likes of Jacqueline Carey and Naomi Novik where I read, like, nine of their books apiece. I don't know, I worked it out because I was talking to someone the other week about how I am ridiculously fussy about female characters in the media I consume, but I don't tend to pay much attention to what's going on behind the curtain, so to speak.

-If I had to pick five of these books to recommend without reservation they would be:
Tooth and Claw - Jo Walton
The Rook - Daniel O'Malley
A Natural History of Dragons - Marie Brennan
Bedlam - Christopher Brookmyre
The Martian - Andy Weir
netgirl_y2k: (sansa wolf girl)
First, I would like to say that I object to this question in the strongest possible terms, because how do you even begin to answer it--

Actually, I remember being asked in a job interview once what my most influential book was, which was a bit of a wtf question. Admittedly, I was interviewing for a job as a bookseller, so it wasn't just like I had a particularly opaque interviewer, although I've had my share of those too. I once had somebody ask me which historical figure I identified with the most strongly, and I was just sitting there desperately thinking: don't say Doctor Who, don't say Doctor Who, don't say Doctor Who.

I've talked before about how I find Tolkien the next thing to unreadable, but at the same time being exposed to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as a wee thing set my imagination on fire, and I directly credit it for my lifelong love of reading, and stories, and genre fiction. The other thing I remember my dad reading to me when I was tiny was White Fang; my dad, best dad in the world, but totally unprepared for fatherhood, hence the slightly esoteric choice of bedtime story material.

There's Crime and Punishment which took me an entire summer to read but taught me that some "difficult" books are well worth the effort -- this was as opposed to Moby Dick, which taught me that some really aren't.

My best friend, actually, only reads, like, five books a year, but they're all classics; I read more like fifty, but a lot of them are about spaceships or dragons. And both of those are excellent ways to read; it's like those people who judged adults for reading Harry Potter, anyone who judges you for not reaching some imaginary heights of literary merit is a tosser of the highest order.

There are those books that I'll recommend to anyone who'll stand still and listen long enough to let me. Death and the Penguin, yeah, it's a metaphorical penguin, but the best bit is that it's also a real penguin! Tooth & Claw, see, you don't understand, there are dragons wearing top hats, regency dragons!

There's High Fidelity, which I read so many times when I was working retail that I probably could have recited it from memory; although no one in High Fidelity ever got punched in the throat by a middle aged customer the week before Christmas because she couldn't find the Best of Rod Stewart.

There's Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks, which I'd love for the title alone, even if it wasn't set in Glasgow at a thinly disguised version of where I went to university, and wasn't about what a crock of shit so-called psychics are; as such it delights me on multiple levels.

There are any number of the Discworld books - of the top of my head Guards! Guards! the very first Discworld book I ever read; Monstrous Regiment femslash! Girls disguised as boys!; anything featuring the witches - which I can dip into any time I'm feeling down, and know that they'll pick me up.

Yes, this is mostly a whistle-stop tour of books I have loved through my life for various reasons, but--

In conclusion: books!
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
[personal profile] havocthecat wanted me to make a bit of a sales pitch for the Kushiel's Legacy books, since we like a lot of the same media, and since I've talked so much about my affection for them this year.

A few things first, I'm pretty sure the marketing for these books was borked in some way, because prior to them being recommended by a trusted source this year I had picked them up numerous times only to quickly put them down again, going yeah, no. I read the first three books over the course of a month in, I think, February this year, which was when I was still knee-deep in grief and loss of purpose, and was failing to deal with being the owner of an exciting new anxiety disorder; I mention this because sometimes the right books find you at the right time, and I think this was one of those times.

Finally, I am not always good at explaining why I like something, as opposed to why it irks me, but... here is an incomplete list of things I like about the Kushielverse, things you might like too if you are of similar tastes and sensibilities.

Kushiel's Legacy )
netgirl_y2k: (power is power)
Which is a tricksy one, because disappointing isn't the same as bad. Bad books are fine, you just don't read them, the world is full of good books that you haven't read yet. Disappointing books are ones that you desperately want to like, or used to like, or feel that you should like.

I mean, I could talk about The Lord of the Rings, which my dad read to me as a bedtime story when I was a wee tiny thing; dad loves sci-fi and fantasy and became a father somewhat unexpectedly, hence the slightly unusual choice of bedtime reading. The first thing I ever remember memorising word perfect wasn't a song or my times-tables, it was One ring to rule them all, One ring to find them, One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them. I remember receiving a copy of The Hobbit for my seventh birthday, and my primary school teacher saying ...And when you're older you'll read a book called The Lord of the Rings, and me sitting there all child-smug going, Way ahead of you, lady. I hold LotR directly responsible for my lifelong love of stories and words, and of genre fiction in particular. Dad reading it to me when I was all snuggled up under a My Little Pony bedspread is one of my happiest childhood memories. Which is why I am always so disappointed when I try to revisit it as an adult and find it turgid to the point of being unreadable. I always suspected dad of doing some judicious editing - he wasn't singing me songs in Elvish, or anything - but I usually get to round about the Tom Bombadil bit when I realise that it isn't the Tolkien I'm nostalgic for, it's being five, and having a pink My Little Pony bedspread, and having my dad tell me bedtime stories about Gollum.

I could talk about those books that everyone else seems to like, so I feel like the fault must lie with me. I always feel somehow guilty that Neil Gaiman's fiction falls so utterly flat with me, especially as all his non-fiction makes me think he's a smart, articulate, interesting dude. I feel like there's some sort of imaginary umpire in the sky is docking geek points from me when I say: No, not even The Sandman. I find The Princess Bride, both book and movie, to be almost inexcusably awful. I used to be a member of a book group, which I realised wasn't for me when I was the only one who's reaction to The Time Traveller's Wife was that the characters should shove their creepy as fuck romance, and ludicrous upper middle class non-jobs somewhere the sun doesn't shine.

I could talk about how the recent Discworld books, and how they make me deeply sad that the heyday of that series is well past; but under the circumstances that would be churlish. Or I could talk about think of the mortgage writing, which is what I call it when the first one or two books in a series have obviously been loved, and angsted over, and are the author's baby. But then as the series progresses things fall apart a bit; deadlines, publishers, lack of an overarching story, oh god, think of the mortgage. The Moirin trilogy, the third Rivers of London instalment, that interminable Australian Temeraire book. But, then, it's not like I've never done a half-arsed job of something for the sake of the paycheck, so, again, slightly churlish.

I could talk about The Mists of Avalon and how I've never managed to read more than the first two hundred pages of it, and how it really frustrates me. Stories about the women of Arthurian legend were for a long time everything I wanted, and when I told people this they said: Ah, you want the Mists of Avalon, which is, agh, because I probably do-- except less dated, and second-wave, and essentially unreadable to me.

Basically, I am disappointed in a lot of books, but it comes from a place of love.
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
...which I just happen to have recently finished reading.

Raising Steam )
netgirl_y2k: (power is power)
The Rook - Daniel O'Malley
Good Omens - Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman (re-read)
Curtsies & Conspiracies - Gail Carriger
Farthing - Jo Walton
Ha'penny - Jo Walton
Half a Crown - Jo Walton
Pirate Cinema - Cory Doctorow


The Rook I picked up almost at random in town when I found myself unexpectedly presented with one of those rare afternoons where you've nothing to do but have a lingering lunch by yourself with a book; lovely. And I fell quickly in love with it, I actually googled the author's website to see if he's writing a second one (he is! I hope he writes a series of ten.) It's about the magical equivalent of MI5 in Britain, but what makes it really clever is that the protagonist, Myfanwy Thomas starts the book surrounded by dead bodies with no idea of what's happened or who she is, and it turns out that her past self knew her memory was going to be erased at some point and left letters for her successor guiding her through her life, which I thought was a really neat twist in the newcomer to a magical underworld trope. It's also hilarious in places, it's well worth reading just for the chapter about the accidental murder of Britain's only prophetic duck. Highly recommended.

I liked Good Omens more this time than I when I first read it, but-- The thing is I keep trying with Gaiman, because I so want to like him, and I somehow imagine the fact that his prose does nothing for me is a flaw on my part, that I must be missing something, rather than it purely being a matter of taste, which is ludicrous. Ah, Neil, we'll always have The Doctor's Wife.

I continue to be charmed by Gail Carriger's Finishing School series, I think I actually like it more than I did The Parasol Protectorate, or maybe I just warmed to Sophronia more as protagonist more than I did Alexia. The lack of focus on romance thus far hasn't hurt either, although that said the romance I'm most interested to see play out is the one between Sidheag Maccon and Captain Niall.

After being delighted by Tooth & Claw earlier this year I decided it was a worthwhile pursuit to read, well, basically anything Jo Walton has ever set down on paper, and I swallowed her Small Change trilogy whole. Small Change )

Pirate Cinema is a near future-- well, it's not quite a dystopia. It's all about copyright infringement, and piracy, and remix culture, and whether or not the internet is becoming a basic human right, and it has interesting things to say about all these things. But it has one huge problem -- our protagonist Cecil runs away from home after he gets his family's internet cut-off through his downloading, he almost immediately falls in with a gang of Artful Dodger types, ends up living in a squat like a palace, and eating like a king out of Waitrose skips -- and any intelligent point the books has to make about corporations buying laws and disproportionate punishments for copyright infringement get kind of lost under the happy homelessness fantasy.
netgirl_y2k: (fire cannot kill a dragon)
It is Halloween, and as such I am in my bedroom with the lights off, snuggled under a duvet, cunningly in costume as a woman who is not at home. Bah Humbug. Hurrah.

So, book report time. I haven't read much this month, and I don't expect to read much next month either, as I will be participating in my own half-arsed version of NaNo, which is writing at least a little something every day. I usually crap out on or around November 3rd, but I really need to crack on with my [community profile] femslashex fic (I'm writing one of those pairings that I like in theory; lots of people seem to like it in theory, but I'm guessing the reason there's no extant fics for them is that it's really fucking hard to make work on paper) and I've other ideas that I've forbidden myself from working on until I get this dratted femslash fic in hand. So, hopefully...?

The Shining Girls - Lauren Beukes
Naamah's Blessing - Jacqueline Carey
Rose Under Fire - Elizabeth Wein
Lunatic Fringe - Allison Moon


I had actual, proper nightmares after reading The Shining Girls. Not that this is unusual, I am squeamish as fuck, but it's usually visual things that trigger them, I am much more sanguine about the written word and books almost never freak me out the same way. But, yes, proper waking up a in cold sweat nightmares after finishing this.

It's about this horrible man called Harper Curtis (well, sort of, mostly it's about the victim who got away and becomes obsessed with catching him; it's equal parts thriller, science fiction, and revenge fantasy) who discovers a house that opens onto different times and he travels through the 20th century murdering what he calls his shining girls, snuffing out their lives before they can fulfil their potential. The murders themselves were awful (hence the nightmares) but they didn't feel sexualised or prurient in the way that a lot of thrillers with male killers and female victims do to me. I also liked (well, perhaps liked is the wrong world) the sheer variety of women that Harper targets, lesbians and transexuals and older women, that's it not all twenty something blonde co-eds. In fact, I think the fact that I approached this as a sci-fi/fantasy novel rather than a thriller is why I enjoyed it more than a lot of reviewers did. It didn't bother me that the house was never really explained, because if you read a lot of genre fiction, well, of course there's a time travelling house, sometimes there just is.

That's me finished the Kushiel books, a series that I had to be slightly talked into reading, but I'm really, really glad I did. I've had a slightly non-great year, and I've hidden from many an oncoming panic attack in fantasy alternative queer France. So, yay.

I have to go with the majority here, and say that I found the Moirin trilogy the weakest of the three. Actually, having come to the end I have to say that I find the biggest problem with the final trilogy to be that it was a trilogy. There's enough material there for one, or maybe two slightly shorter books, but Carey seems to have locked herself into the trilogy format, which means you end up with a book like Naamah's Curse which, despite the fact that I read it about a month ago my brain has already erased and replaced with the summary: Moirin takes a ridiculously forced road trip around the Asian subcontinent, annoying me as she bores me.

But [personal profile] kmo was right that Naamah's Blessing is at least as good as anything in the Imriel trilogy, and I was delighted to see this series that I've enjoyed so much end on a high note, but I'm also okay with Carey not revisiting the world of Terre d'Ange unless she's very seriously struck by inspiration.

One tiny niggle, even by the end I was still finding myself shipping Moirin/Jehanne more than Moirin/Bao, contrived and off screen character death or no. This was partly because I thought they had the most interesting dynamic in the Moirin trilogy, and partly because I thought that in this fantasyland filled with queerness, where it was totally acceptable to have a same-sex consort and adopt some heirs, it was a massive missed opportunity to have three really conventional heterosexual romances as the endgame pairings; but it really is a case of I quibble because I love.

Rose Under Fire is a companion novel to Code Name Verity, although if you haven't read Code Name Verity (and you should; come join me in my emotional devastation) it stands perfectly well alone. It's the story of Rose Justice, American, civilian transport pilot, and aspiring poet, who's captured by the Germans during WWII and spends a winter in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

Whereas, for me, Code Name Verity was a read all in one go, stay up till half past three, sob like a child-thing, Rose Under Fire was more of a slow burn. Because of the concentration camp setting, it was very difficult to read in places. It'll still break your heart, it'll just do it in more low key, but no less soul destroying, way.

Anyway, both are books that I highly, highly recommend.

Lunatic Fringe I read basically because it was getting towards halloween and there are lesbian werewolves in it. Can I recommend that anyone interested in lesbian werewolves reads Jacqueline Carey's werewolf duology, and that no human with the ability to read ever reads Lunatic Fringe for any reason.

I was going to say that this is why you should always check whether books are self-published before you start them, but that's not fair, because I'm sure there are plenty of well-written, thoughtful, clever self-published books out there, it's just that this is none of them. There are so many things wrong with this. The pacing is fucked, if you promise me lesbian werewolves you damn well better not be beyond the halfway point before you go: oh, and by the by, there are werewolves. It's torturously overwritten to the point where it veers between painful and embarrassing to read. It's preachy as fuck; look, I'm all for having progressive themes in fiction, I think it's one of the things speculative fiction can do better than any other genre, but if you're stopping the action to have one of your characters give the dictionary of the kyriarchy (seriously, and what the actual fuck?) you need to tone it down several million notches at least until you hit the subtlety of a brick through a window.

So, yeah, it turns out there is a limit to the media I will consume for the sake of lesbians. Who knew?

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