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Books read )
21.

Manga )

Short Stories
"You and You Alone," by Jacqueline Carey
"The Truth About Cassandra," by Neil Gaiman
"Kaskia," by Peter S. Beagle
"Two Pretenders," by Marie Brennan

Currently reading:
Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales, by Tamora Pierce

On Deck:
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon

On Reserve
Among Others, by Jo Walton
Deathless, by Catherynne M. Valente
Red Glove, by Holly Black
Eona: The Last Dragoneye, by Alison Goodman
Fuzzy Nation, by John Scalzi
Fury of the Phoenix, by Cindy Pon
Naamah's Blessing, by Jacqueline Carey

Upcoming Reads
1.
2. Saints Astray, by Jacqueline Carey
3. The Snow Queen's Shadow, by Jim C. Hines
4. With Fate Conspire, by Marie Brennan
5. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente
6. Mastiff, by Tamora Pierce
7.
8. The Republic of Thieves, by Scott Lynch
9.
10. The Kingdom of Gods, by N. K. Jemisin (woc)

To Read - Books by Writers of Color
1.
2.
3.
4.

To Read - Non spec-fic (6/10)
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Lois McMaster Bujold
Chalion
Paladin of Souls

The Sharing Knife
Beguilement
Legacy
Passage
Horizon

Vorkosigan Saga
Shards of Honor
Barayar
Memory

Jacqueline Carey
Kushiel's Dart
Kushiel's Chosen
Kushiel's Avatar
Kushiel's Scion
Naamah's Kiss

Santa Olivia


Charles de Lint
Dreams Underfoot
Memory and Dream
Trader
Moonlight and Vines
The Onion Girl

Gregory Maguire
Wicked

Christopher Moore
The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal

Tamora Pierce
Song of the Lioness
Lioness Rampant

Trickster's Choice
Trickster's Queen

Briar's Book

John Scalzi
Old Man's War
The Ghost Brigades
Zoe's Tale

Catherynne M. Valente
The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden

---

Particularly Wanted

Lois McMaster Bujold
Mirror Dance
A Civil Campaign

The Curse of Chalion

Jacqueline Carey
Kushiel's Justice
Kushiel's Mercy
Naamah's Curse
Naamah's Blessing (not released yet)

Saints Astray (not released yet)

Charles de Lint
The Ivory and the Horn
Tapping the Dream Tree

Jo Graham
Black Ships
Stealing Fire

Jim C. Hines
The Stepsister Scheme
The Mermaid's Madness
Red Hood's Revenge

Scott Lynch
The Lies of Locke Lamora
Red Seas Under Red Skies

John Scalzi
The Last Colony

Catherynne M. Valente
In the City of Coin and Spice
mllelaurel: (Default)
You know, I really need to go on a spree of returning books I've borrowed from other people (library not included). They're all sitting there on the top of my bookshelf, beaconing me with responsibility. These are the ones I can immediately identify:

[livejournal.com profile] wired_lizard
A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson
The Language of the Night, by Ursula K. LeGuin
The Lions of Al Rassan, by Guy Gavriel Kay

[livejournal.com profile] nevacaruso
Bordertown, by Charles de Lint et. al.
Pandemonium, by Daryl Gregory
Staying Dead, by Laura Anne Gilman

[livejournal.com profile] pookit
The Complete Ivory, by Doris Egan
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It's been a good month for book intake. So far, I've finished eight books. Unfortunately, I may be hitting a slump now. I'm currently at Athyra in the Dragaera series, and people Were Not Kidding when they said it was the most godawful boring thing to ever fall off the shelf. Outside of a series, I would have abandoned it a long time ago, but it's got books I'm much more likely to enjoy following it, like Dzur or Issola. I got through Phoenix (which I found more of a chore, personally, than Teckla). I can do this.

Another book I'm reading at the moment is Eat, Pray, Love - which is good, but badly timed on my part, as I'm currently not in the mood for nonfiction. So that's going slowly.

I just finished Melissa Marr's Ink Exchange, which I liked well enough, but I'm unlikely to pick up other book in the Wicked Lovely series, since the main reason I liked IE is due to the protagonist, Leslie, who doesn't seem to be appearing much in the other books.

Man, I want the sequel to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms to be out already. Or my library chain to pick up Shades of Grey (sequel to Black and White), which is out. Or the next book by, say, Jacqueline Carey or Jim C. Hines. Who've just had books come out this summer. What? I didn't say I was being reasonable.
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I'm currently reading Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life as We Knew It, and every so often, I have to get up and remind myself that the world isn't actually ending. That there's internet, and air conditioning, and fresh food in the fridge. The world Pfeffer's extrapolated feels particularly, disturbingly real. Not melodramatic horror, but attrition with no end in sight. It's a high recommendation, but it may also be 'book-in-the-freezer' time.
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...Cause I've been slacking on these.

The Gate of Ivory, by Doris Egan
This book came highly recommended - and wound up just as highly disappointing me. The author struggles to present the world as original and multifaceted, but winds up with a mishmash of ‘exotic’ traits borrowed from existing cultures. The characterization is serviceable but bland: the only two characters who really come to life are, ironically enough, dead by the end of the book. The protagonist is ok, but nothing to write home about. And god, I hate the main romance, with the male lead manipulating the protagonist and keeping information back from her ‘for her own good.’ Condescending shit. Come to think of it, the parts of the book I actually enjoyed all have a particular trait in common: he wasn't in them.

Maybe it's a medium thing, or an experience level one (this book was written in the eighties.) I certainly enjoy Egan's writing on House. Ah, well. I'm extremely unlikely to continue on with the sequels.

Love's Executioner, by Irvin D. Yalom
This is a collection of case studies from Yalom's career. He has a great narrative voice, making each case come out like a story, without compromising the fact that these stories are real. It's also worth mentioning how honest Yalom is about his own reactions to various clients - sometimes cringingly so. I have to give him serious credit for doing so, even if it makes me raise my eyebrows on occasion.

The God Engines, by John Scalzi
This is Scalzi trying something new, and I gotta say, he's got the chops, though I miss his trademark humor. This novella is darker than other stuff he's written, and reaching for bigger, newer ideas. I found it a fast read and a thought-provoking one, though it didn't engage me on quite the same emotional level as, say, the Old Man Verse books.
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The Gift of Therapy, by Irvin D. Yalom, MD.
This book consists of short essays, advising beginning (and veteran) therapists on technique, approach, and other subjects in the field. Both Yalom's therapeutic style and writing voice feel warm, honest and engaging, meshing well with what I would ideally like to do as a therapist, myself. Moreover, the essays are short enough not to drain someone like me, who has trouble reading non-narrative nonfiction for a long period of time (the fact that he does utilize some narrative doesn't hurt, either.)

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
The sequel to The Hunger Games, which I'd read and adored earlier this year. It did suffer from a bit of 'second book in a trilogy' syndrome. The ending, especially, felt a bit rushed and glossed over, since the author knew we'd be returning to the scene later. That said, there were still some really powerful moments. One, in particular, stuck with me, where another author might have been content to write an inspirational, uplifting crowd sequence, and Collins, instead, went there, following through with the consequences and throwing a much darker tone on the event. Well worth reading, and a case where saying 'not as good as the prequel' isn't saying much.

Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters
Ok, let's start with the good stuff. Waters' writing is fucking gorgeous. She's clearly done her research and then some, and evokes the Victorian era masterfully, warts and all. That said, I still had some problems with this book, which is why I took so long to finish it. First of all, for the longest time, she had me convinced that this would be one of those 'feminist' novels, where the men are all scum and the women are all victims. That sort of narrative only makes me want to bang my head against the wall. The addition of a sympathetic male character, albeit fairly late in the game, alleviated my concerns somewhat, but didn't lift them entirely. True, Waters' women are hardly saints (something I did appreciate,) but her men felt more irredeemable and less nuanced, for the most part.

Moreover, it felt like Waters was a little too in love with making her protagonists suffer, a phenomenon I like to refer to as 'trauma porn.' There were some segments that felt like they had no purpose other than to show suffering - the prolonged description of one character's stay at a mental asylum comes to mind. To show a little would evoke emotion as well as painting the setting. To show a lot just feels like a gratuitous form of voyeurism.

Moreover, while I still felt a certain warmth for the protagonists having achieved a happy ending, I thought that forgiveness came too easily, after all the shit they'd put each other through. More interpersonal struggle in the denouement would not have been amiss, but I suppose Waters thought the book was already long enough.

It's hard to say if I recommend this book. From a historical geek perspective, it's golden; from a narrative and character perspective: rather frustrating. You decide.
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The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Others have described this book as 'Battle Royale for a YA audience.' I'd argue that it's, if anything, a better read, with a more affecting protagonist, not to mention owing as much to the myth of Theseus as to Takami's novel. In a dystopian future, what was once the United States has been divided into thirteen districts. Some time before the beginning of the book, the districts rose up against the Capitol, and were defeated. District Thirteen was decimated, and the others are now forced to send their children each year, to fight one another and die for the Capitol's entertainment, as a brutal reminder of their defeat. When Katniss's sister is one of the children chosen from their district, Katniss steps in to take her place.

Can I just say that I love Katniss? I love that she's tough and practical, kind but utterly unromantic - I especially love that part, as well as her flaws. The protagonist often makes or breaks the book for me, and Katniss makes this one. The subject matter never feels 'PG-ed' up or dumbed down, frequently brutal and heartbreaking. I sat down to read a couple of chapters and wound up finishing the book that day! One of the year's best I've read in 2010 so far, easily.

All Souls: A Family Story from Southie, by Michael Patrick MacDonald.
Or: Depressing Memoir, take one. As the title makes self-evident, MacDonald tells of him and his siblings growing up in Southie, in the days of Whitey Bulger and the bussing riots. Not the safest or most comforting atmosphere, to say the least, and one that produced both numerous adolescent (and adult) deaths, and a culture of silence surrounding them. It's this culture of silence that MacDonald set out to break, with his book.

It was a memoir. It was depressing. It was pretty darn good, actually, but having to incorporate it into one of my eight page papers kind of soured it for me.

Turning Stones: My Days and Nights with Children at Risk, by Marc Parent
Depressing memoir number two, but this one got me on more of a gut level. The professor who assigned this book warned us not to read before bed, and she was right.

In this book, Parent tells of the four years he spent on the night shift of Emergency Children's Services, before burning out. There's some seriously heavy stuff in there. I don't have trouble believing the horrible things people can do to their kids, but I really, really wish I did. To his credit, Parent doesn't take the easy, sensationalist route of vilifying the parents, striving instead to show the points of view of everyone involved. And then, there's the trouble from the agency. While most of those involved seemed to be doing their genuine best, Parent also showed pockets of stupefying incompetence and trained indifference within the system.

I'm pretty sure no one could ever pay me enough to go into this profession, but I'm glad to have read this book. Parent's recollections are powerful and not easily forgotten.
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Once again, I failed to reach 100 books, by *ahem* virtue of slacking off and losing spoons toward the end of the year. However, I did manage to beat last year's score: 81 books to 2008's 79. Yes, a two-book improvement. Hush. My new goal is to read at least one more book each year than I did the previous. I think it's a good goal, and will only get more challenging as I go on.

I've already raved about some of my favorites, so I'll just list them here, for posterity's sake.

Best new discoveries )

Some disappointments )

Some books to look forward to in 2010
1. Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters (which I still haven't finished)
2. Naamah's Curse, by Jacqueline Carey
3. CryoBurn, by Lois McMaster Bujold (new Miles book!!)
4. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (on request at the library right now)
5. A Star Shall Fall, by Marie Brennan
6. The Paths of the Dead, by Steven Brust
7. The God Engines, by John Scalzi
8. Muse and Reverie, by Charles de Lint
9. Shades of Grey, by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge
10. The Republic of Thieves, by Scott Lynch (maybe? if it ever comes out?)
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- Pendragon was ok, which is to say I had a good character and a good time, but I know all too many female players who didn't and am ticked off on their behalf. I turned out to be absolutely right in covering my ass on the questionnaire by saying 'no damsels/useless female characters' explicitly.

(I will say, though, that for all that the game had problems, some of which aren't mine to discuss, [livejournal.com profile] zrealm and the rest of Foam Brain did an admirable job of keeping the game running and making it fun. Serious kudos for them.)

- Unfortunately, I got next to no sleep over the weekend, thanks both to the schedule (understandable but still strenuous) and the fucknuts downstairs from us playing loud rap music at four in the morning on Saturday. I wound up dragging my comatose ass to the manager's office, so he could shut them up before I bludgeoned them to death with a swivel chair.

- I did, thankfully, get the internship I was stressing about. Starting this Monday, I've been the communications intern for Jane Doe, Inc. - an advocacy organization for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. It's been an excellent job so far, and I really like my coworkers.

- I seem to be suffering from annoying allergies and dehydration all week, both of which leave me brain-fuzzy and low-energy. Meh. One of them, at least, can be remedied by plying myself with water till I burble. If the water's cold enough, it doesn't leave me feeling as pukey. (Too much plain water can make me sick to my stomach, due to an incident where I was forced to drink too much of it prior to an ultrasound.)

- Currently reading Black & White, by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge. As a superhero novel, it's not necessarily the freshest thing on the block, but it's a fast, engaging read and I love the characters.
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Point 1: I liked it a great deal, and knowing the event it was building up to didn't lessen the impact of said event.

Point 2: Since it's been in discussion lately, congrats to Steven Brust for passing the Bechdel test, and moreover doing so within a novel whose primary protagonist is male.

Rule 1: There must be at least two female characters.
Accomplished and then some. There are a number of female mains (Tazendra, Sethra, Aliera, Daro), and the characters in the background are pretty much 50/50. This is helped by the fact that Brust's Dragaeran society is professionally very equal. The random guard, general, bartender or farmer mentioned can be male, female or we might never even learn one way or the other.

Rule 2: The female characters must talk to each other.
Yes, they do. The most notable conversations are those between Sethra and Aliera, and Sethra and Tazendra.

Rule 3: ...About something other than men
To use the example of Sethra and Aliera's first meeting, they spend a few minutes being hostile toward one another (Aliera is investigating without authorization in a case she may be a suspect in), they proceed to geek about forensic techniques, ignoring Khaavren completely. Sure, the victim whose death they're investigating is male, but I don't think that counts.

Applying this rule to race, which I've also seen done, gets trickier since this is not our world. As far as the physical makeup of the cast goes, the House of Dzur seems to have some Asian (visual) traits, and contrary to being paired with the modern Asian stereotype of quiet studiousness, the Dzur are known for hotbloodedness and their love for battle and its glory. People who've read more can probably offer further comment, though again, the comparison gets rather spurious, since the characters are not even human, exactly.
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I'm not going to be doing [livejournal.com profile] nanoreamo this year, what with school starting, but I do have a nice to-read pile I feel like sharing with you all.

I'm currently reading Marie Brennan's In Ashes Lie, sequel to her Midnight Never Come. It's denser and more historical-fictiony than the first book, but oddly enough, I find myself liking it more for just those reasons.

Up next, once I'm done with that one:

Five Hundred Years After, by Steven Brust (I actually got some 150 pages into that one already, but I'd timed things poorly and started it too late to give myself enough time to finish before it was due back at the library. Hint: three days did not cut it, especially with Blogathon in the middle.)

Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters (On [livejournal.com profile] nevacaruso's recommendation)

Manga:
Currently on volume 9 of Death Note, volume 7 of Saiyuki, volume 7 of Rurouni Kenshin, volume 13 of XxxHolic and volume 19 of Tsubasa. Devouring all of the above. I've also read all that's out of Wild Adapter (the Saiyuki mangaka's other work) and am craving more, though I don't think there is more, even in Japan.

In other news, I've managed to read and re-read Tamora Pierce's entire oeuvre this year. It's funny, when I was younger, I significantly preferred her Tortall books to her Circle ones. Now, the preference has done a one-eighty. I find the Tortall books entertaining but too black-and-white for my tastes, as opposed to the Circle books, which are more shaded, nuanced and therefore interesting. It may well be an age-aim thing. I will note that the Beka books (Pierce's newest in Tortall) are an exception to this rule, being both more detailed, gritty and shades-of-grey than previous books set in this world. So it may just be a case of Pierce growing and developing as a writer, the more she practices her craft, and that can only be a good thing.

The Trickster duology stood a good chance of breaking the mold as well, but it had some unfortunate race issues coming to the fore in the second book. Sure, these natives have been fighting for their freedom for centuries, but what they really need is the help of this white chick. Bah. This was less noticeable in the first book since Aly was at enough of a disadvantage, being a slave herself, that it didn't feel like a Great White Savior narrative. Knowing what I know of Pierce, I can say with certainty that the less-than-stellar overtones were unconscious on her part, but an unconscious fuckup is still a fuckup and it kept me from enjoying the books as much as I'd hoped.
mllelaurel: (Default)
So, I've read what I believe to be all of Bourdain's nonfiction aside from A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines. I've just picked up GAiEC, and I could swear I've read that before too. Is it merely a renamed/remixed version of A Cook's Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal? A re-compilation of essays found in various other books of Bourdain's? Am I just having deja vu? Help!
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As per usual, I'm reading a number of books all at the same time.

Equal Rites, by Terry Pratchett (60/213 pages)
Pratchett is a joy, as usual, but I really, really wish he would use chapters. Call me anal-retentive, but I like set breaks in my reading. It doesn't mean I'll necessarily stop at the chapter break - and it's a testament to a good book when I don't - but I like having the option. This is an early book, so Granny Weatherwax isn't yet the grand dame/force of nature she will become, but she's still Granny Weatherwax, which is reason enough to read.

The Ghost in Love, by Jonathan Carroll (124/308 pages)
I've heard this one recommended up and down, but so far I'm not feeling it. Oh, it's brilliantly creative, I'm not arguing that, but the characters...oy. Ben seems like a good guy, but so far, all he's done is react rather than act. And at this point in time, I fucking can't stand German. Sure, running away when presented with weirdness is a normal human response, but it doesn't make one a worthy protagonist. In fact, her ordinariness seems to be her defining trait. Bleh. That's actually the problem right there: the protagonists aren't protagging. No real opinion on Ling/the ghost yet. I miss the Angel of Death, though. He was cool.

Melting Stones, by Tamora Pierce (61/312 pages)
Light, pleasant fare. Sure, I can see what's going on way ahead of the characters, but this is a case that can be chalked up to their inexperience with the phenomenon in question rather than the Idiot Ball. This book is the direct opposite of The Ghost in Love in that the premise is not at all new, but the characters are lively and lovable.
mllelaurel: (Default)
As per usual, I'm reading a number of books all at the same time.

Equal Rites, by Terry Pratchett (60/213 pages)
Pratchett is a joy, as usual, but I really, really wish he would use chapters. Call me anal-retentive, but I like set breaks in my reading. It doesn't mean I'll necessarily stop at the chapter break - and it's a testament to a good book when I don't - but I like having the option. This is an early book, so Granny Weatherwax isn't yet the grand dame/force of nature she will become, but she's still Granny Weatherwax, which is reason enough to read.

The Ghost in Love, by Jonathan Carroll (124/308 pages)
I've heard this one recommended up and down, but so far I'm not feeling it. Oh, it's brilliantly creative, I'm not arguing that, but the characters...oy. Ben seems like a good guy, but so far, all he's done is react rather than act. And at this point in time, I fucking can't stand German. Sure, running away when presented with weirdness is a normal human response, but it doesn't make one a worthy protagonist. In fact, her ordinariness seems to be her defining trait. Bleh. That's actually the problem right there: the protagonists aren't protagging. No real opinion on Ling/the ghost yet. I miss the Angel of Death, though. He was cool.

Melting Stones, by Tamora Pierce (61/312 pages)
Light, pleasant fare. Sure, I can see what's going on way ahead of the characters, but this is a case that can be chalked up to their inexperience with the phenomenon in question rather than the Idiot Ball. This book is the direct opposite of The Ghost in Love in that the premise is not at all new, but the characters are lively and lovable.
mllelaurel: (Default)
...The anthology, Paper Cities. Two stories in, and so far I've found it filled with beautiful language and utterly tedious. Hal Duncan doesn't suit me. Here's hoping it gets better, or finishing it will be a chore and a slog.

Edit: Story by story breakdown
Andretto Walks the King's Way, by Forrest Aguirre - meh

The Tower of Morning's Bones, by Hal Duncan - bleh. See above.

Courting the Lady Scythe, by Richard Parks - I quite like this one. Enough to be curious about what else this Richard Parks fellow might have written.

The Bumblety's Marble, by Cat Rambo - meh.

Promises, by Jay Lake - part of a larger story and a larger world, and not enough to let me know what I think of it.

Ghost Market, by Greg van Eekhout - short but very intriguing. Another author to watch out for.

Sammarynda Deep, by Cat Sparks - pretty good. I didn't like it quite as much as the Parks or the Eekhout, but I did like it.

Tearjerker, by Steve Berman - a very interesting setting, marred by an unlikeable protagonist.

Book ADD

May. 13th, 2009 11:58 am
mllelaurel: (Default)
Argh, I can't seem to read more than two chapters of the same book at a time lately. And I'm in the process of reading some seriously, seriously awesome books, folks. James Morrow's Shambling Towards Hiroshima is likely going to end up on my Amazing Books of the Year list. But. My concentration appears to be shot to hell. Maybe it's just 'semester's finally over' burnout. I hope so.

For the record, the other books I've read so far this year that I'd give five stars and a rave to are:

The Stepsister Scheme, by Jim C. Hines. Awesome, awesome female characters, and an engaging plot that manages to be fresh while still resonating with those old fairy tale themes.

Memory and Dream, by Charles de Lint. Thanks so much to [livejournal.com profile] nevacaruso and [livejournal.com profile] londo for urging me to read it. I'd actually started this book last year then put it down. It's definitely not a book for when you can't handle intense and frequently dark. But the fact that it got to me that much, alone, speaks volumes. One of de Lint's most powerful, up there with The Onion Girl, I think.

Coraline, by Neil Gaiman. This was actually a re-read, but I appreciated this book much more now than I did last time. Ironically, since I was closer to the age aimed-at, back then.
mllelaurel: (Default)
I've been looking over my 'to read' list lately (it's obscenely huge!) and I've noticed it's almost entirely composed of fantasy and science fiction. Now, I love me some sf/f and there's certainly enough of it out there to keep me busy for years, but occasionally, something different is nice. So, here's a challenge to you all:

Please recommend some books you think I'd like that fall outside my usual genres.

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