dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
The three things in this post's title sit rather incongruously next to each other, but together make up this weekend. I spent most of yesterday in Bedford, where Matthias had to travel to take his 'Life in the UK' test, a prerequisite for a successful application for British citizenship by naturalisation. Matthias will be applying for this in the near future, and this test is simply one of the administrative hoops through which he is required to jump. It involves answering a series of simplistic and somewhat silly questions about British history, culture and politics. Although he had studied, and passed every practice test without difficulty, we were more concerned that his proof of address (a printed bank statement) wasn't going to be accepted by the test administrators, as at least one person we know had been turned away for the rather silly reason of not having his name printed on each page of his bank statement. Thankfully, Matthias was not turned away at the door, and the test was so easy that he completed it in three minutes. He was informed that he had passed then and there, and so his naturalisation application can go ahead. For various bureaucratic reasons he will not be able to apply until early next year, but it's nice to have this out of the way good and early.

After the test, we met up with some friends who live in Bedford for beer (or, in my case, gin) and curry, which struck me as a very British way to celebrate Matthias' impending Britishness.

Today the two of us met up with [personal profile] naye and [personal profile] doctorskuld and went to a food fair. There were a lot of free samples, and Matthias and I came away with sausages, various types of cheese, and a small collection of vinegars and sauces. We opted not to eat lunch at the food fair and headed over to a hipsterish cafe with antique bikes hanging from the ceiling, and a menu in which half the items consisted of avocado on toast. I don't like avocado, but luckily the other half of the menu was filled with things I like, so there was no danger of going hungry.

I've just written a review of some of my recent reading. It's a review of books by Shira Glassman, Becky Chambers, and Kate Elliott, and can be found at my Wordpress blog. I highly recommend all three books.

Yuletide is fast approaching. My nominations have all been approved (there was never any danger of that — I'm highly unlikely to nominate borderline fandoms, but it's nice to have the confirmation), so I guess I'd better get on to writing my letter and thinking about what fandoms to offer myself!

I hope everyone else has been having wonderful weekends.
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
I only read one book in the past week, An Accident of Stars, by Foz Meadows. It's a YA portal fantasy in which Australian teenager Saffron Coulter finds herself transported to another world, and becomes caught up in its complex, dangerous political machinations. Her otherworldly adventures are no fun romp, but rather come at a heavy cost, both physically and emotionally. Meadows does a good job of showing why existence in an other world would be appealing to someone like Saffron, while also challenging some of the underlying assumptions of portal fantasies (namely, that characters are able to travel back and forth between worlds without cost, worry, or any real impact on their lives back on Earth). Saffron was a refreshingly thoughtful character (in that she spent a lot of time seriously thinking about the underlying default assumptions that drove her reactions to things), although teenage!me would have found her impossible to relate to for various reasons (in fact, although I enjoyed the book as an adult, I realised that as a teenager I would have really disliked it), and she, along with most of the other characters in the book, were some form of LGBT+, living in a world where that was the norm, which was also nice to read about.

It feels really nitpicky to go into my main issue with the book, which is its need for a serious edit. But it was riddled with typographical and layout errors (missing line breaks, no spaces between transitions from one character's point of view to another, missing quotation marks, and quotation marks or full stops with no spaces between them and the following characters). I've spotted the odd typographical error in quite a few professionally published books, but I've never before read a professionally published book with the sheer number of obvious errors - such that I wonder if An Accident of Stars was even copyedited at all! A second, and subtler problem (but for me just as distracting) was the incongruity between the story's unapologetically Australian setting, and the Americanisms in the dialogue (or Saffron's interior monologue) that wouldn't be used by anyone in Australia. I'm not talking about US spelling conventions - a book published in the US is always going to have those - it's more things like 'a half-dozen' (instead of 'half a dozen', which is how we would say it in Australia) or 'an alum [of such-and-such a school]' (a phrase I've never heard used in Australia - we would probably say 'a graduate of...' or 'one of the alumni of...'). I'm a former subeditor, so this kind of stuff really sticks out to me, and after a while it becomes all I notice, so it may not be such an issue for other people. I do hope the publisher sorts out the typographical issues in future editions, although I think it would be overly optimistic to expect them to make the language more Australian.

I also read 'Your Orisons May Be Recorded', a short story by Laurie Penny which imagines angels and demons working in a vast, celestial call centre, and is the story about angels, demons, and their interactions with (and feelings about) humans that I've always been searching for. It's free on Tor.com, and is utterly brilliant.
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
I've been reading a lot of great stuff, so I thought I'd put together a brief post. I'm trying to get over a recent block in terms of writing on Dreamwidth/LJ, where I feel that posts here have to be substantial and significant, and if they don't meet this arbitrary bar I should just throw a few words together on Tumblr. I need to stop worrying about whether my thought fragments are important enough to go on Dreamwidth/LJ and just post them!

I read An Alphabet of Embers, an anthology of short fiction edited by Rose Lemberg. The highlights for me were Kari Sperring's story 'Some Silver Wheel', and 'Everything Under One Roof', Zen Cho's contribution. However, the whole collection was wonderful, and I strongly encourage you to read this review in Strange Horizons, which gives a good overview of every work in the anthology. I would echo the reviewer, Karen Burnham's, sentiments:

I have also never seen an anthology so beautifully orchestrated, with tones and themes following each other beautifully like the movements of a symphony, encompassing a huge range of human (and non-human) experience and feeling while always maintaining a coherent sense of the whole. As such, while the individual stories sometimes seem too much like embers (flashing brightly but fading from memory quickly), the anthology as a whole leaves a lasting impression of weight, survival, and beauty.


On the advice of [livejournal.com profile] losseniaiel, I've started reading the Vorkosigan saga. I'm reading it somewhat out of publication order, starting instead with Shards of Honour and Barrayar, which I understand is roughly at the start of the series' chronology. While they're a little bit dated in some ways, I absolutely adore Cordelia as a character, and love stories about culture clashes, characters from very different backgrounds being forced to work together, and pragmatic women who exercise power in subtle, indirect ways, so as you can imagine, I'm having a great time with these books. I'm a bit limited in what I read next in the series as I'm not prepared to buy them and my local library doesn't own any copies of Bujold's books, so I'm reliant on whatever [livejournal.com profile] losseniaiel can lend me. I do look forward to reading more in this series when I can, though.

On Monday night I read Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, which I also thoroughly enjoyed, apart from one rather distracting problem. The book is a spin off of sorts from her earlier book Fangirl, in which the main character wrote fanfic of a Harry Potter-esque British children's series - Carry On is Rowell's attempt at that fanfic. As published original fiction attempting to evoke the conventions of fanfic, Carry On is excellent, and those who read a reasonable amount of fanfic (like me) will find a lot of recognisable and enjoyable fanfic tropes. Rowell's affection for the medium shines through, and I appreciated that aspect of the book a lot. However, it suffered from a common problem: Americans trying to write work set in Britain, and getting the dialogue hopelessly wrong. A lot of the supposed Britishisms were just off (I'm not even British and I noticed it), and there were scatterings of American slang and phrases that really stuck out to me. I was able to get over this by pretending the whole book was a piece of fanfic for a British canon, written by an American teenager - which indeed may have been the effect Rowell was aiming for - but it was really distracting.

I haven't decided what novel I'm going to read next, but I did enjoy 'An Ocean the Colour of Bruises', a new short story by Isabel Yap at Uncanny Magazine.

What have you all been reading?
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
This has been a lovely, relaxing weekend. I spent Saturday morning Skyping with my mum, and finishing off an exchange fic assignment that had been hanging over my head and worrying me. In the afternoon, I met up with a friend for coffee. We'd originally planned to hang out in one of the parks by the river, but I'd looked at the weather on Friday and feared it might rain. In any event, the promised rain never came, so we followed the coffee with a walk along the river, talking books, life, and libraries (she is also a librarian, although she works in public libraries rather than academic libraries like me). She had generously lent me her copy of The Raven King, and it was nice to be able to discuss that book - and the whole Raven Cycle series - with someone else, as I'd read it so much later than everyone that I'd missed most of the conversation on Tumblr and elsewhere online. (If anyone else wants to discuss it in the comments, that would be most welcome!)

I got home in time to potter around the garden for an hour or so, repotting things and digging up the inevitable weeds. Since finishing my PhD, I've had more energy to pay attention to stuff like the garden, the furnishings and decorations in the house and so on, and it's really nice to see all my plants grow, and the garden start to take shape. I'm at the point of being able to eat herbs from my own garden, and that is wonderful.

Today has been even more relaxing - I've spent most of my time reading, either curled up on the couch, or out in the garden. I'm reading my way through the Chrestomanci books, as Diana Wynne Jones was an author who completely passed me by during my childhood, and I've always felt the lack. I've read three of the Chrestomanci books, and have enjoyed them so far, although I think I prefer the Howl trilogy slightly.

Now I'm just pottering around on the internet, and starting to think about dinner. Two days are never quite enough, but at least I've made good use of them.

On another note, the fundraiser for Mia and Cy is still going. We're very close to making the target, and it would be wonderful for them to wake up on Monday and find that the target had been reached. If you want to donate, you can do so here. Please do also keep sharing it widely. If you have any questions, get in touch with me.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
I realise it's Thursday, but I've got a review up of a trio of YA books: Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, and Court of Fives by Kate Elliott, all of which can be loosely linked by a theme of divided cities.

The review is up on Wordpress, and feel free to comment here or there.
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
Not much to report this week, just two novels read - Runemarks and Runelight by Joanne Harris. These were solidly written, with nothing obviously wrong with them, and yet both failed to grab me, and I read the second more out of a sense of duty than interest.

I think I'm going to have to say that Harris' interpretations of Norse myth simply don't work for me. I read her Gospel of Loki last year, and it, like these two books (which imagine a Europe shaped primarily by Norse, not Roman influence, in which Ragnarök has already happened), failed to resonate. I think part of the problem is that in books about gods (whatever the mythology), I'm wanting something very specific which most authors either fail to deliver, or aren't interested in writing. I touch on it in this review of The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, which does what I want in terms of supernatural-human interactions. Basically, what I want is a reflection on humanity, intense, complicated relationships between humans and deities, and, if possible, some kind of tense readjustment of human characters' moral landscapes once the beings they worship as fairly distant, abstract ideas become part of their world as physical realities. (If this happens in reverse - if gods and supernatural beings are forced to adjust their understanding of human beings once they spend time in close proximity to humans - then so much the better.)

I realise this a very specific requirement, and that I'm basically taking Harris to task for failing write the story I wanted to read, so if post-apocalyptic retellings of Norse myth are your thing, I advise you to read other reviews rather than taking my word as an accurate evaluation of the qualities of these books. For me personally, however, they were a disappointment.
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
I'm not sure I'm going to be able to manage it every week, but I'm going to attempt to post regular reading logs whenever I can. I tend to agonise too much about whether what I want to post about is worthy of blogging, and I'm trying to get out of that mindset. With that in mind, have my first Reading Wednesday of 2016.

Novels

Uprooted by Naomi Novik was something I'd been intending to read for a while, but I have to admit that it was Foz Meadows' extremely negative (and spoilery) review that bumped it up into a higher level of priority. What can I say? The id wants what it wants.

I loved the folkloric, fairytale quality of the book, coupled with its emotional intensity. And the idea of a malevolent, sentient forest was absolutely fantastic, and very cleverly realised. To my mind, European fairytales and folktales exist in this kind of nebulous, indeterminate, almost universal forest that spreads and covers the whole of their known landscape, a space in which the rules of the real world don't apply and operates under strange, inhuman rules of its own. (I think of it as the world's forest.) The idea to make this resonant, unstable forest space a living, conscious entity was inspired.

I only wish that Uprooted was going to be the first in a series, but I guess that would detract from the fairytale finality of its ending. In any case, we'll always have fanfic.

Short stories

I read and really enjoyed 'Good Girls' by Isabel Yap, which adds fantastical elements to a story of friendship and coming of age - and coming to terms with the monstrous. The mythology of the Philippines underpins this story, the latest I've read by Isabel Yap, who is fast becoming one of my favourite short fiction writers.

Non-fiction

I read a lot of blogs, online essays and commentary pieces - far too many to link here. Instead, I'll link you to two pieces which share an emphasis on writing as construction, on the ways their respective authors go about building their fictional worlds.

The first is Writing and Music Composition by Yoon Ha Lee. The second is The Map As Theory by Kate Elliott.

What have you all been reading this week?

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