dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
I have a brief moment of calm between a week that's been very full on, with lots of intensive teaching, and essentially a week with an event happening almost every night. This is mainly because the Cambridge Film Festival, and the Cambridge Festival of Ideas have pretty much overlapped this year. For someone like me, who has very low energy and needs to spend a lot of time doing quiet stuff at home, it's going to be fun but exhausting.

Coming up over the next week or so:

  • A concert (Aurora) on Saturday 15th

  • A film (American Honey) on Tuesday 18th

  • A concert (Birdy) on Wednesday 19th

  • A talk ([twitter.com profile] Nalo_Hopkinson) on Thursday 20th

  • A talk (on new media) on Saturday 22nd

  • Apple Day (basically show up and eat as many types of apples as you can) on Sunday 23rd

  • A film (The Handmaiden) on Monday 24th

  • A film (Toni Erdmann) on Tuesday 25th

  • A talk (Farah Mendlesohn on children's fantasy novels) on Wednesday 26th

  • A film (Into the Inferno) on Thursday 27th


  • I feel exhausted just thinking about it! But everything should be a lot of fun.

    I wrote a new post on my Wordpress blog. It's a review of A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir.
    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)
    I read a lot of fabulous books this (northern) summer, and I've written reviews of three, Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard, and The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine.

    You can read them over at Wordpress.
    dolorosa_12: (ship)
    Various things could be considered the catalyst for this post, but the most recent was the first in a series of posts by Malinda Lo for Diversity in YA on perceptions of diversity in book reviews. In the post, Lo makes the disturbing point that a large number of reviews of diverse books criticise their diversity as 'contrived' or 'implausible'. It's clear that these reviewers need to change their default assumptions, but Lo's conclusions also speak to a wider problem: we need diverse reviews just as much as we need diverse books. Our understanding is enriched by exposure to a multiplicity of perspectives, and the work of marginalised reviewers is crucial in this.

    This post, then, is intended to serve as a place for recommendations. A couple of things:

    1. I'm not interested in identity-policing anyone. There's no need to argue in the comments as to whether anyone's identity is sufficiently marginalised to warrant inclusion, nor do you need to state exactly how the recommended reviewer is marginalised. Use your own judgement.

    2. Self-recommendations are perfectly okay.

    3. I am particularly keen to gather recommendations for reviewers writing in languages other than English, or writing in English about non-US/UK or non-Anglophone literatures. I have intermediate reading knowledge of several European languages but am essentially a monolingual English-speaker. These recs aren't for me! They're for people who are not used to seeing their languages and literatures represented in (English-language) lists of recommendations, or not used to seeing their literatures explored with any great nuance in the Anglophone world. (And this goes for any recs you might choose to post. They don't need to be accessible to me, just be important to you.)

    4. No platform is too small. Feel free to recommend reviewers writing for well-known, influential sites or tiny personal blogs with small readerships. I'm attempting to gather recs that go beyond the usual suspects.

    5. This is a cross-post at Livejournal and Dreamwidth, so feel free to comment at either place.
    dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
    I wrote a review on my Wordpress blog about Peaky Blinders, a gangster miniseries set in Birmingham in 1919.

    That’s not to say there aren’t tensions. The young Shelby men have returned, traumatized, from the battlefields of World War I, only to find that the women – shrewd, tough-as-nails Aunt Polly, and angry, romantic Ada – have been running things just fine, if not better, on their own. Tommy Shelby, who views himself as the gang’s de facto leader, has to reconcile his own grand vision for the Peaky Blinders with the more limited, but safer, scope planned by his aunt.

    At the same time, the gang relies on its ability to control the shifting network of alliances of the streets, contending with IRA cells, communist agitators attempting to unionize the factory workers, Traveller families who control the racetrack, Chinese textile workers who moonlight as opium den operators, and, one of my favourite characters, an itinerant fire-and-brimstone street-preacher played by Benjamin Zephaniah. It’s a complicated balancing act of carrot and stick, and when it works, it works because the various players have understood correctly the psychology, needs and fears of their opposite numbers.


    The review's a bit late - the first season aired some months ago - but if my description piques your interest, it might be worth catching up, as there aren't that many episodes, and the new season is due to air soon.

    This is one of my favourite times of the year, because IT'S EUROVISION TIME! I have a deep and daggy love of Eurovision, but luckily, so do my partner Matthias, and many of our friends. This time last year, we had a Eurovision party, but we were unable to do the same this time around, as most of our Eurovision-loving friends were away. Our friend B did come over, and we had a great time snarkily deconstructing all the acts. My greatest triumph of the evening? Inventing the Tumblr tag 'erotic milk-churning' to describe the Polish act. Honestly, it has to be seen to be believed. I was very happy with the act that eventually won, and a good time was had by all.

    ETA: I made a new mix on 8tracks. It's called 'Love Will Tear Us Apart, Again and Again and Again', and consists of the best cover versions of 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', as well as the original. Because I'm cool like that. (Bizarre story from my past: one night, my dad and I did nothing but listen to every cover version of this song, drink red wine and generally work each other up into such a frenzy of maudlin feelings that we both ended up crying our eyes out. Good times, 2007. Good times.)


    Love Will Tear Us Apart, Again and Again and Again from dolorosa_12 on 8tracks Radio.

    dolorosa_12: (matilda)
    I'm not sure if you know this already, but my absolute favourite, favourite kind of story involves angels and demons, over-the-top battles between them, and theologically-tinged interactions between angels, demons and humans. Discussions of free will, the value of flawed humanity, and the incomprehensibility of angelic/demonic nature to ordinary individuals are all desirable bonuses. Unfortunately, very few authors get the tone or narrative right - or rather, very few tell the kind of story I want to read. (I should also clarify that I'm not a religious person, and the kinds of stories of this type that I enjoy normally bear little resemblance to any recognisable depiction of angels or demons within any religion.) I can only think of about five stories that did what I wanted, and they all have their flaws: Paradise Lost (which only works for me if I read it against Milton's intentions), His Dark Materials, Supernatural (which has other, massive problems that a lot of people find extremely off-putting, with reason, and also comes saddled with one of the worst fandoms I have ever encountered), Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel books (in which the angels are extremely peripheral to the main story of a masochistic holy prostitute and her adventures as a spy), and Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice (shut up! that book is WONDERFUL). Sarah Rees Brennan's Demon's Lexicon trilogy is fabulous, but its demons don't come from any recognisable theology and aren't really the point of the narrative.

    In order to get the stories I want, I've waded through a lot of rubbish, from Sharon Shinn's Angels of Samaria series, with its anaemic love stories and irritating plot twist, to some truly dreadful YA paranormal romances (anyone ever read Fallen by Lauren Kate?), in which angelic nature is simply a convenient way to engineer EPIC, IMMORTAL SOULBONDS. I expect very little when picking up a story about angels and demons, which is why Estelle Ana Baca's Cherubim and Seraphim, the first in her Ministers of Grace trilogy, doesn't bother me as much as it could have. But it's so full of typical weaknesses of characterisation and plot that I feel exasperated. Why is it that almost no one can write angels and demons right?

    Spoilery dot-points behind the cut )

    In spite of all those complaints, I'll keep reading the trilogy, because, as I've already established, beggars can't be choosers. I guess I should get on with writing my own 'war of angels, demons and humans' book that I've been writing for years. After the PhD, maybe.

    ---------
    *Although one is orphaned in a really terrible way.
    dolorosa_12: (matilda)
    It is unbelievably cold here. When I was running this morning, small flakes of snow were falling, although they melted when they hit the ground. Our house is very poorly insulated, and as a result I've had to wear a hat, gloves and scarf while inside.

    I kid you not )

    It's absolutely breathtaking to run in such weather, even if I have to suffer icy-cold limbs and frequent nosebleeds as a result. On the weekend, I can sleep in slightly later and am able to run once the sun has risen, but during the week, I have to run before 8 o'clock. This means that it's dark when I set out, and by the time I'm making my return back along the river, the sky is starting to turn a delicate mauve. The trees are bare, the grass is muddy and greenish-grey, and the river is dark and swollen. It's an absolute joy to be outside in that landscape. I've never enjoyed summer, although I do love swimming in the ocean, so I'd say this is the perfect climate for me right now.

    Term starts next week, and I'm going to be flat out. I've set very strict deadlines with my supervisor, as I'm determined to finish and submit my thesis within the next six months. Every week I'm either giving her a chapter to look at, or meeting her to discuss that chapter. I'm happy with how the current chapter is looking, but no doubt she'll find things to criticise. I'm also picking up three new students who need a couple of supervisions each (supervisions are the Oxbridge system of teaching, whereby the student writes one essay per week on a prearranged subject and then meets to discuss the essay one-on-one with a supervisor, who is usually a postgrad student. In our department, first- and second-year undergrads take six subjects per year, and third-years take four, so they tend to be extremely busy with supervision essays), and I also have to give two lectures. The supervisions are generally easy, but writing lectures takes quite a bit of time. I also go back to work in the library this week, although I may not have as many shifts as last term.

    I've added Kundalini yoga to my exercise regime on top of the Hatha and Iyengar classes I'm already doing. It's very different, and involves chanting and meditation. I think doing as much exercise as possible - especially stuff involving meditation - is going to be very helpful in keeping my anxiety and depression levels low during a potentially stressful time.

    I reviewed The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature (edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn), and you can find the review here.
    dolorosa_12: (sokka)
    So, I sat down to write about Korra on my Wordpress blog, and a couple of thousand words tumbled out. Not particularly complimentary words, either. I should say that while I'm frustrated with the writing, I don't hate the series, and have been enjoying watching it. My overwhelming emotion is frustration. Because, having seen ATLA, I know it could've been so much better.

    I really didn’t want to be that fan. You know, the one taking creators of a spin-off to task because the spin-off is nothing like its parent text. But the problem is not so much that Korra isn’t ATLA but rather that Korra lacks the ingredients that made ATLA so successful. As I see it, ATLA’s quality rested on the interplay of four elements (see what I did there?). These were:
    1. A cast of rounded, complex, human characters whose actions made sense in relation to their characterisation, who changed over the course of the series and who drew us into their world;
    2. A completely three-dimensional, endlessly fascinating setting that reflected the diversity of backgrounds and experiences of the people who lived in it;
    3. An engaging narrative which kept you watching and kept surprising you; and
    4. Themes and real-world analogies that resonated but could be interpreted in multiple ways and on multiple levels.

    Korra lacks all of these things.


    I would really love to hear the opinions of people here who are Korra or ATLA fans. You can post either here or on the blog itself. Just a warning - I'm going out to yoga class in about an hour and won't be back online after that until tomorrow morning, so don't expect any replies until at least then.
    dolorosa_12: (ship)
    I've written a review of Traitors' Gate, the third book in Kate Elliott's Crossroads series. It's very spoiler-heavy, so if you haven't read the book, I would advise you to do so as soon as possible! Because who doesn't love epic fantasy set in a world inflected by China, Persia, India, the Mongols and the Silk Road, where 'women's work' is made heroic, and which explores the nature of power?

    What Elliott is actually doing in this series is interrogating the hackneyed old epic fantasy plot of ‘dispossessed man saves world and is thus its rightful ruler’. [...] She tells us the stories that people tell themselves to avoid seeing the truth of the powers that control their lives.
    dolorosa_12: (una)
    Anyone who's seen me anywhere online in the past 24 hours knows that I've been going through an extended rapture-and-awe session about the music of Florence + The Machine. This, inevitably, provoked a review of the Lungs album on my Wordpress blog.

    She sings about woman as body laid bare, not just naked but dissected, cut open and reduced to its component parts. And she does it with such compassion, beauty, sorrow, jubilation and power that I’m left feeling like I’ve been run over by a train after listening.

    Enjoy!
    dolorosa_12: (una)
    Anyone who's seen me anywhere online in the past 24 hours knows that I've been going through an extended rapture-and-awe session about the music of Florence + The Machine. This, inevitably, provoked a review of the Lungs album on my Wordpress blog.

    She sings about woman as body laid bare, not just naked but dissected, cut open and reduced to its component parts. And she does it with such compassion, beauty, sorrow, jubilation and power that I’m left feeling like I’ve been run over by a train after listening.

    Enjoy!
    dolorosa_12: (una)
    Because I am wary of jumping on bandwagons, I only recently read Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest). Being me, I had Thoughts. Oddly enough, they weren't the Thoughts I expected to have.

    Spoilers for the whole series. Also potentially triggering discussion of rape and abuse )
    dolorosa_12: (una)
    Because I am wary of jumping on bandwagons, I only recently read Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest). Being me, I had Thoughts. Oddly enough, they weren't the Thoughts I expected to have.

    Spoilers for the whole series. Also potentially triggering discussion of rape and abuse )
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    Just some further, rather flippant thoughts on the whole YA Mafia thing. Basically, it boils down to some genuine concerns being lost in miscommunication. Let me break it down for you.

    YA bloggers who are also aspiring writers: Hey! We love YA literature! We love talking about YA literature. We find some popular trends in YA literature slightly disturbing, and so we will discuss them!

    Some YA authors (whose works were being discussed as containing said disturbing trends): Somebody is being mean to me on the Internet! We don't like being called misogynistic! Being misogynistic is A Bad Thing, and we are nice people! We will warn these bloggers that actions may have consequences, especially if you want to work in the YA field!

    YA bloggers who are also aspiring writers: Hey! Some important YA authors told us to be nice! We weren't aware that we were being mean (although perhaps some of our commenters were being kind of vitriolic, but we'll ignore that)! All we were doing was pointing out that some popular YA literature seems to us to be misogynistic!* Also, all those YA authors seem to be leaping to one another's defence! They're all friends! They're so cliquey! There is a YA Mafia! We're scared!

    Some YA authors: HAHAHAHA YA Mafia! *proceed to make light-hearted posts about fedoras and sleeping with the fishes* *ignore bloggers' point about misogyny*

    YA bloggers: *get more annoyed and defensive*

    Sarah Rees Brennan: *continues being awesome* *actually addresses the bloggers' concerns about feminism or lack thereof in YA literature*

    [livejournal.com profile] dolorosa_12: *disagrees somewhat that writing posts about readers' responses to confident, awesome female characters vs readers' responses to confident, awesome male characters is the same thing as writing posts about problematic misogyny in YA books* *is happy, nonetheless, that Rees Brennan at least noted that bloggers' concern was more about fears of silencing than fears of the non-existence YA Mafia*

    In other words, your standard internet drama. Lots of high emotions, lots of people being Wrong On The Internet due to people avoiding listening to one another's most important points.
    _________
    * I'm sorry, but when your book has the designated love interested sexually harassing the protagonist in class to the point that the protagonist asks to change lab partners, and the teacher says that the harassment is 'probably because said love interest has a crush on you', when the designated love interest HOLDS THE PROTAGONIST DOWN ON A BED AND THREATENS TO KILL HER AND IT'S TREATED AS ROMANTIC, something isn't right. I'm not saying that the author is a misogynist, but there is no way you can argue that that is not a disturbing and misogynistic book. And there's no way that I - and others like me - are going to avoid discussing it.
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    I'm probably going to regret this, but I posted on Wordpress about the recent debate on negative reviewing that's been bouncing around the YA blogosphere for the past couple of weeks.

    [Just a little disclaimer. Most of you probably know already, but I should mention that I am both a book blogger and a book-reviewer for a newspaper. Unlike many of the book bloggers involved in this debate, I am not an aspiring author. But I am a passionate reviewer and I feel that our position is being deliberately misrepresented so that some in the YA literary world don't have to engage with some of the issues - mainly related to misogyny in some YA works - that we've raised. And I feel that comments like Becca Fitzpatrick's to 'be nice' could be interpreted as slightly threatening. Of course there's no secret cabal of YA authors. Some YA authors like to hang around together because hey, they work in the same field and have similar interests, like friends everywhere. But the aspiring authors who are also book-reviewers are not just randomly lashing out in order to console themselves for their failure to land publishing deals. When Fitzpatrick says things like this, she is INHIBITING OUR ABILITY TO DO OUR JOB PROPERLY. That is all.]
    dolorosa_12: (una)
    I had a rather...interesting start to the day this morning.

    Look away if you don't like blood )

    Now for some links!

    I've written about The Hunger Games (again) on Wordpress. I'm a bit harsh on the book, perhaps, but I felt that my criticisms needed to be said. I still think The Hunger Games is a good book, just not a great one.

    My latest post on The Bookshow Blog gained a comment by the head of Radio National. As my mother said in an email this morning, 'Your post has a comment by my boss'. So yay. The post is about trends in historical fiction.

    My wonderful sister, sensing my homesickness, sent me a link to this wonderful blog, 52 Suburbs, which is a blog filled with beautiful photos of all the suburbs of Sydney. I really love it.

    Finally, for those sraffies who don't know yet, Raphael has succumbed and is on LJ. He's [livejournal.com profile] lucubratae, and you should all add him.
    dolorosa_12: (una)
    I had a rather...interesting start to the day this morning.

    Look away if you don't like blood )

    Now for some links!

    I've written about The Hunger Games (again) on Wordpress. I'm a bit harsh on the book, perhaps, but I felt that my criticisms needed to be said. I still think The Hunger Games is a good book, just not a great one.

    My latest post on The Bookshow Blog gained a comment by the head of Radio National. As my mother said in an email this morning, 'Your post has a comment by my boss'. So yay. The post is about trends in historical fiction.

    My wonderful sister, sensing my homesickness, sent me a link to this wonderful blog, 52 Suburbs, which is a blog filled with beautiful photos of all the suburbs of Sydney. I really love it.

    Finally, for those sraffies who don't know yet, Raphael has succumbed and is on LJ. He's [livejournal.com profile] lucubratae, and you should all add him.
    dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
    I've got a couple of new posts up on the Geata. The first is about characterisation problems in all television series not written by Joss Whedon. The next is a spoiler-free review of Steven Saylor's book Roma.

    I'm about to head off home to Australia, so I thought I'd do a big links roundup before I left. Justine Larbalestier has written two really fantastic entries recently. One is about Gone With the Wind and the other is a really good summary of the failings of so many reviewers (especially those who are unfamiliar with YA literature).

    There's a good post on The Intern about copy editors. As a former sub-editor, I can only applaud.

    I found a couple of interesting Twilight-related posts. This one ties the books in with the whole 'purity' movement in the US. This one is hilarious and tries to imagine Breaking Dawn as a movie. I'd pay money to see that.

    Finally, John Scalzi notes that Mystery Writers of America have followed the lead of SF Writers of America and Romance Writers of America in condemning Harlequin's disgraceful treatment of aspiring writers. Good for them!

    Now, back to packing!
    dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
    I've got a couple of new posts up on the Geata. The first is about characterisation problems in all television series not written by Joss Whedon. The next is a spoiler-free review of Steven Saylor's book Roma.

    I'm about to head off home to Australia, so I thought I'd do a big links roundup before I left. Justine Larbalestier has written two really fantastic entries recently. One is about Gone With the Wind and the other is a really good summary of the failings of so many reviewers (especially those who are unfamiliar with YA literature).

    There's a good post on The Intern about copy editors. As a former sub-editor, I can only applaud.

    I found a couple of interesting Twilight-related posts. This one ties the books in with the whole 'purity' movement in the US. This one is hilarious and tries to imagine Breaking Dawn as a movie. I'd pay money to see that.

    Finally, John Scalzi notes that Mystery Writers of America have followed the lead of SF Writers of America and Romance Writers of America in condemning Harlequin's disgraceful treatment of aspiring writers. Good for them!

    Now, back to packing!
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    I've been writing epically recently, not only online, but also for my PhD. I'm now sitting on about 2000 words, which pleases me immensely. But today I'd like to show you some of my less academic writing.

    First, here's my (supposedly) weekly Longvision post. It's about Christian symbolism and the character of Sulien, and it's the sort of thing I wish I could spend more time pondering.

    I've got two posts on Geata Póeg na Déanainn. The first is just a general post about life in Cambridge this term - my regular update that sums up the Cambridge experience in a more formal way than I do on this blog. The second post is a review of Kate Elliott's Crossroads series. It might be slightly spoilery for the first two books. The focus is on Elliott's positive depiction of middle-class characters in a medieval world, which is something of a rarity in fantasy literature.

    I've got a couple more links for you. First up, something I stumbled upon through [livejournal.com profile] metafandom. It's a rather interesting post pondering the appeal of the Twilight series, which, as you know, is something I ponder myself from time to time. I think you'll be interested in the conclusions the blogger reaches.

    If you're not reading The Intern, a fantastically snarky look at the publishing world, you should be. Her recent post on author websites had me wondering whether to laugh or cry. As someone who has struggled recently trying to track down authors' publicity representatives in order to get review copies of books sent to me, let me reiterate The Intern's complaints: Authors! Fix your websites! Most importantly, include a link to your representatives at each of your publishing companies, with contact details! You would make this reviewer very grateful.

    Check out John Scalzi's remarks on Fox 'News' and Obama. He's spot on as usual.

    I discovered, via Justine Larbalestier's blog, the wonderful [livejournal.com profile] sarahtales (author Sarah Rees Brennan). She's got some very interesting things to say on the double standards readers tend to hold in relation to female characters. It's good food for thought.

    That's probably enough for you to be going on with for now!

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    dolorosa_12: (Default)
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