dolorosa_12: (matilda)
2019-04-14 03:46 pm

Recent reading update

One of the unfortunate side effects of having a depressive episode for most of March and early April is that my ongoing reading log sort of dropped off the radar. This is a shame, as I've read a lot of great books during that time.

I'm going to leave The True Queen by Zen Cho and Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan for later, longer reviews over on my reviews blog, as they were definitely the high points of my recent reading.

Other than those, I read a little bit of short fiction - 'Old Media' by Annalee Newitz (featuring characters from her book Autonomous trying to navigate relationships and consent in a world inhabited by robots and indentured people; meandering and character-driven, but a bit lacking in substance), 'Rag and Bone' by Priya Sharma (creepy horror story set in an alternate nineteenth-century Liverpool where the rich can use the poor for body parts), and 'Miranda in Milan' by Katharine Duckett (what happens to Miranda when she leaves the island after the events of The Tempest; The Tempest is my favourite Shakespeare play, so I was very much looking forward to this, and I was not disappointed). The first two works are free to read on Tor.com, while the second is a novella, and not free.

In terms of novels, my library holds on The Wicked King by Holly Black and Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor finally came through. Taylor is very hit and miss with me. I think she writes fabulous, atmospheric settings, but her writing style usually doesn't work for me, and I think her stories generally lack in substance. I mean, her usual theme is that kindness, imagination and love will save the world, which is unobjectionable, but, as I say, I usually feel that all her effort goes into setting and the general feel of intricate weird quirkiness, and this was definitely my impression from Muse of Nightmares. On the other hand, I adored The Wicked King. Holly Black is a very iddy, indulgent writer, and thankfully her id and mine tend to align. I love what she's doing in this newest iteration of her fairyland setting — she plunders the best bits of European folklore about the otherworld, emphasising in particular the lore that fairies can't tell lies. I love that her fairy characters regard human beings and their ability to lie with fear and horror, and how truth, lies, and circumlocution (and all the other tricks that beings who can only speak the truth employ to avoid speaking truths they don't want spoken) become weaponised. The plot gallops on at a mile a minute, and the twist at the end was fantastic. I'm very much looking forward to the final book in the trilogy.

Sadly, the final book I've read in this recent burst of reading, Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear, was a big disappointment. I've enjoyed Bear's books set in her Karen Memory universe, and particularly appreciated how character-driven they were, so I had expected her space opera to take a similar approach. Instead I found flat characters, lots of engineering/physics info-dumping, and a story that felt like a trial to read. It picked up a bit after the first twenty per cent or so, but convinced me that I am best sticking to Elizabeth Bear's steampunk, unfortunately.

Which recently read books have you enjoyed?
dolorosa_12: (Default)
2019-04-14 11:53 am

Dear Night on Fic Mountain writer

Thank you for writing for me!

I'm pretty easygoing about what type of fic you want to write for me. I read fic of any rating, and would be equally happy with plotty genfic or something very shippy. I read gen, femslash, het and slash, although I have a slight preference towards femslash, het, and gen that focuses on female characters. I mainly read fic to find out what happens to characters after the final page has turned or the credits have rolled, so I would particularly love to have futurefic of some kind. Don't feel you have to limit yourself to the characters I specifically mention — I'm happy with others being included if they fit with the story you want to tell.

Feel free to have a look around my Ao3 profile, as it should give you a good idea of the types of things I like to read.

General likes )

General dislikes )

Fandom-specific prompts:

The Bone Season — Samantha Shannon )

The Daevabad series - S. A. Chakraborty )

The Queens of Innis Lear — Tessa Gratton )

Winternight series — Katherine Arden )

Don't feel you have to stick rigidly within the bounds of my prompts. As long as your fic is focused on the characters I requested, I will be thrilled to receive anything you write for me, as these really are some of my most beloved fandoms of the heart, and the existence of any fic for them will make me extremely happy.
dolorosa_12: (tea)
2019-04-11 06:56 am

The heights, the depths

After my month of posting every day about books, I seem to have completely vanished from the internet, and Dreamwidth in particular. This was mainly due to illness, brought on by intense stress about the political crisis in the UK and the impending Brexit catastrophe. More about that below.

But first, I'll talk about nice things.

I spent last weekend in Germany for the wedding of one of Matthias's cousins. The cousin (and indeed that whole part of the family) live in Iserlohn, and the wedding and reception were all in that part of the world. Matthias and I flew in to Dortmund on Friday afternoon and were collected by his parents, who drove us to the hotel where we were all staying (and which would also be the reception venue). We all had dinner on the Friday night in the hotel with another aunt and uncle. The wedding itself was on midday on the Saturday, in a castle on the top of a hill, and sadly I didn't get any photos of the ceremony itself, but trust me when I say the setting was very picturesque. We then returned back to the reception for what ended up being an entire day of being fed. The reception meal at German weddings (at least in my experience) is always dinner, but as it was about 2pm at that point and no one had had lunch, we were given open bread roll sandwiches as canapes with our sparkling wine. This was then followed by coffee and a variety of cakes at 3pm, and finally the huge buffet dinner in the evening. There was also apparently a midnight snack of cheeses and fruit, but I was certainly not hungry enough by that point to investigate!

There was a DJ playing (as always) the cheesiest collection of both German and English-language music, and I danced for hours. We finally staggered up to bed around 1am. Now normally I would be able to sleep fine, even with the DJ still going several floors below, but because my body's been in panic mode pretty much for the past three weeks, my sleeping abilities are wrecked, and I ended up not being able to sleep at all that night, even though the DJ finished up around 2.30 and then it was deathly quiet. Luckily I didn't need to do anything on the Sunday beyond being driven to the airport (with a detour to a nearby lake which we walked around in the sunsine).

On Monday I went down to London after work to go to a panel discussion at the Piccadilly Waterstones between Samantha Shannon, Zen Cho, Tasha Suri, and Zoe Marriott, moderated by their fellow author Katherine Webber. It was a fun talk — all, with the exception of Marriott (who was a bit rambly) were great speakers, and although it didn't really tell me anything new about their books, it was great to see them in conversation, bouncing ideas off each other and gushing over one another's books.

From the heights to the depths: the ghastly, stressful political, economic, social and psychological catastrophe that is Brexit. For several weeks, I was feverishly following every moment: Twitter open with various commentators live-tweeting sessions in the House of Commons, the Guardian's frenzied politics livefeed open in the next tab over. This did serious damage to both my mental and physical health (I couldn't sleep, I had panic attacks that lasted all night, I had nightmares, the lack of sleep gave me a cold, at one point I literally vomited from stress at work), and in the end I had to stop. I had been following every moment because I was afraid something terrible would happen and I would miss trying to stop it. On Wednesday last week, after a particularly bad night of panic attacks, I realised that I had to just completely switch off everything. So no Twitter, no news — I can't even go to news websites to look up articles on something else, in case I see anything Brexit-related. I've been living in a sort of cone of silence for over a week now, and it's helping, mostly.

I do know that the EU allowed Britain a longer extension, because Matthias told me this morning, meaning that the country will still be in the EU tomorrow, and I will still be an EU citizen for now. I'm assuming we'll have to hold EU parliamentary elections now, although even that was unclear (but surely the EU would be mad to offer an extension to October without making the EU parliamentary elections a condition?). But the panicked uncertainty was too much for me, so I think I'll have to maintain my distance.

I see also that Scott Morrison has finally called an election, so that will be another thing to vote for in May. I'm hoping desperately that all the polls are right and we're going to get a change of government (although the prospect of Bill Shorten being rewarded for essentially not being Scott Morrison is pretty depressing; I met Shorten at a dinner party before he was an MP and I was not impressed). I'm imagining that the campaign will be dismal and ugly.

So that's been my life for the past couple of weeks. I've been listening to a lot of M83. Carry on, carry on/ and after us the flood indeed.
dolorosa_12: (dolorosa)
2019-03-30 07:34 am

We carry our stories with us

Thirty Day Book Meme Day 30: Would save if my house burned down

To be honest the first things I'd be trying to save would be the passports, citizenship certificates, and various pieces of documentation that indicate that my husband and I are UK citizens, given the UK government's attitude to migrants.

But if these things were already safe, my decision would in many ways still be an extremely difficult one. Almost all of the books I've mentioned over the past twenty-nine days of this meme are deeply loved favourites, so formative that they feel like part of the foundation of me. They're in the bones of the stories that make me myself. How could I possibly choose between them? And in this hypothetical fire, I couldn't carry them all — at least not in their physical form.

But of course I would be carrying them with me, whether they were saved from a fire or not. And that's kind of the point.
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
2019-03-29 07:09 am

Devouring books

Thirty Day Book Meme Day 29: The one I have reread most often

I don't think I've kept good enough track of this, because a lot of my childhood favourites (many of which I've discussed on previous days of this meme) have been reread hundreds of times by me, but I wasn't keeping proper track. Given that as a child and teenager I normally read about three books a day, almost every day, with frequent rereads, that makes for many, many reread books.

I think it's likely to be either a Gillian Rubinstein book (probably Galax Arena), one of the Pagan Chronicles books (probably the third, my favourite, Pagan's Vows), or Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart mysteries books. I'm not in a position to specify an exact book, because Goodreads wasn't around in those days, and even if it had been, I was highly unlikely to have used it.

The final day )

What about you? Are any of you avid rereaders?
dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
2019-03-28 07:03 am

Pragmatic Arthuriana

Thirty Day Book Meme Day 28: Bought at my fave independent bookshop

My favourite independent bookshop, Galaxy Books, is sadly no more. It was a specialist fantasy, science fiction and horror bookshop in central Sydney, and you had to go down a flight of stairs into a basement to access it. Once inside, there were rows and rows of books, as well as DVDs of SFF TV shows and films. Whenever I was in the city, I would always make a point to spend a bit of time in Galaxy.

The owners of the shop also owned another independent bookshop, Abbey's, which was nearby, and I think at some point the rent for all these buildings got too much, so they closed Galaxy and reopened it inside Abbey's as its own floor.

As I say, I read a lot of books bought from Galaxy, but today I'll talk about Jo Walton's Tir Tanagiri Saga, a secondary world fantasy that retells the Arthurian story, but in a way that emphasises the importance of creating laws that will outlast the rule of any individual king, markets to support people's livelihoods, networks of roads and messengers to keep people connected and so on, rather than glorious battles or feats of chivalry. In the Tir Tanagiri world there is sexual equality, so women ride into battle alongside their rulers (who may themselves be women), and indeed the main character is a soldier fighting beside Urdo (the Arthur analogue) to unite the country.

I reviewed the series a while ago, and I still stand by my main point:

What makes this series special is the focus on the really terrible struggle Urdo faces to unite his country. As he points out on numerous occasions, his claim to the High Kingship is no better than any other regional lord in Tir Tanagiri. Lots of books that focus on this kind of heir-to-throne-consolidates-his-power storyline seem to give their hero an air of entitlement. And they don't make the struggle seem believable. It is not enough for the king-to-be to fight simply one battle and then be in control of a country as volatile as fifth-century Britain was. Walton shows that it was a hard slog, a careful balancing act between justice and expediency, full of compromises, unlikely alliances and sheer dumb luck. She resists the urge of so many other fantasy writers to make the struggle between Christianity and 'the old religion' simplistic and black and white. Sulien herself has no time for the priests of the White God, thinking them and their religion stupid and a religion of slaves, but Walton never seems like she's on an anti-Christian diatribe. Sulien is a pragmatic heroine. She recognises that hers will be the last generation of religious pluralism, and she moves on, seeing that uniting the country is more important than fighting a religious war.


It's an Arthurian novel that makes it about pragmatic political decisions, where the real heroes are quartermasters laying supply caches, scribes writing law books, and stablehands keeping the vast collection of army horses well looked after, and I love it to bits.

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (ani-me)
2019-03-27 07:04 am

Diving into the pages

Thirty Day Book Meme Day 27: Want to be one of the characters

Most of my favourite book characters live in absolutely terrible universes, have rotten luck, and the weight of the world upon them — so none of their lives are particularly attractive to me if I had to actually live them!

I guess it wouldn't have been too bad to be one of the teenage protagonists in all the quirky, contemporary coming-of-age novels I used to read when I was a teenager. Sure, the characters had momentary periods of heartbreak, and small moments seemed imbued with disproportionate, portentous importance, but they always seemed to have wonderful friends, infinite amounts of time, and the arcs of their lives ultimately bent towards meaning and self-discovery in a way that messy real life never truly does.

That said, I don't particularly want to be a teenager again, either — and nor do I want to be one of the background adult characters that features in this kind of book!

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
2019-03-26 07:01 am

This is why we can't have nice things

Thirty Day Book Meme Day 26: Should have sold more copies

I'll always regret not getting more books in Catherine Jinks's Pagan Chronicles series. She wrote and published the first four books in quick succession in the early-to-mid-'90s, and these seemed to sell well, were nominated for Australian children's book awards and so on. Jinks then wrote various other books, a mixture of science fiction and historical fiction, mainly for chilren, before publishing the fifth book in the Pagan series, Pagan's Daughter, in 2006.

It must not have sold very well, because at some point, Jinks was going around in interviews and in the FAQs on her website saying that children's historical fiction was difficult to sell, and although Pagan Kidrouk was her favourite fictional creation and the series was one she wanted to continue, economically it didn't make sense and it was unlikely her publisher would want another Pagan book. Since then, she seems to have only published science fiction, which is a huge shame as her historical fiction is, generally, much better!

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
2019-03-25 07:06 am

Not for me

Thirty Day Book Meme Day 25: Never finished it

There aren't many books that fall into this category, because I'm generally careful about what I read, and try to pick books I'm certain I'll like. So to answer this question, I went to my 'gave up' shelf in Goodreads. In the ten years or so since I've been using the site, I've only added four books to this shelf. I normally just use Goodreads as a reading log, and the star ratings I use to write yearly roundups of the best books I've read, but several in this 'gave up' shelf have brief reviews where I noted why the books didn't work for me. These are as follows:

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness:

It is a rare occurrence that I fail to finish a book, but I realised that I was just reading this one out of a sense of duty. The preceding book in this series, A Discovery of Witches, had made me indescribably angry (for reasons that I will probably go into in a review on my blog), and I could tell from a chapter in that Shadow of the Night was more of the same. This series promises so much, and delivers so little, and strikes me as suffering from a desire on the part of the author to try to be too many things at once. It's historical fiction, but doesn't go into enough detail to satisfy historical fiction aficionados. It's a story about academia, but is filled with glaring inaccuracies about how academic life really functions (a surprising error, considering its author is a full-time academic herself). It's a paranormal fantasy story that suffers from poor world-building. And, most damning of all, it's as if Harkness wanted to write a paranormal romance, but was too uncomfortable to actually include any romance elements. I can't remember the last time I was so deeply disappointed in a series of books.


The Copper Promise by Jen Williams:

I didn't finish reading this book. The first 150 pages read like someone's D & D campaign, and I found all the characters two-dimensional, more like collections of tropes and swords-and-sorcery stereotypes than engaging human beings. It may pick up, but I decided not to waste any more of my time on it.


I feel as if I was a meaner reader back when I took the time to note on Goodreads why I gave up on particular books. These days I just move on.

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (Default)
2019-03-24 03:47 pm

Revoke, remain, resist

Yesterday, like (literally) millions of other UK citizens/residents, I went along to the anti-Brexit march in London. I've been going to protest marches since I was fifteen years old, and they've ranged from the tiny and scary (a rally against ongoing involvement in Iraq which ended up with several protesters hurling chairs and tables from a cafe along the march route into and out of the crowd) to gigantic (the huge anti-Iraq war march in Sydney when Australia was on the verge of sending troops in support of the US), and to warm, fuzzy, and little bit smug (when the EDL held an event in Cambridge and we turned out in droves to counterprotest), but I've never experienced anything like the march yesterday. I'd been on a similar anti-Brexit march around the same time two years ago, and it was huge, and it took time to get going, but eventually you were able to move at a normal pace, and you could get to the end of the route and hear the speeches.

This march was something else. I went with Matthias, and with a friend of ours, and we firstly decided to take an earlier train from Cambridge to London — it was already packed, mainly with protesters, but the one leaving an hour later was so full that people were being turned away — and secondly decided to walk from Kings Cross to the start of the march route, because the Tube was already overflowing. We got to the start of the route about half an hour early, and it was full to overflowing — in fact, I learnt later that the organisers had been advised to start half an hour early because the starting point was becoming dangerously overcrowded and couldn't accommodate the people who were still showing up. I am not kidding, but it took more than two hours for us to actually move from our start point, those at the head of the march had reached the end before we even left, and there were still thousands streaming in afterwards, and spilling into side streets. It took us three hours to walk what was really a half-hour walk, we never made it to the end point, and we missed all the speeches (not that I really needed to hear them, as I know what the speakers would have said). It was overwhelming. Estimates of numbers vary wildly — the most conservative estimate seems to be one million, and the highest two million. Meanwhile, the petition to revoke Article 50 has just hit five million signatures.

These numbers make me happy, but they don't make me optimistic. The anti-Brexit campaigners I follow on Twitter have been making wild predictions about what will happen next, based on numbers of petition signatures and feet on the ground at the march. I imagine they have to keep putting this sort of positive spin on things to keep hope alive and keep people fighting, but meanwhile there's talk of a leadership coup afoot in the Conservative Party and Michael Gove is being talked about as a credible prime ministerial candidate. And, as I say, I marched against the Iraq war, which achieved precisely nothing in getting the Australian government to change course, and we knew it wouldn't. People march for all kinds of reasons, and chief among mine is to register my dissent and be counted as a statistic, a pair of feet walking to show that I disagreed with a government decision, and, when history comes to judge us, be a part of the record that shows the government did not speak for me.

On a more nitpicky level, I am uneasy about the anti-Brexit movement pinning its hopes on a 'people's vote' (i.e. second referendum), and that the march was branded as such — although many, like me, were treating the march purely as an opportunity to register their opposition to Brexit and calling for Article 50 to be revoked. The actual People's Vote campaign is still full of those who lead the Remain campaign, including divisive figures like Tony Blair (who I heard on a podcast saying without a scrap of self-awareness that he felt it had been a mistake to keep him at arms' length during the referendum), and polling is less in favour of remaining the European Union than the People's Vote crowd like to imagine (basically, it depends on how you ask the question). What if we had a second referendum, and the answer was still to leave, and to leave with no deal? The first referendum was so painful and cruel to so many migrants, and its result was treated as license to unleash all manner of violent, abusive attacks on migrants and/or non-white people. The idea of a rerun is concerning.

In my ideal scenerio, we would simply revoke and never speak of this again (and go on to deal with the damage done by austerity on which many Leave voters had erroneously blamed EU membership), but that's unrealistic because it would be electoral suicide for both major parties and thus career suicide as well. My more realistic — but still overly optimistic — preference, therefore, would be to revoke Article 50, and undertake a series of consultative citizens' assemblies (with representative groups of voters and, crucially, experts from sectors that are going to be most affected by leaving the EU), and then come up with a way forward. Again, this is never going to happen, and I'll accept the 'people's vote' option if it comes to pass, but at this stage I think even that is too optimistic.

Going on the march felt good, and it was definitely the right thing to do, but I'm deeply worried about where we're heading next. We marchers are right, but it doesn't mean we'll be listened to.
dolorosa_12: (queen presh)
2019-03-24 03:06 pm

Reading against the grain

Thirty Day Book Meme Day 24: Hooked me into reading

Honestly, I wouldn't be able to tell you. I loved books and reading long before I was able to read myself. My mother always read picture books aloud to me, and, after she was born, my sister and me. Usually she would read us four picture books per night, with each of us picking two, and although I can still name a lot of the old favourites, the first book, the first story that made me really care about stories, is lost in the mists of time. I couldn't tell you the first book I was able to read by myself either aloud or in my head — I imagine it was one of the rather boring books we borrowed from school to teach ourselves to read by practicing at home with our parents — and I don't even think I can remember the first book I really, really fell in love with.

I can remember the first book that made me realise I didn't have to interpret the narrative in the way an author intended. It was Galax Arena by Gillian Rubinstein, and I disliked the protagonist, wished she wasn't the point of view character, and instead became obsessed with one of the antagonists and imagined a whole secondary story going on around her, in which the book's protagonist was only a bit player. The idea that I could read a book in this way was like a lightbulb going off, and I suppose it was the first moment I understood transformative fandom, although of course, being a ten-year-old, I didn't name it as such!

The other days )

I've only finished one book since I last updated this haphazard reading log of mine: Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw, the second in her series of books about Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead and other supernatural beings. It was, like the preceding book, great fun, packed with allusions to various pieces of gothic fiction, and poked gentle fun at so many portentous vampire clichés. I loved it.
dolorosa_12: (the humans are dead)
2019-03-23 09:06 pm

Oh, if tomorrow comes

Thirty Day Book Meme Day 23: Made to read at school

I have always hated this framing, as if being required to read books for class was somehow way more unreasonable than being required to, for example, learn quadratic equations for maths class, or learn organic chemistry for science. Sure, some parts of compulsory education were boring, or poorly taught — including some of my English classes — but that didn't mean they were a grave injustice.

That little rant aside, I'm going to talk about The Beast of Heaven by Victor Kelleher for this day of the meme. We read this in Year 8 advanced English class (so when I was thirteen), and it was one of my favourite and most formative things read for school. Kelleher is mostly known as a YA author (one of his YA dystopian novels, Taronga, was commonly taught in secondary school in the '90s when I was a school student, and indeed we studied it as well), but The Beast of Heaven is dystopian fiction aimed at an adult readership. It is at once incredibly '80s, and incredibly Australian — a pair of sentient computers wake up, and continue an argument they've been programmed to have, about whether humanity deserves to continue to exist, with one computer programmed to argue in favour of humanity's ongoing survival and the other that it would be the best thing for all concerned if the massive nuclear weapons it controls would be set off and wipe humanity off the map. Against the backdrop of this argument is a group of what we think are the last human survivors on Earth, eking out an impoverished existence in a blasted, post-apocalypic desert landscape. The twist, if you've read a lot of dystopian SF, is probably fairly obvious, although it absolutely blew my thirteen-year-old mind, and the book as a whole made me think in a more structured way about Australian dystopian literature as a subgenre distinct from its literary cousins in other countries. It wasn't the first book by Kelleher that I read, but it was the one that really made me sit up and take notice of him as an author, and I think his body of work is incredible. I've always felt a sense of regret that he's not really known outside of Australia.

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (medieval)
2019-03-22 08:04 am

For Amergin, who brings me immortality

Thirty Day Book Meme Day 22: Out of print

One of my favourite books when I was a teenager was The Singing Stone by Canadian author O.R. Melling. It's a portal fantasy in which Canadian student (and orphan with mysterious origins) Kay goes on a trip to Ireland to discover the secrets behind her origins, and ends up sucked into the past when climbing around some standing stones. She tumbles into a world of magic and intrigue, hovering on the brink of invasion and war, and has to go on a quest to find several magical objects, helped by an amnesiac girl, Aherne, and several other misfits.

Melling packs the book with just about every medieval Irish text that fit the story she's trying to tell — there's a blending of the stories of Lebor Gabála Érenn and Cath Maige Tuired (a mythological history of Ireland that depicts it as being settled by waves of successive invasions, and the story of a battle between various supernatural beings respectively), and Tuán meic Chairill shows up at one point as well. Of course when I was reading the book as a teenager all these stories were new to me, but rereading it in my thirties after having majored in undergrad, and done an MPhil and PhD in medieval Irish literature (Lebor Gabála was one of the texts I researched for my PhD, in fact), I see the book with different eyes. I had to laugh at the heroine, Kay, learning Old Irish to a level of proficiency that she was able to travel back in time and engage in conversation with people — and this after only one year of study!

The book is long out of print (I think it was first published in the 1980s), but I borrowed it repeatedly from the public library when I was a teenager, and I think it was one of the many formative stories that pushed me towards studying what I studied in university, such that I forgive it for its hackneyed tropes about pre-Christian Ireland in a way that I wouldn't if I read it for the first time now.

The other days )

I have to apologise again for leaving many people's comments unanswered. I will get to them eventually, but the uncertainty and stress about Brexit has pushed me right over the edge. I'm having panic attacks every night when I try to sleep, and so I'm going around in a kind of exhausted fog. I need to preserve all my energy for work. I will try to set aside some time on Sunday to answer people's comments on past posts.
dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
2019-03-21 07:15 am

The dark is (re)reading

Thirty Day Book Meme Day 21: Summer Winter read

I've made the decision to change this to winter, because I can't think of any specifically summery, holiday-type books that I would make a point of reading at that time. Generally in the summer holidays I read a lot, but it tends to be new or new-to-me books, rather than going back to old favourites.

In winter, however, it's a different story. The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper is one book that seems made for rereading in the depths of midwinter — especially given how rooted in a time it is, those few days in the lead-up to Christmas and the new year, the snow and bare trees and Christmas decorations of a rural English Christmas so lovingly described. I reread it often at that time of year, and I frequently find myself writing Yuletide fic for the The Dark Is Rising fandom, so it's very much a feature of late December to me. A couple of years ago, [twitter.com profile] RobGMacfarlane instigated a Twitter bookclub to reread the book, and share thoughts under the #thedarkisreading hashtag, which was lots of fun.

The other days )

Do any of you have seasonal favourites, whether summer or winter?
dolorosa_12: (florence glitter)
2019-03-20 07:02 am

On a bed of shimmering flowers

Thirty Day Book Meme Day 20: Favorite cover

It's a good thing I don't pick books based on their covers, because, let's face it, most book covers are pretty dire, especially if the story isn't 'literary fiction'. That said, I've got a couple of stand outs.

Samantha Shannon's Bone Season series had some gorgeous covers originally. They've now, sadly, been redesigned, but there was such fan outcry that the publisher is continuing to release limited editions of each new book with covers in the style of the original design.

The images I could find on Goodreads looked a bit flat, so I went onto the #theboneseason tag on Instagram to find some better photos of the books with the original design. These are the front covers of the published books so far, and these are the spines.

But I think my favourite book cover would have to be 'The Lilies of Dawn' by Vanessa Fogg. [twitter.com profile] likhain is one of my favourite illustrators, and this particular work of hers has always been one of my favourites.


The other days )

I will get back to everyone's comments on my previous post as soon as possible, but at the moment the combination of work and Brexitshambles is eating up all of my time.
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
2019-03-19 07:01 am

The stories that stay

Thirty Day Book Meme Day 19: Still can't stop talking about it

I mean, most of the things I'm fannish about are books, and most of those books are old! In the case of some of my most beloved fandoms of the heart, I've been thinking and talking about those books for close to twenty-five years, and show no signs of stopping. I posted a not completely exhaustive list at the last friending meme I ran:

I'm both extremely multifannish, but extremely loyal to the fandoms in which I'm invested. Most of my fandoms are small, Yuletide-eligible book fandoms: Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials and Sally Lockhart Mysteries books, The Pagan Chronicles series by Catherine Jinks, Galax Arena and the Space Demons trilogy by Gillian Rubinstein, pretty much everything Victor Kelleher has ever written, the Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon, the Romanitas trilogy by Sophia McDougall, the books of Kate Elliott, Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows duology, Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle, S. A. Chakraborty's Daevabad series, Katherine Arden's Winternight trilogy, The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton, Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver and Uprooted, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and a whole lot of mythology, folk tales and fairytales.


Talk to me about any of those books, and I'll keep talking!

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (we are not things)
2019-03-18 07:05 am

The spaces between

18. Bought on a recommendation

Most of the books I read are bought on a recommendation — either via someone here or on Twitter talking about the book and me thinking I'd like it, or via Matthias, who reads a lot of review magazines and keeps an eye out for things I might like.

To pluck one at random that I bought on both the recommendation of both Matthias, and several authors on Twitter (including [twitter.com profile] say_shannon and [twitter.com profile] aliettedb), I'll go with Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan. Ngan draws on various East Asian histories and cultures in this story (she describes it as simply 'Asian-inspired'), and it was one of my favourite books read last year. Here's what I said about it in a previous blog post:

This book is set in a strictly hierarchical society, with three castes (the demonic Moon caste ruling over the partially demonic Steel and fully human Paper castes), an imperial court seething with intrigue, and simmering rebellions breaking out all over a vast empire. All this is presided over by the Demon King, a thoroughly nasty individual who, among other things, takes a tribute of sorts in the form of a group of Paper teenagers to be his concubines. While this is supposed to be a great honour, in reality it's an act of violence and dispossession, and the majority of these girls — including the protagonist, Lei — do not go willingly. However, all is not as it seems in the court of the Demon King, and from the midst of a group of what appears to be the most disempowered individuals — the 'Paper Girl' concubines — a revolution is brewing. I have a personal preference for stories about girls and women who suffer trauma, have their agency taken away from them, and carve out spaces of survival and hope in the ruins, so this was always going to appeal to me, and the fact that it features a f/f love story (with a happy ending!) was just icing on the cake to me. However, it probably goes without saying that a premise like Ngan's is going to depict and address sexual violence, and although this is mostly done in a fade-to-black kind of way, if that's something you'd prefer not to read I would advise you to give this book a miss.


The other days )
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
2019-03-17 01:13 pm

Canon and canonicity

Thirty Day Book Meme Day 17: Future classic

I don't really know how to predict this. 'Classic' is such a loaded term, and, as anyone who has studied literature could tell you, the literary canon is not a fixed thing — it changes over time, different countries/cultures/groups of readers have different canons, canonicity is not the same thing as popularity, and sometimes what it takes for something to stick in the cultural zeitgeist is just really, really good publicity.

I suspect N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy is likely to feature in the curricula of a lot of university speculative fiction literature courses in the future, if it's not there already, though.

The other days )

Reading over the past few days has consisted of two novels — King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (I really missed the Dregs, and the Ketterdam setting — Ravkan political manoeuvring has always been my least favourite element of Bardugo's Grishaverse, as I'm in it for found families, migrants and exiles, and heists), and The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf (I devoured this historical novel, set in 1969 Malaysia during a time of race riots sparked by election results and the country's simmering problems boiling over, and it left me feeling quite weepy, in that it emphasises small acts of kindness, community building and solidarity in the face of violence and destruction) — and two pieces of free short fiction. These were 'Circus Girl, the Hunter, and Mirror Boy' by JY Yang (which, like all Yang's writing, didn't quite work for me), and 'The Dragon That Flew Out of the Sun' by Aliette de Bodard (another excellent piece of space opera from de Bodard). Matthias and I also managed to watch Captain Marvel earlier this week, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
2019-03-16 05:06 pm

The words that gave us all away

Thirty Day Book Meme Day 16: Can't believe more people haven't read

It seems as if there's a bit of a Kate Elliott theme emerging at the moment in my posts for this meme: my answer to today's question is another Kate Elliott series, her Crossroads. I've always thought Elliott was a criminally overlooked epic fantasy writer (she's an absolute genius at worldbuilding, giving a great deal of thought not only to epic fantasy staples of kingdoms, armies and royal intrigue, but also to how societies would feed and supply themselves, how households and marriages would work, and what invasion and societal collapse would look like on the ground), but even among those who have read her books, this series almost never comes up in discussion.

It is, on the surface, fairly standard epic fantasy fare: an exiled prince, banished from his homeland and inheritance under threat of death, builds up an army and rides to the rescue of a kingdom in collapse, women with few options make political marriages, people ride giant eagles. However, where it differs is in its subversion of these well-worn tropes. Instead of portraying its dispossessed man as the saviour of the world — or a kingdom — and thus its rightful ruler, what Elliott is doing is showing how monstrous and dictatorial that would look like from the ground. Because she spends the first two books in the series showing the delicate work her heroine, Mai, undertakes as the wife of a mercenary leader who has moved into a country in collapse — forging alliances through diplomacy, trade, and marriages between local women and her husband's mercenaries — and because we view most of the story through Mai's eyes, we think her husband is entirely in accord, coming as a migrant, not a coloniser. The slow sense that something is wrong — culminating in a spectacular betrayal, both of Mai and of the reader's assumptions — is so cleverly and so intricately done, and, in my opinion, makes the Crossroads trilogy Elliott's best work. Sadly, I seem to be the only person who thinks that.


The other days )
dolorosa_12: (grimes janelle)
2019-03-15 07:13 am

Join the revolution!

Thirty Day Book Meme Day 15: Favorite fictional father mother

I'm switching this to mother rather than father, because I honestly can't think of a book with a good father character — most of the books I've read have either terrible fathers, or they're dead. Good mothers are a bit easier to find (although a lot of them are dead in the fiction I read too). My favourite, however, is Kiya from Kate Elliott's Court of Fives — a story of the slow build to revolution of a colonised people against their colonisers (the setting is inspired by Ptolemaic Egypt). Kiya, a mother of four daughters at the start of the series (and mother to two more children by the end of it), is from the colonised people, and her husband (or rather, partner, as it's illegal for them to marry) is a soldier from the colonisers, and over the course of the series their relationship unravels as it becomes apparent that individual people's qualities and feelings are not enough to overcome deeply entrenched systematic and structural iniquities.

I'll add what I wrote about Kiya in my review of the final book:

But the character who meant the most to me was Jessamy’s brilliant mother Kiya, who was given a prominence and authority rarely seen in portrayals of mothers in YA literature. Kiya’s strength comes from her identity as a mother, and all the skills we later see her deploying are those she honed as a parent: care for others, the ability to juggle multiple tasks while also looking ahead to the near and distant future, a strong sense others and their needs and motives, and the ability to console and inspire. It is because of, and not in spite of, these strengths that she becomes the leader of the revolution sweeping Efua, and it was profoundly moving to me to see a character like Kiya honoured, lauded and respected in this way.


This is why she's my favourite.

The other days )