dolorosa_12: (we are not things)
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: (Default)
The colder weather seems to have done wonders for my writing productivity: I've finished my Yuletide assignment, and made a good start on a second treat. That wasn't all the writing I got done over the weekend — I also found the time to write a longish review on two Iliad retellings and Emily Wilson's Odyssey translation. You can find the review here on Wordpress, but here's a brief excerpt:

I never had much interest in the long recitations of characters’ ancestry, names of warriors killed on the battlefield, wooden horses or lucky arrows shot through vulnerable heels. Instead, I focused on the story that whispered in the margins: the calamity of war to the women and children it made most vulnerable, the ways such women coped with the ever-present threat of male violence, and the simmering presence of this violence even in ostensible peacetime, in spaces where women were surrounded by their own families. I sought out retellings of the Iliad that brought this story to the fore.


I should note that because the two retellings focus on the character of Briseis, the review involves discussion of rape and slavery, so consider this a content warning. I also get pretty ranty about The Song of Achilles, so if anyone feels like venting with me about that book, feel free to join in in the comments (and if you like it ... I'm sorry).

Also over on Wordpress, I reviewed Aliette de Bodard's In the Vanishers' Palace, a Beauty and the Beast story where both characters are female and the Beast is a dragon. You can read that review here.

This being an Aliette de Bodard story, there are all the familiar and fabulous features that I’ve come to expect in her work: loving and mouth-watering descriptions of food and cooking, a refusal to flinch away from the devastating effects of empire and colonialism, and an intricate exploration of the different ways survival can look. This last is crucial, and resonates deeply with me. De Bodard rejects an individualistic interpretation of heroism, where a lone, special individual bravely solves the world’s problems alone. Instead, courage in her writing is all about (inter)dependence and community building — the little acts that forge and strengthen networks, reinforce familial and non-familial bonds, and the way that sometimes merely surviving and helping others survive is its own victory.


I'm now taking a break from all that writing with a bit of reading. I've just finished Leah Cypress's 'Timshala', the last in the Book Smugglers' 2018 series of short stories on the theme of 'awakenings', and I definitely think it was the best of the bunch. Their short story series tend to be pretty hit and miss with me, but this one — part Ancient Egypt-inspired death cult with religious controversies and political intrigue, part exploration of determinism and free will — was excellent. It's available to read for free online here.

Having finished 'Timshala', I've now moved on to Girls of Paper and Fire, a novel by Natasha Ngan which I've wanted to read since I first saw Samantha Shannon posting on Instagram about reading an ARC of the book. This was months and months ago, and I'm glad to finally have a copy in my hands. I think I'll curl up in my wing chair and read it, watching the sun go down and the darkness fall through the garden window.
dolorosa_12: (le guin)
I have been away from Dreamwidth for simply ages, and I think I'm going to have to accept that I'm unlikely to post anything substantial about things that have happened in the past few weeks (a couple of weekend trips, lots of sunshine, and a huge amount of gardening). I have been keeping up to date with my feed here, so assume that if you've written a post, I've read it, but am unlikely to comment.

I have, however, been very busy elsewhere online.

For those of you who've joined Pillowfort, I've got an account on there — I'm Dolorosa. I'm very happy for anyone who knows me through Dreamwidth to add me over there, although if your username is very different to any you use elsewhere online, I'd appreciate you letting me know who you are. At the moment I've joined Pillowfort simply to ensure that I've got the Dolorosa username, as I'm very much at home here on Dreamwidth, but if Pillowfort really takes off, and becomes the kind of fannish space I like (heavy on the discussion and interation, light on the passive reblogging), I will obviously post more over there. I'm also keen for recommendations of communities to join. I'm very into book fandoms — current YA and also older children's/YA books that I read in the '90s and early 2000s, and smaller Yuletide-sized fandoms in general. If there are any Pillowfort communities dedicated to YA, obscure fandoms-of-one, or any of the fandoms I've written fic for or been given fic as gifts in, I would love to know about them!

I've also written reviews of several books I've been reading. The first is a joint review of three works of fiction that are reworkings/adaptations of literary classics: 'The Tea Master and the Detective' by Aliette de Bodard (a gender-swapped space opera reimagining of Sherlock Holmes in which Holmes is a woman and Watson is a sentient space ship), The Surface Breaks by Louise O'Neill (a feminist retelling of The Little Mermaid), and The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Grattan (a retelling of King Lear and my current candidate for favourite book of the year). You can read that review here.

The other review is of Hild by Nicola Griffith — historical fiction with fantasy elements about the Anglo-Saxon princess Hild, who went on to become Abbess of Whitby and was later canonised as St Hilda. This book is absolutely brilliant, and I'm ashamed of myself for avoiding it for so long. You can read my review here.

What has everyone else been reading?

Repeal

May. 27th, 2018 02:54 pm
dolorosa_12: (Default)
The Irish referendum caught me by surprise. I mean, I was aware of it — the British media can be rubbish in covering Irish politics (or anything about Ireland in general), but it did cover the referendum, and I have enough friends living in Ireland who were posting about it almost daily for the past couple of months — and I knew how much the result was going to mean both to my friends, and to Irish women in general, but I was surprised, in the end, by how emotional it made me.

It was the #hometovote hashtag that did it. Ireland allows citizens who have been outside the country for less than eighteen months, and who intend to return, to vote, but it has no postal or other form of absentee voting, so eligible Irish migrants have to return to Ireland if they want to vote. And they did so enthusiastically, and in great numbers, for the referendum. People passionately caring about things, and being earnest about democracy and their right to vote always make me super emotional, but the Irish people travelling home to vote in the referendum did more than that: they lifted my spirits and made me feel hopeful. To see so many people travelling home by plane, train, ferry, bus and car — sometime from very great distances — to cast their vote is incredible, but it's more than that. People crowdfunded people's travel costs, organised carpools to and from airports, and connected with other people on their flights, sitting in packs with Repeal jumper-clad, Yes/Tá badge-wearing strangers at airports and train stations and ferry terminals, or shared taxis. People with banners welcomed their fellow voters at Irish airports.

Many people in the hashtag noted that their journeys were in stark contrast to those made by so many Irish women — alone, fearful, in shame and despair — in the other direction, and hoped that their own journeys would render such other travel a thing of the past. And, with their votes, they did so.

That was the other thing that was so powerful and moving. Things all around the world have been so awful for so long, and the virulence of misogynistic attacks on women seem to have increased exponentially, so it was just so vindicating and healing to see a campaign that put women — listening to women, trusting women, giving women the space to tell stories that had for so long been buried in silence and hypocrisy and shame — front and centre. And then, as the results rolled in, it was clear that almost everyone — rural and urban, in almost every county, in almost every age demographic, male and female — were acknowledging, with their votes, the great historic wrong that had been done to so many Irish women, the damage it had done, and were determined to consign such things to the dustbin of history.

I generally have a policy of not commenting on the politics of countries in which I'm neither a citizen nor a resident, but I was so overwhelmed with emotion at the referendum result in Ireland that I had to break my own rule. I'm so happy for all my friends, for those strangers helping other strangers get to the polls, and for all those women who will no longer have to get on a plane or a ferry to get the health care they were so long denied at home.
dolorosa_12: (what's left? me)
The links this week are a bit of a mixed bag, partly because I've been somewhat distracted, and as a result this post is a bit shorter than usual.

Tade Thompson made some important points about literature and diversity, storified by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. I see Tade's thoughts as another part in the conversation I linked to last week.

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz had some further thoughts on the matter.

Zen Cho posted 'Ten Things I Believe About Writing'. There's also a great interview with her up at Kitaab:

I write stories as a way of answering questions.

Another post by Rochita talks about language, identity, and the process behind writing her latest published story, ' Bagi: Ada ti Istorya':

While thinking of language recovery, I found myself thinking too about what lies buried in language. What narratives had I chosen to erase when I chose to leave behind that language? What narratives could be pulled out of a text or a few lines or a word? What memory–what emotion would rise up from the use of a language that has lain dormant for so long.

More on language and storytelling: Samantha Shannon interviewed her Dutch translator, Janet Limonard.

I loved this new, bilingual Ghostwords post.

Kate Elliott had lots of thoughts about Mad Max: Fury Road, and Charles Tan storified them.

This review of Mad Max: Fury Road by Julianne Ross really resonated with me:

But where Fury Road really surprises is in its genuine respect for the five women Furiosa is trying to save. They are beautiful, generous and kind — deliberately feminine traits that have allowed them to survive as long as they have, and which the movie refuses to treat as a burden or incidental.

This Mad Max fanvid by [tumblr.com profile] jocarthage is simply breathtaking.

Happy Friday, everyone!
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
This week's post goes from the sublime to the ridiculous (but mainly focuses on the sublime).

To start off, an absolutely fabulous roundtable on diversity. The participants are Aliette de Bodard, Zen Cho, M Sereno, Bogi Takács and JY Yang, moderated by Charles Tan.

Over at Ladybusiness, Renay has created a fabulous summer (or winter) reading recommendation list.

On a sadder note, Tanith Lee has died. Athena Andreadis has written a lovely tribute. Sophia McDougall shared an old anecdote about meeting Lee.

There are a lot of new updates at Where Ghostwords Dwell.

Sophia McDougall has posted an excerpt of Space Hostages, which will be published really soon.

You can enter a giveaway to win an ARC of House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard here.

I saw Mad Max: Fury Road this week and absolutely adored it. (If I had endless money and more time on my hands, I would have seen it at least five more times since Tuesday.) This essay by Tansy Rayner Roberts goes a long way towards explaining why.

I found this post by Kaye Wierzbicki over at The Toast very moving. (Content note: discussion of abortion.)

This is the last week of A Softer World and I am really not okay. This and this are probably my favourite recent comics of theirs.

Natalie Luhrs is reading what looks to be a terrible book for a good cause. I encourage everyone who has the ability to donate. I will be donating to an equivalent UK-based charity.

This post's title comes from my favourite Eurovision song this year, which didn't win. This did not bother me in the slightest.

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