Short Story Sunday: “Kia and Gio”

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First line: “I don’t know why I can’t stop thinking of Giovanni today.”

Kia and Gio” by Daniel Jose Older, published by Tor.com.

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February Round Up

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Reading

I read 15 books in February. This insanity is brought to you by snow days where I had no idea what to do with myself. My TBR shelf thanks you, snow days.

One was nonfiction, one was a reread, and one was a novella. My favorite reads for the month were N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance novella, “The Awakened Kingdom,” and Code Name Verity.

Reading Diversity

I only read two male authors this month: a collection of nonfiction essays by Isaac Asimov, and a novel by John Scalizi. Three of the authors I read were (to my knowledge) women of color. Four books prominently featured QUILTBAG characters.

Writing

I submitted five short stories in February. Still waiting on a response from one January sub. I didn’t do as good a job keeping track of what I actually finished this month…but then, I didn’t really finish much. Mostly I’ve been puttering on some new and old short story projects.

The new novel…thing unexpectedly became 15000 words. I had planned to do a lot more research before sitting down to write this novel, but since it seems to be going well I’m going to try and bang out a short draft and then fill in the blanks, so to speak, later. Novel of Doom remains stagnant. I know why, I’ve just been unwilling to deal with it thus far.

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TV Junkie

There was a lot of great TV this month, as some things started and some things ended. I’m glad to report that I’m still totally besotted with Vikings, though I am in mourning for Ragnar’s hair. I’m also completely on the edge of my seat when watching The Americans. I may or may not have cried during the finale for Agent Carter (ok, so I did cry. Big time. For Howard fucking Stark, goddamn it.) And I was incredibly impressed with the big reveals on How to Get Away With Murder…and not sure how I’m ever going to stand waiting six months for more. (Although I really hate them for what they did to Oliver. I hate them so much.)

The big surprise for me this month, however, has been Better Call Saul. I didn’t particularly have any expectations for it. I loved the whole run of Breaking Bad, but I didn’t really think I needed more of that world. I actually thought Saul was going to be kind of campy and unnecessary.

Wrong. It is genius. Pure genius. It is incredibly dark, very black comedy. It is of course beautifully shot. (One thing I did really miss from Breaking Bad was the cook montages…apparently these are being replaced with lawyering montages, which sounds kind of silly, but the one they’ve done so far was great.) My thesis so far is that Jimmy (Saul) is meant to be an oppositional figure to Walter White. He’s facing some similar issues (not exact parallels, but similar), to what Walt did in the beginning, but whereas Walt is a villain from the beginning of the show (none of that good man corrupted bunk–Walt is awful from the start, just more petty about it when he is powerless), Jimmy seems to have this earnest goodness behind his actions that I didn’t expect, and totally love. Of course, we all know where it gets him, but I think I’ll like seeing him on the ride.

Also: Mike! Mike Ehrmantraut is back scowling on my TV! How is that any kind of bad thing?

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Mix Tape

I have not listened to much new music this month. Mostly, because I’ve been working on the new novel thing I’ve been listening to the soundtrack I have for that, which is a sort of odd but fitting mix of sixties folk, eighties pop, and more modern, female-led stuff like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Lorde, Haim, and Lana del Rey. I did listen to the new Belle & Sebastian, which I liked (especially The Party Line), but not much else new.

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Top Ten Tuesday: You’re My Heroine

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Favorite Heroines From Books.

I can’t remember if I did this topic the last time it came around (I could, you know, check, but where’s the fun in that?). But as anyone should know, I love me some heroines. And this also gives me the perfect excuse to throw a girl power gifparty. Aww yeah.

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This post is not a rant but WHATEVER I do what I want.

 

1. Katniss Everdeen- I wish I had Katniss when I was a kid. Everything about her character was just such a revelation to me. In so many ways she is a complete subversion of female character tropes and I just love her for that.

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Aww Katniss it’s ok we still love you.

 

2. Lisbeth Salander- Everything about Lisbeth should feel exploitative and gross (I hate rape used as a plot device, men writing “badass females” is usually an AW HELL NO, etc.), but Lisbeth turned out to be one of my favorite characters in the history of ever. She digs herself out of her own grave for Christ’s sake. She is completely unapologetic, and completely herself, and that is empowering.

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Insanely awesome.

 

3. Arya Stark- There are a lot of great ladies in Westeros. They come in all shades and sizes, from feminine to masculine, from smart to desperate, they are mothers and sisters and victims and queens and warriors. But I have to say, while in a lot of ways my true favorite is Brienne of Tarth, my heart was caught early and remains still with Arya Stark. She grows up a lot, from a snarky tomboy to a young woman skirting the edge of true power. I have a pet theory for how her arc will play out. If it actually happens (slim odds), I will die a happy woman.

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I want to go on a crazy revenge quest and kill lots of people…

 

[I could do a whole long, rambling post about my ASoIaF endgame theories. Oh god. Now I want to.]

4. Linh Cinder- As with ASoIaF, there are a ton of great heroines in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles. Cress is adorable. Scarlet is fierce. But I have to go back to the very beginning and admit that my favorite is Cinder, who has gone through an enormous progression over the course of three books and faces a daunting future.

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IDK. They’re in space?

 

5. Jane Vincent- The heroine of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories is notable to me for how realistic she is. She’s a regular, average woman who has some success with a particular skill, and finds her passion in life working on that skill. She’s not the best ever at what she does, but she works hard, and she is fierce in protecting what is important to her. She’s brave, but it’s the kind of bravery anyone could hope to emulate. I like that a lot.

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Those people are lame.

 

6. Mercy Thompson- Mercy and I have had our ups and downs, but I keep reading about her, so something must be working. Gorgeous covers aside, I like that Mercy is pretty average and relatable (for a shapeshifting warrior, anyway).

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Words to live by, Tina Belcher.

 

7. Oree Shoth- N.K. Jemisin is one of my favorite writers of the past few years. I love all of her characters, but when I really sat down to think about it, Oree Shoth, the heroine of The Broken Kingdoms, stands out as my favorite heroine. She’s blind, and something about that combined with her skewed world view really appealed to me. I can’t wait to do an Inheritance reread and see if she still stands out so much to me.

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I….am really running low on relevant gifs. Oops.

 

8. Daine Sarrasri- Daine was “my” Tamora Pierce heroine. I adore Alanna, and Pierce has tons of other great heroines. But I read Daine’s books first and man, when you are 11/12, those things stick with you.

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You know what the world really needs? Tamora Pierce series’ on film. Get on it, Hollywood.

 

9. Lady Kiera Darby- Add Kiera to Jane and Mercy in terms of “competence porn”. She has a thing that she does and she’s GOOD at that thing. (Jane has her glamour, Mercy has her mechanics, Kiera has her art and knowledge of anatomy). Lady Darby is one of the most empathetic characters I’ve run across recently. She’s smart, if rather impulsive, and a lot of fun to read about.

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I am entranced by Lizzie’s eyebrows, ya’ll.

 

10. Lizzie Bennett- Lizzie Bennett is the most predictable part of this list. OF COURSE I love Lizzie Bennett. Score one for the bookish, surly girls who still end up with hot guys and their huge houses.

Sames, Peggy.

Sames, Peggy.

In sum:

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You know it.

 

So! Heroines! That was fun. Who are your faves?

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Short Story Sunday: “Schereazade”

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First Line: “Each time they had sex, she told Habara a strange and gripping story afterward.”

Schereazade” by Haruki Murakami, published in The New Yorker.

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Top Ten Tuesday: I’ve Got 99 Problems and Books Are Most of Them

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The topic of today’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Ten Book Related Problems I Have. Mostly they all boil down to one thing: despite being a mostly functioning Real Adult, I have some serious self-control problems, especially when it comes to my beloved books.

1. I will never finish the TBR.

I have a physical TBR, my ebooks TBR, and a Goodreads list full of books that I haven’t even bought yet. If new books stopped being published today I might be able to clean that out in a year or two, but there are always new books to add. It’s good to always have new things to read, but I’m pretty big on organization and planning, so sometimes when I look at my TBR I get a bit twitchy.

2. Movers give me dirty looks, and I am out of shelf space.

Movers hate me and I hate moving because of how much I have to tip them. I rent a two-bedroom apartment despite living alone because I needed room for the books. One of my goals is to eventually have 50% of my library go digital…but let’s be honest, that’s never going to happen. I just love physical books too much to give them all up.

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3. What, you mean you don’t have multiple versions of the same book?

I’m actually kind of proud of how rare this is for me. There are a *few* books out there where I have both ebook and physical book. I have not indulged as much as I could. I have also at various points bought a replacement version of a book because I liked a new cover better, bought a second copy of a broken-spined book but kept the first copy because I’m weirdly sentimental, and (just once, thank god!) accidentally bought a second copy of a book because I forgot it was already sitting on my TBR.

4. I’m not allowed to buy new books until a predetermined date. Except for ebooks. And well, nonfiction is ok. And adding that one novel won’t break the bank, right? Oh, it’s turned into five? No big.

I’m constantly setting myself limits and then immediately breaking them. Part of that ties to a bigger issue (since my hospital stint, I am no longer very good at self-denial. I could die tomorrow, so why put off gratification?). But part of it is that ebook sales are murder on my bank account.

5. Working in a library is basically like enabling a drug addict.

Really? Who thought working in a library would be a good idea for me? The plan is to always read the library version of a book first–but more often than not I end up buying a copy anyway. I see all kinds of books come across my desk that I never would have sought out but peak my interest. And at any given time I usually have about 20 check outs (if that doesn’t seem like a lot, remember: organizing, planning, twitchy. Too much stuff to read at any one time gives me panic attacks sometimes).

6. My favorite author wrote a crummy book and now I have to reevaluate all my life choices.

I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that, even when I don’t always realize it, my tastes do change over time. But whenever an author that I used to love publishes a turkey, I go into this tailspin where I start to doubt my own tastes, try to remember why at some point in my life I liked their earlier stuff, and sometimes I even feel betrayed. Basically I take things way too personally because too much of my life is invested in fiction.

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7. I like fictional people better than real ones.

No, really. I do.

I really suck at inter-personal relationships. I suck at people. I can fake it for work, social media doesn’t count, and I have a few close friends that get me, but I like fictional people because I understand them. (Or because I can control them; my writer brain and I have some very complicated relationships with the people in our head).

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8. The sequel’s coming out when?

As previously established, I have a lot of books to read. You think that would keep me busy enough, but no. When I get into an established series or world, sometimes all I can do is whine about waiting for the sequels. Writers, why are you not writing on my command, and publishing on my schedule? Geez.

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9. My real-world friends never seem to read the same books as I do.

I’m a book pusher. I try not to be, but sometimes I just have to have someone to talk to about a certain book. But most of my friends have (gasp) real lives, and I never get to have the juicy book discussions I want to with them because they’re either not reading what I read or they don’t feel the same way about it.

Sometimes, you just need someone to flail with.

10. I really wish they would make a movie of X…

The book is (almost always better). But I still love to see new versions of my favorite stories on the big and small screens. The problem is that some of my most beloved series aren’t ever going to be popular enough to warrant an adaptation. And for some reason that makes me even sadder than the idea of someone taking a book I love and ruining it.

What are your book problems? Should we start a support group to help each other through? Book Lovers Anonymous?

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Short Story Sunday: “Catskin”

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“Cats went in and out of the witch’s house all day long.”

Catskin” by Kelly Link, reprinted by Lightspeed.

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Review: Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

22125258Title: Get in Trouble

Author: Kelly Link

Rating: 4.5 stars

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

I love, love, love Kelly Link’s collection Magic For Beginners, but I haven’t read her work in a long time. So I was very excited to find Get in Trouble available on NetGalley. I knew that I was going to enjoy it, but it surpassed even my high expectations.

The eight stories* in Get in Trouble all feature characters with secrets, characters who feel trapped but struggle anyway. The struggle, not their success or failure, is the point of it all. That can make it seem plenty dark, but sometimes darkness is a great thing.

Link is a great transition author, who can appeal to genre and non-genre readers alike. Her surreal worlds blend the magic and the mundane in unexpected ways. It can take a while to unpack them–are those cosplayers, or actual superheroes? Is that a real demon, or just a sad, past-his-prime actor? What are the sleepers, and does the answer even really matter? The magic of those worlds feels real, and raw, and slightly dirty, like a residue remains on your skin when you leave them.

The award for creepiest story in the collection goes to “Two Houses,” (also the most overtly science-fictional) where a spaceship crew tells ghost stories that eventually reveal something sinister about their own circumstances. Funniest for me was “The New Boyfriend,” in which the politics of teen girl friendship are complicated by one girl’s Boyfriends, living dolls that are status symbols and fantasy wish fulfillment. My favorite was also one of the most troubling, “Secret Identity,” in which a teenage girl runs away to meet the older lover she met–and deceived–in an online gaming community. But really, there’s not a single story in this collection that I didn’t enjoy. If you asked me to pick my favorites on another day, I’d probably have another list for you. And really, that’s the best indicator of a great writer and a great collection.

*Apparently in the final version of the collection there are 9 stories, but in my egalley there were only 8!

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Romance Tropes

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Things I Like/Dislike When It Comes To Romances In Books (can do a full list or split it up in likes/dislikes or even things you want to see MORE of in romances in fiction)

I am reading more and more romances these days, and of course every YA in existence has to have the Romance Plot for some strange reason. So this is a grab bag of general tropes and more genre-specific ones.

Kill it, kill it with fire: Things I dislike

1. The Love Triangle

Honestly, I expect this to be a negative on a lot of lists, which makes me wonder why the hell publishers are still going for it. Love triangles are lazy. They’re almost always unequal (you can pretty much always tell who’s ending up together). They universally revolve around one super special girl who is attractive to the love interests for the sole reason that she is the audience substitute. Ugh. Unless you subvert the trope with the two boys getting together (or two girls!) count me out.

2. She Cleans Up Nicely

Ah, the makeover trope. Honestly, sometimes makeover scenes can be fun. But I really resent the implications of this trope. First, that the heroine is always revealed to be stunningly attractive if only she would dress/act a certain way, second that she is only worthy of attention, admiration, or love once she fits a set of very narrow physical standards.

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3. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl

AKA, she exists solely to better the life of the romantic lead. She has no arc to call her own. Her personality is a pile of random and annoying quirks. She is pure wish fulfillment fantasy.

4. All Men Are Rapists

Sometimes you can see this coming a mile away, but I hate it more when it sneaks up on you. You’re going along the fine line of will-they-won’t-they tension when boom, suddenly things get rape-y. Dubious consent is never cool. It’s not cool in historicals, it’s not cool in YA, it’s not cool in New Adult, it’s not cool in Paranormals, it’s not cool anywhere. It perpetuates an idea both that men are inherently animal and uncontrollable, and that you can “change” them with the power of your love. No. No no no. A thousand times no.

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5. Babies Ever After.

The heterosexual romantic leads go through the sizzle and the tension of the story. They have their adventures. And then boom….BABIES. Because literally the only way to live a proper Happily Ever After is to settle down to rigidly defined gender roles and procreate. Look, I know lots of people with kids. They’re mostly pretty happy. But not EVERYONE has to have kids, they are not the universal marker of happiness. I don’t need every single HEA to include babies.

More more more: Things I love and want to see more of

6. Male virgins.

This is a romance novel thing, in particular. I love me a good Alphole womanizer working his way through the saucy widows of the ton , but it gets old. And then: magic. Every once in a while you find the unicorn trope: the male virgin. (Of course, they don’t stay virgins, this being romance novel land, but I don’t personally think it would be bad if they did). I can only think of two examples off the top of my head. They’re generally more Beta heroes, but equally as hot. This is a trend I could definitely use more of.

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7. Handsome Devil.

On the other hand, sometimes you (you being me), just want a criminally hot lead who’s really gonna be trouble, but is just too hot for the heroine to resist.

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8. Unresolved Sexual Tension.

When it comes to will-they-won’t-they, I’m far more interested in the won’t-they. Yeah yeah yeah, it’s nice and all to have your favorite couples settle down and be happy, but that’s boring. (UST also goes hand in hand with angst in many cases, and I am a bonafide angst whore, so…)

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9. Interracial/Inter-cultural romance

This is something that I’ve just started exploring and realizing that I want more of. Literature is so often default white, and too often otherness is either demonized or fetishized. Neither is good. But inter-cultural romance has a lot of dramatic potential, a lot of conflict potential, and is just plain an accurate representation of the world. So I really want to see more examples of romance where different cultures are explored and the implications of race and racism are treated well.

10. QUILTBAG

Without going on a tirade about my personal views, I will say that I believe that sexuality is fluid, and there is a spectrum, and where you are on it at one point in your life may change at another. I love heteronormative romances. There are plenty of them, But this is a wide, wide world full of different people with different personalities, life experiences, wants and needs. I want to see more gay and lesbian protagonists. I want to see more bisexual protagonists. I want to see transgender, and gender-fluid protagonists. I want to see asexual protagonists. I want them to be defined as characters by more than their sexuality (or lack thereof), but I also want to see them having fulfilling romances, and transforming the usual tropes.

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So there you have it. What are your favorite/least favorite romance tropes?

 

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Short Story Sunday: “Beautiful Boys”

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First Line: “You know who I’m talking about.”

Beautiful Boys” by Theodora Goss, reprinted at Lightspeed Magazine.

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The TBR Pile Challenge

One of my goals for 2015 is to get some of my TBR pile pared down. It’s not easy. I am constantly putting limits on how many new books I’m allowed to buy, and then breaking them. Then I just look at the overburdened shelf and sigh, because how am I ever going to read so many books?

So in an effort to get some books off my shelves (and my ereader), I’m going to try Roof Beam Reader’s TBR Pile Challenge. I’ll be reading and reviewing these throughout 2015, and linking back here.

 

My 2015 TBR Pile Challenge List:

1 Carol Rifka Brunt- Tell the Wolves I’m Home (2012)
2 Scott Lynch- The Lies of Locke Lamora (2006)
3 Jhumpa Lahiri- The Lowland (2013)
4 Charles Belfoure- The Paris Architect (2013)
5 Diana Gabaldon- Outlander (1991)
6 Elizabeth Wein- Code Name Verity (2012)
7 Annabel Lyon- The Sweet Girl (2013)
8 Kristin Cashore- Graceling (2008)
9 Wendy Webb- The Fate of Mercy Alban (2013)
10 Justin Cronin- The Summer Guest (2004)
11 Laura Moriarty- While I’m Falling (2009)
12 Wilkie Collins- The Moonstone (1868)

Alternates
1. Alissa Nutting- Tampa (2013)
2. Kelly Braffet- Save Yourself (2013)

My Progress: 2 of 12 completed/ 2 of 12 reviewed. 

 

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