Monthly Archives: June 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of the Year (so far)

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015.

I’ve had good luck with books so far this year. Looking at my Goodreads reviews, if I took all of my five and four star ratings into account I’d have many more than ten (current read total for this year as of this writing: 70 books. Eep.) So this is completely unscientific. It includes five star books, a few four stars, and a few books I liked that I didn’t put on Goodreads for one reason or another.

128136301. Holly Black- The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Holy schmaow is this book good. It totally revitalized the vampire genre for me. (I probably shouldn’t say this as I am writing a vampire novel as we speak, but man have I been sick of vampires recently.) Coldtown is scary and visceral and just a really, really, really great read.

2. Mary Renault- The Persian Boy

I’ve been really into stories of the Bronze Age/Ancient Greece this year, and this book is probably 98% of the reason why. This story of Alexander the Great and his eunuch Bagoas is one of the most romantic things I have ever read.

3. Elizabeth Wein- Code Name Verity /Rose Under Fire 

Yes I’m counting them as one book to get more books on this list. Sue me. These WWII historicals punch a huge hole in my emotions. I’ve always felt sort of distant from WWII when I read about it before, but with these two novels it felt like I was right there, with all the pain that entails. They were wrenching but gorgeously written.

4. Emily St. John Mandel- Station Eleven

This book has no right to be so good. No right. It’s elegiac and wandering and there’s not much story beyond “The world ended. Let’s talk about Shakespeare.” And yet. It completely knocked me to my knees.

5. Jo Graham- Black Ships

More Bronze Age. More Ancient Greece, with bonus Egypt. Inspired by the Aenied, the story of the Sybil is evocative and enthralling. I loved the characters and the writings.

222940616. Charlotte Gordon- Romantic Outlaws

This in-depth biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley is my favorite nonfiction read of the year so far. Absolutely fascinating, and a must-read for anyone interested in the Romantics, women in literature, and feminism in general.

7. Courtney Milan- Trade Me

Milan does a contemporary billionaire romance that skewers expectations. I already am pretty sure I’m going to like the sequels more (If I’m right about Adam…oh, I hope I’m right about Adam), but this was a great read.

8. Rufi Thorpe- The Girls From Corona Del Mar

I was in physical pain when I finished this book. It just really resonated with me on a deeply personal level.

9. Tessa Dare- Romancing the Duke/Say Yes to the Marquess

And now for some much-needed fluff. Tessa Dare is my new fave romance writer. Each book I like a little bit more (I’m starting now on her Spindle Cove books.) Say Yes to the Marquess features wooing-by-wedding-planning. Romancing the Duke features historical LARPing. So much fluff. SO MUCH FLUFF. They’re both super cute though of course the side characters are my favorites instead of the heroes (they always are. This is a problem with me and romance novels.)

10. Eliza Granville- Gretel and the Dark

Frustrating and intriguing and spooky and dark and beautiful all rolled into one.

So that’s January to June, 2015. I have a pretty good idea which of these will be sticking around until the end of the year, too.

What are your best reads so far?

 

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#LoveWins!

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I honestly didn’t think I’d see a day where my country would legalize gay marriage across all fifty states. That we have finally, officially, recognized that you cannot legislate love. I am so happy that all of my friends, straight and gay, can now be with the ones they love and make that commitment, if they choose. And in a year that has been so dark and rough for America, it was a much-needed positive step.

So in honor of the SCOTUS ruling, I wanted to put together a little list of some of my favorite QUILTBAG* characters in literature.

As a straight woman, I have a certain, somewhat voyeuristic love of gay men that is not exactly uncommon, but can certainly be seen as problematic. In many cases, the characters on this list fall into the stereotype of the Tragic Homosexual. Reader mileage will vary. While some of these stories did not end well, perhaps the future will bring happier tales celebrating love in all its forms.

*acronyms abound, of course. I choose to use QUILTBAG because it includes Asexuality, which is often ignored or glossed over, and it is overall a more memorable and inclusive term. I also use “queer” as an umbrella term, because that works for me, although I know some people object to it.

000pq8zr1. Seregil and Alec- The Nightrunner series by Lynn Flewelling

aka my babies I love them so much. I’m not sure exactly what it is about these two characters, alone or together, that resonates with me, but I do know they are very important to me, not just because of their sexuality.

2. Sammy Clay- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

I haven’t read this book in years, but oh God, the World’s Fair, I cry just thinking about it.

3. Robert Frobisher- Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

My favorite version of the soul.

4. Lisbeth Salander The Milennium series by Stieg Larsson

I like that Lisbeth’s relationship with Miriam is actually integral to the plot and her character arc, it isn’t just thrown in there to make her the cool bisexual hacker chick.

5. Nijiri- The Dreamblood Duology by N.K. Jemisin

I have a lot of feelings for Nijiri. On the one hand, I’m very sad for him. But on the other hand, I’m actually really thankful to Jemisin for writing a belief system where people who take vows of celibacy actually take those vows seriously. Too often in fiction you see the holy/celibate characters who just kind of throw around their words and treat their vows as completely meaningless

6. Clovis- The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee

Clovis is 100% stereotype, the gay best friend you’ve seen in a million romcoms, and I don’t care because he’s the best damn character in that (wonderful) (fantastic) book (which I am gearing up to talk about in another post).

7. Maurice Hall- Maurice by E.M. Forester

I think I’ve talked about Maurice before. I love that book (and the movie), particularly because it has a happy ending. Sure, if you think far beyond the last page things get implausible for a number of reasons, but who cares? Maurice and Scudder get to be happy.

8. Tamir/Tobin- The Tamir Triad by Lynn Flewelling

Here is how obtuse I am (alternatively, how hard it can be to see something when it’s not a fight you face): I did not recognize Tamir as trans until this year, when I read someone else commenting about it. As a baby, Tamir’s soul is literally put into a differently-gendered body, and she struggles with that both before and after she knows the truth, and yet I never recognized it as a trans narrative. To be fair, this might be because I first read it when I was sixteen, and I didn’t know a single thing about trans issues, and the book came from that section under the big old FANTASY sign. To date, she’s the only trans protagonist I can think of that I’ve come across in literature.

So that’s a small sampling of characters. As you can see, there seems to be a dearth of women on this list. I know I have read fiction featuring lesbians and other queer women, but it’s not something that comes to the forefront of my mind.

If I included examples of queer characters from short fiction, this list might never end. There are a lot of fantastic, layered queer characters in short speculative fiction these days. I think the field is all the richer for it.

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Short Story Sunday: “Elephants and Corpses”

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First line: “Bodies are only beautiful when they aren’t yours.”

Elephants and Corpses” by Kameron Hurley, published by Tor.com.

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Unpopular Opinions Tag

I recently saw this tag over at A Kernel of Nonsense. I don’t think I’ve ever done a tagged post on this blog, but I’ve been feeling kind of grumpy about my unpopular opinions lately, so this seemed perfect! All in good fun.

A book or series that everyone seemed to hate but you loved:

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I can easily do the opposite of this, but this way ’round it’s difficult. Looking at my goodreads feed, it seems that Fr0g Music has a pretty low overall rating (3.12), but I loved it. The characters were frustrating, the writing was dark, and it just kind of resonated with me.

A love triangle that didn’t end the way you wanted it to:

I avoid love triangles like the plague. In fact, most series with love triangles I don’t even finish. In series that I have finished, I’m generally all in favor of the way the author goes (because you can almost always tell it from the beginning anyway–love triangles are cheap tension builders).

So. Um. Unpopular opinion being that I hate love triangles?

A book genre you hardly ever reach for:

New Adult. The single New Adult book I read knowingly was teeeeeeeeerible, and I know you shouldn’t judge an entire genre on one example, but honestly to me the entire genre seems to be a way to excuse bad writing and ridiculous plots. They don’t fit YA markets presumably because of sexual content and age of the protagonists, but really it’s because the writing is bad, and they don’t fit into mainstream adult fiction because, again, the writing is bad. 

A popular or beloved character you did not like:

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Celaena Sardothien.

Ugh I hated Throne of Glass so damn much. I feel like I’m the only person in the world that did. But God. Celaena was the WORST. “I’m the greatest assassin the world has ever seen.” “I’m gonna stay awake all night pouting about boys and playing with a puppy, cause it’s not like my life is on the line here or anything.”

She was so annoying and not in a fun-to-read way, plus she was bad at her job. Her job that was the entire premise of the book! Should have left her in that damn salt mine.

A popular author you just can’t enjoy:

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Leigh Bardugo. I gave Shadow and Bone a 3-star review initially, but it’s one of those books that’s really soured for me since I read it, mostly because people praise that series so. damn. much. and the more I think about it the more it grates on me. The writing was mediocre at best and I don’t understand the big deal.

A popular trope you’re tired of:

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The I’m-not-like-other-girls superiority of certain YA heroines. Female friendship is enormously important and valuable, and I feel like this trope teaches girls that to be exceptional they must be “the cool girl”– perfectly feminine and pretty and desirable to men, but also disdainful of that very femininity and constantly tearing other women down.

 

A popular series you have no interest in reading:

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Harry Potter. *dodges projectiles*

A TV show/movie that was better than the book:

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I’m going to go with The Hunger Games series.

I know!

Look, I love those books, even though they ushered in the era of first-person-present-tense that I want to burn to the ground. But I really love the movies because they get us outside of Katniss’s head, and make the dystopian world of Panem feel a little bit less ridiculous and contrived. They give depth and space to the other characters that the books really lack. And I feel like the acting/costuming/design/score, all of it, really ties together well.

So, what are your unpopular bookish opinions? Feel free to join in the tag.

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Short Story Sunday: “The Myth of Rain”

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First line: “Female spotted owls have a call that doesn’t sound like it should come from a bird of prey. It’s high-pitched and unrealistic, like a squeaky toy that’s being squeezed just a little bit too hard.”

The Myth of Rain” by Seanan McGuire, published by Lightspeed. 21

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Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Books On My TBR For Summer 2015. As usual, this list could be entirely populated by books on my last TBR lists that I haven’t gotten to. But at least I have some of these actually checked out of the library and others sitting on my nook. I am determined to get through all of these by September…okay, maybe seventy percent of them.

233988241. A Study in Death– Anna Lee Huber [I really enjoy this series and always look forward to a new addition.]

2. Phantom– Jo Nesbo [I am soooooo close to finishing the Harry Hole series. Or at least, all the current books. I don’t know if there will be more.]

3. Two Serpents Rise– Max Gladstone [Finally, an ebook sale. Thank you, Tor! Now please drop Full Fathom Five a few dollars.]

4. Gretel and the Dark– Eliza Granville [a book in my “library drawer” to read at lunchtime: I have very little idea what it’s actually about, but something about the cover caught me.]

5. The Tropic of Serpents- Marie Brennan [I just discovered the Memoirs of Lady Trent and I am in love.]

6. Dark Triumph– Robin LaFevers [One of those sequels that’s been sitting around on my nook for a while. I will get to it. I will!]

7. The Grace of Kings– Ken Liu [As soon as it’s available at the library!]

8. The Mirror Empire– Kameron Hurley [I just read a short story by Hurley and it inspired me to work on the book which has been sitting around for a while.]

9. Ancillary Sword– Ann Leckie [oh look at that another sequel I’ve let drop by the wayside.]

10. Thud!- Terry Pratchett [I haven’t read Sir Terry for about a decade. It’s unfortunate that his death is what made me turn back to Discworld, but sometimes that’s how the world works.]

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Short Story Sunday: “Beatification of the Second Fall”

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First line: “I am four when the door at the top of the stairs is opened to me for the first time.”

Beatification of the Second Fall” by Sean Robinson, published in Apex Magazine.

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Top Ten Tuesday: New Books

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015.

The Fifth Season The Fifth Season The Fifth Season…oh wait, there are other books coming out? Oh, yeah, I guess so.

132069001. The Fifth Season– N. K. Jemisin (Aug. 4) For some reason I thought this book was going to come out last year, so I feel like I’ve been waiting for it for a long time.

2. Winter– Marissa Meyer (Nov. 10) My greedy little hands want this book yesterday.

3. Carry On– Rainbow Rowell (Oct. 6) In which Rowell writes a m/m novel based on a fanfic based on a fake series of novels she created based on Harry Potter. Just try to digest that.

4. Ancillary Mercy– Ann Leckie (Oct. 22) Of course, I still have to read Ancillary Sword. 

5. A Study in Death- Anna Lee Huber (Jul 7) I love this mystery series.

6. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg- Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik (Oct. 27) That. Cover. 9780062415837_p0_v1_s260x420

 

7. Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation- Bill Nye (Sept. 8) Bill Nye is a luminary of scientific literacy, something that seems in increasing danger these days. This is going to be a must-read.

8. Slade House– David Mitchell (Oct. 27) I’ve not seen a lot of information about this, but I think it’s a companion piece to The Bone Clocks? This is where I have to admit that I still haven’t read The Bone Clocks. Eeep.

9. The Princess and the Pony– Kate Beaton (Jun. 30) Kate Beaton! Fat ponies! I’m planning on getting this picture book for a baby as an excuse to read it myself.

10. Go Set a Watchman– Harper Lee (Jul. 14) Am I apprehensive about this book? Completely. Am I grossed out by some of the icky ethical issues surrounding its surprise publication? Yes. Am I still going to read it? You bet your ass I am.

What are you excited about for the rest of the year?

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Review: As You Wish by Cary Elwes

22892103Title: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride

Author: Cary Elwes

Rating: 3 stars

I’m not a very big fan of audiobooks. It is really weird for me to have someone else reading a book to me for some reason. But recently I had  long car trip coming up and my FM radio is broken (fun!) and I’m sick of cds…so audiobook it was. I’ve been meaning to read As You Wish for a while now, and I figured, at least I already knew I liked Carey Elwes’ voice. So I checked out the audiobook from the library.

As You Wish is a memoir of Elwes’ time filming The Princess Bride, a film that is both beloved and iconic. I discovered The Princess Bride when I was twelve years old in an English class, and have loved it ever since. Elwes talks about how, at 23, he became involved with the project. He recounts his relationships with the cast and crew, discusses how The Princess Bride has become so entrenched in popular culture, and how it has shaped his life in the years since.

So the nostalgia factor in As You Wish is high. If you love the film, you will find this book sweet, funny, and engaging. And if you don’t love or know the film…why the hell did you pick up this book?

In edition to Elwes, the audiobook version features sections read by Christopher Guest (Count Rugen), Carol Kane (Valerie), Billy Crystal (Max), Chris Sarandon (Humperdink) Wallace Shawn (Vizzini),  Robin Wright (Buttercup), and director Rob Reiner. But it was odd to me–Elwes still did impressions of all their voices. And everyone else’s. It was kind of a weird experience for me, although perhaps it wouldn’t have bothered me if I was more familiar with ebooks. Still, it was pleasant to listen to Cary Elwes for six hours, I have to say, even in the middle of a stressful drive.

But there’s a serious lack of conflict in the story. Not that I particularly need conflict when reading about something I love, but Elwes kept talking about how nice everyone was. I appreciated that (you don’t want to think of your childhood favorites being made in an atmosphere of negativity), but it kind of made for a boring read. Everyone loved Andre the Giant. Everyone loved Mandy Patinkin. Everyone was excited to have Billy Crystal ad-libbing jokes. Everyone adored Robin Wright. After a while it was all love, love, love. I suppose I wished for something a little more in-depth, though I did like the way Elwes talked about how the effects were achieved, and detailed the immense preparation for the Greatest Sword Fight in Modern Times. It was interesting to learn how they filmed certain things.

Best of all, it made me want to dig out my dvd of The Princess Bride for the umpteenth time.

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Short Story Sunday: “The Pieces”

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First Line: “When my mother calls after breakfast on Saturday morning, she’s using the extremely calm tone of voice she only employs when something has gone terribly wrong.”

The Pieces” by Teresa Milbrodt, published by Strange Horizons.

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