Featured: Mrs Bertrice Martin, an elderly widow who is entirely out of patience with men and has no more fucks to give but also nothing left to live for, and Miss Violetta Beauchamp, an impoverished "surplus woman" who's recently been let go of her boarding-house-manager position after 50 years and is desperate to get a bit of money so that she has something to live on. They are united in their desire to get back at Bertrice's Terrible Nephew who is a tenant in arrears at the boarding house in question.
This book is extremely good for an extremely specific mood, and that mood is "MEN ARE THE WORST." It is not a subtle book. But you know, sometimes you don't need subtle! ( Read more... )
I also loved her interactions with Fury, their whole dynamic was AMAZINGGG, plus also her friendship with Maria was lovely and also Monica! And I want to know more about Mar-Vell, she seemed super cool too.
Also I think Carol is my not-having-to-smile-spiration. I really liked the things she did with her face. And something about this made me feel, like, weirdly comfortable in myself on my way home from the movie.
( cut for brief discussion of antisemitic tropes )
But that's not what I really care about with this book.
The author grew up in rural seclusion, raised by parents who were the sort of radical separatists who thought the Feds are out to get everyone, and that doctors and hospitals are evil, and the end times are coming, and by no means is a child to set foot in an actual school. Her family was loving, but challenging, in some extremely real and awful ways.
( Read more... )
All in all: a very worthwhile read, which isn't something I often say about massively popular bestsellers getting recommended by famous people.
It's. Uh. Why am I so bad at writing reviews of the books I love the most? Okay. Okay! I can do this! This is a fantasy novel, set in the same general world as many of her short stories, which I had already read and loved.
This book is written in first person, but that person is talking to someone, so it's also written in second person. Which is kind of amazing and I love how this conceit plays into how the story is told.
The "I" of the story is a rock. More specifically, Strength and Patience of the Hill, a god who is in the form of a rock. The "you" of the story is Eolo, a soldier from a rural background who is aide to Mawat, the heir of the local, uh, rulership sort of position. It's complicated. He's definitely not a prince.
Because gods have to be careful about what they say - everything they say must be true, or they will drain their power in the effort to make it true - it makes for an interesting perspective on Eolo, because Strength and Patience of the Hill can never just forthrightly assume Eolo's internal processes, so there's something of a distancing from Eolo even as he's one of the main two viewpoint characters. Which creates an interesting effect, where Eolo honestly seems more of a cipher than any of the other characters in the story, despite his actions and reactions and other people's reactions to him being firmly foregrounded, which is weird and kind of cool how it ends up working. Eolo's clearly a guy with a lot going on beneath the surface and I want to know more! (meanwhile I very early on gained an extremely good sense of the kind of person Mawat is, possibly because he's really not that complicated. Oh Mawat.)
The story goes back and forth between two narratives, which are slowly brought closer and closer together until the one leads into the other. One is Strength and Patience of the Hill's history, starting loooooooooooooong ago in ancient prehistory, through the introduction of humans, and language, and the development of religion, and what it means to care about other beings. The other is the story of what happens in the immediate aftermath of Mawat arriving back in town expecting his father to be dead very soon and himself to take up the mantle of the Raven's Lease, but instead his father has disappeared and his uncle has usurped the role. (Yes, this is something of a Hamlet retelling, and with some really fun reversals and recontextualizations!)
( Read more... )
I currently don't have any backlog of book thoughts to post for the first time in, uh, a very long time. I'm used to my problem being TOO MANY BOOK POSTS, not too few, and it feels super weird!
I have read only two books all February because I just have not felt at all motivated to read. I have five different new library books out and can't make myself read past the first few pages of any of them. I dug out a familiar and well-loved book and got maybe 20 pages in and was like....eh. I tried pulling out a book I read only once many years ago and loved, to reread, and couldn't even get myself to crack it open. I dunno. Sometimes I just go through periods like this, where reading Actual Published Books just feels hard and I don't know why.
I LOVE READING. DEAR BRAIN: PLEASE LET ME READ AGAIN.
(Looking back at my stats from previous years, it's not uncommon for January or February (or both) to be lower reading months, so maybe it's part of the natural cycle for me and winter just sucks or something. But I still don't have to like it.)
The two main characters: Marlie, a free black woman who left her black mother as a girl to live with the white half of her family in hopes of a better life, and finds herself both sheltered and stifled in her family home; and Ewan, a white Union soldier whose lack of emotional affect has led his superiors to see him as ideal for the role of torturer.
I liked Marlie a lot, and her difficult emotions about her relationship with her mother as well as her white family members, and her commitment to her work as a healer.
I liked Ewan too, but I really didn't like the decision to make him a torturer. Like. He is doing it for the good of the Union, and doesn't enjoy it, but he believes it's worth it in support of the cause, and the narrative clearly thinks his work is useful despite it being awful.
And this just plays into the same old lies that torture works. No. Torture is both ineffective and immoral! So there is never any excuse for it, no matter the situation! I am never going to be a fan of a narrative that upholds these kinds of wrongheaded ideas about torture. (Hello yes I am on this soap box again, as I am every time I read a book involving torture)
Or maybe it's just that the narrative considers Ewan a good man despite this. He is an adult person capable of making his own life choices and his own moral judgements and he is willing to do the torturing, and him experiencing negative feelings as a result of what he agreed to do doesn't actually lessen his culpability.
Almost directly after finishing this book I found myself rereading a novel-length fanfic wherein one of the romantic leads is himself a torturer. And as I was reading it, I realized that I am totally fine with the author's choices in that romance because the narrative acknowledges that the person who chooses to obey orders and use his skills to torture people for the good of his country is, like, not actually an uncomplicatedly good guy! And in A Hope Divided, Ewan.....is. Apparently. Despite the torturing.
Honestly this makes me feel kind of like the author is infantilizing Ewan a bit, as if he's not morally responsible for the choices he made to involve himself in torture, it's the fault of the people above him who told him to. Which is particularly uncomfortable in the context of Ewan being clearly written as autistic, given a general tendency amongst allistic people of discounting the agency of autistic people.
So in my opinion either A Hope Divided should have the whole torture thing removed, or Ewan's entire characterisation would need to change, for me to be wholeheartedly in favour of the book. And I like Ewan, so I'd rather the former!
Sigh. If you ignore everything about Ewan being a torturer I actually really did like this book. And you might too, depending on how easily you can put aside the torturer thing......!
C'MON ALYSSA COLE, I WANT TO LIKE YOUR BOOKS, YOU KEEP COMING SO CLOSE.
(my next Alyssa Cole is gonna be the novella Let It Shine, which I've heard good things about, so maybe that'll be the one. I want to also read Once Ghosted, Twice Shy, but the pricing for that novella ebook is absolutely outrageous if you are Canadian: $8 CAD as compared to $2 USD if you're american -- more than three times the cost, even taking into account exchange rates! -- so probably I'm not going to read that one unless my library gets it. And I've put in a request but the local library has never yet made a purchase I've recommended so I'm not holding my breath.)
Anyway that's how I ended up accidentally reading every extant fic posted on ao3 for a pairing consisting of a villain who's a crocodile man, and a minor character who dies in the movie in question. As you do!
Some fandoms are much more approachable from this method than others. I'm reminded of the days when I was first getting into Due South and trying to figure out what was up with Ray. (For those not in the know, there are two very different characters who both go by the name Ray Vecchio, both of whom are regularly shipped with the show's other main character.) The whole situation was completely confusing to decipher through fic alone and I spent a LOT of time being deeply befuddled and I think I ended up having to ask someone for help.
My most recent adventure was totally straightforward by comparison!
If this post is going to have a point, I guess a reasonable take-away is that you should also consider reading through the GQ Edwards/Waylon Jones tag? It's pretty fun! And pretty quick to read all of!
Maybe start with the kiss i would have spent on you, it's a five things fic featuring five different tropes the dudes experience: tied together, amnesia, truth serum, time loop, and meeting your AU self. A delightful buffet of tropes, all in one fic!
I was more and more into it the further I read! I particularly enjoyed Gadfly's role in the plot, and have a lot of feelings about Aster, and I love Isobel's family. (I love how the fact that Isobel's younger sisters used to be goats is just....a fact of life, not a This Will Become Relevant plot point!) The way that fairies were portrayed in this book were definitely interesting, and appropriately non-human, which I appreciated--though I feel like the love interest, Rook, was less so than the others. Which was too bad but also I totally understand how it would be challenging to write a romance between a human and someone who's Very Fairy.
Also, you can tell I'm getting old because the idea of a 17 year old being a) the Best Ever Portrait Artist, and b) old enough to ( be making certain spoilery choices ), is a little like.......Isobel, maybe slow your roll a bit?
Oh well, despite any quibbles I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Also, it's the kind of book where you can flip to the end and read the last few pages when you're halfway in, in order to spoiler yourself, and yet still be left with the incorrect impression of the true scope of what's going to happen in the book and what it means for the characters. I'm always kind of impressed when this is the case!
A trope-sorter has been making the rounds of late, wherein after clicking on tropes a bunch you end up with a list of 25 tropes going from your most to least favourite. And sylvaine created a second version that focused on gen tropes, since the original had a lot of shippy tropes -- and then had the idea of using the lists that result from either trope sorter to create rec lists of fanworks you've loved!
So I've used the tropes that end up in my top-8 for each of the two trope sorters to write a 16-item-long tropey fic rec list. I managed to never use the same fandom twice, aww yeah, so hopefully there's something for you in this recs post!
GEN-ONLY TROPES VERSION
1. Time Travel
of deserts and droids, by songstress
Star Wars, Rey & Anakin
Rey accidentally time-travels, and realizes that Jedi are even more weird than she had ever imagined.
2. Political Intrigue
The England Suffrage Association - WerewolvesAreReal
Temeraire series, Perscitia & Lady Wellington
It is very nice to have dragons on Parliament, but Perscitia has a few concerns.
3. Found Family
A Cry Answered - imperfectcircle
Pacific Rim, Mako & Stacker
Scenes from the year after Stacker and Mako first meet.
4. Always a Different Sex
peace for our time - snowdarkre
Harry Potter series, Harry & Pansy
The first time Pansy saw Harry Potter after the war ― saw her in person, not just in the rags that called themselves newspapers these days ― was at Olixea Kildare's Atholl House for the Tragically Orphaned Charity Gala, and Potter was wearing the exact wrong thing.
5. Magical Realism (e.g. animal transformation, woke up a different sex, bodyswap, age regression...
take my name and just let me be - verity
MCU, Bucky & Natasha
Bucky becomes Natasha. Natasha becomes the Winter Soldier.
(full disclosure: this one was written FOR ME but seriously it's brilliant)
6. Possession/Mental Connection
On Solitude - toft
Aubrey-Maturin Series, Jack & Stephen
Jack and Stephen accidentally become telepathically bonded, but Stephen still has to complete his mission in Minorca.
7. Sleepovers/Stuck In A Tent Together/Bed Sharing
Lemmings - Sholio
Highlander, Methos & Amanda & Duncan
One avalanche. Three Immortals, freezing to death. And they're really annoyed about it.
8. Historical AU
The Lark Ascends - Carmarthen
Les Miserables, Cosette & Valjean
"Euphrasia ate like someone who never had enough food—Valyanos recognized it, with an inward shudder, from his time in the mines, before the arena and his wooden sword—methodically scooping soup into her mouth with the bread and cleaning the bowl with the crust until not a single chickpea remained, nibbling the apple down to the barest core." Valjean and Cosette in Roman Gaul, 38 B.C.E
BOTH GEN & SHIP TROPES VERSION
(I've made nearly all these recs shippy, to balance out all the gen above, but really I couldn't rec anything except Aral Vorkosigan's Dog for the "Loyalty Kink" one)
1. Fake Dating/Fake Marriage Accidentally Turns Into Feelings
Facades - Penknife
Pirates of the Caribbean, Sparrow/Elizabeth
Two years after AWE, Elizabeth has a clever plan to claim her inheritance. She just needs someone to help her with one little detail ...
2. Unusually Specific Occupation AU, Like, The Author Clearly Has The Same Job
There's a very specific fic I'm remembering that I want to rec for this square, because it was the first fic I ever read that really encapsulated this trope. It was an SGA fic set in an aquarium, and I cannot find it in my bookmarks! If anybody else remembers this fic please tell me what it was called and who wrote it? EDIT: It's been found! Wide Open Ocean, by Setissma
3. Magical Connection (Telepathy, etc)
Solid Copy - thefourthvine
The Losers, Jensen/Cougar
Jensen shifted his gaze to Cougar. “I really thought that if I ever had to say the words ‘telepathic disaster,’ it’d be a lot cooler than this is turning out to be.
4. Royals/Political Marriage Turns Into Feelings
i have named you queen (listen) - Damkianna
Original Work, Princess/Princess
Jummai is a princess without a throne—but she has no intention of leaving to others what is rightfully hers. She needs a wife with an army, and gets one; but her wife seems impervious to her tactical charm, she keeps making mistakes, and her cousin still wants her dead
5. Found Families
The Young Chants - ryfkah
Chrestomanci Series, Christopher/Millie
Christopher's family expands.
6. Loyalty Kink
Aral Vorkosigan's Dog - Philomytha
Vorkosigan Saga, Aral & Illyan
Illyan is assigned to watch Aral Vorkosigan during the Escobaran war. Soon he has to choose between his duty and his conscience, and the consequences rapidly get beyond him.
7. 'Groundhog Day'/Karmic Time Loop
One More Time With Feeling (or, Charlie Brooker and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day) - marginaliana
British Comedy RPF, Charlie Brooker/David Mitchell
December the seventh, 2009. Recording day for the Big Fat Quiz of the Year. Charlie wakes to the sound of his mobile.
8. Body Swapping
me and you - surexit
Disney's Hercules, Hercules/Meg
Meg is having fun. Hercules isn't.
Here's an excerpt from Ellis's introduction to give you a taste of her general style and humour:
Towards the close of my visit to Burmah I was dining one night at a friend's house in Rangoon, when my neighbour [...] asked me if it was my intention to write a book. At my prompt reply in the negative he seemed astonished, and asked, what then did I intend to do with my life? I had never looked at the matter in that light before, and felt depressed. It has always been my ambition to do at Rome as the Romans do, and if, as my questioner clearly intimated, it was the custom for every casual visitor to the Land of Pagodas either to write a book or to "do something with his life," my duty seemed clear. I had no desire at all to undertake either of the tasks, but as there was apparently no third course open to me, I decided to choose the safer of the two, and write a book.
The book is full of Ellis's irreverent musings on the various things she sees and experiences, and she by no means spares herself. The passage in which she describes her first ever journey by horseback in her life is pretty funny and not particularly flattering!
Of course, she is also a 19th century white british traveller so there's a certain amount of the racism (and classism) you'd expect from such a source, especially from someone trying to be funny. It's most pronounced in the chapter called "The Burmese," in which, among other things, she spends a great deal of time discussing the deficiencies of Burmese servants. And I mean, she did spend the entire previous chapter detailing the ridiculousness of the local Europeans, but it's still....not great. Sigh.
Being who I am, I of course googled the author when I was shortly into this book. And I was sad to see that she dies young, in childbirth. This is part of the problem with reading about real historical people - you can find out what happens to them after the events of the book, and it's not always a happy ending.
Here's this year's stories! (and by this year I mean from summer 2017 to summer 2018, whoops, writing story summaries/enticements is hard)
1. And Her Eyes Sewn Shut with Unicorn Hair, by Rosamund Hodge
You can tell from the title that it's not going to be a happy story about unicorns. But it's fascinating, and I love the worldbuilding, as you get drawn deeper and deeper into the awfulness of the situation. And also SISTERS.
2. The Effluent Engine, by N.K. Jemisin
A steampunk AU about Haiti and New Orleans in the time relatively recently after Haiti's revolution, featuring women who are SPIES and INVENTORS. Amazing.
3. Fandom for Robots, by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
A delightful story about an elderly robot in a museum who discovers the joys of fandom!
4. Krace Is Not a Highway, by Scott Vanyur
A robot designed for rating the safety and repair conditions of highway surfaces faces the apocalypse as the sole companion of a human, and learns how to deal with, gasp, humans having emotions. I love the extreme outside pov, where the reader can see so much more into what the human is experiencing than the robot is at all capable of understanding.
5. Oshun, Inc., by Jordan Ifueko
An immortal who serves the Nigerian goddess of love, working on making the romantic match between humans that'll make her career. A fun read.
6. Sour Milk Girls, by Erin Roberts
In an orphanage where girls who are admitted usually have their memories of their previous life taken from them, three girls who have been at the home long-term react to the latest new addition to their number. I like how although the narrative makes us sympathise with the viewpoint character, it also doesn't soften any of the difficult things about her or the others.
7. Strange Waters, by Samantha Mills
A fisherwoman blown off course spends years trying to sail back to her family before it's too late, taking imprecise time-travelling currents back and forth across the centuries. I'm fascinated by all the glimpses of this world, and how having occasional time travellers telling them what to expect from the future is just....normal. And also I have a lot of feelings about the main character.
8. The Sun God At Dawn, Rising From A Lotus Blossom, by Andrea Kail
In a future where museums create living copies of famous people of history as exhibits, a young Tutankhamun writes letters to Abraham Lincoln. The reader only sees the one side of the correspondence, but you can see so much of what's going on through the letters regardless. And as the boy grows, he also grows in his understanding of the modern world around him in all its complexities and problems, and how they relate to his own existence.
9. Umbernight, by Carolyn Ives Gilman
A colony on a planet that's occasionally subjected to dangerous radiation, and a hurried cross-country trip trying to get back to safety before it's too late. The kind of story that totally immerses you in the setting - amazingly evocative and intense.
10. unfurl/ed, by Jes Rausch
It's a story from the perspective of an orbiting solar collector. Which you wouldn't necessarily expect to work but totally does. Does wonderfully interesting things with pov!
(Click my annual rec list tag to see my recommendations from other years!)
And okay, yes, she's going through some particularly high-emotion stuff during the time period covered by the book, I gather that people who experience romantic attraction can find that their feelings on the subject are very a lot sometimes, but like, even so. Wow, Anne. Find your chill!
(I still love Anne a lot though.)
The other thing is, the narrative spends a lot of time telling the reader that Lady Russell is a good person and a good friend and worth admiring and being close with and all, but.....never actually showcases her actions in such a way as makes me feel like I should care about her one bit. It's to the point where I can't help but feel it might be deliberate, but if so I'm not quite sure what point Austen might be trying to make with this. Idk. Maybe I'm wrong and I'm just Not Appreciating Lady Russell As I Ought, but I still feel totally unmoved by her supposed qualities.
This book is definitely even more colonialist than the one about New Zealand I listened to last year. The New Zealand one just has a few offhand mentions of the native population which means at least the reader doesn’t get descriptions of active terribleness on the part of the white people, just the knowledge that the writer is there as part of a Very Colonial Endeavour. But this one is all about the writer’s regular interactions with the local people as she tries to convert them to Christianity.
I mean, it was obvious going in that it was going to be terribly colonialist and probably pretty racist, the question was merely about degrees. It’s.....not as bad as it could be, which I know is still not saying a lot. Clara is definitely of the benevolent-paternalism school of racism, which is at least not as directly violent as some brands of racism. But it's still unfortunate, and gets rather bad sometimes. An example:
( cut for detailed description of a racist incident )
Overall, despite Clara’s issues, the book was an interesting one, though kind of tedious and repetitive at points since it covers 27 years' worth of relatively similar work and the letters are excerpted to exclude anything personal. It was neat to learn about the types of missionary work done in India at that time, especially since at a later era my great-grandparents were also missionaries in India, though in a different region.
And I was also made to think once again about the gendered social roles available to someone like Clara in her era. At one point in the book, Clara makes an offhand comment where she's clear that if she'd been born a boy she would have been an engineer. But in her gender and culture, one of the few ways a woman can have a respectable independent, ambitious, career-focused life is as a missionary. Engineer is right out. It's one of the things that's so interesting in reading about 19th century Western missionary women: wondering what else they might have done with their lives instead, if they'd had more options open to them. Clara seems to genuinely feel called to her mission work, and get real satisfaction out of it (....for better or worse), but she also knows that if she'd been a man she would not have been a missionary. But of course we only get one sentence on the topic because obviously we can't learn too much about Clara's personal feelings about things!
I rather wished in general to know more about what was going on in Clara’s personal life throughout the book, in fact. The extracts from the letters that comprise this book are all about Clara’s missionary work, and there’s just hints here and there of what else might be going on. For example: after 5 years in India Clara goes back to the USA for a home leave, stays for several years, then returns to India looking much more haggard and having clearly uncertain health. What happened during her time at home??
Well, I understand Clara's desire to make sure her published letters didn't include too many personal details since I would probably feel similarly if I were to publish something like that. But it still makes for a less engaging reading experience than Lady Barker's chatty letters from New Zealand.
( cut for....spoilers, I guess? )
Set in small-town Alaska during a moose festival, featuring two families of shifters who are at odds with each other, and two young women who find each other after having not gotten along at all when they were teens in high school together. I liked both Maggie and Fiona, and the kinds of people they'd each grown up into from what they experienced in high school.
( Read more... )
( Read more... )
Ultimately these books are optimistic in tone, and I like Brown's simple, direct prose style and how the narrator isn't invisible. And I love the premise, of a robot at home in the natural world. I'm glad I found these.
My emotional involvement in this instalment was a little slow to start. This book has approximately a zillion viewpoint characters it swaps between. (Okay, more like, uh, 6 or 7 or something like that I think?) And I am just SO BAD at names and at keeping characters straight so each chapter switch it was like "so who is this again???" Which kind of interrupts one's ability to be swallowed by a book.
Like the others in the series, this book is low on plot. It's basically about showing you a snapshot of a culture experiencing a time of transition, introducing you to the various ways different sorts of people experience what's going on, allowing you to see and understand that culture through many eyes.
The cultural context in question: the group of humans who continue to live on the generation ships which humanity used to get to this part of space, even though there are now plenty of well-settled habitable planets available to live on. Now that these humans have access to a) alien technology, b) alien money, and c) planets, how does that change the self-sufficient and communal life of the Exodans aboard their ships? And how much is it desirable to change?
Interesting questions, and interestingly addressed. Having the many viewpoints definitely aided with what this book was trying to do. But it also meant that as a reading experience it didn't work for me as well as Chambers' previous books. Which is too bad. But "not quite as good as the others in this series" is not at all the same thing as "not very good" - this is a good book, and certainly worth reading!
I did find that things picked up for me after ( a certain spoilery thing happened )
I particularly loved in this book, though, the details of life in space - the various challenges experienced because of space itself, as well as the difficult interpersonal dynamics made even more complicated by being stuck in a small spaceship together for so long.
I did have some frustrations though. ( Read more... )
I had heard that the romance part of this romance novel wasn't everything one might hope for, buuuuuut it's a novel about Lesotho (sorry, "Thesolo") so in the end I just couldn't resist.
It was super weird reading a novel in which a version of a country that I have some personal familiarity with (I lived in Lesotho for several years as a small child) is turned into something of an idealized version of itself. Especially in a context where everything else about this world is the same as our world except Thesolo replacing Lesotho.
But I am a white person and so my opinions about this are not the most important ones. So I will refrain from discussing it, and move on to talking about the characters and plot and romance instead.
Which, yeah, as warned I don't love the romance. Naledi, the female lead? I love her, she's great, I absolutely believe in her as a person and I want good things for her and I'm so happy to see her over the course of the novel learning that she can open up to other people, and let other people help her.
But Thabiso, the male lead, sigh, no thanks. It's very nice for him that he's willing and able to try to learn to be a better person, but he starts the novel an entitled asshole and his entire storyline is Naledi teaching him how to be that better person. Which like. I am so over romances about how an asshole can be redeemed through the love of a good woman.
( Read more... )
Overall: I admire what this book is trying to do, and there is lots that I do like about it, but ultimately it doesn't quite work for me.
Honestly this is the biggest selling point of the book imo so if that sounds appealing to you, go for it. Everything else about the novel was...perfectly fine. Nothing spectacular, imo, but solidly enjoyable.
Okay so this is a Regency romance novel in which a foundling, upon whom has been bestowed the unfortunate name Charity Church, pretends to be a man named Robert Selby in order to help the dead Robert's sister find an advantageous match. Charity-as-Robert ends up spending a bunch of time with an overly-duty-focused Marquess, Alistair, who at first wants nothing to do with the Selbys or with anyone or anything else that might be seen as anything other than perfectly respectable.
( Read more... )