[sticky entry] Sticky: Introduction Post!

Sep. 19th, 2010 07:27 am
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Hi there! I'm Sophia, and this is my journal. If you want to know more about me and about what you can find on my journal, this is the place! )
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The Heart of Valor, by Tanya Huff

Another enjoyable entry in the Confederation series!Read more... )

Valor's Trial

Fourth in the Confederation series. And these books just keep getting better! Read more... )
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Ancillary Justice

Apparently last time I read this book I wasn't really engaged until a point well after halfway through. I don't even know what was wrong with me at that time. I CARE SO MUCH ABOUT EVERYTHING and from page one!

Okay so I first read this book back when it came out and there was the giant to-do when everyone was reading it and talking about it. And I did enjoy it at the time, and intended to read the sequels, and just....never got around to it. But turns out Essie owns the whole trilogy, so I borrowed all three from her, and decided I'd really better reread the first book before continuing, in order to make sure I could follow what happened in the next books.

But I kept putting off reading it because I had this vague memory from last time of this book being a lot of WORK to read, though good enough to be worth the work. WHAT THE HECK, MEMORY. HOW WRONG. This book is immensely readable!

I dunno how to talk more about this book? Last time I read it I gave a run-down of my thoughts of various aspects that I thought were particularly well done, and I still basically agree with myself, though also I have a million more feels about all the characters than I expressed back then. (I don't think I agree with myself entirely about the pronoun stuff anymore though.)

Ancillary Sword

I am all exclamation marks! WHAT A GOOD BOOK. I read the whole thing in one day. Just as good as the first book, which is not to be relied upon within trilogies.

cut for spoilers )

Ancillary Mercy

Well that didn't go where I expected things to go! more spoilers! )
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The Yuletide letters post for the year is up, which means it's once again time to post my letter!


I am so excited to know that you are going to be writing me a fic in one of my fandoms! I already know you have excellent taste, since you offered to write one of these fandoms, so I am sure that I will enjoy whatever it is you write for me, and I hope you have fun writing.

If you want to know more about my likes/dislikes and my thoughts about each fandom, please read on! :D

Information relevant to all fandoms )

And now on with the stuff about each specific fandom!

The Princess Curse, by Merrie Haskell )

Wives & Daughters, by Elizabeth Gaskell )

Just Plain Maggie, by Lorraine Beim )

Splendor and Misery - clipping. (Album) )
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Three disjointed thoughts about star wars that have been sitting in my drafts for a lot of months:

1. given the way the original trilogy is really good at showing mourning reactions from people wrt to deaths (or even believed-to-be-deaths), especially chewie wrt han, I now understand ppl's reactions to han's death.

2. I am belatedly fascinated by how in the original trilogy both vader and luke have this massive hang-up over the idea of killing their own family member (father/son), but kylo ren DOES THE THING. He fails to be vader in so many interesting ways!

3.apparently star wars is one of those fandoms where EVEN AFTER watching canon I still need to read lots of fic to begin to, like, grok it? I dunno, maybe it's that fandom has developed all these elaborate headcanons over the years to explain some of the more opaque things in the movies, or maybe it's that the tie-in materials have stuff that everyone's drawing on, who knows. But I feel like everyone knows more about how stuff in the star wars universe works than I do.
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My short story rec list I made last summer has had a small surge in notes again recently, and every time I am reminded of that post's existence I am made happy again. I should do another such rec list! Maybe I should do one every year.

So here's another ten recommended short stories where only two are written by men.

(For the record, last time the authors consisted of seven women, one nonbinary person, and two men. The numbers turned out to be the same this time too.)

And somehow I neglected to mention last time around that all the stories I was reccing were sff but they were. That is once again the case! I love sff so much.

Here we go:

1. Soteriology And Stephen Greenwood: The Role of Salus in the Codex Lucis, by Julia August
So this story is written as a series of emails between various academics and also a young woman named Cara who has found an important historic artefact but has very different priorities with respect to the translation of it that she's asked for help with. I love the juxtaposition between academia and Cara, and how we the readers can figure out what's going on with Cara because we're genre readers, while the academic she's in contact with is mostly just baffled and frustrated by her.

2. The Comet, by W.E.B. Du Bois
This is an early work of Afrofuturism, written nearly a century ago (in 1920), and it's fascinating as a look at the ideas of the time. It's about a black man and a white woman who are the only survivors in New York of the deadly gas from the passing of a comet.

3. First Do No Harm, by Jonathan Edelstein
In the far future in south-central Africa, Mutende is studying to be a doctor, but is frustrated by the lack of innovation allowed. I love how grounded and immersive the story is in its setting!

4. Madeleine, by Amal El-Mohtar
Madeleine, dealing with the grief of losing her mother, is part of an experimental drug program. She has an odd reaction, with strangely intense flashbacks to her past. And then a girl named Zainab starts showing up in these flashbacks, and unlike everything else, Madeleine knows Zainab was never actually part of her memories and childhood. I really enjoy the relationship that develops between Madeleine and Zainab, and I love the ending of the story!

5. Further Arguments in Support of Yudah Cohen’s Proposal to Bluma Zilberman, by Rebecca Fraimow
The story consists of a letter from Yudah to the object of his affection, outlining exactly why he's such a catch. And this story is so charming? Like, Yudah's convinced me! I'd marry him, if I were Bluma!

6. The Scrape of Tooth and Bone, by Ada Hoffmann
Alternate-19th-century dinosaur fossil wars! OBVIOUSLY I WAS ALL OVER THIS. And it's so great, really lives up to this excellent premise! I was delighted.

7. Hunting Monsters, by S.L. Huang
Combines several different fairy tale elements into a coherent whole that gives me SO MANY FEELINGS ugh. It's a story about...family, and complicated histories, and what to do when people aren't quite who you thought they were.

8. So Much Cooking, by Naomi Kritzer
The chronicles of a family dealing with a major epidemic as told through a food blog. Such a neat premise and very well executed, I was impressed. But also the story was really good at just making me care super lots about every single character in it.

9. Grandmother-Nai-Leylit's Cloth of Winds, by Rose Lemberg
A secondary-world fantasy with absolutely wonderful worldbuilding. I love the different way of doing family structure in this culture, and the ways in which almost all of the major characters have difficulty in one way or another fitting into expectations. It's lovely and I want to read five million more words of it. (It's already the longest story on this list so that's saying something.)

10. The Six Swans, by Mallory Ortberg
Back when the Toast was still running, Ortberg had a semi-regular series called "Children's Stories Made Horrific". This story is one of those, and it's AMAZING. By far the best of the lot, imo. Worth being read as a story, not just as a humour column like a lot of the others were. It's a retelling of the fairy tale by the same name, but with emphasis placed on various horrible things that the original takes for granted, and I as a fairy tale nerd was super duper here for everything this story chose to do. And I'm pretty sure people who aren't such fairy tale nerds would like it too!
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This book does exactly what it says on the tin.

The book as a physical object entirely displays the manifest excellences of Bringhurst's grasp of good typographic style. The book is a beautiful object.

The contents of the book are also pretty good! Bringhurst is a surprisingly compelling author (or maybe I'm just surprised at the depth of my nerdiness, that I would read a typographic manual straight through......).

The book is charmingly over-convinced of the subject's utmost importance, though - I mean, yes, I agree, this stuff IS important, but perhaps not quite as deeply vital as the author thinks. But it's entirely reasonable that a book that's all about nothing but this would be convinced that this is important! And it DOES make a difference in terms of the pleasure of reading a book.

I will say I didn't read ALL all of it - there was one bit that was all about the precise mathematics of the decisions of page size and ratios, and the text block size and position in relation to the page shape/size, and the author kindly gave permission to just skim over that bit if the reader isn't into the math stuff. So I took the author up on that permission.

Also, in the bit where he's got a paragraph description of each of a whole bunch of different fonts, I didn't read all of those very closely, because they got a bit tedious.

But otherwise: great book! Even for someone like me who has no actual reason to have to know any of these things. And I bet for someone who actually DOES (like a graphic designer or whatever) this book would be of high value.
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Apparently A Chorus Line is like, a staple of musical theatre and any musical theatre fan worth their salt is familiar with it, or something. Today I finally saw it for the first time! And okay yes it is REALLY GOOD and defs worth seeing.

For those who (like me until recently) aren't familiar, it's a broadway musical about the ordinary people who make up the chorus lines in broadway musicals, instead of about stars and heroes and so forth. There is no protagonist in this show, and although some of the characters get more time than others it never feels like that's because they're the real heroes or anything. The show is about all of the characters.

It's set entirely during an audition for an unnamed, unknown show, and over the course of the audition we get to know the stories of the various auditioning dancers, and even a bit about the casting director too.

Apparently the inspiration was in part from interviews with actual chorus actors, and the stories they told about our lives, and I can see how that might be the case in how real these stories all feel. And the story is impressively timeless too - written in the 70's, it still feels fresh and relevant more than 40 years later.

I really don't know enough about theatre and musicals to be able to judge how well this particular version of A Chorus Line was done - I don't feel qualified to talk about it the same way I critique books. But I thought it was well done, as far as I can tell.

My one complaint, I think, would be that there was something about how the actor playing Paul gave his lines that bugged me, which is too bad because he had a long soliloquy and also because I cared about Paul SO MUCH.

(I mean, I cared about all of them! Well, except the casting director, who's an imperious asshole.)

At any rate: a worthwhile experience, a great musical, and now I need to go find out how much fic there is. (HOPEFULLY LOTS.)
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learntocheat bought the Hamiltome! So obviously I read it asap. A thoroughly enjoyable book, a behind-the-scenes look at the development of Hamilton along with lyrics annotations by the author himself. And lots of photos.

The thing that struck me most while reading the book was that while yes, Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius who did a hell of a lot of work to bring this musical to life, it would never have happened without a whole team of people who all contributed in a whole bunch of different important ways. It really is a team effort to create something like Hamilton.

The other thing is how from the beginning there were so many people excited about this show and eager to somehow be a part of it, even when there wasn't even a show yet! This whole book is basically a love letter to musical theatre nerds who care deeply and passionately about good theatre and put a lot of effort into making it happen and supporting each other through the process. So great.

Also I really enjoyed Miranda's lyrics annotations! There's some really charming notes in there, and some interesting thoughts.

And the pictures throughout that illustrate the whole thing are just stunning. There's a lot of beautiful shots of individual cast members in some extraordinary pose in the middle of dancing their way through the show and I loved it.

The book is also just really pretty as a book. Large and well-constructed and with a proper binding. And I am just too delighted by the title page inside the book, which is done in the style of period books with a 31-word-long title in at least five different font sizes.

In all, it's the kind of book that would be of no interest to people who don't care about the musical, but for fans of the musical it is GREAT.

But ultimately, you know, what I care about is the musical, so although the story behind it is interesting, I can't imagine myself ever feeling motivated to reread this book. Whereas I have listened to that musical an uncountable number of times since I decided to give it a try.
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I am reminded that there is a difference between finding a book compelling and actually LIKING it. The whole thing feels extremely Gaiman to me, in a way I can't quite put my finger on. And Gaiman tends as a whole to just not quite work for me. Oh, he's certainly a talented writer, but I just can't love the guy's books the way so many people do. And I don't hate them either, as many other people apparently do. He's just kind of eternally in a place of "I see what you're doing but ehhhh."

Read more... )
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I've been intending to read this book for just about forever, I think? I mean, Alison Bechdel is so well known in feminist/queer sorts of circles. But it was just a sort of vague intention, until I came across a bootleg of the Fun Home musical (which I watched because there is literally no other way I am at all likely to be able to see this musical, more's the pity) and it was SO GOOD and then I really definitely needed to read this book.

And it was also SO GOOD. Different from the musical in some respects, of course, since it is inevitable that using a different medium to tell a story will have different results, but it feels the same. It's clear the Fun Home musical people did a remarkable job translating this narrative into a different format.

I was riveted by this book. I read it over the course of two lunchtimes at work, and at the end of the first I had SUCH trouble putting the book down! I felt a lot of affinity for Bechdel, even while her life and identity don't actually have a lot in common with mine. But there's still something there.

I'm not really sure how to talk about this book? In part because it's so different from the sorts of things I usually read - it's nonfiction, a memoir, a comic, with nonlinear narrative structure. But Bechdel uses the tools of her art (narrative and pictorial) with strength and great ability, and it all really works together to create a wonderful whole.

Highly recommended.

(in completely irrelevant thoughts about this book, Alison is a BECHDEL from PENNSYLVANIA and basically I am extremely curious whether she has Mennonite ancestry because I mean really.)
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I finally have internet in my new apartment!

Actually let me lead with the even better news: I AM LIVING IN A NEW APARTMENT. It is just me and [tumblr.com profile] learntocheat, which is an EXCELLENT household, and I don't need to deal with my endless frustrations with a certain one of my previous housemates anymore, thank goodness. It is such a relief to be not be constantly anxious in my own home!

learntocheat and I have plans towards domesticity, including actual semi-regular meals together and things like that, which I am super excited for. And they are just such a great person and I'm so pleased to just continue spending lots of time with them and settling into a new and better version of living together.

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Sometimes a person just needs to reread some charming and lighthearted Heyer. This is a pretty good one for that.

I guess this all counts as spoilers )
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Thanks, everyone, for the kind words in response to my last post. Much appreciated.

Now let's get back to my excessive backlog of book thoughts to post! I've got like TEN book posts written up... Let's start with this one.

Monstrous Regiment, by Terry Pratchett

yeah okay I guess all of this counts as spoilers )
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For quite a while now I've been kinda out of the habit of posting about personal thoughts/feelings/experiences on my journal, and only really post my book/movie reactions anymore. I'm not sure why. I used to have a lot to say!

My grandmother died this week. I feel like I can't not say something about this. But I also don't know what to say about it.

She'd had a bad stroke a decade ago that affected her language faculties pretty severely. But despite her general lack of words I always knew without a doubt that she loved me massively and unconditionally.

Her presence in my life has been a gift. I'm going to miss her.
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The contents of "Mike and Psmith" have been published both as the second half of the novel known as "Mike" and on their own as a standalone novel. I began "Mike" and then remembered that the first half is just a whole bunch of cricketing and I simply cannot care that much about cricket, especially since we have Mike without his Most Important Person.

So I abandoned that and decided to just reread "Mike and Psmith" instead. Much better. Still too much cricketing, and Psmith is not quite as main a character yet as one might hope, but contains some thoroughly enjoyable elements. Mainly seeing Psmith interact with the world, and seeing Mike and Psmith interact with each other. (I love Mike and Psmith a great deal!) But DEAR GOD the cricket is still interminable. If I recall correctly the next two books are a great improvement. We'll see if my brief re-spiked interest in the Psmith books carries me on.
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Yep, continues to be a lovely feel-good re-read. Nothing new to say about it this time. Except that I'd REALLY like to get an audiobook version of this someday so that I can make myself actually pay attention during the purpley nature descriptions, because I inevitably find myself skimming over those even when I don't intend to.

The Blue Castle is published three years too late for me to be able to find it on Librivox though, which would ordinarily be where I'd go to look for a book like this. And I can't find any evidence of a professional audiobook existing. There is a fan reading posted on youtube that I found? But that's such an inconvenient format, since I'd usually listen to audiobooks when I'm going for walks or things like that. SIGH. Dear United States: fix your messed-up copyright issues, please.
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This is the last book in the Temeraire series. The end of an era! I've been following these books for so long and I just have so many FEELINGS.

This is not going to be a coherent review with, like, structure and stuff. Have a list of things I thought about!

- I JUST LOVE EVERYONE IN THIS BAR. BOOK. THING. All the characters are the best and the world is the best and I just. Yes. Good. More of this forever please. (It's so sad that this is the last book!)

cut for spoilers )

- I feel like I ought to say something wrapping up my thoughts about the series in general. I don't even know what to say! I've been following these books for something like a decade, and while the strength of my love came and went somewhat over that time, I've never stopped loving them. In a lot of ways it felt like this series was written to cater directly to my tastes, and though these books are not perfect in every way they are certainly thoroughly excellent at delighting me. I'm gonna miss having new Temeraire to look forward to, and the fandom, though generally enthusiastic, is not what I'd call large and prolific. But I look forward to seeing what writing projects Novik will take on next!
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This book does nearly what it says on the tin. Two of the seven wonders it discusses are actually from the early 20th century!

The seven projects:

  1. The Great Eastern
  2. The Bell Rock lighthouse
  3. The Brooklyn bridge
  4. The London sewers
  5. The US transcontinental railroad
  6. The Panama Canal
  7. The Hoover Dam

It is an interesting and well written book, and I enjoyed the reading of it. And I certainly learned things! But I had definite frustrations and concerns.

For starters, the book was rather more invested in great man history than I am. Each of the seven sections had undue (imo) levels of attention focused on the visionary men who spearheaded the projects instead of all the people who were necessary to its realization. Though at least the book didn't ignore the existence of the workers entirely!

And the railway chapter makes me uncomfortable with its rhetoric about how great this railway was for bringing the US together into one country, when earlier it talks about the (very real!) concerns the Native people had about how the railway was an exception to the land treaty and how their way of life would be eradicated. Apparently that doesn't matter because country-building is more important! And a lot of the violence between the Native people and the railroad construction crews is framed as "look at this incredible difficulty the railways had to overcome!!" instead of really feeling like it ever sympathized with the Native perspective of trying to defend against colonialism. So that sucked. Also all the rhetoric about how obedient the Chinese workers were was rather unfortunate.

The Chinese and Native people never got humanized the way the (clearly pretty terrible!) white men leading the project did. And the way some of the white men's horribleness was casually brushed aside in a single sentence was appalling too, like how the wife of one of them was afraid of him whenever he came home, and this is portrayed as an example of how obsessed he is with the railroad instead of an example of how he is a TERRIBLE PERSON.

So yeah. The railroad chapter was the worst for this kind of stuff, because racism and sexism is apparently particularly front-and-centre when talking about 19th century US, but the book as a whole is kinda like that. (I mean, the author has the sort of mindset that leads her to use the terminology of "man" to refer to humans!)

And the other thing is how not all these projects were like...good ideas? I'm thinking particularly of the Great Eastern. And yet the book has nothing but good to say about all of this, as if the massive ego of white men to take on ridiculously outsized projects and succeed on the backs of the dead/injured lower classes is an admirable trait or something. And several of these projects are inescapably colonialist in nature: The Great Eastern, with its Australia intentions; the US railroad with its western expansionism; the Panama Canal, which takes place entirely in Panama and yet there are maybe two sentences about Panamanians (one of which is an offhand mention of the fact that the manmade* lake floods lots of villages) because the entire project is so white-driven.

I did mostly enjoy reading the book though. I was particularly riveted by the chapter on the Bell Rock lighthouse. And I bet I would have also been particularly riveted by the sewer chapter if I didn't already know a lot of what it was discussing. And probably the Brooklyn bridge chapter would have been more interesting to me if I hadn't listened to a podcast episode on the same topic not too long ago that very deliberately focused much more on the experiences of the workers than on the chief engineers.

So in conclusion, if you don't mind a book written from the unexamined perspective of white colonialist patriarchy this book is worth a look. But really. Can't we please be over this kind of thing?

*I use this word consciously. It was men.
sophia_sol: drawing of Combeferre, smiling and holding up a finger like he's about to explain something (Default)
Valor's Choice (Confederation #1), by Tanya Huff

A fun space opera/mil-sf book about people being competent and about cross-species interactions! It was great. Not deep literature but an enjoyable time, and I look forward to reading the rest of the books in this series.

The Better Part of Valor (Confederation #2), by Tanya Huff

These books are really in a lot of ways about a variety of competence porn, watching Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr be hypercompetent at everything she does, which is pretty great. I particularly enjoy watching her competence at managing up (manipulating her superior officers to make sure things work out correctly despite the superior's incompetence) which is something I have some familiarity with in my work history so it's particularly fun to watch.

The books are also highly dedicated to getting the largest ratio of snark-to-dialogue possible, which is largely fun but gets a bit much occasionally.

Relatedly, the constant offhand references to how sexual the di'Taykan are is mostly fine but also I'm just SO CURIOUS whether there are any di-Taykans who don't fit in with this monolithic understanding of the species, whether being less sexually inclined, less sexually adventurous, interested in only their own gender or their own species, or uninterested in sex entirely. Somehow I doubt this is ever going to come up BUT ONE CAN HOPE.

oh am I actually getting around to plot spoilers? apparently I am! )
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This weekend was a bachelorette weekend for a friend of mine. It was great fun! And of course we watched some movies of the sort that one watches at events like this. Namely: the two Magic Mike movies.

I'd been kinda interested in seeing them for a while, given the type of reaction I saw a lot of people having to these movies, but also it didn't ever seem like a priority. I mean, I'm not exactly the correct audience for a pair of movies where a great deal of the point is to watch men being sexily mostly-naked.

So hey, now I've seen them. And turns out I did mostly like them!

The original movie, Magic Mike....well, people are right in saying it's not as good as the second one. There's a lot more angst and drama and attempt at a plot. I spent most of the movie wanting Adam to just shut up and go away, and he's one of the main characters, and the main driver of plot. But I did care a lot about Mike (and about Brooke) despite myself.

cut for thematic spoilers but not really plot spoilers )

The second movie, Magic Mike XXL is not nearly so confused about what point it's trying to make. This is a movie where stripping is unapologetically great if that's something you want to be doing. And you know what, watching the stripping was enjoyable even though I have no personal interest in naked bodies or sex - I like watching people be competent at things, and there were some pretty competent strippers in these movies!

HOWEVER: The best thing hands-down about this movie to me is definitely Rome. She's just so great? Completely poised and in control of every situation she finds herself in. Apparently the role was originally written for a male actor and CAN I JUST SAY how glad I am that they decided to switch that up. Good work movie, A+ secondary character choices here.

But also, all through the movie I just kept finding myself giggling in delight because I couldn't believe that the kinds of things this movie chose to focus on were things that a real life actual hollywood movie would choose to focus on. It was an experience. And one I'm glad to have had.

(even though I have no real interest in ever rewatching either of these movies.)

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