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... )
And hey! It was super good! What particularly blew me away, though, was the ART STYLE and the VISUAL STORYTELLING. It just looked so incredible, and I was absolutely not expecting that to be a stand-out feature of the film. In animated films I've seen before, the art has been good but not, like, irreplaceable; I would have enjoyed the film equally well had the creators decided to make it live-action instead. Into the Spider-Verse, on the other hand, would absolutely be a totally different (and worse) movie if it weren't animated. I have had my mind newly opened to the potentials of animation as a valuable artistic choice!
I don't want to take away from the other great stuff the film has going for it. I absolutely enjoyed the characters, and the writing, and the acting, and all that other good stuff. But those parts weren't a surprise in a movie I'd been told was good. The visuals were.
( The list (with links to my reviews) )
( The stats )
My fave reread of the year...hmm. Although I reread some really well-loved books this year, I think I'm gonna have to nominate The Beacon at Alexandria, because its quality was such a pleasant surprise. All my other top rereads I knew going in exactly how much I was going to enjoy them, but this one I was really not sure if it would live up to my positive memories. And then it did!
My fave new-to-me fiction book of the year is True Pretenses by Rose Lerner. Or possibly A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. Or just the whole series of Birchbark House books by Louise Erdrich. Or.....just about any of my five-star reviews?? Look, favourites are hard, I read a lot of good books this year!
My fave nonfiction book of the year is The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh, by David Damrosch. Engagingly written and about an inherently fascinating topic, this was an easy pick! (It helps that I read so much less nonfiction than fiction....)
My least favourite book of the year is apparently Don't Care High, which honestly if that's the worst book I read this year then I'm doing GREAT at curating my reading choices, as it was merely not-for-me rather than actively bad!
Unfortunately pre-reading so much in the way of other people's discussions of the book leaves me feeling like there's not a lot to say in my own review, whoops. It was a really good book, an excellent addition to the series! I had a lot of feelings about a lot of things! I'm sorry I can't figure out how to be more explicit/descriptive in what I thought!
Which is not to say that they're perfect books, because they're not, they're just very much the kind of thing they are.
The setting: a version of Regency England where magic is a thing. The plot: mostly capers with a low-key romance.
The main character, Kim, is a petty criminal who at the beginning of the first book has been hired to snoop into the belongings of a passing stage magician. The stage magician, Mairelon, turns out to be also a real magician in disguise who is on a somewhat foolish quest to find a set of magical objects that people mistakenly believe he stole. Hijinks ensue.
In the second book, Kim is introduced to Society and begins the process of learning to be a magician, while also helping Mairelon with uncovering a magical plot. Hijinks that are slightly easier to follow (and also slightly more serious) than the first book's hijinks ensue.
The first book is hampered by the sheer quantity of involved characters and trying to keep track of who's who, who's wanting to do what, who's related to whom, and who knows what about what other people are doing. But if you just decide that keeping close track of the plot doesn't really matter, then it's a fun time to just read through and enjoy the doings of Kim and Mairelon, and the general shape of the silly plot.
The second book, the plot is easier to follow and also the Problem That Needs Fixing seems to have actual stakes rather than just being for the sake of Mairelon's pride, so it is an improvement on the first one, much as I do enjoy the low-stress fun of the first one too.
As well as of course enjoying the two main characters, I really like the various secondary female characters in these books. I love Renee and want to see more of her friendship with Kim and Mairelon! And Mairelon's mother is of course great. But even Mairelon's Aunt Agatha who is a regular thorn in Kim's side has her moments of not actually being an antagonist. (Also Kim's extremely practical abigail who doesn't blink at anything Kim does is great too.)
( cut for minor thematic spoiler )
A rag-tag group of mostly-criminals is sent off on what’s probably a suicide mission to stop a war by finding out the source of the horrifying enormous destructive living automatons sent out by the opposing side of the war.
The two main viewpoint characters are a woman who mainly works as a forger, and an ex-paladin wracked with guilt who was once possessed by a demon and killed a bunch of nuns while possessed. (He’s no longer possessed, but the dead demon still lurks in the back corners of his mind.)
Also on the mission are an amoral assassin and a 19 year old misogynistic scholar-monk. Eventually they get a gnole too.
I didn’t love this book as much as some of Ursula Vernon’s writings, but I still really enjoyed it - even a book that’s not really my thing is a good time when it’s Vernon writing it. (The kind of book that has an assassin as a major character is just really unlikely to ever do it for me. Also I don't have paladin feelings, and this book was written in direct response to Vernon's frustrations with how paladins are usually portrayed, so.)
But the book does have fascinating worldbuilding, interesting characters, the usual Ursula Vernon delights. I was particularly interested in gnole culture, and in Learned Edmund’s character development!
I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance aspect of this duology, idk. It just didn’t quite work for me. Probably because I lack the aforementioned paladin feelings. But it wasn’t as major an element as in Swordheart so it was fine.
Overall a worthwhile read.
This is a romance novel about a middle aged woman and an immortal dead guy trapped in a sword. Which like. I AM THERE FOR THE PREMISE but then the execution absolutely backs it up too.
Halla’s been her great-uncle’s housekeeper for years, and when he finally kicks the bucket he leaves her estate to her. Which would be fine and dandy except....the rest of the family does not agree with this outcome of his will. So Halla’s locked in her room to Think About What She’s Done in order to make her marry her cousin so that her aunt can have control over the estate.
And then she discovers that if she draws an old sword decorating the wall in her room she’ll get a strange man showing up in swirl of blue lights! Who says she’s his bearer and he’ll protect her!
Obviously they then run away together in order to find a lawyer to back up the reading of the will. As you do, because Ursula Vernon’s characters tend to be sensible about things.
Road trip time!
And then even more road trip time once they pick up the lawyer, who’s a delightful nonbinary religious person who becomes a major secondary character.
I...I don’t know how best to describe the appeal of Vernon’s writing, but just something about how she approaches writing - the characters, the plot, the descriptions, the sense of humour, etc - just really really works for me. I wish I could explain better why this book is so good and you should read it!
(One of the details though that I really loved about this book was Sarkis’s belated realization of Halla’s protective strategy of acting like a stupid woman not worth anyone's time when she's faced with dangerous men, and how when he first met Halla she was doing exactly that to him. Amazing. I love Halla so much.)
In this movie, four teenagers (the jock, the nerd boy, the bluestocking, the popular girl) accidentally get pulled into the world of a video game! To escape the game our group of main characters, none of whom really like each other to begin with, must win the game's objectives through the power of teamwork!!
To make things more complicated, each character ends up in the body of an in-game avatar that is very different from their real life self. The jock ends up in the body of the sidekick zoologist, the nerd ends up in the body of the heroic and muscular team lead, the bluestocking ends up in the body of the sexy fighter girl, and the popular girl ends up in the body of a pudgy middle aged male cartographer. They are all varyingly uncomfortable with this, and the cross-gender avatar of the popular girl is handled remarkably well for a mainstream movie. (Jack Black truly IS Bethany and I was duly impressed.)
This movie is funny and charming and about TEAMWORK and FRIENDSHIP and LEARNING TO RECOGNIZE YOUR STRENGTHS.
The two female characters have a really frank conversation early in the movie about why they don't like each other, and then after that they're just....friends who support each other and accept each other! They end up having the least fraught relationship of any of the characters! I was so pleased with this.
I was also really intrigued by the relationships of each of the characters with the bodies they ended up in. It's differently challenging for all of them, and Bethany (the image-obsessed popular girl who's put in a male avatar) honestly handles it the best of all of them. She's just unapologetically herself and for the most part doesn't let herself get awkwarded out by how she would be perceived in this other body.
Meanwhile Fridge (the jock) clearly feels emasculated by the very-non-jock body he ends up in. And Spencer (the nerd boy) seems to enjoy being in the body of Dwayne The Rock Johnson but also feels disconnected from the body: he knows it's not him, and admires it in a way that's clearly seeing the body from the outside rather than truly inhabiting it. And Martha (the bluestocking) has no clue how to handle the sexy persona she's been put into and hates how naked she feels in her costume.
So it was all a really interesting exploration of embodiment and what it means to feel at home in your body and how much is your body really you versus just being the vessel you're housed in. While still being a fun ridiculous actiony movie!
When I finished the movie, I of course immediately went to AO3 and was pleasantly surprised that there's actually more than just a couple extant fics in the fandom. So I was able to find a number of fics I enjoyed! HOWEVER, what I ended the movie wanting most of all was something that I only found a very tiny amount of in one short fic.
( cut for spoilers as I describe the plot point in the movie that leads to what I want from fic )