Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Currently Reading

*coughs apologetically*

Well, given the rather impressive lapse of time between "I'm Not Dead Yet" and this post, I wouldn't be surprised if anyone thought I HAD died.


I've been extremely busy with full time work, Camp NaNo (don't ask me about my wordcount PLEASE), an academic publication (!!!), and, oh, getting into graduate school.

Which I HAVE, so WOOHOO! I've signed off the next 4-7 years of my life to attempting to elucidate a tiny corner of Biology for: a truly minuscule amount of pay, frighteningly low-end living conditions, and an unspecified but undoubtedly insane workload! Fuck yeah SCIENCE!

Giggling? ME? Why no, I am the SOUL of decorum. *snorts*

(I really am super pleased though.)

Now let's talk about books.

Of all things, going on an insane number of graduate school interviews actually was the spark that got me reading at a high velocity again. Blame the planes (I truly hate them). Here's some stuff I've recently read and enjoyed.

Men At Arms by Terry Pratchett

I've always enjoyed Pratchett and he's one of the few fantasy humorists whose books I happily re-read. And yes, my favorite books of his are in Ankh-Morpork. I love the Guilds (Assassins of course, this is Si who is talking). I love the Night Watch and all the strange characters Pratchett throws in. I like the deftness with which he paints in social problems in a setting which the reader has already engaged in. His original world that still pokes fun at the traditional fantasy we all know and love. A+ would read again.

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

Y'all, this has SPIES. And AMNESIA. And STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS. Yes it's another "supernatural shit goes down in London"-type but it's so delightfully weird that I didn't feel it hit that trope too hard. Nothing wrong with the trope but generally you have to be better than Parasol Protectorate to get me to read it, else I'll just go read Parasol Protectorate.

This book, like I exuberantly yelled on twitter, makes Bureaucracy look badass. It has some very original ideas for "people with weird magical talents" that don't feel overdone (Gestalt for example. Very unnerving). It does flashbacks and explanatory letters without being boring. I like the sense of roughly equal men and women in positions of power, and the way the main character is forced to navigate her amnesia while not letting anyone else know about it. I like that she doesn't always succeed. I like that she has faults and strengths and human emotions.

Something about the portrayal felt just slightly off--I will have to think about it further. I did get a slight sense of "male writer trying to write female character"--or perhaps trying too hard. It's not bad, but I was faintly reminded of what a good friend once told her brother who asked her how to write female characters:

"Think of an awesome character. Then make the character a girl."

It feels a bit like the author was attempting to include a lot of woman-specific experiences but laid it on a little heavy. Perhaps that's only me, though. It didn't feel disrespectful or off-putting.

Mostly I enjoyed the whole "bureaucracy made badass" aspect. Quiet people FTW.

Highly recommended. Also I just saw Nafiza of The Book Wars is reading Book 2 which I must run out and get IMMEDIATELY.

Various Agatha Christie Novels

Murder on the Orient Express. Death on the Nile. Cards on the Table. And more.

If you like murder mysteries and whodunits and haven't read Christie IDK what's wrong with you. Besides writing the most brilliant twisted puzzle plots ever, Christie has a distinct voice and ability to turn her dead bodies and Suspects into People. Despite the fact that the reader goes in expecting to focus on Clues and Motives, Christie manages to give every character a distinctly human and individual personality. And she does it masterfully, in barely a few lines. When I think of that idea of "painting a subject in a few broad strokes" I think of Christie. I think she's extremely valuable to study if you're trying to write a character-centered novel (as I often have trouble with).

Banewreaker and Godslayer by Jacqueline Carey

MY HEART IS STILL BROKEN FROM THESE BOOKS OKAY. *throws self on couch and weeps forever*

Imagine Lord of the Rings told from Mordor's point of view. That exactly describes these books. Take cliche fantasy and turn it on its head. Ask: is it really moral for the Chosen One & Co to run over to the Evil Lands, start slaughtering the Evil OrcThings, and attempt to murder the Dark Lord? Are their motives REALLY pure? How would YOU feel if a Prophecy was put about spelling your destruction?

Written with the poignant pen of Carey, whose Kushiel novels remain among my absolute favorite EVER, this duology inspires so many feels I can't write coherently because the ending was just TOO PAINFUL. Even though you KNOW what's coming the entire series because obviously. This is a twist on cliche epic fantasy and must follow the formula. But ah! When you turn the POV to the other side it becomes a tragic tale of slow, crushing, pointless destruction, rather than a hopeful story of innocence triumphing over evil. "History is written by the victors" indeed.

Also it makes the Elves seem SUPER irritating and hypocritical. Which they are. Especially when their moral platitudes call for your doom.

In Other News ...

I've also been getting back into writing lately, by performing a major cull on my Many Ideas and re-discovering the joys of snarky literary agent blogs. So if you happen to know of any blogs in the vein of the most excellent Miss Snark of the bygone era, please comment with a link.

What have YOU been reading lately?

(My Goodreads needs a serious update.)

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