laceblade: Toby, Josh, and Donna of The West Wing, talking intensely (WW: 20 Hours in America)
I swear to God I've written this post twice before, but I keep drafting it in email and then somehow losing it. It's pretty upsetting. It's been a while since I've read some of these, so this might be short. I'm skipping most of hte comics I've read lately.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin - I actually read this months ago and keep forgetting it due to a fluke in it not showing up in chronological order in my Goodreads list.
I like Nemisin's ideas and her politics. Unfortunately, I can't stand her prose.

/some more X-Men comics/

Half-Off Ragnarok and Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire - As suspected when I read the books narrated by Verity, I enjoy the books narrated by her brother much more. (And I'm anticipating Antimony's books EVEN MORE. WANT. SO BADLY. Also maybe Elspeth's :D) Sadly I really disliked Pocket Apocalypse/the one that took place in Australia. So many cliches, SO MUCH EXPOSITION, people just explaining things to each other in big swaths of dialog. Also unnecessary sentences ending chapters in ways that were just...too dramatic. Did her editor fall asleep? idk? It was disappointing, but I'll be coming back for more.

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott - her first YA novel! This is like Little Women set in Egypt but also The Hunger Games. BUT SO MUCH BETTER THAN HUNGER GAMES. So well-written, imagery that was genuinely creepy, so much agency, THE TWISTS, UGGGHHHH I'm ready for the next two in the trilogy and in the meantime I'm giving this to my youngest niece for Christmas.

Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda - I picked this up because the editor attends my comics club. The first issue is almost 70 pages long. IT'S SO GOOD. The story and the imagery both. The only thing I can compare it to is Ashley Cope's webcomic Unsounded. Really looking forward to more of this in the new year.

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett - Full disclosure that I received an advance copy of this book through a Goodreads give-away.

City of Stairs was my favorite sf/f book last year, and this follow-up did not disappoint at all. I love Bennett's writing. The dialogue feels real, which is so uncommon in most fantasy.
I was worried about Mulaghesh as the POV character only because I loved Shara from the first book SO MUCH. That said, once we got going, it was very clear that this had to be Mulaghesh's story.

Both this book and its predecessor address what happens to the economies and political structures of societies when gods die and disappear, as well as the psyches of individual people.

Like City of Stairs, I plan to keep, reread, and recommend this book.

Batman: Year 100 by Paul Pope - Sometimes the art was cool, but overall this was kind of terrible? idk? I'd found it in a list of recommended US superhero comics. I wouldn't have put it there myself, :p

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold - Yeah, I'm the last person on earth to read these books. HOLY SHIT THIS WAS GR9. Already reading Barrayar, which is in the same omnibus edition that I have. Cordelia 4 life.

Winter is Coming by Garry Kasparov - Kasparov is a former chess champion from the USSR who now lives in New York and is a vocal critic of Vladimir Putin. There's a lot of review of the last 25 years or so of history in this book, which I found extremely valuable. The dissolution of the Soviet Union happened too recently to have been covered in any great detail while I was in K-12 school, and despite one of my majors being Political Science, we never studied it there either.
Kasparov has been warning about Putin for over a decade, before he started invading sovereign nations & assassinating his political enemies. Kasparov is frank in covering the failures of recent presidents, covering all of them since Reagan. His thesis is that morality must have a place in global affairs, and that in recent years it hasn't because it's easier to just say, "The Russians need to take care of their own Russian problem." He paints the Cold War as good vs. evil, which in the past would have struck me as a simplistic reduction, but he explains how governments resisting democracy are trying to control the press/other people's voices in order to continue holding their power. Anyway. He tips towards a level of American exceptionalism that makes me uncomfortable, but it's a good, if unsettling, read.
I'm still horrified by the lack of protest over the MH17 flight being shot down by the Russians over Ukraine. What is it going to take?
laceblade: Kumiko and Reina from Hibike! Euphonium anime, Reina holding Kumiko's face w/one hand, faces close enough to almost touch. (Default)
I keep not writing about books, but at this point there are SO MANY that I'm just going to post about the ones I really have something to say about, and then wipe the slate clean afterward.

First, check out my Hibike! Euphonium icon and then consider watching the show for the f/f of Kumiko/Reina :D :D :D

Mari Yamazaki's Thermae Romae I manga was hilarious. A Roman architect keeps designing the same-old types of baths, UNTIL every chapter he finds away to get sucked down a drain/etc. only to wake up in some kind of onsen in Japan, in the modern day. Every time, he appreciates something else about a different type of onsen, and then brings it back to Rome. It's a comedy, and it's hilarious. Additionally, the manga-ka married an Italian and loves to share all of her research on the omake pages.

Jacqueline Koyanagi's Ascension was on the most recent Tiptree shortlist, which is why I checked it out from the library. The protagonist ends up joining a family & a ship that remind me of Firefly except more inclusive. Sub-plots involve human subjects research, so I found it interesting enough to keep me going despite some really clunky writing in the beginning - I think there was a line about the protag's belt hanging on her "like hope gone slack," that almost made me set it down lol. I liked it well enough that I'm interested in seeing what happens in #2, if/when it comes out. I'm curious if anyone else has read this and what they think is up with its nomination for a Tiptree award. I really don't think it did anything with gender...?

I enjoyed Arina Tanemura's collection of short stories much more than I thought I would. Sometimes I think that the short story is the best format for shoujo manga-ka. So many ideas really are one-note, and suffer from being dragged on for 10 volumes. I felt the same way about Masami Tsuda's, despite having found Kare Kano extremely repetitive.

I made it through Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, which inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write the musical Hamilton. I loved the level of detail here. Hamilton's productivity and output is inspiring. His presence for certain events makes for an interesting story. His relationship with George Washington was heart-warming, and the little moment they have towards the end of his presidency, where Hamilton smirks and says what he really thinks about Thomas Jefferson - that he's a fucking fraud, and that all of his positions and actions are politically calculated - were for me the best part of the book. This book really changed my previous opinion about Thomas Jefferson. His thoughts about American exceptionalism, his manipulation of people's optimism to fleece them, he being the originator of so many things I hate about the worst politicians - all of it.
Also, the ending completely removed any sympathy the musical had caused me to feel for Aaron Burr. Ass.

Longbourn by Jo Baker - I was invited to discuss this with a small group of people I'd gotten to know through the WisCon concom. It's basically Pride & Prejudice fic, from the point of view of the servants. I once took a class on disability in literature, and we read Austen's Persuasion in part to talk about the presentation of a "hypochondriac" character but also the way Jane Austen very rarely talked about bodies.
Baker's book is totally altered from Austen's in terms of tone. I saw Sherwood Smith complaining about this on Goodreads, that it doesn't "capture" Austen, etc. I think...that's the whole point. It's about bodies - it's about the never-ending WORK that people do. It's about the disgusting contents of chamber pots. It's about how it's possible to get all of the mud off of Elizabeth Bennet's skirts after her long walks.
Some on Goodreads also complained about the interlude for some war scenes, from Britain's war with France and Spain, but I think those people have clearly never read the Waterloo interlude in Les Miserables, because this shit was nothing.

Mercedes Lackey's The Oathbound was quite fun, although I found the revenge these girls have on some past enemies to be pretty...problematic? Also lots of rape.
But. Kethry and Tarma = the shit.
I have determined that it is necessary to read the Valdemar books in publication order. It's the only way things make sense.

I've finally read Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint. It's hard to imagine that this book came out the year after I was born, and I've only just read it now. I wonder what I would have thought about it had I read it as a kid. idk.
It's conveniently timed, though. I should check out Tremontaine.

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga - whoa! this is my first "old school" X-Men book. I checked it out because of some internet article list for US comics. I didn't know when I picked it up that this included the introduction of Kitty Pryde, but I think her presence made this a decent entry point. I have Days of Future Past and whatever comes after that on hold next from the library.

Related, I mainlined Daredevil on Netflix. I am attracted to Charlie Cox and his stubble. Also the way he kissed Claire. There should have been more kissing tbqh.

Minae Mizumura's The Fall of Language in the Age of English - After reading her book A True Novel, I wanted to read anything else by her that I could, but this is sadly the only other item translated into English. This book apparently caused a lot of controversy in Japan when it came out. It's basically about...literature of nations. How some nation's literature ends up "falling" (e.g., France), how Japan was uniquely positioned to create its own mature corpus of literature despite many other Asian countries failing to do the same.
Even though English is currently a dominant language and would eventually wipe out most others if Mizumura is to be believed, she discusses the value and calling to write in one's own native language.
In explaining influence, about a young Parisian writing an autobiography pre-WWII, hundreds of Japanese reading the novel before one translates it into Japanese. Then Mizumura's mother reads it and is inspired. Mizumura speculates on a hypothetical in which her mother then writes her own autobiography, which is well-received in Japan, but would never be translated into French or any other European language. Not many Europeans read Japanese. Thus, "only Japanese readers can share the plight of my mother's life. For other readers in the world, it's as if her novel never existed. It's as if she herself never existed. Even if my mother had written her novel first, Francoise would never have read it and been moved by it."
She describes these as "asymmetrical relationships," meaning that only people who live in a "universal temporality" can be heard by the world. Those who are bilingual, and who exist in both "the universal and particular temporalities may hear voices from the other side, but they cannot make their own voices heard. They can only participate passively in the universal temporality, however much they may wish otherwise."
She discusses the fact that the Nobel Prize in Literature "suppresses all the problems inherent in the act of translation" by translating works that are easiest to translate, and which "often only reinforce the worldview constructed by the English language."
In addition to these meditations, I have added a number of modern Japanese novels to my to-read list.
laceblade: Slytherin crest. Text: WE DON'T HUG. (HP: Slytherin no hugs)
I currently have 40 items checked out from the library and things are actually becoming quite stressful, ^^;;;;; HOW DOES ONE STOP PUTTING THINGS ON HOLD SO QUICKLY, DEAR GOD. I still have piles of unread books that like, live in this apartment. Yay for increasing my dependency on the library as opposed to buying every single thing I read, but I think I should clear out the unread books before making this switch, lol.
My digital to-read list keeps growing, too - mostly from looking through people's lists of favorite books on Goodreads, finding recs that are discussed at [community profile] ladybusiness, etc.
Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee - This is a collection of short stories that I read because it's on the Sirens reading list for this year. I've always loved her writing, and the same was true here; however, I have a really hard time making it through short stories. I'm not sure why - I think the only collection that I made it through in a reasonable amount of time was Ellen Klages's Portable Childhoods, and that was very unusual for me! Maybe I just like sinking my teeth into longer stories, maybe I need more characterization than short stories usually have room for, idk. I got a little nervous after finishing this one, when I realized how many titles in the final section of the reading list are short stories, but I guess I should look at it as a good thing - I'll be able to return to my unread book piles sooner, ;)

From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women in the World, Volume 1 by Marilyn French - I've seen these at Room for the last handful of years, and decided to see what they're like. French is obviously well-versed in history, and uses as many primary sources as she can. This book, though focused a lot on the hunter-gatherer stage of humanity, and takes it up through the founding of Judaism/Christianity/Islam, and describes how patriarchy is central to the narratives of all of these religions. Lots of interesting stuff about Greek societies, and observations about how societies were structured to control women that were put into terms I hadn't previously considered. That said, there were a lot of statements tempered with "probably" for a history book. Still, the focus of this was before the Common Era, so it's understandable there aren't a lot of primary sources, :p I'm looking forward to seeing whether there's an improvement in volumes 2 through 4.

The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir - This was quite a brick, and has taken me a while to plow through. As you know, Bob, I've been reading lots of Tudors!fiction and Tudors!history lately. Lots of books lead right up to Elizabeth's coronation, and then end. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. I had to know, so it was nice to read this, and continue forward. Things that endlessly recurred throughout Elizabeth I's life: Robert Dudley being a jerk but still attractive nonetheless, using marriage proposals/insinuations to keep her enemies abroad in check with one another, refusing to name an heir so that it didn't drain from her sometimes-tenuous hold on power, Catholic rebels planning coups that revolve around Mary Queen of Scots usurping her throne. I felt like I understood Elizabeth as a person after reading this, and Weir has a talent for making Privy Council meetings/etc. super interesting.

1603 by Christopher Lee - No, not that Christopher Lee. I saw this at the library a couple months ago, and thought it would be nice to see what happens after Elizabeth's reign, how the transition to James I happened, etc. The subtitle of the book also promises, "the Return of the Black Plague, the Rise of Shakespeare, Piracy, Witchcraft, and the Birth of the Stuart Era." I'm about halfway through.
Lee's writing is quite irritating after reading so much Weir. Lee is coy when discussing people's sexuality, saying that a person "didn't care much for women," etc., whereas I appreciated Weir's, "X was homosexual." Lee also addresses the reader as if he is fully aware of what they do/don't know about English history, phrases things as, "As we know..." or etc., and interjects narrative passages to say things like, "You might assume X, but let us remember Y, and do not be so quick to judge," etc.
If I didn't already have a solid grasp on who all these people were, and their contexts, from having just read Elizabeth I, I'm not sure I'd be able to follow his disjointed discussion of the transition of power. For a book called 1603, there's a lot of time spent on things that happened prior, and things that happened later, sometimes even centuries later. He also has a habit of referring to previous page numbers, or more often, upcoming page numbers - "As we will see..." Maddening. One of the future chapters is about what Japan was like at this time, and I'm really, uh, interested to see how far he has to stretch to relate that to the rest of the book.
It's a quick enough read that I'm still going to attempt to finish it before it's due back at the library, but I don't think I'll be reading anything else by this author, :p
laceblade: spoof on Berenstein Bears book cover, title: "Learn About Cylons." Brother Bear is aghast. (Truth about Cylons)
Arata the Legend by Yuu Watase - I've read about 15 volumes of this so far, and plan to keep going. This is the manga Watase was meant to write, imo. Or maybe her past experience has led her to the point of being able to produce a very well-paced manga. ALSO HER WOMEN HAVE HIPS. ALWAYS. IN MANGA. IT'S AMAZING. This series runs in Shounen Manga, but I believe that it is a Secret Shoujo Manga. Two young men named Arata exist in different universes. One is a high school boy in Japan who's been bullied and has no friends. The other is a warrior accused of attempting to assassinate the princess he was supposed to become [there's a shortage of girls in his clan]. Due to some sort of temporal rift, they switch places!
In order to help the nearly-assassinated princess restore her power, the Arata-from-our-world becomes a Shō, one who can use a sword-weapon that houses the spirit of a goddess. In order to get the power/weapon [I forget which, probably both] he needs, Arata needs the Twelve Shinshou of this world to submit to him. Clearly everyone thinks that submission is won through battle - EXCEPT THAT ACTUALLY IT'S BY LEARNING PEOPLE'S TRAGIC BACKSTORIES, UNDERSTANDING THEIR FEELINGS, AND HAVING THE PERSON SUBMIT THEIR WILL UNDER ARATA'S BECAUSE THEY DECIDE TO GIVE UP THEIR VENGEANCE/ETC.!!! This is why it is A Secret Shoujo Manga.

This has a lot of really good Oh, shit! plot twists. The plot has dragged for the past few volumes, and I thought the cover for one of the volumes was supposed to be a joke. In it, it's revealed that the spirit of everyone's weapon is an absurdly large-breasted woman. I'm going to go ahead and assume that this was not Watase's idea, but rather her editor's. She blogged about the abuse and harassment she received from her editor while working on this series I'm glad she got rid of him, and I hope she's back in control!


xxxHolic by CLAMP - the volumes I've read so far are rereads, but I never finished this entire series. The art is amazing. It's very peaceful. This remains one of my favorite series.


Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta. I borrowed this from the library because it was on the most recent Tiptree Award list. I started out pretty dubious about the premise - post-apocalyptic Scandinavian world in which a teenage girl's father performs the Japanese tea ceremony for a living despite the fact that water is hoarded and rationed in their community. The plot is vague, but the plot isn't the point.


Chime by Franny Billingsley - another one of those anachronistically written YA novels, but in this one the protagonist is dealing with a negative thought cycle that will familiar to people with depression.
laceblade: fanart of Larsa from Final Fantasy XII, hand on chest. text: "and so I sue for PEACE" (FFXII: Larsa)
I don't have any plans to attend the Sirens Conference, but [personal profile] starlady posted her own progress through their reading list a while ago, and I've been casually requesting things from the library on this list since then, so I thought I'd keep track of my own progress. I'll be coming back to edit this post as I read more.
I'm currently working on Carson's The Girl of Fire and Thorns.
In some cases, it's like, "Ugh, so close!" for example I've read Moribito I, but not II; I've read Trickster's Choice but not Trickster's Queen, etc. I guess revolutions usually happen in book 2, ;)

Sirens Reading Challenge. Strikethrough = already read.


Guests of Honor: Required
Rae Carson
The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Kate Elliott
Cold Magic or Court of Fives (forthcoming August 2015)

Yoon Ha Lee
Conservation of Shadows


Rebels and Revolutionaries: Required

Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale

Alaya Dawn Johnson
The Summer Prince

Ann Leckie
Ancillary Justice

Melina Marchetta
Finnikin of the Rock
Nnedi Okorafor
Who Fears Death

Tamora Pierce
Trickster's Queen

G. Willow Wilson
Alif the Unseen


Rebels and Revolutionaries: Select Five

Katherine Addison
The Goblin Emperor

Victoria Aveyard
Red Queen - got 1/4 through, dropped :[

Kelly Barnhill
Iron Hearted Violet

Elizabeth Bunce
StarCrossed

Sarah Beth Durst
Vessel

Sarah Fine
Of Metal and Wishes

Catherine Fisher
Incarceron

Shira Glassman
Climbing the Date Palm

Kameron Hurley
The Mirror Empire

N. K. Jemisin
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Erika Johansen
The Queen of the Tearling

Intisar Khanani
Sunbolt

Marie Lu
The Young Elites

Laurie J. Marks
Fire Logic

Jodi Meadows
The Orphan Queen

Sara Raasch
Snow Like Ashes

Sabaa Tahir
An Ember in the Ashes

Sherry Thomas
The Burning Sky

Nahoko Uehashi
Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness

Kit Whitfield
In Great Waters


Middle Grade/Young Adult: Select Five

Lindsey Barraclough
Long Lankin

Franny Billingsley
Chime

Stephanie Burgis
Kat, Incorrigible

Emily Carroll
Through the Woods

Cinda Williams Chima
The Demon King

Corinne Duyvis
Otherbound

Jessica Day George
Tuesdays at the Castle

Hiromi Goto
Half World

Shannon Hale
Book of a Thousand Days

Rosamund Hodge
Cruel Beauty
Ambelin Kwaymullina
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf

Laura Lam
Pantomime

Margo Lanagan
Yellowcake

Grace Lin
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Juliet Marillier
Wildwood Dancing

Patricia McKillip
Ombria in Shadow

Dia Reeves
Bleeding Violet [Still can't believe I managed to finish this - I hated it]

Heather Tomlinson
Toads and Diamonds

Leslye Walton
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Ysabeau Wilce
Flora Segunda


Adult: Select Five

Lauren Beukes
The Shining Girls

Lois McMaster Bujold
Paladin of Souls

Ronlyn Domingue
The Mapmaker's War

Emma Donoghue
Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins

Eugie Foster
Returning My Sister's Face: And Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice

Charlie N. Holmberg
The Paper Magician

Mary Robinette Kowal
Shades of Milk and Honey

Violet Kupersmith
The Frangipani Hotel

Kelly Link
Get in Trouble

Karen Lord
Redemption in Indigo
Kushali Manickavel
Things We Found During the Autopsy

Seanan McGuire
Sparrow Hill Road

Erin Morganstern
The Night Circus

Helen Oyeyemi
Mr. Fox

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In

Kiini Ibura Salaam
Ancient, Ancient: Short Fiction

Sofia Samatar
A Stranger in Olondria

Delia Sherman
Young Woman in a Garden

Karin Tidbeck
Jagannath

Helene Wecker
The Golem and the Jinni
laceblade: Azusa offering piece of paper to the viewer, Ui in background holding cake (K-On: Azusa offer)
(it's been 84 years.gif)

Finished Reading
The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow by Fuyumi Ono - I mostly wrote about this last time, but ended up loving it! I really think that having the insight into Yuko's thoughts helps a lot. I love her growth throughout the book, and the entire constructed fantasy world is just really awesome. I have the second book checked out from the library now, & maybe some day I'll try the anime again, too.

Kaze Hikaru, volumes 6-10 - I'm really enjoying this series a lot more than I thought I would. The art style has grown on me - I really like the faces for Okita Souji & Hijikata & etc., and the backgrounds are great, too. I like reading about the daily inner-workings of the Shinsengumi, & I do like how the volumes are dealing with the populace's perception of the Shinsengumi as blood-thirsty wolves, even though the members of the troop view themselves as noble protectors. This conflicting view of oppressor vs. protector is interesting, and I hope the manga-ka keeps picking it apart.
Taeko Watanabe's end-of-volume reviews of historical fact are nice, too.

Reading this series leads me to look up a lot of historical figures on Wikipedia, & now that I've started watching Rurouni Kenshin on Crunchyroll, I feel pretty conflicted about who to root for in the Bakumatsu!!

All that said, Sei's love for Souji is really compelling. I love her rejection of simply becoming his wife, & continuing to dress as a man so that she can protect his life in battle as her way of expressing her love.

Learning the World by Ken MacLeod - This is a sci-fi novel about a generation ship in which the POV switches back and forth between the people on a ship approaching a world with intelligent life, & the people living on the world which they're approaching. There are politics & governments & inventions & lots of discussions over tea. Sadly, I think this is an author where I like the ideas and concepts much more than the writing.
I find that with many sci-fi enthusiasts, they can rave about the ideas or world-building, but I don't really give a fuck unless the characters & the writing really reach me.
AND YET, it was decent enough that I might try his revolution series that [personal profile] jesse_the_k told me about.

On Being Ill by Virginia Woolf - Picked this up on a whim at the library. Woolf's questions about why don't more narratives take on the concept of illness - something which could be compelling and with which everyone can relate - were super intriguing!
It was followed by "notes" from her mother, Julia Stephens, about how to care for sick people. While probably unusual at the time, most of her advice comes down to giving sick people autonomy - don't just fluff up their pillows without asking; don't enter the house and mutter about their illness instead of speaking so they can hear you, etc. Lots of advice also on how best to pin the sheets, how best to prepare beef broth, etc.
I wouldn't mind having Woolf's mom care for me, ;)
Quick read.

Dawn of the Arcana, volumes 9 & 10 - I loathed volume 9 because NOTHING ever happens, the volumes are pretty easy to blow through because there's very few words per page, blah-blah. But volume 10 involves a few-months time-jump & a seizure of agency by the protagonist, who's spent a lot of time whining before. I'll probably continue with this! Too bad I'm almost caught up with the English release - I've been waiting for volume 11 for months, & it'll probably be a while before I get it.

K-ON! High School by kakifly - After finishing watching season 2 of the anime, I was happy to be able to immediately pick this up & read about Azusa's last year of high school. I really love K-ON! all around, although I think it's a series in which I prefer the anime to the manga. I have the K-ON! college tome somewhere around my apartment (or at least, I think I do), & I'm kind of dying to read it.

Black Dogs by Ian McEwan - Since reading Atonement a couple years ago, I seem to read one of his per year. I love McEwan's writing, I think I would read almost anything he's written. It's a story about a complicated marriage, told by a son-in-law. It's also about post-WWII Europe, & evil, & love.


Currently Reading
Kitty Takes a Holiday by Carrie Vaughn - do to the content I've been warned about, I put this on hold for a couple months but I think I can handle it now. Only one chapter in so far - following the high levels of excitement in the previous volume, Kitty's hanging out in the middle of nowhere to find some peace. I'm pretty sure she won't quite find it. I'm happy to return to her life.
laceblade: Cardcaptor Sakura, smiling at viewer, surrounded by pink. Text: RESOLUTION (CCS: Resolution)
• What are you currently reading?
Robert Kennedy and His Times by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
There was obviously lots of Kennedy reminisces last week with the 50-year anniversary of JFK's assassination.
I bought this for $2 at the Memorial Library sale a couple months ago, during the Wisconsin Book Festival.
I like it quite a bit, just finished the chapter about the investigation committee into unions/etc., focusing on Jimmy Hoffa.
Overall, it's very sanitized, pretty obvious Schlesinger was a close family friend, etc.
For example, the mention of Rosemary going to live with nuns in Wisconsin is just a simple, "She got worse," with no mention of the attempted-and-botched lobotomy.
I empathize for RFK, who most people seemed to take as crabby & irritable if they didn't know him very well.

Very! Very! Sweet, volume 4. Only a chapter in, but I finally have this volume, which means I'll get from here to volume 8/the end in short order.

Hild by Nicola Griffith - It took about 70 pages for me to fall into this book. So far, I don't love it quite so much as some of her other stuff, but I'm sure she'll set me straight before the end.
Griffith is one of my favorite authors, & she and her wife are doing in a reading in my city next Tuesday at my favorite bookstore, so I'm pretty excited.


• What did you recently finish reading?
X-Men: Curse of the Mutants - This is essentially X-Men versus vampires. Jubilee becoming a vampire was interesting, but overall I disliked this.

X-Men: With Great Power - Following the previous volume, this was also written by Victor Gischler. I'm glad to get a little familiar with him, as he's going to be taking over the writing for Angel & Faith when Buffy season 10 starts up.
This included some more recognizable characters (Spider-Man), and the team is dealing with PI. I liked the art much more in this volume than Curse of the Mutants, in part because it was much less objectifying of women. While I found Xavier's manpain flashback sentiment in the last issue annoying, I appreciated him communicating to Jubilee that she'll be able to find a way to live with her new condition.
My goal in reading these was to get the backlog for the current series headed by Brian Wood. Given the revelation a couple weeks ago, I haven't decided yet whether I'll be continuing. In the meantime, I'll keep trying to get through the previous arc via the library.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 1-17 or so, + micro 1-8 + Infestation 1 & 2, + Eastman's 2012 annual: I've been behind on this for...years?! But I keep buying the single issues, resulting in general guilt :/
Luckily, I really enjoyed these (yes, some were rereads). I loved TMNT as a kid. I'm pretty sure my parents still have my turtles/Casey Jones/Bebop & Rock Steady action figures. As a child, one of my ambitions (in addition to being Batman) was to be a TMNT myself.
Anyway, these are dark-ish. Mutant turtles fight ninjas! April is a research intern! I roll my eyes a little at the Splinter/turtles/Shredder were Japanese men reincarnated, but overall these are pretty fun to read. I still have more to catch up on.
I found Infestation 1 & 2 subpar except for the art, & kind of loathed the art in Eastman's annual.

Mama Might Be Better Off Dead: The Failure of Health Care in Urban America - The title is sort of self-explanatory, but this book has a white investigative journalist telling the story of Jackie Bates, a black woman living in Chicago who provides care for her 3 children, husband who's on kidney dialysis & abuses drugs, ailing deadbeat father, and her diabetic grandma who's in crisis. The book was published in 1993, although it's obviously still relevant today. Complex bureaucracy consistnetly fails the Bates family. I particularly liked the chapter focusing on the Orthodox Jewish doctor who refused to discuss do-not-resuscitate orders with the family because he didn't agree with it himself. While distant with the Bates, Abraham follows him to his practice where he treats other Jews, and his demeanor is totally different.
But the Bates family never finds a practitioner who's on their level.
The book also spends a chapter talking about black people's fear of research, and also how consent given by poor people is often less informed than consent given by middle class whites - with whom many educated doctors can better related. Like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, there's a voyeuristic feel here - a white woman telling a black family's story. I wonder what Jackie's kids will feel when they grow up and read this book, intimately discussing their family's mental health, drug problems, etc. Still, it was put out by an academic publisher and is less of a fame thing than Skloot's book.
The book is highly relevant to my job, glad to have read it.

The Hemingses of Monticello - I waited until only days before this was due back at the library, so of course I didn't finish it (have since checked it out again so I'll be able to continue!). I think this is a pretty well-known book, but Gordon-Reed's goal is basically to tell the story of the Hemings family - a family of slaves living in Virginia at the time of the American Revolution. Sally Hemings had numerous children with Thomas Jefferson. I only made it through the first 9 chapters, so 14-year-old Sally and one of Jefferson's daughters had just joined him in Paris, where he's hanging out, still upset over his wife's death.
It'd be easy to focus on Jefferson, and while I've always found him an interesting person, I'm really appreciative that Gordon-Reed refuses to let this story belong to anyone but the Hemingses.
I'm looking forward to reading more of this.

Adaptation - I think I like this the most out of the books I've read by Malinda Lo so far. We read this for [community profile] beer_marmalade. Very fast-paced, love the characters. Complicated, government conspiracies, a coming out story, lots of good stuff.

Dengeki Daisy, vol. 1 - Teru's brother was a hacker before he died. On his death bed, he gave a phone to her so that she could communicate with his friend DAISY - another hacker like himself who will always listen to Teru's problems now that she's alone, & will help her out of binds.
The real-life Daisy is a 24-year-old janitor at her school, although they both pretend they don't know he's Daisy.
When Teru breaks a school window, she has to "work off" her debt.
I grow tired of shoujo manga plots where the heroines become indentured servants to men.
It seems weird at first for a girl to be soe dependent on a guy she's never met but still tells all her problems to, & yet I did the same thing in middle/high school with a guy I'd met in an internet chat room, so this story has enough for me to continue for now.

Wild Com - a volume of short stories by Yumi Tamura, the manga-ka behind my beloved Basara.
I really loved the first story, in which people with elemental powers try to save others around them. The theme is "try your best no matter what," which happens a lot in manga but never fails to be incredibly moving to me!
The other stories were strange & weird but more forgettable.

Air: Letters from Lost Countries by G. Willow Wilson. Since she's going to be writing Ms. Marvel when it starts coming out in 2014, I wanted to be a little more familiar with Wilson's work. So far I've only previously read the stand-alone "Mystic" comic, meant for kids, which I didn't really like.
Air is about a flight attendant who's afraid of falling. Her love interest is an inpersonation-chameleon, and either a terrorist himself, or running from terrorists - or both.
There's a lot going on here, & I'll be reading more.
laceblade: Kumiko and Reina from Hibike! Euphonium anime, Reina holding Kumiko's face w/one hand, faces close enough to almost touch. (Default)
So, I've actually only gotten 150 pages into this book, which is a little less than half. I don't know whether or not I can finish it, though.

Why didn't Cory Doctorow just write a blog post about how he felt about the Patriot Act? Because having it broken down and explained to me by an entitled high school boy is pretty annoying, and would probably not change my mind if I cracked the book open from a view point of disagreement.

And this was nominated for a Hugo! I didn't really think it was particularly well-written. Am I missing something? Convince me, Internet!
laceblade: Kumiko and Reina from Hibike! Euphonium anime, Reina holding Kumiko's face w/one hand, faces close enough to almost touch. (Default)
This was for this month's selection at [livejournal.com profile] beer_marmalade.

Almost all of the links in this post are courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] jesse_the_k.

Andrew Gage is a man who has Dissociative Identity Disorder. Throughout the course of the novel, he [the POV character] usually refers to it as Multiple Personality Disorder, and is snide when encouraged to use the name "DID." Still, I think DID is the generally accepted name for the condition, that's how I will refer to it in this post, despite it not being the normative name in the novel.

From the outset, it is clear to the reader that Andrew Gage has DID. Unlike, say, Fight Club, where the existence of other personalities (or the presence of other personalities being a manifestation of an inner fragmentation) is a huge reveal, this novel operates with the understanding that the reader knows what's going on. Andrew explains in great detail the structure of his "house," an imaginary structure in which his multiple personalities reside. [The reader later learns that he keeps a scale model of this house.] In his house, each personality lives in a room. One personality can control "the body" at a time. This is done by standing on "the pulpit," a platform on the second floor balcony of his imaginary house. The body is usually operated by Andrew, a personality who was actually created for the sole purpose of controlling the body. All of the other personalities existed before Andrew's "father" (the original personality) called Andrew from the imaginary lake, which lies right next to his imaginary house. Because Andrew has only existed for a couple of years, other personalities are able to hide truths about the body's past from him.

Andrew does allow other personalities to control the body. For example, Serafis performs a work-out routine of push-ups every morning. Jake, a 5-year-old boy, likes visiting toy stores and eats eggs every morning.
Andrew makes his living arrangement work by living in a house with his landlady, Mrs. Winslow. She has grown used to Andrew's DID, and makes him multiple courses of breakfast each morning.

Andrew was not able to set up this arrangement by himself. He had help from a psychologist. I don't know if the novel is accurate in describing how the house is arranged, or how the personalities interact, but I certainly find the characters' reflections intriguing, to say the least.

As Dr. Whitney, the interplanetary-rape counselor, put it: "Of course you've got to reintegrate! Don't you want to be normal?"

..."The primary difficulty faced by multiple personalities," Dr. Grey wrote in her preface, "is not that they are abnormal; it is that they are dysfunctional. Multiplicity, of itself, is no more problematic than left-handedness. Losing time, being unable to keep a steady job or maintain a residence, requiring detailed lists just to get through the day - these things are problems. But they are problems that a well-organized multiple household, acting cooperatively, can learn to overcome."


Maybe you don't understand that (although, by now, maybe you do). Dominance, in a multiple household, is all about being able to endure more trauma than anybody else. The more a particular soul can resist the impulse to switch, the more it gains power over those that can't. By spiking his hand, my father demonstrated not only that he was able to withstand great pain, but that he had the courage to inflict it on himself if need be.


Massive spoilers for the book....and really, the trick is pretty neat, so I recommend not clicking if you intend to read this book. )

Not far into the book, Andrew encounters another multiple named Penny. They are at different points in recognizing and coping with their DID, and watching them teach each other and identify each other's various personalities.

Matt Ruff maintains a website here. It contains a decent synopsis, as well as the first four chapters, which you can read for free at your leisure. There's also an FAQ, "deleted scenes," the music he listened to while writing the book, and links to other websites about multiplicity. I was surprised to find that his musical tastes overlap my own quite a bit! I might have to check out the stuff on that list that I'm not already familiar with, because I love the rest of it. I find the FAQ particularly useful because he answers questions people have been asking me when I outline the basic premise of the book to them. Ruff says:
It's intended to be a believable and internally consistent portrayal of multiple personality disorder. The question of realism is trickier, because MPD is still a very controversial subject: though it's listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (as "Dissociative Identity Disorder"), a lot of psychiatrists still don't believe that it's a real condition, and those who do believe in it don't agree about its nature.
Since I knew I wasn't qualified to settle the debate, I decided not to worry about it too much. I wrote Set This House in Order as a "what if" novel: if we assume that MPD works in such-and-such a way, what would the experience of it be like? How would it feel to always be part of a crowd? What would the implications be for things like personal responsibility? My hope is that the resulting story is rich enough that, even if you think the premise is pure fantasy, you'll still be able to get something out of it.


He also explains why he uses the term MPD instead of DID in the book. Really...just read the FAQ!

[livejournal.com profile] jesse_the_k also linked to this online essay, which is highly relevant to the recent Cultural Appropriation debate on the Internet. The author points out that writers need to be careful when straying into unknown territory just because it seems "cool."
You don't go writing books set in China if all you know about it is what you've seen in late night kung fu movies. Or a story about life in the ghetto if you're a middle-class white person who doesn't know anything about life outside the suburbs. You don't go writing books where the main character is Hispanic or American Indian or whatever, if you're of a different ethnic group, without doing at least -some- research on the experience of that group. And not just research; you need to -know- and -talk- to people who would have firsthand experience, people who've -lived- it, and put aside any preconceptions you might have had and listen seriously to what they have to say about their own life.


In that same vein, I would also like to plug [livejournal.com profile] tigrin's deviation at DeviantART on DID, which can be found here.


There is a review by a person who identifies as having DID here.

In the end, I highly recommend the book. It was thought-provoking, to say the least, although I would be interested in knowing what other DID people thought about it.
laceblade: Kumiko and Reina from Hibike! Euphonium anime, Reina holding Kumiko's face w/one hand, faces close enough to almost touch. (Default)
At this point, I've forgotten a lot of what was discussed when my feminist science fiction book club met to discuss Geoff Ryman's Air.

I liked most of this book. Chung Mae was a compelling and competent protagonist, but still severely limited by a patriarchal society that was technologically lagging behind everybody else on the planet.

Air is like the Internet, but unstoppable and entering into your mind. It take Chung Mae's community, which barely has any telephones, by surprise. People die from shock. They are given another year to prepare. Chung Mae is illiterate, but the only person who knows how to manipulate the TV.

It won the Tiptree Award in 2005. The Award is supposed to recognize literature that pushes the boundaries of gender, but I am not seeing how that happened in this book. I would easily agree that the book is feminist, just like Sarah Hall's Daughters of the North, I am really not seeing what is happening that is gender-bendy. At book club, someone suggested that because Chung Mae's society is so patriarchal, it might be that women taking charge of the community was gender-bendy, but that's a pretty weak argument in my opinion.


Also, our book club spent the most amount of time talking about a specific thing that is spoiler, but also does not ruin the plot of the book. I'll still put it behind a cut just in case.

Possible spoiler! ) I am convinced that Ryman is trying to make a huge point here, but none of us got it.
ETA: Read [livejournal.com profile] badgerbag's comments! She has a very thought-provoking reading that makes more sense to me!

He is going to be one of the two guests of honor at 2009's Wiscon, and I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to ask him.


Spoiler-event aside, I highly recommend this book! I loved his writing.

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