sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee ([personal profile] yhlee) is frickin' amazing.

I am really, really tired and brain dead but I want to write this now so that I don't forget *_*

spoilery squee and ramblings below! )

In short, oh my god the next book, I need it. <3

But in the meantime, I will reread (to catch all the things that I inevitably missed the first time) and then join the threads if they're not over yet ...
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Has anyone read Foxglove Summer (#5) yet? I didn't read #4 because I heard about A Cliffhanger (but I have zero idea what happened, no spoilers please) and because I wasn't all thaaaaat bowled over by Whispers Under Ground (#3). But I am missing my urban fantasy fix these days, and I really liked #1 and #2, so any intel would be nice. And if you're reading this, I probably trust your reading taste.
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
I read this in a 48-hour spree, thank you very much [livejournal.com profile] flemmings. The Ghost Bride is excellent. The characters are vivid, the setting is glorious (more below), and the prose is clear and effortless without once being heavy or overwrought.

A spoiler-free summary: Li Lan, the daughter of an impoverished genteel family in a Malayan port city, is offered a betrothal to the wealthy--but already dead--son of the richest family in town. She refuses, but the dead man begins to visit her dreams, and things get weirder from there. If I had to genre it, I'd cast it as historical fantasy, but there's a mystery, and a bit of romance as well.

The book is set in Malacca, a Malayan port city under British rule. Choo's depiction of the intermingling of cultures (Malay, Chinese, British, all the way to Dutch and Portuguese) is one of the most delightful aspects of this story. The author is very aware, as [livejournal.com profile] flemmings has noted, not only of the hierarchies under British rule, but also of Malay-Chinese relations and the social position of the Chinese migrants/merchants. The setting is never once bland, but clearly grounded in a city that the author knows well. The weather descriptions put me in mind of the yearly monsoon season in Fuzhou, where I grew up. The descriptions of the indoor furnishings made me miss the straw mats we used to sleep on! I also really enjoyed reading about how households are run--for instance, the Amah Association was new to me and I liked it! I should say, I hate that certain women had no choice, but I'm glad they took care of each other.

The fantasy is mostly derived from Chinese folklore, but you don't need to know any to enjoy the book. I knew a smattering and so was able to guess part of the reveal of Who Is That Dude, but I didn't realize he was pulled straight out of a certain canon. I wish I knew more Malaysian folklore, but I don't think that was used as much. I could be wrong, though. People who know better than I do should tell me!

The Ghost Bride is not perfect. The plot threads could have been tighter, and the resolution of the mysteries were somewhat weak. While answers were given to all the questions, the consequences for the perpetrators turned out to be quite irrelevant (and treated as such, by which I mean, mostly glossed over), which I found unsatisfying. I mean, if I were reading a murder mystery, "We made some arrests. The End." should not be the entirety of the resolution chapter. But more charitably speaking, when one mashes four genres (history! fantasy! mystery! romance!) into a short book, not everything is going to fit in. So, if plot is extremely important to you--or if you are just in the mood for a book with a watertight plot--then perhaps keep the receipt.

For everyone else, I definitely recommend that you give this a try!
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
This post isn't a review of Ender's Game, but the movie being out is what prompted me to revisit these thoughts and to write them down. (This also has, honestly, nothing to do with OSC. So please refrain from discussing him or his politics/beliefs in the comments.  There are a couple of million other blogs for that at this instant.)

When Ender's Game began showing, a friend asked me, "Hey, Kara!  You loved the book, right?  Wanna go see the movie?"

No. "I strongly dislike the book--sorry."

My friend frowned.  "But Kara, I would have thought you would have identified with Ender, just a bit.  When did you read it?"

"Freshman year, college." (This was well before I was aware of OSC's thoughts on anything.)

"Aha!  You were too old.  See, only egomaniacs like adolescents or younger can enjoy Ender's Game.  I read it at twelve, I should know."

That was a good point. Superpower narratives are often (but certainly not always) wish-fulfillment id-baiting stories, which often target a certain demographic, for good reason.  However, I think that there was another factor in being "too old" to enjoy Ender's Game.

Ender's Game is one representative member of a group of books that are riffs on the "genius person solves problems and is generally amazing" trope.  Other familiar faces are Sherlock Holmes, Francis Crawford, etc.  (And we know what my feelings are on them XD)  Those books, whether they're set in our mundane world or not, are trading on a fantasy.  Most people I have talked to perceive the fantasy as being really smart.  They're wrong.  Being genius-smart is not the fantasy.  The real fantasy in this books is that being genius-smart is enough to get you awesome things in life.

Well, I went to university with eight hundred geniuses, and I can tell you via direct experience that being genius-smart doesn't get you anything. A lot of people on top are geniuses but a lot of geniuses are not on top. Some people do go on to do awesome things, but plenty of people don't.  And plenty of geniuses aren't able to even go to university.  Native intelligence, by itself, is quite honestly good for very little.  Yes, having a lot of processor power is absolutely fantastic, but you need so many other things --direction, social skills, connections, discipline, ambition, money, a smattering of luck, etc.--to do anything in life.

And I read Ender's Game at the precise moment of realizing all that.  Ever since then, most super-smart protagonist stories just leave a bad aftertaste in my mouth.

That said, there are plenty of very smart protagonists that I am totally cool with.  In stark opposition to Sherlock Holmes, I really love Father Brown, who is also very intelligent and solves crimes.  But his concern (and the point of the stories) is the spiritual anatomy of people, not how clever he is.  I love Tony Stark, whose genius causes more problems than it solves, and then he needs to hit up other people with other resources to solve those problems.  I enjoyed Infoquake, whose protagonist is a selfish genius who is as reviled as he is monetarily successful, because it's made very clear that he spent much of his life getting the skills other than intelligence that he needed to succeed.  It's when genius is treated as the bestest characteristic of the protagonist, that the kill switch flips and I stop reading.

All the above is strictly YMMV, of course!  As Jeanne once said, either all fantasies are valid or none are.  So if you like that sort of narrative, then more power to you and I sincerely wish you the best of reading and viewing enjoyment!  But I for one will not be buying a ticket to see Ender's Game, and that decision was made a long time ago.
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Finished:

MultiReal, the sequel to Infoquake.  I was less interested in this one, because it was like 45% theory of simulating simultaneous universes and 45% hating on (a very specific subset of) libertarians.  I'm interested in both things, but dude, please don't use that to prop up a 400 page book you know?  Still, there was enough plot in the last 10% to keep me interested and I also acquired the third book in the trilogy, so I'm obviously invested in the ending XD

MultiReal also didn't have as much of the really fascinating business tactics and cutthroat dealings of the first book, which were part of the draw!  The author was totally writing what he knew, and that's what made it great.  Whereas the second was him expounding on pet theories, which is great, but not enough.  Basically, the same problem that The Devil Wears Prada vs its sequel has.

ETA: huh, apparently I skipped over ever mentioning that I finished Pawn in Frankincense.  I enjoyed this more than the previous ones, but I think that is largely because I knew exactly what to expect, and tuned my expectations accordingly.  Still not down with the treatment of women OR CHILDREN, called the two obvious "twists", missed the third obvious one (which was lampshaded in #3 so I really should have called it).  Enjoyed the color of Istanbul not Constantinople while eyerolling at the orientalism.  Felt greatly educated w/r/t the writing of hijinks.  All in all, a good return on my $0.01 + shipping.  May order the last two volumes just to be finished with it.

Reading Now:

Mostly short stories, but more to study than to enjoy them.  I am completely consumed with editing my latest story - finished the hot mess that is the zeroth draft, so, yeah.  It's really fucking hard but you know, the last story I completed (which is still being shopped around, on the 3rd submission right now) took me like two years to write, and this has only taken 2-3 months so far, so it's progress even if it's horribly slow progress.

Reading Next
:

At some point I'll read the third book in the trilogy ... just too tired right now.

#

Applied to more jobs this week, must apply to more this weekend.  Nobody has responded.  Pretty much what I expected, completely par for the course at my level of experience/networking, but depressing nonetheless. :/  Worked too late to attend a genomics meetup the other day, but if I'm honest, I was scared about going.  Bleh.  Oh well, must try harder on the next one, and the next, and the ...
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Finished Reading:

Infoquake.  Wanted to make this post just to say how much I loved that book. The very beginning is a bit slow, but it gets amazing quick.  Very interesting setting best described as a "cyberpunk business thriller", where the cyberpunk is a refreshingly deep take on a world where nanotech has taken over most aspects of the human body (a system called "bio/logic" in the book) -- and the free market has taken over the nanotech.  Lots of women in interesting roles as well, although so far all the sociopaths are dudes, c'mon give us a villain.  This is book 1 of N, where N is a number that I must find out.

Currently Reading:

My Name Is Red
, to my regret.  I think I was deceived as to what this book was.  See, I thought it was a murder mystery fantasy set in the world of artists.  It turns out to be an enormous treatise on the theory and history of (some portion of) Islamic art, around which the author has decided to write as a fiction book for reasons I cannot grasp.  I suppose in theory there do exist a love story and a murder mystery, but they are extremely feeble window-dressing on the rest of the book.  A critic on the book's back compares Pamuk to Borges and Calvino.  WRONG.  Borges was more succinct and Calvino was more inventive.  That said, I've only read Calvino's short story collections.  I couldn't get through If On A Winter's Night, which I suspect is a more apt comparison.  Again, to my regret.

Credit where credit is due: the art critique is great and I'm not regretting reading those parts.

Reading Next:

Heaven only knows.  I might toss the Pamuk.  In that case I will probably buy the next volume in the Infoquake series.
sputnikhearts: laptop (laptop)
Finished Reading

Slight of Hand, a collection of short stories by Peter S. Beagle.  What I find remarkable is that his stories are so gentle, even if it's got something objectively horrible happening (like in La Tune T'Attend).  You really feel like he believes not only in magic, but that magic is, or should be, inherently good.  Which stands in contrast to vast swaths of fantasy writers.  At best, Aaronovitch and most others write magic as a simple force of nature.  (If I were to suggest a motto for ECD-9: "Magic doesn't kill people, we kill people with magic.")  At worst, magic is evil.  Mostly, though, I feel people treat magic as something on the order of nuclear energy -- you might need it, you might even enjoy working with it, but it doesn't do to roll around in it too much, and definitely not everyone should play with it.  (See the many, many TV Tropes pages on this topic.)

Reading Now

So many articles on phone phreaking.  Hello, NSA, I'm just writing an urban fantasy story okay?

Reading Next


I've been allowing myself to play Fallout: New Vegas on the weekends!  It has a narrative, so I would say it counts.  XD It is pretty great and oh man I have missed playing video games.
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Finished Reading:

The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro.  Read this as research, and it was an excellent narrative as well as informative.  Things I didn't know: Metro was one of the first city mass transit lines built after the automobile had already risen to prominence in US transportation.  So unlike the Tube and the New York subway, they had to fight against the highway lobby at every step of the way, and prove that such a system could still be useful in a city that had been designed with cars in mind.  (Of course if you have attempted to drive in DC, that just makes you weep.)  Thus, Metro was designed against highways, not with them, which makes for a very interesting political tale.

Reading Now:


Nothing at the moment.  I'm eyeing the pile of Pratchett.  I think I put down Night Watch in favor of Men At Arms, so I will try to finish that now.

Reading Next:

Probably I will be doing a lot of research into telecommunications.  So, maybe some history on Bell Labs.  Oh and phone phreaking!  I need to read about that.  Thus: Wikipedia.
sputnikhearts: (Default)
Finished Reading:

Apparently vacation time is great for reading, though less writing (can't carry a laptop while waiting at restaurants/tourist spots, after all). I finally did my duty as an SFF writer and started working through Earthsea. I got through the first two books, and boy are they ever 70's pioneering SF. Both books have been more bildungsroman (or, let's be honest, worldbuilding) than plot. They don't really resonate with me; they read as a bit of a reaction to Tolkien, whose books I can't get into, even though I fully believe they have literary merit. But much shorter and easier to read than Tolkien.

Speaking of Tolkien, I finally watched The Hobbit on the flight back. I'd never read the book, actually, since I failed at LotR XD. Here, have a summary: hijinks hijinks Gandalf ex machina Gandalf ex machina special effects special effects pot jokes pot jokes EAGLES. Interspersed with cautionary tales about worshiping moolah.  I'm well aware that there was more going on, but from my POV, the creators were more interested in the above than the plot.  I wonder if the creators are assuming a majority of the audience isn't there for the plot.  Which is fine.

I'm going to watch the other movies when they come out, but I will be doing it for the historical value of examining the phylogeny of fantasy.

I also read Moving Pictures. More straight-up satire than the other books, but excellent quality of satire.


Reading Now:

The Great Society Subway
! Really, really interesting.  Will write it up when I've finished.  Or just start writing my story.


Reading Next:

I doubt I'll have finished the above by next week, but I could easily get distracted.
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Berlin has been very cool so far!  Went up the Pope's Revenge (I can't call it by the proper name, the nickname is too engrained), did a city tour (one of many - this one focused on East Berlin), and a tour of Potsdam (Sans-Souci was gorgeous).  Wanted to go bike riding yesterday but hotel ran out of their dirt-cheap rentals, so, stayed in and did work instead.  The weather has been crazy, pretty much what an American would imagine London weather to be, only the rain falls hard when it does.  Some asshole stole my umbrella, I hope their hands fall off.

Going to Lübeck today, and taking the overnight ferry to Sweden from here!

Finished Reading:

Small Gods and Men At Arms.  Both really good *_*  Also Stray Souls.

Reading Now:

Moving Pictures.  Clever, the "octo-cellulose" bit.  Nitrocellulose isn't nearly as flash-bang as they make it out to be, but, maybe there's eight nitro groups on the discworld benzens :D

Reading Next:

Probably the Metro book, which I meant to take with me on vacation but left at home, argh.  Broken Homes not released on Amazon yet so I assume I won't be able to find it.  I did a see a German edition (eta: of Rivers of London) though!  Tried to convince the hubby to get a copy to read, but he's pretty busy reading all of ASoIaF in German, so he turned it down. XD

sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Finished Reading:

Nothing, alas. I have been working 10-12 hr days since last week, including weekends.  (I'm doing it to earn extra vacation days, so this is wholly self-inflicted.)  Well, I read a few biology papers, but that does not count towards this.

Reading Now:

Stray Souls, still. I swear that the first 25% of the book barely needs to exist. Also,  I feel like this would have been better done as a collection of shorts - vignettes from Magicals Anonymous - topped off with a novella at the end, consisting of the Greydawn story.  But what do I know.  Maybe these stories actually weave together in the next 75% of the book.

Got further in Men At Arms. It is excellent and I wish I had more time to read it.  Basically these days I read in the breaks between experiments, so it's been slow going. (At home I try to write instead.)

Reading Next:

The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro finally became available at the library so I placed a hold on it; I just have to go pick it up now. Very excited to read it. :D
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Finished Reading:

Three Parts Dead. I enjoyed it and would recommend it. Was thinking about Sabina's proposed phylogeny tree of urban fantasy novels, and this feels more Buffy than De Lint, although it's got liberal bits of both. Thankfully, the better parts of both.

spoilers )


Reading Now

Men At Arms! Figured out the "gonne" thing after two of the clues; was hampered in part by not knowing what the stock of a crossbow looked like. Refused to cheat, and figured it out later. Pratchett is great as usual.  I love the gargoyles here XD  Or allow me to rephrase -- oi ofe hee are oyels ere.

Stray Souls. I like the principle of the exercise, but I am starting to think this pony has been rode a few too many times around the park. Still, I like the sights, so I'm not getting off the ride. Sorry for the butchered metaphor, it's not even 8 AM.

But alas: my favorite part of Griffinverse, and really the center of all my "urban" feelings, is the compelling nature of the detritus/artifacts/the left behind/unspoken, ie the angels, the Tube spell.  (Is why I also love Gibson; he groks those feelings too, but takes them in a different direction.)  It is just my luck that I don't think that is actually what she's interested in. Good thing she invoked them FIRST THING in Madness so I could get hooked. XD


Reading Next

No ... idea ... XD I saw some interesting books floating around on the flist, so I might poke around and give those a try.

I also got my hands on an HTML file of Inquiry Into Human Understanding, which I feel like I should really read because, well, because. XD
sputnikhearts: (Default)
Finished Reading:

Angelfall, a post-apocalyptic YA novel by Susan Ee.  I didn't care for the overall plot that much, but I enjoyed a lot of the elements.  Atheist angels, for one. XD  Interestingly, the extremely plucky female protag is pretty much the only person in the entire book not paralyzed with fright, apathy, or legitimate medical problems.  On the one hand, active female character saving everyone is great!  On the other hand, it really got old after a while for nobody else to be lifting a finger.  Ever.  I'm looking at you, Raphael the supposedly badass angel ("my friends call me Wrath, my enemies call me Please Have Mercy" ... this reader calls Bullshit).

Reading Now:

Three Parts Dead, finally!  It is very enjoyable thus far!  My only complaint is that "Craft" isn't nearly as invisible a word as "magic" or "power" is to the usual SFF reader, I think, so I feel like I am oversaturated with the word in every other sentence.  But that sensation might fade after a while.

Also started Men At Arms, and cracked London: A Biography again.

Reading Next:

We'll see? XD
sputnikhearts: (Default)
Finished Reading:

Making Money
and Feet of Clay.  Both were fantastic.  FoC made me tear up at the very beginning and stomped on my heart again at the end.  Oh, Dorfl.  Twain's little remark that "first you get the facts, then you can mess with them" applies perfectly to Pratchett; he's only able to write such biting satire because he already has a deep understanding.

Reading Now:

Nothing.  I need to be writing for a few days!  Well, I lie, I will be reading a lot of SFF short story venues for market research. >.>

Reading Next:


See above.  Also, when I finish the next draft of my short story, I'll read Small Gods.  I'll probably order Three Parts Dead this weekend, and by the time it arrives I should be finished with SG.  Or I'll continue the Discworld binge, both options seem fruitful!
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Traveling tomorrow, so you get this now.  Not that it's much, I've been insanely busy this week.  If I were to start a Weekly Writing Meme, you could probably chart how these two add up to a constant. XD  Well, this week writing (and working) won.

Finished Reading

Going Postal, which was brilliant in every way.  Pratchett is incredibly good at making points deeply without swinging an anvil at your head, unlike a lot of writers I can think of (I find issuefic an enormous turn-off in any kind of fiction).  And he writes biting satire but he also has rock-hard consequences for everything.  All this prevents his work from being either morality tales* or fairy tales, both of which fail to resonate with me.

Reading Now

Nothing really.  I am dipping my toes into several Pratchetts (Men At Arms, Making Money, Feet Of Clay) to see which I'll pursue next.

Reading Next

See above.  I'm kind of really tempted to buy Three Parts Dead now that it's out, and so many people whose taste I trust have recommended it.  I'm going to be traveling Friday - Thursday, though, and that means I'd have to get the Kindle edition if I want it now, and I prefer to get hard copy if it's something I like.  So I'll probably find something else for the trip.  (Who am I kidding -- I'll spend the trip revising two stories and trying to write a third orz)
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Been biking to work a lot more recently.  It's made me really tired, mostly XD  10 miles a day isn't trivial as it turns out.  Hurf durf.  But I have been going to bed earlier and getting up earlier.  Which is nice, especially for beating the heat on the bike ride in - it was already 80+ this morning when I got up at 7.  What was I thinking, moving here.

Reading Now

Got in a few pages of Eros the Bittersweet last night.  But mostly, I've been wholeheartedly distracted by Terry Pratchett's Going Postal.  This reading choice was the outcome of a free association trebuchet.  I had made some comments about Spirits in the Wires (which I have now set aside), then [personal profile] flemmings made a comment about Clacks, and I had to ask [personal profile] morporkia what that meant, and then she referred me to Going Postal.  The only Pratchett I'd read before was Guards! Guards! which was cute but not really all that compelling for me personally, although I could see it was good writing.  Going Postal is definitely more of My Thing.  Moist is a rare piece of work and I am enjoying every bit of this.

(Also, I feel like there should be a Discworld/Fallen London crossover by this point in time.)

Finished Reading

Well, I watched Iron Man 3, does that count?  I was busy writing - finished a draft of a short story.

Reading Next

An exercise left to the reader.
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Up at the blogger blog!  The jump is working poorly with the layout for some reason so ... just be cautious of spoilers. XD
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
It's Friday somewhere, and per usual I won't have time tomorrow.

Reading Now

Eros The Bittersweet, still.  Carson writes like someone who's been in love, in refreshing contrast to oh so many writers whose "romance" and "erotica" and "sex scenes" I have had the misfortune of reading.  This is wonderful but dense, and for me it is completely inappropriate workplace reading.  Which is why I still haven't finished it even though it's short.

Finished Reading

The Quantum Thief.  Thoroughly entertaining, interesting premise.  Occasionally it's too clever by half, but those bits aren't actually all that crucial to the book -- the main plot is crystal clear; some of the plot points are really rather overwrought.  The worldbuilding is pretty great as well, enough flash to cover up some parts that are by necessity* handwaved.  Although as is typical for me, I wish the book had not been so overwhelmingly immersed in the virtual reality of things; I always want to know where all the physical data servers are, as well as the massive power plants that have to be powering all these things, but I suppose that's what the rest of the series is for, right?

I didn't quite call the ending--the thing about multi-volume stories is that I'm never sure when a loose thread will get wrapped up, so I don't always think ahead, and besides, like a good thief, the book distracted me with spectacular hijinks in the meantime.  I did call two of the Big Reveals, although "called" is flattering myself.  It was more like I thought "hang on, shouldn't ____, except that wouldn't make sense" only to find out that actually, it did make sense once I got the whole picture.

I was also more amused that I'd expected to be by the Sherlockian subplot, considering that mysteries are usually less fun for the reader when we don't know all the rules and thus can't play along.  This was achieved by tying the subplot into the main plot, and only showing us the most fun and most relevant bits of the investigation.

Reading Next


An excellent question.  Pardon me as I wander off in search of urban fantasy, emphasis on urban, and that isn't paranormal romance.  (Yeah right.)  Maybe I should do my homework and suck it up and read the de Lint???  Just as long as I can avoid the Oh No Not Another Fucking Elf stories.

(ETA: who am I kidding, Iron Man 3 is out this weekend!)

* By which I mean, sometimes it really does come down to: do I handwave this or do I spent five pages data-dumping?  In most cases it's best to handwave; the % of readers who will care is far less than the % of readers who will get bored with the data dump.  The safest action is to make the data-dump subject into a plot point in its own right, and sometimes there just isn't room, or authorial resources to make that happen.  At least until the next books in the series amirite XD

geez

May. 1st, 2013 02:34 pm
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Finished my first ever "attempting to sound professional" book review -- the book is a few years old so I am not entertaining dreams of professionally publishing the review, but rather it's meant as a writing sample/an excuse to contact the author -- and that was a really mentally tiring process.  Hats off to the true pros who do this all the time.

I also wrote a bonus fanwank omake because it's a hard SF book with an interesting premise and I wanted to critique the premise and the results from a science angle, which is really just to say ... I am good at making extra work for myself.

Will post here at some point but my full real name (not pen name) is attached so it will be locked.

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Kara Lee

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