cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (air - the sublime)
I wrote this last May, when I first heard how ill she was, and I don't know much what else I could add to it:

I have had literally my whole lifetime of Diana Wynne Jones's books; I count my blessings, and find them to be numerous and lovely. This woman has brought so very much joy and wisdom into my life: I reveled in her books alongside my older and younger sisters even when I didn't get along very well with those sisters; we all still love her books today. I have gone back to her stories dozens of times and not found them wanting, not ever. I love her, I love her works, I love everything she brought to my life.



And, ok, now I add: I loved this woman. She was a voice I heard very loudly and clearly when I was a teenager, not least because she was one of the best and most memorable of the authors whose books I had in common with my sisters and friends at that time. I had extremely conflicted, painful relationships with my sisters when I was a teenager; the things we had in common were daily miracles to me. (My older sister and I can still communicate in a shorthand of Buffy; the common language of DWJ ranks a close second.) We did read a lot of the same books, back then, but Diana Wynne Jones' books are among the very few that we all remember fiercely and fondly, and as mattering.

I wish there could be more of them. Decades of her voice, and it's not enough. Count your blessings; they're still not quite enough.

Cryoburn

Aug. 15th, 2010 03:00 pm
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (NO NO NO NO)
The problem with having bought the e-ARC version of Cryoburn is that I have finished it months before publication and now I have no one to discuss it with. AND I REALLY REALLY NEED TO. NOW.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (it falls on you and you die)
Romance:

Beverly, Jo:
Skylark
Secrets of the Night
Lord Wraybourne's Betrothed
An Unwilling Bride

(Beverly sold the premise of this one--uptight aristocratic dickwad weds illegitimate bluestocking--much more effectively than I would have guessed, based on what I'd seen of Beth and Lucien from other books. What I took away from it, though, was a strong desire to see even more of Eleanor and Nick. I just ship 'em so hard that all other Rogues books have subsequently deteriorated into vehicles for more fleeting scenes from the continuing saga of Eleanor and Nick.)

Balogh, Mary:
Slightly Married
Slightly Wicked



YA:

Collins, Suzanne:

The Hunger Games
(I already texted and e-mailed my sister with many a squee regarding the amazingness of this book--she was quite right about how un-put-downable it becomes once you hit a certain plot development early on--so I don't have much left for you. It's sort of a populist, dystopian, Battle Royale scenario, narrated by a very compelling, intelligent protagonist who is not a reliable narrator. Collins is brilliant, and I can't recommend this book hard enough.)

Catching Fire
(Sequel to The Hunger Games. Not as world-rocking as HG, because it's a sequel, but it moves the story along pretty well, and the ending made me want to bash my head against the nearest slab of concrete. I am very glad that the third book, Mockingjay, is due out in August.

A little bit of spoilery stuff. )
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Romance:

Bourne, Joanna: My Lord and Spymaster
(This was definitely not as good as The Spymaster's Lady. I liked Jess enormously, and whatsisname, Hawke? But I never warmed to the male lead. And the idea that Jess, who was in every way a full partner in her father's business, would actually give up her very successful career there--I mean, she basically built the accounting system--to marry that prick left me with a sour taste in my mouth. It was quite the let-down after Spymaster's Lady).


Fantasy:

Turner, Megan Whalen: A Conspiracy of Kings
(GOD I was not expecting that ending. I can't really discuss it without massive spoilers but...wow, is this ever not how I was expecting things to turn out, not after The Thief, not even after Queen of Attolia, not even after King of Attolia. And yet...it feels like less of a stretch than it might have; it is in some ways a very organic development from things that happened in Queen.

Though I haven't heard anything about another book, I am expecting at least one more. I get a very strong feeling that Turner isn't done with this story).


Manga:

Anno Moyoco: Sugar Sugar Rune vol. 3
(Anno? You have a genius).

CLAMP: Wish vols. 1-2
(To be continued! Except not, I think? It somehow reminded me of a You Higuri manga, but nicer, because this is fluffy CLAMP, not horribly bloody death CLAMP. Anyway, it's toothless enough that I don't really care whether or not there's any more story, and whether I ever get to read it if there is).

CLAMP: RG Veda vol. 1
(I totally only picked this up in the library because of the storyline in Tsubasa with Yasha and Ashura, but reading it just made me more confused. Horrible bloody death CLAMP, obviously. I really liked the bit where they stand around casually arguing while the five-year-old gazes thirty feet up at where a dead woman has been impaled on the wall by a spear, her blood running in a great swath down onto the floor, then reaches out and puts his hand into her blood, tastes it, smiles, and has another bout of evil-spirit possession. At which point the adults start paying attention again. See? This is what happens when you leave children around the corpses of people who've been horribly murdered.

It doesn't really make any more sense than Wish--the events of the first half of the book could have taken all of ten minutes, for all the textual and visual clues as I had with regards to pacing and the passage of time--but it certainly is more interesting to look at. And Gigei was cool. Too bad she's also dead (like about 70% of all the characters, male and female, who appeared in this volume). Man, this thing has already exceeded the entire body count of Hamlet, and this is just volume 1).


CLAMP: Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle vols. 1-17
(as I already said. God, I mean, this thing is captivating. I stand in great peril of it eating my brain).

Ishikawa Masayuki: Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture vol. 1
(I thought the germs would like, have personalities. I'm actually kind of glad that they don't; the personalities of the actual humans are interesting enough).

Mizushiro Setona: After School Nightmare vol. 10
(Okay, that was weird. But why not? It's not like the initial premise made a lot of sense anyway).

Ono Natsume: Ristorante Paradiso.

Tanaka Masashi: Gon vol. 6.

Unita Yumi: Bunny Drop vol. 1.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (...okay then)
Mystery:

Christie, Agatha: The Mysterious Affair at Styles
(Oh, Christie, you racist, xenophobic, conservative twit. You will just keep on doing your racist, xenophobic, conservative thing, won't you? But you wrote a lot, and you sold a lot, and now you're dead, and no one ever expected better of you, so no one ever bothers to call you on it. Sometimes I hate you for that.

Also, you are only okay as a writer, and for all your work, you really only wrote a tiny handful of books that are truly standouts in your preferred genre. Bite me, Agatha Christie).


Fantasy/romance:

Bujold, Lois McMaster: The Sharing Knife: Horizon
(I was in the shower when I had this sudden thought that oh hey, Bujold set up this world where the local predators atop the food chain, malices, subsist and thrive on birth-energies, and the only known method of destroying a malice requires the harnessing of death-energy. I find this quite fascinating, given both Bujold's general interest in reproductive issues as they pertain to both women's health and the construction of self-identity, and her regular thematic revisiting of parenthood, with its ability to exalt or to destroy the parent.

She probably covered this in the first book, but I read that years ago and don't remember.

I liked this, and I think the preceding volume of The Sharing Knife, more than I've liked any of Bujold's other fantasy novels excepting only The Curse of Chalion. Wow, did this series ever grow on me!

I adore Arkady, who would have been a jerk in anyone else's books, and I ended up unduly fond of Barr, probably because he was a jerk who outgrew it, and that trope appeals to me more than it has any right to).


Manga:

Ariyoshi Kyoko: Swan, vol. 3
(Every time I read a volume of the classic ballet manga, Swan, I have to fight the urge to run out and buy the entire series so I can finish it tomorrow. Then I forget about it for six months).

Midorikawa Yuki: Natsume's Book of Friends, vol. 1.

Ono Natsume: not simple
(the art IS simple, but not the plot! Stuff like this is why, when I was ranting about the potential glories of that Matt Thorn/Fantagraphics manga line thing, I couldn't quite bring myself to claim that they'd bring over stuff we'd never seen before and would never see otherwise. I mean, have you seen the stuff that Viz puts in its Signature line? Quality. It's totally one of those high-end scanlation groups run by hardcore manga geeks with superb taste, except that it's legit. It's stuff like this that made it reeeaal easy for me to pretty much give up on fansubs and scanlations. And that they also have a line that picks up lovely titles like Natsume's Book of Friends, i.e. the Shoujo Beat line).

Otsuka Eiji, story, and Yamazaki Housui, art: The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, vol. 10
(Dark Horse and Carl Gustav Horn also helped).

Toriko Gin: Song of the Hanging Sky, vol. 2
(this, too. The reason I fangirl all this stuff so hard, btw, is that manga is one of the only things I tend to buy instead of renting or borrowing, and I am presently fiscally unable to venture past titles that I think are just totally the shit to titles that are actual shit*).


*I would never, for instance, actually buy any of Agatha Christie's racist, sexist, xenophobic, conservative books except for the tiny handful that are genuinely innovative and clever. I mean, it's not like she's an actual master of genre writing like Stout or Heyer. The woman wrote fucking literary tissue paper stamped with her usual ugly nationalism and not even saved by a nice period denunciation of fascism. I cannot, I just cannot get over a book where a major character turns out to be a German Jew spying for Nazi Germany. That is so Agatha Christie. I fucking hate that woman.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (why is there spring in this winter?)
Non fiction:

Skloot, Rebecca, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

(Everybody should read this book. Especially if they work in medicine, or any life science, or for that matter, any social science, but even if they don't; everybody should read this book. Everyone, bar none, has a stake or a potential stake in what the material of this book covers.

Rebecca Skloot pretty much now a personal heroine of mine for this work--for doing it, for doing it right, for taking the time to do it right, and to do right by Henrietta and her family. I feel that this is almost a case study in how to write about an important medical subject and to decently represent the human interests involved--in this case, the woman, her life and her death, her circumstances, and her family, past and present. Henrietta Lacks is one of the most important people ever born in the world. I'm not exaggerating. She deserves nothing less than this book, and probably much more.

I come from a social sciences background to begin with, plus we just covered ethics in that silly mandatory information evaluation class I'm taking right now, so ethics was kind of on the brain anyway; I am practically humming with the importance of treating human beings like human beings in your work, whatever your work may be. I hope this book ends up as mandatory reading in a million college classes, maybe high school classes, too, and teaches people about the intersection of science and humanity and ethics, and the right way to deal with the human beings you'll be working with if you do science. Or, you know, anything at all in your entire life).


Novels/prose books:

Mystery:

Stout, Rex: Trio for Blunt Instruments.


Comics/graphic novels:

Foglio, Phil and Kaja: Girl Genius, book five: Agatha Heterodyne and the Clockwork Princess.


Manga:

Urasawa Naoki: Pluto vol 7.
(sob sob sob. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I just, I knew this was coming but oh man I hoped and pretended and looked askance because this is an adaptation, and Urasawa can do whatever he wants! He didn't have to! Oh gosh. I have to go lie down now.

By the way, I read this volume in ten minutes flat, standing next to my bookcase with its stacks of unread manga, fist jammed into my mouth, barely breathing. Hoping I was wrong.

sob.)
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Romance:

Beverley, Jo: Christmas Angel.

Crusie, Jennifer: Bet Me
(both Crusie and this book particularly are major favorites of a friend of mine. I didn't love the book nearly as much as her, but it's a good book. It's easy for me to see why she loves it so much, knowing her--I bet she imprinted on Min like a baby duckling on its mama).

Phillips, Susan Elizabeth: Natural Born Charmer
(soooo much better than the other Phillips I tried, What I Did For Love. I fell in love with the first chapter, cooled slightly over the course of the book, but was consistently impressed by the way Phillips portrayed Blue's artistry--she showed it very naturally and consistently, in a way that made Blue feel like a real person).


YA:

Ono Fuyumi: The Twelve Kingdoms: The Vast Spread of the Seas
(apparently between the initial meeting of Naokawa/Shoryuu/En and Rokuta/Enki five hundred years ago and their current state of their uber-competent rule and the moderate harmony of their interpersonal relationship, there were a few decades of dissonance. The book is about that, as well as about their initial meeting, which I already know from the anime.

Spoilers. )


Graphic novels:

Lutes, Jason: Berlin: City of Smoke: Book 2.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Mystery:

Heyer, Georgette: Detection Unlimited.


Romance:

Beverley, Jo:
The Secret Wedding
An Unsuitable Man
Dangerous Joy
(After reading The Secret Wedding, I waxed ecstatic to several people about how the newly-discovered-for-me Beverly is the closest thing to reading Georgette Heyer Regencies I'd found yet. After reading An Unsuitable Man and Dangerous Joy, then going to visit my parents in Austin and reading a couple more Heyer romances and mysteries, I have to take back the comparison--Beverly's one of the better romance novelists I've run across, but Heyer's pedestal sits higher still, and Beverly's really not close at all.

The Secret Wedding was pretty awesome in terms of plotting, pacing, prose, sexiness and characterization, and I was impressed by her ability to address modern feminist perspectives and concerns--rape, women's general lack of independence, agency, and financial power in 19th century England, etc--in a way that was not jarring or ahistorical. She did what I thought was an pretty good job of balancing romantic fantasy and historical reality. I could have lived without the cute magic animal, but it was also less intrusive and ridiculous here than in Dangerous Joy.

Dangerous Joy and An Unsuitable Man are among the better genre romances I've read--I haven't read that many, except for Heyer, who really is in a class by herself--but didn't live up to the high expectations I had of Beverly after The Secret Wedding. C'est la vie. I'll continue to look for books by her to read, since if a lesser book by Beverly isn't necessarily better than 90% of everything else out there, it's still a decent read, and her better books are pretty damn good.)


Heyer, Georgette: These Old Shades
(the best part about reading this was how my mother, who probably hasn't read it in years, could still remember the names and roles of all the characters in it, and could recall the context of every little bit that I read aloud. I know I can't do that for many prolific genre authors who primarily write stand-alone works with no carryover characters. I can't even remember the names of most of the protagonists unless they're in the title).



Comics/Graphic novels:

Kafka, Franz, author, Peter Kuper, artist/adaptor: The Metamorphosis

Lutes, Jason: Berlin: City of Stones: Book One.

Geary, Rick: The Adventures of Blanche
(Geary has never seemed so weird to me).



Manga:

Asano Inio: What a Wonderful World vol. 2.

Ito Junji: Flesh Colored Horror.

Hatsu Akiko: Devil in the Water.

Mori, Kaoru: Emma vol. 10.

Urasawa Naoki: 20th Century Boys vol. 5.

Urushibara Yuki: Mushishi vol. 6.

Yasuhiko Yoshikazu: Joan.

Yoshinaga Fumi: Ooku vol. 1
(words cannot express how much I adore the Shogun. Holy shit, man. I like Yoshinaga's male characters just fine, but if she decided to write nothing but female characters from now on, I would have no complaints).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (woman with hamster)
Fantasy:
Weis, Margaret, and Tracy Hickman: Dragons of the Hourglass Mage
(I read a short review of this that went something to the effect of, "There are good Raistlin books, and bad Raistlin books, and this is one of the bad ones, totally not worth your time." So I immediately requested it from the library, because it's about RAISTLIN MAJERE, dude.

Even at their best, Dragonlance books are never exactly what I would call good, and this is no exception, but I'm not gonna lie: Weis and Hickman's books have, over the years, brought me countless hours of unironic pleasure, and Raistlin Majere is one of those characters I randomly fixated on when I was young, and will never, ever, not love. I read it in one go when I was sick and bedbound the other day, and couldn't concentrate on crossword puzzles).


Romance:

Dunlop, Barbara: Beauty and the Billionaire
(this is the ebook romance I read when I was supposed to be looking at ebook cataloging, and I must say, it was surprisingly decent. The prose was okay, the sexual tension was good, and--in what was a pleasant surprise to me--the heroine was a successful professional whose career and whose dedication to her career path remained relevant for the entire book. Even when she went to Paris for a makeover. Our heroine, Sinclair is a very good PR manager at a cosmetics company who's being upstaged by a less-competant but more fashionable rival in the company, and when she and her billionaire beau boss talk it over, they decided that the best way to fix that was to give her a more stylish image which would better match the company's target demographic, women in Sinclair's age range who dress stylishly. Given the nature of the industry and her job, I am okay with this idea. )
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (books)
OMG, self.

I have this class project which involves importing/creating a whole junkload of MARC 21 records into a Class Site version of Koha, with a minimum of ten different materials formats, and the option of creating some new formats, if the class site doesn't have something we want. My partners and I decided to create ebooks and ebook readers, which is kind of a challenge, because although you can adequately describe those things in a MARC framework, there's not a predefined format for them, and, well, there are a LOT of MARC fields to choose from, and I have to manually go through the default framework and eliminate fields one by one. And I don't really know what fields I do want; I've never catalogued or copy-cataloged either one, and I don't know how libraries typically handle them--inconsistently, weirdly, and sometimes just badly is my impression; the readers in particular are just so new.

Anyway, after a couple of weeks of avoiding the issue, I finally started poking around at the libraries I use to see who has 'em, and how they're making them available in the catalog, what the records look like, if they have them at all. No luck yet on the readers--as I said, they're just too new--but the Boston Public Library offers some ebook services from some external vendors with DRM-locked stuff, which I can access with an electronic card.

After some fussing, I finally got the PC electronic reader installed, checked out and downloaded a few books...and then, being me, got totally sucked into reading them instead of examining them or the software needed to read them.

Records imported into our Koha class site: 0.
MARC frameworks defined for ebooks and ebook readers: 0.
MARC records for ebooks examined: 0.
Ebooks read: Three manga and a Harlequin romance since yesterday (surprisingly, the romance novel was the best of the lot).

Fail, self.



~edit~ Frickity frack.
This whole "make up ebook catalog records" thing is very hard, because all the ebooks I see in libraries right now are from third-party vendors, and even when they DO catalog their third-party electronic resources, it's weird and inconsistent. I found an electronic version of Pride and Prejudice with the title as the main entry (that is, the main point of collocation, how the book would have been arranged in a physical card catalog that had much more limited points of access than an online catalog), and Jane Austen as an added entry--in cataloging terms, that is a statement that in this format or version of P&P, Austen's contribution is not considered significant enough to list her as the author of this text, although her name is still significant enough to warrant listing. Even taking into account the metadata best practices approach of cataloging the resource you have in hand--that is, cataloging a digital image of the Mona Lisa as a digital copy, not the actual painting, meaning that Da Vinci is not the creator of the digital version, although he remains an intellectual contributor to it--I am confused about this treatment, particularly as I also found a Sherlock Holmes book offered by the same third party vendor, in the same library's catalog, with Doyle listed properly as the author. And even though both books are in the public domain, they're still locked up in DRM, and I see no evidence of any library offering ebooks that they own in the traditional sense that they own physical books; it's all third party services, and of course, my group's fake library doesn't have any contracts with third-party e-resource providers. Maybe we should make one up?

Anyway, I am EXTREMELY troubled by the apparent library non-ownership of ebooks. Is this going to be the future of ebooks in libraries--just like other e-resources, it's all rented, DRM-locked stuff? Even the material that isn't under copyright? That's bad. It's really, really bad.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:
Bierce, Ambrose: Fantastic Fables
(hmm. Lots to be said. Aesop's Fables, as written by a sophisticated late 19th century cynic; cynicism palls really, really fast. It's interesting, but at least from my perspective, not entertaining).


Romance:
Heyer, Georgette: The Talisman Ring
(I liked it! As I generally do with Heyer. She's very good, you know).

Sutherland, Peg: Queen of the Dixie Drive-In
(When [livejournal.com profile] telophase shipped this to me lo those many months ago, I meant to do an in-depth snarky review of it in lieu of payment. But I never got around to it, and then school happened. I think it was mostly okay? The prose didn't send me screaming and it wasn't hugely misogynistic or anything).


YA:
Jones, Diana Wynne:
The Game (way too short, but a good read. Loved the bit with the pork chop, and also how well the reveal worked with the prior characterizations; Jones always does that kind of thing well. There's a little part of me that keeps waiting for her to do some kind of truly pan-mythic story, but maybe that's not fair, especially at this point; she's a basically Western Civ gal, and I know that. And she does pretty good stuff with Greco-Roman/Western European/British Isles mythology; it's not as if she's stagnated with it).
The Spellcoats (reread),
Conrad's Fate (reread),
House of Many Ways (reread),
--totally meant to go on in more detail about all these rereads, but, as I said, school happened.


Light novels:
Ono Fuyumi:
The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow
(I wanted to love this, and Yoko, as much as [livejournal.com profile] bookelfe did, but I didn't. I felt better about that after I went back and reread her post on it, and her comments about why she identified so strongly with Yoko--identifying with a character is always YMMV, and I'm not that person. But I totally get the bit about it subverting fantasy tropes. It's fascinating for that, and the more I go back and look at it, the more I like the structure and plot. The prose of the translation is unimpressive, but the story is good).

The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Wind
(awww baby kirin. And, while reading this book, I found myself suddenly hugely in love with the entire universe--reading the second book made me love the first more, and made me desperately want more of the entire world, and all the characters. I begin to get used to Ono's mind, and I like it).


Graphic novels:
Foglio, Phil and Kaja: Girl Genius book four: Agatha Heterodyne and the Circus of Dreams (holds up well on a reread).

Warren, Adam: Empowered vol. 5 (awwwwww fuckity.
But I'm relieved. I expected to cry a hell of a lot more than I did. I am simply grateful that I didn't cry more than I did. I think this series will eventually rip my beating heart from my chest and set it on fire, because that's what Adam Warren does to your heart. And you then say, "thank you sir, may I have another? Because I adore your clever writing, even though you obviously want to hurt me.")


Manga:

Akino Matsuri:
Genju no Seiza vols. 6-7 (was that another PSOH ref with the kirin? Say it's so, Akino!).
Petshop of Horrors: Tokyo vol. 5

Mori Kaoru: Emma vols. 8-9 (oh shit the Meredith bedroom scene was so hot! There is no sex, although there is sexiness, but the intimacy--emotional and physical--is so pure and tangible I kept having to put the book down and go oof).

Ninomiya Tomoko: Nodame Cantabile vols. 15-16.

Otsuka Eiji, writer, Yamazaki Housui, artist: Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol. 9

Takaya Natsuki: Fruits Basket vol. 22

Umino Chica: Honey & Clover vol. 4.

Urasawa Naoki: Pluto vol. 5 (and here I'd just boasted to my LCS guy that I knew everything that was gonna happen because I didn't see Urasawa deviating from the basic structure of the plot as outlined in Tezuka's The Greatest Robot on Earth. So far, he hasn't, but this is fucking Urasawa, man. He's a master of suspense. He will surprise you, and he will make you hang. And he'll do it well. It's why he's awesome and we love him.

Urasawa Naoki: 20th Century Boys vol. 4

Watanabe Taeko;
Kaze Hikaru vol. 11
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Finished reading all the Vorkosigan books; have now been tearing through Diana Wynne Jones books lately--I borrowed The Pinhoe Egg to read for the second time, which of course lead to going backwards and rereading Charmed Life, then Witch Week, and then for some reason straight to The Crown of Dalemark (I should have started at the beginning of the Dalemark Quartet--I have to read them all again now, but Crown is the one you really need to finish with, even when you know the plot quite well already. Going backwards with Dalemark is so painful, because things get worse with each book) and then Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin.

Spoilers for all of these books, under the LJ-cuts; big ones in particular for Crown of Dalemark.


The Pinhoe Egg / Charmed Life )


Witch Week )


Dark Lord of Derkholm / Year of the Griffin )

Side note: I remember [livejournal.com profile] meganbmoore talking about the dysfunctional families and bad parenting in some Jones book or books, and wondering if they were all like that. I know I mentioned some of the books with happier families (Archer's Goon, which has a pretty happy family, even taking into account Quentin's personal failings, and Ogre Downstairs, which is not a happy family precisely, but which steadily improves throughout the whole book as the two halves of the family get to know each other better, and as we see the Ogre more clearly, and which ends on a happy note), but I can't remember if I thought to include Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin. ~EDIT: Okay, not only did I mention it, but she even told me she'd read and loved it. Hah. Anyway, I adore that book.~ Dark Lord of Derkholm has what must be like the happiest, most fun family in the entire Jones canon. More on Derkholm, and a bit more on Charmed Life. )


Crown of Dalemark )
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (such a change from doing crosswords)
On what originally began as a vaguely related note to the Mihara post below:

I've been rereading Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan books lately--I've read them so many times before, but they continue to reward immensely; as I grow older and wiser, I find them just as strong, just as thoughtful. There is nothing here I expect to outgrow. I continue to love Bujold's humanism, and now better appreciate that her science fiction speculates as well as entertains; she's just from the social science fiction tradition, rather than the hard science fiction tradition. More Ursula Le Guin than Isaac Asimov.

I never really noticed how good she is at straddling genres--when I was a kid, I read mainly science fiction and fantasy, and had little experience with other genres; as an adult, I've spent enormous amounts of time reading romance and mystery novels. In the afterword to the omnibus edition of Shards of Honor and Barrayar titled Cordelia's Honor, which I am borrowing to read for the first time, Bujold talks about the genesis of those two books--I'd never realized how much of Barrayar she had plotted out before Shards was ever published--and describes Shards as being a romance, and it clicked for me for the first time. Of course it's a romance! It's certainly as much a romance as a science fiction novel--and a damned compelling romance, too. It's a hugely romantic fantasy to fall in love with someone in a life-changing way, to love them enough to want to make huge sacrifices for them, and have an unfaltering, loving, romantic relationship with that person for the rest of your lives. Aral and Cordelia's romance is so compelling and convincing--and so understated, almost but not quite matter-of-fact--that I never quite thought about the fact that the book itself is a novel about romance as well as a science fiction novel. Would I have twigged to that if I'd read more romances prior to reading Bujold, I wonder? I should ask my mother...in her youth (long before Bujold began publishing), she apparently went through a period of reading nothing but romances before she switched over to reading mainly mystery, science fiction, and fantasy. Lots of practice reading those genres.

I've seen some interesting comments from Bujold on genre fiction--she said that romances are fantasies of love, and murder mysteries are fantasies of justice, and was talking about what science fiction would be a fantasy of--agency, maybe? I'm probably muddling it all up; it was an interesting interview, but I don't remember where I read it. Anyway, when I read Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey books for the first time, particularly Murder Must Advertise, I realized what a debt Bujold's character of the brilliant Lord Miles Vorkosigan owes to the character of the brilliant Lord Peter Wimsey, from the high-strung-though-entertaining-personality and the profound personal damage, right down to the multiple identities. Most of Miles' stories are mysteries, even--Mountains of Mourning, The Vor Game, Cetaganda, Brothers in Arms, Memory, Komarr, Diplomatic Immunity--and it's not his story, but also Ethan of Athos is a mystery, and then Mark and Ivan each do some detecting in Mirror Dance and in A Civil Campaign, respectively. These stories are all more than just mysteries; they're character portraits, social commentaries, speculations about the nature of humanity and life and death and gender in a world of cloning, cryogenic revival, sophisticated genetic engineering, life-extension technology, and advanced reproductive technology. But a mystery is such a pleasurable way to tell a story, and makes such a wonderful vehicle for everything else Bujold wants to write about. No wonder she's written so many of them. Her characters tend to be extremely intelligent; how better to keep them within sight of the reader than to deny them information, and let us all find out at the same time? Intelligent Cordelia, in her books, is baffled and bemused by unfamiliar environments and alien social values, but her equally intelligent son Miles--Miles, who is, by virtue of his hybrid upbringing, more worldly than his mother was in her books--is baffled by circumstantial mysteries and plots which he is, for a satisfyingly complex and convincing variety of reasons, inevitably driven to solve.

(I haven't read Bujold's fantasy novels as many times over, but I seem to recall that mystery was a big element in A Paladin of Souls as well. Not Curse of Chalion, so much, and I can't remember about the one after Paladin. Or The Spirit Ring. Or the recent romance quartet.)

I have seen Sayers criticized as a mystery writer for her mystery plots not being something enough--people regularly accuse mystery writers, including all the greats, of cheating if they don't give the reader every single vital element with which to solve the mystery themselves. I suppose that's one way to approach the genre, but it's definitely not mine. (And, if you look into the history of the mystery genre, kind of dumb, since the seminal mystery writers were not remotely concerned with giving the readers sufficient clues with which to solve the puzzle. Actually, I think that's sort of an aberration in the field. It's fine to enjoy that, I suppose, but critiquing any given mystery writer for not doing something most mystery writers don't do consistently seems a little unreasonable.) I enjoy puzzle-solving enormously, but I expect more and different things from a novel than a puzzle. It's a bit like complaining that crossword puzzles are cheating, because unlike sudoku, they require more from the puzzle-solver than the exercise of pure logic; crossword puzzles require external knowledge (and more verbal acuity). But that's not cheating, it's simply being a different kind of thing, a thing which I assure you is also enormously fun, for the people that like it. Mystery novels contain more than just puzzles. Can contain, should contain.

Anyway, the brilliance of Sayers (and Bujold) lies not in the cunning nature of her plots (the plots are fine), but in the rich depths of her characterization, all the questions she asks about more than just the who and how of a mystery. I enjoy genre tropes--the genre tropes of mysteries and romance and science fiction, at least--but greatly appreciate the genre writer who can--I don't want to say, transcend genre--the writer who can use genre and genre tropes to tell a story that is transcendent. Bujold and Sayers both do that.

(And, as evidenced by my love also of Rex Stout and Georgette Heyer, I also greatly appreciate a writer who, using both genre tropes and a personal formula, consistently produces work that, though not transcendent, is absolutely perfect and brilliant within its chosen structural limits. I do put high value on solidly crafted entertainment. It's not easy to do!)
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Mystery:

Stout, Rex:
The Golden Spiders
Gambit
The Father Hunt
Some Buried Caesar
(Lily Rowan's introductory novel. Long rambling on Lily Rowan and Stout's women.) )


Manga:

Urasawa Naoki: Pluto vol. 4.

Tanaka Masashi: Gon vol. 2.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Mystery:

Stout, Rex:
--The Doorbell Rang (NW. The best caper they ever pulled),
--Champagne for One (NW),
--Fer-de-Lance (you'd never guess that this was the first Wolfe story ever, if you didn't know. Except that Archie keeps saying, "As Saul Panzer would say, 'lovin' babe!'" and we know now that he wouldn't. And neither would Archie. There's a bit of slang from the 30s that didn't have legs...),
--Death of a Dude (all I'm gonna say is notice how Stout never once makes any reference to the sleeping arrangements of Archie and Lily while they're on vacation in Montana. Which says it all),
--Curtains for Three: A Nero Wolfe Threesome (a short story collection containing The Gun with Wings, Bullet for One, and Disguise for Murder),
--Five of a Kind: The Third Nero Wolfe Omnibus (containing The Rubber Band, In the Best Families, and Three Doors to Death. The first two are either novels or novellas, I believe published independently, and the last is a short story collection itself, containing Man Alive, Omit Flowers, and Door to Death. In the Best Families is my favorite, as it is the notorious book in which Archie and Wolfe are split up for an extended period of time, and we get to see how Archie does on his own. Pretty well, as you might imagine. It's also the conclusion of the sort of mini-Arnold Zeck arc. There's generally no harm in reading these all out of order, but I wouldn't have minded reading all the Zeck stories together, or at least in order...I've still not read their second encounter with him).

Stout, Rex: The Broken Vase
(a Tecumsah Fox mystery).


Manga:


Takaya Natsuki: Fruits Basket vol. 23
(I seem to have skipped vol. 22. Oops).

Urasawa Naoki: 20th Century Boys vols. 2-3, Pluto vol. 3.

Yazawa Ai: Nana vol. 17.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Archival post: The Hooded Utilitarian blog post #6: Female Creators Roundtable: Jane Austen and yes, eventually, some damned zombies. Originally posted at The Hooded Utilitarian by Cerusee on 7-26-2009.

Female Creators Roundtable: Jane Austen and yes, eventually, some damned zombies. )
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Archival post: The Hooded Utilitarian blog post #2: Suburban Girl: Love and Work. Originally posted at The Hooded Utilitarian by Cerusee on 6-17-2009.

Suburban Girl: Love and Work )
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Non-fiction prose:

Nicholson, Geoff: The Lost Art of Walking
(didn't finish it--I don't quite remember why now, but I think it was because it was sort of boring and mostly about the author's own experiences walking, rather than being a more general treatise on the act of walking. The latter would have been informative; the former is pretty dull).


Mystery:

Stout, Rex: A Right To Die
(While I appreciate that Stout probably meant well in making race the theme of this book, he probably shouldn't have, because he does a lot of dumb things. The bulk of his work predated the Civil Rights Movement, and racial relations seem to have crept up on him in the last decade of his very long and prolific career. However, the various wince-inducing race-related moments in this book have nothing, absolutely nothing, on the introduction by David Stout--no relation to Rex--which was written in 1994, and kicks off by saying that although there's nothing wrong with a white woman and a black man in a relationship, we all have to look deep into our hearts in order to realize that. Oh, David Stout, FUCK YOU. Rex Stout was a man of his time belatedly recognizing the significance of Civil Rights, and his racial sins were sins of omission, not something more toxic. And he was trying. There is no racist apology in the book itself that equals David Stout's implication that interracial relationships are shocking and taboo and morally troublesome. To to say something that asinine in 1994, in the service of introducing a not particularly transgressive work? Go to hell).

Stout, Rex: And Four to Go, Black Orchids, Trouble in Triplicate
(all very enjoyable, all lacking the mild ambition of discussing race in any way, all lacking people of color, which is pretty standard for Stout. As I said, sins of omission. I'm white and don't know much about the history and racial politics of New York circa 1930-1960, so that tends to be easy for me to ignore).


Graphic novels/comics:

Bechdel, Alison: Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon-Based Life-Forms to Watch Out For.

Rabagliati, Michel: Paul goes fishing
(less about fishing and more about the heartbreak of miscarriage. It's a good book, but not all that well structured. The other Paul books were stronger).

Robinson, Alex: Tricked
(Hated the rock star guy--the romance was underwhelming, and I felt no sympathy for him at all, nor interest in how his sudden fixation on Lily made his life better. It didn't make him a better or more interesting person, it just made him happy, and I don't care. Generally, I hated or barely liked most of the characters, and the conceit of their lives all becoming intertwined until they culminate in that one climactic moment--eh. I've seen it done much better).

Delisle, Guy: Burma Chronicles
(waaaaaaay better than Shenzhen, in many ways, and more of a genuine pleasure than Pyongyang, which was almost purely upsetting. For whatever reason--because he was here with a wife and child, because his wife was deeply involved in humanitarian work in Burma, and the related politics of that, because the length of his stay and his more relaxed lifestyle permitted it--Delisle actually seems to have gotten to know people in Burma, and learned about their lives and culture. While China's political system is by no means ideal to me, Delisle's criticisms of Shenzhen seemed, well...shallow, uninformed, ethnocentric, and lacking in real critical perspective--there is legitimate criticism of China to be made, quite a lot of it, but he wasn't doing it well, and he came across as totally uninterested in people's actual lives. Not the case here. Although life in Burma is pretty depressing and scary in many ways, same as in Pyongyang, this is a much warmer book nevertheless--the description of the betel-nut chewing, the Water Festival, the love of children that made Delisle's infant son very popular in his neighborhood, the deeply emotional, quiet reverence that the locals hold for Aung San Suu Kyi, sitting silently under house arrest in a decades-long act of political protest--all of this made for a much richer, more interesting, less ethnocentric book than Shenzhen. This one, I can whole-heartedly recommend).

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