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 (swan princess)
Romance:

Beverley, Jo:

The Secret Duke
(I can't even remember what this book was about.

Okay, I looked it up. Damn! I wanted to love Ithorne, because he seemed all woobie and emotionally abandoned and hot in The Secret Marriage, but that silly twin-brother-pirate-captain shit was just...basically, I either don't don't have enough immunity built up against romance novel tropes, or it was just intolerably silly. And then there was the other big false-identity plot, since one wasn't enough. But, ridiculous plot contrivances aside, it was okay as a book? I foresee a lot of bedroom role-play for this couple).

An Arranged Marriage
(Hum. I think that this must be among my favorite of the Beverley novels. It reminded me a lot of The Secret Marriage, at least re: surprisingly sophisticated sexual politics and a genuinely interesting and charismatic male lead. The sex scenes are less hot than in her other books, but since the first sex scene between the male and female leads takes place like a month after the female lead has been raped, and after that, she's pregnant and he's sleeping with another woman--it's complicated--I'm okay with that. The romance is complicated and compelling and I basically loved it, and ship Nicholas/Eleanor in a way I rarely ship romance novel couples. Eleanor's one of those amazingly strong women who are pure, polished steel under a cloak of propriety and civility, and Nicholas is too brilliant and beautiful for his own good. Together, they are a frickin' Georgian power couple. And they fight crime. Kinda).

A Lady's Secret
(the famous cursing nun! The sex was hot, and I liked that the cursing nun was actually a nun, more or less, not a cosplayer just in disguise).

Carriger, Gail: Soulless
(This might be the first time I have ever liked a werewolf as a romantic lead. Normally I find them too hairy, but this rocked. It's straight-up Victorian manners, but with an extremely civilized iteration of the supernatural. Like Amelia Peabody, but with vampires and werewolves. And! Oh! They totally fight crime).


Science fiction:

Vinge, Vernor: Fire Upon the Deep
(this is by far the most visionary science fiction novel I've read since Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed, and the best book I've read since...I dunno. It's been a few years. I loved the pack mind entities especially--I don't think I've run across an execution of the hive-mind idea quite like that one before--and this envisioning of the galactic communication network, complete with a metadata skeleton and the concept of linguistic drift. I recommend this so hard, assuming you are into brilliant, game-changing science fiction).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (shoukei the formerly divine)
As it happens.

YA:

Jones, Diana Wynne: Enchanted Glass
(solid work.

It's really sad to think its probably her last, but she's put out several (good) books in the last few years, so what the fuck could I have to complain about. 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.

I'm really sad, but I have a lot to be thankful for).

Romance:

Brockman, Suzanne: Over the Edge
(Man, I wanted to like this; I bet I never again run across a military romance author so pleasantly enlightened about feminism and homosexuality. And hey, it didn't suck; she can write a decent sentence, at least. But the sex was never all that sexy, and I only liked the A-plot, not the B, C, or D-plots. Brockman seems like a good person; I wish she was a better writer).

Beverly, Jo: The Devil's Heiress.

Balogh, Mary: A Summer to Remember
(I liked it more as a book than a romance. There are worse complaints, I guess).


Manga:

Azuma Kiyohiko: Yotsuba& vol. 8.

CLAMP: Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle vol. 26
(Well, damn).

Nakamura Yoshiki: Skip*Beat vols. 16-20
(Oh, I had so much to say about these volumes! But I didn't write it down, and I kinda forgot most of it. I think it was ranting along the lines of how amazing this manga is for allowing Kyoko to remain the focus of the manga even in a storyline where she'd normally be sidelined--I mean, in what other shoujo manga do you expect a storyline nominally dedicated to mending fences between the delectable leading man Ren and his estranged dad to end up focused on said dad's budding mentoring of/hilarious feuding with Kyoko? (God, that was cool.) I love Nakamura and her genius for writing Kyoko. I could read this for a hundred more years; given the glacially slow development of plot, it would only generate ten years or so of actual story...).

Urasawa Naoki: Pluto vol. 8

Yoshinaga Fumi: Ooku vol. 3.
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 (autumn travels)
Romance:

Beverley, Jo: The Rogue's Return
(Better than Dangerous Joy; not as good as The Secret Wedding).


Mystery:

Stout, Rex: Three for the Chair
(includes "A Window for Death," "Immune to Murder," and "Too Many Detectives").


Graphic novels/comics:

Cooke, Darwyn: Parker: The Hunter (based on Richard Stark's prose novel)
(Umm. Great art. Icky, kinda misogynistic story).

Barnes, Bill, and Gene Ambaum: Reader's Advisory : Unshelved 7
(I bought this at ALA Midwinter, along with a truly fabulous "What Would Dewey Do?" shirt. It's autographed by Bill and Gene! The book, not the shirt, that is.

The forecast: scattered humor).


Manga/Manwha:

Azuma Kiyohiko: Yotsuba vol. 7.

KookHwa Huh, writer, and Sujin Kim, artist, Pig Bride vol. 1.

Urasawa Naoki: 20th Century Boys vol. 6.

Yazawa Ai, Nana vol. 20
(Aaaand there's that spoiler omg).

Yoshinaga Fumi, All My Darling Daughters.

Yoshinaga Fumi, Ooku vol. 2
(sob. ...sorry, I can't help it. For some reasons, the stories in this series make me want to cry my eyes out and keep me from sleeping at night. Frickin' Yoshinaga).
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 (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 (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)
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 (woman with hamster)
Romance

Quinn, Julia: Romancing Mister Bridgerton
(this was off my friend's A shelf. It's not what I would think of as an "A" book, but it was certainly better than the last one).


Mystery

Smith, Alexander McCall, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
('twas ok. Unless they get plottier after this, I don't know how much I'd want to read--the love letter to Africa is nice, but not on the level of say, Kipling's Kim, which fits probably into the same sort of cultural framework and also has slightly rambling narrative, but is such genius that I always forget the qualifiers).


Graphic novels/comics

Dickens, Charles, writer, and Rick Geary, artist/adapter: Great Expectations
(abridged, but I got the plot, and Geary is always worth it.

Someday, I will do right by Dickens and read at least one of his actual original short stories or novels, instead of some adaptation or pastiche, I swear).


DeMatteis, J.M. and Mark Badger: Greenberg the Vampire
(nice art, silly story.

A) The next time I read some ooh-aren't-we-transgressive "reworking" of the vampire legend that kicks off with "Bram Stoker had it all wrong! Let me, a real vampire, tell it to you right," I will commit murder, perhaps in some suitably blood-draining thematic fashion. It's not that I'm particularly attached to Stoker or his book--I've never even made it through the novel, and I'm not a devotee of vampire lore--but it's a meta framing device that's never worked for me, like, at all. Vampires are fictional to begin with, dude; you're not bound to defend your reworking of vampire lore--and by the way, you are not transgressive, and you are not original, you are about the seventeen thousandth person to rework vampire lore since Stoker came up with the prototype to begin with, and it's all tired and hokey. Get over it! You were the one who wanted to work with vampires. If your vampires aren't like Dracula, whatever; just don't write 'em like Dracula. Change whatever you like. This whole demythologizing a fiction to serve a different fiction thing is stupid. Stoker created a popular image to bounce off of, so did Anne Rice,* and we've had "Rice had it all wrong! I'm a vampire, I should know" since, probably other steps, too, in the vampire chain, that I don't fucking care about. It's how you know an work's really carved its way into the popular consciousness, when other authors can't seem to tackle similar material without inserting meta disclaimers into the narrative. Jesus. It's so wussy.

Personally, I can't wait for the Twilight references to start popping up in future fictional works. "Meyer had it all wrong, buddy: I'm a vampire, I should know! Here's my super-original story! Vampires don't sparkle! They do glow in the dark, though. And they can't live on animal blood, but they can live on fish blood."

I am asking all future writers of vampire stories to shut the fuck up. Shut the fuck up in the future. Just write your fucking vampire story. You are allowed to pretend no one else ever wrote a vampire story before. It's okay. No one will mind.

B) Why is Lilith so interested in this dweeb? She's a fucking demon goddess. I'm not into the dweeb character enough to not be bothered that this is a sadly transparent personal fantasy of being the random super-special guy who attracts multiple hot supernatural lovers who are into him because it's Destiny. And it's not a funny enough book to make up for the wincing bits. Whatever).


Foglio, Phil: Buck Godot, Zap Gun for Hire 2: PSmith
(oh thank god, a good book).

Carlton, Bronwyn: The Big Book of Death
(Paradox Press. Kept me up at night. Not a good book to relax with. *shudder* But as always, the Big Book of n is fun.

Um. About spontaneous human combustion. Really? I can't quite bring myself to believe it. Since this is a controversial topic, it's one of those things Wikipedia is useless on).


*You know something neat about Rice? She didn't waste a lot of time on worrying about how her vampires looked next to Stoker's; she just wrote out her crazy-ass sexy vision, no holds barred. She's nuts, but her work has a powerful kick because she's good with prose and she has these vivid ideas and images, and she puts them down on paper. You can say a lot of stuff about Rice, but at least she had the courage to work with her own vision without playing apologist. Rice is self indulgent, sure, but it's a self indulgence that entertained millions, and that is frankly an impressive thing. Come to think of it, the same thing can be said about Meyer.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

There is a host of fascinating books I've been reading for Subject Cataloging I was gonna list, but I've forgotten the names. Sorry.

Romance:

Burke, Joanna, The Spymaster's Lady
(Absolutely the best damn romance novel I've read since whatever that last Heyer thing would have been. The friend who recommended it said it was basically a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, which I read when I was...well, much younger, god knows how long ago that was; I apparently don't remember the plot. Anyway, this thing fucking kicked ass: great characterization, great plotting, sexy, sexy romance. Wow. Highly recommended if you like romance; moderately recommended if you don't really go for romance but don't mind it).

James, Elosia, Duchess By Night
(this was from the "B" shelf of the person who recommended the above awesome Burke. Sadly, it was there for good reason. It was lame-o).


Manga:

Urushibara Yuki, Mushishi vol. 6
(continuing the ongoing awesome. I dunno, I read it like, last month, the details escape me).

Yazawa Ai: Nana vol. 15
(see above).

Hiramoto Akira, Me and the Devil Blues vols. 1-2
(Jesus, this is weird. Robert Johnson meets the Devil, or possibly just the blues, and gets super awesome at the blues, but! Tragedy. And then Bonnie and Clyde show up. And die. And then we go back in time again.

Hiramoto can really draw, and this is extremely neat. Wow).


Urasawa Naoki: Pluto vols. 1-2
(this is like the culmination of about five years of longing for one of the coolest comics I ever had a chance to see. what do you want from me? I'm happy. Oh my god, I love this man, and I love this comic).

Urasawa Naoki, Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys vol. 1
(Wow, I don't remember much of the plot. But five years or so has really gone a ways towards improving my eye for sequential art! Be patient with me, Amelia; I will eventually catch up with you and we can have many a discussionfest on this again. Which reminds me, I should haul Fantastic Children out again as soon as the semester's over, so I can hit that again with you).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: The Tollgate.


Graphic novels:

Various: Mome Summer 2007.

Grist, Paul: Greetings from New Eden: A New Place to Live.

Trondheim, Lewis, writer, and Eric Cartier, artist: Kaput and Zosky.


Manga:

Koike Kazuo, writer, and Kamimura Kazuo, aris: Lady Snowblood vols. 3-4
(I never saw volume 2, which did not significantly interfere with my ability to follow the story, and these volumes make up a 2-volume arc and end the series. All in all, a good read, with the same caveats as before).
cerusee: a white green-haired girl sitting on top of a white brown-haired boy and strangling him (love is trust)
Soap operas can be hauntingly beautiful. American TV soaps air about forty minutes worth of content for most of the three hundred and sixty-five days in a year, so they have a lot of filler; they recast frequently, they retread ground often; they revisit the spectacular enough to choke on it. But they still sometimes achieve moments of haunting beauty, as in this scene here, at 3:48.

It's a very sad scene (in the verbose, drawn-out style of soaps) and probably would seem to sad to anybody, given that it's a conversation about the miscarriage of a wanted pregnancy, but what gives it spectacular kick is the audience's knowledge of the background. This a conversation between an ex-husband and wife who once loved each other intensely, but whose relationship crashed and burned in a spectacular and emotionally scarring way, with lots of guilt for both parties; they refer several times to incidents from the process of that breakdown. Both are now married to other people; she's in love with her new husband, but he's publicly known to still be in love with her.

It's such a gorgeous thing, the interplay of emotions--her, almost at peace with the past, with the mistakes she made and the wounds she suffered, trying now to comfort him; him, feeling raw, guilty and exposed by the collapse of his present marriage, and the miscarriage just suffered by his present wife. Although she loves him, she's trying to keep those feelings under control, so as not to torpedo her current, happy life, yet everything he says is the stab of a dagger--every confession of guilt for his failures of his present wife is also a sorrowful apology to her for having made them first with her.

It's a beautiful dance, graceful and poignant, danced with elegance by people who stumbled through the steps years ago, and now, somehow, find themselves dancing it again. They know the score, know how it ends, and are trying so hard not to move to that rhythm again, but are propelled onwards by the weight of intimacy, the memory of deep feeling.

It's sort of fucking awesome.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (eaten by affection)
Graphic novels/comics:

Kanan, Nabiel: Lost Girl
(so memorable, I've already forgotten what it was about).

Gurewitch, Nicholas: The Perry Bible Fellowship: The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories
(that's quite an imagination Gurewitch has).

Kochalka, James: Monkey vs. Robot.

Giardino, Vittorio: No Pasaran! vol. 2
(the more I read of this, the more I dig it. He's got a really spare style, so it takes some time to get used to the characters, but it kind of crawls up under your skin, the bright, crisp, colorful art, the beauty of landscape and the well-rendered details of houses, cars, trains, airplanes, military uniforms...I know zilch about the Spanish Civil War, so I'm going to need to read up on it).

Benson, John, editor, Dana Dutch (presumed) author, Matt Baker, artist, et al: Romance Without Tears: '50s Love Comics--With a Twist!
(Fantagraphics. The stories are not really "with a twist," like those romance comics with the text rewritten to snark the original stories. This is a collection of actual romance comics published by Archer St. John in the 50s, presumably written by Dana Dutch and mainly illustrated by Matt Baker; however, as there are no surviving records proving Dutch wrote the scripts, we can't be entirely sure all of these are Dutch's work, and the collection is copyrighted by Benson. In the introduction, Benson explains that the older romance comics of the fifties featured surprisingly liberated and self-possessed heroines, far more so than their counterparts in the 1960s, which are notorious for the "tear-stained faces" of their covers. These 50's comics are still conservative about sex and marriage--sex outside of marriage is presented as disastrous, shameful, and rare, and this is not historically true of what actual people did in the 1950's. That said, Benson's observations about the nature of the heroines and their actions in these comics is borne out by the texts--the collection is just chock full of young women who learn by experience, make decisions for themselves (and sometimes make mistakes), cry infrequently and briefly, and who have the kinds of relationships with their boyfriends, parents, siblings, and friends that support mature growth. Well worth checking out).

Simmonds, Posy: Gemma Bovary
(On the subject of good stories involving romance and well-written women--this is fucking brilliant in every regard, and oh so clever. I highly recommend it).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Several of these books are really excellent, thought-provoking works, and I kept putting off this post in the hopes of being able to do them justice, but with the semester in full swing, I just don't have time. Anything marked with a star is a stand-out work deserving of critical attention.


Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: Arabella.

Heyer, Georgette: Penhallow*
(this is something a departure for Heyer: a truly grim murder myster. The ending is brooding and unoptimistic; the mood is oppressive, and there are no sympathetic characters at all. Heyer novels always contain Austen-esque, sharp-edged observations of human foibles, vanities, and failings, but those observations are normally softened with a good-humored, laughing sense of acceptance. Here, they stand as bleak, hopeless summaries of the way people destroy themselves and fail each other. It's probably the best novel she wrote).


Graphic novels:

Abel, Jessica: La Perdita.*

Baker, Kyle: Nat Turner.*

Robinson, Alex: Box Office Poison.*


Manga:

Mori Kaoru: Shirley vol. 1.

Kanari Yozaburo, story, Sato Fumiya, art: Kindaichi Case Files: The Undying Butterflies.

Ohtsuka Eiji, story, Yamazaki Hosui, art: The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol. 7.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
I've not been reading much this month, first because I was in Austin, visiting my parents and hanging out with no-longer-expat Mikke, and more recently because I've been catching up on six months worth of All My Children via YouTube. Rebecca Budig is like my cocaine, man; I got hooked on Greenlee by reading soap mags way back in 2000, and I've never been able to kick my addiction to her feisty, self-absorbed shenanigans for more than three months since. She is more entertaining than...really, most things.


Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: The Foundling
(barely a romance. It's more about 20-something Gilly, the Duke of Sale, breaking out of the protective shell of his overbearing family and having an adventure that helps him cross the line into adulthood. This is not a complaint! Gilly's just adorable in his vulnerability and growing sense of confidence. It never entirely gelled for me as a book, but I laughed a lot and wibbled a lot and really enjoyed it).

Ranpo Edogawa: Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination
(oh boy, I dig it. And I love short stories in general. But for the love of god, don't read this while eating. When will I learn never to read gritty detective fiction while eating?).


Manga:

Okazaki Mari: Suppli vols. 2-3
(Tokyopop has probably already axed this, although it looks like it could be years before we actually know for sure that they've axed and what they're still planning to publish. I was more okay with the thought of this being dropped until I read these volumes, because I am falling in love with this work-romance soap josei manga. The josei niche in America is so, so tiny; I can't abide the thought of it shrinking before it's ever been able to grow. I want to read comics about women my age struggling to balance their professional and personal lives! I want to read comics about Japanese women who want real careers! I want comics with genuinely post-adolescent soap opera! And this is so beautifully, wistfully, illustrated. God, I'm getting depressed).

Watanabe Taeko: Kaze Hikaru vol. 9
(speaking of soap romance, lol@the guys' obsession with the status of Sei and Soji's relationship).

Nishi Keiko: Promise and Love Song
(man, shoujo comics can be dark sometimes. I wonder at what point that realization no longer surprised me?).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: Venetia.

Bujold, Lois McMaster: The Sharing Knife: Passage
(the more I read in this series, the more I like it).


Graphic novels/cartoons:

Various: The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker.


Manga:

Ashihara Hinako: The Sand Chronicles vol. 2

Nakamura Yoshiki: Skip*Beat vols. 12-13.

Tsukaba Sakura: Penguin Revolution vol. 5
(I've having some trouble maintaining my suspension of disbelief vis a vis the implausibly successful cross-dressing. But it's still utterly charming).

Akino Matsuri: Petshop of Horrors: Tokyo vol. 2.

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