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Absolutely unqualified recommendation. This book was wonderful.

Delarua, a biotechnician on Cygnus Beta, has to work with Dllenahkh, an alien government official whose planet has just been destroyed, as part of a team to attempt to settle his party of refugees effectively. It's all about co-operation and negotiation and accomodation, as they try to integrate Dllenahkh's people into Cygnus Beta without demanding assimilation from either side. They spend most of the book travelling around Cygnus Beta trying to work out what the Sadiri need in order to settle, and the book does a very good job of managing to show us a variety of cultures and the enormous impact of this much destruction, while not ignoring the personal side at ALL. I adored all the members of the team, and their friendships. It's a two protagonist book definitely, but the supporting cast is a ton of fun.

The world-building is stunning. Cygnus Beta actually feels like a whole planet: there are a variety of cultures and political entities, and none of these are unrealistically isolated from each other. There are humans, but there are no direct analogues to current or historical human cultures, although it's clear that Earth's cultures have not been forgotten.

It reminded me strongly of Janet Kagan, particularly Hellspark, or Vonda McIntyre's Starfarers books. Lord has that same interest in generally well-intentioned people trying to do their best. Unlike in Hellspark, Lord introduces social complications that are a matter of much more than etiquette and that her protagonists are incapable of actually solving, but this isn't a world where terrible things happen constantly because that's supposed to be "realistic." Terrible things happen, but good things too, and it's always reasonable to at least try.

Lord also does a wonderful job creating a society that is very concerned with fertility and the sense that they really need to not die out (which is a very comprehensible response to massive death tolls), but that nevertheless actually has solid respect for women and motherhood. I've read too much SF that seemed to think that you absolutely couldn't do anything except be sexist in order to encourage women to have kids, so it was nice to see someone write a society that was casually very, very interested in babies, but also very, very convinced that women are people. (Nb: no babies actually appear; it was just obvious that many of the characters were interested in them and planned to have them in the future. I am not into kidfic and found this book incredibly charming.)

The only complaint I can make about this book is that this is the cover (with a very similar picture of a man's face on the back), which is irritating when I'm not sure anyone in this book is anywhere near that pale. This is not Lord's fault in any way, but should perhaps be mentioned.

More spoilery/silly notes )
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Rereading Gordon Korman because, come on, should we not all be rereading Gordon Korman constantly? Comfort reading ftw.

I really want fic about Commando (The Twinkie Squad) and Sam (No Coins, Please) meeting in university and becoming angry queer activists together! Commando has the encyclopaedic knowledge of the US political landscape! Sam has the rage against the machine! Together they make angry flyers, and Sam makes fun of Commando for living in a country without healthcare!

I can't decide if it ends Sam/Commando, or if Commando and Douglas are still my OTP, and Sam is just his activist soulmate. In any case this fic doesn't have a plot, and would be hard to write, and also no one would read it, but I want it really badly.


It will have to go in the list of other fics I want, but that don't have a real plot. A small selection of same:

these ones are all hockey )
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Hockey fandom really, really needs to read Ken Campbell and Jim Parcels' Selling the Dream: How Hockey Parents and Their Kids Are Paying the Price for Our National Obsession. It's both a terrifying look at the systems that produce NHL players, and a wonderful source of bizarre facts about current players.

Essentially, the system, as it currently stands, is kind of fucked )

Campbell and Parcels do spend what seems like an excessive amount of time arguing with Malcolm Gladwell )

On a less depressing note, this book is also a delightful source of peculiar hockey-player facts. Some of it is evidence that particular guys' parents were kind of obsessive (though for me, no one beats the couple who lived in a boat in the Toronto Harbour for a couple of years so their son could play in the GTHL.)

Among others: Matt Duchene, Carey Price, Stamkos, the Staals, Giroux, and Ryan O'Reilly )


1They also keep criticising his statistic that nearly the entire roster of the Medicine Hat Tigers - as a random example - was born before August, by pointing out that Tyler Ennis (Oct 6) was actually one of the few guys off that team to make the NHL, which is a terrible fucking point to make off a dude who has publically complained that he spent his childhood getting cut from teams before he ever got a chance to try out entirely because he was "too short" (he is now 5'9"). He's not exactly your poster-boy for the idea that parents don't need to get involved.
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I'm enjoying the new season of Community! Spoilers )

--

I finally finished reading Ankaret Wells' The Maker's Mask. I have no idea why it took me so long to read because every time I picked it up it was fabulous. Strongly reminded me of Kirstein's Steerswoman books, in the best possible way. Spoilers for both follow )

Something more closely resembling a review, though decidedly scattered: Spoilers for the Maker's Mask only ) Highly recommended, and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel.

--

I have no words for that Avs-Oilers game last night. It was ridiculous in all the best ways, though I am divided between delight over the Oilers' comeback and how well (nearly) everyone was doing (Nuge scoring! Maggie having a second big goal! Hemmer and Ebs with two each!), and the strong feeling that Dutchy is going to stab someone if the Avs don't start improving soon (and I really don't know if they can, after their completely unbelievable slew of injuries).
opusculasedfera: Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in copper and blue Oilers uniforms hug on the ice after a goal. (oilers)
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It's certainly different from other Pratchett: a lot less meta, a lot more SF. It's not bad at all...

The essential premise is that humanity finds itself able to 'step' sideways onto alternate Earths and voila, enormous, unimaginable social change. Which is all very well and good. The problem is that, in order to demonstrate the scope of the social change, the first bit of the book spends a LONG time introducing more and more characters. Which is generally Pratchett's strong suit, but perhaps he was restraining himself from wackiness because this is a book ostensibly set in the near-future of our Earth, only it meant that his protagonists seemed quite a lot duller than his minor characters who actually seemed to have strong opinions and interests.

Once the plot properly picked up, the book improved dramatically. spoilers )

When the sequels come out, I'll probably get around to reading them, it wasn't a bad book. But it was the sort of SF that is very much about thinking through a set of ideas rather than characters, or even plot, and I found that the angle at which Pratchett and Baxter came at those ideas seemed quite off to me.

--

The Canes won last night, which was delightful, and also the Canes' announcers (who are a joy in general) seem really, really determined to make me ship EStaal/Sasha. Seriously, they will not stop talking about how well they play together and how good their communication and chemistry is. There's also so much gushing over how EStaal apparently praises Sasha to them, and now I really want the fic where EStaal has too many feelings about how great having Sasha on his line is and this somehow ends in makeouts?

The Oilers are much more tragic because holy shit, boys, what the fuck is D, do you even know? But Dubi has been seriously excellent and made them way less tragic than they could have been, and Gags has a nine game point streak which is not bad at all and makes me ludicrously happy for him. Also I have a lot of feelings about Nail being an candidly Muslim player and what that means in Canada (Nail retweeted this, which he does for a lot of fans, but it's still delighting me.)
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thoughts )


In other news, someone got very angry at the putative villains in my library copy of N.K. Jemisin's Kingdom of Gods and wrote "ASSHOLES" a dozen times on their glossary entry at the back of the book, with bonus carefully drawn piles of shit. While I can understand the sentiment, it's something of a baffling choice as Jemisin never gave any indication that she disagreed. Were they concerned that other readers might not notice?
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Out of habit and for archival reasons, books read in 2012:

um, this gets rather long... )

I never know what to say about ostensibly meaningful dates, but best wishes of the old year and the new to you all.
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Why am I unable to stop reading books that irritate me?

I picked up L'histoire de la cuisine familiale du Qu├ębec by Michal Lambert as part of my ongoing improve-my-appalling-French project because hey, history and cooking! cut for length and complaining )

Misc

Nov. 12th, 2012 05:50 pm
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Finally got around to watching this week's Fringe, which says something about how this season has been going, even if I was busy-ish this weekend. Not bad? spoilers )

I also finished Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Witch, which was good, but I think suffered because it's just not quite as good as her earlier books, despite being excellent. I would also guess that it's aimed a little younger and that's why the writing was so much more straightforward. I did enjoy the fact that Sunny, the protagonist, discovers a parallel community of magical users that actually has realistic structure that she has to enter into, and she is special, but not so special as to transcend society completely. I was also very impressed by spoilers for the very end ) It's a cute book though, and certainly one of very few fantasy novels set in modern Nigeria, so highly recommended if you like that kind of thing.
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Okay, Elementaryx04 has redeemed itself pretty thoroughly. spoilers )

Elementary is still hella procedural-esque, but it's shaping up to be a reasonably good one, so I might actually stick around on this one.


Also everyone who told me to read other Elizabeth Wein books because they were less traumatic was only correct in the sense that they were MARGINALLY less traumatic. Spoilers for Code Name: Verity, and The Sunbird ) Of course, I'm going to read more of her books because Wein continues to be a fantastic writer and her attention to historical detail is fucking ace, but I'm just going to go out on a limb here and guess that terrible things probably happen in ALL of them (in amazing, heartbreaking ways, natch.) I do recommend the hell out of The Sunbird, because everything about Wein's historical world-building was great (6th century Africa! how cool is that!) and the narrative is compelling as hell, I'm just saying: brace yourself, she writes gorgeous beautiful books that can rip your heart out at a moment's notice.
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Have now read Code Name Verity after approx. a million recommendations. Everything they said about it being brilliant is quite true. If you want to read about women pilots and spies in WWII, this is absolutely what you should read because it's fantastic. I was seriously impressed by Wein's historical research; she says in her afterword that she focused on plausible rather than exact and it worked very well. I never had a "what? NO" moment reading this, which is pretty rare for historical fiction, and her fictional place names plus accurate attitudes worked a million times better than exact place names, but the addition of women who are far too modern. As she says, there were loads of women working in these fields, and they did tons of things during the way, but they didn't get to be equals with the male pilots, and their working conditions were very, very different, which doesn't mean you can't tell stories about the incredibly important and interesting things they did! Just make them realistic.

however, spoilers )
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I'm not really a big YA person (reading about "teenage problems" was boring when I was one of them, hasn't necessarily improved for me in the interim), but several people recced them and I'm really enjoying Hilary McKay's books about the Casson family. I've read Saffy's Angel, Indigo's Star, and Permanent Rose so far and they've all been really good. Essentially, it's the story of the Casson family: four kids, parents are artists, the untidy but loving environment, etc. The books feel more like family drama than YA (possibly because they're actually written for kids who are a little younger, oddly enough) and I really enjoyed how well she writes adult issues through children's eyes.

She also writes fantastic children, who have that genuine slightly-sociopathic feel where they really haven't worked out other people properly and so might do any number of terrible things because they just can't understand who would be hurt. And yet, they're not bad kids! She manages to write all sorts of cliches without making me hate her including spoilers )

Overall, highly recommended.
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I've been rereading Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles (comfort reading! <3) which stand up fairly well as an adult, though some of the jokes seem to have changed. There's a running joke about the very academic magician who has some trouble not talking in academic-ese, and I definitely used to find him funny because he sounded nonsensical, whereas now I am very impressed at the plausibility of his technical dialogue and the way that it does fit with his subsequent simplifications (obviously taking for granted the fact that a lot of the things he's talking about aren't real, but if you assume the reality of the bits of spell he's talking about, he says something complicated about how they interact and then something simpler, and the two lines do mean the same thing.) It's quite good, though it probably says some awful things about me that I have to be reminded by the text that the academic-ese is a bit overdone.

I also really want to know if post-HP kids respond to Morwen, the witch, in the same way. There's a whole plotline about people nagging at her because she doesn't fit witch stereotypes appropriately (e.g. is not aged and hideous crone with one black cat, but youthful redhead with nine cats in all colours, though firmly on the sensible and unromantic side of things), which is quite well done and finishes on useful message of 'tradition is not always right for everyone' without being preachy. But I wonder if those stereotypes exist in the same way for kids now or if they are still aware of the image of the Hallowe'en style witch, but more likely to think HP-style witchcraft, which made a fair number of jokes about that stuff in the first book especially, but pretty clearly presented a lot of variation in ways of being a witch, pretty much none of which were that stereotype, so Morwen wouldn't stick out as atypical. Though I frankly have no idea if kids are still reading Wrede so it may all be moot, though I think everyone should read these (Mammoth!Fail aside, these are much better and generally inoffensive.)

They're such charming books and I identify with Cimorene like hell and adore most of the characters. Last year's Yuletide also produced Having the Constitution for It in which the magical kingdom from these books is accidentally made a democracy, which is basically headcanon for me now as it's pitch-perfect and satisfies all of my latent anti-monarchy tendencies.
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Read Rumer Godden's Greengage Summer today because I'd loved her books as a kid and it invariably takes me an embarassingly long time to realise that authors I read as a child might have written anything else. Realised about half-way through that it was probably good I never found it as a child because it belongs to a genre I found intensely frustrating as a kid.

Cut for plot spoilers )
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Contrasting experiences:

1) Attempting to read Emily Eden's Semi-Attached Couple on the strength of discussions of her travel writing that just don't understand why her novels haven't been revived as they were terribly popular in 1860, and discovering that the reason is that most of the humour consists of how hilarious it is that Jewish people want to be treated like real humans.

2) Reading Flora Annie Steel's autobiog after being rather put off her novels by academic discussions of her influence on/depiction of stereotypes of Indians, particularly those involved in the Sepoy Rebellion, and realising that her writing about Scotland at least is disarmingly appealing and her racism on the mild side for having been born in the 1860s (i.e. the Indians are picturesque and she depicts none of their feelings, but she doesn't think they're terrible people.)

Not sure what this actually says about anyone, but the contrast amused me.
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Just finished reading Frances Hardinge's The Lost Conspiracy/Gullstruck Island and it was delightful! (An aside: why do US publishers insist on changing the names of UK books and why do Canadian library systems deal with this by acquiring both editions and cataloguing them completely separately so you can only tell they are the same book when both holds arrive? Cross-referencing is your friend.)

Set on a not!Pacific island colonised by not!Europeans, this is the story of Hathin, a Lace girl (the Lace are a particularly oppressed indigenous minority on this island) brought up to take care of her sister, who everyone hopes will turn out to have magical powers that will increase the social standing of her family and village, but may in fact merely be developmentally disabled in some way, a fact which Hathin is required to conceal from everyone around her. And then everything goes straight to hell and it all gets deliciously complicated.

Spoilers for plot and ending )
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A thing I find peculiar: a store near me called something like 'Stasis Preserves and Jam'. Which does get across the essential principle behind canning things quite nicely and yet surprises me every time that it's on the handmade, rustic, glass-jars-topped-with-gingham end of the spectrum, rather than the brushed steel, space-age, hi-tech end of things, which is what I think of when you say 'stasis', which implies a rather more permanent and technological solution to preservation than sugar, salt and/or vinegar.

And now books read in the past year, largely for my own amusement and further reference (I started keeping a list a few years back and I do find it terribly useful for those moments where you're going "oh, yes, that one book I read in the summer, with the thing and the girl and the plot and what on earth was it called?")

Cut for length )
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Reading Patricia McKillip's Solstice Wood and realising that her narrative voices are all rather similar, aren't they? I do like her work a great deal and I am enjoying this one, but she generally doesn't write in first-person and when she does, as she does in SW, the voices are so similar that every time she switches POVs it takes me a couple of pages to notice, which really shouldn't be happening. It's still a beautiful narrative voice and I do love her prose, but this really made her particular quirks so terribly obvious. OTOH, she has thereby managed to write a first-person novel that doesn't bother me, even though it's really not my favourite authorial choice, so how much can I really complain?
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O designers of Skyrim! Why is it always fucking night? Every damn time I fast travel somewhere, whoops, night again! It's not even as if time of day matters in game EXCEPT that night means the shops are shut. Everything else can happen at any time of day. I guess it's ~realism~ except there doesn't seem to be a point to it. Bah. In other news, I am addicted to this game; it's horrifying.

Finally got around to reading Margaret Halsey's With Malice Toward Some, which is just as delightful as everyone says it is. Except, I suppose, those people she is energetically sending up, but one can't have everything. (She, an American, spent a year in England in the 1930s when her husband was teaching at Exeter and is beautifully mocking of the English gentry, as well as academics in general.)

Also Community just gives me all the feelings and it had damn well better come back. Last couple of episodes were so adorable, in that special Community these-are-such-terrible-people sort of way. <333
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I just finished Margaret Ball's No Earthly Sunne, which is an excellent book in itself, but is also fascinating for the way it slots right into certain sub-genres of fantasy novels. It's not exactly referring to other books, but it feels like it's part of a literary conversation in a way that amuses me.

So the plot is, essentially spoilers for everything )No Earthly Sunne isn't a timeless masterpiece, but it's a very pleasant read and if you like any of these related genres then you might well be interested.

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