frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran on a beach reading excitedly (!reading)
I've been travelling a lot, which means plenty of time for reading but not much for DW posting.

What I've finished reading since my last post:

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty. What I thought would be a fun, tight-knit murder mystery turned out to be a big story covering hundreds of years, major political upheavals, and some thought-provoking ideas about clones. I enjoyed this a lot.

Redshirts by John Scalzi. It was a fun book and made me laugh, but as my first Scalzi novel, I can't say it made me want to read more.

The Thessaly series by Jo Walton (The Just City, The Philosopher Kings, and Necessity). An interesting series, especially as an exploration of utopia. I never thought I'd read a book that would make me excited about the god Apollo. I found that even though I wasn't enormously taken in by the plots or characters, I couldn't put them down, and I think that's just because the prose is so damn readable. I came to particularly love the character Maia, and was bummed that she wasn't in the last novel.

Lavinia, by Ursula K Le Guin. I've had the e-book for ages, and after I finished The Just City, but before I realised there were two more novels after it, I was in the mood for more Bronze Age fiction. Le Guin's prose is as wonderful as ever, and I loved the use of the device that Lavinia -- and everyone else -- was a character in the Aeneid, not a historical figure. I find Le Guin's tendency toward gender essentialism more annoying than I used to.

The Small Change trilogy by Jo Walton (Farthing, Ha'penny, and Half a Crown). Detective noir/political thriller series set in an AU where the UK made peace with the Nazis and the US never joined WWII. In the first book, one of the POV characters is happily married to a man with the same first and last name as Mr. Adjacent, and it was very strange! At several points I thought I'd have to stop reading it because this character was under serious threat and I thought he might die. The end of the series was narratively satisfying but politically annoying. Between this series and the Thessaly series I have read two instances in Walton where the oppressed and their allies basically convinced those in power (or rather, a sympathetic faction of those in power) to stop oppressing them. I'm with Fredrick Douglass on that one.

What I'm currently reading

My Real Children by Jo Walton. Yes, I'm on a kick. I've just started this, but I'm hoping it will be more the intimate, character-driven story that Among Others was. As much as I've enjoyed Walton's books that I've read since then, none of them can hold a candle to that one.

Also, I'm slowly re-reading Searoad: Chronicles of Klatsand by Ursula K Le Guin. I read it for the first (and only) time more than 15 years ago, so all I really remember is the overall feel of the book.

What I'll read next

I pre-ordered the new Philip Pullman book, La Belle Sauvage, and it will be arriving in less than a month. I told myself I'd re-read His Dark Materials first. Also, last year I purchased N.K. Jemisin's Obelisk Gate but decided to wait until the third book was out before reading the whole trilogy (including re-reading The Fifth Season). Now the third book is out but I haven't bought it yet. And finally, I have four books on hold from the library and I plan to drop anything else to read them once they become available. In other words, I don't know.

Free book-shaped space

I finally got my account set up to get e-books from the library and my book buying is plummeting (excepting the Le Guin haul, described below) while my reading rate soars. I'm so pleased.

I recently learned that Worldcon 77 (in 2019) will be in Dublin! I really really want to go -- Dublin is cheaper to get to than London and almost as easy -- but it's within a week of my 10-year wedding anniversary, when we are also planning a big trip. I know this is nearly two years away, but August always ends up filled with family travel, so I feel like I do have to plan this far in advance in order for it to happen.

I went to Portland, Oregon in August, for the first time since probably 2003. I went to Powell's and re-purchased many of the Le Guin books I'd gotten rid of in a misguided purge a few years ago. All the books I bought were used -- I prefer to buy used books anyway, but these were necessarily so since I bought out of print books. Anyway, my Le Guin library is slowly being restored. Also, I almost bought a few missing Earthsea novels, but then a guy at the checkout counter told me that next year they'll be releasing a new illustrated version of the series, so I decided to hold out for that. Speaking of, the fancy illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is coming out soon. I seem to be collecting them all, but I'm really curious to see how they'll do the later books, as even The Philosopher's Stone is huge and unweildy.


frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran on a beach reading excitedly (!reading)
What I've just finished

The Left Hand of Darkness! I no longer have this big gap in my Le Guin portfolio. Um, I liked it. It took a long time to get into, like I said before, partly because I wasn't in a reading state of mind but also because I wasn't really connecting with the POV character (Genly), the plot, or the world. That started to change once we started to see Estraven's POV, because OMG I loved Estraven, they are exactly the sort of character I fall for hard. Principled, kind, able to see the big picture and to act for the greater good even when it isn't what's best for them. (I feel like some people think these sorts of characters are boring. I...don't? Or at least not automatically.)

Anyway, once we got into the dual POV, and especially once they got out on the Ice (I am a total sucker for wilderness adventures, plus there was some fun earth science and even a bit of accurate meteorology which is always a happy surprise) I was On Board and finished it pretty quickly. The ending was sad, in that "I should have seen that coming" way. But good. I look forward to reading some fic and re-reading Le Guin's short stories set on Gethen where they do better with pronouns.

Speaking of, it's funny, because I respect TLHoD's place in feminist science fiction history, but reading it in 2015, it doesn't feel very feminist. Especially when Genly is so sexist all the time, and when his statements reinforce the notion that all the other world in the Hainish universe -- except Gethen -- seem to be patriarchal or at least to have gender identities very similar to the ones Le Guin lived in. It does feel a bit sad that, in 1969 Le Guin was able to envision an interplanetary association without a central government, which has apparently abolished war, and has all sorts of amazing technology, but in which women still do the bulk of childrearing and rarely become mathematicians or scientists. And where the POV character disparagingly calls something feminine or womanish every third page, at least for the start of the story. I mean, it's not particularly surprising having read her other work from that time, but still noteworthy.

What I'm currently reading

The Real and the Unreal vol II by Ursula K Le Guin

I'm pretty sure I've already read every short story in this collection, but it'd have been well over a decade for many of them. After reading TLHoD I was in the mood for more Le Guin, and I bought this in e-book form a few months ago. Le Guin's short stories were generally my favorite so I'm glad to be reading them, but I'm still in the very early works period (late 60s, maybe getting into early 70s), whereas I think it's her mid 70s-90s stuff I like best.

BTW, when I looked at Amazon to double check the title of this book, I saw a *ton* of Le Guin e-books. Which was not the case even a few months ago. Part of me is excited since I sold all my books of hers a couple years ago, but I also know she was really against e-books and Amazon in particular. So I want to investigate this more.

What I'll read next

I don't know! I might continue the Le Guin kick, but maybe I should check out something new. I have a huge recs list thanks to y'alls posts.

frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (BtVS: Buffy bored)
I'm very, very, oh so painfully slowly reading The Left Hand of Darkness. For the first time. After being a Le Guin fiend for most of my 20s. It's the only novel she published between 1968 and 2002 that I haven't read. I bought the book while visiting [personal profile] laurashapiro and lamenting that I had gotten rid of every single Le Guin book I owned when I moved across the world, only to find her works generally are not available as e-books. (Though, to be fair, if the used bookstore I sold them to got them in the hands of someone new to Le Guin, I'm glad I did it.)

Anyway, it's not that I don't like the book, I'm just having a lot of trouble bringing myself to read anything right now, unless it's work related. Which sucks.

I also do not enjoy how sexist the POV character is, but to be honest that isn't the reason I'm getting through it so slowly. I hate when I get like this! I was such an avid reader of fiction as a teenager (besides Le Guin, I mostly read nonfiction in my 20s), and somehow it's just...harder now.

frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran on a beach reading excitedly (!reading)
Questions from [personal profile] chaila:

Favorite books you read this year?

Ha ha ha, is this a leading question? The answer is definitely The Steerswoman series, by Rosemary Kirstein. Though I read some others I liked, most notably Gullstruck Island by Francis Hardinge, The Steerswoman really won my heart. It was so full of love and sympathy for its characters. Like I was just swelling with indescribable love for so many of them! Bel, Steffie, Rowan, Zenna, so many Outskirters whose names I can't recall right now...<3 <3 <3

Its world was so refreshingly lacking in patriarchy. It had accurate meteorology! And the journey of discovering what the world was really about has been so great. I loved reading Rowan's thought process and working through the reasoning with her. I can't wait for more! Also I can't wait to re-read all the books; I have a feeling I'll be coming back to all of these. And maybe when I do I'll have more intelligent things to say, mostly I want to flail at them right now. And as I was writing this and thinking about tomorrow's post I started reading James Nicholl's review of The Outskirter's Secret and later (I never did read those reviews when reading the books) and now I *really* want to re-read. Speaking of ...

Are there any books that you always return and reread?

Not really, not since I was a kid. However, I tend to return to the same authors time and again. Almost all of my fiction reading from age 18 to about 24 was Ursula K Le Guin. I lived in a college town with a fantastic used bookstore that had almost everything she'd ever written on its shelves, and between that and the library I managed to get my hands on her entire oeuvre prior to 2004 or 2005 (when I stopped reading her new work). I discarded a few of her early novels -- I think I read Rocannon's World, her first novel, but neither of the two that came after despite having paid money for the trilogy. More shockingly, perhaps, I threw down The Left Hand of Darkness in disgust with her insistence on using male pronouns for characters who had no gender. I never got more than about 50 pages in, and never tried it again. Later I felt partially vindicated when I read an essay where she self-criticises that choice.

But I did reread most of my favorites: The Dispossessed, The Earthsea Cycle, The Telling, The Compass Rose, The Birthday of the World, and A Fisherman of the Inland Sea. The last three of these are short story collections; many of the stories are set in the Hainish universe, which I love and always longed for more of. And the last book contains what's likely my favorite short story ever: "Another Story". And The Birthday of the World contains a story set in the same world as The Left Hand of Darkness, but with a more thoughtful presentation of sex, gender, and pronouns, and it's a wonderful story.

As much as I loved Four Ways to Forgiveness, I was never able to reread it because it's so violent.

I got rid of almost all of my books, including all of my Le Guin, when I moved to Australia. Writing this is making me wish I had her stuff on hand, and it looks like a lot of it might not be available digitally. Oh well.

I've also reread the Harry Potter books and His Dark Materials, but again, only once. And Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents are high on my reread list. I have a strong impulse to return to fiction I know I love and an equally strong feeling that I aught to be more open to trying new things; the result is a stalemate where I don't read as much fiction as I used to.

Though part of it is also that I enjoy non-fiction as well. But I'm even less inclined to re-read that. :)

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