frayadjacent: Buffy with a goofy look on her face, text says "dork" (BtVS: Buffy dork)
What did you just finish reading?

The Golem and the Djinni, by Helene Wecker. I loved it. The ending was fantastic. And there will be a sequel! Coming out in 2018! Set during WWI! I'M SO PLEASED.

I want to say more about this book but I'm having trouble coming up with the words. Why is it so much harder to say why I liked something than why I disliked it? OK: all of the characters were really compelling, the story was interesting, the pacing was excellent, and the prose had this warmth and authenticity that I enjoyed. I'm so glad I get to spend more time with these characters. Next year.

Paper Girls, Vol 1 by Brian K Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, and Matt Wilson. Mr. Adjacent has been telling me to read this for about six months, and I finally did as a palette cleanser after finishing The Golem and the Djinni, before starting my next novel. I liked it! Once I read the rest of my TBR comics I'll buy the next volume.

Yes Please, audiobook, written and read by Amy Poehler. Meh, it was OK. It made me laugh sometimes, but didn't inspire me or motivate me or make me think very much. I was almost finished with this when I posted about it last week, so I won't add much. I listened to the last chapter walking home from work while Trump was inaugurated. She was complaining about the internet and smartphones.

What are you reading now?

An Accident of Stars, by Foz Meadows. This is my introduction to Meadows. I've still only read a little bit, but so far I am liking it well enough to keep on but not loving it. The story is holding my attention, but I haven't been really grabbed by it or the characters. And I find the prose a bit wordy.

I'm also having a reaction that I think is unfair and I'm trying to unpack: the two (thus far) POV characters have a much stronger sense of social justice than I'm used to in a character. In some ways they have worldviews a lot more like my own than what I typically read. And when a character says or thinks something social justicey, my brain immediately goes, "stilted language! Nobody talks like that!". Except, um, I talk like that. Sort of anyway. So, I haven't quite parsed what of it is that I find the prose awkward overall, and what of it is some unpacked baggage I didn't even know I had. I'll keep reading and see how I go. I thought about giving up once already, then remembered Kate Elliott's praise on the back cover, and kept reading.

Also, I am pleased that the author and one of the main characters are Australian and that there have been specific references to Australian flora. I miss me some gum trees.

Ms Marvel, Vol 1 by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona. I purchased the first four volumes a year ago, read the first two, and then got distracted. So now I'm starting over! Still like it.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: the Untold Story of English audiobook, written and read by John McWhorter. I'm liking this as much as his podcast, Lexicon Valley, which inspired me to buy this. I'm about midway through chapter 1, where he presents evidence for the considerable influence of Celtic languages on English grammar. This influence at least partly explains why English grammar is so different from that of other Germanic languages. And apparently the magnitude of this Celtic influence is dismissed by many linguistic historians of English, who say things like, "oh the Angles etc just killed them all and it's totally a coincidence that English, Welsh and Cornish share traits that are unheard of in most other languages". o_O (To be fair, McWhorter acknowledges that historians of English who said that didn't realise how rare those shared traits are. But that's because they didn't bother looking.)

What will you read next?

I'm not sure. I haven't decided how much I want to devote to reading Hugo-eligible books for this year, so I can nominate, or just focus on books I currently want to read + Hugo-eligible books for next year. I'm a slow reader so a head start doesn't hurt. For my walking-to-work audiobook, I'll probably get one of the Great Courses books -- either the one on culinary history or the ordinary people's history of the ancient world one (that one seems to use the same definition of "ancient world" as my 10th grade history class did, mostly focusing on Egypt, the Fertile Crescent, etc). The books are expensive but you can get them on audible for a regular monthly credit. Or I'll just keep listening to back episodes of "Stuff You Missed in History Class", which I'm enjoying tremendously.

One of my goals is to read all my currently-owned comics, which includes Saga Vol 6. Like with Ms Marvel, it's been so long I feel like I have to start from the beginning, or at least one or two TPB's back. The way I'm going I can probably wait till Vol 7 is out in late March. /o\

Free book-shaped space

I'm so bummed I can't go to Worldcon in this year. I was hoping it would be my first Worldcon, but alas. Fuckin August.

frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (BtVS: everything wonky)
Does anyone understand the new Hugo nomination tallying? I read the description but frankly had trouble following it. Speaking as someone who knew nothing about the previous methods.

Obviously what I'm most interested in is how it might prevent Evil Puppies.

frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (HP: Hermione thinking)
Following [personal profile] coffeeandink's format

What I recently finished

I finally finished the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire audiobook, read by Stephen Fry. Looking through my previous posts, it looks like I started it 1.5-2 months ago. I kept getting stuck, what with Ron and the Triwizard Tournament and S.P.E.W. and the dread of Cedric Diggory's impending death. That one is still the hardest for me, even though he isn't my favorite character to die. I think it's because a lot of the deaths in book 7 are glossed over. And even though Dumbledore's death is awful, he still got to live a long life and die more or less on his terms. The death of a kind young man with his whole life ahead of him, and which is given a lot of build-up and narrative attention, is much harder.

A few weeks ago [personal profile] umadoshi posted a link to an essay called The Harry Potter series is actually one long story about PTSD. Now, I haven't read it, mostly because I'm finding there's a lot I don't remember about the series and I want to rediscover those things as I listen, rather than through analysis, fanworks, etc. (I am such a spoiler phobe. Sometimes I even do this if I'm rewatching Buffy, despite having watched and vidded and discussed the show over and over. Just in case! You never know when you'll be delighted to rediscover something you'd forgotten. Or something.) Anyway, despite having not yet read the argument I imagine that I'd largely agree with it. And that is related to why I adore -- or at least previously adored -- book 5, because of the way it deals with Cedric's death and all the other trauma Harry has undergone. More on that in the next section.

Shadow Gate, by Kate Elliott. This series continues to hold my interest, and Shadow Gate was a lot more compelling than Spirit Gate. It introduced a lot more POV characters, including several women. One of my least favorite characters underwent a transformation that was hard to read at times but incredibly well-written, and thus was propelled to a favorite (along with all of the POV women).

(CN: discussion of fictional sexual violence in this paragraph) There is a lot of sexual violence in these stories. I am not used to it. I think I can handle it better than I would have thought because it is a) generally not explicit, though there have been moments where small details were enough to be a little sickening. b) the surviovor's POV is prominent, and there has not been any sexual violence directly from the POV of the perpetrator, which is something I seriously can't handle. c) It presents sexual violence as a product of power relations, not sexual desire. d) It presents sexual violence as survivable. I keep recalling that, in Spirit Gate, one of the characters says to another that a woman can survive rape and go on to great power and accomplishments. And one of the characters who was indirectly referenced in that moment has done just that. Not in a "rape drove me to a vengeful rampage" -- which I actually thought it was going to do, briefly, but simply that this was one (significant) element of the character's life. It didn't define her, and it didn't ruin her.

What I'm reading now

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, audiobook read by Stephen Fry. As I mentioned, this used to be my favorite HP. I've learned in the last few years that it is many people's least favorite, and I think I read somewhere that even J.K. Rowling says she rushed it and it could have used another round of editing. I recall liking this book because it feels like the first book to take Harry's trauma seriously. I am not one to revel in the anger of a teenage boy, but at the same time I hate when people dismiss Harry's anger as just that. It is the anger of someone who's been through some serious trauma. Like Buffy Season 6, I like that, when Rowling decided to make the story more exciting by having worse things happen, she also followed though on the emotional consequences for the characters. (Or at least for Harry.)

That's not the only reason I loved this book though. It also finally gave some time and attention to Neville. I loved the way it subverted the idea of Harry as a Chosen One, through Neville's story. It introduces Luna! We get Dumbledore's Army! Etc.

Also, all sorts of things are happening that I thought were in later books: Harry discovering that Mrs. Figg is a member of the magical community, the introduction of Tonks (one of my faves!), and Harry's occlumency lessons with Snape (and what he learns about his father from that).

Traitors' Gate, by Kate Elliott. OMG, I've realised now that the Crossroads series and Black Wolves are much more closely linked than I'd previously thought. Knowing, in broad strokes, how things will end, has got me *dying* to see how they get there. I'm reading this as fast as I can, given that I don't have a ton of free time right now.

Free book-shaped space


I will probably read N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season next. I want to read as many likely Hugo nominees as possible because I finally signed up this year. That means I also plan to read Uprooted, even though a few of the things I heard about it turned me off it.

Speaking of Hugos, I got an email saying that I needed to enter my PIN in order to nominate, and that if I had signed up for electronic communication I'd have an email with my PIN. Well, apparently I didn't sign up for electronic communication, because I have no such email, and there is no other information about how to get the PIN. Assuming this PIN thing also applies to voting, I need to figure this out before...whenever it is that voting happens. Maybe they sent me a letter? I've been so disorganized lately, I could have missed it or forgotten it.

frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran on a beach reading excitedly (!reading)
I haven't done one of these in a while! Also it's Tuesday evening here, close enough.

What I just finished reading

Black Wolves
, by Kate Elliott. It took me a while to get into it. Not that I disliked it, but I was content to read it on the bus and right before bed and leave it at that for a good long while. But then it sucked me in properly and I liked it a lot. The story is exciting and the characters are compelling. It's mostly women's POV! And their points-of-view contradict in some really cool and interesting ways. I kind of fell in love with the setting, too, at least as much as any of the characters. And now I have to *wait* for the next one. It usually takes me so long to find out about and read something that waiting for the second installment is kinda a new experience.

What I'm reading now

Spirit Gate
, by Kate Elliott, whose books I really wanted to get into and finally have! I read A Passage of Stars a few months ago, and I liked it enough that I finished it but never got invested in it. It moved too fast: I never had time to get really interested in a place or situation before something new was happening, and I didn't connect with the POV character. I also strongly disliked one of the secondary characters. After I finished it I read the excerpt from the second book in the trilogy, and it was from this detested character's POV. So I gave up on that series, cool as it sounded (revolutionary uprising! in space. Except I was mostly annoyed by her depiction of said uprising in book 1.). 

Spirit Gate was my second attempt at reading Elliott. I liked it well enough but Spoiler for an event early in Spirit Gate (like 30 pages in) ) I was not interested and, after having not much liked A Passage of Stars, I wasn't feeling super charitable. So I gave up.

So, after having read Black Wolves, I'm much more trusting in Elliott, and, as I mentioned before, I fell for the setting of Black Wolves as much as for the characters. Well, Spirit Gate is set in the same world. And I quickly realized that this could maybe be a very vague minor spoiler for Black Wolves and/or the Crossroads books, mainly if you've read one but not the other. ). So now I'm reading Spirit Gate and it's going much better this time.

Monsoons, edited by Jay Fein and Pamela Stephens. This is work related but I kinda like it! It was published in 1987 and it covers not just the physics of monsoons (mainly the South Asian monsoon) but also talks about its study by South Asian and European scientists, its cultural significance, and it describes the development of the Indian Meteorological Service. It also covers the material at a broad level for someone with my scientific background, which I really enjoy.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I'm listening to the Stephen Fry audiobook. I think this might be my least favorite HP. I would have thought Book 1 was my least favorite but I actually loved listening to that and cried like three times. This one has some great moments but also a lot of plot developments I find irritating or boring: Ron not talking to Harry, the whole Triwizard Tournament, S.P.E.W. I can't put my finger on why I don't like the Triwizard Tournament but it just annoys me.

What I plan to read next

Shadow Gate by Kate Elliott, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Anything else book related

I signed up for supporting membership at Worldcon! So I guess I can nominate and vote for the Hugos this year. I doubt I'll be nominating as I've read so few books, but I hope to read as many of the nominees as I can and am already planning to read some presumed nominees. Because apparently I've decided to become a reader again.

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