I was wandering through a bookstore today and discovered that there is a book titled "There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories"
. Of course I bought it. How can you not, with a title like that? <3 Russian literature. Also, dear fellow readers of "Anna Karenina", I am mostly done. How are y'all coming with the book? It's not as different as I was thinking it would be, nearly 25 years after the last time I read it. This suggests to me that my ideas about romance and happiness at 12 are highly similar to my ideas about romance and happiness now. (Alternatively, damn, I was a morbid little romantic back then! No wonder I became a goth.)
Also also, for readers of Laura Joh Rowland's Sano Ichiro detective series, she's done a take on the 47 Ronin in "The Ronin's Mistress"
. I bought that too for the plane ride to Colorado; I bet I'll either love it or hate it.
I counted and realized that I brought ten physical books with me on this trip... and then I bought three more. (I'd say I can quit any time, but y'all know that's a lie.) No wonder people use e-readers. But when I read electronically, I can't give the books to my friends when I'm done as easily! Recently finished:
I was particularly delighted with Letta Neely's "Juba"
because it came with a nice note from Paperback Swap. (The person who sent it to me: "I'm from Seattle! Lower Queen Anne. :)" Hooray poetry lovers of the Northwest; I kept the note for the heartwarming power of connections between strangers who love books.) But Neely is a powerful poet with a ringing and compelling voice.Walk to the bodegas
and liquor stores that lock us
in like backward army forts
no one passes the borders
no one -- not cats nor progress --
passes the borders without scars
She writes a world I know, for all that her experiences of it differ from mine. She reminds me of Gloria Anzaldua in places -- I have a particular affection for chroniclers of the liminal. Her work is modern, urban, and has aged well... or history hasn't moved past the things she talks about. (It was depressing when she calls out Guantanamo to realize that this book was published in 1998.)I want to know does anyone fully comprehend this tapestry
does anyone know how to sew all this together without mixing
trading truth for slogans.
We are not all hanging from trees
standing in welfare lines
neck deep in sand getting our heads kicked
off into the sunset
(these things are being done as we speak)
We are not all getting beat down at Stonewall
We are not all dying the same way.
But we are all fighting to breathe.
I read history for facts; I read poetry for truth. Five poets' filters out of five.
I'd had Malinda Lo's "Huntress"
on my to-read wishlist for ages, waiting for a time when I wanted something relatively light and fluffy. It's teenage lesbian YA with a fantasy quest plot. I bought it desperately hoping that it wasn't a coming-of-age story, which thankfully it wasn't, really. The characters *are* teenagers, but it's not that terrible hackneyed And That Is How I Figured Out Who I Really Was plotline. (Easily half of fantasy novels are that, and I'm just bored with it. There's nothing wrong with coming-of-age as a plot, but I would also sometimes like to read novels that are about other things.) I didn't feel like the narrative structure was terribly tight -- you don't even really get to the quest until about 2/3rds of the way through the book, and then the quest itself feels rushed in comparison to the slow pace of the previous majority. This is partially made up for by the slow, delicate work of characterization that Lo achieves, as well as her deft worldbuilding which takes the Venn diagram overlap of Chinese and Irish mythology and makes it breathe. I must admit a particular soft spot for her Otherworld faerie nation, the Xi. [grin] I howled when I figured out the pronunciation and saw what she did there. I'd like to see her write something a little more complicated, but I wasn't dissatisfied with "Huntress". Three and a half acknowledgements that life is complicated out of five.
I finished off "Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS"
on the plane over. It's a bit disjointed, as the author is trying to wind together a great disparate number of historical accounts and interviews with surviving female OSS veterans into one coherent narrative, and history doesn't conveniently lend itself to editorial interleaving without a fight. Still, if you're willing to spend the time there's a wealth of otherwise unexplored historical detail in there, both about the various intelligence operations underway during World War II and about the cultural rules that governed the development of intelligence sources at the time. (I remain amused at Julia Child's first career as a spy.) I wouldn't want this to be the first book I read about Allied intelligence efforts of the time, and I wish it had gone into more detail about America's decision to break its treaty and spy on Britain, but it's a good fill-in-the-gaps broadly written survey book to read after you've familiarized yourself with the major players and theaters of action of the time. The author's access to and strong reliance on primary sources is a huge plus, but the book still leaves you with as many questions as it answers. Three and a half VariTypers out of five.
I picked up Hemingway Foundation award winner Yiyun Li's "Gold Boy, Emerald Girl"
at Blue Cypress in New Orleans -- I'm a sucker for short stories and strong characterization, and Li delivers on both these fronts. Boldly drawn protagonists with strong voices and subtly layered interpersonal dynamics were the unifying theme of these stories... I was often surprised by the choices they made, and unable to predict the plot well in advance. I'm always kind of pleased when an author can write believable, consistent characters that you don't know everything about in the first thirty pages. "Prison" was good, "House Fire" was unexpected, but the titular story was my well-crafted favorite. Four and a half cups of my tea out of five.
's recommendation, I read "The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo"
. Normally romance isn't my thing (though I've read a couple lately -- apparently I mostly don't like it when it's breezily and unconsideringly normative... but that's most of the genre), but I really enjoyed this one. Jade is a wickedly sharp protagonist with a determination to experience the world, and Zen Cho does a wonderful job of making her vivid without making her perfect. It was a pointed commentary on many of the similar period pieces that I've previously read without condemning the entire genre. I'd recommend this to people who like steampunk, or who grew up with books about Britain being presented as Here There Be Great Literature, Pay Attention. Thanks for the pointer, brainwane
! I look forward to more from the author; four snarky criticisms of Chinese porcelain out of five.
The other romance I read recently was haikujaguar
. Okay, it's as much science fiction as it is romance. (I was charmed that both ilcylic
were reading it along with me... apparently in order to get sci-fi fans to read romance, you put a spaceship in it and frame it as a woman saving a man and then feeeeelings rather than vice versa. [grin]) You can read a lot of reader commentary in her serial postings of the same
. I have a soft spot for serials... it's a really nice format to read in. I like sharing the story with other folks reading along, and being able to discuss it with them. (This is part of my love for the Silent Reading Party too, and also why I basically never go to movies by myself. I want to have people to talk about it with!) I just have to remember to chip in afterwards and donate to the author for all the enjoyment that I got out of the read. Like many of her other readers here, I am impatiently wishing that books two and three were out already... I liked the complicated relationship between Reese and Hirianthial, the ensemble cast nature of the Earthrise
's crew, and how imperfect Reese is as a protagonist. The mistakes she makes in relationships are believable ones, and didn't lose her my sympathy as a character. (Not all readers seemed to feel that way. But I like prickly people, often.) I look forward to learning more about both Martian and Eldritch cultures in that universe; four space pirate thumpings out of five.
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Tags: book reviews, fantasy, history, japanese literature, mysteries, poetry, russian literature, sci-fi, seattle, spies
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