juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
In bulk again, to prevent spamming again. And I'm still not caught up! I've been reading a lot, but more than that I've had a lot to say—about The Witcher, because I'm so invested in Ciri and her family and because I've watched Devon play the games and so we've had a lot to discuss about adaptation; about The Cursed Child, not because it's remotely good but because there's some great character dynamics and Snape's cameo engages all my feelings about his character; about every other thing [profile] lassmichrein has been consuming because she's been working through some of my absolute favorite narratives and authors. I've been excited about the media input and media-related output, and "excited about" is not something I often feel—a welcome remedy to the birthday-related angst.

Title: The Purple Cloud
Author: M.P. Shiel
Published: Project Gutenberg, 2004 (1901)
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: ~250 of 450
Total Page Count: 202,135
Text Number: 596
Read Because: interest in Weird fiction, ebook obtained though Project Gutenberg
Review: A vast purple cloud sweeps the globe, leaving only one survivor. An early example of a "last man" novel and apocalyptic genre, this is at best a desolate, sweeping landscape, haunted—even by its sole survivor and his struggle to find purpose—and surreal. But the book is dated, with many slow sections (some of which are literal itemized lists) and repetitive pacing. I DNF'd this somewhere past the 50% mark, which I regret because when I was immersed I loved this for its bleak, profound beauty and for place in genre history. But I couldn't push past the weaknesses, and I wouldn't recommend it.

Title: Blood of Elves (The Witcher Book 3)
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Translator: Danusia Stok
Published: London: Orbit, 2009 (1994)
Rating: 5 of 5
Page Count: 400
Total Page Count: 202,535
Text Number: 597
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
The story of Ciri's childhood, raised by witchers at Kaer Morhen and then taught magic by Yennefer, and of the prophecies and politics that surround this remarkable girl. The folklore-as-worldbuilding of the short stories is largely absent, and I hope it returns in the sequels; the sexism-as-worldbuilding is also absent and good riddance, but the cast of fantastic female characters persists. Politics and the larger plot occur piecemeal, which keeps them from flooding the book but also makes this a prelude rather than a narrative entire. Instead, Blood of Elves is an extended training montage, focusing on Ciri's interactions with taciturn and devoted Geralt and Yennefer who begins as an unforgiving tutor and becomes a mother, and on the imperfect ties that bind this strange family—and it's phenomenal, full of flawed characters and small moments of rewarding emotional transparency.

I have a love/hate relationship with the game series and short stories, and so I'm blown away by my unreserved love of this book, which is everything perfect about Ciri's presence in The Witcher 3, but more indulgent and more cogent. I look forward to continuing the series, but treasure this book in particular and highly recommend it.

Some feels and rants about the process of reading Blood of Elves on my Tumblr: 1, 2, 3.

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—Parts One and Two (Harry Potter Book 8)
Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne
Published: New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: 330
Total Page Count: 202,865
Text Number: 598
Read Because: Harry Potter fan, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Nineteen years after the end of the book series, Harry and Draco's sons set off to Hogwarts, to become best friends and get in all sorts of trouble. The Cursed Child suffers a bad case of sequelitis, borrowing fanfiction tropes and characterization, and relying on the emotional appeal of numerous cameo appearances. The plot's a mess of predictable tropes, and the emotional messages—especially revolving around cameo characters—grow trite. But seeing familiar characters and Slytherin house in a new light provides interesting insight, and Scorpius and Albus are the play's saving grace: they're well-characterized and engaging, and their relationship is fantastic—despite the compulsory heterosexuality that looms over what's obviously a romance. Come to this for the characters, not the plot, and lower your expectations to allow for reiteration and artless indulgence, and it's not awful. But—like the questionable content of the Pottermore extended universe—it's not a must-read, even for fans.

Liveblogging notes and immediate reactions, including an essay about Snape's scene, on my Tumblr: part one and part two.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: Carry On
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2015
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 510
Total Page Count: 187,030
Text Number: 549
Read Because: recommended by Amy, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: In Simon's last year at Watford School of Magicks, everything must come to a head, from his long battle against the Insidious Humdrum to his ongoing rivalry with his handsome, cruel roommate. This is a YA gay romance, playing off Chosen One tropes and cloning Harry Potter (fandom) in particular; I knew that going in, and it fulfilled pretty well every strength and weakness that I expected from that combination. The headhopping first person PoVs make otherwise vivid and diverse characters sound samey, and the developing romance falls just a little flat—there's not enough room for both antagonism and attraction to be convincing. But the way the book lampshades its inspirations allows it to borrow depth, both for the core relationship and the characterization (I'm particularly fond of the way the Mage compares to other mastermind/mentor figures); it's less effective as a commentary on Chosen Ones, but coming in at the tail end of the story works well. This is playful and engaging; and it's insubstantial, but forgivably so.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
Title: The Bird of the River (Lord Ermenwyr Book 3)
Author: Kage Baker
Published: New York: Tor, 2010
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 272
Total Page Count: 164,626
Text Number: 481
Read Because: recommended by [livejournal.com profile] phoenixfalls, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A small family joins the crew of a large river barge. This was far and away my favorite of the Ermenwyr books—no small thing, as I enjoyed the entire series. The Bird of the River is a smaller, softer book. It benefits from but doesn't add to the worldbuilding that occurred in other novels (although it can be read as a standalone); instead, it explores the local effects of clashing and developing societies. The tone is less humorous and more bittersweet, to great effect. There's a plot, but it's only as important as the daily bustle aboard the Bird; what matters most is the growth of the superbly rendered protagonist as she builds a life of her own. This is a domestic, intimate, lovely book, and I admire the restraint of its scale. I recommend this entire series, but if you read just one, read this one.
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
Title: The House of the Stag (Lord Ermenwyr Book 2)
Author: Kage Baker
Published: New York: Tor, 2008 (2008)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 350
Total Page Count: 164,062
Text Number: 479
Read Because: recommended by [livejournal.com profile] phoenixfalls, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: The story of the Yendri liberation from slavery, and their goddess's marriage to a demon lord. The House of the Stag has a slow start, one too epic, archetypal, and, frankly, predictable: it reads as parable more than a human story. But as the characters develop, the book improves. Baker has a knack for combining heavy-handed with surprisingly subtle. While less exuberant than Anvil, it benefits from that book's humor and varied worldbuilding; the politics are too clear-cut, but the interpersonal narratives have welcome nuance. The central cast has personality and charm, and (while I take issue with how Baker handles everything related to sexuality) the love story develops a quiet conviction. I preferred The Anvil of the World, but The House of the Stag lives up to expectations as a prequel—it's (anti)heroic enough to make history, but human enough to be a story worth telling.

It can also be read as a stand-alone.
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
Title: The Anvil of the World (Lord Ermenwyr Book 1)
Author: Kage Baker
Published: New York: Tor, 2010 (2003)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 352
Total Page Count: 163,712
Text Number: 478
Read Because: recommended by [livejournal.com profile] phoenixfalls, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A trio of interconnected novellas. The first is a fraught caravan journey, and a particularly vivid, humorous example of worldbuilding via travelogue. The second is domestic, more successful for its colorful characters (many reoccurring) than for what it eventually reveals about their backstories. The third has a larger scale and stronger plot, and reads differently: it's not as fun as its predecessors, but has more weight and thus makes for a fitting conclusion. I tend to have no sense of humor as a reader, so I'm surprised by how much I liked this volume. Baker's voice, cast, and world are lively to excess, but there's intense variety in the worldbuilding, the cultures and their politics, the ethics, which introduces welcome subtlety and can't but be engaging. I doubt these books will leave a lasting impression, but this one was thoroughly enjoyable and I will continue the series.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I had an extremely conflicted response to Hyperbole and a Half's Adventures in Depression which now deserves substantial revision on account of the new Depression Part Two post. But it's a revision I may not be able to provide, because this topic hits way to close to home. But if you can read that post—the contents are triggering but potentially cathartic for mental illness—perhaps you should.

I'm in the process of reconnecting with a friend in high school, and yesterday wrote him a rambling and spotty summary of the last near-decade. I added at the end of my letter that it's not all as dire as it sounds, that I'm doing better and am more comfortable with, and with discussing, my mental illness. These things are true. But there's no way I can sum up my college experiences and their fallout that isn't incredibly depressing, both to read and write, because those years were horrific and legitimately traumatic; and even though I am in a better place now, depression remains the defining factor of my life—it is who I am.

And when I tell that story, I realize how little I've done to "fix" everything—I'm doing better, but it's better as a relative descriptor and it's by virtue of doing not much at all. But I'm still too tired and too scared to try to find a solution.

I was bitter about Adventures in Depression because of falsity of a pseudo-happy ending; now I wish it had been true because, when I can see past the blinders of my own situation, I don't wish this on anyone. Allie's continued journey isn't identical to mine, but it has a heartbreaking resonance (this is how my suicidal ideation manifest(s/ed), as a passive but total desire for cessation), and I just ... don't know where to go from there. Here is an active blank:

[          ]

to represent thoughts so sympathetic and fragmented and conflicted that I can't process them.

So much of my depression was/is defined by a sense of isolation coupled with the platitudes of "everyone feels sad sometimes" that I don't like it when other people get it—it makes me feel betrayed and combative. But there's a resonance, a gratitude that someone else can express these things, a knowledge that the voice is necessary and potentially useful. But talking about depression is, without surprise, depressing, and issues of mental health trigger my mental health issues.

Depression Part Two is a robust and bittersweet continuation, and I wish that it didn't exist and didn't need to, but it means a lot to me and I ask that you read it, and now I need to step away from these things and try to stop thinking.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
Title: Ombria in Shadow
Author: Patricia A. McKillip
Published: New York: Ace, 2002
Rating: 5 of 5
Page Count: 289
Total Page Count: 137,593
Text Number: 404
Read Because: recommended and reviewed by [livejournal.com profile] phoenixfalls, e-book borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Ombria teeters on the brink of destruction: a child ruler sits on the throne while a dangerous regent vies for power. But Ombria is a city of magic, of hidden doorways and underground sorceresses, and what seems to be her end may only be a transformation. McKillip's illustrative voice creates a fantastic sense of place intertwined with a deep, organic magic: an absorbing, unusual, superbly realized city, Ombria is the book's true protagonist. The characters which people it have melancholy depth and sympathetic troubled relationships; the plot which moves it is both finely knit and inevitable—the strange but natural outcome of the city's identity. But the climax has flaws: the city's fate knits up nicely but some character threads feel hastily knotted in, and the ending uses a trope I dislike: spoilers ). But, while the characters have moments of crystalline resonance, while the plot has a beautiful denouement, don't read it for that. Read Ombria in Shadows for McKillip's lyrical writing and the shadowed, mournful, magical world which it evokes. It's not a flawless book but it is a remarkable one, and it was exactly what I wanted. I recommend it with enthusiasm.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Title: Sins & Shadows (Shadow Inquiries Book 1)
Author: Lane Robins writing as Lyn Benedict / [livejournal.com profile] lanerobins
Published: New York: Ace Books, 2009
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 357
Total Page Count: 133,087
Text Number: 390
Read Because: fan of the author, borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Sylvie has had enough of the dangerous and morally compromising life of a private investigator into the paranormal, but on the eve of her retirement she accepts one more job—because when a newly minted god of justice gives you a case, you can't turn it down. Sins & Shadows is by-the-book urban fantasy but surprisingly robust, engaging most of the tropes I'd expect from the genre but refusing to rely on convention. Sylvie is as prickly and strong as genre demands, but both these traits are put under direct scrutiny and have distinct, often negative, fallout. The plot is episodic and leaves room for the required sequels, but it's expansive, due largely to the memorable worldbuilding: the routine supernatural—werewolves and witches—exists, but the paranormal reaches as far as the divine with vivid apocalyptic results. There's something cinematic in both the plot and the landscape, but Sylvie's struggles drag it back down to earth. All told, a strong showing—unfortunately, none of this changes the fact that I don't care about urban fantasy. This is well-realized example of the genre's tropes, but it's still faithful to them and they're tropes which do nothing for me. I enjoyed Sins & Shadows, and recommend it to fans of the genre, but I won't pick up the sequels.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales
Author: Yoko Ogawa
Translator: Stephen Snyder
Published: New York: Picador, 2013 (1998)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 162
Total Page Count: 132,080
Text Number: 387
Read Because: recommended by [livejournal.com profile] vaga42bond, borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Eleven interconnecting short stories of carrots shaped like human hands, a heart which grows outside the chest, and suddenly, violently jealous lovers weave a beautiful but ill-constructed web. Ogawa's voice inspires adjectives: delicate, cold, macabre. Something unsettling runs through this collection, a horrific magical realism that vacillates between brutal and subtle; at its best it's discomforting and emotionally resonant: an uncommon horror rooted in the most banal of human evils. But each story is told in first person without the slightest change in voice, rendering Ogawa's style repetitive and erasing the narrator's characters. The stories are interconnected, but the connections are blatant and purposeless, sundering the flow of a given story to nod towards another without adding much meaning to the collection as a whole. Revenge seems self-aware, acknowledging both its achievements and failures but making no move to correct the latter; there's not quite enough subtlety or substance, here. I admire certain parts and the overall intent, and it may encourage me to seek out more of Ogawa's work, but I don't recommend the book itself.

The prose was unremarkable, as were the plot and characters, but there was an icy current running under her words, and I found myself wanting to plunge into it again and again.
Revenge, 148

Review posted here on Amazon.com.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Title: Bloodstones
Editor: Amanda Pillar
Published: Western Australia: Ticonderoga Publications, 2012
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 295
Total Page Count: 129,463
Text Number: 377
Read Because: review copy sent to me by contributor Stephanie Gunn / [personal profile] azhure
Review: Seventeen stories of monsters more unique than vampires: ghosts and gorgons and shapeshifters, hidden in plain sight on the fringes of the mundane and urban. Each story appears in Bloodstones for the first time, making it welcome exposure to new fiction (and writers, most of them female!) that unfortunately falls into the pitfall of purpose-written stories: transparency and redundancy. About half the stories walk a single path: Wikipedia-based research, a culturally-appropriative monster and a white protagonist and/or setting, a suburban plot, and a final reveal that the protagonist, not the mythological creature, is the "real" monster. Each story ends with an afterword which, more than redundant, is actively harmful, highlighting its ad hoc roots. The effect is formulaic but the potential of the premise is there—and 100 pages in with Anderton's original and finely detailed "Sanaa's Army" the collection takes an upswing; Maric's "Embracing the Invisible" has a strong sense of place which plays well off its fantastic elements, Rabart's "The Bone Plate" has a powerful and grizzled voice, and Gunn's "The Skin of the World" is a somewhat stilted but resonant end to the collection. It takes more than a unique monster to make a unique story, and some of these have that—but too few do, making Bloodstones middling on the whole: readable, in some ways a refreshing twist on urban fantasy, but also a squandered opportunity. I enjoyed some of the offerings but don't recommend the collection on the whole.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Busy weekend!

The 31st was Devon's and my 10th anniversary, which, yes, is impressive. Unfortunately a coworker quit a few days before, and it's the middle of a lot going on at work, so he only came up for two and a half days during which a lot else went on. We hope to have a longer time together next week or around Valentine's Day, and maybe actually do something to celebrate ten years. (I say this glibly, but the truth is I'm upset about the uncelebrated anniversary. I hadn't seen Devon since Christmas and would appreciate doing something a bit more concrete for these celebrations, especially such a big one—I just don't have the spoons to orchestrate anything myself.)

More to the point, Devon came up and three of Dee's Washington friends came down for the weekend because we all went to see Emilie Autumn on Sunday. The concert will be in a subsequent post, because I have Thoughts. But it was a good visit.

In part because of anniversary-related anxiety/depression, in part because my back has been pretty awful lately, I was chronically low on spoons over the weekend. I would honestly be surprised if this were ever not the case. It still managed to be the time with this group that I was most myself (quiet girl with sudden complex opinions! instead of just quiet girl), which helps; it helped also to load up on pain meds pre-concert. I now have plenty of quiet time to recharge, although the fact that Devon is also gone sours that.

It was a bit hard on Mamakitty: the first time she got shut in a bathroom with Devon alone she panicked, scrambled up to the windowsill leaving clawmarks on the wall behind her, and tried to escape out the bathroom window. When I went in there to calm her down she meowed emphatically in a way that can directly be translated to "PLEASE OPEN THIS WINDOW THAT I MAY ESCAPE." Dee and I forget, because we got to know her when she was outside and unconstrained, but she is still fairly skittish. We ended up putting her in Dee's room (with Spike, who was near-insensible to her presence) for a chunk of time so everyone could use the shower, etc., without traumatizing the cat. She was a little on edge on Monday, but she's back in the bathroom now and asking for cuddles.

Odi was surprisingly good, despite disrupted schedules and many visitors. Gillian slept with the guests downstairs. I let August sleep on my special Juu-only no-cats-allowed blanket because I am a pushover and always need to apologize for inviting guests into her home.

Washington folks got in Saturday early afternoon; that evening we took public transport into downtown and went to Powell's and dinner. It was my first time taking the MAX, and minus the drunken post-Blazers crowd I loved it and would be happy to use it again—it may run less frequently, but it's such a lovely quick shot across town, especially compared to the roundabout route of the bus. I found two books at Powell's, both new to me and neither of which are in the local library system. (These days I prefer to buy books in three categories: authors I know and love and want to own everything by forever; books I've read before and love enough to reread a dozen times; books I suspect I will like enough to own, which are not in the Portland or Corvallis library systems. Inter-library loan exists but lacks the convenience of local lending, so buying some not-at-library books without reading them is a justifiable risk. These books were category 1 and 3, and totaled $7.) As usual after Powell's, we went to Deschutes Brewery for dinner—busy on a Saturday night, but as good as always. The only real hangup of the evening was the learning curve for the MAX, which mostly went waiting twenty-five minutes for our ride home to show up.

The concert was Sunday. All the women save me wore fantastic corseted outfits; I wore one of my best dresses, a long black sleeveless thing with a square neckline and corset lacing in the back, and for once actually felt ... content with my self-presentation. The only major problem with the concert was transportation: We intended to take a cab for convenience sake. Doors opened at 7:30; when we called to schedule they said the cab may be up to half an hour late, so we scheduled a 6:00 pickup. At 6:30 they weren't there; at 6:40 we called, and they said it could be another half hour; at 7:10 we called and they said they still hadn't even located a driver. We took two cars out there ourselves with minimal fuss and no problems finding parking, and got there well before the show started, so nothing was lost, but here is your announcement: WARNING WARNING boycott Broadway Cab at all costs, they are so unwilling to lose your business that they will not even tell you they are an hour and a half late locating a cab, good grief.
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
Title: The Hallowed Hunt (Chalion Book 3)
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Published: New York: HarperCollins e-books, 2009 (2005)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 366
Total Page Count: 127,314
Text Number: 370
Read Because: recommended by [livejournal.com profile] phoenixfalls, e-book borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: When Lady Ijada kills a prince in self-defense, Ingrey comes to deal with the corpse and arrest the murderer. But he discovers that Ijada, like Ingrey, bears a powerful animal spirit which possessed her in an ancient and forbidden religious rite. What Bujold does best, here, is character motivation. Characters themselves are strong but unremarkable (the protagonists especially); their journey becomes a god-touched web of politics with powerful twists and climax but a surprisingly lack of emotional effect. But The Hallowed Hunt remains compelling, not because of its characters or events but because of the motivations which underlie both. Bujold's strong narrative, slightly stylized and archaic in a way that suits the late medieval-esque setting, hovers at the edge of Ingrey's thoughts; it turns careful eye on his self-examination and on his discoveries as he navigates a playing field rife with secrets and sacrilege. The same event may be anticipated, occur, and then be recounted to two other characters and still remain fascinating, simply because of the interplay between the events themselves and how, and therefore why, characters engage with and convey them. This was my introduction to Bujold, and while the book itself doesn't amaze me—it's an accomplished work, solid and satisfying, but not particularly memorable—it does make me eager to read more by the author; she has a strong eye for the aspects which interest me most. The Hallowed Hunt itself I recommend moderately. It can stand alone from the Chalion series.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Title: Winter Rose
Author: Patricia A. McKillip
Published: New York: Ace Books, 2002 (1996)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 262
Total Page Count: 125,895
Text Number: 365
Read Because: recommended by [livejournal.com profile] phoenixfalls, borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: When Corbet Lynn comes to reclaim the dilapidated Lynn Hall, the wild Rois—given to foraging barefoot in the woods—becomes obsessed with the secrets and curses of his past. Winter Rose is a Tam Lin retelling at its best: it harvests some aspects (from Tam Lin and other tales) and discards others while maintaining the emotional and symbolic essence of the source material; it then weaves an entire tale around that skeleton, creating a vivid setting and cast without losing the story's magic. Indeed, McKillip's prose is alive with it—her voice is jewel-toned and embroidered, rich with imagery and distinctly magical; it's reminiscent of McKinley but, while occasionally too dreamlike, is not prone to McKinley's frothy atmosphere. The story that grows from it is a tapestry of symbols, a complete internal mythology fueled by resonant emotion and character agency. In a word, it's beautiful. At times it threatens to run off with itself, and the characters and rural setting lean towards banality, but Winter Rose is nonetheless the best of what symbolism can be: entwined images of captivating beauty, startlingly precise and meaningful. This was my introduction to McKillip, and I couldn't ask for better. I recommended it to the interested: if you're here for imagery, McKillip satisfies; if not, the style may wear thin.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Title: The Dancers of Arun (The Chronicles of Tornor Book 2)
Author: Elizabeth A. Lynn
Published: New York: Ace Trade, 2000 (1979)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 245
Total Page Count: 125,603
Text Number: 363
Read Because: recommended by [personal profile] century_eyes, borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Crippled as a child, Kerris lives in Tornor Keep and trains as a scribe. But he's long had an unusual psychic link to his older brother Kel—and one day Kel comes to him and offers to take him away with his chearis, a group of dancing warriors. The Dancers of Arun is a distant, indirect sequel to Watchtower, and each book stands alone; it's similar to its predecessor in all the best ways, and improves on some of that book's flaws. Characters and their relationships star, with plot serving only as a vehicle towards character growth (the plot here is both more local and unique than in Watchtower). Kerris is a superb protagonist, a convincing young adult—immature but not petty, with distinct potential for growth—whose disability is important but not exploited. Unusual, intriguing, and beautifully rendered relationships abound: Lynn violates almost every heteronormative expectation without fetishizing the violations, and the emotional landscape that grows around Kerris is varied and vibrant, ranging from friendship to romance, from a chosen family of intimate friends to joyful polyamory; there's enough situational difficulty and character depth that it doesn't read as a wish-fulfillment fantasy. Lynn's prose remains somewhat stilted, and while functional the plot is far from memorable. But this is what my id is full of—troubled characters, complex emotions, unusual and lovely interactions—and so I find it hard to view The Dancers of Arun objectively and I certainly don't mind its flaws. I recommend it enthusiastically to any reader that shares a similar interest in character and relationship.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.

([livejournal.com profile] phoenixfalls you should totally still read Watchtower if/when you get around to it—but this book? read it someday? soon? please yes good do it do it DO IT. Seriously though, this is a lot of the tropes we've been talking about, packed densely into one beautiful place. Also: polyamory.)
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: The Forbidden Circle: The Spell Sword / The Forbidden Tower
Author: Marion Zimmer Bradley
Published: New York: Daw Books, 2002 (1974, 1977)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 493 (153, 340)
Total Page Count: 124,990
Text Number: 361
Read Because: recommended by [livejournal.com profile] phoenixfalls, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: In The Spell Sword, Andrew is drawn to the isolated planet Darkover by the psychic vision of a woman he's never met, and there sets out to save her life. In The Forbidden Tower, Andrew and his newfound companions build a life together, one heretical to Darkover's traditions. It makes for an interesting pair. Sword is a competent but unremarkable quest novel, underlaid by character-driven subtleties: clashing cultures, reexamined social and gender identities, and fledgling non-normative relationships. It also introduces a telepathic magic system and society which in and of itself isn't particularly interesting, but which has vast, complex, and fascinating impacts on the characters. Tower moves subtext into text; it's slower and longer, a domestic saga driven by character while plot takes a back seat until the powerful ending. The transition from the implied to the explicit has its flaws: gender essentialism abounds, and the focus on heterosexual relationships and pregnancy threatens to smother the non-normative aspects; the magic system crumbles somewhat under such heavy scrutiny. But imperfect execution doesn't stop this from being an intriguing and compelling duology. These are books set in a world of telepathy and ritually controlled magic, but ultimately they are about the impact on the individual: how the intimacy of telepathy effects a social bond; how restrictions on telepathic practice limit and define telepaths. It's a focus I found personally rewarding and thought-provoking, and I enjoy and recommend these books despite their flaws; I don't know if I'll read more from the Darkover universe.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.

There were a number of flaws—in the magic system, the cultural details, and Bradley's conceptions of sexual activity—which bothered me a lot by the end of The Forbidden Tower.

Spoilers, and/or details that make no sense without context. )
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
I am where memes go to die. [livejournal.com profile] cerulean_chains tagged me for this over on Tumblr about a week ago, and I wrote my answers then but never posted them. I'm supposed to provide more questions and tag people to answer them, but I have the energy for neither—so I'll just leave these here because who doesn't like to share their opinion.

1. A past time period with the best fashion sense?
I find a number of historical fashions fascinating and appealing, but don't have true favorites among them. Victorian is a good go-to I guess, pretty and fancy stuff all around. The only real favoritism I can rouse is for breeches (why did they ever go out of style), and I idealize eras in which men's fashion was almost as froofy and ornate as women's.

2. Science fiction or fantasy?
Since discovering the distinction between high fantasy (which I hate) and the rest of fantasy: fantasy. It's a genre I left unexplored before making that distinction (I really hate high fantasy), it's full of delicious subgenres, and it tends to be the one most likely to interact with my favorite tropes and literary predecessors.

3. Contemporary straight plays or classics?
For reading: classics. For viewing: either, with a slight preference towards classics. Shakespeare is my big bias; putting him aside, I only have passing familiarity with the art form, and am only willing to put so much of my time/effort/money into it, so the tried and true of classics tend to be the better bet—but my bias towards them is far from absolute, and it's fair to say that the plays my family sees at OSF are a 50/50 split between the two.

4. Favorite score?
I can't answer this as anything but Cats (Original Broadway Cast Recording). It goes beyond favorite to something more: it defines who I am; it is essential to my being.

5. Cassettes or CDs?
They still make cassettes?

6. Favorite musical instrument?
Piano. I played it all through childhood and adolescence, and have been missing it something awful these last few months. My big birthday gift this year may be a weighted keyboard, which is a compromise between quality/playability and size (I have an inherited piano whenever I have space for it, but it's not feasible here), and as a bonus I'll be able to play with headphones for those crazy hours of the night and while I recover from shitty, rusty piano player back to halfway competent piano player.

7. Did you jump in water puddles as a child?
Not to my knowledge. Caveat: my memory is pretty awful. But I've loathed standing water for most of my life, so instinct says no. Furthermore, it rains here about nine months of the year; water puddles are not particularly novel things, and there're better ways to get wet.

8. Favorite type of shoe?
Oversized bulky square-toed black Oxford. Thus this. I ended up buying these and they're 90% perfect. I wear the hell out of them.

9. Favorite guilty pleasure?
Dance Central, I guess. I have little guilt about any of my pleasures, however embarrassing—I believe in embracing one's dorkiness and lack of dignity. (A good thing, too.) But Dance Central is pretty well unforgivable. I know I look like a fool. I know the vast majority of the music is awful. This is currently my favorite routine. But it burns calories—yeah, sure, pretend that's it: I just love it.

10. Favorite spoken language?
Elizabethan/Jacobean English; Shakespearean English. I admire a lot of foreign languages, and modern English is my darling, but my love and aptitude for Shakespeare's strange tongue is unrivaled. I'm actually pretty shite at learning language, but this comes to me as naturally as mine own, and I've learned not to take that for granted. Also fascinating where "spoken language" is concerned: Shakespeare in the original pronunciation .

11. Do you feel ‘in-touch’ with pop culture? Why or why not?
No. It's not something I keep up with, and that doesn't bother me—it's energy I don't want to expend, and given my personal taste nor would it be worth it. There's songs and celebrities I've never heard of or only know because of internet memes, and I like it that way. I'm cool being clueless about things which are essentially a waste of time, and will willingly waste my time on non-popular culture which does interest me.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
In those late-night conversations I have with Express, I find myself ending every third rambling soliloquy with "and then I realize that everything I say is incredibly depressing." This bout of back pain has been weighing on my thoughts, but it's more general than that. It's a ubiquitous slew of small details.

Amy ([livejournal.com profile] cerulean_chains) finally convinced me to watch (the Vienna 2005 production of) Elizabeth the musical on the basis of these characters and relationships are totally up my alley. And they are, but it's something I've had to watch in pieces—in part because I'm in flighty "play video games for three solid hours, concentrate on anything else for thirty scarce minutes" mode, in part because...

Discussion of suicidal ideation. )

Express looks at the rest of his life half in anticipation and half in fear: he has this great checklist of Life Goals but rails against the idea of longterm commitment. I think it'll work out for the best. He'll angst about choices forever, but his decisions will be good ones. He'll do pretty awesome things.

When I dropped out of college I stopped having goals. For a while, that was because I was unwell and recovering from being unwell. These days I rarely have to notice that I'm still sick—I'm safe, secure, and surrounded by love, I have no responsibilities and few stresses, etc. Life is good. But goals are my trade off. I'm well on a day to day basis because I only function on a day to day basis; looking beyond that could bring all the worst things crashing back, but more than that it just seems impossible. I feel like I couldn't, even if I tried.

I'm premenstrual, in one of those rare cycles where being emotional feels rewarding. Cathartic, maybe; indulgent. Almost relaxing. Today none of this is a bad thing, but it's still a realization of ... something. I have this pain and it isn't going away: this back pain, this depression. Even when I feel like I've forgotten about it, it defines who I am. I know that that's a bad thing, but it doesn't always feel like it. Sometimes it feels like just being me. Sometimes what it means to be me hits me out of the blue, and I notice again that every third thing I say is pretty darn depressing.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
A while ago I posted some incidental thoughts on the so transparent as to be insulting yet perversely fulfilling BBC Sherlock. Today, Amy posted thoughts on the first episode which closely mirror my own. The only things I have to say in response are way too long for Tumblr's reply feature, so here we go with some more thoughts which I've been meaning to write...

What happens to crime fiction when there is no crime fiction genre?

I watch a lot of murder mysteries, and read significantly less (I don't have the patience for them in novel form), but I grew up on Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown, and I've read a large chunk of Doyle's Sherlock stories. I've been watching Law & Orders and CSIs and Masterpiece Mystery!s and Castles for so long that they are pure brain candy: effortless, comforting, predictable; not mysteries. In Law & Order, it's always the actor that you recognize—the best parts get given to the bad guys. In Castle, it's always the second suspect/plot twist who gets put aside with the introduction of third, red herring suspect/plot twist. You can't solve them by watching intelligently, predictively—there are no clues to spot if only you pay attention. There are plot twists, new information, and then a confession.

But even on a bad actor-recognition day, you can figure out whodunnit—not because you can point to the dog that didn't bark, that one giveaway detail; not because you can follow the chain of reasoning and turn up a villain. You know just because you know, because you've seen a hundred mysteries and it's always the butler that did it.

That's Doyle's Sherlock. Not that there were no murder mysteries before him, but Sherlock is responsible for the formation of the genre as genre and whether or not you've read the source material, you've familiar with its impact, which is to say its tropes: key clues, interesting plot twists, creative and deductive investigator, big reveal, public confession. You're so familiar with them that you don't even need them: deduction is implied, now arrest the butler.

BBC's Sherlock is a lot of things, but clever crime fiction it is not. It talks pretty and unlike most crime fiction it does actually have some literal clues and logical deductions; you can solve it, if you want. But you don't need to—at least you don't actively need to, because you know the tropes so well that it's obviously the [cab driver] and well that was a short ... show ... wait why are they not arresting the [cab driver], why are the inspecting his [fare], how stupid is this Sherlock dude, has he not encountered his own damn canon?

And this is what gets me. How can you retell Sherlock in a world without Sherlock? Every underlying trope of the genre gets taken away, but the viewer remains innately aware of it. BBC's Sherlock is left to reinvent the wheel, to use deduction to follow clues to formulate rules that the viewer already knows, and the result is, as a murder mystery, pretty lackluster. The genre is full of lackluster, trite brain candy, but BBC Sherlock is labeled Sherlock and wraps itself up in the pretty bows of CG on-screen deduction and brilliant characterization: what would be an acceptable weakness anywhere else feels here like the viewer is smarter than the most brilliant man on earth.

I haven't watched the second season, but plan to. No spoilers for it, please.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I don't do this every year, but I should—even if it sounds like an acceptance speech. I don't care about Thanksgiving food other than pumpkin pie, but I hold giving thanks quite dear. The last year in particular has been good to me, and so I have too much gratitude to give and the need to give it all.

To Portland, and for Dee making it possible to live here. This city sets me free.

To friends, in particular to those that I now also know offline—Dee, Lyz, Express, Sarah, even Rachel and Danielle and Tiffany—not because real-world friendships are necessarily more meaningful, but because this has been a year of making them and that's meaningful to me.

To family. My sister is off studying in Italy, and she amazes me. My parents have shown me incredible understanding in the last year, and to be seen, known, and loved by them is something I don't quite have the words to describe.

To Devon, who has made Portland and a semi-mostly-long distance relationship possible again, and is my favorite person in the entire world, and loves me.

To stupid fuzzy animals—but mostly to August. She is my dream come true, and I still haven't gotten past the shock of that. I love her enough to break my heart.

And to books and perfumes that smell like carnation and drinks that taste like pumpkin, and relative health and wellness, and relative financial stability. I am a diehard malcontent and will go back to feeling miserable at the drop of a hat, but the truth is that every one of the last few years has been better than the last, I am healthier and more sane, I am surrounded by love and I usually have a cat on my lap, and I am so, so thankful.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Today: Guest from out of town and on the other side of town, people that Dee knows from online/the Sims community, two of which I'd met before. We went out to dinner and then came back for cookies (mine, but I'm not so happy with them that I'd comment on the recipe) and conversation; when the out-of-towners left to make the drive home, we three remaining played two rounds of Dominion (one round to learn the rules, one to use them; I enjoyed the game and would play it again). It was a really nice evening—fulfilling without entirely exhausting me, and people liked my cookies even if I am unhappy with them, and August was social and beautiful and adorable. The last was fantastic to see, since this is the first time she's had guests that were neither Devon (who is known and safe, but also competes for my attention and therefore not her favorite person) nor accompanied by a dog of never-go-downstairsness. She was more calm and sociable than I was expecting, and it was lovely to have her around.

This weekend (and/or Monday): I have some quiche (two pies, both broccoli and cheddar, one spicy and one mild) and cookies (leaning towards caramel apple) to bake, because—

Next Monday: We'll probably drive out to Beaverton for dinner with the across-towner, and to stop by Uwajimaya, and then—

Next Tuesday: Express is in town on business, and I'll head into downtown to stay with him, bringing quiche and cookies so that we don't have to eat out every night. And then—

Next Friday: Dee joins us downtown for the afternoon so that she can meet Express before he leaves town.

Next weekend: Devon may or may not visit.

Week after next: Thanksgiving in Portland with Dee's family. (Also Dee's birthday!)

Weekend after next, or within a few days of it: Probable visit to Corvallis for belated Thanksgiving brunch with my family.

So what I'm saying is that I'm busy. It's good busy, with quite a few down days scheduled in between, and time with Express will mostly be spent curling up on a couch and watching bad anime, but man it sure be busy nonetheless. I don't really have a point to make with that, at least not one that I've yet to make, or one that wouldn't take too long to type and really I should be resting and reading by now, seriously Juu. A few weeks back I had a missed opportunity and was sitting on about three spoons and sort of felt like—why did I ever move up here, I'm wasting the time away and doing nothing, and I have no life and I'm useless, and I can't do anything on my own, and. And those things are still 90% true, but the 10% that is making food and visiting people and filling up the calendar is making such a ruckus that right now it's all I have time to notice.


juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)

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