Whatcha Reading? (Picking it up again)

I have three things I’m reading at the same time, because I’m an idiot like that. (It’s not usually my style, I usually have one main book and maybe a book of short stories.)

Warmth of Other Suns is different from what I expected it to be. Only a third of the way through, but it’s basically just telling people’s stories, which is good — it doesn’t separate the reader from the subject by being academic. It’s giving me a taste of Jim Crow South that I hadn’t really read first-hand accounts of.

The poems of Audre Lord seem very relevant to our times. The anger at how Black and brown folk are treated still as relevant today. One of the first poems I opened to was Power, a searing indictment of yet another white policeman let off for killing a young Black boy.

Embassytown seems like the kind of thing I should like, although I’m finding it quite dense at the moment. It’s the sort of scifi that is completely thick with opaque jargon that it doesn’t explain, but expects you to grok from context, possibly not now but in some chapter in the future. I can usually manage this kind of thing, but I’m finding my patience more limited than usual. China Miéville is a bit hit or miss for me. I loooved The City & The City, one of my favorite books (except for the end, and some random parts in the middle), but thought The Kraken was fairly derivative and boring.

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Have you read The Ladies of Grace Adieu?

That was kind of a sequel, written two years later. It’s a collection of short stories set in the same world and same mood. Strange and Norrell don’t appear, but doleful, powerful fairies having balls in their elven estates do.

It wasn’t Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, more of a diversion if you wanted to be in that world a little longer. I liked the focus on more female characters, but some stories held up better than others.

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Been starting and stopping audiobooks a lot this week. One was a YA fantasy, but it was plotted on a bad take of Richard III and various court intrigue tropes. It didn’t help that our protagonist was an 8 year old. The setting being medieval-ish the language was also, usually used incorrectly. And no idea how the situation of having a child raised in the court to ensure his parents good behavior actually worked.
One was an escaped killer story, but I never got as far as the escape part-the fantasy of a “perfect” prison to hold the worst of the worst offenders-the folks from the group W bench-was so impossible it felt like an insult to corrections officers everywhere. Also a mass of violations of the rights of the prisoners. The author has, over time, gotten much better.
The third was another crime novel, where the police make a series of bad assumptions from the start, and every scene is used as a teaching device. We got pages and pages about gun safety in the guise of having a young person learn how to shoot. Could have been handled in a paragraph. One character is an FBI profiler ( retired) and half of his dialog is teaching us about the minds of evil people. It feels like the author just showing off how much she knows. She also has much better writing in her ovure, so this was frustrating.
I’ve decided that publishers should do an in-house audio recording of every manuscript. Plenty of stupid errors show up when I’m listening that I would have skimmed past when reading.Repetitive phrasing, too many adjectives, “didn’t I just learn that fact two minutes ago, why am I learning it again?” Etc.etc.
Did enjoy SJ Rozan’s The Art Of Violence.
And boy, authors were having a hard time during the pandemic-you might think otherwise, but lots of this year’s books show the strain.

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Can recommend a few audiobooks:

  • The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse - Louise Erdrich - Beautifully written and engaging through 7/8 of the 14 hours. Gets a little diffuse at the end, but still fantastic.

  • A Lush and Seething Hell - John Hornor Jacobs - Two novellas. Loosely falls into the cosmic horror genre. Be forewarned, there are unpleasant descriptions of a political prisoner’s torture in the first half. On balance, worth listening to anyway. Avoid John Hornor Jacob’s novel Southern Gods at all costs. It’s like the rough draft of the novellas in A Lush and Seething Hell, but infinitely uglier, and tedious.

  • The Only Good Indians - Stephen Graham Jones - Ghost story; visceral, sporadic violence and wrenching social commentary. Weirdly upbeat ending that I found really satisfying.

  • Akata Witch and Akata Warrior - Nnedi Okorafor - Two YA novels; it’s too reductive to describe them as Harry Potter if Harry Potter were a 12-year-old Nigerian girl, but it gets the point across. Highlights the fact that YA doesn’t have to be easily digestible pap, it can take you someplace unexpected and wonderful.

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I love that this is starting to become an actual genre. Children of Blood and Bone is, of course, another.

Definitely happy that African stories are starting to become a part of the YA cannon.

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woah, excellent, thank you very much!

P.S. I loved Embassytown! Great book.

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The Left-Handed Booksellers of London was… eh? Really interesting world-building but the action takes place on the periphery. Might be more fulfilling as a series. The plot of the story wasn’t nearly as interesting as the world it takes place in.

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Just finished the first four Earthsea novels, well the last three of the first four. I like how they develop and imagine later ones have even more.

And I just started The House on the Cerulean Sea as I believe it has a werePomeranian in it.

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Really enjoying A Desolation Called Peace, the sequel to A Memory Called Empire. So far the aliens are truly alien. It will be interesting to see how well communication goes when one side uses language and the other uses a collective consciousness.

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I’m looking forward to this:

https://www.versobooks.com/books/3808-terminal-boredom

I must admit I didn’t know her, though I’ve encountered many of the people mentioned in this article:

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So good. The first in particular was one of my favorite books as a teenager, and still holds up.

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Children of Time was really awesome. I don’t give five stars often but that one got them. It never went where I thought it would go, and was painstakingly structured. Unbelievable world building over thousands of years. I can imagine it finding its place among foundational scifi writing. Loved it.

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Good review. That’s now on my list.

Fugitive Telemetry was the expected level of fun and awesome. I guess I got spoiled by the last one being a full-length novel, so I was a tad disappointed there wasn’t as much time to dwell in this one. I was also confused because it seemed detached from the plot of the last one. Regardless, Murderbot is always a good read.

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