21 Following

coffee & ink

Currently reading

Gilbert and Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic after Thirty Years
Annette R. Federico, Sandra M. Gilbert
Annette LaPointe

Tides of Darkness

Tides of Darkness - Judith Tarr Enjoyable beginning, but it collapses into Dead Serious High Fantasy Stuff at the end, with a consequent decrease of liveliness and immediacy. And I usually love Dead Serious High Fantasy Stuff. It just doesn't feel well-integrated here.

I would love a book where the profligate promiscuous wastrel with unexpected talents is a woman.
Avengers: Endless Wartime - Warren Ellis, Clark Gregg, Mike McKone Not sure what to say about this; there are good bits, but the ultimate impression is mediocre. Possibly it's because the fight scenes bored me. A monster made of monsters and artifacts that Cap and Thor left behind has appeared in not!Afghanistan, and the Avengers need to put it down before it kills more people. It's an unofficial mission, because the US is currently aiding the resistance to not!Afghanistan's government-by-coup. It seems at first like this is going to be a much bigger plotline than it turns out to be. If there's a throughline here, it's Steve Rogers' alienation from the present day, his sense of being a ghost or a relic; and perhaps only belonging to an endless war he does not believe is endless. Ellis has to twist characters around to make his point -- not Rogers' paradoxical soldierly devotion to peace (while acting in a war), which is well-established -- but the character that suddenly becomes a mouthpiece for the Theme of Endless Wartime in the final few pages. It would have worked better as Natasha Romanov.

Eh. There are a lot of pieces that could have come together to make a powerful story, but they don't. It feels too short. It probably would have worked better with more length and more devotion to character interaction (and less to establishing background for the plot).

Artwork is fine as long as there aren't women in the scene. It's not the worst superhero objectification I've seen, but it could be better. It's the kind of story that would work for Butch Guice or Michael Lark, now that I think about it.

Falling into Her Arms

Falling Into Her Arms - Laylah Hunter Author:
... I want there to be more f/f stories that grab the totally self-indulgent, extravagant tropes m/m gets to play with. I want there to be epic love stories against the backdrop of imperial struggles or galactic warfare. I want tempting devils and hard-bitten mercenaries and mysterious drifters. I want them rough and tender and romantic and kinky and adventurous and beautiful. I want them fearless in their desires and certain of who they are. I want casts of women I can fall for. I want to put my word count where my mouth is.

This story barely makes a dent in all the things I want, but it’s a start.
Shanghai Love - Layne Wong http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/dnf-reviews/review-shanghai-love-by-layne-wong/
Traitors' Gate - Kate Elliott This series didn't grip me as much as Elliott's others, but the conclusion (to this book and the series as a whole) is amazing.
Rose Under Fire - Elizabeth Wein When I try to write about this, it ends up being a huge blurt about my feelings on fictional Holocaust narratives rather than about the book. So I'll just say that I do think this has the right combination of horror and hope -- not as a general guideline for Holocaust lit, but for the story it's telling.
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie http://radishreviews.com/2013/10/01/ancillary-justice-ann-leckie/

Whitetail Shooting Gallery

Whitetail Shooting Gallery - Annette LaPointe There's this essay by Dorothy Allison where she talks about science fiction and sex, about the first sexual fantasies she ever had and how so many of them weren't about having sex, they were about exploring Mars, saving princesses, inventing robots. Lapointe captures the same thing, the half feral nature of adolescence, where the outside world and your body and books and music and an intricate interior world all intertwine. Lapointe's rural Saskatchewan is desolate, populated by farmers and artists, full of casual violence and hidden queerness.
Glitter and Mayhem - Amal El-Mohtar, Maria Dahvana Headley, Laura Chavoen, Michael Damian Thomas, Damien Walters Grintalis, Cory Skerry, Sofia Samatar, Damien Walters, Kyle S. Johnson, Kat Howard, Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Pelland, Vylar Kaftan, Rachel Swirsky, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Diana Ro The stories aren't bad, but the only stand-out entry is Sofia Samatar's "Bess, the Landlord's Daughter, Goes Out for Drinks with the Green Girl," which covers some of the same territory as Helen Oyeyemi's Mr. Fox, but in a whirl of bars and flirtations and dancing and friendships and escapes that come too late. We are fascinated by beautiful dead girls; they take their revenge.

I also liked:

Tansy Rayner Robert's "The Minotaur Girls," where a girl needs to free her friends from the labyrinth of a roller rink; Rayner Robert's urban fantasies really appeal to me. I'd love to see her do one at novel length.

Christopher Barzak's "Sisters Twelve: Confessions of a Party Monster," a retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses."

Maria Davana Headley's "Such & Such and So & So," in which personified drinks seduce the unwary.

Jennifer Pelland's "Star Dancer," in which a bug-eyed alien just wants to dance.

The anthology was still a pleasure to read because of all the women in it -- lots of female characters, including a couple of trans women, and a lot of queer women.

Jersey Angel

Jersey Angel - Beth Ann Bauman http://thebooksmugglers.com/2013/08/jersey-angel-beth-ann-bauman-on-ya-and-the-sexually-unapologetic-girl.html

How to Cook Everything Summer

How to Cook Everything Summer - Mark Bittman Ebook excerpt of summer recipes from the monumental How to Cook Everything. Bittman's summer is clearly my summer (unsurprising, since we live in the same city); this is useful for me, but it might prove more frustrating for people whose local farmers markets provide a greater variety of summer fruit.

Yesterday I made corn & black bean salad and corn, tomato, and zucchini soup (from the unabridged version). Bittman's summer foods, unsurprisingly, show heavy Mexican and Caribbean influences.
Sakuran: Blossoms Wild - Moyoco Anno Anno was Okazaki's assistant and protegee before she began her own career; they both have a certain sharp strong line and a focus on girl-on-girl violence and cultural policing. Like Helter Skelter, Sakuran is a single-volume story focused on the career of a strong-minded, vicious-tempered woman who is abusive to the people around her and who yet has some appeal, or at least fascination, because of her ferocious determination to survive. Kiyoha is a prostitute in the Yoshiwara in the Edo era, which means that she was brought into the quarter by a man who sold her to a brothel and she will not leave unless and until she marries; gates lock the prostitutes into the district. This doesn't stop Kiyoha from attempting to escape.

Difficult to follow because you don't most of the usual hair and costume cues to differentiate characters, and because the narrative is not chronological; it's more rewarding on rereading, but like all of Anno's work that I've read, it's loosely structured. This surprised me in a single volume more than it does in an open-ended series, and I was also comparing it to the tight focus of Helter Skelter. I still want way more Moyoco Anno in English.
Love In Revolution - B.R. Collins Early 20th-century in what I think is a Ruritanian country undergoing a revolution -- at first I thought it was the Spanish Civil War, but details don't match. Esteya, a schoolgirl in a repressive monarchy, falls in love with Skizi, a Zikindi (faux-gypsy) girl; sheltered initially by bourgeois antecedents and later by her brother's post-revolution position in the Communist Party, Esteya is slow to see the danger she and the people around her are in.

This shares many of the themes and tropes of Collins' earlier books -- people do terrible things to each other initially out of ignorance and later out of willful obliviousness and a desire for vengeance, the protagonist not excepted. In this case, the protagonist's tunnel vision feels too symptomatic of the narrative as a whole, even if the narrative criticizes it; while we see both the repressiveness that caused the revolution and the revolution's brutality toward outcasts, these are subordinated to a personal story in a balance that doesn't feel quite right to me. Maybe it's because Esteya's so determinedly apolitical, or maybe it's because the details of the country feel too insubstantial? Not sure. Both Esteya and Skizi feel weirdly isolated from their environments.
Jaran - Kate Elliott Oh, how I wish she'd finished this series instead of departing for the apparently more remunerative climes of fantasy.
Goddess Chronicle (Canongate Myths) - Natsuo Kirino Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

When they decided to marry, the siblings and gods Izanami and Izanaki built a huge pillar and then circled it in opposite directions. Izanami, the woman, spoke first, and because of this their first two children were monsters. They circled the pillar again and this time Izanagi spoke first, and their next children were the eight islands of Japan. Izanami ultimately died of burns from giving birth to Kago-Tsuki, Fire. The grief-stricken Izanagi sought her in the land of the dead, but he was too late: Izanami had already the food of the underworld. Against Izanami's pleas, Izanagi lit a fire and saw that his dead wife was now a rotting corpse. Izanagi fled the underworld in horror, blocking the entrance to the underworld with a huge boulder. Izanami vowed to take a thousand lives a day in revenge, and Izanagi replied that he would then create fifteen hundred to make up for it.

After this, Izanagi gave birth to Ameratsu (the sun goddess) from his left eye, Tsukuyomi (the moon god) from his right eye, and Susano-o (the storm god) from his nose.

Natsuo Kirino's retelling, the latest book in the Canongate Myths series, preserves the gendered cruelty of the original story: women continue to pay prices men do not. Izanami dies in childbirth; for Izanagi, childbirth is painless. The unequal dualities of Izanagi and Izanami, male and female, life and death, sacred and profane, repeat in the story of two sisters, hereditary priestesses on a remote island. The elder, Kamikuu, is trained to be priestess of the day, the side of the island where the villagers live; Namima is the impure one, the priestess of the night, meant to watch over the bodies of the dead.

Namima narrates the book from the underworld. Death is the price she pays for violating ritual laws at the behest of her lover, who prospers after her death; their daughter is condemned to Namima's own role. Namima manages to free her daughter of this fate, posthumously; it is her only victory. Satisfied with this prize, she accepts her fate:

And I, who was once the priestess of the darkness, feel that serving here at Izanami’s side I am able to accomplish what I was unable to finish on earth. For, as I said earlier, Izanami is without doubt a woman among women. The trials that she has borne are the trials all women must face.

This is a bleak book, where the only hope for women is what they can do for each other, and even that seldom serves them. It is not any bleaker than Kirino's mystery novels, which also feature doubles, opposites, rivalries between sisters or friends, and women who are associated with the hidden, the unacknowledged, the unwanted aspects of the body. Prostitutes, factory laborers, caretakers for the elderly: Kirino's characters are defined by society as impure; they are sin eaters and scapegoats.

The Goddess Chronicle lacks the depth and complexity of those mysteries, possibly because it has a single narrator, whereas the mysteries have four viewpoint characters at minimum. Their stories contradict and support each other. Namima is unusually reliable for a Kirino narrator, and it can't be attributed to her afterlife; in this underworld, the dead see no more clearly than the living do. Men abandon their responsibilities with their memories; women, even goddesses, simply endure.

The Book of the Ler

The Book of The Ler - M.A. Foster I would like to thank DAW books for enabling my nostalgia kick rereading of books I read in high school.

I got this for The Gameplayers of Zan, which I remember liking a whole lot. The other two books were written earlier and are trivial.

The Gameplayers of Zan takes place on Earth, where human overpopulation has resulted in an regimented, hierarchical, and homogenous society. The ler number in the thousands, I think, and live on a reservation, with a low population density and a deliberately primitive lifestyle. The exploration of the ler culture is the best part.

The book opens with the thirty-page interior monologue (indirect discourse, not first person) of a woman in a sensory deprivation chamber, meditating on space, history, order, chance, the evolution of human societies, and adolescent sexual experiences. No wonder it reminded me of C.J. Cherryh. But god is Foster verbose. The bit about a ler woman teaching humans and then going home on a monorail through the woods isn't any less slow, self-reflective, and expository than the bits in the sensory deprivation chamber. There are footnotes, although given the amount of information Foster was willing to put into narrative exposition, I'm not sure why he needed them. I was thinking about trying some of Foster's later books, but I'm not sure I can get through the prose without the ameliorating effects of nostalgia.