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Wow, hello, journal platform people! It's been almost a year! You can always find me at [ profile] annagenoese, and right now I'm doing tumblr at [ profile] dngrcpckwithmurdericing, although that's in no way professional at all and mostly hockey players doing hockey and shoving each other. (Insert joke about how that's the same thing here.)

Today I am here to recommend a great book I read on the bus this morning: Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains

This is the autobiography of a Ukranian Jewish woman who traveled from Ukraine to the United States in 1894 to marry a (Jewish) man she'd never met and start a life with him. She tells about how they decide to homestead in rural northeast North Dakota with his family, and the perils and successes. This is not a Jewish Little House -- this is much more stark, and much more to the point about poverty and privilege. It does not read the way current autobiographies/memoirs do -- it's much more like a letter Rachel Bella Kahn Calof wrote to her descendants so they would know about her life and struggles, so they would be able to know what her life had been at the turn of the century.

The autobiography itself is bookended by an "acknowledgments" that discusses the way the autobiography was discovered in historical archives, written in Yiddish on a "Clover Leaf Linen" writing tablet and translated into English and typed by children and grandchildren and then an "epilogue" written by the youngest son, who tells of what his mother leaves out about the rest of her life, giving an "ending" to the story, so to speak. At the end of the book are also two great, if much more academic, essays about Jewish homesteaders in the history of the United States, which I very much enjoyed reading.

I know a lot of you are interested in Jewish history the way I am, so I thought some of you might like to read this!

TW: Pet death )

I hope everyone is having a good Friday! Have a great weekend! Read some good books!
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Last week, I rather unexpectedly adopted a cat. Back in January, my beloved Shiksa died of a heart attack. I thought to myself, Two cats is enough. But Vincent and Theodore have been rather lost without a third -- without an alpha female bossing them around. And one of my close friends found a post about a DC-area alpha female who needed a home.

Just a few days later, I'd adopted her.

I named her Queen Esther, but have ended up calling her Hadassah all the time. (I have had to explain to a lot of people why Queen Esther and Hadassah are interchangeable names to my mind. Even Jewish people. ngl, that is very surprising.)

Here are some pictures:

She is tiny -- she weighs about 7 lbs. To give you a sense of scale, Vincent weighs 19. Shiksa weighed 26.

...Now. Book log.

I am still struggling with Ancillary Justice. It is just really not for me.

Last night I read the new Tana French - The Secret Place. I thought she did an amazing job with the voices of the teenage girls, but I did not understand at all what the hell the paranormal elements were doing in there.

The mystery was okaaaaay but I am tired of books narrated by dudes that are books about women. The book would have been plenty interesting if it had been narrated by the woman who was the lead detective investigating the case. I didn't have any empathy or interest in the male narrator observing all the women who he continually reminded us he could never understand because he's a man. Tedious.
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First! I would like to apologize to anyone who tried to access or email me at in the last month -- there was a confusion with my hosting service, which has now been sorted. Please come email me and hire me to edit your awesome work (or just chit-chat, I am becoming a chit-chatter in my thirties).

So, I did in fact read Other People's Houses by Lore Segal. And... I did not really like it. For a multitude of reasons, starting with the fact that it has the pretension so many literary fiction novels have of being told from the point of view of a young girl. In this case, the narrator is six, seven, eight, nine -- but, of course, the real narrator is much older, and just affecting the tone of a young girl, and sometimes will break the narration to interject notes from the future. I found that very annoying and disruptive.

The other big thing I didn't like was that throughout the book, the narrator seemed extremely disinterested in romantic relationships with men (and kind of obsessed with other women, which I was into). Toward the end, she started having somewhat romantic relationships with men, as she got older, and still seemed like she didn't enjoy herself, and thought they were kind of boring and dull (or maybe I thought they were boring and dull because she wrote them as such?). Then, last page: suddenly she is married! And happy! Okay, sure.

Then, last few paragraphs: but nothing is ever good because the world is and always will be terrible, what are you going to do about it, everything is awful but the world keeps spinning and people keep living their lives, so what.

That was a very abrupt and depressing stop. (It was not an ending by any stretch of the imagination.)

The cool thing about this book was actually how much I enjoyed reading it. I stayed up late to finish it one night, actually, because I did enjoy the prose so much.

In my quest to read more literary fiction (sponsored by Garret Weyr, who gives me all these books and makes me tea; you will recall that in the past, I have had a lot to say about Garret's books too)... um... Right.

In my quest to read more literary fiction, I have started Regeneration by Pat Barker. It's set during WWI, exploring the experiences of British officers being treated for shell shock. It's beautiful, absolutely beautiful, and also horrifying and sad. I am reading basically two pages a night at this point, so I might need to swap it out and read it during the day instead of before bed.

Genre reading, my true love: I am rereading The King's Name by Jo Walton (woo!), reading some Nora Roberts single title romances that I apparently skipped over in the early 90s, and I am finally reading Contact by Carl Sagan after seeing (and loving) the movie five or six times.

Now here is a story about life in Maryland: I went to Midas to have a professional put my MD license plates on my car (in addition to not owning any tools at all, I have very long fingernails and also don't like to touch my car unless absolutely necessary). The person behind the counter at Midas had a lot of opinions he felt compelled to share with me, including that he hates 4-H because he thinks it's "handouts" !!!!!! And his favorite president was Reagan, because "when Reagan was president, everyone had a job, but you're probably too young to remember." Wow! Also, by the way, he really likes the Girl Scouts. (Why Girl Scouts but not 4-H? Amazing. I am so sorry he hates joy.) And, to cap it off, he told me he thought I should get married so I would have a husband to put my license plates on.

That is an A+ reason to find a male-identified person to marry, don't you think? It should be the plot of someone's next romance novel, or a totally not weird at all Craigslist ad.
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So I have moved to Maryland, which I don't think I've mentioned here, and taken a very low-key day job at a youth development nonprofit. I am enjoying the job a whole ton, and not really enjoying Maryland very much (plus I am far away from my six-month-old nephew, which is hard). I've cut back a bit on my freelance work, although I still have space in my schedule for a few clients each month, never fear!

But I also -- and this is the real astonishment -- have space in my schedule to read.

I'll tell you what, though, I don't think Nora Roberts wrote the "In Death" books with the expectation that anyone would ever read forty of them in a row in under a month. But that is what I have done, and I say unto you... do not do it.

Although I did, surprisingly enough, enjoy book #32, Salvation in Death -- it really stood out from all the others in a good way. There was much less of Roarke's Irish eyes and poet's mouth, and more murder and mayhem and mystery.

When I was rereading the first 10 or so books in the series, what struck me was how much they are like the first two seasons of Castle!

I also recently read the auto/biography of King Peggy of Otuam in Ghana, which I enjoyed a whole ton. An entire ton, that is how much I enjoyed it. The conceit of writing it in the third person did throw me off a little bit, but it read kind of like a fairy tale in a lot of ways, and I think that was the point.

Next up: Other People's Houses by Lore Segal.

What are you reading?
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Oh, what a world, what a world. The kindle I've been using for the last several months was my fourth e-reader in the last year. Now it is broken -- it's doing that weird screen thing, and none of the hacks I googled have been able to get the screen to work.

So I need a new e-reader! What do you all have? What do you like? I had a terrible experience with Kobo (my first one), but I'd be willing to give it another shot if it's highly recommended. Otherwise, what should I be looking at?

(I guess I could look at, like, recommendation sites or whatever, but I trust you all a lot more than rec sites. :D?)

No e-reader means I'm reading a paperback! Beyond Binary (edited by Brit Mandelo)

It's a collection of stories -- "genderqueer and sexually fluid speculative fiction" -- and I'm only a few stories in, but I'm really enjoying it so far. Thumbs up.
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Earlier today, I finished Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

I think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I'd been spoiled for it, if I'd known going in what was going to be happening -- mostly because once I'd finished it, a lot of things that had really irritated me about it fell into place, and those irritations actually changed into things I really liked! Maybe if I were more familiar with the author (or had trusted the author more), I wouldn't have felt that way during my reading, but... eh.

(I deliberately spoil myself for things these days -- like, for example, The Avengers. Honestly, had I not read all about what happened in that movie, had I not been prepared for a couple of the crappiest bits, I more than likely would have walked out during that Loki/Natasha scene and not bothered to ever watch the rest.)

Anyway, it was overall really enjoyable, and I definitely recommend it to people who like spies, WWII, female friendships, women being kickass, and also epistolary novels, since the entire thing is written in letters and diaries.

Next up: I am about to leave on a week-long roadtrip -- a friend of mine and I are going to be following Empires around for five shows. First Pittsburgh, then VA, then NYC, then CT, then Philly, and I'll get back to New York on Monday. We plan to meet up with various friends in each city, and I plan to drink a lot of coffee.

(If you've never listened to Empires, definitely I suggest clicking through to their website and checking them out. They have a bunch of stuff available for free to stream and download. I have described them several times as the drunk lovechild of Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Nicks, and thus far other people seem to generally agree with that assessment. They are amaaaaaaaaaaaaazing live, too.)

So, in anticipation of a lot of sitting around in venues and napping in parking lots, I've pre-loaded my e-reader with a bunch of the Kate Shugak books by Dana Stabenow, starting with A Cold Day for Murder, which is currently available for free for Kindles. I'm really looking forward to reading the first few, although I hear the quality really drops off in the later ones. To be fair, though, I can't think of any popular, long-running series that doesn't suffer from that, which is depressing as hell.

I also grabbed Playing With Prudence by Rachel Randall, which I read when it came out, and am definitely ready to read again. I love Rachel's style and voice.
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As you know, Bob, my mom is a reading teacher. Actually, she was a reading teacher (specifically for struggling and/or reluctant readers, which is used as something both true on its face and also often as code for ESL students) for a million years. They are phasing out the reading license and switching all reading teachers to being other teachers, so now she teaches "Literacy" -- the modern NYC school equivalent of "English." What this means for my life is that sometimes I get to help grade vocabulary tests (:D :D :D, do not get me started on how much I love grading) and also that I get to borrow all her YA books that she buys for her students.

Yesterday, on an interminable subway ride, I read I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore. My mom really enjoyed it in her capacity as a teacher (if you are interested, she said part of why she enjoyed it was that it had clearly been written for readers who were below grade level and unambitious).

Spoilers have to be killed in sequence. )

Now: a thing I liked! A few weeks ago, I holed up with some friends and we watched the entire second season of Justified in one day (well, in 11 hours or so). I do like Justified, but that was a pretty overwhelming amount of people in agony for one day, so we followed it up by watching the first three episodes of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

Wow. Just -- just wow. I loved it so much. It's filmed gorgeously, and since it was shot on location, all the glory of Botswana is on display. Jill Scott was hilarious and incredible, and drew me in from the very first moment. She commands the screen; every single scene she's in, she's compelling. And she does an amazing job of communicating who her character is at all times, not just with every word, but with every gesture, every movement of her body. The supporting cast was also great, and the mysteries are pretty enjoyable. It's a really different style from a lot of what's on tv these days -- and, yeah, I was surprised it came from HBO. No one is naked, no one curses, there are no long sex scenes or on-screen rapes; it's a delightful change.

I also love the way Mma Ramotswe deals with haters. She is really great at handling herself when it comes to people who think a woman shouldn't be working/should get married, as well as people who are judgy and shamey about her body. She navigates strong and/or difficult personalities really well, with a really great attitude that steers clear of both strong language and the kind of "bless your heart" passive-aggressiveness that often doesn't work for fictional characters (it tends to end up -- to my eye -- seeming to make fun of the character employing it more than it puts the other character in their place). I also love that she doesn't make excuses for herself or try to justify herself to other people. It's really awesome to see that on tv.

(I am withholding judgment about the way the only canonically queered character is treated until I see the rest of the episodes, though. One of the other characters keeps having, you know, "learning experiences," and I'm not sure yet whether I'm comfortable with the homophobia and gender policing required for that.)

Oh, and thing I tentatively like! Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, set in 1943. The conceit is that it is the diary of a woman taken prisoner by the Gestapo, and her interrogator has demanded she write down her secrets/confession (or they will kill her by pouring kerosene down her throat and setting it on fire, ouch).

I'm about halfway through, reading it slowly to make it last. Sometimes the conceit gets on my nerves, but the writing is beautiful, and the story is fascinating. A+ reading so far.
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So I finally finished Slow River by Nicola Griffith. It's taken quite a while, thanks to the 12-hour work days, writing, and other books coming between us.

It's really good, and I think a lot of you would love it. It's the story of a woman whose comfortable life is ripped apart, and she has to start over, a new identity, a new person, figuring out who she is and what she wants and what she's willing to do to get it, what she's willing to compromise.

The whole book is set a relatively bleak future -- it's not bleak like the Hunger Games, but there's not a whole lot of hope, either. The book switches between first person narration for the stuff happening "now" and third person narration for what happened to the protagonist before she became her new person. It's very effective in distinguishing the now, being present for life, from the then, being disconnected, separated, even more unhappy.

It actually didn't work for me personally; I enjoyed parts of it, but I wished the narrative had been more linear, had been one thing or the other. I felt invested in the protagonist as a child and in the protagonist as a self-aware adult, but the stuff in between... I would've happily taken an exposition dump instead of the thousands of words of narrative. But that's just me, and we all know how peculiar I am about narrative I read for fun.

Were I writing content notes for this book, I'd include in my list: pretty graphic sexual and emotional abuse; scenes dealing with issues of (mostly sexual) consent; a recounting of a kidnapping; some (mostly but not entirely off-screen) physical violence; interesting examination of privilege -- getting it, keeping it, losing it; dysfunctional and (delightfully) functional lesbian relationships; someone learning how to make friends (and sometimes failing).

Oh, and seriously, my understanding is that this should go without saying for Nicola Griffith, but the prose? It is flawless.

...Next up on my list: I am torn between Holding Still for as Long as Possible by Zoe Whittall and The Dreamer, Her Angel and the Stars by Linda S. North. Queer Canadian twentysomethings or futuristic lesbians? Decisions are the worst!
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Good morning! As is typical for this time of year, I've had a couple of clients drop their contracts. No matter how diligently I screen, no matter how much money they put down as a nonrefundable deposit, there is something about June that makes people totally flake out. That's okay, though, because I always overbook my July, so I can just do some clients early.

It also means that I've had more time to read than usual, which is helpful, since [community profile] kink_bingo has started. If you've never heard of this challenge, here's [personal profile] anatsuno's introduction to KB post.

In the past, it's been strictly a fan work challenge -- this year, it's accepting original works as well. I personally find it a really inspiring challenge, especially since even though the stories are meant to be kinky, they don't also have to be about sex, so there are many ways to stretch the mind to come up with awesome stories for each square.

I've also just finished reading Sub Rosa by Amber Dawn. I know a couple of people who read it and loved it, so I thought I'd check it out. I found it really difficult to get invested in, and I pretty much cringed my way through it. I think I read it from the wrong perspective, because it seemed to me that it was basically a book about how glamorous and literally magical prostitution is, while secretly it's actually a book about trying to find the most magic in the least awesome situations, and building a chosen family, and never giving up, and going after what you want even when you're not in the best position to get it.

Basically, it did the book equivalent of rubbing me the wrong way with a little bit of it, and being awesome in other parts that I couldn't really appreciate enough.

I would definitely recommend it to the people I know who like reading books about (1) glamorized prostitution, (2) urban magic, (3) chosen family, (4) never giving up. And I know a lot of people who like one or more or all of those things!

My other book recommendation today is Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter (kindle edition). My baby sister and I bought this for our dad for father's day, and he absolutely loves it. He is a nerdy software programmer (since the 70s!) who spent the majority of the time while I was teaching him to make bread asking about the chemistry and science behind everything we did, and I got the distinct feeling that my answers, while accurate, were not as comprehensive as what he was looking for. So: cookbook for geeks! It is exactly perfect (I flipped through it when it arrived, before I wrapped it), and he emailed me this morning to say that it's already making him laugh.

I'm also sitting on Sweet Vegan: A Collection of All Vegan, some Gluten-Free, and a Few Raw Desserts by Emily Mainquist... At this point, I've read through it and figured out a few things I want to make, but I haven't gone forward and made anything yet, because I'm trying to find the soy-free, dairy-free version of Earth Balance... I may have to go to Whole Foods for that. But if you know someone who is a regular vegan, who is happy to eat stuff made with soy margarine, this is perfect. It even includes a recipe for homemade gluten-free flour that seems to be an improvement on the store-bought stuff.

...What are you reading?
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So I'm in Swampscott visiting my cousin and her family. (It seems like I'm in Massachusetts more than Brooklyn these days!) She has a bunch of interesting-looking books on her shelves, and I'm taking the opportunity to peruse them.

The one I read last night: Best of the Britcoms: From Fawlty Towers to The Office by Garry Berman

It was really entertaining! I am a PBS junkie, so I'd seen quite a few of the (famous) Britcoms Berman talks about in the book -- and I wrote down a bunch of titles, because even though sometimes I don't "get" British comedy (or, like many plebian US-ians, find it depressing!), I do love me television shows about wacky British vicars!

I like that the book is divided into decades (beginning with the 1970s), and that before each decade is a little introduction in which the author explains basics of things the American audience (the target for the book) may not know. For example, before the section on the 1970s, there's a brief history of British television. I did not know that British television was ordered to be shut down during WWII! (BBC began airing again, according to Berman, in June 1946.)

I did find myself wishing that the index was slightly more comprehensive. There's no listing for "vicar" -- so I have to read the book and make myself notes if I want to know about any Britcom about vicars besides The Vicar of Dibley. On the other hand, I don't think this is meant to be a comprehensive encyclopedia as much as it is a cute "reference" guide for your coffee table. (That's totally fair.)

As expected, the entries for shows like Fawlty Towers and Blackadder and The Office are much longer -- and contain more actor, writer, and producer quotes -- than the meager half-page shows like Ever-Decreasing Circles got. There's also small tidbits of the author's opinion threaded in, but I didn't find that to get in my way at all.

Now that I've read this book, first thing on my list to buy when I have some pocket change is the dvd set of Extras, because the pages dedicated to it make it sound incredibly charming.

(Today, while sitting in a sun-drenched courtyard in Salem, I finished Second Line: Two Short Novels of Love and Cooking in New Orleans by Poppy Z. Brite, which was a gift to me from the [personal profile] trifles family that I've been carrying around for a month. The first story in the book, about the boys as teenagers, was a lot more enjoyable for me than the second, a very self-indulgent story that was mostly just loosely strung together vignettes about characters I wasn't invested in enough to really care about. Still: that first story was great. Teenage boys in love in New Orleans! Plus cooking!!!)
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I kicked off my resolution to read more novels by finishing The Seduction of an Unknown Lady by Samantha James and then reading The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.

The Seduction of an Unknown Lady was so boring and generic that it took me almost the whole month of December and part of January to get through it. Ugh.

I only just read The Knife of Letting Go this morning, so I'm still working my way through how I feel about it, but my first reaction was to post this to the greader thread my friends have about it:

if it had been submitted to me, i'd've acquired it for sure, but i didn't enjoy it, and was mostly variations on bored and irritated.

I'm not really sure I have more to say than that. It hit a lot of my buttons for kneejerk disliking. While not all of it was awful, I didn't enjoy any of it. I made a list of stuff I didn't like for a friend of mine in gchat. Here is the list, slightly cleaned up (with proper-casing! and no visible spoilers):

1. Awful men. The spoiler of the book is predictable, given how awful the men all are.

2. Dialect. I often don't like dialect because it's poorly done and clumsy. This book is definitely clumsy; reading the dialect was not easy or interesting and it never fell into an engaging rhythm.

3. It takes almost four hundred pages to find out what's going on, because everyone who knows what's really happening keeps telling the protagonist, "We'll tell you later!" or "You shouldn't have to know!" Plus the protagonist is literally carrying around a book that says everything that happened from the POV of someone it happened to (it is a diary), but he can't read. His companion throughout can read, but he guards the book jealously for four hundred pages. (FOUR. HUNDRED. PAGES.)

4. The thread of "church" (no religion named) running through made me really uncomfortable -- both the parts where the churchiness is glorified and the parts where it's vilified. I need to think more about it/reread it to come to a conclusion about whether there's some kind of lesson about religion and the evil of mankind the author is trying to impart, but there's definitely something that really set my teeth on edge.

5. The spoiler with the spoiler. Highlight to read. (The dog! The antagonist killed the dog! That dog was my favorite character. And I think the killing of the dog was really unnecessary. It didn't raise the stakes or tell us anything we didn't already know. I really felt like the author was just trying to prove that he's a badass who isn't afraid to kill a helpless puppy.)

6. I normally enjoy media that has a darkness to it, but I did not find the darkness in this book engaging. It was very off-putting. I might not have felt this way if I hadn't read -- and been incredibly disappointed by -- the Hunger Games trilogy last summer, but I think those books filled my quota for depressingly dark books with no hope and no point for the next ten years.

7. I really felt like every single character, including the protagonist and his companion, were villains. If there is a thread of "lesson" going through the book (a la point #4), it is that everyone can be evil. I'm down with that most of the time, and I even believe it in real life, but I thought it was sort of clumsily handled here, and not subtle enough. Although . . . that is probably something that works for the ostensible target market of the book, which is, I guess, precocious ten year olds.

8. The book is not tight enough. It only took me 90 minutes to read the book, but it seriously felt like it stretched out forever. And part of that is because of things like how it took 400 pages for the hero to find out "the truth" about what happened.

9. Cliffhanger ending. Not a fan.

10. At least three or four different fonts were used throughout. Animals speak in a different font, and people speak to each other psychically, etc. It's really irritating, especially because the chosen fonts are difficult to read.

11. There are a lot of action sequences that are not very well written. Blah blah stream of consciousness, but come on. I need to be able to tell what's going on, and I found it difficult at times because the narrator couldn't give me a clear picture.

...This is just off the top of my head. I'm going to think about it some more. I haven't come to a conclusion about whether or not I want to read the rest of the trilogy. I'm definitely not the target market; I'd've loved this when I was ten years old, but find it too transparent now. If you liked it, I'm open to being convinced to read the second book! Spoilers are okay.
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Last night, I watched the first episode of Fringe with the commentary turned on.

I am not usually a commentary type of person. I find that too often the commentary on DVDs are a bunch of people getting drunk together in a small room, making inside jokes as they watch their own work, boring the crap out of the people listening/watching. Plus, the author is dead, right? I actually find that finding out what authors intend often spoils the work for me. Does anyone remember when Jacqueline Carey declared that Melisand Shahrizai was supposed to be a sociopath? I never read another Kushiel book again, not even to reread the first one, which I'd originally enjoyed. I have had a lot of experiences just like that!

When an author can't get across everything zie wants the reader to know in the book itself -- when the makers of a show can't get across everything the viewer is supposed to know in the show itself -- I admit to not having a lot of sympathy. As an editor, I know how tough and consuming it is to be the person who has to point out where the holes are; as a writer, I know how awful revising can be. If the creative work isn't ready to be put out there, though... don't put it out there.

Sure, that is a little over-simplified -- sometimes things just don't gel together, sometimes you're working to an unrealistic deadline that you don't have much of a choice about, sometimes you just need the damn money. But in those cases, can you really blame the readers for filling in details themselves, or taking to fanfic to satisfy their need for "fixing" characters or plot, or the desire for something more or deeper? (I guess you can if you want to. I'm on the side of the readers here, though.)

If you've done all you can to convey your vision, all you can do is trust that you've done your best to get what you want to say across, and leave the reader alone. Sometimes really exciting things come out of the minds of readers, things you might not have thought of, perspectives you may not have taken into account; sometimes the reader is so incredibly wrong that you want to reach through the computer screen (or step out from behind the lectern at a con) and slap that wrong person right on their wrong face! Yeah, I know how it goes. You think it's easier for the editor? The editor is supposed to help the author convey everything properly! If the readers don't get anything the author wants them to, it's (usually) at least partially the fault of the editor.

(Honestly, I've found that if I step away from being the author/editor of a work, and just take what the reader says about the work at face value, I can usually see where the reader is coming from -- even if I don't agree with it.)

Sometimes there's just no arguing with a reader/viewer -- and my recommendation is do not engage. Just suck it up, and realize that people bring their own shit to everything, and see most things -- television, movies, books, food, whatever! -- through the lenses of their baggage.

All that said... back to Fringe!

There are so many things about Fringe that I am interested in knowing about, especially because I still think the show's world building is so weak, that I couldn't help myself. I turned on the commentary. What. A. Mistake.

Those men are writing a completely different show than what I'm watching. They're writing, apparently, a soap opera-type drama about a father-son relationship. Yeah, Peter and Walter's relationship is definitely a big plot point, but the show I am watching is 90% about Olivia. Olivia kicking ass, taking names, being hard and vulnerable at the same time. I think she's a really good example of the kind of female character who I absolutely love -- she's flawed because she's human, not because she's a woman. And her flaws are real and deep and ring very true to me.

In the commentary, they talk about how Fringe was originally conceived as a show about a mad scientist, but they had two problems -- one, they couldn't write a character smarter than they are. (Honestly, I don't necessarily agree with this, but it's a good basic rule. If you don't understand the basics of physics, maybe your character ought not be a physicist...) Two, there is no way into a mad scientist character; there's no real way to relate to him, to empathize. So the show grew out of a need to make the mad scientist -- Walter -- relate-able and worthy of the compassion of the viewers.

To hear them tell it, Olivia barely factored into the equation then, and hardly factors into their equations now.

I can't lie -- I was pretty effing shocked to find this out. Were I building a show (or a book) similar to Fringe, I'd be starting with the strong female character in the center of everything, and building the entire show/book around her. Of course, that's me; no two people create the same way, and I can understand that.

What I can't understand is how/why they spent more time talking about Felicity and Alias than talking about the character of Olivia.

Plus, even though I suspected that they didn't have a plan or know anything about what they were writing, it sucks to have that confirmed. I spend every episode on tenterhooks, wondering if this is the episode where everything is going to fall apart or go off the rails like season three of Alias and beyond, and now that tension is going to be even worse! They haven't let me down yet -- although I do have a lot of questions about plot points that have just been totally dropped or overwritten -- but there's always that worry, because this show is made and written by people who I know cannot always be trusted to deliver.

So I'm back to not watching commentary or reading the author's intent about things. I might change my mind when my season two DVDs come, because I want to know all the little details about the noir episode. Maybe by the end of season two, they'll be tired of talking about the other shows they've worked on and making stupid Lost jokes, and they'll actually talk about the show itself.

Tell me about you: do you like knowing the intent? Watching commentary? What's the best commentary you've ever watched/listened to/read?
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The bookstore last night was pretty much a total bust. They only had one of books I was looking for, and that was an alternate to begin with! Also, the romance section was woefully tiny, especially compared to all the other sections. SFF covered two walls -- it was, like, thirteen or fifteen floor to ceiling bookcases -- and romance novels got two half-size bookcases. Are you kidding me? Ugh.

Anyway, I ended up just browsing, which is, honestly, one of my favorite things to do. I bought the following:

My friend was late, so I trudged through the snow (snow!) (well, flurries) over to the Waverly diner to eat cheese fries and read while I waited. I started with Forbidden Pleasure by Lora Leigh. Now, I'd bought it because I was really intrigued by the cover copy and the ostensible plot of the book. I couldn't figure out if the phrase "...[the men] want to indulge the desire to share their women with a carefully selected male partner" was code for "dudes kissing with a lady in between" or code for "the kind of crappy text porn abundant on Usenet in 1995."

I'm about halfway through (I didn't read it on the subway). I'll be blunt, since I know you people are into that: this book, as you may have suspected, is not very good. I can't figure out how this author is a New York Times bestseller. I also can't figure out why her publisher didn't pay more attention to the proofreading. There are a lot of glaring errors. And we're talking about St. Martin's Press! Usually their books are cleaner than this.

I don't think I'm the audience for this book. And, honestly, I am wondering (sincerely!) exactly who the audience is. Because normally I would be 100% into the idea of two hot male FBI agents (who apparently both look like the love child of Christian Kane and mid 90s era Mark Harmon but with long hair) and their ladyfriend getting it on. My problem is with a couple of things the author chooses to do.

Cut for discussion of rape, sexual situations, BDSM, and misogyny. This gets kind of long, has some quotes from the book, and probably isn't work safe, despite being entirely text. )

Anyway, I'll finish it (or attempt to, anyway), but after that... Anyone else interested? It might really appeal to someone else more than it does to me! If you want it, drop me a line at -- first come gets it.

(Damn it, I just now, when tagging this entry, realized that I read and hated one of this author's books back in 2008, and wrote a blog post wondering how the heck such a terrible writer made it to the NYT list. And even pointed out that the first word on the first page had a typo! Haha. I should reread my own blog posts sometime.)
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Tonight I'm going out for supper with one of my favorite people in the entire world. We're meeting beforehand at a bookstore. Now, I haven't been to a proper bookstore in a long time, because there are no bookstores in my neighborhood. I'm sure I've complained about this before, but let me complain about it again: it sucks. I love bookstores of all stripes, and the fact that I so rarely get to go to one is frustrating. I plan to spend a good while wandering the shelves... and I expect to drop the entirety of my Hanukkah gelt on romance novels.

It has been a long time since I've bought a romance novel -- sometimes I just end up with all mysteries and sff novels, while sometimes I end up with all romances. Lately it's been mysteries, sff, and YA... but Saturday night I read The Devil Wears Plaid by Teresa Medeiros -- it was fantastic, and exactly what I wanted. Highland adventure! A man who has spent two years living in the woods and of course is sexy and clean and smells good despite that! A secret inheritance! A quirky, outspoken heroine! etc. It made me long for the days of my well-spent youth when I read at least one book every day, and 90% of those books were romances.

So, readers, I ask you this: recommend to me your favorite romance novel that came out in the last year! Contemporary, historical, paranormal, suspense... whatever! If you have a line on a particularly great (and available in bookstores) queer romance, that would also be awesome.

NB, I am not into what the kids these days are calling "original slash" -- when I'm in the mood for that, just give me a great Fraser/RayK or John/Rodney (or John/Ronon!) story, you know? So err on the side of self-identified women (or people who self-id as genderqueer!) if you're going to recommend something queer.

Otherwise... gimme what you got! Feel free to recommend yourself and/or your friends, too. No limits! If you don't want to post a comment, my email address is annagenoese at gmail dot com.
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Well, I stopped reading Dust -- it's in the bathroom, just hanging out; maybe I'll try to pawn it off on some poor unsuspecting soul -- and picked up The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin. I bought this book mostly because a crapload of people on the internet were talking about how great it is and how much they love the author (who, as far as I can tell, sometimes says smart things about race and the way people interact).

My relationship with this book started out really strong -- I was on the subway, coming off Dust and feeling like I was never going to read an interesting book again. When I opened it and saw that at the very least the world-building and narrative were going to be interspersed, not completely separate things, I was so relieved! That relief drained away as I read more and more, until finally I tucked it inside my messenger bag, and every time I think about finishing it, I cringe.

There are a bunch of things in it that niggle at me, and then there are a few pretty huge problems -- and right now, my time for pleasure reading is so limited that I feel like it's a real, serious waste of my time to read books that aren't fantastic. I'm not saying that I'm looking for perfect books -- just ones where when I put them down, I don't dread picking them back up again.

Then, the other day, [personal profile] eruthros posted a mini-review. Suddenly I felt much less alone, and much more comfortable discussing (in public) my problems with this book. (And, later, I will talk about why I am definitely not going to read the rest of the book.)

My biggest problem is the characters. They are uniformly boring. They are one dimensional. We know that the evil people are evil because they smile slyly and like kinky sex and seem at least on the surface to buy into the political theater of the court. We know that the good people are good because... oh. Wait. There are no good people except the heroine! There are no shades of grey! No one else is oppressed and having to make deals with their oppressors in order to live. Everyone is either bad and working against the heroine, and therefore evil, or bad and working for the heroine, and therefore slightly more tolerable.

The heroine confuses me. She's supposed to be a badass warrior-queen/leader/something. She's been doing it for a while? Or maybe only a few weeks? Or maybe several months, but many of those months were spent traveling across the world to see a king that she doesn't even respect or care about? (Why did she travel to see the king again? I have no idea.) She's not badass at all -- she's boring. It's not even that she's an unreliable narrator -- she's just kind of stupid about people. She's in a situation she's never been in before, so I guess I could cut her some slack, but it's the author's choice to set up the book like this. It's the author's choice to make her heroine a powerless ninny. Why make that choice?

I also think the choice to narrate the story in this way was a terrible one on the part of the author and her editor. There are a lot of tangents. They are boring. World-building isn't something that should get in the way of telling the story to the reader. The almost stream-of-consciousness narration that we're subjected to is so frustrating. No, I do not want a three page tangent about something boring and unrelated -- I want to know about how the heroine is running for her life! There are better ways to wodge into the text whatever important information the author thinks her readers should have.

Other issues: The one (so far) same sex relationship is the cause of all the sadness and destruction in the world. The people who enjoy kinky sex are evil. That's how we know they're evil, don't you see? No one not evil could ever want to put a collar on someone else for sexual gratification of all involved! The names don't make any sense; there doesn't seem to be a naming scheme for separate countries/ethnicies, or indeed any kind of thought given to language at all. (It's possible this is secretly my #1 problem, since why make up a world if you're not going to also make up language rules for it?) Plus, you know, at this point in the life of the genre of fantasy, incest isn't some big thing that automatically makes me suck in a breath and feel shocked; it's just sort of boring. And I'm really tired of having to read about pedophilia. And you know what? I'm not interested in gods who have been sandpapered into tedious human-shapes with human morals and human desires. (What then, exactly, makes them gods? Immortality? Oh, but they can die and/or be killed? So what makes them gods? Oh, the author says so? Not good enough!)

I put a call out on Twitter for negative reviews of this book, to see if other people were coming to the same conclusions I am. Like I said, I'd only seen people talking about what they liked about the book and its author until [personal profile] eruthros! [personal profile] fadeaccompli helpfully supplied me with this review, written by someone who apparently finished the book. (So... now some book spoilers. Actual things that will likely spoil the book itself for you.) [ profile] winterfox points out a blog post written by the author in which the author says...

[...] one of the staples of epic fantasy is clearly-delineated good and evil... So I needed there to be one absolute, unadulterated ratbastard in the story [...]

WHAT. How can someone believe this? If the sentence had been, "One of the tropes in some fantasy novels is that good and evil are clearly delineated," then perhaps it wouldn't have irked me. But there's a lot of fantasy out there, and some of that fantasy delights in messing around with the ideas of good and evil.

The quote [ profile] winterfox pulled from the blog post ends with this:

Scimina [the evilest woman to ever evil in the book -- or so we're told by the heroine]: evil Just Because.

It was upon reading this that I realized that there's no way I can finish reading the book. It's going to lie around my house, and I am going to glare at it, and sulk about how I spent money on it, and in generally be incredibly annoyed until I talk myself into forgetting that I'm so pissed, give the book away, and move on. (Judging by how I still have not moved on from a similar epic sulk from 2007, this could take a long time!)

I am all for evil characters. I love evil characters. I think they are fascinating and wonderful and fun. I also sometimes side with evil, finding the "good" characters in fantasy novels often desperately unfun, annoying, sanctimonious, and boring. (Examples: the Harry Potter books and the first Kushiel trilogy by Jacqueline Carey.) Most of the time, one does not see an evil character reluctant to embrace their destiny of taking over the world -- often that's how we're supposed to know that said character really, truly is evil. The "good" character is a whiny brat who doesn't want to go on a quest/embrace destiny/have magical powers/save the world. I'll save my rant on the reluctant hero for another time, though.

My point is that evil can be really sympathetic. Heck, evil can be sympathetic in real life! Evil can trick people into thinking it's not evil. Evil can make you cry for it. Evil, even when it's getting what it deserves, can pull compassion from you. That's something that is great about evil (and people). Evil doesn't even have to be totally evil -- it can be in a grey area. It can -- and, in fact, often is -- not evil at all, but instead just something that we/the protagonist disagree with. (A good example of this is the first Kushiel book, in which "evil" is the political opponent whose calm, rational political views disgust a bunch of people who don't really seem to even have a dog in the fight except for their personal relationship to the king or whoever. Sorry, I haven't read those books since, like, 2001 or whatever. But still!)

The author says in that blog post that she doesn't believe some of her characters are absolutely evil (in the moral sense; as opposed to...? the other kind of evil hanging around?) because they had reasons for what they did, and because they are all capable of sorrow and regret. I'm not sure that resonates with me -- I think that without reason backing up what they do, characters become very lifeless.

In fact, advice I give often to my clients is to sit down with a list of their characters, every single character, and come up with reasons for those characters to do what they do and be who they are. I will even sometimes suggest writing short stories about each character, reminding the authors that every character probably believes zirself to be the protagonist of zir own story, regardless of how the author's chosen protagonist sees them! After all, most people do not often think, "Wow, I am a supporting character in the life of the person standing behind me in the grocery store!"

But this makes it clear that the author believes herself capable of writing nuanced characters. That's all well and good. Then she says that she did not want to know more about her "rat bastard" character -- she writes, "because it's hard to plot another person’s death if you know them and understand them"!!

Well, that's not true across the board, but maybe it's true for this author. But does that mean that her one "rat bastard" character, her one (supposedly) unambiguously evil character, must be paper-thin? To be honest, though, I doubt the author's ability to write a character that is not one-dimensional, since even her beloved (boring) heroine has got nothing going for her. And why should I spend my time reading a book when the author couldn't even challenge herself to come up with a three-dimensional, interesting, compelling villain?

Most villains don't think of themselves as evil. I am hard-pressed to think of a book villain (in an adult fantasy novel) who sits around saying, "I'm so evil! Bwahahaha!" Most villains actually think they are the protagonists of the story. They think they are doing the right thing, that their position is unimpeachable. They think the protagonist is evil. If the author isn't going to put herself in that position, if the author isn't going to even bother trying to understand why the "villain" might think that way, not only is the reader being cheated out of an interesting villain, the reader is being cheated out of a protagonist who isn't 100% perfect in everyone's eyes.

A lot of the reviews I read (just from people on my blogroll who are readers, who are into the author's nonfiction on the subject of race and social justice) mentioned that the prose is amazing. I'll give the author this: she can write a sentence. But the sentences never string together into something really compelling. It's just the same overwrought, faux-formal narration that a lot of epic fantasy suffers from.

I think I take it back that this book's biggest problem is the characters. I think this book's real biggest problem is its hype. I could have picked this up and read it in a few hours and maybe not gotten so het up about it if eight million people hadn't told me that it's the Best! Book! Of! The! Year! And! All! The! Other! Years! Too! It's a first novel. Every bit of it suffers from a lack of editing. It's not anywhere close to being the worst book I've read this year. Heck, if it had landed on my desk, I'd've probably acquired it. The author has some interesting ideas and way better than passable writing -- she just needs to be critiqued and challenged more.

In a few years, when she's done writing in this universe, I'll pick up whatever she writes next and see if she's gotten any better. It happens!

(I hope she writes a standalone! I know, I know, I'm the only person in the world who wants standalone fantasy novels that are 200,000 words long. Whatever. Go on! Read your 15-book series! Leave me alone!)

I would be really interested to read your thoughts on this book, and on villains/evil. Comments and links to your own posts on the subject(s) both welcome.

Next to be read: The Alchemy Of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia. No one recommended this to me, and I don't know much about it. I was doing that thing where I just click around Amazon, looking for something cool to read (south Brooklyn doesn't have any bookstores to browse in meatspace; it's a tragedy!) and I found it. I read the Publishers Weekly review and decided I wanted to give it a shot -- I mean, automatons! Alchemists! Statues that want souls! Terrorists! How could I pass that up? I'll let you know how it goes.
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I'm watching Justified. Have y'all ever seen it? It is a really awful show that is nevertheless incredibly enjoyable. I love Timothy Olyphant's teeth, and his walk is, like, the definition of a "loose-hipped gait," isn't it? Like a romance novel hero.

I thought for a moment that my grasp of geography has been getting worse when in the last episode I watched, Timothy Olyphant's teeth and hips tracked a fugitive to the Mexican border. What?! Since when does Kentucky border Mexico? Then I realized that while I was counting my knitting stitches, I somehow missed them heading out to California. Haha. In this episode I'm watching now, Buster Bluth deals in art painted by Hitler! Double haha.

Today I was nosing around the book racks in WalMart, and I couldn't help but notice that two of the four bookshelves were all romance novels. One entire bookshelf was taken up with Harlequin series -- they're putting out Christmas books already! Harlequin, it is only October. You should be selling The Devil's Halloween Baby, not His Christmas Love! The other romance novel bookshelf was entirely contemporary paranormals and contemporary westerns. Now, I am a big fan of paranormals (obviously), and I do have a (not so) secret love of the western romance, full of ranches and Montana and women in cowboy hats. But... a whole bookshelf? And nothing else? That seems pretty excessive.

(If you're interested... Bookshelf #3 was all YA -- Cassandra Clare and Rick Riordan and J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins and Stephenie Meyer. Bookshelf #4 was all action/adventure and bestselling hardcover nonfiction.)

Speaking of books! I started reading Dust by Joan Frances Turner. I can see why people are making a big deal of this book, especially since it's told from the POV of a zombie. Cool, right? But I thought it was supposed to be a grim, scary book. I'm about a third of the way through, and so far it's just sort of wandering around the worldbuilding with no real story being told -- and it's gory. It's really gory. I don't think things that are gory are scary or interesting; I think gory tends to be pretty boring. I don't get off in any way on torture porn, written or visual.

I think it would probably really interest thirteen year olds, though.

That's one of the problems with being an adult and reading YA. Were I acquiring YA for a YA audience, I would be reading with a different eye. But I'm an adult reading YA fiction for entertainment. I'm not necessarily looking to completely dump my critical reading skills, but I'm also not looking to replicate my uncomplicated childhood reading experiences, either. So I want a lot more things -- complicated things -- from YA books. And I get that from some authors, I really do. And from others... well, I can see why the target market would enjoy it, but I personally am not.

I'll probably finish the book anyway, especially since the prose is not torturous, but darn it. I was really hoping it would be super dark and super grim and super depressing and more traditionally "post-apocalyptic." Sigh!

Hey, you know what else about books? The first draft of the sequel to Salt and Silver is finished! Two weeks ahead of schedule, too. Now it's time to reread and revise!
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I spent my last Amazon gift certificate on books that I'd hoped would come before this weekend. I traveled a lot this weekend, and wanted to read them on the train. Instead, I lugged around Diane Duane's Rihannsu: The Bloodwing Voyages and read about Romulans.

(My dad and I had a conversation the other day about why I prefer Romulans, and I had a difficult time explaining it. It is an instinctual gravitating! My dad was like, "Why not Vulcans?" but I have a total aversion to most Vulcans. I think it has to do with the fact that Vulcans are, you know, written by humans -- so there's simply no way to make them more logical than the humans who write them. Which, in the end, just means that they come off as smug and irritating, like the people who still insist the earth is flat even though it clearly is not. Romulans do not think the Earth is flat, and also they have better clothes.)

(Also, I told my dad, we don't even know that what we see about Romulans is even real. I mean, from a meta perspective, the entire Star Trek franchise could just be Federation propaganda! That's when he changed the subject. Weird, right? ;))

The books came today, though! I have a lot of freelance work for the next few weeks, so I'm only going to be able to read one this month. The question is this: which one should I read?

Poll!!! I'm not going to put an actual poll in the entry, but feel free to leave a comment with your choice and no further details. But, you know, if you have further details? Feel free to leave those, too! No spoilers, though, okay?

Book A: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin -- keywords for this book are apparently racism, politics, and assassins. What's not to be fascinated by here?

Book B: Dust by Joan Frances Turner -- keywords for this one are zombies, bleak, and post-apocalypse. Also all things that fascinate me!

Do you see my dilemma here? Which book should I read first?! Help me, internet... you're my only hope!

(Actually, that's totally not true. If you guys don't come through by Wednesday or so, I'll just put them both on the floor and read first the one the cats prefer to sleep on.)

...While we're on the subject of your opinions, my mother has a question. One of her students is at a reading level of the Bobbsey Twins and the Boxcar Children -- so lower middle-grade chapter books, like first or second grade. Are there any books that are contemporary and non-magical that are suitable for that reading level with protagonists who are characters of color? (Preferably the protagonist would identify as Black.) I was able to find some books for teenagers, but not any middle-grade chapter books. Suggestions welcome.
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It is officially fall: I have had several pumpkin spice lattes, got a mani-pedi using Essie's Wicked instead of a bright orange or pink, and slept last night with the windows open and was cold. Yay fall! Yay! Soon it will be baked potato weather, too, and time for baked apples and roasted squash and roasted vegetables and after-supper mugs of hot tea and sweaters. I am pretty excited to pull out my favorite sweater.

Now: books! A while back, I had the pleasure of copyediting a book that I enjoyed reading. Sometimes the books I copyedit (for private clients or for publishers) are not quite to my personal taste. Hey, what are you going to do? Not everyone likes everything. But, luckily for me, when I copyedit for Baen, I pretty much always am working on books I enjoy!

Often I buy the books I enjoyed working on. The one I'm staring at right now, realizing I never talked about it, is Grand Central Arena by Ryk E. Spoor. It's standalone SF, about the test flight of a faster than light drive that fails, and transports the crew on the ship to a place they learn is called "the Arena," and there's no way to get home (or get out of the Arena) without either declaring allegiance to one of the alien groups also there, or beating the crap out of a bunch of aliens so they can be declared their own faction and have autonomy.

I can't say this is a perfect book by any stretch of the imagination (find me a perfect book, though, seriously), but I really enjoyed it -- the descriptions of space, a lot of the dialogue, the action sequences! What I really liked was more of a background point -- the exploration of the Arena itself, and the way that even though it's the setting, it's also a character, and never explained so much as to take away its mysteriousness.

I've never read anything else by this guy, but I have his first novel, which I downloaded for free from the Baen website, tucked away for after I finish the bulk of the work I have to do on the sequel to Salt and Silver - slash - when I go on vacation at the end of September.

I've also got my copy of Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien, which looks good!

I did open up Heist Society by Ally Carter. It looks like it's cute, but I expect a lot more from a book about thieves -- I was disappointed almost immediately by the lack of details about the thieving and cons. One of the highlights of books and movies (and TV shows!) about thieving and cons are the asides to the consumer with notes about the way things are "really" done -- think of the voice over about how to be a spy on Burn Notice, or the way they structure Leverage. It's a little harder to pull off in a book -- but Elizabeth Scott did it really well in Stealing Heaven. Too bad for Ally Carter that she is no Elizabeth Scott. I'm going to press on, though, because it's a cute premise and maybe it will get better.

Although... I'm definitely giving up on The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting. I haven't even gotten to the plot yet, but I can't suspend my disbelief long enough to get there. Kimberly Derting just did not convince me that the teenage heroine really has no idea what it could possibly feel like to have a crush on someone else. Even if the heroine really never had a crush on anyone before this point, has she never read a book or seen a movie or watched a television show? Okay, maybe she's never read a romance novel or a YA romance (really?) and maybe she never read the Harry Potter books (??!!!), or watched a Disney movie (possibly more believable, if her parents have Taken A Stand), or... yeah, I can't even keep going. It's just way too unbelievable. I could buy that she's never experienced the feelings for herself before, but to not even realize that she has a crush, that the tingling, stomach butterflies, new attraction, etc., logically add up to having a crush?

Even then, I guess I could believe it, if the author did it well and convincingly. But this isn't convincing. And if the author can't even pull off this, one of the first scenes in the book, how is she going to pull off the rest of the (cool-sounding!) story?

I'm just going to set it aside and maybe one day, if I'm feeling more forgiving, I'll give it another shot. Maybe it gets better? I want to believe that, but I don't have the free time to spend indulging books that still haven't grabbed me by page thirty, or whatever. Especially when instead of reading it, I could be reading really good books, or knitting Olatz with the repurposed purple yarn [personal profile] anatsuno gave me! My digital camera is down for the count right now, but as soon as I get a new one, I will be taking a huge number of pictures and posting them.
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Hi, folks. Two things:

1.) Um. I finished Feed by Mira Grant, and. What was that? When I finally put it down, I felt like I'd been hit by a truck that came back and ran me over again two or three times. Emotionally wrung out, mentally exhausted, and in. love. What a great book. I am jealous of the person who got to acquire and edit it, for sure. Two thumbs up, and if I could borrow someone else's thumbs, I'd turn those up, too. Everything that Suzanne Collins got wrong in her Hunger Games trilogy, this book gets right. (Although... this is emphatically not YA. On the other hand, I'd argue that perhaps Mockingjay isn't quite YA either. So. YMMV.)

Brief summary: In the future, two viruses interact and turn people into zombies. Horrifyingly, the virus is in everyone, so once you die, you become a zombie -- do not pass Go, do not collect $200, go straight to getting a bullet in the brain. Twenty-five years later, this is pretty commonplace for people, but everyone responds to the reality of it differently. The story is told from the point of view of Georgia, nicknamed George (after Romero, duh), who is a news blogger who's been invited, along with her co-bloggers (her brother, who is an action-adventure blogger, and her friend Buffy, who writes fiction and poetry about the news), to hit the campaign trail with a guy who's running for President. Plus there's a (okay, pretty transparent) mystery.

I found some of the book predictable -- but I dissect stories for a living, so it's the rare book that's going to catch me completely off guard about everything. This book did it once or twice, though, so that's pretty amazing. I loved the constant pressure of figuring out what's true vs. what's news vs. what can be both, and the way everyone copes differently with a zombie apocalypse.

Mira Grant is an open pseudonym for Seanan McGuire, although I don't think it bears too much resemblance to her other books. (Which is to say that FWIW I don't like the October Daye books, but I loved this.)


2.) Regarding the unholy alliance of Facebook, LiveJournal, and Twitter... I deleted my Facebook account months ago, so you'll never have your comments (or see my entries) reproduced there. I'd appreciate it if you did not share your comments to my entries on Facebook. For anyone who is made nervous or irritated by this, here are my invite codes to Dreamwidth. Feel free to take and use; I can always get more. As they're taken, I'll strike them from this list.

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I finished Mockingjay last night. Ultimately, I don't recommend this series. I found it depressingly predictable and frustratingly uneven. The writing itself isn't good enough to make up for plot, story, characterization, and structure failings.

However, if this series landed on my desk while I was acquiring? Hell yes, I would have snapped it right up and published it -- although I'd've made (and/or encouraged the author to make) some different editorial choices.

Those are two separate areas of my brain, though. It took me quite a while, and a lot of coaching from my (amazing, incredible) mentors to learn how to separate what I like as a reader, and what is publishable. Marketable. Money-making.

I don't really have a spoilery review of Mockingjay right now. I mean, I could list everything that was predictable about it, everything that frustrated and disappointed me, every place where I think the author could have done a better job, but why bother? Either you liked it, and the flaws didn't bother you enough to ruin the book, or you didn't like it, and the flaws were unforgiveable. I'm in the latter camp; everyone else I know, as usual, is in the former!

Other books I've read in the last few days:

I finished Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. It was amazing. I was shocked when I reached the ending, convinced that my (falling apart) copy of the book was missing pages. Then I started to grin uncontrollably, because the ending is actually pretty awesome. For me, it ended in such a way that I can tell myself that there was happiness and satisfaction; someone else could read death and destruction. Very smart -- very enjoyable. Piercy is incredibly skilled; the next book of hers I'm picking up is He, She and It, which was recommended to me by [ profile] belladonnalin, who is the one who recommended Woman... to me in the first place.

Can I just say that I love "person" and "per"? Because I do. So much more than zie and zo and hir. I might start using that instead of zie and hir, honestly, because it really struck a particular chord in me. A chord of happiness.

The other book I finished -- actually, I finished it yesterday, before I finished Mockingjay -- is I Am J by Cris Beam. It's a YA about a seventeen year old kid who has always felt like a boy, but has girl parts. When things come to a tipping point inside himself, he runs away to try to start a new life -- but his old life (mother, father, best friend, etc.) keeps pulling him back. So he has to learn how to balance who he is with how life has to be lived. I am making this sound terribly depressing, but it's actually incredibly uplifting, with a positive ending. I'm not trans, so I don't know if this really reflects the experiences of people who are, but the narrative had that ring of truth (and pure teenage desperation) that I think a lot of outsiders will be able to relate to, even though the particular experiences are not necessarily the same.

Warning for a lot of homophobia on the part of the title character, though. I really appreciated that he got called on it almost every single time, but it's still there. Plus there's self harm (secondary character), and a huge amount of parental conflict and rejection. So judge wisely whether that's something you're up for.

I do think this is miles beyond the other YA trans books I've read in the last year, and I definitely recommend it. (My one real critique is the depiction of New York City; it really didn't work for me. I wish the author had set the book somewhere else, although I got over this by pretending the book was set in the same New York City where all those tv shows are set. Haha.)

Little, Brown is releasing this in March 2011 (my copy is an ARC [personal profile] dianafox snagged for me at BEA), and I'll probably mention it again around then.

Next on my list, to be read this afternoon on the subway: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting. Highly recommended by real people! So we'll see. My backup book -- either in case I finish it too quickly or don't like it enough to keep going -- is Feed by Mira Grant. I've already read quite a bit of it, so I know I am going to like it; it's just a matter of when I get to read the rest. Social media! Zombies! Bloggers! A virus! Come on, it's like I am the target audience or something! Plus I love the cover. Actually, I have it as an e-book -- but [personal profile] dianafox gave me a paper copy the last time I saw her, which I greedily took so that I can have a book with the cover on my shelf. I love the RSS symbol in blood -- very clever.

Recently purchased: Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

Powell's is having a YA dystopia sale! That is so awesome and clever. Unfortunately, their shipping is expensive, and Amazon's is free for books priced comparatively. I'd love to support Powell's, but how can I? Especially since their cheap shipping is via USPS, which 95% of the time loses any package larger than a letter. So Amazon and my UPS guy whose shirt is always unbuttoned to his navel it is! If you're more flush than me, you should order from Powell's.

Anyway, when I went through their books, that one is the one that caught my eye -- and it's the one that was recommended to me! So I bought it. Review t/k! I can already tell you that I'll be extremely annoyed if there's a super cliffhanger-y ending, though, since I don't approve of that kind of nonsense -- which is why I didn't also get The Line by Teri Hall -- it looks like it could be super interesting, but the Booklist review warns for an "abrupt cliff-hanger ending"... no thank you! I'll pick up the whole series once it's over!

(Hey, does anyone else think it's hilarious that the Library Journal review of The Line says, "For more engaging dystopian novels, suggest Lois Lowry's The Giver..."? Uh, could there be a book less engaging and less relevant to a modern teen's internal life than that? I mean, okay, yes, it is very well-written and Lowry is skilled and talented and as a nine year old, I enjoyed much of her backlist -- and surely there are YA dystopia novels less engaging and less relevant, but, frankly, I am hard-pressed to think of them.)


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anna genoese

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