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[personal profile] renay2019-01-28 02:33 am

Let's Get Literate! February 2019 Books

I'm excited for way more books than I will ever read. I've accepted this as my lot in life and I'm resigned to my fate. Here's some of the books coming out in February that caught my eye. Read more... )

What books are you excited for in February, on this list or otherwise?
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[personal profile] renay2019-01-20 09:52 pm

Let's Get Literate! Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat

Hello, it's me, coming in a decade late with Starbucks, a book everyone was excited for ages ago, and outdated memes.

I remember when Captive Prince was an online sensation in circles adjacent to mine (it was fun reading familiar usernames in the back of the second volume that I started immediately after I finished the first), but I didn't read it during that time. I bought the first book in 2016 and it sat on my shelf, and we considered each other dubiously until early January. I have tried a chapter of Dunnett and it seems like it would be very neat but there's just so much of it in very tiny print. She's the author I've heard Pacat's work compared to most often so I was all over uncertain. Turns out there was really no reason to be worried because Captive Prince is great (potentially that means I should really give the Dunnett book I have another try). Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay2019-01-10 12:43 am

Let's Get Literate! The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

My first book of 2019 was The Cloud Roads, which was a reread for me. I've declared 2019 the year I reread books without shame so I can catch up on all the series I'm following. The Cloud Roads is about polyamorous cuddle murder dragons fighting some chompy murder dragons with a side of dark secrets, biological warfare, and navigating complicated relationships in a very specific hierarchy where the rules are invisible because just like you, dear reader, our Hero is an Lone Outsider.

Many of us love Martha Wells for her excellent stories about Murderbot in the Murderbot Diaries. Having read all of those and The Cloud Roads, so far what I'm getting is that Martha Wells likes to write stories about sulky people who are resentful that they aren't immune to needing companionship and figuring out how they get to a place where they can accept it. The Cloud Roads is about Moon, a lone shape-shifter who is often mistaken as one of the evil Fell and thrown out of the groundling settlements he's been trying to belong to since the rest of his family was killed.

That all changes when he meets another cuddle murder dragon called Stone, but accepting Stone's offer to travel to the Court of Indigo Cloud to meet Moon's people—the Raksura—comes with six heaping bags of shenanigans from both inside (Salty Queens) and outside (chompy murder dragons).

The main draw for me in this series is the relationships, because there's a lot of neat power dynamics and potentially legit poly representation in later books. Although, this book doesn't shy away from mentioning poly sexual relationships and is solid "I don't know him" about toxic masculinity, leaving most of that to the Queens of the Court. Refreshing and novel! I have high hopes for later books and the relationships that Moon chooses for himself.

Maybe you've been sleeping on Martha Wells and her secondary world fantasy, or have finished Murderbot's adventures and are looking for the next place to go. Spending some time with the Raksura should be on your list. If you like disgruntled protagonists, shape-shifters, cuddling among pals, murder-via-poisoned-ally, and reading about the heroes eating raw animals, The Cloud Roads may be for you! Please join me in reading about the poly cuddle murder dragons.
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[personal profile] renay2019-01-03 10:55 am

Let's Get Literate! 2018 Retrospective

2018 managed to be, at the same time, one of the shortest but longest years in recent memory. Partly because things kept happening and wouldn't stop and partly because I decided to work on a political campaign and slightly regret it because it ate up six months of my life. I gained some great skills (I can edit video now!) but I'm also once again clawing my way out from under a crushing experience for my very fragile confidence due to Too Many Cis Men Who Know Better About The Field I Have Experience In, which is a state of being that I'm sure many of us are familiar with.

And also, my dad died on December 25. It was unexpected, but also at the same time not surprising (he was very ill and has been for while). I got him a bunch of books as a gift, because he's been so bored recently. Now I have three westerns I will never read.

If I hadn't had time to read I might have gone bananas, but thankfully there was travel, driving, and other tasks where I could read and also listen to audiobooks. 2018 was the year of the audiobook for me. And it turns out that if I'm dealing with heavy sadness, audiobooks are perfect because I can just listen and relax, or listen and knit and not dwell on things. I used audiobooks in November 2016 to cope and I did the same thing with them the last week of December. Thank the stars for the new ways of reading technology has provided. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay2018-11-12 01:45 am

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

This summer I read one of the most charming romance novels...and then promptly took a job on a congressional campaign and ceased writing anything about books unless I was also being paid. Whoops! But I wanted to go come back now that everything has calmed down and rec this book, because I loved it so much.

The Kiss Quotient was perfect for me because it had a) fake dating, b) sex being awkward and not necessarily something you're automatically good at like some sort of Sex Wizard, c) characters with complicated problems and lives independent of each other that inform the romance itself.

I've been thinking about The Kiss Quotient all year because it was exactly what I needed when I read it—something realistic but ultimately happy. Stella, who has Asperger's, is a wonderful main character and I loved her and rooted for her so hard. When she finally realizes that she's awesome it was GREAT. The whole premise is her interpreting the pressure from her family to settle down and have kids in the most rational way possible: she has no clue how to date, so she clearly needs an expert to learn from. Cue hiring an escort to teach her to bang. He teaches her to bang and then (OBVIOUSLY) they fall in love. There's family drama and miscommunication that feels authentic to the characters instead of forced (although it may depend on how much romance you read), with lots of chewy backstory for Michael.

I really like reading books containing my favorite tropes and will pick up any book with them (FAKE DATING) and give it a shot, but I really appreciated how much Stella's personality and perspective on the world changed the trope to make it feel polished up and brand new. I'm super excited to read more by Helen Hoang, and we get to in 2019 because The Bride Test is out and I'm HERE for it.
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[personal profile] renay2018-05-09 03:36 am

Let's Get Literate! Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

Artificial Condition, the sequel to one of the breakout novellas of 2017, All Systems Red, returns us to the adventures of Murderbot, a human-like security android that broke the governor module used for control.

Murderbot has used the freedom to watch a lot of television during their downtime after keeping humans alive for another day.

After the events of All Systems Red, Murderbot is on a quest to find out more about their past. Murderbot got their name from a mission they assumed they failed—killing quite a few humans they were meant to protect. But the company that used to own them hushed things up and wiped Murderbot's memory of the most of the event—but not their knowledge of it. Murderbot is determined to find out the truth. Murderbot once again pairs up with some humans to gain the access they need—and gets tangled up in their very human drama while also trying not be to be discovered as not very-not-human security bot they truly are. But this time around Murderbot makes a friend! And what a friend—you may finish the story wanting more of Murderbot and their new pal on space adventures.

Last year, social media was full of people posting nothing but "MURDERBOT!" followed by five to ten heart emojis. Murderbot was truly a bot that we all saw a piece of ourselves in: anxiety; the desire to just hide away from humans and their feelings; the comfort in watching hours and hours of television. One of the best parts of this series is the way Murderbot's experience of humans hews so closely to how neurodivergent folks deal with stress and social interaction. It's hard not to empathize with Murderbot as they try to navigate all the weird human social needs and expectations. Who among us hasn't wanted a break from human interaction and found comfort in the lives and stories of fictional humans we never have to interact with?

If you loved All Systems Red, you'll want to read Artificial Condition as soon as possible. Please go read it and then come tell me how much you love Murderbot's new friends!
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[personal profile] renay2018-03-27 12:09 am

Let's Get Literate! The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Sherlock Holmes.


Except set in a far-future society where traumatized sentient spaceships can be down on their luck brewers of SPACE TEA that helps humans function in deep space.

I was sold immediately and I assume many others would be, as well, so I am here to spread the gospel of Aliette de Bodard's latest story in her Xuya universe.

Featuring: aforementioned sentient spaceship, The Shadow's Child. Also Long Chau, a caustic customer on the search for a tea that will help her on a job. The job quickly turns into a murder case and The Shadow's Child is tugged into Long Chau's adventures—and a hunt for her mysterious and troubling past.

Subterranean Press did a gorgeous hardcover edition, but there's also an ebook edition that's more reasonable for those of us who aren't collectors and can't drop $40 on a novella (even though we might want to, sob). There will be editions for the rest of the world, too, I have read! Don't worry, eventually everyone should be able to get on this excellent ship that is Xuya and read this super neat novella.

Because this is a novella, to talk too much about the plot is to spoil the experience of the characters and their circumstances. If you've read any Xuya stories, you'll be fine. If you haven't, there are some recs here, as well as some background on the world. Unlike a novel series that gives you all the background, the Xuya universe is built on unrelated but connected short pieces that assume the Chinese found the Americas first. It's alternate future made by creating an alternate history framework and it's fascinating and lovely. I also don't think entering the universe here is a bad choice; it's self-contained and not too hard to follow if you read it as a standalone piece.

(If you're like me, you will not treat it as a standalone piece for long, because you will swallow all other Xuya stories ASAP.)

The Shadow's Child carries us through the story on her perspective as Long Chau turns her whole life upside down. It definitely feels like a Sherlock Holmes remix, but in the best way that deepens the characters in thoughtful ways without an over-reliance of inspiration material. This feels like an Aliette de Bodard story even with the added element of being a remix. Plus, as much as the plot-related mystery is intriguing, more so is the mystery of how these two individuals will resolve their differences to come together as allies. It's an excellent character piece.

If you want a great story about two very different people—a curt SPACE DETECTIVE and a traumatized SPACESHIP—working together and coming to trust each other despite their pasts and personalities, I highly recommend this novella (and the Xuya universe as a whole, as well).

I give this 14 cups of (in this case, delicious and not mind-altering) space tea.
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[personal profile] renay2018-03-20 11:45 pm

Let's Get Literate! In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

Portal fantasies feel like a staple of childhood. I missed most of the literary ones. I loved In Other Lands, but as much as it is a portal fantasy it's also a critique of them, a loving celebration and deconstruction of their tropes and politics, and I probably missed 95% of everything this book does. Does it do what it set out to do well? Yes, says the portal fantasy newbie, whose experience with portal fantasy as a Youngster comes in the form of the following:

  • Through the Ice by Piers Anthony and Robert Kornwise
  • Labyrinth, starring David Bowie
  • The Neverending Story; too bad about those racial politics
  • Cool World starring Brad Pitt, which I watched when too young
  • Space Jam, the best sports movie after Cool Runnings

I understand if people, looking at this list, take my opinions about In Other Lands with a grain of salt. Because I missed Narnia until my 20s and quit after two books, only cared about Alice in Wonderland because of the weird poems until my 30s (I still have poem about The Jabberwocky memorized) and only watched my favorite portal fantasy ever, Spirited Away, after I came to college.

In Other Lands drew me in because I recognized so much of myself in the main character, Elliot. He's rude, cruel, and casually degrading to everyone around him except one of his best friends, Serene. His other "best friend" is Luke Sunborn, who is what passes as a popular kid in the Borderlands. They clash over and over, but because Serene and Luke are close, Elliot has to put up with Luke, too. Elliot is so emotionally maladapted due to parental neglect and societal bullying that his main mode of operation is to strike first in every situation with the most cutting words possible. In Other Lands is his journey as he slowly begins to acquire some emotional intelligence. It felt so close to my own journey that I started to wonder if Brennan secretly visited my former classmates and did interviews about their experiences that she later turned into dialogue for Elliot.

There's burgeoning war, politics, identity crises, romances of youth, a brutal look at the price of parental apathy, and yes, mermaids. If you love portal fantasy, I rec it cautiously as a portal fantasy novice. If you love sarcastic asshole main characters who slowly learn to be good, I enthusiastically rec it. And if you've been wanting some bisexual rep in your portal fantasy, here's an excellent place to start.

I give it ten golden harpy feathers.
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[personal profile] renay2018-02-05 01:36 am

Let's Get Literate! Farewell, January 2018!

Good job on surviving January, friends. That sure was a long year.

FACT: I was convinced that I wouldn't read anything because I kept falling asleep when I tried to do anything mentally taxing. Luckily, once I hit the middle of January I was feeling much better (constant naps are restorative, I suppose) and I started reading and flying through books with no problem. I'm so relieved. ;__; Depression is the WORST. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay2018-01-29 05:19 am

Let's Get Literate! The Bone Witch & Understanding Queer Contexts

Coming to The Bone Witch, an elaborate piece of YA epic fantasy, without having read any fantasy for quite some time, was refreshing. This take on the magical-girl-goes-big-time fantasy is pulling from non-North American cultures to flesh out the world and characters, which is sorely needed in fantasy, but there's plenty to find familiar. (Monarchies aren't extinct, don't worry.) The food the characters eat; their clothes and the industry behind those clothes; and the rules of court they have to follow were all excellent touches. It reminded me so much of the thoughtful, nuanced world building of Kate Elliott's fantasy that there was no way I wasn't going to fall hard for it. Someone get Rin Chupeco an adult fantasy trilogy and the word count to go with it so I can jam it all into my brain. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay2018-01-07 07:59 pm

Let's Get Literate! 2017 Retrospective

At the beginning of 2017, I worried I would struggle with reading given that it was primed to be a trash fire year. Well, the last 12 months exceeded my expectations, but it turns out reading became a place I went to escape. In some ways this was good! In others, it was not so good, but I'll come back to that. First: let's talk about all the books I liked!

favorite books! )

review 2017 reading goals )

reading goals for 2018 )
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[personal profile] renay2017-09-06 12:50 am

Let's Get Literate! Goodbye August 2017; Hello September!

Last month I decided to read a bunch of the graphic novels I had been collecting. I didn't read all of them, but I did make some headway! Read more... )

My 2017 reading goals so far:
  • Read 110 items
  • Read 30 new women writers — 21/30
  • Read 10 nonfiction titles
  • Space Opera Challenge: read 15 titles — 5/15
  • Read 10 books I own purchased before January 1, 2017 — 2/10
  • Read 5% of my anticipated 2017 titles — 10/56
  • Read some graphic novels — 6/16

September Reading Goals

Now that my main reading goal is finished, I'm focusing on the other goals I have perhaps ignored a little too much. Like the goal that tells me to READ THE BOOKS I HAVE IN MY HOUSE STOP GOING TO THE LIBRARY BUYING BOOKS BORROWING FRIENDS BOOKS LOOKING AT REC LISTS FOR NEW BOOKS. I have a problem, but everyone who reads this has the same problem and can't help. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay2017-09-04 02:00 am

Let's Get Literate! Avi Cantor has Six Months to Live by Sacha Lamb

cover for Avi Cantor Has Six Months To Live

Fiction has been a place of solace for me this year, but in the last two months I haven't had much energy for it. But at my darkest points or times when I feel the worst, I will pick up something that gives me a boost, that makes me think more deeply and snaps me out of a funk, or is just so charming and has just the right tone that it leaves me feeling like I can keep pushing on through the misery of 2017. The most recent story to provide that for me is "Avi Cantor Has Six Months To Live" by Sacha Lamb. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay2017-08-07 02:46 am

Let's Get Literate! Hawkeye: Kate Bishop — Anchor Points

I love it when I pick up exactly the right book at exactly the right time.

Hawkeye: Kate Bishop — Anchor Points was 100% the comic I needed to read. It was everything I wanted after the nightmare of U.S. Senate Funhouse — Encroaching Death Week: a fun, woman-led adventure that pokes fun at pop culture, critiques toxic masculinity, centers female friendships and mentorships, and ties realistic struggles that women face into supernatural shenanigans in non-didactic ways. Kate is adorable, confident, competent, and she gets the best sidekicks. If you're looking for a fun romp with a former Avenger-turned-private investigator, this will be your jam. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay2017-07-31 12:59 am

Let's Get Literate! Graphic Novels + August = Theme Month!

I'm behind on reading graphic novels; I stopped the other day to look at my shelf and realized that not only am I running out of space for books, I am running out of space for the extra books because my intended-to-be-small graphic novel space was overflowing. I've been so focused on One Piece, sequential art-wise, that I've gotten behind on a ton of graphic novels. So I decided to make the next month dedicated to reading the graphic novels I've collected. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay2017-07-24 02:42 am

Let's Get Literate! 2017 Anticipated Books, Part II

Welcome to the second half of 2017, which will go by in what feels like three weeks but will also feel like 19 years thanks to Political Shenanigans. Time is weird! Luckily, we have books to get us through it all.

I always enjoy looking at all the books I may read, even the ones that I'm going to have to make hard purchasing decisions about. Out of my anticipated books last time, I've read 10. For a lot of them I'm waiting for them to cycle out of the new collection and into general at the library so I can enjoy all the things I check out for a full, glorious month. I suspect I won't get to some of these until 2018 when my library buys all the late-year release books and cycles the others out of new. I love my library, but I wish the new book check out time was longer than two weeks. Two and a HALF weeks would help me. Alas, alas.

I have my eye on a ton of science fiction IN SPACE this time around. Some of these I suspect I'll buy if my finances work out so I can use them for my space opera challenge. Read more... )

What great-sounding books have I missed? What's everyone else looking forward to?
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[personal profile] renay2017-07-10 03:51 am

Let's Get Literate! The End of Q2 2017

We have reached the end of the quarter! It doesn't feel like mid-year, but here we are: July 2017, which feels like April 2045 in 2017 time. I did pretty well in my Q1 report, but didn't repeat this this time around. I've also done way more travel and work in Q2, plus had some bummer family stuff to deal with. This doesn't even include the awful bed bug infestation we're dealing with now...2017 has been A Year.

My 2017 reading goals:
  • Read 110 items.
  • Read 30 new women writers.
  • Read 10 nonfiction titles.
  • Space Opera Challenge: read 15 titles.
  • Read 10 books I own purchased before January 1, 2017.
  • Read 5% of my anticipated 2017 titles.
Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay2017-05-15 12:33 am

Let's Get Literate! #TeamMurderbot

BREAKING NEWS: Tons of people love All Systems Red by Martha Wells, a new novella from Tor. Probably not a spoiler due to my fondness for robot pals: I'm among their number. It's got an uninhabited planet and a strong space thriller vibe. It also boasts a security bot who we can identify with deeply, because all it wants to do is download and watch television shows. The main conceit is that the bot—SecUnit like the humans refer to it, or Murderbot, as it calls itself—has a hacked governor module, granting it its own will and agency. All Systems Red is about what it chooses to do with that agency. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay2017-05-13 04:18 pm

Let's Get Literate! Clarke Award Finalists

This year there was a shadow jury for the Clarke Award, which was fascinating. they released their own list of finalists right before the Clarke Award dropped the official finalist list.

Clarke Award Finalists

  • A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
  • After Atlas by Emma Newman
  • Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
  • Central Station by Lavie Tidhar
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Sharke Six

  • The Power by Naomi Alderman
  • A Field Guide to Reality by Joanna Kavenna
  • Infinite Ground by Martin MacInnes
  • Central Station by Lavie Tidhar
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley

The shadow jury's finalist list name is super cute. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay2017-05-08 12:08 am

Let's Get Literate! Space Opera Reading Challenge

One of my 2017 book challenges: reading 15 space operas. As I searched for books I wanted to read and read some of the books I chose to prioritize last year, I realized my desire for space opera is falling along very specific lines. Read more... )