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[personal profile] bookgazing
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Reading Amal El-Mohtar's "Pockets" sent me rushing back to re-read "The Truth About Owls". I read this odd story when it first appeared online in January, and my strongest memory of that reading is an intense respect for the author's craft but also a deep sense of confusion about the story's publication in Strange Horizons. Calling "The Truth About Owls" an SFF story felt tenuous even to me - a reader who loves to see genre boundaries set aflame.

What a difference new reading circumstances can make. Having excised my thoughts on 'real SFF' in my post about Sophia Samatar's "Walkdog", and having recently read Silvia Morento-Garcia's weirdly normal SFF novel Signal to Noise, I approached my second reading of "The Truth About Owls" with much less genre weight on my back. Before, I was mildly in love with this story. Now, I've reached the shouting-from-the-rooftops-let's analyse-this-in-depth stage. I can tell you're all super excited about that.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Book cover of Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia


Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are off to Alabama to visit their grandmother, Big Ma, and her mother, Ma Charles. Across the way lives Ma Charles's half sister, Miss Trotter. The two half sisters haven't spoken in years. As Delphine hears about her family history, she uncovers the surprising truth that's been keeping the sisters apart. But when tragedy strikes, Delphine discovers that the bonds of family run deeper than she ever knew possible. (Source)


Both Ana and I reviewed One Crazy Summer, the first of Rita Williams-Garcia's books about the three Gaither sisters, their Pa, Grandma (Big Ma) and their activist mother. Join us as we (sadly) see the trilogy finish up and co-review the final book, Gone Crazy in Alabama.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
cover of Bone Gap by Laura Ruby


The quote on the cover of Bone Gap should have been an immediate "YOU SHALL NOT PASS", because although it's a quote from E. Lockhart (a writer I love) it also invokes magical realism which almost always makes me nervous.

"Bone Gap marks Laura Ruby as one of fiction's most original voices. She is capable of moving you to tears, terrifying you on deep and dreamlike levels, and making your heart shout with happiness. This book is magic realism at its most magical."

Okay, but...magical realism. What is magical realism, anyway? Every time I think I know I realize I don't actually know. It's like another language. Unless you use it every day you lose it. How did I earn an English degree without properly learning all these different terms? Is it writing that's suggestive of magic? A book that uses magic in otherwise normal realities? A type of story that feels magical but isn't (I hear people call The Girls at the Kingfisher Club magical realism sometimes). The label people give something, as Ana suggests, when they don't want to stick a fantasy label on it and appeal to mainstream readers?

I've read Wikipedia now so I know my vote, but this is a personal decision everyone needs to make for themselves. GOOD LUCK.

It's such a tremendously well-done novel that I really wish it owned its anchor genre more. Making up my own literary terms to serve my needs and apply to books without permission: FIVE BONUS POINTS. People who loved Chime by Franny Billingsley will find similar ideas in this book (but with more bees, corn, and male perspectives). They'd also be a fascinating co-read together. There are no spoilers for the plot, but I do discuss the themes the book tackles. There are also puns, which I assume many people will want to avoid. I'm sorry. I love a good pun. )
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[personal profile] renay
cover of Unspoken cover of Untold cover of Unmade


I flew through The Lynburn Legacy in two weeks. I can hear everyone going, "that word, I don't think it means what you think it means, Renay" right now, but all the other things in my life, two weeks for a trilogy is a big deal. Considering I start trilogies and never finish them (how long has Bitterblue been on my shelf? Don't ask. Mostly because I couldn't tell you, it's been that long.) "flew" absolutely works in this context. I was surprised that this series worked for me so well given my preferences about love triangles (i.e. short walk, long pier) and my capacity to handle literary heartbreak. But I— liked it a lot? I was really entertained!
  • sassy teenagers
  • broody love interests! with different flavors of brood!
  • interesting parental relationships
  • badass team of ladies!
  • girls being friends!
  • kissing!
  • telepathy!
  • the complications of mind-reading powers!

I found this so delightful.

The premise of Unspoken, the first book in the trilogy, is that Kami Glass, who lives with her family in Sorry-in-the-Vale, hears a boy in her head. She's had Jared in her head her whole life, and he's had her in his. They know each other intimately and they're always there for each other, just a thought away. Meanwhile, Kami's world is expanding because the mysterious Lynburns, who the whole town speaks of in awe, have returned to Sorry-in-the-Vale after years away, and she and her school newspaper are in the perfect position to break the story. BUT SUDDENLY, Jared's not just a voice in her head anymore. no explicit spoilers, just a lot of complaining about rural university education and my ongoing misunderstanding of genre. )

This series was really fun. I suppose this means I should reread and then finish the series that The Demon's Lexicon started, like a responsible series reader. Oh, and apparently Sarah Rees Brennan has another book coming out next year that sounds excellent, Tell the Wind and Fire.

(Yes, I am going to read Bitterblue this year, friends. PUT THOSE PITCHFORKS DOWN. I'M DOING IT I SWEAR.)
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[personal profile] helloladies
Clare & Renay's Adventures in: Xena


In a time without a Black Widow movie on the horizon, two fans in turmoil cried out for a heroine. She was Xena, a mighty female protagonist forged in the fires of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The action, the camp, the queer subtext. Her adventures will rock their worlds.


Xena: Episode 104, "Cradle of Hope"


Clare: This seer is not terribly good at her job, is she? She could have avoided this entire episode by framing Gabriel as the reincarnation of the king's deceased son or as fate giving him another chance or having him just straight up adopt the baby. It was a pretty obvious, if really nice, way to end the episode, but I suppose that's some of the charm of camp: knowing exactly where we'll end up, so we can focus on the character development. That's the appeal of procedurals (be they monsters of the week or hapless town of the weeks), as my love of Elementary can attest.

Renay: The could have solved some of the plot problems here by giving the Evil Advisor less screen time and trusting the viewer to connect more of the dots. Part of the problem with the seer is that she's spelling out the resolution in the very first scene of the episode. If the child had been more secret, i.e. if the servants had overheard the prophecy, then gotten rid of the baby, and then in a following scene the evil advisor goes "A CHILD WAS BORN HERE LAST NIGHT" it would've been way more dramatic. But what do I know about television writing, right? ;)Read more... )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
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Everyone thinks my brother is nice. He set up a rescue centre for birds, after the terraforming accident poisoned the lake. That's always the image of him, holding a bird covered in sludge. The birds are never the same after they're cleaned, but the gossips never talk about that.


Polenth Blake's "Never the Same" is a strange, dark story that shows the importance of shaking up well used SFF narratives and introducing radically new fictional voices. It's also a story that left me wondering if I could trust anything that I'd read, and yet still weirdly satisfied by what I'd read.

A little like "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" it's difficult to analyse "Never the Same" without giving away all the story's secrets, so consider this your spoiler warning.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Clare & Renay's Adventures in: Xena


In a time without a Black Widow movie on the horizon, two fans in turmoil cried out for a heroine. She was Xena, a mighty female protagonist forged in the fires of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The action, the camp, the queer subtext. Her adventures will rock their worlds.


Xena: Episode 102, "Chariots of War"


Clare: Because "Chariots of War" doesn't have any worldbuilding or character introduction to do, there's a little less territory to cover here. Xena discretely deposits Gabrielle in an inn before wandering off to do… something? Because of the camp nature of the show, I tend to riff when I watch the episodes, so riff!Xena clearly abandoned Gabrielle. But I'm not sure what actual Xena was up to before she wandered across the peaceful village.

The episode's character development reaffirms the basic Xena and Gabrielle dynamic: Xena is hard and closed off, Gabrielle is soft and open. But they both get love interests this episode to prove these things. Darius is a father and a committed pacifist, representing the domestic sphere that Xena wants but can't allow herself to have just yet. The best way to represent these conflicting emotions, of course, is for Xena to put on his dead wife's dress in soft lighting and bad weather. (Also, dressing a woman in your dead wife's clothes is not going to convince anyone that you're not sleeping together.)Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
I'm engaged in an ongoing battle with Kate Elliott's backlist. Currently, her backlist is winning. I've knocked out the Spiritwalker trilogy, Jaran, Spirit Gate, and now part of The Very Best of Kate Elliott for a total of 5 (and a half). Only 17 more to go (19 if we count the upcoming Court of Fives and The Black Wolves). Is there anyone out there who has finished everything? Did they ever return from their quest? I feel like everyone who does should get a celebratory ribbon or certificate of some kind. I may print myself one when I finish. She's written nineteen fucking books not to mention ancillary content and short fiction. Why is she not a guest of honor at every single convention in the United States? Get it together, SF convention culture, geez. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
cover of Stranger


Many generations ago, a mysterious cataclysm struck the world. Governments collapsed and people scattered, to rebuild where they could. A mutation, "the Change,” arose, granting some people unique powers. Though the area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, its technological marvels have faded into legend. "Las Anclas" now resembles a Wild West frontier town… where the Sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can warp time to heal his patients, and the distant ruins of an ancient city bristle with deadly crystalline trees that take their jewel-like colors from the clothes of the people they killed.

Teenage prospector Ross Juarez’s best find ever – an ancient book he doesn’t know how to read – nearly costs him his life when a bounty hunter is set on him to kill him and steal the book. Ross barely makes it to Las Anclas, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble. (source)


Friends, I am conflicted about this book.

(Now I'm wondering how many of my book posts start like that. Probably a ton.) Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
If you like ~forbidden romance~, ghosts, spaceships, epic fantasy space opera, wildly different types of characters and cultures with complicated motivations and plans, the intense politics of war spliced together with the politics of parenthood and freedom of choice, you may, indeed, love Saga. Saga is an award winning, ongoing comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. It's beloved for good reasons, and Renay and Ana were quickly won over by the art, the story, and the amazing characters.

And also, of course, the cats.


cover of Saga


When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. (source)

Text and image spoilers through volume three.

Ana: So… shall we start by talking about Hazel? :D Read more... )

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