Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Top Ten Sequels I Can't Wait to Get

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish!

1. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

I'm cheating, I already got it =D

2. The untitled sequel to The Circuit: Executor Rising by Rhett C. Bruno

3. Bombay Blues by Tanuja Desai Hidier

Also, already got it!

4. The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin

But, you know, not holding out too much hope for this anytime soon.


Sequels That I Want, But I Guess I Can Wait For (since, you know, I've waited this long)

5. The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

I was waiting for the third book...

6. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

It's complicated.

7. The Magician King and The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman

Again, it's complicated. My feelings about this series are so conflicted.

8. Son by Lois Lowry

It's not complicated. I'll get to it when I can, I just don't actually own it.

9. The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

Not complicated, just a matter of priority. I needed Ancillary Sword more.

10. Exodus by Deborah Feldman

Just don't own it yet, but it came out recently. So.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reading Update: Short Story Time

I have been doing plenty of reading, but more of the sort to keep me sane between work (read: bouts of grading).

Recently Finished:

Old Missouri Reviews


Years ago, an old student of my dad's got wind that he had a literary-minded daughter. She was cleaning out her closet, I suppose, but didn't want to throw out a large collection of Missouri Reviews that she had accumulated. Instead, she gathered them up, and presented them to my dad, instructing him to give them to me.

I was flattered, but overwhelmed, by the gift. For years, they sat in my closet, unread. Finally, I decided it was no good just leaving them there, and enacted a ruthless purge. I went through and took out issues with prize-winning stories, or issues with stories by authors whose names I recognized.

The issues that made it onto my shelf have provided most of my reading recently. I've read almost all of the stories now. I admit to skipping most of the poetry, I didn't care for it. The issue above is one that I've read, they're all from the early 2000s. (Don't worry, the rest of the issues weren't thrown out, they're currently in a donation pile.)

Almost Done With:

The Best American Non Required Reading 2014, edited by Daniel Handler, introduction by Lemony Snicket



Who could resist a book edited and introduced by Lemony Snicket (we all know Handler is just a front)? For me, it was almost worth getting the book just for the introduction. The stories are actually chosen by a committee of high school students, which I also found interesting. I was very impressed by the first two entries: "On the Study of Physics in Preschool Classrooms" by Matthew Schultz and "AP Style" by Dan Keane, respectively. The following entries were not as impressive, and again, I didn't care for any of the poetry (I'm picky about poetry, what can I say?).

I did really like Rachel Swirsky's story "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love," which apparently won an award. I remember her from her novella, "The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen's Window." Not in this book, but also a thought-provoking and satisfying read.

Cole Becher's story "Charybdis" made me laugh out loud more than once, even though it's just as heartbreaking as Swirsky's. The bittersweet really has a stranglehold on our national imagination right now, or did it always?

Anyway, collections that I can dip into and out of have been a boon to me lately, and I'm sure will continue to be in these saturated next few weeks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Top Ten Characters I Wish Would Get Their OWN Book

Love this topic over at the Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday.

1. Ismene from Sophocles' Antigone

I always thought it was unfair that Antigone gets a whole play when it's her recklessness that gets her poor sister Ismene killed. It's only fair that calmer, wiser Ismene get her own story.

2. Gustav III of Sweden from Francine du Plessix Gray's The Queen's Lover

Gustav III stole the show from Marie Antoinette a bit, and I hope du Plessix Gray writes more about him.

3. Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter

I feel like Luna's life is destined to be interesting. I'd love to learn more about her early life, but also what she went on to do.

4. Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings, and his daughter Elanor

I wish there were continued adventures of Sam, and then Elanor. I'm sure that she has to go see the Elves, just like her Dad. I imagine her sneaking off to Lothlorien, and Sam having to follow her.

5. Oscar Wao from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Yes, Oscar is the title character, but Yunior is the narrator and so the reader only ever gets to see Yunior's perspective (and occasionally third person limited narration for Oscar and his mother and sister). I always wanted to get Oscar's direct version of the story.

6. Silk from the Belgariad and Malloreon

Prince Kheldar, alias Silk, is the most fascinating character in the above series. I'd read a whole series just about him, and his financial schemes and spying exploits.

7. Tyrion Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire

The books should just be about Tyrion. Honestly, I want to skip everyone else at this point. Maybe just him and Daenerys. Oh, and more from Sam.

8. Balin from The Hobbit

We know that Balin goes back to Moria after the Lonely Mountain is secure, and that he becomes king for a few years, at least. But we never get the full story of the quest.

9. Gimli from the Lord of the Rings

Gimli also has some adventures after LOTR and ends up being the only dwarf ever to make it to Valinor. I wish there was a book.

10. Jane Fairfax from Jane Austen's Emma

Jane always seemed like a much more likeable heroine, and she's got some real economic and social disadvantages to explore.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Book Review: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

35. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie



Have you ever heard the joke that one person is a world? In Ancillary Justice, one person is a ship. It's an idea that we can all relate to, stunningly realized by Ann Leckie in crisp, simplistic diction.

This idea, of a ship that is a person, is what makes this story sing (literally). Ancillary Justice is a compelling example that great science fiction is essentially the literalization of metaphors (according to Seo-Young Chu in Do Metaphors Dream of Literal Sleep?), or a cognitive estrangement from the mimesis of reality (a wordier but not more complicated idea from Darko Suvin's criticism).

Breq, the narrator, is the last remaining "piece," if you will, of a vast artificial intelligence network that controlled an enormous troop carrying star ship, which led ominous "annexations" for thousands of years. To complicate matters more, Breq is actually a human body, that hundreds or thousands of years ago was wiped of its memories to become an "ancillary" of the ship, one of many ancillaries imbued with the same artificial intelligence. In a sense, Breq was (is) the ship.

Talk about an identity crisis.

It's this concept that captivated me most about Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice, but it was not the concept that was the reason I read it in the first place.

All the characters in Ancillary Justice are referred to as "she." The language of Breq's empire, the Radch, does not distinguish between genders. Biological sex exists, it simply is not reflected in the language. When I read reviews that mentioned this phenomenon in the up-and-coming novel that was nominated for, and went on to win, the Nebula Award and also the Arthur C. Clarke Award, I thought, that is a book I should read.

But like another reviewer (can't remember who, sorry) said, referring to all characters as "she" makes very little difference to the novel. It's distracting, at first, when one realizes that a character described as "an old person with gray hair and a close-cut gray beard" is probably not female, but it's ultimately irrelevant. As it should be. That's the point. Just as Kathryn Janeway's captaincy of a star ship is a non-issue, so is the use of feminine pronouns for all characters in Ancillary Justice. And so, it's not the Janewayean language that makes this story tick.

After you've gotten used to the pronouns, it's this line that really throw you:

"Nineteen years, three months, and one week before I found Seivarden in the snow, I was a troop carrier orbiting the planet Shis'urna."

I had to read that line several times. And refer back to it later on.

Ancillary Justice is meticulously crafted, with a hard kernel of non-fantastic truth. Identity is a phenomenon that, despite the eons we've spent struggling with it, we still don't understand, but that the nature thereof, both individual and collective, can tear us apart. And in Leckie's universe, we won't be able to take our eyes off the unraveling. I've already bought the sequel, Ancillary Sword, and I can't wait for what comes next.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Top Ten Characters I Would Want to Be for Halloween

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!

True story: I have dressed up as most of these characters at one point or another.

1. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter

I never actually dressed up as Hermione, but I always thought I looked way more like her than Emma Watson did. For one thing, I have DARK brown hair, and for another, my hair is/was actually messy most of the time.

2. Jo March from Little Women

I have dressed up as Jo. With a patch on the back of my dress. Nobody got it.

3. Eponine from Les Miserables

I did this in middle school. Suffice it to say, NOBODY got it.

4. Arwen from Lord of the Rings

I've been told I look kinda like Liv Tyler?

5. Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation

So, not a book character, but I acquired a Data mask at a Star Trek exhibit at a young age, and my sister and I went trick-or-treating as Worf and Data respectively. The best, most appropriate costumes for elementary-schoolers.

6. Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager

Also not a book character, but when I reprised my role as Data for a Science Theme Day this past summer at camp, a fellow teacher told me she had once dressed up as Janeway. And I wish I had too.

7. Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter

I'm not a blonde, but I've definitely got the dreamy, far-off stare. And then I could wear really weird things like griffin hats.

8. Elphaba from Wicked

From the book, before it was a musical. I painted my face entirely green, and there's a prominent photo in my high school yearbook. The only time I was ever pictured outside of the standard photo. Not to brag, but the next year, I saw a couple of younger girls with green faces and witches' hats. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

9. The Wizard Samarkar from the Eternal Sky

Haven't done this yet, but a strong woman in wizard's robes sounds up my alley.

10. Hrahima from the Eternal Sky

I'm not sure how I would do this, but it would be cool to be a tiger-woman.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A South Asian Feminist Sci-Fi Utopia: You're Welcome

Today I saw an article from Tor.com that had me nearly jumping out of my skin with anticipation.

The Tor newsletter described it as Utopian. Sci-Fi. From the Subcontinent. Three of my favorite things! In one! And as you can see above, it's actually FOUR of my favorite things in one.

So, go read this rad introduction at Tor, and then immediately read "Sultana's Dream" by Rokheya Shekhawat Hossein.

My only disappointment is that it's so brief; as a book, it could be the South Asian Female Man (except better, because science. And South Asian.).

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Top Ten New Series I Want to Start

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish.

Not to mention series that I want to finish...

1. The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

2. The Uplift Trilogy by David Brin

3. The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde

4. A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell

5. The Promethean Age series by Elizabeth Bear

6. A Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

7. River of Souls by Beth Bernobich

8. The Dreamblood Duo by N.K. Jemisin

9. Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal

10. Dies the Fire series by S.M. Stirling