Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Top Ten Worlds I'd Never Want to Live In

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!

Top Ten Worlds I'd Never Want to Live In

1. Panem

I would not do well in a stadium fight to the death.

2. Divergent-era Chicago

I would definitely be divergent, but I would definitely not be Dauntless either, I'd probably get stuck in either Abnegation, Erudite, or Candor.

3. Utopia

Yup, that's right. Thomas More's Utopia is pretty ridiculously weird. And I'm not too cool with their tactics of undermining other societies' governments via assassination.

4. Omelas

I'm reading "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" with my students now, stay tuned for a post. Basically, I would not want to be tempted to live in a perfect society based on one child's suffering.

5. Arrakis/Dune

I'd definitely want to visit, but living in the desert and conserving all my body's water in a stillsuit does not sound like a good time for very long. I would definitely live on Calladan, though.

6. Salusa Secundus

Don't really want to live on the Imperial Prison planet either, thanks.

7. 1984

No big brother for me.

8. Brave New World

No to soma, Fordism, and self-flagellation

9. Mars

Mars, whether in Bradbury or Vonnegut, is a pretty scary place. I might consider Malacandra from Out of the Silent Planet. Maybe.

10. Fillory

I don't care, anything having to do with The Magicians is creepy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist

This is an interesting one, Broke and Bookish. This week's TTT is top ten things I would be interested in reading about...

Top Ten Things on My Reading Wishlist

1. Early Modern Women Writers

Except I'm not going to be more specific, because I might want to write these books!

2. India/Pakistan

I'd be interested in some more fiction on either of these countries in general or about the conflicts and history behind the creation of the separate countries.

3. U.S. Occupations of the Philippines, Hawai'i, etc.

Again, I think there should be more fiction about this time period/moment in history.

4. Virtual worlds

Because Ready Player One was awesome

5. Non-humanoid aliens

Either encounters with, or from the perspective of.

6. Shapeshifters

Plenty of series about vampires, even werewolves, but shifters get short shrift.

7. Disabled protagonists

A girl and her sister are campaigning for the next American Girl doll to look more like her, and I thought, hmm, there's not a lot of that in fiction in general.

8. Science or math-oriented protagonists (as Biblibio's last post reminded me)

9. How to Take Over the World (Peacefully)

Just curious.

10. How to Get Everyone to Like You

'cause that would be useful.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Top Ten 2014 Debuts I'm Excited For

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!

So, I'm not sure if this is supposed to be only new-author debuts, but I'm going to include just general books coming out this year that I'm excited about.

Top Ten Five 2014 Debuts I'm Excited For

1. Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear

2. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

3. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

4. Mentats of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

5. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Monday, January 13, 2014

Not Killing It in Box Office Poison

2. Box Office Poison by Phillippa Bornikova

I read Bornikova's debut and the first book in the series, This Case Is Gonna Kill Me, last year. So, I decided to finally follow up with the sequel, which I also received for review.

In this world, the Powers (vampires, werewolves, and Alfar) outed themselves in the 1960s and now play open and significant roles alongside humans. Linnet Ellery, a human who was fostered in a vampire home, also works for a vampire-owned law firm. The firm, IMG, seems to be at the center of simmering tensions between the Powers and humanity. In this book, Linnet is sent to help arbitrate a conflict over whether Alfar, with their magical elven charm, have an unfair advantage in Hollywood or not.

The world is mildly intriguing and this time, Bornikova's writing style was improved, at least in my mind. However, overall, the plot was fairly predictable, and I won't be spending any more of my time on this series.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Recently, I've become addicted to the TV show "Lost" (No spoilers please, I just started the second season). It seems to be a theme of the show that it is our lies, our secrets, our half-truths, that make us who we are, that make us human. I think this is an interesting hypothesis, but perhaps there's more to it than that.

What makes us human isn't lies, exactly, it's narratives. "Lost" is a show about narratives, and how we control, or attempt to control, our own narratives. In some cases, we have very little control over our own lives. But we do have some control of how we represent ourselves. Every made-up detail, every withheld detail, every one of the words we choose, is a story that we are telling about ourselves. The story is who we want to be, or who we think the person in front of us wants us to be. Narrative is a means of survival, and a means of identity. Taking control of someone else's narrative is also a means of revenge, or sabotage. Or it can be a means of healing, or peace.

Each of us are stories within stories. There are the stories we tell about ourselves, the stories others tell about us, the stories that we were born into, and the stories that came after us. Each one of us is "lost" in a maze of stories, and the only way to be found is to acknowledge and accept all of it as ours, even the parts that don't make sense, even the parts that contradict each other.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bookish Goals 2014

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!

Bookish and Not Bookish Goals for 2014

1. Post to the blog at least 5 times a month

2. Read more short stories

3. Read more poetry

4. Write every day

5. Go for a walk at least three times a week

6. Go to more bookish events, like this one

7. Read at least one book for a book club/discussion

8. Host a literary gathering of some sort

9. Read at least two books translated from a different language

10. Read at least three non-fiction books

I didn't meet many of my goals last year, so again this year, I am aiming to be as reasonable as possible, with the added caveat that it's totally okay if I don't meet all of my goals as long as I enjoy another year of reading and writing!

What are your goals, and are you worried about meeting them or not? Do you try to make goals that are easy to fulfill or ones that will really challenge you?

Friday, January 3, 2014

SFF Lit Round Up for 2013

If you haven't heard of the SFF Lit Project, click here and join in!

I haven't gotten to read as much SFF Lit as I would like this year. Fortunately my Utopian Sci-Fi class in the spring introduced me to a few really strong books, and I knew where to look for authors who had stood the test before.

1. Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

I didn't think it could get much better than Range of Ghosts, but Shattered Pillars brought new depth to characters and more magic to the kingdoms of the Eternal Sky. I'm looking forward to the third book this year!

2. Necessary Evil by Ian Tregellis

Tregellis has still got his way with words, and this time around I even got to like detective Raybould Marsh, both as his scarred back-from-the-future self and idealistic younger self. And Gretl-a madwoman who can change time because of man-made powers? A book to ponder, for sure (despite the icky man-with-a-gun cover).

3. Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

Mattapoisett is my favorite utopia to date, a world where all babies are mixed-race and born from machines, and you can be pillow-friends with as many people as you want. Plus, the heartbreaking perspective of a disenfranchised poor Latina woman from the 1960s puts some perspective on exactly why this utopia is so great.

4. The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord

Ok, it's not the most original idea. But the in-depth presentation of how so many different groups deal with different forms and levels of empathic and telepathic abilities was fascinating to me, and felt both creative and applicable to our own lives.

5. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

The God's Gardeners are quite a utopian creation in the midst of a frighteningly realistic dystopia. Atwood's imagination creates dreams that will haunt our futures.

6. MadAddam by Margaret Atwood

Stories are the future. Well said.

Till next year!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Book Review: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

1. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Conner McNees

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott is a thoughtful reflection on the life and influences of the Transcendentalists' most successful member.

McNees writes a simple yet profound story that is clearly grounded in a deep understanding of Louisa's personal history. As a huge fan of the author myself, I have read a few biographies of her, as well as being familiar with the books and history of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and other great men and women who formed the environment in which she grew up. McNees has read those same biographies and more, but she brings a light touch to her prose. There are no info dumps here, only simple, everyday events that show without telling the characters of Louisa, her sisters, their parents. The scene where the family reads their journals to each other, for example, illustrates a well-known occurrence, but is much more effective than the non-fiction.

McNees' fictional characters are a bit under-developed, admittedly, and the love story happens unaccountably quickly. But McNees cuts to the quick of Louisa's life with this presentation, because it's not really about the love story after all. There might be crowds of fangirls slavering to know who the "real Laurie" was, but what they didn't get (and maybe we can begin to grasp today) is that Jo's life (and Louisa's) was never about Laurie. It was about a woman who could find a different way of living, a woman who could be independent and successful all on her own. And Louisa's life story is a better example of that even than Jo's, because while Louisa married off her fictional character to satisfy convention and sales revenues, she herself remained true to her work.

While Louisa's is not a life that everyone may have wanted, this book is a paean to those who have chosen to walk a less conventional path in life. If you are an Alcott fan, or simply a person who wants to do something different, no matter how hard, this book will be a welcome, if bittersweet, release.