Sofia Samatar, A Stranger in Olondria

This is so not a review of Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria, which has won many fantasy awards. Here is an insightful (and probably too spoilery for some) review from Nic Clarke at Strange Horizons, which I’d claim to agree with if I had read carefully enough to have thought of these things. And here is a more negative perspective from Ana of the Booksmugglers at Kirkus (I agree the book is distancing and the narrator, Jevick remains a cipher, but I think this is deliberate; and though I don’t normally like “poetic” language, I did like this).

Here’s the basic plot: Jevick comes from Tyom, an island village that has no writing; his merchant father brings home a tutor from Olondria who teaches Jevick to read and write. At last, the young man gets to visit Olondria, where he becomes haunted by a ghost who wants him to write her story, and as a result is caught up in a politico-religious struggle his tutor never warned him about. One of the interesting things about the book is that there are epic fantasy events going on around the edges, but Jevick is never fully aware of them, though he helps set them in motion. What he is, more than anything, is a conduit for stories; not just Jissavet the ghost but all kinds of other people tell him stories he records as part of his own.

Here are a few things I wanted to say about reading this book: Continue reading

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Your Best Reading Experience of the Year So Far

Last week on Twitter, Miss Bates asked “How old were you when you read your first romance? Name it, please!” She got a lot of great responses, and followed up with a wonderful blog post (which also got great responses). Lots of us said how much fun this conversation was, and how we should have more like that.

Inspired partly by this, and partly by Robin and Sunita’s recent posts on buying vs. reading cultures and the desire to talk more about reading, yesterday I tweeted this:

I really enjoyed the responses, many of which included reflection on why this reading experience stood out (because I phrased it that way, not everyone answered by naming a specific book, or a book they thought was “great”).  And I loved the way mentions of a book led into discussions of it, including many I’m sure I didn’t even see. I’m afraid I’m not as inspired as Miss B, who listed and linked individual responses, but here are some common themes: Continue reading

Posted in genre musings, personal | 19 Comments

TBR Challenge: Honor’s Knight, by Rachel Bach

I didn’t think I’d finish this month’s TBR Challenge book in time, but misguided-afternoon-coffee induced insomnia changed that. For the same reason, this won’t be my most coherent post ever. By a long shot.

This month’s theme was “Series Catch-Up,” and I had a lot of possibilities thanks to my bad habit of buying several books in a series before I’m sure I really like it (I’ve gotten better about this). I decided to catch up with a series I’m still confident I want to finish, Rachel Bach’s space opera Paradox trilogy.

I read the first book, Fortune’s Pawn, last summer and bought the sequels, Honor’s Knight and Heaven’s Queen, when I was only a few chapters in, sure I’d want to read them all. I think it was the sheer, bubble-gum exuberance of the storytelling that hooked me. I mean “bubble-gum” as a compliment: this is fast-paced, action-oriented fun with a very confident narrative voice. They aren’t pure candy, either: though the action is always in the forefront, there are complex moral questions underlying the world, and the characters grew in interesting ways in this second installment. I will try to keep my discussion vague and non-spoilery, but I know a lot of people have already read this, so consider the comments a place for spoilery discussion if you like. Continue reading

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Recent Reading: Resolution Check-In

As the first quarter of the year draws near its end (no way!), it seems like a good moment to take stock of how my reading resolutions are going. Let’s not talk about my goal to blog more often, and write more in-depth posts about individual books. That will have to wait for my non-teaching time in summer.

Shared reading experiences? The TBR Challenge has been great so far, and I’ve loved the conversations when I post about a book lots of others have already read. There’s been a Twitter read-along here and there that looked fun, but they haven’t been at the right moment for me. A friend and I are talking about tackling Knausgård this summer and calling it Our Struggle. . . . I’ve also enjoyed wandering into reader byways all on my own, like Anthony Powell, and discovering that friends turned out to have been there before me.

This post is going to focus on my goal to read at least two books a month by authors of color. I didn’t expect this to be difficult in terms of finding books I wanted to read, and it hasn’t been; the goal was really to make sure I followed through more on that interest. Here’s how I’ve done so far: Continue reading

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In My Earbuds: A Dance to the Music of Time

Since my last post, I haven’t done a lot of reading–I’ve been plugging away slowly at a couple of mysteries. But I have listened to about 35 hours of Anthony Powell’s 12-novel cycle A Dance to the Music of Time (that puts me on book six, nearing the end of the second “movement,” Summer). If you’re wondering how I did that in 2 weeks, well, I listened when I was, could have been, or should have been doing other things. I generally dislike bingeing on an author, I’m increasingly tired of long series, and yet I’m hooked. The only thing stopping me from going straight through another two seasons/movements and 40 hours is that I have to wait for more Audible credits.

Here’s how Wikipedia describes the series:

The story is an often comic examination of movements and manners, power and passivity in English political, cultural and military life in the mid 20th century.

And there’s some truth to that, but it makes the novels sound more epic in scope (and duller) than they are. Or maybe they are that epic, but it’s an epic glimpsed indirectly: so far, every scene of this very episodic story has been a social event. Teas, dinner parties, pub and club lunches, dances. Big things happen, but not on the page (I’m just getting up to WW II, though, so that might change). Political, cultural, business and military personages appear, but are known largely through their social lives. Continue reading

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