Category Archives: The Internet is a Social Movement

Memes, events, book hops and more.

30 Days of Books: Day Twenty-Five

Day 25 – Any five books from your “to be read” stack
I’ll take the letter of this one instead of the spirit and actually pull books from my “to be read” shelf instead of sampling from my to-read list as well. You do not even want to know about my list.

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion. The only reason I haven’t started this one yet is I have now reached hailing distance of having no more Bujold left, and I want to draw it out as long as possible while I can.

Library Wars Volume 1: Love and War, Kiiro Yumi & Hiro Arikawa. It’s shojo manga! About militant anti-censorship librarians! I admit, I’ve never actually read any shojo manga before. (Shojo is the stuff aimed at girls, with a lot of romance and relationships; my preferred poison is shonen, the stuff aimed at boys, full of fight scenes and wisecracks, or seinen, aimed at young men, which tends toward either more realism or more dramatic science fiction type stuff.) I’m looking forward to this one, though. Militant anti-censorship librarians!

Chicks Dig Time Lords, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea. One of my friends got this for me for Christmas – it’s an anthology of essays by women about the glory and wonder that is Doctor Who. (People apparently think that women don’t like science fiction, thus giving rise to this project. I will never understand why.)

Sarah Monette, Unnatural Creatures. This is a special-edition chapbook of four published but uncollected Kyle Murchison Booth stories. The original collection is The Bone Key, which I urge everyone who’s ever liked ghost stories to go out and buy right now. (Although it is being rereleased shortly, so you may want to wait until the new edition comes out.) I’ve read two of the stories in Unnatural Creatures already, but there are two in here entirely new to me. New! Booth! Ghost stories!

The Profiler: My Life Hunting Serial Killers and Psychopaths by Pat Brown with Bob Andelman. I may have mentioned previously on this blog that my favorite television show is Criminal Minds, now suffering from an excess of studio mismanagement but previously an exquisite drama about criminal profilers. It’s given me a fondness for profiling books and serial killer stories (and a low tolerance for badly-written fictional serial killers). And hey, this one isn’t by John Douglas.

30 Days of Books: Day Twenty-Four

Day 24 – Best quote from a novel
Aral Vorkosigan’s advice to Miles in A Civil Campaign. It’s a whole scene, not just a quote, but I think I can extract the essence of it with judicious ellipses.

“Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself. … There is no more hollow feeling than to stand with your honor shattered at your feet while soaring public reputation wraps you in rewards. That’s soul-destroying. The other way around is merely very, very irritating.”

Miles stared away for a minute into the middle distance. “So what you’re telling me boils down to the same thing Galeni said. I have to stand here and eat this, and smile.”

“No,” said his father, “you don’t have to smile. But if you’re really asking for advice from my accumulated experience, I’m saying, Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards.”

There’s a lot to be said for that kind of attitude. For one thing, it allows you to tell the difference between embarrassment or shame that really matters and the kind that’s just uncomfortable. And it does so while acknowledging that the uncomfortable parts are not good — they’re just less not good than the other kind. I would like to be as wise as Aral Vorkosigan some day. Then again, I would hate to go through everything he did in order to get there…

(The joy of ebooks: I was able to search, copy & paste that in less than two minutes. Okay, they do have their benefits. But I’m buying the hardcovers, anyway.)

30 Days of Books: Day Twenty-Three

Day 23 – Most annoying character ever
Horatio Hornblower, from C. S. Forester’s novels. I started off on the Hornblower kick with the BBC/A&E series from the late 90s, a beautifully filmed and well cast set of stories that were not really based very strictly on the books at all. When I started reading the books, though, I discovered that I wasn’t put off by the differences between them and the movies as much as I was put off by Hornblower himself. He’s self-absorbed and a little dense. He worries to much. He obsesses over “the loneliness of command” and vascillates between treating his only real friend, Lieutenant William Bush, as a trusted companion or as a useless hanger-on. (And then when Bush dies, in Lord Hornblower, without leaving behind a body, Hornblower contemplates building a pyramid of skulls in his memory. I don’t even.) The only book I still read is Lieutenant Hornblower, because that’s the one from Bush’s point of view. Horatio Hornblower is definitely one of those people who is better from the outside of his head than from the inside.

I do reccomend the TV series, though, particularly the second season, Mutiny and Retribution. Great stuff.

A close runner-up for the title is Tony Hill, from Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid. In the television adaptation, Wire in the Blood, Tony’s a rather appealing absentminded-professor type. In the books you get his internal thought process, in which he feels entirely too sorry for himself while worrying about whether or not he’s going to turn into a serial killer one day. If only, Tony. If only.

30 Days of Books: Day Twenty-Two

Day 22 – Favorite non-sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)

Jack Aubrey & Stephen Maturin, in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series. I love these boys. Stephen is kind of a jerk, he’s not very good at interpersonal relationships, and he spends most of the time in his head, while Jack is profoundly physical, extremely (almost excessively) friendly, and the kind of gullible that falls for a new scam every time he sets foot on land. And they’re best friends.

They do kind of fill in each others’ weak spaces; Jack (and indeed all the sailors) are continually amazed at how Stephen cannot seem to learn the first thing about ships despite spending half his life on them, while Stephen has the kind of cunning and political savvy that Jack couldn’t care less about. And they are both more than their stereotypes make them out to be; Stephen spends a good deal of time idiotically in love with a woman even more heartless than he is, and Jack is capable of carrying on a conversation about advanced mathematics with a Frenchman.

And they’re best friends. It’s such a simple and profound thing that there’s hardly even any more to say about it. They love each other, and that’s that. There’s a beautiful scene toward the end of the series — I can’t remember which book — where they’re back at Jack’s house for a while, and Stephen can’t sleep, and he hears violin music being played in the garden. Jack and Stephen have played together on ships for years, violin and cello respectively, but Stephen’s hands had been broken once when he had been captured by the French, and they never really healed properly. And listening to Jack play alone, after all those years playing together, Stephen realizes that Jack is a much better player than he had ever realized, and that Jack had been playing down his own skill in order not to put Stephen to shame. It’s such a powerful and bittersweet scene that speaks so much to the connection between these two.

30 Days of Books: Day Twenty-One

Day 21 – Favorite romantic/sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)

Eddi and the Phouka in Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks. I’m not usually a fan of romantic relationships, because in order for me to like them, I have to first like the male character, and then like the female character, and then be convinced that they would be even better together. Most writers…don’t even make the second, never mind the third.

But I’ve always loved Eddi and the Phouka, since I first read the book (and reread it, and reread it, and reread it), while I was studying abroad in Ireland. I think maybe it’s because it’s only one of three romances of Eddi’s, and it’s clearly the most stable and potentially longlasting, for all we only see the beginning of it. But it’s the Phouka’s declaration of love that’s always gotten me.

“How do you know it’s love? Maybe you haven’t learned anything after all.”

She expected a joke, an impassioned protest, an airy denial. Instead he looked gravely into her face and replied, “I’ve no surety that it is. I know only the parts of what I feel; I may be misnaming the whole. You dwell in my mind like a household spirit. All that I think is followed with, ‘I shall tell that thought to Eddi.’ Whatever I see or hear is colored by what I imagine you will say of it. What is amusing is twice so, if you have laughed at it. There is a way you have of turning your head, quickly and with a little tilt, that seems more wonderful to me than the practiced movements of dancers. All this, taken together, I’ve come to think of as love, but it may not be.

“It is not a comfortable feeling. But I find that, even so, I would wish the same feeling on you. The possibility that I suffer it alone — that frightens me more than all the host of the Unseelie Court.”

How can you not love that?

30 Days of Books: Day Twenty

Day 20 – Favorite kiss
As may be obvious from how long it took me to get this post written up, I simply do not remember kisses in books. I mean it. I remember relationships, but most of them…I honestly couldn’t tell you if they ever kissed. Sure, they probably did, but I don’t remember it. But after nearly two months of mulling it over, I’ve come up with two exceptions: one is Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan in Shards of Honor (at least, I think it’s Shards — one of the first two books, anyway), but that one’s more the whole scene (including Simon unsmiling) than the kiss itself. The other is Daine and Numair in The Realms of the Gods, the last book in Tamora Pierce’s Immortals quartet.

She ran to Numair, slamming into him with enough force to drive him back against the willow’s trunk. “That hurt,” he gasped. Before she could apologize, he was kissing her nose, her cheeks, her forehead, her lips. She kissed him back. They came up for air, then kissed again, their hands checking each other’s bodies, for serious injury as well as simply for the joy of touch.

I don’t actually like their relationship — that is, I loved their relationship before it became romantic, and I’m not sure why it went there in the end — but the kiss is scorching.

30 Days of Books: Day Nineteen

Day 19 – Favorite book cover (bonus points for posting an image!)

I follow book blogs and book news pretty closely, which means that when I’m out in a bookstore or a library looking for something really new to me to read, I have to look pretty hard to find something I haven’t heard of. I also tend to prefer stand-alone science fiction or fantasy to series or trilogies, which means I have to look twice as hard. Which means that when I’m out there judging books by their covers, I actually tend not to look at the covers at all, but at the spines. Really good spine design is even more impressive, to me, than really good cover design — after all, there’s less space to do it in.

Here’s a shot of one of my bookshelves, for instance. (Click on it for a bigger picture.) I picked up The Devil’s Alphabet on the strength of the spine. I love that font, and the color scheme is evocative. I like series that match, like the lovely structural similarities of The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves. The contrasts between the Steven Brust novels, Brokedown Palace and To Reign in Hell, do a good job of getting across their differences. And for classics, I really like a nice old-fashioned clothbound book, like my Jane Austen set or the wee Yale Shakespeare editions.

I can show you a picture of my least-favorite book cover of all time, though.

I love this book. Shadow Magic is the central book in Patricia C. Wrede’s Lyra series — I don’t know if it was the first one, but it is the one that all the other plots tie into or lead up to. Parts of it aren’t bad, for a fantasy novel cover. The sea-dwelling Neira and the foresty Wyrd both look pretty much like their races are described in the novel. And then… and then… *sigh*

I used to wrap this novel in brown paper when I brought it to school to read. It was slightly less embarassing than the cover.

30 Days of Books: Day Eighteen

Day 18 – Favorite beginning scene in a book

I don’t know if it’s because I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction, which require a lot of explanation before the action gets going (“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit” requires something before the drama, certainly), or if it’s because I’m grabbed by the language of a book first and therefore don’t remember the imagery of the scenes until I sink into it a bit, but I can’t recall the first scenes of…well, anything.

Except for the opening of The Phoenix Guards by Steven Brust. And while it’s partly the language that makes it memorable, it is indeed the scene I remember, and so it totally counts.

The Phoenix Guards opens with a young man out to seek his fortune, who has been traveling for several days, stopping at an inn, whereupon he is enlisted to assist in the preparations for a duel…

Yes, The Phoenix Guards is The Three Musketeers in a fantasy setting. And its sequel, Five Hundred Years Later, is Twenty Years After in a fantasy setting. And the three-volume end of the series, The Viscount of Adrilankha, is…yes, you get the point. Steven Brust did the whole bloody d’Artagnan Romances as a fantasy series. And it’s awesome.

If you’re intrigued, I actually recommend starting with the almost-entirely-unrelated Taltos, or perhaps Dragon or Jhereg. They’re set in the same universe, but significantly later than the Khaavren Romances, and give you a very different perspective on the world, one that can be valuable when Paarfi of Roundwood (the fictional author of the Khaavren Romances, which Steven Brust is translating for his English-speaking audience) gets into his third consecutive page of court manners. Also, there is nothing like knowing what they’re talking about when, halfway through The Phoenix Guards, Khaavren announces, “It’s okay! We’ll just take everyone to Adron e’Kieron’s place.”

30 Days of Books: Day Seventeen

Remember what I was saying about regular posting schedule? Ahaha. haha. ha. Yes, NaNoWriMo is still eating all my spare writing cycles. No, I will not tell you how behind I am. Not until November 30th, anyway. In the meantime, have some words about a book I don’t have time to read.

Day 17 – Favorite story or collection of stories (short stories, novellas, novelettes, etc.) 

Burning Your Boats, the omnibus collection of Angela Carter’s short work, now unfortunately out of print. I was introduced to Angela Carter in college by my previously mentioned favorite English professor, Lisa Haines-Wright. I’ve tried Angela Carter’s novels, and wow, are they out there. I mean, I’m sure they’re Great Feminist Literature, but they are possibly just a little too Great for me. I don’t get them. Her short stories, though, are glorious.

One of my favorites is “The Fall River Axe Murders,” about Lizzie Borden and her life up to the day that made her famous. By the end of that story, she’s got you thinking, “Yeah, I’d murder my dad with an axe, too.” Another one I adore is “The Executioner’s Beautiful Daughter,” which she is supposed to have written because someone once argued that the only thing that a story needs is for something to happen, and Carter thought that putting that kind of restriction on something as versatile as a story was ridiculous. Nothing actually happens in “The Executioner’s Beautiful Daughter,” but it’ll stick with you forever all the same.

And, of course, this collection is chock-full of Carter’s famous fairy tale retellings. She makes these stories gruesome and enthralling, and what’s interesting is that many of them don’t need to be made feminist, they just needed to be tweaked a little to let Carter’s brand of feminism shine through. They’re wonderful, and I adore them.

I recently found a copy of this out-of-print volume at my local used book store. O, frabjous day! I recommend scrounging a copy from anywhere you can find one; it’s marvelous.

Wait, where did she go?

So I was sitting there at work yesterday (I work doing customer service in a call center to pay the bills while I wait for a library to acknowledge my undying awesome), making notes to myself in between answering people’s warranty questions about what I needed to get done. Got to clean the bathroom before guests come this weekend, dig my winter sweaters out of the closet, finish running updates on my computer, write a blog post —

Oh, crap. I have a blog.

In my defense, I’ve been doing a ton of writing, just not blog-post writing: I signed up for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, the exercise in creative masochism where you attempt to write a 50,000 word novella in 30 days. (You’ll forgive me for not linking to my author page; I first did NaNo in 2006, before I had any idea of having a professional blog, and it’s using the old username I’d rather not have linked to this identity.) I got myself caught up on Sunday afternoon, when I scrapped my first attempt at a novel and started over with a kind of dieselpunk fantasy buildingsroman.

Anyway, we will now return you to your regular posting schedule.

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