Weekly reading, 29 June 2016

Last book finished: Out on Good Behaviour by Dahlia Adler. It’s wonderful. An f/f new adult romance that manages to be hot and sweet at the same time, which I think deserves applause. It doesn’t fall into the “BFFs with kissing” territory that some YA/NA f/f books can, but the sex isn’t hard core erotica, either. It’s exactly the balance that worked for me. The plot happily dives into the player/virgin trope in the best way possible and made me smile the whole way through, even during the slightly angsty parts. Although coming out is a part of the story, for Sam anyway, the real plot is about Frankie–the player–learning that being in love can be wonderful and doesn’t change who she is. I loved this book so much, and I can tell it’s going to be a happy comfort read for me.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. It got buried under a recipe book avalanche this week, so I need to do some tidying up and get reading on it!

I gave up on Seveneves. I made it further than I expected–page 364–but I just couldn’t do it to myself any more. So much over explaining. So little characterisation. Such awful pacing. I started to rant about it for the fiftieth time and realised that I was only reading due to bloody minded determination, so I put myself out of my memory. Onto the DNF pile it went!

I picked up Rise by Mira Grant instead, and it’s such a relief to be reading something with better writing. Grant knows how to get characterisation and pacing right, while writing compelling plots that are as scientifically rigorous as a zombie novel can be. And she does it without throwing every damn piece of research she’s ever done into the text.

I’m also reading Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger, which is pure joy and hilarity.

Next read: I’ve got to make some headway on the rest of the short Hugo works, so that’s going to be my task over the long weekend. Wish me luck.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Weekly reading, 23 June 2016

Last book finished: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua. It is a thing of joy that made me ridiculously happy and I can’t recommend it highly enough. The graphic novel portions were fantastic and entertaining, and made me wish Lovelace and Babbage had lived that life, but it’s the footnotes and endnotes that really made the book. Trust me, it’s wonderful.

I also read one of the Hugo-nominated novellas, Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson. I expected a lot from this, because I usually really enjoy Sanderson’s work. His worldbuilding is always creative and his writing is compelling. This wasn’t a bad novella, but it wasn’t one of his best works by any stretch. Even Sanderson on an off-day is better than many writers, so I wouldn’t anti-rec it, but it’s definitely not the best work on the ballot or one of the highlights for the author.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. Bribes still aren’t working. Maybe I need to put a reminder in my calendar, block out fifteen minutes a day for it.

My main physical book read is Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. This wasn’t a book that I expected to love, I’ll admit, but I’ve been surprised before. I didn’t expect to like The Fifth Season, because I’ve previously bounced off Jemisin’s work, and it’s been one of the best things I read this year. Zombies are totally not my thing, but I fell in love with Mira Grant’s Newsflesh anyway. This is all to say, even if I go into a book with low expectations, I can be changed by good writing

Seveneves has elements that are usually right up my alley. Yes, I’m not hugely into Hard SF, but global disasters are completely my thing. I’m a disaster movie fan, and an SFnal disaster should be something I love. I’m about 140 pages in and I can say that, so far, the ideas are great but the execution is…not. Overwritten, way too much information about the background of every character and object, which all comes out in tangents that kill any attempt at pacing and tension. And despite all that background, the characters have the life and consistency of cardboard. A good disaster story relies on character to pull us in and keep us there, rooting for them, as the stakes go up. I really couldn’t care less about any of these people. Right now, I’m reading because I want to see how the next part of the plot works out, but it’s a slog. And at some point, I’m probably going to stop slogging, because 860 pages of this may be 600 pages too many. It’s currently at the bottom of my Hugo ballot and I don’t think it will rise higher.

My other read is Out on Good Behaviour by Dahlia Adler, which is exactly the fluffy F/F romance I need as an antidote to the turgid prose of Stephenson.

Next read: I’ve had a couple of preorders in over the last couple of weeks, so it will probably be one of those. Either zombies or dragons, they’re both vying equally right now. On the Kindle, I should probably get on with a couple more Hugo nominated novelettes and novellas.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

I don’t have a pre-order problem, really!

In a discussion on Twitter yesterday, a friend and I were cheerfully looking forward to the books we’ve pre-ordered and are expecting to have over the next month, and we decided to compare lists. And how better to share lists than through a terrifying blog post listing them?

Mine isn’t quite as bad as I imagined. Mostly, I suspect, because so many of my pre-ordered books were/are June releases. Heh.

  • A Study in Sable – Mercedes Lackey (June 2nd)
  • League of Dragons – Naomi Novik (June 14th)
  • Rise – Mira Grant (June 21st)
  • Poison or Protect – Gail Carriger (June 21st)
  • Imprudence – Gail Carriger (July 19th)
  • Ghost Talkers – Mary Robinette Kowal (August 16th)
  • The Obelisk Gate – N. K. Jemesin (August 16th)
  • Feedback – Mira Grant (October 4th)
  • Crosstalk – Connie Willis (October 4th)

And now that it’s all listed…huh, I don’t have any November or December preorders. That’s most unusual! Usually there’s at least a couple, because some authors are lovely and release books right around my birthday.

I’m the lack won’t last 🙂

So, which releases are you looking forward to this year?

Wednesday…er, Thursday reading, 16 June 2016

I got so engrossed in my current read that I forgot to do this yesterday. Woops! At least I have a good reading-related excuse for forgetting to post about my reading?

Last book finished: An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear. I like the Maisie Dobbs books–historical mysteries are one of me things and the protagonist is great in these–and it wasn’t a really bad book, but it wasn’t a good one, either. It was a ‘meh’ book for me, with a few elements that felt a bit troubling because I don’t know enough to know whether the representation of the Rom was as problematic as it felt. Maybe I’m just overly sensitive to that, after seeing so many people talking about the bad depictions, but I felt uncomfortable in each scene because I couldn’t tell how good or wrong those parts were. The mystery plot was intriguing at times, but the resolution felt too easy and too clean. I did appreciate some long-running plots being tied up, giving room for new developments, and was what saved this book. Overall, it’s not awful, but not one that I can wholeheartedly recommend. Hopefully this is just a dip and the next in the series will be back to its usual standard.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. Bribes still aren’t working. Maybe I need to put a reminder in my calendar, block out fifteen minutes a day for it.

I’m reading The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua and I’m loving it. It’s a book of joy and wonder. I can’t decide whether it’s the footnotes or the endnotes that charm me the most. Maybe it’s the way Ada Lovelace is firmly places as the heroine. I don’t know, but I cannot say enough good things about this. Hopefully it sticks the landing!

I should finish The Great Hunt soon. Maybe even this weekend. One of the things that fascinates me is that Jordan writes such fascinating, vivid women, all with agency and complexity, but the way his male characters think about them is so different. It’s a running theme that the men don’t know how to talk to women and constantly feel the need to protect them. And then we’ll get a chapter from one of the women’s POVs and they’re entirely capable of looking after themselves, thank you very much. The men have rather old fashioned ideas about the women, which can grate a little after spending too long in Rand or Perrin’s head. This may be why the chapters with Nynaeve, Egwene, or Moiraine are some of my favourites.

Or it could be due to this being Rand’s most tiresome book. Honestly, he’s not the brightest hero ever. Selene is clearly sign posted in every way possible as evil, but a pretty face is enough to turn Rand’s head. Maybe this is why Rand is my least favourite character. Thank goodness Jordan gave the other characters more and more chapters per book as the series went on. Too much time in Rand’s head is a recipe for frustration.

Next read: Seveneves just arrived at the library for me, so I guess that’s my next read. I’ll probably pick something fluffy and fun on my Kindle as an antidote for all that hard SF. Maybe a light F/F romance, that seems like a good thing to read right now.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Well, that sure is a mortality rate

If this looks bad, it is. A Vox article does a breakdown of all the character deaths in the 2015-2016 season, and while it notes that straight white male characters also died in high numbers, they already make up a high percentage of the characters on most shows. If they had done the maths to break it down into ratios, lesbian/bisexual women would come out at the top of the list by a hefty margin.

(When I fiddled with the Vox chart, it listed 22 LGBTQA women who died. 22.)

Lesbian and bisexual women are still relatively rare on TV. It’s rare for there to be more than one on a show, and many have none. There were 409 scripted shows this season (when cable and streaming shows are included). That 35 does not include the lesbians/bisexual women on non-network shows, but even if it did, I doubt the number would tally up to many more than 50 lesbian and bisexual women as regular characters on TV. That still puts the number of dead lesbians and bisexual women, as a percentage of the total who actually exist on screen, at an incredible level. At least a third of them were killed this year. And the number doesn’t include all the minor and guest characters who get killed as a function of TV plotting. As the Vox article noted, if they’d included them in the stats for women killed, the number would be horrific. It would bump up the numbers for lesbians and bisexual women, too.

This is the problem we’ve got on TV. There’s always been an issue, but this season has highlighted it by the sheer number involved in the bloodbath. Yes, it’s generally only one woman in each shows who dies (except for the murder/suicide combo on one show), but seen in the broader picture? Given how small a percentage of characters are lesbians/bisexual women? It’s horrible.

In a world where we’re trying to tell young LGBTQA people that it gets better, all we’re doing is telling young women that loving another woman is a death sentence.

I know that every show runner thinks their story is unique. That what they’re doing is different and ground breaking and totally not falling into the Bury Your Gays tropes that other shows have done. But it’s not. No, POI show runners, it really really isn’t. Not even for you.

Death has become ubiquitous on TV. A cheap way to bump ratings and gets arses on seats. That’s a problem.

And because it’s something everyone is doing, and show runners need those eyes on their show, they’re always looking for the next new shock to tease their audience with. They’re eyeing up their cast and trying to decide who should die next.

We’re not asking for lesbians and bisexual women to be invulnerable and impervious to everything. We’re asking for show runners to stop, to think, to consider whether there’s some other story they can tell. To think about the plot they’re about to write in the wider context of what every other show is doing. I know, every show runner is working in a bubble, which is probably why none of them can see what’s happening here. But that needs to stop.

Think. Consider whether your particular “kill the lesbian/bisexual woman” story adds anything apart from cheap thrills. Consider how it fits into the context of all the other women-loving-women deaths happening around you. Consider whether there’s another story-line that would bring in the viewers without adding to the problem. Considering being radical and NOT killing your lesbian/bisexual woman. If your actor is leaving anyway, the most edgy, exciting thing you can do…is give their character an ending that is not death.

If you want to get completely radical and unusual, let them ride off into the sunset with a happy ending. That really would be a story that we rarely see.

Wednesday reading, 8 June 2016

Last book finished: Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines. As I noted last week, it took me a while to get into it, but then I was sold and the resolution to one of the plots at the end made me do little seal claps of joy because it wasn’t what I expected.

I’ve been trying to figure out why it took me a while to get into it, and this is what I’ve come up with: it’s a first person male POV, written by a straight man, and it took me a long time to accept and go with the flow on that. There were thought patterns and observances that kept pulling me up short, which was distracting, and I think it’s because this isn’t a POV I read much. Yeah, the straight white male POV took me a long time to get accustomed to, which I suspect says a lot about my reading fare. It was the first person aspect that did it. Right now, I’m reading a Wheel of Time book so there’s lots of Rand POV (straight white male) but none of it is first person, and the extra degree of intimacy in the first person POV kept throwing me. The last book that I read with a first person male POV was Sutphin Boulevard by Sanito Hassell, who is neither straight or white, and I’m pretty sure every other first person story I’ve read over the last year was a woman narrating.

That’s not to say that Hines is bad or did anything that put my back up. It was just a different experience from all my other reading, and it took me a while to get used to. I enjoyed the book a lot and will probably read the rest of the series, because he’s got me intrigued.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. Bribes did not work. Need to find better bribes to get pages read.

I’m around a third of the way into An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear, which is fun enough, but not brilliant. I’ve loved Maisie Dobbs and her friends since the first book and I’m here for them, but I’m feeling a bit wary about some of the plot elements.

And as noted, I’m still reading The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan. The more I read, the more I’m remembering that Rand wasn’t the character I was in these books for. He’s the POV character for a large chunk of the first book, until everyone had to split up, and I think the books work best when his POV is interspersed with everyone else. He’s not an easy character to like, and the books would be hard going if we only got his view. Out of the three male MCs, it’s really Perrin that I like. He’s good to the core without ever being dull, and his struggle with his nature as a wolf brother appeals more than Rand’s struggle with his destiny.

But really, it’s the women I’m continuing to enjoy. For all of its flaws, Wheel of Time has some great women and they’re all complex with different motivations. Now that we’re getting more sections from their viewpoints, they’re getting more fleshed out and I love it. You know what happens when you get multiple women with complicated motivations and relationships? You get the Bechdel and Mako Mori test passes with flying colours!

Next read: I still probably won’t need another Kindle read for a while, thanks to Robert Jordan, but I’ve accidentally ended up with a bunch of library books that need reading. Oops. Mount TBR isn’t shrinking at the rate I’d hoped for, particularly now that it’s June and some preorders are coming in.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

May writing round-up

Previously in monthly round ups…

Total new words for May: 12,940

On the one hand, lots of new words! On the other hand…most of those new words came from me restructuring the novel. I think that I was overly optimistic about how much needed rewriting and what changes I needed to make. Despite my casual assertion that I only had half a scene to rewrite on May 1st and then it would all be tweaks and minor edits, I was wrong.

I am learning a lot from this novel. Mostly about how not to write a novel and why I need to make better outlines in the future, because many of the changes I’ve made were driven by big plot problems that wouldn’t have happened if I’d prepped better. At least I can apply this to my next book, right?

Anyway, I’m down to the final four chapters to edit. Over the course of this month, I rewrote entire chapters, deleted a chapter, deleted scenes, moved scenes into different chapters, and hopefully will have a better novel at the end. I’m trying not to get too ambitious, but it would be nice to have this round of edits done this weekend. Except I know that there are several scenes that need rewriting (argh) and probably another scene or two of filler to cut for pacing, so I’ll try not to feel annoyed with myself if I’m not quite done.

Then I intend to put the damn thing aside for a month so that I can read it over with a clear head and see what I’ve got. I suspect that I’ll have to do another round of edits before I send it to first readers, but at least that round will be minor tweaks and proofing rather than whole-sale restructuring. I hope.

I did get…around 500 words written on that big fanfic project. My plan during my downtime from the book is to get a first draft of the fanfic thing done. It will be a nice brain break, both because it’s fanfic and because it’s going to be a fun story. At this point, I really need the break from this novel for a while.

My other June aim is to get one short story edited and submitted. Lightspeed is going to be open for a couple of weeks later in the month, so that’s my goal. Get one story edited and submitted to Lightspeed. Around 4k of my new words were on a short epistolary story that is currently with my critique group. I’m really excited about this story, really pleased with what I did with it, so unless it’s deemed terrible beyond words, that’s the one I’ll be trying to get into a submittable state.

What about you? How did May go for you, and how is June shaping up?

Wednesday reading, 1 June 2016

Last book finished: I did a lot of comics catching up, so there aren’t any prose books finished yet. I can highly recommend the final issues of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run on Captain Marvel and the new writer is equally awesome, so don’t stop reading it just because Kelly Sue is gone. The current run of A-Force is great fun, too. Possibly the one that surprised me is volume two of Lumberjanes. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the first volume, but this volume hit its stride and I can understand why it’s such a big favourite now. I’ll definitely be getting volume three.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I’m thinking of assigning myself bribes. Maybe a Twirl Bite per page?

I’m a few chapters into The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan, and I’m realising how much I’d forgotten. Wow. It’s a really good thing I’m rereading before I read the WoT books I didn’t get to before, because I can tell that I would have been really lost if I hadn’t. I’m also remembering how many women there are in these books. After all the talk about how good Game of Thrones is for the number of powerful women, I’d like to point out that the Wheel of Time books are equally filled with women and they’re allowed to be fantastic without rapey backstories to trigger their awesome. How revolutionary! 😉

I found the first few chapters of Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines hard to get into, but something happened at around page 100 and suddenly I’m right there for this. I don’t know what it was that changed, it’s just working better in my head than the early chapters did. Let’s hope he sticks the landing.

Next read: I still probably won’t need another Kindle read for a while, thanks to Robert Jordan, but I’ll need a dead tree book. It’ll probably be Games Wizards Play or Ink and Bone, because they’re crying out from Mount TBR. I should also do some more comics catch-up. I’ve got a ton of Ms Marvel to read…

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?