kaberett: A drawing of a black woman holding her right hand, minus a ring finger, in front of her face. "Oh, that. I cut it  off." (molly - cut it off)
[personal profile] kaberett
This came into my possession via the latest Humble Ebook Bundle, and I am so glad it did. This is how glad I am: I am about two-thirds of the way through it and I can't wait to finish before I tell you all how good it is.

The protagonist, Hanna, is sixteen, manic depressive (and explicitly, canonically prefers that descriptor to "bipolar", Because Reasons), and Finnish-"island girl" (Hawaiian?), raised (for most of her life) in Dallas. She describes herself as biracial and bicultural, and she's bilingual in English and Finnish - and the codeswitching is genuinely plausibly represented.

The dude she ends up hanging around with a lot is the same age, Latino, and bilingual in Spanish and English - again, really nicely represented.

The story takes place in creepy smalltown Texas. It's sub/urban fantasy and abusive parents and a critique of the medical-industrial complex and teenagers having (complicated, not always happy) sex lives all tied up in tight, funny monster-killing brilliance. It's lovely.

Content notes. )
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[personal profile] seekingferret
19) Zone One by Colson Whitehead

I'd been anticipating this novel tremendously since I'd first heard it was coming out. I had it on pre-order months before it came out. Then it came out, I started reading, and... ten months later, I finished it.

I cannot come to you with as enthusiastic a review as I'd hoped. It's a very strange book that works by its own internal logic. I did really like it. But I had to move my head into its headspace in order to read, and I found that process to be very slow going.

Zone One is Colson Whitehead's zombie novel. If you're at all familiar with Whitehead's other work, stylistic novels on the boundary between Modernism and Post-Modernism like John Henry Days and The Intuitionist, this might surprise you. But hell, every literary novelist worth his salt is following Chabon and McCarthy into the genre ghetto these days, so it's not really all that surprising, though one review that went viral when the novel first came out compared a literary novelist writing a zombie novel to "an intellectual dating a porn star." As a lover of genre fiction, a lover of postmodernism, and a lover of mashups, I was looking forward to seeing how Whitehead would achieve his synthesis.

Zone One is the story of the "season of encouraging dispatches", a period of time where the survivors of the zombie apocalypse, struggling with Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder (PASD) and still unsure where their next meal will come from, gather together under the banner of a new government in Buffalo and try to fight back and reclaim the world for humanity. Calling themselves the "pheenies" as the representatives of the American Phoenix, risen from the ashes with good old fashioned American try-hardness and gumption and hope as their only assets, they launch a major offensive in 'Zone One', the lower Manhattan region from the Battery up to Canal Street. They build a wall across the island at Canal Street and go street to street clearing out bodies and 'stragglers'- infected people who stay in one place and don't attack, unlike the true zombies that are actually offensive threats.

Whitehead's writing is beautifully delicate, full of his classic wry metaphors. Time is distorted and distended beyond recognition in his prose, which nests flashbacks within flashbacks within flashbacks, sometimes all within one paragraph, so that the novel's slow movement forward through the three days of present time are constantly disrupted with journeys back to the time before, both into life before the zombies came and into the stories of how Mark Spitz, the protagonist, and his compatriots survived the Apocalypse.It was this that caught me up. The distortion of time made the novel sometimes difficult to follow and difficult to get into a reading flow for. I found it lacking the constant movement that keeps a zombie novel ticking. I'd frequently read five or ten pages in a sitting, enjoy the setting and Whitehead's clever, pop culture tinged humor and genuinely like the characters, and not feel any urge to continue or even find it a struggle to motivate myself to continue.

By the time I'd finished, I did enjoy it, and I moved through the second half of the novel a lot faster than the first half. But there's something hard to explain about the novel that was hard to negotiate for me as a reader. In reflecting on it now, I think negotiation is the right word. Whitehead has a story here that he wants to tell in a certain way, and I as a reader have expectations of both a zombie novel and a Whitehead novel, and I had to enter into a negotiation with the text to find a way forward we could both find agreeable.

At its core, this is a story about a new kind of loss and memory. It's about dealing with loss on a scale that seems newly comprehensible in the wake of the 20th century. When the Black Plague struck Europe, it was just as disastrous as Whitehead's zombie plague, but the difference was that existence was often much more local back then. You barely knew anyone outside your village: if everyone in your village was wiped out, everything you'd ever known was gone, that hundred or two people that were your universe. But with the flattened world, with the information technologies that Whitehead litters through the novel as zombified relics, a catastrophe like this is global and feels global. Suddenly Mark Spitz is reduced to his urb, suddenly Zone 1 is all of his existence and anything beyond is Buffalo, a vague pheenie rumor of a better place. How do you deal with knowing that your whole known world is lost, when your whole known world is billions of people?

20) The Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Seriously, this was the most interesting fantasy novel I've read in years. I'd been anticipating it since I read "Where Virtue Lives", a short story by Ahmed featuring the same characters which serves as an excellent prologue to the novel. The book is set in a fantasyland medieval Arabia, where ghuls and other creatures from Arabic folklore wage battle against mages and demon hunters and dervishes as people around them struggle to live ordinary lives.

It's hard to avoid the comparisons to Tolkien, because everyone's in quest of the great non-Tolkienian fantasy, but this really feels like fantasy that's barely aware of Tolkien. It borrows particularly from Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser and takes inspiration from other early 'sword and sorcery' type fantasy novels, with exciting fantasy cities and characters of strong independence and individuality forming hesitant bonds of friendship to band together against a dangerous world. But its lack of anything even remotely resembling Norse mythology makes it feel like its own thing at a deep level.

It's possible Ahmed could have written women better. He is constrained by the quasi-Arabic world he is writing, which has clear ideas of women's roles (which are not the same as women's roles in the present-day Arabic world, nor the same as medieval Western civilization, but they are in their fashion constraining), and he does write two really interesting female characters (plus a third we don't see much of), but they are interesting because they defy expectations, not because they're interesting within their context, especially Zamia. There is admittedly a nice trope inversion in Zamia shyly pursuing Raseed while he tries to resist.

But together the trio of Zamia, Raseed, and Adoulla are the best kind of ass-kicking, monster-killing badasses. And I want as many of their adventures together as possible, which is awesome because this is a fantasy series, so I get sequels!
sumofparts: picture of books with text 'books are humanity in print' (books)
[personal profile] sumofparts
Sort of a mid-year update. It's been a while since I read some of these so I've just written short impressions but feel free to ask about any of the books.

33. Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali
34. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
35. The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
36. Valmiki's Daughter by Shani Mootoo
37. Skim written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
38. Henry Chow and other stories edited by R. David Stephens (white)

Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali
This was a well-written book but ultimately disappointing because it just didn't feel like it was going anywhere. Judging from the Goodreads reviews, this was a departure from Brick Lane, which I'll still try eventually.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Like other posters on the comm, I enjoyed this book but it was not without its flaws, which I think everyone else has covered pretty well.

The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
I liked the book but I don't feel everything gelled very well for me. I did like how the main character wasn't always the most sympathetic.

Valmiki's Daughter by Shani Mootoo
Gorgeous writing and evocative descriptions but similar to The New Moon's Arms, something didn't quite click for me. Still, I'd definitely try this author's other books.

Skim written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki.
Very detailed and beautiful drawings that really capture the story. Equal credit should be given to author and illustrator.

Henry Chow and Other Stories by various authors, edited by R. David Stephens
Enjoyable but uneven collection of short stories for teenagers. I liked the different story settings and character perspectives. From the Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop.

a: ali monica, a: hopkinson nalo, a: mootoo shani, a: mariko tamaki, i: tamaki jillian, w-e: stephens r david, short stories, fantasy, lit fic, young adult, coming of age, graphic novel, bangladeshi-british, latin@, dominican-american, caribbean-canadian, jamaican, trinidadian, asian-canadian, chinese-canadian, japanese-canadian, glbt, women writers
snowynight: Kino in a suit with brown background (Default)
[personal profile] snowynight
Title: 最終流放|Zhei Jung Liu Fang!Utmost Exile
Author: 河漢He Hang
Author Nationality and race: Chinese
Language: Chinese
Genre: Fiction
Length: novel
Subject: Military fiction
Summary: Who's Liang Shang Juen? The pride of Norhwest Army, the lieutenant of the new Jia Nan new force. Who is Ji Che? The spine of Jia Nan, the ultimate military instructor. When these two men meets, what'll happen?
Review: The characterization is superb, the insight of the war good, and the pace is fast. Contains M/M romance. Warning: Contains brainwashing at the end

Link: Original site
snowynight: Ultimate Jan in her Wasp form (Ultimate Jan)
[personal profile] snowynight
Book 4
Title: 失落大陸|The Lost Continent| Si Luo Da Lu
Author: 多木木多|Duo Mu Mu Duo
Author Nationality and race: Chinese
Language: Chinese
Genre: Fiction
Length: novel
Subject: Fantasy

Scifi Post-colonial version of Robinson Crusoe )

Book 5
Title: 麒麟!Qi lin
Author: 桔子樹|Ji je Shu
Author Nationality and race: Chinese
Language: Chinese
Genre: Fiction
Length: novel
Subject: Military

Chiniese military fiction about men and mission )

Book 6
Title: 诺亚动物诊所病历记录簿(第一季)| Nuo Ya Dung Wu Zhen Suo Bing Li Ji Lu Bu (Di yi gui) | Noah Animal Clinic medical record
Author: live
Author Nationality and race: Chinese
Language: Chinese
Genre: Fiction
Length: novel
Subject: Fantasy

An animal clinic for mythological creatures )
annwfyn: (nonsense - priestess of pink)
[personal profile] annwfyn
'The Taming of Mei Lin' by Jeannie Lin

This isn't really a novel - it's more of a short story - so I feel like a bit of a cheat adding this. However, I'm lazy and therefore willing to do this.

First of all, this story is a bit of a spin off to 'Butterfly Swords' and is the story of Ai Li's grandmother and grandfather, who are mentioned in that novel, and if you're a 'Butterfly Swords' fan, it's probably worth reading for that. If you haven't read 'Butterfly Swords' or didn't enjoy it, I'm not so sure I'd recommend it.

I mean, it's not bad, it just feels a lot more generic. Yes, the setting is still a historical China, which is cool, but I felt that far less effort had gone into creating the texture and flavour that I adored in 'Butterfly Swords'. As well as that, the characters were infinitely less interesting, and I honestly found the hero quite generic. A lone brooding duellist, captured by a spunky young heroine? Really? Goodness, that's original!

I'm being harsh, I know, especially as it is only a short story and there isn't really as much room to build up the setting as there would be in a full length novel. I also suspect that because I enjoyed 'Butterfly Swords' so much, I've set the bar much higher and I probably should be kinder, but I'm a harsh person and don't want to give Jeannie Lin too much of a 'get out of jail free' card, because I know she's capable of so much more.


'Ash' by Malinda Lo

This novel is the novel that I think proves Father Christmas exists.

No, really. How else could it be that someone could write an awesome young adult lesbian fairytale romance, featuring two kick arse heroines, some fairies, awesome world building and a happy ever after filled with adventure and the promise of more awesome things they can do together? I mean, that doesn't just happen, does it?

I adored Ash from start to finish, and my only sadness about this book is that it wasn't around when I was a teenager. It reminds me a little of a non-hetero Robin McKinley novel - it takes a very traditional fairy story (in this case, Cinderella) and reworks it absolutely beautifully.

I would recommend this absolutely and wholeheartedly, and I am fighting back the urge to say that if you don't like it at all, you are dead inside, have no soul, and I pity you.

Um. Apparently I didn't fight back the urge that well, did I?
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[personal profile] snowynight
Title: Ballad of a Shinigami
Author: K-Ske Hasegawa
Author Nationality and race: Japanese
Original language: Japanese
Publish place: Japan
Genre: Fiction
Length: novel
Subject: Fantasy

Amazon summary:Momo is a shinigami (a Grim Reaper), the messenger of death. Unlike the scary dark cloaked man holding a sickle, she is draped in gleaming white--her gown, sickle, hair and all. Accompanied by a black cat named Daniel, Momo takes up a mission to convey human souls to the Great Beyond. She appears before dying people and relieves them from their mortal fears, but she also comforts those who suffer the anguish of losing loved ones in tragedies.

Review: The summary doesn't do the book justice It's more a series of stories linked together by  Momo the shinigami. It sometimes deals with heavy subject such as family abuse but the tone's never overly maudlin. Recommended.

Link to the book on Amazon:

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[personal profile] snowynight
Title: Ghost Hunt  vol. 1
Author: Fuyumi Ono
Author Nationality and race: Japanese
Original language: Japanese
Publish place: Japan
Genre: Fiction
Length: novel
Subject: Fantasy

Amazon summary: Meet the members of the Shibuya Psychic Research Centre - an agency specialising in the investigation of paranormal activity...

Review: The beginning of the book is a bit slow, as it's mostly set up, but when I continue I'm hooked by the banter, the comedy and the solid mystery. I think I'll continue reading the series.

Link to Amazon

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[identity profile] sumofparts.livejournal.com
Haven't posted in a while. Here's a series of mini-reviews with some spoilers. Also, some of the books contain potentially triggering content.

6. Un-Nappily in Love by Trisha R. Thomas
7. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
8. Tracks by Louise Erdrich
9. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
10. Umbrella by Taro Yashima
11. Little Joy by Ruowen Wang
12. Why War is Never a Good Idea by Alice Walker
13. Erika-san by Allen Say
14. Dahanu Road by Anosh Irani
15. What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
16. The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez
17. In the Company of Ogres by A. Lee Martinez
18. Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez
19. Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez
20. Monster by A. Lee  Martinez
21. Certainty by Madeleine Thien
22. So Long Been Dreaming edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan
23. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
24. Too Many Curses by A. Lee Martinez
25. A Nameless Witch by A. Lee Martinez
26. A Person of Interest by Susan Choi
27. Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead

Mention (not counted)
Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren (white); illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (person of colour)

Read more... )
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[personal profile] rsadelle
Malinda Lo's Huntress takes place in the same world as Ash, her previous book, only several hundred years earlier.

Our main characters are Kaede and Taisin, students at The Academy, where girls go to learn to be sages. Taisin has never wanted anything but to be a sage. Kaede has never even managed the simplest blessing, but she doesn't want to go home to be married off for political advantage. The land is in a state of constant winter, and the king has been invited to visit the Fairy Queen. Instead, he sends his son, Con, along with Taisin, Kaede, and a small batch of guards, to accept her invitation.

Spoilers/Review )

My greatest wish is for Malinda Lo to be one of those writers who really learns to write by the third book. Ash and Huntress are both good, with moments that are exquisite, but I think Lo has the potential to be truly great.
[identity profile] seekingferret.livejournal.com
11) Monster by A. Lee Martinez

At this point, I could probably copy/paste the review I've written of the past three Martinez novels I've read here. Martinez's fantasies are lightweight, fun, irreverent, and formulaic. I enjoy his formula a good deal, and I enjoy the way I can just have that pleasure without thinking too hard. I'll keep reading his stories.

This one specifically is about a monster-hunter working for the equivalent of animal control in a city with frequent infestations of fantasy monsters. If you think that concept sounds like fun, you'll enjoy the story.

12)Black, White, and Jewish by Rebecca Walker

Walker is the daughter of (black) author Alice Walker and (white and Jewish) civil rights lawyer Mel Leventhal. She was born in Mississippi at the height of her parents' civil rights struggle. She describes herself as a "Movement Child", whose interracial makeup was a deliberate and direct challenge to the racism that surrounded her parents. In many ways this memoir tells the coming of age of a girl who was born as a social experiment. I feel queasy making this comparison, but it reminded me of Ishiguro's dystopic novel Never Let Me Go. At the minimum, it's being narrated by a woman who always seems unsure and a little afraid that the reason she's writing this story is because it was the story she was born (and maybe designed) to write.

Her parents divorced when she was still a child. Her father moved to New York and her mother to San Francisco and she split her childhood between coasts, between parents, between lives. It's reasonably stress inducing, but again, her parents were intellectuals affiliated with the Civil Rights movement and they knew they were fating their daughter to this kind of split existence (though they thought they would be together to give her more stable guidance). The thing I found most fascinating about Walker's narrative is the way she seems to be pushing up against the 'expected' narrative of an interracial childhood, seeing if she can fit into it or if she needs to invent new narratives.

Walker's prose is gaudy and overwritten and not helped by artsy section headers that grab random lines from the chapters that follow and turn them into incomprehensible pull quotes. I think this added to my sense that the novel compared to Ishiguro. It felt like a novel more than a memoir, and Walker's life is interesting enough that a straight recitation of the facts and her impressions of them would have held my attention. I didn't know what I was supposed to do with her schmaltzy, vaguely spiritual musings on memory as an abstract concept. Those parts of the story held no value for me and were generally skipped or skimmed.

But as I said, the story and her impressions of it are enough of a story to hold my interest. Walker writes of experiencing an incredible range of growing up experiences and how much context shaped her experience. When she was among black people, the specific ways she felt part of their community and the specific ways she felt isolated are sharply detailed, and the same thing comes in her vivid descriptions of her experiences in white communities. And many of her stories are interesting and compelling even without the frame of reference of race, stories of growing up, learning about sex and sexuality, learning about family history, learning how to learn.

tags: mexican-american, biracial, african-american, jewish, fantasy, memoir, a: martinez a lee, a: walker rebecca
[identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com
This, Lo’s Ash, and Tamora Pierce’s The Will Of The Empress are, to my knowledge, the only YA fantasies with lesbian protagonists ever put out by a mainstream (not small press or specialty) US publishing house. Not only that, but Huntress has an Asian girl pictured on the cover, which is nearly as vanishingly rare in American YA fantasy.

I am really, really hoping it succeeds. It is genuinely groundbreaking and if it does well, it may encourage other publishers to put out and not whitewash similar titles. Even if it doesn't sound like your cup of tea, consider whether you have any friends or relatives who might enjoy it as a gift. I’d say it’s appropriate for good readers of about eleven and up. (It contains kissing but no on-page sex, and some adventure-type violence which is treated with more seriousness than is common. But there’s no graphic details.)

Though Huntress has a somewhat wider scope than Ash, more varied cultural influences, and is not based on a specific fairy-tale, it has most of the same virtues and flaws that Ash did: a strong romance, some very beautiful passages, sketchy worldbuilding, and awkward plotting and pacing. You can probably predict with good accuracy how much you'd like one by how much you like the other, even though the stories are quite different.

In many ways, Huntress is an old-school quest fantasy. Weird and bad stuff is happening in the world, a message unexpectedly arrives from the Fairy Queen, and a party is sent forth to travel to her city and hopefully get her help fixing things. The fellowship includes several adult warriors and guards, the crown prince, and the two teenage heroines. Taisin, a sage-in-training, wields magic and has visions… and will be sworn to celibacy once she officially becomes a sage. Because Taisin had a vision of Kaede, another girl at the sage school, Kaede comes along too, even though she’s about to leave school because she has no gift for magic, and has no obvious gifts at all other than a knack for throwing knives.

En route to the fairy city, Taisin and Kaede get to know each other, fight off magical opposition, and slowly fall in love. Lo excels at depicting the slow budding of their relationship, and all their hesitant, conflicted feelings. I could have happily read a story about nothing but Taisin and Kaede going to sage school and falling in love, because the romance aspects of the story are really well-done.

Other than the romance, the book was oddly structured and paced. Most of the story takes place on the road, which is fine but a little slow-paced, but once they arrive in the fairy city, events happen extremely fast. There’s a rushed-feeling second quest, in which the Big Bad goes down with disappointing ease, followed by an even more rushed third quest, which takes all of five pages to begin and complete. The final quest made sense thematically, but it was oddly placed and jarringly fast.

The world is Chinese/Celtic, and those very different cultures didn’t mesh coherently. The omniscient POV also didn’t quite gel for me – it was mostly Kaede and Taisin, but with brief peeks into other characters. I would have liked it better if the chapters had alternated between Kaede and Taisin’s POVs.

That being said, I did like the romance very much, and I enjoyed reading the book. If I knew any teenagers who were interested in non-urban fantasy, I would definitely press it upon them.

[identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com
And what of Paama herself? She said little about the husband she had left almost two years ago, barely enough to fend off the village gossips and deflect her sister’s sneers. She didn’t need to. There was something else about Paama that distracted people’s attention from any potentially juicy titbits of her past. She could cook.

An inadequate statement. Anyone can cook, but the true talent belongs to those who are capable of gently ensnaring with their delicacies, winning compliance with the mere suggestion that there might not be any goodies for a caller who persisted in prying. Such was Paama.

An adult fantasy novel loosely based on a folktale from Senegal. When a spirit called a djombi gives Paama a probability-altering Chaos Stick, a series of events spin out to change her life, the lives of her family, the lives of a great many innocent and not-so-innocent bystanders, and even the undying lives of several djombi.

I loved this book. LOVED it. The absolutely wonderful prose and the humor kept me reading with a huge smile on my face, and occasionally laughing aloud. I could pull quotes from every single page that would make people who enjoy this sort of thing rush out to buy it, though the funniest bits are best read in context. (The bit where a trickster spirit cleverly disguised as a very large talking spider has a deadpan conversation with two men in a bar was one of my very favorite scenes.) The very knowing and slightly defensive narrator cracked me up, and the more serious second half, while not quite as purely enjoyable as the first, is poignant and lovely.

If you enjoyed the elegantly mannered prose, metafictional commentary, and sly humor of Michael Chabon’s The Gentlemen of the Road or William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, you are almost certain to like Redemption in Indigo.

The plot falls apart for about twenty pages or so after Paama confronts the indigo-skinned djombi, but it picks up after that (so don’t give up.)

The ending was moving (which is not a code-word for “sad”), and very satisfying. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that we get a touching psychological explanation for her ex-husband’s compulsive gluttony, so I’ll say so here for the benefit of anyone who might find the very beginning, which is based on a folktale about a man who gets in comic trouble by eating everything in sight, fat-phobic or anti-eating. I loved the way Lord preserved the non-realistic qualities of the original folktale, while the narrator invented realistic justification until it became impossible, and then resignedly advised the readers to just go with it.

Highly recommended. This is the kind of book where I feel constrained in reviewing lest I over-sell, but if you like this sort of thing at all, go out and get it.

Redemption in Indigo: a novel (Check out the gorgeous cover!)
[identity profile] seekingferret.livejournal.com
5)A Nameless Witch by A. Lee Martinez

Martinez's fiction has thus far proved reliably entertaining. This is an inverted fantasy quest novel, with the titular witch serving as the protagonist and leader of a motley band of adventurers including a demonic duck, a troll, an animated broom, and... a white knight. This is the inversion I spoke of. Instead of having the manly-man, angsty white knight lead the quest, he serves as the love interest and sidekick to the witch, who is in fact nameless for most of the novel.

It's at times a funny novel, at times a scary novel, and at times it even gets fantasy- imagining new worlds- right. It is always a fun novel. And as with Gil's All-Fright Diner, it is particularly good at making sex funny.

Thumbs up, all around. I commented to someone recently that I've been enjoying 50Books_POC a lot, and reading a lot of great books, but it's almost all been 'good books'. When I want to shut off my brain, stop wrestling with Rushdie, and read something comfortable, silly, and plotted straightforwardly I keep defaulting to old pulp fiction by white writers. But Martinez works well in that vein. And when I returned to Midnight's Children today it rippled with a new freshness because of my time away.

tags: a:martinez a lee, latino/a, mexican-american, fantasy
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
[personal profile] zeborah
New Zealand post-apocalyptic sf/fantasy: rabbit calicivirus has mutated and devastated the population of New Zealand while the rest of the world has succumbed to ebola. I love the early chapters especially for the way the communities get on with what's necessary to survive - this is no libertarian fantasy; people need each other. (It is a bit of a back-to-nature fantasy, otoh. One day I must write a post-apocalypse in which everyone realises that going back to nature sucks big time and desperately works to maintain as much technology as possible.) The black humour rang very true as well.

It did still have the "Manly men must protect themselves from packs of dogs and gangs of irredeemably bad guys" trope in abundance. Women were mostly there to proffer sage advice, be traumatised, get raped, and eventually marry and procreate. Speaking of procreation, the psychology behind the "After a huge population decline everyone has sex like bunnies" thing seemed way off - it was treated like an involuntary biological impulse, something akin to diarrhea; rather than being a comfort, a pleasure, a brief escape from horror, it's seen as a phase that they're hoping they'll get over as soon as possible.

On a broader scale, the supernatural cause behind the outbreak of the virus never felt adequately explained. It was all very vague from the start, but there I accepted it assuming the mystery would be explored and made clear. We did learn some, but I never thought we learned enough for the protagonist to be able to complete his quest and I couldn't even work out what he did do or why it worked. To be fair, the rules are different with faeries so this might just be my own ignorance of the Maeroero. But in a way this was actually almost a bit more travelogue-shaped than quest-shaped and reading it that way might be more satisfying.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
[personal profile] zeborah
(From the intro: "Witi Ihimaera is descended from Te Whānau A Kai, Te Aitanga A Mahaki, Rongowhakaata and Ngati Porou and has close affiliations with other Maori tribes.")

From my half-memories of reading this the first time, I thought of it as science fiction because of the time travel. But reading it now a second time, it really is much more fantasy. While some elements of the story I recognise as Maori mythology, others (like the Book of Birds and avian society) are pure invention, and other allusions could be either for all I know, or merge the two.

The prose is very colloquial and very New Zealand. It's broader than I'm used to and the humour isn't quite to my taste, so it felt a bit clunky to read. I also had problems with the relationship between the two main characters: although Skylark gets to call Arnie chauvinistic, she too readily succumbs to the heron's advice that she needs to "learn how to lose" - in other words don't be too clever, if you want to keep a guy you gotta flatter him.

But all in all, it's a quick and very fun read.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
[personal profile] zeborah
This is a children's/young-young adult fantasy novel (the publishers reckon 9-12 years which sounds right.) The shape of the plot is a standard dealing-with-school-bully one, but the elements that make it up are a lot of fun.

The supernatural folk are as multicultural as the human cast: Josefa's Vu from Fiji battling the mostly-Scottish Cu Sith; Ming's dragon from China helping; and bully Jack's "Elenpi"s, New Zealand-ified brownies making mischief. As a more minor character Marama may not have her own protective spirit (or at least doesn't know it) but she brings her own iwi's knowledge and confidence to the problems the kids face. (And it's a nice, casual touch that she, rather than any blonde Pākehā, is described as "the prettiest girl in the school".)

I also liked that, though Josefa's family doesn't play an active central role in the plot, they do play their parts and aren't relegated to being nothing but an obstacle to get around.
(ETA: Whoops, meant to link to the publisher's website.)
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
14. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Mistress of Spices

A sort-of fantasy novel about Tilo, a 'Mistress of Spices'- immortal, mystical women, trained in magic and secret knowledge, sent out into the world to help people. Tilo is sent to Oakland, California, where she slowly becomes personally involved in the lives of the people around her, and begins to reveal her own backstory.

This novel is very hard to describe, because it doesn't have much of a plot for most of its length. Instead, it's full of beautiful, poetic descriptions of spices and food, magic, Oakland and imaginary places like the Island where Mistresses are trained. Some parts are very realistic; others involve rampaging pirate queens or singing sea serpents. It took me a while to get into this book, because the beginning is very slow, but by the end I was in love. The language is incredibly evocative, and the resolution felt just right. I really grew to like the characters, particularly Tilo, who shows herself to be much more of a flawed human than any mystical fairy.

Highly recommended.
chomiji: An artists' palette with paints of many human skin colors. Caption: Create a world without racism (IBARW - palette)
[personal profile] chomiji

It's highly unlikely that Maxine Kiss would ever fall for a sparkly vampire.

Maxine is the latest scion of a millennia-old family of demon hunters who are always female. She is also a living embodiment of the trope "Good Is Not Nice." Aided by a quintet of specialized demons who have assisted the Hunters throughout their history, Maxine ruthlessly annihilates evil wherever she finds it, and then she and her Boys go looking for more. Their usual prey are zombies, which in this scenario are humans possessed by relatively weak demons, but greater demons are in just as much danger whenever Maxine detects them.

This is not to say that Maxine is cold-hearted. In fact, she is fiercely loving. But her vulnerabilities are those of many badass male characters: her friends, her loved ones, her sense of honor. It makes me ferociously happy that her femininity is not used as a weakness.

During the course of these three volumes, Maxine discovers that she might, in fact, be not only the latest of the Hunters, but the last. She uncovers secrets about her family and her ancestry, learns about some of the other major players in the fate of the world (and finds that some of them are much closer to her than she would ever have guessed), and kicks a lot of ass. This is an Earth in which demonic chaos is constantly lurking behind the scenes, but most people are going about their ordinary lives with no knowledge of it. There are lots of pop culture references and in-jokes, and sometimes I think that Liu is working some of her shticks a little too hard, but generally the storyline races along with vivid language and terrific momentum.

I've seen these billed as paranormal romance, but although there is a small amount of romance during the course of the series, these are probably better classified as urban fantasy. There's considerable violence, too.

[identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com
”A Native vampire! That is so cool!”

An enjoyably quirky vampire novel by an Anishinabe (Ojibwa) writer. Anishinabe teenager Tiffany Hunter has normal teenage problems: her mother took off a year ago, her father hates the white boy she’s dating (and the white boy, unbeknownst to Tiffany, is a real jerk), and she’s flunking all her classes. And one not-so-normal problem: the bed-and-breakfast tenant in the basement is a vampire.

Despite the very YA premise, I’m not sure this is really a YA novel. A lot of the humor comes from the adult writer’s recollection of how absurd it is to be a teenager; it’s not mean humor, but it is based on distance. It’s also, interestingly, in omniscient point of view and even has a section from the perspective of an owl.

I enjoyed the offbeat voice and sense of humor of this novel, though there was some clunky prose and the occasional overheated metaphor that may not have been funny in the way the author intended it to be. Or maybe it was! The deadpan style made it hard to tell. The vampire is not sparkly or glamorous, but creepy and sad, bearing the weight of history. He has a weakness for truly terrible vampiric double entendres, which, again, may or may not have been intended to be hilariously over the top. (“I have a lot of different types of blood flowing through my veins.”) Thankfully, the possibility of romance between him and Tiffany is not even raised.

The ending, though a bit anvillicious at points, also had moments of true beauty and power.

Uneven but worth reading, particularly if you’re tired of white vampires.

The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel


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