As you can see, it’s been two and a half years since I’ve posted here (not counting the changes I made to N.K. Jemisin’s book review, below). It’s been a busy two and a half years. I’ve switched jobs. (I think I’ve mentioned that.) I’ve had a parent receive and beat (for now) a cancer diagnosis. (I know I’ve mentioned that.) I’ve quit my job to focus on my writing, and then gotten divorced and had to go right back to work. (That’s new.) And through it all? This blog has been hanging around my neck like… a dead millstone, maybe? Not an albatross, I hope, but something dead and kind of smelly and decayed and very heavy.

I started this blog for two reasons. One was that my now-ex thought I needed to dig around in the confused soup of artistic impulses, nerdy fascinations, and career desperation that made my psyche at the time, and somehow create from that a “personal brand.” I hope, now that we are both older and wiser, we would both roll our eyes at the idea that a person should start a blog with the sole goal of becoming a “personal brand.” Since he’s not here and I don’t feel like taking a selfie, let’s let Liz Lemon take care of it for both of us:

The second reason was that if I was going to blog anyway, I might as well teach myself to write book reviews. This was terrible and went terribly. If this blog was just me nattering on about plants and pretty pictures I found on the internet, I might look back on it with affection. Instead. Most of my reviews are too long. I was trying to unapologetically acknowledge the parts of books that I disliked, because I thought I used too much moderating language. That may have been true, but that approach ended up with me yelling about a lot of books I wasn’t actually mad at. I do not, for the most part, stand by the reviews on this site. I seem to remember feeling like I did an ok job with Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge, but I’m afraid to go back and look at it, particularly since it was probably written 3 or 4 years ago now. And I think of the complete hatchet job I did on N.K. Jemisin’s Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and on Vonda McIntyre’s Starfarers, and I’m just filled with abject embarrassment. I still think Starfarers is silly, but it didn’t deserve the wordcount I gave to being upset about it. And I’ve already said that I was way too freaked out about a health crisis in the family to be trying to review Jemisin’s book when I did.

All of this is a typically long-winded way of saying, this blog is going away. Probably sometime this coming January. I wanted to get a post up here a little ahead of time, just in case anyone ever came by anymore. (And if that’s you, after two years of hiatus, I salute your loyalty!) To my mind, this blog is the blog of my twenties, and of my marriage. The marriage went away this year, and the twenties are going to follow close behind. It’s the right time to move on. I’ll probably blog again at some point, though if I do it will probably be under a different name because I’m a sockpuppet, anonymous internet coward, person who always wanted a pen name because my given name is hard to pronounce.

I’m not really sad the blog is about to vanish. It feels like an appropriate end to a very eventful and emotional year. I am sorry to any loyal readers I may have had; you deserved better in a lot of ways. If anyone wants to keep up with me from here on, my twitter account is definitely the best way to do that. My handle is @wordsmith85.

Thank you, and be blessed.

*Please note that I am writing this late at night (for me, an old person, anyway). Edits for clarity may occur in the next few days.

Book Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, Part II

Title: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Publisher: Orbit
Year: 2010
Grade: A

And now for the hard part: talking about the actual story. My final note before beginning my actual review is to say that I found out someone in my family had received a serious diagnosis only a few hours after finishing the book, so some of my memory has been obscured and clouded. However, with the book at my elbow as I right this, I think I can still write a tolerable review.

It is somewhat difficult to write about this book without being spoilery. I will do my very best, and will try to warn for major spoilers if they become inevitable.

Things I liked about this book:

1.) The love story. For some reason, I had not expected there to be a love story at all, and the one that transpires is surprising for everyone, the reader included. I found this aspect of the story to be particularly interesting as someone who has come quite recently to be interested in the romance genre, and who has become a semi-regular reader of Smart Bitches. I may write a much more spoilery post sometime in the future considering some of the ways in which the love story interacts with romance conventions and ideas. For the present, suffice it to say that I found the romance to be really indulgently fun, and I thought the associated sex scenes were well written, which is not a given in the genre.

2.) Sieh. Omg, Sieh. (Mild spoilers) I have a soft spot in my heart for Trickster stories anyway, but I think Sieh is currently my favorite. There is something so right about the trickster god being a child, and Jemisin does a kick-ass job of exploring what being a child-god would mean. I started reading her blog right about the time she was planning for her Sieh-themed party, and I am retroactively so sad I couldn’t be there. He is probably my favorite character. Continue reading

Book Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, Part I

Title: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Publisher: Orbit
Year: 2010
Grade: A

Having had over a year to think about this blog entry, I’ve decided to take it down. I had my doubts about its worth when I put it up, and those have only strengthened with time. I now think the entry that once occupied this space probably most clearly communicated that it is a bad idea to discuss things you don’t know much about, particularly when your own thoughts on them haven’t solidified and extra particularly when it is only a week after you’ve learned a parent is seriously ill. (Everyone is thankfully recovered now.) I should not have been blogging when I was so upset, and indeed, I was such a wreck after posting this blog that my husband suggested I take a break from the internet, which was probably some of the best advice he could have given me (thanks, hon!).

Part of my reason for posting had originally been to improve the book’s search rank, which I seem to remember the author had been requesting at about that time. So I’ll say here that N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is an engaging read with an interesting mix of sudsy fun and really dark social commentary and I would probably have enjoyed it more if circumstances were different. For a more in-depth review of my reactions after reading, see Part II of this review.

I am comfortable with removing this review in part because I am fairly certain that only bots read this site, so I am not removing some vital part of an ongoing debate. However, since I know the book’s author has Google Alert, it is possible that she has read it. If she has any questions or concerns, she can reach me on Twitter, where my handle is wordsmith85.



The Weekend Happy: Music and Dance

Work’s been busy. We’ve been working to get a new part of the site ready to launch next week, so I’ve had a lot to do. I’ve called California more times in the last two weeks than  have at any other time in my entire life. I can tell I’ve made the right decision, though. Underneath all the stress and the long hours of data entry and of searching other people’s websites for information that should be easy to find but isn’t and of calling people who’ve never heard of me and who are afraid I’m trying to sell them something, I feel much more peaceful than I did even during some of the less stressful periods at my last job. I no longer feel like a worthless sack of meat that gets punted around by people who don’t understand my job and don’t care to find out what I do or what I might like to do. I chose this job, I enjoy it, and I am being allowed to do well at it. There’s things I’m still learning and getting used to, but I am still so excited to be doing the work I’m doing, and I hope our funding works out so I can keep doing it!

I suppose none of that strictly has to do with the Weekend Happy, but it does perhaps explain why I’ve felt myself drawn to some of the quieter and more peaceful expressions of music and dance this weekend.

The whole thing started when Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches tweeted a link to a tango number. Now, in the right mood, I will watch most any dance number, as I have just enough dance experience of my own to be able to identify “difficult,” “talented,” and “well-executed,” which I think helps a great deal in the appreciation of any art. Plus, I really loved dancing, and while I would never in a million years want it for a career, seeing other people do it well makes me happy. I don’t know a great deal about tango, and most times when people post links, they’re to routines that emphasize just how sexually charged tango can be. (This video in particular is quite popular, and I admit I enjoy it quite a lot, and am always reminded that this is a dance movie I haven’t seen yet.) So when I watched the video Sarah posted, I was a little surprised, and ultimately quite charmed:

The music and the couples’ attitude combine to create such a tenderly romantic dance. For the first time, I kind of wanted to learn the tango.

Continue reading

Comfort Re-read: Od Magic by Patricia McKillip

Now that my mind is not constantly taken up with the job search or the many discomforts of my old job, I finally feel I have time to read again. I’ve been reading a new book on the bus to and from work, but the changes of starting a new job have made me long for the comfort of a favorite re-read as well. After casting about for a while, I finally decided on Od Magic, one of my favorite McKillip books, and the only book of hers so far to have a quote get copied into my quote book:

Sorrow was like sleeping on stones, he decided. You had to settle all its bumps and sharp edges, come to terms against them, shift them around until they became bearable, and then carry your bed wherever you went.

Lest that make the book sound too bleak, I’ll just say it also includes a gardener who doesn’t know his own power, a wizard who begins to worry that he has failed to live up to the talents that first brought him notice, a frustrated and adventurous princess, a good cop, and a performing magician who might be practicing illegal magic or might just be skilled at illusion–who can say? And many more, including Od herself.

Here is one character’s first glimpse of the magician’s daughter:

       A swirl of color caught his eye. A woman rode past him, and he stopped. She seemed surrounded by coils of light, his confused eyes told him. Then he amended that to streams of finest silk, flowing from her wrists and hair and ankles, held by various figures in voluminous skirts who spun, now and then, forming circles as round as the moon with their skirts, as the streamers of silk in their hands fashioned their own dance around the rider.
She turned a little in her saddle to look back at Yar. Her exquisite face seemed real and unreal at once: a porcelain mask, or skin so pale she might have been kin to the moon. Her eyes caught torchlight, blazed a warm, lucent amber, then faded dark as eyeholes in a mask. Her hair, a long, rippling flow behind her, seemed to have caught the jugglers’ stars in it like a great, dark net.
What are you? he thought amazedly.
She turned her face away from him at the question. He stood there watching the swirls of light and shadow weaving around her until she passed in the shadow of the gate and he could move again.

Thoughts on Being Stuck on the Fire Level of Ristar

1.) I have played the first few seconds of this level so many damn times that Ristar looks like a total BAMF for all of about 50 seconds or so. He’s totally like an adorable little star-faced James Bond.

2.) Seriously, he just flips right down into that little control room and takes out the guard at the switch, and then fucking BLOWS UP the little green evil minion pooper, and then he fights through booby traps and DOES IT AGAIN. Ristar WILL KICK YOUR ASS.

3.) Is that green canister like a little green bad guy nursery? Does Ristar commit some kind of genocide when he blows it up? WHAT IS THIS SUBTEXT?

4.) I hate that whenever Ristar has to wait for a few seconds, he slumps to the ground and wipes his brow. I’M SORRY RISTAR I CAN’T GO ANY FASTER. ALSO SORRY YOU DIE SO MUCH. You deserve a better player than me. *sob*

5.) There’s open flames everywhere, and bad guys who are trying to set you on fire and smash into you. You have a task that you have to complete, but every time you try it, you die. And are send back to the beginning to start over again. Some kind of mash-up of Christian hell and the Sisyphus myth?

6.) Only knowing that the music level comes next is keeping me going. That and the fact that I am finally starting to make very. slow. progress.

7.) The little lead decoy is nice for tripping the booby traps, but does using it properly HAVE to mean that it is exactly in the way of whatever the next step is? I cannot tell you how many times I have thrown the damn decoy at an enemy (which does nothing) instead of grabbing the enemy himself and SMASHING HIM INTO MY FACE. (Oh I really do love this game.)

8.) Jump up and grab. Such a simple concept. You’d think I’d be up to it.

9.) Why yes, I AM thoroughly enjoying my first two-day weekend in a month. Why do you ask? :P

For the curious, I have only made it to about the 1 minute mark of this 7 minute walk-through. Please note that the actual game has *much* higher image quality.

New Things

I realized it had been a while since I updated on here, and while I don’t have the brain to add much, I thought I’d at least duck my head in the door and give a quick update.

I quit my job this week. I love libraries and I love what they stand for, and this decision was a hard one for me to make. But various factors–particularly the departmental transfer I mentioned over the summer–have made it pretty clear that for me and for this library, it’s time to move on. I’ve accepted a job working for this website as, essentially, a web content manager. I’m really excited about the work I’ll be doing, and it seems so far like the people and the overall atmosphere are pretty awesome. As in, almost dreamily tailor-made to exactly where I like to work awesome.

This blog will remain my personal blog, as unaffiliated with my new job as it was with the library. But hey! New horizons, and something much closer to what I got my degree in and what I like to do. Though obviously this new work will affect my blogging (I’ll be going from 30 hrs a week to working full time for one thing), my goal is to keep going once the turmoil of the transition period wears off. (Nobody told me that switching jobs involved so much paperwork.)

And, for those who’d really rather I stopped talking about myself, here’s a link to a letter from a former slave to his old master. It’s a masterpiece. Read it for yourself.

From the Department of OmNomNom

This is the recent invention of which I am most proud:

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a frozen waffle (toasted), topped with a layer of creamy peanut butter, topped with three-quarters of a sliced banana, drizzled with chocolate syrup.

It is deeeelicious! And, best of all, it has a banana on it, so it’s healthy! *cough* That’s how that works, right?

The Weekend Happy: Mark Reads

Somewhat in honor of the fact that Friday/Saturday represent my last regularly-scheduled two-day weekend until June, I’ve spent most of the last two days on the computer, doing nothing. Or really, doing things that made me happy but did essentially nothing to better my lot in life in any way. And, since they made me happy, I thought I’d share!

First off, a quick plug for the totally awesome blog/ger Mark Reads. I first heard of him because someone on Twitter (I think cleolinda, who is awesome in her own right) linked to his current read-through, which is LOTR. If, like me, you are a nerdy nerd who cannot resist any read-through of Tolkien, then I highly recommend you give it a look. He’s only recently started The Fellowship of the Ring, so there’s not too much to catch up on. (I am pleased, though, that he has already read [SPOILERS AT LINK] The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm, as that is probably one of my favorite chapters in all of literature.)

However, since there CLEARLY WAS NOT ENOUGH LOTR yet, but I was enjoying Mark’s reactions (in part because they’re so similar to mine, yeah yeah yeah narcissism GO BOIL YER HEADS) I decided to read pretty much his entire read-through of the whole Harry Potter series. That took me most of yesterday evening and all of today. (And no, I didn’t read every entry, but I definitely read the vast majority.) This ended up being a really interesting exercise, in part because Mark apparently started the HP read-through immediately after finishing one of the Twilight series, and his resulting hatred of all things everywhere is really apparent in his first few Sorcerer’s Stone reviews. (Don’t have links for the Twilight reviews, sorry, GO FIND YOUR OWN.) (Some of Mark’s exuberant writing style may have rubbed off on me, but I’m rolling with it. After all, spending all day reading CAPSLOCK PARTIES and omgomg KEYBOARD SMASHslskfhaoihakdklsd has got to have some sort of effect on a person.)

But as I was saying, it was interesting to watch Mark’s progression from “exaggerated kidzbook lol” to “HAGRID LOVE” and on through to “OMG WHY DO I CARE ABOUT THIS SO MUCH PLEASE BE OK PLEASE BE OK AUUUUGHHHH.” It really drove home the point that I’ve been increasingly embarrassed to defend: J.K. Rowling may have faults as a writer, but she writes a damn good story. Over the past few years, I’ve somehow stumbled into a portion of the internet that tolerates Harry Potter while at the same time feeling the need to point out that the world-building sucks and the writing sucks and the themes suck and I hope to god you grow out of this damn story because I can’t really stand its immaturity. Which has actually been really depressing. I mean, I’ve always known there were weaknesses in Rowling’s writing, particularly after Book 3. That Triwizard Tournament drags on and on and ON. Along about the time Harry’s trying to figure out the egg, I got really bored. And when he’s angsty in Order of the Phoenix, I wanted to shake him until his teeth rattled, though that may have been because I was still an angsty teenager myself at the time. And Half-Blood Prince is episodic and is basically just exposition for Deathly Hallows, which has long boring sections that are just camping (though I actually think the boredom of the camping sections is brilliant and necessary but that’s a separate rant which would probably lead me to spoilery discourses on LOTR as well). And as much as I hate Umbridge with white-hot hatred (well done, Rowling), I found her encounter with the centaurs to be problematic right from the get-go.

What I’m trying to say is that yes, there are problems, of course there are. The books could probably have used a bit more editing, though when you have a project with the incredible scope of this series, it’s not unusual for it to kind of get away from people. But the story, for all its flaws, is still powerful, it still tries to deal with hard, dark issues from a place of honesty and compassion, and when it’s at its best, it succeeds. And it was so wonderful, so incredibly affirming of everything that I love about reading and about fantasy and about Harry Potter, to watch Mark fall under Rowling’s spell. And, as a writer myself, it gave me hope that even when I fuck shit up and make people mad and write in subtext that I don’t mean but is there anyway and get overwhelmed with my project and struggle through anyway, I can still, somehow, create something that will do some people good.

And, as I stare down the barrel of a really, really unpleasant-looking next couple months (barring some change), a little hope that we can create things that will do each other good is not such a bad thing. Thank you, Mark Oshiro.