I just stumbled across the art of Ruan Jia this morning:
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
Oy. What do I say about this book? The reading of it is a story in itself, as were my expectations for it beforehand, and the interventions of my own life afterward. The book itself is in there, too, and there are things to say about it as well. Which stories do I tell?
I do not know very much about white privilege. As a white person, that is my privilege, though not one that does me much credit. I am only recently introduced to the concept, and, as might be expected, I find it sometimes confusing, sometimes upsetting, and, of course, insidious. So I am not certain whether to head my initial misgivings about the book under white privilege, latent racism, or my own tendency to resist change. But I suspect that all three probably had a hand in it.
I was not resistant to reading the book because of the author’s color or because of the color of any of the characters. I am not stupid enough to think people of color cannot write good fantasy, or that people of color can’t be in fantasy. My misgivings were more insidious (there’s that word again). I first heard about the book in a Whatever Big Idea post. My general impression of the post was that it was epic fantasy with girls in it. Now, I loves me some fantasy with girls in it. I read Sherwood Smith’s Crown Duel twice annually in late high school and early college, and Robin McKinley and Patricia McKillip are both favorite authors. On the other hand, I have read some truly shitty fantasy (which I am reluctantly leaving unnamed) that’s predicated on a “Girls R awesome! Boys smell!” mentality. I wasn’t sure which kind Jemisin wrote, but since I didn’t have a lot of reading time when the post came out, I didn’t feel like taking a risk on someone I didn’t know anything about. Continue reading
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
Well, aside from the baby lettuce, anyway. Harvested yesterday:
There was actually a fourth strawberry that I had let get a little over-ripe, so I ate it the day before. These strawberries are almost sweeter than I like. They’re so sweet and strongly flavored that I actually thought they tasted a little like artificial strawberry flavoring. They were pretty good with vanilla yogurt, though.
This may end up being the biggest strawberry harvest I get this go-round, since I just realized I’ve somehow managed to miss a whole spray of flowers when hand-pollinating. I blame the fact I was crazy busy last weekend. But! I do seem to be doing ok with pollinating the peppers, after missing the first one or two blooms. So there’s still more to come!