Why hello

I have sort of gotten over my reading slump, but I’ve been so focused on following the news from Ferguson that I haven’t really had the time or mental energy to read or write much here.

However, I will say that in the middle of a horrible few weeks, the Hugo Awards which were announced on Sunday made made quite happy. Not so much necessarily because of the specific awards given–although HUZZAH for Ancillary Justice and a double win for Kameron Hurley!–but because they seemed to be rewarding the kind of work and creators I think ought to be rewarded.

And I just finished Andrea Host’s Stray, having made a conscious decision to spend the morning actually reading a book (plus it is an ILL and due back on Friday). Great story, great characters. I’ll definitely have more to say about this one, hopefully soon.

Finally, I applied to be a judge for the Cybils again, and you can too! There’s more information here. I’ve been both a first and second round judge for the YA Fiction category and can definitely say that the experience has been challenging, but in the best and most rewarding sense.

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Notes of a personal sort

I am in a bit of a slump, reading-wise. Well, I am in a bit of a slump everything wise. Not sure if it’s summer (ugh) or the state of the world or just the mood of the moment, but regardless, I’d be fine with some enthusiasm showing up. All of that to say, I haven’t been posting quite as regularly lately. I did start Gillian Bradshaw’s Dark North and I love the premise and the beginning, but it lacks focus which is not helping things. Likewise, I am forcing myself through the sleeves for my Pretty (Me) sweater and would just like them to be done now, thanks.

HOWEVER! I do have cool, exciting news. I’ve been working as an part-time assistant for the Plainfield Public Library for the past few years and they recently offered me a job as a full time programmer for tweens and homeschoolers. We have a great teen area and program, but some kids are too young or not quite ready to be there, and I’ll be focusing on meeting that need, as well as developing relationships with local homeschoolers. I’m a bit nervous, but mostly excited and very honored as well.

This probably won’t affect posting here much, but I may morph my library display feature into more of a general library + programming thing. We’ll see.


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Links from around the web: 8-11-14

- I had already read most of these quotes from JRR Tolkien on fantasy and fairy tales, but it’s nice to see them gathered.

- The costume history nerd in me rejoices in this wonderful essay about Victorian hair art and mourning traditions.

- The costume history/costume drama nerd in me also rejoices in this website dedicated to Recycled movie costumes. If you don’t find the fact that North and South, Bleak House, and Return to Cranford all feature the same gorgeous stripey outfit fascinating, well. That speaks for itself.

- Not one but TWO gorgeous fanarts for the Lynburn Legacy books: Kami and Jared. (both via Sarah Rees Brennan’s Tumblr)

- I liked Sage Blackwood’s advice for looking for an agent quite a bit. Very level-headed and practical.

- On to more serious matters. First, Lee and Low put out a great infographic about the Diversity gap in SFF films. Yikes. (via Leila Roy)

- I had Elizabeth Ebony’s ‘”Why is Rue a Little Black Girl?” – The Problem of Innocence in the Dark Fantastic’ on my list to include here for a few weeks. At the moment it feels almost hideously relevant, but do go read it anyway. It’s a clear breakdown of a problem that plagues both kidlit and readers’ reactions to it. (via Liz Burns)

- And then there are the recent posts on Storytime Underground about librarianship and racism. Both are excellent but I was especially struck by Maggie Block’s What it means to be an anti-racist children’s librarian.

- I haven’t personally come across gamification in real life, but I found myself nodding along to this article. (via Liz Burns)

- Okay, if you need something to cheer you up, may I suggest the following video?

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The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

girls at the kingfisherThis is the story of twelve sisters, but mostly it is the story of Jo.

This is the story of twelve sisters who escape from their home to go dancing until dawn.

They have to escape, because they’re not allowed out, because their mother is dead and their father’s kindness is more terrifying than anything else.

They can escape because Jo organizes it. She is the General; she never dances; she is her father’s daughter.

This is a story about hard choices, about love, about saving yourself, and about saving each other.

I didn’t think at a certain point that this story could end with any kind of happiness. And it’s true that I’m crying now, because there are parts of it that hurt. But there’s hope, too, and unlikely victories. Halfway through the book, I knew I couldn’t stop reading until the end.

One of the things I love is how clearly this is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, without being tied to its source. The Twelve Dancing Princesses is one of my favorite fairy tales partly because it is so clearly about sisters; that the relationship between the twelve girls is more important than any of the others. And, in all its prickly, fraught, wonderful glory, that’s exactly what we see here. It’s the center that the book is written around. I recognized sisterhood, which both is and is not friendship.

And I loved Jo. She is also prickly and hard and sometimes even cruel. But she’s completely real and compelling and also heartbreaking. Her loneliness at certain points was almost palpable. I ached for her to have a happy ending, more than any of the other girls, and I didn’t know how she possibly could.

And the voice is pitch-perfect, both the bits of 20s slang and the calm-on-the-surface narration that goes down smoothly and then burns. (“It frightened her how deep her sobs could reach, as if someone was pulling sorrow from her bones.”) There’s just enough distance to keep us worried, to keep us wondering.

There’s a depth and richness to this book that makes me want to talk about it for ages. The settings–the house, the different nightclubs, the way the girls interact with each space. The tension between the freedom the girls find dancing and the careful negotiation of the men they dance with. The blatant corruption of the city and how Jo has to find her way in it. The fact that no one turns into a caricature, even the unkind characters, and so there’s no easy way out.

And I loved that the story isn’t bitter. It’s not a manifesto. It’s too clear-sighted for that, too aware of complexities. Instead it has layers upon layers (the way the girls’ father deals with them (that moment when he realizes he has to face all twelve (that moment when he’s caught in his own trap) and how Jo and Tom maneuver him into that) how all his plans backfire on him because people are stronger and smarter and braver than you expect them to be), and each one adds another shade to the picture.

All of my recent favorite stories, the ones I keep thinking about and thinking about, have these common themes: bravery and resistance. Rose Under Fire (that moments when the lights go out), The Goblin Emperor (Maia choosing kindness again and again), heck, Captain America (when the tech says no, knowing he might get killed). It’s here too: the courage to escape, the choice to go out into the dark night and dance and dance and dance.

Book source: public library
Book information: 2014, Atria Books; pubb’d adult but great YA crossover material

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
Ana @ Things Mean A Lot


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Top Ten Tuesday: Books for people who haven’t read historical fantasy

This is a post for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. You can find out more and follow along there!

Historical fantasy, a cross-over genre of historical fiction and fantasy, is one of my favorites! It’s such a diverse genre, with so many different time periods and ways to approach the idea. Here are some of my favorites.

If you tend to like historical fiction:
sorcery and cecelia1. Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer: An epistolary novel set in Regency England. This one is basically Georgette Heyer with magic, and it is awesome.

lav2. Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin: Lavinia retells the story of the Aeneid from the point of view of Aeneas’s second wife. It gives her a voice and brings her to life in a marvelous way.

bloodline rising3. Bloodline and Bloodline Rising by Katy Moran: Set in Constantinople and Britain, this duology tells the story of a father and son. Lots of historical details, plus a great main character and a nice exploration of family.

seraphina4. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: Late medieval/early Renaissance Europe with dragons! And music! And houppelandes! Plus, a wonderful main character, a quiet romance, and lots of political tension. I am a fan, and you should be too.

perilous gard5. The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope: This is one of the first historical fantasy books I ever read, and it’s still one of my favorites. An Elizabethan retelling of Tam Lin, with gorgeous writing. Kate and Christopher are some of my favorite characters of all time, and you should really just read it now.

If you tend to like fantasy:
Foundling6. The Factotum Trilogy by D.M. Cornish: Cornish’s Lamplighter/Monster Blood Tattoo/Factotum books are great. Set in a world that looks a bit like the Baroque era, this is a lush, sweeping story with a wealth of worldbuilding details and a unique coming of age story.

stolen magic7. Kat, Incorrigible and its sequels by Stephanie Burgis: If you like Sorcery and Cecelia, this is probably right up your alley. Kat and her sisters must contend with a magical legacy, a Stepmama, and villainous magicians. Rollicking fun, but with an unexpectedly serious heart.

jonathan strange8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke: If the idea of systems of magic makes you geek out a little bit, this is a good book for you. Also, it’s one of the best books for catching the flavor of a certain type of magic. And bonus points for one of my favorite endings ever.

peculiar9. The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann: Bachmann does a wonderful job creating this magical and convincing world, and he has a lovely sense of voice as well. This is a lovely and impressive debut.

TheThief10. The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner: These are more loosely based on historical fact, but I’m putting them on this list anyway. Set in a Byzantineish world, they’re the story of Gen the Thief, and they only get better as the series goes on.

paladin11. The Curse of Chalion and its sequels by Lois McMaster Bujold: I couldn’t resist adding these. The first especially is one of Bujold’s best books, in my opinion, and its setting (based on late medieval/Renaissance Spain) is wonderful.

You can also check out this YA-centric guide from Stacked.


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July 2014 reading list

Books I’ve already talked about
Picture Book Monday
Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale
Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks
Biggest Flirts by Jennifer Echols
Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly
Alchemy of Fire by Gillian Bradshaw
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
I also re-read all of Laura Florand’s books in preparation for this guest post
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Exiles at Home by Hilary McKay
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (and I shared some favorite quotes on Tumblr)
A Posse of Princesses by Sherwood Smith–on this read, the judgement of the other girls annoyed me a bit
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Other books
Deliverer by C.J. Cherryh: I don’t remember this book. All of the Bren Cameron stories are starting to meld together a bit. I enjoyed it, because I’ve found the most recent books in the series to be excellent, but I couldn’t tell you which one this is to save my life.

A Lily Among Thorns by Rose Lerner: My friend B. recommended Rose Lerner to me, and specifically A Lily Among Thorns, since she knows I like Cecilia Grant’s books a lot. And yes, I did very much liked this one! It’s a more grounded version of Regency romances–not a duke or a marquess in sight (well, one or two, sort of). I had to strain my credulity a tad at the end, but I was happy to do so.

Princeless, vol. 1 by Jeremy Whitley: Graphic novel about a black princess who takes off with the dragon that’s supposed to be guarding her tower. If you sat up and said, “ooh!”, then this is for you. While I didn’t feel that it went very deep, I really liked the thoughtful commentary on families and narratives and choices.

The Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay: I’ve really enjoyed Kay’s sweeping historical fantasies in the past, especially the Sarantium duology. Many of the same elements are present in this one, but I didn’t personally feel all that invested in the characters, and I felt somewhat irked by the way the incidental peasant appeared, had their entire life summed up (significant events occurring only in proximity to the main characters, of course), and was dismissed.

The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson: Historical fiction about the Blue Plague (cholera) epidemic in London in the 1850s, and the scientific advances that led to its halt. Unfortunately, characters and plot take a back seat to Historical Details. I ended up wishing that this had simply been non-fiction, since it would have been much more engaging without also trying to be a story.

The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones: I apparently have never reviewed this book here! In fact, I’m not entirely sure if I’ve read it before. It’s a bit of a weird one, but as the story of a blended family learning to live with each other. There are some attitudes about corporal punishment that will likely read as old-fashioned to many people; I noticed them, but they didn’t jolt me out of the story, personally speaking.

Major Crush by Jennifer Echols: Brandy read this one recently and I realized that although I’ve read almost all of Echols’s other books, I hadn’t tried this one. It definitely reads as a first novel, in retrospect, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Certainly not the strongest of her books, but if you’re looking for an entertaining romance, it’s one to check out.


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A tour of my bookshelves

One of the joys of living in my own place is having the room to spread out and unpack all of my books. Some of them have been in boxes for four years! Some I recently acquired and had been in stacks on the floor of my bedroom. Now that I’m moved in and have acquired several more bookshelves, they’re all out and it’s quite delightful. So here is a tour of my bookshelves, currently. (No doubt I will have to keep expanding, because for some reason I keep ending up with more books.)


Let’s start in the living room. This one is actually my library book shelf, although I have some random referency non-fiction and music books on the bottom.100_4074

100_4076Then there’s this one, which my godmother spotted sitting on the side of the road. We picked it up and she cleaned it off for me. Now it has classics, poetry, and craft books. Also extra knitting supplies underneath, where they’re hidden.

100_4079Moving on to the bedroom. There’s only one bookshelf in here, but it’s got my favorite authors on it. I may have to start an auxiliary shelf, though, or only put my absolute favorite books from each other on this one, because I’m already running out of space.

(Close-ups of the books)

100_4084I also have an extra room, which I’m using as a study/library. I was astonished to find that the rest of my collection basically fits on these two bookshelves! On the right, we have: children’s classics, followed by adult fiction and biographies.

100_4083On the left, YA fiction, followed by picture books. I have more picture books than I realized, most of which came from a weeding project at work.

100_4077Last, but not least, we have my collection of cookbooks. I don’t buy nearly all the cookbooks I want to, because those things are expensive! But I do own several newer ones and a few classics. Also a Mary Poppins themed cookbook and a Beatrix Potter cookbook, because I can’t escape my nerdiness even when cooking.


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