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the real kwon
04 December 2016 @ 03:05 pm
In last week's resurrected You're Beautiful costume polls, our favorite crossdressing nun Go Mi Nam pulled out her very first victory. The audience has spoken: the elfin poncho of woe is this winter's must-have accessory!

Congratulations, Go Mi Nam, and enjoy your victory while you rest on your laurels this episode; you earned it.

Top five You"re Beautiful episode 8 costumes under the cutCollapse )

This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/456400.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comment count unavailable comments on Dreamwidth.
the real kwon
03 December 2016 @ 06:25 pm
A month or two ago, I went to the Yiddish Book Center for an archives conference that happened to be hosted there.

The idea of collecting Yiddish books was first conceived of by Aaron Lansky in the late 1970s, when Yiddish books were being thrown away by the thousands as a generation of Yiddish-speaking immigrants were starting to die and leave their possessions to children who didn't see a point in keeping a lot of books around that they couldn't read. Lansky -- at that time a graduate student in Eastern European Jewish Studies who was having a near-impossible time actually getting his hands on any Yiddish books to read -- put out a call in his hometown that if people were thinking of throwing away their Yiddish books, they should send them to him instead. Pretty soon, the story goes, his parents called to tell him that he had to figure out another solution because they were fairly sure the second floor of their house was about to cave in from the weight of the books that people were passing onto them. The Book Center, as it now exists, seeks out Yiddish books and digitizes them; sorts titles to identify unique ones; provides copies of Yiddish books to other libraries; runs a translation program to print Yiddish titles in English; and runs cultural and educational programs, among a bunch of other stuff.

I can't speak Yiddish -- it's a language lost to me by several generations -- but I've been starting to look into classes; I'd give a lot to be able to read Yiddish books. Until then, the next-best thing is reading about Yiddish books, so I put Aaron Lansky's Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books on library reserve.

Anway, last weekend [personal profile] aquamirage and I went to go see the Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof, and it was amazing, and all my Yid-lit feelings came roaring to the surface again. I came home and immediately picked up Outwitting History, which turns out to be a relatively light and cheerful collection of anecdotes about salvaging a language and culture that has at several points throughout the 20th century been the target of brutal and deliberate extinction. This is entirely in keeping with the general tone of Yiddish literature, which is often funny and depressing and uplifting and pessimistic all at once. (After seeing Fiddler, [personal profile] aquamirage said, 'I knew the whole plot but I didn't know how funny it was going to be!') So, you know. Come for the cute stories about enthusiastic elderly Jews stuffing the faces of bemused book-collectors with kugel and borscht, but stay for stuff like the first shipment of Yiddish books back to the Soviet Union after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/456053.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comment count unavailable comments on Dreamwidth.
the real kwon
29 November 2016 @ 09:01 pm
Some of you who were around here in 2011 may remember when I used to do tv fashion costume polls. I got all the way through sixteen episodes of my beloved flora-fedora-filled Capital Scandal and six episodes into You're Beautiful, the kdrama featuring a nun who joins the world's most amazingly-dressed boyband, before grad school proved to be enough of a timesuck that I gave up.

Well, it is a dark time, friends, and as a result, I have been rewatching You're Beautiful with [personal profile] tenillypo, and AS A RESULT, I think it is time -- half a decade later! -- that I finish what I began five years ago, because I personally feel I could use some quality time with some really astounding fashion and I'm guessing I'm not the only one.

Let me start by catching you up on the winners of the first six You"re Beautiful costume polls.Collapse )

So ... now that you all have a sense of what you can expect, who's ready to THROW DOWN with You're Beautiful, episode 7?

Top five outfits from You"re Beautiful, Episode 7, under the cutCollapse )

And the ultimate most fabulous costume of You're Beautiful, Episode Seven is ...

This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/455473.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comment count unavailable comments on Dreamwidth.
the real kwon
23 November 2016 @ 01:10 pm
It has taken [personal profile] shati and me over a year to watch Sandglass after my surprise-kdrama-fan colleague dropped it on my desk one morning in 2015. I'm honestly not sure if it's great or terrible timing that it worked out so that we finished it right after the election, but here we are!

Sandglass aired in 1995, and focuses on the political oppression and corruption of 1970s and 80s Korea. It's notable for:

- interpolating archival footage of significant events, most significantly the Gwangju Uprising, in with footage shot for the show
- breaking a fifteen-year media silence about said significant events
- influencing the prosecution of the former president responsible for aforementioned significant events, who eventually ended up jailed for the abuses committed during his regime
- being one of the most overwhelmingly popular dramas in Korean history
- launching the career of the beautiful and impressively eyebrowed Go Hyun-jung, previously seen on this blog as Seju Mishil, ruthless aspirant to the throne of Korea!

Here of course she is just starting out, and therefore Go Hyun-jung"s character Yoon Hye-Rin is only ruthlessly aspiring to control of a casino empireCollapse )

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the real kwon
17 November 2016 @ 08:00 pm
To continue the trend of catch-up reviewing fluff I've read over the past month, the Cecelia and Kate novels recently came out in super-cheap omnibus edition, so I spent my work trip back in September rereading them for the first time in about 12 years.

For those unfamiliar, Sorcery and Cecelia: or, the Enchanted Chocolate Pot is basically the ur-example of the Regency fantasy genre recently taken up by such folks as Mary Robinette Kowal and Galen Beckett. It's an epistolary novel co-written by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, featuring two sprightly young Regency cousins, one of whom (Kate) goes to London to have her Season with a melodramatic magician, while the other (Cecelia) stays home, starts picking up magic, and bickers with a cranky local squire. Kate and Cecelia write each other copious letters to complain about their respective love interests, gossip about their aunts and siblings, and exchange information regarding important magical conspiracies and also about important new dress patterns, and it's all incredibly charming.

Subsequently Wrede and Stevermer wrote two sequels, The Grand Tour and The Mislaid Magician, or: Ten Years After, which are still enjoyable but do not have the same spark. The Grand Tour is written as a combination of diary (Kate) and court deposition (Cecelia) about events that occurred on their honeymoon trip, which means, first of all, that the book feels sort of unbalanced, because Kate is going on and on in her diary about her magical new nights with her new husband while Cecelia is like OK PALS HERE'S THE FACTS; but also, second of all, neither format really works as well as epistolary for conveying either the voices of the characters or the dynamic between the cousins. Like, they spend all book in the same place, but they don't actually spend much time talking to each other. Which is sort of frustrating!

The Mislaid Magician is better, because it's back to epistolary, but it also incorporates letters from the respective husbands (James and Thomas) along with the ones between Kate and Cecelia, and -- well. Hmmm. You know, I used to like James and Thomas a lot? And it's not that I dislike them now, but all the things they sort of take for granted as Regency dudes grates on me much more now than it did when I was 18. They're not awful! They're perfectly fine! But Sorcery and Cecelia, both Kate and Cecelia spend a great deal of time challenging and deflating the assumptions and self-importance of their love interests, and once they're married -- especially with Thomas and Kate, of whose married relationship we see a great deal more -- it settles into much more of a Regency household status quo. Like, there's a sort of layer of paternalism, an assumption of the husband's rights to Forbid Things and Act Protectively that is of course thoroughly plausible, and it's probably likewise plausible that it wouldn't bother Kate. But it bothers me, a little, though not enough to ruin the books.

This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/454234.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comment count unavailable comments on Dreamwidth.
the real kwon
16 November 2016 @ 09:10 pm
I had to do a separate post for Jennifer Crusie's Agnes and the Hitman, because a.) it was not included in the omnibus and b.) it's not just a Jennifer Crusie book, it was co-written with military suspense author Bob Mayer, and c.) it is SLAPSTICK MURDER BANANAS. Think, like, The Sopranos meets Bringing Up Baby.

Our Heroine in Agnes and the Hitman is a food columnist who writes under the name Cranky Agnes, who is about to get married to a mediocre dude in order to land an amazing house and a great line of best-selling co-written cookbooks.

Suddenly: a guy turns up and attempts to kidnap her dog!

In response, Agnes accidentally murders him by hitting him on the head with a frying pan!

Unfortunately, Agnes has qualms about calling the police, as this not the first time that Agnes has hit a guy in the head with a frying pan.


Anyway. Instead of the cops, Agnes calls in her lovable gangster faux-uncle, who subsequently calls in his actual nephew, a stoic hit man. Shane the hit man is supposed to watch out for Agnes until they figure out why criminals keep turning up at her house and attempting to murder her and/or kidnap her dog.

MEANWHILE, Agnes is mostly just annoyed because all these criminals, gang members, hit men, and murder are getting in the way of her real goals: catering a perfect wedding for the daughter of her best friend, mob princess Lisa Livia!

Further plot points include catering mishaps, a million-dollar missing mob necklace, Lisa Livia's mob-widow mother's ongoing attempts to sabotage the wedding, a mysterious murder bunker/basement in which Lisa Livia's mob-widow mother may or may not have murdered Lisa Livia's mobster father, Agnes' accidental adoption of a confused teenage gangster who initially turned up as part of the chain of would-be-murderers in her house, the health inspector's legitimate concerns about all this catering being done in a house which has so very recently had so much murder in it, and the surprise arrival of a lonely flamingo in a box.

Oh, and to add to the chaos, Shane the stoic hit man and his partner (a slightly older, more philosophical hit man who's along for the ride) are engaged in an ongoing battle with their OWN murder assignment. However, Shane also helps Agnes get a new air conditioner and thoughtfully runs various catering-related errands without being asked, so everyone is agreed that he's a good egg really. And, to be honest, he does come off as one of the most endearing Jennifer Crusie romantic prospects I've encountered thus far!

This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/453923.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comment count unavailable comments on Dreamwidth.
the real kwon
15 November 2016 @ 09:49 pm
Before my last big work trip, I got out a Jennifer Cruise four-in-one bundle from the library, because the library had it in e-book and I figured I would need something escapist to read on my travel adventures.

...that was a much simpler time, when I really believed my biggest stressor this fall was going to be too many transcontinental flights, but we'll let this pass for now. Anyway! Jennifer Crusie, her earliest endeavors. This four-pack includes:

Getting Rid of Bradley: in which a woman who has finally ended her relationship with her ex-husband, Terrible Controlling Bradley, finds out he might be involved in Shady Dealings by virtue of accidentally attacking the policeman investigating the aforementioned Shady Dealings. The policeman then moves into her house as a bodyguard and decides he loves a.) her, b.) domesticity, c.) her dogs, in approximately that order. Eventually they adopt more dogs. It's quite cute.

Strange Bedpersons: in which a liberal teacher becomes the fake fiancee of her conservative lawyer love interest, with a side plot about our heroine Tess taking on a neoconservative author who's written a book making fun of the activist fairy tale that inspired her as a kid. I was kind of :/ about this one even before political happenings in the US made it completely impossible for me to find Conservative Lawyer Nick in ANY WAY appealing as a love interest for Tess. On the other hand, all the scenes in which Nick attempts to do something that he thinks he is helpful that in fact is wildly contrary to Tess' interests or style while his uber-efficient secretary is like 'this is a bad idea, she won't like this, LET ME JUST DO SOMETHING FOR HER THAT SHE'LL LIKE' gave me a great alternate ship. Has anyone written the billionaire romance novel in which the billionaire's uber-efficient secretary who is effectively running the romance for him ends up stealing the heroine out from under his nose? Someone should write that billionaire romance novel.

What the Lady Wants: a love letter to noir, in which a femme fatale hires a PI to investigate her uncle's murder!! ... except she's secretly pretty sure that he wasn't actually murdered, she just wants to find a missing document, and the PI is actually just a real estate agent who's taken a year off to play PI on a bet. Also, gangsters. The noir trappings in this one are fun even if I did not like the hero at all; I think Jennifer Crusie was going for 'fun forties banter' but he tipped a little too far over into asshole early on for me and never quite pulled himself out enough.

Charlie All Night: in which love and hijinks among the oddballs who work at a local radio station! So of course I was going to like this one. Our heroine is a producer; our hero is the new late-night radio host who is secretly only there to investigate crimes at the station and does not actually want to be famous or successful at all, but it is TOO LATE, curse his velvety chocolate voice! Also notable for the fact that a.) it includes an actual gay character and b.) notably in a collection that also includes Getting Rid of Bradley and What the Lady Wants (theft! gangsters! murder!), the crime in this book just turns out to be that spoilersCollapse )

Over the course of reading these four books -- plus Agnes and the Hitman, which I also read, on which more anon -- I have learned that Jennifer Crusie really likes the following tropes in her romance:

- evil ex-boyfriends
- adorable failboat dogs
- murder
- fake dating
- screwball hijinks
- surprise bodyguarding
- weird but lovable gangster uncles
- women who have a Personal and Easily Identifiable Style (this one stood out to me just because, while I think I have a style, it encompasses a WIDE ARRAY of types and shapes of garments, so 'only ever wears twirly sundresses, looks super notable in a fitted skirt!' stood out to me because .. I wear both ......)
- dudes who have emphatically zero interest in long-term romantic commitment with anyone on page one, and have decided they're definitely going to marry the heroine by page one hundred (well before the heroine has decided she has any interested in marrying them back)

And for the record, yes, I know, I have it on everyone's authority that Faking It and Bet Me are the best ones, I have Bet Me out from the library now (see: stressors, escapism, YOU ALL KNOW WHAT'S UP), but at the time I needed the maximum amount of Jennifer Crusie for the minimum amount of hassle. It was a very long plane ride.

This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/453794.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comment count unavailable comments on Dreamwidth.
the real kwon
09 November 2016 @ 03:20 am
I left my election night group at 11:30 PM and said, things aren't getting better, I have to be up at 4 AM tomorrow to catch a plane, I'm going to try and get some sleep.

Well, it's 3:30 AM and I still have not gotten any sleep so at this point I think it's a lost cause. I am more frightened than I can remember being and so many others right now have so many reasons to be more frightened than me. I know we have to go on, fight, organize, protect each other, make sure to change things in the next election (if we get a next election); it's just that right now, at 3:30 AM, it's hard to see how.

I have to spend the next four days at a professional conference, delivering talks, moderating sessions, as if this were still the country it were this morning. And, I mean, this is still the country it was this morning. It's the country it's always been. It's just that that country is a couple of percentage points worse than the country I was desperately hoping it was.

This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/453159.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comment count unavailable comments on Dreamwidth.
the real kwon
07 November 2016 @ 07:11 pm
So in Barbara Michaels's Houses of Stone, Our Heroine Karen is an academic with a focus on early nineteenth-century Gothics (oh yes I see what you did there Barbara Michaels, we all saw what you did there) who is convinced she's had the break of her career when her dashing bookseller friend finds a handwritten manuscript of a genuine! female-authored! early American Gothic novel!!!

In order to prove the manuscript's authenticity, Karen promptly drops everything -- including bailing on a pre-planned trip with one of her theroetically best friends, which soured me kind of on Karen, as Karen is deeply offended by the notion that her friend might be a little put out by this -- to skedaddle down to the house in Virginia where the manuscript was found in the hopes she can find some details that will prove the manuscript is genuine and, ideally, autobiographical.

Given that the plot of the manuscript is "TRAGIC ORPHANS arrive at a MYSTERIOUS HOUSE! ft. a SINISTER MADWOMAN!!! and POSSIBLE SURPRISE INCEST!!!!!!!!' I'm not really sure why Karen is ever convinced she's going to prove the manuscript is autobiographical -- I mean, as far as I know there's no evidence that Ann Radcliffe was ever imprisoned in an Italian castle or abducted by banditti -- but sure, this seems like legitimate academic research, I guess.

But alas, Karen has difficulty pursuing her research, because sinister events are pursuing her! Her rented room catches on fire! Someone tries to run her over! The house where the manuscript was found may well be haunted! The local DAR chapter just will not stop asking her to give them a historical lecture on the Brontes!

As usual, the book features two eligible bachelors -- Bachelor A is the cranky owner of the house where the manuscript was found, who MIGHT have a sinister secret, or MIGHT just be sinisterly attractive; Bachelor B is Karen's academic rival who's EITHER pursuing her because he wants to steal the manuscript OR because he wants to steal her heart!! -- but honestly there's probably less than 30 pages in total spent on either of them and neither Barbara Michaels nor Karen really cares all that much.

And then there is PEGGY, Karen's sidekick, a sixty-something historian who is mysteriously independently wealthy and is super enjoying the opportunity to wade up to her knees in Gothic intrigue and flirt with Karen's dashing bookseller friend. (This is why Karen's dashing bookseller friend is not Bachelor C; he's busy.) Peggy is, to be honest, significantly more interesting and likable than Karen. Karen spends most of the book very cranky, which is fine, but also, Karen is mean about all her friends (except Peggy -- well, sometimes she's even mean about Peggy, in a 'I DON'T NEED YOU, MOM!' kind of way) and she's also mean about her other academic rival, the one who is not a love interest, because she's older and intense and wears too much makeup. Karen! The whole book is centered around your ardent feminism! BE LESS MEAN TO OTHER WOMEN.

I also did not find the manuscript-within-a-manuscript particularly convincing, mostly because it's written in more close a third person than any contemporaneous Gothic novel I can remember reading, but, you know, pastiche is hard, I get it. Anyway, I can't complain too much given that a solid 2/3 of the plot is just Karen and Peggy standing around analyzing Gothic tropes and that is the sort of thing that I do love.

This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/453006.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comment count unavailable comments on Dreamwidth.
the real kwon
06 November 2016 @ 09:38 am
I picked up The Rivers Ran East -- a theoretically factual 1950s account of an explorer's journey in the Peruvian jungle -- based entirely on seeing a tumblr post featuring the quote "Ever since he had aimed that gun at my throat, I had liked him immensely. And now I liked him even better, and was terribly sorry he was not going in search of El Dorado with me," because I did not fully believe this was something that a real human had written in a theoretically factual account.

Reader, it was, and he did.

This book might as well be titled "I"m Leonard Clark, and welcome to Jackass."Collapse )

This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/452749.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comment count unavailable comments on Dreamwidth.
the real kwon
03 November 2016 @ 09:35 pm
I think the release of Courtney Milan's Hold Me officially marks the end of this fall's Sequel Season for me! It was also great timing because the book came out right as I was about to board an 11-hour flight from Europe to San Francisco, while plague-ridden, and having a new Courtney Milan was the only thing that made this experience tolerable.

(Well, that and the fact that my flight was practically empty so I got a whole row to myself. SUCH LUXURY.)

Anyway, Hold Me is the sequel to Trade Me, in which financially-strapped student Tina traded lives with a billionaire student Blake, resulting in romantic hijinks and -- relevantly for Hold Me -- the formation of a household consisting of Tina, Blake, and Tina's roommate Maria, the heroine of this book.

Maria is a trans Latina woman who bonded with Tina over being one of the few non-eighteen-year-olds in their undergraduate class, and who has spent the last several years writing an increasingly popular blog featuring various apocalyptic scenarios built on statistical math projections. Her current problems include:

- the fact that sharing a household with a couple who just had a whole romance novel feels a lot less comfortable than sharing a household with just her buddy Tina
- the oncoming fact of graduation and resultant need to get a sensible job as an actuary, and possibly spend less time blogging
- relatedly, an ongoing ambiguous flirtation with a long-time commenter on her blog that is taking up a lot of time and attention that she should probably be using to research sensible actuary jobs
- the fact that she keeps bumping into her brother's new bestie Jay, an asshole with a lot of unexamined assumptions about makeup/fashion/visible femininity and how those things don't go together with intelligence or scientific achievement

Physicist Jay na Thalang is, of course, both the long-time blog commenter and the romantic lead of the story, because this is an unabashed Shop Around The Corner trope with no bones about it. His problems include the unexamined sexism and a host of familiar academic woes of the 21st century (imposter syndrome, grant-writing, job instability, the dream of tenure....)

Jay also, for the record, has a tragic backstory involving suicide of a loved one and resultant family complications which didn't ... not feel real or integrated? ... but did feel like it got possibly a too-snappy resolution -- I liked both Jay and Maria's families, but I think overall Trade Me did a much better job of making me invested in the protagonist's parents/relatives and integrating them into the plot; it was one of that book's great strengths. (Tina's mom is still my favorite.) I would've liked to see more of Maria's brother and grandmother, especially. That said, I loved Maria and the loving detail poured into her nerdy math-science-apocalypse blog TREMENDOUSLY, and I like Shop Around the Corner tropes, and all the university/college/grad school stuff felt extremely well-drawn to me; overall this continues to be one of my favorite Milan series.

This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/452384.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comment count unavailable comments on Dreamwidth.
the real kwon
01 November 2016 @ 10:12 pm
I really enjoyed Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows, in which A Crack Team Of Magical Teen Criminals Break A Scientist Out Of Magical Russian Prison, but I did spend a lot of that book going 'this would all make a lot more sense if all cast members were in their twenties....'

But now that I have read the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, I sort of take it back, because the best thing about Crooked Kingdom is when the least-angsty teenager's thoroughly wholesome parent shows up looking for him and all of the skilled, ruthless, tragic-backstory-laden smooth criminals who are currently in the process of holding an entire city to ransom suddenly remember that they're teenagers and are like 'oh shit, A Dad!'

Crooked Kingdom, A Summary, Through The Eyes Of Jesper's Dad

JESPER'S DAD: Son why are there so many guns in your life now, this is Too Many Guns

JESPER'S DAD: Son I'm not mad you dropped out of school and joined an elite gang of criminals and put the family farm up as collateral for a gambling debt, I'm just a little disappoint

JESPER'S DAD: Son who is this nice boy, is he your boyfriend? If not then why isn't he your boyfriend? Son please get your life together enough to be a good boyfriend to this nice boy

(A sidenote: I think Leigh Bardugo wants her fantasy novel to be set in a world where there is no homophobia and everyone is cool with queer stuff, but did not really do the worldbuilding to support it? Like, three protagonist-y teenagers out of seven are gay or bi and nobody bats an eyelash, but every adult is married to someone of the opposite gender and every house of prostitution we see is full of women and patronized by men. So, on the one hand, the thinking on this feels a little lazy to me; on the other hand Jesper/Wylan is a perfectly cute romance and I'm A-OK with the non-existence of gay angst in a storyline which already has PLENTY going on between evil dads, good dads, long-lost moms, disability-related disinheritance, secret magical powers, gambling addiction, and face-swapping.

This is, for the record, by far the least dramatic & angsty of the three romantic storylines. As I have mentioned, these teenagers have a lot going on. That said, another thing I like is that the character with a sexual abuse backstory and related physicality issues is in a romantic pairing with someone who has JUST AS MANY IF NOT MORE trauma-related touch/physicality issues. It's very equitable! Congrats on your eventual awkward hand-holding, kids.)

Anyway, I found Crooked Kingdom overall a very satisfying conclusion to the first book and would recommend the duology as a complete set!

This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/452159.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comment count unavailable comments on Dreamwidth.
the real kwon
16 October 2016 @ 09:15 pm
As you may remember, Crosstalk was announced, my general impression was that it was basically going to be a Bellwether rewrite except instead of spending the book shouting at clouds about fads, Connie Willis was going to spend the book shouting at clouds about modern technology.

As it happens, I was both very right and very wrong. While both Bellwether and Crosstalk feature a romance between the only two people who are somehow immune to The Shallowness of Modern Existence set against a cast of thousands of sheeple obsessed with the latest gossip/fad, it turns out Bellwether remains a much better book than Crosstalk!

Crosstalk stars Briddey Flanagan, who works at a cell phone company. What does Briddey do at the cell phone company? I have NO IDEA, because we never see her doing any part of her actual job, or in fact doing anything at the office except flee from gossipy coworkers who want to talk about her office romance with [obviously evil] dreamy executive Trent, because everyone in Briddey's office -- and, indeed, perhaps everyone in this book -- walked out of a 1960's Doris Day film.

Briddey has no friends, but she does have several family members, each of whom has two character traits:

Briddey's Aunt Oona is very, very Irish
Briddey's sister Mary Clare is a helicopter parent to her nine-year-old niece, Maeve
Briddey's other sister Kathleen has bad taste in boyfriends

You may have noticed this is only a single character trait per person. The other character trait, which they all share, is that they have no boundaries and all seem very invested in and concerned about Briddey, who literally never has a conversation with any of these people in which she is not attempting to hide from them, flee from them, or get them to stop talking to her, usually by lying to them profusely.

You might think the moral of the story would be that Briddey and her family need to learn to set some boundaries, communicate honestly, and break the cycle of increasingly complex lies! About this, you would be very, very wrong.

The plot kicks off -- after several chapters illustrating how Briddey's cell phone is a terrible trial to her because her family keeps trying to CALL her on it or TEXT her on it, GOD, why will nobody leave her ALONE, clearly the problem is the technology and not, you know, the fact that Briddey doesn't know how to set boundaries and instead is engaged in a constant web of deceit and lies with everyone she knows and theoretically loves! -- when Briddey and her boyfriend [obviously evil] Dreamy Executive Trent decide to get the latest in relationship goals, a procedure that allows them to sense each other's emotions.

RANDOM FICTIONAL OFFICEWORKER: Brad and Angelina just had one of those procedures!
(CONNIE WILLIS: Look at my cool modern references! Just let anybody say that my books are out of date now --
BRAD AND ANGELINA: We're breaking up literally two weeks before this book is published.
CONNIE WILLIS: God fucking damn it!)

Alas, the nonsense science of the procedure somehow goes nonsense science wrong, and instead of sensing her boyfriend's emotions, she gains an instant telepathic connection with C.B., the genius curmudgeon with messy hair and poor hygiene who has a mad scientist workshop in the company basement and thinks communication is awful.

BRIDDEY: Oh man, the procedure's gone wrong and a dude I don't much like can now read my mind, I should tell someone --
C.B.: YOU CANNOT TELL ANYONE ABOUT THIS, EVER. Instead, how about you concoct a series of increasingly-elaborate lies to tell everyone you know and love!
BRIDDEY: Um OK but I would very much like to tell a DOCTOR and figure out a way to reverse this because I feel KIND OF LIKE MY PRIVACY IS BEING INVADED HERE, please leave me alone and don't talk to me --
C.B.: You definitely cannot tell a medical professional about this! Everyone outside of the two of us needs to think that everything is fine!
BRIDDEY: OK, I won't tell anyone, but let me repeat once more: please leave me alone and don't talk to me or listen to my thoughts!
C.B.: I've been listening to your thoughts and I can tell you're in trouble, I'm here to pick you up from the hospital and drive you home! Want to tell me your address? LOL though I mean I already know it, you can have no secrets from me!

Yeah, this is kind of nightmare territory. For the next several chapters, Briddey freaks out while C.B. consistently refuses to stop invading her mental privacy, warns her that she can under no circumstances tell anybody else the truth about anything in her life or the fact that she is in distress, literally feeds her lies to tell to her family and boyfriend, shows up frequently to rescue her despite being explicitly asked not to do so, and, to add insult to injury, constantly mansplains random facts to her about telepathy.

C.B., of course, is the romantic hero and the book goes on to justify everything he does in every respect. The more the book went on, the more I missed Bennett from Bellwether. He had no particular personality that I can recall except being mysteriously immune to fads, but at least he seemed like a pleasant human being and I expect he understood the general meaning of the word 'no.'

Spoilers under the cutCollapse )

This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/451779.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comment count unavailable comments on Dreamwidth.
the real kwon
15 October 2016 @ 09:25 am
As previously mentioned, I have been rereading Barbara Hambly's Benjamin January books. I have not yet quite reached the point where I run out of 'reread' and just hit 'read' -- there were nine published books when I first read the series in 2010, and now there are fourteen -- but I am halfway through, so it's probably a decent time to stop and take stock.

For the unfamiliar, the titular Benjamin January is a free black pianist/music teacher/surgeon who also finds himself frequently fighting crime in 1830s New Orleans. In the long-form hypothetical HBO television series of my heart, he is played by a slightly-older Okierete Onaodawan, who has proven through his pitch-perfect rendition of both Hercules Mulligan and James Madison that he can do all the instantaneous code-switching that Benjamin January requires to survive and walk the lines between the world of the wealthy free colored inhabited by his mother and sister, and the slave quarters where he is frequently required to go undercover for crime-fighting purposes.

...and it looks like I outlined the other major characters on here back in 2010, so I'm just going to link to that instead of doing it all again.

Books I have read to date under the cutCollapse )

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the real kwon
13 October 2016 @ 09:12 pm
I have read some great sequels this sequel season, but I think my actual favorite sequel so far is the sequel to Erin Bow's The Scorpion Rules, The Swan Riders. In fact it is probably one of my favorite books this year.

The titular Swan Riders are an army of UN-aid-bringers/hostage-executioners/convenient-bodies-for-possession at the service of Talis, the five-hundred-year-old manic artificial intelligence who keeps peace on earth through the use of hostage children and the occasional missile strike. In this book, our heroine Princess Greta of the Pan-Polar Alliance ends up on a wacky road trip with Talis and several Swan Riders. It's a fun time!

The Scorpion Rules is a YA dystopia -- it hits all the beats, and then it goes on to subvert most of them in a way I really enjoy, but, I mean, it's still got the shape of it. It's poured into that structural mold.

The Swan Riders launches off of The Scorpion Rules, but it is definitely not Book Two of a YA dystopia trilogy. In no way is it poured into that mold at all. Like, there is a resistance and our heroine has been adopted as a figurehead, but that's not really what Erin Bow cares about, Erin Bow is BUSY focusing on complex negotiations of humanity and artificial intelligence and sacrifice and loss of self and she just does not have TIME to conform to the standard story beats of a YA dystopia while she's at it.

(As I said on Twitter: people becoming AI! AI becoming human! IT'S A ROBOT BAR MITZVAH.

...it's not actually a robot bar mitzvah, but there is at one point a thematically significant party with cake, plus a number of angry robots in tiny boxes, SO.)

I would put The Swan Riders next to the Ancillary Justice series on my bookshelf if I was sorting my books thematically (which I don't in reality, but enjoy as a thought exercise). It's not that they're all that similar, as far as actual reading experience goes, but I would bet money that both Erin Bow and Ann Leckie read the Ship Who... series in their youth before going on to write something much, much better.

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the real kwon
09 October 2016 @ 07:25 pm
Laurie Marks' Water Logic is not really part of sequel season, seeing as it came out nine years ago, but a.) it was a sequel new to me and b.) now that I have read it, I get to join the rest of the world in waiting for the hypothetical last Elemental Logic book! (Which in theory will be Air Logic, after Fire Logic and Earth Logic.

The structure of this book is in some ways very similar to that of Earth Logic. In the A-plot, Zanja takes a journey that leads to her being considered ambiguously dead by Karis, which will somehow lead to something beneficial because of deus ex elemental logic. In the B-plot, Clement of the Sainnites beats her head against a wall attempting to figure out peaceful solutions to ongoing problems that might not, in fact, have peaceful solutions.

More thoughts, some spoileryCollapse )

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the real kwon
07 October 2016 @ 11:40 pm
Dear Yuletide author,

Thank you so much for signing up to write a gift for me -- I'm so excited to see what you come up with! I have been doing Yuletide for some large number of years now and I have been delighted with my gifts for every single one; if you write something that makes you happy, I guarantee I will be delighted with it also.

As you can probably guess from my letter, stuff that I like includes (but is not limited to) women having character development, women interacting with each other, ensemble stories, sibling dynamics, found families and friendships, and the kind of romance where two flawed and peculiar people figure out how their flaws and peculiarities fit together. I tend to love characters for their weaknesses as much as their strengths, and I love watching weird, complicated, human people grow into better and stronger and healthier people while still being recognizably the same weird, complicated, human people they always were. I am pretty much always down for crossovers! AUs are more hit-or-miss for me, though I can definitely be sold on them as long as the characters are still recognizably themselves.

I would prefer not to see any characters bashed, especially female characters. I don't mind canon-consistent dark themes if it makes sense for the story, but I tend not to be into graphic and gratuitous violence, and a sense of hope is specifically pretty important to me for a lot of the canons I'm requesting this year. I'm cool with sexual content, but I'd rather that wasn't the whole point of the fic.

And now for the requests!Collapse )

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the real kwon
04 October 2016 @ 08:31 pm
I have a vague mission to clean out some of the drawers in my room at my parents' house. I didn't get much time to poke through things this time around, but during a cursory drawer investigation I discovered in my 9th-grade Latin notebook a horrifying treasure trove.

Doodles, circa 2000Collapse )

As a sidenote, I found this gallery of wonders in a drawer that also contained a.) a very argumentative draft of a co-written melodrama about WWII, circa 2002, and b.) four handwritten pages of a fantasy story about four quarreling siblings who gain magical rings, at a guess written approximately circa 1998, which ends abruptly and is followed by an also handwritten poster reading 'END THE DEATH PENALTY' above a drawing of a bloody axe. I forgot to take a photo of that particular masterpiece.

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the real kwon
01 October 2016 @ 10:06 am
I am traveling A LOT this next month and a half, so most of what I am reading is a.) Kindle-enabled and b.) of the generally comforting variety that makes you feel better about life while you're stuck on an airplane and your brain is only half-working.

Barking Up the Right Tree is therefore exactly the kind of thing I want to be reading right now, being a cute contemporary romance novella that centers around:

a.) lots of lovely descriptions of all the beautiful autumn stuff that I'm missing out on this year by being constantly on a plane
b.) lots of lovely descriptions of really delicious-sounding baked goods

Lilly Grant is a good friend, which is an excellent thing for me because I find contemporary romance very hit-or-miss generally and otherwise would probably not have discovered this novella and known that it is exactly what I want to be reading right now! So, I mean, I am deeply biased, but also: it's 100% great. I'm not even a dog person and I'm super charmed by everything that happens; if you ARE a dog person, I'm fairly sure this will be your jam. Also if you are a tech person frustrated by obligatory long hours and the overwhelming presence of tech bros. Or a person who loves delicious baked goods. Or, generally, a person who loves cute tropey rom-coms.

(NB: The novella is not the sexy kind of romance novella, it's very rom-com PG-13 levels, which I mention because I know it will be a bug for some of you and a feature for others!)

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the real kwon
25 September 2016 @ 07:24 pm
More from Sequel Season: The Poisoned Blade is book two of Kate Elliott's Court of Fives, the first book of which has been described by the author as Little Women meets American Ninja Warrior, set in a fantasy society that borrows heavily from Hellenistic Egypt.

In the first book, the mixed-race family of Our Heroine Jes is torn completely apart by a political opportunist who wants her star general father married to his niece, and her inconvenient mother and sisters dead.

On the bright side, all this turmoil ends up giving Jes the opportunity to follow her dream and compete full-time in Hellenistic Egyptian American Ninja Warrior!

Book two features more Hellenistic Egyptian American Ninja Warrior, more sibling issues, and MUCH more complex political conspiracies. (Plus, alas to me, more love triangle.) The plot continues to be rollicking and the political conspiracies are genuinely interesting. Once again, the first half of the book took me a little while to get into before the much more action-packed second half, mostly because of the repeated instances of:

JES: I'm gonna do a thing.
INTELLIGENT ADULT: Here is a concise, reasonable explanation as to why doing the thing will blow up in your face in a way that is actively harmful to you and your family, and therefore you are forbidden to do the thing.
JES: whatever, I am totally smart and clever enough to pull off doing the thing.
INTELLIGENT ADULT: well who could ever have predicted that >:|

This is a very consistent character trait for Jes, but it is also maybe a reason why Jes herself is probably my least favorite of her siblings. (Admittedly, the competition for favorite is between 'the sensible history nerd who wants to be an archivist' and 'the gossipy, socially brilliant secret lesbian.' Sorry, Jes, you never stood a chance.) Also, if Jes had enough sense not to do things that are obviously bad ideas, much of the plot would not occur, and I do like the plot! But I still wish that YA did not insist so very much on first person present tense; I think this is a story that could really benefit from the option to have multiple POVs.

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