ladysprite: (steampunk)
Things are a little bit better now.

My bike (and me, and my husband) has had an 11th-hour rescue - yesterday <lj user="umbran"> got a job offer; this makes *everything* easier.  Trying to get by on about 2/3 of one income was making me panic and fall apart at the seams; now we'll have a little bit of breathing room.

We managed to get in touch with someone reasonable at the gas company, who figured out that the fact that we had called, and that we had never missed a payment in over a decade, suggested that the error was on their part and got our gas turned back on within about 24 hours of it being turned off.  It doesn't erase the humiliation of having the police come to our door, but it was a lot better than it could have been.

And today.... today I finally got to meet one of my heroes, and thank him.

I've mentioned here before just how important 'The Last Unicorn' was to me when I was growing up, both the book and the movie.  It's one of my few happy memories from childhood, and it was a safe imaginary space that I could escape to.  I watched that movie more times than I could count, and when I found the novel I fell in love with that too.

Today I went to the Last Unicorn Screening Tour.  I saw the movie on the big screen for the first time in my life, and then I waited for about an hour outside until I made it through the autograph line to meet Peter Beagle, and I told him just how much his story meant to me, growing up in an abusive household, and thanked him for giving me a world that I could escape into when I needed to.

....and he thanked me.  I don't know quite what I was expecting, but it wasn't that.  And I promised myself I wouldn't cry, but I did anyway, and I am so grateful I got the chance to meet him, and say that.  And now my battered and broken-spined copy of the book is a battered, broken-spined, signed copy.  And I have a whole new set of positive memories to go along with it.

Picture, hidden for those who don't care.... )
ladysprite: (steampunk)
So I'm reading 'Nos4A2,' by Joe Hill, and it's pretty amazing. It's the second book I've read by him, and I love his writing style and I love his grasp of horror and I love how he twists his stories in directions you wouldn't expect without making it feel like bait-and-switch.

But it took until I was about 250 pages into the current book for me to realize that there might be other reasons I like this story in particular.

Because... well, it's about a kinda petite woman with a history of trouble and abuse in her past that has left her with some mental scars, who has a bunch of tattoos and a motorcycle, and who very much loves a kinda big heavy-set bearded guy who has a deep and unabashed fondness for comic books, SF movies, and playing the hero.

Oh - and it's set around Boston.

Admittedly, I don't have a kid, [ profile] umbran isn't a high-school dropout, and I'm mostly certain I've never been targeted by an immortal serial killer with a Christmas fetish. But still. It's close enough to be both creepy and awesome....
ladysprite: (steampunk)
I love my e-reader. And I love the Boston Public Library. In particular, I love that I can just automatically download books from the latter to the former.

Except sometimes it works out that all of the books I've put on hold show up at once, and then time crunch is such that I can't read them all at once. End result? I was about 100 pages from the end of 'A Clash Of Kings' before Cruel Fate declared that the lending period was over and auto-deleted it from my Nook.

I could just buy it.... but paying for the last 100 pages just irks me. I could take it out of the library again... but there are already another 20+ people on the waitlist; it'd take a month or more. And that's for both the paper and the digital copies, so just physically walking to the library and borrowing it won't work.

So I'm asking here - does anybody local have a copy they can lend me? If not, I'll just bite the bullet and buy it, but if you do I'd be grateful as anything....
ladysprite: (tangy)
So about ten years ago or so, my husband started reading this awesome-looking book by George R.R. Martin. And I thought to myself, I like good epic fantasy. And I like Martin's work. And I have an unfortunate fondness for books that are hefty enough to be used as self-defense weapons in a pinch. I should read this.

And then I thought to myself, that's what got me started on Robert Jordan. Fool me once, shame on me. And I decided to wait until the last book was At The Printer's, Damnit. (For the record, after reading the first book, husband made the same decision.)

And then about a year or two ago, my friends started watching this super-popular TV show based on said epic fantasy series. And I thought, I don't want to watch the show until I've read the book. Because I really do WANT to read the books, someday, and I'd hate to have the book spoiled by the show. So, not now.

Except I can't absolutely avoid it, because it seems like every conversation needs to include one Game of Thrones reference at this point, and whoa, do people have some strong opinions! And I recognized that I was starting to form opinions as well, and that's not cool. I refuse to judge a thing on hearsay; that's not fair or honest.

So finally a few weeks ago I broke down and tucked into 'A Game Of Thrones.' I was fully expecting to rather dislike it, to be honest, based on some of the feedback I'd gotten. And I admit, I spent the first few days sighing about the fact that I encountered my first rape scenes well before I encountered anything like plot, and about the representations of female characters, and about the fact that it's a pretty darn pasty-white world.

But.... it's pretty darn well-written, too. And while most of the characters are at best jerks, and many of them I kind of want to step on their face... there are enough people I like to keep me reading. And darn it, I want to find out what happens next.

(Yes, I know. Nothing pretty. But still.)

So darnit, I know it's trendy, and I know it's problematic, and in spite of myself, I like it anyway. On to the next....
ladysprite: (steampunk)
So tonight was World Book Night, and I got to spend my evening handing out copies of 'Good Omens' to people at Faneuil Hall. And it was pretty darn awesome.

It started off a little rougher than I anticipated. The weather was against me - I had kind of hoped for a warm, sunny late-afternoon/early evening, where I could hang out in front of the buildings and chat up the crowds waiting for street performers and wallow in the general throng of humanity that always winds up gathering along the Freedom Trail. Instead, I was confronted with a miserable, gray day where the sun never rose, the temperature never got above 45, the rain never either thoroughly started or stopped, and the wind turned my umbrella inside out as I walked from the T station to my appointed destination.

But I persevered on, along with my hero companions [ profile] umbran and [ profile] metaphysick, and eventually sheltered and set up shop inside the food court. And I put out my signs and put on my cheery grin and set about trying to convince people to take a free book.

It was harder than I thought.

The first half-dozen people I tried to talk to all blew me off - shaking their heads, putting up their hands, hurrying away, and generally reacting as though I was trying to sell them a time-share or convince them to sign up for political mailings, instead of giving them a gift. A few people agreed to take books, some cautiously and some bemusedly, but it was slow going and a little disheartening.

But it wasn't all bad. I convinced a few people to take books, including at least one young man who blew us off, continued about 50 feet down the hall, then turned around, eyes wide as he parsed what we were actually offering, came back, took a book, and stayed to chat with us for a few minutes. And slowly, more people started pausing and paying attention and listening and taking books.

And then the horde hit. A group of a dozen or so teenagers bustled in, shouting and shoving and laughing. And I figured they'd ignore us or possibly throw things, but I am also nothing if not determined, so I jumped out in front of them and said, 'Hey! Who wants a free book?'

And most of them ignored me and walked by, or made faces, but one kid stopped, and said, 'Sure!' And I tossed him a copy, and the rest of the gang laughed and shoved their way past. Until about a minute later, when he turned back, with half of the rest following, and said, 'Hey! She wants one too!' And as I passed him a second copy, another kid turned back too and said, 'Hey, what about me?'

So the peer pressure avalanche descended, and in about 30 seconds we handed out the rest of our books, and the horde wandered off reading the back covers and flipping through their books, and I couldn't stop grinning.

They weren't the only ones reading as they wandered off either, and it felt good to see that. I don't know if I changed any lives, but maybe I changed a couple of days, at least. And I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I will sign up to do this again next year....
ladysprite: (steampunk)
There's something truly wonderful about getting to meet a person you've admired and respected for years, and finding out that they're really friendly, thoughtful, and generally pleasant to be around.

Today the Cambridge Public Library hosted an opening-ceremonies event for World Book Night - a panel discussion with Neil Gaiman, Lisa Genova, and Vanessa Diffenbaugh. And I admit that, while I had never heard of either of the other authors, I am an enormous Gaiman fan. And between that and the fact that I'm giving out one of his books tomorrow for WBN (and the fact that I was working only 2 miles from the library), I figured I just *had* to go.

It was wonderful. All three authors were delightful to listen to, and I absolutely plan on looking up the other two and finding their books. And it was wonderful to be in a room full of other readers, and know that everyone else there - the authors as well as the audience - understood what it feels like to fall into a story and forget the rest of the world.

Plus... well, I'm a fangirl. And now my copy of 'Neverwhere' that my friends Eric gave me for my 23rd birthday has been autographed. And I need to give immense kudos to Mr. Gaiman for not just taking the time to chat personally with everyone in line (thankfully it was a small event), but for at least acting like he cared and treating each person like an individual. Instead of just sign-and-nod-and-move-on, I feel like I got a chance to actually meet him and be met. And it was awesome.

Yeah, I'm a little embarrassed at feeling like a goofy fan, but not enough to actually diminish my enjoyment. And I can't wait to go out and give out my books tomorrow....
ladysprite: (momongo)
On the brighter side....

So back about 3-4 months ago I found out about this awesome thing called World Book Night, and I applied to be part of it. I didn't figure it'd actually come to anything, but applying was free, and easy enough. And then I just kind of let it go from my mind.

Yesterday I got an email telling me that I've been chosen, and that I'm going to be an official Book Giver.

So I get to spend the evening of April 23 hanging out at Faneuil Hall and the associated environs, giving out free books to people in hopes that they'll love them as much as I do. I cannot express how excellent this is, or how excited I am to be part of this! And part of me knows that it's a bit silly to get so worked up over, essentially, standing around handing out stuff, but... books! And sharing! And... this is just going to be so incredibly cool.

Later this week I get to find out what book I'm giving out (I had to pick three from their list that I liked; they'll then pick one for me to give), and start finagling more details. For now, though, I'll just jive here with my happydance of books and being chosen....


Sep. 17th, 2012 08:47 pm
ladysprite: (Default)
I have just realized that 'Glee' is the television equivalent of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.

Think about it. No spoilers here, but just look at the generalities. It started out as something interesting, kind of complex but not incomprehensible, with a decent collection of main characters, each with their own quirky personality. There were multiple plots, and each one showed some promise and thought, and looked like they would be fun to watch as they developed and played out.

And then it got super-popular, and the editing kind of fell by the wayside. And the writers started introducing more and more characters, but were never able to kill off or otherwise remove any of the original gang. And on the rare occasions that they did manage to get rid of a character, they wimped out and brought them back before too very long.

This, of course, led to plot-death. Plots were introduced, only to be forgotten, lost, or ignored because there were just too many things going on. Nothing progressed, because there was too much filler. No character ever wound up learning or growing, mostly because when you have 20 main characters and a 60-minute episode, that comes down to about 2 minutes per character. And story grinds to a halt.

But we keep watching, because we remember when it was awesome, and we're certain in our heart of hearts that it'll get good again, or maybe it's still good, if we kind of squint and ignore the more egregious issues.

(Why yes, I am halfway through 'Crossroads of Twilight,' and I did just watch the season premiere. And yeah, as much as I gripe, I'm likely to continue with both, if only to find out What Happens Next....)
ladysprite: (momongo)
I have never thought of myself as having a problem with impulse control. I'm lucky like that - I can eat one cookie, then stop. If I tell myself I'm going to take a ten-minute break from work, or studying, I can take those ten minutes, and then get back to whatever chore I was working on. If I give myself a budget for shopping, I can stick to it easily, and if I tell myself to wait and buy something later, odds are I'll wait until it slips my mind, and no great tragedy or loss. I have willpower. I'm good at saying no.

Or so I thought. Until I met my nemesis - namely, the Boston Public Library's digital collection.

I've loved my Nook from the day I bought it, in spite of being highly skeptical about the concept. I love the convenience, and I love how personal it is - all *my* books, in one special little device, in my purse. And I love how easy it is to get new books, just by touching a button. But I also was at least able to remember that I had to pay for said books, which kept a bit of a cap on my habit.

And then I discovered the BPL's e-card - instant, and free for any resident of the state. And their extensive collection of e-books. That I can download instantly. For free.

This has turned me into the literary equivalent of one of those highly conditioned rats with a lever that they push for tasty snacks. Except instead of 'Push Button-->Get Food' it's 'Push Button-->Get Book.'

Instant books. Instant free books. ALL the instant free books. Right here, right now, in my hand.

And I know I have other books that I've already bought. And I know I have other things I should be doing. And I know that there is a time and place for everything. But.... push button, get books.

I'm gonna go read now....


Jun. 1st, 2012 01:48 pm
ladysprite: (Default)
My life is so damn hard.

I just finished reading 'Changes' - the next-to-last Dresden Files novel. And... stupid Jim Butcher. Stupid series. Stupid cliffhanger ending. The next book is out, of course. I have my Nook sitting next to me. I am about three finger-taps from having the follow-up in my eager little hands.

Except.... yesterday I was at Barnes & Noble, escaping the heat and browsing the Sci Fi ghetto (which is no longer a ghetto, and now one of the biggest sections in the store), and I noticed that the newest Wild Cards novel is finally out, and I splurged and bought it. I've been waiting for this book for almost a year, and it looks like they're finally leaving behind the plot I hated to go in an awesome new direction.

Of course, all of this is coming on the heels of my realization that I was two books behind on the Parasol Protectorate series, as a coworker pointed out to me a few weeks ago. So I also have the fourth book in that, downloaded to my beloved e-reader about the day after I started reading 'Changes,' with the idea that I'd read it as soon as I was done with that.

(Plus, there's a Charles DeLint novel on my nightstand at home. Some things I still need to own in paper.)

So many books, and I want to read them all Right Now, and it's incredibly unfair. Especially because my next appointment just got here (20 minutes late, of course), rendering it impossible for me to actually sit down and read.

Life is just cruel.


May. 9th, 2012 09:03 am
ladysprite: (MoonSun)
I don't usually post about celebrity passings here, for a bunch of reasons. Because everyone else does, so it's not like people are going to suddenly learn about it from me. Because they're not people I know, and because, while every death lessens us, it feels a little pretentious to mourn the death of someone I don't personally know, who wasn't a part of my life.

I'm going to buck that trend today, because Maurice Sendak was part of my life. Even though I never met him, even though I didn't know him, he shaped my world, in a good way, and part of who I am today is because of him.

'Where The Wild Things Are' - I think I've read that book at least several hundred times; it's still on the shelf right behind me, in a place of honor. It's one of my Top Ten Books Ever, still. (Though, admittedly, that list also includes 'Gone With The Wind,' 'World War Z,' and Charles DeLint's 'Memory And Dream,' so... not sure what that says about me, or the books in question.) I wanted to escape there so badly....

But it's not just that. That's the one book everyone knows, but there were so many other things, too. 'Outside Over There' is one of the spooky-awesome-est children's books ever. And his art was so rich, and his stories were just different enough to be fascinating, and I read them and read them and read them and now he's gone and the stories are still there, and I feel so foolish because I can't stop crying for someone I never met who wrote a bunch of stories I read thirty years ago.

(And last year, okay, and maybe a few dozen times in between.)

Goodbye, Mr. Sendak. Thank you.

...the wild things cried, "Oh, please don't go - we'll eat you up, we love you so!
...they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws
but Max stepped into his private boat and waved good-bye...


Jan. 24th, 2012 09:35 pm
ladysprite: (Default)
I have an odd relationship with rereading.

I am a very (okay, occasionally pathologically) frugal person. I don't like spending money on myself, or wasting money, so buying books has often been difficult - it's hard to convince myself to spend money on consumables. Rereading makes this at least a little more reasonable; I can justify the expense more easily if I know I'm going to read the book more than once.

Plus there's also just the joy that comes from diving back into a favorite story, the comfort and happiness from favorite passages and turns of phrase, the excitement of rediscovering subplots and details that you had forgotten, and the changed perspective that comes from looking at the progress of a story when you already know how it turns out - or from reading the same tale at different points in your life, and finding different lessons, touchstones, and characters to identify with by doing so. Not to mention, rereading is safe. You already know that you're going to like what you read.

On the other hand... that's part of the problem right there. Rereading is safe. It's an experience you've already had. And every time I pick up an old favorite book to read it again, there's a little voice in the back of my head asking me if maybe I shouldn't be wasting my time like that, and if maybe I really ought to be experiencing something new instead. That I'm being lazy and incurious and somehow slovenly, staying in my little tried-and-true rut, and that there's something indescribably more noble and admirable about trying new things and reading new books.

Of course, that hasn't stopped me from sticking to a pure list of rereads so far this year. Apparently what I need right now more than anything, at least in my fiction, is comfort and safety. I'll try new things in a little while. When the rest of my world is settled and safe. Right now, I think I hear the last chapter of "Memoirs of A Geisha" calling my name. Again.

There are worse fates.


Jul. 11th, 2011 08:36 am
ladysprite: (Default)
I never thought I would do this. When I first noticed the trend, I was honestly fairly outspoken against it. It just seemed wrong, and something that I would never want to do. Then slowly, over the last year or two, it started slowly creeping in my mind, first to 'if I ever choose to do this,' and then eventually to 'when I ultimately break down and do this.' And last week I finally broke down and gave in to the inevitable.

I bought a Nook.

It's mostly [ profile] coffeeem's fault. She's the driving force behind The Shadow Unit, an online collaborative urban fantasy/horror storytelling group that I would love if I could only make myself read it - I just hate reading anything longer than a page or two on my computer. A couple of weeks ago she announced that they'd be selling the entire first season of Shadow Unit.... but only as an e-book.

That was enough to convince me. Well, that and the thought of never having to try to stuff another 987-page Robert Jordan paperback into my purse. And never having to pack an entire backpack of books when I go away for a week. Okay, I admit that there are up-sides to e-books. Even if they'll never be quite as emotionally fulfilling and comforting as real books.

I got a Nook because... well, honestly, because [ profile] umbran did the research and said it was probably a closer match to what I wanted than anything else. And I went with the black and white version, since as far as I can tell the Nook Color just meant spending an extra $100 for a toy that could do exactly the same things my Ipod already does. Also, what I ultimately wanted was a way to read books, and for me, the e-paper of the black and white Nook is easier and more pleasant to read.

I admit that I spent the entire ride home from Barnes & Noble apologizing to the paperback book in my purse, and I've been alternating between excitedly playing with my new toy and dawdling finishing the last couple of books I was reading, but I've finally started actually reading on this thing and.... I like it. I feel vaguely guilty about it, but it's pretty darn cool.

Also, the Baen Free Library rocks my world, as does Project Gutenberg. It'll take some time for me to build up the rest of my virtual library, and to figure out all the bells and whistles and the best ways to take advantage of the gizmo, but as a start, they make this a lot more pleasant and easy, and a lot less of an enormous cash sink....
ladysprite: (Default)
So a few weeks ago I won an advance reader copy of 'Welcome to Bordertown' from [ profile] coffeeem. It arrived about two weeks ago, and I have been wallowing in delight ever since.

Once I finally managed to stop bouncing around the room and hugging the book to my chest and actually settled down to read it, I was hooked by the end of the first page. I'll admit I wasn't the hardest sell; I've loved the series since I first encountered it. Even so, I was a teeny bit apprehensive when I started it - it's been a long time since there was a new Bordertown novel, and I wasn't sure they'd be able to capture the same feel that hooked me as a teenager.

I needn't have worried. The stories in this book are different, in a lot of ways, from the older stories, but they're wonderful in their own way. The new writers, and the twists to the world, add new dimensions to the setting and allow new areas and themes to be explored. I was occasionally a little frustrated with some of the new writers when it felt a little bit like they weren't quite Getting It Right - their Bordertown isn't quite the same as mine - but once I stepped back a little and read them as their own stories instead of through the lens of my past experiences, they were good.

I loved the old writers best, of course - Terri Windling and Ellen Kushner, Will Shetterly (who bribed me with another Wolfboy story; I have an enormous crush on that character), Emma Bull, and without a doubt Charles DeLint, who closed out the book with a gorgeous tale that had me tearing up at work as I finished it. The only real dud for me was Cory Doctorow's math problem disguised as a story, but I'll also acknowledge that his style of writing just isn't my favorite.

The only problem with reading it is being done, now. As I got closer and closer to the end I started slowing down, parceling out stories like the last candies in a box of gourmet Valentine's Day chocolates, dreading the day when there wouldn't be any more left. And now it's done, and I love it and I miss it and I'll never have the chance to read it for the first time again... but I'm sure as hell looking forward to reading it again and again.
ladysprite: (Default)
As a person who is well and truly addicted to the written word, I am somewhat of an omnivore when it comes to books. I'm not completely indiscriminate, but I've learned better than to dismiss a book because it is, or isn't, relegated to a particular genre. In particular, at least for my current conundrum, I've learned that a lot of good stories get hidden in the YA genre, especially if they fall into the category of fantasy, SF, or supernatural fiction.

There are bad YA novels, it's true, but there's a lot of good stuff hiding in there. Charles DeLint, J.K. Rowling, Kelley Armstrong, Cassandra Claire, Diane Duane... all good. They write stories worth reading, with decent plots and interesting characters, and they don't condescend to the reader just because they might not have finished high school yet.

So I've read more than my fair share of YA novels, both as a young adult and as a technically adult adult. And unfortunately, more and more often lately, I'm running into one particular problem. Since most of the books I'm reading tend to be fantasy/supernatural fiction, there's always a push to make the conflict be Epic, with the villain being World-Shatteringly Evil. And since the protagonists are young adults, the writers also seem to feel a need to make the villain be a young adult, as well - or, if not, to give the Big Bad a young apprentice villain. The end result is the Young Adult Villain of Epic Evil, a character usually between the ages of 15-20 who has been corrupted to the Dark Side and is now supposed to be the walking, talking epitome of everything bad, corrupt, twisted, and wrong in the world.

And, without fail, these unspeakably dark, evil, horrifying monsters display their malevolence by some combination of dyeing their hair, dressing in slutty clothes (lingerie or Catholic school uniforms for girls, leather jackets for boys), eating junk food (specifically bacon cheeseburgers, Froot Loops, or lollipops), occasionally skipping classes, and pulling heinous pranks like forging fake names on check-in sheets, crashing birthday parties, and, if they're REALLY malevolent, breaking a window or making the prom queen's dress tear so her underwear shows.

That's it. That's the epic, world-destroying evil. And I can't describe how many ways this frustrates, disappoints, and offends me.

Okay. For one thing, are those really, truly, the most evil things the writers can think of? For real? These aren't episodes of The Brady Bunch I'm talking about; these are supposedly epic stories. Get an imagination. For another thing, even if you can think of more evil things, is it that you think teens can't handle anything more scary and threatening than that? They get scarier scenarios on the news, and in their own classrooms. If your Supervillain of Epic Evil can't muster up the badassitude to at least cause a little actual harm and fear, not only does it devalue your story, it makes your heroes look pretty pathetic when they cower in terror at the villain's name.

Lastly, though, and most importantly (to me, at least)... do we want to be sending teenagers the message that being a mischievous non-conformist is sign that you're evil? I find that both depressing and terrifying - these kids are smart enough and curious enough to pick up a book; odds are they're going to be identifying, at least in part, with the misfit characters. And to show that, whenever a character turns to evil they always come back in the next chapter with pink hair, a tight t-shirt, and a penchant for delivering comeuppance to their oppressors.... that's not evil, that's just every dweeb's secret dream. Telling them that they're evil for wanting this, or for acting this way, is an epic disservice.

There's the argument that writers may not want to portray teenagers committing major acts of evil, but in that case, don't make your villain a teenager. Make them a monster, or a force of nature, or an adult, or something else that you can foist all that villainy onto. Or, you know, just grow a pair and have an evil teenager. I'm not necessarily talking about 'Apt Pupil' levels of atrocity (though I read that as a teenager and somehow survived), but at least let them be as evil, say, as people in the real world. I know, for me, growing up and reading stories like that, encountering truly villainous villains didn't scar me or break me or disturb me - it gave me the reassurance that there was bad stuff out there in the world, just like my own experiences had shown me, maybe worse, and that, at least in stories, heroes could be strong enough to overpower that bad stuff.

Please, YA writers. Give kids credit for being able to handle stories that don't wrap them in cotton padding, dumb down the villains, and tell them they're evil for wanting to act out.

And if you'll excuse me, I feel the overwhelming need to go reread 'Deep Wizardry' now....
ladysprite: (DiscoTurtle)
Aaah, THIS is what I read for.

That moment in the book when you watch the character that you kind of love to hate utterly screw up and stick his foot in it, except he doesn't know it because he doesn't know everything you-the-reader know, and you're half-cringing as you read, torn between stopping and clutching your hair and shouting 'NO YOU FOOL IT'S A TRAP' and wanting to keep on going, devouring words at a breakneck pace to watch the resulting debacle, while a tiny part of you just wants to close your eyes and stop, so it doesn't happen....

And then the bubblegum hits the fan, and it's all BAM and POW and OOH and you're cheering out loud for the good guys and laughing in delight at the tricks and turns, until your coworkers poke their heads in and wonder what the heck is going on....

Until it's over, and you fall back out and wonder where the last half hour went, and feel vaguely embarrased at having acted like such a goober, and mope for a few minutes at the fact that it's done and you'll never read it for the first time again....


Jan. 27th, 2011 10:57 am
ladysprite: (Default)
The downside of having an author that you purely adore and look forward to is that once you've read something by them, you never have it to read for the first time again. If the author is still writing, it's not that bad - it just means anticipation and impatience while you're waiting for the next book. But if they're no longer putting out new works, the joy and excitement and deliciousness of reading is balanced by the frustration and loss of knowing that that's one less first-read you'll have.

Last night I finally sat down and read 'Repent, Harlequin, Said The Ticktock Man.' And while I *needed* that endorphin high and that wallow in literary ecstasy, there's a part of me that's sulking and sad that that experience is in my past, now. Rereading is good... but it's just not the same.

I know that Harlan Ellison is apparently a complete nozzle of a human being. But I will always be a little bit in love with him for his writing. Most stories are just that - stories. The words are just there to convey information and tell the tale. And there are great stories out there, that make me laugh and cry and wonder and care, but the words themselves are less important than the ideas.

With Ellison, the words themselves matter. The story is there, and it's good, but the individual words are so important, and chosen just so, such that the rhythm and the pattern and the feel becomes a part of the work, and it ends up somewhere between Beowulf and beat poetry. It's a sensory experience, instead of just an intellectual one.

I've said before that if I could, I would wrap myself up in his words and roll around on them like a giant bear skin, and I can't find any better way to describe it. There are a very few authors who have this gift - sometimes Bradbury reaches it. And, for better or for worse, Ellison - for me - is the pinnacle of it.

And now there's one less story of his I have to read.


My Valentinr - ladysprite
Get your own valentinr
ladysprite: (Default)
Fourteen years ago, on a whim, my cousin gave me a copy of Robert Jordan's 'The Eye of the World' as a gift. He knew I was a bookworm, and a fan of fantasy novels, and thought I might like it. And when I was bored one day I started reading it, not knowing that it was part of a series.

By the time I was 100 pages in, I was hooked. And I spent the next six or seven years enthusiastically devouring Wheel of Time novels as they came out, and getting more and more frustrated with them as they showed up in bookstores less and less frequently, grew longer and longer, and less and less seemed to happen in each volume. Finally, somewhere around 'Winter's Heart,' I gave up. I still wanted to know what happened, but I decided to wait until the whole darn series was over and done before I read any further - I was tired of waiting and being let down and having to go back and look up details from 5000 pages earlier.

And then Robert Jordan died. And then the ghost writer they got to finish the last book announced that it was really the last two books. Or maybe three. And I despaired of it ever ending.... until a couple of months ago, when I was amazed to realize that the publication of the last book was in sight - and that I had approximately 50 pounds of rereading to get through before I would be ready for it, and that I honestly couldn't remember much of the early plot details, beyond character names and generalities.

So I've started rereading the series, at book one. I'm not going to plow through them all in one stretch; as much as I like them, that'd be a bit much. But I'm already halfway through the second book, and... it's an interesting experience.

By the time I gave up, I had forgotten why I ever liked the series in the first place - my frustration got in the way of any appreciation. Going back through them now, though, I'm reminded of just how good they are, and why I fell in love. The depth and detail he puts into building his world, the complexity and interrelation of all of the legends and cultures and plots, all of the things that eventually bog him down - early on in the story, they're the same things that make it rich and real and enthralling.

Hopefully, knowing that there's an end in sight, this time the slowdown will seem more like pacing and less like aimless wandering - because right now I'm loving these books, maybe more than I ever did before, and I don't want to lose that feeling.

(And I really, truly, need to know how it all ends....)
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I've been doing a lot of reading lately, thanks to slow days at work, and so I've also been coming to a lot of realizations.

Today's realization is that, while there are a lot of books and authors that almost everybody is familiar with, there are also, sadly, a lot of extraordinarily good books and authors that, for some reason, almost nobody is familiar with.

Well, not sadly, so much, because that gives those of us familiar with their work a chance to rhapsodize about it, and those not familiar with it the chance to read it for the first time and fall in love.

But for example - most people that I know have at least heard of Tolkien, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And to a slightly lesser extent, most people have heard of Lois Bujold and the Vorkosigan Saga, George R. R. Martin and the Song of Ice and Fire series, Laurel K. Hamilton, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Terry Pratchett, Orson Scott Card - even if people haven't read their books, you know they exist. And odds are you've read at least *something* by most of them.

At the other end of the spectrum are the novels I pick up just on a whim - the cover art is pretty, the title is intriguing, or the first sentence on the first page just captures my imagination so thoroughly that I can't leave the bookstore without it. And when I finish reading them and start enthusing about them to my friends, I realize that I am one of the only people I know who has ever read it. And this is a tragedy and a shame.

"The Wild Roads," by Gabriel King, is one of these books. I admit I bought it because I'm a fan of the talking animals urban fantasy genre and have been since I first picked up "Watership Down," but I didn't expect it to knock me on my backside as thoroughly as it did. Talking animal fantasy is usually.... well, a light read at best. I mean, talking animals. How deep or dark can you get?

But this book, and its sequel, are amazing. Dark and gritty and fascinating, and the author has a gift for language, stringing out words like rich, thick caramel as they drip from the page onto your mind, and the level of realism is astonishing, and y'all need to read this now.

Also, you all need to read "Grunts," by Mary Gentle. Admittedly, a few more people have heard of this book, mostly because I push it into their hands while bouncing up and down and shouting 'oh my god read this now for real it rocks!' It's kind of the opposite of "The Wild Roads." While that book is rich and dark and slow and magical and immersive, "Grunts" is absurd and freaky and ridiculous and bizarre and disturbing and hilarious and full of quotes like "Pass me another elf, Sergeant, this one's split." And yet in the middle of all the wacky absurdity, there's an actual story, and a good one.

And the Borderlands series, edited by Terri Windling. It is a sad, sad thing that, among urban fantasy lovers, this series is not at the tippy-top of everyone's list. It started out as a shared-world anthology by some of the most amazing fantasy authors out there, and has just kept growing, both with short story collections and full-length novels, and it keeps being good.

"Bordertown" helped shape my definition of urban fantasy, and I have yet to find anything that lived up to the images and the worlds it created. The grit and the glitter, the hope and the pain, the escapism and the realism and the rock and roll and the depth of the connections between the characters - it's a world I could imagine living in, and am always happy to vanish back into. And there's not a single vampire or shoe-and-handbag fetishist in the whole place.

So. Those are my favorite books-that-more-people-should-have-heard-of. What are yours?


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March 2017

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