Les Semaines

November 11, 2007

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal

 §

Conventional

Adventure the First: They'd already started boarding the plane. Apparently, it was extremely cold, so they cranked up the heat—and the windshield cracked. Do I have to say how alarming this is? In the air it's extremely cold and the inside a plane is generally warm. A cracked windshield? I can't help feeling that this shouldn't happen so easily. Well, they eventually got us another plane.

Adventure the Second: Missed our connection, of course. Only one other flight. Five hours in the Newark airport.

Adventure the Third: Missed any possible ride from the airport to Saratoga Springs. Found friends, shared a cab.

It all worked out.

The World Fantasy Convention Adventure: The convention itself now is a kind of a blur of meeting friends and grabbing quick meals, going to reading and parties and the occasional panel and So Much Talking. Wow. I'd list all the people I saw and met, but at this point I know I'd forget too many people. There were so many people I wish I'd had better, longer conversations and encounters with, but that is the nature of conventions. I did get to sit in when Leslie was interviewing John Crowley, which was fun. I also got waved into an invitation-only party but had to meet up with someone so didn't get to stay and feel Special.

The Viral Adventure: Then I came back home haunted by a weird, low-level but horribly fatiguing virus that made me miss a day and a half of work and pretty much wiped out the long weekend, including all my plans for Accomplishing Something. Damn.

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing

Listening

Haven't really been listening to anything.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Please note that not only is this two weeks worth of reading, but I also spent most of a week not feeling well enough to do anything BUT read.

Cherie Priest's Not Flesh Nor Feathers is her third Eden Moore novel. Here something disturbing is happening along the river bank--people are disappearing. And now it's raining, raining, raining and the dam isn't working and strange figures are coming out of the water.... Because I'm not really a horror reader, I had some trouble suspending my disbelief here (funny, I can believe in ghosts and spirits but somehow when they become more corporeal I can't) so this became, for me, a book about problem-solving (how to stop this?) by characters I enjoy, so I found it entertaining—entertaining enough to keep me going over a long, long airport wait. Thank you, Cherie. I esepcially like how real she makes the setting. It anchored it all so well.

Ursula K. Le Guin's young adult fantasy, Powers is the third set in her Annals of the Western Shore. Gavir is brought up in relative comfort as a slave for a wealthy family. He is clever and gets educated and is allowed to stay close to his older sister, whom he loves dearly. But when his sister is barbarously killed, he escapes. He doesn't really know where he's going, but his adventures lead him closer to the place he and his sister were kidnapped from as young children. Gavir is a fascinating character in a rich and realistically difficult world, and how he makes his way through it to learn who is trust is fascinating. I loved this--rich and real and a story to live in.

Markus Susak's The Book Thief is a World War II novel narrated by Death. This is the story of a girl in Germany whose mother has to leave her with a rough but loving foster family near the beginning of the war. It begins with the powerful scene of she, her mother, and her dead brother at a train station, a scene that haunts Liesel. She becomes a book thief at her brother's graveside, taking a book abandoned in the snow that describes how to dig graves. Her foster father teaches her to read from it. Later, in her new home town, she steals a book from a Nazi bookburning. Her foster father's life was saved by a fellow soldier in the first World War, a Jew, so when his son has nowhere else to turn he comes to hide in their basement. Even the archness of the tale told by Death works here: it all fits together, and who else could tell a tale like this of war and death without it becoming bathetic? Really a marvellous book.

Frank Beddoes' reframing of Alice in Wonderland, The Looking Glass Wars is a great concept: the story of Alice really happened. She's Princess Alyss, and her family has just been slaughtered and her country taken over by her aunt Redd. Alyss escapes to earth where no one, not even Dodson, takes her story seriously. But then she finds her way back and must re-take her throne from the evil Redd. I should have loved this. However, it was all plot and no character development, so it just read as a series of events--without the impact its cleverness should have had.

Matt Ruff's novel Bad Monkeys is a dark romp into the world of Jane Charlotte, who is having a psychiatric evaluation after she is arrested for murder. The story of her involvement with a complicated secret organization dedicated to fighting evil people ("Bad Monkeys") is clever, fun, twisty, and manipulative in all the right ways. A delightful read.

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu's young adult science fiction/fantasy novel The Shadow Speaker is powerfully imagined. In a future, post-apocalyptic Africa and young girl can speak to shadows. Her father, a sexist, traditional leader was murdered before her by the powerful woman warrior, Jaa--and now Ejii knows she must travel with Jaa, against her mother's and teacher's wishes, to negotiations which may affect the future of several adjoining worlds. As Ejii travels and learns more about herself, her powers, and the state of her world, she gains friends and maturity--but she's still a teenager, subject to teenage insecurities and impulsiveness. Ejii is a wonderful character, her world is fascinating, and this is a magical, intelligent, and humane book. Highly recommended.

Melissa de la Cruz's young adult novel Blue Bloods tells of rich, young Manhattanites who learn they are from an ancient line of vampires and under threat. This is an interesting twist on the vampire story (vampires started the first white settlements in North America and have perpetrated all the myths about vampires). The biggest problem with this novel is that it's mostly told instead of shown and the teenagers, even the supposedly poor ones, are amazingly well-off, which certainly simplifies their lives. The plot is interesting enough to try the next volume in the series but I'm withholding judgement as so far there really isn't much more hanging on the plot.

Jerry Spinell's young adult novel Stargirl is about a boy who falls for a very unusual classmate. Utterly unself-conscious and unself-centered, Stargirl has no idea what affect her open-hearted activities have on others. At first people are standoffish, then intrigued, but when she cheers for the wrong team and actually comforts an injured player on the wrong team, she is shunned. Leo tries to help her be more "normal" but it's just not in her. A fun read.

Mary Gentle's alternative history novel, Ilario: The Stone Golem is the second volume following The Lion's Eye. Ilario still must find a way to live unthreatened by his/her family's murderous intentions. Now s/he is aided by his/her father and the Egyptian book buyer, but the political intrigue continues. An enjoyable read in a fascatinating cultural milieu.

Kirby Larson's historical young adult novel Hattie Big Sky is a fiction based on her own family history, where Hattie Brooks, an orphan, goes out to Montana to prove out her deceased uncle's land claim during the First World War. She suffers through all the trials of homesteading: bad weather, crop problems, continual cash flow problems, predatory local landowners, but also finds good friendship. An fascinating look at a place and time rarely written about.

Nancy Farmer's young children's fantasy The Land of Silver Apples is a stand-alone (hooray!) sequel to The Sea of Trolls. Jack is a young teenager but is a bard-in-training in Dark Age Britain. Back from the adventures in the first volume, Jack and his beautiful, demanding younger sister Lucy are dealing with the world that is moving from belief in the old gods to Christianity. On a pilgrimage to a nearby monastery, suddenly Lucy is kidnapped and the local healing spring is gone--and they must travel into the underworld to recover Lucy and restore the spring. A terrific adventure full of magic and fascinating encounters with folkloric creatures--and great fun. Highly enjoyable.

Dana Reinhardt's young adult novel, a brief chapter in my impossible life is a typical realistic teenage novel with a young girl confronting typical high school problems--except the mother who gave up Simone for adoption now wants to meet her, and her adoptive parents are pressing her to go ahead with it, despite her reluctance. As Simone deals with this, she learns a lot more about herself. I quite enjoyed this one.

Elizabeth E. Wein is one of my favourite children's fantasy novelists. Here, in The Lion Hunter, though, she does one of the most annoying things ever--has a book stop without any resolution. Damn, if I'd known this I would have held off on reading it until the second volume was available. However, not knowing that I read ahead and got utterly caught up in this continuing of the story of her character Telamakus in Sixth-century Aksum in Africa. Telamakus is still haunted by the events of the previous novel, and excited by the birth of his sister, runs to hear the news and forgets that he's visiting the king's pet lions in their den, attracting an attack by the male. His recovery is long and difficult, but it allows him to bond so closely with his baby sister, that when his family decides it would be politically best for him to travel to visit a neighbouring king, he takes his baby sister with him. This is such a fascinating world and Telemakus (and the characters that surround him) feel so real, that this utterly absorbed me.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

Between the convention and the virus I didn't get much writing done at all; however, I did complete a decent cover letter and the novel is now in the hands of an agent I was introduced to at World Fantasy. Cross your fingers for me. Tightly.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

Later. Or I'll never manage to post this.

last week's old journal § next week's old journal

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