Sunday, November 19, 2017

What I've been Reading

I haven't done one of these posts in a long time, mainly because I've been focusing on writing.

This doesn't mean I've quit reading! Just that thinking about reading has been occupying less of my attention.

Anyway! Here's what I've read lately (that I can remember):

Joe Ide, IQ; Righteous. 

These are two books, the start of a series I suspect, about a kid named Isiah Quintabe. They're a revision (recreating) of the Sherlock Holmes series, except that IQ (as he is called in the hood) is from South Central L.A. and is of mixed black/Asian descent. His Watson is Dodson, a classmate and partner in crime (they start out as criminals, running heists together, heists planned by IQ).

Each book has both a main mystery that needs solving, as well as a mysterious backstory that plays out in the background. The writing is sharp, the dialect and dialogue spot-on, and the characterization excellent.

Good reads.

Sarah Rees Brennan, In Other Lands, The Demon's Lexicon (Trilogy)

These are YA fantasy books, with mostly the characterization and the writing going for them, although In Other Lands, the book by Brennan which I read first also has something to say.

In Other Lands has already become one of my top ten favorite book, by the way. The Demon's Lexicon trilogy is also readable, but nowhere as strong as the stand-alone novel.

In Other Lands seems like a Harry Potter knock-off at first glance. Elliot is selected (well, sold) from his British school because he alone of his classmates can see the wall separating our Earth from the "other land," which is where magic and magicians, mermaids, harpies, elves, and the "Sunborn."

This Tor review describes Elliot as "a redheaded bisexual boy with a fantastically bad attitude and sharp tongue," and that is accurate. At first I was only reading out of delight in Elliot's character. And Elliot is delightful. He's both smart and a smart-ass, a bundle of neuroses who can't seem to keep from infuriating everyone around him (why he's like this becomes clear as the book progresses).

But Brennan has a plot as well. This is a world at war, and a world which glorifies war. Elliot is a pacifist, who finds the waste and destruction of war horrifying. We watch him grow into a diplomat who channels his furious intelligence into writing treaties and brokering peace between the various parties on in this Other Land. This, for me, was the best part of the book.

Though other parts are also great! This book also has wonderful characterization, and there are plot twists that will break your heart. 

Published by Small Beer Press, who published another of my favorite books, Perfect Circle.

Andy Weir, Artemis

Andy Weir wrote the famously famous The Martian, later made into a movie. This is his second book, and it suffers from the same faults as The Martian. That book had a great premise and some very cool ideas, and then lost energy in its last quarter, so that we were skimming through obvious attempts by Weir to ramp up the action and delay the conclusion.

This one too. Set in a small company town on the moon, named Artemis, this is the story of a plucky and very bright woman who in her struggle to make a fortune (for reasons that become clear late in the book) is running a smuggling operation. She also takes on odd jobs, and one of these lands her in deep trouble. The plot deals with how she gets out of trouble, basically.

The problem here, as with Weir's first book, is both pacing and characterization. His characters are flat; the problems with pacing I mentioned above. And while I enjoyed the economist, the rest of the book is bland. Weir has nothing much to say, and substitutes wisecracks for actual depth.

While, like The Martian, this was readable, it's not one I'd read twice.

Katherine Arden, The Bear and the Nightingale

Fantasy mixed with Tolstoy, this is the story of the family of a Russian boyar, related to the local king, whose daughter (and daughter-in-law) have the ability to see mythical (magic) creatures.

Partly I like this book because of all the snow. I am a sucker for stories with lots of snow in them.

It's also a story of an extended family, in which (almost) all the characters are well-developed and well done. The "main character," in the sense that she is the focus of much of the plot, is Vasya, the youngest daughter of the boyar's first wife. She's the one who can see magical creatures. But there is also her grandmother, and her second-eldest brother, and the stepmother, and a Russian priest -- all intriguing characters.

The ending is weaker than the rest, but still a good read.

This one reminds me a bit of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, but on the whole I like the writing and the story here much better.

I've also been re-reading a lot (when most of my intellect is focused on writing, re-reading is so much easier): David Lodge, Nice Work; Eleanor Arnason, Ring of Swords; Le Guin, Birthday of the World; and straight through every work written by John Barnes, or at least the ones I own or the library has.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

No News

Not much happening here, which is good -- I need monotony in order to write effectively.

The Kid continues well, and is making excellent art.

I'm working on revisions of Fault Lines.

The weather is (finally) cooling off. This week we had highs near 80 again, but tonight the low is in the 30s. I work so much better in winter than summer.

Thanksgiving approaches. The Kid's uncle will be in town, and the Kid will be home as well.

After TNX, only a week and a half of semester left. I am really looking forward to the winter break.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Links for your Monday

Due to the good news about the Kid's health, we're spending far less time driving up to Fayetteville. We did go this past weekend, however, because the Kid missed their dog.

Heywood worshiping the Kid

Heywood got many, many walks -- we took him to Wilson Park, as well as Lake Fayetteville. It was an overcast, chilly, windy day. My favorite weather.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Good news

I received some excellent news today -- my story that was published in the May/June F&SF, "History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs," will be republished in Gardner Dozois' Year's Best Science Fiction: The Thirty-Fifth Annual Collection.

I am extremely pleased.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

My Weekend

I'm having a hectic weekend.

Normally my weekends are spent drinking coffee, writing fiction, and doing laundry. On Monday, I prep for my big teaching days -- Tuesday and Thursday.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Changing Standard American English II

So I have kept on running the informal polls I mention here in this post. As I noted in that post, I'm not certain of the validity of what I am learning, due to my biased sample. But I'm enjoying the discussions I'm generating, as well as seeing how people react to these examples of "bad" English.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Changing Standard American English

I've been running informal polls on FB over the past few days, asking people to self-report on which of these English sentences sound "correct" or "incorrect" to them.

I have often went to school late.
Once the park closed, we snuck into the children's playground.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Update on the Kid

Tentative good news.

Today we took the Kid for their follow up with the liver guy, the one who has been treating their possible autoimmune disease.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Monday Links

I overslept and missed a meeting this morning. I blame my insomnia.

Have some links!

Richard Wilbur died. Aside from Sharon Olds, he's my favorite modern poet, so I was sad, even if he was nearly 100 years old. Some of my favorites: Advice to a Prophet,  Boy at the Window, The Writer, The Beautiful Changes, Still, Citizen Sparrow, Year's End

Sunday, October 22, 2017


A big storm blew threw last night, causing the power to shut off here, briefly, and apparently for a much greater length of time elsewhere in the area. Lots of thunder and driving rain and high wind.

On its heels, fall has appeared. It's rainy and cold outside, with a heavy overcast; and more cold weather is forecast for the rest of the week.

Which, finally. It's almost November and we were still getting temperatures near 90 some days.

Meanwhile, I finished grading midterms. Still reading student papers.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Fall Break

We don't get one of these at our university, but the kid gets one. They came home last night, and will be here until Tuesday.

We're doing laundry, dealing with therapy appointments, and considering taking Heywood to the dog park, if the hideous heat would ever cut us a break. (High of 90 today, on October 13.)

Also, some cooking is planned. And they're going to a movie (It) with a high school friend.

Me? I'll be over here in this armchair, writing a new short story and reading student papers.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Links for you!

The power went out here last night at just past midnight. The entire neighborhood was dark and silent. I've never slept so well.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Kid Does Art

This is an exercise for their Studio I class:

Desk with water bottle, charcoal on paper

For the record, they hate working in charcoal with a fiery passion.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Your Semi-Frequent Reminder

...that if you're not reading the Kid's comic, what is wrong with you?

Today's page is excellent.

Friday, October 06, 2017

What's up?

My novel has been sent off to my publisher, my latest book review has been submitted, the committee that eats my life is on momentary hiatus, and the kid's health crisis has (for the moment) abated. (They've got another appointment at the end of the month, but everything is looking much better right now.) I hardly know what to do with myself, y'all.

I have started a new short story, and am thinking about my next novel. Also teaching and advising. Advising season has begun!

Also I am hoping that summer might one day end. It was 91 degrees here yesterday and we are expecting a high of 89 today. >:(

I've been reading a lot, but almost nothing worth reporting on. People need to write more good books. I was reduced to checking an F. Scott Fitzgerald book out of the library yesterday -- Tender is the Night -- which I had never read, and which so far I am entirely unimpressed by.

I did read Sam Miller's The Art of Starving. That one was good. It's sort of magical realism and sort of a realistic novel about being a working class kid in a Northeastern working class town -- a gay kid, in a town where the industry is failing, and whose mother is on the edge of losing her job. Very nice writing and excellent characters.

But otherwise I have been in a long drought.