Category Archives: About a Book

Book Recommendation: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, by Zen Cho

I’ve been wanting to recommend this for a while, but the author’s website was down when I first read it, and I wanted to link to it, because ONCE YOU START READING IT YOU WILL WANT TO BUY IT BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME.

This is an epistolary romance novella (yes! I read a romance!) in the form of a journal, set in 1920’s London.  And it’s AMAZING.  We have delightful (and diverse!) characters, romance tropes turned completely on their heads, and a heroine who has sex purely because she’s curious.  She’s CURIOUS!

Jade’s wit is wonderfully incisive and she has a way of writing about her own life that is funny and intelligent and deliciously analytical.  I highly, HIGHLY recommend this book.  The whole thing is available for free, serialized on the author’s website:

http://zencho.org/category/my-stories/the-perilous-life-of-jade-yeo/

And here it is on Amazon because really, this novella deserves All the Sales: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0087NQRM2

Read it, buy it, and enjoy.

Ten “Favorite” Books

I was talking to a friend today about making a list of our top 10 favorite books.

The decision is so impossible it almost feels meaningless.  I’ve read thousands of books in my lifetime.  Once I sat down to list how as many titles as I could remember reading, and I hit 500 without breaking a sweat — just of titles I could remember off the top of my head.  I have over 600 paper books just in my personal library.

And my favorite books have not always been the best books I’ve read, either.  And the ones I like to reread the most are not even always my favorites!  Sometimes I have sentimental attachments.  Sometimes a book pushes every button I have while still having problems I could write a thesis on.

So I thought, here’s an interesting exercise: try to think of the first 10 (fiction) books that might land in the “favorite” category.  The books that reached in and twisted my soul around.  The books that spoke to me so personally that I felt they were written just for me.  The books that I reread, over and over and over again, for no particular reason.  Write down the first ten of those that come to mind.

10 Books That Touched Me

  1. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman The one paperback in my library I took with me across the country.  I don’t know if it’s my favorite book, or even the one I’ve reread the most.  I just know that it’s like warm blankets and white rice and hot cocoa.  Comfort food.
  2. Deep Secret and The Merlin Conspiracy, by Diana Wynne Jones I’m cheating a little by putting these in the same line item, but they’re in the same universe and remain connected in my mind.  Everything I love about fantasy is wrapped up in these perfectly-written books, and I’m a little embarrassed to say how much I related to Nick.
  3. Bloodchild, by Octavia Butler The first Octavia Butler I read and still my favorite.  Unbelievable how much some of the stories made me think.
  4. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury I don’t actually remember much of this book, to be honest.  What I do remember is almost crying at the beauty of the prose.  Multiple times.
  5. 1984, by George Orwell It’s the ideas behind Orwell’s dystopia that push this one onto the list.  1984 is the sort of book that simultaneously terrified me and engaged me.
  6. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, by William Shakespeare Okay, I’m definitely cheating by putting this all as one line item, especially as there are still some histories I haven’t read, but otherwise once I thought of Shakespeare he would’ve taken up the whole rest of the list.  I’ve read, studied, and performed so many of his plays, and they’ve spoken to me in so many ways.
  7. V, by A.C. Crispin I wrote about my relationship with V here.
  8. The Story Girl, by L.M. Montgomery I owned most of L.M. Montgomery’s books as a kid, and this was my favorite.  I can’t count the number of times I reread it.
  9. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams Spaceships that hang in the sky the same way bricks don’t!  I’ve only encountered one other writer with Adams’ sheer mind-blowing creativity, and she isn’t published yet. ;)
  10. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle I used to reread this book every two years like clockwork.  I still remember explaining proudly to my second-grade teacher what the fourth and fifth dimensions were.  And of course there were all the sequels . . . (Many Waters has made me quite snooty about my Noah’s Ark knowledge in the context of the recent movie release.)

Okay!

It’s an interesting mix.  Half male authors, half female authors.  Staggeringly skewed toward books I first read as a child (8), with only one book I discovered in college (Deep Secret) and two books I discovered post-college (The Merlin Conspiracy and Bloodchild).  Three fantasy, six science fiction, one contemporary (for its time), and Shakespeare.  (Oddly, most of the books I thought of but didn’t feel “favorite” enough were contemporary, like The Joy Luck Club and The Twinkie Squad — there’s something about speculative fiction that hits my kinks much harder, that makes me think much more.)  One media tie-in book (for a series I never saw).  Seven adult books, and four books that would probably be considered young adult.  Only one author of color on the list, which I think is indicative of the fact that I made little effort to diversify my reading when I was young, and most of these books are books I read young.  (Oddly, I can name a plethora of authors of color I did read as a kid — in particular, I know I read quite a few books by Asian-American and African-American authors — but most of those books were contemporary, which we’ve established does not speak to me quite as loudly for some reason.)

Ender’s Game would have been on here if I’d been able to reread it since I found out about Card’s homophobia.  It’s not that I hold it against the book; I just . . . don’t pick it up anymore.

How correct does this list feel, if I weren’t naming the first ten books that felt like favorites off the top of my head?  Well, about half of them feel like books I’d kick and scream at if something else pushed them off the list, so I’m going to go with about half right. ;)

What about you?  What are the first ten “favorite” books you can think of?

Book Recommendation: The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley

How much do I love this book!

I just finished it, and I did not want it to end.  You know how some books you finish because you want to know what happens?  I wanted to know what happened, yes, but I was also enjoying reading it so damn much.  I really, really hope there’s a sequel!  I think I genuinely loved every page of it.  It’s just so much fun!  The plot is sharp, the writing is excellent, and the characters are fantastic.  The story is intense enough that I wouldn’t classify it as “light” in the same way, for instance, Douglas Adams is—there’s definitely plenty of nail-biting suspense and some panicky, worrisome, or downright tearjerking moments as the plot takes turns for the worse—but it’s witty and wildly creative and made me laugh out loud at several points.

Oh, and did I mention how well O’Malley handles gender?  Not just because he’s got a female protagonist (who is awesome, and does not read as a male fantasy, or a “man with boobs,” or someone who’s trying to be a Strong Female Character, but instead reads as a real person), and not because he’s got a bunch of women in main roles who dash about passing the Bechdel test and driving the plot together, even though that’s also true.  But because his women aren’t defined by their femaleness.  He has a cast of diverse, fantastic characters with all sorts of quirks and strengths and faults, and somewhere around half of them just happen to be women.

I really don’t know what it says that I’m this gleeful about seeing this in a book.  But I am.

Anyway, here’s a bit more about the book:

(no major spoilers, adding a click-through just in case . . . edited to add: included below is now an AWESOME book trailer I just found!  Really, this is how to do book trailers!)

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An Open Letter to John Scalzi

Dear Mr. Scalzi,

I’m in the midst of your book Redshirts.  Being a classic Trek fan, I am, so far, quite entertained.  I am also an avid follower of your blog and there find you to be an erudite, articulate, and humorous person; thus, I truly wanted to like your fiction wholeheartedly and in all ways.  I say all this so you know I am not setting out to attack you.

But I am angry.

Although I have some quibbles with Redshirts, most of them I can put up to personal taste, and so far the book has been an amusing and diverting romp.  I did, however, just come across one issue that has outraged me deeply, and that I must speak up about, namely:  Your book fails completely in its human diversity.  Which is tragically ironic, because classic Trek was known for striving, within its time, to be inclusive of races and cultures and women in ways that nobody else in that era was, and your book’s failure to do so stands in stark contrast to its source material.

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