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Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - July 20
Time:10:08 pm.
This week I conducted a complete inventory and reorganization of my apartment library. From this, I learned the following three things:
1) I am missing volumes 2 and 3 of Silver Diamond. I am terrified that they were lost years ago by the postal service,
2) I have a ridiculous number of books in my apartment, and
3) The quantity of books I own but have not yet read cover-to-cover is embarrassing.

What I Just Finished Reading

Knotwork – Aidan Meehan
This is the best of Meehan's knotwork manuals. His tone is enthusiastic instead of abrasive, and the explanation of how medieval scribes used compasses and straight edges to lay out gospel carpet pages is itself worth the price of admission. Also of interest is the fact that although Meehan trots out his standard three grid construction method, here he dials it back to two grids, essentially turning it into Bain's method for laying out knotwork.

Crown Duel – Sherwood Smith
Although I'll never recapture the tension of the first (and even second) read-throughs and now remember when most of the jokes are coming up, re-reading this book was as lovely an experience as it's ever been. Smith does such a good job with her characters, world-building, and plotting. As I said last week, I hope one day to write as well as this.

Isagi Kojima - 杉浦 志保 (Isagi Kojima – Sugiura Shiho) 
Sugiura wrote this yomikiri almost two decades ago. It's far more openly dark than her later series, which fact alone makes it worth reading, and you can see her just starting to play around with some of the dominant themes of her future series. And finally, from the art to the plotting to the way characters deal with social issues, boy oh boy is this pre-lost decades Japan.

終点Unknown 4 - 杉浦 志保 – (Shuten Unknown vol. 4 – Sugiura Shiho)
Okay, I'm hooked. You keep lobbing those emotional zingers over the wall, Sugiura, and I'll keep coming back for more. And there is only one more volume plus the gaiden to go. Let us all fervently pray that they let her go long with whatever series she starts working on next.

Silver Diamond 1 - 杉浦 志保 (Silver Diamond vol. 1 – Sugiura Shiho) 
I love this series, and it just gets better with each reread as I know what's in store for these characters.

Silver Diamond 27 - 杉浦 志保 (Silver Diamond vol. 27 – Sugiura Shiho) 
Such a perfect ending to this series. And if that weren't good enough, there is one panel that just continues to make my day nearly a week later.

Silver Diamond 外伝 - 杉浦 志保 (Silver Diamond Gaiden – Sugiura Shiho)
A lovely epilogue that manages to pack in action post-defeat of the series' main antagonists, and a wonderful look at what has become of the world since.


What I Am Currently Reading

Build Your Own Gaming PC – Russell Barnes & Adam Barnes
I've yet to make it beyond the hardware chapters, but thus far the authors have kept product/brand shills to a minimum, which is what I'd been hoping for.

In the Darkroom – Susan Faludi
It's still early days, but I'm already hooked. I imagine this is going to be a very good, but difficult book.

Jane Steele – Lyndsay Faye
Boy howdy this is both dark and incredibly well written. Faye's narrator's Victorian voice is spot on, and she is doing a fabulous job of pulling back the curtains on what precisely it was that all those characters in Dickens, Bronte, or Austen were truly dreading. It's so well done that the element of wish fulfillment/retribution is rewarding, instead of grating. One of the novels of most enjoyed reading so far this year.

Marked – Sarah Fine
This looks to be another mediocre offering from Amazon Kindle First. Ho-hum.

Sabriel – Garth Nix
I prefer to only read this novel during summer rainstorms, and we had a fabulous one last night, so out it came. Some of Nix's prose now strikes me as clunkier than it did a decade ago, but lesser authors would do well to take lessons from him in world-building and writing kickass female leads.

Indonesian Slang – Christopher Torchia & Lely Djuhari
Despite what it says on the label, this is actually a book of folk sayings, thematically organized. That said, there's a fair amount of Javanese and some other regional languages in here, and it's a good resource.

Younger – Susan Munshower
This is actually a really good book. I'm intrigued to see how the hints of menace will develop. In the meantime, Munshower is doing a wicked job of providing some wonderful social commentary by showing, not telling.

Indonesian: A Comprehensive Grammar – James Sneddon, K. Alexander Adelaar, Dwi Djenar
Forging ever onward, I now encounter ber-an verbs indicating reciprocity or repetitiveness of action, as well as ber-kan verbs indicating the state of having the base noun.

デンキ – 直野儚羅 (Denki – Naono Bohra)
Being an anthology of older Naono yomikiri. I have all of them in their individual volumes, but like a mix tape, it's interesting to encounter them here in an unfamiliar context and order.


What I'm Reading Next

銀の風遠い刻―小田切ほたる (Gin no Kaze Tohi Toki – Odagiri Hotaru
Another older volume in support of my trip down Nippon Nostalgia Lane.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - July 13
Time:12:02 am.
Temperatures in my apartment regularly came close to topping 100 degrees this week; thus, I spent a lot of time in the elsewhere, reading.

What I Just Finished Reading

Miramont's Ghost – Elizabeth Hall
The worst book I have read all year. Everyone from the author to the publisher should be ashamed.

竹光侍 4 - 松本大洋 (Takemitsu-zamurai vol. 4 - Matsumoto Taiyo) 
My palette cleanser. Matsumoto is at the top of his game here. We're treated to some amazing backstory for both our lead protagonist and supporting characters, and an absolute jaw-dropper of a cliffhanger.

終点Unknown 3 - 杉浦 志保 – (Shuten Unknown vol. 3 – Sugiura Shiho)
So last week I was all, Meh about this series. And then Sugiura decided to get serious and I could not put it down. There are plenty other mangaka who do angst and psychological scarring more bombastically than she, but none of them do it so well.

Silver Diamond 25 - 杉浦 志保 (Silver Diamond vol. 25 – Sugiura Shiho) 
The previous volume was a bit of a plod (by Sugiura's standards,) but this volume finds her, and the story, back on point. And how. Amazing character development, nail-biting drama, and gut-punches to readers coming so fast and furious it's exhilarating.

Silver Diamond 26 - 杉浦 志保 (Silver Diamond vol. 26 – Sugiura Shiho) 
Dear god, this is perhaps the best thing I've read all year. So damn good I didn't even notice the knife in my kidney for a good long while. Sugiura, whenever did you slip that in?

I cried. And I had to put it down multiple times, because I couldn't breathe.


What I Am Currently Reading

Knotwork – Aidan Meehan
I find Meehan's method for constructing knotwork needlessly obtuse and his tone frequently arrogant. And yet I keep reading – it is, in fact, a guilty pleasure.

Younger – Susan Munshower
An Amazon Kindle First book that doesn't make me want to gouge my eyes out and curse the invention of written language?!? Like you, I didn't believe it was possible. But this book is not only readable, it's good.

Crown Duel – Sherwood Smith
Every time I return to this book, I'm floored by how good it is. Amazing and fresh worldbuilding, endearing, believable characters, incredibly subtle exposition, and a ripping plot that subverts some of the most fundamental fantasy tropes. Some day, I hope to write like this.

Indonesian: A Comprehensive Grammar – James Sneddon, K. Alexander Adelaar, Dwi Djenar
Forging ever onward, I now encounter ber-an verbs indicating reciprocity or repetitiveness of action, as well as ber-kan verbs indicating the state of having the base noun.

終点Unknown 4 - 杉浦 志保 – (Shuten Unknown vol. 4 – Sugiura Shiho)
In which the climax becomes visible. The series became massively more compelling in the second half of volume 3, but it also feels like Cliff's Notes of a real Sugiura series. If only her publisher had let her go longer.

There's already talk of a 外伝, so they've apparently come around (belatedly) to this way of thinking.

Silver Diamond 27 - 杉浦 志保 (Silver Diamond vol. 27 – Sugiura Shiho) 
A very necessary denouement, given the way the previous volume ripped my beating heart from my chest.


What I'm Reading Next

Wren to the Rescue – Sherwood Smith
I have high hopes that this will be more Crown Duel than Court Duel.

Silver Diamond 外伝 - 杉浦 志保 (Silver Diamond Gaiden – Sugiura Shiho)
When I finish this volume, 13 years of my life will be over. It's going to hurt.

これで以上です。
Comments: Read 3 orAdd Your Own.

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - July 6
Time:11:20 pm.
And after a short hiatus, I am back.

What I Just Finished Reading

How To Be a Victorian – Ruth Goodman
Entertaining and well-written from start to finish. I recommend this one to anyone interested in day-to-day life during the time period.

Promethea vol. 1 – Alan Moore
Nearly 20 years later, Promethea is still the best comic out there. The storytelling, the worldbuilding, the clever allusions, the social commentary, the art (oh god, the art). I more or less have this volume memorised, but it still wows me every time I read it.

Having said that, it is a product of its time, written before anyone questioned why “gay” was a go-to putdown for a subpar experience, or whether sex between a colonial landholder and his decades younger, mentally handicapped housemaid could ever be described as “consensual.” But what's surprising is how jarring these instances are, precisely because they stick out like sore thumbs here, when so many 21st century titles are far more Neanderthal, for all that they've been written decades later.

Promethea vol. 3 – Alan Moore
Moore gets a bit more didactic in this volume, but since it's Tarot and Qabbalah and English ritual magic, I don't really mind. Still a few blind spots on display (e.g., one wonders if the typical woman in ancient Greece would use “freedom,” “logic,” or “peace” to characterise her existence), but the plot and character development are as good as ever, and the art is enthralling.


What I Am Currently Reading

Miramont's Ghost – Elizabeth Hall
The author knows how to spell and punctuate.

Wildwood Dancing – Juliet Marillier
This book was so good, so good...until the main character started delivering pages of ham-fisted dialogue that could have come straight from a modern pop psychology book on self-actualization. I am sad.

Time Exposure – Jane Burton & Dougal Dixon
I loved this book as a child. It's interesting to return to it as an adult and read all the passages that were far too technical for my child's attention span. I believe the author is Scottish, and it's also interesting how frequently my flow snags on his unanticipated phrasings or word choices.

Indonesian: A Comprehensive Grammar – James Sneddon, K. Alexander Adelaar, Dwi Djenar
In which I encounter the memper- and memper-kan verbs, and spend much time committing to memory when and how they do not overlap with their men- and men-kan counterparts.

終点Unknown 3 - 杉浦 志保 – (Shuten Unknown vol. 3 – Sugiura Shiho)
It's an amusing series with art that is as gorgeous as ever, but it just is not grabbing me. Sugiura excels at long, intricate plots and the attendant character development; everything here just feels rushed.


What I'm Reading Next

Wren to the Rescue – Sherwood Smith/b>

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - June 22
Time:10:15 pm.
Expect next week's pace to taper off given that Good Old Games just had their big summer sale. Anyway, this past week's reading:

What I Just Finished Reading

Headscarves and Hymens – Mona Eltahawy
Although the rest of the volume never attains the diamond-brilliant glory of the first essay, this volume is well worth the ready.

The Great Suppression – Zachary Roth
Also worth the read, although I'm a little skeptical as to Roth's conclusion that Jane and Joe Everyone can turn the tide against moneyed elites' efforts to disenfranchise them from the political process.

Queen and Country: The Definitive Edition vol. 3 – Greg Rucka 
The art was by and large fabulous, and I think Rucka means well. But he is also a sterling example of how even largely well-meaning male authors so often get it wrong when writing “realistic” female protagonists.

Silver Diamond 24 - 杉浦 志保 (Silver Diamond vol. 24 – Sugiura Shiho) 
In which Rakan & Co. deal a striking blow to the main antagonist. I imagine it would have been gripping had I been able to read it in Ichi Raci, but the dramatic tension is somewhat lessened by my knowledge that four additional volumes yet remain.

蟲師 3 - 漆原 友紀 (Mushishi vol. 3 – Urushihara Yuki) 
I love, love, love Urushihara's art. It's what my fantasy-perfect premodern Japan looks like. That said, the series has been slow going for me thus far, with it's youkai-of-the-week format and dearth of recurring characters. But halfway through the volume's final chapter, we get a hint that Urushihara's just sneaked in some major backstory that's confirmed by the conclusion. If the following volumes contain actual plot arcs in addition to the gorgeous artwork, you can count me on board.


What I Am Currently Reading

Jane Steele – Lyndsay Faye
Having read the first chapter, I'm pleased to say Faye has the voice down pat. However, I get the sense the story may be far darker than what I thought it would be. I'm now wondering if I should reread Jane Eyre before plunging any further into this one, as good as the writing promises to be.

Miramont's Ghost – Elizabeth Hall
Still as flatly and unbelievably written as ever. At least I'm a fourth of the way through it.

Wildwood Dancing – Juliet Marillier
While not as wonderfully atmospheric as I'd hoped it would be, I'm still enjoying the story immensely. The plot, characterizations, and description are all engaging, and I'm eager to see if some of my suspicions about where the story might be headed regarding the Night Folk and the magical frog Gogu are borne out.

The Living Religious & Cultural Traditions of Bhutan – National Museum, Janpath, New Delhi
This book contains some lovely tidbits about Bhutanese culture, particularly the country's unique riff on esoteric Buddhism. The color photographs are top notch; my main complaint is that they should have included far more, particularly details of the intricate thangka paintings.

Queen and Country: The Definitive Edition vol. 4 – Greg Rucka 
I believe this is the final volume in the series, although thus far it's been backstories for the secondary male characters, versus Rucka picking up the story from its volume 3 cliffhanger. Given the overall implausibility of the volume's ending, this may be a blessing in disguise.

Indonesian: A Comprehensive Grammar – James Sneddon, K. Alexander Adelaar, Dwi Djenar
I have finally moved into me-i verbs. This week's sections focused on me-i verbs indicating location of the action, and their corresponding me-kan + preposition counterparts indicating the object.

Sang Alkemis – Paul Coehlo
Trudging along. At least I'm picking up some useful geographic and pastoral vocabulary.


What I'm Reading Next

Crown Duel – Sherwood Smith
This is one of my quintessential high-summer reads. I own the paperback reprint, but am trying to get the 1997 edition, with its “uncorrected” geography, from the library to read instead.

これで以上です。
Comments: Read 1 orAdd Your Own.

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Subject:Dear Rare Pair Fest Author
Time:1:12 pm.
I love exchanges and I'm so happy to be getting a fic from you, especially in one of these lesser-known fandoms. In terms of the fic itself, I like everything from G-rated character studies to full on smut. Slice-of-life vignettes and intricately plotted epics are both fine by me. My kinks include humor, banter, loyalty, found families, characters confronting social norms, and hurt comfort. My fairly short list of DNWs includes noncon, character death, or heavy-duty AU.

Collapse )
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - June 15
Time:10:14 pm.
What I Just Finished Reading

A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab 
I finished it. The writing was mediocre at best and often simply bad. I have no desire to read the sequel.


What I Am Currently Reading

Headscarves and Hymens – Mona Eltahawy
You probably know Eltahawy for her 2012 Foreign Policy article “Why Do They Hate Us?” It reappears here, in updated form, as the first chapter of the book and it is even more blistering than the original. It's some of the best writing I've read this year. The rest of the book is still very good, but slightly paler by comparison (perhaps because it has not had four years' worth of reworking). But I am tearing through this thing and very glad to be reading it.

How To Be a Victorian – Ruth Goodman
I am very much enjoying this book. Goodman has chosen to organize her material in the framework of a British Victorian's life from waking to bedtime, an approach I wasn't sure I would care for initially, but that is both engaging and a very effective way to convey information. A third of the way in, I have not been bored yet, even by topics that would normally never interest me.

Wildwood Dancing – Juliet Marillier
It's still early days, but that's only because I put the novel down until I have time to properly savor it. From what I've read so far, this is going to be fantasy fiction as I wish all of it were written.

The Great Suppression – Zachary Roth
I thought this was going to be a book about voter suppression legislation, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it is much wider in scope. Thus far, Roth has also tackled the influence of corporate and one-percenter money on electoral politics, attempts to stack or neuter the Supreme Court, gerrymandering, efforts to make the Senate and Electoral College less responsive to popular majorities, and attempts to override the legislative prerogatives of state and local governments. The latter especially was unfamiliar to me, and both interesting and troubling to learn about. At 180 pages, the book is short, but I have yet to feel that Roth isn't dealing with an issue comprehensively, or is cherrypicking his evidence (and only once that he had not considered a likely alternate hypothesis).

Indonesian: A Comprehensive Grammar – James Sneddon, K. Alexander Adelaar, Dwi Djenar
This week's reading involved me-kan constructions as a way of formulating verbs indicating actions conducted in or on the base noun.

What I'm Reading Next

Jane Steele – Lyndsay Faye
I will get to this book!

Inside the Victorian Home – Judith Flanders
Being the much more traditionally structured analog to Goodman's volume. My sense is that it will cover much of the same ground, only in slightly more detail and in a more academic and less chatty fashion. The color plates look gorgeous.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

Subject:Last night I joined a new D&D group...
Time:12:36 pm.
...and it was lovely. It's been a long time since anything has left me with this particular type of contented happiness, and 12 hours later I am still thinking about the quest and eager for the next session to find out what will happen next.

I hadn't realised how much I missed playing. This city is full of intelligent and informed people, but they also tend to be casually dismissive of "geek" things in the way only people who've never actually encountered them can be.

We aren't meeting again for another month, so now I am very much feeling the urge to replay the Baldur's Gate series. It's going to be in the upper 90s all weekend, so I might have to make this happen.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - June 8
Time:10:06 pm.
Not much to report this week, not much.

What I Just Finished Reading

The Good Fairies of New York – Martin Millar
Over a decade later, I still love this book, even after multiple readings and very little detail forgotten between them. Millar perfectly illustrates that you don't need trilogies with epic-sounding titles or ornate prose to write a damn good fantasy novel.

恋愛年齢 – 直野儚羅 (Ren'ai Nenrei – Naono Bohra)
Final verdict: it was cute, but boy did I wish her publishers had given her more space in which to explore the characters' relationships and backstories. That's true for the main oyaji couple whose story comprises the first several chapters, and especially so for the final two chapters, with their human/nekomata pairings and Edo jidai setting. That stuff is catnip to me, and I would have loved for it to have been spun into a much longer tale.


What I Am Currently Reading

A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab
Two-thirds of the way in, it's gone even further downhill. Characters speak to each other in large chunks of expository dialogue that would never emerge in actual human conversation, the POV begins to switch between more and more one-off characters so Schwab can introduce various deus ex machina, and boy does she ever go overboard on the italics, sometimes to the tune of multiple words a sentence. I will be glad to wrap this one up this week.

Indonesian: A Comprehensive Grammar – James Sneddon, K. Alexander Adelaar, Dwi Djenar
This week's sections compared me-, me-kan, and ber- words with the same base. It was good stuff as always, but I will probably have to revise it a few times to remember each word's definition correctly.


What I'm Reading Next

How to Be a Victorian – Ruth Goodman
For reasons.

The Great Suppression – Zachary Roth
I have a personal interest in this book, having almost been disenfranchised by Republican-enacted voter ID laws after years living abroad.

これで以上です。
Comments: Read 3 orAdd Your Own.

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - June 1
Time:10:20 pm.
What I Just Finished Reading

The Strangler Vine – M.J. Carter 
It held up very well on the reread, especially considering this time through no longer involved the tension of not knowing who lives and who dies, to put it bluntly. One of my favorite things about this novel, which became clear to me the second time through, is how little Carter tells you about physical appearances, ages, etc. Readers wishing to know will have to pay close attention to the narrative and do a fair amount of extrapolating. The thing is—and what too few authors realise—is that it makes the narrative so much more immediate and vivid than having everyone stare in a mirror, or express jealousy/admiration for another character's hair/eye color/height.

Myth-Making and Religious Extremism and Their Roots in Crises – Arthur Neal & Helen Youngelson-Neal
Final verdict: some intriguing concepts are buried in this volume but the book fails to deliver, largely because the authors lack an overall thesis or framework for organizing the information. Their arguments are poorly structured, repetitive, and frequently contradictory. That said, they reference a ton of intriguing sociologists and theorists, and I found myself regularly flipping to the works cited section to make notes for future reading.


What I Am Currently Reading

A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab
I realised what it is about this book that is rubbing me the wrong way: it's set in Victorian London, but the narration and worse, dialogue, come straight out of 21st century America. Our Stoic Yet Softhearted™ mage protagonist is repeatedly “okay” after whatever's just happened to him. “Sit down before you fall down, magic boy,” threatens our Plucky Lady Heroine™ when they first meet. (PS: Oh, snap!) Combined with the narrative sloppiness of characters remembering or forgetting their informed attributes to create a path of least resistance for the author, it just leaves me cold.

Indonesian: A Comprehensive Grammar – James Sneddon, K. Alexander Adelaar, Dwi Djenar
Bless this book. In less than 100 words it explained a bit of grammar—me-kan constructions, why they are both adjectives and verbs, and when they are adjectives versus verbs—to which another volume I own devoted an entire chapter that left me more confused than illuminated.

恋愛年齢 – 直野儚羅 (Ren'ai Nenrei – Naono Bohra
These stories were written in the years before 2010, when I felt that Naono was really phoning it in for her published stuff. The interesting works are now in her DJs, where she can spend as much time as she likes on plot before getting to the sex.


What I'm Reading Next

The Game of Kings – Dorothy Dunnett
Still planning to get to this one soon.

Jane Steele – Lyndsay Faye
I will be reading this book because it stole the cover from my current obsession, The Strangler Vine. I'm not joking

As a bonus, I believe it too might involve an alternate London.

これで以上です。
Comments: Read 1 orAdd Your Own.

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Subject:Long weekend woes
Time:7:02 pm.
It is disgustingly hot and humid, and the library has been closed for the long weekend, meaning I can't escape to somewhere comfortable. Therefore, I am going to wrangle this Strangler Vine thing to at least 2,500 words in length, and then I am going to post it.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - May 25
Time:8:03 pm.
What I Just Finished Reading

Trees vol. 1 – Warren Ellis
The eight issues collected in this volume eventually came together better than I'd expected them to, and I will progress at some point to volume 2. Some of Ellis' social commentary grates, but overall, he's one of the more incisive authors in the medium in this regard and that's the case here.


What I Am Currently Reading

The Strangler Vine – M.J. Carter 
Some of my favorite scenes in the last 100 pages are coming up, and I'm slowing down to try to get to them over the weekend.

Western Power in Asia – Arthur Cotterell
I've moved on to the conquest of Malacca and the Acehnese uprising in response. It's good stuff; I'd had no idea Aceh was such a powerhouse back in the day.

Myth-Making and Religious Extremism and Their Roots in Crises – Arthur Neal & Helen Youngelson-Neal
This week's chapter focused on why people enter and become disillusioned with organized religious groups. Neal and Youngelson-Neal don't offer any insight beyond the readily apparent, but they did reference several other scholars whose work I will probably look into.

A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab
A third of the way through, it possesses many of the elements I love – world-hopping, blood magic, alternate Londons, hints of pirates to come – but it all leaves me cold. The characters feel like paper dolls more than people. At least it reads quickly.

Indonesian: A Comprehensive Grammar – James Sneddon, K. Alexander Adelaar, Dwi Djenar
This week's sections revolved around ber- and men- verb conjugations. I considered myself solid on this topic already, but Sneddon et al. added a great deal more to my understanding.

Sang Alkemis – Paulo Coelho
It doesn't get any less smarmy in Indonesian. Still, I forge on.

禅、シンプル生活のすすめ – 枡野俊明 (Zen, Shimpuru Seikatsu no Susume – Masuno Shunmyo)
I first read this over six years ago and found it pleasant, if not particularly memorable. Last November, another volume I'd picked up in BookOff and was very much enjoying struck me as familiar – it was also by Masuno. As I liked the latter one so much I thought I'd revisit this and see if my opinions have changed with the passage of time. I'm doing a chapter a night before going to bed. So far, so good.


What I'm Reading Next

The Game of Kings – Dorothy Dunnett
I'm more in the mood for historical fantasy than straight historical fiction, and will probably pout for a bit because Pascat's so recently spoiled me with a slashy version of the former. But it comes recommended and has lots of stars on LT.

これで以上です。
Comments: Read 2 orAdd Your Own.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - May 18
Time:11:35 pm.
What I Just Finished Reading

The Captive Prince – C.S. Pascat 
Plotwise, it read like a bona fide BL novel in English. Craftwise, it read like decent fanfic, although I could have done without 90 percent of the adverbs. I can't shake the feeling that I know this story from somewhere.

Our main character Damen seemed a little too blasé about his captivity, and his flaying. I have high hopes that his complacency toward slavery will come back to haunt him, potentially as a wallow in helpless devotion to his captor. I imagine that exchange between Laurent and the Regent is significant, especially given the latter's preference for children. (Ew.) I do like that the racy bits are largely pandering to my tastes, versus standard romance novel or porn-for-straight-dudes tastes. I just hope they pander less to non-con/non-con BDSM/chan...I honestly can't tell where things are going at this point.

The novella at the end was of far better quality than the main novel; I hope the subsequent books take after it.

Prince's Gambit – C.S. Pascat
Okay, I'm hooked. Our heroes are clearly ciphers for Thor and Loki, but perhaps it's because I can rely on that shorthand/familiarity here that the book seems far more three-dimensional than it should be. Other elements remind me of Attolia, or Saintcrow's Romances of Arquitaine, or even a bit of Song of Achilles, and that's helping too.

For me, bad fantasy fails because it bumps me out of the narrative, and this should be doing that – (Who produces all the food and clothing for this bloated court and its rent boys and girls? Where are all the rent boys/girls coming from, anyway? Are their families upset that this has happened to them? What about the people who don't want to be pets? The slaves who don't learn to embrace abject groveling subservience? The commoners who think they're worth more than three coppers?) – but it isn't.

I am surprised by how much I like the dynamic between Damen and Laurent, which is more complex than I'd anticipated, and there are moments of shining humor that took me completely by surprise. The slow burn between them is also very, very well done, and hits pretty much all of my buttons. My one concern is that Laurent will prove to be too manipulative and omniscient to be believable, but I'll have to wait for the third book to find out.

Kings Rising – C.S. Pascat
I was absolutely right about the big reveal underlying much of Laurent's behavior, but it was handled so well, I'm pleased at having spotted it instead of irritated at its obviousness or heavy-handedness. I am also pleased at the way Damen's change of heart was revealed – as genuine and believable character development versus, again, heavy-handed with capital-L Lessons Learned moping and angsting.

I was surprised by an incorrect assumption I'd made concerning Jocaste, and completely blindsided by a nice piece of narrative symmetry toward the end.

Overall, in terms of some major kinks (worldbuilding, long-game plotting, character developmet) these books were far, far better than I thought they'd be and I am very glad to have read them, despite their having rendered me useless for doing anything else over the past five days.

The Late Works of Hayao Miyazaki – Dani Cavallaro
I finished it. I think my favorite passage is this:

His ecstatic vision is shattered as an enormous zeppelin descends onto the scene and proceeds to bomb the countryside below, while the boy is powerless to halt it. Strange creatures ride the zeppelin's hideous ammunition, which hangs from the aircraft by means of wires redolent of thick noodles.

“Redolent of thick noodles.”

"Redolent of thick noodles."

The entire book is written like that.


What I Am Currently Reading

The Strangler Vine – M.J. Carter 
Largely put on hold because of the Captive Prince series, along with the fic.

Western Power in Asia – Arthur Cotterell
The conquest of Calicut and Malacca was put on hold for the Captive Prince series.

Someone out there is responsible for this. They know who they are.

Indonesian: A Comprehensive Grammar – James Sneddon, K. Alexander Adelaar, Dwi Djenar
I've forged ahead into se- and se-nya constructions. Unlike last week's affixes, my brain seems to take to this set.


What I'm Reading Next

Trees vol. 1 – Warren Ellis
I am going to wrap this one up this week, because I've had it signed out for a really embarrassingly long time.

Myth-Making and Religious Extremism and Their Roots in Crises – Arthur Neal & Helen Youngelson-Neal
I made it to chapter 6 before the dense prose made me take a breather. There are interesting ideas in this book, but the presentation could have been tightened and the editing, well, could have been done in the first place.

A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab
This being my third stab at this novel since last November, I am determined to make headway this time.

これで以上です。
Comments: Read 12 orAdd Your Own.

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - May 11, 2016
Time:9:15 pm.
What I Just Finished Reading

Alas, nothing. It has been a week of long hours at work and long commutes to and from.

What I Am Currently Reading

The Strangler Vine – M.J. Carter 
I’m about halfway through with my read-through, and enjoying my favorite bits from my first go-round with the added knowledge of hindsight. And god help me, I appear to be ficcing it.

Western Power in Asia – Arthur Cotterell
I’m currently in the midst of the Portuguese expansion into India. Thus far, the writing is crisp and informative. I am pleased.

Trees vol. 1 – Warren Ellis
The first issue didn’t capture me, but I’m increasingly intrigued the further in I read. That said, I wish Ellis had devoted more panels (to say nothing of issues) to unpacking some important character development, a common reaction I’ve had to other recent promising titles.

Miramont's Ghost – Elizabeth Hall
I’ve read enough fiction that I have a hard time tolerating cliché at this point. Por ejemplo: We are told the main character is “making up” for his horrendous treatment of his daughter by doting on his granddaughter. Except, making up with your daughter is how you make up with your daughter. Spoiling her daughter when you didn’t treat her well just adds insult to injury.

Indonesian: A Comprehensive Grammar – James Sneddon, K. Alexander Adelaar, Dwi Djenar
This week I delved deeply into the affixes ke-an, pe-an, and per-an and tried wrapping my head around the nuances that all come out the same in English translation.

What I'm Reading Next

The Late Works of Hayao Miyazaki – Dani Cavallaro
Cavallaro possesses the linguistic aptitude of Donald Trump. It’s taken me two years to get through this thing but this coming week, I will finish it. I will not let it defeat me.

Most Blessed of Patriarchs - Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf
Looking forward to this weekend, when hopefully I can sit down and devote long uninterrupted periods to reading this.

これで以上です。
Comments: Read 1 orAdd Your Own.

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

Subject:Fic: To Whom It May Concern
Time:6:39 pm.
I actually participated in shipswap this year and wrote the following Goblin Emperor fic, which was great fun.

Title: To Whom It May Concern
Fandom The Goblin Emperor
Summary One day, Csevet Aisava made a simple mistake.
&c. Post-canon, 2,835 words, rated G.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - May 4
Time:10:58 pm.
Wow, it's been awhile, hasn't it?

What I Just Finished Reading

The Infidel Stain – M.J. Carter
What a disappointment. This book reads like someone's bad fanfic sequel to The Strangler Vine. Carter reduces her formerly intriguing protagonists to buffoonish caricatures, which makes her cribbing from Doyle all the more obvious and irritating. The narrative reads as if someone had a gun to her head and was threatening to pull the trigger if she dared include anything but exposition.

And boy, is it tedious (Just try to distinguish passages from the novel from the book's bona fide historical afterward. I dare you.) Even the dialogue is presented as post facto exposition, when it would have been more exciting and less verbose had it been written as dialogue. I get the feeling that a) Carter and/or her publishers wanted to get a sequel out as quickly as possible, good writing be damned, and b) Carter included so much exposition (vice narration or dialogue) to hit contractual word counts. At any rate, give this half-baked volume a miss.

What I Am Currently Reading

The Strangler Vine – M.J. Carter 
Now, this is some good writing. A disaffected ensign in the East India Company is ordered to accompany a disgraced loose cannon and former officer on a search to locate a missing poet, who may have been murdered by Thugs. Carter's descriptions are lush and the protagonists fascinating. And she plays her cards close to her chest, so when she parcels out hints and clues as to who these people might be, readers are left hungering for more.

There is some unnecessary exposition here (although far less than in the sequel), and some fairly improbably scenarios, but here's the thing: I'm willing to go all-in on these bits because the rest of the writing is so good.

Sang Alkemis – Paul Coelho
I was hoping the experience of reading this one in Indonesian would make it somewhat more tolerable. It hasn't.

Indonesian: A Comprehensive Grammar – James Sneddon, K. Alexander Adelaar, Dwi Djenar
I adore grammar books, and for Indonesian, this is probably the best. The explanations are concise and clearly written, and there's a lot of good vocabulary for intermediate to advanced readers.

What I'm Reading Next

Most Blessed of Patriarchs - Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf
Jefferson fascinates me: you'd think he largely got it if you only knew him from his writings, but in his conduct he was a hideous human being as often as not. I'm interested to see whether this book's premise – that Jefferson organized his life around “mastery” of the self, intellect, actions, etc. - can convince me.

Miramont's Ghost – Elizabeth Hall
This was a freebie and looks to be as bad as most Kindle novels, but I need something mindless for my commute.

これで以上です。
Comments: Read 10 orAdd Your Own.

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - March 2, 2016
Time:10:07 pm.
What I Just Finished Reading

竹光侍 3 - 松本大洋 (Takemitsu-zamurai vol. 3 - Matsumoto Taiyo)
Matsumoto is just a master - his artwork imbues the characters with such life that when terrible things happen, you cry.

These Heroic, Happy Dead - Luke Mogelson
I’m not quite sure what to say about this book. The writing is solid – often poetic – and Mogelson does a phenomenal job of showing, not telling. But for some reason, it just didn’t do it for me. This may be because although Mogelson is a talented writer, the story he tells (over and over) of men hopelessly broken by war has already been told (over and over) by myriad other authors. To be sure, Mogelson tells this story well. I just wish he could have also told a story or two about the women who fight in these wars, or any veteran who came out the other end without being fully crushed by the experience.

What I Am Currently Reading

The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison 
Reading very slowly now, as I’m approaching the Great Avar’s state visit and midwinter, collectively my favorite arc in the entire novel.

Sir Lancelot the Great - Gerald Morris
This is perfect bedtime reading. I’m far older than the audience for whom Morris is writing, but there are genuinely delightful scenes throughout.

Myth-Making and Religious Extremism and Their Roots in Crises – Arthur G. Neal and Helen Youngelson-Neal
This is a dense book so progress is slow, but I’ve found a lot of food for thought thus far. Subject-verb disagreement abounds – a strange quirk I’ve noticed in other books published by McFarland.

Washington’s Spies – Alexander Rose
I’m also talking this one very slowly, enjoying Rose’s descriptions of the colonial period and the patriots and crown loyalists who populated it.

神隠し - 佐伯泰英 (Kamikakushi – Saeki Yasuhide)
Being the story of Akame Kotoji a master swordsman and former samurai who now makes his home in Edo as a knife-sharpener. Eighty pages in, we’ve learned that Kotoji has a common-law wife named Oryo, and a son who is actually not his but the child of Kotoji’s erstwhile assassin (whom Kotoji killed first), to whom Kotoji is teaching kendo so that said son can kill him and avenge his birthfather when he reaches his majority (PS: good lord, Japan). One day, the grandfather of Kotoji’s landlord disappears in the blink of an eye from the crowded family residence (the “kamikakushi” of the title), but Kotoji wonders whether something other than the supernatural is to blame.

竹光侍 4 - 松本大洋 (Takemitsu-zamurai vol. 4 - Matsumoto Taiyo)
In which we will learn something of Soichiro’s backstory.

세상에 없는 아이 - 김미승 (Sesang-e Eomnun Ai - Kim Misung)
Our protagonist has recently saved an important man from drowning, and is about to be kicked out of her house by her father for her troubles. (She neglected to bring home any firewood, what with all the life-saving.) I sense a “virtue belatedly recognized and rewarded” payoff on the horizon.

What I'm Reading Next

Chances are good I’ll return to some of the yet-unfinished volumes from Wednesday reviews past.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - February 24, 2016
Time:9:14 pm.
Most of this week I devoted to the print newspapers and Economists that have accumulated since January, so the book-reading consequently suffered.

What I Just Finished Reading

N/A

What I Am Currently Reading

The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison 
I'm taking my time with this reread so that I hit my favorite scenes during optimal moments. All the characters are wonderful, and I should be gaga over Maia and Csevet, because theirs is a dynamic that just does it for me. But for some reason, it's Beshelar. I <3 all over Beshelar.

These Heroic, Happy Dead - Luke Mogelson
Being a short story anthology in the "how war breaks men" genre. Eighty pages into the 180-page book, the "how" appears to be "by turning them into drunks who lose their jobs, houses, and kids, and threaten and/or beat the women in their lives." Not a lot of variation here or ground that hasn't been covered before, but the writing is spare and beautiful.

Trees - Warren Ellis
That I may think Transmetropolitian is better than Sandman is one of my dark little secrets. Like Gaiman, though, Ellis often coasts on that triumph and it looks like he's doing so here: the characters thus far are all cookie-cutter types (sassy female scientist! jaded older male scientist! ambitious NYC mayoral candidate! his wry lackey!) and thus forgettable. Hopefully it improves in later chapters.

幸村殿、艶にて候 4 - 秋月こお (Yukimura-dono, En nite Soro vol. 4 - Akizuki Koh)
One of the great pleasures of this series is all the historical accuracy Akizuki includes alongside the supernatural bits and BL elements, and how interesting she makes it seem. The passages I read this week have included the challenges of travel and communication in an era without post, roads, or even rule of law, and several charming scenes where characters for the first time in their lives see a map and try to grok a Portuguese missionary's beliefs through the medium of Buddhism. It's delightful stuff.

竹光侍 3 - 松本大洋 (Takemitsu-zamurai vol. 3 - Matsumoto Taiyo)
This volume opens with Soichiro's mother telling her five-year-old son that there's a demon inside of him, that like his father, he'll become a beast when he carries a sword, that he'll be less and less of this world the longer he's in it. Is it a dream or a memory? Either way, it's chilling stuff, especially when Matsumoto juxtaposes it with present-day scenes of Soichiro.

세상에 없는 아이 - 김미승 (Sesang-e Eomnun Ai - Kim Misung)
A woman gives birth to a daughter who may be a whale, or maybe she just resembles one. Either way, neighbors and residents of nearby villages consider her an omen of ill fortune, and she's teased and bullied as she grows up, despite her selflessness. It's all very typically "put upon young woman maintains her Confucian virtues in the face of adversity" Korean. That said, trees were just discussing her plight when I had to put it down, so I'm hoping it goes off in more fantastic and interesting direction.

What I'm Reading Next

TBD as I wrap up the current batch.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

Subject:Dear Smut Swap Author
Time:8:22 pm.
I am so excited to be getting a fic from you!

My few DNWs are rape, wholesale AU, underage, and non-canon character death. Otherwise, please be as explicit as you like! The tags should speak for themselves (and anyway, I'm a big proponent of going into stories blind), but below are some brief thoughts on why I like each of my requested pairings to get your juices flowing.

The Goblin Emperor - Cala Athmaza/Deret Beshelar/Maia Drazhar; Csevet Aisava/Cala Athmaza/Deret Beshelar/Maia Drazhar
Oh, Maia. You're emperor! And you have all these subordinates who clearly adore you! Who are all awesome in their own right! And are in the same room with you all the time! How could this not happen?

The Goblin Emperor - Csevet Aisava/Maia Drazhar
Csevet is clearly head over heels for Maia. When is Maia going to realise what all the blushing is about?

For all of the Goblin Emperor pairings, I really love the devotion between Maia and his crew, but it could come out in so many ways: desperate and lusting, playful, sweet and exploring, even a little bit of competition for His Serenity's favor. Feel free to run with this however you see fit.

MCU: Thor - Loki/Thor
This pairing could go either way: sweet reconciliation or angry issues!sex. I love this pairing's potential to explore power dynamics, trust and vulnerability, and anger and reconciliation. Add to that Thor's machismo, Loki's magical aptitude, and the duo's ability to verbally get under each other's skin, and you have one potent pairing.

Onmyoji - Abe no Seimei/Minamoto no Hiromasa
Oh, these two. The trust, the repartee, the butting up against Heian period norms, the fact that Seimei may be a fox who knows magic. Please, play around with the two to your heart's content.

Samurai Flamenco - Gotou Hidenori/Hazama Masayoshi
Hazama's proposal was so not laid to rest in the final episode. The question is, does he wear Gotou down, or does Gotou reconsider? I feel like this could play out very sweetly, with screwball comedy, or with more high drama (whether that be purely emotional or of the space invaders/King Torture type), and I'm excited to see where you go with it.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - February 17, 2016
Time:9:55 pm.
What I Just Finished Reading

竹光侍 1 - 松本大洋 (Takemitsu-zamurai vol. 1 - Matsumoto Taiyo) 
I love this series (a brief overview of vol. 1 is in last week’s entry here). Matsumoto’s art is in a class of its own. For example, one scene features Seno Soichiro (our samurai protagonist) and Kankichi, the carpenter’s son he’s befriended, chasing a butterfly in the fields outside of Edo. Kankichi tries to “fly” like the butterfly, Soichiro criticizes his technique, and then comes this. Is this what Kankichi thinks Soichiro would look like if he were a butterfly? What Soichiro thinks he would look like? There are hints throughout the volume that Soichiro is a fox – is he and has he actually transformed himself? Can only a child like Kankichi see it? Or is Kankichi imagining Soichiro is a fox that can transform into a butterfly, like a child might? The way this mangaka plays with visuals, and chronology, and symbolism, and perception and shifting realities…just, guh.

竹光侍 2 - 松本大洋 (Takemitsu-zamurai vol. 2 - Matsumoto Taiyo) 
Volume 1 introduced several characters and situations that at the time seemed little more than establishing shots of classical Edo. Here, Matsumoto weaves them into a larger narrative in ways I doubt many readers would have anticipated, and sets up further events that won’t become significant for several volumes down the road. He also continues to establish Soichiro as that rarest of protagonists – a decent human being – in ways that are so subtle it’s hard to catch them all on the first read-through.

ふかい森のなかで - 水原とほる (Fukai Mori no Naka De - Mizuhara Tohoru)
I’m glad I stuck with this book, because it ended up being so much more than the sum of its parts. The whole thing takes place in two rooms, between two characters that start off as little more than standard genre tropes. But Mizuhara puts them through the ringer in a way I don’t think most BL authors are brave enough to do (and that absolutely requires the 50-odd page denouement for the reader’s sake as much as the characters’). She breaks the protagonists down and rebuilds them in a way that makes what came before and what develops after believable and touching, with much more showing than telling. It’s also incredibly hot in a very raw way. I will be keeping and rereading.

What I Am Currently Reading

The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison 
A reread, because I decided to drabble this for International Fanworks Day. It’s always interesting to see what my brain does with books on the first read, when everything is new and I’m not focusing on anything in particular. For instance, I paid the most attention to Maia and Setheris in the early chapters because I assumed the novel would center on a reconciliation between them. I seem to have aged Csevet, Cala, and Beshelar up to early thirties as a result, and was surprised to find on this readthrough that he isn’t. It’s a bit of a disappointment, as younger master/older servant is a big kink of mine, but only a very small one.

Secrets of the Samurai – Carol Gaskin
This book had an amazingly outsized influence on my life. To be honest, I was afraid to reread it, because what if it was horrible? I’m pleased to say that so far it is holding up extremely well.

幸村殿、艶にて候 4 - 秋月こお (Yukimura-dono, En nite Soro vol. 4 - Akizuki Koh)
This was to be my commute book this week, but it took a very unexpected (albeit hot) turn, and even though I know no one else can read it, just…not on public transit. So I’ll be returning to it on evenings and weekends for the time being.

Silver Diamond 24 - 杉浦志保 (Sugiura Shiho)
I’ve hit a bit of a wall with this one – the volume features a lot of exposition that’s probably setting up something big and cool, but in the meantime, it’s a lot of exposition.

What I'm Reading Next

終点Unknown 3 - 杉浦志保 (Shuten Unknown vol. 3 - Sugiura Shiho)
This is volume 3. The series ends in volume 5. What the hell, Sugiura? What. The. Hell. I just…don’t know what I’m going to do, knowing you aren’t writing another 25-plus-volume series. Actually, I’m pretty much heartbroken that you aren’t.

竹光侍 3 - 松本大洋 (Takemitsu-zamurai vol. 3 - Matsumoto Taiyo)
In which we will encounter a formidable antagonist.

(…other volumes TBD as the mood strikes me.)

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Subject:It's International Fanworks Day!
Time:4:44 pm.
I wrote a Goblin Emperor drabble to celebrate.

Title: Songs of Solace
Fandom The Goblin Emperor
Summary In the days following Dach'osmer Tethimar's treachery, Cala Athmaza and His Serenity turn to popular music for comfort.
&c. Mid-canon, 100 words, rated G. Answers the prompt, "What does your favorite character—or your favorite pairing—get fannish over?"

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

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