Friday, April 29, 2011

Link Love

I don't read a whole lot of YA novels but I had heard good things about Dia Reeves' Bleeding Violet and it sounded different so I checked it out.  The book didn't quite work for me but I was glad I had read it and I thought Reeves an inventive writer with a nice hand at characterization.   I also think she has a good understanding of teenagers.  Over at Diversity in YA Fiction, Reeves writes about the rarity of black YA speculative fiction writers in On The Dark Side.

I can't remember if I ever read The Girl, The Gold Watch, and Everything but I definitely saw the movie as well as it's sequel The Girl, The Gold Watch, and Dynamite.  I don't know if they were any good but I loved them when I was a kid.  I hadn't realized the novel was written by John D. MacDonald, one of the great mystery novelists.  The book is apparently an overlooked classic - at least according to this site it is.  Head on over and check out some other overlooked spec fiction novels.

God, I love this Lois Lane, Reporter cartoon.  There is nothing I can add to it.  Just go read it.

Theodora Goss has a terrific post up entitled Thoughts On Writing that I found inspiring and personally relevant to my own field.  I like the way Goss thinks.

And Chuck Wendig has some advice for writers at 25 Things Every Writer Should Know

Sam Sykes has an interesting post up about escapism and fantastic races in Where Have All the Cow-Men Gone ( I bet they're with the flowers...)

Patricia Rice has something to say on Fictional Political Correctness.

A 4-Star Review Does Not Always Mean Buy This Book.  As someone who has recently started blogging about books, this gave me some food for thought.  Being consistent with my reviews is something I am working for but not sure I have yet achieved.  (Of course, I haven't written very many.)    ETA: I just signed up for the Book Blogger Convention on May 27th.  Starting at nine in the morning (yikes! that's  a little early for this night owl and the subways suck at that hour), it's a full day on blogging about books.  I'm hoping to learn a lot.  Sometimes, I feel like I don't know what I'm doing.   

This month's releases in urban fantasy and paranormal romance over at Fiction Affliction.

And just for fun, here is Adweek's The 30 Freakiest Commercial of 2010

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History by David Aaronovitch REVIEW

Wow.  It wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I realized that both books reviewed this week are by authors who share a last name.  I have no idea if they are related, though.  Looks like it’s Aaronvitch week here at So I Read This Book…

I bought this book in a shop on the Venice Beach boardwalk a couple of months ago.  It was a little indie bookstore with some neat, offbeat books.  But it was this title, Voodoo History, that caught my eye.   Now, I’m not much for conspiracy theories beyond - is it a good story?  I have friends who can talk for hours about who killed Kennedy and I just let it go in one ear and out the other.  My neighbor is a 9/11 truther and I can’t listen to him with a straight face but there was something about the subtitle, The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, that intrigued me.  Most conspiracy theories I just shrug off but to learn what kind of impact they had on our society and how they have influenced events?  Sign me up!

Aaronovitch looks at some of the more popular conspiracy theories, both left and right, of the last century and asks why do people believe them, especially when they are easily proven false?  From the Protocols of Zion to Pearl Harbor, from JFK to Princess Diana, from 9/11 to Obama’s birth certificate, Aaronovitch examines them all in great detail and in debunking them, reminds us that the simplest theory is often the correct one.

Yet, people persist in believing some fucked up shit.  Some of this has to do with ignorance, some of it is simply a way for people to comprehend horrific events, and some of it is because of heinous acts that have occurred in the past.  While I do not believe that AIDS was started by the government, I can understand why someone would believe it in light of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. 

Aaronovitch considers conspiracy theories “history for losers”.  As for conspiracists… They are the America Firsters, who got the war they didn’t want; the Midwest populists watching their small farmers go out of business; the opponents of the New Deal; the McGovern liberals in the era of Richard Nixon; British socialists and pacifists in the decade of Margaret Thatcher; the irreconcilable American right during the Clinton administration; the shattered American left in the time of the second Bush.

Most conspiracy theories originate and are perpetuated by educated people who want to believe that events beyond their control are in reality controlled by an unseen hand(s).  One only has to look hard enough for the truth to be revealed.  Conspiracy theories make sense out of the senseless and bring purpose to seemingly random events. 

Unfortunately, what should have been an exciting topic was often a little dull. Don’t get me wrong.  I found the chapters on the Protocols of Zion and 9/11 of particular interest.  And the chapter on the death of David Kelly was illuminating.  I had followed that story for a brief time after he was found dead and was under the impression that it may not have been a suicide.  It was an eye-opener to see how faulty the conspiracy evidence is.

However, other parts such as the Moscow Show Trials and the chapter on the death of anti-nuclear activist Hilda Murrell were a bit of a slog for me.  Aaronovitch’s research is solid but the writing is convoluted and the tone, occasionally mocking.  The result is a book that is a little dry, a little snarky and slow paced.  For such an emotionally charged subject, I found this surprising.  I expected more.
Grade: C

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review: Moon Over Soho - Ben Aaronovitch


The song. That’s what London constable and sorcerer’s apprentice Peter Grant first notices when he examines the corpse of Cyrus Wilkins, part-time jazz drummer and full-time accountant, who dropped dead of a heart attack while playing a gig at Soho’s 606 Club. The notes of the old jazz standard are rising from the body—a sure sign that something about the man’s death was not at all natural but instead supernatural.

Moon Over Soho is the second book in Ben Aaronovitch’s  quirky, offbeat urban fantasy/police procedural series.  Our hero is Peter, a constable with the London police and because of his ability to perform magic, the only apprentice to wizard and detective chief inspector, Thomas Nightingale.  Together the two make up the entirety of the magic police department.

In this outing, Peter has two mysteries to investigate.  The first is the deaths of several jazz musicians, which appears to be straight forward except for the lingering presence of magic that exudes from the bodies.  The presence of magic indicates that there is more here than meets the eye.  The second involves an unknown woman murdering men via vagina dentata.

There is a lot to enjoy in this book.  First there is Peter who is not the typical urban fantasy hero. . I’m used to my UF heroes/heroines being powerful, ass kicking loners. Peter, however, is an apprentice who’s skills are still developing.  He has much to learn about the basics of magic and thus must practice over and over to acquire skill over his abilities.  It’s refreshing to read about a character who’s skills are pretty elementary.  Peter is not incompetent, just inexperienced.  He’s a steady, reliable, slightly goofy character with a wry sense of humor.

Also, unlike the majority of urban fantasy heroes, Peter is not an orphan.  He has a normal relationship with his parents, meaning he is sometimes embarrassed by them, sometimes exacerbated by them, but he always loves them.  I can totally relate.

The supporting cast is strong.  The book is peopled with a diverse cast, who are not defined soley by their ethnicity, (a pet peeve of mine).  Aaronovitch’s characters ring true as the assorted type of folk one would find in a city like London.  

Moon Over Soho is funny but not silly.  It’s a gritty, realistic world that never overwhelms the humor.  The superficial comparison would be to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files but in tone, I think the better comparison is to Doctor Who.  Which makes sense.  Aaronovitch is a former writer for the Doctor Who series. 

This is a solid second entry in a fun new series.  Definitely recommended.
Grade: B+

Just a side note:  Over at Neth space there is a post about the possible white washing of the cover.  It does seem strange that the final cover shows a man in silhouette instead of a man of color.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Link Love

James Rocchi has an interesting post up about internet comments.  Really, its more of a rant.  While I understand the points he makes, I'm not sure I agree with him.  Allowing folks to comment anonymously also enables those who wouldn't normally comment to feel safe to speak up.  There is a discussion over at Dear Author on rape and rape fantasies that was fascinating to read but without anonymity, it probably wouldn't have happened.  So, yes.  Anonymity gives folks the freedom to be rude douchebags but it also gives them the opportunity to speak up about things they normally wouldn't feel comfortable saying.  Rocchi's experience seems to be with the former; mine is with the latter.  I guess we hang out at different types of web places.

I remember reading a Robin Schone short story once in which I learned that in Victorian times strawberry ices got their color and flavor from crushed up beetles.  My gut reaction (ha!) was eww but when I thought about it, I wondered if I was being too prissy about it.  After all, I love lobster which is essentially a giant sea cockroach so what's the big deal?  Check out this short bit on Victorian Street Street Food Vendors.

This week's kerfluffle was brought to you by Ginia Bellafante over at the New York Times.  She managed to offend just about everyone with her review of HBO's Game of Thrones.  Over at the Orbit website, Daniel Abraham reviews the reviewers.
But my fear is that, while I’m sure they’re open to brilliant wit and insight, for the most part they’re trying to maintain high-status brands, and in this case with tools inadequate to the job.

As Neil Gaiman wrote, George R. R. Martin is not your bitch but... I can't help but sympathize with his fans.  Six years is a long time to wait for the next installment in a series, especially when the last one ended in a cliffhanger.  I don't see these fans as being "entitled", they are just... well, fans.  Fans get a little fanatical about the books they love.  Have some of them taken it a little too far?  Yes.  But apparently fans, like nature, abhor a vacuum and have found ways to fill the time while waiting for the next book in the series.  Click here for the New Yorker piece on the cantankerous relationship between Martin and his fans.

On Pathos over at TalkToYoUniverse.  I like stories that hook me in emotionally but there is a fine line between writing that pulls a reader along a specific emotive line and writing that manipulates the reader into feeling a specific way.  If I feel that I have been manipulated, I just get pissed.

Hey, neat.  Author Opens Monobookstore.  It’s here in NYC so I’ll have to try and get down there to check it out.

A bookstore in Lithuania commissions some Creative Bookstore Ads.

Awesome!  Roald Dahl Stories To Appear On Your Cereal Boxes!  I love Roald Dahl.  One of the best children's author evah!  ...Too bad it's in the UK.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Qhuinn and Blay - BDB

So I was catching up with some other blogs when I happened upon this post over at Babbling About Books, And More! about the upcoming Qhuinn/Blay storyline.  What caught my attention was this quote from a J. R. Ward book signing report at the Twilight Lexicon forums:

 Qhuinn and Blaylock...*sigh* Qhuinn and Blay WILL get together, but it will be in a novella. This accomplishes a couple of things. First of all, those who don't wish to read about that particular kind of relationship can choose to skip it. Ward intimated that it would be "steamy" on par with the motel three-way in Payne's book. Those who want to read about this pairing won't have to wade through the subplots of a longer book (here she suggested it would be more like Wrath or Rhage's book where it really just concentrates on the pairing) and no other characters will have to share their book with Qhuinn and Blay's relationship as a subplot. This was compromise that she reached with her publisher, without whom she was quick to point out, there would be no series, to publish a story at all about the pair rather than veto it outright.  Re: Adult Thread ~ BDB series ~ Bow chika bow by ‪nissanmama » Sat Apr 09, 2011 11:58 pm
Sigh.  This depresses me.  
I mean, am I supposed to say hooray that publishers are making it easier for homophobes to avoid the dirty dirty ghay?    
Or am I supposed to be happy that I can read this storyline without getting bogged down by (the often annoying) subplots?  'Cause that doesn't seem to be an issue when it comes to the hetero stories. 

Here's my interpretation:  We know that there is a significant minority clamoring for the Blay/Qhuinn pairing and we want your money so we'll publish it but it's gonna be a novella that won't effect the major canon so that homophobes won't miss out on important story information.  We don't want to offend them; after all, we want their money too. 

Rationalizing that at least the book will be published just doesn't cut it.  Don't get me wrong, I am happy that it will be published but it is hard to see this as a victory.  The BDB is one of the biggest paranormal series out there, selling boatloads of copies, with legions of fans.  Publishing this story should be a given, not one that marginalizes two popular characters because it is a same sex romance.

This is the kind of thinking that comes from folks who say things like:
I'm not homophobic but I don't want teh ghay shoved in my face.
I'm not homophobic but I wouldn't want my kid to be ghay.
I'm not homophobic.  Some of my best friends are ghay.

Me?  I just want a good story.  I want well written characters.  Solid world building.  Some hot sex would be nice.  I couldn't care less about straight, gay, transgender or cisgender.  I don't know why it matters to some people.  If it's a good story, it's a good story.  But then again, I'm not homophobic.  Some of my best friends are gay.  


One of the keyword searches for the blog this week is "three-boob".
Which is funny because although I did use that term, it was without a hyphen!

....I think I may be overtired.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Link Love

I'll be honest: the older I get, the less I read books by male writers.  Don't get me wrong, I still read more books written by men in a year than the average person reads in several years but I much prefer reading female writers, ideally with a female protagonist.  It is hard for me to find male authors who can write realistic female characters.  It's like - I don't know - men don't understand women or something.  (I am convinced that I can always tell when a male writer writes under a female pen name, much like that straight guy I worked with who was convinced he could tell if someone was gay... Of course, he couldn't.  He was an idiot.  But I can totally tell when a dude writes like a lady.)
Thank god more and more women are writing SF.  SF is not a genre I have glommed through the way I have with other genres.  Partly because too many of my experiences with SF while growing up involved female characters who were little more than some geek's wish fulfillment sex fantasy.  I mean, how many times can you read about an alien chick with three boobs?
Anyway, Nicola Griffith wrote this: Hard SF and Soft, or Girls v. Boys, on the genre's distaste for physical affection - y'know sex - especially hot sex.  Oh, it's ok if it's some kind of electrode mind sex but physical means emotional which means girly and so it's not to be taken seriously.
And N. K. Jemison wrote a piece on “Feminization” in epic fantasy? that's pretty interesting, as is the discussion in the comments. 
Then Paul Jessup had this to add: Feminization of Epic Fantasy
Shedrick Pittman-Hassett chimed in with Too Sexy For This Epic: Feminization and Epic Fantasy.  My favorite quote: I don’t want to get into the sexist origins of our puritanical views–that’s chickens and eggs and beside my point.  The fact is that Americans, both men and women, tend to be deathly afraid of female nipples and will abide scenes of unspeakable violence and bloodshed so long as all the participants have their vitals covered.  Right on, brother! 
Foz Meadows wonders why some men get so freaked out by the "female gaze" here.
And Ann Leckie  rejects the male gaze at Slushy slushy slush slush.

I wish the Joanna Russ Fairy would visit me.  Sometimes I need to be reminded.   A Visit From the Joanna Russ Fairy

One more Diana Wynne Jones tribute.  Because I just loved her books and she deserves the accolades.

Theodora Goss has a super article over at Realms of Fantasy on Folkroots: Vampires in Folklore and Literature.  Not to be missed.

New Science: Are Plants Racist?  Interesting.  But the comparison between the racism of plants and the racism of humans is apple and oranges.  Plants discriminate against other species.  Humans discriminate against  their own species because of skin color.  Scientifically speaking, we are all the same race - the human race.  The rest is just decoration.  For the comparison to work you'd need something like red pansies that discriminate against violet pansies (which I am sure they would do.  Red pansies are real bastards.)

In Praise of Failure - the dude who got knighted for inventing a different kind of vacuum cleaner on why an environment that embraces failure fosters innovation.  I think his philosophy speaks to more than just inventors.

So i09 has a story about the Chinese Government banning time travel movies and television because they portray history in an inaccurate and facetious manner.  It's bad history and the people must be protected.  But if you take a look at the comments, another reason for the ban becomes apparent.  Like this comment from brillow: I'm kind of insulted that you are eating what the CENSORS in China are feeding you. They are not stopping it because its historically inaccurate (it is fiction right?). It's illogical to reject a story about TIME TRAVEL because it presents things inaccurately. 
The reason, which every blog who mentions this comments on (except this one, oddly), is because the Chinese regime doesn't like people being presented with the idea that the China which existed before they were in power was in any way positive.

And Just For Fun:
Fried Food: It's Good for Your Heart - not book related by good to know.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Link Love

Things have been a little nutty this week.  I don't have that many links to post.  When I had time to read, not that much interested me. I spent most of it reading about the Wicked Pretty Things craziness.  I'm not going to post about it  - the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth but Charles Tan does a nice job summing up the situation in a reasonable manner, in my opinion. Clarifying The Issue of Wicked Pretty Things

A few more links of interest:
How Not To Be A Dickface As A Writer
Judging A Book By Its Cover 
MEN and Women 
An Interview with Cherie Priest
Worldbuilding in Urban Fantasy
Sex and Violence
Race, Again, Still