Category: reviews

A More Diverse Universe

OCT 09 2012
Filed under reviews
I learned about this Diverse Universe project way too late to participate, but of course it's exactly what I started doing with book reviews on this blog two years ago. Some of the books are ones I've read and reviewed, but many of them are not, so I've got a bunch more books to add to my reading list. Check it out!

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

SEP 28 2011
Filed under reviews
So it turns out that when you stop working in your PJs on the couch and actually go to an office every morning, it's a lot harder to use the time when you can't sleep and can't stand to stay in bed anymore to write blog posts. But I read the first two books of N. K. Jemisin's Inheritance trilogy this summer, and now the third book is due out in a month so I thought I'd tell a little story about reading them...

Ash by Malinda Lo

APR 26 2011
Filed under reviews
Malinda Lo was born in China and grew up in Colorado. Ash is her first novel, but her second, Huntress, came out earlier this month. I am pretty excited to have more great young adult fantasy to read. Ash is, in the author's own words, "a lesbian retelling of Cinderella." Now, if you're me, that plus a quick peek at the star rating on Amazon (average is 4) is enough to send you straight to the library to place a hold, but maybe you are not me, and are not so inherently excited about fairy tale retellings, or ladies falling in love with each other. Maybe you need some convincing! Allow me to convince you...

The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson

APR 18 2011
Filed under reviews
I keep reading books by this lady, and I just keep wanting to read more! I even bought The Salt Roads this weekend from the Friends of the Library book sale. I guess I like her writing. This latest, The New Moon's Arms I actually listened to as an audiobook, so I'm going to include a little section at the end reviewing specifically the audiobook listening experience, not just the story itself. Which is rather different from the previous two Hopkinson novels I read. Instead of being an action-filled plot set sometime in the future, The New Moon's Arms is a character novel set in the present day, on a group of fictional Caribbean islands...

The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor

MAR 31 2011
Filed under reviews
When I began concentrating on seeking out new SF authors of color, I saw Nnedi Okorafor's name come up repeatedly - though sometimes it was Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, the name she used when a few of her early novels were published. Until recently, the Seattle Public Library's online catalog search was quite terrible, and not knowing the exact author name to search for was but one of many obstacles to finding the right book. But I got my hands on one eventually...

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

FEB 28 2011
Filed under reviews
Justine Larbalestier is an Australian young adult and fantasy author. I'd previously read her Magic or Madness trilogy, which I found to be entertaining but not especially impressive. But Liar is a very different sort of book. When I'd first started it, I thought it was, in terms of genre, a typical "realistic" fiction thriller, and was surprised to see it show up on The Carl Brandon Society's site. I'd originally been listening to the audiobook, and got most of the way through the first section before the suspicious ipod disappearance, and while I'd more or less enjoyed it, it was sort of losing my attention, part of why I never did try to listen to it again. I've read some more reviews now that I've finished, and I'm not the only one who thought the end of Part 1 dragged a bit. But oh, it was so, so worth it to finish...

Spirit Binders series by Alaya Dawn Johnson

FEB 21 2011
Filed under reviews
My introduction to Alaya Dawn Johnson was in the anthology Zombies vs. Unicorns. I know I just said I don't like short stories, but, I mean, Zombies vs. Unicorns. That is a battle for the ages. Plus a bunch of the contributers were young adult authors I already liked, so I had high hopes for its entertainment value, and was not disappointed. Alaya Dawn Johnson's story of gay zombie teen romance was one of my favorites, so I looked up her other work, and the (2/3rds completed) Spirit Binders trilogy looked right up my alley...

The Year's Best SF 14

FEB 15 2011
Filed under reviews
Confession: short stories are not really my thing. What I love best in my stories are complex world-building and character development, which are really the realm of long-form fiction like novels and TV shows. And the length itself is part of what I like - a great short story can be quite arresting, but I prefer the opportunity to really settle into a fictional world and learn to feel at home. I'm a long-term sort of lady that way...

Half World by Hiromi Goto

FEB 09 2011
Filed under reviews
Hiromi Goto is a Japanese-Canadian writer who's been publishing since 1994, and she just keeps winning awards. Her work ranges from realistic to fantastical in varying degrees, and she's written for adults, children and now young adult. Most of her books have focused on Japanese immigrant experiences in Canada. But while the protagonist of her latest, Half World (winner of the 2009 Carl Brandon Parallax award), is clearly of Japanese descent, it's more or less incidental to the story.

Book awards! and a rant!

JAN 22 2011
Filed under musings, reviews
The Carl Brandon Society presented the winners of their 2008 and 2009 awards last week, and I've added them to my reading list. They give out two awards, the Parallax award, "given to works of speculative fiction created by a self-identified person of color," and the Kindred award, "given to any work of speculative fiction dealing with issues of race and ethnicity; nominees may be of any racial or ethnic group..."

The Blood Stone by Jamila Gavin

NOV 29 2010
Filed under reviews
I was sick last week, which meant a lot of time in bed reading my favorite literary comfort food, young adult novels. Mostly I was revisiting old favorites, but at one point I did feel well enough to walk down to the library (best thing about my apartment is being 4 blocks from a library branch) and pick up some books I'd put on hold earlier, including, conveniently, a YA fantasy book - The Blood Stone.

Trouble on Triton by Samuel R. Delany

NOV 12 2010
Filed under reviews
Friends, I am a woman of simple literary tastes. I read books because they are fun and they make me feel good. Well, sometimes I really like to read books that make me cry, but in a satisfying way, you know? I don't know how to explain this, but the existence of an entire genre of movies known as "tear-jerkers" assures me that I am not alone. Basically, I am not good at reading Important books, especially ones that take Work to appreciate. I read some now and then, because some important writers are easier for me to engage with and can actually feel like entertainment, but mostly I don't bother. I don't need to torture myself with boring books in order to foster my sense of intellectual superiority; being smarter than most people does that for me just fine...

Lilith's Brood by Octavia E. Butler

NOV 05 2010
Filed under reviews
I feel sort of silly writing about Octavia Butler, because for years she and Delany were basically The Two Black People who Write Science Fiction and surely everyone already knows about them. But then, I've known about Delany for years but didn't actually read any of his books until a couple of months ago, so maybe there are people out there who have heard of Octavia Butler but have yet to pick up her work. So, I reread the Lilith's Brood trilogy (originally published as Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago, with the series name Xenogenesis) recently, and now I want to write about how good it is...

Captives of the Flame by Samuel R. Delany

NOV 01 2010
Filed under reviews
I confess that, even though I've known of Delany for years, this is the first book of his I've actually read, and it was just a few weeks ago. I felt the need to justify why this is the first book of his I picked up, so if you just want the summary, skip down a couple paragraphs...

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

OCT 29 2010
Filed under reviews
Nalo Hopkinson is one of the names I saw during the Racefail ugliness, and then forgot about until I went looking again this summer, when her name just kept coming up. Probably because she's awesome. This was her first novel, and it won a bunch of first-novel and new-writer awards. It's the only one of hers I've read so far, but I've just checked Midnight Robber out of the library.

Acacia: The War With the Mein by David Anthony Durham

OCT 25 2010
Filed under reviews
Acacia is the first fantasy book written by David Anthony Durham, who started with historical fiction. It has many of the elements of epic fantasy - the characters are kings and princes and princesses, the plot involves quests for revenge and redemption that will determine the fate of an empire, etc. But it also completely ignores the most common epic fantasy conventions. There's no hero's journey here, no clear-cut evil bent on destruction that must be defeated. There's mostly people, with a range of flaws and motivations...

Selling Out

OCT 23 2010
Filed under reviews
I've been busy writing drafts of reviews for books I've finished reading, and I keep linking to Amazon for them, and so I thought hey, as long as I am writing these things and including all these links, I might as well set up an Amazon Associates store. I don't expect to make noticeable money from it, but maybe eventually I could make enough to buy another paperback to review, eh? Mainly, it's an easy way for me to put together all the stuff I've found in a place where you can quickly check out the book descriptions and reviews and maybe buy something. The whole point being to increase the market for diverse SF...

Great Sky Woman by Steven Barnes

OCT 20 2010
Filed under reviews
Great Sky Woman is the first book by Steven Barnes I've ever read, and before this I'd hardly heard of him. Which is shameful, since he's been publishing since before I was born. My only excuse is that he collaborated a lot with Larry Niven, whose work I've never really cared for. In any case I missed out, because this book is excellent...

Thoughts on Pale Fire

MAY 16 2010
Filed under musings, reviews
I keep thinking this blog ought to be about something, because most of the good blogs I read have a particular focus, but I haven't had the spare energy to try and devote myself to developing content about a specific topic. I mean, interaction design is the obvious one, and the one my blog header claims, but I feel like my thoughts and experiences on that topic would need a lot of work to be really *bloggable*, and most of the times I try I end up with a 3/4 finished draft that never makes it out of my draft folder. So it's just been a blog about things I do and think, which is of course never confined to a neat topic. I suppose I'm writing for myself more than for an audience, anyway. I want to work as a designer, not as a blogger, so probably that's ok. The blog is just not the point...

The Man From Earth

NOV 06 2009
Filed under reviews
My goodness, two posts in as many days. Well, here's the one I started out intending to post last night. I know I'm a nerd when I read a couple of negative reviews of a movie I just watched (The Man From Earth, for the curious), because any time I have trouble deciding what to make of a piece of art I look first for opinions which are critical of it, and suddenly I am ready to write a paper on reality-violating genre conventions of "realistic" film. Which is what I get for going to Netflix and IMDB reviews for my opinions rather than reading educated critics who don't take the idea of "realism" in fiction at face value. Which is not to say that people are not entitled to their theory-naive opinions of pop culture, I think aggregating many opinions the way IMDB or Netflix reviews do is one of the truly great offerings of the internet, and it wouldn't work if people weren't willing and able to judge just about everything they see. It's just that when I am looking for an analysis of a work that will help me clarify my own thoughts, comments like "this was boring and stupid" and "real people would spend a lot more time talking about themselves" do not help me achieve my goals...