manifesta: (3 Weeks for Dreamwidth)
A quick recap: I'm giving away 2 books for three-weeks-for-dw [community profile] three_weeks_for_dw (aka 3W4D). 2 winning participants will get to choose from a selection of books that I'll be analyzing over the course of the 3 weeks. Chosen books will range from romance to fantasy to YA. Here is the introductory post and giveaway rules, and all giveaway-related posts will be filed under the book giveaway and three weeks for dreamwidth tags.

When I originally decided to do this giveaway-analysis combo, this was the book I was thinking of: Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer

Genre: Historical young adult
Release: September 2002
This wasn't the original cover, but it seems to be the only one availiable in paperback.

Jacky is a plucky London orphan girl who pretends to be a boy and enlists at a young age on a British military ship. She does so because she realizes that it's easier to live as a boy than it is as a girl, especially as an orphan.

One of the things that both baffled and irritated me for a long time was Jacky's longing to be a lady. It just didn't make sense--she's on a ship! Climbing the rigging! Firing cannons! And lest she lack in heterosexual sexual experiences, she even gets to snog cute boy(s)!  Really, who would settle for being a lady and give all that up? 

Jacky defies stereotypes. She's loud, brash, and blatantly flirtatious to the point of making ambiguous moral decisions, but she's also whiny, dramatic, and occasionally very irrational. She's got tons of flaws but a whole hell of a lot of charm. She can keep her head in a life or death crisis but burst into hysterical tears at the thought of far less severe corporal punishment. To wit: She doesn't make any kind of sense.

The book I would have preferred, the book I had expected, was a blatantly pro-female book that had an Alanna the Lioness-esque character who loathed any mention of restrictive forms of femininity and preferred men's roles. Being feminine was fine and all, but to prefer it? After experiencing the agency of living as a boy?

It's not a neat and tidy book. It's messy. Jacky's messy. She doesn't fit inside a box. She wants what any girl wants when she's lived a life of destitution but isn't too old to remember the time when she was a lady. Unlike the Alanna archetype, she hadn't chosen to take on men's roles--her survival had depended on it. She hadn't had the chance to experience what life could be like as a woman beyond her life as a girl on the streets. There's a world of difference there, hinging on choice and privilege. I may want her to want to continue kicking ass as a pretend-boy, but she's experienced the military's jagged edges, and while she's no stranger to rough living, she prefers comfort. When juxtaposed with the inelegant lifestyle of a ship's boy, a profession chosen out of necessity rather than desire, the luxurious life of a lady might begin to look good to me, too.

Her relationship with _______ further reaffirmed her desires for more traditional gender roles. He's conservative in his wishes for what he wants her to be--a lady--but tolerant of her wily ways. She wants to be a lady as much if not more so than he wants her to, and their mutual desires create a feedback loop. Despite this, Jacky really is quite the mischevious creature, and becoming a lady does not come to her as easily as being a boy.

(This isn't to say that the plot is about her becoming a lady. It's not, but it does influence some of her choices.)

Is Bloody Jack feminist? I'd say so. Jacky's simply not the traditional feminist heroine.

As an aside, the first two books of the series are not my favorite. Jacky's character become much more developed and nuanced in the later books, and her perception of her own sexuality and gender become clearer. If a giveaway winner has read the first one but not some of the later books, I'd cheerfully be willing to substitute this one for another in the series (given that it's availiable in mass market paperback or ebook).

Want to win Bloody Jack? Hand around until Friday, May 14th when I open a post for comments!
manifesta: (Kahlan)
I finished reading The Onion Girl the other day and simply sat there in awe of how amazing it is. I love all of de Lint's works, but it is by far my favorite.

After winter break, I moved two dozen of my favorite books to my apartment. One wonderful thing about having them all here is that I can reread them at any time. Melanie Rawn and Anne Bishop dominate the top shelf, alongside Holly Lisle's Talyn and Hawkspar, Michael A. Stackpole's Dark Glory War (the rest of the DragonCrown War Cycle are there in spirit), and Amanda Downum's The Drowning City. On the second shelf are Jacqueline Carey's collective works, Mindy L. Klasky's Glasswrights' series, Trudi Canavan's Age of Five trilogy, M. J. Rose's Butterfly Institute trilogy, Blood & Chocolate, Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs, and a gilded tomb of Jane Austen's works. The last shelf if a motley assortment of feminist books, including Malalai Joya's A Woman Among Warlords; Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith and The Secrets of the Jin-Shei by Alma Alexander; various traditional urban fantasies or faerie tales like Palimpsest, Midnight Never Come, Holly Black's books, Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series; and random other books I have on hand or haven't read.

Random observations: I wish I had brought more books by Marjorie M Liu and Lynn Viehl, as well as some S&S or high fantasies. (I've noticed when browsing through Barnes & Noble that very few epic fantasies capture my attention these days. Having been raised on Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and their ilk, this makes me sad.)

I also noticed that 95% of the authors are female. About half are ones that I read in high school or younger. Most were marketed and shelved as adult fantasy.

These are just the ones that resonate the most with me. Others that I would add, if I had room, would include Sarah Dessan (particularly Dreamland and Just Listen), Nora Roberts' Chesapeake Bay quartet, Memoirs of a Geisha, various Dragonlance, everything by Tamora Pierce ever, and I'm sure there are even more that I'm forgetting.

I would love to have a hidden library some day, where I can cloister my treasures away like a dragon. I could sit and drink raspberry hot chocolate and read beautiful stories while surrounded by hundreds of other beautiful stories.

Right now I'm reading The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt, and as of 94 pages in, I'm remarkably pleased and amused. The hero has done nothing abusive and the heroine isn't an idiot. In fact, I may even adore her. Now, if only I could rid myself of the niggling thought that the heroine is only allowed to exercise such common sense and rebellion (in realistic if improbable ways for the era)  because she's a widow...


Also, as of last night:

Black Widow's Walk

50,105/ 90,000
manifesta: (Alex/Izzy)
The start to the new year has been lovely. Over the course of New Year's Eve I blazed through Hilari Bell's Rise of a Hero, and then through Forging the Sword, the last two books in her Farsala trilogy (the first being Fall of a Kingdom). Her style is reminiscent of Alma Alexander's in her Changer of Days duology and features many similarities, although both first books came out around the same time. I don't really consider this to be a bad thing; I think each books expands in separate directions within the context of their own worlds. I particularly enjoyed some of the innovative obstacles the protags face in RoaH.

I think it's YA, but I could be wrong. I could see it as adult epic fantasy.

Yesterday I finished Marie Brennan's Midnight Never Come, and it stuck me how ahead of the publishing trend my first two books were. My first was a contemporary fantasy when contemp/urban was just starting to expand, and my second was a contemporary faerie tale with roots in an alternative Tudor England. Books like Midnight that combined my two loves--faeries and real-world fantasy--were limited to Holly Black, Francesca Lia Block, and few others, all of which were YA.

Brennan's writing is luscious, and her leading female character a realistic mix of strength, desperation, and cunning. She also kept regional faerie lore intact, a task that must have had its difficulties.

Now, partially inspired by Brennan, I'm re-reading Charles de Lint's The Onion Girl. It has reminded me why I love urban fantasy--true urban fantasy, not the gutted version that's being reproduced over and over again today. It also reminds me of a time when women's strength in UF was portrayed through determination and character rather than the false symbolism of a vampire boyfriend or knives.


Classes have started, and in lieu of finishing the last stats courses, I'm indulging in reading-focused history and women's studies courses, as well as psych of law. I'm still researching stereotypes with a professor, and will be for the rest of the year, but our direction may be changing a little-- something we discussed at our 8AM meeting this morning, 4 full hours before my first class. Ah, the sacrifices I make in the name of science. 

The sociology department is trying to lure me over to the Dark Side. They've invited me to apply to work on a grant-funded research project, which would do wonders for my resume. Tempting.

Tomorrow I get to watch Pocahontas in class. On one hand, yay. On the other hand, this is ironic, given that I just watched Avatar last weekend, and was not that impressed (via [personal profile] shiegra).
I finally figured out how to conduct political warfare via the use of illusions in Black Widow's Walk. I'm surprised it took me so long to come to that conclusion, but now that I have, it opens up all sorts of doors. I'm officially dedicated to finishing BWW by April 1st--a date at the end of the quarter that I picked randomly, but also happens to be the 5th anniversary of the completion of my first book. (Yes, I remember things like that.) If shit happens, shit happens. Regardless, it's nice to finally have an end goal in sight.
manifesta: (Dangerous)
This is old news, but several months ago Annette Curtis Klause posted the new cover art for The Silver Kiss (released in July). You tell me: does it ring any bells?

New and Old versions, respectively:


The Silver Kiss is one of the original romantic vampire YA out there, written well before the sexy-vampire boom. Twilight's plot is highly reminiscent of it, something I hadn't realized before now (I've been blinded by my undying love for Blood & Chocolate--the book, not the movie). I will say that I'm not a huge fan of the original cover, but it's better than this black background-red object combo I keep seeing everywhere. (The last is technically purple but still counts.) And the tree branches? Cool at first, but now its old.

Does the abuse of Klause's works ever stop? First the decimation of Blood & Chocolate in movie form, and now this. Klause was writing paranormal YA when most current paranormal YA authors were still aspiring writers. I'm just waiting for the TwiHards to start crying that she ripped off Twilight. (If anyone sees evidence of this, please do send me the link.)

On the bright side, in the new edition there are two new short stories about Simon and Zoë.
manifesta: (Rory/Logan)
So. Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson. I wanted to love it, I really did. Unfortunately, it took maybe three pages, tops, before I whipped out my moleskine and started jotting down notes on things that seemed--to my psych major brain--straight up whack.

1. Freud is not the figurehead for psychology. The two are not nearly as mutually exclusive as people seem to think they are, and I'm tired of the cliches. I realize Freud's easy prey, but c'mon. 

2. An intro psych class is not going to give its students free association tests. On the off chance that they do, they will not, under any circumstance, actually take that shit seriously.

3. The vast majority of individuals in intro psych casses will not go on to become psych majors. Further, no one, and I mean no one, as an undeclared freshman, will know what field of research they want to go into. NO ONE. They won't even be THINKING about it. Especially since most psych majors (y'know, the people who are actually declared) don't ever go into research, if they strive for a career in psychology at all.

4. Intro psych students do not conduct meta-analyses. Really. I promise. They just don't. Why? Because they don't freaking know how.

5. You do not even start to think about your senior thesis as a freshman. Truly. I'm not kidding here. I realize that the college is supposed to be a really prestigious school, but I'm still not buying it.

My biggest peeve with the book is that someone who hasn't finished a single course of psychology simply doesn't know enough to be making these kinds of decisions, and I find it ridiculous that she's expected to. As someone drowning in research and experimental design this quarter (I'm running my first round of labs this Friday! Woo!), I simply wasn't impressed. If the character was older, and had taken a couple of stats/research design classes (not a single general AP Stats course in high school) and several psych courses, I think the book would have been a lot stronger and believable.

That said, her boyfriend is abusive. I'm not sure if the author intended for him to be, but he most definitely was. What carried the book was my love of Nathan, who isn't abusive, and who also happens to be chill, calm, and insightful. If I wasn't a psych major, I'm sure I'd be more charmed with the book, if only because of him.

On another note, I won a contest on Jacqueline Carey's facebook last week. Today I checked my mailbox and lo! I found a German edition of Kushiel's Dart, gorgeous, thick, and signed by Carey herself. It's huge--over 900 pages. I think the American version is only around 600. 

Last week was also my university's annual club fair, and I was out and dancing for Ritmo Latino, our salsa club. Several people came and took pictures of us. One guy was even kind enough to hand me a CD filled with professional-quality photos.

manifesta: (Dangerous)
A list of things that will remain undiscussed in this entry: the fact that my laptop is still broken; the status of my novel; the level of stress I'm experiencing in regards to school.

A list of things that will be discussed: books, and lots of them.

Since Black Friday (or in other words, last Friday, the day my laptop died), I've read nearly 7 books. That afternoon I finished reading Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente, which was confusing but wonderful and contained prose that would have bordered on being purple if written by anyone else but was saved by Valente's amazing skill for words. Over the course of the weekend, I raided my roommate's bookcase for new books to read and found Scott Westerfield's Uglies series. I blazed through the entire series and later found myself silently using some of the characters' Pretty jargon. It's a good series, though I did find some of the characters immature-- Aya, from the fourth book, particularly wore on my nerves. Tally did at first, too, but I feel like she at least had a character arc and matured throughout the series.

Yesterday I finished Hawkspar by Holly Lisle, a book I picked up in June but didn't start reading until this week. I've been a fan of Lisle's work for years (her forum and workshops for writers were my gateway drug), but her writing never really resonated with me until she wrote Talyn a couple years back. I feel like Talyn is the pinnacle of her story-crafting ability, and it's been on my keeper shelf ever since. Hawkspar is a pseudo-sequel to Talyn. I remember following along throughout the years as Lisle wrote the book, and the struggle she endured to get it published (as a midlist author with years of experience and books behind her) both intact and as the book she knew it to be. At 600-words, it's beefy, but amazing, and I'm glad she fought so hard. There isn't a single page or scene that isn't necessary. I mourn the words I knew she had to cut, just to narrow it down to 600. Hawkspar is an excellent example of an modern epic fantasy with solid world-building. Did I mention that the main character was blind for most of the novel? She was. The fact that Lisle wrote a book featuring a protagonist who couldn't see, and thus, couldn't wax poetic about her surroundings, deserves many a brownie point.

Since I'm not talking about the state of my laptop, I won't mention that while at Starbucks today I experienced hardcore laptop-envy when some dude pulled out his fully-functioning Macbook and proceeded to enjoy his mocha and his uninhibited wireless access, too. It could be upwards of two weeks until I have working computer, so I still won't be around much, though I'll try to update when I can. Up next: a review from one psych major to another for Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson, My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, and any other books I burn through between now and then.
manifesta: (Alex/Izzy)
I've been gnawing my fingernails off with worry about the beginning of Black Widow's Walk. Is it too edgy, too potentially triggery? Did I do injustice to a subject that is very serious?

I texted my former roommate asking if she could read it and tell me if I was an awful human being (she does so enjoy informing people when they're awful human beings). She read it, gave me some feedback, and basically told me that I wasn't a disgrace to the population (yet). Major sigh of relief.

It's been a dark and twisty, to quote Meredith Grey, past few scenes. I've had to walk away from it at points. I'm hoping with the scene I begin tonight, a new character will add some light-hearted banter into the mix, and though the book will always be dark and twisty at heart, it'll cheer up a little more from here.

On a brighter note, I went to Borders today and came away with Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente (an urban fantasy harking back to the more traditional lines of Charles de Lint), The Drowning City by Amanda Downum (sword & sorcery?), and The Fire King by Marjorie M. Liu (paranormal romance). 

I also picked up Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson, a recent YA debut. I've been uber excited for this book because I'm, um, kind of obsessed with my major. Social cognition (how we think when we interact with others + how we think in general) is a lover of mine. In the fall I'm going to be conducting research with one of my professors on stereotypes and prejudice.

I probably won't get to read these for a little while because of I have oodles of other books to read, but I'll ramble on about them when I do.


manifesta: (Default)

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