"Examining the portrayal of bodies, size, and shape in YA literature."
*Bookmarking this site to read in the future.*
What can I say? How can I record a dream as it evolved everywhere about me, record it, and yet keep the dream intact? I could state every event as it occurred, every tiny and wondrous event.
– Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee
Some of my favourite fantasy authors would recommend Tanith Lee in the same breath as writers like Patricia Mckillip, Octavia E. Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin. I was curious but it took me a few years until I finally sat down and read some of her extraordinary books...Cont'd on the blog.
Acquired: ARC via Netgalley
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Published: 12 May 2015 by Solaris
Available: Book Depository
I don’t read enough stories that follow people in their 20s. I enjoy urban fantasy because magic, choices and life often collide in a realistic way. I found Liz’ sense of loss, isolation and confusion to be so relatable but I also really wanted to provide a safety net for some of these characters as they spiralled inwardly.
Dreams of Shreds and Tatters is a grim urban fantasy with mythological beings and atmospheric writing. The dream world reminded me of a very grown up take on the Labyrinth. The rescue mission is heartfelt and slow. These flawed characters stumbled into a strange world of power and unequal exchanges.
I found the story shone the most when Liz and Blake were the main narrating voices among the multiple narrators. (Although Lailah was an intriguing character. I’d be happy to read a novel/novella that explores her back story.) The characters’ relationships are mature and complicated with a heady dose of angst. There are many LGBT characters in the main cast but everyone’s romantic relationships took on a gritty or grim route. There’s a sense of elitism and snobbery among the art student/gallery crowd but Alex’s occasional wry humour was the saving grace in those scenes.
I encountered (and googled) some unfamiliar words. Eg. Apoxia, susurru, cilice etc. However, I have a fondness for words so I’m always up for a challenge. This is definitely a haunting story. I hope the characters discover more hope beyond the ending.
First chapter excerpt can be read here.
Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction
Acquired: ARC via Netgalley
Published: 12 May 2015 by Tachyon Publications
Genre: Speculative Fiction
I really enjoyed this short story collection. There is something sublime, poetic and playful about how Rajaniemi blends mythology and technology in near future scenarios. I was reminded of Ray Bradbury's advice to write what you enjoy and what excites you:
“[If] you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping your eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. You don’t even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is — excited.” Ray Bradbury.
The first short story that won me over was 'The Server and the Dragon.' It follows a wandering space creature who is offered the chance to experience life as a dragon. I enjoyed the intergalactic twist on a classic mythological tale.
My second favourite was 'The Haunting of Apollo A7LB' which reminded me of Ursula K. Le Guin's essay 'Space Crones' - an essay which calls for older women with life experience to be recognised as suitable space explorers.
'The Haunting of Apollo A7LB' follows a woman who helped sew the first space suits in her youth and how she fulfills her dream to go to space when she is much older. I just loved how that story confronts the changing social norms and prejudices around gender, race and work over time.
I also really enjoyed the imaginary trip across 'Invisible Planets' as inspired by Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. The god-like power dynamics of 'Deus Ex Homine' was interesting (it played out almost like a Greek myth if Zeus had nanites) but I side-eyed the protagonist's dismissal over any responsibility concerning his abilities to alter fertility. (The protagonist was ignorant of this ability at first but I thought he could of acknowledged that he still held some responsibility for his actions.) Overall, I enjoyed the diversity of the stories and will definitely check out more of the writer's work in the future.
On a random note, I finally figured out who Breq reminded me of - Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell - an androgynous AI. I found myself visualising the shifting perspectives and the setting as I would a pensive scifi anime. I need to re-read for a closer understanding of the politics but I loved the cultural aspect of the worldbuilding. Also, empires in any universe are downright chilling
A Court of Thorns and Roses is joining my favourite fae bookshelf - alongside books by Robin Mckinley, Patricia Mckillip and Juliet Marillier. I loved the evolution of the friendships, the unintended allies, the main pairing and the family relationships in the story. (view spoiler) I'm also valiantly refraining from quoting two of my favourite moments where paint and music equate to magic.
Bryn Mawr Commencement Address (1986) from Dancing at the Edge of World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places by Ursula le Guin
Facing It (1982) from Dancing at the Edge of World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places by Ursula le Guin
World-Making (1981) from Dancing at the Edge of World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places by Ursula le Guin
– The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula le Guin – Sometimes, I have no words for the books I enjoy.
– Killbox by Ann Aguirre – I really loved this addition to the series. So much character growth. Seriously.
Fantasy with LGBTQIA protagonists:
– A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monettte and Elizabeth Bear – So immersive. I must have a soft spot for stories with the kind of fierce, strange, playful and familial loyalty that exists between wolves and people.
Supernatural YA with protagonists from mixed backgrounds:
Non-fiction for those who wander:
– Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury – Just brilliant. Both practical and inspiring.
“If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship…”
– Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was brilliant. I enjoyed the personal glimpses of Nigeria, the UK and America across time. Adichie’s observations on diverse individual, cultural and generational experiences were spot on. Definitely recommended.
“All your questions can be answered, if that is what you want. But once you learn your answers, you can never unlearn them.”
– American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Surreal moments amidst desolation. I loved Shadow’s transformative arc towards the end.
“..The soul is on the edge of what’s visible, like a clear glass marble in a jar of water.”
– The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. The historical detail of the alternate world blew me away. Holly was such a brave character in this weird adventure. I will read more of David Mitchell in the future.
“Don’t lie to yourself because you think it’s safer. Reality doesn’t work like that…”
– The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend by Kody Keplinger was an interesting YA read. I wanted to be a friend to Bianca. I’d let her know that no-one’s sense of worth should be altered by a superficial comment from a random guy at a party. Those comments say more about the speaker’s perception of the world than the recipient of those words.
On the other hand, Bianca’s insecurity was portrayed realistically and would resonate with many young readers because we all internalise these damning social expectations. I did enjoy the supportive female friendships in the book. The non-judgmental portrayal of casual sex was also a positive change of pace in YA stories.
“Silence creates its own violence.”
– For scifi/horror, I read Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. Some readers may find the unnamed main character distant but I found her unreliable POV to be compelling. The writing just drew me into her uneasy interior world. I need the sequels for a few more answers about the world.
“Did I pick safety or ambition? The slow and steady or the gamble? I smiled. Put like that, it wasn’t even a question.”
– Finally, I’m celebrating kickass scifi heroines with their own steady moral codes in Fortune’s Pawn and Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach. Light scifi/space opera with compelling mystery, action and adventure. Stir in morally grey characters that fans of BSG may enjoy.
Wade's mood swings as a passionate fan and geek made me smile.
I wanted to steal that virtual Firefly/Serenity ship that arrives in the latter half of the novel.
(Seriously, I'd add the sentient ship Moya from Farscape to the list of most wanted cyber vehicles in a science fictional universe.)
I really enjoyed the detail in regards to the possibilities opened up by virtual reality. The escapist virtual worldbuilding was strongly tied into this bleak resource exhausted world. I liked that the story didn't shy away from the question of limited virtual access due to privilege.
There was a self-aware lightness to how it approached fantasy wish fulfilment and various genre tropes. The story also touched upon race and the gender politics in the gamer community towards the end but I agree with other reviewers that this aspect could have been explored more.
If Ready Player One was narrated by any of the secondary characters, the plot could have delved deeper into experiences of marginalisation and independence. These character arcs are just hinted in the back stories of Aech, Artemis, Daito and Shoto. If anyone's up for exploring those stories and challenging archetypes a step further, I'dive in with the enthusiasm that Wade displays regarding Halliday.
A few more diverse love letters to SFF, gaming and/or fandom to explore:
- The Guild (I really need to catch up on this show)
- Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
- Among Others by Jo Walton
I still haven't read these yet:
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Here's the June Roundup of books which I forgot to post earlier due to a busy semester:
- Among Others by Jo Walton
When I was a teenager, I pretty much grabbed any SFF tome that was available in the library so Morwenna's love for science fiction and fantasy novels made me smile. The magical rules Morwenna follows in her daily life builds a grey world between magic realism and fantasy. This blurred boundary contributed to a powerful ending. Recommended for any lover of SFF.Recommended for any lover of SFF.
- Merrow by Ananda Braxton Smith & Tantony by Ananda Braxton Smith
'What I needed is my own, my very own story. One that would lie like a reptile over the hot rock of my heart and tell others to go away.'
I'm a new fan of Ananda Braxton Smith's writing. I wrote a short review of the first book Merrow which I'll post later but Merrow and Tantony can also be read separately as stand-alone books.
- Brown Skin Blue by Belinda Jeffrey
“I’m like a river without a name. Flowing through life because that’s what I do without knowing where I’ve come from and where I’m going. There’s beasts that have made a good home in me, too.”
I love Jeffrey’s writing. Darwin as the setting was vividly combined with Barry’s intense voice as the protagonist. Barry struggled with the disconnection between how others see him and how he perceives himself in relation to his mixed Aboriginal identity. This book also re-affirmed my fear of crocodiles. Prehistoric predators indeed.
- Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen
I thought the plot development was moving too fast in the first quarter of the book but the plot clicked for me as I read on. I was hooked by the magic and the politics of this trapped world of trolls. The character's flawed personalities made me laugh.There's a dash of potential romance (and youthful attraction) but the political struggles, magical system and linked identity issues weave into the main crux of the story. I'm looking forward to the sequel. Recommended for readers of YA fantasy books like Throne of Glass by SJ Maas or an interesting original YA series like The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.
On a random note, I thought that the heroine was POC based on the cover model so I was mildly disappointed when I realised she wasn't but I recommend the novel.