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btw, over at [community profile] vorkosigan they're doing a Bujold reread. This week is Mountains of Mourning.
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3/5. I was too unenthused to buy it or even to put it on hold at the library, but interested enough to check it out once it appeared on the New Books shelf at the library. And, I mean, it was fine? I had been thoroughly warned about the Babieeeees theme and the Bujold Thinks She Can Do Romance theme and the This Has No Plot property, so those didn't bother me overmuch.

Cut for mild spoilers, although, I mean, this book has no real plot, so… )
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This Sunday I have to give a talk on Agency in the Plan of Salvation. Agency, here, means the capacity to act, to make choices. It's kind of a cornerstone of LDS theology, and even an essential part of our creation mythology (I'll explain that in a sec), that we are able to act for ourselves, that we act with responsibility and accountability, that we choose between good and evil.

So I've been having some scattered thoughts. Lois McMaster Bujold / Memory, LDS mythology, giving small children choices, the ubiquity (or not) of choices )
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I wasn't intending to read this until the hardback came out, but then [personal profile] julianyap intervened. So.

So this review really boils down to SQUEE! This was an incredibly indulgent book -- and I don't care, I wanted it to be indulgent, and so (I suspect) did LMB. For this reason, it read a lot like extremely well-written fanfic, with a nice plot, from someone who really likes Ivan! Which I'm all for! (Interestingly, I just requested something almost exactly like this in a fic exchange, which amused me no end while reading it.)

It's most like Civil Campaign in feel -- not so surprisingly, as it's a slightly tongue-in-cheek romance (oh, come on, that's not a spoiler, is there anyone, anyone at all reading this book, that didn't know Ivan was going to get hooked up in this one?), but without either the Barrayan politicking or the Milesian tendency to get himself, um, hoist on his own petard. Because if there's anything that would be out of character for Ivan, it is getting himself hoist on his own petard. It's really kind of refreshing. Though I looooved the politicking of ACC and would have preferred more of that.

It isn't deep. It isn't serious. It isn't even super-plot-heavy (this disappointed D, actually; he was sort of hoping that there would be some sort of super-plot-twist at the end tying it up really nicely, but there wasn't). It doesn't tell us anything about life we didn't already know (as was true with Mirror Dance, Memory in spades, and even Civil Campaign). It's just a rollicking adventure with an old friend who gets some of the happiness we all always hoped he would get.

Some-of-these-are-spoilers, tried to make them mild, involving some of our old friends: )

A couple of things that mildly bothered me: Mild spoilers regarding Tej's identity ) So Tej didn't really ring true to me. I mean, as a character she was great! But as a character given her backstory... not so much.

Another thing: The Koudelkas are the only females in the Vorkosiverse I can think of who actually manage to have friends whom they don't meet through their husbands or father. Not-so-mild spoilers regarding friends/families )

In general things seemed a little, um, simplified? But I still loved it.
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I think after this I'll be caught up on my reading. For now.

Before I Fall (Oliver) 3/5. YA mainstreamish. I almost typed "dystopia," I'm getting so used to using that word. Anyway. Car accidents and death and life and stuff like that. A bit on the problematic side (in my opinion Izzy Willy-Nilly did a similar kind of theme in a much less mawkish way), but gets points for recognizing the kinds of things that ought to be noticed and by doing it in what is, overall, a non-cliche kind of way. Good teenage read.

Delirium (Oliver) 2/5. It's hard for me to believe that Before I Fall was her first book and Delirium was her second. This is a mass of cliches about True Luv that never, ever even thinks about engaging with what ought to be the central question (that is, not "Is it evil to deny people True Love?" but rather, "Is it evil to deny people choices if it increases their happiness?"). When I start making up speeches for the villains because I think theirs are so poor... you know it's a bad sign.

Across the Universe (Revis) 3/5. YA dystopian-spaceship SF. This gets huuuuuge brownie points from me by being just about the only YA dystopia I've read lately where the characters actually realize that, hey, you know, maybe there are reasons why the oppressive non-freedom-loving rules are there other than "we want to stomp on your face forever, thanks!" I mean, sure, absolute corruption and all that, but I was getting really bored at reading about nothing but absolute corruption. Also props for having the main character not necessarily be Extreme Beacon of Truth and Light Compared to Absolute Corruption.

Enclave (Aguirre) 3/5. I liked this a little more than the other YA dystopias I've been reading lately -- I think partially because the writing seems just a hair better (like, Aguirre doesn't seem completely tone-deaf) and partially because I was reacting to Divergent's silly let's-coopt-SF-so-I-can-sound-gritty-even-though-this-is-really-fantasy -- at least this one engages with its post-apocalyptic landscape, you know? She even tried to put some thought into how it worked, as well as into Deuce herself (who seems to be able to talk about her hunting skills semi-knowledgably). And there's even a character arc for more than one character (reeeeally rare in these things), though it's somewhat brief and truncated. The whole thing did end kind of abruptly, in a way that almost makes me think that she got to the end of the material she'd thought about carefully and so had to wrap everything up.

A Wizard of Mars (Duane) 3+/5 - I thought this held together a lot better than Wizards at War, though without the "10-year reunion!!" feel of the latter. Just as well, I suppose. The emotional arc at the core reminded me a bit of one of the most moving parts of Bujold's Paladin of Souls, which I then had to go back and reread. Of course, the Bujold is better and more adult (neither of which implies the other, of course!), not least because Ista's speech is waaaaay shorter than Nita's, but I still liked the Duane quite a bit. Also, more Dairine, please! (She's clearly gearing up for gettting more screen time in another book or two, but I want it sooner rather than later!) Also, it was somewhat refreshing to find an alien race that behaves worse than humans; I haven't seen one of those in a while, it seems. Anyway, a solid addition to the canon. Not one of my favorites, but not one of the worst either.
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[ profile] julianyap has once again declared National Put Quotes in Your Blog Month, so I'm going to put one in every post I make this month.

"Truth is all I have, and truth is never a comfort. But understanding truth, that is what you taught me to do. So here is the truth. What human life is, what it's for, what we do, is create communities. Some of them are good, some of them are evil, or somewhere between. You taught me this, didn't you?"

-Diko to her mother Tagiri, Pastwatch

[ profile] winterfox had a very interesting post. It's locked, I think [EDITED: unfortunately, has been deleted], but here are the money quotes:
...even in fairytales where the girl is the one setting out to rescue the boy (i.e. "The Snow Queen"), the alpha and omega of her desires--her person, her motive, her dreams--is still a man.
It's like, a lot of authors who think they are being feminist and shit don't... quite get the point: their female protagonists, rather than forming strong relationships with other women, are defined by their relations with men. Their fathers shaped them from childhood. Their boyfriends give them a reason to exist. It's all... proper.

Oh, sure, their dads supposedly taught them to be progressive and enlightened and strong and shit, but why not their mothers? It could just easily have been. Or their older sisters, or their aunts. Whatever. Why can't these super-feisty heroines grow up with female role models?

My first reaction was, "Ah, that can't be so!" and then I went to look at my bookshelf. Cut for randomness and rantiness )
And ending with a strong-female-friendship quote in honor of NPQiYBM:

It finally dawned on her that their exaggerated courtesies signified respect.

It made her furious. All Kareen’s courage of endurance had bought her nothing, Lady Vorpatril’s brave and bloody birth-giving was taken for granted, but whack off some idiot’s head and you were really somebody, by God—!

2-5-11: ETA link to unlocked post, above.
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Because [ profile] julianyap wanted to know! Unfortunately it's hard for me to categorize things based on when they were published rather than when I read them, so... here we are. Books actually published in 2000-2010 are indicated by asterisks.

Cut for length )Well. I'm sure I'm leaving stuff out, but this is a beginning, anyway. Are there books published in the last ten years that didn't make it on this list and a) you know I've read it and are interested in discussing why it's not on, or b) you think I should read, because if I had read it, it would be on this list, or c) why is this sentence so atrociously convoluted?
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Yeah, so, I thought i had things to say about Cryoburn, and then I went and read my LJ friends' reviews and found [ profile] lightreads had said all of them already. And somehow managed to do this without spoiling. So go read that review at DW if you want to know pretty much exactly what I think (well, okay, I'm not a lawyer, but I also did laugh at the commodified cryo contract swaps, because so true, and also so true about roving POV showing Miles' entitlement, and the title, and -- oh, just go read it before I quote the entire thing, I agree with it all).

I do think that the Miles books fall into two categories: the character-building ones (Memory, Barrayar, Mirror Dance, Civil Campaign) and the idea ones (Ceteganda, Diplomatic Immunity-- and Cryoburn). (Of course, all have elements of the other -- all have ideas and characters.) That is, I really kind of feel like Ceteganda came out of Bujold saying "Hey, I'm interested in exploring what a society with total control on reproduction would be like!" and that being the focus, rather than Miles. This book seems similar in a lot of ways -- Miles is the substrate, like a tortilla chip, whereby the guacamole or cheese dip of a cryogenics-based society is eaten -- perhaps tasty in himself, but there's so much more that's not about him. (Uh, yes, I'm hungry right now. :P)

But, of course, it's also about Miles.

And in that context, I respectfully disagree with [ profile] julianyap in a cut for massive, massive spoilers )

But of course I'm being somewhat hypocritical here -- if she had written the book that julianyap wanted, I would have been excited to read that as well. I wonder also if she just wasn't equipped to write that book, which I would also totally respect. I can't imagine that would be an easy book to write.

And I do agree I would love to see an Ekaterin-as-hero-mom book. It's totally hard to do. Connie Willis did manage it in a short story, "And Come from Miles Around," which I love.
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Finally got around to Horizon (Bujold). Well, I liked it fine. It definitely reminded me of Cherryh a bit (though markedly less grim): the big bad was not defeated, or even understood, but a minor (well, relatively) part of the big bad is defeated, with the idea that it may now be easier to defeat the big bad entirely; and a culture is not changed upside down, but nudged, little by little, into a better shape.

Cut for minor general spoilers - tried to stay away from specific spoilers) )
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Ok, here's hoping the hands stay stable! Anyway.

Now that Dag and Fawn are thoroughly married, I don't find them nearly so irritating, basically because I am far more sympathetic to the "We're doing things together as partners" concept than the "We're doing this for looooove!" one. However, I still think he was completely running away from his responsibilities, as evidenced by the part where he wanders around not knowing what to do. Usually, people figure that out first and then start doing it. I'm just sayin'.

This is also to say that I am now clearly seeing that this was all intended as one book - and - I know LMB has said this from the beginning, but it's a little different when you're reading it piecemeal. I really, really wish it had been one book; I would unsay a lot of the mean things I said about the first couple of books. I'm also now, for the first time, planning on buying this sequence, but NOT until it's all released as a single volume. (Hear that, publishers? You could have gotten my money up front, but noooo, you had to try to be all clever!)

Because now I see what LMB is trying to do - she's trying to trace a romance, not just through the easy infatuation stages, but also through the much more difficult stages of trying to do something with all that energy. I don't always buy it, but I can get behind it the way I couldn't get behind the love story of book 1.

This book also plays to LMB's strengths more - a strong diverse cast of characters, the unintentional humor of life, romance in the background and not at the forefront (Whit is really cute!), partnership, a plot twist (the outcome of Berry's quest) I was certainly not really expecting. So, yeah. I liked it. A lot.

Other random thoughts:

-Speaking of hating the publishers, I really kind of hate and despise the cover. Aw, plucky Fawn, protected by her brave tall (old!) man. To be fair, I would have hated it pretty equally as much if he were leaning on her, so I think I might just be grumpy. (But! I'd just like to point out that Aral and Cordelia wouldn't be caught dead either way. They'd be both standing tall. Actually, Cordelia would probably be in the middle of taming lions or rescuing hostages while Aral was coordinating military campaigns.)

-Boy, Dag and Fawn sure do agree on everything pretty quick. I mean, it's not like I fight with my husband all the time either, but we come from basically the same sort of cultural background. And we do occasionally get snippy, with less provocation than Dag and Fawn sometimes have.

-The Dag-Fawn age thing still squicks me out. Usually I can ignore it, but when he says "Behave, child," as, basically, part of foreplay, it completely overwhelms my squick-sense.

Small cut for spoilers. )

-Major, major points for Fawn and Dag admitting their trek might be a stupid one. I'm sure it won't be, but major points for their being okay with that.

-Now that I'm done... I really enjoyed reading it... but... did anything actually happen in this book? Is this going to be a Cherryh-style sequence? Nothing wrong with that, I'd just like to know.
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...but ranting about Legacy is more fun. I will pay for this later.

Okay, Beguilement made me think of Fawn and Ekaterin; Legacy made me think about Dag and Miles (and Gregor and Cordelia). I really felt like, with the ending of Legacy, LMB was rying to undermine everything her books stand for to me.

Spoilers for Beguilement and Legacy and Memory and Shards of Honor )
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My homework for last weekend was reading Legacy. (Next weekend it will be to start looking up all these fabulous book recs I keep getting, yay, thanks!) I... didn't hate it. Probably from the Magic of Low Expectations-- I knew not to expect much, and, well, I wasn't disappointed.

It is a romance book. Fortunately, I was warned multiple times of this in advance. And seeing as how a) romance as a genre kind of bores me, and b) Bujold doing romance presses none of my adoration buttons and many of my rant buttons (more on this in a sec), well, there was a limit to much I'd like it, and I knew that going in.

I see (and I saw dimly after the first book) what Bujold is trying to do-- because she is a Real Writer, she can't stay in stasis doing the same thing forever; she needs to experiment. And I'm glad she does, because what she did in Chalion she could never have done on Barrayar, and in that case her experimentation was a grand success. However, her experiment with romance... well, now you've done the experiment, and now I hope you go on to experiment with something else. Please. Because romance is simply not Bujold's strength, though she may believe it is from the success of ACC. Although I loved ACC, the actual romances were not its strength; the comedy of errors and the tight plotting and the weaving of romance together with ruminations on biology and politics were its strengths.

What I liked: It was nice to get more backstory and more insight into the world, although... the mysteries set up were really relatively mild, and nothing really got resolved.
No specific plot spoilers for Legacy, though general spoilers abound; spoilers for Beguilement )
What I didn't like: The May-December romance thing really kept squicking me out, because it would not die-- characters kept commenting on it. Which on one hand is a testament to Bujold's careful writing craftsmanship, because in reality, yeah, everyone would be commenting on it. However, since I was kind of on everyone else's side and not on Fawn and Dag's side on this, it didn't really work.

What I hated so much that the margins of this post cannot contain it: Well, the ending. I was all, hey, this isn't so bad, and then the ending happened and if I had been reading my own copy I would have thrown it, well, across the bed. I have a whole other rant about Dag and responsibility and girls and Miles, but I'll post that later.
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Okay, Bujold is wonderful and all. Loved her writing style, and the way she changes it to fit the characters, and her humor, and her worldbuilding, and all the other things she does so well... but this book drove me up the wall. Partially because of the half-of-one-book thing (and the resulting lack of folded-up deft plot), but everyone else is annoyed about that too... The other main reason is Fawn.

Spoilers for TSK, plus mild spoilers for Komarr and Curse of Chalion )

Also, I had (even more) issues with the romance, but I thought that might necessitate its own post, which is here.
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I realized something while reading TSK, which is that I don't like the way Bujold does romance when she's consciously thinking about romance.

What really draws me in, with romance, is-- part of falling in love, really getting love right, is seeing oneself differently. Realizing one might have to be a different person for the beloved. Learning to live with the faults of the beloved, and changing yourself to be the person that can live with your beloved.

The romances I love are all like that. Pride and Prejudice. Perilous Gard. Gaudy Night/Busman's Honeymoon. A Civil Campaign, except for the part where Miles' romance gets short-circuited at the end (which kind of irks me, but whatever). Possession (well, many styles of love are explored... one major one of which is an exploration of what happens when change/compromise does not occur).

The romance in TSK, in contrast, is relatively a bunch of infatuated sighs of "oh, isn't X wonderful?" Which is fine, and certainly a necessary part of romance, but if I want to see that I can just, you know, walk down the hallway and find someone who is engaged. Or read my journal entries about D :) Or, in fact, my journal entries about all my ex-boyfriends, all of whom have many fine and worthy qualities, though not enough-- and not well enough matched to mine, or at least we were unwilling to match them-- to keep us for a lifetime, or even for more than a couple of years. And that's the kicker: just reading about infatuation is rather unconvincing to me. If the author has not sufficiently shown us how the characters are doing the work-- and it can be work, albeit fun work-- of matching themselves together, well, I don't see any reason that I should expect the romance to last any longer than, you know, those of the growing number of people I know who are starting to get divorces.

Now, I'm not saying I don't enjoy the part of romance where the lovers are finding out all sorts of new and lovely things about each other. I really do like that, and I had great fun reading TSK-- and, because Bujold really is a consummate craftsman, it's not quite as cut-and-dried as I've implied here. But... I don't keep going back to it, the way I do to the deeper treatment of the books mentioned above.
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Went to Pasadena and saw a bunch of my friends today. One of them in particular (this is shared by several of them, but this particular one is the most pronounced) has this quality that many, if not most, of the things we say to each other are (or use) in-jokes (all we have to say to each other are the words "Infinite boxes!" to portray a whole remembered scenario regarding a problem set we once worked together), or quotes from previous conversations or experiences, or even quotes from media we've both seen. (TV shows for this particular person.) Not many of my friends are like this, but those that are I really enjoy talking to. D has this quality in spades. I love it, although I don't think it's quite normal to spend half one's conversations with one's partner exchanging quotes from various sci-fi books and random movies :) Hm. This probably explains my obsession with Dante and John M. Ford...

In other news, today bought _Diplomatic Immunity_, to round out D's Bujold collection, and the first season of Veronica Mars, to make J happy. I had previously read the library's copy of DI-- wasn't much impressed then, but like it much better this time around. I'm very impressed by the first twenty minutes of VM, and see perfectly well why J likes it, but a year of not having a working TV has rendered me incapable of having it on for more than twenty minutes at a time, apparently. Which is weird, as I don't seem to have trouble watching movies.


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