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Books and stories

So much time has slipped by between when I said I wanted to talk about books and now, and in the meantime, other books have also arrived, plus other reading matter--I feel like Little Springtime, who has an LJ tag, "Oh LJ I have so much to tell you!"

What I want to do is give you some tastes of books I'm reading or have read recently. This entry is way more text than anyone wants to see in their friends feed, so I've put the quotes and discussion under cuts. You can choose which ones you want to read, come back when you have time, etc.

Boy, Snow, Bird
Helene Oyeyemi

Reading this now. Boy (a young woman in the 1950s) narrates--at least, so far she has. She's run away from an abusive father and settled in a fictitious Massachusetts town called Flax Hill. Whiteness and passing are going to be a theme, so that name is notable. Another town is called Ivorydown. She and a friend half-retell, half-invent a story about a magician who can enhance women's beauty or drive it away, who meets his match in a farmer's wife. Boy ends the story thus:

"What can I teach you?" [the farmer's wife] said. She closed her eyes and opened her mouth wide. She stayed like that for one minute, two minutes. [The magician] thought she was sleeping and forced himself to place a hand on her shoulder. A snake's head glided out from between her lips, bright as new chainmail; he saw that its golden coils wound down her throat.
"You're wrapped around her heart," the magician said.
"I am the heart," the snake replied.

Those words made me shiver and fascinated me at the same time.

Later, Boy muses on what would be the perfect job for her:

The best line of work for me would be roadside sprite. I'd live quietly by a dust-covered track that people never came across unless they took a wrong turn, and I'd offer the baffled travelers lemonade and sandwiches, maybe even fix their engines if they asked nicely (I'd have used my solitude to read extensively on matters of car maintenance). Then the travelers would go on their way, relaxed and refreshed, and the'd forget they'd ever met me. That's the ideal meeting ... once upon a time, only once, unexpectedly, then never again.

I've sometimes felt like this, that only interactions with strangers are safe, that after even one encounter, there's a weight of hopes and fears that's unbearable. (I only feel this sometimes. But even only feeling it sometimes, I can recognize the sentiment.) She expresses it so perfectly.

I don't know if I'll like the rest of the book. I have mixed feelings about Boy. She has a hardness about her that's daunting. I like people with a little more milk of human kindness in them. But at the same time, I'm very drawn to her and her story. So I'll just have to see how it goes.

The Summer Prince
Alaya Dawn Johnson

Another heroine whom I had mixed feelings about, but on the whole, decided I liked. June Costa is passionate and ambitious and talented and confused--a good heroine for a YA story. She's collaborating on unsanctioned art projects (with a side order of political statement) with Enki, the titular summer king, who will be sacrificed at the end of the year. As summer king, Enki can do just about anything he wants, and he's pushed even what boundaries are set and has had illegal body modifications that make it possible for him to commune with the city of Palmares Tres, where he and June live. The result is that he feels ineffable love for everything:

I can barely hear myself over the wind. "Why don't you hate anymore?"
"Because I've infected myself with bio-nanobots that stop it."
I love him. I shouldn't, I swore I wouldn't, but I have no more defenses. My next question is as inevitable as death.
"Do you love me?"
"I love the whole world."

You can see how June might have problems with that answer. Later, Enki tells June the story of Ikne, the spirit of a lagoon. Everyone who meets Ikne loves him. Eventually the spirit becomes a sharpshooter for some guerrillas:

It wasn't an easy life, and one day he got shot in the stomach by a lead bullet. The bullet fell in love with him, of course, but she couldn't stop the slow bleed of his gastric cavity into his pancreas, and she felt terrible, which as too bad, since he'd known all along what would happen.
He died; he always said he would.
Someone had to take out the bullet.

A story of a lovestruck bullet--genius. It's also an interesting take on the scorpion story (the scorpion can't help his nature and so stings the frog who agrees to carry him across a lake; the bullet can't help her nature either, but it breaks her heart).

Funny that in both those two, I've given you excerpts from stories within the story.

The Worth of a Shell
MCA Hogarth

This alien-world story explores all sorts of questions about responsibility, the individual versus society, religion, love--I mean, really lots of big questions! It does this in the format of a journey: Thenet, the (neuter) protagonist, agrees to help Dlane, a female, flee from an unwanted fate. They travel alone for a while, then join a caravan (a lovely interlude) and eventually establish an iconclastic household, before society catches up with them. All the while, they're talking about life, the universe, and everything.

On that eighth bump, though, Dlane spoke. “Simple and stupid are not the same thing.”
Magun yawned. “Yes, they are. You turn away from power. Why? You would wield it well. You seem smart enough.”
“Why do intelligent people have to want power?” Dlane asked. “What good is power over other people? Power over yourself is more interesting.”

This might be tiresome for some people, but I loved it. I thought the characters were well-sketched, I was interested in their society and their world, and although there's some pretty huge sadness at the end, there's also hope--and the story is the first book in a trilogy, so there's the possibility of resolution for the deeper societal problems.

I know among my friends are those who had a very different reaction to the book ... which just goes to show that you can share tastes broadly and yet still differ on particulars.

Lia Silver

It was such a delight to read this book. I adored Prisoner, the first book focusing on these characters (DJ Torres, a werewolf marine, and Echo, a genetically engineered assassin), and I loved this one if anything even more, because DJ and Echo are already established as a couple. Lia Silver has a great talent for combining an exciting, fun story, humor (I laughed out loud so many times), and really touching moving scenes. Here's an example of a scene that manages to have humor even as it's being serious (the woman is not Echo):

“I know.” There was no trace of tears in her voice now, only anger. “And you can drop the ‘my buddy Roy’ stuff. I get it. He’s a wounded Marine and so am I and so are you, and he smells like black leather and was hit by shrapnel and doesn’t like to cry, just like me, and all three of us have so much in common, of course we should band together. God! You are so fucking obvious.”
DJ forced himself not to reply instantly. He didn’t want to piss her off enough to make her decide she wasn’t finished with him after all. He decided to count thirty seconds of cooling-off time, but he’d only gotten to eight-Mississippi before he couldn’t resist saying, “It’s obvious because it’s true.”

I think most readers of my journal have already heard me talk about Lia Silver's books, and if they're the sort of thing you'd enjoy, you've already given them a try. But just in case, I had to mention Partner.

LJ, I still have loads more to share, but it's a sunny weekend day, and I think Little Springtime and the healing angel and I might try a picnic.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 23rd, 2015 06:32 pm (UTC)
Is it as cold where you are as it is where I am?
May. 23rd, 2015 06:33 pm (UTC)
Depressingly, yes.
May. 23rd, 2015 06:39 pm (UTC)
It feels more like autumn. Which explains why I've been listening to a lot of Feathermerchants, Gormenghast: a fantasy opera, and Eyeless in Gaza.

It was Emma's birthday last Sunday so I found something really awesome and decided to share it with the rest of the world.

Edited at 2015-05-23 06:40 pm (UTC)
May. 24th, 2015 02:40 am (UTC)
That sounds like a nice selection of books. I'm going to check them out.

From your later post, I assume you had a nice picnic?
May. 24th, 2015 10:51 pm (UTC)
I did indeed, thanks <3
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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