In Which I Talk To Books

So last time on Karen’s exciting poll of what she should write about next, being paralysed by her choices, the winner was That Massive Pile Of Books She Has Consumed Recently.

You bastards.

These are the books sitting on the bottom shelf of my lovely new bookshelf, which means I have read them since arriving in the US. Minor spoilers.

*knucklecrack* READY? LET’S GO!

Norse Code, Greg van Eekhout.

BOOK: Action-packed Ragnarok as conspiracy theory, with MBA-student-turned-Valkyrie Kathy Castillo and perenially dumped on minor god Hermod trying to avert doom as it thunders towards them on wolf feet.
ME: Yeah, but are you funny?
BOOK: You know it.
ME: I am IN.

The Perils of Pleasure, Julie Anne Long.

BOOK: Female mercenary rescues male prisoner condemned to hang for a murder he didn’t commit. Then things get entertainingly complicated.
ME: Plot, schmot, are the sexy scenes sexy?
BOOK: Check out this one set in a closet.
ME: Whoa.
BOOK: Oh, and here’s a hayloft scene.
BOOK: Right?

Bloodthirsty, Flynn Meaney.

BOOK: Finbar, a normal kid widely regarded as the Less Hot Twin, develops a genuine allergy to sunlight and then lets girls admiring of Certain Popular Vampire Books think he is a vampire in order to impress the girl of his dreams. Who, uh, doesn’t seem to care about those ridiculous rumours, but does like him as a person.
ME: Cute! But Finbar really could be looking at a wider selection of YA vampire novels, here.
BOOK: Why don’t you just write a column about that for Strange Horizons?

Saving Maddie, Varian Johnson.

BOOK: Boy and girl were childhood friends; now she returns superhot and with a bad reputation, and he, down with God and his preacher Dad, wonders if he ought to be saving her.
ME: I am going to be so pissed if he succeeds.
BOOK: No spoilers, but it’s more complicated than that!
ME: Good. Ooh, hey! I like this Maddie.
BOOK: Thought you might.

Half-World, Hiromi Goto.

BOOK: Want to read a book inspired by non-Western mythology where a fat teenager must get her courage together to save the people she cares about?
ME: Book, you know that is my weakness!
BOOK: Oh, also, eerie settings, awesomely creepy villain, delightful repudiation of might makes right.
ME: Eeeeee!

Geektastic, ed. Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci.

BOOK: Various fun stories/short comics drenched in geek aesthetic, most of them awesomely girl-friendly!
ME: Except this one where the great revenge for someone victimised by a female bully is to take half-naked locker-room pictures of her with a concealed camera and photoshop that image into a sleazy hotel room, print the image on a poster telling people she likes sex and to call her on X number, and thereby slut-shaming her all over the school. Then her nice boyfriend breaks up with her because she is such a slut! Yay, happy ending?
BOOK: You don’t think she was a terrible person?
ME: I think she was AWFUL. But I balk at girls using the mechanics of girl-hating to fight girls and justifying it because the girls in question are SO AWFUL. Quite apart from the fact that taking naked pictures of someone without their consent is totally sexual assault and I don’t like the valorisation of sexual assult, this “solution” is all about taking advantage of the dominant narrative that girls having sex is disgaceful.
ME: I’m just saying. Can’t we ritually humiliate mean girls without making it all about how expressing sexual desire is the grossest thing ever for girls to do, the slutty sluts?
BOOK: … probably?
ME: But the rest of the book is great.

The DUFF, Kody Keplinger.

BOOK: “Designated Ugly Fat Friend” Bianca starts a sexual relationship with a guy she despises, then comes to like as she recognises that he is actually a person.
ME: Whoa.
BOOK: Sex? Sometimes tricky and sometimes used as escape vent instead of dealing with one’s issues. but it is not inherently shameful.

The Summer I Turned Pretty, Jenny Han.

BOOK: Hey, remember that period when you realised you were attractive and a bunch of young men also realised it and you were suddenly juggling a whole bunch of issues on how to be an ethical person making good choices and there weren’t any handy how-to guides and everything was completely confusing?
ME: I totally do!
BOOK: It happens to protagonist Belly in summer vacation. She’s fifteen.
ME: Oh, man, the poor kid. Hey, I really like how, although there are three boys interested in her, this is really Belly’s story. It’s not about which boy would be objectively best for Belly, it’s about her feelings and choices and desires, which are often subjective and confused.
BOOK: Wanna read the sequel?
ME: Heck, yes.

The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book, E. Lockhart.

BOOK: Wit, feminism, sharp characterisation, clear-eyed depiction of anxiety disorders as a thing both normal and treatable, structural tricks that inform the story, important friendships between young women-
ME: Honestly, you had me at “E. Lockhart”.
BOOK: Karen, I’m trying to explain why others might want to read me.
ME: Oh, right, well, because you are awesome.

The Girl Who Played With Fire, Steig Larsson.

BOOK: I am a book composed of 569 pages printed on paper, translated by Reg Keeland, published by the Quercus imprint of MacLehose Press in Monotype Sabon in 2009-
ME: How had I forgotten all the endless trivial detailing and blocking description from the first book?
BOOK: Because Lisbeth Salander is an awesome hacker badass, and you really like books where the exploitation and trafficking of women and girls is called to violent account.
ME: Yeah, but they also make me uneasy because I am never sure the best answer to violence is more violence.
BOOK: Whatever, you going to read the last one?
ME: Probably, but not until it’s in paperback.

Alcestis, Katharine Beutner.

BOOK: Riffing on Greek myth with a feminist take on Alcestis, the silent good wife who took her husband’s death and was rescued by Hercules.
ME: I am so into books where silenced women get voices. Oh, hey! Interesting thoughts on the nature of divinity! Also, hot sex scenes!
BOOK: Yup. Also, my writing is exquisite.
ME: I don’t suppose you could manage an unambiguously happy ending?
BOOK: Bit beyond the unbearable circumscription of Alcestis’s life, yes.

The Short Second Life Of Bree Tanner, Stephenie Meyer.

BOOK: Another woman silenced in the initial narrative who gets a voice!
ME: She dies.
BOOK: True, but Bree is kinda badass, don’t you think?
ME: Well, yeah. I do love vampire books where vampires are all like, “humans, awesome, let’s eat them.”
BOOK: Also, how hilarious is it that Edward’s crazysparklygorgeous beauty is cut down to “the redhead”?

Thief Eyes, Janni Lee Simner.

BOOK: Contemporary fantasy set in Iceland, with complicated motives for “heroes” and “villains”, charming characters, fantastic evocation of setting, and a love triangle that doesn’t end in a gross way?
ME: Yes, please!

Sorta Like A Rock Star, Matthew Quick.

BOOK: A Manic Pixie Dream Girl Who Quirkily Inspires Others Book Written By A Dude…
ME: Oh, please.
BOOK: … told from the PoV of said girl.
ME: … wait, what? You mean it’s not all about how MPDGs are so mysteriously unknowable, yet will eventually turn quirkily to the arms of the Ordinary Everyman Hero?
BOOK: Nope! It’s about the difficulty of hope, how terrible things happen for no reason, how the mechanics of poverty and oppression keep great people down, how they can be combated, and how faith – of many kinds, including in one’s God, in one’s self, and in one’s friends and allies – can be maintained, lost, regained, and blaze like a beacon for others. There’s barely any hints of romance.
ME: I didn’t know this could be done!
BOOK: Believe it, sister.

Clockwork Angel, Cassandra Clare.

BOOK: VICTORIAN STEAMPUNK Shadowhunters! Tessa has magic powers and is being hunted by Mysterious People With Dark Intentions. For love interests, you may have a choice of hot nice Jem, or hot sarcastic Will. Which team are you?
BOOK: She is pretty darn great! May I do some interrogation of gender and race roles of the period?
ME: You certainly may.

Split, Swati Avashti.

BOOK: Want to read a book about families and domestic abuse and how redemption is possible and terrifying and not something you do once, but practice over and over?
ME: Um, yes?
BOOK: Great. Jace just punched his girlfriend, then his abusive father, then drove halfway across the country to turn up at his brother’s doorstep. Chris got out years ago. Now they have to deal with each other as the people they grew to be, and try to get their mother free.
ME: You’re freaking me out a little.
BOOK: Because domestic abuse is such a non-freaky subject.
ME: Point taken.

You Killed Wesley Payne, Sean Beaudoin.

BOOK: Salt River High is a school where the cliques run their rackets and no one talks about The Body. Down these mean hallways must walk a teen who is not himself mean, hard-boiled teen detective Dalton Rev, on a mission to solve the mystery, collect the cash, and maybe get the girl.
ME: Noir pulp meets high school clique narrative meets murder mystery? Are you kidding?
BOOK: Lady, I never kid about a case.
ME: FanTAStic.

I also read N.K. Jemisin’s sequels to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but I think I can’t talk about those so much yet because I’m not sure what’s changing. I can tell you they are superb. Also, your envy gives me strength.

Which I needed to complete this post, good grief. Tell me something fun, y’all!

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