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Megan Whalen Turner — The Thief

June 13, 2015

Ruth said I'd probably like these, and she was right!

This is the first of a series, set in a fantasy world heavily based on ancient Greece. It's also very different from the rest of its series — it's narrated first-person (the rest are close-in third person), it's a fairly straight-ahead adventure story (the rest are knotty political thrillers), and it's written at a middle-grade level and published with middle-grade typesetting and cover design (the rest are definitely YA, and have a certain amount of shocking content even by modern YA standards).

When I finished this first book I was mildly pissed about the twist ending, but I took that back after thinking about it overnight. See, the story is strewn with weird inconsistencies and glitches in the narration; I had taken them as failures of writing that I was willing to gloss over and forgotten them, and then I got blindsided by the ending. But it turns out the inconsistencies aren't errors, and the ending isn't out of left field. It's just that the narrator is writing for a (fictional) audience who're already clued into the twist, and who either know him personally or at least are familiar with his position. He's having some ironic fun with his real readers, and the end only seemed like a twist because I'm a mutually-fictional outlander eavesdropping on a story I'm not involved in. It seemed offensively glib that first night, but by the second night it was just your buddy Eugenides up to his usual cheeky hijinks.

Megan Whalen Turner — The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia

June 21 and Aug 6, 2015

Let's pause for a manifesto. I don't really have rules for the didread series, but I do have some guidelines. To wit:

  • Write something about all the books I read... eventually.
  • Avoid summarizing. It's a bore.
  • If I know someone else who would like this, try to say something that would make them pause and say "oh, what?"
  • Have fun whenever the opportunity presents itself (b/c no one's paying me to do this shit).
  • Bail out and post a one-liner when I can't think of anything else to say (b/c no one's paying me to do this shit). (I'm actually really bad at holding myself to this one, maybe you've noticed.)
  • Try to avoid spoilers.

That last one is really chapping my hide right now, because it's almost wholly impossible to talk about the rest of this series without spoiling the end of The Thief.

So maybe it's time to bail out and post a one-liner? "I liked The Thief, but I loved these." That's always a bit unsatisfying, though.

How's this: I went into Queen expecting magical thief adventures, and got blindsided by a psychologically gruesome story about how far you can go to protect your country. By the time I started King, I had no idea anymore what I was getting into.

There's another book in this series I haven't read, and some unknown number still on the way. I'll probably read them all. Super solid, and a hell of a ride. A year later, I still feel incredibly gross about some of what went down here.

Daniel José Older — Shadowshaper

August 22, 2015

I was really hyped about this, and there were a lot of things I think it did really well, but on the whole it didn't quite do it for me.

Which is fine!!! Real talk: this is YA written for the younger end of that audience (~14-ish?), and it's not doing anything particularly fresh in plot or structure or prose. What IS fresh and important is that the heroine is a brown girl from a Spanish-speaking family, and the setting is a recognizably diverse New York City, and tbh that is more than enough to earn it the attention it's gotten plus some.

This is a perfectly serviceable middle-of-the-shelves modern fantasy, of the type I grew up identifying with. Everybody deserves to grow up with a pile of those, and this book is a salute to all the brown girls who got left out of the pile I was stuck with. End of review. Buy this book for a kid who needs it.

(So what didn't do it for me? It veered off-premise and went generic. The set-up was that Sierra can use her artwork to empower the spirits of the helpful dead, which is awesome. But she only used that power for like two or three things before she just achieved god mode [because she was born special] and charged in for victory, leaving the themes of art and building stuff completely behind. If the climax and denouement had been based around the [TOTALLY AWESOME] powers the book had set her up with, I think I would have liked it a lot more.)

Natsume Ono - La Quinta Camera (The Fifth Room) (comics)

Mar 22, 2016

Awwwww this was cute!! The non-adventures of four Italian roommates and their rotating foreign subletters.

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