Thursday
Dec272018

Crossroads of Canopy

So this book has a society of people living in the tops of mountain-sized trees, so you know anything I have to say about it is going to be heavily skewed by my tree nerdiness.

The setting really is the best thing about the book, to be honest. It's richly imagined and described and I love the heck out of it. Of course I do! I want to live in Canopy forever and ever! Seriously though, trees that are MANY THOUSANDS OF FEET TALL!!!

*cough*

And that's about all that's good about this book. There's not much in the way of plot and the main character is awful. There are some side characters that I like all right, but the story is from the POV of Unar who is naive and deeply selfish. And whoadang arrogant.

This is also one of those books where most of the problems can be solved by people just sitting down and actually talking to each other. When books derive most of their conflict from this, it really truly annoys me.

The third act picks up significantly and Unar finally realizes what a steaming turd she is. And then she's driven not by arrogance but despair, except that she's kind of mopey, which is a touch annoying.

Anyway, anyone who loves trees as much as I do will probably like this book just fine, you'll find the setting is enough to buoy you through the dull bits. Otherwise, probably give this book a pass.

Thursday
Dec202018

Depression, Life and Art

I have neglected this blog right along with almost everything else in my life for a couple of months now, in large part due to being utterly busy and also because of depression. I'm sure people who don't have to muddle through the dark cloud of depression would have been able to get through my days with more time for a blog (and a lot of other things). But this is my reality, and I have to cope with it in what ever way works.

I've learned over the years that when depression starts to weigh me down, I have to cut away obligations until I can get my head above the surface again. And this blog is definitely expendable.

It didn't help that I just didn't have anything to say. The books I've read the last little while have all been the children's books I read to my daughter, or an epic re-read of the Murderbot diaries, which helped me through last week's epic low point.

In the last two months, I've mostly just struggled to exist, to pass the time until the seasons warm up again and the days get longer and I know I'll feel better. I bought a SAD lamp, though so far it doesn't seem to be doing much. I'm going to therapy regularly. I'm trying to engage in only the things that bring me joy.

I did NaNoWriMo again, as an ML again, and it's one of the things that brings me joy, even if it was a little stressful this year trying to keep on top of all the events plus my writing when I was struggling through physical and mental illness. I had this low-grade but draining cold for most of a month. By the time I shook it, the SAD had settled in for the long haul.

It's still hard most days, even days like today where the sun is shining and it's a little warmer. I haven't done any writing since NaNoWriMo ended. I've been doing some research for my current project. I've done some revisions and sent more of my writing to publishers and agents. But no actual writing yet. I just don't have the spoons for it right now.

I've weathered this before. I just need to do my best to hibernate. To surround myself with the people and things that bring me joy and fulfillment. Sometimes that means writing difficult letters to politicians. Sometimes that means binge-reading my favourite series. Sometimes it means going back to bed.

I fight the good fight when I have the energy, and I do my best to recover when I don't. This is winter for me and I've learned to accept it.

One thing that absolutely does not bring me a single ounce of joy is my continued presence on Facebook. That website is evil. There is real and actual evidence to show the role it has played in the radicalization of good people and the degradation of democracy. I have never liked that website or how people tend to interact on it, and it's long past time for me to delete my account.

I have tried to curate a better experience on FB. I've blocked shitty people. I've used software extensions to block out shitty content. But none of it helps, and as the Cambridge Analytica investigation continues, it becomes clearer and clearer that I cannot, in good conscience, continue to use that site. So I'm working on an exit strategy.

Twitter is not much better, but I have at least been able to curate that experience more deeply. But as I (and many others) pull away from social media and the devastating effects it's had on society, I expect this blog to get more active again. I might even resurrect my newsletter.

So this blog will probably start seeing more activity again. It will also likely get more political. I got a lot of bad advice early in my writing/editing career that I should refrain from politics in regards to my business. But to be frank, I do not want to be associated with clients or bosses I find politically adverse. I'm not going to work for fascists. If you don't like my politics, I'm perfectly happy for you to take your business elsewhere.

Wednesday
Oct172018

The Fated Sky

So, it's hard to say much at all about this book without spoiling The Calculating Stars so I won't. If you liked the first you'll love the second.

The things I had issues with in the first book didn't go away for this one. The social issues that serve as antagonist were personified in Stetson Parker, first man in space. So it was interesting to see him get a bit of a redemption arc (though I never felt bad for him) while the social issues never really went anywhere. They were overcome to a point, but yeah... racists gonna racist.

The book was fun and infuriating and heartbreaking in equal measure, but it ends on a uplifting note. I had a lot of questions about some of the characters from the first book who weren't really in the second, but it looks like Mary Robinette will be writing more in the series, so I look forward to that.

Both books are really good. Mary Robinette's research is so extensive and it shows (and only rarely does it show a little too much). So go check out Calculating Stars, and if you like it, this one won't disappoint.

Monday
Oct152018

The Calculating Stars

This is alternate history sci-fi, taking place in the 50s and giving a whole new meaning to the space race after a meteor strikes the Earth in a possible extinction-level event. Instead of reaching the moon, the ultimate goal is Mars and space colonization due to fears that the Earth will very soon be uninhabitable.

And since it's the 50s and the main character, Dr. Elma York, is both a woman and an extremely gifted mathematician, sexism and racism are front and centre. While the meteor serves as a catalyst, these two social issues are the real villain throughout the book.

Elma's is a former WASP and her husband is the lead engineer working to get humans into space and give them all a future before Earth becomes inhospitable. Elma takes work as a computer with the IAC and strives to convince the men in charge that women belong on the astronaut teams.

But in addition to fighting the racism and sexism of the day, Elma has to overcome her crippling social anxiety. There are plenty of bumps and hiccups along the way.

There was a lot of cool space/rocket science stuff in this book, and Mary Robinette did some really excellent and extensive research in preparation for writing this, and that was easily one of my favourite things about it (even if some of the jargon got to be a little much). At first I didn't think I liked this book because all the ingrained racism and sexism was driving me absolutely crazy. But the end has a good pay-off to make up for that. Also, lots of hilarious rocket-related sexual innuendo. Hee!

While on the surface, this is a book about surviving an extinction event on Earth, it's really about social justice and friendships. It's a slower burn than I usually read but that doesn't mean it's boring. Highly recommend!

Wednesday
Oct032018

Furyborn

I really loved the concept of this book, and overall it was pretty cool, but a lot of things just fell flat for me so I didn't love it the way I hoped I would. I didn't hate it either, it was just kind of meh.

This is the story of two queens separated by 1000 years but with a surprising (not really) way that their lives intersect. In this story, angels are the enemy and humans are waiting for the Sun Queen to save them from utter destruction.

While this book does some fun things to invert tropes, I found it was a bit of a mess in how it did so. And I didn't care a whole lot for any of the characters. Both MCs were well portrayed, fully actualized characters, I just didn't connect with either of them. And Simon's character was just a hot mess. Nothing he did made a single lick of sense if I put any thought into it at all.

I just felt like the author was constantly trying to shoehorn in sexual tension with mixed results. And then there's the way the book just sort of... stops. I know that this is part of a trilogy and expected a lot of things to be left open, but there was no proper "end" all the same.

Anyway, having two lady MCs who kick a lot of ass plus some really cool world-building with a fun magic system makes this book worth reading despite the issues. I'll likely pick up the next book, Kingsbane, when it comes out.