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21st-Feb-2025 07:35 pm - Sticky: Introduction Post!
Combeferre
Hi there! I'm Sophia, and this is my journal. If you want to know more about me and about what you can find on my journal, this is the place!Collapse )
Combeferre
Terry Pratchett is just such a good writer, gosh. Okay so like, obviously this was a reread. But I haven't reread this one for a lot of years at this point! And it's really great.

One thing I noticed while reading it is something that I'd never consciously recognized before about Pratchett's writing. Which is his style of setting up a series of facts and leaving the reader to connect them and draw the obvious conclusion of whatever you're supposed to gather from the scene. It's really effective!

cut for a mild spoilerCollapse )

I love the way this kind of thing makes the book feel like a collaboration with the reader.

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Combeferre
Eh, it was a perfectly reasonable kids' book that I found totally uninspiring. There wasn't anything glaringly wrong with it, but I didn't get emotionally invested in the characters or the plot or anything.

I did like that in the context of this story's worldbuilding dragons' genders have no visual cues and dragons don't say anything about their genders, so dragons get referred to by nonbinary pronouns and titles. On the other hand the pronoun used for dragons is IT. And no, that wasn't me all-capsing for emphasis, that's actually how the book writes IT throughout. The dragon Meenore is one of the major characters in the book, which means that the pronoun IT gets shouted at you by the text a lot over the course of the book. So that's both a plus one and a minus one for nonbinary representation, I guess. Sigh.

Other than that...I am just super lacking in anything at all to say about anything in this book because I just didn't care.

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Combeferre
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly

Oh look another historical novel about a tomboy living in rural 19th century USA!

This one though was written in the last few years and is set in Texas in 1899. Calpurnia (often known as Callie Vee) is the middle child of seven children, and all her siblings are boys. But instead of just a general interest in adventure/hijinks, she has an interest in SCIENCE, encouraged by her grandfather. Much to her parents' despair.

There was a lot to love about this book! Some good characterization, especially of Callie and her grandfather.

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The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly

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Combeferre
This is a novelized account of the author's grandmother's childhood. The author wrote in the 1930's and the book's events take place in the 1860's in rural Wisconsin. In a number of ways the book has a similar feel to the Little House books, and I get the impression that comparisons are made between these books rather a lot!

Caddie, the main character, is 11 years old and quite a tomboy. The book doesn't have much of an actual through-line plot (other than the question of Will Caddie Ever Learn To Be A Lady?), and mostly consists of telling a series of anecdotes about Caddie's adventures and experiences. It's charming enough to make up for its lack of forward momentum, and her adventures are never so hair-raising that I found reading the book stressful.

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Combeferre
A ridiculous piece of fun, as Heyer's books tend to be. Featuring: crossdressing, duels, pretend highwaymen, masked balls, and so forth. You get the idea of the sort of book it is.

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Combeferre
At any rate the world doesn't stop having good books in it just because everything else is horrible.

Here's a collection of short book thoughts about some books I liked, that aren't substantive or spoilery enough thoughts to get their own posts.


The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex

A reread. Still an impressively successful and delightful book! A kid's book about alien invasion(s), told from the point of view of a young biracial girl, with the conceit that it was written by her for a school project with a goal of it ending up in a time capsule. Tip is a really engaging narrator, and the themes the book is addressing are all well handled, and it's just all SO GOOD. I have a lot of feelings.

Also http://archiveofourown.org/works/1087542 is pretty much exactly right for what happens after the book imo. I love this fic. (though really I ought to read the ACTUAL Smek sequel at some point I think. There is one now!)


Quilting: Poems 1987-1990, by Lucille Clifton

An interesting collection of poems written by an African-American woman. Worth reading, though I have nothing to say about it because I'm not comfortable enough yet with poetry to have the words to describe it.


Dogsbody, by Diana Wynne Jones

A well written and charming book, as is to be expected from DWJ. I'm not the right audience for it, since I don't particularly care one way or another about dogs, and our main character is fairly thoroughly a dog for much of the book. But DWJ is a good enough writer to keep me invested despite this, and I did care an awful lot about Kathleen!


The Emperor's Soul, by Brandon Sanderson

A reread. I still love this book. But do I have anything else to say about it that I didn't say last time? No.


The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now, by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson

A total delight, just like the last two Squirrel Girl tpbs! I love Ryan North's sense of humour, and Erica Henderson's art is perfect for the story. Doreen and her friends are all amazing, and I love just about everything about this book.

However. The last two issues in this collection are a two-part crossover with Howard Duck. The first part (done by the Squirrel Girl team) was just about as good as the rest of the series but the second part (done by the Howard Duck team) I just wasn't as into. It wasn't as funny or as charming, and I didn't like the art as much, and I just didn't care as much. It's too bad that this is the note the book ended on, because the rest of the book had me gleeful all the way through.

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Combeferre
I keep on trying to write up my thoughts on the recent US election to post here and keep failing. I just don't know what to say that other people aren't already saying, more eloquently than me. I spent basically all of Wednesday in tears or near it. I am horrified at what the next four years are going to be like for people in the US, as well as for the rest of the world given the US's outsized influence.

I wish I could have hope that things aren't going to be that bad...but evidence does not seem to be on my side on this one.

I can't believe this happened. I can't believe this is really reality now.

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Combeferre
I read this book because of family reasons - I have a grandparent who was put into a boarding school overseas by her missionary parents for much of her childhood, and this was clearly a formative influence on a number of the ways in which she grew up to be a difficult person.

This book spends too much time focusing on the methods of therapy for the author's various case studies, which is unhelpful and uninteresting to me. But it also did a good job of outlining both the systemic abuses within the imperial British boarding school system and the ways in which boarding school can be traumatic even without any overt abuses, and how these things can affect the child subjected to them.

It's a helpful reminder that Grandma was once a traumatized child -- and although as an adult she emphatically did not deal with her trauma well, that original trauma she experienced was not her fault.

(note: this is a different grandmother than the one who died this summer.)

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Combeferre
I loved this book a lot the last time I read it. I still enjoy the good parts in it, but this time I was just rolling my eyes so hard at all the melodrama. Also I have a hard time handling the cognitive dissonance of these people who love the wild swampy forest of the Limberlost so much that they are actively working to cut it down and destroy it forever.

But the nature porn in this book is pretty readable and good as nature porn goes, and Freckles's desire for connection/affection is still compelling, and the Bird Woman is still the best.

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Combeferre
The Heart of Valor, by Tanya Huff

Another enjoyable entry in the Confederation series!Read more...Collapse )

Valor's Trial

Fourth in the Confederation series. And these books just keep getting better! Read more...Collapse )

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Combeferre
Ancillary Justice

Apparently last time I read this book I wasn't really engaged until a point well after halfway through. I don't even know what was wrong with me at that time. I CARE SO MUCH ABOUT EVERYTHING and from page one!

Okay so I first read this book back when it came out and there was the giant to-do when everyone was reading it and talking about it. And I did enjoy it at the time, and intended to read the sequels, and just....never got around to it. But turns out Essie owns the whole trilogy, so I borrowed all three from her, and decided I'd really better reread the first book before continuing, in order to make sure I could follow what happened in the next books.

But I kept putting off reading it because I had this vague memory from last time of this book being a lot of WORK to read, though good enough to be worth the work. WHAT THE HECK, MEMORY. HOW WRONG. This book is immensely readable!

I dunno how to talk more about this book? Last time I read it I gave a run-down of my thoughts of various aspects that I thought were particularly well done, and I still basically agree with myself, though also I have a million more feels about all the characters than I expressed back then. (I don't think I agree with myself entirely about the pronoun stuff anymore though.)


Ancillary Sword

I am all exclamation marks! WHAT A GOOD BOOK. I read the whole thing in one day. Just as good as the first book, which is not to be relied upon within trilogies.

cut for spoilersCollapse )

Ancillary Mercy

Well that didn't go where I expected things to go! more spoilers!Collapse )

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Combeferre
The Yuletide letters post for the year is up, which means it's once again time to post my letter!

DEAR AUTHOR,

I am so excited to know that you are going to be writing me a fic in one of my fandoms! I already know you have excellent taste, since you offered to write one of these fandoms, so I am sure that I will enjoy whatever it is you write for me, and I hope you have fun writing.

If you want to know more about my likes/dislikes and my thoughts about each fandom, please read on! :D

Information relevant to all fandomsCollapse )

And now on with the stuff about each specific fandom!

The Princess Curse, by Merrie HaskellCollapse )

Wives & Daughters, by Elizabeth GaskellCollapse )

Just Plain Maggie, by Lorraine BeimCollapse )

Splendor and Misery - clipping. (Album)Collapse )

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Combeferre
Three disjointed thoughts about star wars that have been sitting in my drafts for a lot of months:

1. given the way the original trilogy is really good at showing mourning reactions from people wrt to deaths (or even believed-to-be-deaths), especially chewie wrt han, I now understand ppl's reactions to han's death.

2. I am belatedly fascinated by how in the original trilogy both vader and luke have this massive hang-up over the idea of killing their own family member (father/son), but kylo ren DOES THE THING. He fails to be vader in so many interesting ways!

3.apparently star wars is one of those fandoms where EVEN AFTER watching canon I still need to read lots of fic to begin to, like, grok it? I dunno, maybe it's that fandom has developed all these elaborate headcanons over the years to explain some of the more opaque things in the movies, or maybe it's that the tie-in materials have stuff that everyone's drawing on, who knows. But I feel like everyone knows more about how stuff in the star wars universe works than I do.

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21st-Sep-2016 08:38 pm - Ten short story recs [recs: fic, recs: other]
Combeferre
My short story rec list I made last summer has had a small surge in notes again recently, and every time I am reminded of that post's existence I am made happy again. I should do another such rec list! Maybe I should do one every year.

So here's another ten recommended short stories where only two are written by men.

(For the record, last time the authors consisted of seven women, one nonbinary person, and two men. The numbers turned out to be the same this time too.)

And somehow I neglected to mention last time around that all the stories I was reccing were sff but they were. That is once again the case! I love sff so much.

Here we go:

1. Soteriology And Stephen Greenwood: The Role of Salus in the Codex Lucis, by Julia August
So this story is written as a series of emails between various academics and also a young woman named Cara who has found an important historic artefact but has very different priorities with respect to the translation of it that she's asked for help with. I love the juxtaposition between academia and Cara, and how we the readers can figure out what's going on with Cara because we're genre readers, while the academic she's in contact with is mostly just baffled and frustrated by her.

2. The Comet, by W.E.B. Du Bois
This is an early work of Afrofuturism, written nearly a century ago (in 1920), and it's fascinating as a look at the ideas of the time. It's about a black man and a white woman who are the only survivors in New York of the deadly gas from the passing of a comet.

3. First Do No Harm, by Jonathan Edelstein
In the far future in south-central Africa, Mutende is studying to be a doctor, but is frustrated by the lack of innovation allowed. I love how grounded and immersive the story is in its setting!

4. Madeleine, by Amal El-Mohtar
Madeleine, dealing with the grief of losing her mother, is part of an experimental drug program. She has an odd reaction, with strangely intense flashbacks to her past. And then a girl named Zainab starts showing up in these flashbacks, and unlike everything else, Madeleine knows Zainab was never actually part of her memories and childhood. I really enjoy the relationship that develops between Madeleine and Zainab, and I love the ending of the story!

5. Further Arguments in Support of Yudah Cohen’s Proposal to Bluma Zilberman, by Rebecca Fraimow
The story consists of a letter from Yudah to the object of his affection, outlining exactly why he's such a catch. And this story is so charming? Like, Yudah's convinced me! I'd marry him, if I were Bluma!

6. The Scrape of Tooth and Bone, by Ada Hoffmann
Alternate-19th-century dinosaur fossil wars! OBVIOUSLY I WAS ALL OVER THIS. And it's so great, really lives up to this excellent premise! I was delighted.

7. Hunting Monsters, by S.L. Huang
Combines several different fairy tale elements into a coherent whole that gives me SO MANY FEELINGS ugh. It's a story about...family, and complicated histories, and what to do when people aren't quite who you thought they were.

8. So Much Cooking, by Naomi Kritzer
The chronicles of a family dealing with a major epidemic as told through a food blog. Such a neat premise and very well executed, I was impressed. But also the story was really good at just making me care super lots about every single character in it.

9. Grandmother-Nai-Leylit's Cloth of Winds, by Rose Lemberg
A secondary-world fantasy with absolutely wonderful worldbuilding. I love the different way of doing family structure in this culture, and the ways in which almost all of the major characters have difficulty in one way or another fitting into expectations. It's lovely and I want to read five million more words of it. (It's already the longest story on this list so that's saying something.)

10. The Six Swans, by Mallory Ortberg
Back when the Toast was still running, Ortberg had a semi-regular series called "Children's Stories Made Horrific". This story is one of those, and it's AMAZING. By far the best of the lot, imo. Worth being read as a story, not just as a humour column like a lot of the others were. It's a retelling of the fairy tale by the same name, but with emphasis placed on various horrible things that the original takes for granted, and I as a fairy tale nerd was super duper here for everything this story chose to do. And I'm pretty sure people who aren't such fairy tale nerds would like it too!

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Combeferre
This book does exactly what it says on the tin.

The book as a physical object entirely displays the manifest excellences of Bringhurst's grasp of good typographic style. The book is a beautiful object.

The contents of the book are also pretty good! Bringhurst is a surprisingly compelling author (or maybe I'm just surprised at the depth of my nerdiness, that I would read a typographic manual straight through......).

The book is charmingly over-convinced of the subject's utmost importance, though - I mean, yes, I agree, this stuff IS important, but perhaps not quite as deeply vital as the author thinks. But it's entirely reasonable that a book that's all about nothing but this would be convinced that this is important! And it DOES make a difference in terms of the pleasure of reading a book.

I will say I didn't read ALL all of it - there was one bit that was all about the precise mathematics of the decisions of page size and ratios, and the text block size and position in relation to the page shape/size, and the author kindly gave permission to just skim over that bit if the reader isn't into the math stuff. So I took the author up on that permission.

Also, in the bit where he's got a paragraph description of each of a whole bunch of different fonts, I didn't read all of those very closely, because they got a bit tedious.

But otherwise: great book! Even for someone like me who has no actual reason to have to know any of these things. And I bet for someone who actually DOES (like a graphic designer or whatever) this book would be of high value.

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Combeferre
Apparently A Chorus Line is like, a staple of musical theatre and any musical theatre fan worth their salt is familiar with it, or something. Today I finally saw it for the first time! And okay yes it is REALLY GOOD and defs worth seeing.

For those who (like me until recently) aren't familiar, it's a broadway musical about the ordinary people who make up the chorus lines in broadway musicals, instead of about stars and heroes and so forth. There is no protagonist in this show, and although some of the characters get more time than others it never feels like that's because they're the real heroes or anything. The show is about all of the characters.

It's set entirely during an audition for an unnamed, unknown show, and over the course of the audition we get to know the stories of the various auditioning dancers, and even a bit about the casting director too.

Apparently the inspiration was in part from interviews with actual chorus actors, and the stories they told about our lives, and I can see how that might be the case in how real these stories all feel. And the story is impressively timeless too - written in the 70's, it still feels fresh and relevant more than 40 years later.

I really don't know enough about theatre and musicals to be able to judge how well this particular version of A Chorus Line was done - I don't feel qualified to talk about it the same way I critique books. But I thought it was well done, as far as I can tell.

My one complaint, I think, would be that there was something about how the actor playing Paul gave his lines that bugged me, which is too bad because he had a long soliloquy and also because I cared about Paul SO MUCH.

(I mean, I cared about all of them! Well, except the casting director, who's an imperious asshole.)

At any rate: a worthwhile experience, a great musical, and now I need to go find out how much fic there is. (HOPEFULLY LOTS.)

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Combeferre
learntocheat bought the Hamiltome! So obviously I read it asap. A thoroughly enjoyable book, a behind-the-scenes look at the development of Hamilton along with lyrics annotations by the author himself. And lots of photos.

The thing that struck me most while reading the book was that while yes, Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius who did a hell of a lot of work to bring this musical to life, it would never have happened without a whole team of people who all contributed in a whole bunch of different important ways. It really is a team effort to create something like Hamilton.

The other thing is how from the beginning there were so many people excited about this show and eager to somehow be a part of it, even when there wasn't even a show yet! This whole book is basically a love letter to musical theatre nerds who care deeply and passionately about good theatre and put a lot of effort into making it happen and supporting each other through the process. So great.

Also I really enjoyed Miranda's lyrics annotations! There's some really charming notes in there, and some interesting thoughts.

And the pictures throughout that illustrate the whole thing are just stunning. There's a lot of beautiful shots of individual cast members in some extraordinary pose in the middle of dancing their way through the show and I loved it.

The book is also just really pretty as a book. Large and well-constructed and with a proper binding. And I am just too delighted by the title page inside the book, which is done in the style of period books with a 31-word-long title in at least five different font sizes.

In all, it's the kind of book that would be of no interest to people who don't care about the musical, but for fans of the musical it is GREAT.

But ultimately, you know, what I care about is the musical, so although the story behind it is interesting, I can't imagine myself ever feeling motivated to reread this book. Whereas I have listened to that musical an uncountable number of times since I decided to give it a try.

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Combeferre
I am reminded that there is a difference between finding a book compelling and actually LIKING it. The whole thing feels extremely Gaiman to me, in a way I can't quite put my finger on. And Gaiman tends as a whole to just not quite work for me. Oh, he's certainly a talented writer, but I just can't love the guy's books the way so many people do. And I don't hate them either, as many other people apparently do. He's just kind of eternally in a place of "I see what you're doing but ehhhh."

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Combeferre
I've been intending to read this book for just about forever, I think? I mean, Alison Bechdel is so well known in feminist/queer sorts of circles. But it was just a sort of vague intention, until I came across a bootleg of the Fun Home musical (which I watched because there is literally no other way I am at all likely to be able to see this musical, more's the pity) and it was SO GOOD and then I really definitely needed to read this book.

And it was also SO GOOD. Different from the musical in some respects, of course, since it is inevitable that using a different medium to tell a story will have different results, but it feels the same. It's clear the Fun Home musical people did a remarkable job translating this narrative into a different format.

I was riveted by this book. I read it over the course of two lunchtimes at work, and at the end of the first I had SUCH trouble putting the book down! I felt a lot of affinity for Bechdel, even while her life and identity don't actually have a lot in common with mine. But there's still something there.

I'm not really sure how to talk about this book? In part because it's so different from the sorts of things I usually read - it's nonfiction, a memoir, a comic, with nonlinear narrative structure. But Bechdel uses the tools of her art (narrative and pictorial) with strength and great ability, and it all really works together to create a wonderful whole.

Highly recommended.

(in completely irrelevant thoughts about this book, Alison is a BECHDEL from PENNSYLVANIA and basically I am extremely curious whether she has Mennonite ancestry because I mean really.)

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