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Gonna try to do reading Wednesday at least through November, a month when I am trying to be better at doing things on a regular basis.

What I'm currently reading

Rereads of Stories of the Raksura: Volume Two: The Dead City & The Dark Earth Below and The Wizard Hunters, both by Martha Wells -- I'm on another reread kick (which I've been on this year even more than usual), and they're both comfort reads. I've been rereading the Raksura series in the weirdest backwards and inside-out order ever.

What I've just finished reading

The Siren Depths by Martha Wells -- I said my Raksura reread was in the weirdest order ever -- and A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston, which really didn't work for me at all. Spoilers )

What I'm reading next

I've got a couple of books on slow reread, which means I started them but I'm not actively reading them -- Star Wars: Maul - Lockdown by Joe Schreiber and Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh, which I've been meaning to reread for a while. I've also got The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu and An Ancient Peace by Tanya Huff out of the library, if I ever stop doing rereads for long enough to read one of them.
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I…I didn’t think you could write a retelling of the Thousand and One Nights and actively remove the storytelling aspect as being an important part of the story, but apparently you can and it really bothers me, because even though this isn’t my favorite fairy tale that part – the power of stories, the power of being a woman who tells stories, the power of fantasy – is really, really important to me. And it’s not…totally removed, it’s still there in a way, but not in the story-telling sort of way. And its removal from the story is lampshaded in a way that’s kind of actively unsettling to me.

Like, I’m sure other people who’ve read this book will disagree with me, but I didn’t even realize I was attached to it until it was gone.

(The book is A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston, and between this and the fact that I was pretty meh on Ahsoka (thoughts coming later when I reach that point in The Schedule), I think I'm not going to search out any more of her books unless she writes another Star Wars novel.)
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Reading (both pro and fannish) romance/erotica is always an interesting experience for me because I...have a tendency to skip through the sex scenes. Like, I am so clearly not the target audience! And yet there's clearly something in there that gets my attention anyway, even though I often spend a large portion of the book wondering, "Why am I reading this?"

I am sure there is a romance novel out there that hits all my buttons, but hell if I know what it is. To be fair, it's probably not coming from the authors that I read, since they all write stuff that is fairly similar as far as the romance tropes go. And it's not bad! It's just not what I'm into. As a romance reader, anyway. Like, the plot stuff in these books? I'm generally fairly interested. The romance tropes...don't really do it for me.

Which does sort of make me wonder what I am actually interested in as far as romance goes, but it's...the stuff I write...eh. I don't know, it's just a weird experience.

I guess I should clarify what I'm actually talking about? I read Lauren Dane's Opening Up today, since it was a Kindle Daily Deal, and I'm slowly working through Kit Rocha's Beyond Jealousy (the first book in that series, Beyond Shame, probably came the closest to hitting my buttons).
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I seem to have hit the point again where the only thing I want to read is the same book series over and over again. Which isn't bad, because I really love these books (the Raksura series by Martha Wells) and at least there are four of them, so that takes me a couple days to work through before I go back to the start, but it is a little annoying because sometimes I want to read other things, you know? Except my brain's like, yeah, but have you also considered: no.

Part of it is that I have these books in ebook and in hardcopy, so I can read them on my computer (which is basically where I live), then switch to hardcopy on the rare occasion I'm not at my computer, or read them on my Kindle if I'm at uni. So it's convenient. I've got a couple other books in multiple formats too, though, so it's not just that. Wells' prose style is similar enough to mine that reading hers doesn't impact my writing style the way some other authors do. (I can't read Sarah Rees Brennan, for example, and switch back and forth between writing and reading, because her prose style is different enough that it fucks me up for some reason. A couple of other authors are close enough to mine that I might get a little more florid, or my sentence structure might change slightly, but not to the extent that it really messes with my head and makes me incapable of stringing words together. Is that weird? It's a little weird, isn't it.)

Another thing is that I've read these books enough times that I don't have to sit down for an extended reading session. If I'm reading something through for the first time, most of the time I have to sit down and read it straight through, or it will be dragged out over a period of several weeks to several months because I just don't care enough to read it all the time. And I did, actually, sit down and read something new straight through the other day, and lo, it was good (it was Island of Ghosts by Gillian Bradshaw, which shocked me by not only being a good novel but doing literally 90% of what my actual academic specialty is except in a novel), but I can't do that and do other stuff at the same time. And that's part of it too, because if I'm reading at the computer, I'm usually switching between several different things -- general internet stuff, maybe fannish conversations, writing, graphics, watching TV, doing my hair (I do my hair and read a lot; I can't do it with a hardcopy but I can do it on the computer), eating. I can stop and pick it up again any time, where with something I've only read once or twice, or something I'm reading for the first time, I need that deeper level involvement.

Eh, I did this earlier in the year too with the Lost Fleet books, though there are like a dozen of those so it took slightly longer for the turnaround on a full reread. I can never tell what type of books are going to ping me for this type of comfort reading, though. Most of Wells' other books, which I like and have, don't; the only other one that does is Razor's Edge, which coincidentally I finished listening to on audiobook during my commute a couple of weeks ago. I haven't really been able to settle on another audiobook since, I've just been listening to music, though I'm trying to do Kenobi now. (I love Star Wars audiobooks, they have sound effects. But I don't care enough about most Star Wars novels to listen to them on audiobook too, because see again: if I'm reading something for the first time I need to do it straight through, and Razor's Edge I've read enough times that I can just pick it up and go.)

And, of course, the other thing is if I'm in school, I usually have trouble processing new information that isn't school-related, so the majority of what I read is rereads and comfort reading. Not all, but a lot of the time the instant I go on a long break I have about a week where I just do comfort reading while my brain resets, then a month where I'm only reading new books. (Which shows up on my reading spreadsheets, because I track rereads. It was hella obvious after I came back from England last year.)

Anyway. Random book thoughts.
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not!Wednesday reading meme. I missed...a couple of weeks. I missed many weeks. I'm really bad at this.

What I've just finished

Stray Souls and The Glass God by Kate Griffin. I really like this universe; I'm slightly less keen on Sharon as a narrator than Matthew, though I can't put my finger on why, precisely. Maybe it's the slightly lighter nature of the books. I'm glad that Magicals Anonymous has so far been better about not having secondary female characters dying than the Matthew Swift ones are, though.

Valor's Trial by Tanya Huff. Damn, she killed everybody. (Well, not everybody, but like: WOW.) And people say I'm a ruthless writer.

A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly. Reread; I think I'm going to work my way through the series again, though I'm going to have to pack most of them up and take them to...New Orleans, appropriately. Kicking off my Barbara Hambly reread; I really like her prose.

Feed, Deadline, Blackout, and assorted Newsflesh novellas by Mira Grant (rereads), all of which I read while I was in New Orleans or on the plane. I don't know, I was on the plane scrolling through my Kindle and went, you know what, I think I'm going to reread these heartbreaking books about zombies and codependent siblings and truth and freedom. (These books are amazeballs, by the way.)

Parasite by Mira Grant (reread). I was still in a Newsflesh state of mind and went onto the next Mira Grant book. Parasite doesn't ping my narrative kinks the way Feed does, but most books don't because I have weird narrative kinks.

Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn. Not quite sure how I feel about this book yet.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch. Reread. I like the flashback/backstory slightly more than I like the main story, which is frustrating.

What I'm currently reading

Actively reading: Bride of the Rat God by Barbara Hambly (reread), The Truth of Valor by Tanya Huff, Sisters of the Raven by Barbara Hambly (reread), Fever Season by Barbara Hambly (reread), Blood Red by Mercedes Lackey.

In progress but not actually reading: The Wizard Hunters by Martha Wells (reread), The Searchers by Glenn Frankel, Marked by Kit Rocha, Lauren Dane, and Vivian Arend, The Courtiers by Lucy Worsley, Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon, Legions of Hell by C.J. Cherryh, The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army by Stephan Talty, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno, The Hawkwood War by Ankaret Wells.

What I'm reading next

Let's be real, probably more Barbara Hambly. (It's the prose. I can't put my finger on what exactly it is about the prose, but that's it.)
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Ha! It's actually Wednesday for a change! At least I think it's Wednesday. When I'm not in school I can only track the days of the week via what's on TV. (Uh...this is actually partially true. NCIS was on last night, so today must be Wednesday.)

What I've just finished

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce, which is a reread. I mean, what else is there to say? Tamora Pierce just keeps getting better and better.

The Neon Court and The Minority Council by Kate Griffin, the latter of which is a reread. Yes. I read the last book in the series first a year or so ago, and hoo boy was I confused then. I was definitely less confused once I'd actually read them in order. These books make me miss England. Also I find them weirdly comforting? Not quite sure why.

The Death of the Necromancer, by Martha Wells, which is also a reread.

What I'm currently reading

Actively reading: Stray Souls by Kate Griffin, The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend by Glenn Frankel, The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace by Lucy Worsley, Marked by Kit Rocha, Lauren Dane, and Vivian Arend (three novellas in one book).

In progress but not actively reading: A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly, Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon, Legions of Hell by C.J. Cherryh, The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (reread), The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army by Stephan Talty, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno, The Hawkwood War by Ankaret Wells.

Man, I really gotta start finishing at least one book for every book I start, because this list is ridiculous.

What I'm reading next

Valor's Trial by Tanya Huff because it has to go back to the ebook library soon. And probably nothing on my non-active list, and then the next Kate Griffin book, which I think is The Glass God. At some point I need to pick up a book about Rome again because I kid you not, after a year of doing an MA and ALL THE RESEARCH, I then took a year off and have literally read nothing about Rome, fiction or nonfiction, since last September. And I'm starting my second MA next month, so...yeah.
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Yeah, I missed last week, and then I missed Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. *facepalm*

What I've just finished

Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion: Razor's Edge, by Martha Wells (reread). This is just a really enjoyable romp starring Leia and set between ANH and ESB; it's one of my favorite EU books because it's such a perfect slice of life -- that's kind of a weird way to describe it, but that's essentially what it is. Hijinks, pirates, personal and political loyalty, and probably more female characters than any other piece of Star Wars canon (or semi-canon, whatever). Such a great read; this was my fourth reread since it came out in...September? October?

Spirits White as Lightning, by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill (reread). I'm doing a slow reread of my namesake series (technically the series is called the Bedlam's Bard series, so yeah, if you were wondering where my username came from, that's it). Urban fantasy, main character is a flute-playing bard who went through some shit, disappeared Underhill for a while, and is now back in NYC to study at Julliard. There's elves and a talking gargoyle and government conspiracies.

Gunmetal Magic and Magic Rises, by Ilona Andrews, and Night Broken by Patricia Briggs -- I just kind of count these three in the same category, since they're reasonably similar urban fantasy and I read them pretty close together. Were-animal politics, largely.

The Heart of Valor, by Tanya Huff -- military sci-fi. Fun.

Terrier and Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce, both rereads. I love this Tortall so much. Alanna is my forever girl, but I adore the world-building of the Provost's Dog books. I wish there were fourteen books set in this era the way there are for the later period.

What I'm currently reading

Actively reading: Mastiff by Tamora Pierce (reread), The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend by Glenn Frankel, A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly (reread), The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells (reread).

In progress but not actively reading: Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon, Legions of Hell by C.J. Cherryh, The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (reread), The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army by Stephan Talty, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno, The Hawkwood War by Ankaret Wells.

...okay, Bedlam, maybe you should try finishing a couple of books before you start anything else new.

Okay, the reason I usually have so many books in progress is because I'll usually have two or three that I'm reading in hard copy -- in this case, Mastiff, The Searchers, and A Free Man of Color, and then one or two that I'm reading as an ebook on my computer, which right now is The Death of the Necromancer. If I'm reading a non-fiction book, I sometimes can't process that first thing in the morning, so I usually have a fiction book on the go at the same time to read instead. Sometimes more than one, depending what I'm in the mood for, and since the non-fiction's new to me, the fiction book I'm reading is usually a reread because if it's new I almost always go straight through it. If it doesn't grab me enough to read straight through -- you'll notice on the in-progress but not active list there are a bunch of new books -- then it can take me weeks or months to read because I'm just not that compelled to read it.

What I'm reading next

The Neon Court by Kate Griffin just arrived in the mail, and I've got Valor's Trial by Tanya Huff and Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn out from the Washington Anytime Library. I kind of want to do a full on Tortall reread, so I might do that.

On the other hand, I could theoretically finish some of those books on the in progress list. Nah. That would be crazy.
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Ack, I forgot to do this last week, much like how I forgot how to do the last five months' worth of book round-ups.

What I've just finished

A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin, the first of the Matthew Swift books -- I actually read, like, the third or fourth one in the series in Leicester, which was a little confusing without having the background. This one was fun, with a really unusual magic system -- I mean, as a historian I kind of sideeye the assertion that urban magic didn't spring up until fairly recently, because it's not like cities didn't exist before the last century, but I get where Griffin is coming from there.

Rereads of The Cloud Roads and The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells; I just really love these books and they turned into comfort reading surprisingly quickly.

City of Heavenly Fire, Cassandra Clare's new book and the conclusion to the Mortal Instruments series. Cassandra Clare gets a lot of crap from fandom (and yes, I was in HP fandom back in the day), but the books are solid YA urban fantasy and don't deserve the hate they get from some of the older corners of fandom. COHF was a great conclusion to the series, with some nice groundwork laid for her next series.

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh's book -- SO GOOD.

The Lost Fleet: Fearless by Jack Campbell -- another reread. I realized the other day that one of the reasons I've been doing so many rereads probably has to do with how much of my brain is taken up with my WIP right now, so I have trouble processing too much new information; I do the same thing during the school year.

What I'm currently reading

Actively reading: Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion: Razor's Edge by Martha Wells (reread), The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (reread), The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells (reread).

In progress but not actively reading: The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army by Stephan Talty, Ancillary Justice Ann Leckie, Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno, The Hawkwood War by Ankaret Wells.

What I'm reading next

Probably one of this stack of library books, of which I have a bunch both ebooks and hardcopy, most of the former I had on hold and three just came in at once, so I kind of have to read them or wait another few months. So that's the two Ilona Andrews novels, Gunmetal Magic and Magic Rises, and then I think I'm finally going to read my first Terry Pratchett novel. (What? Yes, I did reach this age and never read any Pratchett.) Also I'm slowly rereading my namesake series, so I have Spirits White as Lightning (Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill) out from the library. (The series is called the Bedlam's Bard series. BOOM! I don't get as many questions over where my username came from as I did ten years ago, but yeah, that's where it's from.)

And the new Star Wars comic just came in, so that, right after I finish writing this post.
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I'm doing more (fannish, at least) blogging on Tumblr now, including daily accountability posts on my WIP (this is actually really helpful for me, I'm glad I'm doing it), partially because more of the Star Wars people seem to be over there than over here. Tumblr's a fucking nightmare for anything resembling conversation, though.

*

Wednesday reading meme (I'm aware it's Thursday, *cough*)

What I've just finished

The Siren Depths by Martha Wells, which was a reread (these books are SO GOOD), and The Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Campbell, also a reread.

Tales of the Emerald Serpent, edited by Scott Taylor, which is a shared world anthology that takes place in a magical, colonized Aztec (?) inspired city that was deserted by its original inhabitants. I'm not one hundred percent sure how I feel about this -- there was some really interesting world-building and a couple of the stories that are really good, but as you often get with shared worlds, quality of the individual stories varied, and once they started getting into ~the grand plot I started losing interest. Mostly I bought it because Martha Wells has a story in. Overall I enjoyed it, but the last three or four stories really started losing me. (I also liked those authors' writing styles the least; I'm kind of particular about prose.)

Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce, which is one of the Circle books and the only one of her books I hadn't read yet. It's Tamora Pierce, so there's fantastic world-building, really unusual magic, and excellent characters and action sequences, with a couple of gut-clenching scenes. (Including torture.) This one takes place before The Will of the Empress and Melting Stones, so I might have to go back and reread those.

The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones -- this is DWJ's last book, completed by her sister, and I am so sad. I grew up with DWJ books; I own a ton and I've read a lot and fortunately there are still quite a few DWJ books I haven't read, but I still remember the day I heard she'd died. I went and banged on my roommate's door and went, "Diana Wynne Jones died," and she was like, "Who?" (So that was awkward for me. For some reason this is a recurring theme; I keep expecting my friends who read genre have read the same authors as me and then I end up having to explain who C.S. Lewis is.)

Comics: Star Wars: Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir, from last week, which is the first of a four-issue arc that covers something the show would have covered if Disney HADN'T FUCKING CANCELLED IT (sorry, never over it), and new issues of Star Wars: Rebel Heist (LEIA!!!!) and Star Wars: Legacy II (ANIA!!! and JAO!!! too bad it also got FUCKING CANCELLED WHEN DARK HORSE LOST THE LICENSE, considering it's a great Star Wars comic that's written by a woman and has a female main character and a POC secondary main character). *cough* Sorry, I have a lot of feelings about Star Wars.

What I'm currently reading

Actively reading: Sunshine by Robin McKinley (reread), The Hawkwood War by Ankaret Wells, The Lost Fleet: Fearless by Jack Campbell (reread).

In progress but not actively reading: Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno and A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin.

Bizarrely, I still kind of feel like I'm between books for some reason; not really sure why. Maybe because I'm not currently that focused on anything I'm currently reading.

What I'm reading next

Well, I just pulled Melusine by Sarah Monette out of my pile of library books, so probably that. I also got a hard copy of Thinking Tools: Agricultural Slavery between Evidence and Models by Ulrike Roth (which I squeeed about on Tumblr the other day), so I might finally be ready to start reading about ancient Rome again. On the other hand, who even knows what I'm going to read, I certainly don't.
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Okay, I kept forgetting to do my monthly book round-ups, and at this point I kind of feel like I'm too far behind to catch up again, so let's try the Wednesday book meme.

What I've just finished

Bunker Hill - A City, A Siege, A Revolution, by Nathaniel Philbrick, which is part of my Queen's Gambit background reading. Philbrick is a good writer and very readable; this is the third book on the American Revolution I've read in the past few months, and as usual I'm always surprised by how much I don't know about the American Revolution, considering that it's, you know, the founding event of my country.

Before that I finished rereading Spindle's End by Robin McKinley, which is a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale and one of my favorite books ever.

What I'm reading now

Right now I'm trying to clear out the unfinished books on my reading spreadsheet, but the ones I'm actively reading are: The Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Campbell (this is the fourth or fifth reread in the past couple months; I really, really, really like these books. [personal profile] aella_irene gave me them to me and I have never received a more painfully accurate book rec in my life), Tales of the Emerald Serpent, which is a shared world collection edited by Scott Taylor and so far pretty fun, and The Siren Depths by Martha Wells, another reread (this is, I think, the third or fourth reread. I also really like these books).

On my "in progress but not actively reading" list are The Hawkwood War by Ankaret Wells, Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno, and Sunshine by Robin McKinley, the latter of which is a reread. As you can tell I am a little scatter-minded at the moment and having trouble concentrating on any single book.

I've also got some Star Wars comics that I'm rereading or trying to reread, but again, can't focus. That would be Star Wars: Republic: Darkness by John Ostrander (art by Jan Duursema) and Star Wars: Volume 1: In the Shadow of Yavin by Brian Wood (art by Carlos D'Anda).

What I'm reading next

Well, the above, and then I've got a couple of books out from the library I've had for a while and keep renewing without reading -- Melusine by Sarah Monette, The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton (reread), and How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City by Joan DeJean. And a collection of novellas from the Washington Anytime Library, which I think I picked up specifically for the Mercedes Lackey novella.

I've got a bunch of unread books on my Kindle, too, because I have a habit of distractedly buying books online, not to mention the truly enormous piles of unread books in my room and in my little book nook right outside my room. At the moment, it's usually a toss-up between actually having the energy to read something new and going for something familiar as a comfort read.

Comics-wise I've got two issues of Rat Queens I just picked up and the new Star Wars: Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir.

*

*stares up* Dear gods, I need to be able to focus on something.
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I wrote a rec over on Tumblr for the Star Wars: Knight Errant comics, which are by John Jackson Miller and a passel of different artists and are so good. So good. They aren't my favorite Star Wars comics, but they're up there.

Cut and pasted from my Tumblr rec:

Knight Errant takes place during the Old Republic, about a thousand years before the movies, while the Republic is involved in a decades-long war against the Sith. During a blitzkrieg raid on a Sith world, the young Jedi Knight Kerra Holt becomes trapped behind Sith lines with no way to get back to the Republic. At the point when the first arc, “Aflame”, takes place, Kerra is eighteen and has only been a Knight for about a week, and she finds herself in the unenviable position of having her entire Jedi strike team killed around her, including her friend and mentor. Now on her own, Kerra decides to do the only thing she can as a Jedi and fight the varied Sith lords in any way she can, saving civilians right and left.

Knight Errant fascinates me because of the world-building, because all the Sith lords — and there are quite a few! — are very different and very distinct, as are the worlds they rule. The big two are Daiman, who believes he’s the creator of the universe, and Odion, who wants to be its destroyer, but there are a number of other Sith, as well as non-Sith antagonists. (I bet you never expected to see a Hutt wearing a jetpack and dueling a Jedi in zero gravity! NOW YOU CAN!) John Jackson Miller, the author, has clearly done his research on everyday life under totalitarian governments; Knight Errant isn’t all lightsaber duels and space battles. There’s a lot of page space and thought that goes into the civilians who are just trying to make it by on Sith-ruled worlds.

The other thing I really like about Knight Errant is that Kerra isn’t exactly a sympathetic hero. I reblogged an article the other day about the importance of the unlikable heroine and Kerra Holt definitely fits into that mold. She’s rash, impulsive, self-righteous, equal parts selfless and selfish, idealistic, bloodthirsty, ruthless, and prone to mood swings depending on her circumstances. She can be grating at times, and is occasionally very petty and very judgmental. And she’s amazing.

Another reason Knight Errant is really interesting is because it has both a comic component and a novel component. The novel, just called Star Wars: Knight Errant (also written by John Jackson Miller), takes place between the first TPB and the second. You don’t need to start with volume one in order to read the novel, and you don’t need to read the novel in order to read volume two, but it’s very, very interesting to see how these characters and situations translate from comics to the page, and there’s some great worldbuilding in the novel.

Links to Amazon over on Tumblr, since the digital editions of the comics are only $1.99 today for Star Wars Day.
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Ack, I kept forgetting to do this, partially because I was in transit on February 1st, then just because I forgot, then because I never post within twenty-four hours of posting fic, and then I forgot again.

January book round-up )
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I'll do a proper book round-up for December and the rest of 2013 later, but I've been setting up my Reading 2014 spreadsheets, which have considerably more subdivisions this year: Books, Audiobooks, Comics, and Articles. I've got seven holdovers from 2013, five books and two audiobooks, and bizarrely, all the books have authors whose names start with M, either first or last: Mercedes (Lackey, twice), Max (Gladstone), (John Jackson) Miller, Martha (Wells), and (James) Mallory (cowritten with Mercedes Lackey). STRANGE. Mysterious.

I had a question about my spreadsheets earlier that I forgot to answer, so a quick rundown:

I have no idea if these are proper spreadsheets or not )

So that's my reasonably nerdy reading spreadsheet explanation. In my experience, nothing makes people's eyes glaze over faster than telling them you keep color-coded spreadsheets of what you're reading, but hopefully it's of interest to someone!

There may be easier ways to do this, but I actually have no idea how to use Excel, so I'm basically making it up as I go.
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This month I did some rereads! I didn't do any rereads in September and October, which is pretty unusual for me, but in November I drifted back into rereading a couple of things here and there as I got over my MUST READ ALL THE NEW THINGS phase. (Also I started running out of Star Wars novels set in a period I'm interested enough in to hunt down the books my library doesn't have.)

Read more... )
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So much Star Wars, oh my god. SO MUCH STAR WARS. (Not just Star Wars, though.) (Okay, mostly Star Wars.)

Read more... )
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Is there anything more frustrating than getting to the end of a book that you stayed up late to read and having it culminate in a manner that is not just aggravating by the standards of in-universe continuity, but personally despicable?

(Yep, still reading Star Wars books. Striking the sequels off the to-read list until I forget how angry I am with this one, though. Possibly permanently, given that at one point I moseyed over to the author's website and then almost had an aneurysm when I saw some comments that she had made about fans/fandom/fic writers.)

(Like with fandom, there are some really, really good tie-in novels and really, really good authors who say smart, sensible, fannish things (honestly, I just want to buy John Jackson Miller a drink and say thank you for going out of his way to put in female and POC characters when he could easily have done otherwise and not raised an eyebrow, and saying, "Well, just because they weren't in the movies, doesn't mean they don't exist in the universe" and that's on top of actually having intelligent thoughts about the Star Wars universe), and then there are really, really bad tie-in novels, and then there are tie-in novels which are really good on one aspect and infuriating with all the others.)
bedlamsbard: star wars rebels: hera peering around a corner (don't fuck with us (iconthology))
The problem with reading tie-in novels for a fandom that you write fic in is that when you hit a bad one, you end up screaming at your computer screen, "I could have written a better book than that even using the same idiotic plot!"

Not that I, uh, just did this or anything.

But seriously, what the hell even was that?
bedlamsbard: star wars PT: obi-wan's hands holding his lightsaber, text: strength (strength (forestgraphics))
As past experience has proven, if I say I'm going to do a more substantial review and wait on it, I shall probably never do it, so best to do so now instead of waiting.

HOLY SHIT, Y'ALL, THIS BOOK.

Star Wars: Kenobi, by John Jackson Miller, takes place immediately following Revenge of the Sith, as Obi-Wan is trying to settle in to life on Tatooine, before he becomes the crazy old Ben of A New Hope. And for a novel that's actually named after a character, a lot of it isn't about Obi-Wan, which is what makes it so brilliant. Because Obi-Wan isn't a viewpoint character. (While Obi-Wan does have a POV, sort of, the only time anything actually appears from his POV is when he's meditating.)

In fact, the name "Obi-Wan" only appears four times in the entire book, three times within the same few sentences, and the use of it is very, very deliberate. quote, spoilers )

I've been thinking a lot about fanfic and tie-ins recently, since I've been reading a lot of Star Wars tie-ins. It's a less obvious link when those tie-ins aren't dealing with movieverse characters -- anything set before the lifetime of the PT characters, largely; I don't have much interest in anything set after the OT. But tie-ins where movieverse characters are major or secondary characters, or which deal with movieverse events (novels set during the Clone Wars, for example, or set between ANH and ESB) are another beast entirely, because in some ways they are essentially fanfiction, just published and authorized fanfiction. But tie-ins -- interstitial tie-ins specifically, since (and someone who actually knows stuff about the post-OT EU can back me up here) tie-ins that take place after the main canon has been closed are yet another beast -- are a lot more limited than fic, because you can't have really, really major events in a tie-in, rather than on the big screen, so to speak: while there are lots of big events that take place in the Star Wars EU between TPM and RotS (whether in novels, comics, or the two TV series), there's no way to have Anakin's discovery, Qui-Gon's death, the start of the Clone Wars, or Palpatine's reveal, Anakin's fall, and Order 66 in a piece of secondary material. In fic, you can do that; you don't have to worry about the Hand of God or George Lucas saying NOPE NOPE NOPE. (I've also noticed that tie-ins tend to have a lot more blatant emotionalism even than fanfic, but I'm not sure if that's a characteristic of the genre or just of a couple of specific authors.)

Kenobi is an interstitial tie-in, since it's bounded by RotS and ANH. We know where Obi-Wan is before it starts; we know where Obi-Wan has to be by the time it ends. We know that Obi-Wan's story is essentially not going anywhere, which is one reason that there is very little EU material that involves Obi-Wan during the nineteen years between RotS and ANH. Miller slides around that conundrum (how do you tell a story about a character who isn't going anywhere except emotionally?) by not making the novel about Obi-Wan.

Let's back up.

The Pika Oasis, a small settlement on the edge of the Jundland Wastes. Annileen Calwell runs Dannar's Claim, the only general store for kilometers around. It's a small, more or less self-sustaining community largely populated by moisture farmers. Over the past four years, attacks by Tusken Raiders (the Sand People) have been on the rise, and the settlers around the Oasis have banded together to form a posse that reacts to raids if the alarm goes off. Of course, settlers who want to be protected by this posse have to pay for the privilege, but it seems a small sacrifice. Heading up the posse is Orrin Gault, a friend of Annileen's late husband. It's a system that seems to work well, as does Annileen's and Orrin's friendly relationship.

For the Sand People, things are changing rapidly, and in ways that threaten their millennia-old traditions. Reprisal attacks by settlers and changing environmental conditions have winnowed their numbers, forcing them to adapt their traditions or die. Four years earlier, an entire tribe of Sand People died under mysterious circumstances, further lessening their numbers. Leading the tribe near the Jundland Wastes is the one-eyed Tusken A'Yark -- called Plug-Eye by the settlers -- who wants nothing more than to clear the settlers from what was once Tusken land.

Into this comes a new settler, a stranger who calls himself Ben. Newcomers are a rare sight around here, especially ones who want to live so far from civilization. Despite his apparent reluctance to get involves in the community, he and Annileen soon become friends.

Sound familiar? That's right: Star Wars: Kenobi is a Western.

It's great. Miller always refers to the non-native residents of Tatooine, even the ones who have been there for generations, as settlers, because that's what they are -- still scratching at the surface of the world, essentially farming the rarest product on the planet: water. The Tuskens have a very distinct (and alien) voice and culture, but they're never presented as black-and-white bad guys (and they aren't the primary antagonists of the novel) and the impact of the settlers on their culture is never whitewashed by Miller. There's even a background robber baron, so to speak, spoilers ). Obi-Wan is the mysterious stranger who rides in from out of town, trouble seeming to follow in his wake, who knows a lot about a lot, but not much about Tatooine.

Annileen and A'Yark are both great, fully-fledged characters -- Kenobi is their story as much as it is Obi-Wan's, maybe more so. Even in Star Wars, it's rare to see a novel where the main character is a middle-aged widow with two teenage children who doesn't need a man, who's perfectly capable of holding her own, and Annileen is that woman. She's not royalty like Padme Amidala or Leia Organa, or a Jedi like Ahsoka Tano or Aayla Secura; she's a shopkeeper and a mother and a woman with a life of her own, friends, and dreams that she never quite managed to fulfill. spoilers )

There's a lot going on in this novel about identity, as there should be for a novel that's named after a character. It's also a novel haunted by ghosts -- not literal ones, I should hasten to add, since this is Star Wars and anything is possible, but the ghosts of the past. Tusken habits are changing because of Anakin's slaughter of the tribe in AotC. Obi-Wan carries the weight of the dead with him in every waking moment. Annileen's shop is her dead husband's legacy to her. But Kenobi never wallows in any of it, which is a surprise and a delight. The closest that it comes is in Obi-Wan's meditations, and he always cuts himself off before he can wallow. Miller doesn't need to have Obi-Wan wallow or dwell on Order 66; the reader knows what happens.

And that, I think, is the real difference between this novel and a lot of the other interstitial tie-ins I've read recently. Miller trusts the reader to remember the events of the PT; he never has to sit down and say, okay, kids, so the Republic fell and now there's an empire, all the Jedi are dead, Obi-Wan Kenobi's life is terrible. Because the reader knows that. Nobody picks up this kind of novel without already knowing that. But quite a few tie-in authors don't trust their readers, which is why you have the kind of blatant emotionalism in some novels that basically tells you what you already know, just in case you couldn't pick it up on the screen. (It's a show, don't tell issue, and certainly isn't limited to tie-ins or to fanfic because I've also seen it in purely original fiction, but it strikes me the most about those two genres because it echoes and tries to explain what already appears in the canon.)

I can't really ever think of tie-ins critically without comparing them to fanfic, because they do the same thing -- work in and around the existing canon to tell a story. This is probably the best example that I've seen so far, which I think is because it isn't Obi-Wan's story. I don't think Miller could have written this novel from Obi-Wan's POV and had it be as good as it is. From an outside POV, it works because he trusts the reader: we know why Obi-Wan is on Tatooine, we know what his secret sorrow is, we know what his history is, we know what that mysterious blue light that sometimes appears around him in the midst of firefights is, and we know where his story ends. There's no need to write that from his POV. It would be extremely difficult to sustain a novel on that.

On Twitter earlier I said that Kenobi is the profic equivalent of [personal profile] synecdochic's SGA fic Freedom's Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose. It's an apt comparison; it's the same "the meaning of life is do the next thing" type of genre. They're very different stories, but it's the kind of genre you never expect to see in a pro tie-in novel. And it's brilliant.

Just a note: Kenobi has a couple of nods to the EU, but it's rooted entirely in the movies and you can read it without knowing anything about the EU. It's entirely self-sustaining aside from assuming that the reader has seen the PT.

notable bits, spoilers, now I'M going to wallow in blatant emotionalism )

Seriously, if you like the PT and you ever wanted to read one tie-in novel: read this one. It's fantastic. It's everything a tie-in novel could and should be. And the cover art (by Chris McGrath) is amazing. I want it in poster size so I can put it on my wall and sigh over it.
bedlamsbard: star wars rebels: hera peering around a corner (buy books (girlyb_icons))
Noooooooo research this month, even though I was still working on my diss at the beginning of the month; that was all writing, no new reading.

Read more... )

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