megwrites: A picture of a colorful spiral galaxy in space. (galaxy)
2012-11-28 18:05
Entry tags:

I'm starting a meme, join in!

So, today I went to the library and found a really interesting book called Thanks, But This isn't For Us: A (Sort Of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected.

I haven't read all of it, but I did find an interesting exercise that I'd love to see other people on my f-list try. Which is:

Come up with five opening lines for books you never intend to write. Use different techniques and try out different genres than you usually would. Just make them as interesting and compelling in one line as you can.


So my five were:


1. "Why won't you let me drive?" Allie asked on the way to their next murder.

"Because you're the only person under seventy I've ever seen leave their blinker on for five exits." (murder mystery)

2. When Sierra was ten she got her first job, kissed her first girl, and got in her first fight all in the space of three hours on the first day of school. (Romance)

3. His queen would be dead by noon if he didn't find a new, less worn out horse. (Historical romance)

4. The President's eyes seemed bright but rheumy that day as he leaned on the podium in the sweltering August heat of Washington. (Political thriller)

5. Hades laid his head down in the gloom and let the dead babble around him, then he raised his eyes to the black vaulted ceiling of the cave and suddenly, the dead went silent. (Mythological fantasy)


--

So, hopefully others will choose to play along. It's an interesting exercise in how to sculpt a first line and it actually got me thinking of new ideas. Let me know what you thought of my first five lines and feel free to leave your own first five (or try just one!) lines in comments if you want.
megwrites: A vertical stack of books, spines facing out leaning against a horizontal stack of books. (many books)
2012-08-21 13:00

It's time for another Epic List From a Twitter Hashtag! Today's Tag: #ThoroughlyGoodBooksbyPoc

So, I'm collecting the books that are listed in the #ThoroughlyGoodBooksbyPoC hashtag on twitter, because well, I myself want to keep up with such a list and others might, too.

Caveat: I haven't read all of these books, and I'm taking it on good faith that the authors identify themselves as PoC or are not White-Western authors, and that they are thoroughly good. However, no book is ever thoroughly perfect, especially when it comes to intersections. Discussion of what's good (or bad or problematic) about these titles is more than welcome in comments.

Also, if I spell or get someone's name wrong (or in the wrong order, though I've tried to double check so that it doesn't happen), please correct me! I want to make sure I accurately name these authors not only because it's respectful, but so that readers can find them and their books quicker! This list is accurate as of 13:00EST in the U.S. I'll keep updating it as long as Twitter does.

ETA 1: List updated! Accurate and complete (to my knowledge) as of 17:00EST in the U.S. First round of errors corrected as well. Please let me know if there are any more, and as always, feel free to add on with books and authors that meet the criteria.



That said, onto the list, which is in two sections. The first is authors and books recommended. The second is short story authors that are being recommended. Where just an author has been recommended in the book section, I've put "all titles". If you want to add a specific one, feel free to leave a comment.

The #ThoroughlyGoodBooksbyPoC Hash Tag List o' Books and Authors. )


Short Story PoC authors in the hash tag )
megwrites: A vertical stack of books, spines facing out leaning against a horizontal stack of books. (many books)
2012-01-01 18:21
Entry tags:

Just taking stock

I know I haven't been around much in the last part of 2011. That's due to a lot of things, including some mental health issues that I'll talk about some time, but not now.

For now, it's time for the annual "how many and what kind of books did Meg read?" total. I didn't get as many read as I wanted to this year (I aim for 50 every year, haven't gotten there yet). But here it is:



Reading Stats
Books Attempted: 28
Books Completed: 24
Average Time to Read A Book: 10 days
Most Read Author: Alison Weir
Longest Book Read: The Broken Crown - Michelle West
Shortest Book Read: Sex With Kings - Eleanor Herman
PoC Authors Read: 14
Female Authors Read: 21
GLBT Authors Read: 1 for sure, but probably more


Genres:
History/Biography: 6
Science Fiction: 5
Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance: 9
Fantasy: 2
Mainstream/General Fiction: 1
Non-Fiction: 1


5 Favorite Books I Read In 2011:

5. Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir - A really wonderful and impeccably researched (as always) biography done by Alison Weir who has a talent for well balanced and carefully considered histories. Not only is Eleanor herself a fascinating subject for study, but the ways in which Weir makes sure to frame the history to show that even if she wasn't given credit for the things she accomplished or help accomplished, she certainly deserved it. I want to give this book to anyone who thinks women somehow become useless after 40. This woman rocked Europe well into her seventies.

4. The Broken Kingdoms by NK Jemisin - I love Jemisin's writing, I love how she's taken the fantasy genre into a new direction and I love that she gets characters so right. She understands how to build drama and delicious chemistry between her characters, both in love and conflict. A compelling and sympathetic narrator and impressive worldbuilding made this a book that set the bar high for books I read in 2011.

3. Four Queens by Nancy Goldstone - I simply devoured this history, partly because it's something I never got taught even in classes focusing on European history in that period and partly because Goldstone knows how to infuse her histories with a sense of humor and a human warmth in the writing. The book very much reads like a very smart, witty friend teaching you history. The topic of the four sisters from one family who all eventually gained the title of "queen" (of England, France, the Romans [which is actually Germany] and Sicily respectively) is complex and fascinating, but even though there are a lot of intersecting lines and things to keep straight, the author painted riveting portraits of the women who shaped Europe and both the high and low points of their royal lives.

2. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy - This is one of those books that when a writer reads it, they go into a spiral of "why bother, I could never be better than this!". The God of Small Things is as close to a perfect novel as I think it's possible for a human being to write. Lyrical, wrenching, multilayered, heartbreaking, searing and whimsical by turns, it lays out a story that is both microscopic and epic in scope. Each time I left this book, I found myself surprised to be back home instead of there with Estha and Rahel and all the others.

1. Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson - It's no secret I love Hopkinson as an author. So when I scored this book in a bookstore by total accident, I was over the moon. And deservedly so. This book is sheer magic and everything that science fiction can be and should be, as far as I'm concerned. A story about all stories and their power, an exploration of a world where human and person aren't the same thing, a tale of just one young woman and of an entire world at the same time, it sings and whispers and bellows out beautiful things while being a damn good read and a very solid science-fiction novel that explores a lot of what the mainstream tech-obsessed canon in this genre neglects as being unimportant.



5 Least Favorite Books I Read in 2011:

5. Kingmaker by Maurice Broaddus - I wanted to like this novel badly and it isn't necessarily a horrible book or terribly written. There are a lot of deeply impressive elements. The worldbuilding, the marriage of mythology to a thoroughly believable modern setting and the interpretation of the King Arthur story in a way that sets aside the Disneyfied versions and gets to a truth. However, the plot, structure and pacing of the story were a hot mess. The real plot doesn't begin until halfway through, lots of threads are left hanging in ways that I'm not sure were deliberate, and while many of the scenes and characters were fascinating, their importance to the plot seemed flimsy at best.

4. Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh - I liked this much less than Singh's Guild Hunter novels. By an order of magnitude, really. The writing felt like it came straight off the Paranormal Fantasy Template and while the worldbuilding was uniquely Singh's, the writing could've come from any paranormal romance with a half naked guy on the cover. The romance isn't even romance, the entire society is problematic as hell and there are so many misogynistic alpha male shenanigans here that I debated not finishing. The sex honestly bored me. The best I can say about it is that it was at least paced logically and I didn't need to read any of the other books in the series.

3. Kiss of Crimson by Lara Adrian - The misogyny and creepiness just drip off of this book. An entire species that has no women in it, because The Breed can only be men. Women are "Breedmates" only and though they have powers of their own. Those names alone had me ready to check out and forget this book. I wish I had. While Breedmates have powers of their own, they don't get to do much. they tend to just sit around needing saving and being mystically bonded to guys. The Breed even has their misogyny enshrined in law. Breed men are permitted by law to order around Breedmates they're related to! Even the relative uniqueness of the vampires-as-alien hybrids couldn't save this book. At ever chance, the book takes the most predictable and boring path when so many interesting ones are available. The characters might as well be cut and pasted from other books, minus any trace of real personality or presence.

2. Gideon by Jacquelyn Frank - I rooted for the villains and wanted to set the heroes on fire. The book appropriates Jewish names/theology for Celtic-based demons for no reason I could discern. I've never read such weak and terrible writing. The dialogue was so stiff you could've ironed your shirt and the book meandered between couples, not even focusing fully on the main characters (not that there was anything to miss out on). The romances here are bland and sometimes worrying. The relationship between Jacob and Bella (yes, I laughed hard) goes down the checklist of things abusers do to control their partners. Throw in the constant misogyny and "women should leave politics and fighting to the men" nonsense and you have a recipe for disaster.

1. Seduced by Shadows by Jessa Slade - Where do I start? Problematic and appropriative as all hell, it not only abuses the Jewish religion, but doesn't even do it well. The entire world is based on a writer using the concept of teshuva wrongly and for no reason. As a side dish, there's Islamobigotry because the villains are all djinn while the angels are all Christian. The characters drip with self-pity and whine about their souls and salvation a lot. There wasn't even really a romance here. The hero's past owning of enslaved people on a plantation is handled atrociously and the heroine starting the book with a disability isn't done much better. For those reasons, the book landed dead last on this list.
megwrites: A vertical stack of books, spines facing out leaning against a horizontal stack of books. (things read)
2011-10-03 17:16

Oh the ironing!

In my ever optimistic quest for a perfect, or at least better paranormal romance/urban fantasy I ran across a short story that was the beginning point for a paranormal romance series.

Being the naive little optimist I am, I dived in. And what did I discover? The heroine of the piece was the Goddess of Oppression, Kadence. (I'm not making a single bit of this up).

Kadence is a gorgeous white woman with long flowing blonde locks, more beautiful than Aphrodite herself (this is literally said), who has the power to take people's free will away from them and make them do what she wants but never seems to think that maybe this power is something she ought to work on CONTROLLING rather than feeling sad that she's stuck in the underworld where she can't suck the life out of people. And her great heroic act is to buy the love of her life from the devil. Yes. Because buying people without their consent and not telling them about it until 3/4ths through the story is a completely an okay thing to do that should make the reader think you're an inherently angelic person.

The Goddess of Oppression, y'all. *nods*.

I read the entire thing, but I did not keep a straight face at all. Because there's just too much unintentional truthiness and irony (in the layman's sense) and all the rest. I just wanted to ask if someone, somewhere was even aware that but for a change in the tone of the piece and a few edits here and there, it could've been the most brilliant satire ever and a scathing, hilarious commentary on the genre.

I think I've officially been broken of my optimism. Anybody have any paranormal romance recs that will restore my faith? Anyone?
megwrites: Shakespeared! Don't be afraid to talk Elizabethan, or Kimberlian, or Meredithian! (shakespeared!)
2011-09-07 16:34
Entry tags:

Don't mind me and my big gay book spam!

If you don't know, Orson Scott Card is a well known, long standing queer hater who thinks that gay folks should be locked away if they dare to show their horrible queerness in public. Recently he rewrote a very nasty, and hateful version of Hamlet which revolves around the idea that gay = evil.

But this is the internet and at least in my section of it, we don't hold with those kind of shenanigans from people who are (not to put too fine a point on it) howling bigoted douchemonkeys.

The response, at least on Twitter, was the #buyabiggaynovelforscottcardday hashtag in which people from all over threw in their recommendation for queer/LGBT+ novels, books, even short stories and comics and graphic novels that would put any reader on the top of OSC's "Evil Queer" List.

And being the person I am, I have tried to compile that list by following the hashtag.

A very long, dubiously complete but completely alphabetized list of recommendations from the #buyabiggaynovelforscottcardday hashtag )
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (rainbow books)
2011-06-13 20:49

Review: The Sun Sword by Michelle Sagara




Title: The Broken Crown (The Sun Sword, Book 1)
Author: (Michelle West (aka Michelle Sagara); [livejournal.com profile] msagara; @msagara)
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 764
Publisher: DAW

Review: The Broken Crown by Michelle West )
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (rainbow books)
2011-05-18 12:15
Entry tags:

A (slightly modified) meme about books!

The book(s) I am reading: The Broken Crown (Sun Sword #1), Michelle West (aka Michelle Sagara), The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen, and The Tyrannicide Brief by Geoffrey Robertson

The book I am writing (or would like to write or see written): I'm bouncing between the sequel to the book I'm editing and a space-romance threesome book.

The book I love most: The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkison. That book seriously blew me away, changed what I thought I knew about how books should even be structured, completely took a sledgehammer to the notion that genre classifications can be helpful, and so many other things.

The last book I received as a gift: None. I don't think anyone's ever given me a book as a gift. I borrowed a few, but never been given one. I stand corrected! Here I was trying to think of x-mas, birthdays, etc and it turns out that [livejournal.com profile] nwhyte actually very generously gave me the gift of King Rat by China Mieville (which, btw, is the sole Mieville novel I've ever finished or enjoyed). I feel like kind of a jerk for forgetting that!

The last book I gave as a gift: None. This may explain my above answer.

The nearest book on my desk: The Rise of Modern China by Immanuel C.Y. Hsu.
megwrites: A vertical stack of books, spines facing out leaning against a horizontal stack of books. (many books)
2011-04-18 12:36

Getting through reviews!



Title: Seduced by Shadows (Marked Souls, Book 1)
Author: Jessa Slade (JessaSlade.com)
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Page Count: 378
Publisher: Signet Eclipse Paranormal Romance

Review: Seduced by Shadows )
megwrites: A moon rising above a darkened landscape in front of a starry night sky. (moonrise)
2011-04-04 16:45

Random assortment

1. I just want to say a big "bless you" to all those authors who put up sample chapters on their sites, and actually start with the first part when they do this. I've come across several authors who want to pull an excerpt from, say, chapter 20 or chapter 10 or some such and I'm like, "THIS DOES NOT HELP ME". The thing is, to understand your book, I need to read it in order. Thus, I need to start from page one. And while chapter 20 may be a page turner, if the first 19 chapters are boring as hell, I'm not going to invest. Which is why I like to start at the beginning. To make sure that your book is giving me a reason to want to read on.

2. I have a really, really evil trouble starting post in my head after seeing some news around the writersphere about a couple of paranormal romance series being discontinued for bad sales according to their authors.

But one in particular really made me want to say some inordinately snarky things. It's not that I relish a fellow writer not meeting with success when they work hard and put their hearts on the line, it's that when said writer pens a book that basically says from front to back, "Sorry, people like YOU aren't good enough to be in this book. People like YOU are too ugly for a Sexy Tiems Paranormal Romance Like This, come back when you're beautiful", I'm not sad to see it leave the shelves. And I feel just a little bit vindicated to know it failed.

The thing is? I'm used to mainstream romance and paranormal romance hating me by exclusion. I'm used to being told I'm not pretty enough because I've got covers and covers and covers of books about skinny heterosexual white chicks staring at me to let me know what is pretty enough. And I've sort of learned to deal and find the hidden gems and live with eternal optimism and not expect too much.

But this book didn't just settle for exclusion, it went right on to face slapping. This one book actually made me leave not just the romance bookshelves (and abandon all the other books I was going to preview and consider buying) but the bookstore. It was during this winter when I was going through a lot of bad mental stuff and there I am, looking for something exciting and fun to read because damn but I needed some relief and *bam*. Hit in the face with the things that have, at times, my made life completely miserable. Things I have to push back against on the daily or cave in to self-harm.

For the moment, I'll table that post because I'm not looking to get into internet drama over it, but one day I may make the post about how writers need to think twice (and thrice) before they decide ignoring big parts of their potential audience is the way to go - because as recent news would seem to bear out, that bigotry isn't working out so well for some people.

3. It being poetry month and me not wanting to post any of my own poems right now, I'll post my favorite Pablo Neruda poem:

Sonnet XI
by Pablo Neruda


I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day
I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.

I hunger for your sleek laugh,
your hands the color of a savage harvest,
hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.

I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,

and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (rainbow books)
2011-03-29 10:08

Review: Gideon (Nightwalkers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank




Title: Gideon (Nightwalkers #2)
Author: Jacquelyn Frank (jacquelynfrank.com*)
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Page Count: 337
Publisher: Zebra Paranormal Romance

*Reviewers Note: WARNING for the author's site because it loads with a very loud, surprise thunder/lightning noise and the SOUND OFF button is at the BOTTOM of the page and is small and might be hard to find if you've just been nearly given a PANIC ATTACK by a sudden clap of thunder while you have your headphones on listening to quiet music (this happened to me). Very annoying and the thunder is on every single page. And not all pages have a SOUND OFF link. And even if you push SOUND OFF on the front page, it re-loads on subsequent pages. Accessibility and design fail.


Review: Gideon by Jacquelyn Frank. )
megwrites: Picture of books with quote from Cicero: "a room without books is like a body without a soul" (books)
2011-03-28 10:00

Review: Seduced by Crimson by Jade Lee




Title: Seduced by Crimson (Crimson City #5)
Author: Jade Lee (jadeleeauthor.com)
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Page Count: 339
Publisher: LoveSpell (Dorchester Publishing)


Review: Seduced by Crimson by Jade Lee. Warning: Spoilers. Trigger Warning: discussions of rape. )