aberration: Diana in No Man's Land, holding her shield (no sharp edges)
Dear Yuletide Author,

Thank you so much for writing a fic for me! I'm really looking forward to reading it, and I hope you'll enjoy writing it! I've always been so delighted with my Yuletide gifts and so lucky with the ones I've received, and I'm sure I'll love whatever you write for me.

Likes/Dislikes and fandoms below! )
aberration: Leslie from Parks and Rec in a hospital bed and munching on a waffle. (work is third)
So I have clearly failed in my attempt to actually post about my reading (or... anything). BUT I did still read a lot this year, and will probably not manage to finish anything else in the next... day, so here is my reading list for 2016!

Books read in 2016 )

And even though I didn't do it on my own, let me know in the comments if you want me to talk/answer any questions about any of these books. Because I'm on break from school right now so whatever!

Also, fyi, I finally wrote a couple posts about Mongolia, here (general update) and here (on the Mongolian language).

Шинэ жилийн мэнд!
aberration: Fruit pies arranged on a rising set of circular shelves. (warm and safe and)
Trying to play catch up, here are two books I read this year and... didn't like so well. So I'm grouping them together:

I picked up Blink by Malcolm Gladwell mostly out of curiosity – for specific personal reasons I'd met him one time and knew about his work, but had never actually read anything by him.

I ... wasn't impressed by this. While the overall point seems to be about our tendency to make snap judgments, what those mean, and how helpful they are, this floundered throughout the book. In part, this was because it felt less like a well-researched, scientifically-based approach, and more like Gladwell had talked to a lot of friends-of-friends. It amounted to a relatively small pool of loosely connected anecdotes, and what felt like a lot of coastie-elitism. I also grew a little tired of Gladwell's invented terminology, like "thin-slicing" and especially "temporary autism." Which I just found flippant and, aside from anything else – well, terminology is important, and that term is imprecise and unhelpful.

So, it just came off as a weak popular press book, with a nebulous point of "snap judgments are good, except when they're bad." Parts of it reminded me of Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear, which I'd also recently read, and which handles concepts like instinct, snap judgments, and fear reactions with more clarity and insight than I think Gladwell was able to afford, in part because de Becker drew from a wider range of experiences to shed light on a more specific point. The Gift of Fear isn't heavy academic reading, either – but by comparison, Blink goes so broad, in such a shallow way, that it doesn't really say anything.

I think my mom bought The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, presumably because it's been a big bestseller? I don't really know, I chose it at random.

This is a novel about two French sisters during World War II, one of whom becomes involved in the French resistance, the other who is more pressed with maintaining her daughter's and her own safety, particularly when a Nazi officer is quartered in their home.

This story is pretty much everything you'd expect from an American woman writing about WW II France, and … nothing else. Almost every cliché imaginable comes to pass, from postcard-perfect France to Stupid Americans to Woman Super Proves Wrong The Man Who Doubts Her (I'm not like… always opposed to such things, but this just doesn't add to it, and I didn't care enough about the characters to get much from it) to unspoken illicit romance and tragic wartime romance to Jewish Best Friends, and etc. I just can't say I found anything new, or especially interesting, in this story – it read like the book version of blatant Oscar-bait. And while generally decently written, the use of figurative language could be cringe-worthy at times. Overall, if I weren't in my I'M GOING TO FINISH EVERYTHING binge, I might not have finished it.
aberration: Anthy and Utena in the Utena movie, dancing in the flooded rose garden above their reflection. (we shall all be healed)
Or: super long media talky post from hell, I'm sorry. Also, it's kind of image heavy, somehow.

First, unsurprisingly: Staaaaaaaaaaar Waaaaaaaaaaars )

More things!!!!

My thoughts upon finishing The Man in the High Castle, which are trippy rambling nonsense due to my not giving a shit and sometimes recognizing that someone who reads this might not have seen the show, and sometimes not caring! Also, spoilers everywhere, and discussion of racist, antisemitic, and ableist violence, as would be expected from not only 'Nazis' but 'the Nazis won.' )

Jurassic World )

The Martian )

Deadpool )

Jessica Jones )

Master of None )

Cloud Atlas (the movie) )

The Theory of Everything )

Network )

The Breakfast Club )

Die Hard )

Other things about my life right now:

- I hate dogs I haTE DOGS I HATE DOGS. And anyone who wants to judge me for that can get charged by a pack of dogs while trying to walk to the grocery store. No but seriously, if you have an aggressive dog that you don't properly restrain when people need to come to your place, you are a shitty person. (And yes, they're treated badly – but there's not a lot I can do about that and I still have to get followed around by possibly rabid dogs so, thanks.)

- I know the election is happening. Being out of the country hasn't really shielded me from that. I plan to vote in my primary, but given that it's not until May 3 I'm still thinking things will be essentially decided by then. Which is fine with me, to be honest. I'll just phrase my opinions as, growing up far-left in a deep red state maybe paradoxically made me pretty pragmatic – I'm not a principled voter, I'm a survival voter. Which may seem like damning with faint praise but... it's not, at least not for me. And also [long lecture about electoral systems and how they determine election outcomes, nerrrrrrrd.]

- I am super behind on writing about books! Which I guess is a good thing on the one hand because it means I'm reading a lot of books, but on the other hand, !!!!

- On that subject, one of my daily life patterns has been to come home, light a fire in my stove, and put on classical music and read until the place warms up. At first I was using iTunes Radio which was both nice and bad because they give you the little option to buy whatever's playing really conveniently right there and I probably used that five times in the first month of my doing that. But now all iTunes stations are subscription only, so I switched over to a New York classical music station. Because I'd rather listen to ads than pay a subscription, and oh yeah, I won't have to anyway because literally no classical music stations use advertising. But now I won't be dropping any more money on iTunes and their super-convenient-way-of-doing that, so... good job iTunes???

- And I guess I could talk about some things in my real life, so... it's okay! I feel like I've hit a slump at work, but I think that happens for a lot of people, and in particular some stuff is going on that made it sort of inevitable. I need to get the motivation and energy to push through the kind of stasis that's built up, and I'm... working on that.

- But my mom visited recently so that was really nice. I also now feel a little bad about ... I don't know, doing this now, being so far away. (Even for where I am, for various reasons, I'm additionally far away, and that can be difficult.) But I got to spend a lot of time with her and she bought meals at a lot of fancy places in the capital for me for like a week, so that was cool.

- I've been playing waaaay too much neko atsume. If I can't be a real crazy cat lady, I'll be a fake one, dammit.

- OKAY, and briefly, J.K. Rowling and the Magic in North America fiasco )

- ... and yeah, I think that's really probably long enough...
aberration: Anthy and Utena in the Utena movie, dancing in the flooded rose garden above their reflection. (we shall all be healed)
So among the books I managed to collect before coming here was Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction. This is a collection of fourteen stories by mostly pretty well-known sci-fi writers. I really enjoyed quite a few of them, though I think some venture further into "hard" sci-fi than I usually am interested in going. Over on goodreads, some reviews accuse the authors of too often relying on stereotypes. I don't feel like I can say anything on that, though I do think it's fair to note that in this case "Jewish" means Ashkenazi American overwhelmingly (12/14) male authors born in the first half of the 20th century. Most stories do clearly draw from a male Jewish-American experience, so I'd understand that objection, even if I also don't think I'm the one to make it. And as these stories dealt with issues often outside my cultural context, there are likely going to be instances where I didn't pick up on or understand some aspects, so I'll just leave this acknowledgement here. But these are the stories I particularly liked:

Under the cut; some mentions of antisemitism and sexual assault, but only very briefly. )

And I'm really behind on this now, but my general progress for reading in 2016 is also here.
aberration: Pabu from LoK taking a nap next to an old-fashioned radio. (smoke you out)
And with what I think will be the last of these that I actually started in 2015: a couple months ago on the bus ride back from UB (or to, I can't remember), I started reading John Grisham's The Innocent Man. This was Grisham's first nonfiction book – the only other Grisham book I'd read was A Time to Kill, which while I'd found it interesting, I hadn't been that impressed with the characters or prose.

Not exactly spoilers, as all of this really happened. But it does include discussion of physical and sexual assault, and mental health issues. )
aberration: Anthy and Utena in the Utena movie, dancing in the flooded rose garden above their reflection. (we shall all be healed)
And then there's The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor. I'd read A Good Man Is Hard to Find and a few of her other stories that weren't in that collection, so a lot of this was rereading. Though that led to a lot of "was that… especially upsetting... or did I not come in... prepared..." (The Lame Shall Enter First, I don't know.) Reading so many of O'Connor's stories at once also reinforced what seem to be her favorite conventions, which include:
- Underachieving grown men living with their mothers.
- Young women and girls who are intelligent, ugly, bookish, "precocious," cruel, and very clear author stand-ins.
- Middle-aged or older women so unable to deal with their reality that they feel temporally displaced. (This is not the best way to phrase it, and I'm no trying to write off racism as "unable to deal with their reality," but it does feel like a point that these women seem to be almost simultaneously in two spaces at once.)

Read more... )
aberration: Katara from A:TLA leaned forward, her braid and arm behind her as she directs a whip of water. (there is a war coming)
So the second book I've finished this year is the Welcome to Night Vale novel. I know WTNV has sort of cycled in and out of fannish interest at this point, but with ample time to listen to podcasts while I do chores, I've managed to catch up on it. Though my mom was actually the one to buy this.

I'd wondered how well something like Night Vale, which really can't be constrained by things like consistency or logistics, would work as a novel, rather than the snippet views provided by the podcast. I do think it managed to pull off what it does in the show in this longer form – which is to continue to side-step the need to structure its weirdness by making its unreality a lens on reality. A lot of the Night Vale's attraction in the first place is less about glow clouds and hooded figures, I think, and more about its straightforward acknowledgment of many bizarre truths: how death is both always distant from and very close to us; that time and space aren't real things as we understand them, and that even the way we personally perceive them can vary so much; that the most dangerous things in the world are largely intangible; that our lives may be parts of dystopias, but you often don't call your home a dystopia. It is a little too long, and I found the resolution kind of talky and easy, but overall I felt that it did what it needed to.

I try to avoid spoilers, but there are more details under the cut. )
aberration: Asami Sato from Legend of Korra, looking rather glowy. (give your eyes to the sky)
So because I need to write about SOMETHING, I'm going to make some effort to post here, at least, about the books I read. Starting now. In 2016. I'd call it a New Year's Resolution but I... really, really don't want to. Plus I'm reading five books at once (complete with designated categories: 2 nonfiction, 2 long form fiction, 1 short form fiction), which really just means it takes me forever to finish anything. But I did finish something! And it's the first thing I finished in 2016, setting aside that I started it... much earlier in 2015. In any case, it was Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku.

Read more... )

Also let's be honest, my "various reasons" for reading this book at this time included the Divine Comedy/multiverse theory Hannibal fanfiction I'm still trying to write. I do feel like I have a much better understanding of quantum physics than I do Dante and Ovid talking about... something, while I guess some lizard monster is just running around nearby. (In other words, it will be a very long time before The Divine Comedy appears here.)


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