Came for the Doctor Who Reference, Stayed for the Story

This Is How You Lose the Time WarThis Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t remember if I heard of this book through Instagram, a magazine, or YouTube, but I got it at the library the day it came out and read it immediately. I expected to like it and hoped even love it because it sounded poetic and magical and queer — all things right up my alley. And yes, I loved it! Still, the first 68 pages were — dare I say it? — a bit difficult. In her blurb, Kelly Sue DeConnick calls it “poetry disguised as genre fiction,” and that feels accurate. My struggle was that I haven’t read poetry in several years, and it took me a while to get back into the groove. Although, it also felt like as Red and Blue got to know each other better, their language became more grounded somehow. Their delight in each other was mirrored in a delight in the world around them. And so I re-learned how to read poetry, and I fell in love with this book.

I read the last half in a frenzy, unable to put it down. It was impossible for me not to get invested in these characters. There was so much yearning and desperation in this story, and especially where queer lives are concerned, that feels so relatable. And there’s something about impossibility that touched my heart here. I loved that while so much of this story felt mutually exclusive (in a “neither can live while the other survives” kind of way), the story was continually teaching me that, actually, no, I’m just not using my imagination enough. And if there’s one thing Red and Blue don’t lack for, it’s imagination.

I adored this story. It’s a beautiful, painful, gem of a fairy tale, and now I want a copy for myself to love forever. Can’t wait to read this again.

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Quiet Lives on the Edge of Space

Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers, #3)Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

Years ago, I remember hearing buzz about Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, things like what a different approach to science fiction this was and that it was super inclusive story.

This was in the back of my mind as I started Record of a Spaceborn Few knowing that this would be a “different” sci-fi story, but I didn’t really know what that meant. I enjoyed this book and will probably read more of Becky Chambers work at some point, but am left with mixed feelings about this first reading experience.

Things I loved: the characters, the genuine thought and consideration of the question of “well, how would a bunch of humans survive in space?”. I love the anthropologic curiosity and approach to all these different races, but especially to the born-in-captivity Exodans.

Things I didn’t not like, but wish I’d understood about the book going in: this book is slow. The plot is very barebones, and the actual big, inciting incident happens two-thirds of the way through the book. The description on the back of the book kept describing a big tragedy, but I didn’t even notice when that tragedy happened. The book begins with a tragedy, obviously, but then there’s something else “big” later in the book which starts the “plot” rolling, but to me, the tragedy in the prologue felt so much more moving and shocking than what came later. This is a quiet story, which I didn’t really understand before. The danger and suspense comes almost entirely from character’s internal mechanisms. I don’t not like it, because I do like the characters, but it’s also been a few days now since I finished Record, and I still feel like what I actually just read was just a very long first act.

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My Continuing Book-ish Affair with the Owens Family

The Rules of MagicThe Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn’t love this one *quite* as much as I loved Practical Magic, but honestly, given how much I loved that one, that’s a pretty high bar. At any rate, this book has a lovely beautiful and believable backstory for the aunts, and I understand more why they are as they are in the original book. I think I would’ve liked to have seen more peripheral story, because this story does take place r an interesting time in history, but where history does enter, it’s always very meaningful and deliberate. I’m looking forward to rereading Practical Magic sometime with my new knowledge.

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More and More Fairy Tales

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday HorrorThe Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wish I’d had read this all in one sitting as opposed 2 sittings with many months between, but this was a lovely book regardless. The stories manage to capture the vagueness and peculiarity of classic fairy tales while still turning the narrative on its head. It’s fascinating to see the varied sources that inspired each story.

I’ve been thinking about the concept of “remixes”, especially as it relates to visual media, and reading this book while keeping remixes in mind made for a different, more critically engaging experience. I would say this is an example of a high art remix vs. the kind of remixes I’m used to thinking of like fanvids and fanfiction.

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Critical Essays from Pop Culture…

Buffy Goes Dark: Essays on the Final Two Seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on TelevisionBuffy Goes Dark: Essays on the Final Two Seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Television by Lynne Y. Edwards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This collection of essays was well-worth the read! Obviously, I’m a literary nerd, so my favorite points of entry revolved around literary points of entry — oh my god, the Yeats essay was phenomenal. But this opened my eyes to so many different readings of BtVS, and I love that the editors weren’t afraid to include contradictory essays within this collection, sometimes even right next to each other. Overall, I think this collection is at its best when delving into character analyses, but all parts of it were interesting.

As someone who is interested in analyzing television and movies in this way, I feel like I’ve learned so much just by engaging with this text.

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First Book of 2019

Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer DesireFist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire by Amber Dawn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In an effort to be less precious with my words, I’m going to start posting reviews even if they are less intellectual and more my impressions of books. So, here goes.

This collection was a little darker than I expected — somehow, I wasn’t expecting actual horror stories, and I thoroughly regretted reading some of these at night. While it wasn’t quite my cup of tea, I really appreciated the fact the queer content in here was expansive in its definition of “queer.” Whereas other collections I’ve read focus very narrowly on the individual letters of LGBTQIA+, a good portion of these explored varied kinds of relationships and kinks as well. That’s not something I see very often, and it was kind of refreshing, even as I wanted to pull the covers over my eyes because I was scared of ghosts.

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