State of the Shannon

All posts in the State of the Shannon category

What I’m reading

Published June 22, 2014 by Shannon

I wanted to touch on a few of the books I’ve been reading. None have left me feeling a strong urge to write complete reviews, but I have a few scattered thoughts.

  1. The Protector’s War by S. M Stirling. Second in the Emberverse series. I really, really love that one of the major characters was a deaf woman who was allowed to kick ass. Stirling certainly includes plenty of women. That said, there were pacing problems I didn’t notice the first time through.
  2. Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown. This was a surprisingly engaging self-help book. I discovered it while cataloguing, and pretty much devoured it. She acknowledges that we all have areas in our lives that we need to work on and none of us is perfect at being an adult. Also, she got me to start making my bed every morning, so there’s that.
  3. Among the Living by Jordan Castillo Price. I didn’t think I’d like this one nearly as much as I did. It’s a paranormal mystery, and it totally works because the narrator, Victor Bane, is an engaging character. I wanted to take him home and give him cookies, but respected his competence. Kind of an unusual feat in M/M. Anyway, I will be back for more.
  4. Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey. I read this on Renay’s recommendation. It’s a space opera with an engaging culture. The characters were interesting if a little archetypal, and there was a distinct lack of the ladies. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and I realized while reading this how uncomfortable I’ve gotten with books featuring character death. I pulled through and I’m glad I did, and I’m excited to read the sequel, but I did look at spoilers to see who would survive the book.
  5. A Meeting at Corvalis by S. M Stirling. A good way to end the first trilogy of the Emberverse. Except for all the pitched battles, which made me yawn. I do wish he hadn’t dropped at least one of his character romances. One moment the characters weren’t together… then they were. You’ve got to give me more to work with here, dude. Other than that, I enjoyed the reread and intend to begin the second trilogy soon.
  6. The Little Country by Charles de Lint This was one of the seminal fantasy novels of my growing up. I like to reread it every few years. It’s hard to write about it objectively, because it made such an impression on me. However, I’d forgotten more than I realized. And now I want to go visit Cornwall.
  7. Rebel by Cheryl Brooks. I love this series beyond all reason, bad writing and silly world-building and all. This volume isn’t out yet, but for some reason it was up on Bookshare, so I took advantage. I love that Cheryl Brooks consistently writes lovely beta heroes, and the “I am unworthy of the heroine” internal conflict is one that gets me every time. I really could have done without the threatened rape of the hero by an ape-like gay alien though. Ugh. That is a trope that I could cheerfully never again encounter.
  8. Rocky Mountain Heat by Vivian Arend. I listened to this on Audio while I was on a plane. It was a perfect length for a long flight. I really like Arend’s sensibilities, and I love that her heroines know what they want. She did a good job of hooking me with some of the other heroes, although I’m sort of skeptical about the next book, because the hook didn’t quite work. That said, this is Vivian Arend. She’ll probably win me over in that case, too.
  9. Witchling by Yasmine Galenorn. My book on the flight back. The blurb for this urban fantasy series really does the book no favors. The writing is also a tad clunky–complete with requisite physical description of the heroine dropped in at the beginning–but I really loved the characters. I’m willing to forgive a lot to read books about competent women who work together and genuinely care about each other. The relationship between the three sisters was just lovely. I also like that Galenorn’s doing something unusual with the urban fantasy love triangles–Camile has two love interests, and she’s not ashamed about wanting to pursue them both. I can see where this will create conflict, but it’s not of the “pick one already, Jesus” variety. I’m pretty optimistic that the series will get better as I read the other sisters’ books.

And here, let’s have a bonus DNF:

Blinded by Sight by Osagie Obasagie. This book got added to our collection recently. The researchers surveyed a bunch of blind people and came to the radical conclusion that blind people do experience race. I wanted to read more about the studies, but this is not a book aimed at me. As a blind person, I do not need a university grant and peer-reviewed journal articles to inform me that my peers can be as much assholes as anyone else. I’m glad the book exists, and it’s certainly a piece of the conversation we should be having about race, but I think I’m going to bow out.

State of the Shannon: Seeking some Community

Published May 11, 2014 by Shannon

I’ve been trying to figure out what to blog about this week. I don’t have a whole lot to say about what I’ve been reading lately, nor do I have thoughts about the latest book world controversies.

I have been thinking about things that are closer to home, though. I’ve lived in Seattle for almost a year, in Washington State nearly two. In that time, I’ve made connections with lots of really great people. I’m involved with the Washington Council of the Blind, I enjoy my job, and I have good online friends. But I’ve been feeling fairly lonely just lately. I keep reading all the advice Captain Awkward gives on the topic of how lonely geeks should meet people, and I keep not following her suggestions.

Then on May Day, while I was off of work for the afternoon, I found myself googling community chorus options in Seattle. There are a lot of them, but the ones that looked like they would be feasible for me were ones that required an audition. I haven’t sung in a choir since my freshman year of college, and I wasn’t sure I was up for having to wrestle people around to the concept that, “Oh yeah. I can totally learn music by ear. It is not impossible.”
Then I found myself thinking of how I had Googled Unitarian Universalist congregations in my area. I googled again, and found the website of the church I’d initially discovered. I spent a lot of time poring over that website before I gathered my nerve and sent them an email. I introduced myself, said I wanted to come to a service but would need a ride there, and, oh by the way, could they let me know what we’d be singing.

Over the past week, I’ve been deluged with emails from the congregation. A ride was arranged, I got the music selections, and I even got a message from the pastor. Today, I attended the service, and felt nothing but welcome.

I don’t know if this is going to be permanent. I really, really want it to be. I have good feelings, and I plan on going back next week. The church does a lot of cool stuff–I was talking to someone today who was telling me about how they have a drum circle. I don’t know what that involves, but I’m interested in trying it out. And they have music. Lots of opportunities to sing. I didn’t meet the music director, but he seems enthusiastic and apparently his husband offers voice lessons, which is something I’ve always wanted to try.

I’ve been feeling like my community lately consists largely of people from the Internet, and people who are blind or work with blind people. this has been somewhat discouraging. I know of other blind people who prefer to keep their social circle within their own community, because it is frankly easier than having to prove yourself every time you leave the house to meet a potential new group of friends. I can respect that choice, now that it is one I can conceivably make, but it’s never something I could do. After all, if the only thing I have in common with someone is that our eyes don’t work, that’s not much to base a lasting friendship on. I also know that the only way I can let that community I want know I exist is to go out and meet people, which is hard for an avowed introvert.

But I want to. This is what I am trying. I only hope that it continues to be awesome and enriching.

State of the Shannon: Wallowing in awesome

Published March 17, 2014 by Shannon

I’ve been feeling more than a little resentful over the obligation reading I’ve taken on. I’m trying to scale it back, because reading is a thing that ought to be fun, and since our last book club book was one I never would have finished otherwise, I’m trying to be more gentle with myself regarding my pleasure reading and reminding myself that even if a book is meh and not actively terrible, if I’m not feeling it, no one is going to stand over me and make me finish.

Put another way, I loved the way Memory talks about wallowing in awesome. Since for the time being, I always will have obligation reading, I am going to try this approach for anything I haven’t taken on to read. I have therefore declared this week to be my week of awesome reading.

Thus far, it’s working out well. Yesterday, I read a sweet and cheesy M/M romance. I also started a lovely nonfiction book that is giving me much more feels than I expected. Today, I did the select-a-random-book-from-Goodreads trick, since I had no idea what to read. My first selection was Gone with the Wind which I would like to read someday, but not today. Off my TBR it went. Next was Remake by Connie Willis, which I read about a quarter of before deciding I didn’t actually care. Now, though, I’m reading Jennifer Donnelly’s The Winter Rose and I just want to wallow in it.
So there you have it. Hopefully, my week of awesome reading will continue to be nothing but fabulous. And in the meantime… I just have to remind myself that no one is giving me any kind of prizes for reading leisure reading that isn’t good.

State of the Shannon: Fairy tales and fangirl flails

Published February 1, 2014 by Shannon

I wrote earlier about my attempt to read all of Andrew Lang’s fairy books. The audio I’m using is 127 hours in length, so this is likely to be one of the largest book undertakings I will ever attempt; consequently, I’m spacing it out over a year. Yesterday I finished The Blue Fairy Book. Thus far, the experience has been… interesting. Every ism you could possibly want to encounter has been present, to one degree or another. Getting the beautiful but otherwise unremarkable girl at the end is a common staple, and I wish that trope would die an ignominious death. On the other hand, there have been plenty of strong women in the stories, which surprised me. One of them, the magician in The Story of Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Paribanou was a villain who wasn’t a wicked stepmother. I also loved the resourcefulness of the titular Master Maid. Lastly, if I can be allowed to disagree with a dead man, I’m puzzled by why he included a bit from Gulliver’s Travels. I suppose it is fairy-tale-like, but it still feels like the wrong genre.

In other book related news, there was quite a furor over this excellent article on tor.com about putting an end to gender binaries in SF. I loved the article, and think the comment section is worth reading for all the book recs alone, but only if you have a strong stomach for lots of mansplaining about biology. Predictably, of course, some dude wrote a post about how if we include non-gender binaries in SF all SF is going to become preachy and left-wing and boring, and why do feminazis have to ruin fun for everyone? Jim C. Hines rebutted that post nicely. (Again, don’t read the comments. I glanced at them as I was writing this post, and suddenly it was an hour later and my will to live had been sapped.

Anyway, I brought all that up because it made me think of all the conversations I’ve read around the book blogosphere about diversity and how people should read more books that include diverse characters. The invariable argument gets trotted out that if people start including diversity, whether it be of race, gender, ability, sexual identity, or whatever, that the stories being written have to be about those issues. It’s a trap I’ve fallen into myself, so I know how insidious that assumption is.

That said, remember how I wrote a post a few months ago in which I was looking for books with trans* characters? Well, I’ve been reading Heidi Cullinan’s Dirty Laundry. One of the most interesting supporting characters is Louisa, a trans woman who becomes friends with one of the heroes. She plays a similar role as Penelope in Cullinan’s A Private Gentleman. I adore her. I love how her presence in the story is significant for the characters in ways other than, “Oh, she’s trans. Let’s now talk about trans issues because that’s what we do when someone who is a minority of any kind walks into a story.” Louisa is a trans woman being awesome. That is exactly the kind of thing I want to read about, and wish there were more of. (Also, Louisa needs to find her HEA. I would read the hell out of that book.)

I haven’t finished Dirty Laundry yet. At a guess I’m a little under halfway through. I’m sure I won’t be able review it except with phrases like “Asksksjskl;! Read this it is amazeballs!”, making it the third Cullinan book I’ve read recently where that’s been the case.

I have no idea how to end this post. It went off on some tangents, but I hope it was entertaining. Hope you’ve all had a great week as well!

State of the Shannon: the MLK edition

Published January 20, 2014 by Shannon

Happy Monday!

I’ve been enjoying a four-day weekend which has alternated between lots of social time and lots of hanging out by myself and chilling time. Pretty much a perfect little vacation. Today I also got to meet Leah. We had lunch, did some shopping, and talked books and romancelandia. (I’m also pretty sure I talked too much, but that is a thing that I do.) Either way, it was fun.

This weekend also brings a new episode of the Book Hoarders podcast. Listen for our collective thoughts on Hogfather by Terry Pratchett.

In other news relating to books I don’t want to review, I read Ender’s Game yesterday. I can’t review it fairly because while I read the chapters, I was also reading the deconstruction of it on Something Short and Snappy. Given that I cannot separate Orson Scott Card from the fact that he’s a loud and proud homophobe, I was relieved I didn’t need to pay for my copy of the book directly. My takeaway was that the book was fairly entertaining, but that the plot doesn’t stand up to logical scrutiny.

My other big reading project is a 127-hour collection of all of Andrew Lang’s fairy books. My plan is to read each of the twelve books this year, and hopefully discover new fairy tales.

Thus far, it’s been an exercise in WTFery. Take, for example, this gem. It took me 45 minutes to listen to that story on audio, and then it ended up being a giant Shaggy dog story. For added fun, there’s some blatant sexism and ableism. I’m sure Disney will get right on making it into a movie.

I’ll keep you up to date with my progress. I may never want to read another fairy tale or fairy tale retelling again, but… this book is 127 hours long. Clearly it is a challenge to be overcome!

Hope you are all having a good week. And in comments you should tell me about your favorite fairy tales.

State of the Shannon: Recent reads and reading goals

Published January 3, 2014 by Shannon

I have been back in Seattle for two days after a lovely visit home. I miss my family but the universe saw to it that I didn’t have the energy to wallow in homesickness by presenting me with the gift that keeps on giving: a lovely winter cold. I have spent the past couple of days alternating between being flat on my back in bed and vegging in my recliner.

But you didn’t come here to read about how sick I am. You came for the books.

I didn’t get much reading done while I was with the family. I did, however, watch the movie Frozen, which was delightful. It was so awesome I want to see it again. Right now. There was a great sister relationship. The Disney True Love’s Kiss nonsense was subverted. The music was fabulous. And Olaf… i was pretty sure he was going to melt and I was going to cry. (Spoiler alert: That doesn’t happen. In case you worry about these things, too.)

What I did read was mostly excellent. Before I left for Kansas, I read Let It Snow by Heidi Cullinan. The story of a swishy hair stylist who gets stranded in the north woods of Minnesota with three lumberjacks, one of whom he falls for, was a perfect Christmas read. It was light and fluffy, but there was a lot of heart, and I especially loved the relationship between Marcus (aforementioned lumberjack love interest) and his mother. As I have said before, I don’t think Heidi Cullinan can write a bad book, and I’m planning on reading more of her backlist in 2014.

On my flight home I reread Archangel by Sharon Shinn. I had forgotten how much I love her writing, and I love the premise that if people don’t get together and sing, God will be mad at them. This time out, I was a little more in love with Rachel, the headstrong heroine. I have the next book in the series, which is set generations later and doesn’t feature any of the same characters, here to read.

I also spent a day reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet. I think A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door are two of the most perfect books ever, but I’ve only read A Swiftly Tilting Planet the once, and it turns out there was good reason. I understood what L’Engle was going for, trying to tell a story about how small things can change the world. Unfortunately, the characters got lost in all her high concepts, and for all that this is a story of Charles Wallace having adventures, he doesn’t really do anything. Also, the threat of nuclear war from South America felt a little like that bit in the Left Behind books, of which I read the first six chapters of the first one before my housemate at the time told me if I didn’t stop yelling at the book she was going to take it away from me, in which Israel is attacked by the mighty nuclear powerhouse that is Ethiopia. There’s also a bit about how the savior of the world needs to be a blue-eyed man which made me uncomfortable. Which all makes it sound like I hated the book, and I didn’t. I just don’t think I’ll read it again.

I had much better luck on the plane ride back to Seattle, when I read The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen. I want to live in the magical North Carolina towns that are the settings for her books. I love that each of her books are populated with flawed but basically decent people, and I love that they celebrate friendship between women. Without the friendship, the rest of the plots couldn’t take place. Also, I’m delighted to see that she’s got a new book coming out later this month, which is going on my TBR pile immediately.

Right now I’m reading Heidi Ruby Miller’s Ambasadora. I’m not sure I’m going to continue, though. The start is promising, but it’s been five chapters, and the heroine is basically useless. I don’t hate it enough to abandon it entirely, but I think it’s going back on the TBR for another day.
This last year I did a lot of culling of my digital TBR pile. I finished that process this past month, just in time to add more books to the queue. It’s been fairly illuminating, since I tried hard to be honest with myself about whether I’d actually read the books I was keeping. During that process I had to accept a couple of facts.

  1. I am not a mystery reader. I have a couple of mysteries on the pile, and various book club obligations will have me reading more, but I don’t enjoy most of them.

  2. I am ready for the trend toward darkness to go away. I have so much less time for pleasure reading than I’ve had in the past, and I really don’t want to read about people being nasty to each other. Dammit, i do require a happy ending, and if that makes me an unsophisticated reader, I invite my critics to shove their sophistication where the sun doesn’t shine.
  3. I don’t like urban fantasy. I guess that’s not entirely true. I still adore Charles de Lint, and I want to read more Tanya Huff, but thekick-ass heroine fighting crime and choosing between a bevy of suitors genre isn’t for me. That said, I do have Yasmine Galinorn and Seanann McGuire books I want to read, so never say never.

As for the blog, I’d like to do a readalong of some sort. Preferably of a book I actually liked. Or didn’t hate, at least. We’ll see what happens. My goal is to continue to try to post twice a week, either with real book reviews or at least these update-y posts, though I promise the next one won’t be so long.

Oh, and I forgot to draw your attention to this earlier, but there’s been an episode of the Book Hoarders Podcast. Tune in for my thoughts on Under the Dome by Stephen King. (Spoiler: Easily the worst book I read last year.)

I hope all of you have a terrific 2014, and happy reading!

State of the Shannon: Thanksgiving thoughts

Published November 29, 2013 by Shannon

Thanksgiving was lovely. I went over to Meka’s, and we spent the time not talking at all about certain zealous rapey paladins. Instead we had an excellent dinner with our mutual friends, who discovered that they are now grandparents for the third time on Thanksgiving morning. This weekend promises to be low key, except for a trip to the store, because I need a new suitcase, the handle of mine having broken off during my travels this week.

I haven’t done much writing because I’m deep in revisions. Mostly I want to change a thread of subtle misogyny that runs through my writing. My kind-hearted beta hero really seems not to appreciate the ladies in his life, and I don’t know why, because that was never my intent and the ladies are awesome. To that end, though, my Nano novel this year made it to a grand total of 5k words. There’s always next year, I suppose, and in the meantime I want to start writing longer, more substantive essays here on this blog. I don’t know if I’ll find something to deconstruct, or if I’ll just see where the spirit moves me, but essay writing is a skill I really ought to perfect.
Last week, I didn’t read much. I ended up deciding not to finish The Book Thief, because, while I’m sure the story is poignant and powerful, I knew there wasn’t going to be a happy ending, and I wasn’t in the mood for a good, cathartic cry. Similarly, The Omnivore’s Dilemma suffered the same fate. I might return to it at some point, but the fact that everything I eat is terrible for the environment and for everyone involved in its production, little say how terrible it is for me, was overwhelmingly depressing. At the moment, I’ve started Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano, and it’s BLOWING MY MIND. It’s a provocative book, and has made me uncomfortable in places, but then it’s supposed to, of course. It’s not quite what I had in mind when I was looking for books about trans* people being awesome,, but it does seem to feature an awesome transwoman telling her own story, and that is what I’d asked for after all. I want to read some fiction, and with a ridiculous amount of books on the TBR pile, you’d think I’d find something to read, but alas, not so much. That said, the library
is doing its quarterly brown bag book club, and I’m leading it. I wanted to pick a non-sappy holiday book, so we’re reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which I thought probably would go over better with the nice old couple who always come to those meetings than, say, Holidays on Ice,, which was also an option.

Lastly, it’s now officially the season for holiday music. Generally, this is the time of year when everyone plays the same old dozen chestnuts, which pretty much universally fail to put me in a festive mood. It’s been my mission in life to find obscure holiday songs that I like to counter some of that. In that spirit, I’ll share one with you today.

State of the Shannon: On dignity and putting myself out there

Published November 22, 2013 by Shannon

Hello from cold and frosty Seattle. This has been an interesting week. Let’s see if I can break it down.

  • 1. I finally started serious work on revising a novel I wrote with my friend Mia. I’d been holding onto it FOR TWO YEARS because I loved our characters so much and I didn’t want people like me to read about them and then mock us. But, whatever. It’s good. And Mia’s beta readers liked it, so there’s that. More news as the situation warrants.
  • 2. Needless to say, I have read fuck all lately. I started a well-regarded modern classic, but I don’t think I’m going to finish. Not because it’s a bad book, but because there is no way it will end well and I am not down for a sad ending. (The book is The Book Thief, if you were curious.
  • 3. On Wednesday, I had an appointment to determine if I am blind enough to get paratransit. Nothing like going to a hospital and showing some misplaced kindergarten teacher that you can climb stairs but find navigating four-way stops in unfamiliar areas to strip a girl of her sense of dignity. And yet, as a proper blind person, I am supposed to not express what utter bullshit this whole process is, because then it would appear I’m not grateful. (FWIW I don’t need paratransit often. Maybe once or twice a week, and more this time of year, when I actively feel unsafe going to the bus stop near my house because I worry someone will drive like an asshole Seattle driver and squash me like a pancake. Believe me, I am not looking for extra perks, because those vans are not places anyone in their right mind would want to hang out on for extended periods of time.
  • 4. I learned some shocking news about someone very close to me. I’m trying to process it, but it’s made me face some hard truths about myself, and some issues I need to work on. Which is never fun, but there you have it.
  • 5. Why did no one in my life alert me to the existence of Ana Mardoll’s ramblings? I discovered it at work today, and promptly developed a blogger crush, which will manifest itself in me having to work up the nerve to post a comment once every six months while reading religiously. See also, my relationship with Jenny Trout’s blog.
  • 6. Speaking of blogs, I have written something on the Internets that you can read. It’s a guest review for the book pushers, who are some of the nicest human beings in romancelandia and who were kind enough to let me wax long-winded over there.
  • 7. So excited for Thanksgiving. It’ll be a weekend spent with my bestie with lots of good food and hopefully some karaoke.

How has your week been? Hopefully, there were fewer dignity-stripping events for you to contend with.