Author Spotlight: dirgewithoutmusic

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I’m back today with another Author Spotlight! While I do enjoy giving individual story recommendations, some authors really deserve all of the recognition I can give them. Plus, if you enjoy one of their stories if gives you an automatic jumping off point to more high quality tales. Sometimes, you can even cruise through the stories they’ve bookmarked to find even more great stuff!

Today, the spotlight is on dirgewithoutmusic. Everything this author writes is gold. Seriously. I have cried reading some of their stuff before. The level of emotion they can put into a one-shot is impressive. They write a lot of interesting character studies, as well as speculative alternate universe stuff. They have a large body of work that spans fandoms both large and small, so you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy. They can be found on Archive of Our Own.

Here are some of my favourites of theirs.

we must unite inside her walls or we’ll crumble from within (arguably Canon, series of one-shots)

stories for the ladies of hogwarts, who cry, waver, giggle, trespass, and who deserve our respect all the same

Absolutely amazing character studies of the ladies of Hogwarts – all houses are represented.

boy with a scar (AU, series of one-shots)

A series of “what if” rewrites of Harry Potter, books 1-7. Cross-posted from tumblr. So far includes: What if Neville was the Chosen One, and James and Lily survived? What if Neville was the Chosen One, and James and Lily were tortured by the Lestranges? What if Neville and Harry were both killed as infants, and there was no Chosen One? What if Petunia refused to take him in, and so Harry was raised in Hogwarts? What if Petunia had raised Harry like a son? What if Harry was Sorted Slytherin? What if Harry was a squib? What if Harry was a girl? (cis) What if Harry was a girl? (trans) What if Ron was the Chosen One? What if Hermione was the Chosen One? What if Harry and Hermione met before Hogwarts? What if the Dursleys died, and Dudley was left on Lily and James’s doorstep?

That’s right. All those HP what-ifs you never thought you’d have answered. They exist and they’re great.

once a queen or king of narnia, always a king or queen (arguably Canon, series of one-shots)

All my Pevensie tumblr fic

A series that depicts what it was like for the Penvensies to rule Narnia and then leave it. Susan especially has several fics, but they are all represented and every single one will rip your heart out.

after the scouring (arguably Canon, one-shot)

Let’s talk about Sam crying over rabbit stew, because a brace of coneys had been a spot of luck, once; because even then, even when he still had his pots and his pans, when Frodo had not yet snarled at him and told him to go– Mr. Frodo had still been gone too far by then to ever come back again.

Rosie, who did not cry easy, chopped onions so he would not be the only one with wet cheeks to scrub off. She asked him about herbs and spices, about stirring and cooking times, about what loaf would go best with it all. Sam said, “Rosemary, tarragon.” Part of him still rang against the greening metal of a copper pot dropped down a chasm and left somewhere on the edges of Mordor, but she saw him breathe deep and reach for thyme.

(a story for Rosie Cotton)

Oh man, this story was so fantastic. I hope they write more Tolkien stuff because this was so satisfying.

I could honestly list everything dirgewithoutmusic has ever written as a favourite and not be lying. That’s how good they are. They’ve written stuff for Emelan, Star Wars, Avengers, Tolkien/Narnia crossovers, Ender’s Game, and so many more. I would find it extremely unlikely if you didn’t find something of theirs to love.

That’s it for this week, folks! Let me know if you check these out, and don’t forget to drop the author a comment as well!

Men Explain Things to Me

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I hope everyone had an excellent and restful weekend! I’ve been busy with work, and with various illnesses along with seasonal allergies. Throughout it all, I’ve attempted to keep up with my goal of reading more than YA. It’s been slow going, not due to lack of interest, but only a simple lack of free time.

When I saw Men Explain Things to Me at work, I knew that I absolutely had to pick up and read a copy. I’ve been hearing about it for ages, but having never picked up a book of essays as leisure reading I was a bit wary.

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I was already familiar with the now rather famous titular essay. It was wry, it was eloquent, and it had me nodding my head in agreement with the all-too-familiar situation. I’ve been patronised for both my age and my gender more times than a reasonable person would expect. It can be infuriating, but the author handled her situation with grace and good humour.

Still, the next essay gets very serious very quickly. A look at violence – specifically violence against women perpetrated by their partners or former partners – it would have been a jarring eye-opener had I not already familiarised myself with those statistics. For people who aren’t familiar with them, this essay is a short and painful one, with subtitles such as ‘who has the right to kill you?’, ‘the party for the protection of the rights of rapists’, and ‘the chasm between our worlds’.

The serious tone persists throughout the rest of the book for the most part, relenting occasionally to reveal Solnit’s excellent tongue-in-cheek brand of humor. You can almost see her smirk and raised eyebrow, and it’s great. The topics of discussion range through feminism, economics, politics, and literature, extrapolating upon the places in which they intersect and inviting further thought on the matter.

Certain themes or points are brought up in more than one essay, but that only serves as a reminder that they were first published separately and not as a collection.

It’s very hard to choose a favourite essay, but I think ‘Woolf’s Darkness’ and ‘Cassandra Among the Creeps’ are tied for me.

‘Woolf’s Darkness’ was an interesting exploration of ‘embracing the inexplicable’, backed up with the writing and thoughts of Virginia Woolf, along with other figures of literature, and of the author herself. It was the topic I was most unfamiliar with going into the book, which is most likely why I found it the most interesting.

‘Cassandra Among the Creeps’ explores the more familiar territory of society’s disinclination to believe women about – well, anything. It begins with the story of the seer Cassandra, who is cursed to see the future but always be met with disbelief. The author explores ‘female hysteria’, and the way that the media, society, and even other women, are led to disbelieve and malign women.

This entire selection of essays is exceptionally well-written, and something I enjoyed engaging with more actively than a fiction pick. Like I did in my school days, while reading I scribbled notes and thoughts to myself. Solnit writes in a way that makes it easy to imagine yourself having a conversation with her.

I’ll definitely be reading more essay collections, and more of Solnit’s work as well. Have you read Men Explain Things to Me? Any of Rebecca Solnit’s other books? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Roar

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Hello folks! I’ve been MIA for a little while, I know. My best friend has given birth to a beautiful baby boy, and I’ve been helping out as an honorary auntie. Luckily, I had some reviews waiting for approaching publication dates, so you’ll still be getting some posts!

Though I’ve been looking to expand my reading horizons, I do still love YA and read it consistently. I had a lot of hope that this early June release would be wonderful, and I was really looking forward to a romp in a cool new fantasy setting.

Cue letdown music.

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Princess Aurora is due to be married to a handsome prince to secure the safety of her kingdom in a land ravaged by sentient storms. When she discovers that she may have other options, she decides to take her fate into her ow hands and runs away with a group of storm hunters.

With these talented individuals by her side, Roar (Aurora’s chosen new persona) is ready to discover all that she has missed during her sheltered life.

Here’s the thing: this concept was so freaking cool.

Sentient storms? City-states? Different forms of magic and magic systems co-existing? Various cults and religious groups?

Sign me the fuck up.

It really pains me to say that I didn’t really enjoy this book.

Despite the cool concepts this book falls flat onto its underdeveloped face.

The meat of the fantasy setting was practically non-existent. What I got instead was an overabundance of storm descriptors and metaphors when speaking of other things, and a very unfortunate case of insta-love. (TWO cases, actually. Yes, really.)

The perspective changes were pretty useless, considering the majority of the plot focused on Roar’s feelings for Locke rather than her future or that of her people. Thus, the small glimpses of Nova’s perspective, and Cassius’ perspective, and the Stormlord’s perspective were strange and out of place little inserts.

This book felt far more like an unsatisfying romance novel than it did fantasy fare. Considering it only gave any truly useful or interesting info in the last forty or so pages, the 300 page length was honestly ridiculous. The romance itself was not fun to read about, as it contained: pining, angst caused by misunderstandings (that would be easily solved through communication), and falling in love with virtual strangers.

This would have been a much stronger story had it been half the length and more focused on the world-building or the plot rather than the romance. If Roar and the crew had learned more about each other, had they learned more of their world, had they been able to actually accomplish anything throughout the length of this novel it would have been a lot more engrossing.

The secondary characters were quirky in appearance and surface personality, and we learn absolutely nothing of substance about them. The politics in the book aren’t well developed enough to be the kind of plot point the author seemed to reach for, and I was just rolling my eyes a lot while reading.

Though I want to learn more of this world and it’s denizens, I can’t bring myself to sit through pointless (and pathetic) romance story lines when I was promised fantasy. I certainly won’t be reading the next book in this series.

Do you intend to pick up a copy of Roar? Do you agree or disagree with my points? Let me know in the comments below!

TTT: Impulsive Cover Buys (That Paid Off)

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jamie @ The Broke and the Bookish.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Top Ten Tuesday, and this week is a cover freebie. Below are ten books that I impulse bought based solely (or mostly) on their covers. I think the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ does a terrible disservice to the folks who spend their time designing and illustrating book covers.

When I have the disposable income to do so, I’ll cover buy a few books and see how it goes. The books that made the list this week are cover buys that ended up being favourites of mine.

abhorsen-1a certain slant of lightHawkeye

Sabriel: This first instalment in a series of fantastic heroines, necromancy, and insidious magic set me on a path to seeking out more cool and unique fantasy contests.

A Certain Slant of Light: This beautiful and slightly creepy cover conceals a unique story of the afterlife that I’ve never seen replicated before or since.

Hawkeye: The colour choice and bold graphics drew me in, and this turned out to be one of the funniest comics I’ve picked up in ages.

annihilationSunshineSaga

Annihilation: This gorgeous graphic cover is the first in a creepy and slow-moving speculative sci-fi trilogy that is absolutely unforgettable.

Sunshine: In a world where magical gifts manifest and creatures roam, the titular character is trapped with a vampire in an incredibly interesting story. The sparkly cover is rather different from the content matter, but it was certainly eye-catching.

Saga: I had no idea of the epic tale of family and space that waited for me within the pages of this excellently illustrated comic. Fiona Staples is a master.

kaptaradeathlessgentlemen's alliance

Kaptara: This brilliantly coloured and rendered cover conceals a hilarious story set in deep space with a distinctly 80’s vibe.

Deathless: The stark and beautiful graphic cover still doesn’t quite convey the tale of love, death, and magic that lays within the pages of this book. The story stayed with me for years.

The Gentlemen’s Alliance Cross: Arina’s Tanemura’s striking manga illustrations are densely detailed and convey her story lines wonderfully. The first in a series that I absolutely adore.

Fionavar Tapestry Omnibus

The Fionavar Tapestry: This beautiful cover introduced me to my favourite author via a series that would go on to influence both my reading and writing forever more.

That’s all for today! Have you read any of my cover picks? What theme did you choose this week? Let me know in the comments below!

 

The Man Who Remembered the Moon

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In my quest to read different things, I happened across this title at work. I don’t remember ever purposefully reading a novella, but I might end up making a habit of it. The cool cover and title drew me in, but I found good substance within.

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The Man Who Remembered the Moon was an interesting little tale.

“Daniel Hale will not be released from a mental institution until he renounces his belief in a celestial body he calls the moon.”

This story was exactly as advertised. One day, Daniel Hale realizes the moon is missing. Unfortunately, he’s the only one who notices. In fact, the rest of the world is completely oblivious to the fact that the moon ever existed. All references to the moon have disappeared along with the celestial body itself.

This novella was really cool. For the majority of the story, it was a rather frightening exploration of what life would be like if everyone was convinced you were crazy. What would life be if you were surrounded by so much doubt that you actively started to doubt your own sanity? The story was fascinating, and I read the whole thing in one go.

Though I admit that I was hoping for a sci-fi solution or ending, the actual conclusion to the story was totally unexpected. After mulling it over, it was pretty brilliant. This is certainly a novella that will make you think, and the main character’s stream of consciousness was very entertaining.

This was a well-written thought experiment that I definitely enjoyed.

I’ll be checking out move of David Hull’s work, and I suggest you do the same!

Do you have any novellas to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

*(Fanfic Feature Friday will be back next week, never fear.)*

The Vegetarian

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Occasionally, an award-winning novel has so much hype that I feel I absolutely have to read it. That’s even more the case if the general Goodreads population concurs with critics in saying it’s a transcendent work of fiction. I used to feel as if maybe I wasn’t intelligent enough to understand some of these novels, as I didn’t enjoy them at all. Was I missing something? What was the huge draw that made people heap praise upon those pages?

I found a beautiful copy of The Vegetarian at work, and was determined to find out.

the vegetarian

I’ve been hearing about this book for ages. I’ve seen it pop up on my Goodreads updates feed, I’ve seen it critically reviewed and praised, I’ve seen people reading it on the TTC, and it won the Man Booker International Prize last year as well. I’ve had friends and employers recommend it. So it was with equal parts apprehension and excitement that I cracked open the first page of this book.

First, the prose was undeniably beautiful. Simple, but written with turns of phrase that made it a quick and thoughtful feeling read. My praise to both Han Kang and her translator, Deborah Smith.

The narrative being divided into three parts worked well for me. I found the narrators in the first and second parts to be rather reprehensible people. I wondered as I was reading if I was enjoying myself or not. Why was I seeing events transpire from their point of view? Should I even keep reading? It was only when I came to the last part of the story that I understood the author’s decision to divide the narrative in such a way.

While I later learned that the author wrote this as an allegorical tale, I think it works very well at face value. Though I resent the use of rape as a plot device, the story (sans allegory) was a fragile and disturbing tale of falling further into a madness that has never really been apparent until events begin to escalate.

My favourite perspective was In-hye’s. Through her we learn more of Yeong-hye’s childhood, and of her sister’s similarity to her own husband. In-hye’s narrative was one that made me think the most. It was the most human to me, as she was a likeable character who struggled with her choices and responsibilities, and even resented her sister for lifting the shackles of a life that she couldn’t bring herself to abandon. She drew parallels between events and characters that I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

I loved the last part of the novel. Had the entire thing been from In-hye’s perspective, this would have been a five star review. The touches of bizarre and mystical elements also worked well for me.

As it is, I walked away feeling appeased rather than truly satisfied.

Will you enjoy this book? Hard to say. But it’s under 200 pages, and well-worth checking out for the beautiful writing alone. I’ll certainly be reading more of Han Kang’s work.

Have you read The Vegetarian? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Company Town

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To my regret, it’s been a long while since I last posted. I’ve been very busy, as I now have three jobs so I’m always on the go! (Two bookstores, and a paper store. Living the dream.) Still, things have settled a bit and I’m getting into a routine so I’m back now. I’m hoping to be able to get back to more regular posts once more, so stay tuned.

After being on hold at the library for more than a month, I’ve finally received more of this year’s Canada Reads finalists. It’s with great pleasure that I bring you today’s review.

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Company Town was the Canada Reads candidate I was most eager to read this year. I love sci-fi, and especially more speculative stuff. Throw in the fact that Madeline Ashby is also a ‘strategic foresight consultant’, and I was chomping at the bit to get to this title.

I raced through this novel at lightning speed, reading whenever I could squeeze in the time.

The narrative follows Go Jung-Hwa, a young woman living and working in New Arcadia – an oil rig city off the coast of Newfoundland. As an organic human in a society where most choose to augment themselves with machines and drugs, she is a rarity. She is also ‘stained’ by a birthmark that spans an entire side of her body, due to her rare seizure disorder.

Hwa works as a bodyguard for the United Sex Workers of Canada union members at the opening of the book. That right there made me fall in love with this story.

The legalization of sex work has been a hot button issue in Canada recently, especially in light of the Bedford case (2009-2013). Hwa’s friends, students, and mother are all sex workers. It was amazing to read about sex work in this context, as it was neither vilified nor exalted. The reader does get to see the different attitudes people hold towards the profession, which gives a lot of insight into those characters.

When New Arcadia is bought by the Lynch company, Hwa is thrust into a new corporate position. As she struggles to adjust to her new routine, her friends begin to die gruesomely. With a burning need to bring the killer to justice, Hwa uses all of the resources at her disposal and risks her own safety to see it done.

Reading about such a self-made and competent woman was brilliant. She can take down scary drugged up dudes twice her size, but still isn’t a paragon of perfection. At times she lacks confidence, which is revealed to be a rather serious flaw of hers. Her relationships with others are intricate and genuine. Even shunned by her loved ones, she works her hardest to do what she believes is the right thing. Even pushing others away, she recognizes that she could be pulling them closer. The romance that builds slowly in the novel didn’t feel out of place at all, despite the murder and mayhem sandwiching it.

Though set in the future, Company Town feels like it isn’t that far off from our current state of affairs. Clean energy solutions are still a thing of dreams and prototypes. Women are still treated in ways that should make you weep – illustrated by some disturbing conversations, and more graphic threats of rape, as well as physical violence. Corporations are entities whose machinations affect many lives, often for the worse. These things really helped ground this book for me – it seemed like a plausible situation, even when the technology came into play.

Cue cybernetic enhancement, self-replicating nanobots, artificial intelligence, and crossing timelines.

Boom.

These things were so perfectly entrenched in the world that Ashby created that I totally believed them. Though it got a bit confusing near the end, there was never that moment you sometimes get in sci-fi books when you’ve read some clearly bogus pseudoscience and it catapults you out of the story before you can roll your eyes. I stayed entrenched in the book the whole way through, and after re-reading a specific section things clicked for me and I knew exactly what was going on.

This was my favourite Canada Reads book so far, and I only have two left to go now. I certainly intend to pick up a copy of Company Town, and Madeline Ashby’s other books. And I can always hope that as a Toronto native, she visits my bookstore one day so that I can tell her in person how much I loved this. Hopers gotta hope.

Have you picked up Company Town yet? Did you love it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments below!