You Just Don’t Understand is an impressively accessible, balanced analysis of gender-based differences in communication. I went into it expecting neitYou Just Don’t Understand is an impressively accessible, balanced analysis of gender-based differences in communication. I went into it expecting neither of these things, and found myself completely shocked and impressed with how clearly Tannen lays out ideas and how even-handedly she addresses communication styles (sometimes to the point of being frustrating to read, as she defended styles I find personally annoying – but then again, those were the most thought-provoking moments for me). While the book is approaching 30 years old, it still felt relevant and provided useful tools for examining gender and communication norms, and was well worth the read.
A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No external considerations went into this reviA copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No external considerations went into this review.
In college, I flew to and from Portland, Oregon several times a year. I love flying, but I particularly love flying in over the Cascades and the Columbia River, seeing volcanoes out either window and the pine forest below, and looking west down the river as the plane turns for the final approach, knowing that the ocean is out there somewhere. There’s a feeling… it’s hard to describe. A lightness in my heart, a nerve-tingling energy, a feeling of rightness at returning to the Northwest.
That’s what I got from Summerlong.
It’s a rare book that strikes me this way. I read a lot of things I enjoy, and a lot of things I love, but far fewer that feel like puzzle pieces fitting into a space I didn’t know existed. Summerlong resonated deeply with me - its setting, its subtle unconventional magic, its complicated and idiosyncratic characters. Absolutely everything about it was lovely and absorbing, and I don’t just say that because Beagle’s rich, loving descriptions made me homesick for Seattle and Puget Sound. (Though that’s definitely a plus; there’s a deep sense of place running through this book that really brings it alive.)
Tachyon Press describes Summerlong as ‘literary speculative fiction’, which I find apt in the way it suggests a slowness of plot and a meditative quality not found in most fantasy novels. It’s about ordinary people, who are nonetheless marvelous in their quirks and variations, whose lives are disrupted by something subtly extraordinary. In particular there are three players: Abe, a retired history professor; his sort-of girlfriend Joanna, an aging Sicilian flight attendant; and Joanna’s daughter Lily, a young journalist with consistent bad luck in the women she dates. They’re a family unit without all the usual trappings: Abe and Joanna’s relationship is committed and caring, but not formalized; Joanna and Lily struggle to get along, but are deeply loyal to one another; Abe is something of a fond uncle to Lily. They all feel incredibly real, and I found myself getting drawn into and invested in their lives almost before I noticed.
And then there’s Lioness, she who disrupts the status quo:
Thick and heavy and desert-colored, her hair caught the candlelight and gave it back with the added rawness of a living thing when she turned her head.
Ohh, that description. Having read the synopsis, I was actively trying to figure out who or what Lioness was, and it took me less than a fifth of the book to be certain. However, it didn’t feel like Beagle was trying to keep this a secret from the reader, who’s primed to expect something of the fantastical in this novel; in fact, I enjoyed picking out all of his subtle hints and references after I knew the secret more than figuring it out in the first place. There was another interesting side effect, too: knowing that Lioness herself was extraordinary, I found myself guessing at every side character. Were they supernatural as well, or just unusual humans? It made me question the value of making such a distinction at all.
Lioness is… not a non-entity, but by necessity not as vividly characterized as Abe, Joanna, and Lily either. Her role in the story is to be a disturbance; she is a stone thrown into calm water, disturbing the status quo for better or worse by introducing ineffable magic to this small corner of the world. It’s not dramatic, but neither could it be prevented. From the moment of her arrival, the lives of humans around her change course, and much of the book is just watching those new courses play out. Change necessarily brings loss, though, and there is an eventual… collapse at the end of the book that took me by surprise.
One of the themes that many fantasy novels have explored is the idea that darkness and light must exist in a kind of symbiotic balance. “To light a candle is to cast a shadow,” writes Ursula K. LeGuin in A Wizard of Earthsea - a book which, at its heart, affirms that darkness is just as natural and as necessary as light. Summerlong presents similar dualities - courage and fear; love and rejection; growth and loss. The question it seemed to be asking is this: knowing what it may cost, would it be better not to experience magical things at all?
I’m still not sure what my answer is.
((Aside: I admit that I particularly appreciated the part of this book in which there were whales. However, I felt there could have been more whales. There are never enough whales.))...more
I’ve been putting off reading Fluke. It was recommended to me by one of my uncles, who meant well but whose method of recommendation was to spoil almoI’ve been putting off reading Fluke. It was recommended to me by one of my uncles, who meant well but whose method of recommendation was to spoil almost every major plot point - and who then sent me a copy as a high school graduation gift. Knowing a little something about Christopher Moore’s brand of humor, I didn’t make it a priority, the end result of which is that more than five years went by between when he sent it to me and when I finally opened it. And… while I regret putting it off for that long, because that was rude to my uncle, I wasn’t wrong in my expectations of how I’d like the book.
As I was in the thick of it, I was almost unbearably frustrated with this book. Moore’s humor tends towards the absurd, with a light dusting of satire, and while I can recognize all the parts that are supposed to be wryly funny, it doesn’t work on me. At the same time, though, Fluke had a surprisingly mysterious plot, and I found myself wanting to read it, even though reading it wasn’t all that enjoyable, just to figure out what the hell was going on.
And… then I got to the end, and I read Moore’s notes and acknowledgements, and I realized that I couldn’t be angry at this book, or even all that frustrated.
The thing is that Fluke is meticulously and accurately researched. To my knowledge, almost all of the basic biology and behavior information presented here is legitimate, and the name drops of scientists who aren’t characters on the page are too. (It was a bit of a shock to see Bruce Mate, who I’ve met, mentioned offhandedly here.) Moore’s description of Japanese whaling is on point, though 13 years out of date now for obvious reasons. He writes in his notes about spending two field seasons with a humpback research team in Hawaii, which tells me that researching this book took at least two years, probably more - that’s impressive for something which, I admit, I kind of expected to be dashed off and dismissive.
He also chose to end this book with a heartfelt plea for readers to care about cetacean conservation, and suggestions about organizations to support. That, and all his notes and acknowledgements, are stunningly classy and well-written, and here - in the last seven pages of the book - I found myself actually enjoying Moore’s humor.
I did get hung up from time to time, though, on a few rather predictable things. The middle-aged male main character’s love interest is his 20-something research assistant (view spoiler)[who turns out to be in her 60s, but… as a 20-something aspiring marine biologist, that doesn’t make the hundreds of pages of him ogling her butt any less creepy (hide spoiler)] and his ex wife divorced him to suddenly become a lesbian… and now does research with her partner, who is a caricature of feminist stereotypes and painful to read, though her pagetime is mercifully brief. A lot of the humor is sex-based, which I didn’t mind until the instances where it was rape-based, and no, that’s just not ever gonna be funny to me. And I mean… I expected to have these issues, and a whole lot more than that; but knowing it’s coming doesn’t make it any more pleasant.
I don’t think Moore’s fiction is for me, but… at the end of the day, I’m left with a hearty respect for him as an author and an artist. And if he ever writes nonfiction in the tone of his author’s notes here, I’m in.
(Postscript: at the time that Moore wrote this, I suspect the term ‘meme’ didn’t have the same meaning in internet parlance that it does today, and it did originate in science, but… the fact remains that this book has the sentence “Humpback whale songs are memes” in it and, in 2016, that is unintentionally one of the best jokes of the book.)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Finishing this book marks the end of my Lunar Chronicles reading experience - I'm just not interested enough in the short stories or the epilogue. I'mFinishing this book marks the end of my Lunar Chronicles reading experience - I'm just not interested enough in the short stories or the epilogue. I'm glad I picked this book up, though, because it really is a fascinating look at the origin of Levana as a villain. Meyer sets a difficult task for herself: humanize and sympathize a character who is three evil queens rolled into one... and she managed it, without trading away any of Levana's villainous characteristics.
Sometimes I read something and I think "This? This is why we have therapists." Levana's situation is a perfect example - raised in a state of neglect, with an abusive older sister and crippling insecurities, she has been completely stripped of her ability to process emotions rationally. She also seems to struggle a little bit with reality (understandable, given the functioning of the Lunar court). This all leads to her not really understanding why other people experience emotions differently than she does, or than she wants them to, and because she's Lunar, she has the power to reshape reality to what she thinks it should be... it's a toxic combination of traumatic experience and overwhelming power.
This book is clearly not trying to make Levana likable. Aside from the things Lunar Chronicles readers already know about her (including staging her own niece's supposed death in a fire), she coerces a man into a relationship with her, rapes him, and then marries him. All this, mind, at the age of about sixteen. While her perspective shows that this is a result of her own distorted thinking, that doesn't make her actions any less heinous - and while, especially at the beginning, the pain and confusion she feels is relatable, the way she reacts is not.
It was a little strange to realize, as I reached the end of the book, that if I've been counting years right it ends when Levana is younger than I am now. That kind of puts the horrific nature of the Lunar court in perspective, that a teenager so easily became completely disconnected from the suffering of other people. It also makes it clear why Levana never even had a chance at redemption in the series: she's been like this for so, so much of her life, and undoing those patterns of thinking would likely be impossible.
All in all, an interesting addition to the series and a great example of how a villain can be the hero of their own story.
(One nitpick, though: if Levana's left eye is sealed shut with scar tissue, she should have a blind side - and possibly hearing damage on that side as well? While it might not be noticeable to others a decade later in the main series, in her perspective I feel like there should have been some acknowledgement of that lack of sensory input.)...more
At this point, I almost feel like it goes without saying that I loved this book. I've loved everything Alexandra Bracken has published, particularly tAt this point, I almost feel like it goes without saying that I loved this book. I've loved everything Alexandra Bracken has published, particularly the Darkest Minds series, and this is no different. While these short stories didn't quite rise to the level of emotional intensity that the core trilogy did, they still have all of the dogged hope that I love so much about the series, and they filled in some important gaps.
"In Time" is the one I knew the most about, going in - the gist of it is discussed during In The Afterlight, and there weren't many surprises. However, it's a great perspective on what the rest of the dystopic U.S. is like - through Gabe's perspective, we see the population centers that kids on the run have to avoid, and how the nation's economy and social structures have collapsed in on themselves. Gabe is very much a product of this environment: he's bitter, cynical, and selfish, determined to improve his own future even at the cost of someone else's... until that situation stops being theoretical.
There's a lot of monstrousness in this series. Some of it is created, as kids who have been tormented for years lash out; some of it comes from fear; some of it is simple vicious malice. At the same time, though, the main characters and their allies refuse to be monstrous, no matter how much people insist that they are. There is a fundamental theme running through the whole series that choosing to be kind is always for the best, and it's kind of beautiful.
"Sparks Rise" was the least interesting of the three for me - again, knowing some elements of what must happen before it did affected my experience, especially in that... well, I didn't get my hopes up. However, I can confirm that it does work on readers who haven't read ITA - my girlfriend finished this story just a few minutes ago, texting me her increasingly upset reactions as she went. (She also pointed out that it's an Orpheus and Eurydice retelling, which I had completely missed but which is, in retrospect, totally brilliant.)
"Beyond The Night" was by far my favorite, and not just for the chance to see familiar characters again. This novella answers some of the questions that weren't really relevant to In The Afterlight, about how the United States and its people recover from years of strife and fear, and how the IAAN kids are rehabilitated into society. It's a slow and awkward process, complicated by the fact that many of the adults involved simply don't understand what the kids have gone through. However, again, dogged hope: these kids are each other's best support and advocates, and their determination enables them to solve problems adults don't dare approach.
I've been thinking, as my girlfriend reads the series for the first time and I reflect on this book, about why this dystopia feels so intensely believable to me, and I have a theory:
I've grown up in a post-9/11 version of America. Not in the way that fifteen year-olds today have; I was in grade school in 2001, old enough to remember the political and social fallout, and to reflect on it and understand years later. In the wake of tragedy, the United States experienced a profound cultural shift, a rising tide of fearful xenophobia, and a desire - widely, though not wholly, supported by a shocked and grieving people - to fix it by making sure it could never happen again. People accede to a great many things in that emotional state, and having lived through such a time, it is profoundly easy to imagine the events of Bracken's dystopia coming to pass. Increased militarization in response to a crisis? Yep, I've seen that. Locking people up out of fear of what they might do? We've done that before. Horrific human rights abuses justified or concealed by crisis? Recent history.
All that familiarity is sobering, even depressing, and yet... this series, which is so reminiscent of the horrors of our past and present, does one of the things fiction does best: it offers relentless, determined hope. Not hope that change will come quickly or easily, but a conviction that individuals, groups, communities acting together with the goal of making the world better can do so. As someone who often feels overwhelmed by anxiety about the state of the world, I can't put into words how incredibly cathartic and uplifting this is....more
All due respect to Mr. Bradbury, but quite frankly I don't really see the point of this book.
The thing is that doing something and teaching others howAll due respect to Mr. Bradbury, but quite frankly I don't really see the point of this book.
The thing is that doing something and teaching others how to do it are vastly different skills, and they don't necessarily overlap. I spent the past year tutoring kids in reading, and the first thing I learned was how difficult it was to translate a skill that came naturally to me into something that would help beginners. Ray Bradbury was clearly someone for whom writing came naturally (he has a lot to say about books or stories 'finishing themselves' in the course of a day), but the advice he has to offer here is, at best, vague.
From what I can tell, his main points - repeated throughout the book - are this: 1. Write what you know, a catechism which is often misinterpreted to mean 'write your own limited experiences endlessly'. Bradbury, instead, is talking about using your own experiences and strong emotional reactions to fuel your writing, regardless of what exact resemblance it may have to what you experienced.
2. Have passion for what you do. He is emphatic and uncompromising when it comes to the idea that you have to write every day for years, probably decades, before achieving substantial success. While these specific recommendations don't apply to everyone (not everyone who writes wants to work exclusively or predominantly in short stories), the general idea is definitely applicable. It is here where I think Bradbury comes through clearest, because his own passion for the craft comes through even when his advice seems muddied.
3. Get out of your own way. The titular essay of this collection, 'Zen in the Art of Writing', is close kin to the advice given during NaNoWriMo to 'turn off your internal editor'. Bradbury advocates working, but not being wound up about it, until the words simply begin to flow on their own. Nowadays, this is an actual, recognized psychological concept.
One minor annoyance: though this is unsurprising for the time, Bradbury treats male as a universal default throughout the text. Everything is about 'the man' or 'the boy', including one sentence in which he refers to the reader, specifically, as a man:
...so you are that precious commodity, the individual man, the man we all democratically proclaim, but who, so often, gets lost or loses himself, in the shuffle.
Later, he references a book by Dorothea Brande, saying that it details "many of the ways a writer can find out who he is and how to get the stuff of himself out on paper". Now, I get that male-default is an archaic writing convention only recently overturned, but assuming that the writer-persona is inherently male in a description of a book written by a woman seems particularly rich.
Several of the essays in this book are just about the genesis of particular works, which might be interesting if Bradbury were a little more reflective on the topic, but he glosses over a lot of the mechanical aspects of writing. I suspect this book may be more interesting to people who are seeking inspiration and motivation as writers; if you're looking for actual craft tools, it's not a very rich resource. There are some great quotes, though:
We never sit anything out. We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.
I love Pacific Rim with all my heart, but I'd heard years ago that this graphic novel was just... not very good, so when I picked it up at the libraryI love Pacific Rim with all my heart, but I'd heard years ago that this graphic novel was just... not very good, so when I picked it up at the library to finally take a look, my expectations were low. And they were met at that low standard, sadly.
A lot of the best content from this graphic novel is stuff I'd already seen online - Tamsin and Luna, Tendo and his grandfather, the tiny glimpse we are given of Caitlin Lightcap. I was deeply disappointed that the graphic novel didn't really delve further than what I'd already gleaned from a few screencaps/photos - there's hardly anything more about Tamsin Sevier or Luna Pentecost, and what new information there was about Dr. Lightcap was... well. I'm still not sure how I feel about that story, but I don't think it's positive.
I love the philosophy that Beacham has that "the world doesn't fit in its story, the story fits in its world", and I do feel like one of the things Pacific Rim did was convey that. For a flashy summer action movie, it's jam-packed with implied history, societal shifts, and relationships below the surface, and I suspect that's why it has so much emotional depth, despite the premise being 'what if giant mechs punched giant monsters in the jaw'. However, I feel that Beacham did a much better job bringing that philosophy to life in his conversations with fans online after the movie came out than he did in this graphic novel. It was on Beacham's Tumblr that we got more information about other Jaeger teams, including Nova Hyperion (a Korean Jaeger piloted by two women who were formerly fencing rivals); he also dished out lots of juicy details about the Drift and its mechanics and effects. Those conversations were far more expansive than this book could be, and in my opinion, more enjoyable. If you're curious, he has an extensive list of tags on his blog, and I recommend browsing through them, as well as reading the FAQ. ...more