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Best of the Year
Here are the five best books I read last year, with first lines (where I could find them online). Usually I just put these in alphabetical order by last name; this year, the best book is first and the other four are in alphabetical order.
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta.
    My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die.
  • The Third Claw of God by Adam-Troy Castro.
    Later, much later, after I died, I tried to remember why.
  • Rumors by Anna Godbersen.
    It has become almost regular for the lower classes of New York to catch glimpses of our native aristocracy in her city streets, tripping in for breakfast at Sherry's after one of their epic parties, or perhaps racing sleighs in Central Park, that great democratic meeting place.
  • Aurelia by Anne Osterlund.
    The back of her gilt chair bit into her shoulder blades, and the heat generated by close bodies made the dab of face paint on her cheeks gleam.
  • Cast In Silence by Michelle Sagara.
All of the Year

A couple of years ago, I decided that I would keep a list of all the books I read. It would be, I thought, interesting to see how much, and what, I actually read. So when I read a book, I wrote it down in my notebook. I liked the whole project so much that I've been doing it again each year.

What's here:
  • Books I read in 2010.

  • Authors of the books.

  • Dates I read the books.

  • Short notes about each book.

  • Approximately how many times I've read the book.
What's not here:
  • Magazine and newspaper articles.

  • Web-published fiction I read.

  • Short stories and individual chapters I read to remind myself of what the book was about.
This year, I read 31 books. For those of you playing along at home, that's 19 fewer than last year. 24 of those, or 77%, are books I read for the first time. 4 of those were written by a PoC author; 23 were written by a female author or coauthor. Of the 25 books for which I counted protagonists, 0 had a PoC protagonist; 20 had a female protagonist.

The List )
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I started this post early this morning, before I even went to work. Today was a busy - and constantly busy - day, and I loved having this post to come back to at lunch and this evening. So although this is a post of three things that are making me happy, the post itself is a bonus fourth.

Christian Kane's The House Rules
Okay, I know this came out in December, but I just bought it yesterday. I couldn't listen to it and write at the same time because I just wanted to grin and sing along, so I listened to it on my walk this morning. (Thing I don't think I've mentioned here yet: four of my amazing friends went in together and bought me a tiny, red iPod! So now I start my day thinking of them and listening to music on my morning walk.) I'm pretty delighted by it.

Chris's gender politics are interesting as always: he makes a distinction on "Callin' All Country Women" between "uptown girls" and "country women," which is perhaps not the best presentation of "uptown girls," but very interesting in that I read this post, in which the comments discuss the way women aren't referred to as "women" this week. (He himself is a "country boy" in the lyrics.) "American Made" refers to women as everything from "women" to "girls" to "beauties" to "ladies," depending on the fit with the lyric - although he does refer to "my girl."

He also does a pretty straight up cover of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" - the only lyric he changed was from "checkout girl" to "checkout boy," which was jarring the first time I heard it but not the second. (His tweet wondering what Tracy thinks of his cover is what prompted me to finally go buy the album.) It's an interesting choice, and I think it works well.

The most interesting thing about my emotional reaction is that I wish I'd bought the CD + digital download version. I didn't because I thought, "Of course I don't need a CD," but it turns out that when it comes to Chris, that does actually matter to me. Strange! I do have an unused Amazon gift card, so maybe I'll use part of it to get the actual CD.

Rosemary Clement-Moore's The Splendor Falls
The last book I read was bad. Really, really bad. (I'm writing an unrec post for [livejournal.com profile] romoerotic. I require a lot of words to describe how bad it was and why.) Anything else would probably look good in comparison, but The Splendor Falls is genuinely excellent. It has a compelling first-person narrator, an interesting plot, and the word "collarbone." (Those of you who don't follow me on Twitter may not realize that the use of the word "clavicle" has reached epidemic proportions. There are, of course, appropriate situations for the word "clavicle," but next time you write it, think about your intent. Are you providing a clinical listing of body parts for an anatomy test or trying to give your reader a sense of the beauty and sensuality of the human body? If it's the first, by all means do use "clavicle." If it's the second, switch to "collarbone." We'll all be a lot happier. [If you really feel the need to use "clavicle," I would be totally down with a Brendon/Spencer college AU where Spencer's studying anatomy by using the technical terms for all of Brendon's body parts as he touches/kisses them.]) Every time I start reading, I don't want to stop.

My Inspirational Desk
Between yoga and Sean Van Vleet's obsession with Steven Pressfield, which he has then passed on to several of my friends, I can't escape the concept of resistance. I finally bought white index cards so I could write "No resistance. Just let it be easy." on the back of one. It's more a paraphrase of something my yoga teacher said than it is a Pressfield reference (I've tried to read The War of Art twice, but haven't managed to finish it), but it's absolutely helpful writing advice. Monday's reading at yoga was the first four lines of this. I almost didn't catch anything else she said because I found "Empty yourself of everything" to be so powerful. I now have that on an index card on the other side of my monitor. (I didn't estimate well, so it's not centered and the letters squish together at the end. I'm trying to figure out if I can empty myself of the need for it to be right or if I just need to rewrite it.)

I was so pleased with my index cards last night (I'm thinking about doing a whole series of handwritten cards of things I find inspirational so I can shuffle them and let the hand of fate choose what I need in the moment when I need inspiration), and then I looked at the few other things on my desk, and realized that they are also keeping me in touch with good things. I have a heart-shaped petrified wood paperweight that I got from my belly dance class when I quit my last job to write, which reminds me both of my commitment to writing and the support of others. The cable for my iPod, which reminds me of the people who gave it to me, lies in a slight curve to my right. And then there's a small, wooden whale, which I bought at the woodworking place in Ghirardelli Square on a work trip. Something about its puppy dog expression called to me, even though I don't like puppies and have left my dolphin and whale obsession in my past. Part of one of its flippers has broken off, so it lists a bit, but the wood is as smooth as ever.
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I've been reading Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project blog for over two years, and I've been wanting to read the book.

It took me a while to get into the book - I wasn't excited about the first two chapters (and actually kind of annoyed with her chapter about her marriage) - but I did end up liking it. I'm not sure how it is if you haven't read the blog. Because I read her blog, I'm used to her style and the connections she makes, but I'm not sure they hold up quite as strongly if you don't already know all of her lists.

Structurally, if I'd been her editor, I would have made her split chapter 6 (June) into two separate chapters: one about June and one for the second half of the chapter where she does a six-month check-in.

If you read her blog, you know that she advertises that "I'm much more forthcoming in my book than I am on my blog. I call my family members by their true names. I talk about juicy episodes that I've never mentioned here. I reveal a very major fact about my life that I've never discussed on my blog." For those of you who, like me, find that mildly irritating, here are some spoilers. )

Overall, I liked the book, but I don't know that I learned anything - other than details of Gretchen's life - that I hadn't learned from the blog. (Where I have, indeed, learned a lot.)
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Cast In Chaos is the sixth book in the Chronicles of Elantra series. I don't have much to say about it. I still love this series. I love Kaylin. I do not love that they're still using a font without appropriate ligatures, although at least there were fewer fieflords in this book.

Spoilers )
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I try to avoid spoilers for books I already know I want to read, and I knew I wanted to read Malinda Lo's Ash the first time I saw it on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. I did read the opening comments of at least two posts that said, "Everyone keeps saying they wish this was longer, and so do I." I'll say that too, and I have some ideas about how it could be longer.

But before I get to that, I will say that I loved this. It's essentially a Cinderella retelling, Spoilers )

I did buy the book (yay for multiple Barnes & Noble gift cards!), so if anyone wants to read it, let me know and you can have my copy.
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Cast in Silence is the fourth book in the Elantra series. I've been reading them one by one as they come out, and I completely love them. This one was no exception.

I ended up staying up late one night to read part of this, and considering how committed I am to my usual sleep schedule, that says a lot. Spoilery Notes )

I do have to make one complaint about the book design. The designer either chose a font with only one ligature (of the typographic variety) or chose to turn off all but the ff one. Neither option makes any sense, and it's particularly troublesome in a book with multiple fiefs and fieflords and a lot of discussion thereof.
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Best of the Year
These are my top five books of the year, with first lines:
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
    When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.
  • Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley.
    The worst part of having it all is having to deal with it all - the good, the bad, and the just plain weird.
  • Valor's Trial by Tanya Huff.
    "Gunnery Sargeant Kerr! Good to have you back!"
  • Deviations: Bondage by Chris Owen and Jodi Payne.
    Noah didn't have much in the way of souvenirs from his vacation in Paris.
  • Rapture Ready! by Daniel Radosh.
    An affable middle-aged man in a bargain-basement pirate costume - striped pantaloons and puffy shirt, vinyl boots and plastic sword - is going to save your immortal soul.
All of the Year
A couple of years ago, I decided that I would keep a list of all the books I read. It would be, I thought, interesting to see how much, and what, I actually read. So when I read a book, I wrote it down in my writing binder. I liked the whole project so much that I've been doing it again each year.

What's here:
  • Books I read in 2008.

  • Authors of the books.

  • Dates I read the books.

  • Short notes about each book.

  • Approximately how many times I've read the book.
What's not here:
  • Magazine and newspaper articles I read, either for work or for fun.

  • Web-published fiction I read.

  • Short stories and individual chapters I read to remind myself of what the book was about.
This year, I read 50 books. For those of you playing along at home, that's 43 fewer than last year. 42 of those, or 84%, are books I read for the first time. 7 of those were written by a PoC author; 36 were written by a female author or coauthor. Of the 30 books for which I counted protagonists, 7 had a PoC protagonist; 27 had a female protagonist.

List )
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I don't know how interesting other people's writing processes actually are if you're not them, so this might be one of those entries that's less for you to read and more for me to write. This does contain lots of spoilers for "Fighting For," so if you have any interest in the story, you should go read it before you read this. If you're not interested in the story, but are interested in the intersection of sci fi and feminist thought, you might still find the section on gender politics interesting.

Writing Without a Plot: Origins and Story Arc )

Sex Scenes That Don't Obey )

Gender Politics )

Credit Where Credit Is Due: Influences )

Things I Did That You Might Not Have Noticed )

Things I Did That I Might Not Have Noticed

One of the things I love about having other people read something I wrote is when they notice things I didn't even know I was doing. If you read "Fighting For," I'd love to know what you noticed in it that I didn't know I was doing.
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A year or more ago, I stumbled onto Daniel Radosh's blog, probably because of his New Yorker Anti-Caption Contest. He also frequently posts on such things as media self-censorship, celebrity deaths, and Christian teen girl pop groups. I've been thinking about reading his book for a while, and I finally got a copy via interlibrary loan. The book is Rapture Ready! Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture, and I couldn't put it down.

I found the music chapters to be the strongest, but I'm not sure how much of that is the fact that he writes about Christian music a lot and how much of it is that the last six months have been a time of music for me. The second strongest parts of the book that deal with Christian books. It was in that section that I was reminded of "Why do Heathens Make the Best Christian Films?" by Thom Parham, and then I realized that I'd gotten to that article via one of Radosh's blog posts.

Radosh eventually concludes, which parts of his book made me think, which means he successfully took us there, "Personally, I'm not sure how successful it really is in leading people to Christ, but I can attest that it's a very successful method for generating positive feelings about Christians" - an interesting contrast to Gandhi's "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

The most moving portraits he draws of people are people who are Christians trying to be like Christ. I found Aaron Weiss, the frontman of Christian band mewithoutYou, particularly compelling: "That's why more than anything else, I come back to God being merciful, and I say, 'Thank you, that I don't have to be perfect.' I don't have to figure everything out. I can strive to be perfect, and insomuch as I fall short, I just walk humbly and say, 'I'm sorry, please forgive me, please guide me to a better place.'" "Deep down I think we all have this suspicion that really none of this makes sense. I mean, honestly, come on! Nothing matters! There's no God. But there's also this small point of hope or of faith or of purpose or meaning - I guess love is the best way for me to put it. It transcends any of the material or scientific or philosophical doubts about our existence, but those doubts seem so much larger, so we have to keep them confined. My guess is, to actually open the Bible and read what it says is to force yourself to come face-to-face with those doubts. Like: Do I really believe this? It's easier to just show up once a week at a building and have somebody tell you what you need to hear." Love: yes. That's what matters. I'm all for that. I'm all for love, all for living a life of love.

In another chapter, Radosh talks about meeting the guy who plays Bibleman: "R.T. asked if he could pray for me, which didn't surprise me. And then he prayed that my book would help Christians see some hard truths about themselves, even if it hurt. Which I hadn't expected at all."

I found the book as a whole entertaining, well-written, and thought-provoking. If I'd written this entry as I read, I'd be able to recreate some of that thought for you. As it is, I can't seem to corral my thoughts very well. So instead, let me just pull out four bits I found interesting.

First, he includes the Jonas Brothers under the category of Contemporary Christian Music, which I found interesting. I've been listening to them for the last couple of weeks, and I would never pick their music out as Christian, even though I know they themselves are evangelical Christians - and I'm usually pretty good at sniffing out the evangelical origins of things.

Secondly, in the chapter on Christian rave, or the preferred term of "DJ-led worship," he visits an electronic dance music (EDM) event: "But the performers pressed on, and it occurred to me that if they were proselytizing for anything it was EDM - trying to win over Fall Out Boy fans to the one true faith."

Thirdly, the book also has a connecting website Get Rapture Ready! where Radosh has media of much of the things he talks about in the book. Interestingly, I found the actual media far less compelling than Radosh's discussions and descriptions. (Also, I found it fascinating that he includes a link to the video for Fall Out Boy's "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race" in the associated media for the rave chapter.)

Fourthly, he talks about the way a lot of Christian pop culture creators can get away with less than great art because just the fact that it's Christian is going to be enough for much of the audience, even if it's not very good. But what Radosh misses is that this only makes Christians like other groups. How many times have I had someone tell me a movie is good only to watch it and grumble, yet again, "Having gay and lesbian characters doesn't necessarily make a movie worth watching"?

If you're reading my LJ, you're probably interested in pop culture, and I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in pop culture - or evangelical Christianity in the US, or even just good writing.
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I have one more book and part of a second book to rec for you today.

First up is Bound By Deception by Ava March. Honestly, I have no memory of buying this book, so I think it must have been something someone else sent me a copy of. Anyway, Oliver is in love with his friend Lord Vincent Prescot and contrives to take the place of Vincent's usual prostitute on his monthly outing to a brothel. This takes place in London in 1822, so you can imagine the circumstances. The important part for this post is that the sex they have is nicely kinky, and there's a hot masturbation with a dildo scene later.

My other rec for this post is only a rec for part of a book. The book is Love Bites, an anthology of threesome short stories with bites or hickeys, edited by S.A. Clements. Like any anthology, the quality is variable. Some of the stories are hot, others not so much. There were a couple of other stories I liked, but my favorite was "CatsEye" by C.C. Bridges. First of all, it's m/m/f threesome kink. But more importantly, the person who brought it to my attention did so because of who the threesome is: we're pretty sure it started life as a Jared/Jensen/Sandy AU, and all she did was change the names to Cooper, Jason, and Lexi. The plot is that Cooper's in love with Jason who invites him out to a club. He gets there to find out that Cooper is Lexi's puppy, and then he becomes their kitten. Trust me when I tell you it's hot. There are apparently a couple of other Jason/Cooper/Lexi stories in other anthologies, but I have yet to read them.
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Today's bonus book rec is J.L. Langley's My Fair Captain. This is a Regency novel in space, complete with stifling social rules, intrigue, and, of course, true love. It's awesome. Nate and Aiden's relationship also has a tinge of kink to it. Nate is very much always in control, and there's a very hot spanking scene.
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Saturday's bonus recs will be books. Yes, this means you'll have to go buy/borrow/otherwise acquire them to read them, but I promise they're worth it.

Let's start with an obvious set: the Deviations series by Chris Owen and Jodi Payne. There are four books (so far?). In order: Deviations: Submission, Deviations: Domination, Deviations: Discipline, and Deviations: Bondage. Our main characters are Noah and Tobias, who meet one night when Tobias heads to the club for his birthday and his good friend/club owner Bradford suggests he might like to play with Noah. As in all such stories, they start playing regularly, write up a contract, fall in love, write a new contract spoilers. ) Also as in all such stories, you'll have to suspend a bit of disbelief, but if you ever read BDSM club AUs, you'll have no problem with it.

Highlights for me include use of a Saint Andrew's Cross, the previously mentioned scene where Tobias talks Noah down into subspace, Tobias staging an outdoors scene with an audience, a fair amount of other roleplaying, and spoilers for the last book. )

Chris Owen is a slasher, and her fan fic is on the same domain as her pro site. I'd read some of it before I read her books, but none of it stands out for me. I'd love to know if Jodi Payne is a slasher, and if so who, because I'd love to check out her fic too.
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I've put up my list of books I read in 2008. Every year, I think I should start doing this list on the computer so I don't have to then spend time typing it up at the end of the year, but there's something so satisfying about writing each book down in my notebook. I did at least type it up into Excel this year so I could just mail merge into the html code.

I had a really hard time narrowing down the best books of the year. Instead of a top five in alphabetical order by author, this year, I have one that was the absolute best book of the year and the six other best books I read in alphabetical order by author.

The Best Book
The best book I read all year, as I've already mentioned was My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park by Steve Kluger.

The Other Best Books of 2008
  • Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway.
    The day I broke up with my boyfriend Evan was the day he wrote the song.
  • Belong to Me by Marisa De Los Santos.
    My fall from suburban grace, or, more accurately, my failure to achieve the merest molehill of suburban grace from which to fall, began with a dinner party and a perfectly innocent, modestly clever, and only faintly quirky remark about Armand Assante.
  • Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer.
    Almost everyone in Utah County has heard of the Lafferty boys.
  • My Fair Captain by J.L. Langley.
    A dried, crumpled leaf blew across the toe of his shiny black boot as he lifted his right foot.
  • Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.
    "Four-ball, side pocket."
  • Impossible by Nancy Werlin.
    On the evening of Lucy Scarborough's seventh birthday, after the biggest party the neighborhood had seen since, well, Lucy's sixth birthday, Lucy got one last unexpected gift.
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Note: I contemplated putting this behind an lj-cut for those of you reading at work. But then I thought about all of the other things I've said without putting them behind an lj-cut and didn't (and, quite frankly, if I were putting the entry behind a cut, the title should really go there too). If you regularly read at work and I'm causing trouble for you, let me know and I'll be a bit more liberal with the lj-cuts. Also, if you're reading this because we used to work together or you're a member of my family and I told you about my blog, then, uh, this might not be the entry you want to start with.

There are a lot of great things about my yoga class, but my absolute favorite part is yoga nidra (deep relaxation). We lie down in savasana, flat on our backs, arms and legs away from our bodies. When it's anything less than full summer, I pull on my socks and drape my blanket over me to keep me warm. Our teacher tells us that she's there and it's safe to relax. Then she guides us through tensing and relaxing each part of our bodies, then bringing our mind to each part and suggesting more relaxation, then relaxing our mind, then our breath (or possibly breath then mind; I'm usually under by that point), and then everything is quiet for about four minutes. At the end of the four minutes, she brings us back out by having us bring our attention to our breath, to our mind (or possibly mind then breath; the opposite of before), to our bodies, and finally back to the room.

A couple of months ago, I was having trouble with yoga nidra. I just couldn't let go into it. So I started giving myself a visual to work towards: "Lindsey looks gone, just...gone," which is from [livejournal.com profile] idyll's "The Hollow," a really hot Gunn/Lindsey BDSM hooker AU. In context:
"Shit, Lindsey," Gunn chokes, and Lindsey's head lifts, just enough so that Gunn can see his eyes. "Shit," he says again, because Lindsey looks gone, just...gone and usually Gunn can only get him to look like that after an hour of working him hard.
The image worked for me, and I could let myself go into that idea of being gone, just...gone, and after a while, yoga nidra was easy again, and I didn't need to work toward it.

A while after I'd settled back into my regular ease with yoga nidra, I read Deviations: Domination by Chris Owen and Jodi Payne (you may remember when I read the first one). In chapter 4, Tobias puts Noah in a sling, blindfolds and gags him, reassures him he'll still be there, and talks at him and touches him until he's deep inside himself, then just watches, moving the flogger to make sure there's sound to ground Noah, and then brings Noah back up with increasingly firmer touches and finally his voice.

***

When I was in college, one of my friends was in a newly-formed a cappella group which performed in a concert with a number of other a cappella groups who were not the big-name a cappella groups on campus. (Question for those of you who went to college elsewhere in the country: are college a cappella groups big all over, or is it mainly an East Coast thing?) One of the other groups was a Christian group. I don't remember what song it was, but one of their songs made me think: being a Christian (at least from the general evangelical perspective) is like being a sub; the idea in both cases is to give control of yourself over to someone else, whether that someone is Jesus or a dom. At the time, I thought it was a good perspective on why both Christianity and BDSM fascinated me without being anything I wanted to do: I'm a control freak, and the idea of giving up that control to someone else freaks me out.

At WisCon last year (2007), one woman in the BDSM panel mentioned, almost as an aside, that she likes to use Donne's "Batter my heart" (which I posted here) as a morning-after poem. I really, really, really wanted to ask the panel attendees about the connection between Christianity ("Batter my heart" is addressed, after all, to "three-person'd God") and BDSM, but I just wasn't comfortable enough. This entry is what I've been thinking about that sent me looking for both the text of "Batter my heart" and commentary thereon. Rambuss is the only one who even came close to what I wanted out of it. Most of the commentary Rambuss cites, as well as what he has to say, points out that the poet is asking to be ravished by God ("a trinitarian gang bang," Rambuss calls it), but I haven't been able to google up much of anything relating it to the power exchange of BDSM (at least nothing more than a passing remark).

***

I told [livejournal.com profile] norwich36 that I was into the sinking into subspace thing, and she sent me to "A Nice Friendly Game," which didn't work for me at all. My instinctive reaction was, "But he says no!" And I don't want people to say no. Because it's the consent that gets to me, the saying yes, the surrender.

The other thing that doesn't work for me is that Clark doesn't get it. He doesn't know what's going on. (You could make an interesting case for the story having some issues of questionable consent.) And maybe this is what I'm trying to get to here. What I think I'm getting at is the intent. I like intentional sinking in, where everyone knows (or is learning) what's going on. It's the soul reaching for God, not out or up, but in. "Inner peace is with us always," we say in our closing meditation in yoga, and it's hard to remember. Maybe what I'm after when I look for those sinking into subspace moments in a story is anything that provides that reminder.

***

The bit I've been fretting about with this entry is this, which I put after the paragraph about a cappella groups, but it breaks the flow, and I'm not sure I want it out there for the world, and I can't bear to leave it out: [Except. Except that I love yoga nidra. Except that one of the most relaxing things about going to [livejournal.com profile] allegram and [livejournal.com profile] dedalvs's wedding was that I wasn't really responsible for anything for the whole weekend - I didn't even have transportation of my own and so someone else always made sure I could get to where I needed to be. Except that what I find so hot about BDSM fic is the consent, the giving over of control.] I get that part of this (and my extremely detailed fantasy life where I'm a writer and my partner works) is that I'm trying to figure out what to do with my life and not having a job is scary and part of me wants someone to come along and make everything okay because being an adult is hard. Part of it, though, is that I always say that I'm a control freak and that while I've gotten much, much better about not trying to control other people, I still need to be in control of myself. And maybe what this is is my inner voice trying to tell me that I'm wrong about that, that if I just let go and surrender to God or the universe or the Tao or whatever you want to call it, and let it take care of me, then everything will be okay. The universe works exactly as it should.

Elizabeth Gilbert talked to her inner voice, and it said, "YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW STRONG MY LOVE IS!!!!!!!!!!!!" I wonder what my inner voice will tell me if I can let go and listen to it.
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Last week I read Steve Kluger's My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park, and if there's any justice in the world, this is only one of many reviews of it to play off the "excellent" in the title for the review headline. With five and a half months to go, I'm already prepared to say that My Most Excellent Year is one of the best books of 2008. I'm even willing to go out on a limb and say that it's one of the best books of the decade.

Spoiler-ish Review )

Overall, I highly recommend the book. For the four of you for whom the "highly recommended" is upgraded to an "absolutely must read" ([livejournal.com profile] thefuturenow, [livejournal.com profile] schuyler, and [livejournal.com profile] j_crew_guy and [livejournal.com profile] elekdragon), copies of the book should be arriving in/on your doorstep/mailbox/desk shortly, if they haven't already. The rest of you should beg, borrow, or buy a copy from your local friends, library, or book store.
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I gave in to Torquere Books' deal and bought two books: Among the Living: A PsyCop Novel by Jordan Castillo Price (see? I said I was going to buy her book!) and Deviations: Submission by Chris Owen and Jodi Payne.

The good: I enjoyed both of them. The bad: I really want to buy the next book in each of the series. (I did make it all the way through four weeks of my exercise chart, albeit with what I consider a little bit of cheating due to the smoke, so I might talk myself into buying them as a reward for that. Anyone want to help me with the self-justification?)

Reviews, mostly spoiler-free, possibly NSFW, depending on how close your boss is to your monitor. )
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As usual, I've put my list of what I read this year.

Below are the best books I read this year, with first lines and in alphabetical order by author's last name. I couldn't quite narrow it down to five, so it's six again this year (although one of those is a trilogy, so you could count it as eight).

  • Tam Lin by Pamela Dean.
    The year Janet started at Blackstock College, the Office of Residential Life had spent the summer removing from all the dormitories the old wooden bookcases that, once filled with books, fell over unless wedged.
  • Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. [I sadly cannot find the actual first sentence for this (from the introduction), but only the first sentence from the first section, which isn't what I want to include here.]
  • The Tin Star by J.L. Langley. [I don't have a first sentence for this either.]
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scot Lynch. [No first sentence for this one either.]
  • Julie and Julia : 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell.
    As far as I know, the only evidence supporting the theory that Julia Child first made Potage Parmentier during a bad bout of ennui is her own recipe for it.
  • The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner.
    I don't know how long I had been in the king's prison.

    and

    He was asleep, but woke at the sound of the key turning in the lock.

    and

    Costis sat in his room.
rsadelle: (Default)
I've had the line "If you mean you and Thomas, it's been three years." (417) running through my head for a bit. On Sunday night, I pulled Pamela Dean's Tam Lin off my shelf, thinking that I've read it so many times before that it would be a quick read. I was barely two sentences into the first paragraph -
The year Janet started at Blackstock College, the Office of Residential Life had spent the summer removing from all the dormitories the old wooden bookcases that, once filled with books, fell over unless wedged. Chase and Phillips's A New Introduction to Greek was the favorite instrument for wedging; majors in the Classics used the remedial math textbook, but this caused the cases to develop a slight backward tilt, so that doughnuts, pens, student identification cards, or concert tickets placed on top of them slid with indistinguishable slowness backward and eventually vanished dustily behind.
- when that bit of self-knowledge jumped out at me from around the corner. [livejournal.com profile] boofuu, upon preempting me by donating a copy of Tam Lin to the Di-Phi library when she graduated (she'd read it because I'd given it to someone else for Christmas; probably [livejournal.com profile] ee970, but possibly [livejournal.com profile] archivecats), described it as "the way you think college should be but isn't." She's absolutely right. Here's where the self-knowledge comes in: I chose to read this book now because I want to learn something, and this is the book that had the greatest influence over my college experience. Because of it, I looked only at schools that had a Classics department. I'd always thought that it planted in my head the idea of taking Greek, but I didn't settle on it until we read The Bacchae in one of the Classics classes I took. But on Monday I came to page 238, and discovered that even that comes from Pamela Dean: "Janet became aware, in the fourth week of the term, that she had decided to take Greek 1 next term, if somebody decent was teaching it. She pinned the decision to their reading of Euripides' The Bacchae." I had to put the book down for a moment and integrate that bit of knowledge.

My college education is not the only thing this book influenced:
"I cut my hair off," said Susan. "It made me feel like somebody else. It was down to my knees. I estimate I won't be the girl who was heartbroken again for another two years." (205)
I had grown my hair out from the time I was six, and sometime in high school, because of Susan's solution to a broken heart, I decided that I was going to cut it short when I went away to college. On the Friday of my first week at Carolina, I walked down Franklin Street until I found a cheap hair salon, and got my hair cut. Twice in the last year when I've been desperate for a change but haven't had a way to make the change I really want, I've gotten my hair cut in a different style.

In the hour and forty-five minutes I had to read before bed on Sunday, I made it only 138 pages into the book, which is a lot slower than my usual rereading pace. In addition to forgetting how much of an influence the book had over my life, I'd forgotten what a rapturous experience reading it is. I wanted to savor every word, every sentence, every paragraph. There aren't a lot of books I feel that way about. Usually, it's just the story I want. In this, it's the writing too.
rsadelle: (Default)
Femslash: The Other Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name actually made it onto the main track this year. On the one hand, that's good. On the other hand, I'm fairly sure it only made it because there weren't very many panels suggested.

As usual, attendees were enthusiastic and excited to talk about girls, and as soon as I very loudly announced that the femslash panel was starting, the folks from the previous panel skedaddled.

As promised, I took home the flip chart paper we used (complete with alternating colors - a good charting habit) to type up. ([livejournal.com profile] typhoidk says, "That's what we like about you. We don't have to take notes.") I also remember some of the other things I and other people mentioned. If you recced/talked about something I neither wrote down nor remembered, please feel free to comment with whatever it was!

From the flip chart paper:
  • Some kind of Valentine's Day femslash challenge on LJ. I think it was probably the femslash_today v-day porn battle (Part 1, Part 2).
  • [livejournal.com profile] femslash_today for multi-fandom listings of fic and [livejournal.com profile] girls_today for HP fic listings.
  • [livejournal.com profile] sg_femslash for Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis femslash.
  • [livejournal.com profile] girls60 for Studio 60 femslash.
  • Passion and Perfection, a multi-fandom femslash archive. (One I'd never even heard of. Ooooh. D.E.B.S. fic. I wonder if it's any good...)
  • [livejournal.com profile] stargateficrec for, uh, Stargate fic recs.
  • Yuletide, a rare (for large values of rare) fandom challenge thing. Apparently there's Fried Green Tomatoes femslash that's good, although I think I remember someone saying it's not explicitly sexual.
  • [livejournal.com profile] crack_van for multifandom recs. (People mentioned it in this panel, so it must have some femslash recs too.)
  • Circlet Press, which someone mentioned has good variations of erotica.
  • "Are You Sweet On Your Sister," a Kara/Vala fic that [livejournal.com profile] hederahelix posted a fic search for during the panel.

Other Things I Mentioned
  • Substitute For Love by Karin Kallmaker, which I brought up as an example of bad lesbian romance novels. You can read more of my thoughts on this here. (Wow. That was over four years ago, and I'm still mad about it.)
  • Hunter's Way by Gerri Hill, which was an example of a better lesbian romance novel despite the fact that they always eat cheeseburgers and never eat the birthday cake. (And Molly caught that they misstate the number of victims in one place.)
  • The Woods, which is mostly terrible despite the presence of Patricia Clarkson. (Why, Patricia, why? You're so much better than this movie.) We don't recommend the movie, but it does have a very nice Heather (Agnes Bruckner)/Marcy (Lauren Birkell) falling in love (although they never explicitly say that's what's going on) montage set to Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me." And you know how I like a good montage.
  • Bandidas, which you may be tempted to watch because it's Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek robbing banks. Don't be taken in by that. It's bad, and they're cast against type (Penelope is the populist peasant girl and Salma is the European-educated Don's daughter) to the movie's detriment.
  • "Parts" by [livejournal.com profile] reremouse, the Spike and Xander both get turned into girls and have sex story that's the only femslash I've read in a long time.
  • Rode Hard, Put Away Wet: Lesbian Cowboy Erotica - the lesbian cowboy erotica collection I mentioned working my way through. (I can't believe no one else had even heard of it.)

Other Things Other People Mentioned
  • Sarah Waters novels. I think we specifically mentioned Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet.
  • Um... You all will have to fill in here. I know there was some BSG and SGA talk I didn't understand, but I don't remember what else people said.
rsadelle: (Default)
I keep meaning to write something about the movies I've seen so far this year (Children of Men, Smokin' Aces, The Queen [which may yet get its own entry about how the Royals were my first fandom], Pan's Labyrinth, and Breach), the awesome concert I went to (The Chieftains; you should also go if their tour is coming anywhere near you), and the completely frivolous book I totally want (The Science of Sexy by Bradley Bayou), but I don't think I'm going to get to it. Instead, I bring you the important parts of my Escapade 2007 experience.

Flavor Flav is much shorter in person
Flavor Flav was on the same plane from Sacramento to Burbank as [livejournal.com profile] amatia and me. As the section heading says, he's much shorter in person. He also actually wears the clock. It looks like one of those plastic kitchen clocks you can buy at Target for two dollars, and it's hanging from a gold chain amongst other bling. I have no idea what he was doing in Sacramento.

Non-famous people we encountered
When we went out for milkshakes on Sunday afternoon, we went to a small coffee shop which was mostly empty. The only people in there were the barista and a guy with his dog at one of the tables. Molly immediately chatted up the dog. I had this whole thing in my head about how the guy and the barista were in love and he was just hanging out with her while she was at work. And then she asked him for a dollar so she could make the tip jar an even 20, and he said something about having to tip his girlfriend. It was very cute.

Fangirl or Scientist? You decide.
Like last year, there was a science conference ending as we arrived at the hotel. Fangirl or Scientist is a pretty easy game to play. There were only two people we saw who could be either. We also easily spotted [livejournal.com profile] norwich36 and [livejournal.com profile] paraviondeux in the airport, and not just because they were near the rental car counters where we had agreed to meet.

Hot Girl's identity revealed (but not to you)
You may remember from last year's con report that we were trying to identify a woman we referred to only as Hot Girl. This year, we discovered who Hot Girl is. And, no, I'm not going to tell you. (She seemed vaguely alarmed when I felt compelled to confess that we'd referred to her as Hot Girl.)

I will, however, tell you two more things:

1. I sent Molly an email last year speculating that [Hot Girl's LJ username] might be Hot Girl, which goes to show you that my instincts are good.

2. We had talked early in the weekend with other slashers about how we wanted to find out who Hot Girl was. Later in the weekend, we had this discussion with one of them:

Other Slasher: [Hot Girl's name] is the hot girl you were talking about, right?
Us: Yes.
Other Slasher: I knew exactly who you were talking about. I just didn't know her name.

Panels
Yes, I attended panels. More than I expected, actually.

Panels I led
The femslash panel gets its own post with transcribed flip chart notes.

But You're A Slash Fan! started out with a large number of people raising their hands in answer to "Who likes SGA but just can't see the McShep?" We had a little bit of interesting discussion about whether or not it's socially acceptable in fannish circles to be a slash fan and a het fan. And then it somehow devolved into a discussion of newspaper content in the 19th century. I then suggested that slashers are the Basques in Spain while het fans are the Basques in France. I'm not sure that made sense to everyone.

Panels I attended
Quest for *Guh* - Writing Powerful Sex Scenes was worth attending. It almost hit my limit for amount of time to sit still and listen, but it was good, despite the fact that one of the attendees had a tendency to dominate the discussion and two others were a bit overheated. The handout is great, and available online. There was something Aristide/Mairead said that was particularly good, and now I can't remember what it was. Perhaps I should have taken more useful notes over the weekend.

Is It A Crowd - Or An Orgy? was about how the ensemble show has replaced the buddy show as a staple of TV. Someone mentioned Martin/Danny (Without a Trace), and I said, "dannyandmartin.com," and people just laughed at me. Hmpf! I also tried to bring up comedies, and no one wanted to talk about that. What was most interesting to me was what we didn't talk about: Why ensemble shows have replaced the buddy show. I think there's something there about how ensemble shows are a way to put women on TV without alienating audiences who want (or who content producers/marketers think want) to watch men on TV. The other most interesting thing was the woman across the room with the drop spindle; I could not stop watching her. (I think we stayed all the way through this one, but it's possible that it actually belongs on the list below.)

I'd never been to [livejournal.com profile] minotaurs' Sex Tips for Slash Writers panel, so this year I went. (I liked it that they put both sex panels on the same day.) Apparently the prostate feels like the tip of your nose. I found the whole panel highly entertaining and informative.

Panels I started to attend
As you may remember from years past, Molly and I have a habit of ducking out of panels that take a sour turn.

I really liked the idea of Cops, Spies, and Secret Agents. The reality, not so much. One of the moderators was disorganized, and the other one admitted straight up that they'd suggested this panel as a way to shoehorn a Pros panel into the schedule in case the actual Pros panel didn't make it. I'd never seen most of the things they brought up as examples, so I left early.

We went to the Mystical Bonds panel, but then it wasn't as interesting as advertised, so we left.

We intended to go to the Fueling The Fires of Genderfuckery panel, but we were hungry and based on the panel leader and the people gathering, it looked like it was likely to be all HP, so we went to lunch instead.

We also intended to go to Writing Race and Alien Characters, but it didn't sound very interesting at the beginning and I was restless, so we went to have milkshakes instead.

The Party and other social things
Many people we're usually excited to see weren't there this year ([livejournal.com profile] j_crew_guy and [livejournal.com profile] elekdragon, [livejournal.com profile] dine and [livejournal.com profile] sorchar, [livejournal.com profile] meaganola, [livejournal.com profile] mousewrites). I also noticed that there weren't as many men there this year, and [livejournal.com profile] typhoidk observed that there weren't as many folks who aren't white.

All was not lost, however. We spent some quality time hanging out with [livejournal.com profile] hederahelix and crew ([livejournal.com profile] typhoidk, [livejournal.com profile] reccea, and [livejournal.com profile] kuwsi_dilla), and even stuck out way more of the party than we usually do (primarily because we were at a table with those folks). I also met another slasher from my town, so we're talking about starting up some kind of fannish gathering here.

We went to He-He after we left the party, and stuck out two rounds before I reached my limit of spending time with other people. That was, however, the only time the whole weekend that I was fed up with other people. Molly and I decided that having only the two of us in our room worked really well.

Mal and other acquisitions
In addition to the aforementioned milkshakes, we had a lot of good food. In fact, the only bad food we ate all weekend was in airports. If you're ever in Ventura, I highly recommend Full of Beans (coffee shop with excellent muffins and yummy milkshakes), Cafe Bariloche (South American food), and Nature's Grill (healthy and yummy, with excellent smoothies).

For the past couple of years, the con has given away 4x6 photos with the name badges. This year, I got someone I didn't recognize (from Supernatural, I think). Because I didn't even know who it was, I was willing to trade for just about anything. Someone wandered by and traded me for Rodney (from SGA). I was then able to trade Rodney to Molly for the Mal picture she got.

I then bought way more Mal in the dealers room: a Serenity crew photo (8x10), a Firefly cast as themselves photo (8x10), a different Firefly cast as themselves photo (8x10), a racier variation on one of the Firefly cast as themselves photos (4x6), a hot Mal photo (4x6), a photo of Mal and Jayne with guns (4x6) (I'm not a Mal/Jayne person at all, which is a subject for another day, but it's a great photo) (4x6), and a Serenity postcard that's the movie logo. The 8x10s are going over my bed (possibly with green matting or frames) and the postcard is going in my office at work (in an orangish wood frame). I put the hot Mal 4x6 and the Mal and Jayne 4x6 on the fridge, but I have no idea what to do with the other 4x6s.

Molly's friend Kellie Lynch (like the namedropping?) was in the dealers room with a booth for her company, Iris Print (possibly not work safe). Molly gave me A Strong and Sudden Thaw for Christmas, and I loved it, and I told Amazon that, so Amazon started reccing me the other Iris Print titles. I'd been thinking about buying Connections, but I wanted to look at it first. This gave me the perfect opportunity, and the book was my only non-Mal dealers' room purchase.

We pulled two items for Sky off the swap table, and they'll be in the mail soon (since I didn't do it this morning). I also got two items from the swap table for myself: a hugely long King Arthur promo poster I want to put over my bookshelves (preferably in a red frame, but I'm never going to find something the right size [21x50]), and a tape labeled "Twitch City #1."

Fandoms
Torchwood is apparently the hot new fandom, and Life on Mars also had some buzz. There was also lots of talk all weekend about SGA and Supernatural, and BSG amongst the people I was hanging out with. I spent a large portion of the weekend and at least half of the two panels I led having no idea what people were talking about. I'd never even heard of Torchwood or Life on Mars before they started showing up in proposed panel descriptions, and I've never seen SGA, BSG, or Supernatural. I kept looking at pictures in the dealers room and saying, "I don't know who this is." I did manage to pick up that the guys in Supernatural are Sam and Dean, that one of the actors is named Jenson Ackles (And it's entirely possible that someone will appear to tell me I've gotten the name wrong. I could look it up, but that feels like cheating in this context.), and that one of the actors is very, very tall while the other is not.

Yay new friends!
I've gone on a post-Escapade friending spree (when you friend one person at a time after months of contemplation, four people counts as a spree), never mind the fact that half the people I friended didn't even go to Escapade and half of those half wouldn't be interested in Escapade and may, in fact, mock me for attending.

That's all folks!
At this point, I don't think I'm going back to Escapade next year. Admittedly, I did have a lot of fun: I got to spend a whole week with Molly, had some fun times with the people mentioned in the social life section above, got to be my fannish self unrestricted and unmocked, attended some good panels, and acquired fannish items. Having said that, I don't think Escapade is my crowd anymore. A lot of the people I would usually hang out with weren't there, I was put off by how late and disorganized the panel scheduling was, there's something of a "you kids and your internet" feel about the con, I'm not particularly fannish about anything specific these days, and I sometimes *gasp* actually like the canon het relationships on a show.

I am planning to go to BASCon this year since I rolled over my membership last year (or at least I sent them a letter saying I wanted to; no one ever sent me a confirmation), and Molly and I are seriously thinking about going to WisCon in May, so you may yet see me at a con. And, of course, if you're the fannish sort and you're in the Chico area, I'm always happy for some fannish fun. (I got horrified looks and possibly some sympathy when I explained to a table full of fangirls that the only friends I actually spend time with on a regular basis are not just men, but straight men.)

Recs
Femslash recs are in the femslash panel post.

I love The Class, and I kept trying to rec it to people, without much success. I really like the het relationships. There's a canonically gay character who hangs out with one of the straight men, especially when his partner's out of town. Palmer (played by Jaime King) hits on one of the other women. It's completely compelling, and one of my can't miss shows. (I also started watching partway through the season, so you don't have to watch from the beginning to get it.)

I also recced Keri Arthur's Riley Jenson novels to, uh, someone. I used to not like werewolf or vampire novels, but now I read a lot more of them, and I really like this series. (I finished the book I was reading [Princess Academy] this morning and promptly went to Barnes and Noble for Tempting Evil, which came out this week.) I think the reason I was reccing them is that there's a whole lot of really hot sex. The downside to this is that I can't take the books to work. But I don't really mind reading a whole book over the weekend.

I again recced moonwhip's "Childish Things," a lovely Mal/Kaylee story. I think I only mentioned it to Molly.

Things I forgot
I'm sure there are some (even with all the things I've remembered to include over the last five days that I've been working on this), but as I've forgotten them, I don't know what they are. I do know Molly and I had a discussion about something (possibly a Vin Diesel movie) and she said there might be some at Yuletide. Not knowing what it was, I can't really go looking for it.

And now that I've posted this, I can meet the boys for lunch, and then go read other people's con reports.

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Ruth Sadelle Alderson

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