Mind Fuck - Manna Francis The Monk - Christopher MacLachlan, Matthew Gregory Lewis Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray & What It Means for Modern Relationships - Christopher Ryan, Cacilda Jethá Japanese Tales (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library) - Royall  Tyler The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein Starship Troopers - Robert A. Heinlein

Wednesday Reading

What did you recently finish reading?

I finished reading Mind Fuck by Manna Francis some time ago. It dragged a lot by the end -- not enough sex and too much focus on the boring investigation in my opinion -- but I still enjoyed it. I am considering if I want to get involved with the sequels. There are seven books out so far and they all sound promising, especially in terms of how they explore the relationship between the two protagonists -- Toreth and Warick. The relationship is set up nicely in the first book (remember all the awesome BDSM sex?) but hardly taken anywhere meaningful. Also, I am really interested in the overarching conflict that's bubbling up between Toreth and The Administration but I am not sure I am patient enough to see it through 7 books, especially if there is going to be a ton of focus on crime/investigations like there was in the first book. Not that Manna Francis didn't handle the crime aspect nicely (actually, the plotting was really clever at times) but it's not something that personally appeals to me. So basically, I just want good world-building and sex without any sleuthing. I am in the wrong series, I know. 


What are you currently reading?

I am still reading Pantheon Collection of Japanese Tales and Sex at Dawn. I WILL NEVER FINISH READING THEM. And this is why I don't start on non-fiction books. In my defense, I did finally get through the introduction section of the Pantheon Collection and started reading the actual tales, and MAN, THEY ARE TRIPPY. Some of the are really preachy and remind me of Russian басни, others are really silly and sexual (like there is this paragraph long one about a magistrate who took out his penis in the palace) and some are really cool (like the one about a tree that grew over a whole province and the people had to chop it down because it was blocking the sun and ruining crops). 

I also made good progress on Sex at Dawn and foresee finishing it within a reasonable period of time (which could be the next year, but whatever). A quote from it that I really like:

"Societies in which women have lots of autonomy and authority tend to be decidedly male-friendly, relaxed, tolerant, and plenty sexy. Got that, fellas? If you're unhappy at the amount of sexual opportunity in your life, don't blame the women. Instead, make sure they have equal access to power, wealth and status. Then watch what happens." 

What do you think you'll read next?

The Monk came in today and it's that nice Penguin Classics edition so I can't wait to start on it. I am also thinking I need to read the two Heinlein books I shamelessly stole from BF many a moon ago and still haven't touched. 

Legendary Detective at the World's End - Kaye Wagner Japanese Tales (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library) - Royall  Tyler The Monk - Christopher MacLachlan, Matthew Gregory Lewis

Wednesday Reading


What did you recently finish reading?

Nothing ;P

What are you currently reading?

I am still reading Mind Fuck and Sex at Dawn, except I also started reading two other books.

One is the Pantheon Collection of Japanese Tales, which has an excellent 50 page intro that goes over the historical context for Japanese mythology. It is endlessly informative and I am surprised by how much I already know just from various second-hand exposure to Japanese culture, and how much I don't know too. For example, I am somewhat familiar with Heian aristocracy and this one custom still amuses me -- "both men and women seem to have wept freely and often in response to emotion. Courtship always involved tears. When you wept you dried your eyes with your sleeves, and if your grief was deep enough your sleeves got pretty wet. A man with conspicuously dry sleeves might appear insincere." I also know that women in that time period stayed hidden behind curtains during all encounters with men, but I didn't realize just how far it went. "Courtship took place largely in the dark" and "tendency to avoid face-to-face contact also encouraged conversation conducted not directly but through servants", so much so that "with so many servants, people were seldom, if ever alone in our sense of the word" and "no one of the slightest standing went anywhere alone", not even lowly monks. I am nowhere near the actual fairy tales portion of the book, but I am looking forward to it.

Second book I started is Be Careful What You Wish For, which is a het erotica/romance novella written by a fellow f-lister. Het erotica! I know. I don't think I ever read het erotica in my life? No, seriously. This is such an eye-opening experience. Since I am not well-versed in the erotica genre at all, I am probably not a good authority to comment but I am rather enjoying it. It has all the charm and wit of the author's usual writing style and it's face-paced and sexy. However, it still hasn't turned me into het erotica fan, and if good writing can't do that, I think it's time to abandon all hope. I might potentially be interested in BDSM het erotica...but even then. I don't know. I remember reading a really good longish BDSM het fanfic and the whole time I kept thinking how much hotter it would have been if the sub was a guy instead of a girl. Sub!women in general don't make me feel very comfortable, although what difference should it make? There is a difference though, I think. I read this essay (which I won't be able to find now for the life of me) on why women prefer M/M erotica and it basically suggests that gay erotica separates a woman's identity/sexuality/body image from the act of sex and thus makes them feel more immersed in the fantasy. Basically, women are able to relate to the lust/emotions but without the baggage of physicality and realism that their bodies impose on their reading experiences.

What do you think you'll read next?

I just want to finish the four books I am involved with now but after that...I was going to give Sabriel a chance but I am not feeling it now, to be honest. I also got this ebook on a sale, because the cover is really, really nice. And it's a dystopian/cyberpunk mystery. Want to read it RIGHT NOW but shall resist.  I also need to read a classic with really heavy prose because it's been ages since I've done that and now I am looking at my to-read list...Maybe, The Monk

Communist pattern: like. 

Mind Fuck - Manna Francis Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray & What It Means for Modern Relationships - Christopher Ryan, Cacilda Jethá Sabriel  - Garth Nix

Wednesday Reading


What did you recently finish reading?

I haven't been reading books lately because apparently "no reading challenge = yay! I don't have to read books". But in my defense, I've been reading a ton of fanfiction instead?

The last "real" book though was Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby. It's a very memorable book; the kind after which you don't really want to submerge in any other writing. Days after finishing it, I still think about a particular scene. It is a very graphic scene, or at least the subject matter of it is, but the language is incredible; a mixture of stream-of-consciousness (in Brooklyn vernacular no less), poetry, grittiness, eroticism and pathos. The best comparison would be William S. Burroughs, a fellow Beat Generation writer, although Selby's writing is not quite as psychedelic.

What are you currently reading?

Mind Fuck (The Administration #1) by Francis Manna. This book, as the title aptly suggests, all about mind fucking. Val Toreth fucks mind for a living as a Para Investigator & Interrogator working for the Administration, and then he meets Keir Warrick, a founder of a company involved in one of Toreth's investigations and together they fuck each others minds and then some. The dynamics between Toreth and Warrick are beyond hot; sub/dom at its best, where both parties who are control freaks relish the thrill of being dominated just as much as they love dominating. The world-building in this book is incredible too. I am genuinely fascinated by all the sci-fi elements (the mindfuck machine, virtual reality), the politics (corporations & the Administration power plays) and the ongoing investigation. *sigh* Where have you been all my life, book? 

I am also reading Sex at Dawn, a non-fiction book on sexuality. I have this curse with non-fiction books, where even if I like them, I somehow end up dropping them half-way through. Hopefully this book won't meet the same dismal fate.

What do you think you'll read next?

I am not very far into either book so I imagine that will keep me occupied. I will probably do a second book in The Administration series soon after. If by some chance I am not driven to continue on with the series, I will probably start onSabriel. I got the hardcover on sale a couple of weeks ago and it's been staring pitifully at me from the bookshelf ever since. 

Deathless: The Reinvention of Folklore at It's Best

Deathless - Catherynne M. Valente

This book has completely blown me away on two accounts:

First, by just how well written it is. You know it's going to be good when you come across prose like this:

Yes, Marya thought, the smell of woodsmoke and old snow pushing back her long black hair. Magic does that. It wastes you away. Once it grips you by the ear, the real world gets quieter and quieter, until you can hardly hear it at all.

Strangely, while reading the book I tried to constantly come up with phrases to describe it. Hallucinogenic genius? Demonic absurdism? Surreal history? Communist mythology? All meaningless, of course, because nothing of this quality will yield to categorization. And that is why perhaps I couldn't help it—who can resist an impossible challenge?

I've seen some reviewers complain that it's too much—too bewildering, too surreal, too impossible. Yes, at times it's hard to keep up, but if you can't follow the rabbit down the hole, what are you doing here at all?

But really, all you need to know about the writing in this book is that it's incredible. Incredibly assured and more importantly evocative; conjuring up history, ideology, imagery, smells, all and everything at once, with a precision of a mad poet. Yes, even that description sounds meaningless. Everything will until you read it.

Second, by how Russian the book is, despite being written by an American.

I don't care how good your research is. You might read 100 tomes of history, watch 100 Soviet cartoons, learn the language for all I care, but you still won't get some things right. Some obscure idiosyncrasies that exist only in Russian culture and require for you have lived there to know them. And yet, and yet...Catherynne manages to do just that, even if it's in only a few instances. But this is what blows my mind the most. Not the fact that she gets history right. Not the fact that her knowledge of Russian folklore far surpasses mine, even though I have grown up surrounded by these tales. Not even the fact that her expertise in Russian cuisine is outstanding. Although can I talk for a moment, just how outstanding it is? See, I always harbored this conviction that Russian food is although comforting, for the most part unimaginative. And even though I have always known that it's due to the legacy of food shortages during Soviet times, that didn't make me like the food any better. But Catherynne actually manages to make me crave Russian food. Her descriptions of meals are vivid and appetizing and she does not only bring up staples of Russian cuisine that will be familiar to foreigners (caviar, vodka, vareniki and various other dumplings) and natives alike, but also plays around with basic ingredients of the Russian table—beets, turnips, pickles, horseradish, potatoes—to create things that I never tried but somehow sound amazing. Salted beets? Yes, please.

But none of the above accomplishments on Catherynne's part can rival mustard patches.

Yes, mustard patches. Gorchichnitsy, in Russian. My grandmother used to put them on my back whenever I got sick, and it was horrible and smelled atrociously and I am as mystified as to their purpose now as I was in my childhood (yes, it heats up your back, and so?!) It's been so long since I came across those mustard patches, honestly I would not have give them another thought all my life if didn't see them mentioned in this book. I ask again. HOW? How does this person of American upbringing know about this obscure, useless practice that most Russians have long forgotten about?

(Other random and completely ineffective Russian methods of curing colds include - breathing into a pot of boiling eucalyptus water with a towel over your head, sitting with your feet in a bucket of scorching hot water, drinking boiled milk with honey until you retch and begin thinking that death is preferable to this wretched life, and then the cold doesn't seem like such a menace at all—maybe that's the point?)

There was something else too. The mention of mushroom picking. I don't think there is a single person who grew up in Russia and hasn't gone mushroom picking with their parents at some point (and ended up making daring escapes from wild boars in the process). But mushroom picking is definitely more comprehensible than mustard patches. I feel like it's almost a thing other people know about Russians.

My mind stayed blown until I decided to go online and do some research. Ah, so it turns out Catherynne's husband is Russian. Phew, thank you. The world makes sense again.

“That's how you get deathless, volchitsa. Walk the same tale over and over, until you wear a groove in the world, until even if you vanished, the tale would keep turning, keep playing, like a phonograph, and you'd have to get up again, even with a bullet through your eye, to play your part and say your lines.”

But I don't think it's enough to just know about these obscure practices. I think it's also important to know how to effectively use them in a story so it doesn't seem forced, condescending or scholarly. Every element of Russian culture in this book, from history and  folklore, to cuisine and the language itself, fits into the story seamlessly. Catherynne is a magician in that sense, revealing each facet of Russian culture and Russian history covered in this book at the exact appropriate time; her tricks so light and surreal that it seems inconceivable that human hands created them. The world of Deathless feels effortless, as though it exists completely on it's own, as though it really does exist, despite how outlandish and almost psychedelic it is. That's what I call goddamn good world-building.

I've seen one negative review about this book that really struck me. It was written from someone who has taken interest in Russian culture and has studied the language extensively and traveled to Russia. And I think he mentioned something along the lines of how superficial and insane all the Russian mythology used in this book was. But see, that's the part I love about the book the most. How it just takes all these fairy tales that have grown up with, which have frankly become stale and boring through decades of Soviet interpretation (don't get me wrong I still feel nostalgic about a lot of it—just watched this mini cartoon the other day and shed tears of joy, the songs are actually awesome) and completely reinvents them, taking liberties of course, but without straying too far from the original material. So basically, this book will work on people who have grown up with this mythology because it can simultaneously make one feel nostalgic and newly in love, and on people who probably have no idea about any of this shit and can be awed by all of it for the first time. Anyone in the middle, anyone who sort of knows what's going on but didn't grow up with it, will feel frustrated because they will not get what they are expecting.


I do have some criticisms of the book, and there was even a point where it almost lost me (turn of events I really, really did not agree with) but I think the story finds it's footing again by the end and I'm still too impressed by the writing itself to consider this anything short of a masterpiece.

Happy #Caturday!

"Magic does that. It wastes you away. Once it grips you by the ear, the real world gets quieter and quieter, until you can hardly hear it at all.

Deathless - Catherynne M. Valente


So in love with this book. 

"You must know that I do not love and that I love you,
because everything alive has its two sides;
a word is one wing of silence,
fire has its cold half.

I love you in order to begin to love you,
to start infinity again
and never to stop loving you:
that’s why I do not love you yet.

I love you, and I do not love you, as if I held
keys in my hand: to a future of joy-
a wretched, muddled fate-
My love has two lives, in order to love you.

From Pablo Neruda's 100 Love Sonnets.

Reblogged from Brin's Book Blog:
By Odin's beard....
By Odin's beard....
Reblogged from Book Geek:
"Like attracts like, beauty finds beauty, and freaks look on from the smoking section, aching.”
—Laini Taylor "