Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman is pretty cool. It's a short story collection, so I was mentally prepared for uneven writing across the entire anthology, but I have to say that each story seriously exceeded expectations every time. Each story focuses on a single "almost-famous" woman, whose life stories lie on the fringes of history, either as those who nearly achieved fame and notoriety through their actions, or by existing in the periphery of historically-famous people's existences. The only thing I didn't like about it was that it was such a quick read? I could have done with a lot more content. Going to pick up Bergman's other anthology and hope she releases another book soon.
The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig took me ages to finish. I couldn't read it all in one go, but it wasn't the fault of the author. The writing was ridiculously light and easy to get through, considering the subject matter, but that same subject matter was just too much to take in continuously. A lot of the book actually discusses the social and historical context of the developments leading up to the pill itself, so readers will have to slog through the truly depressing state of birth control and sex education during that time period. (This actually gets more depressing when you remember that majority of the Philippines still doesn't have easy access to safe and reliable methods of birth control and education. And then you get more depressed because even the more "enlightened" and "liberal" countries are still having a lot of difficulty with the concepts of sexual freedom and expression. And then you just have to get over it because some revolutions take longer than others. See Pluto. See the struggle between the rich and poor. Etc.) The subtitle of this novel seems a bit clunky, but it's really perfect, because Eig's storytelling is quite character-driven and he builds the whole thing in such a way that you just get swept up in their stories. Social and historical content aside, the science and research itself was mind-boggling in its seeming simplicity. A lot of the information we take for granted, that can be accessed with a few mouseclicks, didn't exist until people started poking around. I do believe that Eig managed to condense a lot of the research for his non-science readers, and he did it quite well and without condescension. Very good, and a must-read.
The Compass Rose by Ursula K. Le Guin was an impulse buy. I was lucky enough to be invited to do a couple of discussions on Sci-fi and Fantasy for the DLSU Writer's Guild last year, and they gave me a Fully Booked GC as a thank you. So I went and bought Compass Rose. Le Guin is one of my favourite writers, and I really do hope to collect and read everything she's written. The Compass Rose isn't the first Le Guin short story collection I've read, so I thought I was pretty prepared for the usual themes. However, no, I was an idiot and completely unprepared for the dazzling (yes, DAZZLING. SCINTILLATING. BLINDING.) wealth between those pages. TCR is not a light book either, materially, it is a dense collection, so I felt as though I was trapped in this extended state of literary bliss. The stories are clever, unique, and imbued with such foresight that I honestly feel that despite it having been published in 1982, it is as fresh and fucking relevant today as most of what I've already read in 2015. Such a fucking blessing. I've got Orsinian Tales (from a GC I won in a trivia contest) coming up soon so I'm pretty jazzed for that.
Dancer by Colum McCann does not mess around. I was around a third into the book when I had to just stop and google whether the protagonist was an actual person (Yes.) because everything was rather intense. I was initially thrown off by the length of the chapters, but McCann was really able to bring everything together. Actually, McCann has a hideous and amazing gift for bringing everything together because the entire scope of this novel is beyond wild, so I really do respect his ability to bring you from communist Russia to capitalist America and manage to be as simultaneously liberal and unforgiving with his descriptions of both settings. Or maybe it's just the way he wrote Nureyev (he wrote the entire book through different character's perspectives of Nureyev and his actions, and it's fucking amazing because it was a masterclass on the different ways people can love someone) and how everything is just blown away in sharp relief by the glow of his talent??? and stardom??? It is so amazing that even Nureyev's decline was addressed lovingly. I am very much in favour of this novel.
Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson was just released on March 30. I snagged a copy as soon as Sanderson's newsletter announced it, a bit worried that it was an April Fool's trick, considering how it was already the 1st in the Philippines. It is pretty damn cool, and like most works by Sanderson, difficult to discuss without spoiling a great big chunk of it. I do have to say that I was (laughably) sceptical of the whole story when I was reading it, and that I totally deserved being messed up by the latter part of it. That is what you get when you start feeling too cool for the things you love: a slap to the face. :))) I distinctly remember tweeting a lot of apologies after I finished it.
Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang This duology has been on my radar for the past few years now but I have had a heck of a time actually finding copies of it. Fully Booked has it sometimes, but I've never actually been lucky enough to catch them when they're there. I wish I'd been able to read them sooner, because they're jewels. Graphic novel magical realism jewels. Both novels lie on opposite sides of the Boxer Rebellion (reading the wiki page may be a good idea before reading the books if your grade school and high school history lessons seem too distant a dream) and Yang gives us two completely different, well-written YOUNG protagonists to experience the whole thing with. I read Boxer first and then Saints next, and I really recommend that order for any person who plans to check it out. I think that the overlap just flows better in this order, so please treat yourself and read it. The art is relatively simple in comparison to everything that's out there, but man, it's beautiful. I want more YA comics like these out in the world. :"D
Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi was a lot raunchier than I expected it to be. Satrapi's never shown herself to be the type to shy away from such topics, but I have to admit that I was taken back by a few of the stories told within. Embroideries functions very much like a short story collection, where each woman shares a short anecdote about another woman's experience with love and sex, or maybe I could even describe it as Rashomon-esque, where each is just another PoV that builds up the entirety of the female experience in Iran. It's actually pretty uncanny how Satrapi nails that tone that you often get when women are just gossiping together, that I could almost hear the echoes of a bunch of conversations I've been in with some Titas of Manila. Solid, and moving.
Light by Rob Cham was released last Easter at the first Komiket. I wasn't able to go to the event because of ~family responsibilities~ so my good friend Josh got me a copy. (He even got it signed!) I read it three times in the first hour I had it: twice, very quickly, and once as slowly as I could. It's a very short book, of course, but it's lovely art- and story-wise. I lent it to a friend who had some issues with the fact that it had no text, but I honestly didn't have any problems with that because the message just feels pretty clear to me. They're selling lot of copies of Light at Fully Booked, and I think y'all should stock up and give them away as gifts (after you get one for yourself, of course!).
(Um, also, yes, I still read one Cain book every five other books I read, so the fact that I have three in this post is kind of telling about how busy I've been. I honestly did promise myself that I'd be a lot more relaxed about book blogging, so here we are with 21 books in this post. I'm only really doing this now because it's literally the first day after term ended, and also the first day of a four-month break due to DLSU's calendar shift? I am at loose ends. I also have been having a hard time finishing or reading any books this past fortnight so. I guess it was safe to just knuckle down and get through this post. I should be cleaning, so I'm mostly typing out this whole thing on and off throughout the whole day. If I am lucky, I should be able to finish and post this by tonight. I'm also two books away from another Cain book, and that's kind of ridiculous as there are only THREE BOOKS LEFT. ALERT ALARM.)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik was an unexpected delight. I've long been a fan of Novik and her Temeraire series, so I was really looking forward to reading Uprooted! The book's actually a lot longer than I thought it would be. I kept expecting it to end and have to be continued in another novel, but Novik manages to wrangle what feels like what should be a duology into a single volume. I feel as though I wouldn't have minded more than one book in this universe, as the development of the main plotline feels a bit rushed somewhere in the middle, and the end feels very sudden. It doesn't feel forced in any way whatsoever, the author does take enough time to provide all of her characters and subplots with enough closure, but I suppose that I wanted more magic? The magic system in this novel is less than a system (Sanderson has spoiled me completely), and I respect that Agnieszka's entire shtick is that she subverts the entire magic system in her world, but I feel as though one must properly build up the world, culture, and magic system before one goes about subverting things? The first half probably was meant to do that, but I felt as clueless and in the wind as Agnieszka did, so, it wasn't very successful. I feel as though Novik wanted us to really empathise and sympathise with the big bad, but I didn't feel as though I was able to invest in that character and their motivations. I liked it, but I really expected too much, I suppose. I was also disappointed by the romance. I should have realised that that was going to happen, but I really thought that Agnieszka and Kasia had a shot. I know I should support strong female friendships media, but I really wanted that to happen. I honestly have no idea how Agnieszka even developed any kind of feelings for the Dragon considering the stuff that happened. Magic, man.
Kikomachine 11: Mga Kirot ng Kapalaran by Manix Abrera is only just as good as the previous volumes, but it comes with two amazing covers (same content, of course), so there's that. It's still funny, of course, and a lot funnier than most humour-based comics out there, and you can't help but lag a bit after your eleventh volume, I suppose. I know I sound ungrateful, because I have yet to find anyone else who discusses Filipino culture and current events as succinctly and gracefully as Manix Abrera. Literally the only fault of this comic is that it has maintained its standards. I'm sorry.
The Diamond Age, or a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson
20. Sans Moi by Marie Despleschin