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Yesterday I went to the library this afternoon to renew some books for a friend. I did not actually get to renew them because the woman behind the counter took them from me and set them down behind the counter without another word. I didn't have the nerve to ask again, when it was so very clear she did not approve of my request. True, they were weeks overdue, but they were also Calculus textbooks. I did, however, see Guardian of the Dead, Ash, and Huntress all on the shelves in the YA fiction section, and took them home to tear through all three in quick succession.

very vague spoilers for said books )

Recently my stepmom has declared she's not speaking to me anymore (and wasn't that a fun conclusion to a long week) but for now she's still in charge of my finances because Dad's too busy with business to function as intermediary. While I'm still out and about looking at furniture a lot, I'm going to be very careful with how I spend anything, at least until I'm settled up north in Berkeley.

One good thing out of this mess: I really, really like my new apartment. It's clean and fairly sizeable and I have my own room, and between the two of us it is going to be FILLED with books and art. My dear friend doesn't mind if I date anyone, or if I come back at weird hours, and in most ways she's easy to share a space with. The landlord's letting my dear friend keep her bird with her, which is pretty cool--I really do love her bird, and at some point, I'll be able to get a parrot of my own to keep her company. That will be wonderful. I feel like I'm gearing up to begin my actual life. I can't wait.
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If you're looking for a book in which people make sense, consistently using their wits and making decisions that are perfectly in keeping with world and character all the time, I highly recommend Kate Elliott's Cold Magic.

The book was advertised to me as steampunk. As an aesthetic, it can be quite pretty, but as a prose setting it often gets on my nerves because the book becomes about the stuff first and the story second. Not so with Cold Magic, to my pleasant surprise. The setting informs the story in a million different ways, from the heritage of the main character to the reason she winds up in serious danger, but only ever as highly appropriate, well-integrated set dressing, not scenery porn with a plot.

And what an intriguing plot this is. I had to read it cover-to-cover twice through because once I got the hang of what various things meant I suddenly had a wealth of tiny, subtle cues to pick over anew. The worldbuilding is--lemme put if this way: if history is a ballgown, then this is not the kind of update where the sleeves are trimmed and the ribbons are swapped out in keeping with season and fashion. This takes the gown of history-as-we-know-it and rips out every single seam before ditching two-thirds of the fabric and then putting together something new and sleek that one would scarcely recognize as being related to the old gown at all. And it's glorious.

I love the main character, Catharine. She's wary and quick-witted, proud of her oft-slandered heritage and the skills that have come with it. She thinks fast, holds her temper until she can't, speaks sharply without saying a word that isn't plain truth as she knows it. When she makes a mistake, she marks what it was so that she won't repeat it and moves on. Her highest priority is her cousin Bee--who is equally sharp, equally smart, with no apologies for her crushes on handsome young men. However, it isn't out of plain unfettered filial duty, but because they have always been there for each other and earned each others' unconditional trust. (I have issues with the 'family comes first; you owe everything to your elders' themes so common to YA lit. Cold Magic is blessedly very much not in favor of those.)

The one thing I will warn about is that it is definitely the first of a series. (The cover says a trilogy, actually.) There are threads that do not get wrapped up. There are things and people that I suspect will only be clarified a book or two in the future. The book is excellent on its own and the future books will definitely be worth it, but if you are utterly uninclined to bother with multi-part prose I would suggest you pass on this.

Myself, I love a good series. A series of smart books where people do smart things and make total sense is the gift I never dared ask for. Cold Magic and the promise of its sequels have more than earned the right to be on my 'forever favorites' list for the rest of time.
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It's one day and a few hours until the due date for a whole stack of college applications and I'm... stalling. Stalling like a stalling thing. I'm tired of being a responsible adult, so I'm wallowing in fiction. Specifically the latest Dresden Files book, Ghost Story.

Wow. Weird, weird book. I picked it off the shelf at the library, sat down on one of the chairs near the exit for just a little taste of it before I had to leave, and then three hours later I turn a page and find myself staring at the Author's Note going what the hell?

a million spoilers for Ghost Story )


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Karolina Keene

August 2012

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