Tag Archives: books

The author my son and husband BOTH dislike

Image result for perdido street stationOne of my favorite fantasy series is China Mieville’s “New Crobuzon” trilogy: Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council.  This is the steampunk and magic laced world with a corrupt capitalist government, where social, racial and cultural differences are exploited for the political and fiscal gain of the corrupt upper echelons of the city (a familiar story).  The city of New Crobuzon itself is an alternate existence of London, dense with neighborhoods that spiral out over time from a central point on its Thames, the Gross Tar.  Each neighborhood has a history, each neighborhood has its races and cultures, each one is distinct.  New Crobuzon, as a world, is as much about urban history and urban geography and urban sociology as it is a fantasy realm.

I love cities.  I love the stories of cities, how they grow, how neighborhoods are built and change over time.  Therefore, I threw myself wholeheartedly into Perdido Street Station.  I saw, in my imagination, the descriptions of each neighborhood, from the scientific quarter of Brock Marsh, to the abandoned projects of Dog Fenn.  I understood the backstories of how neighborhoods came to be occupied by specific immigrant groups.  I especially loved reading about some neighborhoods went from mansions to slums and back again, keeping tenements as museums to past poverty in their midst (we have one of those!).  And I especially appreciated that, as in all great cities, New Crobuzon grew along its trains, its El, the trains the commuters still take each day, the million ordinary people of a fantasy world, traveling to and from work in a universe full of monsters and magic, between their version of the Outer Boroughs and their white-collar jobs.

Paul was not as much a fan of this concept.  He’s fine with world building – he has slugged through King’s Dark Tower series, which I don’t have patience for – but not an urban studies textbook disguised as a steampunk fantasy.   His response was that Mieville spent too much time city building and writing a Lonely Planet: New Crobuzon and not enough time actually developing characters or plot.  I pointed out that the character development is great in New Crobuzon, it’s just that each character also has to function as a representation of their class, race and culture almost as much as they are a separate being in their own right.  Each character has to also either exemplify their people, or illustrate their community through their outcast or outsider status.  Nothing tells us about a people and their culture like those they choose to exile among them.

Therefore, I should not have been surprised when Ben flat out refused to engage with the children’s version of New Crobuzon: Un Lun Dun.  We’re attempting to read this right now as the nightly bedtime story, and I’m just not getting anywhere with it. There’s a lot of eye rolling, especially when I have to explain the English language:

Image result for un lun dunME: Binja!  Get it?  Bin…ja?  They’re bin ninjas?
BEN: They’re garbage cans with legs and nunchuks
ME: English people call a trash can a bin.
BEN: *eye roll*

I also love Un Lun Dun.  It’s not the flip side of London that Kraken is, but it is a travelogue through a London’s dreams, a city built of London’s cast offs, both material and thought, a city of random buildings and people, traditions and creatures.  There’s ghosts and monsters, creatures of all  shapes and sizes.  There’s houses made from M.O.I.L. – Mildly Obsolete In London – which means typewriters and cassette tapes.  There’s even a November Tree, a tree made of solid light from Guy Fawkes fireworks.  And my favorite part of Un Lun Dun is how it flips the heroine’s journey around, changing how we think of destiny in these kind of children’s stories.  Perhaps it is time that the world gets saved by the “funny one”, not by the chosen one.


The ab-city, with its houses and dwellings made of everything, in every shape.

Ben, however, is not nearly as charmed and interested in visualizing the ab-city.  I therefore blame Paul for this.  My husband is less into world building that I am.  I want all my books to come with an expansive geography.  I own a copy of the Dictionary of Imaginary Places.  I love maps, I love places, I love cities,  and I love imaginary worlds that come complete with entire sociological histories..  Paul, however, would like his books to be less of an atlas of a mythological land and more of an actual plot and character driven tome.  I suspect our son has taken after his father because attempts to pull Ben into the fantasy books with the best, most memorable and detailed worlds have been met with resistance.  According to Ben, Narnia is boring.  Earthsea was really boring.  (Middle-Earth we are still working on).

I’ll keep working on this.  I want my son to have that sense of expansive imagination, to be able to imagine other worlds, with their own history and mythology, their own rules of physics and magic.  We’re going to flip into Neverwhere on audiobook over the  break.  I’ve got twenty-plus hours to fill with Gaiman and Tolkein and Lewis…and we are going to get through the rest of Un Lun Dun if it kills me.  I just have to figure out how to get my son excited about exploring these imaginary worlds with his mama.


goodreads update (new books read & added)


i had a lot of writing to do tonight

Hm. I may have had a lot of writing bottled up in there, but because I have very little going on besides work & home, I opted to write book reviews instead.

No, seriously, no one wants to hear more about how cute my baby boy is. But Ben does get more sentient every day, which is amazing to watch. And as a result, he does more. He’s a lively, robust, happy little guy, who loves to play. He chortles more now, and grins at us, and babbles when he wants to tell us something. But I don’t want this to be all about Mr. Ben: it takes parents to understand how fascinating the day to day change in a baby can be.

And I could write about work, but this journal gets syndicated on Facebook, and it’s the first result under a Google search for me, and while that’s all as it should be (I set up the Facebook feed to Notes), it does mean that I don’t talk about my job too much here. Except to say that it keeps me busy, and it’s going places again. I am both Vendor Relations and the Emerging & Social Media Specialist right now, and both are roles that are perfectly suited to me and what I am best and most productive at doing. So that’s all right.

I could write about my family, about how I wish I could help my mother more as she copes with my father’s death. About how worried I was last week when my sister had appendicitis, how I was so afraid that something would go wrong, that I would lose her so soon after losing Dad. About how I wish I was closer to both of them, geographically, that I could go to help my mother as she struggles against the storms that are pounding the Northwest, or try to comfort my sister in her pain. But really, I don’t write so much about my family, unless I can make it all about me, because their lives are not my story to tell.

On that note, I could also write about how much I miss my father, especially right now, because yesterday was his birthday, and today was Christmas, and this was the big holiday for us all. But I also leave that for less public entries – and for times when I feel like descending into that kind of sadness.

There are also those times I see my friends to write about, but I feel that those entries have become stale over the years. The “and then we went to this club, and danced, and had the most awesome time” entries are too rushed, not descriptive enough, and I don’t seem capable of writing about those nights in ways that are fascinating to anyone who wasn’t there. And there are days when I see my friends at home, or for a quiet meal, and those aren’t exciting enough to blog. Or they might be, but the material is between me and my girlfriends, and not for my blog.

And there is always my longing for home to write on, but I feel I’ve written myself out on that topic. Ten years and change is a long time to mope about and miss Victoria, or, as its been in later years, Vancouver. I’ve written everything I could possibly say about my longing to go back to Vancouver, actually – especially on days like this, where I read or watch something set in the City of Glass. Today, it was “Everything’s Gone Green”, Douglas Coupland’s screenwriting debut, a Canadian indie flick that was a predecessor of jPod. So Vancouver in its recycled materials from that book! I made my usual sad noises at all the background scenes – everything Coupland does is part love letter to Vancouver.

Finally, there is the everyday events that go with being part of my own tiny family of three: me, Paul and Ben. There is the house to run, to keep clean, to cook in (almost all of our meals are eaten at home, to offset to costs of the high-quality groceries I buy, with the money we’re not spending eating out). There are the lists of projects: hang pictures, clean out drawers, clean off my desk, fix my boot-disk error desktop machine. There is the housing search, as I monitor real estate sites for a little house that will meet our needs and our budget.

Mostly though, all these things combine and mix up to form the grown-up I’ve become, who I happen to like quite a lot. And I could write about that process, those shifts, but even that’s too much navel gazing. Besides, I’m pretty sure I’m not all the way grown up yet. I hope that process never stops.

So instead of all this, I stayed up tonight for hours writing book reviews for my Goodreads profile. I have been reading a lot lately, because I read while I’m breast-feeding Ben. I know there are mommies who gaze down at their offspring every minute and revel in the bond between mother and child, etc., but when you’re sitting in there for forty minutes, that’s a bit too much reveling. So I read. And then I read in my spare time, before I go to bed, or when Ben is napping. And because I don’t get out much these days, I have a lot of that spare time. Paul plays the Wii, I knock off a book.

(The trick to being a proficient reader is to put the books on hold through the L.A. library system, and then ask to pick them up at your local branch. Much easier than sifting through the stacks downtown.)

I wrote NINE book reviews tonight. Below are the most recent six. If you click over to my Goodreads profile, you can see them all.

NINE book reviews. I’ve been at it for hours. I did have a lot of writing to do tonight.