new releases

Readings: Drawing Blood

I finished Molly Crabapple’s memoir Drawing Blood (out December 1st), and here are some thoughts, positive first, negative last:

drawing bloodOn traveling while introverted: I already mentioned this in a previous blog post, but this memoir told me that it’s okay to mostly observe, rather than actively interact with the world when traveling and living abroad.

On making art in general and more specifically, trying to make money while making art: In a way, Drawing Blood is not an easy book to read, because it is so honest about what it takes to make money while trying to become a an artist who can make money with her art. It is also honest about what it takes for a woman artist to do these things.  If Crabapple’s accounts of older men treating her as a sex object starting when she was still a child and warnings from people that traveling alone as a young woman is dangerous are shocking to you, you might be an alien from a happy planet where sexism has been eradicated (and we envy you). She talks about how a woman’s body does not belong to her, how it becomes a reason ‘she must be fetishized and confined’, how a lot of the world excludes women: ‘his was the public world, which is to say the male world, of bars, drugs, and easy camaraderie’. Molly Crabapple is precisely the woman the system aims to break: defiant, independent, eventually out of fucks to give.

The lies told to artists mirror the lies told to women: Be good enough, be pretty enough, and that guy or gallery will sweep you off your feet, to the picked-fenced land of generous collectors and 2.5 kids. But make the first move, seize your destiny, and you’re a whore.

On making art political:

I started drawing as a way to cope with people: to observe and record them, to understand them, charm them, or to keep them at arm’s length… When the world changed in 2011, I let my art change with it, expanding from nightclub walls to hotel suites and street protests. My drawings bled into the world. 

Art is political because art is a way for people to tell you and show you what their experiences are. Art is for displaying uncomfortable truths and is therefore used by marginalized, under-privileged, unjustly feared, and in general kicked around groups to both make themselves heard and possibly heal.

On being in artist in a more general sense:

Young artists must be arrogant so they don’t kill themselves.

Drawing Blood is about self-making. The evolution and development of an artist are on full display here, and Crabapple’s unerring dedication to her craft is palpable. In fact, if there is one definite way in which this book touched me, it’s in its ability to make me want to draw. A lot. I do not possess Crabapple’s monomania for drawing (or for anything, for that matter), but her memoir gives you a taste of what it’s like to be in love and in need of making art.

Crabapple will no doubt inspire a lot of people who think they could never be artists or make their living as artists, but here’s why she will also ruffle feathers (and she ruffled mine). Crabapple’s choice of words is not always, shall we say, agreeable. She is often just as graphic when describing things with words as she is when describing them with drawings. Her choice of words for Buck Angel’s top surgery is not sensitive. While I don’t particularly care about Buck Angel, I would never describe any transman’s top surgery in this way, so beware (and if he has read it and is okay with it, then Crabapple needs to get trans friends who are not Buck Angel).


New books I care about, 9.28.2015

The new releases and embargoes pile in the receiving was so tall today that at one point it simply gave up, collapsed, and had to be propped up by a handtruck. September and October are normally heavy on new books, but this year the avalanche of frontlist (read: new stuff) is approaching ridiculous.

Here are a few awesome (or hopefully awesome) books that are out tomorrow:

IMG_0667Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins. I had to take my own cover photo because I couldn’t find the one that adequately reflects the shiny. For some inexplicable reason, I didn’t read this one months ago when I got it, so I am halfway through this on the eve of its release.

I see Gold Fame Citrus as a sort of a sister book to Paolo Bacigalupi’s Water Knife. It has a similar dystopian setting, but it explores the environmental theme in a different way. The novel is about two survivors living some time in the near future in the completely dry Southwest (survive on ration cola kind of dry). They come across a little baby girl, which sends them on the path of possibly finding a better place and life for their new family.

I’m finding it almost painfully beautiful. Watkins’s descriptions are masterful. I remember Battleborn, her short story collection, gave me a certain shortness of breath, and her novel is even more exquisite.

It also makes me really thirsty.

Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last is also out tomorrow. You might remember that I have a conflicted love/hate relationship with Atwood. At this point, it’s more love than hate, particularly after her last story collection, so I am duly excited about the new novel.

There is also the new Jim Butcher, The Aeronaut’s Windlass, which is a start of a new fantasy series. I have not had an urge to pick it up mostly because fantasy, and steampunk in particular, have somehow slipped far down on my ‘want to read’ scale, but the book exists in case I want something with airships and pirates. There are apparently talking cats (and I also have a love/hate relationship with those).

And finally, this misleadingly titled gem is out tomorrow:


All the books: August and early September releases

End of August and beginning of September is an amazing time. September in general is heavy on great new releases, and this year it’s almost overwhelming with the number of books I have either read and liked or look forward to reading. Here’s an incomplete list of amazing stuff for your perusal:

1) David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks (out 9/2). I read it way back in April, and now I need to reread it because I swallowed it in two sittings, filed it under ‘really liked, but had issue X (specifically, what I called ‘the scouring of the Shire’ ending’), and then promptly forgot all the fine details. A couple of my friends who read it a bit later tried to engage me in conversation about it, and I realized I could not form coherent thoughts. On reread pile it goes. Oh, and if you are anywhere DC on September 17th, Politics & Prose is having an event with Mitchell, details and tickets here (shameless employment place self-promotion). I’ll be there, attempting not to look like an idiot or drool on the author.

mirrorempire2) Kameron Hurley, The Mirror Empire. This is out on 8/26. I did not get a chance to read the ARC, but I’m quite excited to read the final product. This promises a complex world, gender politics, and a multi-layered story. It’s already been reviewed by a bunch of intelligent and articulate people, if you want to take a look: Alex Ristea at Ristea’s Reads, Justin Landon at Staffer’s Book Review, Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn, or Neth at Neth Space. I feel that I should leave this one for when I feel I have enough mental capacity for it, but it seems like an essential book if you are a genre reader.

3) Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Stairs (out 9/9). I had so much fun with this one. Bennett is among one of my favorite writers. I am yet to read anything by him I did not enjoy (incidentally, David Mitchell is in the same category).

4) Jeff Vandermeer, Acceptance (out 9/2), the conclusion to the Southern Reach trilogy. This will firmly solidify your fear of natural world and prevent you from leaving the house or visiting any nature preserves, possibly forever. And once more with the shameless self-promotion: Jeff Vandermeer will be at P&P on September 27th at 6 pm. Of course I’ll be there. If I can leave the house.

hieroglyphThere are many more shiny new books, like Lauren Beukes’s Broken Monsters, or this collection of stories called Hieroglyph (I am still on a short story kick, so this is very exciting). Really, I need to stop here and go read now.

Happy fall. Have all the books.

Summer releases create exponential TBR pile growth

I can’t seem to settle down long enough to finish a book these days, so all I can do is read lists of books I will be reading once I am able to do said settling down. There is a nice list of summer releases over at io9 (although can we please stop sending people to buy books only from Amazon?), and there are a few I am really looking forward to:

causalangel1) Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi. I love The Quantum Thief. It’s so strange, and yet I love it so much. I have The Fractal Prince on my shelf too, and the completion of this trilogy would be the perfect excuse to read all three at once.

2) Authority by Jeff Vandermeer. Oh hell yes. Reading now (I mean, keep picking it up, getting excited about having picked it up, and running around in glee for hours without actually reading it).

3) My Real Children by Jo Walton. Same situation as with Authority. Honestly, Jo Walton can write a phone book or rental advertisements, and I’ll still read them.

4) Skin Game by Jim Butcher. The new Harry (the other Harry)! Enough gemmafilessaid.

5) Half a King by Joe Abercrombie, already very briefly reviewed here.

6) And lastly, the unexpected find: We Will All Go Down Together by Gemma Files.  It’s a) published by ChiZine and b) set in Toronto.  My home city remains one of the best settings for speculative fiction! (Maybe because they have a really amazing sci-fi/fantasy bookstore?)


Happy release day (4/15 and beyond)!

If you work or follow the publishing industry, you quickly learn that Tuesday is the holiest day of the week: release day. Well, at least for some books (those with a strict release date). A whole bunch of stuff also arrives in store throughout the week (which, from my bookselling point of view, is a good thing, otherwise we might as well just build a book fort around the information desk on Tuesdays).*

In any case, I figure I’ll see what’s coming out this or next week, and tell you what books I would really like to get my hands on.

lovecraftLovecraft’s Monsters, edited by Ellen Datlow. Technically already out and taunting me from the store shelf. Looks like this anthology continues the tradition started with Lovecraft Unbound, also edited by Datlow. The first collection was quite excellent, as I recall, so I am looking forward to this one.



duncanrhap_99x142Hal Duncan, Rhapsody: Notes on Strange Fictions. I don’t always read lit crit, but when I do, I make sure it’s written by the most sardonic of authors. (‘Sardonic’ is the word Brit Mandelo also used to describe the tone in this review of Rhapsody on



afterparty-cover-400x582Out next week: Afterparty by Daryl Gregory. This hardly needs more buzz, to be honest, but I still have to say it’s probably the next book I’m reading. I’ve read a couple of Gregory’s other novels (loved Pandemonium; thought The Devil’s Alphabet was ok; Raising Stony Mayhall fell off my radar, but is now back), and this one so far has been getting really glowing reviews.


And if you are keeping the score at home, here’s the current reading update: making my way pretty swiftly through Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins. Will be followed by the aforementioned Afterparty, as well as The Quick by Lauren Owen (reading this one for both personal and professional purposes), and Authority by Jeff Vandermeer. My coworker (and kickass illustrator) very kindly loaned me their ARC.


*By the way, why is the release day Tuesday? If you want a really long, inconclusive answer, you can read this. Otherwise, I frankly don’t know.