The City of Devi, Manil Suri

In some ways, The City of Devi is so perfectly on-trend you’ll roll your eyes. It’s the story of a dystopian future, and of a woman called Sarita who just wants to find her husband. There’s even a love triangle! And a superhero movie for everyone to be obsessed with! But in other ways, The City of Devi is like nothing I’ve read before.

Pakistan (or some third party claiming to be as Pakistan) has vowed to drop a nuclear bomb on Mumbai / Bombay (the book’s agnostic as to which name it prefers) on a particular day, and the city is emptying of citizens. Those who remind behind are in perpetual danger from gangs of religious extremists, both Hindu and Muslim, slaughtering anyone they come across from the other faith. Statistician Sarita, hunting for her husband Karun, struggles to find safety in a world gone mad, while also looking back on her courtship with Karun. Soon she joins forces with a Muslim named Jaz, who is looking for Karun for reasons of his own.

(Sex reasons. Spoiler! But, okay, it’s pretty obvious pretty quickly, the reason Karun doesn’t want to have sex with Sarita. You and I were not born yesterday. We are men of the world.)

Though Suri’s conflict-torn India is extreme, it’s also hideously plausible (particularly if you recently read a book about Partition and then a book about the Indian subcontinent after Partition, AS I DID). And Suri describes his horrors matter-of-factly, neither eliding the evil that lurks in the hearts of men nor lingering voyeuristically on the details. It helps that the main characters have a driving quest (find Karun!) to which everything else is incidental — we can’t linger too long with any one group, because Sarita and Jaz have to move on, following clues to their beloved scientist.

The book alternates between Sarita’s perspective and Jaz’s, with Karun a slight cipher between them. Jaz is vivid and engaging, utterly frank about what he wants and how he will pursue it, and if Sarita’s a little more circumspect, she’s still clear in her goals and desires. The book’s weakness is failing to make Karun seem worth any of this. I wanted Jaz and Sarita to find him because that’s what they wanted, but I also kept thinking, You could both do better.

This would have been an excellent read for Aarti’s A More Diverse Universe event, so bookmark it for next year! Or read it before then — there’s never a wrong time for a novel of apocalyptic India!

Thanksgiving’s this week, so I’ll be away from the lovely internets for a few days partying with my kinfolk. If you’re in America, happy happy Thanksgiving, and I hope you do not have to travel far or argue with crazy relatives this holiday! If not, have a wonderful late-November week, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Paper dolls are my life

Guys, Quirk Books sent me some paper dolls for review, and this is a good time to tell you how crazy much I love paper dolls. When I was a wee lass, I had paper dolls of Prince Charles and Princess Diana plus paper dolls of the characters from Little Women. They used to go on quests to rescue Prince Charles, of whom, even as a child, I had a very low opinion.

These are paper dolls of Hillary Clinton! In the below awesome tableau, the devil has become incarnate and wreaked havoc upon the nation. Luckily, Ghost George Washington is here to pass judgment upon the captive devil, and the Notorious RBG is also on the panel of judgment. Because of course. If the devil seems unconcerned about the penalty the judges are going to levy, it’s just cause he’s the, you know, the devil. There’s not a ton George Washington and Ruth Bader Ginsberg can really do to him.

Hillary Clinton paper dolls

I received the Hillary Clinton paper doll set for review from Quirk Books. This in no way impacted my utter devotion to paper dolls.

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep.50: Formative Reading, plus Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew

It’s our fiftieth episode!! Recurring guest star Ashley joins us to discuss the books that shaped us as readers, review a Nancy Drew and a Hardy Boys mystery, and play a teen sleuths GAME of Whiskey Jenny’s devising. You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly here to take with you on the go.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

You can access our holiday gift guide form here. Be sure to get your entries in soon! We’ll be recording in early December with some gift ideas for you

Get at me on Twitter, email the podcast, and friend me (Gin Jenny) and Whiskey Jenny on Goodreads. Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).

Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Song is by Jeff MacDougall

LAUREN REDNISS ALWAYS: A post for Nonfiction November

This week for Nonfiction November, we’re talking about nonfiction that comes in different and exciting forms, not just your standard academic monograph or zippy book from Norton about Satanists or whatever. Pop by Rebecca’s blog to see what everyone else has to say about this!

Nontraditional Nonfiction: This week we will be focusing on the nontraditional side of reading nonfiction. Nonfiction comes in many forms. There are the traditional hardcover or paperback print books, of course, but then you also have e-books, audiobooks, illustrated and graphic nonfiction, oversized folios, miniatures, internet publishing, and enhanced books complete with artifacts. So many choices! Do you find yourself drawn to or away from nontraditional nonfiction? Do you enjoy some nontraditional formats, but not others? Perhaps you have recommendations for readers who want to dive into nontraditional formats.  We want to hear all about it this week!

I do, of course, zealously refer you back to Anne Carson’s book-in-a-box, Nox, which blows my tiny mind every time I touch it. But this is not a week to talk about poetry. So instead I’m going to talk about the wonders of illustrated nonfiction.


There is this lady named Lauren Redniss, and every few years, she makes a beautiful nonfiction book with wild and wonderful illustrations. One was about a girl in the Ziegfield Follies. One was about Marie Curie. One is about the weather. I cannot detect a pattern in that progression, which is exciting because it means I have litrally no idea what Lauren Redniss is going to do next.

If you fear you are possibly not so interested in Marie Curie or the weather or whatnot, do not fear! I too was not interested in them! Except then Lauren Redniss drew things that look like this, and come on, y’all, I’m only human.

Lauren Redniss!
Look how cool and attractive that is.

Have you read any good illustrated nonfiction recently? If yes, tell me about it in the comments pleeeease, I can’t resist an illustrated book.

Oh, you want me to recommend some other form of nontraditional nonfiction? Maybe not necessarily in book format, but not a biopic either because you feel like if you’ve seen one biopic you’ve seen them all?


(Please still love me, guys.)

Mizzou’s football team is forcing me to like them (again): A links round-up

How to Compliment a Guy. New York Mag continues to do such important cultural work. Also, this is a thousand percent true: Girls compliment each other all the time. Guys only get compliments if they have beards or cool cars.

You’ve shut up about Hamilton yet, or nah? NOPE. The AV Club has some praise to heap upon that show for its portrayal of women.

How to apologize.

Brazil’s war on poverty suggests that giving cash to poor families is a good way to reduce poverty. Also, having a good economy. So, not shocking?

I’m obsessed with financial practicalities, as you’ll know if you spend any amount of time day-to-day talking with me, so this article about where various indie sites get their money from is fascinating to me. You should also click on Nicole Cliff’s Storify about funding The Toast.

The more regency dances you learn, the more you start to understand why the waltz seemed like such a scandal.

Chile admits that Pablo Neruda may have been murdered by the Pinochet regime. Um, wut? Is — should we follow up on that in some way?

Mainly just bookmarking this article about wedding dresses so that when I want to describe a type of sleeve, I’ll have this article’s handy sleeve diagram handy.

If you’re wondering about all that business going down in Missouri, Code Switch has a round-up of good articles about the whole situation; or, in which Mizzou’s football team again forces me to like them even though my policy is to hate all SEC teams except for my own.

The Witches of Lychford, Paul Cornell

At first blush, you might turn up your nose at the premise of The Witches of Lychford, in which a group of slightly-misfit women in a quiet British town find themselves arrayed against the forces of darkness in the form of a proposed new superstore whose placement will (though most of the town does not realize it) open up the gates that separate our world from the world of the fairies. Like, you could see that premise and think it seemed heavy-handed.

However, Paul Cornell — a veteran writer on Doctor Who, among other things, responsible for some of my very favorite Doctor Who episodes — makes the premise totally charming. The novella’s attitude is something like “Well if it really were just a superstore that could be okay because jobs and cheap goods, but alas! It is actually a front for Evil!”

The Witches of Lychford

I went into The Witches of Lychford expecting it to be all of the things I loved about Paul Cornell’s Doctor Who episodes, and I forgot that one of those things is deus ex-machina endings. This works better on TV when you have David Tennant selling it for you:

*draws ten thousand hearts*

OH WELL. The Witches of Lychford still was, essentially, very like a Paul Cornell episode of Doctor Who, complete with churches. Since I am on an indefinite hiatus from that show until Steven Moffat a) quits being a jerk or b) steps down, that means I am sadly in need of Doctor Who-type adventures in my life. I shall certainly be reading more things by Paul Cornell.

Fellow Doctor Who apostates, what sorts of books have you been reading to get you through these dark times?

Nonfiction November: Book Pairing!

Every November, four wonderful bloggers (Kim and Leslie and Katie and Rebecca) team up to bring us the marvelous Nonfiction November. The theme of this week is book pairings, in which we pair our fiction reads with a nonfictional counterpart.

Earlier in the year, I had the inestimable privilege of participating in Alice (of Reading Rambo)’s readalong of Matthew Gregory Lewis’s book The Monk. It was…deeply stupid. HOWEVER. As I was scouring my reading spreadsheets for nonfiction books to highlight in this book pairing, I remembered that I read a book earlier this year in which every insane thing done by Evil Nuns and Evil Monks was completely non-annoying BECAUSE IT WAS TRUE.

I give you: The Nuns of Sant’Ambrogio.

The Nuns of Sant'Ambrogio

I read a review of this book that said it was the story of a nineteenth-century convent in which many scandals occurred, and I admit, I came to it with a skeptical eye. I was like, I mean, a scandal in the 1800s is like, not even a blip on the radar of our modern, cynical times. But I was so, so wrong.

Here’s all you need to know about the book: A relatively well-connected nun emerged from the convent at Sant’Ambrogio insisting that the nuns there were engaged in idolatry and wicked sexual practices. Not only that (she said), but when this nun refused to cooperate with this stuff, the novice mistress tried repeatedly to murder her. And she was not exaggerating. If anything she was underplaying it. IT WAS ALL GLORIOUSLY TRUE.

Don’t read The Monk; it’s stupid. Read this instead.

(Nonfiction November Hosts: That’s…not really what a book pairing is?

Bombay fornicators

So I read Christian Kracht’s much-praised satirical novel Imperium, and for once, I enjoyed satirical writing for the length of a full book. Typically after a chapter or two, satirical novels become too arch for me to enjoy, but no, Kracht keeps it up pretty good. Me and this book could have been friends, I think, if it hadn’t kept making me sigh.

Have you had books like that? Where they’re not so ideologically maddening that you want to write a post denouncing them and all that they stand for, but there’s just a couple of things about them that make you sigh? In Imperium, the only gay character rapes a kid and is subsequently violently killed. And also: “one of [the indigenous people] even wore a bone fragment in his lower lip, as though he were parodying himself and his race.”

Look, I get it. It’s satire. It’s not reality, it’s what the protagonist sees. The European rapist stands in for the greed and rapaciousness of European colonialism. I get all that, don’t write me a cross letter. It’s just that sometimes you feel like dealing with this kind of thing, and sometimes you don’t, and I didn’t, and it made me sigh.

Since that isn’t much of a review, let’s talk about something awesome that Kracht mentions in this book: BOMBAY FORNICATORS.

Have I told you about how I really, really want a Bombay fornicator? I have wanted one for years, ever since Tom Stoppard mentioned them in his play Indian Ink. They are a type of chair, popular amongst European colonials in tropical climates, that is pleasant to sit upon even when the weather is very hot, and the armrests fold out into footrests, as seen below.

Bombay fornicator!

Good, eh? Are you duly impressed? The proper, nonslang name for these chairs is super gross, so let’s stick with “Bombay fornicator,” SHALL WE? Because the thing is this, my friends: I have just recently discovered where one would get a Bombay fornicator (if you click on the picture it’ll take you to their website), and through a superhuman effort of self-control, I have not made pricing inquiries. Because that would be an insane thing to buy. (Right?)

I don’t care how much it costs to get a Bombay fornicator. It’s irrelevant to me.

I don’t.

So shut up.

The House of Shattered Wings, Aliette de Bodard

For the past few years, I’ve been working on making my reading less white. As Aarti keeps pointing out, this doesn’t require any shift in my book-reading habits, but only my book-finding habits. And one thing I have found is that if you follow more authors of color (on whatever social media platforms you wish), you’ll find more authors of color. I discovered Aliette de Bodard because I followed Zen Cho (author of Sorcerer to the Crown); since following Aliette de Bodard, I’ve added several more specfic books by authors of color to my TBR list. Because of signal-boosting.


House of Shattered Wings

The House of Shattered Wings is about creepy angels. Does anyone not love creepy angels? These ones roam the streets of a battered and ruined Paris, trying to survive. Our dubiously ethical hero, Philippe, is neither Fallen nor human, but an Immortal who has been cast out of his native Vietnam and is struggling to find his place in France. When he’s caught by the powerful House Silverspires harvesting the bones of a newly Fallen woman called Isabelle, he finds himself a House prisoner and Isabelle’s unlikely ally. But a dark power is stalking Silverspires, and the House can no longer promise safety to its occupants.

Aliette de Bodard has created a secondary world that’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. All of her characters are ethically compromised, which is, of course, my fave — only Isabelle comes without baggage, and by the end of the book, the world she lives in has forced her to change what she believes and what she will stand for.

But in particular, The House of Shattered Wings excels at atmosphere. I wasn’t overly engaged with the characters on an emotional level (when I read the end and found out about a major death I shrugged), but the atmosphere was more than enough to carry the book. The being that is targeting Silverspires moves through the world like a shadow, and you’ll be glancing over your shoulder if you finish this book at night in a darkened apartment.

You know what else, too? I haven’t read nearly enough books about creepy angels, I’m now realizing. Drop your best creepy angel book recommendations in the comments, por favor!

Why can’t you shut up about Hamilton?: A links round-up

The marvelous Kiese Laymon on Confederate flags and SEC football.

On competing for the one single diversity spot in the writers’ room: Aisha Harris writes about the unbearable whiteness of TV writers’ rooms.

Nobody could be more excited about the new Star Wars trailer than stars John Boyega and Daisy Ridley.

Recovering the history of years in slavery, and the story of a forgotten forced deportation: An article that opens with an oddly upsetting anecdote.

New details emerge about that Harry Potter play! (It’s not a prequel, it’s a sequel! Joke’s on you, prequel-wanters! You’ll never ever learn more about the Marauders.)

“Jenny, shut up about Hamilton already, Gahd!” NEVER.

Kelly Sue DeConnick spoke with Alyssa Rosenberg about her comic Bitch Planet, and predictably, she has lots of interesting things to say. In particular, she notes that comics do a thing where “they will set up something to be deliberately salacious, and then pretend to have some ethical structure around it.” YEP. The interview is in two parts, here and here.

Are you excited for Jessica Jones? Or do you wish her backstory didn’t have to be so rapey? Or both?

South By canceled a panel about harassment in gaming because they’re afraid of getting harassed. Caroline Linders, one of the organizers of the panel, has a good rundown of what happened. BuzzFeed has withdrawn participation from the festival in protest. SXSW appears to be in damage control mode, but as of today, no final decisions appear to have been made.