Monday, November 15, 2021

Blogging Amnesty!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
I keep almost finishing my book reports, but not quite getting ready to post, and then the next week I fall farther behind. But if this blog is going to be my book diary, I need to catch up!

So, I'm going to cheat. Here are some books I've read in the past few weeks, and maybe next week I'll do all the diary stuff about starting, which is only of interest to me anyway.

We've had a wet and windy week here in the Pacific Northwest, with flood warning for several rivers. My poor mom is still trying to settle into her new apartment and is really finding the lack of sunlight tough. She moved up from Texas, where they are just starting to move into the winter season, since summer lasts well into October. So it's hard for her to be missing her friends and also missing sunshine!

I've signed myself up for a December 5K in the hopes that I'll be inspired to start jogging again. It has encouraged me to walk more, so that I make it a minimum to the gym for a brief amble along the treadmill. I just hope I can finish the 5K before they take down the timers...

Books I've Read

You Can't Say That: Thirteen Authors of Banned Books Talk about Freedom, Censorship, and the Power of WordsLast Witnesses (Adapted for Young Adults)Singled Out: The True Story of Glenn BurkeThey Better Call Me Sugar: My Journey from the Hood to the HardwoodWe Are Not Broken
Even If We BreakThe Twisted OnesKnot of Shadows (Penric and Desdemona #11)Kind (The Good Neighbors, #3)Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations

You Can't Say That, ed. Leonard S. Marcus. 2021 Cybils High School Nonfiction nominee. A book about authors talking about books! This is chocolate for me, and then the peanut butter is that they are talking about (and not approvingly) censorship. Markus describes his relationship to the authors and then dives into the conversation -- how they came to write their books, what reaction they expected, how they felt and dealt with the banning attempts. I recognized most of the authors, and I've read many of the books (one of the authors is R.L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps books, so I've probably not even read most of the books discussed), so it was interesting to see the wide variation in what they expected and experienced. 

I'm not sure it's a book for kids rather than for lovers of kids books though. I guess some kids are included in that latter group.

Last Witnesses (Young People), Svetlana Alexievich. 2021 Cybils High School Nonfiction nominee. A mosaic history book, where Alexievich goes out gets short memories from a great many people to build up the image of an event. In this case she talks to Russian children during the German invasion during World War II, so we see kids of all ages fleeing, seeing their parents die, being protected by their parents, being rounded into camps, hiding in their basements, fleeing the war, fighting the war. It's a powerful experience. I did want some more context -- how were the speakers found? Did they come forward or were they enticed into speaking? I wanted more from the editor than just the occasional footnote to explain a reference. 

Singled Out, Andrew Maraniss. 2021 Cybils High School Nonfiction nominee. I think I like this guy's niche, which he is now deliberately carving out. He wants sports books with a social twist, and this one taught me a lot about Glenn Burke, minor league baseball, and the intersection of the emergence of Gay Rights and major league baseball. It was a bit personal for me, for I was in San Francisco in the 90's and I had a lot of friends in the music business, which meant I had a lot of gay friends and that was still a time of great loss in that community. So it was hard seeing Burke plunging into the Castro scene when I knew what was coming. But I liked the mix of baseball and real life, and how it put both in context. Maraniss talks about Burke's original biographer and how he helped with the story but also includes the rest of his sources in careful notes in the back. 

They Better Call Me Sugar, Sugar Rodgers. 2021 Cybils High School Nonfiction nominee. The autobiography of a WNBA player, showing her athletic potential as a child in the hood, a poor, mostly Black neighborhood in Virginia where she lived with her mom, siblings, and nieces. It was interesting that her mom saw golf as a potential ticket out (this was the age of Tiger Woods) and actually discouraged basketball. The kids-eye perspective on the world was fascinating, especially in contrast with Beautiful Struggle where Ta-Nesi Coates lets his adult understanding mediate what he remembers. Rodgers, maybe because she is younger, just tells her experience, so the police are an unmitigated evil, drugs are just a fact of life, stealing is a cheaper way to acquire things, and slurs are heard and used without blinking. 

A lot of Sugar's energy and personality come through, but I felt the book as a few editing passes short. Characters moved in and out, and sometimes a lot of weight would suddenly be given to someone who hadn't appeared on the page yet. I'm also squeamish about the language; I understand that it's authentic, but moving into a book changes the setting. 

We Are Not Broken, George M. Johnson. 2021 Cybils High School Nonfiction nominee. I read their other memoir earlier, so I came to this knowing the outline of their life. This book is another memoir but structured around their love for their Nana, who was a strong force in his family and one of the main childcare providers during their youth (for all the grandkids). It did a good job of evoking particular scenes and conveying the love and importance of Johnson's grandmother and family, but didn't have the unity and focus that I kept expecting. I'm also squeamish about the language; Johnson uses the slurs and slang that were authentically part of their experience, but given the level of the rest of the book and the audience, it comes across as very harsh. As they explain in the start, these words are very context-dependent and not to be used in most situation, but writing a book means leaving the context in which they were spoken. So I'm not sure. 

Even If We Break, Marieke Nijkamp. 2020 Cybils YA Finalist. I know teens feel their emotions very intensely, but somehow the concentrated lens of each of the five kids featured in this book felt over the top to me. Which OK, one of them was a psychopath, and the readers don't know which one it is at the beginning, so the author pushes to make it clear that any one of them could be the one to careen off kilter, but as an old person it felt a bit silly. But I can see this being a fun book to read as a form of campfire spooky tale. 

The Twisted Ones, T. Kingfisher. Foolscap book club pick. I talked my book club into reading this because I wanted to read it but it looked scary so I needed a club. It worked! This had the usual Kingfisher delightful characters but leaned heavily into the suspense around the creepiness. Most of her stuff have a deep creepy throughline (see her Paladin Romance series) but in this case she worked on building up the suspense and fear as the main point. It worked really well, and the final confrontation worked well, leaving me (like the main character) with some residual fears but mostly an ability to get on with my life. Some notes that I particularly liked was the references to family dynamics where you don't ask for much, but when you ask, the family will do its best to answer. We kind of have that, although my family is closer and often we don't have to ask for the small stuff.

Knot of Shadows, Lois McMaster Bujold. The Penric stories are a continuing delight to me. Penric is a fundamentally decent person, with a supportive family and an interest in kindness and justice and an awareness of their frequent clashes. Desdemonia adds a rich perspective and humor to him, and they both operate within a religious discipline that has not been hollowed out by corruption, perhaps because the gods they serve operate directly in the world. It's a setting rich with possibilities -- here there is a murder mystery, a tragedy, an injustice belatedly addressed, and a desperate decision answered with deep mercy. I like the theological and philosophical points addressed as much as the tricks with demon powers.  (Warning: child harm)

Kind (Good Neighbors 3), Holly Black. Finishing a series. I am not a skilled enough graphic novel reader for this book. I can't tell anyone apart! That's not really on the artist; it's me being face-nearsighted when reading. All the humans blurred together; I kept hoping for fairies to move into the narrative since I can tell the winged people from the flightless ones. The clash between human and fairy ethics was interesting, but I found the teen love bits rather dull. High school is too young for a permanent bond -- go ahead and break up with your boyfriend and jump on that new hottie you see; that is not the same thing as your dad cheating on his wife. That was about one panel of emotional work for me, but the main character angsted over it for pages. I'm too old for that. So a good book for people with romantic hearts.

Good Talk, Mira Jacob. I thought this was an anthology when I picked it up, but I was very pleased with the reality -- it's an autobiography with a focus on the complexity of skin color, highlighted by raising a mixed race kid in New York City during the Trump years. Jacob's parents immigrated from India, and her extended family has always disapproved of her dark skin. Her southwestern peers were never sure whether she counted as Black, or Caucasian, or what. She was never sure either. She looks at her own internalized racism while also noticing the micro- and macro-aggressions others push at her, and also worries about how her son will perceive and be perceived. The art style was also very good for me -- lots of layered photographs so that I could easily tell people apart because they rarely changed! 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

October Readathon


At the absolute last minute I signed up for the October Dewey 24 Hour Readathon! I've got a lot of books with bookmarks in them and I want to finish some of them off. Also, I can already tell I'm not going to get much done on Saturday because I'm feeling pokey, so I might as well make lemonade.

5:00 Start:

After hitting snooze for 30 minutes or so I finished off They Better Call Me Sugar, and then went back to sleep at 6:30.

9:30 Awake Again

Read Twisted Ones until I got creeped out, then finished off Last Witnesses. Found the audio of The Good House and put that one while showering.

2-4 PM.  Errands for my Mom.

I might have heard a few minutes of The Good House in there.

4:00 PM. Reading Again

Back to Twisted Ones. I keep stopping because it's creepy. Maybe I'll take a nap.

5:00 - 8:00 PM


8:00 - Midnight

Finished The Twisted Ones. Yikes. Read some of Singled Out.  Read the new Bujold. Caught up on recording what I finished on goodreads.

Midnight - 3:00

Read Good Neighbors 3: Kind. Finished Singled Out. Read a little fanfiction. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Time For Some NonFiction

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
Time to get serious about reading all the Cybils nonfiction books. Public nomination has ended and now we are waiting for publisher nominations.  

It's also definitely time to get my plumbing issues dealt with -- the garbage disposal leak is now a torrent. Oops. 

My oldest son came home for a weekend -- apparently what upperclassman do for Parents Weekend is leave campus and visit their parents. He went over to visit his grandmother and moved a lot of heavy things to where she wants them. He's a nice kid. I think he's planning to mow my lawn too. 

He also inspired me to watch the new seasons of Lucifer. I had to tap out after five, but he finished it off before heading back to school. 

I am currently reading 25 books, which amazingly enough is less than last week. And, I accidentally posted this on Sunday, before I finished reading things, so I'm sneaking in to update my lists. 

The Book Date does a weekly roundup of what people are reading, want to read, or have read each week called "It's Monday! What Are You Reading" and I'm going to go sign up. Ditto for the children's lit version at either Teach Mentor Texts or Unleashing Readers


NOS4A2Firelight (Amulet, #7)Can We Talk About Consent?: A book about freedom, choices, and agreementRace Against Time: The Untold Story of Scipio Jones and the Battle to Save Twelve Innocent MenSingled Out: The True Story of Glenn Burke乙嫁語り 12 [Otoyomegatari 12] (A Bride's Story, #12)

Nos4A2, Joe Hill. Actually I think I started this last week. Maybe before that.

Firelight (Amulet #7), Kazu Kibuishi. Continuing the series. 

Can We Talk About Consent, Justin Hancock. Possible Cybils nominee.

Race Against Time, Sandra Neil Wallace & Rich Wallace. Cybils nominee.

Singled Out, Andrew Maraniss. Cybils nominee. Hey, I remember his earlier book. 

A Bride's Story 12, Kaoru Mori. I like this series.


Can We Talk About Consent?: A book about freedom, choices, and agreementRace Against Time: The Untold Story of Scipio Jones and the Battle to Save Twelve Innocent Men
Paladin's Hope (The Saint of Steel, #3)Firelight (Amulet, #7)NOS4A2乙嫁語り 12 [Otoyomegatari 12] (A Bride's Story, #12)Neogenesis (Liaden Universe, #21)

Can We Talk About Consent, Justin Hancock. 2021 Cybils nominee. This is a lovely and illustrated discussion of consent, which loudly practices what it preaches both as demonstration and because the author sincerely believes in the importance of consent. So he always warns before talking about sex, and often stops to remind the reader that they can stop, or skip, or otherwise be in control. I found my hackles raised a bit because of the assumption that this is the right way to handle consent -- explicitly, and that the highest ethical priority is to stop encroachments. Although he does go on to talk about nonverbal forms of consent, there is still the issue that some societies do rely on the responsibility of people to do or hear things, and those societies aren't inherently inferier. I work at this notion because I personally find the consent-first ones more comfortable, so it's a bias of mine I work against. But overall I found the examples and discussion well done and worthwhile, and I'm nominating this.

Race Against Time, Sandra Neil Wallace & Rich Wallace. 2021 Cybils nominee. This is something that I felt I should have known about and actually knew zero about. Scipio Jones was a Black lawyer who managed to save twelve victims of a racist massacre from being executed. Arkansaw law officers and farmers descended on a group of Black labor organizers and their families who were meeting to discuss trying to get better prices for their crops. The white men shot up the building, burned it to destroy the evidence, then went on a week long murder spree and claimed it an effort to put down a "race riot." Hundreds of Black people (men, women, children, babies) were killed, and also a handful of white men, mostly by friendly fire from Klansmen shooting in a circle. Twelve black men were captured and charged with those deaths in a sham trial that lasted a few minutes.

Scipio Jones devoted his life and fortune to saving those men, and this book tells that story and his astonishing success. I'm now left wanting more -- I want more details of his legal maneuvers, more details of the effects of the precedents set, more details on why the NAACP kept hiring white lawyers over him. Do I blame the book for not being longer, or do I applaud it for leaving me with this desire?

Paladin's Hope, T. Kingfisher. Another fun adventure romance, although not my favorite of the series. The paladins' main reason for avoiding romance is situational (they tend to fall into berserker rages and kill everyone around them), which is fair but I also want a particular issue -- fear of commitment or something. This one was shorter and so leaned more on the local dangers. So, it was fun being inside both men's heads, and the banter was great and so was the final bureaucracy-busting scene, but I won't use this one to lure people to the series. Which is fair, since it's the third book!

Firelight (Amulet #7), Kazu Kibuishi. Continuing the series. Although I'm still charmed by the artwork, I found the plot a bit harder to swallow. Usually I'm too busy looking at the art and trying to follow the action (I'm a very bad graphic reader) to pay attention, but this time even I saw the giant signs about where the story was going, and I didn't like that direction. I don't like when characters loudly say what they won't let happen in order to foreshadow what is about to happen. Blah. And even the waiter plot with the brother was underdone. But I'm still moving on with the story!

Nos4A2, Joe Hill. October Sword & Laser Pick. Too horror-y for me by far! Lots of child danger, child harm, and circling of events for tension. I finally read it by skipping to the end and reading it backwards so I would know which kids survived. That is the literary equivalent of watching a movie with your eyes closed, I guess. Very readable text, interesting ideas (in-scape! children bicycles as magic, moving onto a cool motorcycle for the adult). I did agree with some goodreads comments that the final relationship was a bit odd, since having an accessory to the murder of your grandfather as a stepparent is a bit fraught, but I'll see what the in-person book club says.

A Bride's Story 12, Kaoru Mori. This was great -- there was not much plot movement, just pretty scenery. So my inability to remember what is going on or what people look like didn't matter at all! Lots of great scenes, in the garden or back with old friends (whom I barely remembered) or all the partial nudity in the bathhouse. I like the effect of the panel edges getting obscured with details of flowers to show the friendship (Harold, I need to tell you something) between the women. 

Neogenesis, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. I really like this series and I plan to keep going, but I'm going to complain about this book because the stuff I like is old (interesting characters, detailed culture that affects the character's and their relationships, good mix of long plot arcs and shorter ones) but the stuff I'm cranky about seems to be growing. The books try to handle too many characters -- I keep losing momentum when the plot skips around more than ten different story lines, many of them taking place in vastly separated locations (I mean, there are in-story reasons why that sometimes doesn't matter, but still). And second -- I'll accept one miraculous save-from-death, maybe. I feel a bit cheated but OK. But this card has now been played several times and I'm salty about it. If you want me to care about your characters, you should trust me to mourn them, not pretend they have made a tough choice but then pull back. Humph.

Bookmarks Moved (Or Languished) In:

Black Leopard, Red WolfThe LuminariesThe Bourne Supremacy (Jason Bourne, #2)The Wine-Dark Sea (Aubrey & Maturin #16)
The Seven Sisters (The Seven Sisters, #1)Sharks in the Time of SaviorsLast Night at the Telegraph ClubVampire Trinity (Vampire Queen, #6)
Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #2)The Conductors (Murder and ...Deal with the Devil (Mercenary Librarians, #1)The Relentless Moon (Lady Astronaut Universe, #3)Winter Tide (The Innsmouth Legacy, #1)
Terra NulliusThe Mountains SingBeowulf: A New TranslationEven If We Break

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James. Ancient Sword and Laser pick. Didn't touch it. 

The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton. Didn't touch it.

The Bourne Supremacy, Robert Ludlum. Didn't touch it.

The Wine-Dark Sea, Patrick O'Brien. Didn't touch it. 

Seven Sisters, Lucinda Riley. The library brought it back, but I pushed for another week.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors, Kawai Strong Washburn. Didn't touch it. 

Last Night at the Telegraph Club, Malinda Lo. Didn't touch it.

Vampire Trinity, Joey W. Hill. Didn't touch it. 

Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir. Hugo novel finalist. Made progress!

Conductors, Nicole Glover. My eating companion. I made a bit of progress, now that I'm home and eating at my table. But I think I will be too late -- the library wants it back.

Deal With the Devil, Kit Rocha. Cloudy book club pick. Didn't touch it. 

The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal. Hugo novel finalist. Made progress. 

Winter Tide, Ruthanna Emrys. From my (digital) shelves. Didn't touch it.

Terra Nullius, Claire G. Coleman. Didn't touch it. 

The Mountains Sing, Nguyen Phan Que Mai. Didn't touch it.

Beowulf: A New Translation, Maria Dahvana Headley. Well, she's the translator. Hugo finalist. I'm enjoying this.

Even If We Break, Marieke Nijkamp. Older Cybils finalist. Reading during laundry.

Picture Books / Short Stories:


Palate Cleansers

These books I'm barely reading; lately I use them bribes to get me to deal with the mail. Hmm. I should get back to that. 

The Educated Child: A Parents Guide from Preschool Through Eighth GradeWool (Wool, #1)Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal, #1)
Dates from HellReading and Learning to Read

The Educated Child, William Bennett. 

Wool, Hugh Howey. I think the good guys are making their move. 

Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho. 
Dates From Hell, Kim Harrison & others.

Reading and Learning to Read, Jo Anne Vaca. 

Reading Challenges
  1. Cybils 2020. Working on Even If We Break.
  2. Early Cybils: Picked up the next one.
  3. Hugos 2021: Made minimal progress on last two novels. Finished all the Fancast recommended episodes! Enjoying Beowulf. 
  4. KCLS 10 To Try: 10/10. Complete!
  5. Tacoma Extreme Reading Challenge. 51/55. No change.
  6. Reading My Library. Haven't started the next one. 
  7. Where Am I Reading 2021: 34/51 states. Arkansaw! 19 Countries.

Future Plans

I'm putting this at the end because I suspect it's complete fiction, but I feel I should attempt some structure.

I am reading: 
  • Book I own: So many partially read books! I have no idea. 
  • Library Book:  Next: Notes From Underground
  • Ebook I own:   Luminaries. Next: Winter's Tide
  • Library Ebook: Cybils pick.  Next: Cybils pick. 
  • Book Club Book:   Up Next: The Twisted One
  • Tuesday Book Club Book: I forget. Next: I need to finish that sailing book.
  • Review Book: The Queer Principles of Kit Webb  Next: Back Home
  • Hugo Book: Harrow the Ninth. Next: The Relentless Moon.
  • Rereading: Steerswoman
  • Meal Companion: Conductors
  • Audio: None  Next: I have a book on CD I'll start listening to if I ever catch up on my podcasts.