Well, I didn't manage to post last week, and my only excuse is that was during the HEAT DOME OF DOOM, when temperatures around my house reached 109 and hung there. Luckily I built-in air conditioning, which I activated. Most summers I refuse to turn it on because it doesn't get that hot; this day I was determined to keep my house below 80 degrees (26 C or so).
The heat also delayed my bird watching clubs, although I managed to slip through several layers of notification and spent the morning looking for the rest of the club as well as the birds. I did see some birds though! After the worst of the heat was over, so Wednesday or so, my son and I went to the movies to see Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard, which was silly and so violent that it sorta came out the other side. We had extra fun because it was all free -- my Regal Card is active now, I had kept watching previews during the pandemic so I had a bunch of free points for my ticket, they were handing out free sodas, and the whole purpose of the visit was to get my free birthday popcorn (from 2020) before it expired. I still wear my masks inside when I go out in public, but I felt fairly safe in the theater. I think it will be a while before I go to any showings where I expect more than ten people to show up, though.
At home I've managed to watch another few Star Trek shows; I'm continuing to alternate Voyager and Deep Space Nine while folding laundry. And Wednesday after dinner we make a big batch of popcorn and watch Loki, which we are enjoying.
I also did my own shopping inside the store once, since I had forgotten to order online for pickup. Our current rules are that vaccinated people don't have to wear masks, although I figure I might as well. I am baffled by the people I saw wearing their masks under their noses; do they still not know how it works? If they are being rebels, why not just skip the mask altogether? Anyway, I brought home food from the store and from the farmer's market, and my younger son cooked it, and we had delightful roasted tomato and chicken pasta, and lentil stew, and lemon gnocchi, and chicken burrito bowls made in the instapot. Which did not explode, which is always a bit of a relief. I made bread twice, mostly showing off. We had leftover tomatoes and feta, so I made a tomato salad which was great with the last of my bread on the 4th of July, which we spent at home with family.
It was fun talking about Uprooted as our example of a fairy tale retelling at the Foolscap book club. I really liked it when it came out, so this was a reread for me, and I liked seeing how I could pick out how everything was set up. We talked about how even without knowing the story it's based on it still felt like a fairy tale, and what that meant, and what worked as myth and what worked as character, and where those worked together vs where those clashed. I look forward to next months discussion of fantasy historical mystery.
This week is my in-person book club, but we have some immuno-wary people so it might still be virtual, but we are reading Robin McKinley's Sunshine, which is a great excuse to reread it. Again. I need to get some chocolate for the meeting.
On a more somber note, my mom finally got an explanation for the pain she's been having, and it's rather scary news but means that they can start treating it. But it also means she will need some support for the next few months, so all us kids will be going to stay with here and help with doctor's appointments and stuff. My turn will probably be either the end of July or the end of August, but we are waiting to see more information before signing up for slots. The youngest brother flew out immediately so he's there now.
I am currently reading 23 books, which seems a bit of a lot but doesn't reflect that I'm about to start about four more. It's down from last week though. I'm still hitting my #bookaday summer target, even without picture books.
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.
Uprooted, Naomi Novik. Reread, for Foolscap book club.
The Art of Growing Up, Veronique Vienne. A book from my shelves that I've been lugging around for decades.
One Perfect Kiss, Jaci Burton. From library grab bag. My new dinner table book.
Show Me a Sign, Ann Clare LeZotte. Cybils finalist.
Network Effect, Martha Wells. This will complete my audio reread, in chronological order.
The Last Council (Amulet 4), Kazu Kibuishi. I'm working my way through the series.
Encyclopedia Brown Carries On, Donald J. Sobol. Going for #bookaday means reading a lot of the thin books from my to-read bookcase.
Handful of Earth, Handful of Sky, Lynell George. Hugo finalist.
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When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, Nghi Vo. For Tuesday Minecraft book club.
America For Americans, Erika Lee. For Torches & Pitchforks book club.
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue, V.E. Schwab. For Cloudy book club.
Emiko Superstar, Mariko Tamaki. Cybils finalist.
How to Raise a Honest Rabbit, Amy Lane. Reread.
Curse of the Night Witch, Alex Aster. Cybils finalist.
Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear, Lensey Namioka. Recommended by my elementary book club.
Artificial Condition, Martha Wells. My read-aloud club is doing this.
The Art of Growing Up, Veronique Vienne. This is a small book of essays and photographs that extol the worth of growing into confidence in oneself, to enjoy both the comforts of maturity and to resist the limitations of the elderly. The idea is to embrace joy and beauty, and try to walk away from self-consciousness or limitations based on fear. The black and white photos show people being fully themselves, whether making tea or chatting with colleagues or wearing a hat. It's a very New York feel for me; I can see how my New York based aunt really exemplified what they are going for. I've grown in a less sophisticated way, but by the time I read it I've achieve most of what they are going for -- I'm comfortable with who am I, and don't change automatically when faced with other opinions. So I could read this with a faint smugness rather than as a road to travel. If I had read this when I acquired this, lo these many decades ago, maybe I would have gotten here more quickly! Or maybe I would have tried to get there by imitating, which would have actually delayed my path.
Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold. The Five Gods books do an excellent job of looking at how religion works, given a prism of reliable miracles. Of course, a few hundred years ago, Christians also thought that there were reliable miracles (I mean, some do even now), so this is not really an esoteric thought experiment. And Bujold has a deep understanding of characters, so in this one we see this through an intricate problem for Ista and the others to work through, with the characters and their actions in the front, and the beauty is in seeing them wrestle with and adapt and change as they learn and experience the world, and that casts light on the ideas and morals themselves. It's good to read a book that works on so many levels, and I really like audio books now for these kind of rereads. I also like seeing glimpses of myself in the past, as I remember how the book affected me back then, and how that differs or informs how I read it now.
Paladin's Strength, T. Kingfisher. Well, I corrected the title. This was, of course, a lot of fun, with two idiots falling in love, being awesome, being clueless, and saving the day for a lot of people. I didn't like it quite as much as the first Paladin book in the series, but that is a really high bar. In this case, Istvan's wobbling about whether to proposition a nun ran on a bit long, especially at his age. I could respect her qualms about him, because she did bite a man's head off in front of him, and that is often not sexy, and when it is sexy, that in itself might be disturbing. It was fun to read two books with central religious content side by side, with two fantasy religions that the characters take deeply seriously but in a way that feels authentic to how people today would handle things. I will keep supporting Kingfisher and enjoying everything she tosses over the publishing wall.
The Last Council (Amulet 4), Kazu Kibuishi. Action sequences are still hard for me, as is remembering which character is which. This is not usually a problem here, since even I can tell a fox from a robot, but there's an extended sequence where a bunch of human kids deal with a problem, and a lot of the tension was because one of them wasn't trusted, but it was a bit hard to follow since I couldn't reliably pick out the baddie. But I am enjoying the art work and I like most of the characters, so I will keep working on this series and someday I will be a proficient graphic novel reader.
Uprooted, Naomi Novik. Reread, for Foolscap book club. The first time I read this I was furious that it was a romance, because I didn't like their dynamic at all and I was creeped out by the teacher/student and other power dynamics. This time that didn't bother me as much; I saw more of how she wasn't caught in the hierarchies and also how his actions were not nearly as annoying as his speech. I also really enjoyed how much everything came together, that even what seemed like unimportant diversions actually were part of the whole story, but without a feeling of a puzzle. Some members of the book club found the beginning a bit slow, especially since it's not clear how much of that will be important, and some people who pay closer attention to things found a few inconsistencies in the spells. But overall I still love this book.
Encyclopedia Brown Carries On, Donald J. Sobol. I like the endless feel of these. Summers come and go, but Encyclopedia is still ten, Bugs Meany is a bit older, and petty crime is easy to stop. These are a bit stretched -- one rests on knowing the length of a dollar in inches, one on knowing the letters that relate to numbers on a phone, and I have purged that from my memory. Also, I got distracted in one by the idea that fat pigs can't swim. I think they would swim more slowly, but they wouldn't sink, would they?
Handful of Earth, Handful of Sky, Lynell George. Hugo Related Works finalist. This is a biography based on the boxes of documents Octavia Butler left to a museum, lovingly poured over. They include journals so that we see her ruthless ambition as well as her despair and dogged determination alongside worried looks at bills and rent; we see her plans for stories as well as her plans for managing her mental health. There are also smaller bits of evidence; receipts and travel documents and library cards, showing the importance of other books and other people. She talks about the tension between being a Black author and being an author, of being the only Black person in many spaces but having even more to say than just Black testimony. Everything she wrote was from herself, so even the parts about aliens were part of that.
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When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, Nghi Vo. For Tuesday Minecraft book club. This was a free download from the Tor.com book club, and we all enjoyed it. We did discuss how we liked reading it, but didn't approve of all the characters -- the tigers were very murderous, which our club generally disapproves of, and they also eat people, which most of our club frowns upon. But the stories-inside-the-story were well done, and the people were clever and the world interesting, from the tigers to the mammoths and the professional story wrangler. So I'm looking forward to other books by this author -- I think there is another novella that is on the current Hugo ballot.
Show Me a Sign, Ann Clare LeZotte. 2020 Cybils Middle Grade finalist. This was a really interesting book, and I learned about a fascinating language called Martha's Vineyard that existed as the common language of a town with a high percentage of deaf people. Apparently this language was a significant ancestor of ASL and the last fluent signer died in the 1950s. The book didn't quite work as a novel for me; the main character had that feel of a modern kid transported to the past -- she was careful to align herself with all our modern opinions on Native Americans, slavery, social justice, etc. in a way that felt a bit more like ticking off checkboxes rather than natural disclosure. The story itself also felt a bit staged, with the plot working more to show off what we needed to know about Deafness in the early 1800s, which was fun but not what I want in a book. Less practiced kids probably don't have the same qualms about anachronistic protagonists, and the sign language stuff was great.
Three Shadows, Cyril Pedrosa. 2008 Cybils Young Adult Graphic Novel finalist. OK, I'm always going to struggle to enjoy a book about the death of a child, and the better the book is the less I'm going to like it. This book does a lot of really interesting things with the art and the plot to show a family dealing with the impossible, but with metaphor and fantasy elements. If I hadn't been dragging my mental feet and refusing to engage with the idea of losing a young child I would have been willing to be impressed with the delicate handling of the theme, with enough action and a success as a bad guy is eliminated. But it will be a few more years before I can handle the idea of seeing the death of your young son and being unable to avert it no matter how hard you try. Ouch. So, great book, but not for me.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill. For 4/5 grade book club. I forget what my excellent excuse was, but I did not finish my reread before the book club. I skipped to the end so I would know what had happened, but this is a rich book and the journey matters. I still like it a lot, as the the book club. We talked about all sorts of details, and I really like how it challenges kids to think not only about the child's perspective, but the parents, and the community, and how people can try to do the right thing but mess it up, or how people can try to do really bad things but sell them as good things. It's about poetry, and beauty, and lies, and love. A really good children's book.
Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear, Lensey Namioka. This is the kind of book I devoured in my youth, by which I mean between 6 and 36. A nice kid, with a good family, has problems, and mostly resolves them as everyone he cares about tries their best but often has conflicting goals and methods. The Yangs are immigrants, and they face some racist pushback, but they aren't afraid of it, and the people making assumptions tend to learn better. Friendships are made, kids get a bit more agency, but family is still respected and authority remains trusted and benevolent. Good stuff, I say complacently, since I'm that authority now.
Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy L. Sayers. Read-aloud book. I really liked the cricket scene, which had me convinced that the person reading understood cricket (this was not actually true). We have a core team of three who took turns reading, and they all brought good stuff to the story, and then there'd be a few great comments before we all had to get back to work. I really like Peter Wimsey stories, and I hope we read a few more. I admit I didn't pay much attention to the mystery, just to the interactions of the people. My dad worked in advertising, so that part is jam to me.
America For Americans, Erika Lee. For Torches & Pitchforks book club. This is a book about the history of xenophobia in America, and shows how it's been imbedded in our culture since before we were a country. Nothing was really new to me, but it's still powerful to see how it's all laid out, along with a throughline on how whiteness was defined to include "us" but not "them", whether "them" meant Germans, the Irish, Italians, or Arabs. Or Native Americans, Blacks, or Hispanics. The final chapters look at the anti-immigrant policies of the Obama administration, which echoed the sudden outpouring of xenophobic and racist cries from the Trump campaign and presidency, and how, as in the past, how little logic or facts lay behind the anti-immigrant complaints.
Emiko Superstar, Mariko Tamaki. 2008 Cybils Young Adult Graphic Novel finalist. I'm such a wimp! I cringe when I see teens doing stuff that could end up terribly, or that I know they'll regret. So this was a tough reed for me, as Emiko takes some shady detours on her path to taking on agency in terms of what she was to do and become. She learns a lot, and it feels very true, and this was a really neat combination of pictures and text.
Murderbot series, Martha Wells. I finished the audio of Network Effect, which completes my audio reread of the entire series. I enjoyed the narrator, and I find that my inner voice of ART has shifted to match his reading a bit more. Somehow some of the action scenes in this last one finally made sense to me when someone else read them to me, which was a bit surprising. I'm not one really to pay enough attention. I enjoyed watching Murderbot win Amena's trust, and the ending was great with the interactions of both crew. And all the relationship advice from Murderbot's friends.
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue, V.E. Schwab. For Cloudy book club. I finished all three books for the Saturday Triple Book Club! This one with almost thirty minutes to spare! I liked the idea behind Addie's curse, and how she learnt to deal with it, especially in the early years, and I liked how she and Henry fitted together, and I especially liked how she worked her final bargain. I enjoyed how it wasn't really a romance -- there wasn't a HEA, but that love and trust played a big part. One club member mentioned that she thought Henry was a little dull, and she was on Team Darkness, and I countered that I was on Team Sleep With All the Artists, because I'm kind of a cynic about love. I found the timelines a bit hard to follow, but mostly because I was too lazy to read the chapter titles and then would have to go back to look at them a few times. Oh, I thought there were echoes of Seanan McGuire in a lot of the themes, which isn't something I've noticed in Schwab's books before, but that is definitely a complement.
The Whim of the Dragon, Pamela Dean. Read-aloud book. I read these decades ago, and really enjoyed having them read to me by a friend of Pamela Dean's, and someone who also really likes them. It's fascinating to me how well I remember the feel of the books even while I've forgotten almost every plot point. A few things I remember haven't happened yet; clearly I read the other book set in this world. I like how Dean takes all the kids seriously, and how we see both their childishness and their capacity for greatness. And I expected the turn at the end to feel much more shocking to me-the-adult, but instead I love it even more. Great books, and I hope we keep reading her work aloud.
Bookmarks Moved (Or Languished) In:
Uncompromising Honor 70-72/??, David Weber. Baen Free Radio Hour's serial. Since I finished Network Effect I got back to this.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James. Ancient Sword and Laser pick. Didn't touch it.
The Pleasant Profession of Robert A Heinlein, Farah Mendelson. Hugo finalist. Didn't touch it.
The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton. Read some pages. It's my book to read while walking on a treadmill. Sadly, I have not gone to the gym at all this week.
The Bourne Supremacy, Robert Ludlum. Didn't touch it.
The Wine-Dark Sea, Patrick O'Brien. Didn't touch it.
An Extraordinary Union, Alyssa Cole. 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. A little progress.
The Lost Orphan, Stacey Halls. A little progress.
Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells. Got the last one on this audio reread.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club, Malinda Lo. A little progress.
The Secrets of Star Whales, Rebecca Thorne. A gift from LibraryThing. Timeliness is a lost cause.
Picture Books / Short Stories:
"Open House on Haunted Hill," John Wiswell. 2021 Hugo Short Story finalist. An endearing story of a haunted house that wants a family, and a family that needs a home. Oh, and a realtor that needs a sale.
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, William Bennett.
Wool, Hugh Howey.
Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho. False responsibility makes happiness hard, but how to determine how valid a sense of responsibility is?
Under the Eye of the Storm, John Hersey. Aftermath of the storm.
Dates From Hell, Kim Harrison & others.
Reading and Learning to Read, Jo Anne Vaca. Examples of teachers in action.
- Cybils 2020. Finished Show Me a Sign, started Curse of the Night Witch.
- Early Cybils: Read to more YA graphic novels, which finished of the 2008 category.
- Hugos 2021: Finished short stories, and also read one of the Related Works.
- KCLS 10 To Try: 9/10. The librarian whose recommendation I will be using to finish pointed out that journal entries count as epistolary novels, so Piranesi counted!
- Tacoma Extreme Reading Challenge. 39/55. No change. I have been replacing kidlit with adult qualifiers.
- Reading My Library. Reading another romance. The library has closed to prepare for reopening!
- Where Am I Reading 2021: 24/51 states. Mostly read in fantasy locations this fortnight. 11 Countries.
Future PlansI'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: Eleventh Gate. Next: Educated Child
- Library Book: The Lost Orphan Next: ??
- Ebook I own: Shining Game Up Next: Extraordinary Union
- Library Ebook: Luminaries. Next: Bourne Supremacy
- Book Club Book: Sunshine Up Next: Bollywood Affair.
- Tuesday Book Club Book: Mazalan book. Next: I need to finish The Wind Dark Sea
- Review Book: Secrets of Star Whales Next: Back Home
- Hugo Book: The Pleasant Profession of Robert A Heinlein. Next: Joanna Russ.
- Rereading: Artificial Condition
- Meal Companion: a romance set in Oklahoma
- Audio: I have a book on CD I'll start listening to. Next: