Monday, August 16, 2021

Stepping Forward, Hopping Back

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
This end of the pandemic is still a crazy time -- two steps forward, then hopping back a bit with cases rising. I'm comfortable with small, vaccinated gatherings, but larger ones and anonymous ones still seem scary.

So I take my nephew to his workout, although this week he's seeing a life coach who is working with him on managing his depression and making plans for the future. She keeps involving me so I get to do some hypnosis with guided images and body stretches and stuff. 

We had our Triple Book Club (local Sword and Laser, continued local Vaginal Fantasy which we call Cloudy, and Torches and Pitchforks), and I managed to finish all the books just in time. We met in person, for the first time since the start of the pandemic, even when weather drove us inside. It was a delicious pot luck and I enjoyed the conversation for all three books, which were a good variety. I also met up with a local birding group a few times, and they helped me see some cool birds. 

Remote interactions continue -- the Foolscap convention still hosts online games on Thursday nights, and a book club twice a month, and our family still gets together weekly to chat and hang out. For even more fun, my local brother has been coming down to play games and then do the call from my house.

We managed to see two movies (Space Jam Jungle Cruise) which was a lot of fun. My son saw the first Space Jam so he pointed out some Easter Eggs, and we've all ridden the Disney ride, so we had that context. I still prefer matinee showings with fewer than ten people in the theater...

But now I'm as likely to wear my mask outside to protect from the smoke (from California or Canadian fires) as I am inside to protect myself and encourage mask wearing among the unvaccinated. 

I am currently reading 23 books, since if I hit a tough bit on a book I'm reading I pick up the next one. I do not anticipate a cascade of completions soon.  I'm still hitting my #bookaday summer target, with the help of some graphic novels. 

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. 


Black Butler 18 (Kuroshitsuji, #18)You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about RacismA Bollywood Affair (Bollywood, #1)
Riot BabyThe Buried PyramidBlack Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1)Fighting Words

A Good Kind of TroubleAn Easy Death (Gunnie Rose, #1)What Fresh Hell Is This?: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and You
Echo MountainKith (The Good Neighbors, #2)SwitchbackEscape from Lucien (Amulet, #6)

Black Butler 18, Yana Toboso. Marching on through the series.

You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey, Amber Ruffin & Lacey Lamar. Next month Torch & Pitchfork book, and a Seattle Library Hot Pick. 

A Bollywood Affair, Sonali Dev. Cloudy book club pick. 

Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi. Hugo novella finalist.

The Buried Pyramid, Jane Lindskold. From my shelves.

Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse. Foolscap pick (Native American SF), and also a Hugo novel finalist.

Fighting Words, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Cybils finalist.


A Good Kind of Trouble, Lisa Ramee. Dinner table companion book.

An Easy Death, Charlaine Harris. I bought the series when the new one came out, so time to reread.

What Fresh Hell Is This, Heather Corinna. Recommended book on menopause. 

Echo Mountain, Lauren Wolk. Cybils finalist. 

Kith (Good Neighbors 2), Holly Black. Continuing a series.

Switchback, Clair M. Poulson. Picked this book for several challenges, and the author's last name reminds me of my son.

Escape From Lucien (Amulet 6), Kazu Kibuishi. Continuing a series.


Black Butler 18 (Kuroshitsuji, #18)You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about RacismA Bollywood Affair (Bollywood, #1)
Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)The City We Became (Great C...Persephone StationThe Last Dragon

Fighting WordsFrom Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding HomeThe Buried PyramidEcho Mountain
Kith (The Good Neighbors, #2)What Fresh Hell Is This?: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and YouAn Easy Death (Gunnie Rose, #1)Escape from Lucien (Amulet, #6)

Black Butler 18, Yana Toboso. This wraps up the public school arc, which I'm glad about because I had trouble telling all the boys apart, including which ones were zombies and which ones were murderers, and which ones were neigher (or both). But I enjoyed the cricket stuff and I'm enjoying the story itself, even if I'm hazy on who the side characters are. On to the next! Without uniforms, it should be easier to tell the characters apart. (Never mind that they all have different faces, haircuts and heights, it's still hard for me!)

You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey, Amber Ruffin & Lacey Lamar. August's  Torch & Pitchfork book, and it's also the penultimate square on my Seattle Summer Bingo. This is a conversation between two sisters about the crazy and racist stuff that happens, mostly to Lacey. It's laugh out loud funny, because the sisters are telling these stories from the power and security of a sibling conversation, but it's also horrible and terrible (and they acknowledge and remind us of this) because this racist crap is happening today and all the time. "Small" things like people not registering their presence, or repeated confusing the two Black workers in a company for each other, or assuming criminal intent and calling the police, or... wait, we've already wandered past "small," haven't we?  I think this is a great pick for this book club, and also a fun read for anyone. Fun, but with a message. 

A Bollywood Affair, Sonali Dev. Cloudy book club pick. I found this charming and refreshing. The situation was slightly ridiculous, so I could relax into the comfort on a rom-com story knowing that things would work out in the end, but the characters were invested in their goals and situations. The alternating viewpoints made me sympathetic to both characters, even when they were making mistakes -- the man kept secrets for too long, but I could understand both the selfish and the logistical reasons. And the final scenes with the family (the pregnancy story, and then the drama of the birth) worked really well for me. I remember that someone at book club was miffed that those final scenes didn't have more relationship talk, but I didn't think it was necessary. I mean, there wasn't much to say besides "I'm sorry and I shouldn't have done that" which he expressed several times; what needed to happen was her seeing his loyalty to his family in action and realizing that he wanted to start doing that for her, if she'd give him a second chance.

Consider Phlebas, Iain M. Banks. Sword and Laser pick. I struggled with this a bit, because it's all about the setting and the ideas, with rather unpleasant characters working their way through it. I think the final train scene would have worked better as an audio, because it was tedious turning the pages because I kept realizing how much I didn't care about the people involved. Looking back, I appreciate it more; it's a look at what people are willing to do for a cause, even when from the outside that cause is feebly defined. It's about the futility of war -- so much death, so much pain, for so little result. Maybe I'll try another Culture book if I come across one.

The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin. Hugo finalist. This is a love story to New York and the different people who make up its varied parts. I enjoyed seeing them interact with grace or irritation, and the very different people Jemisin decides to use to embody the different sections. The metaphysical attack was cool as well, although in a very different way. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Persephone Station, Stina Leicht. For Torches and Pitchforks book club. I wasn't sure what to expect, because this club usually reads things with more immediate social implications. But it was a fun science fiction story, with humans colonizing a planet and only a few people knowing about the original inhabitants who survive (there were several races, but not all died out). There's a ragtag crew doing shady but good-hearted business for an underworld boss; the real bad guys are the corporates who write the laws. This crew ends up trying to defend an indigenous settlement from the bad guys. It was kinda cool how long it took me to realize that there were no men in the crew; this wasn't done as a statement but just how things turned out, which I guess is an even bigger and more fun statement. Some club members were uncomfortable with some of the resonances with our society and its history with colonizing; why did the natives need the help of our imported crew? But I felt the distinctive culture of the people and their place of power in the arrangement made it comfortable for me; it wasn't a simple white savior trope.

The Last Dragon, Silvana de Mari. 2006 Cybils Middle Grade SF finalist. Although the structure was a bit odd (the first section seemed a bit disconnected from the back end), I really liked the characters, writing, and story. I liked how the young elf's misconceptions skewered human society, how the baddies were so extravagantly bad, how the dragon was so foolish but then we find out why, how happiness had a cost, how destiny both mattered and didn't, how there is a word for this happened "because of this" as well as "this happened at the same time as this" and that mattered. I'm quite sad that the rest of this series does not seem to be translated into English.  


Fighting Words, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. 2020 Cybils Middle Grade fiction finalist. I loved this, but I'm a sucker for siblings-in-foster-care stories. I really liked how well Della's superpower of not taking **** from anybody was shown. She wasn't out to be rude, but if someone pushed her she would complain.And I like how the principal took her seriously, which reflects what I expect from my kids' elementary schools (although not what I expected from my own schooling). I liked how the sisters tried to help each other, and how they were kids and so not always good at that. I liked how the effects of bullying were shown, but not by showing the fourth grade bully as some evil being. And yet it isn't the job of his victims to help him, but the job of the adults. The tone was great, the situations strong and believable, and this would be a great addition to library shelves. 

From Scratch, Tembi Locke. A lovely memoir, with a strong focus on food (which I like in my meal companion books). I like how the author uses an emotional chronology, so moving through the three summers after her husband's death means also moving through how they met and fell in love and built a family, and how that is interwoven with the details of the summers of grief and processing. Food is central to a lot of this -- preparing food is a way of communicating in this family, and learning from each other was a big part of their marriage, and then sharing that with the daughter is a huge part of family grieving and moving on. 

The Buried Pyramid, Jane Lindskold. From my shelves. This fantasy story set during the Raj has to deal with racial and gender stereotypes in the setting as well as in the time it was written (it came out in 2004), and I think the latter jarred me more than the former. Our protagonist is from the "Wild West" and her casual mentions of the savages (her parents were apparently killed in an Indian attack) did not get much authorial attention. The lives of Egyptians got a lot more nuance as our mostly English characters moved through the country pursuing their archaeological goals. I appreciated how slowly fantasy encroached on the story, until they tipped over and had to embrace the magic or perish. This is an author that I know I will enjoy but not embrace. 

Echo Mountain, Lauren Wolk. 2020 Cybils Middle Grade fiction finalist. This was a thoughtful Great Depression in Maine story, with our protagonist learning about the difference between family and individual as her siblings and parents and her struggle to survive on their new remote mountain land after losing their home in town. There are tensions between the people learning to love their new home (her dad, her) and those who miss everything they left behind (mom, older sister). There's the tension between protecting the younger brother but encouraging him to start learning responsibility. There's the nagging worry that the father will never recover from his injury, and struggles with who is to blame and what should be done. I do think the main character is a bit too good to be true, but that gives a chance to see a young person struggling with tough questions of decency and sacrifice, and I liked that. 

Kith (Good Neighbors 2), Holly Black. Continuing a series, and also rescuing my book-a-day streak with a graphic novel. I'm enjoying the story but I can't really tell anyone apart -- there are four or five young people that I keep mistaking for each other, which makes the guy with the floofy hair my favorite. This is me, not them -- clearly these people have different faces, bodies, and hair, but I can't remember which is which. But I like the mix of good and bad choices, and how mistakes matter even if they can try to be repaired. On to the final one!

What Fresh Hell Is This, Heather Corinna. There were a slew of books like this for puberty and pregnancy, so I'm glad I'm finally finding ones for menopause. The author hit perimenopause hard, and now wants to make sure that other people at least know what might be in store for them. I liked the wide ranges of expectations, the reassurances of what is normal, what is within a few standard deviations, and what can be done to help. Questions that I might not have known to ask, options that I wouldn't have known to request, stuff like that. I liked the strong opinions of Corinna, how much support can be expected and is certainly deserved by anyone going through this because we are all people and deserve respect. I'm glad I heard of this and maybe I want some more, although I kinda wish I had read it a few years ago. 

An Easy Death, Charlaine Harris. I really liked this the first time I read it, and I enjoyed it again this time, knowing what to look for and who would make it to the end. I'm a big fan of Harris's heroines, who are decent and hard working and not afraid to make mistakes. Now I want to go on to the next, and finally read the third. I'm also spending a bit more attention to the details of her alternate history, which has been very rewarding. I like seeing how her America split up, and how that resonates with the politics of the past few years. Very well done.

Escape From Lucien (Amulet 6), Kazu Kibuishi. Another emergency graphic novel! I am very confused as to who is where and doing what, but really I don't mind, the pictures are pretty! There's the brother who is a good pilot, and the sister who has an amulet, and then people either help them or don't. Usually by the end of a page I have mostly figured out who I've been reading about. It does help that some people are robots and others have turned into animals; I'm fairly confident at telling a fox from a human.  And I just found out that the series isn't even complete yet! I feel betrayed. 

Bookmarks Moved (Or Languished) In:

Black Leopard, Red WolfThe Pleasant Profession of Robert A. HeinleinThe 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 Saviors
Last Night at the Telegraph ClubGardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1)Vampire Trinity (Vampire Queen, #6)In the Forest of Forgetting

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. A page or so. I am liking it! I need to figure out when I can go to the gym.

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.

Gardens of the Moon, Steven EriksonTuesday book club pick. Took a week off because I really disliked it (especially against Consider Phlebas) but maybe I'll get back to it. 

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

In the Forest of Forgetting, Theodora Goss. Argh -- this is due! I'd better finish it. 

Picture Books / Short Stories:

Burn or the Episodic Life o...

"Burn, or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super," A.T. Greenblatt. 2021 Hugo novelette finalist. This was fine, and it has some interesting thoughts of how supers would function in society, and the costs and dubious benefits of becoming one. 

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)
Under the Eye of the StormDates from HellReading and Learning to Read

The Educated Child, William Bennett. 

Wool, Hugh Howey. 

Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho. 

Under the Eye of the Storm, John Hersey. 

Dates From Hell, Kim Harrison & others.  I know something the woman in "Chaos" doesn't know, because I know she is in a story. 

Reading and Learning to Read, Jo Anne Vaca. Individualizing reading instruction vs individual reading instruction.

Reading Challenges
  1. Cybils 2020. Finished Echo Mountain and Fighting Words, so Middle Grade novels is complete. Good work! Also reread all the picture books for book club. Lots of books on my shelf.
  2. Early Cybils: Finished The Last Dragon. Have Pucker waiting.
  3. Hugos 2021: Finished The City We Became and started on Black Sun. Started Riot Baby novella and watched some video blogs. Found the recommended podcasts so starting those.
  4. KCLS 10 To Try: 10/10. Complete!
  5. Tacoma Extreme Reading Challenge. 45/55. Nothing, but I am doubling up some categories where my first book was a kidlit book.
  6. Reading My Library. Haven't started my new book yet. 
  7. Where Am I Reading 2021: 29/51 states. Picked up Nebraska and Tennessee. I think An Easy Death is Texas? 17 Countries. Egypt and Italy!

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: Sharks in the Time of Saviors Next: Vampire Trinity
  • Library Book: In the Forest of Forgetting  Next: 
  • Ebook I own:   Gardens of the Moon. Next: Profession of Heinlein.  
  • Library Ebook: Luminaries . Next: Bourne Supremacy
  • Book Club Book:  Victories Greater Than Death Up Next: Black Sun
  • Tuesday Book Club Book: Victories Greater Than Death. Next: I need to finish Gardens of the Moon
  • Review Book: The Queer Principles of Kit Webb  Next: Back Home
  • Hugo Book: Riot Baby. Next: Black Sun.
  • Rereading: Steerswoman
  • Meal Companion: The Good Kind of Trouble. Next: Conductors
  • Audio: None  Next: I have a book on CD I'll start listening to if I ever catch up on my podcasts.


Sue Jackson said...

I hear you on all the uncertainty. My book groups took a break for summer. One resumed last week and agreed to continue on Zoom (we never did get back to in-person this year), but my neighborhood book group comes back in Sept, and I know they will want to meet in-person. we're all vaccinated, but sometimes we have 12-15 at a meeting which feels like a little too much inside. We'll see how things are going in another month or so.

I'm impressed you can juggle so many books at once - I would get very confused and distracted!

Enjoy your books this week -


Book By Book

Completely Full Bookshelf said...

It sounds like you’ve been up to a lot! I agree, the pandemic getting a little worse again is stressful, but I’m glad you’ve been able to get some fun things in. Your book clubs sound great, and I’m glad you got to see the new Space Jam movie!

All the books you’ve been reading look great—Fighting Words was such an incredible read, and I’m so glad you had the chance to try it. And I have family who really enjoy N.K. Jemisin’s books, including The City We Became! I also keep hearing great things about Echo Mountain. I’m impressed by your progress on reading challenges! Thanks so much for the great post!

Cheriee Weichel said...

Life sure can get complicated! I wear my mask all the time when I am away from home. In part to deal with the smoke, but also because of the Delta Variant. We live about 10 kilometers from a fire that continues to burn no matter what they have thrown at it. These days all they can do is try and keep interface property safe.
I hope your new year goes well.
I loved Fighting Words. (I have loved pretty much everything Kimberly Brubaker Bradley has written)
I had a hard time with Echo. The bully lacked depth.