lottpoet's 2019 reading

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lottpoet's 2019 reading

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Editado: Ene 2, 2019, 4:38pm

This is my 4th, non-consecutive year doing the 75 Books Challenge. My 3rd year was in 2016. In the interim, I took severance from a job with dwindling hours, had my first ever stint on Unemployment, and worked as a grocery shopper for InstaCart (which is so hard on the body it feels like it should be an Olympic sport). I am now working at a job 4 blocks from my home. Walking to work adds a lot of hours back in my day (versus my old public transit 3 hour total commute for the past 25 years), unfortunately those bonus hours were not, initially, spent on reading. If you're stuck sitting on a bus or train for 45 minutes or more, it makes sense to make the most out of that time by pulling out a book to read, but if you've got that time at home where anything could be done, pulling out a book to read feels indulgent, like a thing that needed to be justified every single time. At least that's the way my brain seemed to work. I finally discovered audiobooks this spring, or, I should say, the beauty of audiobooks, which is that they are the ultimate in multi-tasking. The dishes get done, the laundry gets done, the cleaning, spreadsheets get made (don't judge--I'm a huge spreadsheet maker), dinner gets cooked, baking gets done, long-neglected crafting projects get picked up again. I had been looking on audiobooks as too time-consuming/slow a way to read, without thinking about all the not-reading time that could be filled with reading. Now I can easily finish a book in a couple of days. Listening to an audiobook is now officially my preferred way to read.

My favorite reads from last year:

1. The Sweet Flypaper of Life by Roy DeCarava
2. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
3. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
4. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
5. Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories by Vandana Singh
6. Whatever Happened to Interracial Love by Kathleen Collins
7. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
8. Feed by Mira Grant

My favorite reads from 2017:

1. Embassytown by China Mieville
2. Beloved by Toni Morrison, a re-read
3. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
4. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
5. Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

2016's thread
2015's thread
2014's thread

Editado: Jun 26, 2019, 4:41pm

Books I've completed Jan.-June 2019 (favorites are bolded):

1. High Wizardry by Diane Duane, audio, Mark Reads, 1/3/2019
2. Cast in Silence by Michelle Sagara, audio, Audible, re-read, 1/7/2019
3. Old Man's War by John Scalzi, audio, Audible, 1/13/2019
4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, audio, library, 1/26/2019
5. Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider, audio, library, 2/2/2019
6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, audio, library, 2/3/2019
7. World War Z by Max Brooks, audio, library, 2/4/2019
8. The Third Squad by V. Sanjay Kumar, ebook, library, 2/13/2019
9. A True Novel by Minae Mizumura, ebook, library, 2/21/2019

10. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, audio, library, 2/25/2019
11. Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto, paper, library, 3/8/2019
12. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, paper, library, 3/12/2019
13. River Flow by David Whyte, paper, own, 3/28/2019
14. Wacky Packages New New New, paper, own, 4/5/2019
15. Becoming by Michelle Obama, audio, Audible, 4/5/2019
16. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, audio, library, 4/6/2019
17. Catherine of Aragon by Giles Tremlett, paper, library, 4/6/2019
18. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, audio, library, 4/6/2019
19. The Book of Colors by Raymond Barfield, ebook, library, 4/8/2019
20. Avatar: The Last Airbender: Smoke and Shadow by Gene Luen Yang, paper, library, 4/14/2019
21. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Book One by Emil Ferris, paper, library, 4/14/2019
22. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, audio, library, 4/16/2019
23. Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, ebook, library, 4/10/2019
24. A Mask of Shadows by Oscar de Muriel, ebook, library, 4/15/2019
25. The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, audio, own, 4/20/2019
26. Alec: The Years Have Pants by Eddie Campbell, paper, own, 4/22/2019
27. Prisoner of Midnight by Barbara Hambly, ebook, library, 4/27/2019
28. Almost Crimson by Dasha Kelly, paper, library, 4/30/2019
29. Storm Front by Jim Butcher, audio, library, 5/1/2019
30. P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia, audio, library, 5/1/2019
31. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, ebook, library, re-read, 5/4/2019
32. American Gods, Volume 1: Shadows by Neil Gaiman, paper, library, 5/5/2019
33. Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia, audio, library, 5/8/2019
34. Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones, audio, library, 5/11/2019
35. Fear of Missing Out by Kate McGovern, paper, library, 5/14/2019
36. Frankenstein: Junji Ito Story Collection by Junji Ito, paper, own, 5/14/2019
37. Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling, audio, library, 5/14/2019
38. Kindred Graphic Novel by Damian Duffy, paper, library, 5/17/2019
39. The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan, audio, own, 5/20/2019
40. Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones, audio, Mark Reads, 5/26/2019
41. The Language of Secrets by Ausma Zehanat Khan, audio, own, 5/28/2019
42. Countdown by Mira Grant, audio, own, 6/1/2019
43. The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, audio, Mark Reads, 6/1/2019
44. Property by Valerie Martin, ebook, library, 6/1/2019
45. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, audio, library, 6/10/2019
46. The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck, paper, library, 6/18/2019
47. Duke Ellington by Andrea Davis Pinkney, audio, library, 6/25/2019

Editado: Dic 31, 2019, 11:56am

Books I've completed July-Dec. 2019 (favorites are bolded):

48. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr, audio, library, 7/1/2019
49. Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon, ebook, library, 7/15/2019
50. The Very Best of Kate Elliott by Kate Elliott, ebook, library, 7/16/2019
51. Sister Emily's Lightship and Other Stories by Jane Yolen, ebook, library, 7/17/2019
52. Black Wolves by Kate Elliott, audio, library, 7/17/2019
53. Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, audio, own, 7/9/2019
54. The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron, audio, Mark Reads Patreon, 7/19/2019
55. Sunshine by Robin McKinley, a re-read, audio, library, 7/19/2019
56. Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn, audio, own, 7/21/2019
57. A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert, audio, own, 7/21/2019
58. Her Every Wish by Courtney Milan, audio, own, 7/22/2019
59. Mem by Bethany C. Morrow, audio, library, 7/23/2019
60. Saffron and Brimstone by Elizabeth Hand, ebook, library, 7/23/2019
61. The Black God's Drums by P. Djeli Clark, audio, own, 7/24/2019
62. Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse, audio, own, 7/29/2019
63. Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins, audio, library, 7/29/2019
64. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, audio, library, 8/5/2019
65. We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates, audio, library, 8/6/2019
66. Reading the Bones by Sheila Finch, ebook, own, 8/6/2019
67. Grumpy Fake Boyfriend by Jackie Lau, ebook, library, 8/7/2019
68. What I Didn't See by Karen Joy Fowler, ebook, library, 8/8/2019
69. Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder, ebook, library, 8/10/2019
70. Mating the Huntress by Talia Hibbert, ebook, library, 8/11/2019
71. The Next Pandemic by Ali S. Khan, audio, own, 8/17/2019
72. The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang, audio, own, 8/18/2019
73. They Could Have Named Her Anything by Stephanie Jimenez, audio, own, 8/19/2019
74. The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin, audio, Mark Reads, 8/19/2019
75. Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller, audio, library, 8/21/2019
76. Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone, audio, own, 8/22/2019
77. Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson, audio, own, 8/22/2019
78. The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu, audio, own, 8/26/2019
79. My Real Children by Jo Walton, audio, own, 8/29/2019
80. Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor, audio, own, 8/31/2019
81. The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djeli Clark, audio, own, 9/2/2019
82. The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang, audio, own, 9/6/2019
83. Report from Part One by Gwendolyn Brooks, paper, library, 9/7/2019
84. The Ultimate Pi Day Party by Jackie Lau, ebook, own, 9/8/2019
85. Once upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan, audio, own, 9/16/2019
86. Let It Shine by Alyssa Cole, audio, own, 9/17/2019
87. Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole, audio, own, 9/19/2019
88. Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole, audio, library, 9/19/2019
89. Level Up by Cathy Yardley, audio, own, 9/21/2019
90. Merry Inkmas by Talia Hibbert, ebook, own, 9/23/2019
91. Be Not Afraid by Alyssa Cole, audio, own, 9/23/2019
92. A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta, ebook, library, 9/28/2019
93. Act Like It by Lucy Parker, ebook, own, 10/3/2019
94. The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard, audio, own, 10/5/2019
95. True Pretenses by Rose Lerner, ebook, library, 10/7/2019
96. Trade Me by Courtney Milan, audio, own, 10/9/2019

97. A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole, audio, library, 10/20/2019
98. Hold Me by Courtney Milan, audio, own, 10/22/2019
99. Witchmark by C.L. Polk, audio, library, 10/24/2019
100. Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, audio, library, 10/25/2019
101. Love on My Mind by Tracey Livesay, ebook, library, 10/27/2019
102. Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr by John Crowley, audio, own, 10/29/2019
103. Avatar: The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee, ebook, own, 10/31/2019
104. Take Us to Your Chief and Other Stories by Drew Hayden Taylor, ebook, 11/5/2019
105. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, audio, own, 11/11/2019
106. Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho, ebook, own, 11/12/2019
107. A Queer Trade by K.J. Charles, 11/14/2019
108. Not another Family Wedding by Jackie Lau, ebook, 11/14/2019
109. Unmasked by the Marquess by Cat Sebastian, audio, 11/16/2019
110. Chasing Light by Amanda Lucidon, paper, library, 11/23/2019
111. Speak Gigantular by Irenosen Okojie, ebook, 11/26/2019
112. Norco '80 by Peter Houlahan, audio, own, 12/8/2019
113. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua, paper, library, 12/10/2019
114. Howard Who? by Howard Waldrop, ebook, library, 12/12/2019
115. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, audio, own, 12/13/2019
116 The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, audio, library, 12/20/2019
117. The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles, audio, 12/20/2019
118. Insurrecto by Gina Apostol, audio, own, 12/28/2019

Editado: Ene 4, 2020, 9:02am

Books I'm reading right now:

Exhalation by Ted Chiang, audio, own
Pandemic by A.G. Riddle, audio, own
A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee, audio, own
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory, audio, own
Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint, audio, own
Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman, ebook
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar, audio, own

Ene 2, 2019, 8:11pm

Welcome back! Mrsdrneutron is a big audiobook fan, but i’ve not tried them very much. I’ll be looking in to get some suggestions for her!

Ene 3, 2019, 4:03pm

Happy reading in 2019, April!

Editado: Ene 3, 2019, 5:15pm

>5 drneutron: Thanks! I'm very glad to be back.

>6 FAMeulstee: Thank you. The same to you!

I still haven't read the last chapter of High Wizardry. I thought for sure that'd happen New Year's Day Night. I'm obsessed with these Young Wizards books right now. Mark Oshiro has read me some good books this year at Mark Reads. (These are all books he read a while ago but I'm just getting to them on YouTube.) First, there was The Little Prince, which is a lot easier to follow when not struggling with the original French in a high school French class. I think the teacher thought it'd be an easier one for us because of familiarity, but none of us had ever read it before. Then, there was Ella Enchanted, which was one of my favorite books from last year. Mark was so unprepared for that book: it took him forever to figure out it was a Cinderella story. Then, the very strange The Westing Game which still got me in the feels towards the end of book. It's fun to hear books through Mark Reads because he gets so emotional and exuberant and shocked at what he's reading. Maybe I'll be on to the next Wizard book by this time tomorrow.

Ene 4, 2019, 8:17pm

Happy 2019
A year full of books
A year full of friends
A year full of all your wishes realised

I look forward to keeping up with you, April, this year.

Editado: Mar 1, 2019, 4:33pm

>8 PaulCranswick: Thanks! I wish the same to you for your 2019.

I finished my first book!

1. High Wizardry by Diane Duane
audio, Mark Reads

!Spoilers ahead, especially if you've not read the first two Young Wizards books!

I enjoyed this third book in the Young Wizards series almost as much as the first one. I loved the moment when Dairene realized The Lone Power was already there, meddling. I loved that her wizardry was tied to a computer (I, or, I should say, Mark read from the updated version of the book so the computer stuff feels less jarring than I imagine the original version must read like now). I always love spending time with Tom, Carl and Machu Picchu. I loved the confusion and strangeness of her traveling to all those other worlds (including accidentally talking to luggage) and Dairene regaining her equilibrium every time. There was great action, adventure and suspense in this book. I still appreciate that Nita's parents know that she is a wizard (and now Kit's parents know he is, too, although we didn't get to see that scene).

I did feel like the structure of this book was not quite what I would want, or even what works best for the story. I think I would have preferred to start in Dairene's perspective, even if we still did some alternating POVs or switching out. Instead, for me, it was jarring the first time we went into Dairene's perspective, then we seemed to start an alternating pattern that kind of made sense for two different adventures going on across space-time. But then, Nita and Kit disappear from the book until they show up conveniently at the end. I was pretty disappointed not to see their journey and difficulties following Dairene's trail, and it needn't have been repetitious. I also really wanted to see the wizarding help they would get.

But the science was so great, and the philosophy. Dairene realistically bit off more than she could chew, especially with a computer wizardry manual that could do more things for her before she potentially understood the principles herself. The Lone Power was great in this book! (I actually think they are better and better in each successive book.) So close, but I'm gonna stick with:

4/5 stars

mirror universe: "Cold Colors", a poem by Neil Gaiman from the collection Smoke and Mirrors, treats science (including computers/tech) as magic. Spells, incantations, candles and sacrifices are needed to run technology.
the same but different: The Star Ka'ats series by Andre Norton. I read these in elementary school. I thought Star Ka'ats and the Winged Warriors sounded most like this particular book in that the young people and their cat-alien guardians have to understand a different sort of intelligence in order to get to a better place story-wise. The first book in the series is Star Ka'ats and it brings these stray human children into contact with the cat aliens.
more of the same: The Adolescence of P-1 by Thomas J. Ryan follows an artificial intelligence created by a hacker that gains sentience. I remember there being lots of discussion with the newly sentient AI about morality and ethics, but I read it in high school so my memory might be faulty.
my crystal ball: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders which, from what I know, features a tussle between magic and science.

Edited to fix my bold and italic formatting.
Edited to add sideways readalikes.

Editado: Mar 1, 2019, 4:32pm

And my second book!

2. Cast in Silence by Michelle Sagara
audio, Audible, re-read

!More spoilers, since this is the fifth book in the series!

I've been wanting to re-read these books for a while as I've stalled out in reading the series. It was more and more difficult for me to remember a lot of the details to help me get into each new book. These books I find highly metaphysical and I just didn't remember enough of all that stuff. I've been listening to them as audiobooks because that's what I do now, whenever possible, but I also really like the narrator, Khristine Hvam. I think she perfectly captures Kaylin's voice, more than my internal reading voice did which tended to push her onto the more annoying side of things. I also like the other voices she does. I don't think it's a good idea that she uses a West Indian-sort of accent for the most 'bestial' characters in the book (the Leontines), but I can forgive her because her Barrani are perfection, their attitude and precision are amazingly presented (my inner voice tried, very hard, but Khristine nailed it).

This was the first of these Elantran books that I didn't care for. I didn't really care about the missing 6 months of Kaylin's past. I didn't care for Morse (although I like her a bit better in this audio version) or the Tower/Tara. And there is soo much metaphysical stuff, so much. This re-read did not change my opinion. Although, I did like getting to see the younger Nightshade (hadn't remembered that at all from the first read), even if he ends up being superfluous to most of what they do in that past Tower (although I get that it makes sense of a lot of what he's already done in the Present of the books because he remembered what happened (and what Kaylin blabbed about) in that Past time). I liked the scene at the bar/tavern with Teela and Tain (and Severn). I liked the scene with the Barrani High Lord and his Consort, although it went on way too long, which is my complaint about many parts of this book. I wanted the whole thing to move a little quicker, and quit trying to explain ALL of the metaphysical things (I don't mind not completely getting some things). I might wait awhile before I pick up the next book to re-read.

3.5/5 stars

mirror universe: Mysterium by Robert Charles Wilson is as if Elantra went back to the past or a past, but not really because in this novel it's more of a lateral move. I suppose it's more helpful to think of Mysterium as 'what if Elantra was more greatly changed by Kaylin's time in the past of the Tower and herself.' The parallels with the metaphysics of Cast in Silence won't be obvious, I think, until the very end of Mysterium, especially it's topsy-turviness.
winding the Victrola: Recommending Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia might feel head-scratchingly strange, much like the stories in this graphic story collection. I think of the feel of the stories, their loneliness, confusion, undecipherableness, as mapping onto the experience of being Tara/The Tower during her 'youth,' her coming to sentience, when she was trying to figure out what she thinks and feels and knows and what the world is like.
part deux: The Russian movie Day Watch follows on from the decisions in the plot/metaphysics of the first movie Night Watch, decisions very similarly self-reflective but also seemingly fated as the one(s) Tara/the Tower makes in Cast in Silence. Day Watch refuses to take those decisions as given and journeys out from there. It's probably spoilery of the next Cast book to say that about this movie. You don't need to watch Night Watch in order to understand Day Watch, but it does help for understanding the setup of the world it takes place in and the tone of the storytelling.
the same but different: The tv show Day Break with Taye Diggs shows a cop having the worst day of his life over and over again a la Groundhog Day. I picked this because there's a similar level of fatedness to the decisions he makes every time the day begins again despite his wanting to control the outcome. The difference is spoilery, but, broadly the grander mechanism controlling the repeating of the day, its 'moral' orientation feels more positive than in the Elantran books, at least so far, but also more inflexible.

Edited to add sideways readalikes.

Editado: Mar 1, 2019, 4:51pm

3. Old Man's War by John Scalzi
audio, Audible

I had a hard time connecting to this book. I found it mildly amusing until they got battles deep into the fighting when I found it mildly disturbing. I think I read a review that said this book was in conversation with Heinlein, whom I have not read, so I'm sure I missed things. Definitely once we really got into the fighting, I wanted more about colonialism and genocide. I mean, once I learned the 'secret' of what the Colonial Defense Force was up to, its mandate and methods, I couldn't stop thinking about those things no matter what other plot point was being presented to me. In the end those grim things didn't seem to matter much to the goings on of the book, they seemed to be just a very little-questioned way of how the world worked.

3/5 stars

mirror universe: Fool's Run by Patricia A. McKillip is a much stranger book than this one. I do think they have a similar 'fun' tone with dark subject matter, with Fool's Run being, possibly, the darker book.
part deux: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain is what it might be like for the soldiers of Old Man's War if they could go home again and the disconnect between what the people at home understand for what's required by the troops and what the reality is, including what the military wants people at home to think it's like for the troops. I'm cheating a little by recommending this book since I didn't quite finish it, but I couldn't stop thinking of it when I was reading this book.
more of the same: The movie Starship Troopers may seem like the most obvious recommendation. Similar to this book, the movie makes you think but still entertains.

Edited to add sideways readalikes.

Editado: Feb 27, 2019, 3:49pm

I've been away awhile: illness, work, travel, etc. But, I'm back now with a shiny idea. I like making readalike recommendations, but I think they sometimes get knocked for not superficially seeming similar enough to the source book. Also, I'm excited when I can get cross-genre/cross-media recommendations for things I like, so expect that here as well. I'll add my sideways recommendations to those few books I've already talked about, as well as moving forward. I've been burnishing this idea for about a month, so I've come up with categories:

meanwhile, back at the ranch: (may be shortened to meanwhile or back at the ranch) a story taking place in the same time period/world, but in a different location; while our heroes were doing the things in the original book, what was another cast of characters doing someplace else
mirror universe: in this story everything's topsy-turvy from the original story: black is white, good is evil, north is south, a bizarro recasting of the original story's beats
winding the Victrola: unofficial prequels; what led up to the original story
part deux: unofficial sequels; what happens just after the end of the original story
the same but different: similar plot and/or characters but executed differently
more of the same: similar plot and/or characters and/or setting; a more conventional readalike
back to the future: if things go on in this way OR the next generation; different from part deux in that the time span is greater (further in the future) and thus the connection might be looser
in the before time: prior generation(s); different from winding the Victrola in that the time span is greater (further in the past)
my crystal ball: media I haven't consumed yet, but know lots about from reviews, etc., that I thought going into it this original story might be like

P.S., I want to make broadly diverse recommendations, but with the exception of my crystal ball they need to be things I've already read or viewed. It's only in the last few years that I've made a very concerted effort to diversify my reading. I'll do my best with what I have to work with.

Edited to fix bold formatting
Edited to refine the first category
Edited to add a prequel category (winding the Victrola) which I might rename & to tinker with the in the before time category

Feb 27, 2019, 3:31pm

Sounds like a fun idea - I'm interested to see how it goes.

Mar 5, 2019, 5:17pm

4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
audio, library

I've bounced off this book a few times over the years, quite early on in the text: Death was speaking to me and there was something weird about colors. That, combined with the book's popularity, would have me flinging it aside for something more worth my time. (God, I can be such a book snob.) Actually, Death talking to me and weird stuff about colors sound like just my sort of thing, but I thought this was a Holocaust book, and I have a low tolerance for cuteness or gimmicks (which will be funny when I get to one of the readalikes below) around this grim subject matter. I saw that Mark Oshiro had read this book and talked extensively about it on Mark Reads, but there didn't seem to be YouTube videos of him reading it. I've had a good run of books with Mark over the past few months so I decided to check the audiobook out from the library.

The part that hooked me was Rudy idolizing Jesse Owens. That was enough, but then there's a great scene where Rudy's father has to explain to him why that's unacceptable, perhaps in general, but certainly in Nazi Germany. I cried and cried during this book. I'm pretty sure the book is a sentimental book. It took a lot to come around to the concept of Death narrating the story, but once I was there, I realized how resonant that is. Who else, really, could narrate a book about the huge, worldwide loss of life that was WWII, following not so far off from the same of WWI? I don't think I would have liked the book nearly as much without Death. I think the outline/shape of the story, even though the events themselves are realistic to the time, has a sentimental or melodramatic shading to it. That's where Death telling the story gives me permission to revel in the excess of emotions.

I loved it, way more than All the Light We Cannot See which slid off me like I was made of Teflon. I think the two stories are similarly sentimental, which is where a lot of my thinking around what the difference was, what allowed me to connect better with the narrative of The Book Thief. If I was writing a paper, I would probably talk about how Death constantly spoiling the story of The Book Thief makes sense because it's an unspoilable story. We all know what happened in Germany in World War II, the important part of what happened, and fiddling about with the niceties of narrative to make a tidy, well-behaved story maybe does a disservice to all the suffering and dying that happened. This is a book I think everyone should read. Not because I think everyone will like it but because I think more people would like it who don't think they would. Luckily it is a bestseller and hugely popular, so I probably don't need to worry too much about it getting into people's hands.

4.5/5 stars

mirror universe: The film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is set during a different, earlier war, but similarly fusses with the moving parts (mechanics) of story (and features stories within stories) and has the specter of Death hovering over it all. The tone of this movie is the topsy-turvy part, as it's greatly absurd/over the top.
part deux: Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse mostly takes place where Death went next in WWII, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It has a framing device of a man trying to prove his marriageable niece was not in the radiation fallout by translating the shorthand of his journals of the time period.
the same but different: The poem "Eyes Fastened with Pins" by Charles Simic from the book Charles Simic: Selected Early Poems shows some mundane aspects of Death's job and life.
back to the future: See Under: Love by David Grossman starts with a child of Holocaust survivors trying to figure out the world because of that. It, too, features the power of stories to aid in survival and to try to make sense of something which seems overwhelming. A section of the book is presented in the format of a glossary or concordance and that's as much as I will spoil of the title.

Mar 7, 2019, 2:20pm

>13 drneutron: I'm enjoying it. Definitely finding, so far, it helps me think more clearly about the structure and themes of the book.

Editado: Mar 7, 2019, 3:42pm

5. Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider
audio, library

I thought this book squandered a good premise. It's the near future and there's an epidemic (pandemic?) of drug-resistant Tuberculosis, such that the system of sanatoriums has to be revived. The book opens with a boy who's in the middle of his senior year of high school starting his first day at a sanatorium for teens. Information about the world of the book is doled out slowly. I liked this part best, the part where you can tell the world is out of whack, but you're not quite sure how it got that way or why we're harking back, medically, to the trappings of the early twentieth century. Then the boy yearned for the girl from afar. He worms in with her friends. Then he gets the girl. I maybe wouldn't have minded the romance if the participants and their tight circle of friends seemed... smarter? sharper? I definitely wanted them less typically quirky and more brutally fractured (a strangeness brought about by the state of their bodies as a stand-in for the state of the world). But mostly they did the things I thought they would in the awkwardly hipstery way I thought they would. Except I definitely didn't expect them traipsing off to town and breathing all over everyone and in the end saying there's no way they could be responsible for any TB cases that show up there. I seriously had to stop and google, thinking I had been mistaken about how contagious TB can be. Why do they think they're isolated at the sanatorium at all? Well, I know: they think they're being persecuted, ostracized, their lives being ruined because of stupid adults' stupid worries. Except, didn't any of them rail against how they got TB and realize that it came from another (infected) human? Did they never think of that? I mean, one of the boys in the group is a tortured artistic soul, really? And he dies? I kept trying to give the story a darker cast, like, the outbreak was manufactured by {fill in the blank: government agents/evil scientists/bumbling researchers who try to cover it up/an alien invasion force}, or the potential cure towards the end of the book was some sort of conspiracy or cover for some sort of illegal experimentation. But nothing like that happened. :-( The setup ended up feeling like a way to have a tragic love story for minimally-supervised teens. Pretty disappointing.

3/5 stars

mirror universe: Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin early on features a young woman with TB, but in a magical realist way, who gets a, of course brief, romance. The tone of the romance is less earnest, even though the state the world ends up in, the future she sees in the stars before expiring, is deadly serious, if lightly enacted.
part deux: "90 North", my favorite poem by Randall Jarrell, is as if the artist boy was an adult looking back on the hard lessons he learned during this fraught time in his personal and in world history.
more of the same: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green features a doomed romance between teens who meet at a support group for their mortal illness.
my crystal ball: Early on with this book, I kept thinking of all I know of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, which is a lot. (I know the big reveal.) The setups seem similar to me with a group of youth isolated in an institution because of something biological/medical.

Mar 7, 2019, 4:00pm

6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
audio, library

I really like this book. It was so much fun to read. It's a short one, less than 6 hours on audio, so I began and finished it while running errands around town and going across town to see my Mom. The narrator of my copy, Anthony Heald, did a great job. As you can imagine with a book set in the Jazz Age, there are lots of people in varying states of inebriation, and the narrator made them all sound realistically drunk and different from each other. I thought all of the characters were a sorry lot, but I still cared about them and wanted them to be happy. I don't have anything profound to say about this classic. It's the one novel from high school English that I didn't feel negatively towards. I think I liked the writing but I didn't understand the import of what was happening. Again, more mature me likes the writing quite a bit (can't wait to read more Fitzgerald).

4/5 stars

meanwhile, back at the ranch: Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald follows a couple who are the sort who would be attending the parties at Gatsby's. Another Jazz Age novel that paints the time really well, including how we and they got to that point.
the same but different: 1. The Spoils of Poynton by Henry James is a novella that shows, via a peripheral narrator, rich people behaving badly about some of the strangest things. I thought it was hilarious; and I thought the Great Gatsby had a lot of (unexpected by me) humor, too.
2. Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor also features a well-off family, pillars of the community, taking things to quite tragic lengths. This book follows an African-American family and so adds colorism and racism to the mix.
my crystal ball: I suspect that Passing by Nella Larsen has a lot to say about status and means just because of the setup: a light-skinned Black woman passing as White and being found out by an old friend (darker skinned). Seems like the fear of discovery/being outed could definitely lead to tragic things.

Mar 21, 2019, 4:50pm

7. World War Z by Max Brooks
audio, library

I was in decent like with this book throughout. It was my first full-cast audiobook which was a lot of fun (recognizing various actors, Bruce Boxleitner, Alan Alda, Ed Asner) and appropriate for this book's structure which featured mostly interviews and eyewitness accounts. I also appreciated, especially considering the title, that it did feature so much of what was happening around the world, was not just U.S.-, European-centric. That's it. The whole thing had an easygoing pleasantness. I was glad to have read it. I have a mild interest in the movie--oh, never mind, I just googled it and it doesn't look like it follows the structure of the book. That's too bad: I was hoping for a faux-documentary.

4/5 stars

part deux: Feed by Mira Grant follows on from the Zombie Apocalypse when a limited infrastructure and bureaucracy are restored.
the same but different: The made-for-tv movie Smallpox 2002 is a sort of pseudo-documentary about a smallpox outbreak that leads to a pandemic.
in the before time: The oral history Hard Times by Studs Terkel follows many different people, government workers, elected officials, entertainers, business people, everyday people, telling their story of the Great Depression.
my crystal ball: I thought Dracula by Bram Stoker had a structure of found documents to detail a more small-scale invasion of the supernatural.

Mar 22, 2019, 12:44pm

Glad you liked the book! Yeah, the movie is not at all representative of how Brooks told the story. It's good, but a completely different work.

Mar 26, 2019, 4:48pm

>19 drneutron: It's frustrating because, I think, the fun of the novel is in its structure and how it unspools the story, rather than the story idea or story events themselves. It's the different thing it brought to zombie novels (in my limited experience). But, I'm not making movies.

Mar 26, 2019, 5:59pm

8. The Third Squad by V. Sanjay Kumar
ebook, library

This book was labeled as noir thriller. I didn't get the thriller part at all and it took me about halfway through to understand the noir label. The book is set in modern day India (Mumbai) where the criminal-judicial system is so mired that many criminals don't end up serving time for their crimes because it takes so long for the the case to come to trial the criminal has had plenty of time to intimidate, buy off and/or kill witnesses, including criminal-judicial officials. So, the police have set up their own hit squads to take out the powerful crime bosses. It's been quite effective, so much so that the tide of public opinion is starting to swing the other way with the public and press starting to question the ethics of what the police have been doing. The officers in these hit squads also suffer, either becoming burnt out/demoralized, corrupted themselves, or executed by the remaining crime bosses because their public lauding makes them too visible. As the book opens, a special hit squad (The Third Squad) has been put together. The secret about them, known only to their trainers/handlers, is that these men all have Asperger's or Autism. The thought is that they won't be as corruptible or questioning of their mission because they won't be as emotionally effected by what they're doing. I know that's not how Asperger's works, and I think the book immediately questions that assumption because the main character we follow is one of the best men on the squad, Karan. He is the reason why I love this book.

Karan is eerily good at what he does, and at first, it seems to be his wife, who acts as a conscious on his behalf. She did not know at first that he was on the squad. But as he becomes more famed, and, as he is not very good at circumspection in his home life, she finds out. She starts following him as he stakes out his cases. She follows up with witnesses and the victims' families. She insistently questions him about what he does and how he can do it and worries at what it does to him. She is not the impetus for his eventual soul searching, his tussling with what he does and how it is justified. He's there at the very beginning, just in a more oblique way. At first, he studies the rap sheets and biographies of the men he is to kill. He need to know that they are 'bad' people so that he can deploy a sort of ends justifies the means reasoning. He also idolizes the head of his team. Karan wants his boss to be proud of the work he does, of his competence, including avoiding the pitfalls of previous squad's members who made fatal mistakes. Early on in the book, Karan's supervisor and his handler, have already started questioning whether he was starting to slip. Even though he's a supernaturally good shot (I think it's something mathematical/physics about angles and velocity and force, but the book doesn't ever make that explicit), Karan tends to leave an opening, a hesitation. His superiors aren't sure if he's conflicted about the mission so he's giving the other guy a fighting chance, or if he's leaving the window for a way out (death) from the missions without ever officially withdrawing from the team. Karan himself doesn't know why it is, mostly because he doesn't know the facts of the killing moment because he's operating by feel/instinct. He wonders if it may have something to do with the failings of earlier team members, but whether he should arrest what he's doing or encourage it, in which direction he should move, he's not sure, so he studies their cases harder.

The book follows other viewpoint characters: Karan's wife, his boss, his boss' nemesis (leader of a crime division where they collect information via informants and spying), the interim boss of these two, the head of the orphanage Karan grew up in (a man who specializes in cases with Asperger's or Autism), some of Karan's targets, some informants. Karan's wife is a tour guide in Mumbai, popular for her quirky tours that highlight the tension between old and new Mumbai, celebrating the tenacity of the old with its gaudy architecture, overcrowding and squalor. As we wind through the city sunup to sundown, buffeting from person to person, learning more and more of their dark secrets and obsessions, it begins to dawn on us, or at least me, that Karan truly is in a noir novel which means he cannot end up anywhere good. The last third of the book was unbearable with the weight of this dark, squalid world Karan found himself trying to understand. The cat and mouse game between his boss and his boss' nemesis comes to a head and Karan gets caught in the crossfire. I loved this book so much. I thought the writing was strange, something about the way we sat in any particular character's viewpoint was offkilter/unstable, which completely adds to the noir setup. The city was very strange, both real and unreal. I really enjoyed being in Karan's POV and watching him struggle and commit and accept. All of it.

4.5/5 stars

meanwhile, back at the ranch: In the film Touchez pas au Grisbi, the main character is a criminal whose loyalty to his good friend who has gotten himself entangled in a wretched gold-thieving scheme for love of a cheating woman costs both of them greatly.
mirror universe: The City & The City by China Mieville follows a police officer in a strange city which is really a pair of cities superimposed over parts of each other. He has to follow arcane rules in the investigation of a case where the criminals had to have already broken the rules of breach, which is acting across the borders of the city without officially crossing the border. He may decide that breaching is the only way he can actually solve the crime, a thing that could effectively end his life.
winding the Victrola: The movie Infernal Affairs is set in Hong Kong with a desperate police force who recruit police officer trainees from the academy to go undercover with the crime bosses (officially they seem to have been kicked out of the academy, but only their handler knows that's only their cover) and a desperate crime boss who enlists some of his young low-level hoodlums to enter the police academy. We follow one particular undercover cop who wonders if you act like a criminal for years what are you really and one particular criminal who wonders if he truly wants to go back to being a criminal.
the same but different: The movie Leon the Professional follows a girl taken in by an assassin when her low-level criminal family is murdered by crooked cops. He ends up training her in his profession to avenge her little brother. Things get complicated very quickly and come to a very noir end for Leon and a very realistic end for the girl who is still a child.

Mar 28, 2019, 5:16pm

9. A True Novel by Minae Mizumura
ebook, library

This novel has a nested structure. The first third or so of the book is the narrator's early years, her Japanese family stationed in the U.S. by the father's company. It follows her up through college. Oh, and the narrator shares the name of the author. The why will become clear later. They live a comfortable middle class life, class-wise, even if there are struggles around fitting in in the U.S. in the 60's or not wanting to fit in, wanting to retain their culture and language for the recall to Japan that does not seem to come. Her father takes an interest in a poor, young man, Taro, recently immigrated from Japan. He helps him strengthen his English language skills so that he will be able to get a better job, and Taro does end up working in the father's company. He also welcomes Taro into their Japanese community in a patronage sort of way. He is the elder, higher-class leader of a community shepherding a promising young man of decent breeding. Taro flows in and out of Minae's family's life until they have a frosty break when there is a reversal of fortune for both. Taro works his way up through the company, at first deferentially, but more and more aggressively, in an American-style, putting his own wants and needs (a greater share of the profits as a salesperson, equity and recognition) ahead of the company's authority. He eventually breaks with the company, starting his own business, eventually becoming rich and then ridiculously rich, in the process being ostracized by most of the Japanese community who'd originally welcomed him. Minae's father loses much of his standing in the company over the same time period, including some health issues which make it difficult to keep to the same level of production. He never quite forgives Taro, taking his initial interest in Taro as a lapse in judgment that signaled the beginning of the end for himself, professionally as well as doing right by his family. This all reads like a very extensive, very strange prologue. You're not quite sure how these people matter and, since so much already happens, what will be the events of the story proper.

The next section of the novel follows middle-aged Minae, now a professor, who is contacted by a young Japanese man, Yusuke, who is quite coy about what he wants from her. Eventually she is able to coax from him his story, which is about Taro (he sought her out because of her connection to Taro when he was first in America). In Japan, Yusuke was the receiver of the saga of Taro's life in Japan, his self-made wealth in America, and his reconnection with those he left behind in Japan. We do not get to hear much of this story. It takes all night to tell it. Minae, who has been contracted to write a new novel and has been struggling as the deadline nears, knows that this is the inspiration she needs. She will write the story, Yusuke's story of Taro, as a True Novel. She gives us a little history of Japanese novels, talking of a tension between an I novel, which is fiction that values verisimilitude and reads more memoirish, as if it really happened to the writer (a la the first half of this novel, including often having the main character share the name and many life story elements of the author), and a True Novel, which is fiction that reads as we Westerners understand fiction to be, there is no confusion as to whether these things really happened before being turned into fiction, and things are allowed to be a little bigger, just all around a little more. The second half of this novel is a True Novel (and is labeled as such in the text, or is the whole of the second book if you're reading the 2-volume collection). Minae, the character, gives us the True Novel without anymore setup.

The True Novel presented in this book is Taro's life story as told to Yusuke by Taro's neighbor's maid, Fumiko. Taro's story as presented is a loose retelling of Wuthering Heights. Taro is a dirt-poor boy who is neglected and abused in a small town in post-WWII Japan. His family moves in with an old relative who has been allowed to live in a small shack on the property of a well-to-do family in gratitude for his service to the family's prior generation. The family has two girls, the youngest of which is of a delicate constitution and is hence left out of most of the extended family's wealthy-lifestyle goings on, since she has spent so much of her younger years bedridden with her grandmother to watch over her. This youngest, Yoko, becomes friends with Taro, a relationship protected by the grandmother's secretive interventions and shelter as the relationship is not acceptable because of its extreme crossings of class boundaries, but is slightly more acceptable for the left-behind daughter. This is the first true kindness Taro has received and he puts all his feelings of well-being and worth and care onto Yoko. And Yoko is starved for this sort of attention. If you know Wuthering Heights, you'll know that theirs is a doomed affair. They do come together somewhat as adults and work out a highly attenuated relationship until Yoko's dramatic death (you get this right at the start of the True Novel section so I'm not spoiling anything; we start now from the end of the story and then back up to show how we got there). Fumiko is very important to the True Novel because she was in a position to see it all and she helped facilitate Taro and Yoko's courtship, passing secrets notes and the like, so we get her life story as well in the mix.

I loved this book so much. It is a slow-moving book with a complex structure, but the whole thing ends up feeling just as it needs to be, inevitable. The character-work is impressive. We get to learn so much about so many people at so many different time periods. We get lots of interiority and their flawed but very human thinking and their pinched and strangled actions. Class really restricts these people no matter where they fall on the spectrum. I thought the love story between Yoko and Taro was beautiful even though doomed and immature and lopsided. It's even complicated towards the end by a side character's revelation. I liked every part of it. I was never bored or impatient, even though I should have been. Especially knowing as I did going into it that it was related to Wuthering Heights (that's how/why it was recommended to me). I really liked Wuthering Heights, except for a chunk in the middle where I was bored and impatient, but if you don't, don't let that scare you away from this book. The tone of this book is more muted, the pace more measured, actually more I novel-like than True Novel-like, when compared to the source material. I cared about so many people in this book and wanted things to go well for them even though they mostly don't. I can't wait to re-read it.

4.5/5 stars

the same but different: I didn't go into too many details for the romance in this book because I think it's spoilery, but I will recommend the film In the Mood for Love because the feel of the romance and it's stuttering enactment in this film feel very similar to that in this novel.
more of the same: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters is another story of post-WWII class decline (I know, another thing I didn't dwell on much in my review above--it's such a rich book!). This is also a tragic story.
back to the future: Sabella by Tanith Lee echoes the love triangle/trapezoid of this book if you think of the absent brother as one leg of it (wow, this feels spoilery about Sabella--sorry). There's also the gothic feel and the fatedness of the love story.
my crystal ball: I don't know how much of Lord Byron's Novel The Evening Land by John Crowley is anything like this book. It does have a story within a story and as I understand it there are ciphers to be solved and echoes with the main character's family situation in the historical situation.

Abr 18, 2019, 2:09pm

10. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
audio, library

This book started out so well. I loved the voice of Cassie, both textually and in the choice of audiobook narrator. The world was bleak, desolate, and Cassie's mindset fit the trauma she and the world experienced. Her extreme loneliness was palpable. I thought the why of how the world got that way and the theories and explanations were woven in at the just the right times in this first section. I was completely invested in her surviving, no matter the cost, and in making sense of what was going on (cosmically/more philosophically (why would these terrible things happen to people? how does humanity go on?), and in particular (are there aliens? what is their plan/goal?). But then, we switched narrators to a teen boy from her school and his being taken to a military base where supposedly the military has decided that after the decimation of the pandemic unleashed by the aliens they will gather up the children who have survived the illness and train them up, in the most brutal bootcamp, to fight in the war against the aliens. This makes not a lick of sense to me, but the text just jumps right in to the training camp of children and hangs out there for the longest time possible, watching the physical, psychological and emotional abuse heaped on the children by their superiors (adults and older children-officers), with some time out for stereotypical thoughts about heroicism, duty, and the ends justifying the means. Then, thank goodness, we're back with Cassie, but now she's recuperating from a bullet wound with a strange teenage boy in his out of the way farmhouse with all sorts of luxuries (running water, plenty of fresh food, heat, etc.). The military section almost broke me, but this section finished the job, and the finale of the book just mopped up the pieces. I actually liked creepy, strange, possibly-alien Evan, a lot, as a character anyway. I mean, I don't think anything he did was right or honorable, or, whatever, but... it is war and everybody's doing things they're not proud of or they're vacillating or they're fatalistic. I buy that very much; it's mostly my favorite part of the book, especially once I realized we weren't going to get much confirmed alien-stuff in this book. Evan's great. It's Cassie becoming very, very un-Cassie, kind of alien-Cassie, because she's lovestruck that I couldn't stand. It was excruciating, utterly disappointing, and it took so very long for her to keep her brain unscrambled long enough to harbor real suspicions about Evan and the strange surroundings he's keeping her in and his holey back story that I checked out of the book. I was done and just getting to the end of the book so I could check it off the list.

3/5 stars

mirror universe: Why Do Birds by Damon Knight is one of the strangest first contact stories I've read, with one of the strongest presentations of the question of the reliability/trustworthiness of the 'aliens' I've read. The whole novel hangs out on that pivot point of whether we believe what the aliens tell us and if they are/there are even aliens until the very end of the book.
winding the Victrola: The ships hanging out in the sky for so long before any manifestations on Earth of their possible intent, makes me think of the beginning of Blindsight by Peter Watts where possibly the aliens took a picture of us or scanned us or something and we go out to find them and figure out their intentions before they can come back to earth and do something more than 'observe.'
part deux: The Host by Stephenie Meyer takes place after the aliens have won and the only unassimilated humans are hidden survivalist bands, say deep in the Southwest desert. This book is sort of from the alien's perspective, if you think of the aliens as along the lines of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I can't say more about the narration than that. It also features a bit of a better delineated romance.
my crystal ball: I feel foolish putting Adaptation by Malinda Lo in this category because I read everything but the last chapter before the library reclaimed it, but I didn't completely finish it. I didn't talk about the birds used as the source of the alien pandemic in The 5th Wave, but it made me think of the creepy bird-delivery of alienness/infection/something in this book. And the books share the immediate slaughter of birds/terror of birds that comes about because of this.

Abr 18, 2019, 2:32pm

11. Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto
paper, library

I don't know that I have a lot to say about this book. I liked it well enough. I actually ended up kind of liking Tsugumi, not to the point of admiring her the way the main character seems to, but I get her, in terms of her circumstances. She's lived with a chronic, probably fatal illness her whole life and thus has had activity and stamina limitations. And she's been indulged by her scared family who don't want to spend what could be their last moments with her scolding her about mundane matters like manners or cleaning her room. I definitely feel like there were maybe cultural things I wasn't getting (and I felt it as well with A True Novel, also set in Japan) where the symptoms of the illness don't seem to align with the seriousness of the diagnosis (whatever it is). Tsugumi gets very bad fevers or flu-like symptoms. Don't the doctors there know what to do for fevers? Don't they have antibiotics? I can't decide if the problem is I'm never told what the particular illness is for these children or if the seriousness of their illness is never presented satisfactorily to me the reader or if there really is a gap in medical expertise or resources with the professionals in these places. (I also felt this with Stay with Me, where they didn't seem to have any sort of real treatment for sickle cell anemia, which at least gets named in that book.) Besides that, I thought this very short book (I think it's more of a novella) was a mildly pleasant read.

4/5 stars

winding the Victrola: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett features another sick child who terrorizes those around him with his bad humor.
the same but different: The poem "Sick Child" by Randall Jarrell I think gets at the mindset of a bedridden child:

The postman comes when I am still in bed.
"Postman, what do you have for me today?"
I say to him. (But really I'm in bed.)
Then he says - what shall I have him say?

"This letter says that you are president
Of - this word here; it's a republic."
Tell them I can't answer right away.
"It's your duty." No, I'd rather just be sick.

Then he tells me there are letters saying everything
That I can think of that I want for them to say.
I say, "Well, thank you very much. Good-bye."
He is ashamed, and turns and walks away.

If I can think of it, it isn't what I want.
I want . . . I want a ship from some near star
To land in the yard, and beings to come out
And think to me: "So this is where you are!

Come." Except that they won't do,
I thought of them. . . . And yet somewhere there must be
Something that's different from everything.
All that I've never thought of - think of me!

Abr 18, 2019, 2:55pm

12. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
paper, library

I like this book well enough. I am not sure what I'm looking for in a graphic novel (or manga), I just know that I mostly keep not finding it. To be fair, I'm picking these graphic novels up at random. I'm just flailing about hoping to knock into what I want, the thing(s) that I don't know that I want. I liked the cleverness of Watchmen. I liked the atmosphere of Tales from Outer Suburbia. This book was fine. I liked the story proper well enough. The art was good.

4/5 stars

my crystal ball: The Undertaker's Daughter by Kate Mayfield is a memoir about being raised in a funeral home. I loved all the details about the day-to-day disruptions of living upstairs from the funeral home. (It's in this category because I only read the first third or so.)

Jun 27, 2019, 11:41am

13. River Flow by David Whyte
paper, own

This was a book of selected poems. I liked the way it was set up, by theme or subject, rather than by book they originally appeared in. These poems were too, I don’t know, philosophical for my liking. I found them hard to keep my attention on because there were not enough specific images or concrete acts or items to hang onto for pages at a time. I did like some well enough.

3.5/5 stars

mirror universe: Muscular Music by Terrance Hayes struck me a bit opposite to this book in that there were plenty of specific images and concrete acts, but I found myself missing many referents, thus finding these poems to be too ‘secretive.’ Shows that poetry is such a balancing act between the universal and the personal.
the same but different: The poems in Landscape with Yellow Birds by Jose Angel Valente and Book of My Nights by Li-Young Lee gave me a similar feel to these poems.
in the before time: I like to think of these poems as in conversation with Rainer Maria Rilke, maybe something like The Book of Images.

Editado: Ago 25, 2019, 3:42pm

14. Wacky Packages New New New
paper, own

This is the second volume showing Topps stickers spoofing various grocery/drug store products. My grandmother had a pantry where the inside door had these stickers (stuck on, I assume, by my uncle who was 7-8 years older than me). I used to greedily study them whenever I had some time to myself at her house. I thought these stickers were the coolest thing ever. This was probably my first exposure to broad parody, before I discovered Cracked or Mad Magazine or could stay up late enough for Saturday Night Live. This book was a fun trip down memory lane, including noticing now, in our different milieu and me being more mature, the racial stereotypes. I loved the detail in replicating the packaging in a skewed manner. Because it’s been awhile, I didn’t always know what product they were mocking. I will say this volume of the later sticker series felt tired and desperate, like they were running out of steam. If I’d realized this was the second volume, I’d have ordered the first one first. I have to hope those’ll seem fresher.

3/5 stars

mirror universe: The tv show Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law takes an obscure Hanna-Barbera superhero and says, what if he were a not-very-good lawyer and what if he tried cases featuring other Hanna-Barbera characters in atypical situations.
the same but different: Kafka’s Soup by Mark Crick has recipes, each written in the style of a different writer (Irvine Welsh, Raymond Chandler, Kafka, etc.).
more of the same: The Robot Chicken tv show features rapid-fire parodies of tv shows and movies and pop culture scenarios and commercials. The tone is exuberant and features strange mashups and crosses.

Edited to fix spelling of Hanna-Barbera.

Jun 27, 2019, 11:49am

15. Becoming by Michelle Obama
audio, Audible

This was my first book club book. I enjoyed it and it was refreshing to have a group to talk about it with. I thought Michelle Obama did a good job narrating the book; she reminded me of Robin Miles, one of my favorites. Her talking about her childhood made me think of my own childhood, although there are differences. I was curious about her time on the campaign trail and in the White House. I liked it.

4/5 stars

the same but different: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai has a similar sense of doing what needs doing, of her deeds being, not extraordinary, but a part of ordinary humanness.
more of the same: The movie Southside with You is a version of Michelle and Barack’s first official date. It takes place over the course of a 24-hour period.
in the before time: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson shows how Michelle’s family probably ended up in Chicago, as part of the Great Migration.
my crystal ball: I think of My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor as having a similar tone as Michelle’s book, a kind of ordinariness of extraordinary things.

Jun 27, 2019, 11:54am

16. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
audio, library

I got this book a while back as a SantaThing gift, and I do like heists. I tried a couple of times to read it around that time, but I got really irritated with it. Apparently the trick was to listen to the audiobook. I didn’t feel quite as manipulated when the story just flowed into my ears. I did feel a little duped because I expected a complicated heist, a long con, but instead I got a story of being manipulated by an overwhelming force and losing almost everything that matters to you. Those are tough types of stories for me. It was all ok, just mostly not my sort of thing.

3.5/5 stars

mirror universe: The Leverage tv show takes a group of con artists and makes them into a team to set right what once when wrong. They take cases to rebalance the scales.
part deux: I thought the movie Ocean’s 12 fit the feel of this book more than Ocean’s 11 in that the successful heist has big unintended consequences.
the same but different: From what I remember of Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner, it features a decadent society where there’s a lot of dueling, including hired swords. I think the feel of the world/society is similar.
more of the same: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon features an underworld where a larger force disrupts business as usual.

Jun 27, 2019, 12:01pm

17. Catherine of Aragon by Giles Tremlett
paper, library

After reading Hilary Mantel’s books featuring Thomas Cromwell, it was nice to get some perspective on Henry’s first wife. She was a little inscrutable in Wolf Hall, although I will admit it’s probably because I didn’t know enough history. It was nice to follow Catherine’s parents, Catherine’s childhood, and get all of the cultural information and grounding. I was a bit skeptical about the narration (it's a little like scene reenactments) when I first started, but it won me over after a few chapters. I learned a lot, and I appreciated the attempt to redress the sexism and other biases in the traditional historical perspective of Catherine of Aragon.

4/5 stars

winding theVictrola: From what I remember, The Harp and the Shadow by Alejo Carpentier has a very skewed absurd portrait of Catherine of Aragon’s parents.
part deux: Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel is the second book in her trilogy(?) and shows Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and the deterioration and Henry’s new interest in Jane Seymour. It shows more about the break with the Catholic Church (and now I know how important the Catholic Church was to Catherine).
back to the future: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness is the middle book of a trilogy. This book takes place in the time period of Elizabeth I (the characters have time traveled), Anne Boleyn’s daughter with Henry, and does a good job painting the time period.
in the before time: The Lions of al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay is a historical fantasy that has very little fantasy in it. It takes place on the equivalent of the Iberian Peninsula before (during?) Reconquista.

Jun 27, 2019, 12:04pm

18. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
audio, library

This was a bit of a tough book to listen to. I often got lost in the main character’s thinking forward to how (she imagines) everything will work out (a sort of low-level catastrophizing). It made it a little hard to tell what had actually happened and what had happened in her head. I think it would have been easier to discern on the page. I didn’t like anybody in the book. I mean, the characterization is good, I just found myself so frustrated with everybody. The main character’s inability to get past her lack of experience with these finer social graces she was expected to enact, the egregious disrespect and sabotage of Mrs. Danvers, the strangely unthwarted boorishness of Rebecca’s cousin she was having an affair with, and especially Maxim De Winter. Oh, Maxim. He doesn’t ever try to woo the main character; he isn’t even very kind to her, but then he just marries her, is even mocking about the fact that she didn’t see that coming. We do learn that he seems to care about the main character, but too little too late, especially coming after he says he’s not sorry he shot Rebecca. I was a little happy at the end to have Manderley burned down and have them left in exile.

3/5 stars

the same but different: I hear tell this book is a retelling of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and I can see the bones of it.
back to the future: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield features an old woman in a crumbling manor who needs to sort out the past and what it has wrought.
my crystal ball: I think Great Expectations by Charles Dickens has an older woman whom love has done wrong who raises a child erratically and spitefully as a sort of revenge.

Jun 27, 2019, 12:07pm

19. The Book of Colors by Raymond Barfield
ebook, library

I find I don’t have a lot to say about this novel. I liked it well enough. It’s a deeply interior character study, but limited in timeframe, mostly the course of her pregnancy. I will say I haven’t seen this level of poverty portrayed in a novel set in the modern era.

4/5 stars

winding the Victrola: The character John Laroche in the film Adaptation makes me think of the guy in this book that the main character stays with for a time. He has various money-making schemes but still is beat up by life.
the same but different: I think the The Bluest Eye or Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison have a similar feel in terms of the interiority of the main characters and life not doing right by them.
my crystal ball: For The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals by Wendy Jones, I’m thinking about the funeral director’s son at the end of this novel and his potential interest in the main character and his probable thought of rescuing her.

Jun 28, 2019, 11:46am

20. Avatar: The Last Airbender: Smoke and Shadow by Gene Luen Yang
paper, library

This book was oversized and has heft, an omnibus of the three single graphic novels that make up the Smoke and Shadow story. This is my first Avatar graphic novel and for some reason I jumped in here. I’ve seen several episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, enough to get who most people are. I liked this graphic novel well enough. Mostly it was pretty, the colors and detail. It made me cringe a bit seeing the Prince make such poor leadership decisions whenever Aang was indisposed. It added some credence to the bad guys’ declarations of his selfishness or unsuitability to lead. I liked it. I would read more.

4/5 stars

my crystal ball: I thought Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson might have some resonance, more in the ‘bad guys’ being right about leadership and coming together to fight back. Also, there are mistwraiths.

Jun 28, 2019, 12:07pm

21. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Book One by Emil Ferris
paper, library

The art in this graphic novel is amazing, in its mimicry of lined notebook paper and spiral binding, its use of color, its reproduction of works of fine art, its grotesqueness. The book is thick, the story quite detailed, with numerous plot threads, quite a few of which, I’m convinced, are converging. The main character, a young girl, is obsessed with classic monster movies. She always draws herself as a monster, a sort of wolf-man, as she investigates the murder of her upstairs neighbor. There is also the mystery of who her father is/was and why he’s no longer around, the circumstances of his departure. I really liked this graphic novel. It’s one of the first ones I’ve really connected with. I know I said earlier in the year that I'm not sure what I'm looking for in a graphic novel, but I keep mostly not finding it. This came the closest, I think, of anything I've read. I think it's the non-traditional layout of the artwork (not the traditional panels but not confusingly jumbled) and the non-direct but rich storytelling. I was disappointed not to get a little more resolution at the end of this volume, although I have my ideas about some of the stuff going on, at least around her family.

4.5/5 stars

part deux: The Cutter by Edward Bryant is a bit of what might happen when the person obsessed with horror movies grows up.
in the before time: The film Shadow of the Vampire follows Murnau’s making of the vampire film Nosferatu in 1921. The conceit of this film is that Murnau discovered a real vampire. The repercussions are about what you’d expect.
my crystal ball: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite follows two sisters, the younger of who kills her boyfriends and the older of who covers it up. That setup sounds richly resonant.

Jun 28, 2019, 12:13pm

22. And Then There Were None by Christie Agatha
audio, library

The use of the N-word in the original title and for the island name was a hard point for me to get past. Also, because it’s in the zeitgeist, I already knew the trick of the mystery (that the murderer was one of the earlier ‘murdered’ people). When I tried to read this in paper when I first got it as a SantaThing gift, I had so much trouble keeping all the people straight. I felt like I needed to keep notes like I was doing a logic problem. Listening to the audiobook was better at helping me keep track of people, although it still was a relief once a few died and I had to keep track of less people. It wasn’t that the people blended together, it was more the keeping names matched with their alleged crime matched with their cover story matched with the truth of why they were invited to the island. Overall, I'm know sure why, I just had a hard time connecting to the story throughout. I knocked my rating down an extra half-star because the people investigating the crime after the fact couldn’t figure it out and had to wait for, literally, a message in a bottle.

2.5/5 stars

mirror universe: Murder by Death is a skewed movie version of this storyline. An eccentric wealthy man gathers together the greatest detectives (spoofed versions of Poirot, Miss Marple, Charlie Chan, Nick and Nora Charles, and Sam Spade) to solve his imminent murder.
the same but different: I thought Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game’s mystery had a similar tone to the setup of this one. A guy who’s convinced of the guilt of various people gathers folk together ostensibly to solve a puzzle mystery but mainly, it seems, to watch the shenanigans that ensue and get some deep secrets out in the open.

Sep 19, 2019, 11:37am

23. Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
ebook, library

This book opens with a man mistakenly arrested for theft in Uganda who is attacked and killed by a mob in the market because people don’t believe the police force take these sorts of crimes seriously and won’t save them from such miscreants. We then spool back to the 1700s where Kintu, a tribal leader, is in a difficult position, within his family and in the broader shifting boundaries of tribes. He loves only one sister of a set of twins, but in his culture you can’t separate twins, they are considered to share one soul. He only marries the one he loves, but when she turns out to be infertile, he brings the other twin to his compound and the couple claims her children with him as their own. The familial relationships are complicated because there are several wives and the children are meant to be referred to as Kintu’s children and not be partial to their birth mother. There is also a foster son in the mix, the son of a foreigner (a Tutsi) whose wife died, both things of which require that he foster his, at the time, young son out. In the present day of this past section, Kintu has to go make tribute to a new king in a neighboring region which is in the middle of dynastic upheaval. He must bring a sizable group of fighting men with him to back up his offer of fealty and alliance. The foster son, on the cusp of adulthood, is brought along, an honor done to him. Something terrible happens early in the journey to the foster son and Kintu panics and covers it up. They are on a tight timeline traveling through the desert on their way out, but they are meant to offer a proper burial and observe death rites when they return. Kintu just… doesn’t. He can’t face his culpability in what happens and so just acts like nothing has happened. Then things start to go terribly wrong with Kintu’s extensive family; awful deaths, violent disputes, secrets revealed. They all know themselves to be under a curse, but most don’t seem to know why.

The rest of the story takes place in modern times and follows Kintu’s descendants, some of who remember their familial history and greater or lesser details about the curse, others of who have lost all sense of their history and just know themselves to be suffering. These modern sections have a lot of overlap with the trappings of gothic stories: a generational curse, a preponderance of twins, a focus on the grotesque, incest. Eventually these descendants start finding each other, they start connecting, hoping to play out whatever each thinks is necessary to mitigate the family curse.

I do like stories where we, the readers, get to see what actually happened in the past and get to compare that with what future people seem to know about it and how they interpret it. I loved the historical portion the best. I appreciated the tenuousness of Kintu’s position, both in his compound and in the broader countryside, but also how he had to present a strong, confident front. I also liked learning so much about a different culture. I had a much tougher time with the modern sections, mostly because of their focus on the grotesque. Also, more mundanely, I had a hard time tracking them, especially because names are re-used/passed down. Overall, I was glad to have read this. I appreciated its epicness. I also thought it had some interesting things to say about how much our past effects us, how much we allow it to, and the tricky job of shifting between understanding/acknowledging the past and making sense of/exploring the present and then moving into future.

3.5/5 stars

meanwhile, back at the ranch: Wild Seed by Octavia Butler starts in Africa in 1690 and goes to the New World via the slave trade. It is technically multigenerational, has a supernatural feel to the past events, and is partly about trying to take control of your own destiny.
mirror universe: The Black Panther movie deals with the blessing and curse of vibranium and how the need for secrecy (in order to maintain control/thwart exploitation) puts Wakanda in the position of bystander and hence unintended complicity. You can’t escape history.
the same but different: The Shaka Zulu miniseries, from 1986, is about the Zulu people of South Africa, following their king from 1816-1828, Shaka.
part deux: “What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky” is a short story from the collection What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah. It’s also episode 5 of the LeVar Burton Reads podcast. The story is set in the near future when climate change has reached a point where the US and Western Europe have taken to a landgrab in Central and South America and Africa, so their people have someplace to live. They either invade, use biological weapons, or use the threat of biological weapons and other threats to strongarm the particular country into an ‘alliance’ that’s all in the favor of the more powerful country.

Sep 19, 2019, 11:39am

24. A Mask of Shadows by Oscar de Muriel
ebook, library

I really liked this book. It’s the third book in a series, but it didn’t take long for me to figure out the relationship between the inspector partners and their supervisor and the setup of their tiny department. The book takes place in Edinburgh in 1889. The police inspectors work in a sort of X-Files unit for unusual crimes. Bram Stoker’s theater troupe has come to the city for an impressive staging of Macbeth. But a banshee and strange deaths seem to be following the production. I loved the character work of the book, both major and minor recurring characters and the one-offs for this installment, and the behind the scenes stuff on a historical theatrical production. The mystery itself was too convoluted for me to keep track of, and I’m still not sure I really understood it in the end. I definitely want to backtrack and read the other books in the series.

4/5 stars

the same but different: 1. The Dark Sleep by P.N. Elrod has its theatrical production (of Macbeth also, I think) in extensive flashbacks and backstory, and the mystery features an unrecognized sociopath.
2. Under a Texas Sky by Dorothy Garlock is a historical romance novel (1930’s) set on a location movie set which is experiencing a lot of accidents that are actually sabotage.
back to the future: Smoke and Shadows by Tanya Huff is set on a tv set in the early 2000’s. The mystery here is completely supernatural, although only those few who have this secret knowledge of the supernatural are aware of it and have to clandestinely solve the mystery.

Sep 19, 2019, 11:40am

25. The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
audio, Audible

The idea of this book stated baldly is that plants have trained us to give them what they want rather than the typical thought of us cultivating them. There are four focus areas: tulips, apples, marijuana, GMO potatoes. My favorite was learning the history of tulips and the discussion of GMO crops. I liked this book despite Pollan’s narration of the audiobook. He had a very mannered delivery which ended up making him sound so smug. I think I probably would have liked the book even better if someone else was narrating it. Seriously, I listened in a mostly combative manner because of the smug, know-it-all vibe I kept getting.

4/5 stars

mirror universe: Ill Wind by Rachel Caine starts an urban fantasy series where the setup is that the natural world is actively warring against humanity with extreme weather and natural disasters and its only the djinn and their handlers who mitigate the scope of this attack.
the same but different: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren talks a lot about plants since she is a botanist.
my crystal ball: I thought The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean could be a good fit for this book about the intersection of botany and humanity.

Sep 19, 2019, 11:42am

26. Alec: The Years Have Pants by Eddie Campbell
paper, own

This book is a gargantuan omnibus which probably, for me, was not to its benefit. I actually got it based on one short comic I had read back in college. I think I would have liked a lot of the material within in little bits but having it all smooshed together made it all seem highly repetitive, sapping some of the power. I didn’t realize that a goodly portion of his work is autobiographical. A lot of things people did in the stories were hard for me to understood or identify with, at least early on. It was just a very different world than I grew up in. There were also so many characters to keep track of. I loved the way Alan Moore was portrayed in the graphic novels, including the art-representation of him. I also really liked the comic guy who was so nervous/anxious and kept ghosting on his panels and interviews. In the end, I’m glad I read this.

3/5 stars

Sep 19, 2019, 11:45am

27. Prisoner of Midnight by Barbara Hambly
ebook, library

I really enjoy these books but I mostly consider them a guilty pleasure because what I actually enjoy is half of each novel. I like Ysidro; Grippen will do in a pinch (these are the vampires we’ve known since the first book). So, I’m keen to be with Lydia or James/Jamie, whichever one is with the vampire of choice. But these novels are intertwined stories, for the most part, the husband/wife team are typically separated early on in the novel and then we follow first one and then the other, flipping back and forth. I actually prefer Lydia to Jamie so it’s been nice the last few books to have her paired with Ysidro. Often these books have felt overly historical to me and not enough supernatural. Well, until we got to World War I. Now, I find the historical stuff very gripping, on a more even level with the supernatural goings on, and richly allusive and metaphorical. Whew, I feel better admitting all of that. Now, I can talk honestly about what I really thought of this book.

In this book, Ysidro has been kidnapped again (kind of irked at the repetition in this setup) but is able to get dream-messages out to Lydia, Jamie and the military guy the vampire has under his sway. He is being held by unknown persons on a Trans Atlantic ship to America. The husband-wife team in their investigations are pretty sure (it’s been true before) that the kidnapper(s) are going to try to use Ysidro or vampirism in general to gain war and/or spy advantages for their side. Also, they are very keen not to introduce vampires to the New World (it is thought there are not already vampires there), so Lydia (who is partly in love of a sort with Ysidro (it’s complicated) might have to kill him rather than let him stay in the wrong hands or unleash vampirism in America. Oh no! I loved that part. Seriously, even though I don’t want Ysidro to die, I loved the setup of Lydia maybe having to make a difficult decision. It was a great ticking clock. Also, it is WWI so their ship could be torpedoed, Lydia’s daughter was foolishly brought on board against Lydia’s wishes by her obnoxious aunt who doesn’t believe there’s any danger, there might be saboteurs on board the ship, and there might be a second(?) sloppy vampire on board. It was all great. This is not in any way my favorite of the series, but I did enjoy it greatly. I’m not sure what I think about the ‘development’ (spoilers!) at the end but we’ll see what the next book brings.

4/5 stars

the same but different: I recommend Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead (not the first book in the series) but the why is spoilery for both books: a way has been found to turn the vampire who has been made into a strigoi (the more evil vampire creatures of this world) back into his ordinary vampire self, a huge unheard of thing
back to the future: the film Captain America: The First Avenger is another supernaturally entwined WWI
my crystal ball: I think Baltimore by Mike Mignola also features vampires complicating WWI

Sep 19, 2019, 11:50am

28. Almost Crimson by Dasha Kelly
paper, library

This book had me crying my eyes out at every opportunity. It features a young Black woman who is the caregiver of her Mother who has a severe mental illness (depression, I think). We often go back in the book to the girl’s childhood in her early days of taking care of her mother. Eventually we also get some insight into the Mother’s childhood and young adulthood. We have the caregiving and emotional burden on the main character, her fear of the ‘inheritability’ of her mother’s mental illness (we hear more about that from the mother’s background scenes), and the narrow life the main character has been forced to live in the interstices of her duties. It’s a heart-breaking story with some seeds of hope by the end. So much of this slender book echoed a lot of things from my childhood, hence the ocean of tears I cried. The character work was amazing. Every character felt so real to me and I understood why they did what they did even when it wasn’t the right or best thing to do. It was great. I’m looking forward to more Dasha Kelly.

4/5 stars

the same but different: The short story "Strays" by Mark Richard features two brothers who also are left to their own devices for huge chunks of their young childhood and the natural consequences of that.
in the before time: Beloved by Toni Morrison was the first book I read that reflected back my family and their story, similar to the way this book struck me. This book is historical, taking place in slavery and maybe a decade or so post-slavery.

Sep 19, 2019, 1:32pm

29. Storm Front by Jim Butcher
audio, library

I’ve tried to get into this book a few times. If you read urban fantasy this series will get recommended to you a lot. What got me through finally this time was listening to the Unspoiled podcast chapter by chapter assessment, so I felt like I had some company. Also, the narrator of this audiobook is James Marsters (Spike from Buffy), who was perfect. I had a tough time because hapless characters make me uncomfortable. That combined with Harry’s not taking enough seriously (for me!) was enough to keep me distanced from the goings on. The book was ok. I have no plans to continue on in the series.

3/5 stars

mirror universe: Dog Wizard by Barbara Hambly is a bit like a portal fantasy version of this book. Windrose is that world’s version of a Harry (outcast, accused of heinous wizardly crimes, seems not to take much seriously).
the same but different: Moon’s Web by C.T. Adams features a shapeshifter assassin instead of a wizard detective, but he has some similarities with Harry (jokey, misunderstood by his community, a bit of a loner).
my crystal ball: I have an idea that the tone of the narration of Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin is similar to Storm Front.

Sep 19, 2019, 1:33pm

30. P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
audio, library

This is the middle book of a trilogy. It was ok. I really loved the first book but I struggled to stay engaged with this one. I thought the first one had a good balance between the historical milieu and the ‘smaller’ more homey family drama of the siblings. For me, I found the balance in this one a bit off, tipping a bit too much into the quotidian. It didn’t help that I found the family drama tough personally (blended family, oldest girl taken to task for the role of disciplinarian/caretaker she’d been raised up as, the seeming impossibility of the concert ticket dream, the 6th grade classmate jostling). I just felt a low-grade frustration throughout. People with different childhoods might not have this issue. I still liked the book. I just was not as wowed as I was with the first book.

4/5 stars

mirror universe: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink follows a girl in a frontier family who finds that her family is trying to change her place/role in the family and that what has always been true is no longer acceptable.
back to the future: I think of Almost Crimson by Dasha Kelly as a version of the oldest girl all grown up, still trying to shoulder her burden but also trying to figure out how to be herself.

Sep 19, 2019, 1:36pm

31, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
audio, library, re-read

This is one of my favorite Diana Wynne Jones books (along with Howl’s Moving Castle and The Homeward Bounders). I had not read any of her books when I was a kid. I discovered Howl’s Moving Castle when I was in college and then moved on from there. I discovered the Spoil Me podcast where she’s commissioned to read books and watch tv shows unspoiled (like Mark Does Stuff) because she had read Sunshine by Robin McKinley. It turns out someone also commissioned her to read this book by Jones. I have not heard anybody else talk about this book when they talk about Jones’ books.

I hope this is not a spoiler because the host of Spoil Me spent most of the book not knowing/getting this, but I think it’s necessary for putting the parts of the story into perspective: this is a skewed retelling of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. I think I read this book soonish after Ellen Kushner’s Thomas the Rhymer so I liked the synergy. Also, I really liked the setup with parallel memories and the confusion of what seems like two timelines. That’s what hooked me. Then, I loved the adventures Mr. Lynn and Polly get caught up in. This is a book that has a good balance for me between the thrill of story elements and the cerebral satisfactions of allusion and sorting through what is reality. I was so glad to know that there was someone else out there who loved it enough to commission it. It was a great revisit.

4.5/5 stars

mirror universe: Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty where the main character ‘accepts’ her fairy tale destiny at the end.
part deux: I think of The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger as maybe what Tom and Polly work out for how/where they can entertain a relationship without getting tangled up in the requirements of folk tale again.
in the before time: Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner is another retelling of Thomas the Rhymer that focuses on what it’s like for Thomas living in the world after being ‘blessed’ by the Fairy Queen.
my crystal ball: I read most of The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black but didn’t quite finish it, so I happen to know that it features capricious fairies, people (changelings, fairies, people who have made bargains with the fairies) struggling against the confines of the fairy world strictures, and people trying to figure out love in and amongst the dire circumstances.

Sep 21, 2019, 4:03pm

32. American Gods, Volume 1: Shadows by Neil Gaiman
paper, library

I’ve tried reading American Gods several times. Each time I’ve gotten a bit further but I’ve probably only made it maybe 1/3 through. When I got this graphic novel from the library there wasn’t anything on the cover that let me know there were multiple volumes. I was actually pretty impressed that they got that book down to this single volume of a graphic novel. Ha-ha-ha! Yeah, as I started getting towards the end of this volume, I was like, we can’t be anywhere near the end.

I don’t know a lot about graphic novels. I’m still figuring them out. But I don’t think this is a good one. The art is fine. But it’s like the adaptor just took whole chunks of the novel and plunked it on the page to draw some art around it. I recognized a lot of the text from the book. It’s not very effective because it means panel after panel of narration and that feels pretty static. It honestly felt lazy to me. I didn’t rate this lower because I liked having the art and that helped make it a more enjoyable way for me to get through the story. I might finish the graphic novel, I’m not sure I’ll finish the novel

3.5/5 stars

mirror universe: Vellum by Hal Duncan features all sorts of ancient gods, including remixes with historical (WWII, The Easter Rising) and modern times.
back to the future: I would recommend the tv show Babylon 5, in particular season 4 where the Vorlons & Shadows, creatures so powerful many species viewed them as gods, openly war with each other across the galaxy with everyone else caught in the middle.
in the before time: 1. The Tales from the Flat Earth series starting with Night’s Master by Tanith Lee, from what I remember, is supposed to be set in our past that is so ancient its mythologies are forgotten. It might be more helpful to think of it as a secondary world fantasy. These entities are not technically gods, but they are very powerful, meddlesome, manipulative, and capricious.
2. The Age of Unreason tetrology starting with Newton’s Cannon by J. Gregory Keyes is also {take this spoiler seriously—it’s not stated until the end of the series}a past we are unaware of because of a shift in the underpinnings of the world. It reads as a historical fantasy, maybe an alternate history. I don’t remember there being direct contact with the ‘gods’ of the factions but their powerful underlings/minions are very hands on.

Sep 21, 2019, 4:07pm

33. Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia
audio, library

I loved this book! Maybe not more than the first book but just as much. At first, I wasn’t sure what I’d make of the move to the Deep South. I mean, it scared me: I kept foreseeing something horrific (race-wise, I mean) happening, especially with their newfound Black pride. Also, their grandmother is not my favorite character. This setting, with the Great-Grandmother’s interference and the Great-Aunt’s meddling, was the perfect place to really open up the sisters’ relationships with each other. Delphine and Fern, Fern and Vonetta, Delphine and Vonetta. Especially Delphine and Fern. I’m definitely prone to be on Delphine’s side because I’m the oldest, too, but also as an adult I can see how she sometimes goes too far. That ending knocked my socks off: lots of feelings, a bit of understanding between people, but no unrealistic angelic accord.

4.5/5 stars

mirror universe: Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine by Bebe Moore Campbell is more along the lines of what I was dreading with this trip to the South. This book’s guiding narrative is a version of the Emmett Till killing.
my crystal ball: I think The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd might have some similar perspective-changing events in the life of the young characters.

Sep 21, 2019, 4:11pm

34. Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diane Wynne Jones
audio, library

It took me a long time to warm up to this book. I’ve talked before about my difficult time with hapless characters. All the characters were also so strange and, I don’t know, over the top? larger than life? I also have a difficult time with forces against the main character(s) being so overwhelming. My interest picked up with most of the stuff with the griffins. I liked all of them. I also really like the way all the things connected up and came together in the end.

3.5/5 stars

mirror universe: Living Next Door to the God of Love by Justina Robson is a sort of science fiction version of this book. The world where most of the story takes place is a kind of pocket universe that people opt to live in (one of many choices). A dark force (Unity) is hunting ‘the god of love’ (Jalaeka) and the world of the story will either be destroyed but maybe could be remade (translated).
the same but different: Derk ends up being assigned Dark Lord because of visiting an oracle to find out who should teach his son. Another Fine Myth by Robert Asprin opens with Skeeve ending up being apprenticed to a ‘demon’ after his teacher’s untimely demise. This is a long series so the payoff (things connecting up and coming together in a most pleasing manner) won’t be for at least a few books.
back to the future: Beneath the Vaulted Hills by Sean Russell deals with, not a ‘physical’ decline in magic in the world, but a sort of embargo where the last wizard in the world will not teach any students and is hiding any other magical knowledge in the world, including being willing to kill anyone who gets (maybe unwittingly) close to uncovering magical knowledge.

Sep 21, 2019, 4:16pm

35. Fear of Missing Out by Kate McGovern
paper, library

I liked the idea of this book: a girl’s brain cancer reoccurs and she’s not willing to try more treatment but her Mom is adamant about it. I even liked the narration, at least in the first half of the book. I felt really close to the main character and connected to their thinking. All along, I actually thought of the cryopreservation option as a sort of macguffin, both big picture level and, maybe unknowingly, even in the thinking of the main character, a way for the character to get used to what it means to forgo treatment by easing into the idea of it. I was a bit confused by the seeming seriousness of the ‘science’ of the cryopreservation. I started to wonder if this was a science fiction novel and that cryopreservation was further along as a viable option. Then suddenly the book gallops along with tiny paragraphs and tiny chapters in the winddown to death. I both wanted to linger more in her coming to terms with dying, for real-for real, and also wanted a cleaner quicker ending (not necessarily death) so that I could have my good cry and sign off already. Instead the lingering and the tiny fragments dissipated most of the emotions the narration had built up.

3/5 stars

the same but different: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green executes a satisfying wind down on a fatal illness.
my crystal ball: The start of this book made me think of My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult where there’s a disagreement between the mother and the daughter (patient) regarding who gets to make decisions about the daughter’s body.

Sep 21, 2019, 4:25pm

36. Frankenstein: Junji Ito Story Collection by Junji Ito
paper, own

This manga starts with a longer story that is an adaptation of Frankenstein. It’s pretty faithful, maybe too faithful for my liking, including what seemed like a lot of direct quotes from the narration. The rest of the book is a series of stories that often feature the same set of characters and circumstances but play them out in various horrific ways. There is a middle school-aged boy who’s staying alone in his gothic-y mansion while his parents are traveling for months at a time, his older teen cousin who often urges the boy to change his mind and come stay with them while his parents are away, a friend of the boy who is tall (where the main boy hasn’t hit his growth spurt yet) and good looking, and various girls in their school who the boy likes or finds exasperating or thinks are off-kilter. Then as the stories go on alternate universe versions of the characters start appearing in the same stories as their counterparts. I liked the idea of the set-up of these stories. I did feel like the stories often ended quite abruptly or their ending was really just the reveal of their horror, not an emotional or plot ending.

3/5 stars

mirror universe: Coraline by Neil Gaiman features an alternate universe with an Other House and an Other Mother who tries to enact a horrific ending.
my crystal ball: I think of Dianna Wynne JonesHouse of Many Ways as a version of the house in this collection with the people in the walls, bodies appearing and disappearing in graves in the yard, or appearing randomly out of rooms they hadn’t walked into.

Sep 21, 2019, 4:28pm

37. Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling
audio, library

Ugh, this book. For me, it’s straight-up survival-porn: even the world remakes itself, ‘ending’ in such a way that the main character can show off to best advantage all their survivalist skills and tactics. And it was never-ending, the longest book—so long. Every awful thing that humans can do happens to somebody important to somebody in the book. And during this misery odyssey we keep stumbling upon people who need to get across to us in a calm/measured manner that somehow always struck me as smug how to fight with a knife, use a bow and arrow, track, trap food, whatever old-timey skill that humans now need to rediscover to get along in the new old world. The whole thing felt dry, artificial, condescending, and weirdly nostalgic. Blech.

2/5 stars

mirror universe: The Road by Cormac McCarthy is another mysterious near-post apocalypse with a lot of heinous human behavior.
my crystal ball: I thought Liberation by Brian Francis Slattery might have some of the nostalgic (here Wild West) fall into old-timey post-apocalypse.

Sep 21, 2019, 4:37pm

38. Kindred Graphic Novel by Damian Duffy
paper, library

This was a decent adaptation of the novel. I liked how Dana looked a bit like Octavia Butler. My only quibble was the very end which did not seem quite like the book, you know, the part with Dana’s arm. Even if technically true to the events of the novel (I’m not so sure it is), its presentation was muted or muddied. It’s my favorite moment of the novel so I guess I’m picky about it. Overall, pretty good.

4/5 stars

mirror universe:1. Long Division by Kiese Laymon features the intersection of time travel and race.
2. Glimpses by Lewis Shiner has a son trying to reconcile himself to his father’s death, the circumstances of it and things unresolved in their relationship. He ends up multiple times traveling back in time to effect musical history and maybe changing things in our present time.
the same but different: The episode “Memphis” from the Forest Whitaker hosted Twilight Zone (2003) shows a Black man who gets sent back in time a day or so before the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and is convinced he’s there to stop it. What he’s actually there for and what the changes mean for our present time end up being pretty resonant.
my crystal ball: The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman has a girl in the 60s who gets sent back to 1860 and ends up having to live as a slave.

Sep 21, 2019, 6:07pm

Just wanted to say I'm enjoying reading your reviews. And I'm getting double and triple the recommendations with your side categories!

Nov 6, 2019, 3:29pm

>52 LibraryLover23: Thanks! I fret over the additional recs, but I do enjoy making them. They make me feel clever and smart. :-P

Nov 6, 2019, 3:30pm

39. The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
audio, Audible

I suggested this book to my new book club when they wanted to read a mystery. We liked it enough that we opted to read the second book in the series for the following month, a first for the group. I knew that the book was set in Canada and featured a team that worked on sensitive crimes involving immigrant and/or ‘minority’ communities. Esa Khattak, a Pakistani-Canadian Muslim, heads the special team, with Rachel Getty as his subordinate. The setup of this first book is that a man fell to his death from a cliff and it may not have been an accident or suicide. An additional layer that’s revealed pretty early on (but still I’ll tuck it away, just in case): he may or may not have been an unprosecuted Bosnian war criminal. I thought the writing was a little rough with way more telling (rather than showing) than I would want. But, I eventually warmed up to the detective pair. It helps that their unit is not seen as necessary or is seen as merely political: they often don’t have support or get hindrance from those around and above them. That it brings them closer to each other and makes me, the reader, root for them. The mystery was somewhat tangled and was utterly devastating. As the novel goes on we get more and more background, including fleshed-out scenes from that earlier time in Bosnia, and we also get a goodly amount of information about Reconquista (Spain ‘taking back’ the Iberian Peninsula) that is actually relevant to the broader mystery. What I most appreciated about this book was the global feel of it, that all these things happening in the world ripple out and touch other peoples/events, that we have to know the world, including history, to understand the things happening in front of us.

4/5 stars

the same but different: The tv show Crossing Lines follows a newly formed investigative unit in The Hague that can cross international boundaries to investigate crimes.

Nov 6, 2019, 3:42pm

40. Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones
audio, Mark Reads

It took me a while to warm up to this book. I found Rupert, the newly promoted Magid kind of unpleasant in his snobbishness and uptightness, but I also didn’t really get Maree at first either. I found her too… aptly? weird. But then, they started running into each other more and more, and there’s a ghost who loves music, we meet Rupert’s brother, and they all end up at an SF convention. I think I knew about this book when I first got into Diane Wynne Jones in grad school because it was pitched as an awesome SFF book set at an SFF convention, which was not a selling point for me because I had never been to one & wasn’t sure I wanted to go to one. Now, many years and conventions later, the convention portrayed in this book was *glorious*. Also, I started feeling for all these characters, and some of them go off on a strange quest & we don’t know if/when/how we’ll see them again and what that will mean for the world. It was so good! I’ve been in a bit of a DWJ slump over the last decade or so, but this totally brought the strange awesomeness I expect from her.

4.5/5 stars

the same but different: The Silent Tower by Barbara Hambly features a sort of industrial revolution in the portal world that a mage exploits to increase his power & influence, including traveling to our world to gain computer knowledge and experience to aid his power grab.
more of the same: High Wizardry by Diane Duane has a wizard interacting with technology to facilitate spells that end up re-making the world.

Nov 6, 2019, 3:47pm

41. The Language of Secrets by Ausma Zehanat Khan
audio, Libro.fm


The second mystery following Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty. This one was a little tougher for me because undercover stories make me tense and I’m not found of terrorism plotlines. Also some white dude who is barely competent and has an ax to grind is constantly racist and xenophobic to Esa in front of colleagues and underlings and never gets called on it or have to pay in any way. It was so frustrating! I mean, realistic, but blech. In the end the only one who gets reprimanded/suspended is Esa who partly accepts it in exchange for protecting Rachel. I didn’t get all of the poetry references but that’s okay because Esa and his compatriots got it (just barely) in time (no thanks to that awful guy) to figure it out. I liked it and I’ll definitely continue on in the series.

4/5 stars

the same but different: The tv show 24 is set in the U.S. and follows a Counter-Terrorist Unit. It’s action-packed with high stakes (assassinations, nuclear detonations) and features lots of undercover work.

Nov 6, 2019, 3:50pm

42. Countdown by Mira Grant
audio, Audible

This a novella, I think. It’s pretty short. It’s a prequel to Feed that shows how the virus was first released, how it mutated to what we know in the book Feed and how it spread & was recognized in the greater world. It was fine. I didn’t need it but I wasn’t sorry to have read it.

3.5/5 stars

mirror universe: The Patron Saint of Plagues by Barth Anderson follows a CDC representative in the near-future who travels to Mexico to work on an outbreak and has a lot of roadblocks put up by the government which I think is a theocracy at that point.
more of the same: World War Z by Max Brooks is a sort of oral history of a Zombie apocalypse.

Nov 6, 2019, 3:59pm

43. The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
audio, Mark Reads

Man, this book broke my heart. After the first book, I never would have thought there could be a story that would make me feel sorry for Itempas. The main character is a mortal who is clearly not just a mortal who is in over her head. I really liked her and I liked how information was revealed to us at different points in the narrative. I actually thought the narrative structure was masterful. There’s definitely tension because we know more (stuff from the first book) than the main character does, but there are things about her we don’t understand at all because she doesn’t know the why only what she can do. I grew to like some of the godlings and then mourn them in turn. I raged against the aristocracy of this world who just keep going on trying to wreck the place in their greed for ultimate authority and power. I really liked the first book, but this is the one that made me a Jemisin fan.

4.5/5 stars

mirror universe: Archangel Protocol by Lyda Morehouse is set in a future U.S. which is a theocracy and has (incognito) archangels on earth setting in motion/aiding Armageddon. It’s cyberpunk but with religion.
the same but different: Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow has a woman strongarmed into working for Lucifer. She has to help solve a mystery for him & has a demon minder/helper.
back to the future: Delirium’s Mistress by Tanith Lee is a book (the 4th book in the series) that similarly shows people caught up in the playing out of their predecessors’ machinations. There is a half-demon woman who stirs things up.
my crystal ball: I think that Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop features a woman with some extra-mortal lineage learning about it and what she’s capable of.

Nov 6, 2019, 4:03pm

44. Property by Valerie Martin
ebook, library

I found this book a bit disappointing. The only other thing I read by her was Mary Reilly, which I liked a lot. This story felt truncated (it honestly felt like quite an abrupt ending to me) and underexplored. I do appreciate the perspective of the white woman who is passed along to a husband she doesn’t want or respect and feels like she’s been thrust into this slavery thing she wanted no part of. But, I don’t know, do we really want to tell a slavery story that says something like, ‘white women suffered, too.’ I could have rated it lower, because that’s clearly how sour I feel about the book, but it is well-written and the character-work is very good. She’s a good writer and I think that also contributes to my disappointment. She could have told that tough, tricky story about the intersection of slavery and white women, but this wasn’t it.

3.5/5 stars

mirror universe: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler follows a modern black woman who gets sucked back into the antebellum past in order to keep a white boy alive who ends up being a forefather.
the same but different: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead tells an appropriately brutal story that follows many parts of slavery and racism, even showing a slave catcher’s perspective.

Nov 6, 2019, 4:07pm

45. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
audio, library

I have a family member with a recently-ish serious mental health diagnosis who is struggling with finding the right medications, serious physical health side effects from the medications and hospital stays, and just the knowledge that life from here on out will be different than any of us expected. It was good for me to read this because the author has struggles, but also tries to live by this philosophy of making the most/getting the most whenever she can. I mentioned it to my family member obliquely. I mean, it’s a thing I’ve been trying to do more. I had a rough childhood with a lot of responsibility and I’ve struggled to lay down some of that burden in the present moment, to let go of some of the catastrophizing, anxiety and hypervigilance that’s no longer needed but is the only way I seem to know how to be. Anyway, the book is also really funny. My sister had read part of it previously, so we’ll often turn to each other and say, “This chicken will cut you,” and guffaw, which the rest of the family is mystified by. I would read more stuff by her.

4/5 stars

the same but different: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh is also funny and has some insights into what it’s like to live with depression. It’s comics instead of prose.

Ene 4, 2020, 8:55am

46. The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck
paper, library

I liked these poems, mainly their mild strangeness (in their imagery and juxtapositions) and the somewhat anxious voice of their circumlocutions. They also have a religious (mostly Christian, I think) stem. I hadn’t read Gluck since grad school, I think. These were pretty good, probably nowhere near as good as she can be. I left the book feeling very fond of them.

4/5 stars

mirror universe: Concerning the Angels by Rafael Alberti is a collection of poems about different sorts of angels, some of them silly, some of them heartbreaking, some of them strange.
the same but different: Brother Sebastian by Chon Day is a book of single-panel comics first published in 50s. They were light and a bit whimsical.
my crystal ball: I would recommend the poet Mary Szybist. Her first book is Granted. Her poems feature Christian imagery and stories. They are denser than the ones features in The Wild Iris but I don’t think denser than what sometimes Louise Gluck opts to do.

Ene 4, 2020, 8:56am

47. Duke Ellington by Andrea Davis Pinkney
audio, library

I didn’t realize how short this was when I started listening. I think the physical copy must be more of a picture book. I learned some stuff about Ellington and about jazz, but I found the writing a little disappointing in its… staidness? I wanted a little sizzle or more playfulness or something, like the music it’s talking about.

3.5/5 stars

the same but different: When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan is a picture book about Marian Anderson being the first Black person to sing at the Metropolitan Opera.
more of the same: Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow by Gary Golio is a picture book about Jimi Hendrix and his beginning ideas and wants in music.
back to the future: The Year the Music Changed by Diane Thomas is an epistolary novel set in the 50s about the correspondence between a teen girl and a young Elvis Presley, just starting out in his career. The focus is really on the girl and her family’s dynamics, but there is a lot of music in the book.
my crystal ball: As I understand it, White Tears by Hari Kunzru is a novel about two white guys trying to perpetrate a fraud about a Black man’s music to make money off it.

Ene 11, 2020, 10:46pm

48. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
audio, library

This book was so strange, and a little (maybe more than a little) frustrating. It follows a teen girl who can see fairies when mainly the rest of the world cannot. She has to pretend not to see them, in order to protect her mental health status in the community and in order to avoid repercussions from the fairies’ attentions. She catches the eye of a fairy prince who will not take ‘no’ for an answer. You see, they are fated to be together: why is she fighting it? He is overbearing, seriously entitled (because he’s royal and he’s a fairy), and oblivious. He is also desperate. His mother has usurped a kingdom that was supposed to be split equally time-wise a la Persephone (half the year in spring/summer, half in fall/winter) between him and her. The main character has seen enough about the fairy world to know she doesn’t want any part of it, but also she has unexamined romantic yearnings towards her best friend. That best friend wants to be more than friends with her but can’t get her to relax enough to be open to the possibility. I actually liked the relationship she had with her best friend, as friends and as potential partners. I also like the way he stood by her but didn’t take over in order to rescue her. I felt mildly sorry for the fairy prince but mostly I felt intense rage towards him for all the pressure and glamor he applies to the main character. I was so worried about how she would be able to come to a compromise with him. I really liked this book. It took the familiar things (secret world, love triangle, fated mates) and did many non-typical things with them. I would definitely read more by her.

4/5 stars

mirror universe: Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith has vampires instead of fairies. In the end this girl has to give up more but not the thing that really matters (I’m not going to spoil that!).
the same but different: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer features a similarly non-optimal pairing, but one in which she mostly pursues him.
my crystal ball: What a cheat for me to list The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black in this category. I read all but the last chapter or two, which I do intend to go back and finish because I did really like this book. In this one, the fairy is not much interested in the machinations the humans have gotten themselves entwined in, which they try to hook him with.

Ene 11, 2020, 10:47pm

49. Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon
ebook, library

This book was recommended to me by mytbr.co because I wanted to get into romances. The first rec I got was The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan which was witty and gave me big feels for the guy. I really liked this one, too. I love that he thinks the kids are great (he ends up being their nanny for a bit—that’s how they meet) and he also thinks she’s a great mom. Also, they talk to each other about how they’re feeling and what they want. Right away! I haven’t read a lot of Romance novels, but, reading so much Urban Fantasy, I have read a lot of romantic relationships, and the people involved almost always try to hide their attraction, stew over how the relationship is progressing instead of speaking up/clarifying. I loved that part of this book so much, that they talk through what’s happening and how it will work and what they want.

4/5 stars

Editado: Ene 11, 2020, 10:48pm

50. The Very Best of Kate Elliott by Kate Elliott
ebook, library

I liked these stories well enough. I mostly found them thinky, although a bit grim. They center, as a matter of course, girls and women. The character work was very good and the worldbuilding, although, I think a good chunk of them are short stories set in the worlds of her novel/series. My favorite story by far was “The Gate of Joriun” which is about fate/destiny, volition, and the ‘price’ of such. Oh, and there were essays too, which were ok.

4/5 stars

the same but different: The Perseids and Other Stories by Robert Charles Wilson is a collection of science fiction stories whose darkness I found similarly offputting until I settled in, the quality of the writing keeping me going until then.

Ene 11, 2020, 10:49pm

51. Sister Emily’s Lightship and Other Stories by Jane Yolen
ebook, library

I only read one other book by Jane Yolen, Sister Light, Sister Dark, way back in grad school & I was underwhelmed. I think I also didn’t understand the conceit. It was disappointing because her books sounded like my sort of thing, dealing with fairytales and folklore-like stuff, centering girls, some amount of angst (a la Tanith Lee, I thought). I picked this up with some hesitation, but by the time I got to the story with the fairy being late to the christening to bestow blessings and the disastrous consequences of that, I was hooked. These stories have rich worlds. There is so much stuff happening at their margins, in their back stories, and sometimes you eventually do get to see fleshed out stories that are offshoots of ones you saw earlier, for instance, there are two more stories set in that world with the fairies that I liked so much. It’s subtly done but so satisfying. Also, I found her stories smart and witty. Of course, I didn’t like them all, but I like most of them and loved a goodly percentage of those. Even the title story is so strange and clever and is about Emily Dickinson.

4.5/5 stars

the same but different: Night’s Sorceries by Tanith Lee follows on from the Tales of the Flat Earth series and has myths and folklore from different parts of their world and at various points in time, so short stories with a mythic set up and some interconnectedness with other stories in the collection and with the novels that came before.