Category Archives: Reading

January and February: Books

So far this year, I’ve read thirty books! This is partly because I read a chunk of picture books all at once, and partly because the MTA is a disaster. I feel like I can say this as a part-time disaster myself–and because this week, I haven’t yet had a commute take less than an hour and twenty minutes…for what is supposed to be about a twenty-minute train ride. I don’t have service in the subway system, generally, so I can’t while away the time with social media, and I don’t read on the train because I can get that too-hot carsick feeling (plus I tend to prefer paying more attention my surroundings when I’m actually on the train). But I have done a lot of platform reading, which–despite no longer really being in the business of discussing and dissecting books in public–I will share with you here. The novels and not-picture-books, at least. And this is for me, because as I discovered at the beginning of the year, there’s nothing like being asked what you’ve been reading, or loved (especially in kidlit!), to turn your mind completely blank except for the plot of every smutty book you read in the last quarter. And Q4 was smutty, because that was easy and undemanding in the free time I had.

So, some longer books, but I’m going to be coy about some of them.

»The Prince and the Dressmaker, Jen Wang: A prince likes wearing dresses and feels he has to hide it; a dressmaker wants to be recognized for her work. This leads to Problems. Graphic novel. I know there are some interesting and valid reasons why people love or don’t so much love this one, but I’m fascinated that people who are really into labels have a lot of issues and people who don’t seem to be into labels like it more. I wonder why that is.

»Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse: An urban fantasy that’s not urban at all, really–it takes place on a post-apocalyptic reservation where a Dine woman has become the killer of monsters and sometimes monstrous herself. I keep thinking this is something I’d recommend to someone who likes Paolo Bacigalupi’s books, but I haven’t talked to a person yet who has read one and not the other. A book for every reader I haven’t met.

»The One Hundred Nights of Hero, Isabel Greenberg: A sort-of Scheherezade tale, with a hugely feminist bent and a Scheherezade who isn’t the wife, so that’s nicely subverted. It’s an oversize graphic novel, which probably has a fancy name I don’t know about, and that makes it an interesting gift.

»[redacted] A multi-authored essay collection that a) went on for too many essays and b) didn’t apply to me as much as I…thought, or had hoped? It was fine, just a chore by the end.

»[redacted] Adult romance novella. Trope was workplace setting, but not exactly boss-subordinate. While I liked this well enough, the trope isn’t my favorite, and romance with colleagues is a total turnoff in real life, so… I liked the other novella I’ve read by the author, though, and the author’s longer fiction, so I’d read other romances by them.

»[redacted] Also adult romance novella. Sort of a second-chance romance. I’ve tried a couple of things by this author, who comes widely and often highly recommended, but their work hasn’t clicked for me, so I’m moving on. Alas.

»The Tiger’s Daughter, K Arsenault Rivera: Epic fantasy with an unusual perspective / approach. Has swords and girls kissing in a fantasy East Asia. I had a hard time getting into the first half, but the second half held me. Included a sensual metaphor that made me want to stab my own eye out* like no other in the same scene with one that was also the nicest I’ve ever read in lo these many years of turgid members and honeyed caves.

*I’ve seen an eyeball come out before and I do not need to think about it ever again, but here we are, because a similar thing happens (not super graphically) in the book.

»Willa & Hesper, Amy Feltman: I picked this up at work because it had a lemon on the cover. Has postgraduate writing programs and girls kissing in Brooklyn. Mostly it’s a portrait of post-breakups and of the two girls finding their separate family heritages (Jewish/holocaust history and country of Georgia, they think) painfully. I never underline, but I underlined whole paragraphs in this book because the prose is that wonderfully good.

»Borderline, Mishell Baker: Much-updated-from-its-ancestors urban fantasy, with fae, set in Los Angeles. I know it’s common to have, well, common visceral sensory memories, but for me, remembering college in LA is about remembering temperature and relative humidity and heat radiating off pavement in entirely new and specific combinations, and I felt that while reading. The protagonist is diagnosed with borderline personality, and that informs her character, vividly. One note: she previously jumped from a building.*

*This is another thing I’d like to not think of, and I don’t know how I got two of my three please-nos in such a short span! (Not a reason for me to have avoided, necessarily, but.) If I’d hit hoarding I’d have collected my personal triforce.

»[redacted] Adult romance. We’re practically opposites and we have to save the business by Valentine’s Day! It was entertaining enough, but not memorable.

»Roadqueen: Eternal Roadtrip to Love, Mira Ong Chua: I can’t remember who got me to (unusually) get in on their friend’s (-friend’s?) Kickstarter, but thank you, this showed up and was hilarious. It was all my favorite manga facial expressions and plotlines. Not that I have many, but I have enough to see what’s going on here.

»Dread Nation, Justina Ireland: I’d read most of the book a half-dozen times, but had had bad luck in finishing it, and kept re-reading. Yes, it’s zombies in an alternate reconstruction-era setting, and I can see why that might sound unusual and even not someone’s thing, but holy crap, Jaaaaaaaaane is amazing and so is this whole book. Just read it already so we can commiserate. I read a lot of fantasy and I know what I’m talking about, you peasants.

Reading now: Dead Girls by Alice Bolin, nonfiction about people killing off women and girls in media; Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan, for book club; The Afterward by EK Johnston because it looked good and also handily for an entirely separate book club; Inkling by Kenneth Oppel; Codename Villanelle because of course; finishing Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie; a nonfiction how-to I picked up for $.99 and am not telling you about; and all the romances I can’t help buying at attractive prices but that we’re not discussing unless I’m sure our romance tastes align. The bad thing about writing this out is that it might make the MTA work right and ruin my reading plans…

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Filed under Adult Books, Fantasy, Reading, SF and SpecFic, YA

Random Thoughts and Unpopular Opinions

Random stuff, because I want to not have such gaps between posts…


  1. I’m really missing LiveJournal lately, but mostly because I want to uncensoredly blog about some of my reading, in a pseudonymous way, with a group of trusted friends. Partly gleefully, partly dissectionally, partly angrily, which means I’m probably reading widely enough! Where do people go to have those kind of group conversations anymore?

Not unrelatedly, if you’re not sick of adverbs yet, books need to kick off with some sort of promise—this is the kind of book it will be, even if you don’t know the denouement or real goal right away. You don’t want to start chapter one off like a thriller and then be a tender, quiet exploration of the love between a parent and child, for example. Or, as three examples I read in the last month, frame yourself as about sexual relationships and then be very chaste! Don’t get yourself too worked up; I didn’t know the premise of any of those books before I started reading them, and they were all adult books… It just struck me how much there was a stated expectation that didn’t play out in the pages. I went to read reviews of one of the books and there were people exclaiming about all the steamy sex scenes, and I was so confused I went back and re-read and sure enough, despite a few eyebrow-waggling lines, everything actually faded to black. Like, I’ve seen more explicit middle grade, people. All of this is to say that no two readers read the same book.

2a. It’s good to have self-confidence, but I find that the amount of time people spend talking about how qualified and knowledgeable they are is often inversely proportional to reality.

2b. This brought to you by the last six months of reading publishing threads where, okay, the first few tweets were fine, and then someone handed out some misinformation. Or a lot of misinformation. Or something partly right, but missing the real underlying reasons for situations. Or that piece of advice that matters…if you’re Stephen King and are preparing for a scenario that never happens for 99% of authors, even successful ones. Basically, it’s worth listening when someone is speaking from a position of knowledge, about an area where they’ve had direct experience, for a reasonable amount of time. Speculating about anything else is actually unhelpful, and it’s difficult to correct errors, plus people are too nice and too busy to “well, actually” each other all the time.

  • When I was about 13, and my aunt gave me a hand-me-down chalky cover-up stick for the blackheads on my nose (boy, was that probably not the way to go), I remember saying that I wished there was something that would make all of the oil in my face come out at once. She laughed and said no, I didn’t want that. Well, friends, in the intervening years, Differin gel has become an OTC product, and that’s EXACTLY what happens. I’m at about the week three point and I’ve stopped having the worst cystic acne, but wow, they’re not kidding that your face will purge. My skin is looking a lot clearer, and I think once I hit that magical 12-week mark, I won’t have any regrets, though. Nothing else has really worked for me, so this is nice.

Well, there’s something wonky going wrong with lists and spacing here and I’m too swamped to dig in to the HTML today to fix it.

  • In funny, funny coincidental news, I have to take a picture at work for internal use. I’m so bad at taking pictures and I can always take a bad one that there are maybe three in my life I’ve ever liked, but this timing is extra bad. Plus I haven’t had a haircut in forever, and and and


  • Better: I have hit a weight loss milestone and have shaken loose whatever was making things sticky with that not changing. (Hi, not here for your exhortations of health at any size or reminders that I’m fine as I am; I wasn’t healthy or happy, and this choice is not up for discussion. Please do embrace those things if they’re right for you, though!) The short version of a long story: Some time ago now, when I started trying out preventive medications so that I could stop having so many migraines that I couldn’t do anything, the first medication was…bad. Violet Beauregard. I remember that if you’d served me a sugar bowl, I would have eaten it like it was nothing. In fact, I know I ate straight sugar right out of the pantry by spoonfuls and wanted more. I don’t remember much else because that medication made me so apathetic I had no adrenaline reaction to near-death experiences, so it took me some time to even think that, huh, something might be wrong and maybe I should try something else. In the end, after waaaay too long, I did manage to get things under control with a different medication that I don’t need anymore, even, but I was double the person I used to be. Now I’m only 1.5 people. This still-overlong story is to say that hey, you should do what you need to for your health, and figure out what actually works for you and what does not and by god don’t forget to read about side effects before you take the first dose of anything.


  • I’m going to be on a panel in early August in Denver, and stay for a few days. It will be nice to get a break from excessive heat and humidity for just excessive heat, and a humidity level that makes my hair look like plain old hair again. I never have figured out hair in the following places: New York, Florida, Australia, the South Pacific. My hair seems fine: basically everywhere else.


  • I actually went to Florida recently, and I can tell you: I’m fine with 4Gs and 5Gs but put me on a baby 3G rollercoaster and I might black out. Separately, I loathe Avatar, but I did go on one of the new Animal Kingdom rides that impressed me enough—I’m over 3-D and film in rides, but this combined those with air, movement, and fragrance (!) to be worth the go. Not worth a 5-hour wait in a line, but if you have some sort of pass, go ahead. That ride smelled AMAZING. I would ride it again just to smell it. I also thought the weird bike-like seat was fine BUT I didn’t like that it wiggled around your stomach or, uh, on your legs, because to quote myself, “Did we really need the assisted kegels?”


  • I feel kind of breezy and I want a long dress and my hair whipping around and a sunset waterfront and people laughing. And then margaritas and guacamole.


  • Probably because the world is such a mess. You don’t have to perform your resistance for me, by the way. Charitable actions don’t need to be public to be valid. People can do things besides speak out online.


  • And, by the way, as it’s June, you are okay as you are and as who you’re becoming. You don’t need to act or be or think a certain way to claim an identity, or use the labels other people put on you, or keep them forever, etc. Or really do anything people expect. People need to be able to be themselves, to live and to be happy, not be scrutinized and policed. This brought to you by all sorts of weirdo stuff I’ve seen lately. But not by you, if you’re reading this.


  • I ordered a box of lemon powder and it has saved my water drinking life.


  • If IT is going to change your username for something, they should TELL YOU they have changed your username for something. The end.


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Filed under Publishing, Reading, Travel