Tuesday, October 2, 2018

August/September Mega Post!


September was a hot mess. I should have posted for August before I left for a week in Portland, but I didn't. I'm not sorry, but here's some alpaca photos from my trip anyway:

If you're ever in the Salem or Portland area, you can also visit these cuties at Marquam Hill Ranch in Molalla, Oregon.

And now time to talk about my other love, books!


1. Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister

Women have a complicated relationship with anger. It's not becoming to be angry. It's not polite to be angry. Yet, we are living during a time of immense female anger. Traister manages to put all this anger in perspective, looking at many examples of how women have used anger to get their point across and make change, from the suffragettes to the Women's Marches. She also reminds us that not all angry women are treated equally.

2. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

I should have read this years ago, but I didn't! I really love following Gay on Twitter, where she is petty and snarky and it's wonderful. Many of the personal pieces in this collection are really enjoyable for that reason, like the early one about her Scrabble tournament nemesis. This very personal approach lends itself to her critiques, though I also ended up feeling a bit tired of it by the end. I agreed with much of what she wrote, but it started to weigh me down by the end. 


1. The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

UGH. I was excited for this translation, but I hate Odysseus. I actually hate him. And Telemachus? Yikes. There's really only so much a female translator can do with such high levels of disregard for women. I finally understood why we didn't read the entire thing in high school after book 22. Thankfully, I followed this with Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad. It's not perfect, either, but it is a balm.

2. Twelfth Night by Shakespeare

I am not mad that I read this, but I didn't enjoy it as much as much as She's The Man led me to believe I might.


1. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

A contemporary teen novel written in 2003 shouldn't still be relevant, yet both it and its 2018 sequel are incredibly timely (with a few updated references, of course). Virginia, a plump teen in a thin, exercise-happy family, is already lost at the beginning of her sophomore year after her best friend has been dragged to another city. And then it gets worse. Her perfect, god-like older brother rapes a classmate at a party, and her family closes ranks against the outside world. Don't tell anyone. Don't talk about it. Definitely don't feel sympathy for the victim, Annie. Her brother deserves whatever consequences he has coming, but Virginia can't help feel that she's being punished, too. 

The Best of the Rest:

1. The Bear & The Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Slept on this series big time. I am not great at Russian folklore, which I think it why I avoided this, but it is worth just going with the flow of everyone having five different names and nicknames because this story is excellent. Set in medieval Russia, the country is losing its old gods and leaning into Christianity. After Vasilisa's mother dies, her father finds a new wife who is very devout and had wished to join a convent. Vasilisa, on the other hand, still clings to the old tales, which makes her a witch once a new priest comes to town. While her father is away, the new stepmother sends her out to pluck out-of-season flowers, which pushes Vasilisa into the path of Morozko, a fickle winter god.

2. Sleepless, Volume One by Sarah Vaughn and Leila del Luca

When you need 24-hour protection, most people would hire multiple people. In this medieval-type setting, their guards just never sleep. They are, of course, called the Sleepless. Poppy, daughter of the former king, becomes prey once the new king, her uncle, takes over. Poppy's Sleepless Knight Cyrenic keeps a very close eye on her and thwarts attacks, but these two young and beautifully-drawn characters can't keep their feelings for each other under cover for very long. Intrigue and love alongside excellent illustrations made me fall in love with this series.

3. Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

Billed as Jane Eyre in space, I had some reservations going in. Jane Eyre is not one of my favorite stories, but I heard so many good reviews that I had to pick it up. I am so glad that I did. This was just fun. Set in a post-apocalypse that caused everyone who could to abandon Earth in favor of ships that would orbit it until it was habitable again, Stella is an engineer on a bad ship. After two hundred years of circling the Earth, ships are falling apart and falling back to Earth. Hers is likely to be the next, but she also just really doesn't want to be an engineer anymore. She wants to be a teacher, which is how she ends up as a governess on The Rochester, an odd duck ship that is orbiting the moon for some unknown reason. The new captain is mysterious and hot, plus he has a collection of proper books and the entire digital collection of the Library of Congress (whatever, I'm in love with a man who saves books in the apocalypse, drag me). Weird things happen. Some of this story will be familiar, but the new location definitely adds new mysteries to an old story.

4. Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

As a fan of Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood, y'all), I tried to read this back when it came out and couldn't get into it. Prompted by my enjoyment of the new TV series based on these books, I finally picked up a copy. And then I picked up the sequel, with plans to read the third soon. With many similarities to the Southern Vampire Mysteries (including some characters!), this is a great choice for her fans and anyone wanting to get a little weird for October. While the series starts with Manfred, a psychic, moving to town, the real star of the show is the town itself and the interesting characters it attracts. Everyone has a secret.

5. Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

Call me picky, but it takes quite a bit for a Pride & Prejudice adaptation to feel worth reading. This one, moved to the early 2000s and Pakistan, is worth reading. The societal norms presented by Kamal create an excellent atmosphere that can mimic P&P in a way few others have been able. While I could have done without some of the obvious references to the original (name dropping characters, comparing people to characters so that you'll know who is who), I really enjoyed this adaptation.

6. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I go back to Leigh Bardugo over and over again because she's fantastic at creating a mythology. This is the second in her Six of Crows duology, finishing the story of Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Wylan, Nina and Matthias for now, but it is a bumpy ride the whole time. After their attempted heist from the previous novel was foiled by a double-cross, the gang is fighting for their lives and for lives that would be worth living. This was a strong finish to the tale that left me wanting more (and with a possible opening for another story or two later!).

7. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

I was really impressed with this story. Jane, a young black girl born to a white mother towards the end of the American Civil War, is born three days before the shambler (zombie) uprising. With a new common enemy, the war, though not the tensions that created it, is over. Schools for Native and African Americans pop up across the country training them to be shambler-killing gentlemen and ladies. Jane's enrolled in Miss Preston's School of Combat, but one curious night gets her sent off to an allegedly safe city in the middle of the country. But something is definitely not right, and Jane won't rest until she figures out what it is.


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