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Andrea's 2018 Category Challenge – Attack the Stack

2018 Category Challenge

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Edited: Oct 2, 7:34pm Top

Photo: Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons

Hi, I'm Andrea Blythe, a reader and writer of speculative poetry, fiction, and screenplays living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

My reading capacity has dramatically decreased in recent years to the point where I wasn't even sure if I was going to continue with this challenge. But it's hard to let it go, because I love the people here and I love the way the category challenge stretches me in a bit in terms of what I read. So, I'm here again, but keeping things as simple as possible.

Here are my categories — although there are no caps on any one section, I would like to read a minimum of five books in each category reaching at least 60 books for the year ( a bit of a stretch based on 2017's reading levels).

1. Attack the Stack – Read: 3
My bookshelves are overcapacity, and I keep buying new books, so it's time to whittle away at the quantity of books I own.

2. New Recruits – Read: 5
Books published in 2018.

3. We Are the Champions – Read: 1
Books that have won awards – Hugo/Nebula/Tiptree/Printz/Etc.

4. Intelligence Gathering & Stratagems – Read: 2
Nonfiction books on writing, critical analysis, or anything interesting.

5. Bloodshed and Mayhem – Read: 1
Horror and thrillers.

6. Linguistic Blitzkrieg – Read: 5
Poetry and verse.

7. Visual Onslaught – Read: 10
Graphic novels, comics, and other visual storytelling.

8. Behind the Scenes – Read: 0
Screen and stage plays.

9. Random Acts – Read: 7
Miscellany and overflow.

10. BONUS: Reading the Hugos – Read: 11

Total = 45/60

Edited: May 11, 1:05pm Top

Attack the Stack
My bookshelves are overcapacity, and I keep buying new books, so it's time to whittle away at the quantity of books I own.

1. Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson (****)
2. The Tower of the Antilles by Achy Obejas (****)
3. The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (*****)

So many.

Edited: Oct 1, 4:26pm Top

New Recruits
Books published in 2018.

1. Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor (*****)
2. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emzi (*****)
3. Monster Portraits by Del Samatar and Sofia Samatar (****)
4. The Atrocities by Jeremy C Shipp (****)
5. A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma (****1/2)


Edited: Jul 10, 4:11pm Top

We Are the Champions
Books that have won awards – Hugo/Nebula/Tiptree/Printz/Etc.

1. Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) by Jeff VanderMeer (*****) - Winner of the 2014 Nebula Award


2011 Hugo/2010 Nebula - Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis
1987 Hugo/1986 Nebula - Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
1984 Hugo/1983 Nebula - Startide Rising by David Brin
1979 Hugo/1978 Nebula - Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre
1973 Hugo/1972 Nebula - The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

2015 - The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
2013 - The Emperor’s Soul novella, by Brandon Sanderson
2007 - Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge
2006 - Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
2003 - Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer
Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson - Won the 1994 Hugo, nominated for the Nebula
Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson - Won the 1997 Hugo, nominated for the Nebula

2006 - Seeker by Jack McDevitt
2003 - The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
2001 - The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro
2000 - Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear
1997 - The Moon and the Sun by Vonda N. McIntyre
1996 - Slow River by Nicola Griffith
1995 - The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer
1994 - Moving Mars by Greg Bear
1991 - Stations of the Tide by Michael Swanwick
1989 - The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Anne Scarborough
1988 - Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
1987 - The Falling Woman by Pat Murphy
1982 - No Enemy but Time by Michael Bishop
1981 - The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe
1980 - Timescape by Gregory Benford
1976 - Man Plus by Frederik Pohl
1972 - The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
1971 - A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg
1968 - Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin
1967 - The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delany
1966 - Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany

Tiptree Award
2007 - The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall
2008 – Filter House by Nisi Shawl*
2009 Tiptree Award - Ooku: The Inner Chambers, volumes 1 & 2 by Fumi Yoshinaga*
2009 Tiptree Award – Cloud & Ashes: Three Winter's Tales by Greer Gilman*
2011 Tiptree Award – Redwood and Wildfire by Andrea Hairston
2014 Tiptree Award - My Real Children — Jo Walton*
2016 Tiptree Award – When the Moon Was Ours by Anna M. McLemore*
2016 Tiptree Award – The New Mother by Eugene Fischer

Postcards from No Man's Land, by Aidan Chambers - 2003 Printz Winner

Edited: Aug 21, 6:54pm Top

Intelligence Gathering & Stratagems
Nonfiction books on writing, critical analysis, or anything interesting.

1. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer (*****)
2. No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters by Ursula K. Le Guin (****)

Horror Movie A Day: The Book by Brian W. Collins
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Apocalypse Postponed by Umberto Eco
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss
From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine's Journey Through Myth and Legend by Valerie Estelle Frankel
Writing Poetry from the Inside Out: Finding Your Voice Through the Craft of Poetry by Sandford Lyne

Edited: Aug 21, 6:56pm Top

Bloodshed and Mayhem
Horror and thrillers.

1. The Changeling by Victor LaValle (*****)


Edited: Sep 27, 11:40am Top

Linguistic Blitzkrieg
Poetry and verse.

1. Let’s Not Live on Earth (Wesleyan Poetry Series) by Sarah Blake (*****)
2. No God In This Room by Athena Dixon (*****)
3. The 2018 Rhysling Anthology: The Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Poetry of 2017, edited by by Linda D. Addison (*****)
4. Glimmerglass Girl by Holly Lyn Walrath (****)
5. I Am Not Your Final Girl by Claire C. Holland (*****)


Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey
Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems by Pablo Neruda
Cloud Pharmacy by Susan Rich
Today Means Amen by Sierra DeMulder
Come Late to the Love of Birds by Sandra Kasturi

Edited: Oct 2, 7:35pm Top

Visual Onslaught
Graphic novels, comics, and other visual storytelling.

1. The Gecko and the Three Grave Robbers by Cheez Hayama (****)
2. The Can Opener’s Daughter by Rob Davis (***)
3. Afar by Leila del Duca and illustrated by Kit Seaton (***1/2)
4. Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror, Vol. 1 by Junji Ito (*****)
5. Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror, Vol. 2 by Junji Ito (*****)
6. Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror, Vol. 3 by Junji Ito (*****)
7. Shiver: Short Stories by Junji Ito (*****)
8. Gyo Vol. 1: The Death-stench Creeps by Junji Ito (****)
9. Gyo Vol. 2: The Death-stench Creeps by Junji Ito (*****)
10. Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito (***½)


Saga: Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples
Hark! A Vagrant by Katie Beaton

Edited: Dec 25, 2017, 5:38pm Top

Behind the Scenes
Screen and stage plays.



Edited: Aug 21, 6:59pm Top

Random Acts
Miscellany and overflow.

1. Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #3) by Stephen King (***1/2)
2. The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy (*****)
3. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (****1/2)
4. In the Hands of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce (****1/2)
5. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (Song of the Lioness #3) by Tamora Pierce (****)
6. Lioness Rampant (Song of the Lioness #4) by Tamora Pierce (****1/2)
7. The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Belairs with illustrations by Edward Gorey (****)


Wool by Hugh Howey
Couch by Benjamin Parzybook

BONUS: Reading the Hugos

1. All Systems Red by Martha Wells – Nominated for Best Novella (*****)
2. My Favorite Thing is Monsters, written and illustrated by Emil Ferris (*****)
3. An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (*****)
4. Provenance by Ann Leckie (*****)
6. River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey (***1/2)
7. And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker (*****)
8. Paper Girls, Volume 1, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (****)
9. Paper Girls, Volume 2 (same creators) (****)
10. Paper Girls, Volume 3 (same creators) (****)
11. The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang (****)

Dec 26, 2017, 11:31am Top

Welcome back and have a great reading year! Good luck attacking the stack!

Dec 26, 2017, 3:20pm Top

Here's to a great year of books!

Dec 27, 2017, 1:28pm Top

Hi, rabbitprincess. :) I'm looking forward to what great new (or new to me) books are our there.

Thanks, mammal! Same to you. :)

Dec 28, 2017, 8:16pm Top

Happy reading!

Dec 29, 2017, 2:04pm Top

Lovely to see your thread set up, Andrea. Good luck with attacking the stack!

Dec 30, 2017, 9:06pm Top

Yea! Happy to see you back. You were completely responsible for one of my categories for 2018 - wonder what I’ll take away from you this year.

Jan 2, 5:58pm Top

>14 thornton37814:
Thank you, thornton!

>15 lkernagh:
Good to see you, too!

>16 LittleTaiko:
Thanks! Oooh, neat. Have fun exploring books from all the countries. :)


Book Meme for Books Read in 2017

Describe yourself: The Girl in the Road

Describe how you feel: A Wind in the Door

Describe where you currently live: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Through the Woods

Your favorite form of transportation: The Obelisk Gate

Your best friend is: Hadriana In All My Dreams

You and your friends are: The Liminal People

What’s the weather like: Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day

You fear: Writing Hard Stories

What is the best advice you have to give: Let It Die Hungry

Thought for the day: Your Hand Has Fixed the Firmament

How you would like to die: Tender

Your soul’s present condition: Shopping After the Apocalypse

Jan 2, 8:59pm Top

I love seeing people's meme answers! The fear one is especially good here :)

Jan 2, 10:03pm Top

Great meme answers!

Jan 3, 12:16pm Top

>18 rabbitprincess:
Hah. Yeah, it's probably the most suitable to my present reality. :)

>19 thornton37814:

Jan 5, 1:02am Top

Happy New Year, Andrea. You have some great reading planned for this year and I am looking forward to reading your thoughts. The picture you added to your "New Recruits" category made me smile - it perfectly illustrates our fickle minds being attracted to the new and shiny books and ignoring the feelings of our already loaded shelves.

Jan 5, 3:16pm Top

Hi, Judy, I'm looking forward to reading with you, too. That picture made me giggle. I'm a fan of the distracted boyfriend meme in general. For some reason, it just hits the perfect level of amusement everytime I see it.

Jan 6, 12:11am Top

Love the meme!

Jan 6, 2:29pm Top

Have fun with your challenge this year.

Jan 8, 2:31pm Top

>23 lkernagh:
Thanks, Lori!

>24 hailelib:
Thanks. You, too!

Edited: Jan 17, 5:51pm Top

I am quite far behind on my reading (not to mention everyone's threads), because the number of personal projects I have going in January is absurd. Among these projects is a Kickstarter project I launched to print a limited-edition chapbook, for which I'm creating a new poem every day. It's a lot of work — fun work — but still work.

Anyway, I'm currently reading Falling in Love with Hominids, short stories by Nalo Hopkinson, and Wizard and Glass the fourth book in Stephen King's Dark Tower series. So far I'm enjoying both — when I can slip in some time to actually read them that it.

Jan 18, 11:59am Top

Keeping busy is a good thing! Keeps you out of trouble ;-)

Jan 18, 12:27pm Top

>27 mamzel:
No idle hands here, that's for sure. :)

Jan 21, 2:08pm Top

Stopping by to wish you success with your chapbook project!

Jan 22, 1:38pm Top

Thank you, Lori!

Jan 23, 6:18pm Top

Ursula K. Le Guinn passed away today and my heart is breaking. She wrote some of my favorite books, like the Wizard of Earthsea series and The Left Hand of Darkness. Her work was astounding.

Jan 24, 8:47am Top

>31 andreablythe:, I started tearing up when my husband told me last night, and then I ended up telling him all about the Wizard of Earthsea series, as well as some of her short stories. I used to bring her short stories into my contemporary lit classes when I was still teaching, and they always ended up driving such amazing discussions; I know a lot of my students went out and bought her novels after those sessions. I guess I knew it was coming, given her age, but the world is worse for losing her.

Jan 25, 4:28pm Top

>31 andreablythe: Hi Andrea. There is going to be a group read of Ursula Le Guin in June. It's "choose your own book" so you can read a beloved favorite or try a new one of hers.

Edited: Feb 22, 5:28pm Top

Great that you're here, hope you have time to come by now and again.

ETA: Your chapbook looks great - glad you got it funded!

Feb 24, 3:00pm Top

Hi, all! It's been a wildly busy several weeks (read: month) and I'm finally starting to feel grounded again (will have to see how long that lasts).

The kickstarter project I ran in January was fully funded and I've put together a cover for the chapbook, which will be called Your Molten Heart / A Seed to Hatch and have created a cover:

I'm still working on editing each poem and preparing the book for printing, which is taking much more time than I thought it would.

On top of that my day job projects have been many and I've been in Quebec, Canada this week on a work trip to visit 15 different aluminum companies in five days. It's been a whirlwind, but now I'm heading home. And I'm using my hours at the airport to catch up on a few things I've let slide.

>32 whitewavedarling:
Yeah, her work was amazing and I wish I had studied her in school in order to take part of such discussions.

>33 DeltaQueen50:
That sounds awesome. I will definitely have to jump on that.

>34 -Eva-:
Hi, Eva. I've been doing a lot of projects lately, but I'm hoping to be around enough to keep the discussions going.

Yes, it was funded!

Feb 24, 3:03pm Top

>35 andreablythe: You were in Quebec? Awesome! I hope the weather was all right. Quebec in February can be brutal.

Edited: Feb 24, 3:10pm Top

1. Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #3) by Stephen King (***1/2)
Category: Random Acts

I wrote over 2,000 words on this for my blog and I don't know if that's too much for this thread or not, so I'm only posting a portion here with a link. if you would prefer that I just share the whole giant post here, then let me know.

Spoilers for the previous book (#3) ahead.
“Dreams either mean nothing or everything — and when they mean everything, they almost always come as messages from . . . well, from other levels of the Tower.” He gazed at Eddie shrewdly. “And not all messages are sent by friends.”
— from Wizard and Glass

The third book ended on such a massive cliffhanger — with Roland and his ka-tet set to begin a battle of riddles with a homicidal AI train — that it was a great relief to finally get around to reading Wizard and Glass. This was even though I’ve read these books before and knew how the scene would play out.

Wizard and Glass opens right back with the start of the riddling competition between Blaine the Train and Roland, Eddie, Susannah, and Jake a scene I remember being delighted by when I first read it. And it was just as entertaining to read again, because of how King manages to create intensity in a game of wordplay. I also just really like the idea of riddling, even if I’m not particularly good at it myself. The game plays out, with the group growing more and more desperate each time Blaine smugly answers — with everything wrapping up in a maniacal and humorous form of heroism.

Our heroes all survive of course, arriving at the destination of Topeka, which turns out to be an alternate version of our Kansas — a Kansas emptied of life due to a plague that killed off the population. All of this is an introductory frontpiece to what is ultimately the heart of the novel, Roland opening up to the group with the tale of his first mission as a gunslinger and his first love.

Out of all the Dark Tower books I’ve read, I remember Wizard and Glass the least. Maybe the love story didn’t grab me. Maybe I’ve just been more mentally attached to other aspects of the storyline. At any rate, although it’s a little disjointed feeling with its bookend format (that feel tacked on), this is a solid chapter in the Dark Tower saga.

The rest of this post is here.

Feb 24, 3:15pm Top

2. Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor (*****)
Category: New Recruits

A powerful conclusion to the Binti trilogy, which is incredibly imaginative from start to finish. I love Binti as a character in every way and she grows more and more interesting as the story continues. This third book was amazing and had me crying in front of strangers on several occasions. So beautiful. I really want a boxed set, if they release one.

Mar 1, 4:53pm Top

3. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emzi (*****)
Category: New Recruits

“The first madness was that we were born, that they stuffed a god into a bag of skin.”

I learned about Freshwater after someone (I don't remember who) quoted a short passage on twitter. Just a single sentence or two — too short to know what the story was about, but beautiful enough to make me long to read the book. It was not yet published at the time, so I watched and waited and clicked the preorder link as soon as it appeared, then I waited some more for this beautiful book to be printed and shipped to me.

It was every bit worth the wait, because this debut novel is gorgeous.
“There was a time before we had a body, when it was still building itself cell by cell inside the thin woman, meticulously producing organs, making systems.”

Born in Nigeria, Ada begins life with a fractured self, burdened with the weight of god creatures that have been bound into her flesh. Living "with one foot on the other side" she is a troubled and volatile child who grows into a troubled and volatile adult, with a tendency toward outbursts and self harm. As she grows and moves to America, where she experiences a traumatic event, new selves crystalize within her, each providing their own protections and hungers.

Much of the story is told from the point of view of these god creatures (or spirit beings), which have their own needs and desires beyond that of Ada herself. Their story and her story blends together, as they have been blended together in spirit and flesh. It's a fantastic rendering of having a fractured self, the confusing mix of desires and emotions that make up a person, the ways we work to protect and harm ourselves.
“I had arrived, flesh from flesh, true blood from true blood. I was the wildness under the skin, the skin into a weapon, the weapon over the flesh.”

The writing style in this book is lush and vibrant, evoking the energy and power of spirit realms represented in the voices of the gods the speak this story. It's gorgeous on every page, bringing into existence a story that is unsettling, surprising, and powerful. This is a novel I will return to again and again.

Mar 13, 3:21pm Top

>35 andreablythe: - Oh, love that cover art and congratulations on getting the funding!

Mar 16, 2:52pm Top

>40 lkernagh: Thanks, Lori!

Mar 21, 12:24pm Top

Instead of attacking the stack, I seem to be growing the stack. I’ve been on something of a book buying frenzy over the past couple of months. Here are some of the books I've grabbed from bookstores, small presses, library sales, and in one case a contest win!

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
I am Not Your Final Girl, poetry by Claire C Holland (won this in a contest! woo!)
Let’s Not Live On Earth, poetry by Sarah Blake (which I just finished reading and need to review
To Live Here, poetry by Soul Vang
Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View
The Changeling by Victor LaValle
The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton (ARC through LT-ER)
The Tale of Tales by Giambattista Basile
The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales by Franz Xavier von Schönwerth
The Letters of Abelard and Heloise
Children of Lovecraft, edited by Ellen Datlow
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Novelists Lexicon: Writers on the Words That Define Their Work
Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern, poetry by Kristofer Collins
No God in This Room, poetry by Athena Dixon
Slut Songs, poetry by Jade Hurter

Mar 21, 1:29pm Top

Nice haul!! I was recently given a $100+ gift card for B&N and went a bit haywire, but I ended up spending only $1.17 of my "own" money, so no harm done. :)

Mar 21, 1:55pm Top

There really is something quite satisfying about a good book haul isn't there?

Mar 21, 6:00pm Top

Great haul!

Mar 21, 11:58pm Top

Enjoy your books, Andrea.

Mar 22, 4:28am Top

Have fun with those!

Mar 22, 12:26pm Top

>43 -Eva-:
Thanks, Eva! Oooh, a $100 gift card can do wonders for filling up shelf space.

>44 LittleTaiko:
So satisfying. I just love staring at the stack, thinking I can read those whenever I want.

>45 rabbitprincess:, >46 DeltaQueen50:, and >47 MissWatson:
Thanks! I'm sure there's got to be some good ones in there.

Mar 22, 12:31pm Top

>48 andreablythe:
Let's just say I'm already set for my Thingaversary in May... :)

Mar 25, 8:15pm Top

Love the book buying! I made a promise to restrict my book buying this year so that I can make some headway with my TBR piles. Result is I have not purchased any new print books but my ereader has stacks of new books. Just one of those things....;-)

Mar 27, 3:32pm Top

>51 andreablythe: Interesting link! I found a few that I'd like to read (although I won't be travelling).

Mar 28, 12:38pm Top

>52 VivienneR:
Yeah, it's interesting to see what people see as most representative of their own country.

Mar 28, 9:52pm Top

>51 andreablythe: - LOL, yes I admit to having no self control when it comes to book buying... I am just good at deflecting those purchases to something that does not require dusting. ;-)

Mar 29, 11:30am Top

>51 andreablythe: Very interesting! Some of those books look intriguing...although I'm fairly shocked to see Atonement as the UK pick (I have Issues with that book).

Mar 29, 12:28pm Top

>54 lkernagh:
Haha. I totally meant to comment (in >51 andreablythe:), then left it blank by accident. The not having to dust is definitely a great aspect of ebooks. :)

>55 christina_reads:
I thought the same thing. My issues with Atonement are many (to the point that I kind of hate the book) and I feel like there are probably other books that would be better representative of the country.

Edited: Apr 6, 11:33am Top

4. Let’s Not Live on Earth (Wesleyan Poetry Series) by Sarah Blake (*****)
Category: Linguistic Blitzkrieg (poetry)

I picked this up because it includes, "The Starship," a chapbook length poem in which a woman is faced with a looming starship and the opportunity to leave the world behind. This poem stunned me with its strength, compassion, and humanity — and the rest of the poems in this collection manage the same, detailing the detailing the dangers we face as humans on Earth and revealing pathways through them. My interview with the poet, Sarah Blake is here.

5. The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy (*****)
Category: Random Acts

Danielle Cain (a "queer punk rock traveller") is looking for answers regarding her friend's death, which leads her to Freedom, Iowa — a squatter town that professes to be a utopia. However, something's wrong in down, and it's not just the heartless animal life wandering around as though they aren't really dead. I freaking love this book so much. It's strange and surprising, while offering a variety of interesting, believable characters. I just sort of clutched it to my chest when it was over, wanting so much more of these people and this world.

6. Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson (****)
Category: Attack the Stack

A fantastic collection of stories from Hopkinson, showing the depth and range in her skill as a writer. The stories in this collection are strange, beautiful, and often unsettling. The opening story, “The Easthound,” begins with kids playing word games against an apocalyptic backdrop (a sweetspot for me). Beginning with this playful banter, the story grows more and more tense as we learn what the source of the apocalypse is. Meanwhile, “Emily Breakfast,” presents a lovely domestic normalcy, involving picking homegrown spinach, tending to the chickens — although it's a normalcy that includes cats with wings and other animal deviations. “Blushing” is a completely terrifying Bluebeard retelling. And there are many more tales in this collection that are equally worth exploring.

7. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (****1/2)
8. In the Hands of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce (****1/2)
Category: Random Acts

Shortly after telling a coworker that I'd never read any of Tamora Pierce's work, a coworker brought me in all four copies of the Song of the Lioness quartet — books that she loved when she was younger. I picked one up to fill my lunch hour and haven't been able to put them down since. The story of Alanna, a young woman with magic and a bullheaded decision to become a knight despite all odds makes for a delightful adventure story. She dresses as a boy to enlist in training to be a page, a squire, and then a knight — a difficult, strenuous task, which she pursues with dedication, often continuing training on her own during her rest periods. The skills don't come easy, but are achieved through hard work and discipline, which is admirable. Alanna is wonderful and all the characters around her are wonderful, and I cannot wait to continue with the quartet.

Apr 6, 6:37pm Top

My cousin loved the Song of the Lioness quartet when she was a kid! I'll have to let her know that others are discovering and enjoying it too :)

Apr 6, 8:06pm Top

>58 rabbitprincess:
Oh, they're wonderful! I wish I had read them when I was young, because I would have been passionate about these books. As I am now, they're the perfect level of fun adventure to help me destress from life.

Edited: Apr 12, 12:19pm Top

A few of quick writerly things and a book thing:

1. I co-wrote a collection of poetry with the amazing poet Laura Madeline Wiseman, which is called Every Girl Becomes the Wolf. It's a collection of fairy tale, myth, and pop culture retellings, mainly from the POV of the witches and monsters in those stories, as well as the victims, spinning the tales on their heads in new ways. It would be awesome if you checked it out and watch the trailer.

2. I'm starting an email newsletter (using Tiny Letter) and I'm going to send out the first one this week. That way I can share more of my writing new there, instead of bombarding people with it here: https://tinyletter.com/andreablythe

3. I'm hosting the Big Poetry Giveaway 2018, and I have a list of people who are giving away poetry books here (you can also sign up to giveaway some books, if you want): http://www.andreablythe.com/2018/03/26/big-poetry-giveaway-2018-guidelines/

Okay, that's it. Thanks for your patience.

My reading has slowed down again because I have so much going on. However, I have finished The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Piercer and am currently working on the last book in the series Lioness Rampant. I'm also reading a collection of stories called The Tower of the Antilles by Achy Obejas.

Also, I swear I'm going to catch up on everyone's threads at some point.

Apr 12, 10:03pm Top

>57 andreablythe: - Great batch of reading!

>60 andreablythe: - Love the trailer!

Apr 14, 11:34pm Top

>60 andreablythe:
Wonderful - congrats!!

Apr 16, 11:55am Top

>61 lkernagh: & 62, Thanks, Lori and Eva!

Edited: Apr 30, 4:20pm Top

9. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (Song of the Lioness #3) by Tamora Pierce (****)
10. Lioness Rampant (Song of the Lioness #4) by Tamora Pierce (****1/2)
Category: Miscellany

I finished up the last two books in the Song of Lioness quartet, and it was a delightful ride. In book three, Alanna rides into the world as the first female knight errant in centuries. Not everyone is happy after discovering that she's really a woman (after keeping the fact a secret for years), but she makes the best of its she can by finding new adventures among the desert people.

Book four wraps things up nicely, bringing back old villains for defeat, revealing new friendships, and coming to terms with love. It all wraps up beautifully for me and was the perfect fun adventure. Again, I find myself wishing I could have read it when I was young, because I would have been in love with Alanna.

One of the many things I really enjoyed about this series in general is the way it handles sex. Alanna has several partners over the course of the series, and it's treated as natural that she would experience attraction and desire. At no point does anyone ever shame her for these relationships, and when the men come into contact with each other, almost all jealous drama is left completely out of the picture — making it more about her choice as opposed to any sense of obligation to these men. I loved that.

All in all, a great series and I'd be down to check out more stories from this world.

Apr 24, 5:04pm Top

And I forgot to point out my Book Haul from the Silicon Valley Comic Con a few weeks ago.

I really enjoyed Artist Alley and seeing the indie creators and publishers, so I bought a couple of comic books to support them, including:

Quince, written by Kit Steinkellner, illustrated by Emma Steinkellner, created by Sebastian Kadlecik

The Gecko and the Three Grave Robbers by Cheez Hayama

I discovered the Science Fiction Outreach Project booth close to the end on Sunday, which was a good thing. I don't think my bookshelves could have handled the amount of books I would have grabbed otherwise. As it was, I got my hands on:

New Worlds of Fantasy #2, edited by Terry Carr
Always the Black Knight by Lee Hoffman
The Null-Friendly Impulser by James Nelson Coleman
The Night of the Wolf by Frank Belknap Long
Terror by Frederik Pohl
A Plague of Nightmares by Adrian Cole
Men Without Bones and Other Haunting Inhabitants of the Wide, Weird World by Gerald Kersh

Apr 25, 3:12pm Top

Hi Andrea, I've been meaning to read the Song oif the Lioness series for years for no other reason than my youngest daughter is named Alana and she loves fantasy! Great to hear that you enjoyed the series. :)

Apr 30, 12:34pm Top

>66 DeltaQueen50:
It was honestly delightful in all the best ways. I would highly recommend it and will probably give to my niece to read when she's older.

Edited: May 1, 11:25am Top

11. The Gecko and the Three Grave Robbers by Cheez Hayama (****)
Category: Visual Onslaught

I picked up a copy of this slim comic at the Silicon Valley Comic Con. It's a retelling of a story Hayama's father told about growing up in post-war Vietnam. Although I had a bit of trouble following the timeline of events, it was an interesting tale.

The comic also includes an illustrated passage from Andrew X Pham’s fantastic travel memoir Catfish and Mandala. The illustrations work well to support this moving moment from the story, in which Pham accepts the hospitality of stranger — bringing back memories of his mother.


12. The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Belairs with illustrations by Edward Gorey (****)
Category: Random Acts

When I saw the trailer for the forthcoming movie, I knew I had to pick up this book and check it out. The story of an orphaned boy sent to live with his oddball uncle (who happens to be a wizard) is delightfully weird. The haunting, unsettled reality of living in a home with a clock ticking down to ... something is also wonderful. And discovering illustrations by Edward Gorey was a bonus delight.

Apr 30, 5:05pm Top

>68 andreablythe:
I've not heard about the movie, but the books sounds nice! BB.

Apr 30, 6:58pm Top

>69 -Eva-:
They're middle grade books, which manage to be creepy and light and fun at the same time — which makes me happy.

May 1, 11:31am Top

13. The Tower of the Antilles by Achy Obejas (****)
Category: Attack the Stack

The Tower of Antilles is a beautiful collection of short stories, centered around the Cuban experience, both on the island and as an immigrant elsewhere. These stories explore the nature of individuality, with the question "What is your name?" being the entry point for both the opening and closing stories. There's also a thread of queer experience throughout many of these stories.

One the many story that was resonant for me is "The Cola of Oblivion," in which a young woman returns to Cuba only to be addressed with the old grievances of her family there. It builds to a heavy conclusion, bearing the burdens of family expectation that stayed with me long after I finished the story.

14. The Can Opener’s Daughter by Rob Davis (***)
Category: Visual Onslaught

Vera lives with her mother (a weather clock) and father (a can opener) in a parliamentary mansion, where she is kept mostly in isolation, learning from the ink gods kept in little glass jars and enjoying the company of the garden gods. It's a strange, surreal world she lives in, one in which people have scheduled suicide days rather than unpredictable deaths. As she moves through this world, Vera begins to slowly rebel against her mother and the rules society has placed on the people who live there.

Although I was fascinated by this strange world and I liked the dark, detailed art, I was a bit confused by how some of the storyline unfolded — most particularly Vera's urgent desire to rescue of a boy who had not been mentioned in the first half of the book. It was only after finishing the book that I realized why I was so confused — The Can Opener’s Daughter is #2 in a series. Had I known that going in, I would have sought out the first book and made sure to read them in order (which would most likely have made reading this book more enjoyable), but there was no reference on the cover or inside the front of the book to indicate that this was part of a larger series. This is the second time this has happened to me, and it's incredibly annoying to the point that I almost don't want to bother with the rest of the series.

May 22, 11:03am Top

15. Afar by Leila Del Duca and Kit Seaton (***½)
Category: Visual Onslaught

A young woman suddenly develops the ability astral project herself into the bodies of alien people on other worlds, while her younger brother stumbles upon an illegal business deal and is hunted by criminals. With their parents gone looking for work and no sign of when they will return, the brother and sister make go on the run, risking the heat of the desert to escape to a city where they will be safe. The storyline is set in an African and Arab rooted steampunk-ish world, which makes for some beautiful artwork for this graphic novel. I only wish it was a bit thicker, so that more room could be given to developing these characters even further.

May 30, 4:39pm Top

I've actually read quite a lot of books this month. I'm just really far behind in reviewing them.

16. No God In This Room, poetry by Athena Dixon (*****)
Category: Linguistic Blitzkrieg

A beautiful collection of poetry that explores womanhood and sexuality. I don't have the headspace to write a proper review at the moment, but these poems are lovely and Athena Dixon is also an amazing editor and human. You check out the interview with her in which she talks about writing the book.

17. The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (*****)
Category: Attack the Stack

Love, deception, and etiquette are a the center of this story in which a young women travels to the city of Loisail for her first Grand Season. The aim of her trip is to mingle with the Beautiful Ones who make up the wealthy high society in the city in the hopes that she’ll find a suitable husband. But she her manner and her telekinetic abilities make her a target for gossip. When she meets telekinetic performer Hector Auvray, she thinks she’s found the kind of love read about in books — but learns that no one is what the seem in Loisail.

This is a charming fantasy of manners, full of polite but cruel society and wonderful explorations of the people who live in it. I have so far bought and read three of Moreno-Garcia's books and I have loved all three of them. The Beautiful Ones was no exception, and I can't wait to see what she does next.

Edited: May 30, 10:47pm Top

After watching a video essay on how media scares us, I went on a bender, devouring all the Junji Ito manga that I could get my hands on.

18. Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror, Vol. 1 by Junji Ito (*****)
19. Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror, Vol. 2 by Junji Ito (*****)
20. Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror, Vol. 3 by Junji Ito (*****)
Category: Visual Onslaught

Uzumaki is considered to be Ito’s classic and most famous work, having been adapted into two video games and a feature film. A town in Japan begins to be slowly and inextricably taken over by the shape of a spiral — a simple geometric shape that twists the town and the people in it into distortions of themselves. Some of this is physical, some is mental or spiritual.

The central characters are Kirie and her boyfriend Shuichi and we see the events unfold more and more horrifically. However, each chapter (especially in the first couple of volumes) almost feels like an individual story of a strange event and these stories slowly show how they are connected as the books build to their frightening conclusion.

Ito is a master of weird, cosmic horror, as Uzumaki proves.

21. Shiver: Short Stories by Junji Ito (*****)
Category: Visual Onslaught

About halfway through finishing Uzumaki, I immediately went online to see how I could get my hands on some of Ito’s short stories, which make up the bulk of his work. There are several collections out there, but I zoned in on Shiver because this set of stories was selected by Ito himself as some of his personal favorites and includes commentary from the author as to what inspired them.

Each of these stories is phenomenal and frightening in their own way. A mysterious music record creates an obsession to hear it so intense that people will kill for it. A sick neighbor girl reveals she is being eaten away by holes. A man begins to have long dreams that feel like months or years have passed that begin to distort his physical body.

Almost none of these stories have anything close to a happy (or even content) ending — the horror presented often bizarre and inescapable. Take for example the tale “Hanging Blimps,” in which giant balloons shaped like human heads begin to fill the sky. Some of these heads look like actual people. All of these balloons carry nooses… and I think you can infer from there. “Hanging Blimps” unsettled me in a way no story has in a long time, bringing me to lower the book and take a break before I moved on to the next story.

22. Gyo Vol. 1: The Death-stench Creeps by Junji Ito (****)
23. Gyo Vol. 2: The Death-stench Creeps by Junji Ito (*****)
Category: Visual Onslaught

In Gyo, a young couple vacationing in a seaside town are suddenly accosted by a fish that seems to have grown legs and wandered onto land. Before long, more fish begin walking out of the sea — and not just fish, but sharks, squids, and other creatures — resulting in catastrophic circumstances throughout Japan.

Although I delighted in the beautiful artwork and imagery of a great white shark charging down the hallway of a home, I was not as enthused by the first volume of Gyo. I kept thinking that the story would make a perfect SyFy channel movie, ala Sharknado — at least until I launched into volume two which is offers up some fantastically disturbing body horror. Nothing that could ever appear on network television. It’s brilliant and so horrifying, another showcase of Ito at his best.

May 31, 11:02am Top

>73 andreablythe: Book bullet taken for The Beautiful Ones -- sounds right up my alley!

Jun 1, 9:26am Top

>75 christina_reads:
It’s so lovely and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Edited: Jun 4, 8:35pm Top

24. Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) by Jeff VanderMeer (*****)
Category: We Are the Champions
Winner of the 2014 Nebula Award

A team of four women — an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist, and a biologist — journey into the mysterious Area X, an area contaminated with some unknown. Other teams have been sent before, each meeting disastrous ends. The biologist narrates the tale, giving no names, in which she becomes more fascinated by the strange, natural world of Area X. This is such a beautiful novel, layered and complex. I can't wait to keep reading the series and learning more about Area X.

Jun 3, 10:54pm Top

>74 andreablythe:
Wow. That art.

Jun 5, 7:20pm Top

>78 -Eva-:
I know! Apparently, Ito would spend hours on just a single panel, layering in detail until it was as perfect as he could make it.

Jun 21, 4:09pm Top

I apologize to all the people who's threads I haven't been keeping up with. I keep telling myself that I'm going to get around to catching up at some point, but haven't had the time or energy to do so.

WorldCon is coming to my hometown in San Jose, so naturally I jumped at the opportunity to attend. This means I get to vote in the Hugo Awards. So, I'm adding a new Bonus Category — Reading the Hugos — and any of the nominated Novels or Novellas I read will go there. For the nonfiction noms, I'll still put them in the Information Gathering category, because I'm a bit behind on that one anyway.

Speaking of award nominations...

25. The 2018 Rhysling Anthology: The Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Poetry of 2017, edited by by Linda D. Addison (*****)
Category: Linguistic Blitzkrieg

The Rhysling Anthology essentially acts as a voters packet for the Rhysling Awards, providing a fantastic overview of the best short and long form speculative poetry from the previous years, as nominated by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry association. This is a fantastic anthology, providing wide array of poetic voices, styles, and forms to explore and discover.

Jun 21, 6:18pm Top

>80 andreablythe: Have fun reading the Hugo nominees (and at the con when it comes!).

Jun 22, 1:28pm Top

>81 rabbitprincess:
Thanks! I'm excited!

Jun 23, 6:40pm Top

Don't worry about catching up, we'll still be here when your RL slows down. Have fun at WorldCon!

Edited: Jun 29, 5:44pm Top

26. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer
Category: Intelligence Gathering & Stratagems

It's been a long while since I've read a book on the craft of writing. Although I've often found such books valuable, in a way, I had grown out of them, focusing more on the act of writing instead of reading about it. But Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer was recommended to me recently with such fervor that I immediately picked it up — and discovered one of the best books on writing craft that I've yet to read.

Wonderbook is aimed at writers of speculative fiction, but is valuable to writers of any genre. The main chapters of the book cover the full range of the writing process, including Inspiration and the Creative Life, The Ecosystem of Story (point-of-view, dialog, and other story elements), Beginnings and Endings (with VanderMeer's novel Finch as a main example), Narrative Design (plot, structure, etc.), Characterization, Worldbuilding, and Revision, along with a few interesting appendices. The chapters discuss the theory and practice of writing, while also providing inspiration, prompts, and writing exercises.

I particularly appreciate that VanderMeer does not prescribe The One Way to Write Them All, but rather cites a multitude of sources and examples to present the many sides of any method and, in fact, many sidebar items either question or direct contradict the view of the main text. In addition, the book offers essays and interviews in which fantasy authors — such as Neil Gaiman, Catherynne M. Valente, George R. R. Martin, and Karen Joy Fowler, among others — each with their own viewpoints. In this way, Wonderbook offers a toolbox of approaches to writing that the writer can pull from in order to discover what works best for them.

The illustrations, maps, charts, and artwork throughout Wonderbook, provided by a number of artists but primarily Jeremy Zerfoss, are a key way that it guides its readers through the murky waters of writing terminology, methods, and advice. They provide playful visual diagrams or inspirational asides that are valuable in and of themselves, making specific aspects of the writing process more memorable.

To sum up I'll say, this excellent and would be a welcome addition to almost any writer's shelf.

(One of the many fantastic illustrations in Wonderbook by Jeremy Zerfoss.)

Jul 2, 1:17pm Top

>84 andreablythe:, Lovely review! I also adore this book :) Whenever a writer asks me for a recommendation on a craft book, I start raving about it!

Jul 3, 5:24pm Top

>85 whitewavedarling:
Oh, yes! It's by far the best writing book I've read and will be my go-to rec from now on.

Jul 10, 3:15pm Top

27. All Systems Red by Martha Wells (*****)
Bonus Category: Reading the Hugos – Nominated for Best Novella

Martha Wells’ novella All Systems Red presents the diaries of a company-supplied security android designed to provide protection for survey teams exploring planets for possible resources. Murderbot, as it calls itself, just wants to be left alone to watch hours of vids in peace. But when another survey team mysteriously goes silent, it has to work with it’s team of clients to discover the truth before they’re all killed.
I loved this book. Murderbot is cynical about humans and the world in general, an attitude that is totally understandable given its circumstances and understanding of the universe. But the team of scientists he’s assigned to give him a broader perspective on humanity, showing him people who are able to work together with compassion and intelligence — such considerations they show not just to each other but to Murderbot itself, as they continue to work with and rely on it. It’s so wonderful to read a story that centers people who are good to each other. Plus, the action is intense, making this short and rapid read.

Edited: Jul 11, 12:07am Top

28. No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters (audio book) by Ursula K. Le Guin (****)
Category: Intelligence Gathering & Stratagems
Bonus: Reading the Hugos – Nominated for Best Related Work

I've loved Ursula K. Le Guinn's writing ever since I first read The Wizard of Earthseaover a decade ago. Since then I've continued to be awed and moved by her books, worlds of fantasy or science fiction, both adult and young adult. Her work has moved me time and time again.

I didn't know she that she published a blog (which she started in her eighties), but as No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters — a compilation of her posts — shows, she approached the task with wit and wisdom.

In her introduction, Karen Joy Fowler says, "What you will find in these pages here is a more casual Le Guin, a Le Guin at home. Many of these essays deal with the personal — the act of growing old or the adventures of her cat Pard. I found myself moved by the insights Le Guin had to share, delightedly laughing at her sense of humor (her essay "Would You Please Fucking Stop?" on the use of cursing in literature had me rolling), or thoughtfully considering her point of view.
”It can be very hard to believe that one is actually eighty years old, but as they say, you’d better believe it. I’ve known clear-headed, clear-hearted people in their nineties. They didn’t think they were young. They knew, with a patient, canny clarity, how old they were. If I’m ninety and believe I’m forty-five, I’m headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub.” (from "The Sissy Strikes Back")

In addition to the personal, her essays look at a variety of topics, from the literary world to examinations of exorcisms, the idea male group solidarity, utopias, fashion in solider uniforms and more.

Le Guin made good use of the casual blog format well (although she dislikes the word itself, saying it sounded like "a sodden tree trunk in a bog, or maybe an obstruction in the nasal passage") — the format giving her space to dive in to a topic as extensively or briefly as she wanted. It's a wonderful collection.

Jul 16, 12:48am Top

29. My Favorite Thing is Monsters, written and illustrated by Emil Ferris (*****)
Bonus Category: Reading the Hugos – Nominated for Best Graphic Story

Written and illustrated by Emil Ferris, My Favorite Thing is Monsters is a masterpiece of the graphic novel form. Set in 1960s Chicago, the story is told by Karen Reyes a young girl with a passion for pulp horror stories. In her spiral bound journals, she draws out her life in a mix of sketches, journal entries, and comic panels — presenting the interconnected stories of her mother, brother, and the people who live in the community around her. When her neighbor, Anka, dies under mysterious circumstances, Karen begins an investigation into her death that reveals how Anka survived and escaped Nazi Germany.

The art is some of the most stunning that I've seen, with it's crosshatched style and selective use of color. Some pages are present full portraits, while others are broken up into comic book panels to move the story forward. The art provides beautiful depth to the characters, who are given greater depth and humanity through the detailed art presented. The colors selected —bright reds, blues, and the like — highlighting specific aspects of their

Also, recreated covers from pulp comics are spattered throughout, breaking up the story like chapter heads. They also continuing reiterate Karen's passion for the horror genre, as she is the one recreating the covers to practice her drawing skills.

One of the particularly interesting aspects of Karen's character is how she perceives humans and monsters. She draws herself in her journals as a half-werewolf — understandable considering both her love for monsters and how she is treated as a freak by other students at school.

In general, the people she has the most sympathy for are those who she presents with some kind of monstrousness. Her friends take up roles as ghosts, vampires, or other monsters to her werewolf. In a world full of human beings capable of performing monstrous acts, Karen relates more closely to the fantastical monsters in the stories she reads.

I was also thoroughly moved by Karen's relationship with her mother and brother. There's such love and compassion between them, even when things are not perfect. Deeze, her artist brother, shares with her his passion for art, introducing her to the classic paintings at the museum and how they speak to him, as well as sharing the work he creates on his own. It's a lovely relationship.

This is an astounding, complex, gorgeous book — one I'll be recommending to every human being even vaguely interested in graphic novels. It's amazing work, and I'm eagerly awaiting the opportunity to read the second concluding volume, and I plan to follow Ferris' career closely from here on out.

Jul 16, 12:08pm Top

Hi Andrea. I'm excited and happy that My Favorite Thing is Monsters is available at my library! I also noticed that Volume Two is on order so I have that to look forward to as well! ;)

Jul 16, 2:35pm Top

>90 DeltaQueen50:
I'm so excited that you'll be able to get ahold of it. It's a big, beautiful book.

Edited: Jul 18, 4:21pm Top

30. An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (*****)
Bonus Category: Reading the Hugos – Author Nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

"Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship's leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.

When the autopsy of Matilda's sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother's suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother's footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she's willing to fight for it."

Aster is a fascinating character, an adept healer, as well as a scientist with an avid curiosity for how things — machines, the ship, the universe — work. She's also brilliant, obsessive, and somewhat solitary due the way many in the community treat her, calling her ogre and freak. She's The ways she interacts with other people is complicated by her being aneurotypical. She has difficulties with parsing out meaning behind people's words, has difficulty recognizing sarcasm, and tends to have difficulty understanding the emotional undertones in her interactions with others.

The few people she is close to — Giselle and Theo — are each hard edged and complicated in their own ways. Giselle, her closest friend, is violently self destructive. Theo, the Surgeon General of the ship, is an ally and friend who helped to educate Aster in medicine and health care. Both act as a kind of foil to Aster, providing pushback and counter perspectives to the way she perceives the world.

It's Giselle who provides the key Aster's obsession with discovering more about her mother's past, providing the key to unlocking her mother's journals. As she dives more and more deeply into that history, hoping to understand herself, she begins to see how the some of the stories she's been told may not be what they seem and that the ghosts of the past provide no easy resolution.

This novel provides many layers that could be unpacked. It's a stunning and beautiful accomplishment — and I'll be keeping my eye out for more work from Solomon in the future.

Jul 18, 5:45pm Top

>88 andreablythe: - That sounds like something I would really enjoy. I'll have to search it out soon!

Jul 18, 7:08pm Top

>93 LittleTaiko:
I hope you enjoy it!

Edited: Jul 21, 2:50pm Top

31. Provenance by Ann Leckie (*****)
Bonus Category: Reading the Hugos – Nominated for Best Novel

Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch books, starting with Ancillary Justice, is at the top of my list best trilogies that I've ever read. I loved the intricate intergalactic universe she created along with the characters who roam it. I'm pretty much down to read anything Leckie writes at this point.

Provenance is set in the same universe (an instant draw for me), but it's focused on a different region of the galaxy, primarily set on a planet called Hwae, which has their own unique conflicts and cultural values. There is a strong focus on family as a political construct, as well as a passion for "vestiges," or cultural artifacts that provide a level of prestige on the owner.

Driven by the need to impress her politically motivated mother, she embarked on a dangerous and desperate scheme — to bring a criminal out of imprisonment so that e can reveal the location of some stolen vestiges. Of course, nothing goes according to plan. The person she broke out claims to be someone else entirely. She quickly devises a new plan, but her ship home gets stopped by an ambassador with a gripe and once she does make it home, she's greeted by political turmoil. Things only get stranger and more dangerous from there.

I don't want to say much more than that — vestiges play a large role in storyline, as does the question of whether they are valid or forgery It's twisty story with many, many threads from seemingly dissimilar occurances that all somehow come together in the end.

Ingray, at first, seems a bit frivolous. Her plan is absurdly risky and has cost her much in it's execution to only have it fail. However, she's a person who proves herself capable of thinking her way through just about any crisis (with only a little panic in the interim). Her plans are wild and sometimes foolish, but they also tend to work. She's also really compassionate toward other people, helping who she can despite the risk to herself. It makes her lovable.

She makes some interesting allies throughout her journey — most notably, Garal Ket, the prisoner who may or may not be who she was seeking, and Captain Tic Ulsine, who ran away from his life on Geck by making off with a few of their ships. Both of these characters are clever and entertaining in their own unique ways.

On the whole, I would say that Provenance is a lighter romp than the Radch trilogy, the elements driving it more down-home with several iterations of family and family conflict being at center. A lot of the characters motivations are the result of the desire to fit in with family or the rejection of family along with the formation of new families. It's impressive how Leckie is able to bring so many threads together into such an interesting story. It's brilliantly done.

Edited: Jul 21, 9:30pm Top

>89 andreablythe:
Ooh, this one keeps popping up in various places for me! I think the price may have gone down on the ebook, but I'm still hoping for my library to step up. #cheapskate #frugal :)

Jul 22, 7:30pm Top

>95 andreablythe: - Oooohhhh.... taking a BB for that one! Loved Ancillary Justice, which I only recently read, so looks like I can look forward to more Leckie reads once I finish the trilogy. ;-)

Jul 23, 1:25am Top

>96 -Eva-:
Hah! I totally understand the need to be chea— I mean, frugal. ;)

>97 lkernagh:
OMG, I'm so excited for you with the rest fo the trilogy to read and also Provenance — and eeeee, they're so good.

Jul 23, 2:27am Top

32. River of Teeth (audio book) by Sarah Gailey (***½)
Bonus Category: Reading the Hugos – Nominated for Best Novella

Once upon a time, the U.S. government considered importing African hippos and raising them in the Louisiana bayou in order to address a need to increase the national meat supply — not joking, this was really a thing. Sarah Gailey's novella presents a reimagined history in which this damn foolish/brilliant idea actually took place.

A group of charmingly of devious scoundrels set out on a caper — I mean, "operation" — to clear a section of Mississippi river of feral hippos. Winslow Houndstooth is a former hippo rancher with swift knife skills and a grudge. Regina Archambault ("Archie") is a brilliant conartist, with a protective affection for Houndstooth. Hero Shackleby is a demolitions expert who has become profoundly bored by their peaceful retirement. Adelia Reyes is a heavily pregnant badass . . . and well, I'm going to let you figure out the rest.

The audio book narration by Peter Berkrot is fantastic, bringing all the characters to vivid life. I was as delighted by the idea of riding domesticated hippos as I was horrified by the idea of stumbling upon a group of ferals. Although, I had a bit of a hard time getting into the story at first, the caper — ahem, "operation" — was fun with some solid twists and the ending was deeply satisfying.

33. And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker (*****)
Bonus Category: Reading the Hugos – Nominated for Best Novella

Insurance investigator, Sarah Pinsker, gets an invitation that she at first believes to be a joke — until she stands in a hotel lobby facing a multitude of versions of herself from a multitude of parallel worlds, each representing the infinity (or a small portion of that infinity) of diverging choices she could have made in her life. One of the Sarahs has found a way to open the door and invited the rest of the Sarahs to come to a convention, a meeting of similar (sometimes almost exact variations), which is in some ways unsettling in itself. Then one of the Sarahs shows up dead. Insurance investigator Sarah is set to the task of looking into the murder after a storm rolls in cutting the local police off from reaching the island.

Who would we be if we made different choices in our lives? It's a question pretty much everyone has asked themselves. I couldn't imagine a more poignant examination of that question than this story. In some ways, all the ways the variations of Sara are similar is as fascinating as the ways in which they are different. All together, it's so strange and meta and moving and fascinating — with an ending to sit and think over long after you're done reading.

Jul 23, 2:53am Top

>99 andreablythe: The surmise of book 33 strikes me as really very interesting. Although I'm not sure I'd want to meet all the possible examples of me.

Jul 23, 7:20pm Top

>100 Helenliz:
Well, I have good news on that one — the novella, "And Then There Were (N-One)," is available to read for free online: https://uncannymagazine.com/article/and-then-there-were-n-one/

Jul 24, 2:02pm Top

I'm intrigued by And Then There Were (N-One) -- that title alone! Also, Provenance looks very interesting. Lots of BBs on this thread!

Jul 25, 11:30pm Top

34. How to Make Friends with a Ghost by Rebecca Green (****)
Category: Miscellany

A charming picture book, presenting the idea of ghosts as friendly companions with instructions on how to obtain and care for such a friend. The art is soft and whimsical. I was delighted to hand this over to my niece for her birthday.

Jul 25, 11:30pm Top

35. Paper Girls, Volume 1, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (****)
36. Paper Girls, Volume 2 (same creators) (****)
37. Paper Girls, Volume 3 (same creators) (****)
Bonus Category: Reading the Hugos – Nominated for Best Graphic Story

One of the challenging aspects of trying to read all the noms in the Best Graphic Story category is that many of the works are later volumes. So, if you're not keeping up — like me — that means you need to first read the previous volumes before reading the actual nominated work just to follow the storyline.

Which is what I did with Paper Girls, Volume 3, and no regrets on that front, because this is a fun story. Shortly after Halloween in 1988, four young paper delivery girls find themselves confronted with a litany of bizarre occurrences — including futuristic teenager rebels, odd spaceships, and dinosaurs flying through the sky — that lead them on a series of time traveling adventures.

Volume 3 reunites the four girls after the events that separated them in previous volumes, and they find themselves trapped in a past highly affected by tiny rips in space. The people there collect the multitude of future technologies that come through. As the girls try to help out a young woman with an infant, a time traveler pops through, offering a few more fragments of insight into what's really going on.

I'm a sucker for a good time travel romp (which I'm sure I've said a dozen times before) and this one is solidly loopy and fun,, but what really makes this story great is that each of the paper girls interesting in their own right. Each deals with the adventures in their own way, revealing their own strengths and perspectives — while also addressing issues of first periods, family concerns, and questions of what it means to grow up. I totally dug this one.

Jul 26, 2:03pm Top

Andrea, your thread is becoming dangerous for me! I have taken another hit and added the Paper Girls series to my list. ;)

Edited: Aug 31, 3:14pm Top

>105 DeltaQueen50:
Hah. I'm glad to share the book love. :)


A few weeks ago, I traveled to Egypt for nine days. I wrote a blog post on six things I loved while traveling there and our side trip to Petra, but thought I'd share a few of the photos with you all directly.


View of the Giza pyramids from the roof of Pyramids Loft, where we stayed.

Karnak Temple – A statue of Ramses II with his wife Nefertari.

Karnak Temple – The columns are lined top to bottom with hieroglyphic writing. The tops are meant to resemble a closed lotus blossom.

Hot air ballooning in Luxor – Overlooking the Valley of the Kings and the Nile river at sunrise.


The Treasury is the most famous structure at Petra, but there is soooo much more to see there, and my sister and I wished we had more time to explore it properly.

Aug 31, 4:45pm Top

What amazing pictures of your Egyptian trip!

Aug 31, 6:09pm Top

Wow, great pictures!

Sep 1, 10:39pm Top

Beautiful pictures! The hot air balloon pic is amazing, although I would be TERRIFIED to go up myself!

Sep 2, 10:59pm Top

What a wonderful trip, and thanks for sharing your great pictures with us.

Sep 4, 12:35pm Top

>107 lkernagh:, >108 rabbitprincess:, >110 DeltaQueen50:,
I would recommend going to Egypt to anyone. While there were definitely some annoyances, my sister and I felt safe the entire time we were there and enjoyed the trip so much.

>109 christina_reads:,
Yeah, my sister was definitely freaking out quite a bit while on the ballon (it took her a long while to start to relax), but I found it oddly calming — partly because our captain was so skilled. I have this thing about heights, where if it's out of my control (a plane, balloon, rollercoaster, etc.), then I can be chill because I can usually trust that things will turn out alright — but if I'm in control of the situation (i.e., hiking near a cliffside), then I freak out because I'm something of a klutz and I can't trust that I'm not going to trip and stumble off the cliff.

Sep 4, 1:51pm Top

Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos of the Egypt trip. It must have been an amazing experience.

No ballooning for me - I recently read Enduring Love by Ian McEwan that opens with a balloon incident.

Sep 4, 9:38pm Top

>112 VivienneR:
Totally understandable. I'm glad I didn't read about any ballooning incidents before going!


38. The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang (****)
Bonus Category: Reading the Hugos – Nominated for Best Novella

This was the last of my Hugo reads, finished too late to include it in my voting. The twins, Mokoya and Akeha, are given away to a Monastery by their mother, the Protector — political bargaining chips in exchange for a service the monks performed for their mother before they were born. As the twins grow, one develops prophetic sight, while the other nurses a defiance that leads them to leave the city and joins a growing rebellion formed by Machinists who are developing ways to fight the Protector without the aid of Tensor magic. While this story builds in tension as the rebellion grows, the heart is the relationship between the twins Akeha and Mokoya, the love and heartbreak they have in each other.

39. The Changeling by Victor LaValle (*****)
Category: Bloodshed and Mayhem

This is a powerful novel, presenting a variety of horror, both mundane and supernatural, a mix of folklore and familial love and violence. Apollo Kagwa is a book man, tracking down rare first editions to make his living. When he falls in love with Emma and they have a son together, he is determined to be a better father than the man who abandoned him when he was young. But Emma begins acting in strange and unsettling ways, building to a terrible act before vanishing — and Apollo's world is spun out of control.

What makes the horrors of this novel work so effectively is how rooted the story is in normal, everyday life before slowly gathering in strange moments one-by-one. It's beautifully evoked, layering in the anxieties of fatherhood and dealing with racism and the ways we fail to be compassionate to loved ones when things are hard and the male ego and so much more — all combined with its undertones of folklore. The worst horrors are not always of the supernatural kind, and this story parallels them well — making for a frightening and deeply moving tale.

This is the second book by LaValle that I've read (the first being The Ballad of Black Tom) and I'm itching to read more of his work.

Edited: Sep 4, 9:53pm Top

40. Monster Portraits by Del Samatar and Sofia Samatar (****)
Category: New Recruits

Monster Portraits by Del Samatar and Sofia Samatar is a fictional, illustrated travelogue in which a brother and sister go into the world looking for monsters. The pieces are a mix of flash fiction or prose poetry, intricately detailed incidents and introductions to the strange, brutal, and lovely monsters of the world. It at once explores the idea of monstrousness in the fantastical, as well as the monstrous othering that people do to other people, making them almost into something less than human. Such a beautiful collection of creatures.

41. Glimmerglass Girl by (****)
Category: Linguistic Blitzkrieg

With a mix of the personal and the fantastic, Holly Lyn Walwrath’s beautiful collection of poetry Glimmerglass Girl explores womanhood from multiple angles, revealing the ways we break apart and pull ourselves back together again.

Sep 26, 9:47pm Top

42. The Atrocities by Jeremy C Shipp (****)
Category: New Recruits

This novella is a tightly told horror story. Ms. Valdez is hired as a private teacher for Isabella. She journeys to an labyrinthine estate adorned with grotesque statues and painting, where she learns that the young girl she is supposed to teach is dead and a ghost. As Ms. Valdez begins to uncover the truth about this strange family, she faces the hauntings of her own past. Great story.


43. I Am Not Your Final Girl by Claire C. Holland (*****)
Category: Linguistic Blitzkrieg

I Am Not Your Final Girl is a collection of horror-themed poetry draws on the female characters of horror cinema — the survivors, victims, villains, and monsters — who prowl through dark worlds, facing oppression, persecution, violence, and death. In her introduction, Claire C. Holland notes, “I draw strength from the many strong women around me, both real and fictional.” The women in this collection channel their pain and rage into a galvanizing force. They fight. They claim power over their own bodies. They take their power back. They do not relent.
“I have known monsters and I have known men.
I have stood in their long shadows, propped
them up with my own two hands, reached
for their inscrutable faces in the dark. They
are harder to set apart than you know.
— “Clarice,” The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

As a horror fan, I know many of the characters and movies referenced, and it’s fascinating to peer in at them from the unique perspective of these Holland’s words. That said, there just as many that I haven’t seen and a few I had not hear of — but not knowing the direct reference in each case did not stop me from enjoying the poem for its own sake, the words drawing me in. And now I have a list of movies that I need to seek out and watch.
“Separate yourself, like sliding wire through
clay. Divide your organs – heart, lungs, tongue,
and brain. You think you need them all?
You’d be shocked what a woman can live
without. We’re like roaches, we thrive”
— from “Shideh,” Under the Shadow (2016)

I read I Am Not Your Final Girl from top to bottom with delight. Although the subject is focused on horror, the collection doesn’t come off as a downer. Instead, it presents a sense of fierce hope in the act of resistance, in rising up, in fighting back.

Footnote: I won a copy of this book in some sort of contest — Instagram or Twitter or something, where precisely has completely swooshed out of my head (it’s gone and I don’t expect to get it back). Whatever or wherever the contest was held, I am grateful to have received a copy of his collection, because I loved reading it.

Oct 1, 4:27pm Top

44. A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma (****1/2)
Category: New Recruits

Feeling betrayed after her mother kicks her out of the house after another supposed indiscretion, Bina takes immediate action — choosing to leave of her own accord. She grabs what money she can and travels not to the family friends her mother selected, but to Catherine House in New York City, the woman's residence her mother once lived. Bina has heard many stories of Catherine House, stories to fascinate her, stories to make her believe she can regain some connection to her mom by going there herself. But when she arrives at Catherine House, she is confronted with dark secrets she doesn't understand and which may leave her trapped within its walls.

Nova Ren Suma is one of my favorite authors. I love the way she builds unsettling atmosphere into her stories and how she complicates female relationships, which are never simple in her tales. A Room Away From the Wolves does both of these things — both Bina's relationship with her mother and her strange friendship with her downstairs neighbor Monet are complex, loving, and problematic. Much of her story is trying to find herself outside the context of her mother, while also confronting her own fears.

As Bina learns about herself, she works to understand the mysteries surrounding Catherine and the house. One of the things I love and am frustrated by in this book is how the story is comfortable allowing some secrets to remain secret. Not every mystery is explained. Not every dark corner is revealed. And the reader is left wondering. It makes me want to pick up the book and start rereading to see if there were some clues I missed the first time around, knowing that I would get to enjoy the beauty of Suma's prose and storytelling all over again.

Footnote: This is the second book by Suma that I immediately saw being perfect for movie adaptation (the first being Imaginary Girls). This could be made into a beautiful kind of haunted house movie, one with complicated female characters at its center.

PS. I'm hosting a giveaway for this book on my blog. If you'd like to participate, go here.

Oct 2, 7:34pm Top

45. Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito (***½)
Category: Visual Onslaught

I adore Junji Ito’s work in general, though the graphic short story collection Fragments of Horror didn’t quite meet the same level of unsettling beauty as Uzumaki or the stories in Shiver. Still, there were a couple stories that stood out for me, with images that linger, including “Dissection-chan,” in which a woman is obsessed with the idea of dissection, and “Blackbird,” in which a man survives a hiking accident through horrific means.

Group: 2018 Category Challenge

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