A few recent reads

I’ve been reading a lot lately, because I’ve been super stressed, which means that I read every spare minute. Don’t ask me why this is. I can’t tell you. You would think that, being stressed, I would engage directly with my stressors and then take my time to enjoy books, but not. I’ve just been spamming everything and screaming internally.

The upside of this is that I have read a lot of good stuff recently. Most of my recent reads have been novellas, but I’ve also devoured some novel-length pieces (always more satisfying for me). So what have I been reading? So glad you asked.

Final Girls – I actually went on a binge of Seanan McGuire (aka Mira Grant) around the first of the month and read a bunch of stuff, including some of her free and Patreon-supported short stories in the Toby universe. That was after I read this novella, which was good in the way all ghost stories and haunted houses are good. I highly recommend.

Binti – I’m not sure what I was expecting from this novella, but it wasn’t exactly what I got. That’s not a bad thing. I can definitely see why it won so many awards, and I’m excited for the next one, though it’s not on my immediate to-read list. That said, I think that I will need to read the actual book next time, instead of listening to the audiobook. I love Robin Miles, but audiobook of a novella is a little too brief for me, I think. It was perfect for my drive back from a conference, though!

She Wolf and Cub – I’ve read a lot of Lilith Saintcrow, and I enjoy her stuff. Her worldbuilding is solid, as always, and her system of magic (or in this case, science) is inventive. Sandworms, dystopias, nanobots, and one really made lady – sign me up! I enjoyed this book, though it’s one of the more pulpy ones on this list.

One Fell Sweep – Speaking of pulpy, this is a new book by Ilona Andrews, who always fits that bill. Space vampires and lots of explosions lie within. Check it out if you need something light, but beware – it’s the third in a series.

A Closed and Common Orbit – Reading A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is not a prerequisite for this book in my opinion. That said, it does spoil a small part of the ending of the Hugo-nominee, so if you were planning to read that to see what the fuss was about you might want to get on it before you read this book. I liked this one loads better than Small, Angry Planet, which I honestly wasn’t a huge fan of, mostly because the pacing didn’t quite work for me. A solid book, with two powerfully complex and interesting characters narrating.

All Systems Red – This is a novella, and it is by Martha Wells, and if you know anything about my reading habits, you know I love Martha Wells. Admittedly, you may not realize because she puts out new stuff a little less frequently than, say, McGuire. Anyway, read her stuff, all of it is phenomenal and this novella is no exception. Hands down, Wells remains one of my favorite writers.

On my to read list for my honeymoon and the strenuous two weeks leading up to it, I have:

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Happy Black History Month!

In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to do a brief post talking about black authors and media that I’ve been consuming recently. One of the things that I’ve realized as an adult is how separated black and white media and stories can be. My parents made the effort to read me lots of bedtime stories from lots of different cultures, but honestly I grew up in a pretty racially homogenous, white, southern county for most of my youth. There wasn’t a whole lot of education or exposure to any other culture in the broader society I lived in, much less black culture. I figure if I can do a little bit with this blog to make you aware of some really great black creators and histories, then I am hopefully helping to break down some of that cultural isolation. So enough about me. Let’s get to the content.

Fiction

I’m going to guess that most readers of this blog are going to be looking for fiction. I can’t say that the names in this list are not well-known, so if you have any other recommendations, please add them below!

N. K. Jemisin

Jemisin writes the Broken Earth Trilogy, which has made my best-of list two years in a row. She’s also the author of the Dreamblood series and the Inheritance Trilogy. She is one of the major names in science fiction and fantasy right now, having won the Hugo for Best Novel in 2016. She was the first black person to win that award.

Victor LaValle

You may remember my blogpost on The Ballad of Black Tom, which also showed up on my best-of list for this year. That was the first work I had read by this author, but he has a few books out apparently, including one that won the American Book Award in 2010. The Devil in Silver looks particularly interesting.

Octavia Butler

This is an old standby honestly and I almost didn’t put her on here because she’s so well known. But if you’re trying to get into black sff, this is a good place to start.

History

Switching gears a bit, I’ve recently been reading March by Rep. John Lewis and two white dudes who should nonetheless be credited for their artistic prowess, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. It chronicles John Lewis’ experiences during the Civil Rights Movement. It’s a great series of graphic novels, well-paced and only a little cheesy at points. It’s taught me a lot about the different movements going on at the time, and works as a good introductory point for those less familiar or younger.

If you are looking for movies, there are two great ones that I can recommend. Hidden Figures is a family-friendly must-see. As a plus, it also has rockets! And Selma, which was released in 2014, parallels some of the events in March, so watching that movie was very interesting as it gave more depth into other conversations that were going on at the time. There are a lot of things about the Civil Rights Movement and the years since which have been fundamentally white-washed in our broader social narrative. If you’re looking for an entryway into that, these three works are my recommendation.

If you are also interested in older history, do I have the resource for you! Medieval-POC is one of my favorite Tumblogs, and is run by an art historian who makes a point of seeking out and showcasing a lot of beautiful old art that features people of color. Seriously, check it out.

Poetry

I could not finish this post without mentioning Warsan Shire. Most people know her for collaborating with Beyoncé on the visual album Lemonade (pictured). She has been making poetry for a while, though. She published her first collection of poems in 2011, and was named the Young Poet Laureate for London in 2014. All that, and she is only 28.

I hope you’ve enjoyed! Please support black artists and creators this month, and leave recommendations for other black creators, histories, and stories below.

Your infrequent inspiration update 

It’s November and the holidays are rolling down the chute, coming whether we like it or not. I haven’t planned my entire Thanksgiving dinner yet but you’ll probably hear all about it after the fact. For now, I wanted to bring you up to speed on some of the fun things I’ve read  and watched recently.

First off, Luke Cage. Holy mess Luke Cage. There were so many things done right with this show. The research and care that went into this production blew me away. The attention to detail in the selection of the soundtrack was especially phenomenal. At first, I was a little skeptical that Luke’s vendetta with Cottonmouth was feeding into the narrative of black on black crime, but the treatment of both characters as well as the role of Misty and Scarfe and the exploration of their motivations and identities quickly quelled that fear. All of the characters in Luke Cage are wonderfully complex and well-crafted. I definitely recommend it.  I could write a book about this show, but I’ll let you watch it and see for yourself.


As for other things  I’ve been into, there have been a lot of short stories I’ve really enjoyed recently. “Fiber,” a comedy with reborn zombies and cheerleaders by Seanan McGuire, was particularly amusing. You can find that over at Tor.com. On the eery, cerebral side of the spectrum there was “What Becomes of the Third Hearted,” published by Shimmer Magazine. That one was like a punch to the gut, in a good way. I’ve also been enjoying being a Patron of Fireside Fiction and Martha Wells. Martha Wells in particular gives me a bunch of fun Raksura tidbits to chew on, which I love. I’m very excited for Harbors of the Sun to hit shelves next summer.

Speaking of novels and novellas, some recent reads have included Vermilion, which I have been wanting to read forever, and Silver on the Road. I guess I’ve been on a Western kick. Vermilion is set in San Francisco and other areas on the far west coast, during the 1800s unless I miss my guess. It is a steampunk adventure which skillfully tackles issues of Chinese immigration and labor in the rail industry, as well as gender fluidity and diverse sexualities. Silver on the Road is also an alternate West story, but set in the area between the Spanish territories and the Mississippi River following the successful bid by the American colonies for independence. The main character is a Latina woman who works for the devil, who runs a saloon in the town of Flood.

In addition to these I’ve been reading Letters from Burma as a bit of a nonfiction break and also for research purposes. It’s a very easy read, and really fascinating. I also finished Obelisk Gate on Audible, which was a wonderful performance by Robin Miles, as always. I have mixed feelings about the second book in this series, mostly because I loved the first book so much. It honestly almost stood alone for me. But it was a great story and, once I reached the end, I was definitely back on board with wherever Jemisin wants to take me. I’m currently looking for my next audiobook, so let me know if you have any recommendations!

Whew. What a list. Anyway, chime in and let me know what you have been reading below. ‘Til next time.

Writing as activism: The Ballad of Black Tom

I thought long and hard before writing this post.

This is for a couple of reasons, the principal of these being that I am white. Because of this, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that my reflections on the novella The Ballad of Black Tom are my own, and come from my whiteness, at least in part. We cannot extricate the parts of our identities, after all. That said, I am also a writer and a writer keenly interested in diverse representation and stories which get to the heart of oppression. The Ballad of Black Tom did both of these things baldly and without pulling any punches. I want to unpack that. And I want to lend my platform to this book, because it is a valuable read, perhaps most especially for white people.

black-tom

All of that said, there will be spoilers. Stop here if you don’t want those, and scroll to the end for further reading recommendations if you must. You are warned.

If you want to read this book first and come back, I encourage it. It’s a novella, so it took me about three or four hours to chomp through at most. I read fast, but it’s not a terribly serious time commitment if you want to bookmark this page for later.

No, the time commitment is in how much you’ll find yourself thinking about it afterwards.

With no further ado… Continue reading “Writing as activism: The Ballad of Black Tom”

Some things I’m looking forward to, Part II

A week ago I posted about the films/TV shows that I’m looking forward to seeing adapted from some favorite books, and now I’m going to list some books and novellas that I’m very excited about. None of these are out yet, but they’re all on my wish list. I am only going to mention the ones that I am the most excited about, though, because my wish list is very long.

Ghost Talkers – Mary Robinette Kowal

This book. Really. I’ve read the beginning and it looks so good. I am a huge fan of alternate re-tellings of WWI/WWII anything. One of my all-time favorite series was Martha Wells’ The Fall of Ile-Rien, which is set in a fantastical psuedo-Britain which is being invaded by a fantastical psuedo-Germany. There are many dissimilarities, but the specter of such an all-encompassing industrial conflict is something that I feel really drawn to for some reason. I think it’s a time period that is vastly underutilized in fantasy and historical fantasy, so I am so excited to see a book set in this time. Not to mention that Mary Robinette Kowal is known for the quality of her research as well as her prose. While I have enjoyed her Glamourist Histories books, I’m actually really excited to see her writing liberated from the prose style favored by Jane Austen and her contemporaries, which can sometimes feel a little staid for me. I also love this cover. Just love it. It feels simultaneously ethereal and tense, which is a bit what talking to ghosts would feel like I imagine.

Once Broken Faith – Seanan McGuire

I’m also looking forward to Full of Briars, which is a novella coming out in the same world. Seanan McGuire’s October Daye novels were something I was a bit slow to get into, but I’m so glad I stuck around. She has become one of my absolute favorite authors. She seems to really know how to speak to the human condition, which is what I look for in a novel or similar project. I trust McGuire to lead me down interesting roads and cut me to the quick. She also writes as Mira Grant, and one of my favorite series which I have read recently is the Newsflesh trilogy. I would pay all of my money to see that trilogy made into a Netflix mini-series or series of movies. Like all of my money. Actually seeing any of McGuire’s stuff on the screen would be ideal in a perfect future. Supposedly some of the rights have been acquired for Newsflesh and the October Daye series, but there’s not be any indication of production (and that was really another blog post so I should probably get back to books).

Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

I have to admit, I add this last book tentatively. I’m watching it because it has gotten great reviews in the pre-readings and the concept looks like my jam. However, I haven’t read anything by this author previously. My favorite story-line from A Song of Ice and Fire is definitely Arya’s, so with a narrative about an orphaned girl being trained as an assassin I am very interested from the get go. Plus three suns which never set? That sounds brutal for world-building purposes and I’m excited to see how it is executed. Also, I was totally pulled in by what I believe is the Kindle cover or ARC cover perhaps, which I’ve included below because it is probably one of my favorite covers that I’ve seen recently. I of course don’t own the image, but I wish I did.

Anyway, that is it for things I am waiting for right now. I also have a lot of other books on my to read list, but there is unfortunately only so much time in the day. I’m sure you’ll be hearing about the things I get to in future posts!

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