September/October Reading

To put it lightly, it has been a rough month for me and my family. I’ve kept writing – just finished up 100 days of writing at least 500 words every day, as I posted about before – but I haven’t had it in me to put this list together on time.

I will note two apologies/disclaimers: one, this is two months’ worth at once, and two, my brain has been bathed in stress hormones lately. If I recall a book’s details incorrectly, I apologize.

One bit of good(?) news: I realized that a bug in Goodreads’ code was listing books on my TBR list that should have been taken off. Final result: My list is a little shorter than I thought it was. And it has been not quite accurate for the last several months. Still, that’s a Bank Error In Your Favor sort of situation.

Fantasy, SF and Related Genres

Laika in Lisan by Maron Anrow – See full squee in previous post here.

The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin – I’d read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms earlier this year, so this month’s reading included The Broken Kingdoms, The Kingdom of Gods and The Awakened Kingdom.

Okay. Insert ten minutes of incoherent babbling. That’s my first reaction.

The Inheritance Trilogy is about a clan of gods and godlings (the children of gods) as they battle, backstab, fall in love and generally run amok, as well as how these things affect all of the beings who stray into their paths. It is gloriously, unapologetically weird, and yet very human. It is not like everything else. I don’t have any higher praise than that.

Do not confuse it with The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. I got about four pages into that once. They are quite different.

Nolander by Becca Mills – The (free!) introduction to an urban fantasy series about… well, spoilers? Strange powers, strange beings, shadowy organizations! All that fun stuff. I should use the term “urban fantasy” a bit lightly, maybe, because it isn’t a detective story (which is an unspoken requirement in UF, I think), and it begins in small-town America rather than a city. I’m not sure whether this series is still running, but I hope it is.

Soulless by Gail Carriger – A steampunkish novel-slash-parody about a very proper lady immune to supernatural powers. I got tired of the heroine insulting herself at every turn (and some of the ethnic/racial implications were blergh, like… OK, we’re supposed to think she’s disgusting because she is fingerquotes-ethnic? Uh, no, I will not?), but it was frothily enjoyable at the time.

Saga vol. 5 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples – This plot has become so byzantine that I can’t tell you a dang thing about this volume if you aren’t already reading it – not only because of spoilers but because you won’t have a clue who any of these people are. (And yet, everything makes sense if you start at the beginning.) All I can say is AAAAAARRRGHHHH. Of course, my reaction to every volume of Saga is AAAAAARRRGHHHH.

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig – I get what the author was going for, but I DNFd at 40%. Everything is disgusting, every character is a horrible human being, life is repulsive and pointless, and death is pathetic. I get it. I fold. Too nihilistic for my blood.

The Secret Eater by Ros Jackson – Another free intro. This one is a novella about a young demon who derives her power from human secrets (hence the title). I had a few quibbles with the pacing near the end, but it was quite fun.

A Bit(e) of Discretion, Please by T.A. Miles – I admit, for this one and the previous one, I sorted by remaining TBR pile by page length and picked the two shortest, to knock a couple off the list quickly. Thus, completely by chance, I ended up reading two short, fun supernatural-being stories back to back. This one is Fae rather than demons, and reminds me of nothing so much as Descendants of Darkness/Yami no Matsuei, one of my favorite soapy anime series of the early ’00s. This association is a bit odd, since none of the fine details of the plot or characters really line up – they’re both a mystery format with supernatural beings working for a vast bureaucracy, and both flirted with slashiness, but that’s about it. YnM was about a thousand times more angsty, for starters. Still, that’s meant as a compliment.

Rat Queens vol. 1 by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch – I bought this ages ago, but only pulled it out of the stack after realizing that my debut in / return to D&D after an absence of 20+ years was turning out to be lackluster at best. That’s a long story, but it gives some context to the fact that I feel a lot more excited about games and story-worlds in the D&D vein after reading this comic. Yeah, it’s 90% a parody, but I enjoyed the characterization, and the parody hit a bunch of notes that I wasn’t expecting. Plus: Funny. EDIT, LATER: So, I did not know about this when I read this volume. I don’t like giving money to people who do things that I find immoral, like campaigning against civil rights or, in this case, abusing their spouses. So I won’t be buying or reading any more of this one.

 

Romance

At the end of the month I started the Brothers Sinister box set by Courtney Milan, but didn’t finish it until the first week of November, so that will wait. I will take a moment to foam at the mouth over my favorite book in the series, which I did finish in October: The Countess Conspiracy. Foam foam foam omg. Moving on.

From Out in the Cold by L.A. Witt – a) it was the sort of Sunday afternoon/evening when I wanted to sit down and read an entire book at once, and b) I can’t call myself any kind of m/m fan if I haven’t read any L.A. Witt yet. Seriously. So yeah. PTSD is the major theme of this book, along with 2x I’m Secretly In Love with My Best Friend. It’s also sort of a Christmas book, though not stiflingly so (I’m not a giant fan of the Christmas is Magical and Romantic trope). +1 just angsty enough about things other than being gay / horrible family drama (though there’s pllllllenty of that too) and +1 trope favorite.

 

Nonfiction

Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler – Picked this up a while back during a “books that may be of interest to students” sale on Amazon. I am not a student. But I like learning new things. To over-simplify, this book – which is a basic survey, and not technical at all – is about how people receive and process (mostly) visual information, whether consciously or unconsciously, from things like visual balance to the way that we categorize information as we drill down through menus in software. A few are gender-essentialist woo that I couldn’t swipe past fast enough, but there were a lot of interesting things that I didn’t know about.

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach – I was in a spree of working on my science fiction story and I thought sure, it isn’t research, just pop science, but it’ll be fun and timely to read about weightlessness and all that jazz. A good bit of this book is gleefully gross-out, but if you go into it with that expectation, it’s pretty fun.

Make It Mighty Ugly: Exercises & Advice for Getting Creative Even When It Ain’t Pretty by Kim Piper Werker – As I’ve written about before, I suffer from the plague of perfectionism, which, of course, does not suggest that my work is perfect. It merely means that I’m never happy with it. That said, my way of dealing with it this year – both in writing and in crafting – has been to a) not wait until I’m feeling ready or inspired, thus not giving myself a chance to second-guess myself, and b) fling myself bodily at it while plugging my ears and saying lalala I don’t know whether this is any good and I’m not going to think about it yet lalala. This means that I’m able to get things done for once.

This book is much more complex than that, and includes a lot of interesting insight, stories and exercises about mental/creative block and self-doubt.

Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives by Terry Jones – Similarly to my note about Packing for Mars: heyyyy, pop-history sounds like fun right about now.

TBR at beginning of September: As noted at the beginning, I can’t trust the old counts, but it said 140 at the time. It may have been anywhere from 140 to about 134.

TBR at end of October: 129. NET PROGRESS!! I’ve caught up with… July.

Along with targeting shorter works for a week or so and fixing the problem with my Goodreads list, I also decided to lock down a lot of my book spending. Because of some real-life financial stressors that are irksome but not fatal, I started to peg my spending on books to the gold system in Chore Wars in order to get a handle on it. As I’ve posted before, we use Chore Wars for writing rather than chores – so in other words, if I want to buy books, I have to write more. It’s pretty effective.