SFF Shenanigans: Broken Places & Outer Spaces

After our false start Jess and I decided to tackle Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected by Nnedi Okorafor for the Hodderscape challenge. The category is Nonfiction by a SFF Writer.

What was your initial reaction to the book? Did it hook you immediately, or take some time to get into?

Jess: It definitely hooked me right away, which is so important with a book of that length. I read it in one sitting.
Karena: I listened to the audio with Nnedi narrating which is one of my favorite things. So I was definitely interested right away and listened all at one time.
Jess: Oh right! I forgot you listened on audio. I love when authors narrate their own work.

Have you read anything else by the author? If so, what and did you have a favorite?

Jess: I’ve read Who Fears Death and the Binti trilogy.
Karena: Who Fears Death was my first. I read it with an SFF book group. I also have read the prequel The Book of Phoenix, Lagoon and the Binti trilogy.
Jess: I know she’s written a ton, but those are the only ones I’ve actually read.
Karena: I’ve liked everything I read by her so a favorite is hard. Maybe this nonfiction honestly.
Jess: I have Lagoon, but just haven’t gotten to it yet! story of the TBR
Karena: For reals. I read it because at one of her talks I went to she framed it as a better “alien invasion story.”
Jess: yeah, I really loved this! from the two novels I’ve read, I definitely preferred Who Fears Death. I liked Binti, but I wanted a little more I think.

What surprised you about the author’s experience?

Jess: I had no idea that she had scoliosis. That is like the worst thing I can imagine, getting paralyzed. especially completely unexpectedly like that.
Karena: I remember those scoliosis checks in middle school. How terrifying to be told you have a low chance for risks and then it happens.

What was your favorite quote/passage?

Karena: I liked that she plans to become a cyborg in 2029.
Jess: Yes! I loved that tie-in to her SFF work.

What aspects of the author’s story could you most relate to?

Jess: I’m a runner, so the thought of suddenly being paralyzed horrified me. While I didn’t relate to the experience, I found her description really visceral and I could really relate to how frustrating she found that as an athlete.
Karena: I’m not an athlete, but the experience of having everything change in an instant is something that I could relate to as the wife of a former service member. We would have this existence and then you get your new base assignment and you go from North Dakota to Okinawa, Japan.

Do you have any other thoughts?

Jess: Just that I’m glad I read it! and I probably wouldn’t have without this challenge, just because of the way that I am with nonfiction
Karena: I found it fascinating how she went from wanting to be an entomologist to becoming an SFF writer.


In conclusion, we both really liked Broken Places and Outer Spaces for our January book. February’s book is going to be Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer for the “Book based on Real World History” as it takes place during the United State’s Prohibition during the 1930’s.



SFF Shenanigans: January's DNF

So we tried. We really did. However, January’s selection A Memory Called Empire for Hodderscapes’s was a bust for both Jessica and I. Not to despair, we did read something for January anyway, Nnedi Okorafor’s Broken Places and Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected for the Nonfiction by an SFF author category, which we’ll be posting about in a separate post. In this post though, Jess and I will be going through why we DNF’d this book and what our criteria for a DNF (Did Not Finish) is.

Karena


I DNF way easier than I used to. I have no real criteria. If I put it down and never feel the need to pick it back up…DNF. I figure I’m already going to die with books unread so why waste that time on books that don’t interest me. This is a long time in coming. I used to think I had to read all the books I ever picked up because we’re not supposed to quit, right? Take on a job of being a bookseller and that goes right out the window. There are deadlines for review publications, or newsletters, or just there’s always a new book coming out. I tried reading A Memory Called Empire not only in print, but also listening on audio. I couldn’t get through the first chapter. The pacing was just too slow for me. It felt clunky and disjointed.

Jess

A Memory Called Empire did a really specific thing that I don’t like in books -it tried to give us a way that another group of beings communicate. In this case, the aliens used body language that was super specific and very different from how the human characters do. I appreciate the effort, and I actually do like thinking about how communication would work between two groups that have different frames of reference for aspects of language that we take for granted (intonation, body language, facial expression, etc). That said, I didn’t think it was executed well. Every single time two characters interacted, we got at least a line or two about how and why communication was hard and how they were missing each other. It got repetitive and frustrating to read. (Another example of this done poorly, in my opinion, is Bel Canto by Anne Patchett, while The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers is one that does this really well.)

When talking about this blog post, Karena asked me to talk a bit about “the art of the DNF,” and that phrase has kind of stuck in my head. It is definitely something that I think of as more of an art than a science. The one feeling that I keep coming back to is – do I want to be reading this? If I noticed that I’m picking up my Switch more than my book or spending a lot of time on Instagram or putting on re-runs of old TV shows, then I’m probably just about to DNF a book. Of course, there are exceptions – if I get really into a new game or TV show or audiobook, then I like to lean into that. But if I’m spending a lot of time with my brain “turned off,” it’s probably because I’m not engaged in what I’m reading. I don’t like my brain turned off. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, so if I’m actively avoiding it, I put down whatever I’m reading. If I never come back it it, then it was likely the book’s fault that I wasn’t engaged, and I move on. All of that to say that I agree with Karena. There are too many books that I’m never going to read, so why waste my time with something I don’t really like?

Do you ever DNF? Do you have criteria you have to meet before you do? What was your last one? Have you read A Memory Called Empire? Let us know in the comments.

Introducing Jessica: a SFF Cohort

Hi everyone! I’m so excited to be joining Karena as we tackle the Hodderscape 2020 SFF reading challenge! Karena and I bonded over our shared love of all things SFF (but specifically The Night Circus) and have spent a huge chunk of our friendship shouting at each other about books.

About me: I’m a lesbian children’s librarian with an affinity for magic in my books and whiskey in my coffee. I live with a chaos demon (read: tabby cat) who I named after a character in The Night Circus. I have a half dozen literary tattoos. When I’m not reading, I’m….well, I’m usually reading, but I’m also a runner and enjoy cooking and knitting.

My SFF origin story: You know, I can’t really remember a time before I loved SFF. My mom handed me The Hobbit when I was 8, and it was love from then on out. I went to school with Harry Potter and dreamed about doorways in closets to icy wonderlands and read too much Stephen King at much too young an age and played Zelda games on my GameBoy Color until my eyes went buggy.
Then I grew up. I grew up, and someone at some point told me that fantasy wasn’t “cool” anymore. So I dutifully read my classics and whatever was assigned to me in school and I got degrees in English and Comparative Literature and only read Very Serious stuff for years. (There were a lot of cishet white dudes during that period of my life.)
When I quit my PhD program, I wanted to learn how to really love books again. I went back for the classics that I loved as a kid – Lord of the Rings and Stephen King and the like, and then I started exploring the SFF section of bookstores more. An incredible thing had happened during the time that I was away – SFF woke up. Suddenly, there were more women on the shelves! And more than cishet white dudes saving the world between the pages! And there was so much queerness! The worlds in these books were bigger and more beautiful and more interesting than anything I had been asked to read in college. I found underground libraries and magical circuses and spaceships full of found family. I traveled between Londons and lived through the fifth season and caught a sexually transmitted city. I started reading high fantasy and science fiction and middle grade fantasy and urban fantasy and magical realism and…you get the idea. I fell back in love with reading. Now, you can find me at school with Mia Corvere and Ivy Gamble and dreaming about doorways to worlds of salt and ink and reading too much Catherynne Valente.

The Quick Sheet:
My wheelhouse: Queer ladies doing awesome things with magic or in spaceships or both.
Authors on my autobuy list: Catherynne Valente. Seanan McGuire. Erin Morgenstern. NK Jemisin. VE Schwab. Sarah Gailey. (Okay, my wallet just started screaming in protest, so I’m stopping there.)
What’s on my TBR: Right now? Godsgrave, because it’s been a long time since I’ve been so invested in a series that I had to grab the sequel immediately. Blue is the Warmest Color and We Set the Dark on Fire for my Coven Challenge. A reread of Drive Here and Devastate Me. A Mirror Empire because I’ve seen it pop up a bunch recently. And A Memory Called Empire for this challenge!
Which books on the Challenge I’m looking forward to reading: All of them? No, but seriously. If I have to choose, The City We Became and Docile have been on my list for a long time, and I know those two will inspire a special amount of screaming with Karena.
What do I do when I’m not reading: Training for my next race (currently the Brooklyn 2020 half marathon). Still playing Zelda games (just now on my Switch) until my eyes go buggy.


Bout of Books 27: Day 3

No challenge today. well technically there was, but it’s one looking for recommendations and 1) I don’t need recommendations at the moment and 2) it’s meant for their comments section. So let’s get on with the update!

I finished Daisy Jones and the Six. It was so good. I got so stuck in genre last year that I barely made a dent in anything else. I had so many people tell me how good it was. I will admit for the longest time, I thought it was a nonfiction about some band I’d never heard of (let’s be real. I don’t know about a lot of bands so this wasn’t that surprising). It was told in the style of an oral history that really added to the story. It was way more fun to follow the band’s journey with the back and forth of all the members and the people around them. I give it 5 stars for sure.

Fuck yes, Daisy.

I also finished Nevernight, my read along book. According to Goodreads it was my 3rd reread of it and I still love it. Jay Kristoff is a sneaky sadist shit and I love him. I don’t say that lightly. There aren’t very many cis straight white authors who can entertain me the way he does (maybe Nicholas Eames).

Total pages read: 357. Not bad. I mean, it’s nothing compared to the previous day, but to be fair yesterday I was battling some wicked allergies so I’m content with what I did accomplish.

How’s your Bout of Books going? What are you reading?

SFF Shenanigans with Jessica and Karena

My friend Jessica and I are going to be tackling Hodderscape’s 2019 challenge but in 2020. You will be seeing posts from her as we’ve decided to tackle our book selections together. Here is the list we’re planning on reading for the year.

A book based on mythology or folkloreThe Sisters GrimmMerena van Praag
A non-fiction book by a SFF authorBroken Places and Outer SpacesNnedi Okorafor
A work of sci-fi or fantasy in translationThus Were Their FacesSilvia Ocampo
A book being adapted for movie or TV in 2019/2020TBD
A novel featuring dragonsTurning Darkness into LightMarie Brennan
A work of sci-fi by a woman or non-binary authorChilling EffectValerie Valdes
A book told from multiple character POVsDocileK.M. Szpara
A book with a non-human protagonistThe City We BecameN.K. Jemisin
A retelling of a classic fairytaleGirls Made of Snow and GlassMelissa Bashardoust
A book set in a dystopian futureRiot BabyTochi Onyebuchi
A book set on a different planet or space stationA Memory Called EmpireArkady Martine
A book inspired by real-world historyCreatures of Want and RuinMolly Tanzer

Our first book for January is going to be A Memory Called Empire. It’s on the longer side so we are going to start out strong. It’s a space opera where most of the characters are queer. Huzzah! I also found this article on Strange Horizons with the author Arkady Martine which was pretty fascinating. Jessica and I will report back at the end of January with our thoughts. Also if you’re interested in following along, we’ll be using the hashtag #JKShenanigansSFF

Do you have any suggestions for 2019/2020 adaptions? Let us know in the comments. We are trying to veer away from the straight cis white dudes if possible.

Bout of Books 27: Day 2

Share Your 2020 Reading Goals is today’s Bout of Books’ challenge. Well. My husband has been badgering me for awhile and this year since i’m not currently working, I decided to try it. I’m going for 365. I’ve gotten close to it before. In 2016, I managed 350, so it’s possible! The trick is making sure my books are not just white lady historical romance novels as that’s the easiest way for me to consume books.

Also how did my first day go you ask? I’m pretty chuffed to be honest. I managed to catch up with Jessica (you’ll be meeting her soon) on our Nevernight readalong and finished 81 pages. Then even though I was only supposed to read 9 chapters of Lonesome Dove, I got hooked and ended up reading 41 chapters which amounts to 287 pages. I meant to finish Daisy Jones and the Six, but then my youngest spawn asked to watch a couple episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and who am I to say no? Especially since one of those episodes is The Wish and not only do we meet Anya, but we also get Vampire Willow and…I digress. I did manage 94 pages of Daisy Jones so it wasn’t a complete wash. The only negative is I didn’t finish a book so according to Goodreads, I’m behind.

Today’s plan? Well, depending on where my friend gets with Nevernight, I may or may not finish that. Definitely Daisy Jones will be finished. I also need to start A Memory Called Empire for the SFF Challenge.

How did your first day go? What are your plans with your second?

Bout of Books 27: Day 1

Today’s challenge I think is supposed to be just a twitter challenge, but here we are. Introduce yourself in six words: High volume reader with snarky opinions. Now for those of you who have been around, you know. But for anyone finding me through the readathon: Welcome!

I read a lot. Like a lot a lot. I average around 300 books a year, give or take. I mostly can be found in either the romance or science fiction/fantasy sections respectively, but also foray into feminist studies, biographies, essay collections, and the occasional history aisles as well. I was a bookseller in California for nigh 3 years and now live in Pennsylvania where I’m focusing more on writing. Writing what? I am not sure, but we’re gonna see where it goes.

The books on the docket this week are mostly going to be from my reading challenges that I’ve decided to partake in. We have Lonesome Dove for my #covenbookchallenge and A Memory Called Empire for the SFF challenge created by Hodderscape. I also am buddy reading Nevernight with my cohort Jessica. It’s a reread for me and I’m pacing myself to her and it’s letting me take more time with the characters than I have before. I ❤ Mia. I probably will also indulge in a few romance novels. Not sure which ones yet.

If you’re participating in Bout of Books, what do you have planned for your first day? Also link your blogs!

Bout of Books 27 Edition

It’s that time of year again and what a way to jump into all of our new reading goals. It’s time for Bout of Books 27. What is Bout of Books you’re asking? Well, I’ve done it before, but here’s a recap.

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 6th and runs through Sunday, January 12th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, Twitter chats, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 27 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

I have gone over great reading strategies in the past. This time I think I’m not really going for quantity, but using it to spend time on the books for my reading challenges. Lonesome Dove and its nearly 900 pages is not going to read itself. As it gets closer I’ll let you know more of what might be happening.

Are you participating? Link your blog so I can cheer you on!

#CovenBookChallenge 2020

I read a lot but sometimes often I get stuck in the same reading rut. Luckily a couple of my fellow book coven members worked up a special spell to counter this curse. 24 books in 12 months all in very specific categories, some from the pretty simple (books with a rainbow color in the title) to the complex (books published by a non profit press). I can’t claim any credit for this graphic! One of my awesome coven co-members did and it’s so awesome. I’m also doing Hodderscape’s 2019 challenge which you can read about here.

I have all but 3 books chosen although these are subject to change because things happen. I’m a bit hesitant to announce what they are at the moment. Also if you’re interested in following along, we’re using #CovenBookChallenge.

My plan is to read 2 books a month. I think I’m starting with the Pulitzer Prize and is a favorite of a friend or family member categories, respectively.

Lonesome Dove won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986. Why this tome of a Western? A few reasons. I have heard from people I generally trust in books, that it’s pretty good. A former coworker of mine and her husband even changed their last name when they got married because of their love for this book. The nearly 950 pages is a bit terrifying but I think it’s going to be a solid start for the new year.

My book coven loves Murderbot so very much. There isn’t a book poll that doesn’t happen without All Systems Red being one of the answers, even if it wasn’t up for consideration in the first place. I even named my phone Murderbot even though I haven’t read it because it sounded so good. Now with a full length novel coming later this year, I’m thinking it’s finally time. And since it’s a novella it will pair perfectly with the brick that is Lonesome Dove.

Are you doing any reading challenges this year? Tell me which ones in the comments.

The End of the Year Book Tag 2019

I have a great support system when it comes to my books and reading and when one of my coven suggested we do an end of the year book tag, I was thrilled.

1. Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

With the move this summer I started and abandoned a lot of books. Not on purpose. It just happened. I got a few of them finished with Nonfiction November, but there are still some fiction titles out there. And then there are a few titles like Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir that I had to put down because my brain wasn’t being able to handle the mindfuckery she was putting me through at the time.

2. Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?

Not really. I’m just looking to finish a few that I already started and some stragglers that I didn’t get to with Nonfiction November.

3. Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

No, I think thanks to access to Advanced Reader Copies I’ve read all the things I was super excited about already.

4. What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

The aforementioned Harrow the Ninth for sure. Alisha Rai’s Girl Gone Viral. And I’m cheating on this because it’s a series, but Sarah Kozloff’s The Nine Realms series. It’s meant to be binged so I have 3 books to finish.

5. Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favorite book of the year?

Doubtful. This was a year of Middlegame, Gideon the Ninth, The Starless Sea, The Ten Thousand Doors of January and those were just the SFF titles I loved.

6. Have you already started making reading plans for 2020?

I’m definitely going to hit my Goodreads goal which was 300 books (at the time of writing this I’m at 292 out of 300), and next year my husband challenged me to try for 365. At the moment I’m not working so maybe this is something I can accomplish.