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.



stack of books in front of a fireplace with the text Nonfiction November

NonFiction November: Random Edition

Last but not least we have a hodgepodge of topics that just happened to interest me.

You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships by Deborah Tannen

Ever since I read Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer I’ve been fascinated with the idea of female friendship and how they’re portrayed as opposed to how we actually act. Tannen is a linguist so is focused on what we say and how we say it. I’m definitely interested to see if there’s anything there.

Girl Talk: What Science can tell us About Female Friendship by Jacqueline Mroz

Same topic, different perspective. Mroz is interested in the sociology and science behind female friendship. I wasn’t aware of scientific studies being conducted on this topic and I also am curious with this title and the last if we are including trans women along with cis. I have a feeling there’s not going to be a lot of inclusion here unfortunately.

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl

As I turn back to cooking more (our last kitchen was abysmal and I did the bare minimum), I am also rediscovering my love of food essay collections. We as humans have such a varied relationship with food and I hear Reichl is one of the best food writers. I’m super excited to get to this (even if it takes me until the end of the year to read it).

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

Chee’s The Queen of the Night was nothing short of phenomenal. I have heard nothing but amazing things about this essay collection as well. Chee has a gift with words and has a lot to share with readers. I’m still kicking myself it’s taken me this long to actually get to reading it.

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch

I listened to this on audiobook and it’s so very good. I am fascinated with language and how it evolves and changes. This is a great conversation on what the impact the internet has had on us. McCulloch does a wonderful job on both the information and the narration. This is definitely one of my top picks of the year for nonfiction.

NonFiction November: Romance History

I have been meaning to get to these forever it feels like. As someone who found romance novels at 15, they’ve always been a part of my reading life. It was not until I was older that I found out people shunned them. Why? We talk about love all the time (there’s a whole industry making bank on it, from dating apps to the wedding complex), but we don’t want to read stories about it? Weird. These titles were recommended to me to better educate myself on why romance is such an important genre.

This Week’s Topic: The History and Sociology of Romance

Everything I know about Love I Learned from Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell

This one is tricky. The only romances mentioned are largely by and about het white ladies (with Courtney Milan being the only exception as a bi woman of color) and even then, the same are repeated. It shows a very specific time in romance so maybe you’ll find it interesting.

Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan

Another by Sarah Wendell and I believe comes first. I haven’t gotten to it yet, but the previous selection makes me seriously nervous. I hope the examples given are more than just Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me (which is fantastic, don’t get me wrong) and Tessa Dare. I don’t have problems with those authors, but where’s Beverly Jenkins for example?

A Natural History of the Romance Novel by Pamela Regis

Published in 2007 this isn’t going to take into account the current state of romance including the rise of marginalized voices being more prevalent, but it sounds like it’s a good look at romance’s beginnings and middle.

Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained by Maya Rodale

Rodale is one of my favorite romance writers (ask me about Duchess by Design. Sigh) and this book was actually her master’s thesis. I’ve read the first couple chapters, one of which discusses how irritating it is that most people know romance because of a dude. You know the one. Long hair, muscle–y, got smacked in the face with a bird while on a roller coaster.

Women and Romance: a Reader edited by Susan Ostrov Weisser

This one I’m a little wary of. While it was on a list of nonfiction about the romance genre, I have no idea what stance it’s taking because on Goodreads there’s only one written review. It happened to come through my store’s used desk so I snatched it up. I’ll be sure to report back.

Does anyone have a more recent addition to add? Rodale’s was published in 2011 making it the most up to date, but especially in the last few years, giant strides have been made in romance to make it more inclusive (albeit it struggles still as evident in the recent AAR debacle among other events).

stack of books in front of a fireplace with the text Nonfiction November

NonFiction November: History

Here we are in week 3 of Nonfiction November. This week we’re going to History Class. We’re going to cover a socialite librarian with a secret, Britain’s Regency period, ancient queens, Victorian childrearing, a lesbian landowner in the 1800s, and the creation of Jell-O. I have very wild taste, friends.

Today’s topic: History

An Illuminated Life: Belle da Costa Greene’s Journey from Prejudice to Privilege by Heidi Ardizzone

I’ll be honest. I started this in 2017 and never finished it. Life happened and I really want to finish it. It’s top of the list on purpose. I heard about Greene on a podcast and she fascinated me. Belle da Costa Green lived quite the life and I mean to learn about it.

The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austin Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love and Britain Becomes Modern by Robert Morris

Another that I started (although this one’s more recently during the move) and really would like to finish. I hold a fierce fascination for this era, exclusively because of romance novels so this is way in my wheelhouse.

When Women Ruled the World: Six Egyptian Queens by Kara Cooney

Ever since they taught us about Ancient Egypt in 6th grade I was hooked. Cooney’s The Woman Who Would Be King was well researched, yet made sure the reader was entertained. I decided on the audio this time and was not disappointed. Cooney is engaging and knowledgable and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Ungovernable: The Victorian Parent’s Guide to Raising Flawless Children by Therese Oneill

I really enjoyed Oneill’s Unmentionables so when I heard the next was going to be on the raising of Victorian children, I was interested. Unfortunately, I was less than thrilled. The Q&A style didn’t quite come through in my opinion. But the photos and captions are great.

Gentleman Jack: The Real Anne Lister by Anne Choma

Queer people have always existed. Unfortunately they don’t always get to live their truth which is why it’s so amazing that we actually have Anne Lister’s diaries detailing her life. She was not a perfect person (pretty much a rich landowner who gave zero fucks about her tenants), but problematic queer people also need to be recognized.

Jell-o Girls: A Family History by Allie Rowbottom

This is the only title on the list that I’m like “why did I add this?” Then I think about how at my grandparents’ 50th anniversary they made sure to have Jell-O as a dessert for the grandkids, and how we would make Jigglers like they were something fancy (I was a poor kid in the 80s, they were fancy af) and realize Jell-O is nostalgic and comfort.

Are you reading any good history books? Share them with me!

stack of books in front of a fireplace with the text Nonfiction November

NonFiction November: Feminism

Hey folks! So last week I focused in on memoirs. This week are the feminist titles I’ve picked up. If you know me at all, you know this is something near and dear to my heart that I’m always looking to improve. If you think the work’s all done, you’ve already failed. We should always work at improving our feminism, especially us white ladies. We as a group have a habit of leaving people out of the movement (as Mikki Kendall points out in Hood Feminism featured below) and we need to knock that shit off.

Today’s Topic: Feminism

F*ck Your Diet: And Other Things My Thighs Tell Me by Chloe Hilliard

For this title and the next, I totally consider books about body image a topic of feminism. Mostly because we spend so much time as a society telling non cis straight white men what they should do what their bodies.

Pub date: January 7, 2020

Gross Anatomy: Dispatches from the Front (and the Back) by Mara Altman

The cover of this one is what drew me in, but also like I said about the previous title, body image something that is commodified so reading something that helps me accept my body, I’m all in for.

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot by MIkki Kendall

I follow Kendall on Twitter and was thrilled to see she had a book coming out. I really like what she has to say and I hope more people will take it to heart that there is still work to be done. There isn’t a lot of room for nuance on Twitter so I’m looking forward to a more in-depth look at her thoughts.

Pub date: February 25, 2020

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

Shrill (the book and the show) was an important addition to my feminism. I like West’s approach and I really want to see how she’s evolved since the publication of Shrill. Let me tell you, she does not disappoint. She spends an essay on how Adam Sandler is a terrible actor as well as how Trump is a “short in an 8 foot tie.” I highly recommend the audio as Lindy narrates it herself.

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper

This title has been getting all the rage. I mean, when Roxane Gay recs a book about feminism, you go and get it. I always am looking to improve and I am looking forward to Cooper’s collection of essays.

What are you reading for Nonfiction November? How are you improving yourself?

stack of books in front of a fireplace with the text Nonfiction November

NonFiction November: Memoirs

Hey folks! It’s that time of year again. Because I have a habit of hiding in swoony romance, pew pew romance, and historical fiction, i like to spend the month of November catching up on all the nonfiction I’ve accumulated. So each week I’m going to pick a topic and go from there. This week is going to be featuring memoirs. I love a good memoir. Julia Child’s My Life in France, Eddie Izzard’s Believe Me, Patricia Lockwood’s Priestdaddy are a few of my favorites.

Today’s Topic: Memoirs

Horror Stories by Liz Phair

There was a very specific time in my twenties when I lived in Okinawa that I listened to Liz Phair obsessively (I was also involved with a pagan coven and lived on an Air Force base so there was a mood). This pick is mostly a nostalgic one. I don’t know much about her so this will either be amazing or terrible. But the trip down memory lane will be worth it. I hope.

Dear Girls: Intimiate Tales, Untold Secrets, and Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong.

I adore Ali Wong. A collection of essays written to her daughters is exactly what I’m looking for. I’ve already read the introduction and it’s a damn delight. I’m still bitter I missed her stand up because of the big move this summer so maybe reading this will make up for it. I doubt it, but it’s still gonna be a fun read.

Something that May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel Ortberg

I read Texts from Jane Eyre years ago and while some went over my head (I still haven’t read Jane Eyre, but it’s going on my 2020 resolutions list), I throughly enjoyed Ortberg’s sense of humor. I’m definitely here for a more intimate collection of his thoughts.

Pub date: January 28, 2020

Recollections of my Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit

I can’t believe this is the first memoir we’ve gotten from Solnit, but I’m so here for it. I haven’t read everything that she’s written, but what I have read has inspired and given food for thought.

Pub date: March 10, 2020

Save Yourself by Cameron Esposito

I really like Esposito’s standup and am intrigued to hear about her life and stories. Just from her routine, you know there is a wealth of background to be explored and she’s made an impact on comedy and society.

March 24, 2020

Sorted: Growing Up, Coming Out, and Finding My Place by Jackson Bird

I met Jackson Bird once in New York where he hosted a Pictionary tournament between Sarah Andersen and Valentine De Landro which was everything I ever wanted. He is a smart, passionate person who I admire. I had somehow missed he was writing a memoir, but now that I have it, I can’t wait to read it and pass it down to my oldest who has been exploring their identity.

Are you doing Nonfiction November? What are your favorite memoirs?

*Edited to add publishing dates.

New Releases Week of September 9th

No one knows why Tuesday is new release day, but are we really going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Every week I’ll post books that I’m excited for.

*this week never got published! Sorry!

Gideon the Ninth by Tasmyn Muir

It’s here! It’s here! I am utterly ruined for any other books this year. I was hooked by the concept of “lesbian necromancer nuns in space” and Muir executed it with skill and passion. I loved the combination of snark and violence, but yet, heart. It’s a perfect blend of fantasy and science fiction. I was never bored. Like a kid with a rare candy bar, I stingily rationed myself on it so I could make it last forever.

 

 

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Pretty sure I’m not alone wondering what the hell Atwood has in store for us especially with the show having already gone past the end of The Handmaid’s Tale (I’m really behind, y’all. No spoilers). I’m a bit apprehensive on this. It’s been 30 years.

 

 

 

 

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alex E. Harrow

My friend and co-bookseller Stuart raved about this book and when he raves, I listen. Every word was chosen so carefully, with such purpose. The writing is gorgeous, the characters are compelling and complex, and really I never wanted it to end. This is Harrow’s first full novel and I can’t wait for more. While I wait I’m going to go read A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies…because witch librarians are catnip.

 

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty

I adore Caitlin Doughty. She takes all the fear about mortality and shapes it into knowledge and acceptance. Here she takes questions from kids about death and gives very adult answers. Wanna turn dad’s finger bone into a necklace? Not so fast. Will Gramma sit up in the coffin at the funeral? No, but there may be twitching. My husband wants a Viking funeral (no, really he does), what are the rules? Spoiler alert: there’s no such thing.

 

Have a great week, folks. Let me know if you plan to pick any of these up.

Quick Review: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Quick Review is a semi-regular feature of ARCs I’m loving. You should keep your eyes out for these! 


Born a CrimeBorn a Crime by Trevor Noah

Noah’s perspective of growing up in South Africa during apartheid while being the son of a black woman and white man, while mixed with his trademark humor, was insightful and poignant. We in the US are often presented with what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has termed “the danger of the single story” where we are told history from the point of view of the oppressors and it was refreshing to see history from someone directly affected by the heinousness of the apartheid laws.

Publication Date: November 15, 2016
Format: Digital ARC from Edelweiss

Upcoming August Books

Every month I try to make a list of all the books coming out that I’m excited to read. Let me know in the comments about any you’re excited about. Here’s what’s coming up in August.

Betrayals (Cainsville, #4) by Kelley Armstrong (Aug 9). I have been a fan of Kelley Armstrong forever and though many were disappointed by this series, I was not one of them. I think a lot were expecting a Women of the Otherworld part 2, but Armstrong is not a one trick pony. Where she was a master of urban fantasy, she’s even better at blending genres like she’s done with this series. It doesn’t fit in one and I love it. It’s mystery, fantasy, a bit of romance all in one. I’m hooked.


Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (Aug 9). I am newly into reading Jacqueline Woodson’s poetry with Brown Girl Dreaming and fell in love. Another Brooklyn is Woodson’s newest work and i’m looking forward to seeing her in novel form.


The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, #2) by N.K. Jemisin (Aug 16). Can I tell you how excited I am for this? I’m a huge fan of Jemisin’s work. I’ve devoured everything so far and the world building in The Broken Earth series has been amazing. Give it to me now!!! My speculative fiction book club ate The Fifth Season up!


A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes, #2) by Sabaa Tahir (Aug 30). I have become a fan of YA fantasy and this series is probably what got me on that path. An Ember in the Ashes was probably one of my favorite books of last year. 


A Scot in the Dark (Scandal and Scoundrel, #2) by Sarah Maclean (Aug 30). Just go buy this. Sarah Maclean will never steer you wrong and neither will I. Remember, consent is sexy and so are punny titles so Sarah is your girl. Do it now!


 

What books are you looking forward to in June?

*edited to fix a pub date 

WWW Wednesdays 7/27

WWW Wednesday is a book meme run by Taking on a World of Words.

Every week I’m going to jump on here and talk about the week’s books. So let’s get to it shall we?

What are you currently reading? It’s been a crazy week so due to lack of time I’m just going to name off my current reads. I’m not really far enough into any of them yet to give a lot of commentary. Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano. Before the Fall by Noah Fawley. The Truth About Him by M. O’Keefe. Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroine by Mike Madrid.

What did you recently finish reading? Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is pretty much one of my top books of 2016. It was heartbreaking, but fantastic. I also read Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer which was another hard read, but an important conversation we need to have with our society. I also listened to The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen with my husband. It was enough to make me want to move to Finland, cold be damned (especially with the upcoming election).

What do you think you’ll read next? I have The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel and Shrill:Notes from a Loud Woman by Linda West from Book of the Month. I picked up Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Lui since Lui will be at Book Riot Live so I was excited to see his writing.

What does your book life look like this week?