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.


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.

#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.

Task #4 Indie Press: Pissing in a River

I really don’t want to do a full on review of each book I finish for Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge, but I do want to share some thoughts.

I just finished my first book for the challenge Pissing in a River by Lorrie Sprecher in the Indie Press category. It also could have easily been in the category for book about or by a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but I have some others for that one whereas this is my only indie book on hand. I’m trying to get some of the books I have here to fit the bill first before buying or borrowing others.

Pissing in a River was pretty great. I don’t listen to punk music, but even I recognized some of the bands that is mentioned. I loved the characters. They were flawed, gorgeously written women who cared for one another even while disagreeing. The relationships felt organic, both the romantic and platonic ones. I fell in love with the way Amanda tried to emulate the British slang.

I will gladly pick up Sprecher’s first book, Sister Safety Pin at some point and I’m interested to look at Feminist Press’s other titles.