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Two Lives

I met Reeve Lindbergh briefly when I was at a library event in a town near her and was taken by how she managed to be charming in the face of what I’m sure must have been yet another public appearance in a life totally chock full of them. This memoir is about that, leading her relatively calm and simple life in Vermont but also being the person more or less in charge of her parents' legacy and all that entails. I enjoyed reading along with her stories of day to day life that was a lot like mine and also the parts of her life that were not at all like mine.

Arabella of Mars

Picked up this book at the college library and couldn’t figure out of it was for adults or teens. Turns out a lot of people had the same question so I feel a bit better bout my confusion. this is an odd Regency/Steampunk mashup in a world where Mars is colonized but people still take horse drawn carriages. I’ve been reading so much hard science lately that my disbelief suspension was pretty difficult. It’s got an engaging plot and I was carried around by the story, but it’s confusing for people who really like scifi (they have ships... that go to Mars... sort of...) and I wonder if it would be a little confusing for people just looking for a YA romp. And, spoiler alert, it ends with a wedding proposal which... bleh. I enjoyed this well enough but probably won’t seek out the sequels.

Exit Strategy

I am sad to be at the end of these they were all fun and this one tied up the current set of novellas with a satisfying “for now” ending.

Monster: A Graphic Novel

Sometimes my little clunky book software doesn’t do my reading justice. In this case, this book was Sims' adaptation of Walter Dean Myers' book that was illustrated by Dawud Anyabwil. My metadata, it is terrible. I liked this book but I think it was sort of not aimed at me. It’s about a kid who is getting in trouble for maybe being involved in a crime and looking at the different parts of that situation (jail, court, family, school, future, past etc) I had a slightly hard time understanding it but this was taking a book and turning it into a graphic novel so I appreciate that there may have been a lot getting smushed in there. Above all, the illustrator’s style stands out. It’s great, evocative and really helps propel the story along. You can get a sense of this literally just looking at the over. There’s a stylized-for-effect sense to all of it.

Assassination Vacation

I avoided reading Sarah Vowell forever mainly because I don’t really like/appreciate the humor of the general This American Life/Hodgman crowd that I felt she ran with.But this book, about touring all the places that were part of the first three presidential assassinations in the US, was a delight. She is funny, not too hipsterishly disaffected and has real joy (or non-joy) at all these little tidbits of what made America America back in the day. I liked it, was surprised I liked it, will try to find other books she’s written and maybe get over myself.

Rogue Protocol

More Murderbot! I think what had really been missing from my scifi reading lately was sarcasm and just wit generally. Everything was so serious, all these little colonies, hoping people will live, watching as things tear them apart. This and that giant war fighting conflict blabity bla. These stories are short and, in an odd way, simple. There is a main character who you know and, if you are me, identify with, and they have adventures where things don’t go as planned. And then they end. And a new adventure starts in the next book. There’s something really calming about these stories. They are a little low affect which suits me fine. It’s a little weird to talk about how you identify with a Murderbot but hey, I like these books.

Upgrade Soul

What a weird and complex and lovely graphic novel following the path of two older folks who decide to undergo some radical new treatment to.... do something and it doesn’t turn out like they expect. And it gets weird. And creepy. Mostly in good ways. The author really gets to explore a lot of issues (race, class, gender, disability culture) while all the while telling one story that is mostly a love story. Hard to put down, would love to see this made into a movie.

Be Prepared

Being an out of place nerd is difficult if your family is from someplace odd and you don’t have a lot of money. What would make it better? Camp! With people like you! But of course the main character in this mostly-autobiographical tale finds out that people can be terrible anyhow. There’s some redemption here and as someone who never went to camp, I read along with interest. Sometimes it’s great to think “Man I’m glad I’m not a kid again.”

Artificial Condition

More Murderbot! I’d been slogging through a bunch of scifi lately wondering if i was just over it but it turns out I was just reading the wrong scifi. This story was fun, different from the first and made me want to read the third. Nice to be excited about scifi again.

All Systems Red

Librarian friend on Twitter told me to read this and I’m so glad he did. I felt like I was stuck in a web of sentient-life-form scifi books which I did not enjoy entirely and I kept wanting stuff more like... I wasn’t sure what. Single POV, preferably something robotic or human. Not a book I felt was smarter than me. With characters who weren’t too whiny. So this book, subtitled, The Murderbot Diaries #1, is a great book about a neurotic humanoid robot and how they became, sort of, free. And it’s all one POV the whole way through, and the books have some humor but not tons of it. And the socially anxious robot feels, to me, like a totally normal character who I enjoyed tromping along with. Hooray for this book, so glad I read it.

River Notes: The Dance of the Herons

This book hit me right in the feels. A bunch of short little stories that read more like poetry about humans and their relationship to nature, the natural world, and rivers in specific. A very Pacific Northwest feeling book and it made me miss my days in Seattle and want to read a lot more of what Lopez has written.

The City in the Middle of the Night

I loved Anders last book but this one was a little difficult. It starts out basically telling you some stuff about a particular planet, one that is “tidally locked” (i.e. there is one light side and one dark side) that has been colonized by humans a long time ago. And then, in alternating chapters, it reveals more but not all about their story. There are a lot of mystery animals and everything has an ersatz feel to it. The central characters are two female pairs who have complex relationships. Both are fraught an involve a lot of back and forth, but one is broke and one is not. In that regard, I felt like I was reading a YA novel with all the “I love her but I can never see her again!!” dramaz. And then right near the end, a thing happens which wrecked it all for me, and then the story piddled out, clearly moving towards a sequel, which I will not read. Again, I think Anders is a great writer and the problem with this book lies to a large degree with me, but it definitely fizzled out for me.

The Secrets Between Us

I guess this was a sequel to another book and I think I came out ahead because by all accounts that book was a lot more difficult and challenging than this one. And I won’t lie, this one was pretty tough. A lot of extreme poverty in India of the sort I can only sort of wrap my head around. And, through it all, two women of varying class levels who find each other and help each other out all the while remaining guarded about some of the stuff in their lives. Really liked it. Was tough to take in places but always in service to the plot, did not feel gratuitous. And after a few evenings books that were a lot of space war stuff, it was nice to come back to earth.

Fiery Crosses In The Green Mountains: The Story Of The Ku Klux Klan In Vermont

This is an account of Ku Klux Klan activity in Vermont primarily during the Klan’s heyday in the mid 1920’s. It’s mainly put together from Newspaper accounts of Klan activity and also includes some creepy photographs. This book does a good job at outlining just how normalized the Klan was in some areas (Rutland in particular) during this time but how, despite some small pockets of Klan activity, the Klan didn’t really get as much of a foothold in Vermont as they did in New Hampshire or Maine. It’s also worth knowing that unlike White Supremacists who operate in New England nowadays, the Klan was xenophobic towards Catholic people as well as Jewish people and people of color (at the time primarily black people). This book’s cover has a creepy Klansman in front of a burning cross and so is a pretty difficult read in public.

Ancillary Justice

This was a hard one for me to get through. A little too many “weird” names and a little too many concepts that I wasn’t sure I was understanding. i feel like something was supposed to be understood about how the different cultures dealt with gender but I didn’t understand it and instead of it being freeing (hey you don’t know what gender any of the characters are!) I found it confusing. A good story told in my least favorite “alternating timelines where only one of them is truly interesting” format. A suggestion from an internet person, I think I’ll head back to the Expanse for when I need space war stuff.

Jell-O A Biography

This book was a gift and one I don’t think I would have picked up for myself but I enjoyed reading it, even if it was basically a marketing manual for Jell-O (they are super fussy about the spelling). It’s less of a biography and more of a cultural history of the product. Heavily illustrated. And dated. There’s a whole bit on Bill Cosby in there which was wincey to read. I’ve never been much of a jello person (and refuse to spell it in a way that is difficult to type) but I did like learning about the company and the weird ways the product split and un-split over the years. The author did a good job at making this more than a corporate hagiography.

Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq

I had this on my table for literally months. I think I was afraid it was going to be a little graphic or grisly because it was about wartime, but it wasn’t like that at all. In a weird way it was a little dull. It was about a group of young journalists with a lot of money who toured the Middle East n search of a story. And they found, of course, that people’s stories are complicated. And their central story is about one of the friends, someone who joined the military, who travels with them. He feels good about his role in the war, being in the military, but his journalist friend feels he should’t... and that seems teo be the central conflict in the book. Glidden is clearly a talented artist and story teller, but I was only sort of into the story she was telling.