the Little Red Reviewer

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You know how you read a short story, like it but maybe don’t entirely get it, and then years later that story pops back into your head and everything about it hits you like a ton of bricks?

 

Or, you read a story and then forget the details.  And then years later, something happens, and you’re reminded of that story, but you can only remember bits and pieces, and you’re not even sure if you are remembering it correctly?

 

What I could remember, was that the woman in the story likes living by herself. She liked cooking. She’s not good with people. She’d left her old life, the one where she felt she didn’t fit in, for a few life where things (to her) felt balanced, where she understands the rules and things make more sense. Where there were no people. Except people keep trying to rescue her? This weird, creepy (maybe imaginary?) guy protects her.  He can’t possibly be imaginary!

 

I think I was supposed to be scared of the creepy guy with the filthy hat? I wasn’t.  He took care of the woman, he didn’t try to make her change, so he was “good peeps” in my book.

 

I remembered the story being fairly ambiguous. There were practically no details on the page, as if the characters knew that saying something would make it true, so they just don’t say certain things. And I like ambiguous stories. I don’t need all my questions answered, I prefer questions to stay unanswered, so that I can chew on them, well, forever.  I remembered feeling like I could relate to the woman, to the fact that she was OK with her quiet life.

 

Thanks to Lesley Conner’s help, the story that’s been rattling around my brain non-stop for about five months now is “She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow”, by Sam Fleming. It ran in Apex Magazine in December of 2015.  Go read it.

 

Rereading it, the woman on the island’s name is Chancery.  Hedron, the creepy guy in the dirty hat, is most definitely not “good peeps”, but I’m still not afraid of him.  Chancery lives a quiet life, she can hear herself think. She can put her coping mechanisms in a jar and put the jar on the shelf, because she finally lives somewhere where she doesn’t need her coping mechanisms.  I was a little jealous, that she no longer needed her coping mechanisms, she seems to be living an introvert’s best life.

 

I still love how hazy the story is, like the entire thing happens within a fog bank. Is Chance starving to death? Is she eating a few thousand calories a day? Can both of those statements be true? Is one of her coping mechanisms avoiding the truth about what’s going on?

 

Sometimes you have to sit with a story for a while, for you to understand why it clicks so much with you.  I had to soak this one up for five years.

 

Rereading the story, the thing that pisses me off most is how Kay treats Chancery. How could she?

 

I’m still not afraid of Hedron. But I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be.  I guess if Chance isn’t afraid of him, then I won’t be. I trust her judgement.  LOL, maybe I’m a little like Chance’s dog?

 

I like that this story has been rattling around my head for 5 years. It’s a little strange, but not surprising to me, how much I can relate to Chance. I’m happy she’s found a place to live where she doesn’t need her coping mechanisms anymore.

 

Anyway, go read the story, let me know what you think of it.

 

And you can also read my interview with the author.  I didn’t understand the significance at the time, but in the interview, when Sam Fleming says “what if there weren’t?”, that line has stuck with me, all these years.

 

Dear Sam Fleming:  Thank you for writing this story.  It is what Introvert-me needed to read, and reread, and reread.  Letting this story rattle around in my head, has been good for me.

 

I think telecommuting has also been good for me.  It’s been nice to not be five seconds away from sensory overload all the time.

I had plans to talk about more Vandana Singh short stories, I swear.  There’s also a Sam Fleming short story that I really need to blog my way through my feelings about.

 

But? DVDs.

 

One of my BFFs lent me all of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 on DVD, and I can’t not watch it. First of all, this is the perfect comfort TV to watch during *gestures at everything* and second off all, I’m pretty sure I never saw the end of this series, and third of all, Avery Brooks is freaking amazing.   The last few seasons ran from 1997 – 1999, and those were my first years in college, which mean: School, really good libraries, jobs with weird hours, college parties, and worst of all, for the first time in years I had access to cable TV.   why watch DS9 when I could watch MTV?  Also, pretty sure I was too broke in 1999 to even own a TV. So yep, pretty sure I never saw the last seasons.

 

I wasn’t sure where to start, in this cornucopia of ALL THE SEASONS, so I started at season three.  There’s 4 episodes to a disc, so yep, I’mma blog about the first four episodes of season three.  And who knows? Maybe this is the start of a series of blog posts about Way. Too. Much. Deep Space. Nine.

 

You’re welcome.

 

And no, I don’t feel bad about spoiling a show that ran on TV 20 years ago.  Stuff I say in these blog posts? I might be remembering stuff not-exactly from the episode. oops.

 

And as per my usual, it’s the throw away lines that make the biggest impression on me. And a few other things that made me chuckle.

 

The first two episodes of season three are a two parter, “The Search Part I”, and “The Search, Part II”.  There is an obvious threat on the other side of the wormhole, the Dominion.  It’s decided that the best way to avoid all out war with The Dominion is to locate the founders of that civilization, and convince them that The Federation isn’t a threat. We’re friendly! We like to trade! We just want to be friends! We come in peace!

 

At the opening of the episode, Sisko introduces around a new Federation security officer, to the bristleling of Odo. He feels he’s being pushed out, fired, betrayed, and he is mad AF. That isn’t exactly what’s happening? But? The Federation likes team players, they like people who “think like them”, and well, Odo isn’t, and doesn’t. It’s a very subtle “fit in or fuck off”. And boy is Odo pissed off!!  I’m on his side here, especially when the new Federation security officer starts flirting with Odo’s BFF Kira.  You know, it’s not like Odo had much of a choice. The Federation showed up, took over his space station, offered him a job one day, and he said “ok”. Sisko treats Odo with respect, but the rest of the Federation doesn’t. Those jerks.

 

Because Quark has previously done some profitable trade with a few Gamma Quandrant families, he’s brought along on the Gamma Quandrant “Find the Founders!” mission as a sort-of-trade-negotiator.  So, it’s Sisko, Dax, Odo, Kira, Quark, and maybe Bashir goes too? I don’t remember, it’s been a few days since I watched the episodes.   It’s sort of “who cares” who goes on the away mission, because apparently everything in the Gamma Quandrant is only 3 hours away from the wormhole, and the really important thing is that Odo feels drawn towards a certain nebula.

 

Odo ends up stealing a shuttle (dude. That “not a team player thing”? You just proved the Federation’s point!), and he and Kira explore the nebula and find a rogue planet, and land the shuttle.  Of course they can breathe the air on some rando planet! Where do you think this is, southern California?    They are able to land on the planet, and come across an ocean of . . .  goo?

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If you’ve been following this blog for a while, and if you follow me on twitter, you know that I love to cook.   One of my favorite food websites has long been Serious Eats, home of recipes, knife skills videos, How-To’s, podcasts, and all sorts of “how the heck to make this?” info.   Since I’ve been following Serious Eats for ages, I’ve also been following J. Kenji López-Alt for ages, everything from how to make perfect hard boiled eggs, to him showing us how to make Detroit Style Pizza (I love you Buddy’s!),  to his tips for just about everything else, and me drooling over The Food Lab.  Those pickles I never shut up about, and put on everything? They’re based on Kenji’s recipe.

 

J. Kenji López-Alt is currently the Chief Culinary Advisor at Serious Eats, and the chef and partner at Wursthall in San Mateo, California. His first book, The Food Lab, won the James Beard Award for General Cooking.

His newest book, Every Night is Pizza Night, is a children’s book about a little girl who goes on a culinary adventure. Illustrated by Gianna Ruggiero, it comes out on Sept 1st and is currently available for pre-order.  Every Night is Pizza Night promises to get even the pickiest eater excited about trying something new!   You can learn more about Kenji at his website www.kenjilopezalt.com, or by following him on twitter @kenjilopezalt, and you can learn more about illustrator Gianna Ruggiero by checking out her website, www.giannaruggiero.com.

 

(Yes, I know this is a book blog, and I know it is a science fiction and fantasy book blog. But I love cooking just as much as I love reading!  and I love reading about cooking, and I love home made pizza, and I love pizza from Buddy’s Pizza!)

 

When Kenji posted on twitter that he had a new book coming out, and would any bloggers be interested in interviewing him, I leapt at the chance.  He is a cooking hero of mine.  And that is how an interview with a chef, about a children’s book, showed up on a science fiction and fantasy book blog.

We better get to the interview, before I spend this entire blog post just telling you cool Kenji is.

 

Little Red Reviewer:  You’re a chef, a food columnist, and a kitchen science educator. Why write a kid’s book?

J. Kenji López-Alt: Because I had a daughter! I’ve loved books and especially children’s books for my whole life, and having my own child gave me the kick in the pants I needed to try and write one myself. I wrote the book just for her, but I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful relationship with my editors and publishers at W.W. Norton and now my illustrating partner, Gianna Ruggiero, which allowed me to bring it out into the wider world. It comes out September 1st, but I’ve been reading an advance copy to my daughter now for several months. She loves it and asks me to read it to her regularly, so no matter how well the book does as far as sales go, I feel like I’ve already accomplished my goal in writing it.

LRR:  Where did the idea for Pipo and and her neighborhood-spanning eating adventure come from? What were your inspirations for Pipo’s experiences with her friends?

J.K.L.: As the son of a Japanese mother and American father, now married to a Colombian woman, food diversity and cultural diversity has always played a huge role in my life. I was lucky enough to grow up in a city with immigrants from all over the world. In college, I lived in a house that was around 80% international students, and as I was learning to cook, I took that opportunity to talk to them about food from their homes and learn as much as I could about cuisines from all over the world. I think food is an important window into culture and history, and being open to new food experiences helps people be open to differences in culture and background. It’s a lesson that I think is important for young kids (especially picky eaters), so it seemed like a natural theme for me to explore. The shape of the story and her neighborhood was a total collaboration between me and my partner Gianna. We both grew up in multicultural cities, and I think Gianna’s illustrations of the neighborhood are incredible. I knew from the start that I wanted Pipo to learn about foods from all over the world, but the idea to contain it all within a single neighborhood came from me and Gianna’s collective experiences growing up.

LRR: What was it like to work with illustrator Gianna Ruggiero? How did the two of you work together to ensure her artwork conveyed the story you were telling? Do you have a favorite image that she created?

J.K.L: The experience was incredible. Gianna has such an imaginative, intelligent, and thoughtful mind and that’s reflected in her illustration style. We found each other via social media, but as soon as I saw her portfolio, I knew that I wanted to work with her. She has the ability to give characters personality and depth without any words at all, and that’s so important in a children’s book. The words and story are important, but equally important is the feelings and ideas that are conveyed outside of the words.

Collaborating so closely with someone on an artistic project was something brand new to me. I’m much more used to working alone and developing my own ideas, whether in writing or cooking or other fields. Learning to trust my partner and being open to outside ideas was essential. At the start, I felt the urge to write the story and describe exactly what I wanted the illustrations on each page to look like, but after talking with other children’s books authors, I realized that this was not the best way to work with an illustrator. Instead, I ended up writing the words, describing the personalities of the characters, then letting Gianna use her own skills to populate the world and bring the story to life. I cannot stress enough how important she was to the whole process. This is not my book, it’s ours.

LRR: I see Every Night is Pizza Night has a Pizza recipe! So, is that recipe for a New York style slice or a Detroit style square?

J.K.L.: Neither! It’s a pan pizza, which is more similar to a Detroit-style pizza, but it’s done in a round pan (either a cake pan or a cast iron skillet). I think it’s the easiest, most foolproof pizza recipe out there, and one that kids can very easily help out with at all stages of the process. I make it with my daughter regularly.

LRR: How is writing a book for children (and their parents!) different from writing, say, The Food Lab?

J.K.L.: It’s much, much harder! Most professional writers will tell you that hardest part of successful writing is finding your “voice.” The thing that makes your writing distinctly you, and that works for both you and your audience. My food writing voice is something that I’ve been writing in for decades now to the point where it’s second nature. So writing a big book like The Food Lab is a lot of work, but it’s work that flows easily and naturally for me now. Finding my children’s book voice was extremely difficult and time consuming. It involved lots and lots of research (I.E. ordering and reading hundreds of children’s books to see what I liked, what I didn’t, what made me laugh, what themes I connected with, etc.), then lots and lots of writing. For several months I would take my laptop to my restaurant after my daughter went to bed, and just sit and write for a few hours. The original story for Every Night is Pizza Night started at over 10,000 words and went through dozens of stylistic shifts, tonal shifts, changes in voice, and changes in theme until I was satisfied with it.

A lot of the art of editing lies in efficiency – making sure that every word you use expresses meaning in an efficient way. In children’s writing, this is taken to the extreme. You really have to learn to let go and understand that words in children’s books can merely be suggestive, allowing the illustrations and imagination do the work of adding complexity to characters and themes. The other difficult part in children’s book writing is that you need to write a story that works both for children and adults. Children are very sensitive to their parent’s feelings. If I laugh at something, my daughter will laugh at it too, sometimes without even understanding what it is she’s laughing at. If a parent is having fun reading, then their kid is going to be more likely to enjoy it as well. Every Night is Pizza Night has jokes and references in it that I hope work on both levels – for the children and their parents.

LRR: Would you do another children’s book if you had the opportunity? How about another kitchen chemistry book like The Food Lab?

J.K.L.: Absolutely. Writing a children’s book has been extremely rewarding, and it hasn’t even been released yet! I am currently working on a big food science book on cooking in a wok and things related to wok cooking, but after that I plan on focusing my attention on more children’s books. Gianna has some great ideas that we want to work on as well.

LRR: Thank you so much for letting me interview you! Is there anything else you’d like to share about Every Night is Pizza Night?

J.K.L.: Just that I hope you enjoy it, and I hope folks enjoy reading it with their kids and cooking up a storm afterwards.

LRR: Thank you so much! Interviewing you has been a dream come true for me!

I’m places*!

 

I was interviewed by my friend Leigh at Semiotic Standard about my experiences interviewing authors, and all the fun stuff that happens behind the scenes:

https://www.semioticstandard.com/home/2020/8/2/interviewing-the-interviewer-a-chat-with-andrea-johnson

 

This Sunday I’ll be moderating this live Q&A with the Apex Magazine editors Jason Sizemore, Lesley Conner, Maurice Broaddus, and Shana DuBois!  (Thank you to our 516 backers!)

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/apexpublications/apex-magazine-2021/posts/2914393

 

Enjoy!!

 

 

*virtually.  the place I’m actually at is the living room sofa. or at my desk, which is next to the sofa.

Of the three things I’m talking about today, I have finished reading exactly one of them:

 

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (the one that I have finished) – I have so, so much to say about this book. But as pertains to this particular blog post, what I expected was 300 pages of zombie thwacking action, what I got was that the zombies aren’t the real monsters, the racists are.   Fun read, great characters,  I highly recommend.

 

Machine’s Last Testament by Benjanun Sriduangkaew – I’m about 2/3 of the way through this far future space opera/spy thriller/escape the AI story. Prisoners of War are brought to the planet Anatta, to see if they are worthy of citizenship.  The worldspanning AI Samsara controls all aspects of Anatta, studies humanity, and systematically attacks all other human settlements, bringing more prisoners to Anatta. You can’t even tell your best friend your secrets, because Samsara is always listening.  Excellent read, I highly recommend! The story has political intrigue, hidden identities, romance,  and oh yeah, freakin’ gorgeous prose. (if you were one of those people who loved the prose of This is How You Lose The Time War, but wished that there was more there there, Machine’s Last Testament is the book for you. the two titles are about the same length, too)

 

I watched the first two episodes of Brave New World on Peacock (it was free). Not sure if I’ll continue in the series, and it’s probably been ten years since I read the book, so couldn’t tell you how faithful the TV show is. Anyway. . .  in the future, everyone is happy, all the time. Not feel super happy? Take a drug that will make you happy.  Privacy is unheard of,  as is being raised with a family.  Want to experience the filth and unhealthyness of the horrible past? Visit a theme park to see a shotgun wedding, nuclear families, and natural pregnancies.  I’ll reread the book, but am undecided on if I’ll continue w/the show. I liked the art direction, but the garbage quality subtitles* were a huge turn off.

 

Through a perfect storm of coincidence, I am reading/watching all of these things at the same time, and my brain went flippity flop, and found the common ground between these three stories:

 

the people running the show – the white leaders in Dread Nation, Samsara, whoever runs the city in Brave New World – these people LOVE what they’ve created.  They have made a city on the hill where everyone is safe and happy and protected  . . .  and where everyone knows their place.  And the people actually living there?  eh, if they only accepted their place, they’d be happy too, right?

 

I think that’s what hit me so hard –  that the people living there, they are told to be happy in their place. Know your place. Stay in your lane. Be thankful we’ve found a place for you here. Others of your kind aren’t this deserving. You should be thankful.   Your superiors know what’s best for you.  (excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a little)

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Witchers,  Space Adventures, and Vodka.  those three things all go together, right?

 

well, they do in the way that you can be reading a Witcher Book and a Space Adventure Book at the same time, and also be infusing Vodka in a mason jar on the counter. . .   at the same time.

 

Last weekend I went on a farm stand adventure, and found what is now my favorite local farm stand. Fresh sweet corn, chard, pick-your-own herbs,  and my first ever gi-freakin’-gantic fennel.  What to do with all those grassy, slightly licorice-y fronds?  throw ’em in a jar with booze, that’s what!    It sat on the counter for 5 days, and I tasted it last night.

 

 

this smells and tastes 100% better than it looks, I swear.  it’s got a slightly medicinal start, that turns a little grassy, and ends with a clean and slightly licorice finish.  Smells more licorice-y than it tastes.  I had it with Ginger Ale and it was nice and refreshing.  Might not try this particular infusioni again, but my pickling / fermenting obsession might have just turned the corner into an infusing obsession (although the mint infused oil was an epic fail).

What about the books you say?   Oh Yes, buckets of reading happening!  I’m ever so slowly coming out of my reading slump.  It was a matter of not putting any expectations on myself, of reading “easy” reads, and of feeling absolutely zero guilt about NDFing things and reading guilty pleasures.

 

I blew through The Time of Contempt, and once i got into it, I really enjoyed this Witcher novel.  The beginning is a little all over the place, and it ends with a bit of a fizzle, but the middle!   Not a spoiler, but Yennifer drags an annoyed Geralt to a sorcerer gathering, and everyone at the gathering is spying on each other, stabbing each other in the back, there’s buckets of intrigue, and Geralt is all like “this is dumb. When’s dinner”.  There’s also mention of the Tower of Swallows, eeeee!!!! The dialog is dry and hilarious and flirty and adorable. This series is such a guilty pleasure!!!

 

The Architects of Memory is Karen Obsorne’s debut novel. An outer space thriller, it’s tons of failed grav-drives,  first contact gone horribly wrong, and so, SO many secrets.  I’ll share more into after the book releases, at the end of August.  I am pretty sure I met Karen Osborne at a scifi convention, and if she is who I think she is,  she is the nicest, kindest person who loves Space Opera and is a total and wonderful nerd.

 

Much thanks to my friend Elizabeth who mailed me her extra copy of Dread Nation, which I started reading the other day.  the narrator, Jane, has a super fun voice! And that dress she has on, on the cover? I WANT THAT DRESS!   But? This book is way more YA than I expected.  While I’m not sure if I like the YA writing style,  I AM enjoying that it is a super fast read,  I enjoy the narrative voice, and how can you not like a civil war alt history book with zombies?  And? with my middle aged (aka: shitty) eye sight, the fact that the lines of text aren’t crammed together so tightly on the pages is also a selling point.

 

 

Well, that’s me the last week,  what have you been up to?

 

I’m not in the mood to write a review,  so here’s a buncha cool links for you.

I’ve been doing a series of interviews at Nerds of A Feather with the Hugo nominees for Best SemiProzine and Best Fan Artist. Click here, and scroll to enjoy.

Also over at Nerds of a Feather, Joe Sherry talks about the Hugo nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long form (movies. they mean movies)

And over at SFF Book Reviews, Dina takes a look at the Hugo nominees for Best Graphic Story

Jacob over at Red Star Reviews has a really excellent and concise write up of what the heck is Warhammer, Warhammer40K, and Horus Heresy? now I know!

Jake is Reading really, and I mean really liked Chaos Vector by Megan E. O’Keefe

Fantasy Hive offers an indepth interview with Tasha Suri, author of Empire of Sand

Bookforager reviews one of my all time favorites, Swordspoint, by Ellen Kushner (YES! ALL THE HEARTS!!!!!), and thanks to her review I suddenly want to reread this book ten more times!

Apex Magazine has a rockin’ redesigned website, and did you hear? they’ll be doing a Kickstarter to get the magazine up and running again!

Drew at The Tattood Book Geek had a great time with The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

Bibliosanctum reviews Malorie, by Josh Malerman. I really want to read this book!!!

honestly, i love just everything on this website.

I’ve watched this video about a hundred times.

Anyone watching, or interested in watching the new TV show Brave New World? Here’s a nice long review, that might have spoilers.

 

yeah, that aughta keep you out of trouble for a while.

 

what have you been up to lately?

 

what am I reading, you ask?   I read Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik and really liked it, and I’m reading Time of Contempt by Andrez Sapkowski, and after a slow start now I’m addicted to it.

We’re in the middle of a heat wave, the novelty of getting to work from home has worn off, and I’m in a reading rut.  Buckets of books to read and review, a ton of amazing stuff on my kindle app, and i’m just not in the mood for it right now.

 

on the plus side, I’ve got some fun crafts I want to work on,  my little balcony garden is going crazy with tomatoes and herbs and green onions and flowers,  and I’ll never run out of cool recipes that that I want to try to make.

 

So, I’m going to make fun foods,  read more cookbooks, harvest my basil and mint and parsley, coax my peppers and tomatoes to fruit,  and binge watch the Netflix show Dark.

 

Just a few recent reads –

I enjoyed the hell out of Your Rover is Here, by LP Kindred, in FIYAH Issue #14. This is the urban fantasy / keep the family magic a secret I’ve been looking for for years.  The voice in this story is fantastic. The narrator, he’s just going about his business. He drives for a rideshare app.  And when a fare brings violent magic into the car, he has to fight back to stop even more violence.  So what happens when you use secret magic to stop a dangerous explosion, and you lose your car (and your source of income) in the process?  Seriously a great story.  I kept meaning to read the rest of the issue, but just kept coming back to this story.

I bought the print copy of Clarkesworld Year 11, volume 1. It’s a bucket of fiction that was published in Clarkesworld.  I usually really like what gets published in that magazine, but my eyeballs struggle with walls of text.  I’ve only read a few stories, and haven’t connected with many of them yet.

 

Been binge re-watching the Netflix show Dark. The 3rd season just dropped, so hubby and I are rewatching the first two seasons as fast as we can.   this IS the show of the summer!  umm, how to explain?  Think Twin Peaks meets Stranger Things,  plus a metric ton of time travel.  And the soundtrack!  omg, so good!!

DO:  watch the show and take your own notes for a family tree.  Different story lines follow different generations, so you’ll want to keep track of who is married to who,  who is the parent and child of who, etc.

DON’T: use google to learn about this show.   the less you know about the show and the plot going in, the better.  the internet is solid spoilers.

not a spoiler: the first time I saw season one,  I though Jonas was a cool but annoying character. Why is he so quiet? Why doesn’t he seem to react to things? why does he seem so passive?  Yeah, he’s might be quiet, but he is NOT passive. the poor kid is a bundle of nerves and a total mess inside.

I’m not a super crafty person,  but I have two crafts I want to work on this summer.  I’d like to create a Braille sampler (remember samplers?).  My mom let me borrow one of her embroidery hoops, and I bought some tiny beads to be the Braille “dots”.

 

I’m getting bored with the fabric masks I have.  I bought some fat quarters to experiment with the bandana “bank robber” style face covering, where it’s a square folded into a triangle, and you tie it across your face and knot it at behind your head.   OK, so that was working pretty good. . .   then I saw these kinds of “face veils” online:

and i thought to myself “Self, that looks COOL.  and it covers your nose and mouth, and it isn’t BORING”.

so, next iteration,  was I took my triangle folded fat quarter, and instead of knotting it behind my head,  I  bobby pinned it.  where the two ends overlap, I put three downward facing bobby pins, and to “tighten” the mask, I pulled on the ends, pulling them through the bobby pins.  It was super comfy, and not boring. . .  but I still wanted to mess with it some more . . . .

The  craft store was OPEN!  This is the first time I have been to a retail store that wasn’t a grocery store!  I got to BROWSE! and walk through aisles of random crap I didn’t need!  I bought a few plastic hair combs, some seam binding,  some cotton bandanas, and a bundle of fat quarters.   A few things I want to experiment with – sewing the corners of the bandana directly to the top of the comb, and then put the comb tines down into a messy bun or ponytail, and attaching bobby pins to the comb, so they can “tighten” the mask while the comb holds everything place.

Ideally, I’m going for something where it’s the comb that holds the mask in place, and the fabric lies gently over my nose and mouth, with no pressure on the bridge of my nose or my ears.  And in the picture above, there is stuff on the bottom of the mask, weighing it down.  I can do something like that too!

Regardless,  this will keep me out of trouble for a few hours, and I’ll get some cool belly dancer style face veils out of it.  Doesn’t seem like the new normal is gonna go away anytime soon, so I might as well have some crafty fun with it, right?

 

Cooking adventures – I couldn’t find any one to one gluten free flour at the store, but they did have brown rice flour and teff.  Whadya do with teff? You make Injera!   First batch was tasty but undercooked because I didn’t have my pan hot enough. will one million percent be making injera again!

The link in the paragraph above is to Mark Bittman’s injera recipe. this recipe is great for midwesterners like me – measurements in cups and teaspoons, it doesn’t make a ton,  the batter only ferments for a day or so. Injera is a traditional Ethiopian bread,  here are some more traditional injera recipes, from Ethiopian sources:

Marcus Samuelsson’s Injera recipe

from How to Cook Great Ethiopian Food

Adane’s Ethiopian Food Youtube video for 24 hour Injera

Mama’s Majet youtube video for Injera

 

 

 

the familiar blogger refrain:

I’m not in the mood to write this book review. I know,  I’ll read another book . . . falling even further behind on reviews I had planned to write.

I haven’t written a review in a while, but I’ve been reading a ton, and I’ve got plenty of review notes written down in my head.

Some books I’ve read recently:

sorry for the crap blurry photo!

 

Star Trek: Collateral Damage, by David Mack.   I’ve read some TOS Trek novels, but never read a TNG novel. I had no idea what to expect.  I certainly didn’t expect to love this book so much. Great characters, Worf rolling his eyes,  Laforge saving the day, Picard being Picard,  excellent banter and even more excellent side characters.  I worry that I’ve now been spoiled, that no other TNG novel will entertain me as much as this book entertained me.

 

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett – 2nd book in his new trilogy. Certainly doesn’t suffer from “middle book syndrome”.  NONSTOP action.  I love the magic system in this world, but I’m struggling to care about the main characters. My fave characters were a side character who is super close to his trauma, and the bad guy, because he’s pretty cray-cray.  Buckets more on this later, but i think the reasons I’m struggling to connect with the main character is because SO MUCH ACTION is getting in the way for me, and she’s like 19 years old, so she relates to the world in a different way than 40 year old me relates to the world.

 

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – while stuck at home during a pandemic, why not read a book about a pandemic that ravages earth? Loved how the story opens, super loved the end, the middle was a little draggy for me. I feel like The Girl With All The Gifts is sort of a modern take on I Am Legend?  I haven’t seen the movie of this, by the way.  Also, didn’t realize I Am Legend is a novella?  the paperback is jam packed with a ton of Matheson short stories, mostly quick sharp horror stories, lots of which take place in funeral homes. they are deliciously creepy.

 

 

If you love gorgeous artwork and Central Asia,  Bride’s Story is for you.  I basically shop for dresses out of the pages of this manga.  So much gorgeous embroidery! the dresses! the shoes! the head dresses!  the jewelry!!!   the plot jumps around between a bunch of different families, and in volume 11 we are with Mr. Smith and Talas.  Their story is super heartbreaking, and I want them to find happiness, and I don’t know if they will.  Smith is such an adorable doofus.  There’s a great side story in this volume about what happened to his pocket watch, and the “legends” that sprang up around the watch.   I feel like that lady who wanted to buy Talas’s embroidered clothing – I suck at embroidery, but i love it and I’m happy to pay a pretty penny for it.

 

Memories of Emanon by Shinji Kajio and Kenji Tsurata – totally different art style than Bride’s Story, but I love, LOVE the art style of Memories of Emanon!  The story takes place in the late 1960s, a young man is traveling home on a ferry in Japan.  The ferry is going up the coast, it’s going to take him 17 hours to get home (sorta like a really, REALLY long train ride in the US).  He meets a young woman on the ferry, and she tells him the wildest story.  What she’s saying can’t possibly be true, can it?  Great story, fantastic artwork.

 

I haven’t finished reading Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee yet,  but I’m near the end.  I bought this collection last year, and was “saving it for a special occasion”. If you read my last blog post and the comments,  being on the upswing from whatever-that-was seemed to be a special occassion, so I picked up Hexarchate Stories.  Young Jedao! and his siblings! and his mom!  and calendars and birthdays and servitors and omg I love this book so much! there is a ton of flash fiction in here, and it’s been fun to analyze the flash fiction, see how to tell a story in just a few pages. truly,  reading this book has been heavenly.  as soon as I finish it I’m going to read it again (I feel like I did that with one of the Machineries of Empire books too?).   Confession – some of my super fave stores have been the sexy/smutty ones.

 

some e-books i’ve read/am reading:

The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson – holy shit damn. this book is everything!  I have handwritten notes for a review and still there is just SO MUCH.   (also, for reasons that  i’ll tell you later, finishing this book and then immediately picking up the Star Trek book had me laughing my head off).  This book doesn’t come out till later this summer, so I need to figure out when i can post a review and how much I can talk about, because I don’t want to spoil anything.

 

 

I just started reading Machine’s Last Testament by Benjanun Sriduangkaew this morning, and I’m loving it. An AI controlled sanctuary city, where if you can get in, you’ll be happy and safe (for AI definitions of happy and safe).  It’s a sort of prequel to And Machines Shall Surrender, which I loved.  Basically, if you’re trying to figure out what kind of stories and prose styles I love,  read anything by Sriduangkaew, and you’ll know.

 

What have you been reading lately?

 

and if you like short fiction, and want your TBR to explode, check out this series of interviews I’m doing at Nerds of a Feather,  with staff members at Hugo nominated semiprozines!  When this series ends, I’ll be doing an interview series with the nominees for best fan artist.  Huh, i guess that explains why i haven’t been writing a ton of reviews lately. . .

my faves are problematic.

they are my faves, and they are problematic. even after I write and read and reread this post, they will still be my faves, and they will still be problematic, and I have to be ok with that, because this is  not a fave I’m willing to give up.

I love time travel.  it is my super fave, i don’t plan to ever love it less than a bazillion hearts!!  time travel is super problematic!

Like, it is my favorite trope in the whole world.  travel to the past, travel to the future,  take modern items to the past and bury them to be found later, omg, I can’t get enough time travel!  Cheesy writing can be fixed, just add time travel!  have no plot? add time travel, and I’ll forgive anything!

“what could possibly go wrong?” is the best way to write a story, and with time travel, every possible thing goes wrong, every single time!  the person gets stuck in the past! they accidentally create a paradox! they realize their ancestor was an asshole! they go to the wrong time! the gizmo to get them back to the present gets broken! they are dressed wrong and someone thinks they are a witch!  they hit their head and get rescured by a well meaning local and they have to escape the person’s horrible medical ideas!  EVERYTHING goes wrong in time travel and it is THE BEST.   and then 50 pages before the end of the book,  they are able to come home safely and everyone (including me) cries.

 

I love the Back to the Future movies.  I grew up with them, I was the perfect age when they came out. Michael J Fox is so puppy dog adorable.

 

I don’t remember which Connie Willis book this was in (To Say Nothing of the Dog, maybe?), but a bunch of historians at Oxford are going back in time to all different temporal locations, and it’s suggested that a particular historian go back to a particular time, and the immediate response is “No. he’s black. that era is a 10 for him, it wouldn’t be safe.”.

I’ve thought about that sentence a lot.  Time travel isn’t safe for black people.  That historian couldn’t do his literal job, he wasn’t allowed to do the job he had studied for, because it wasn’t safe for him to go places, so they didn’t let him for his own safety.  Um, that super sucks.

A lot of the first time travel books and time travel movies I saw were white guys doing time travel. it was the 80s, i was limited to the movies my parents took me to, what was on TV, and what is in the youth section at the library.

the first time I read a time travel book where it was a woman who went back in time by herself,  there is an invasion and she and one of her female neighbors are raped.  the next time I read a time travel  book where a woman went back in time by herself, for a while I was wondering “how is she going to protect herself against being raped? is time travel safe for her?”

i love time travel (no shit), so I wonder, would time travel be safe for me?  I am a short woman.   Pretend time travel was real. If i went back in time to the  1700s, would i be safe?  would I be able to defend myself if someone tried to rape me?   A lot of fantasy and historical fiction and time travel novels have taught me that women who are alone are simply put, not safe and shouldn’t expect to be safe. Sure, I guess I could go all protein shake and go to the gym 2 hours a day and turn into a five foot tall forty year old body builder, and then, sure, I could probably, maybe physically defend myself? if the guy was less than 250 lbs?

just like the black guy in that Connie Willis book, what eras and/or decades would be safe for me to go to?    White guys can go back in time with no worries,  but it’s dangerous for women and black people.

that’s problematic.

(and yes, I know plenty of you are saying “Andrea. this isn’t a big deal, why are you worried about it? this is just fiction, why are you making a big deal about it?”  Because when you say “why are you making a big deal?”, what I hear is “why are you wasting my time with something that is unimportant to me”. because my experience in my life is different than yours, that’s why.  because books affect me differently than they affect you, that’s why.  And because sometimes it’s a good thing to ask someone “hey, what do you think about this”, and actually, fucking listen to what they have to say without shutting them down as soon as they say something that is outside your experience)

time travel is still my fave.  Will I read the shit out of time travel books and acknowledge that they are problematic? YEP!

are there books where non-white-men travel in time? There sure are!  will i still watch Back to the Future? sorrynotsorry YES i love those movies!

am i having a shitty couple of weeks right now?  well actually, yes.

 

 


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.