The Significance of Nicodemus in “Dread Nation”

In the book “Dread Nation” by Justina Ireland, the Civil War ends on *slightly* different terms than it did in real life, when the North and South must unite against a new mutual enemy as fields of war dead rise out of the ground as zombies, or “shamblers” as this book calls them. The institution of slavery is ended, but biracial protagonist Jane is not free to pursue any life she chooses due to the new law forcing black and Native American youth to be “re-educated” at zombie-combat schools so that they can serve as personal protectors for upper-class white people.

cover of the book on the left, title page of the book on the right signed by author Justina Ireland and stamped with "like dust from the ground still, we rise"

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2019 Goal: Be More Sustainable

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, instead I set goals for the year. I try to make them attainable, so I can get that sense of satisfaction checking things off as I accomplish them and not feel by any certain month like I’ve already failed. For 2019, besides my specific goals in various categories (fitness, financial, personal enrichment and project completion) I’m adding an overall goal for the year that I’m going to try to incorporate into multiple aspects of my life: Be More Sustainable. While I am focusing on this goal for the year of 2019, I do intend to maintain the new practices and habits I adopt permanently going forward.

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There is already plenty of evidence that we need to act now to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change we are rapidly approaching as a planet if we stay on our current course. While it is true that we need large, systemic changes, bigger than one person can achieve by themselves, it is also true that individual actions and choices do have an impact. I’m blogging about this in part to keep myself accountable to follow through on this goal, (and possibly blog about my progress throughout the year), but also in the hopes that it may inspire others to consider what small actions they can change to help save the literal world. Continue reading

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pages that pagelady read in 2018

I’ll probably finish up a few more of the books I’m currently reading before 2018 is officially over, but here is a rundown of what I’ve read so far and what I liked the most this year.

screenshot of pagelady's reading stats for 2018 from goodreads. "I read 30,733 pages across 85 books. Shortest book 38 pages Opal by Maggie Stiefvater longest book 880 pages Seveneves by Neal Stephenson"

Obligatory goodreads-generated graphic

My favorite new YA book was definitely Seafire by Natalie Parker; I’ve been pushing this one on all my friends and the ONLY bad thing about it is that I have to wait to read the rest of the trilogy because it’s not published yet. But, I look forward to re-reading the exploits of this sisterhood of pirates in preparation for the second book, which I think is coming out in 2019 but I haven’t seen a date or title announcement yet. My eyes will remain peeled, scanning the horizon…

cover of Seafire, blue background with compass covered in orange blooms

do you like adventure stories featuring young women with their own pirate ship, having plenty of interpersonal drama but working together to survive their harsh world and not competing with each other over boys? you need to read this book!

Another new fave in YA for me this year was Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor; this little novella is a delightful companion to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, featuring Karou’s human friend Zuzana and how she got together with Mik. It is. SO. CUTE! I would have loved it anyway but I especially love the way it was recommended to me by a fellow book-lover and fan of the series:

Speaking of Laini Taylor, I also read her new duology this year, Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares and I totally fell in love–it’s not at all related to Daughter of Smoke and Bone except that it is set in the same universe and there is magic and tragedy and love and it is SO GOOD! Other series that I enjoyed were Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (I recommend the audiobooks) and the Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin, which I was introduced to when my Sci-Fi bookclub read The Fifth Season this summer, so shout-out to bookclubs.

As far as re-reads in 2018, I did make it through the whole Harry Potter canon again (by which I mean the seven original books ONLY, I do not accept Cursed Child or the Fantastic Beasts screenplays as canon and I will fight anyone who says they are), but my favorite re-read was Dietland by Sarai Walker. I watched the tv show adaptation but I wasn’t into it and I will not mourn it’s cancellation. The show felt like it watered down and de-fanged too much of the book’s dark ugliness necessary to really critique the harm patriarchal society inflicts, and also the show insisted on adding all these superfluous men or making the existing male roles bigger than they were in the book at the expense of characters I would have liked to see more of, especially some of the other women in Calliope house. Everybody should just read the book instead of watching the show, it’s already perfect.

While I am on my everybody-should-read-this soapbox let me also add The Power by Naomi Alderman; it was amazing and I will undoubtedly be re-reading it in years to come. I listened to it on audiobook and happened to be in the middle of it when I discovered some new walking trails, so now every time I go walking or running on those trails I think about power dynamics and gender and the way humans try to manipulate each other and the way power corrupts. And…what if I could protect myself by shocking a high voltage out of my own hands, and I could go on the trail at any time of day without being paranoid about whether it was safe?

In non-fiction this year, I mainly read about the Salem Witch Trials and I would say that my favorite of the three books on that subject was A Storm of Witchcraft by Emerson W. Baker. I felt like it did a good job of contextualizing the accusations and trials, and I found the argument that conversion disorder/mass psychogenic illness as the most likely explanation for the afflicted persuasive.

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pages pagelady read in 2017

i read so many good books this year! probably partly due to the fact that i also read in greater volume than previous years (for reasons) and also because i joined a second book club this year, and maybe also because my good-book discerning skills keep leveling up with my age. check out my goodreads for a complete list of my 2017 reads; highlights are below.

favorite Young Adult reads

definitely my favorite new reads this year was Tessa Gratton’s Gods of New Asgard series It’s a trilogy but there are also three novellas that you can buy separately or in a collected volume called “The Weight of The Stars”; they each feature a different side character that shows up in one or more of the main books. you HAVE to read these books in order though, because the plots are like concentric circles so they share a lot of the same people and overlap events but if you don’t read them in order you won’t get the context in the same way. the world-building in this series is fantastic; it’s set in the United States of Asgard, like the U.S. but with the majority of people worshipping Norse gods and the culture at large being saturated with Asgardian references instead of Christian ones. oh yeah, and the gods are real and some of them interact with the mortals in these stories. what i like about the setting, besides the fact it is so well thought-out and richly described, is that it can help you think about your current real-world context in a more critical way, when you read all these little details that are different, and think, oh yeah, why DO we do that this way or why DOES everyone assume this other thing? Because in the U.S. of Asgard it’s this other way, because of Thor or because of Odin or because of Freya, so what is the invisible, assumed “because of” for us? ALSO THE PLOT IS THRILLING AND THE CHARACTERS ARE EXTREMELY LOVEABLE.

anyway, i like all three books but i think i would say “The Strange Maid” is my favorite because it features a girl who is, or is trying to be, a Valkyrie (!) and she is hunting a troll so she can cut its heart out for prophecy reasons (!) and she often prays by free-writing poetry all over things, sometimes even painting it on her own skin, and i just think that is really cool. but you have to read ‘The Lost Sun” first! it’s very good too, i promise. i have been pestering lots of my friends to read these ever since i discovered them and now i am pestering you, my blog audience. but they’re so good!

gods of new asgard covers

There’ s another version of the cover to book one but this one is way better because it’s Soren; the other version has a blonde white boy on it so I guess it’s supposed to be the missing god Baldur? but Soren is definitely the main character and AAAAH, I LOVE HIM SO MUCH! he has that tattoo on his face to warn people that he is a Berserker, with a destructive fury inside him.

favorite Sci-Fi reads

this year i subscribed to a new literary magazine called FIYAH that publishes speculative fiction by black authors, and there were fantastic short stories in each episode. You can get back-issues from their website and/or subscribe for the upcoming year or years, which i would recommend. my favorite story in FIYAH this year was “Chesirah” by L.D. Lewis, which appeared in Issue 1; the title character is a Fenox, a person who every so often spontaneously combusts into flame and later wakes up reformed from the ashes of her burned body…as long as nothing happens to her ashes before she reforms, which definitely makes trying to break free of her enforced captivity a bit…complicated. my second favorite story was “Cracks” by Xen in Issue 3; a boy spends his nights patrolling the neighborhood to look for, and seal up when necessary, the “cracks” between his reality and the “other”, which isn’t so hard, it’s just his job. Until one day he finds a crack that isn’t so easy to close, because on the other side of it he can see…himself, but in circumstances that he only wishes that he had in his own reality.

fiyah cover 4

i bought a print of this cover from Issue 4 whose theme was “Roots”; (you can get one of this or any other cover here) and now it’s hanging on my wall. Art by Geneva Benton.

favorite bookclub reads

from my speculative fiction bookclub: “Akata Witch” by Nnedi Okorafor. it’s like the wizarding world, but in Nigeria instead of Hogwarts! and also definitely without the ‘chosen one’ thing! the teachers in this book repeatedly tell the kids that yes, they very well might die on any one of their lessons or mission attempts, and that would be too bad but it would just mean that somebody else would have to try to fight the great evil next. it’s such a different attitude from almost every other fantasy/adventure book i’ve ever read! i like it.

from my YA bookclub: “Orleans” by Sherri L. Smith. Set in what used to be the gulf coast states, now a walled-off swampland quarantined from the “outer states” due to the incurable “delta fever”, this dystopia is surprisingly full of hope. that even in a place the rest of the world has given up on, that appears to have been destroyed beyond repair, humanity survives and nature adapts.

favorite non-fiction reads

“Priestdaddy” by Patricia Lockwood–nothing i could write about it will be even a fraction as good as the writing in this memoir. also if you can go to one of her signings she will draw an animal inside the front cover, so now my copy has a cat wearing a pantsuit and it’s awesome.

also, i really enjoyed “The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt” by Kara Cooney. i had never heard of Hatshepsut before reading this book! i added it to my tbr pile after seeing it recommended by someone on twitter, but now i can’t remember who. anyway i learned so much and also it was FOR SOME REASON especially soothing, empowering, (and a little bit heartbreaking) to read about this amazing woman capably wielding national power thousands of years ago, in the year 2017. the author did a really good job of including daily-life details and insights that made Hatshepsut come to life more too, even though much of it is historical guesswork.

 

 

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I Am Part of a Composite

i’ve been mostly off twitter for almost a week now, (though i was only totally disconnected for the first three days). it wasn’t planned, just a combination of travel, busyness, and then wanting to avoid Game of Thrones spoilers, but getting a little distance also forced me to get some perspective on what being as connected as i normally am is like. there is a song by Regina Spektor called “Machine” that i think is a pretty perfect description.

collect moments with twitter gray

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party-planning Beauty and the Beast again (for kids)

Today I hosted a Beauty and the Beast party for some girls aged 3-6. I reused my Beast peanut butter rice crispy treats from the live-action movie premiere, but with a new option of some that were made from cocoa cheerios as one of my guests is allergic to gluten. (I had thought that rice crispies were gluten-free, but apparently only certain brands are since most have a gluten malt flavoring?? So that was a bit of a scramble for me at the last minute but it turned out fine).

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i left off the Bugles on the gluten-free ones and just made horns out of frosting

Of course, we also had Belle cupcakes; I got the toppers from Etsy, there are several printable varieties or you can buy some ready-made. We had punch too, make with pineapple juice, Sprite, and Rainbow Sherbet, but I forgot to get a picture of it and anyway only half of the kids liked it. (The rest opted for kool-aid.)

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the light-colored cupcakes were gluten-free lemoncakes from a local bakery

My personal favorite part was the enchanted rose craft. I glued small blocks of glitter-painted foam to the center of the plates and cut down the fake roses so they would fit before hand, so the kids’ role was mainly painting glitter on whatever parts they wanted, including the rose petals. The ‘glass’ covers to go over the rose are the top parts of plastic wine glasses. You just have to make sure to find a style that detaches at the base of the bowl rather than between the foot and stem. I found these at Dillons.

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Things I Liked in Wonder Woman Movie

I have seen the new Wonder Woman film (directed by Patty Jenkins) twice so far, and I love it. Spoiler-y reaction in more detail below:

WW courage2

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Hillary Rodham Clinton: Keep Going

Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered the commencement address to the 2017 graduating class at her alma mater, Wellesley College. I watched a livestream and was inspired and encouraged by many of her statements, and a bit disgruntled when so much of the subsequent news coverage I saw highlighted only the bits that referred to President Trump. hillary wellesley media coverageThe giddy headlines exclaiming “trolled” and “major shade!” and the isolated clips of her references to impeachment or crowd sizes are a gross mischaracterization of the overall message of her speech. These headlines all focus on Trump, but the core of her message was confirming to the young women graduating that they are empowered to shape our country’s future. She gave advice and encouragement that can benefit all Americans.

hillary quote2

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Star Trek: Discovery Trailer Reaction

 

So, we have our first trailer for the new Star Trek: Discovery series and I have thoughts!

Since we still know so little about these characters or the setting beyond generalities, it’s hard to get overly excited about footage that leaves so many unanswered questions and seems to be holding so much back. But there are a lot of things in this limited glimpse that make me eager to see more.

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Party-Planning The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is a grim story. Watching the appropriately dark and terrifying Hulu series adaptation of it is not something I would normally think of as a “party”, but I did organize an event to watch the first 3 episodes the week that they premiered with several friends.  The purpose of the party was twofold: to provide mutual emotional support and validation for each other while we absorbed the trauma onscreen, and to raise money for the Center for Reproductive Rights in the hopes that what we were seeing would remain forever fiction.  I think it was a success on both counts.

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HANDMAID CUPCAKES!

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