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.

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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:

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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.

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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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Party-Planning “Beauty and the Beast”

I am excited to see the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast later this week, and have come up with the perfect cookies to celebrate the occasion.

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The Best “Lord of the Rings” Quotes For Our Times

We’re still only a few weeks into the Trump Presidency, but it’s already been a very turbulent ride, and its not too soon to be able to tell that even darker times lie ahead. Here are the moments from The Lord of the Rings that I am comforting/inspiring/steeling myself with these days.

“When did Saruman the Wise abandon reason for madness?” This is what I say to the Congressional representatives who won’t stand up to Trump, even when he tweets complete nonsense. Or to any leaders who advocate for his malicious agenda. Their logic is exactly the same as Saruman’s–he is too powerful to resist! We must align with him to preserve our own positions of power! But as Gandalf later states, this is a fruitless effort. “There is only one Lord of the Rings, and he does not share power.” I’m not saying Trump is Sauron. But I think it is safe to say he is equally self-serving and that attempting to ride his coattails is indeed abandoning reason for madness. (P.S., I have another clip for the people in the White House communications office who keep making ridiculous defenses for the indefensible things their boss says.) Continue reading

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Revisiting Obama’s Selma Speech

Nearly two years ago, President Obama gave a speech on the 50-year anniversary of the march on Selma, Alabama (dramatized in Ava Duvernay’s 2014 Oscar Best Picture-nominated “Selma”).  I remember thinking at the time that it was a fantastic speech, beautiful and inspiring. I even saved a copy of it in my “speeches” playlist; (there’s no way to make that not sound nerdy, but I don’t care. I’m a student of rhetoric and it’s a great speech.)

Over the past two weeks under our new President, as many citizens mobilized to resist the extremism coming from the White House, this line from the Selma speech kept echoing in my head:

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