hello crew! I am writing this from the couch of the hotel room where my mom (noted reader of this newsletter!) and I have hunkered down to go through my first week post surgery. My surgery went off without a hitch, as weird as it was to not have anyone accompany me into the hospital. I’m grateful to the care team that got me through, all of whom were very kind and professional and did a great job.
I had said last week that with the surgery, I didn’t think I would read very much. Well turns out I was wrong about that—I have actually finished five books this week alone, oops! Some of those were very short, and others I had been reading for a long time and have just now gotten around to finishing them up, but regardless, I’ve been reading! I have also been sleeping quite a bit, because that’s what you do while recovering. But I feel pretty good, better than I did after my top surgery two and a half years ago, probably because my range of movement is not as wildly restricted as it was after that surgery.
Needless to say, I’ve done more reading than writing this week, though I do have a number of books I’ve written about—just way more that I still have to write about! But let’s instead focus on
Books I Wrote About This Week
Funny story about this book: I put in a request to purchase this book to my local public library when it first came out to get this book, the hold came in, and I just... never got around to picking up the hold, so it never came up. And now here I am some threeish years later, finally reading it, and it was just as good if not better than what I was imagining.
I just... there was something about this book that spoke so deeply to me, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because, though it's definitely dystopian, I'm interested in ways that we survive that dystopia even if we don't overcome it. Where is authoritarianism at its thinnest, to misquote a professor of mine, and how do we get around it? That is what is more important to me in a setting, because it's also kind of what is most important in my life--how we keep one another alive, how we ourselves survive in a world that does not care for our survival. I'm struck by how many characters love one another in this book but do not like one another--that you can care for each other without liking one another, which to me is such a great and important lesson in this time.
But there's also so much going on here that is queer, sexually and gender speaking, and the main character is intersex as well, and there's just so much intimacy in all of that queerness that reflects a world I dream in and imagine, as queer forms of kinship and care crop up between us (and by "kinship" I'm not necessarily talking about "found family," a trope I grow more suspicious of by the year, but rather a kind of recognition about the ways in which we are connected, interdependent.) And I think this book was so good for that, and so much more.
Which isn't to say this isn't a hard book--there's a lot of brutality, physical violence and also sexual violence--and if you choose to read it, I hope you take care of yourself while you do. But it is so good, and it's a book I want to go back to again and again after this, just to see what more I can get out of it and what else I can find that strikes me.
Folks the most exciting part of this book is that I think I'm starting to develop a literary taste--or at least, know what I don't really like on a genre-wide setting. I don't think I'm into gothic lit. I'm not sure why that is, but I don't find it that interesting in the handful of times I've read it. This doesn't mean I'm going to say "never again" to a piece of gothic literature--I'll read anything, and finish it even if I don't like it (which is not to shame folks who abandon books, because GOOD FOR YOU, but I'm all about that page counter going up and up and up.) But I didn't like this a whole lot, even though it has trappings of things I would like.
Like on the surface it's like: GAY WOMEN IN HISTORY AT A BOARDING SCHOOL like hell yeah my predecessors or whatever, but it just also... took so long for the scary stuff to do anything? And granted, I have no idea if this is because the book I read was an ARC, and if there was some more editing that tightened it up, but having read other reviews of the book, I don't think my experience was that radically different from folks who have read the final version. It was just very slow at the beginning and I... had a hard time caring about the main characters in the modern day until we were WAY into the book, and books with good, fun characterization are like my bread and butter. They just felt like... flat, weirdly, and though they got a little bit better it wasn't so significant, I don't think, that it saved the book for me.
Was this the worst book I've ever read? Absolutely not; it was more enjoyable than the other horror book I read last October, for example, and didn't hit as hard on like weird ableism and gore, just like creepy imagery mostly. But it also like wasn't that impactful. Which isn't to say I don't think you should read it! If this sounds like your jam, I really hope it is. It just wasn't my favorite and took so long to get through because I was kind of bored/didn't care about the initial conflicts between the three girls (though the way that is resolved is very nice, I will say, more writers can take cues from that if they want.)
Ahhh, more Blue Man Time. This might be inside baseball talk (do normies know about Thrawn?) but I love this blue alien idiot, even when the author likes to think he's a Super Genius when really he's an Enormous Nerd who is Deeply Stupid, though there is some recognition of the latter in this book.
It's a tension about Thrawn I have all the time; we are supposed to Believe In Him and His Skills and like yes, I understand that his art gimmick is cool and fun but he also sucks at leading people and you watch them chafe at it time and time again--in this book but also in the other trilogy I've read, which takes place after this trilogy. Like Thrawn you're a commanding officer, not Socrates, please just tell the people under your command what your plan is. What do you make them run the ship on faith in you alone. What's the point. Please, anything. Please let this blow up in his face.
It's funny because I'm not actually all that interested in the Chiss and the politics of the families; it's really more about like brain popcorn, but like nearly 400 pages of brain popcorn? And that's just me--I think if you were Big into the Chiss, this book would be fun for you, but I think it's also just fun to lose yourself in the weird atmosphere of the book and let the characters--especially the non-Thrawn characters--lead you away on a fun adventure in space! Less Thrawn, more of these friends! (Just kidding we can keep Thrawn, that's fine.) Regardless, I will definitely be finishing this trilogy just to see what the blue boy gets up to next!
The Reading Situation
100 book count: with my big reading boost this week, I’ve hit 11 books finished so far in 2021, putting me at 5 books ahead of schedule apparently. So far I’ve finished 11 books in the month of January, and I like where that puts me! So if I just sleep through all of next week, I should be okay!
Author identity challenge: I’ve met 7 of 18 reading goals, coming in at 39% of my total goals! I’ve read books this week by a white man, a white woman, an Indigenous man (Cree) and an Asian woman! That’s pretty good for this week—and that is just books I finished. (“ai you read five books, how come you only have four new books?” one of them was a book I started last year and therefore does not count towards this goal!)
Current reading: I have made some good progress today on Jingo—my morning reading, as usual, gets the most done. Still working very slowly on Living a Feminist Life, and Love WITH Accountability (which I’m excited to write about!) and very little progress on Foundations of Christian Faith. I hope to get back to a more regular reading schedule soon, but I’ve been watching WAY more TV with my mom than I normally do, and that is a slight hamper on my reading! (Plus, yknow, sleeping a lot as I recover!)
And that’s it for this week! Thank you to anyone and everyone who wished me well this past week; I’m recovering nicely and will continue to recover I’m sure! I hope this week was okay for you—it felt both short and long to me, and I’m looking forward to healing more and getting a better grasp on the upcoming weeks! As always, if there are ways I can make your life easier, please let me know and I will do what I can and spread info if I can’t! Otherwise, please keep taking care of yourselves and each other—I know we’re in a new administration here in the US, but at the time of this writing we are still very much on our own in terms of relief from this, and so we’ve got to keep doing what we have been. So we’ll keep doing it. <3