“Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff. Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle? With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself. “
Everyone needs to read Juliet Takes a Breath
Ok, that was easy. Review over.
Seriously though, this book has something to say to everyone.
Juliet is nineteen and has her first girlfriend. Her family doesn’t know and that bothers her. They are very close and keeping something this important from them feels wrong to her. She tells them right before she leaves for the summer to do an internship in Portland with her favorite author. The reception is not what she hoped for.
Portland isn’t what she expected either. It is so overwhelmingly white but the white people are weirder than any white people she’s met before. If she’s come to her favorite lesbian author’s house, why is there a naked man in the kitchen? Why doesn’t she understand what anyone is talking about?
There is no right way to be
Juliet had idolized Harlowe as a lesbian author who seemed to have the answers to everything. But as Juliet gets more involved in Harlowe’s world she sees that some of the ideas that Harlowe has might not be right for her. Part of her growing up and owning her own story is finding out how she needs to branch out and be different. Learning what to keep and what to reject is hard. She needs to see a variety of ways of being a lesbian so she realizes that there are options out there.
Likewise, Harlowe can’t mold Juliet to fit into her preferred narrative. This causes conflict in the book as they try to find neutral ground to speak to each other.
Not everyone speaks your language
Juliet doesn’t have the background in the language of the LGBT movement to be able to understand everything that people in Portland are talking about. Preferred pronouns? Polyamory? As readers follow Juliet’s stories they are exposed to concepts that they may also have not known about. It is also a reminder not to denigrate people who may not know the “correct” terminology but to educate.
This is a book for anyone who has ever felt out of place but who wants to belong. Juliet is charming and you root for her the whole way through the book.
I listened to the audio version of this book. The narration was amazing. Her accents were well done and the Spanish in the book flowed naturally in the story.
Do yourself a favor. Pick up this book and fall in love with Juliet.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
I have a list of topics that someday I am going to write discussion posts about. One of them is Why I Don’t Ship. It is going to be about not getting all crazy about romances that you want to happen and…well, you need to wait for the post. The point is, today I realized that I do have one ship and I need to vent.
On Wednesdays, I read a super conservative Christian link up for fun and aggravation. I’ve been doing this for years. I completely disagree with most everything they say. Many members believe that women should not be educated past high school. Once they finish school they should live at home until a husband appears for them. From where, you ask? God will provide. It may be through parent- arranged marriages. It won’t be through dating. Heavens, no.
There was this teenage guy who used to write often. He wrote about proper relationships between men and women. His posts made me wonder if he had ever had a conversation with a woman who was not in his immediate family. You know the scene in The 40 Year Old Virgin where he describes what breasts feel like and the more he talks the more obvious it is that he has no idea what he is talking about? That’s what this kid’s writings reminded me of every time. He went to college and was predictably horrified by it all.
Readers, I had a dream. I wanted him to meet a woman who was going to rock his world. I imagined her as a tall, voluptuous red head. She didn’t need to seduce him. She could just be a classmate whose classroom discussions cracked open his mind. I just wanted her to open his eyes to the fact that women are humans.
He quit writing a while ago. I hoped that was a good sign. Now through another blog in the community I hear that he is getting married. He is marrying someone who thinks like him. He got everything approved through the parents before talking to her. Seriously, I almost wanted to cry. I’m crushed. I now understand the anguish when your (fictional) ship crashes and burns.
I knew it was a long shot but there was precedence. I follow another blogger who I first read through that site as a teenager who believed in it all. I followed her blog as she went to college and gradually moved away from these strict views. (I worry that this is proof for some people that you shouldn’t let women go to college and get exposed to ideas.) She just got married to a man she picked out for her own self and I’m thrilled. I comment on her blog and try not to come across as the creepy person who has been stalking her for years but I’m just so proud of her.
I’ll try to be nicer about shippers in the future. I feel your pain.
I can’t remember exactly how I first heard of Sheri S. Tepper. I must have just run across the book in a library in the early 2000s. I know that the first book of hers that I read was The Family Tree.
I knew immediately that she was going to be a favorite. I was so sad to hear that she died earlier this week.
Her fans fall into two categories. There are those who love her straight sci fi/fantasy books of her early career and there are those who love her more when she got political. I’m a fan of the political. She spent her career working for Planned Parenthood. Her later books are full of forcefully feminist writing with a focus on ecology and freedom from religion. I’ve rarely felt like an author gets me so much. She definitely deserves to be read more.
Where Should You Start Reading Tepper
She wrote a lot of her books in series and you can get very confused if you pick up one of the series books thinking it is a standalone. Trust me, I’ve done it.
By far my favorite of her books is a standalone called The Fresco.
This book is two stories in one. The first story is an alien first contact story. Two aliens approach a Hispanic woman who is in an abusive marriage. They want her to let human leadership know that Earth is being offered membership in a confederation of planets. There is a bit of a rush though. Some predatory species have also discovered Earth and want to hunt humans. The nicer aliens can’t protect the humans if they aren’t part of the confederation. Normally, planets as backwards as Earth aren’t made members. So the aliens are going to help. They will fix Earth so it is Neighborly enough to be approved for membership – whether humans want to be Neighborly or not.
The second story is happening on the aliens’ homeworld. Their species’ mandate to be ambassadors of good in the universe is based on their religion. Their precepts were drawn on a fresco. Over time the fresco has gotten so dirty that the original images can’t be seen. Everyone relies on commentaries that explain what the paintings are. The commentaries forbid cleaning of the fresco because it is too holy. Now a rebel group has taken control of the fresco and will be cleaning it. What if what is painted is different than the commentaries that they have based their society on?
The first contact story is hilarious! I want this to happen so much. The aliens come in, look around, realize that politicians are just going to argue, and so the aliens just decide to fix it all themselves. Their solutions are brilliant and totally unexpected.
My favorite of her series is the Arbai Trilogy. This one gets better as it goes along. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first book, Grass. I may reread it now that I know the rest and see if I like it better.
Have you ever read her books? What is your favorite?
Over the last month I’ve read a bunch of Regency Romances. There are reasons for this.
They are some of my favorite quick, fun, relaxing reads.
I’m going to be writing one for NaNoWriMo in November and I wanted to get back into the world.
The problem is that I’ve DNFed as many as I’ve read.
In Regency romances there is an inherent power imbalance. Women have no rights during this time. They are at the mercy of the men in their lives. This can set up story lines that I don’t care to read. I don’t want to read about women being bullied by men they are supposed to eventually fall in love with.
I don’t care how you set it up.
Aristocratic woman pretending to be a servant and bullied by an employer because he can? Nope.
Poor relative sent to live off the mercy of a rich relative and then treated like dirt until he understands how much he needs her? Yuck.
This ties into the unequal power dynamic. Rich women during this time were treated as prized creatures to be sheltered from sexuality. They weren’t even supposed to have any knowledge of it. I don’t care. I don’t want to read about the hero grabbing the heroine and kissing her while she says, “No” over and over until she finally realizes how passionate this makes her feel and she opens up to the sexual being within. Nope, nope, nope – automatic DNF.
What would I like to see?
The other thing I noticed is that all the books that I have finished in the last month are about dukes. I’m to the point where I roll my eyes whenever I read that the main character is a duke. There are 20 dukes in the U.K. In Regency books they are all in want of a wife all the time. Let some of the other people have stories.
These books are also so white and so straight. I know, I know, we are discussing British aristocracy and that’s pretty much textbook white. But at the time in question in Regency books, slavery was still legal in British colonies. Even if there weren’t any peers that were not white, there were people of color working as servants or merchants. People were around if you look at the art of the time.
“In the 17th and 18th centuries black domestic servants in great houses were often seen as a conspicuous sign of wealth. Some were paid wages and could leave their employers, while others were treated as property. Portraits and inventories in great houses record many such lives.” from historicengland.org
What about a book about an arranged marriage because one or more of the participants is gay? You know it had to have happened.
So who is doing it right? I got into reading Regency books through my grandmother about 25 years ago. I never paid attention to authors. I just read what she got in her Harlequin subscription. Then I quit reading them for a long time. I had no idea who was writing good books now.
My favorite is still Courtney Milan. Her characters aren’t all Dukes. Her books show a good sense of humor in the courtships. She even writes sex scenes that I don’t mind.
So what have I learned that I’m going to apply to my NaNoWriMo book? My characters are lower down the social ladder for variety. There won’t be any forcing themselves on each other. There will be some black characters. Let’s see how it goes starting next week.
Is anyone else doing NaNoWriMo? What is your book about?
“In 2009, New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James took a leap that many people dream about: she sold her house, took a sabbatical from her job as a Shakespeare professor, and moved her family to Paris. With no classes to teach, no committee meetings to attend, no lawn to mow or cars to park, Eloisa revels in the ordinary pleasures of life—discovering corner museums that tourists overlook, chronicling Frenchwomen’s sartorial triumphs, walking from one end of Paris to another. She copes with her Italian husband’s notions of quality time; her two hilarious children, ages eleven and fifteen, as they navigate schools—not to mention puberty—in a foreign language; and her mother-in-law Marina’s raised eyebrow in the kitchen (even as Marina overfeeds Milo, the family dog). “
This is her memoir about her family’s year in Paris. It was developed from her Facebook posts so it contains mainly short snippets of information about her days interspersed with longer essays.
She is an American who is married to an Italian man. They live in New Jersey and have 2 kids. They move to Paris and enroll the kids in an Italian language school because they are fluent. Her son is taking classes like architectural drawing that he isn’t interested in so he doesn’t do the work. Her daughter is now a child who is well acquainted with principals’ offices on two continents. Eloisa walks around the city sampling the food and getting mad that her husband is losing weight as fast as she is gaining it.
“I asked if Alessandro would pick up some of the spectacular chocolate mousse made by a patisserie on the nearby rue Richer. His response: “I thought you were on a diet.” These seven words rank among the more imprudent things he has said to me in the long years of our marriage.”
The Saga of Milo
Background – They had a Chihuahua named Milo. He used to fly back and forth from the U.S. to Italy with them when they visited her husband’s family. But Milo got fat. He got stranded in Italy because he was too heavy to fly back to the U.S. in the cabin. So Milo has been staying with Italian Grandma until he loses weight. Yeah, it’s not happening. Occasionally she reports in on Milo’s vet visits with Grandma.
“Apparently the vet has suggested vegetables, so for dinner Milo is having lightly steamed broccoli tossed in just a touch of butter, and some diet dog food steeped in homemade chicken broth.”
I have these clients.
“Milo has been back to the vet for a follow-up visit. To Marina’s dismay, her Florentine vet labeled Milo obese, even after she protested that ‘he never eats.’ Apparently the vet’s gaze rest thoughtfully on Milo’s seal-like physique, and then he said, ‘He may be telling you that, but we can all see he’s fibbing.'”
I have never been that brave.
“Marina said today the first thing she plans to do back in Florence is find a new vet. That nasty vet who told her Milo is obese, she said, is too young and doesn’t understand Milo’s emotional problems.”
I read a lot of the Milo sections to my coworkers. They thought they were hysterical. Yes, this is our life.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
I’ve never done a Readathon before but I figure my whole life is a Readathon. I figure today won’t be much different. I’m not going into this with any kind of special plan. I do have to go to work. I leave around 9. In theory I work from 10-2 but I usually am at work until about 3.
Book read – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
Pages read – 51
Distractions – Pets that were mere seconds away from STAAAAARVING. Husband that woke up and wanted to chat. Now I have to get ready to go to work.
Hour 1 – 7 (9:00 AM – 4:00 PM)
I got home from work around 3:30. I listened to my audiobook on the way to and from. I even plugged in my headphones when I had to stop at the grocery store on the way home so I could keep listening.
Book listened to – Brazillionaires (FINISHED!)
Minutes listened – 85
Now I’m going to make some lunch and settle in to read more.
Hours Whatever (4:00 PM – 7:00 PM)
Yeah, I’ve lost track of the hour count. Time is easier.
Books Read – I read 78 pages to finish up The Invoice.
Distractions – I also had a 1/2 hour nap because I was falling asleep while reading. Saturdays at work are crazy and they knock me out. Then I spent some time talking to the husband. He thought that I wasn’t doing a good job with my reading. I told him everything I had gotten in so far. He was impressed but it is still mostly a normal day for me.
Now it is time to get serious.
I’m not sure what I’m starting next. Either Kiss and Spell or Wolf Boys or going back to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. The husband is going to be going out to watch a football game so I’ll be interruption free until about 11 or 12. Let’s see how that goes. I’m going to make myself some hot chocolate and get back to business.
It is good but slow going. It might be getting time to switch to something a bit lighter as the night goes on.
For this two hour stretch I’ve been in the living room with hot chocolate and then tortilla chips and dip. My parrot and I have been listening to Pandora. It was a Dance Pop Radio night. She likes that and Epic Soundtracks. It is her bedtime now so it time to move to another area so she can sleep. I think it is time for a bath.
Pages read – 76 for a total of 205 printed pages, 2 short stories on the ereader, and 85 minutes of audio so far.
9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
I switched books again. I figured at this time of night it was good to go with something fast paced and light.
I had a bath and then laid down with all the lights on for reading. I have root beer available but not sure how much I should caffeine myself up.
I’m 122 pages into this book for a total of 317 printed pages, 2 short stories, and 85 minutes of audio.
I stayed up until about 1 AM. I finished Kiss and Spell so I had a total of 392 printed pages.
I got up at 5:45. I read another short story and then no new ebooks I had were holding my interest enough to keep me awake. I’m going to try some audio but I might fall back asleep.
“Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, begging sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.”
Oh my God, I loved this book. Loved it as in I started it Tuesday at 8 PM, finished it Wednesday at 3:30 PM, and am posting this review on Thursday.
It grabbed me from the first page where it explains that prostitutes are taxed as seamstresses. They even have sewing machines — a regular one and one that you get inside and use your body to control. I don’t understand how that would work but I want it!
The story is told from Karen’s point of view. She has a great voice. She is an uneducated sixteen year old who grew up with her father training horses. After his death she ended up working as a “seamstress” in an upscale house. The girls of the house are a family and protect and love each other in spite of their differences. They are from many different races. There is a trans woman. There are disabled women. Some are lesbians who only serve male clients because it’s their job. Karen accepts this all but sometimes still falls into the casual prejudices of white women in that time. Sometimes she gets called out on it. Sometimes she needs to learn her lessons a harder way.
The women of Karen’s house protect a prostitute escaping from a more disreputable house. This fans the flames of a simmering rivalry into out and out war. Karen gets grabbed by a thug at the market.
Don’t worry though. She hits him the face with a bag of onions. She holds her own until the fight is stopped by the appearance of a U.S. Marshal. He’s chasing a murderer who was in Indian Territory previously. When dead prostitutes start showing up, the Marshal enlists Karen and her friends to help his Comanche deputy and him find the bad guy.
This is a great read for any one who likes a fast moving adventure tale full of steam punk technology and daring ladies. Karen is a great lesbian heroine who sees the world in her own unique way.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
“The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history. The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project’s secret cities, it didn’t appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships—and a surplus of handsome scientists and Army men! But against this vibrant wartime backdrop, a darker story was unfolding. The penalty for talking about their work—even the most innocuous details—was job loss and eviction. One woman was recruited to spy on her coworkers. They all knew something big was happening at Oak Ridge, but few could piece together the true nature of their work until the bomb “Little Boy” was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, and the secret was out. The shocking revelation: the residents of Oak Ridge were enriching uranium for the atomic bomb.”
Oak Ridge was a temporary city in the middle of nowhere, hidden by topography, and never meant to see the light of day. It had one purpose — to enrich uranium to feed the development of the nuclear bomb. A lot of people were required to build and then run the huge plants. How do you get a lot of people to agree to do a job that they aren’t allowed to know about or talk about? Pay high wages and tell them it is for the war effort.
People left other jobs without knowing where they would be going or for how long. Many were told to go to a train station and they would be met. They had no idea where they were heading.
I can’t believe that people agreed to do this. I’m too nosy. If you gave me a job and told me to spend eight to twelve hours a day manipulating dials so that the readout always read the correct number, I couldn’t do it. I certainly couldn’t do it for years without needing to know what I was doing. I would have been fired and escorted out of there so fast. How was the secret kept for so long?
Coming out of the Depression though, any job was a good job. These jobs were hiring women and African Americans at wages they wouldn’t see elsewhere. Of course, there was discrimination and segregation. Housing for African Americans was poor and they were not allowed to live together if they were married. When someone started wondering, “What happens if we inject this uranium into a person?” you know they picked a black man who just happened to have a broken leg to experiment on. He did manage to escape eventually but not before they had done a lot of damage to him.
This book tells the stories of women in several different jobs – secretarial staff, Calutron operators, cleaning staff, and scientists. They made a life in a town that wasn’t supposed to last long. The audiobook was compelling listening. The story sounds like a novel.
I went to vet school in Knoxville, which is 20 miles away from Oak Ridge. I had friends who were from there and friends whose families had been forcibly removed from the area in order to build Oak Ridge. It was interesting to hear what went on behind the scenes.
I would be interested in pairing this with this book:
“On August 9, 1945, three days after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, a small port city on Japan’s southernmost island. An estimated 74,000 people died within the first five months, and another 75,000 were injured.
Published on the seventieth anniversary of the bombing, Nagasaki takes readers from the morning of the bombing to the city today, telling the first-hand experiences of five survivors, all of whom were teenagers at the time of the devastation.”
The Girls of Atomic City does discuss the reactions of the citizens of Oak Ridge when they found out what they had been doing. It discusses the guilt that some people still have for their part in making the bomb.
You know what I kept thinking about while listening to this? This scene from Clerks.
Randal: There was something else going on in Jedi. I ever noticed it till today. They build another Death Star, right?
Randal: Now, the first one was completed and fully operational before the Rebel’s destroyed it.
Dante: Luke blew it up. Give credit where credit is due.
Randal: And the second one was still being built when the blew it up.
Dante: Compliments to Lando Calrissian.
Randal: Something just never sat right with me that second time around. I could never put my finger on it, but something just wasn’t right.
Dante: And you figured it out?
Randal: The first Death Star was manned by the Imperial Army. The only people on board were stormtroppers, dignitaries, Imperials.
Randal: So, when the blew it up, no problem. Evil’s punished.
Dante: And the second time around?
Randal: The second time around, it wasn’t even done being built yet. It was still under construction.
Randal: So, construction job of that magnitude would require a helluva lot more manpower than the Imperial army had to offer. I’ll bet there were independent contractors working on that thing: plumbers, aluminum siders, roofers.
Dante: Not just Imperials, is what you’re getting at?
Randal: Exactly. In order to get it built quickly and quietly they’d hire anybody who could do the job. Do you think the average storm trooper knows how to install a toilet main? All they know is killing and white uniforms.
Dante: All right, so they bring in independent contractors. Why are you so upset with its destruction?
Randal: All those innocent contractors hired to do a job were killed! Casualties of a war they had nothing to do with. All right, look, you’re a roofer, and some juicy government contract comes your way; you got the wife and kids and the two-story in suburbia – this is a government contract, which means all sorts of benefits. All of a sudden these left-wing militants blast you with lasers and wipe out everyone within a three-mile radius. You didn’t ask for that. You have no personal politics. You’re just trying to scrape out a living.
This book is basically the point of view of the people building the second Death Star.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
“Like so many others, David Lebovitz dreamed about living in Paris ever since he first visited the city in the 1980s. Finally, after a nearly two-decade career as a pastry chef and cookbook author, he moved to Paris to start a new life. Having crammed all his worldly belongings into three suitcases, he arrived, hopes high, at his new apartment in the lively Bastille neighborhood. But he soon discovered it’s a different world en France. From learning the ironclad rules of social conduct to the mysteries of men’s footwear, from shopkeepers who work so hard not to sell you anything to the etiquette of working the right way around the cheese plate, here is David’s story of how he came to fall in love with—and even understand—this glorious, yet sometimes maddening, city.”
This is the book the husband would have written if he lived in France. He is the person who said halfway through our trip to France that it would be a wonderful country if there were no people in it. His favorite French vacation story is the time we watched an older French woman beat a disabled British tourist with an umbrella because he didn’t give his seat up to her. He learned that parapluie is umbrella from that incident.
We once had a black, female, French neighbor to whom the husband had to explain several times that while the people in our small town might in fact be both racist and sexist, what was getting her in trouble was being French. No, it wasn’t ok to park in the fire lane and then cut in line at WalMart because she was parked in the fire lane, for example.
David Lebovitz had this same frustration with French people when he moved to Paris. Why are they always cutting in line? Why won’t they help you in a store? Why does it take so long to accomplish everyday tasks?
This book is hysterically funny. He is a cookbook author whose new French apartment had a tiny kitchen and suspect plumbing.
Eventually he learned to adapt and thrive in his new city. He learned to cut in line with the best of them. He started dressing up to take out the garbage. That’s when he knew he was home.
There are lots of recipes in this book. I even made one. I know! I’m shocked too. I almost never make recipes in books. I made the fig and olive tapenade though and it was scrumptious. I even took a picture of it as proof but it looks like a glob of clumpy black stuff on some bread. Yummy food photography is not a skill I have.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
I transfer all my audiobooks to my iPod instead of listening to them on my phone. Why would I do that? Am I just tragically old and unhip? (Possibly, if I use the word unhip.)
Here’s why I don’t listen to books on my phone
My phone is big. Seriously, who wants to carry that nonsense around when you are trying to work out? Yes, I listen to audiobooks when I work out. iPods are much easier to carry.
My phone’s battery is crap. If I was going to listen to several hours of an audiobook, it would need to lie down and have a recharge when I need it to be doing other things.
Yes, this is ok. It says so on the book info on my library website.
So how do you transfer them? Audible makes it easy but Overdrive is obnoxious.
1. Download to the Overdrive Media Console on your computer.
2. Select Transfer on the top menu. Follow the instructions on the pop up menu to transfer all the files. This is a slow process. Give it at least 10 minutes. Go do something else while this is happening.
3. The files are imported as Music and not Audiobooks. Find them in your music library and hover your cursor next to the name. When 3 dots appear click on it to bring up this menu. Select Get Info.
4. Choose Options on the top menu.
5. Change the file type from Music to Audiobook for each file. Make sure that the Remember playback position is checked so it doesn’t start each file from the beginning every time you stop and start.
There you go. Audiobooks on your iPod so you can save your precious phone battery time for other things.
This book and the sequel are everywhere. The ebook was on sale for $0.99 last week so I decided to try it.
The story starts in an illegal mining colony on an isolated planet. It is attacked by a rival mining company. Only one distress call gets through. One nearby battleship comes to help. By the end of the battle, that ship, a research ship, and a transport ship have taken as many survivors as they could find and are running for safety. They are being chased by one of the bad guys’ spaceships. All the ships are damaged so they can’t make a wormhole and jump to safety. It will take months to get to a safe place. The battleship’s artificial intelligence was also damaged and may be out of control.
The story is told through intercepted messages and briefing notes and other found information. I like the format. That made it a bit different from just a straight novel.
Here’s what frustrates me about this book
Overly emotional protagonists
Yeah, I get that they are teenagers and supposedly teenagers are all hormonal and don’t think logically. In this case the protagonists broke up the morning of the attack. Their world is literally being blown apart and yet they still have time to have thoughts about how mad they are. Nope, during a run for your life scenario, running should take up all of your brain.
Over and over in the book they have to remind each other to think instead of reacting. Good that one of them is thinking at any time and can remind the other. Maybe it is just because I’m not an emotional person that I totally don’t understand this behavior.
Lack of communication
I hate this trope. If the whole conflict in a book is occurring because character one is keeping a secret (usually unnecessarily and dramatically) from character two, I’m likely DNFing. (I still maintain that most of the horror in Harry Potter could have been avoided if Harry and Dumbledore had sat down over a mug of butterbeer and said, “Ok, all cards on the table. Here’s everything I know.” )
In Illuminae they can only only communicate ship to ship in short bursts. That doesn’t excuse the fact that they keep big things from each other. Basically, they are on different ships and one hacks the computers to talk to the other. Of course, they realize that they still love each other. They spend time declaring their love for each other but it never comes up in conversation that the girl’s mother was killed when the ship’s AI blew up the third ship in the fleet. Really? Never? She’s supposedly all upset about it and she never mentions it to this guy that she is declaring her love for? This guy knew and liked her mother and she never thought he might care about that piece of news? She doesn’t mention it for weeks. When she does it is super casual like, “Hey, thought you might like to know…” And he’s all, “Woah, that sucks.” And then they move on.
He’s of course keeping big secrets about his mother from her. This is what was behind the whole fight that made them break up in the first place. Of course it wasn’t that they were incompatible and needed to move on because they are teenagers. No! They are each others’ true love of course.
Know it all teenagers
I get that this is escapist reading for teenagers who want to feel more empowered than society allows them to be. But reading YA has made me think that teenagers shouldn’t be allowed to make any decisions because the ones they make in books are so completely stupid.
In this book the female teenager, who of course is an expert hacker (that almost goes without saying), decides to steal a shuttle and go to the ship where the boyfriend is. This is a problem because that ship is infected with a virus that turns people into paranoid murderers. Her ship is not infected because they have a strict quarantine system in place. The AI on the infected ship is not letting the clean ship fly away alone. If she was going over there on a suicide mission to distract the AI so everyone else could get away, I’d be behind this. But she’s not. She needs to save her True Love against all odds. Mind you, she recently talked Loverboy out of freeing his friend from the affected area of his ship because that would spread the disease. All that common sense apparently went flying out into the void though. This is the point where I started hoping that she would get squashed like a bug. Actually I’m a bug rescuer. I don’t want them squashed. I just wanted her squashed. That’s when I quit reading at 70%. Hoping the main character dies an ugly death isn’t nice or helpful especially when you know she lives through it.
I know that I’m old and cranky but is it just me?
I think my problem is that a lot of YA is so fully plot driven that the characters don’t get well developed. I think that is part of the appeal for a lot of people. I like a fast moving story as much as anyone. But if you don’t take the time to make characters that are more than cardboard cut outs with only a few defining traits then you risk running into tropes. Maybe it is intentional that so much YA puts people into good or bad categories with no nuance. That’s what I think I’m missing in YA — the grey areas.
“Leah Remini has never been the type to hold her tongue. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost. That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank, funny, poignant memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience for the first time, revealing the in-depth details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices.”
Leah Remini is the perfect person to write this tell all book about the inner workings of The Church of Scientology. She was brought into the religion as a child when her mother joined. She was taken out of school and moved to Florida in order to work at retreat center for Scientologists. She progressed through the religion as she started her acting career. As she became more famous, she was given more and more opportunities to promote her faith.
She knew that she was working to clear the planet. She was part of saving the world. If that meant that she needed to go to the center and do her courses for hours a day, she did it. If it meant giving millions of dollars for church activities, she went along. She faced interrogations based on reports that people wrote about her. She was even thrown off a boat once. It didn’t faze her.
Through it all she remained a true believer
Then she was invited to be part of the elite group of Scientologists who grouped around Tom Cruise. That was when she started to see hypocrisy. She saw people how weren’t behaving like the church demanded and nothing was being done about it. She noticed that people were disappearing and no one would talk about it. She decided that she needed to speak up to save her church — and they silenced her. Eventually she was declared to be a Suppressive Person who no Scientologist is allowed to associate with. This is a horrific punishment for a person whose entire life revolved around the church for thirty years and whose entire family are members.
That’s when she decided to speak out publicly.
I listened to the audio version of this book and I think that was a good choice. She reads her own story and you can hear the emotions brought up. There is sadness for her lost life and anger at the people who deceived her. There is love for her family who decided to stand by her.
My only issue with the audio is that got slow in the middle. She spends a lot of time detailing growing up in Scientology. It was necessary information to have to understand what happened later but it didn’t keep my interest. I actually put this audio down for several months and didn’t intend to go back to it. I only listened again because I finished another book and didn’t have anything else with me while in the car. I’m glad I picked it back up. The last third of the book was very compelling.
I’d recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about Scientology or anyone who is in the mood for a different look at a celebrity memoir.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
“London, 1926. American-raised Maisie Musgrave is thrilled to land a job as a secretary at the upstart British Broadcasting Corporation, whose use of radio—still new, strange, and electrifying—is captivating the nation. But the hectic pace, smart young staff, and intimidating bosses only add to Maisie’s insecurity. Soon, she is seduced by the work—gaining confidence as she arranges broadcasts by the most famous writers, scientists, and politicians in Britain. She is also caught up in a growing conflict between her two bosses, John Reith, the formidable Director-General of the BBC, and Hilda Matheson, the extraordinary director of the hugely popular Talks programming, who each have very different visions of what radio should be. Under Hilda’s tutelage, Maisie discovers her talent, passion, and ambition. But when she unearths a shocking conspiracy, she and Hilda join forces to make their voices heard both on and off the air…and then face the dangerous consequences of telling the truth for a living.”
I love historical fiction and especially British historical fiction. I was thrilled to receive this book from my OTSP Secret Sister and had to read it immediately.
BBC radio was only allowed to broadcast during set hours and was not allowed to cover news. One of their most popular departments was Talks, headed by Hilda Matheson. It was unusual for a woman to be allowed to head a department. The head of the BBC, John Reith, was a very conservative man who asked all (male) applicants for executive positions two questions – Are you a Christian? and Do you have any character flaws?
He thought that Miss Matheson was too liberal in topics she wanted to cover. She also kept bringing in homosexuals to present topics. He did not approve but did seem strangely up to date on who had rumors circulating around about their sexuality. Their conflict was real and this novel examines their issues through the voice of Maisie, a secretary that they share. Reith warns her about being too ambitious and being exposed to the wrong kinds of people while working in the Talks department. Matheson encourages her to speak up and promote ideas for new shows. Eventually Maisie is enlisted by Matheson to spy on some new backers of the BBC who have ties to an increasingly unstable Germany.
Hilda Matheson was a fascinating woman who I’d never heard of before. She was a political secretary for Lady Astor, the first female Member of Parliament. Then she went to the BBC and after that she worked on the Africa Survey. She also became a radio critic and wrote a textbook on broadcasting. She was a lesbian who had relationships with several high society women in England. A book on her alone would have been fascinating.
There is spying, burgeoning feminism, the evolution of new technology, and arguments about censorship. What more could you want from one book?
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
I’ve been a Trump hater since the beginning but today was the first day he made me cry.
I’ve been frustrated almost to the point of tears before while trying to explain why as a woman I could never support him to people who didn’t want to hear but I’ve never totally lost it before. So why, after all the bullshit he’s said about women and Muslims and Mexicans and LGBT people and everyone other than U.S. born white men did today’s release of the recording of him bragging about grabbing women and kissing them and grabbing the pussy finally break me?
It’s because we’ve all been there.
We all have the stories. The grabbing, the groping, the men who won’t back off, the ones who feel like they are entitled to any woman’s time and body. Ask any woman. Don’t be surprised if she asks you which time you want to know about.
I was living in an apartment complex with a popular bike trail that connected to the parking lot. I walked out there after classes all the time. There were always people around. One day a guy came up behind me and grabbed me. He kissed me. When he let me go I did a quick scan. We were completely alone. That was really unusual. He told me that he had been watching me. I had never seen him before. I never have the snappy comeback or the instinctive right jab that I should in these situations but I instinctively knew to turn and start walking back to the parking lot. It wasn’t far. He walked beside me calmly and asked if I wanted to go out. I agreed in order to keep things peaceful and friendly since we were still alone. Then he matter of factly told me that he was married and his wife was pregnant. He was looking for someone to have sex with until his wife gave birth. I remember his next words. “Is that a problem for you?”
I turned and looked at him like he was the biggest idiot ever. “Yes, that’s a problem!” That’s when I got huffy. I was offended on his wife’s behalf. By then we were in the parking lot. He let me walk away. I think he was shocked that I had back talked him about his plan.
But here’s the thing. Turns out they lived in the apartment above me. He would stare at me in the parking lot or in the stairways. He watched me get my mail. I changed grocery stores because he worked at the one I had been going to. I rearranged my life to avoid him but it never occurred to me to say anything about it to anyone. Thinking about it now I really wish I would have gone up there and told his wife what was going on but I don’t think I’d change anything else I did. What’s the point? No one would have done anything. He wasn’t doing anything illegal.
And that’s the point. We rearrange our lives all the time to avoid these jerks and don’t think anything of it. It’s just the way it is.
You know how you can always tell if a movie or TV shows was written by a man? There’s a scene where a woman goes alone to her car in a dark parking lot. While she walks there, she is fumbling in her oversized bag for her keys. No, sir! Never happened. Ask any woman. We know if we are going to have to walk into that situation. We got our keys out when we were in the last secure and well lighted area. We are holding them tightly in our hands in case we need to use them as a weapon. If we are able, we remotely unlock the car when we are about 10 steps away. Not so early that someone could get to it before us but in time for us not have to slow down much to get safely in the car.
We all know that because we are all taught to protect ourselves from men who feel entitled to us. We are universally taught how to protect ourselves because men aren’t universally taught that we aren’t their property.
So to hear a man bragging about how he grabs women against their will broke me.
And don’t even “Not all men” me. I know the majority of men are fine. But let a woman go walking somewhere alone and she’ll be able to tell you the location of every man under the age of 65 within 100 yards of her. I’ve had a man get within an inch of my face and roar at me. I’ve been yelled at by a guy in a car while I was in the dog park who wanted to me to watch him masturbate. These were in the last few years. Don’t try telling me that it’s a compliment. I’m in my 40s and believe me, I don’t dress up all pretty to go to the dog park. I was just the closest female human at the time.
I had my hot bath with a candle and small cry. Now, I’m more pissed off than anything. This isn’t locker room talk. This is bragging about participating in terrorizing an entire gender for our whole lives. It’s time to call out the supporters of this toxic masculinity.
“In a time of death and terror, Leymah Gbowee brought Liberia’s women together–and together they led a nation to peace. As a young woman, Gbowee was broken by the Liberian civil war, a brutal conflict that tore apart her life and claimed the lives of countless relatives and friends. As a young mother trapped in a nightmare of domestic abuse, she found the courage to turn her bitterness into action, propelled by her realization that it is women who suffer most during conflicts–and that the power of women working together can create an unstoppable force. In 2003, the passionate and charismatic Gbowee helped organize and then led the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, a coalition of Christian and Muslim women who sat in public protest, confronting Liberia’s ruthless president and rebel warlords, and even held a sex strike. With an army of women, Gbowee helped lead her nation to peace.”
War came over Liberia in waves. First Charles Taylor took power and then a group of rebels fought him. Each group terrorized the citizens. The soldiers were boys with guns who were told to take what they needed as they moved through the country. They murdered and stole and raped their way across the country.
Leymah Gbowee had just graduated from high school when the fighting started. She had a bright future ahead of her and it all collapsed. Suddenly, getting food and water and a safe place to sleep was the only priorities. She went from being an aspiring doctor to being a mother of four children trapped in an abusive relationship in a few years. She got a job working with trauma counselors during a time of relative peace. She loved the work and was able to move into working with women who were the most impacted by the fighting.
When the war started again she mobilized the women in the capital and in the refugee camps to stage sit ins to protest for peace. She claims that her story shows how God worked in Liberia through the women’s prayer. I say that it shows the exact opposite. The mass protests (and prayers) were not effective until they were paired with direct political action. They would protest for weeks and then she’d get mad because nothing was happening. At this point they would get in the faces of the men who were obstructing the peace and cause change to happen.
To give all the credit for this to God erases the power and bravery of the women who stepped up and said, “Enough!”
This isn’t a fairy tale about bringing peace. Their world was cruel and heartbreaking. Leymah sacrificed her family over and over. She is open about drinking to cope with what her life had become. This book was published in 2011 just before she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work.
A documentary about her work called Pray the Devil Back To Hell was made. You can watch it for free on Amazon. It puts faces to the women who she writes about.
I’d recommend this for anyone who loves women’s history and the power of women to demand change in the world.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
He had been born at the shelter and adopted as a kitten. He was returned to the shelter after 11 months for being too active. He’d been there over year before we found him. The husband wanted him because he was cleaning himself when he first saw him and personal hygiene is important. He was also hanging out with a calico in the cat room and he figured that was good practice for living with Powder.
It took him a long time to get comfortable. Every step was a hard one. He hid in a closet for weeks and then under the bed for longer. We knew when he started coming out at night because he was finding cat toys under couches and bringing them out to play.
After a while he’d come out but wouldn’t come into the living room. He’d sit at the doorway and look in. I’m assuming it was a Powder rule that he wasn’t welcome. Now he hangs out in the living room with us. The final frontier was the bed.
This was this morning. Now he has his own designated space during reading time.
He’s a thief. He takes anything he can. Let’s not forget the Fitbit incident. He loves to steal ear plugs. He plays with them and then leaves them for Freckles to eat. We’ve been getting better about putting the ear plugs in drawers. The other day I heard Freckles crunching on something and she didn’t seem happy. Turns out Paul had bit the earbuds off a pair of headphones and fed them too her. She didn’t like this new type of crunchy ear candy. I got them from her before she ate them.
He tries so hard to be tough but Powder still steals his food if we don’t watch. The other day Freckles jumped up on the bed and laid down partially on top of him. He was so offended. He took a second to psych himself up. Then he puffed himself has big as he could and hissed right in her face. She was asleep already and didn’t react. He was so sad. He looked over at me. I commiserated with him. “It’s hard being a bad ass when no one notices.”
Here’s to seeing what else you decide to do now that you are comfortable.
“Everfair is a wonderful Neo-Victorian alternate history novel that explores the question of what might have come of Belgium’s disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier. Fabian Socialists from Great Britain join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo’s “owner,” King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated.”
Laurie Albin has a complicated home life. He has a wife named Daisy with whom he has children. He has a secretary/mistress named Ellen living in his house with whom he also has children. He has just brought home Lisette, another mistress. He has also decided to move his whole family to Africa to help set up a new country. He promptly then abandons Daisy, Lisette, and most of the children when he heads back to England with Ellen and one son forever. They don’t really miss him though. Daisy and Lisette have been lovers since Laurie brought Lisette home.
That’s just part of one family to keep track of in this sweeping stories that takes place over decades in many countries across Africa and with a huge cast of characters.
The British settlers are one aspect of Everfair. There are also African-American missionaries led by Mrs. Hunter. She’s a woman who believes that absolutely nothing is more important than converting souls to Christianity. She’ll stand in the way of humanitarian aid if it doesn’t include Bibles. She’ll refuse to work with other people for the good of everyone if they aren’t Christian. She also is upset with the French woman Lisette because she is mixed race but living the life of a European white woman.
Tink is a Chinese man who was being held by Leopold’s men. He escaped and now is the mechanical guru of Everfair. He loves making ever more advanced artificial limbs for people maimed in wars. He invents better and better airships.
King Mwenda and Queen Josina are the African leaders of the area that Leopold seized and then sold to the colonists of Everfair. They maintain that it is still their land to govern. They were willing to work with the colonists to get rid of the Belgians but now they want to take control back.
Other characters come and go. The book takes place between 1889 and 1919. There can be large jumps in time and/or place between chapters. It is important to pay close attention to the notations of where and when the action is taking place.
I think this book was ambitious in its scope and ultimately didn’t stand up to it. There is so much going on that some story lines just disappear. There are characters that are in the story and then you just never hear from again.
I enjoyed the characters and their interactions with each other. But there was a time when a character heard that another war was looming and expressed frustration that there was yet another one. I felt the same way. It was one world conflict after another with a lot of the time in between compressed or skipped over.
The technology that is so important in the steampunk genre didn’t feel fully formed either. The imaginative artificial limbs were wonderful. Everyone had several to wear for different occasions. Some were weaponized. Others were just pretty. I didn’t get a great feel for the airships though. They were being powered with some sort of local magic earth that was never explained. I wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be a nod to the uranium of the area or not.
This is a hard book to decide if I liked it or not. What is on the page is interesting and worth reading but you are left with a sense that something is missing. It could have been more. Perhaps if the scope was narrowed, it could have gone more in depth and I would have liked the overall story more.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
“The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed. Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.”
This book is amazing. That is all. Go preorder it.
I was reading this on my Kindle app and was highlighting like crazy. Trevor Noah has been an outsider all his life. In South Africa under apartheid there were four racial categories – white, black, colored, and Indian. Colored people were the descendants of interracial relationships in the past. There was no category for 50/50 black/white children because it couldn’t legally happen. He chose to identify as black because that’s what his mother was but he wasn’t accepted there either.
Growing up both defined by and outside of such a strict racial hierarchy sharpened his insights.
“That is the curse of being black and poor, and it is a curse that follows you from generation to generation. My mother calls it “the black tax.” Because the generations who came before you have been pillaged, rather than being free to use your skills and education to move forward, you lose everything just trying to bring everyone behind you back up to zero.”
“British racism said, “If the monkey can walk like a man and talk like a man, then perhaps he is a man.” Afrikaner racism said, “Why give a book to a monkey?”
He talks about history when describing why having a friend named Hitler wasn’t considered strange.
“Every country thinks their history is the most important, and that’s especially true in the West. But if black South Africans could go back in time and kill one person, Cecil Rhodes would come up before Hitler. If people in the Congo could go back in time and kill one person, Belgium’s King Leopold would come way before Hitler. If Native Americans could go back in time and kill one person, it would probably be Christopher Columbus or Andrew Jackson.”
“Holocaust victims count because Hitler counted them. Six million people killed. We can all look at that number and rightly be horrified. But when you read through the history of atrocities against Africans, there are no numbers, only guesses. It’s harder to be horrified by a guess.”
This is the story of growing up illegally because his mother fought to make a place for him even before the fall of apartheid. She was a visionary. However, even after apartheid there wasn’t a place for him to make a legal living as easily as it was to make an illegal one in the townships. He talks about the saying about teaching a man to fish vs giving him a fish. He points out that it doesn’t work if you don’t also help him get a fishing pole.
This isn’t the story of how he became a comedian or how he ended up taking over for Jon Stewart as the host of The Daily Show. That all comes later. This is the story of the world that shaped him into the person he is today. It is funny. It is horrifying. It is necessary reading.
I received this book from NetGalley.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: