Random (but not really)

Friday, January 6, 2023

I Earned This

Specific soundbites have grated on my nerves in recent days, specifically an elected legislator claiming “I’ve earned this goddamn job”

Legislators are, whether they want to recognize it or not, public servants.

legislator
: one that makes laws especially for a political unit
Etymology
Latin legis lator, literally, proposer of a law, from legis (genitive of lex law) + lator proposer, from ferre (past participle latus) to carry, propose

They serve in office at the pleasure of the people who elected them.

serve
verb
1. To work for (someone) as a servant: The steward serves the king.
2.
a. To prepare and offer
b. To place food before (someone); wait on
3.
a. To provide goods and services for (customers)
b. To supply (goods or services) to customers
4. To assist the celebrant during (Mass).
5.
a. To meet the requirements of; suffice for
b. To be of assistance to or promote the interests of; aid
6.
a. To work through or complete (a period of service)
b. To be in prison for (a period or term)
c. Sports To be removed from play for a specified period because of (a penalty).
7. To fight or undergo military service for: served the country for five years in the navy.
8. To give homage and obedience to: served God.
9. To act toward (another) in a specified way: She has served me ill.
10. To copulate with; service. Used of male animals.

These positions are not earned, they are a privilege granted by the people they represent.

privilege
noun
: a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor : prerogative
especially : such a right or immunity attached specifically to a position or an office
verb
1 : to grant a privilege to
2 : to accord a higher value or superior position to

Claiming one has earned any position of public service is completely failing to understand the privilege of their place, and their duty to serve the American people—not their personal desires for power.

earn
: to receive money as payment for work that you do
: to get something that you deserve

That a rich white man making these claims should be a surprise to no one.

Kevin McCarthy’s home is an 8,800 square foot California mansion.

The price tag on his home is $21,000,000 USD. Inside, his mansion is as lavish, with a wine cellar, tennis court, two indoor pools, 10 bedrooms, and 12 bathrooms.

If a politician believes they have earned a privilege, they seem to be missing the point of their position.

public servant
: a government official or employee
The first known use of public servant was in 1671
A public servant is generally a person who is employed by the government, either through appointment or election.

 

Written by Michelle at 8:53 am    

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Categories: Politics  

Monday, January 2, 2023

The Books of December

BlitzSince several of these books ended up in my best of the year posts, and some others I don’t feel like commenting on right now, here we have the books of December.

Fantasy

Blitz (2022) Daniel O’Malley (The Checquy Files) 9/10

Paranormal Bromance (2014) Carrie Vaughn 8.5/10

Posthumous Education (2022) Drew Hayes (Fred, the Vampire Accountant) 8.5/10

Romance

Make a Scene (2020) Mimi Grace 7/10

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care (2022) Ashley Herring Blake (Bright Falls)

Mystery

Posthumous EducationAgatha Christie
Miss Marple: A Caribbean Mystery (1964) 9/10
Superintendent Battle: The Secret of Chimneys (1925), The Seven Dials Mystery (1929) 7/10

All Lessons Learned (2018) Charlie Cochrane (Cambridge Fellows) 6/10

Wonton Terror (2019) Vivien Chien (A Noodle Shop Mystery) 5/10

Audio Books

Shadow Police series by Paul Cornell narrated by Damian Lynch
The Severed Streets, Audio Edition (2015) 9/10, Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? Audio Edition (2016) 9/10

Murderbot series by Martha Wells narrated by Kevin R. Free
All Systems Red, Audio Edition (2017) 9.5/10, Artificial Condition, Audio Edition (2018) 9.5/10, Rogue Protocol, Audio Edition (2018) 9.5/10, Exit Strategy, Audio Edition (2018) 9.5/10

Non-Fiction

Paranormal Bromance Knowing Why: Adult-Diagnosed Autistic People on Life and Autism (2018) Autistic Self Advocacy Network 9/10

We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation (2021) Eric Garcia 8.5/10

Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism (2018) edited by Barb Cook & Michelle Garnett 8/10

Taking Charge of Adult ADHD: Proven Strategies to Succeed at Work, at Home, and in Relationships. (2021) Russell A. Barkley and Christine M. Benton 7/10

Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism (2015) Barry M. Prizant


Written by Michelle at 7:20 pm    

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Categories: Books & Reading,Monthly Round-Up  

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The Books of 2022: Bits & Pieces

And now for the final bits and pieces!

Best Book Covers of 2022

Well, my top covers of the year were not published in 2022.

WitchmarkWitchmark (2018) C.L. Polk (The Kingston Cycle)
Publisher: Tor
Cover design by Will Staehle

 

This is far and away my favorite cover of the year. I adore the monochromatic blue, and the simple silhouettes, the trees bleeding into the stars, this misleading reflection upon the wet or icy streets. The whole thing gives of a sense of impending magic.


Proper Scoundrels (2021) Allie Therin (Roaring Twenties Magic)
Publisher: Carina Press
No cover artist mentioned or easily found.

 

This is my second favorite cover. It is also monochromatic, but this time in red, and also features silhouettes and line drawings. The art deco elements and the dress of the two characters give you a sense of time, as well as the class difference between the two characters. And the very subtle sense of movement in one character.


I did love some of the covers of books published in 2022. Just not as much as I loved the covers of Proper Scoundrels and Witchmark.

Husband MaterialHusband Material (2022) Alexis Hall (London Calling)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Cover design and illustration by Elizabeth Turner Stokes

 

This cover, like the previous, is lovely. But as a sequel it lacks a little of the punch of the first book, since it’s expected to match the patterns of the first.

Despite that, I love the lines and bold colors.


A Brides Guide to Marriage and MurderA Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder (2022) Dianne Freeman (Countess of Harleigh Mystery)
Publisher: Kensington
No cover artist given or easily found.

 

This is another sequel, so it lacks the unexpectedness of the first book, but I do love the doodle style against a varying shades of pink.


An Impossible ImpostorAn Impossible Impostor (2022) Deanna Raybourn (Veronica Speedwell)
Publisher: Berkley
Book design by Kristin del Rosario

 

All of the covers in this series are stunningly gorgeous. The immediately draw your attention and then keep it, as you suss out the little details. The only ding is the color, and that’s definitely a me thing.


Highest Rated Books of 2022

Two of these I’ve already talked about, the other I’m not going to talk about.

Blitz  (2022) Daniel O’Malley (The Checquy Files) 9/10

No Man’s Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain’s Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I  (2020) Wendy Moore 9/10

Knowing Why: Adult-Diagnosed Autistic People on Life and Autism  (2018) Autistic Self Advocacy Network  9/10

 

And because it wouldn’t be a Michelle post without them…

2022 Stats!

You have read 245 245/12 (2042%)I read 247 books this year.

Goodreads is off by two books, but since I have to manually add anything that isn’t a kindle book, that’s not a surprise.

I am not going to go back and figure out what is missing.

And yes, I will continue to keep my reading goal as 12, because it’s so satisfying to be 2000% over my goal.

Although 247 is almost a 100 books fewer than last year, 2020 and 2021 were outliers, and you can see this is still the third largest number of books I’ve read since I started keeping track in 2003. (I started tracking halfway through the year, so 2003 is actually twice what was tracked.)

2022 Yearly Totals

I read 51,969 pages this year, which is about 76.25 pages a day. I listened to audio books for 16 days, 20 hrs, and 15 mins. To clarify, I limit listening to audio books to when I’m exercising, doing chores (ie cleaning, cooking) and when we’re on road trips.

min max average chart

No record breaking months in 2022, and I am totally fine with that.

Genre-wise, the spread was similar to previous years, with mysteries almost–but not quite–making my most read genre for the year.

Genre chart

 

 

Romance: 125
Mystery: 108
Fantasy: 85
Boinking: 85
Historical: 67
Non-Fiction: 17
Science Fiction: 10
Anthology: 7
Comic: 4
YA: 3
Fiction: 0

These numbers do not add up, because a single book generally fits multiple genres.


My percent rereads is down from last year, but still pretty high.

reread

The thing I find interesting about this chart is that is roughly charts my mental state over time–the more depressed and anxious I am, the more I reread old favorites.

 

I’ve been trying to stretch my reading horizons in recent years, and, I’ll be honest, the pandemic wasn’t so great for that.

Male author/artist: (55) (21.83%)
Female author/artist: (185) (73.41%)
NB author/artist: (10) (3.97%)
Other: (2) (0.79%)

I’ve always preferred female authors, and my running total since 2003 is 62% female authors, but my long-term file has been limited about other traits, so I’ve pulled these numbers from the Book Riot Reading Log I’ve also been using for the past several years. (Yes, I keep to separate workbooks AND a blog, which is why I don’t especially care about Good Reads and any other social reading site that wants me to manually enter books read just isn’t happening.)

Queer author/artist: (43) (17.27%)
Queer protagonist: (122) (49.00%)

Although I’m reading plenty of books with queer protagonists, I would like to read more books written by minority authors, be it POC, Queer, or Disability Rep

POC author/artist: (18) (7.23%)
POC protagonist: (65) (26.10%)

Trans author/artist: (1) (0%)
Trans protagonist: (1) (0%)

Disability Rep Author/Artist: (3) (1%)
Disability Rep Protagonist: (13) (5%)

And that, I think, is enough. I read a lot of books this year, not as many as last year, but that’s ok.

2022 Posts

The Books of 2022: Mysteries
The Books of 2022: Mystery Covers
The Books of 2022: Fantasy
The Books of 2022: Fantasy Covers
The Books of 2022: Non-Fiction
The Books of 2022: Non-Fiction Book Covers
The Books of 2022: Romance, Comics, and Audio Books
The Books of 2022: Romance Covers

Previous Years

The Books of 2021
The Books of 2020
The Books of 2019
The Books of 2018
The Books of 2017
The Books of 2016
The Books of 2015
The Books of 2014
The Books of 2013
The Books of 2012
The Books of 2011
The Books of 2010
The Books of 2009
The Books of 2008

Written by Michelle at 10:24 am    

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Categories: Books & Reading,Yearly Round-Up  

Friday, December 30, 2022

The Books of 2022: Mysteries

I love a good mystery. Detective, cozy, historical, police procedural, I enjoy them all. Thrillers less so, because I dislike being scared.

Since I started keeping track, a third of the books I’ve read have been mysteries, although sometimes the mystery is the secondary element to a fantasy setting or a romance. Much as you know you’re going to get an HEA in a romance, in a mystery you’re pretty sure there will be resolution in the end, and at least know the perpetrator, even if they don’t necessarily end up in prison.

This is the genre where I have the most authors on auto-buy–and where I am likely to read a new book in a series as soon as I receive it.

In fact, every single book on this list is part of a series. That’s not to say there aren’t great stand-alone mysteries, but with a series you’re already familiar with the characters and the setting, so they’re perfect for easing into when you don’t necessarily have a lot of bandwidth.

And with that, here are my favorite mysteries of the past year.

~ 8.5/10 ~

Calypso, Corpses, and Cooking (2022) (A Caribbean Kitchen Mystery)
by Raquel V. Reyes
[Cozy, Food]

 

This is the follow up to Mango, Mambo, and Murder and I had been waiting expectantly for it. Miriam Quiñones-Smith and her husband and son have returned to their hometown where Miriam has struggled with finding a job in her field (food anthropology) and her (terrible) mother-in-law.

She has gotten a regular slot on the Spanish-speaking TV channel hosting a weekly cooking/food history show, and also involved in murder.

I absolutely adore the food anthropology bits.

The Celtic pagan tradition of feeding the dead was not unlike the Mexican Dia de los Muertos practice of taking your relative’s favorite meal to their grave site. The Japanese did something similar during the Buddhist Obon festival.

 

 

The Missing PageThe Missing Page (2022) (Page & Sommers)
by Cat Sebastian
[Historical, LGBT, Romance*]

 

Set in England in 1948.

This is the sequel to Hither, Page which is about two men who served in the second world war—one as a surgeon and one as a spy. Both struggle to deal with what they saw and did in the war, and also their relationship—which is illegal.

James has been called to Cornwall for the reading of his uncle’s will

The more Leo thought about it, the less he liked it. Leo had read this detective story and he had seen the film and knew that when you made the heirs gather together, they immediately started putting exotic poisons into one another’s tea. They simply couldn’t help themselves.

I am often annoyed by stories where the couple doesn’t talk to each other about things that bother them, but in historicals—where the relationship is illegal—it makes sense that neither partner knows how to talk about their feelings and needs in a relationship.

 

~ 8/10 ~

Lindenshaw Mysteries by Charlie Cochrane
A Carriage of Misjustice (2020), Lock, Stock and Peril (2022)
[Cozy, LGBT]

A Carriage of MisjusticeLock, Stock and Peril

I love a good cozy. This series features a police officer and a school teacher who fall in love in the first book, and have a solid relationship going forward, which is something else I love. I find will-they-won’t-they annoying and will often quit a series when the main character ends every book with a relationship on solid footing, and opens the next with the couple on the skids.

Because one of the main characters is a police officer, it actually makes sense there would be multiple murders (despite their living in a small town) but I adore that they recognize the cozy-book situation where there are often a ridiculous number of murders around a main character.

While matters hadn’t quite become as bad as one of those television series where the amateur detective was dealing with death in their vicinity on a weekly basis, it did feel like the universe was having a laugh.
— A Carriage of Misjustice

The Best Corpse for the Job (2014), Jury of One (2016), Two Feet Under (2018), Old Sins (2019)

 

Purloined PoinsettiaPurloined Poinsettia (2022) (Motts Cold Case Mystery)
by Dahlia Donovan
[Cozy, LGBT]

 

Motts is Ace and is on the spectrum, which makes this a unique book in many ways, all of which I like.

This book ends the story arc with the murder of Motts childhood best friend being solved, so although each book can be read as a stand-alone, if you are interested in that specific cold case, you will want to start at the first book.

Poisoned Primrose, Pierced Peony, Pickled Petunia

 

Body at Buccaneers BayBody at Buccaneer’s Bay (2021) (Secrets and Scrabble)
by Josh Lanyon
[Cozy, LGBT]

 

Ellery moved to Pirate’s Cove after he inherited his great aunt’s home and book store, and decides to try to make a living there.

This is another LGBT cozy that gently pokes fun at the genre.

“Uh, you live in Pirate’s Cove, right? That quaint New England village with a homicide rate second only to Cabot’s Cove?”

There is a romance that builds slowly over several books, and starts with a friendship between the two characters.

Each of these books works as a stand-alone, so you don’t have to read them in order if you don’t want to.

 

The Mystery of the SpiritsThe Mystery of the Spirits (2021) (Snow & Winter)
by C.S. Poe
[LGBT *]

 

This is one of my favorite series going. Sebastian owns an antique store and has a form of complete color-blindness that renders him legally blind, even if he does have vision. As I noted when discussing covers, this series always renders Sebastian as he would see himself: grayscale and washed out.

Sebastian eventually marries Calvin, a police officer who struggles with PTSD from his military service.

One of the things I like best about this series is Calvin’s story arc.

His military service had forever changed who Calvin was as a man. But two years ago he couldn’t even admit to himself that he had a serious problem. A year ago he could hardly say, “I have therapy tonight.” Instead, he’d say, “I’m seeing Dr. Chambers tonight.” So yes, he’d cried at the recollection, he’d allowed that loss in the past to affect his decision-making in the current, but he’d also willingly told me that story. It was huge progress.

Each book should work as a stand-alone, but the relationship does build over the course of the series, so you might want to start with the first book The Mystery of Nevermore

 

RiccardinoRiccardino (2020/2021) (Inspector Montalbano)
by Andrea Camilleri translated by Stephen Sartarelli
[Police]

 

This is the final Montalbano book, and was written years before Camilleri’s death, given to his editor to publish after his death, and then revised when Camilleri lived longer than he was expecting to, and continued to write.

Montalbano suddenly felt extremely agitated. Some years back he’d had the brilliant idea to tell a local writer the story of a case he’d conducted, and the guy had immediately spun it into a novel. Since hardly anyone reads anymore in Italy, nothing came of it. And so, being unable to say no to that tremendous pain-in-the-ass of a man, he’d gone ahead and told him about a second case, and then a third and a fourth, which the author then wrote up in his way, using an invented language and working from his imagination.

Do. Not. Start. Here.

The individual books work as stand-alones, but this is the conclusion to the series and should be read as such.

I will miss all the lovingly described meals Montalbano ate.

The first book in the series is The Shape of Water (1994/2002) but after the third book you can pretty much jump around the series.

 

A Sanctuary for SouldenA Sanctuary for Soulden (2021) (The Lords of Bucknall Club)
by J.A. Rock and Lisa Henry
[Historical, LGBT, Romance*]

 

Set in an alternate England in the early 1800s.

This is a series of interwoven but stand alone mysteries set in an alternate England where same sex marraiges were allowed.

In 1783, the Marriage Act Amendment was introduced in England to allow marriages between same-sex couples. This was done to strengthen the law of primogeniture and to encourage childless unions in younger sons and daughters of the peerage, as an excess of lesser heirs might prove burdensome to a thinly spread inheritance.

This is book four of the series, but they can easily be read in any order, and skipping books is also fine. I read the second book, A Case for Christmas before this one, and never read book one and three.

The cover and description make the story sound fluffy and silly, so be aware there are dark themes, from grief to PTSD.

“My father wears a set of false teeth. Expensive things, wondrously made. Do you know what they call them? Waterloo teeth. I asked him once if he ever wondered if it was my brother’s teeth rattling around in his skull now.”

The mysteries are interesting and I particularly like the way the grief and the PTSD were addressed (that is, they were addressed realistically).

 

Murder Under Her SkinMurder Under Her Skin (2021) (Pentecost and Parker)
by Stephen Spotswood
[Historical, LGBT]

 

Set in NYC and rural VA in 1946.

The sequel to Fortune Favors the Dead finds Will enjoying becoming a private investigator and her work with Ms Pentetcost. However, a call from her old boss at the circus draws her back into that world as she tries to discover who murdered her friend.

With no blood pumping through it, Ruby’s flesh had gone the sickly pale of the dead. Without that rosy background glow, the ink of her tattoos stood out brilliantly, floating on top of her skin like leaves on a pond.

I like the characters in this series, but also the time period, and the peeks at how life was for those who were on the fringes of society.

 

A Perilous PerspectiveA Perilous Perspective (2022) (Lady Darby Mystery)
by Anna Lee Huber
[Historical]

 

Set in Scotland in 1832

The Lady Darby series begins with Kiera something of an outcast, because after the death of her husband it is discovered she was forced to do the art for his anatomy book–with source material sourced from resurrection men. Her past allows Kiera to look at bodies with detatchment, and notice when things are not as they should be–in art and in bodies.

If the forger had been able to replicate Van Dyck’s style and technique more exactly, I think I would have been less upset, for then they would have at least exhibited skill equal to that of Van Dyck, or nearly so. I was no prig. I appreciated talent wherever it appeared. But to pass off this mediocre effort as the work of a master was frankly infuriating.

Although Kiera and her now husband, Sebastian, do work as private inquiry agents, she has begun to again take comissions are a portratist.

I found this book much better than the previous, mostly because I found the birth scene at the end of A Wicked Conceit to be incredibly annoying and over-the-top ridiculous.

Theoretically these books should stand on their own, however, the development of the relationship between Kiera and Sebastian is an overarching story arc.

These are books I am pretty sure Grandmom would have loved.

The first book is The Anatomist’s Wife (2012) and that’s probably where you should begin.

 

An Impossible ImpostorAn Impossible Impostor (2022) (Veronica Speedwell)
by Deanna Raybourn
[Historical]

 

Set in England in 1900.

This series is a bit of a romp, in a delightful way. Victoria is an unrepentant blue stocking and adventuress, and insists upon behaving as she pleases–although she typically finds it far easier to do so outside of England.

She also likes speaking her mind.

“I do not like the way he speaks to his sister and I certainly do not like the way he speaks of his grandmother’s companion— Anjali, I believe he said. He talks of her as though she were some useful thing to be loaned— a book or a horse.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Stoker said absently. “That sort of man would never loan a horse.”

Each book has a stand-alone mystery, but as with the Lady Darby series, the relationship between Victoria and Stoker develops over the course of the series. The first book is A Perilous Undertaking

 

Lady Odelias SecretLady Odelia’s Secret (2022) (Lady Helena Investigates)
by Jane Steen
[Historical]

 

Set in England in 1882.

This is the sequel to Lady Helena Investigates and finds Helena slowly reaching the end of her mourning period.

Here, Helena is drawn into events around her sister.

I took the paper from her. “‘ How long will you get away with it, you—’” I stopped reading. “Good heavens, I’ve never actually seen that word written down.”

To be clear, this story unfolds slowly, and is not one of action and adventure, so it’s definitely a cozy rather than a thriller.

I really like this series, and hope I don’t have to wait four more years for the next book in the series.

 

The Secret of Bow LaneThe Secret of Bow Lane (2022) (Kat Holloway)
by Ashley Gardner
[Historical]

 

Set in England in 1882

Mrs Halloway is a cook, but has been drawn into several mysteries, first from a murder that occurred in a house where she was working and then, sometimes, through her association with her beau, Daniel.

Although each book in the series is a stand-alone mystery, there is a significant amount of character development not just of Kat, but of those around her, from her assistant to the young lady of the house.

“I doubt Mr. Thanos would instigate any goings-on,” I said. “But very well, I take your point. If Mrs. Bywater heard they met alone in her house, she’d be incensed.”

“Maybe he’d have to marry her,” Tess put in happily. “That would be wonderful. Stay downstairs, Mrs. H., and let them kiss if they like.”

I look forward to every new entry in this series.

A Soupçon of Poison (2015), Death Below Stairs (2018)
 

A Brides Guide to Marriage and MurderA Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder (2022) (Countess of Harleigh Mystery)
by Dianne Freeman
[Cozy, Historical]

 

Set in London in 1900.

This is another series where I look forward to a new book coming out every year. There is nothing specific that stands out, it is just that the stories are fun, and pull me in and keep me engaged.

Also, the main character’s sense of humor.

“His own wife?” George looked ill.

“Wives have been known to murder their husbands.”

He clutched at his chest. “And you tell me this on our wedding night?”

I made a dismissive motion. “You probably have nothing to worry about.”

“Probably?” His voice rose on the last syllable.

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder (2018)

 

  • LGBT: 7
  • Historical: 8
  • Romance: 1

The Books of 2022: Yearly Reading Roundup
The Books of 2022: Mystery Covers

Written by Michelle at 5:03 pm    

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Thursday, December 29, 2022

The Books of 2022: Romance, Comics, and Audio Books

I once again read a lot of romances, however, more than half the romances I read were rereads, and they don’t count in the end-of-the-year roundup. Which I means I read some disappointing new-to-me romances (just over 20% of the romances I read had a rating lower than 7, and the new-to-me reads had an average rating of 6.8). Luckily, there were only three books that I disliked (though now I come back to it, I want to rate one of the books lower than the 4 I gave it).

All of which is to say I didn’t read a lot of new romances I loved.

Which is why I’m adding audio books and comics to this post, as I only read one stand-out comic. I did listen to 33 audio books, but the way I listen to audio books means they are almost entirely books I’ve read before. Plus, I did a complete re-listen to several series, to get caught up so I could read forward (Rivers of London, Jane Yellowrock, which were 24 books for both series).

Romance

~ 8.5/10 ~

Agents of WinterAgents of Winter (2022) (The Agency)
by Ada Maria Soto
[LGBT]

 

His Quiet Agent is a comfort read for me. One character is ace, the other is demi, so there is absolutely no boinking, and although the author didn’t do it on purpose, both characters are neurodiverse.

Since His Quiet Agent was published in 2017, and the story snippet set after in 2018, I was assuming there wouldn’t me another story.

I was delighted to be wrong.

To be clear, neither this nor the first book is an easy read, as Arthur deals with a death in the first book, and then his first Christmas after than death in the second, and Martin’s past is a nightmare, yet I find the story as a whole is incredibly comforting.

“I’m sorry, which one is B-837?”

“Romantic or sexual involvement with another agency employee or contractor.”

“I… um…” Arthur felt his cheeks flush and didn’t know what to say. It had never crossed his mind to fill out the “Fucking Form” as it was referred to by the crasser employees. His and Martin’s relationship had slid from friendship into something deeper and intertwined so smoothly that there was never a date he could point to on a calendar and say ‘Yes, here is where our relationship began and I will put that into box 14A.’

“So, who is this Arthur?”

“My friend.”

“Don’t lie to your lawyer.”

“He-” Is the name I put on form B-837. “Is someone who accepts me exactly as I am and has my heart for it.”


~ 8/10 ~

Always Only YouAlways Only You (2020) (Bergman Brothers)
by Chloe Liese
[Contemporary *]

 

This was another recommendation—the female lead has ASD and rheumatoid arthritis, and is the grump in the grumpy-sunshine trope.

The psychologist said I’d have been diagnosed sooner if not for my fantastic ability to follow rules, copy behaviors, and pretend I was “normal.” Everyone hits a breaking point, the shrink said. It was only a matter of time before I’d have to stop pretending and get honest about my neurological difference.

 

I like my books. They’re one of the most vital tools in my arsenal for navigating human behavior, to explore my feelings about the parts of life that most confuse me. Books help me feel a bit more connected to a world that often is hard to make sense of. Books are patient with me. They don’t laugh at me instead of with me. They don’t ask why I’m “always” frowning, or why I can’t sit still. Books welcome me— weirdness and all— and take me exactly as I am.


 

An Agreement with the SoldierAn Agreement with the Soldier (2021) (Necessary Arrangements)
by Sadie Bosque
[Historical *]

 

This isn’t a light story. It’s about grief and PTSD and addresses both in a realistic way, which means that falling in love with the heroine doesn’t fix he hero’s problems.

But the heroine has a loving and protected family, and the hero eventually finds other former soldiers who can support him, so things are ok in the end (this is a romance of course) but in a realistic way, which I very much appreciated.


 

Husband MaterialHusband Material (2022) (London Calling)
by Alexis Hall
[LGBT]

 

I love Alexis Hall’s writing.

All of it, in all the genres I’ve read.

However, being with a major publisher means said publisher tries to categorize his books into existing pigeonholes—and they simply don’t fit neatly.

Parts of this book are hilarious, but that doesn’t make the story a romantic comedy. It just means the humor and the silliness offset the darkness.

Luc is much better than he was in the previous book, but it is still a work in progress.

“But what if knowing it’ll make him feel better makes me feel worse?”

“Then maybe you need to revisit the does-he-have-power-over-you question.”

Oh. Right. My shoulders drooped. I was supposed to be… not like this anymore. “Why do people keep having power over me?”

There is a fair amount of darkness in this story, but it is offset by the humor.

Oliver took a deep breath. “You are not that kind of person. You just worry you might be every time somebody likes you.” That was at once reassuring and embarrassing.

“Stop knowing me,” I whined.

Which brings me to an aside, you’ll notice Paris Daillencourt Is About to Crumble is not on this list. Was it a bad book? No. But it was sure as hell NOT a romantic comedy, and despite the content warnings, I was not prepared for just how dark things got.

So, I’ll keep reading and recommending Alexis Hall, but also keep in mind that major publishers are going to shoehorn books into a category whether they fit or not.


  • LGBT: 2
  • Historical: 1

Graphic Novels

~ 8.5/10 ~

Valor WandsValor: Wands (2018)
by Isabelle Melançon, Megan Lavey-Heaton Editors
[Fantasy, Graphic Novel, YA]

 

My comic / graphic novel reading has been lax this year. I have them lined up, but since reading them requires (finding and) putting on reading glasses, I keep putting it off.


This is a lovely collection of short stories in the vein of folk and fairy tales.

Valor Wands Valor Wands


Audio Books

~ 8.5/10 ~

Rivers of London by by Ben Aaronovitch narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
[Fantasy, Mystery, Supernatural]
False Value, Audio Edition (2020), Amongst Our Weapons, Audio Edition (2022)

False Value Amongst Our Weapons

I’d say I’m not sure why I hadn’t listened to the audio version of False Value, except that it was published in 2020, so I know precisely what happened.

Even if I didn’t adore Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s narration, I’d still want to listen to these books, because they are generally so fast-paced I miss a lot my first read-through.

I looked up. The ceiling was a bog-standard suspended tile affair useful for covering up ducts, cables and xenomorph infiltrations.
False Value

Not the snark though. I almost always catch the snark.

(A) dozen or more kids were playing amongst the ruins.

“God, I hope they’ve had their tetanus jabs,” said Danni as we watched a pair of boys sled down a rubble heap on a piece of rusty corrugated iron.

“Don’t be such a mitherer,” said Brook. “If you don’t bloody your knees when you’re a kiddie, what kind of a childhood would that be?”

“One without septicemia?”
 — Amongst Our Weapons

Although he is not publishing one book a year, I am completely fine with that. I’d rather a book that takes longer than expected but is the book the author wanted, than a book the author shoves out because it was due.

The Books of 2022: Yearly Reading Roundup
The Books of 2022: Romance Covers

* boinking

Written by Michelle at 4:28 pm    

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Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The Books of 2022: Fantasy

For ages, Fantasy was the primary genre I read. I’d occasionally go on a mystery binge, but fantasy was always a close second. Primarily because I wanted my escapism to have nothing to do with the “real world” and fantasy is always perfect for that.

Then 2016 happened and I started reading more and more romance, because knowing everything would turn out ok in the end became paramount. I’ve been reading more fantasy in the past couple years, but mostly as a secondary to romance or mystery, because I really want my escapism to have nothing to do with the real world, but having a happy ending is still most important.

So much of the fantay I loved this year had romance as a secondary theme–or was part of a series I’ve been reading for several years now.

We’ll see what happens next year.

 

~ 9/10 ~

 

BlitzBlitz (2022) (The Checquy Files)
by Daniel O’Malley
[Mystery, Supernatural]

 

It came as a complete surprise that a third Checquy Files book was being published. It was four years between The Rook and it’s follow-up, and it’s been six years since Stiletto, so I honestly wasn’t expecting another book.

This was the best kind of surprise.

Although Myfanwy and Odette make appearances, they are not the main characters. This book is split between several members of the Checquy during the bombing of London (hence the name) and a modern timeline following Lyn, who comes into her powers as an adult.

“Help!” screamed Georgina. “Help!”

Lyn shot her a startled glance. After their torturous silence, the girl’s scream was shocking, but of course it made perfect sense.

Absolutely, let’s make this someone else’s problem!

Be aware, Lyn’s part of the first half of the book is somewhat slow. I found it fascinating (we don’t learn a ton about The Estate in the first two books) and here we got the process of the Checquy finding an adult powered individual, bring them in, and training them. The second half of the book, however, takes off and never slows down.


~ 8.5/10 ~

 

The Hourglass ThroneThe Hourglass Throne (2022) (The Tarot Sequence)
by K.D. Edwards
[LGBT, Supernatural]

 

I picked up The Last Sun soon after it came out, but the thumbnail cover made me think sword & sorcery, so I put off reading it, until I realized it was set in the modern world (guy in the background with a gun was the big hint there). I devoured it and the sequel, and then waited impatiently for the sequel. Luckily KD Edwards was sharing lots of tidbits and short stories in the interim.

Somehow, I managed to fail to preorder (I know, I know, and I have no idea how that happened) so when I realized it was out I got it and immediately read it.

The banter in this series is the best.

“You keep asking me if this is what it’s going to be like,” I said. “I have literally shared every moment of my existence with you. When did you see me sneak away and have different life experiences?”

This book ends Rune’s story arc, but the next book continues with a different character, and I can’t wait for it! (I’ll try super hard to remember to pre-order this one.)


 

Pack of LiesPack of Lies (2022) (Monster Hunt)
by Charlie Adhara
[LGBT, Romance*, Supernatural]

 

This is a spin-off of the Big Bad Wolf series, following Eli, a character who appeared in several of those books.

He had plenty of experience with criminal investigations. Nearly always from the other side of things, but still. Surely that still counted for something.

Since it’s a new series, with a new love interest, we meet Julian, and actor who is taking a break, and trying to deal with the unexpected death of his brother.


 

Posthumous EducationPosthumous Education (2022) (Fred, the Vampire Accountant)
by Drew Hayes
[Supernatural]

 

This is a self-published series that is up to book eight and remains a delight.

“Holy shit, who skinned Oscar the Grouch?”

To my near-shock, Deborah actually appeared a bit frightened by the suggestion. “Perish the thought. I avoid those things whenever possible. Some of us still remember the feral ones that used to roam wild.”

Both Krystal and I stared at the intruding vampire, but it was my wife who found her voice first. “I really hate that I’m not sure if you’re screwing with us or not.”

It is the story of Fred, the vampire accountant, who wears sweater vests and glasses (even though he no longer needs them). He is staid and boring and is happy that way, but events keep pushing him past his comfort zone and it’s fun and also really lovely.


 

Paranormal Bromance Paranormal Bromance (2014)
by Carrie Vaughn
[Novella, Supernatural]

 

This novella is set in the world of Kitty the Werewolf, and is about three Gen Xers who were attacked and turned.

The Family, run at the time by an okay guy named Arturo, offered to help us adapt to our new nocturnal lives. We could have stayed with him and others of his Family in his underground compound, worked for him, and he’d have looked after us and made sure we were fed. That sounded too much like moving back home, so the three of us found a basement apartment and decided to fend for ourselves.

It’s delightful.


 

A Restless TruthA Restless Truth (2022) (Last Binding)
by Freya Marske
[LGBT, Mystery, Romance*]

 

This is the sequel to A Marvellous Light and we shift from Robin to his sister Maud, who has gone to American to warn Elizabeth Navenby of possible danger, and then to act as her escort when she decides to return to England.

On the ship back she meets Violet, who has unexpectedly become an heiress, and also Lord Hawthorn, who her brother met previously.

“Companionship,” said Mrs. Bernard. “Surely.”

“I prefer my peace and quiet,” said Hawthorn.

“Someone to manage your household for you.”

“I am self-managing, ma’am.” An ironic bow of his head. “And I employ an excellent housekeeper.”

“What about children, my lord?” Violet asked sweetly. “The continuation of your ancient line? Don’t you want a young future earl of your own, to dandle on your knee?”

“I have cousins,” said Hawthorn, exactly as one flattened a fly with a newspaper.


 

That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a DemonThat Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon (2021) (Mead Mishaps)
by Kimberly Lemming
[Romance*]

 

This is exactly what the title says.

It is a delightful romp.


~ 8/10 ~

 

Amongst Our WeaponsAmongst Our Weapons (2022) (Rivers of London)
by Ben Aaronovitch
[Mystery, Supernatural]

 

Ben Aaronovitch has slowed down publishing the novels in this series, but has been writing comics and novellas, which I am 100% ok with. Yes, I want more Peter Grant stories, but I want the best Rivers of London books, and if he needs more time to get the story right, and if he has other stories in the world that want out, I’m great with that.

The Peter Grant books are police procedurals, but Peter is so snarky, the police bits always make me giggle.

Or, more precisely, we pried them out of their reluctant fingers by promising that everything that needed logging or signing would be logged and signed, and that the chain of custody would be maintained yea, even unto the end of days, or the first court appearance— whichever came first.

One thing I will continue to note is that Ben Aaronovitch does something I’ve just started to see in fiction—and he does it consistently.

a hefty-looking white woman with sharp blue eyes

He was a white man, looked to be in his fifties, with thinning brown hair cut short, regular features, pale gray eyes

Phillip was a young-looking forty-year-old white man with black hair and light brown eyes.

She was a tall, hippy white woman

It turned out to be a white woman in late middle age

typical London office jockeys, mostly white, mostly from affluent suburbs

The nervous young white man with floppy hair who served as receptionist

a small white woman in a gray zip-up hoody.

a teenaged white girl dressed incongruously in a blue knit twinset and pearls and a blond pageboy wig.

Part of the reason it works so well is because Peter is police, and so he naturally notes these things, but I am delighted to see it happening more and more.


 

Deadbeat DruidDeadbeat Druid (2022) (Adam Binder)
by David R. Slayton
[LGBT, Supernatural]

 

This book finishes the story arc begun in White Trash Warlock, and although I would like more stories about Adam, I’ll be ok if things end here with him. But I really do want more stories from this world.

“It’s more like webbing,” he said.

“Spiders?” Adam asked. He’d read enough fantasy novels that he did not want to confront anything that could throw webs across an entire landscape. The only question was if millions of little ones would be worse than several giant ones.

There is absolutely no good answer to this question.


 

Human EnoughHuman Enough (2019)
by ES Yu
[LGBT, Romance, Supernatural]

 

This came up as a recommendation several times, for several reasons: autistic character, ace character, vampires.

Noah always felt somewhat bad for lying about his “girlfriend” to his coworkers. It wasn’t that he was afraid of people knowing he was dating a guy; he just didn’t want anyone getting too interested in his dating life and finding out he was dating a vampire.

In part, this was a case of the cover working against the book—it didn’t feel like the description, so I kept skipping past it.

That was a mistake, it was a lovely


 

Reflection of a CurseReflection of a Curse (2022) (Romancing a Curse)
by Lissa Kasey
[LGBT, Romance*, Supernatural]

 

I picked up a first book in this series, Recipe for a Curse, for free last winter, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This was somewhat surprising because it was set in “real time” and COVID was as much of the plot as were the fantasy elements.

This book goes a step further: one of the main characters has long COVID—and long term health damage from it—be because he had refused to take the danger seriously.

I have a lot of anger towards COVID deniers and anti-vaxxers, so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, and by how much sympathy I had for Brand.

He hated, and envied, his old self all at the same time. Years of good health with little work to maintain it. He had hardly ever gotten a cold.

But I believed his repentance, and that made all the difference.


 

Proper ScoundrelsProper Scoundrels (2021) (Roaring Twenties Magic)
by Allie Therin
[Historical, LGBT, Romance*]

 

I thoroughly enjoyed the Magic in Manhattan series, so of course I was hesitant to read a spin-off series, partially because I’m ridiculous like that, and partially because I didn’t think I was that interested in the characters in this book.

I was wrong. There are two characters who have been damaged—Wesley by the war, Sebastian by his time enscrolled. Sebastian wants desperately to make up for terrible things he was forced to do.

Maybe he couldn’t ever fully atone for the things he’d done to Arthur Kenzie and Rory Brodigan, but he could at least make sure that Arthur’s aristocratic friend wasn’t in any danger after Arthur and Rory had stayed in the Kensington house in the spring.

Wesley came off as an ass in the first series, but I quickly came to like him here.

“The tea is cold.”

“Is it, my lord?” Ned said, not looking at him.

“Yes it is,” Wesley said, with an edge. “The tea is cold and the toast is burnt and the fire unbanked and I don’t have my newspaper.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, my lord. Perhaps we’re all a bit distracted on account of little Elsie being so upset.”

No one whose staff can sass them like that can be horrible.


 

SnuffSnuff (2011) (Discworld)
by Terry Pratchett
[Fantasy]

 

I know, I know.

But after Sir Terry was diagnosed and then died, I drug my feet reading his final books, because I knew they were his final books.

Snuff is the last Sam Vimes book, and as The Watch has always been my favorite story arc, I was even more reluctant to read it.

“Well, you’ve got your new country boots, haven’t you? Treading in cow poo is what they’re for.”

Sam Vimes watched his son’s face glow with impossible pleasure as his mother went on. “Your grandfather always told me that if I saw a big pile of muck in a field I should kick it around a bit so as to spread it evenly, because that way all the grass will grow properly.” She smiled at Vimes’s expression and said, “Well, it’s true, dear. A lot of farming is about manure.”

But I did read it, and now I’m sitting on his final book, utterly failing to read it.


 

ProsperityProsperity (2018) (Prosperity)
by Alexis Hall
[LGBT, Steampunk]

 

This is an earlier Alexis Hall, and I was not surprised to find delightful banter.

I was surprised to find it wasn’t a romance, and the way that even in of his earlier books, voices and personalities come through so clearly.

I reckon living itself is a filched business.

This book is queer, but it isn’t a romance, so be aware of that going on. However, it doesn’t end badly, so you can safely read it without fear a main character is going die in the last pages.


 

In addition to reading books where fantasy was the secondary genre, I read several books that were part of a long-running series, and although I didn’t dislike them, they felt weaker than earlier books. Whether this was part of a pandemic slump a lot of authors had, or because those authors have gotten a little tired of their characters or their stories, I don’t know. I do know, however, that the series where the authors have also been writing spin-offs or taking an extra-long time between books have remained extremely enjoyable. So that’s some food for thought for you.

  • Supernatural: 9
  • LGBT: 8
  • Romance: 7
  • Mystery: 2
  • Historical: 1

The Books of 2022: Yearly Reading Roundup
The Books of 2022: Fantasy Covers

* boinking

Written by Michelle at 2:12 pm    

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Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Books of 2022: Non-Fiction

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but I generally read some. However, from 2016 to last year I read almost none. So, I am pleased to note I read several excellent non-fiction books this year (and most of them were NOT about pandemics).

Mind you, I’m not berating myself for not reading non-fiction. Reading is my happy place, and I try to place no restrictions upon myself–I read what makes me happy, and if something doesn’t make me happy, I don’t read it. The belief you should only read “good” or “important” books is stupid and harmful.

Reading should never be a chore, it should be a joy.

And with that, these are the excellent non-fiction books I read in the past year.

~ 9/10 ~

No Mans LandNo Man’s Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain’s Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I (2020)
by Wendy Moore
[History, War, Women]

Until coming across the Scottish Women’s Hospital in a romance I was reading, I had no idea there were women run hospitals during the Great War. Wanting to learn more, I then discovered there was an official military hospital run entirely by women during that war.

This book tells the story of Louisa Garrett Anderson and Flora Murray, the suffragettes who founded and ran the Endell Street hospital—and worked to change medicine.

In a joint research paper published in The Lancet, charting their efforts to tackle septic wounds in one thousand patients in the first six months at Endell Street, they concluded that standard antiseptics were virtually useless. 59 They had slightly more success with three new approaches: Eusol (Edinburgh University Solution of Lime, a combination of bleach powder and boric acid first trialed in 1915), salicylic acid paste (a derivative of aspirin), and washing the wound with a salt solution.


~ 8.5/10 ~

A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha ChristieA is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie (2015)
by Kathryn Harkup
[Literature, Medicine, Science, Women]

This opens with a brief explanation of how Agatha Christie became so conversant in poisons, and then looks at the poisons used in her books (and sometimes the crimes that may have served as ideas for her stories) as well as fun details such as Scheele’s green,

The great popularity of the colours red and green in Victorian England meant that arsenic was used to dye almost anything and everything, from wallpapers and clothes to toys and even food, such as sweets and cake icing.


Pale Rider The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the WorldPale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World (2017)
by Laura Spinney
[History, Medicine, War]

This seems to be the last book I’ll read for a while on the 1918 flu. Published in 2017, looks at everything from the history of the flu up to the most recent (as of 2017) research.

As with all the books I read about the 1918 flu, it’s disconcerting to read about what scientists thought would happen if another pandemic appeared in the world.

Information and engagement are not the same thing, however. Even when people have the information they need to contain the disease, they do not necessarily act on it.


~ 8/10 ~


An Ugly TruthAn Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination (2021)
by Sheera Frenkel, Cecilia Kang
[Technology]

It’s not that I need convinced that Facebook is hugely problematic and out only for the almighty dollar.

I just like seeing just how terrible things are, I guess.

The task of deciding what Facebook would and would not allow on its platform fell to a group of employees who had loosely assumed roles of content moderators, and they sketched out early ideas that essentially boiled down to “If something makes you feel bad in your gut, take it down.” These guidelines were passed along in emails or in shared bits of advice in the office cafeteria. There were lists of previous examples of items Facebook had removed, but without any explanation or context behind those decisions. It was, at best, ad hoc.


Monster, She WroteMonster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction (2019)
by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson
[History, Literature, Women]

I do not read horror, because I do not like to be scared. Luckily, this look at women in speculative fiction is not scary at all. Unless you’re talking about the misogyny that kept (and still tries to keep) women writers on the romance and women’s fiction shelves and out of science fiction (and fantasy).

The pulps, along with dime-store paperbacks also made from cheap paper, got fiction into the hands of a wider audience because they were so affordable. But the transitory nature of that low-cost material meant that unknown numbers of those stories were lost forever as the paper they were printed on decomposed to nothing…

…All of which helps explain the accepted wisdom that few women wrote speculative fiction in the early 1900s and that, instead, the lineage starts in the 1960s and 1970s with writers like Ursula Le Guin and Joanna Russ.


Women Warriors An Unexpected HistoryWomen Warriors: An Unexpected History (2019)
by Pamela D. Toler
[History, War, Women]

I picked this up after reading a lackluster book about women in World War One. Although I wanted a much longer book, covering more women, this was still an excellent (and at times snarky) look not just at women who have gone to war, but why parts of American society are so opposed to the idea.

“The horror of women in body bags is not a horror of a dead woman. It’s that the woman was a warrior, that she is not a victim. American culture does not want to accept that women can be both warriors and mothers. . . . To accept women as warriors means a challenge to patriarchy at its most fundamental level.”


We're Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation (2021)
by Eric Garcia
[Health]

When parents make autistic kids not flap anymore or boys wear jeans instead of dresses, they replace the child that exists with the one they wished existed.

 

 

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Identity, and the Meaning of Sex (2020)
by Angela Chen
[LGBT]

The label of asexual should be value neutral. It should indicate little more than sexual orientation. Instead, asexual implies a slew of other, negative associations: passionless, uptight, boring, robotic, cold, prude, frigid, lacking, broken. These, especially broken, are the words aces use again and again to describe how we are perceived and made to feel.


As noted, I read non-fiction across a variety of subjects this year, so here’s how the subjects tumbled out.

  • Health: 1
  • History: 4
  • LGBT: 1
  • Literature: 2
  • Medicine: 2
  • Science: 1
  • Technology: 1
  • War: 3
  • Women: 4

I’m glad to be reading more non-fiction, because I like learning stuff, and it also means my brain is doing a little better than it has been.

The Books of 2022: Yearly Reading Roundup
The Books of 2022: Non-Fiction Book Covers

Written by Michelle at 9:51 pm    

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