Book Club Roundup II

Holy balls, I swore I wouldn’t do this again, but here we are. I’m gonna keep it short, since it’s been a while since some of these meetings.

Thanks to the pandemic, our last few meetings were done on Zoom, which worked out pretty well… it seemed to take longer to veer off topic than it did when we were face-to-face, or maybe we just had more to say about the books? Who knows.

Anyhoo, on to the books!

March: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

91s3CT1UtYLThis was my pick, so yay for that. I loved this novella, and I loved the whole trilogy. I think if I saw math the way Binti does, I would have done a lot better at it in school.

Binti’s journey to Oomza Uni is traumatic, not just because of the wholesale slaughter of everyone else on the transport ship, but also due to her decision to essentially run away from her home and everything she knows to do it. And for someone so connected with the very soil of Earth, as seen in the otijze she wears as a Himba woman, to leave that behind is beyond impressive and just showcases her strength and determination.

We had the option to read the whole trilogy as a complete story, or just the first novella. I can’t remember how many of us actually read all of it, but I did and I do recommend reading all of it. It’s a great story by a really great author.

April: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

716lFHpbiRLThis was my first foray into audio books, and I was worried I wouldn’t retain as much from listening as I would from actually seeing the words, but I did retain the story, so that was great.

I was convinced at first that the weird sorta fairy tale world was a coma dream that David was having after that plane fell out of the sky and into the garden while he was standing there. The way all the women characters – Snow White, the Huntress,  Sleeping Beauty, etc. – are decidedly unlikable, I figured they were his mind’s way of processing his relationship with his stepmother, Rose. He clearly didn’t like her and the portrayal of most women, aside from his own mother, reflected that.

It turned out that it wasn’t a coma, but I still think it influenced David’s view of the women in that world. It was an interesting story overall, and I liked how it ended.

The funny this is I ordered this and the next book back in March before all the shutdowns happened, and I received the next book first, which lead me to believe this book was indeed lost.

May: The Alehouse at the End of the World by Stevan Allred

51kW+3aIdoLOK, this one took a turn halfway through I wasn’t really expecting… mostly all the fucking. So many bird people/demigods fucking. Like…wow.

It had an interesting take on the afterlife, with the isle of the dead and how souls are kept in clam shells until they’re ready to be reborn. Plus the construction of the alehouse on the island to make the transition between life and death a little easier. Like I said, interesting concepts.

But then there had to be all the fucking. I’m not against fucking as a general rule, but that was a turn I didn’t anticipate. I’m glad I finished it, because we had a great discussion about it at the meeting and I love when that happens.

But yeah, definitely not my favourite.

June: Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

81lqd0DkyOLI wasn’t at this meeting, as I was in another part of the province and it was the club’s first foray back into face-to-face meetings, but that’s OK.

I quite enjoyed this story. I like fish-out-of-water tales, and when they involve magic it’s even more fun. Plus a murder mystery is always great. Having the protagonist not be a magical person while investigating a magical murder helps the reader navigate through this magical world. Granted, Ivy was constantly talking about how she’s not magic, but honestly, if I were surrounded by people that could do actual magic, I’d be kinda melancholy about it too. Especially if my friggin’ twin sister was able to and I wasn’t.

I don’t know if everyone does this, but when describing a high school in books, I always picturing it taking place in my own high school… which in the case of this book would have made for far more interesting classes when I attended, but yeah.

This was also an audio book for me, so when it ended I was a little surprised, since it was left kind of open-ended. I figured Ivy would have at least had one last discussion with her love interest, but nah. Let’s end with her sitting on his porch waiting for him.

So that was our year. We do have the summer read coming up, Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft, which will be discussed in August at the annual garden party.

I don’t know if I’ll attempt this book review thing again, since I kinda sucked at actually getting it done, but we’ll see.

-A.

Book Club Roundup

So, I was without a decent computer for a few months, hence my total lack of anything resembling any sort of an update about anything.

I thought I’d just do a little “roundup” of all the books we read while I was computer-less, rather than trying to do full post and backdate them or whatever.

So yeah, without further ado…

December: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

This novella, first in the Murderbot Diaries, was our December pick mostly due to it being reasonably short and that month being stupid busy.

B499151E-AE4C-419E-9D09-E444460FCB65I have to say, I felt a kinship with Murderbot upon initially meeting them.

I too know what it’s like to want to sit in my room and watch my shows and have everyone leave me alone because trying to act in a way that resembles normal is tiresome… I understand you, Murderbot.

Now, Murderbot isn’t given a gender here, but for some reason I coded them as female. I don’t really know why, other than I could see myself in them. Or maybe it was just kind of cool to think of them being all badass and also being female? I don’t know. The other ladies in the group were mixed, some read Murderbot as female and others as male.

I saw a on Twitter that V.E. Schwab coded them female too, so I feel marginally better that it wasn’t just me.

Anyway, good book, would like to read the rest of the series.

 

January: The Lies of Locke Lamont by Scott Lynch

Book one of The Gentlemen Bastards series

41B5BAFD-F168-4DBC-A263-38A0C192BC40I do love a good heist story. This was more of a long con story, with some little heists mixed in, set in some weird-ass fantasy version of Venice. It eventually becomes a good story, but it took a while to get there.

Also, it’s was almost entirely dudes. Like, there’s two pretty badass women, but the one is just her husband’s wife, even though she’s an alchemical botanist or something (we don’t see her in her lab, ever), and the other one doesn’t show up until the third act, even though she basically runs the whole damn city as The Spider.

There are, of course, other women, but they serve little purpose beyond furthering the men’s plots. Even worse is that there is, or was, a girl in this gang, but she is only mentioned and never shown… apparently she doesn’t show up until the THIRD DAMN BOOK!

But aside from all that, I did wind up liking the book and am willing to read the rest of the series… I’ve been told there’s a badass pirate mom in the second book.

 

February: The Woodcutter by Lorn Wolf.

1442E737-CBD5-4837-A3CE-F3162EC26F89Soooooo, I didn’t actually read this book.

I figured I’m allowed to skip at least one book per book club year and I picked this one.

Don’t worry, Septa Unella will ring me out…

But at any rate, this will hopefully be the only time I do this “roundup” style and I get back into posting on the regular.

The March read is Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, another novella so everyone should be able to finish.

Until next time…

embarrassed shame GIF

-A.

Book Club: When animals rule the world

I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time going “what if…” when reading a book.

This month’s read was Mort(e) by Robert Repino. I loved this book so much that I picked up the other two books in the series almost immediately after finishing.

Humanity is all but destroyed by giant ants like in some bad B-movie, and the ant Queen somehow manages to turn all animals into sentient bipedal persons capable of independant thought and emotions. Animals with paws have hands form, allowing them to do all the important things having opposable thumbs helps with – from holding sandwiches to shooting guns.

Animals with hooves don’t get hands though, bummer for the pigs, horses, cows, etc.

Now, I’m sure this question runs through the mind of everyone that’s read this book: if the Change happened for real, would my own pets kill me outright or would they let me go to fend for myself?

Oh, these furry assholes would totally murder me.

Stormy would become sentient and realize that I hold her prisoner inside the apartment and that’d be the end of me. She literally escaped off my third floor balcony and went on some (what I presume was a) grand, Disney-esque adventure for like eight hours before showing up at the backdoor of my building. She tasted freedom and still pines for it to this day. So yeah, she’ll definitely murder and eat me.

Dante might be more forgiving? I dunno, he’s an old man, he might not care. He might go hunt down my sister, since he’s never liked her. I think he’d just stay in the apartment and curse all the “damn kids” that come along and try to get him to join them.

I keep getting Animal Farm vibes from this book, mostly from the fact that a lot of the animals start behaving as their human oppressors… you’d think they would eschew human conveniences, but there’s talk about the animals eventually having cellphones again someday once the power grid is restored. They live in houses, drive cars, and some even wear clothes and drink coffee… not that I expect them to sleep on the ground and live in caves or anything. I don’t know, I just figured they’d try and do things differently?

One thing I appreciated was Mort(e) having stubby fingers on his new hands due to his human masters having him declawed when he was a pet. That drives home how extreme declawing is for cats. Not cool, humans.

The other books in the series – Culdesac and D’arc – were also very good, so I highly recommend this whole series. How often can I say that?

I’m not gonna do the Shame Nun gif this time, since more than half the club wasn’t able to make it to the meeting. Next month though…

December’s read is All Systems Red by Martha Wells, which is book one in The Murderbot Diaries… with a name like that it’s gotta be good, right?

-A.

Book Club: Time is a cheesecake

Take the fabulousness of Prince and mix it with the outerspace androgeny of Ziggy Stardust; Blend the spectacle of Eurovision with the wit of Hitchikers’ Guide to the Galaxy; Throw in some time travelling red pandas and what have you got?

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente, that’s what.

Holy balls, I quite enjoyed this book.

The story starts off giving you the impression of following the bouncing disco ball, which already made me laugh and decide I was going to enjoy it. The fact that in order for a species to prove its sentience is to perform in a garish, over-the-top, American Idol-esque competition was even more delicious. Once you factor in who is going to do that for Earth, I was 100% here for this story.

I love that the future of the human race comes down to a has-been glamrock band, and only because all the other options on the list were dead or unavailable (Can you imagine Yoko Ono being the last salvation of mankind? Seriously?). Enter Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeros!

Decibel Jones, in my mind, wound up looking something like Inanna from The Wicked + The Divine. It’s likely not accurate enough, but that’s the closest my brain could get, likely becuase Inanna is modelled after Prince.

The style of writing in Space Opera won’t be for everyone, I totally get that. Long, rambling, stream-of-consciousness run-on sentences are not easy to wrap your brain around. Valente was very influenced by Douglas Adams, which hit me in the face after the first couple chapters… as long as you’re aware of that, I think the book is perfectly readable.

Plus is gave us some incredible sentences, “Time is a cheesecake” being one of my favourites.

As I was the only one in attendance at Book Club to actually finish the book… it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea… Septa Unella is going to ring that bell loud and proud this month.

November’s read is Mort(e) by Robert Repino and is about cats and other animals rising up to overthrow their human oppressors, or something to that effect, which makes it right up my alley!

-A.

Book Club: When one door closes, she’ll just open another

If you could open any door, which would you open and why?

That is a question I asked myself more than once while reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, September’s read for the Sci-Fi Fantasy Book Club That Needs a Name.

I have been a fan of Neil Gaiman for a very long time, yet I hadn’t read Neverwhere before now. I finished it at 5 am while on night shift, so that may have construed my thoughts on the book itself, but I enjoyed it. I’d be curious to see the BBC series that inspired it.

So in this story, we have the world of London Above, our world as we know it; and London Below, a world full of magic, evil angels, pseudo-vampires, and rat-speakers… so the usual fare in a Gaiman story.

What happens when a guy from London Above winds up in London Below? Well his life Above is pretty much over – no one remembers Richard, or even sees him until he’s right in their face… reminded me of the perception filter in Doctor Who. So he has to go back to London Below to try and get his old life back and gets sucked into the never-ending weirdness of that world.

So I asked myself, as did others, if you could wander around unoticed, with a gal named Door that could open any door anywhere, why are you bumming around the sewers? Why aren’t you waltzing into a bank, or a fancy hotel, or Buckingham Palace? Why does anyone in London Below stay below?

Wouldn’t be much of a story, I suppose.

I did love the characters of Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar – though they were ruthless killers, their dialogue was brilliant and you never had to wonder about their motives… they just like it.

Half of us in attendance for the September meeting finished the book, while the rest got pretty close to finishing. You know what that means….

October’s book is Space Opera by Catherynne M Valente; it has a shiny cover so it’s gotta be fab, right?

-A.

Book Club Reads: A Storm is brewing

Sometimes our book club is more of a food club.

The annual Sci-fi/Fantasy Book Club That Needs a Name garden party was this week, although it wasn’t able to be in the garden since the weather refused to cooperate. The sheer amount of food folks brought was insane and I ate so much I kinda zoned out for half and hour or so.

Real flowers on a cheesecake that I couldn’t even try I was so full…

So the summer read for this year was Storm Front by Jim Butcher. Very easy read, I finished it in a day.

Firstly, if you don’t realize that the book’s title is two words, you will turn up links to a neo-nazi “news” site. Two words, not one.

Secondly, the general consensus in the club was… lukewarm, at best? No one really loved it, though I do know at least one member hated it.

I get why she hated it; Butcher’s protagonist, Harry Dresden, is a chauvanistic prick. In this day and age, it’s just draining to read about yet another cis white man that’s mansplaining and talking down to a women, even if he’s an older-than-he-looks-from-a-different-era magic man. If we wanted that, we could just pop onto Twitter.

I must be getting desensitized to dude bullshit, because while I was annoyed by some of Dresden’s inner monologue and actions, I’ve read worse in comment sections online this week alone… I don’t want to give it pass, but the fact that Dresden thought the big bad was a woman because woman are just vindictive like that and it turned out to be some guy does make me feel a bit better.

Dresden has a chauvanistic attitude, as I’ve said, but he’s not a total garbage wizard. He does come to the aid of his cop friend Murphy when he realizes she’s going to get shanked by a magic scorpion, and he manages to not take advantage of a date that mistakenly downs a love potion… although the demon that shows up had a lot to do with it.

Although just doing the bare minimum of being a decent human is a pretty low bar.

Side note: Can we stop the “Love potion as a magical roofie” trope? This book came out 18 years ago and the world is a different place now, so hopefully people know better, but still… if you’re thinking about using it in your story, don’t.

We’re told the series does get better and Dresden becomes slightly less of a prick, but this isn’t a series I particularly want to continue… maybe if I come across book #2 somewhere and don’t have anything else to read (unlikely), then I MIGHT consider it.

But yeah, not for me.

I don’t know what the official count of finished/didn’t finish was for this book, but since I’m pretty sure some didin’t finish, Septa Unella will ring us out…

Next Month: After three years, we finally read a Neil Gaiman solo effort! Join us in reading Neverwhere for our September read!

-A.

Overheard in the Work Truck: Control Room Edition

So I’ve been hanging out in plant control rooms rather than work trucks lately and while there’s not as much racism and sexism, there’s still some real winners here. It’s mazing what dudes will say when they think there are only other guys in the room.

Find part one here and part two here.

Dude 1: “Why don’t you get the fuck out my way?”

Dude 2: “Why don’t you suck my giant…(remembers I’m in the room)…popsicle?” – He was very impressed with himself on the recovery.

“You look like you got dick-slapped in the-oh my god I’m so sorry, I’m really sorry I said that.” – Guys forget I’m in the room and suddenly remember they shouldn’t talk about dicks…they talk about dicks a lot.

“Yeah, buddy said ‘oh I miss [this plant],’ and I said ‘[this plant] doesn’t miss you.'” – These guys can be such catty bitches.

“He’s like HIV… really positive.” – Wow, really guys?

“Only two things come from [other dude’s hometown]: queers and steers, and he don’t got no horns.” – Surprised it took this long for someone to say something like this.

So yeah, not nearly as awful as the truck, but still not great.

-A.

One List to Rule Them All

I’ve been meaning to do this for the last three years, but never got around to it… I wanted to write little reviews of what my book club reads.

I had an ongoing thread on Twitter for a few comments and the general consensus of the club, but I always had more to say that I can’t always get across on that platform.

Well, I’m gonna finally do it this year… presenting the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Club The Needs A Name selections for the coming year…One List to Rule Them All, Year 4!

August: Storm Front by Jim Butcher

September: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

October: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

November: Mort(e) by Robert Repino

December: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

January: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

February: The Woodcutter by Lorn Wolf

March: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

April: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

May: The Alehouse at the End of the World by Stevan Allred

June: Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

I will write what the club thought, what I thought, and whether or not we finished it. Not finishing the book will lead to our favourite GIF, Septa Unella!

Hopefully she doesn’t make too many appearances…

Read along with us if you’re of a mind, and share your thoughts in the comments.

-A.

Overheard In The Work Truck, Part II

So I wasn’t working with a crew for a while there, I was on my own in my medic truck and didn’t have much for a full post.

But I’m back in that work truck for a few days, so we definitely have enough bullshit for a new Overheard post!

Please enjoy the raging ignorance of my coworkers!

Find the original post here.

“Apparently Fidel Castro’s brother is claiming Justin Trudeau is Fidel’s son … (Margaret Trudeau) was a rabid slut.” – this guy just hates women, I don’t understand it.

“What’s wrong with cilantro? Cilantro is ISIS. And I say fuck ISIS.” – we were talking about cilantro being gross (it is, fight me) and this was his response. I actually don’t get the point he was making.

“If you were getting married and your husband-to-be was away for work and getting back a couple weeks before the wedding, would you wait for coitus?” – I can’t fucking believe he actually used the word ‘coitus.’ Barf.

“It’s called being cuckolded you fucking loser.” In response to reading a dude’s Twitter profile saying he was a bisexual in a polyamorous relationship with his wife and her boyfriend. I told him cuckolding is an actual kink that some people are into and he shouldn’t judge. He shut up for a while.

“My husband was pissing me off, so when he rolled over I bit him in the ass.” – I just thought this one was funny.

Won’t be back with a crew for a few weeks, but when I am I’ll be sure to document!

-A.

Overheard In The Work Truck

I work with some… let’s say, differently minded individuals. Hese are people whose views and values don’t match up with mine, but I’m only aware of that because I spend 10+ hours a day in a truck with them. Like they say things that make me want to never associate with then ever again, but I have to because I work with them.

That said, here’s some of the things I’ve heard this week. Let it be known that I don’t agree with any of the things said here. In no particular order, and paraphrased where the exchange was too long to remember word-for-word.

“Forest fires are economic terrorism. People are hired to start fires so the government can spend millions and millions of dollars fighting them.” – I told him he was so completely wrong that he actually shut up for a few minutes.

“I used to watch (that show), but then it went all SJW and now it’s unwatchable.” – I heard this and now I’m waiting for the perfect time to let him know I’d be considered an SJW.

“I’ll never read or watch Harry Potter because it’s witchcraft and I’m a Christian, so it goes against everything I believe.”

This was followed a few hours later by:

“Muslims can just fuck off and die.”

And

“Someone should murder Justin Trudeau.”

I’m pretty sure neither of those statements makes you a Christian. Love thy neighbor and thou shall not kill and all that jazz…

This is just a taste of some of the bullshit I have to listen to.

-A.