What I'm Reading: April 2019

I started these posts thanks to one comment on Twitter from someone saying they'd like to know what books I recommend. The idea of tracking my reading has now taken on a life of its own. Over the course of each month as I finish a book I drop a note here. I knew I read fast, but some months I surprise myself with just how many books I squeeze into a very full life. Other months, not so much.

And now for the April list, with thanks to these fine authors for their talents--
  • Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, by Caroline Criado Perez (@CCriadoPerez). As soon as I started reading this I started looking at everything differently. By everything I mean, pretty much, everything. Not sure you're interested? Read her Guardian piece on some of the findings from the book. If you're on Twitter just search on #InvisibleWomen and become part of a big virtual book club. While you're at it thank her for the research; she's being attacked on social media by men who don't want to acknowledge the bias built into the world. I'm talking about this book everywhere I go; just wait until you're in line with me in the women's restroom at a conference.
  • A Blade So Black, L.L. McKinney (@BladeSoBlack): Described as Alice in Wonderland meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is a great description that doesn't tell you half of what it is. I like this Alice soooo much better than the spoiled tantrum-throwing Lewis Carroll creation. The book has been optioned for a TV series and I've preordered the sequel.  
  • Shifter's Destiny, Anna Leonard: At first I couldn't remember how this ended up on my Kindle, then realized it was by a favorite author, Laura Ann Gilman (@LAGilman), writing under a different name. Shapeshifter love stories are a little like candy -- too many of them and you'll make your teeth hurt -- but this made a fun change of pace. And since as a girl I had a horse and read every horse book I could find at the Lewiston Library, a were-unicorn shapeshifter was more interesting than a scowling werewolf.
  • Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik (@NaomiNovik): So rich and real. For some reason this is billed as a YA novel but don't let that stop you if you technically fall into the adult age range. Grounded in threads from fairy tales that will feel familiar and yet so much richer and deeper -- how Jews were treated in medieval times, the taken-for-granted labor of women and their treatment as pawns in politics via strategic marital alliances, the bravery of women who can't get by on their good looks, the creation of a family through hardship and circumstance, not just biology -- there is so much here. Read it. And if you haven't already read it, get her previous fairy tale Uprooted. I also loved her Temeraire series (alternate British history -- naval and aerial battles with dragons).
  • Myths and Mortals, by Charlie N. Holmberg (@CNHolmberg): Sequel to Smoke and Summons, which I read last month. Magic involves being tattooed in ink and gold and being possessed by a demon, although it's technically illegal. The dominant religion took over rom a previous civilization and who knows what those "demons" really are?
  • Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear (@matociquala): Set in a steampunk Seattle-ish city in the Gold Rush days (here called Rapid City) with Karen Memery (yes, with an E), "seamstress", as narrator. Those of you who have taken the Seattle Underground Tour will understand just what kind of stitching she does. The world of those soiled doves, with racism and danger making their lives even harder, is narrated through the voice of someone who's not word-perfect in her story but it doesn't matter -- it feels real and the way she says "would of" instead of "would have," for example, feels so true to the character.
  • Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, by Julie C. Dao (@jules_writes): How to describe this?? Beautiful, for starters. You can detect a strand of a certain European tale but I'm not going to give it away -- better to let the realization creep up on you. You will long for Xifeng to make good decisions. This is a massive book and I didn't finish it in April, but before I was finished I got the sequel Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix and preordered the third, Song of the Crimson Flower.
This month's additions to TBR, with notes on how I found the book. This list just keeps getting longer and longer.... Sometimes I want to stay in a particular theme, at other times I want to shift gears.
For a list of what's already waiting patiently on my Kindle, check out What I'm Reading Eventually, which was as of the end of February, and each month's post with what I added that month. I'll post another "eventually" list in a while to keep track as I read and add new books.

The importance of online reviews for the author: The numbers matter as much as the content of your review so don't stress out over your writing ability -- just praise what you like about theirs.

A note on local economies and these links: You should shop at a local, independently owned bookstore. Or check these out through your local library -- did you know they can do that with e-books too, if that's how you read? Links on this page are Amazon Affiliate links. I've never made a penny from Amazon but these links give you access to more information and reader reviews. If I ever do make anything I'll donate it to a local nonprofit that helps people who need it most.

Writers on Twitter: I have a Writers list on Twitter. It isn't everyone I read/enjoy but it's a good starting place if you find your tastes and mine overlap. I so appreciate the chances I get to interact with people directly to tell them I enjoy their work.

Related Reading on Reading

What I'm Reading: March 2019


If you read and enjoyed any of these, drop a note here (so someone else who finds this post also finds that recommendation) and give the author's works a shoutout in whatever spaces you inhabit. They need to keep selling books so they can keep writing so we can keep reading. Have a blog post with your review? Share a link here.

And now for the March list, with thanks to these fine authors for their talents--
  • Her Instruments Series, M.C.A. Hogarth (@MCAHogarth) consisting of Earthrise, Rose Point, Laisrathera, A Rose Point Holiday: Found via Twitter. Great choice for people who enjoyed the brilliant Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers (The Long Way to a Small, Angry PlanetA Closed and Common OrbitRecord of a Spaceborn Few). I always appreciate a heroine who isn't gorgeously perfect and who comes through adversity both in spite of and thanks to her flaws as well as her virtues and values. Main character is of African heritage, which entered into the story line occasionally.
  • Masks and Shadows, Stephanie Burgis (@StephanieBurgis): Found via Twitter on sale for $1.99 -- I'm a sucker for a sale and Burgis's work was recommended by authors I admire. This was a fun read, a work of historical fiction with dark alchemy, a castrato, and a woman who needs to break out of the constraints of society to be happy.
  • The Language of Thorns, Leigh Bardugo (@LBardugo): A wonderful short story collection on the dark side of fairy tales.
  • Gmorning, Gnight: Little Pep Talks for Me & You, by Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel): Mr. Multi-Talented wrote a charming book that I planned to read and then pass along to Eldest Daughter. Spotted this one thanks to the "Staff Picks" sign on the shelf at Page 2 Books in Burien, my favorite LBS (Local Book Store -- also used to mean Local Bike Shop). I read most of it before it went to its new home, just taking little nibbles of his happy upbeat attitude with my morning coffee each day.
  • Bright Thrones (Court of Fives), Kate Elliott (@KateElliottSFF): How I love these books! Another author whose works I will read and read and read as long as she puts them out. This one fills in a piece of the story in some of her earlier works.
  • Sunshine, Robin McKinley (@RobinMcKinley): I've loved everything of hers I've read; she has a gift for richly imagined retellings of fairy tales. This isn't one of those, and yet at the same time she again takes a trope -- this one the woman with a vampire suitor -- and turns it into something completely different. It's simply incredible.
  • The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, Richard Rothstein: I've been meaning to put this on the list ever since the America Walks webinar on the book and finally picked it up. I started reading it on a plane trip in early March but every chapter made me so furious I could only take small doses; didn't actually finish it in March. The wounds of injustice in this country's history cut deeper than the bone. I'll finish it over time.
  • Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport (@CalNewport but don't bother to tweet at him): Preordered this one after reading his book Deep Work last year. I'd already dropped my Facebook time to near zero after the many privacy issues and manipulation of feeds. This book reinforces his discussion in Deep Work of the need to be thoughtful about what social media gives you that's genuine value and worth your time -- not random serendipitous things you could just as easily live without, or could find with less detritus cluttering your mental landscape along the way.
  • Clean Language: Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds, by Wendy Sullivan and Judy Rees (@JudyRees). One of the sessions at the Liberating Structures Global Gathering I attended covered this -- the art of using non-judgmental, neutral questions to invite more reflection and sharing. I can imagine infusing this into my workshops on multimodal language usage in transportation, along with LS, to turn what was a PowerPoint talk into something much richer and deeper. I didn't finish it in March -- one I'll keep coming back to over time as I absorb the principles.
  • The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World, by Ronald A. Heifetz (@RonHeifetz), Marty Linsky, and Alexander Grashow (@Grashow). Another recommendation out of the LSGG. Another "started, didn't finish but I will" in March, which happened because I got so many nonfiction works in a big batch and wanted to dip into several. (And I have samples of a couple more on my Kindle. The LSGG expanded my mind and my reading list.)
  • King of Scars, by Leigh Bardugo  (@LBardugo). A fantastic addition to her Grishaverse books. If you haven't started reading them yet you're so lucky -- you have lots to go through before you come to this one. Since it was only published January 2019 I have too long a wait for the sequel; your timing may be better.
  • The True Queen: As expected, loved this new work by Zen Cho (@zenaldehyde) that follows Sorcerer to the Crown, I had this one preordered and was happy to have it show up. I'm finding I like sequels that center new characters in the same world as much as I enjoy sequels that keep expanding on the through-line for the same cast. This is one of the former.
  • Smoke and Summons, by Charlie Holmberg (@CNHolmberg): As she did in her Paper Magician series, which I also enjoyed, Holmberg has created a world in which magic is accomplished through something other than waving wands, although arcane symbols are in the mix. An endearing central character, Sandis, needs to break away from the brutal world in which her abilities are misused. Preordered the next book in what I hope is a series.
  • Toad Words and Other Stories, by T. Kingfisher (@UrsulaV): I love this woman's writing so much. I've devoured her novels, then moved to the short story collections. Retakes and retellings of different angles on fairy tales you'll recognize through the shift of her kaleidoscope, and stories set in a mythic desertscape that seems to draw on Native American traditions although I can't judge how closely.
  • Jackalope Wives and Other Stories, by T. Kingfisher (@UrsulaV). See above. I'm pretty sure I dreamed about jackalope wives after reading this. I woke up with the song "Buffalo Gal, Won't You Come Out Tonight?" in my head and couldn't work out why. An online search reminded me that this was the title of an Ursula K. LeGuin short story published in Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1987, when I was a subscriber. I now need to track down the story collection this was in. You now understand why the TBR list is bigger than the "read this month" lists.
  • Kingdoms of Elfin, Sylvia Townsend Warner: Found this thanks to the fascinating essay "Hen Wives, Spinsters, and Lolly Willowes" by Terry Windling. A dark and distant set of short stories about elves that are thoughtlessly cruel and remote in their interactions with humans. Not Tolkien elves, not cutesy-on-a-mushroom-stool elves. Just elves, themselves.
  • Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, by Samin Nosrat (@CiaoSamin) and Wendy MacNaughton (@WendyMac): Started wanting this one the first time I heard a review on NPR. I haven't watched the cooking show tie-in, which I understand from my local bookstore is fabulous, so that's going on my list too. I started in March, but this is going to be one I peck away at for a loooong time and then keep consulting as a reference, similar to my use of The Food Lab, by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.
This month's additions to TBR, with notes on how I found the book. This list just keeps getting longer and longer.... This month was a big one for adding nonfiction to the list, some of which I started on. I also got some of the fiction works above and read them right away. I don't have a system for deciding to go back into the TBR -- it's more a matter of what feels appealing.
For a list of what's already waiting patiently on my Kindle, check out What I'm Reading Eventually, which was as of the end of February. I'll post another one in a while to keep track as I read and add new books.

The importance of online reviews: I recently read a piece by an author praising the value of one-line reviews on book purchase sites so go drop those too. The numbers matter as much as the content of your review so don't stress out over your writing ability -- just praise what you like about theirs.

A note on local economies and these links: You should shop at a local, independently owned bookstore. Or check these out through your local library -- did you know they can do that with e-books too, if that's how you read? Links on this page are Amazon Affiliate links. I've never made a penny from Amazon but these links give you access to more information and reader reviews. If I ever do make anything I'll donate it to a local nonprofit that helps people who need it most.

Writers on Twitter: I have a Writers list on Twitter. It isn't everyone I read/enjoy but it's a good starting place if you find your tastes and mine overlap. I so appreciate the chances I get to interact with people directly to tell them I enjoy their work.

Related Reading on Reading

What I'm Reading Eventually: My 2019 TBR (To Be Read) List

Two months into 2019 I've added more to the list than I've read.

That's okay.

A note on my approach to alphabetizing -- I worked for years as a professional copy editor, work that included creating the index for book after book. At times I dreamed about words in "order, comma, inverted".

I understand that librarians and others creating alphabetical lists ignore any articles at the beginning of a title. I don't. I believe the author made a specific choice, since so many titles would work fine without the article. In the list below, A Blade So Black could easily have been titled Blade So Black. And it wasn't.

All works are alphabetized according to the first word that appears no matter what part of speech it is.

Fiction
Nonfiction

What I'm Reading: February 2019

February, while short, gave me time to compile an eclectic list of books finished. Sometimes I get into a particular genre and just want to keep going, other times I opt for a bit of a palate cleanser and change gears.

I also managed to make the list of books to read longer rather than shorter -- I acquired more than I finished. Oops.

Remember, if you've read and enjoyed any of these, drop a note here (so someone else who finds this post also finds that recommendation) and give the author's works a shoutout in whatever spaces you inhabit. They need to keep selling books so they can keep writing so we can keep reading.

The importance of online reviews: I recently read a piece by an author praising the value of one-line reviews on book purchase sites so go drop those too. The numbers matter as much as the content of your review so don't stress out over your writing ability -- just praise what you like about theirs.

A note on local economies and these links: You should shop at a local, independently owned bookstore. Or check these out through your local library -- did you know they can do that with e-books too, if that's how you read? Links on this page are Amazon Affiliate links. I've never made a penny from Amazon but these links give you access to more information and reader reviews. If I ever do make anything I'll donate it to a local nonprofit that helps people who need it most.

Writers on Twitter: I have a Writers list on Twitter. It isn't everyone I read/enjoy but it's a good starting place if you find your tastes and mine overlap. I so appreciate the chances I get to interact with people directly to tell them I enjoy their work, like my brief Twitter exchange with Barry Eisler about finding active transportation infrastructure part of the story and the conversation with Charlie Jane Anders, both shown below.

And now for February's list, with thanks to Zen Cho, Claudie Arseneault, Barry Eisler, Charlie Jane Anders, Connie Willis, and Nicki Pau Preto for their talents--

Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho (@zenaldehyde): Oh so good! Set in an alternate Regency England with magic, a Sorcerer to the Crown who upsets the Establishment because he's African (adopted and raised by the previous Sorcerer to the Crown), and a strong feminist theme.

Spirits Abroad, Zen Cho: Wonderful short story collection. Her treatment of a teenage Malaysian vampire was so good for the angst of first love. I tore through this after finishing Sorcerer to the Crown.

I couldn't wait for the next book in the Sorcerer series so to keep the Cho going I read a short story with a Korean imugi that wants to become a dragon and heartbreaking queer love. Available for free so you can go read it right now: "If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again."

City of Strife, Claudie Arseneault (@ClH2OArs): Fantasy with magic and characters of all races (including elves and dark elves), genders, and approaches to love, from asexual to pansexual. I enjoyed the world Arseneault created (which has a bit of the flavor of Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner, which you absolutely should read, along with all the other books by Kushner and the serial with other authors' stories set in that world).

City of Betrayal, Claudie Arseneault: The next novel set in Isandor. City of Strife carried me along through the blizzardy days of early February and I kept going. I read this one during the stretch of eight days I got stuck in Olympia -- went down for some work meetings intending to come home for the weekend before the Washington Bike Summit, couldn't travel thanks to the snow so I stayed straight on through.


The Killer Collective, Barry Eisler (@BarryEisler): I've read and enjoyed his John Rain novels -- who'd have thought an assassin who specializes in making his work look like an accident could be such a sympathetic character? I also appreciate his Livia Lone novels -- she's a Seattle PD detective so I get to enjoy my local geography being part of the story while appreciating her passion for taking down child traffickers and rapists as she works through the aftermath of her own painful history. This book brings together the characters from both series so start with those. Really well-researched books by a former CIA operative who packs in plenty of action.

The City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Jane Anders (@CharlieJane): Her earlier book All the Birds in the Sky is so, so beautiful I had to order this one the second I saw from her on Twitter that it was out. really good decision, as this book is another fantastic work. Compelling characters who didn't fit neatly into traditional molds struggle against the constraints of a narrow-minded society on a planet locked into an orbit with a hot, bright side and a dark, frigid side. I wanted to reread the book the minute I had finished it.
Doomsday Book, Connie Willis (@CWCrosstalk): What a wonderful book. Willis makes you feel the grinding exhaustion that comes with being the one people rely on when sickness sweeps through, a feeling any caretaker can relate to. In this case, it's a time-traveling historian who ends up in the Black Plague period by mistake. At the same time a modern-day influenza outbreak interferes with efforts to bring her back. Perfect title -- this is not a book to read if you're looking to be cheered up, but it isn't all grim and awful either. The resourceful and irrepressible teen Colin was one of my favorite characters.

Crown of Feathers, Nicki Pau Preto (@NickiPauPreto): No idea how I found this one -- possibly from another author's recommendation, possibly an Amazon suggestion. First in a series and I'll be looking for the rest. Two sisters at odds, Phoenix Riders, animages that can sense and work with animals, the politics of empire, all good stuff. This is technically a YA (young adult) book; I find I read a number of these over the course of the year because this space has more and more writers providing a diverse cast of characters across race, ethnicity, genders, sexual orientation, abilities and more, and they tend to be good stories. If you like this one also read the Ruined series: RuinedAlliedAvenged, by Amy Tintera (@amytintera).

This month's additions to TBR, with notes on how I found the book if I remember:
For a list of what's already waiting patiently on my Kindle, check out my January reading post.

Related Reading on Reading

UA-58053553-1