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

What I'm Reading: January 2019

January 2019 reading gave me a mix of non-fiction books that cross-fertilized with each other and my work, and my usual big dose of fiction. I started off the month with a big backlog of TBR (to be read) from books I spotted thanks to Twitter, where I find great generosity among authors recommending other authors. Since I keep adding to the list it never really shrinks, but then, the beauty of the e-book is that I always have another book to read.

If you've read and enjoyed any of these, drop a note here 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.

Raven Strategem: This second book in the Machineries of Empire trilogy by Yoon Ha Lee (@motomaratai) that opened with Ninefox Gambit was just as compelling as the first, which I read at the end of 2018. Calling this military space opera doesn't begin to do it justice. The belief systems and their implications, the technologies in use and their implications -- the characters, action, and setting all work together for an incredibly detailed understanding of context without burdening the book with sidebar explanations.

Revenant Gun: The third and final book in Machineries of Empire, although I hope for more set in this universe.

Deep Work, Cal Newport: After hearing Jocelyn K. Glei's interview with Newport on her podcast Hurry Slowly (which I highly recommend), I bought this and pre-ordered his next one, Digital Minimalism. I've tried a number of approaches to block out "think time" ever since reading the piece "Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule" by Paul Graham a decade ago. This book gives me more tools and the science behind why this matters. (It also gives me a sneaking suspicion that if I keep reading at this pace I won't accomplish any deep work.)

Born to Walk, Dan Rubinstein (@dan_rube): Described by one reviewer as "a hymn to walking", it's also a great round-up of research on the benefits of walking. Chapter headings give you an idea of what you'll take away: Body, Mind, Society, Economy, Politics, Creativity, Spirit, Family. Finished this on the way to the Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington, D.C., where I walked 3-4 miles each day to and from my hotel and the convention center. That gave me ample opportunity to pay more attention to the act of walking.

Fierce Conversations, Susan Scott (of @fierce_inc): "Fierce" doesn't mean angry, it means passionate, focused, and hard to tackle. Good specifics about how to approach conversations to get beneath the surface to real people, feelings and issues. Great follow-up to reading Deep Work.

Civil Blood, Chris Hepler (@TheOtherHepler): This combination of vampire virus, Big Pharma run amuck, and Constitutional law was packed with distinctive and compelling characters, plenty of action, and (always a favorite for me) a kick-ass woman as a central character. Looking forward to the sequel.

Swordheart, T. Kingfisher (@ursulav): I so loved this book. It's set in the same world as Kingfisher's Clocktaur Wars and picks up on a short story she wrote that I read a while back, "Sun, Moon, Dust." Say you're an ancient warrior embedded in a sword and when the sword's drawn you come out to protect your wielder, who happens to be a round and cheerful widow of 36 whose distant relatives are scheming to take her new inheritance. Go from there.

Bryony and Roses, T. Kingfisher: Having devoured Swordheart I needed another Kingfisher fix. This wonderful retelling of Beauty and the Beast goes with several other retellings I've read as a new favorite. Basically I just have to read everything she ever writes.

Summer in Orcus, T. Kingfisher: This may be my favorite of all her works. The central character, Summer, is a little girl but that doesn't make this a children's book. It's a Baba Yaga story but it's really about Summer, who has adventures and makes friends and finds courage. Read it.

Radio Silence, Alyssa Cole (@AlyssaColeLit): Switched up my reading out of Fantasyland to an End of the World (or is it?) trilogy. At the beginning we don't know what fried the grid, we just know people's phones, radios, and everything else electronic don't work. People deprived of information are not all nice people. With main characters who are African-American, Korean-American, and gay, this book gets off to a fast start and keeps the pace going.

Signal Boost, Alyssa Cole: Second book in the trilogy. Cole shifts focus to center on a gay love story and we learn more about what happened to the grid.

Mixed Signals, Alyssa Cole: Final book in the trilogy, again shifting focus to center another couple of characters.

My Pantry: Homemade Ingredients That Make Simple Meals Your Own, Alice Waters (@alicewaters) and Fanny Singer. I enjoy reading cookbooks -- I taste things in my head, get ideas for flavor and ingredient combinations, and sometimes even cook the recipes. This work has relatively few recipes and not a lot of new information for me as an experienced cook but would be good for someone who hasn't done much scratch cooking and wants to learn some ways to intensify flavors or wants to make some gourmet gifts.

The Lost Plot and The Mortal Word, Genevieve Cogman (@genevievecogman): Books 4 and 5 in The Invisible Library. I thoroughly enjoyed books 1-3 since being a librarian was my idea of happiness when I was a kid. In the worlds of the Invisible Library the Fae represent chaos, dragons represent order, and the Librarians (with a capital L, of course) have to steal acquire works of fiction from various worlds to maintain balance between the two poles. Dragons can appear in human form, reminding me a bit of the dragon magic in the Shattered Wings series by Aliette de Bodard. In some of these worlds fictional characters are real people. Who wouldn't want to be a book-loving spy/thief?

The Apple-Tree Throne, Premee Mohamed (@premeesaurus): Read this haunting ghost story novella thanks to a recommendation from Aliette de Bodard, who mentioned it on Twitter and on her TBR list in her 2018 awards recommendations post. An alternate British empire, a man haunted by what sounds as if it might have been the Charge of the Light Brigade or a similar disaster.

TBR at this point (and the problem is I keep adding to this!) -- My, how they do add up as I grab things on sale, get my book each month for being an Amazon Prime member, download Kindle Unlimited offerings and then change my mind and return one for another.... If you read any of these come leave a comment to tell me why I should move it up to the top of the list (which, by the way, is in no particular order).
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? 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.

2018 Book List. It's Long. I Read a Lot. As in, a LOT a Lot.

As a kid I read all the time. And by all the time I mean I read not just at every meal (as long as I could get away with it -- parents have an odd fondness for kids actually interacting with others at the dinner table). I read while blow-drying my hair, brushing my teeth, walking down the hallway or going up and down the stairs in our house, and under the covers at night with a flashlight. I learned to read at age five thanks to a mom who was a schoolteacher and put flashcards on everything in the house. I read at blinding speed even without the benefit of an Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course (I date myself right there).

My e-reader lets me carry a library of books with me wherever I go. My transportation habits give me reading time riding the bus, light rail or train if I'm not bicycling. And I do still occasionally regularly often stay up a little too late reading, although I no longer need the flashlight since the e-reader has its own backlighting.

These factors, and not having kids at home with schedules to be juggled, are why I can rack up such a long list of books read over the course of a year. I'm reconstructing this list based on book purchases and use of Kindle Unlimited so I can share some of my favorites, roughly working backwards from December to January although the chronology isn't exact. 

First, a note on local economies: 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? Links below 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.

You'll note a definite fondness for book series. I love to enter into an author's world and live there a while -- it's better bingeing than Netflix can offer. Notes on what's included:
  • Because I'm reconstructing this list long after reading some of them this isn't a complete set of brief reviews like what I'd hoped to compile. Some have a sentence or two about what stuck with me or why I plan to read more by this author. 
  • Lack of a commentary doesn't indicate a lack of quality in the book. 
  • Where I could find a Twitter account for the author I've included that.
You may also notice that this list skews heavily toward works by women of color and people of color. I've made a conscious effort the past couple of years to make sure I'm reading works that introduce me to perspectives and traditions other than the ones I got so much exposure to as a young white girl growing up in Idaho. I pay attention to writers recommended by the ones whose work I admire (Twitter is especially good for this). If I read a review that says a book doesn't do a good job of representation I skip over it, although that's no guarantee that I always know about such a review. This has been a rich and rewarding experience and I highly recommend you think about what you do and don't get from your current reading lists.

With that, my 2018 reading list:
Related Reading
How I've Been Reading

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