Weekend Reads: 10/23/2020

Can you vote early? If the answer is yes and you haven’t yet – what are you waiting for? Biden/Harris need your vote.

I’m going to be honest – there are a lot of depressing articles in this week’s post. If only only read one – honestly, you need to read most of these, but if you only have time for a few, please read the first Wired article and the subsequent Time one about herd immunity. There are just a lot of good ones this week and you’d benefit from reading most, if not all, of the ones.

But not everything is doom and gloom (or so we hope). There are three good articles to remind you that the world is not always a terrible place. In addition, I’d like to recommend a couple of book series.

The first is a fantasy series called The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club by Theodora Goss. This series follows the adventures (no, really) of Mary Jekyll and all of the “monsters” that she befriends. If you have any interested in gothic horror (though it is not actual horror, per se), slight romance, and wonderful strong female characters – consider this series! I listened to the audiobooks (read by the always wonderful Kate Reading) but imagine that the print (or eBook) version is equally as enjoyable to consume. The first book is The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daugther.

My second recommendation would be Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious series. This is a young adult murder mystery series about Stevie Bell and her friends as she tries to navigate the world of a private boarding school, including the murder that has define the school for years and the hard life of a teenager. You’re in luck, because all three books in this series have finally been published you won’t need to wait long to read what happens in the next book. The first book is Truly Devious.

Now, onto your links.

It’s Time to Talk About Covid-19 and Surfaces Again (Wired – $$)

In the early days, we furiously scrubbed, afraid we could get sick from the virus lingering on objects and surfaces. What do we know now?

The White House Wants to Achieve Herd Immunity by Letting the Virus Rip. That Is Dangerous and Inhumane (Time)

For a start, no pandemic has ever been controlled by deliberately letting the infection spread unchecked in the hope that people become immune. We must do all we can to protect people from COVID-19, not let them get infected, to buy scientists time to develop vaccines and therapeutics to end the outbreak and alleviate suffering.

America’s Last Line of Defense for a Safe Vaccine (Scientific American)

The independent advisers to the CDC and FDA will not bend to politics

Why New Zealand rejected populist ideas other nations have embraced (Guardian)

Labour’s historic win delivered Ardern a second term while voters punished politicians who embraced populism

The Preexisting Conditions of the Coronavirus Pandemic (Wired – $$)

An enormous new data set peers into the health of the world’s population before 2020—and how the coronavirus turned that into a global disaster.

Undisclosed: Most Homebuyers And Renters Aren’t Warned About Flood Or Wildfire Risk (NPR)

None of the landlords, real estate agents, sellers, appraisers, bankers or home inspectors the families interacted with explained the risk of flooding or wildfires, because no one had to do so. Only about half of the states require that information about flood risk be disclosed to homebuyers, and just one state requires that such information be given to tenants. Only two Western states require disclosure of wildfire risk.

Songwriters Sometimes Wait Years After A Song Is Released To Get Paid Anything. These Women Want To Change That. (Buzzfeed)

“I’ve been in sessions starving, praying that they ask me if I’m hungry, hoping that the studio has snacks.”

A Reset for Library E-books (Publisher’s Weekly)

In the wake of the pandemic, can publishers and libraries finally hash out their differences?


Prickly business: the hedgehog highway that knits a village together (Guardian)

With their miniature ramps, stairs and holes cut into fences and stone walls, the gardens of Kirtlington in Oxfordshire are a haven for wildlife

Step Inside The Museum of Obsolete Library Science (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

There’s a popular misconception that librarians as a profession are conservative. Not politically conservative, but literally conservative—wanting to keep old stuff. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth—we are often on the cutting edge of using new technologies, and always looking for the most efficient, up-to-date way to help our patrons.

When a Town Council and a Sci-fi Museum Went to War Over a Dalek (Atlas Obscura)

Thanks to support from the community and the world, the Doctor Who villain is rising again

And now, your moment of calm.

Fall colors (c) K2sleddogs

What I’ve been doing …

What I’ve been reading …

  • Real World by Natuso Kirino

This was the last one of the physical library books I had checked out (since before the pandemic). Real World is an interesting novel about four teenage girls who get, by choice or by accident, involved with a teenage boy who killed his mother. It is a pretty deep look into what it’s like to be a teenager and trying to figure out your identity and a huge reminder that actions have consequences.

  • Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang

I absolutely loved this book! While on the surface, this novel is about living on Mars – it is so much more. It’s a book about humanity, about how ignoring the past does no one any favors and nor does avoiding the future. It’s about changing, it’s about finding your place in the world, and it’s about the importance of communication. I highly recommend this novel.

What I’ve been watching …

Movies:

  • Birds of Prey (HBO Max)
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (TNT/Hulu)
  • Casino Royale (Netflix)

Did some movie rewatches with my sister.

Birds of Prey was the second to last movie I saw before the pandemic (the last movie was Jojo Rabbit on my birthday) and it is even better the second time around. I have to admit that DC does female superheros so much better than Marvel. I hold out hope after Captain Marvel, but still – give Birds of Prey a watch, even if you’ve seen no other DC movies.

I still absolutely love The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I know a lot of people did like it, but it is perfectly cast and beautifully filmed and executed. As for the James Bond film – it’s … dark James Bond. I remember enjoying it a lot more when I saw it the first time. As I said to my sister, Daniel Craig’s James Bond reminds me a lot of Christopher Eccleston’s 9th Doctor.

TV

  • Devs (Hulu) – This is by Alex Garland (of Ex Machina and Annihilation fame) and it is fantastic. Well – I thought it was fantastic. The reviewers are sort of in the middle about it, but I disagree. It’s eight episodes long and extremely gripping. It’s the story of Lily, who, along with her boyfriend, works at a tech company (think Facebook/Google/etc). One day, her boyfriend starts working for the Devs division of the company and ends up dead. The show is mostly about her tried to figure out what happened, but it’s also science fiction-y (more fantasy, but I’m giving it a pass). It has the surreal feel that Garland is so good at. Please, give it a watch.

I’m still watching Memorist and I’ve started Untamed. As for what English language TV shows I’m watching? I’m struggling to find something that clicks with me as much as Devs did and not finding anything. For now, tennis and cycling are filling the gap that an English language TV show would normally fill.

YouTube

Yes, I’m going to do it even though no one asked. Occasionally (or whenever I feel like it) I’m going to recommend a YouTube channel, video series, or whatever I feel falls under this category. So, let’s start it off in style!

Jill writes about fights in media (movies, TV shows, etc) using her experiences stage combat/fake fighting to discuss what works and what doesn’t work in many a fight. All of her videos are fantastic, but the one I would like to highlight today is about The Princess Bride. I hope you enjoy the video (and why not rewatch the movie while you’re at it (it is currently on Amazon Prime after all).

What I’ve been listening to ….

Not a lot recently, mostly because this past week I’ve been watching/listening to more sports than music. Once the Tour and the US Open are over, I’ll go back to listening to lots more music.

  • OnlyOneOf – KPOP band who just released two EPs
  • Davii – Korean rapper/singer/soloist
  • DAMYE – Korean singer
  • Maddox – Korean singer

Here’s your moment of calm:

Morning on the Dune (c) Tom Gill

What I’ve been doing …

In the past I used to post about stuff I’ve been reading or listening to or watching and I thought I’d start that up again. Since I’ve been working from home, I’m listening to a lot of music. Since I don’t go out much because of the pandemic, I’ve also been watching a lot of TV. And, of course, I’m still reading. It’s about time I shared a few of the things I’ve been doing and enjoying from the past week. Enjoy!

What I’ve been reading …

I’ve been reading a lot of Japanese mysteries recently and this is another enjoyable one. I had read Murder in the Crooked House earlier, which was funny because it’s the second book in the series. This has a Sherlock Holmes feel because the detective (if you can call him that) isn’t telling the story, his friend is. It’s an enjoyable mystery and no, I did not solve it before the book gave me the answer.

A couple of my coworkers had recommended this book to me, either last year earlier this year. I’d tried it and then decided it just wasn’t working for me. I’d put it on hold (using Overdrive through my library) and forgotten about it. But I got a notification last week that it was available and I figured I’d give it another try. I’m glad I did!

It’s a murder mystery (sort of) set on Yale’s campus in an alternate world where all of the secret societies have access to magic. Something about the tone reminded me a bit of Sarah Gailey’s Magic For Liars book, though the only thing they have in common is magic and schools (a private high school in Gailey’s case). That being said, although it’s a long book, it is very enjoyable. Just be aware that it is the first book in the series and it ends on a semi-cliffhanger.

This book was (and probably still is) an extremely popular book in South Korea. It’s the story of a 30something woman who is suffering from mental health problems. They stem, essentially from the way society in South Korea thinks of and treats women. The book is not hopeful, but it is a brutal wake-up call. It is not just a South Korean tale – it is the story of women all over the world.

It’s written in a very detached way that many people didn’t like, but I enjoyed it. It’s also quite short, it took me about a just about a day to read it. There are also footnotes scattered throughout the novella that back up all of Cho’s stats about the treatment of women in South Korea. It’s also been made into a movie, though I haven’t seen it yet.

For more about the book, check out these reviews:

What I’ve been watching …

Movies:

  • Old Guard [Netflix] – this movie is quite enjoyable and also quite stressful for a movie about immortals! I have not watched as many movies during this pandemic as I’d hoped and most of what I’ve been watching have been movies I’ve already seen. My sister convinced me we should watch it, and we did. Definitely worth it. I am a fan of movies where women kick ass and boy do they. The cast is also fantastic.

TV:

  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark [HBO Max] – Last year I listened to the audio book of the same name. It’s the story of how Michelle McNamara was working on figuring out who the Golden State Killer was. She did, essentially, solve it, though she died before he was caught. The book is excellent – I highly recommend it. The documentary is basically the same story, but with a lot of interviews with people close to Michelle, as well as her husband Patton Oswald, and victims and survivors.
  • Midsomer Murders [Acorn] – I have watched watched almost all of these before, but my sister and I decided to take advantage of Acorn’s extended pandemic trial earlier this spring and because we both enjoy this show so much, I’m still paying for it so we can continue watch. Most of the episodes are cozy mysteries, but some really bring an emotional punch.
  • Parts Unknown [HBO Max] – Again, another show I am rewatching. I will forever be grateful to have watched these shows when Tony was still alive. It makes me appreciate both what he did and the kind of person he was so much. It’s also really interesting (and depressing) to watch these hour long trips to other places – to countries we can’t go to now because there’s a pandemic. If you miss traveling, why not give a Parts Unknown a try.

Other things I’m watching:

Perry Mason (HBO Max), which is about young Perry Mason. The Untamed (Netflix/Viki) which is a Chinese drama that has taken the fandom world by charge. Memorist (n/a), a Korean TV show about a detective who can read people’s memories and the bad guy he’s trying to catch (who can erase people’s memories). I’ll write about all of these shows when I finish them.

Also, my sister and I watch a lot of YouTube videos (if anyone wants recommendations, let me know). The way we watch TV is that we call each other and match up our videos so we can watch “together” and talk about it. I highly recommend this method of watching TV with people you’re not near (or not comfortable seeing in person, because pandemic).

What I’ve been listening to …

  • NIve – Korean singer. You’ll learn more about him on Sunday.
  • UNVS – KPOP band who debuted earlier this year
  • Kang Daniel – KPOP singer (formerly of the group Wanna One) who just came back with a new album.
  • ONF – KPOP boy group I’ve been a fan of for a few years.
  • ATEEZ – KPOP boy group I was supposed to see with a friend of mine in April. The concert was postponed (to when, I don’t know) because of the pandemic.

Here’s your moment of calm:

Lake Michigan Twilight (c) Zach Korb

Friday Recs: Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Monstress_Vol1-1This week’s rec comes in the form of a graphic novel. The book, Monstress is written by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Sana Takeda.

I know Marjorie Liu’s name from being a librarian, but I’ve never read any of her work until now. A friend of mine recommended this book to me and I’m so glad she did!

Monstress is, as described by the publisher Image Comics, as being set in alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia. The world is full of magic, humans, animals who speak and people who are neither human nor animals, but something in between.

Maika is a war survivor and her story is that of survival and revenge. She wants vengeance and so she begins her journey by becoming a slave. Early on we realize that this won’t last and it doesn’t, Maika escapes, frees her fellow prisoners and begins her path of destruction. Along the way she steals part of an ancient mask that will change her and set people after her.

The first volume, Awakening, tells the story of Maika’s journey of vengeance, introduces us to other characters who will join Maika, and sets the stage for the long journey she has ahead of her. We also discover what happened to Maika during the war and who (or what) is trying to kill her.

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The story, which I have not done any sort of justice, is tremendous. Maika is a flawed character, but she is not bad. The people who live around who are flawed, the world they live in barely survived a war that was ended in a way that few truly understand. Maika’s world is not free of war, instead it’s again on the brink. When you close the back cover of Awakening, you wonder if perhaps Maika will be the one to prevent it — or will she start it?

Liu’s writing is strong, the plot intricate and engaging. But what really stands out for me is the artwork. Takeda’s illustrations are beautiful and bring the story alive more than I would have expected. Takeda is able to capture everything, from the anguish and pain that characters feel, to the anger and violence of those coming after Maika and the people around her.

Monstress is not without humor, though. There are moments, and characters, who lighten the mood. The lighthearted moments are few and far between, but they are skillfully added and feel very real. Even the darkest of stories needs a little bit of a pause sometimes.

From talking cats to, my favorite, Kippa who is a fox girl (she is seen below), the cast of Monstress is sweepingly broad and equally as beautiful and dangerous. I cannot recommend this book enough. It seems to be a good fit for teen readers who like graphic novels with strong female characters or any adult who enjoys well-written and illustrated graphic novels.

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I got my copy from the library, but you can get it from Image Comics or Amazon. Volume 2 comes out in July and I can’t wait.

Friday Recs

51j2xe9t8FL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_I sort of fell of the posting train for self-care and while I have been doing things self-care wise, I thought I would try something different for posting. Instead of a whole list of things, I’d like to try recommending one thing and maybe discussing it a little bit.

This week I’d like to recommend Nnedi Okorafor’s science fiction novella Binti. 

Binti is the start of a 3 novella trilogy by Okorafor. It’s set in the future, which in some ways feels much like our present day, but it’s definitely not set today. Binti is also the name of our main character, a young woman who is leaving her home on Earth to enter university. She is the first of her people to leave Earth, to travel in space, and to go to university.

The novella is about Binti’s struggle in these new worlds, but it’s more than that. It’s the story of being alien among aliens, about being different, and about survival. But at it’s heart, Binti is about the importance of taking risks to do the right thing. I don’t want to spoil the story for you, because it is so good, so I’ll stop there.

Outside of the plot itself, everything about Okorafor’s novella is excellent. The story, of course, is good. But the writing is beautiful and the characters come alive, Binti especially, but all of them. I loved Binti because I love Binti herself, but also because I love Okorafor’s storytelling.

I do want to note that I listened to the audio version and if you can grab a copy, please do. Robin Miles does a truly wonderful job with the voices throughout the novel and I dearly hope she reads the remaining novellas in the series. Please give Binti a try!

Tor helpfully has written and audio excerpts form Binti if you want a taste.

The Wednesday Four

Last week was something else. Wednesday was A Day Without Women, our President released his health care “plan” and so many things happened. I missed a lot of it due to being out of town because Southeast Michigan, where I live, was hit with a huge windstorm and myself, along with around a million others, lost power. I have power again and it’s very nice. It was a sharp reminder how quickly our world can change. Stay safe, everyone. Stay warm (or cool, depending where you are).

Here is week 17.

Due to the above mentioned issues, I haven’t read many articles recently, so here are more old ones. Including one about one of my most favorite movies, Chungking Express. If you haven’t seen it, please do, it’s fantastic.

  • In Dreams: 20 Years of ‘Chungking Express’ (mxdwn)
  • William Gibson Sees the Future: But he’s not trying to predict it. (Slate) Note: Gibson is my favorite author and I loved The Peripheral, which is what this article is partially about. 
  • Did My Best Friend Really Know Me? For 27 years, the writer had a dutiful relationship with her most devoted friend. Only later did she question who needed who more. (Dame)

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Tony Leung Chiu Wai in Chungking Express

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Faye Wong in Chungking Express

Book Review: Reykjavík Nights by Arnaldur Indriðason

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I am a huge fan of Indriðason’s Inspector Erlendur series. There’s something compelling about his writing style and the characters in the series. Not just Erlendur, but the the people who surround him. In fact, Indriðason has written two books who are tangentially about Erlendur, but are in truth about the two detectives he works with. In Reykjavík Nights we are treated not to a story about Erlendur the inspector but instead Erlendur the 20something (I think he’s 26) traffic cop.

Note: Don’t read this book unless you’ve the rest of the series. If you want to read Erlendur’s series, start with Jar City, the earliest book in the series to have been translated into English.

Reykjavík Nights follows the beginning of Erlendur’s path toward the detective we’re familiar with. This Erlendur is has no true experience solving crimes, he’s young and without a family of his own. While he has no wife or daughter, the baggage he does carry is the same that haunts him throughout the whole series.

Spoilers: The disappearance and probable death of Erlendur’s brother in a snowstorm, when they were both young, follows him, haunting him in at age 26. We learn that this loss has truly shaped him as a detective, in fact, the main case of Reykjavík Nights is only solved because of Erlendur’s obsession with missing people. End Spoilers

The novel is differs from the usual style of Indriðason’s Inspector Erlendur series. Instead of following Erlendur and his team as they try to solve a murder of some kind, we’re treated to two stories without. Reykjavík Nights has two halves: a procedural Law & Order type story line and an overarching crime that Erlendur must solve. The title of the novel itself is really only half the story, but this is not a bad thing

As a big fan of Law & Order, this novel read a bit like the Reykjavik version of that show — except that the characters (and Erlendur especially) were very well developed. We are treated to Erlendur’s experiences as a traffic/beat cop on the streets of Reykjavik. He works the night shift, hence the title, and Indriðason fills chapters with the exploits of Erlendur and his two partners. That sounds boring, but instead it’s the opposite. As much as I wanted to know what was happening in the other half of the story, these tales of the night shift serve a larger purpose, showing how ordinary people can sometimes become entangled in larger stories without even realizing it.

674a867a74ae92cb4f94dd57ee606451As always, I enjoyed the way Indriðason ties everything together. The larger crime is twofold — the death of a homeless man Erlendur met on the night shift and a woman who went missing around the same time the homeless man died. These two seemingly independent stories draw Erlendur in and we watch as he slowly begins to unravel them and eventually figure out what happened and how they’re connected. While the night shift stories are good, it is this second plot where the novel truly shines. We are treated to Erlendur, the budding inspector. But unlike the later series, this Erlendur doesn’t know what he’s doing, he messes things up, and he has to work alone. And yet, just as we expect, he does solve the mysteries he’s stumbled upon.

Reykjavík Nights is a treat for Erlendur fans and I am so happy it’s been translated into English. If you’ve read the rest of the series, definitely pick up Reykjavík Nights. While it’d still be a good read if you’re not familiar with the series, I would still recommend starting with Jar City. Regardless, I truly enjoyed this book and I cannot wait to read Into Oblivion, the follow up book to Reykjavík Nights.

Self-Care Friday (Week 5)

Sorry, this one is late due to many things.

Last week I talked about watching some musicals and one of those was Annie Get Your Gun. I knew, going in, that this musical was not a great one. I also expected it to be racist and sexist, but I honestly didn’t really know what I was in for. You can read my full review over on Letterboxd, but suffice to say that I pretty much only gave it one star because I like some of the songs.

Anyway, onto the actual, fun things.

What I’ve Been Reading:

  • Reader Harder:
    • Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel: The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles
  • Completed:
    • Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indriðason (audio book on CD)
  • Reading:
    • Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
    • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (audio book – on hold)
    • Chapelwood: the Borden dispatches by Cherie Priest
    • Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino
    • Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews
    • One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire (audio book)

What I’m watching:

The most recent two episodes of Voice have gotten really intense. There are only two more left. I can’t wait to find out what happens.

  • Voice (Korean drama)
  • Tokyo Tarareba Musume (Japanese drama)
  • Totsuzen Desu ga, Ashita Kekkon Shimasu (Japanese drama)
  • Cabaret
  • Camelot

What I’m listening to:

  • Women of Fresh Finds (Spotify Playlist)
  • Blade Runner OST
  • Arrival OST
  • Perfume – Tokyo Girl (theme to Tokyo Tarareba Musume)

  • Subin

And her new song:

 

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This is Kihyun, of the boy group Monsta X. They are one of my favorite groups and coming back soon. I’m going to try to include pictures of some kind, from now on, that make me happy. This teaser photo of Kihyun is one of those images! Look forward (maybe … you may not be doing that, actually, but shhh) to more (probably kpop related) photos. 

Self-Care Friday (Week 2)

A lot has happened this week, not all of it great for the country, but some of it great for me. I bought tickets to see a kpop group, B.A.P, in Chicago in April. My friend N ended up getting a ticket, too, so we’ll go together. We’re also planning to go see SHINee in Toronto — hopefully we can get tickets! They go on sale next Sunday. And today, Friday, we’re headed out of town for another kpop concert (B1A4, for those of you playing at home).

What I’ve been reading:

  • Read Harder:
    • Read an all-ages comic: Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
  • Completed:
    • A Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino
  • Reading:
    • Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
    • Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
    • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (audio book)

What I’m watching:

  • Voice (Korean drama)
  • Squad 38 (Korean drama)
  • Kaitou Tantei Yamaneko (Japanese drama)
  • The Great Wall (Chinese film)
  • Young and Dangerous 1 & 2 (Hong Kong movies from 1996)
  • Twin Peaks (original series)

What I’m listening to:

  • SECHSKIES
  • GUGUDAN
  • SPEED
  • K.A.R.D (they have to singles: Oh Na Na and Don’t Recall)

Book Review: Boy Nobody (I Am The Weapon) by Allen Zadoff

069c352b1ffb84910a68043c82a1d84dIf you know me, you know that I love thrillers. And, if you know me really well, you might know that I love The Winter Soldier (aka Bucky Barnes). I like assassins who turn out to have a heart, who end up questioning their orders. These stories are intense and fun, but they’re not usually something that you find in teen books. Or at least, not to the level that you find in Boy Nobody/I Am The Weapon.

Boy Nobody is the story about an unnamed (until near the end of the novel) teenage boy who is also an assassin. When he was twelve, his family was killed and he was basically kidnapped and turned into an assassin who can get places adults cannot. He has been doing this for a long time and he’s very good at his job.

We follow our unnamed teenage assassin as he finishes one assignment and is then given a second — this time he must kill a mayor. Of course, the mission isn’t as easy as our assassin expects it to be — his timeline is a week and then there’s a girl involved. But unlike so many other novels, Boy Nobody does something very different with it’s anti-hero.

Very explicit spoilers for Boy Nobody ahead.

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