Books

We like to read books, mostly in audio format. Just like movies, we wanted to keep a record of what we've read, mostly as a personal memory aid. Unlike movies, we have also been recording our thoughts and feelings about the books that we've read for several years already.

Book reviews

A Closed and Common Orbit

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Author: Becky Chambers

Narrator: Rachel Dulude

Published: 2019

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

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Author: Becky Chambers

Narrator: Rachel Dulude

Published: 2019

The Body Keeps The Score

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Author: Bessel van der Kolk

Published: 2014

The Menagerie: Krakens and Lies

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Author: Tui T. Sutherland, Kari H Sutherland

Published: 2019

The Menagerie: Dragon On Trial

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Author: Tui T. Sutherland, Kari H Sutherland

Narrator: Kari H Sutherland

Published: 2019

The Tao of Fully Feeling

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Author: Pete Walker

Narrator:Christopher Grove

Published: 2019

The Menagerie

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Author: Tui T. Sutherland, Kari H Sutherland

Narrator: Em Eldridge

Published: 2019

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving

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Author: Pete Walker

Narrator: Paul Brion

Published: 2018

Emilie and the Sky World

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Author: Martha Wells

Narrator: Channie Waites

Link: Emilie and the Sky World

Review

A delightful continuation to the first book in the series!

Trader's Tales

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Author: Nathan Lowell

Narrator: Nathan Lowell

Link: List of Nathan Lowell's books

Review

I absolutely love this series. It's been a comfort read for me for about the past decade. Returning to it now it's still the same wonderful fluff that I remember.

The City We Make

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Author: N.K. Jemison

Narrator: Robin Miles

Review

I absolutely loved this book and this series. Hands down my favorite cosmic horror story. Probably also my favorite use of multiverse in fiction.

Emilie and the Hollow World

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Author: Martha Wells

Narrator: Channie Waites

Link: Emilie and the Hollow World

Review

What a delightful little adventure. I really love Emilie, and Wells' storytelling gripped me from the very beginning.

Fugitive Telemetry

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Author: Martha Wells

Narrator: Kevin R. Free

Link: Fugitive Telemetry

Review

Another great addition to the series. Murderbot is so delightful to follow as he tries to solve mysteries and annoy stupid humans as much as possible.

Light From Uncommon Stars

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Author: Ryka Aoki

Narrator: Cindy Kay

Published: 2021

Link: Light From Uncommon Stars

Review

This book is such a wild mix of genres and I love it so much! And Aoki combines them in such a wonderful way and gives us a happy ending intricately tying them together. I'm still a little amazed at how much I liked every character in this book.

I also was enthralled as Katrina begins to blossom under the care of Shizuka. We get to see this wonderful young trans woman grow in confidence and shine in ways that none of Shizuka's students ever had before.

Like This

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Author: Rumi

Narrator: Coleman Barks

Published: 2016

Started on: 2022-07-07

Finished on:

Link: Like This: More Poems of Rumi

Review

Honestly I don't recall much of this. It was a couple months ago now, and life got busy.

The Hidden Kingdom of Fungi

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Author: Keith Seifert

Narrator: Steven Marriott

Published: 2022

Started on: 2022-06-29

Finished on: 2022-07-05

Link: The Hidden Kingdom Of Fungi

Review

A fine little book on the wonders of fungi. I quite liked it, but it had none of the spiritual weight of Robin Wall Kimmerer's work had for me.

Braiding Sweetgrass

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Author: Robin Wall Kimmerer

Narrator: Robin Wall Kimmerer

Published: 2016

Started on: 2022-06-09

Finished on: 2022-06-28

Link: Braiding Sweetgrass

Review

I read the book Wall Kimmerer wrote after this one, Gathering Moss, a couple of months ago. Even more so this time I found myself enamored with Wall Kimmerer's perspective of the world and its complexity. Non-human beings deserve fair treatment and equal participation in our society as much as humans do! We all strive together as a basic function of life.

Her conception of the Honorable Harvest really drew me in. We owe our entire existence to the hard work of plants and fungi, and our use of those things should be accompanied with appropriate reciprocity. What can we possibly give back to beings who fuel our entire existence? In some situations the gift of gratitude is enough. But there is also a gift that we as humans are uniquely situated to give: our rational capacity to learn and plan. Wall Kimmerer tells a story of how one grad student took on a project that was much aligned by her advisors, and the result of the study was excellent evidence that showed sweetgrass thrives best when it is harvested appropriately (i.e. not overharvesting). We as a species have developed intensely close relationships with many non-human beings such that they rely on our harvest of them in order to set them up for success and proliferation. Cultivation and the Honorable Harvest are two gifts of reciprocity that we as human beings can uniquely offer.

This has given me an even greater passion for permaculture gardening. I am excited to live in concert with the land where I reside, doing my best to nurture it and cultivate its thriving as all the non human beings that reside here also contribute to my thriving. I learned of the wisdom of the three sisters from Wall Kimmerer, and have tried my hand at planting a three sisters garden. I was a bit late in the season when I did it, but I'm still hopeful for a bountiful harvest.

The Unlikely Adventures Of The Shergill Sisters

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Author: Balli Kaur Jaswal

Narrator: Sonella Nankani, Soneela Nankani, Deepti Gupta

Published: 2019

Started on: 2022-05-24

Finished on: 2022-06-05

Link: The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters

Review

I find the tension between the generations of sisters really fascinating. Perhaps because there is a similar age gap between my older sisters and I. So I know what it is like to have older siblings around who occupy that liminal space between sibling and parent. The dynamics between the sisters is truly griping. Their mother demands that they make a trip to India in order to better understand their culture. But the greatest thing they learn on the trip is not ancient wisdom from their heritage, but rather an understanding of each other and the ways in which their experiences with their mother was different, but also similar. This allows them to be present for and support each other in ways they were previously incapable of.

Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows

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Author: Balli Kaur Jaswal

Narrator: Meera Syal

Published: 2017

Started on: 2022-05-17

Finished on: 2022-05-23

Link: Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows

Review

I really loved this book! I might even return to it sometime this year. The interplay between generations and cultures is wonderfully delightful. I immensely enjoyed the ways Jaswal makes those interplays bi-directional. Nikki begins our journey having grown up in Britain, so she is very familiar with western feminism and initially patronizes the widows who sign up for her language classes. She initially sees them as victims of patriarchy, but she comes to learn of how strong they are. Not only that but they hold wisdom and strength for her as she has to endure sexism and navigate her modern world of London, which is not really all that less sexist than the Punjabi community as Nikki first believes.

This is a great book, a wonderful debut by this author. So much so that I immediately went on to read The Unlikely Adventures Of The Shergill Sisters, Jaswal's second novel. So far it is equally as good.

The Flames of Hope

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Author: Tui T. Sutherland

Narrator: Shannon McManus

Published: 2022

Started on: 2022-05-11

Finished on: 2022-05-16

Link: The Wings of Fire: The Flames of Hope

Review

I love this series so much. I honestly cannot recommend it enough. If you enjoy fantasy at all, and are willing to read books aimed at primary school aged children, this series is a must read.

This is the conclusion of The Lost Continent arc. I really enjoyed the way that Sutherland wraps in humans in this arc. The previous struggles had all been about conflicts between dragon tribes, but this one touches upon a time long ago when humans shared the land with dragons, and how poorly they treated dragons.

I don't want to spoil the plot of the book, and I really don't have much to say beyond that. I liked this book as much as I liked all the rest, check it out. <3

Freshwater

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Author: Akwaeke Emezi

Narrator: Akwaeke Emezi

Published: 2018

Started on: 2022-05-04

Finished on: 2022-05-11

Link: Freshwater

Review

This book is full of lots of stuff that I really wished was warned for when I started the book. It's all very good, but there is also lots of trauma events that the viewpoint character endures. There is detailed descriptions of rape, eating disorders, and self harm via cutting in this book. Many spoilers to follow.

Ada, our viewpoint character, had something go amiss during birth. The spiritual doors that are normally closed to keep the entities that make up the soul from leaving were left unbound. The spirits thus never cohered into a single self, and Ada has to journey through life while co-inhabiting her body with several others who remember existing before Ada's birth. They turn out to be old African gods, and they a quite contentious towards Jesus, the god that Ada worships.

Exploring their relationship is utterly fascinating. We follow Ada through her life, but it isn't just hers, it is also that of the being she shares the body with. Often times they are not kind to the body, since they do not recognize it as theirs, and as deathless being not accustomed to being bound to a single body, they do not care much for it's comfort or needs.

The narrative is a wonderful exploration of dissociative identities, although Ada is expressly not that in the novel. DID is acknowledged as something that from the outside appears to fit Ada, but the old gods refuse that label. Perhaps that is true for them. Perhaps is it part of a delusion. It is a fascinating journey either way.

Fearless

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Author: Shira Glassman

Narrator: Grace Keller Scotch

Published: 2021

Started on: 2022-04-27

Finished on: 2022-04-27

Link: Fearless

Review

What a delightful short story! It's only 1 hour long, a great afternoon or evening listen. It's incredibly wholesome too! We follow a freshly divorced lesbian in her 40's as she tries to get a handle on being out, a parent, and single in a dating pool she has zero experience in. The story takes place at her daughter's orchestra conference, where there's an instructor who happens to be an incredibly hot butch.

Give it a listen!

Under the Whispering Door

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Author: TJ Klune

Narrator: Kirt Graves

Published: 2021

Started on: 2022-04-15

Finished on: 2022-04-27

Link: Under the Whispering Door

Review

This was such a delightful book! I would say it's on par with the last book I read by Klune,The House in the Cerulean Sea.

It opens with a rather unlikable main character, who then goes through some truly life changing growth thanks to those around them, and ends up changing the world for the better on a scale that is impossible to see coming. An accurate description for either book.

I had so much fun on the journey with Wallace as he grew and began to care for those around him. Everyone at the tea shop is so special and lovable as well. The twist was really good this time too! I did not see it coming! I think it has a leg up on The House in the Cerulean Sea on that one honestly.

Also, there's a ghost dog! I highly recommend this book.

The Smart Nonprofit

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Author: Beth Kanter, Allison H. Fine

Narrator: Kim Niemi

Published: 2022

Started on: 2022-03-31

Finished on: 2022-04-12

Link: The Smart Nonprofit

Review

I found this book really well put together! I think Kanter and Fine do a great job of communicating the concepts and tools of digital technology, artificial intelligence in particular, in phrasing that makes sense to non-technical folks.

I was really impressed at the variety of ways they pointed out that digital automation can help make non-profit efforts more impactful. And into this they did an excellent job of pointing out the ways in which digital automation can amplify existing biases and do far more damage than humans alone. They have a keen awareness of how the injustice that already exists in the world informs the production of these systems, and how that heritage can result in profound biases built into the core of our social systems.

This book is a great read if you want to think about how we can focus our social change efforts in ways that involve technology in the most ethical way, minimizing the harm we do and maximising the good.

Land of Big Numbers

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Author: Te-Ping Chen

Narrator: Christopher Naoki Lee, Eddy Lee, Fiona Rene, Matt Yang Kin

Published: 2021

Finished on: 2022-03-30

Link: Land of Big Numbers

Review

This one is a set of short stories that all involve a few days in the life of Chinese people from all walks of life. There is the person who left their small town and abusive boyfriend to work in the city. The emigrant to the US who struggles to connect to those around her because of the culture differences. There's even the American Widow who travels to her husband's hometown in China after his suicide.

This was a fun book. Not much of it really stands out on its own, but in the big picture it all folds nicely into a big picture of society and the world. This big mass of dirt and iron flying through space is populated by all kinds of people living all kinds of lives, and it makes the whole thing more special to peek in a what it means to be just one person in a land of billions.

Redemptor

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Author: Jordan Ifueko

Narrator: Joniece Abbott-Pratt

Published: 2022

Started on: 2022-03-18

Finished on: 2022-03-24

Link: Redemptor

Review

I was so excited for this book! It's the sequel to Raybearer, which was an amazing piece of world building and character development. The twist at the end of that novel is just really good.

I felt so invested in Tarisai's emotional struggles as she becomes an Empress. The imposter syndrome, the drive to do more simply because she can and should, at least in her own skewed perspective. I felt her emotions strongly at parts of this novel and it was a delightful journey!

Tarisai fell in love with so many people! It felt like a rush, and I'm not sure I remember all of them honestly. But each love was so beautiful! I'm still enamored with how well Ifueko portrays various loves that are all equally deep and intimate and yet still vastly different. What a journey of creating a family with one meets out of necessity. Tarisai must learn to love these people, and she truly does love them.

I was really excited when we got to the point of the journey through the underworld. I was so excited and confident in Tarisai and her abilities that I couldn't wait to see how she navigated these challenges and opponents. And it didn't disappoint! I don't want to spoil the drama at the end, because I do think it was beautifully done.

I will be watching for what Ifueko does next, because this series was amazing.

Loveless

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Author: Alice Oseman

Narrator: Billie Fulford-Brown, Elizabeth Schenk, Imogen Church

Published: 2021

Started on: 2022-03-12

Finished on: 2022-03-18

Link: Loveless

Review

What an absolutely delightful book! It has far more swearing and alcohol than I'm used to coming from books published by Scholastic Press. We follow Georgia as she is nearing the end of Year 13 at her school and is heading off to college with her two best friends. It's a wonderful tale of this young woman trying to find out who she is, including her sexuality, which ends up being Asexual and Aromantic. It's obvious from the beginning if you are familiar with those identities, but it takes Georgia quite a while to learn that. The story takes us through the dramatic ending of friendships, their delightful reunions and amends, as well as several characters finding true love; romantic and platonic.

I found it quite delightful how many references to fanfiction and fanfiction tropes Georgia makes through this novel. And at the end there was a really beautiful short story told from the perspective of two of the supporting characters that fall in love.

The Midnight Library

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Author: Matt Haig

Narrator: Carey Mulligan

Published: 2020-09-29

Started on: 2022-03-02

Finished on: 2022-03-08

Link: The Midnight Library

Review

I can't say I liked this book all that much. I liked the conclusion at the end. Live your life because it's yours, and you have all the potential within you to live any life at all. The story was okay, I kind of liked the premise. Nora goes through a library containing all the stories of the possible lives she could be living shortly after she attempts suicide. I was less fond of Nora herself, although she grew on me and I think I liked her by the end. The beginning though was a bit of a drudge, I highly disliked Nora's perspective and narration of events. I also found the use of quantum mechanics to be a bit…I don't know it felt unnecessary. It was a core explanation of how the plot functions, but it also seemed like explaining it with "magic" would have accomplished the same goal. I'm not opposed to either, but when they feel interchangable they don't seem to hold much force in the narrative for me.

It's a good book, but I personally am not going to recommend it to anyone.

Pacific Edge: Part 3 of the Three Californias Triptych

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Author: Kim Stanley Robinson

Series: Part Three of The Three Californias Triptych

Narrator: Stefan Rudnicki

Published: 1990 & 2015

Finished on: 2022-03-01

Link: Pacific Edge

Review

Much like the second book in the trilogy, I had some trouble getting into this novel. Although I found the setting and characters far more interesting sooner. Really, just like all the other novels in this triptych, the best part of them is in their ending. In seeing the arc of the story and being able to judge what the journey of the characters mean.

I quite liked this California. It's a utopia, people have their needs met, everyone is provided for. And yet it's not boring, there are still the regular human struggles. Love triangles, disagreements about city land use, a lucky streak batting at the softball game. In particular at the end was the best part of the entire series I think. Robinson admonishes us as readers, if we want utopia we have to fight for it. Not just dream it, think of what ifs and day dream ideal scenarios. We have to fight for it, get involved in our communities, move the society of which we are a part towards a better tomorrow. We have to hope, and try.

Gathering Moss

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Author: Robin Wall Kimmerer

Narrator: Robin Wall Kimmerer

Published: 2018

Started on: 2022-02-14

Finished on: 2022-02-20

Link: Gathering Moss

Review

I loved this book so much! I really love plants, and the past few years I have been repeatedly delighted by books exploring the plant kingdom. Moss is truly an amazing bit of life on our planet, some of the first photosynthetic life on land! It's truly amazing to think of the smallness of moss and how it thrives despite that. Moss cultivates the kind of climate it needs to grow best! We often think of moss as an inconsequential and limitless thing in the wild. It is so small and unassuming. And yet moss is incredibly old and wise. It is a very slow growing life, sometimes moss you see on a tree will be as old as the tree itself! Take some time to slow down and notice the mossy friends around you.

The Gold Coast: Part 2 of the Three Californias Triptych

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Author: Kim Stanley Robinson

Series: Part Two of The Three Californias Triptych

Narrator: Stefan Rudnicki

Published: 1988 & 2015

Started on: 2022-01-22

Finished on: 2022-02-14

Link: The Gold Coast

Review

This one took me a long time to get into. For pretty much the first half of the book I was not very interested in the characters or their lives. Jim in particular I just found incredibly…boring. Which as I progressed through the book I realized was kind of the point. A major point of drama at the end is what Jim ends up deciding to do given all his listless meandering through life. More in the review of the third and final book of the trilogy, Pacific Edge: Part 3.

Noor

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Author: Nnedi Okorafor

Narrator: Délé Ogundiran

Published: 2021

Read on: 2022-02-04

Link: Noor

Review

As always I was totally enraptured by the narrative that Okorafor weaves. AO, our central character, is a young disabled woman. Once we get to know her the action of the novel takes off after she experienced a very traumatic event and has blocked all memory of it. We discover what happened to force her on the run as she does. As she is on the run she meets a young man named DNA, and they trauma bond; both having just had traumatic brushes with death. The world (both governments and transnational corporations) is against them both. Neither of them can continue with the quite lives they had hoped to lead, and all seems doomed. That is until AO gains the power to fight back.

I really enjoyed Okorafor's construction of AO. It was very nice to have a disabled character whose disability is critical to the plot without it being inspiration porn. AO's disabilities are a struggle for others, but never her. It's a part of who she is and she has no shame in accessing the technology that makes it easier for her to navigate the world made for abled bodies.

As with every single one of Okorafor's novels, I highly recommend this book.

The Wild Shore: Part 1 of the Three Californias Triptych

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Author: Kim Stanley Robinson

Series: Part One of The Three Californias Triptych

Narrator: Stefan Rudnicki

Published: 1984 & 2015

Read on: 2022-01-22

Link: The Wild Shore

Review

Another post-apocalypse story, like Earth Abides. This one is thought provoking in very similar ways. What does civilization look like after all the infrastructure has been demolished/taken away? Our main character and narrator is a young man who was born after the bombs went off, and we get to see what it's like to live in a small isolated village where folk have returned to trying to eke out an existence with fishing and agriculture.

Unlike Earth Abides however, there is still civilization out there. And as Hank encounters others from beyond his small village, he must reckon with the dis junction of his pastoral village and outsiders seeking to rebuild America. Tom the Village elder tells all kinds of stories about the old days, back when America was a great empire. He hopes to instill a vision in others of regaining all the good things that were lost. But he also bends the truth, hoping to erase the bad things that also disappeared after the bombs.

I really liked the village Hank lives in. It's full of real people who go about their lives and contribute in their own way. Every exchange Hank has with others reveals more and more and I grew to enjoy it there quite a bit. At the end Hank makes his decisions that go against the majority vote of the village and then he has to deal with the consequences. But the act of making those decisions puts him in a place to relate to adults in the village in ways that he could not previously.

Earth Abides

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Author: George R Stewart

Narrator: Tim Pabon

Published: 1949

Read on: 2022-01-09

Link: Earth Abides

Review

I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would! It has a really interesting vibe to it. It does properly belong to post apocalyptic sci-fi as a genre, but at the same time it occupies its own space there. Published in 1949, the genre as we understand it was not yet well defined. As such the whole vibe of the book has a much more exploratory feel of speculative fiction than a gritty post apocalypse adventure.

We get the narrative from Ish's perspective, a geographer who had retreated to a cabin up the mountain when a pandemic wiped out most of the human race. He returns to civilization to find nearly everyone gone. Ish sets about living in this new empty world. For awhile the water and electricity still work, but nothing is forever. Ish meets a woman, they gather with a few others who survived. They have children, life goes on. Yet Ish is occupied by that great loss of civilization. What of all the generations who will come after him? How will they live? What will they suffer having lost all the knowledge, tradition, and infrastructure of the human race's domination of the world?

In this is the theme of the whole book; "What is civilization?" What constitutes its parts, and can humans get along without it? Or will they return to lives of suffering, doomed to repeat all the same mistakes as our ancestors in order to gain the same knowledge?

Ish's opinion of civilization is distinct from my own, and much of what he finds important I thought not so much. Nevertheless it was a fascinating journey to go on with him, and I much admired him for his efforts to provide for his descendants the things necessary for a happy and fruitful life.

I was quite moved at the end of the book, where we see Ish in his old age. Dementia gradually takes him, and yet we are constrained to his view. As he loses grasp of what is happening with the tribe, so do we. It is an unnerving experience. To have once been so in command of our faculties and the world we inhabit only to slowly lose it, and to only be barely aware of that loss.

I find this book bordering on a must read for me. It is a great tale of retrospection on what this civilization is, and what might go on after us. Pause and ponder what you would like to leave for those humans that go about living after a collapse of all that makes this life possible.

Hench

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Author: Natalie Zina Walschots

Narrator: Alex McKenna

Published: 2020

Read on: 2021-12-31

Link: Hench

Review

Sneaking one last book in at the last minute! This is the fifty sixth book for the year! And who boy was this a fun one.

Anna is such a lovable character, striving to make ends meet while working temp jobs for various Villains in a world where the existence of Super Heroes is a normal society wide thing. Walschots does a great job of blending petty revenge, theft, and kidnapping that many villains partake in with a satisfying serving of fighting the man that is the superhero bureau.

The story starts out with Anna landing a temp gig that allows her talents to shine, getting a permanent job and eventually a request from the big boss to be present for a public misdeed. In the encounter Anna stumbles in the way of a hero, who causes her serious bodily harm simply brushing her aside. And so begins Anna vendetta to make all superheros, but one in particular, pay for the pain and suffering they inflict on everyday folk.

Her long recovery leaves her with nothing to do but obsessively calculate the cost in human suffering and property damage caused by heroic idiots. She blogs about her calculations and becomes slightly infamous, which gets her noticed by THE super villain Leviathan. With the massive resources he provides and the team Anna is able to hire, Anna is able to really dig in and make super heroes lives miserable until they destroy their own public and private lives. Turns out Anna's super power is spreadsheets and data. Which she puts to great use doing her best to even the scale.

I think my favorite thing about Anna is how painfully bisexual she is. It's never mentioned or labeled, but as the story is told from her point of view, she shares several of her crushes with the reader. It's always delightful.

The last act of the story gets into some….rather intense body horror. I personally loved it, a great adventure of the hero asshole getting just utterly beaten. But if you're squeamish it might get you.

The Nature of Oaks

Info

Author: Douglas W. Tallamy

Published: 2021

Read on: 2021-12-26

Review

This was such a fun read! Pretty quick too, due to the thick pages. Tallamy goes through the year month by month, describing the various life that would exist on and around an oak tree during that period of time. My initial thoughts about examining the life of an oak tree would have been thinking about the tree itself over it's lifespan. What kinds of things does the tree do when it is young, mature, and old. Now those details are included to some extent, but the focus really is all the kinds of life that depend on an oak through a single year.

Tallamy is an entomologist by profession, and this approach makes a lot more sense when I learned that. The book is largely about the various insects that depend upon an oak tree (with examples of the insects that depend on his specific oak tree from his yard!). I did not realize that so many species of animals have evolved to rely specifically and only on oak trees. Tallamy frequently touches upon how simply planting trees is not an adequate response to help the environment. They must be the right kind of trees, particularly native trees that support other native life. I am exceptionally fond of this more holistic view of environmental action. We need to structure our built environment in ways that promote and protect diversity of life.

I was surprised to learn that song birds depend largely upon a diet of caterpillars during the winter months. I was not aware that so many caterpillars winter on trees like oaks. I guess I had just assumed that eggs would be laid and then hatch in the spring. This makes me feel a lot better about not wanting to spend the money to keep my bird feeder full of seed all winter long!

I have a big old oak in my yard, and I'm really excited to take this new knowledge and be more aware of the life that goes on around it during the year! I'm also considering taking an acorn from it and planting it in an open section of my yard that could use more tree cover.

Death's End

Info

Author: Cixin Liu

Translator: Ken Liu

Narrator: P.J. Ochlan

Published: 2016

Read on: 2021-12-15

Review

I neglected to mention in the review for the last book: Liu has some…distasteful opinions of what femininity and autism are. They are not major points of the plot and come up mostly just in passing, but nevertheless they are there.

The conclusion of the series was a bit hard to bear at times. It's really depressing, full of twists that are nearly always not the outcome that you want as a reader. That said, it was still a fun read! Each twist left me with renewed hope for another possible positive ending for the characters we were following at that moment. Liu is imaginative in inventing new ways for human beings to strive to continue living, striving all the way to the end of the universe for just a little more life. Such is the nature of life is it not?

My favorite twists were near the very end, not anything to do with what happens to the characters but with a suggestion of the possible ways the universe is constructed. It was an interesting picture of what an edenic state of the universe might be like.

It took me all the way to the conclusion of this grand adventure before I was willing to accept Liu's central theme (look at me talking like I know how to do literary analysis ;P). Perhaps part of this was simply the fact that the theme is less familiar to my American perspective than to Liu's Chinese audience. It is a theme that I have encountered in a good deal of other Asian literature as well: You have a duty to that which came before you, and that which will come after you. We all occupy a place in time, and that very fact puts us in relation to the rest of the universe. As much as we may have our own desires for how we would like to live out our life, we have a responsibility to the rest of existence around us. This responsibility does not mean that we can't live out our lives in happiness, but it does require of us that we do our part to ensure that life goes on after we are done.

The Dark Forest

Info

Author: Cixin Liu

Translator: Joel Martinsen

Narrator: PJ Ochian

Published: 2015

Read on: 2021-12-04

Review

Again I am surprised with how much I really enjoy this hard science fiction! Liu sprinkles it in at just the right moments in the midst of the drama of two species at war for their survival.

Liu structures the differences between humans and the Tri-Solarans so fascinatingly. The Tri-Solarans are unfamiliar with any kind of deception and subterfuge, but possess technology far beyond what humanity is capable of. The second novel in the series then centers on how four humans selected can engage trickery and deception against an enemy from whom they can hide only their thoughts. How is it possible to fight against such a foe?

With this plot set up Liu has a great avenue for embedding fascinating drama and suspense in the midst of hard scifi details that only minimally depend on those elements. The final twist of the last human opponent to the Tri-Solarans totally caught me off guard. The foreshadowing of sociological elements as the key to the solution was really fascinating.

I read Cameron's [review of The Three Body Problem](https://www.brokenhandsmedia.com/blog/2021/11/2/camerons-book-reviews-late-2021) shortly after I finished that book and was drawn in by his mentioning how this series has a reputation for being very grim. And they certainly live up to that. The second novel does end on something of a positive note, with a truce between humanity and the invading Tri-Solarans for the time being.

Oh! I have to say, the second and third books in this series are LONG! This audiobook clocked in at 22 hours and the third is 28. I think they are the longest audio fiction I've listened to this year. I'm already part way into the next novel in the series and I have to say, it takes a dark turn again fairly quickly. I think I'll need to find something very light hearted after this.

The Three Body Problem

Info

Author: Cixin Liu

Translator: Ken Liu

Narrator: Luke Daniels

Published: 2014

Read on: 2021-11-23

Review

This was a really fascinating read! I'm normally not one much for hard science fiction, but Liu does it really well. It's a delightful mix of physics and the social lives of physicists who research in both applied and theoretical realms.

I really enjoyed the view of academics during the cultural revolution in China. What it takes to make it through times like that, and the role of integrity and faith in that struggle.

The VR game in the novel is so much fun! It's such an interesting way to introduce an alien race, and I particularly like how it is a plot device to introduce the characters to necessary information while also introducing me as the reader to these things.

I also really like the perspective of the detective, the know nothing common man who relies upon that to avoid utter despair that scientists had been powerless to combat. The conclusion at the end is delightful. I'm very excited to read the next novel!

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Info

Author: Dee Brown

Narrator: Grover Gardner

Published: 2010

Read on: 2021-11-19

Review

This book was a hard read. I have known that my country did terrible things to Indigenous peoples who first lived on this land, but I was not aware of just how atrocious, vile, and heartless the seizure of this land was. It's not easy, but I think every American should read these stories, to understand our history of how and why we are here. It is only through incredible violence. We committed sickening acts of violence on human beings for the sake of profit, so that we might take their lands and exploit it for profit and wealth. We killed human beings for no reason other than to continue killing the planet.

as soft as fire

Info

Author: Upile Chisala

Narrator: Upile Chisala

Published: 2020

Read on: 2021-10-29

Review

This is selected poems from several of Chisala's works. I had read two of them previously, so I was familiar with a fair amount of the poems in this one. The best part of this is that periodically Chisala chimes in to comment on the situation of her life when she wrote a particular poem, or the themes from her life that it was touching on. It was a really enjoyable read of her poetry, If you want a place to start with her work I think this is probably it.

Tales from the Cafe

Info

Author: Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Narrator: Kevin Shen

Published: 2021

Read on: 2021-10-20

Review

This is the sequel to "Before the Coffee Gets Cold" which I read earlier this year. More great stories of the same kind. The premise is that in a certain cafe in Japan you can travel to the past; you cannot change the present no matter how hard you try, you must remain in the same seat the whole time, and you can only meet someone who has been to the cafe before. I love that first one. You cannot change things. Things are as they are, the only thing you can achieve is changing yourself by a short conversation with someone in a coffee shop. The theme of all these stories was your duty to be happy. If loved ones have suffered tragedies, then it is important that we work our hardest to find happiness in order to make sure all their effort to make us happy while they were with us was not in vain.

a fire like you

Info

Author: Upile Chisala

Narrator: Upile Chisala

Read on: 2021-10-17

Review

Again. I loved her poetry SO. MUCH. It is really powerful. I absolutely adore the tenacity of self love that Upile brings to her work. It was palbable in "soft magic" and it's just as much so here. I highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially those who were told to be quiet, obedient, and small.

My favorite poem:

A few things you may reconsider:

  1. That knife of a mouth
  2. A liking for the bottle if it comes with a disliking for yourself.
  3. Hiding hot anger under thick laughter.
  4. Talking yourself out of joy more times than into it.

Raybearer

Info

Author: Jordan Ifueko

Narrator: Joniece Abbot-Pratt

Published: 2021

Read on: 2021-10-12

Review

Wow. I was so enamored with this book nearly from the beginning. And I just learned there's a sequel!? Sign me up!

Raybearer is a delightful journey with children destined to be the emperor's council in a high fantasy setting. While it does have court intrigue, those elements always were part of the stories of characters I cared about so it was thrilling to see things unfold. I really loved how this world is built from a Nigerian perspective. I'm quite tired of fantasy stories that take place endlessly in European like settings. It's just old, and exploring this world built from Ifueko's epistemic privilege as a Nigerian American writer was refreshing.

I don't normally like worlds where magic is an innate power one is born with rather than skill, but I really enjoyed this one. The various powers that people had were all sufficiently unique to be interesting, and the main character's was especially so.

I really enjoyed the drama between Sunny and her mother. It was a very poignant portrayal of loving a parent who sees you as an extension of themself and a means to an end.

Sunny's solution to the problem of the novel that was brewing in the background the whole time was truly amazing. I'm so excited to see how it plays out in the sequel.

Centenal Series

Info

Author: Malka Older

Narrator: Christine Marshall

Published: 2016 - 2018

Titles:

Infomocracy; Read on 2021-09-18

Null States; Read on 2021-09-25

State Tectonics; Read on 2021-10-02

Review

This series was really good! It takes place in a near future where much of the world has transitioned to a new form of democracy, and the power underpinning this new structure is a global bureaucracy controlling the entirety of the next generation of the internet. While that plot point is really fascinating and I really enjoyed the way it's explored through the series, it initially gave me a little trouble getting into the series. Not because it's bad but because it pretty accurately portrays how network surveillance works and I spend too much of my time not in fiction thinking about how terrible the internet is.

I am however absolutely enamored with the "Narrative Disorder" that features prominently in the character Mishima's arc. Older does an excellent job of constructing a neurodivergency, and of the world building necessary for that. Information, the world spanning bureaucracy managing all the world's data, obviously depends heavily on data analysis. In a world where so much of it functions on the statistical analysis of massive amounts of quantitative data, the natural human tendency to create stories to explain patterns we observe is stigmatized in those who express that trait strongly. The characters who have this trait in the novels genuinely struggle with it, but it also a deep source of strength for them. I think that's a pretty accurate portrayal of how neurodivergencies play out in real life as well.

This is a series where I think it's important to read all of them. The conclusions in State Tectonics seems to me an important one to consider for our times. I really appreciate how well Older avoids being preachy and prescriptive here. Largely because the shift of power dynamics in the novels is one moving towards what our system today looks like, but in a way that gives you an interesting perspective from which to judge both the positives and negatives of such a move.

Akata Witch Series

Info

Author: Nnedi Okorafor

Narrator: Yetide Badaki

Published: 2018 & 2019

Titles:

Akata Witch; Read on 2021-09-06

Akata Warrior; Read on 2021-09-12

Review

I really love everything I've read by Nnedi Okorafor! It's so hard to resist the urge to just binge everything she's published (maybe I have already, I haven't checked). Her characters and perspectives are just so fascinating! While I like the story of Binti better, I have been recommending these novels to lots of folks because I feel they accomplish many of the things that the Harry Potter series fell short in.

Sunny is an incredibly powerful and gifted child with magical powers she discovered in middle school, but her friends are also varied and interesting in their own rights. They are not just sidekicks that get used to flesh out Sunny's story (one of my big frustrations with that other magical kid series). At the same time, adults in this series do very much send children into life or death situations and expect them to save the world, but at least the adults in this story are honest about it to the children's faces. And instead of magical powers creating and reinforcing this class structure where everyone without is less than, the story deals seriously with the strain that having to keep magical secrets puts on relationships; while also highlighting the agency magical powers can provide to protect loved ones and strengthen those same relationships.

Learning Statistics With R

Info

Author: Danielle Navarro

Published: 2019

Read on: 2021-09-03

Review

I really loved this textbook. It's really easy to read (as easy as that math can be anyways), and playing with R and doing stats is just plain fun. I'm already working on projects to put these skills to use and hopefully expand them further. If you want a good intro to statistics and some software to do them, this is a great (and free) place to start.

Days of Distraction

Info

Author: Alexandra Chang

Narrator: Greta Jung

Published: 2020

Read on: 2021-09-01

Review

What a journey! It follows the post college coming of age of the narrator as she tries to make her way in the world, get a raise, follow her boyfriend across the entire United States, and figure out what the hell she's even doing it all for. The prose was so tender, poignant with the struggles of young adults in the information age. Yet it still finds moments to be humorous and heavy, complete with the temptation to cheat and the burden of placating parents. It's not my usual sci-fi/fantasy brand of novel, but I quite liked it.

The House in the Cerulean Sea

Info

Author: T.J. Klune

Narrator: Daniel Henning

Published: 2020

Read on: 2021-08-22

Review

What an absolutely delightful book! I love Linus Baker so gosh darn much. His love for children is just so terribly heartwarming. I also identify heavily with how rules heavy Linus is and how much he opens in the beginning of the novel as passionate about order and bureaucracy. It was really something special to see how Arthur and Zoe and the kids encourage Linus to open up his heart and eyes to the injustices in the world.

The children in the novel are just so gosh darn lovable! Especially in the audiobook, which has wonderful voice acting. How can you not fall in love with Luci as you listen to his tiny six year old voice pontificates about how he is death, plague, pestilence, and the end of days?

And the end, when they finally fall in love?! So. Good. Such great queer love. I love this novel so so much. Everything about it is so tender.

Reverie

Info

Author: Ryan La Sala

Narrator: Michael Crouch

Published: 2020

Read on: 2021-08-11

Review

Spoilers Heavy

This novel begin in media res, but neither you nor the main character are aware of that in the beginning. Which I found a really fascinating opening to the story. There are machinations and power struggles going on that you and the main character are in the dark about. I also really enjoyed the presence of gay perspectives and opinions that ran through the novel, going beyond just the main character's sexuality. Also! Gay kissing! Very wow, much good.

Traveling through the mystical worlds of people dreams, and the super powers that our main cast exercise in those worlds was really delightful. I really enjoyed the magical world building. The power of hopes and dreams manifest into reality. The good and danger that those things bring.

Binti

Info

Author: Nnedi Okorafor

Narrator: Robin Miles

Published: 2015 - 2018

Titles:

Binti; Read on 2021-08-04

Binti: Home; Read on 2021-08-14

Binti: The Night Masquerade; Read on 2021-08-17

Review

This series was so good. I am really enraptured by the theme of growth, change, and family. Binti takes so many courageous steps and each time becomes more than what she was. Both in personal growth and real tangible ways. Binti, as she goes through the events of these novels changes the world around her in profound ways simply because she dares to take the steps that are uniquely hers. Each climax and resulting shift of the world in resolution of the story is only possible because Binti chooses to grow and accept a dramatic shift and growth in who she is as a person. And yet she never loses herself, it is always growth, not transformation.

Dune

Info

Author: Frank Herbert

Narrators: Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton, Simon Vance, et al

Published: 1965

Read on: 2021-08-01

Review

Just felt like rereading this classic. It took me a bit to get into, and even then I managed that mostly just because I wanted to get to the fun parts that I remembered haha. Looking back on it honestly…this is a pretty okay book, but it's just not something I'm ever going to recommend to anyone.

The Murderbot Diaries

Info

Author: Martha Wells

Narrator:Kevin R. Free

Published: 2017 - 2020

Titles:

All Systems Red; Read on 2021-07-11

Artificial Condition; Read on 2021-07-12

Rogue Protocol; Read on 2021-07-13

Exit Strategy; Read on 2021-07-14

Network Effect; Read on 2021-07-17

Review

I DEVOURED this series. It's so much fun I really can't recommend it enough. Murderbot is such a likable character. Wells' does a great job of making Murderbot seem like an inhuman machine, but one that is nevertheless still a person. And Murderbot isn't really all that inhuman, it has organic parts after all, and shares the same bodily configuration as humans. My favorite recurring line is how much Murderbot hates it when it leaks. The most interesting part of the entire series so far is watching Murderbot develop emotional skills. First as it develops the social skills to interact with humans who see it as an autonomous and sentient being rather than a tool, and then with another sentient bot. The series is absolutely delightful, but it is also a very interesting exploration of what it would be like to have access to a great deal of information and technical skill, and yet very few socio-emotional skills.

The Last Necromancer

Info

Author: C.J. Archer

Narrator: Shiromi Arserio

Published: 2019

Read on: 2021-07-09

Review

An interesting setting, and mostly interesting plot. I love the idea of having a conflict between a necromancer and Victor Frankenstein. I feel like the novel however did not live up to my expectations. Charlie was just too…feminine and helpless in a stereotypically Victorian way for my taste. The first sign of hope for a change in Charlie's way of being came at the end of the novel, so this may change in the following books of the series. I don't think I'm going to find out though. Suffering through one novel of a character simply repeating the same exasperation at her own helplessness was enough for me, and I have too many other books on my to read list to find out if this changes in the next one.

Emacs 29.3 (Org mode 9.6.15)