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[personal profile] renay posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
2018 managed to be, at the same time, one of the shortest but longest years in recent memory. Partly because things kept happening and wouldn't stop and partly because I decided to work on a political campaign and slightly regret it because it ate up six months of my life. I gained some great skills (I can edit video now!) but I'm also once again clawing my way out from under a crushing experience for my very fragile confidence due to Too Many Cis Men Who Know Better About The Field I Have Experience In, which is a state of being that I'm sure many of us are familiar with.

And also, my dad died on December 25. It was unexpected, but also at the same time not surprising (he was very ill and has been for while). I got him a bunch of books as a gift, because he's been so bored recently. Now I have three westerns I will never read.

If I hadn't had time to read I might have gone bananas, but thankfully there was travel, driving, and other tasks where I could read and also listen to audiobooks. 2018 was the year of the audiobook for me. And it turns out that if I'm dealing with heavy sadness, audiobooks are perfect because I can just listen and relax, or listen and knit and not dwell on things. I used audiobooks in November 2016 to cope and I did the same thing with them the last week of December. Thank the stars for the new ways of reading technology has provided.

A Year in Reading

In January, I read the bittersweet and charming In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan, about a boy who escapes our imperfect reality for an imperfect fantasy realm. This is a novel about portal fantasy tropes, an homage and a critical assessment at the same time. It's fantastic. I switched gears immediately after to Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill, about the end of the world for robots—humans have long since been wiped out. Brittle is trying to survive in a world where parts are sparse and robots are on the run from the One World Intelligence, which wants all robots to add their knowledge to the global hivemind and give up individualism. Fans of post-apocalyptic fiction should keep it in mind when they need something dark but fast-paced that's not too heavy.

February brought The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard, a Sherlock Holmes adaptation set in her Xuya universe where Watson, here called The Shadow's Child, is a spaceship with PTSD. She brews tea to help people through space travel and Long Chau comes calling for help to investigate a murder. It's as delightful as it sounds, with de Bodard's excellent world building at the forefront. I really hope we see more of The Shadow's Child and Long Chau in future novellas (or, dare I say it, a novel). I also loved The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory, where a city employee and a surgeon meet when they're trapped in an elevator and suddenly Alexa is Drew's date to a wedding. It was a pretty delightful long-distance romance complete with an emphasis on the importance of local politics and community programs. (I felt seen.)

March brought the second volume of Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda, where my continuing worry that Kippa is going to be eaten makes me read with extreme caution. Maya is a brutal protagonist and the world she lives in even more so, but the story is epic and the art special and beautiful. It's some of the best epic fantasy I've ever read. March was also when I went to Wellstone Training in Dallas (yep, that was in 2018 even though it feels like nine years ago). For the travel and downtime I armed myself with audiobooks (no carrying books while traveling! magical!) of Illuminae and Gemina, which were rereads. Then when I got home I read Obsidio, the last book in the series. I love found footage so having it in a book series where it really worked was excellent. I will follow Amie Kaufman anywhere.

April brought me so many riches. I started a reread of The Expanse in audio to prepare for the latest book and enjoyed it immensely. Although, a slight hiccup: I started work right when I would've begun listening to the most recent one and got derailed. Soon I'll be two books behind, but I'm also struggling with the timeskip—possibly one of my least favorite narrative tropes! I feel like I need the hardcopy of the book to change things up and get into the narrative. Then I read Provenance by Ann Leckie, which was an utterly charming adventure with very correct manners set in space. It tackled family, culture, and privilege, and although it's a standalone I would be happy to read more of Ingray's adventures. I love watching Leckie build worlds and then populate them with incredible cultural touches that make them feel deep and old—it's one of her greatest strengths as a writer. Unsurprisingly, I read Head On by John Scalzi and enjoyed it at the time, but it's faded from memory. I just recall a strong fondness. I don't know if that's the book's fault or mine, but I was also reading a lot. Like, for example, a lot of romance. I adored The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, where Stella hires an escort to teach her the ~art of love~ and meets Michael, trying to make ends meet for his family. It's such a delight and Stella one of the greatest heroines of my year—capable and awkward and so human. I also read the Society of Gentleman novels by KJ Charles, and gobbled them up at the end of a reading month like I hadn't read a word the whole four weeks. Then Planetfall by Emma Newman, which I loved—complete with the fantastic twist—right up until the very confusing and abortive end. I still think it's worth reading, although I hope someone comes and explains their read on the conclusion to me. And lastly, but certainly not least, I read an ARC of Artificial Condition by Martha Wells, the continuing adventures of Murderbot who accidents their way into helping humans again while trying to solve the mystery of their murdering past.

In May I started getting more heavily involved in politics and then finally got hired on to a campaign, so May only had two of the Expanse books (I replaced reading with buying books, obvs). June had no reading and July had only a few things, including Gentleman Never Keep Score which was good, but I also think it was my least favorite Cat Sebastian novel. This is one of those "bad pizza is still pizza" moments. I didn't like the main character's perspective very much at all. But I loved the supporting characters and the love interest. I'm chalking it up to summer being a very strange time in my life.

August brought Make Trouble by Cecile Richards, a retrospective on her life as an organizer and her experience in Texas politics, national politics, and Planned Parenthood. I listened to the audiobook of this and it was lovely, especially when she talks about her mother and former governor of Texas, Ann Richards. I took more hope from this book than I did from anything on Five Thirty Eight or various polls. Organizing is work that never ends and all you can do is get up, win or lose, and keep pushing. Zeroboxer was another YA title I finished—I had started it when it first came out and never completed it due to a reading slump—and I liked it a lot. However, it definitely feels like the beginning of a series and as far as I can tell there's nothing on that front, which is disappointing. As a standalone book the end makes it much weaker even though everything preceding it is excellent. (Publishing is hell.)

In September, I caught the second book in Claudia Gray's Constellation series, Defy the Worlds, which complicates everything nicely for the finale. I'm sensing the potential approach of a found family narrative and I hope I'm not wrong. This was also the month of The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi, a novel that's so fast-paced it reads like a very short novella and is definitely the middle of a series. However, I loved so many of the things it introduces (AI!) and the women in power and will never tire of a solid space adventure that's light and accessible. I loved it so much I wrote Scalzi a fan letter and it wasn't even embarrassing this time. (Funny story: I was on a panel with Scalzi at Worldcon and my partner took a picture of me smiling at him and drew hearts between us and I'm here to tell you...accurate.)

October brought me more of my beloved Murderbot in Rogue Protocol, once again stumbling into saving some humans and being a hero. I got the second book in my favorite ongoing YA epic fantasy series by Rin Chupeco, The Heart Forger, where everything gets darker and more fraught, but there's also amazing monsters and women being powerful and influential. Plus, I am stoked by the romance in this series when in most YA I'm ambivalent. I read The Heart Forger in audio and really want to go back and read a physical copy because there's so much going on and I want to be prepared before the last book. To round out the month I spent a day with The Band Sinister by KJ Charles, which I read in-between processing so much video. I honestly believe I would have had a breakdown without reading in October, because everything was stressful and reading was the place I went to relax. Thank the stars for authors who write books for stressed out campaign staffers to read in the cracks of "free" time.

I only read two books in November: Witchmark by C.L. Polk, a secondary world fantasy full of magic and queer fairies—the world building will knock your socks off—that tackles the costs of war, power, and privilege. The second was Windwitch by Susan Dennard, the sequel to Truthwitch. I was so-so on Truthwitch because my default mode is "MAKE THEM QUEER!!!!", but there was a mystery. So of course Windwitch added a new POV character who I loved. She definitely wanted to make out with her second-in-command a lot (QUEER LADIES!). It also sold me on one of the het romances by dropping the uninteresting dude from one and then adding a very specific element that I am weak to in the other, but that is also a spoiler. While these epic fantasies don't approach my love of work by Chupeco or Elliott's Court of Fives series and how they tackle race/gender, they're still very fun to read if you like these types of young characters and a mythology drawn with a light hand.

One of December's best books was Exit Strategy by Martha Wells, where Murderbot has to rescue their team (FAMILY) from situations they accidentally created by wandering around the system being a hero. I loved this closing chapter of Murderbot's adventures, which perfectly sets up the novel we'll be hopefully getting in 2020 with even more of Murderbot downloading media to watch but inevitably going back to rewatch The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon, which gives me amazing amounts of joy. (My desire to have Martha Wells actually write a novella of the first episode of this imaginary show is currently at 854%). Next was the Court of Fives series by Kate Elliott. I gobbled up Court of Fives, then started Poisoned Blade, and didn't expect to finish it and the last book, Buried Heart, until 2019, but, well. Sudden Sad Event changed things and I found myself in a car more and also needing to just sit and be still pretty often. And Kate Elliott writes excellent, thinky books that give you a lot to consider, so they were perfect to keep my brain busy, and also excellent. The mix of athletics and revolution is always fascinating because of the way Elliott compares sports and war and who is "allowed" to do each, and how, and in what contexts. The costs of colonialism and racism are high and Court of Fives as a series really digs into what it means to be part of two worlds at odds. It's especially good at tugging at those threads when there's no clear path to reconciling them. It's a brilliant series and has lots of crossover appeal for people who like Elliott's adult books. They're also a great entry point to her work in general. I'm happy I have some short fiction to check out still.

Revisiting 2018 Goals

Read 110 books

Not even close. But once I started work I accepted that it wasn't going to happen. I didn't adjust my goal immediately—I didn't even think about my goal until November, actually, when I went to add some books to Goodreads and saw it. Reader, I laughed out loud. 2017 me had no idea what she was in for. I did end up changing the goal to 60 books, since I am greedy and want the little complete status. >)

Read 30 new women writers

I made it to 12 on this goal, which for a year when my main reading goal got so squashed, is pretty good!

Read 15 nonfiction titles


Read 10 books I owned purchased before January 1, 2018

4/ can't win'em all.

Read 15% of my anticipated 2018 titles

This is a category that's harder to track because it relied on me posting quarterly lists of books I was looking forward to to keep myself publicly accountable and I sure didn't do any of that. I did read quite a few of the books I was excited for that came out in 2018, so even though I can't look at my stats for this challenge, I'm happy I got to some of the sequels.

Read 10 pieces of short fiction

*looks shamefully at folder full of short fiction recs*

Read 4 books about slavery/Civil War/Reconstruction

Okay, so I had a realization. My nonfiction reading was attached to my bed time, which meant that if I tried to read a chapter of very dense/upsetting nonfiction before I went to sleep, I had nightmares.

Do not read books about slavery/Civil War/Reconstruction before bed. Just don't.

It then occurred to me that because I had attached my nonfiction reading to bedtime, it blocked me from reading heavier nonfiction, even in other categories—books that needed me to be fresh and ready to do some serious mental work. So that's why this challenge went exactly nowhere, because I failed out of it because the foundations were shaky and then got a job.

Lesson learned.

2018 Reading Goals

  • Read 90 books — set reasonable goals!
  • Read 15 new women writers — I could probably do more but who knows what 2019 has in store for me.
  • Read 3 nonfiction titles — back to basics!
  • Read 3 books I owned purchased before January 1, 2019 — I know part of the problem here is just the scope of the number of books I have. If I got used to picking a book from my shelf I'd be able to read a ton, so let's make the goal much lower and less daunting. I bet I'll do better than 3 if I can get going.
  • Read 5% of my anticipated 2018 titles — hopefully will get me talking about books I'm excited for again!

Date: 2019-01-03 08:51 pm (UTC)
oracne: turtle (Default)
From: [personal profile] oracne
I am sorry for your loss. It's so very hard to lose a parent no matter how or when.

I hope you continue to find some respite in audiobooks.

Date: 2019-01-03 09:49 pm (UTC)
chelseagirl: (Default)
From: [personal profile] chelseagirl
Sorry about your father. Mine died on December 26th, also after a long illness.

Date: 2019-01-05 09:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, hon. I'm still so sorry about your dad. That's just a really, really hard Christmas.

Also: Wellstone was THIS YEAR??? HOW?


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