What am I Reading Wednesday? 3/20/2019

What am I reading?

“After years of self-imposed exile from a civilization rife with degradation and indecency, cynical journalist Spider Jerusalem is forced to return to a job that he hates and a city that he loathes. Working as an investigative reporter for the newspaper The Word, Spider attacks the injustices of his surreal 23rd Century surroundings. Combining black humor, life-threatening situations, and moral ambiguity, this book is the first look into the mind of an outlaw journalist and the world he seeks to destroy.”

I am currently reading a buddy read with Paul at https://paulspicks.blog/. Transmetropolitan is considered one of the great classics of graphic novels to come out of the genre in the last twenty years and it does not disappoint.

What Have I Just Finished?

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.

I just finished the spectacular book called, How To Best The Boys by Mary Weber. I cannot recommend this store enough. You can find my review here.

What am I Reading Next?

I am honestly not sure. I have quite a few wonderful choices at the moments. Any ideas? Help me make a choice!

Magic, Sexism, and STEM

“Apparently your feminine wiles are capable of making them idiots, Rhen.”

To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

Synopsis

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.


Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover
  • 352 pages
  • Expected publication: March 19th 2019 by Thomas Nelson
  • ISBN0718080963 (ISBN13: 9780718080969)
  • Edition Language English

My Thoughts

“Rhen Tellus opened it simply to see if she could scrape off the ink and derive which substances it’s been created from. Using her father’s strangely fashioned microscope. Which is how she discovered that this time the lettering was created from two types of resin, a binding paste, gold flecks, and a drop of something that smelled quite remarkably like magic.”

To Best the Boys is a lot of great and grand things. It is surprising, exciting, sad, bittersweet, and most of all remarkable. Mary Weber wrote a noteworthy book. It is a YA dipped in light fantasy without coming off as silly or unsophisticated, a rare feat nowadays. I cheered Rhen, she is a hero that young and teenage girls can look up to. Who says that women can’t be excellent at science and math? Who says they can’t look at dead bodies and not squeal. Rhen can! Rhen is the person capable of doing the saving, and if you listen to her, respect her opinion, she might help you out along the way and be your savior instead.

Rhen is a woman in her late teens trapped in her families financial situation. They dare to be working class people. Rhen’s parents, her mother born an Upper and her father born a lesser, fell in love and married against her mother’s families wishes. Rhen’s family has been shunned by her mother’s side her entire life. But, in a city built on familial connections, Rhen has been associating with her Aunt and cousin Seleni most of her life. In a bid to help her out of the Lesser social class. Rhen is a bit of a prodigy in math and sciences, and along with her father work tirelessly to find a cure to whatever is ailing the poorer classes in her port town. Those affected include Rhen’s mother. Here is the impetus of the story. Rhen must work tirelessly to find a cure, but Rhen is a woman and therefore not worthy of having her opinions heard. She is stuck in a catch-22 unless she can change the social equation. Each year a wealthy aristocrat and inventor holds a contest of magical and mathematical tests.

“All gentlepersons of university age (respectively seventeen to nineteen) are cordially invited to test for the esteemed annual scholarship given by Mr. Holm toward one full-ride fellowship at Stemwick Men’s University. Aptitude contenders will appear at nine o’clock in front of Holm’s Castle entrance above the seaside town of Pinsbury Port on the evening of 22 September, during the festival of the Autumnal Equinox.”

If Rhen can win the tests, she can gain access to the education that is necessary to help her friends, family, and people of Pinsbury Port fight off this spreading disease. She has the need and drive to succeed in this. What she faces as a contestant is fantastical creatures, science, math, and logic puzzles. As well as other contestants conspiring against her. You know she can do this, but Weber affectively amps up the suspense of the story until the reader is on proverbial pins and needles.

How does this story mimic our world today?


Although we live in a reasonably forward-thinking world, generally speaking, little girls face the same challenges of sexism when it comes to STEM(science, technology, engineering, math). Woman are still considered too illogical by some to be analytical enough to be a scientist. There are still real sociological and environmental barriers that girls need to overcome to become immersed in STEM. This story echoes that. Rhen is a woman continually being told that she does not have the mind and attitude for male-dominated STEM subjects.

Different men in Rhen’s Life


A quality I appreciated in this story was how men were depicted. Men are just as varied in personality, intelligence and spirit as women are. The author could have gone the route of stereotyping the male characters, but she didn’t. There was no type-casting for characters. Each of the players in this story has an individual mind and personality that mimics the variances in actual culture.

Political opinions and class warfare


Rhen comes from a poorer class, and although it is a peripheral plot point, Rhen’s working-class neighbors and friends have to deal with out of touch upper-class people thinking they know what is best for them. Those decisions cause a significant calamity for the working middle class and poor people of this village. It is an important vignette that mirrors political and social change taking place in our world even as we speak.

What I did not like

There is very little not to like with this story. My only slight complaint was that I felt like maybe there was one too many ideas in the plot. The plot line with the town’s fisherman seemed just a little much. Maybe that plot line would have been better seen in book 2.

Should you read this?

Absolutely. I cannot stress this enough, I loved this book. It is exceptionally well written, the plot is interesting, the characters are cheer-worthy. The message is one that can resonate with young girls, and when you get to the end, the reader feels empowered. You want to do better in your life and for those around you after reading this book.

Quotes taken from eARC are subject to change upon publishing.


Discussion Questions

  1. Many times in the story Rhen encounters situations with other male characters in the story that leave her uncomfortable. Rhen is gaslighted, talked over, embarrassed, shamed, and shunned. How does this make you feel as a reader.
  2. Are there other books in the YA light fantasy genre that talk about STEM and girls? How is it portrayed in other stories.

Procurement

I received an eARC of this novel from Netgalley and Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for my open and honest review.


About the Author

Hi. I write books. I eat things. I kiss things. I believe in mermaids.

I’m also the author of the Storm Siren Trilogy, The Evaporation of Sofi Snow series, and the March 2019 release, To Best the Boys. When not working, I sing 80’s hairband songs to my three muggle children, and ogle my husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. We live in California, which is perfect for stalking aging movie stars while wearing fanny packs and sweatpants.

For those who like to know such things (mainly my mom), Storm Siren was featured in the Scholastic Book Fair and my novels have been endorsed by such nice humans as Marissa Meyer, CJ Redwine, Shannon Messenger, and Jonathan Maberry (in fact, Marissa Meyer and I have a fun interview in the paperback of her book, CRESS). Also, Boba tea & sweatpants are life. 

Popular 1980s Fantasy Novels

I love this post so much. “Hello, my childhood!” These are the books that shaped my love of fantasy as a child. Plus this post has tons of cool little details about covers and the authors.

Thoughts on Fantasy

After the boom of the 60s and 70s the fantasy genre continued to enjoy mainstream popularity, with many 80s authors branching into new sub-genres and styles.  Fantasy tropes were so established that works of comic fantasy, which poked fun at them and were humorous in tone, became increasingly popular. Urban fantasy as we now know it also had its early roots in this decade.

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the 12 most popular or influential fantasy novels published between 1980 and 1990. I’ve tried to use the original cover from that year where possible. Series titles are included in brackets:

View original post 1,224 more words

#MusicMonday Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra – Do it With a Rockstar

You want swag, you want badassery, Look no further than Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. Not only is she an amazing author, singer and artist in general, she is also partners with the incredible and creative Neil Gaimon who is swoon worthy in his own right. She brings the chops to every song she sings or lyrics she writes. In 2012 Amanda released this jewel of a song that I have gone hoarse to many times. Be sure to sing it at the top of your lungs.

As always, a nod to Drew at Sarcastic Book Geek for the #MusicMonday idea.

Review of “Blue Is the Warmest Color” by Julie Maroh, Ivanka Hahnenberger (Translator)

“There is only love to save this world. Why would I be ashamed to love?”

Excerpt from Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

About

Blue is the Warmest Color is a graphic novel about growing up, falling in love, and coming out. Clementine is a junior in high school who seems average enough: she has friends, family, and the romantic attention of the boys in her school. When her openly gay best friend takes her out on the town, she wanders into a lesbian bar where she encounters Emma: a punkish, confident girl with blue hair. Their attraction is instant and electric, and Clementine find herself in a relationship that will test her friends, parents, and her own ideas about herself and her identity.


Stats

  • Rating – 4 out of 5 stars
  • Paperback, 156 pages
  • Published September 3rd 2013 by Arsenal Pulp Press (first published April 1st 2010)
  • Original Title Le bleu est une couleur chaude
  • ISBN1551525143 (ISBN13: 9781551525143)
  • Edition Language English
  • Characters Clementine, Emma, Valentine

Awards

  • Prix du Festival d’Angoulême for Prix du public Fnac-SNCF (2011)
  • BDGest’Art for Meilleur Premier album (2010)

My Thoughts

“I want to do everything with you. 
Everything is possible in a lifetime. ”

Excerpt from Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

I think that this is one of those important books that someone should read once in their life.

Just once.

It is too heart-rending to read more than once. This is a story of the hardness and softness of first love. How it can both shred your soul like tissue paper and leave you like a piece of hardened steel.

Le bleu est une couleur chaude Also known as Blue is the Warmest Color is about Clementine. A young girl at the start of the story, a 16-year-old junior and her fascination with Emma. Emma is everything that Clementine is not at the beginning: outgoing, sure of herself, and most importantly… out. They have instant electricity and start a sweet love affair that challenges Clementines preconceptions of herself and helps her become the person she wants to be.

Blue is the Warmest Color talks openly about the challenges of being a homosexual, and finding that love sends chills through your body. What I enjoyed and laud the author over is how she wrote the love story so openly and honestly. Oftentimes when reading about a gay or queer character it can get unauthentic and tropey. This isn’t.

“I can not feel anymore. 
I feel like I’m carrying light in my veins. 
All that happens to me has a name … Emma, ​​her name is Emma. ” 


Excerpt from Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

Aside from the gorgeous writing, it is stunningly drawn. The scenes are crafted carefully with a limited color palette of grays and the single color blue. Most often found in Emma’s hair. Emma’s hair is almost a blue flame burning through each scene. You can tell why Clementine is so attracted to her. She lights up every room. There are quite a bit of sex scenes dealt with very honestly in this story. I appreciated it and I thought that it enhanced the love story between the two of them without detracting from the overall story. Some readers might not be comfortable with that level of open sex between two consenting adults. Just know that, unlike the movie, this isn’t pornlike. This is a loving depiction of a romantic couple expressing their passion for each other.

Highly recommended


Procurement

I checked this out from the library.


About the Author

Julie Maroh (born 1985) is an author and illustrator originally from northern France. She studied comic art at the Institute Saint-Luc in Brussels and lithography and engraving at the Royal Academy of Arts in Brussels, where she still lives.

Grey Sister Review

Great review done by Jason at offthetbr.com. Check it out!

Off The TBR

GreySister

Author: Mark Lawrence
Series: Second Book Of The Ancestor
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date:  April 3, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 432
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

I love this series! That’s probably an understatement but it’s easily become one of my new favorite series in fantasy fiction. There’s just something about it whether it’s the story, the compelling baddass nun characters, or Mark Lawrence’s writing. I stayed up late to finish Grey Sister and I’m still not sure I’ve digested it all but I’m giving it a go.

Beware, as this is the second book in a series there are bound to be minor inevitable spoilers in this review if you haven’t read book one. If you haven’t read my review of Red Sister you can find it here. For this review I’m going generally follow the same format I did for Red Sister with some technical stuff first then…

View original post 2,245 more words

#Bookcook The Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster and Smash a Gold Brick Into Your Face

According to The Guide, this is the best drink in existence.
Its effects are similar to “having your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick.”

According to fan lore and the website Hitchhikers Fandom the ingredients are as follows:



Image by Melzzeny

Mixing Instructions

  • Take the juice from one bottle of Ol’ Janx Spirit.
  • Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V — Oh, that Santraginean seawater! Oh, those Santraginean fish!
  • Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzene is lost).
  • Allow four liters of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it, in memory of all those happy hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia.
  • Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qualactin Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heady odors of the dark Qualactin Zones, subtle, sweet and mystic.
  • Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian Suns deep into the heart of the drink.
  • Sprinkle Zamphuor.
  • Add an olive.
  • Drink… but… very carefully…

makemeacocktail.com

I checked the pantry and it seems I am out of Fallian Marsh Gas. However, doing a little research I have read about a similar recipe of easy to find ingredients at this end of the backwaters galaxy. According to Geekychef.com, one can make a similar approximation of the “gold brick smashing into the head effect” with a few substitutes.


Ingredients
1 part Everclear (or any other strong grain alcohol such as Bourbon, Moonshine, or Vodka)
1 part Bitter Lemon (or plain Tonic Water)
1 part Bombay Sapphire Gin (or other gin)
1 part Yukon Jack Perma-Frost Schnapps (or other mint schnapps, or white crème de menthe)
Enough blue food coloring to make the mixture a very light sky blue
Sugar cubes
Cinnamon extract
Yellow food coloring (optional)
Angostura Bitters
Olives

Directions

“Mix the first five ingredients and chill. Then, take a sugar cube and let it absorb 1 milliliter of cinnamon extract and 1 drop of yellow food coloring (optional). Place three ice cubes in a glass and pour the chilled liquid mixture over these. Drop in the sugar cube and stir to dissolve, or just let it sit (if food coloring is used, often the sugar cube is just left to sit, to create a layering effect with the color). Sprinkle the Angostura Bitters in the drink, and add an olive. Drink, but very carefully. Geekychef.com