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Earlier today, I finished Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

I think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I'd been spoiled for it, if I'd known going in what was going to be happening -- mostly because once I'd finished it, a lot of things that had really irritated me about it fell into place, and those irritations actually changed into things I really liked! Maybe if I were more familiar with the author (or had trusted the author more), I wouldn't have felt that way during my reading, but... eh.

(I deliberately spoil myself for things these days -- like, for example, The Avengers. Honestly, had I not read all about what happened in that movie, had I not been prepared for a couple of the crappiest bits, I more than likely would have walked out during that Loki/Natasha scene and not bothered to ever watch the rest.)

Anyway, it was overall really enjoyable, and I definitely recommend it to people who like spies, WWII, female friendships, women being kickass, and also epistolary novels, since the entire thing is written in letters and diaries.

Next up: I am about to leave on a week-long roadtrip -- a friend of mine and I are going to be following Empires around for five shows. First Pittsburgh, then VA, then NYC, then CT, then Philly, and I'll get back to New York on Monday. We plan to meet up with various friends in each city, and I plan to drink a lot of coffee.

(If you've never listened to Empires, definitely I suggest clicking through to their website and checking them out. They have a bunch of stuff available for free to stream and download. I have described them several times as the drunk lovechild of Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Nicks, and thus far other people seem to generally agree with that assessment. They are amaaaaaaaaaaaaazing live, too.)

So, in anticipation of a lot of sitting around in venues and napping in parking lots, I've pre-loaded my e-reader with a bunch of the Kate Shugak books by Dana Stabenow, starting with A Cold Day for Murder, which is currently available for free for Kindles. I'm really looking forward to reading the first few, although I hear the quality really drops off in the later ones. To be fair, though, I can't think of any popular, long-running series that doesn't suffer from that, which is depressing as hell.

I also grabbed Playing With Prudence by Rachel Randall, which I read when it came out, and am definitely ready to read again. I love Rachel's style and voice.
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As you know, Bob, my mom is a reading teacher. Actually, she was a reading teacher (specifically for struggling and/or reluctant readers, which is used as something both true on its face and also often as code for ESL students) for a million years. They are phasing out the reading license and switching all reading teachers to being other teachers, so now she teaches "Literacy" -- the modern NYC school equivalent of "English." What this means for my life is that sometimes I get to help grade vocabulary tests (:D :D :D, do not get me started on how much I love grading) and also that I get to borrow all her YA books that she buys for her students.

Yesterday, on an interminable subway ride, I read I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore. My mom really enjoyed it in her capacity as a teacher (if you are interested, she said part of why she enjoyed it was that it had clearly been written for readers who were below grade level and unambitious).

Spoilers have to be killed in sequence. )

Now: a thing I liked! A few weeks ago, I holed up with some friends and we watched the entire second season of Justified in one day (well, in 11 hours or so). I do like Justified, but that was a pretty overwhelming amount of people in agony for one day, so we followed it up by watching the first three episodes of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

Wow. Just -- just wow. I loved it so much. It's filmed gorgeously, and since it was shot on location, all the glory of Botswana is on display. Jill Scott was hilarious and incredible, and drew me in from the very first moment. She commands the screen; every single scene she's in, she's compelling. And she does an amazing job of communicating who her character is at all times, not just with every word, but with every gesture, every movement of her body. The supporting cast was also great, and the mysteries are pretty enjoyable. It's a really different style from a lot of what's on tv these days -- and, yeah, I was surprised it came from HBO. No one is naked, no one curses, there are no long sex scenes or on-screen rapes; it's a delightful change.

I also love the way Mma Ramotswe deals with haters. She is really great at handling herself when it comes to people who think a woman shouldn't be working/should get married, as well as people who are judgy and shamey about her body. She navigates strong and/or difficult personalities really well, with a really great attitude that steers clear of both strong language and the kind of "bless your heart" passive-aggressiveness that often doesn't work for fictional characters (it tends to end up -- to my eye -- seeming to make fun of the character employing it more than it puts the other character in their place). I also love that she doesn't make excuses for herself or try to justify herself to other people. It's really awesome to see that on tv.

(I am withholding judgment about the way the only canonically queered character is treated until I see the rest of the episodes, though. One of the other characters keeps having, you know, "learning experiences," and I'm not sure yet whether I'm comfortable with the homophobia and gender policing required for that.)

Oh, and thing I tentatively like! Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, set in 1943. The conceit is that it is the diary of a woman taken prisoner by the Gestapo, and her interrogator has demanded she write down her secrets/confession (or they will kill her by pouring kerosene down her throat and setting it on fire, ouch).

I'm about halfway through, reading it slowly to make it last. Sometimes the conceit gets on my nerves, but the writing is beautiful, and the story is fascinating. A+ reading so far.


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anna genoese

November 2015

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