2017 Reading in Review

Well, 2017 was awful. And Trump’s still going to be president in 2018, so my hopes for the upcoming year are not that high. On the other hand, I’ve reached a sort of equilibrium with the family members who dumped me, so I won’t have to relitigate that whole mess in the upcoming year (said Jenny optimistically). And I’ve seen so much bravery and ferocity from people I know: Y’all stay inspiring me.

With that said, I had a pretty terrific reading year in 2017. I encountered some new instant favorites, books I loved so much I shoved them at everyone I knew and immediately requested them for birthday or Christmas. I love books and I love reading and I love y’all, so thanks all the way around for being great.

Monstress, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Never shall I give up my fondness for monster girls. Monstress is a weird and wonderful comic about a girl with special powers who finds herself at war with the whole world. The art is unfathomably lovely.

Iron Cast, Destiny Soria

Two best friends create magical illusions at an illegal night club in Boston, just before Prohibition begins. Iron Cast features found family to the max, including a best-friendship that’s more central to the characters than their romances (which is rare as hell), and some genuinely cool magic. If you’re a reader on the hunt for more one-and-dones in YA, Iron Cast is for you.

Borderline and Phantom Pains, Mishell Baker

I haven’t read much urban fantasy, but Borderline made me want to change that. Mishell Baker’s borderline protagonist is a double amputee and survivor of a suicide attempt, recruited to work for a mysterious organization called the Arcadia Project. Creepy fairies abound (my fave), plus lots of details about the nitty-gritty of cognitive therapy for BPD.

The Woman Next Door, Yewande Omotoso

Contrary to popular belief, I do not like books solely based on their having French flaps. But French flaps help. The Woman Next Door is a lovely, quiet exploration of the aftermath of apartheid in South Africa: the story of two women whose enmity softens into something that is not quite friendship but no longer exactly hostility. It’s also a story about complicity in oppression that doesn’t insist upon redemption. I loved it.

Testosterone Rex, Cordelia Fine

I mean, obviously. Cordelia Fine remains brilliant, and she is so good at making complicated science accessible to a layperson. My big complaint with Testosterone Rex is that it doesn’t talk about non-cis people hardly at all. However, it makes many brilliant arguments about the role hormones like testosterone play in gender and gendered behavior. Read it, and read Delusions of Gender.

White Tears, Hari Kunzru

I said it when I read it, and I’ll say it again now: What the entire fuck. White Tears is a story about white appropriation of black culture, but it’s also a terrifying ghost story and a wild wild ride. It has one of the scariest endings I’ve ever encountered in a book. It’s brilliant and bananas. Get on it.

Amberlough, Lara Elena Donnolly

Amberlough is a secondary world fantasy (without any magic) about the performers in a cabaret confronting the rise of fascism in their country. If you can’t face that sort of a thing during the Trump presidency, it’s absolutely fair play. But if you are up to it, Amberlough is a strange and lovely book, a fantasy novel for lovers of the darkest bits of Cabaret.

Thorn, Intisar Khanani

One of the truly lovely things that happened this year was Intisar Khanani’s book deal with HarperTeen. Soon you’ll be able to get Thorn in a shiny new edition, and you should. It’s a retelling of the fairy tale “The Goose Girl,” a story that’s sad but hopeful, a story about good people trying their best. Intisar Khanani remains one of my favorite fantasy writers currently working.

Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee

I admit that I was fearful of reading Ninefox Gambit, which I’d heard was a particularly dense bit of science fiction. But I’m so glad I pressed onward with it. Ninefox Gambit might be my actual favorite book of the year; I liked it so much that I ran straight out to the library to get Raven Stratagem. It’s about an imperfectly loyal soldier who has to share a brain with a famously brilliant, famously murderous general from the past. I loved it so much. I want you to love it, too.

Song of the Current, Sarah Tolcser

Such an excellent YA adventure novel. Caro takes to the river with a crateful of mystery cargo in the hopes that she can save her father from prison. But when the cargo turns out to be a boy — a snooty-as-hell boy, but good in a fight — she finds herself enmeshed in more plotting and violence than she’d bargained for. And look at that cover!

Starfish, Akemi Dawn Bowman

In YA as in adult fiction, I tend to gravitate more towards SFF stories. But Starfish won me over. It deals with sexual and emotional abuse in families in a way that I’ve encountered virtually never, and it’s exceptionally honest about the impact of growing up with an abusive parent. I loved Starfish, even more so because the author was able to take critique of some of the language in her book, and make a change for future editions.

Jane, Unlimited, Kristin Cashore

If you’d asked me what I expected as a follow-up to Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series, the last thing I’d have said would have been “Rebecca as a choose-your-own adventure, by way of Diana Wynne Jones.” But that’s what I got: Five separate stories in five separate genres, each most wonderfully stranger than the last.

I wish you strength in the New Year, and all the glorious books you can gobble up. What were some of your 2017 faves?




Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon: 10 Years in 10 Books

It’s Readathon Day, the happiest day of the year! Having just come off a vacation where I read far less than I planned to, I am excited to sit down and read and read and read. But first, I’m doing the readathon challenge of naming an awesome book published in each year of the Readathon. Buckle up, kids, you’ve heard me scream about most of these before and you might be tired of them but that won’t stop me.

2007 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

THIS WAS BITTERSWEET REALLY. Do you remember this? The end of an era? I stayed up all night reading it, and I was so annoying to my sisters that one of them decamped to a different room and the other one said SHUT UP SHUT UP when I gasped over deaths. My wrath over Rita Skeeter’s hit piece on Dumbledore remains as bright and vivid today as it was on that summer eve. Fuck that lady.

2008 – Sea of Poppies, Amitav Ghosh

Historical fiction done absolutely right. In the event, I wasn’t wild about the third and final book in this series, but Sea of Poppies is a marvelous, wandering, playful novel that I absolutely loved. Its sequel River of Smoke is also very excellent, and if there hadn’t been some VERY wobbly consent in the third one, maybe I’d have liked that one too. But Sea of Poppies, man. This is good stuff.

2009 – White Is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi

The house is both haunted and xenophobic. To this day I barely have a clue what Helen Oyeyemi is talking about w/r/t the plots of her fiction, and it doesn’t even matter. White Is for Witching is spooky and beautiful and who cares about the rest.

2010 – Delusions of Gender, Cordelia Fine

As my lovely friend Ana always says, I’d like to shove copies of Delusions of Gender into anyone’s hands I possibly can. This book debunks neuroscientific nonsense about gender in a crapload of different ways, and it taught me to be both a more critical consumer of neuroscience and a better, more well-informed feminist.

bonus: 2010 was also the year NK Jemisin published The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I try not to be whatever about this, but I am a massive NK Jemisin hipster and I really did like her before it was cool. I read an excerpt of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms online somewhere before it published and I was fully like “Who is this lady?”

2011 – Chime, Franny Billingsley

Y’all know I love an unreliable narrator, and Franny Billingsley does something in Chime that I’ve not seen played out in many other books, if any: Her protagonist, Briony, is unreliable to us because she is unreliable to herself. Discovering the ways she has been misled is one of the greatest pleasures of this odd, creepy book.

2012 – Thorn, by Intisar Khanani

Thorn is a retelling of the fairy tale “The Goose Girl” that manages to be dark and hopeful at the same time. Intisar Khanani is one of my favorite fantasy writers currently working. I don’t know what else to say beyond that. Thorn is wonderful. You should read it if you haven’t.

2013 – Gemsigns, Stephanie Saulter

It feels like Stephanie Saulter is weirdly unknown, and I can’t figure out why. Maybe she’s just better known in the UK? I have no idea! Gemsigns is this amazing, strange, gripping political science fiction about genetically modified humans fighting for their rights in a world where they have always been considered property. Many are the machinations. I loved it.

2014 – How It Went Down, Kekla Magoon

How It Went Down is a Black Lives Matter story told in many voices, and it’s beyond me that it mostly flew under the radar when it was published. It resists easy answers and insists on the complicated humanity of every one of its narrators. Kekla Magoon is an incredible author who reliably has me in tears.

2015 – The Scorpion Rules, Erin Bow

Two of my friends recently read The Scorpion Rules, thereby reminding me of how much I love it! An all-knowing AI has taken over the world’s weapons systems and prevents war by taking hostage one child from every country’s ruler. If the country declares war, the ruler’s child is killed. Greta is one of those children. The Scorpion Rules and its sequel, The Swan Riders, never go in the direction you expect. They’re packed with twists and turns, but at the same time they give the characters space to be thoughtful and interesting.

2016 – Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee

If you read Ninefox Gambit you must accept some level of having no g.d. clue what’s going on with it. It’s dense military sci-fi that weirdly reminds me a lot of my 2015 pick, The Scorpion Rules. Captain Kel Cheris is tasked with a near-impossible military task; the unstable, brilliant, dead tactician Jedao is installed in her head to assist her. Jedao is a superb character and I adored this book and you should too.

2017 – THICK! AS! THIEVES! by Megan Whalen Turner AT LAST FINALLY AT LAST oh God and it was worth the wait dear heaven I love this series

(Yes, this is eleven books. I know that. But more books is better than fewer books, n’est-ce pas?)

Happy Readathon!

All the Bookstores I Went to in London

Did you hear that I went to London? My beautiful London! I haven’t been to London since 2009, in spite of my very intense love for it, so it was great to be reunited. I went with my lovely mum and my lovely friend Alice, which was an absolute treat all around. We had Ethiopian food and Persian food and delicious gnocchi and Pieminister pies, and I bought, um, a certain quantity of books.

nothing to see here ha ha everything’s fine

The thing is, London has kind of a lot of excellent bookshops, and I had left a lot of spare room in my suitcase, so. I mean. It’s not really my fault, is what I’m saying. It cannot really be construed as being my fault.



Let me tell you the problem with Foyles. The problem with Foyles is that the sections that in most bookshops are like, one single shelf out of a great big bookshelf? Those sections, in Foyles, are MASSIVE. Here is proof:


They have more than one storey dedicated to nonfiction. They have so many shelves of books in French that I had to whine for a while to drag Alice away from all her possible French book choices. Alice and I settled down in front of the English history section and made yearning-cat noises for like an hour. I got a copy of Paul Gallico’s Jennie, a book about a boy who turns into a cat and befriends another cat called Jennie and the volume of Christopher Fry’s plays that I don’t already have.

I nearly bought a big volume of Brian Friel’s plays, to get Translations, but I was like “Oh, Translations is famous, you’ll be able to buy it just on its own somewhere.” We also hunted for My Cousin Rachel, which Alice wanted, but Foyles did not have it.

The Other Bookshops on Charing Cross Road

Actually they seemed to be having a bit of a dry spell! Or else my interests have changed in the eight years since I last did this. I only got one book in like four Charing Cross Road bookshops, but it was a very good one: A Folio Society edition of the most adorable joint biography of the Brownings you can imagine. There’s a quote in it where Samuel Coleridge’s daughter gets sniffy about how into his wife Robert Browning was.

In all of them, Alice and I quested for a cheap copy of Return of the King for my mum, a used copy of My Cousin Rachel for Alice, and literally any copy of Brian Friel’s Translations for me. No joy.

The Really Huge Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury Ave

In addition to being an unimaginably massive comic book shop in its own right, our trip to Forbidden Planet also led us on a small detour to Seven Dials, of which Alice approved mightily. (I had never heard of it before, I ADMIT IT.) And then the theatre where Matilda was playing was right there, so we popped in to inquire about day tickets, and Alice, who is lovely, ended up taking us both to see Matilda that evening. Day tickets!

I wish I’d taken pictures. They had so many comics. They had more comics than I’ve ever seen in one place before. “Megastore” in this case was no idle threat. I didn’t buy any comics, though. I figured I could get them for cheaper in America and they’d be too heavy for my suitcase.

However, I did — and I confess this freely — buy what I told Alice would be my third copy of Neverwhere, but it was actually my fourth. (I fessed up later.) I’m going to get rid of one of them though! And only have three, total! It’s just that this one had these excellent Chris Riddell illustrations interspersed throughout, and Alice had never read Neverwhere before so I wanted her to get to read it while in London. MY MOTIVES WERE NOBLE is what I’m saying.

They did have Return of the King, but only new copies, and none for cheaper than eight pounds. My mum had stipulated a ceiling price of five.

Amnesty International Charity Bookshop in Cambridge

Try not to be jealous, y’all, but I met Ana. It was very, very, very exciting. We have been blog friends for nearly a decade. I hugged her so vigorously that she was probs like “this is too much hug,” and then she took us on a tour of Cambridge, which was absolutely beautiful and which included a stop at this Amnesty International Charity Bookshop.

No shots at America, but Britain has really outdone us as regards charity bookshops. They have regular charity shops, which have book sections, but then they also have special charity shops that are just books. It’s nuts! It’s brilliant! I love it! I got a copy of a gender book Ana recommended, an old Noel Streatfeild book I hadn’t heard of, and a totally nice hardback copy of The Essex Serpent for like four pounds.

No cheap copies of Return of the King or My Cousin Rachel. Nor Translations, although I wasn’t particularly expecting it.


Ana described this as the Cambridge bookshop, and I cannot disagree having been in it. I wanted to roll around in it. They had these lovely matching editions of all Dorothy Sayers’s books, which I resisted only by reminding myself that if I bought one I’d have to buy them all, and they’d never all fit in my suitcase.

I did buy The Good Immigrant (at lasssssssssssssssssstttttttttt!), Patrick Ness’s latest, and Hilary McKay’s latest. My lovely mum also bought me one of these notebooks, which I treasure. I wish we’d bought ten. I love them. If you are in Oxford or Cambridge or Amsterdam, buy these notebooks! They are so beautiful and great!

Insanely, they did not have any Brian Friel (he is a famous playwright! what gives!) or any copies of My Cousin Rachel, the latter of which I put down to everyone having bought up all their stock in anticipation of the forthcoming movie.

Notting Hill Book and Comic Exchange

In the days of my wild and wanton youth, when I lived in London for a month, I haunted the Notting Hill Book and Comic Exchange, like, daily. I bought a ton of old Sandman single issues, which are the only floppies I own. I was delighted to see, on this trip, that not only is the Book and Comic Exchange still open, but it has now expanded into two separate storefronts: Books are in one shop. Comics (plus SF) are in another. BRILLIANT RIGHT?

Guess what they had: Brian Friel’s Translations. At last my faith in London bookstores was justified! (NB it was justified already because Foyles totally had a bunch of Brian Friel omnibuses.) I also bought a copy of Tom Stoppard’s latest play, which I thought was just okay but like, I have all his other plays? So it feels weird not to have this one too? Then I went next door to the comics section and bought three volumes of Joss Whedon’s run on X-Men, which is mostly about Kitty Pryde.

No My Cousin Rachel. No Return of the King, if you can believe that.

This One Book Stall on Antiques Day on Portobello Road

I was all set to walk past this one! “I don’t need any antique books,” I said to myself with great certainty. But my mum stopped, so I stopped with her, and then the guy turned out to have an entire set of 1946 editions of the Nuremberg trial transcripts. I became so emotional over them that he gave me one for free when I bought three. I wanted to buy the whole set (this is becoming a refrain) but they wouldn’t have fitted in my suitcase. In retrospect, honestly, I wish I’d just bought the whole set and figured it out later.

The Oxfam Books on Portobello Road

On our way back from a preposterously delicious meal at the Portobello Garden Caffe, my mum again voiced a wish for a cheap copy of Return of the King. I was like “Let’s stop at that Oxfam! I have a good feeling about it!”

I was….not completely correct, insofar as they did not have any copies whatsoever of Return of the King. But you know what they did have? MY COUSIN RACHEL HUZZAH AT LAST CALLOO CALLAY.

Walden Books

On Saturday I met up with Book Snob Rachel and Stuck in a Book Simon and we did book-shopping and pizza-eating and chatted about books in a setting about which more anon. Walden Books is a dear little shop shop in North London which none of us had been to or heard of but which had a very nice used copy of Saplings as well as two (!) volumes of Mollie Panter-Downes.

Walden Books

The Oxfam Books in Hampstead

Then Rachel hauled us off to Hampstead to inspect the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and I finally finally finally found a cheap copy of Return of the King. The Oxfam bookshop, moreover, yielded a copy of Liza Picard’s Victorian London, which someone sometime told me was really good. They had her Elizabethan London as well, but I was trying to exercise restraint by this point in the trip. Dear oh dear how bad at it I am where books are concerned.

I had actually meant to be done with buying books on the Thursday, as I already had assembled quite a stack of things. I was concerned that my stacks of books was too vast and too heavy to take back in my suitcase. “No more books,” I said to myself sternly on the Thursday. “Maybe one on Simon and Rachel day. MAYBE.” And then I went and bought five. So by Sunday morning, I was extremely confident that I would buy no more books whatsoever.

But then I packed. I packed my suitcase on Sunday morning, just to make sure that I’d have enough space for everything. And actually I had…kind of a lot of space left over? I mean, not a lot, but like, some space. You know how suitcases have that extra zip where you unzip it and it gives the suitcase a bit of extra width? I hadn’t even unzipped that zipper, that’s how much space I still had left.

It’s also important to understand that Alice and I had been seeing Daunt Books bags all over London. Everywhere we went, we saw people with these Daunt Books tote bags. I asked Rachel about it, and she said, “Well, they give them away if you buy a hardcover. So everybody’s got one.” Alice asked one of her British friends, and her friend said, “Oh, you can’t really call yourself a book person if you don’t have a bag from Daunt Books.”

I meeeeeeeeean.

Daunt Books

“Daunt Books is point-oh-seven miles from here,” said Alice to me on Sunday morning.

“Oh we had better go check it out then,” said I to Alice.

It wasn’t the main Daunt Books. It was just the little one, the satellite one in Holland Park, so that was how I justified it to myself. I also had a plan that I could buy as few as zero but as many as five books there, if I ended up wanting to. Because of all the space in my suitcase. And because I wanted a Daunt Books tote bag.

Daunt Books (Holland Park)

I am happy to report that Daunt Books is not just coasting on its reputation. They are foremost a travel bookshop, but what that means in practice is that their shelves (I mean, they also have Fiction and Nonfiction general shelves, and Children’s) are organized by country/region. Within that, they have travel books and nonfiction books about that country and fiction by authors from that country. Great, right?

So anyway I bought a book about the brutal boarding schools upper-class British children have to attend (BRUTAL) and a book about color that won me over with its exceptionally beautiful design and Sarah Bakewell’s Montaigne book that Ana liked so much and had mentioned to me when I was in Cambridge so it was fresh in my mind.

And that is all the bookshops I went to in London. And in the event, my suitcase was under the maximum allowed weight by nearly two pounds.

What’s on My To-Lend Shelf?

Happy Tuesday! Today I’m collablogging (hm, that doesn’t really work, does it?) with the fabulous Renay of Lady Business, Chelsea the Reading Outlaw, and Claire Rousseau, and we’re all talking about the ten books we’d like to keep on a “to-lend” shelf (should our lifestyles support such a thing).

First up, I know because I nearly bought two copies at a library book sale recently that I like to be able to lend out Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. The un-spoiler-y version of the pitch is that it’s about a girl who used to have two siblings and now has zero. You can have the spoiler-y version that got me to read the book in the first place in the following footnote.1

The People in the Trees, by Hanya Yanigahara, is my number two. Despite the utter weirdness of this book, and my great dislike of Yanagihara’s entitlement and second novel, The People in the Trees remains one of the best reading experiences of my life. It’s the story of the life of a fictional scientist — now disgraced after several of his foster children accused him of sexual abuse — who discovered the secret of immortality on a faraway Pacific island. Reading it made me feel like I’d never read a book before. I wish I could get everyone in the world to read this damn book.

The greatest triumph of randomly-picking-up-a-book-in-the-library since Diana Wynne Jones’s A Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Joan Wyndham’s Love Lessons remains a tricky sell because the title is blah and people are not exactly lining up to read old-time diaries all over the place. But maybe if I had some spare copies, that would change. It’s the diary of a teenager in London during the Blitz, a description that is completely inadequate to describe how charming, funny, and strange Love Lessons really is.

One of these years, I am going to get Whiskey Jenny to read The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, with me. It’s the story of a young black woman growing up in rural Alabama in the 1930s, and while it is tremendously dark in places, its luminous beauty and hope have kept it one of my favorite books of all time. Plus, it has queer ladies! Queer women of color in the rural South! Don’t you want that? Of course you do.

Again, I may be influenced here by my own recent book sale behavior, as I purchased a spare copy of this book there, but I’d love to share Kage Baker’s book In the Garden of Iden with more people. It’s the first in a science fiction series about time-traveling cyborgs who work for a futuristic Company. In the Garden of Iden follows the cyborg Mendoza through her rescue by the Company, her metamorphosis into a cyborg asset for the Company, and her life in Elizabeth England trying to rescue specific old-time plants from extinction. It’s a fun book on its own and a wonderful first entry in a brilliant and gripping SF series.

Greensleeves, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, is about an eighteen-year-old girl called Shannon who doesn’t exactly know where she belongs or what she wants to do next. She does know that she’s tired of being herself, and so she takes on a job as an investigator for a contested will, which requires her (well, she decides) to become a completely different person. Teenage me needed this book like oxygen, and it remains one of my very most favorite books in the world (that no one else has ever heard of).

In comfort food, I would include Hilary McKay’s wonderful Saffy’s Angel, a middle grade novel about a girl called Saffy who discovers when she is eight that she’s adopted. Her siblings are really her cousins, and her parents are really her aunt and uncle. When her grandfather dies and leaves her “the stone angel, the angel in the garden,” she decides to set out to find that angel (if it still exists). It’s a funny, heartfelt dear of a book with a strong female friendship at its center.

If I had thought of it while I was at the book fair, I’d have bought the shiny new copy of Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith and kept it for just such an occasion. When someone tells me they’re in the mood for a book that’s meaty, plotty, and well-written, Fingersmith is what I give them. It’s about a queer girl running a con in Victorian London, and if that pitch doesn’t get you then I don’t even know what to say.

In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden, is about a businesswoman who decides to become a Catholic nun. A proper one, who stays all the time in the convent. Not long after Philippa arrives, the brilliant, complicated Abbess Hester dies, and the convent is plunged into financial crisis. It’s a bit like a boarding school book with adults, lots of politicking and internal conflict, and it’s among my favorite books by one of my all-time favorite authors.

And finally, my beloved, cherished Sunshine, by Robin McKinley. For reasons not entirely clear to me, this vampire dystopia has become one of my dearest comfort reads. It is about a girl called Sunshine who gets kidnapped by vampires as she’s visiting a lake that should have been relatively safeish. She finds herself sharing a cell with a vampire, whose meal she is supposed to be; but instead they form a kind of alliance. Sunshine does vampires in a brilliantly specific and visceral way, and seeing Sunshine come into her own as a vampire adversary is A+ terrific.

What books would be on your to-lend shelf?

(PS I asked my mum to help me come up with books for this project, and she became very excited about the idea of my having a to-lend shelf. “Mama, no, it’s for a blog post!” I kept saying, and she kept handing me spare copies of her favorite books and saying “Start the shelf! Start the shelf! Now you have three books to put on it!” So now I have an actual, literal to-lend shelf. You’re welcome, guests.)

  1. One of the siblings is an ape, because the protagonist, Rosemary, was raised in a family that was conducting ape language studies.

Hockey, House Parties, and Taxidermy: A Romance Novels Round-Up

The time has come, the walrus said, for another romance novels round-up! I know you’ve been yearning for it. This election season was difficult, the results were worse, and these last few months more than ever I’ve needed cuddly tropey fluff to get me through.

Hard Knocks

Ruby Lang is a new-to-me author I discovered through the wonderful Romance Novels for Feminists (which has never yet steered me wrong), and I received Hard Knocks for review consideration from the publisher. Hard Knocks is about a hockey player nearing the end of his career (Adam) and a neurologist (Helen) who thinks he’s cute when he brings his friend in for a concussion check-up but does not think much of all the brain damage sports can wreak upon their players.

Oh how I love discovering a new romance author whose books are just right for me. Hard Knocks is witty and charming, with banter between the leads that is also witty and charming (in the way that so many romance novels try and fail to have their banter be, i.e., effortlessly), and I’m delighted that there’s another book in the series for me to read.1 Things I particularly loved include how angry Helen is (I love angry heroines); the fact that nobody gives a crap that she sleeps with Adam casually; frank discussion of finances (so rare); and how angry Helen is.

Did I say one of those twice? I really love angry heroines. I can already tell that Ruby Lang’s going to be one of my go-to romance authors–very much recommended!

Do You Want to Start a Scandal, Tessa Dare
Do You Want to Start a Scandal, Tessa Dare

Charlotte Highwood creeps into the library to let Lord Granville know that she absolutely does not intend to let her mother entrap them into marrying — and kind of gets entrapped into marrying him. She’s determined to find them both a way out of it. He’s a spy. Everyone’s stuck at this manor house for one of those house parties where people are so nosy and everyone is maybe creeping away to do assignations.

Frankly, this is a delight from cover to cover. I love and revel in angsty romances (cf. my longtime love for Meredith Duran), but it was a refreshing treat to encounter a heroine as cheerful and indomitable as Charlotte. She refuses to allow herself to be caught up in anything like a Big Misunderstanding and perpetually cuts through the romance novel trope bullshit to say and do exactly what she means.

Hold Me

Courtney Milan was one of the first — maybe the first? — romance authors I tried when I decided to give romance novels another chance; and I’ve been a fan ever since. Her latest historicals have felt a trifle pat, so I’ve been on a break from them, but her new contemporary series — of which Hold Me is the second — has been excellent so far. In addition to thoughtfully exploring issues I care about (poverty, work-life balance, complicated parental relationships, independence v. intimacy), they lay out sincere emotional problems and show us how the characters navigate those issues.

Maria Lopez runs a popular blog where she imagines end-of-the-world scenarios in great detail. She has an ongoing semi-flirtation with one of her regular commenters, whom she called Actual Physicist and who calls her Em. When she goes to deliver a message to one of her brother’s friends (a scientist), the friend, Jay, is horribly rude to her, making immediate assumptions about her intelligence based on her appearance (girly! heels!), and she takes an immediate dislike to him. Well guess what y’all. Guess what turns out to be the case.

I liked this book a hell of a lot. Maria’s trans, and I love that it isn’t an issue in her relationship to Jay. I love that we see her as part of a group of queer friends, and that part of her emotional arc involves speaking honestly with her friend and former roommate Angela (who’s getting her own book, yay!) — in other words, that overcoming her feelings problems doesn’t revolve solely around Jay. I love You’ve Got Mail-y premises like this one, and Hold Me is a hugely satisfying book along those lines.

KJ Charles has a new series called Sins of the City that’s inspired by Wilkie Collins’s fiction, and frankly that’s all the information I needed to get excited about An Unseen Attraction. (Actually all I needed was KJ Charles’s name, but this Wilkie Collins thing didn’t hurt.) I received An Unseen Attraction from the publisher for review consideration, via NetGalley.

Clem manages a lodging house where everything is in perfect order, apart from the one tenant Clem’s noble half-brother won’t ever let him evict. When that tenant turns up brutally murdered, Clem’s tidy world is turned upside down — and so is the life of another of his tenants, the sexy taxidermist Rowley Green.

So much Wilkie Collins in this book, y’all. I loved it. Dark secrets to be uncovered, the promise of more scandal to come in subsequent books, it’s all completely up my alley. Better yet, Charles does a wonderful job of showing how Clem and Rowley learn to be ever-better friends and lovers to each other, treading gently around insecurities but setting boundaries where necessary. Clem is on the spectrum and Rowley comes from an abusive home, and they make mistakes with each other. The tension doesn’t arise so much from a Big Misunderstanding as from the clashes that happen around conflicting motives, loyalties, and ways of being a person. Charles is terrific at depicting Clem and Rowley’s attempts to navigate all of this, and it makes their happy ending all the more satisfying.

Basically, if the idea of a story about love, taxidermy, and murder most foul appeals to you, I’d recommend you run straight out and preorder An Unseen Attraction. It comes out on 21 February and is well worth your time.

What romance novels have you been enjoying lately, friends? I always need more recs!

  1. It’s about a guy with allergies who falls in love with his allergist. I mean, come on. That could not be more charming.

Top Ten 2016 Releases I Meant to Read

Well, Whiskey Jenny and I are going to get into some of what we missed in 2016 in our next podcast, but luckily, there were so many books I meant to read in 2016 and didn’t read that I will NEVER RUN OUT OF ANSWERS TO THIS QUESTION. It’s Top Ten Tuesday!

10. Playing Dead: A Journey through the World of Death Fraud, Elizabeth Greenwood. Sarah mentioned this book earlier in the year, and it sounds top-notch, like maybe it would talk about the kind of crimes the Leverage team would be hired to do something about.

9. Burn, Baby, Burn, Meg Medina. This is a case of how many recs does it take from how many book bloggers before I remember to grab a damn book at the library? Sheesh.

8. The Fall of the House of Wilde, Emer O’Sullivan. I admit I have been delaying gratification on this one. I suspect that I will hate it. Emer O’Sullivan seems to have taken a strange dislike to Oscar Wilde, and I — as some of you may know — am mightily defensive of him. I want to save this book for a day when I can really dig into it. You know, sit on my bed in a nest of other Oscar Wilde biographies and sneer at all of Emer O’Sullivan’s conclusions.1

7. Mockingbird, by Chelsea Cain. Look, if fuckboys consider a comic worth hounding an author off of Twitter for, I’m going to want to read it. Every time.

6. Umami, Laia Jufresa. Funny story, I discovered this book on NPR’s Book Concierge in December (of course), and then when I went to add it to my TBR spreadsheet, I discovered that I’d already added it when I read the publisher’s description of it much much earlier in the year. And just forgot to actually pick it up ever.

5. Baho! by Roland Rugero. This is the first Burundian novel ever to be translated into English. My library did not have it for a few months after it came out, and I gave up in despair, but then when I checked back in December, lo and behold, my library had acquired all the small press African novels I wanted all year. Hooray!

4. White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, Carol Anderson. I mean the title really speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

3. The Abyss Surrounds Us, by Emily Skrutskie. I understand there are both genetically engineered sea monsters and girls kissing each other in this book, and I am in favor of both those things. Plus, there’s a sequel on the way!

2. Democracy for Realists, by Christopher H. Achen and Larry Bartels. I mean, I advisedly didn’t read this in 2016. I was not sure that I could bear to. But it’s about how when we vote for candidates, we’re almost never really voting for their policies, but instead we are voting based on social identities. I think this thesis is super-true and I would like to hear more about it so that I can hopefully become a better, more informed, more rational voter. We’ll see.

1. And finally, the number-one book I wanted to read in 2016 but didn’t would have to be Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, by Melina Marchetta. Melina Marchetta is a longtime favorite author of YA, but her latest book is an adult mystery novel, and I was too nervous of disliking it to actually even try it. Judge me if you must.

What about you, friends? Did you read most of what you wanted to read in 2016, or are there oodles and oodles of books that escaped you?

  1. Emer O’Sullivan is a legitimate scholar and an actual researcher in her area. I am confident that she knows one zillion percent more about Oscar Wilde than I do.

Frightening, Destabilizing Shit that Trump Has Done

Welp, I think we’re all going to have a bitch of a time remembering all the fucking awful things Trump has done, because he keeps piling them on. So I am constructing the ultimate Your Fave Is Problematic post starting today (29 November).

My policy is going to be that I’ll only include stories and links to things that Trump and his hires have said; i.e., Trump’s friends and supporters may say and do things that won’t make the list. I’m trying to stick to just the things that are official words and deeds coming out of the Trump administration. It won’t be exhaustive because I am human and I get tired and miss things and take days off, but you’re welcome to pop into the comments and make note of big ones I missed. If you notice any mistakes, inaccuracies, etc., please comment and let me know!

If I don’t specifically mention where a link is headed in the text of my sentence, I’ll include a parenthetical note on the source. When referencing local stories I will do my best to cite local newspapers, TV, and radio rather than national. I don’t have time to watch video so I’ll be sharing articles rather than videos, nearly always. I will tend to cite neutral/conservative-leaning news sources over liberal-leaning ones where basic facts are concerned (though I’ll try to include both conservative and liberal analysis), since it’s been very difficult for right and left to agree on what actually happened at any given time.

17 December

China took possession of a US data collection drone in the hotly disputed South China Sea (NPR). The situation was resolved between the US and China fairly quickly through diplomatic channels, and the drone is scheduled to be returned to the US (Reuters). Here’s what Donald Trump had to say about this delicate diplomatic situation:

China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters – rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act.

Thanks, dude, really thrilled to have you in our corner. (He still won’t take intelligence briefings, by the way.) He later tweeted:

We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back.- let them keep it!

The New York Times has some thoughts about the American position with China, given the muted response to the seizure of one of our drones. As regards the South China Sea, you can read about territorial disputes over who owns it on Wikipedia. Short version, China and Taiwan and Malaysia and Vietnam and the Philippines all believe that they own parts or all of the South China Sea, and it has been a complicated dance trying to navigate these competing claims of ownership.

16 December

With heightened attention being paid to the cyberattacks by Russia, Trump tweeted this:

Are we talking about the same cyberattack where it was revealed that head of the DNC illegally gave Hillary the questions to the debate?

The Washington Post reported that the FBI and the CIA are now in agreement that Russia interfered in the elections to help Trump win. Fox News confirms as well in case you’re in fear of the left-leaning media. Trump has ardently denied all allegations of Russian interference, although Reince Preibus has suggested (Wall Street Journal) that under certain circumstances, Trump would accept the conclusions of the nation’s intelligence agencies.

15 December

Trump continues to attack individuals in the press, and it has only been a month since the election but this already seems normal to me. I couldn’t decide if it was even worth including here. Fuck that. He tweeted:

Has anyone looked at the really poor numbers of @VanityFair Magazine. Way down, big trouble, dead! Graydon Carter, no talent, will be out!

It’s worth remembering that Trump allegedly sends regular letters to Graydon Carter, who once called him a “short-fingered vulgarian” in Spy magazine, to assure Graydon Carter that his fingers are a normal length. Please accept my assurance that I would love to be done with this idiotic joke about Trump having small hands, except that he absolutely cannot leave it alone. He has disliked Graydon Carter (International Business Times) for quite some time now, but hitherto without the power of the presidency behind him.

As the New York Times notes, this latest tweet may have been in response to Vanity Fair‘s negative review of Trump Grill in NYC, or their ridicule of his choice (“choice”) of inauguration singer. Or it could just be random! Who the shit knows.

14 December

The tech summit that Twitter was uninvited to because of the dumb fucking emoji thing. I don’t even the fuck know what this fucking presidency is.

13 December

Rex Tillerson

I’ll get to this later, I am tired.

Rick Perry

In the by-now grand tradition of selecting cabinet members who want to dismantle the agencies they’ve been tipped to lead, Trump has selected Rick Perry to run the Energy Department (NBC). Rick Perry once called Trump “a cancer on conservativism,” as ABC reported last year. Now I guess they are pals.

In a 2011 Republican presidential debate, Perry said the following (NBC):

I’ll tell you: It’s three agencies of government, when I get there, that are gone: Commerce, education and, the, uh, what’s the third one there? … Commerce, education and the uh, the uh… . . . . The third agency of government I would do away with — the education, uh the, uh, commerce, and let’s see — I can’t… the third one, I can’t. I’m sorry … oops. . . . By the way, that was the Department of Energy I was reaching for a while ago.”

12 December

Hey, remember the time Trump said he was going to give a press conference on December 15th explaining how he’s going to avoid conflicts of interest between his presidency and his businesses? (Scroll down to 30 November if not.) Well, he has now canceled that press conference (Wall Street Journal). Spokespeople for the Trump campaign gave no reason for the cancellation, nor has he named a date to reschedule it.

Trump tweeted (NO, OF COURSE NOT THREADED) here, here, and here:

Even though I am not mandated by law to do so, I will be leaving my busineses before January 20th so that I can focus full time on the……Presidency. Two of my children, Don and Eric, plus executives, will manage them. No new deals will be done during my term(s) in office. I will hold a press conference in the near future to discuss the business, Cabinet picks and all other topics of interest. Busy times!


10 December

Trump spokesperson KellyAnne Conway went on CNN’s New Day and defended, among other things, Trump’s announcement that he will continue to serve as executive producer of Celebrity Apprentice. Here’s the transcript. CNN had previously confirmed with NBC and the Trump campaign that an arrangement had been reached whereby Trump would remain EP of the show. (See also this statement from Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks to Fortune.)

After multiple people from his campaign had spoken publicly and to several different media outlets about his EP role, Trump tweeted this:

Reports by @CNN that I will be working on The Apprentice during my Presidency, even part time, are ridiculous & untrue – FAKE NEWS!

Again, his own spokespeople confirmed this was true. If you’re playing the drinking game (I have named it after my favorite quote from Welcome to Night Vale: “If you see something, say nothing, and drink to forget.”), take a drink for Trump substituting his own reality for what we all know really happened, and then take another drink for him targeting news outlets for criticism that attempts to delegitimize the free press.

9 December

This isn’t a new thing, but this The Hill article on Trump’s cabinet picks is worth reading.

With just over half of the jobs filled, he already has more high-end campaign donors in his Cabinet than either President Obama or President George W. Bush did when taking office.

Obama’s first Cabinet had more campaign donors (at least eight) in total than Trump, but the most any of them gave Obama was $9,000, according to Federal Election Commission records. Many of Obama’s initial picks were Democratic politicians.

But yeah, he’s draining the swamp.

8 December

I’ll just quote this, I guess. From Bloomberg, who broke the story:

The transition team has asked the agency to list employees and contractors who attended United Nations climate meetings, along with those who helped develop the Obama administration’s social cost of carbon metrics, used to estimate and justify the climate benefits of new rules. The advisers are also seeking information on agency loan programs, research activities and the basis for its statistics, according to a five-page internal document circulated by the Energy Department on Wednesday. The document lays out 65 questions from the Trump transition team, sources within the agency said.

You can see the document in full at the Washington Post.

7 December

Specifically Targeting a Union Leader

Trump said the following in two successive (YES, UNTHREADED) tweets:

Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country! If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues

This appears to be in response to Chuck Jones’s recent criticism (Washington Post) of Trump for promising to save 1100 jobs at Carrier and actually only saving 800. Jones is now receiving telephoned threats, according to the Indianapolis Star.

United Steelworkers responded:

Dues have helped us file 45+ cases against bad trade; saving jobs in tire, paper, steel, etc. We walk the walk. #imwithchuck #wearewithchuck

I don’t even know what to do with this.

Small Business Administration

World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder Linda McMahon is to become (ABC News) the administrator of the Small Business Administration (a cabinet position that requires Senate confirmation). She was among the largest donors to Republican campaigns in this recent election, donating $6 million to a super PAC (Forbes) for the Trump campaign. She and her husband are the most generous donors to the Trump Foundation as well, giving $5 million to the foundation between 2009 and 2014. In September, she described Trump to the Associated Press as “an incredibly loyal, loyal friend.” Evidently.

(By the way, the top Trump donors this year were Miriam and Sheldon Adelson so I mean, stand by for them to get a job in the cabinet too.)

NDA Requirement for Trump Staffers

Members of Trump’s transition team were told to sign a stringent non-disclosure agreement, a copy of which was obtained by Politico. This is in line with what Trump told The Washington Post in an interview in April. Here’s the worst bit of the NDA:

It also demands that if anyone on the team suspects a colleague of leaking material, he or she must tell transition team leadership.

Campaign staffers had to sign an NDA as well, and the Associated Press obtained a copy of that document in June (Fortune). It prevented campaign staffers, including volunteers, from speaking disparagingly about Trump’s campaign or family, even after they leave the campaign. The new NDA does not (reports Politico) include a provision to prevent people from speaking ill of Trump. (The Clinton campaign also required staffers to sign an NDA, the contents of which have not been made public.)

EPA Head

When making his pick for who should head up the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump naturally selected someone who has no experience with environmental policy, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (Reuters).

(For context, this is not the first time the EPA has been headed up by a career politician. Both of Obama’s choices for EPA administrator had extensive experience in environmental policy, and George W. Bush’s final choice while he was in office, Stephen Johnson, was a laboratory scientist who had worked at the EPA since 1979. However, the previous two Bush Jr selections were career politicians, and Clinton’s choice had only a few years of experience in environmental issues prior to receiving the position.)

Last year, the New York Times reported on Pruitt’s close ties with energy companies and argued this about Pruitt and AGs like him:

Out of public view, corporate representatives and attorneys general are coordinating legal strategy and other efforts to fight federal regulations, according to a review of thousands of emails and court documents and dozens of interviews.

(Pruitt confirmed (The Oklahoman) the Times report but denied that there was anything wrong with what he was doing.)

The Atlantic has a rundown of lawsuits Pruitt has filed against the EPA, including one to block a rule that would restrict levels of mercury emitted into the air by coal plants, and their outcomes. Basically, this is yet another instance of Trump choosing opponents of federal agencies to run those agencies.

6 December

SoftBank thing

Goddamn y’all, this girl is going to be so motherfucking knowledgeable and wise by 2020. And when I say “knowledgeable and wise,” I of course mean “possessed of a very shallow comprehension of a wide range of topics.” Which is not ideal but is still I guess better than not knowing anything, right? Right? (How should a person be?)

Here is what Trump announced (via two tweets):

Masa (SoftBank) of Japan has agreed to invest $50 billion in the U.S. toward businesses and 50,000 new jobs…. Masa said he would never do this had we (Trump) not won the election!

(Trump Tweetwatch: No, he still has not learned to thread tweets. He did the ellipsis thing at the end of his first tweet.)

You’ll notice a pattern here, by the way, when Trump talks: Big rhetoric, few details. This administration is counting on all of us to remember that positive feeling (50K new jobs! Hooray!) and forget to keep asking questions about specifics even though, you know, the specifics are kind of important. So: when I say “few details of the deal have emerged,” you may take that to mean that I will goddamn believe it when I goddamn see it. Anyway, Reuters has the story.

Here’s two important pieces of background information. One, the proposed $50 billion investment is to come out of the Softbank Vision Fund, which was announced in October (New York Times). No specific investments were identified at that time, but for context, Financial Times documented the partnership between Saudi Arabia and Softbank’s CEO, Masayoshi Son, and Forbes speculated on possibly investments. In the wake of Trump’s announcement, CBS notes that Son did not confirm he said the thing Trump said he said, and reminds us that the fund existed already and could reasonably be supposed at its inception to be targeting the US, which is currently the world’s foremost locale for tech start-ups.

Two, Softbank owns Sprint, and in 2014 hoped to merge Sprint with T-Mobile, arguing that three robust telecom companies would make for healthier competition and better results for American consumers. The deal was dropped (Reuters) after the Justice Department’s antitrust division and the FCC indicated that it would not look with favor upon it. In 2014, Bloomberg had the case for and against the merger. So, yeah, that’s also potentially a factor at play here. Feel about it how you will.


Because why the fuck not, Trump tweeted that Boeing’s proposed costs to replace the existing fleet of Air Force One planes were too high:

Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!

Reuters has your rundown of where that number came from and what the Boeing order will consist of. Boeing stocks dipped immediately following the tweet, but had mostly recovered (Fortune) by the afternoon. Fox News notes that there is precedent to canceling Boeing contracts over cost overrun concerns (though this type of business is not typically conducted via Twitter), and that Trump’s public criticism of Boeing may be related to the company’s willingness to do business with China.

(Obviously, this one isn’t a big catastrophe. It seems clear, though, that Trump is planning to conduct business as president in a way that I find deeply, deeply troubling: i.e., to say things like “Cancel order!” that sound dramatic and impressive, while singling out individual companies and ignoring broader problems. Cf., the Carrier deal.)


There’s an update on the Carrier deal. According to Indiana NBC affiliate WTHR, only 800 jobs are actually staying in America, not the 1100 claimed by Trump’s office. More details (including Mike Pence’s office straight-up denying it) are below, under “Carrier” on 1 December.

5 December

Trump selected Ben Carson (Reuters) to head up the Department of Housing and Urban Development. A retired neurosurgeon and the first black person selected for participation in the Trump administration, Carson has no experience (The Blaze) working in government. His main qualification for the job appears to be that he grew up in the inner city (Fox News), which, I mean, if that’s all that’s required to get a job in government, I would like someone please to hire me to govern the whole of Louisiana. The Washington Post has more on Ben Carson’s record of commentary on housing policy. His mother took government aid sometimes, but she didn’t want to, so Ben Carson basically thinks it’d be best if nobody took government aid. NEAT.

4 December

This isn’t exactly a thing Trump has done, but I think it’s worth mentioning. This weekend, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced (Reuters) that they would not let the Dakota Access Pipeline drill underneath Lake Oahe. Trump has said that he supports the completion (Reuters) of this pipeline. This is another case where Trump’s personal business holdings present potential conflicts of interest with his presidency. As Bloomberg notes, he owns stock in several companies involved in the construction of the pipeline; and Kelcy Warren, the CEO of the pipeline’s owner, Energy Transfer, gave $100,000 to an organization supporting Trump’s candidacy.

2 December

Taiwan call

The Financial Times broke the news that President-Elect Trump called Taiwan, marking the first contact between the Taiwanese and US governments since diplomatic relations were cut in 1979. According to Fox News, the White House did not know about the call until after it happened; and the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, said that China does not expect any alteration in US foreign policy towards China and Taiwan. China subsequently lodged a complaint (BBC News) about the call.

Trump tweeted (here and here) (still not threaded, please God someone teach the man to thread tweets):

The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you! Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.

A spokesman for Taiwan’s president confirmed to Reuters that the call was arranged in advance. Some additional info from CNN: The White House and State Department were not informed of the call until after it had happened. The mayor of the Taiwanese city Taoyuan (pop. 2.17 million) said last month that a representative from the Trump Organization visited Taoyuan with an eye to potentially building hotels there. An unnamed spokeswoman for the Trump Organization gave this statement to CNN:

There have been no authorized visits to Taiwan on behalf of Trump Hotels for the purposes of development nor are there any active conversations. Trump Organization is not planning any expansion into Taiwan.

So I guess we’ll see.

Incidentally, President Trump is correct that it’s interesting how the US sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but he should not accept a congratulatory call (arranged in advance without reference to the State Department and agreed up on by both sides). That is interesting. Here is a National Review and a Washington Post summary of why that’s interesting. The short version is that we’ve been doing this delicate dance with China since 1979 in which we get to have trade relations with China while also supporting Taiwan financially and militarily.

The balance here is important. As both of the above-linked articles note, when Clinton allowed a pro-independence Taiwanese President to visit Cornell University, China began engaging in missile tests near Taiwan. American policy towards Taiwan has, in other words, tried to find a middle ground where we can maintain an official relationship with China, an unofficial one with Taiwan, and (therefore) business interests with both, while not getting involved in a great big war between them.

Like Rich Lowry (believe me, I’m as surprised as you are that I am typing those words), while knowing very little about it, I’m not necessarily opposed to revisiting Taiwanese policy. The US has an absolutely awful track record of supporting violently repressive governments that we believe will ensure our economic interests (do some reading about Cold War proxy conflicts if you want to feel real real bad about the US). But also like Rich Lowry (I KNOW), I believe that this needs to happen with serious, serious deliberation and consideration of consequences — both for us and for Taiwan.

Victory rally in Cincinnati

President-Elect Trump’s totally normal, not at all disturbing series of victory rallies kicked off today in Cincinnati. According to Business Insider, he pointed out the members of the press assembled in the arena and said, “The people back there, the extremely dishonest press. Very dishonest people … I mean how dishonest.” The crowd booed enthusiastically. The Cincinnati Enquirer says that he then added, “I love this stuff. Should we go on with this a little bit longer?”

(You can watch all this on video, if you wish.)

So yeah. The rhetorical delegitimizing of a free press continues. It’s also alarming that Trump continues to point screaming mobs at specific people he doesn’t like.

Corey Lewandowski thing that I’m not going to worry about for now

A couple of people sent me this story about Corey Lewandowski, so I’ll address it quickly. At a Harvard event for Trump and Clinton staffers (which sounds like a shitshow (Bloomberg)), Lewandowski criticized Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, for expressing his willingness to go to jail (CNN) in order to publish Donald Trump’s tax returns. Lewandowski cited Baquet’s words from earlier in the year and added: “He’s willing to commit a felony on a private citizen to post his taxes? . . . It’s egregious. He should be in jail.”

Lewandowski is not currently employed with the Trump campaign / administration, but some people are spun up about this comment in the context of the possibility that he will get a job in the Trump administration. If he does, I’ll keep this story here. If not, I’ll try to remember (or you can remind me!) to come back and delete it.

1 December

Global Warming Jesus Christ

Okay, this one can’t be blamed on Trump but it’s so fucked up that I’m sharing it here anyway. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (Wikipedia gives you an overview of its history and jurisdiction) retweeted (badly–can someone please teach our government officials how to use Twitter?) a story from Breitbart claiming that global temperatures had dropped by an unprecedented amount in the second half of the year.

The Breitbart story drew most of its information from a Daily Mail (I know) story by David Rose. The Weather Channel explores which data Rose was using and why they present a very incomplete picture (short version: he used data that only measure land temperature, i.e., only 29% of the entirety of the earth’s surface).

The Breitbart piece also cites David Whitehouse of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate change skeptic that has about 80 annual members, doesn’t disclose its funding sources, and is directed by a social anthropologist and chaired by a Tory politician (i.e., actual climate scientists are not involved). David Whitehouse is a longtime science reporter whose science education and expertise is in astrophysics (space science), not climatology or any other branch of atmospheric science.

Also, the chairman of the House Science Committee writes for Breitbart sometimes. Not worrying at all.

Carrier Deal

Update: A statement at the time of the Carrier deal claimed that over 1000 jobs were saved (see Fox News link, below). According to Indiana NBC affiliate WTHR, details of the deal have now emerged, and only 800 jobs are staying in America (730 union jobs and 70 salaried positions). While Trump claimed that 1100 jobs were staying in the US, 350 of the jobs included in that claim were R&D positions that were never going to move to Mexico. Mike Pence’s office (via spokesman Matthew Lloyd) gave this statement to WTHR:

More than 1,000 jobs for hard working Hoosiers were going to leave Indiana for Mexico. Those jobs are now staying right here in Indiana thanks to the efforts of President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Pence.

So, uh, yeah. They’re just going to lie about it I guess, and hope that the American public a) never hears about it or b) hears about it but believes Pence’s office over the actual employees of and union reps for Carrier.

Trump announced a deal with heating and cooling company Carrier to reduce by half the number of jobs the company will send to Mexico, receiving criticism from liberals and conservatives. Though we don’t have a ton of details about the deal, Carrier received $7 million in tax credits, and we can safely assume that their parent company, United Technology Corporation, was aware of the potential loss of federal contracts (NYTimes) if they failed to agree. Fox News explores what we do and don’t know about this deal:

The prospect that the White House might directly intervene is also a concern to some economists. The incentives needed to keep jobs from moving often come at the public’s expense. They note that Trump’s activism might encourage companies to threaten to move jobs overseas in hopes of receiving tax breaks or contracts with the government.

“It sets up a race to the bottom,” said Diane Lim, chief economist at the nonprofit Committee for Economic Development.

NPR explores some of the job problems that a Trump presidency will need to address in the next four years. Reuters notes that United Technology Corporation still plans to close a separate Indiana branch that employs 700 American workers. The economic minister of Nueva Leon, Mexico, said this deal was reminiscent of “[what] they call banana (republics) in the United States” (Reuters). The National Review called the deal “straight-up corporate welfare.”

Rafael Sanchez, an investigative journalist at Indianapolis’s ABC affiliate TV station, has covered Carrier’s proposed closures and the lives of its workers extensively. He was refused press credentials to the event where the Carrier deal was announced, apparently at the behest of the Carrier team rather than the Trump/Pence camp.

30 November

Trump released a series of tweets in the wee hours of the morning saying that he’ll give a press conference on December 15th to explain the disposition of his business assets. Newsday makes the case that handing the running of his business over to his children would be sufficient. Washington Post explores why it may not be. The Sunlight Foundation is now maintaining a running list of potential and confirmed conflicts of interests between Trump’s administrative duties and his business ties.

Update (12 December): He canceled (Wall Street Journal) the 15 December press conference. It has not yet been rescheduled.

29 November

5:55 AM, Trump tweets:

Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!

Context: The Supreme Court cases Texas v. Johnson (1989) and U.S. v. Eichman (1990) (links go to Oyez.org) ruled that flag-burning is constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment. Since these Supreme Court cases, constitutional amendments prohibiting flag-burning have been proposed over a dozen times.

Since everybody seems to think I have forgotten a thing I have in no way forgotten and indeed brought up semi-regularly over the course of the last election season: In 2005, then-Senator Hillary Clinton sponsored a law that would have made flag-burning illegal in certain contexts. These contexts were vaguely defined in the language of the bill, and it was never assigned to committee or sent to Congress for a vote. Clinton voted against a constitutional amendment against flag-burning in 2006.

Also, “loss of citizenship” is a thing nobody, until today, has proposed as a response to flag-burning. Because it’s, you know, horrifying.

27 November

Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus went on Fox News to discuss some of the President-Elect’s positions and said this about climate change (from the Fox News transcript):

As far as this issue on climate change — the only thing he was saying after being asked a few questions about it is, look, he’ll have an open mind about it but he has his default position, which most of it is a bunch of bunk, but he’ll have an open mind and listen to people.  I think that’s what he’s saying.

22 November

Trump scheduled, then canceled (via Twitter), then rescheduled a meeting with the New York Times. Three sources confirmed to the Times that chief of staff Reince Priebus, who had been urging the president-elect to cancel the meeting, incorrectly told Trump that the Times was changing the terms of the meeting, and that this was what led Trump to Twitter-cancel the meeting.

18 November (added on 5 December)

President-Elect Trump’s first meeting with an international leader was with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Ivanka Trump sat in on this meeting (Reuters), raising concerns (Washington Post) about creating a bright line between Trump’s presidency and the business interests of his company, as run by his children.

On 4 December, the New York Times reported that Ivanka will soon close a licensing deal with Japanese apparel company Sanei International, whose largest shareholder is a bank owned by the Japanese government. (Both sides of the deal confirmed to the Times that it exists.)

Okay, I’m not going back in time because it’s impossible for me to keep up, but real quick, here’s a New York Times article on some of Trump’s business holdings in foreign countries and why they are a problem.

And also here is the Southern Poverty Law Center’s report on hate crimes following the election.

The Intimidating TBR Tag

And now it’s time for the walk of shame. The beautiful and brilliant Renay has tagged me to talk about my TBR list, and I hang my head woefully and confess my TBR sins.

1. What book have you been unable to finish?

Future Crimes, by Mark Goodman. I started it a while back, and it wasn’t that I wasn’t into it, but you know how if you kept getting lice as a kid because that one girl in your class had a crunchy granola mother who I guess didn’t believe in Nix Shampoo and wouldn’t do anything about her daughter having lice so everyone in fifth grade kept getting it over and over again, you know how to this day if you talk about lice your head starts itching even though you know it’s psychosomatic and everything’s fine?

No? That’s just me? (My head itches right now y’all.)

Well, anyway, reading Future Crimes got too stressful for me. It made my brain itch. I’ll go back to it sometime! Swearsies!

2. Which book haven’t you read yet because you haven’t had the time?

All of them? Can I answer “all of them” to this question? I’m giving the very specific answer right now of The Madwoman Upstairs, which I checked out with a regular (okay, largeish) bunch of library books and then a ton of electronic holds on new books arrived at once. With a shiny new Crooked Kingdom, Three Dark Crowns, Tessa Dare romance novel, and this sports romance novel by an author called Ruby Lang I only just heard about, the library books that are currently on their last renewal are falling by the wayside. Sorry, The Madwoman Upstairs! I’ll come back to you someday!

3. Which book haven’t you read yet because it’s a sequel?

Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies. I got it at a book sale thinking “well I won’t like Wolf Hall for sure but maybe I’ll like this,” and then I tried reading Wolf Hall and really loved it. (Go fig.) So now I have this nice hardback of Bring Up the Bodies, and I haven’t read it yet because Anne Boleyn dies! And even though Mantel’s version of Anne Boleyn isn’t the world’s most ever sympathetic, still I do not want her to get beheaded.

Bring Up the Bodies

4. Which book haven’t you read yet because it’s brand new?

All the Real Indians Died Off: And 20 Other Myths about Native Americans, by Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker. I read Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous People’s History of the United States a few years back and thought it was terrific. I’m also trying to be more aware of indigenous American history and lives generally, and I’m hoping to read more from Indian authors in the upcoming year.

5. Which book haven’t you read yet because you read a book by the same author and didn’t enjoy it?

White Teeth and On Beauty, by Zadie Smith. I quite liked her essay collection, Changing My Mind, but wasn’t wild about her latest-but-one novel, NW. I am hoping that I’ll love her latest latest, Swing Time, and then that will ease the way for me to get back to reading these two earlier novels, which have been on my list for like a decade now.

6. Which book haven’t you read yet because you’re just not in the mood for it?

Happy Families, by Tanita Davis. Let me revise that: I am in the mood for it. I will always be in the mood for it. I loved her latest book Peas and Carrots, and I am confident that Happy Families will be similarly thoughtful, emotional, and great. But I have been saving Happy Families for some kind of feelings emergency, and even though 2016 has been terrible, there hasn’t been anything so cataclysmic as to merit digging into my emergency reserve of books that feel like hugs.

7. Which book haven’t you read yet because it’s humongous?

Don Quixote, okay, I admit it. I asked for it for Christmas probably over ten years ago, received it from one of my beloved aunts, and to this day I still haven’t read it. There’s a part of me that’s hoping Alice at Reading Rambo will host a readalong one time, but honestly it doesn’t seem like the kind of book she’d be excited to read along with other bloggers.

(But Jenny, couldn’t you just host the readalong? I hear you ask. Okay, yes, probably I could do that. Alice is just so much betterrrrrr at it and she’ll definitely keep dooooooooing it and I’m so laaaaaaaaaaazy and I’m just like not a leader I am really more of a facilitator slash sheep. So.)

8. Which book haven’t you read yet because because it was a cover buy that turned out to have poor reviews?

Wow this is really specific. I don’t buy books based on the covers almost ever, because I want my library to be (I’m sorry to use this word but) curated. So I’ll do something closeish: I was very excited to read The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee, because on paper it sounded perfect for me, all sciencey and accessible. But then I read a thing where apparently a bunch of scientists who study this stuff as their jobs do not think Mukherjee has a good handle on it at all. DILEMMAS.

9. What is the most intimidating book in your TBR pile?

My Uncle Napoleon, by Iraj Pezeshkzad, which is so intimidating it is now officially the oldest book on my TBR list. Not only is the book 500+ pages long, it’s also in translation, which is very intimidating to me. My track record with translated novels is not the greatest track record. Anyway, the good news is that in compiling this post, I discovered a super beautiful cover for the book that made me feel like three degrees less intimidated.

My Uncle Napoleon

10. Who do you tag?

Look, this tag made me dig deep into my TBR shame, and I don’t want to pressure anyone else to do that who doesn’t want to. Do the Intimidating TBR Tag if you wish! Maybe it’ll remind you that you should get off your butt and read My Uncle Napoleon already or else take it off your TBR list and admit it’s never going to happen.

Disney Song Book Tag

Y’all. This tag. The Disney Song Book Tag was created by Aria’s Books, and I picked it up from Rachel at Life of a Female Bibliophile.

1. “A Whole New World” – Pick a book that made you see the world differently.

A Whole New World

This may not count, because I barely saw the world at all prior to reading these books. However, I’m still choosing the Chronicles of Narnia. My mother read these books to me and my sister starting when I was three, so there’s not much in my life that didn’t get put through the Chronicles of Narnia goggles. I still experience quite the frisson when I see a lamp-post. Esp in the snow.

2. “Cruella De Vil” – Pick your favorite villain.

Gotta be the other mother from Coraline. In case she’s been missing from your nightmares lately, permit me to refresh your memory: SHE HAS BUTTONS FOR EYES.


3. “I Won’t Say I’m in Love – Pick a book you didn’t want to admit you loved.

Honestly, as I get older and older, I am less and less closety about reading non-prestigious things. I’m going to say P. C. Wren’s Beau Geste and its sequels. They are those Edwardian-era adventure novels that are ideologically troubling on, like, a lot of levels? My fave is problematic.

4. “Gaston” – Pick a character that you couldn’t stand.

The thing is that I love Gaston. Instead of picking a character I couldn’t stand, I shall pick a character who I would hate in real life, but because they’re fictional, I get a huge kick out of spending time with them. And I choose Henry Winter from The Secret History. That dude is creepy? Yet so plausible that he’s capable of convincing people to commit legit murder.

5. “Part of Your World” – Pick a book set in a universe you wish you could live in.

actual footage of me reading Harry Potter


6. “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” – Describe what the book of your dreams would be like.

Gosh. What would it be like. It would probably have a boarding school. Maybe there would be a dystopian situation? Like a boarding school in a dystopian universe? Plus with lady characters forming bonds and showing up for each other?

7. “Someday My Prince Will Come” – What book character would you marry if you could.

This gif does not match this song. I don’t care. Snow White sucks and Ariel is amazing.

Sherry from Greensleeves. Greensleeves is an amazing book by Eloise Jarvis McGraw that people do not appreciate enough even though it is now available for purchase through your favorite online retailer. Sherry from Greensleeves is curious about everything, reads constantly, and pays attention to other people. Best.

8. “I See the Light” – Pick a book that changed your life.

Oo tough one! Let’s say, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. They at least changed my reading life. Prior to reading Sandman, I was not a comics gal. If you’re not a comics gal, I do not recommend making Sandman your gateway drug. It has kind of a challenging panel structure. However, if you do make it through ten volumes of Sandman, you will come out the other end a legit comics gal. So it was with me.

9. “When You Wish upon a Star” – Pick a book you wish you could reread for the first time.

Jane Eyre. Of course, Jane Eyre. No, it’s not my favorite book of all time, but it’s not not my favorite book of all time, and reading it for the first time was, and would always be, an incredible experience.

10. “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” – Pick a book with some kind of monarchy in it.

How about Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall? I read this last year and was surprised to find that it’s wonderful! Mantel is brilliant at bringing historical figures to life, even ones who are larger than life in the first place like Henry VIII. WHY MUST ANNE BOLEYN DIE IN THE SECOND BOOK WHY OH GOD.

11. “Colors of the Wind” – Pick a book with a beautiful colorful cover.

Maggie Stiefvater’s Blue Lily Lily Blue. All of the books in this series actually! But Blue Lily Lily Blue has to be the most beautifulest one of all!

Blue Lily Lily Blue


Diverse Books Tag

The marvelous Sharlene at Olduvai Reads tagged me for the Diverse Books Tag.

The Diverse Books Tag is a bit like a scavenger hunt. I will task you to find a book that fits a specific criteria and you will have to show us a book you have read or want to read.

If you can’t think of a book that fits the specific category, then I encourage you to go look for oneA quick Google search will provide you with many books that will fit the bill. (Also, Goodreads lists are your friends.) Find one you are genuinely interested in reading and move on to the next category.

Everyone can do this tag, even people who don’t own or haven’t read any books that fit the descriptions below. So there’s no excuse! The purpose of the tag is to promote the kinds of books that may not get a lot of attention in the book blogging community.

Find a book starring a lesbian character.

I choose my favorite of Helen Oyeyemi’s books, White is for Witching. It’s about a pair of twins who live in a haunted and xenophobic house. The girl twin, Miranda, goes off to Cambridge and gets involved with a black girl. The house is not happy about it.

Find a book with a Muslim protagonist.

Ausma Zehanat Khan’s The Unquiet Dead features a Canadian Muslim detective trying to solve a mystery relating to a possible Bosnian war criminal. This was obviously right up my alley, as I read very widely about genocides in history and their aftermaths. I enjoyed the mystery a lot and was excited to find that it’s the first in a series about this detective, Esa Khattak, and his right-hand woman, Rachel Getty.

Find a book set in Latin America.

A Latin America-set book on my TBR list that I can’t wait to read when it comes out next month is Nicole Dennis-Benn’s Here Comes the Sun, which is about three Jamaican women who fight against the installation of a new hotel in their community. It got a ton of buzz at BEA, and my pal Shaina raved about it, so I’m in!

Find a book about a person with a disability.

Do mental disorders count? If yes I am choosing Nathan Filer’s wonderful The Shock of the Fall, which made me cry many times like a tiny, tiny child. The depiction of what it’s like to live with schizophrenia is so beautifully done, without ever being patronizing or overly sentimental. I am tearing up now thinking of one moment in particular. Sniffle, sniffle.

Find a science fiction or fantasy book with a POC protagonist.

Don’t mind if I doooooo. A recent read that I enjoyed a lot, but didn’t get around to reviewing, was Nnedi Okorafor’s book Lagoon, in which a race of aliens makes their first contact in Lagos, Nigeria. All of the various protagonists trying to make sense of this bewildering new state of affairs are black Nigerians, and it’s a weird and spooky and excellent piece of scifi.

Find a book set in (or about) any country in Africa.

Jenny cracks her knuckles and does some jumping jacks in preparation, then remembers she should be reasonable about this and not get all crazy with it. Suffice it to say, I love reading books set in or about countries in Africa, and it is hard for me to pick just one.

I’m going to choose a book from a smaller press, Imran Coovadia’s Tales of the Metric System. This book (which I’m still waiting for my library to order for me!) is a novel about the changes in South African society over the last forty years. I have been given to understand that it deals with South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which I am extra interested in.

Find a book written by an Aboriginal or American Indian author.

Your recs for this category would be appreciated, as I didn’t have a ton of choices lined up. I’m choosing Ambelin Kwaymullina’s very enjoyable The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, a YA dystopian novel with (I’m delighted to report) a sequel to be published in America this year.

Find a book set in South Asia (Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc.)

I really like Ru Freeman’s book On Sal Mal Lane, which I read a few years back. Set on a road in Sri Lanka at the outset of the Sri Lankan Civil War, it depicts a group of families (some Tamil, some Sinhalese, and some Burgher) dealing with the changing political and racial dynamics of their country. It reminded me of one of my all-time favorite authors, Rumer Godden, and was just altogether great.

Find a book with a biracial protagonist.

Everyone was crazy about Fran Ross’s Oreo last year, when the 1974 satirical novel was reprinted. It’s a comic novel about a mixed-race woman in Philadelphia and New York, and although it has been described as picaresque and that is not really my jam,1, I am excited for Oreo to become the exception to my picaresque hate.

Find a book starring a transgender character or about transgender issues.

For this one, I’m choosing Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl. Protagonist Amanda has just started at a new school and is falling in love with a boy named Grant; she badly wants to come out to him as trans, but fears how he will take it. I hear amazing things about this book and this author and can’t wait to try it!

  1. although I love the word! Picaresque! I wish it meant something awesomer.