No Election Talk Here: A Links Round-Up

Happy Friday, team! This time next week, I’d like to say the worst election season that ever electioned will all be over, but I can’t say it with any degree of confidence. This time next week WHO KNOWS but hopefully it’ll be okay and we can start the long and arduous process of getting our mental health back to normal. Have some links, in the meantime.

A very cool look at how the designer for The Science behind Game of Thrones created the book’s cover (and her very own Iron Throne).

Remember that whole VOYA mess? Of course you do. Well, School Library Journal is showing VOYA how it’s done in that regard.

In a shocking turn of events that leads me to believe that one scene in Shakespeare in Love where Rupert Everett gives Joseph Fiennes notes on his dumb play is TOTALLY REAL FROM REAL LIFE, the New Oxford Shakespeare gives Christopher Marlowe co-writing credit on all the Henry IVs.

Nimona is now an audiobook. Question: How. Answer: This.

Another week, another incident of comics bros being assholes.

I don’t endorse this ranking of Halloween candies from worst to best, because it’s blatantly wrong to have Milky Way ranked above Snickers, but I’m glad we’re having these important conversations. The description of the experience of eating a Butterfingers is absolutely accurate. Great work, internet!

Kai Ashante Wilson writes about the use of dialect in SFF and it’s brilliant.

And here’s some quick shots of things that I hope make you feel better in general: That guy’s still doing that dumb dance all around the world. Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton Mixtape is available for preorder. Leslie Odom Jr. sang this song. Ariel had legal recourse against Ursula. Chris Evans and Jenny Slate are in a movie with an adorable munchkin.

Go vote on Tuesday. Take care of yourselves in the meantime. Stay sexy, don’t get murdered.

It’s the End of 2015 (as we know it)

So here we are at the end of 2015. I had this idea that maybe in 2016 I’ll get really good about writing down all the super-excellent things that happen to me that year, and that way I won’t be struggling to think of them when the end of the year rolls around.

My best thing of 2015 (brace yourself for a shock) was the musical Hamilton. Not a full week after I whined to my friends that I feared there would never be another musical that made me feel the way Wicked and Rent made me feel, and maybe my feelings about those musicals (and the others I love) were just a function of youthful emoness, lo there came Hamilton into my life. If you haven’t listened to the cast recording yet, find a way to do it. Then come back and tell me how much you loved it. Please and thank you.

In books, I’ve picked out a few faves for the year. Some of these I’ve talked about ad nauseam already, so bear with me.

Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson, was the first webcomic I read for my “Read More Webcomics” resolution of 2015 (which went brilliantly for me, if you are wondering). Also probably my most-recommended book of 2015.

How It Went Down, by Kekla Magoon, has been inexplicably overlooked, and I cannot understand why. In addition to being painfully topical, it’s also a beautifully written, thoughtful look at some of the issues that arise when a black child is suddenly dead and nobody can understand why. I can’t say enough about this book and this author. Check it out.

And now for a total change of pace, I loved Nick Hornby’s Funny Girl, when I didn’t remotely expect to. It’s witty and tender, and full of characters you just want to see succeed.

Congo, by David van Reybrouck, laid out the history of a huge, messy country in a way that was perpetually readable and relied as much as possible on the testimony and memories of the Congolese people themselves. If historians like David van Reybrouck could write histories of all the African nations, I’d be done with my Africa reading project in just a few years.

Touch, by Claire North, kept me up late trying to guess what was going to happen next. At least one book a year reminds me why I love reading so much, and Touch was that book for me this year.

Predictably, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, has arrived on my best-of this year. I didn’t review it in this space because it was hard to feel that I had anything to add about this book, after so many glowing reviews have emerged of it. I’ve admired Coates’s writing for years for its measured insights and unwillingness to rely on easy answers. Between the World and Me is a tragic, beautiful, necessary book.

The Scorpion Rules, by Erin Bow, did absolutely none of the things I expected it to do. It was a perpetual surprise, and it’s made me excited to see what Erin Bow will do next with this world.

As with the Coates book, I don’t feel I have anything super valuable to add about Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which has basked in plenty of accolades already and doesn’t need my additional input. However, I will say that I had no expectation of liking this book and only read it so I could get to Bring Up the Bodies, which I also didn’t especially expect to like. But there you go. Life is full of surprises.

Finally, a shout-out to 1796 Broadway, a monster of an epistolary fanfic which, like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries in its time, kept me up late on several occasions where I kept saying “oh I’ll just do one more and then I’ll go to bed.” Ha, ha, Jenny. You know that’s not what’s really going to happen.

In statistics, female authors were far more heavily represented in my reading than male, and I continue to be fine with that.

I read 18% of my books because I was familiar with the authors from previous books I’d read of theirs, while another 45% of my book recommendations came from you lovely people! If that number seems low, please note that many of the books in the “author fondness” category became favorites of mine due to your unfailing advocacy. So actually I got closer to 53% of my books from bloggers. Another 15% I picked up based on professional reviews; 6% were books I spotted in publishers’ catalogs or that publishers pitched to me; and a small sliver, 3%, were books I picked up randomly at the library.

84% of everything I read came from the library. Lovely, lovely library, please never change. I cherish you so much. I borrowed two books from friends, owned eight, read seven online (from apps like Marvel Now and Comixology), and read fifteen in ARC format (either ebooks or physical). About a fourth (27%) of my reads were ebooks, and the rest were physical books. That is how I roll when subways and purse heavinesses are not a consideration.

I read less SFF this year than I think is typical for me, only 26%, whereas fiction-not-otherwise-classified accounted for 30% of my reading. Actually, that seems okay. Maybe I’d like to read slightly more SFF than ungenre fiction, but those percentages seem fine. 10% of my reading was comics, which I’d like to see go up a bit in the new year, and 14% was nonfiction, which rocks. I read more books in translation this year, seventeen, than I’ve probably ever read in a year before.

My goal for 2015 was to read no more than 65% white authors, and no more than 60% American authors. These stats are probably a little off, because I couldn’t always find interviews where the author self-identifies as one ethnicity or nationality over another, but anyway, employing US census categories, I ended up with 44% authors of color, and 50% authors hailing from countries other than America. I read books by authors from 38 different countries, and it was glorious.

How was your reading year? Did you meet your goals? Did you read anything of exceptional wonderfulness?

Comics round-up!

The recent launch of Book Riot’s sister site, Panels, plus the many comics posts of folks like Sarah and Andi and Memory, have put more new comics on my radar than I have the money to keep up with. But now and then my library abruptly has all the comics I have been wanting, and then I get to do a jolly little binge. So here’s what I’ve been reading:

Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson

This is the same Noelle Stevenson of Lumberjanes fame! And, okay, this isn’t something the library had, because the print edition of Nimona won’t exist until May. It began its life as a webcomic about a girl called Nimona who shows up to be the sidekick to an arch-villain named Ballister. He isn’t in the market for a sidekick, and she is a powerful, bloodthirsty shapeshifter. It is all the best all the time, and the author’s comments under each day’s page are wonderful too. Here is a sample page that will demonstrate the delightfulness of the series as a whole.

(Note: One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read more webcomics. I have already accomplished that! HA!)

The Manhattan Projects, Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra

“What if the research and development department created to produce the first atomic bomb was a front for a series of other, more unusual, programs?” Hey, yeah! And what if those other programs involved aliens and monks and doors to other worlds and a bitter Albert Einstein and Wernher von Braun but absolutely no ladies? Would a lady comics fan such as myself find this annoying?

Yes. As it turns out, she would.

Pretty Deadly, vol.1, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos

Not what I expected! When the world said, “Death’s daughter in the Wild West,” I pictured a comic rather brighter-eyed and bushier-tailed than this turned out to be. If that sounds like a loony expectation for a book about Death, please note that DeConnick’s Captain Marvel — while certainly dark in spots — is on the whole a cheerful and bantery run of comics.

Anyway, this isn’t. It’s got the bloody-minded fatedness of a Greek tragedy and the do-what-you-have-to morality of an Elmore Leonard novel. Strange, dark, and beautiful, but nowhere near fun.

Rat Queens, vol. 1, by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

The blogosphere is so high on Rat Queens I don’t even remember where I heard about it first. The elevator pitch is, it’s a bunch of diverse, hard-ass lady mercenaries doing adventures. After that I don’t know what else there is to say. It’s fun, it’s profane, it’s about fighting women who are fiercely loyal to each other. And the first volume ends with a nice little cliffhanger. More please!