Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June in Review

I missed May, because I just couldn't bring myself to blog much during *gestures wildly* ALL THIS, but rather than bore you by cramming it all in, I'm just going to move ahead to June. Good? Good.

My Reading

# of books read: 11
I tried to focus on books by members of the global majority this month, but there were a couple of white-authored books I was committed to reading for other reasons. Eight out of eleven were by people of color though.

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, Clap When You Land, Nickel Boys, You are No Longer in Trouble, and My Sister, the Serial Killer were my favorites. It's been hard to fall into reading like I'm used to, but those books pulled me in. 

Bookish Events and Happenings

  • Book mail has become a thing. I mean, book mail at school was always a thing, but now I get it delivered here. 
  • I'm also STILL working on the library books I got in mid-March, the day before the libraries closed. Nickel Boys was one of those. 
  • I've been following various drama on Twitter--SFF authors behaving badly, School Library Journal making a Black author sound petty over a white author's decision to not publish her book after all. 
  • I am trying to read the Serious Nonfiction Titles I'm supposed to be reading for various professional and personal book clubs. 

On the Blog

Hmm. Yeah. I posted twice in June. The blog's fifth anniversary slipped right past. I haven't been visiting others' blogs either. SORRY! I still love you. I just have been unable to focus.


A few funny tweets that pretty much sum up the pandemic situation:

A few family pictures:
My daughter's delicious Drunken Noodles
My daughter's amazing drunken noodles

A couple of kids. I kid! 

I like to call this one "If I can wear a motherf*cking mask in f*cking 80ยบ weather while picking raspberries for nearly two hours, you can wear a f*cking mask for 20 minutes in an air conditioned store, asshole."

For the same reasons I haven't been blogging*, we didn't do much to celebrate Jani/Ligo (Baltic midsummer) this year, but we did crack open a beer and use the fire pit.

*Existential dread and avoidance of it through too many hours playing games on my phone.

Lucia Waterfall in Washington.

The student-led BLM protest in the small conservative town I teach in.

We became gardeners this year. My husband BUILT that. 

I love purple flowers.

Finally, just one of the many, many articles I've been pondering as we think about race in this country.

My monthly summaries are always linked to the Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up on Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight, as are terrific blogs' monthly reflections.  Nicole and Shannon usually put together a fun scavenger hunt giveaway too, so go check it out!

Discussion: Goodreads Alternatives

Let's see if I can remember how this blogging thing works.

I haven't felt like I had anything real to offer to the conversations around Black Lives Matter, or the pandemic, or any of the other ways, small and large, the world seems to be burning down at the moment.

And while I was happy to read as a form of escapism, I didn't feel right about continuing to prattle on about those books when all of the above was going on.

None of which has changed. But I don't want to kill off my blog either, so....hi. It's me.

(NO SLIGHT against those of you who have kept on keeping on. We all need to do what it takes to survive this time, and I am sure blogging is a serious mental health support for many of us.)

One thing I've been messing around with a bit is different reader sites, alternatives to Goodreads. I happened upon Goodreads in June, 2008, so I have a pretty big investment in the site. These are my "exclusive" shelves, meaning I have 4,142 books on the site. FOUR THOUSAND PLUS BOOKS.

It's...a little unwieldy. Plus I have 98 additional shelves, and now that I know that fact, I want to add two more.

Common complaints about GR are #1, that there is no ability to add half stars, and #2, that it's now owned by Amazon, and eff Jeff Bezos. I've also seen people complain that if you add a book as DNF, it counts towards your reading goals, but um, no, as you see above "abandoned midstream," being one of those exclusive shelves, is counted separately from "read." (That's how ancient my account is; I didn't even know there was a term for books I didn't finish.)

Twitter Reacts to Greasy Frog Jeff Bezos Preparing to Become a ...

In counterpoint, #1, I don't care about the half star issue, because I am a weirdo who tracks my reading annually on a Google Form, and I have half stars on there. #2, while I'm no fan of billionaires who don't pay fair taxes, I also don't buy books through Goodreads, so I don't feel like I'm actively supporting Amazon by using it.

Image result for half star

No, what bugs me about using Goodreads is that here I am, trying to track my own reading for my own record keeping, but others use it as a review site. Which, in all fairness, IT IS, but I don't want to be involved in that. I mean sure, I love to see what my friends think about books I'm reading, but honestly, I don't care much beyond that. I also want to be able to say, "I LOATHE this work" even if it's objectively well written, or "I LOVE this book" even if I know it's problematic.

Lolita  Eleanor & Park

Guess which is which!

Also, to be able to say, "This middle grade novel didn't do much for me, but it's good for what it is, 3 stars," without pissing the author off. I mean, I GET why that would piss them off, and if I were a professional reviewer, I sure as hell wouldn't review like that, but I'm just trying to remember what I thought about a book.

So when I saw a bunch of tweets about new book tracking apps, I figured now was as good of a time as ever to check them out. I've only looked at two, because it seems that I prefer to spend most of my time doomscrolling Twitter, but here's what I have found so far.

STORYGRAPH exploded recently and is advertised as a site that is more aesthetically pleasing and user friendly than Goodreads, and as being owned by Black women instead of, y'know, Bezos. Of course, I haven't been able to corroborate that detail. As for it looking nicer, well:

I don't know. It's cleaner, but it's kind of boring. Admittedly, Goodreads has too many ads now, but I'm so used to ignoring those I don't even really see them.

They are in beta testing, so I don't expect it to have everything I'm looking for. They do import your GR titles, and it's a very easy process. I did lose a lot of my "read" dates and had to go in and adjust them, and it also put a bunch of my exclusive shelves onto my "read" shelf, so I had to move things around. It works on my laptop and on my phone.

The other site I'm testing out is Book Sloth, which has the benefit of an adorable logo.

It's an app, which I don't like--I want to be able to use my laptop. I'm old, my eyesight is no longer perfect, and I loathe the physical act of typing on my phone. However, I do agree that this one is attractively set up.

And it's also cool that they are promoting #BLM and anti-racism books. Overall, it seems YA heavy, unless that's due to how I answered their questions?

Oh yes, both sites pride themselves on their ability to help you find new books to read. While I admit that I do use that feature on Goodreads, finding new books to read is...not a huge problem for me. Remember this?

And that's after I spent a huge amount of time in the Early Pandemic Era culling about 2/3 of my TBR. So this isn't a very important feature for me.

My overall feeling is that while both of these sites/apps have potential, and I will probably keep my accounts open on them to check in with as they move past beta, right now I will stick with Goodreads. The main thing GR has that these sites lack (as of now) is the ability to cross-shelve, to create shelves, and to do all the sorting I love to do. Let's say I want to find a middle grade mystery to recommend. I call up the two shelves, sort by star rating, and tell you that I enjoyed Woof and Chomp quite a bit.

Or maybe I'm trying to find out which are the oldest fantasy novels I've read, I see that The Light Princess was published in 1864.

The Light Princess and Other Fairy Stories

So there's my not-very-definitive conclusion. Until I can sort books more precisely, I will stick to Goodreads, despite my discomfort with the disconnect between how I use it and its public role.

Have you tried any other readers' websites? Rely on journaling or spreadsheets? Or do you eschew list keeping altogether? Do tell!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Reading in a time of Rage

Here are some things to read and ponder.

List of Black Owned bookstores to order from. I just ordered Binti, 47, and The Fifth Season from Eso Won Books in LA.

Binti (Binti, #1) 47 The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)

List of Books about Black Kids Living. As it said on the tweet that led me to the list, "no tragedy porn here." I think it's important to read books that illuminate racism and police brutality, but it can't be all we read (or recommend). If books are windows and mirrors, paraphrasing Dr. Rudine Sims, then Black kids need to see themselves reflected in history, mystery, fantasy, adventure, romance...and non-Black readers need to see the same.

Slideshow of YA books that do specifically deal with racism and police brutality. I put this together for my students, so it includes books I currently have in my classroom library.

Blog post about culturally responsive leadership in education--specifically, about the high suspension rate of black and brown boys.

Kekla Magoon on modern minstrelsy and literary blackface.

How white people can move from ally to accomplice.

How words can skew understanding of riots and rebellions.

A poem.

Ben and Jerry's, of all things (people? companies), talking about systemic racism.

And finally, if you haven't seen Trevor Noah talking about how all of this connects--it's worth the time.