blood for the blood god

Holy wow, that was a weird finger-stick.

So I made an appointment for the morning, as I like to when I don't have work. The blood center changed the timing rules so now I can give platelets every week, up to twenty-four times in a twelve-month period, and plasma every month. I figure I can do every two weeks without too much trouble, assuming I have any iron at all. And since I'm taking a multivitamin now, whoo!

Anyway. I go in, I fill out the survey, it's time for the finger-stick... and blood is just pouring out of my ring finger. Won't go into the collection tube. Won't be stopped. The phlebotomist finally managed to work together to fill the tube-- I held gauze to clean it up, then we simultaneously pulled the gauze and put the tube in place before the blood could continue smearing the table-- and I mean wow. Blood all down my hand, blood on the table, blood going through the gauze. At one point, the phlebotomist squeezed my finger gently, like usual, and there was a spray.

My platelet count was 195. That is low enough (for me) that I ended up doing a second vial once I was on the machine, and that one gave me 296. Clearly, we hit the one part of my body that contained none of them.

Did a double platelet and a plasma. No problems. Had chocolate coffee afterward, and got a T-shirt.

books, May

Oh, and I gave blood on Friday. That happened.

Mary Roach, Stiff. I expected to be a bit not the target audience for this book, which I was. I could have read more cultural and historical chapters easily.

Ari Marmell, Covenant’s End. Wow, it is weird to read something so dark and so middle-grade. I’m not sure what makes it middle-grade in my head beyond the lack of sarcastic first-person narrator and the style of narration itself, maybe the cover? The style is meant to make you giggle in places, I think, and it reads young to me. But the book and the series are hella dark, which is clearly telegraphed from about the first chapter of the first book, in which everyone dies a bloody death.

Sarah Elizabeth Schantz, Fig. Girl grows up in the shadow of a severely mentally ill mother and eventually learns to be her own person. Except... this is set in the eighties, not for much of a good reason. Except Fig has an IQ of 187, which is known before she’s six years old, and never receives any special instruction or enrichment. Except Fig also has a diagnosis of OCD, also dating from when she was six, which mostly takes the form of picking scabs until they’re nearly permanent-- we’re talking months here, once resulting in cellulitis and nearly losing her foot. Except Fig never tries to be her own person; at six years old, she decided that she would heal her mother via various rituals, and she carries that through to her mother’s convenient suicide. The narrative doesn’t give us anything of Fig’s life that doesn’t relate to her mother, so I felt no tension there. The narrative felt lazy to me.
Plus, most of those ‘excepts’ are known by at least one adult in the book, and her behavior with the last is also noticed. So what do the adults do? Nothing. Not a single thing. No therapy, no meds, no follow-up appointments, except her grandmother’s somewhat draconian measures, which are presented as old-fashioned primmery rather than a response to a child’s illness.

Laurie Halse Anderson, The Impossible Knife of Memory. You know what I wanted from Fig? This is it. I mean damn. There’s a manic pixie dream boy, a little annoying but still appropriate, and actual tension.

Mary Robinette Kowal, Of Noble Family. Not an altogether satisfying book, but a good one. I had been expecting a slave revolt from work-in-progress notes about the book, so I was very disoriented in parts. I think I’d have preferred a few things being more onstage emotionally, but that is not exactly Kowal’s style for these books. I expect to reread the whole batch within a reasonable timeframe.

Carniepunk. I skipped the transphobic story once I knew I’d hit it, wished I’d skipped the one after it, and eventually skipped anything that was clearly a novel tie-in set at a random county fair. Seanan McGuire’s was good, though.

Mary Jo Putney, Not Always a Saint. I know she can do better anguish than this.

Marie Brennan, Voyage of the Basilisk. After Kowal’s book, I had a lot of trouble adjusting to a fantasy world that wasn’t basically ours. Really enjoyed it, once I got over my disorientation, and holy cats, Isabella is more than a bit of a badass when necessary. Plus her second marriage made me really happy.

Argh, I did not keep good notes here.

Sebastian de Castell, Traitor’s Blade. You know how sometimes, you read a book and then run scenes in your head where everything is a little more Mary Sue and a little more Showing Them All?
Every single chapter is like that.
Every single one.
“Shit just keeps happening!” I said to Angela, bewildered. Each chapter begins with a dilemma, often a digression into backstory, an explanation of the problem, then a surprise way out of it is explained. Random assassin cult? Here’s how you fight them, and they never come back. Suicide taffy? Here’s the backstory, the sadness, et cetera. Extremely random sex priestess who shows up for two chapters, and that’s actually pretty long for a throwaway character? Well, extremely random sex priestess, and considering the amount of random in this book, that’s saying something.
Which is not to say that it wasn’t enjoyable. The writing is clever and engaging, I liked the overall dilemmas and Falcio’s angst-ridden character-- plus his badass friends Mr Cooler Than You and Mr Jock-- and hey, Sues and Showing Them All is exactly what I like sometimes. All the time. I’m not proud, people.
But it’s exhausting to read, all the bouncing. And I can’t make up fanfic because it’s already in the book.

Ysabeau Wilce, Prophecies, Libels, and Dreams. A mixed collection. I disliked the last story but liked seeing how characters I sort of recognize from the Flora books evolved, plus their relationships. Not as aggressively whimsical as Flora, either, which is useful.

Martha Wells, The Cloud Roads. I won this on Twitter ages ago and knew I’d like it a lot, so I haven’t been reading it. It’s not as dangerous a book as I expected, but it is quite good. The outsider perspective Moon has on everything weakens some of the societal worldbuilding, and I’m seldom thrilled with biological determinism, but the wide variety of races-- and I do mean races here, in that they can interbreed and produce fertile offspring, same species, yay-- was cool.
So basically, I am wary of the worldbuilding and going to read the next one.

Book I did not finish, picked up free at Wiscon: oh hon you are not a good book. I mean, you have a cool premise, but too many deaths, too much politics-- we’re five years past an apocalypse and it’s all business interests, bullshit politics, and weird rapey scenes? You killed some cool characters, I made it almost two hundred pages in and I haven’t found a plot beyond ‘everyone sucks except the ones who are naïve’ and let me tell you, ‘naïve’ is an accusation I hate.
Such a guy book. Such a guy book.

Elizabeth Wein, Black Dove, White Raven. This was a damn fine piece of writing. Good job. Historical aviation, racism, Ethiopia, dammit colonialism this is why we can’t have nice things, plus complex relationships and having different talents and skills but everyone’s valued.

failing to update

1) Gave blood twice in April. The second time went better than the first-- the stick was great, painless, the phlebotomist understood how to keep me warm, I did a triple.

2) Completely forgot/procrastinated the booklogs for March and April. And the beginning of May. So. And in the interest of not putting this off any more, you're getting the draft version.

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it's worth noting

Given how everyone has complained about the weather... well, everyone but me. We had lots of clear-and-cold days, which are my favorite winter days (perhaps tied with 'blizzard' but that has its own issues, really). I like sun and weather events. I kept telling people who wanted it to warm up that that wasn't available. It's February, I said, and we can have bright blue skies with sun pouring down and zero degrees, or we can have forty degrees and gray everything, mud everywhere, slush, just gray and dim and soul-crushing.

I would rather have snot-freezing cold and sun for the entirety of February, then move directly to crocuses.

And that is exactly what the weather is giving me. Good job, weather. Thank you.

books of February

Robin McKinley, Chalice. This is the recent McKinley I’ve liked best. It has the rambly narrator, but the rambles are interesting and generally not in the middle of conversations. It has the inexplicable ending, but it makes sense the second or third time around. It has the ending where everyone stands around and/or leaves without speaking because McKinley’s done playing with those characters-- the Overlord in this book, the surprise triple wedding in one of the Beast books (really, the family decided to come for a visit when they didn’t know where the castle was and it was even odds the castle wouldn’t be there?) but... it also has housekeeping. It feels like old McKinley.
I also noticed this time through that Marisol talks a lot about being addressed in the third person, but she never shows us that. Compare that to The Goblin Emperor which is not fair, I know, and how it handles matters of address.

Susan Wiggs, The Beekeeper’s Ball. Man, this is a drafty novel. There’s no consequence to anything, ever. I expected meh but got a complete lack of follow-through.

Delia Sherman, Young Woman in a Garden. I skipped a couple stories I had read before-- rather, I skipped to the good parts-- and was overall impressed with the number of narrative voices. Some of the stories I read twice.

John Scalzi, Lock In. I knew it had something to do with disability, and I have heard him read from it and about it. I was not expecting him to follow through on the Scalzi Fallacy (“I totally included people of color! See, I never described the main character, so he could be anything!”) with an undescribed narrator revealed to be black/multiracial. The character has grown up in a fairly rarefied world, so it doesn’t matter as much as it might, but hey, it’s actually a black guy in the robot.
On the other hand, he does the Fallacy for queerness a bit. I don’t know. Same- and opposite-gendered couples, plus a few people who just happen never to mention pronouns.

Patricia Briggs, Shifting Shadows. Mmm, Briggs. Some repeats in here I didn’t like, and I really disliked the first story-- it was way cooler in my head and it’s rather dark, given that it has to end with centuries of madness and despair-- but my brain and Briggs’ prose get along well. I like what she does. It’s comfort reading.

Robin McKinley, The Hero and the Crown. A reread because the last time I read it was... not sure. Sometime. College or grad school, so it’s not formative in any way.
And wow, that is one weird book.
I was totally on board with dragon-killing practice and mending skirts-- and wow, the story is also weirdly flashbacky and rambly in places-- and it’s awesome and there’s a dragon and a hero’s welcome and then suddenly we have a weird lake and months of mage training and this entire other quest that has to happen and no one ever knows, and all the people who gave Aerin trouble are now conveniently dead or forget that they ever did so.
I mean, yes. Structural duality reflecting Aerin’s two stories, that of the sol and hero and that of the mage and immortal. Really cool thing, there, and not something I would expect to see in current YA at all.
But I don’t trust McKinley any more. I look at the duality, the reaction I gave it-- oh this is bad, wait this is awesome-- and I don’t trust her to have done it on purpose. Like the alienness of the world, where there are all sorts of random animals and plants where they need to be in the prose.
I wish I could read this book and marvel at its execution. Instead I am affectionate but don’t rely on it.

Greg van Eekhout, California Bones. Lots of good reviews, cool premise, and left me completely cold. I’m not sure why. Maybe I read the wrong reviews and had a different idea of what was going to happen? That’s probably some of it. I don’t think Eekhout’s stories and I click quite. I’ll probably read the sequel, though.

Carrie Vaughn, Kitty and the Midnight Hour, Kitty Goes to Washington, Kitty Takes a Holiday. Because I have reread every other urban fantasy series on instagrab. I had forgotten a few key details of Kitty’s initial attack-- holy traumatic everything, Batman!-- and it’s interesting seeing how well-laid-out the Cormac-Kitty-Ben relationship is.

Mike Grinti and Rachel Grinti, Jala’s Mask. This is another book with a heavy duality in it. The book begins with island politics, the kind of thing that can ruin a family but not a dynasty, and Jala trying to find her feet in a court that is nothing like the courts in most fantasy. Then invaders, demons, mayhem, and suddenly we’re not in the islands but in the mountains and there are gods everywhere. Really cool gods. No, really cool gods. I felt a little let down by the end because the Jala of the beginning wouldn’t want how the book ended, but that Jala was unavailable, having matured quite a bit.
And lest you think I disliked the book, oh no. I think Mike Grinti and Rachel Grinti have an excellent grasp of what goes into a book intellectually. I can’t wait for them to hit my id.

(They are friends of mine, for disclosure. Friends and Alphans. I would be way more protective of them if they were only the latter, which is weird.)

Carrie Vaughn, Kitty and the Silver Bullet, Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand, Kitty Raises Hell, Kitty Goes to War, Kitty Steals the Show, Kitty Rocks the House. I think this takes me up to Underworld, which is where I got a bit fed up with the big arc rather than standalone books-- Underworld feels way more episodic and nothing-changes than the early books, perhaps because hey, nothing changes compared to the early books. Basically, the more Roman shows up, the less I like the book overall. But when it’s not all Long Game all the time, I really enjoy them.

blood and stress

Anyone who's gotten two letters from me recently knows there's been a lot of stress going on, not always but sometimes directly mine, sometimes belonging to someone else, and you know, people who read this and have been on the Holy Shit That Sucks list, I am not out of support to give and I'm glad things are getting better for you. Because damn.

Anyway, today was a much-needed day off from school due to the end of the trimester, so naturally I piled three separate but consecutive appointments onto it. The last of these was blood.

New guy this time. Splainer. I wanted to tell him that really, I know this, you don't have to explain everything, stop telling me why it's good for me to have milk and cheese while I donate, I know about the isocitrate and the calcium and stop, no seriously I do not need a band-aid. He did a really good job keeping me warm, though, and that's sometimes a problem. Gave a double platelet and a too-big plasma; one phlebotomist said I shouldn't give that much and that she'll put it in my record. It is more important that I give platelets because I can, and as with red cells, getting greedy with plasma might endanger my coagulatory font.

But it went well, I got a purple bandage, and if I don't get sick in March the way I did in December and January, I should be okay to donate monthly again.

books, January

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion. A reread, and then a selective good-parts reread (they’re the same parts I reread the first time I read the book). I just want to snuggle with this book and somehow become as good as the characters are.

Sarah Rees Brennan, Unmade. Last in a trilogy, and... yup, definitely a trilogy. No way to pick things up in the middle. This one is less full of people revealing their secret plans and more full of banter leading up to an ending that really didn’t make sense to me. It probably makes sense to people who read Robin McKinley, though none of the rest of the trilogy is McKinleyish.

Anne Lamott, Blue Shoe. Every few chapters, I felt like saying, “Anne Lamott, this is why people think books are always about the author.” At least two specific quotes are in her nonfiction. The entire situation is in her nonfiction. Plus the big reveal is no kind of big. Plus the main character is the kind of ‘realistically flawed’ that makes me never want to be around her ever, and since Lamott is mining her biography, I don’t want to be around Lamott, either.

Joshilyn Jackson, Between, Georgia. More Southern fiction from Jackson, and this is good. Daughter caught between biological family and adoptive family, overbearing, anxious, and Deaf/blind sisters, totally enjoyable.

Cherie Priest, Maplecroft. This is beautifully done, the isolation, the people having information but not knowing it, the bureaucracy holding up completely necessary actions, the assumptions about people and their priorities, the way the relationships crumble.
You see that last? Yeah.
So I finished it and appreciated it, but didn’t enjoy it. Priest discusses her books with such verve and energy that it’s easy to forget that she’s writing a combination of gothic, horror, and Lovecraft. And guess what? Those don’t turn out well. The center of this book isn’t teamwork and knowing that the people at your back have it. The center is forced revelations and resenting the people whose backs you have to have because they never understand what you need and so why would you tell them anything.

Thalia Chaltas, Displacement. At least it was short. Because it was all bad line-break poetry.
Wait, that’s redundant. It was all line-break poetry. Sigh.

Tessa Dare, Say Yes to the Marquess. Okay, so the premise is a little contrived. But I do not care because Phoebe, who is not sequelbait. The next book in this set will involve an entirely different castle. So more cool people! Oh how I like this.
And! The character who has carefully built an identity and has to defend it against well-meaning people who say now you can stop being that is the guy. He has to figure out his own agency, his own role in the partnership.
(I feel like I’m not saying enough about this, but a lot of what I want to say is discussion, particularly about visibility and inclusion. There’s ADHD and Asperger’s in here. That matters.)

Sarah Prineas, Moonkind. While I’m not completely done thinking about solutions to faerie problems that boil down to, “Be more like humans,” I really liked this. The way the book is constructed also makes clear the ways that YA/MG isn’t adult fiction, the pacing, the conflicts, and it’s also perfectly clear that this is on purpose. I like Prineas’ work that way. You can learn a lot from her craft.

ten good things

1) Patina adores me. She is sitting at my right hand as I type this, and if I lean forward just right, she'll lick and lick and lick my ear. I feel so loved.

2) Tiny Man and I sang to his little sister (shall I call her Honey Badger?) and it's the first time I've heard him sing a song someone else wrote. I like that kid a lot. Honey Badger has sung along to Taylor Swift, but not often.

3) "Shake It Off".

4) I like theorizing about Dragon Age with Angela. It's thinky and fun and I didn't have to do any of the playing, just the watching and filling in of plot.

5) Actually, we'll just put Angela on her own line.

6) My room is the most amazing blue still, and afternoon sun shines in the windows and makes the room glow.

7) Coffeeeeeee.

8) I had good ideas about improving police/student relations. We had a pair of really good officers come in to discuss everything the students wanted to know. We got Cop Cards, which are like baseball cards but for police officers, we talked about how not to be scared of cops or tickets, how to be a good advocate, how to ask for processing time, how sometimes you're not going to get it because it's an emergency, everything like that. Heybuddy is one of our main targets for this since Jailbird exited the program and landed directly in the justice system. Heybuddy had a really traumatic experience last year, and we think that if we can get him focused on the Cop Cards and saying hi to every officer he can, explicitly without consequence on his Don't Talk to Strangers yellow sheet, he'll be less freaked out and they'll know that he's a big goofy farm dog who wants to show you the log he found and can you throw it?

9) I've been playing so much Don't Starve it's not even funny. My two favorite things are character-based: Willow is immune to fire, so if I get bored I burn down whatever forest I'm in, and Woody occasionally turns into a werebeaver, so if I'm bored I chop down all the trees and start destroying forests and landscapes more directly. The game is very soothingly repetitive.

10) I don't have to drive anywhere this weekend. Or next weekend. I don't have anything scheduled for after school tomorrow. This is great.

10.5) You have to know Tiny Man to pronounce 'great' correctly.

books, December or late December, whichever

I brought a lot of books home to read over break, then spent my time knitting, on the computer, or eating cookies standing in front of the fire. Some of them were recommendations for the boy, though.

Erin E Moulton, Chasing the Milky Way. Too many bounces at the end, a little too... I don’t know, the end just didn’t work for me. The rest is good, though.

Kelly Barnhill, Iron-Hearted Violet. Don’t look at the illustrations. In fact, if you give this book to a kid, particularly a girl, find some way to cover them. Because a book about a girl who thinks she can’t be a proper princess because she’s ugly... should not have illustrations of a beautiful girl. I could not tell the difference between the ugly princess and the beautiful one except by hair color and that the beautiful one had a horrid dress.
But you should definitely give this book to people. It has really interesting worldbuilding and the way it’s about story makes it okay that the politics are oversimple.

Julia Mary Gibson, Copper Magic. Well done, wrenching, and not quite believable. I had trouble accepting that a girl who so carefully made sure she seemed to deserve magic would carelessly Spoiler, though it did serve the plot. Likewise, making up an artifact and a belief system.

Note: A wise and knowledgeable friend has corrected me on the artifact. So this entire section is no longer relevant. I still have thoughts about it on a craft level, but that's 'do this better' not 'stop doing this'.

To unpack that last: so in Hild, one of the really interesting parts is the gemaecce system, where upon reaching womanhood, a pair of girls are bound together for most of their lives. One usually is a servant or servant-class for the other (Hild is not about the common people who have nothing to do with politics even by proximity) and it's a huge kinship thing, possibly more so than marriage. And it is completely made up.

This annoyed me a little, but then I realized that we don't know much about seventh-century Britain, and what we do know, Nicola Griffith knows quite a lot of. We do not know that gemaecce existed or what there was for kinship. But our system of kinship, with blood-family, marriage, some godparenthood, and otherwise a bunch of individuals, is also a thing, not an absence of a thing. So in a historical void, where we don't know what systems existed, it is reasonable to make one up that fits the story and the history. It's sort of like extrapolating the decorations on a ruined church. Bare stone, carved stone, paint, mosaic, glass, plaster, wood, there is something there, and we don't assume that because we don't know what it is, the church was nothing but rock.

This completely does not work for Copper Magic because you know what we know more about than seventh-century Britain? Native Americans, particularly those who are still living and active in the book. You do not get to make up an artifact and a culture surrounding it. You really don't get to make up an artifact and a culture surrounding it when the book's core is about exorcising and absolving that time you found a Native American skeleton and your grandpa wired it to a board for display. You're not filling in a void but plastering over known history and culture-- extant culture, very likely-- and that is not okay.

To recap, I have now learned about Great Lakes copperwork. I fell back on my preconceptions of What Native Americans Did rather than doing proper research, and that is a failure on my part.

Sabrina Jeffries, When the Rogue Returns, How the Scoundrel Seduces. I had no memory of the first book in this quartet... until I realized, partway through the second book, that it’s one I think of more frequently than usual, just not the way I usually think of romances. Still good, still interesting.

Diana Wynne Jones, Charmed Life. Oh, the adults in this book.
I wanted to walk in there and show them what awful people they were.
The adults in this book. Really. The adults.
I just don’t feel good after reading that.

Elizabeth Hoyt, Darling Beast. Cheered me right up.

Sharon Shinn, The Turning Season. I needed something... I don’t know, I am apparently diving into fiction like it’s my job (well, it is, but not this kind of fiction) and everything else on the stack was potentially scary. Or something. Perfectly suitable book here, ignore the science of shapeshifters (I mean, where would you put all that spare DNA?) and the end, well, that’s the end, plus the sexism of how shapeshifters are treated is kind of a thing, but I’m glad I read it.

JD Robb/Nora Roberts, Festive in Death. If you think this is seasonally appropriate, you are right. Each new book makes me want to reread all the old ones. It’s weird to realize I started something like thirty books ago, out of order. I still want to copyedit everything and add dialogue tags because whoa, Nora Roberts, I seriously got lost in those exchanges.
On the other hand, while the words ‘date rape’ were used to describe a crime, every single time, it was treated as rape. That is good.

Carol Berg, Dust and Light. If you look at my shelves, you will see that I am in fact a fan of Berg’s books. (Plus I can remember their titles and ask for them as gifts. Important, that.) Yet I managed to forget that she generally works in sets, so the end-that-is-not-endy of this book surprised and threw me. Boy do I wish it had ended otherwise. There’s a trope Berg has used before and I am full of the nopes for it in general. And I like most of the tropes Berg has used before! I am all about the tropes Berg has used before!
What’s interesting is that Lucian falls into the category of Just Wants to Be Good, which is not a fun category for a protag, much less POV. But he’s a complex and interesting character beyond that motivation, so he almost doesn’t fit the category.

Kelly Barnhill, The Mostly True Story of Jack. Another book where I wanted to sigh and take the adults aside because dude, you are a grown-up. But it wasn’t as bad as Charmed Life. It’s possible nothing could be that bad. I also don’t think the ‘mostly’ thread hung together well. And there’s iffy subtext.
Did I enjoy it, though? Oh yeah. There are a few single lines I wish I could quote to you but they’re best in context, the magic is weird and scary in exactly the way I think I would have liked as a kid-- or hated, depending on the scary-- I mean, disappearing, that’s one thing. Disappearing so hard your family forgets you forever? That’s scary.

Brenna Yovanoff, Fiendish. One of the things I like best about Yovanoff’s work is that her YA isn’t bouncy discover-secret-world YA-- there’s no hidden heritage, no conspiracies, no feeling that everything is fine and suddenly you realize you’re living in a dystopia. Her characters already know that magic exists and that there are consequences to being a magic user. I think that the resolution to this was too easy, but everything up to there was great.

Seanan McGuire, The Winter Long. The foreword to this says that she’s planned this since book one, and yes, that is apparent. Now I want to reread them all knowing that they’re not going to be urban fantasy. Eight books, totally doable, particularly since it’s winter break.

Anne Lamott, Small Victories. What I knew about Lamott going in: she is famous in a literary sort of way, she has dreadlocks, she wrote Bird by Bird and I loved that one even though oh dude the privilege of some parts of it.
I would have enjoyed this more had I read it a bit at a time with a week in between. Instead, I felt let down. There isn’t enough specificity for me-- because I’m used to blogging?-- and there wasn’t actually a throughline or even dates on the essays, which included a lot of older material. I’d rather have something more focused, but that might not be what Lamott does. Her nonfiction is soft-focus, and everyone likes the Impressionists best because the paintings are just pretty.