Book Review: Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone

Three Parts Dead (Craft Sequence, #1)Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First book in a series, which means there is a lot of ground to lay, and Max Gladstone does a great job of doing so. This novel is heavier on worldbuilding than character development at first, but the characters gain in connection as we get further along (he needs to put them into more and more danger).

By the end of the book, I was firmly Team Tara and Team Abelard, and I’m especially intrigued to read book 3, which is apparently Elaine’s story. Our villain (revealed at the end, I won’t spoil) is thoroughly villainous with their own motivations, and gets a fitting comeuppance for their numerous crimes.

This is a secondary world fantasy where at least part of the magic system is… well… accountancy. No, seriously. The magic system is, in part, about the ability to follow patterns of financial transactions between gods and humans, digest and rework information, and use that information as leverage. Also, with engineering. It’s pretty neat. The main characters have to split up and pool information to solve the mystery of Why A God Is Suddenly Dead.

While the first half of this felt a little slow because the groundwork was being laid, the second half of the book takes off at full throttle because everything was built well. Very worthwhile read.

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Episode 131 – Steven, Leavin’

New Verity!

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This week’s “last” is a goodbye to a companion we’re all quite fond of, Steven Taylor (not to be confused with Steven Tyler). Join Deb, Erika, Liz, and Tansy as we marvel at the excellence of this story, the excellence of Dodo in it, the excellence of Steven’s reason for leaving the TARDIS, and the total lack of excellence in the general amount of fandom discussion surrounding this story. Why have we heard so little about this one?

Have you watched/read/listened to “The Savages”? Did you love it? Tell us in the comments!

^E

Also covered:

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Extra! – Trivia! with No Da-luck

New Verity! In which we are bad at Doctor Who Trivial Pursuit and puns.

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It’s time for another gametastic Extra! Join Deb, Erika, Katrina, and Lynne as we battle it out for most Trivial Verity of 2017. We fully admit, this is not our skill set. But golly do we have fun!

^E

Download or listen now (runtime 42:10) 

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Book review: Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw

Hammers on BoneHammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an excellent horror novella. Set in London, it’s written in the style of noir crossed with Lovecraftian Old Ones on either side of the law. Beautifully written, with lots of pathos for the characters who need it, and an even more twisted ending.

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Book review: Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

Roses and RotRoses and Rot by Kat Howard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are lots of books that I enjoy for a number of different reasons. They are well crafted, they are beautifully written, I love the characters, the setting, the themes, the plot.

And then there are the books of my heart. They do all of the things above, :and: they have that special something that makes me want to scream “EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS” from the rooftops while hugging the book tight. Total, irrational love.

This is a book of my heart. Fortunately for you, this is also well crafted, beautifully written, with excellent characterization, a fantastic setting, resonant themes and good plotting.

Two sisters: Imogen, a writer, and Marin, a dancer. They both compete for entry into Melete, an exclusive artists colony/fellowship from which some of the most renowned artists have come. They both get in.

And then things get :really: weird. Because Melete has a deal with Faerie. There are tithes. There are costs to making art, and choices to be made about just how badly one wants what they want, or how to avoid things they don’t want at all cost.

This novel is about the costs of making art. It’s about sisters finding their way, especially in light of an abusive parent. It’s about the dark side of getting what we want (or not). It’s about sacrifice, it’s about love, it’s about relationships, and it’s about how all of those things feed into one another and the art we make. It’s about finding your voice, developing your voice, and what you will (and will not) do to keep your voice, once it’s truly yours.

If you loved Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, you need. to. read. this. novel. Even if you didn’t, it is absolutely worth your time, even if I’m struggling to articulate why I loved it so much.

:goes back to hugging book:

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Book Review: Borderline by Mishell Baker

Borderline (The Arcadia Project, #1)Borderline by Mishell Baker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This urban fantasy was so excellently paced that I read this in just over a day. LA, the film industry, the fey, and a smart-mouthed disabled protagonist, Millie, who is really over pretty much everything. This is really excellent first-person storytelling, with a supporting cast that you root for, understand, and really enjoy seeing them work (and not).

Kinda reminded me a bit of Leverage in terms of the tightness of the plotting and the character interactions. And I absolutely mean that as a compliment (I love that show).

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Why don’t you wear white gloves? [rant]

The White Gloves thing came up again because Chicago Magazine used it while promoting an article about the Newberry.

Rare book people often feel the same way about white gloves as when archives are referred to as “dusty.”

This is a reposting of a rant from 2011 back on the now-defunct NIU rare books blog.

ILAB.org posted an article called “White Gloves: Functionable or Fashionable” yesterday, once again rehashing the whole “handling rare books requires wearing white cotton gloves” thing for their readers. They were fairly evenhanded, interviewing professionals who are both for and against white cotton gloves in rare book rooms.

Just in case you were dying to know my feelings on the subject, they are simple: I hate the darned things. I avoid wearing white cotton gloves while handling our materials whenever humanly possible.

Here’s why.

1. I’m a clutz. Unlike folks who may have grown up during an era when wearing gloves indoors was de rigeur as part of ladylike fashion (or who are avid costumers and reenactors), and therefore have sufficient practice to function reasonably well, I can’t actually be dextrous in the things. I’m far more likely to damage a book when wearing white cotton gloves than I am handling it with clean, bare hands, personally.

2. I think I look kind of dumb in them.  There, I said it. I feel like Minnie Mouse. And not in a good way. Look, walking in heels when I need to dress as a grownup is enough of a challenge on a regular basis, ok? Don’t make my day even harder.

3. White cotton gloves don’t protect me from anything. If I AM going to wear gloves, it’s far more likely to be latex gloves that keep me from getting ink on my hands when using the Common Press, or when handling something fragile from our Southeast Asia collection. I can be dextrous in latex gloves, if need be. And if there’s anything weird on the object that I don’t want to touch with my skin (like, say, mold), the latex is a better barrier than cotton for protecting me. Plus? Disposable. I can just chuck them when I’m done, without the hassle of having to remember to bring them home to wash them.

4. I think they create an unnecessary social barrier. This is the real reason I hate them.

White cotton gloves feed into the whole social privilege aspect of special collections and rare books that keep people away from them and afraid of them, by silently telling patrons and guests “this is too fancy and expensive and special for anyone to handle, let alone you. I’m a fancy-pants curator and even I’m not allowed to touch it.”

99.9% of the time, that’s simply not true. Most books, even rare ones, are replaceable or repairable. (Obviously, not all, but in my university’s collection? Most.) The tactile sensation of handling a rare book, however fleeting, is one that I think should be available to everyone, with reasonable precautions in place (such as handwashing before the fact and gentle handling). I’ve seen people cry when handling First Folios. (Not on the book! they were very careful about that!) That moment of handling a rare book can change someone’s life for the better, putting them in touch with their own history, their own deeply-held passions. These materials can inspire people. Why are we trying to keep them away?

Goodness knows, I wouldn’t be a curator now if the curators I worked with at my alma mater hadn’t encouraged me to touch the books, to look at them, to get to know them intimately (both with and without the vacuum cleaner I was using to gently clean them at the time). Handling those books made me who I am, because curators that came before me didn’t think that I wasn’t important enough to touch the books, even if I happened to be a working class first-generation college student, rather than coming from a family of rare books collectors and connoisseurs.

At the very least, making handling rare materials more democratic can only bring us more support in the long run. Rare books should be for everyone. I’m a public employee at a state institution. These are literally the people of Illinois’ rare books, bought and paid for through gifts, taxes, and tuition. I am their steward. The more people that come to use their books, the better. Anything that creates even more barriers between the patrons and the books is not a good thing, in my opinion.

The best way to convince our public that cultural heritage materials are important is to encourage individual ownership of the notion. Especially when budgets are tight, we want our patrons to be fighting for the appropriate stewardship of our materials, not deciding that really, rare books are just a luxury for rich people only, and therefore can be cut from budgets in favor of other stuff.

Most patrons-off-the-street are exceedingly gentle with the materials that we bring them to use in our reading rooms. They already know that this stuff is special (it’s in the name!). They don’t need us to remind them of that fact by making them feel clumsy and unwelcome by forcing them to wear white gloves, or by wearing gloves ourselves.

It’s just not worth it.

Thus endeth my rant on white cotton gloves.

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Book review: The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, #2)The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent middle book in the series. Jemisin’s worldbuilding here holds very solidly as she further tortures her characters. Essun and Nassun both are fighting for their respective lives in different places, as the Season creates more problems, more trauma, more loss. One of the things Jemisin is particularly good at telegraphing is the dissociation that sometimes comes with trauma. There would be times where I would feel as though I were not connecting with a character, and then I’d turn the page and find myself crying. Literally crying. Because the other (emotional) shoe had not yet dropped in the character’s POV before turning the page.

Once you get there, it’s like being hit by a ton of bricks in a cathartic manner. While I’m not always a huge fan of dystopia, the sheer stubbornness that leads to survival in this series feels particularly prescient these days.

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Verity! Episode 130 – A Good Last

New Verity!

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What makes a good final episode for a Doctor or companion? Join Deb, Katrina, and Liz as they discuss just that.

What do you think are the hallmarks of a good last episode? Let us know in the comment!

^E

Also covered:

Download or listen now (runtime 1:11:33) 

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Extra! – Polly-Anneke

I forgot to reblog this one! New Verity! Interview!

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verityextraannekeIt’s time for another con-sourced interview! Join Deb and Erika as they chat very briefly about Deb’s experience interviewing Anneke Wills at Long Island Who. Then listen to the interview. This lady has had quite a life! Tragedy, success, and strawberries with John Lennon. What more could you ask for?

^E

Download or listen now (runtime 52:48) 

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