New Student Convocation 2019 video

While I shared this link across my social media, I thought it would be good to post it for posterity to my blog, mostly to make it easier for me to find again.

This is the “official” video from my address at the 2019 New Student Convocation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Text by E. Todd Wilson from the Provost’s office and me; delivery is all me. The video was taken and provided to me by the media team at the State Farm Center, but it hasn’t yet been posted anywhere on the University’s site officially yet as far as I can tell.

In retrospect, I think it is fundamentally a letter to 17-year-old me, of all the things I wish I had known then.

And I’m okay with that.

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Book review: The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics (Feminine Pursuits, #1)The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely loved this. Loved, loved, loved. I needed books like this to exist in the mainstream in my 20s.

Lucy is an astronomer, trained up by her (now late) father. Catherine is a widowed Baroness who supported her husband’s work as a world-traveling astronomer.

They meet, there is an EPIC SLOW BURN that does a fantastic job of conveying the uncertainty of potential queerness in a straight-oriented world (is this friendship or flirting?!) and they fall in love, as this is a romance. Lucy and Catherine together learn to navigate their relationship, their different social standings, and their different approaches to the world, to the arts, and to how to express love and affection when you’re scared.

This is an us-against-the world conflict book, and the world is pointedly sexist in its scientific and artistic communities, but Catherine and Lucy are going to take it on together.

I literally punched the air when I finished it.

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Book review: Brightfall by Jaime Lee Moyer

BrightfallBrightfall by Jaime Lee Moyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Content Note: there is offscreen child death in this novel.)

I absolutely loved this.

I’ve long been a fan of Jaime Lee Moyer’s work, because her characters are so well rounded that they feel like people you’re sitting and having tea with. This novel does that with characters that we think we already know.

If you ever wondered what happened to Maid Marian and Robin Hood after their happily ever after, this is a murder mystery set in Sherwood from Marian’s point of view, roughly 10 years after the stories we are familiar with take place.

The Merry Men have all settled down into their lives and livelihoods. And now they and some of their family members have been murdered, and it’s up to Marian to solve the mystery. Faerie is very plausibly involved, which makes things even more complicated.

Stories are tidy; people are messy. This is a gorgeously written, well-paced exploration of a bunch of messy people trying to make sense of — and the best of — an “adventure” they never signed up for, and Marian’s voice is particularly resonant for this reader. Marian’s older, wiser, and has been through significant heartbreak.

This is a novel about resilience, about the costs of doing what must be done, relationships that get broken, repaired, and find a way forward, and about how your story doesn’t necessarily end just because other people assume it has.

Highly, highly recommended.

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Book review: The Opposite of Drowning by Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese

The Opposite of DrowningThe Opposite of Drowning by Erin McRae

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Harry is a mid-career editor and minor travel writer. Elizabeth is a digital strategy consultant brought in to update the publishing firm’s marketing.

This is a May-December workplace romance set in the publishing industry. This is a great example of how NOT to do a squick-worthy version of these tropes.

Harry and Eliza are fully-rounded, understandable characters that are struggling to feel like they individually fit in their own worlds, just as they realize that they fit :together: despite all the outward indicators telling them that they really shouldn’t.

Harry and Eliza are both complicated, intelligent adults with support systems who have been through some challenging things, at different stages of their lives. Although Harry in particular makes a couple of bad choices, they are completely UNDERSTANDABLE choices, not a function of him needing to make bad choices for plot purposes. This is the opposite of Bad Life Choices theater, with an underlying theme/extended metaphor about the drowned city of Ys. Including a fantastic scene (NOT about harassment) with the publishing company’s HR department that holds all of the tension it needs to and gets it right.

This is a book about two adults making a series of understandable good and bad choices, and realizing that the best choices lead to their collective happiness. And this is a book that drives home that being complicated, and having a history, does not mean you are not worthy of love. The histories that make Harry and Eliza who they are is also what makes them such a good match for each other.

Thoroughly enjoyable because I loved the characters, I loved how they interact with each other, and I love how their different, nuanced perspectives and life experiences worked to complement each other and strengthen their collective relationship.

(Also, there’s a fair amount of wandering around Paris, which I personally view as a bonus.)

McRae and Maltese are on my auto-buy list, because they always have well-rounded characters, excellent interactions, and enjoyable thematic elements that actually do tie in to the story.

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Book review: Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett

Miranda in MilanMiranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you are the kind of person who read The Tempest and thought “Prospero is kind of a dick,” this is a book for you. It is Miranda’s story after she gets off the island, and it is DELIGHTFUL.

This is the story of how Miranda comes into her own, finds (queer) love, and becomes free.

Miranda in Milan is a story of surviving abuse and refusing to pass it along to others. It’s a story of ghosts in your own life, and learning to live with them–and love them. It’s about understanding that family has many meanings, and how we treat one another is definitely part of defining those meanings. It’s about making choices, and living with them, and making amends where you can. It’s about exposing family secrets so that healing can begin, and accepting the things that you cannot leave behind, so that you can move forward into the person you are now.

It’s about secret passages, magic, masquerade balls, and smooching, too.

Beautifully written, emotionally honest, and delightful.

And it’s not all about Prospero, because he’s kind of a dick.

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Book review: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan, #1)A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fantastic slow burn of a first novel. I’m a fan of Arkady’s short fiction, and the hallmarks of well-crafted language, intricate, intimate worldbuilding, and smart, expressive characters are all here, too.

It is space opera, but it is also a murder mystery and diplomatic novel, while simultaneously commenting on memory and knowledge and how it’s passed along, and selfhood, self-determination, and problem solving. What’s also here is the softest of sweet lesbian romance subplots, which grows so gradually and organically that you feel like it’s a warm hug. Wrapped inside a twisty, turny political thriller in space. I’m seeing comparisons to Ann Leckie’s work, and that holds true, and it reminded me not a little bit of Babylon 5, too.

Mahit is a brand new ambassador, summoned abruptly from her space station to serve after the murder of her predecessor. Which she must solve. With very little help since no one will admit there’s a murder. There’s a civil war brewing, an aging emperor, and possibly something further out coming for both Mahit’s space station and the Teixcalaan homeworld (and everything else). Mahit needs answers, allies, and resources, and she begins the novel with none of the above.

It lives up to every ambition it sets itself. This novel is very much worth your time and energy.

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Book review: Witchmark, by C.L. Polk

Witchmark (The Kingston Cycle, #1)Witchmark by C.L. Polk

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Read this one relatively slowly because I wanted to savor it. This is going to be discussed as “gaslight fantasy” because it’s secondary-world with a vague post WWI-ish(?) setting, including bicycles as a main means of transportation and a bicycle chase sequence that is far more gripping than one would expect it to be.

It’s got a murder-mysteryesque plot tied to some deeply reflexive contemplation on power (both magical and political), privilege, who wields it, how they do so, whom is victimized in that process, and how these things intersect in unexpected ways, particularly in relation to war and its aftermath. There’s a deeply satisfying sweet gay romance that bubbles alongside the murder mystery plot.

This was a warm hug of a book for me. Strongly recommended.

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Ep 179 – Arachnids in the UK Time Zone

New Verity! In which I am terrified of spiders.

VerityPodcast.com

Arachnophobes beware! This ep was full of creepy-crawlies. Join Deb, Erika, Lizbeth, and  Lynne as we talk about our reactions to spiders, companion balance, visions of dead wives, and more.

How did this one land for you? Let us know in the comments!

^E

Happy things:

Children of Time and Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Support Verity! on Patreon!

Download or listen now (runtime 1:25:26) 

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Ep 177 – The Ghost Monument Valley Girls

New Verity!

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The second episode of a new Doctor is, in some ways, more meaty and discussable than the first! Join Erika, Lynne, and Tansy as we mourn for Deb’s leaky basement and dig deep into all kinds of important aspects of this new era of Doctor Who.

What do you think of the opening credits, music, Doctor, companions, writing, TARDIS, and anything else so far? Let us know in the comments!

^E

Happy things:

Riley Silverman (one of the fab writers of the Honest Trailers!)
Radio Free Skaro (a source for stats!)
Support Verity! on Patreon!

Download or listen now (runtime 1:32:09) 

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Ep 176 – The Women Who Fell to Earth

:klaxons: IT IS TIME

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IT’S FINALLY HERE! NEW DOCTOR WHO! Join Deb, Erika, Katrina, and Lynne as we gush over the new Doctor and pick apart this first episode. We’re quite pleased overall, but as always, there are some serious issues worth discussing, and discuss them we do!

How are you feeling about the new Doctor, the new “fam”, the new showrunner, the questionable narrative choice(s), the secret pigeon, the term “comfrienion”, and everything else? Let us know in the comments!

^E

Happy Things:

Chicks Dig Time Lords

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