Extra! – Trivia! with No Da-luck

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

VerityPodcast.com

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!

VerityPodcast.com

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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Book review: Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale

Flowers from the StormFlowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had some very complicated feelings about this book.

I’m generally a huge fan of Kinsale’s work. The Prince of Midnight is, hands-down, one of my favorite romances, which I reread fairly often.

This has some things in common with that novel, particularly, the jerky hero who is “brought low” by his disability, finds love with an awesome, yet prickly intelligent woman, learns to be less of a jerk, and moves on to a better life with an understanding that being an asshole to everyone you meet isn’t actually a good thing. So, the “overcoming toxic masculinity through disability” trope, if that’s a thing.

In this novel, Christian (an unrepentant rake) has a stroke and is institutionalized because he is thought to be mad. His family is trying to disinherit him by having him declared incompetent.

Archimedea (Maddy), the Quaker daughter of his mathematical partner (Maddy’s father is blind), ends up as his caregiver through A Series Of Events. She eventually has to wrestle with her faith as she falls in love with someone outside of her community.

As much as I bought their initial attraction/different worlds thing, I had great difficulty with the relationship development itself. Christian is, mostly, still a selfish jerk. And while he is getting better, he is still predominantly entitled (from his perspective) to Maddy’s time, love, and care, over the care of her blind father in many cases.

Maddy didn’t feel to me like she had a ton of agency here; maybe that’s because her decision to care for Christian is initially a religious awakening, which then gets tied into her having the hots for him. But she never feels as though she is choosing for :her: — she moves from choosing because it is a Calling to “but he needs me.” (In contrast, Sunshine from The Prince of Midnight is very prickly, but she makes her own choices in relation to Maitland; and Maitland does not feel entitled to her love or care, even after he has rescued her from a cult).

Now, Maddy gets the fairy tale ending of being wed to a Duke, which means many more resources to help people and care for her father, so it’s not like she’s ending up with a horrible deal, here.

Interestingly, Christian does recover some from his stroke (but is not fully cured!) through Maddy’s care. They win, and there is a cost, and all is not perfect, which I actually LIKE.

But this is one of those books where I can’t decide if I enjoyed it overall or not. There are some really great things going on, and yet some of them made me uncomfortable, and I need to sit with that.

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Book review: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange & Mr NorrellJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really long book. I don’t say so as a criticism, more as a warning to readers for the experience to expect.

If I had to describe this to someone, I’d call it “Middlemarch with magic, but mostly about men. Not a lot happens.” Again, not a criticism. Middlemarch is one of the most important novels in the English language, full of deep thematic layers and characterization that change and shift as one rereads from different perspectives. Arguably, not a lot happens in Middlemarch. And yet, the portrayals of the shifts in lives lived are seismic.

This novel is similar. I began reading it as an ebook, then switched to a paper copy because the footnotes were much easier to navigate in paper. (Also, the paper copy is printed in a period appropriatesque Baskerville font). The irony of needing to switch formats is extra rich, as this novel includes lots of 19th century printing jokes (including ascribing several seminal magic books to George Eliot’s publisher).

This is a slow novel. It is, like the Victorian literature it is aping, structured as though it was being serialized and the author was paid by the page. Linguistically sharp and in the Victorian mode, this is a novel about the return of English Magic, and long-lost connections to Faerie. It is also about human folly despite intent–how we treat each other well (or don’t), how we hurt each other (or don’t), and the ways in which we feel safe (or don’t), all exacerbated by magical access.

This is not a plot heavy work; big battle scenes are not laid out in great detail, and much of the magic is described through the perspective of the caster. For Norrell, it’s a lot of dry scholarly references; for Strange, it it instinct and effect, with little explanation of the mechanisms. The central conflict of the novel is that neither Norrell nor Strange can be happy or truly effective without the other’s approach to magic, despite the fact that they do not get on particularly well.

So, if you are looking for something contemplative and slow, with a lot of wry commentary on human nature, this is for you. If you want whiz-bang action, not so much.

I reread Middlemarch every 10 years or so, and get something different from it every time. I suspect this novel has the same capacity, but I won’t be able to tell for another decade.

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