Book review: The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

The Only Harmless Great ThingThe Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fictionalized riff on the execution of Topsy the Elephant and the Radium Girls. In which the Radium girls also include sentient elephants with their own collective song-based memory and an ASL-like mechanism using trunks to communicate with humans, most of which have never bothered to notice that the elephants are a) perfectly capable of communicating and b) see through the human bullshit.

Strongly written, touching tale of the horrors that humans wreak upon sentient species, both human and otherwise, across the planet, in pursuit of money.

In other words, Bo Bolander wrote this, and you should read it.

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Book review: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Check out The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Calculating Stars is a bit of a departure for Mary Robinette Kowal, who is better known in long form for her historical fiction with fantasy elements. This is a science fiction novel, set in the 1950s, positing a space race that is accelerated by a meteor hitting just outside of Washington D.C. It is set in the same universe as her Lady Astronaut novelette (it is, in fact, a prequel).

Although this was written before Hidden Figures, readers of that book will likely enjoy this one. Elma York works as a calculator for this universe’s version of NASA. She has a PhD and served as a WASP pilot; her husband, Nathaniel, is the chief engineer for the same agency.

Elma is smart, competent, and has an anxiety disorder. This version of the 1950s is still very much grounded in our universe, and Elma and her friends and colleagues are up against a lot of the same issues, to varying degrees, of being erased. Systemic sexism and racism and ableism are present in this universe, and they are also confronted using a variety of methods. This novel lays out the struggle of being simultaneously overly qualified and dismissed due to bias pretty well, on multiple vectors.

It’s also a story about friendships and relationships, and how the kindnesses we show to one another matter. So do the choices we make, the ways we inspire, and the way we view the world.

Fans of Kowal’s other work will still find a loving, supportive central relationship (with a LOT of rocketry puns), a strong, whole, complicated main character who continues to work towards being her best self, and really well executed action scenes.

Highly recommended!

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Ep 168 – Companions’ Companions

New Verity!

Time to wrap up our companions’ companions mini-arc. Join Deb, Erika, Katrina, and Lynne as we talk about the phenomenon of a companion collecting their own companion throughout the ages of Doctor Who.

What other examples are you find of? Let us know in the comments!


Also covered:

Bonus links:
Beginner’s Puck
Big Finish’s 10th Doctor and Donna box set

Download or listen now (runtime 1:07:12) 

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Extra – Lynne in the Hot Seat

New Verity! Extra! In which I am interviewed…

It’s Lynne’s turn in the “hot seat”! Join Deb, Erika, and Liz as we take turns asking Lynne about Doctor Who, frocks, and life in general!


Bonus links:
The Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale
Tessa Dare
Courtney Milan
Beverly Jenkins
Alyssa Cole
Truly, Madly Viking by Sandra Hill
Jennifer Cruise
Lynne’s Goodreads page
The Chosen Baby

Download or listen now (runtime 33:30) 

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Extra! – Doctor Who-ish Fandom (Sort Of): The Game!

New Verity! In which I survive a game devised by Liz. :dramatic music:

Hello to all fans of Verity! games! We’ve got another one for you. Liz has wrested control of the podcast from Deb once again, and it’s every bit as delightful as you’d expect! Join Deb, Erika, and Lynne as we try to answer Liz’s nefarious questions about the “history” of Doctor Who, or its fandom, anyway.

Would you have beaten our winner? Let us know in the comments!


Bonus link:
Lynne gets a medal

Download or listen now (runtime 45:18) 

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Book Review: Fire Dance by Ilana C. Myer

Fire DanceFire Dance by Ilana C. Myer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully written, deeply introspective fantasy novel.

A magic-based war is routinely slaughtering the people of Kashishi. The characters in this novel are trying (across 3 separate locations in 3 groupings) to prevent seismic political changes, at great personal cost. Each character carries their own darkness with them, and a recurring theme is how darkness is deeply personal–and often, kept private, to great cost. Many heroic fantasy narratives overlook or underplay the costs of heroism, while this novel emphasizes it.

This is a book that is worth your time when you are ready to go to a quiet, thoughtful place, and sit with it a bit. Thoroughly emotionally satisfying, and a bit bittersweet.

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So, how’s it going?

Having reached six months at the new job, the next round of check-ins has begun, both from colleagues here on campus and friends from near and far.

All in all, it’s going pretty gosh-darned well.

I mean, they gave me a medal.

Investiture ceremony

Me and Michael, looking at the medal that was awarded as part of my investiture as the Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Rare Book and Manuscript Professor

The ceremony itself was lovely. (Here’s the press release about it)


I had an opportunity to thank those that had mentored me and made this amazing career moment possible. Which is always a good day.

In terms of actual librarianing and administrative work, progress is being made here in RBML.

  • I’m building relationships throughout the unit, the library, and across campus, meeting colleagues and collaborating on things that make sense.
  • We will be posting our new collection development policy publicly soon, once it’s been approved by the requisite internal committee.
  • I’m working on a space study, trying to figure out our growth over the next decade.
  • We’re  figuring out what our events and outreach schedule needs to look like, and planning it further ahead.
  • Same thing with our exhibition calendar.
  • Baby steps are being taken towards my exhibit for next year. I have an initial list!
  • I’m spending my first year on search committees for my unit, which is a lovely problem to have. We’ve hired a new full time manuscripts processor to begin June 15, and the Curator position search is ongoing.
  • I’m starting to take on occasional class sessions.
  • I’ve even started making baby steps towards my research (this blog post is mild procrastination for finishing off my survey questions, honestly, and taking the next step to getting the IRB exemption process completed).
  • My colleagues and my new boss(es) here have been, without exception, delightful from day one.
  • Our local friends have also been a bucket of awesome.

I’m still working on time management as an administrator. This place is very meeting-oriented, and I need to really get into the practice of literally blocking off my time on the calendar as unavailable so that I can work on things like my research and the exhibit. This gig also has a bit more travel involved, and I’m still navigating how much downtime I actually need around that, and balancing day-job travel with science-fiction travel and occasional-fun travel.  That adds up to a LOT of travel.

Michael and Caitlin are doing great. Caitlin is enjoying life at Urbana High, and Michael is enjoying being back in Champaign-Urbana. We both are. We love the combination of cultural-and-entertainment stuff to do that lives alongside most things we need being a max of a 20 minute drive away, often in walking distance. We go whole weeks without needing to use our car. The magazine is going gangbusters, and we’re mostly trying to remind ourselves that it’s okay to accept that being okay is a thing we get to do. We’ve happily committed to staying in the house we’re renting for another year, so we don’t have to move again for a bit, YAY.

So, yeah. After six months, still feeling good about the job change.

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Ep 162 – Controlled Scene-Chewing from the Pit

New Verity!

Our celebration of David Fisher-penned female villains continues. Join Deb, Erika, Katrina, and Liz as we chat about Lady Adrasta and her cohort Karela. Things get a little bit Snow White and the wicked queen as far as we can tell.

What do you think of this story and these villains? Let us know in the comments!


Also covered:

Download or listen now (runtime 1:14:32) 

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Ep 161 – Stones of Justice


Our villains mini-arc continues with a duplicitous dame. Join Deb, Erika, Katrina, and Tansy as we dig into Viven Fay (aka Cessair of Diplos, aka the Cailleach, aka many other names). With many many many tangents to celebrate the greatness of Beatrix Lehmann as Professor Amelia Rumford.

Are you a fan of these two? Let us know in the comments!


Also covered:

Download or listen now (runtime 1:23:44) 

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Book Review: Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

Passing StrangePassing Strange by Ellen Klages

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Historical San Francisco. A circle of queer friends. Art and music. Nightclubs. And a tiny bit of magic.

The “proper” magic itself is … minimal. Half-remembered. Rarely used without very good reason.

Historic (WWII?) San Francisco, with a trip to Treasure Island in the middle. If you loved Amberlough, you will love this.

The real magic is in this circle of friends and lovers who take care of one another for all their days. If you are someone who loves the “found family” trope, you need to read this. I promise, it is worth your while.

Reader, I cried, and for all the best reasons.

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