Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Crystal Bridges In the Rain

Yesterday in the chill grey rain of winter, we drove up to Crystal Bridges, Alice Walton's benevolent gift to the People of Arkansas, which is just over an hour from our house.

We'd been up to see the long-running exhibit State of the Art a few months ago -- it's just excellent, and we went through it again this time.

But we had somehow missed seeing the Audubon Exhibit, so we drove up to see that; and went through the museum's 19th and 20th century collection as well.

As long-term readers of this blog know, I have my issues with the Waltons (to put it mildly), but it is hard to understate how much this museum means to the people of Arkansas.

Previous to its construction, the nearest museums were in Kansas City, Tulsa, Dallas, and Houston.  All of these except Tulsa are really out of reach for any except the upper-class in Arkansas (and very few people in Arkansas rank in the upper-class).  This meant no one here saw art, except -- possibly -- in art history classes in high school or college, and then only in reproductions.

As those of you who have access to museums know, this is just not an acceptable substitute.  I'd seen Audubon prints all my life -- how could I not, growing up in New Orleans? -- but the paintings themselves, and the lithographs, seen in person, they will knock you down.

Plus, the museum has a wonderful new Hopper:

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photography by Edward C. Robison III.

This image does nothing to represent it.  Believe me.


I still wish the Waltons would pay a living wage.  (I hear they plan to pay more, so that's something.) I still think their union-busting is despicable and disgusting.  I still think the way they treat their women employees is criminal.

But yesterday the museum was filled with families -- many of them working class families; and young people, teens and young adults, many of them having driven miles across Arkansas on their own to see this art; and groups of senior citizens, all of them filled with happiness.

You know, you can't forgive Andrew Carnegie.  On the other hand, public libraries.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Gone Girl: A Review

I finally got to read Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, which apparently everyone in Fort Smith wanted to read. I had it on hold at the library for three or four months, with about fifty people in line in front of me.  I wasn't going to buy it, since from what I heard about it it was unlikely to be a book I wanted to keep.

Which, nope.

So many people raved about this book.  But holy hopping Cossacks, what a terrible book.  I mean, yes, very readable.  And many things about it were fun.  Well-structured, it kept you turning pages, and who doesn't love an unreliable narrator?

But also just ridiculous.  I guess we're supposed to sympathize with Amy, due to that self-serving Cool Girl rant she goes on in the middle of the book.

But it doesn't fit at all with any other aspect of her character, so it just feels like another scam she's playing on the reader. More bullshit, in other words.  Like when she claims to have given all her money to her Taker parents.

I mean, I guess we're supposed to believe that's a lie.  It certainly doesn't seem like anything Amy as we know her would actually do.  Except -- if she didn't do it, then where did all her money go?  This is what I mean.  The book is a mess.  The characters are a mess.

Is Nick a monster who uses Amy -- as we're supposed to believe, from that Cool Girl rant -- who takes her last dollar to start his bar and then cheats on her? Or is he a victim of this raving, fiendish, brilliant psychopath -- as the latter half of the book seems to imply?

(A brilliant psychopath who doesn't know how much milk costs, mind you, despite the fact that she's been living as an adult human, in a marriage, and we have to believe therefore buying groceries and such, in New York, for five years.  A brilliant manipulative psychopath who lets herself be trapped into captivity by a really sort of dopey weasel in the latter half of the book, who keeps her imprisoned on her estate and rapes her daily, because she isn't able to predict his behavior.  A brilliant psychopath who doesn't realize that two rednecks are going to rob her, when the reader knew that six chapters before she did.)

A victim who apparently likes being a victim, since he stays with her at the end: ostensibly to protect his unborn child, but how is it even possible that she's pregnant with his child, as she claims?  The timeline just doesn't work.  This has to be more Amy-manipulation.

Or bad plotting, I suppose.

God, what a stupid book.

"Why THIS?"

This morning, while all the local Xtians were in church, my kid and I went to the local Supercuts to get Supercuts.

As usual, I got my hair cut back, very short and close (though not the crewcut I am always threatening to get).

My kid, who has the heavy thick curly hair which she inherited half from me (thickness) and half from Dr. Skull (curliness) had a couple inches cut off.  And THEN -- and I watched her dismay as the stylist did it -- the young woman who had been firmly told by my kid just to wash and cut her hair used a hair iron, or whatever those things are called, to straighten all the curl out of my kid's hair.

"Why this?" my kid demanded as we drove home. "Why would she do this?"

"The curl will come back as soon as you wash it," I promised.

"What the -- why would she do it?"

"Most people want the curl taken out," I explained.  "So your hair will look like white girl hair, basically."

"AARGH," she said.  "I like Jew hair!"

"I know, sweetie."

"Now I look like every other standard-issue girl at school!  Plus --"  She ran her hands through her hair, "Plus my hair just feels like nothing!  Like there's nothing there!  WHY THIS!"

Little Problems, Annoying As Mites

So my fucking credit card got hacked.

Despite what credit card companies tell you when they're trying to sell you identity theft insurance, this is not such a huge deal.  If you're keeping an eye on your balance, as I always do, you will notice when thing have been charged to your card that you have not charged -- and they're usually very odd charges anyway.  (In this case, enormous sums to bizarre online dating services, as well as hundreds of dollars to Netflix.)

If this happens, you just contact the credit card company and say, whoa, not mine, and they deal with it (after talking to you at length -- but their algorithms are good, they can usually tell what's not yours and don't give you a lot of trouble).

Then, though, they cancel that card.

And, since like most Americans you are paying many of your bills via that credit card -- car insurance, mobile phone, water bill, whatever, Kiva donations -- now you have to go through your entire online life and change your payment information on all those sites.

Some sites are very well run, and it's easy enough to figure out how the change the payment information.

Some, though, good shit.  For instance, Net10.  Who the fuck designed Net10's site?  Apparently it is unpossible to access or change your payment information without contacting Net10 via telephone.  You have to call in, wait on the line for about 30 minutes, and then talk to someone (an outsourced to India someone, to judge by the difficulty this person has in understanding my request) who then refers you up the line (ten more minutes on hold) to someone who is apparently in Texas (judging by the accent) who then takes another ten or fifteen minutes to change the credit card number, and who then tries to sell me phone insurance and an upgrade to more minutes.

Compare this to Geico: two minutes, online, done.

Fuck you, Net10.

And I still haven't dealt with the kid's phone.  Argh.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

How The Other Half Lives

So I'm reading Ellen Gilchrist's new book of short stories.

IDK if you're familiar with Gilchrist. She's a compulsively readable writer of middle-brow fiction (though to be fair she won the National Book Award) who lives here in Northwest Arkansas, and who also lived in New Orleans for a while.

She also comes from money, and has (and I think has always had) tons of money.

Her stories frequently take on a didactic tone (which tone I recognize, since I tend toward didactic myself), especially when she is writing to or about women -- she tends to lecture women about how they should behave toward their bodies and their men.

You need to exercise.  You need to stay away from men who drink.  You need to stay away from men who are weak, whiny, artistic poseurs -- go for big manly men (like Ellen's daddy, I suspect).

And -- this is crucial -- you need to be rich.

God, wealth is at the crux of it all.  Her characters are all rich.  She started writing one story in this latest collection about a character who was (semi)-poor, with student debt, who had to be in the National Guard to pay off her student loans.

But, by the time we were halfway through the story, this student had a tenure-track job and a three-bedroom house with hardwood floors in Fayetteville, Arkansas that was entirely paid off, and we had forgotten that those student loans even existed. I mean, there was some hand-waving about how the house and the job had come to be, but the fact is, Gilchrist just can't do it: at her root, she knows poor people are sad little losers, and she won't write losers.

It's just such a strange worldview to read.  Almost like a Martian worldview.  This woman and I live less than sixty miles apart; not twenty years ago we were drunk at the same party; yet in a very real sense, we don't even live on the same planet.

Gilchrist, I think -- like many other people who have always lived in that bubble of wealth -- is truly convinced that virtue and success are inevitably connected.  Hard work, really, and toughness are all you need.  Do your job and wealth, beauty, and good things will come raining down on you.

I mean, that's how winner happen, right?  They work hard and make good choices and don't whine?


And therefore it follows, ipso facto, that anyone who does not have success, who is not a brilliant winner, living in a lovely three-bedroom house with hardwood floors (paid off, of course) and a tenure-track job, I mean obviously, just did not work hard and make good choices and should stop whining, because all your fault, loser.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Teaching Laura Ingalls Wilder As A Major Author

Here at my university, we have an upper-level class, Major Authors, focusing all semester long on one writer.  I've taught Octavia Butler in this class; other professors have taught John Steinbeck, or Toni Morrison. The criteria is deliberately vague, but in general you're supposed to teach someone who is important enough to have major influence on the field of literature or on the culture itself.

This semester I taught Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I first conceived the class after reading this post on Wilder over at Historiann (and the comments!).  I got the Fellman book which is mentioned in the comments, and then several other books from the bibliography, and then more books from their bibliographies, and soon I was reading Wilder scholarship like a boss.

You would have thought I was one of those research professors, not a Creative at all.

Anyway, when it came time to propose classes for this Fall semester, I put forth for Major Authors: Laura Ingalls Wilder, and our chair loved it (happily).

I anticipated a few possible problems for the class -- either that students wouldn't sign up, because it was a class about kids' books; or that they would come into the class having only seen the execrable 1970s TV show.  (Directly responsible for electing that fucker Reagan, by the way.  Okay, indirectly.  But see the end of this article.)

Students signed up, y'all!  Only a few of them had read the books as obsessively as I had, as a kid; more had -- as I fear -- been fans of the awful TV show; but not that many. More than a few had never even heard of Wilder.  (WTF.  Kids today!)

The class went brilliantly.  I converted nearly all of them to Wilder fans.  We didn't read any of the critical books, but there are just tons of excellent articles, and we used several of those, in particular  Sharon Smulders' "The Only Good Indian: History, Race, and Representation in Little House on the Prairie," in Children's Literature Association Quarterly; Anita Clair Fellman's "Don't Expect to Depend on Anyone Else," and Claudia Mills' "From Obedience to Autonomy," both in Children's Literature).

The books teach really well, you will be glad to know, and since about half the class were English Education majors, we were able to approach the books from that standpoint as well -- how these books might be used in the elementary classroom.

We spent a lot of time talking about the history of the books --  the time they were about (1870-1880); the time they were written in (1930-1940); and the time of the TV show (1974-1982) -- as well as the political history / impact of the books.  This meant a lot of time talking about The New Deal, and Libertarianism, Rose Wilder Lane, Ayn Rand, FDR, Frederick Jackson Turner, and what all this had to do with a seemingly innocuous children's series.

We read all eight books.  If I had the semester to do over again, I'd skip Farmer Boy, I think, since we were rushed for time here at the end of the semester.  Or maybe not assign presentations.  Those ate up a lot of time.

OTOH, the presentations were great.  One of the students presented on the Dakota War of 1862 (which appears in Little House on the Prairie as the Minnesota Massacres); another researched the music Pa would probably have been playing and its history, and another taught us to dance the dance at Grandma's house.

I'm also getting just excellent papers.

All in all, a successful class.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Too Snarky?

Hell fire

This is my new post, over at Grounded Parents, about raising an atheist child.

I tried hard to rein in the snark.

Not sure I succeeded.

Go here to read it:  Raising The Atheist Child.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

On Ferguson

Living where I do, here at the edge of the South / edge of the Midwest / sort of almost Texas, in what is indisputably a Red State, but nonetheless very close to a college town, though also a working class town, it's -- how do I phrase this? -- an odd experience.

Very nearly the first thing that happened after I moved here, back in 2004, was Arkansas voters passing an amendment against LGBT marriage being recognized in the state.  I remember my shock at how vehement my students -- my little baby freshmen -- were on the topic.  I remember saying in my freshmen class that there was nothing wrong with being gay, and having the class rise up in shouting and mocking fury to rebuke me.

"Yes, there is!"

"Oh, yes, there is!"  

The smug glee in their eyes as they realized they were all united against me.

Just ten years ago.

Now some of my students* -- as I'm discovering more from Facebook than from anything any of them are saying in class -- are united in their conviction that Mike Brown is a thug, that he deserved to be shot by Darren Wilson, that the black people who are protesting are looters, criminals, and probably need to get jobs.

This depresses me as much as my students back in 2004, I have to say.

Here's hoping that in 2024 I can look back on this post, as I look back on my students of 2004, and think about how much the world has changed.

*By no means all of my students.  This is a big difference from 2004, when 75% of Arkansas voted for that stupid, evil, vile amendment.  I'd say only 30 or 40% of my students, if that, are Wilson supporters.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Little Rascal!

New baby over at the Geebies!

Go here for pics!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Raising the Young Artist: New Post at Grounded Parents

I've got a new post up at Grounded Parents.

Advice (such as I have) on the care and feeding of the young artist.  This one comes to you, by the way, via the young artist herself, who suggested it.  "You know what you could write about next," she said, "you could write about what's it's like to be a parent and a writer, and to have an artist for a kid. And the thing with the burritos.  Write about that."

So here it is: Make Her a Damn Burrito.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Annual Winter Argument in the delagar Household Has Commenced

You get all kinds of advice, y'all, on how to have a happy marriage (Huffington Post says there are Thirteen Secrets to a Happy Marriage; WebMD says just two -- Be Nice and Don't Nitpick).

I am here to tell you there is one and only one true bone of contention in the Long Term Relationship.

It's the thermostat.

Y'all need to find someone whose blood runs at the same speed as your own.

Seriously, don't even mess with this one.  You can negotiate a way to get the dishes done.  You can figure out how to pay the bills.  Children or no children, well, that's serious too, I agree, and probably a deal-breaker, but you'll handle it.

On the other hand: this morning I woke up and he had the thermostat at 74.

Seventy-four, people!

"What the shit, Dr. Skull!" I shouted.

He re-adjusted his headphones and turned the volume up on his fretless bass.  (This is what I mean by negotiation, y'all.  He loves to get up at three a.m. and play his guitars.  His electric guitars.  Loudly.  We found a way around the problem.  Through it is true that a new problem -- for me, at least -- ensued.)

"Take off the earphones!  I know you can see me talking!"

"Are you making coffee, Boo-boo?" he shouted over the music.  "Will you make some for me?"

"It's 80 degrees in here!" I shouted back.  "Why did you put the heat so high!"

"I wrote a new song!  Do you want to hear it?"

I stomped off to put the heat on 55.  Which is where it should be.  People aren't meant to be baking in the middle of winter! (Of course I'd also like the house to be at about 55 in the middle of summer, but that's another argument.)

I also made him some coffee, because I'm a good wife.

About an hour later, he came wandering out from his Man Cave, looking disgruntled.  "It's freezing in here.  What did you put the heat on?"

"Wear your slippers," I said sweetly.  "It's the middle of winter."

Thursday, November 06, 2014


My kid has finally cussed in school.

At least it was the GD word and not the f-word.

Which, you know, being as she is my kid....

It was also Latin class, and not some more dangerous class, so she didn't get in serious trouble.

While we're here, I will share a little story about my kid I ran across in my journal, while hunting for some information I needed (we are signing up for a new insurance plan [THANKS, OBAMA!] and I needed the exact date I started working at the university, which, you know, who remembers that?).

This is from when the kid was tiny, about three and a half or maybe four.  We had just moved to the Fort, and I was not yet actually working at the university -- it's about six weeks before I started -- so I had lots of time to hang with her, taking walks and such:

The kid and I walked down to cemetery the other night, so I could read headstones, one of my favorite hobbies. 
She had many questions (not the least of which was probably why have you brought me here?), wanting to know if people were still dead here, if they had turned to fossils or whether they might be rotting, and whether Grandpa Marvin was buried here. She also wanted to know what would happen if I died.
“We would bury you here,” she said, “and then draw some words in stone and put it by your grave, and Daddy and I would come to visit, and Daddy would say, there’s my wife.”
“And how would you feel?” I asked.
“I would be very sad. You shouldn’t die.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“You should live forever, like me.”
“I’ll live as long as I can,” I told her, which was what Charlotte said to Wilbur, so it satisfied her.

Monday, November 03, 2014

New Grounded Parents Post

My new post is up at Grounded Parents.

It's about the kid's troubled experience reading Merchant of Venice, among other texts.

Go here to read it: This Jew Bleeds: Your Kid and Problematic Reading Assignments

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

General Suckitude

My life has just been generally terrible for the last several months.

Sometimes, as all of us who are mortal know, these things happen.

Bad shit piles up.  Bad things occur.  Brothers die, cars wreck, radiators spring leaks, appliances break down, dogs get ill.  Migraines happen.

I remind myself it's not personal.

 (I mean, you know, except for my fuckwad neighbor who keeps calling the lawn police on me every five or six days for truly ridiculous reasons, because that shit is personal, and dude, I know who you are now, and it is on.)

I remind myself it is random circumstances, not some evil fate or cursed star or what the fuck ever, I just have to live through it, blah blah blah.

But boy, is it wearing.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Wheels of Justice

Yesterday I had my second first-hand experience with the Justice system.

This is the fall-out from the wreck I was involved in back in August.  I am still not entirely clear why this incident went to court -- the fella that hit me received a citation for following too close.  That's not something that usually gets you put in jail, is it?

And yet, here we were, in a court with people who were receiving jail sentences.  Not long sentences -- five days, twenty days -- and most of them were being suspended, in lieu of fines or in favor of probation, but still.

Dr. Skull and I speculated that this guy who hit me maybe had several other accidents on his record.  (We speculate thus from something he said at the scene, to the effect that he had been through this, reporting an accident, plenty of times.)

Anyway.  He had a lawyer, someone we knew socially interestingly enough, the lawyer and the DA talked several times, fencing with each other as far as I could tell.  His lawyer had pictures that my guy had taken at the scene of the accident, which they thought exonerated him (because it showed I had been changing lanes, though both the DA and I and the police officer on the scene felt that made little difference in the case, since the charge was following too close).

This fencing went on for some time, while all the other cases were being swiftly tried or put off to a later date -- several people had failed to show, and had bench warrants issued.  One immigrant was brought into court in chains and the judge levied a four hundred dollar fine for driving without a license, and then informed him he wouldn't have to pay, since they were deporting him.  That was charming.

There was a DUI who plead out: $650 and a six-month suspended license, plus a mandatory educational course.  That was a first offense.  Also 25 days in jail, suspended.

There was a woman who showed up late to court, whose trial date was rescheduled to December, who also got a lecture from the judge on her improper attire.  "You're lucky I didn't issue a bench warrant.  Don't show up late again."

"No, m'am.  I won't."

"And I don't like what you're wearing.  Don't come in here dressed like that again."

"No, m'am."

To be fair, what she was wearing was pretty appalling.  No one except the lawyers was wearing a suit, and a few of the defendants were in jeans and teeshirts; but she had on what looked like a bikini sort of thing under a really tight drape that was cut in a vee down the front and up to her knees on the sides.  The bikini was black and the drape sheer and white.

How my trial turned out:  The guy that hit me lied like a thief on the stand, which everyone, even the judge, seemed to know.  The DA caught him in the lies, openly, several times, during the questioning.

The judge found him not guilty anyway.

I'm pretty much okay with this, though.  He's got two or three little kids, I think, and my car is repaired.  If the outcome was putting him in jail or taking away his license, I don't see what purpose that would have served.

I hope  he slows down on the roads from now on, though.

And my foray through the court system has been educational, I must say.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

High School Essays, Y'all

So, my kid has been assigned an essay for her AP World History class: briefly compare and contrast the tenets of Islam and Christianity from their beginnings through 1650 (because this is the first half of AP World History -- it only goes through 1650).

She comes to me with her fists clenching her hair. "So...Islam has the Shahada, right?"

"Right," I agree.

"And Christians have what, exactly?  Is that the Jesus prayer?  The bit where they say I accept Jesus as my Savior, or what?"

"Um...it's complicated."

"No.  Please.  Just..."

"Sorry," I said, because she hates it when it's complicated.  "It is.  See, if you're Catholic, you gotta get Confirmed.  And if you're Mormon, there's a whole process, you can't just be baptized, you gotta pass an interview, and I think there are classes, and --"


"And for Baptists and Pentecostals, there are altar calls, you gotta get the Holy Ghost, you can't just want Jesus, you have to be called to Jesus.  And --"

She began wailing.

"I'm sorry, babycakes," I said.  "It really is complicated. But you don't have to put all that in your paper.  Just give one or two examples, and say that there are many other Christian sects.  It will be fine."

"I hate writing papers! I hate this!"

"Oh, come on.  Writing papers is easy.  Now, math is hard."

She flung me a murderous glare and stomped away.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


The President votes, and adorableness ensues.

I love the woman's last line here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

New Story Up

...at Strange Horizons by me!

Read it here:  Dream Cakes.

Or you can listen to it -- there's a podcast! -- here.

As I noted earlier this week, Strange Horizons is currently having their fund drive.  They're a great SF/F magazine. Kick in if you can.

New Grounded Parents Post!

Grounded Parents

Over at Grounded Parents, my new post is up.

It addresses the common belief that either you beat your kids or the cops will beat your kids.

Not so, I say!  Instead, how about teaching your kids how to deal with the police?

Read it here:

Talking To Your Kids About The Police.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

This Amuses Me

It's kind of funny -- well, funny to me -- that the Conservatives on my FB feed and the Right-Wing Blogs I follow, and especially the deeply religious Conservatives (Rod Dreher being a case in point) are the ones losing their shit about Ebola.

You would think they would have their religious faith to fall back on.

You would think they would believe in Jesus, and know that This is Not the Only World, and understand that if death comes, they are among the saved.  That heaven awaits them?

I mean, that's what all that religion they're always on about is for?  Is this not the case?

So why are they screeching in such panic?  Ebola Ebola Ebola?  We're all gonna die?  Death isn't even important to them, after all.  It's just a translation.

Whereas for us atheists, who know that this world is all there is -- none of us are even concerned.

I'm tempted to say this is because atheists and leftists tend to be better educated than Conservatives.  But that's a cheap shot.

I'm also tempted to say this shows that Religious Conservatives don't actually have the faith in their God that they claim they do -- that this shows clearly that they don't actually believed in the heaven they claim so ferverntly and so often to have such faith in.

But in fact, I think the cause is a simpler one, and one that explains both their affinity for religion and their affinity for Conservatism: those who tend toward religion and toward Conservatism tend to be cautious.  They tend toward fear, in other words.   They want reassurance, they want promises, they want rules that will protect them.

Well, you know, that's not how the actual world works.

Leftists and those of us who tend toward the science-based and reasoning-based world get that.  We know what "theory" means -- we know it means "here is the data we have, and here is the answer that fits that data, and we'll go with that answer until we have more data, and when we have more data, if that data changes our answer, we'll change our answer."

And we're fine with that way of living.

It's why we're fine with situational ethics, which really, really upset many Conservatives.  They hate the idea that ethical answers can change depending on circumstances.

[True story: When I was teaching in Idaho, I posed this question to my students, attempting to demonstrate situational ethics: "Is it right to fight for your country?"

"Yes!" one of the [male] students answered emphatically.

"That's a code ethicist's answer," I explained to the class.  "A Situational Ethicist says, well, tell me the war, tell me why we're fighting, and I will tell you if it is right to fight."

That student and three others went to the dean to complain that I was teaching the students it was wrong to fight in defense of our country.]

The facts are Ebola is not likely (even remotely likely) to become epidemic here in the USA.

Could this change?  Sure.  Anything can happen.  Is this likely to change?  No.

A million things could happen.  It makes more a great deal sense to spend your energy on those that really are likely to happen.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What Am I Reading?

Cheese & Responsiblity and Nicole & Maggie do these sorts of posts from time to time and I enjoy them bunches. So here is one of my own.

I have been heavily into Laura Ingalls Wilder criticism and related readings for the course I am teaching on her; but I will not count that.  This is a list of what I'm reading for my own pleasure.

Cecelia Holland, Floating Worlds.

This is a re-read -- I first read the novel years ago, after it first came out.  I believe it was the first novel by Holland I ever read.  I only half-liked it (and only half-understood it, I suspect) at the time, being either fifteen or sixteen.  But I kept returning to it, and eventually sought out and read as many other Holland novels as I could find in the (limited) Louisiana library I had access to.

Floating Worlds is more or less epic SF tale of a woman, Paula Mendoza, who negotiates her way through a future in which Earth, Mars, and the Jovian planets form the Three Worlds.  Paula's from an Earth nearly destroyed by pollution; she rises to a precarious position of power via her connections with Earth and Mars' de facto governing body, The Committee, and the Jovian Empire's government, the Styth Akellar.

It's a long, complex, and intriguing story, with (for me, anyway) a somewhat flat ending.

Hild coverNicola Griffith, Hild  

Everyone kept telling me how amazing Hild was.  I kept putting off reading it, because it didn't look like SF and wtf, why do I want to read about some Christian Saint?  Everyone was right.  Y'all should all go read this one now.

It is (I guess? Eventually?) going to be about Saint Hilda.  This first book is about Hild, growing up in England in the 7th Century.  The beauty of the detail, the wonderful writing, the wonderful creation of character. It starts when Hild is three, and ends when she is a young adolescent.  In between she does both mundane and amazing things -- shears sheep, weaves cloth, slaughters brigands, climbs trees, forsees the future -- and is as engaging a character, in a book filled with engaging characters, as I have met in a long while.  She's also bisexual (so yay!) and living in an England that is moving from pagan to Christian, and not entirely easy about that shift.

This is a nearly perfect book.  Read it now.

Sandra McDonald, Annie Wu Saves the Future

Sandra McDonald, as I believe I have said before, is one of my favorite writers. This is the beginning of a middle-grade series she is writing, and it's wonderful. Annie comes home from school one day to find out her past is not what she thinks it is -- I don't want to give spoilers, but the real past involves spaceships and time travel.

And cats.

(Though this is indeed aimed at younger adults, I loved it to bits.  Just saying.)

T. Kingfisher, Toad Words

Well, you gotta love T. Kingfisher, who (as many of us already know) is actually Ursula Vernon.  This is a collection of some of her short stories.  If you know Ursula Vernon, that's all I have to say.  My personal favorite is the re-telling of "Bluebeard's Wife," though, you know, it's hard to pick just one.

Jamie Harrison, Edge of the Crazies and etc.

This is a mystery series, sort of.  

Harrison only wrote four of them -- Edge of the Crazies, Going Local, An Unfortunate Prairie Occurrence, and Blue Deer Thaw.

They're all great, though, with a well-developed cast of characters, from Jules Clement our depressed and moody sheriff, who grew up in Blue Deer, Montana, moved away at 18, and then returned for reasons he can't quite understand to follow in his father's footsteps and join its police force; to Alice and Peter, his best friends (one a lawyer, the other moving through multiple jobs); to Jules' mother and his various elderly relatives and friends; to the other officers of the law and locals.

It had been compared to Northern Exposure, and I do see why.  Harrison's humor is different than the humor on that show though; her writing and sense of place is great, and the use of police procedural and detail works perfectly.  I read these for the first time back when they were published as well.  They hold up on a second read excellently.

So what are y'all reading for fun?