Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January Book Review: History Is All You Left Me

I really liked Adam Silvera's first novel, More Happy Than Not, so I was excited to read History Is All You Left Me as soon as it came out this month, and if anything, I liked it more. It's again a young adult novel but without the sci-fi element of the first; it's the story of a teen boy looking back at his first relationship and subsequent actions after his ex-boyfriend dies in an accident after their breakup.

Except that description makes the book sound boring, and it isn't, at all. It's very emotionally affecting - I highly recommend it, but make sure you read it at a time when you're ready to deal with lots of feelings - but what really got me was the technical excellence of the writing. This isn't a mystery, but main character Griffin is hiding lots of things from the people around him and refusing to think about them himself, and Silvera does a brilliant job of constructing the narrative so that the reader finds out what's going on gradually, as Griffin makes himself confront it and tell others. At one point I thought I knew where things were going, and they sort of went there, but then wound up somewhere completely different but completely perfect; nothing is more satisfying than a plot development that makes me say "WHAT?" but then immediately "Oh, of course."

It's not all about the construction, though - the characters also feel extremely real, from their hobbies and their friendships and relationships to the handling of Griffin's OCD. Silvera does a great job of treating their feelings as real love without implying a permanence that often seems age-inappropriate in YA novels. There were many basically decent-but-not-perfect parents (and a great little sister) who were truly involved in their children's lives and in the plot, which I'd love to see in more YA novels - teens don't live in a vacuum.

And, of course, there were the aforementioned feelings - it's impressive when a novel manages to be heartbreaking and life-affirming at the same time, while not feeling emotionally manipulative. You don't want to miss this one.

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Morning Coffee (1/31/17)

This isn't surprising or anything, but obviously terrible: Trump Fires Acting Attorney General Who Defied Him

THIS is surprising: Hill staffers secretly worked on Trump's immigration order: Several House Judiciary Committee aides helped craft the controversial directive without telling Republican leaders. (I am not a big "I hope their bosses fire them for that one mistake" person but... I hope their bosses fire them. REGARDLESS of the issue, Congressional staffers should not be doing secret work hidden from their bosses!)

‘You Have Let Us Down, Trump’: Iraqis See U.S. Relations Recast

Keep protesting: How Two Angry Brooklynites Helped Chuck Schumer Find His Spine

Radicalizing American Politics Is Part of the Game Plan for Team Trump

This whole piece about whether Jared Kushner is losing influence is interesting but the detail about Trump doing his craziest things on Friday nights and Saturdays when Jared and Ivanka can't intervene because of the Sabbath is FASCINATING.

Trump's global abortion gag rule goes much further than any previous administration

A bit of good news: The Boy Scouts Just Announced They Will Allow Transgender Boys To Join

Time to buy some Starbucks.

Good Atticus, Bad Atticus

Scans Unveil Secrets of the World's Oldest Mummies

Portugal's Unexpectedly Heroic Custard Tarts

Friday, January 27, 2017

Morning Coffee (1/27/17)

I can't believe it's only been a week. Ready for some Friday happy links?

Rick Steves, Civil Liberties Hero

Pretty sure many of us need this this week: I Stand With This Pic of Joshua Jackson

The Magicians, Syfy's whimsical drama, is 2017's answer to Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I finally watched the first episode of The Young Pope, which is somehow a real TV show, and you probably want to be reading Nicole Cliffe's recaps.

I'm also quite enjoying Taboo, and the British Library has an interesting related post about the East India Company headquarters.

Hero dictionary Merriam-Webster is exploring knitting terminology here and here.

Ooh, 28 Bookish Mugs for Readers. (I have so many mugs. I do not possibly need more. I want ALL THE MUGS.)

Whoa: This Ice Festival in China Is a Rainbow-colored Dream

Useful! How to Pack a Carry-On

Let's make Anglo-Saxon bread.

What Romance Fiction Can Accomplish

How the Victorian Fern-Hunting Craze Led To Adventure, Romance, and Crime

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Morning Coffee (1/21/17)

(I assume this goes without saying in general, but it feels worth reiterating: I'm not going to try to give you a comprehensive view of all important news. There's just no way. This is a sampling of interesting and/or important pieces I've come across. Current events stuff will stay at the top; skip to the bottom if you want distractions.)

This is horrifying: N.H. Senate Passes Concealed Carry Gun Bill

Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates

Trump’s claim of ‘America first’ during his acceptance speech is terrifying

In First of Many, ACLU FOIA Request Seeks Information About the New President’s Conflicts of Interests

"At one point, he wanted to halt the planning altogether, out of superstition, the person said." That sure sounds like someone confident in his legitimate election!

This sounds normal: "a member of Trump’s transition team floated the idea of including tanks and missile launchers in the inaugural parade, a source involved in inaugural planning told The Huffington Post. 'They were legit thinking Red Square/North Korea-style parade,' the source said."

In Hong Kong's book industry, 'everybody is scared'

This is long but worth it, and good if you need a distraction: Neanderthals Were People, Too

Oh hey, we've got Edgar nominees. I'll admit I said "Wait, really?" several times as I read them. But not in a bad way, just a... surprised way.

Interesting: Bill Gates Wants to Patent a Concussion-Sensing Football Helmet

This reflection on what color clothes we put babies in is lovely and thought-provoking.

Fascinating: Law, Settler Colonialism, and "the Forgotten Space" of Maritime Worlds

Friday, January 20, 2017

Morning Coffee (1/20/17)

Well, here we are. I continue resolutely with your normal Happy Friday links today, in case you need them. Don't worry, I'll have plenty of awful stuff for you tomorrow.

President Obama's thank you note to the people is just lovely, and there's a place at the bottom to sign up for his future updates.

My friend Jordan Edwards made awesome fandom protest signs if you're headed out tomorrow (or whenever).

This reading list will keep you distracted for a while: Every book Barack Obama has recommended during his presidency

Awwwwww: The Obamas Visited Malia and Sasha’s Old Swing Set at Its New Home at a D.C. Shelter

!!!! Lisa Frank Live-Action, Animation Hybrid Movie in Development

We could probably all use a cocktail tonight: 10 Cold Weather Cocktails Guaranteed to Warm Up Your Winter

Introducing Daliyah, the 4-year-old girl who has read more than 1,000 books

I'm so happy the Fug Girls are recapping Victoria (which I quite like so far).

This is sweet: The Queen to take in gamekeeper’s dogs after his death

I want to go there! There's now a Harry Potter-themed pasta restaurant in Brooklyn

Charming Portraits of Hong Kong’s Shop Cats

Whoa: 2Cellos Conquer King’s Landing With Epic ‘Game Of Thrones’ Theme Rendition

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Morning Coffee (1/19/17)

This is terrifying: Texas women who get abortions would lose voting rights if Republican lawmaker has his way

Rick Perry did not know what the energy secretary did when he took the job.

Um: "That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military."

‘He Has This Deep Fear That He Is Not a Legitimate President’

This Republican strategy sounds scarily plausible: Obamacare Just Had a Very Good Week. That Doesn’t Mean the Law Is Any Safer.

New Trump Adviser Being Sued for Hiring White Men to Attack Black Patrons

"Trent Lott, a lobbyist close to several people on the transition, said the transition team was relying on lobbyists and others for lists of potential hires and policy recommendations." Drain the... swamp?

Donald Trump Likes Books, He Can't Say Exactly Which But He Definitely Does

Svan Song: A remote region of Georgia is hoping tourism can save a vanishing culture.

Let's look back at how people reported on Pearl Harbor. No reason.

This, about translation, is fascinating: A No-Nonsense Machiavelli

Mysteries Hidden Deep Inside Orion Star Factory Have Been Laid Bare

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Morning Coffee (1/11/17)

President Obama gave a great farewell address last night. Here's the transcript.

Meanwhile: Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him

"The Guardian has learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court over the summer in order to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials."

BuzzFeed posted the purported dossier, and there's a lot of debate about whether they should have. (I think that debate is legitimate but also question it coming from outlets who didn't bat an eye at breathlessly covering every suggestion from Wikileaks.)

In other terrible things: Jeff Sessions Doesn’t Commit To Not Jailing Journalists For Doing Their Jobs

And: Anti-Vaccine Activist Says Trump Asked Him to Head Commission on Vaccine Safety

Did you know that the start of the second world war was first reported by a young woman new at her job? Her name was Clare Hollingworth and she passed away this week at 105.

Okay, here's a good thing: Singin' in the Rain returning to theaters this month. I'm going on Sunday with my mom and I can't wait.

The Feminist Legacy of the Baby-Sitters Club

The Crazy Story of the Professor Who Came to Stay—and Wouldn't Leave

This is wild: How an Early Hollywood Family Became the Original Kardashians

The Trouble with Quantum Mechanics