What’s on Your Nightstand is a monthly meme hosted by 5 Minutes for Books on the last Tuesday of every month that summarizes what you’ve read for the month, what you’re currently reading, and what you plan to read next. For my posts, I also include articles, music, art, TV shows, and whatever else I did in the month.
June. It had its ups and downs, but it wasn’t too bad overall. I was busy for a good bit of it and did some travelling for work, but I was also able to read a bunch of books (though not as many articles, unfortunately) and see a couple movies/TV shows. So far, summer seems to be hectic for me and I guess that will be my summer schedule for a while. But I’m hoping a week will come along that’ll be unhurried. Just a laid-back, totally chill week where I can take my time relishing the delights of all the things I love. That’s what I look forward to every summer and I need something like that before my favorite season ends.
The beginning of June marked my completion of Robin Hobb’s Tawney Man trilogy with Fool’s Fate. Emily of Embuhlee liest and I blazed through this book. We were eager to see how the story would end and what would become of our beloved characters. I enjoyed the story and can’t wait to jump into the next series of this story. I just hope that I’ll be able to read from my favorite character’s perspective again because the end of this book made me think that probably won’t happen.
I then completed City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson, a contemporary YA mystery novel set in Kenya about a teenage girl seeking revenge against a prominent businessman who allegedly murdered her mother. I buddy-read this with Rachel of Life of a Female Bibliophile and though I was curious about the mystery in the story and thought it well written, I didn’t enjoy it much because I thought the protagonist was annoying, immature, and not as street-wise as she thinks herself to be.
Next I completed The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, a YA fairy-tale-inspired, fantasy novel about a girl whose mother gets kidnapped, which leads her to learn that the odd, creepy fairy tales her grandmother often writes about may be true. I’ve seen mixed reviews of this one and now I realize why. The story was okay. I thought it would be descriptive and engrossing, but it wasn’t unfortunately, and I didn’t care much for it.
After several mishaps in procuring a copy of this book, I finally just bought myself a copy of The Shape of Water. It took me a while to complete it because I kept stopping to read other books, not because I didn’t like this story (I loved it) but because the other books were ARCs. The Shape of Water is the novelized version of a film of the same name by Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro co-wrote the novel with Daniel Kraus and I thought it was as great as the movie. I loved the descriptive writing and now want to sample more of Kraus’s work.
The Red Threads of Fortune is the second novella in the Tensorate series, a silkpunk fantasy series by J.Y. Yang about a powerful set of twins who seek to undermine their mother’s tyrannical rule. This installment of the series focuses on the twin Mokoya and picks up after the events in the first novella The Black Threads of Heaven. I didn’t like it as much as I did the first novella. I just didn’t care for the protagonist or the story. Things seemed to develop too fast and also I took a long break between novellas so I’d forgotten some stuff.
I treated myself to a picture book on a recent visit to the library. I read Pandora by Victoria Turnbull (illus.), a children’s fantasy picture book about a lonely fox who lives alone in a junkyard. I liked the illustrations but didn’t care for the story. Because picture books are quick reads, I usually read them twice so my opinion on this might change.
I wrapped up June with a graphic novel — Geis: A Matter of Life and Death by Alexis Deacon (illus.). It’s a fantasy graphic novel about a competition that will decide who the next ruler will be because the chief matriarch has died. The competitors signed their names to a contract they assume to be the matriarch’s will not knowing that they were binding themselves to a curse. The story was decent, but there wasn’t much to it and I didn’t like the art. However, I’d like to see how things turn out, so I will pick up the next book in the series.
Other things consumed in June:
All of these articles are good reading, but I’m going to place a star (★) next to the ones that stuck with me.
Social issues & current affairs
His Defiance: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and the Struggle for an Independent African Literature (asymptotejournal.com)
A profile of Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o that focuses on his advocacy for African literature to be written in and first published in African languages. The article also contains some great quotes on the power and influence of language. Here are a few:
“Language is a keeper of a people’s collective memories. We have a greater tragedy on our hands when writers lack a connection to their traditional linguistic systems and intellectuals are cut from their collective memory and history.”
“Ngũgĩ argues that studies in English and other European languages mean that educated Africans can no longer communicate with their communities or even their families, ‘The messenger . . . becomes a prisoner. He never returns . . . because he stays within the language of his captivity.'”
★ Language Is a ‘War Zone’: A Conversation With Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (thenation.com)
An interview with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (this article was referenced in the one above), who recently published a memoir about his time spent in Kamiti maximum-security prison in Kenya where he wrote his famous novel, Devil on the Cross, on toilet paper. The title of his memoir, published in April, is Wrestling with the Devil: A Prison Memoir.
“Imagination makes possible everything we do as human beings. We can picture all the possibilities and try to realize it in practice.”
“I realized that when I looked at the history of colonialism, the colonizer not only imposes his language, but he denigrates and represses the languages of the colonized. So the condition of learning English was the unlearning of our language, which continued into the postcolonial era. I decided that since I’d been put in prison for writing in a national language and put there by an African government, I would, as part of my resistance, write in the very language which had been the basis of my incarceration.”
“…wherever you look at modern colonialism, the acquisition of the language of the colonizer was based on the death of the languages of the colonized…African languages were weaponized against Africans. Language was a weapon of war whether we are talking about the Spanish and Portuguese in Latin America or French in Africa and Vietnam. Language was a very important element in both the conquest and maintenance of colonial rule, because it was likely to bind the minds of the middle class.”
“It is imagination that allows you to explore all worlds and possibilities, but often you can transcend the conditions under which you are writing. Writers are part of the prophetic tradition. Just like how numerous prophets went to the deserts to commune and came up with voices about the oppressive present and possibilities of the future. And in a way, writers come from that tradition. Prophets did not always come from a socially oppressed past; some were privileged and saw the contradictions of their privileges and the reality of life in general. And writers are a part of this in how their imagination makes them transcend the limits of their class experiences.”
The 2017 Vida Count (vidaweb.org)
An annual survey conducted by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts that analyzes gender representation in the arts. VIDA looked at 15 major publications in 2017 to analyze how many women and gender minorities were represented in them.
Highlight: Only 2 (Granta and Poetry) of the 15 publications published 50% or more women writers.
Misogyny Is Boring as Hell (vulture.com)
A profile of Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties, a book of short stories. The article mostly focuses on Machado’s connection to the allegations that Junot Díaz is abusive toward women.
“As she saw it, Díaz’s work was part of a broader patriarchal culture that, in its most egregious form, facilitates rape, and the fact that so many critics celebrated it as progressive, and even anti-sexist, at once revealed the scope of the problem and made it worse.” (This made me think of an article I read last month on how literature has contributed to the Incel Movement.)
“The problem is that people talk about misogyny like it’s a grand, sinister thing of Snidely Whiplash tying Nell Fenwick to the tracks,” she said. In reality, misogyny is “really boring in its presentation, and it barely makes a sound, but it does so much. It’s so sinister in that way.” — Carmen Maria Machado
★ Where Do Whales Go When They Die? (lithub.com)
A fascinating read on the study of whales and whale stranding. It’s an excerpt from Nick Pyenson’s book Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures.
“…a single whale carcass can provide up to one hundred years of sustenance [for scavengers].”
My favorite thing about World Cup — commercials! Like this one by Beats by Dre:
Authors & writing
★ Bill Clinton and James Patterson Are Co-Authors – but Who Did the Writing? (theguardian.com)
On the use of digital humanities and computer analysis to figure out who wrote The President Is Missing. (I’d tell you who, but I don’t want to spoil it.)
We Need to Talk About Lionel Shriver (bookriot.com)
About Shriver’s opinions against Penguin Random House U.K.’s diversity initiative and why she’s wrong.
Writing in the In-Between (blog.pshares.org)
An essay on finding the time to write and how author Jake Tapper wrote a political thriller in 15-minute intervals throughout his day. The essay also has some writing tips from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones (which I read and reviewed a couple years ago).
About the writer’s fear of flying (though many in her family are pilots) and writing, how they are similar and how both require some faith.
Science Brings Us Closer to the Miraculous (lithub.com)
The writer, who calls herself a skeptic, talks about the fantastic in her new novel, The Possible World. (I wanna read it!!)
Rivers and Mirrors: World-Building in Nonfiction (themillions.com)
The writer talks about his experience writing about Brazil, where he was raised before he was adopted and taken to mid-west U.S.
Where the ‘No Ending a Sentence With a Preposition’ Rule Comes From (atlasobscura.com)
Apparently modernist author John Dryden is to blame.
★ Books Don’t Always Need Words. Here’s Why Some Stories Are Better Without Them. (washingtonpost.com)
An article about the benefits of wordless picture books, such as:
“Wordless books can also help readers overcome language barriers. That’s why the Canadian government decided in 2015 to give every Syrian refugee family a wordless picture book, ‘Sidewalk Flowers.'”
“Drawing conclusions and making inferences are important, foundational skills for students. Wordless books are the perfect tool to develop and practice inferential thinking.”
“Wordless books ‘also broaden students’ idea of what is ‘real reading.’ The more we broaden that idea, the more students will see themselves as readers.'”
The Evolution of Artificial Life in Science Fiction (blog.pshares.org)
Just as the title says. The essay focuses on three works: Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R., and the work of Isaac Asimov.
“The first fictional robots appear in Karel Čapek’s 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). Čapek coined the word ‘robot,’ which means ‘forced labor’ in Czech (robota). In his play, robots free humans from work.”
“A certain likeness to humans inspires kinship, but when the line blurs, that kinship turns to fear.”
The Book That Fueled My Eating Disorder (electricliterature.com)
A personal essay about a time in the writer’s teenage years when she used Joan Jacobs Brumberg’s Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa to justify her eating disorder.
Myths & legends & such
The Enduring Legend of the Flatwoods Monster (theportalist.com)
I found this a little entertaining; it’s about a small town in West Virginia and their encounter with an alien.
Another video break
There’s no such thing as looking at just one World Cup ad. Here’s my all time fav. I love it for the enthusiasm of the peeps watching the sport. That’s what I love about the game. I don’t know much about football and I hardly watch it, but I love attending live games or just around a bunch of people watching a game.
I’m so excited for this!! It’s called Black Leopard, Red Wolf; it has a cool cover; it will be pubbed February 5, 2019; and it’s based on African history and mythology. 😀 😀 😀
Harlan Ellison, Famously Difficult Sci-Fi Pioneer, Dies at 84 (publishersweekly.com)
The prolific sci-fi author died on June 28 in his sleep. He has won numerous awards, including the Hugo and Nebula awards, and have written many short stories and for TV.
B&N Opening Graphic Novel Sections for Ages 7-12 (shelf-awareness.com)
I’m so happy for this: B&N is creating spaces in its stores for comics and graphic novels for kids ages 7-12.
DC Comics to Launch Digital Subscription Service (publishersweekly.com)
This will roll out in the fall and will provide access to live action films, animation, comics, and online shopping.
Smh. This is getting outta hand.
Facebook’s new policy that seeks to regulate political ads also censors bookstore ads promoting author events.
Adaptations and such
Strange Things Books Coming From Penguin Random House (bookriot.com)
The Netflix TV show will be novelized. The first book, Stranger Things: World Turned Upside Down: The Official Behind-The-Scenes Companion, will be out in November with more to come in 2019. “The 2019 releases will begin with a prequel novel about Eleven’s mother.”
Oh my gosh, this would mean that I have to get an Amazon subscription thingy.
I’m excited for this though I’ve yet to read Victor LaValle’s horror novel.
Sony plans to make a live action adaptation of Valiant’s superhero comic book Faith, which features a plus-size female superhero with telekinetic powers as its protagonist.
Carmen Maria Machado’s book of short stories is being adapted.
Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’ Set as Netflix TV Series (hollywoodreporter.com)
“It was previously adapted as a Canadian-British film directed by Deepa Mehta in 2013.”
Other awesome ‘ish
Feminist Libraries Around the World (bookriot.com)
I plan to add a few to my bookish bucket list.
So You Want to Read Comedic Fantasy: Here’s Where to Start (unboundworlds.com)
Book recommendations for comedic fantasy novels
10 Classic Fantasy Books You Need to Read (unboundworlds.com)
Book recommendations for classic fantasy novels
I got this from a post on DeMilked that features a selection of creepy illustrations by Stefan Koidl, an Austrian freelance illustrator. His work is amazing and I just had to include a sample here. I love his style and love how detailed his illustrations are. He creates his illustrations using Photoshop and “his works feature various creepy motives, ranging from urban legends to mythical creatures.” Here’s my favorite:
Worth a listen
First Draft Podcast
I’ve featured this podcast many times in this section. This time I’m excited that host Sarah Enni interviewed Caroline Kepnes!!! 😀 😀 That made my day. Check it out:
Kepnes talks about how she got into writing and her novels, You, Hidden Boddies, and recently published, Providence.
Another podcast I love and have often mentioned on here. The same day I found the Caroline Kepnes episode (above) I found an interview with Lewis Lapham, editor and founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and former editor of Harper’s Magazine (below). That was a great day.
Lapham talks about a variety topics but mostly working as a journalist and political and social affairs.
“Historical consciousness is a thing that television tends to drive out and also the internet…the whole miraculous speed of the internet and TV is things come and go so quickly that nobody can remember what happened yesterday, much less last week or last year, and so they lose track of their own story. They don’t know where they’d been or who they are, why they are, or where they might be going.”
Book Geeks Uncompromised
I just found out about this podcast/blog and am liking their content.
The hosts discuss Brian K. Vaughan’s popular comic book series Saga. Before listening to this, I didn’t realize that the story is also about fantasy vs. sci-fi. I never thought of that but it clicked and totally made sense when Greg (one of the hosts) said it.
Shows I’m hooked on
Into the Badlands
I finally caught up on Season 2, which I was watching while watching Season 3, which I didn’t complete because I was travelling and missed the season finale, so now I have to play catch up again. I’m loving it still though.
I saw it. It was fun. I was entertained.
Avengers: Infinity War
Yep! I rewatched it and immediately wished I didn’t because it was funnier and more impactful on my first watch. But it’s still good.
I rewatched this too and enjoyed it. I wanted to see it again because I’d forgotten why Thor and all his peeps were on a ship in outer space.
That movie that came out on Netflix featuring Will Smith with orcs and elves and fairies. Yea, it wasn’t too bright. I like the concept — fantasy in the real world — but didn’t like the execution. I wish the story had more depth and character development to it.
FullMetal Alchemist live-action movie
Did not like it. I liked the special effects stuff and that’s it.
That’s it for June.
What were your favorite things about June?
Mine was sun, travelling, The Shape of Water, and the articles I starred above.