Friday 56 – Internment

internmentThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

This week’s quote is from Internment, a gut-punch of a read by Samira Ahmed, on the very timely topic of rounding up people of certain ethnicities and putting them in concentration camps. It is Young Adult fiction, but only just.

I feel like this quote needs a content warning, but I don’t know what to label it with besides EXTREMELY anxiety-inducing.

I inch back farther, closer to the door at the other end of the vestibule, which will take me to my car, where I’ll be safe. Safe? I catch myself. Because there is no safe for me. Suddenly I’m acutely aware of how small this space is and how loud the train wheels sound against the tracks, and I wonder if people will hear me if I scream.

The door behind the guard slides open again. A tall, broad-shouldered Exclusion Guard steps into the vestibule. God, now there are two of them and I have literally nowhere to run. My hands shake. I can’t call for any help because the people who are enforcing the law on this train are the ones I’m afraid of. Every fiber in my body wants to scream and cry, and I want to pound my fists into the metal walls.

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Book Review: The Home Edit

the home editThe Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals
by Clea Shearer & Joanna Teplin
Nonfiction / Homemaking
255 pages
Published March 2019

If you’ve been following the blog,  you know we recently bought a house. We haven’t finished unpacking yet; mostly the upstairs is what’s left, the spaces we don’t use multiple times a day. I’ve spoken about wanting to “Pinterest the hell out of this house” and absolutely wanting to reduce clutter. When we moved yearly in the military, we were pretty good at not having excess clutter. After living in the last house for four years, we’d definitely acquired a good bit. So the move actually helped a lot; we got rid of a lot of unnecessary items. But we won’t be moving again for a good long time, and I want to prevent that build up. So. Everything should have a place. I was hoping this book could help with some of my more problematic spaces. (I have a laundry closet with no room for ANY storage – the detergent and bleach live next door in the bathroom!) While the book did actually give me a possible solution for that SPECIFIC problem, I don’t feel that there was much in this book I couldn’t have gotten from Pinterest or watching more episodes of Marie Kondo on Netflix. (I love that show!)

The first chapter is spent on their philosophy; like Marie, they recommend you pull everything out of a space and look at it and keep only what you really like/need/use. Getting rid of excess stuff is always the first step. They stress getting containers to fit the space; they talk a lot about The Container Store. At the moment, that advice is a little useless, as I don’t have the surplus funds to just go buy a ton of containers!

After that chapter, the book is split up by rooms/spaces, with several photographs and explanations of different examples. So they start with the entryway, and have a few different entryways with tips for each. An entry that is really a mudroom, with benches and individual hooks/cubbies, then an entry that is just a table by the front door for mail and keys, then a coat closet. Same with laundry; a small laundry room, a laundry closet with a little bit of shelving, a large laundry room, and tips for each. I was disappointed they didn’t have my laundry setup; a closet with room for the stacked machines and NOTHING else. I feel like that’s common enough they should have included it! The solution I did find, somewhere in the book, was an over the door shelving unit. I -think- I can push the machines far enough back in the closet space that I’ll have the clearance for shallow shelves/cubbies on the back of the door for things like detergent, spot cleaner, bleach, tub cleaner, dryer balls, etc. I’ll have to stop buying my detergent at Costco, or decant it into a smaller bottle, but now that it’s just my husband and I, and no roommates, I don’t think I need the giant container of detergent anyway!

They don’t cover all the spaces in a house; it’s Entry, Laundry, Bathroom, Home Office, Play Spaces, Closets, Kitchens, and Pantries. No bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, or guest rooms. Just the problem areas, really, which makes sense.

It’s an alright book. It’s very pretty, and has some fantastically organized spaces, but I can find the same things on Pinterest, with the same how-tos and tips from Marie Kondo. So I’d give it a pass, really.

From the cover of The Home Edit:

Believe this: EVERY SINGLE SPACE IN YOUR HOUSE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO FUNCTION EFFICIENTLY AND LOOK GREAT.

The mishmash of summer and winter clothes in the closet? Yep. Even the dreaded junk drawer? Consider it done. And the best news: it’s not hard to do – in fact, it’s a lot of fun.

From Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, the Instagram-famous home organizers who made their orderly eye candy the method that everyone swears by, comes a signature approach to decluttering. The Home Edit walks you through paring down your belongings in every room, arranging them in a stunning and easy-to-find way (hello, labels!), and maintaining the system so you don’t need another do-over in six months. When you’re done, you’ll not only know exactly where to find things, but you’ll also love the way it looks. 

A master class and lookbook in one, The Home Edit is filled with  bright photographs and detailed tips, from placing plastic dishware in a drawer where little hands can reach to categorizing pantry items by color (there’s nothing like a little ROYGBIV to soothe the soul). Above all, it’s like having your best friends at your side to help you turn the chaos into calm.

TTT – Auto-Buy Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is Auto-Buy Authors. I’m tweaking it slightly to Auto-Read, since I’ve managed to successfully curb my book-buying, with the help of an excellent library system! So the authors who I will absolutely read anything they write, in no particular order:

Rin ChupecoRin Chupeco wrote The Bone Witch trilogy, which I adored. I need to get my hands on The Girl From The Well and The Never Tilting World.

mercedes lackey

Mercedes Lackey is still one of my all-time favorite fantasy authors. Valdemar holds a special place in my heart, and the Halfblood Chronicles, co-authored with Andre Norton, remains one of my all-time favorite series.

elizabeth acevedo

Elizabeth Acevedo debuted with The Poet X, which was absolutely amazing, and after reading With The Fire On High, I am sold. I’ll read anything she writes.

SA Chakraborty

S.A. Chakraborty is the author of the Daevabad trilogy, with the conclusion due out in April. I can’t wait, because the first two have been great. I might have to re-read them before the third, though, which is not something I do often.

anne marie mclemoreAnne-Marie McLemore writes enthralling fairy tales and I just can’t get enough. I am still working my way through her catalog, but I’ve read two of her books and two short stories so far.

rosamund hodgeRosamund Hodge also writes fairy tales, but more recognizable ones – retellings, rather than just involving fantastical elements. Between Romeo & Juliet, Beauty & The Beast, and Little Red Riding Hood, her stories are magical and mesmerizing.

Amy Rose Capetta, along with Cori McCarthy, are a pair of non-binary authors that have, both together and separately, written some awesome fantasy novels, from gender-fluid sorcerers to queer King Arthur in space. I’ve read more of Capetta than I have of McCarthy, but I plan to fix that soon.

katherine lockeI can’t forget one of my favorite authors on Twitter, Katherine Locke. They wrote The Girl With The Red Balloon and The Spy With The Red Balloon, as well as a short story in Unbroken. They’re editing It’s A Whole Spiel, an upcoming short story collection about Jewish teenagers, which I very much want to get my hands on.

neil gaimanThe sole white man on this list is Neil Gaiman, who is arguably the King of Fantasy and a massive ally of marginalized people.

Book Review: The Candle and The Flame

the candle and the flameThe Candle and The Flame
by Nafiza Azad
Young Adult / Fantasy
391 pages
Published May 2019

The setting of this book reminds me of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Fatima survived the slaughter of the entire population of her city, and since then it has been repopulated by people from many countries, walks of life, cultures, and languages. The city is a complete melting pot, and I wish more had been made of that fact, honestly.

I wish more had been made of a lot of things in this book. I liked it – but it wasn’t as spectacular as I’d hoped. It’s possible it’s because I read it right after We Hunt the Flame, which any book would have trouble standing up to; it’s possible it’s because I was coming down with a cold when I read it and my brain wasn’t throwing itself into the story as much as it normally does. There’s a lot of possible reasons – but I just didn’t love it. It wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t great.

I mean, it’s djinns and humans working together – that’s usually my catnip – but I just couldn’t lose myself in this story. I was annoyed at the main character a LOT. For insisting on going by two names the entire book, which were a mouthful. For agreeing to things she should have fought. For fighting against things that were in her own best interests.

The changes that the description speaks of – that change Fatima in ways she can’t fathom – effectively turns her into a different person. Something about that sat very wrong with me. Her sister recognized she was no longer the sister she knew, but she wasn’t allowed to grieve. That bothered me quite a lot. I can’t explain exactly why without spoiling plot, but the book didn’t treat it like an issue, and it definitely was.

Honestly, I’d skip this one and go read We Hunt The Flame or Rebel of the Sands instead.

From the cover of The Candle and The Flame:

A GIRL WITH THE FIRE OF A DJINNI. A CITY SCARRED BY VIOLENCE.

Fatima lives in the city of Noor, a thriving stop along the Silk Road. There the music of myriad languages fills the air, and people of all faiths thread their lives together. However, the city bears scars of its recent past, when the chaotic tribe of Shayateen Djinn slaughtered its entire population – except for Fatima and two other humans. Now rules by a new maharajah, Noor is protected from the Shayateen by the Ifrit, Djinn of order and reason, and by their commander, Zulfikar.

But when one of the most potent of the Ifrit dies, trouble brews and Fatima is changed in ways she cannot fathom, ways that scare even those who love her. Oud in hand, Fatima is drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, the affairs of Zulfikar and the Djinn, and the dangers of a magical battlefield.

Nafiza Azad weaves an immersive tale of extraordinary magic and the importance of names; fiercely independent women; enticing food; and, perhaps most importantly, the work for harmony within a city of a thousand religions, cultures, languages, and cadences. 

Anthrocon Wrap Up!

So last weekend we drove to Pittsburgh for Anthrocon, the second largest furry convention in the world. It was the largest until Midwest Fur Fest overtook it last year! If you’ve never heard of furries (or have only heard of them from CSI, ugh), they are a really fun subculture. Popular culture likes to call them a fetish, but mainstream furry culture is absolutely not. Furries are, simply, people who like anthropomorphic animals. Often they have fursonas, or an idea of who they would be if they were an anthropomorphic animal, and some of them have made or commissioned fursuits (similar to mascot suits) so they can dress up and pretend to be their fursona. Furry culture is a happy one, really – there is just so much joy at Anthrocon, from people dressing up and just playing. There are meetups for different types of animals, like bird suiters and cats and dragons. (I saw a photo on Twitter of a water buffalo at a lion meetup captioned “living dangerously” which cracked me up.)

One of the best things about furry culture, in my opinion, is the lack of giving a fuck about gender roles and sexuality. Most suits obscure your gender – and for gender non-conforming people, it can be an incredibly freeing experience. So there are a lot of pride flags flying, and transgender flags are incredibly common. (I saw several fursuiters wearing them like capes!) It’s just an amazing place to be yourself, because nobody judges you.

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Husband in a badger mask, and boss trying on a tiger mask in the mirror.

So this is how we spent our weekend. We help a friend of ours sell leather masks and folding fans, both at this con and at the Maryland Renaissance Fair every year. (See photo above, and her website here!) It is an absolute blast, spending time with three of our best friends (boss and her partners) and chilling with furries.

Now that you know what furries are about, the rest of this post should make more sense! Thursday we drove up to Pittsburgh. We normally help set up the booth, but they only allow a certain number of people in with the Dealer, so Tiger and her partners set up her booth while we got our badges and wandered back to the hotel until dinner.

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Three fursuiters in the Dealer’s Den.

Friday the Con kicked off for real, and the Dealer’s Den opened. We sold fans (SO MANY FANS) and masks until 6pm. We got to see some amazing fursuiters walk through the Dealer’s Room, and said hi to several people we knew from Fair and previous Anthrocons. I walked down to the Charity Table, because this year’s charity (Anthrocon supports a different one each year) was Pearl Parrot Rescue, so they had a few different parrots at their table throughout the weekend. We ended up raising a record $46,440 for their charity!

Saturday was another full day in the Dealer’s Den, with the Fursuit Parade in the middle of the afternoon. They actually blocked off a road outside the conference center, and put out a bunch of chairs so people from Pittsburgh could come watch the parade! Pittsburgh is an amazing city, and they’ve absolutely embraced Anthrocon and furries. The local restaurants usually have deals for people with Anthrocon badges, or furry-themed food specials, and many places do events themed around the furries. Anthrocon attendees regularly inject several MILLION dollars into the local economy over the weekend, though, so it’s no surprise they love us!

Scyther

Scyther!

Sunday the Dealer’s Den closed at 4 instead of 6, to give the Dealers time to pack up their booths and load out. We still had 6 hours of vending time, and saw many more fursuits. I don’t remember which day we saw Scyther, but they were one of many Pokemon suiters. After packing up Tiger’s booth, we headed back to our hotel. They drove back Sunday night, but we stayed an extra night in Pittsburgh….

blackbirbSo we could go to the National Aviary Monday morning! BECAUSE BIRBS. The Wattled Curassow, above, liked to hang out on the railing. I was highly amused at how many people walked by her, or stood at the railing right next to her, without noticing she was there, just chilling. This was in the Wetlands environment, along with spoonbills and flamingos and pelicans and all kinds of birds.

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I actually got to hold a fish to feed a Tern as part of their interactive feeding talk. I took video of the first half of the talk. I’ll try to upload that soon, because it was really neat!

Steller'sIn other exhibits they had Stellar’s Sea Eagles, which were HUGE. I knew they were big, but DAAAANG.

Or at least I thought they were huge until we got to the Andean Condor exhibit. I was really excited by this one, and it was a large part of why I wanted to go to the National Aviary. Andean Condors are the largest flying bird in the world, and WOW. We walked up just as one of them hopped up onto a rocky ledge and HOLY COW THEY ARE HUGE. It’s hard to get a sense of scale through pictures, but trust me. These guys are enormous.

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In addition to these giants of the bird world, we also saw Tawny Frogmouths, a Kookaburra, and Flying Foxes. Which are bats. But hey. They fly!

In the Rainforest Exhibit were a pair of Hyacinth Macaws, which is one of my favorite species, and this fabulous bird in a nest, among many others. We saw a Palm Cockatoo – the amazing black ones – but he hid behind a tree very quickly, so I didn’t get a picture.

I also didn’t get a picture of the lorikeets, but we fed them! I had two come to me immediately – I’d been hanging out outside the enclosure talking to them through the wire mesh – and they didn’t want to leave when the nectar was gone. One of them I had to reach up and set on a branch, he was fairly determined to stick with me! The keepers were rather surprised he’d refused to leave, but I explained I’d grown up with birds. They seem to like me!

ShotGlassI have three souvenirs from the weekend – a shot glass from the aviary, and two AMAZING posters from Anthrocon. The expression on the parakeet’s face just KILLS me. (The artist is on Twitter at @TsaoShin)

BIRBPoster

CockatielGriff

Monday afternoon we drove back from the aviary, fell into bed, and slept until Tuesday. It was a fantastic weekend. We’d originally planned to go to Toronto instead of coming home, but that fell through, and we’ll probably try to do it next year instead. I am exhausted – well, maybe not by the time this post goes up, hopefully! – but happy.