Masamba!

You may already know this about me: I am a Zoo Person. If you put me in a new city on limited time and ask me what I want to do while I’m there, chances are I’m going to pick the zoo, if they have one, over any other available activities– and I am a big fan of Potawatomi Zoo, which is our local zoo and is genuinely one of the highlights of the area.

We have a white rhino. His name is Masamba. And I got to pet him today. This was my birthday present from my wife– they only let six people do this a week, and it’s scheduled in advance– and we got to spend about half an hour up close with him. I was expecting to have to provide some sort of food or something to get him to come over to us, but apparently he really likes interacting with people, and despite being way in the back of his enclosure when we came down he came lolloping over right away as soon as his keeper called out to him. Behaviorally, he may as well be a giant puppy; eventually he actually laid down against the fence and just hung out with us.

I was joking about bringing a saddle to ride him all week long, and my wife made it very clear that were I to engage in any shenanigans with the zookeepers or were I to ask any Dad Questions of them, divorce would swiftly follow– but y’all, this big boi would totally have let me ride him. Next time we go to the zoo, I’m coming prepared.

A Christmas abortion story

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with this terrible show. If not, well, it’s fuckin’ terrible, and it’s on Hulu, and you should probably watch an episode or two because it is terrible in a uniquely addictive way, like, I hate it but I can’t get enough of it.

Anyway.

The wife and I have started season 3. She has somehow already watched all five (Five? Sure. It could be as many as twelve; I have no idea) seasons already and is rewatching them with me. At the end of Season 2, one character found out a woman he’d recently had sex with was pregnant. I believe his entire reaction to this news was the single word “Fuck.” And then the season ended.

And do you know what happened at the beginning of Season 3?

She told him she’d had an abortion, and he was cool with that, and that was the end of the storyline. It was barely a three-minute conversation, with not a trace of remorse on either one of their parts. It has not been mentioned since.

And I gotta be honest: it was fucking refreshing. Because with any other show this would have been a half-season fucking ordeal, and there would have been endless conversations about it, and then it probably wouldn’t have happened.

But this one? Yeah. Season 2 cliffhanger, done and dusted four minutes into Season 3.

I approve.

#Review: LEGENDBORN, by Tracy Deonn

Y’all. This book. This book.

I don’t even know where to start. I mean, the cover, obviously, because holy shit that cover, but after that?

This is Book 53 and Author 48 of the #52booksbywomenofcolor project I’m doing this year, and I know I’ve said this before, but this book, all by itself, justifies the existence of that project. Even if I hadn’t liked most of the 52 books I read prior to this one, this would have made it all worth it. Because if I hadn’t been prioritizing books by women of color this year, this one might not have made it onto my radar quite as effectively as I did, and I might have passed on it, and that would be a crime. This is the book that convinced me that my top 10 list at the end of the year is probably going to have to be a top 15 again, because this is about the tenth “Okay, this is gonna be top five at the end of the year” book and about the fifth “this is gonna be top three” that I’ve read so far this year.

(Writing the list in December will kill me.)

Another thing that I’ve done this year that’s different is I’m pretty sure I’ve been reading a lot more YA than I have in previous years. And this is very much a YA book, complete with many of the tropes of urban fantasy, right up to and including Hidden Demons and the need to Keep Special Powers Secret From Friends and Family.

And for a little while you’re rolling along with that, and you know where this is going, and yeah, I’ve read this book before, and that lasts, oh, I dunno, maybe 25 pages until Deonn starts subverting every single trope you’ve ever encountered in one of these damn books. This is an #ownvoices book in its bones, y’all, because there is simply no way anybody white could have written this book, from the little details about the way the main character gets ready for her classes in the morning to the conversations between her and her dad to the big twist at the end that knocked me flat on my ass and I really want to know if a Black reader would have been more likely to see coming.

It’s about a magical secret society involving the descendants of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table– there’s a lot of Welsh, be ready for that– right up until the part where it isn’t, and holy hell I just cannot recommend this highly enough. The characters are interesting, the representation is great, the magic system is intriguing and the way different entire systems are butting up against each other throughout the book is just putting a worldbuilding aficionado like myself into spasms because I love how Deonn is doing this so very, very much.

Like, I should talk about the plot, I suppose; here’s part of the synopsis:

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

Goodreads

The problem is that that’s really a very pedestrian description of what sounds like a bog-standard book, and it doesn’t get across at all just how much gleeful fun Tracy Deonn is having stomping on your expectations throughout the book. I mean, yeah, demons, Merlin, smoky-eyed magical boys, blah blah blah blah.

This book isn’t great because of what it’s about. It’s great because of how it’s about what it’s about.

Go read it.

#REVIEW: Black Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse

I am a big fan of Rebecca Roanhorse. Her debut novel, Trail of Lightning, was the second-best book I read in 2018 and the follow-up to that, A Storm of Locusts, didn’t blow me away quite as much it was still on the Honorable mention list for next year.

Her novel Black Sun, which just came out last week, is the only thing so far in 2020 seriously competing with Scarlet Odyssey for my favorite book of the year. This is the first book of a new trilogy and not part of the Sixth World series, so it’s unrelated to her previous books. (She has also written a Star Wars novel and a YA book, neither of which I have read yet. I will probably get around to the YA book eventually but I have kind of soured on Star Wars novels at the moment.)

(EDIT: Since I wrote those two paragraphs, I’ve spent half an hour helping a now-college-aged former student with her stats homework, which meant I needed to quickly reteach myself the relevant material, and had a lengthy conversation with my brother regarding a wide variety of topics, none of which I really care to get into. Also, another former student died today and my head is suddenly not in this any longer. This book is good. It is second-world Mesoamerica in the same way that, say, Game of Thrones is second-world Europe, and that in and of itself is a reason to read it because there just isn’t enough of that on the shelf. And I like this more than her previous work because in general I prefer second-world fantasy to urban fantasy, even when the urban fantasy is rural fantasy, and I’m a big fan of good worldbuilding, and once again I want to know everything about this world she’s set up. But this post was going to be longer before my brain fell apart, and it is well and truly fallen right now. Go read, plz. Kthxbai.)

Mark Oshiro reads THE CONTRACT

I am running out of ways to introduce these, as there’s only so many ways I can say “God, it’s amazing to watch someone else read your book and react live, and I’m so happy he seems to be enjoying it.” I absolutely cannot wait for him to read the story that ends the book. Absolutely. Cannot. Wait.

(Also: my next book to read is one of Mark’s. I’m psyched.)