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Tag: Terry Pratchett

My Favourite Books of 2022

Another year has started, and another shelf has been added to my Goodreads account to track my reading. However, in 2022, I did something a bit different: I consciously did not set a goal for the annual Goodreads reading challenge.

I’ve learned by now that these sorts of things — reading X books per year, writing Y words per day, etc — is a source of stress for me. Goals like that assume some sort of consistent, linear progress, and my habits are much more jagged. I can go without finishing a book for 2 months, then read 5 in a month.

The nice thing was that I still read 30 books in 2022! Some of them were for work, and some were non-fiction, but roughly 1/3 of the books I finished fit under the spec-fic umbrella. Here’s a look at a few of the books I really liked last year:

The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield

The cover of The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield.

I often compare my reading habits to being like a python: if the right book grabs me at the right time, I will swallow the thing whole. It may be a while before I come across another book I inhale, but I’ll sit there and digest what I’ve read in the interim.

The Embroidered Book is this year’s classic example of a python book: I read all 600+ pages in just over 2 days. Having read Heartfield’s Armed in Her Fashion a few years ago, I was unsurprised to see her continued nuanced portrayal of multiple female characters, or her deft incorporation of trans characters into the narrative. But the real beating heart of the book is the relationship between Antoine and her sister Charlotte, and how their rivalling paths on opposite sides of a magical conflict curdles, but doesn’t entirely destroy, their affection for each other. The final chapters (where Antoine meets her fate and Charlotte makes a very particular magical sacrifice) are heartbreaking.

Bonus: if you listen to the Revolutions podcast by Mike Duncan, you’ll get an extra kick out of seeing how the real events of the French Revolution intertwine with the magical events of the book.

The Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein

The cover of The Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein

I have spilled many words on here about the Steerswoman books by Rosemary Kirstein. And I even wrote an entire post about how The Language of Power illustrates the power of social contracts. So yes, this was one of my favourite books of the year, and I highly recommend the series. It even got a small reference in a recent XKCD comic!

The Centaur’s Wife by Amanda Leduc

The cover of The Centaur's Wife by Amanda Leduc

This was a weird one for me. I read it in less than 24 hours, but both loved it and was emotionally exhausted by it in the end. It felt laser-targeted to me, in a painful way, like Leduc wrote it specifically for me at this point in my life. I read it when I was 37, the same age as the main character. And the main character’s experience of giving birth right before a cataclysmic, world-ending event is one of my own greatest fears. On top of that, the main character’s father died when she was 12, and I was a similar age when mine died. And on top of that, I read it immediately after watching the DS9 episode “Doctor Bashir, I Presume”, in which it’s revealed that Julian Bashir’s parents did a medical intervention on him as a child without his consent in order to remove a perceived disability. Something very similar happens to the main character in the book and is a major source of trauma for her, so the parallels were hard to ignore.

The Centaur’s Wife felt like a pile of salt rubbed into my own personal wounds, but I can’t hate it; it’s so densely layered and thoughtfully constructed of multiple overlapping narratives. And the author herself, Amanda Leduc, is a compelling reader — I first learned about the book when she read the opening as part of the Ephemera reading series.

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

The cover of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

A friend of mine teaches a course on children’s literature at Toronto Metro University, and The Amazing Maurice is part of the reading list. Any book by Terry Pratchett is worth your time, but I hadn’t read this one yet.

I went in expecting something fun but anodyne, sanded down to meet the needs of children. But that was my mistake: Pratchett rarely pulls any punches, even (or perhaps especially) in books written for kids.

Double Review: A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett and Mini-Habits by Stephen Guise

Alright, so my plan to read and and get book reviews ready to go for 2016 kinda fell with a thud when I didn’t post anything last Tuesday. However, I have read two books, so let’s do a capsule review for both.

But! I also want to mention that last week I was interviewed by Jonah Sutton-Morse of the Cabbages and Kings podcast about my book reviewing habits and my reading goals for 2016. Wanna hear me talk about diversity, SFF, and Watership Down? Have a listen!

A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett

a_hat_full_of_sky_coverI came to Pratchett very late in his career — the first book of his I read was Good Omens about a decade ago, but I didn’t start delving into Discworld until about three years ago. Since then, I’ve read only a few Discworld books, but I loved The Wee Free Men when I read it last year. My husband, who is very wise, bought me the last three Tiffany Aching books for Christmas, so I decided to prepare by reading A Hat Full of Sky.

A Hat Full of Sky happens about two years after The Wee Free Men, when Tiffany Aching rescued her brother from the Queen of Fairyland. Now, she’s been officially apprenticed as a witch to Miss Level, a caring but eccentric older witch. But when Tiffany uses a particular magical skill without understanding its rarity or its full import, her body gets taken over by a ravenous collective consciousness called a “hiver”. Tiffany, trapped within her own body, must find a way to regain control. Luckily, the Nac Mac Feegle and Granny Weatherwax are there to help.

I found the climax of A Hat Full of Sky to be very similar to its predecessor — Tiffany overcomes the antagonist of each book by tapping in to her witchy powers and “opening her eyes” twice to figure out its true weaknesses and desires. Both books also had a very cosmic quality to them — in The Wee Free Men, she became an incarnation of her homeland in order to cast an invader out to the alternate world where they came from, while in A Hat Full of Sky, she gave the hiver the ability to die by opening a doorway into the realm of death, something it didn’t know how to access on its own. In both instances, Tiffany ends the book by feeling empowered but also more aware of just how much of her power resides in her sense of empathy and humanity.

One thing I’m hoping that the remaining Tiffany Aching books will expand upon is Tiffany’s tendency towards egotism, and how that tendency could get exacerbated as she goes through adolescence. The hiver is a creature of untrammelled id, and its possession of Tiffany is a way for Pratchett to look at things like peer pressure, but I think there’s a lot more territory to explore here.

Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise

mini_habits_coverAh, and now we come to the obligatory It’s-New-Years-Which-Means-It’s-Time-To-Read-A-Self-Help-Book book. I found out about Mini Habits through a podcast by Ed Gandia, a popular online coach and mentor for freelancers. One of his podcast episodes talked about how it’s often productive for freelancers (like me) to switch from making goals to building habits. One of the resources he recommended towards making this shift was this very book.

I will agree that the premise of Guise’s book is sound: that to create long-term, durable habits, you need to start small. I also appreciate that the book contains several references to both current and past neurological research regarding willpower and habit formation.

However, like many self-help books, Guise’s prose is so full of hyperbole that I had a hard time finishing the darned thing. It doesn’t help that he spends a full chapter of Mini Habits talking about how depending on “willpower” and “motivation” to achieve goals will result in failure but he fails to define what he means by those two terms. To someone like me who doesn’t keep track of the latest neuroscience research, “willpower” and “motivation” sound synonymous, but Guise makes it clear that he considers these two concepts to be at odds with each other. A quick paragraph on what his personal definitions of those words are would have been helpful. This book could have easily been improved by shortening it even further from its already-short count of 127 pages.

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