Educated, by Tara Westover

Today’s randomly chosen book is Educated, by Tara Westover. I was going to flip through it to refresh my memory, but I can’t find it anywhere.

There are a lot of books that I can’t find. I’ve been messaging Alex to see if maybe he accidentally took them with him when he moved out, but I know there’s no way he has them. I texted Evelyn and Phoenix and neither have it. I must have books somewhere else in this house. Where, though?

Westover was raised in a strict Mormon family in Idaho and grew up helping her mother create herbal cures and her father at his scrapyard on their property. Since her father distrusted the public education system, her parents considered themselves homeschoolers. The schooling that Tara received was sporadic, at best.

After years of conflict and drama, her elder brother Tyler encourages her to take the ACT (a college entrance exam) and go to Brigham Young University. She gets a good enough score on the ACT to get into Brigham Young, but she feels that she doesn’t fit in.

Despite this, she finally rose above her upbringing and the neglect and abuse she suffered and earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Cambridge.

All in all, this is an excellent book and it deserves all of the praise it got.

I just wish I could find my copy.

Hippos Go Berserk! by Sandra Boynton

Here’s the world’s shortest book blogger entry — my thoughts on a 16-page board book that I bought for Alex when he was a baby.

I love Hippos Go Berserk! I used to sit in the glider rocker with him when he was a baby, reading this to him and I can still recite big chunks of it from memory.

The plot, such as it is, is about, well, hippos. And counting. “One hippo, all alone, calls two hippos on the phone,” it starts. Our “one hippo” is having a party. We collect a total of 45 hippos in groups of, well, two, three, four, etc. Then in the morning, after the party, the hippos return home in groups of nine, eight, seven, etc.

And since it’s a Sandra Boynton book, the illustrations are friendly, lively, and full of details.

Gee, I love this book!

I leave you with Sandra Boynton and Yo-Yo Ma with special guest Weird Al Yankovic: Chanson Profonde

Content Creators: Safiya Nygaard

It’s always fun with these posts to try to figure out which was the first video/blog post/etc. that I saw from a specific creator.

I know the first time I ever saw Safiya Nygaard in a video at all. It was in the video where the Try Guys wore women’s pants for the day. Nygaard came on to talk about the history of women’s pockets and where they went once women changed from foofy dresses to pants.

Now, as for which of her own videos was first, I’m pretty sure it was when she bought counterfeit designer clothing in Hong Kong. I’m hardly a fashion maven or anything, but it sounded like a good time. And it was.

I’m stopping writing to rewatch in hopes of figuring out when I realized that Tyler wasn’t her cameraman but was, in fact, her fiance. I think it might have been when they talked about wearing a couples’ outfit.

I enjoyed that video so much (despite not recognizing half of the referenced brands), that I “sh-mashed that subscribe button” and then went through and watched all of her older videos.

One of the things she does is what she refers to as her “Franken” whatever videos. That’s when she takes as many of whatever as she can find and mixes them together. For example, she went to Sephora and bought every color of lipstick she could, then melted them together into one color of lipstick. The result, called “Berry Me in Lipsticks” in her collab with ColourPop is a nice, well, berry color. I have missed every time she has released the color, so finally I took a picture of it and went to HEB, where the makeup lady helped me pick out something very similar (L’Oreal’s Berry Parisienne). Evelyn, who is a fashion maven, approves, by the way.

Safiya and Tyler had a whole series of videos regarding their wedding, which happened in November 2019 (happy belated second anniversary, guys!) and then they disappeared for about a year. Part of it was COVID, but a lot of it was that having their family and friends visit for their wedding made it clear how lonely they were out in Los Angeles.

So, they moved across the country to Raleigh, North Carolina, where Safiya has returned to making videos. She and Tyler have also started a livestreaming channel where they try out kitchen gadgets, make strange food, and so on. They do their streams on Tuesdays at 5 pm Eastern time, and I’m at work then, so I’ve never actually caught one of their livestreams live.

For today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link, we’re starting Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles series (though I’ve lost the third book and so I don’t know when I’ll finish it). In The Red Pyramid, Carter and Sadie Kane have been raised apart since their mother’s death. Their father picks Sadie up for their annual visit, and dies in an explosion at the British Museum. This leads to the siblings finally living together under the care of their uncle Amos. And that’s just the beginning.

Solutions and Other Problems, by Allie Brosh

Solutions and Other Problems took seven years to write. Well, it took seven years to publish. I attended a virtual book tour for Solutions and Other Problems which was attended by Brosh’s mom and her mom said that the book took much less time to actually write, but getting up her courage to send it to the publisher took longer.

And that makes a lot of sense. Brosh went through a lot in those years. She took a long sabbatical from her blog not too long after publishing a two-part cartoon on her fight with depression. During those seven years, she also lost her sister and got a divorce. Her parents split up at some point during those seven years as well.

Hell, I haven’t gone through anything like that in the last seven years, and I’m still having trouble getting my courage up to put myself out there.

Brosh has a wonderful sense of humor and she’s an amazing artist (she actually works hard to make her pictures look that amateurish). Solutions and Other Problems is largely about how weird and maladjusted Brosh is. In showing us how weird and maladjusted she is, though, she shows us how weird and maladjusted we all are.

Or maybe it’s just me.

I hope it’s not just me.

Shower Thought on Wheel of Time Episode 4

So I was coming out of the shower today and it hit me . . . .

Lookout Mountain 1863
1863 lithograph of Lookout Mountain.

Okay, so they definitely seem to be hinting that Nynaeve is the child of Aemon and Eldrene, the last king and queen of Manetheren. The last thing that Nynaeve remembers her parents saying to her is the last thing that Aemon and Eldrene said to their children . . . ?

Now, maybe this is a red herring, but I think that might be where they’re going. Additionally, I’m pretty sure that if they did, it would be a way to make Nynaeve *way* stronger in the Power than any other woman in the modern era.

In the books, the number of novices is dropping significantly and modern channelers are way weaker than in the past. I believe it is Verin who suggests that the way things are working now, they may be culling the talent out of humanity. Or, at least, the parts of humanity that they’re in touch with.

Verin, or whoever, says that (a) Aes Sedai rarely marry and almost never have children, and (b) they gentle all of the men who can channel that they can find, and most of them end up committing suicide. I don’t remember if Verin actually follows the chain of thought so far, but probably the only people who can channel who reproduce are men and women who can be taught to channel or who are born with the spark but are so weak that it is never caught. *

There are other channelers, such as the Seanchan, and the Kin, but a similar thing applies there. The Seanchan clearly don’t allow their Damane to reproduce, and so the only channelers that can reproduce, again, are the Sul’Dam, the ones who can be taught. I’m surprised by how strong the freed Damane end up being, because the same thing should have happened in Seanchan.

And I don’t remember the Kin having descendants. They try to live by what they think of as Aes Sedai rules, so I’d think that their rates of reproduction should be pretty low. Also, the Kin are women who were put out of the tower, largely because they were too weak to advance. Some of the stronger of the Kin are ones who balked at the testing, but most of them learned just enough channeling not to hurt themselves and then they were sent away.

So if only weak channelers reproduce, the talent will get weaker.

If they want Nynaeve to be a valid option for Dragon Reborn, she would need to be incredibly strong. Like, up by where Rand is in the books. So, having the solution to the mystery of Nynaeve’s parentage be that she’s Aemon and Eldrene’s daughter would make her naturally way more powerful than the rest of the current Aes Sedai. She dates from an era when they weren’t culling their channelers.

As for how Nynaeve ended up so far in the future, maybe Eldrene had Foretelling as one of her Talents and she knew that Nynaeve would be needed, so she sent her to the future or put her in stasis or something?

It’s possible that I’m overthinking this, but Judkins is also a fan of the books, so maybe I’ve overthought this just the right amount. We’re going to find out who the Dragon Reborn is in Episode 8. It’ll probably be Rand, but you never know.

*D’you suppose there are men who are so weak that it just looks like, like, luck or skill rather than channeling? A silversmith who becomes rich and famous because he can make silver do things that silver just shouldn’t do? A trader whose ships just narrowly avoid the kinds of hazards that nearby ships get caught in? Would they also be affected by the taint, or is the amount of mental illness proportional to the amount of Saidin used?

The Wheel of Time, Episode 4: The Dragon Reborn

As always with these posts, there will be spoilers for the episode and also for just about any point in the book series. If you don’t want to be spoiled, just move along.

Today’s spoiler space image:

Cincinnati, from Covington, Kentucky
Cincinnati, August 1987, taken from across the Ohio River, in Covington, Kentucky.

Two of our three groups, Egwene and Perrin and Mat, Rand, and Thom (I’ve decided to list groups alphabetically) are still on the move.

Egwene and Perrin are with the Traveling People, who are traveling east. When they make camp for the night, Egwene dances with Aram after failing to convince Perrin to dance with her. Perrin gets the explanation of the pacifist Way of the Leaf that the Traveling People follow from Ila and this scene is one of the most beautiful scenes so far.

Ila explains that she follows the Way of the Leaf not because it will benefit her or even Aram, her grandson, but because someday her late daughter (Aram’s mom) will be spun out by the Pattern again and she wants to leave a better world for her.

Mat, Rand, and Thom spend the night at the Grinwell family farm. After Dana said that the fastest way out was a riverboat, and we established that they have money, I was expecting to meet Bayle Domon. Surprise! I guess.

Instead of being a boy-crazy teen girl, Else is a little girl who reminds Mat of his sisters. Thom tells Rand that he thinks that Mat might be able to channel because Thom’s nephew Owyn got surly like Mat is after the taint on Saidin got to him. Neither knows about the Shadar Logoth dagger.

The Grinwells are attacked by Trollocs and Mat and Rand escape with their lives. The last we see of Thom, he is fighting off a Fade with his knives, just like in Whitebridge in the books.

Don’t tell me we’re going to skip Whitebridge! OMG. It’s Whitebridge!

Based on the books, which is no guarantee, we won’t see Thom until next season now, since he rejoins the story in The Dragon Reborn*. Maybe Judkins et al. are still in negotiations with John and Taupin.

Okay. Now for the exciting part. Lan, Moiraine, and Nynaeve. First, just to throw this out there. We meet Alanna and she is very strong. I still don’t like her. I have my reasons.

We see the first real sign of the Lan/Nynaeve romance here. She catches him praying for Malkier and she shows him her ritual, the last words her parents spoke to her. They are in the Old Tongue, which she doesn’t speak. Lan tells her that the words she spoke are the words that the King and Queen of Manetheren told their children before they left for their final battle.

Are they telling us that Nynaeve is the rightful ruler of Manetheren? Has she been frozen in an iceberg for hundreds of years? How will this work out?

And then there’s the real spoilers. Like, Turn Back Now. I almost want to throw another spoiler space photo in here.

Moiraine takes a turn shielding Logain so she can see how strong he is, so she can hopefully eliminate Logain from the running as the Dragon Reborn. It turns out that he is very strong indeed, but not as strong as the Dragon Reborn is supposed to be. And she tells him so.

Then Logain’s followers attack the Aes Sedai camp. Logain uses the distraction to break free of his shields and everyone except Nynaeve dies. Lan’s death makes Nynaeve angry, and, to paraphrase David Bruce Banner, you wouldn’t like Nynaeve when she’s angry.

I half expected this to be the big balefire scene, replacing the one where Rand balefires Rahvin in The Fires of Heaven. And I’m thinking, what will happen to the Pattern if Nynaeve erases Logain from the timeline?

Instead, she heals everyone. So I guess she can heal death after all. Okay.

Logain decides then and there that Nynaeve must be the Dragon Reborn. O. Kay.

After they recover from their deaths, the Aes Sedai do an extrajudicial gentling of Logain.

*Germane Amazon Link!

New Plot Bunnies. Maybe I *Will* Write Fiction Again Someday.

In the last month or so, I’ve had two “plot bunnies” occur to me.

The first one I probably will never actually write, because I don’t know enough about the music industry.

When I was at the Yatra/Iglesias/Martin concert, Ricky Martin gave us this speech. I’m trying to remember the exact words, but it was about, like, putting the whole COVID thing behind us (not like living dangerously, but like not being afraid?) and looking forward to a new world and things like that.

I started pondering a singer who had the power of suggestion that could give his audience hope and determination to make a better world like that. Then I considered the certainty that the recording industry would at least try to abuse those abilities. What would make the singer make the break from the music industry? What would that look like? Would it be ethical to use those powers on an audience even if it were for a good cause? Would the attendees of the concert need to sign a consent form? Would that cause the fans to fall away or become more enthusiastic?

Way too many questions than answers for a situation like that. And, again, I know nothing about the recording industry, so I would only display my ignorance by trying to write this.

If anyone who reads this post would like this plot bunny, feel free. Some kind of attribution would be nice.

Then there’s the second “plot bunny.” This one I like and I may even take a stab at writing. It’s a reversed, or maybe even inverted, Hallmark Christmas movie-type story. And I have a bunch of subsidiary ideas that are in parentheses throughout because, like I said, I’m actually tempted to try this one.

Now, remember that I’m ace and probably more than a little aro, so . . . .

Our heroine lives in a small town where she runs a business (coffee shop? bookstore? independent pharmacy?). She’s been with her boyfriend since forever (high school?) and while she loves him, he’s self-destructive (meth? alcohol? reckless driving while on meth or alcohol?) and it’s killing her to watch him.

So she leaves. She breaks up with him on New Year’s Day and moves to the “big city” (Chicago? San Antonio?). We spend almost a year in book-time on her plans to move (what’s she going to do with her business and home in her small town? how will she find a new place in her new home?) and has her grand opening around Thanksgiving.

Then we watch both her business and her personal life grow. She meets a handsome guy in a suit, coded as possible romantic interest, but it turns out that he’s interested. She’s still mourning her relationship and isn’t interested. And when he won’t back off when she tells him to, she would never be interested. She ends up having to do something drastic (police? self-defense classes? public humiliation? a scary friend?) to get him to leave her alone.

Over the next few years, she opens a second location, develops a found family and gets a dog. Her found family gets together for Christmas. The end.

Originally, the pet was going to be a cat, but they always show women with cats and men with dogs, so why not switch that up a bit. Also, having a dog would give her chances to get out and meet people in a way that a cat wouldn’t.

I may also throw a bone to the “but she neeeeds a maaaan” part of the audience and have one of her found family members be the child of a matchmaker, either professional or avocational, and then if the reader wants to imagine Our Heroine in a relationship, there’s an opening for one someday.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time! Today we have Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual, by Luvvie Ajayi Jones. I loved this book and found it very inspiring the first time I read it. In fact, when I bought tickets for the virtual book tour for Jenny Lawon’s Broken, it was very serendipitous that I had passed up Neil Gaiman and Judy Blume* for Luvvie Ajayi Jones. I didn’t know Jones from anything, but by the time the tour date came, I was almost as pleased to see her as to see Jenny Lawson. And as I wade farther into my planned writing and (hopefully!) proofreading businesses, I may need to reread this occasionally. I have it on my bed right now, waiting its turn after I finish Still Life.

*Put a pin in this idea — I need to write a post about Blume. As a former ace kid, I always kind of had issues. I’ll get into that later.

Wheel of Time, Episode 3: A Place of Safety

The usual disclaimers apply to this post. Spoilers for the series up to and including this episode are certain. Spoilers for any and all of the books are likely.

The episode titles so far have all been chapter titles that pretty much matched the events of the episode. This one, however, is not a match and, well, I guess . . . Okay, that belongs below my spoiler space image. Speaking of which . . .

Look! It’s my original header image. I still love this panorama. It just didn’t fit the aspect ratio for the header image in this theme. This is San Pedro Park in San Antonio.

We start with two of our three groups, Rand and Mat, and Egwene and Perrin, haring off into the unknown. I believe they’re both heading east towards Tar Valon.

Our third group, Moraine and Lan? Are now a trio with the addition of an absolutely furious Nynaeve. We see flashbacks of how Nynaeve escaped the Trollocs. The Trollocs got to fighting amongst themselves and she made her escape. I swear that happened in the books at some point, but not here. I’ll have to think about it. Once I hit that point in my audiobook reread, I’ll try to remember to come back and edit this post.

We finally meet Thom Merrilin. I wasn’t expecting him this early in the series, since Judkins doesn’t want characters showing up and then going away. Thom disappears, presumed dead, after Whitebridge in the books and we don’t see him for, like, a book’s worth of pages (from the middle of The Eye of the World until the middle of The Great Hunt*) and then it takes still longer for him to become a major character again. I don’t know. I just work here.

I’m also a bit nervous about Thom’s portrayal. As Fred Clark says about Buck Williams in the Left Behind series, it’s difficult to include the greatest writer in the world as a character in a book, because the reader will expect to read the greatest writing in the world, and the writer will fall short. Thom is an amazing musician, we’re told, who has the greatest works of music committed to memory and used to be the court bard for Morgase, Queen of Andor. I hope they have Elton John and Bernie Taupin on payroll here, because the readers of the books will be expecting something amazing and I’m afraid that it’ll be a letdown.

The only characters who actually do reach a place of safety in this episode are Egwene and Perrin, who meet the Traveling People and stay at their camp. They haven’t introduced Elyas, so they did a workaround on the greeting that the Traveling People use by having Aram coach them on what they are to say. It was a little bumpy, but it works in the context.

I was expecting to watch Episode 4 today, but instead I went for an 8-mile walk on the River Walk. Not so much television watching (or, unfortunately, writing), but it was nice to go out and clear my head.

*Germane Amazon Link!

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle

I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy. I discovered Narnia when I was 10 and then Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s Greensky trilogy when I was, oh, 12 or so. So L’Engle’s Time Quintet should be right up my alley, no?

And, yes, but also kind of no. The no is for whoever at Dell Yearling came up with cover the book had when I was its target age group. Like, what part of a bloated blue man with rainbows sticking from his shoulder blades floating above weird, deformed flowers with a large bug on one of the leaves says, “Read me!”?

Over the years, I became maybe a bit more receptive to the possibility of reading A Wrinkle in Time.* Then in 2019, when I was shopping for my annual Christmas book at our local Half Price Books, I saw a copy of the movie tie-in version and while I wasn’t real sure what the palm trees had to do with anything, since the Murrays live in New England, I figured sure.

And it really is an excellent book. We start out in the home of the Murry family. The father, Alex Murry, has been missing for years. He is a scientist who works for the government in some secret role. The mother, Kate Murry, is also a scientist.

The Murrys have four children, Meg, twins Sandy and Dennys, and Charles Wallace. Our protagonist is Meg.

Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keeffe travel to a world called Camazotz where everyone is exactly the same — the kids play outside of their houses bouncing balls at exactly the same time and then their moms come out and call them all in to dinner at exactly the same time. This is the result of the influence of “The Black Thing,” the source of evil in the universe. The kids achieve what they need to while on Camazotz and apparently they never go back. I like to think that’s an effect of the time in which the book was written and that if it’d been written nowadays, we’d revisit Camazotz towards the end of the series.

I hate to admit it, but I still haven’t read the other books in the series. They’re on my list, but I have hundreds of unread books, and dozens of books that I’ve read and that don’t have read dates on my Goodreads page, so I probably won’t get to them until much, much later.

*Germane Amazon Link!

The Death Gate Cycle, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

I think that Thomas picked the first book of this series, Dragon Wing, maybe even at the same trip to Bookstop where I got my copy of The Eye of the World. It was at about the same time, I know. It was all part of the fun of not having a main antenna at our apartment complex and not being able to afford cable. We did a lot of reading.

The Death Gate Cycle is fantasy set in the far future of humanity. Humanity has destroyed itself in some kind of global cataclysm (most likely nuclear war) and the elves and dwarves emerged from wherever they’d been hiding for the last hundreds or thousands of years. Soon two groups of humans came to light who were able to control magic (they call it the “Wave,”) and these two groups get into a huge war.

Eventually, one set of wizards, known as the Sartan, take it upon themselves to break the world up into four separate worlds, based on the four classical elements — in the order we encounter them in the series, air, fire, earth, and water. There is a fifth area where the Sartan have the other wizardly race, the Patryn, contained. This is called the Labyrinth.

Our antihero is a Patryn named Haplo who was sent into the other four worlds by a Patryn known only to us as his master for a long time. Haplo’s goal is to foment chaos so that his master can take control of all of the worlds. We explore these worlds with Haplo and see how he grows as he learns more of the four worlds that the Sartan created.