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Familiar Diversions

I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.

Currently reading

Stardew Valley Guidebook, 2nd Edition
Ryan Novak, Eric Barone, Kari Fry
Progress: 102/239 pages
Binary Storm (Liege-Killer)
Christopher Hinz
Progress: 181/436 pages
The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro, Daniel Kraus
Progress: 106/313 pages
Princess Prince
Tomoko Taniguchi
Progress: 310/336 pages
FREE: Locke & Key
Tatiana Maslany, Audible Studios, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodríguez, Kate Mulgrew, Haley Joel Osment, Full Cast
Progress: 91/806 minutes

Movie plans cancelled

— feeling sad

My local theater was going to have a special showing of Princess Mononoke today but cancelled without warning. I'd been looking forward to this for weeks. Ugh. I guess today is just chore day, unless I cave and play more Stardew Valley.

Reading progress update: I've read 102 out of 239 pages.

Stardew Valley Guidebook, 2nd Edition - Ryan Novak, Eric Barone, Kari Fry

Okay, I'm reading this cover-to-cover. But also jumping to different spots as I need them. Yesterday was chore day, and tomorrow is chores and a movie, so today got to be "play too much Stardew Valley" day.

 

So far my most frequently useful parts have been:

- where and when to find specific kinds of fish

- what every Stardew Valley resident likes and dislikes

- what to do in order to unlock a particular cutscene

- the seasonal calendars ("is it someone's birthday today?")

 

A few things I've learned (because apparently there are lots of things I still don't know, even after many in-game years):

- you can occasionally get decent things if you dumpster dive

- I haven't yet met all of the game's characters (Mr. Qi)

- ...or gone everywhere it's possible to go (the casino)

- ...or participated in all of the game's events (how have I repeatedly missed the Winter Night Market? and also there are secret notes?)

- the wizard can build stuff for you too, just like Robin, although you have to complete a special task before this can happen

 

One thing the book is missing that it really needs:

- Detailed and specific townspeople schedules. The book lists each place they might be, but nothing more than that.

 

So there are still areas where the Stardew Valley wiki is helpful, but this covers lots of things I didn't even know to search the wiki for.

 

Reading progress update: I've read 106 out of 313 pages.

The Shape of Water - Guillermo del Toro, Daniel Kraus

This is due in four days. I could probably push really hard and get through it, but I'm not sure I want to. Parts of it are definitely better than the movie, while other parts are...not. It fleshes out a lot of the characters more and makes them more sympathetic, which is nice, except not always necessary.

 

For example, if the plot stays the same as in the movie, there isn't much of a reason to flesh out Lainie, Strickland's wife, the way this book is doing. At best, it reassures readers that she'll somehow manage to be fine after the events at the end. As far as the attempts to make Strickland more sympathetic go, he's supposed to be one of the book's horrible villains. I don't need him to be more sympathetic.

 

Zelda is a stronger character here than in the movie, where the only thing that saved her was Octavia Spencer's acting skills. Unfortunately, Elisa is somehow less sympathetic in the book than in the movie. She's the main character so this isn't good.

Reading progress update: I've read 181 out of 436 pages.

Binary Storm (Liege-Killer) - Christopher Hinz

One thing this book is doing, and I'm not sure yet if this is intentional, is making the Paratwa more sympathetic. Yes, there are six or seven thousand deadly Paratwa assassins, but there are tens of thousands of Paratwa total. Most of them live relatively ordinary lives. Meanwhile, Nick and Bel don't seem to make a distinction - they think the Paratwa should be wiped out, all of them. Even the Paratwa assassins have shades of gray in this book. The current scene is introducing a Paratwa assassin's human wife, and they seem to have a loving relationship. 

 

Man, anyone who reads the trilogy after this book is going to have some serious whiplash. Maybe I missed it or forgot it, but I don't recall there being any mention of the Paratwa being anything other than ruthless killers (and, in a few memorable cases, rapists), even in the scenes that were focused solely on them.

Reading progress update: I've read 150 out of 200 pages.

Honey So Sweet, Vol. 1 - Amu Meguro

(There are no page numbers, so this is my best guess.)

 

This really is super sweet, and I plan on reading the next volume. But could we not with the incestuous feelings? Nao turned down Onise, the guy in her class who likes her, because she's in love with someone else: her uncle. 1) I'm almost 100% certain they're blood relatives, and 2) even if they weren't, he's been raising her since she was 6. I hate that I can think of several series where girls are raised by single guys that they end up falling in love with. I mean, it's obvious that Nao and Onise are eventually going to end up together, but still.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 239 pages.

Stardew Valley Guidebook, 2nd Edition - Ryan Novak, Eric Barone, Kari Fry

It arrived earlier than expected. YAY!

 

I don't know that I'll be reading it cover-to-cover, but I'll definitely be diving into it some over the next few weeks, because I have several long weekends planned ("use it or lose it" vacation time). I have a couple farms where I've gotten far enough along to have smoothly running operations, a decent amount of money, and a spouse, but I think I might start another farm in honor of getting this book.

Reading progress update: I've read 146 out of 436 pages.

Binary Storm (Liege-Killer) - Christopher Hinz

This has been slow-going. I'm starting to think that Liege-Killer was the only book in this series worth reading.

 

Why does this book exist? There have been a few big revelations, but they only count as big if you haven't read the original trilogy. And if you're new to the series and were planning on reading the original trilogy after this, well, Binary Storm spoils some of the trilogy's biggest revelations.

 

I feel like the author just wanted to write a lot of world-building details. So we have lung restoratives, respirazones, servant and assistant bots, edible ads, and suicide cults. Is there a plot? I'm still waiting to find out.

 

And Hinz still sucks at writing women. I liked Bel at first, when she coolly recognized that Nick was probably complimenting her because he wanted something from her, but then she fell in lust with him. It was so out-of-character for her that even she wondered whether he'd slipped her some kind of futuristic date rape drug (there are multiple kinds, and readers got to learn the details of several of them), but no, it turns out he just has that effect on her.

"An entomologist rates ant emojis"

The Apple ant was rated the highest, but I prefer the Facebook ant, which doesn't look like it has a weird bomb for a head.

 

I'll say this is sort of related to books because I recently read The Lives of Ants.

 

...Okay, so it has nothing to do with books but I thought it was funny.

I just bought my first game guide in years (decades?)

It's the official Stardew Valley Guidebook. Yes, a lot of the info I'm interested in is available for free at various places online. I don't care. Now all I have to do when I want to know what to get Penny or Sebastian or Clint etc. for their birthday is turn to the book I plan on keeping near my computer. Same for figuring out where and when to get different items, and probably other uses I'm not even thinking about right now.

 

I'm looking forward to having this in my hands in a week or two. The wait isn't a huge issue because Stardew Valley is still a game I'll only let myself play during breaks and long weekends, due to my tendency to get so sucked in that I lose track of time.

 

 

To Siri With Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of Machines by Judith Newman

To Siri with Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of Machines - Judith Newman

Prior to moving to my current town, I was part of a really good sci-fi/fantasy book club. I recently decided that it would be nice to attend face-to-face book club meetings again, so I looked into my options. My local public library has a book club, and their next meeting is in late August. Unfortunately, they selected To Siri With Love for that meeting.

Ignore the book's title - this is primarily a mom's memoir of raising her autistic son, with occasional mentions of her husband and neurotypical son. Technology does come up, but not as much as the title implies it does.

I've had one other exposure to Judith Newman's writing that I know of, her New York Times article "To Siri, With Love." I liked it because 1) the parts about Siri interested me, 2) it made me recall my fascinating, enjoyable, and occasionally frustrating attempts at conversing with chatbots, and 3) it didn't automatically dismiss technology as bad and detrimental to social interaction.

I had heard of this book but decided not to read it after hearing about autistic adults' boycott of it and reading a few 1-star reviews that included quotes from the book. One bit that particularly repulsed me was the author's stated desire to forcibly sterilize her child when he turns 18 (more on this in a bit). I didn't want or need to read more than that. But then my idea about joining a book club happened.

I don't have much experience with memoirs, but I imagine that, in most of them, the author's views and personality are very clearly a part of the text. If the author's views bother you or if you don't like the author, it may be difficult to like the book. I certainly found that to be the case here.

It started at the very beginning of the book, in the Author's Note. Newman mentioned that she'd be using masculine pronouns to refer to people in general. If she'd left it at that, I might not have thought much of it. Although I tend to prefer they/them in such instances, masculine pronouns used to be the rule and lots of people still use them that way. Newman, however, decided to go off on a little tangent. She mentioned a friend of hers, who'd written a parenting book using they/them pronouns and the term "cisgender" where appropriate. At the end of this paragraph, Newman wrote:

"She did this at the insistence of her teenage daughter. Language needs to evolve, but not into something ugly and imprecise. I read her book simultaneously loving her parenting philosophy and wanting to punch her in the face." (x)

I can't imagine writing this about a person I supposedly considered a friend and that friend's daughter. She likely intended it to be humorous, but it read to me as insulting. She was essentially mocking both her friend's teenage daughter for suggesting she use more inclusive language and her friend, for listening to her own daughter. This part also said something about her biases, since her friend's decision to use "cisgender" had nothing to do with the author's original statement about her pronoun choice. Also, I'd argue that her friend's word choices were actually more precise.

Newman dug her hole deeper in her very next paragraph, where she explained that she did not consult her kids (twins, one neurotypical and one autistic) about whether they were okay with everything she included in her book. From the sounds of things, Henry and Gus, who were 13 or 14 at the time, may have had a general idea of what their mother's book would be like, but that was it. I thought about this part of the Author's Note a lot. There were anecdotes relating to everyone in the family, but Gus was the book's focus, and Newman covered everything from details about his personal hygiene to her discovery of his tastes in porn. She also included several of his text message exchanges with friends.

There were multiple instances where Newman seemed to realize that what she was writing was horrifying but opted to continue on anyway. For example, she mentioned a game she played with herself when she was pregnant, in which she'd ask herself "if something was wrong with my child, what abnormality would I be able to tolerate, and what was beyond the pale? (As you can see, I don't rate an A-plus on the Basic-Human-Decency Report Card.)" (17)

Then there was the bit that originally cemented my decision not to read this book. Newman started off by talking about Gus's height. He was small for his age, and not particularly bothered by this fact, but it bothered her, and she worried that it would not only bother him one day but also that by then it would be too late to do anything about it. Newman's concerns about making Gus's decision about growth hormones for him morphed into a section about sex and reproduction. Specifically, Newman did not feel that her son should have children.

"A vasectomy is so easy. A couple of snips, a couple of days of ice in your pants, and voila. A life free of worry. Or one less worry. For me.

How do you say 'I'm sterilizing my son' without sounding like a eugenicist?'" (116)

Some part of Newman must have realized that the answer is "you can't," because the next page and a half was devoted to information about eugenics and its connection to the history of disability. Instead of concluding that wanting to give her son a vasectomy was wrong and meant she was siding with eugenicists, however, here is where Newman ended up:

"But wherever you stand on this question, when you start considering how the history of disability is inextricably intertwined with the history of euthanizing and enforced sterilization, you come away unsettled. I began to question my certainty that Gus should never have kids. There is a good success rate in vasectomy reversals, and surely there will be even easier, more reversible methods for men soon. And when there are, I'm going to be the first in line to sign him up. Kids at twenty or twenty-five? No. Thirty-five? I can hope." (117-118)

There were multiple times when Newman laid out all the pieces for a particular conclusion but then never took that last step necessary to connect all the dots. The vasectomy section was a good example of this, but so was the part where Newman admitted that Gus exhibited signs of learned helplessness, highlighted by occasional demonstrations of skills she never knew he had because she'd never expected him to develop them. She had spent the entire book talking about all the things Gus couldn't do, that she didn't think he'd ever be able to do. He'd never date anyone, never marry, never have real friends (Gus had people he considered friends, but that Newman dismissed as not being "real" friends), never be able to hold down a job. She wrote about the problems that could result from having low expectations...and then continued to write about all the things she believed Gus would never be able to do. It was maddening.

There were a few instances in the book where she talked to autistic adults, asking them for insight and advice. Which was great, except that I didn't feel like she always listened to what they said, like, for example, that Gus might be more aware and know more than she realizes. This was in response to Newman's question about how to talk to Gus about sex when he seemed so uninterested in asking her about it, but it could have been applied to lots of other things.

Well, I finished this book and am now ready for the book club meeting. Here's hoping I'm not the only one who had issues with it.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Reading progress update: I've read 216 out of 216 pages.

To Siri with Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of Machines - Judith Newman

I managed to finish this in time. I'll be turning it in tomorrow. I just checked, and the book club meeting is happening near the end of August.

Reading progress update: I've listened 757 out of 757 minutes.

Provenance - Ann Leckie

Finished! Will I manage to review it this time around? We'll see.

Reading progress update: I've read 154 out of 216 pages.

To Siri with Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of Machines - Judith Newman

"In truth, I don't know what Gus will be able to do. I do know that he does practice a kind of learned helplessness; I did not know, for example, that he could pour a glass of milk for himself until one day recently I got vertigo and couldn't move without being wildly nauseated, and no one was around, and Gus really, really wanted milk. It was that day when I thought about something John Elder Robison had written in his book Switched On, about the low expectations we have of people with autism, how it extends to everything in their lives."

 

And, just like in her section about eugenics and wanting to give Gus a vasectomy, she stops short of really thinking about what she's actually saying and making all the connections, even though she's laid all the pieces out. She has, by the way, spent the entire book talking about all the things that she's certain Gus will never be able to do. He'll never be able to hold a job, never go on a date, never make friends, never marry. So many nevers.

Reading progress update: I've read 118 out of 216 pages.

To Siri with Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of Machines - Judith Newman

I've made it to that part, the one where she talks about her desire to sterilize her son.

 

"How do you say 'I'm sterilizing my son' without sounding like a eugenicist?" (116)

 

Part of her realizes that the answer is "you don't," because the next page and a half is all about eugenics. But here's what she ends up settling on:

 

"But wherever you stand on this question, when you start considering how the history of disability is inextricably intertwined with the history of euthanizing and enforced sterilization, you come away unsettled. I began to question my certainty that Gus should never have kids. There is a good success rate in vasectomy reversals, and surely there will be even easier, more reversible methods for men soon. And when there are, I'm going to be the first in line to sign him up. Kids at twenty or twenty-five? No. Thirty-five? I can hope." (117-118)

 

So, a forced vasectomy is still definitely on the table, but it's okay because it'll be reversible. D-:

The Verge: "This sun-chasing robot looks after the plant on its head"

This is the cutest thing. (And also, if succulents need to be moved around I now have at least part of an explanation why I could never keep one alive for long. Oops.)

 

The design makes me think a little of Ghost in the Shell's Tachikoma.

O_o

The drilling is still going on at work, right next door to me. When you're drilling into a first floor ceiling, you should probably triple check that you won't end up punching straight through the second floor's floor.

 

Yeesh. Thankfully, no one was hurt.