Monday, April 06, 2020

Reading Roundup - First Quarter 2020

I know some of these came up in my Books for These Times post.  But this time just looking at 2020 reads.  

Akwaeke Emezi - Pet - As I mentioned before I read this is paper.  In a world where monsters have been defeated the child makes a monster and then has to reckon with the monster who says it has a job to do, and what the existence of monsters really means.  

Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong - This was a really interesting book of essays looking at the Asian American experience and how the push for model minority status created a situation where a generation of Asian Americans were encouraged to not discuss any racism they felt.  For me personally, the opening story was tough to get through, but once I did the rest was interesting enough, that I may well wish to revisit it.  

Mikki Kendall's Hood Feminism - Also a book of essays, in particular looking at how the focus of mainstream feminism on upper and middle class white women leaves a lot of gaps in issues that affect women harder.  

Jessica Kim's Stand Up, Yumi Chung! - Yumi Chung wants to go to comedy camp this summer and not study camp.  But her parent's restaurant has hit a bad patch and they need her to get a scholarship to keep going to the fancy school they expect to bring her success.  Except she wanders into comedy camp and they all assume she's a student with an Asian sounding name who had signed up.  I don't read a lot of MG, and this book was delightful until it reached a big reveal moment, and oh my god, if you suffer from second hand embarrassment, it is really tough.  It was still delightful and I was glad I read it.  

Tehler Kay Mejia's We Unleash the Merciless Storm - In a fantastical world where the fancy folk have two highly trained wives, and the rabble are kept out with a wall, a high ranking wife has just been killed by her son's segunda wife who was revealed to be a spy for the rebellion.   Except Carmen - said spy - had to leave behind the primera wife who she had maybe been falling in love with.  She discovers the La Voz organization has changed since she was sent on her mission, and they perhaps do not believe her when she tells them Dani, the primera is on their side.  So she's going to have to take fixing things into her own hands.  This is the second in the duology.  I mentioned elsewhere that I haven't quite figured out how much my enjoyment of the second was due to the POV shift, or just more getting to the part where things start happening.  None of this is to say I hated the first book, I would never have tried the second if I had.  But if you thought the first was enjoyable but quiet, this might be to your liking. 

Mia Sosa's The Worst Best Man - Read about Brasilian food and wedding planning, and lots of things we cannot be doing right now.  Okay, but seriously, Carolina got left at the altar and to get a new job she has to team up with either her ex-fiance or the brother who convinced her to dump him.  The brother seems like the lesser of two evils.  But maybe he is even more than that?   

Jayci Lee's Temporary Wife Temptation -  It's super tropey.  He needs a wife to avoid a matchmaking grannie.  She needs a husband to prove she's stable (and rich, rich doesn't hurt either) enough to adopt her sister's kid that the grandparents want to adopt.  So they get married.  And hang out with a baby a lot.  And it's great.  Until someone ruins it and then has to try to fix it.  

Camryn Garrett's Full Disclosure - This is a story about a teen who is HIV positive, who had to leave her old school after word got out about her status and folks did not handle it well.  So now she's at a new school, and working as the student director on a production of "Rent" and there's a cute someone and she has questions about how to best handle it.  Content warning:  Her status does get outed at the new school.  

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado - I got this book out of the library in e, and when the library emailed me I looked at it and thought, hmm, did I really ask for this?  But I downloaded it, read the first chapter, and went, oh yes, I need this.  It is a story of an abusive realtionship told in pieces.  It is not an easy read.  But it looks at how people get to a place where the realtionship they are in matches some but not all of the things they have been warned about, what it's like to have been told your lifestyle will lead you astray and then need help.  It ends well, as the author is now not in that relationship.  I don't often get super excited about the way a story is told, but for me this one was interesting and not gimmicky.  

Suleika Snyder's Tikka Chance on Me - A grad student who has moved home to re-figure out her life and work at her family's restaurant finds herself noticing one of the bikers in the biker gang that comes for dinner every week.  They run into each other elsewhere and things move fast but there are secrets and things to be sorted out.  

Rebekah Weatherspoon's A Cowboy to Remember - Amnesia, so you know I was in.  A TV chef gets pushed down the stairs soap opera style and then her team decides the best place for her to recover is the small town where she grew up which also contains her first love.  

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Clear as Ice - #Hockey Fiction Day 15

Today's prompt is penalty shot.  

I was counting by prompts, but since there was a day off, it was confusing me, so now counting by days.  As noted previously, leaving the prior posts as is until this finishes, so they don't repost until this is all done.  

Previous entries: Day one, day two, day three, day four, day five, day six, day seven, (day eight was an off day), day nine, day ten, (day eleven was an off day), day twelve, day thirteen, day fourteen, (day fifteen was a day off). 

Al loved a good penalty shot.  They were more fun in his opinion than overtime shootouts, where you faced off against three different players in quick succession.  However, here, hanging with the junior league team today, he had not planned on facing a penalty shot. 

But the teen acting as ref in today's practice called for one after one of the players in desperation used her stick on the other's skates to stop a breakaway and here they were. 

Penalty shots with players you didn't know, certainly hadn't had time to study beyond the ten minutes of the scrimmage, were always a little more wild.  Al also had way less padding than normal today, since he and Sienna were supposed to be observing this scrimmage and then one goalie had been late, and they had found skates and a stick for him, but had nothing else in his size. 

Pucks were made of dense rubber.  It didn't take a lot of power or strength to make them hurt like hell, but junior league or no, he was also not going to let this puck go by him just to avoid a bruise. 

The skater moved towards him, swishing the puck back and forth with her stick.  Al spread himself wide and tried to watch her eyes.  The cage style masks the team wore were a little different, as far as his visibility on her expression. He saw her glance to his left, and he tensed.  He didn't move yet, waited for her to skate just a smidge closer before she paused infinitesimally and took the shot.  He slid left managing to catch the puck with his shoulder, something he might really regret later today. 

Her teammates gathered around her, and patted her back, telling her what a good shot it was. 

The coach, blew her whistle.  "Hey folks, out goalie has arrived, so let's thank Mr. Tseu." 

He had tried telling the coach they could all call him Al, but she was had shook her head at that.  "Thanks, Mr. Tseu." 

"Thanks to you all for letting me join in.  And now I get to just watch you all, which will be fun."  He waved and accepted some high fives, before striding off the ice to the bench, where he removed the skates. 

Sienna slid onto the bench with him and offered up a gel pack.  "For your shoulder," she said. 

"Thanks.  Where'd you get this?" he asked.  He didn't normally carry around gel packs, the trainers took care of all that for them. 

"I asked the coach if they had some.  They did,"  Sienna shrugged, like it was a normal thing for someone to think of. 

"I appreciate it," he said.  "Ooof."  On the ice there was a pileup of players as one of them had lost her edge and taken down a few fellow players with her.  "I hope they have more of these." 

"They have tons," Sienna said.  "Thanks for coming out here with me today." 

"No worries," Al said.  It was fun to hang out with junior teams.  They still thought literally everything about hockey was the coolest.  He still loved hockey, but the enthusiasm dulled every once in a while, it was easy to spend too much time worrying about stats and trades ad salaries.  Hanging out with teams that just cherished every chance to get on the ice was fun. 

"Well, anyway, I'm sure your busy, so I appreciate it.  And well, I hope you're good at playing through bruises, because if your bruised shoulder keeps you out against the Oaks, I'm not sure the fandom will ever forgive me." 

"Mulvenna is playing against the Oaks," Al said.  "That was already planned.  Although I can't remember if it was announced yet, so shh. But my shoulder's fine. I've been bruised before." 

"Good," Sienna said.  "Well not good that you're bruised obviously.  But you know what I mean." 

The coach blew the whistle, and waved the players to come off the ice.  "That's my cue," Sienna said.  "Can you stick around a bit.  I'd love to talk to you after I talk to the team. 

Al was curious what she had in mind, so he nodded. 

She smiled and left the bench.  He removed the cold pack from his shoulder and looked around at the now empty ice arena.  He was a goalie though.  He was good at being patient.  

Friday, April 03, 2020

Clear as Ice - #HockeyFiction Day 14

Today's prompt is intermission.  

I was counting by prompts, but since there was a day off, it was confusing me, so now counting by days.  As noted previously, leaving the prior posts as is until this finishes, so they don't repost until this is all done.  

Previous entries: Day one, day two, day three, day four, day five, day six, day seven, (day eight was an off day), day nine, day ten, (day eleven was an off day), day twelve, day thirteen.   

The Blizzards were currently sitting at the bottom of the division, unlikely to even make the cut for the playoffs unless several teams were sucked up by a spaceship in the next few weeks. They'd had coaching issues and some key injuries, it just wasn't a good year for them.  But that meant they played tonight like they had nothing to lose.  There had been sixty eight official shots on goal, and Al felt like he felt every single one of them.  Of course it didn't work like that.  The shots on goal was just the official shots, not all the nudges, bumps, and everything else that happened throughout the game.
Coach had given them a rousing pep talk during the first intermission when they had been down two.  The second intermission the locker room had been eerily quiet. In the end, they finished four to two, resulting in the first Domes loss at home this month.  Al knew intellectually it didn't matter if you lost away or at home, but it always felt like a bigger deal. 

And he knew Sienna had been up in the owner's box.  This had been the first loss she'd attended.  He wondered if she would quit hockey after this.  Some folks only liked the days they won.  Asked for refunds on the days they didn't. 
Al had a basketball game waiting for him when he got home.  He just had to get up off this bench and go outside.  He didn't know quite what he was sitting in there waiting for.

The reporters and press weren't gone, but they had all moved into the area for the post-game press conference, so he was able to walk quietly through the hallways of the arena.  He heard voices up ahead and spotted Daisy talking to Sienna. He almost turned around.  Even though the only other way out of the arena took his past the press room.  

 "Hey, Al," Daisy said.  "Sienna was asking about the junior league teams we work with regularly.  It was a tough game.  But we're still in good shape for the season." 

Al smiled because Daisy was nice and she meant well.  This was why he stayed away from post game interviews as much as he could.  He hated false cheer as much as he hated explaining that some nights the other team played in a way that led to more scoring.  It wasn't even about better or worse.  Teams playing like crap pulled off wins sometimes too. 

"I'll email you to get more info," Sienna said.  "Thanks so much for everything." She looked at Al.  "Could you walk me out?" 

"Sure," Al said even though he was worried she wanted to try whatever her brand of soothing him after a game was.  If parts of him perked up a little at the possible images that evoked, other muscles screamed for sleep.  He had already moved past the post-game full of energy, can't sit still mode. 

Once they were around the corner, Sienna patted his elbow.  "I can actually find my way out of here, but you looked like you needed an out. I'm just going to metro." 

"Me too," he said. 

"Hockey players take metro?"  Sienna asked.  "They don't like mob you or something?" 

Al huffed a laugh.  "No.  Although tonight they might want to throw things at me.  But even with social media and all that, I look different without the mask." 

"I'd recognize you," Sienna said. 

"Well, fortunately for me, most people don't." He did pull out a hat emblazoned with the local WNBA team's name and stick it on though. 

"Still looks like you to me," Sienna said.  "But people do see what they want to see."  She gave him a look like she was fighting asking a question. 

"Spit it out," Al said. 

"I have a thing to ask you, but now is probably not the time.  Can I text you tomorrow maybe?"

"Sure,"  he said. 

"Cool.  I'm headed this way."  She pointed down the street.  "Talk to you later." 

He watched her leave, to make sure she stayed safe of course.  She was still wearing his jersey but it didn't cover up the slim fit jeans she was wearing, and of course, he had a very good memory for what those legs looked like in shorts.
Definitely time for him to get home.  

Zoey Update

Here's the interesting thing. "Crazy Ex Girlfriend" and the movie version of "Chicago" both used a musical viewpoint as a thing the main character saw and everyone else didn't. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" even tied it to the character's mental health. 
"Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist" keeps trying to have it's cake and eat it too. They also aren't picking songs that suit the voices of their cast. 
So, I am going to now spoil the hell out of this week's episode. 
I am all for Jane Levy getting a chance to sing. But spending this many episodes building up Zoey's ability to hear other people's inner songs as a super power, only to use it as a sign of suppression in the main character, well, it's ghost sex (to make a "Grey's Anatomy" reference). It's yanking the rug from under your viewers and telling them everything they have been told by the show is wrong, it isn't a cool trick. It sucks.
Also, sidenote. Apparently women are not allowed to not be romantically involved with a coworker. Platonic relationships don't exist. Also, their one LGBTQ character is barely making it past stereotype and that's mostly because of a stellar performance.
Back to the songs. In addition to the betrayal of the audience, its also a character betrayal. Zoey got a peek into folk's heart songs, but it was just Zoey. Zoey's songs were revealed to everyone. Uncontrollably. Zoey was embarrassed personally and professionally. 
Now I know these songs worked differently than the others. But then I'm back to the show needs rules. If the songs are sometimes in Zoey's head but sometimes not, without any rhyme or reason, then that's honestly a world building fail. In Broadway musicals people sing things that other can and cannot here, and there are clear ways to do that with staging.  The show is refusing to do this.  And then to use their lack of world building as an excuse to embarass their main character, it's pretty awful. Jane Levy is a wonderful performer.  I was thrilled to see this.  But there was not a convincing reason for her heart songs to work differently than other people's.  
I put up with a lot for good song and dance numbers. But this show is suffering an identity crisis.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Clear as Ice - #HockeyFiction Day

Today's prompt is skates.  

Previous days linked below.  Note: I was counting by prompts, but since there are days off, it was confusing me, so now counting by days.  As noted previously, leaving the prior posts as is until this finishes, so they don't repost until this is all done.   Previous entries: Day one, day two, day three, day four, day five, day six, day seven, (day eight was an off day), day nine, Day ten, Day eleven was a day off), Day twelve.

"So, I've been invited to be on the hockey podcast," Sienna said.  They were having another KeKi meeting in the coffee shop.


"The 'All Things Must Pass' one or a different one," Jay asked.


"That's the one," Sienna said.  "Okay, so I'm going to say a thing that makes me sound like a fun hating jerk, but hear me out."


Sienna nodded.  Jay often brought the practical side to their partnership, and sometimes it meant Sienna needed to push her to be more excited about things, but often she was right.


"So," Jay said, "you said when we started that part of your goal was to push away from being just a body.  And I know it's not the same, but there's a way where you turn out to have a really interesting and unique perspective on hockey, and you find people that appreciate that.  And there's also a way where you just become like a glorified trophy girl blowing kisses at the players."

Sienna didn't cringe but she wanted to.  But Jay was right.  Sienna could push this in the direction she wanted, but sometimes her first idea was to blow a kiss for the camera and that wasn't the brand she was building now.  That was old Sienna.  She nodded.  "Yeah, yeah, I hear you."


"Okay, I will sit back.  And obviously, I think the stuff you did with the volleyball team was great.  We got a lot of signups that mentioned that.  And the volleyball team applied to be a featured sponsor next month.  So when their season starts up we should look into stuff.  The cross stuff."

"Cross promo?" Sienna asked.  "Yeah,  I'll check in with them on that."


Jay turned back to her screen and Sienna scrolled through more of her email.  The junior hockey team wanted to know if she'd come to their last game.  And there was another email from Daisy.  Sienna opened it up.  Yup, they wanted to know if she'd come to another game.  This time the owner was offering to let her join him in his box which was fancy.  She wondered if you still wore a jersey for that or something a little dressier.


She told Daisy yes, of course.  Sienna had turned into a hockey fan, even watching their away games on her tablet and adding a score alert app to her phone.  If she had set up a fake insta to check on a certain goalie, well, that was just her newfound love of hockey.  But Jay had a point.  Just like she'd had to lock down her DMs because people thought the #UnderMyJersey stuff meant she had some interest in their dick pics, people were going to try and push her in a lot of directions.


The key was to make sure they were the directions she wanted to go,  Skimpy on skates, wasn't anything she needed to do or be.  But sharing interest in a sport she hadn't previously known a lot about, there were plenty of reasons to engage in that.  But given her history, people were going to assume she was in this to find a dude.  And intriguing goalie or not, Sienna could not afford to put herself back in the public relationship space.  It was a danger to her brand, a danger to her heart, and she didn't know quite which one scared her more.  But she could handle this.  Navigating media both social and not, was something Sienna had been doing for quite some time.