Thursday, July 1, 2021

June Favorites: Sci-Fi, YA, and Teaching the Elderly to Avoid Scams


Will and I each tend to read her textbooks independently, but we leave notes for each other in the margins.

Not gonna lie: I mostly watched hockey in June. And when I'm not watching hockey, I'm massively enjoying this summer with the kids. 

Summer hits a lot different when you've got a kid in public school! Syd only has something like eight weeks of summer vacation, total, and this after ten months of one of the most miserable experiences of both our lives. We've already had to start talking about school clothes and lunch boxes and bus stops, and I am already so over it. So every day that I can take these kids strawberry picking or blueberry picking or to ride roller coasters or host their friends for sleepovers or playdates and feed them homemade snow cones... well, that is what I'm going to do.

And when I wasn't doing any of that, I was watching hockey. And when hockey wasn't on, I was reading escapist fiction, because SUMMER!

I got interested in Vision's other story arcs while watching WandaVision so I requested this from the library--

--and it is SO GOOD! I love a lot of the Marvel characters but since I was introduced to most of them through the movie franchise, I often get frustrated when I try to dip into their comics and find myself in the middle of some monumentally tangled plotline with references to 40 other monumentally tangled plotlines that you absolutely must understand to appreciate this plotline, and characters that have fifty billion other backstories that you should probably update yourself on if you like that character, etc.

Like, all I really want to do is see if Captain America and Bucky ever kiss, but instead I've got to figure out who's aged and who's de-aged and who got a promotion and who took over what and who died and came back to life and how many times and these fifteen things they used to fight about and these other fifteen things they still fight about... It's exhausting. Better to just read the Wikipedia page. 

Anyway, The Vision definitely references major plotlines that I know nothing about, but not in a way that's distracting or that makes it seem like I have to go back and read four hundred comics to catch on. It's more like, "Here's a weird plant thing. We got it from my ex-wife's bestie. It has creepy-ass magical powers." 

See? Totally enough to go on!

And it's awesome. It's got a similar vibe to WandaVision, so I won't be surprised when I bet I learn that this was a template for the show's overarching plotline, but the similarities were more along the lines of "If you liked that, you'll like this," and not like spoilers. 

The rest of the Avengers come off like assholes, though.

Here's another book that was a LOT better than I thought it would be!

I liked Ready Player One well enough the first time I read it, primarily because I had fun looking up all the references and I thought the immersive retro video game premise was clever. But when I checked it out again before Ready Player Two came out, I got maybe two chapters in and then just... returned it to the library. I realized that I had absolutely zero desire to re-read it. I mean, I'd already looked up all those video game references!

But Ready Player Two fixes so many of the problems from the first book that I kind of wonder if Cline made deliberate changes based on reader feedback. I don't think there's a way to keep the retro immersive game premise from feeling gimmicky now that it's been done for a second, but the depiction of the main character, Wade, is so much better that it's worth slogging through the silly bits. He still starts off with his character flaws from the first book, but here they're very overtly depicted as flaws, and better yet, we're given some good reasons for them. In particular, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that Wade is neurodivergent, and it makes a lot of things make a lot of sense. He also sees real consequences for his bad behavior and his flaws, and his story gives him the chance for growth. 

Overall, it's a much more thoughtful depiction of what a world like Wade's might actually be like, when revolutions that seem like they would be a happy ending instead just escalate society's problems.

Here are a couple of children's books that I read this month:

I didn't love Spinning--although it was interesting to learn about synchronized skating, all the rest of the main character's relationships were frustrating and sad and I'm not sure what my takeaway was--but I LOVED Mostly the Honest Truth. It's for children, sure, so you ought to see the plot twist coming, but the character depictions felt very solid, and it was an excellent change to see a non-traditional schooling method presented in a positive, accurate light. 

In other news, I have found so many good podcasts this month! I'm still barreling through Double Love while I'm exercising and doing housework, but when I'm reading or mindlessly scrolling TikTok, I've started putting this podcast on:

It's the background music to random Disney attractions, and it's weirdly... soothing, I guess? I like ambient noise players (I used to put on a great Gryffindor Common Room one all the time once upon a time), and this is the same type of thing with a mildly nerdy edge.

Because Matt and I are VERY boring, on evenings when we're not watching hockey we like to work crossword puzzles while listening to podcasts. Sometimes, if we're feeling extra spicy, we'll also add Cheez-Its and cocktails to the adventure. The kids often consent to join us (especially when there's Cheez-Its!), partaking in their various on-screen pastimes. I do NOT agree with the negative connotation of parallel play in adulthood!

One one of these evenings, I queued up a random podcast recommendation--

--and now Syd and I, in particular, are totally into it. Because it's produced by AARP, I *think* it's mainly geared toward the elderly, but every episode is a deep dive into how one particular person got scammed, with interviews with the victim and an analysis of what that person did right and wrong. Syd and I are so judgmental that it is the perfect podcast for us! At one point, I literally said, "I hope nobody ever judges me the way I'm judging this lady," and I meant it, but also... she paid over $16,000 to rent a ski cabin, sight unseen, using contact information she got off Craigslist. I mean, come on.

Seriously, please don't judge me for MY mistakes as harshly as I judge other people for theirs!

P.S. Check out my Craft Knife Facebook page for more book recs as I read them!

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