#balisebooks – June 2019

Version française ici : #balisebooks – Juin 2019

Gender Queer: A Memoir – Maia Kobabe

I don’t remember how I became aware of this comic, but I remember seeing a few pages, buying the electronic version, and reading the whole thing in a matter of a couple of hours. It’s the autobiography of Maia, who is non-binary and queer, uses the e/em/eir pronouns; and it’s the story of how e grew up and came to terms with eir identity. I really liked it, because it was sometimes funny, sometimes cute and often touching. Oh, and I liked the drawing style too 🙂

Strangers in Paradise XXV – Terry Moore

Yup, that would be two comic books in a row – for someone who… doesn’t really read comic books (they’re very hard for me to focus on, because I read the text and I forget to look at the images and then I’m lost :/ ), it’s kind of a record 😉 But, oh well, Strangers in Paradise. If you don’t know Strangers in Paradise, well, first, you should read it, and second, it’s the story of Francine and Katchoo, their relationship, their past (which may or may not include darker parts) and its contemporary consequences. And it’s super-good, and the art is wonderful.

In Strangers in Paradise XXV – because it’s been 25 years since the first issue, we get a new part of the adventure, some tie-in to Echo (of which I talked at one point, but only in French), and, well, more Strangers in Paradise, so I’ll take that. There may not have been enough Francine to my taste, but I can live with that, and I’m still super happy I got to spend a bit more time with the characters 🙂

The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison

The story of Maia, whose emperor father just died, along with his heirs who were before Maia in the succession line… so Maia becomes emperor. Problem is, he’s half-goblin, in an elf society, so that doesn’t start well. And second, since he was never meant to access the throne, he also kind of doesn’t have the training that comes with it either. Hence: court is complicated, politics are complicated, and we watch Maia do his best with both. I had seen that book compared, in terms of mood and emotions, to Wayfarers (of which I also talked about in French) (for the record, my home computer is called wayfarer), so I probably had way too high expectations for it, and it’s probably why I didn’t enjoy it that much. It wasn’t bad, mind you, far from it, but it didn’t enthuse me.

An Audience of One: Reclaiming Creativity for its Own Sake – Srinivas Rao

Another “wrong expectations lead to disappointment” – I felt this was less “Reclaiming Creativity for Its Own Sake” and more “Life Hacks for People Making A Creative Living”. Since I was on the market more for the first one that the second one, I was a bit disappointed. There was still a number of valuable things in there and it gave me food for thought. I may even get back to it on a couple of points for things that didn’t make sense for me to explore while I was reading, but which may make more sense a posteriori.

Pendulum – Tobias Klausmann

The third installment of Slingshot (about which I also talked in French) – Kim and Co. are set to free all the AIs, and they have multiple plans for that, including large scale industrial production, politics meddling, and military infiltration. And, once again, it works very well: the plot is good, the characters are cool, the universe is believable and well-described, and all the loose ends are tied. A very good conclusion to a very good trilogy. And Tobias is a friend, so y’all should buy his books. I promise you they’re great 🙂

In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness – Peter A. Levine

A book about healing trauma -not something I’m directly interested in, but nonetheless a fascinating read about the strong connection between what would be primarily considered a matter of the mind (dealing with trauma) and the body and its sensations. Levine’s main hypothesis (as I understood it 😉 ) is that PTSD comes from being in a scary situation, and the body not having the opportunity or the possibility to react as it “should”, and that working with body sensations to help regulating the body again apparently helps. The book is visibly primarily aimed at therapists, and it has a fair amount of case studies that read “too clean to be entirely truthful”, but I still found the point of view interesting.

The Last Wish – Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish is the (chronologically) first book of the Witcher’s series. It reads as a book of short stories bound together by being “flashbacks” in a frame story. They’re telling stories about Geralt, who’s a witcher – a mutant with powers and training who gets rid of the various monsters that seem to litter his world. It kind of reads like a series of RPG scenarios – Geralt looks for work, he gets to know the Monster Of The Week’s threat, and he defeats the threat – although not necessarily in the way the GM would have thought 😉 I really liked it, although I’m suspecting I would have enjoyed it even more if I had read it over a longer period of time. Sapkowski does a great job at showing his world, I’m super curious about the main character and the people gravitating around him, and I’ll read some more for sure.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Yet another “does not meet expectations” on this month’s list (I’m starting to thing that June was the month of high expectations, and that the problem is me and not what I read :P). I was hoping either for a theory book that would talk about research on “flow”, or for something actionable/practical. Instead, I thought that this sat in the uncomfortable and not that useful middle between both. Csikszentmihalyi describes “flow” as the confluence between challenge and adequacy of skills, and he explains about activities that tend to encourage more flow, and about personalities that tend to experience more flow. There are a few points that could be considered as practical, but I felt that they have too much generality to be of any use to me. I was also bothered by his stance of Flow As The Only True Way To Happiness, and by the fact that it felt judgmental at times (although Csikszentmihalyi defends himself from being so). All in all: didn’t hit the mark for me.

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