The Monday Check-In ~ 3/4/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

What a week. Insanely busy at work, and then crazy hectic at home too. So… my reading time got squished down to almost nothing, leaving me frustrated. Boo.

What did I read during the last week?

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: I actually finished this the previous weekend, but just posted my review this week.

That Ain’t Witchcraft by Seanan McGuire: The 8th book in the super-fun InCryptid series! My review is here.

In audiobooks:

I finshed the Beka Cooper trilogy by Tamora Pierce! Loved these books so much. My series wrap-up post is here.

Also, I listened to…

The Test by Sylvain Neuvel: The audiobook version of this novella is short (2 hours, 12 minutes). I can’t say I was bored, but I thought overall that this work of speculative fiction lacked true depth, and the key plot twist is just too obvious. Not a bad way to kill a couple of hours, but certainly nowhere near the greatness of the Themis Files books.

Pop culture goodness:

What a week for theater! I ended up seeing two terrific performances this week:

What a fun production! The costumes are so eye-poppingly colorful, and the choreography was a treat too.

But the true highlight for me was seeing…

HAMILTON!!! This was my 2nd time seeing the show, and if possible, I loved it even more the 2nd time around. I saw it Saturday night, and have been walking around with a dopey grin ever since, singing my own off-key version of the songs and feeling some serious afterglow.

Oh, and I got this shirt, which makes me very happy.

Yes, I absolutely needed a Hamilton in San Francisco shirt!

Fresh Catch:

I picked up a print copy of the book I’m reading via Serial Reader, to make it easier when I need to go back and check details.

AND… it’s always a treat to get an email from Goodreads about winning a giveaway! I won a Kindle edition of this book this week:

Gorgeous cover, right? And the premise sounds amazing. Since the book doesn’t come out until September, I’ll probably hold off a bit before reading it — but I’m so excited to have a copy of my own!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

I’m bouncing between a few books right now:

  • Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: So excited to be starting this book finally.
  • Here by Richard McGuire: A graphic novel recommended to me by a friend.
  • Gmorning, Gnight! … because I’m high on Lin-Manuel Miranda right now.
Now playing via audiobook:

Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely: Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that this does not look like my sort of listen. Still, it was an Audible freebie last month, it’s under 2 1/2 hours, and what the heck? Might as well go with something quick and light before committing to one of the longer listens in my library.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing reads with my book group, plus one more on my own just for kicks:

  • A Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon: Continuing our journey through all of the Lord John books and stories.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Our group classic read.
  • The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens: I’m reading this classic via the Serial Reader app. So good! I’m now at 40%.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

Series wrap-up: The Beka Cooper trilogy by Tamora Pierce

Last year, I began a journey through the lands of Tortall, the incredibly rich and exciting fantasy world created by Tamora Pierce. This year, I continued the adventure by listening to the audiobooks of the Beka Cooper trilogy — and now that I’ve finished, I thought I’d share some thoughts.

The Beka Cooper books take place about 150 years before the beginning of the Song of the Lioness quartet, Tamora Pierce’s first Tortall books, which introduce the young squire who would grow up to become Lady Knight Alanna. The Beka books were published after the Alanna, Daine, Kel, and Aly books, yet they are chronologically the first books in terms of the kingdom of Tortall. I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure about going back into the kingdom’s past and the pre-Alanna days… but I can tell you now that these books are very much worth it!

Beka Cooper herself is a wonderful lead character, everything we could hope for in a young female protagonist. In terms of how these books relate to the (chronologically) later books in the Tortall universe, Beka is George Cooper’s ancestor. That’s about all you need to know, but it does tie together quite nicely.

The story of Beka Cooper:

 

In book #1, Terrier, Beka is a young woman just starting out as a “puppy” (trainee) in the Provost’s Guard — the kingdom’s law enforcement department, whose members are referred to as “dogs”. Beka is smart and strong, from the poorest neighborhood of the capital city of Corus, raised in poverty until she and her siblings became wards of the Lord Provost himself, Lord Gershom. As an untested puppy, Beka is paired with Tunstall and Goodwin, two highly respected and experienced dogs, and before long she proves herself in a variety of street fights and arrests. Besides her fighting skills and sharp eye for clues, Beka has a touch of magic: She converses with the spirits of the dead, who come to her attached to the city’s pigeons, and she can also converse with dust spinners — the funnels of swirling dust that show up on street corners, collecting and then sharing with Beka the random bits of conversation they pick up from passers-by. Over the course of her puppy year, Beka becomes embroiled in a life-threatening search for a murderer, digging into the corruption polluting the highest levels of money and power in the lower city.

In the 2nd book, Bloodhound, Beka is no longer a puppy but a fully qualified dog. Here, she is assigned with her partner Clary Goodwin to track down the influx of counterfeit coins that threaten to undermine the entire kingdom. Beka goes on the hunt with Goodwin to track down the counterfeiters, along the way making enemies of the criminal kingpin of a nearby town, but also finding herself romantically involved with a handsome gambler who may or may not be trustworthy.

Finally, in book #3, Mastiff, we rejoin Beka a few years later, still working as a dog and with the reputation of being one of the most talented and determined. She’s committed to fighting injustice and keeping people safe, especially those who can’t fight for themselves. When an attack is made on the royal family, Beka and Tunstall are sent out to track the evildoers, in a case that involves high treason and the realm’s most dangerous and powerful mages.

These books are long and complicated… and I just can’t say enough good things about them! My daughter has pushed me to read them for years, but the first few times I picked up Terrier, I was put off by the language. Tamora Pierce gives her characters a street language that’s rich and flavorful, but which at first glance seemed too out-there to me. When I finally gave it a chance, though, I ended up loving it. Probably listening to the audiobooks helped — I was able to get the feel of the words and their rhythm without getting too stuck on reading written dialect. It’s helpful, though, to keep a hard copy of the books on hand even if listening to the audio version, since the printed books include a glossary at the back, and it’s essential, especially when first entering Beka’s world.

Beyond the amazing language of the books, Beka herself is a wonderful character. Like many of Pierce’s heroines, she has an affinity for animals, and cat Pounce and dog Achoo become major characters in their own way over the course of the three books. Likewise, the supporting characters are fully developed, so we’re left in no doubt about their essences, values, skills, etc — except for the cases where someone’s motive are meant to be questionable, of course.

Pierce doesn’t shy away from sexual relationships, although thankfully she doesn’t seem to feel the need to give us anatomy lessons. Beka and others have sexual relationships as part of their natural lives, not a big deal, no moralizing or agonizing over whether to do it or not. Young women like Beka get charms to prevent pregnancy when they become sexually active, and that’s that. No fuss, no muss. Beka retains full agency over her body and her choices, and it’s a low-key message of empowerment that’s woven into the overall story.

By setting the books so much earlier than the other Tortallian books, we get a glimpse of how certain facets of life in the later (chronologically; earlier by publishing date) books came about. In the Beka books, women are well represented in law enforcement as well as among the knighthood — yet in the Alanna books, it’s considered unheard of for women to become knights, something that hasn’t happened in centuries. So how did the kingdom go from a fairly progressive stance toward women in combat or physical roles toward the idea that women must be proper ladies relegated to fashion, etiquette, embroidery, and other ladylike pursuits? We get a hint of the origins of this change in Mastiff, as Beka travels to one of the kingdom’s fiefdoms where the cult of the Gentle Mother seems to be taking hold — setting the standard that fighting is for men and that women’s greatest joy lies in hearth and home. Likewise, we see how the kingdom moves from a land that tolerates the slave trade to one where slavery is outlawed, thanks to the events initiated in this trilogy. It’s really fascinating to see the seeds here for the changes that are so apparent in the books set later in the kingdom’s history.

The audiobooks are narrated by Susan Denaker, who does an amazing job with the character voices, capturing the regional accents of characters from different geographical and ethnic backgrounds, as well as the language and slang differences in the dialogue of characters from different social strata, from street thugs to children of lower city slums to the nobility and even royalty.

Lots of Beka books in my house!

I really, truly adored getting to know Beka, who instantly jumped onto my ever-growing list of favorite fictional characters of all time. I’m absolutely loving my adventures in the world created by Tamora Pierce. Fortunately, I still have a few books to go!

Want to read my other Tortall series wrap-up posts? Here are the links:
Song of the Lioness (Alanna)
The Immortals (Daine)
Protector of the Small (Kel)
Daughter of the Lioness (Aly)

_________________________________

Book details:

Terrier – published 2006
Bloodhound – published 2009
Mastiff – published 2011
Save

The Monday Check-In ~ 2/25/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

So my son (very dedicated to his anti-book stance), now a high school student, casually dropped at dinner this week: “Hey, mom, that author was at school this week. You know, the guy that wrote that Scythe book.” Me: *freaking out* *freaking out* *freaking out*

He mentions this to me days after the fact! And said (grudgingly) that the talk was interesting. And that he (Neal Shusterman) talked for about an hour. And talked about writing Challenger Deep, which I really need to read.

I swear, school is wasted on the young! I wish I could have transported my consciousness into the body of one of the students for the day so I could have been in the audience. Sigh.

What did I read during the last week?

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls: I wrote about reading this children’s classic (as well as Anne of Green Gables) here.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: A powerful, multi-generational family drama set in Korea and Japan. This 500-page book took up most of my reading time this week! I’ll post a review in the next few days, I hope.

Fresh Catch:

Nada! No book purchases this week.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

That Ain’t Witchraft (InCryptid, #8) by Seanan McGuire: I’d intended to start this last week, but then got side-tracked by Pachinko and ran out of time. I’m so excited to be starting this book! I love the series so far.

Now playing via audiobook:

Mastiff (Beka Cooper, #3) by Tamora Pierce: The trouble with listening to a great book is getting close to the end, dying to know what happens, but not having enough listening time to actually finish. I’m at 83%, and I’m so tempted to switch to print so I can race through the big finale! But nope… I’m going to practice a little self-restraint and stick to the audio. For now.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing reads with my book group, plus one more on my own just for kicks:

  • A Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon: Continuing our journey through all of the Lord John books and stories.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Our group classic read. The writing is so beautiful.
  • The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens: I’m reading this classic via the Serial Reader app, and love it so far. I’m at about 25%.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 2/18/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev: My book group’s February pick. My review is here.

The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman: A new release for this week. My review is here.

Golden State by Ben H. Winters: Weird and wonderful. Finished late Sunday. My mini-review is here.

Fresh Catch:

I treated myself to the newest book by Charlie Jane Anders. Looks amazing!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

I have two books on the go right now:

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls: Filling in yet another gap from my childhood reading.

That Ain’t Witchraft (InCryptid, #8) by Seanan McGuire: Love, love, love this series (and pretty much everything written ever by Seanan McGuire). I’m so excited to be starting the newest InCryptid adventure!

Now playing via audiobook:

Mastiff (Beka Cooper, #3) by Tamora Pierce: The third and final Beka Cooper book… and I’m loving it!

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing reads with my book group, plus one more on my own just for kicks:

  • A Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon: Continuing our journey through all of the Lord John books and stories.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Our group classic read. The audiobook version is fantastic.
  • The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens: It’s been a while since I’ve used my Serial Reader app (which is awesome — see here for more info). I’ve been wanting more Dickens in my life, and figure that 10 – 12 minutes a day is a reasonable investment!

So many books, so little time…

boy1

Thursday Quotables: Terrier (Beka Cooper, #1)

quotation-marks4

Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

13829

Terrier by Tamora Pierce
(published 2006)

This week’s Thursday Quotables selection comes courtesy of my daughter, who is home for winter break and is reading (for the 1,000th time?) one of her favorite books by a favorite author.

“I’ll kiss them and make them better,” he said when he saw my bruises.

I slid one foot back to balance myself and raised my arms, hands fisted, into blocking positions. “Try and I’ll bruise you.” I actually said it out loud.

Intrigued? Here’s the synopsis for Terrier, via Goodreads:

Hundreds of years before Alanna first drew her sword in Tamora Pierce’s memorable debut, Alanna: The First Adventure, Tortall had a heroine named Beka Cooper – a fierce young woman who fights crime in a world of magic. This is the beginning of her story, her legend, and her legacy….

Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost’s Guard, commonly known as “the Provost’s Dogs,” in Corus, the capital city of Tortall. To the surprise of both the veteran “Dogs” and her fellow “puppies,” Beka requests duty in the Lower City. The Lower City is a tough beat. But it’s also where Beka was born, and she’s comfortable there.

Beka gets her wish. She’s assigned to work with Mattes and Clary, famed veterans among the Provost’s Dogs. They’re tough, they’re capable, and they’re none too happy about the indignity of being saddled with a puppy for the first time in years. What they don’t know is that Beka has something unique to offer. Never much of a talker, Beka is a good listener. So good, in fact, that she hears things that Mattes and Clary never could – information that is passed in murmurs when flocks of pigeons gather … murmurs that are the words of the dead.

In this way, Beka learns of someone in the Lower City who has overturned the power structure of the underworld and is terrorizing its citizens into submission and silence. Beka’s magical listening talent is the only way for the Provost’s Dogs to find out the identity of this brutal new underlord, for the dead are beyond fear. And the ranks of the dead will be growing if the Dogs can’t stop a crime wave the likes of which has never been seen. Luckily for the people of the Lower City, the new puppy is a true terrier!

 

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!