Well *that* was a hell of a morning

So. Wow. This morning was a whirlwind of emotions. I may have cried a little bit when they announced Biden’s win (our first female Vice President and our first Black and first South Asian Vice President??) and then my mom called, I assumed to give me a high-five over the phone, but she was calling because my granny is in the hospital with covid and isn’t expected to make it. I have mixed feelings because I love my granny and I hate that she is alone in the hospital and that we can’t be there and that people still aren’t taking this seriously, but I also am grateful that she’s unconscious and is not suffering. She has dementia and in the last year she’s asked for her parents over and over so we know she’s ready and it will be a blessing if it’s fast and easy. The strange and terribly complicated feelings of living through this time…I dunno. I don’t think I have the right words. The world is complicated. And so am I. And so are you.

On the Fantastic Strangelings Facebook page yesterday I said we’d start discussing Deadly Education but then all this happened and I thought I’d put it off until tomorrow but then I remembered that I’ve already told you that the very person who inspires the choices of books for this club? Is my granny. And she would be like, “Jenny-girl, get to work and do something fun!” and then she’d swat me outside so that she could get on with her own strange book. And she’s totally right.

So let’s start talking. If you don’t use Facebook you can totally leave your thoughts in the comments here. And, as always, no worries if you haven’t read the book yet. There are no rules in book club. The discussion stays open forever. And my thoughts on the book are in the comments.

PS. Did I tell you what November’s book is? Because it is FABULOUS. And I know it sounds weird but TRUST ME that it is fascinating and smart and oddly funny at times and the discussion we’re going to have will even involve the time I tried to rescue a decapitated head from my work. WHO DOESN’T WANT TO HEAR THAT? Answer: Probably a lot of people. But pretty much all of the people who listen to true-crime podcasts will want to hear it and those are my people.

It’s Dark Archives (A Librarian’s Investigation into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin) by Megan Rosenbloom.

And I may have bought too many for the shop considering we are still not open to the public because of the plague, so if you are an honorary strangeling and buy your books one at a time we totally have some in stock that we can ship to you if you can’t find it at your local bookstore. Click here for a summary and to read all the praise it’s getting because I’m not doing it justice.

Happy reading!

And take care of each other out there.

90 thoughts on “Well *that* was a hell of a morning

Read comments below or add one.

  1. Okay…here there be spoilers:

    I loved this book so much. In fact, after I read it I bought several more of her books and now I understand why people were so surprised I’d never found her before because her stories and so well written. (Uprooted, in particular, was a fave.)

    I thought it was perfect combo of light and dark and funny and scary and I could see it as I was reading it, which is always a good sign. It was just plain enjoyable, which was wonderful during a time when I needed distraction.

    Okay, so here are my thoughts on the details. The world building was incredible and I loved how I only recognized about half of the monsters because it let me build the ones I’d never heard of (hissingale?) in my head.

    The dialogue was so perfectly sarcastic teen and I literally laughed out loud at some of it. When it was over I missed the characters immediately. I have also started calling Victor “You absolute doorknob” when he makes me mad and I think it’s now a permanent part of my vocabulary.

    There was a bit of controversy about this book that you might have missed but I actually think it’s a really good learning opportunity so I thought I’d mention it. If you’ve read the book you already know that almost every paragraph involves monsters and world-building but one of those was a mention about how people try to shave their heads or cut their hair as close as they can without getting so close that the scissors (which might be mal) have a chance to stab you in the throat and that locs were a bad idea because lockleeches could infest them and suck out your brains. I follow a lot of POC book reviewers and some said this was totally fine world-building and others said it continued the false and sorta racist idea that locs are dirty. Naomi answered the challenge by recognizing the issue, apologizing without getting defensive and making the decision to change future prints of the book, which is a really lovely response.

    A few of my favorite parts of the book: the idea that magic works because of belief…that if you don’t believe or others don’t believe in you you can’t do magic. The idea of finally finding your people, which I think we all struggle with sometimes and the pain of needing someone even when you never want to be vulnerable enough to need someone.

    I especially loved the ethical questioning of privilege…like how the enclavers didn’t even know there was a maintenance track and how their well-meaning idea that we all have the same chances isn’t accurate. This line by El especially, “I can’t pretend that because I didn’t grow up in that lie.”

    I loved that the characters were all complicated. None of them entirely good or bad. All with the power to make their own decisions and learn from them. (Especially the decision of El to run into the mawmouth even when she knew she didn’t have to. Having power and the urge to use that power but still being responsible in your choices…that was inspiring and went back to the idea of nature vs nurture and the thought that we can all become more than who the universe wants us to become.

    A few of my favorite lines…”my mom taught me to be polite to rejects because it’s stupid to close doors, and suspicious of people who are too nice because they want more from you than they are letting on.” “Now I was worrying I’d be turned to the darkside by too much crochet.” “We have to gamble with our lives in here, we don’t get a choice about that; the trick is figuring out when it’s worth taking a bet.” And of course, “You absolute doorknob”.

    Man, I guess I had more to say about this book than I thought.

  2. I’m so sorry to hear about your grandma. We’re still taking the virus seriously at our house: staying home, wearing masks when we do have to go out, social distancing. My mom is 93 & as much as we miss spending quality time with her (usually thrifting & having lunch), we’re trying to make sure she (and we!) are still around to do that post-covid.

    <3

  3. Very sorry you can’t be with your granny.

    I was in your library talk last night and immediately after went over to Nowhere and bought Dark Archives. Thank you, by the way, for being so brave and for sharing so much. I’m not sure you can realize how much it means to your fellow travelers down dark roads.

  4. Love to you and your family at this time. It is a blessing if her passing is easy, but it is NEVER easy for us. Wishing you comfort and courage during these strange times. <3

  5. Hugs. I’m so sorry for your grandma, but I’m hopeful she will have no pain and be reunited with her parents soon. Virtual hugs.

  6. Sorry you can’t be with your granny.

    Thank you for the talk last night. I don’t know if you can realize how much it means to your fellow travelers down the dark roads – the way you bring laughter to suffering.
    And, immediately after I went over to Nowhere and ordered my own copy of Dark Archives.

  7. Oh goodness, I’m so sorry to hear about your granny. It really is a huge amount of mixed feelings when you know they are ‘ready’ but it’s so hard anyways (and not being able to be there with her!).

    I’ve been steadfastly ignoring the election coverage for my own sanity, so your post is actually how I just found out the news! Wow. Awesome.

  8. Oh yes, a whirlwind of emotions but I ma sorry re your Granny and she is NOT suffering. That book sounds like crazy! crazy! Love to you.

  9. I know you likely don’t need to hear it, but is okay to have mixed, complicated feelings about your granny. My grandma went very quickly a few years ago ago after developing dementia, and I wanted more time, but didn’t want her to suffer and also felt that she hadn’t really been grandma for a while if that makes sense. I wish you could be with her and hope that her path is easy and her memory will be a blessing. Will be thinking of you.

  10. We lost my granddad earlier this year to dementia and I still haven’t moved past it. We spent the last two years watching home slowly decline until it wasn’t slow anymore but a sprint. It was long but short. When he passed, there was a very complicated sense of relief. I’m sorry for what you and your family are going through.

  11. Sending best wishes to you and your family, Jenny. I’m sorry about your granny. Mine had dementia for the last several years of her life as well and it was indeed heartbreaking.

    It was lovely to watch you last night, by the way. You are a beautiful person and although you did indeed look wonderful, I’m not referring to your appearance. Thank you for everything.

    I knew I would be happy when Biden’s win was finally announced, but I didn’t expect the waves of sheer, unadulterated relief that I’ve been feeling all afternoon. The stress caused by the Delusional Orange and his monstrous enablers had become a background misery I was no longer conscious of feeling. Now it’s lifting…

    Stay safe!

  12. My dear Jenny I am so sorry to hear about your Granny. It’s so hard to let people go, even when perhaps that’s best for them. I’m sending your whole family love and thinking of you. I’m the praying kind, I’ll say a prayer for you all.

  13. Jenny, so sorry to hear about your grandma. Thank you also for the lovely reading you did the other day online–I had a lot of fun! I am thrilled that Trump got fired, but I wish these stupid ass people celebrating, because they are putting themselves & others at risk. We’re the ones who know Covid is real, right? I understand the need to celebrate, but we need to do it safely!!! Here’s to hoping for… I don’t know… better?

  14. I am sorry to hear about your grandma; I hope her journey is quick and painless. I know how it is when it’s time and everybody knows it but it’s still so very sad. Virtual hugs from me to you and yours.

    But I can’t help but be over the moon about the election! I feel physically and emotionally lighter than I did when I got up this morning.

  15. So sorry that your granny is ailing and alone. That is so hard. Wishing you strength and comfort.

    I enjoyed your interview and reading through the library last night.

  16. Im so sorry about your Granny. You and your family are in my thoughts.

    I absolutely loved this book and will be buying the rest of the series as it comes out. I’m really looking forward to finding more of her books as well!

    I don’t normally like books that have words where the author knows what they mean, but never tells you and just assumes you know, but the world building and characters were so fantastic in this, I barely noticed those words.

    Thanks for picking out such a fantastic book. I’m way behind on my other books from this book club, but I’m really looking forward to November’s selection!

  17. I’m so sorry to hear about your granny. I lost my dad to dementia, so I understand how the sadness can be mixed with relief.

    But also, I shed some tears of relief today, too, when they announced Biden and Harris’ win. When Hilary lost, my mom said, “I’m going to die without ever seeing a female president.” And now we’re one step closer. I actually found a little hope that I’d been hiding and pretending wasn’t there for the last few months.

    Hugs to your family, Jenny, and hugs to all of the bloggess tribe. You are all wonderful, caring, thoughtful people, and I’m grateful you’re in the world.

  18. Jenny, I’m so sorry about your granny.
    It’s a lot of feelings. Feel them all and remember the good memories of her.

    In regards to the book. I’m loving it! It’s so imaginative and sassy! It’s my birthday tomorrow and I’m letting myself do whatever I want – and what I want is to curl up with this book and finish diving into the world Novik has created and just lose myself to this incredible world of magic, with all its complicated characters.

    Thank you for this book club. Love to you and your family. Xo

  19. I loved this book so much, I started rereading as soon as I’d finished, and then did the same thing when I finished the second time. One of the things that I loved the most about it is that El is constantly, regularly having to choose NOT to be evil, when it would be so easy to be evil. That’s bizarrely how I feel about living in this time. Every time I feel the hate rising, the desire to wish all the stupid people dead, I fight it in myself. I don’t want to be a hater, I don’t want to be someone who is so angry that I actually hope Mitch McConnell gets covid and dies (I do hope he gets covid and dies, but I don’t want to be that person.) And here’s El, it would be so, so easy for her to just accept the path of evil, but she’s not going to, even if it’s going to kill her. That moment when (spoiler) and she realizes that she’s going to die first, that she’s just flat-out too stubborn to go the dark side made me want to cry. I’m not sure there’s ever been another time when I could so completely relate to a character who is desperately trying not to become evil, but I sure related to her last month. And loved her, deeply, deeply. And I’m so sorry about your grandmother. Even when death is a release, it’s still painful.

  20. I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. I lost mine earlier this year and completely understand the mixed emotions of sadness and relief you are feeling. It’s never easy. Sending you and your family big virtual hugs and love from NY all the way down to TX.

    To brighten your day a bit, turn to Twitter and watch all the celebrations happening around the world right now. While I’m not leaving my house to celebrate the Biden/Harris win, it makes me feel happy and warm inside to see the joyous reactions of others.

  21. Hi Jenny! Loved last nights book/mental health talk! I was totally fan girling!! You were so funny and fascinating! Facinunny! I saw they were recording it, and was wondering where the recording might be able to be replayed?

  22. I am so happy your Grandma is so very dear & precious & shared her wonderful love of books with you thru your years.

  23. I’m sorry to hear about your granny, and I wish you and your family strength to deal with whatever happens. I am happy about the political news, but I won’t rest easy until late next January.

    I loved the book on so many levels. The world building and character building are fantastic. I loved El’s voice. I thoroughly enjoyed the book on its most basic story level, but then enjoyed it again when considering the subtext about power and privilege. I indentified with El when reading the story (I think everyone will — she is such a well written character!), but when I thought about the book afterwards, I realized that I am much more like Chloe, which is. . . not something to aspire to. I loved that El (and the author) recognized the complexity of a system built upon privilege, and the difficulties of changing the system as both an outsider (like El) or an insider (like Chloe). But I still never rooted for Chloe — she kind of did the minimum necessary required to be a decent human being. But that makes me question how I deal with my own privilege. What more could I be doing, such that someone reading my story might root for me?

    I can’t wait to see where the story goes in the next book, and the book after. I suspect it will have something to do with reframing things as more than a zero-sum game. If the monsters have to eat someone, then your chance to stay safe really does involve making sure others are kept down. But if the monsters are incinerated, then everyone has a chance for success. I just wish I knew what monsters we need to incinerate in our own reality, to get beyond our society’s issues with privilege.

  24. We have immortality in the sense that part of us will continue to live through our descendants. Not just DNA, but how they touched our lives. May your Granny’s spirit live long in your hearts and memories.

  25. Take comfort in your loving memories of your grandmother as she slips beyond the veil. You will always miss her but she will always be alive in your heart
    This book is absolutely mesmerizing but the ending was just killer. I immediately looked at the book jacket, wishing it was part of a series but I can only hope she writes another!

  26. Jenny,

    I too grieve at the passing of your grandmother. What a bittersweet sop to an historic day. There’s nothing like a grandmother, and the loss will leave a hole in your world, so mourning, even today, is what your grandmother deserves. Mostly I love how complex we all are, but sometimes it would be nice to give our souls a break.

    Right now all I can feel is relief. After the last — how long has it been? Millennia? — of trauma and tragedy my brain is having a hard time switching tracks.

    I hope we can rebuild our country, our respect for each other, our willingness to listen to each other.

    About the book: what a great choice! And I’m so excited for my first Strangelings discussion! I confess that at the beginning I thought, “Oh no. Not another magic boarding school book.” But this one had distinctive take. Like Jenny, I was struck by the evocative names of the monsters. I think Naomi (do we get to call her Naomi?) ought to start some kind of virtual gallery (not on Facebook or Instagram) where people can post drawings of what they think the monsters look like.

    I also thought getting rid of all adults was a bold move. It allowed the teens to stand out as people in their own right in a way that we might not have seen if they were constantly being treated as children. But I’m not clear why the school was designed to be so dangerous and threatening. I would have liked to have heard from students other than El about the dangers on the outside that make being in the Scholomance (another great word) a preferable option.

    You mention the way the kids usually keep their hair as short as possible. I noticed that the postcard that came with my copy of the book depicted the three girls as having long hair. Hmm. Someone didn’t read the book carefully.

    You wrote “I follow a lot of POC book reviewers and some said this was totally fine world-building and others said it continued the false and sorta racist idea that locs are dirty. Naomi answered the challenge by recognizing the issue, apologizing without getting defensive and making the decision to change future prints of the book, which is a really lovely response.” First, I’d be interested to follow some of those reviewers too. Care to share some names? And I share your admiration for Naomi’s willingness to see that that passage was harmful. I’m surprised it got past the editors.

    “The idea of finally finding your people, which I think we all struggle with sometimes and the pain of needing someone even when you never want to be vulnerable enough to need someone.” That part resonated with me too. But another thing about which I wondered was when El gets the — shoot; memory lapse. The pretty book that has the spells for making enclaves, the one that’s supposed to distract her from the mawmouth. I can’t find the name quickly enough in the book. Anyway, I was surprised that El doesn’t start thinking about working to establish a rebel, egalitarian enclave.

    Also, really: is there no way for them to make clothes? And why can’t parents send care-packages? This is magic and there’s a weight limit?

    And I did love the part where the girls are talking about sex and the mal the boys have in their pants. (By the way, trying to talk about this book is driving the spell-checker crazy.) I liked the different ways the various mothers “prepared” their daughters for encounters with young men. I was a little surprised at how heterosexual the book seemed to be. Our am I misremembering?

    I thought the power structures were fascinating. Besides the enclaves (as Jenny pointed out, “I especially loved the ethical questioning of privilege…like how the enclavers didn’t even know there was a maintenance track and how their well-meaning idea that we all have the same chances isn’t accurate. This line by El especially, “I can’t pretend that because I didn’t grow up in that lie.”), but also the infiltration of a British school by Americans, whose money/power had become essential for the existence of the school. I’d have liked to have read more about that as well.

    The ending was unexpected too. I gather we’re supposed to understand that El really did manage to communicate with her mother in that dream? I’m also. Looking forward to learning more about El’s mom and how knowing her pedigree will change her experience at the school.

    I don’t promise not to think of more to say later, but I’ll stop here and take a breath.

    What did other people think?

  27. I’m sorry for your Granny. She sounds like my kind of gal, and she passed on some amazing traits to you, her legacy. My eighty-six year old mother, Mildred, has been recently diagnosed with sundowners dementia. Dammit anyhow.

    I wish I had time to be a part of your Deadly Education chat, but I am swamped being a non-deadly educator. I am teaching like 70,000 high school students this year (sorta) in both brick-and-mortar and cyber in my rural school district in Northwestern Pennsylvania.

    Someday, probably summer, my duties will lessen and I will reclaim the clock. I’m happy to check in when I can .

    God bless, Granny. God bless, America. God bless us, Everyone.

  28. Kim,

    I love your comment that you “can’t wait to see where the story goes in the next book, and the book after. I suspect it will have something to do with reframing things as more than a zero-sum game. If the monsters have to eat someone, then your chance to stay safe really does involve making sure others are kept down. But if the monsters are incinerated, then everyone has a chance for success. I just wish I knew what monsters we need to incinerate in our own reality, to get beyond our society’s issues with privilege.”

    Your closing comment is all too pertinent and that is, indeed, a conversation we need to start having. Not only do we have to be able to identify those monsters, we have to start finding the power to slay them and being willing to make sacrifices to jump down their maws.

    I think that one aspect of that scene that’s worth remembering is that to kill the maw mouth, El had to kill all the lives that it had consumed and was keeping in horrible stasis. There’s a moral ambiguity there, a recognition that often there are no clean and easy solutions, no rescue from the beasts without loss of some kind of life.

  29. Donna Lucas,

    My hat is off to you. My husband is also a junior and senior high school teacher and you all are working under impossible conditions. Thank you.

  30. I’m sorry to hear about your grandma. It sounds like you have a lot of sweet memories of your time with her. It is natural to have mixed feelings surrounding her crossing over, but, obviously, you want what is best for her.

    This last week I have been keeping a close watch on the news. When I checked for the latest election update this morning, I saw that the Biden/Harris ticket had won! After yelling YES several times and many fist pumps, I contacted friends and family who are delighted, too.

  31. Jenny, I am so sorry to hear about your granny. I hope she continues to inspire you for years to come. I’ll be praying for peace and comfort for you and your family

  32. Best post ever. I’m sorry for your granny but girl, your whirlwind of emotions.. yeah us too thanks for speaking your truth

  33. Hearing about your granny asking for her parents reminds me of my grandpa’s “girlfriend” (both had dementia). She was very particular about her appearance, so we’d alway compliment her outfit and she’d always smile so sweetly and say “My mommy made it for me.”

  34. I’m so sorry for you in this time of insanity having to face the impending loss of your granny. I’ve had several relatives lost to dementia and a coworker who lost her ability to remember within months to frontal lobe dementia. It’s a loss that you never quite get over, because the person who you knew goes away before they pass away, so it’s like losing them twice. You’ll have the comfort of knowing that she left you wonderful memories and the gift of the love of reading. There’s also the comfort of her not having been aware of how crazy the past few years have been, and the relief that the new administration will be a lot more sane in their approach to fighting this pandemic. My prayers for your granny’s easy painless passing to the next world and joining with her beloved ones. My hopes that this change in administration will start the healing in our country and the world. I want to urge compassion for the supporters of the current administration, they’ve been duped and manipulated and lied to, and they will be struggling with reconciling with the changes to come. May peace and healing grace us all.

  35. Hugs to you! I have some idea of what you are going through. My mom had Alzheimer’s, & died in September. She was at home & we were able to be w her, which made it a little easier. Be kind to yourself! 💜

  36. I’m so sorry to hear about your Granny. I hope her transition, whenever it takes place, is peaceful and painless. I wish you could be with her, but it sounds like she’s moved on already anyway.

    I knew Friday morning that Biden/Harris’s win was going to happen. I felt excited instead of anxious for the first time in weeks. It’s like I have ESPN or something 🤣

    You’ve made this book sound really great – I don’t know about world building; sometimes that bores me – but I’m always here for sarcastic dialogue and will only read things that make me laugh these days. I look forward to reading it!

  37. I’m sorry about your grandma. My grandma who was lucid until the last days of her life talked to me near the end about feeling the presence of her mom, who had died 40 years prior. So interesting. I hope your grandma, and your whole family, feels at peace in this hard time. So much hope for our country 💗

  38. How touching that Granny has been asking for her parents. Sorry you can’t be with her. I just finished a book and need to start a new one. Hmm . . . glad for the recommendations.

  39. I am sorry to hear about your grandmother. I lost a grandmother to Alzheimer’s and it’s such a mixture of sadness and relief when it’s finally over.

    We were driving when the news hit this morning about Biden and harris, and I legitimately had to pull into a parking lot for a minute to weep into the steering wheel

  40. I am sprry to hear about your grandmother but I’m glad it aounds like she’s not suffering.

    Teara were also shed here over biden and harris. So glad to break the glass with a lady minority vp!!

  41. So sorry to hear about your grandmother. My mom has a form of dementia and it is so hard to watch them fade away long before they leave this world.

    I will get my hands on a copy of Dark Archives.

  42. Awwww Miss, I’m so sorry about your granny. It sucks but like you I hope it’s quick and painless and I hope your family consoles themselves with all of their wonderful memories. Peace

  43. I’m so sorry about Granny. It is a tender release when they’re ready to go. Thank you for the book recommendation – it’s just my cup of champagne and I wouldn’t have discovered it if it weren’t for you. Ordered from the Nowhere Bookstore because all indie bookstores deserve all the love.

  44. I’m sorry to hear about your grandma. Everyone said such wonderful sentiments and I’m having one of those days when the words don’t come into my head, so I’d like to convey all that has already been said.

  45. I so enjoyed your posts and your great sarcastic sense of humor! Sadly today political views were aired. Which was never the goal (for me atleast.) Gonna have to un-subscribe.

  46. I thought that you would be crashing this morning from your library talk last night and then mix in the election…but to add your granny being ill on top of everything…too much!! I loved the zoom session last night and i just think that you are so amazing and lovely and just crazy enough to make all the rest of us crazies feel cool and loved! Much love and light Jenny 🥰

  47. First, I’m so so sorry about your granny and I hope that everything is easier.

    Second- I’ve really wanted to talk to people about this particular book, particularly because I found Uprooted by accident right before discovering A Deadly education, and I LOVED it, ant also Spinning Silver, and the Temereire Series has gotten me through this election. So I guess maybe I had EXPECTATIONS about this book, which shows up right on time.

    I’m disappointed in the YA “killer high school” trope. There’s not much to this book, no weaving of multiple story strands together, no fresh takes, and not a ton of relationship building. The food sucks. The popular kids are jerks, except the most pretty popular boy, who is so pure and heroic and stupid. Pretty boy, who is so one dimensional I’ve already forgotten his name. I had forgotten El’s also, but she’s been mentioned already in the other reviews. The Mals get boring. Everything is trying to kill everyone, the high school love triangle, etc. I’ll read the next one, but that is only because I’m hoping that it will be better.

    I like the idea of the magic being something that everyone has to believe in, and the school could have been so much more interesting, were it not for the fact that it is also where everything evil hangs out and a girl, locked tight in a (I’m sure eventually) love triangle, who is soooo sooooo sooo cool (eye roll) and so sooo sooo powerful, is going to save the day.

    Ugh.

    This seems like the book where an awesome author just jumped the shark. In fact, pretty sure El is going to actually jump an actual shark, somewhere in this series. Is this satire?

  48. Hi Jenny!! Having my regular “why isn’t anything going the way it’s supposed to” rant myself!. Blew my back out and had radical reconstructive surgery on both feet and things are going a bit wonky.
    Will try to get a copy of the Dark… forgot the rest, I’m sorry. Gonna look on Amazon and my personal favorite ThriftBooks.com!
    Love you, the work you do and your picks for the month!
    Please have a blessed day and remember to always be kind to yourself too! Cats Rule 🙌🐈!
    Kentucky sends love and light!
    Ready in the Blink of an eye,
    Tina Barlow 🐈🎶🙏

  49. I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. COVID just adds so much more complication to a sad and stressful situation. I hope her passing is peaceful, and that you find some comfort in knowing she is finally able to rest her mind, body and soul.

    Thinking of you and your family.

    Also, I ordered Dark Archives from the library… can’t wait to read it! And thanks for answering my question at the live event… I had a horrible depression-y day, and that literally made my day.

  50. I am SO sorry to hear about your granny. I am still crying over how she was asking for her parents. I am sending so many hugs to you.

  51. So sorry about your granny. What wonderful memories you have of her. My gramma passed in May, she had bad dementia and often forgot who my mom was (her daughter). It was a sad blessing she passed. I love you, WE love you. And we’re here for you.

  52. Ordinarily YA and any kind of boarding school wouldn’t be of interest, but as a long time Naomi Novik fan, there was no question of passing it up. I LOVED IT. El worked so hard to be more, to be fair, despite all the putdown from fellow students and most of the people in her life. She was so hurt and fragile and powerful, all at the same time. And, without giving anything away, that note she received at the end? Perfect.

  53. Rebecca,

    I’ve copied your comments below so I can respond to them more easily.

    REBECCA: “I’m disappointed in the YA “killer high school” trope. There’s not much to this book, no weaving of multiple story strands together, no fresh takes, and not a ton of relationship building.”
    ME: Even though I enjoyed the book, your points make sense to me. I din’t miss the strand-weaving so much; it’s done so often that a straight-forward narrative is rather refreshing to me. But the “killer high school” or cruel boarding school situation has also become too common. I think it’s fair to say that the relationship-building comes later than it should in the novel. In some ways, the purpose of this book feels as if it to set up the next one.

    REBECCA: “The food sucks.”
    ME: Yes! Why is that?

    REBECCA: “I’ll read the next one, but that is only because I’m hoping that it will be better.”
    ME: I’m going to be very interested to see where the next one goes, now that the story got warmed up in this first installment.

    REBECCA: “This seems like the book where an awesome author just jumped the shark. In fact, pretty sure El is going to actually jump an actual shark, somewhere in this series. Is this satire?”
    Me: I think there is an element of satire in it, a commentary on the Harry Potter series especially. But it might have been better if it had been a stronger and clearer trope. Novik brings in LOTR with El’s full name, and I would have liked to have learned more about the significance of that to both the story and to El’s personally.

    Ruth

  54. I’m reposting my first set of comments just because I see that it’s attributed to “Anonymous,” and I don’t know why. Obviously my computer hates me.
    *****************************

    Jenny,

    I too grieve at the passing of your grandmother. What a bittersweet sop to an historic day. There’s nothing like a grandmother, and the loss will leave a hole in your world, so mourning, even today, is what your grandmother deserves. Mostly I love how complex we all are, but sometimes it would be nice to give our souls a break.

    Right now all I can feel is relief. After the last — how long has it been? Millennia? — of trauma and tragedy my brain is having a hard time switching tracks.

    I hope we can rebuild our country, our respect for each other, our willingness to listen to each other.

    About the book: what a great choice! And I’m so excited for my first Strangelings discussion! I confess that at the beginning I thought, “Oh no. Not another magic boarding school book.” But this one had distinctive take. Like Jenny, I was struck by the evocative names of the monsters. I think Naomi (do we get to call her Naomi?) ought to start some kind of virtual gallery (not on Facebook or Instagram) where people can post drawings of what they think the monsters look like.

    I also thought getting rid of all adults was a bold move. It allowed the teens to stand out as people in their own right in a way that we might not have seen if they were constantly being treated as children. But I’m not clear why the school was designed to be so dangerous and threatening. I would have liked to have heard from students other than El about the dangers on the outside that make being in the Scholomance (another great word) a preferable option.

    You mention the way the kids usually keep their hair as short as possible. I noticed that the postcard that came with my copy of the book depicted the three girls as having long hair. Hmm. Someone didn’t read the book carefully.

    You wrote “I follow a lot of POC book reviewers and some said this was totally fine world-building and others said it continued the false and sorta racist idea that locs are dirty. Naomi answered the challenge by recognizing the issue, apologizing without getting defensive and making the decision to change future prints of the book, which is a really lovely response.” First, I’d be interested to follow some of those reviewers too. Care to share some names? And I share your admiration for Naomi’s willingness to see that that passage was harmful. I’m surprised it got past the editors.

    “The idea of finally finding your people, which I think we all struggle with sometimes and the pain of needing someone even when you never want to be vulnerable enough to need someone.” That part resonated with me too. But another thing about which I wondered was when El gets the — shoot; memory lapse. The pretty book that has the spells for making enclaves, the one that’s supposed to distract her from the mawmouth. I can’t find the name quickly enough in the book. Anyway, I was surprised that El doesn’t start thinking about working to establish a rebel, egalitarian enclave.

    Also, really: is there no way for them to make clothes? And why can’t parents send care-packages? This is magic and there’s a weight limit?

    And I did love the part where the girls are talking about sex and the mal the boys have in their pants. (By the way, trying to talk about this book is driving the spell-checker crazy.) I liked the different ways the various mothers “prepared” their daughters for encounters with young men. I was a little surprised at how heterosexual the book seemed to be. Our am I misremembering?

    I thought the power structures were fascinating. Besides the enclaves (as Jenny pointed out, “I especially loved the ethical questioning of privilege…like how the enclavers didn’t even know there was a maintenance track and how their well-meaning idea that we all have the same chances isn’t accurate. This line by El especially, “I can’t pretend that because I didn’t grow up in that lie.”), but also the infiltration of a British school by Americans, whose money/power had become essential for the existence of the school. I’d have liked to have read more about that as well.

    The ending was unexpected too. I gather we’re supposed to understand that El really did manage to communicate with her mother in that dream? I’m also. Looking forward to learning more about El’s mom and how knowing her pedigree will change her experience at the school.

    I don’t promise not to think of more to say later, but I’ll stop here and take a breath.

    What did other people think?

  55. I’ve had Novik on my alert list since I read Uprooted, so I’m glad you checked the rest of her books out too. For some reason the Temeraire books that were her original claim to fame have not appealed. I read several and finally decided there were better way to spend my time, but Uprooted is a repeat read and Spinning Silver was good as well. I’m looking forward to the rest of the Scholomance series.

  56. I am so very sorry about your granny. Sounds like you two had a wonderful relationship with many lovely memories. Love and hugs to you and your family, from a devoted fan.

  57. I’m sorry and sad for your hard time. My father has dementia, and it’s a firghtening, sad, awful thing to watch your loved one slowly disappear while they’re still there.

  58. Hoping your granny’s passing is an easy one even if it will be devastating to you. Dementia is hard on the families and COVID just sucks because if we all acted like adults, we’d be in a better place. Little Miss Maine Coon Cat sends purrs.

  59. Sweet lady, I’m so sorry about your granny. I lost my dad to Alzheimer’s 2 years ago this month, and that mix of emotions is so familiar. Sending all virtual hugs your way.

  60. Just to add on to the well wishes, my Grandma just passed yesterday (11/8) from dementia so I am with you on the complicated feelings. She did not have COVID, but she had been steadily declining mentally for a while. She told her caretakers that her siblings were in her room, so I think she was also ready to go. Best wishes, I know this is hard.

  61. So sorry about your Granny, sending your family love. I know those mixed emotions are so hard, you don’t want your loved wants to suffer and it is so hard to lose them.

  62. While looking for this on Nowhere’s book page, I found a book called The Dark Archive by Genevieve Cogman. Says it’s about “a professional spy for a mysterious library which harvests fiction from different realities.” (The editor in me cringes because “which” in that sentence should be “that,” but oh well.) That one sounds good as well. Have you heard of it or read it?

  63. And how rude of me to not offer my condolences on your grandmother. Ugh. I am the worst at social situations, even online. 🙁 Please forgive me! I’ve been lucky to know all four of my grandparents, and two of my great-grandparents. I have one grandmother left – she’s 95, peppy as the Queen, and still living on her own. Our grandparents are the greatest treasures, and I’m so very sorry to hear about your grandmother’s illness, but infinitely glad you got to know her so well, and that you can still hear her voice in your head suggesting you get on with things, as she would. 🙂 That’s a treasure all its own!

  64. Linsey,

    Condolences to you as well. These losses are indeed hard, even when the one who dies was ready. I hope you and Jenny both get the time you need to grieve, and that you find comfort in its time, too.

  65. I need more time to read. I have a pile of books knee-deep on the nightstand, and now I have to buy this one, too!

    Working on NaNo this month. Yet more time not reading (and naturally, instead of writing I’m goofing around on the interwebs).

    Deepest condolences on your granny. When my great-aunt went, it was like this — she was so far gone it was almost a blessing, but it still hurts. Best to you and your family.

  66. Hi, not sure if this is the place to leave ya a comment but it accepted me so hope it gets to you!
    I am so very sorry for your Granny situation. I never knew mine.(my mother was pregnant with me at the age of 44 in the 60’s) I always wanted one though. I’m sure any good times will remain in your heart forever 💕.
    My life is crazy as is my apartment!
    Waiting for your next book and blog.
    Makes me feel like I’m somehow at home! Even if I’ve never met you I still can have an effect on us all the way to Kentucky! I love you, my sweet sister and am sending good vibes and sparklers hugs 🤗.
    Well my stupid Bluegrass Cellular won’t “support” a gif but trust me it would have been worth it. Love to you and your family! Sending prayers and thoughts for whatever your hearts desire! Bye!

  67. A few things –
    First, I am sorry to hear about your granny, she is fortunate to have such a loving, unusual family. Wishing your family peace.

    Next, I loved the virtual chat with the help of the Richmond Library. I appreciate your openness about how your lying companion influences your life and how you are sharing with us both highs and lows.

    Thanks to you I won’t look at home gardening the same way!

  68. My sympathy is with you, it really is. My uncle died of Covid back in May and we couldn’t even visit him or talk on the phone to him. He was there all alone and was alert until the day before he died. You are right to be relieved that your granny is sleeping and not in pain as that would be a better way to go, if that is the way it is to be. I’m so sorry for anyone going through this.

  69. I just read your last three posts backwards. I’m so sorry about your granny. It made me think of my grandma who loved True Crime and got me hooked on VC Andrews for a while. She died when I was 26, right before I found out I was pregnant with my oldest, which was sad bc she loved babies. But I can still remember her calling hello to me when I’d show up at her antique shop.

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