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Stone Soup Digest 10.07.22 & My Fave Reads of September

Spare Man, Hurricane Relief, Oshiro
Stone Soup Digest 10.07.22 & My Fave Reads of September
Photo by Markus Winkler / Unsplash

Welcome to the Stone Soup Weekly Digest! This is where I share what I'm up to and some of my favorite things from around the internet. Subscribe to Stone Soup to get this in your inbox every week.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the newsletter this past week or so, you’ve probably noticed a few changes – namely, that everything is way better. After quite a lot of gymnastics, we’ve updated to a more streamlined theme. We’re also now using the newest version of Ghost, which features (are you ready for this one?) a functional commenting system! GONE are the days of you needing to log in eight different ways in order to leave a comment on a post! GONE are the homicidal urges brought on by a constantly-broken comment platform!! We have functional threading, emoji reacts, and a blessedly simple system to navigate that is fully integrated into the post software. I could weep.

Scroll down to the bottom of this post, or just click the “# comments” button under the post title to join the conversation. Our old comments archive didn’t port over, so you won’t see old chats, only new ones. If you’ve been reluctant to join the conversation before because of the abysmal interface of the previous comments setup, now is your moment! Come tell us what you’re reading this week, what your weekend has in store, and what’s on your mind.

PS - This change is entirely due to the hard work of my incredible assistant, Jen Coster, her brilliant husband, Adam, and the hardworking concierge team at Ghost. I am just drowning in gratitude.

Hybrid Book Tour for The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Spare Man comes out next week! Read the Library Journal starred review or check it out for yourself with an excerpt on Tor.com. Mary Robinette will be celebrating the release of this cozy space murder mystery with a hybrid book tour featuring events both in-person and online. Go see her in conversation with Ann Leckie, Brandon Sanderson, John Scalzi, Adam Savage, and countless other luminaries of the field!

Add The Spare Man to your tbr here. Order it from your local independent bookseller, or order it via Bookshop.org to support independent booksellers throughout the US and the UK. For international shipping, you can try Barnes & Noble. You can also request The Spare Man from your local library — here’s how to get in touch with them. And if you need to order from the Bad River Website, here’s a link that will leverage your order for good.

Cover reveal for US & Canadian editions of The Red Scholar’s Wake by Aliette de Bodard

How to help people affected by Hurricane Ian

Hurricane Ian devastated Florida last week. The fifth strongest hurricane to make landfall in the US, Ian’s 150 mph winds left 68 dead in Florida and counting,  3.4 million without power, and 2.5 million under evacuation orders. Here are a few ways you can help support those affected:

  • Direct Relief - Coordinates rapid response shipments of medical aid across Florida. Relief packs include more than 210 different products, including antibiotics, syringes, first aid suppliers, and diabetes medications.
  • Global Giving - This fund supports relief and recovery efforts throughout Florida, including helping first responders and providing food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products, and shelter before transitioning to long-term recovery efforts run by local, vetted organizations.
  • Heart to Heart International - This organization provides critical medical care to those affected by Hurricane Ian, including delivery of medicines and medical care.
  • Operation USA - Donations through this organization go to food banks, community clinics, and programs supporting school-age children.

Visit a Neighbor: Publishing is Hard by DongWon Song

One of the finest newsletters on the internet is back! After a hiatus, Publishing is Hard has returned to inboxes, and it’s better than ever. DongWon Song is a literary agent who consistently offers complex, insightful analyses of the industry and the many factors that cause it to drive us all mad. Go subscribe now!

Check out the most recent installment of Publishing is Hard here, and sign up here!

I’m Reading: One by One by Ruth Ware

Getting snowed in at a luxurious, rustic ski chalet high in the French Alps doesn't sound like the worst problem in the world. Especially when there's a breathtaking vista, a full-service chef and housekeeper, a cozy fire to keep you warm, and others to keep you company. Unless that company happens to be eight coworkers...each with something to gain, something to lose, and something to hide.

When the cofounder of Snoop, a trendy London-based tech start-up, organizes a weeklong trip for the team in the French Alps, it starts out as a corporate retreat like any other: PowerPoint presentations and strategy sessions broken up by mandatory bonding on the slopes. But as soon as one shareholder upends the agenda by pushing a lucrative but contentious buyout offer, tensions simmer, and loyalties are tested. The storm brewing inside the chalet is no match for the one outside, however, and a devastating avalanche leaves the group cut off from all access to the outside world. Even worse, one Snooper hadn't made it back from the slopes when the avalanche hit.

As each hour passes without any sign of rescue, panic mounts, the chalet grows colder, and the group dwindles further...one by one.

Take a journey through the history of Japanese role-playing games—from the creators who built it, the games that defined it, and the stories that transformed pop culture and continue to capture the imaginations of millions of fans to this day.

The Japanese roleplaying game (JRPG) genre is one that is known for bold, unforgettable characters; rich stories, and some of the most iconic and beloved games in the industry. Inspired by early western RPGs and introducing technology and artistic styles that pushed the boundaries of what video games could be, this genre is responsible for creating some of the most complex, bold, and beloved games in history—and it has the fanbase to prove it. In Fight, Magic, Items, Aidan Moher guides readers through the fascinating history of JRPGs, exploring the technical challenges, distinct narrative and artistic visions, and creative rivalries that fueled the creation of countless iconic games and their quest to become the best, not only in Japan, but in North America, too.

Moher starts with the origin stories of two classic Nintendo titles, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, and immerses readers in the world of JRPGs, following the interconnected history from through the lens of their creators and their stories full of hope, risk, and pixels, from the tiny teams and almost impossible schedules that built the foundations of the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest franchises; Reiko Kodama pushing the narrative and genre boundaries with Phantasy Star; the unexpected team up between Horii and Sakaguchi to create Chrono Trigger; or the unique mashup of classic Disney with Final Fantasy coolness in Kingdom Hearts. Filled with firsthand interviews and behind-the-scenes looks into the development, reception, and influence of JRPGs, Fight, Magic, Items captures the evolution of the genre and why it continues to grab us, decades after those first iconic pixelated games released.

Add Fight, Magic, Items to your tbr here. Order it from your local independent bookseller, or order it via Bookshop.org to support independent booksellers throughout the US and the UK. For international shipping, you can try Barnes & Noble. You can also request Fight, Magic, Items from your local library — here’s how to get in touch with them. And if you need to order from the Bad River Website, here’s a link that will leverage your order for good.

Amateur detective Mallory Viridian's talent for solving murders ruined her life on Earth and drove her to live on an alien space station, but her problems still follow her in this witty, self-aware novel that puts a speculative spin on murder mysteries, from the Hugo-nominated author of Six Wakes.

From idyllic small towns to claustrophobic urban landscapes, Mallory Viridian is constantly embroiled in murder cases that only she has the insight to solve. But outside of a classic mystery novel, being surrounded by death doesn't make you a charming amateur detective, it makes you a suspect and a social pariah. So when Mallory gets the opportunity to take refuge on a sentient space station, she thinks she has the solution. Surely the murders will stop if her only company is alien beings. At first her new existence is peacefully quiet...and markedly devoid of homicide.

But when the station agrees to allow additional human guests, Mallory knows the break from her peculiar reality is over. After the first Earth shuttle arrives, and aliens and humans alike begin to die, the station is thrown into peril. Stuck smack-dab in the middle of an extraterrestrial whodunit, and wondering how in the world this keeps happening to her anyway, Mallory has to solve the crime--and fast--or the list of victims could grow to include everyone on board....

Add Station Eternity to your tbr here. Order it from your local independent bookseller, or order it via Bookshop.org to support independent booksellers throughout the US and the UK. For international shipping, you can try Barnes & Noble. If you prefer audiobooks, here’s a Libro.fm link. You can also request Fight, Magic, Items from your local library — here’s how to get in touch with them. And if you need to order from the Bad River Website, here’s a link that will leverage your order for good.

My Favorite Reads of September

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn't hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn't happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese – and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames's boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she's pregnant with his baby – and that she's not sure whether she wants to keep it – Ames wonders if this is the chance he's been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family – and raise the baby together?

I feel like the last person in my social circle to read this book. I’d put it off for a while because everyone told me how impactful and important it was, and I felt like I should be ready to take on a weighty read. But then a friend clued me into something I hadn’t heard from anyone else: this book is funny. The humor is sharp and incisive and yanked me through a complex, layered story with such deft speed that I could feel wind in my hair. Compelling, dramatic, hilarious.

The Herd by Andrea Bartz

As CEO of the Herd, an elite women-only coworking space, Eleanor Walsh seems to have it all: close friends, a sweet husband, and the most glamorous and successful female-empowerment-based company in New York City. Then she vanishes on the night of a glitzy press conference – and the police suspect foul play.

For Hana, the head of PR for the Herd and Eleanor's best friend, this is a nightmare. For Hana's sister, Katie, a journalist, this is the story that will make her career. But when the sisters launch their own investigation and begin to learn what Eleanor was hiding, they must also face the secrets they've been keeping from each other--and confront just how dangerous it can be when women's perfect veneers start to crack.

I found myself in dire need of thrillers this month. Andrea Bartz has come to occupy the same niche in my reading list as Ruth Ware and Liane Moriarty – her books deliver exactly the kind of pacey, plot-forward, characters-with-secrets stories I’m looking for on days when I need to float on a sea of suspense. The Herd is a perfect thriller with expertly constructed red herrings and revealed. Fun, snappy, twisty.

You Only Live Once David Bravo by Mark Oshiro

Middle school is the worst, especially for David Bravo. He doesn't have a single class with his best (okay, only) friend, Antoine. He has to give a class presentation about his heritage, but he's not sure how--or even if--he wants to explain to his new classmates that he's adopted. After he injures Antoine in an accident at cross-country practice, he just wishes he could do it all over.

He doesn't expect his wish to summon a talking, shapeshifting, annoying dog, Fea, who claims that a choice in David's past actually did put him on the wrong timeline... and she can take him back to fix it.

But when their first try (and the second, and the third) is a total disaster, David and Fea are left scrambling through timeline after timeline--on a quest that may lead them to answers in the most unexpected places.

I’m cheating because I didn’t read this one for the first time this month – but it was still one of my favorites of the month. David Bravo is a brilliant book on so many levels – the characters leap off the page, the multiverse-style narrative is fresh and fascinating, and the ending is beautifully constructed. Funny, refreshing, soul-nourishing.

If you’re a paying subscriber, come by the Stone Soup Supper Club for our weekly chat! As I mentioned above, the comments are now fixed and better than they’ve ever been – I hope with all my heart that we can flourish in our community now that trying to talk to each other isn’t such a nightmare. I can’t wait to find out how you’re doing!