Adventures With Words Newsletter, Bonus Issue

Adventures With Words Newsletter, Bonus Issue

In this bonus edition of Adventures with Words, I will share what I’ve been reading. 

I set a goal to read 50 books in 2022. On December 31st, I finished number 81.  I use Goodreads to track my booklist. Goodreads (like many other platforms) creates a year in review and from it I have my reading stats for 2022:

81 books read in 2022, for a total of 20,325 pages

10 books about writing
12 other nonfiction books
6 memoir
9 anthologies
2 anthologies I was published in
5 mysteries
1 volume of comic books
18  by LGBTQ+ authors (that I know of)
27 by women
9 by people of color (that I know of)
3 horror
36 sci fi/fantasy
9 young adult
2 books of poetry

Most of what I read, I enjoyed. There are some that don’t show up on this list that I didn’t finish. (this is a fairly recent phenomena – me giving myself permission to not finish books. It still feels like I’m doing something bad.)  There are some that I finished, and struggled with and learned from – things not to do. Mostly, I did a good job of choosing what to read. I got inspiration from recommendations within social media groups, by other authors I admire and by browsing the stacks on my frequent visits to the library. If you have a Goodreads account, you can become my friend on the site and see the whole list. Search for C.K. Combs.  

A plug for our radical friends, librarians and library staff – get to know your local library(ies)! Libraries are some of the last places a person can spend time without spending money. Get a card, browse the stacks, search for and reserve books, check out the research databases, let them know you appreciate the work they do to defend against incursions by book banning fascists. Same thing for local book sellers, if you have some nearby. Visit them, buy from them, order from them instead of the gigantic capitalistic monster corp. Libraries and local book sellers also have events with authors, and other community based offerings. Check out their calendars and take advantage of the free entertainment and education they provide. 

Stepping off my soapbox, I want to promote my top faves and recommendations from this year’s reading pile.

Light From Uncommon Stars, Ryka Aoki – fun, imaginative, feel-good, queer and trans content, found family, aliens and supernatural beings. POC author. Content warning – there are some rough moments where the main character, a young trans woman, deals with transphobia, racism and misogyny, however, everything works out.

Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak, Charlie Jane Anders. It’s no secret I’m a total Charlie Jane fanboy. This is book 2 of the trilogy, the third is coming out soon; book one is Victories Greater Than Death. These are categorized as YA, however, I very much enjoy them. Thrilling adventures, emotionally gripping situations, fantastic world building and character development, human and alien, queer, trans and nonbinary characters with a multitude of pronoun systems – all without bigotry and persecution. The main characters are brave, smart, and learning to be better versions of themselves – sometimes by way of becoming others.. But I don’t want to spoil anything by explaining further. 

The Murderbot Diaries, 6 book series, Martha Wells. I heard so much about these books before I finally read them. Which was really consuming them like so many tasty treats. They are novellas, slim books packed with so much content, you’ll swear they are actually bigger on the inside. The title character, Murderbot, is a security android who has some pretty cute and quirky comfort habits, as well as the ability to provide extreme security to those it’s protecting. There is also autistic-coding with regard to its behaviors, preferences and dislikes. Though I’m still exploring Wells’ bibliography, I can confidently state that I’ll read anything she’s written. Start with All Systems Red, the first Murderbot Diary, and go from there.

Juliet Takes a Breath – coming out, coming of age, coming to terms with the disappointing reality of meeting your idol. Written by Gabby Rivera, Puerto Rican lesbian comic. The story carries us from the Bronx to Portland Oregon and from idealism to realism. It’s funny, moving and relatable. Great for readers from YA and beyond.

Spear, Nicola Griffith – A new take on the Percival/Parsifal myth featuring a fierce gender bending queer who ignores the cautions of her mother (of course) and goes out into the world to find her destiny. It’s so refreshing to read an adventure story written for the queer eye, with a dashing protagonist who isn’t what they seem to be, and is exactly who they should be. 

Sunbearer Trials, Aidan Thomas – I will also read anything trans author Thomas writes because each time, I am submerged fully into the world he’s created. His characters are fully rendered, with flaws, strengths, quirks and lessons to learn along the way. The world we enter with this story is so colorful, so vivid, and for me at least, from a culture and mythology I had no familiarity with. This book was also a favorite of Virginia’s and we are both excitedly anticipating the sequel. 

When We Were Birds, Ayanna Lloyd Banwo – This story stretched my brain in wonderful directions. Set in Trinidad and Tobago, this is a love story, a quest, and a mystery made up of family secrets; mythic, magical and written with brilliant color, this book is a great example of why I have diversified my reading list to include a lot more writers of color and from cultures other than my own.

The Cartographers, Peng Shepherd – this was so much fun to read, and I learned some true stuff while on a fictional ride that had so many twists, I almost needed a nausea bag. It’s a 5 on the page turner Richter scale. This book’s protagonist presents an example of advice I’ve seen in writing books and through workshops – your character’s greatest strength should also be their greatest flaw. 

The Book Woman’s Daughter, Kim Michele Richardson – historical fiction located in an area of Appalachia called Troublesome Creek, where folks battle poverty, bigotry and the danger of working in mines. Among those who helped the folks of the mountains and hollers were traveling nurses and librarians on horseback (or muleback) – women’s work that paid well and was well respected. We also meet women who worked in the mines and for the forest service, where they deal with sexual assault, verbal abuse and deadly situations dished out by men who believe they’re taking jobs men should have. Our protagonist and the women she’s closest to are put through wringer after wringer and I might have shouted a bit at all the trouble they were put through. Troublesome Creek was well named. This story is well researched and the book includes a post-story section with more background on the region and people the characters were based on. Including the ‘blue people’ of Troublesome Creek.   

When some of the characters were introduced as ‘blue people’, I thought this was a way of indirectly talking about racism against black people. If I’d read the book before this one, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, I’d have known better. There really were blue people in that area of Appalachia early in the 20th century. And there was pretty severe bigotry against those people, including miscegenation laws against marriage between white and blue people. The blue skin came from a recessive genetic condition carried to the US by a French orphan named Fugate. The condition caused a person’s blood to be blue to purple instead of red. In a statistical lottery win, he happened to marry a woman who also carried the recessive gene, and as a result, their children were blue. Due to geographic and sociopolitical isolation, this family intermarried quite a bit, resulting in more blue family members. Three or four other families eventually wove themselves into this clan, including the Combses. I’m not even kidding.  I brought up a map of this part of Kentucky and noted it was not very far from the area my grandfather’s family was from, in the North Carolina counties near the border with Kentucky. I know that there are Combses all over the place along the southern seaboard and inland through the Appalachians. Apparently, some of them were blue.

That’s it for now! I hope you’ve enjoyed this bonus issue; I’m already working on the real 3rd Newsletter coming soon-ish. If you want to talk about books, send me your recommendations or other related topics, I’d love to hear from you!  I hope you have an easy and restful new-calendar season. Take Care, CK

Making Contact

Here’s where you can find me online:

  • – my blog
  • @CKCombs_author – Instagram and TikTok – and now Mastodon!
  • Goodreads – C.K. Combs (Goodreads Author)
  • – make contact, share recipes, tell your favorite 2022 books, nerd out about books, libraries and words… be in community with me 🙂 

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