Huge Book Haul Sale!

I normally don't put together book sale lists, but I managed to get such a huge (digital) haul for so little today that I couldn't resist. 14 books for $53.70, so ~$3.84 each. I grabbed some stuff that has been on my wishlist for a while, too, which was nice ^_^


The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar - $1.99 (regularly $14.99)


From Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of The Space Between Us, comes The Weight of Heaven. In the rich tradition of the acclaimed works of Indian writers such as Rohinton Mistry, Akhil Sharma, Indra Sinha, and Jhumpa Lahiri, The Weight of Heaven is an emotionally charged story about unexpected death, unhealed wounds, and the price one father will pay to protect himself from pain and loss. Additionally, it offers unique perspectives, both Indian and American, on the fragmented nature of globalized India.

The Great Influenza by John M Barry - $6.99 (regularly $19)

Non-fiction · Epidemiology · History

At the height of WWI, history’s most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in twenty-four months than AIDS killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century. But this was not the Middle Ages, and 1918 marked the first collision of science and epidemic disease. Magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research and now revised to reflect the growing danger of the avian flu, The Great Influenza is ultimately a tale of triumph amid tragedy, which provides us with a precise and sobering model as we confront the epidemics looming on our own horizon. John M. Barry has written a new afterword for this edition that brings us up to speed on the terrible threat of the avian flu and suggest ways in which we might head off another flu pandemic.

Isles of the Blind by Robert Rosenberg - $4.95

Fiction · Historical Fiction

Off the coast of Istanbul, the Jewish billionaire Yusuf Elmas, who once challenged the State's denial of the Armenian Genocide, has been killed in a harrowing boating accident. Five years later, his estranged brother, Avram, returns to the city to search out the truth behind his brother's suspicious death. Living in his brother's crumbling island mansion, befriending his enigmatic staff, Avram steadily unearths deeper layers of the tragedy. Yet the more his actions echo his brother's fraught experience, the more dangerous the exercise of digging up another person's history becomes. Through the lens of Avram's discoveries, Isles of the Blind explores the overlapping heritage of Jews and Armenians in a rapidly changing Muslim society. How should a man define himself, and towards what personal, religious and national obligations should our loyalties bend?

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride - $4.99 (regularly $16)

Fiction · Historical Fiction

Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry’s master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town—with Brown, who believes he’s a girl.

Over the ensuing months, Henry—whom Brown nicknames Little Onion—conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. Eventually Little Onion finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859—one of the great catalysts for the Civil War.

An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, and told with McBride’s meticulous eye for detail and character, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.

Non-fiction · History · Activism

As Americans take to the streets in record numbers to resist the presidency of Donald Trump, L.A. Kauffman’s timely, trenchant history of protest offers unique insights into how past movements have won victories in times of crisis and backlash and how they can be most effective today.
This deeply researched account, twenty-five years in the making, traces the evolution of disruptive protest since the Sixties to tell a larger story about the reshaping of the American left. Kauffman, a longtime grassroots organizer, examines how movements from ACT UP to Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter have used disruptive tactics to catalyze change despite long odds.
Kauffman's lively and elegant history is propelled by hundreds of candid interviews conducted over a span of decades. Direct Action showcases the voices of key players in an array of movements – environmentalist, anti-nuclear, anti-apartheid, feminist, LGBTQ, anti-globalization, racial-justice, anti-war, and more – across an era when American politics shifted to the right, and a constellation of decentralized issue- and identity-based movements supplanted the older ideal of a single, unified left.
Now, as protest movements again take on a central and urgent political role, Kauffman’s history offers both striking lessons for the current moment and an unparalleled overview of the landscape of recent activism. Written with nuance and humor, Direct Action is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the protest movements of our time.

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob - $5.99 (regularly $17)


With depth, heart, and agility, debut novelist Mira Jacob takes us on a deftly plotted journey that ranges from 1970s India to suburban 1980s New Mexico to Seattle during the boom. The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing is an epic, irreverent testimony to the bonds of love, the pull of hope, and the power of making peace with life’s uncertainties.
Celebrated brain surgeon Thomas Eapen has been sitting on his porch, talking to dead relatives. At least that is the story his wife, Kamala, prone to exaggeration, tells their daughter, Amina, a photographer living in Seattle.
Reluctantly Amina returns home and finds a situation that is far more complicated than her mother let on, with roots in a trip the family, including Amina’s rebellious brother Akhil, took to India twenty years earlier. Confronted by Thomas’s unwillingness to explain himself, strange looks from the hospital staff, and a series of puzzling items buried in her mother’s garden, Amina soon realizes that the only way she can help her father is by coming to terms with her family’s painful past. In doing so, she must reckon with the ghosts that haunt all of the Eapens.

A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam - $1.99 (regularly $6.49)

Fiction · Historical Fiction

Rehana Haque, a young widow, blissfully prepares for the party she will host for her son and daughter. But this is 1971 in East Pakistan, and change is in the air.

Set against the backdrop of the Bangladesh War of Independence, A Golden Age is a story of passion and revolution; of hope, faith, and unexpected heroism in the midst of chaos—and of one woman's heartbreaking struggle to keep her family safe.

Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution by Ji-li Jiang - $1.99 (regularly $7.99)

Fiction · Historical Fiction · Young Adult

Moving, honest, and deeply personal, Red Scarf Girl is the incredible true story of one girl’s courage and determination during one of the most terrifying eras of the twentieth century.

It's 1966, and twelve-year-old Ji-li Jiang has everything a girl could want: brains, popularity, and a bright future in Communist China. But it's also the year that China's leader, Mao Ze-dong, launches the Cultural Revolution—and Ji-li's world begins to fall apart. Over the next few years, people who were once her friends and neighbors turn on her and her family, forcing them to live in constant terror of arrest. And when Ji-li's father is finally imprisoned, she faces the most difficult dilemma of her life.

Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur - $6.49 (regularly $7)

Autobiography · Civil Rights · Black Liberation · History

In 2013 Assata Shakur, founding member of the Black Liberation Army, former Black Panther and godmother of Tupac Shakur, became the first ever woman to make the FBI's most wanted terrorist list.

Assata Shakur's trial and conviction for the murder of a white state trooper in the spring of 1973 divided America. Her case quickly became emblematic of race relations and police brutality in the USA. While Assata's detractors continue to label her a ruthless killer, her defenders cite her as the victim of a systematic, racist campaign to criminalize and suppress black nationalist organizations.
This intensely personal and political autobiography reveals a sensitive and gifted woman. With wit and candour Assata recounts the formative experiences that led her to embrace a life of activism. With pained awareness she portrays the strengths, weaknesses and eventual demise of black and white revolutionary groups at the hands of the state. A major contribution to the history of black liberation, destined to take its place alongside The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the works of Maya Angelou.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson - $2.99 (regularly $10.99)

Fiction · Historical Fiction

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley - $2.99 (regularly $15.99)

Non-fiction · Feminism

The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of essays by double Hugo Award-winning essayist and science fiction and fantasy novelist Kameron Hurley.

The book collects dozens of Hurley's essays on feminism, geek culture, and her experiences and insights as a genre writer, including "We Have Always Fought," which won the 2014 Hugo for Best Related Work. The Geek Feminist Revolution will also feature several entirely new essays written specifically for this volume.

Jasmine Falling by Shereen Malherbe - $4.99 (regularly $8.99)


When Jasmine’s mother dies inside their English mansion, hope comes in the form of her multi-million pound inheritance. But with her inheritance threatened, Jasmine is left to contemplate a future she does not know how to live. 

Jasmine has only ten days to uncover the circumstances of her father’s decade long disappearance before her fortune is lost forever. Forced to return to his homeland in Palestine, she follows his footsteps through stories long ingrained in the local’s minds. She is helped on her journey by a mysterious stranger who guides her through the trails of the Holy Land, from the heart of Jerusalem to the scattered broken villages, each harbouring its own secrets.

Under the watchful eyes of the ever-encroaching Occupation, Jasmine must piece together her history in the broken land, before it destroys her future.

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged & The Other Half of Happiness by Ayisha Malik - $2.14 & $3.21

Fiction · Romantic Comedy

Sofia Khan is single once more, after her sort-of-boyfriend proves just a little too close to his parents. And she'd be happy that way too, if her boss hadn't asked her to write a book about the weird and wonderful world of Muslim dating. Of course, even though she definitely isn't looking for love, to write the book she does need to do a little research . . .


Her living situation is in dire straits, her husband Conall is distant, and his annoyingly attractive colleague is ringing all sorts of alarm bells.

When her mother forces them into a belated wedding ceremony (elopement: you can run, but you can't hide), Sofia wonders if it might be a chance to bring them together. But when it forces Conall to confess his darkest secret, it might just tear them apart.

General FictionHistorical FictionHistory

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

I've had Ken Liu's "The Paper Menagerie" on my list for a while, but had a hard time finding a copy of it until he published it and fourteen other stories together in this collection. The stories were hit and miss for me. Some, like "The Perfect Match", about a a Google-esque company employing a personal AI a la "Her" motivated by it's highly lucrative recommendation engine for your life, was a bit over the top and obvious. "Simulacrum", too, about software used to simulate real individuals (with or without their consent) left me more uncomfortable than happy to've read it. Alternatively, stories like "The Waves" and "Mono No Aware" left me wanting to read more from a future that saw a major exodus of humans from Earth and the impact of immortality on humanity.

Three stories in particular stuck with me.

The Literomancer

(Trigger warnings for torture.)

"The Literomancer" follows Lilly Dyer, a recently uprooted Texas girl (where she had been the third-most popular girl in fourth grade) to Taiwan where her dad works on an American military base. Lilly has found herself the target of a group of racist American girls at school and finds solace with some neighbors - an old man, Mr. Kan, and his grandson, Teddy.

As Lilly spends more time with Mr. Kan and Teddy, she learns that Mr. Kan does magic - literomancer. Mr. Kan explains that the Chinese invented writing as a form of divination. From a word, he's able to break it down into its characters to show the root of their meaning and thereby an individuals past and future, worries and hopes. Mr. Kan teaches Lilly that words have power, she learns that an ugly slur used by her bullies gets its root from the Korean word for America.

Their visits carry on, Mr. Kan performing literomancy for her and telling the story of how he came to Taiwan and ended up caring for Teddy.

My favorite scene of literomancy is when Lilly asks Mr. Kan to write the character for China.

"This is the character hua, and it is the only word for China and for the Chinese that has nothing to do with any Emperor, any Dynasty, anything that demands slaughter and sacrifice. [...] Hua originally meant ‘flowery’ and ‘magnificent,’ and it is the shape of a bunch of wildflowers coming out of the ground. [...] The Chinese are like wildflowers, and they will survive and make joy wherever they go. A fire may burn away every living thing in a field, but after the rain the wildflowers will reappear as though by magic. Winter may come and kill everything with frost and snow, but when spring comes the wildflowers will blossom again, and they will be magnificent. For now, the red flames of revolution may be burning on the mainland, and the white frost of terror may have covered this island. But I know that a day will come when the steel wall of the Seventh Fleet will melt away, and the penshengjen and the waishengjen and all the other huajen back in my home will blossom together in magnificence."

"And I will be a huajen in America,” Teddy added.

Mr. Kan nodded. “Wildflowers can bloom anywhere."

The story leaves the reader with a sense of guilt for seeing Lilly ask seemingly innocent questions of her father about "228", something she heard in a story of how Mr. Kan came to be in Taiwan with Teddy. From there, we learn that Lilly's father is involved with an intelligence agency, who acts quickly on the scant information Lilly has mentioned at the dinner table.

The Literomancer plays a lot with the tug between Lilly's identity as a Chinese American - feeling abandoned by her American friends back in Texas, missing her life as a would-be cowgirl, feeling isolated in Taiwan by her American classmates, and wanting to not feel ashamed of her the Chinese aspects of her culture (mainly shown through the food she eats and her interactions with her mother).

Behind the Story

With the ending of World War II Japan lost its 50 year rule over Taiwan, who had viewed the Japanese rule favorable thanks to economic and social policies they'd put in place. The US on behalf of Allied Forces turned temporary control of Taiwan over to the Republic of China, who quickly lost trust from the population due to mismanagement, corruption, runaway inflation, and food shortages, due in part to China exporting major commodities like rice back to its civil war-torn mainland.

"228" in the story refers to the February 28 Incident, the anti-government uprising in Taiwan that began on February 27, 1947 when 10,000-30,000 people were killed. The White Terror period followed, the setting for our story, when communist infiltrators from mainland China were discovered. Thousands of dissenters in both Taiwan and mainland China were disappeared, imprisoned, tortured, and executed. It was taboo to mark or mention 228 for decades.

Today, Taiwan holds up the 228 Incident as a major motivator for independence. Treaties signed after World War II were meant to give China temporary control over Taiwan with Taiwan eventually gaining sovereignty. People's Republic of China instead is aiming for unification and has threatened military action over the push for Taiwan independence, which would possibly lead to military action from the US and Japan.

The Regular

(Trigger warnings for violence against female sex workers, mutilation, murder, blood, gore, privacy violation.)

One of the longer stories in the book, "The Regular", takes us to a not-so-distant cyber punk future. Body medications are routine and include advanced cyborg-like limb prostheses, Regulator pumps which manage the chemical responses in the brain, and the not-FDA-approved retinal camera. The Regulator is required for law enforcement as a means of removing the lizard brain aspects of discriminatory reactions, like managing adrenaline in life or death situations. Ruth, the former police officer turned private detective still has her Regulator, which helps manage the PTSD effects of a traumatic event in her recent past. 

Ruth is hired by a grieving mother in Chinatown to find the killer of her daughter, a 28 year old high-end, independent escort. The police have written off the murder as the work of local gangs upset at the competition.

The Watcher is a recently released felon who preys on female sex workers that fit a narrow profile - educated women of color who are independent escorts with retinal camera implants. He makes his living posing as a man who seems like a safe Regular - an unassuming married man who'll be a source of regular income for the women he ends up murdering. 

Ruth is able to manipulate data collected by an Internet of Things device to help put together the puzzle, narrow down a list of potential targets for The Watcher, and set a trap for him.

The Paper Menagerie

TCover of Ken Liu's The Paper Menagerie and Other Storieshe titular story in the collection and the first work of fiction to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, it reminded me of Charlie Holmberg's series "The Paper Magician".

Jack was born in the Year of the Tiger. He's the son of a Connecticut man and woman his father ordered from a catalog and his mother has a special gift - she's able to fold origami and breathe life into it.

A little paper tiger named Laohu, folded from recycled Christmas wrapping paper is his favorite - it paws at him, pounces, and roars. The rest of his menagerie includes sharks, water buffalo, a goat, and a deer - all full of life from his mother's breath.

As Jack grows older, the bullying of his classmates drives a wedge between him and his mother and he finds himself forgetting the magic she created for him.

This was a sweet, sad story. As someone who has a difficult relationship with both of her parents, I felt the pangs of guilt and anger that Jack felt, put myself in his mother's shoes and felt the isolation and sorrow. 

General FictionHistorical FictionIdentityScience Fiction