Last year I picked 10 books. In 2019 I read over 50 books, but I’m only picking a top two. These two books were by far the best two books I read this year, and trying to come up with 8 more to live with them on a list seemed almost insulting. I even gave a few others 5 stars. But these books both entranced me and stuck with me.
Wanderers by Chuck Wendig
I picked this book up because I follow Chuck on twitter and I’d read a couple other things he wrote and enjoyed them. I thought I’d like Wanderers, too.
Like is not a strong enough word. This is the perfect book for when you want to engross yourself in something epic. It’s long and winding but entertaining every step of the way. While there are many post-apocalyptic books out there, fewer actually occur during the apocalypse. I think a rapid decay of the world is difficult to write, and Wendig does it masterfully. He manages to include a variety of protagonists all with depth and room for growth. This book covers the end of the world from the first strange occurrence to the shocking end.
I thought Wanderers was going to be my number one book in 2019. How could I read something I enjoyed better? It wasn’t possible. Learn more.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Until I read Ninth House. Leigh Bardugo wrote one of my favorite YA fantasies, Six of Crows. (It’s a fantasy heist story!) Ninth House is for adults. I’d call it urban fantasy, although it’s set on Yale’s campus and not a major city. It also forgoes a lot of things that are often found in urban fantasy that I’m not particularly interested in: vampires, demon hunters, and explicit cross-species sex scenes. (I’m fine with these things existing, and if you like them, great, but it’s not really my cup of tea.)
I do like creepy magic and secret societies. I love creepy magic and secret societies. The creepier and more secret the better, and this book delivers. Now, a book could be chock full of creepy magic and secret societies and still not be a good read (although I’d probably read it anyway). This book wraps the creepy magic and secret societies around the mysterious death of a woman, a Yale student who can see ghosts, and her mentor who disappears. It also tackles some serious issues.
Here’s the thing about me: I read every night before I go to sleep. That’s how I read over 50 books in a year without really trying. I have to read. I read until my eyelids get heavy and I start to fall asleep.
After finishing Ninth House I couldn’t read. I didn’t read another book for about a week. I couldn’t get this book out of my head and I knew nothing else would be as satisfying. I don’t think it’s a literary masterpiece that will eventually be read by disgruntled English 101 students, but it hit every note for me and I absolutely loved it. (We read it for my work book club, and everyone who came to the discussion gave it a positive review.) While it could be read as a stand-alone and it has a solid ending, I still can’t wait for the sequel. Learn more.
Cover photo by Tim Bish on Unsplash. According to the Unsplash description, this is the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale.
It’s time to get honest with all of you. I was going to do Blaugust this year, and try some new MMOs, and try to get back into it. But I’ve been too busy. It’s August 7 and I’ve already gone to Atlanta for work and went camping once. I’m camping again–this time in the Canadian wilderness–later this month.
When I’m free I don’t want to play video games. I want to watch TV with my husband or play with my son. I want to curl up in bed and read until my eyelids get heavy. I want to work on personal projects. I was in my hotel in Atlanta and decided to try out Albion Online and I played it for about 30 minutes before I was bored out of my mind and decided to read some Python blog posts instead. I basically decided to do more work instead of gaming.
Now I don’t know what to do with this blog. It was supposed to be “parenting for nerds” with a gaming/MMO bent, but if I’m barely playing games how does that work? I’ve also been thinking a lot about my nerdiness. Yes, I’m a nerd: I write code and help other people write better code for a living. I love Sci-fi, fantasy, and Marvel movies. But am I nerdy enough to write a nerd parenting blog? I don’t take my kid to nerd conventions, I don’t even go to them myself. I don’t like the idea of dressing up. Costumes are uncomfortable. I don’t even like Halloween.
I don’t think I’m having nerd imposter syndrome. No neckbeards have told me I’m “not a real nerd” for some reason or another. I’m definitely a nerd. But I can’t write blog posts about if you should let your kid play Fortnite because I couldn’t get past the starting screen because I couldn’t figure out how to customize my character. I’ll have an idea for something I want to write and it doesn’t fit here. I’ve posted on Medium, but the platform is terrible for writers unless you want to opt-in to their paywall (I don’t). I wanted to write about my long strange career path so I did that on dev.to. I always have this problem, this I don’t know what to do with my online presence existential crisis.
Being a parent makes me see television parents in a new light: a very judgmental one. I try not to judge parents I know in real life, we’re all going through our own stuff, but fake ones on television are fair game.
Here they are in order, from worst to best. This list contains spoilers from all seven seasons of Game of Thrones.
He “marries” his daughter (they’re North of the wall, so guess it’s technically legal) and then has more daughters. Not a great life for the girls, but that’s not as bad as what happens to his baby boys. Or maybe the boys are the lucky ones. Either way, he’s the worst.
11. Stannis and Selyse
It was hard for me to not put them in the most terrible parent slot because Shireen was awesome: kind, smart, and probably the only 100% decent human in all of Westeros. And then Stannis burns him to death because he’s power hungry and thinks that her death will allow him to sit in the iron throne.
It’s okay to be ambitious, but not okay to sacrifice your children for that ambition, and Stannis does that literally. Most people I know with kids want to achieve their goals to make a better life for their children. But Stannis wants to be king because–I’m not sure, it’s not explained well–but it’s not to make a better life for Shireen.
He’s terrible. And Selyse has her creepy collection of jar babies, so she doesn’t get a pass, either.
10. Tywin Lannister
There’s a special place in Hell for parents overly concerned about their “family legacy” and not the actual well-being of their kids. Tywin went straight there after his son shot him with a crossbow on the potty. Face it, Tywin, two of your kids are in an incestuous relationship. The other one is a drunk until he finds something he’s actually good at–and then instead of supporting him, you sentence him to death. That’s some terrible parenting.
9. Danearys Targarean
The “Mother of Dragons” may be her title, but she’s not the best mom. Sure, she loves her dragons, but she doesn’t show it very well by selling them for slaves and chaining them up in a dungeon. I know, the scene where Danearys trades her dragon for the slaves but then gets her dragon back and frees the slaves is epic. But what if it hadn’t worked? What if the slaver had managed to keep the dragon? That’s a huge risk to take with your child.
As for the chaining: obviously you can’t let your kids burn other kids to cinders, but couldn’t she at least chain them up outside? We later learn that it was chaining dragons that caused them to die out. Way to go, mom.
8. Randyll Tarly
Tarly is the classic example of a parent who wants a jock and gets a nerd. Actually, he gets both, so you’d think he’d at least be content to let Sam go study to be a Maester while keeping his jock son Dickon around, but no. He threatens Sam and sends him to the Wall–definitely not the ideal place for a nerd.
You could argue that Tarly at least one son he treats well, but he named that son Dickon.
7. Balon Grayjoy
Balon’s probably tied with Tarly. He’s not as bad as the parents who rape, murder, abandon, chain up, and sell their kids. But he still sucks. His kid Theon comes back to him after having probably a better life in Winterfell than he would have on the Iron Isles. And his dad’s just like, screw you, you’re not Iron Born. If I was separated from my son for so many years I probably wouldn’t want to help the people that had him, but I would’ve given him a big hug and welcomed him back home.
6. Lysa Arron
The internet is full of arguments about breastfeeding and when to stop. I’m not going to get into them here, but I think we can argue that kids should be done by the time they’re ten. (Most of the extended breastfeeders I know stopped because their kids stopped wanting to breastfeed anymore–around 3-4. Which makes me wonder what Lysa was doing to encourage this practice.) Lysa has not done a good job exposing Robin to the world and he’s the opposite of well-adjusted. Marrying Littlefinger might be the best thing she ever did for him.
But she’s still fairly high on this list because she at least seems to love him, and she doesn’t try to kill him, chain him, disown him, or send him to the Wall.
Note: I think Jon Arryn is also responsible, but we don’t get to meet him as his death triggers the whole plot of the show.
5. Roose Bolton
Roose seems like a decent parent. He even legitimizes his bastard son Ramsey, which is legitimate. Unlike parents such as Tywin, Tarly, and Balon, he allows his son to be himself.
Except that Ramsey is an evil serial killer. If your kid is an evil serial killer (and we know Roose knows) you have to put a stop to that. Roose could be said to encourage it, even–notably when he sends him to take Moat Calain.
4. Walder Frey
Walder Frey’s always complaining that he’s forgotten by the greater houses–so of course I forgot him when I was making this list. Thanks to my dad (who is such a good parent he’d surely die in the first five minutes of Game of Thrones) for reminding me that Walder exists.
Walder seems like kind of a lazy parent. He forgets his kids’ names, but he has so many of them can you really blame him?
He seems to want the best for his kids, which for him means marrying them off to the great houses. Here’s the thing: Walder’s not a great parent. He should remember his kid’s names because he’s named nearly all of them Walda or Walder. He’s not the best example of loyalty. But he’s not an actively bad parent. So here he is at number four.
3. Cersei Lannister
There’s no doubt Cersei loves her kids and would do anything to protect them. See the scene with Cersei and Tommen on the Iron Throne during the Battle of Blackwater. I think that’s the scene we all started liking her a tiny bit.
I also think she knew Joffery was terrible, but unlike Roose, actually tried to keep him from doing terrible things, like having Ned beheaded.
In Season 3, episode 4, Tywin says to Cersei, “I don’t mistrust you because you’re a woman, I mistrust you because you’re not as smart as you think you are. You’ve allowed that boy to run roughshod over you and everyone else in this city.”
Cersei replies, “Perhaps you should try stoping him from doing what he likes.”
That said, I don’t think she’s a great parent, she’s just tolerable enough to get fairly far ahead on this list. For all her best efforts, her kids all end up dead.
2. Sam and Gilly
Given, Sam and Gilly haven’t been parents for very long so there’s ample time for them to mess up and scar Little Sam for life. But they seem to be off to a decent start.
Also, this list is lacking in actually good parents and I wanted to at least have a couple.
1. Catelyn and Ned
How many tragedies could the Starks have avoided if they’d just listened to Catelyn? If Bran listened to his mom and stopped climbing the walls, he’d still be able to walk. If Robb listened to his mom and not married Talisa, the Red Wedding he’d be happily married to Roslin.
Arya is interested in sword fighting, which isn’t an approved activity for noble girls, but Ned still gives her a sword and finds her lessons. He approves of who she is as a person and helps her nurture that side of herself. Imagine what kind of woman Arya could have become if she hadn’t lost her father?
Of course, they aren’t perfect. No parents are. You could say that allowing Sansa to be betrothed to Joffery was a huge mistake, but I wonder if Ned’s research and attempting to oust Joffery in favor of Stannis was partly motivated by wanting to protect his daughter.
Honorable Mention: Davos. We don’t get to see much of him with his son, but he’s a better parent to Shireen than the ones she was born with.
Cover photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash. Winter is Coming. The rest of the images are via Game of Thrones and HBO.