Posts Tagged With: Books

Book Review: Fragile Things and The Darkest Part of the Forest

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I realized, as I was writing this review, that I have reviewed Black and Gaiman together before now.  Their work is so different,  but it feels like 2 sides of the same coin in many ways.  Gaiman writes mostly for adults, Black for YA.  Gaiman deals in myth, Black in fairy tale.  The books are filled with the weird and the strange.  And those weird, strange things often take place in the modern age.  It was an accident that I’m putting them together this time.  They’re the only 2 non-fiction books that I haven’t reviewed yet.  It seemed right to do them together at the same time. So here we are,  with the books fulfilling the “a book that will be a complete mindfuck” and “a book you bought long ago but still haven’t read” categories for the reading challenge.

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman:

I should probably couch this review by saying that I mostly don’t enjoy short stories.  Or, rather, that there is a celebrated type of short story that I loathe, full of beautiful words and terrible happenings that brings me more unsettled upset than entertainment.  It’s a staple of the genre. But I love Gaiman, and I have read all his novels already.  Some multiple times.  Also, his work is always a mindfuck.  It’s strange in ways that are completely right yet unexpected.

I enjoyed Fragile Things and I didn’t, in about equal measure.  A Study in Emerald is worth the price of the whole thing, I enjoyed it so much.  I think anyone with a penchant for Doyle would.  But there were others in there that just made me rather horrified.  They were all so hit and miss that it’s impossible to go through and say worth it/skip of each, which I would have to do.  And to be honest, if you can find Emerald not in this book, that’s the route I would go with.  For me, the joy wasn’t worth the pain.  The quality of the work is amazing, the subject matter was not often my cup of tea.

Looking for something Gaiman to read?  American Gods, The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and Stardust are all good options.  Looking for something new of Gaiman’s to read?  He just came out with a non-fiction book of essays “The View From the Cheap Seats,” which I hear is good (although I haven’t gotten around to it yet).

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black: 

Every time I read Holly Black, I remind myself that I need to read more Holly Black.  I don’t know why she doesn’t come to mind as an immediate “yes” author to me.  Everything I have read of hers has been joyfully frightening, fascinatingly horrifying.  This one is about a modern town on the edge of faerie.  There is a horned prince in the forest, sleeping in a glass coffin, and then he goes missing. And then people start dying.

It’s all the things I loved about the Tithe world with a more epic heroine to balance out the story.  There are several things in the genre that are always a YES for me (almost irrespective of content).  Fae, love stories, and women with swords are a few of those, which this book has in spades.  I loved it.  It made me want to buy Valliant immediately, and then re-read Coldest Girl in Cold Town.

I bought this book almost a year ago.  I don’t know what made me linger in reading it.  I lingered with Gaiman’s Ocean, though, too.  I think perhaps it’s because I know I’m going to love it so much and I only get to read it for the first time once, that I feel the need to savor it as much as possible.  Or maybe it’s a fear of ultimately not liking something I’m looking forward to so much.  Both Black and Gaiman always deliver, though.  I should remember that more.

The final verdict on Darkest Part of the Forest is go buy it now.

Happy reading!

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Spring 2016 Reading List

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Guess what?  It’s a regularly prescribed blog day and I am actually posting a blog.  It’s a small miracle.

The vacations are over, and so is the school year.  All our students graduated last weekend in a blaze of glory.  Which means I should officially share this list so I can start on the summer one, don’t you think?  I do.

And just so you know, I’m usually pretty good about putting things on Goodreads before they get to here.  If you want recs early and not in one giant dump like this, that’s the place to go.

So without further ado, here it is.  All the books I’ve read since the spring semester started:

  1. Winning the Wallflower by Eloisa James: I should just say that I ALWAYS enjoy a James novel. This one was quite solid, with an interesting premise.  Would recommend if you like that sort of thing.
  2. No-Where But Here by Kate McGarry: I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t my favorite either, mostly because it sent some of my feminist “no!” alarms off, although gently.  I cared to finish it, but I’m not sure I’ll pick up the next.  Or maybe I will.  I’m wishy-washy about it, and I did like the main character.
  3. Steering The Craft by Ursula K. LeGuin: Oh, so wonderful.  It made me value the art of writing practice all over again, though it reads more like a work book than it does like advice.
  4. A Knot In The Grain by Robin McKinley: McKinley is another I always love. At first I wasn’t so hooked but the stories kept getting progressively better, and the title story is something I’m obsessed with, except that I want it to be a novel and not a short.
  5. Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn: Thought it would have more to do with the Bridgertons that just having a heroine with the same last name, so I was a bit disappointed. But it was a solid story for all that and I’d recommend it.
  6. Pride and Prejudice and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway: Um… no. I don’t know why I even finished this book.  I didn’t enjoy it and I found the conclusion (and most of the novel, to be honest) to be unlikely and unsatisfying.
  7. Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein: I don’t really know what to say about this book except that it’s fascinating and poignant, and important for anyone who has been a girl (I had so many “me too!” moments) or anyone raising a girl.
  8. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: A re-read.  I still loved it, though it didn’t seem quite the captivating masterpiece it did on my first read.  I guess I just wished I cared a little more for Richard and Door at the end.
  9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling: I forgot how good this book is. And it’s honestly the prettiest thing I’ve ever read.  It was so fun to come across all the amazing illustrations while going through.  I basically didn’t come out of my room for a day and a half.  I can’t wait to collect them all.
  10. Chalice by Robin McKinley: I’ve read this book at least 4 times now, and it always leaves me wanting to keep bees in a thatched hut with the man I love. One of my favorites, and officially a comfort book by now.
  11. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: I’m glad to find I can read it again, and that I love it as much as I ever did, which is to say obsessively.
  12. Fool For Love by Eloisa James: As James novels go, this one was on the silly side. I still enjoyed it, though.
  13. Poems by Rudyard Kipling: You know, I don’t always love his poetry. But when I do, I REALLY love it, and it was a joy to go through and pull out gems of couplets.
  14. If You’re So Smart Why Aren’t You Happy by Raj Raghunathan: I learned a lot from this, partially about the importance of practice in writing, and partly about making room for happiness without pursuing it head on. I’m glad I read it, and will be putting some of the suggestions into practice.
  15. Shakespere’s Wife by Germaine Greer: Such a dichotomy of a book. The writing is super dry and academic, but it’s about FASCINATING things.  I’m impatient when reading it and feel like I’m not enjoying myself, but I’m always telling Brian about the neat things I learned with enthusiasm.  I think it’s ultimately worth it.
  16. Duchess By Night by Eloisa James: Nice and satisfying, with a hilarious daughter to top it all off. No outright silly like in some of James’ novels.  Would recommend.
  17. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman: A strange collection of things, some of which I had read before. I went from “So good, I’ll never be this good, I love this story” to “No.  No, no.  No” about them.  My favorite was the Study in Emerald.  I’m not gonna pick a least favorite.  All in all, I would recommend it to Gaiman fans, though I enjoy his novels more.
  18. Once Upon A Tower by Eloisa James: I liked this one QUITE a bit. May be my favorite since the Essex Sisters.
  19. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo: The book was really repetitive, and I didn’t care at all about the pages and pages of testimonials that she included, which may be a translation problem? But I did ultimately feel that her ideas were helpful and will put some of them into practice.
  20. Midnight Pleasures by Eloisa James: I generally liked it, but felt like the plot wasn’t tight. I mean, they end up with this mysterious French kid for no real reason and the scepter thing resolves WAY too easily.  It was also sad.  I enjoyed it, but think James has better work out there.
  21. Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: Strangely, this book speaks differently to me now that I’m a little farther along the path to become a writer. I find that I’m more willing to listen to her advice without saying “yes, but an agent…” and to embrace the actual writing as the thing to fall in love with.  Still balm for my crazy soul.
  22. This Duchess of Mine by Eloisa James: Devolved a bit into farce, but I always enjoy a James novel. I’m slowly working through her backlist until I’ve read them ALL.
  23. A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James: I mean, Villers is my FAVORITE James heroine. I Loved this one, especially his son Tobias.  It was nice to see him get his own novel finally.
  24. Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James: This was one of the first James books I read, and I realized after a while that it’s partially from the perspective of Villers’ son. Which meant that I had to re-read it, of course. It was good the first time, but even better in context.
  25. A Wild Pursuit by Eloisa James: Another farciful one, with too many people at a house party.  I would say it’s good romance, I just think other things by James are better.
  26. Your Wicked Ways by Eloisa James: While I felt like I wish the heroine had a little more backbone, I LOVED all the music that’s in it. Ultimately, this is one of my favorites of hers.
  27. Enchanting Pleasures by Eloisa James: I think James is at her best when her heroines are smart, and Gabby is very smart. Quill is also super-easy to fall in love with as a character, though I feel as if I wish they had a tighter plot to play in.
  28. Why Diets Make us Fat by Sandra Aamodt: Interesting, if sometimes full of dry scientific studies. It makes me fear dieting, and also gives me hope that I can be healthy and a bit chubby.  Wonderful book full of important info.
  29. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray: I don’t know what to say about this one because it seems in a lot of ways like the original Diviners book – zippy, jazzy, a bit heartbreaking, scary. But for some reason I just didn’t care much about the characters like I did in book 1.
  30. Excuses Begone by Wayne Dyer: I tend to take advice from millionaires to ignore money when making decisions with a grain of salt, but I do think a lot of his points were valid. Worth a read, and very motivational.
  31. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: Holy crap this book is good – Tumblr you were totally right, even if you did ruin one of the big secrets for me ahead of time. My new obsession. Bonus points? All books are out – no waiting.
  32. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater: I usually find sequels to be not as good as the originals, but I’m finding that this one is even better. If that’s possible.  Can’t wait to read the rest of them and will be burning through them the next few days.
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A Very Gothic Vacation

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It is a scant 4 weeks away from the summer vacation I’m taking this year.  It’s just for 4 days, but that’s still a miracle considering I started this job less than 6 months ago and I really thought I wasn’t going to get to go anywhere this year.  Everything was approved this week at work, though.  I really CAN go!

Vacation means vacation reads, which I’m already thinking about.  I’ll be gone for about 5 days, which means 5 books with a couple to spare maybe, if things get interesting.  I like to have themes for vacation, because I find that it makes books inseparable from the landscape.  I’ll never forget reading Tolkien in Yosemite, or Always Coming Home while road-tripping up the California coast, Jonathan Livingston Seagull at my aunt’s beach house, or Jane Austen in my other aunt’s house on the river.

I’ve decided I’m going for gothic fantasy on this one.  There’s a lot of that genre I want to read, by authors I love, and I hate to read books that consume me when I’m not able to devote time to them.   Vacation is the perfect time for that.  I’m going to Massachusetts with a visit to Plimoth Plantation planned.  You might think I should go straight to Phillbrick’s stuff and get all the pilgrim I can out of the vacation.  But Massachusetts is also the home of Salem…  Gothic horror is totally legit, I think.

What am I planning to read?  Here goes:

  • Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray: 2nd of the Diviner books, in which Evie O’Neil is now a famous seer, but can she and her friends stop the crazy sleeping sickness that’s plaguing the slums of New York?
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black: I have no idea what this is about save that there’s some sort of beast in the forest that the main character was told to stay away from. And it’s Holly Black.  That’s all I really need to know.
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: A girl named Blue hooks up with 3 boys from a local prep school who are looking for a dead Welch king. Tumblr can’t get enough of it, so I’m taking their advice.
  • The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters: Victorian mesmerist gives the main character supernatural powers.   I saw this at my local indie shop and have been wondering about it ever since.
  • Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell: An old lady opposes the building of a big box store on the town border because it will literally unleash hell if the town’s borders are breached. It’s a novel, so…
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness: Descendant of first witch to ever be murdered in Salem accidentally comes across a book in a library that makes her run to a vampire for help. Sounds like just the kind of smut I love.

The Back Ups:

  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Valiant by Holly Black
  • Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter

That will more than do me for the trip.  I sort of consider all of the Maggie Stiefvater books of the same thing since they’re all the same series.  Whether I move on to Holly and Angela or not depends on how infatuated I am with Maggie’s stuff.  Tumblr loves those Raven Boys, but Tumblr is sometimes wrong (I know, I said it).

I’ll report back in a few weeks on the stuff I ACTUALLY read.  Much thanks to TOR for their recommendations, and also to The Book Seer (and my sister, for sending the link to me).

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A Week of Miscellany

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Oh man, I’m feeling like I have nothing to write about today.  Which is probably false.  It’s just been such a whirlwind of a week that I’m looking forward to snuggling on the couch with Anydots, eating leftovers, and watching cooking documentaries on Netflix until I inevitable pass out at 8:00 pm.

This week, I:

  • Played DnD on a school night (on Wednesday)
  • Went to see Community Voices at Chapman on Thursday (6 30-minute documentaries made by students, and SO GOOD. The Casa Theresa one had me laughing and crying, but the rest were amazing too.  Only the Cochlear one made me mad – SO INNACURATE)
  • Had the weirdest meditation experience on Friday in which I felt both lectured to and appreciated, for some reason.
  • Celebrated my grandfather’s 90th birthday on Saturday by going to a fancy lunch at Panda Inn and then eating mass quantities of pie at his house after.
  • Celebrated my amazing mother on Mother’s Day by cooking her Eggs Benedict (with Belinis) and then taking her to a movie.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that couch-potato me is a little frazzled.

On another note, for the first time EVER I am only 1 book ahead on my Goodreads reading challenge.  Last year I was perpetually 7 books ahead.  This year, I’ve been clocking in at about 3.  I’m claiming that it’s because I’ve been reading a bunch of non-fiction lately and those always take me longer.  But yikes!  I might swap out documentaries for a good book instead tonight.

I also want to mention, for anyone who is female and has unpublished stuff lying around, Half Of The World is running a literary contest for which the ultimate prize is $50,000.  No restrictions on genre, but it must be a screenplay, short story, novel, written in English It also has to feature a well-rounded female protagonist.  I mean, you might as well, right?  There’s no cost to enter.  Go check it out! https://halftheworld.media/

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Book Review: Little Women

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The last time I tried reading Little Women I couldn’t do it.  I found that I had memorized so much of it that it no longer operated like a book in my mind.  When I read, the scenes play as if they’re a movie.  Memorization = no movie = bad reading experience.

But I loved that book so much in high school.  I couldn’t even exactly say why, but just that it seemed so perfect.  I wanted the little shabby house, four sisters to romp with, and a neighbor like Laurie to pet and tease and wheedle.  I wanted a mother as supernaturally wise as Marmee is to just make most of the decisions for me.

Back then I identified mostly with Amy.  She’ll do anything to be liked, has a heck of a temper while still being hilarious (especially in her misuse of the English language), and gets into the funniest scrapes.  Like the time she tried to cast her foot in plaster and it hardened too soon.  So she just had a bucket stuck on her foot until Jo could stop laughing long enough to cut her out again.  There’s also the clothespin she uses to re-shape her nose (I never liked mine, either), and the weird dress up box she gets into at Aunt March’s.  They hand over the sugar bowl to her whenever she gets cross.  She cries over her math homework.  I mean, Amy’s truly my patronus.  Or was.

I decided to read Little Women again for a couple of reasons.  The first was that people were saying a lot of things online about it, and I wanted to read it with a more careful and critical eye.  The second was because I thought it would do for the 2016 reading challenge.  The book doesn’t remind me of Christmas as much as it probably should (yeah, it starts at Christmas, but 90% of the book is another season).  But it does remind me heavily of another season in my life.  Besides, it’s probably been ten years since I’ve tried it.

I am here to report that it’s better than you remembered it.  No, really.  That’s a possible thing.

Or at least it was better than I remembered it.  And I think this is why:  It talks frankly about poverty, shows it in a cheery if sometimes inconvenient light, and doesn’t give false hope.

I couldn’t have put it into words before now, but I’m awfully mad at American society under general principals.  It 100% isn’t true at all anymore that if you work hard enough you will be able to achieve the American Dream (if it ever was), and yet you are told a thousand times over that it’s the truth.  I’m of a generation who is tens of thousands of dollars in debt, has come of age during the WORST financial crisis seen in 80 years, often works multiple jobs to make ends meet, and yet is still called lazy because they are treading water in financial insecurity.  I’ve worked those multiple jobs myself.  Hell, I’m currently working one job with what  would be considered a middle class salary and I’m driving a jalopy and worrying about the grocery bill.

And I’ll be honest: my job is not what I thought it would be when I was 15.  I don’t hate it, certainly, but it’s not one of those “never work a day in your life” jobs.  It’s fine, I get a lot of satisfaction out of doing it well, and all the bills eventually get paid.  But I feel like  I at least deserve financial security if I am working that hard.

And then I crack open a page on the March girls.  And there is catharsis.

I found myself much more a Meg this time around.  She works as a governess for a couple of spoiled children and doesn’t like it, but it pays the bills.  She has to continually watch the older son blow fortunes on vices, money that they throw away but that would make a sea-change worth of help to her poor family.  She hangs out with Sallie Gardner and Annie Moffat who also have heaps more means that she does, and she must continually deny herself the trinkets and things they purchase without thinking. (See: my entire Chapman experience).  She’s always fussing with her wardrobe to make it nice, has terrible yet hilarious domestic trails after she gets married (oh, the sticky, jam covered kitchen), and has a rough transition to living with John Brooke and making the marriage work.  But in the end there is heaps of love and she is rewarded with a too-tiny yet cozy home they rule together, which Laurie dubs the Dovecote.

There is no “deserve” in this book. There are only choices and trials for all the girls.  The reward for their work is a better character and a good relationship with the people they love.  With some harmless, romping fun in between to break up the monotony, of course.  There is no promise that hard work = security in anything but secure relationships.  There is no expectation that any of the girls will find their “calling” and work at something they enjoy, or that work will ever be a pleasant thing.  There is only pride in pitching in to help and in a job well done.

I realized that I’d do better to take some of those ideas and start trying to live them.  So there I am again, in the same place I was 20 years ago: trying to use this book as a roadmap for life.

I guess some things never change.

Now excuse me while I go read Meg’s marriage scene again.

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Book Reviews: Fairy Tale and Fantasy

I usually don’t write book reviews on things I feel wishy-washy about.  There’s an author behind there somewhere, and I can sympathize wholeheartedly with how hard it was to write the thing, even if it was less than perfect.  Which means that I usually admit there were flaws in a sentence or two in the reading list, and then move on to the next book.  But I have vowed to write a review of everything I read in conjunction with the reading challenge.  And I didn’t have to enjoy the book for it to count as part of the challenge.  I just have to have finished it.

Here are two books that I’m counting but didn’t love.  I’ll tell you why, and you can decide whether you want to check them out for yourself, and I’ll also suggest alternatives that I liked much better than these.  I hope the authors aren’t too upset with me (although one is deceased, so…possible haunting?).

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Daughter of Witches by Patricia C. Wrede:                                                                                 (a book filled to the rim with magic)

I love Wrede’s writing.  Her Frontier Magic series is one of the most original and fun things I’ve ever read.  I love the Cecelia works she wrote with Caroline Stevermer, and will happily swoon over Marleon the Magician.

I am, however, not fond of a fantasy book that reads like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign (of any kind).  A D&D campaign is an exercise in shared storytelling, and the disconnected, character-centered thing that results hardly ever feels right when put into novel form.  It feels like the author is trying to share a joke with you that you had to be there to understand: it’s just not that amusing in the retelling.  Usually either the plot is good or the characters are developed, but not both.  It can feel like the characters are being pigeon-holed into a God-driven plot (ala the Dungeon Master) without good reason.  Wrede is pretty forthright about the Lyra novels being based on campaigns she ran, in a universe she created.

Despite my criticism of D&D novels, Wrede does a great job of making the Lyra Collection feel like it should in the later books.  Daughter of Witches is book 2, and Wrede clearly hasn’t hit her stride yet.  It wasn’t quite the confusion of kidnapping and journey with no explanation that Shadow Magic was.  But it was character heavy without much plot, and feels too guided.  The stakes never felt high for the characters, either.  The death is so distant that it doesn’t feel real, and the death that’s in front of them seems unurgent.

The writing was good, I stayed engaged in the world, but ultimately I just didn’t care about what happened to the characters.  I wanted to care, but couldn’t get there.  If you’re looking for something similar to read, I would start with Wrede’s Caught in Crystal and move to The Raven Ring.  Both are excellent, and you don’t need to have read the others in the series to have fun with them.  That way you get Lyra goodness with Wrede’s more developed style to back it up.  Or, you know, just go read Thirteenth Child, first of the Frontier Magic series.

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English Fairy Tales, by Joseph Jacobs:                                                                                         (a book with lots of mystical creatures)

My biggest beef with this book was that it proclaimed originality and didn’t deliver.  It was written in 1890, though, you will say.   So who is to judge whether the stories were perhaps new then?

The Grimms were writing books in the 1860s, and these stories are a repeat of those, almost completely, under the guise of being English instead of German.  Even in his time period, he loses originality points…

The book was in the simple folk-writing that fairy tales are often in, with lots of telling and little showing.  They were easy to read, and I did enjoy them some.  It was also a quick read, which I appreciated.  I was expecting much more than a collection of children’s stories that I had heard before, though.  So perhaps it was my expectation that was flawed and not the book itself.

Looking for something AWESOME to read instead?  Try The Classic Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar.  There are 44 tales in there, and she groups them into common themes and discusses similarities between cultures that you can see in the narratives.  That’s good and so is Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Family Tales by Valerie Paradiz, where she discusses how the Grimms used their sister to collect the stories, and the importance of the tales in female indoctrination to society.  Both are fairy tale plus, and an excellent read.  They contain more of the originality that I was hoping for when I picked this book up

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Book Review: Good Poems, American Places

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I mean, it’s sort of a review.  And a contemplation on America and life:

I didn’t move that far away from where I grew up and yet it still feels like a different world out here some days.  Most times that’s a good thing.  The views of bouldered green hills, snowcapped mountains, and rows of citrus make me feel like I am living in Ultimate California.  Although with my former job in my home town, I hadn’t really been able to enjoy it.

Now that I’m here, I’ve been exploring Riverside in fits and starts.  Between it and Redlands, I think this corner of the world might have been made for me.  On Tuesdays, the local movie theater screens classics.  The bakery down town has the most divine cinnamon twists.  There is a British Emporium & Tea Shop and an indie bookstore called the Cellar Door just minutes from my office.  Couple that with the civil war reenactors in Redlands, that amazing red library, and the fact that I am walking to the symphony Saturday night and I am in bliss.  I’m ready to take a walk and buy oranges at the fruit stand down the street.

For my reading challenge, I bought Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems, American Places at the bookstore last night.  It’s billed as poems for those who don’t like poetry.  I’m one of those people who scoffs at poetry, and I can support his claim because I’ve been loving it.  “The world is our consolation,” Keillor says of Americans in the introduction.  “When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, we get into our car and drive.  It’s a big country.”

I was listening to someone last Saturday night tell about adventures in Uganda.  They were strange and wonderful, but I knew that it was no more than a story to me unless I somehow, by some miracle, grow deeper pockets. I am realizing while reading this collection that what I do know is America.

I know boating on a placid, icy lake to a deserted hiking spot.  I know tubing in the summer sunshine while pontoon boats rise above my head.  I know the view of the golden dome of the capital building from the high rise hotel with city lights shining brighter than stars beneath.  I know planting tomatoes in the earth in front of my semi-generic tract home, and long road trips across concrete highways.  I have seen Old Faithful burst from the ground, and I have ridden the boat to Disneyland.

The book is making me contemplative and a little melancholy, I think.  But in a good way.  There’s so much to love in this book, so many moments that I’ve also felt along with the poet.  It feels like mine in a way no other of Keillor’s Good Poems collections have.  I’m very glad I found it.

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Interterm Reading List, 2016

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I’m in a weird place with the seasonal reading list.  My other school was on semesters, and the students just got back.  That means it should be time for a winter interterm reading list, right?  But the new school I’m working at is on the quarter system and it’s all wonky.  The students are already back.  This means I’m all fouled up.

So… I will post the interterm list and then another when the quarter ends, I guess?  We’ll see.  I like using this system because it’s so easy to figure out when I should post things.  End of semester?  Do a book list.  Nice and simple.  We’ll just have to make it work on the quarter system.

Here are the books I’ve read so far this December/January:

  • Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish by Eloisa James – a little bit farciful for my tastes, but I felt a palpable relief at getting into James’ writing after having read such terrible Christmas books before this one. She knows what she’s doing, and she’s doing it the fun way.
  • A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh – I actually liked this one quite a bit. The premise was original and the family was hilarious.
  • Agathe von Trapp: Memories Before and After The Sound of Music by Agathe von Trapp – So fascinating. I love hearing about the lives of the von Trapps, and this one was from a very different perspective of the ones I’ve heard before.  Agathe remembers much more about their early childhood and there are amazing pictures. Way worth it if you’re a Sound of Music fan.
  • Daughter of Witches by Patricia C. Wrede – The character development was wishy-washy and it read like a D&D Campaign. Sometimes I don’t mind that with Wrede’s Lyra novels, but this time it bothered me a bit.  I think I would have appreciated it more if the story line and characters were stronger.  Still a solid book, though.  She writes well.
  • Much Ado About You by Eloisa James – Ah, and now we move onto romance novels with embarrassing names. Good book, though.  Interesting premise, I loved the relationship between all the sisters, and I couldn’t at first tell who the hero would be.  That’s a first for romance novels for me.
  • Kiss Me Anabelle by Eloisa James – Continuation of the 1st book, and still almost as good as ever although it does feature a stopover in a hovel that I think could have been skipped. Even though Anabelle is the heroine, Imogen sort of steals the show for a while.  I didn’t mind.
  • The Taming of the Duke by Eloisa James – Finally an Imogen novel, and it’s as amazing as you would think it would be. Also bonus points because you have no idea at first who she will get together with.  She’s such a spitfire.
  • Pleasure for Pleasure by Eloisa James – I think that of the 4 Essex sisters, Josie is most like me. This book had lots of the fairy tale about it, too, so that was nice.  I think this one might have been my favorite of the 4.
  • Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay – I read Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightly last year and fell in love with her writing.  This one is just as compelling as you watch Lizzy and Jane figure out their relationship, watch Lizzy fall back in love with cooking, and get to care about all the other patients at the clinic.  It seemed more likely than Knightly, too.
  • Faking It by Elisa Lorello – Even if the writing wasn’t overly telling and the premise silly, I would have been mad at this book. It commits the carnal romance novel sin of not getting the guy and the girl together at the end.  She gets together with a different guy (who, while very nice, is NOT THE RIGHT GUY).  No, just no.
  • Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell – My new favorite author. (!!!) Vowell was the voice of The Incredibles’ Violet, and is obsessed with all things macabre American History. She’s hilarious, makes the greatest connections, and throws a ton of good history in for good measure.  I’ll be reading everything she’s ever written, please.
  • It’s Just a Jump to the Left by Libba Bray – I know it was a short story, but I’m not really sure what changed for the Leta between the first and the last except that she was left wholly alone at the end of it. Your understanding of her situation changed, but she didn’t.  Still a good read, with Bray’s amazing writing to pull you right in.
  • The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck – OH, so good.  I am an Oregon Trail junkie, have played the game a bazillion times, am a bit familiar with the history of it all, and have fallen in love with this book.  I desperately want to learn to drive a mule team and take them over the trail to Oregon.  Please say I can? Also, this has spawned much other reading.  I have Narcissa Whitman’s letters coming on Interlibrary Loan soon.
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A Reading Challenge

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Things have been a bit crazy here, so I’m sorry for the late post.  I’m leaving my job for a new one, and I have been insane wrapping things up, getting thank you letters written, and finishing the baby blanket for my now former boss (who is due in April).  I am excited for the new chapter of my life, though.  I’m sure I’ll write about that soon.

But in the mean time, I have some bookish goodness below.

I’ve decided to do a reading challenge this year in addition to reading 100 books.  There were a ton floating around on Tumblr, and I felt the longing to be participatory.  Besides, I read SO MUCH romance last year that it was really a travesty.  I usually branch out more than I did in 2015, and I think this challenge will get me reading in genres that I don’t automatically turn to.

After perusing all the ones available, I finally decided on this one from Stxry Books  http://www.stxrybooks.com/post/136388267660/stxrybooks-you-can-download-the.  It comes with a fancy printout version and everything, and also includes Poetry, Short Stories, and Graphic Novels – all of which I tend to avoid.

I’m also gonna do the thing where books don’t count for more than one category.  Like, I could put “The Diviners” in Book by a Female, Filled to the Rim with Magic, Scared to Read in the Dark, Involves a lot of Mystery, and Dark and Mysterious cover.  But I will only choose one for purposes of counting it under the challenge.

So here’s what I’ll be reading in 2016. There are only 31 of them, so I’ll still be able to read silly books to my heart’s content.  I’ll let you know how I do:

  • A book you bought long ago, but still haven’t read
  • A book with a character who is similar to you
  • A non-fiction book on something you’ve always wanted to know more about
  • A book by a female author (Lizzy and Jane, by Katherine Reay)
  • A book you never got to read in 2015
  • A book that will be a complete mindfuck
  • A book filled to the rim with magic (Daughter of Witches, Patricia C. Wrede)
  • A book you’re scared to read when it’s dark out
  • A book of which you liked the movie, but haven’t read the novel
  • A book that makes you want to visit the place it’s set
  • A book that’s on fire
  • A book that makes you want to be a villain
  • A classic you never made time for
  • A book that shows a different point of view
  • A book with short stories
  • A book that involves a lot of mystery
  • A book about a person who inspires you
  • A book that makes you want to be a hero
  • A graphic novel
  • A book of poetry
  • A book by an unfamiliar author (Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowel)
  • A book published in 2016
  • A book with a dark and mysterious cover
  • A book from a random recommendationalist
  • A book with a surprising love element
  • A book with lots of mystical creatures
  • A book that reminds you of another season
  • A book no one wants you to read
  • A book you own that is the most beautiful thing you’ve seen
  • A book that makes you a complete mess
  • A book you started but never finished
Categories: Book Reviews, Fiction | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Colds, Christmas, and Bookish Gifts

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One of these days I’m going to get around to a real, meaty post about bookish stuff.  I am deathly ill with the cold that’s been going around the office this month.  I was one of the last to get it, and I was thinking that my usual routine of Nyquil and insane amounts of hydration would see me through better than some.  Not so much.  I’ve been floored for 3 days now, and I still sound like I have a clothespin on my nose.

I’ve been consoling myself with Christmas.  Brian and I got the tree up last weekend, actually managed to put Christmas lights on our house, and bought a new angel for the tree.  She’s made of shell, and she lights up.  The pregnant angel – one of mysterious origin who had her little china hands centered over a mysterious bulge in her dress – is no more.  I’ve also been reading a bunch of Christmas-themed romance novels.  Which, frankly, have been terrible.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but certainly something better than I got.  The recommended ones seem to be mostly anthologies of short stories, of which I’m not as much of a fan.  Any recommendations?  Send them my way, please!  I am still throwing off the tired from this cold, so I’m sure I’ll be snuggled up in bed often over the next few days.

Nanowrimo went well-ish.  I won by all official measures (50,000 new words in November), but I didn’t finish the novel.  I’m back to editing other things, although I’m sure Easterbay will become an actual, edited thing someday.

In the meantime, I thought I might put up links so some of my favorite bookish stores for your perusing pleasure.  If you have a bookworm you’re shopping for, but are afraid that they probably already have any books you might consider getting for them, all of these are good options.

Out of Print Clothing: http://www.outofprintclothing.com/.  Between my “American Gods” shirt and my “Little Prince” shirt, I practically live in this stuff on the weekends.  So soft!  I’ve been drooling over their tote bags, too.  You can’t help but love a place that sells a nice Holden Caulfield hat as a necklace, or lets you light things on fire with your “Fahrenheit 451” matchbook.

Sainted Writers: https://www.etsy.com/shop/SaintedWriters.  Who doesn’t need a saint candle to burn to your favorite writer?  I need the Saint Neil Gaiman one STAT!  But we also bought Saint Stephen King for an old professor of my husband’s, and it comes complete with hilarious prayer on the back.

Literary Emporium: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LiteraryEmporium.  Pretty literary quotes with matching baubles, magic notebooks, and other fancy stuff.  They even have cufflinks for the male variety of bookworm.

Other things to consider are bookplate stamps, funky bookmarks, and Moleskine notebooks.  Those are all things I’d drool over.

Categories: Book Reviews, Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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