Posts Tagged With: Reading

Songs and Rain

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It’s a strange combination of spring and winter in California right now.  The Roger’s Red, which I measure the seasons by, has begun sprouting silvery leaves again.  The lavender is blooming in my front bed, and the giant Maple in the front yard is all dappled with fresh green leaves as well.  But it has been raining a dreary drizzle for days now.

It reminds me of the winters when I was a child.  Our house was mostly windows back then, and the loudness of the rain falling made you feel like you were out in it while simultaneously being able to cuddle up under a fluffy comforter with a book.  Sadly, I can no longer cuddle up under anything and expect to read.  I have a small boy who needs constant holding and attention.  He already grabs my phone when I’ve been reading on my kindle app too much.

He’s surprisingly coordinated now.  Meaning that when he tries to put things in his mouth he gets them within an inch of his target, hitting his cheeks or his nose most times.  That isn’t what I would call coordinated at all a few months ago, but the fact that he could reach for something and grab it was a revelation, let alone put it mostly where he wants it.  He’s like a little birdy with his mouth, too, opening it wide for a pacifier, a plush toy, a fist, or a nipple.  He’s putting the whole world in his mouth.

I have discovered that if you put me alone in a room with a small child long enough, what results is silly songs.  I’ve been singing “He’s got the whole world in his mouth” to the tune of “whole world in his hands.” You can substitute the verse for whatever he’s currently eating.  “He’s got his mother’s knuckle in his mouth,” is a popular one.  So is “the sleeve of his onesie,” and “his green knit blanket.” But really you can substitute almost anything.  We’ve been trying to avoid “the sudsy washcloth” with more success than not.

I also have been singing him this song, to the tune of “I Hate to Get Up In The Morning.”  It’s based on true events.

Oh how I hate to get up in the morning/ oh how I’d love to remain in bed/ But when your son pees on all your fancy clothes/ you’ve got to launder all of those/ Or spend the rest of your life na-ked. 

Add that to the bevvy of things we’ve all pulled out of nowhere to sing him, and he’s going to have the strangest musical vocabulary ever.  Brian sings him “I Feel Pretty,” (he likes the “la, la, las,”) and my mother has been singing him the theme song to Daniel Boone.  I’ve been singing him Alan Sherman tunes amid musicals, hits from the 40’s and 50’s, girl scout camp stuff, and my own silliness.  He babbles back with smiles.

It’s harder being home with a kid than it logically should be.  I mean, feeding, changing, and playing aren’t theoretically difficult things, it’s just that they never end.  But being home with him is also more rewarding than I expected.  All I need is to launch into a version of “Look to the Rainbow” and feel this kid snuggle into my chest to feel like it’s all worth it.  Maybe days of bedding down in the rain with a book just got more social…

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Fantasy, LeGuin, and Miscellany

I just heard the news that Ursula K. LeGuin died, and I am saddened beyond belief.  I think, like with Elie Wiesel, that I will need a while to gather my thoughts.  Right now, all I can think of is the books she wrote that I would recommend someone read, and it turns out that it’s all of them.  But she meant so much more to me than her literature, and to express that I will need time.

If you can get a copy, though, the one that sticks with me hardest today is her fake Ethnography of the Kesh people in post-nuclear California: Always Coming Home.  It’s a beautiful, odd, and terrifying thing that doesn’t read dystopic at all.  And of course you already know of the Earthsea series and The Left Hand of Darkness.

I have been trying to figure out a way to keep myself from going insane with boredom with nothing to do all day but hold a small boy, and I’ve been reading odd fantasy books: Maggie Stiefvater’s All The Crooked Saints (I cannot tell if I like this book or not because it was a hard one to love and yet it was so BEAUTIFULLY written…); Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor (where she does everything they tell you not to do in a novel and it still ended up claiming me completely); and Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin (the best thing I’ve read since Uprooted last year, and the first thing I’ve been head over heels for since Robin McKinley’s latest). It feels good to contemplate other worlds, and I think I’ll continue.

I have been reading the books out loud to the baby when he’s awake, and I’m sure he’s thoroughly confused now since he gets only snippets of whatever passage I’m on when he happens to have his eyes open.  I’ll warrant that he’s getting a pretty good vocabulary, though.  And a knowledge of his people, since his big eyes and pointed chin have me half-convinced he’s a Fairy himself.  Or maybe just a changeling.

It might just be a coincidence in timing (or his elfin heritage), but Fantasy books seem to have him sleeping better at night.  He’s been letting us sleep a solid 4 hours at a time most evenings, and even a 6 hour stretch every once in a while.  I never thought 4 hours of sleep would sound luxurious, but it does.

I have also stopped doing strange things in my sleep now that he’s sleeping longer.  So far I have woken Brian up twice to ask him to take the baby when the baby had already been sleeping in his bassinet for at least an hour.  And then there was the evening where I tried to convince Brian that I was feeding the baby right now, when the kid was actually in Brian’s arms and yelling at me about not being quick enough with the midnight snack.  Parenthood is mostly a comedy of errors, I’m finding.  But at least it’s a comedy…

Next on the reading list is probably Ellen Kushner’s Thomas the Rhymer.  But maybe I’ll get out some of my old LeGuin instead.  It’s been ages since I’ve read The Tombs of Atuan, or Voices – two I have read countless times in the past because they’re my favorites.

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Oh Horrid Night Housekeeping

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This is just a super-quick blog entry to let you all know they’re hosting a discussion of my short story tonight over on FunDead publications’ Facebook page, here.  I’m excited to hear what everyone thought, so I hope you’ll join in if you’ve had a chance to read it.

If you haven’t had a chance to read it because you haven’t yet procured a copy, FunDead is also hosting a giveaway on Instagram.  Just share a picture of your Christmas tree with the hashtag #ohhorridtree and you’ll be entered to win.

This has been a Horrid Night PSA.  Happy reading!

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November Start

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I told you it wouldn’t be a whole month until I came back again.  Nano is going very well.  So well, in fact, that I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It usually drops in week 2, so we’ll see how much I hate this story and everything it stands for in another 8 days or so.  I’m no longer surprised that this happens, but every year I’m surprised by how genuine the feelings of loathing are.  You would think I would have learned by now that this is a phase.

Brian participated in the annual Baked Potato Decorating Day contest at his work, held every year on November 1st.  He won for his impressive rendition of Bag End, complete with round carrot door and broccoli Party Tree.  I am still upset by his refusal to let me make hobbits from tater tots, but I shall live through my disappointment.  His prize was $45 to Barnes and Noble, and we spent a blissful evening among the stacks of books.

“Do you want anything?” Brian asked me toward the end of our perusal.

I started laughing.  Because I want everything, of course.  They’ve come out with those amazing gilded Barnes and Noble Classic editions of American Gods and Anansi Boys, A Wrinkle In Time, Shell Silverstein poems, Cthulhu mythos, Robin Hood, Moby Dick, The Eye of the World, 10 Wizard of Oz books…  Moleskine has Harry Potter special editions sitting on the shelf.  I have not yet read Rene Ahdieh’s latest.  America’s Test Kitchen has a gigantic cooking bible.  I’m dying to purchase a slew of romance novels, and Uprooted. They have a vast collection of color-your-own postcards and a Pusheen luggage set.  I still need the Puffin In Bloom copy of the Little Princess.  They had fancy hard-backed editions of The Silmarillion.  When I said I wanted everything, I wasn’t kidding.

“Don’t worry about me,” I said.  I’m used to drooling and not buying.  Also, I didn’t help with the potato and I can’t remember the last time Brian bought books.  He picked up three and has been spending his nights reading, like I usually do, which is reward enough.

Writing and reading your heart out are what November is for.  We have a good start on that over here.

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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 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 Reviews: Neverwhere and A Knot In The Grain

I’m posting a few more book reviews this week even though they’re horribly late.  It’s been a doozy of a weekend, although I’m not 100% sure why I feel that way.  I don’t always get a Thursday entry in, but I ALWAYS get a Monday one and I didn’t this week…

But I will get this Tuesday one done if it kills me (I mean, it won’t kill me…).

I’m charging along on the old 2016 reading challenge.  Out of 32 books, I only have 13 left to read. And we haven’t even hit the middle of the year yet.  Here are two I haven’t blogged: A book of short stories, and a book with a dark and mysterious cover.

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A Knot in the Grain by Robin McKinley (a book of short stories):

As I’ve said on the blog before, I’m not usually a fan of short stories.  I picked this one up, though, because it was Robin McKinley and it was free on Kindle Unlimited (thanks mom!).  It’s comprised of five tales, and honestly I think it’s arranged from worst to best.  The first 4 stories take place in this odd fairy tale world that feels like Grimm but actually contains happy endings, or at least contented ones.  My favorite of the first 4 tales was Buttercups, and I think it was definitely worth the purchase price.  While I didn’t exactly enjoy the other stories, I did find myself thinking about them between times, which I think is a sign of good stuff.

The story the book is named after, though… oh man.  I wish it were a whole novel.  It takes place in a modern setting where a high school girl moves to a new home and finds a strange box in an attic.  I don’t know how McKinley captures real life so well, but she really does mundanity so that you want to live it.  This is the sort of thing that makes McKinley one of my favorites.

I enjoyed the book quite a lot, and would recommend it.  Especially to fans of McKinley’s other stuff.

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Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (a book with a dark and mysterious cover):

I don’t even really know where to start with this one.  It’s a re-read for me and I liked it less the second time around.  Which isn’t to say that I didn’t like it.  I don’t know, it’s hard to pinpoint.

Richard Mayhew, average executive in dubious relationship, stumbles on a bleeding girl while on his way to dinner.  He helps her, and then finds that no one recognizes him anymore.  He now belongs to an alternate city below the London he knows: London Below, and must go on a perilous journey to get back to his home.  If that’s what he really wants, that is.  It’s filled with creepy Rat Speakers, A Huntress, vampiresses, the Lady Door, and evil Angel, a dreadful prehistoric beast, and sadistic Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandermar.

It’s definitely well-written and such a cool idea.  Gaiman comes up with all sorts of interesting things for the defunct names of London past.  Like the Earl in Earl’s Court who has set up a medieval home on the tube.  Or the Shepherds in Shepherd’s Bush that you really don’t want to meet.

It’s great.  It’s cool.  It’s creepy. It’s everything you could want from a Gaiman story.  But is it missing a bit of emotion?

I guess I wished on the second time around that I felt more affection for Door and for Richard than I ended up feeling.  But seriously, go read it.  You won’t be disappointed.

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Winter Reading List, 2016

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I’ve felt like it’s been officially spring here for a few weeks now, but it’s now officially official as of the end of last week. The winter quarter is over, finals and all.  Which means… it is time for the Winter reading list.  It’s shorter than normal, partly because I just did this in January.  Partly because when I do a lot of my own writing, I tend to do less reading.  And partly because life has been a little crazy lately as Brian and I spend all our weekends planting out the front beds and  waging a gopher war in the back yard.  All my raised beds are lined in chicken wire now.  So there. (crossing my fingers that holds them.)

The time has come.  Here’s everything I have read since January and what I thought of it:

  • The Color of Magic, by Terry Pratchet – Oh, I don’t know. It wasn’t bad.  It felt more like it was done for funny than actually because it had a good plot arc or compelling story.  It was funny, but I quickly got impatient with Rincewind and his inane tourist.
  • Good Poems: American Places, by Garrison Keillor – Left me melancholy and nostalgic in the best way. I would recommend wholeheartedly, and I don’t like poetry usually.
  • English Fairy Tales, by Joseph Jacobs – Not what I was expecting, and not really new at all (despite author claims). Feels like the French stuff rehashed.  It was well written, but didn’t offer more than other standards in the same genre.
  • Desperate Duchesses, by Eloisa James – I enjoyed it, as I do all of James’ stuff. There’s a reason I’m on a quest to read everything she’s ever written.  The heroine in this one was a bit silly, but not as silly as some I’ve read.  And it all worked in the end to a satisfactory conclusion.
  • Aspects of the Novel, by E. M. Forster – You know, I got just as much out of the beginning of this book as ever, but got super tired of slogging through old novel excerpts in the end of it for not as much analysis as I’d like. Great for the information, but definitely work to read.
  • Pippa’s Cornish Dream, by Debbie Johnson – Meh. It was fine, but it wasn’t anything unusual.  I liked the fact that the heroine was so spunky.  I think the real reason it didn’t work for me is because I didn’t like the guy much.
  • Emily Climbs, by L. M. Montgomery – I LOVE Emily and her cats and her writing. A favorite of mine, that I’ve read more times than I can count.  It makes me feel like the writing struggle is real, and surmountable with enough work.
  • Emily’s Quest by L. M. Montgomery – Every time I read this, I am less of a mess. I mean, Emily really makes a lot of the strife she suffers for herself.  Still, it’s not an easy read, though it’s beautiful.
  • Clarkesworld Year 3 Anthology, by Neil Clarke – I mean, they’re well written with some beautiful and heartbreaking ideas. But I realized that I just am not a fan of short stories.  Oh the irony, right, as I try to write them?  I know.
  • Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman – My new favorite thing (!!!). It’s like my Deadlands game came to life and featured a super awesome heroine who sold her soul to the devil and now channels his magic to protect the territory.  Best thing EVER.  I’m sad the other 2 books aren’t out yet, because I’d get them in a heartbeat.  I can’t wait until October.

As always, happy reading!

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Book Review: Emily Climbs, Emily’s Quest

I’ve tried to review the Emily books so many times that it’s just silly.  But the books are so much a part of my existence at this point that it’s hard to be coherent about them.  Emily is the quintessential writer.  Not only are her thoughts, feelings, and work ethic extremely similar to mine, but Montgomery (along with Garrison Keillor) is one of the people I hold up as a paragon of a point I like to make.  Every subject matter is valid, even everyday mundane life.  You don’t have to have experience in darkest Africa or on the fringes of society to write an interesting book.  The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is rural Prince Edward Island in the early 1900s with plenty of aunts and family traditions to make a girl crazy.

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I have marked Emily Climbs as the book where she is most like me on the 2016 reading challenge.  This is the book in which she’s a struggling, working writer while still trying to balance school duties and family expectation.  Emily is more sensitive than I am.  I’m able to not care about what people think of me in a way she can’t.  But otherwise we are alike.  Right down to the writing habits – spilling out all the chaff of life into a diary before writing into the wee hours of the night.  Sending manuscripts back and getting nothing but rejections for them.  Scribbling sketches of events and trying to capture character in a few paragraphs.  Watching the rejections pile up and pretending you don’t care.  Being so proud of the free subscription or set of contributors copies that come with your first publication instead of pay.  Always hoping for more.

The only thing I don’t find terribly realistic is that Montgomery doesn’t treat Emily’s writing as exactly right.  We never see her editing, only writing more and more things.  It’s such a faithful portrait of a young writer otherwise that I’m sad it’s left out, not because I feel it detracted from the story but because I think it would have helped me earlier to realize that 75% of the writing process isn’t actually writing. It’s editing the stuff you wrote.

I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not.  I cannot see it clearly anymore because I am far too close to it.  But owls in the Land of Uprightness, Egyptian trinkets at the snowshoe dance, Perry’s terrible poetry and Ilse’s bad temper, midnight donuts with Cousin Jimmy, and Aunt Ruth’s terrible snooping all make for something pretty magical.

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I also read Emily’s Quest this time.  I don’t often, because this book is full of heartache.  Emily makes one bad mistake after another, spends all of her time lonely and wanting, and I generally feel morose and horrible at the end of it.  She gets a happy-ish ending, but it is so quick and so slim that it hardly seems worth the pain to get there.  It qualifies quite well as a book that makes me a complete mess for the reading challenge.

This is another one I don’t know if I should recommend.  I love knowing what happens to Emily, but watching her be so proud and so mistaken, to attempt to give things you know she can’t, to watch her succeed professionally and fail so hard personally, is not an easy thing to do.  I love New Moon, but this Emily is not the carefree, hopeful girl of the other books.  This girl has taken it on the chin hard and is struggling to make a life knowing that.  It feels true, but it doesn’t make it better to digest.  The moonlit snows and gray cats in the orchards seem lonely now, and not a comfort.  One by one, all her friends go away.  That, too, I think is a bit like the rest of us.  The promise of college never is quite the same from the other side.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to read Emily as a comfort book.  I realized that I’ve memorized large swaths of Emily Climbs this time around, and it didn’t grip me as hard as it usually does because of it.  This read around might be the end of an era.  For quite a while, at least.  We’ll see how I feel in a year or so.

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