Christmas Reads: Love in a Castle

BookRiot’s Read Harder 2019 list was released on Wednesday!  It doesn’t matter that I am still chewing my way through 2018’s list either!  I even watched the Youtube video released and wrote it down before I could find the list I was so anxious to know what the next year’s lineup was to be.

Plotting my next year projects get me through the doldrums post Christmas and the prospect of the rest of the winter going by without all the Christmas lights twinkling on my way home from work.  Christmas lights are entirely too short lived.

I love the 2019 list.  I can’t tell you that I know how to find all of these books but it is better than the prospect of another celebrity memoir.  I am delighted to say it will be the first memoir free year in many.  Even if I hit Popsugar.

I’d rather hunt for an award winner of color, a non binary or prison author than read about white people ascending to an even more exalted status, even if white people problems will always hold a certain appeal to this Apple product loving, bangs wearing white girl.

Also white people romances in castles at Christmas, which was the intent of this post before the miracle of the new Read Harder list being released.

I lied last week when I said there are no witches in my Christmas romance lineup.  I didn’t know that Scottish time travel romances would involve a meddling magic hub in the form of a woman:

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Morna’s Legacy Christmas Novella Collection:  Scottish, Time Travel Christmas Novellas from Morna’s Legacy Series

I mean, Scotland, Christmas and time travel.  Coming from someone who enjoyed the first in the Outlander series, this was a no-brainer.  Outlander is a little more hard core on the Scottish history, which I loved in the first one but I haven’t read the rest because I heard the sex decreases and the anxiety increases, and, despite the historical accuracy of  it, it’s not enticing reading.

Morna is considerably lighter and these three books are compiled I think to appeal to a wide range of ages.   Two of the three are about older couples falling in love, kind of a second chance you really aren’t too old for this sort of thing and the other one is about traveling back in time to fix a breakup in a young couple just starting out.  Hope that last bit wasn’t a spoiler.  And they all center around the season of love and light, and being with family and finding family at Christmas.

These romances also include some mildly graphic sex, but it is love sex, not hookup sex.  It is like, soulmate sex. These are happily evers for three sets of lovers that, in the beginning, weren’t headed toward that.  It’s wish fulfillment without obstacles that are too harrowing.

All three of these stories were less than ten hours of listening on audio, and audio is always the way to go when you are listening to stories with Scottish characters. Real narrators who can do the accent but still have it understandable.   A decent price. Good background listening to a nice walk or gift wrapping.

I’d love to check out Scotland someday, even though I have heard that it is easy to underestimate how cold the place can be.

In other news, cookie baking was the seasonal activity of the weekend. And getting my husband to score me some massage gift cards for Christmas.  I wasn’t sad I didn’t have to freeze my butt off for a parade and a tree lighting like I did last weekend.

Next week is another holiday foray into a mega famous author’s works again for what I think will be the last Christmas reads post of the season.  I snuck in another read that doesn’t fit in with next week’s post but it might get tossed in anyway if I finish it in time to blog about it.  I’m really enjoying it, so I hope I finish it.

Then it’s my last two Read Harder reads.  Yes, I have three weeks to go and I haven’t finished all my reads and squeezing in the last few reads to make my Goodreads challenge goal.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

And I am already the cheater scoping out the internet for my 2019 plan.

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The Night Circus. Because NaNoWriMo

So, it’s the second full week of November and I am wondering how the NaNos are doing out there.  The ones trying to binge out over a thousand words a day on average to have a manuscript, or a good portion of one, by December.  Is it flowing? Is it a disaster?

November is a really hard month for me to be able to do NaNo.  I have never done it even though I am pretty sure I knew about it before I had a child.  It is coming off all the nuttiness of Fall and then I start to get ready now for Christmas because I like having everything bought and wrapped long before it has to go under a tree.  Occasionally cookies/Chex Mix get made as well. I wish NaNo was in February.  By that time all the extras in my life have slowed to a dead stop…holidays, son’s sports, desire/ability to go outside consistently, all that. It’s not sandwiched between two major holidays in my home with one dotted in the middle like November is.

And I know that to do NaNo you can edit, or just do daily prompts, and last year I did a ten day writing course online where you wrote little blurbs and got feedback, and I really enjoyed that.  But with being sick so much of October and the six Halloween events and his birthday that my son ended up attending, well, I made no effort to plan.  No outlines made. I have two novels needing revision but this is not the month they will be pulled back out.

A lot of organizing and purging has been happening which is awesome, but it isn’t writing.  A lot of Netflix has also been happening because of being sick and two books I read coming out as miniseries, but that one isn’t awesome.  I’m not getting the reading done that I could be.

I decided though in honor of NaNoWriMo I will review a classic NaNo creation.  One that others claim is the reason we set ourselves up for this in the first place:

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The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

Water for Elephants, interestingly, is also a NaNo winner, and probably more famous than The Night Circus.  Interesting they both have to do with a traveling circus in times past.  It’s too difficult in modern times, in my opinion, to just run off and join the circus.  It sounds like you’d have to pay a lot of ATM fees for rarely being near your bank.  But when times were different, it was a place where someone with few other prospects could find a life, or escape a life they weren’t looking forward to.

Morgenstern’s circus is a magical playground for two magicians, fated to battle one another to the death through creating spectacles.  They are unknowingly committed as young children and trained.  Not only the magicians but also all the performers are wrapped up in the spectacle, some unaware that they are a part of this illusionist competition.  The only ones who age are the twins born on opening night.  Otherwise no one is born or dies, like being trapped in amber while they travel the world and perform as part of a game.  The magicians find each other and have to contend with the idea that one of them has to die for the competition to be considered over.

This book reminded me of a major reason that I think I love magic books as much as I do.  Magic is inherently academic.  You spend your time learning the basics through reading, notes, and lectures, you have to give demonstrations, you can spend your whole life holed up in a small space just reading and reading and experimenting and digging for whatever magical truth or power source you’re looking for.  These magicians compete but not without tons of tutelage and study.  Sometimes I miss academia.  Other times I like casting my own magic from my reading, demonstrations, practice and tutelage.  I like feeling at times like I actually have an effect on the world.

I first read this book around the time I got married and I felt it needed to be revisited, as I didn’t remember a lot because of all the wedding stuff going on.  It was a good transition from my magic/scary reads to the rest of the variety I enjoy.   I hadn’t remembered exactly the ending from the first time and I won’t spoil it now for everyone, but it was decent. I remember reading it on the beach and letting my new husband’s dog (now gone from us) paddle around in the lake while my husband watched football with the guys who had come out to be in our wedding.  But I needed to read it again to remember the magic of the black and white circus, the performers, the followers, the boy who runs away with them.  I also listened to it this time, as a friend of mine says that she felt it was creepy on audio.  I wasn’t sure that I felt it was creepy, but I liked having the accents of the characters to listen to to make them seem more real.  It’s always one of my favorite parts of audiobooks.

NaNoWriMo likely won’t make me Sara Gruen or Erin Morgenstern or Marissa Meyer (I haven’t read her series yet, it’s taking me forever to get to) but end of the year planning and posts are in progress.

Are you doing NaNo?  How is it going?

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Wharton and McKay’s Witches in New York

I love my Scary Reads series so much that I read and posted most of the month of October before September was over.  And what a lucky thing that I did.

I got my son’s cough a week before my half marathon, and all the money and time spent training for this event was not going to be wasted on a cough, so I ran it anyway.  I was good for about week until it bloomed into what I am pretty sure was sinusitis, which is bad enough in that it is gunky, but I lost my appetite and my energy plummeted to the point where I did nothing but the bare minimum at home and at work.  I had one more race to run that I didn’t run.  I have a list of house stuff and personal projects I am trying to get through and I have late paperwork at work I have to spend time working on today.  It’s time to make serious holiday plans and prep.  I can’t believe how much energy I normally run on and it’s even harder to believe how fast it disappeared.  I went from putting down 13 mile runs to my chest hurting standing up too long. I might have fallen behind on posting if I had not already been ahead.

But I am on the other side.  I still feel like exercising won’t leave me enough energy to do my day, but I can post on what little reading has gotten done.  I didn’t even have the mental energy to focus on reading.  I binged on Netflix.  I never binge on Netflix.  No offense to people who do so to relax, but I feel it is a waste of time.

I decided to combine these two books that I read for very different reasons into the same post.  As I reflected on them, they were actually about the same thing. They both deal with women grabbing up what power they can inside and outside the confines of their lives and conventions and interestingly have two very different takes on New York City in the late 1800s.  They are both witches in their own right, if we are defining a witch as a woman who influences her world rather than being controlled by it.

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The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton

This was for BookRiot’s book you read for school but hated/never finished.  I finished this one and begrudgingly wrote a feminist critique on it for my senior project in high school. It was begrudging for many reasons:  one, I have never found a Wharton novel uplifting (I’m still not sure how I have read three of them) and two, all the seniors not in the advanced class could do their senior project on whatever they wanted.  Anything.  Any senior even in the advanced class had traditionally done whatever they wanted in other years.  My sister did hers on old time movie stars.  My class was given a list of literature to choose from and then we had to do a literary critique on it.  I don’t still have a copy of it.  I don’t remember feeling it to be, even at the time, my magnum opus.

I was still interested to revisit it twenty years later, to see what my new eyes would show me.  And to fully explain my thoughts I have to spoil the end, so if you are thinking of reading it and you don’t want to know, read it and then come back to this post.

I believe in the paper I said that May Welland/Archer was not the innocent that she would like to project, that her moves were also calculated, despite it looking on the outside that she was the innocent victim, nearly getting the short end of the stick by playing by all the rules, the lovely, quintessential affluent female, the crown jewel of NYC’s gilded age high society.

In my second run through, one almost feels badly for May, playing by all the old rules when clearly the context is changing and women are getting more freedoms, and it looks like she could be bested by a woman who personifies the new world and way of thinking.  Newland proposes to an old school version of the desirable bride, but then realizes he wants a woman who isn’t so sheltered who can be more his equal than marriages that he sees in his contemporaries.  May is the old world and Ellen is the new, and the old world, like it does, finds a way to win out.  May makes all the rules work for her when for Ellen, the old rules very much don’t.  May is powerful in her own right.  May keeps her man and Ellen decides to save her pride by returning to Europe but still living on her own terms.  She almost steals Newland in the process, but she doesn’t.  I can’t say that Ellen ends up unhappy, at least she doesn’t go back to her husband, but if the goal is to keep your man and your status, which is clearly what May wants, May wins the day.   Like she meant to all  along.  Even when she offered to release Newland from the engagement before they are married, even if she thinks it is because of feelings toward an ex.  I didn’t know at what point she figures his relationship with Ellen.  Maybe she tries to release him because of Ellen all along.  But it is a beautifully calculating and self sacrificing move.  How could Newland give that up? Guess what.  He never does.  And through her life, she clings to the conventions that worked out for her in her youth.

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The Witches of New York, Ami McKay

I read this one just because I wanted to.  I didn’t intend on a witches post because I did so many last year, but this was too compelling.  It was my dessert. And it was everything I have ever wanted in a magical novel: ghosts, magic, fortune telling, romance, some madness, NYC in the 1880s.  A young woman striking out on her own to discover a magic in herself that she never knew she had.

May Welland Archer lived in the other part of town, playing by all the rules in the center of society, while these women inhabited the fringe.  Growing up half parentless and unconventional themselves, these women are more obviously witches who perform magic and see ghosts and fortunes and help women to take control over their lives in the guise of a tea shop.  They pretend to live in the lines with a respectable business and are patronized by women of means, but they are independent and enjoy being so.

I was intrigued by the world of the very rich when I first read Wharton but I am now more intrigued by the fringes of the world than I am with the circumscribed security of the rich.  I liked the talking bird and the description of how life was lived on Blackwell’s Island, the ghosts who only allude some characters. The darkest of antagonists and more life threatening situations than challenging of the old way of doing things and the possibility of one’s husband absconding to Europe with your scandalous cousin.

We never get a peek into May Welland’s mind but I am assuming that she believed herself to be powerful by being the opposite of these women who also believe themselves to have as much control over their world as possible.  May plays and wins the game from the inside, these witches play from the outside, and even though they have different outcomes, they all are victorious in the way they want to be.   Same time, same place, different witches.  Different definitions of victory and happiness.  I wish I had been able to compare these both feminist texts when I was in high school.

I’m two books away from completing the BookRiot challenge with 8 weeks in the year to go.  The rest of the year is going to sweep right along anyway, with preparing Christmas for a small child.  And then planning my projects in a new year.

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Scary Reads October: Poe novels

I actually have to turn a light on to write in the morning again when I am getting it in before work!  Fall, what do you do to me after you lure me in with changing leaves, cool air, pumpkin patch trips and hoodies is you bundle me back up into the cold darkness of what is going to be a long cold season where I live.

Also, my son reached his sixth birthday yesterday so the weekends have been birthday and Halloween shenanigans.  He chose a Jack Skellington costume due to his being my child and loving the small bits of macabre that I allow to him.  I couldn’t believe Wal Mart had a Jack Skellington costume, and there was only one, but another excellent thing about my child is he doesn’t hem and haw about what to be for Halloween.  He chooses something and sticks to it, and the last two years he has truly had a choice, I have agreed with it wholeheartedly.  So that Jack costume launched itself into my cart with alacrity.  And like every mother it is hard to believe that they pulled him out of me and he changed me as a person six years ago already.

For this post, I read two books that have been camping out on my TBR forever featuring Edgar Allan Poe as protagonists.  And yes, I realize that this post may have been better earlier in the month, closer to the anniversary of his mysterious death. Anything to do with EAP is sure to be dark.  He is the 8th grade student’s hero with his brooding darkness and his tales that make kids realize that maybe all old literature isn’t terrible and boring and unrelateable.  Like, a guy who seals someone in a wall for revenge?  Someone who thinks they can hear the beating heart of someone they murdered coming from the floor panels?  Sweet!  And if kids read up on his life a little I think he is even more fit to be a broody, morbid and dark young teenager’s hero:  he struggles for a place in the world, is very smart, very moody, with a razor sharp sarcasm that he used even on his supposed ‘betters’ as a staunch literary critic.  These elements also make it unsurprising that multiple authors have chosen him for their historical fiction novels, combined with the fact that these are both mysteries and Poe himself was one of the first writers of detective fiction.  In this blog I review two:

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Poe Must Die, Marc Olden

This one was actually written in the 1970s and I had no idea it was that old when I downloaded it to read.  In this one, a prizefighter in England comes to 1830’s NYC to seek revenge on a man who was responsible for the death of his wife and son, and he is referred to EA Poe by Charles Dickens as someone who can help.  They start off as an unlikely pair but of course get to appreciate and look out for one another.  By the 1830’s, Poe’s young wife had died of TB and he was untethered and despairing, having given himself over to grief and substance use, the fame of The Raven still present but waning.  He has investment in stopping the same antagonist, a powerful man who is also setting to find supernatural secrets and have dark and demonic supernatural powers, and has chosen a young beautiful widow that Poe has some interest in to dupe into helping him reach his goal of complete power and takeover.  Both men have nothing to lose by seeking to stop and kill him.  Most men in this novel have a reason they could want Poe dead, and some of them try to kill him off and some of them don’t.  The antagonist instead chooses to try to drive him mad by convincing him the ghost of his dead wife is outside his home at night.

Both of these books deal with NYC in the early 1800s, back when it was all muddy streets and the usual combination of extreme haves and extreme have nots.  I love the history of NYC, and in these books it is so new that it is even still forested, especially in the next book I talk about, which takes place years earlier than this one.  They involve the same infamous slums that Poe frequented and both talk about the same event where Poe was face down in an animal fighting ring, although one book says that he willingly drank himself there and the second book suggests that he was drugged against his will.  It is a completely plausible setting for a plot of someone seeking supernatural dark power and doing everything to get it.

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On Night’s Shore, Randall Silvis

This one takes place a little earlier in time, so NYC is still even more muddy and wooded, although the decaying Brewery and Five Points are still featured settings in the city, and Poe’s wife Virginia is still alive as a convalescent.  And although he is writing, he hasn’t hit his fame yet with The Raven.  He is still trying to make it as a freelance writer and sell his work when he is low on money.

This one is also lighter.  There is no antagonist looking to raise power to be equal to the dark forces or baiting people Poe loves into death, no resurrection, no hostage taking of dead bodies.  It is told from the perspective of a ten year old street urchin who, as one might expect, is also trying to find his place in the world, and befriends Poe to help solve the mysterious death of a young woman.  He also falls in love with Poe’s little corner of domesticity with his mother in law and his wife, a loving and cozy life that the boy has never known in his ten years.

There are some dark and terrible things that happen, but the villains involved are the usual power drunk white men who are looking to have fun with no consequence and amass as much wealth and influence as possible.  More run of the mill reasons for murder, not, like, trying to find immortality, although in some of the cozies I read last year immortality was a more typical antagonist goal than in other books.

At least I posted on Poe books in the same month of his mysterious disappearance and death, even if it wasn’t earlier in the month.  If Poe was truly a sleuth in his life, equipped with his razor tongue and wit, a mysterious death of his own and a tragically short life himself doesn’t surprise me.  Also I have downloaded some of Poe’s detective novels, hailed as some of the first in the genre, because these fictionalized, although holding true to basic facts stories, intrigue me to look into more of his writing.

I hope everyone is enjoying their Halloween season!  Two more Halloween reads to post on, so stay tuned if you are enjoying scary reads October.

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Halloween Reads Kicks Off with YA and Magic

Scary Reads is finally here!!

Well, finally for you.  I have been digging into the scary reads since my camping trip in the middle of August because I could indulge in paper library books for the trip.  It is an indulgence to have the time to read in daylight, on a beach, instead of cramming books into the margins of driving, working out, crafting, doing chores, or relaxing before bed.  Not that I don’t love to do that, I do, but since I have become a parent I have learned the importance of time in the margins.  Over the past 6 years since my son came, I have successfully kept up with a blog, run two half marathons and completed three sprint triathlons and drafted two novels (both are written out but need revisions before I try to get them anywhere).

The two books discussed today are borrowed library paper indulgences, YA in different time periods but with similar themes.  And I get to use my pumpkin patch picture.  Everyone wins.

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House of Furies, Madeline Roux

This stood out to me because of it’s solid Gothic vibe emanating from the library shelves, reaching out to me, playing on my love of the Gothic.  A teen girl with nowhere to go is taken to this mysterious house to work as a servant, but dark, supernatural secrets start to come out of the cracks.  This could be slow in places, because as it is the beginning of a series there is setup, and most of the book she is unraveling secrets and trying to get out, but being ambivalent, even when she is given permission to go by the mysterious house master.  The other servants in the house have their own stories and secrets and shall we say, talents, in a way that reminded me of Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children.  I can’t remember if the book for Miss Peregrine is as dark as the movie was, seeing as I experienced them years apart, but House of Furies is definitely dark.  Both homes are sanctuaries for the unusual, but the protagonist Louisa in House of Furies has to decide if she wants to be a part of the house’s larger, more nefarious purpose, whereas Ms. Peregrine’s home is about survival, not vengeance.  And I still haven’t read Library of Souls.

Louisa’s ambivalence is laudable, however, because she really has nowhere else to go. Teens nowadays are more likely to bristle under the inescapable control of adults, whereas teens in earlier times were literally trying to survive, like Louisa was.  She begins the novel telling sham fortunes as a street pauper and would have to go back to it if she couldn’t manage her role in the House of Furies.  I think sometimes this can be harder for the more typical teen to connect to, the whole here or on the streets thing.

But where teens can relate here, in addition to their interest being piqued by the cool dark creatures chronicled in the book, is the question of identity.  Louisa ultimately discovers the reason why she has never fit in with the larger world and why anyone who has had to care for her is uncomfortable with her for reasons she hasn’t quite worked out and it has to do with her choices in the end.

Similarly, the next book I am posting on today also has to do with surprises/plot twists around identity and collecting the fringe members of society to concentrate them in one space:

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Hex Hall, Rachel Hawkins

A bunch of magical teens are committed to a reformatory for revealing their abilities and true natures to non magical humans in this one.  This one is much closer to the average teen’s experiences than The House of Furies.  Sure, the typical teen isn’t magical (unless they are and I am not allowed to know this due to my sadly non magical status) but they have to worry about insecurities, friendship loyalties, first crushes, and doing what is right, drama, all things included in this book.

The protagonist Sophie already knows that she is magical, that’s what got her here in the first place, but the family secrets have long been kept from her and reveal themselves to change her knowledge of who she really is.  Dark secrets of her family and dark things that her classmates are trying to suck her into, as well as defending her new and first friend against being wrongly accused of assaulting other students.

I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, especially since the book does resolve its major plot lines but ends in a typical YA series cliffhanger.  That threatened to suck me in, too, even though I want to keep up the variety on the scary/Halloweeny reads month. You know how I hate a spoiler, especially if someone is reading my review to decide if they want to read something.

Scary reads continues with some middle grade that really doesn’t feel so middle grade to me, next week.  Witches this time.

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Riotous September Continued: A Book with a Female Protagonist over 60

It’s my anniversary weekend!  Seven years.  My husband doesn’t seem to be itching and I even left him for a week this past summer to go camping with my son.  He made pickles and ran laundry and went to work, I don’t think he was caught up in a flirtation with a pretty neighbor.

I remember when months seemed significant relationship markers, and then years did, and I think years were significant in the time when things and I were still changing constantly from year to year.  Nobody held on for the entirety of my moving from a teenager to the adult I was when I met my husband, but that’s okay.   For the best, actually. Now that the changes have slowed a little bit seven years is notable but nothing staggering. I have peers who have been married over ten years by this point with children much older than mine and seem to be doing okay together.  So I will take the seven years since that Friday night I got married in a pub in a forty dollar cocktail dress.  Even if marriage hasn’t always been my favorite.  It’s never someone’s favorite all the time.  But I’ll take it.  I don’t mind a quiet life full of love and enough routine for me to explore my interests too.  And have my sweet boy.  I don’t know how people have the energy to carry on affairs while they fully intend on maintaining the marriage they have.  Or the desire, really.

It’s interesting then that this week’s post,then, has a lot to do with a disastrous marriage in a time and place where disastrous marriages could have been the swept under the rug norm.  I didn’t live in China during the Second World War so I couldn’t tell you for sure on that, but it makes a good story for Amy Tan to churn out.

A Book With A Female Protagonist Over the Age of 60:

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The Kitchen God’s Wife, Amy Tan

Now, props to BookRiot for reminding me that the aged are also a marginalized group.  Especially older women.  With the focus right now, in my opinion, moving off color some and onto gender and still some on religion when it comes to being marginalized, I forget that a large chunk of our population here, Baby Boomers, are moving to the edges. They don’t run the world like they did when I was a kid.  I run the world now! Argh!

And this is about a woman who was already pushed off in China for not having her mother around and then further roped into a disastrous (yes I am using that word again) marriage to a man who seems to have struggled significantly with a mood problem, not that that excuses his abusive behavior.

This would have been harder to read if I had not known from the beginning that she got out.  If it had not started from the vantage of her adult American daughter who is married with children of her own.  Since I knew it ended okay I could get through the assault, the infidelity, the numerous lost children who came to be and the ones who were lost before they did.  The fact that her own father was victimized by him too when he had a stroke and they returned to his home to take over and therefore couldn’t, and never did, save her. I knew she had to have grit to wiggle her way out of his clutches, trying all the ways that she did to get away, and I wanted to know how she got out of the puzzle box.

And I don’t even know if this puzzle box was that unusual.  She did live through the war, making her experiences somewhat unique, but how unique was it?  Were many women in China trapped at that time like that? It is easy to forget when she comes to America and blends in with the other immigrants, which is hinted in the story, running a successful floral shop with two children and a husband, that there were layers of a hard life before underneath it.  Yes, BookRiot, I am sure that this was exactly your point in tossing me into an Amy Tan book.

Speaking of Amy Tan, I read The Joy Luck Club 2005-2006 one summer in my boyfriend’s family’s hot tub, and while it was excellent, the toxic mother daughter relationships were hard to get through and sometimes this makes me reluctant to read more Tan, even though I also own The Valley of Amazement and The Bonesetter’s Daughter.  I know she’s a beautiful, skilled writer who helps me see the world through a different set of eyes, but she can be hard on the emotions too.  Which clearly also makes her gifted.  But I was worried about the same mother daughter dynamic in this one, and while there is a mother and a daughter who do not understand each other, which would be hard anyway because they had completely different lives, they find a way to appreciate each other.  They reach out between their cultural rifts toward one another and it’s a satisfying resolution all around.  It wasn’t toxic, it was just a challenge, but both wanted to be better to the other, which made all the difference.  Maybe her other books would be more palatable.

I wanted to lighten up the emotional pull of my reading after this, so I moved to The Master and Margarita, which I reviewed last week, which was challenging for entirely different reasons.  But then I went camping and moved onto the Halloweeny reads while camping, which the reader should know by now includes scary books for all audiences and levels, and isn’t quite so serious.   Reading while camping was awesome but I lost the moment to post on the magic of reading during camping.  Maybe next year if I take my son to sleep in the woods with me again.

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The Importance of Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing

Another BookRiot read this week with a book that was already higher up on the TBR and then BookRiot made it happen.  There was never any doubt I was going to read this one.

That said, I was putting it off some, too.  It’s like the half marathon I have been training for all summer that’s at the end of September. I know it will be good for me and I will be glad I did it, but it might be a little intense in the middle.  It won’t be about white people problems, and it will be based on real atrocities.

A Book of Colonial or Post Colonial Literature:

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Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi

I’ll be honest right now that this book already looked appealing, but when Ta-Nehisi Coates endorsed it right on the cover, I knew I was going to read it. I knew that if he endorsed this story it would be real and not a whitewashed version of the story.  Not that I thought that the author, a Ghanaian-American woman (and in her twenties, no less), would whitewash the truth, but I get concerned about what happens when it goes through the publishing machine to make it more appealing to white people.

Looking over her bio to be sure I have her specs right for this blog I am also intrigued by what an immigrant black woman’s life is like in Alabama, but maybe she’s saving that up for something else of hers I will inevitably buy.

So, here’s the thing that makes this book special.  The slave narrative, in my opinion, has been done.  I haven’t read all the literature I even have on that, but like I said when I reviewed Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, which I very much respect as a well written novel, I felt it had all been done before.  Homegoing includes more of what the black slavery/immigration/”liberation”/existence was like for the dark skinned in America and Africa in recent history.  There are stories of Africans on both sides of the slave ships, men serving as free mining labor due to trumped up prison charges, a woman kidnapped back into slavery, drugs and jazz in Harlem in the sixties.  There is more than the times they were enslaved, and beaten, and apprehended as part of their time as slaves.  When the Civil War changed the laws there was still a long way to go, especially as I have read Toni Morrison’s Beloved (and  some of the books I have read on literary critique I now feel I  missed about half of it somehow) and the immediate implications of a so called ‘freedom.’

The description on Amazon puts it perfectly: “the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in the light of the present day.”

It’s enough of our history to still be playing out today.

These narratives of families can get tangled and make bounds through time. I wasn’t always completely sure who the new character belonged to out of the women that were first introduced in the very beginning, but I could trace their more immediate families. It wraps through time the different experiences of hardship, and they are complicated ties.   But it almost doesn’t really matter who these people were tied to back in Africa, their stories are important and poignant.  And as I said before, there is conflict in Ghana with the British as well in the story, not just about the American experience.

I might need to make a post on what would be required reading in high school if I ran the ship.  I have a few in mind to help kids getting ready for the world to shake their ignorance just a little sooner.  This would absolutely be on the list.  I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe and while I enjoyed it, it was a piece of propaganda written for the time.  I think Homegoing is more immediate and relevant to people now than Uncle Tom’s Cabin, that relies on a context we no longer live in.  I can’t fault Gyasi for that, though, seeing as she was about nine years old when I was doing my reading for US History and Government.  If I had read this at 16-17 years old, I might have struggled with knowing how to feel about it, a situation that was terrible and past my control, but it would have been a start.

This is a shorter post today, as the other book I am writing about next is also intense and involved.

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