Two takes on a classic Russian tale

It is quite a coincidence that both of the books in this post involve snow that doesn’t belong.  Halfway through April we get a sheet of ice where I live, where other people not that far from me are posting warm days outside with small children.

It could be why I feel like I am hosting Sunday brunch with all the tiny birds in the neighborhood.  Even a pair of ducks. The weather just won’t cooperate to feed them.

I sometimes listen to the Myths and Legends podcast on my way home on Wednesdays when my evening commute is at its longest.  I do it to fresh up on basic available plot elements, just to help them be more available when my writing brain needs them. He did  Vasilisa the Beautiful and I was like oh!  I should write that in modern times! I could make the nefarious Baba Yaga sooo cool!

And then The Bear and the Nightingale and Vassa in the Night came to my attention, so my idea was already long taken.  What do you do in such irritation?  Buy them both, of course!  And then read your face off in a weekend to be able to review them in the same post!  Living the dream, people.

I wish I had written either one of these.  I’d be happy with that.

While they share the same fairy tale as a starting point, these are two very different books.

A book set in or about one of the five BRICs countries:

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The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden

This was almost scooped by my recent purchase of An Association of Small Bombs, but this one is YA and not quite so real life.  And it waited and pined for me longer.

While the plot line diverges from the original, I think the atmosphere reflects the intention of the original fairy tale. There is still Vasilisa, who is somewhat beautiful, a wicked stepmother, and some supernatural gifts.  A bird that cannot be caged by the lot of women in that day and time.

It evokes the cold and dark, the people living on the edge of survival in a severe climate of months of winter (sounds familiar lately!), which I think is in the spirit of the original.  And I suppose I can get over my ire with Katherine Arden because she actually lived in Russia a year before creating her own retelling of the tale, so she was better suited. But while there is the frost king, there is only a hint of mention of Baba Yaga.  The magic/spiritualism lies in a man, Konstantin, coming to their town telling them to turn away from the nature and demon worship they engage in to stay alive and keep the nefarious forces bound and at bay, in favor of the one Christian God.  This wreaks havoc, of course, and Vasilisa, who shares her ability to see the demons with her stepmother in a delicious plot element, helps to save her people from the damage caused by people turning away from their nature worship.  While her stepmother is afraid of the demons she sees, Vasilisa communicates with them and befriends them, and is simultaneously hated by her stepmother for it.  And I do like that the relationship between Vasilisa and her half sister Irina is close and loving instead of spoiled, like it was in the original.

Even though the plot diverges more from the story that I know, it was atmospheric and beautiful, and I liked that Vasilisa finds a way out of the typical entrapments available to adult women to continue on the story of her being in her power and being herself.  I love love love a witch and I love an unexpected and retold tale.  Even if I did want it to be my story, I can concede that she pulled it off. And of course there is a sequel, so this also counts for the first book in a new to you YA or middle grade series.

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Vassa in the Night, Sarah Porter

So, I loved When I Cast Your Shadow, so Vassa in the Night, although published sooner, had somewhat of a bar to reach.  A standard.  A high standard that I would need a step stool to reach myself.  I didn’t like it as much as When I Cast Your Shadow, but I don’t love Porter’s work any less than I did.

Vassa sticks more closely to the original story of Vasilisa the beautiful, but set in modern day Brooklyn. I am glad I wasn’t peeking at this one There is Baba Yaga, the wooden doll, the hateful part sister, and the journey to bring light back to her house.  The prologue is gorgeous and made me excited that I was digging into another Porter novel, when the night is trapped by Baba Yaga.

You can’t love Sarah Porter unless you are okay with things becoming completely weird and gruesome.   Unless you crave it. I don’t know how it is with her Lost Voices trilogy,  but in this one and When I Cast Your Shadow, people have bloody deaths, maybe a resurrection, and things completely spinning off their axes in the lives of the characters.  Weird creepy horror times a million.  Maybe some body parts animated past the times of their deaths.  That sort of thing.

She better develops the relationship between Vassa and her late mother and the doll.  It is really its own subplot in the middle of the main plot madness other than just Vassa’s help like it is in the original.   There was a better  reason for her stepmother to despise her, other than in that possessive of your man, fairy tale way.  Vassa is stronger in herself and her sense of family after the twisty and strange debacle, much like Arden’s Vasilisa.

Of course I love Vassa and want to write her, she doesn’t take any crap.

And I think the reason I liked her other book better was I loved how she perfectly wrote the ambivalence of family members toward someone who is using.  How you can love and hate them and those feelings can polarize whole families.  Members who are pulled in and duped and still love fiercely, those who stand back for self preservation and are painted as enemies because their refusal to enable is cast as ‘not understanding’.  Vassa had its relationship depth, but not the artfulness of how she wrote that family dynamic.

Both of these books feature beautiful writing and those statements about life you didn’t know were true until you read them and you knew they were true all along.  You love the dark, the minor demons who aren’t the real antagonists, the magical twists and how Vasilisa is magical in her own.

I feel like fairy tales lend themselves well to re-tellings because the characters are flat.  You already know what they have to do but you can color in your own motives and backstories. You can make a classic plot that already has its staying power your own.

I am at a point with my novel where I am not in the heat of drafting and I am meeting with my teacher before I spiral into the passion of the revision.  So I used that tiny bit of space to read a second book and get in one of them on audio!  (Vassa.  It didn’t have whispersync and I have used my audible credits a full month before they refresh.) The luxury.  Maybe I should have split this into two posts so when I am back into the fervent novel work I still have another post on deck to buy me time.  But I am glad I didn’t put this on hold to novel.  This is a welcome change of pace.  A break from the anxiety when I am stalled.

Comments/likes/shares!  Pls.

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A River Runs Through the TBR

My post today is due to a lucky intersection of my love of the new release shelf at the library and being stuck in my novel.

My TBR could be all new fiction releases.  It really could.  And as I am tearing into today’s book while my son plays at the library I am going back and forth with myself over if it could be a social science book or a nature book for BookRiot.

And then I was like, why does it matter?  I can read and review anything I want and it doesn’t have to fit into a challenge.  It’s Oliver Sacks’ last book.  It’s been on my Amazon wish list since I learned of it.  And when it’s shining at me in its library issue apocalypse proof dust jacket from the new releases cube it becomes mine for the next four weeks with no thought.

And this is what reading can be about, too. Expanding horizons but going back to the old loves.  So I am letting myself read a book before the challenge is completed.  The joy of the book I see on the internet in front of me in all its accessible and free glory.  I can’t forget that.  I can’t forget how I used to choose books as a kid:  some my mother told me to read, but then sometimes I went to the library with the only agenda of combing the shelves to find some unknown gem that I needed to entertain me next.  I used to go to the library before a camping trip and pile up four or five of the things and get through them in a week of binge reading punctuated by being outdoors.

River of Consciousness, Oliver Sacks

The last collection of his own essays that he put together, knowing that his death was imminent. I am not counting this even as a posthumous book because this is the year I am reading The Master and Margarita for that.  And it’s his essays, not an anthology.  I am almost embarrassed at how hard I tried to fit this into a category when it was early March when I picked it up and have a ripe 10 months to go to get through a 24 book challenge with a one sitting book and another comic book I have not gotten to on the list.

Oliver Sacks lived one of the academic lives in this world I wish to have a chance to live.  I say academic because he lived through the Second World War in England as a young child and I’ll pass on that.  But in Sacks’ writing he brings back the fascination of the world of science and neurology.  I always looked at an article that would get in the New Yorker of his because I knew it would take me into territory I had not been in before.   He brings back the magic and mystery to science in a world that has imagery now and unbelievable technology.

Even after my fancy psych degree, he adds to my understanding of evolution and the social history of science, as well as explaining the hard to understand neurological concepts behind the functioning of the brain.  He talks about rare case studies, which is how I started reading him in college with An Anthropologist on Mars, but in this book he also considerably talks about the history of discoveries and their context.

It always looks to me like Sacks is playing in his writing, gathering up the existing ideas to challenge our conceptions or help us understand them.  It reminds me of the enjoyment I honestly derived from putting together college papers, learning something new via my research and my own joy of discovery.  The nerdery is real.

There is a fascinating essay in this book on how the changes in the brain can change not only someone’s speed in interacting but their conception of time and how it can be drastically different from what is measured on the clock.  He writes about ideas that were right way before their time but discarded and forgotten about because there was no knowledge base or context with which to understand them.  He writes about how creativity is fundamentally different than virtuosity and how something completely new comes from what has already been done.  He writes about hiccups in neurology that increase our understanding of the typical functions of the brain. He talks about the work of Darwin, the work of Freud pre-psychoanalysis and the times when science was looking at brain function as a collection of centers responsible for a specific task.   He talks about science when it was about classification and description and moving into explanation and theory of why something is the way it is.  And the consciousness of life forms previously thought to have less self awareness than they might in all reality have.

If you like nature, and science, and neurology and social science and the history of scientific discovery, Sacks’ written for an educated public dabbling is absolutely ideal.  I can’t read too much of his neurological accidents because I start to worry that my own brain is too delicate a network of functions that could go awry at any moment of my life leading to any number of weird debilitating conditions.  Conditions that would force me to rely on my own neuroplasticity to overcome more than the fancy medicine of today. While this fear is not entirely without ground I have too many other things to think about while I hope to not have something like that happen to me and take reasonable measures to prevent it, like driving safely and trying to eat more plant based foods than cheeseburgers.  Mmm, cheeseburgers.  And crappy Mom wine.  Sometimes Diet Dr. Pepper.  Anyway.

I am stuck trying to add a villain motivation in my novel.  The one motivation that he does have is not enough and there is a duality that exists and both sides of the duality need explanation.  Can’t just have gratuitous evil with nowhere to go.  I mean, maybe you can, but I don’t want those of my ilk saying, ‘it could have been better if this particular aspect had more use in the context of the story.’  It would be a missed opportunity, right?  Like every time something comes along in your life that you would be really proud of yourself for pulling off but to actually get there is an obstacle course of setbacks, self doubt and general suck.

Comments/Likes/Shares!  Any villains want to share some motives with me?  What about people who also have a deep love for Oliver Sacks and his prolific contributions to the understanding of the fascinating natural world?  Please let me know.

 

The YA choice for BookRiot

My hope is that when this entry is posted that it will be an unarguable Spring in the Northeast. I can’t anymore with the freezing temperatures in the morning, having to defrost my car when I get in so I can see out the windshield,  getting into the warm weather clothing stash in my closet just to see if it’s worth wearing with leggings and cardigans. The geese coming through seem to be making the best of it, although I can’t imagine dealing with this if I had gotten a break from the cold this year.  I saw them trying to expand their ice holes the other morning, kicking along the fragile sheets of ice.  I am kind of scared of geese and I think if my son ever approached one while it was eating my yard the goose would probably eat him, but I have to respect their attempts to make use of and expand the paltry amount of open water there is.

“No, geese don’t like to be petted.”

I think it’s clear to any reader of this blog that I love YA.  I will always tackle that category with relish when given the chance.   So this one required little motivation but a lot of decision making. If I was in my usual constant state of binge reading there would be fewer decisions required but when you are cherry picking books for the sliver of time you have left for them with your fervent noveling you have to be choosy.  Something you can eat alive and enjoy every moment.

The first book in a new to you YA or Middle Grade series:

 

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han

So the cover of this suggests something a little lighter than what this actually ended up being.  The cursive lettering, the dreamy girl writing on her bed. Not that this was a heavy read, but in a pleasant twist of events, this book really isn’t about the boys. Not at its heart.  It is about the changes when sisters grow up and their relationships change, especially when the sisters relationship is complicated by a dead mother and a smaller sister that the older two are committed to caring for in her stead.  They are sisters, they are mother and daughter, they are like coparents. There is a father but he is a physician so he is there for them when he can be. He worries about them and sometimes cooks, but he’s around enough not to make the novel’s family dysfunctional.

I am close with my sister and it was hard for me when she left to college, and she had a boyfriend who practically lived at our house at the end of her high school career, so it struck me too, although my sister didn’t try to control and parent me the way the oldest does when she goes away over the ocean (which I was completely annoyed at her for doing, given how dedicated she was to keeping her home running and how her younger sister, while capable, was hardly prepared to fill her shoes).  The twist there was though that I never had any attraction to her boyfriend and in this story the sisters are so close in age that there was some of that after she left. The boys who liked my sister were usually about four years older than I was and to a child/tween that seems eons older.  Worlds apart. Full decades, when in my thirties I married a man eleven years my senior. So that part thankfully I never had to deal with. But I liked this. It was character driven more than it was plot driven. It was about the main character Lara Jean growing up over the course of a few months and facing some of her own fears of being in a  real relationship with a boy. She kind of wants to be a kid forever, but that’s hard to do when you notice boys and they notice you.

So this is fun, I can see where it would resonate with a teenaged girl without being too fluffy or boy focused.  There are two more books that I do have some interest in reading, especially since the author leaves off with the main romance unresolved. The sister stuff has come to a resolution but you are left wondering what happens with her and the boy.  More proof to me that this book isn’t at its core about the boys. And although adults like to criticize teen girls for being ‘all about the boys’ they are usually only so when they don’t have a strong base at home and they are looking for basic emotional needs to be met instead of having fun.  Teen girls are usually still closely tied to their home. And these girls are too.

Noveling is working in its fits and starts.  I am finishing the first draft of scenes and will be getting to go back through again and revise based on the story I have found within.  Still hard, still need to be sure I make time for it this weekend, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as first draft set of scenes is concerned. Although the next draft might feel more like draft one and a half instead of a second draft because I started it ⅔ in and I am figuring out the first third of setup now.  Which wasn’t intentional, I just went with what I knew I wanted to happen and then when holes came up I backed up and added some bigger plot pieces to pull it all together. You know, brain stuff.  All of the brain stuff.

Comments/likes/shares!  Come on spring!

 

All the fun with a little less cringe

I am a little disappointed in myself for how long it actually took me to read the book I am posting about today.

My only excuse is that it was always expensive on Kindle and I have a hard time taking books seriously when they have recipes in them.  I don’t know, I always expect that it will make the book maudlin. The high recommendation combined with the recipes made me think, oh yea, this one will rot my teeth for sure.

Even though it is Latin American Magical Realism, which I should have known by now is always tempered with tragedy, loss and longing.  And this one was no different:

A Classic of Genre Fiction:

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Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel

This one is always near the top of the list for classic Magical Realism.  I would describe it as 100 Years of Solitude Lite.  All the taste and half the fat. All the same themes, time and place, and family imbroglios without the constant cringe worthy incest, which definitely raises it in my estimation.

A young woman refused permission to marry her one true love in the world, and instead he marries her sister in order to be closer to her, and then all the mess that that creates, along with an overbearing and abusive mother with her own closet full of skeletons.  Throw in some babies that she is denied, political upheaval that flirts occasionally with the plot line, some family ghosts and supernaturally charged sexual desire (that is NOT toward relatives!) along with the recipes and you have it.  The only element it doesn’t share with 100 Years of Cringes is the Biblical length lifespan of the characters.  People live around as long as they are supposed to.  Oh yeah and there isn’t treasure hidden in the yard.

And the food part with the recipes does not make it maudlin.  The protagonist’s feelings are communicated through her usually perfect cooking:  her devastation, her elation, her bitterness.  And she is full of it.  Esquivel jerks her protagonist around enough to make plenty of recipes that don’t come out just perfect.  And the ending is not satisfying to boot.  Just so you all are aware.

I have two other magical realism books on the list dealing with food, The Cake Therapist and Chocolat, and I will be interested to see if food is the same vehicle for communicating feelings as it is for this one. Also, I really need to get to Borges and his Ficciones, which predates Marquez, Allende, and Esquivel.

If you love the Magical Realism genre, specifically the South American brand, you can’t miss this.    I see some reviews up of people who just don’t have a taste for the random and intense plotting.  Maybe the ones who not only expected this to be maudlin but wanted it to be.  I didn’t want that.

So, even though it has been awhile since I have been on my magical realism bent, it’s still here and it continues to be a goal.  They are still on my TBR, whether it is Northern European magical realism or the original examples of the genre.  My instructor says the novel I am drafting is magical realism.

I intentionally am posting this on a Saturday because I hope people are enjoying Easter Sunday with their families.

Comments/likes/shares!

 

Children’s classics: The Mowgli Stories

I believe that children’s books provide a lot of information about the context of their times.  I originally limited this statement to classic, but the books I grew up on, which I am not ready to admit could be classic, or the books I am sharing with my reluctant reader (who is reading beyond his grade level) both continue to communicate information on the values of our cultural context.   There are books out now about understanding transgender issues, positive thinking  and accepting yourself as well as those with differences, whereas previously, and in the book I am going to talk about in this post, books focused on things like obedience and authority and order.

Being a parent myself has helped me clarify what values I would most like my son to have.  I am big on boundaries, and him standing up for himself and others, being kind, trying his best no matter what and having a positive attitude, no matter what the outcome (I have had to deal with some meltdowns if he didn’t make a goal in soccer).  So it would make sense that the popular books of the time reflect the prevailing values.  The parents are most typically the ones buying books for their kids.  Except of course for the book I am writing about today, which was originally posted as stories in magazines, which were the thing in the 1890’s:

A Children’s Classic Published before 1980:

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The Mowgli Stories, Rudyard Kipling

Now, I always like to shout out to Librivox when I listen to something classic because they have made listening way easier and free, and I have listened to the volunteer readings plenty of times, especially for the more obscure stuff that the regular market won’t take a chance on. But I cheated on Librivox this time and got this dramatized version from Audible.  Dramatized versions are rising in my estimation, as long as they are not grossly abridged.  And if they are, I will be sure to have read the actual classic first because that’s just more legit in my opinion.

I wondered when I listened to this what the jungles of India must seem like to a child raised in Britain at the time, how bright and animated and possibly frightening.  Wiki says that Kipling wrote these when he lived in Vermont for his little girl who died at six, and similarly, the jungle probably would seem distant to a child raised here at that time as well.

The animals have their own anthropomorphized social system and somewhat of a democracy where they meet to discuss things rather than every animal for himself.  They follow social rules, like not hunting at the water hole when water is scarce. The stories warn of what happens when someone doesn’t follow the general order and rules of the jungle.  My favorite one warns of what happens when one ignores an ancient curse.  Those are always for real.

I wondered as I listened about Mowgli’s having to move between worlds.  I have seen the Disney Jungle Book movie.  I am pretty sure I have a memory in there about seeing it in the movie theater.  In the Disney version, Mowgli just sees an Indian girl and follows her off to her village and everything is cool.  There is not an issue about fitting in or being one of them. In the movie they encourage him to move to the man world after he scares off Shere Khan, but in the book they kind of kick his butt out and he then kills Shere Khan himself by making the herd that he has to tend trample him to death.  He goes back and forth between the man and animal worlds, not fitting in in either, which would be to be expected and a story I have seen before in the context of stratified societies, where a child is raised in the world for which he or she was not ultimately intended and then not being able to be part of either.  I would expect a theme like that if it takes place in India at the time of British rule.   The feral child theme also is not surprising, as childhood did not seem awesomely nurturing at that time, either.   The wolves and the bear do a better job in loving and teaching Mowgli than the adults trying to raise children in The Secret Garden.

I am glad that BookRiot included a classic children’s book to get readers a taste of the values of different times and contexts of history.  I need to get to the original jungle book  too.  That will probably be some Librivox magic.  I have noticed that the audio of classics on Audible has gone way up.  It used to be a few dollars when you bought the free kindle version of public domain books, but now the audio version of The Woman in White I want is about seven and a half dollars, a price often assigned to non public domain works.  I am not sure why that is.  It looks to me like Audible still has the audiobook market, but I think others are getting in on it, like Google Play, although I don’t know if they whispersync to the book, which is a feature I love.  And I like being able to buy my credits in a chunk and sometimes there are sales where you can get two books for a credit. I still love them.  I drink their Kool Aid.  But I don’t know if they are getting too bold with the price hikes.

This one also could have counted as a one sitting book because the audio was only two and a half hours.  I got most of it done in a vacation length gym session and finished it driving out and back to Target and lunch with a friend.  I know, my white girl life is super hard.  Don’t deny your sympathy for me.

Also, in a brief note, the novel drafting has picked up speed.  I am hoping that around the time this post goes up that I will have it completely drafted.  Also I am hoping that it will have gotten above freezing on a daily basis and warm enough at night to open the water that has already refrozen so I can watch the ducks and geese.

Comments/likes/shares!

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Not your grandma’s Archie

There are two things that are evading my understanding right now:

  1. Why it is still snowing here.  I am watching it come down right now.  It’s going to snow all day and into the night.  Where is the lamb? We are officially halfway through the month and I haven’t heard a bleat.  I tried to shovel the snow off the concrete pad in front of the fire pit as a form of encouragement but no one is taking the hint.  I hear springtime birds out when I am cleaning inches from my car!
  2. BookRiot’s unabated love for comics and graphic novels.  Yes, it is a quick way to knock out a post, and the one I am talking about today I did get a teeny bit into, but why?  why are there like three categories of comics/graphic novels this year?  I must be missing something.

 

A Comic not Published by Marvel, DC, or Image:

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The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, books 1-6

Now, when I was a kid I found a stash of Archie comics at my grandparents house that helped me while away the longer hours there.  Sometimes I had cousins to entertain me, sometimes I liked to read the adventures of Dot or Archie.  I also did a lot of Nancy Drew books and Reader’s Digest.  This was when I was not making someone watch me in the pool, playing with neighbor kids, or alternating between being freaked out and okay with the fact they had a cemetery in their backyard.

Anyway, BookRiot recommended these, and while I could have knocked out some sweet, whitewashed Archies for this challenge, of course the darkness of Sabrina was a draw for me.  I wanted to see how it was reimagined with a true witch, even if it involved a lot of Satan.  Plus goats that aren’t totally goats all the way through?

And yup, these are scary, gruesome and dark.  Evil and twisty.  Which is why I might have borrowed a few more to read through Prime (it was the first time I borrowed anything to read through Prime.  I liked it and I would do it again.  I did a trial of Kindle Unlimited but I am not the kind of reader that would benefit from Kindle Unlimited.)  They have some issues of the original Sabrinas after the dark satanic ones, which makes the contrast even more clear.   I did like these, I have to say.  I might read more if more roll out on the Prime lending list.  I mean,  (spoiler alert) she thinks she has brought her boyfriend back from the dead and hasn’t learned that it’s not really him yet…who wouldn’t want to know how that plays out?

I can see why comics pull in reluctant readers, whose own traumatic lives might prevent them from feeling empathetic and investing emotionally in the typical teen conflicts in books, even though the current YA things that get on the market blow me away with how cool and high concept and inclusive they are. Something a shade darker for a kid who needs more visual interest and a plot that more closely meets how they feel inside. Not the Sabrinas with a cute haircut and a tiny waist and pictures of Melissa Joan Hart from when she played her for Friday night family TV.   Sabrina’s witch aunt in that one is dressed like one of the puritanical “witches” with the blocky buckle shoes and the long Puritan dress and everything (insert roll eye emoji here).  Sometimes women were accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials and murdered so men in power could get ahold of their land and three hundred years later they are made silly in a comic strip…anyway…maybe that kind of thing bothers me more than the dark stuff.

What is interesting for me as a person/reader/writer is that I tend to be positive in my outlook and with others, but I like to read dark things, and I have a problem being dark enough when I am trying to write dark things.  Maybe Sabrina will help me keep the novel I am writing now as dark as I can make it, without the sacrificial/creepy Satanic goats, because I am not going that dark.  People are too nice in it.  I have to erase things and make them darker.  When I meet with my instructor next week I will be interested to see if she feels that my scenes moving forward have been dark enough.

And a brief note on the options for borrowing on kindle:  Kindle Unlimited to me is for people who like to consume genre fiction.  Lighter, plot driven, more diversion stuff.  I think its a great service for high consumers of that type of book but I get snobby about wanting to pick up award listers and winners and the highly recommended stuff that Amazon tells me about all the time.  And I can’t say that if I get into writing I wouldn’t make my own writing available via that service.

Comments/likes/shares!

I am hardly a princess of darkness but I could use a flamethrower to get through some of this snow and not really feel badly about it.

 

 

 

 

Cozying into Spring

My son announced today at Story and Craft hour that Mother Nature needs to get it together and bring Spring.  He doesn’t even have to worry about driving in the snowpocalypse and even though I spent the afternoon sledding with him during the most recent one, he seems to be over it, too.  Thankfully the afternoon sun is stretching out over the landscape, pretending to be warmer than it really is.

Spring feels like it is taking forever but paradoxically the last few months have also blinked by.  I took next week off because I try to take off a week every three months to dodge burnout and although attitude wise I need a break, it doesn’t feel like it has already been three months since I did this.    I will spend the break hashing out most of the second half of my novel’s first draft and watching the geese on the yawning expanse of open water on the lake.  Probably more of the latter than the former.  But no one who has ever been a writer will judge this.

But, I have had two teaching sessions now and she has really helped expand my ideas and it has been flowing enough to make me feel happy with it, and that I have enough time for other things I like to do, like conquering a lace knitting pattern that defeated me over the summer.  I have returned and vanquished.  I was able to manage writing a lot of my academic papers with many other demands on my time (but not parenting, thankfully) when I was in graduate school and I have been pleased to find that I can still manage to write a lot, keep up at work, exercise, contribute to my close relationships and keep my sanity.

And, I was able to get another book done for BookRiot  in time to get this blog out.

A Mystery By A Person of Color or an LGBTQ+ author:

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Tall Tail, Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown

Now, I would like to have a co author cat.  My marriage has required me to be a big dog person, and I do have a loyal and affectionate rescue black lab who definitely likes me best, but it isn’t the same as a little purring thing in my lap.  She is on the hard floor by my chair right now, rather than on her bed or on the carpet or on a bed upstairs, and was curled up against me last night.  But while she likes me better than a cat would I bet a cat has better plot ideas.  Just saying.

Here she is for reference:

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This was only taken a few weeks ago when she was breaking in the bottom bunk of my son’s new big boy bed that he loves.  Can you see the weather out the window?  Gross.

This story alternates between a historical fiction and a contemporary plotline that converge in the end to solve two murders. If you are interested in historical and modern day Virginia, this book is for you. And probably the series.  It is 25 out of the currently prolific number of 27 books.  I just said I am proud of being able to fit writing in but this author having hashed out 27 in this series alone deflates my pride a little.

This is pretty cozy.  It’s gentle. I liked the plotline of the history more than I did the modern plot.  It was faster and more happened.  It was more dramatic, where the modern plotline was more subtle and less dramatic.  It actually modern plot felt slow to me, even though Amazon totes it as fast-moving.  A lot of detail about Virginia and the history of racism and the country in its early days (which, given my unabashed love of historical fiction, I did like) in the dialogue of the story.  The story is more about the journey than the destination.  I didn’t guess it before the end, however.  I got a hint of it at the final installment of the historical plot line, but I didn’t figure it all out then.  And as an added bit of cozy humor, the animals like to banter in this series, so if you like snarky comments about being fat volleyed around by animals, this is it.

And if you are at all curious, Rita Mae Brown is a lesbian says the interwebs, so that’s how this book fits the category.  She looks pretty white to me in the pictures I have seen of her, but I don’t like to make assumptions.

I looked over BookRiot’s list of suggestions for this category, and even though I think this one was a little slow, partly because how much context was in it, I am glad I read this one over some of the suggestions of fast paced thrillers.  Maybe I didn’t want it to be faster.  Maybe it felt slow because I am trying to make my own novel as fast as possible.

However, one that made BookRiot’s list for this category that I had actually read and reviewed on here is Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly.  I would recommend that one again, any day, as well, and it looks like there is also a sequel to it coming out next month.  It says there will be a twist I don’t see coming, and…I’m totally game.  I don’t know how she can arrange the two main characters to hook up where it won’t be weird but I am willing to see if it can be done.  As well as, you know, seeing if they can locate Digby’s kidnapped sister, which is the actual story goal.

I also find it excellent that one of my reviews was discovered and shared by the author AND his publisher.  Yes.  Fame is just around the corner.

I would really like the lion to go back in its den to bring out the lamb.

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