2018 Read Harder: What Made the List

The early snow and then the weird temperate rain this year has affected my patience with the Christmas season.

I am lucky enough to always have a lovely Christmas in my home but I am ready to move on to the next part of the year, which is surprising, given the fact that I loathe the time before spring could even suggest rolling in.  I might take down the tree after I write this.  Or I might attend the cardboard bonfire in my yard that is scheduled for all the Christmas shipping boxes later this afternoon.  I agree with the memes about this week of the year being one that feels nearly unmoored, even though I attended work to get some structure back into my life.

Working through the Royal Spyness series backlist books has been a light and fun distraction to this week that is always weird, no matter what I try to do with it.  Always the best on audio with the late but brilliant Katherine Kelgren.

But how did I do for my 2018 reading?

I surpassed my reading goal this year of 60 books.  Not as much as other years, but I have a full manuscript written out and half revised.   I will sacrifice 40 books this year for that goal, certainly.  And more books will be sacrificed when I get back to revising in the new year.

BookRiot’s Read Harder List 2018:

  1. A book published posthumously : The Master and Margarita,  Mikhail Bulgakov
  2. A book of true crime:  The Spider and the Fly, Claudia Rowe
  3. A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance): Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
  4. A comic written and drawn by the same person:  Anya’s Ghost,  Vera Brosgol
  5. A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa): The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden
  6. A book about nature: H is for Hawk, Helen MacDonald
  7. A western:  News of the World, Paulette Jiles
  8. A comic written or drawn by a person of color:  Black Panther, TaNehisi Coates
  9. A book of colonial or postcolonial literature: Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  10. A romance novel by or about a person of color:  The Dutchess War,  Courtney Milan
  11. A children’s classic published before 1980:  Mowgli Stories, Rudyard Kipling
  12. A celebrity memoir:  Bossypants, Tina Fey
  13. An Oprah Book Club selection:  Here on Earth, Alice Hoffman
  14. A book of social science: The Wisdom of Psychopaths, Kevin Dutton
  15. A one-sitting book: The Vegetarian, Han Kang
  16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series:  To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han
  17. A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author:  Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler, and Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor
  18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
  19. A book of genre fiction in translation:  Black Tea and Other Stories,  Samuel Marolla
  20. A book with a cover you hate:  My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrarante
  21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author:  Tall Tail,  Rita Mae Brown
  22. An essay anthology:  Best Food Writing 2018, Ruth Reichl
  23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60:  Kitchen God’s Wife, Amy Tan
  24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished):  Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton

I have noted before that I didn’t read any 2018 releases this year that I can think of, so I don’t have any Best of 2018 recommendations.  Other readers have certainly taken care of that for me and made me curious, now that the year is over, what I may have missed.  Circe, Where the Crawdads Sing, You’ll Find me in the Dark, etc.

I don’t know if I can pick a very favorite off this list. I have been trying to think of the books that stood out of this year’s reading, but I love reading, and I love what this reading challenge brings to my perspective on the world, and I loved most of these.  Most hit the blog in the form of a review.

I have to say that I feel weird sometimes when I am searching out books for these categories, combing for pictures of authors to be sure they are of color or reading their bios for their gender/sexual orientation.  The recommendation that I look at award lists is helpful, because some authors identify as color and they look white to me.  I am not a judge of these things.

Next week I hope to have hammered out some reading goals to share, deciding what lists to do, clarify writing goals.  I have the perfect creative space now and I want to also share my pictures of that.

Happy and Safe New Year!

Comments/likes/shares!

 

 

Advertisements

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:

the kitchen gods wife.jpg

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.

Comments/Likes/Shares!!!

BookRiot: Women and Sci Fi, aka Women Kicking Butt

I don’t always like science fiction, especially when I think it is going to be too complicated or too stressful.  Post apocalyptic, people trying to survive in a world pretty convincingly having gone to crap in the not so distant future isn’t always the relaxation and diversion I am looking for in a book.

But reading challenges are about expanding the mind and the possibilities, right? To make us uncomfortable for the sake of growth?

I found both of the books I am posting on here engaging.  One I didn’t expect to be engaging and another has been one I have been looking to read for awhile now and when it fit a category, even though I had already read the first one, I had to do it, too.  Two on a category I tend to have to talk myself into reading, no less! I know. I didn’t expect it either. An added bonus, but not a fact that made me anticipate not liking these works is that the protagonists aren’t only women, but women of color.

And on reflection for the purposes of this post, it makes sense I’d get absorbed into females in sci fi.  It’s the ultimate of girl power. Both of these are about pulling gender roles into greater equality. Both are about women who have special powers who, among other things, greatly enjoy their sexuality. And women kicking butt!!

parable of the sower.jpg

Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler

It’s difficult to consider myself well read if I have never picked up Octavia Butler.  I have this fuzzy list in my head of whose works I might not gravitate toward but who I still think are important, and Octavia has always been one of them, along with Ursula K. LeGuin.

I was immediately captivated by this book.  I wanted to know about their world and the dangers within and how she gets out of it when it inevitably burns down from the violence and the desperation they are steeped in.  It’s later in the book when they say that the time frame is about 7-10 years from now, or I wasn’t paying enough attention to that fact in the beginning for it to turn me off to reading it.  I don’t think things will be in that state in that short a time frame, with the gross corruption and people having to live in walled communities to stay safe from the larger world. I had to push myself a little to do this one, and then I was hanging on every word.

Some who reviewed this on Audible thought it was ‘preachy.’   The protagonist is building her own religion but she is developing it as a lens through which to make sense of and manage the crazy chaotic world she was placed in.  Science fiction, to me, always has that taste of philosophy that goes with it, like in Le Guin’s Tales of Earthsea, when so much hinged upon knowing a name and what that meant.  If you are building special worlds then there are considerations for world building and religion for the people.  It is part of context, not meant to be preachy. And in this book, she becomes a religious type leader, but I think it is to have rules with which to organize and give her new group purpose.  They are trying to survive in a new way and that new way is going to need a framework, whether it be that ‘we lie and steal and everyone for themselves’ or “God is change’ and wanting to promote the good of the group.  She has her nay sayers, like in any believable group, but she also has the best chance of making this whole survival thing work.

This book was captivating and I didn’t expect it to b.e  The world was clear and I wanted to know what was next with her surviving in it.  There was always something going to crap, like I would think is the norm in futuristic apocalyptic sci fi.   I listened to this, mostly, and I liked the narrator as a woman of color as the protagonist was. It all made it seem more real and pulled together.  And she kicked butt.

who fears death.jpg

Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor

I wanted to read this as it was, and I don’t remember the original impetus, and then I saw a copy of it on my best friend’s desk on a weekend trip to NYC and considered sliding it into my bag.  He said his interest was because it was going to be made into an HBO series and he wanted to read it first. And he is kind of tired of reading about white people, something in my ultimate whiteness might never happen to me.

Then Amazon put it out for 1.99 and I don’t know why they did this right before I realized that this also qualified for the reading challenge, halfway through Parable and I was like the universe wants me to do two in this luscious category of girl power.  It wanted me to roll about in it.

The funny thing about the HBO production is because people were getting confused because George RR Martin is going to be producing it and people thought that he wrote it, which is hilarious that anyone who read this book would think that a white man wrote it.  Dr. Okorafor shut down the rumors on Twitter, as she should, but it’s just another symptom of our society to think that Martin wrote this.

This is bad ass girlpower, even more than Parable. This tackles gender inequality in a huge way, not just in that the protagonist has all kinds of power that some men don’t have and the men who do have it don’t want to share it with women, but that she verbally confronts these differences.  She uses her powers to overcome institutionalized sexual oppression of women. She is a sorcerer, a healer, she is fierce, she came from trauma and less than nothing to rise above. She can change into animals! I loved reading about her discovering herself and her powers, her changing relationships, her heart.  This book was awesome and beautiful.  It was mystical realism instead of magical, and didn’t have the weird sexual relationships.

That said, this book is also intense.  I listened to a significant part of it and the narrator’s style was appropriate but hard to hook my brain into initially.  The topics are intense, the trauma and the inequality are intense. The sexuality is intense. This book is a ride.

 

If you want nonwhite girl power, do these.  I love it.

Comments/Likes/Shares!!

 

Alice Hoffman Redeems a Classic

I think I might have posted on Wuthering Heights forever ago when I started this blog,  probably in my short guide to how to start reading the classics.  For anyone who has not memorized all of these posts, I recommended not to start with Wuthering Heights.

I don’t remember all the details of that post, but I do remember picking the book up in my second year of the foray into classical literature.  When I came back to reading but in full force, picking up the books that culture referenced over and over again.  I almost didn’t make it through the first 25-50 pages of this book because it was so depressing, and then it got less depressing, and then the characters were terribly abusive when I thought this was supposed to be some sort of love story and then I was disgusted, wondering why this was some sort of paragon of love.

Now I don’t think that it is held up as a great love story, but it is lots of drama and scandal written in a time that those things were secretly craved by readers (as opposed to openly craved now).

Regardless, I was like, “what the frig is this?” especially after having my first foray into the Brontes being Jane Eyre by Charlotte, which was also depressing and the love story is off and a little disturbing, but not to this degree.  As of this writing my favorite sister might be Anne.  But I haven’t read the rest of Charlotte’s stuff, which is a goal of mine.  Anyway.

An Oprah’s Book Club pick:

 

here on earth.jpg

Here on Earth, Alice Hoffman

I am assuming that BookRiot added an Oprah’s book club pick because she picks intense and eye opening novels, which BookRiot also challenges you to do.   Books that push you into other perspectives and hopefully a better understanding of them.  I have actually read a decent amount of her picks because my mother was into them for awhile, because she liked the hottest new read.

The fact that Here on Earth is a retelling of Wuthering Heights made me more likely to read it, not less.  I love Alice Hoffman.  I would love to be able to pull off her magical realism, her historical fiction, her characters, her productivity as a writer (although I know I couldn’t write like she does as well as have my job).

I wanted to know how Hoffman was going to pull of Heathcliff, in this book Hollis, a one name character while everyone else had two names anchored with family.  I wanted her to make him better but then I didn’t. I didn’t want her to write a character in a way to justify his crappy attitude and treatment of others.  She made his attachment issues and subsequent abusive thought processes crystal clear without asking the reader for sympathy.  You could understand his abuser’s mind from his long history of being the underdog, but you aren’t asked to forgive him.  Like everyone, we are all responsible for how we act when the past is over and we are in a position to make our own future.  Hollis/Heathcliff are deeply damaged and only try to help themselves by controlling more and more of the outside world, which does nothing to heal the broken and unloved little boys inside them.  At least how Hoffman writes Hollis, he loses any charming vulnerability he once had as a child, the vulnerability that March saw and fell in love with at one time.  A boy who disappeared long before March returned and who March thought was still there when she got sucked back into his orbit.

I also thought the Coopers (Lintons) were well done.  The benevolent and naive family that gets pulled into the dysfunction of Hollis and March, who deserve so much better than them and who love and wait for them and allow themselves to be abused and killed off by the dysfunctional force that is Hollis and March.

I had to go back for a wikipedia refresher to remember the role of Nelly Dean.  I remembered that she narrated the story to the traveler in the original, and in this one the housekeeper’s death is what pulls March back to the area, so she continues to be somewhat of the focus even though she is dead.  Nelly Dean has been credited by some as the unreliable narrator, whereas Judith Dean in this book is also disappointed by love similarly to March.  She’s one of the centers who doesn’t even get to tell her own story, but is part of everyone else’s.

The one thing I wasn’t as sure of was how March was created.  Catherine Earnshaw in the original is wild and needs a decent amount of civilizing, which pulls her away from Heathcliff, which is why he gets himself more civilized in the first place, to be able to marry her.  March was in love with Hollis from a young age, which is so impressionable, but I think the original Cathy was more of a wild child.  March just goes through the motions of her comfortable and safe marriage and then when she submits to Hollis, she  enters a dream state and dissolves.  The love chemicals in her brain that are back from when she was a teenager puts her in a trancelike state and disconnects her from her awareness of consequences.  For awhile, she is completely consumed and in a dream.

I think this one sucked me in because it was so psychologically juicy.  I think it helps me understand the appeal of the original Wuthering Heights.  Hoffman’s characters maybe aren’t so savage, have more relateability than the original.  And I have had time to digest it and I must have liked the original somewhat because I wanted to read someone else’s spin.

It has started a tide of my wanting to get to work on my stash of re-tellings, so if you like them too, stay tuned for next week.  I am working on a new one right now.

Comments/Likes/Shares!!

Sometimes I’m that mom who doesn’t want you to notice what I’m reading

The world has finally turned its face toward Spring.  It seemed as though it was never coming, and now it is here in a rush, the warmth and the green and the long hours of glorious sunlight all at once.  I don’t need the clip on light for my computer again until Fall, even when I am up at dawn to write.

So I’m happy and I missed it more than I even knew.

I am wishing a Happy Mother’s Day to Mothers, in all permutations, around the world today.

Last year for Mother’s Day I posted on books about mothers.  This year I talk about being a mom while reading unusual Mom-terial.  So it’s about Moms.  Sort of.  It’s a tiny bit about me as a mom.

A few weeks ago I took my son on a Mom guilt assuaging trip to the indoor water park.  I thought bringing along a book was a flash of maternal optimism.  I didn’t think I’d really get enough time to polish off a decent part of a book.

What I learned that day was that it’s glorious to have a child who is old enough and has the inclination to play on his own after my obligatory slide runs and trips around the lazy river.  I soaked up every moment of mom reading glory, at least an hour away from every other obligation and my cell phone locked away in a rented locker.

If I had known I would get that reading time I may have chosen a different book, just in case any other parents in the throes of boredom/relaxation looked over to see what I was reading.  I forget in my avid kindle reading that paper books involve covers.  They don’t have the privacy of an electronic device.  I wrapped my book in my towel when I wasn’t reading not because I didn’t want someone to take it, I didn’t want someone to think I was weird.  I mean, it’s a Hannibal Lecter mask on a bust.  Not the shoe, martini glass or handbag that would slip me into true anonymity.

A Book of Social Science:

the wisdom of psychopaths.jpg

The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach us About Success, Kevin Dutton

Although my degree is in Psychology, I wasn’t super excited about this category.  Social science books are interchangeable in my mind with self help books.  Books on how to optimize your brain function and stop being codependent or free you from whatever vices you believe yourself to have. Books that break down the nuts and bolts and provide entire chapters on motivation to even change in the first place.  Nah.  Too basic. Too close to work.

My formally educated father in law bought this book for a plane ride and gave it to me when he arrived in my home on the other side of the country from his home.  He’s an engineer, and although I liked this book, I wondered how relateable this book is to those who are educated but not as much as I am in Psychology.  It is clearly written for those who have learned about research methods and how to be a decent consumer of research, at the very least.  I thought this was a definite plus.  I didn’t have to skip over anything too basic.   It was good at firming up my thoughts on psychopathy, especially as it was framed in terms of its adaptive qualities, which, like any quality, has to exist in an optimal range to be beneficial.  And the best creative nonfiction takes a spin on something,  or a juxtaposition, and this talks about the good aspects of something usually acknowledged as all negative.

It talks about how their emotional recognition functions when identifying their own as well as the emotions of others, the difference between if it is state or trait, if they can shut off these qualities at times when they are no longer beneficial in the situation.  It talks about how it psychopathy even stayed in the gene pool due to its benefits as well as how our cultural icons can be seen in terms of this emotional constellation.  It talks about research in a very poetic and interesting way, posing hypotheses and clearly how well the results fit them.  I would encourage anyone with an interest to pick up the book even without formal schooling on research methods.  I might think I am all fancy with my edumacashin and I might be wrong.

There was a time when I thought I was committed to nonfiction writing forever, around the time I was finishing school and entering a golden and brief period of free time in my life that I killed off four years later by having a child.  I would have liked to write something this informed and poetic and relatable.  I would have liked to do the interviews with the researchers, the psychopaths themselves, and gathered my own body of main studies to review.  I would have liked to do this project coming out of school and I would have aspired to it.  It reminded me of where my heart was about ten years ago, going through rounds of dissertation revisions and hoping I could get a job before it was done, sharing a rented house with a stranger.

So I was someone’s mom in my mom swimsuit (and it’s definitely a mom swimsuit, designed to minimize mom body flaws) reading something completely un momlike, following the professional passion that I had long before I even thought seriously about a baby.  No one asked me why I was reading about psychopaths.  I also read it at the playground and the McDonald’s playplace, and nothing.  I must not be notable when my son isn’t announcing farts and swearing in the big plastic tubes of playplace.  I must not be notable in my mom suit in the sunlight that streams through the ceiling of the water park.  When I am a Mom and my kid is behaving okay it doesn’t matter what I am reading.  I am deliciously invisible.

Noveling rolls forward.  Second draft revisions and flashes of panic that the sequence of events doesn’t hang together or make any sense.  Then coping skills, a major one being that someone will look over this for me and help.

Comments/likes/shares!

A Haunting Short Read

And not haunting in the way I usually mean it, with the ghost stories I love and post on here so much.  A different kind of haunting. The haunting of madness.

But before I get to that, I am stretching and getting limber for the next lap of noveling.  Getting all loosed up at the start line.  Shaking off the nerves and making my best effort not to overthink everything.

This post is an excellent excuse for procrastination.  And the fact that I can confidently say we have reached Spring where I live and I have been working on the spring chores, like changing out clothes and bagging up what won’t fit my son next winter, which is, like, everything.  My husband is putting out the warm weather furniture and entertainments.

I am having trouble with reading, though because the book for today is one of the last quick books I have on BookRiot that I haven’t done.  My posthumous book, my book of true crime, my post colonial literature, my protagonist over the age of 60, my sci fi book written by a female with a female protagonist…all need more attention than I might be able to give when I am in the bowels of noveling.  I am halfway through another book to post on, my social science book, so maybe I can get through that one in time to keep the posts flowing…

I am only on 19 books this year.  For someone who can get to 100 that’s very slow, but I can read every year.  It’s not every year I have a writing teacher helping me getting my novel to its full potential.  And when I read a lot I have this nagging feeling I am not writing enough.

A one sitting book:

 

the vegetarian.jpg

The Vegetarian, Han Kang

This one has been hanging out on the TBR for a year, since it became highly lauded and in my face.  There are a ton of eligible books for this category, both books I already have and books that I could get at the library.  But this one, in all its haunting beauty, was what it had to be.

This is about madness, but, as madness doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it is about family too.  It is about a woman who stops eating meat in response to delusions about what is inside her body.  She is unrecognizable from the beginning to the end in this book. She is unremarkable and obedient in the beginning and breaks all those things with her symptoms, spiraling downward, shattering her family and leaving only her sister to hang on to her through the madness and trying to save her.  She starts out accepting the norms of her world and ends up being unable to live within them.

I am perusing the reviews on Goodreads and I have decided that I liked this because I understand and have met people suffering intensely from schizophrenia.  People thought it was intense and absorbing and others really felt that they didn’t ‘get’ it.  Psychotic symptoms are psychotic symptoms because they defy typical experience.  A person experiencing a world that most people don’t experience. They also can change with the cultural context.

Many reviewers wanted the book from the protagonist’s viewpoint, but I don’t know if the madness could be better explained if it was her viewpoint.  I liked the snippets that we got, the moments when she was able to describe to a character what was happening for her, the faces inside her body, the symptoms being a reaction to her intense traumatic nightmares.  She had her own logic.  She was psychotic.  And that was enough.

I oddly listened to this on a day trip for my friend’s baby’s christening.  Driving to a ceremony that is about belonging and listening to a story about a woman who is breaking away from all the belonging she has as her sister tries to anchor her to the world that she has long ago left behind.  Ironic.

I liked that this could be put down in a few hours.  It might have been too intense if it was longer, or had to get deeper into some other characters, for people to be able to hang in there to finish it.  But I enjoyed it.

Round 2 of noveling shall begin and I will wrestle down more books.  But I will stop complaining about spring leaving me hanging, as it has finally decided to show up.

Comments/Likes/shares!!

 

The Natural Choice for my Nature Read

I just had to yell at someone on the phone to do something I needed to be done via customer service.  The last thing the company wants me to do.  I had to bust it out.  I have some conscience about it because that’s not my standard operating procedure and I ended politely but man.  It’s time to write my post now to cover a much more fun item on the to do list for this day.  This day that is promising that spring is real.

My toenails are even painted.  A sure sign of warmer days to come.

I might have poured me a drink but lets press on, shall we?

I really like it when BookRiot coincides with items I have had on the TBR and already own.  This one came highly lauded from all angles, so it was inevitable, so when my library website said it counted under the nature genre, the decision was MADE.  In a matter of moments, which is impressive, because nature is something I am more likely to read if I wander into the less familiar and less loved territory of the nonfiction.  I had many contenders for this, even among my current collection of kindle and audiobooks.  Like, The Secret Life of Lobsters, which I also want to read.  And a book on reading the clues in water!

For a lot of years grad school seduced me into thinking that nonfiction would be my eventual publishing jam.  And nonfiction is a beautiful thing.  If you can pull off a good juxtaposition between two seemingly disparate things, I will sit back and marvel at your artistry.

And that is exactly what I did.

A Book About Nature:

H is for hawlk.jpg

H is for Hawk, Helen MacDonald

The only thing that isn’t excellent about this novel, other than the fact that this is a true story of MacDonald’s descent into the blackness of depression, is the title.  I understand it’s high praise.  It even manages to cling to four stars on Amazon after over 1400 reviews, which I also consider a feat because when I am looking up prizewinners some of them only bat a solid three and with not nearly so many reviews.  But H is for Hawk sounds…elementary. And while reconciling with one of nature’s beasts can be thought of as elemental, I would hardly consider it elementary.  And the title makes it sound so.

The surprise in this mesmerizing work was her ties to TH White and one of my favorite childhood stories, The Sword in the Stone.  Of course it was the Disney movie that I really loved and continue to love to this day, not necessarily the actual book that White wrote that I did find and read over a summer in high school.  I did love that too, but the realities and non disney-fied elements of medieval England aren’t quite the same.  I prefer my Disney-esque illusions and I know I am not alone in this.  Also, interesting, he wrote another edition in the fifties that left out the fight with Madam Mim, which was one of my favorite bits of the movie, and I consider that kind of editing a travesty.

But she talks about the parallels between her relationship with a hawk she buys after her father’s death for focus and carrying out a passion that had started when she was a child to his book, The Goshawk, and his repressed, unrealized life.  And how his later creative works fit into that.  I got to better know a man I had had some interest in and didn’t know that I would when I picked this book up.  So that was the fun surprise element for me.  I knew it was about her relationship with a wild hawk, I knew she struggled with a complicated grief, but I did not know that I would better know someone who wrote something that I loved as a child.  Bonus.

She weaves her narrative of grief and losing her ground with the history of England as well as her family, with how the two wars shaped the emotional landscape of the country.  Having never lived in a country at a time where people had lived through a war on our soil, I don’t always think about how it shapes a nations’ consciousness.

And it helps generate some empathy with mental illness.  Because grief is so common I feel that people are more understanding with it in general, but anything that helps not paint the suffering black is always something I can support.

It’s a heavy book but it kept me reading and listening.  My noveling slowed between drafts so I was able to download a book to ravage in the course of a week.  And I loved it. I loved being back in a book for a week.

This book is heavy but it is poetic, somehow magical without having any magic in it, and worth your time.

Plus, there’s the magic of Spring and the magic of having drafted another novel, so I know that magic is real.

Comments/likes/shares!!!