Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m blaming the pandemic for the stupid amount of chocolate I’ve eaten since it hit stores after Christmas. And bought more for the actual day today, even though I know my husband will be hitting the sale candy this week.

Before I launch into the somewhat V-Day appropriate read for this post, I must announce that this is probably the last book review that I will be writing on here. Ever. I bit the bullet last weekend and bought my author website, bethstillmanblaha.com. It is not up yet, so I will also be posting on this next week when I’ll have it up with a nice juicy post to welcome you all to my new author website, which is really just my blog, moved over, for now. It is my hope that most of you lovely followers will check me out over there. Also, the author page will have a Facebook page under Beth Stillman Blaha, Author, and the fb page for this blog will also be phased out. The novel that is in the works to come out this year is a YA fantasy/thriller novel, and yes, I can genre blend because I ‘m not trying to romance agents anymore so I can do what I please! If I’m putting all my own money and time into making this happen, I will be building my own empire.

I can wax poetic on this next week. I promised a book review here and a book review is what you’ll get!

Oscar & Lucinda, Peter Carey

A young clergyman and a woman of independent means, both with an unexpected predisposition toward gambling, converge on an ill fated sea voyage to Australia in the 1800s. They each have unusual and uncommon upbringings for their time, and each don’t really fit into the world in which they were born, so, you know the inevitable. Their lives intersect in a slow burn, completely believable love story, with, as the blurb states, “a stunning conclusion.”

Now, I thought I was all smart about this post because its a book I’ve had forever that needed to be read and it’s about a couple on this, the day of love. And, with my new blog having more focus on books that readers of my impending novel will enjoy, I thought I’d squeeze in one more read outside that purview. Now that the book is done I feel less smart about this.

This book is gorgeously written, poetic, memorable, vivid in my mind’s eye. This is a book for people who love just reading about lives different from their own in a different historical context, as one would expect from Peter Carey. It’s a prizewinner in that not entirely accessible way. It’s literary. AND I do like historical fiction set in the early days of white settlement in Australia. It made me want to pick up The Luminaries again.

But wow, it’s really freakin disappointing. My readers are aware of my aversion to spoilers and I’ll hold true to that, however, I was pretty upset that after 500+ pages I didn’t get any satisfaction from the ending. I felt sad and cheated, and I like to think of myself as one open to many different ways a story can end. I’m left wondering if Carey intended it to go the way it did or he just got to a certain point and had some sort of shower revelation about how he could most disappoint the readers who had invested themselves in these extensive character backgrounds. I hate leaving this blog on a book that was ultimately disappointing for me. Back when I was reading about book blogging I read it’s best to be positive about books, but it’s not in my nature to be blindly positive unless it’s really how I feel.

I have been reading more genre than literary stuff since I shifted to my own read down instead of the reading challenges that I was loving on for a few years. I have been reading a lot of YA to have blog posts ready for you lovelies while I get the book related stuff up and running (get ready for pics of my writing space and the headshots I’ve been avoiding) and maybe it’s the emotionally stressful time of COVID and all the other ways the outside world feels lost these days that makes me crave the resolution that I’ve come to expect out of books for an audience that thrives on some kind of satisfaction from their endings. So maybe it’s me, not the book. A very love thing to say, isn’t it. It’s not you, it’s me.

Please with all the pleases stay tuned for the upcoming blog shift. There will be more of this greatness just in a new space.


February: Love and Treats

Just because this blog is winding down does not mean I have not binge read appropriately seasonal books for it. Well, partially. If I was as seasonal as I’d like to think, this month would also feature presidents and Black History Month topics (it still could, one never knows). But for now, the plan is Valentine’s Day. Because I’ve been a white girl with protestant heritage since I blew onto this planet and with that privilege I have enjoyed many a Hallmark holiday. And I plan to, pun intended, spread the love!

Also for some reason I have been eating those boxed chocolates for three weeks already, pretty much since they hit the stores in January and I was buying 37 cent chocolate Santas. Those were good Santas.

Valentine’s Day is about treats and couples. This week is two magical realism titles about treats. Because a magical realism backlist that fits into a holiday theme is a double win for me.

The Cake Therapist, Judith Fertig

Claire O’Neil, or Neely, returns to her hometown after her marriage flounders back in NYC to start a bakery of her own.  The narrative alternates with that of two poor sisters down on their luck sixty years before, and the mystery of how they get lost from one another after losing what little they had in the world.  Added to this is Neely’s marriage drama and her sixth sense, centered mainly in her sense of taste.  She is a bakery owner, but her extra abilities make her a healer and a savior too.

This was darker than I expected.  It has been sitting on my magical realism list forever and I thought it would be like other books I have read centered around creative hobby businesses.  I love me a book about creative hobby businesses and some psychic abilities rolled in there so you can be like low key helpful without all the responsibility of being in a healing profession.  Total wish fulfillment.  But this narrative is deepened with the intersecting historical fiction tale with the two little girls on the edge of disaster, and then one outright has a crisis.  It’s very different from the wedding business and the single woman in her thirties trying to get out of her marriage and try to make sense out of her childhood.  I don’t know if the contrast in the tone between stories would turn off some readers.  One reading for diversion might not like the dark aspects.  A reader who likes darker things might not even want to read a book about a bakery.   I mean, I liked it.  I’m glad I got it out of my nightstand in a fit of feeling like I never make serious progress with my book piles.  And there’s more depth than expected.  I can respect that in a book, even if it’s not what I was picking it up to read. A mystery that doesn’t turn out to be cozy at all.

Chocolat, Joanne Harris

Vienne Rocher moves into a devout Catholic, sleepy town in France and opens a chocolate shop.  An independent woman raised as a transient herself, she shakes up this town of traditional values, bringing change and healing to them and healing her own childhood wounds in the process.

This was feel good book for sure, but like with The Cake Therapist, there was more darkness than I expected and more magic.  I mean both books were recommended as Magical Realism even though they don’t feel like the South American magical realism that I’ve read.  Psychic abilities are more mainstream and subtle than like all the weird and fantastical stuff that goes on with Marquez and Allende. Anyway, this was compelling and multi-layered and I love books where magical treats bring people together.  I love books about attachment and healing, and outgroups coming together.  I kind of wanted it to end differently, but it was probably meant to end the way that it did.  An outcome I’d prefer for myself does not mean that it is in keeping with the character or the best outcome for everyone, and I think to be widely read and enjoy being widely read is appreciating outcomes that you would not personally want.  

Next week, the veritable day of love itself! Will feature at least one book about a couple. I still have to finish it and I’m woefully behind because I am working on books to blog about on the author website I am building. So many questions I don’t know the answers to, but that’s always part of the adventure!