Saturday, September 1, 2018

In Which We Come Back To Ourselves - A Reader's Tale

Once upon a time there was a reader...a reader who found herself losing her ability to read through very mysterious circumstances.  She was sad.  She was distraught.  She missed her books, her best friends, her lifelong companions.  She gave up talking about them because it hurt so much.  Then one day she decided to confess to a friend just how bad the problem had become.  The friend, knowing her quite well, was completely shocked because she knew just how much those books meant to our dear reader.  The friend gave the reader some love, and gently pushed her to figure out just what had gone wrong.

My friends, I've been away for a while, figuring some things out.  I finally have some answers, and am happy to say that life is turning towards the better, slowly but surely.  I will soon share more - I've missed this blog more than I can say.  For now....let's catch up on what I've been reading!

(Just to be clear, this is five months of books, and even thought it's a lot shorter list than it once would have been, I'm not going to go into full detail on everything.)

April:
Reading actually went fairly well in April.  I was tapering as I prepared to run my first marathon, and found myself suddenly with a whole lot of time on my hands!

1.  The Cruel Prince, Holly Black (audio) - I do love Holly Black.  Her books are true fairy tales, her heroines are feisty and relatable, and her plots are fast-paced and fun...and I love her for all of that.  It was so much fun that I was highly annoyed over the fact that it's just the first book in a series...and I read it well before the next book was due to be released.  Very much looking forward to where the next book takes us.

2.  The Fairies of Sadieville, Alex Bledsoe:  Bledsoe finishes up his Tufa books with this final entry, and it's a beauty.  I love how gently he returned us to so many beloved characters from the series, and am very satisfied with how he left it.  This is a series I know I will revisit periodically, and I highly recommend them to anyone who loves fairy tales that are melded into real life.

3.  The Burning Page and 4. The Lost Plot, Genevieve Cogman: The Hidden Library books aren't perfect by any means, but they are enjoyable romps and these books - the 3rd and 4th books in the series - were both much better than the dissapointing 2nd book.  Love Irene to pieces!

5. The Mermaid's Sister, Carrie Anne Noble: It's sweet, and it's gentle.  It's a fairy tale and a story about love.  I was slightly annoyed with one section that stretched a tad too long....but by and large it's beautiful.

6.  The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi (audio):
It's a treat to find a fairy tale that's based on a different culture/mythology.  (meaning, non-European white)  It was a delightful book, and  I feel I must read everything this author has ever written.

7. Circe, Madeleine Miller: If I could wave a magic wand, Miller would produce books at a considerably faster rate than she does.  Without that option, I must rest content in the knowledge that her books are some of the best written interpretations of classical mythology that I've ever read.  In fact, I'm completely blown away by her amazing prose and her interpretation.  I do have a minor in Classical Greek.  I grew up on a beloved copy of Edith Hamilton's Mythology.  Miller is speaking directly to me.

8. The Book of Phoenix, Nnedi Okorafor -
By far one of the best writers of today.  I adore everything that Okorafor produces, and am super jealous that a friend of mine got to meet her.  This book is a companion to Who Fears Death.  Both are must-reads.

9.  Girl at War, Sara Novic -
This is one of the last recommendations I got from Books on the Nightstand.  It's absolutely devastating.  This is the type of book I think we all need to read - to learn empathy, to see with different eyes, to try to understand just a little bit what others go through.  It's a book that hurts my heart, and yet I'm glad I read it.

May:
In which I was exhausted from running said marathon...and then the reading problem reared it's ugly head.

1.  The Clockwork Witch, Michelle D. Sonnier:  Full disclosure, Michelle is an internet friend of mine.  We belong to a rather special private facebook page that's been very meaningful to me over the years.  I was absolutely delighted when she announced that her book was going to be published, and I'm absolutely delighted to share it with you. The worldbuilding was a delight - once again, new enough concepts to me to really peak my interest.

2.  The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill -
Such a beautiful book.  Of course it is, it's a Newbery Winner.  (Incidentally, that's the one book award I tend to pay attention to.) Read it, just please read it.   As with all really good children's books, it comes at the truth so much better than any adult fiction I've ever read.

3.  10% Happier, Dan Harris
- A book about meditation for those of us who are pragmatic people who know it would be good for us, but who are somewhat turned off by the bulk of the literature out there.  Harris's story is interesting, and his take on meditation is refreshingly practical and grounded in real life.

June:
Yep, was still having a whole lot of trouble reading.  Seriously...2-3 pages max before I'd fall asleep.

1.  Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor - Taylor is one of my favorite resources for books that nourish the soul.  This particular books gets right to one of my biggest pet peeves in my faith - an idea she calls 'solar' Christianity.  I found it beautiful and thought provoking, and particularly timely given my sleep and nighttime issues that I've been dealing with lately.

2.  Eva Luna, Isabel Allende -
I'll be honest, I wanted to like it more than I actually did like it.  It was, sad to say, kind of a boring read despite the interesting characters and Allende's trademark brilliant writing .

3.  7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Jen Hatmaker (audio)
- This book appealed to me greatly because I am feeling the need lately to move towards a more minimalist lifestyle.  While Hatmaker's specific family experiment isn't right for us, I did love her take on the whole concept and the lessons she shared from her experiences.

July:
Trying, really trying.  Found some answers.  Started working to get better.

1. Witchmark, C.L. Polk - I fell in love with this debut novel, and can't wait to see what Polk does in the future!  It's the type of steampunk that I love, and the central love story was about as sweet as can be!  (And a bit unexpected....)

2. Inspired, Rachel Held Evans
- Yes, yes, yes.  This is the book I needed.  It helped me fall in love with the Bible again, and confirmed much of what I hold dear.  So refreshing to read in a world where the Bible is all too often used as a weapon.

3. Spinning Silver, Naomi Novic -
Will be buying in hardback - that's how much I loved it.  If you enjoy fairy tales as much as I do, you simply must take a look at Novic's books.

4. Wires and Nerve, Vol. 2 Gone Rogue, Marissa Meyer, art Stephen Gilpin
- Yep, The Cinder novels are another great discovery of the last couple of years.  (I was late to the boat.)  While I prefer the novels, the graphic novels are perfect for an afternoon of fun.

5. The Complete What Ukulele Players Really Want to Know, Barry Maz -
No explanation needed.  Am loving learning to play my ukulele!

Unfinished:
Life's just too short.  I retired these to the unfinished shelf, knowing darn good and well I didn't care if I ever finished them.

1.  Tell the Wolves I'm Home, Carol Rifke Brunt - It's just too sad.  Perhaps because of my age, I've always been drawn to such tales from the AIDS epidemic.  They were part of the great awakening of my heart to LGBTQ issues, and  led me to where I am now.  This is actually an amazing book, but it was just too sad, and I couldn't - and didn't need - to do it.

2. Good Guys, Steven Brust - Once upon a time I adored Steven Brust.  He was one of the first two or three fantasy authors that was recommended to me in college, and he would change my reading life forever.  But darn.  This is the second of his recent books that I've bought and not finished.  He's too much of a man's man in his writing.  He just writes the sort of boy books I don't care for.

3.  Gold, Fame, Citrus, Claire Voye Watkins - Actually, it's another quite good book.  Just not my cup of tea for some reason.  Don't regret the purchase  (was the sale table) and did very much appreciate the writing and the world-building.  Just not my thing.

August:
A major life change.  Trying really hard.  Found my reading self again!

1. Strange Practice and 2. Dreadful Company, Vivian Shaw - The first book kept showing up in various lists and in the sale table, so I finally decided to try it out.  I bought the second within minutes of finishing the first and started it immediately.  Before I loved fantasy I loved Gothic horror, and I really enjoyed this delightful take on the genre.  Greta Helsing - doctor for the undead - such a fun idea!  It wouldn't work, though, if there wasn't heart at the center...and these books have plenty of that as well.

3. European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewomen, Theodora Goss -
It pains me to say this.  I adored Goss's first book about the Athena Club.  This one desperately needed a mean editor to cut it roughly in half.  The basic idea was solid, but there were way too many wasted words.  Seriously...it dragged badly in much of the book.  And what happened to Mary's spine?  A disappointment.

4.  Running Is My Therapy, Scott Douglas -
An excellent scientific look into the mental health benefits of running.  It was a little more in depth than I had expected, so I skimmed parts.  Nevertheless, it confirmed what I already knew!

5. Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck -
I discovered this through the blog of a fundraising consultant that I follow, and to my delight it's actually a rare case of a self-help book that's actually helpful.  I've been working through it for some time, and appreciate what it's helping me to discover.

6. What Belongs To You, Garth Greenwell -
Beautiful language, and an exploration of human connection.  I don't know that it's for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

7. Wake, Anna Hope -
This was an interesting book about WW1. (I've a soft spot for books about both world wars.)  While it honestly wasn't the best book on the subject that I've ever read, it was most certainly an interesting way to explore what war does to people by focusing on three different women.  Worth reading.

8.  The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry -
Best book of the month, without question.  On the top 5 list for the year!  When I finished, I felt much as I did years ago when I finished A.S. Byatt's Possession - agitated in a good way, desperate to talk to someone about it, overwhelmed with just how good of a book it was.

9. A Good American, Alex George -
George is a local writer who I've known about for some time.  As he just opened a delightful indie bookstore, with one of my best friends as his manager, I decided I'd probably best read his book!  (I've had a copy for ages.)  I'm actually surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.  It's not at all the sort of book that usually tickles my fancy - being the type of lyrical family saga in which not much actually happens other than regular life - but then again, it's about German immigrants in my state, so it touched on my own family.  Glad I finally read it, and am delighted by the new bookshop!

10. The Monsters of Templeton, Lauren Groff -
Wow.  Another amazing book!  Picked it up on a sale table (for no good reason, really) and decided to clear it off of my to-read shelf finally.  The author's introduction did a much better job of pricking my interest than the actual description of the book had, and once I got into it I had serious trouble putting it down.  Was a great way to end my month!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Reading! Catching Up With My Books

Hello All!

It’s been an absolutely crazy few months, with little time to think beyond a crazy family and work schedule.  In fact, I’m contemplating the next steps in my life with an eye towards making life more manageable and enjoyable for all of us becaues I quite frankly don’t know if things are sustainable as they have been.

At any rate, as always I have continued to read, and I want to share my list of books with you.

A few notes first:
1.  For a very long while now I’ve had trouble falling asleep when I try to read at night - which is crazy because my bedtime reading is a lifelong habit so much a part of who I am that I almost don’t know how to live without it.  Nevertheless, one or two pages in I’m seriously fighting to stay awake.  This has seriously cut into my reading time (I’m losing 1-2 hours/evening.), and is annoying the tar out of me.
2.  In a development that’s so very unlike me, I started and didn’t finish probably 6-8 books from January through the end of March.  This is just weird, and I have no explanation beyond a short attention span and exhaustion because of the aforementioned crazy schedule.  Problem identified, I’m going to work to fix it.  You'll also see at the bottom of this post a list of books that I moved to the Unfinished shelf for a variety of reasons.  I may or may not try them again at another time.
3.  Despite this, I still managed to finish a healthy number of books.  Prior to going back to work a year ago, I was reading 10/month, and I have averaged half of that so far in 2018.  Not bad at all.

January and February:

Nonfiction:

1. Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown - I adore Brown, and this is a must read.  In fact, I think I need to get a print of her ‘strong back, soft front, wild heart’ saying to hang on the wall in my office.  It was needed.

2.  Mindful Running, Mackenzie L. Harvey - I heard an interview with Harvey on one of my podcasts, and was really intrigued.  Mindfulness and meditation are concepts which the universe seems to want me to learn.  (Seriously...they keep coming up over and over lately.). I am delighted to say that this is an amazing book - very grounded with excellent practical advice and enough stories to make it interesting.  I’ve since incorporated a few of the practices suggested, and have found them all very helpful.  I’ll be returning to them again and again.

3. Runners World Complete Book of Running, 4.  Runners World Big Book of Marathon and 1/2 Marathon Training - Hilariously enough, I read a lot of these books while on a hotel tradmill.  I had checked a bunch of running books out of the library, and these are the two that I felt had the best practical advice.  I’m actually using a training schedule right now adapted from both.

Fiction:

5.  Beneath the Sugar Sky, Seanan McGuire - Another Wayward Children novella, and again...please read these books, they are amazing.  McGuire is one of my favorites now for a reason.  Her books range from silly page turners to deeply lyrical, all with a solid fantasy/fairy tale base.

6.  Binti, 7. Binti: Home, 8. Binti: the Night Masquarade, Nnedi Okorafor - Typically I'm not much of a SciFi fan, but when it's written by Okorafor I am all in.

9. The Grace Keepers, Kristy Logan - This was an NPR 2017 Book Concierge find, and it was achingly beautiful.

March:

Nonfiction:

10. Half the Sky (audio), Nicholas D> KRistof and Sheryl WuDonn - I started this book on International Women's Day, which was perfect timing.  Honestly, I think it's a must-read for women everywhere.

11.  Being Mortal (audio), Atul Gawande (unfinished) - I started this after hearing an interview with Gawande.  It is a fascinating look at the end of life and what we hold important.  I did enjoy the half or so that I listened to, but ultimately didn't feel that there was enough content beyond what I had heard in the interview to finish.  Still glad I read it.  It's given me much to think about.

Fiction:

12.  Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories, Kelly Barnhoff - An eagerly awaited pre-order that didn't dissapoint.  True, not every story was a 10...but there were a few that were so amazing that they lifted the entire book.

13.  A Wrinkle In Time, Madeleine L’Engle - I went to see the movie with my daughter, and came home and immediately reread the book to get the stupid movie out of my brain.  OK, that wasn't entirely fair.  I think it's an impossible book to adapt to film, and I understand the decisions that were made.  I think it was a decent attempt, and I adore the casting (except for Oprah, who I just didn't care for in this role.)

14.  Strange the Dreamer, Laini T - Wow.  It's gorgeous.  And fun.  And different.  And now I have to wait for book two?!  Thank you once again, NPR Book Concierge!  (Yeah, it only happens once/year, but it's become a favorite source for new and different.)

15. Borne, Jeff Vandermeer - I enjoyed this book way more than I thought I might.

16.  Tricks for Free, Seanan McGuire - If you have to do 4 hours on a treadmill, I highly recommend having just the right book to keep you from going insane....and this one did the trick nicely.  McGuire's InCryptid novels are her popcorn novels - they hold the attention well, but aren't at all deep and don't concern themselves overly much with fancy language.  I made it through 3/4 the book during my loooooooooooooooooooooong run, and I wasn't bored, so that's saying something!  (As a side note, I very much admire McGuire's amazing output.  The fact that she's got multiple series that she publishes in each year, and that they are all so different from each other...kudos.)

Unfinished:

-.  Winter Tide, Ruthanna Emrys - I found this book on the NPR book concierege, and let me say up front that it's beautifully written and the characters are divine.  My problelm with it was that it had an exceedingly slow pace, and so I struggled to stay with it after a certain point.  Also, I'm so not into Lovecraft....so the new take on it was not that much of an interest to me.  I was reading it as a first intro, which is perhaps why I needed more action and less atmosphere.  This is a book that I fully plan on going back to at some point - when life is perhaps not as crazy and I have more energy to devote to slower books like this.  There is a sequel coming out.  I may preorder it and pick this up again when it arrives.

-.  The Stone Sky, N.K. Jemisin - I know, I know, this is one of the most decorated trilogys in recent history.  Everyone loves these books.  They are great.  They are different and unique and well written....and good grief, I find it a slog to get through them.  Book one had an amazing pay-out at the end, and was so very worth it.  Book two was tough to get through, but I also felt that it was worth it.  Book three....seriously coulndn't get past the first 50 pages or so.  Kept picking it back up, reading a page, and then setting it back down for weeks at a time.

The Philosopher Kings and Necessity, Jo Walton - This pains me, but it was time to give up for a while and set these aside.  The first book in this trilogy - The Just City - truly was an interesting thought experiment which I enjoyed.  I do have a minor in the Classic Greek Language, and anything to do with the Classics generally gives me a bit of a thrill still.  The problem with thought experiments, though, is that they can be a little bit cold.  I found that I just wasn't connected with any of the characters (except perhaps one who dies right away in book 2) and so I just didn't care.  This is another I will hopefully return to at some point in the future.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reading in November and December

NOVEMBER

1. The End of the Sentence, Maria Dahvana Headley and Kat Howard - Oh my goodness...a writing match made in heaven!  I can't believe how beautiful this book was...and I love the fact that it wasn't quite what I expected.  These two writers are definitly among my favorite discoveries of the last few years, and I love that they teamed up.  The really interesting thing is that together they have a style that's unique from their individual styles.  (usually in team writing I can tell who has added what) 

2.  The Masked CIty, Genevieve Cogman - I so enjoyed reading this book, but at the end of the day I had trouble remembering what it was about a few weeks later when I went to do this report.  Either I'm getting forgetful in my old age or it just wasn't awesome enough to stick real well. I've preordered the fourth book in the Hidden Library series...but now I'm not sure if I want to continue on.  (Haven't purchased the third yet.)  I do love the characters....maybe I've just been tired and stressed? 

3.  Mating in Captivity, Esther Perel (audio) - I'm a bit obsessed with Perel, who I've heard speak in many podcast interviews over the last few years.  In fact, her podcast, "Where Should We Begin?" is currently a must-listen as soon as it's published. This is the book that first truly introduced her to the world, and I find I'm really drawn to the work that she does with couples and relationships...work that is deeply compassionate and real.  Truth?  I would also listen to Perel read the phone book...her voice, accent, and reading style are that good...and so I'm beyond grateful that she read her own book. 

4.  Out of Sorts, Sarah Bessey - Another case of the right book coming along at the right time. I wish I could sit down with Bessey over a pot of tea.  I think she and I would get along quite well.  The premise of this book is that sometimes we need to shake out our beliefs, reexamine everything we thought to be true, and do the work needed to move forward.  My own feelings about church are somewhat conflicted right now...and this was exactly what I needed. 

5.  The Stone Sky, N.K. Jemisin - trilogy wrapping up, I'll now admit it...I don't actually like this trilogy as much as everyone else seems to.  Jemisin is one of my favorite discoveries from the last few years,, but I find this particular series to be unnecessarily difficult to read because of the writing style she utilizes. (note...I didn't finish it...and I may not...so weird.)

6. Artemis, Andy Weir - No, it's not as good as the Martian.  Not by a longshot.  Yes, it was a lot of fun.  I think Weir had the incredible good fortune to hit gold with his first book....and maybe he should have stopped there (?). 

7.  Akata Witch and 

December

8. Akata Warrior, Nnedi Okorafor - I adore Okorafor.  Her books are magical.  Akata Witch has been on my wish list for quite some time, and it's sequel - released this year after a very long wait - has made many best of lists for 2017.  I'd heard the books described as an African Harry Potter at one point, but that doesn't do them justice.  I love them because the characters are complex, and our lead has real emotions and sometimes doesn't think before she acts...in other words, they are real kids who behave in real ways. 

9. Weave a Circle Round, Kari Maaren - A prepurchase, based on the cover blurb by a trusted author.  It was fun, but I don't think I loved it as much as I might have another time.  (If that makes sense.)  Interesting concepts, fascinating time travel elements, excellent characters...yeah, I should have loved it more...probably tired and stressed again. 

(Then my birthday happened...round one of splurging on new books (round two with Christmas money)...and then I had a glorious 10 days off over the holidays, in which pretty much all I did was read!)

10.  Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders - I've never read Saunders, and although I've heard his praises sung for years I wasn't sure what to expect.  This was so heartbreakingly beautiful.  I loved every single word, and while it should have been sad I found it full of hope and peace. 

11. The Girl in the Tower, Katherine Arden - I wasn't aware that Arden's The Bear and the Nightengale (which you may remember I reread recently) was the first of a proposed trilogy until I stumbled on this book in my periodic browse through presale books.  I'm such a fan.  These are beautiful fairy tales, and in this book Arden takes her girl who doesn't fit in with the norms of her culture even farther.  I don't know where she's going, but I can't wait to find out!

12.  Turtles all the Way Down, John Green - The truth?  The plot is pretty iffy.  Fortuantely, that's not what you read this book for.  John Green has taken his own struggles with OCD and has created a character who's so very real in her own mental illness that she breaks your heart over and over again.  We need books like this to help teach us awareness and compassion.   And that line about first love at the end?  So very true. 

13. The Power, Naomi Alderman - I'd been desperate to read this book for quite some time.  It's also making the Best of 2017 rounds, and is a wonderful addition to the conversation about gender that we've been having all year long.  I wasn't surprised by anything - the reviews pretty much gave away the plot and the ideas - but wow, it's so very well done.  There's a line at the very end that really blew me away.  Gender and power..these are things we need to be talking about. 

14. Bright Thrones, Kate Elliott - Court of Fives novella.  Instead of adding new information to the series, it told one small portion through a different perspective.  I adore Elliott, and I love the Court of Fives books...but as charming as this was, it was wholely unnecesary. 

15. The Thorn and the Blossom, Theodora Goss - A confession.  This is one of the first books I added to my wish list back when I started listening to the (sadly now defunct) Books on the Nightstand podcast years ago...and yet, I passed it over every time I went to buy books, even though it's survived every purge of my wish list.  I finally decided it was now or never, and so it became one of my Christmas book purchases.  Oh my...it's brief, but it's absolutely lovely.  It's a twice told tale - you get the same story from the two diffferent characters, and while the potential is there for boredom through repetition, the story is short enough, and the perspective shift interesting enough that I didn't lose interest.  Beautiful writing...and let's face it, I'm a sucker for anything that includes a Green Man or Woman. 

16. Shalom Sistas, Osheta Moore - I picked this up on a recommendation from Sarah Bessey, who's blog has become a must read for me.  I cried several times while reading this book.  I want to be a a Shalom Sista, and this has given me some things to think about. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

September AND October Book Reports

September

1.  The Brightest Fell, Seanan McGuire - I really, really, really hope that McGuire will be able to maintain the quality in her October Daye novels for the long haul.  So far, so good.  In fact, this is one of the best long-running series I've ever found!  This is her newest, and I'm delighted to report that 11 books in she's still got it!  The Toby Daye books are pretty much everything I want in a fantasy series....fantastic characters who actually grow and change throughout the series, a beautifully built world, enough new each book that you don't get bored, magic, romance, fairies...yep, I love these books! So much so that I've started to purchase all of them, and may do a reread sooner rather than later!

2.  The Wind In His Heart, Charles De Lint - What can I say?  De Lint remains one of my favorite authors for good reason.  He's been away from adult fiction for a little while, and my oh my...when he returned he came back big.  I devoured this book in about 24 hours...and am going to get ahold of the audio for a reread this winter because I want to experience it again.  So much to love.  De Lint's true gift is that he writes with an intimacy that makes the reader feel that they are a part of the book....it gets into your heart and soul, and carries you along.  His usual themes of healing, redemption, art, community, love, friendship...they are all there.  Nods to fan-favorite characters are a welcome treat, and help ground the book in the world that he's built over time.  So grateful for his writing.

3.  The Girl With All the Gifts, H.R. Carey - Oh wow.  I picked this book up on the virtual sale table after stumbling across the hardback in the bookstore a few months ago.  I was impressed with the blurbs on the cover, but had little to no idea what the book was about.  I don't really want to spoil it for anyone, but I will say that it's the best book in a somewhat tired genre that I've read in ages and ages.  In fact, I had thought for a long while that the genre could use temporary retirement because it's so overdone....and then along comes this book.  It's a fresh, unique take...and I loved every minute of it!

4.  Dead Spots, 5. Trail of Dead, 6. Hunter's Trail (unfinished), Melissa F. Olsen - I really, really wanted to like these books, and am super dissapointed with my experience of them.  I discovered Olsen through a review of her most recent book in this, her Scarlet Bernard, series.  The review was glowing - and it was done Charles De Lint, who's never steered me wrong before.  In many ways, though, these books are Laurel K. Hamilton light (the market has been flooded with such books for years), tough and hot young woman in a world filled with vampires, werewolves, etc....solving crime, futzing over her love life.  I'll give Olsen credit for a twist on the subgenre that was actually pretty cool, but it wasn't enough to elevate the books beyond the rest of the crowd.  Even with that, I might have kept going...if it weren't for something I noticed (probably because I read them back to back).  Olsen has a really bad habit of unnecessarily using weight to describe characters, and she has at least one derogatory stock phrase that she used repeatedly.  In fact, I stopped reading the third book when I stumbled on that phrase for the fourth or fifth time in the series.  To give her the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure she was just trying to populate her world with something other than the standard 'everyone is gorgeous' that you typically get in this type of book.  Unfortunately, the way that it was done displayed both lazy writing and a bias that was uncomfortable for this particular reader.

October:

A note:  typically I do scary books in October.  It's a tradition that I've done for 4 or 5 years now - one that I enjoy very much.  I found that this year, though, the world itself is scary enough, so I turned to fairy tales...including four rereads that are all great favorites of mine. It was comfort reading, and it was perfect 

1. An Unkindness of Magicians, Kat Howard - Kat Howard is one of my favorite discoveries of the last few years.  This is only her second book, and based on her writing so far she has an amazing career ahead of her.  Her two books are quite different in tone, plot, and characterization...and yet they are connected by the simple fact that Howard is a brilliant writer with beautiful prose.  I don't want to spoil it.  It's just that good...and you should all read it. 

2.  The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman - iBooks has been recommending this series to me for quite some time, and I finally decided to take them up on it!  (The first book was on sale....it's a good incentive for me.)  No, it wasn't a perfect book by any means....but it was fun and original and I loved the world that Cogman built.  Can't wait to read the next couple of books!

3.  Uprooted, Naomi Novic (audio, reread) - Love, love, love this amazing book.  It's a must read for anyone who loves fairy tales/fantasy/magic.

4.  The Replacement, Brenna Yavanoff (reread) - It's a changeling story, and ultimately is a book about love...and I adore it.  No, it's not the most perfectly writen book out there, but it makes me cry every time.

5.  Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Caitlin Doughty - I've heard a couple of interviews with Doughty, and was intrigured.  This is her first book, a memoir of her early days in the mortuary buisiness.  It's not for the faint of heart or the squeamish, but if you can handle her description of what happens to our bodies when we die you will find that it is a book full of compassion.  It will also really make you think about why we do things the way we do.

6.  The Bear and the Nightengale, Katherine Arden (audio, reread) - I didn't realize this was the first in a trilogy.  I discovered as I was getting ready to listen to it that the second is coming out soon, so it's been preordered. This was my first time listening to it, which always adds to the experience...particualrly with an amazing reader.  Love this one too!

7.  The Boy on the Bridge, M.R. Carey (unfinished) - It's the sequel/prequel to The Girl With All the Gifts, and although I wanted to enjoy it given how much I enjoyed that book, I found I just wasn't in the right space to read it...and I just didn't care.  The first book may have been too perfect alone.

8.  The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black (reread) - I'd almost forgotten that so much happens in this lovely fairy tale! Perhaps part of why I love it so is because of the changling story within...just one component, but one that's beautiful. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Inside Columbia Magazine



On April 20th of 2008, I squashed the fear bug and turned to my computer to start a blog.  Green Woman Comes Knocking - named from a piece that I wrote decades ago - became an outlet for me to share my creative endeavors with the world.  The blog has gone through changes over the years, but at it's heart it's always been a place for me to talk about my knitting and spinning.  I take great pride in being, "the one who makes all the beautiful things," as one of Mom's friends recently dubbed me.  

This is what I do.  It's who I am.

My dear friend Carrie Koepke has been writing for Inside Columbia, a local magazine, for several years now.  Earlier this year she asked me if I would like to be a part of an article she wanted to write about all of the amazing things you can do with wool.  Quite naturally, I said yes.  (The fact that she wanted to feature my Princess Shawl had a lot to do with that - but truthfully I would do just about anything for Carrie.) The interview and photo shoot were a lot of fun, and I really loved learning about the needle felting art of Carrie's friend Kate McKenzie, which would also be featured.  

The article was published in the October issue, which was released this afternoon.  As I've been looking forward to this for months, I made a special trip into town today to pick up a copy.  It was everthing that I had hoped it would be - beautiful pictures, a warm and sweet story that pays tribute to all that I love about the fiber arts world and the type of people you find in it. 

....and then I realized that Carrie had shared my blog address at the end of the article.

In hindsight, I'm laughing at myself for being so surprised by that little detail.  Silly me, it's a completely natural thing to include!

Which is why I'm here this afternoon, to welcome anyone who read the article and decided to check out my blog.  

Welcome, and Thank You so very much for visiting!

If you are new to my blog, there are a few things you should know:
  1. The blog has been through many changes over the years, so if you look through the archives you will find all sorts of experiments.  In addition to posts about crafting, you will also find posts about my family, monthly book reports, stories about my parents' flock of sheep, personal essays about running and my allergies, and crazy lists that used to make my readers fear for my sanity.  It's been fun!
  2. Seven months ago I went back to work after 14 years of being a stay at home mom.  Unfortunately, I've had little time to knit since then - and even less time to blog, which is why it's been very slow this year.  I haven't at all given up on my blog, and am working really hard to figure out how to once again find time for the things I love. 
  3. I miss writing!  I've many ideas rolling around in my noggin, and this just may be the kick in the pants I need to get started again.  Please check back to see what happens next!

If you are an old friend, thank you so much for all of your support over the years.  You've no idea how much I appreciate all of the kind words when I've shared my thoughts or my work with you.  You've been a joy, and I hope we can continue on together!


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Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Mixed Bookshelf

1.  The Waking Land, Callie Bates (audio) - I listened to 3/4 of it and didn't finish.  While it sounded like just my type of book, I was struck by a.  how much I wanted to slap our protagonist throughout the entire first half of the novel for being an idiot; b. the flat, flat characters; and c. the heavily borrowed - and not in a good or inovated way - mythology.  Oh, and did I mention love stories that made no sense whatsoever?  No.  Just no.  The fact that this was only the first book of a trilogy doesn't bode well...

2.  The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter, Theodora Goss - Now this is more like it!  Goss tapped into all of my favorite classic horror novels in the best way possible, borrowing characters from classic works but truly inovating in her plot and character development. This is how you add to the cannon!  I love, love, love the fact that Goss asked herself why all of the female 'monsters' were disposed of in the classics and then came up with a brilliant story about them.  I sincerely hope she writes more about them!

3.  The Queen of the Night, Alexander Chee - This was one of my holiday splurge books, and it just seemed like the time to read it.  It's an amazing, delicious historical novel, full of larger than life characters and more drama than one life could possibly hold.  So much fun!  And a perfect end that didn't cheat around the actual plot.

4.  The Lady Astronaut of Mars, Mary Robinette Kowal (short story) - It's a love story, a beautiful love story that addresses aging and loss.  It may be my favorite work from Kowal.  Sweet...gorgeous...satisfying.

5.  For the Love, Jen Hatmaker (audio) - Hatmaker has been on my radar for a while as part of the group of Christian women writers who are taking the world head-on.  While there wasn't anything new in here, there were some messages I needed to hear right now.  I was charmed by Hatmaker's style - part loving sermon, part memoir, part comedy, part recipes - even as it occasionally drove me crazy because I wanted more substance at times.

6.  Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay (audio) - I wanted to like it, but ultimately it bored me.  I do like Gay's writing, and perhaps the problem is that I agree with her and didn't need to listen to a book reflect back my own outrage.  (which is what was happening)  I may try to read it later, but life is short and there are a lot of books out there.

7. The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor Lavelle - I'd bought this novella some time ago on the sale table, but it wasn't until I read Lavelle's brilliant book The Changeling that I felt drawn to actually read it.  He's definitly a new favorite of mine, and I can't wait to see what he does next.  (even while I'm not really a Lovecraft fan, and this is a Lovecraft homage.)

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Very Good Month of Books Indeed

1.  The Girl From Everywhere, Heidi Heilig - I discovered this book through NPR's 2016 book concierge, one of several I put on my wish list.  Oh my.  It's a true delight!  Truly unique idea, fantastic characters that really drew me in, excellent pacing, and thought-provoking concepts.  Mostly, though, it's just a really good story.

2.  The Ship Beyond Time, Heidi Heilig - So of course, I had to read the follow-up.  It wasn't quite as magical, but I loved it as well.  I love that Heilig used her books to ask really big questions, and I love the way she navigated those questions.  In retrospect, this could have been one of those books with the 'twist' ending that I hate (ahem, remember how ticked off I was with the Queen of the Tearling books?), but Heilig didn't go there at all, instead crafting an ending that was deeply, deeply satisfying.

3.  The Shadow Land, Elizabeth Kostova - Oh.  My.  Lord.  I can't believe I forced myself through this awful book.  I LOVED Kostova's first book, The Historian.  Perhaps I should have paid better attention when the reviews said her second book wasn't good.  The third....well, it's ridiculous that I pushed myself to read this all the way through.  If the book were 1/3 of what it is then perhaps it would have been good.  The central story that Kostova is trying to tell could be an important one.  Unfortunately, she muddied it with a worthless framing device, pointless digressions, and writing techniques that tried to be fancier than was warranted.

4.  Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire (audio) - It's been less than a year since I discovered this book, so to return with a reread so soon is unusual for me...but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to discover what the audio added to the story.

5.  Hunger, Roxane Gay (audio, read by the author) - As someone with a complicated relationship with my own body and with food, I related to this book in a way that some may consider surprising even though the details of my life and Gay's are not at all similar.  It's an important book, and I highly recommend it.  We don't talk honestly enough about our bodies, and this is an important first step.

6.  March, Geraldine Brooks - I think Louisa May Alcott would have approved of this beautiful novel that tells the story of what happened to the father of her "Little Women" while he was off at war.  It's a beautiful book - well-deserving of the accolades it received.  I've often been critical of writers who seek to capitalize on the classics, but this is one of the few cases where I've truly seen it done right.  Bravo, Ms. Brooks.

7.  Magic For Nothing, Seanan McGuire - Truth time, I was getting a bit tired of the Incryptid series, and the our youngest sibling just didn't capture my attention like her big sister and brother did. My one big problem with the entire series is that it takes too long to really get into the books.  In this case, I was 100 pages in before it captured my attention.  The entire first act was m'eh.  Oh well.  Still planning on reading the next one!

8.  The Changeling, Victor Lavelle - Oh.  My.  Goodness.  It was a perfect modern-day fairy tale, and I loved every minute.  Hands down, one of the best books I've read this year so far.  I've read one other Lavelle book, and knew I liked his writing style, but I honestly wasn't expecting a straight-up urban fairy tale.  Now I feel like I need to go read everything else he's ever done!

9. Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck - In doing a bit of research for my current job, I discovered a phenomenal website (Storytelling Nonprofit) run by a brilliant writer who recommended this book in one of her posts.  I was intrigued as it seemed to fit a particular need I have had for quite some time.  Haven't finished it yet because I'm working through the exercises, and it's just going to take time.  Truthfully, there's nothing in here that's new or surprising - it's a variation on a common theme with these sorts of books - but it is speaking my language, so I'm enjoying it.

10. Buried Heart, Kate Elliot - The final in the Fives trilogy.  Oddly enough, I had trouble getting into it.  The pacing felt different from the others, with the beginning being an extension of the end of the second book in a way that was a bit jarring to start with.  Overall, I'm satisfied with the series and I very much appreciated the way that Elliot finished it up, even though I felt it petered out a bit in the third book as if she'd lost a little bit of steam, and/or didn't have quite enough material to actually fill a third book.  That makes it sound worse than it was....I"m only a little bit disappointed that it wasn't as great as the first two.  Elliot will always be one of my favorites.

Giving Up On 'Em (for now):

11. The Crimson Petal and the White, Michel Faber - I wanted to like it, but ultimately it committed the crime of failing to make me actually care about any of the characters.  Life is just too short.

12. Mile Markers, Kristin Armstrong - Too precious, not enough insight, too suburban mommy blogger, nothing unique....too something, not enough substance.

13. One Square Inch of Silence, Gordon Hempton - I loved the interview that drew me to this book, but I just couldn't connect for whatever reason.  I suspect it's timing and it may go better at another time.