This Week’s Reading

The Rules of Love and Grammar: Mary Simes
Beauty and the Werewolf: Mercedes Lackey
When We Were Sisters: Emilie Richards

Quirky Quotation

“Where do you get your ideas from, Ms Le Guin?” From forgetting Dostoyevsky and reading road signs backwards, naturally. Where else?

Ursula K Le Guin in the introduction to “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” in The Wind’s Twelve Quarters

This Week’s Reading

2 AM at The Cat’s Pajamas — Marie-Helene Bertino
The Applebeck Orchard — Susan Wittig Albert
Waifs and Strays — Charles De Lint
Sweet Liar — Jude Devereaux

This Week’s Reading

The Heiresses — Sara Shepard
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street — Susan Jane Gilman
three story house — Courtney Miller Santo

Frog Music: Mini Book Review

This is a mini book review of Frog Music, by Emma Donoghue, because I never got past page 81. It felt like we were going round and round in circles and never getting anywhere. It was a murder mystery (of a true historical crime) that opens with the murder, and yet by page 81, we (the protagonist and by extension, the reader) still had no more thoughts or ideas than on page 2 or so. I couldn’t bear to keep reading — there were words on the page (on page after page after page) but nothing happened.

Blog Note: I know many readers are expecting another installment of Emily this afternoon, but I have run fresh out of ideas for that story. Hopefully next week, but not until further notice.

Book Review: The Third Hill North of Town

The Third Hill North of Town, by Noah Bly, sucks you in very quickly with its dark humor and laugh-out-loud moments, even in the midst of tragedy. Julianna Dapper is a middle-aged woman in Bangor, Maine, with a lovely home, a good job, and a good life. One day, her mind snaps, she thinks she is fifteen again, and she sets fire to her neighbor’s garage for no apparent reason. Placed in the state mental hospital, she palms her medication and feeds it to an African violet at the nurses’ station. Left unsupervised for a moment one Saturday morning in June, she waltzes right out of the hospital, into the director’s car (keys conveniently left in the ignition), and she’s off, heading home to Pawnee, Missouri.

She manages to kidnap (almost accidentally) an African-American teenager, Elijah, in the next town over, and picks up another, hitchhiking teenager a while after that. The boys quickly realize that all is not right with her, and tragedy piles upon tragedy as they careen their way across the country.

But these tragedies are minor compared to the huge tragedy that lies at the center of Julianna’s life, a night of blood and fire that has all the answers. And in a tense scene back at the scene of the tragedy that started it all in Pawnee, as all the people hunting these accidental fugitives converge on them (among them Elijah’s parents, the director of the Maine state mental hospital, Julianna’s son, and police from two states), we find out about the terrible night that began it all.

This is Noah Bly’s debut novel, and it is amazing. If this is how he writes a first novel, I can’t wait until he’s been writing for a few more years.

Five out of five stars. Intense.

Book Review: Cinnamon and Gunpowder

I recently finished Cinnamon and Gunpowder: A Novel by Eli Brown. I highly recommend it, although I doubt everyone would enjoy it.

Snatched at gunpoint from England by pirates (after they murder his employer), Owen Wedgwood is forced to cook every Sunday for the pirates’ swashbuckling female leader, or forfeit his life. Producing mouthwatering meals with very few supplies, Owen hates the pirates and their leader with a passion. But as time goes on, he learns that they are actually trying to break the slave trade and the opium trade with which Britain enchains China. The pirates gradually gain his sympathy, and Owen finds himself helping them rather than trying to escape. Eventually Owen learns that true heroes come in unexpected packages, and good does not follow money.

I really enjoyed this fast-paced book, but if you do not like suspending your disbelief about the way the world ought to be (in science, history, and perhaps philosophically) then this is not the book for you. There are fantastical scientific inventions, and impossible events wound throughout true events and historical happenings. A modern Jules Verne, Eli Brown is definitely an author to watch.

Five out of five stars.

Book Review: A Different Sun

A Different Sun by Elaine Neil Orr is about a young girl growing up in Georgia in the 1840s, Emma Davis, daughter of a plantation owner, who turns her distaste for the institution of slavery into a desire to be a missionary. She marries a former Texas calvaryman who runs a Christian mission in Africa, in what will later be called Nigeria, in the land of the Yoruba people. Both Emma and her husband, Rev. Henry Bowman, mistake zeal and desire for ability. Rev. Bowman is plagued by an unidentified malaise (probably malaria, but not necessarily) that affects his ability to be a good pastor and husband. Emma must cope with this in a land where she is an outsider.

I was puzzled several times by the realistic style of the book — more historical than fiction. At the end of the book, the historical note explained that the novel had been inspired by the journal of a real-life woman who married an African missionary in the mid-nineteenth century. I would have liked that note to be at the beginning — it would have explained why the book did not always seem like a work of fiction (it turns out that Ms. Orr quoted the actual journal several times throughout the book).

Overall, I liked the book very much. It was interesting and held my attention through several plot turns. I liked the occasional perspective changes so we can see the world through Rev. Bowman’s eyes and the eyes of Jacob, servant of Rev. Bowman.

Five out of five stars.

I self-published my first poetry chapbook!

This weekend, I finished publishing my first poetry chapbook! It’s called Love and Memory, and right now it is available only through Sometime in the next 2 weeks or so, it will be available on Amazon. Anyway, I’m terribly excited, and I hope you’ll all go take a look. If you’re a long-time reader of the blog, you’ve probably seen a lot of the poems in the chapbook already in draft form, but this is your chance to get them all in one place in final form (greatly improved over drafts!).
Love and Memory: A Poetry Chapbook

Update on This Week’s Reading (with mini book reviews)

..think the opposite

..think the opposite (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It turns out that two of the books I was planning to read this week are complete busts and I won’t be finishing them. They are:
A Royal Pain — Megan Mulry and
Foal Play — Kathryn O’Sullivan

Foal Play wasn’t too bad, but the writing was less than captivating, and I found the plot to be too complicated. Within the first thirty pages or so, we discover that the main character (the female town fire chief) is in a sort-of relationship with the (male) sheriff; a sleazy developer is deliberately lighting fires so he can make passes at her; her former schoolteacher is antagonizing everyone in town, to the point that someone blows up her (the teacher’s) home and she is presumed dead when the fire chief finds a woman’s body in the kitchen; and … I gave up there, it was all just too improbable.

A Royal Pain was pretty good (for a typical romantic pot-boiler), right up to the point that the author likened the female MC getting her hand patted by a man to a young horse filly being broken to the saddle. Um, yeah. That was the end of my reading that book.

Also this week, I read Keeping Watch by Laurie R. King (didn’t make it onto the reading list) which was fantastic although very intense, particularly the backstory set in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. I’m trying to decide if I want to review it or not.

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