read it: the mere wife

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Wow.

Beautiful, lyrical, poetry in prose. I don’t think I’ve ever read quite a voice like this before. It’s gorgeously lush.

The Mere Wife is a modern retelling of Beowulf set in suburbia. I’m not quite sure how to categorize it — fantasy, contemporary fiction, magic realism? I’ve mostly settled on fantastical because that seems most apt. It focuses on women and the power women wield, the price of protection and love, and different kinds of monsters. It reads like two stories happening at once — the literal text read as is, and the story that the decadent prose is concealing. It’s hard to tell which one feels more true.

If you’ve read Beowulf previously, the parallels to and deviations from the text are fascinating. (I like the Seamus Heaney version though it’s been years since I’ve revisited it. It turns out Headley has a new translation forthcoming from MCD x FSG also — I might wait to revisit Beowulf until that’s out.) If you haven’t read Beowulf, that’s okay. You don’t need to in order to enjoy this book.

Some people will be turned off by the writing style — if you only like windowpane writing, this might not be for you; this text makes you work for it a little — but I urge you to give it a shot.

book blind dates

Went to Bookfest yesterday with a friend and wandered around the booths. While we were walking about, we came across a display of books all wrapped in brown paper. I’d heard of book blind dates before, but I’d never actually come across on in the wild. In exchange for a small donation, you got a literary surprise (one surprise for 3$ or two surprises for 5$). The hints on the cover ranged from the effusive to the hilariously concise.

Here are some of my favorites:

I went home with these:

Such a great idea for fundraising.

library quest

Yesterday, my sister-in-law D and I went on a library quest.

I finally, after waiting far too long, got my St. Louis Public Library card. And after I did, I had one of those moments where you just think “why the hell did I wait so long to do this?” I mean, books. BOOKS, you guys.

When I was looking into the libraries of St. Louis, I came across something curious — there are, as far as I can tell, three library divisions here. This seems to be related to the fact that St. Louis County and St. Louis City are split.

There are something like a billion municipalities in St. Louis County. (Okay, ninety-something.)

Think about that for a moment, a billion. (91, I think.)

So there’s quite a bit of duplication of various governmental services, including library systems. Since D and I both enjoy reading and having access to all the books, we decided to make a circuit of the all the libraries and collect the three different cards we were eligible for – city, county, and municipal library consortium. We made an afternoon of it, and then went to Hopcat for happy hour burgers in celebration.

Because ALL. THE. BOOKS. Now, excuse me, I’m off to go read.

P.S. Support your library! All of your libraries, if you’re lucky enough to have more than one! The easiest way to support your library? Go borrow books!

read it: the lady astronaut series

I first came across Mary Robinette Kowal about ten months ago when I started listening to Writing Excuses. I guess technically, I had a couple of her books from before that — I had already bought her book Ghost Talkers a couple months before, and her book Shades of Milk and Honey (the first in the Glamourist Histories, which she describes as Jane Austen with magic) a year before that — but I hadn’t read either of them yet, so it kind of doesn’t count.

On Writing Excuses, MRK quickly became my favorite speaker (sorry, Dan, Howard, and Brandon). She’s so analytical and relateable when she talks about constructing a story. She gives concrete tips and frameworks for developing plot. Her way of thinking about things just really clicked for me.

But still, I dragged my feet on reading her novels. Sometimes I do that when it comes to books or authors that I know will resonate. I don’t know if it’s because I’m savoring the anticipation or if I’m just wary of being sucked in. And I knew I was going to be sucked in – by that point, I had read several of her short stories and taken many of her writing/plotting/characterization insights to heart.

And I wasn’t wrong about that bit. Ghost Talkers was at least a standalone. After I read Shades of Milk and Honey, I immediately went and bought the rest of the series, breaking my 2018 book buying rule. Then I proceeded to forgo reasonable amounts of sleep for the next three days as I finished all the books.

All that to say: Mary Robinette Kowal is now one of my favorite authors. And I’m going to tell you to read her Lady Astronaut series.

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resistance is infallible

We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

– Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

read it: so you want to talk about race

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Go. Buy. Read. Now.

I finished So You Want to Talk About RaceSo You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo this weekend, and it was great. But even more than that, it was (is) necessary. Essential. It is honest and clear and direct and kind. This book should be required reading for everyone everywhere.

If I had the means, I would buy a copy for everyone I know. But I don’t, so instead, I’m telling you to go buy it, borrow it, read it, and then tell everyone that you know. Then start having some of the hard conversations, with yourself, with others, with government officials coming up for re-election…

read it: a witch’s guide to escape

I was making the usual rounds through the spec fic magazines that I read and came across the story A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow in Apex Magazine. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the title made me think of Ursula Vernon’s (T. Kingfisher) no-nonsense gardening witches and evoked memories of Patricia C. Wrede and her practical heroines.

And, you guys, I totally didn’t expect it but this story brought me to the edge of tears from the degree of resonance I felt. The depiction of reading and the importance of books, the role of librarians and libraries – these things made me feel and remember (strongly enough that italics were warranted) aspects of my childhood that I hadn’t reflected on in a long time.

The story itself is beautifully written and told using card catalog numbers as a great little framing device. The idea of librarians as a secret coven of witches whose role is to make sure you have the right book at the right time made me think of all the best teachers I have had the fortune of learning from. There are book references and little pop culture jokes peppered throughout in the most unobtrusive way possible. It all flows together so nicely.

So nicely in fact that after I read it the once, I immediately read it again to just recapture the feeling of being lost in the stacks, sitting on the floor between aisles and reading for hours – to escape, to find something that I couldn’t articulate, to live. I want to imprint this story in my brain so that I can refer to it when I’m craving connection and understanding, so that I can remind myself that the magic of books is real and has touched other people too.

I’m still a jumble of feelings about it; there are things I want to examine as to why I felt so much when I read it. But in the meantime, you should definitely check the story out.

currently reading

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Is that enough books to be reading at one time? (On my Kindle, I’m also reading The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin, which is book three of the Broken Earth trilogy – it’s riveting.)

It’s a good mix of intake (and all books I already owned – I’m still doing the no new books thing) – novel, short story collection, some writing improvement and some writing philosophy, and then a couple tomes on mindfulness and self-acceptance.

What are you guys reading?

2017 year in books

Following in the footsteps of Book Punks, a book blog I absolutely love, I’ve decided to start tracking some reading stats. Nikki’s reading round-ups are always hilarious, and the stuff she tracks about her reading is interesting. Those posts also have a tendency to balloon my TBR list, but that’s a problem that can’t really be helped – so many books, so little time.

I did the Goodreads Reading Challenge and set a goal of 40 books, and did…well. I’ll be shooting for 50 this year.

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I got my 2017 stats from the books that I logged on Goodreads.

– Total read: 68 (Goal: 40)
– Men/women (author gender): 14/54 (about a 20/80% split)
– POC authors: 10 (some multiples in there)
– Nonfiction/fiction: 22/46
– Owned/Bought: 12/56
– Ebooks: 53 (surprising since I usually like reading analog more)
– Re-reads: 1 (that I can remember – I tend to not track these on Goodreads)

There were a handful of books (I want to say around 10) that I read that I didn’t log for one reason or another, and I don’t want to go back and figure that out. So… I’m not going to. In the future, I’d like to track some other things like maybe minority representation in the books that I’ve read. But I haven’t totally settled on what to look at. Anyone have any suggestions?

I also started to do the calculation of how many books, both analog and digital, I bought this year and… it was embarrassing. It was even more embarrassing when I then looked at how many books I read of the ones I bought this year. I’m cringing just thinking about it.

I really like buying books. I like being surrounded by them. I like having lots of options to choose from when I’m deciding what to read next (at least, I think I like that… I might arguably do better with fewer options, but that’s something to think about at a later time).

But at some point, I got into this bad habit of buying books for my TBR list instead of just compiling my TBR list. I also basically forgot about the existence of libraries (I have excuses lined up as to why I forgot, but they’re really neither here nor there), even though a library used to be one of my favorite places growing up and through college.

Then this post showed up in my feed. This very timely post about killing your tbr. And I thought, YES I WANT TO DO THAT. So that’s my plan.

My goal is to drastically limit how many books I buy. And anytime I want to buy a book, I have to read 12 books that I own.

Oh, and I’m going to get a library card. Because what am I even doing.