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What's the unbelievable horror?: secret society of power-hungry magicians or relentless, unabashed racism?

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First line: Atticus was almost home when the state trooper pulled him over.

This ended up being my book club's October read, and I'm glad, because it's been on my TBR since it was released last year.

And I'm wicked conflicted about it.

On one hand, this was a really, really entertaining read, a mix of family history and supernatural drama. On the other hand, I struggled (and am struggling) with the author's identity as a white guy, and his depiction of characters of color.

The novel was originally pitched as a tv show, which shows, as it is a series of interconnected vignettes that feels like a tv episode. Which isn't to say it's not good, but it only goes so deep.

The detail Ruff explores most is the repressive violence the main characters face as people of African descent. Which is good, and, brings to mind Kara Brown's piece "I'm So Damn Tired of Slave Movies":

"I’m tired of watching black people go through some of the worst pain i…

"Someone's come in and killed Father!": An interview with Erika Mailman

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I'm thrilled to share my interview with novelist Erika Mailman. Erika wrote Woman of Ill Fame, which I read in 2013 and uh-dored. (I actually can't believe I read it four years ago - it's so vibrant in my mind I would have sworn I read it last year!)

Now Erika is looking at the infamous Borden family murders with her book, The Murderer's Maid. I'll be reviewing this one soon (could there be a more perfect October read?!).

While you wait for my inevitable squees, here's an interview with Erika about her writing of this book (question three shows she is far, far more brave than I could ever be!).

What scene or character surprised you while you were writing?

I had to track down the story that Lizzie Borden had fainted during her trial at the sight of her father and stepmother's skulls. I knew the person showing the skulls was Dr. Draper, but the court transcript during his testimony didn't show her fainting. I started to think the story was apocrypha, but a…

Weekend reads and fall is here...

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After being a weird, steamy 80 for a few days earlier this week, it's not Uber Autumn out: sunny but brisk, clear and fragrant. I love this weather, which is a bummer, because I'm juggling two good reads and on deck for a few more!

I forget how Marissa A. Ross's Wine. All the Time.: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking crossed my radar, but I immediately requested it from the library and it is so good we're going to buy a copy to keep. Ross is funny and approachable and her whole attitude about wine is so normal and refreshing. It's like having your cool but not snobby friend teach you about wine.

I'm also reading Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country, which is this month's pick for my book club. It's a great read and one that I'm so conflicted about. Set in the 1950s, it's a series of interconnected stories of an African-American family who gets embroiled with a white family obsessed with secret societies and arcane secrets. Ruff is unabashed in…

A twenty-eight second walk with me this morning...

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The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen is a guide I wish were real...

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I love romance novels for the fluff escapism: tame drama, happy-ever-after, armchair time travel, appealing sexytimes.

This first book in a new series did that for me, and if you like tame, slow-burn romances, this one is for you. Our heroine, spinster India Prendergast, is convinced the Lady Travelers Society is a scam. Her beloved aunt has disappeared, and the women running the society are unable to locate her. Worse, Derek Saunders, famed bad boy, is related to one of the women who run the society, and he has taken it upon himself to "help" "find" India's aunt.

Obviously, their instant dislike for each other means they're going to fall madly in love (and that was fine by me).

Normally I wolf down romances in a matter of days, but I actually took a break from this one because it's pretty slow moving. The mystery was a little tiresome because there was an intentional can't-tell-the-truth-for-this-rather-flimsy-reason plotline and it did stretch on…

Book Arrivals, October 9

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A quick video for a Monday: another batch of library holds came in this past week, and I got two books in the mail, so hooray for new reads! Have you read any of these? Got any good new books?

Weekend Reads, and it's all toddler all the time

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I meant to do a weekend reads video for my stuff, but Unabridged Toddler had other ideas!




A speculative novel about cloning, Jamaica, an alternative United States, and secret agents was remarkably boring...

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I really ought to have loved this speculative short novel but I didn't, and it bums me out!

Set in an alternative now, where the US is broken into smaller countries -- Five Civilized Tribes, which is a conglomeration of US Indian/Native American tribes (I believe), the industrialized Tejas and puppet state of Albion, among others -- the story follows a Jamaican secret agent, Desmond Coke, who has smuggled a young boy from Jamaica in hopes of keeping him safe from a variety of nefarious forces.

It takes most of the novel to learn why they're being pursued and it's an intriguing premise. Desmond's work is hampered by geopolitical drama and some good old-fashioned double crossing, and with the 'Old West' ambiance and technology, it has the feel of Firefly or other weird West style stories.

And yet...I wanted more. I think were this a full length novel, it would have worked; the novella format didn't serve the setting or characters. (Full disclosure: I've …

Mood Ring Recommendations: Feeling... Changeable

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My current mood is influenced by the changing seasons and the slide into October (possibly my favorite month), so, for this week's Mood Ring Recommendations, my mood is ...

~ Changeable ~
First, the mood I've picked isn't precise, because I'm not exactly sure what mood I'm trying to express. Something that's more than what's on the surface; something duplicitous (but not always bad); one thing and then another. What's one word for all that?

Whatever the word is, these reads all came to mind when I started thinking about stories with a character who wears a mask, is different than we think, or changes midway once we thought we knew them.



Eleanor Hallowell Abbott, Molly Make-Believe: This sweet novel is from 1911, and it's the only positive novel featuring misdirection and misapprehension. It reads like The Shop Around the Corner and other sweet rom-coms, and it's a really lovely, light romance.

Louisa May Alcott, A Long Fatal Love Chase: Pretty m…

Book Arrivals, October 1

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A quick booktube video of some of the books that have arrived over the last few weeks, both review copies and some free-range reading library arrivals. (Including a classic better known as a film than a book!) Have you read any of these?



Creepy kids are creepy, especially when they ought to know better...

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In our house, this book is practically a sacred text (my wife uh-dores Shirley Jackson). My book club selected this as our read for May, and I was thrilled for the reread because this book surprises me every time.

Our narrator, Mary Katherine (or Merricat, as she's called) lives in her dilapidated house with her sister and uncle. The town shuns them after a terrible family tragedy that resulted in the death of most of her fmaily. But Merricat likes the little life she has, and she does what she needs to in order to protect all of them. And as you might expect, when her happy world is threatened, she gets to work.

I'm being vague to ensure you get the pleasure of Merricat and her story. If you're only familiar with Shirley Jackson through her short story "The Lottery", you need to get this novella. It's a great, atmospheric read -- very quick at 160ish pages, depending on your edition -- and the creepiness crawls over you.

Jackson's Merricat is so sweet …

Wordless Wednesday: But the little things need to be quality

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Today's Wordless Wednesday is a response to my Wordless Wednesday from last week.

Basically: $2 stickies have no sticky and now I have learned my lesson. But life isn't over because last night my wife made caramel apples because it was Tuesday.

Teaser Tuesday, September 26: Happy birthday, Gloria Anzaldúa!

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"I want freedom to carve and chisel my own face, to staunch the bleeding with ashes, to fashion my own gods out of entrails."
I came across Gloria Anzaldúa in college, after stumbling across the above quote. It electrified and shocked me, as did the passage around it (from her book Borderlands/ La Frontera: The New Mestiza), which provided more context:
"So don’t give me your tenets and your laws. Don’t give me your lukewarm gods. What I want is an accounting with all three cultures—white, Mexican, Indian. I want freedom to carve and chisel my own face, to staunch the bleeding with ashes, to fashion my own gods out of entrails. And if going home is denied me then I will have to stand and claim my space, making a new culture—una cultura mestiza—with my own lumber, my own bricks and mortar and own feminist architecture." You can read a few more powerful excerpts at She's Got the Mic.

Mood Ring Recommendations: Feeling...Indecisive

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I'm going to start a new series I'm calling Mood Ring Recommendations, in which I'm going to share recommendations and reviews for books (or other things?, if I feel like it) that relate to the mood. It's an experiment; let's see if it's any good!

Since I'm in the midst of angst-ing about what to do with this blog (I even gave myself a tarot reading for advice!), today's mood is going to be:

~ Indecisive ~
These recommendations are reads that immediately came to mind when I started thinking about making choices (or not), hesitating or being impetuous, or otherwise dithering about doing something.


Kage Baker, In the Garden of Iden: When you can live forever, you have lots of time to wonder about the choices you've made. This book is the start of a thirteen book series (or something like that), but it's a fabulous standalone novel, set during Elizabethan England, with a woman who is more cyborg than human (but she still struggles between head and h…

Tarot Reading: On continuing to blog...

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As I shared on Friday, I've been seriously considering closing my blog, since I'm feeling sort of 'eh' about the work it takes to keep it up. And yet, that doesn't feel quite right to me, so I decided to give myself a tarot reading about what to do.

I used the Biz Spread created by New Age Hipster and the Ostara Tarot deck, consulting my two favorite tarot books right now, Melissa Cynova's Kitchen Table Tarot and Jessa Crispin's The Creative Tarot.

Essentially, to my surprise, I think this reading is telling me not to quit! I'm a little fuzzy on some of the cards, but what jumped out to me was this sense of waiting, needing more time, and rejuvenating.

The first card, about where one's business is at, is the 7 of Coins. Crispin interprets sevens as determining what we really want, and 7 of Coins about not rushing to harvest/call it quits. That really struck me because while I've been thinking I'm being honest with myself, it may be that I&#…