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Book Review: In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce

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This is how curses are made: someone does something to another, and traps that person in a web with threads so fine they can hardly be seen. There is no escaping that web. I have to walk carefully in the stacks when I'm looking to be scared: I love gothic creepiness and I adore a good ghost story but I can't really tolerate gore or anything that is too realistic. True crime is way too much for me. In this historical novel imagining the life of 19th century serial killer Belle Gunness, Camilla Bruce manages to make a liar out of me. In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce Berkley, 2012 Digital review copy via NetGalley The key to this novel's almost shameful deliciousness is in Bruce's careful humanizing of Belle Gunness. Born Brynhild in a rural village in Norway, her life is marked by violence, lack of care, and cruelty. One atrocious act causes Brynhild to wrest revenge, and for a moment, I was almost with her. But as Brynhild becomes Belle, and then Bella, things gr

Podcast Review: Grimm, Grimmer, Grimmest

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My now six-year-old is a devoted podcast fan; and happily, there is some amazing stuff out there for kids and families.  A new favorite is the Pinna original podcast, Grimm Grimmer Grimmest . Narrated by author Adam Gidwitz, each episode is of one of the Grimm Brothers' classic tales with a full cast and sound effects.  Unabridged Kid is pretty imaginative and hasn't been exposed to much 'scary' stuff, but he's been begging for scary things, so this podcast has been perfect, especially as Gidwitz ranks each story by Grimm (weird), Grimmer (weird, maybe gross), and Grimmest (weird, gross, maybe creepy).  Additionally, interspersed in the retelling is the reaction from a group of child listeners, which cuts through some of the scariness of the stories and gives everyone some breathing room. But it isn't just the fabulous production values and wonderful storytelling that makes this a win for our household; it's also that Gidwitz actually addresses the problema

Best Reads of 2020

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In a year of erratic, inconsistent reading, I was lucky that most of what I read was pretty much awesome. Books had to compete against a great deal of stress, anxiety, and distraction -- and these eight reads really captured me this year.  You'll see most provided deep escapism -- romances were the genre of the year, no question -- but others stretched me and educated me. Some of my Best Reads in 2020 Tessa Dare, The Wallflower Wager I think Tessa Dare might be the author of the year for me: I read thirteen of her books, and three of them at least twice, if not three times this year. This one I probably read about five times, to be honest, because it was sexy and fun and deliciously escapist.  Tessa Dare, A Week to Be Wicked The second book in Dare's Spindle Cove series, this was my very favorite of the five books. I loved both characters, I loved their romance, and I especially loved the resolution to their conflict. It helps that I love the entire Spindle Cove universe, and

January literary "diet" from Claire Armitstead

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Claire Armitstead shares 31-days of literary tidbits in The Guardian , and I'm making a point of engaging with each day.  I'm going to try to share quick reflections on my Insta , and if anything catches you, I'd love to talk about it. I'm excited about the wide range of options: poetry one day, a film another; even music! I doubt I'll watch the films as sitting down to watch an entire movie is almost impossible these days but everything else should be doable. After a year of reading 'catch-as-catch-can', making time to pause and read each day is very welcome!

Reading Challenge: Reading Women 2021

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I've never done the Reading Women challenge although I've been aware of it for years.  Now that I'm doing more free-range reading, challenges like this interest me -- especially as I am trying to broaden my reading horizons.  Here's hoping I can double up some of these reads with Read Harder 2021 as I"m not confident these days that I can do all the requirements of both challenges. I haven't been very good at making myself read in 2020 so this is very much me being ambitious and optimistic!  Will you be participating? 2021 Reading Women Challenge  A Book Longlisted for the JCB Prize A Burning by Megha Majumdar   Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara    An Author from Eastern Europe The Door by Magda Szabó Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk Flights by Olga Tokarczuk Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn Forty Rooms by Olga Grushin  A Book About Incarceration  Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi An American Marriage by Tayari Jones  The Mar

Book Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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I can't wait to reread this one.  This book was incredible. It has the vibe of I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House meets Lovecraft Country (the book, not the show) with a dash of Grace Kelly-in-a-Hitchcock-thriller.  Our flesh-and-blood heroine Noemí takes on a family errand that turns into something very, very else; and it's this character who completely anchors the story for me and makes it so beautiful, compelling, and moving. Moreno-Garcia is heavy with the capital G Gothic-vibe, and every page is saturated with the elements that made me shiver with delight. It's a creepy, cold, creaky story that thumps with life and stretches the exaggerated elements of the Gothic to encompass more than its roots. Noemí is fighting not only the mist, a malevolent presence, her own doubts, but also racism, and sexism, and colonialism (never named so plainly, because Moreno-Garcia is great, but it's there, unable to be ignored). There's so much real in the growing h

Reading Challenge: Willa Cather Short Story Project, Phase II

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Having spent some of my formative years in the prairie states (Nebraska and South Dakota), I'm sentimental about writers like Willa Cather.  I haven't done a deep dive into her work, so I'm especially excited to participate in the Willa Cather Short Story Project , a reading challenge to read all of Cather's short stories, one a month.  Most excitingly, all the stories are available for free online , so there's basically no impediment for my participation. You can find the entire schedule here . I will put the 2021 reading plan here so I can track my reading and, hopefully, my reflections. Let me know if you're going to participate so we can gush together! 2021 Cather Stories January 2021 “Lou, the Prophet” February 2021 “Peter” March 2021 “A Tale of the White Pyramid” April 2021 “The Son of the Celestial” May 2021 “The Elopement of Allen Poole” June 2021 “The Clemency of the Court” July 2021 “The Fear that Walks by Noonday” August 2021 “On the Divide” September

Reading Challenge: Read Harder 2021

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Book Riot's Read Harder challenge rocked my world when I did it in 2019 , and it lead to some of the most interesting reads for my 2020 (although I didn't come close to completing). Really excited to try to crush the challenge this year! Read Harder 2021 Read a book you’ve been intimidated to read  The Sword Went Out to Sea by H.D. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson Read a nonfiction book about anti-racism  Me and White Supremacy : Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad Read a non-European novel in translation  The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin  The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda The Vegetarian by Han Kang Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-Eun The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino  Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor  Confessions by Kanae Minato Read an LGBTQ+ history book   Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America by Rachel Hope Clev

Books Read in 2020

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January Tessa Bailey, Fix Her Up Tessa Bailey, Protecting What's His Tessa Bailey, Too Hard to Forget Tessa Bailey, Too Hot to Handle Tessa Bailey, Too Wild to Tame Andrea Beaty, Sofia Valdez, Future Prez Maria Grace, Pemberley: Mr. Darcy's Dragon Jennifer Kincheloe, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc February Tessa Bailey, Baiting the Maid of Honor Tessa Bailey, Disorderly Conduct Tessa Bailey, Love Her or Lose Her Jennifer Kincheloe, The Body in Griffith Park Jennifer Kincheloe, The Woman in the Camphor Trunk Diana Lloyd, About an Earl Olivia Waite, The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics Rebekah Weatherspoon, Rafe March Tessa Bailey, Asking for Trouble Mari Coates, The Pelton Papers Cat Sebastian, Unmasked by the Marquess Rivers Solomon, The Deep April Annabeth Albert, Burn Zone Tessa Dare, A Night to Surrender Tessa Dare, Once Upon a Winter's Eve Eva Leigh, M

Dipping my toe back in ...

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I've missed this space!  While I enjoyed having one less thing to feel guilty about not doing well during this crap year, I absolutely missed being even lightly connected with the book blog world, and so I'm going to try to get back into this without stressing myself out. I'll share more reflections on 2020 but what I lacked in reading and blogging, I made up with knitting (achieved my goal of 8 completed projects !) and gardening slash homesteading . Looking forward to connecting with everyone again and talking about the reads of the year and my plans for next year (because even failing at goals this year doesn't mean I won't attempt ambitiously for next year!).