Posts

Nancy Bilyeau's The Blue

Image
If it were not for his love for me, none of this would have taken place.

Porcelain. Not what I thought would make for exciting reading, but in this fabulous book, it's a commodity that drives politics, espionage, and obsession.

The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau
Endeavor Quill, 2018
Review copy from publisher

I'm a longtime fan of Nancy Bilyeau's books: rich with drama and unforgettable characters, they are the kind of books that just sweep you up. Here, Bilyeau makes an industrial endeavor -- the 18th century passion for blue porcelain -- a captivating, dramatic story, centered on a winning heroine.

Genevieve Planché is a descendant of French Huguenot refugees. A talented artist, she hopes to be mentored by William Hogarth, but her grandfather wishes her to work as a artisan at the Derby porcelainworks. Her rebellious childhood sweetheart leads her, instead, into a mystifying, increasingly deadly world of industrial espionage -- and us readers into a fascinating world where the sci…

Weekend reads, or finally a quiet weekend!

Image
Finally a weekend that's almost entirely free of obligations! After almost eight weeks of busy weekends -- moving, holidays, family and friends, appointments, work -- I'm finally facing two days that are relatively open!

As part of Book Riot's Read Harder 2019 challenge, I'm starting my first manga this weekend, Kaoru Mori's Emma. I never thought manga would interest me, so it was a delight to learn there's a number of historical romance-y ones out there. I've got my coffee, a plush blanket, and this book. Bring on the weekend!

What are you reading this weekend?

Oyinkan Braithwaite's My Sister, the Serial Killer

Image
Ayoola summons me with these words—Korede, I killed him.

Between the book's title and its opening lines, you know what you're going into with this read.

Happily, there's no gore. No horror. So if you're squeamish, no need to worry. It's just a darkly delicious read that verges, knife's edge, on being funny but is also just realistic enough, razor blade thin, to be chilling.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Doubleday, 2018
Copy from public library

Our heroine, Korede, is serious, responsible, deliberate. Her sister Ayoola is gorgeous, irresponsible, and unrepentant.

Recently, Ayoola's developed a habit of killing her boyfriends.

The deaths all seem accidental enough, but Korede is worried. Her family weathered trouble and all Korede wants is to protect her sister and mother, do her job, and find love -- hopefully with the dreamy doctor at the hospital where she works. So when Ayoola notices that dreamy doctor, well...

I inhaled this read …

Sarah Perry's Melmoth

Image
Oh my friend, my darling—won't you take my hand? I've been so lonely!

I told my wife this book reminded me, in a way, of the tv show, Hannibal. Not because of any actual plot similarity (Perry's novel is devoid of serial killers) but more in the opulent, baroque, and ominous style in both.

Melmoth by Sarah Perry
Custom House, 2018
Copy from public library

It's extravagant. Melodramatic. Wuthering Heights and mezzo-sopranos dying on stage. Tea-and-rainy-day moody. A bit like Byatt's Possession, only far more brief. It has all the atmosphere and setting of a book I love, so I'm especially crushed that I didn't love it!

Inspired by a Victorian novel about a man named Melmoth, Perry instead imagines that Melmoth is a haunted woman who sees people's sins and invites them to spend eternity with her. Helen, ex-pat in Prague and suffering self-imposed punishment, learns about Melmoth from a friend, who learns about Melmoth from a friend. An urban legend of sorts…

Weekend reads, or it's that time of year...

Image
This weekend I won't be reading since my family will be attending the New Bedford Whaling Museum's annual Moby Dick Marathon, a weekend event where passionate fans read Moby Dick aloud.

Moby Dick is my wife's all time favorite book so when we discovered this event, it immediately became an annual affair for us. This is our fifth year going, and my wife is an official reader for her second year in a row. She's very excited.

I'm not a Moby Dick fan but I do love geeks, and it's impossible not to enjoy this when surrounded by passionate fans. The read happens at the museum, which only enhances the story, and there are all kinds of fun nods to the story -- there's a celebrity Ishmael to open the reading every year, the mayor reads the section of Ishmael walking thru Bedford, and the worship scene happens at the Seaman's Bethel, etc.

So, it's not my preferred read, but it'll do. What are you reading this weekend?

Top 10 Reads of 2018

Image
It looks like I've read 33 books this year, which is five less than last year. But given the crazy amounts of stress and drama that hit me in 2018, I'm frankly delighted with this count.

Ten of my 33 reads were by authors of color. Six of my 33 reads were penned by male-identified authors. Nine reads were not novels: one play, three volumes of poetry, two memoirs, two collections of essays, and a graphic novel.

Three of my reads were for my book club (Things Fall Apart, Borderline, and The Changeling), which is embarrassing since we've done 9 books for the year and I run the club!

I achieved a wopping zero on reading challenges, which I aim to change in 2019. Mostly by committing myself to two (Read Harder and Historical Fiction) and really diversifying my reading. And reading more, you know, than I had this year. (Re-frame: This year I knit 8 items, which is a 2000% improvement over other years. So, small perk of reading less!)

And for this top ten...I'm actually rea…

2019 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Image
The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge is my favorite challenge of the year! (Although it's really not a challenge for me to read historical fiction, so I mostly use this "challenge" to make myself feel great.)

Since I've been diversifying my reading the last year or two, I'm not reading as much historical fiction as I have, so I'm not going to aim for the 50+ designation this year. I'm going to go for 'Ancient History - 25' books.

Some historical novels I'm hoping to read in 2019 include Nisi Shawl's Everfair, anything by Cat Sebastian that I haven't read yet (so maybe any 2019 releases, I think...!), Stephanie Thornton's upcoming release, American Princess, and Madeline Miller's Circe, which I didn't get to this year.

What historical novels are you looking forward to reading?

Read in 2019

Kaoru Mori, Emma #1

Books Read in 2018

Image
January

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House
Jeff VanderMeer, Acceptance

February

Susanna Kearsley, The Firebird

March

Therese Bohman, Eventide
Cat Sebastian, The Soldier's Scoundrel

April

Jazz Jennings, Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen
Taisia Kitaiskaia, Literary Witches: A Celebration of Magical Women Writers
Cat Sebastian, The Lawrence Browne Affair
Mary Sharratt, Ecstasy
A.J. Thomas, Pins and Needles

May

Justina Ireland, Dread Nation
Alma Katsu, The Hunger
Nella Larsen, Passing
Sylvain Neuvel, Only Human
Laura Purcell, The Silent Companions
Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric

June

Kitty Curran, My Lady's Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel
Angelle Petta, The Artist and the Soldier
Donia Maher, The Apartment in Bab el-Louk

July

Mishell Baker, Borderline
James M. McPherson, This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War
Mitra Rahnema, Centering: Navigating Race, Authenticity, and Power in Ministry
Cat Sebastian, Unmasked by t…

Reading Challenge: Read Harder 2019

Image
I've basically quit doing reading challenges since I wasn't actually challenging myself in my reading, just trying to tick off boxes for what I was picking up. But I want to change things up in 2019 since I did what I wanted in 2018 and I didn't blow myself away with my reading. (Although I read far more authors of color than in other years, which was an intentional choice I intend to continue.)

Book Riot's Read Harder challenge intrigues me -- but also daunts me.

The categories always include options I've zero interest in, but I'm going to attempt to hit each one this year!

To help me out, I might populate this with ideas as I hit them -- so if you've any recommendations for me, please share!


Read Harder 2019

An epistolary novel or collection of lettersA Tale for the Time BeingAn alternate history novelEverfair A book by a woman and/or AOC (Author of Color) that won a literary award in 2018Home FireA humor bookFuriously HappyA book by a journalist or about …

Wordless Wednesday (isn't wordless, as usual)

Image
As usual, I can't make my Wordless Wednesday post truly wordless. Somehow, whenever I feel an itch to update my blog, it's on a Wednesday -- so ... apologies for co-opting this meme for my purposes!

Life has just been bananas hectic for us the last three months or so. My wife broke her ankle. We decided to move to the country. (!) Unabridged Kid turned four. We move next week, so it's been cardboard box city at our house the last few weeks, and I'm just not someone with grit or resilience. When faced with stress, I kind of just turn to mush. So it's been lots of games on my phone and zoning out to Netflix. (Although I did manage about 13K words for NaNoWriMo, so I am pleased about that.)

I hope I get back into reading once we're moved and settled. I'll have a new, longer commute once we move, which will allow a good stretch of reading time twice a day -- I'm really looking forward to that.

I've got something like nine books I'm in the middle o…

Book Review: The Changeling by Victor LaValle

Image
First line: This fairy tale begins in 1968 during a garbage strike.

Holy expletive, this book was intense!

A quarter of the way in, I told my wife this was American Gods by way of Laura Lippman, and now that I've finished, I stand by that description. This is a family mystery, a domestic thriller, a supernatural mindfuck.

Perfect for Halloween and the creepy autumn days around it.

This was my book club's October read, and I inhaled it in about three days. All of us who read it loved it, although pretty much none of us expected some of the elements -- although it varied which plot point or character surprised us.

Apollo Kagwa loves books and stories; his parents' courtship, which opens the novel, has the magic of a fairy tale. His own marriage seems similarly fantastic, from his unusual courtship to his mesmerising wife Emma. But the pressure of a new baby takes a toll on all of them, especially when Emma becomes convinced their baby isn't really their baby. The famili…

Weekend reads, and living in interesting times...

Image
Things are so complicated in my life right now, I couldn't even get my weekend reads post ready until Friday night.

We're hopefully moving -- beginning of December -- out to the country, of sorts. It'll mean an easier commute for my wife and a different kind of living for our whole family. It'll be a real adjustment for me but I'm excited.

But just to make things a little more hairy, my wife slipped last week and broke her ankle. She'll have to be off her foot for at least four weeks, so ... I'll be trying to figure out how to pack and move and keep house and keep my sanity so think good thoughts for me!

I'm between books again and feeling a bit too frazzled to read -- but I've been doing crazy prep for NaNoWriMo and I'm excited to get started.

What are you reading right now?

Book Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Image
First line: The day I came squealing and squalling into the world was the first time someone tried to kill me.

First, this cover. LOVE IT.

Second, this premise. LOVE IT.

In brief: the dead rose after the battle of Gettysburg, and the formerly enslaved are freed -- but only to kill the undead.

Our heroine, Jane McKeen, is rich, complicated character. Born on a failing plantation to a white mother, she ends up in Philadelphia at Miss Preston's School of Combat for Negro Girls, training to be a white woman's bodyguard. But she chafes at the rules, frustrated she can clear out cities she'll never truly be welcome in, and she struggles to balance work with the passions of personal life.

From the start, Ireland's novel makes the point that whatever the era, were there a zombie outbreak, white supremacy culture would have demanded that people of color be the ones combating it. I love speculative fiction for imagining what could be, and that's what is so chilling abou…

Reading Challenge: RIP 13

Image
Belatedly, here's my commitment post for Readers Imbibing Peril XIII, or RIP 13, the reading challenge of creepy, scary, and chilling reads.

I'm a total puss and yet I love me some creepy books. Reading ghost stories in October is just a tradition for me (honestly, Halloween might be my favorite holiday) so gathering up spooky books is catnip.

My queue, unsurprisingly, is massive. Good luck to me. My list includes two beloved rereads (Rebecca and Jane Steele) (if you haven't read either of these books read them immediately!) as well as some new items. I'm particularly excited for the issue of Nightmare magazine, as it's focused on authors of color and includes some thoughts on Lovecraft. Mmmm.

Agatha Christine, Ordeal by Innocence
Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca
Lyndsay Faye, Jane Steele
H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories
(Daniel) Mallory Ortberg, The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror
Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Nightmare Magazine 49: October …

Book Review: Whereas by Layli Long Soldier

Image
First line: Now
make room in the mouth
for grassesgrassesgrasses


Another find I have to credit wholly to my fellow book bloggers; in this case, Carolyn of Rosemary and Reading Glasses. Her review of this volume of poetry made me put this book on my TBR immediately, and it felt pretty urgent I read it.

I'm so conflicted about how to review this book. I struggled with almost the entirety of Part I but Part II, her long form exploration of Congress' throwaway apology to Native Americans, was captivating and brilliant. But every piece in this book, whether I "got" it or not, hit me hard, and I can't dismiss anything in this volume.

Many of the poems are about language and identity; Long Soldier wrestles with definitions and grammatical rules to make a point about the rules Native Americans face. She details the appalling microaggressions she experienced (like a white woman saying she'd never thought American Indians had feelings until seeing a woman sob on a news…