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Weekend reads and glutting myself...

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I've been on a serious romance novel binge the last week (clocking in seven romances so far!) and I'm not sure it's abating as I'm rereading Lauren Layne's Walk of Shame (bubbly, charming debutante and prickly, grumpy divorce lawyer, mmmmm).

I have started Leonie Swann's Three Bags Full, which is a book club read AND ticks one of my reading challenge requirements. It's a cozy-ish murder mystery narrated by sheep. I'm loving it so far.

What are you reading this weekend?

Wordless Wednesday, March 6

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My Wordless Wednesday is from earlier this week, following the 15-inches of snow that settled on us. I decided to open up some local wine and start Enchantée by Gita Trelease. I love a good snow day.

Wordless Wednesday, February 27

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A little woo before work. The Ostara Tarot and Danielle Noel's The Book of Tarot.

Alyssa Cole's An Extraordinary Union

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...the man was unduly annoyed at her for having the gall to aid her country without virtue of a certain appendage hanging between her thighs.

First, I will confess that a biracial romance set during the Civil War instantly made me nervous, especially since our heroine is under cover as a slave. So much could have gone wrong, and the reason I trusted it wouldn't was because of Cole.

Second, all my anxieties were for naught: this book was freakin' awesome.
An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
Kensington, 2017
Copy from library
Historical Fiction and Read Harder challenges

Ellen, a former slave, has returned to the South and a life of servitude in service of Pres. Abraham and freedom. A spy with Pinkerton's group, she's been placed in the household of a high level Confederate, using her wits and eidetic memory to aid the Union.

Malcolm McCall is a Pinkerton too, pretending to be a good Confederate officer. Somehow, impossibly, Cole managed to make this set up not squi…

Jenny Lawson's Furiously Happy

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Don’t make the same mistakes that everyone else makes. Make wonderful mistakes. Make the kind of mistakes that make people so shocked that they have no other choice but to be a little impressed.

I've had this book on my TBR for forever, probably since it was released. I actually started it once a few years ago, and didn't get very far, and I'll be honest -- I kind of gritted my teeth to finish this one in January so I could tick it off my list.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
Macmillan Audio, 2015
Audiobook from library
Read Harder challenge

I hadn't remembered Lawson is the blogger The Blogess, so I wasn't familiar with her style of writing and tone. Furiously Happy is a collection of pieces (most original, some reworked blog posts) touching on a variety of topics related to her desire to try to live life 'furiously happy'.

The tone of these pieces are darkly funny; Lawson is occasionally horrifying (her thing for taxiderm…

Weekend reads, hopefully just reading!

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This weekend I'll be starting Crystal King's The Chef's Secret. Her debut, Feast of Sorrow, made my top 10 of 2017 and I'm so excited for this one.

I'm hoping I'll have a very readerly weekend; my wife will likely be at the farm all weekend doing maple sugaring as well as caring for the new lambs and piglets.

What are you reading this weekend?

Mandeliene Smith's Rutting Season

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She did not understand his words; she couldn't even attach them to the conversation they were having, but, like an animal, she understood the tone. Not forgiveness, not liking, but a kind of permission.

The jacket description doesn't do this volume of nine short stories justice. The stories aren't of "girls behaving badly", like we're reading about out-of-control tweens or reckless-on-spring-break coeds. The central figures in these stories are individuals crushed under intense familial pressure: death, abuse, neglect (benign and otherwise).

Rutting Season by Mandeliene Smith
Scribner, 2019
Electronic ARC provided by publisher

Smith's narrative style and easy characterization is envy-inducing; in a few paragraphs, she can convey a wealth of background. Mood and setting are bold, intense, impossible to ignore, and I read each story with a low-grade anxiety, desperate to know how things would shake out for each character. Of the nine, I was only 'eh'…

Wordless Wednesday, February 20

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Today's Wordless Wednesday. It's baby animal season on the farm, including the newest arrival to our family, Annie the rescue pup. She's about thirteen weeks old and appears to be mostly beagle. She's wild about the other animals on the farm and wants desperately to be best friends with the cats in our house. You can probably imagine how the cats have responded.

Share a pretty view from your life today!

Claire G. Coleman's Terra Nullius

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So Natives continued to rebel, and continued to die. Natives continued to rebel and continued to be imprisoned, to be tortured, to be executed. Natives continued to rebel.

Terra nullius -- "empty land" -- was the doctrine with which white Europeans used as the basis for invading Australia. It was codified into Australian law until the 1990s, but the impact is still felt.

A society based on dominance, genocide, and colonization can only respond in certain kinds of ways.

Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman
Small Beer Press, 2018
Copy from library
Read Harder challenge

Coleman's novel takes us to colonized Australia. Those who remember the invaders -- now the Settlers -- are grandparents; at least two generations have been born into a world of subservience and oppression. As when I first read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaiden's Tale, I struggled to understand if I was reading the past or the future; either possibility felt real.

It took me about 120ish pages to really g…

Aja Monet's My Mother was a Freedom Fighter

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being policed for being
too poor
too much a shade
a color
a shade of color
too close to the root
too close to the color
               the shade
too close
to the color of a beating
being beaten
                    beating         heart

-- from "the first time"

Poetry doesn't have to be complicated or obscure. Poetry can pull out the sharp thorn of truth and hold it up in a way that would be pedantic or amateurish in fiction or essay. Poetry distills down what is so very individual into a sip that offers a brief flash of universal understanding.

Monet's volume of poetry grabbed me with the title; it had been on my radar as one of the 2017 releases to look out for. It ticked a box, too, for the 2019 Read Harder challenge. I read it in one night, gulping, then spent another two weeks moving back through the pieces slowly.

My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet
Haymarket Books, 2017
Copy from library
Read Harder challenge

Many pieces hit you like the headline of a news story, …

Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Signal to Noise

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"I hate this city," she told the pillow, because she wouldn't tell him.

Music as magic. 1988 and 2009. A story split between two fixed points, a friendship then and what it might be now.

Set in Mexico City, this novel follows a young teen named Meche, a loner who adores music and is friends with two other loners, Sebastian and Daniela. When Meche discovers she can cast spells using records, her life is changed.


Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Solaris, 2015
Copy from library
Read Harder challenge

Initially, it seems this magical skill can only improve Meche's life, even though Sebastian and Daniela are less convinced. Angry teenagers wielding magic leads right where you can imagine, and I loved every minute of it. Moreno-Garcia beautifully articulates that awful, oppressive, unshakeable frustration one suffers as a teen, and the ugly wishes Meche manifests resonated with me so strongly. At times, Meche is so unlikable, but realistically so: you want to shake her…

Dominique Christina's Anarcha Speaks: A History in Poems

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me? a bruised ghost
i concentrate on
my teeth/ the roof of my mouth/
i'm tryna rub it smooth/ concentrate on not blinkin

see how long I can go til my eyes need to shut.

Anarcha was one of eleven slaves who were purchased by "father" of modern gynecology Dr Marion Sims for his research. Essentially torturing these women, Sims did his research (including surgeries) without offering pain relief or sedation. Our lauded study and history of medicine has for so long been polished of its shameful bits, but in this slender, intense volume of poetry, a name and voice is given to the very real, the very human sacrifice to our knowledge.

Anarcha Speaks: A History in Poems by Dominique Christina
Beacon Press, 2018
Personal copy

It's impossible to call this an "enjoyable" read, but it is gutting, gripping, and necessary. Giving voice to the ignored, Christina makes it imperative we know and understand the humans behind any learning we've gained. This volume can be read w…

Kaoru Mori's Emma, #1

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 ...for this world allows you no more than a cupful of dreams. So be stingy with your time. And run.

Or something like that.

I think if I had known manga was similar to graphic novels, I might not have waited so long to make my first attempt. As it were, thanks to Read Harder 2019, I begged the internet to recommend some historical romance manga, and across the board, folks recommended this series.

Holy crap, it was so charming.

Emma, Vol. 01 by Kaoru Mori (森 薫)
CMX, 2006
Copy from public library
Historical Fiction and Read Harder challenges

Set in 1885 London, our heroine, Emma, is a maid for a retired governess. The governess' former ward, William Jones, is now a young man tasked with managing his family's business and fortune. He's immediately smitten by the quiet Emma but social constraints prevent him from openly pursuing her.

There's not much more to the story than that, and the delight is in William and Emma and their circles. William's classmate Hakim visits …

Wordless Wednesday, Jan 23

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My Wordless Wednesday offering for this week: my newest read, Alyssa Cole's An Extraordinary Union, which I've wanted to read for forever and it ticks one of the boxes for this year's Read Harder challenge. Woot!

Survived my first super snowy weekend in our new place, and I'm enjoying rural-y snowy views rather than my usual quickly-muddy urban slushy ones.

What are you reading right now?

Nancy Bilyeau's The Blue

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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…