A few things

Oh! Hey! I should probably clarify a few things for new readers of this blog.  Have a handy-dandy list! Everybody likes lists.

1. This started out as a knitting blog. HAHA! There WILL be knitting content eventually, once I transfer a few things over from the old computer.

sorry

2. I got a new computer! It is shiny and fast and mine, and I don’t have to fight take turns now, so more possibility of browsing Tumblr catching up on writing!

excitedduck

3. 75 in ’13 was the name of the challenge I set for myself last year. Last year! I’m really behind on my reviews, and I have another challenge for this year which I’m diligently working on. Once I’m finished with 2013 (hopefully this month?), I’ll start on this year. I promise that I haven’t already read 60 books this year. I mean, I could have, but not while knitting, writing, remaining at all hygienic, and parenting two small kids. I am not that amazing.

shakeshead

4. I moved! That was hard. Things are different. I’m adjusting. We’re all adjusting. It’s a process. Things are slower than usual.

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5. I’m spending a lot of time this month writing some shorter pieces, hopefully for publication, and that is slowing things down as well. I’ll let you know things when I know things.

yourewelcome

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75 in ’13: Warrior

Any likeness to Indiana Jones is strictly accidental and not at all legally pursuable.

Any likeness to Indiana Jones is strictly accidental and not at all legally pursuable.

 

For the sixtieth book in the challenge, I read Warrior by Zoë Archer, book one in The Blades of the Rose series.

Every chapter felt like a new episode of a TV show. There was a lot of unnecessary explanation, everyone used everyone else’s names all the time when there were more than two people in the conversation, and the exposition on feelings…there was so much of it. Every action was punctuated by an explanation of its emotional significance, which of course was pretty much the same emotional significance weighing down the previous eleven actions, and by the third or fourth action in the chapter I was pretty tired of reading about how much they wanted to bone each other RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW BUT OH WHAT IF MY LOVE IS WOUNDED I WOULD DIE.

That said, I really did like the characters. Usually the Manly Man has a really hard time accepting that Strong Woman is capable enough to take care of herself in ANY situation, and that’s the only spark of energy between them, and it’s patronizing and belittling and benevolent sexism all the way. This was slightly different. Manly Man adored that she was competent, but very realistically still worried that she would get hurt because things happen, and when he tried to coddle her a little she fought back, and eventually he stopped trying. That’s not to say that he wasn’t a product of a very sexist society and didn’t have some expectations to work on, but he recognized that the way England treated its women did not work for him at all.  (The whole spiel on English women being a foreign species was unnecessarily critical. Like, how dare they do everything they can to thrive in this bullshit patriarchical society that infantilizes, victimizes and then penalizes them for doing anything except looking pretty, shutting up and having babies. So fucking sorry you can’t figure out how to not talk about bodily functions or swear words for five fucking minutes; try living like that. Bet those women got more than a raised eyebrow when they slipped up. /rant) His fears about her safety were not because she was a precious lady who needed protecting, but because she was His Person and he’d be lost if she died. And yet, he didn’t stop her from fighting. He didn’t get in her way when she chose a dangerous profession. It’s a step in the right direction.

I did have a problem with the idea that the Educated White People came to remote areas to help save the Good-Natured But Child-Like Natives from their own magical artifacts. That doesn’t sit well with me. It was tempered in this novel, especially by the way that most of the Educated White People had no idea what they were doing most of the time, or how to work the artifacts, and that some of the Educated White People were Educated Westernized POC toward the end. The nadaam festival felt problematic to me, that they could just change the rules and then win because they’re awesome; it felt like they beat the native peoples at their own games by cheating. The one bad guy in the nadaam WAS cheating, and the structure of the competition meant that he beat out other competitors for them, but…yeah. Not cool. I like that they went back, though, to fulfill their vow. You can’t just run off with a tribe’s most prized possession once you’ve won guardianship of it. That’s just rude. God knows the English wouldn’t tolerate rudeness.

Benedryl Itchyscratch feeling all the emotions in that silently aggressive swallow of tea.

 

I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars. (I don’t necessarily regret buying it, but I did read parts of it out loud to Mr. Cranky-Face before gesturing angrily at the e-reader. Unfortunately, no cathartic book-throwing is possible when it’s an e-book.) (Oh, and it gets really close to having sex-magic artifacts and by that point I was just ajkld;jfl;jajklsjas;asjkl;sjkl;ajlk;.)

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75 in ’13: Fer-de-Lance

I cannot with you right now, Wolfe. That goes double for you, Archie.

I cannot with you right now, Wolfe. That goes double for you, Archie.

 

For the fifty-ninth book in the challenge, I read Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout, the first in his Nero Wolfe series.

I didn’t connect with the main characters very well. There’s a lot of fat-shaming in the narrator, Archie, and that was really annoying. Maybe a 300-pound guy was weird in the 1920’s, but every time the narrator talks about Wolfe, he references his weight. That gets old pretty damn fast. Wolfe describes himself as “eccentric,” rather than a number of other possible descriptors that others would likely deem infinitely more precise. Here is a brief list of my own suggestions: difficult, perfectionistic, pedantic, and debilitatingly arrogant. Archie probably has him tied for arrogance, although it’s a different sort that swaggers about in a confidence suit. As much as he rags on Wolfe for being condescending, Archie is a master of talking down to people when it suits him. (As we all are, I suppose.) 

The whole mechanism by which the mystery unfolds is similar to a lot of other detective stories of the time, which is that the narrator is the detective’s assistant and the inner workings of their employer’s mind is shrouded from them (and thus the reader) until the dramatic reveal. This can be repetitive unless the characters are interesting to watch, the plot devices curious, and you think you can guess at what the detective is thinking (even if you discover you’re totally wrong later). Wolfe’s entire strategy seems to be putting ads in newspapers and waiting for people to come to him with information, and sending Archie out to drag people to his office for interrogation after interrogation. Perhaps I shouldn’t write off the entire series after only one book, but I’m really not in any hurry to pick up the rest of the series. There are so many other wonderful series for me to focus on first, so that’s what I intend to do.

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. It’s not bad, it just didn’t grab me.

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The glamorous life of a stay-at-home-writer

Sit down to write. Get a few sentences on the screen.

“MAMA! MAMAMAMAMAMAMA! COME HERE QUICK!” Run to other room/upstairs/outside in a panic. “Look, Mama! I can blow bubbles through the (holes in the grating on the patio) table!”

Breathe deeply and hope heart rate returns to normal. Remind kids to not call for me unless it’s important. Go sit down again.

Try to remember where I was going with that. Write another sentence.

“MAMA, PEANUT FELL DOWN!”

Find child who sat down a little too hard and is not even crying. Resist urge to scold older child. Go back to computer.

Completely forget what I was trying to say. Erase sentence fragment. Frown at the screen. Wonder if I’ve showered today already, and if I can manage a fourth cup of coffee without taking an antacid. Plunk down a few forced, disjointed sentences.

Eye the child wandering muddily inside. Have the conversation whereby I deny her candy for the sixth time that day. Offer healthy snack. Optional tantrum. Banish children from kitchen.

Make coffee and pray to the gastrointestinal gods for mercy and harmony. Remember where I was going earlier while coffee is brewing, and hover over computer to type out as much as I can remember before coffee is finished. Happily pour boiling water into drip cone, go to fridge and realize there is only that almond/coconut milk blend, which is weak as a creamer and tends to separate on contact with hot, acidic liquids into a slurry of weird curdles. Pour it in anyway and eye my mug, which resembles a heavily-polluted snow globe. Coffee suddenly does not taste that great.

Hear sobbing from outside, hurry out there to find Peanut banging on the door with dirt smudged all over her cheek and Podling nonchalantly gliding up and down the driveway on the scooter. Decipher 3-year-old sobs to discover that she wants her heavy, metal tricycle carried down the treacherously narrow porch steps to the driveway. Oblige, sighing. Realize I’m not wearing shoes when my sock feet hit the wet dirt at the bottom of the steps. Sigh.

Go back inside and sit down, realize coffee is across the room, get coffee, sit back down. Wake computer back up. Look at screen.

Receive lap full of awkward, sausage-shaped cat who badly needs her claws trimmed. Manage to not scream. Dislodge cat. Finish the sentence and write two more. Pat self on the back. Write three more. It’s almost looking like a paragraph. Skim paragraph, realize I shifted tenses twice between beginning and end. Swear quietly, but not quietly enough.

Podling asks what a bitch is. Resist urge to point to self and snap at him. Deny his request to go see a friend who is not yet home from school. Argue about what time his friend gets home from school, then argue about what time it actually is. Refuse to entertain the possibility that his friend did not, in fact, go to school today. Refute “evidence” that friend’s family car sitting in the driveway means his friend is actually at home. Confiscate shovelful of mud from Peanut walking through the living room. Order both of them out of the house again.

Sit down. Pick up coffee. Breathe.

Children bang on the door and cry with hunger, despite the sandwiches, brownies, fizzy water, and apple slices they ate less than an hour ago. Offer more apples and more peanut butter. Refuse to substitute candy hearts for apples and chocolate frosting for the peanut butter, because I am a mean. Refuse to let them eat green bananas, because I am not falling for that again. Order them into the backyard, with their bubbles, sidewalk chalk, bouncy balls, spades, wheeled toys, and plenty of dirt and rocks. Consider locking the doors.

Sit down. Realize it’s been two hours since I started trying to write. Look at calendar. Rub face and try to concentrate. Write at least two sentences.

Break up a fight over whose turn it is on the pink tricycle.

Make a peanut butter sandwich, sans frosting or candy hearts. Watch it turn stale as two noses turn up in its direction.

Eat the sandwich myself.

Take an antacid.

Refuse to take children to park. Offer to get out crayons and markers. Spend the next fifteen minutes opening markers for the Peanut and trying to find lost caps.

Check Tumblr, Facebook, and Plurk. Check them again. Feel faintly queasy from too much coffee and not enough water. Wonder if maybe I can get some writing time in when partner is home to run interference. Consider flopping onto the couch with British mysteries and sock knitting.

Partner texts to let me know he’ll be late, and not to hold up dinner for him. Try not to cry. Cry a lot. Have another brownie and go back to the computer.

(How long did it take to write this? Let’s just say…I started writing it yesterday.)

 

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75 in ’13: Tipping the Velvet

Butts.

Butts.

 

For the fifty-eighth book in the challenge, I read Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters.

Okay, Waters did her research here, and it shows. Not that I’m any expert on gay or lesbian experiences in the late Victorian era, much less the current time, but there are so many offhand references to basic pieces of life during that time period, that someone composed a set of footnotes to help explain the significance of everyday things. Or even what that everyday thing was, like common songs, foods, products, locations, celebrities, and jokes. It was absolutely immersive, to the extent that this felt at times more like an autobiography than a novel. That also made reading it very difficult, imagining a real person going through what Nan does in this book. The confusion, the bouts of self-loathing, the anger, the betrayals all feel very real and personal. The people in the book, primarily women, are flawed and rounded and real.

You should read it. She has others. I’m going to read them, too. I gave this a 4 out of 5 stars.

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75 in ’13: Swordspoint

 

He is too fabulous for you, sweetheart.

He is too fabulous for you, sweetheart.

For the fifty-seventh book in the challenge, I read Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner, the first in her World of Riverside series.

This was a different writing style than the last several books I’d read, and it took a while for me to change my mindset to actually accept it without working too hard. It’s more descriptive and makes you pay attention, and the characters remain more of a mystery to the reader, even the narrators. Once I stopped treating it like a fluff piece I barely had to remain awake in order to understand and took it more seriously, I really got into the story and let the prose just wash over me and do its thing. It’s rather like The Tower at Stony Wood in that way.

You get no hint that there’s a gay relationship in it, or that it’s anything weird, or that the other characters think it’s particularly unusual for any reason other than the social status or personalities of the characters in the relationship. What is the swordsman doing with this crabby scholar? Why is he putting up with the way he treats him? Of course, in that area of town, being too curious about anybody’s business can get you in a lot more trouble than you want to deal with, and there is a whole lot of looking the other way and worrying about your own survival instead. That feels perfectly reasonable and real in that situation. In the upper-class world, it’s completely different. Everyone has plenty of time to dig into others’ dirt and spread it around and destroy people for funsies, and the moral and religious implications of every action can be discussed and scrutinized and abstracted into anything one wants. It’s just as ruthless, but differently so.

I’m definitely reading another of Kushner’s books. I gave this one 5 out of 5 stars.

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75 in ’13: Heir Untamed

The Abs Of The King.

The Abs Of The King.

For the fifty-sixth book in the challenge, I read Heir Untamed by Danielle Bourdon, and wished I hadn’t. This is the first book in her Latvala Royals series.

I only finished it because I wanted to see if I was right about the dude, and I was. Stilted narrative flow, several words used incorrectly (“conscious” instead of “conscience,” for example), some homophone mix-ups, and other issues that could have been easily resolved with a good copy editor. Quick read, though I kept finding myself stopping at errors to have a grumble.

I gave this book 1 out of 5 stars.

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