Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I went through a Jane Austen kick several years ago, and read all of her books. So while I know that I read Persuasion at some point, somehow it didn't make much of an impact. However, like I mentioned in my last post, I was in the mood to read the book that inspired the wonderful For Darkness Shows the Stars. And, can I just say, that this time it made a much bigger impression. You can tell that this is one of Austen's later works. Everything wonderful is there: the pitch-perfect characterisation, the keen observation, the social interactions, and the wonderful love story. But everything is refined and honed and mature. Austen is at the top of her game.

In addition to the beauty of the book from a craft perspective, the love story really resonated with me this time around (you could argue that perhaps that is directly related to the quality of the writing). The characters are in a different place -- the "meet-cute" has already happened. The initial rush of love has come and gone. In its place is longing, regret, hurt, resignation, pride, and a deep steadfastness. I like that the obstacle that Anne and Wentworth face in getting to their happy-ever-after (which all Austen heros and heroine's face) is not misunderstanding, or miscommunication, or the lack of revelation. Everything is out there: they love each other, they communicate that, then Anne makes a choice to step back, they fight, they part. And eventually, they face each other again, to see what time and distance have done. I love that Captain Wentworth goes from basically ignoring Anne (although you know he is painfully aware of her at all times) to being jealous (even though Anne is the smartest person in the room and can smell Elliot's smarminess a mile a way) to realizing how awesome Anne is. And I love how Anne is sweet and loyal and true and kind, but also strong and confident (in her way) and steadfast. I would want her for my best friend. And I love how she calls Wentworth out -- she could never have gone after him because she's not one to buck the system entirely, but when he's all "would you have accepted me the first time I came back from sea" she's all "duh, you big idiot".

And of course, there's that letter. Watch out Knightly, you've got some competition for my favorite Austen man.

Anyway, lots of rambling to just say that I think I have rediscovered my favorite Jane Austen novel.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Reading bits and bobs

I'm dividing my time reading-wise at the moment. I'm officially a commuter at the moment, so I've got Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo on audiobook (I really like the narrator, by the way), and I was in the mood for some Jane Austen, so I'm reading Persuasion. I think my desire to pick up that particular Jane Austen novel stems from my recent read of For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund. I am obsessively waiting for her next book Across a Star-Swept Sea, because I've realized that she is one of those authors who speaks my literary language. (L.M. Montgomery...Alysia Painter...Melina Marchetta...Maggie Stiefvater...also authors who speak my literary language. There are more, but those are a few who come to mind).

I recently read a fun YA book as well -- Bittersweet, by Sara Ockler. Considering I'm currently living in the oven of central Texas at the moment, it was the perfect time to pick up a book set in Western New York in the middle of winter. Setting aside, this book had a lot of other things going for it to: a clean, yet descriptive writing style (I really did feel cooler reading it), realistic characters (sometimes I wanted to hug Hudson, sometimes I wanted to smack her), sweet and also conflicted teenage romance (i.e., a love triangle that actually felt genuine and kind of heartbreaking), sports (ice skating! hockey! -- shades of The Cutting Edge!), friendship, family, and a girl who is just trying to figure her life out. She's torn between her home and family, and the lure of getting out of town and dreaming big. And she makes a lot of mistakes in the process. She also makes AMAZING sounding cupcakes. Seriously.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Reading....Cold Steel

Cold Steel (The Spiritwalker Trilogy #3)
 Why, yes, I DID finally finish a book! Who knew a cross-country move could have such a slow-down affect on reading?

Anywho...Cold Steel is the final installment in Kate Elliott's Spiritwalker trilogy, and it's a solid conclusion to the story. I think Elliott did a great job with making the three books feel like one continuous story. Sometimes with trilogies, one or two of the books really stand out from the rest, but all three of these felt pretty seamless to me. 

So, SPOILERS AHEAD:  a lot happens in these books...a LOT. Especially this last one. We go from Expedition (where Vai has been stolen and Cat is being accused of murder) into the Spirit World, out of the Spirit World, on the run, back into the Spirit World where Cat goes to rescue Vai. There's a lot of running for your life, hiding out, spying...oh yeah, and Bee becomes a leader of the Revolution in Europa. There's a war going on, because Camjiata makes his way back to Europa, and there's a good measure of divided loyalty and learning to communicate. This book is about Bee and Cat...Cat and Vai...Cat and her past...and about being free. There are dragons and angry mages (of both fire and ice varieties) and Amazons and creepy blood sucking spirit creatures and a skull that can talk to you under the right circumstances. I know this is all kind of vague, but seriouisly...a LOT happens in this book. The plot is lightning fast, and a few times I got whiplash as one part ended and we were on the move again. My only tiny quibble is the occasional choppiness of the writing. Elliott has some beautiul descriptions and turns of phrase, and sometimes Cat makes some very thoughtful, poetic, almost philisophical observations....just sometimes they don't flow well.

That said, there are several things I loved about this trilogy (and this book):
1. The worldbuilding. Unique, interesting, and well-thought out
2. The characters. I love them!
3. The relationships. Each relationship evolves and grows over the course of the three books -- Vai and Cat (swoon!), Cat and Bee, Bee and Vai, Rory and Cat, Rory and Vai, Cat and the mansa.
4. The humor and sassiness (which is the best word I could come up with today). There's this sarcastic humor that peeks through in this book that I just love. It especially comes in through the interactions between characters, and it lends another dose of reality. The characters tease each other, but also love each other. The enemies trade witty barbs, and it's all just done very nicely.

Bottom line: thanks for recommending this auhor to me, Heather!

Monday, August 5, 2013

West of the Mississippi

So, I've left my temporary (of nine years -- longish temporary) East Coast digs for someplace West of the Mississippi. (on a side note -- I thought I was pretty big stuff in elementary school when I could spell Mississippi) The past nine years have been fantastic -- amazing friends and community who we are very sad to leave physically. I've enjoyed exploring the area -- the beach and the mountains, the D.C. area. It's been fun, and we already have dreams of buying a vacation home in the area one day so we can spend lots of time in our second home. And in the meantime, we'll start saving up for plane tickets for a shorter vacation. But as I crossed the bridge over that big, muddy river last week, I realized again that there's something about the great wild West that really feels like Home. (of course, on the flip side, I'm generally one who feels like home is really about people....but we are often connected to our environment as well)

But enough philosophizing....my moving and transitioning brain has a list, of things I forgot about moving in the past nine years:

1. There's a lot of little stuff to do
2. There's a lot of big stuff to do
3. Starting a new job is way disorienting. I feel like a fish out of water
4. Moving from a small city/big town to a Big City causes me to feel like a country mouse. I feel in the way, out of place, a bit lost
5. You're not going to learn your way around overnight.
6. Finding a place to live can be complicated, and is often an exercise in prioritizing and compromize.

so, that's it from my random brain today, at least, the little bit not taken up by thoughts of house-hunting.