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Cleo, whom some of you may know from here and other Romanceland venues (DA, SBTB, my previous blog, and elsewhere) has written a lovely post about the Monument Quilt Project. It’s over at Smart Bitches and you definitely want to go take a look. Like the AIDS Quilt Project, the work is a giant quilt made up of individual squares, with each contribution memorializing survivors of sexual violence. Cleo has a photo of her own contribution, which is beautiful. And there are photos which include Cleo (yay!) and her cat (adorable).

In the post Cleo says:

I was uncertain about asking SB Sarah if I could write about this for SBTB, since it really has nothing to do with romance novels. I’m delighted that she said yes because this blog is one of the places where I’ve practiced being more open about my experience as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Reading and sewing are also two of the things that have sustained me for most of my life, since I was old enough to learn both skills. So it seems fitting that I’d write about sewing for a romance blog.

I think a romance blog is exactly the right place to post this, because romance novels are about finding love, hope, and support in a difficult world. What better place?

The quilt will be on display at the National Mall in Washington DC from 31 May to 2 June. If you’re anywhere near, go see it! I guarantee you won’t regret it. And thank you, Cleo, for sharing this with us.


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Weeknote 4

A lost week, for the most part. Although I did get to read a bit and watch movies and sports when I was awake.

Felled by the flu

No “Work” category this week because I didn’t do any. I woke up Monday morning with a sore and swollen throat which turned into a full-blown case of the flu. Yes I had my flu shot, and I’d avoided even a cold to this point. But this isn’t the longest flu season in years for nothing. I kept seeing news reports on TV about how the flu was persisting into spring. No, being one of many did not make me feel better.

On the plus side, I’m almost completely off the cold meds and I’m only coughing myself awake about once a night now. And I did manage to get some email and writing done yesterday. So the trajectory is positive!

We won’t talk about allergy season, though.

Reading/Watching

In between bouts of napping and full-on sleeping I managed to read a bit. I’m now in the middle of three extremely long books: Red or Dead, In the Night of Time, and now Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. I pulled the last off my shelf because I wanted something that was engaging but not too demanding, and Gaskell fits the bill perfectly. Although I read a couple of her other novels ages ago, I’ve never read this one. It’s a real Condition of England novel, pitting Hampshire- and London-raised Margaret Hale against powerful mill owner John Thornton in Milton (Manchester), Darkshire (Lancashire). Margaret befriends a consumptive girl, Bessy , and her father, who joins a strike against Thornton and the other mill owners. And that’s as far as I’ve read. It’s got drama, romance, social commentary, and lots of Mancunian dialect.

I also managed to finish my TBR Challenge book and somehow cobble together a review, which is posted here. I also read a lovely Hugo-nominated novelette by Zen Cho and a newly released lit fic about white and Japanese Californians in World War 2 through the 1980s, and I DNF’d another new release. That writeup is here.

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Mini-Reviews of recent reads

I’ve read a couple of shorts, DNF’d a new release, and am still mulling over a novel I had many many feelings about. In other words I don’t have lots to say about any of them at the moment, so here’s a brief roundup.

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho

Nominated for a Hugo in the novelette category this year. I have Cho’s new full-length novel sitting on my ereader but I’m not quite reader to dive into that yet. I hadn’t heard of this story until I saw the Hugo list, and it is free to read at the B&N blog site. It’s more of a short story in length, in my opinion (the Hugo people obviously disagree), but there’s plenty here to sink your teeth into.

This is a lovely little story about Byam, an imugi who cannot seem to become a dragon no matter how hard it tries. And it has been trying for hundreds of years. In order to ascent to heaven as a dragon, an imugi has to be recognized as a dragon by a human. Byam comes close but never makes it. It gives up and unexpectedly finds itself in a loving and rewarding relationship with Leslie, a human. But imugi live much, much longer than humans, so what happens after Leslie?

Cho writes little jewels of stories in which there is always a deeper theme but one that meshes beautifully with the characters and plot that are front and center. The voice that I love from her other short stories and novelettes permeates this story, and it is funny, wise, heartwarming, and sniffle-inducing all at once. Go read it.


The Bewitching Hour by Vivi Anna (Harlequin TBR #510)

A short in the Nocturne Bites series that delivers a bit of story and a bit of romance. Part of a longer series set in the same world. I picked this up to read because it met the “something different” requirement for Wendy’s TBR Challenge category for March, but 40 pages seemed like a bit of a copout. Still, I’m glad I read it.

This short is set at a wedding where our two main characters meet. Fiona has paranormal powers that she can’t control very well, so she’s your basic adorable, cute, but clumsy heroine. Hector is a human in this paranormal world and works in the paranormal CSI unit with other regulars from the series. Since it’s a novella (maybe even a novelette) and they haven’t met before, they have to have lust at first sight, which they do, but it’s nicely done and competently written. I enjoyed it.

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ReaderWriterLinks

I’ve only watched one episode of Game of Thrones (don’t @ me, I read the first three books and that was more than enough). But I was fascinated by this NYT Magazine article on visiting the Westeros sets and locations in Northern Ireland, written by an Irishman. The blending of the real and the artificial, and the way in which the artificial overlays the real, is understandable but also troubling. What happens when we create Disneyfied landscapes in places with real history? And what happens when our mental images are dominated by the way they stand in for fake worlds and start to erase the real ones?

Less than half an hour after the tour bus left the pickup point, I realized we were no longer in Northern Ireland, but had entered the realm of Westeros. We were passing Stormont Castle, on the outskirts of Belfast. This was theoretically the seat of Northern Ireland’s government, but for over two years now this executive office — jointly controlled by the right-wing loyalist (and largely Protestant) Democratic Unionist Party and the left-wing republican (and largely Catholic) Sinn Fein — had languished in a state of indefinite suspension thanks to a densely complex sequence of disagreements. The tour guide made no mention of this notable landmark, and the reason he made no mention of it, I further understood, was that it had nothing to do with “Game of Thrones.”

This has already happened in a non-political way in New Zealand, with the landscape being associated with the Lord of the Rings movies rather than its own history.

Somewhat relatedly, I was listening to a radio report on the Notre Dame fire as it was happening, and there was an interview with someone who had immediately set about creating online video libraries of photos of the cathedral and its interiors. Which is great, but virtual visits aren’t substitutes for actual visits. I understand not everyone can visit historical and artistic monuments (I’ve never visited the Parthenon, and I doubt I’ll ever see Petra), but we do a disservice to them and to ourselves when we elide the difference between looking at a two-dimensional or even three-dimensional virtual representations with the actual tactile and optical experience of seeing the real thing. For my whole life I’ve told people that however many photographs you’ve seen of the Taj Mahal, it will not prepare you for its beauty. Marble in person is just different than marble in a photograph or video, and you can’t fully appreciate the Taj’s perfect proportions until you see it in situ. It’s OK not to have seen it (none of us will see everything we want to). It’s not OK to act as if Google Earth is a satisfying substitute.

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SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for April: Burn for Me

I’ve had this book in my Kindle collection for years. Sirius is a huge Ilona Andrews fan and she bought it for me as a gift. I read about a third of it but then put it aside. I don’t remember why it didn’t work for me, but I just wasn’t engaged. I’ve been meaning to go back to it and this month’s challenge, “Something Different” seemed like a good opportunity because if there’s one subgenre I don’t read, it’s PNR/UF. Yes, I know they’re not the same, but the features they share are the features I generally shy away from.

I cracked it open, started reading, and was immediately engaged with the characters, the world, and above all the voice. I’ve been reading the Andrews’ blog for the last few months, and I could hear the voice that I enjoy there in the book.

I’m guessing many of you have either read the book or know enough about it that you don’t need me to recap. But I’ll give you the setup and a quick summary of the plot. Nevada Baylor owns a private investigation firm in which she’s assisted by her military vet mother and her college-going cousin Bern. They live together with the rest of their family (grandmother, another cousin, and Nevada’s two younger sisters) in a converted warehouse. The firm used to be run by Nevada’s father, but he died a few years earlier from cancer. The treatments took all their money and forced them to sell their house and mortgage the business to one of the big Houses of Houston, where the story is set.

This Houston is our Houston but also not our Houston. The discovery and development of a serum that gave people magical powers has created a world of haves and have-nots based on their magic endowments. The Houses are powerful families who have the highest levels of magic and can use that magic to consolidate and extend their power and influence. Augustine Montgomery has taken on a job for House Pierce, a client, to find their wayward son Adam, who is sought by police for a deadly arson at a bank. Nevada doesn’t want the job but she can’t turn it down. Meanwhile, Adam had a partner from another big House, which brings in Mad Rogan, a vet with his own amazing magic skills.

The plot has two main threads: the search for Adam and the development of a partnership between Nevada and Rogan. Both play out against the backdrop of Nevada’s family, a set of characters who are great fun to spend time with. Nevada has a magic skill but because it’s one that is sought after by governments and law enforcement, she has hidden it and not allowed it to flourish. By contrast, Rogan has obvious and over the top powerful magic skills.

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