Friday 56 – Deerskin

DeerskinThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

Today’s quote is from Deerskin, by Robin McKinley.

“No one, afterwards, could remember where the initial idea of moving the portrait originated, although everyone vaguely, or hastily, guessed that it must have been upon the king’s orders. Because the curious thing was that it was not only Lissar who found the portrait’s magnificence oppressive, or eerie, or . . . no one was willing to pursue this thought because everyone insisted on grieving for the queen and loving her memory; but even the servants no longer went in the receiving-hall alone, when it was not in use, but always at least in pairs. No one ever remarked on this or made it difficult to accomplish; the feeling was too general. And so the beautiful queen stared down, glittering, and her people scuttled by her.”

My full review will be up on Monday!

Book Review: The Merry Spinster

the merry spinsterThe Merry Spinster – Tales of Everyday Horror
by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
Fairy Tale Short Story Anthology
188 pages
Published March 2018

So this JUST came out. I’d had my eye on it for a few months, and put a request in as soon as my library ordered it. The author recently came out as trans, so it’s also part of my effort to read more inclusively. Ortberg definitely played with gender and sexuality in several of these tales; in one of them people decided whether to be the husband or the wife, independent of their gender, in their marriage. (One party to the marriage in the story stated “I’ve been trained for both roles.”) In another all of a man’s daughters used male pronouns and that was never explored further. That was slightly odd.

These were dark, twisted versions of these stories. “Our Friend Mr. Toad,” for example, involved gaslighting and psychologically torturing poor Mr. Toad. I found that one particularly disturbing. I enjoyed the title story, Ortberg’s version of Beauty and the Beast, which has a very different ending from expected. I also really liked “The Daughter Cells”, inspired by The Little Mermaid. I LOVED “Fear Not: An Incident Log.”

I think this was a great, albeit strange, little book. It’s unique, for sure, and a quick read. If you’re looking for a fairy tale collection that is VERY different, try this one.

From the cover of The Merry Spinster:

From Mallory Ortberg comes a collection of darkly mischievous stories based on classic fairy tales. Adapted from the beloved “Children’s Stories Made Horrific” series, “The Merry Spinster” takes up the trademark wit that endeared Ortberg to readers of both The Toast and the best-selling debut Texts From Jane Eyre. The feature has become among the most popular on the site, with each entry bringing in tens of thousands of views, as the stories proved a perfect vehicle for Ortberg’s eye for deconstruction and destabilization. Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, The Merry Spinster updates traditional children’s stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief.

Readers of The Toast will instantly recognize Ortberg’s boisterous good humor and uber-nerd swagger: those new to Ortberg’s oeuvre will delight in this collection’s unique spin on fiction, where something a bit mischievous and unsettling is always at work just beneath the surface.

Unfalteringly faithful to its beloved source material, The Merry Spinster also illuminates the unsuspected, and frequently, alarming emotional complexities at play in the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, as we tuck ourselves in for the night.

Bed time will never be the same.

Library Loot Wednesday!


the fifth petalOff the “These Books “Blue” Us Away” (LOL) display, I found The Fifth Petal which seems to be a mystery/thriller set around Halloween in Salem, with plenty of witchcraft.

Holds I picked up this week:

Monstress Vol. 2 – I read Vol. 1 at a friend’s house last week after a different friend was raving about them. I’d seem them praised a lot online, and they’re great.

little bee refugeeLittle Bee, by Chris Cleave – Hits two prompts – “A book mentioned in another book” for PopSugar (it was mentioned in Tolstoy and the Purple Chair), and “A refugee main character” for Booked 2018.

Boy, Snow, Bird – a retelling of Snow White by Helen Oyeyemi, it also addresses issues of racism when the main family is exposed as light-skinned blacks who have been passing for white. It’ll be my first Oyeyemi book, but the descriptions of her others sound interesting, so it probably won’t be my last!

Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron – I don’t actually remember putting this one on hold! But it’s a desert adventure story and looks fun.

smoke eaters

We also dropped by my library’s 3rd annual Comicon, and picked up six books while we were at it. It wasn’t at our normal branch, so it was fun walking around an unfamiliar, much larger library. We picked up:

Smoke Eaters, about Firefighters fighting dragons.

krampus yule lordKrampus the Yule Lord by Brom, which I’ve been drooling over at my local game store for months. It’s out of season, I know, but I don’t care!

The first four books of Lady Trent’s MemoirsA Natural History of Dragons, The Tropic of Serpents, Voyage of the Basilisk, and In the Labyrinth of Drakes. I keep looking at these at my local game store too, and the library had all four. (But not the fifth. I can probably request it though.)

TTT – Top Ten Books I Disliked but am Glad I Read

sing unburied singHappy Tuesday! The Top Ten Theme this week is the top ten books you disliked or hated but are really glad you read, even if just for bragging rights. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and she’ll have links to a bunch of other blogs participating in the Top Ten!

Sing, Unburied, Sing wasn’t exactly enjoyable, but it was important.

unbelievableUnbelievable, about a journalist’s experience on the campaign trail with Donald Trump, was exactly that. I didn’t want to believe it, but again, important that we know these things.

Dust Tracks on a Road was odd, and verified that I don’t particularly like Zora Neale Hurston’s writing.

tearsTears We Cannot Stop was a difficult read, but another very important one.

I didn’t like Station Eleven, but a lot of people did. I’m glad I read it so I know what people are talking about, even if I didn’t enjoy it like everyone else seems to.

The Jealousy Workbook is one I’ve talked about very briefly before, 20170626_213011but haven’t given a full review of. It helped a lot when my husband and I started on our polyamorous journey; I had some insecurities I needed to work through, and the questions and worksheets in The Jealousy Workbook are very thought-provoking. It was difficult work and not really enjoyable, but I’m glad I did it. (More Than Two, in the picture, is also excellent, but I mostly enjoyed my time with that one.)

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret is something I read very recently for a PopSugar prompt. I’m glad I read it because everyone talks about it being a childhood classic – but reading it as an adult, at least, it felt….eh. Lackluster, really. Shallow and one-dimensional. (But it’s for kids, so I wouldn’t really expect complexity.)

I also read a Biology textbook a few years back, along with a workbook, and worked through it. I’m VERY glad I did that. I was homeschooled until eighth grade, and grew up conservative Christian, so my science education is…lacking. To put it mildly. I’ve been working on furthering my science and history education most of my adult life.

I know that’s only eight books, but that’s all I could think of! I’m looking forward to seeing other people’s lists. I might be reminded of something I missed!

Book Review: Sing, Unburied, Sing

sing unburied singSing, Unburied, Sing
by Jesmyn Ward
Contemporary Fiction (Magical Realism?)
290 pages
Published September 2017

I know, I’m late to the party. This book made a big splash back in September – everyone was talking about it, and it won the National Book Award. My library, however, did not have enough copies to go around, and I was late putting a hold on it, so the hold I put on it in January finally came around to my turn!

In Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward returns to the same neighborhood in Mississippi that Salvage the Bones was written about. (Two of the siblings from Salvage the Bones show up in a scene in Sing.) The story is told from three different viewpoints: Jojo, a thirteen-year-old boy and the main character of the novel, Leonie, his drug-addicted mother, and Richie, the ghost of a boy Jojo’s grandfather met in prison.

This book covers so much that it’s difficult to categorize – between discrimination and outright bigotry, bi-racial romance and children, drug addiction, poverty, prison life – deep south gothic, I suppose, would be the best description. Sing really only takes place over a couple of days, but it feels much longer, because Jojo’s grandfather tells stories of his time in prison decades prior, Leonie reminisces about high school, and there’s just this sense of timelessness over the entire novel.

It’s not an easy book. These are hard issues to grapple with, and too many people have to live with these issues. Poverty, bigotry, addiction – these things disproportionately affect the black community, and white people are to blame for the imbalance.

I’m not sure how I feel about the ghost aspect of the book; on one hand I feel like people will see the ghost and decide the book is fantasy – that they don’t really need to care about the problems the family faces. On the other hand, the ghost allows us to see even more bigotry and inhumanity targeted at black people. So it serves a purpose.

I’m not sure I like this book. But I’m glad I read it. And that’s pretty much going to be my recommendation; it’s not a fun read, but it’s an important one.

From the cover of Sing, Unburied, Sing

In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power—and limitations—of family bonds.

Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager.

His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children’s father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances.

When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an unforgettable family story.

Sunday Funday

Yesterday was my birthday! I’m 36 now. (Ack!)

Today we’re going to go see a friend of ours play Beatrice in my favorite Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing, and I am VERY excited about that!

This coming week is Finals week for my husband, and then he’ll be done with school until the Fall, so I’m looking forward to him being a little less stressed over the summer.

We went to the 3rd annual ComicCon at my local library, where two of our friends were cosplaying Jedi with the 501st and the Rebel Legion – consequently we also picked up six more books, because we were at a library and that’s what happens!

Had a pretty big thunderstorm roll through the area last night, and the weather forecast says we’ll get plenty more this week, which I’m looking forward to. I’ve always loved thunderstorms and wind and rain. I could do without the tornado watch, though!

And I’m just going to leave you with this random thing from the internet that makes me giggle every time I look at it: