East City Bookshop

I admire my more fiscally-savvy friends who get most of their reading material free from libraries. These far-smarter-than-me women only buy the books they really love.

But I can’t help it. If I need a new read, I’m dishing out the cash for my own copy. I love accumulating books (always the physical kind–I just can’t talk myself into digital books). I love the record they make of my reading journey. I love their color, with covers that are works of art in their own right. I love the enchantment and history and adventure each embodies.

And I especially like buying them from independent bookstores. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a hater of the big box bookstore. They have their own role in the book-buying-and-selling ecosystem. But nothing’s quite like an indie shop–they’re lovingly-curated little jewel boxes, full of surprise reads and knowledgable booksellers. And they’re intertwined in the local community in a way a national chain can never be.

Which is why I was so excited to discover East City Bookshop in Washington, D.C. (my new stomping grounds). Not unlike a good book, the store unveils ever better surprises as you progress. Reaching the store requires a jog down a flight of uninspiring concrete steps. You enter a small upstairs area with an artfully-shelved but small collection of books. A stationary section occupies much of the floor space. But then you notice a set of descending stairs and behold: a lower story that somehow manages to accommodate a beautiful children’s section, extensive shelves of adult and young adult fiction, a charming reading nook, book-themed art and knick-knacks, AND a seating area for author events… all without feeling cramped. Continue reading “East City Bookshop”

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If Making a Snow Penguin is Wrong, Then I Don’t Wanna Be Right

Today, I had a ton to do:

  • 1.5 hours of setting up my Etsy shop
  • 4 hours of painting
  • 7 hours of writing

So naturally, I took time out of my busy schedule to make a rather misshapen snow penguin named Hugo, after Victor Hugo of Hunchback of Notre Dame fame. (See aforementioned note re: misshapen-ness.)

To be clear: procrastination is always bad. Unless it involves a snow penguin. Then it’s very, very right.

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Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “The Silence of the Girls”

I love words. This confession may well elicit a “Duh” response. After all, I’m a writer and editor. Of course words are my thing.

But as I’ve striven to refine my writing style, I’ve woken to this fact: I love words too much. I use 10 when 5 will do. I can be overly indulgent when it comes to visual imagery or emotional exposition. And in my love for lyrical language, I tend to slap on a heaping spoonful where a restrained flourish would serve.

But Booker Prize-winner Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls is a brilliant example of how to use words well. Told from the perspective of Briseis, the queen who becomes Achilles’ concubine in the final months of the Trojan War, The Silence centers on the women who populated the fringes of this legendary conflict. These “silent” figures–Trojans captured throughout the war–are impressed by the Grecian army into a myriad of services, acting as laundresses, nurses, and, of course, concubines.

I was intrigued by the book’s description–I’m a sucker for retellings of literary classics like the lliad–but a little trepidatious, too. This kind of story–particularly told from the perspective of a sex slave–seemed like it could tempt “shock factor” writing: horrifying scenes of rape and violence penned with maximum brutality. Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “The Silence of the Girls””

2019: New Year, New Skills

This holiday season brought a lot of firsts for me, art-wise.

Back in 2015, my brother Jared helped me stumble onto wildlife painting–a passion I didn’t know I had–when he requested a painting of an Alaskan black bear:

Sushi for Dinner, 2015

I should’ve realized I would love wildlife as a subject matter, since my father fostered within me his love of the wild. But self-awareness is totally over-rated, right?

Fast-forward to 2018, and I’m turning my attention to a Christmas present for my other brother, Hunter. This project marked three firsts, two of which I’d heartily recommend. One not so much…. Continue reading “2019: New Year, New Skills”

A recent conversation between the husband and me:

Me: I really need to get enough sleep tonight. When we go to bed, can you remind me not to stay up late reading?

Husband: *Makes skeptical, non-committal noise*

Me: What?

Husband: I learned long ago not to come between a girl and her book.

Me: Really? Do I get snarly?

Husband: You definitely don’t get more friendly.

They say good communication skills are the cornerstone of a healthy marriage. Guess I’m doing something right.

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FEATURED IMAGE PROPERTY OF  24hourreadathon.

Because for this Texas gal, it’s not Christmas cookies done right unless there are a few cowboy hats, boots, and Lone-Star states thrown in among the snowmen and trees….

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Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “The Girl in the Tower”

If you’re a regular peruser of my blog, you may have noticed that I’m a fan of novels that incorporate mythology, fairytales, etc. I’m fascinated by the power of such stories–their ability to resonate across time, surviving all kinds of cultural upheaval to touch even modern readers, as they’ve touched readers throughout the preceding centuries. 

I’ll confess: Though I know there’s a wide world of folktales beyond this, I’m most familiar with the Western European canon. This is one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy–it affords a glimpse into the (to me) less familiar world of Russian stories.

Last November, I read book no. 1 in the series–The Bear and the Nightingale (review here)–and quite enjoyed it. Which made me both curious and leery of the sequel. I wanted to know what happened next… but a bad second book can ruin its predecessor. Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “The Girl in the Tower””