It’s standard wisdom: Never judge a book by its cover.
Yet it’s hard not to when a book’s cover–and title–are so fantastic. Beautiful, atmospheric, and a bit eerie, these appealed to the fairy tale/folklore lover in me. Between these exterior flourishes and the novel’s story–main character Vasilisa dares condemnation as she uses her supernatural communion with creatures of Russian folklore and an alliance with winter demon Frost to safeguard her people from a nebulous dark–I knew Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale was a book I had to have.
I’m happy to say the cimmerian ambiance promised by the cover carried into the novel. The aesthetics throughout–whether descriptions of the rusalka (a water sprite), or the harsh beauty of a wintery Russian forest–were striking and resonant. Even now, months after finishing the novel, I can summon to mind a multitude of scenes, lovely and ominous alike. Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “The Bear and the Nightingale””→
No doubt about it: I have Book Lust Syndrome. I already have far too many books on my “to-read” list. But that doesn’t keep me from adding new ones to my shelf when something catches my eye, or a trusted friend makes a reading recommendation (talking about you, Courtney!) In short, I’m a textbook (pun intended) victim of this adage:
But as giddy as I get over cracking a new book’s spine and exploring the possibility contained within, there are times when a familiar read offers much-needed comfort. These comfort books aren’t always the most refined or revolutionary. But there’s something in their familiarity, in their resonance of a simpler time, that is soothing.
Life at this moment is definitely making me want to hide in some well-worn pages. The deadline for my massive, months-long work project is approaching with terrifying rapidity. I’m still juggling my writing and my full-time “real” job at the Embassy, along with all my other responsibilities, my relationships. It’s all I can do to get in my lap-swimming sessions. I haven’t picked up a paintbrush in months and that makes me sad.
A movie featuring Hemingway and wife no. 3, American novelist, travel writing, and journalist Martha Gellhorn.
A tribute to one of Hemingway’s favorite pursuits, discovered in Key West: sport fishing.
Hemingway’s house is famous for its polydactyl cats. Not all of the approximately 50 cats now resident there have manifested this gene, but all are carriers.
A tribute to Hemingway’s love for big game hunting.
Hemingway at the helm.
As always, a nod to Hemingway house’s horde of feline residents.
Hemingway’s home was one of the first in the Florida Keys to have running water.
Cat standing guard over Hemingway’s writing room.
I’m a sucker for this sun-licked wrap-around porch.
A snapshot of Hemingway’s writing room above the carriage house (and the iron grate that protects the room from wayward tourists).
Note the base of this fountain: a urinal Hemingway acquired from a local Key West bar.
A snapshot of Hemingway’s house, way back when.
Another shot of Hemingway’s writing getaway. Note to nods to his passions: writing, books, fishing, and big game hunting.
“The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” one of the stories inspired by Hemingway’s hunting expeditions.
Hemingway’s bed, custom-made to accommodate his large size. The headboard is an antique Spanish gate.
This pool, upon completion in 1938, cost $20,000 in the currency of the day. (Or, approximately $350,000 today.) It was the only in-ground pool within 100 miles when built, and was dug out of the solid coral that comprises the island.
A wall o’ the four wives. A somewhat unsettling group of portraits, perhaps.
A few pieces of Hemingway’s private library. Most of his books reside in Cuba.
A portable typewriter, like those Hemingway might have taken on his adventures.
Stairs up to Hemingway’s writing hideaway.
Love these posters for the movie adaptations of Hemingway’s novels.
In my last post, I mentioned that I was recently in Key West, soaking up the sea and much longed-for time with family. I got to swim in turquoise waters, stuff myself silly with seafood, and wander streets lined with tropical trees and homes that, to my untrained eye, blended the beach architecture of my childhood with southern-Victorian and Spanish styles.
I’m always a bit embarrassed to admit this–after all, I have a Masters in English and American literature–but I haven’t actually read all that much Hemingway. I did read his “Hills like White Elephants,” a short story that exemplifies Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory (the concept of writing around a particular subject–here abortion–without ever explicitly naming it). But my research emphasis in my degree was Romantic, Victorian, and Post-Colonial British literature, and Early American and 19th-century literature. Chronologically-speaking, Hemingway came a little too late for me.
But a few years ago, I picked up Paula McLain’s historical, Hemingway-themed novel, The Paris Wife. Obviously, this book is A) fiction (and therefore, a not-necessarily-rigidly-factual interpretation of history) and B) more focused on Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson, than Hemingway himself.
You may have noticed my blog has been quiet of late. Part of this is a result of busy months at work. But the last few weeks of silence have been for the best of reasons.
I find coming home to the U.S. after living overseas is like a big gulp of oxygen after holding your breath underwater. It’s not that Suriname is such a dreadful place to live. It just feels so good to be home.
This particular trip back was a whirlwind: a day in Houston, a weekend jaunt to the Midwest, down to Key West to meet my family on their vacation, a few more days in various Texas locales, then a week in my hometown on the Texas Gulf Coast (and surfing!).
With all that travel time, I wasn’t going to be caught without a book in my hand.
So one night in Key West, while my dad and twin brothers were being awesome and doing a night dive around an old shipwreck (their tales of octopus, shark, and fish sightings have made me determined to finally get my scuba certification), I was cheerily getting my nerd on at a local bookstore. Continue reading “All Key-ed Up”→
As you’ve likely sussed out by now, I’m a fan of reading. But rare is the book that tempts me to sacrifice my own writing time. It’s been ten months since that last occurred. (That siren was Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl, which I review here). But Naomi Novik’s Uprooted called too sweetly to be resisted. I wound up rolling two hours of writing time into the weekend, because I blew them off on Thursday to finish the book.
That wasn’t the only irresponsible thing I did, either. I stayed up until 1 AM, when I had to be into work by 7:30. I thought I’d skim just a few pages before I did my post-work lap-swimming… I wound up reading in the pool locker room for an hour. Uprooted was that compulsively readable; I had to know what happened next. And I definitely wasn’t confident about how it would end: I could see the author taking the triumphant track, or the bittersweet one. (But no spoilers here–you’ll have to read it yourself to find out!) Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Uprooted””→
I’m so grateful for my beta readers. By the time a manuscript is ready for eyes other than mine, I’ve sunk so many hours into the beast that total objectivity is no longer possible. This is the point where my test readers become my knights-in-shining; they tell me what’s working and what needs a tweak (or overhaul).
Recently, a reader for my young adult novel reported apathy regarding the book’s central romantic pair. For her, their tie to one another wasn’t compelling enough for it to seem justified when the heroine surrenders her dreams in order to remain with the hero.
Obviously, I would’ve preferred for her to gush over my love birds. But this kind of honest feedback is enormously helpful, indispensable… and a good reminder of the two elements essential for writing the kind of romantic relationships readers want to sink into:
Puzzle-Piecing (Yup, this is a newly-coined term, à la yours truly.)