Quickie Review: Laughing All the Way to Crazytown

We moved 10 days ago. All our boxes are unpacked, we’ve got power and interwebz, the commute to work is smooth sailing.

We also have no washer and dryer, no curtains, and my bank account is lookin’ real sad. Such is life.

Between moving and having a couple meltdowns about moving, I’ve actually managed to get some reading done.

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque, Zarqa NawazA series of short stories by author and television writer Zarqa Nawaz about growing up Muslim in Canada. It’s like Love, InshAllah, but with way more laughs. It’s a peek into a culture about which most Americans know little. Nawaz is an excellent writer, both thoughtful and hysterical. Her television series Little Mosque on the Prairie aired for six seasons in Canada — I need to get my hands on it.

Hex

Hex, Thomas Olde HeuveltThis translated edition of Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s Dutch novel made me as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I was wound up as tight as a drum a few chapters in, and Heuvelt spent the rest of the book winding me tighter. The final few chapters are gruesome and absolutely horrifying. The book’s theme — what is the true definition of a monster? — is intriguing and repulsive. Much like The Seeker, Hex terrified me and I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. So good.

Coming up next on my TBR is…well, I don’t know. I need to make a run to the library to renew my card; maybe I’ll see what’s on display when I go in. If you’ve got any recommendations for me, drop ‘em in the comments!

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State of the Blog: June 2017

State of the BlogWhy is it so freaking hot? Let’s drown our sorrows in books.

The basics

  • Books read since January 1: 28
  • Pages read: 9,522
  • Books reviewed: 20
  • Books not enjoyed: 3
  • Books not finished: 0
  • Library books: 14
  • Ebooks: 6
  • Audiobooks: 0
  • Genre breakdown
  • Fiction: 15
  • Non-fiction: 13
  • Fantasy: 2
  • History: 6
  • Memoir: 2
  • Mystery/Thriller: 12
  • Paranormal/Supernatural: 3
  • Young adult literature: 2
  • Children’s literature: 1

Reading challenges

  • Charity Reading Challenge: 28 books read
  • Monthly Motif Challenge:  6 of 12
  • Off the Shelf Reading Challenge: 2 of 9

Check out my reading challenge progress.

Some thoughts

  • I’m loving book club! I can’t believe it took me so long to join one.
  • I’ve read more ebooks in the last six months than I did in all of 2016. I blame reading challenges and book club, as well as my book buying ban. And I still prefer the real thing.
  • We’re moving in — holy shit — a day and a half. Almost everything is in boxes, but thanks to the Pre-Move Purge we’ve got fewer DVDs, books, clothes, and dishes to schlep across town. It feels so good to toss out trash and donate good items to people who will use them.

Looking ahead

  • I asked for and got some lovely books for my birthday. I’m excited to jump into those once we get moved and settled.
  • I’d like to make some more progress on my reading challenges, especially Off the Shelf.
  • Where the hell am I going to get a fourth story idea for The Write Stuff?

How’s your reading going this year?

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The Write Stuff: Halfway Home

Writing Challenge: The Write StuffI’ve been on The Write Stuff journey for six months. Let’s see how it’s going!

Goal 1: Finish four short stories in 2017

The Write Stuff progress spreadsheet

Not much official movement since last month. I’ve incorporated most of the edits I got on the third draft of “Beginnings,” but I got a couple bigger pieces of feedback that need more work. More info on that below.

Goal 2: Write one in-character scene after every D&D session

(Formerly: Do as many of the 642 Tiny Things to Write About as I can)

Our next session isn’t until mid-July. I’ve got a couple ideas brewing, and I hope to post something short to our Facebook group before then. I love diving into my character and learning more about her.

Goal 3: Join a writing community (and actually share stuff for feedback)

The big thing someone pointed out to me about my writing is that I overuse the pronoun-action way of describing things. She pulled, He flinched, They turned.

I do it a lot: 106 times in a 4000-ish word story. Now that I’ve seen it I can’t unsee it, so I have to fix them. Trouble is, I’m not sure how.

Fortunately the internet provides. I found a thread where people give great tips on fixing this sneaky issue. Now it’s just a matter of me sitting down and hacking through my story. Lord give me strength.

Goal 4: Document it all on this blog

Are you not entertained?!

How’s your writing going?

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Review: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, Morgan MatsonIt’s been three months since Amy last got behind the wheel. Her father’s death in a car accident fractured their already-fragile family — her brother’s in rehab and her mother has decided to move across the country. And now, Amy has to somehow get the family’s remaining car from California to Connecticut.

Fortunately, Roger needs to get to the East Coast, too. And if they follow the route Amy’s mother planned, it should only take four days. But what is it they say about the best-laid plans…?

Just perfect

The only thing harder to portray accurately than teenagers is grief. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour does both perfectly.

My heart aches for Amy. She blames herself for her father’s death, and has spent months pushing away the people who care about her most. Author Morgan Matson portrays Amy’s grief accurately and without histrionics — it’s brutal and beautiful.

I also really like Roger, mainly because he’s just a good guy. Plus I think most people can understand the idea of hanging onto a relationship you know is over because you’re scared.

Matson’s book also left me jonesing for a road trip, preferably one with my husband. I’d love to see some of the places she describes, and feel my troubles blow away on the wind. Who wouldn’t want to forget the rest of the world for awhile?

But Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour isn’t about forgetting. It’s about journeys, questions, and having the courage to face your fears.

(I read this book for the Monthly Motif Challenge. June’s challenge was to read a book in which the characters take a trip, travel somewhere, go on a quest, or find themselves on a journey toward something.)

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Quickie Reviews: Time and Space

Yesterday on the way home from work, my car said it was 102 degrees. It’s officially too hot to do anything but sit on the couch and read. Here’s what’s been keeping me from melting for the last few weeks.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud, Atlas, David MitchellSome sadist recommended David Mitchell’s novel for our book club, and we’ve all spent the last month trying to wrap our heads around it. While I wouldn’t call it a “fun” read, I really enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone. Our club’s discussion on it was awesome! It was cool to talk about what we liked and what we didn’t, and to puzzle out the mysteries together. The stories are interesting — Sonmi for the win! — but you shouldn’t tackle it if the phrase, “I really love reading” has never passed your lips.

Minding the Manor

Minding the Manor, Mollie MoranMollie Moran’s memoir of her time as a scullery maid and cook in 1930s and 1940s England. Down-to-earth tone, excellent storytelling, and tantalizing glimpses into the lives of those working “below stairs” at the end of an era. Perfect for fans of Powell’s Below Stairs.

The Spirit War

The Spirit War, Rachel AaronThe continuation of the stories begun in The Legend of Eli Monpress, and one of my two current reads. It’s been a couple of years since I first picked up Rachel Aaron’s series, and I’m playing catch-up. So far this novel is just what the doctor ordered.

What are temps like in your neck of the woods?

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