What I’ve been reading, writing, watching, and doing (#sff #books #movies)

Happy Spring, all! Today’s post has my thoughts on some of the books I read during late winter/early spring, books I’ve added to my TBR pile, movies and TV shows I’ve seen, stuff I’m excited about, a subscription link for my author newsletter (latest edition includes a tentative title and draft blurb for Noon #5), and an update on some other stuff. This post is really about me checking in, saying hi, and also asking HOW THE HECK ARE *YOU*?!? Feel free to let me know what YOU’VE been up to in the comments.

What I’ve Been Reading

The Raven Boys: Years ago, I read Shiver (liked) and The Scorpio Races (loved), so I was curious about this other series by Maggie Stiefvater. This was the second book I’ve read somewhat recently which opened on St. Mark’s Eve (the other being The Taxidermist’s Daughter). St. Mark’s Eve is a great date upon which to start a story. According to English folklore, anyone who keeps vigil in a churchyard on the eve of the Feast of Saint Mark will see the souls of those who’ll die in the upcoming year.

Blue sees the spirit of Gansey, a rich kid from a nearby private school. I loved Blue, her soothsayer family, Gansey and his friends, and the way the author was inspired by real world myths and spiritual places like ley lines, corpse roads, and the Raven King.

The Book of Speculation: I’m a sucker for a good circus story. I often think I’d love to write one, but then I worry that there are too many of them. But then I read another (like this one) that reminds me there are infinite ways to tell a good story.

Initially, this book caught my attention because it’s about a librarian who was sent a mysterious book with his grandmother’s name in it. A decent hook, but a little deceiving. This book felt like a watery version of The Night Circus. Not watery as in thin, but as in murky and mermaids. I loved the author’s style of magical realism. In Erika Swyler’s hands, rusalkas and vodianoi seem like they could be real.

Through the Woods: I checked this out for E (my younger daughter) because she loves creepy and prefers to read graphic novels. She loved it so much, I read it too. A half-dozen or so stories that feel like fairy tales — the original versions, not the animated, sparkly, pink/purple Disney kind. All of them are engaging, gruesome, and accompanied by terrific art. The stories had some familiar elements, but they were all new. No retellings, which was refreshing. I also loved that some endings were left open-ended, giving the reader a chance to interpret at will. In short, this is a great book for anyone age 12+ who loves horror. Perfect for reluctant readers who don’t mind a little gore! 🙂

The Wolves of Winter: I read this during the winter, one day when it was snowing, sitting in front of a fire, which was the perfect place to read it. I think I read one review that said this moved slow and nothing much happened in the beginning. I liked the early chapters, which detail the character’s woodsy day-to-day. It’s a post-apocalyptic, but there’s nothing initially preternatural. It’s all hunting, trapping, building fires, etc. If you’re into outdoor survivalist stories, the first part of the story will appeal to you.

Another reviewer compared the MC to Katniss, only because she hunts with a bow. For crying out loud. Is Katniss the only heroine who will ever be allowed to hunt with a bow? What about Merida from Brave? Hanna from Hanna? Or Artemis?! (Check out this fun Pop Sugar article on female archers in movies.) Let’s not let Katniss or Lynn McBride from The Wolves of Winter be the last female archers we see in fiction.

What I Want to Read NEXT

The Hazel Wood

I think Book Page brought this to my attention. From Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

House of McQueen

I don’t remember where I first heard of this book, but it piqued my interest. I enjoyed Christian Siriano’s Dresses to Dream About — although what I know about fashion wouldn’t fill a thimble (ha!). I think Siriano interned at the House of McQueen, however, and I’ve always been fascinated by what little I know of McQueen’s work. From PW’s review:

Wallace conducts a literary séance in her transcendent debut, serving as a scholar of and medium for the late iconic fashion designer Alexander McQueen (1969–2010). Devising her poems using an extensive array of sources, Wallace manages to encapsulate the “monstrous and magical” visions that defined McQueen’s oeuvre.

Might be a great choice for National Poetry Month.

Bitten by Witch Fever

Three words:

  • Witches
  • Wallpaper
  • Real

There are no witches though, which makes the title a little confusing. Part art book, part history book, part true life horror story… This is a book of 275 facsimile samples of arsenic-infested Victorian wallpaper. Proof that there is a book about everything.

Where did I hear of this rare gem? I found it in the home decorating section of my local library, nestled in between a photo guide to window treatments and a book about French country kitchens. But word on the street is that Anthropologie was selling it for a while.

Obviously, the poison is missing from the pages, but a book about deadly pigments still sounds compelling. And get this — the author is Charles Dickens’ great-great-great-granddaughter. The final neat thing about it? It looks like a wallpaper sample book. (Does anyone even know what I’m talking about? Those great big books with the whole and half sheets of sample papers?)

Distillery Cats: Profiles in Courage of the World’s Most Spirited Mousers

From Goodreads:

Distillery Cats cheekily tells the tale of the historical role of these spirited cats and their evolution from organic pest control to current brand ambassadors… 30 of the world’s most adorable and lovable distillery cats, featuring “interviews,” a hand-drawn portrait of each cat, plus trading card-style stat sheets with figures like “super-power” and “mice killed.” Featuring 15 cocktail recipes to enjoy while you page through, Distillery Cats is a quirky but essential addition to any cat or spirits lover’s bookshelf.

After reading that write-up, how could anyone not want to read it?!

Women Who Fly

What other book would compare and contrast the Valkyries, Wonder Woman, and Amelia Earhart?

Tales of Wonder

Postcard fairy tale retellings. Hopefully, I’ll like this collection as much as I liked Shaun Tan’s sculptures in The Singing Bones.

What I’ve Been Watching

Man in the High Castle: When I first heard this show was about Nazis, I wanted nothing to do with it. Only after repeatedly hearing about it from various sources did I decide to check it out. It’s alternative history with an interesting, if uncomfortable, premise — what if the allied powers had lost WWII? This show suggests that the U.S. would have been split down the middle with Japan ruling the west (the Japanese Pacific States) from San Francisco and the Germans (the Greater Nazi Reich) ruling the east from New York. Not all of it is believable, thankfully, but the “what if” is so horrifying to contemplate, it drew me in. The swastikas everywhere still bother me, but they’re supposed to.

Kedi: This is the adorable antidote to something like The Man in the Castle. OMG, the cuteness! This is a documentary that follows seven stray-but-not-feral cats in Istanbul.  It covers the people who’ve befriended them, how cats have always been a part of the culture there, and what the cats’ lives and personalities are like. Penny and E loved it too! (Turkish with English subtitles)

The Shape of Water: Controversies aside, did it deserve to win Best Picture? Who knows? It was a predictable choice (I picked it) — and I enjoyed it. It checked off a lot of boxes for me. Fantasy, adult fairy tale, gorgeous sets, and Guillermo del Toro.

Lady Bird: Great acting, good writing. Will Greta Gerwig become the new John Hughes?

Star Trek: Discovery: Burnham is a terrific character and I think it’s neat to watch a Star Trek where the captain isn’t the MC. I’m only up to E7, but I dislike Saru and don’t trust Tyler.

Alias: Started watching this again with Penny and E. So much fun to revisit Sydney Bristow. She’s like a superhero. NOTHING about her or the show feels realistic, which is its appeal. Syd’s color-coordinated spy disguises, her Matrix-y martial arts, the Milo Rambaldi mysticism, and all those tortured relationships! This shows holds up. Nearly 20 years later, still good!

Phantom Thread: All I knew about this going in was that it’s about a fashion designer and his muse. And it was Daniel Day-Lewis’ last performance. Maybe. Probably?

And that’s all you need to know. It’s deliciously Gothic. 😉

What I’m Excited About Seeing

Black Panther: I think I’m the last person on earth that hasn’t seen this yet and I can’t wait. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to squeeze in a quick trip to the theater before this leaves the big screen.

Red Sparrow: Jennifer Lawrence. Ballerina spy. Seriously? I am IN!

Ex Libris: I’m always on the lookout for interesting documentaries I can watch while doing my most dreaded domestic task (laundry).

Westworld (Season 2): Probably my second favorite show right now. (GOT = #1, Outlander dropped to #3 after its season 3.)

What Else Have I Been Up To?

Book spine poetry: I set up a display at our library for National Poetry Month. Book spine poetry is so cool! I love the idea of mashing up a bunch of different titles to create a short poem. Mine are often vignettes rather than poetry. It can be challenging — because you have to work with the titles that are available, but it’s fun! If you haven’t already played around with creating poems/vignettes/flash fiction/short stories out of book spines, then get thee to a library, go, and quickly too.

Wanna read my 2016 book spine story about a dying knight who goes to heaven? Then click HERE.

Research… although mostly local history for a program I’m doing for seniors in my area and some heretofore unknown Scottish and Swiss ancestors of mine on Ancestry.

Gemming costumes: one of my friends asked me if I’d seen I, Tonya. I haven’t yet. Was there a scene in there about gemming costumes?! The only thing I know is that: (1) ice skating costumes are possibly even more blingy than competitive dance costumes; and (2) tweezers + ten gazillion tiny crystals gives new meaning to tedious.

Petting cats: Here are some pictures of the Spice Cats, in case you’ve been missing them 😀

Driving coach: Penny is driving!

Bee report: We have honey! Finally!! Fifteen frames ready for extraction. We ordered a nuc hive to replace the hive we lost last year. And our second, newer hive, made it through the winter.

Writing! I’m working on Noon #5. There will be six books in the series and then I’ll turn my attention to something else. Interested in hearing more about what’s in store for Noon? Then check out my newsletter…

Spring 2018 Author Newsletter!

What’s in it?

  • UPDATE: Draft blurb and tentative title for Noon #5
  • Q&A: Questions You Probably Want Answered But Are Too Polite To Ask
  • RESEARCH: Hierapolis and the Ancient Roman “Gate to Hell”


New here and wondering what the difference is between my newsletter and blog?

This blog is inconsistent both in terms of content and schedule. My newsletter has info on my books. Period. And it comes out four times a year. No matter what.

Hope everyone is having an awesome spring!