The Star-Touched Queen

queenThe Star-Touched Queen
by Roshani Chokshi
342 pages
Published April, 2016

From Goodreads: Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.


I’ve seen multiple reviews of this book here and there, always rated very highly, and so I thought I’d give it a try. After a short wait from the library, the eBook showed up on my Nook one day, so off I went into a mythology I am only vaguely acquainted with. I have encountered the Hindu mythos here and there- it’s touched upon in other fantasy novels I’ve read, I’ve heard it spoken about in the various travels shows I’ve watched, and we read a section of the Mahabharata in my Epic Tales class (Classics 389) in college. So Maya’s world wasn’t utterly unfamiliar to me.

But it was still strange. Maya’s horoscope foretold  a dark future of death and destruction for her, and so the women she grew up with and around in her father’s palace treated her terribly, blaming virtually every misfortune and death on a girl who, really, had nothing to do with these things.

And yet, there was something odd about her in the way that she smiled or the fact that sometimes her shadow refused to appear when the sun was high. She would frighten her tutors away and sneak off to watch her father as he ruled his lands, content to learn about politics and perhaps someday become a scholar. One day, though, her father declares that Maya must marry, and she will do so within a few days.

The man that Maya ultimately marries is a mystery to her, and he brings her to a strange realm full of locked doors and distant voices. He treats her as an equal, with his only demand being that she must trust him.

Of course, Maya’s trust falters to her misfortune, her husband’s, and perhaps all the worlds above and below.

One of the comments I kept seeing about The Star-Touched Queen was how beautiful the commentors thought the prose was. I agree to a degree. Compared to many of the YA books I have read or tried to read over the past couple of years, the prose is more poetic. Chokshi’s metaphors didn’t sweep me off my feet, though. What kept me reading was Maya and her characterization, and later on, the mystery of the realm she became the queen of- Akaran.

That’s not to say that I didn’t have my moments of, “Maya, don’t be a dingbat… oh, there you go. Being a dingbat. Go figure”. I had several of those. Fortunately, they weren’t so aggravating that they made me want to put the book down. Amar, the king of Akaran, was mysterious enough to make me want to keep reading, if only to find out what he was all about.

From here, we get a bit spoilery, but I don’t know how to best discuss my thoughts without giving away certain plot elements, so here we go.

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  1. I realize the whole thing with Nritti was set up early on, but somehow it didn’t quite feel like Nritti’s early, unnamed appearances were part of her story. It felt like she appeared out of nowhere in Akaran.
  2. While I’m aware that reincarnation is part of Hindu beliefs and that it was mentioned in various parts of the book, given that Maya’s realization about her own past lives and how they intertwined with Nritti’s, the occasional mentionings of this idea didn’t meld enough into the story to make Maya’s discovery of her past lives feel completely natural.
  3. I know this is a fantasy, and it is based on various Hindu myths and beliefs, but the section where Maya is going through the kingdom as a sadhvi felt a little like it came from a different book altogether- one that was more of a surrealistic or magical realist story.
  4. I’m not sure how the reunification with her sister Gauri was necessary to the overall, and why Maya was helping her to escape. Her conversation with the old harem-wife felt more relevant to Maya’s journey.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. It was a quick read with interesting characters and locations, but I don’t think it will leave a very deep impression when I look back at the list of books I read this year. There is a second book that just came out, A Crown of Wishes, but the synopsis indicates that it’s about Gauri, not Maya. I’m still trying to decide if I’m interested enough to read that one.

The Red Magician

23117749The Red Magician
by Lisa Goldstein
192 pages
Published in 1982

From Goodreads: Winner of the 1983 American Book Award, The Red Magician was an immediate classic.

On the eve of World War II, a wandering magician comes to a small Hungarian village prophesying death and destruction. Eleven-year-old Kicsi believes Vörös, and attempts to aid him in protecting the village.

But the local rabbi, who possesses magical powers, insists that the village is safe, and frustrates Vörös’s attempts to transport them all to safety. Then the Nazis come and the world changes.

Miraculously, Kicsi survives the horrors of the concentration camp and returns to her village to witness the final climactic battle between the rabbi and the Red Magician, the Old World and the New.

The Red Magician is a notable work of Holocaust literature and a distinguished work of fiction, as well as a marvelously entertaining fantasy that is, in the end, wise and transcendent.


I found this book by browsing through my library’s eBook selection during a bit of downtime at work, and I have to admit that the little ‘National Book Award’ medallion on the cover image helped sway my decision to download and read it. The library’s synopsis was interesting, but only described the first few chapters. The Goodreads synopsis better describes the whole story, though it just touches the surface. The Red Magician is much deeper than its synopsis indicates. There’s a good reason it won such a prestigious award.

Life is perfectly normal for Kicsi when the book opens. She goes to school, she puts up with her older sisters, she resents the fact that she never gets to have new clothes (she gets hand me downs from her sisters), and she dreams of the wide world outside her little village. Things start to turn strange, though, when the local rabbi lays a curse on the school because they’ve started teaching Hebrew, a language the rabbi feels is blasphemous.

That’s when Vörös shows up. He is a wanderer who Kicsi immediately likes, and it turns out that he is a magician, just like the rabbi. Vörös removes the curse from the school, and at the rabbi’s daughter’s wedding, making a dire prophecy about the future and advises everyone to leave. When they don’t leave, Vörös tries to build protections for the little town he’s come to love. The rabbi shows up then, and whether out of spite, fear, or a little of both, he destroys the protections that Vörös has built.

Then the Nazis show up.

I won’t go further into the plot, because that would spoil it, and there are a lot of things I’ve left out. But suffice it to say that Kicsi survives the Holocaust and finds Vörös again, and the rabbi finds them, too.

I wouldn’t say that The Red Magician is a coming of age story, thought Kicsi certainly grows up. That label doesn’t tell the whole story of the story, though. The Red Magician is about growing up, learning to appreciate what you have, learning to live with guilt- and indeed, it’s about learning to live again after surviving horrors- and so many other things, too. There is a lot packed into this little book.

The prose is lovely, too. It had a ‘once upon a time…’ feeling to it, like a Brothers Grimm tale, where deep issues are written about so lightly you don’t realize you’ve absorbed the story’s lesson until you look back at it later. Goldstein isn’t a spendthrift when it comes to her words. They are chosen carefully and seem to effortlessly spin a beautiful tale about love, loss, and why we should choose to live after witnessing the worst humanity has to offer.

Falls the Shadow

falls the shadow coverFalls the Shadow
Sharon Kay Penman
580 pages

From Goodreads: This is Simon de Montfort’s story—and the story of King Henry III, as weak and changeable as Montfort was brash and unbending. It is a saga of two opposing wills that would later clash in a storm of violence and betrayal, a story straight from the pages of history that brings the world of the thirteenth century completely, provocatively, and magnificently alive. Above all, this is a story of conflict and treachery, of human frailty and broken legends, a tale of pageantry and grandeur that is as unforgettable as it is real….

 


I was honestly excited to start this book. As I am an incurable Anglophile and history nut, historical fiction appeals to me at pretty much every level, and as I’ve heard nothing but good things about Sharon Kay Penman’s writing, I thought this would be a match made in book heaven.

It started out that way, with beautifully written character studies and the historical facts laid out clearly, without resorting to one person reciting facts to another (that the second person should have already known to begin with, making said person look entirely stupid. I’m looking at you, Philippa Gregory). The first half of the story progressed at a good pace, where historical facts and figures were explained in a clear fashion that didn’t leave me confused as to who did what and, even better, in an age where everyone seemed to have the same name, Penman gives them all nicknames based on their actual names so I wasn’t left wondering, ‘which of the five Eleanors are we talking about now?’.

So it was a great start and I raced through the first half. The problems started about halfway through. Because about twenty years had passed in the story, the orignal characters’ children became players in their own right and greatly increased the book’s cast, leaving less and less space for each one to assert his/her own point of view, as Penman switches from perspective to perspective, finding it necessary to cover virtually everyone at one point or another, pointing out their strengths or flaws and what they felt about siblings or spouses. This was, sadly, often to the detriment of the plot.

The story is based on real events, and I know that there was a lot going on during the thirteenth century, and that fans of historical fiction set in England will likely know what was going on, but the fact that Penman often glosses over major events is extremely annoying to me. For example, there is one point where Simon de Montfort spends a lot of time arranging a delicate and clever political maneuver, which Penman discusses in detail, only to undo it all in the course of a couple of sentences when another character arranges to have those knights meet with the king in another town altogether, forcing them into an awkward choice which, unable to choose between the factions, meant they all just stayed home. That’s how much effort was put into undoing a delicate plot point that Penman herself had spent many, many words putting together.

Ultimately, reading Falls the Shadow started to feel like I was watching a video that keeps skipping. You’re watching along, then it buffers and skips, and then proceeds to do so every ten seconds so that, while you can get a sense of the story, it feels disjointed and jars the senses.

I read 400 out of the 580 pages, but ultimately decided that the narrative was too scattered, and that I had lost too much interest to put up with it for the last 180 pages. I will certainly give Penman another try, but Falls the Shadow goes to the Did Not Finish list.

April Summary and May Preview

April was full of ups and downs, with stressful weeks and a few relaxing days thrown in for good measure.  Warm weather, then cold again, with a lot of reading getting done. I’ve been doing more street photography since I bought my new camera, and so I’ve been spending more time in coffee shops. This demands patience as you wait for for something interesting to happen, so I bring a book along and hope I’ve sat down in the right place. Usually, I’ll see something that catches my interest, no matter where I go.

I finished fourteen books in April, though I started the first three in March or earlier:

  1. Locke and Key, Vol. 2: Head Games– Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  2. The Year of Living Danishly– Helen Russell
  3. Rejected Princesses– Jason Porath
  4. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck– Mark Manson
  5. Walking the Nile– Levison Wood
  6. The Remains of the Day– Kazuo Ishiguro
  7. Stories of Your Life and Others– Ted Chiang
  8. Trollhunters– Guillermo del Toro
  9. The Snow Leopard– Peter Matthiessen
  10. The Club Dumas– Arturo Pérez-Reverte
  11. I’m a Stranger Here Myself– Bill Bryson
  12. 10% Happier– Dan Harris
  13. The War of Art– Steven Pressfield
  14. The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye– A.S. Byatt

I’m currently reading The Blue Sky by Galsan Tschinag and The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien.

7717338I started The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick, but it is going to the “Did Not Finish” category. The story is about Queen Emma of England who came from Normandy to marry King Æthelred in 1002. It is a tumultuous time and Æthelred is not the best of kings, so Emma must step up and do her part to save England. If Hollick had stuck to Emma’s point of view, I probably would have stuck with the book. The prose is passable, but Hollick keeps switching from one character’s point of view to another, sometimes for only a paragraph or two, and usually without pointing out which character the reader is with. She also has a tendency to go into the back story of the characters whose POV we’ve suddenly jumped into, whether or not that back story is necessary. Hollick also hasn’t figured out how to deal with the issues of the different languages that the characters speak. For example, Æthelred will be talking to Emma, and you’ll get the entirety of what he’s said, but then Hollick will half-heartedly point out that, because Emma doesn’t speak English, she only understood a word or two.  The Forever Queen comes in at 635 pages and was a bestseller when it came out, so a lot of people like it. But I am not one of them.

Coraline_posterI’ve been enjoying several of Netflix’s new, streaming animated offerings. I saw Coraline, based on Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name when it came out in the theaters, but hadn’t watched it since. It’s streaming again, so I put it on the other night and enjoyed it just as much as the first time around. I also watched the collection of Disney’s animated short films that’s streaming. It included “Paper Man”, “The Little Matchstick Girl”, “The Ballad of Nessie”, the super cute “Feast” which is from the point of view of a dog, and two shorts based on  Tangled and Frozen, among others. I missed seeing Kubo and the Two Strings when it came out last year, but it’s streaming now and on my list to watch soon. 

 

My May To Read List:

  1. The Stone Raft– José Saramago
  2. The Fabric of the Cosmos– Brian Greene
  3. Little Black Book of Stories- A.S. Byatt
  4. Falls the Shadow– Sharon Kay Penman
  5. Istanbul: Memories and the City– Orhan Parmuk

Back in January, I thought I’d make a lot of reading selections based on Pop Sugar’s 2017 Reading Challenge. That has not been the case, and I keep forgetting that I have the whole list written out in the front of this year’s bullet journal. Oh well. I’m still reading a lot.

 

 

Stories of Your Life and Others

DSC08924From Goodreads: Ted Chiang’s first published story, “Tower of Babylon,” won the Nebula Award in 1990. Subsequent stories have won the Asimov’s SF Magazine reader poll, a second Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and the Sidewise Award for alternate history. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1992. Story for story, he is the most honored young writer in modern SF.

Now, collected here for the first time are all seven of this extraordinary writer’s stories so far-plus an eighth story written especially for this volume.

What if men built a tower from Earth to Heaven-and broke through to Heaven’s other side? What if we discovered that the fundamentals of mathematics were arbitrary and inconsistent? What if there were a science of naming things that calls life into being from inanimate matter? What if exposure to an alien language forever changed our perception of time? What if all the beliefs of fundamentalist Christianity were literally true, and the sight of sinners being swallowed into fiery pits were a routine event on city streets? These are the kinds of outrageous questions posed by the stories of Ted Chiang. Stories of your life . . . and others.


 

Note: Contains spoilers for the movie, Arrival, and the short story, “The Story of Your Life”.

I’ve mentioned before that Arrival was one of my favorite films of 2016, so I was anxious to read the short story, “The Story of Your Life” after I bought the book Stories of Your Life and Others.

This can be a mind-blowing book.

The first story“Tower of Babylon” can be described as Babylonian Science Fiction, as it takes place during the multi-generational building of the mythical Tower of Babel. In this tale, thought, God does not strike the tower down as the builders ascend toward the vault of heaven, nor do the builders despair despite the fact that many of them life their entire lives on the edges of the tower, with no hope of reaching the top or descending back to the city of Babylon. The end of the story is utterly unexpected and as amazing as one could hope for in a short story. I can see why it won an award as prestigious as the Nebula.

AAF-arrival_002“The Story of Your Life” was the one I looked forward to the most, as it is the basis for Arrival. My reaction to it was unexpected. I enjoyed it and found it as strangely satisfying as the movie, but I found that I prefer the story of Arrival to that of “The Story of Your Life”, despite the fact that the plot is almost exactly the same. In both film and story, the arrival of an alien species that humans call ‘heptapods’ brings the linguist, Dr. Louise Banks, into contact with the heptapods as the government wants her to figure out a way to communicate with the aliens. Banks figures out how to do so, and this understanding of their language causes a change in her brain that allows her to understand time the way the heptapods do- not as a series of events experienced one after another, but as a sort of circle, where the present and the future co-mingle to the point where you already know what the story of your life will be before you’ve lived it-  like reading a book for the second time, when you already know what will happen, but you continue reading because you want to experience it again.

In both book and film, too, the story of Banks’s unraveling of the heptapods’ language is concurrent with the story of her daughter’s life, from start to early, abrupt end. The ‘you’ in “The Story of Your Life” is Banks’s daughter, and she addresses ‘you’ throughout the story. Because Banks met her daughter’s father while working with the heptapods, and because it was the heptapods’ language that allowed Banks to perceive time differently, the story of the daughter’s life is part and parcel to the story of the heptapods. There are things that Banks ‘remembers’ from her future that help her to decipher Heptapod B, but Banks could ‘remember’ the future without having first deciphered the language.

So which came first? The language or the future?

It’s impossible to say for sure, but personally, I think the film did a better job of explaining this change in Banks’s perception. In Arrival, you begin with snippets of the daughter’s life, right up to her early death from an illness during her teens. In the following scenes, you see Banks, alone in her house, and you assume that she’s grieving after the death of her daughter. As the movie progresses, you see what seem to be flashbacks– Banks’s apparent memories of her daughter and her failed marriage– and, as in the story, these flashbacks help Banks understand the heptapods’ language and their perception of time. After the flashbacks, Banks has this expression on her face that seems to be grief, but after a second viewing, you realize that it is confusion. There comes a point near the end, though, after Banks has experienced all these ‘memories’, that she asks, “whose child is this?”. And then you realize– as she does– that Banks has been peering into the future, and that she hasn’t had her child yet. All those experiences, both joyful and terrible, have yet to occur.

The short story explains this perfectly well, but not with the poignancy of the movie. In this case, there’s something about the visuals of the teenaged daughter,  slowly dying in the hospital, that is more intense than the shock of the daughter’s accidental death at age 25 in the story. A lot of that, I think, comes from Amy Adams’s brilliant portrayal of Louise Banks. It is understated and minimal, and a comes with a wealth of interpretations. Is Banks confused or grieving? Exhausted or deep in thought? Determined or desperate?

Arrival adds an event that drives home the change in Banks’s perception. In “The Story of Your Life”, scientists around the world are working well together, and the governments don’t seem so upset about the heptapods’ presence. This is not true of the movie, which I think is more true to life– the scientists might want to work together, but their governments are deeply paranoid and often refuse to share information on the grounds of ‘military secrets’. This nearly leads to disaster after a small group of rogue soldiers bombs a heptapod ship, triggering a series of events that nearly ends in all-out war when the Chinese and the Russians move to attack the heptapod ships hovering over their lands.

Nearly leads to disaster. Acting on cues from several months into her future, when Banks meets with the general in charge of the Chinese military, she illegally calls the general on his personal phone and recites to him a secret that he himself will tell her in the future.

Weird, huh?

In other films, the addition of events like this are often superfluous, but it works in Arrival. Because we’ve already been seeing things from Banks’s future, seeing the general (who we’ve been hearing about all along) isn’t surprising or shocking, and the passing on of the phrase from future-Banks to past-Banks is a natural series of events. It’s also an elegant solution to the military build-up, as well as a clear illustration of how Banks’s perception of time has been altered.

I’m not sure if I wouldn’t have understood the circuitous nature of the events in The Story of Your Life” had I not seen Arrival first. Given the short nature of the story, you can get through it in about half an hour, while the film is two hours long and has extra events to help you figure out the nature of Banks’s altered perception.

So while “The Story of Your Life” is an amazing story, in this instance I prefer the movie.

There are more stories in this collection, obviously, but those two capture my imagination the most. “Understand”, about a man who receives a new hormone therapy to treat brain damage and ultimately becomes a super-intelligent human who can learn anything in short order. But what happens to a mind like that if there’s no one to connect with, and no purpose for their intelligence to latch onto? And what happens if they encounter another super-intelligent human?

I didn’t really care for the story, “Seventy-Two Letters”. It is is rather dry compared to the others. It is a story set in an alternate 19th century and is largely about genetics (or at least an alternate understanding of genetics) and how a certain kind of magic is used in their everyday lives, and how it could be used to alter humanity’s destiny. The language is reminiscent of period-specific stories such as Doctor Jekyl and Mister Hyde, but lacks the underlying horror that makes such stories so lasting.

Overall, though, I enjoyed these stories, and the way it skews the worlds the characters inhabit so that you can look at your own perceptions– of time, of faith, of intelligence, etc. –in a different light.

 

 

 

 

 

A Perilous Undertaking

Veronica Speedwell returns in a brand new adventure from Deanna Raybourn, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries…

apu-350London, 1887.

Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell receives an invitation to visit the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women. There she meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task—saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Accused of the brutal murder of his artist mistress Artemisia, Ramsforth will face the hangman’s noose in a week’s time if Veronica cannot find the real killer.

But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems, and unmasking her true identity is only the first of the many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her natural historian colleague Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer—a ruthless villain who not only took Artemisia’s life in cold blood but is happy to see Ramsforth hang for the crime. From a Bohemian artists’ colony to a royal palace to a subterranean grotto with a decadent history, the investigation proves to be a very perilous undertaking indeed….


I stumbled upon Deanna Raybourn’s first Veronica Speedwell novel, A Curious Beginning at the library last spring and was 1) immediately hooked, and 2) disappointed to find out that while it was the first of a new series, book two had not been published yet. And so when I heard what the new title was going to be, I kept checking back with the library to see when A Perilous Undertaking would be available and placed a hold for it. When I received the notification that it was in, I checked it out as soon as I could and once again was hooked within the first few paragraphs.

Veronica, our heroine and narrator has all the charm, wit, and beauty of a proper Victorian lady, but with a decidedly modern view of education, feminism, and sexuality that somehow does not lift the reader out of the book’s Victorian setting. I think that stems from the fact that Deanna Raybourn has said that writing about people from the 1800s isn’t all that different from writing about people now- we’re all individuals with the same sorts of hopes and fears, we just wear different clothes and use different transportation methods. Of course there are characters who are shocked by Veronica’s ideas and her history (though she takes measures to ensure that her foreign escapades will affect her reputation as little as possible while she’s in England and publishes her papers on lepidoptery as V. Speedwell), but there are people in the 21st century who would be aghast at her bluntness regarding sex and marriage. We’re not so different from the Victorians, even if we are separated from them by nearly 120 years.

But enough of that. Veronica and her colleague, Stoker, are scientists not detectives and so they go about their investigation in a different fashion from the police of Scotland Yard. By using reason and logic, they gather their suspects, interview them, and poke them with metaphorical sticks to find the guilty party. This doesn’t mean that they don’t gather clues- they do that- but it’s not like reading a Sherlock  Holmes story. Veronica has spent her life studying people as thoroughly as her beloved butterflies, and so she knows how to handle people and convince them to tell her things they normally would not admit to, whether it’s through words or body language.

Throughout A Perilous Undertaking, Veronica is witty and charming, and she delights in blithely shocking people like she has no idea that her lifestyle is out of the ordinary (though she can read everyone in the room like a book), and though Stoker makes me want to roll my eyes with his occasional Victorian stodginess he, too, is ahead of his time. There was never a point where I wanted to put the book down because it was boring or slow. Strategic action scenes and well-crafted interviews keep the book moving at a quick pace, though the best parts are the conversations between Veronica and Stoker. I had a good guess as to the murderer’s identity about halfway through, but that didn’t mean the reveal at the end wasn’t exciting to read. I might have known the killer’s identity, but I did not suspect the motive.

Victorian era mysteries are my favorites within the mystery genre, and Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell novels are making their way to the top of my list, right up there with Will Thomas’s Barker and Llewellyn series. The only thing I don’t like about A Perilous Undertaking is the long wait until the next one comes out!

“The Beauclerk girls had a habit of driving away hapless governesses with well-timed hysterics or the odd spider in the bed. I rather thought it a pity that no one had told them about the efficacy of syrup of figs dribbled into the morning tea, but it was not my place to tutor them in misdemeanors.”

– Deanna Raybourn, A Perilous Undertaking

P.S. After reading a variety of other book blogs, I’ve decided to change up the format of my reviews as I’m not very good at summarizing books and other people have done a much better job at doing so, leaving me free to spend more time on the review itself. This particular synopsis comes from Raybourn’s own website.

Traveling With Pomegranates

I was browsing through my library’s selection of ebooks, looking for travel memoirs in particular, when I came across Traveling with Pomegranates, by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter Ann Monk Kidd. It was, in part, due to the Pop Sugar reading list- ‘a book involving travel’. I have to say that I didn’t look at the synopsis very closely, as I thought it would be a lighthearted tale of a mother daughter and their travels in Europe. It was, as it turns out, much deeper than that and did not deal with any kooky misadventures.

At the beginning of the book, Sue Monk Kidd is contemplating her life as she approaches fifty, and how her mind and body are changing. She has to deal with the fact that her youth is gone and she is approaching the ‘old woman’ part of her life. She is also coming to terms with the fact that her daughter, Ann, is no longer a little girl and she must come to terms with the fact that Ann is now an adult with her own life.

Ann, on the other hand, is trying to figure out what to do with her life now that she is out of college and is preparing for graduate school, and the rejection from the program of her choice. She traveled to Greece for a class a year and a half before the book opens, and her experiences helped accept herself as an individual person (and not simply as a girlfriend). During this second trip to Greece, though, Ann is dealing with rejection and Depression.

Throughout the book, there are discussions of the ancient Greek myth of Persephone and Demeter, as well as the Virgin Mary, and how those stories factor into Sue and Ann’s thoughts as they face their individual futures, and ultimately both tales help them come to terms with aging, rejection, and the next phases of their lives.

While this books was not as inspiring to me as, say, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (which helped me find the courage to stop waiting for my friends to go traveling with me, and just go), but it is a beautifully written story about facets of womanhood that are often neglected in modern narratives, especially Sue’s story of facing old age.


dsc06582I’ve been reading Jason Porath’s Rejected Princesses a few stories at a time (each woman has a two to three page biography. I’ve encountered a few women I had already knew about, such as Grace O’Malley and Sybil Ludington, but most of these stories are new to me, and span both history and the globe. I’m about fifty pages in, and I already love this book!


 

 

d2127d995925936ead0d8b51fb273695
I think they’re afraid of something like this happening.

The weather people have been predicting an ice storm for the past several days, and everyone in town has, accordingly, gone into survival mode. The grocery stores have been swamped, and the shelves are bare of things like bottled water, bread, and soup. So far, though, nothing has come of it. We’ll see if that changes over the next few hours, but it’s supposed to be lovely on Wednesday, so I’ll be interested to find out what people end up doing with the half-dozen loaves of bread they bought in order to survive the next thirty-six hours.

I’m baking a pumpkin pie in order to prepare. My apartment smells wonderful.


Coming up next (if I can get to it all before the library comes calling..)
– My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
– No Baggage by Clara Bensen
– A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

My book selections have become dominated by women of late. Not by any method, but by happenstance. It’s fantastic.

I’m still working on finishing:
– Rejected Princesses by Jason Porath
– The Táin by Anonymous, translated by Ciaran Carson