Monday, December 11, 2017

Companion Piece

I wrote a long and thoughtful review of Naondel earlier this week, before I'd finished it, and for some reason it disappeared when I thought I'd posted it. This review will be much inferior, I am sure; the old one was poetry.

But I did just finish Naondel, Maria Turtschaninoff's sequel to Maresi, which I read earlier this year and loved so much that I don't know if I can explain it. Maresi was about the power of community, and women caring for each other, and the potential strength of just standing up for what is good and right.  It's almost domestic fantasy, with a lot of the story being devoted to what it's like to live on the island of Menos, where men are not allowed, and where women from all over the world come to learn, or to escape, or to live in safety.

Going into Naondel, I knew it was the story of the founding of the Red Abbey. The experience of reading it was not what I expected, though.  I guess you could consider this spoilers, though it's more like what the back of the book should have said; the fact that I was surprised by most of what the book contained actually probably hurt my enjoyment of it. It was a strong book, but not a good surprise.

The seven founding women of the Red Abbey each tell the story of how they came to be a part of this group, how their life took them to this point.  The actual point of joining together to go to a new place and create a new home is the conclusion, practically the epilogue. The contents of the book are basically the brutal ways the world treated each woman before this. And not just the world, but one man.

We start with Kabira; she is the young daughter of a wealthy family. She falls for a handsome vizier's son, who is maybe courting her and maybe courting her sister. She shares the secret of her family's magic spring with him.  It is in no way surprising that he turns out to be a power-hungry jerk and uses the spring to steal political and financial power. Bad things happen, Kabira (not incorrectly, but incompletely) blames herself. "And then forty years went by."

That line killed me.  Wait, forty years? When do we get to the girl power?

It's a long time. We meet each of the women as they come together in the palace from different places, with different knowledge and magic and skills.  We spend years with them as they are oppressed, beaten, raped, trapped.

This is not to say there's no beauty here. The strength of the imprisoned is actually one of the greatest lessons here; you don't have to escape your prison to be free in your heart, to own your own soul.  It's not just those who break out of jail who are triumphant over their captors or live a complete life.

But the long brutality of the story is not entirely what I expected, and not as glorious as I had hoped.  It's a powerful story, but powerful with sorrow and pain.  It's got so much truth in it, but the claustrophobia of the palace isn't always pleasant.  The introduction of so many characters is actually a skillful way of dealing with this problem--each one introduces us to a new culture and environment and cast, even if they only last a little while. They are a breather in between the breathless boredom of the House of Women.

I do recommend this book, for its beauty and for the important parts of the story of oppression and freedom that it tells.  But I think that enjoyment of it depends on knowing that the feel-good warmth of Maresi is not what you should anticipate.

If anyone reads this book, though, I would love to talk about Kabira.  I think she's a fascinating character, moreso for her long, deep, dangerous flaws.  I would like to know what you think of what kind of leader the First Mother must have been.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an advance review copy of this book.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Something on Sunday, 12/10

I actually wrote a real post, a review, on TUESDAY--stayed up late to do it--and it disappeared into the ether.  I wrote it, posted it, closed the computer, went to bed, and in the morning, the link from my Blogger management page didn't work and the post was not on the site.

Enormous Sigh.

So I'm going to rewrite it, but I still has a sad.

In nicer news, the week has been exhausting but good.  I went to see then Christmas Revels, which was, as always, dorky and delightful. Indirectly related, here is a post from Blair Thornburgh that I love about what makes a good Christmas Carol--spoiler: Latin, food, and Satan are the keys. Here is one of my own favorites (a former Revels singalong).

In other news, the amazing and wonderful Kelly is in town, so I stayed up way too late playing games with Kelly and Lily and Lanya, which was delightful fun and I want to see them all of the time and then more than that. 

I got my first paycheck from my new job and checked out a bunch of exciting books from the library. The new job is pretty delightful; it's just what I wanted it to be, and I really like all my coworkers, and the patrons.  I have a LOT to learn, and there are a lot of personalities there, but I feel like I'm in a good place where my skills will fit very nicely.

A good week for me. Time to knuckle down on the holidays, though!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Something on Sunday, 12/1

Okay, so I failed at my resolution to write a review this week, but it's a new month and I have high hopes for myself.  I've been pretty bored by my own writing lately--I feel like the spark is gone.  I just kind of ramble.  I guess I've been reading without really thinking about it very much lately. Not sure how to shake that off--I'm not sure "be funny and lighthearted" is something you can brute force. Advice welcome.

But, as for some things to be happy about this week: there are many.

1) Started my new job.  I work in a library! And it's lovely!  I still feel like a foolish simpleton because I can't do three things at once, but I know I'll learn, so that's okay.  Which is weird on its own; usually I feel like I'll NEVER learn and everything is HOPELESS. But I really like some of my new coworkers, which is just lovely.

2) Adam's ninth birthday party was today, and I think the kids had fun, and I know we all made it through alive.  Plus, hours spent cleaning ahead of the party and the house actually looks pretty nice after sweeping up all the popcorn and crumbs.

3) Hugely successful book sale yesterday; go Friends of the MPL!  It was fun and relaxing and so nice to just chill with Tamar and Sarah and Jan, help folks out, be in my place with my people doing my thing. 

4) It is an incredible month for fanfiction; I am following new fics that are posting weekly on all different days so my list is PACKED, and I'm so enjoying chatting with some authors I love on a forum and it just makes me feel love for the world.

There's so much more--a friend is in town for THREE WEEKS, which will be amazing, and my sister's coming to help me purge the craft cabinet this week, which gives me hope for my future.

And maybe this week I'll finally review a book or two!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Something on Sunday, 11/26

I have been lost in a private fog for weeks, but this is the week I emerge.  Non-optional; new job starts on Tuesday.

Per my normal system, I have been pretending it's not real and getting obsessed with a really inane video game, rather than using my free time to catch up on actual things I mean to be doing, like blogging, or taking a yoga class, or certain more time consuming forms of shopping.

But soon life will have structure again, and I'll be an official Library Employee, and I'll be able to manage my time better, I'm sure of it.

So that's my something this week; new job, new plan, new goals and ambitions. In honor of this, a statement of intent: I will post one book-related blog post this week.

You heard it here first!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Something on Sunday, 11/19

Sunday again! If this is to be my only blogging habit, then let's do our best to at least maintain it, shall we?

As the Sunday before Thanksgiving, it was officially Cider Day, and we spent the day at the farm pressing cider and eating donuts and gazing upon the miracle of the loaves and the crock pots.  I brought the rolls, so I knew there would be more than enough, but lo, there were crock pots by the dozens, and though more and more guests did arrive, still there was chili and macaroni and cheese for all.

(Seriously, it was a potluck, but we were starting from the baseline of the 10 crock pots my sister owns herself.  Literally ten.  And she uses them, regularly.  It's amazing.)

It rained, but this is what greenhouses are for (in the fall, when they are empty.  There is lots of delicious cider, Mike's family came up for the weekend, my mom's recovering very nicely from her knee replacement, and all's right with the world.  If I can eventually shake this cough, we'll all be golden.

(You know, in fiction, mentioning my cough at the end of an otherwise positive blog post would mean that I had the tuberculosis and was probably doomed.  Luckily it's real life and I will eventually recover from the head cold that wouldn't die.  NOTHING OMINOUS TO SEE HERE, FOLKS.)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Something on Sunday, 11/12

All my good things happened last weekend, which made it such a busy weekend that I didn't even post.  So, Sunday Something rollover!

First, our annual Friends of the Library meeting went swimmingly--the mayor, the trustees, several city council members, fun times, good mingling, yummy food, a good time was had by all.  That party stresses me through the roof (will they have fun? oh please let them have fun!) so I'm blissed out that this happened.

Second, after not hearing back and pretty much giving up, I got offered the job I really, really wanted.  I'm going to be a librarian! Well, a circulation assistant, anyway.  I'm going to work in a public library, checking out your books! 

This is the beginning of a big dream, and I'm hoping at some point I'll go back to school and other things will happen.  But for right now, I have a part time job, just the right number of hours, 10 minutes from my house (with traffic), at the library that I called home for almost 10 years.  I am through the roof!

I have also been reading some great books (at least in October; November has been mostly fanfiction), and I hope to get back to posting reviews very soon. And though NaNoWriMo didn't happen for me due to lack of preparation and a terrible cold, I am feeling pretty all right about life right now.

Happy Sunday to you all!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Something on Sunday, 10/29

I keep thinking I'll be back to blogging on the regular and I truly will.

But for today's Something on Sunday, I want to talk about two amazing plays that I've seen in the past two weeks.

I saw the Broadway in Boston touring cast of the musical Fun Home, based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. It was gorgeous, and such a pleasure!  I didn't actually love the comic when I read it years ago; the collection of scenes from the author's uncomfortable childhood didn't try to come together as a story, or even as portraits exactly. The book almost deliberately refused to draw conclusions, only presented things as they occurred.

The play, though, focused on the throughline of comparing her experience with her father's, and examining her father's character.  It added charm and humanity that the book often lacked--even in the happiest moments of the book, no one smiles--probably because in real life, they did not.

The score breaks down the emotional complexities and gives her father's character an inner life that is invaluable in this story.  I tried listening to it before I went and I couldn't click with it--there are large chunks of dialogue on the cast album, and out of context they didn't catch me.  But now that I've seen it, I listen over and over again.  It's sweet and sad and funny (go listen to Changing My Major!) and I loved it a lot.

The other show I saw was a premiere of a new play called A Guide for the Homesick, by Ken Urban.  It wouldn't have crossed my radar, but the playwright was Lily's professor in college, so we decided to go.  All I knew was that it was about two men who meet at a hotel in Amsterdam; one is on vacation, the other on his way home from working in Africa. A tense encounter, etc. 

Two guys talking in a room is always the kind of description that makes me nervous--are we just going to learn about their souls and nothing will happen?  But no, a lot happened, and in the best way. It was tragic and horrible and I loved--LOVED--every character.  The acting was incredible; the character switching that was required was intense and done flawlessly.  There was a lot of darkness, but there was also a lot of connecting, and healing. 

I don't know, there are a lot of reveals and I hope this becomes a famous play that you'll all see someday, so I don't want to spoil anything.  And if you're in Boston, you have another week to see it--you should, go, do that ASAP (the Huntington, at the BCA).  But I think what made it amazing is that the playwright is so deft--there are moments that feel kind of like, ugh, theatrical device--in real life the guy who says "maybe I should go now" would just actually leave the room, but it's a play that won't happen unless he stays, so he does.  But as the story unfolds, you realize, no, this is EXACTLY what this character would do--this is him.  There is nothing forced about this.

It was so damned good, and such a wonderful surprise.  God, I love good theater.