October 2018 Reads!

I don’t know if it’s the chill in the air now that October is at its close or the fact that the holidays are fast approaching, but I have been reading voraciously the last couple weeks. It’s been a while since I’ve flipped through so many books in such a short time, and I have thoroughly enjoyed myself. Part of that is getting back in touch with my roots as a reader, which feels like something I’ve drifted from as streaming services have gotten better and I’ve gotten more and more addicted to my phone. But this month, I think it mostly had to do with the fact that everything I read was absolutely delicious.

The first book I picked up this month was The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare. Tessa Dare is hands down my absolute favorite romance writer. Her plots are always a fun ride, and I always find myself laughing and squealing out loud when I read any of her books. The Duchess Deal was no exception. The heroine, Emma, is brash and strong-willed, but still feels very human and grounded. The hero, Ash, is harsh yet seductive. It’s a bit of a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, mixed with the classic marriage of convenience trope. Though I can’t say it’s my favorite of her books–that honor goes to A Week to Be Wicked–I really enjoyed the characters and plot. It’s a Regency romance, but it grapples with issues that have been centered in our own time by #MeToo. All in all, it’s a really fun read perfect for anyone ready to settle down with a fun, light romance.

Of course, I couldn’t keep things fun and light for long. I crave intensity and dark stories, especially this time of year. Fortunately, I found a copy of World War Z at the library last Sunday. It’s been on my list for months, but there was never a copy at my library branch, so I always ended up picking up other things. Which was probably a good thing, because I basically did nothing for the next couple days besides hurtle my way through it. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I found it riveting. I love post-apocalyptic media, but the angle Max Brooks takes in World War Z is decidedly different. First off, the story is told in the form of interviews with survivors. Some have said that this defangs the story a bit–why would I be worried about these characters when I know these are the people who made it?–and I don’t entirely disagree. Still, to me, World War Z was less of a zombie novel and more of a dissection of inter- and intranational politics, human nature, and how governments and individuals react to pandemics and disasters. If you’re looking for a classic zombie story that focuses more on individuals or a small group, you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re interested in reading more about a global response to a zombie apocalypse and the ways that society breaks apart and comes back together, I have a feeling you’ll be very satisfied.

After World War Z, I shifted back into lighthearted territory with Tony Cliff’s graphic novel Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant. Delilah Dirk is a fascinating (and dangerous) woman living in the earlier part of the 19th century. She’s a thief who is constantly getting into wild shenanigans that involve exploding buildings and fast escapes, sometimes on horseback, and other times on her boat… which can fly. This is the kind of graphic novel I wish I’d been able to read when I was younger. Now, I read it and think, “God, I would love to write something like this.” It’s a fun ride with amazing art and lots of great banter. I found myself laughing aloud more than once. Delilah is dashing from the start and you can’t help but love her. Selim, the titular Turkish lieutenant, makes for an excellent straight man and traveling companion for Delilah. This is the first of the Delilah Dirk books and I’m definitely going to be picking up the rest.

Of course, my reading binge isn’t about to stop any time soon. I just started Dietland, which I’m super excited about. Books with fat protagonists who take no shit? Count me in. I’ve also put a few books on hold at the library that I’ve been seeing people talking about nonstop on Twitter. Both Jeannette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun and Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand seem like they’re going to be stellar reads with fresh takes on the fantasy genre. I also put Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway on hold, which should be a nice dive back into sci-fi. I’m also looking to explore more solarpunk fiction. My library doesn’t have a whole lot on hand since the genre is still so new, but I put in a bunch of requests and am hoping I’ll get to read them soon. I would love to hear recommendations from anyone else interested in the genre!

But enough about me. What have y’all been reading lately?

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#Preptober Continues!

There are twenty-two days left until NaNoWriMo. I’m getting a little more scared, but also way more psyched up. My boyfriend and my dad have both decided to participate, which is exciting. I’ve never really done NaNo with anybody besides me, myself, and I. I’m also going to be living in the city while really-for-real-not-quitting-after-three-days participating, which is also awesome. I’m a Real Adult now and the idea of going to write-ins or other local NaNo events isn’t completely scary now. I’m also doing some NaNo-related stuff for work, which means I’m thinking about NaNo all the time instead of just when I’m in productive leisure mode (the rarest mode of them all).

The most exciting piece of prep I’ve done so far this month has been writing a synopsis for my novel. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, considering that I haven’t been 100% sure what my story was even really going to be about. But I tried to treat it like I used to treat thesis statements in my college essays. It’s a possible roadmap for where I’m going that will get me asking the right questions, but I may go down a back road and find something totally unexpected but way better than what I started with. I may end up writing something entirely unrelated to the synopsis/thesis and end up having to rethink it altogether. And that’s fine. The point is that I have a starting point and have told myself what direction to start going in.

Here’s the synopsis so far:

 

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Add me as a Writing Buddy on NaNoWriMo.org! My author name/username is missbluestocking.

 

In writing just those first few hundred words, I learned some new things. The city people are definitely going to be some of the main antagonists in this story, but I didn’t have a fully realized idea of how that would happen. I still think I need to rework some of my ideas about them. Like, for example, I don’t necessarily want to write a story where violence is the answer/the main conflict. But the premise I’ve given myself leans that way. So my current options are: 1) continue with this premise and then subvert the violence paradigm by having Masha always choose nonviolence and use more creative problem-solving, or, 2) change up my premise and have the issue be more internal. The girl that Masha picks up – she’s damaged. She’s been stewing in a deeply toxic ideology for a long time. Maybe that girl causes problems because her social training just doesn’t work in a society so radically different from hers. Maybe she tries to apply city rules to the community she moves into and it causes conflict.

It’s an interesting choice to make. I’m not entirely sure how I want to go about it. I have this idea of what I want this book to be, what I want it to say and mean, but I haven’t yet figured out how to get there. I’m really happy I’m already thinking about these questions, though. This story has been rattling around in my brain for months, but this is the first time I’ve actually really put pen to paper and done anything real with it. I definitely think that that’s worth doing before November 1st, especially if you’re a Planner rather than a Pantser. (That is, if you prefer to plan ahead for your novel rather than flying by the seat of your pants.)

I still have a lot of questions that I need to ask myself in the next few weeks, but I feel really happy about where I’m at right now. Definitely feeling more confident in my ability to finish this year than I have ever felt before.

How are you preparing for NaNo? Are you a Planner or a Pantser? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

To Walk Invisible

to walk invisible

Last night, I finally got the chance to finish up To Walk Invisible: The Lives of the Brontë Sisters. It’s a two-episode miniseries put out by Masterpiece and the BBC that mostly focuses on the adult lives of the three Brontë sisters, particularly their relationship with their brother Branwell.

I’m going to say this up front so that I can focus on other things later on: I really loved it. It is extremely rare for me to be able to watch anything without messing with my phone or knitting or whatever. I was absolutely glued to the screen. It was beautiful to look at, and I felt like each actor inhabited their role completely.

That said, I feel like this would be a difficult movie for someone who is not slightly Brontë-obsessed to watch. Had I watched it a year ago, before taking a class on the trio of sisters, I would’ve been pretty lost. Now that I have that semester-long class (which thankfully included lots of biographical information and reading of the Brontës’ juvenilia) under my belt, it felt more like getting to visit old friends. The film spends a decent amount of time on the Brontës as children, particularly the fantasy world of Gondal that they all wrote about as children. The miniseries throws you right into the children’s imaginary world with no explanation, and without knowing that the Brontë kids were adorably creative and made up an entire fictional universe that they used to write stories and poems and use while they played, it’s a confusing place to start. Fortunately, because of the time I spent in my aforementioned class on the Brontës, I knew what was going on, and I felt this intense rush of recognition and joy at seeing the young Brontës.  It’s an important piece of them that makes them feel more real and human to me.

I also felt that the focus on Branwell, the only brother in the Brontë household, was sort of odd. I understood to some degree why he was the center of everything in the series, because he shows up in other forms so often in his sisters’ works. However, it often meant that time was taken away from the sisters and what they were doing. Branwell is an important piece of the puzzle but I would have preferred to hear the sisters discussing him more rather than seeing him slip deeper and deeper into alcoholism and illness.

Also, I had one petty complaint: Patrick Brontë, played by Jonathan Pryce (who is always a joy to watch, just as he was in this film), sounded far too British. I was looking forward to hearing a Reverend Brontë with a thick Irish brogue. Unfortunately, they decided to go a different route and have Pryce sound much as he always does.

Aside from those few things, though, I can’t say enough about the film. When the film began its final scene with the death of Branwell and transitioned to shots of Haworth Parsonage, where the Brontë family lived, as a museum crowded with people excited to see the space that Charlotte and Emily and Anne lived in, I started sobbing. It’s silly, but I just felt so proud that these sisters had made it. Charlotte, of course, was celebrated in her time, but nothing like the kind of veneration the Brontë sisters receive today. Seeing a gift shop filled with books written by and about the three sisters and people who looked like they were from all over the world poring over them was… something. Something good. The shot of the statue that stands at Haworth of the three sisters, and then the transition to the actresses who played them standing out on the moors and looking every bit the happy trio was one of the most moving things I’d ever seen. I felt such a strong sense of how much they’d overcome to be the staples of English literature they are today. It felt like they’d won on my behalf, somehow. They wrote these wonderful books that have become my touchstones, and they cleared the way for female writers and intellectuals like I fancy myself to be.

So, if you’re a diehard Brontë sisters fan, this is definitely a movie you should see. If you like Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights or are some mysterious individual who is really into The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (please get in contact if you are, I have lots of questions for you) but haven’t delved deep into the Brontë Mythos, I definitely think it’s still worth watching, even if there’s parts of it that aren’t readily accessible. To Walk Invisible is definitely one of my new favorites.