The Light Fantastic (Discworld #2)

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The Colour of Magic (Discworld #1)

One-hundred and eighty nine pages are all that make up this second installment of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and so as a palate cleanser after reading the giant tome The Name of the Wind, I picked it up ahead of starting the next whopper of a book, Children of Blood and Bone. Spoiler alert, I ended up reading Children of Blood and Bone first, but here we are.

I have never done any kind of drugs. Not even cigarettes. Considering that I grew up in extremely rural Maine where I have memories of at least two marijuana busts in mine and the neighboring towns and at least 4 of my family members smoked around me, this is a minor Christmas miracle.

Keep that in mind when I say that The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic are each what I imagine it would be like to be so high on cocaine that you create your own reality. These books move so fast and are so random-yet-well-planned that I can only conclude that Terry Pratchett was either VERY HIGH ON SOMETHING when he wrote them (i.e. Aaron Sorkin and the first 2 seasons of The West Wing) or he is a fucking genius.

Reading this book was like being spun around on a tire swing, then brought to an abrupt stop, forcing me to attempt to stay still until the world around me stops spinning.

Reading this book was like having one too many cups of coffee and then getting REALLY PRODUCTIVE.

It’s a bunch of non-sequiturs that magically come together to form a cohesive story that is only 180 pages long. You are taking a hilarious, weird, fantasy drag off of Pratchett’s mind joint and you will enjoy every moment.

 

 

52 in 52: Buy A New Candle

As previously outlined in the first 52 in 52 we got rid of a bunch of our Yankee Candles that we either don’t like the smell of or burned down to the nub. Some of those were actual favorites so I took advantage of a 2 for $35 sale on Yankee Candle’s website and got a few new things.

Christmas Cookie – you can pry this frosting/cookie smell from my cold dead hands.

Pumpkin Pie – This is Thanksgiving in a jar. If you’re feeling cozy but don’t feel like cooking, light this candle up and smell pies.

Honeycrisp Apple Cider – Yankee Candle really excels with their apple-scented candles, but their newest scent incorporates the best apple and when I smelled it the first time I cried and got a lady boner. Combining the tartness of the queen of all apples with the spices and smoothness of cider creates a candle that will make you believe it’s fall right in your home!

An extra bonus was that if you spent $50 you got a Mother’s Day tote with a bunch of goodies in it for only like $20, so I picked that up too. Because you know…tote bags!

All told with the sales I caught I got $184 worth of stuff for about $70. I’m not the kind of person to shop sales just to get the bargain, running the risk of buying something I don’t really need, so I’m proud that I was able to get stuff I actually wanted while enjoying the rush of saving money too.

Next week the husband and I have to venture out on Saturday and on the way home I’m going to (#10) get my car washed! You’ll be introduced to Chiquita, my 12-year-old Nissan X-Terra.

Have a great weekend!

 

Angry Angel Pet Report

Just wanted to pop in and raise your blood pressure on this new horror that has entered our reality. Apparently Good Morning Britain aired a story about a “debate” concerning dog vaccination and canine autism. AND PEOPLE BELIEVE IT. Google “canine autism.” I’ll wait.

Today The New York Times posted an article that states that dogs can’t get autism, never mind that THIS FUCKING ISSUE HAS BEEN PROVEN FALSE IN HUMANS AND YET PEOPLE STILL DON’T GET VACCINATED. The last thing we need is a bunch of unvaccinated dogs running around because their owners think that they could become autistic. VACCINES DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM. PERIOD.

This is a prime example of something that is treated as a debate but should not be. You should vaccinate your pets. You should vaccinate your kids. Herd immunity is how we stay alive and hold highly destructive illnesses and diseases at bay. This shouldn’t be a discussion, but every time some morning show or talking head on a 24 hour news network invites someone “on the other side of the issue” to talk, it lends credence to an opinion that should not be given the time of day. It’s fucking irresponsible.

This has been an exhausting week and I am looking forward to seeing Avengers: Infinity War this weekend, if only to watch an entirely different Earth get destroyed and imagine that my own reality is better than that where Thanos might come and “balance” me out. Those creatures in Wakanda look like rabid dogs though, so maybe that reality isn’t too far off.

Have a good weekend! LOL *sob*

 

 

Without You

Medium recently ran an essay series called Unruly Bodies, led and curated by Roxane Gay. I read a few of them (you can find the series here) but the final essay by Gay herself clocked me right in the kisser.

The Body That Understands What Fullness Is is Gay’s announcement that she has had weight loss surgery, and outlines the events leading up to her decision to do so, and the feelings and complications that have occurred since. As a leader of the fat acceptance and body positivity movement, Gay explains that this decision was particularly difficult to make, fearing backlash from this community.

The part that would make this especially difficult is the fact that she has written about how food has been her comfort and companion in her journey to overcome the trauma she has experienced. Any coping mechanism can be both helpful and harmful, and difficult to part with when the time has come to move forward. Her descriptions of working with a therapist and finding a way to fill the emptiness inside her now that food cannot physically do it just moved my entire heart. What a deep and important question to attempt to answer after 30 years. It is an answer that takes hard work and reconstruction – two things that are tough to conjure after having life and body altering surgery.

Who am I if I am not fat? Who will I be? Who will I be in the world without all of these things I have learned to live with and accommodate for?

Change is scary. It is always easier to be something we have been than it is to become something different. Redefinition is always significantly more work than reiteration. Re-branding costs money and time and energy. Also the idea of sunk costs usually creeps in too, both money and time invested that, with the change, would theoretically become “wasted.” The familiar is almost always less expensive than the unknown. The unknown requires bravery, courage, and at least a little bit of savings or support from family and friends to explore.

The central question becomes: Who am I if I am not who I think I am? Who am I if I stop becoming who I thought I was? We become a stranger to ourselves, and getting to know a new us is just another stressor in a world where self-esteem and self-care are already difficult enough to come by. But every person has their breaking point, no matter the situation. It seems as if Roxane has found hers and is taking on the work of recreating and rediscovering herself.

What is your harmful familiar situation? Are you thinking of change and transformation? What would your breaking point be?

Think about it.

PS: Roxane has been a strong and important voice behind fat acceptance and body positivity, and she writes about fearing the disappointment of that community, that they might feel betrayed.

I feel like the body positivity movement has to be more than just about being fat, it has to be about everyone being able to choose what’s best for their own bodies and about the expansion of the definitions of beautiful and “acceptable” when it comes to any body. Much like feminism is about equality across the board, this has to be across the board too.

I didn’t feel betrayed. I felt proud. She made a difficult decision, but she made the choice because it was best for her. Isn’t that the point?

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1)

Children of blood and bone

As a fan of Leigh Bardugo, I began reading this novel already familiar with the idea of a persecuted magical population. The basic story is this: the evil king murders the maji (full magical beings) and finds a way to keep diviners from maturing into maji. So it’s been some time since magic even existed at all.

There are four major characters, all teens and tweens: Inan, Amari, Zelie, and Tzain. Inan and Amari are the prince and princess, Zelie and Tzain are children of a murdered Reaper maji and live with their father in squalor. When Zelie goes to the capital city to sell fish and is bombarded by a thief trying to escape the palace guards (think Jasmine in Aladdin – in disguise) she and Tzain find themselves in possession of the princess Amari as well as an ancient scroll that causes any diviner that touches it to gain their magic back instantly.

In pursuit of Amari and her newfound friends is her brother Inan, who is a very angry young man who is hellbent on gaining his father’s approval and leading a strong and magic-less kingdom. His constant mantra through the first half of the book is “kill the girl, kill magic” – referring to Zelie, who appears in his dreams and who he can literally smell. He calls her soul “sea-salt scented.”

So anyways the trio is on the run and they come across an old maji at a temple who explains that they hold the key to restoring magic to the lands forever. All they need is the scroll that they already have, a bone knife, and a sunstone. Those three relics and someone to perform the ritual will give magic back to all from whom it was stolen by the king. But they must complete the ritual by the next moon phase, which only gives them like 8 days or something like that. That becomes their mission as they continue to try to outrun Inan and his soldiers.

That’s the basic idea of the story. Now I’m about to give a few spoiler-ish things that I found troubling about the book and that knocked me out of the story.

Love stories
Why is everything a love story? Why is that necessary? And not only that, why do we feel like we have to be in such an all-fired rush as to make people fall in love with each other in less than an hour? And, specific to this book, how am I supposed to believe that Inan, who is all about murdering Zelie, is somehow all of a sudden sympathetic to her pain AND wanting to bone her? This gave me such whiplash that I didn’t just distrust the characters, I lost faith in the story.

It reminded me of the Avatar: The Last Airbender (the Nickelodeon cartoon series NOT the terrible live-action movie) where Zuko is the fire nation prince that hunts Aang, Katara, and Sokka down to murderize them to retain the fire-nation’s hold over everyone and prevent Aang from becoming the Avatar, the being that can wield all 4 elements and take down anyone who is evil. It would make ZERO SENSE if Zuko IMMEDIATELY caught up to them and suddenly wanted to help. The cartoon sends him through a redemption arc separate from the good guys, giving us time to understand him as a more complex character, which makes his gradual acceptance into the group later more palatable.

Inan literally burns down Zelie’s and Tzain’s ENTIRE VILLAGE and then like 3 days later he’s in love with her and they’re making out hot and heavy against a tree during a festival that they stopped to waste a day at even though they are under a pretty intense deadline. This is a huge problem for me.

Party time!
There is a part of the story where the four main characters come across an oasis of magi/diviners. They are under a HUGE time crunch to complete this magic restoration ritual in like 3 days but they stop to help the group of magi throw a big party. They stay and get all dressed up and there are a couple of pages just about make up and hair styles and…well it just wasn’t believable to me. Unless it is a trap of some kind, these maji should have given them supplies and hurried them on their way and celebrated once magic was actually restored. Oh no the king’s soldiers caught up to us and captured us because we stopped running! I can’t believe it! *shocked face*

***

These two issues weren’t enough to stop me from reading through until the end, but they were enough for me to have an aversion to reading more of the series. Every so often I run up against YA novels or series that have this problem, and it’s one that I might not have cared about when I was younger, but is a huge hiccup for me now. I’m okay with drama, I’m okay with heated romance, but I need to believe why it’s there. If I don’t believe it, I don’t necessarily want to read it.

The magic system is interesting, but not original. The characters will feel like ones you’ve seen before. Honestly I was thinking the entire time “man I could put this down and read the Grisha trilogy or Six of Crows and get the same experience.”

What makes this book important and different is that it sets these familiar elements in entirely African characters and locations. In this book Yoruba is the language of magic. The gods that maji pray to are linked to African mysticism. So yes while the book may seem derivative, representation is important. Young black readers will be able to read this and see themselves as magical. They can find someone in this book to relate to or aspire to be or cosplay as. It is a connector to heritage and a conversation starter. This is perhaps its only redeeming quality: it takes existing content like the Grishaverse or Avatar: The Last Airbender, and writes the same story for a population underrepresented in popular culture.

Based on the non-enjoyable elements I described above, I personally would not recommend this book. It asks you to take too much for granted and I think that’s just asking too much when you are already operating in a fantasy realm.

 

Mailbox Part 2: The Clustering

Sunday the husband and I went to see another new construction subdivision. We called ahead and were assured that these homes would have individual mailboxes. Excited because they had some floorplans we really liked, we made our way north for a noon appointment.

The saleswoman, who seemed more interested in telling us how busy she was and how she was working all alone and that it was going to be “that kind of day,” informed us that there would be a cluster mailbox there as well. And because the universe has a gigantic sense of humor when it comes to my life, another person was there viewing the model home that works for a company that put in mailboxes, and explained to us that it is a federal mandate that new construction not have individual mailboxes.

An article from 2013 in the opinion section of CNN’s website talks about when the Post Office was figuring out how to cut costs. It appears as though the choice was between getting rid of Saturday delivery or eliminating house to house mail delivery for all future generations. Local developers could opt to contest the decision with the local postmasters, but apparently new homes lacking their own mailboxes have been a thing for the past 5 years.

And this doesn’t just affect us. Another article I unearthed brings to light the effects that this policy might have on the disabled and the elderly. The law states that mailbox clusters can be no more than a block away from the houses that it serves, but what if you couldn’t walk all the way there? What if a mailbox cluster is not accessible? How does a federal mandate about mailboxes jive with federal law against discriminating against people based on age or disability?

My increased understanding has only increased my anger. The “greatest generation” has benefited from retirement plans, affordable homes, social security, medicare, among other things, and come to find out that as our society declines the simple convenience of mail coming to my house is now also beyond my reach. And yet I am the whining millennial, the spoiled brat, expecting that everything be handed to me. You know what? Yes. I expect that my mail come to a box at the curb of my residence. IT IS THE LEAST I EXPECT FROM A HOME THAT I OWN.

Now I know that I can add “individual mailboxes for single family homes” to the list of shit that should be a given, a right, something all people should have, but somehow don’t get to have in this After Times garbagescape that we inhabit. No thing is too small apparently, to be taken from us and our children. It’s like an endless chain of “well at least it’s not…” At least I can still have my own home. At least it’s only a duplex. At least I get an apartment for just my family. At least I only have to share this home with one other family….and on and on. All in the name of cost cutting and saving money for…well, someone.

Since 2013 we have elected Trump. Flint, Michigan still can’t drink their water. Our EPA is working actively against its mandate, allowing for the poisoning of our land, waters, and air.

It’s funny how it starts with the little things during times of safety. Stuff that slips under the radar, that seems helpful. Then again, a frog in cold water never suspects being boiled alive if the heat is turned up slowly enough.

Until it’s too late.

On Writing

On writing

Since NaNoWriMo 2017, I have had a story knocking around in my mind. I can see it. I dream about it. Unfortunately every day I’m too tired to sit down in the evenings to write more of it. But it’s still there. This summer my plan is to set a daily word count goal and hit it while I have the time and energy to get it down on paper. Before then I wanted to read about writing, to get an idea of process and motivation, and the first little book on the docket was On Writing, Stephen King’s 2000 memoir about the craft.

Reading about King’s lower middle class upbringing brought me back to my roots. Granted I didn’t grow up in the 40s and 50s, but Maine is slow to change and so some of the conditions he describes are still familiar to me. Reading about the University of Maine Orono and teaching in Hermon brought me back to my own college days. Reading about his journey was like traveling back in time, back to Maine, back to my childhood. I devoured that part of book with the excitement that accompanies recognition. I know those places! I know those things!

His personal story includes his change in fortune with the successful sale of his first novel, Carrie. Following this we take a short journey through his battle with addiction to drugs and alcohol, and then through to sobriety and how he discovered that writing doesn’t require outside influences, that it’s always inside you. I know it sounds a little woo-woo, but the way he wrote about it makes you believe that it is 100% true. His struggle back to health and writing after being hit by a speeding van is a story most Mainers are familiar with, but hearing it straight from King brought it to the present again. It was difficult to read.

I enjoyed his personal history just as much as his advice on writing, which begins about a third of the way in. His writer’s toolbox containing grammar, vocabulary, style is individual to each person and shouldn’t be used to shame others. He implores us to avoid passive tense and adverbs. And perhaps the most important advice of all for me is to have a set routine so that I always write at the same time every day, and always until a word count is met. Not only this, but also that I should be in a room with a door that I am my family are comfortable with me shutting to show I am serious about working on writing.

I was given a gift by this book, and that gift was permission to write a book even though I don’t have an MFA or even a degree in English. I can be a teacher and a reader and a writer and as long as I take the time to write and am open to the editing process, this could happen for me. I just have to tell a good story. More importantly, I have to tell the truth. When I closed On Writing, a light had been turned up to 100% brightness inside me and my characters roared even louder, demanding to be brought to life.

Hold on guys, the summer is almost here.