Circe 🍍

What is the journey of  a woman? If you had to make a list of the lessons a woman must learn as she travels through life, what would you include. I would suggest that you look no further than Circe by Madeline Miller for your guidance.

How do we, as women, leave the house of our father, of our mother, and find strength in solitude? The act of redefining ourselves simply as ourselves is no small feat. Our entire childhood is influenced and controlled by those who chose to bring us into this world. We believe what we are told to believe, what we see around us, what we hear and see and feel. Those moments where we are separate give us the opportunity to explore what we know and compare it to what is real.

But sometimes in that exploration, naivete can be dangerous. If we come to the world too trusting, or not trusting enough, balancing is necessary. Such balancing can be harmful, and we must add coping with tragedy, abuse, or rape, either of our minds or bodies, to our journey of self-definition.

We use others as mirrors. Is this who I want to be? What does being like this person feel like? Relationships with others allow us to put on costumes and outfits that others wear to see if we can use their definition as a piece of ours, and in the process we become other people instead of being ourselves. It’s like a thrift store or a patchwork quilt that we make for ourselves. Keeping the things we enjoy, and leaving the bad pieces behind.

Once we have shed the skin of our family and decided we can not be anyone else, our mind opens to what we truly want, who we truly are, and if we are very lucky we get the chance to make the choice to become that person we were becoming all along. We get the chance to choose to be ourselves.

It’s worth mentioning that The Song of Achilles was one of the most moving books I have ever read. I knew the myth and the stories but to hear it told through the eyes of Patroclus, Achilles’ lover, was a balm to my spirit and a soft hand on my soul. Having now added the experience of Circe to my reading I find myself in the position to demand at least fifty more myths retold by Madeline Miller. If each one sings to my heart as these two have, I will read them all, and gladly.

Please go and read Circe. Especially if you are a woman. Especially if you have had a difficult road. Especially if you’ve found your way back to yourself. You will absolutely love this literary, mythical journey.

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The Dreamers

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker was provided to me as an advanced digital review copy by Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley.

Many novels like to explore the aftermath of a pandemic or a natural disaster, often from the point in time where everything normal takes a hard right onto survival street. The tension is in the survival, the alliances, whether or not a decision will turn out okay or spell disaster for the decider.

I would argue that true tension lies in the onset of a disaster: patients zero-ten, the 10-day weather forecast, the detection of the distant meteor – and watch ’em scramble like eggs in a pan. Is there enough water? Can we get out of town? Can we defend ourselves? Have I been exposed? Oh man yes, this is the thriller I ordered, now don’t forget to refill my breadbasket.

I have never read a normal length book this fast. From the moment the girls in the dorm start falling and staying asleep I was locked into this story to find out how far the sickness would spread, whether it would be contained, and how it would all turn out. Babies, adults, children, college professors, all will fall to the airborne virus that makes you fall asleep and dream really fucked up dreams that might be windows into the past, reflections of the present or *gasp* predictions of actual or alternate futures.

The best part of the book is when the sickness is spreading and you don’t know how far it will spread or whether the people infected will ever wake up. They are all alive and dreaming, and they keep flying in people to help take care of all these sleeping people, and those volunteers then fall victim to the sickness. I was shocked/not shocked at how long it took them to accept the reality that something was wrong and lock that town down. Kids were trick or treating even after many people had already fallen ill. WOW.

Which leads me to my major critique, which is that all this build up leads…nowhere. I was on the edge of my seat, until I wasn’t. The crisis builds and builds, but then there is very little payoff for it. A few people die, but for the most part everything goes back to normal with some psychological after affects for the dreamers to deal with. Oh, their dreams were so real that it was like they lived another life so they were sad when they woke up and found that they had a different life? BOO HOO PUT ON YOUR BIG GIRL PANTS – that’s what waking up every day is like. The ‘getting to sleep for three weeks’ part of it all is a fucking benefit if you ask me. Sign me up for the sleeping plague.

You should read this book. The escalation was enjoyable enough reason to do it, just know that you’ll feel just a little empty at the end because your thirst for disaster and suffering will not have been quenched. I’m not sure how that’s possible in 2019, but Karen Thompson Walker has achieved it.

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LEIGH BARDUGO ALERT

Oh my god.

I am so excited right now I can’t even.

THERE IS GOING TO BE A NETFLIX SERIES BASED ON SHADOW AND BONE.

SOMEONE HELP WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS MUCH EXCITEMENT AND HAPPINESS???

Read about the show!

Leigh Bardugo is one of like 3 authors that I would preorder without worry. 100% support. If you like fantasy – magic, intrigue, politics, mystery – you MUST read her books. All reviews are linked to the covers.

shadow-and-bone siege_and_storm ruin

six-of-crows crooked kingdom

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Truthwitch (Witchlands #1)

Susan Dennard is one of the most amazing writers I have had the ability to follow and interact with on Twitter. Her newsletter (which I need to subscribe to this year) provides publishing and writing advice to the community and her online persona is warm and helpful. She’s the kind of person who, when people fuck with her, I want to queue up to avenge her.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to begin reading her Witchlands series, but with the third full installment of the series releasing in February, I figured I would try them out.

Truthwitch is a book that is a masterclass in character development and investment. It took exactly one paragraph for me to ride or die for Safi and Iseult, the Threadsisters and witches that are troublemakers that can’t help but step in it, but when they do they are always there to support each other and get out of whatever trouble they are in together.

It would have been so easy for Dennard to have given me long chapters about how this universe works – the myriad of witch types and the powers they wield are vast and far-reaching – as well as the politics of the different regions – they are reaching an end to a 20 year worldwide truce that has several long-reaching consequences across all lands – BUT SHE DOESN’T. And its absence is almost as magical as her storytelling.

We are exposed to the aspects of the Witchlands universe as our characters interact with them. Witches can cleave, which is basically their magic being overused and turning them into elemental bombs, but we don’t get a long explanation about how that happens, we see Safi and Iseult (and Merik, the prince from the water region) encountering a cleaved Tidewitch right at the start. We’re immediately exposed to this danger, we learn how it is typically dealt with, and we get a foreshadowing about Iseult in the process.

I think this is YA(?) but it has one of the major strengths that I love in a well written YA, which is that you forget how old the characters are. It’s part of what makes all of Leigh Bardugo’s work so genius – the kids are all 16 and 17 but you forget and the story is so epic that you read it as though you’re reading about adults.

You never get kicked out of the action, the forward motion of the story, in order to learn things. Right from the first chapter you will care about the characters, and the claws which Dennard will have sunk into you will pull you through the story at a breakneck pace; you will be sad to ever have to put it down to eat, work, or sleep.

I have very few critiques for this one. I felt like a LOT was thrown into the first book, almost too much for me to keep track of and I had so many questions about the world that a little bit of exposition wouldn’t have hurt things too much. I am hopeful that the sequel, Windwitch, will stretch things out a bit to give depth to the breadth of Truthwitch.

The romantic moments between Safi and Merik will seem eerily familiar if you enjoyed the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy by Sarah J. Maas. The acknowledgements show that Dennard and Maas are very good friends, with Maas reading and commenting on the work in progress. Another echoing theme from Maas’ books here in Dennard’s Truthwitch is the “everything is my fault, I feel so much guilt because if I’d only never been born…” kind of stuff. It’s not there a lot, but when it was I rolled my eyes and just kept reading.  I’m fine with this as long as the future books don’t involve the word mate in reference to a partner or feasting in reference to oral pleasuring.

If you love fantasy, magic, mystical creatures, surprises, intrigue, and a little romance, then Truthwitch is a book you should pick up right away.

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Aquaman

aquaman

I don’t write a lot of movie reviews, mostly because going to the movies the way I like to go to the movies is a little more expensive than I would like, and so I see less movies than I might otherwise.

The husband is a big DC fan. We’ve seen all the newer Justice League efforts, some of which I have talked about here, and so it was a forgone conclusion that we would venture out from our winter den to see Jason Momoa swim around as Arthur Curry.

I’ll start with the negatives first. The CGI in this movie is aggressive. Everything was coated in a thin film of “this isn’t in any way real” which was understandable, yet distracting. Meera’s hair was comically red, when no one else was even close to that brash.

And could someone explain why Willem Dafoe was cast as Vulko?

vulko_003

A character almost exclusively drawn and portrayed as a larger, bald, hulking guy was given to a small, timid, thin Willem Dafoe? Who was in charge of this casting, because I have some questions.

vulko2      dafoe

He didn’t even have a beard in the movie, and he had a full head of hair. I am confusion.

There were also several slow motion sequences that really made my eyes roll. Slow motion sequences are for explosions. Period. Nothing else.

Other than that this movie was really fun. Jason Momoa is perfect in this role, and other than Dafoe’s casting, all the other characters were perfectly matched. I loved the backstory of his parents, and his dad was adorable (Jango Fett for all you nerd alerts out there). I wish more time had been spent with Atlantis’ history. I still have questions about how the technology they were exploring turned half their population into nightmares (CRAB PEOPLE) but others stayed looking like human bipeds.

The story takes place after the Justice League movie, so Arthur is already famous for his role in saving the world from the scary destiny boxes and the hair band, Steppenwolf. The plot was both lighthearted and intense – Arthur does not want to be king, but is willing to do it to save both the land and sea from the current king’s warmongering – and so he’s continually pressed along his journey, but along they way he interacts with his environment in a very frat-dude-bro way.

I’m sorry, I meant to put all the stuff I didn’t like back there at the beginning, but I have to talk a little bit about the weird (?)villain(?) that King Orm (Arthur’s little brother and the current king) hires to help him start his war against the land. At the very beginning of the movie Arthur saves a submarine full of sailors from a band of pirates that has attempted to take over the sub by shooting the captain. He gets into a fight with the father and son duo that led the pirates, and in the midst of that fight the dad gets caught under a torpedo. The son tries to free him and asks Arthur to have mercy, to which Arthur responds “you kill innocent people, ask the sea for mercy” and climbs out of the sub, leaving them struggling with the rising waters.

I’m not even going to google what this character’s name is, because he eventually becomes Black Manta and that’s all that really matters. My problem lies with the fact that IDGAF about this villain. He has no redeemable features. I don’t even care that he loses his dad because Arthur is 100% correct – they are asshole murderers who wouldn’t have been in that position if they hadn’t been actively trying to be asshole murderer pirates. He’s mad because he blames Arthur for his dad’s death, but that’s not enough for me to find him a compelling villain.

When I watched Black Panther, Killmonger was a villain that I cared about. He was a child whose father was killed due to a difference of opinion about how/whether Wakanda should help black people around the world. Killmonger was fighting to reclaim his birthright that was taken from him by a shady situation. He represented so much more than just his own circumstances. You could empathize with him.

Black Manta is just some snotty, dick kid wanting murder revenge for the death of his murderer father who died as a result of their decision to kill people and help set up a planetary war. They got what was coming to them. Also, in terms of plot, “HE KILLED MY DADDY, I’M GONNA KILL HIM!” is a motivation that is going to get really boring, really quickly. Not to mention that Arthur didn’t kill his dad, he just didn’t help them escape, which I get makes him a little responsible but *shrug*. I don’t read the comics, so I’m not sure whether he’s this petulant there. The husband had to tell me Dafoe’s casting was weird for me to get that, so maybe I’m missing the mark here too, but I don’t think I am.

And while we’re back on things I didn’t like, I am confused about where the makers of the movie think Maine is. Most of the action here takes place on the coast of Maine and yet Atlantis is…where? In the cold waters of the north Atlantic? Wasn’t Arthur in Alaska in Justice League? What were those accents the sailors on the submarine had? Geographically (and this is a small point, I grant you) this movie was all over the place. I know where Maine is, but I don’t think it was something the writers of this script knew.

One more thing – please stop rushing love stories. I didn’t need Mera and Arthur to be a thing in this movie. They didn’t need to kiss and to be honest there was very little chemistry between the two of them throughout the movie. The kiss at the end felt forced and unearned, and while I know they have to be together, it’s a connection that could have been left for a sequel to give the relationship time to build. I didn’t like that it just felt flung into the action because it had to be, not because it should be there.

I liked Aquaman better than Wonder Woman, Batman vs. Superman, and Justice League. I’m sure part of my enjoyment was that it was new to me and I got to enjoy an origin story I had not seen before. In the cartoons Aquaman always seemed like a wimpy, side character to me, so seeing him as a strong, funny, lead character was a nice change. I get who Aquaman is and what his history is and why he’s so grumpy and dumb. It was a fun movie and I’m looking forward to the Flash movie that I think is next. *grabby hands*

NOW GIVE ME A GOOD GREEN LANTERN MOVIE YOU COWARDS. PUT ON YOUR BIG BOY PANTS AND GET BACK OUT THERE AND MAKE ME A LANTERN MOVIE. I DEMAND IT!!

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Three Dark Crowns (TDK #1)

Three Dark Crowns

I have been waiting for my library to get a physical copy of this book for at least a year. They had the ebook but if I learned one thing about myself last year it’s that I don’t do well with ebooks. I download them and forget about them, and then I have the audacity to get angry when they aren’t available anymore. In my pre-2019 TBR searches I discovered that the book was finally available and grabbed it!

On a magical island surrounded by a mist that holds in magic, a Goddess provides magical powers to three populations. Poisoners can eat, make, and cure poisons and are very hard to kill. Elementals control water/fire/air/earth. Naturalists control plants and animals and are paired with animal familiars that reflect the strength of their power. One queen rules over them all with the help of the Black Council and the Temple of the Goddess. The queen chooses a king-consort, and when the Goddess sees the queen’s rule as finished the queen gives birth to a set of triplets and is forced to leave the island.

The triplets are raised together in a cottage on the island until they are 4 or 5, at which point they are sent to be fostered by the communities that match their given abilities. In this generation Katherine is the youngest and sent to live with the most influential poisoner family, the Arrons, who control the Black Council and have fostered the triplet who became queen for the last 100 years. Arsinoe is fostered by the naturalists and is friends with one of the most powerful naturalists ever born. Mirabella (the firstborn) is raised by the elementals who are in with the Temple and its priestesses, who are doing their best to be sure their triplet becomes queen and ends the century of poisoner rule. Once the triplets turn 16 they enter their ascension year, which is a year in which they display their powers to the entire kingdom and then proceed to kill each other.

Three queens enter. One queen leaves.

The political intrigue and the magical systems are very interesting. My questions about how and why this all works kept me reading to the very end. The fact that Blake doesn’t take a lot of time to give any backstory keeps the story moving, and we are given glimpses of history and tradition as the need arises, which leaves you with more questions than answers, but enough answers that you don’t get frustrated.

I loved this story from beginning to end. It hits the ground running and I kept asking “why is this happening???” or “OMG what will happen now???” and even though I kind of had an inkling about the big reveal at the end, it still felt powerful. The knowledge you end with is a magnificent cliffhanger that will have you clicking “Buy Now” on the next book.

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Resolutions 2019

For the past couple of years I haven’t really made traditional New Year’s resolutions. For me they do more harm than good when I don’t keep to them. This year I have some goals in mind, some that may take me the entire year to achieve, and writing them down will help me remember and stay focused.

I would like to continue the good exercise habits that I started in 2018. Both the husband and I have a gym membership, and on average we would go about 2-3 times per week. In December we even attempted to go every day from the 1st to the 24th, and although illness got in our way we went for 13 days straight. If I can do 13 days of treadmill in a row, I can do 2-3 days per week of treadmill with breaks in between, especially since the gym is right on my way home.

What I wear has expanded a bit with my increased cash on hand, and in 2019 I would like to explore more plus size options to find things that fit well and work for me. I am in love with my bootcut khakis from Old Navy and I’ll need to get a few more pair. My biggest clothing struggle is tops: I can’t wear the fun ones I like to work, but ladies tops fit me weird so I always default to men’s polo shirts of different colors. Maybe I can find some shirts that work for 2019.

My most ambitious goal is to keep work at work, and spend my time at home doing things I enjoy. Just before the winter break I began locking my work laptop up in my classroom instead of bringing it home, which made a huge difference. Most of the work stuff I do is available in the cloud so if I was really hooked on work-ahol I could log in from any computer, but my anxiety was getting so bad there in late November/early December that I listened to my body and decided to really cut things off when I leave for the day. I want to continue this habit into 2019.

For this website I want to just continue doing what I’ve been doing, but I’ll need to cut back on some of the rants and non-book essays. Technically I have the freedom to write whatever I want and have my own opinions, but the history of public education in this country is that it tends to require a more Puritanesque image from its teachers both on and off the clock. Even though it’s 2018 and my contract says I’m done at 2:30pm, kids and parents can still find me online, and what I do at 6:37pm on a Saturday evening can affect my work life because other people don’t understand boundaries and individual rights or that teachers are flesh and blood human beings with real lives that might involve politics and profanity.

I lost the goal in there – I think it was just to keep doing what I’m doing.

I am determined to finally meet my Goodreads challenge goal of 100 books read in a calendar year. The past couple of years I’ve made it into the 80s but this year I’m going to achieve that ultimate goal!

I’m going to finish my book. I really really really want to move on to the revising stage but I also want a complete first draft to pick apart. I’m working very hard to finish it up in this second week of my winter break, and if it doesn’t quite hit 100,000 words then that’s okay, as long as I feel like the story is complete.

I want to write another book this summer. Either book 2 of this series or another unrelated book. I have the best idea for an unrelated one but I don’t want to start it just yet. I already know that I can knock out around 60,000 words in about 8 weeks, so this summer I can’t wait to do the same thing.

Learning how to query and researching who to send my manuscript to will be a HUGE goal. I feel intimidated by this, but as long as I ask questions and know how to google it should come together.

The husband and I have also decided that as long as our landlord offers us renewal options, we’ll be staying in our current rental house for the next 2-3 years. With that in mind he and I have decided to rent a small storage unit and clear out our home to make it more livable in the long term. His office has been a glorified storage room that we want to clear out to make it a usable space. We’re going to go through our kitchen and get rid of the clutter that’s built up (all those extra mugs!). Plus, all the holiday decorations and things can be relocated from our closets to the storage unit so the closets can be used as intended.

I’ll be trying to improve on myself, my writing, my reading, and my home life this year. I wish you survival and happiness in 2019.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

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