Shirley

On Saturday, Shirley Jackson will have been dead for 50 years. (Next year will be her 100th birthday. She was 48 when she died.)

I may have mentioned once or twice that I am a bit of a fan. I spent the entirety of 1998 and 1999 collecting her mostly out-of-print (at the time) novels and short story collections.

(I never managed to get my hands on a copy of The Sundial, but it has been re-released so I suppose I might pick it up eventually. I’ve read it, because libraries, and it wasn’t my favorite of her books–which isn’t saying much since it’s still better than 99% of all other published fiction.)

Today is the release date of a collection of previously unpublished works, collected by two of her children (Laurie and Sally) from her archives in the Library of Congress.

I am not the only one who loves Shirley. I couldn’t be, though some small, immature part of me wishes I were.

This is what I’m reading today, as I wait for my copy of Let Me Tell You to arrive.

A Misandrist Book Club Review of Shirley Jackson’s “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” by Maddie Howard at XO Jane

Shirley and Me by Benjamin Dreyer at The Toast

The Man In The Woods by Shirley Jackson (previously unpublished short story) at The New Yorker

This Week In Fiction: An interview with Shirley Jackson’s son Laurence Jackson Hyman by Cressida Leyshon at The New Yorker

Memory and Delusion by Shirley Jackson (previously unpublished essay on writing) at The New Yorker

The Haunting of Shirley Jackson by David Barnett at The Independent

Girls, Girls, Girls

My all lady reading streak continues, though I am about to break it.

In January I read Geek Love (a re-read) and Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life. In February I read Tunnel Vision, Boy, Snow, Bird, and Over The Moon (another re-read). In March so far I have read Girl Defective and The Walls Around Us.

I am about to read Hawkeye Volume 3: L.A. Woman, which is by a dude but is within the rules because it’s part of a series I was already reading.

Have you read anything good lately? (I don’t want to imply causation, but since I started reading only ladies, I have only read good books.) (I totally want to imply causation.)

An Important Conversation, Transcribed and Expanded

My sister sent me this on Pinterest:

dresslikedrew
(Click for full graphic guide)

New goal: I’m going to reread all of the Nancy Drew books and count the euphemisms for fat that are used to describe Bess. Also the various ways George is described as a lesbian, but has a boyfriend.

K: I have never read the books.

I have read enough of them for both of us. Bess and George are Nancy’s non-threatening cousins who help her solve mysteries. They are both female, but George is boyish. You can tell, because she goes by George. Bess is sweet and a little bit dumb, or, in literary shorthand, fat.

On the plus side, Nancy rarely needs help from her boyfriend, Ned, and frequently rescues her kidnapped father, Carson Drew, a successful attorney whose cases often overlap with Nancy’s (a fact that is often revealed in the third act and comes as a complete surprise only to Nancy and Carson). Her closest relationship, other than those with her father, Bess, and George, is with the Drews’ housekeeper, Hannah Gruen; Nancy’s mother is dead.

Frankly, these novels were ridiculously progressive, fat- and gender nonconformity-phobia aside. I would maybe improve the series by renaming it Nancy Gruen, Private Eye, but that would take us into an alternate timeline where Hannah raising Nancy is acknowledged more fully.

LADIES.

(Please read the title of this post like a swaggart walking into a room full of women.)

Sometime in the fall I decided to stop reading books by men. Maybe forever, maybe for a year–I don’t know. Most of my favorite books are already by women, but I tend to read books by men because they are just so available. I want to give women the spotlight in my own life, especially since we so rarely can wrestle it away from the status quo.

There are exceptions, of course (currently: for men that I know, for ongoing series I’m already reading, for rereads, and for research), but in general I am only reading lady authors these days.

IT IS GREAT.

Mind you, I don’t have a lot of time during which I can actually concentrate enough to read. (I think it’s important to distinguish between not having time–I have tons–and not having usable time.) My extremely modest goal is to read 24 books this year and I’m already behind.

I started out the year with a reread of one of my all-time favorite novels, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. I believe this is the fourth time I have read it in ~19 years. It is one of the best novels I know of, and unlike my usual favorites. Although, I’m not sure that my usual favorites really fit a pattern? I will have to think about that some more. If you would like to think about it, too, a few of my most favorite books are We Have Always Lived In The Castle, My Antonia, and Code Name Verity.

I am keeping a running list of books I would like to read. I’m making use of my library system and of my kindle, though I have not yet managed to navigate my library’s e-lending service (I can’t stand the idea of e-books expiring). I have so many friends with books coming out this year that I could practically read books only by ladies I know. Not quite, but nearly–and I have to say, that is nice.

I am currently racing against my library due dates. I put holds on three books with varied wait times, and they all got to my local branch together. OF COURSE. And two of my friends’ books came out a week ago and I haven’t even glanced at them! The library books are Laura Ingalls Wilder: a Writer’s Life, which I am currently reading; Boy, Snow, Bird; and Girl Defective. The friend books are Tunnel Vision by Susan Adrian and Please Remain Calm by Courtney Summers. I need to read Susan’s book by the 14th because she will be in town for a teen author event.

I am not currently limiting any other media to women only, but my acquaintance Marya Gates is. She is only watching films by female filmmakers (writers and/or directors) in 2015, and she’s blogging and vlogging about it. There’s a lovely interview with her about it right here. (We began our projects independently of each other and I think it’s really cool that we both noticed the same problem and came up with similar solutions.)

[Please note: all Amazon links are affiliate links. I have linked to the kindle editions, if applicable.]

Fiction of Noirvember

noirvember reads

I wish I could pretend that two books in one month is a lousy accomplishment, but these days it’s pretty good for me. And for both books to be recent roman noir, written by ladies?

OUTSTANDING.

Kim Cooper is the driving force behind the 1947 Project, which turned into Esotouric, the crime bus tours that someday I will have both the time and money to go on. Mary McCoy is a friend of a friend, with whom I bonded over Code Name Verity–I mentioned that I’d recently read a historical novel in which the characters knew how to knit and it wasn’t a thing because everyone knew how to knit, and she asked if perhaps it was Verity, and we became blood sisters on the spot (not really). Mary is a librarian and was a writer for Kim’s project On Bunker Hill.

Basically, these ladies are who I want to be when I grow up. And they’ve both written outstanding novels. The Kept Girl features a 1920s Raymond Chandler following a trail of money and missing persons and uncovering a strange cult. Dead To Me (out in March), set in the late 40s, is about a teenage girl investigating the attempted murder of her older sister, whom she hasn’t seen or heard from in four years. Both capture the voice and setting of period noir perfectly, give a great peek into Los Angeles past, and utterly captivated me.

Obsession: Vikings

Last summer, I did a favor for my friend Bristol while she was visiting Iceland. As thanks, she sent me two skeins of beautiful Icelandic wool yarn, one a natural undyed black and one a stunning natural dye blue. I had no idea what to do with them, but kept them safely tucked away as they are very special.

love story pair

This past spring, Will and I agreed that for next year’s renaissance faire, we need Viking clothing. I have an apron dress that my sister made for me for Halloween when Sam was two, but I’ve, um, grown a bit since then.

Sam-Annika-halloween2008

HE WAS SO TINY. I can sew a new dress, of course, and I still have the brooches my sister’s ex made for me (they are not visible in the photo, so let me assure you that they look exactly like copper boobs). Sam’s tunic is too small for Grace to wear, but that is okay because I want to make her a girl’s costume. I think I will make the apron dress in two pieces with ties at the side so that it can grow with her.

Because it is regularly over 100° at the ren faire, I plan to make everything out of linen, and wear only one underlayer. I am planning an alternate, long-sleeved overdress, because reasons, but will not likely wear that at the faire. Unrelated, I am planning to make myself a linen Scout tee, and may see how I like the apron dress over a short layer instead of a long one.

Also in spite of the weather, I plan to make outer layers for all of us. Wool wraps for the boys, a cloak for Grace and a kaftan coat for me. I am planning to use the Icelandic wool from Bristol for all (or at least some) of my embroidery needs.

Now that my sewing area is nearly ready to go, I will hopefully have pictures to share as I work. In the meantime you can see all of my inspiration here.

By the way, I finished Beautiful Wreck, immediately read it again, and then made my husband read it. It is my favorite. I have a lot more to say but maybe in another post.

An Extremely Premature Book Review

(Bear with me.)

So, I was never able to get into Outlander. It was so boring that I never got to the time travel stuff. I couldn’t even figure out that’s where it was going. I had to look it up on wikipedia, in an effort to figure out why the hell everyone else I knew had enjoyed the damn thing. And seriously, my response was pure incredulity.

All of that nothing was leading up to time travel?!?!?!

It was with some apprehension that I picked up Larissa Brown’s Beautiful Wreck, another historic/time traveling sci-fi romance novel. I am acquainted with the author, who is also a knitwear designer. I am friendly with her publisher. The reviews of the book are outstanding across the board (well, nearly across the board; there are two negative reviews on Amazon that appear to be written by people who didn’t finish reading the book, which I consider cheating).

I have read something like 1% of the book. There hasn’t been any time travel yet. But I am SO IN LOVE WITH IT. Every word flows so perfectly that it is hard to believe I am reading science-fiction. The world is nothing like mine, and I understand it perfectly but haven’t even noticed it being described.

With Outlander, I lost interest before the main plot device. With Beautiful Wreck, I don’t even care if we ever get to the main plot device. I am just along for the ride.

Outrage of the Day: Awesome, Sexist T-Shirt

544396-f177e42f3b3ea1ddcf8bd35c85b68fe4

Isn’t this shirt amazing? And look, there are three* lady writers on it! Three out of 26!

Hey, wait a minute.

Not only are there at least as many great writers who are female as there are who are male, but like. Women invented the novel, and also science fiction. Probably other genres, too.

This would be my favorite shirt ever if the creator had expanded the concept from his own personal favorite authors to a diverse mix of authors of interest to most readers.

And, like. Did he mean Thomas Jefferson? Because if he is suggesting that The Declaration of Independence is more important to literature than We Have Always Lived In The Castle, then I would like to resign from the human race.

Here is a draft of an all lady version:

Jane Austen. Judy Bloom. Willa Cather. Kate DiCamillo. Laura Esquivel. Rosario Ferre. Cristina Garcia. S.E. Hinton. Laura Ingalls. Shirley Jackson. M.M. Kaye. Madeline L’Engle. Carson McCullers. E. Nesbit. Joyce Carol Oates. Dorothy Parker. Q. Rainbow Rowell. Nova Ren Suma. Amy Tan. U. Cynthia Voigt. Elizabeth Wein. X. Y. Sara Zarr.

Obviously still a few to fill in. I’ve never read Quindlen or Xi. And yes, putting Laura Ingalls Wilder under I is totally cheating.

*Dickinson, Quindlen, and Xi, as best I can guess.

Cover Reveal: Face Time

My friend Stephanie has another book coming out! I suspect she is some sort of robot. This one is contemporary adult romance (I guess? I don’t know genres), along the lines of what we were calling chick lit a few years ago but with a twist: it’s told from both points of view. As with Removed and Released, I read an early version of the manuscript. I know a few major changes have been made and I can’t wait to read the final book! I feel pretty certain it will be just as sexy as the version I read. ;)

Face Time

Look, I’ll be honest. I don’t really like people on my book covers. But this one is so clever–it conveys exactly what the book is about, and the man ‘playing’ Lee is so cute! And I’m crazy about the skyline graphic at the top.

Want to know more? How about the book’s official blurb?

After the best first date ever, Lee thought Laura was funny, intelligent, and impulsive; a whirlwind of bright laughter and happiness. Laura loved Lee’s sweet smile and the way he expertly filled in every awkward pause. He held her hand and then pulled her in for the most perfect kiss she’s had in years. What could possibly be wrong? Just the 7000 miles that separates them the next day.

Even though Lee has gone home to Seoul, Laura can’t stop thinking about him. What starts as an innocent text thanking him for their dinner date becomes something much more: someone either of them can’t live without. But Laura’s got a live-in mother going through a midlife crisis, and Lee’s stressful traveling schedule means they’ll be apart for some time. Life, family, and a complicated past also get in the way, and they’re both going to need actual face time to figure it out.

Told from both Lee and Laura’s point of view, FACE TIME is a funny, romantic, modern-day story about two people who connect across the world.

You can find Face Time (Love in the Digital Age #1) on Goodreads.

And I bet you’d like a give-away. Enter below to win:
– 10$ amazon gift card
– e-copies of both Removed (Nogiku #1) and Released (Nogiku #2) –mobi or epub file
– e-ARC of Face Time (available March 2014) – mobi or epub file

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Blog Tour: Nogiku Series by S.J.Pajonas

Nogiku banner

Hey! I am one of today’s stops on my friend Stephanie’s blog tour! Yay!

I signed up to write a review of the first two books in the Nogiku series, Removed and Released, and I’m going to–but it’s not going to be a very traditional review. Here’s the thing: I’ve read these books at least 2.5 times each, through various incarnations. I can’t really write a proper review. But I can tell you what I love about them.

Stephanie can build a world like almost no one else.

In any genre, but especially dystopic future-sci-fi-samurai-I don’t even know what-fiction, world is as important as any character in the book. The world is a character in these books. This short excerpt is very nicely representative of the incredible skill with which big ideas are related in simple, quick brush strokes:

Nishikyō itself is mostly devoid of charm and uniqueness, except for a few temples and theaters, but each building’s owner takes care to set their place apart from the blandness around it. It’s not surprising I would have walked past this place had Jiro not led me directly here. Its exterior is austere, simple.
Inside, they must have knocked out all of the existing structure and rebuilt it entirely from the floor up. The walls are papered a lovely shade of cream and lit softly from above. Real wood supports and beams are shellacked a deep, dark coffee brown. I place my hand on one, and it’s warm and organic. Nothing like the cool and precise composite material we use around the city to mimic the real thing.
The genkan has an area of cubbies for shoes and sets of washed slippers for guests. It’s cool in here as I thought it would be, but comfortable. Okiyas call private contractors to bring in more cooling units so the geisha can entertain in their silk kimono and not overheat. It’s something they can easily afford in this business.
A doorway opens off to the right and a young woman dressed in a lovely pink and green kimono comes out to greet us.
“Irasshaimase, Itō-sama! You’re expected. I hope you’re well.”
“I am, Shichi-san, and you?”
“I am well, thank you.”
“Shichi-san, this is another family guest, Sanaa.” He gestures to me, and I stand absolutely still. I’ve never been to an okiya and am not sure how polite or formal I’m supposed to be. When Jiro sees my frozen state, he puts his hand on the small of my back. He probably thinks this is going to have a calming effect on me, but now I’m fluttery instead.

Oops, a little romance sneaked in there. Oh yeah, these books are dead sexy. By the way.

nogiku

Sexy-looking, too. Stephanie designed and did the layout for the books herself. The chapter headings are so gorgeous you will swoon.

She employs one of my favorite literary tricks, making her books semi-bilingual by introducing Japanese words and phrases in context (italicizing the first use) and then using them without further explanation throughout. A glossary is included at the end of the book, but the language is incorporated so well that you probably won’t need to reference it more than once or twice.

Steph’s writing background and training was in screenplays, and if you’ve read any screenplays (I’ve, uh, read a lot) you can tell in the way her plots unfold. She knows what she’s doing!

The stories unfold slowly in places, and the narrator, Sanaa, is difficult for me to relate to; she is frank and direct about her emotions, the writing walking the line of showing and telling, so that I sometimes feel a bit, er, removed from her. That said, while I don’t relate to her I am a bit in love with her, and all the other characters (especially Mark Sakai).

Warning: reading these books will make you desperately crave Japanese food and/or culture. Like wow.

Information about the books, along with Stephanie’s bio and a giveaway, below the cut.

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