Busy Bee Indeed

For someone with no job and no real social life to speak of, I’ve been pretty darn busy these last several days. On my To Do List are various Swapbot commitments, planning a surprise birthday party for a friend, and writing and reviewing a couple of mermaid stories for my writing circle. All  interspersed with helping my brother move his stuff and meeting with friends from out of town.

I’ve also finished two of the books I checked out of the library. Elfland by Freda Warrington.

Source: Macmillan

I really wish I had enjoyed this book more than I had. It had all the elements that I would normally glom onto, including a wonderfully skilled and detailed worldbuilding, a slew of potentially interesting characters, mythic elements woven together with faerie elements, and gorgeous imagery. My issue throughout the entire book seemed to be that I was about ten years too late. When I was 12 or 13 I would have eaten this stuff up with a spoon. Really special girl descended from a race of elves, falls for the bad boy, and saves the day. There’s drama, angst, sex, love, elves, magic, and some intrigue. Totally my thing.

But the really special girl(a.k.a. the Heroine) came off to me as incredibly entitled and unpleasant. The way she treated her best friends smacked of selfishness to me and you know, the rest of the characters weren’t much better. Everyone was caught up in his or her own problems to the point of destruction, either their own or others’. Which I could see as the point of the book, if everything hadn’t miraculously resolved in the end with the most self-absorbed characters being vindicated and becoming the heroes of the story.

I thought I’d really enjoy it, since Charles de Lint is one of my absolutely favorite authors ever, and I didn’t think he’d ever steer me wrong, but I just had too many issues with the characters. I suppose I want my protagonists to be people whose heroism comes from their inner goodness rather than annoying, selfish people who happen to be the center of the story. And this is really bothering me because usually I love flawed heroes (I mean, c’mon, BSG, anyone?) but this book just really didn’t do it for me. I think I’ll give it another read-through, see if I can parse out exactly why this book rubbed me the wrong way.

Next up was A Proper Education for Girls by Elaine diRollo.

Source: Library Thing

This one I enjoyed immensely, even if it did seem a bit disjointed and incomplete for some reason. That might just be because I wanted the book to continue. It’s the story of two sisters, raised by a stern and eccentric father, who free themselves and find love and life in each other. This one hit all of my weak spots for brave, independent, eccentric women breaking free of an oppressive patriarchal environment. There were love interests but no lasting interest in love other than their love for each other. This is the kind of strength and loyalty that I think makes the idea of Supernatural so popular. That you have someone who so completely loves you and is loyal to you and with whom you can ride through life knowing he/she has got your back. It’s definitely an odd duck of a book that explores Victorian notions of sensibility, ethnicity, feminism, and sexuality with solid prose and a hopping plot. I finished it in one day, whereas Elfland had taken me weeks since I kept getting bored with it or exasperated.

It’s really weird how that happened. Usually I have no patience for just fiction because it’s just not enough. I want magic and wonder and adventure but weirdly enough, the second book delivered more of that than the first. It was enough to step through history with the diRollo’s protagonists rather than step through a whole new world with Warrington’s characters.

Lowkey in the City

Well, more like the suburbs. Got picked up by Iris and went to Bethesda to hang out with Shane. He needed a helmet for his bicycle, so we wandered behind the Giant to find some cute little stores, amongst them Griffin Cycles.

As part of our tour, I finally went into the Montgomery Women’s Co-op building off Wisconsin. I’ve only been passing by that place my entire life. It was a nicely packed, smaller version of Eastern Market.  The wares on display outdoors were magnificent. I was sorely tempted by a great deal of jewelry and haberdashery but managed to heroically refrain by dint of having brought no spending money.  It worked out quite nicely.

Afterwards, we had a light lunch at his place of caprese (with tomatoes we picked up at the farmer’s market), steak, and brussel sprouts. The two also endeavored to explain to me why it was alright to chomp into a tomato as though it were an apple but the same could not be said for onions, beets, or garlic cloves. It took way too long to get through my befuddled head, but the more experienced vegetable consumers prevailed in the end.

Shane shoo-ed us out eventually so he could go meet some kids at Great Falls, and I rode the 46 bus back to Rockville from the NIH stop. I stopped by the library to pick up some books, and as a nod to my truly, desolately unfulfilled Reading Challenge, I’ve picked up a book that could potentially be considered for the position of first book to fulfill the Europe challenge. It’s “The Russian Dreambook of Color + Flight” by Gina Ochsner.  A novel set in Russia, by an Oregon author.

I’ve been doing my best to find books written by authors of the same continents in which they are set. And I’m very aware that this challenge is the perfect opportunity to remedy the hysterically inappropriate gaps in my literary education. But, for some reason, I’ve fixated on the idea of introducing myself to modern fiction (most particularly international scifi and fantasy). I took down a couple of author’s names while in Italy, so we’ll see if that search comes to fruition anytime soon.

Oh, man. What I wouldn’t give for a trip back to Daedelus books over in Belvedere Square. I’m missing their insane prices something fierce. Oh, and their impeccable taste, of course. I’m sure I only feel this way about Baltimore because it was the first city I was allowed to love and discover, but Baltimore truly is a unique bastion for us kids on the fringe, with the slightly off and quirky and weird about us. It’s truly lovely.

Anyways, ended the afternoon back home, making a truly awful brown sugar and ale glazed salmon that I’ll need to pan fry with some onions and squash later to reduce the sauce and make it more palatable. But that’s for tomorrow. In the continuing saga of unemployed, homebody me. 😀

Reading is Fun, y’all

In order to make moves towards realistically finishing my reading challenge, I just joined Good Reads, a huge online community for people who also think reading is fun. Yay. Time to hoard virtual books online, read actual books in real life, then feel accomplished in real life and online. 🙂

I’m sort of split on whether I want to search out the books I should read ahead of time, or just kind of let them come to me. I think, at this point, it would make more sense to plan them out. Especially since I’ll have to make some extra effort to find books that weren’t originally written/published in America. I just hope I’ll manage to find some genre fic in there somewhere.  Different states, too. This’ll be interesting.

Also, I’ve got Julie’s list of recommendations pinned to my board, and I’d like to take a stab at those. Let her know how I’m coming along if I get the chance to visit her in Boston.

Lists

Challenges

1. 2010 Global Reading Challenge: Expert Level

Read two novels from each of these continents in the course of 2010:
Africa
Asia
Australasia
Europe
North America (incl Central America)
South America
Add two novels which are set in Antarctica.

Select novels from fourteen different countries or states.

2. 12 in 2010

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to set a goal, and write 12 stories that fulfill that goal over the course of the year. I’ve chosen to write a story themed around each month. One for each month of the year.

Subscriptions

1. Paid Account at Dreamwidth: $35 for a year’s worth of paid account

2. Amnesty International: $20/month

Media

1. Bright Star

2. An Education

3. The Boat that Rocked

4. Synecdoche, NY

5. Adam

6. Let the Right One In

7. Crazy Heart

8. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

9. Moon

10.  Star Trek (For Keeps)

11. Sherlock Holmes (For Keeps)

12. Iron Man (For Keeps)

13. The Incredible Hulk (For Keeps)

14. Fredrika Stahl – Tributaries

15. Meaghan Smith

16. Caravan Palace – Caravan Palace

17. SomethingALaMode – Little Bit of Feel Good

18. Robin McKelle – Modern Antique

19. Cydney Robinson – Spokesman for the Shoeless

20. Hey Marseilles – To Travels & Trunks

21. Rachel Goodrich – Tinker Toys

22. Mayer Hawthorne – A Strange Arrangement

23. Gavin Glass – Holy Shakers

24. Melisssa Laveaux – Camphor & Copper

25. Kate Schutt – Telephone Game

Tech

1. Laptop

2. Synchronizing cord for Sansa Plus mp3 player*

3. External Hard Drive

4. Microsoft Office Suite

5. Earphones