Girl, someone is out to get you

“Woman in peril” is a plot device as old as time, and one that enjoys continued popularity. In this reader’s opinion, when it’s done well you get a great female character with agency to make her own decisions, fighting to save herself. Here are three suggestions for recent thrillers that follow women as they puzzle out how to escape the trouble at their heels.

Conviction by Denise Mina
On the day her husband leaves her for her best friend, Anna has her true identity outed on social media, an act that puts her in danger from the people who tried to kill her 15 years earlier. She decides to go on the run with Fin, the husband her best friend abandoned, to follow the breadcrumbs of a true crime podcast that unexpectedly revolves around the mysterious death of an acquaintance. As her past races to catch up with her present, Anna sprints across Europe to stay one step ahead. Continue reading “Girl, someone is out to get you”

New Fiction Roundup, February 2020

Coming-of-age stories, a life lived out-of-order, baseball in a dystopian United States, queer librarian spies on horseback, and a dedicated Victorian detective – February has some gems waiting for you to discover!

2/4: Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham – A family saga follows one family over two decades in Nigeria, as each sibling searches for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy but also endless life.

2/4: Everywhere You Don’t Belong by Gabriel Bump – In this coming of age novel, Claude McKay Love leaves the South Side of Chicago for college, only to discover that there is no safe haven for a young black man in today’s America.

2/4: The Resisters by Gish Jen –In a near-future world ruthlessly divided between the employed and unemployed, a once-professional couple gives birth to an athletically gifted child whose transition from an underground baseball league to the Olympics challenges the very foundations of their divided society. A Peak Pick!

2/4: Things in Jars by Jess Kidd – In Victorian London, a female sleuth is pulled into the macabre world of fanatical anatomists and crooked surgeons while investigating the kidnapping of an extraordinary child.

 2/4: Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey – The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing. Continue reading “New Fiction Roundup, February 2020”

Unexpected Embroidery Content

There are times as a reader when you pick up a book and you think you know exactly what you’re getting: this is an historical romance; this is a novel about a family. And you’re right, but you also discover that it is deeply about something else. That was my experience with the two novels below, novels which contained a surprising-to-me amount of high quality embroidery content.

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite (historical romance)
In the early 1800s Lucy, a scientist and an astronomer, has spent her youth helping her father with his work and publishing work under his name. After his death, she travels to London to apply to the Polite Science Society, a premier scientific organization of the day, and to try her hand at translating a French astronomy text. Turned away by the Society because she’s a woman, Lucy finds refuge with Catherine, a society widow who spent years supporting her explorer husband and is now interested in being Lucy’s patron. There is a lot here about the science of the era and the way it existed as a kind of gentleman’s pursuit; the roles available to women; and, for sure, the love that grows between Lucy and Catherine (this is a romance novel, so expect some steamy sex scenes). But I devoured it because of the detail lavished on Catherine’s hobby: embroidery. She embroiders maps, and botanical motifs, and the night sky on a finely woven scarf! The description of Catherine’s work made me hungry to see the way embroiderers blend colors, how elements of the natural world can be depicted, how craft becomes art. Continue reading “Unexpected Embroidery Content”

New Year, Do Nothing

The refrain “new year, new you” is a popular one around the first of the year, exhorting you to fix bad habits, set new resolutions, and generally get your life in order. Maybe it’s time for a change; maybe it’s time to read some books that help you focus on the joy and purpose of doing less. (Sure, this anti-resolution is still a resolution, but I like that it’s less focused on demonstrable achievement). Here are a few books to get you started.

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
Called “a field guide to doing nothing (at least as capitalism defines it)” by her publisher, Odell starts by looking at how pervasive technology leads to 24/7 availability, which feeds into an expectation of constant productivity. How do you step back, divert your attention, and reclaim your right to do nothing? Odell has some ideas, as well as examples of how she has done it in her life.

The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hampl
In this reflection on leisure, and more specifically on daydreaming, Hampl examines the ways in which quiet reflection feed the soul. Behind her own life of wandering and wondering, Hampl visits the homes of great thinkers of the past (Witman, Montaigne, Gregor Mendel) to reflect on how they wrote about and made use of often-solitary reflection. Continue reading “New Year, Do Nothing”