Sunday, April 27, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 43-45 (or, is a booted woman from the waist down the latest thing in cover design?)

43) Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols.

YA romance about a girl brought up touring the bluegrass festival circuit who turns rebellious after her sister gets a big Nashville recording contract and their family and her recording label want her to give up her own music and lie low to facilitate her sister's solo career. But she finds giving up her fiddle easier said than done, especially after she meets an attractive boy who needs a fiddler for what sounds like a sort of punk rockabilly band. (The name they settle on is "Redneck Death Wish.") It's a well-written book, and I loved how music and musicianship is handled in the story, though I found the heroine's parents' behavior a bit over-the-top in spots.

44) Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther.

Incidentally, I'm kinda fascinated by the similarity in design and look in these two book covers when they're in completely different genres. (This one is a memoir.) I guess they're both about young women struggling to break free of controlling family environments and assert their own identities, but I doubt that explains the similarities in cover and design as much as the fact they're both very recent books (2013 and 2014 respectively). I guess browns and blues/gray-blues and booted women viewed from ~ waist down are trendy...

Anyway, about the book. Elizabeth Esther is one of several ex-fundamentalist bloggers whose work I read because her experience resonates with my own, though her upbringing was FAR more extreme. I was just a garden-variety Southern Baptist who then got involved in a ultra-conservative chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in college, leading me to almost break my brain trying to not believe in evolution, to accept that women were supposed to have a subservient role, only that was actually wonderful because Jesus was a servant, making it actually better and close to God to serve, etc. But in Esther's word all these beliefs and more were enforced in an abusive, cultish environment.

Her memoir mostly covers her childhood and youth, but in the last fifth or so she and her husband gradually step away from the environment and rebuild their lives and faiths in a more mainstream environment.

45) The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti.

I'm having a flareup of my recurring neck and back pain issues, so I can't write about this book in as much detail as I'd like to right now. Suffice it to say that Valenti makes a great case for how terrible it is to treat chastity as not just a virtue but the most important virtue a young woman can have--i.e. a "good girl" isn't one who is compassionate, thoughtful, brave, generous, hard-working, etc. but one who doesn't sleep around. She also shows how purity culture and rape culture are two sides of the same coin. A depressing but nonetheless thought-provoking read.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Two guest posts

I'm still deep in deadline country, but today I have two guest posts up!

First, I'm at fellow Carina author Angela Highland's blog. I've adopted the voice of Anna Wright-Gordon, a major character in both of my first two books, to complain about how difficult my older brother is making my life.

And for my regular monthly post at Risky Regencies, I post some of the Tom Hiddleston videos that are helping me through my manuscript.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 37-42

Still plugging away at the manuscript that's due April 30, but forcing myself to make time to read so I get the occasional brain break:

37) Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire.

This book was just plain fun. At first I missed Verity, the protagonist of the two previous InCryptid novels, but once I got used to her more serious science geek brother Alex, I enjoyed this story of paranormal murders at an Ohio zoo.

38) An Heir of Uncertainty by Alyssa Everett.

Alyssa is one of my critique partners and Carina one of my publishers, so I can't be totally objective about her books. With that caveat, this book shows Alyssa's deep understanding of the Regency era and her elegant voice. It's a well-paced, romantic story with relatable characters. My one caveat is I wish there had been a little more space in the denouement to show the hero and heroine coming to terms with the identity of the murderer.

39) The Twilight of the American Enlightenment: The 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief by George M. Marsden.

Marsden looks at the subtle fault lines in American culture in the 1950s--ways the consensus worldview, a mix of Protestant faith and Enlightenment philosophy, was starting to break down, ultimately creating the culture war of the past three decades. I don't usually delve so deeply into philosophy, theology, or psychology, but I'm glad I read this book. I feel like it gave me a deeper insight into the events and ideas that created the world I was born into.

40) The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas.

A beautifully written historical romance set in late Victorian England. The hero is that staple of romance fiction, the man who won't let himself love because his parents' terrible relationship made him afraid to trust love in general or women in particular, but Thomas made the resulting conflict feel more human and believable than this trope usually is for me. That said, the heroine forgives him a lot quicker than I would've done...

41) Newton's Football: The Science Behind America's Game by Allen St. John & Ainissa Ramirez.

A quick, interesting read on some of the science behind football--everything from the West Coast offense to how improved tackling technique and better helmets could reduce concussion risk.

42) The Mountains of Mourning by Lois McMaster Bujold.

I've read this novella once before, but I'd forgotten what a strong punch it packs. It's such a perfect encapsulation of everything important about the world of the Vorkosigan series and beautifully written and constructed to boot. I...I just wish I could write like that.