I am trying to force myself not to touch the newly-finished draft, which is difficult when my heart keeps insisting that I am being lazylazylazy to take a week off (my mind knows better). So what better way to distract myself than by sharing my most recent book-loves:
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim [Adult]
I adored this! It reminded me of many of my favorite comfort books, especially Stella Gibbons’s Cold Comfort Farm. Four British women escape for a month to a villa in Italy, where they grow and change in interesting ways. It’s delightful and uplifting and charming, with gorgeous descriptions of the villa and gardens, and wickedly funny observations about human nature. The only problem is that now I want to run away to Italy for a month! This was first published in the 1920s and is free via Project Gutenberg. It was also adapted into an equally delightful movie in 1991. I found that the movie, while lacking the lovely details and insights of the book, actually provided a more satisfactory resolution to Lady Catherine’s situation.
Boxers & Saints by Gene Leun Yang [Adult/Teen Historical]
A two-volume graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion in China. It does not shy away from the brutality of that event, nor does it provide any easy answers. The characters are beautifully flawed, and seeing the events unfolding through the eyes of characters on both sides of the conflict only makes it all the more tragic. I am glad I read Boxers first, then Saints, as I think it makes for a more compelling experience. But oh how my heart broke for these characters, especially Vibania, the protagonist of Saints.
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge [YA Historical Fantasy]
This is currently my favorite read of the year so far. It’s a twisty, beautifully written story about a girl who is ill, who has holes in her memory, who is trying so hard to understand what has happened to her and her family. And her little sister, who she hates and loves and doesn’t understand. I don’t think I’ve felt so strongly for characters in a long while. The fantastical elements build in a sort of slow wave, as you fall deeper and deeper into a folklore-infused world. Here’s one of my favorite quotes:
“Believe me, I do understand that. And let me tell you – from one monster to another – that just because somebody tells you you’re a monster, it doesn’t mean you are.”
Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle [MG Contemporary]
Nate is a middle-school kid with dreams of Broadway, stuck in a town (and family) that don’t understand him at all. So of course he concocts a desperate plan with his best friend and fellow music-theater lover to run away to New York City to audition for the new musical based on ET (yes, the movie about the alien who wants to go home). In spite of the wacky premise, this felt utterly real — especially Nate’s struggles with his own self-image, and his absolute JOY in music theater. The voice was wonderful– self-deprecating and funny and kind. I kept stopping to read bits out loud to my husband!
The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire by Jack Weatherford [Adult Nonfiction]
Absolutely fascinating! My favorite bits were those that revealed some of the personality and character of the historical figures (especially the excerpts from historical documents) and the details about Mongolian culture from the time of Genghis Khan onward. This book also revealed to me how very little I actually knew about the history of Mongolia and the areas that became part of the Mongolian Empire, and about Genghis Khan himself. He was a much more moderate and wise fellow than I ever realized, with some quite enlightened attitudes and laws regarding women (according to this author, at least). I should note for the squeamish that there are some pretty horrific descriptions of torture at various points throughout.
I’ve also been keeping busy doing fun summer stuff like…
Visiting some new favorite places, like the hike up Beech Hill in Rockport, to this old stone cottage with a view of the sea (next time I want to bring a picnic!):
And old favorites, like the Coastal Botanical Garden: