cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (book)
[personal profile] cafenowhere
When I traveled to Texas for my sister's wedding, I took two small, easy to transport paperbacks to keep me from fretting overmuch in the airports. One was Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros, which I believe is her second collection of poetry. The poems are short, so I plowed through about half the book before my brain felt too full of thrilling turns of phrase and genius word choices. The themes are repetitive--a little too fiery for my tastes, especially since they tend toward self-immolatory passions. Which sounds weird coming from me, but... Maybe without grounding context, the passion is too easy to read as melodrama, or romancing martydom? In any case, I'd be happy to finish the book eventually.

The other book was Tropic of Night by Michael Gruber, which was recommended at one of the many "How to (not) Write the Other" panels I've attended, as an example of a white writer doing all right by his POC characters and subject matter. Whereas some folks want an easy breezy read on vacation, I was hooked by the main characters' attention to details. I read a lot of this crime novel (it's no mystery who the murderer is, ever) when I wasn't at the airport; in fact, whenever I needed a break from socializing I picked it up. I'd read it before settling to sleep, too, which gave me a deliciously uncanny experience: I was actually a little unnerved after I turned out the light! I am a huge horror fan, and I'm almost never creeped out by books anymore, so this was a welcome surprise. The creep-out factor doesn't come from the gore, although there's a good amount of that, but because Gruber does an excellent job of showing how an intelligent, highly educated American woman's stubborn rationalism cedes to belief in ritual magic. As I said in my Goodreads review, I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Upon returning home, I returned to There Is No Lovely End by Patty Templeton. This is the Gothic Americana historical fantasy I've been wanting to read for YEARS. Patty's refreshing take on Sarah Winchester moves beyond the long-prevailing "sorrowing hysteric" caricature of the Widow Winchester and her insane house. Equally enthralling are Patty's original characters: criminal brothers Hennet and Walleye; the awful but kinda awesome hellion Hester (she prays neither to God nor the Devil but to HERSELF) and her besotted stalker, a dandy journalist who hangs himself to get her attention, then follows her around in ghost form for years; Hester's ghost-beloved but beleagured son Nathan who's targeted for murder almost the whole book through; traveling medicine man Reverend Enton Blake...not to mention all the animals and houses, all with their own personalities, living or dead. And Patty ties all the story threads together into a deeply satisfying conclusion. It may not be a Lovely End, but I loved it anyway.

No progress on On the Rim of Mexico, but Tweetie and I are continuing with The Fast and the Furriest.

A couple of online story recommendations:
excerpt from "Furious Angels," from the collection We Will All Go Down Together by Gemma Files. I was actually a little mad when I got to the end and remembered "Shit, yeah, excerpt." I definitely need the book now.

"The Husband Stitch" by Carmen Machado. A little funny, a little spooky with its callbacks to urban legends aplenty, sometimes sexy, a lot heartbreaking. It's one of those stories that looks so easy and yet, no one does it like Machado.

"Silent Snow, Secret Snow" by Conrad Aiken. Given my age, my first thought was "Any relation to Joan Aiken?" And yup, her father. This is a perfect creepy story for when the wind turns cold and winter lurks around the corner.

What do you look for in a vacation read? Or, if that's too far-afield for you right now, what are your favorite Halloween-y stories?

Date: 2014-10-29 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com
I love what you have to say about Patty's book--I love what *everyone* has to say about it--and I love what you say about Sandra Cisneros's poetry. I've got Gemma's story excerpt open in tabs--been meaning to get to it since it went up. I *know* it will be good.

Tropic of Night doesn't sound like my cup of tea, but it sure sounds well written (and it did write the Other okay?)

Date: 2014-10-29 05:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cafenowhere.livejournal.com
it did write the Other okay?

I think so. It certainly felt exhaustively researched. Any abrasive bits seemed to come from the characters, not unexamined biases of the author. Of course, I say this as a non-Cuban American, non-black POC with only vague knowledge of Santeria or related religions.

Date: 2014-10-29 07:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] snowy-owlet.livejournal.com
How gooey is the Gruber? I can take autopsy-type gore pretty well, but once we get into zombie/month in a lake territory, not so much.

Date: 2014-10-29 08:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cafenowhere.livejournal.com
It's more crime-scene carnage than loving depictions of putrefaction. (Although there ARE zombi-ish minions at one point, they're pretty minor.) The ritual murders involve pregnant women, though, so they're pretty disturbing.

Date: 2014-10-29 09:28 pm (UTC)
gwynnega: (coffee poisoninjest)
From: [personal profile] gwynnega
I had the same reaction to Loose Woman. As I recall, I read it when I was in the midst of a drama-filled relationship, and even then I thought it was a bit much with the tumultuous passion stuff! I saw her read from the book at the UCLA Book Fair one year, which was fun.

Yay Patty's book!! I loved it.

A vacation read for me usually means something I'll want to read in airports and on airplanes--so, a page-turner, and probably nothing with extremely clotted language. A recent book that worked well for me in that regard was Rainbow Rowell's Landline.

Date: 2014-10-30 12:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cafenowhere.livejournal.com
even then I thought it was a bit much with the tumultuous passion stuff

That's really interesting. I'd think that if ever the poems should resonate, it would be then, but no, huh? I'd still jump at the chance to see her read. I imagine she's a vivacious speaker. Y/N?

I have not read anything by Rainbow Rowell, though I've seen much love for her books online. I'll have to rectify that soonish.

Date: 2014-10-30 12:50 am (UTC)
gwynnega: (books poisoninjest)
From: [personal profile] gwynnega
Yes, Cisneros is definitely a vivacious speaker.

My favorites of Rainbow Rowell so far are Eleanor & Park and Fangirl.
Edited Date: 2014-10-30 12:51 am (UTC)

Date: 2014-10-29 09:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mnfaure.livejournal.com
"Husband Stitch" came up first in my opened tabs, and yeah, your observations line up with my own (excepting that I don't know anything else by Machado :P ).

Hope to get to the other stories soon.

As always, thanks for sharing; you open my world.

Date: 2014-10-30 12:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cafenowhere.livejournal.com
Ooh, ooh, more Machado stories: "Inventory" (dystopian SF) and "Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU"

http://www.strangehorizons.com/2013/20130114/inventory-f.shtml

http://theamericanreader.com/especially-heinous-272-views-of-law-order-svu/

thanks for sharing; you open my world

Aww, you're welcome. You do the same for me when you share your globe-hopping adventures. :)

Date: 2014-10-30 01:51 pm (UTC)
ext_13979: (Coming back)
From: [identity profile] ajodasso.livejournal.com
I have Templeton's novel, and it is next on my to-read list! I'm glad to hear it's good :)

Date: 2014-10-30 07:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cafenowhere.livejournal.com
It hits so many of my buttons--in a *good* way! Hope you enjoy it, too. :D

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