Saturday, 27 July 2013

Getting ready for RIP (thanks to Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings)

          So there I was, enjoying the sunshine, that it is still summer, and I went to Carl's page and saw this post by him, and read the stunner of a story he links us to, Mrs Henderson's Cemetery Dance by Carrie Cuinn.   It has a delightful humorous touch, a gothic feel, a melancholic dead skeleton story, for lack of a better description.  Not ghosts.  Skeletons. It is very good.  And it put me right into the frame of mind for Carl's upcoming Readers Imbibing Peril VIII challenge coming up in the fall.

So, even though I have a shelf already full of books ready for RIP, and it's still sunny and very warm outside, I ended up going to one of my favourite sites for finding what's new and good in the world of horror and science fiction and fantasy:  Locus Magazine, online.  Carl, by the way, also has a post up about Locusmag, because he has the July edition featuring NEIL GAIMAN on the cover, and darn it, I let my subscription lapse in April. Boo me!  I have just resubscribed, and am hoping I'm in time for the July edition.  Anyway, it looks a really good interview by Neil in it, so if you're a Neil Gaiman fan, go and take a look.

In the meantime, when I wandered to Locus Magazine to see what was happening, I discovered that they have a listing of all the current nominees and winners of the various awards given out for science fiction, fantasy, and horror, the world over.  This is an excellent way to find out what's good in any of these areas of literature.

I have promptly added (and drooled over) the following books I didn't know existed:

All nominated under 2013 British Fantasy Award Nominees,  Anthologies:
- Magic, An Anthology of the Esoteric and the Arcane, ed Jonathan Oliver.
- The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women, ed Marie O'Regan
- Terror Tales of the Cotswalds - ed Alison Littlewood

Nominated for Best Horror (the August Deleth Award), under the same British Fantasy Awards:
-  The Kind Folk -Ramsey Campbell
- The Last Days - Adam Nevill
  Neither of which I knew was out, and I will be seeking at the library.

Here is the entire list of 2013 British Award nominees.  I am happy to see Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan nominated, as is Railsea by China Mieville.  I am delighted to see Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce, nominated in both categories, as I have it on my pile to read asap.....

The  2012 Bram Stoker Awards were also announced in New Orleans in June, winning list is here.  There are some very good books on this list too.  Caitlin Kiernan (Drowning Girl, which I have to read), Maggie Stiefvater, Bentley Little (I just found one of his books to try), and The Diviners by Libba Bray, which I am so hoping to read for RIP!!  when a list includes these names, there are going to be some really good horror/dark fantasy/ghost stories to read somewhere on it.  Even more awesome, a list of poetry books!!!  And when Joyce Carol Oates wins in a tie for best collection, well, there is something for everyone for RIP.

Have fun planning!  Enjoy the summer daylight while it lasts, and soon autumn will be here, with cooling days and darker nights....., and thank Carl for this, today!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Boneland by Alan Garner

So at long last our heat wave has broken.  We sweltered under a tremendous heat wave for the past week, and during June and July had many days where it was very hot and humid.  There is such a cool breeze coming through the window tonight that I might have to shut the window soon......all this to say, I can sit comfortably at the computer for the first time since I wrote my last post.  In that space of time, I read Boneland by Alan Garner, and have some thoughts on reading it.
Boneland by Alan Garner is #3 in the Weirdstone Trilogy.  What happened to Colin and Susan after the ending of The Moon of Gomrath?  What happened is what happens when you find yourself in a fairy tale or a myth, come true.  I don't know how often as child that I wondered what it was like to be in a fairy tale.  I was fascinated by some of them, and some terrified me.  Some made me cry.  What I didn't consider then, what no child understands, is that myths change you.  You can't step into the forest, you can't follow the breadcrumbs, you can't chase the hind, you can't dance with the fairies, without something being forever altered.  It has to do with mystery, or Mystery, that unknowable real way that the world works in.  When we begin that hero's Journey Joseph Campbell talks about, even if it is as innocent as inheriting the bracelet that Susan wears and eventually loses, change is going to come.  Things can't go back to what they were, no matter what happens.  Children will follow the glitter, the fun, the adventure, and Boneland is the story of what comes after.

In this particular case, Susan is still gone.  Colin doesn't even remember her, except that as the novel unfolds, we realize everything he is doing is to try to find her again.  A lot of ancient British myth is lived through in this novel, as Colin struggles to remember what happened before he was 13.  It's a painful book in some ways, for he is considered troubled, with asperger's, as well as brilliant in his field, which is astrophysics.  How he helps himself is brilliant and sad at the same time.  The mind is capable of so much, but when faced with the loss of a sibling and no real answers, how does the soul cope?  Mystery has a cost, a price to be paid.  It is Boneland's success that Colin is recognizable as an adult from the child he was in the earlier novels, and that what has happened to him is believable.

This story of how he tries to heal himself is beautiful and true.  The language is the language of myth, rooted in his landscape and folktales as the earlier books were.  I love how he blends daily life with the myth, as we see the progression in Colin.  I love this bit on questions and answers:

             " (Meg) :  'But are you saying there's no final answer?'
               " 'I hope there isn't,' said Colin. 'I'm for uncertainty. As soon as you think you know, you're done for.  You don't listen and you don't hear.  If you're certain of anything, you shut the door on the possibility of revelation, of discovery.  You can think.  You can believe.  But you can't, you mustn't, "know".  There's the real entropy.' "
     He's right.  I read that sentence, paragraph, and I stopped, and realized it is true.  For so many things in this world.  When we know, when we think we know - when I think I know - I stop listening.  "I don't know" can be the start of so many wonderful adventures......

and so when it comes down to it, we have to go down the path.  We have to know where the trail leads, we have to know what that key in Bluebeard's house opens, we have to be kind to the Beast.  Fairy tales are true because in our souls we already know them, somehow.  Read Boneland and see how the myth of a place, the setting of stone and tree and sun and moon, gets into your skin, and becomes a part of how you think and relate to the world around you. That's where myth begins.

Boneland isn't an easy book to read, but it's a true telling of what comes after.  It's fascinating, too.  Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


So a funny thing happened after my last post in May.  I had several posts lined up in my mind, ready to go.  And then, poof!  I became unable to blog.  I would read a book and say, 'oh, I have lots to say!'  I have taken pictures of my garden for so many Saturday Market posts.....I have pictures and books from my 50th birthday.....but I couldn't post.  I couldn't, and still can't, quite figure out what happened. The closest answer I can come to, is one that is perfect in hindsight:  I am an introvert.  The busier my life socially got, the more I became unable to do anything about posting.  This is like seeing Susan Cain's book Introvert in action.  By the way, here is a quiz from Susan Cain's website, to determine if you are an introvert or an extrovert.

It was crazy for two months, and there was little I could do about most of it, without crippling friendships and obligations I had taken on.  I have learned my lesson.  It's ok to be an introvert!  Sometimes it takes one until they are 50 to realize this, though.  No matter how many warnings I had in the past, in overdoing it (and I have known this for over 20 years about myself).  As much as I thought I was an introvert, I didn't want to be rude, and I didn't know how to stop and think about what I wanted to do, really.  So I would get over-extended, and then socially burn-out, and shut myself up for weeks.  I realized, once again, I have a certain amount of energy for socializing, and when it gets used up, that's it.  Nada.  No more.

What I learned:

In the midst of all this activity, my family - husband and two of our children - went to England to visit his family.  I couldn't go, both because I couldn't get the time off work, and also because physically, I couldn't handle the big trip so soon after my operation in February.  There is also the small matter of having to socialize for weeks on end again, which lay there in the background of my mind, and I just couldn't go.  So I stayed happily at home, by myself.  All alone.   I missed my family more and more as time went on, and did wish I could have gone to England.  I love going to England normally!  Any time! Just not this time.  It was surprisingly easy to not go, and at the same time hard to let my family go, emotionally.

During this last week, my only week with no activities planned, was blessedly at home every evening.  Did I say I almost burst out crying at the end of the second week alone when it had somehow filled up and I hadn't planned it? That was when I said, stop.  It's been a hard lesson to learn, that who I want to be (someone pleasant and able to socialize) is not who I am (someone who likes one or two people at a time, and to really stay at home all the time.)

I knew, have known since I was 12, that I prefer to read, and to spend time alone. But I was afraid I would not have any friends if I did that, so I learned how to go out, and somewhere along the line, even though I kept reading and doing some writing, I forgot to check in with myself. I love going out to movies, and to restaurants, just not all the time.  In fact, not more than once or twice a month.  At most. And somewhere inside, I thought someone who never went out was a loser.  That's how powerful extroverts are on us.

I had three precious weeks of time alone every night (no matter what time I got home at!) and it has done me a world of good.  I'm now working on simplifying my life, and doing what I want to do.  As much as I can, with three children and a husband!  I can find more time to be alone, and to be still, and to be silent, and that seems to be what I crave most right now.

 I was most surprised that I couldn't blog during this time.  All the words about books dried up.  I couldn't even come and see you, which normally I love to do, and leave comments.  I went away, into silence.  However, I missed you all.  And my dear blog, which I thought at one point, is it all over for me?  I am so thankful to say, I am back.

As you can see, I have redecorated  - nothing like a new colour scheme to cheer the soul up!   And in true introvert style, I have been doing the things I love to do:

Gardening posts to come:
I have  been busy in my garden, planting 30 of the 50 plants for my birthday.  I will do a post about the plants, and my birthday!  We had a fabulous celebration. I just couldn't write about it, so much was going on around then.

I have also been reading, reading, reading.  I'm not quite caught up to where I should be, though I do have three books on the go. I have been reading, a lot. I will be posting about them.  I promise.  So many are very good.  Plus do the round-up of what I read for Once Upon a Time, since I did continue to read for it until June 21.

Two interesting books on the go involving silence:
 Two  books I have been dipping into at this time are A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland, and The True Secret of Writing, by Natalie Goldberg.  Both are about silence, and how necessary it is.

Maitland's book is about her journey to silence, and how she discovered she loved it, in her late 40's.  I am enjoying this book very much. Here is the original site I found the book at:  The Hermitary: Women and Silence.  I could swear I found this through Terri Windling's blog, but I can't find the link.  If I do, I will pst it here.

Goldberg's book is her latest in her series of writing books, of which Writing Down the Bones is the first.  I've had that one on my shelf for many years, and often dip into it. The True Secret of Writing is her distillation of many years of zen and writing practice.  She has taught for many years a retreat for artists/writers/etc.  The book is fascinating, if sometimes a little light. Her rules are simple and three: Sit.  Walk.  Write.  Sit and contemplate the world, doing nothing, for a minimum of 10 minutes a day (longer if you can).  Quiet the mind.  Walk slowly, no talking.  Look around.  And then write.

 It sounds simple, and it's hard to do, and exactly what I need.  If you are feeling blocked creatively, overwhelmed, longing for something but not able to get away, just want to do something differently, or learn to be here now, feeling the space around you that you are in, this is a book to try.

Books right now:
 I have managed to get my hands finally on the new Sylvia Plath biography, Mad Girl's Love Song by Andrew Wilson, from the library on Monday.  I've already read two chapters.  It's very good.  Current mystery reading  is Summertime, All the Cats are Bored, a newly-translated French noir mystery by Philippe Georget.  I'm really enjoying this one.

Gifts from England from my wonderful husband:
Before I go, below is a picture of what my husband brought back from England for me.  Books I had specifically requested, and my favourite biscuits (cookies) from Marks and Spencer, and some tea.  I just opened the presents today, and keep fondling the books.  At long last I am holding them!  As you can see from the cookies, I've already opened the package and had 1 or 3......


Boneland - Alan Garner - never available over here, I am almost beyond happiness to finally get to hold this book and read it.  The 3rd one in his Weirdstone Trilogy.  Colin, grown up.
Living Dangerously - Katie Fforde - I have Cath at Read-Warbler to thank for this one.  Ever since her amazing delightful review, I have been wanting to read this.  Our library only has one of her other books, Love Letters, which funnily enough is the other one in this review!   I just got it out two weeks ago. Living Dangerously (the one I really wanted) is mine to keep!!
Gossip From the Forest - Sara Maitland - same author as A book of Silence, above.  This just came out, and is about fairy tales and forests.
The Girl on the Stairs - Louise Welsh - have been waiting for ever for this to come out in small paperback (not the huge one that is almost the size of a hard cover), the same as
The End of the Wasp Season - Denise Mina.  Hurray!!   They are both mysteries.
The Small Hand - Susan Hill - if it ever got here, I didn't see it.  Dolly was also on my requested list, but my husband could only see this.  I am so happy.  A lovely ghost story by one of the best writers of them.

Other reviews:
Terri Windling
Ursuula K Le Guin in the Guardian review.  (spoilers)
Fantasy Book Review (spoilers)

Gossip From the Forest
Guardian - June 21/13 review
Guardian - Oct 2012 review
Alex in Leeds
Eva at A Striped Armchair

A Book of Silence
Ursula K. Le Guin

Living Dangerously
Cath at Read-Warbler
Random Jottings (lovely post on Fforde's books in general)

Small Hand
Margaret at Books Please

The End of the Wasp Season
Mysteries in Paradise

 Sometimes an introvert just has to go away for a while.  I really wish I knew before-hand so I could put a little notice up here!  Anyway, I am feeling somewhat full of words again, and able to write, as you can see.  I missed you all!  I hope you have been having a fabulous summer reading........

And a shout-out to Ana at Things Mean Alot, who just on her post today linked to Jack Zipes review of Gossip From the Forest  and Philip Pullmans' Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, A New English Version!!!  Here is Ana's post, and here is the post at the LA Times.  Now I HAVE to get Pullman's book!  I'm also thinking there is some synchronicity here, so must get to reading Gossip From the Forest asap.