Why you should (allow yourself to) read “below your capabilities.”

Or:  “Reading Without Limits” Goes Both Ways 

This is somewhat of a prelude to my Decade-End Review, and somewhat of a response to:

  • Recent discussions on appropriate tween books (scroll down to the “Clean Teen” section),
  • Debates over appropriate trick-or-treating ages (yes, I do think that’s relevant here), and
  • This one comic I saw in my Facebook feed:

Unshelved

Whenever I see people getting indignant at the idea of limiting children’s access to “mature” books, or bristling at the idea of implicitly labeling certain subjects as “unclean” or “inappropriate,” I naturally pump my fist and say, “Right on!”

right on

But then, another part of my brain launches into a painful flashback to all those times I got flack for the opposite reason:  for reading books that were “beneath” my capabilities.  For not challenging myself enough when I chose books for pleasure rather than for a test.  For daring to set my mature foot in the juvenile section, bookstore gift card in hand.

Now, you may think the Internet doesn’t need another defense of Adults Reading Books Marketed to Children and Teens.  Whether you claim nostalgia, sociological research, a lovingly snarky podcast, or just the love of a good story, it’s no longer so embarrassing for adults to be caught reading Baby-sitters Club books or the latest John Green novel.  This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve raised the subject of crushing the Juv/YA stigma here @ Postcards, and I’m certainly not the only book blogger who feels that way.

Today’s post is is both a little more existential and a little more targeted, though.  Today’s post is about the whole concept of Reading Levels and Growing Up and Challenging Yourself.  

On the one hand, today’s post applies to any reader of any age.  On the other hand, it applies especially:

  • To those parents, teachers, and administrators who worry that your children/students aren’t “challenging themselves” enough.  That they’re “stuck in La-La Land” and aren’t preparing themselves for the Real World.
    .
  • To those middle-graders, tweens, and teens who feel pressured to read only at or above their maturity level.  Those middle-schoolers who get side-eyes from classmates or teachers because they’re still reading the Magic Treehouse books.  Those fifteen-year-olds who feel like hiding their copies of Amber Brown.  The young NeriSirens who learned to pretend they were only re-re-re-reading Jessica’s Mermaid out of nostalgia, and not because they found any unadulterated joy in the experience.
    .
    Jessica's Mermaid.
  • And, finally:  to those book-tivists who think it’s only a problem when children are discouraged from reading books that are “too hard” for them.

Read on…

Posted in book blogging, opinion | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Salted caramel, with extra foam…

An October Report, of sorts.

Due to Real World complications and Other Projects, I’m taking a bit longer to read the latest October Days novel than I’d hoped.  Therefore, rather than a full book review, I would like to offer a brief preview of The Unkindest Tide, by way of some fanfiction-ey cosplaying!

Meet Neringa, the friendly merrow coffee barista who works in the marketplace of the Duchy of Ships!  She’s ready to keep hundreds of selkie, merrow, Cephali, and other Undersea customers — as well as the few land-side visitors — fully caffeinated during the Sea Witch’s Convocation.

What’s that?  The book never actually mentions Neringa or her fabulous coffee stall?  Well, Toby’s a reformed caffeine addict, so she wouldn’t have had any reason to remember the bubbly bean queen who offered her a salted caramel macchiato or a foam-frosted espresso cupcake (recipe here), but Neri was definitely there!

Originally from the Baltic Sea, Neri honors her heritage by emblazoning an image of Eglė, Queen of Sea Serpents on all of her (biodegradable) drink-ware.

Oh, and Neri is definitely on Team Dianda — the true Duchess of Saltmist!  To Davy Jones with all who threaten the Lorden family!

Anyhoo…

Happy Halloween, Postcardians!

P.S. Sail over to Instagram for more pics of Neri the coffee mermaid, as well as my amazing zombicorn outfit from last weekend’s Zombie Walk!

Posted in fantasy, folklore/fairy tales, Halloween, mermaids, October Daye, selkies | 8 Comments

La La Land has a new address!

Hear ye, Hear ye!  

With songs and spells and a pinch of pixie dust, I have finally simplified the portal into La-La Land!  My faithful Postcardians may now enter their beloved land of literary tomfoolery and fairy tale fangirling via a shorter address!  Simply type…

postcardsfromlalaland.com

…and continue to enjoy the highest quality Juv/YA news, views, and reviews!

Let us rejoicify!

Wicked Emerald City

dance magic dance

confetti

little mermaid

 

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Gifs from Giphy.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Literary Candy Crushes

Last year, Tor.com posted an article on the evolution of “Fantasy Candy Kingdoms” in children’s literature — from Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house to Seanan McGuire’s world of Confection in Beneath the Sugar Sky (hello, TBR pile!)

Upon re-reading the article, I’m inspired not only to update my Trick-or-Treat inventory this year (I bet the kids in my neighborhood will love three-course-dinner gum and Turkish Delight, amirite?), but also to honor my own favorite literary sweets.

And so!  Today, I’m sharing my Top Five Fictional Sweets from books or stories I’ve reviewed here at Postcards, in no particular order!  Plus: ideas on where to find or how to make these treats (or versions thereof) yourself!

witch hat candy corn

Constanze’s candied breakfast in “A Delicate Architecture,” by Catherynne M. Valente — one of the twisted fairy tales from the Troll’s Eye View anthology (review).  The daughter of Austria’s greatest confectioner is raised to worship all things sugar.  Every morning, she dutifully eats her cavity-carving breakfast of sugared plums; a soft-boiled marzipan egg filled with lemon syrup, cracked with a toffee hammer; and melted chocolate in a vanilla-bean mug.  No wonder she practically bleeds syrup!

Marzipan eggs are actually an Easter tradition in India, often decorated with royal icing and fondant flowers.  There are numerous recipes online, including these eggless, gluten-free and vegan variations (one of them is a stuffed version — I imagine lemon syrup would make an acceptable insert 🙂 ).

    witch hat candy corn

Fried sugar pies from the Paradise Pies Cafe, in The True-Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, by Kathi Appelt (review).  Made from pure muscovado canebrake sugar, this heavenly pastry is beloved by all who live in the Sugar Man Swamp.  So tasty, it might even sweeten the heart of greedy landlord Sonny Boy Beaucoup, who wants to turn the mythical swamp into a theme park.  Well, maybe not, but a reader can dream, can’t she?

Muscovado is an unrefined cane sugar with a smoky molasses taste (see this article for a more mouth-watering explanation).  You can buy it online to make an almost-truly-authentic Paradise pie, or you can try the simpler recipe found in Kathi Appelt’s True Blue Scouts activity kit!

    witch hat candy corn

Chocolate-banana empanadas — from the Espinosa family restaurant in Like Water, by Rebecca Podos (review).  Savannah’s parents run a restaurant in El Trampero, New Mexico, where they serve such drool-worthy fare as spice-braised pork cooked in banana leaves, spare ribs covered in chocolate sauce and Kahlua, and, if that’s not enough to flood your taste buds, chocolate-banana empanadas for dessert.

Empanadas are similar to hand pies, pasties, or turnovers.  They’re common in Latin American cultures; my own experience has been the meat-and-veggie-filled kind at Colombian restaurants and roadside eateries.  I’m going to have to do more research on the dessert varieties, though!  This chocolate-banana recipe sounds like something Vanni would pile on a plate and share with no one 😉

    witch hat candy corn

Nessie’s Nog Log — a sinfully good spice cake created by Clytemnestra, “Queen of the Nile,” in Castle Waiting Vol. 1, by Linda Medley (review).  After running away from the circus, Nessie and her best friend Peace find sanctuary at St. Wilgeforte’s Abbey for bearded nuns.  The two newest residents fit in right away, and hurry to contribute their own talents to abbey life.

On baking day, Nessie tries to re-create her father’s Holy Day Cake, but has to substitute some of the ingredients.  The heavenly touch turns out to be the abbey’s famous oat liqueur.  Nessie soaks the cake a bit too long…which turns a simple spice cake into a truly spiritual experience.

Perhaps I’ll make my own yuletide version of Nog Log this Christmas, using Lithuanian spiced mead instead of oatnog.  I’ll let you know how it turns out!  In the meantime, if you’re over 21, you might try any of these spiked cakes from Olive magazine (there’s even a yule log recipe with Bailey’s filling :-d )

witch hat candy corn

Basically, everything on the Hogwarts Express trolley, everything in the Honeydukes inventory, and everything on the dessert menu at the beginning-of-the-year feast (reviews here and here). 

Yes, yes, flying bandwagons and all that, but come on.  Harry Potter taught us that chocolate can literally save your immortal soul.  Or something.  So, this Halloween, feel free to indulge in ALL THE SUPERNATURAL SUGARY GOODNESS!!!  Stock up on the classics you can find practically anywhere — chocolate frogs, Butterbeer, Bertie Bott’s Beans — or get creative with your wizarding foodie experience!

Bake your own interpretation of cauldron cakes!  If you’re feeling ambitious, try out this creepy Food Network version.  I’m pretty proud of these bite-sized cauldrons I made last year, using brownie bites, purple squeezable frosting, and star sprinkles.

Or find yourself a local bakery/confectionery that indulges the geek community.  I’m lucky to have a local coffee house that celebrates Harry Potter’s birthday week with themed sugary drinks (my favorite is the protagonist-flavored Polyjuice Potion) and baked goods like real pumpkin pasties!  I can also Apparate over to Sweets So Geek, which offers rotating fandom-based menus of cakes, cookies, and chocolates, as well as taking custom orders.  

witch hat candy corn

So!  What are your personal bookish candy crushes?  Have you tried finding or re-creating them in real life?  How did it go?

 

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Candy corn clip art from Clipart Look.

Posted in bookish cooking, Halloween | 8 Comments

Mindful Make-believe: “The Gypsy Game” on compassionate cosplay

Spooky Salutations, Postcardians!  Welcome to…

Halloween Month 2019!

Trick or Treaters

Re: this year’s theme.  Rather than Selkies, Sequels, and Second Chances, I’ve decided to focus on Compassionate Cosplay, (Literary) Candy Crushes, and Sinister Selchies (look, there’s a ‘c’ in there!)

  • Today’s post will focus on The Gypsy Game, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (which, incidentally, is both a sequel and a second chance!).  When is it appropriate to make a game and/or costume out of a person/culture/event, and when is it tacky (at best) or a cruel joke (at worst)?
    .
  • The next post will review my favorite fictional sweets from books I’ve discussed here @ Postcards.
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  • The final post (assuming I finish The Unkindest Tide on time) will be my 2019 October Report, revealing the deadly depths to which the sea witch is willing to go to resurrect her descendant race — and to which the complicit selkies will go to keep their place in Faerie.

In the meantime…

Gypsy Game alt

I’ve been thinking a lot about mindfulness in the past year (see what I did there?), mainly as an antidote to depression and anxiety.  As I understand it, mindfulness means being aware of what you’re doing, or what’s happening to you, at this moment and why.   For example:  realizing you’re having a panic attack before it gets out of control, accepting that that’s how you feel right now, and figuring out what triggered it so you can prevent future attacks.  Techniques for increasing mindfulness include yoga, meditation, and conscious breathing.

But mindfulness can be applied to any area of life, and can make us healthier social beings as well as individual beings.  For the purposes of this post, I consider social mindfulness to mean awareness of how our actions affect others, or awareness of the history/implications of our actions. 

After reading Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s sequel to The Egypt Game, I’ve decided to explore how I can carry a more mindful attitude into my favorite geek spaces — specifically, the LARP-ing, cosplaying spaces.  And, because it’s Halloween Month, I’m going to focus on mindful costumes (a concept that can also be applied to Ren Faires and Comic Cons).

NOTE:  Lest you think I’m about to fall into the same trap I think The Gypsy Game falls into — i.e. oversimplifying the story’s message — this is more than just a guide to woke-ing up your Halloween costumes.

That said…if you’ve followed the past few Halloween Months here @ Postcards, you know I’m not a fan of costumes that make fun of cultures or identities.  Like Pocahottie costumes, or Speedy-Gonzalez-type get-ups, or transphobic mock-drag outfits.  See Good Housekeeping‘s recent article — “15 Offensive Halloween Costumes That Shouldn’t Exist” — for more ideas on What NOT To Wear (WARNING: some of the images may be NSFW or just generally upsetting).

But what about well-meaning costume ideas that are meant to celebrate a character or culture or concept?  What about the non-Roma person who wants to be a traveling musician or fortune teller?  Or the non-Pakistani person who wants to be Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan?  What if someone who’s not of Polynesian descent wants to dress up as Maui?

Ms Bubblegum Marvel

As Will Smith’s Genie would say, there’s a lot of grey area here.  Just because your intentions are fun and festive doesn’t mean the costume is going to go over well.  On the other hand, we don’t have to completely avoid costumes or games based on characters from other cultures.  For instance, I’m not sure I agree with the Good Housekeeping article on Disney!Maui costumes (more on that later).  And I definitely don’t agree with The Gypsy Game‘s conclusion on…well, on the Gypsy Game itself.

Before we get into my personal Costuming Do’s and Don’ts, though, let’s see where the book stands…

Onward:  The Gypsy Game review

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Trick or Treat clip-art from clipartwiki.

Posted in family, Halloween, opinion, spooky | 6 Comments

It’s still summer in Sweet Valley.

If you’re lucky enough to live where the mercury never falls below 50, you can totally still sneak in some beach reading in these early days of Autumn.  And what’s beachier than a nostalgic romp through Sweet Valley, California?  Better yet — a lovingly satirical SVH Academic All Starromp, in graphic novel form!

Katy Rex, et al.  Sweet Valley High: Academic All-Star?  Mt. Laurel, NJ: Dynamite Entertainment, 2019.

Rating:  5 out of 5 charities Elizabeth is knitting scarves for while saving wetlands and rehabilitating circus horses.

Recommended if you like:  loving parodies, skillfully updated characters, stories set in the present day that still somehow feel nostalgic.

Dynamite Entertainment just released the first installment of — I hope! — a new series of Sweet Valley graphic novels set in the age of social media.  Like, instead of slam books, you have Snapchat and Instagram…the comedic possibilities are endless!

And let me assure you, the 21st-century updates do not feel like obnoxious gimmicks at all (*side-eyes Sweet Valley Confidential*).  This isn’t one of those We’re-pretending-the-characters-went-through-a-30-year-time-warp-without-realizing-or-acknowledging-it things.  Nope!  For the purposes of this series, the Twins and Friends were born in the early 2000s, and all the slang and technology they use feels organic.

Also!  The Twins themselves feel more three-dimensional and complex, even when they’re being caricatured.  Elizabeth isn’t just some sickeningly saintly butt-in-ski in Victorian schoolmarm outfits.  She’s a relatably over-ambitious Super Volunteer who just can’t understand why she’s having trouble balancing her civic duty with her social life.  And sometimes she wears midriffs!  And rompers!  And shredded shorts!  (Of course there’s an outfit montage)

SVH AS midriff

And Jessica isn’t just some airheaded Mean Girl cheerleader who can’t tell Shakespeare from a milkshake (*raises an eyebrow at the SVH TV show*).  She can throw down pretentious academic discourse about gender binaries and layers of personhood with the best of them!

And, though they’re each relatably clueless about their own hang-ups, they’re awesome at pointing out each other’s pitfalls — in a way that’s delightfully satirizing the dodgy aspects of the original book series.

SVH AS creepyLiz explains why a romance between a sixteen-year-old and her adult T.A. is totes problematic.

SVH AS toxic dynamics
Jess suggests that maybe Liz and Todd are acting too much like a married couple…and not in a sweet way.

Some of their conversations even gave me lovely Frozen flashbacks.

True Love

Just one little nitpick — I do not believe Bruce Patman would choose such a wholesomely tame euphemism like “sleeping with” to taunt Jessica about her T.A. crush on Instagram.  Even if Dynamite wanted to keep this book PG-13, they could’ve blurred out a more salacious word, or conveniently placed a thumb over part of it, or something.

I can’t wait for the Double Love podcast to delve into this one.  I just know Anna and Karyn are going to LOL over Todd’s  multiple melodramatic exits from French bistros (that was my alternate rating), or how he can only tell the Twins apart when it’s dramatically inconvenient for him to do so.

Anyhoo…

Happy Fall, y’all!  It’s almost Halloween Month!

Fall

 

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Leaf pile clip art from giphy

Posted in favorites, graphic-novels, humor, nostalgic, satire | 4 Comments

Salt inside the words: Helen Frost on writing for children

A few weeks ago, Fort Wayne author Helen Frost led a children’s lit workshop at the Allen County Public Library, where she offered advice on historical research, “writing the other,” and not stressing too much about the children’s publishing industry.

Frost workshop acpl

Overall impression  

Frost is a big fan of the Juv/YA writing community as a whole.  She spent much of the workshop promoting other authors — particularly local authors — and encouraging us to join organizations like SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).  She also encouraged us to compare her advice with many other voices.  “I’m speaking from my own experience and knowledge,” she wrote on her handout, “but things change fast, and opinions differ, so read and listen to many people.”

monarch

Background  

Frost may have started out as an aspiring entomologist, but it turned out her ultimate love was poetry.*  So far, she’s written two poetry collections, nine novels-in-verse, and six picture books (one of which was about butterflies, one about fireflies, and one about insects in general…so, the entomological dreams didn’t completely fade 🙂 ).

Of course, a good part of the workshop focused on Frost’s 2013 poem-novel Salt, which is an ode to the Fort Wayne/Kekionga region, set during the War of 1812.  It centers on two boys — one a member of the Miami nation and one a new American settler — who try to remain friends as the war starts to drive their neighbors apart.  Knowing she was writing half of the book from a cultural perspective Saltthat was not her own, Frost did extensive research and deferred to members of the Miami tribes of Oklahoma and Indiana for everything from historical details to character names.

As a sign of respect, she also chose to italicize not only the Miami words that co-protagonist Anikwa teaches his friend James, but also the English words that James teaches Anikwa — placing both languages on equal ground rather than showing one as default and the other as different.

Frost’s conscientiousness has not gone unnoticed; Salt received fifteen awards, including the New York Historical Society’s Children’s History Book Prize and the International Reading Association’s Notable Books for a Global Society Award.  For my full review of the novel, see page 2.

On the other hand, Frost is a firm supporter of #ownvoices literature and wants to see more support for books like Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming — a memoir in verse that centers on Woodson’s experiences as an African-American child in Ohio, South Carolina, and Brooklyn during the ’60s and ’70s — which was a finalist for the Children’s History Book Prize the same year as Salt.  For more resources and recommendations of diverse authors, Frost points to the We Need Diverse Books website.

I’ve also been exploring the Writing the Other website and book for advice on writing about cultures and experiences outside of my own.

And, of course, do check out Helen Frost’s own website, which has even more resources for writers, readers, and teachers of children’s lit and poetry.

monarch

Writerly advice: Top 4 

There were four tips that stuck with me the most, in roughly ascending order of “Aha!” momentousness.

  • The children’s lit publishing process is not as scary as it seems.  Getting your book published the traditional way can be hard, but it’s not impossible.  It can take years, or it can take much less than that.  It’s a fairly case-by-case process, so just focus on writing your best draft instead of trying to guess what kinds of stories/protagonists/narrative formats/etc. publishers are looking for.
    .
  • Keep going.  If you write something that makes you feel an intense emotion — anger, sadness, fear — keep going.  These feelings can reveal the heart of your story.  More importantly, going back to the previous tip:  if you think you can’t write, or that no one will care about what you’re writing, keep going!
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  • Even more importantly, to me:  If you feel like you’ve reached a dead end and you want to start over, and if this phenomenon happens over and over again, THAT’S OKAY(!!!)  Set the dead-end draft aside (don’t destroy it), and start over (as many times as you like!!!!!).
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    I’ve been re-starting my current work-in-progress over and over (and over and over and over) for the past two years, and every time I do, I feel a bit guilty.  As though I’m not disciplined enough to just crank out a complete draft and then revise it.  As though I’m stalling, as though maybe I’m too afraid to complete a full draft because that would mean moving on to terrifying next steps:  revision and agent-hunting and convincing one of the Big 6 to publish it.
    .
    A slight disclaimer:  It’s not that this was the first time I re-evaluated my revision process.  Occasionally, when I’m feeling discouraged, I think back to an interview of Peter S. Bealge, in which he admitted that writing The Last Unicorn made him feel like “Sisyphus pushing that damn rock up the hill, only to have it roll back down again.”**  So, Helen Frost’s comments didn’t give me a first-time-ever Aha! moment.  It was more like an Aha! confirmation.
    .
    exactly
    .
  • Finally, Frost gave us a challenge that I am more than willing to accept:  Is it possible to write a Juv/YA story with an interesting conflict that does not involve cliche drama like school bullies and mean girls?  Can you write middle-grade/teen characters who are generally kind to each other, yet still seem relatable and compelling?
    .
    For me, more specifically, this means writing relatable queer teen protagonists whose most significant obstacles do not involve homophobic bullying.  Characters like Kevin from Seven Tears at High Tide and Quentin from the October Daye series.

challenge accepted

Read on for my review of Salt.

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*  Helen Frost.  “Autobiography Acrostic.”  About.  HelenFrost.net.  Accessed 30 August 2019.

**  Connor Cochran.  “A Conversation with Peter S. Beagle.”  2007.  The Last Unicorn Deluxe.  Peter S. Beagle.  Kindle Deluxe Compilation Edition.  Conlan Press, 2015. 

Posted in author focus, family, historical, poetry, writing | 3 Comments

Summer of ’69 / ’94 / ’19

Merlin Bermuda

Alakazam, Postcardians!  #notsorry, but I did suggest in my previous post (now private) that “Goodbye for Now” might turn into “Merely a Hiatus,” and/or that I might take a break from Other Big Projects to sneak in a post or two this Fall.  Luckily, I just needed a few extra months of vacation in the Real World to recharge my brain for:

Postcards (Mini) Season 10:
The Nostalgic Re-awakening!

Creativity

Tentative ideas for upcoming posts include:

  • Writing Children’s Books:  Tips from Helen Frost:  Highlights from a recent workshop with Fort Wayne author Helen Frost.  Plus a review of her historical verse novel Salt, which offers a glimpse into the War of 1812 from the perspectives of two boys from the Fort Wayne/Kekionga region:  a new American settler and a member of the Miami Indian nation.
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  • A review of Emily Whitman’s The Turning, plus a recap/comparison of all the selkie tales I’ve reviewed on this blog.  What (if any) are the essential tenets of selkie lore?  What are the biggest disagreements?  I’ll try to be as spoiler-free as possible, but no promises.
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  • Halloween Month:  Selkies, Sequels, and Second Chances.  It’s happening.  Brace yourselves for the ultimate showdown between October Daye’s sea witch aunt (creator of all the seal folk) and the entire selkie race!  Then, buckle in for another high-speed spy thriller featuring Lithuanian teen assassin Gobija Zaksauskas!  And, finally, cheer me on as I (maybe) take a second crack at one of my 2018 DNFs!
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  • A Decade-End Review:  Highlights and Lowlights from Ten Years in La-La Land.

* ~ * ~ * ~ *~ *

In the meantime, you could think of today’s post as a What I Read This Summer Essay.  Or maybe it’s a Trippy Time Travelogue.  This summer, I’ve revisited some of my favorite stories in spoken form, channeling story addicts of millenia past, who ingested their favorite legends and fairy tales through their ears.  In other words:  audiobooks!

I’m also going to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to my favorite teen magazine, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and whose evolution into a more inclusive, LGBTQ-friendly publication is one awesome example of how far we’ve come since Stonewall.

FWPrideFest 2019
Introducing my new puppy, Spurga, to Fort Wayne’s best summer festivals.  (Oh, did I mention the new puppy?  She’s a bernedoodle, and her name means “little donut” in Lithuanian ^_^ )

Onward to:  Nostalgic Summer Listening 2019

Posted in fantasy, festivals, LGBTQIA, music, re-reads | 2 Comments

The 2018 Review

Welcome, Postcardians, to another celebration of a year in La-La Land!  Have a metaphorical seat by the imaginary fireplace, and enjoy a virtual taste of my grandmother’s gingerbread mushrooms!

Grybukai

* Overview *

First, a big Thank You!!! to everyone who followed Postcards in 2018, and for all the likes and comments!

2018 has been a particularly important year for me, as I celebrated Lithuania’s 100th Independence anniversary by exploring the fairy tales, poetry, and music of the Baltic nation, and attending the week-long Song and Dance Festival in July.

I also spent the first half of the year praising an LGBT-friendly parody of the vice president’s children’s book, awwing at modern Meet Cutes, and vicariously attending beach-side mermaid shows.

The latter half of the year was a little tougher.  A depression flare-up prompted me to search for new comfort reads (Percy Jackson and A Discovery of Witches are on my 2019 TBR list, but I’ll share a few of the other comfort reads I’ve discovered on pg 2) and fun bookish podcasts to cheer me up.

I also kept my Fall spirits up by focusing this year’s Halloween Month on terrifyingly twisted fairy tales — from skeletal Cinderellas to horror-obsessed Hansels to bloodthirsty Little Mermaids.

And so!

It’s time for a look back at my favorite reads of 2018.  This year, I’ve divided my Year-End Review into a Nice List and a Naughty List, because I thought it would be fun to share not only the best books, but also my top DNFs (Books I Did Not Finish) of 2018.

On Dasher!  On Dancer!…

poinsetta

* The Nice List:  Part One *

As always, click each cover for the review.

Graziausios Vaikystes Pasakos  Simon  Marlon Bundo  Friends  Like Water  Fish Girl  Funny Bones  The Jumbies  Sleeper and Spindle  Sita's Ramayana  Twisted Myths  MerrySpinster.indd  Red as Blood  Night and Silence

Next

Posted in fantasy, favorites, folklore/fairy tales, LGBTQIA, Lithuania, mermaids, meta, music, nostalgic, spooky, year-end review | 9 Comments

The October Report: Night and Silence

Apparently, the faeries snuck one last gift into my bag before we left the Twilight Realm.

Night and Silence

Rating:  4.89 out of 5 nasty, allergy-inducing sachets of marsh magic.

The newest October Daye book, Night and Silence, is so amazeballs that the faeries gave it to me in hardcover.  SO AMAZEBALLS, YOU GUYS!!!  Things happen.  THINGS.  REVELATIONS.  I thought Of Things Unknown was world-altering, but this book takes things EVEN FURTHER.

And so, I’ve decided to review it here rather than at Goodreads.  I may even make this a second Halloween Month tradition — besides my usual spooky book posts, I may also review future October Daye books here.  We’ll see.  You can still find my previous Toby reviews at Goodreads.

Anyhoo…

The non-spoilery gist is that, on top of dealing with the aftermath of Amandine’s cat-napping, Toby gets a sudden visit from her estranged ex-fiance, because, apparently, her daughter’s been kidnapped AGAIN.  And in Cliff’s eyes, Toby is the prime suspect.

rude

Of course Toby takes the case, but it turns out this kidnapping is much more complicated, and Gillian’s step-mother seems to be hiding some important information.

And then ish really hits the fan, and in order to save Gillian, Toby and her allies have to bend the rules of Faerie even more than usual.

Ok, right, that sounds pretty standard for a Toby adventure, but YOU GUYS IT’S NOT.  IT’S AMAZEBALLS.  AND THE TAG-ALONG NOVELLA IS ABOUT SELKIES.  JUST THOUGHT I’D THROW THAT IN THERE.

But don’t read it until you read the main novel, because spoilers.

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A few random, non-spoilery things I loved:

  • This Toby-Tybalt moment:

    I sighed.  “Remind me again why I missed you?”
    “Because I am the only man who adores you as fully as you should be adored, covered in blood or no.”

    .

  • This Toby-Luidaeg moment:

    “Stop,” she said, not unkindly.  “You’re chasing the tide again, and you’re never going to catch it.”
    “Excuse me?”
    “Your head.  It’s got its own undertow, you know, and if you swim too deep, it can suck you down.  You can’t chase the tide.  You need to stay on the shore and let it come to you.”  She shook her head.  “I’m not going to tell you that everything is going to be fine.  I wouldn’t do it even if I was still allowed to lie.  Such things are too cruel even for a sea witch.  But I will tell you that what’s on the other side of that door is never going to be as bad as the undertow in your own mind.”

  • That Toby recognizes some of her own prejudices, which developed as she became more Fae.
    .
  • The further major insights we get into why the Big Three left Faerie five hundred years ago.

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A few non-spoilery things I didn’t love:

  • I do not buy that Toby would have avoided getting Sylvester’s help, for as long as she did, in the search for Gillian.  I’m pretty sure I know Toby better than that by now.  She would have used every resource she had, grudges be damned, to get her daughter back.
    .
  • I’m getting really frustrated with the Luidaeg’s ongoing grudge against Liz Ryan.  As I explained in more detail in my review of In Sea-Salt Tears, their fall-out happened on a two-way street.  Liz’s “betrayal” was based on a major lack of information.  The Luidaeg was hiding some majorly important facts, and whether that was by choice or by geas, she really shouldn’t have blamed Liz so severely for the choice she made.  Liz isn’t the real enemy here.  She’s not the one who truly betrayed the Luidaeg in the first place.  She’s not the one who should be so broken and full of self-loathing.

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Overall

This book was super fast-paced, had mind-blowing revelations, and gave me much deeper insights into my favorite characters and their world.  Plus, selkies.

If you’re already a Toby devotee, and would like to see me squee over the more spoilery details, follow me to page 2.

Open roads and kind fires…

Posted in family, fantasy, favorites, folklore/fairy tales, Halloween, October Daye, selkies | 2 Comments