A small diversion into life musings and 4 books that transcended worries
And now, after a month that included 7 states (eight if you reach just a teensy way back into August) and so, so many people that I love and don’t get that many chances to see along with readers and booksellers, one country singer named Samuel Grey Horse and his mule, Moola and a chance encounter on Austin’s busiest street with friends who live just a few miles away here in New England, I am back to tell you two things:
People are a good use of time.
Books are a good way to smooth the rough edges of even time well spent.
In the end, I didn’t regret a single flight or drive or hotel room or Uber. I wasn’t even a tiny bit sorry to have packed a book event, a dinner with friends, multiple coffee dates, hiking, swimming, paddleboarding, a puppy meet-and-greet, a family visit, another dinner and a night out with my kid into a single 24 hours—or with any of the long, long list of other people-centered activities that filled my month. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a full four weeks and it’s been a reminder that the most important, joyful, rich way to spend my time is with my friends and family. (Many of whom also went to a lot of trouble and effort in order to see me.)
It’s so easy to get caught up in our daily routine. To wish we could see far-away people but decide that it’s too hard, too exhausting, too much trouble. I do that, too. But in September I didn’t. And I’m very, very happy with past me who planned it and past me who got out there and did it. I’m planning more right now.
I’m ALSO happy to have had some delightful reads to keep me company on those flights. Standouts:
Mistborn – by Brandon Sanderson, A bookseller in a Barnes and Noble in Massachusetts told me that her boss demanded she leave her non-fiction comfort zone and gave her this—and that she read it in one day and then gobbled the rest of the series, and I sympathize. There’s a reason readers love this. It is absolutely the highest of fantasy, with world-building and new names and languages—but it’s also a very direct story of friendship and rebellion, and I too gobbled it up and bought the next one.
Cutting Teeth – by Chandler Baker, If your child was temporarily a baby vampire, would you let her suck your blood? This book understands that that question can be both metaphorical and literal, and then throws in a murder in the most idyllic of precious suburban preschoolers with a pack of 4-year-old suspects. Twisty fun.
A Lady’s Guide to Scandal – by Sophie Irwin, Regency romance of a delightful kind, with a flavor of Jane Austen’s Persuasion that gives its heroine all the gumption and agency—and power and money—you could have wished for for Anne Elliot. It has perhaps the best “all is lost” moment I’ve ever read and is delightfully surprising at every turn. I liked this author’s first book—this one ups her game by an order of magnitude.
Acts of Violet – by Margarita Montimore, I really, really enjoyed this book’s set up, story, characters, momentum, structure. I enjoyed the podcast transcripts, blog posts and articles that made up part of the story. Every character was well crafted, consistent and interesting. There was and is so much to love, and I recommend it, especially in paperback—and it’s VERY #fallvibes. I always hesitate with y’all on what to say when some part of a book falls somewhat short, though. It’s hard to write a book, and in my view my role here is more that of writer than critic. That said, I could see early on that the ending here might not land for me, and it didn’t, in that it didn’t live up to the level of excellence of the rest of the book. BUT I STILL LIKED IT and you should still read it. It’s satisfying. And this one was tough to end. It’s a good example of what happens when we try to hard to explain magic. For me, it’s best that it just be… magic. But the characters in this book strongly disagree, which makes this work.
You might be asking—how did the launch of Playing the Witch Card go? Beautifully, especially during this moment when three reader-witches appeared in costume. Please note the light-up shoes. If you haven’t already grabbed your copy, you really should.
Unless you don’t LIKE books that you “can’t put down”. In which case, what are you even DOING here?