April Book Haul

Hey y’all!

Welcome back to The American Woman. I know I haven’t been around in a while. This was due to some moving, some family stuff I had to deal with, and overall a generally stressful last couple of months. It’s not that I haven’t written anything, honestly, it’s that I haven’t written anything good. Everything I’ve got going on at the moment needs some serious rewriting. I am sure you’ve experienced this part of your own creative life.

Today, I did a little retail therapy and visited my local Catholic charities store. It’s like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, but more local. I had a pretty good book haul at $1 per paperback and $2 per hardcover and wanted to share it with you. I’ve read a couple of these books already, but most of them are new to me. I am excited to add them to the collection! (Which I will show you sometime. It’s a lot.) For now, here’s the fun list of the titles I found.

Are any of these your favorite book? Which ones do you recommend I read first? Click the links below if you want to see each book on Goodreads.

April Book Haul

Book Haul List:

Cats in Space, edited by Bill Fawcett

The Age of Reason, Jean-Paul Sartre

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley

The Magician’s Nephew, C. S. Lewis (I’ve read this one time and again, but I don’t own a copy yet… So I had to grab it.)

East of Eden, John Steinbeck

Daughter of Witches, Patricia Wrede (Now this just looks fun… Magic, witches, candles, fantasy… Yes!)

Tinkers, Paul Harding

Ethics, Aristotle (I classic I feel I ought to read)

The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Anything by Rousseau is fascinating)

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck (I’ve also read this one already, but it’s been a while, and I remember being in awe of Steinbeck’s ability to tell a story)

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Dai Sijie (I’ve recently become obsessed with Asian literature, and this looks like it will be good)

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (Another classic I feel the need to know about)

The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert (By the same woman who wrote Eat, Pray, Love, but this looks better and I prefer to read the lesser known novels of well known authors sometimes.)

The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003, Selected and Edited by Dave Eggers

Poet of the Appetites, Joan Reardon (A book about MFK Fisher, whom I don’t know anything about. Seems like a good read.)

Sula, Toni Morrison

On Persephone’s Island, Mary Taylor Simeti

Lakota Woman, Mary Crow Dog

The Secret History of Dreaming, Robert Moss

The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency  (This might be the best deal at $2 used, since I LOVE McSweeney’s and greatly enjoying laughing at their humor)

That’s all, folks! Enjoy the list and tell me your thoughts in the comment section below.

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

The 2015 Book List

By Corissa Haury

This year, I was proud to finish a dozen books. Twelve books may not seem like a lot, but I savored every one of them. Reading was not a competition this year. It was a privilege.

I started off the year with a lazy re-read of one of my favorite fantasy books, A Feast For Crows, from the Song of Ice & Fire series by George R. R. Martin. A Feast For CrowsThere are two huge things that reading the books that became Game of Thrones taught me. Number one, do not just reveal something to the reader outright. Reveal it through the dialogue. Number two, do not rely on one or two characters to drive your entire story. I think this is a huge rookie mistake for many young writers like myself. You need a huge network of people in your world to make it real. Think about all the people we each know. They teach us about the world.

My second book choice was less lazy, but still I lacked the reading voracity of my childhood. In late January I started The Serpent’s Childrena story by Laurence Yep about feudal China in the mid-1800s. It was a YA novel, so it was a quick read. The story, however, is brutal. A young girl fights to keep her brother and father together while the family struggles with poverty and basically slavery. The Serpent's ChildrenThere are parts of Asian cultures that we will never understand in America, and I believe part of that is the longevity of a family history. In America, a family may live here or there and spread their story across the states. Maybe they even originated elsewhere a hundred years ago. In China, families had been in the same spot for a thousand years. The story of the serpent’s children is one that broke my heart and taught me some invaluable lessons on family history. It opened a new world for me.

I read books three and four simultaneously. I don’t know how this happened, but sometimes it does. GrendelGrendel by John Gardner, and Women by Chuck Bukowski, both captivating reads. These two books were very different from one another, so it was hard to put either down in favor of the other. Grendel was a zigzag read, as incoherent as the gruntings of the dark monster from Beowulf’s childhood nightmares. That made it more real, more sad when bad things happened to a violent creature, who knew almost nothing of the idea of the self, yet still explored it.

Women was similar in its own way, the main character, Chinaski, grunting his own way through existential crises. His crises involved less violence and more sex, more alcohol, more fascinating women than Grendel. After all, that’s the title of the book. WomenChinaski’s crazy adventures with young women who love his poetry, his regular dames who return and break his car or steal his stuff, and the one cool cat who lives upstairs with her swinging husband, seem as if they will never end. Bukowski’s portrayal of drunken, messed up sexuality and relationships is definitely a fascinating world I again found myself apart from, but learned so much about.

Wow, so City of Dark Magic, a book about Beethoven, history, and Prague by a pair of writers who call themselves Magnus Flyte. I cannot express to you enough how much this book touched my soul. It crossed the City of Dark Magicdimensions of time, science, mystery, beauty, love, music… I mean, damn. This book has it all. It was raucous, sexy, funny, and I ate it up in less than a week back in late March. Go read it. It does not matter what kind of fiction you like. It’s all there. You will find yourself unable to put it down.

The sixth book I read is called Cleopatra’s Daughter. It was not on my list of intended reads this year. I happened to choose it from the $0.50 book bin at Bullmoose, a fantastic local media store with the best used book pile I have ever found. Cleopatra's DaughterThis is exactly the kind of book I typically scoff at, but the writing was good when I read the first chapter at the store. I was instantly hooked. I was transported to a world where Cleopatra’s children are scorned for their royal blood, for their Egyptian mixture with their father’s Roman genetics. In Rome, the children of Antony and Cleopatra are paraded about as trophies because of who their parents were. This novel was full of a racism I had never thought of before, the racism of old that they don’t speak about in the noble myths. Michelle Moran did a wonderful job portraying the culture, the children, and the scenery of historical Rome. The story feels real, and bittersweet. It was a beautiful read.

The Kitchen God's Wife

Lucky number seven was another cultural shock read for me. I grew up on a lot of white, conservative Christian books that did not speak much of the views of those in other countries. Other countries were like foreign worlds to me; the only context I had for them was as a land missionaries went to minister to. So when I read Amy Tan’s book, essentially the history of her mother’s experience in pre-World War II China and during the war, I learned a lot. I learned that women can still be bought, sold, and treated like slaves. The Kitchen God’s Wife was a terrifying and poignant read, and a good wake up call for me. The world was and is full of more danger and fear than I realized. It is also full of more hope than I realized. To read about the tenacity of a Chinese woman who was beaten, raped, and abused yet chose to fight tooth and nail to continue living and hoping for a better future gave me hope. I highly recommend this. If this woman can survive what she survived, any of us can keep trying, despite the staggering odds or dire circumstances.

My eighth read this year began after a two month lapse. June and July were tough months. The Blind AssassinIn August, I found Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin sitting in one of my numerous stacks of to-read books. This book immediately snatched my attention away from everything else. I wanted to read, read, read, and never stop. I didn’t want the story to stop. The Blind Assassin is one of those rare books where there are actually about four stories going on. Each chapter is a new and different iteration of each story, wrapped within another story I was reading elsewhere in the novel. I wondered all the time, “When will the stories connect?” Then I saw them connecting, saw the threads drawn together to weave a glorious tapestry of a tale about two sisters in Canada during the industrial revolution and the Depression. It was mythical, beautiful, ominous. I loved this book. This made me want to write a thousand stories and interlock them all.

Rogue in Space

Rogue in Space was my ninth book read this year. I found it in a huge book barn in Midcoast Maine at the end of August. My husband and I were on vacation with some best friends at Acadia National Park. On the way home we perused a massive antique store, and book barn. I found some science fiction treasures that warmed my heart. This book was fun, simple, silly, and a quick read. At 163 pages, Crag’s journey in space with a mad doctor and a beautiful, noble lady was exactly what I needed to end the summer. I’ve heard this may not be Fredric Brown’s best, but for pulp fiction, it was just right.

I took another long reading break until November, struggling as I started a few books and got distracted. Finally I read an acquaintance’s self-publishing efforts, and I got through The Blackthorn Chronicles, by Benjamin Holmquist.  The Blackthorn ChroniclesThe cheesy one-liners sprinkled throughout the pages draw you in, and then the story becomes dark. It’s okay.

Both my eleventh and twelfth books were holiday gifts from my husband, opened on Christmas Eve. The first was a raucous, inappropriate, and borderline disturbing graphic novel called Megahex, by Simon Hanselmann. MegahexA depressed, disturbed stoner witch and her cat have awkward misadventures and prank their roommates and friends over and over again in each new comic. I’m truly hoping for a second book of comics after this, as Hanselmann leaves the reader hanging. I read this in a day on Christmas, and it made me laugh and gasp at different moments. This title isn’t for everyone, but if you can handle a little mortification… You’ll laugh your ass off.

The second book I received was called Queen of the Tearling. I will try hard not to rant on and on about this one, because you have faithfully read about every other book I took on this year. But, it was the best one of them all. It was the queen of queen books. Do not get me wrong, all of the other books I started and finished this year were really good. Queen of the TearlingYet, it seemed like Erika Johansen had written Queen of the Tearling for me, every step of the way. It seemed like my kind of book all around, and Kelsea Raleigh was my kind of Queen. Not pretty, but courageous and determined, rightful heir to the Tearling throne Kelsea is center stage. She struggles through assassination attempts, hard realities about political intrigue, winning over her countrymen, and her foster parents gone missing. The bad guys are truly loathsome, the good guys rule, and the people who waver in between are, as usual, the most interesting. This book made me cry when it ended. It was full of compassion, kindness, heartbreak, death, frustration, ugliness, and magic. If you like history, futuristic dystopia, mythology, and badass Queens, read this book.

I barely finished my twelfth book on time. Queen of the Tearling ended around midnight last night for me. I could not believe I had actually finished twelve books this year. A lot of other things happened, but who reads those, “2015 recap” posts, anyway? I’d rather read about books. I hope you enjoyed this list of amazing reads, and that you will find something here to enjoy yourself. Thanks for joining me on The American Woman.

 

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

The Hangman

I’ve been writing a bit today, and in some of my research for a character, I found some interesting works, including this by Maurice Ogden. It’s an excellent piece, and I think all too often we miss these days what Ogden was pointing out we missed in the old days… We never look close enough at what’s going on around us or do enough to change the world. So with that in mind, enjoy this interesting poem.

Incidentally, my Hanged Man in my novel is only slightly related. I do like the poem, though.

Hangman 

by Maurice Ogden

1. Into our town the Hangman came.

Smelling of gold and blood and flame

and he paced our bricks with a diffident air

and built his frame on the courthouse square

 

The scaffold stood by the courthouse side,

Only as wide as the door was wide;

A frame as tall, or little more,

Than the capping sill of the courthouse door

 

And we wondered, whenever we had the time.

Who the criminal, what the crime.

That Hangman judged with the yellow twist

of knotted hemp in his busy fist.

 

And innocent though we were, with dread,

We passed those eyes of buckshot lead:

Till one cried: “Hangman, who is he

For whom you raise the gallows-tree?”

 

Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye,

And he gave us a riddle instead of reply:

“He who serves me best,” said he,

“Shall earn the rope on the gallows-tree.”

 

And he stepped down, and laid his hand

On a man who came from another land

And we breathed again, for another’s grief

At the Hangman’s hand was our relief

 

And the gallows-frame on the courthouse lawn

By tomorrow’s sun would be struck and gone.

So we gave him way, and no one spoke.

Out of respect for his Hangman’s cloak.

 

2. The next day’s sun looked mildly down

On roof and street in our quiet town

And stark and black in the morning air,

The gallows-tree on the courthouse square.

 

And the Hangman stood at his usual stand

With the yellow hemp in his busy hand;

With his buckshot eye and his jaw like a pike

And his air so knowing and business like.

 

And we cried, “Hangman, have you not done

Yesterday with the alien one?”

Then we fell silent, and stood amazed,

“Oh, not for him was the gallows raised.”

 

He laughed a laugh as he looked at us:

“…Did you think I’d gone to all this fuss

To hang one man? That’s a thing I do

To stretch a rope when the rope is new.”

 

Then one cried “Murder!” One cried “Shame!”

And into our midst the Hangman came

To that man’s place. “Do you hold,” said he,

“With him that was meant for the gallows-tree?”

 

And he laid his hand on that one’s arm.

And we shrank back in quick alarm,

And we gave him way, and no one spoke

Out of fear of his Hangman’s cloak.

 

That night we saw with dread surprise

The Hangman’s scaffold had grown in size.

Fed by the blood beneath the chute

The gallows-tree had taken root;

 

Now as wide, or a little more,

Than the steps that led to the courthouse door,

As tall as the writing, or nearly as tall,

Halfway up on the courthouse wall.

 

3. The third he took-we had all heard tell

Was a user and infidel, and

“What,” said the Hangman “have you to do

With the gallows-bound, and he a Jew?”

 

And we cried out, “Is this one he

Who has served you well and faithfully?”

The Hangman smiled: “It’s a clever scheme

To try the strength of the gallows-beam.”

 

The fourth man’s dark, accusing song

Had scratched out comfort hard and long;

And what concern, he gave us back.

“Have you for the doomed–the doomed and black?”

 

The fifth. The sixth. And we cried again,

“Hangman, Hangman, is this the last?”

“It’s a trick,” he said, “That we hangmen know

For easing the trap when the trap springs slow.””

 

And so we ceased, and asked no more,

As the Hangman tallied his bloody score:

And sun by sun, and night by night,

The gallows grew to monstrous height.

 

The wings of the scaffold opened wide

Till they covered the square from side to side:

And the monster cross-beam, looking down.

Cast its shadow across the town.

 

4. Then through the town the Hangman came

And called in the empty streets my name-

And I looked at the gallows soaring tall

And thought, “There is no one left at all

 

For hanging.” And so he calls to me

To help pull down the gallows-tree.

And I went out with right good hope

To the Hangman’s tree and the Hangman’s rope.

 

He smiled at me as I came down

To the courthouse square through the silent town.

And supple and stretched in his busy hand

Was the yellow twist of the strand.

 

And he whistled his tune as he tried the trap

And it sprang down with a ready snap.

And then with a smile of awful command

He laid his hand upon my hand.

 

“You tricked me. Hangman!” I shouted then.

“That your scaffold was built for other men…

And I no henchman of yours,” I cried,

“You lied to me. Hangman. foully lied!”

 

Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye,

“Lied to you? Tricked you?” he said.

“Not I. For I answered straight and I told you true”

The scaffold was raised for none but you.

 

For who has served me more faithfully

Then you with your coward’s hope?” said he,

“And where are the others that might have stood

Side by your side in the common good?”

 

“Dead,” I whispered, and sadly

“Murdered,” the Hangman corrected me:

“First the alien, then the Jew…

I did no more than you let me do.”

 

Beneath the beam that blocked the sky.

None had stood so alone as I.

And the Hangman strapped me, and no voice there

Cried “Stay!” for me in the empty square.

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.