Regular Rumination

Quotes & Notes: The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

Posted by in Books, Quotes & Notes

the orchardist



Riding in the herd, the sound like one constant, endless sigh; some horses frantic and others calm, some remembering some wrong done to them while others wanted only to sleep, and each struggling with hunger and thirst; some horses pregnant, others desperate to copulate; and all moved forward as one body amid the heat and the dust. The men and Della spaced out and caught among among them like ornaments in a blanket; like disparate thoughts fretting to cohere. The feeling that this would never end, being caught in the herd, heading east or north, west or south, moving for some purpose though that purpose was for the moment lost; the horses – the herd- carried the men at times more than the men guided them. The men were bound by time – they must reach the auction that evening, or the next day – and yet the riding among the horses through the landscape was endless and timeless, distanceless. It made some men – not the ones who were riding, but others, who lived elsewhere, employed in different occupations – desperate; it made Della sink down under the pressing weight of all that time, all that distance – for it was not deficit but surplus experienced between two destinations – and though she felt at times she could not move, because of the pressing weight, she also felt placed. Ensconced. Safe.


The Orchardist is the kind of historical, lyrical novel that is appealing to me at the moment. It is a book that is executed beautifully, with lovely language that reflects the chaos of the horse herds and the quiet of the orchards in the same book. Talmadge, who lives alone at the apple and apricot orchard until sisters Della and Jane upend his life and leave him with a child, Angelene, is a quiet, stoic man, upended by the mysterious disappearance of his sister when they were teenagers. Later he is driven to do unthinkable things in the name of saving Della and leaving Angelene with something of a family, but most of the novel is spent in quiet contemplation of what to do with the life you are given.

Della, still damaged from her life before she escaped the unthinkable with Jane, leaves Angelene and Talmadge after Jane’s death, unable to cope with a life without movement. She travels from one job to the next, trying to blend into the world of men, trying to prove herself to be as strong, physical, daring as a man. Talmadge waits for her return, desperate for Della to want the life of the orchardist, bound by the seasons and by ties to the land and blood relations. Angelene, though, has written Della off, she is a memory. Angelene can’t understand why Talmadge would want to bother with Della and bringing her back, Talmadge can’t understand why Angelene wouldn’t want Della back in her life.

As much as I liked the majority of this novel, when the drama finally comes to a head and Talmadge attempts to rescue Della from the life she has chosen, I felt weary by the story and by Talmadge. He is blind to the women around him, only thinking instead of the women who have left him. I guess no novel can sit quietly in the happy parts of the story and I can’t help but wonder if this complaint reflects my current state of mind more than an actual technical weakness in the story, but I just wanted Talmadge to recognize what he had in the orchard. I wanted Della to be able to live the life she wanted without another man interfering. I wanted happiness for them both. But that doesn’t necessarily make a good story.


Comics February: Who Runs the World? Girls.

Posted by in Books, comic

awesome ladies

My comics reading has slowed down a bit the past week or so, just because I couldn’t get to the library with the bad weather and I read almost everything I had! But I got a nice new bag of comics to read for this, the (sadly!) last week of Comics February, but I’m pretty much planning on making this Comics 2014, so don’t worry, you’ll be seeing a lot more.

The theme for the past week has definitely been comics about amazing women, some by amazing women.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki - It was pretty much guaranteed that I would love this, but I haven’t seen the movie Nausicaa, so the mythology was completely new to me and, as usual, I was blown away. I have loved Miyazaki’s movies for practically my whole life. My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service were on high rotation throughout my childhood and I loved Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle as an adult. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind takes place well into the future, after the industrialized world has collapsed after a brutal war. Earth, destroyed by humanity’s negligence, fights back by producing plants that emit dangerous spores, creating entire swaths of the planet that are an uninhabitable waste known as the Sea of Corruption. Nausicaa is a princess from the Valley of the Wind and she holds the secret to the Sea of Corruption and is also the only leader her small nation has, so she must lead them into battle. I never wanted the first volume of Nausicaa to end and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series right away.

Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Guts (The New 52) by Brian Azzarello with art by Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins, and Dan Green - So. Wonder Woman. I read the first volume last year and I liked it, but it didn’t blow my mind. I liked this volume a little bit more, but then I got to reading reviews. Folks say that the changes mythology of Wonder Woman in this series is something they’re not happy about, but I don’t really know anything about Wonder Woman or her mythology, so I can’t say one way or the other. It’s so interesting to read blog posts on the changes in The New 52 and every comment is either that they love the changes to the new Wonder Woman or they hate them. After reading this and all the demands for a Wonder Woman movie, I’ll definitely be reading some older Wonder Woman comics to learn more.

Hilda & The Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson - Hilda lives in a world that on first glance looks a lot like our own, but after a few pages you realize that it definitely is not. There are invisible creatures who want Hilda and her mother to leave the cabin they live in immediately and there is a giant, mountain-sized giant, who seems to be waiting for something. One day, Hilda’s eyes are opened and she sees that the invisible creatures are actually the citizens of a tiny city. Hilda’s cabin just happens to sit right on top of it and Hilda herself is the giant terrorizing the invisible town. I loved Hilda, I loved the art in this comic, and I adored the world building. It’s just the kind of comic that makes you smile.

Marbles by Ellen Forney - I talked in length about Marbles and Calling Dr. Laura over at BookRiot, so I won’t rehash everything I said there, but I did really love these two graphic memoirs. Marbles truly changed the way I look at mania and depression and what it means to be bipolar. Forney does an amazing job explaining what it is like to live as a bipolar artist. I think this is an important memoir, one that I’m so glad I read.

Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole J. Georges  – I wasn’t sure I was going to love this memoir. There were times when I felt like the story dragged on a little too long or I wasn’t really sure what the point was, but towards the end the enormity of what Georges was trying to understand about herself and her past really hit me. Plus, the art is downright beautiful and I’m obsessed with her lettering.

What comics did you read for Comics February this week?


Quotes & Notes: The Golem & The Jinni by Helene Wecker

Posted by in Books



It took him nearly two hours to find the crate. Two hours of picking his way through stacks of suitcases and boxes bound with twine. His stomach burned and cold sweat dripped into his eyes. Finally he moved aside a rolled up carpet, and there it was: his crate. And in it, his bride.

[...] Heart pounding, he pulled the paper from his pocket and carefully sounded out the command “To wake the golem.” He held his breath and waited.

Slowly, the golem came to life. First to wake were her senses. She felt a roughness of wood under her fingertips. The cold damp air on her skin. She sensed the movement of the boat. She smelled mildew and the tang of seawater. She woke a little more and knew she had a body. The fingertips that felt the wood were her own. The skin that the air chilled was her skin. She moved a finger to see if she could. She heard a man nearby breathing. She knew his name and who he was. He was her master, her entire purpose. She was his golem, bound to his will. And right now, he wanted her to open her eyes.

The golem opened her eyes.


Hooray for the first audiobook of 2014! Finding and recording my favorite quotes is a little bit harder when it comes to audiobooks. I’m not always thinking about language the same way I am when I am reading. Audible does have a bookmark feature where you can make a note, but I only bookmarked one section and, while it’s an important part of the book, I don’t think it’s the most beautiful or representative quote from the entire thing.

I liked this book very much, but I don’t have strong feelings about it. I think my favorite thing was the combination of traditions from Jewish folklore and Syrian folklore, but I was a little bit tired of this story by the end of it. It felt a little long, but I’m not sure I would have felt the same way if I were reading it instead of listening to it. I’m beginning to wonder if I really like audiobooks that are this long, but I’ve downloaded quite a few long ones with my most recent Audible credits, so we’ll see if this is a trend going forward.

If The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is the perfect book to remind you of summer and being outside, The Golem and the Jinni is the perfect book to wallow in winter in New York. I do love reading about the time period, turn of the century, especially turn of the century New York, and I would have loved even more details about the different communities and what the city looked like back then.

The narrator was good, but it felt like he read the book so slowly. I ended up with the audio on double speed pretty quickly.My very favorite parts of this novel were when the golem and the jinni would walk together through the city and discuss the strange humans they lived with. I never wanted it to end, but of course the plot had to keep moving and it did.



Quotes & Notes: The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

Posted by in Books

the homecoming of samuel lake



Every year, the day after school let out for summer, Samuel and Willadee would load up their kids and take off for south Arkansas. Willadee already had freckles everywhere the sun had ever touched, but she would always roll the window down and hang her arm out, and God would give her more. Her boisterous, sand-colored hair would fly in the breeze, tossing and tangling, and eventually she would laugh out loud, just because home made her feel so free.

Willadee loved this ritual. This once-a-year road trip, when she was snugged into the car with her good, healthy family – all of them fairly vibrating with anticipation. This was her time for thinking about where they’d been and where they might be going and how well the kids were growing in to their names – the names she’d given them as blessings when they were born. The first boy, she’d called Noble. Her clear call to the universe to infuse him with courage and honor. The younger son was Bienville. A good city, or as Willadee thought of it, a peaceful place. The girl, she had named Swan. Not because a swan is beautiful but because it is powerful. A girl needs power that she doesn’t have to borrow from anyone else, Willadee had thought. So far her blessings seemed to be working.


The Homecoming of Samuel Lake has been sitting on my shelves for a long time. I’ve picked it up on occasion, reading the first chapter, but it always goes back. I don’t know what was different this time, but this novel and I just clicked. We had a right-book-right-person-right-time moment.

The language is the kind that you want to read out loud in a drawl and it felt lush and beautiful. This is a novel that oscillates between the happy and the sad, the small pains and joys of day to day life, and the bigger tragedies that mark each family’s trajectory in this world. I feel like I used the exact same sentence in my Quotes & Notes on Someone by Alice McDermott and maybe there is just something about this kind of novel that is speaking to me right now.

There are some horrible things that happen in this novel, truly horrible. I admit I was frustrated by the ending, when something life-altering happens in the last 20 pages, enough to write an entire second novel on how the characters dealt with the horror of it. Even with the ending, it’s a novel that I am happy I read and that I wanted to return to. It helps, too, that much of the novel takes place on a farm in the summertime and there was no better antidote to the endless days of snow.

I won a copy of The Homecoming of Samuel Lake in a contest held by the publisher.


Music for your winter blues, part 2

Posted by in music



Part one was about songs that let you escape winter and the cold and relive long summer drives with the windows open, but sometimes that’s not what I want. Sometimes all I want is to wallow in my winter blues, to listen to songs that reflect the dreariness outside. Here’s that list.

music 1

Acts of Man / Frightened Rabbit / Pedestrian Verse – “I’m here, I’m here, not heroic but I try” – There comes  a moment every winter when it feels like I’ve just had enough and nothing could accurately express how done am, but the anger, frustration, exhaustion that comes across in Frightened Rabbit’s lyrics does. Bonus track: Keep Yourself Warm.

Gravity / Sara Bareilles / Little Voice – “No matter what I say or do/I still feel you here until the moment I’m gone” – Sometimes winter songs are just sad songs. This is one of my go-to sad songs, but with Sara Bareilles’s smart lyrics and beautiful voice it’s one that’s worth listening to again and again.

Retrograde / James Blake / Overgrown – “You’re on your own/In a world you’ve grown” – James Blake’s soulful voice screams winter to me.

music 3

Human / Daughter / If You Leave – “Underneath the skin there’s a human/buried deep within there’s a human/and despite everything I’m still human/but I think I’m dying here” – Dreamy vocals and lyrics like poetry, plus a beat that’s just a little bit faster than the other songs on this list.

Holocene / Bon Iver / Bon Iver – “And at once I knew I was not magnificent” – It was not a question of if Bon Iver would be on this list so much as which song and can I include more than one. I never thought I could love a song off of Bon Iver’s second eponymous album as much as his debut, which included the forever-on-repeat “Skinny Love,” but “Holocene” is almost as frequently on repeat in my house.

Norman’s Walk / Jon Brion / ParaNorman Soundtrack - On one level, this is just another opportunity for me to tell you to PLEASE go watch ParaNorman because you will adore it, but also the music is just so lovely and I especially love this song and there are plenty of winter mornings when I don’t want to listen to songs that have words that tell me how to feel. I’m very cranky on winter mornings. Bonus tracks: “Intro” by The xx and “Bom Bom” by Macklemore (featuring The Teaching).



Music for your winter blues.

Posted by in music



I know the winter blues are hitting hard this year, if my own mental state is any indication. I’m sick of snow and cold like I’ve never been before and I’ve been gobbling up books set on lush farms in warm summers. I’ve been alternating between two playlists, one of songs that let me wallow in the cold and the winter sad and another that helps me fight it with songs that sound like spring and summer. This post on Lady Business inspired me to share my two lists with you. The first list are songs that make me forget that I don’t know what above freezing feels like.

album art 1

Shapeshifters / Sam Roberts Band / Lo-Fantasy – “It’ll be all right in the morning/try to keep them fires burning/when the sun did rise everybody was gone you were far from home/you were on your own” – Breezy and summery, just like their album cover, with a beat that lifts even the worst cold-weather mood.

Oceans / Coasts / Oceans – “We fell in love/right by the ocean/made all our plans/down on the sand” – Coasts’ harmonies and the beach setting of this song make it perfect to escape all the snow.

On Paper / Arkells / Michigan Left – “But on paper, I could write it out for you/On paper, I could draw you a picture/On paper, I could finish a story with any ending you please” – I could have picked any of the songs from the Michigan Left album by Arkells. This album has been on heavy rotation all winter. The sound is a little bit harder than Sam Roberts Band or Coasts, so if that is more your thing, check out Arkells.

music 2

Mountain Sound / Of Monsters & Men / My Head is An Animal – “Alone we traveled on/With nothing but a shadow/We fled, far away” – Whenever I need a song that’s going to immediately lift my mood, I pull up My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters and Men. Even though it seems like its been everywhere (in movie trailers and commercials and on the radio), I still can’t get enough.

Danza Kuduro / Don Omar / Meet the Orphans - “Con las manos arriba, cintura sola/Da media vuelta, Danza Kuduro/No te canses ahora que esto solo empieza” – If I am in a bad mood and I need a song to immediately get me up and dancing or excited for a trek through the snow, this is the song.

Forever / Haim / Days Are Gone – “Forever I’ll see you and me/Forever I’ll try for you and I.” – Whenever I make a list like this I’m always attached to the song I had on repeat the previous summer, and this is the one.


One Week of Comics February

Posted by in Books

week 1

Here is the number one thing I am taking away from Comics February: there is literally no reason why I couldn’t read a comic a week. Seriously. I have enjoyed this past week so much in terms of what I have been reading. I’ve basically been listening to an audiobook during my morning commute (The Golem & the Jinni) and then bringing a comic to read on my way home. I’ve been keeping the longer ones one my nightstand to read a little bit more slowly before bed. This month has just been the perfect reminder that I love this form and I should make more time for it.

So how did the first week go? Mostly wonderful!

A Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown - I’m going to start with my least favorite so we can just get it out of the way. I was expecting great things from A Matter of Life, which was compared to Blankets in its copy from the publisher. This is no blankets. It is the story of Brown being at odds with the religion he grew up in and what it is like to raise a child without religion, which is a story I am very much interested in, but the structure of this one ended up feeling very disjointed. It was interesting and the art was in Brown’s signature style, which I enjoy, but overall it just didn’t come together for me.

A Game for Swallows by Zeina Abirached - I’m pretty sure this comic is perfect. It is the story of one night in Beirut, Zeina and her brother are at home with a neighbor, their parents gone to visit their grandmother, when the bombing begins. Their entire building congregates in Zeina’s family’s foyer, because it is the safest room in the apartment. The black and white art, the integration of a tapestry that hangs on the wall in the foyer, and the economical story telling make this a comic that packs an emotional punch. Almost the entire comic takes place over one night, but the story feels so much bigger than that. Comparisons to Persepolis are inevitable here, but I had more of an emotional reaction to A Game for Swallows.

Sunny by Taiyo Matsumoto – I plan on rereading this one before I return it to the library. First, it’s just a beautiful book. It’s hardcover, the cover illustration and the interior pages that are in color are lovely, and the black and white panels are so detailed. I read this too quickly, I think. I just want to get lost in the world – remember what I said in my original post on Comics February? This won the superlative for “The Best Comic About Actual Human Beings With Actual Human Feelings God Dammit” and yes, because there is so much happiness and heartache in this story about a home for children with no where else to go.

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang - These books were as good as promised. They present both sides of the Boxer Rebellion, but pulling on Chinese and Christian traditions to tell the story. In Boxers, Little Bao, angered by the way Christian invaders are treating his village, finds a way to fight back, by calling on the ancient gods to give him strength and power. In Saints, Four-Girl is unlucky from the moment she is born and never fits in, until she finds her way to a small Christian community in her village. Little Bao and Vibiana (the name she chooses for herself) eventually cross paths. I knew next to nothing about this time in history, so I’d really like to learn more about it. The art is colorful and if you’ve read Yang’s work before, you’ll recognize the style.

Jane, The Fox, and Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault - Hélène one day has friends and the next they turn on her, in the fickle way kids can. It crushes Hélène’s self-esteem, though, and she moves through life trying to make as few waves as possible, retreating into Jane Eyre, until a school camping trip forces her to face her anxieties head on. I loved the pencil sketches that made up this comic and the incorporation of Jane Eyre and some color throughout. The story felt a little slight – I was expecting more depth. I did like the ending of this one, though.

Aya by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie - I liked this comic about girls living in the Ivory Coast during 1978, but I’m looking forward to reading more in the series, since I didn’t quite connect with the characters this time around. I loved the style of the art and the colors and being transported to the Ivory Coast, but I wanted to spend more time with Aya. Hopefully I’ll get to know her a little bit better in future books.

Julio’s Day by Gilbert Hernandez - I read somewhere that this book was one day in each year of Julio’s life and it’s nothing of the sort. Maybe I misread something, but this is just the story of one family, over 100 years, beginning with Julio’s birth and ending with his death. It’s moving and somewhat surreal, and often confusing. One day I will read the entirety of the Love and Rockets series. One day!

Prime Baby by Gene Luen Yang – This is cute and funny and that’s really all you need to know.

Nothing Could Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks - Oh, I still love the way Faith Erin Hicks draws faces. They are just so expressive! This story was cute, about a robotics team and a cheer-leading squad who have to work together to raise enough money to support both teams. Did you know that Faith Erin Hicks is working with Rainbow Rowell on a graphic novel? DREAM TEAM. I’m so so excited about this.

What comic was your favorite this month?


Quotes & Notes: Someone by Alice McDermott

Posted by in Books, Quotes & Notes



I saw my mother in a chair by the window when I opened my eyes again. My mother wore her hat and her pale broadcloth summer suit, and she held her purse on her lap. The slatted sunlight had washed her of all color. I thought for a moment that we might have both died during the long days and nights of my ordeal, not because of the pale light in the blank room, but because of the sweet assurance I felt, waking and seeing my mother there, that I was loved, cherished beyond all reason. The peace of this, the stillness of the room, the temporary suspension of pain seemed evidence enough that I had come to the end of time. I felt a strange elation. And then I closed my eyes and slept again. (182)


Oh, Someone, what a delightful surprise you were. I didn’t know much about Someone before I read it. The jacket copy calls it a “resonant story of an unremarkable woman’s unforgettable life” and that’s very accurate, but please stop reading there. There’s just so much to discover about Marie, an average girl whose life is punctured by grief and joy in the way that all our lives are.

And this is Marie’s life, from the moment we first meet her as a young girl to the end of her life in less than 250 pages, but it is remarkable what this book accomplishes in that many pages. Time weaves in and out of Marie’s childhood, her young adulthood, middle age, old age and it feels effortless. Marie herself feels so fully realized, so true.

The language is sparse and beautiful, not a word out of place. There is some repetition throughout that I think I would need to read the book again to understand the purpose of. This was my book club read and we all felt it was very intentional, but we weren’t quite sure what the purpose was. Perhaps in everyone’s life you repeat things.

This book jacket is beautiful in person, the cover images you pull from online really don’t do it justice. The buildings are drawn in a beautiful gold ink and the motif is repeated throughout in each chapter and section divider. It’s purposeful and quiet, just like the inside of the book.

I’m so glad my book club made me read this. I’m not sure I ever would have picked it up otherwise. It’s just so unassuming, but truly it is lovely.


January Wrap Up!

Posted by in Books

january 2014

Books Read: 

  1. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  3. Things I’ve Learned from Dying by David R. Dow
  4. On Such A Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee
  5. Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim
  6. The Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin
  7. Tandem by Anna Jarzab
  8. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  9. Someone by Alice McDermott

Favorite: Tie between Someone Things I’ve Learned from Dying. If the entirety of The Goldfinch had been written like the first 250 pages, then it would have been the best book of the year for me probably. But it was too long and I firmly believe needed more editing. What Someone and Things I’ve Learned from Dying  accomplish in around 250 pages each is incredible.

Least Favorite: Tandem by Anna Jarzab

Most thought-provoking: On Such A Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee

Best concept with a disappointing outcome: The Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin. Coincidentally, The Atlantic published an article about The Reconstructionist and the author, who was actually a reconstructionist for his day job! Who knew! I probably would have if I had read his author bio. The interview is a good read if you’re interested in the topic, but not quite sure if you want to read the book. There are some images of computer simulated car crashes.

Biggest surprise: Someone by Alice McDermott. This was my book club read for the month and I didn’t expect to hate it or anything, but I loved it. Favorite book of the year kind of love.

Most traumatizing: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. GOOD GOD. I didn’t know. I just didn’t know.

I did not finish my translation this month, which is okay because I already know that I’m going to be reading at least two for Comics/Graphic Novels February, which is happening right now! It’s the Super Bowl and I don’t have any plans (or any plans to watch it!) so I think I’m going to read comics all day. Yesterday I read Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang which was so so good.

State of the TBR: 

Out the Door: 3 books
Read & Kept: 3 books
Purchased: 2: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, which I listened to on audio and wanted to own, and Going Clear by Lawrence Wright, which I knew I was going to buy as soon as the paperback was available.

Overall, January was a good reading month. I didn’t love everything, but I think that even the books I didn’t love, I am glad I read them. How was your January?


Quotes & Notes: Tandem by Anna Jarzab

Posted by in Books




“You can see it better with the lights off,” he explained.

It took a second for my eyes to adjust, but when they did I saw it: a river of undulating green light high in the sky. If I needed any more proof that Juliana’s world, the one I saw when I slept, was real, this clinched it.

“I don’t understand,” I breathed. I was captivated by the glow of the aurora borealis, something I’d never imagined I’d see in person. It had always been my favorite part of the dreams. A feeling of calmness and relief flooded my body.


One great thing about working in publishing is that people are always passing books around. I received this one from a coworker who wasn’t necessarily interested in reading it, but I have a soft spot for parallel universes. Sasha is a normal teenage girl who lives with her grandfather in a normal town. When her long-time crush asks her to prom, it’s too good to be true. And, of course, it is totally too good to be true. Grant is not Grant, but Thomas, his analog (aka double) from a parallel universe called Aurora. Aurora looks a lot like the US that Sasha remembers, but it has been thrown into political turmoil caused by two rivaling countries in what became the United States on Earth. The princess Juliana, Sasha’s double, has skipped town, unwilling to participate in a political marriage that was orchestrated against her will.

Oh, this book was so fast and so silly, I’m not sure it’s even worth writing a post. I am pretty good at turning off my critical eye for a book like this. I had no expectations for Tandem and I doubt I’ll keep reading the series, but I did enjoy reading the first book. Objectively, though, it’s not a good book and I’m just not sure I’m willing to devote more time to it.

I am interested, though, in reading more about parallel universes? Do you have any recommendations for excellent books about parallel universes and what happens when they collide?


Quotes & Notes: On Such A Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee

Posted by in Books, Quotes & Notes





She listened to his breathing, light and fine at first and then deepening to snoring, which did not bother her at all, in the way it did not bother her in the thinly partitioned row houses back in B-Mor, her uncles and aunties and cousins pitching their nightly calls in an unmelodious orchestration that heralded her blood.

But in fact we suspect she did not miss them, or us. We were still in view but as heatless as any patch of distant stars. For the enigma of her longing, it might be said, was of no-longing, not one borne of selfishness or egoism, some belief that she was scaled (and now colored) larger or brighter than the rest, but that after two and a half months away, and having trailed down those unmarked and twisted roads, and subjected to the warped designs (and hopes) of sundry citizenries, when it must have seemed each time that all was lost again, the tethers were now released, the moorings finally dismantled, and she was floated out alone. Which was strangely fine.


I’m very glad I waited to write about On Such A Full Sea because I think if I had written this post just after finishing the book I would have told you the book was just okay, but it has stayed with me in the way the most memorable stories do.

This is a story of a hero, told by the multitude she left behind, in what remains of Baltimore, now B-Mor, a labor colony that produces fish and vegetables for nearby Charters, where the privileged will do anything to stay that way. Beneath the labor colonies in society are the counties, unregulated swaths of land that are dangerous for their lack of control. The settlers from New China who live in B-Mor rarely question what happens – people disappear, fewer people are able to change their status in society – but they are fed, they have roofs over their heads, they have jobs. Until Fan, a teenage free diver whose boyfriend disappears, does the unthinkable: she leaves.

Fan’s encounters are unlikely, but she is the hero and this is her story as told by the people she left behind. The story has been stretched and transformed and who knows what actually happened to Fan. What matters is this is the story that is being told. Fan is not a hero because she is exceptional, she is a hero precisely because she isn’t. Anyone could have been Fan and Fan could have been anyone.

There’s a lot of fuss about a literary writer who is writing a genre novel. But couldn’t we call Native Speaker a spy novel, a literary political thriller? Has Chang-Rae Lee been writing genre all along? Chang-Rae Lee has been playing with these labels since the beginning.

Let’s talk about the cover. It’s perfect and minimalist and right. It’s downright iconic. Damn they better keep it for the paperback. One of my favorite things about working in publishing is the cover reveal, when the editorial and art teams present their vision for a book long after we’ve heard what it’s about. Sometimes there are differing opinions, sometimes it’s universal dislike, but when it’s universal approval? When the designers get it? I love it. There’s a collective sigh of happiness, because sometimes you just nail it. I bet that’s what happened when this cover was revealed.

I sometimes found the plural narrator tiring, but I can’t imagine this novel being told any other way. It’s one of those stories that I’m glad I made myself finish, because even if I didn’t enjoy every page, the sum of its parts was worth it.

I received a copy of On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee from publisher for review.


This week in…

Posted by in Blogging, Books, Crafts, Life


I made two manageable goals at the beginning of the year: record a quote from every book I read and post at least once a week. So far I’ve kept that up! I’ve been posting very general thoughts about books, random things that occur to me when I am reading or when I begin writing the post. I’ve been calling these posts “Quotes & Notes” and so far, I’ve published ones on Things I’ve Learned from Dying by David R. DowThe Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Next week, you can look forward to reading about Tandem by Ann Jarzab, On Such A Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee and probably Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.


I’ve decided on a very basic reading schedule for 2014 based on what has worked well in January:

  • one book in translation
  • one book from work that is publishing in Fall 2014. I want to read the whole Fall fiction list, something I haven’t done in the almost 2.5 years I’ve been at this job.
  • one 2014 release (not from work)
  • at least one comic a week
  • the rest from my TBR in 2014 list

I feel like the reason I always fail at reading my TBR is because of all the new shiny books out there! This gives me two books that I’m allowed to buy a month, plus a third new book from work. All the excitement from Comics February has made me remember the days when I used to read one comic a week. It might not happen every week, but it’s good to have the goal. At my standard reading pace, this help me get pretty darn close to finishing off my 2014 list, while still not feeling bored by having my reading planned out for the year. ALSO I’m perfectly happy DNFing a book from my TBR list. I’ve already sent one out the door that I just couldn’t stand.

I’m not expecting every week to be perfect, but it helps to know what I want my 2014 reading year to look like (which I already talked about here and here) and actually applying that to a month’s worth of reading!


I’m working on a “scrap” blanket, in an effort to use up ALL THE YARN. For a while, I was just buying any pretty yarn I saw, and then never finished any projects with it. Fortunately, all the colors I own compliment each other pretty well, because it’s coming together nicely.

scrap blanket

As for what I’ll do when this is finished and I have no yarn… I have been thinking of trying out one of two new hobbies: bookbinding and hand quilting. I’ve been following Trish’s progress on her hex quilt and I really want to make my own! I even picked out the fabric I would use. I am also obsessed with this bookbinding tumblr and I watched a ton of bookbinding howtos from Sea Lemon this morning. Both of these hobbies are going to take a little investment, so I have to decide! I have dabbled in bookbinding and sewing in the past, but not seriously. I’m looking forward to learning something new!


  • Andi’s post “15 Topics for your Blogging Blues” – I shall keep this post in my pocket for all the rainy blogging days.
  • Sasha’s post “Into Whatever Crazy Beauty Awaits” – The last paragraph of this gives me  chills. It’s so so beautiful and such a wonderful way to anticipate the new year. I’m trying to hold onto all the New Year enthusiasm as long as I can. When is it no longer acceptable to say Happy New Year?
  • Jason’s post “Comfort Food” – “I love [pb&j]. Like, the actual emotion. Like, I have an intense, fraught, passionate relationship with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” Yup.
  • Linda Holmes’s post “Chris Christie and Pulling the Red Handle” via Clare @ The Literary Omnivore – Amen is all I really have to say about that.

looking ahead.

This week, I’ll be reading If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino (my monthly translation!), Someone by Alice McDermott (book club read), and The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling. Plus anxiously anticipating Comics February!!!

What did you do this past week? What are you looking forward to next week?