Book Talk: I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett


I finished Terry Pratchett’s I Shall Wear Midnight last week, and it was the perfect salve to a week of terrible news and family crisis. Pratchett is always the right move when you’re facing difficult times and need to feel like the world isn’t entirely, completely against you. And I got around to another #ReadtoDraw illustration (above) as a result.

I Shall Wear Midnight is the fourth book in the five-book Tiffany Aching Adventures series, and is one of his Discworld books. But, as is the case with Discworld books, each book stands on its own. The others are referenced here and there, but they aren’t required reading to get what’s happening.

I’m going to read the last book, The Shephard’s Crown, next because it’s the last book Pratchett ever wrote. Predicting that my heart will break, I can then go back to the beginning and read the book I missed–The Wee Free Men. Somehow, I think that will soften the blow and make the final book seem less … final. That’s the strategy.

Here’s the Goodreads blurb, in case you’re interested in reading it (you really should):

It starts with whispers.

Then someone picks up a stone.

Finally, the fires begin.

When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . .

Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren’t sparkly, aren’t fun, don’t involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.

But someone or something is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her.

Chilling drama combines with laugh-out-loud humor and searing insight as beloved and bestselling author Terry Pratchett tells the high-stakes story of a young witch who stands in the gap between good and evil.

Book Talk: White is for Witching


Illustration by S. Zainab Williams

Another day, another slaying by Helen Oyeyemi. After reading Boy, Snow, Bird, I wanted more more more, and picked up White is for Witching. I’m a sucker for witchy books, so it was a no-brainer.

Goodreads Description:

There’s something strange about the Silver family house in the closed-off town of Dover, England. Grand and cavernous with hidden passages and buried secrets, it’s been home to four generations of Silver women—Anna, Jennifer, Lily, and now Miranda, who has lived in the house with her twin brother, Eliot, ever since their father converted it to a bed-and-breakfast. The Silver women have always had a strong connection, a pull over one another that reaches across time and space, and when Lily, Miranda’s mother, passes away suddenly while on a trip abroad, Miranda begins suffering strange ailments. An eating disorder starves her. She begins hearing voices. When she brings a friend home, Dover’s hostility toward outsiders physically manifests within the four walls of the Silver house, and the lives of everyone inside are irrevocably changed. At once an unforgettable mystery and a meditation on race, nationality, and family legacies, White is for Witching is a boldly original, terrifying, and elegant novel by a prodigious talent.

I didn’t expect this book to give me a fright, but a fright it gave. Oyeyemi possesses a skill for that quiet, creeping terror I find missing from my recent straightforward horror reads. If you’re hesitant to read genre fiction, favoring literary fiction, I’d recommend this book in a heartbeat, especially if you’re looking for October/Halloween reads. As mentioned in the book blurb, the subject matter is complex and grave, but its handled in the realm of the supernatural. I’m becoming a big fan of focused real-world subject matter through the speculative lens, thanks to this and other books I’ve read recently.

On a side note, I haven’t been posting much #readtodraw art, but decided to start again, only with books I find visually compelling. This was one of them.

Young Rebels of Fiction: Book Recommendations for Introverts

This post was originally published by Book Riot on June 16, 2015.

Maybe in high school you used books as screens to shield your eyes from the hordes of silverback peers who would surely bare their teeth if you looked up. Or, having dared yourself to attend a party full of strangers only to end up squishing your entire being into the darkest corner of the room like a flavorless wad of chewed-up gum, you turn to your phone and the ebook you downloaded JUST IN CASE (thank the lord, hallelujah) and laugh hard at the funny parts so people think you’re having a super-cool text war with Ricky Gervais instead of what you’re actually doing, which is to say being a terrified, midnight-hit Cinderella in a party dress turned wine-stained clown suit…

What I’m saying is, I’ve been there. And though my lifelong fear of social situations has somewhat improved thanks to my introduction to alcohol at (let’s say) twenty-one years old, I still mostly rely on the daring of fictional characters to sate my need for a bit of rebellion. As I’m the sharing type, I offer you my book recommendations–a starter kit of sorts–for the introvert looking to stir some vicarious living into a, perhaps, milky-toasty lifestyle. And I suggest turning to the young rebels because what better time for feigned confidence than those awkward, uncertain teen and early adult years?

cover of Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu GuoFenfang Wang from Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo: At seventeen years old, Fenfang leaves her village and peasant life to claim youth and get hers in the bustling, big city of Beijing. Equipped with a middle school education and experience digging up sweet potatoes, she sets out for a career in film. I was on intimate terms with Fenfang from the outset and felt like a village friend reading about her life as an extra, her re-education, and her unsatisfying relationships in the city while goggling at the accompanying photo illustrations. Her street-smart irreverence and effortless curses (“Heavenly Bastard in the Sky”) sold me. Fenfang is the sort of person who acts on gut instinct, risks be damned. For a month, she squats in a house previously occupied by a mother and daughter whose deaths Fenfang witnessed on her first day in the city. Yeah. If you ever grew up in a small town, dreaming of and fearing city life, Fenfang is the rebel for you.

snow crash stephensonY.T. from Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson: And if I had to live in Snow Crash’s anarchic future America, where corporations and the Mafia rule, and the streets may as well be prison yards, oh, and I was trying to help save the world from a cyber virus that turns everyone who plugs into the Metaverse into a cultist zombie, I would want to be Y.T. Fifteen-year-old “young, fast, and female” Y.T. who fulfills her courier duties on a skateboard, “pooned” to taxis and trucks, who beguiles a bad-guy biker and murderous harpoon expert to infiltrate enemy lines, and who worries about her mother. She’s obviously gung ho for enlistment in an intelligence theft mission. You would probably have a heart attack if she was your daughter, but Y.T. isn’t all edge–she does save a Rat Thing (think dog, but not really) from peril. Being a young rebel doesn’t necessarily make you a bad kid.

the golden compassLyra Belacqua from The Golden Compass (or Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman: The movie was awful but the Lyra I met in His Dark Materials #1 was everything. I have a wild child soft spot as I was feral and fearless before self-awareness set in. Lyra is as sneaky and obstinate as they come, but she’s also fiercely loyal and a natural protector. What I most admire about this particular rebel is that, in a genre sometimes bogged down with wishy-washy, heartsick young characters, Lyra comes into the picture with a strong sense of self and a no-nonsense attitude. Some kids just got it.

I guess instead of reading about the lives of rebels you could actually enact some daring-do off the page. If that’s your thing. But first, who’s your favorite young rebel of fiction?

Book Talk: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Storied-Life-of-AJ-Fikry-Gabrielle-Zevin-IllustrationI just finished reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin and I’m gobsmacked by a sense of unfairness. How could they up and leave me, these characters I followed for so many years? (It’s a sign of a good book when I put it down feeling heartbroken.)

A.J. Fikry is a widower, a snob, and a curmudgeon. But, most of all, he’s a bookseller and a reader. After his wife’s untimely death, he mans the bookstore he and his spouse opened on Alice Island, a (fictional) small town off the coast of Boston, alone. With a knack for recommending books and drinking himself to sleep, he’s the sort of protag you’d want at your local purveyor of literature but, perhaps, not the sort to whom you’d want to try selling a YA novel or befriend. When Fikry finds two-year-old Maya abandoned in his store with only a note from her mother and a knapsack, everything changes. This is where the story truly began for me. We follow his life and those of his intimate circle as he picks up the pieces. There’s intrigue surrounding Maya’s parentage, a love that takes years to arrive, a rare book robbery, and so so much more. This is a story for book lovers–I take unchecked pleasure in finding book mentions in fiction narratives and this one has it in spades.

I’ve found myself reading more diversely and am learning that I enjoy whimsical, heartfelt slice of life fiction more than I thought I would. I usually go in for the epic and fantastic, but intimate, insular tales of lives lived contemporaneously are giving me the feels lately. In the words of a favorite songstress, “them heavy people hit me in a soft spot.” Not to be misleading–this book has heart-wrenching moments dealing with fatherhood, loss, and relationships, but wry humor softens the blows and the sorrows are as sweet as they can be bitter.

I decided to read this book because it was in my Audible recommendations and the summary alluded to a bookish story, but otherwise I didn’t know what I was getting into. I’d just come off reading Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and while this book shares genre similarities, Fikry proved a good balance to Groff’s more drastic and painful tale of life and love.

In my movie version of Zevin’s novel, I cast Ben Kingsley as Fikry, Amandla Stenberg as Maya, and Charlize Theron as Amelia.

Read to Draw Recap #1

I’ve been really bad about posting my Read to Draw stuff here. I’m making up by posting a few at once!

My most recent is an ink drawing of Melanie from The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey–a zombie book I could not put down. I really didn’t care what happened to anyone else in the story as long as Melanie survived. Is that terrible?

H is for Hawk is a moody memoir about depression and loss, and a book that made me wish I’d taken up falconry. While I have no experience in training a goshawk, Helen Macdonald’s experiences in coping with depression resonated with me. I drew this while visiting family in Tucson, Arizona–it seemed, oddly, the right atmosphere.

I had such a hard time drawing something for Seraphina! I don’t know why. I think I wanted to do something conceptually interesting to fit the complexity and coolness of this dragon tale but I couldn’t make up my mind. So here’s this. Seraphina is a beautifully-written YA fantasy.

I’m finishing up Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. Should be an interesting challenge for the next set!