Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Sleeper and the Spindle and Alexander Hamilton, oh my.

My goal for January was to finish every book I got for Christmas.  The problem with this goal was that I got an 800-page (give or take) biography besides the other dozen or so.  So that isn’t going to happen, but it’s cool.  As long as I’m reading a little every day, I’m happy.

I did finish The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell.  The illustrations are gorgeous.  And despite what my friend said, I did like the story.  It was a fairy-tale with a twist, but it still wasn’t too deep or drawn out.  Honestly, the story probably could have been a lot longer and Gaiman could have gone into more detail about their journey, which would have added excitement and depth.  (I don’t often say a book should be longer, but this one should be.)  It wasn’t my favorite book ever, but it was a good little read that took less than an hour and was completely worth that time.

As far as Alexander Hamilton goes, I’m finding it really interesting.  First: I think every writer, but perhaps especially fantasy writers, should read some biographies and memoirs.  Obviously, its a very different writing style and you would never want to go that in-depth into a character, but a good biographer builds their subject from the ground up, assuming their readers have no prior knowledge.  This is an important aspect of fiction writing because you have to show someone who your character is and you want to make them as realistic as possible.  It’s also interesting from a world-building perspective.  In this one, there’s a quote from one of Hamilton’s contemporaries where he names a Roman god.  That little detail shows what the culture is like and what they have taken from their history.

Reading this book is reigniting my desire to talk to Lin-Manuel Miranda.  There are a lot of choices he made to turn this biography into a musical, and reading the book makes it much clearer about what is fact and what is fiction.  I wonder how he chose what to tweak and what to keep exactly the same.  I also wonder if he consulted other books on Hamilton or used only this text.

Hopefully I’ll be done with it by the next Book Club Thursday.  I also hope to read some of Hamilton’s own work.  Based on his quotes in the novel, I feel like I would be appropriately moved by them.

So here’s to the books that move you.  Happy Reading.

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Themes

Right now, I am reading the Alexander Hamilton biography that inspired the musical.  (I’ll tell you more about that next Thursday).  But I’ve also been rewatching Gilmore Girls.  Both of these things are making something very clear to me: in life, as in literature, there are recurring themes, little things that show up again and again.

In one of the most recent episodes (that I’ve watched, not that came out; it was actually a season 2 episode), Lorelai mentions how she’s going to hunt Christopher down like “a half-price Kate Spade purse.”  And now, Kate Spade is the designer I follow on Tumblr and Twitter and actually buy every once in a while.

And there’s a First Union security badge hanging in my closet from a “Bring Your Daughter to Work” day from my childhood.  And now I have a BB&T security badge hanging from the rear view mirror in my car.

(In the episode I’m watching right now, there’s a David Bowie concert.  Freaky.)

Robin Hood is one of those themes for me.  Of course, it’s possible that these themes aren’t any more prevalent in my life than anything else, but that I’m more likely to notice them.  Still, Robin Hood was the first symbol of justice and courage I was exposed to, from the Disney movie which was my first foray into the legend to the current novel I’m working on.

But also like in literature, you can’t always tell what the themes are until the end of it.  The Gilmore Girls Kate Spade reference wouldn’t have meant anything to me the first time I watched it, but now it’s a significant thing.  And I’m looking forward to looking back on my life and discovering what else becomes the thread spanning all the major events of my life.

Also, I’m hoping there’s a lot more Robin Hood and Kate Spade in my future.

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The Dark Side of Reading

I have read three books since my last post, and they have all been sad in one way or another.

First, I read Safe at Home by Alyssa Milano.  It’s her memoir about baseball, and between that and the fact that Alyssa Milano was my dad’s big celebrity crush, it’s a book I would have gotten him as a gift.  Reading it was a weird nostalgic experience.  Otherwise, I enjoyed it, though to be honest, you can tell it was written by a blogger and not a practiced memoirist.  It’s also much better if you’re already a baseball fan.

Then, I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  The mystery was very intriguing, but I was disheartened by how many women were injured or abused in this book.  At the beginning of each section, Larsson quoted statistics about violence against women in Sweden, as though this were his point.  And yet, the writer’s sexism seemed to bleed through all of his characters.  The title character herself seemed to fluctuate between different personalities, depending on what was needed for the story.

The last book was perfectly happy until this morning.  I started reading my new edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.  The illustrations are gorgeous (done by Jim Kay) and the story itself is enjoyable and light-hearted, especially since I already know how it ends and have such fond memories of it since the fifth grade.  But this morning, the actor who played Severus Snape passed away.

Alan Rickman, from all accounts, was a great man.  From my own experience, he was a great actor.  He is the main reason I have any sympathy for Snape at all, and his characters in Robin Hood and Galaxy Quest show his amazing depth and talent.  Sixty-nine seems like the end of a long, full life, and yet I keep imagining all of the other amazing art he could have brought to us.  But I am grateful for the art he did produce, as well as the other artists he has mentored and inspired who will continue to produce great art.

And as I finish this book with its beautiful illustrations, I’m also reminded of what I loved about Harry Potter when I was younger: how much art has come from it.  The new movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is going to show us another side of magic and the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is an exciting continuation of the story we already love.

I love reading, but anything that brings joy can also open us up to pain.  These books have reminded me of that.  But most importantly, they remind me that it’s worth it.

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January Update

Hello everyone!  Quick update: yes, I started my new job yesterday.  Yes, I’m enjoying it so far, but it’s only been two days so I reserve the right to change my mind.  I started balancing things today, and it’s the kind of math I always liked, where the numbers are exactly what they say they are.

Traffic sucks, and I have to get up really early.  Which is fine, except it’s every day and when I get home I feel too tired to do the things I need to do. But again, it’s only been two days.  Theoretically, I’ll get better at this.  (That, or I’ll invest in those Keurig cups and have an extra cup of coffee at work.  That’d be nice.)

Since I’m officially working full-time, I’m going  to scale back on the blog posts (not that I was doing a GREAT job before…).  I’m going to blog once a week, but still switch up my categories.  For example: this week, I’m giving you a Tuesday Update.  Next week, I’ll host Book Club Thursday, where I tell you all about my reading of Safe at Home.  And it will still be on Thursday.

I hope that isn’t too confusing, and I hope you stop by.

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