So here’s the deal.
Starting in about 2010, I decided to try to keep a blog. I had plans to keep it fresh and updated, to share book recs and writing thoughts, publishing news and event dates. But over the course six years I discovered that I can do one of two things:
I can write books. Or I can blog.
The important part of that statement is the period in between the two sentences. I tried, and it turns that while I can do one of these things, I can’t do both. (At least, not while I have a full-time day job as well.) So, given that I would rather write new books than blog and that I *think* anyone interested enough in my books to read my blog feels the same way, this is my up-front admission that my blogging is and will be Very Sporadic. I may update here now and again, but it’s not a reliable thing.
That said, I am much more active on my Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter accounts, where I do talk about books I recommend, writing thoughts, publishing news, and event dates. And my garden, my dogs, garage saling, movies, and all things YA. So feel free to come find me there!
Clementine DeVore spent ten years trapped in a cellar, pinned down by willow roots, silenced and forgotten.
Now she’s out and determined to uncover who put her in that cellar and why.
When Clementine was a child, dangerous and inexplicable things started happening in New South Bend. The townsfolk blamed the fiendish people out in the Willows and burned their homes to the ground. But magic kept Clementine alive, walled up in the cellar for ten years, until a boy named Fisher sets her free. Back in the world, Clementine sets out to discover what happened all those years ago. But the truth gets muddled in her dangerous attraction to Fisher, the politics of New South Bend, and the Hollow, a fickle and terrifying place that seems increasingly temperamental ever since Clementine reemerged.
Fiendish is the first book by Brenna Yovanoff that I’ve read—and it definitely won’t be the last. In fact, I’m currently devouring Paper Heart and liking it possibly even more than Fiendish. But first: Fiendish.
This book has atmosphere. Gloomy, strange, beautiful atmosphere. It evokes the country town of New South Bend so well that I could see it, smell it, hear it. And it’s perfect for the rich, close magic of the books inhabitants: the bizarre and sometimes terrifying fiends and the humans related to them.
One of the other things that I liked best is that closeness. This isn’t a book about saving the whole world, but just about saving a small town. The story takes place over just a few days, following Clementine and her cousin and friends, and it feels very intimate. A lot that is the great characterization—Yovanoff is a master at giving us small details about the characters that really make them pop.
But I also like that it is a story itself is set on a smaller scale than a lot YA. Especially because that doesn’t mean the book is less awesome or less meaningful than books where an entire civilization or a country or particular population is at stake. The stakes here may be smaller, but they are not small. And that’s something that I think that goes missing from a lot of YA on a publishing level. I mean, I love a huge change-the-world story as much as anyone, but sometimes I think that publishers pigeon hole all YA books with this idea. The idea that the stakes have to be all-encompassing, life or death, every moment heightened and intense. Those stories can be fantastic, but there’s room for other stories—and they can have just as all-encompassing an effect on the reader. Fiendish is a great example of a book like this, and one that I hope will bring some light to other books like it.
My mom called today and wanted to make a trip to Gardner’s, our favorite used bookstore here in Tulsa. She and I go there once a month or so to browse and trade books—to the point where we once had enough trade credit that we got used to medium-strength exclamations of employee shock when they pulled up our account page. Was wandering around in there today, picking out some books, and I started thinking about why I like used bookstores so much.
Because, let’s face it, even factoring in my trade credit I could get some of the books I buy at Gardner’s for basically the same price on the internet. Probably 50% of the books that I have on my “Look For” list I could find used on Amazon for a dollar or two. I could do all that shopping in one place without leaving my house and have the all books that I am looking for right now for basically the same price.
But I don’t. And I think it’s because finding them at a bookstore, or finally getting them from my wish list on Paperbackswap, feels like unearthing a treasure. I get that special little ping of excitement from finding something that I’ve been wanting, that I’ve been looking for. (A related ping of excitement is the reason that I subscribe to magazines instead of just getting them digitally: I like coming home to fun mail.) And then there’s the feeling of “rescuing” a good book, which I also get. (Though let’s not talk about the slightly sad feeling I that comes from leaving a good book that I already own at the store . . .)
Do other book lovers feel this way? I don’t know. But that’s the random bit of self-examination I did today.
Excited about my haul, though. I got The Rainbow Goblins and The Secret Kitten for my niece, and Charles DeLint’s Waifs and Strays for me. I absolutely loved The Rainbow Goblins as a kid—Mom had an oversized edition that she got out for special occasions—and I had completely forgotten about The Secret Kitten. (Think it was one of the books that got water on it while being stored in the garage and was ruined. Still trying to re-find all the books that had to be thrown out that way, which is made difficult by the fact that I can’t remember some of them until I actually see them, like this one. . . )
So, yeah, while I like the convenience of being able to go online and buy pretty much any book I want whenever (and that would have been so nice as a pre-teen when I was searching for Tamora Pierce’s final Song of the Lionness book while it was out of print, with no internet!!!), I don’t think I’m ever going to give up that little ping of pleasure that comes from the random finds of the used bookstore.
My family is very holiday oriented. Christmas is an extravaganza of decorations (I can tell you the story behind practically every ornament on my tree). Halloween featured huge parties thrown by my parents when I was a kid (I base my idea of what makes a great party on these) and still requires costumes for everyone and multiple pieces of candy to be given out to every trick-or-treater. Exactly what’s served at Thanksgiving might change a little, but the particular table decorations we’ve been using for 35 years are a must. We like our holidays.
Our actual 4th of July plans may change from year to year, but the one thing that doesn’t change is that we have to make homemade ice cream. This is a tradition started by my mother’s family long before I was born, and the only time we have missed it is when my mom was in the hospital last year on the 4th (and we just waited a week and made it then). The most traditional of our traditional ice cream flavors and my favorite is peppermint, but we have also been known to make peach, blackberry, and cinnamon. For years we hand-cranked it, taking turns when someone’s arm got tired. About two years ago we switched to an electric mixer, though one that functions exactly the same as the hand-cranked kinds—with the ice and the rock salt and the tall metal canister. I have some guilt over that, but we did Very Scientific Taste Testing Comparisons and determined the machine-cranked was 95% percent as good as the hand-cranked, but with 100% less feeling that your arm is about to fall off. So now we do that.
This year, there was Much Discussion about the flavor of ice cream to make. We wanted to try something new, and one of the flavors that my mom and I kept seeing mentioned in cooking magazines and ice cream books and even our local paper was corn. Corn flavored ice cream.
My initial response was “Ew.” But literally every time it was mentioned, it was prefaced with something along the lines of, “Our team of chefs thought this sounded weird and possibly gross, but we were totally wrong and it will change your world with one bite!!!!” So we figured that we, too, would be initially hesitant but soon ready to sing the praises of corn ice cream.
Turns out, not so much.
I think we followed the recipe properly. We chopped off the corn kernels and mixed them with the cream and milk . . .
. . . Eventually pureed said kernels and squeezed out all the corny custard goodness from the mix . . .
. . . We put it in the ice cream maker and watched it do its churny thing . . .
. . . And it did make ice cream. Ice cream that tasted very much like corn. We even made the recommended blackberry sauce to go with it.
But sadly, I have to go on record as saying that I think corn and ice cream just don’t mix. It’s not that it tasted completely gross or anything, but it didn’t taste good either. It was mostly just . . . really corny. Which is, apparently, something my palette does not appreciate in ice cream. (Luckily, a friend brought peach cobbler to our cookout as well, and that was quite good, so we were not entirely dessert-less.)
So my 4th of July culinary adventures ended with a bit of a whimper. But it could have been worse. This morning my mom called to tell me about a recipe in a magazine we had picked up at the grocery store while buying the ingredients for the corn ice cream. The flavor we could have tried, for which there is an actual, honest to God recipe out there in the world?
Earlier this week, as I was walking to my building at work, I found this little guy on the sidewalk.
At first I thought that he was dead, but then he moved. I looked around for a nest/parents, but that particular stretch of sidewalk is pretty big, with the nearest trees a good ways off for a tiny thing like him. I could see part of a nest wedged on the stones of the side of building (TU is mainly built with sandstone that is really useful for birds, apparently, because there are nests in lots of crannies) and hear some birds, but I had no way of getting him back into it. Or, honestly, any idea of how he could have gotten out of it and then gotten to where he was, since the nest I was looking at was over a long drop down the stair well to the basement floor of my building.
It was really hot, and I didn’t want to leave him to fry on the sidewalk, so a co-worker and I picked him up with some paper towels and brought him inside. Where we then put him in an envelope box lid, because that’s what you have to use as an emergency bird transportation unit at a literary journal’s office. Called around, found a place that would take him, and delivered him over lunch. Sadly, they was quite busy, so I didn’t get to ask if anyone knew what kind of bird he was (if they could even tell at that age). I think he looks like a robin, with that yellow beak and his wing color, but I don’t know anything about birds and have literally no other basis for that idea, so I could be completely off base.
He was very small, but seemed strong from all his cheeping and scuttling/squirming around. I hope that he makes it.