Look, I don’t generally do book reviews on my blog. It just isn’t my thing. But if you’ve missed me at all in the blogosphere, know that it was in pursuit of relearning to love reading and battling my way through painful transitions of my own. This book gives me hope that life is worth living. Maybe you need a reason to keep on going too.
So, I offer to you Becky Chambers’ A Closed and Common Orbit and a link to my Goodreads review.
But, honestly, I suggest you just read the book instead. Any review is going to be a pale, anemic attempt to recapture the absolute brilliance of Becky Chambers’ writing. It’s actually a travesty that I tried.
WARNING–this is BOOK TWO of a series. You can read it without the preceding work–A LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET–but you will deprive yourself of joy and context if you do.
Everybody has it. It’s the energy that fuels life. If you don’t have enough stress, you probably would have been eaten by something furry back in prehistoric times to keep you from reproducing your laid-back DNA. Stress kept you on your toes back then.
Nowadays, however, it tends to be a corrosive that eats away at your central nervous system unless you learn to deal with it in someway. Today was a test of my emergency stress management responses. You may have handled things differently–probably averting the same crises with ease. But, I defy you to read the following and not at least have a little sympathy for a mom who just wanted to read a book.
Forgive me, this is a hard post to write and I’d like to do justice to both the joys and the sorrows in their turn. It is a post about discoveries and magical thinking–the good and the bad involved in both. This is about a book–and a boy who will probably never read it. I would separate them, but the two things are inextricably linked for me. It would be like dividing the sun from the moon.
Be warned, as it is written on ancient maps past the edge of the known world: Here be dragons!
I was complimented recently on my writing, it came via someone with a tenuous Facebook connection. It’s the first time anyone who wasn’t a friend or blood relative (and therefore obligated to like my writing or at least lie to me and say they do) told me they found my writing funny. (But funny in a good way.)
It made me feel, just for a nano-second, what it must be like when famous people get recognized. It was awesome and I thanked him…and then felt like a total fraud because I haven’t given two thoughts to my blog in months!
Four summers ago, I wrote about Taking Tea with Tornadoes describing my experience with the art of Japanese tea ceremonies during severe low pressure fronts; it has been quite a while since I’ve explored the Land of the Rising Sun. Please allow me to apologize in advance for my take on this venerable, ancient culture. “Sumimasen” すみません
I have the heart of a wanderer…and the expense account for ramen noodles on a good day. So, I have to adventure vicariously–taking a trip on the Orient Express for me means getting on board with digital media.
Allow me to recommend a few curiosities I’ve discovered along the way.
I should have been a bear. Really! Every time January rolls around, I eat a houseful of food and then want to curl up in a ball and bury my head under the covers until June. I look at everyone else around me who seems to be inordinately energized—bothering to wash laundry and cook meals, for example. Whereas I considered bribing my son with an ice cream sandwich this morning if only he’d get himself up and dressed for school on time.*
Winter break wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. However, lazy days have their side effects. I slowly devolved from a marginally-together person into an Amazon-Prime-channeling slug. The thought of reading anything besides junk-food thrillers or sexy, slithery beast men who woo their sexual partners with a combination of near-abuse and copious amounts of testosterone-soaked pheromones is un-bearable. (Pun intended. You’re welcome.) This is anything but Prime reading! If you think I am kidding, check out a few of the titles available for “Free” on Amazon Kindle Unlimited.**
By the way, I am NOT recommending these. I just searched a random term in Kindle unlimited and grabbed the worst-sounding titles I could find in under ten seconds.
Mid-winter lethargy shows itself everywhere. This post is the first thing that I have written in nearly a month. I’m so lazy, I’m even giving up on double-spacing after the period at the end of each sentence based on the fear it will mark me a geriatric writer of old-school sensibilities. Hmm, that gives me an idea of novel spin-off possibilities:
Sentence and Sensibilities
Definitely NOT written by a Lady
When Elinor and Edward meet–the after-school special begins! First, he drops his participles when she walks past; then he omits his Oxford comma. How ever will she tame his wild ways? Prim school marm, Elinor, disciplines her most recalcitrant student, Edward, for his pitiful punctuation performance. He then turns the tables on his teacher when he changes into a ferocious werebeast and lectures his proud school mistress in love. Who will punctuate improperly after this naughty remedial class?***
(If this sounds more like Pride and Prejudice—blame my limited knowledge of Jane Austen novels.)
I can’t say whether the plot is Prime-worthy, but musing about it at least whiles away the time between naps. Until the next chapter…I’ll be reading between the sheets.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*Child got waffles instead. You’d think the act of depressing the toaster was tantamount to preparing a full-course banquet the exhaustion the prospect gave me.
**“Free” means it only costs your dignity if anyone catches you reading it.
***Their conjugation brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “Teacher’s Pet.”
I have a new standard for literary excellence (as well as a new low point in parenting). I cannot take credit for this discovery. It is due entirely to my son’s innovation that I can honestly say I have read a book worth dying for.
The book in question is the third in a trilogy.* The work I am raving about is a series by Rachel Bach – the first book of which is called Fortune’s Pawn. That novel had me up until 2:00 a.m.–it was too good to put down. (Sadly, I cannot say that was the first time I ever pulled an all-nighter reading. Fortunately, the Harry Potter series came out before I had a child—well books one through five anyway. Books six and seven meant that I was up to the butt crack of dawn for reasons besides feeding a hungry baby.) Bach’s series has set the standard for all works of its kind to come…though I sincerely hope I’ve learned this particular lesson well enough not to repeat it.
After reading Fortune’s Pawn, I salivated waiting for the next two books to arrive. When I picked them up from the library, it took all my willpower not to open the books that night because I was afraid (rightly so) that I would ignore my responsibilities in order to worship at the altar of science fiction. So, I waited until I wasn’t going to be working the next day—or looking for a house or any of a myriad other pesky distractions—before settling down to read. Like a responsible adult, I decide to pace myself to a book a day. Well done me!
I zip through Book Two—Honor’s Knight—like I’m speed skating for the gold. (If reading were an Olympic event, I think I would at least place in the top ten.) I manage to finish Honor’s Knight a little after midnight—so not a bad run. I manage by sheer strength of will (and exhaustion of eyeballs) to not pick up Book Three—Heaven’s Queen. Her royal majesty will have to wait for another day. You’d think the universe would reward such forethought, wouldn’t you?
It’s Saturday, I’ve managed to drag my unwilling son to attend the Darwin Day expo at the Calkin Science Center, where butterflies pinned to boards and a table full of skulls garner nary a flicker of interest from the boy. The only interaction I can coax from my child is a grudging willingness to mash a strawberry in a bath of salt and soapy water to extract DNA. Touching the fruit is the closest he has come to actually eating one, so I count it as a win. Fast forward to the afternoon, son is happily lost in iPad land and mommy can finally pick up the sacred object her brain has been hankering for all day—Book Three. Once in hand, I never set it back down. I think I read for three or four or maybe seven hours straight. I lose all track of time while reading. I vaguely remember putting the child to bed…or sending him there…or him making up his mind to go there on his own. The details don’t matter! All that matters is the book and finding what happens next. So, what does happen next? I’ll tell you.
I am nearing the end, my brain is happily tromping through the universe, battling aliens alongside the intrepid, kick-ass heroine when I notice an odd smell. It’s faint, but grows as I pell-mell my way to the end of the book. On some subconscious level my brain starts to notice something besides the author’s efforts to wrap everything up in a shiny, star-spangled conclusion. What is that? I think. Metallic, but also kind of plastic-y. I twitch the thought aside and continue reading. Do I get up to check anything? No. Do I even pay more than a nanosecond attention to the fact that I’ve registered some kind of disturbance in the force? No, I’m getting to the good part. I keep going to the bitter-sweet end of the book. The heroine saves the universe and I reread a few of my favorite pages for dessert before putting the book down. And now, my brain does a double check. Hey…is that…is there some kind of toxic fume floating through the house?
Now I’m a bloodhound, sniffing my way from room to room, heading downstairs until a horrible thought smacks me upside my head. “The kid!”** I yank open his bedroom door. (Without checking to put a hand on it first…no, you aren’t going to remember to do that in an emergency.) There, on the floor, right next to my sleeping child, is the tent he’d constructed by laying a thick, green blanket over the bare-naked bulb of his table lamp. I’m hit in the face with not only the smell of melted, man-made fibers but also the realization that, if this had been any other material, my son might have been burned, or worse, due to my inattention. There is no greater conflicting emotion than the misery of what might have been fused next to the gratitude that it didn’t happen…except perhaps the fact that it would have been entirely my fault.
You might argue,‘You couldn’t have known.’ You’d be wrong. When you have a ‘special guy’ like my guy, you learn to expect the unexpected. You also put down the book and check on your kid when there is a chance he might be trying to burn the house down. At least, in the real world that’s what should happen. Let’s hope that the next time the foreshadowing comes knocking on my frontal lobe, somebody upstairs is paying attention. I really don’t want to write this story again. The sequel might not end so happily next time.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*Man, I really hope there is a follow-up book. Can I petition the author do you suppose?
**I’m making a valiant effort to preserve my son’s anonymity—apparently putting the safety of his secret identify above his physical well-being.