Some recommendations

It’s been an exhausting couple of weeks here at Casa de Tiede! I’ve been picking up extra freelance work, my best friend got married, and my own wedding just keeps getting closer and closer. (Fact: 95% of wedding planning is staring at a calendar and crying.)

The last thing I’ve wanted to do lately is extra reading or writing, so this blog has been neglected. Luckily, I’ve been enjoying lots of other cool media instead, like:

BlacKKKlansman poster

BlacKKKlansman: an extremely intense and interesting movie about a black cop who infiltrates the Colorado Springs branch of the KKK. It’s based on a true story (!!!) and memoir by Ron Stallworth. I checked out the book from the library earlier this summer but had to return it before I could finish it. I really loved the movie adaptation, but be aware that it portrays racism and anti-Semitism in extremely frightening, realistic, and potentially triggering ways, including footage from last year’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. It has humorous and empowering moments, plus a great soundtrack, but it’s also tense and upsetting. Your mileage may vary.

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image description: a vintage photo of Cannonball Loop, Action Park’s loop-the-loop water slide that frequently trapped or injured guests.

Defunctland: On a lighter note, this astonishingly well-edited and in-depth YouTube series explores the histories of defunct amusement parks and rides, from terrifying regional attractions like New Jersey’s Action Park to high-profile failures at Disney and Universal Studios. Episodes range from 5-30 minutes. They’ll bring a fun mix of nostalgia and schadenfreude (at the expense of greedy park managers and CEOs) to your lunch break.

Cheapest Weddings promotional image

Cheapest WeddingsThis Australian reality show about people planning dream weddings on tight budgets is available to stream on Netflix. It’s funny, clever, and genuinely sweet. The couples never feel like the butt of the joke, even if their preferences are a little…eccentric, as with an unforgettable LARP wedding. I find a lot of reality TV to be cringey and mean, but this series is just right. (And I’m gleaning lots of DIY inspiration from it, too.)


What movies, TV, video games, and webseries have you been enjoying lately? I’d love to hear about them as I head into another stressful stretch. (I could use all the procrastination distraction help I can get.) In the meantime, happy reading, and expect me back on a regular schedule soon!

I’m obsessed with author bios, especially Shirley Jackson’s.

Today I ran across this charming piece about one of Shirley Jackson’s author bios over at Literary Hub. (Consider this another of my eternal plugs for signing up for their newsletter, which is great.)

TheRoadThroughTheWall CoverApparently the bio–to be included with Jackson’s 1948 novel The Road Through the Wall–was written by her husband, and it includes the following delightful details:

  • “She plays the guitar and sings five hundred folk songs…as well as playing the piano and the zither…”
  • “[She] is perhaps the only contemporary writer who is a practicing amateur witch…”
  • “She is passionately addicted to cats, and at the moment has six, all coal black…”
  • “She does not much like the sort of neurotic modern fiction she herself writes, the Joyce and Kafka schools…”

I’m a die-hard Shirley Jackson fan and would have loved the article no matter what, but while reading it I was especially struck by how much author bios affect my love of books no matter who the author in question is. Shirley Jackson’s witchy reputation made her career (even as it earned her plenty of angry letters from busybodies), and I’m sure that author bios have held uncanny power over many other authors’ careers, as well.

If an author has a long and quirky bio like Jackson’s, that tells you something about their fiction; Jeff VanderMeer has a particularly strange one included in the paperback edition of Annihilation, an extremely strange–and wonderful–book that definitely has whiffs of Jackson to it.

If their bio is barren of anything other than where they live and their previously published titles, that tells you something too: Rachel Kushner’s bio at the back of The Mars Room is no more than one dry sentence long, as if the publisher (and author) are asking you to view the book in a vacuum.

Bios rarely make me feel like I know the author better; rather, they add a particular flavor of mystery that, in its own strange way, can make or break my reading experience. They are an elaborate art form all their own. A long and flowery bio at the end of a book as harsh as The Mars Room would have felt tone-deaf in the extreme, but to be left with nothing at the end of Annihilation–or a Shirley Jackson novel–would be a missed opportunity.

Of course, fairly or unfairly, I put the author bios included in memoirs under even more scrutiny. I read Cheryl Strayed’s bio at the end of Wild over and over, trying to glean some extra mystery and meaning from a book that already offered plenty. I did the same to Leslie Jamison’s bio in The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath, a harrowing memoir-slash-journalistic-deep-dive about alcoholism and addiction. I’m not sure what information I was trying to grasp: that she was okay? That she was writing from a place of healed authority? Either way, my expectations were unfair, but I tried to satisfy them anyway.

Such is the power of the author bio. I don’t understand them, but I can’t stop myself from poring over them.

You can read the rest of Shirley Jackson’s lengthy and mischievous bio, along with some other charming biographical details about her work, over at Literary Hub.

How do you combat reading slumps?

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Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

You might have noticed that my blogging and reading have slowed down considerably of late–or you might not have. (I am my own harshest critic, after all, and just a tad self-centered about these things.) Either way, I’m undeniably in a reading slump right now and it’s hard not to get so irritated at myself that it makes the slump worse.

The fact that I run a book blog is just the cherry on top: I hate going too long without writing a post or two, and it’s hard to do that when I don’t have any fresh reading to inspire me.

I’ve noticed that I experience a couple of different types of reading slumps. In one, I’m busy or ill and simply don’t have the brainpower to read. Netflix and video games are my “comfort food” relaxation activities, even if I find reading to be more rewarding in the long run. When I’m too tired to read, I just…stop reading, tuning out in front of a screen instead, which causes a slump.

The other type of slump happens when I’m reading a bad and/or difficult (read: dense nonfiction) book. I’m gradually curing myself of the sunk cost fallacy–I’ve become much more willing to bail on a book if I’m not enjoying it–but again, book blogging means that I have to tolerate bad books a bit more than I would otherwise. I rarely bail on a book once I’m over halfway through, because then I’ve put in a bunch of time and won’t even get a review out of it.

Right now I’m in a dreaded double-slump: I’m exhausted and I’m reading something I’m not loving. Wedding planning is fun, but it’s a huge mental drain. Ditto my job right now: what no one tells you about going into freelance writing is that it’s also a lot of reading, for research and communication with clients and such. I’m also finding my current read to be shockingly bad (for the curious, it’s Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt) and it’s making reading a total chore while I rush to finish it before its library due date.

I know that this slump will pass in time because the wedding will be over soon (gosh! so soon! I have so much to do!!!), work will cool down eventually, and Invitation to a Bonfire will soon be a distant memory…but it’s so hard to not throw a mini reading tantrum. I want to be back to my regular avid-reading self right now, dammit!

Veruca Salt Tantrum Gif.gif

image description: a GIF of Veruca Salt’s epic tantrum from the original Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie.

So, I thought I’d throw it out to my readers: How do you deal with reading slumps? I’d love to hear about it, and if you have any surefire cures, I think leaving them in the comments should count as your good deed for the day. Don’t you?

On hiatus

Hello, good readers! As I’d mentioned a couple weeks ago, I’ve been extremely sick recently thanks no thanks to my endometriosis. This week I found out that the next step in my treatment will indeed be surgery!

On one hand, this is great news: it means I’ll hopefully be feeling better soon. On the other, it means I’m going to be very stressed, busy, and out of sorts for the next few weeks while I reshuffle responsibilities and recover. Oy.

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In light of that, I’m going to give myself a break and take some time off of blogging–probably about a month. Till then you can email me or find me on Twitter and Goodreads. (You didn’t think I’d stop spewing my opinions on the internet entirely, did you?)

In the meantime, may all your pre-orders arrive a few days early, may your library holds come due at a manageable pace, may all the covetable books be on sale, and may every story you read be magical. Ciao for now! ☺️

Tell me your favorite library stories!

row of books in shelf
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m feeling deathly ill (again) and there’s a good chance of major surgery on my horizon, so I’m not the happiest of campers today. To combat my icky mood, I thought I’d throw a library love fest on the blog today!

I absolutely would not be able to run this blog without access to the Saint Paul Public Library system. I spent the early part of this year stony broke, and libraries were (and are) a safe, free place to sit and work. They give me access to new book and movie releases without me needing to break the bank. (They have a particularly cool “Lucky Day” system where extra copies of books and movies are available when the hold/wait time would otherwise be prohibitively long.) Their selection is enormous, their request system is easy to use, and every branch I’ve been to is beautiful, well-lit, comfortable, and full of great staff. Almost every book in my Friday Bookbag is a library book!

I can’t sing SPPL’s praises enough, but they’re far from the only libraries that have nurtured me over the years. Here are a few of my best library memories:

  • As a kid, calling my local library a “lie-bury” for an embarrassingly long time.
  • Checking out a book from the Grand Rapids, Minnesota library and sitting on a nearby sunny pier for hours, watching the baby Mississippi River go by.
  • Helping to found Remer, Minnesota’s Centennial Library with the help of other awesome volunteers. Remer is home to under 400 people and it’s located far from any other library system, so the need for a volunteer-run library was enormous. I moved away a long time ago, but it’s still going strong!
  • Most recently, taking my little brothers to the enormous (and amazing) Hennepin Central library in downtown Minneapolis. My 10-year-old brother went nuts for the children’s section and my 13-year-old brother was literally speechless at their well-stocked, ultra-cool teen center. I was so proud :’)

What are your favorite library memories? Big or small, I want to hear about them. School libraries, little free libraries, bookmobiles, book clubs, and swaps are all fair game. Spill the beans in the comments!

Victor Lavalle tackles Stephen King’s latest in the New York Times

 

I’ve got two book reviews and a ballyhoo coming down the pipe, but this week has gotten off to a wildly busy start for me, so in lieu of an original post today I thought I’d share this lovely NYT review of Stephen King’s newest novel, The Outsider.

Victor Lavalle starts off recounting a personal experience familiar to most (if not all) writers:

The first time I wrote a short story I ripped off Stephen King.

(My first short story was a gender-swapped version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone titled “Salinda and the Ruby.” Good times.)

Lavalle goes on with more about the plot of The Outsider as well as some interesting thoughts on cultural appropriation–King has a patchy record in that regard in my opinion, but Lavalle seems to think he’s done a good job in this book.

(Related: If you haven’t read Nnedi Okorafor’s classic essay on King’s use of the “magical negro” trope, get thee to this hyperlink immediately.)

Then Lavalle drops in this gem:

More than 50 novels published, and [King is] still adding new influences to his work. I can think of a great many literary writers who are far lazier about their range of inspirations and interests.

What a zinger! I’m not a fan of horror, meaning most of King’s oeuvre isn’t in my wheelhouse, but his book On Writing is one of the best memoirs you could ever hope to read and I’ve always been inspired by King’s willingness to branch out as a writer (and lately, Twitter-er). Lavalle captured King’s charm perfectly here.

In short, this review is everything I’d like my book reviews to be someday: personal, open-minded, thoughtful, a bit funny. *gets inspired*

You can read the entire review here.

Some personal news

I technically graduated back in December, but today I got to celebrate my past 3.5 years of hard work towards my degree at my university’s commencement ceremony. It was special, to say the least!

I graduated with a B.A. in Public Health Sciences with Latin honors (magna cum laude) and membership in the Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Delta Pi honors societies.

By far the best part of college was everything I learned about myself along the way. I came all the way out of the closet, met and befriended the best people I could ever hope to meet and befriend, got engaged to my incredible-gorgeous-fantastic partner, Serena, and learned how to navigate two major disabilities–bipolar and endometriosis–that I was worried would ruin my life.

Words cannot express how grateful I am for the opportunities I’ve had. I’m living my best life as a full-time writer, which goes to show that childhood dreams can come true, and I can’t wait to see what blessings are just around the corner.

I’ll be back with the book-themed content you know and love on Monday, but I couldn’t help but share this good news today. ❤