Tell Me What You’re Reading 2/21

Open_book_01Because it’s Thursday, so why not?

I have a tendency to read multiple books at once, and while I read mostly Fantasy, I love to branch out. So I’m always looking for recommendations.

This week I have read/am reading:

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

    While I have read the HP series about a billion times, my daughter has recently taken an interest in the series. Since this is her school’s month-long reading program, PARP (Parents As Reading Partners) and she tackled the first three books on her own, we decided to read this one together. It’s a whole different experience reading it aloud with her and watching her discover the world I fell in love with years ago. We’re having a blast with it. She particularly enjoyed doing the voice of the Sorting Hat.

  • Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini

    I just finished this one last night and although I started reading it with no expectations, I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much this YA Paranormal resonated with me. It was a quite moving examination of the bonds that hold humans together even beyond this life. I especially appreciated that the love stories were not all romantic, but delved (to use Kim’s language) into friendships, sibling relationships and mentor/mentee bonds. A beautiful story.

  • A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson

    Our library decided to run a program this month—have a blind date with a book. They wrapped up a bunch of books from all genres and you just pick one up at random with no idea what you are going to get. It’s meant to get readers out of their comfort zones, so of course I jumped right in. Hmm…it’s a little farther out of my comfort zone than I was expecting, so it’s going to be a bit of a challenge, but I will finish it. From the 32 pages I’ve read so far, there seems to be a romantic element and there is a motif of describing East African birds as the main characters are bird watchers. The writing is actually engaging, I’m just finding it hard to connect to the characters so far. But I will persevere.

     

  • The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff

    I’ve had this one on my Nook for a long time, and I just happened to glance at the prologue today. That was all it took to suck me right in. I have no idea where the story is going, but it seems there are angels and demons. Color me sold.

So that’s what I’m reading at the moment. How about you? Throw some recommendations my way!


The Beauty of Dragons

blue dragon

Why must those westerners tell such terrible stories about me?

An electric blue, red-eyed dragon, crawling up my right forearm, wings spread as if about to launch into flight. My husband and I agreed I could get that tattoo once I accomplish a specific goal. I can’t wait. I’ve always found dragons beautiful, especially blue ones. So imagine my shock last week when, during my writers group, one of my friends said, “But dragons aren’t really beautiful, are they?”

Having never considered any other possibility, I had to think about it. Who wouldn’t find them beautiful, and what would affect the beholder’s perspective?

Culture would have to factor in. While dragon legends show the creatures along a diverse continuum, the polar opposites are the eastern and western views. Eastern cultures revere dragons as lucky, protective, magical and heroic. Old western lore tends to depict them am as monstrous, winged killers that burned innocent villages and hoarded treasure. In the latter light, there is certainly little to see as lovely, right? Who in their right mind could appreciate a reptilian bat likely to toast the skin off your bones? These western images illicit fear, not admiration.

Although I’ve been subject to the Smaugs and the Reign of Fire mean dragons, I still can’tcannot bring myself to imagine then as anything less than majestic. If anything, I find the badass dragons as awesome as the nice ones. Killer whales and tigers are amazing despite the fact that they could make a meal of me without batting an eye. You’d be hard pressed to get me close to one, but I love to watch them from a distance. (I might not be able to resist a trained tiger if I ever had the chance to pet one, but an Orca? No way.) I suspect if I ever found myself in a world were malicious dragons exist, I’d probably feel the same way. They’d be incredible…from the other side of a 100-foot pole. However, if I were lucky enough to encounter benevolent dragons, you wouldn’t be able to get me back to planet earth. Until that day comes, I will enjoy immersing myself in and creating tales of sleek, powerful, flying beauties that reflect every color and hue.

And I’ll keep working toward that tattoo.

Faery Mounds and the Underworld

newgrange entranceThe protagonist in my one of my novels finds her way into the fae realm through a sidhe (shee) or faery mound. It occurred to me that the sidhe becomes her gateway to transformation from a victim, with little control over her circumstances, to an empowered young woman. It seems to me that the fae mounds hold more significance than I had thought about before, so I did some digging.

The Tuatha De Danann, or the children of the pagan goddess Danu, were an early race in Ireland, but according to legend, as told in Brian Froud and Alan Lee’s Faeries, a final defeat in battle sent them to live under the hills and became the Daoine Sidhe. These people shrank in size, becoming the faery folk as we know them today, when Christianity dominated paganism in the region. In their case, their transformation symbolizes the death of one belief system as another emerged.

You can find small, hill-like mounds all over the Irish countryside. These mini-hills, or Sidhe (Shee) mounds were traditionally burial sites. Graves. This marks the Sidhe mounds as entrances to the underworld, and they bear great resemblance to the oldest burial mound in the country, Newgrange, which predates the Egyptian pyramids.

The many tales of fae stealing people, especially babies, and trapping them in the faery realm begin to take on a different significance in this light. These legends may have provided early people with a vehicle to cope with literal death or for managing more the metaphorical death of major change and transformation. The Tuatha De Danann became deified, but then receded as Christianity phased out pagan worship. The loss of children or loved ones, so common in those days, would have been more easily and less painfully explained if they were stolen away and possibly still existed in some far off place. The timeless theme of death as a representation of transition appears all throughout literature. Whether they signify a societal shift, like paganism becoming a hidden religion in the face of Christianity’s rise; or they bring comfort to a mother who loses her infant child; or they explain why the sweet baby that survived infancy suddenly becomes a beast in toddlerhood (it must be a Changeling!), the fae stories manifest that theme.

 

newgrange 2000

Newgrange from our trip in 2000

Derailed but Not in a Bad Way

For the past week and a half, my Unicorn submission preparations—all my writing, really—has been derailed by illnesses. First, my daughter came down with Strep and was home from school for several days. Now I am trying to shake some unspecified viral sinus infecting thingee. (My brain stopped processing once the doctor said I wasn’t getting antibiotics to get rid of it.) This has not been a complete waste of time though. I think I see a silver lining in the pain, suffering, and inordinate amount of fluid from the past days.

One of my favorite aspects of being a writer is the research. I love learning new things, and I can sit at this screen for days researching random topics. We don’t need to get into how often I actually do that. While I’m not what you’d call a science geek, I won’t lie; I find the occasional experiment fascinating. Which brings us back to my sinus issues.

Once I quit mentally cussing out the doctor, I read the info sheet she handed me explaining why antibiotics are generally prescribed for sinus infections only if they don’t clear up after a week on their own. What I originally heard was, “Blah blah blah suck it up for a week.” The handout gave several drug-free suggestions for helping clear said sinuses. One method is nasal irrigation using, among other devices, a neti pot.

I was familiar with the concept of the neti pot and nasal irrigation from my days teaching yoga, but I never got up the nerve to try it. Here was a perfect opportunity. I could experience it and record all sorts of gross details for later use in my writing. I certainly did not expect to come away with such a wealth of information as I did.

Some observations:

  • When I first start pouring the saline solution into one nostril, there’s a weird glugging inside my head as the liquid goes through the nasal cavity. This happens more when my sinuses are really clogged or swollen.
  • I have not yet felt like I am drowning, but since the pot is see-through, I can watch the water level decreasing, which takes for-ever. At least it feels like forever. Which makes steeling myself for the second nostril more fun.
  • If I mix the saline incorrectly, it burns a little, like when you get pool water up your nose after a cannonball. There is a good reason I don’t do cannonballs into pools. I don’t enjoy burning inside my head.
  • My favorite part of this process is when one side is so clogged that the solution doesn’t run through from one nostril to the other but instead backs up into my mouth. It tastes salty, let’s assume because of the saline.
  • I’ll spare you the after-effects once the pot is emptied through the nostrils.

Aside from this thing actually helping my illness, these details may prove to be invaluable one day. As a middle-grade and YA writer, the chances of me calling on them one day are relatively good. If, for example, I ever find myself needing to write about milk coming out someone’s nose, I am in a much better position to describe it than I was a few days ago. Overall, I would have much preferred to have my health than this information, but at least I’ve been able to put the time to good use.

Pardon me, time to irrigate again.