Boozy Books: The Philosopher’s Flight

Happy Friday, dear readers! It’s time to put away the work-related reading and pick up your weekend escape.

This week: The Philosopher’s Flight.

Technically, I haven’t finished this one yet, but I’m close enough to the end that I feel confident putting together a pairing.

Here’s what you need to know!

If you grew up with Harry Potter, this will very likely appeal to you.

If you enjoy thinly veiled social commentary and seeing a diversified roster of characters, this is a great book to pick up.

If you like science and love fantasy, pick this up.

The basic premise is this:

Set during WWII, (in an alternate version of the past, obvs) this novel shows off a world in which women (and a few men) have philosophical powers. Essentially, magic.

Women are far and away the masters of sigilry and are portrayed as super strong and awesome. (Yay!) The narrator is a male philosopher who grew up in a family of strong females who taught him everything he knows. (He’s pretty good for a boy.) So, he goes to school to study Philosophy (at an all-girl’s school) and tries to work his way into the noble rank of Corpswoman in the role of Rescue and Evac.

The concept is very well-developed and the story is a lot of fun. I even broke the “don’t recommend shit to C” rule, because the style is so reminiscent of grown up Harry Potter.

Enjoy a glass of champagne with this one. If you read it, you’ll note several scenes in which champagne appears to be the drink of choice.




Monday Muse: Inspiration for the Uninspired

It’s Mondayyyy. And, lordy, was it ever a long one. BUT, I’ve been a very bad blogger as of late, so I’m going to put together a Muse even if it kills me.

So, lately, I’ve been pretty uninspired. I’m tired, I’m bored, I’m feeling unproductive, and the news/political nonsense have me on edge. All. The. Time.

Also, I haven’t done much writing. This, in spite of the fact that I’m pretty much always daydreaming about my latest projects. I take notes as necessary, but trying to sit down and find the right words for these characters seems like a Herculean task.

I’m slowly crawling out of this funk, and the catalyst was undoubtedly having the chance to meet Imbolo Mbue. Her author talk back for Behold the Dreamers provided tons of inspiration, but it was after the event that this uninspired writer truly found inspiration.

I spent a few minutes speaking with Ms. Mbue one-on-one, asking her writer-y questions that she graciously answered. I was most interested in the fact that she is a “self-taught” writer. She has several degrees (none of them in writing) and she never intended to be a writer, it was just something that felt right.

As someone who has loved writing forever, but never really gotten a chance to take a “formal class,” this gives me so much hope. My writing could, indeed, be worth publishing even without a master’s degree in writing. It’s all a matter of being true to the story and knowing that sometimes the process of writing is going to feel like I’m chipping away at a house-sized hunk of rock.

Mbue described writing as a journey of self-discovery even as you discover the story and characters that speak to you. Writing is an extension of yourself, so, yes, it has ups and downs. The important thing is to come back and keep chipping away at that rock, because eventually you’ll end up with a diamond.


Boozy Books: Mission Update!

Heyo! Sorry I was gone Monday. I’ve been a little under the weather and wasn’t really in any place to write anything. Managed to finish out a chapter I was working on, but that took it out of me entirely. I’ve been chipping away at Mercutio slowly but surely, but I have to make sure to stop once in a while or the sentences stop making sense. They literally just fall apart into phonemes and morphemes, and I’ve got nothing.

But I have definitely been working on my re-read of high school books. Faves or otherwise. Right now, I’ve only got a couple, both of which I’ve already paired, so I’m going to post those here and go about my merry, if sneezy, way. Yes, I know… another round-up. Apologies. Eventually, I’ll get to something new.

The Three Musketeers

Huckleberry Finn


I do, for the record, have a few different non-fiction books I’m reading, including biographies of both Eleanor Roosevelt and Hatshepsut. When I finish them, I’ll definitely pair them, though booze and non-fiction do not good companions make.


Boozy Books: I’m So Behiiiind

Hello Cactus followers, and welcome to today’s incomplete Boozy Books. I am currently halfway through two new books, so I don’t have a new pairing for this week.

However, I would like to revisit Behold the Dreamers. I know, I know… I only paired this book about a month ago, so why am I jumping back so soon? WELL. Imbolo Mbue, the incredibly talented author of said book, came to my local library and did an amazing talk back that opened my eyes to her vision and the deeper importance of the story. It. Was. Awesome.

I also had a chance to speak with her one-on-one about developing your writing style and being true to your stories. She’s amazing and my respect for her is officially through the roof. She spent five years on this novel, she’s a “self-taught” writer with non-writing degrees from both Rutgers and Columbia, and she’s so kind and giving. I can’t wait for her next piece. (I will plan to dedicate a Monday Muse to the conversation I had with her. Lots of good stuff.)

So, anyway, what did I learn about Behold the Dreamers? Well, I learned that Mbue’s vision came from a simple walk down the streets of New York. She talked a lot about how curious she is about everything and everyone around her, and how deeply she tends to study people. She was inspired by watching chauffeurs and executives interacting on the streets of the city. She considered the class difference, the story and hardships of both the employer and the employee, and set about telling a story of two families and the intersection where their lives collide.

Mbue also had some interesting things to say about the issues that are so prominent in the novel (immigration, race and class inequality, etc.). She stressed that storytelling was the most important aspect of writing the book, and that any issues that were held under the light were simply her honest exploration of the characters and the story. Of course Mbue expressed her joy that the story opened important dialogue and helped others experience a different perspective, but her loyalty was to her characters.

I could probably write a dissertation about the two hour talk back I attended, but since I’m already late getting this post published, I’ll leave you here.

I said it before, and I’ll say it again: please, go read this book.



Boozy Books: A Curious Beginning

OK. Sorry. I know this is late.


So, I know I said I was going to focus on the classics and re-reading what I what in school, but I don’t actually have one of those done yet, so I can’t pair it. And, of course, I went and decided to reread Emma instead of the actual school books (I read Pride and Prejudice, but I don’t need to reread that for the 9000th time, and I haven’t actually read Emma in years), which I’ve already paired, so that wasn’t happening.

But I did do a good thing. I don’t know if y’all have realized this, but I’m not actually the most open-minded of readers. I’m notoriously picky (ask A, who will no longer recommend or lend books to me after the Station Eleven fiasco), and don’t take to new authors or different genres very easily. Actually, to be more correct, I should say that I only read genre fiction. There’s something about modern literary fiction that just doesn’t really appeal, whether it’s yet another look into small-town family secrets or the connecting lives of a modern bookseller and a 14th century gondolier. I’m just not one for contemporary (except for urban fantasy and the like) anything, really.

Basically, I’m a hard sell on new authors, romance-forward anything, and non Adult books. But sometimes I find a book that has enough elements of what I like that I know I’m going to like it, even if it’s not what I usually read.

A Curious Beginning is one of those books. It took a minute to get over the fact that it was yet another bossy, opinionated woman with a love for some science or another and the grouchy but lovable man that is her partner. They’re all practical and no-nonsense, not great with emotional outbursts, and have very decided views on what things should be. And, surprise surprise, they’re Victorian. (I’m up to at least three of these now, the other two being Alexia Tarrabotti/Maccon and Amelia Peabody.) They even solve, to varying degrees, mysteries, but their books aren’t hard-boiled whodunits (not a huge fan of those). So… I guess I can’t really say I ventured forth into something new so much as came across another of the kind of thing I like (there’s a quality to the linguistic choices that reminds me of the Parasol Protectorate books, which is one of my favorite things about them). But it’s a new author and there’s no fantasy, and I have a soft spot for the gruff but lovable male sidekick (even more than for the brassy, no-nonsense leading women).

Anyway. This is the first book in the Victoria Speedwell books. Yes, it’s a gardening pun for a name. Yes, that’s one of the reasons I liked it. Victoria is a lepidopterist (someone who captures/studies butterflies and moths, though Victoria prefers the former) and world explorer who doesn’t much give a damn that women aren’t supposed to do that sort of thing alone. She’s remarkably modern, basically. The book begins with her Aunt’s funeral and someone trying to rob/kidnap her. She’s convinced there’s no reason anyone would want to do that, but when the man who rescued her turns up dead, she gets thrown into the mystery of why he was killed and what that has to do with her. It’s mystery-lite, focusing on the forging of the relationship at the heart of the series and introducing a lot of the characters we’ll be following in the continuing adventures. And it’s quite good fun. Not a deep book by any means, and certainly nothing new, but enjoyable. It’s especially good for sitting at a cafe and spending a lazy afternoon.

If you really want to go for it with the drink, Victoria prefers aguardiente (though which type is not exactly specified). I’m reasonably sure it’s Colombian, since the anise flavor is mentioned, but you do you. Whiskey makes an appearance more than once, as well, and since this is England, tea is as ubiquitous as corsets. A few tea sandwiches and you’re golden.


Monday Muse: All About That Meh



Yes. I am writing things here. See them? They’re words. They have letters formed into sounds which achieve linguistic gestalt and become ideas. But they don’t exactly say anything, do they?

I don’t know if you guys know this, but A and I are both from Broward County. Douglas was in our backyard. When I was in school (I’m a tad older than A, though I definitely don’t act it), Douglas was my cross-town rival. Our band and orchestra departments had mock battles. Their football team routinely destroyed ours on the field (we had terrible sports teams, guys). We joked they were sinking and they rolled their eyes because, for fuck’s sake, it was settling, dammit. We were the scrappy kids from the edge of town. They were the rich kids up north.

I had friends there. And, yeah, it’s been more than a decade since I graduated, but it still felt like my friends had been attacked. I knew that was absurd. I didn’t know anyone there anymore. I’m too old for my friends to have siblings there and too young to have children old enough for high school. But the attack left me drained and unsettled in a way that no other attack has before. I’ve been angry, devastated, let down by America’s unwillingness to do anything about this, but I’ve never been drained or unsettled by it before. Like, suddenly, I felt less safe. Personally. And it left me reeling, unable to write or to feel comfortable with anything.

It was only a couple days ago I realized why that was. On some level, I’d always believed Springs (Coral) wasn’t important enough or big enough or that it mattered enough for something like that to happen there. Because the only way I heard about these things was on the news, on social media, with famous (and infamous) people talking about them and reacting to them. It made those places exceptional (in the worst way), which my home town could never, ever be. Springs would never end up on the news. We were the place where the most exciting thing during my high school years was the opening of a Jamba Juice at the Walk.

Then, all of a sudden, it was there. My home. Streets I recognized because I’d driven them (we don’t walk places in FL). Sheriffs I’d voted for. Schools I’d attended. I saw the school where my mother teaches. Realized, for what is (embarrassingly) the first time that my mom could actually be a victim. I might get that call. That the inaction of Congress wasn’t something to be abhorred just because people have already died but because I could wake up one day and find out that inaction had cost me my mom. For the record, I am not one of those people who only gets involved because it has affected me. I am vociferous in my belief that gun regulation needs to be smarter, stronger, more effective (and that regulation is not, no matter what people say, synonymous with infringement). Compassionate action begun only when those for whom you must feel compassion are those you love isn’t really compassionate.

But… this is different. I feel like my world isn’t invisible anymore. People are talking about schools and towns and streets and trees and stoplights that no one but the people who live there were supposed to know about. A layer of my safe, anonymous world (which, despite what I’m willing to tell people here, I work pretty darn hard to maintain) is gone, and my home is now just another statistic for Congress to ignore. I have hope that the kids of Douglas (and, man have the politicians and gun trolls of the world picked the wrong schoolkids to fuck with) really have lit the fuse of change, but I know how impenetrable the gun lobby has been.

I hope this doesn’t sound selfish. I wasn’t there. I grew up in a world where schools were safe. When Columbine was considered a horrible aberration and tornado drills were the most obnoxious disaster preparation to ever interrupt my day. My life is the same as it was the day before Valentine’s (hell, I was at Disney World when it happened). But I feel like maybe that security was a lie. And if Springs can get hit… if Invisible Town, USA can get hit… Anywhere can. I knew that. On some level, I knew that. But now I feel it.

I hope change finally happens. I have hoped it since it became what feels like a biweekly occurrence. I’ve donated. I’ve voted (Marco Rubio’s victory was only marginally worse than Trump’s in my book). Written. Called. Tweeted. This time feels different. Invisible Town might be the reason big change happens.

I just wish it hadn’t taken this to get there.

Thank you for letting me write this. I appreciate it, guys.


Boozy Books: Revisiting Fahrenheit 451

Hey there, hi there! It’s me, A, with another kinda-late-because-I-forgot-it-was-Friday edition of Boozy Books.

I was planning to pair Red Clocks since I just finished reading it, but I’ll be honest, it doesn’t deserve a pairing. While the concept intrigued me, the writing was slow, too much information was left unexplored, the wrong characters were given attention, storylines were left unfinished, and it was just disappointing.

And that’s why today’s post is focusing on an old favorite, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I think I’ve already paired this one*, but I just finished a thorough re-read because I was feeling less-than-inspired by the new fiction I’ve been sifting through lately.

Can we just talk about how eerily prophetic Bradbury’s writing was? I mean, Fahrenheit was first published as science fiction in 1953 and reading it now… Well, it feels pretty close to our reality. Frankly, it’s unnerving.

From its ethically-challenged society to its overbearing government along with people killing each other without thought, the future Bradbury was warning against has unfolded better than he could have written it. The obsession with “parlor-walls” is the exact reason we’re now stuck with a reality television figure in the country’s highest office and a disdain for intellectuals seems to be a growing trend. As Captain Beatty says, “we must all be alike.” The only way for people to be happy and controlled is to keep them dumb and out of touch. Sounds familiar, right?

Given how depressingly accurate Bradbury’s vision of the future was, I’m pairing this with a whole bottle of whisky. Drink it neat. Drink it on the rocks. Drink it to drown out the world. But take a moment to toast the fact that at least you still have the right to read this incredible piece of literature



*Update: I did indeed pair Fahrenheit 451 back in 2015… That post had a very different tone, wouldn’t you agree?