Cozy mystery, YA, and a cookie recipe I'm obsessed with
What’s on your mind these days, friends? Lately, my brain space is taken up with attempts at focusing on some new writing, procrastinating by re-watching Marvel movies, praying for Ukraine, doing all the usual home and family and kid stuff, and these FREAKING DELICIOUS Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies:
I also recently wrote a guest blog post for the Teach My People blog. Teach My People is a faith-based, non-profit after school and summer program for students in need based in Pawleys Island and Georgetown, South Carolina. You can read the post here.
And before we get to the rundown of what I’ve been reading lately (and listening to), I’ve got a little plug for the Black Rose Writing newsletter. Black Rose Writing is the publishing company I’m working with for my second book, and if you subscribe to their newsletter and fill out their survey you get a chance to win a kindle Paperwhite! Here are the details:
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What I’m reading...
Poisoned and Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
Both of these books are reimagined fairy tales, in a style that pays tribute to the darker tradition of fairy tales. Poisoned is the story of Snow White, who is killed by her stepmother not because she’s beautiful (although she is), but because she’s a threat to the Queen’s power. In a bit of a twist, however, the real villain in the story is not actually the Queen, but a figure much more sinister. I’ll admit, while I liked this story, I didn’t love it, mostly because Sophie (Snow White) was SO ANNOYING.
Stepsister, on the other hand, was absolutely fantastic. The opening scene is the one when Cinderella’s stepsisters mangle their own feet in an attempt to fit the glass slipper and fool the prince, but, of course they are discovered and Cinderella gets her happily ever after. But what happens to the family she leaves behind? Isabelle’s story is an interesting one, particularly because the villains aren’t traditional villains, but Chance and Fate, immortal beings whose chess match with each other just happens to have life and death affect the lives of mortals. It’s set in post-Napoleonic France, and the story talks a lot about women’s rights and lack of power in that society. The tale also delves into themes of love, family, loyalty, and forgiveness.
This Much Huxley Knows by Gail Aldwin
This novel is a sweet slice of life story about a young boy growing up in the London suburbs. Huxley navigates friendships, school, and a new (and somewhat controversial) neighbor. The author does a good job of juxtaposing Huxley’s innocent and accepting–point of view and that of the adults around him, who are much more cautious and cynical about the world.
Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. I. Love. This. Book. Four residents of a retirement community in England have formed a club where they get together every week to look through cold cases from the local police precinct (one of their members is a retired police detective). When someone in their community is murdered, the members of the “Thursday Murder Club” get to apply their significant skills to a current case. The mystery (well, multiple mysteries, to be honest) is very well written and well-paced; but it’s the setting and characters that really elevate the novel for me. The characters are nuanced, endearing, and so real.
Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence
Three years have passed since the end of Red Sister, the previous book in this trilogy, and the stakes are even higher for Nona and her friends in the Sweet Mercy Convent. It’s all the action, political maneuvering, and power struggles of the first novel ratcheted up to another level. There’s kidnapping, rescue attempts, dark powers, and a demon that’s attached itself to Nona.
Pushing Pawns by Dima Novak is a young adult novel about a fourteen year old boy from Queens whose fledgling chess club is struggling. At a suggestion from his mom, he enlists the help of an old grandmaster chess champion from the former USSR who now lives in the neighborhood to coach the team and hopefully infuse some new life in the group. This group of friends are each navigating some tough situations, but they learn to lean on each other for support and help. The novel is full of both philosophical discussions and typical teenage concerns like crushes and grades and friendships. It’s a love letter to Queens and all its diversity, and I loved the vividness of the setting. The story could be told through a more sober and gritty point of view, but instead Pushing Pawns is very hopeful and optimistic, while still feeling really grounded.
What I’m listening to…
The Joy of Music by Ben Rector
This is your spring soundtrack. From the very first track (which sounds like it could be the theme song to your favorite movie) to the last, it’s like the musical version of stepping outside right after a Spring rainstorm, when the air feels fresh, the sun is warm, and the breeze is cool.
That’s it for me! What are you reading this week?
Thanks for mentioning This Much Huxley Knows.