It’s Monday, What Are You… 1/22

…Reading?

I had gotten into the habit of alternating “It’s Monday…” with “Down the TBR Hole” because I was only finishing a book every two weeks or so. Not so in 2018! I finished Countdown City last week and am one good reading day away from finishing The Huge Hunter, or The Steam Man of the Prairie.

This week:

The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous 19th Century Chess-Playing Machine World, Chase Me Down

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

…Doing?

Other than reading? So much ultimate!

Last Thursday was my first B division game of the season. The team I’m on is a good combination of people I play with quite often, people I’ve known for years but have never been on the same team with, and players new to me. First game went pretty well. We won!

The upcoming weekend is New Year Fest, the local tournament put together by VOTS. I plan on playing a little both Saturday and Sunday with Maul, the ladies’ (mostly) master’s team. Otherwise I’ll be helping out and/or cheering for my team. Right now is pretty much the best time weather-wise in Phoenix. The forecast for the weekend is dry, sunny, and 75-80F.

What Was I Doing?

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Deal Me In, Week 3 ~ “How to Sync Your Spouse”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“How to Sync Your Spouse” by Russell Nichols

Card picked: 6
Found at: Fireside Fiction

The Story

When Menzi saw Lindiwe, his heart skipped a beat.

When Lindiwe saw Menzi, her heart froze.

And the two of them have been out of sync ever since, with his clockwork heart now a beat early and hers now a beat late.

And, while this sounds romantic, it leads to many relationship problems for the couple especially when it comes to…ahem…ScrewTime. How does one sync her spouse? You go to a watchman, of course. The watchman, though, has bad news: the couple’s irregularity is also the basis of their love. And, in spec fic fashion, Nichols offers a nice flash fiction analogy for many long-time relationships.

The Author
Russell Nichols is a journalist, playwright, screenwriter, and short story and poetry writer. All the writing things are his. More about his work can be found at his web page.

Review ~ Here Is Real Magic

This book was provided to me by Bloomsbury USA via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cover via Goodreads

Here Is Real Magic: A Magician’s Search for Wonder in the Modern World by Nate Staniforth

Nate Staniforth has spent most of his life and all of his professional career trying to understand wonder—what it is, where to find it, and how to share it with others. He became a magician because he learned at a young age that magic tricks don’t have to be frivolous. Magic doesn’t have to be about sequins and smoke machines—rather, it can create a moment of genuine astonishment.

The paradox is that the better you get at creating wonder with magic for other people, the harder it gets to experience it yourself. After years on the road as a young professional magician, crisscrossing the country and performing four or five nights a week, every week, Nate was disillusioned, burned out, and ready to quit.

Instead, he went to India in search of magic. Here Is Real Magic follows Nate Staniforth’s evolution from an obsessed young magician to a broken wanderer and back again. It tells the story of his rediscovery of astonishment—and the importance of wonder in everyday life—during his trip to the slums of India, where he infiltrated a three-thousand-year-old clan of street magicians. Here Is Real Magic is a call to all of us—to welcome awe back into our lives, to marvel in the everyday, and to seek magic all around us. (via Goodreads)

I.

“Do you want to keep doing magic?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you want to do anything else?”

“No.”

If you replace “doing magic” with “writing,” I’ve pretty much had this same conversation in the recent past with Eric, my husband. Staniforth has it with his wife after several years of successful touring as a magician. He had fallen out of love with magic, so to speak. The wonder he originally felt when doing magic and had seen on the faces of his audience had faded. This book is the travelogue of his trip to India to find wonder again.

II.

There is an aspect of this books that makes me somewhat uncomfortable. I’m aware of the cultural appropriation that occurred within magic in the late 19th/early 20th century. The exotic Far East was all the rage and many western magicians took on the persona of Indian fakirs for tricks. The Indian rope trick, a hoax, only solidified the notion that people in India believed in mysticism and needed civilizing. Staniforth is aware of this too. He mentions Peter Lamont’s The Rise of the Indian Rope Trick both in the text and in his acknowledgements, yet, when he wants to see “real” magic, India is his first (only?) thought.

I can understand the want to visit a radically different culture in an effort to find a new perspective on magic. India has that, but Staniforth also shares his notion that wonder comes easier when you’re less burdened with knowledge. Which leave the possibility of an uncomfortable a==b==c comparison. I don’t think that Staniforth intends that, and he’s pretty quick to check his privilege, but why then just India? Why not travel the world looking for wonder?

III.

It’s hard to critique someone’s personal experience of the world. Staniforth is very earnest in his want to find wonder and inspire it in others. That also occasionally comes off as self-importance. He insists that magicians are a ridiculous lot and he isn’t satisfied with the wonder of magic only lasting to the theater door. I’m in the ridiculous profession of creating stories, but I don’t mind so much if the magic of the story fades when the book is closed. I also don’t have much trouble finding moments of wonder in my life,  but I’m the sort that finds a rainbow to be more incredible because of the optics behind it.

Staniforth does find wonder, but finds it more in the people and beauty of India than in its magicians. His take-away is that we can find wonder when you slow down and let yourself. And really, I can’t argue with that.

Publishing info, my copy: ePub, Bloomsbury USA, 1/16/18
Acquired: NetGalley, 10/11/17
Genre: memoir

hosted by Doing Dewey

It’s Monday, What Are You… (1/15)

…Reading?

Bout of Books

Bout of Books wrapped up yesterday. I read around 350 pages, but I feel like I read a lot more than that. I read The Box Jumper, a novella by Lisa Mannetti, the last 50 pages of The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe, seventy pages of a novel I DNFed, the first 80 pages of Countdown City, and four short stories. Happily, the slump that dominated the last half of 2017 is gone.

This week:

Countdown City (The Last Policeman, #2)  The Huge Hunter, or, the Steam Man of the Prairies
  • Countdown City by Ben H. Winter – TBR Challenge
  • The Huge Hunter, or, the Steam Man of the Prairies by Edward S. Ellis – which I suppose qualifies for the Wild West Reading Challenge
  • “How to Sync Your Spouse” by Russell Nichols – Deal Me In
  • A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • “The Masochist’s Assistant” by Auston Habershaw

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

…Doing?

Winter frisbee leagues got started last week with a meet-and-greet game for my division. Fitness-wise, due to sickness and rain, I’ve only played three games in two weeks, additionally Eric and I ran some intervals yesterday…which were painful. Teams haven’t been picked for my division yet. I thought about captaining, but my life currently has an okay amount of neuroticism; I decided not to rock that boat.

I’ve been slowly working my way through some Codeacademy tutorials and I plan on learning a little about watercolor painting in the near future.

What Was I Doing?

Deal Me In, Week 2 ~ “The Wrong Foot”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Wrong Foot” by Stephanie Burgis

Card picked: Q
Found at: Daily Science Fiction

The Story

Needless to say, I didn’t want to try on the slipper in the first place.

Have you ever thought about the absurdity of Cinderella and the whole “marry the girl who can wear the glass slipper” thing? I mean, even though Payless didn’t exist in 1600s Italy, foot size isn’t exactly the same as fingerprints…or her face. (Although now I want to write a Cinderella variation in which the Prince is face blind…) What kind of cobbler makes glass slippers anyway? And if you take away the interference of fairy godmothers, why was Cinderella so eager to get away from the prince by midnight?

Sophia is a modern girl. She likes to read. She has her own inheritance coming to her. But her mother think she needs a husband and, if her small feet happen to fit in the glass slipper, why shouldn’t that husband be the Prince? Not helping matters is the Prince’s secretary whose hazel eyes make Sophia feel distinctly unscholarly.

This story is a clever and sweet, a nice twist on the fairy tale. I’m two for two on stories this year.

The Author
I don’t believe I’ve read anything by American/British writer Stephanie Burgis in the past. Info about her other stories, long and short, can be found at her website.

Review ~ The Linking Rings

This book was provided to me by Henery Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cover via Goodreads

The Linking Rings by John Gaspard

What does Eli Marks have up his sleeve this time? Well, let me tell you, no matter the mystery, his sleight of hand always does the trick.

Eli’s trip to London with his uncle Harry quickly turns homicidal when the older magician finds himself accused of murder. Not Uncle Harry!

A second slaying does little to take the spotlight off Harry. Instead it’s clear someone is knocking off Harry’s elderly peers in bizarrely effective ways. But who?
The odd gets odder when the prime suspect appears to be a bitter performer with a grudge…who committed suicide over thirty years before.

While Eli struggles to prove his uncle’s innocence—and keep them both alive—he finds himself embroiled in a battle of his own: a favorite magic routine of his has been ripped off by another hugely popular magician.

What began as a whirlwind vacation to London with girlfriend Megan turns into a fatal and larcenous trip into the dark heart of magic within the city’s oldest magic society, The Magic Circle. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
This is the 4th Eli Marks mystery. The first, The Ambitious Card, established Eli as our working magician and amateur sleuth protagonist. I’ve enjoyed the whole series.

What Worked
Gaspard’s details about magic and the social aspects surrounding magicians are always great. Magicians have a strange dynamic of friendship/rivalry which I’m not sure exists in other industries. It’s a lot of fun and adds a certain amount of drama to situations.

The setting of The Linking Rings shifts away from the Twin Cities in Minnesota to London. While the sense of place isn’t as strong, I never doubted Eli and Harry jumping from tube station to tube station as murders happen around them.

What Didn’t Work (as much)
Set in London, this volume of the series doesn’t have one of the relationships that have made the other mysteries work better: Eli’s district attorney ex-wife and her cop fiance.  Without these hooks into the investigation, the clues in The Linking Rings just sort of accumulate around Eli. While he’s instrumental in the climax of the story, solving of the mystery feels abrupt.

Overall
This is a fun, honest mystery. Eli Marks is a great character and I’m hoping that John Gaspard continues to provide magic in future books.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle, Henery Press, 01/16/18
Acquired: NetGalley
Genre: Mystery

Writing Update, 1/10


How’s It Going?
I’ve been thinking about the thing that people do as an alternative to new year resolutions: picking a word or phrase to be a mantra for the year.

Other than setting ridiculous reading goals, I haven’t really done resolutions per se in a while. If I contemplate changes for the new year, I usually start around my birthday (mid-December) and try things out before we hit January. This December, I started doing three pages of journaling every morning followed by an hour of work—all before I fire up the internet. I’ve kept this up for the most part. So, my early favorite for 2018’s mantra has been “Steady.” I want to work steadily.

But this morning I was thinking about my relationship with Eric. When I graduated from college, I asked Eric to keep me honest with me writing efforts. We decided that I’d “turn in” pages every week. Those first pages became my first novel. While it’s never been easy to have someone read my pages, it feels like it used to be a lot more simple. I would just have him read; not a lot of choice in the matter. One of the things I learned in 2017 is that I had let my relationship with writing get unnecessarily complicated. (Complicated is different from complex. Complexity is fine. Complicated implies…complications.) I’m still letting it be that way, but it doesn’t need to be that way. So, I think my mantra for the year (if I should so desire to have one) will be “Steady & Simple.”

Excerpt

“And you, miss?” He pointed at Charlotte.

Her face flushed, to Billy’s surprise. He had been fairly certain that there was nothing that could embarrass Charlotte.

“Seven of diamonds,” she said loud enough to be heard on stage.

Joseffy raised his eyebrows. “A very rich card. Beware, sir,” he said to Billy, “your lady might know some magic as well, namely how to make wallets disappear.”

The audience laughed.

“You don’t know the half of it,” Billy said, and even the magician chuckled.

“The lady chose the seven of diamonds,” Joseffy reiterated.

He pulled the silk handkerchief off the card holder. It had disappeared and in its stead was a small vase with a brilliant red rose in it. The magician frowned. A fake frown, he had known absolutely that the rose would be there, but the audience hadn’t known. They were dutifully amazed and tittered at the conjurer’s discomfort. Making the best of it, Joseffy plucked the rose from the vase. He walked up the aisle and presented it to Charlotte.

“My apologies, miss, your card seemed to have gone astray.”

The rose appeared real, fresh, and only recently cut. Charlotte practically buried her nose in it.

“Ah, there it is.” Joseffy reached toward Charlotte’s hair and seemed to pluck the card from behind the pins that supported her curls.

About This WIP
One Ahead is a series of mystery novellas focusing on David P. Abbott, a magician who lived in Omaha, NE at the beginning of the 20th century. Aside from being an accomplished magician, David Abbott was a debunker of fraudulent mediumistic practices. I’ll be delving into the history of Omaha in 1915 as well as visiting some of the magicians, mediums, and skeptics that lived in that era.