Sunday, January 21, 2018

Historical murder mysteries for the fantasy lover

I'm on a roll of excellent historical mystery/fantasy reads that shows no signs of ending!  Due in part to my ill health the last week, I finished

The Hanged Man by P.N. Elrod

the first of a series, I'm pleased to note!  This mystery laced with magic takes place in an alternate Victorian England any lover of Sherlock Holmes will enjoy.  In this novel the magic makes perfect sense and posits preferable criminal investigative techniques than our present ones, that's for sure!  Her characters are well-developed and I look forward to reading more about all of them.

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

In this novel, a time traveler from the present encounters a serial killer in Regency England.  Fast-moving and led by a very unique female protagonist, this novel satisfies to the very last, (the very last) word!  I liked that the author zigged where the reader would zag.  I heartily approve of zigging!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

More glowing book recommendations...

Mentioned by many as one of the best non-fiction books of 2017,

The Radium Girls: the dark story of America's shining women by Kate Moore (Sourcebooks)

definitely deserves that distinction.  The story is old, as there have been a few books written about it (and a play, These Shining Lives!) but Moore's approach is fresh.  She focused on the women and their personal lives, which makes the story of their suffering and struggle for justice even more poignant.  The book reads fast and makes a lasting impression.  What strikes me the most is the courage these very young women had in the face of unbelievable setbacks, indifference on the part of both employers and industry, and the hopelessness of their situation.  They really did shine like beacons in the dark history of industrial safety in this country, making it safer for generations to come.

This book led me to

The Woman Who Knew Too Much: Alice Stewart and the Secrets of Radiation,
by Gayle Greene (University of Michigan Press, 1999). 

Another incredible story:  a pioneer female doctor who became an epidemiologist who saved countless lives by first discovering the danger of x-raying fetuses before birth, a formerly common practice, and later in her careet, at an age when most people are retired "challenged international nuclear safety standards."  An amazing woman who has not been celebrated enough.

My fiction recommendation is another Jane Austen world spinoff:

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal (2011)

This is the first of a series of regency/fantasy novels by this author, who very skillfully weaves the working of "glamour" as she calls the magical essence into an Austen inspired world.  This particular novel derives inspiration from Austen's Sense and Sensibility but does a nice job of making you forget that fact!  Entertaining, enchanting, and fun.  Even though I enjoyed this novel tremendously, I find I don't feel the need to read the next one, which is strange but maybe a tribute to the satisfying ending of the first!

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Happiness is seeing your own book in your library!

Today I walked into the Green Library at Florida International University, where I work, and found that some nice person had displayed my new poetry chapbook, The Ocean Between Us, in good company on the New Books shelf!  They obviously intended that I see it, since I'm the one who usually organizes the display shelves!  A few minutes later it was gone...maybe someone's actually reading it?  Uh, oh!

Call number:  PS 3606. E7334.O33 2017

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Pushcart Prize nomination surprise!

Thirty West Publishing House just nominated my sonnet "Blood Pacts" as one of their Pushcart Prize nominations for 2017!  I am floored and very honored!  I never imagined it would happen again so soon.  Many thanks to editor Josh Dale and others who took the time and effort to make it happen!
Congratulations to my fellow nominees, too! 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Book Reviews--Two feel-good books: one from the past, one from the present

This blog has become less and less about books and frugality and more about my writing and publications, so I thought I'd break the pace and recommend some books.

Over my blessedly quiet Thanksgiving holidays, I've completed two very different books that nonetheless have been very satisfying reads and somehow seem to complement each other well. I think a Jane Austen reader would heartily approve of this first book:

Mrs Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson, was first published in 1938 and has been reintroduced by Persephone Classics books.  My copy has a 10 lb price on and it's worth every penny (pence?)--it's 10 lbs of utter satisfaction.  Mrs. Watson, who like Jane Austen (foreshadowing next book review here) published six books upon which her fame was made, but who unlike Ms. Austen, lived a long and healthy life afterwards, was interviewed by the person who rediscovered her book and urged it upon the publishers.  Since then, a film starring Frances McDormand, which is also stupendous, has been made.

Mrs. Pettigrew has been described as a frothy confection of a novel with a Cinderella theme, but I think the reason it is so touching and enjoyable is because the author herself experienced a version of the Cinderella dream she confers so entertainingly on her book's eponymous heroine.  Watson herself was an "overnight" success with her first novel and was widely feted and celebrated, so she knew first-hand how it felt.  What distinguishes the novel from other fun reads is the author's deep sense of compassion for the frantic desperation behind all the bubbly adventures and witty repartee.  Watson's insight into the human heart makes her novel timeless.


And, speaking of time, the other book I devoured over the break is a brand new one (though also about the past):

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn (who, by the way, had the same idea as I had had a while back for a story but she made it into a novel!  In my story, it was the Great Lives Project)   In this time travel novel, two researchers go back to Jane Austen's time ostensibly to retrieve the lost full manuscript of The Watsons (ha! another link to Mrs. Pettigrew book) and the letters Cassandra destroyed but also end up doing something else (no spoilers!) that of course, alters everything in unpredictable ways.

My only objection to this novel is that I was led to believe by the blurb writers that it had a surprise ending, which it didn't. Not unless you count the present being changed by the time travelers' actions in the past as surprising, which it shouldn't be to anyone who has ever read a time travel novel!  Also, the author keeps dropping what I thought were really obvious hints about certain things which never came to pass--ok, so maybe that was me reading things into things but still, I think it would have made for an interesting twist if what I thought was going to happen had happened.  Oh, and I thought the main character acted quite against character in the end, which threw me a bit.

But all these comments don't detract in any way from it being a most wonderful read.  I don't even bother thinking up all these objections to novels that don't have meat to them.  I love when novels give you food for thought and raise all these questions in your mind.  Few novels are even worthy of a second thought and this one will certainly provide lots of discussion fodder for an Austenite book club!

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Ocean Between Us cover reveal!

Backbone Press just published my new poetry chapbook The Ocean Between Us along with Faisal Mohyuddin‘s The Riddle of Longing.  Faisal’s book The Displaced Children of Displaced Children just won the 2017 Sexton Prize for Poetry from Eyewear Publishing; I’m very honored and excited to be published alongside him!

Many thanks to editor Crystal Simone Smith for the beautiful cover design and to editor Daniel Romo for his blurb!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Backbone Press will publish The Ocean Between Us!

I'm excited and honored to announce that Backbone Press chose my chapbook The Ocean Between Us as one of their two Fall 2017 publications from 120+ entries.  It will be in the pre-order stage for a few weeks ($9 via paypal).  The Riddle of Longing by Faisal Mohyuddin is the other chapbook chosen. Faisal just won the the 2017 Sexton Prize selected by Kimiko Hahn! 

Backbone's description: 
The Ocean Between Us is a collection of poems wrapped in memories and language. Beatriz Fernandez artfully weaves together dazzling imagery and alluring sounds to create concrete visions of Puerto Rico, Florida, and a geography of loss. With the ability to use the perfect words to describe imperfect times, she poses questions that pierce the human spirit. Unsure of the answer, this is a book of poetry that is rich with the “embryonic code of things to come.”

I'm really happy to have another chapbook published so soon after my first, Shining from a Different Firmament, in 2015 (Finishing Line Press).

The Ocean Between Us is very different than Shining, which was mostly a collection of persona poems about historical, literary and legendary women.  Ocean, as I described in my last post, is a collection of 25 poems about my personal experiences in Puerto Rico and Florida, from childhood to the present.  The first poem, Calle del Cristo, is an exception in that it is a persona poem.

The suffering of all Puerto Ricans as the island has endured two hurricanes is omnipresent in my mind these days.  My family members are safe and being very brave about the circumstances but I can't imagine living through that.  We were in Miami during Hurricane Andrew, but it did not hit our area directly.  Irma again sideswiped us, leaving only fences and trees down, mostly.  We are so lucky to have our homes and our lives to go back to.