Book Review: Still Life with Strings

Review policy: I only post reviews on my blog for books I feel strongly about, good or bad.

Title: STILL LIFE WITH STRINGS
Author: L.H. Cosway


The last Cosway book I read (which was the last book I read at all) was (I think) the author’s first and it showed. But though Painted Faces was rough, I enjoyed the author’s voice, so I dove into the next one.

This book was beautiful. There were so many things I loved about it, including these quotes:

“ … when everything else in life fails, there is still music.” Goodness, how I love music, how it makes me dream and hope. Also, how its angst is cathartic.

In re dogs (which I hate): “They never have any shame about letting you know just how much they’ve missed you.” Also, toddlers (which I also hate except for my own) and clingy 11-year-old boys, which are the most wonderfullest things in the world. All that was to say it made me look at my children in a different light.

Anyway, the thing that took away from the book: too much time spent on the sex. At some point, it doesn’t add to the plot or characterization, which it stopped doing about 5/8ths through the book (yesisaidthatshutup).

So, the wonderful things:

  • The descriptions of the music playing as flights of fancy (this isn’t an accurate-enough term and it’s far too whimsical for what’s in the text, but it’s the best I can come up with). It’s absolutely brilliant, how it’s done. I can’t hear the music, but I can see it.
  • The first sexual encounter was also approached brilliantly. It had depth with no trace of sleaze.
  • The portrayal of Jade’s life as a lower-working-class girl was spot-on. I admired her for her easy stoicism, which was more than I could muster with dependents.
  • Both characters’ motivations were reasonable and logical given their backgrounds and circumstances.
  • In both books, the characters’ codependence is obvious, but I don’t have a problem with it as long as it’s healthy and I do think their relationship is healthy. I think it will remain so because they are both strong people.
  • In spite of Jade’s poverty, I could feel her innate optimism and, dare I say, happiness. This spoke to me like the quotes above.

Aside: I wish there were a playlist for this book. I’ll have to look.

Aside 2: I LOVE that these are set in Dublin and have local vernacular instead of Anytown, USA, with dumbed-down vernacular for stupid Americans.

Well done, Ms Cosway, well done.

The perfect bookstore: Decadence

The perfect bookstore has a name: Decadence.

This is not another one of my bookstore-of-the-future/how-to-save-brick-and-mortar-stores posts. This is about a bookstore I dreamed up while writing The Proviso four years ago, the one that spawned the previous bookstore posts. Specifically, it’s Giselle’s bookstore, which was torched, causing her to have to reboot her life at the grand ol’ age of 30 by going to law school. (Because that’s what everybody does when they have to reboot their lives, right? Right?)

decadence05
In the spring and summer when the trees and flowers are in full bloom, it’s gorgeous.

This bookstore was in the River Market area of Kansas City, Missouri, and most closely resembles this building:

Giselle describes it this way:

I owned a bookstore for seven years […] I shared space with a patisserie on one side of me and a confectionery on the other. Maisy and Coco weren’t my business partners, exactly; we just figured if we knocked down our walls and unified our décor, we’d all make more money and it worked. […] Decadence wasn’t a bookstore with food. It was a destination. I stocked romance novels of all kinds. Couple that with Maisy’s gourmet chocolates and wine, and Coco’s pastries, the events we put on every weekend… I was doing very well; we all were. I was never going to be independently wealthy, but I made a lot of money doing something I loved.

I’ve been percolating this post for a long time, and after many, many Twitter discussions on the relationship between independent brick-and-mortar booksellers and the romance genre (not good) versus Borders’ and Barnes & Nobles’ willingness to step in where the independent booksellers won’t (but Borders, the more romance-friendly store, went bye-bye), I decided to do yet another perfect bookstore post.

Behold, my real idea of the perfect bookstore:

decadence

And I still think this combination of products and location would make some serious bank. (Add an Espresso machine in the basement…) (A used books section on the second floor…) (Events at lunch and on the weekends…)

UPDATE: August 18, 2015, over 4 years later…

I was re-inserting pictures that got lost in the move so a friend could link to them, so I figured I’d add a couple of notes.

1. Since YA has become a bigger part of the market now, that section would get expanded.

2. I’m reediting The Proviso, and Giselle adds this to her description:

“Wine, chocolate, sex. […] We had PMS survival kits. Better than Midol. Men came in specifically for those.”

Trust me, I’d send my husband across the metro to Decadence to get me a PMS survival kit.

 

I’ve been published!!!

Like, by somebody else. (Inorite?)

So Freya’s Bower (one of the veteran epublishers in the landscape) has this annual anthology called Dreams and Desires, where the proceeds from it go to a charity. This year’s charity is A Window Between Worlds, a non-profit organization that provides art supplies and training for art as a healing tool free of charge to battered women’s shelters across the United States.

Marci Baun, Freya’s Bower’s Perpetrator In Chief, asked me to contribute a story to the anthology, and because it’s a) for a good cause and b) for the #1 cause on my personal list of good causes, I said SURE! The result? Short story “Twenty-Dollar Rag.”

For fans of the Dunham series, the hero in this one is the weird kid from Stay (who wears kilts and sleeps in trees), Vachel Whittaker, all grown up and possibly more normal than the rest of the Dunham men. Lo, there is no religion or politics in it.

Here’s the blurb for Dreams and Desires:

True love, freedom, self-worth, security… Dreams and desires of the ordinary woman, or man. From a thirty-something, single woman who wants a baby to a jeweler who finds love with the least expected man to a widow who wants to finish her degree and find love to a young, futuristic woman who’s still searching for herself to an 18th century saloon girl whose lost hope but still dreams of love to a man who has escaped his abusive lover but has lost himself. This collection of nine stories celebrates the attainment of all one can dream or desire. Which one do you secretly yearn for?

And here’s the blurb for “Twenty-Dollar Rag”:

One night. One man. One dress.

Regina Westlake sees nothing wrong with her clubbing lifestyle until the gorgeous guy cleaning her pool refuses to play her games. When he’s hired to be her arm candy for a formal event, he makes his disdain for her clear by re-dressing her in something far more appropriate than what she had worn to the party.

Shattered, she takes his contempt, his dress, the memory of his kiss—and rebuilds her life from the ground up. She never expects to see him again, but when she does…

Buy the collection, have a few hours of entertainment and help somebody out at the same time. Win-win!

Dreams and Desires ($5.99)

Twenty-Dollar Rag” (12,000 words) ($2.99)


This is handselling now.

This morning I butted into a Twitter conversation between @jackiebarbosa, @elyssapapa, and @growlycub about Romance heros/heroines who are struggling financially at the end of the book, but they shall live on love:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/MoriahJovan/status/13276067800293377″]

Which led back around to the title of the book which started the conversation I butted in on:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/jackiebarbosa/status/13279970579185664″]

and

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/victoriajanssen/status/13286262161018880″]

Which led to:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/MoriahJovan/status/13280763256508417″]

and:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/PortiaDaCosta/status/13281803079000064″]

This entire conversation happened in the course of an hour in casual conversation on Twitter, and money was spent. (More money would’ve been spent if the publisher had the sense to allow people out of the US to buy it, but that’s a conversation for another day.) (Also, it was $5.99 on the Kindle, which is my cutoff point for ebook prices, so there was another advantage.) As far as I know, I’m the only one who bothered to tweet that she bought it, but that’s not to say nobody else bought it.

The “need” was created.

The “need” was satisfied.

Immediately. Easy and with no friction.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from this. Insert your favorite lesson here.

I wanna fall in love.

From Mrs. Giggles’s post today, this caught my eye and helped me define something for myself:

I know, some folks view “escapism” as a dirty word, because we get defensive when people portray romance readers as silly women who want to escape their real lives by indulging in romantic fantasies. But there is some truth to the insulting stereotype no matter how we try to prettify things – we read romance novels for the vicarious entertainment. Nobody reads romance novels to become a better person – those who claim to do so are either people trying too hard to defend their hobby to critics or academics forced to read those things as part of a research and not as a hobby.

I read romance novels because I get to fall in love over and over and over and over again, that rush of feeling you get when you first meet somebody and there’s this strange and wonderful and glorious attraction and it’s emotional and sexual and spiritual and intellectual (if you’re doing it right) and you happily-ever-after yourself with this person and have a wedding-and-babies epilogue.

But then, real life settles in.

The babies really do come.

But so do the bills.

And the doctor visits for this and that and some other thing, reminding you you’re not twenty-five anymore.

The 7-year-old XX TD won’t stop telling you what she expects to get for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, her next birthday (almost a year away), and Arbor Day, preferably an XBox, a Wii, an iPhone…

The honey-do list gets added to faster than both of you together can keep up with it because you have a 4.5-year-old XY TD that breaks everything he touches—because he can—and you’re stepping on random screws that…you don’t know where they came from.

I love my family, but love is built on history and defeat and triumph and hardship; it’s made for the long haul. Falling in love is the glamour that tricks you into thinking you want to spend enough time with this person and these babies you make together to build that kind of love.

It wears off all too soon.

I’ve had a hell of a day today. Dude doesn’t get off work until late. I have no Calgon in the house. TV doesn’t satisfy. I’ve no interest in immersing myself in one of my craft/sewing/refinishing/decorating projects. I’ve been coding all day and have worn myself out.

But what will help, what I can do, is go fall in love for three or four hours once the kids go to bed and I’m waiting for Dude to get home from work.

That’ll hold me over until tomorrow morning, when I awake and pick up where I leave off tonight.

Because I love my family.