Books I Read This Month - August 2013

Apparently I went on a science fiction and historical kick this month, with four books that each take place in the past, two of them with science fiction elements, and all with some real events. Must just have been the mood I was in.

Equilateral by Ken Kalfus

A physicist has a plan to dig a hundreds-of-miles wide equilateral triangle into the Sahara desert to attract Martians by lighting it on fire as a signal on the night that Mars is closest to Earth. Fascinating premise, and I was super excited to read this book. The jargon and scientific language slowed down the plot a bit, but I am educated in science enough understand it completely. The characters are so dynamic, well-defined, and interesting.  A great read for those who enjoy sci-fi rather than historical fiction.

The Movement of the Stars by Amy Brill

A twenty-something girl who has grown up in a Quaker community in the 1800s has a dream of discovering a new comet and has no interest in getting married, as her family wishes her to do. But then she meets a foreign sailor who she begins teaching navigation skills, and she falls in love. I didn’t think the sailor character was very believable, and though he was a very sweet guy, I wasn’t entirely sure what she saw in him—or what he saw in her. Though the characters and premise were not original or quite deep enough for my liking, I did enjoy the writing style of this book.

Bright and Distant Shores by Dominic Smith

Extremely thorough and rich detail—so much the plot was too slow for my tastes, but also so much that a vivid image of the setting could be immediately conjured, almost dreamlike—made this book a deep, fantastic read. The level of detail could sometimes make the story boring, but I generally found myself caught up in the imagery. It’s a story set partly in turn-of-the-century Chicago, partly in some Pacific islands, where a museum item collector sailed to bring back native islanders for a museum exhibition. I would highly recommend this read for those with the time, intellect, and attention-span to make it through.

Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card

Half of this book is a historical account of Christopher Columbus’ life, and the other half is the account of a distant future community where a machine can peek into the past and observe. But one girl believes she can develop the technology to actually travel back and change Columbus’ mind about his journey across the ocean in order to divert the corruption of Christianity—and even more terrifying, she believes that someone has already done this before. I loved the plot, though the historical story line wasn’t all that engaging, and, to be honest, the conversation taking place in the future story line wasn’t all that exciting either. Maybe it was just the premise that kept me reading, wanting to know how the plot would resolve.

Peace, Aimee

IWSG - Short Stories and the Dreaded Grad School Application

There are certainly a number of writerly things to be insecure about, but I am suffering from one such ailment that plagues those in academia: grad school applications.

No, I have not gotten to the actual applying part of the process, but I'm in the picking of the schools to which I am going to apply process, which means looking at their admissions requirements. I am planning on going down either one of two paths, and will be applying to a few of each side of the divide: PhD in English Literature and MFA in Creative Writing. All are competitive programs. All have intimidating and successful alumni. And all require some form of a writing sample in the application. I am super confident with my essay, which has the potential to get me into a fairly decent PhD program. But my true love is fiction, and it seems that none of my short stories are good enough to qualify as an MFA application piece. I've been hammering away at my keyboard, perhaps even more than I usually do, to try to shape up at least two stories that can represent my best work so far.

...And that's all I can say about this matter, except that it feels like my entire life and future depends on two short stories. Which, in a way, it most certainly does. I just need a bit of writer fairy dust. Wish me luck!

Peace, Aimee