On the Shelf: On the Road

My childhood just called and asked for its all-metal playground back.

This past week, we hit the road, and by “we” I mean the Brune-Coombs Traveling Circus and Menagerie. Spouse, two kids, two dogs and a cat loaded up into Jeep Wrangler towing a JayCo fifth wheel and headed on down the road. RV camping cross country is the main reason we bought the camper in the first place, and this is our chance to see how much we are adapting to the life of a nomad. So far, I’m enjoying it.

We spent four days in Utah visiting my brother and sister-in-law and their two kids, and then drove a nice, leisurely pace into Wyoming. The RV means that only one of us really has to mask up and do some gas station snack purchasing or checking in at the campsite, minimizing our contact with others–and their contact with us. It’s also been quite lovely sleeping in our own bed night after night.

Coulda been wearing this all last winter if I’d sat down with it for ten minutes…

There have been a few changes as we go along, fine-tuning what we’re willing to live with, and changing what we need to stay sane in tight quarters. My spouse and I both have been implementing ideas of how to better utilize space. For me, I’ve had a chance to work my way through a bunch of knitting projects (including one that sat in time out for a year and only required about ten minutes to fix.) I’m getting to work on some business-related items (promo and editing for Crone Girls Press) and back to work on some writing projects that I need to finish.

And, of course, my reading! Since we got on the road, I’ve finished (and started and finished) a bunch of books, both on my Kindle and hard copy. For the first time in a number of weeks, I’m on track with my Goodreads challenge (to read 100 books this year), and I might actually pull ahead! So, since I’m on the road, this On the Shelf is going to share the last couple of books I’ve finished.

I’ve been sharing a bunch of thoughts and pictures from the road, so if you want, you can come hang out with me on Twitter or Insta, or just check back next Wednesday to see what else I’ve been reading…

The Chaos by Sergio Gomez (2016).

I’m trying to remember how this book ended up on my Kindle, a common problem, since I often pick up books for a couple of bucks and then they hang out waiting for my TBR list to shrink–ha! Anyway, I’m pretty sure that I got this when I bought a Bundle (Story? Book? I forget) of Latinx-authored horror. The book takes place after an apocalypse, when the world has been mostly taken over by these monsters the protagonists (Alejandro Ramos and his son, Charlie) refer to as “Los Noches,” nocturnal, carnivorous beasts with preternatural senses of smell. One great part about this book, other than the fact that the sense of perspective was so strongly created that I felt like I was right there in the story with the characters, was that even before the creatures took over, there was “The Chaos,” a period of dystopian churn that would have doomed the world even if the creatures hadn’t. Gomez writes of a time when the spark has lit the powder keg, and humanity did the creatures’ work for them. I mostly enjoyed the hell out of this story, but… and there was a but. There were several times when the author’s lack of familiarity with the US military pulled me out of the story. Things like a metaphor that references a platoon being larger than a small army, or US soldiers waving AK’s. Even weapons and explosives storage. Granted, this is something that probably a small slice of Gomez’s readership would get, but it pulled me out of the story a bunch of times. Still, this was a hell of a good horror story, and even though the end bore down with all the forward motion of a freight train, I still found a great read and something to think about. Definitely recommend.

The Bonding Spell (2015) and The Bonding Blade (2019) by M.L. Doyle.

I had mentioned that I was looking for comp titles for a project I’m querying, and a veteran friend recommended that I check out this series from M.L. Doyle. Although it wasn’t quite right to use for this query, I read straight through and was very sad when I couldn’t go buy the third book right away (please, oh, please let there be a book three…) The premise of the story is that Hester Trueblood was serving in Iraq, taking a group of congress critters to the Ziggurat of Ur, when she sees a shiny coin. Although servicemembers are warned to leave shiny things alone, she picks it up and bonds with the goddess, Inanna. Now, she is living and working with a team of devoted warriors, managing a bar and restaurant, and trying to come to terms with what to tell her family and how they will react. There’s a lot more going on, and if you’re a fan of solid urban fantasy with some romance (and who isn’t?), then you should definitely pick these up. Also, I’m just going to say, it’s so FUCKING REFRESHING to read a well-written woman veteran protagonist. Damn. Read these books. And if you’re nice, I’ll share some of the photos I took the couple of times I went to accompany a tour to the Ziggurat.

The Plague by Albert Camus, trans. by Stuart Gilbert (1948).

One of the Crone Girls Press authors, Edmund Schluessel, had posted earlier in the year, speaking about this book, and I decided to pick it up, given, well, you know… I had intended to get around to it when it arrived, but between freaking out and prepping to move, my powers of concentration were lacking. I started reading it last night, got a few pages in, and then woke up this morning and kept going. I need to get some work done, or I’d still be reading it. The story is of a small town on the coast that sees a surge of bubonic plague. The book focuses on a number of main characters, and gives a few secondary characters their moment in the sun, with the effect that the reader encounters a portrait of the town of Oran under plague, not merely one or two perspectives. Reading this now, I am constantly struck by a sense of deja vu, in quotes such as:

Thus, too, they came to know the incorrigible sorrow of all prisoners and exiles, which is to live in company with a memory that serves no purpose.

Camus turns our attention from those separated from loved ones, to those who see the plague as divine retribution, to the ordinary administrators of the town and its health who face a thousand banal yet life-changing decisions on a daily basis. For all that our modern life has changed the face of the towns we live in, this book shows us that the past is not far behind, and its memory should have served a purpose. It’s not an easy read, but I recommend it.

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