Book Report: Children of Reindeer Woods

Children of Reindeer Woods.

What. The. Fuck.

I’m glad I didn’t have to read this book for a course because that is all I have to say about it and that wouldn’t get me a very good grade. Shit. I did read it for a course. I have to try to figure this book out. Continue reading

Book Report: Through Black Spruce


The public library waitlist for Joseph Boyden’s books is so long, I knew Through Black Spruce would be good. I am still number 19 in line for Orenda. And now I know why. Through Black Spruce begins with the story of a plane crash. In the first chapter we learn that the narrator is a comatose bush pilot; the coma is not from a plane crash; he implies violence. Boyden shows the whole snowy world that his First Nations characters inhabit; he familiarizes us with the eccentric rhythms of their speech and the practicalities of survival in the far north. He introduces the major themes in the book and gives a glimpse of the recurring title image.

I read those four pages and thought, “Damn. Now that’s how you start a book.”

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March by the Numbers

While I am learning how to write at the Iceland Writers Retreat, here is a quick look at what my statistics page has to tell me about what I wrote on this blog in March.

The top four posts in March:

  1. State of Darkness – This in-depth post about the dance that most impressed me at Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Director’s Choice Program was more popular than my review of the overall program. I think the dancer’s mother shared it on Facebook. But it might mean that people prefer more thoughtful posts over a more cursory review.
  2. Stalking Asgeir Trausti - Ever. And always.
  3. Book Report: The Weirdness – The only non-IWR book review I wrote in March, Jeremy P. Bushnell’s debut novel was a hit.
  4. February 2014: Statistically Speaking - Can I call it irony that my February statistics post was one of my most popular posts in March? I did use it as an excuse to report on the VIDA Count, that looks at the state of gender equality in literary publishing.

I learned that people actually do click on photos for more information. I’ll have to be better about filling in the fields.

Usually the search terms are the most fun part of these stats posts (actually, weird searches are the reason I do them) but this month was pretty straightforward. Nothing was bizarre at all. Here are the top four search terms that brought people to the Crooked Road in March:

  1. gemma alexander blog – I don’t need to tell you that was gratifying
  2. asgeir trausti girlfriend – no comment
  3. drummer boy – a perennial favorite
  4. matthew renko – the talented member of PNB’s corps de ballet who danced the amazing solo “State of Darkness” that inspired my most popular March post

See you next week for a slew of reviews of modern Icelandic novels!


View from Perlan, near the hotel where I will be staying.

View from Perlan, near the hotel where I will be staying.

Tomorrow I leave for Iceland! While I’m there, I plan to focus on the Iceland Writers Retreat workshops, but I have posts – mostly book reviews – scheduled while I’m gone. Bonus: all of the books are by authors who are involved in the retreat, and whom I will very likely meet this week.

I will take lots of photos and notes, and you can expect a lot of posts about the trip after I return. You can follow my adventures in real time on Twitter @gemmadeetweet. (There’s a follow button above my last three tweets over on the right side of the page.)

Wanderlust trigger

Wanderlust trigger

I may be a writer, but I am hard pressed to tell you how excited I am for this trip. Not only am I finally getting to scratch my itchy feet after a year and a half moldering at home, but I am going to be learning from some of my literary heroes in my favorite city. Even so, I confess that I am also more nervous about this trip than I have been about any trip since the time I moved to India to do construction work. I usually travel in a style I like to call “dirt bag.” When I travel, the budget airline fare is almost always more than the rest of my trip costs combined. I sleep in dormitories, carry a backpack, and move around at will, sometimes making the sort of spontaneous connections with strangers that justify world travel, but just as often observing new scenes in quiet isolation.

This week I will be staying in a four star hotel. I will pack dress shoes and makeup. I will follow a carefully planned itinerary developed by someone else. I will be surrounded by professionals in my chosen field, and I am expected to interact with them regularly.

In other words, I am stepping way out of my comfort zone. Which is the best way to travel.
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Why you really need to leave the country (preferably for somewhere new to you)


Although I agree with her whole heartedly, Caitlin Kelly has walked this talk so much more truly than I have that I feel her words are more appropriate than my own.

Originally posted on Broadside:

By Caitlin Kelly
Jose's passport

Jose’s passport

A stunningly small percentage of American students ever study abroad, writes Nick Kristof in The New York Times:

American universities should also be sending people abroad, but they are still quite insular. The number of Americans studying abroad has tripled over the last 20 years, but, still, fewer than 10 percent of college students study overseas during undergraduate years. Three times as many foreigners study in America as the other way around. (note: my emphasis added.)

(A shout-out goes to Goucher College in Baltimore, which requires students to study abroad. Others should try that.)

All young Americans should learn Spanish — el idioma extranjero de mayor importancia en los Estados Unidos — partly because growing numbers of seniors will finance retirement by moving to cheaper countries like Mexico, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Yet it makes no sense to study Spanish on a…

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Have a Good Time

ChrisCarcassI’ve already written up the Decibel Magazine Tour at Showbox, with its dream team of a lineup: Carcass, Black Dahlia Murder, Gorguts, Noisem, and Bastard Feast. It was, as I expected, a concert I will talk about for years to come. I did not expect it to justify the existence of heavy metal. But it did. So I’m going to talk about it some more now.

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Decibel Magazine Tour 2014: Showbox Market Seattle

CarcassThe lineup for this year’s Decibel Magazine Tour was something like fantasy football for metalheads: Carcass, Black Dahlia Murder, Gorguts, and Noisem, passing through Seattle at my favorite venue, The Showbox at the Market, on a Saturday night. I expected a concert that people would talk about for years afterwards. Continue reading