Under the Tuscan Sun: A Review

tuscanI picked up Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes a few weeks ago at a thrift store. I’ve never really had an overwhelming passion to read it, but I figured for $.25, why not? Perhaps it was my lack of initial interest that kept me from falling in love with the book like so many other people, but I did not find it to be overly engaging. The writing itself isn’t bad, once you get past about the first fifty pages. Those first fifty pages are horrible with Mayes either writing in tired clichés and playing up to stereotypes or writing in such an overly pretentious manner that she sounded like a teenager trying too hard to sound smart and deep. I know she can write better than that; she’s an accomplished poet for goodness sakes! So I found it to be very disappointing from the beginning, but I trudged along. Luckily, the writing did get less annoying, but one thing still prickled me. This book was meant to be some sort of memoir about those first few years/holidays spent in Tuscany, so why the hell was it written in present tense? I’m not a big fan of writing that’s in present tense, anyway, but I can usually get over it. In the case of this book, it made no sense.

There is no typical story in this book in that there’s no build-up, climax, or resolution. Nope, it’s just writing that has a definite beginning and then flat lines. Some projects in the book do get accomplished as work on the Tuscan house continues. I found the narratives about the actual house, renovations, and discoveries quite interesting, and it makes sense that the changes are ongoing. Building a home (as opposed to a house) is never done. There should always be a new and exciting project to plan. The food stuffs got a bit pedantic to me. I am not a foodie, and Mediterranean cuisine is one of my least favorite, so I really checked out while reading the descriptions and recipes.

I can see and appreciate the poetic ambiance that this book creates. There are very pleasant and beautiful passages written within its pages, ones that encourage you to take a deep breath and close your eyes and imagine the cool breeze on a hot summer day. It feels like that bit of contentment you have after a hard day’s work. It’s these bits of the book that saved this book from being a flat 2-star to a 2.5-3 Star rating.

3/5 Stars


A Girl and Her Cat: A Sestina

This poem is something that I wrote a few years ago for a poetry and poetics class. It’s still one of my favorite poems that I’ve written.

Lying on the table, waiting to be read was a fantastical book.
The room was dark, except for a small lamp for light.
She entered the romantic getaway-like scene. The girl,
Eager to begin her trip to another world, starts a fire.
Sitting patiently by the plushy couch, is the yellow cat.
From the back of the couch, the girl takes the afghan blanket.

Around her chilled body, she wraps the blanket.
Now, it is time to delve into the world in her book.
But someone else has other plans, and the cat
Jumps into her lap, between the book and the light.
She smiles; it’s nice to be cuddling in front of the fire,
The cat also enjoying the time with her girl.

“Kitty,” she says. Purring, kitty loves her girl.
The girl laughs, cat fur is getting on the blanket.
She pets her friend and stares into the roaring fire.
Yes, she thinks, I can wait to read my book,
The lamp is turned off. Dancing flames are the only light.
“Purr, purr,” restates the content yellow cat.

That is enough petting, thinks the pleased cat
And it jumps out of the comfortable lap of the girl.
Satisfied that her love was shown, the girl turns on the light
And snuggles deeper into her afghan blanket.
It is time once more to read her adventurous book.
The only sound in the house is the crackling fire.

It is hypnotizing, the dancing orange fire
That reflects in the glassy eyes of the cat.
She turns to page one of her long awaited book,
“Once upon a time, far away, lived a little girl…”
it began. But did she have a cat or a cozy blanket?
Did she ever read by lamp and fire light?

Outside, the moon shines its celestial light,
Peeking in through a window, jealous of the roaring fire.
The girl wraps tighter the corners of the blanket
Around her. Falling asleep at her feet is the cat,
Who will dream of catnip toys from her girl,
The one who always pets her before reading a book.

After a while, she unwraps the blanket and outs the light,
She closes her book, then feeds the hungry fire.
The cat wakes only to go to bed, following her girl.

Wanna help write a sestina? Check out the Crowdsourced Poetry project on the University Press of North Georgia’s Facebook page. We’re working on line 6 over there. Help us come up with our sixth and final end word.

Writing and Workout Stats: Aug 20-26

In addition to the normal stats that I keep track of for purposes of my exercise journal, I have also been taking walks most everyday. These walks range from 20-40 minutes depending on how fast I eat my lunch. They don’t raise my heartbeat by very much, and so I don’t count them towards my cardio exercise. They’re more sanity breaks that just so happen to get me moving a bit more during my work day.

August 20

  • MS (Muscle Strengthening): 0 minutes
  • Cardio: 0 minutes
  • Writing or Editing: 
  • I can only assume that this was one of my laziest days ever =/

August 21

  • MS: 0 mins
  • Cardio: 15 minutes
  • Writing or Editing: 404 Words

August 22

  • MS: 30 mins
  • Cardio: 15 mins
  • Writing or Editing: 330 Words

August 23

  • MS: 30 minutes
  • Cardio: 45 minutes
  • Writing or Editing: Nada

August 24

  • MS: 0 mins
  • Cardio: 0 minutes
  • Writing or Editing: 257 words
  • Note: Not a lot of exercising done, but I did FINISH MY BOOK!

 August 25

  • MS: 0 mins
  • Cardio: 0 minutes
  • Writing or Editing: Edited High fantasy book for 2 solid hours–3 chapters, or about 17 pages done.
  • Note: Did about 30 minutes of gardening (pulling weeds, trimming bushes, hauling said weeds and trimmings down to the woods), and then push mowed inside our fence–it was enough of a workout.

August 26

  • MS: 30 minutes
  • Cardio: 15 minutes
  • Writing or Editing: Half a chapter edited, about 6 pages.


It is Finished!

*Happy Dance*


I am super excited to announce that I have FINISHED writing the first draft of my second novel, Lobolita.  Like I mentioned a couple posts ago, it’s a story about a street fighter/private investigator named Evelyn Whitman who is unknowingly dragged into werewolf war and politics. You can read the part one of the first chapter here (parts 2 & 3 are linked, so you can read the entire first chapter if you’re so inclined.

I’m still looking for one or two more beta readers. If you’re interested, just leave a comment below, or email me at aprilnloebick@gmail.com. I’ll be sending out the rough manuscripts soon.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls: A Review

owlsLet’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is the latest book by humorist David Sedaris. I was really looking forward to this book, especially after reading the essay excerpt “Understanding Understanding Owls” (you can see my initial reaction here), luckily after reading the full-length book, I wasn’t disappointed. I found myself nodding in agreement with some of the things Sedaris writes about, and other times I laughed out loud. There were some bits that I was even compelled to read out loud to my husband so that he could understand the reason behind my mirth.

 Usually with Sedaris’s books, there’s an over-arching theme that pervades most of the essays collected for that volume. For instance, Naked all leads up to his vacation to a nudist colony. In the case of Owls it was a bit more difficult to find the theme. Sedaris’s oafish father is a big part of it, but he’s involved somehow in many of the essays over the many books, so that doesn’t really count. I finally came to the realization that it was traveling. There are stories about planes, trains, passports, and getting a colonoscopy while visiting home. What that has to do with diabetes or owls, I have no idea, but at least the title is catchy!

David Sedaris’s books are genuinely funny, and Owls is no exception. But it’s also heartfelt and self-analyzing. I can relate to a lot of what he writes about (not so much the smoking and drug-use, but things like the fascination with the weird, the people watching/analyzing, and the fact that I’m an introvert that has absolutely no issue getting in front of crowds), as I’m sure most people can, which is one reason why he’s such a huge success. I had strong reactions to many of the stories included in this volume, particularly the ones about the German language and, of course, owls. And I though I’ve never had an inclination to visit China, and now know I never want to go.

 If you’re looking for something plot-driven or with a wholesome theme, you may want to look elsewhere.  However, if you need a funny, laugh-out-loud book to read, then make sure to add this one to your list.

I am left wondering though…What the hell did any of these stories have to do with diabetes?

5/5 Stars

I can see the light!

I am about 500 words away from completing the the first draft of my latest novel, working title of Lobolita. It’s a story about a street fighter/private investigator named Evelyn Whitman who is unknowingly dragged into werewolf war and politics. I started it a few years ago, and then let it die after I had about 3 chapters written. Then, last NaNoWriMo, I decided to pick it back up again. As you can probably guess, I didn’t finish it last November (NaNoWri-Month), but I did continue to work on it here and there. And I’m almost done! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I can see momentary freedom…

…until the next project.

Of course, this is just a first draft. Next step is going back and doing my self-edits, and I might send it to a couple of beta readers (or in this case, maybe alpha readers? or would that be me? I’m confused…). If you’re interested in reading my first draft, just leave a comment or email me at aprilnloebick@gmail.com.

I found this on facebook, but I really want to link back to the author’s website, but haven’t been able to locate it. If you know it, or Lee Newman, please let me know so I feel less piratey.


I do already have another writing project in the pipelines, yet another book that I started several years ago tentatively called Mina: A Dracula Story. It’s a complete retelling and reimagining of Dracula (Surprise! Bet you weren’t expecting that!). I’m also working on some global-level editing to my High Fantasy novel which was written and completed in 2005. I’ve been feeding it to agents, and like Sam I am, they don’t like my green eggs and ham. Word is, is that my first few chapters are “grabby” enough. So off to rework that and some other things in order to make it grab them and possibly even rough them up a bit.

So that’s what I’m up to, writing wise. What projects are you working on?