the bookshop on the corner

May 29, 2017

why i wanted to read it: it's a book about a gal who owns a bookshop. i was a bookseller for eight years. why wouldn't i want to read that?

what i liked: "i never understand," he said, shaking his head, "why anyone would go to the trouble of making up new people in this world when there's already billions of the buggers i don't give a shit about" (page 102).

"i've noticed something else," said surinder.

"you haven't got a book in your hands."

"well... i'm just about to go to the book van. with all my lovely books. and then i'm going to go out and sell some books."

"i know. but you didn't read a book over breakfast."

"i was talking to you."

"you didn't take a book to bed."

"we were drunk and it was four o'clock in the morning."

"you've stopped clutching one everywhere like a security blanket."

"i didn't do that."

"mm," said surinder.

"anyway, what's wrong with reading?"

"nothing is wrong with reading," said surinder, "as i have told you a million billion times before. but it finally seems you're doing both. read/live/read/live. and proceed, et cetera" (page 159).

"yes, you told him you were leaving him so that you could take on the world and go out and do lots of different things, then you sat upstairs in your bedroom reading for the next eight years" (pages 186-187).

"you look nice. as if you've taken off your cardigan for once."

"i don't wear a cardigan."

"your metaphorical cardigan. your librarian's cardigan. it's as if..." this was a long speech from lennox, and he seemed to be flailing a little bit. "it's as if you pull something around yourself, make yourself look smaller and more insignificant. than you really are."

nina blinked.

"like you don't want anyone to notice you" (page 239).

"i think i just stopped seeing books around," the man went on. "you know, on the bus, everyone used to read books. but then they were fiddling with their phones or those big phones, i don't know what they're called."

"they were probably reading on their tablets," said nina loyally. she loved her e-reader, too.

"yes, i know," said the man. "but i couldn't see. i couldn't see what they were reading or ask them if it was good, or make a mental note to look for it later. it was if suddenly, one day, all the books simply disappeared (page 260).

pretty much all of chapters thirty through thirty-six. lennox. nina. the farmhouse and barn and scotland. the bookshop in the van.

what sucked: marek, and the storyline tied to him. the first hundred pages. the name surinder -- seriously. WHY?

having said all that: i liked it well enough. those last six chapters save it from mediocrity. but dear god, getting to them is a chore. 

wait for me

why i wanted to read it: because i met the author at a brunch in houston and liked her. because i was unaware that german prisoners of war were sent to help farmers in scotland; i wanted to know more about that history.

what i liked: the prisoner of war and his story; the author's note and acknowledgements.

what sucked: i had to section this one off, break it into fifths to get through it. for a story that should be rife with conflict (and to the author's credit, it had the potential), i wanted to be enthralled but couldn't be because the writing left so much to be desired. it falls horribly flat and often. it's well over three hundred pages. the ending's simple. the story's tepid. i wanted to really feel for these characters but couldn't.

having said that: the thing i liked most was the author's note, detailing the truths imparted and the liberties taken in telling this tale -- comments on the history. she'd also shared a bit about the letters she'd received about stories similar to the one she'd written. in the acknowledgements, she shares some of her family's history, too. but yall, i've never mentioned the author's note and acknowledgements in a book post before... and i didn't mark a single page in this one, either. i wanted to like it. i really, really did. i like that i'm done with it.

what light

why i wanted to read it: because a friend of mine and i went to a book discussion and signing at blue willow bookshop in west houston. (this was many, many months ago, yall... something like october of last year? i read this thing way back when and forgot to post about it, so... pardon.) i figured i should get one of his books, and since this was the one he was promoting (and because i'd learned at the time that a new edition of thirteen reasons why would be released with new material, i figured i'd wait to read that one.

what i liked: i liked the characters well enough...

what sucked: ...but there's not much conflict, and what little there is isn't well-established or well-executed. it's two hundred fifty pages of cutesy mediocrity.

having said that: i didn't mark a single page, yall. not one. and for me, that's the biggest tell. if i can't find a single line of narrative or dialogue that speaks to me... that's pretty bad. i wanted to like this because it's christmas fiction. who doesn't want to read a good story at christmas time? i needed heartwarming and got lackluster. pardon the pun, but what light?

a man called ove

May 23, 2017

why i read it: because a gal in the book club i'm in picked it.

what i liked: while his proper cup of coffee was brewing, he put on his navy blue trousers and jacket, stepped into his wooden clogs, and shoved his hands in his pockets in that particular way of a middle-aged man who expects the worthless world outside to disappoint him (page 6).

ove was the sort of man who checks the status of all things by giving them a good kick (page 7).

all the things ove's wife has bought are "lovely" or "homey". everything ove buys is useful (pages 12-13).

ove knew very well that her friends couldn't understand why she'd married him...

ove wasn't one to engage in small talk. he had come to realize that, these days at least, this was a serious character flaw. now one had to be able to blabber on about anything with any old sod who happened to stray within an arm's length of you purely because it was "nice"...

ove understood things he could see and touch. wood and concrete. glass and steel. tools. things one could figure out. he understood right angles and clear instruction manuals. assembly models and drawings. things one could draw on paper. he was a man of black and white.

and she was color. all the color he had (pages 36-37).

he was well liked down at the railway, quiet but kind. there were some who said he was "too kind." ove remembers how as a child he could never understand how this could be something bad. 

then mum died. and dad grew even quieter. as if she took away with her the few words he possessed (page 39).

"the director asked me to pass on another message... it would be a damned pity for him to be responsible for kicking a decent man's son into the street just because the son has some principles."

and so it turned out that ove became a night cleaner instead. and if this hadn't happened, he would never have come off his shift that morning and caught sight of her. with those red shoes and the gold brooch and all her burnished brown hair. and that laughter of hers, which, for the rest of his life, would make him feel as if someone were running around barefoot on the inside his breast.  

she often said that "all roads lead to something you were predestined to do." and for her, perhaps, it was something.

but for ove it was someone (page 79).

he never understood why she chose him. she loved only abstract things like music and books and strange words. ove was a man entirely filled with tangible things. he liked screwdrivers and oil filters. he went through life with his hands firmly shoved into his pockets. she danced (page 108).

his days passed like this, slow and methodical. and then one morning he saw her. she had brown hair and blue eyes and red shoes and a big yellow clasp in her hair.

and then there was no more peace and quiet for ove (page 116).

ove had never been asked how he lived before he'd met her. but if anyone had asked him, he would've answered that he didn't (page 131).

so i listened to this one on audible. but i had to look through the pages and mark the passages that spoke to me because i LOVE ove's and his wife sonja's love story.

i love how this cranky, quiet man finds someone who can look past the cranky and the quiet and see the good. one of the gals in my writing critique group commented that she couldn't understand why my guy reese likes my girl isabel. and what i wanted to say to her was because he does. same way sonja loves ove, no matter that everyone she knows would prefer she didn't. i'm all for stories like this, yall. especially when they're told as well as this one is.

what sucked: the end's a little cheesy. the beginning's a little challenging because ove, again, is a cranky bastard. his character, initially, is hard to love.

having said all that: this should be on your to be read list. there's a lot more i loved about this book. i didn't feel like digging through the whole thing for all of the things. there's a lot of them.

hold your tongue

the first crucial instance in which i know i raised my voice for good, in which i attempted to stand up for myself was in third grade, when my mother picked me up from school and asked how my day was and i'd replied that it was fine except i don't like being in that box. i've no memory of this. we were living in natchitoches, louisiana; i don't have many good memories from there as i'd had no friends and my teacher visibly detested me. there's the sensation of being excluded, of being set apart, but i've no concrete memory of the box or of that conversation with my mother. the teacher had put my desk in an appliance box because she hadn't wanted me in her classroom; she'd tried to have me placed in special education, and when that failed, she must've brought the box to class and put my desk in it and there is where i sat. until i'd found the courage to confess my dislike for the box to my mother. in doing so, my parents addressed the matter with my teacher and learned that i -- who was quite capable of telling stories, even then -- was telling the truth; they took my older brother and i out of that private catholic school and enrolled us in a public one.

there's a blue-gray spot on my left cheek, about the size of a freckle. it's lead from a pencil. graphite. one of my fifth grade classmates jammed one of my perfectly sharpened pencils in my face because he was tired of having to wait on me to finish sharpening my pencils. i had a fistful of them; i wanted to sharpen them before we'd taken our standardized test to determine whether we were placed in honors, level or special education classes the following year -- a test that i later learned was a crucial one for me, as my teachers had again recommended i be placed in special education. that test, by the way, got me in honors classes the next year. got me in pauline elliott's classroom. got me a teacher who praised me and my talents -- a beautiful thing, considering i'd had some of the worst teachers in the world in the past two years. anyway, i wanted perfect points. i didn't want to have to sharpen them during the thing because i didn't want to distract my peers' thoughts during the test. i wanted sharp pencils so my bubbles were perfect and would be scored properly. i'd tried to stand up for myself, to say that he should wait his turn. he didn't like that i'd said so, so he grabbed one of my pencils and jammed it in my left cheek. the next memory i have is sitting in my desk bubbling in my name, being annoyed that there weren't enough spaces for me to bubble all of it and so i'd had to leave the r off, making my name jennife. i've no memory of what happened immediately after he'd hurt me. i've no memory of his doing so, really, except that i know he did it -- the fucked-up freckle's there as evidence. the only clear memories i have of that day are standing at the sharpener, knowing which boy it was who'd caused me harm and the bubbles. and thirty-four years later, every time i look in the mirror, my eyes are instantly, subconsciously drawn to that blue-gray dot.

this is the last instance from childhood that i remember standing up for myself.

so i'm not good at that. but i don't like feeling that i can't speak my mind. that i can't say what i think. that one of the qualities i love about myself, my ability to be direct, that i have to mask that and so often with meekness. that if i don't do so, i'm seen as argumentative, disrespectful, hurtful, bitchy, selfish, thoughtless, insensitive... pick an adjective. if those don't suit you, feel free to supply your own.

a woman lectured me on empathy today, about how i should be more empathetic. i've a vast capacity for empathy. if someone's hurt, i hurt for them. if my words have been the cause of that pain, then pile on guilt along with the hurt and regret that i've said a thing that has offended.

another lectured me a few weeks ago on having respect for others.

here's the thing... i'm being lectured about respect by someone who has no regard for my thoughts and feelings. i'm being told i lack empathy by someone who clearly hasn't considered how her words might make me feel. i'm not a patient woman. i've little tolerance for hypocrisy. i've no tolerance whatsoever for others forcing their beliefs upon me.

yall, the only folks who have the right to lecture me are my mama and my papa. that's it. they're the only ones whose nagging and request for behavioral change i must heed. they're pretty proud of the woman i've become, so they don't lecture me all that often.

i've learned to pick my battles. the greatest one i fight, the one whose victory is most important to me, is the one against the darker aspects of my character -- the depression that's plagued me since i was eight, the physical challenges that have plagued me since birth. i've learned to extract myself from situations that are unpleasant.

in eighth grade, i couldn't do the latter. i was sitting on a row of tires on the football field during lunch break. the day was gorgeous: bright and blue and beautiful. my mood was not: i sat out there wishing a lightning bolt could somehow magically appear and strike me dead because i'd had enough of all the bullshit. the physical and mental challenges i faced were just too great right then, or so it seemed, for my feeble body and brain to handle. i prayed for the bolt. i cried because i knew it wouldn't come, that the request was utterly ridiculous. and of course, a group of the most popular kids in school chose that moment to exit the cafeteria, stroll across the football field and form a semi-circle before me, standing so close that i could not rise, could not turn and walk away. they looked down upon me and slung their insults at me, and i sat there, helpless -- a fragile runt of a girl battling life from within and without and losing on both fronts. there was such rage within me, such hate for their behavior, for them but i could not, would not unleash it upon them.

i know i've mentioned these incidences before. they are defining moments for me. they are the times when i know i should've shown my strength and found the right words but didn't. they are the reasons i strive to say something now. they're the reasons i prefer to speak plainly whenever possible.

i've grown weary of the rage. i've grown tired of not being able to say what i think.

sure i could be more tactful. sure i should do a better job of considering the repercussions of my words before i use them. but if i've been asked my opinion, if i've been asked to voice my concerns, i'm going to do so and in as succinct a fashion as i can. i don't like to mince words. i don't like to be politically correct, and i've been lectured for that, as well. i shouldn't be made to feel guilty for having articulated my thoughts, especially when others have asked for the opinion.

it's taken me thirty years to find my voice. i'll be damned if i stop using it. that said, my moral, political and religious beliefs are my own; i don't generally feel the need to voice them.

writers join critique groups for the betterment of their craft. we are sensitive souls. we're supposed to go into those groups prepared to hear criticism and take what we need from what's offered to make our stories better. we're supposed to be able to handle it when others offer their opinions. these two instances i've referenced -- the ones about empathy and respect -- both involved other writers.

i'd said i choose the battles i fight. i've not been terribly fond of my facebook and twitter feeds in the past year or so because of the sentiments expressed there. but here's the thing: those are my friends, for the most part, or fellow bloggers about whom i've chosen to care. they can say what they think. god love'm for it. i don't have to. i don't have to engage. very often i don't, mostly because i don't want to lose a friend just because his or her beliefs, whatever they may be, differ from mine. they say what they think, and the less i like it, the faster i scroll past it. that's how i've chosen to play that. that is the best way i know to respect them, to extract myself from a potentially unpleasant entanglement.

it's so much easier to do that than it is to engage in actual conversation with those i call friends who aren't being friendly.

i used to pray, desperately, for friends. for a group of girls i could call my allies. and finally, the good lord has seen fit to give me a handful of them, some of whom i love more than others, but i'm sure that's normal. i hadn't realized just how much of a pain in the ass it can be having friends and maintaining those friendships. now i have them... now i have what i thought was becoming a pretty healthy social life, but it's so fucking exhausting, this walking on coals. if that's what friendship really is, then i don't know that i want a part of that. if my friends are implying that i should hold my tongue, how can i call them friends?

on a happier note, when i asked a friend this evening what she liked best about me, her response: that you're genuine. that was exactly what i needed to hear right then. :]

the best hundred songs

May 12, 2017

so since i did a list for books and another for movies, i figured i should do one for my first love: music. of the lists, this one's been the biggest bitch to compose. my library is vast, yall, and not all in one place, so given that i'm weeding the itunes account on my mother's desktop rather than on my laptop or the archives i've got from the laptop before or my disc collection... given that... these are what i think are the best songs ever written, with the performing artist following the title. also, please understand that of these three lists, this is the least concrete. also there were some three hundred songs on here. this one hurt me. i had to take off van halen and def leppard and acdc and jimi hendrix... it hurt, yall. and then clicking publish... i was actually nervous about that, and that's never happened.

almost gone. mary black.
anna begins. counting crows.
anna molly. incubus.
angel. sarah mclachlan.
at this moment. billy vera.
baker baker. tori amos.
bend and not break. dashboard confessional.
between the lines. sara bareilles.
the blower's daughter. damien rice.
breathe (two a.m.). anna nalick.
the chain. ingrid michaelson.
cheap wine. what made milwaukee famous.
the climb. miley cyrus.
a common disaster. cowboy junkies.
control. poe.
crash into me. dave matthews band.
desperado. the eagles.
the dog days are over. florence and the machine.
everybody knows. concrete blonde.
faithfully. journey.
fast car. tracy chapman.
fire away. chris stapleton.
fortress around your heart. sting.
the freshmen. the verve pipe.
gates of the country. black lab.
the god of wine. third eye blind.
hallelujah. jeff buckley.
hang. matchbox twenty.
happiness. abra moore.
hemorrhage. fuel.
here's a quarter. travis tritt.
hope for the hopeless. a fine frenzy.
i will always love you. whitney houston.
i'll lead you home. michael w. smith.
i'll stand by you. the pretenders.
i'm gonna be (five hundred miles). the proclaimers
i'm gonna love you through it. martina mcbride.
i'm sorry. adam wakefield.
innocent. our lady peace.
invisible city. the wallflowers.
judith. a perfect circle.
just give me a reason. pink and nate ruess.
just go. staind.
king of pain. the police.
leave the light on. beth hart.
let it be me. ray lamontagne.
like a friend. pulp.
like a stone. audioslave.
a little less conversation. elvis presley.
live to tell. madonna.
lonely boy. the black keys.
lose yourself. eminem.
me and bobby mcgee. janis joplin.
missing you. john waite.
must be dreaming. frou frou.
my immortal. evanescence.
name. goo goo dolls.
not even the trees. hootie and the blowfish.
nothing. the script.
nothing compares to you. sinead o'connor.
numb. linkin park.
on fire. switchfoot.
one. metallica.
one more try. george michael.
operation spirit (the tyranny of tradition). live.
paint it black. the rolling stones.
payphone. maroon five.
pour me. trick pony.
prince of darkness. indigo girls.
roads. portishead.
the rose. bette midler.
rumour has it. adele.
san francisco mabel joy. john denver.
say hello to heaven. temple of the dog.
the scientist. coldplay.
secret garden. bruce springsteen.
seen it all before. amos lee.
she talks to angels. the black crowes.
sleep to dream. fiona apple.
sometime around midnight. the airborne toxic event.
sometimes love just ain't enough. patty smyth and don henley.
the song remembers when. trisha yearwood.
stand inside your love. smashing pumpkins.
stay. lisa loeb.
sway. bic runga.
a thousand miles. vanessa carlton.
'til it happens to you. lady gaga.
underneath your clothes. shakira.
uninvited. alanis morrisette.
uptown funk. bruno mars.
vienna. the fray.
wander this world. jonny lang.
we belong. pat benatar.
when i look to the sky. train.
why go. pearl jam.
wild horses. the sundays.
with or without you. u2.
wolves. garth brooks.
you may be right. billy joel.
you raise me up. josh groban.

the best hundred movies challenge

so i did nathan bransford's the best hundred novels challenge. he'd also prompted others to take the best hundred movies challenge. as you wish... the ones in bold type are the best of the best.

about time
american sniper
apollo thirteen
a beautiful mind
charlotte gray
cinderella man
the client
the count of monte cristo
crazy stupid love
the dark knight
dead poets society
the divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood
donnie brasco
erin brockovich
eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
the family stone
fear and loathing in las vegas
a few good men
the finest hours
fight club
(five hundred) days of summer
for love of the game
ford vs. ferrari
the founder
fried green tomatoes
full metal jacket
gangster squad
the great raid
good will hunting
hacksaw ridge
the help
hidden figures
the hundred foot journey
the hunt for red october
inside out
life as a house
life itself
the lincoln laywer
lone survivor
the lord of the rings: fellowship of the ring
the lord of the rings: the two towers
the lord of the rings: the return of the king
the martian
memoirs of a geisha
mr. magorium's wonder emporium
murder in the first
my cousin vinny
ocean's eleven
the painted veil
people like us
pirates of the caribbean: the curse of the black pearl
playing by heart
a river runs through it
robin hood: prince of thieves
saving private ryan
schindler's list
the secret life of walter mitty
the shawshank redemption
the silence of the lambs
the sixth sense
sleepless in seattle
spy game
stand by me
star trek
star wars: episode iv - a new hope
star wars: episode v - the empire strikes back
star wars: episode vi - return of the jedi
star wars: episode vii - the force awakens
steel magnolias
a time to kill
twelve monkeys
walk the line
the way way back
we are marshall
we were soldiers
when harry met sally
wind river
wolf of wall street

the best hundred novels challenge

May 10, 2017

i'm procrastinating. that's got to be it. i've written twenty pages in four days which is five times more than i've written in six months. i'm on a roll. i should be writing. but yesterday was show us your books day, and i arrived late to that party, as usual. and i'd been feeling guilty for not being a better reader of others' bloggies, so i put the picky reads roll back in my sidebar in hopes that its presence might encourage me to be more social (because i'm not social. AT ALL. i'm hot. it's may in texas, and i'm hot inside my house). anyway, i was looking through my feed and came across nathan bransford's the best hundred novels challenge. and i was all: OOH! I CAN MAKE ANOTHER LIST! let me at it. so apparently the only writing i'll be doing today involves banging on the keys for this here blog. it's half past three in the afternoon, and i'm still in my jammies, yall. whatever.

the rules: there's only one. you can only name books you've actually read. so there goes a huge chunk of the literary canon. i graduated with an english degree but was never assigned anything by dickens, austen, either of the brontes, none of the russians... there was some faulkner and hemingway in there, but i never read more than a few paragraphs. the rest of the stuff held little to no appeal. unless you're teaching, an english degree's little more than a license to bullshit, and in five years of studies, i got really good at it. i did get around to reading austen at some point; ain't no way she's making this list, but god love her for paving the way. i spent freshman and sophomore year at a small women's college in the middle of nowhere. sure, we read. we read smut. and as i got older i graduated to good love stories and discovered i liked writing those as much as i enjoy reading them, so yeah... there's gonna be a lot of love on this list. it was jumbled, but the obsessive-compulsive streak my father gave me couldn't have that, so now it's alphabetized by author; if there're multiple works by an author, they're either listed by preference or series order. so of the books that i have read, these are the one that i think are the best. those in bold are the ones i can heartily recommend.

love rosie. ahern.
p.s. i love you. ahern.
thirteen reasons why. asher.
a man called ove. backman
a school for unusual girls. baldwin.
dandelion wine. bradbury.
fahrenheit 451. bradbury.
best kept secrets. brown.
french silk. brown.
the good earth. buck.
the perks of being a wallflower. chbosky.
nick and norah's infinite playlist. cohn and levithan.
more than friends. delinsky.
coast road. delinksy.
suddenly. delinsky.
for my daughters. delinsky.
our mutual friend. dickens.
the language of flowers. diffenbaugh.
if i stay. forman.
where she went. forman.
 just one day. forman.
the saving graces. gaffney.
caraval. garber.
something borrowed. giffin.
something blue. giffin.
i see you everywhere. glass.
the princess bride. goldman.
one wore blue. graham.
one wore gray. graham.
and one rode west. graham.
straight talking. jane green.
bookends. jane green.
jemima j. jane green.
the fault in our stars. john green.
the rainmaker. grisham.
the maltese falcon. hammett.
red dragon. harris.
the silence of the lambs. harris.
splintered. howard.
the duff. keplinger.
the secret life of bees. kidd.
a separate peace. knowles.
a wrinkle in time. l'engle.
a wind in the door. l'engle.
we are okay. lacour.
love only once. lindsey.
tender rebel. lindsey.
gentle rogue. lindsey.
the truth about alice. mathieu.
whitney my love. mcnaught.
once and always. mcnaught.
paradise. mcnaught.
something wonderful. mcnaught.
almost heaven. mcnaught.
gone with the wind. mitchell.
one day. nicholls.
the time traveler's wife. niffenegger.
all the bright places. niven.
1984. orwell.
wonder. palacio.
finding paris. prebel.
redeeming love. rivers.
daring to dream. roberts.
holding the dream. roberts.
finding the dream. roberts.
born in fire. roberts.
born in ice. roberts.
seaswept. roberts.
rising tides. roberts.
inner harbor. roberts.
tears of the moon. roberts.
heart of the sea. roberts.
honest illusions. roberts.
the macgregor brides. roberts.
the macgregor grooms. roberts.
the macgregors: alan and grant. roberts.
landline. rowell.
eleanor and park. rowell.
attachments. rowell.
fangirl. rowell.
harry potter and the sorcerer's stone. rowling.
harry potter and the chamber of secrets. rowling.
harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban. rowling.
harry potter and the order of the phoenix. rowling.
harry potter and the half-blood prince. rowling.
harry potter and the deathly hallows. rowling.
the lovely bones. sebold.
right before your eyes. shanman.
love is a mix tape. sheffield.
the notebook. sparks.
a walk to remember. sparks.
the gamble. spencer.
separate beds. spencer.
the help. kathryn stockett.
fear and loathing in las vegas. thompson.
the lord of the rings. tolkien.
in her shoes. weiner.
the divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood. wells.
refuge. williams.
the book thief. zusak.

just one damned thing after another

May 9, 2017

why i wanted to read it: because the selections i'd previously considered for the time travel category of the bonus round in the spring session of erin's book challenge (which has concluded, but i'd resolved to read them all anyway, and so i am. the next one starts in july, yall. she'll post the categories in like three weeks) were not things i could read (time between us by tamara ireland stone and the rose garden by susan kearsley -- i was a fourth of the way through the first when i found myself making fun of it and a hundred pages into the second when i realized it was fan fiction, which is not my thing). so i asked a friend for recommendations about books that deal with time travel, which is also not my thing, and she suggested this one.

what i liked: i listened to this on sunday as i trekked to lake charles and back and was grateful for the distraction. it was, for the most part, engaging and entertaining. i liked the characters. i liked that time was more crucial to the telling of the story. this isn't a book that shows characters at different ages in their lives, like the time traveler's wife, or how a character's life would be different where she to change one circumstance, like life after life. it's characters who become historians and travel through time for research. and then there's a bad guy who wants to go back in time and profit from it, and they have to stop him.

what sucked: it is just one damned thing after another, and maybe it's one thing too many because my interest in the story waned in the back half and never really recovered. also it's book one of eight, i think, in a series. and maybe i like the writing and the characters well enough, but i'm not inclined to read seven other stories (or however many i'd need to read) to learn the resolution of one of the conflicts the author established in this book. i'm all for stories that revolve around particular characters. some of my favorite books are parts of trilogies or series. harry potter, for example. here's the thing: you have to resolve all the conflicts you establish in the body of the book in that book. it has to be able to stand alone. and this one can't. not all of them. there's one pretty important detail that isn't revealed, and i'm annoyed that it wasn't.

having said that: it's not bad. i liked the main character. she's pretty cool. but enough to inspire me to read more.

the day to death's hallows... otherwise known as lake charles, louisiana (no offense to those who live there)

May 7, 2017

so lake charles is the last place my brother spent his days on this earth. for the sake of my sanity, i did not visit specific locales (nor did know what they were, though there was a brief period in my travels in which i did make an effort to do so). also for the sake of my sanity i'm limiting details, yall.

half past nine a.m. home. morning ritual: coca-cola and cards.
half past ten. leaving.
half past eleven. texas state highway 105 east. fuck if know where exactly. some intersection in the boondocks.
half past noon. beaumont. somewhere nearabouts the interchange of interstates 10 and 69, moments before i headed west instead of east. because i am an idiot.
half past one p.m. f.m. 1663, near hankamer and winnie. because i'd gotten off ten near anahuac, where my father'd grown up, thinking i should probably see that place, too, but i made myself snap back to the purpose of the day and turned around.
half past two. beaumont again, headed in the right direction.
half past three. lake charles. some road near the some of the casinos. or something like that.
half past four. traveling from prien lake park to the charpentier historic district.
half past five. leaving lake charles.
half past six. westbound highway 105.
sunset. half past seven. westbound 105.
half past eight. home.

the secret life of bees

May 5, 2017

why i wanted to read it: because erin sent me a copy of it. all the way from australia. because it was on buzzfeed's list of books read by rory on gilmore girls, which was one of the categories in erin's book challenge.

what i liked: i listened to the audio because it was a bonus selection and i was trying to cram as many as i could into the last week or so (i managed to finish two books and made some decent dents in three others in a week, so i'd say i did pretty well, there). yall, the gal who reads this does a fine job. one of the best narrations ever. so listen to it. you'll be glad you did. since i did, i can't give you specific passages but let me tell you, i loved just about every single word. it's beautiful. it's one of the most beautifully-written books i've ever read. i'm a little scared to watch the movie now because i loved the book so much, and yall, i'm never scared to watch a movie after having read the book. ever. because i can almost always find something to appreciate about the cinematic version of a story. unless it's the time traveler's wife -- then just no. NO. but this one, mama said queen latifah is amazing in it, so maybe i'll give it a go. anyway, it's superb. this story is superb.

what sucked: not a damned thing.

having said that: this needs to be near, if not at the top of your to be read list.

the obsession

May 2, 2017

why i wanted to read it: because it's nora roberts, and i used to LOVE everything she wrote. i used to be able to pick up one of her books without fear that it would suck. and then they started sucking. when this book first came out, i read its beginning while waiting at heb for a prescription to be filled and loved it. i thought, hot damn, she's back to being badass! i didn't buy it then. but i had it on my to read list. so when i'd gotten through the regular round of erin's book challenge and got to make a bonus list, i chose this book for the favorite author category.

what i liked: "you put something behind you, nome, it's got eyes on your back. i'd rather keep it in front of me so i can see where it's going" (page 61).

"best pals, birth to earth. well, earth's a ways off, unless you kill me with that tire iron, but we've known each other since before we could walk. but you can call him, get my bona fides if it'll loosen the grip you've got on that thing" (page 100).

satisfaction covering his face, kevin looked around. "it's coming along."

shoulder to shoulder, xander looked around the same space. "to what?"

"you need vision, man. you just need vision" (page 104).

...its owner -- his ninth grade american history teacher -- still didn't believe he knew what he was doing. about any damn thing.

and never let him forget he'd been suspended for hooking school.

something that made no sense to him then or now. suspension for hooking was like a damn reward (page 266).

(this is just an aside... if your father's the superintendent and your mother's a retired teacher, suspension would most definitely NOT be a reward. AT ALL. EVER. IN A N Y SCENARIO. not that i ever got suspended. but i was in after-school detention a lot. i seem to recall a saturday one a time or two or three. memory's quick to remind me of my mother's expression in those instances... and i'm grateful my father worked so much so that i rarely had to see his then. i hate to think what sort of expression suspension would've created.)

work drove them both -- hers in art and imagery, capturing moments and making them speak. his in behavior, in rules, in an endless quest to find out why (page 332).

her brother agreed to stay the night, he thought, because he expected to find a body in the morning (page 358).

"i've got to ask. how serious is it with you and the mechanic?"

"you say that like he doesn't have a name."

"i'm working on it. give me some room. my vagabond hermit of a sister suddenly has a big house in the middle of rehab, has a dog, and is sleeping with a guy i just met. it's a lot in a short time" (page 359).

"sometimes people have roots so corrupted, they shouldn't try to plant them" (page 391).

what sucked: so there's that awesome beginning, right? the first three dozen pages, they've got the terror and intensity of a category five hurricane bearing down on the southeast corner of texas -- a horrible flood plane, a swamp that can never hold water. and then the storm passes, and the skies clear, and you've got beautiful, boring weather for like a month, maybe two. there'll be little squalls here and there, but that's it. this story is EXACTLY like that. the ending, which should be so much more grotesque, so much more horrific than the beginning, it's not. at ALL. it's like she got tired of writing. for three dozen pages, i was reminded of how great a storyteller nora roberts once was. and then she reverted back to her lazy self. i used to could read one of her books in a handful of hours. it took me a week to read this one.

also... and this could be because my critique group's been getting onto me for relying too much on dialogue to tell the story, but... i used to love roberts' novels because they were so heavy on dialogue. i didn't have to read page after page of narrative. her characters literally told me the story. i love dialogue. it's fun to write. i'm damned good at it. but like eighty percent of the story is dialogue. and the more i read it, the more i could hear my friends' voices in my head... you can sum all this shit up in a paragraph instead of having pages and pages of meaningless chatter.

having said that: BLAH. skip it. you wanna read nora roberts stories? shoot me an email. i'll send you a list.

fourteen things to celebrate in may: a scavenger hunt

one. may third. two different-colored shoes day. wear shoes that don't match for the entirety of your day.

two. may fourth. star wars day. may the fourth be with you. wear a star wars shirt if you've got one. share four of your favorite lines from the films.

three. may fifth. national cartoonists day. share a favored comic.

four. also may fifth. totally chipotle day. treat yourself to a burrito. (and yeah, it's cinco de mayo, too. i know. so if you wanna have a margarita with that, go right ahead.)

five. may tenth. clean up your room day. seriously. CLEAN IT. get rid of all the shit. donate the things you don't need, if you can, and trash the rest. that place should be a haven not a dump (like mine usually is).

six. may twelfth. national spouse military appreciation day. send notes to those who have husbands and wives serving in our military, whether those serving are active or not, home or abroad. thank them for what they do, too.

seven. also may twelfth. national limerick day. write one. YES, that's what i said. haikus are a hell of lot easier, now, right? you're wishing you'd done that one last month. limerick. write it, and then share one you love.

eight. may fifteenth. national chocolate chip cookie day. bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies from scratch...

nine. may twenty-first. national waitstaff day. ...and take the cookies to the servers at your favorite restaurant. since these things don't have to be done on their specific day, can i recommend this be done on mother's day? that is the WORST day of the year for them. if you wanna be extra awesome, give them handwritten notes to let them know how awesome and how loved they are.

ten. may twenty-third. national lucky penny day. get a roll of pennies. throughout your day, leave one here and there and everywhere, face up for others to find. give them some good luck.

eleven. may twenty-fourth. national scavenger hunt day. yeah. here's your scavenger hunt, folks. go to town. if you're not feeling this one, do one of the previous ones. ain't no law against that.

twelve. also may twenty-fourth. brothers day. if you've got one, do something nice for the idiot.

thirteen. may twenty-fifth. red nose day. get you one. i saw a passel of'm at walgreen's. wear that thing all day long and with much pride.

fourteen. also may twenty-fifth. national wine day. get a group of friends together. share a bottle.

a letter to my brother

May 1, 2017

jon kevin,

you've the best name of the three of us, you know. jon kevin, jennifer kristin and joseph keith. yours is the best. but maybe i think that because almost every time i say it, i hear mom's voice in my head, her telling of how you said it when you were a baby. someone would ask you what your name was, and you'd say don kiki gehgeh. i can't make fun of you for that. i don't get to make fun of you for anything now.

you cheated. bastard.

so next year, i don't get to spend the whole of october decorating all your shit with black crepe paper and ribbons and balloons. i don't get to harass you for being fifty.

you cheated. you will always be young. you will always be beautiful. i will always have that goddamned scene from steel magnolias playing in my head, daryl hannah's voice trying to give me consolation when what i want is to kick you in the nuts for cheating.

i asked you once if you had a death wish, but instead of answering, you turned the question on me. i don't know why. you should've known the answer to that. of course i've got a death wish. i've had it since i was eight. you can't spend every day locked inside my head, seeing the kind of shit i see and not want that to end. but your being here, that made it better. made this shit more bearable. you took away one of my reasons to stay. to suck this shit up. to take the ugliness and make it pretty.

it occurred to me earlier today that i didn't blog about your death day this year. i always blog about it. every year. if not on that day then on the one before or the one after. but for fifteen years, there's been a post.

you cheated. and now i'm ten years older than my older brother.

i spent a decade hating you. i guess this is my penance. only it won't be a decade for a decade. it'll be a decade for every year. it'll feel like that anyway.

i'm so pissed at you. you should be here. god knows there are more in this world who would miss you more than me.

you should be here so that you can get bambam laughing and show shazam how she's better than her mama. because good god that boy needs to laugh. he's angry. he's so angry. and if he's anything like you or me... he's in for a world of hurt. and that girl... she's a little too susceptible, a little too manipulative.

the boy's scared of the dark. i tell him that if he thinks on you hard enough -- cause god knows i show him as many pictures of you as i can find -- that maybe when he dreams you could find him. i tell him when the wind blows it's you giving us hugs. one time we were out at northshore park: the sun had already set; it was a friday during lent, and we'd gotten catfish dinners from one of the churches then bread from the store to go feed the ducks. the three of us, me and the twins, we're standing at the lake's edge, tossing bread in the water. he stops for a minute, holds his arms out in front of him with his fingers touching, a big circle. i asked, bam, what're you doing? the wind was blowing. he said he was giving kabuki a hug.

i keep thinking of the day of the memorial service we had here, how i was running around town getting the things mama had requested. how i'd broken on the way home, bawling like a baby. not because of you. i was still too angry with you to cry because of you. i was still hating you, though not as much as i had. i was crying because i felt like i was floating in the blackest of waters in the darkest of nights: no light, no compass, no wind. i heard your voice like you were sitting right next to me. i'll find you someone. i was twenty-nine. gullible and grieving.

maybe if you were here you could have. the boys, i can't even talk to them, jon kevin. i can't speak. the words, they're so wrong. they're so stupid. you know i can't. you know why i can't. but god i envy how it easy it was for you to talk to people. you always said the right things.

mama told me once you'd wished i could be more like one of your best friend's little sisters. i wished you could've been more like the friend. yall's humor was the same. but he had the stronger will. so how's that for nasty?

you should be here. bastard.

i'm angry that you left us. that i get to be the one dealing with all the matters regarding the parents and the house and all the shit they've amassed... not that that's happening now... but some day... the irresponsible daughter, the worst one of the three of us has to be the best one. that's not my wheelhouse. i can't even keep my car clean for a week.

i'm angry that i can't remember your laugh, and i needed to hear it today. i very much needed to hear it.