Book reviews: The one with the delusional gunman, delusional grandmas, and a soldier who knew how to stand up for us all.

June 20, 2019

Just because I’ve been quiet lately doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. My goal is 250 books this year, and I might not make it, but so far Goodreads says I’m on pace. (Barely on pace, meh meh meh.) The thing is, it doesn’t feel like that because so many of the books I’ve read this year have barely made an impression on me. They’re bland. Or stupid. Or so not my thing.

Despite all my whinging, I’m pretty sure I can find a few to review for you.

A Small Revolution, by Jimin Han (Little A, 2017, 208 pages, digital, Kindle Unlimited). I’ll confess: the reason I was first drawn to Han’s debut novel was because it featured a shooter in a college setting; the way I process these atrocities is to submerse myself in fictional reiterations so I can play it through to the end and find the answers. It’s whack, I know. But it’s one of my solutions. This short, compact novel was both jam-packed with details, beautifully authentic college-aged vignettes filled with things two people of that age, who were in love, would say to each other. It examines the “third wheel” scenario in Yoona Lee and Jaesung’s love story, and why Lloyd – poor, delusional, cuckoo-in-the-membranes Lloyd – insists holding Yoona and three of her friends hostage is how to solve his problem. His problem? Dead Jaesung isn’t dead. It’s a lot of information, but Jimin Han handled the nuances with aplomb found usually not until the author is far more experienced. The way Han bounced between flashbacks of how the three (Lloyd, Jaesung, and Yoona) met in South Korea, and scenes of the tense stand-off led by the crumbling madness of Lloyd and increasingly terrified hostages. I ripped through the pages, rushing towards the present. Maudlin and tense, intense and beautifully care-free and innocent. And yet, full of violence.  4 of 5 stars.

Louisiana’s Way Home, by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick Press, 2018, 240 pages, paperback. Middle-grade readers). I picked this up during my Mother’s Day splurge because it had a beautiful cover. The barrette, like the ones my sister and I used, it sealed the deal. The plot: a girl (Louisiana by name) deserted by her Granny in a town off the map (but really in Georgia), somewhere between Florida (home, where Louisiana must return!) and Kansas, where their family’s curse originated and must be broken. Lousiana’s grandma sounded pretty YaYa, the way she stuffed Lousisana’s head full of colorful stories – like that her parents performed in the circus! and how they met and fell in love! and, and, and – only all of the stories Lousiana’s grandma told her turn out to be Not True. Louisiana had to figure out if this mattered and changed who she is – or not. DiCamillo poured so much magic and grace into her characters, and a bucket of spunk into Louisiana. Questioning who she is and who she wants to be is a question many kids handle – and DiCamillo snuck lessons into her characters’ adventures the way parents sneak nutrition into their kids’ food. The result is as wholesome, full of laughs and heart bumps along the way. 3 1/2 of 5 stars.

Formation: A Woman’s Memoir of Stepping out of Line, by Ryan Leigh Dostie (Grand Central Publishing, 368 pages, digital library loan). Wow. What a gut punch. I had to stop for a minute and just breath. Dostie’s memoir is proof of how women are punished severely for doing, saying, even looking at or like someone at the wrong time. We aren’t in charge. Not only are the assholes who are raping us sending this message home; it’s also the Chinese handcuffs set like traps throughout the system that men set up to report when men (or anyone else) stepped out of line. Dostie saw this. And was brave enough to step out of how she was supposed to act, yanked her finger out of the chinese handcuffs, and said to hell with this. I WAS RAPED. AND MY GOVERNMENT, MY COMMAND, MY POST, MY MILITARY – NO ONE CARED. No one stepped up to help her. She stood up. Helped herself. And spoke up. It was one way to help battle the PTSD she suffered from on the outs. No one seemed to be in her shoes. Reading about Dostie’s journey filled me with so many emotions – admiration, awe, shame, anger, anxiety, triggered, wanting to fight. Good stories do that, and Dostie’s narrative had me from the first page to the last. Trigger Warning, obviously for rape, for PTSD. But if you want to read a story about a soldier who deserves every bit of admiration and support – Formation is a damn good book to start with. 5 of 5 stars.

What books have you been reading? Send me your best recommendations – I’m feeling  a little antsy to mind my Next Great Read, something that will light me on fire the way YaYas did, or Evelyn Hugo did with all seven of her husbands. Tell me! And I’ll be back next Thursday to tell you about a few more of mine.

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The real reveal: Bee’s bedroom renovation!

June 18, 2019

Bee has been waiting such a long time for this moment. It crushed my mama’s heart every time Bee asked, and explained logically why she “deserved” a room renovation, and then I had to tell her we couldn’t do it right then, because I didn’t have the money. Saving up, pennies here and there, and finally being able to say “YES!” was one of my happiest moments as a mom.

Seriously. Bee worked hard. She was patient while she waited for funding to come through. She worked to keep her room clean for an entire month before I would commit to a renovation. I wasn’t spending all of that money and carrying out all of that work and have her entire wardrobe on the floor, mixed in with the contents of her closet. Not the look I was going for.

Finally, she worked hard with me to empty her room, bagging clothes that didn’t fit, and donating toys she has outgrown. She (and I) worked hard to get to this: a completely empty bedroom:

I shampooed and steam-cleaned that rug twice; even got out a pretty large paint stain that little Miss Craft Girl didn’t want to confess to Mom. Thank goodness I’m magic!

While that was drying, the girls and I unloaded 23,942 boxes from the back of the car, and IKEA delivered the other 6 huge boxes that contained the bed. My living room looked like a cardboard box city!

For an entire week, it was me and an allen wrench against the world. No joke – Bee’s loft bed nearly killed me. I could lean one side against one wall, but then I had to get the big I beam from the loft to screw into a particular place on the other side piece. The VERY HEAVY side piece. And nothing was working the easy way. So it only took me four hours. Doesn’t every first step of building a bed end at 2 a.m.?? But I did it. And thankfully, Gracie was soooo into helping me and arranging the room that she put together a lot of the bed after I got the frame hooked up. Finally, between the two of us, we had Bee’s loft bed all put together!

My favorite part is that the bed actually fits in the space. It ends just before the window. [Bee-Tween didn’t understand why I wouldn’t let her bed block the window, or why a second exit from a room was important. I was afraid she was just asking the universe to send a fire in her room. Geez!] The space at the top is a little tight, but as long as the ceiling fan isn’t on, it’s fine. It really only overlaps by three or four inches, but its enough that the person up there could sit up and get their head whacked.

I wish I had a picture of Bee’s mattress going up – I even thought to have Gracie help me put on the mattress protector and the fitted sheet before we hoisted it. Good god – that nearly killed us too. Why are bedroom sets so deadly??!! Golly! We added sheets, her white comforter. Bee was set for the night and so! excited! It was really happening! Wish I had a picture of THAT, too!

The next day while Bee and Gracie were at their dad’s, I rushed to put together the drawers, the bookcase, and attach the two legs to the desk top. Bee had texted me and said she knew my back was bad, and if I had just done the drawers, she would help with one more thing when she got home that night. She didn’t know I was nearly done! I raced to finish the rolly-chair. I staged everything, added the fancy light and the iPhone holder. I anchored the extension cords with velcro strips. I plugged in the longest iPhone charger cord I have ever seen – Bee would definite be able to plug her phone in while she was up in bed. I anchored the mirror in the wall (using my new drill! yay!), and added a few things on the bookcase as a final touch.

My heart – when Bee came in and saw that I had finished her space….! I can’t even describe the happy that was swirling all over my crazy, fantastic, beloved daughter.

 

Wait – there’s one more bit! As kind of a check-in a few weeks (or just a week) after Bee’s bed/desk/office space was finished, just like they do on the home renovation shows, Bee and I looked at what we had done, and decided to add one more piece: she needed somewhere besides her closet to keep her clothes. The bureau she had didn’t match her aesthetic, so she nixed that. Bee decided to use the cubbies she had in her room before, I found some new fabric drawers that would match, and voila! The last perfect piece for Bee’s Magical Renovated Bedroom. You can see her new hamper, the perfect place for her full length mirror, and her body pillow that serves as seating. It’s all perfectly Bee!

Cubbies

Enjoy, Bee-girl. Love you with all my heart…love the way you fight for your funky little differences – like this alterna-drawers for clothes.

Keep being you!

Bedroom Planning 101.

June 17, 2019

When last we left our heroine, Bee-Tween’s bedroom was really, finally happening! I had given Bee her budget. (She nearly fainted with happiness; it was the adorablest!) She had permission. She just had to plan, go buy what she needed,…and then clean her room out. Meh, meh, meh. It was happening!

Bed1b

Bee didn’t even have to think twice about the bed she wanted. She had been hunting different loft bed possibilities for the past two years. This was the one she wanted; an IKEA model that would eat up a lot of her budget (and most of the space in her bedroom), but still leave a little wiggle room. In both senses.

I had to admit – it was really, really nice. Solid construction. Beautiful wood tone. The desk and bookcases looked gorgeous. The best part was that I didn’t have to pretend I could arrange furniture – Bee wanted the entire set, so I could just write down the model numbers and pick it up in one fell swoop! So that was our plan.

Except The Plan had a small little problem: the bed wouldn’t fit.

Bee-Tween had measured her room (three different times, to make sure) and brought the numbers with us. She thought it would work – on paper. I mapped out in her actual room back home what it would look like in real life. The real life problem is that Bee’s ceiling slopes on the side, so Bee would be smooshed in the bed.

As if that wasn’t enough, if Bee shifted to lay on the side of the bed (a queen-size) away from the sloped ceiling, the ceiling fan would be inches from her head. So her choices Bed2were claustrophobia or decapitation. Is this a bed or a torture device?!

But Bee was adamant. THIS was the bed she wanted. ALL of her plans were centered around it. I used this handy-dandy bold statement from IKEA that proved my point – Bee’s room was too small! Bee used it to prove the bed would squeeze in there just fine, and continued to have a knock-down, drag-out fight because she wanted the bed that bad!

I spent a lot of time measuring this way and that way in Bee-Tween’s room when she wasn’t in there. I finally found a way the bed might fit. It was going to be a huge leap of faith – I don’t think even IKEA would take back a mostly-built bed…and all the accessories that came with it that we bought because my tweenager wanted it and I wanted so badly to make her happy.

So I crossed my fingers, and said “Okay.”

Bee-girl isn’t the type to yell “THANK YOU!” or run up and hug you. But the girl sparkled and smiled her small little smile and I knew in my heart it was the same thing.

The very next morning, Bee and I got in the car, stopped at Starbs and the bank, and then hit up IKEA. The idea was to turn this into that:

…and I think we did a decent job. But we somehow packed the other half of the store into the back of my RAV, too.

For a girl who doesn’t like to shop, Bee did a fairly good job finding knick knacks and whatnots she could squeeze out of her budget. She didn’t want the two lamps that were included in the display, so she chose a different lamp, one that can charge iPhones and has a USB port at the bottom. She replaced the chair with a wicked cool round 50’s mod that somehow made the desk pop even more! A fancy trash can, a couple of white surge protectors, and a 20′ USB cord that would reach the top of her bed. Until we get a small ledge shelf that she can reach when she’s sleeping, she doesn’t have clock nearby; making her phone even more essential.

While Bee was thinking of all of that, I gifted her a new mattress. She was going to need one, since she was upgrading from two twins to a queen. I didn’t think that was fair to come out of her budget. We found a fancy memory foam one at an incredible price, so I added a new pillow, and she picked out a set of sheets.

Everything fit into the back of my RAV, except for the bed frame. That we had to have delivered, which they were able to do just a few days later! Everything seemed to be sorted out. Bee-Tween-Girl was finally getting her room! It was really real!

There was just one…more…problem.

The bedroom she left at home. Yeah. Maybe she should think about moving just a bit to make room. Meh, meh, meh – details.

When Bee-Girl got her room back.

June 13, 2019

You guys remember How Stella Got her Groove Back? That movie was a Moment for me. I was in junior high and seeing women empowered like that, encouraged to feel their feelings and act on them, to be who they really were and get other people to really see them – that was formulative. Discovering Terry McMillan right after that further fueled those feelings, and that Moment that my girlfriends and I had then turned into a Movement. It changed how we saw and interacted with the world.

Now I want you to tuck that bit of insight away, but not too far away.

Bee-girl is having a moment. She’s moving on up from Bee-Tween to a marvelous, majestic, empowered teen. [One who seems to be resisting a nickname, but that’s another story.] You know how she is.

She’s been planning and scheming her room renovation for more than two years. It was a fun distraction at first – measuring the room, picking out what kind of furniture she’d want, blackout curtains, colors, and whatnot.

Then her room became something more. Gracie got a room “renovation” a few years ago because she moved out of the girls’ shared room and we needed to actually build her a room in the former guest/craft room. [Great googly-moogly – I love our set-up now, but gawd I miss that space!] Two Christmases ago, two pivotal things happened that twisted Bee into knots. One: the new bed. Auntie Kim bought a new bed for that room because she visited a lot and that was her bed when she was here. (Gracie got bumped into the spare bed in Bee’s room.) Auntie Kim paid for the bed frame, which Gracie picked out with only a few vetoes; I paid for the super-awesome memory foam mattress that I kind of wanted to steal. Heh. The bed was one thing; the other was the new paint. Gracie had been begging to paint her room a different color, now that the room was hers. So Auntie Kim gave her a gallon of paint for Christmas. The accent wall is now peacock blue, and it’s lovely!

But it was also super-problematic.

Those two purchases made it seem like Gracie got a second room renovation. Bee hated her room – she felt it didn’t represent her style, her personality, everything was hand-me-down. She felt less-than. Two renovations less-than, in fact. And because sometimes life is difficult, and sometimes those twists and turns happen at the worst possible time, Bee didn’t get her promised room renovation for quite a while. I promised her $500 for her budget – the problem was finding time when we could afford that bit of luxury.

Finally, about a month ago, I finally saved enough to turn all of Bee’s schemes and Pinterest pins and mad-hattery ideas into motion. The sparkle on her face when I said Yes was one of Those Moments that you stockpile as a parent. A moment you’ll call up in the hard times to shore up your spirits. A moment when you and your daughter sincerely understand each other’s point-of-view. God bless therapy. And patience.

And, of course, IKEA.

I have so many pictures and stories to show you! The desk. The mirror. A rug. Curtains. A new drill and drywall patching kit to make curtains possible! Heh. An interesting wardrobe solution. More allen wrenches than this world really needs. And the bed. Oh heavens and stars, Bee has been searching the world over for the loft bed she had created in her mind. Thank you jeebus she found it! I just had to make it fit in her tiny, tiny room of dreams.

It’s glorious!

But this part is really my favorite part. This story about why Bee’s new bedroom was so meaningful. How she had transferred a lot of feelings into this idea, but then how she used her power to communicate that to me, and worked with me to make it happen. I’m really proud of Bee for doing that! Almost-13-year-olds rock pretty ducking hard, I’ll tell you what.

Bee-tween got her groove back. Just wait til you see!

Bee-tween

This Monday goes on and on.

June 5, 2019

Saturday night, Gracie-guts spent the night at her bestie’s house for a birthday sleepover. They were going to a drive-in for a three-movie feature, with a small group of 15yo girls, and I pretty much thought Bestie’s parents were off-their-rockers. (Even a gaggle of good-natured teenaged girls are still teenagers, after all.)

About eleven p.m. Saturday night, I had changed my mind. I did want to be chaperoning the [assuredly muggy][and loud] trip to the drive-in. It had to be cooler than my house. Because my air conditioning unit decided to stop running. In June. In Texas.

Well, *&%#.

I had noticed it getting warmer in the house. I thought maybe it was because I was listening to music and enjoying myself. Or maybe because I had the door closed to my bedroom – the bedrooms are on the west side of the house, and tend to retain the heat a bit longer during the evening. Or, maybe the thermostat reverted back to its very conservative setting of 82°.

Sort of, that’s what happened. On it was 84°. With the fan still running inside. Churning towards 76°. Heading in the wrong direction couldn’t be good.

I shut the unit off, then restarted it. I opened Bee-girl’s door and let her know I was aware of a problem, and trying to fix it. I told her if I couldn’t get anyone out to look at it, I’d take us to a hotel for the night. (I wasn’t calling anyone at 11:30 p.m. to see if we could couch-crash.) Instead, I started cold-calling companies.

The middle-of-the-night thing was a problem. I had a guy I trusted, but I wasn’t calling him that late (I wasn’t sure he’d be up). And since it was 86° in the house by then, I wasn’t waiting around to see how hot it got. It sucked that I didn’t have the number in my phone of the company I’d used before whenever my unit leaked through my ceiling. Then again, they had bamboozled me last time, so maybe that wasn’t a big loss.

I pulled up Angie’s List (god bless AnNgie’s List) and started calling. One company couldn’t get out here until after 2 a.m. – I got on their waiting list, at least. Another couldn’t reach anyone through dispatch. The third company said it would be $200 for an emergency call, but that I could use that minimum payment toward any repair costs. I asked three more times to make sure I understood. I even gave an example: like, say it’s a pump that costs $130. I pay the $200 emergency call minimum, and apply it towards the pump. I’m out $200 total. If the pump costs $300, I’m out the $200 for the emergency call, it gets applied towards the more expensive pump, and I’m out $300. That’s the company I went with because the others charged more for a middle of the night call, or wouldn’t let it apply the charge towards cost of repairs. They dispatched their repairman from an hour away.

That’s all important because: the first company who wanted me to wait until 2 a.m.? They called back right after the other company dispatched someone. The 2 a.m. company was only $59 for the call, but I was honorable and didn’t cancel the $200 company.

But when that repairman arrived and tried to tell me I couldn’t apply the $200 towards repairs, I wasn’t having it. I’m sure they counted on people to say, Oh it’s midnight, just fix it, but I hate you and your bait-and-switch tactics. I was willing to fight. I chose them because of that option; I re-iterated it quite a few times to make sure I understood; and I would have canceled them and gone with the first company if they were honest. Thankfully, the repairman came in and said his manager said they could honor what dispatch told me. Probably because he saw that I was ready to pitch him out and go to Holiday Inn Express.

Just before 3 a.m., we had a brand new motor and a few other parts, a warning that I’d need a brand-new ($12,000) system within a year, and I was out about $1,100 for repairs.

But I had cool air. And Saturday night that’s all I needed to make me happy.

Five for Friday.

May 31, 2019

Hey, look Ma, I made it! (If you were Panicking at the Disco right there, you need to turn on your radio more.)

Right of the bat – I have something to discuss:
1. Why is it that I’ll have a moment (this week it was yesterday afternoon) when I’ll be jotting down ideas left and right for my Friday moments, and then when it gets to Friday, I can’t think of half of them, or get excited about the rest? Seriously, I was like “I can talk about this, and then I can mention that! and ohmygod what was that other thing?!” Orrrr, if Fridayphobia doesn’t strike, I’ll be excited, have a list finished in my head…but then maybe because I’ve checked that task off my mental to-do list, I look down and it’s, like, 6 p.m. and I haven’t written a jot! Jeez, writing gods!

2. My dad turned 70 this week. I don’t talk about him very often because I have a very complicated relationship with him for very complicated reasons. Still. He’s 70. And it just…hit me out of the blue. I guess even though what I think of as “young” or “middle aged” has been creeping as I get older, 70 still feels very different to me than 69 did. I mentioned it to Gracie: “Did you know Grandpa turned seventy this week?” Aghast for obvious reasons – so I thought. Gracie’s jaw dropped, I thought in agreement. But she responded, “Only 70?!!” Okay, yes, yes – she has a point. Grandpa has been an “old man” since he was 50. Should have seen that one coming.

3. I’ve been sorting through my genealogy again. And I happened upon an improved Web site that has collected a lot of data and family trees since I last used it, about 20 years ago. I was so busy focusing on charting the Founding Families of my mom’s town that I didn’t look much at my paternal side. I found records and compiled family trees that added four more generations to my paternal-paternal side. I’m 12th generation (maiden name).

4. It’s summer. June in Texas = yeah, definitely summer. So why is it that I’m having a hard time packing away my extra blanket? Does that happen to anyone else? I have my top sheet, a quilt, and then an extra blanket that’s thin, but medium weight. I haven’t used it in a couple weeks, and only once in the past…oh…2 months? So why am I having such a hard time making a firm decision? I hate tripping over that ends that are piled on the floor no matter how I drape the thing. Ugh!

5. And then this happened. The last day of 9th and 7th grades!

LastDay

No more homework, no more books! No more…getting up at the crack of dawn for school, for which these bleary-eyed demons are thankful. And so is their mama.

Have a great weekend!

Read Harder 2019: Check-in Post.

May 30, 2019

On Thursdays, I write about books! If you guessed today is Thursday, well…I really hope you’re correct because I’m writing about books anyway.

I thought I’d do a check-in on my progress for the Read Harder 2019 challenge. For those playing along, you know the good people at BookRiot (Hello, Rachel – you’re lovely!) put together these challenges to encourage us to read outside our comfort zones. As such, if you need to tweak a prompt – go ahead and do it! If you’re not sure what it means, and want to interpret it a different way, or your way, or however which way – go ahead and do it! The world will not tilt off it’s access if you go a bit wobbly on one. I promise.

All right! Let’s dive in:

An epistolary novel or collection of letters: I was planning on reading Barack Obama’s Of Thee I Sing, a letter to his daughters. But then I tripped over a similar book, David Chariandy’s I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You, a letter to his daughter about parent-kid wishes for who and how they’ll be, but also about what it means to grow up different in today’s world. Chariandy gorgeously balances infusing hope, happy, and stardust in with the warnings, tips, and survival tactics. But the happy outlives the woe. Reach for the Better. 5 of 5 stars.

An alternate history novel. I chose Dread Nationby Justina Ireland. Fantasy, alternate realities, anything Kindred-esque and I’m a brick wall. Not my strength, you guys. Fortunately I have a little black book stuffed with books I’ve heard about here and there. And one of them was Dread Nation. It’s a book about a slightly apocalyptic world, walking dead, you know – white people end of the world crap. And where young people elect to go to  training centers in Washington, D.C. instead of university. They learn to fight, defend – basic survival tactics. Picture Hunger Games, but with dreads, and zombies. Ha, ha! It’s the first in a series if it’s your bag. It was a fun romp, difference in a sea of sameness, but still not for me. 3 of 5 stars.

A book by a woman and/or AOC that won a literary award in 2018. I think everyone here knows, but in case they don’t – all of the books for my challenge are written by an  AOC. About half of what I read is written by an AOC. It takes a little more effort to find the books because publishing companies suck, but it’s definitely doable. And enjoyable. This was a fun category because it felt like a freebie. Still, I chose My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite. MStSK was SUCH a fun book to peel back, layer by layer. There was the on-top discussion of sisters and hos-before-bros and what not. A YA blockbuster. Then you dig deeper and wonder if it’s not a toxic, dare I say symbiotic relationship. Soooo many things to discuss! But I don’t want to give any of it away. DM me when you’re ready to talk! 4 of 5 stars.

A humor book. I have to admit, dear readers – I have no plans for this category. Wait, wait, wait – that’s not quite true. I have a plan, I just don’t have a book. My plan is to go back through the Goodreads Awards selections for the past few years, and I’m sure to find one or two.

A book by a journalist about journalism. This one I thought would be a tricky. Tricky!, but enjoyable. Surprisingly, I found a book rather quickly. At the library, months ago, I stumbled across How I Resist: Activism and Hope for the Next Generation. And while Maureen Johnson, a white woman, is listed as primary author, the collection is co-authored by: Jacqueline Woodson,  Malinda Lo, Sabaa Tahir, and others. The essays are short, but powerful. Quick jabs of hope! Undercuts of joy! Their words implore us to write our way out of this prison! Vote our allies into office! USE YOUR VOICES! Yes!! 5 of 5 stars.

A book by an AOC set in or about space. I am straight-up stumped here. If you guys have any suggestions.

An #OwnVoices book set in Mexico or Central America. My choice, The House of Broken Angels, is narrated by Angel, the patriarch who grew up in Mexico, and moved his family from Mexico to Southern California. Angel is dying and he often thinks back to his Mexico, the place where he grew up. Yeah, it’s a bit of a stretch to fit it in this category. But I loved this book with all my heart. It’s a modern classic, and I’m still upset it didn’t win the Tournament of Books! 4 1/2 of 5 stars.

An #OwnVoices book set in Oceania. This book popped into my mind as soon as I heard the category. Isn’t it funny how some books just do that? America Is Not the Heart, by Elaine Castillo. Another Tournament of Books entry, another protagonist, Hero, who grew up some where else (this time in a very violent Philippines), and then she came to America, because she was running out of lives to shed, and everyone, EVERYONE said America was the answer. Guess what her #ownvoice said?  Plot was great, but the story – it was too structureless for me. I had to do all the heavy lifting and I just couldn’t right then. 2 of 5 stars, but that just might be me.

A book published prior to Jan. 1, 2019, written by and/or translated by a woman. Ohhhh. This book! Andres Barba’s Such Small Hands. Translated by Lisa Dillman (check), and published in 2017 (check,check). Although I “cheated” a little because the book is written by an AOC, so the fact that the translator isn’t, is okay. And really, really is okay. Because: The book is billed as Shirley Jackson meets Virgin Suicides – and it lives up to the hype! It’s short, just 105 pages, so you can knock it out in a sitting. But be prepared to be chewing it for quite. a. long. time. 4 of 5 stars.

A book of manga. I don’t imagine this will be difficult to find; it’s just not a category I’m racing to prioritize

A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character. This is a GREAT category, and I can’t wait to see the selections, but I’m still looking at the moment.

A book about someone who identifies as neurodiverse: Again, GREAT category! Slaying it with stretching readers minds! I haven’t worked on this one yet, but I am so looking forward to the adventures of finding something! What have you guys read?

A cozy mystery. I hopped across the globe and tried Journey Under the Midnight Sun, by Keigo Higashimo. To be honest – and I feel a little ashamed confessing this – because I was unused to this cultures naming schemes, I had to use note cards to keep track of who was who. I felt like when I was reading Russian literature in high school, or that summer I binged Downton Abbey. Once I got past that part, the story was a straight up mystery, just like you order them. I like ’em enough to read them when they come my way, but don’t keep up with the latest. So take my taste into account here: 3 of 5 stars.

A book about mythology or folklore. I was going to use Call Me Zebra because the protag – who we never learn the name of – creates her own mythology. She thinks she’s a god and tramples all over the world to prove it. But there’s also Marlon James’s The Night Woman, a POWERFUL novel that explores the suffering slavery imposed. But from that pain, or maybe because of it, Lilith has this power, a reckoning kind of power, and Lilith taps into this mantle of connection, the African-American experience from the first ship of slaves, straight through to the last. There’s collective memory, explored like this in Beloved. But Lilith got it. No one can take it. And she can’t shake it. Oof. 5 of 5 stars. Wow.

An historical romance by an AOC. If you’re fulfilling the challenges in list order (I’m not), this is a soft, squishy place to land after the brainful of the mythology challenge. And you know what? I’m stretching the rules here, too. I haven’t ready it yet, but right now I’m planning on reaching A Bollywood Affair, by Sonali Dev. She’s a great write, and what I love is that this Bollywood romance series, you can pick up any book and just GO! if you want to. There are so few authors who do that any more. I can’t wait to sink into this book. There are so few romance authors who write for smart people., ya know?

A business book. Oh, this one I have no idea who I’m about to read, or about what. I’ll go and find it – unless you want to throw one my way?

A novel written by a trans or non-binary author. I’m going to sink my teeth into the YA thriller, The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, by Kim Fu. I don’t know much about them, but I did a bit of research when I was trying to pick something, and everything I find out is YAAAAAASSS!!! And the first chapter of the book flew by fast! I can’t wait for the rest!

A book written in prison. I’m up for some suggestions, but right now it’s looking like Prison Letters, by Nelson Mandella, might be the winner.

A comic by an LGBTQIA creator. You all know my reading proclivities, and comics really aren’t on there. But read them I shall! for that is the point of this adventure!

A children’s or middle grade (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009. I just recently had the pleasure of reading One Half from the East, by Nadia Hashimi. I’ve read several (if not all) of Hashimi’s work. It’s solid, but I was waiting for this – the emotions broil over in this story and you feeeeeeel the characters! The youngest girl, Obeyda, longs to be a boy so she can climb trees, play in the dirt, be outside the house even! So she becomes Obeyd: a bach posh. “She’s” allowed to be a “he” and have all the freedoms a boy would. Hashimi finally climbed up into her own, as well.   4 of 5 stars.

A self-published book. Getting your book notices isn’t easy sometimes. Just because a book is self-published – isn’t that assigned the same label and “expectations” we’re trying to undo? I read After Disasters by Viet Dinh, surprising no one who knows me. It’s a compelling story about five different stories, five differing protagonists trying to help after the disaster, but also trying to repair the hurts in their own lives. 3 of 5 stars.

A collection of poetry published since 2014. Poetry also isn’t really my thing. Just like short stories aren’t; you can tell me more! explore the back stories! Luckily for me, I happened across Lin-Manuel’s collection of G’mornin’! G’night!:Little Pep Talks for You and Me that was brilliantly illustrated by Jonny Sun. I felt like I was reading Shel Silverstein, but for “grown-ups” – whatever those are. 5 of 5 pepped up stars.

That’s it from me, twinkletoes! Send me recommendations and send me on grand adventures!

Is that a sunburn or the plague?

May 28, 2019

This is turning into the semester I couldn’t do anything right – including sunburn, apparently. Did you all have a wondering Memorial Day weekend? Did you stuff yourself with hotdogs and hamburgers, macaroni salad, and grilled peaches? (YUM!)

Predictably, I also stuffed myself with a bunch of great books [eight books this weekend! Chipping away at the gap, I am]. And for one of them, I even took myself outside, soaking in some vitamin C.

Except…Vitamin C won this round of Slapjack. With me being Jack, apparently.

My sunburn isn’t even that bad! I was only outside for an hour before I finished that book [a re-read of Bachman’s The Long Walk], and came inside to switch out my book, but then stayed for the air conditioning. All of that is to say, my burn is from only an hour of sun exposure. And while I’ve always been fair-skinned and prone to burn easier, SPF 60 usually takes care of me for at least an hour or two.

The photos aren’t going to do it justice, but here – look:

It’s not even that my burn is that terrible – it hurts, sure, and way worse than it should hurt. I’m more squicked out by the fact that it’s less of a burn than an…attack of some sort.

No! I know that sounds crazy! but LOOK! It’s not a consistent blanket of burn. My chest looks the most like that typical(ish) sort of burn. But the rest of me! It looks like the sun was a mosquito and it attacked the shit out of me! My legs aren’t even uniformly attacked! My right leg has way more splotches than the left one. But my left side was the side turned towards the sun. It’s not even because it was sun-ward. And I have no idea why the right side would be 10x the severity of the left side.

So what’s going on? Anyone have a clue? Right now I’m going under the assumption that I’m allergic somehow, and so I’ll sit indoors as much as I can, and then sneak outside under a giant beach hat and…a…trench coat, or something.

But really, I have no idea what’s going on. I’m just going to add “Can’t sunburn correctly” under my 2019 column. The year is nuts, you guys. For real.

Five for Friday.

May 24, 2019

Is everybody ready for the weekend?!! Man, it’s finally here. And it’s Memorial Day weekend, too! Three days filled with mischief. Which for me really just means working on writing, reading, and trying to find out why my television keeps turning on at odd hours! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get into my Five for Friday!

1. Don’t let my talk about partying and being a badass fool you – I’m not going to be far from my desk this weekend. I’ve been head-down busy running my genealogy to ground, and I’m doing a pretty good job, if I do say so myself. I just found five more generations on my father’s line. Yeah! Back to 1650-ish in France! Told you! I don’t mess around. Ha ha – at least not when it comes to being the Reigning Geek Supreme!

2. A funny story about all that – when we were kids, we had a running joke with my Gram that she was going to meet this man named Rocky and get married and be in loooooved. Ooooh! She was a good sport about it all, letting us make fun of her, and track down any leads of men named Rocky in her senior living center. (Spoiler: there were none.) It all started because my sister Kim and I were using my Ouija Board and a ghost of someone said all this was going to happen. But here’s the thing – I just traced that side of my family back as far as I could, to the mid-17th century, like I said. And the gentleman who was the patriarch of the family? “Roch” – French for Rocky! I’m thinking the spirit of her ancestor was talking to us and we just interpreted it wrong. Yeah, don’t think too closely about that or you won’t be falling asleep either. I warned you!

3. Another creepy thing that’s been happening – my television keeps turning itself on! I’ll be at my desk, working on my laptop. My door is propped open since the girls aren’t here. And all of a sudden, I’ll hear loud voices coming from the TV. It makes you jump every. single. time., I’m telling ya! I still haven’t found out what (or who) is behind it.

4. When I’ve been taking a break from computer work, I’ve been reading. I’ve finished quite a few books lately, but that’s not the problem I wanted to talk about. My problem is this: I need to have a few really good books to read during the plane ride when we fly back home for vacation. I’ve been keeping an eye out, and when I find a book that I just want to read and read and read and read, I make myself STOP reading (I know, it’s as painful as it sounds!) so I can set it aside. I have two books so far: Goodbye Days, by Jeff Zentner, and Sadie, by Courtney Summers. The problem is that I really sort of want to, NEED to read them right this minute. So I’m going to have to find replacement books for the plane. Yes, I know: it’s a tough problem to have.

5.  I’ve always wondered how it happens when authors discuss it, but…I had a plot for a novel just WHAM! fall into my head the other day. One minute I was thinking about…well, I don’t quite remember what I was thinking about. But the next minute I was standing mouth agape. The next minute I was scrambling to write it all down. I don’t have characters’ names or anything, but I have a pretty full outline. I just need to find time to write it. And there you go. I’ll have my book. Maybe this is just all meant to be.

So there you go – my geekerific guide to the beginning of my weekend. I hope yours involves a lot more people-time than my seems to have scheduled. Someone remind me to have fun! You all have fun, too. Be safe! Don’t drink and drive! Be somewhat responsible, okay? I want to see you all back here in one-ish pieces.

Have fun! See you Monday!

 

 

I don’t know whose serve it is, I’m laughing too hard.

May 23, 2019

Sometimes you have a LOT going on.

It’s the end of the year, high school is high schooling, and there’s DRAMA.

So, you do what you can. You teach kids how to question evidence. Write reports. Know when to bite their tongues, and when to speak up.

And sometimes you teach them that 8 p.m. on a Sunday night is a FANTASTIC time for a ping pong tournament on the kitchen table near glass windows and a low-hanging glass light fixture!

For real. Sometimes it do do be like that.

And so you make up rules and see how many times you can catch each other changing the rules, and you cheat just a little when you can get away with it, and generally just laugh too hard to stand up straight. Soooo, kind of like the rules of Uno, but with weapons in your hands.

[Don’t worry: Inhalers were on stand-by for the wheezers. {That be all of us. We’re a fun bunch.}]

Did you know you if you hit a ping pong ball just right in my kitchen, it zips between chairs, off the wall, through your hands, and between buckets high-speed style? It was a serious throw-back to that segment on Sesame Street when the pinball machine is yelling out “One-two-three-FOUR-FIVE-six-seven-eight-nine-ten-eleven-TWEL-ELL-ELL-ELL-ELL-ELVE!” Except maybe without the airplanes. Maybe.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say, is that when you do have a lot of things going on, what you need to do is stop, grab a paddle, and just. let. go. We could all use a little dab of that.

PingPong