What We Lose

What We Lose

 

When I was in high school I would listen to music on my CD Walkman (I KNOW) and pretend like it was my theme music. I would imagine in my mind what it would accompany me doing, and how dramatic it would be for someone to watch me move through my life with a soundtrack.

So when I read Zinzi Clemmons’ What We Lose, it was like I was watching her life with a soundtrack, and it was exactly as awesome as I imagined it would be. She was her own Morgan Freeman, narrating her journey through the loss of her mother and the recovery from that loss. We see her navigating her romantic relationships, her familial relationships, her education, her career, her health – all from the play-by-play perspective as if you were watching it unfold live.

This is a memoir but it’s so much more than a memoir. I tried to explain it to someone and the best I could do was to say, ” remember in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Harry starts to realize that his dreams aren’t really dreams, that he’s seeing life through the eyes of the snake or Voldemort? This book is like that only you are seeing life through Zinzi Clemmons’ eyes as though you are her.

I cried through many parts of this book because I was Zinzi and her writing will convince you that you are grieving deeply, that you are loving deeply, that you are detached, that you are lost, and then found. This book is an immersive experience that is worthwhile, illuminating, and breathtaking. It is a short read, but it will live with you long afterwards. Go get you some.

The Cracked Spine (A Scottish Bookshop Mystery #1)

The Cracked Spine

The first in Paige Shelton’s Scottish Bookshop Mystery series starts off so well. Delaney from Kansas answers an ad for a bookshop curator in Edinburgh, Scotland and starts her life anew across the pond. She finds a small cottage to rent courtesy of the taxi driver she meets upon her arrival, and makes friends with her new boss Edwin and the other two employees Rosie and Hamlet.

The first 100 pages of this book are absolutely enchanting and mysterious. Edwin is very rich and participates in clandestine auctions with other interested parties in the area that are also rich to bid on very rare merchandise. One such piece, a Shakespearean Folio, came into Edwin’s possession and he placed it in the care of his druggie, not-to-be-trusted sister for some reason and she ends up murdered and the Folio (capital F) goes missing. I am 100% on board with all of this for the first 1/3 of the book. But then Delaney, in her first 3 days in Scotland, decides she’s going to investigate the murder.

I mean, I basically slept my entire second day in London because of jet lag, but this chick from Kansas is navigating public transportation and making friends with cab drivers within 72 hours of touching down at the airport? I mean, okay Paige Shelton, I’ll suspend disbelief for this I guess.

What makes me kind of cranky though is that the next 100 pages are her going to the same three locations, talking to the same 3-4 people about the murder, with no noticeable forward progress. Isn’t she supposed to be doing a job at this bookshop? What is her job? She’s been in the bookshop but she hasn’t really done anything there by page 210 out of 279. So when I reached this point I was (1) bored and (2) not invested in the story or the characters.

And then suddenly the hot guy that works at the pub up the street from the bookshop invites her to dinner so he can show her how awesome Scottish whiskey is and we’re getting this weird “maybe we can make this a romance too?” 70% into the book and we’re asked to buy into this possible romance that Delaney is okay exploring 5 DAYS AFTER ARRIVING IN SCOTLAND FROM AMERICA. And we still don’t know what’s up with Jenny’s murder, and we’re not sure what Delaney’s job really is at the bookshop.

I won’t give the ending away, but if you decide to pick up this series due to the Scottish charm don’t be surprised by the instinct to simply set the book aside. It’s really slow despite having all the ingredients for an exciting, new life, murder mystery story. I need to really decide if I’m going to pick up book 2 after this one, or if I move on to something else. Walk, don’t run to this one.

(Honestly I would rather you go read the Tannie Maria mystery books. I’ve included their reviews below.)

Recipes for Love and Murder (Tannie Maria Mystery #1)

The Satanic Mechanic (Tannie Maria Mystery #2)

On Podcasts: Car Talk

Car Talk

http://www.npr.org/podcasts/510208/car-talk

Hosted by Tom and Ray Magliozzi from “our fair city” Cambridge, Massachusetts, Car Talk is a long-time favorite of NPR listeners. It’s one of the two programs I enjoy listening to on Saturday, the other being Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. The radio show was on from 1977 through 2012, when they retired, I think due to one of the brothers having a strong onset of Alzheimer’s. The show was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2014, and after Tom died in 2014 Ray hosted a one time special episode in his honor.

If you’d like to read more about the history of the show, I checked the Wikipedia and it looks pretty accurate. You should check it out, because the hosts are really interesting (they both have degrees from MIT!).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Car_Talk

I listen to this podcast because the accents help me remember the golden days when I used to have a Downeast accent (a strange combo of Boston and New York) and brings back memories of living in the northeast. I like hearing about car solutions and even though we live in an age now where things like driving a standard or doing your own car maintenance is becoming either obsolete or impossible, it’s nice to hear how you might fix something or at the very least know that something is wrong.

There are jokes and puzzles and conversation – it’s a very New England podcast. It feels like you’re just sitting around the table having a beer and a convo about cars (cahs). To me it’s comfort food. I encourage you to check it out. Read about its history, read about the hosts, and then check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Genuine Fraud (New Release 9/5/17)

genuine fraud

we were liars

Lockhart loves a twist. When I read her last book, We Were Liars (review linked above), it had a Sixth Sense-esque twist at the end, a Fight Club type turn of events that makes you feel surprised and insulted all at the same time. Another book that did this type of turn of events strategy was I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid (link), which produced a similar reaction in me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good twist, but a twist that relies on, say, it was a dream all along!!!! Kind of pisses me off. Seems lazy, or underestimating my intelligence. Either way, I decided to give Lockhart’s newest novel Genuine Fraud a go to see if things stayed consistent with her earlier work.

There is the main character Juliette Williams (Jule) who is with her best friend Imogen Sokoloff (Immie) traveling. Immie is the daughter of very rich parents, and has something like $8 million in a trust fund that she now has access to as an adult. The story is told in backwards motion, from Jule running away from police in Mexico, back to when she and Imogen first meet. The story reveals itself the further back we go, from Mexico to London to Martha’s Vineyard to Puerto Rico, we peel back the layers of this friendship to see what’s really happened to Imogen, who has disappeared at the start of the story.

This book had a lot of potential. Between the identity theft, the superhero undertones (see: Unbreakable or Kick Ass), and the psychological thriller aspect, this novel could have been 100 pages longer and swam into much deeper waters. As it is we get a compelling timeline that is obvious about what is happening (at least if, like me, you are on constant alert for fuckery in plotlines) and when you get to the end you’re like, “of course, what else would have happened?”

It’s a good book, and if you read it you will enjoy it, but it’s a book you probably don’t want to own. Borrow it from your local library, or buy it with the intent to regift, because once you’ve read it, it loses all the charm that other books might hold in the re-reading. Once you finish, all the magic is gone, and you’re left understanding the mystery. To be quite frank, the mystery becomes obvious about halfway through and you can predict what happens next, which is a step down from We Were Liars. Walk, don’t run, but definitely go enjoy the short romp that Lockhart provides in Genuine Fraud.

Memoir Monday: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Happy Normal

http://www.jeanettewinterson.com/

And we’re back! This week we take a journey into the world of Jeanette Winterson, and if you, like me, are asking, “Who is Jeanette Winterson?” well then you are in luck! This should be the book you start with because it is a literal autobiography as opposed to some of her other books which are fictionalized versions of her life. She’s written several books, one of which was a TV show on the BBC, but this is my first exposure to her writing. Take my word for it that it is brilliant.

There were several moments in the book that really spoke to me, and I’ll share a few here to convince you to go grab this book and let its magic wash over you.

“Books, for me, are a home. Books don’t make a home – they are one, in the sense that just as you do with a door, you open a book, and you go inside.”

This spoke to me for, what I hope, are obvious reasons.

“No one is ever going to lock me in or lock me out again. My door is open, and I am the one that opens it.” – speaking about her adoptive mother, who would lock her in closets or out of the home, randomly.

This one’s just wishful thinking, but it made me feel good to read it.

“It is better to know who you are, and what lies in you, what you could do, might do, under extreme provocation.”

No one listens to me when I say I would not make a good mom and that I understand myself enough to know this and I know WHY this is. Also I learned things about myself when we were out of power for five fucking days last week that I would rather not experience again so…

“Being barely alive on your own terms, is better than being a bloated, half-life on someone else’s terms.”

Again, wishful thinking but good to know someone else is living the dream.

“In a system that generates masses, individualism is the only way out. But then what happens to community – to society?”

This should be the official slogan of the After-Times. But we should be talking about this more.

“Unhappy families are conspiracies of silence, and the one who breaks the silence is never forgiven.”

Keeping the secrets about what happened in my house, especially during high school, was a circus act and GUESS WHO LEFT AND BROKE THE SILENCE OMG. Which reminds me that I had this story to tell you all.

My parents haven’t called or texted me since Wednesday of last week, and that was to ask me to text my sister who I haven’t talked to for almost 8 years (initially due to assholery, but then just because we don’t care) to congratulate her on her wedding, which we were not invited to, instead of asking me how we were all doing after the hurricane. She sent me three pictures of the wedding and said it would be nice if texted my sister congratulations and I had to remind her that we had been without power and air conditioning for 3 days AND THE LAST FUCKING THING I NEED TO WORRY ABOUT IS IF THE SISTER WHO IS A COMPLETE FUCKING STRANGER TO ME RECEIVES A FUCKING TEXT ABOUT HOW I FEEL CONGRATULATORY ABOUT HER NUPTIALS WHICH I ACTUALLY GIVE NO FUCKS ABOUT.

**deep breath** Let’s just say my mom is lucky she texted this to me and didn’t call.

So basically if you had an…interesting childhood? or have a complicated family situation you should go read this book because it will offer you hope and make you feel less alone because crazy and unfeeling is everywhere. Go get you some.

 

 

Angry Angel Anxiety – Hurricane Update

I just wanted to throw up a quick post today to let everyone know that as of 11am today (Saturday) we have power, cable, and internet back. The power came back yesterday a little after 4pm, and after it did we discovered that the cable/internet was out.  So no tv, no video games, and continuing to rely on our cell data plan, which is UGH because after the 15th Verizon was going to start charging us again for it. We figured it was just that the commercial power outages were affecting Spectrum hubs, so we went to bed in the air conditioning hoping to wake up to restoration of the other services.

It wasn’t restored when we woke up, and that was when I began to get angry. I stayed patient through 5 days of sweltering heat and using flashlights to get around and taking rides in the car to cool off and worrying about the animals’ safety, but the idea that we had power and couldn’t have the basic comforts of tv and internet was what almost broke me. And then, as I was angrily swiping through Spectrum’s twitter feed around 11am, my phone said it had connected to the home wifi, and everything was finally okay.

It feels like we’ve been tortured for 5 days and then released back into normal life. I mean, that’s a bit dramatic, but it’s hard to put my finger on how I am feeling today. It’s like I don’t trust the power. I don’t trust the internet. I feel edgy, anxious, nervous – like I can’t quite relax. My brain is still thinking of survival techniques to get through as opposed to just accepting that everything is okay now. Where can I go to charge my stuff? Where can I go to get internet? Do we need ice? You know, just in case.

I don’t think I could do this again. As soon as we get paid again I’m going to plan out a way that we could buy a generator. We’re going to get a regular boom box type radio and a weather solar/crank charge radio. We’ve been making lists of the things we wished we had, and we’re going to buy them asap.

This also made me think about longevity in Florida. I hate being cold and I hate snow but I honestly couldn’t do this again and not suffer some mental health consequences. With the climate change concerns, plus the storms increasing due to warmer waters, moving north may just need to be a survival plan we have to put into place. You can stay warm/cool up north when the power goes out. Down here it’s just suffering.

But we are back, baby! Thanks for all your support through the week.

Once and For All

Once and For All

Sarah Dessen is the previously unknown to me queen of YA (apparently). With multiple books published, her stories are hailed as reaching deep into the heart of what it means to be a teenager in love, even transporting us older folk enjoying her books back into our “glory days.”

I will give her this: she checks all the boxes. Withdrawn protagonist with a cooky friend who tries to pull her out of her reverie. Unexpected love with enough romance to gag a sunrise. Another unexpected love that is repulsive, yet strangely attractive. And tragedy that has bruised the protagonist so that she might never love again. Plus high school graduation I guess? Literally nothing happens at the high school except in the occasional flashback chapter hat reveals the tragedy that has formed our poor Louna’s current state.

The old Louna can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because she’s dead. Or, more accurately, because her one night love turned boyfriend turned long-distance relationship was killed in a school shooting. I know. I KNOW.

The comedic relief comes through her mom and godfather as the three of them run the wedding planning business that her mom and William (the godfather) set up. I won’t go into their backstories here, but just know that they are perfect together, but not for each other, and it is fun watching a high money wedding come together from behind the scenes.

One of these high money weddings brings Ambrose into their world, the younger brother of a client who is probably ADD and a chronic flirt who is hired by the wedding business to work getting coffee and doing small things to get him out of the bride’s hair (for an additional fee of course). Louna hates him, until she doesn’t. They make a bet that he can’t stick to one girl, and she can’t date several guys (at least one a week) and whomever loses gets to pick who the other dates. Ambrose is not aware of the deceased Ethan, and this fact causes some problems down the line.

I read this book in one day. Granted it was Monday, September 11th, a day after the hurricane blustered through, leaving us without power or internet so I had some time on my hands, but you could easily blow through these 350 pages in a couple of days. You will see it all coming, there are no spoilers or surprises. I suppose that’s what makes Dessen at the top of her craft; she knows what her audience wants and gives it to them without going to the extreme on any one trope. She’s the James Patterson or Dean Koontz of her genre: you know you’ll get a good read, you know what to expect, but it won’t necessarily blow your socks off.

Now, I plan to read one or two more of her books so that this opinion can ripen a bit, but at this point my instincts are pretty good about this kind of thing and you, dear reader, know that I am not afraid to say when I am wrong. So if you have suggestions on what book of hers I should read next, leave those in the comments, and I will try her one or two more times to see if I’m right.

Would I recommend this book? Sure. It’s a nice, easy read. Good for the beach or a plane ride.

Dessen’s writing style is lovely and there weren’t really any details left out that made me say something like “well what about…?” It’s a comfort pillow of a book that is well written and you will enjoy it. Walk, don’t run though. It’ll still be there when you’re ready.