Goodbye, Vitamin

Goodbye Vitamin

There is a saying that every cloud has a silver lining, but for this particular book I had to try to find the right saying to express the opposite. The best way I could describe it is that it’s like that last good day or so that you get out of a bouquet of flowers. You can see the leaves starting to brown, the petals starting to lose luster, but you are still focused on changing the water and enjoying the beauty while it lasts. That’s what this book is like. Goodbye, Vitamin was a funny and delightful story tinged with the sadness that comes with slowly losing a family member to dementia.

Fear not, this is not a tear jerker. It is sentimental and realistic, but doesn’t rip your heart out of your chest. Khong keeps everything backlit with just enough sunlight to keep the focus on love and support and not on despair. We get glimpses into what families try to do to stop the progression of the disease: vitamins, healthy foods, exercise, mental stimulation – all these are used by Ruth and her mom to help her dad try to retain as much of himself as he can for as long as possible.

Ruth is a divorcee who decides to quit her job as a sonographer to move back in to help her mom with her dad. She struggles with moving on from her marriage as she attempts to help and understand her parents. Her father was a well-loved professor at the university, and his students ask for the chance to help as well after he is asked by the dean to take a leave of absence until his health condition improves. Much of the comedy of the book comes from Ruth interacting with these students, trying to make her dad believe he’s teaching a class on California history while avoiding the dean of his college, who has threatened her dad with arrest should he be caught on campus.

This was a very fast read for me, enjoyable content plus short length always equals a one day read, and I was through the 194 pages before you could say lickity-split. Khong’s story made my heart smile while staying realistic about the sadness that accompanies this condition. I recommend it with all the strength I can muster. Go get you some.

The Keeper of Lost Things

Keeper of Lost Things

I want you to imagine the most kind person that you know. That person that honestly listens to you when you are talking, who calls or texts just to say hello or ask what’s up. That friend that always sends a card, always offers a hug or a shoulder, always comes back after periods of separation, frustration, or just plain busy-ness.

The Keeper of Lost Things is that person written into a book.

An old author Anthony collects lost things. From something so small as a button to something as important as ashes, he stores and catalogues them with the intent of trying to return them to their owners. Even those people around him, his housekeeper, his gardener, the child from the neighboring house, all seem to be castaways and castoffs, left adrift in a world to be collected by him and kept safe.

But then he dies, and leaves his estate and all his things to Laura (the housekeeper) who is a divorcee who has escaped a loveless, neglectful marriage and is rediscovering herself. She brings in the neighbor child who we discover later in the book that isn’t just quirky but has Down’s Syndrome (she calls herself a “dancing drome” and when I said it Dan Sing-Drome I got it) and the groundskeeper Freddy who has a cleft lip and has a hard time making friends.

This book drips with thoughtful kindness and how it can survive in a world of gossips and self-involved assholes. It shows we can let people in even when we would rather keep everyone out, and that act of opening up is just as kind to those that need someone to welcome them in. Laura and Freddy’s patience with Sunshine (the neighbor), Freddy’s patience with Laura as he attempts to show he cares for her, Laura’s patience with the errand that Anthony has left for her, and all their interactions, even when they are bristling and sharp, end with forgiveness and kindness.

Ruth Hogan does not take you on a roller coaster ride with this story. She speaks to your wishes (the time and money and space to decide what to do with your life) and your insecurities (mental health, dealing with loss, dealing with starting over) and shows that it’s going to be okay. If you just communicate what you need, do your best, and support one another, everything comes out in the wash in the end.

I needed this book. It make my heart warm with hope in a life and world in which I am constantly sad. When I started the book I didn’t think I would finish it. I am so glad that I stuck with it. Go get you some.

Eyes Up, Guardian

Destiny

As some of you know, I play quite a lot of the video game Destiny on Playstation 4. The basic idea of the game is that there is this large, spherical technology called the Traveler that travels through space and terraforms worlds into more advanced societies, makes planets typically unlivable habitable, and brings more enlightened feelings to the society under its gaze.

traveler

It came to Mars, Venus, and Earth, making all better and for the former two, able to be colonized. This was the Golden Age of discovery and learning, humans’ lives were extended, and other races such as the Awoken and Exo came to exist beside humans.

races

Then a collapse occurred. The details of this collapse are poorly documented, and we are not sure what caused it, but at this time the Traveler falls silent, and sends out small pieces of “light” called Ghosts, that are apparently tasked with traveling the cosmos to find and revive individuals of great strength and perseverance. The initial people to be raised from the dead became warlords who used their power to lord over people, but then the good triumphed and those risen became Guardians – of the light, of humanity, of good.

ghost

There are 3 kinds of guardians: Titans, Warlocks, and Hunters. Titans are the defenders and those at the front lines in the face of conflict. Warlocks value knowledge and learning and want to inform their attacks with deep understanding of their enemy. Hunters desire stealth, quickness, and precision kills. These can be human, Awoken, or Exo – the three races of the game.

classes

So we go out and we fight “the Darkness” which manifests in the motivations of the different enemy races of the game. The scavenging Fallen, the mysterious Hive, the time-manipulating Vex, and the monstrous destructive Cabal.  All four have their own pasts and their own motivations for pursuing the Traveler and being our enemies, all you need to know is that the Fallen are the easiest, the Vex are the most difficult, and they are all fun to shoot.

enemies

I love this game for so many reasons. It makes me feel like I am good at something. It allows me to be a leader and a teacher for other players that I play with online. It allows me the space to imagine that I could be a consciousness inside a robot who is immortal and exists to protect and defend and murder evil in all its forms. Some nights if I play too late I have dreams about being able to fly and form fireballs with my fists and leading a team to victory over some weirdo alien. My brain drinks up the lore, the story, the armor, the legends, all of it to combat the fucking insane dumpster fire reality that is now. It even makes me dream that I might wield some kind of weapon against it.

Books and video games for me. How do you escape and refuel?

All Grown Up

All Grown Up

This is a city girl book that will speak to any girl who has gone another way through her twenties and thirties. The setting moves between New York City, Chicago, and New Hampshire, and our main character Andrea has to navigate her own addictions, relationships, passions, and obligations in a world where nothing really seems to matter very much.

Her father was a heroin addict and she battles with her own addictions, mainly to alcohol, and primarily after her father passes away from an overdose in their home. He haunts her because she loved him so much, and he was torn from her so suddenly. So we see her dealing with pain with a glass of wine or something else of that nature.

Something about the book that the casual reader might take for drowning out the feelings is her tendency to bounce from man to man, but I chose to view this as her being an independent woman who enjoys sex. It is difficult to get past that societal stigma of women who have sex with many men equaling sluts, but we’ve got to start somewhere. She gets a (treatable) STD in one of the chapters that deals with her twenties, but otherwise she is pretty safe.

Her family is complicated. Her mom ran $10 spaghetti supper-type dinners for “men” after the death of Andrea’s father, and so when she would arrive home from school there would be men of all ages lying everywhere in their apartment, cloaked in the sight and scent of marijuana smoke. She is poked and prodded and once almost raped (which causes her mom to finally open her eyes and stop the dinners) but thankfully these money making endeavors never cause any major harm.

Her brother marries a woman that she idolizes and respects, and they have a daughter that is terminally ill and uses up all their savings and never grows very much and they have to move to New Hampshire to be closer to a hospital and to be able to afford to live. Andrea doesn’t deal with this development well, and doesn’t go to visit very often or even help very much. I’m not sure if she views this as the baby stealing her family from her or just that it’s too stressful to take, but either way she avoids dealing with this situation for almost the entire book.

Outside of family and fucking and drinking we see her interact with many different individuals and she has the typical exchange that women who don’t get married/don’t have kids tend to have with people who don’t understand that marriage and children aren’t a necessity or a requirement for womanhood anymore. It’s frustrating and irritating and somehow despite her knowledge that this is who she is, she walks away from these encounters feeling demeaned and diminished. The one thing she holds true to through the entire book is the fact that she has no interest in marriage or children, and not in that “doth protest too much” kind of way but a “this is just my day to day life” kind of way.

The aspect of the book that won my heart was her departure from being an artist. She went to school for it, it was what she worked for her entire life, and then suddenly it just wasn’t. It’s something she pines for, but then realizes it’s just never coming back no matter how much she wants it, and then she tries to have a piece of that by buying art or going to museums or sketching casually, but these all just remind her that she was going to be an artist, and it makes her melancholy again. Facing this idea that going to college and reaching your late twenties/early thirties having accomplished nothing that you wanted and are suddenly faced with the decision what now then? is something I think more people my age are dealing with than we hear about. I lived this very timeline and I count myself lucky that even though I despise it, I have a degree with job opportunities that I can take advantage of while I figure my shit out. But the world is not suddenly solved because you majored in the thing you loved, because you pursued your goal with passion. Reality is a real bitch, and she’s a bigger bitch to my generation and I can’t imagine the cunt she’s about to be to the next.

Go find and read this book. It’s a 200 page, 1 day read that will make you realize that you are not alone and that maybe everything’s going to be okay, even if it’s not in the way you imagined it.

New Release! Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach

Out October 3, 2017.

I’m not sure what it is about the books I’ve been reading this week but I’ve gotten halfway through them and been like, “Why is there still 50% of this book left?” I am starting to write this review as my Kindle sits at 43% of Egan’s Manhattan Beach, and I do not plan to read any further.

As opposed to the reviews earlier this week, my hesitation to continue is not based on vapidity or avoidance – it is rooted in the need for a riveting story, no pun intended given that our main character works in a naval shipyard measuring rivets during WW2. I just don’t care, even though there are pieces that have the potential to grab my attention. The mystery of where Anna’s father disappeared to during the Great Depression, her desire to enter the male-dominated profession of diving to repair naval vessels, the setting of the entire book, her mom dancing with the Follies – all of it a treasure trove of historical fiction and I just. Don’t. Care.

At 43% her crippled sister has succumbed to her condition and died, and her mother is going away to live with her family in Minnesota, leaving Anna in their apartment in New York that she was already paying for with her naval yard paycheck for the entire family anyway. She is faced with newfound independence and I should feel something for her situation. Shuffling off the weight of a burdensome family is right in my wheelhouse. But at the beginning of chapter 14 my brain said, “Look, I don’t care about her father anymore and it’s been too long since that was even teased as a mystery. Her connection with this ‘gangster’ Dexter Styles doesn’t matter either, because we already know he’s going to give her the information on her dad and help her lock in a job that she wants. The gangster gets redeemed and she discovers her full potential PUT THIS FUCKING BOOK AWAY AND GIVE ME SOME RED MEAT ALREADY.”

This book gets a hard, boring shrug from Angry Angel Books. I hear her other stuff is good though so I might check it out, but this one was a flop for me. ON TO THE NEXT ONE.

On Podcasts: Unhappy Hour with Matt Bellassai

unhappy hour

This fucking podcast is everything I wish that my podcast could be. I love Matt Bellassai so much. From his Buzzfeed web series “Whine About It” to his current series “To Be Honest” to this new podcast, there is nothing I enjoy more than listening to this lovely person complain about shit.

He makes fun of weirdo news stories, picks on well-known celebrities, and complains about the world while drinking with celebrity guests. His segment called “Deep Dive” goes into detail about a certain topic. The one they did about Texas was HILARIOUS but also terrible and you should go listen to it immediately.

Combining this podcast with The Read (with Kid Fury and Crissle) and Pod Save America will ensure that I get my fill of anger for the week in The After Times. I love podcasts that are mean but also funny and also like hanging out and gossiping with friends.

New Release! Dogs at the Perimeter

Dogs at the Perimeter

Released October 3, 2017

Remember when I said that I was taking a break from the struggle memoir? Well, I didn’t realize that I also meant fictional struggle memoirs too. Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thein is a mystery/fictional memoir of life under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and how our main characters escaped to America.

These are important stories to read so if you have never learned about or have forgotten the atrocities that occurred in Cambodia you should read this fictionalized memoir. It’s a situation that is a combination of many more familiar crises that you will read about and know you’ve heard about before, but not quite like this.

I had a lot of trouble staying focused in this book, but maybe that was the point. The names changed a lot, and I was never sure if it was the woman main character or the missing professor’s flashbacks that were being described. I reached 50% on the digital ARC (provided by W.W. Norton and Edelweiss) and looked up and was like, “why am I still reading this? I know how this story ends.” So I decided to stop because I have too many books I’m excited to read to spend more time with this one.

This review is not a statement about the writing or the story. It is altogether possible you will find it compelling, interesting, and read it through all the way to the end. The writing was very well done and the story is interesting. It’s just that, as I’ve said before, I am not in a place right now where I want to read books where people slice their wrists open in front of me and lay their history and suffering bare for me to see and comment on. I am on suffering overload right now and another story about a dictatorial, brainwashing, murderous regime is just a bit too on the nose for me right now.

So definitely check out this book if you’re into learning history through fiction, or stories that are very personal and take you on a journey. I am sure if it was a different time I would have enjoyed it more. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.