Heart Enlargement

This morning, after sleeping off the 5 hours full of stress, fear, and anxiety from the drive that finally saw me safely to my hotel last night, I filled myself with free breakfast, called for my rental car from the valet, and attempted to drive through downtown Miami to the parking garage on the Miami-Dade College campus where the Miami Book Fair website claimed my parking would be free, provided I arrived early enough. I arrived at the start time of the fair, 10am, and was able to get a spot.

After I took the elevator down to the street and turned out of the parking garage, I then proceeded to walk three blocks in the wrong direction. After fumbling with Google Maps I turned back around and walked the four blocks back to the streets that had been closed for the Miami Book Fair. I arrived when it opened, and I was so early that some vendors were still setting up shop. There was a religion street and a children’s street, a writer’s row and a food vendor square, and straight down the middle of it all was a selection of new and used books from various vendors, including the most prominent independent bookstore in Miami, Books and Books.

I walked down the children’s book row first (not realizing they were themed) and by the time I hit the end and began walking back, I was starting to feel a bit discouraged. I drove 5 hours and paid for a hotel for this? The equivalent of a street book sale? And why was it so crowded right at opening? There were children EVERYWHERE. Little kids, high school kids, groups of kids following adults with signs and silly hats. I had arrived not at a book fair but at a field trip convention. Every public school English/Language Arts teacher from every surrounding school had gathered their 10-30 student max and set off to get them excited about reading at a street book fair with children’s books and meat on a stick.

And then the Grinch thought of something she hadn’t before. Maybe the Miami Book Fair, wasn’t just books brought out on the street by the stores. Maybe the book fair, perhaps, means a little bit more.

I turned at the end of the street and looked around. There were children of every color and every age. Dancing in the street and having a good time. Speaking different languages. Some bounced from booth to booth, looking for their favorites, others quietly moved between the tables, lightly opening the covers of those books they thought looked interesting. At one point I passed a booth of middle grade books, and approaching from the opposite direction was a herd of small boys. The one at the front suddenly screeched “DIARYOFAWIMPYKID” and it was like a dam breaking – they all sprinted past me in one excited wave to get at the books.

Reader, I felt my heart smile. I felt…joy, maybe? I almost turned around and bought them each one book of their choosing. When I returned to the main thoroughfare and began to look through the booths that were more my speed, I saw kids there too. Older ones to be sure, but they were tentatively looking at adult books, and it seemed as though they were trying to gauge if they were ready. If the jump was one they could make. Watching them all discover books they loved was more enjoyable than finding books for myself.

There is a moment in the beginning of LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring that I love very much. Gandalf is arriving for Bilbo’s birthday at the beginning of the movie, and he is talking to Frodo about Frodo’s suspicions that something is up with Bilbo. As they trundle down the road in the horse cart, the children from the nearby houses (holes?) come scampering out and run in a little cluster behind his wagon yelling “Gandalf! Gandalf!” When he doesn’t turn around or wave to them, they stop running and let out a despairing “awwww Gandalf?” and hang their heads. Frodo raises his eyebrow, Gandalf looks at him, and then suddenly a small display of fireworks bursts from the back of the wagon, and the children erupt into elated cheering and clapping. Frodo and Gandalf chuckle as they continue towards the town.

The way I feel every time those kids get excited about those fireworks is how I felt at that book fair, seeing kids get excited about books. Books are old friends that we can get excited about and will always provide us enjoyment, and for these children to learn this and for me to be able to see it happen in real time is like seeing Gandalf set off his fireworks to cheers. I’m old. I’m tired. There is so much darkness. But time should still be taken to bring joy to the young.

I wish I could go back and buy that whole table of Wimpy Kid books for those kids. Think of the fireworks!

***

Also, in case you were interested, I ended up buying two books for myself.

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Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson (She has a more recent release, Monday’s Not Coming, but I wanted to grab this one first.)

I wanted to get several more – a copy of The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White was one of them, but the hard and fast truth was that there just isn’t enough money for me to buy books. The two I bought totaled $30, and thus were your November Patreon contributions spent. THANK YOU SWEET  PATRONS, YOU MOVE ME TO PLACES I COULD NOT GO OTHERWISE. I AM SENDING YOU HUGS.

Tomorrow I’ll be attending a few author panels and attempting to get some books signed and then it’s back to Tampa. Keep your fingers crossed for me; the journey here was not kind. Let’s hope the journey home is smooth.

Most Wonderful Time

October, November, and December make up my favorite quarter of the year for a multitude of reasons, one of which is that it is “best of” list season. This weekend I’ve been googling different Best of 2018 book lists and scanning through them for any I might have missed and confirming that I have read some that are being celebrated.

I have had my library holds list under control for the last couple of months but now it’s got some new additions.

Elevation

 

Stephen King got me earlier this year with The Outsider and when I saw that he had a second new release this year I decided to trust in my newfound fandom of his work and request it in at the library.

Synopsis

I’m always ready for a trip back to Castle Rock, let’s gooooo!

 

The Incendiaries

 

The Incendiaries is a book that kept popping up all year in my literary circles, and when I saw it on the lists I said “fine, I’ll try it.”

Synopsis

I am intrigued by the love story wrapped up in grief wrapped up in fundamentalist religion bullshit, I’m just hoping it doesn’t make me cringe too much. It’s difficult to read stories about people making bad emotional decisions and avoid armchair quarterbacking out of context.

 

The House of Impossible Beauties

 

Set in the drag scene of 1980s New York, this is a book that kept peeking at me on Twitter all year and with week long school breaks just around the corner, I decided I could finally give it the time it deserves.

Synopsis

I find drag fascinating and I still have so much to learn about it. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

 

 

The Great Believers
A 2018 National Book Award finalist, The Great Believers wasn’t on my radar until this morning. It has been on every list I’ve looked at in addition to this award nomination so it must be one I need to see.

Synopsis

Here we’re in 1980s Chicago (not sure why there’s a 1980s trend in literature…) and the story is woven in with the AIDS crisis. It is a much more serious book than I usually read, but if it’s as good as they say, I want to experience it.

 

There There

This is another book that has been screaming at me since the beginning of this year. I knew There There was out there but I just never picked it up. It is time.

Synopsis

This novel explores a variety of Native American experiences in urban settings. To be honest I wish there was more fiction that centered around these experiences. I feel like America forgets about its first peoples more than they should. Every time I read someone’s view of this book they are shouting that people should read it, that it really is as good as everyone says, and that it should be required reading for all Americans. Well, I’m on it.

What are some books you are excited about this holiday season? Are there any you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t yet? Do you have any suggestions for me? Let me know in the comments!

Get It Together

A recent Twitter thread asked the question: What is the one thing that regular adults do that you just can’t seem to master? For me, there are two definite answers to this question.

First, I can’t seem to send greeting cards. I can’t tell you why but all of my family and friends need to settle for texts, phone calls, or emailed gift cards on special occasions. I’ve tried before, and every so often when we move or I decide to cull the boxes stashed in the office closet, I find the small tupperware of cards that I bought ahead of time to send ahead of time and forgot about. Even Christmas cards aren’t immune, but they are the most likely to get sent – about once every 4 years I send out a set of super fun holiday cards with little paw prints stamped inside as signatures from the pets with our signatures. But honestly I have to know myself, and something to know about me is that you just aren’t going to get a card in the mail from me. It’s not because I don’t care, it’s just something  can’t do, like play the piano or do a pull-up.

Second is something I REALLY WANT TO DO but all my efforts seem to be futile. I love fun lotions and I always feel so much better when I use them, but I can’t seem to get into a more than once a month routine with that Sweet Pea lotion from Bath and Body works. I even forget to use the fancy hand lotion that I got to help repair the cuticles I can’t stop tearing at anxiously even though I keep it right in my desk at work next to stuff I use all the time so I will see it and remember to use it. My skin is so dry that even with how white I am people know my elbows are ashy, so why can’t I work lotion into my morning after showering steps? I haven’t given up on this yet though like I have with greeting cards. Like flossing (which I have successfully added to my daily routine for years now!) putting lotion on can only help and I need to find a way to make this a regular thing I do. Maybe if I put it on at night instead? I could find a nice relaxing scent that can help me drift off to sleep maybe? If you have suggestions let me know.

What’s something that normal adults do that you can’t seem to master? Have you accepted it about yourself or are you determined to make that a part of your adult routine? Let me know in the comments.

 

If I Had A Billion Dollars

Happy Wednesday! I regret to inform you that I did not win a billion dollars and so I will be continuing with this existence until further notice.

*sob*

It was telling that, when I thought of what I would spend that much money on, all I could think of were basic necessities that I wanted but couldn’t have. A house, a new car to replace my 12-year-old one, paying off all our debts, and being able to travel whenever we wanted, first class of course.

Just considering having no debt brought up the question, what would our regular maintenance costs be? Probably a maid service to come once a week, a pool service person to come once a week, and a landscaping/lawn service to come once a week to keep up the house and property. The pet costs, like grooming and vet things, would be a consideration. Car upkeep on the husband’s Prius and whatever new car I would get. Yearly taxes on the house and land.

The accountant in me knows that most of that money would be invested and we would draw a salary and expenses off the interest income. Making money from money – the real American dream. Which raises the idea that neither the husband nor I would ever have to work again, which then raises the question of what we would do with our time, but I’m not sure how to even brainstorm that.

Then we started thinking about what we’d do once our immediate needs were met. We knew we’d want to get a flat in London, a cabin in Vermont, and a condo on the beach so we’d have places to stay without having to pay for a hotel. I think I would want to pay a personal trainer to help get me in shape so I didn’t have to go to the gym to exercise (I’d have a room in our new home with equipment anyway).

I own work clothes and enough graphic tees and shorts to get by – I think I would want to find clothes that actually look good on me and are comfortable. Clothes are so low on my priority list that they only get purchased when other clothes wear out, so it would be nice to have clothes I actually feel confident in. I don’t think the bra market would be ready for how much money I would be willing to spend for a bra that actually works.

I think that other things would arise when the time came. Right now my brain isn’t in the right place to be able to imagine all the things I could do with that much money. I wouldn’t want a bunch of cars or a huge house or anything that might be above and beyond what I actually need, and I’m sure I would want to start some kind of scholarship fund or charitable trust with some of the money to go to a cause I care about. But all that’s so far above where I would start that I would have to consider it after those more basic needs were met and secure.

What would you do if you became an instant billionaire?

 

Looking Forward

In the few years that this website has been hosting book reviews, I’ve learned several things about book releases. They usually happen on Tuesdays and February is one of the hottest months for book releases in the year. I swear every year in February I pull my hair out wondering how I’m going to read all the amazing February releases. I also have learned the importance of pre-ordering. Pre-ordering a book can increase the likelihood that a supplier (Amazon, your local indie bookstore, Barnes and Noble) will see that demand and order even more, supporting the book and the author.

It has been a difficult couple of weeks. Years really, but the past couple weeks have been particularly asshole-esque. Then this weekend I got a few emails that significantly brightened my day.

The first reminded me that I had preordered the paperback of Tower of Dawn, book 7 in the Throne of Glass series, to add to my current collection. In addition to this I also preordered the hardcover of Kingdom of Ash, the final book in the same series. I don’t usually preorder new releases like this – I prefer to read them via the library first to see if they are books I want to own – but in this case I want the set on my shelf. Much like how I ordered her other trilogy finale A Court of Wings and Ruin to finish out the set despite the fact that it was horribly written smut that gave no satisfying ending to what the first two books set up. I didn’t even touch the novella A Court of Frost and Starlight, and I’m glad I didn’t. Apparently it was even smuttier than ACOWAR and less coherent, and it has no place on my shelves. Kingdom of Ash does though, and I can’t wait to see how it ends.

The other email was from a friend, someone I have never met but feel a real kinship with. It helps that she loves Pizza Hut so much. Paige sent me an email with an Amazon gift card as a get well soon message. ❤ The kindness of friends that I have found out in the wide world of web always surprises me and warms my heart. I took a day or so to decide what I would want to read, and I decided on the second book of the Nevernight trilogy. The first book, Nevernight, was an absolute vengeful delight. Initially I decided to wait to get the next one, Godsgrave, at the library, but I have been waiting forever (the holds list claims it’s been ordered but it’s been that way for a LONG time) and it’s finally time for me to get on book 2 because book 3 comes out next year and I gotta get it. Thank you Paige for your gift, your support and friendship, and your love of reading too. We’re probably going to have to finally meet in real life in March when I’m in Portland for the AWP Writer Conference.

I have all these books to look forward to, arriving on Tuesday of this week, and in November I’ll be off to the Miami Book Fair for more literary goodness. I’m healing well; thank you for all your well wishes!

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

I Made These For You

At theawkwardyeti.com there are some pretty cute comics illuminating how the body works. As you read this I am at home recovering from gall bladder removal surgery, which was performed on Thursday. The husband took today off too, as I’m supposed to have a responsible adult watch me for 24 hours after the procedure. I got home okay yesterday, and today I’m just taking it as easy as I can.

gall-bladder
Credit: theawkwardyeti.com

I wont have much to do over the weekend other than read, sleep, play video games, and watch tv/movies, so I’m hoping to have some reviews up and ready for you next week. But if I don’t, you’ll have them as soon as I can write them.

Have a good weekend! Thanks for being here!

Family, Remastered

A little over a year ago I wrote a post detailing my separation from my parents. TL;DR: After the loss of a job, the aftermath of a hurricane, and all the financial woes that would come from both I was making a lot of our debt payments late. I have a private student loan cosigned for by my mom from my undergrad years, and so instead of receiving calls asking us how we were or if we needed help or caring things like that, I received texts demanding that I pay the bill because (a) she wasn’t going to help me with it and (b) it was affecting her credit. I told her that if the only role she could find to play in this scenario was bill collector then she needed to either help us, or stop calling & texting and leave us alone. Then I blocked their numbers.

When I tell you this was one of the best decisions I ever made, I mean it. For so many years I held tightly to the idea that family is family and you stick to blood no matter what because they are family, but last year I finally snapped in a good way. NO ONE, not your parents or your siblings or your cousins or the guy that lives down the street that you barely know has any right to treat you badly or disrespectfully. Your family is made up of people who care about you, who support you, and who make sure that you are okay, and you do the same for them in return.

I don’t have a lot of family, but the ones I have I would be there for without question. Some I have never met in real life, but we support each other virtually, something I couldn’t have done earlier in my life. My family is scattered all around the United States and as far as England and Germany. I have people I know I can talk to, I have people I know will help me, I have people that I can depend on. I hope they all know that they can expect the same from me in return.

So as we head into the holiday season where familial bullshit tends to smell a little more pungent and baggage tends to get a bit heavier and memories come out of the dark to stab us in the back, remember what family is really supposed to mean. Reach out to those that mean the most to you and take heart in the fact that it is 2018 and we are in the middle of a great re-imagining, insisting that societal norms are redefined to be more accepting of a greater diversity of peoples, and that includes the definition of family. If you have the safety and space to make your own, get that freedom and happiness wherever you can.

It is the age of deciding, as Dumbledore said, between doing what is right and what is easy. Just remember doing what is right is rarely easy, even if you are simply doing what is right for yourself. It gets better. Be brave.

Stay angry.