Saturday, November 17, 2018

So Long, Farewell-- for now

I'm taking a break from blogging.  This is one of my happiest periods personally, deep into a wonderful life with the newly retired Javaczuk. There's a lot of laughter and a lot of love. It's the stuff from the outside that wears me down. I am deeply saddened by much in our world now, locally, nationally, and world-wide. So, I am going into protective mode, and taking leave of the internet where I can.

You can still find me as bookczuk on instagram, because pictures.  I am still on Telegram and What'sAp, though I rarely check them. The accounts at bookish sites I frequent are still active, though pretty much only for recording. If you desperately need me, my screen name @ gmail will probably work.

Be well, be happy. Take care.

Until later,

Bernal Heights in days before the smoke from the Camp Fire hit San Francisco

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

One Day in December by Josie Silver

Having been hit by the same sort of thunderbolt that hit Laurie, one day on a bus when her eyes met those of a guy at the bus stop, I know what the certainty that this is the person for you feels like. I got to meet and spent these last 36 years with my guy; life is good. Laurie wasn't so lucky. She spent a year looking for him, then found him again, but he was, by that point, her best friend's new boyfriend. Oops.

This was an enjoyable book to read: interesting characters, fresh writing, realistic narratives. Chick lit, yes, but not mindless. There are some deep explorations into the curveballs life brings, and a really beautiful example of friendship (Laurie/Sarah) that is a rare and precious gift in itself.

Bottom line, I liked it. I also really want one of those Delancy Street Specials. Sounded delicious!

Many thanks to Read it Forward and the publishers for sending me a copy.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky

I really enjoyed reading this book, and not just because I had a former lifetime as a dig-nerd while at uni. We were investigating a Native American site up in Watertown NY one January, and it was colder than a polar bear's arse that winter. I never found anything of significance, despite my desires, and got permanent mud stains on my Christmas present that year -- sky-blue parka with fake fur on the hood.

Seriously, there was so much to like about this book, starting with the clear voice of Natalie, author of the Fossilista and summer intern at a site uncovering Mammoths. I'm really tired of perfectly proportioned women getting front and center all the time, and Natalie's approach to donning her armor and confronting the world is great. And yes, while I may not be the target demographic for this book, I can still be grateful that such a fresh voice is available to them. Plus, the story was interesting, the characters and interactions authentic. So yay, again.

Many thanks to Library Thing early readers program and the publishers for sending me this.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

I remember joy

On a recent road trip, I had the chance to see my first childhood friend, my first best friend.  Memories began to flow, as did laughter.  At one point, she commented that my recollections of childhood were better than hers. I probably countered with a joke of some time, but the remark lingered long after our time together. It was a wonderful visit, a golden memory in itself, that I shall cherish the rest of my own remembering. Our time together sparked a flood that hasn't stopped yet. I've sent those following thoughts on to her, but this is the original  piece. It's not polished, but I've decided to let it stand as it is. It was important to me for her to read it as soon as possible. She now has, and while she may have been better than me in swim meets and on the monkey bars, I apparently rock memory recall. (And also in looking up stuff-- the Cape Cod location we stayed in 1959 was Nobscussett Beach, Dennis MA.)

I remember joy
Our childhood filled with exploration
With the freedom we found
as we pumped our legs harder and faster
letting our swings carry us high in the air,
as our imaginations soared even higher
We flew, like the robins we watched for in the spring.

I remember lying on our bellies, tiny girls,  
watching the train circle the Christmas village at Mrs Piper's.
My mother told me once that we met through Mrs Piper, 
before we both could walk.
I secretly thought she was Mrs Claus, and had given me the gift of a best friend.
Plus, she always had cookies, more proof of magic.

I remember the playground behind my house at Oakview
Tumbling about on the tunnels and see-saw, riding the merry-go-round 
Graduating to the jungle gym and monkey bars,
on which you were faster.
Whenever I see two little blonde headed girls on a playground
I wonder if that's how we looked

I remember when your mother brought you to visit me 
when our families each were at Cape Cod.
We would turn 3 that September
We made sand castles, and played in shallow waves while my brothers 
dove the bigger ones.
My mother later took me to the town on the Cape where your family was staying,
So that in a two week vacation, our first apart from each other,
we saw each other twice.

I remember the magic in our own back yards
Where we climbed the mimosa tree in mine,
dug in the sandbox at yours,
Playing that ever wonderful game of "let's pretend"
building adventures far larger than the yard we were in.

I remember driving home from a cross country trip in 1962 with my family.
We'd been away for 3 months, while my father was at Stanford University.
We pulled up to our house at almost 9 pm.
I was inconsolable that I couldn't go see you.
My mother called yours, who said that you were awake, waiting for me to come home
You'd refused to even get in bed until we could see each other.
So, my mother walked me down the hill. 
Once we saw each other, it was ok. We didn't need to stay up-- just to check in.
Then we could sleep. Full reunions would come the next day.

I remember my father coming home from work,
pretending he couldn't tell the two of us apart;
calling you Ambo, and me Ab-the-Rab,
Eventually coining a mixture of our full names to call us both:
AbAm MarLiz HeNa.
And suddenly we were a club of two, giving new dimensions to our play,
hiding amidst the table legs, spying on mothers sipping tea or cleaning kitchens,
whispering, convinced we were invisible.
My mother swore she never read our minutes, and I almost believe her.

I remember the "what if's" about becoming sisters
The only problem was we each didn't want to give up our parents 
thinking the other should move in with our family.
We never worked that one out.

I remember hide and seek
How the best hiding place ever was when you curled behind your father
as he watched TV. 
You covered yourself with pillows.
I searched everywhere, finally when I called "ally ally oxen free",
you crawled out from behind him.
It was better than the time you folded yourself into the hamper, 
and had Nancy put towels on top of it, to trick me from looking inside.

I remember your cats. I remember Harry the parakeet. 
I remember playing in your basement, which was much nicer than ours.
I remember my mother being mildly insulted when I'd ask her to make tuna fish or
lamb chops like Mrs Herson did. 
I remember walking to Packets Pharmacy, Bernstein's Bakery, and Woolworths,
or going to visit your grandma with your mom. 
(She let us stand up in the back seat, which my mother never did.)

I remember Daleview and the swimteam. You were better at that, too, than I was
but I cheered so loudly for you in your first race that I lost my voice.
Summer was filled with those days at the pool, the mixed scents of baby oil and chlorine, 
while the jingle of the Good Humor man's Ice Cream truck played.

I remember how our parents put us in Nursery School together, 
my mother switching me from the one my brothers had attended because I got in on legacy, but they didn't have space for you;
how Mrs Alderton thought we needed to be separated in elementary, which we were until 6th grade.
I remember when my family moved away that summer, you gave me a surprise party.
I kept that pen with a huge feather, which you gave me, though two more moves, 
then it flew off.

I remember Greek Dodge on the blacktop, and kick the can on at the corner 
of Walden and Schyler
the kids our age we'd play with, 
or how my mother took a school picture every year of Abby, Amy, and Judy.
Only a few of those are left, but probably that's ok- none of us were at our best then.

I remember other stuff too:
being at your home when my mother was in the hospital,
or the day Kennedy died,
or the time you cut your hand when it when thought the glass door.
Or the Beatles were taking over the music scene, and we couldn't decide
which one we liked best. (though maybe that was me, and you knew all along.)

I remember going off to sleep-away camp with you (you didn't like the lack of plumbing).
Or you coming to visit me in St Louis after we moved, and me coming back to see you.
And when we moved to Charleston, you and your mom got tickled because there was a case of Elephantitis in the news and the person was from Charleston
Then later, discovering friends in college who knew you at Blair.
Or visiting you at Emory.

I remember how we kept in touch over all these years.
I came to your wedding. Your parents walked hand in hand. It was wonderful.
You didn't make mine, but only because your first child decided to be born within a few hours of the ceremony. 
Your pearl earrings were my "something borrowed"; 
I danced with Lenny at the reception.

I remember hearing a woman laugh, just a few years ago,
and thinking it was you.
It wasn't, but she and I have become good friends.
When she laughs, I hear two people--
her, plus that bubble in your voice when you're amused.
I can almost see that sparkle in your eyes.

Maybe we didn't see each other frequently,
but we've talked and written-- never missed a birthday, though once or twice the wishes might have been a little belated (probably me, late, but I always came through.)
We've helped each other through loss, and celebrated the good stuff
I wish I knew your family better, but revel in the bits that I've heard from you.
I have gained other friends, but hold the inaugural best friend spot entirely for you.
Seeing you this summer has been one of the most precious memories, 
not only of Abby and Amy, but of my life.
Your courage awes me, your spirit inspires me.
And I still love talking to you, like we did long after lights out on our sleepovers.

Quite simply, I cannot remember a time when you weren't in my world,
which is a better place for having you in it.
I have so many more memories of our childhood, 
as well as the years that followed.

One thing is clear, though:
I think I owe Mrs Piper a huge debt of gratitude.
Best Christmas present EVER.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Calculating the Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

I absolutely adored the The Lady Astronaut  of Mars byMary Robinette Kowal, featuring the same lead character as this book. I kept waiting for this Elma to grow into that one-- and undoubtedly she will, though it will be in the period between the end of this book and the beginning of the novella. Either way, there still was a lot to enjoy about this story, and the premise has given me lots to think about-- a meteorite strikes the east coast of the US in 1952, wiping out cities and lives, setting the world up for drastic climate change. It also causes drastic changes in the timeline for the US Space program.

Things I liked about this book: the relationship the two Drs York have, both the playfulness, and the support they give each other, how Elma's eyes are slowly opened to the inequality to those Americans not fortunate enough to be born white or male, the friendships that existed and the strength many of the characters showed. Yes, this is an alternative history, and the science behind that "what if" is fascinating, but like Kowal's other books, it is the relationships between the characters that drives the story.

I did listen to the audio version, read by the author, and I admit to willing suspension of disbelief when she tried to do what she thought would be a Charleston accent speaking Yiddish or Hebrew.

From the publisher:
A meteor decimates the U.S. government and paves the way for a climate cataclysm that will eventually render the earth inhospitable to humanity. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated timeline in the earth’s efforts to colonize space, as well as an unprecedented opportunity for a much larger share of humanity to take part.

One of these new entrants in the space race is Elma York, whose experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too—aside from some pesky barriers like thousands of years of history and a host of expectations about the proper place of the fairer sex. And yet, Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions may not stand a chance.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Childhood treasures

Amy and Abby, 1959. Is it weird that I still remember that hat?
My three best friends, when I was a girl, were Abby, Morgan, and Cindy. Abby lived on the next block from my family. I was born 12 hours ahead of her, almost to the exact minute, but as my birth time was in the evening and hers in the morning, our birthdays fell on different days. Childhood memories are filled with adventures with Abby, everything from swing sets, snow days, swimming, and secret clubs. We stayed friends even as we grew older. I moved away, and we still kept in touch. I was at her wedding, but she wasn't at mine. Her excuse was pretty good, though. She'd given birth the night before to her eldest child. After my mother and brother died, Abby has been one of the only people who still calls me the Yiddish affectionate version of my name: Amele (pronounced Aim-a-la). She is still one of the people in that "best friends" group for me.

Amy and Morgan 1959
Morgan came to me even before Abby, but not by much. Morgan is a plush toy dog, that I only recently discovered has some sort of connection with the Gary Moore show.  Apparently, he was the perfect gift for a newborn girl in 1956, because I received two. The story is that my mother was delighted, because when the first one wore out, she pitched it and gave me the second one. She couldn't understand why I wept inconsolably for several days at the loss of my stuffed dog, and refused to give any notice to the pretender. But eventually, the new Morgan dog became the pillow that caught my tears, and we bonded. Morgan had a nose that squeaked, soft satiny ears, button eyes, and my deep love.

Amy and Cindy at YellowStone 1963

 Cindy came to me the year I started Kindergarten. A baby doll, with a soft body, and blond hair, she accompanied me on a trip across the country that my family took in 1962. Unfortunately for Cindy, by 1963, Pebbles Flintstone had been born and I took to putting her hair up in a barrette to imitate the  cartoon baby. Cindy (like the first Morgan) got rather battered from constant loving, so my mother decided to replace her. Rather than suffer the indignities of a wailing child for several weeks, she thought that involving me in the replacement process would be a good idea. So, my parents and I went off to Toys R Us and wandered the aisle until we found an updated Cindy doll to be a replacement. I promptly named her Daisy, and much to my mother's chagrin, refused to give up Cindy, because now, with the addition of Daisy, Abby had a doll to play with at our house, too. My mother embraced the idea, and that year, for holiday gifts, presented both dolls with handmade gowns, embroidered with their names. The girls have them still and wear them proudly.

Elanor, Amy, and a whole lotta well loved toys
Sadly, the younger generation in my family has shown little interest in my old toys. But recently, Cindy, Daisy, and Morgan, as well as my whole collection of "foreign dolls" (foreign in quotes because included in the collection are Native American, Hawaiian, Amish, and unspecified American dolls as well as ones from Holland, Japan, China, Greece, Italy, Germany, France, Denmark, and some other places in between) have come to find a new heart to love them all. The daughter of a dear friend, she's a strong girl: bright, compassionate, artistic, and lively. Her favorite song is It's a small world. When asked if she was interested in the dolls, learning that they were well loved and old, she said it doesn’t matter if dolls are older or newer, it only matters what their personality is. This large hunk of my childhood  (including Daisy, with Abby's blessing),  now resides in the childhood of another girl, blossoming and growing into new experiences. Thank you Elanor; I know these beloved companions will bloom in the garden of your love. 

(Botton picture is Elanor with Morgan and Raggity Ann, another childhood treasure, and me with Cindy and Daisy. Foreign doll collection is on the table in front of us.)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank

Sometimes Dottie Frank has me laughing so hard I fear I may have to change my panties, other times are a total miss. Luckily for me, this time was a winner. I had the good fortune to hear the author the week before the book was officially out, when she co-hosted and spoke at the spring Books and Authors luncheon, sponsored by the Post Courier. One of the authors had to bow out at the last minute, so  Ms Frank filled in. As usual, she was warm, engaging, and downright hilarious. If you ever have the chance to hear her speak, regardless of if you like her books or not (or like me, like some of them, but are not fond of others) go hear her. For her fabulous ability to engage an audience while speaking, she is one of my favorite authors, let alone for her ability to catch elements of the lowcountry in her writing. She's got a way with words, and an eye for what makes entertaining reading (as evidenced by this book, inspired by her two children each getting married, and by the birth of her first grandchild.)

For the record, DBF had a magic way with the rules of publishing and was able to swing copies her book for the luncheon, the week before the actual publishing date. I didn't complain!

From the publishers:
In this thoughtful, timely, humorous, and bighearted tale, perennial New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank examines what happens when a young sophisticated Chicagoan falls for the owner of a farm on Johns Island, a lush Lowcountry paradise off the coast of South Carolina-trading the bustle of a cosmopolitan city for the vagaries of a small southern town.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Lies That Bind US by Andrew Hart

Despite the fact it's taken me a few weeks to sit down at the computer and write my thoughts, it's not the fault of the book or the author. I broke my patella a month or so back, and my computer sits in a location at my home quite inconvenient to wiggling in with ambulation aids. I am loathe to do much on my iPad or phone, because I make so many typos anyway, and that number multiplies on those devices. It's really vanity speaking, because I like Andrew Hart and enjoy the few conversations I've had with him when he's used his other name, so don't want him believing me to be a total dullard. Ah vanity...
As to the book, I truly enjoyed it. A good suspense novel engages the mind and grabs the attention. This also seemed to grab my fingernails, because several are now mere nubs, when I am sure I had a full set at the start of the book. I loved the weaving of mythology and location into the story.  Mr Hart blended a intriguing tale of friendship, betrayal, and regaining of trust, along with the additional element of danger. The tension ramps up pretty quickly, especially after the fatal flaw of the main character is revealed.
Bottom line? Read the book. You'll get a good yarn, and might just learn something in the process.

From the publisher:
From a prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author comes a chilling novel of deception under the sun…

Jan needs this. She’s flying to Crete to reunite with friends she met there five years ago and relive an idyllic vacation. Basking in the warmth of the sun, the azure sea, and the aura of antiquity, she can once again pretend—for a little while—that she belongs. Her ex-boyfriend Marcus will be among them, but even he doesn’t know the secrets she keeps hidden behind a veil of lies. None of them really know her, and that’s only part of the problem.

Then again, how well does she know them?

When Jan awakens in utter darkness, chained to a wall, a manacle around her wrist, her echoing screams only give her a sense of how small her cell is. As she desperately tries to reconstruct what happened and determine who is holding her prisoner, dread covers despair like a hand clamped over her mouth. Because, like the Minotaur in the labyrinth in Greek myth, her captor will be coming back for her, and all the lies will catch up to her…

Monday, May 14, 2018

Immediate Dead by Blue Cole

love the premise of this story: Young cop gets transferred Homicide and is paired with the notorious detective nicknamed The Reaper, who has closed out far more cases than everyone else. His secret (and it is a secret from everyone he works with) is that he's able to converse with the recently dead. His prime witness is the person just knocked off. Pretty cool, huh? But even his plucky, organized, and smart new partner doesn't know his secret. Will his surly introverted nature run her off, or will they go on to become a team made in heaven (or hell, depending on how you view things)? And remember, she's plucky, organized, and smart, and intent on finding out what's driving him.

This was my first Blue Cole book, and an early one of his. The premise, as I said, wowed me. I'm looking forward to following the characters, and also watching the author evolve in his craft. Also, it was fun to see characters named after folks Blue and I both know through the ever wonderful JordanCon, a yearly fantasy con dedicated to the memory of Robert Jordan, which is fast turning into a celebration of fantasy literature and art, while remaining a heck of a good time.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Cold Bath Street by A.J. Hartley

I will be honest: stories that dip into horror are not my thing, but AJ Hartley is one of my favorite authors, so I decided to read this. It wasn't easy getting a copy. When I first tried, the book was not even listed on amazon (now listed, but currently sold out, as the book has gone into a second printing.), and unheard of by other booksellers. I finally tracked a copy down through Book Depository (fantastic service and free shipping to the US from UK). Was it worth it? You betcha!

Preston Oldcort's nightmare returned. The Bannister Doll, with all its ghostly horror had come after him, and he finds himself flat out on the sidewalk, waking from the terror-- only to find that it is true, and he is dead, trapped in an in-between place, where the all the horrors of the ghost world  are real.

AJ Hartley set this book in his hometown, and uses the setting, including the local legends and stories to full advantage. AS I said, horror isn't my genre of choice, but a well-told ghost story is terrific. And this is a good tale. (Plus the cover is maybe one of my all-time favorites. You have to see it in person to understand the true nature of it, though I did put up a video over at Instagram.

2018-read, a-favorite-author, great-cover, made-me-look-something-up, met-or-know-the-author, not-my-usual-read, read, ya-lit

Publisher blurb:
Preston Oldcorn is in a desolate void between life and death. In order to save his soul he must brave his greatest fear - Cold Bath Street. A gothic thriller - think Hunger Games crossed with Artemis Fowl - that will keep you gripped to the end. Stunning black and white illustrations throughout.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

Listen up all you school librarians and parents of middle school age readers: This is a beautiful book for middle schoolers. It taught me so much about a culture of which I know very little. The world can be a scary place, and bad things can happen to those we love. Yet friends can help us through those tough times and even in finding solutions. It reminds me, yet again, why one of my favorite quotes is from Aesop: No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. Thanks to Nora, and Marie Miranda Cruz, I now know more about the cemetery culture/community in the Philippines.

I received my copy from Tor Books. Sorry it took me so long to write my thoughts. Nora is a great character for the target audience. There's a great balance of threat and positive resolution, while also tackling some issues that exist in many cultures.

Tags: tor, 2018-read, first-novel-or-book, taught-me-something, thought-provoking, kids-of-most-ages, made-me-look-something-up, made-me-think, advanced-reader-copy

From the publisher:
An uplifting middle-grade debut about perseverance against all odds, Marie Miranda Cruz's debut Everlasting Nora follows the story of a young girl living in the real-life shanty town inside the Philippines' North Manila Cemetery.

After a family tragedy results in the loss of both father and home, 12-year-old Nora lives with her mother in Manila's North Cemetery, which is the largest shanty town of its kind in the Philippines today.

When her mother disappears mysteriously one day, Nora is left alone.

With help from her best friend Jojo and the support of his kindhearted grandmother, Nora embarks on a journey riddled with danger in order to find her mom. Along the way she also rediscovers the compassion of the human spirit, the resilience of her community, and everlasting hope in the most unexpected places.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Thoughts on two books by Margaret Killjoy

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion (Danielle Cain #1)

I think I've found a new author to add to my favorites list. I'm not much of a traditional horror fan, but Killjoy didn't write a traditional horror story. For starters, the main character is homeless, queer, punk traveller, who comes to an anarchist squatter settlement in Freedom, Iowa, in search of answers as to why her best friend killed himself after leaving there. The semi-utopia she finds in Freedom has some deeper darkness below the surface: power struggles, magic, and a demonic bloodred deer with three antlers. All wrapped up in some pretty decent writing. Even better, there's a sequel. Yay!

The Barrow Will Send What it May (Danielle Cain #2)

After I devoured The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion I was really excited to read another novella by Margaret Killjoy, featuring the punk, queer, homeless, anarchist Danielle Cain, fresh on the road with companions from Freedom, Iowa. They're headed out into the world with the loose idea of fighting demons. Their journey takes them to a small town things are not exactly right. For starters, there are a couple of people who have returned from the dead, and occultists running the library. As with the first in this series, I really enjoyed Killjoy's style, and am hoping for more in this series.

I received both books courtesy of Tor Books, as part of a care package to to keep me from going stir crazy while healing from a broken patella. It made falling and breaking myself almost worth it.

Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride

Sarah McBride is an amazing woman, a powerhouse in the fight for trans equality. Her own story is beautifully told in Tomorrow Will Be Different. Sarah is honest, forthright, and informative in recounting her journey to bring her from the gender identified at birth to her true gender as female. Because of her political activism, a passion from a young age that grew into a career, Sarah has also had the opportunity to support and fight for gender equality and supportive legislation in Washington DC, her home state of Delaware, and elsewhere in the US. Her fight for equality also brought Andy, a trans man into her life. Their time together was brief, cut short by cancer, but clearly these two remarkable people had something very special. And clearly, the work that the two of them each did to lay the foundations for a world where transgender individuals are safe, respected, supported, and truly equal is incredibly important. It is more than most of us do in a lifetime. Sarah did it before she turned 26. And she hasn't stopped.

Thank you, Sarah. I am in awe of your accomplishments. Thank you for sharing so beautifully the story of your journey and for allowing us to come along. You give me hope.

Thank you to blogging for books for sending me this copy. Sadly this program is ending, but at least I get to go out on a high note with this amazing memoir.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren

There's a lot to really enjoy in this tale of storytelling, time-travel, and best of all, using your brain, and your heart to work things out. Having grown up with books that suddenly launch children into other realities-- ones where the writer is more focused on telling a story, with twists and turns than some of the constructs that commonly are buzzed about in books of the last decade or two (why does the phrase "world-building" come to mind?) I was quite content to sit back and be Kari Maaren's audience as she unrolled her story across the pages.  She gave me tools to unravel the mysteries, but I didn't realize that until well after she began to reveal the mechanics within the tale itself. And even then, I wasn't sure which way she'd take it, but was content to read on and enjoy the ride. 

My one criticism might be with the pacing of the story. I found the chapters quite long, with a lot happening, but no chance for me to necessarily stop and dwell upon that, as is afforded by a chapter break. Then toward the end, when the reader enters the final timeline (trying not to give spoilers here) the pace quickened dramatically. The pacing wasn't a true deterrent, because I obviously kept reading, but I can see that it could bother some folks who need a quicker pace throughout a story. I am also a bit embarrassed I didn't recognize the literary source of the title until it slapped me in the face. My English teacher just rolled over in her grave that this happened, and that I admitted it.

One nice thing about this book was how it dealt with the issues inherent with both siblings and step siblings. Way back in another lifetime, I did my post grad thesis on stepfamilies, and included a bibliography for professionals to recommend to blended families. I would have, without hesitation, included this book on the list.

Thank you to Diana Pho, at Tor Books, who sent me my copy of this book to read while recovering from a broken patella. With my leg unable to bear weight or bend, I had a lot of enforced reading time. Luckily, this book was part of my healing process.


From the publisher:
The unexpected can move in next door
Freddy wants desperately to not be noticed. She doesn't want to be seen as different or unusual, but her step-brother Roland gets attention because he's deaf, and her little sister Mel thinks she's a private detective. All Freddy wants to do is navigate high school with as little trouble as possible.
Then someone moves into the house on Grosvenor Street. Two extremely odd someones.

Cuerva Lachance and Josiah aren't . . . normal. When they move in next door, the house begins to exhibit some decidedly strange tendencies, like not obeying the laws of physics or reality. Just as Freddy thinks she's had enough of Josiah following her around, she's plunged into an adventure millennia in the making and discovers the truth about the new neighbors.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Rolling home

I've been meaning to write-- but I couldn't find the time, nor tone, nor words. I've been taking tumbles and spills of late, only one of major significance... until last month, when, almost a year to the day from my first blackout/fall, I fell again, and came away with the usually bruises and scrapes... and unfortunately, I broke myself, as well.

It's a small bone, that patella, but one that plays an important role. When it breaks, it needs to heal, but can't be casted, can't bear weight, and can't bend. And since my other knee, bruised enough that when people saw it, they blanched, was somewhat unreliable in holding up 120 pounds of bookczuk, plus a couple pounds for the leg brace/extender/cage the wounded leg is in, crutches for a primary means of locomotion was apparently out. So wheelchair, it is.

Keep in mind, I'm very comfortable around wheelchairs, both because my mother used one and from my years working with children in the Spina Bifida clinic. The one we have, while not exactly suited for a leg injury, is easily manageable. I appear to have inherited the wheelchair gene, and can maneuver in it quite well. I've MacGyvered a leg extension for the wounded limb, and jury-rigged the seat so that I'm sitting relatively evenly. Because I do use the crutches for short hops (ha!) and a cane holder attachment would cost $70, plus shipping and installation, I've figured out a solution for a way to carry the canes, and Mr Grabby, my reach extender stick for picking up stuff, with me. It's not particularly elegant, but it works.

Javaczuk has been a hero, taking over my share of household chores (and doing a better job) and cooking, too. Not exactly how he'd planned on spending the early days of retirement, but hey, I'm glad and grateful he's here.

The initial problems of pain and discomfort are lessening, as is my regular frustrations with my inability to do the things I want to do. I miss being able to sidle into my workspace and do my pysanky and other art, but most of all, I miss walking. Ambulating around Charleston is one of my greatest joys, particularly in the spring
Doing "lap art" because I can't get into my workspace #determinedartist
. The loss is almost visceral, eased a tad by the outings I take with Javaczuk, his walking, me rolling. I'm slowly working up strength in my arms as my leg withers from disuse. (The leg muscles will come back as soon as I'm allowed to exercise as I like.) But for now, for another month I'm into alternative ambulation, be it crutches for indoors and short distances, or the chair, which one of my JordanCon friends has christened "Wheels of Time."  I'm hoping to be fully ambulatory in time for the JordanCon art show, but if not, we'll do what we need to do to keep me moving.

Oddly enough, I've noted when I wheel in the chair that I get auditory memories of my mother. I'd forgotten how her hands wheeling the chair made a whispery sort of sound, or the clank of her ring as she wheeled. Even the sound putting up the footplate is evocative. It's a sound that I lived with for 40 years as she wheeled through life, making magic and memories wherever she went. And apparently, she's doing that still.
My mother, with her eldest grandson, circa 1991

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Eating from the Ground Up By Alana Chetnila

Really love this book— straightforwardl, simple, clean recipes. I feel like I can go straight from the farmers market to my kitchen, to my table! Even my simple cooking is best husband likes the recipes. Recipes are easy to follow and the photography is gorgeous. As an avid farmers market shopper, I know the best recipe suggestions come from the folks who sell the stuff. This book proves it.

Thank you to blogging for books and the publisher for sending a copy my way.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sweet Potato Soul: 100 Easy Vegan Recipes for the Southern Flavors of Smoke, Sugar, Spice, and Soul by Jenn Claiborne

I'm always a little put off by recipes from vegan chefs/cooks who go a long way to make things taste/resemble the foods they no longer eat, and use lots of seitan and TVP in the process. Happily this is not the case with this book. While there is some use of the aforementioned stuff, for the most part, the recipes are clean, simple and approachable for anyone. I was a little sad that I'd allergic to wheat, because some of the recipes that use it look marvelous, but I was too uncertain in the substitutions of flours to experiment.

Thank you Blogging for Books and the publisher for my copy.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

My Name is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd

Will try and come back for a more thorough review, but in the meantime, this was well written, thought provoking, and doesn't travel the usual paths that might be assigned to a coming-of-age novel (which I usually can't stand). Venus went to prison after committing a horrible crime that pretty much tore her family apart. And in the midst of it all, while she is incarcerated, her developmentally disadvantaged brother goes missing. Five years later, she's out, still estranged from her mother, but wants to find her brother. Into that, weave a variety of people who populate her new world and the threads tangle and twine, trying to make whole cloth out of a torn life.

Thank you to LibraryThing Early Reviewer  program and to the publisher for my copy. I didn't think I'd enjoy it as much as I did.

2018-read, advanced-reader-copy, didn-t-want-to-put-it-down, early-review-librarything, first-novel-or-book, made-me-think, new-yorker-or-nyt, read, review-still-needed, thought-provoking, will-look-for-more-by-this-author, ya-lit

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Darkest Time of Night by Jeremy Finley

I read this book in 2017 and neglected to post my thoughts on it. Blame it on the holidays and end of the year. There are possible spoilers after the 3rd paragraph/tags, but there's a warning, so proceed at your own risk.

Perhaps it's just the political climate in which I read this book, but a thriller with aliens and political conspiracy suddenly didn't seem so bad. The book does present a rather clear view of our society in regards in the lengths people will go to find a missing loved one and a bleak view of the lengths others might go to keep them from doing so.

The author has put a lot of time, research, and details from his own experience into the story. And like almost any thriller, there were the times I wanted to yell "don't go into the woods alone!" Though I didn't necessarily warm to the characters, I was interested in the journey the author mapped for the reader to follow. There was a little too much conspiracy theory for me, particularly with the asset in the WH right now, but ultimately, it all came together.

tags: advanced-reader-copycreaturesfirst-novel-or-bookgreat-covermade-me-look-something-upmade-me-thinkreadread-in-2017science-fictionsuspense-thriller-mystery

A few possible spoilers: 
The big reveal about Lynn's illness as a child, and subsequent loss of memory was not such a big reveal, but that may be because I am a pediatric nurse and the cover story just didn't jibe for me. 

I liked that this was a different slant from many alien encounters, and though I found some elements of the alien behavior interesting, it was a bit confusing in presentation. I keep remembering that Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man"-- it's good to remember not every visitor is coming in peace, nor is each conquest won via battle, sometimes disruption and breakdown of systems works just as well. (Conquest via disruption?)

The methodology and technology for the control of humans also was interesting. Lynn is awfully lucky that the little device in her head hadn't chosen to explode (yet).

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest opinion. My thanks for the opportunity to read the book.   The book will be out in June 2018.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

This book had me at "bookstore", sucked me in as it headed toward cozy mystery, then hooked me to the finish with the thriller/ bookstore noir developments. All this and good characters/writing too? A great start to the new year. When I turned the last page, I was genuinely distressed that it didn't go on longer so I could stay immersed in the story. What a great first novel!

tags 2018-readdidn-t-want-to-put-it-downe-bookreadread-on-recommendationsuspense-thriller-mysterythank-you-charleston-county-library 

From the Publisher (and Goodreads):
Goodreads Debut Author of the Month and an Indie Next Pick!

“Sullivan’s debut is a page-turner featuring a heroine bookseller who solves a cold case with clues from books—what is not to love?” —Nina George, author of The Little French Bistro, and the New York Times bestselling The Little Paris Bookshop

When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel from an award-winning short story writer.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s upper room, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left. Bedazzling, addictive, and wildly clever, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a heart-pounding mystery that perfectly captures the intellect and eccentricity of the bookstore milieu and will keep you guessing until the very last page.​

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

I'd read more in this series. I originally heard about it at YAllfest, then read an article in the New York Times about sensitivity readers, and a response in Kirkus to the kerfuffle from the starred review given. I'm writing my thoughts late, but in an era where the highest office in the USA can refer to other countries as sh!thole, and not see that this is racist, I'd say sensitivity training is a necessity.

New York Times: In an Era of Online Outrage, Do Sensitivity Readers Result in Better Books, or Censorship?

Kirkus: On Disagreement

The Washington Post: Turmp attacks protections for immigrants from shithole countries in Oval Office meeting

From the Publisher:
Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of misfits…if only she can find the courage to trust those she’s been taught to hate and fear.