Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Birthday Cake

Another candle on the birthday cake:
A symbol of all the paths you did not take,

All the chances that you killed,
All the dreams left unfulfilled.

You snuff it out, a suicide,
A death to all the lives untried,

Cutting off all side lanes
Until only the one path remains.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Mrs. Poe

Mrs. PoeMrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this novel about France's Osgood, poet and maybe mistress of Edgar Allen Poe. I like Fanny's voice and the description of New York during the many creative and brilliant minds all cavorting together. But Cullen may have let her imagination get the best of her, being a bit liberal with the haunting and sinister (?) Mrs. Poe. Also all the bodice clutching and dithering between the almost robotic Mr. Poe (really, someone with so little sense of humor was a chick magnet?), and Mrs. Osgood teetered between melodramatic and tedious. Still if you like your historical fiction heavy on the fiction, it is a fun read.

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The Painted Girls

The Painted GirlsThe Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this fictional account of the van Gonthem sisters, who were dancers and models for Degas. Degas was a realist painter capturing ballet dancers in their "natural" environment, instead of air brushed and ideal. (Although like reality tv, it was often arranged and modeled to look spontaneous). Degas tells stories with his pictures, and Buchanan does a lovely job imagining the lives of the dancers behind the images. Having not read a synopsis beforehand, I was delighted to realize these girls actually existed. Not a lot of details of their lives are available, but I am more than willing to believe the story Buchanan imagined. It is a story of power, and how to pull yourself out of the powerlessness of poverty without giving away everything. It is also the story of the special bond of sisters. There is also the exploration of the theories of that day of whether you are born to a destiny (evidenced by the shape of your face) or whether you really have a choice.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

The Mermaid's Sister

The Mermaid's SisterThe Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is precious. As precious as a mermaid crying pearls. But it is a fairytale, after all, and so most of the supporting characters can be flat, and it ends with a good old fashioned happy ending with a cherry on top. But the tone is consistent throughout and the moral of realizing our own strength and bravery, our own worth despite not being a mermaid, is a moral that I can get behind. Cute, fun read.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Lady in Waiting

Lady in WaitingLady in Waiting by Susan Meissner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was another book club read. We all liked Fall of Marigolds well enough so we decided to read another of Meissner's books. It had two story lines as well, one in the present and one on the 1600's, the dressmaker to Lady Jane Grey. Both women feel as though all their choices are made for them, but realize in the end how even when they find themselves in situations because of others' choices, they can still choose their own path. It took me a bit to get into it, but in the end I liked this better than Marigolds.

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Crooked Little Lies

Crooked Little LiesCrooked Little Lies by Barbara Taylor Sissel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this novel, a mystery involving so many unreliable characters....either because of medical problems or because they have motive to lie, we don't know who really did what til the end. Fun read.

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Monday, November 2, 2015

Pocket Change

There is no one-eighty,
no Bizarro reflection in the glass.
Negative becomes positive only after
     red light,
     being hung out to dry.

I have only pocket change--
several coins short of a buck.
Every step jingles like sleigh bells or fairy dust.
A thousand stranger's imprints on its faces
     of a thousand shared desires.
Tossed casually from pockets to jars jumbled with
      dull tacks,
      loose screws,
      lost marbles.
Just as likely disappeared into cracks of sofas and sidewalks
where they wait until desperate seekers
grope expectantly to find the bit of change
to fit the bill.

Too little too late.

It takes a hundred to make a whole.

In the Light of What We Know

In the Light of What We KnowIn the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is like eating kale. You know it's good for you on so many learn about Afghanistan and Bangladesh and Pakistan. You learn about the financial collapse in the early 2000's. There are lots of metaphors, allusions, references, quotes....all that tie into how we can never really understand the truth of what is going on...our eyes trick us, our memories are faulty, we lie to ourselves and everyone else. What are people's real motivations if they don't really know? But for all that, I just couldn't enjoy it, just like I can never enjoy kale, no matter how good it is for you. I don't hate it, but I don't go looking for it and generally avoid it. There was a lot of pretension in the book(multiple epigraphs for every chapter, unnecessary footnotes) lots of self righteous indignation about the unfairness of rich vs. poor, white vs. South Asian. And for all the talk, talk, talk about getting to the truth, the plot was meandering and confusing. There are so many why and even what questions not answered. (Although I wasn't even that upset by it...I had long ago given up hope that this book was going anywhere). Why give it 2 stars? It did have some rather interesting facts about memory, optical illusions, and mathematics. Still I mostly used it to help me sleep at night...

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"That's what maps mysteriously do: They obliterate information to provide some information at all."

"Knowledge, and especially disagreeable knowledge, cannot by any art be totally excluded even from those who do not seek it.  Wisdom, said Aeschylus, long ago, comes to men whether they will or no.  The house of delusions is cheap to build, but draughty to live in, and ready at any instant to fall; and it is surely truer prudence to move our furniture betimes into the open air than to stay indoors until our tenement tumbles about our ears.  It is and it must in the long run be better for a man to seee things as they are than to be ignorant of them---A.E. Houseman

Grace, as i have seen it elsewhere often enough, comes from an understanding, which resides in the muscle, of the relationship between the body and the world; it not only recognizes the limitations of the body it inhabits but works with those limitations so that each act shows respect toward the physical world, respect for its dominance, and proceeds from an acknowledgement that the world will not simply do one's bidding.  How easy it is now to read so much into each moment and every careless act.

Sometimes people carry to such perfection the mask they have assumed that in due course they actually become the person they seem.---W. Somerset Maugham. The Moon and Sixpence

One ventures, therefore, that what one takes to be a change in another person is in fact only an improvement of one's own understanding of that person, or that what we thought we knew is shown to be a false presumption of our own making.

I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the fasity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives ---Leo Tolstoy, What is Art

But once an axolotl is induced into metamorphosis, its life span shortens and it can never go back to what is was.

Everything new is on the rim of our view, in the darkness, below the horizon, so that nothing new is visible but in the light of what we know.

The same action can be produced by different motivations, even opposite ones.

That is what time does to us all.  It kills all the lives we might have had, destroys all the worlds we might have known.  And that is why a man may commit suicide and never take his own life.

Reality has no way to force itself on us, and we can, in fact, alter what we think we perceive in order to suit what we want to believe.

Every time we want to understand anything, we have to simplify and reduce and, importantly, give up the prospect of understanding it all, in order to clear the way to understanding something at all.

Friday, October 16, 2015


We are in the ocean
        the ebb and flow
        the push and pull
        the rocking to and fro
        like a human metronome.

We see it rise
        and still we are unprepared
        when the wall of waves comes bearing
        down, knocking our feet into the air.
        Its roar deafens; it blinds us by its glare.

The wave recedes--
        its foamy fingers claw furtively in sand
        trying desperately to hold onto the land
        before being hauled back into the sea's command
        leaving behind only the debris of the damned.

Whole houses left abandoned--
         a lifetime of wishes and burdens
         whorled together and curdled
         into hardened ears that hear the gurgle
         of days ordinary and days uncertain.

While deep beneath the sea
         the wave recoils, slipping through
         bony fingers growing from the ocean slough,
         roiling past silver threads of minnow schools,
         diving deep into nameless depths murky and blue.

Here deep sea demons haunt:
         behemoth beasts stalk stealthily,
         giant tube worms suck, vampire squids boogie,
         spider crabs skitter, wolffish howl hoarsely,
         fangtooth fish crack open their quarry.

Still admist the gloom,
         bioluminescence blooms warm and white
         like stars emerging in the nascent night;
         jellyfish float like angels in flight
         luminous and velvety as a newborn's delight.

In the dark, a cauldron bubbles,
         new life forever rises in the silence
         orbs of vapor carrying the earth's essence
         until at last, it breaks at the surface
         under the watch of the sun's bright brilliance.


What Alice Forgot

What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Liane Moriarty is my guilty pleasure. Chick lit with a brain. As Moriarty sprinkles her teasers that keep me turning the pages, I think, "Liane, you devil, you know I can't put this down and there are dishes to do!" This one is all about second chances, and the opportunity and ability to change. If I have a gripe about Moriarty is that she squeezes an extra novels worth of info in the epilogues of her books, but I will be reading all of her novels I can get my hands on.

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The Twelve

The Twelve (The Passage, #2)The Twelve by Justin Cronin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cronin is an excellent writer. He can get into the head of multiple characters and make them all unique. He can describe action sequences with alacrity and make you feel like you are witnessing it yourself. He can make vampires, viruses, ghosts, immortality totally plausible. And I like that a novel that has this much blood in it also has room for characters who believe in God and they are the sane ones. I would recommend this to anyone who likes their vampires a little more horrifying than sparkling in the sun...BUT I would also recommend waiting til the third one comes out and reading them altogether. I read The Passage a couple of years ago, and several characters and incidents were referenced that I wish I could recall with greater clarity. Also, the first half of this novel seems pointless...characters are introduced only to die, but some resurface later in the book, and the others I am guessing will show up in the third in some form. Cronin is teaching us patience...but darn it, release the third already!

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The Martian

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an excellent idea. Put a guy on Mars and come up with real life catastrophes and real science fixes. Although some of the science was way over my head, I could appreciate (and take on trust) that some good math and some duct tape could save your life. (when your kids complain that they'll never use math again, make them read this book). I also enjoyed the feeling you walked away with....that as bad as things are, if you study it out, take the problem apart, and solve it bit by bit, you can do can do the impossible. I think this why this book is so popular and became a movie with Matt is a very real, but very hopeful book. That being said, it screams for a good editor. Originally self-published, I think it could have benefited with some guiding. There are 2 major p.o.v., which are fine, but then suddenly there is another narrative or p.o.v. that jars the reader, and disappears, never to be used again (the history of the tarp). Some of the story arc gets lost in the switch of the two p.o.v. as well; a little editing could have made more suspense, greater character development, and helped the lay reader understand the tech part better (just a few tables, charts, or diagrams could have helped out a ton.) Overall a great story, though I am guessing the fleshed out movie might be better.....

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And the Mountains Echoed

And the Mountains EchoedAnd the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is not a novel in the regular sense, but more accurately a collection of interconnected short stories. But each story is well told and the characters all fully drawn and believeable. Seeing different parts of the whole through different eyes gave the whole story something better than if it had been told in a traditional way. It helped carry the universality of Hosseini's theme of sacrifice and family. My favorite of Hosseini's books.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ancillary Sword

Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch, #2)Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I do love the world Leckie creates...she does a great job inventing languages, customs, and religions that are never fully explained but that she never forgets about...(only proper to wear gloves, brooches that are worn for status,etc.).  And yet in such foreignness, she still creates recognizable allegories about imperialism, racism, and justice.  The story continues with Breq, only now she is a commander.  I miss some of Breq's confusion, impetuousness, and growing realizations about herself that I remember from the first book.  This Breq is always sure of herself, always fixing others problems, almost always unruffled.  Her relationship with Sevarrdiaan is also largely missing in this one...they are separated for most of the novel.  Still, I loved Leckie's writing style...she describes multiple things going on at once, yet I am never confused.  And love the little bits of humor sprinkled throughout...

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WreckageWreckage by Emily Bleeker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a better than average kindle first reads choice.  The premise was interesting...after a woman and man are rescued after spending almost 2 years on a deserted island, they decide to alter the version of the truth to the rest of the world.  Interesting one can verify their story or catch them in a lie if there are no witnesses.  Better yet, what did they do when there was no law, no one to save or stop them?  Can the laws of civilization exist outside of civilization, and what if you are suddenly thrust back into these laws and constructs of a society you thought was dead to you.  Do you lie or tell the truth and justify it?  I thought the story was provocative enough.  It would have been better if we could have seen into the minds and secrets of the spouses who thought their partner was dead.  Also, the ending was abrupt, tied up too nice.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Fall of Marigolds

A Fall of MarigoldsA Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book based on the description of two women in two time periods united by a scarf.  Sounded trite and over-sentimental, but it turned out to have more depth and development than I thought.  Clara is a nurse on Ellis Island, (a setting which I have always found terribly fascinating) who is using the island to hide from feelings of depression and guilt after seeing her new love jump to his death to avoid a fire.  Taryn too is recovering from the death of her husband who died during the 9/11 attacks.  Both are dealing with survivors guilt, scared to fully love and live again.  Through truth, strength, forgiveness, and love they are able to overcome their paralysis.

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The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

The Story of Edgar SawtelleThe Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a retelling of Hamlet, Wroblewski does a fairly good job modernizing and looking at it through new eyes.  The new eyes being that of Edgar, who is mute, but has a gift working with dogs in his fathers kennel.  As a stand alone story however, it struggles to make all of the characters actions linked with plausible emotion or motivation.  Some characters and actions seem put there solely to match up with Hamlet and does nothing to reveal or change the existing characters.  The ending especially seems forced and Trudy's motivations, sketchy throughout, are dumbfounding.  The writing, while lyrical and penetrating at times, tends to get muddled especially during action scenes.  Several times I had to reread scenes to understand the sequence.  It was an interesting read, something I would recommend as a companion to Hamlet, just to illustrate what an adaption/retelling might be like, and hopefully trigger  a better retelling someday.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Dragonfly in Amber

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander, #2)Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The continuation of Jaimie and Clare.  They are in Paris now trying to prevent the Bonnie Prince Charles from trying to reclaim the throne and thus preventing the highlanders from being slaughtered.  There are spies, political maneuvering, assassins, seems very exciting, but it's not.  The pacing in this book is so off.  Most of the Paris part reads like Gabaldon did research on the spies and time period and then tried to maneuver her characters so they could witness those interesting felt disjointed and not very natural.  The action parts read like a day at the office, no buildup or suspense.  Even the choice at the end reads more like resignation than desperation...not what we have come to expect from Clare and Jaimie.  This was a long book and it felt like it.  I won't be in a hurry to find out what happens next.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon

A Constellation of Vital PhenomenaA Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, first of all that title. It is the definition of "life" in a medical book. Isnt it the best? And this book, about war, death, life, friendship, family IS a constellation of all the the things that make life, life. Set in the Checheyan wars, it is a beautifully written book. So many great quotes. I will tell you it is a slow burn...but in the end it will consume you.

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Quotes:  "Like most of his plans, this one seemed so robust in his mind but fell like a flightless bird when released into the air"

"But no matter how many ways she dismembered and quantified the body lying beside her, she couldn't say how many years the girl would wait before she married, if at all, or how many children she would have, if any; and between the creation of this body and its end lay the mystery the girl would spend her life solving"

"As she refolded the note and dropped it into the trash can, he wanted to reach out, to snatch the tumbling rectangle before it landed and was lost among the last words of two dozen others who died far from their villages, who were pitched by strangers into furnaces, who were buried in cloud cover and wouldn't return home until the next snowfall."

"he trudged eleven kilometers through a broken obligation that only a child's life could justify"

"Sonja was more freakish, more wondrously confounding than the one-armed guard; rather than limbs she had, somehow, amputated expectations."

"Each cube was rounded by room temperature, dissolving in its in own remains, and belatedly she understood that this was how a loved one disappeared.  Despite the shock of walking into an empty flat, the absence isn't immediate, more a fad from the present tense you shared, a melting into the past, not an erasure but a conversion in form, from presence to memory, from solid to liquid, an the person you once touched now runs over your skin, now in sheets down your back, and you may bathe, may sink, may drown in memory, but your fingers cannot hold it.  She raised the glass to her lips.  The waster was clean."   to continue the metaphor...when the ice melts it is clean of impurities, like our memories filter out the bad stuff.

"If she had been dying every minute of every day, they might have been a happy family"  we love what we lose

"when he felt like a criminal, he reminded himself that a land without law is a land without crime"

"and as a phantom limb can ache and tickle, her lost Natasha was still laughing, still scornful, still loving begrudgingly, burgeoning with enough life to make Sonja wonder if she, herself, was the one disappeared."

"For months they'd run their fingers around the hem of their affection without once acknowledging the fabric."

""Faith is a crutch.'  'If you step on a land mine,' Akhmed said, 'the crutch becomes the leg.'"

"I ended up writing four first-to-last-word drafts.  Each time I finished with a new draft, I'd print it out, set it in front of my keyboard, and retype the entire novel.  Because retyping mimics the original act of creation, it taps into whatever creative well the sentences first rose from.  The novel changed from draft to draft, then, from within, organically, rather than from changes that were superimposed on it."

Helen of Sparta

Helen of SpartaHelen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Telling the story of Helen before she was Helen of Troy, this book does a good job of marrying real world answers to some of the mysticism of legend. You almost believe gods could talk and a hero could go to Hades to steal Penelope as a matter of course. I liked that it was the story of Helen and Theseus, which isn't a story told that often, but Carosella stays true to what is known of the story and skillfully fills in the gaps and gives us plausible motives and emotions. I really enjoyed her characterization, but the pacing was slow...several pages, maybe even chapters seemed to be devoted to Theseus sacrifices to the gods and Helen wandering around the castle. Despite that, it made me think that maybe kindle first does have a few gems hidden in their monthly free books after all.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

To the End of June

To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster CareTo the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care by Cris Beam
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an interesting, if heartbreaking look into the ins and outs of foster care. Although it was well written, and well researched, it focused mainly on New Yorks foster care. While it was prefaced that it wouldn't be a comprehensive look at foster care, it revealed enough to know that every state has different agencies, and different laws regarding foster care, so I am not sure how universal some of the problems are (although I am sure that they have similar problems) It also focused mostly on teens and YA. It is an eye opening know the foster system is bad, but to have all the deficiencies pointed out is shocking. Also since it again pointed out that it was a strictly observational book, there were no answers to how we can do better. Most of the homes she focused on had saints as foster parents and they still cculdnt seem to make it work.

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The Leftovers

The LeftoversThe Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was a great book that explored how we deal with loved ones leaving our lives. The fact that so many left at the same time without explanation just allowed the responses to be more universal. Some turn to God for explanations, some try to carry on as though nothing happened, some become stoic, others turn to pleasure, some romanticize the people who left, some vilify them, some feel guilty, some feel angry. What I love is that this book points out that whether it was an Event that took our loved ones (like a national tragedy) or whether someone leaves us through divorce, depression, or even to start a new phase in life, the effects can be the same...just as inexplicable, just as hurtful. It sounds like a heavy, depressing novel, but Perrotta leavens it just enough to keep it hopeful. The ending reminds us that though there may be endings, there are beginnings too.
BTW, I did watch the first episode of The Leftovers TV adaption and felt it was darker, angrier, and more depressing than the book. Lots more swearing, too. I would recommend the book, not the show.

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Friday, June 5, 2015

One Kick

One Kick (Kick Lannigan, #1)One Kick by Chelsea Cain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am stil trying to decide why I liked this story so much. It has a lot of tropes that these mysteries seem to have...eerie coincidences, plot points that don't make logical sense but create drama and/or mood, hospital scenes, and a fight scene with at least one naked person. And the protagonists are always beautiful, brilliant, or way too physically capable. Kick is beautiful, and smart, and knows how to lay you out with a single punch, but she is also messed up. Deeply. After being a victim of a kidnapping herself, she knows 500 ways to defend herself, but she is still so messed up mentally that you realize no matter how many weapons she has, she is still the most vulnerable person in the room. And I think that is what makes Kick so like able, and One Kick so readable. It is about heavy stuff...child kidnaping and abuse, but Cain wisely glosses over details so it isn't too disturbing.

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SistersSisters by Raina Telgemeier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My kids are into graphic novels, so I thought I'd dip my toe in the pool. Having grown up with 3 sisters, I thought this would be just the thing. At one point, Raina admits she likes Calvin and Hobbes to her older, cooler cousins...I like Calvin and Hobbes, too, and this felt a lot like that: a simple day to day story of how siblings can love and hate each other at the same time, without really understanding why. But in the end, when it counts, you are there for each other.
It's a book written for younger readers, but I enjoyed it and every one of my kids picked it up and read it, including my dyslexic 11yo who was so engrossed he skipped dinner....

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We Are Not Ourslves

We Are Not OurselvesWe Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great character driven novel. It felt like a modern, updated Tolstoy novel. Thomas does an excellent job of uncovering the nuances of his characters, exploring their motivations, but not judging them too harshly. I loved how he captured the whims of our emotions, how one thing someone says or does can affect your response or action almost without thought. There are a couple of clunky chapters, one on euthanasia and one on Medicare that seemed preachy and out of place, but that is being picky. Overall, an outstanding book.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Black and White

Glitter of winter
Spread out before
And black clouds above
Promises more.

When black appears;
A ball of fur
With yellow eyes
And resonant purr--

He follows where I lead
Over a lake laden with snow,
Our paws indent
Leaving behind blue shadows.

White on black
And black on snow,
He winds around my feet
Preventing me from where I want to go.

The Gig Downtown on Saturday Night

Wooden sticks sting the drum;
The conception of a song.
Rhythm engulfs your soul.
Body, hands, and heart synchronize with the beat.
Sweat flings off thrashing hair.
Feet punish the floor.

The liquid starlight of the keyboard
Intertwines with the silver of guitar
And his rich, glistening voice
Dribbling like Mercury
Onto the throng of pulsating bodies:
A mass of confusion
Moving in discordant unity.
A black fire of shadows climb the wall.


The sky was tin and
the gym was gold.  Dank and
stale, though, from too many bodies.

Egg-like spheres collided high,
but more likely caught and 
choked in a tangle of net.

The high ceilings 
echoing girlish screeches
and males' swallowed curses.

The cool hotness of bare chests,
and slap of skin on ball,
burning red on wrists, face, limbs.

A scene of boring pandemonium 
On a rainy Wednesday.

The Gemini Effect

The Gemini EffectThe Gemini Effect by Chuck Grossart
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was such a bad book, it was almost enjoyable to see how much worse it would get.  Usually good books I think of as movies or serial shows on a premium cable channel.  Ok books I can see as Hallmark channel movies.  This one I had to resort to comic book status.  The plot is completely far-fetched, the characters are stock characters from the main girl scientist who looked like a "red headed  Marilyn Monroe" to the all American Boy Scout who is the President of the U.S.  And the writing was so very bad.  It was horrible.  And it just kept getting worse.  If you want a ridiculous apocalypse book, this is for you.  If you want a book where the author actually convinces you that the same storyline can work with interesting characters, read The Passage by Justin Cronin.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015


BlindnessBlindness by José Saramago
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good book to read with someone.  "White blindness" takes over a country (the world?) like a plague.  Every day brings new horrors, and for no one is it more horrible than the one woman who has somehow escaped the malady, leaving her alone to witness the atrocities. I could tell it was an allegory, that the lessons of appreciating what you have, and the danger of turning a "blind eye" were there, but I admit, it would have been nice to bounce ideas off of someone else to get deeper. In the end I did turn to the Internet to help get some more insight, if you will.  It was the lack of quotation marks, and the difficulty in trying to figure out who is saying what was deliberate to help the the reader feel the chaos that existed.  Until I realized that, I found it frustrating.  It is definitely a book that gets better the more you think about it.
The message [of today] is that morality is passé, conscience is for wimps, and the single overriding command is ‘Thou shalt not be found out.’” --Joseph Sacks

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Other Woman

I was the other woman once.
Though I can't say I was
      any good at it.
I didn't even know he had another
Until I saw them walking
     hand in hand
In front of the store window
Where I was trying on a
     green wool coat--
The one with the slick silk inside
And a floppy hood
     that covered my eyes.
The funny thing was,
     She looked like me.

First World Afflictions

Insomnia has given way to narcolepsy.

There are no dropped conversations,
or heads pillowed by dinner plates.
We weaned ourselves from food and talk long ago.

Most often the spells happen
behind the wheel--
though our vans know the way
on that rutted track...
from the school to the field,
from the studio to the shop,
A quiet circle of miles with banked left-hand turns.

We are found snoozing in front of the screen
heads limp, hands still,
sorry after-images of another's sun
burned beneath our eyelids.

We run on treadmills,
though our feet slap pavement.
The scenery is relentless:
a family portrait of houses
with identical marigold corsages.

Our beds know us intimately,
curled in fetal positions,
hugging our vitals to ourselves.
There are no dreams--
we can no longer follow the plot.
The rain, sun, wind--
just a soundtrack on an endless loop.
Alarms become white noise,
bedsheets are strait jackets,
our eyes slowly tracking
a spider on the ceiling.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Station Eleven

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It has a vague title.  It has pictures of tents on the front.  It is also a National Book Award Finalist and has been on several "best of" lists.  But it is about an apocalyptic event, and haven't we all read enough of those?  But wait, this one is different-- it is about a group of traveling Shakespeare actors and musicians.  Yeah, sorry, that's not really going to help your end-of-the-world mailaise.  But when the kindle version went on sale, I grabbed it because I have read worse for more.  And I loved it.  It's not really about the struggle of survival, or about the establishment of new societies, but about how we appreciate what we have.  Are we doing what we want to do or are we in a holding pattern waiting for someone or something before we live the life we want?  If it were to end tomorrow what would we regret? Or not? What or whom do we take for granted?
The writing was perfect.  The characters came alive.  The pacing was great. Very little swearing or violence. No sex.  Recommend for everyone.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Violet Orchid

He eats tuna fish
Beside the violet orchid.
Caterpillar yellow stamen slinks down
Butterfly winged petals.
His teeth crush muscle,
Tear apart flesh
Mixed in with borrowed mayonnaise.
Green stalks to hide
His wonton eyes
Behind purple petals.
He devours the plant.
Sneer with false teeth
Stamens extruding from his 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Love Poem

You are the leech
that drains the poison.

You are the snore
that drowns out my alarms.

You are the salt
that draws out my sweetness.

You are the sap
that keeps me water tight.

You are the dirt
that feeds my blooms.

You are the dragon
that makes me his treasure.

The Bees

The BeesThe Bees by Laline Paull
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a slow burn. Keep reading. It pays off in the end. .I think I was trying to find some allegorical or symbolic meaning. But then I realized it is just about a bee in a hive. Then I almost gave up....why do I care about Flora 717? But she crawled under my skin, and I was crying by the end. The prologue and epilogue are superfluous, and detract from the whole,. Original and well-written.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Trail of Broken Wings

Trail of Broken WingsTrail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Somehow I have stumbled on to reading books about domestic violence lately. This one by far explores the aftermath of what is like to deal with the after effects of violence by someone you loved. However, I also had the least emotional connection with any of the characters in the book. It is readable, and the bits of Indian culture sprinkled throughout was interesting and made me hungry for some Chai, but all in all, it is forgettable.

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Eleanor & Park

Eleanor and ParkEleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Move over Belle and Edward...this is what teen love should really look like. Yes, there are cliches, but what are cliches other than relateable situations? Yes, there are unanswered questions, but you don't notice until you are reflecting on it later, which you will, because this story sticks with you. Yes, there is language, but somehow it makes the love story that much more pure, set on the back of a high school bus amidst bullies who are loud and crass. All I can say is I hope all of the Eleanors out there (and what girl isn't insecure to some extent?) find a Park to love them just as they are .

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Thank You for Your Service

Thank You for Your ServiceThank You for Your Service by David Finkel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

David Finkel starts out by explaining that soldiers who come home from war and have trouble with PTSD or traumatic brain injury or one of another myriad injuries seen and unseen from the latest wars, if seen as red dots on a map would make America glow from coast to coast. But instead of choosing the many, Finkel concentrates on a few of the individual dots. Apparently he followed the same soldiers during their tour in a previous book, but it is not necessary to read it to understand or know these vets. Most of his vignettes are typical day to day occurrences, yet he writes with such style and poetry, you find yourself getting caught up in their minutiae and it in fact better informs the reader how every day, from nightmares at night to trying to keep a job, and especially interacting with loved ones is a daily ordeal. It highlights the struggle to go through the military beauocracy to get help, and the randomness as to what program they get help from. It also helps you see the struggle family members, especially wives, have of ttrying to understand and empathize with this man who no longer acts like their husband. And they seem to get no help at all from the military community. Althogh focusing on a handful of soldiers is helpful for creating empathy, I still wish Finkel might have included a picture for the whole...are there programs that have been shown to work? Are women vets as affected with PTSD? Are there any preventative measures we can take? What can the public at large do? (It seemed the soldiers found any sympathy given from civilians both paltry and insincere). Great read.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High CastleThe Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I want to give it a 5 star just for the premise: 20 years after WWII, what would the world be like if Japan and Germany had won. Isn't that great!? Unfortunately, history is not my strong suit so my imagination can only go so far. I liked how all of the characters had separate lives that interconnected. I liked the plot and even the resolution. However, the writing made me feel like I was squinting the whole time. Lots of fragmented sentences. Building action whose climax was sometimes only a sentence that you had to read twice to make sure you understood. The characters had lots of deep thoughts about race, art, history, etc. but often their actions were dreamlike, or trancelike without a lot of you were constantly wondering why are you doing this? Maybe that was deliberate? So in summary, liked the premise, writing style not so much.

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Big Little Lies

Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is chick lit. But some of the best done chick lit I've read. The way Moriarty gets into the heads of her characters, you will recognize not only your friends and acquaintances, you'll recognize yourself. This books title may suggest it is about lies, but is more about bullying. Bulllying that happens on the playground (Mama Bear attack!...wait what if the bully is your kid? What if it is your friends kid?); bullying that happens between moms (which is better, sahm vs. working moms); bullying that happens in marriage and between sex partners; and maybe most significantly the bullying we do to ourselves. What voices do we choose to listen to? What judgements (and hence bullying, even if it is only a cold shoulder) do we participate in? How do we truly break free from being suseptible to bullying?

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Red Rising

Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy, #1)Red Rising by Pierce Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the better distopian novels I've read. Th opening chapters are seemed like a cross between Hunger Games , Divergent, and Percy Jackson ....and not in a good way. First person present tense (again...why is that the POV of choice lately?), I could see the twists coming and the prose was too purple....But then, about 5 chapters in, the book just took flight. The twists and turns came fast and furious and I quit trying to guess what was going to happen next and just enjoyed the ride, sitting on the edge of my seat, and one hand over my eye, so to speak, as I followed the fates of several favorite characters, none of whom were guaranteed to live. Thoroughly enjoyable....does have some pretty graphic violence, so I would warn potentially sensitive YA readers.

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Saturday, March 7, 2015

feast or famine

Why is it that those with phobias of water always seem to drown?
I am not afraid of water.
I am terrified of its opposite.

Pharaoh had the same nightmare:
Seven swollen cows grazed blithely in the sun.
Seven skinny kine rose from the river
Their bloodshot eyes bulging in their skeletal heads.
There was not much of a chsase.
The fat cows sat bloated in the sun chewing their cud in that lazy way
When those sinewy cattle struck fiercely,
Suckling their teats, cows bleating in horror, before consuming them whole.
Then the sun shone harsh on the
Seven sickly devils standing giant and grotesque
In that washed out scene.

Lucky for Pharoh, pyramids can hold grain,
     hold back the famine,
     keep the nightmare at bay.
So Joseph and Pharoh hoarded the grain
And the nightmares stopped.

I cup my hands upward to catch the rain
But it dribbles down my wrists,
Leaks through my fingers.
I cannot hold it.
I cock back my head,
Drink as though to drown.

O, how I love the water!
How it sings down my throat,
     jingle bells splashing through me,
Cold, clear, angelic mirrors
     making me beautiful, joyful.
A thousand rainbows locked into each drop.

I drink until my belly distends and my eyes buldge--
     wanting to hold it all inside.
But in the morning I am still thirsty.

In desperation, I built a dam to stop the water's retreat;
Built it carefully, soundly, impentatriable,
A lifetime supply stymied.
But as the waters rise
The panic does not ebb.
Is it enough?
Will it hold?
And though my throat burns
     my tounge swollen,
     my breath rattling,
I ration the liquid with military diligence.

I cannot lose it.
I cannot lose it.

My dam is full.
The sun gilds it with gold during the day.
At night, the dark echos in its depths.
My body longs to plunge
     headfirst, feeling the wetness pull up through my body,
     bubbles giggling past my skin,
     eyes straining to see beyond.
Gravity scorned, my body light and lithe
     dances through seaweed
     shimmies past sound.
But my face and my feet remain dry.
I cannot risk contamination.

Sometimes I hate it though!
Hate how it prunes my fingers
    and stings my eyes
Hate how its presence turns breeze to gale,
    earth to mud,
    fire to ashes.
But mostly I hate how one day I know I will lose it.

Funny thing how stagnet water turns bitter and brown.
I have built a dam and
I held it in.
But the rainbows have left.
Alone in the barren landscape,
My nightmare realized,
I sit beside the acrid water,
While salt water wets my cheeks.

I have other dreams now:
Meager rations lay in the larder
While soldiers tax the buxom ears--
     a famine before the dearth.
Could Joseph forsee
Baiting his people to enslavement--
Building pyramids
With bricks of Hebrew blood?

Perhaps the hydrophones were wrong to try to stay dry.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1)Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars.
Loved this space opera!  The pacing is superb!  You can tell Leckie homed her skills in short fluff here!  At first I thought it was crazy original having an AI operate through multiple bodies as well as the ship, but then, isn't that Seven of Nine?  Notwithstanding, Leckie did an excellent job of making you feel like Justice of Toren (aka One Esk, who is now Breq)..,a huge literary feat.  My only complaint is with Sievarden....hopefully his character is fleshed out in upcoming installments.  I enjoyed the linguistic elements in the book; how different languages can't always translate and how the culture shapes the language or vice versa.  Like how One Esk couldn't see gender because her language didn't differentiate genders.  At first I found that lack of pronoun differentiation confusing and frustrating as I pictured (characters like Sievarden first as a girl, then had to recast him as a boy. But I also appreciated the discovery of my bias for gender roles...I felt compassion and concern when I thought Sievarden was a girl, then when I realized he was a man, I found him weak and pitiful.  But I think the point is that regardless of gender people can be empathetic, power hungry, brave, etc.   All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will read on in the series.</["br"]>

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Quote from "Master Misery" by TrumN Capote

Of all things this was saddest, that life would go on; if one leaves one's lover, life should stop for him, and if one disappears from the world, then the world should stop, too; and it never did.  And that was the real reason for most people getting up in the morning, not because it would matter but because it wouldn't.

A Natural History of Dragons

A Natural History of Dragons (Memoir by Lady Trent, #1)A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Delightful.  Loved Isabella Trent.  She is passionate about dragons and wants to unlock their mysteries, although such scientific work for ladies is generally  frowned upon.  Still, her enthusiasm helps her find a way...and I loved her pluck and determination, and I loved that she was also clumsy, headstrong, and a little one likes a perfect heroine.  Loved the characters, loved the plot, loved the dragons.  If i could ask one thing it might be  a little more depth to some of Isabella's relationships, but I wondered if that was intentional...when you are that obsessed with  something, it leaves little room for passion about anything else.  I think YA would enjoy this book as well.

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The Good Earth

The Good EarthThe Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an interesting read for me.  It was recommended to me as a way to explore Chinese history, but I found it was more a lesson in relationships.  The relationship between Wang and Olan, his wife.  His relationship with his children, father, uncle.  And of course, his relationship to the land and what it gives him, and what it takes from him.  It is a story of the relationship between the poor and the rich, and how money shapes the way we view everything from ourselves, to religion, to the rights we think we are entitled to.  Being poor brings a lot of problems...being rich brings even more.  And war trumps everything. There are no epic confrontations, no mysteries to solve, no great revelation....just a story of an imperfect man, doing the best he can to raise his family.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Sometimes when you cry,
I hold you longer than I could.
I envelop you in the crook of my arms,
     a thousand kisses on your hair,
     rocking slightly side to side.
I hold you as long as,
      as tightly as,
      squirming will allow--
Trying to impress your soul
     with the warmth of my heart.

Because one day we will be apart--
     separated by years,
The night will be dark,
                          marble to the touch
And thoughts of the sun
         seem darker still:
Let your soul recall
This time--
Feel the shadows of feather pillows,
Hear Brahms in the wind,
Taste marshmallows on hot chocolate.

The night will still be dark
But may you feel the warmth of the sun.

The Invention of Wings

The Invention of WingsThe Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book exceeded my expectations.  The characters were well-drawn, the plot was perfectly paced, deep questions of identity, freedom, and ambition were explored...even the writing was beautiful.  I was not impressed with The Secret Life of Bees ... I thought the characters were too cliche, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel.  Perhaps because Sarah was based on an actual person...sometimes life is better than fiction, and doesn't  fall so easily into cliches.  I could have done without Oprahs editorial thoughts in this edition. I read a few of them, then skipped the rest.

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Monday, February 16, 2015


Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the BrainMusicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

To be fair, a lot of how much I enjoy a book depends on my expectations going in.  I wanted to understand some of the mysteries behind music...why do some people like rock and others country? for instance...or does music actually help an athlete run longer or faster?  Exactly how does music work to get us to feel patriotic, or happy, or sad?  Why is music in the minor key perceived as dark and the  major key happy?  Why I thought these kinds of questions would be answered in this book I have no idea.  But I was disappointed.  It is true that some of these questions are answered, kind of, but the organization of the book makes it hard to get what I was looking for.  It seemed to me that Sacks merely searched "music" in his computer files of patients, then grouped them together according to diagnosis.  In fact, in several instances, he tells us what he prescribed to help the patient.  Fine if you are a doctor or fellow-sufferer, but not relevant to most of us. In some cases, there was no explanation or resolution, just a list of observations.   Since I was able to highlight about 10 min. worth of information, it was not a total loss, but not what I was looking for.

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OrfeoOrfeo by Richard Powers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was not the book I thought it was.  Being a biology/scifi   afficianado I thought this would focus more on a guy in a chem lab and then a fast paced man hunt.  It was not that.  It is a story of music.  And artistry.  What do you sacrifice for arts sake?  Is it worth it?  What is art? Is it what is enjoyed by most or is it the purely original? Can anything be original anymore?  These questions have been  explored before, but I found this books reiteration wholly original.  Powers has created a book full of big ideas, large words, and layers of poetry and crammed them into the small life of a composer seeking that elusive song.  I actually thought I was plowing through it, when suddenly I realized this one of the most amazing books I have ever read.
1) it changed the way I listen to music.  Being a word person who likes to dance, music has always appealed to me in one of two ways: either as another dimension to the poetry of the words, or it had a good enough beat to dance to.  I listened to classical music like someone taking their vitamins, not necessarily out of enjoyment but because it was good for you.  And I hardly tolerated the shoe-gazer music my husband likes.  But Powers descriptions of several pieces of 20th century composers were transcendent.  After reading his descriptions, I looked them up on you tube and sat with my eyes closed on the couch and felt like I was seeing for the first time.  He made me love all of these beautiful songs by unlocking their mysteries through his words (except Barstow...even I have my limits).
2) music is life and death. The songs he picks to highlight are songs that transcend death, save people from death, or are powerful enough that they could have caused death.  Now here is Peter Els trying to create an eternal legacy that others simply fear is a song of death.
3) I loved the way Powers used musical descriptors to describe everyday scenes.  "He returned, de capo..." Sure I had to look up what de capo meant, but I loved the blending of the two worlds.  Using everyday imagery to describe the songs, and musical ones to describe life.
4) go back and read Els tweets scattered throughout the book after you have finished.  Reading them at one go is illuminating.
All right, I am done.  And I haven't even touched on the relationships Els accumulates, the questions he asks about freedom, art, and legacy or the observance of our diminishing patience as a people, the over-saturation of information and music available to us, the busyness of our existence that cause us to not notice or appreciate the natural music all around us.  But this is an amazing book.  I would be interested to see what my musical friends think.

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Outlander (Outlander, #1)Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was pleasantly surprised by Gabaldon's Outlander.  I realized half -way through that I had expected a cheesy novel with bad writing and poor character development.  After all, most popular novels are hardly good literature ( read: Twighlight, Dan Brown, etc.).  But I was charmed by this fish out of water tale.  I'll admit Clare can be tiresome, and there could be some tighter editing (especially in the middle...enough about tales of corporeal punishment as a lad already!), and a torture scene gets really ugly and then too thoroughly rehashed, but I'll admit the plot was well thought out, I cared enough about the characters that it brought me to tears at one point, and I fully intend on finding out what happens next.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

To Know

I thought my body would recognize
     my blood was gone--

I would feel the silver of mercury
     coat my bones,
     turn my heart to ash,
     choke my brain with thistles,
Then I would know;
I could prepare.

Before the phone rang
     the room would turn black,
     a thousand icy spiders would
          crawl down my back;
And I would know--
Before I would know.

But when the call came,
I was sweeping cobwebs from beneath the sofa.
How could I know
     (when I was sweating and panting)
That my breath was gone--
That my blood was gone--
How did I not know?

But I knew.
I knew when I first tasted the Fruit--
     it exploded inside me
     like so many sparklers
     feeling their way down to fingers and toes
     until I was filled up with
Yet even as I felt the moisture
     dribble down my chin,
I spied the Pit at the heart of the amber flesh--
          a hard knot of darkness--
And I felt the metallic wetness
     like blood at the back of my throat
     when I swallowed it.
And I knew.

It sank deep in my stomach,
     It ate at my brain.
I tried to blanket It,
     like an oyster turning sand to pearl.
It became familiar in my side
And most times I could forget
That I knew.

But the Pit would work itself free --
     with lonely nights,
     cold dinner plates,
     newscasts on the radio.
When at last he re-entered,
     my face flushed,
     lying in the flesh of his arm,
     hearing the dampness of blood,
I would swallow the Pit back down,
Trying to ignore
What I knew.

Now that I have stopped bleeding,
     my mouth parched,
Now that the lights are extinguished,
The Pit rattles around in my cage,
     rises up in my throat,
     nibbles at my sockets,
Consuming me
     until everything is dark;
     everything tastes like soot.
Now I know.
(Of course I knew.)

They say the Pit is really a Seed--
If you plant It, It will stretch to the Heveans
     and bear Seedless Fruit.
But that means I must bury the Pit,
And that is all I have left.
That is all I know.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Big Smoke

The Big SmokeThe Big Smoke by Adrian Matejka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book excited me more than any other to teach high school English. Just imagine the different ways you could go with an accessible book of poetry about the first black heavy weight champion who went from rags to riches, has gold teeth, reads Shakespeare and goes to the opera, likes fast cars, and has a turbulent relationship with his wife, who is white.
(You could have the kids do research on any of those subjects: race relations, individual fights, who his girlfriends were, the opera, boxing, Mann Act, abuse, could have them write biographies of their own in verse, or show pictures of Bellows, or find songs about it up to all sorts of interpretations, have them use their talents to do the same. )
 Matejka does an excellent job of capturing the voices of all the different players. By the time I was through with this book, I had a deep sense of who Jack Johnson was, not just what he did. A little more research on the Internet helped me to appreciate the poetry even more. I especially liked "Cannabilism" about Galveston after the Great Storm, "Equality"...a car race that paralleled his fight with Ketchel in the ring "Out of the Bath"...which is an intimate picture of his relationship with Etta; and of course "Fight of the Century"...a round for round description of his fight against the "Great White Hope", Jim Jeffries, and echoes the rhythm of the fight.

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Red Azalea

Red AzaleaRed Azalea by Anchee Min
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this book hoping to learn more about the Cultural Revolution. And I did, though not in the way I anticipated. Instead of focusing on the travisties of the Cultural Revolution, Min simply tells the story of her life while living through it. I was distracted at first by the focus she places on her love affairs...I wanted to know more about life at the Farm. But after sitting with it for awhile, I came to appreciate this intimate tale of what it was like to live through the Cultural Revolution, not just facts about it. My journals are filled with who I loved more so than what I ate or what was happening in the world. Love is what drives us, even if, especially if the government attempts to take away family, pets, and your sense of self. Those who looked for love from their leaders turned into manipulative, petty, bitter fools. Finding love wherever she could kept Min from dispair we can only imagine where a government tries to control every aspect of its people's lives. The language is very lyrical...very beautiful, yet at times I was confused about what was actually happening, and what was imagery.

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The Last Passenger

The Last PassengerThe Last Passenger by Manel Loureiro
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is a fine book if you have just had elective surgery, are on drugs, can't concentrate on anything with a plot, and are in the mood for something dark. Oh, and if you got it for free. It starts out promising with an unnatural cold fog, the appearance of an empty cruise boat with food still on the table, and a baby abandoned on board. Flash forward to the present, there is a journalist whose husband just died, a mysterious story to investigate, and the last witness ends up dead. But then things go from ok to crazy. Loueriro seems to think horror= body count, the bloodier the better. Throw in some time jumps, migraines and bloody noses (everyone is bleeding), ghosts who seduce, dead husbands, and sabatoge. The thing becomes ridiculous. The last reveal is so ludicrous that even after wading through the cray-cray before it, I would have thrown the book across the room if it hadn't been on my iPad.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

China Road

China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising PowerChina Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power by Rob Gifford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book excited me because it opened my eyes to life in China today...something I guess I've not considered very deeply. The author certainly colors his observances with his own history of being from Britain, living in China for a number of years, and now doing a farewell trip. He has an affinity for the Chinese people, to be sure, but shows the effect of a tumultuous and not very happy history. It certainly made me more interested in what happens to a people denied certain freedoms as they try to compete with a very different Western civilization.

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The Husband's Secret

OThe Husband's SecretThe Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was just a good book. The story was intriguing, great pacing, good characters, writing good enough to move the story in a graceful way but not so literary as to be a distraction. Very thought provoking on what secrets you should tell and which ones to bury with you. How do secrets affect you and how you see the world, and how do they affect others-both the tellng and the keeping of them. I had a couple of sticking points with the main event in the novel but they were satisfactorily cleared up in the epilogue. One of the best reads for me in 2014.

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Life After Life

Life After LifeLife After Life by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is right up my alley. There is nothing that intrigues me more than how one decision can affect your whole life. So I loved that aspect of the book. I loved that sometimes she ended up in exactly the same predicament despite changing some details. Other times her destiny was determined by the smallest of chances, or a simple conversation. I loved how sometimes she was brave, and sometimes she was crazy. The language was beautiful..."the black bat of death..." And I learned a lot about that time period, especially when she ended up in Germany.
Time is depicted as a snake eating itself, a never ending circle, and the whole book felt vey cyclical to me. So much so, it could get a little confusing at times where you were at in each life....(was this the life where they found the dead, wait, that was 2 lives ago). The very positive critical reviews I read on this, each reviewer read the book more than once. I think a second reading would go a long way in appreciating even more nuances and foreshadowing, but I had enough of the merry go round by the time I was through. Still, it is a ride I would be willing to take again after my head clears.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015


The white light is not
the golden rays
we laughed mouthfuls of,
or breathed in park grass,
or saw in the candy colored couches.
The white light has blue
around the edges.
It makes you look pale.
The tunnel of dancing dust
stretches to infinity
until it hits upon you
exploding with red and grey,
then resumes its wanderings.
Your white light fires on my iris
with teeth and blood and black.
Each exposure shortens our breath
until the threads of darkness
weave through the hollow light
and consumes us.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Lost in Shangrila-la

Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War IILost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating read of a true life plane crash and rescue.  I thought Zuckoff did a great job telling the story. I especially liked how he interviewed the natives and got their side of the story.  It was interesting to see what the Americans thought the natives were thinking/doing vs. what they were actually thinking/doing.  And it was interesting to see the survivors evolution of what they thought about the natives as they got to know them better.  The crash and rescue were fascinating as well.

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The Rent Collector

The Rent CollectorThe Rent Collector by Camron Wright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Heartfelt and inspirational story about a family that lives at the dump in Cambodia, and the power of being literate...not only to read and share stories, thoughts, feelings, but just to make life that much can read bus signs for yourself instead of asking strangers and hoping for the best.  But the book also is quick to point out that while the Weatern ideal of education is beneficial, the Cambodians have their own wisdom that may be better than Western science.
The author used real people and events in his story and then added fictionalized events.  In book club, one reader pointed out how much she hated that approach...tell a real story or a fictional one, not half and half.  I  realized that that is what didn't work for me in this book as well.  Storylines were dropped, characters made decisions that didn't make sense...and I think these were a product of trying to make his fictional characters follow the same path as the "real"ones.  But by giving them fictional events, he has changed their reality and they simply can't end up in the same place.  By trying to make them do so felt contrived, and some of the magic of the story is lost.

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My Sister's Grave

My Sister's GraveMy Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a good solid who dun it.  The characters may have been a little cliche...tough as nails girl cop, crusty cranky sheriff,  spooky convict but it served the story well in this instance.  My only complaint is some pacing issues.  The first of the book moves ok...scenes of finding a body buried several years ago with flashbacks about the night Tracy last saw her sister alive, but the author reveals too much in the flashback so the court scenes in the middle have no ammunition, no surprises for the reader.  But the ending picks up again with action and twist that is pretty good.

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Friday, January 2, 2015


Never to be
Pared away
Discarded on the cutting board
But to be
Red and
White and
Fleshy peach
(A cherub fruit
Round and fuzzy
Where fingers dent black
To find the
A Valentine lace mass of
Blood-red trees)
My white Valentine lace bones
Holds my Valentine heart--
A peach-less stone.