Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rude Reviews

Rude people annoy me. I mean, really, it says a great deal about a person who can't give a review of a book without spoiling it for the rest of us. Geez...

Fortunately, for me, I'm careful when I choose to read book reviews before reading a book. Very careful. Too often these days, reviewers don't give "spoiler alerts," which is the common and decent thing to do. When I see those words, I know not to read the review if I'm going to read the book. I won't read a book at all if I know too much.

If someone reads a book and doesn't like it, there's a way to say why they didn't like it without giving anything away. It isn't difficult. This is why I know it's done intentionally when some 'knucklehead' goes out of their way to spoil an entire book in one paragraph. And you have to wonder,...what kind of person, who is a true lover of books and reading, would ever do that? They wouldn't. They simply...wouldn't.

Why am I particularly perturbed about this at the moment? I just finished a book that was "meh," but fun (which I'll tell you about shortly). I went on to Goodreads to log that I'd finished it and decided to post my review. It was short and sweet and, I felt,...right on target. It would let people know if they might be interested, or not, based on my comparison to something else. I gave it three stars and here's what I posted:

"Ridiculously unrealistic, but I enjoyed the ride. It's a 'Blue Lagoon' for grown-ups."

After I posted, I decided to scroll down and see what others had said. One review summed up the entire novel in one, small paragraph and gave away everything. Rude! I couldn't believe it! You know, just because one reader doesn't like a book, it doesn't give them the right to spoil it for other readers by purposely telling the end. What a...#$!@#&^?!

There's no excuse for people like that. None. And there's no place for them in a booklovers' community.

The book I posted about was Wreckage by Emily Bleeker. This was Bleeker's debut novel in 2015. I actually read her most recent work first (When I'm Gone), and I decided to go back and read this one. I have a soft-spot for debut novels. I like to give new writers a place at the table with old favorites and classics.

I stand by the brief review I gave on Goodreads, though I'm aware some readers may not be old enough to remember the 1980 movie, "Blue Lagoon," with Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins. It was one of those movies where you enjoyed looking at the beautiful people and the beautiful paradise island they were stranded on, but you knew it wasn't a great movie. It had a certain charm, though, even in it's completely unrealistic context.

Emily Bleeker
I liked the characters in Wreckage and, while I shook my head in a few places, I was smiling. There is something that rings true beneath the struggles the characters go through. They have more layers to them than the characters in "Blue Lagoon." I'm empathetic to their internal conflicts, and their need for survival is realistic. Bleeker also shows a talent for writing some good banter between the characters at lighter moments in the novel. I read one review that said "with a little spit and polish" it could've been a better novel. I'll agree with that, but when you add in this was Bleekers first attempt? I say, "Let's give her three cheers for her first novel! You go, girl!"

And, since I already read her second one, I can assure you she's learning and improving as a writer, though both her books have reminded me of movies.

And, without knowing it, I just realized something...

I've used both Bleekers' novels as 'tweeners' - the type of book I reach for when I've been reading heavy-content historical fictions and non-fictions for awhile and need a break. It means they're novels I can read quickly and just enjoy in the moment. My brain won't insist on additional research while I'm reading. I guess you could say, 'tweeners' are my brains equivalent to what television-watchers do when they sit down to watch something that doesn't require a lot of concentration to get the meaning of a show or a movie. Easy to figure out and pleasant enough to indulge in from time to time.

And there's nothing wrong with that. :)

Happy reading!


Sunday, April 24, 2016

"Some day, my Prince will come..."

In 1981, I was sixteen years old and had just received my driver's license. What I didn't receive was my father's respect for earning them. I remember driving over to my dad's house (my parents have been separated/divorced since I was five) to show him what I had accomplished. My dad looked at me and said, "Did you learn on an automatic? Well, you don't really know how to drive then. You shouldn't have your license. You don't really know how to drive until you can drive a stick shift." He meant a manual transmission, one with a clutch and a gear stick. Did his words deflate me a bit? Of course. Did they hurt my feelings? Yes. But then? It pissed me off.

Later on, I told my friend, Tracey, what my dad had said. Tracey and I were a month apart in age and grew up on the same street with only three houses between us. Tracey knew how my parents were, as she'd witnessed all the drama at my house for the first sixteen years of our lives. She was that one friend I never had to explain anything to, including how I felt when it came to my dad.

Tracey offered to teach me how to drive a stick shift. She assured me it would be painless and told me I would not hurt her car (something I was worried about). We headed out to the opposite side of town from where we lived, so no one we knew could witness my struggle. (Annnnd, it might have been a way of flipping the bird at my dad, since Tracey drove us to "his" side of town to practice.) We ended up in the empty back parking lot of SouthPark Mall in Charlotte.

I'll never forget how nervous I was. Tracey thought I was taking it all a bit too seriously. She thought I needed to lighten up a bit and not overthink it. After she explained the basics, and I tried it a bit, my attempts would end in a grind, a jerk, and - most of the time - her little Toyota conking out. I would just cringe at my lack of ability, but Tracey just laughed.

Once I knew what I was supposed to do, Tracey said I just needed to practice...with some music. With mischief in her eyes, she whipped out a cassette tape and stuck it in the car stereo...

I'll never forget that moment. I'll never forget the shock at hearing music I'd never heard before, singing about things I shouldn't like to hear,...and loving it! And I'll never forget how it made me laugh! We were both laughing so hard, as I practiced shifting gears, tears were falling from our eyes.  After all, there's absolutely nothing like learning to drive a stick shift to Prince's "Jack U Off" blaring from the car speakers - nope, nothing like it.

And that was the very first time my Prince came to my rescue. But it certainly wasn't the last...

Thank you, my Prince, for being a crucial part in the soundtrack of my life that taught me many things: how to laugh at myself, how to appreciate life without taking things so seriously, how to love others, how to love myself, to feel sexy. Yes, your music has always made me feel sexy and beautiful - no matter how I look or how old I am. There's not many men on this planet that can do that for a woman. Not only did you do it well, you did it consistently. Your music has always been there for me, and there are no words that could ever truly thank you for sharing your tremendous genius and talents with the rest of us. Rest in peace, love.

While that was not the first time Tracey Rollins ever came to my rescue, it wasn't her last either. And I hope, wherever she is, she is loved and adored and appreciated for the excellent human being she has always been.

Thank you, Tracey, for everything. I love you. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Shorts and Sweets

Ah, Saturday mornings...

I'm off to a slow start today, but it's a lovely slow start. I'm on my second cup of coffee and about to enjoy a bit of reading before I head out of my house for the day. Before I get into all that, though, I thought I'd post some brief shorts about a few books I've read.

I don't post about every book I read, just certain ones. I'll finish a book and feel I should make a post, good or bad has nothing to do with it. It's just...a feeling. Lately, though, it's been a lack of time to blog. This is my busiest season at school (not that they aren't all busy), schedules get more hectic and more is expected than usual and work hours are very long.

So, here are some shorts for you. Some are sweet, some are semi-sweet,...and some aren't sweet at all.


I love Paris. I've been there, and I love it. It has a special place in my heart. I'm letting you know this because it skews my opinion, a bit, when the story is set in Paris. That being said, I enjoyed One Evening in Paris by Nicolas Barreau. I had read another novel by this author, The Ingredients of Love, and found it a pleasurable read. I wasn't disappointed with the second novel. (I also found out that Nicolas Barreau isn't Nicolas Barreau...or a man, for that matter. The author is a German woman. But that's a story for another day.)

The story is about a man who grows up loving the cinema his uncle owns. It is now present day, and he is the owner of the old cinema. When a young lady begins coming to the cinema alone on 'old movie night,' the man thinks he may have found love. The problem is, he'll have to go to great lengths to unravel a mystery before he can answer the question of love.

Good book, easy read, and best enjoyed with a glass of merlot. :)


I took a chance late one night and downloaded a book to my Kindle. I didn't have high expectations, I was just looking for a brain rest, a distraction. What I discovered was quite a surprise.

When I'm Gone by Emily Bleeker starts out like the movie, "P.S. I Love You' - or, at least, that was the first thing that came to my mind in the first few chapters. Wife dies, husband buries her, a letter from the wife arrives after the funeral...and more letters after that. Sounds like the movie, yes? I thought so, but the more I read...I realized there was much more to it.

First, the husband is now the only caregiver for three children. Second, he's always been the working dad, his wife was the stay-at-home mom. Of course, nothing has been normal with his wife's long-term illness, but he hasn't been the one making sure the kids were cared for. His mother-in-law and his wife's best friend had helped when his wife was ill. Now, he has to figure out how to raise his children, work, and live his life without the only woman he's ever loved. He's only in his mid-thirties, life wasn't supposed to turn out this way. Third, and worst of all, he discovers his wife may not have been the person he thought she was. And that may be the point that breaks him completely.

The story is more than it appears on the surface, or in the beginning, and I'm so glad I read the whole book. It is well-written, moves at a good pace, and has little nuances I really appreciated. The only reason I put this book in the 'semi-sweet' category is because it does deal with death and grief, but it isn't a depressing book. It's really a book about, "Do we ever really know each other?" and it's a book about hope and the power of restoration.


And unfinished. I seldom abandon books, so you should know just how unsweet these two are and I confess, up front, I did not finish them and have no desire to revisit them later.

First one...

I bought Just Kids by Patti Smith for two reasons: I like Patti Smith, and Joan Didion recommended it. That's it. I figured it was a win, win.

Nope. I was wrong. I made it to page 106 before I decided I just couldn't take it anymore. Maybe some people enjoy reading the train wreck people make of their lives for WAY too long. I don't. I've always considered Patti Smith a wise person, and I assume she is now because she messed up over and over and over again when she was younger.

While I realize this book is a National Book Award Winner, it was  not a winner with me. And I am going to do something with it I have only done one time before in my life: I'm taking it to Half-Price Books and selling it to the second-hand bookstore if they'll have it. If not, I'll just give it to them. While I have done that with a David Baldacci book before, I had - at least - read the whole book to make that judgment. This will be the first time I've ever done it without finishing a book AND, I might add, a book I paid FULL PRICE for at Barnes and Noble! I cannot, though, in all good conscience, keep a book in my home I don't like. That will never happen.

Second one...

My other unsweet is Hemingway's Girl by Ericka Robuck, and it's just...bad. Not horrible, just bad. I'm sorry, I seldom ever say that, is. Last night, I was on page 65 and was debating whether to give it up or not. I thought, 'Is it just me after a long day of working with middle school students all day...or does this author write like a teenager?'

I bookmarked my spot and looked up reviews on Goodreads. The first bad review I read said exactly what I thought: chick lit, too much, too fast, not enough development of characters, and not historical fiction. The book was promoted as  historical fiction and compared to The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, which I loved. This book is NOT like The Paris Wife.

Here's what I think happened:

Once upon a time, Robuck read A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and fell in love with Hemingway, as so many of us do (myself included). She admits this much in her note to the reader at the beginning of the book. I will assume she read The Paris Wife after that and thought, "Hey, I can write something like that!"

What came out is book that reads like a high school girl's fantasy. The story surrounds a beautiful, poor, 19-year-old, Cuban-American girl in Key West who becomes Hemingway's maid during the time when he was married to Pauline (after divorcing Hadley and leaving Paris). She's instantly attracted to Hemingway and feels something "electric" between them at every glance and every touch. Everything happens too fast, is too cliché, and there's a bit of name-dropping, as well. I might look at it differently if the narrator was telling the story from her point-of-view. I would then say it sounds like a teenager because, well,...the narrator IS a teenager. But that isn't the case. It's written in third person and, as I said, not written well.

I will say, however, the cover is lovely and I like the title. And I like the idea, the premise, of the book. I believe it could have been a really great book. And, as much as I love Hemingway (and as much as I've researched him), I don't see him in the same way this author does. She seems to have the caricature version of him instead of the real man. Of course, that goes back to the high school girl fantasy thing. And, I will admit, I'm not fan of that type of genre,...not even when I was a high school girl.

I'll put this one in my mental category of Twilight and move on.


Now, the question is,...what will I read next from my TBR pile?


Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Book, a Story,...and Love


The Sea House (also known as Secrets of the Sea) by Elisabeth Gifford is a wonderful read. I finished it yesterday, and it lingers in my heart. I find that I don't want to start another book today, not just yet. I want to mull over some of the things the characters learned in the novel - things about themselves, things about others.

Gifford has written a hauntingly beautiful story of how learning about the past can help bring clarity to the present and give hope for the future. I love that the story is set in Scotland, among stories of fairies and mermaids and tales that were passed down in the oral tradition many centuries ago.

The story is written in both present day and in the 1860s. In the present day, a young couple buys an old house to restore for a bed and breakfast, and they discover a buried secret. When the wife, Ruth, decides to try to uncover the mystery, she learns a lot about her own secrets and the demons that she battles with.

When the story jumps to the past, we discover what Ruth is uncovering about the history of the house. She learns about the Reverend Ferguson who once lived there. Ruth also learns how the landowners treated their tenants and the history of hardship those people endured. I found the historical fiction part of the novel very interesting, as I don't know much about Scotland or its history.

If you love a good mystery story that includes mermaid sightings and old men who tell tales around a campfire, and you think you'd like to learn a wee bit about the ways of the Scottish people, this is a book for you. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'm so glad I decided to take a chance on this author's debut novel. I look forward to reading more from her.


I had to give a Lion's Quest character lesson for a couple of homeroom classes yesterday. The lesson was on the dangers of alcohol and drugs. We were talking about addiction and how bad it is to be addicted to anything. I told the students I don't even like to be addicted to the caffeine in coffee, and I have been known to do without it for a few months just to prove to myself it has no control over me. (Yes, really.)

A few minutes later, our office secretary came to my classroom while I was still teaching the lesson. She walked in with a small box from Amazon that she knew I was waiting on. I ran to greet her at the door and jumped up and down (yes, literally) to get my new book! I was so excited and thanked her for bringing it to me.

When I turned around and started ripping the box open, I saw the looks on the students' faces (along with quite a few chuckles)...

"Okay, okay," I said, as I held the book to my chest, "...ummmm, addictions don't count...because they're GOOD for you!"

Yep. True story.

Third (and lastly)...

On a more personal note, I'd like to's an incredible thing to love. It's a gift, really. I believe it is a gift from God to be able to truly love. I don't think my own human heart/soul/mind (whatever you want to call it) is capable of feeling this kind of love on its own.

In my life, I've often felt that I love more than I am loved in return. I have had people, who say they love me, treat me in ways I would never treat someone I love. I used to long for someone to love me in the way I need to be loved. It's taken me a very long time to understand that it's in the way I love others that I find peace, not in how others love me back. I've also found there is great joy in knowing you love someone, even if you know they will never be able to love you in the same way.

So many people are looking for someone to love them. I have found that my heart is so full from loving other people, I no longer look to others to make me feel loved. I know God loves me, and He's been there for me when no one else has. He's taught me how to love, and He's healed my wounds. We've not always been on the best of terms, you know, but He's the only one who truly knows my heart.

It may sound like a bumper sticker from the 1960s, but it's true...

God is Love.