“It was the beginning of the greatest Christmas ever. Little food. No presents. But there was a snowman in their basement.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
Just Jazzy Advent Calendar
Prompts For The Promptless : Approach-approach conflict is the psychological conflict that results when a choice must be made between two desirable alternatives.
Oh for a life filled with nothing but approach-approach conflicts! Should I read a book or take a nap? Pick up an actual paperback or flip open my Kindle? Read inside or outside? Or upside down?
I think I was born to read. Time on my own with a book is one of this life’s greatest pleasures. I’m always just one good book away from an excellent mood.
Books are time travelling magic and sometimes it’s hard to start a new book when I’m still living in the last one. And sometimes it’s equally hard to read just one book at a time. I will be in the middle of something when I decide to download the next great read, and then I’m impatient to get into that as well. Often I have three open books in three different places and my kindle collection in hand. My head is full of delicious choices.
What authors mind and voice and soul will speak to me today? Decisions, decisions.
It’s best to get minor traumatic ordeals over with first thing in the morning, which is why I booked a hair appointment at 9:00 a.m. on my Monday off. I know that’s an ‘orphan-which’ clause, but I dearly love my orphan-which clauses and don’t feel like correcting it. One day I might be a famous author noted for just such a repeated grammatical faux pas. In fact, maybe I’ll call my first best seller The Orphan Which. Watch for that, and remember, you saw it here first.
Today my hair stylist pronounced herself ‘so super excited to fix this up!’ which (sorry, I’ve done it again) set off a couple of alarm bells in my head. But there’s really no backing out once you’re sitting in that pumped up chair under the giant black cape of doom.
To soothe my frazzled nerves and quiet what’s left of my hair standing on end, I have spent the better part of the rest of this day finishing the second book I picked up off a bargain table. Every so often I like to read a real book, as opposed to an e-book, and these two looked like easy reading romantic novels with a bit of mystery thrown in. I was not expecting to learn all kinds of things about assisted suicide. In not just one of the books, but in both of them. Really, what are the odds?
Louisa Clark has been let go from the Buttered Bun Tea Shop and with very few marketable skills is desperate for a job. Will Traynor has spent the last two years of his life as a paraplegic following a motorcycle accident, is depressed and in pain, and has lost his will to live. His mother hires Louisa as Wills secondary caregiver, hoping to somehow add something to his life which will change his mind about his decision to end it. Louisa isn’t initially aware of his plans, but once she finds out, she goes a little crazy doing everything she can think of to make him happy and show him that his life is still worth living. It’s funny and heartbreaking all at once. Any story that makes me laugh and cry is probably one of the good ones. The outcome is never a given. You might be surprised.
And now meet Leila, a solitary and sheltered young woman who has recently lost her mother. She joins a chat forum and impresses the sites founder with her ethical debate, and is asked by him to become part of what he calls “Project Tess”. Tess, a beautiful and popular woman with bipolar disorder, has decided to commit suicide but wants to pass her identity on to Leila so that it will appear to her family and friends that she has simply moved out of the country. They e-mail, chat and Skype in preparation for Tess’s check-out day. Leila is very opinionated, but doesn’t have a lot of people skills and constantly misinterprets events and situations after she takes over this new identity, and you begin to think that this cannot possibly end well. And that’s why you keep reading, because you have to find out.
I love to be pleasantly surprised by books that have a lot more depth than their titles or covers seem to indicate. I am also pleasantly surprised by this hair cut, now that I’ve had a few hours to adjust my head to its present state of lightness and air.
So, all things considered, it’s been a not too shabby day.
This has been a summer jam-packed with books for me. Sometimes it feels like the reading of them is more important than the content. It’s like that feeling you get when you’re really hungry and you don’t care what strange thing you eat as long as it fills you up.
This is not neccesarily a recommended reading list, it’s more a hodgepodge sample of what has been filling up my little head, because reading even a mediocre book beats sitting around staring off into space. I think. (*stares off into space and thinks about that*)
A man revisits his childhood, drawn to a small farmhouse and the pond behind it where his seven-year old self encounters dangerous, strange and frightening things. His beloved kitten gets run over, his family’s boarder commits suicide, and he and his eleven-year old friend Lettie try to send some creepy evil thing, accidentally awakened from another realm, back to its own world. This is one for fans of grown up fairy tales who like to remember the terror and magic involved in simply being a kid.
Vonny and Andre are worried about their abnormally short four-year old son Simon, but go on to worry about a variety of other things after their elderly neighbor Elizabeth, suffering from deafness and dementia, jumps out of her second story window and has to have her 16-year-old (kind of trampy, Andre-seducing) granddaughter come to live with her while she convalesces. Spoiler alert – Simon gets taller.
Coco is a struggling author who has a cheating husband, a gay son named Rosencrantz, two best friends who receive the bulk of her crazy e-mails, a hideous mother-in-law, a snobby agent, and a seemingly endless run of bad luck. It’s not easy getting back into the dating scene at the age of 42, never mind trying to steer your chaotic life in a new direction and get yourself back on track. But like Rosencrantz – (“Fucking hell Mum, like, way to go”) – I was laughing out loud and rooting for her all the way.
I guess I did not read nearly enough angst ridden young adult novels as a young adult so I’m making up for it now. This is a book written for teens by someone who remembers very well what it’s like to be one.
A down-on-his-luck disabled veteran detective investigates a super-model suicide and solves the mystery of her death. I read this only because it’s actually J.K. Rowling writing under a pseudonym, and not because I like to read crime fiction or mysteries. More seasoned whodunit lovers will probably have this one figured out before the end, but I never expect these things to turn out the way they do.
What secret is locked inside Rabo Karabekians potato barn? What better way to delve into the many layers of brilliance in the works of Kurt Vonnegut than to re-read some of my old and long forgotten favourites?
There are more books I could mention and give bad reviews, but why say things that aren’t nice? Or did I do that already? It’s hard for me to stay focussed on this because I’m part way through something new and hungry for the next chapter. In fact, I have two books on the go at the moment. I am a book glutton. Maybe I need help. Maybe there’s a book on that.
Sometimes it’s nice to listen to an intuitive messenger and healer giving you guidance and advice and telling you stuff about your life. The reason I know this is because I’ve just experienced it. A wonderful little lady who calls herself Yulanda talked to me for over an hour, non stop. I was one of seven people having a same day “reading” done last week before I flew home. I don’t know how she does it – it must be physically and emotionally (and maybe even spiritually) exhausting for her.
It was a little exhausting for me too, since there are days when I have the attention span of a gnat and my mind wanders and I can’t immediately make sense of things. The entire session was taped so I’ve listened to it all again and, in a burst of ambitious insanity, typed up a fourteen page copy of all the things she said.
Whew. I know you will forgive me if I don’t relate it all to you word for word. The thing I love about psychics (I’ve now been to three) is that you can do away with all the preliminary bother of greetings and introductions and just get right down to the serious business of revelations and mind-boggling insights. I’m probably the perfect subject for this kind of thing, since I get all emotional and weepy hearing what I already know deep down, but have difficulty admitting to myself.
This is a very much condensed and abbreviated version of all the things she said to me.
1. You are cognizant, perceptive and intuitive and thus know things that other people don’t. There are those who find you conceited and arrogant, although you are (of course) neither of those things. You nail it, every single time, even for little things. You just know things. Trust that, trust the things you know.
2. Your spiritual recognition comes from being a very old soul with experiences from many, many lifetimes.
3. Your spiritual professionalism makes you a nurturer. Your world can be chaotic, upside down, and it has been, but no one will know it, you tell them you are fine. You give and give and are always there for everybody, and lots of times people are not there for you. You have surrounded yourself with people who take, and this can cause you to become depleted. You have a huge heart.
4. You don’t recognize these wonderful qualities about yourself, the amazing energy and the bright light around you, how you are twenty steps beyond compassionate and have such wonderful empathy, actually deeply feeling people’s pain and joy.
5. You have a kind of perpetual loneliness about you, being often physically alone, and must be always reminded that you are not alone. You are never alone.
6. You have genuine kindness and incredible integrity. You don’t get angry often, you are like a willow that bends, but you should never apologize for your anger. Get it out, and then let it go. You keep too much inside and you need to release that, get mad, have a good cry. Breathe.
7. You are a good judge of character and on this you are never wrong. You have premonitions and feelings about people. Trust those feelings, even when there is no proof because you are always right. You can also see the good in everybody and you are very forgiving.
8. You are a really good and wonderful mom with unconditional love for your children. You are a mom to everybody and very approachable. Strangers will open up to you because you have a magnetic presence, a charisma, and they feel very comfortable with you.
9. All this love you have for everybody – give some of that back to you. You have a heart of gold and are very open with broad spiritual shoulders and take on the weight of everyone’s issues and problems. If you do what’s right for you and you’re okay, everyone else will benefit. Never berate yourself or hold yourself accountable or think you should have tried harder when you are not able to help someone as much as you’d like to.
10. You never ask for help yourself. Not ever. You have had a difficult life, you’ve really had your ups and downs but you are a very strong soul and you just keep going. You carry on. Embrace that about yourself. Nothing gives your guiding spirits greater joy than to help another soul. You don’t need to be broken or alone, learn to ask for help.
11. Emotional support, finances, physical abundance, good health – all these things are going to be there for you. This is a really good year for you now, it feels like the beginning of something new.
12. There is a non life threatening imbalance in your system, a sensitivity to something and a lot of symptoms but all for different things although it’s just one core thing with branching symptoms. You will need some sort of procedure and a specialist or two and a change in meds. Everything will go very well, much better than anticipated. You will be in good hands. You have a very high pain threshold and need to watch your comfort level and not ignore what your body is telling you. .
13. Your son has just gone through a rather difficult period but it was something that had to take place. He was not able to be who he is supposed to be and now he is turning into really being himself and that is a very good thing. He is a very trustworthy and loyal person. He is meeting new people and he is not doubting himself as much anymore. Now he can express himself and not hold back. He is a really good dad and has a truly remarkable connection with his kids. He is their lifeline. Please know that he is fine. He is going to be okay.
14. Your daughter is very, very independent. She needs to have that person in her life who is really very strong but will allow her to be independent and still care for her. The relationship she’s just come out of was suffocating her. It is important for her to stand her ground and set her boundaries. There were things that she was holding back on, things she didn’t do to move forward, things that got put on hold. She is a great person, she is more free, she is breathing better now. She is finding her own path.
15. Yes, you should absolutely go to Greece. I don’t see you travelling alone, but with a lot of people. You are going to be looked after, you have worked hard, this is your time. There are new beginnings for you. I also see you going back and forth to the same place over and over again. It’s really good for you and you embrace that.
16. There is a gentleman spirit here with whom you connected very strongly in this life, he loved the water and the outdoors, and we would say he crossed over before his time. He had a comfortable chair that he sat in, he has a military connection to someone in a world war. This person has a deep affection for you, a lot of love, admiration, pride, and a deep, deep respect for you and your accomplishments. He wants you to know he is fine, and at peace, with a wonderful sense of clarity now which he did not have on this earth.
17. Your writing – YES. Keep writing, absolutely. You have an ability to write the things that are channelled to you, even though you are not aware of it. You sit down, take a deep breath, and then boom. You write. It just comes.
18. Somewhere around the four-year mark you are going to consider a move. Everything will just fall into place, it will be perfect timing and very good for you. You will come out ahead.
So, there you have it, in a (gigantic over flowing) nutshell. Do you think I got my moneys worth? When you think about it with an open mind, this is pretty astounding stuff.
And I think Yulanda is a pretty amazing and beautiful soul. I feel blessed to have met her.
The Dinner by Herman Koch. This was a book in which I did not like one single character. They are all nuts. Two brothers and their wives go out for dinner in some city in the Netherlands to discuss what to do about their sons who have committed a crime but have not yet been found out by the police. It takes pages and pages to get to this point. Dinner goes on forever with every course described in endless detail. There are many, many flashbacks, each helping to reveal the various relationships in each family, and how the different family members relate to each other, and how incredibly screwed up they all are. To what lengths will they go to protect their sons and this family secret? You will reach the end of ‘the dinner’ still hungry, and maybe even a bit nauseous.
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout. There are some hard to like characters in this book too, but most of them get more likable as the story goes on. Jim and Bob Burgess are attorneys working in New York, called home to Shirley Falls, Maine, when their sister Susan’s teenage son gets himself in trouble. There is a lot of family history to be revealed which explains the siblings character traits and strained relationships with each other. It’s not just a story about personal, marital and family issues, it is also a story of cultural clashes, with some interesting revelations and some surprising life changes thrown in.
Lost Girls by Andrew Pyper I would not describe this as a terrifying thriller, but compulsively readable sounds about right. A cocaine addicted lawyer of questionable morals defends a teacher accused of being responsible for the disappearance of two high school girls in a small town north of Toronto. The lawyer doesn’t care about the truth, only about getting his client acquitted as quickly as possible. The town has a crazy Lady of the Lake legend, and the lawyer has a dark episode in his own temporarily forgotten past. Strange visions and bizarre middle of the night incidents could be drug induced dreams – or they could be real. The characters are real enough. The atmosphere goes from disturbing to downright creepy. The only thing truly terrifying about the story is how ‘evil’ can appear to be so normal and how hard it can be to tell the difference.
These are all good authors, and well written books. I’m glad I read them. I can’t say that they made me any smarter or better informed or interesting, but it was worth a shot.
And if you’re not yet a Flavia de Luce fan, here’s how to become one. It starts with this book.
On Goodreads: From award-winning author Alan Bradley comes the next cozy British mystery starring intrepid young sleuth Flavia de Luce, hailed by USA Today as “one of the most remarkable creations in recent literature.”
Eleven-year-old amateur detective and ardent chemist Flavia de Luce is used to digging up clues, whether they’re found among the potions in her laboratory or between the pages of her insufferable sisters’ diaries. What she is not accustomed to is digging up bodies. Upon the five-hundredth anniversary of St. Tancred’s death, the English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey is busily preparing to open its patron saint’s tomb. Nobody is more excited to peek inside the crypt than Flavia, yet what she finds will halt the proceedings dead in their tracks: the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist, his face grotesquely and inexplicably masked. Who held a vendetta against Mr. Collicutt, and why would they hide him in such a sacred resting place? The irrepressible Flavia decides to find out. And what she unearths will prove there’s never such a thing as an open-and-shut case.
It’s a mystery to me why these mysteries are so appealing to a non mystery lover such as I have always been. Although I suppose when I consider how much I’ve grown to love Flavia, it’s not such a great mystery after all. I read this latest addition to the series yesterday, and it was like sitting down to have a long friendly chat with an old friend. Except that Flavia is barely twelve at this point.
The last line in this book (an eye rolling, teasing groaner of a sentence if there ever was one) has to be a promise that there is more Flavia to come. So while we’re waiting for that, there’s time for you to read this delightful series (or re-read it, it’s that good) and get ready for the rest of the story.
Trifextra Challenge: This Trifextra isn’t so much a writing challenge; it’s more of a
reading challenge. We want you to scour through your favorite pieces of
literature and give us the best 33 words you can find.
From The Time Keeper, by Mitch Albom
There was not a sound on earth. Airplanes hung silently above runways. Puffs of cigarette smoke remained solid around their smokers. Phones were dead. Screens were blank. No one spoke. No one breathed.
“We don’t need lists of rights and wrongs, tables of dos and don’ts; we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.”
— Philip Pullman
I’d really like to give this book a glowing review because so many people profess to have read it and loved it, calling it witty, satirical, poignant, charming, and delightful fun. But I can’t, because it was none of those things to me. It took me a month to slog through three hundred pages. I couldn’t drum up any emotion for the main character who for some reason or other for me did not ring true. I guess I really don’t care what New York was like in the 1930’s and the story never seemed to be going anywhere. Random people kept popping in and out of her life or disappearing altogether never to be heard from again. It was like reading someones boring journal entries and finally getting to the end and thinking, really? That’s it?
I am definitely in the minority here, and was probably just in a bad mood for a month, so don’t let this deter you from reading other reviews and the book itself. It would be a very colorless reading world if we weren’t all inspired by different things.