Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lighthearted Fun with The Grimm Legacy

Last week I found The Grimm Legacy on my couch. I occasionally find great books that have dropped out of the sky and ended up on my sofa, so I scooped it up. It took a about a week before one of the other five people who live in my house admitted buying it at the school book fair weeks prior. It had surfaced on my couch after a backpack cleaning that included purging anything school-related to make room for a bathing suit and towel. Ah, summer.

Still, I had the book, so I was good. Elizabeth is a High Schooler who has recently had to switch schools so her dad can afford her step-sisters' college tuition. She's mostly ignored at home other than to  do chores. When she does a favor for a homeless woman her life takes an unexpected turn. Her eccentric English teacher recommends her for a job as a page in a library for objects.

Not long after she starts the job she makes friends with several other pages, an attractive basketball star named Mark, and talented Indian girl named Angajli. Then she learns the secret of The Grimm Legacy, a collection of objects from fairytales that each have their own magic. The problem? Someone's trying to steal the magic objects and her new friends might end up taking the blame. The three pages are joined by a reluctant page named Aaron for an adventure to stop a thief.

I enjoyed this book. It was a light-hearted read, totally appropriate for an eight year old, with romance to interest a teen or a mom like me. Author Polly Shulman does a great job rounding Elizabeth out, so that even when you don't agree with her decisions you love her spirit. I call this one a great family read aloud book. It will be debuting in our bedroom routine soon.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Visit with Appendicitis

It started out a lazy Saturday morning. Arielle was at a soccer tournament with her dad. Alysia, John and I went to the North Market to buy wine for a dinner party and have breakfast at the lovely waffle stall. We sat a picnic table with the sun shining and a warm breeze blowing by.

I'd had a bit of an ache in my side since I'd woken up, but I dismissed it. We were busy. Friends were due for a Spanish dinner that evening. We'd cooked Friday night and still had paella and tapas to make during the day.

As I waited for the cheese counter man to hand me some Gouda and tried to resist the urge to purchase goat cheese just because I adore it, chills hit me. When we got home I promised my husband I'd help cook after a 15 minute nap.

When I woke up three hours later my side was burning. That's when I asked the most important question of the day, "which side are your appendix on." The answer is the right side, just north of the center of your belly. On that fine information I called the doctor, who sent me to the urgent care, who sent me to the ER, who proceeded to test me for hours.

The nice doctor assured me it was a routine surgery, but is any surgery really routine when you're the one being cut? The morphine kept the hysteria down and my amazing husband handled all the thinking in his regular loving way. As they wheeled me into the operating room I announced as loud as possible, "I am here to get my appendix out." Several residents tittered in amusement. A nurse promised me I was about to get something in my IV that would relax me like a margarita. Then the world went blank.

I remember a little of the recovery room, but mostly I remember waking up in the room with my husband there holding my hand. New pains from tiny incisions had replaced the appendix burning. Pain medication coursed through my system and I felt worse than ever.

The weeks that followed were a haze. I expected myself to get better faster. I resented the throbbing pain that limited my motion and consumed my thoughts. I hated my new limitations-- no lifting for six weeks, stomach aches from the antibiotics and constant weakness. Most of all I hated the unplanned nature of the thing. I'd just started a new job. I didn't get to see the kids on Mother's Day because I'd been in the hospital. I tried to go back to work too soon and had to stay home for more days.

The whole experience humbled me. It made me realize how life can change in an instant. I was lucky. It really was minor surgery. Six weeks later little remains but a few scars and a ghost of pain now and then. But many are not as lucky. So many suffer from chronic health problems. I have so much more empathy now that I've experienced something like this. There were days I railed against the universe. Why me? There were days I cried or just felt down. There were days I did nothing but stare at the wall. Lucky for me the window was short. But it doesn't always go that way.

As a writer, I think about how I can tap into these emotions and experiences. Perhaps I'll write a young child who must have her appendix out. The entire world will feel strange and horrible, a sea of grown-ups swirling around poking and prodding her. Or perhaps I'll write a teenager who comes out of her surgical haze to find her best friend has taken up with her boyfriend.

Maybe I'll write about the amazing friends and family who gave so much support to one mother who spent Mother's Day in the hospital. Wait, that's a true story. That's my story. Perhaps that's the greatest chapter. I'll end my musings with a thank you to all my dearest and nearest who helped and to the farthest and dearest who called and sent well wishes. And thanks to all who read this blog. too.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thumping Thursdays: Anna Dressed in Blood

If you've ever read Anne of Green Gables then you know what I mean when I talk about Kindred Spirits. Yes, the title of this post is Anna Dressed in Blood and I realize its a big jump from Anne Shirley to Anna, whose dress literally drips blood all over the floor. But my journey to Anna started with a Kindred Spirit, because it's not a book I would have picked up on my own. I typically don't read horror. When I read a few of the Goodreads reviews, I shivered at the thought of not sleeping for a decade or two.

I had to plow forward, though. I've always wanted to be in a book club, but my complete lack of time has thwarted that dream again and again. This is where the Kindred Spirits come in. If you haven't read my all time favorite Anne, I'll just say she has a great imagination and is always looking for those few folks that just click with her right away. Folks like my new lunchtime book club mates, who were once simply coworkers.

When the three of us stumbled upon a love for YA fiction, the book club was born over lunch. This is our first book and I wanted to get it right. Could there be anything worse then reading a book, brimming with anticipation to discuss it only to reach the blessed day and find your mates had not read it? Gasp. It was not to be considered. Jen picked this book and if she picked it, she must see something in it beyond the horror factor.

So, I picked the thing up. And, I didn't put it down until I was through. Cas, the narrator and hero, captured my heart right away. He's a ghost-hunter by birth, a loner by circumstance and a grief-stricken son in the shadow of his father's long past murder. It's Anna, though, who steals the story. By turns ruthless, crazed and out of control, she's also a victim in her own right. There's a spark that's gentle, loving and wistful in her, although not so much in evidence when she's tearing someone in two.

The gore factor was much less than expected, which for me was good, because I have a hard time reading Stephen King and the like. Kendare Blake, the author, balances the right amount of teen angst, humor, gore and suspense with a romance in the mix. The book takes an unexpected twist in the last quarter that might have been better served in a sequel, but overall I'd still give it five stars.

Check out the book trailer below or pick it up here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Super Saturday: A vacation from real life...

I love listening to snippets of conversations swirling around in airports, coffee shops, along beaches or at the local pool. There's nothing that jump starts the imagination more than these real life story starters drifting past me like balloons in the wind.

We're on vacation this week and there are so many opportunities for new stories. To start, there's the setting. Duck, North Carolina is a slip of a town comprised of souvenir shops, bakeries, ice cream stores, coffee shops and pizza places. Nary a grocery store in sight, but you can eat fresh fish by the water at several unique little restaurants. Duck Donuts makes donuts right in front of you starting at 6 a.m. if you're one of those early riser types like my husband.

With the sound on one side, a gently rolling blue carpet of water, where crabs can be pulled off docks to dance for you, and the ocean just four blocks the other way, Duck is a paradise even with June winds whipping about. The sea here is choppy and green with dark red sand. Shells are chopped into bits before they reach the shore.

The houses here are small and tall, each meandering up four stories, saving their kitchens for the top floor, I suppose to keep the most expensive equipment dry in case of flooding. Hot tubs, private pools and sand volleyball courts guard each structure and multi-layered decks hug them for dear life.

Stories, of course, are usually more than just place, but the people who fill that place up and make it their own. We are a rag-tag group of six. My husband, me and the kids. We're a blended family, maybe more chopped at times, always searching for a combination of desires and outcomes that suits the whole, and sometimes landing on a moment of pure bliss somewhere in the equation.

I wonder sometimes what the shopkeepers think of us as we pile into their stalls. Two dark-haired children, two-fair haired children. I doubt the shopkeepers could match the children to the correct one of us, but then you never know. I always think they assume we created them all together. They range in ages from 16 to 8. Each is a story into themselves, full of mischief and joy and the moment of genius. Each is a blessing beyond anything I ever imagined in my life. And of course, we didn't create them really. Us and our former spouses, all we did was give them entry to this world and all we can do now is love them and guide them. Enjoy these waning moments where they sometimes still feel like they belong to us. Because they belong to themselves of course, so much of their stories still unwritten.

We wonder about this land outside of responsibilities and work, gazing at others trying to determine their stories. The boy at the beach yesterday, the one that Sam chased a crab right into, he looked to be about 15. Perhaps those older folks were his parents. Maybe they waited years to have him and now as older parents fairly worship him, spoiling him terribly. Maybe he had young parents, unable to take care of him, and his grandparents were the couple lying on the towels, applying sunblock and scowling at the errant crab scuttling across their blankets. They never intended to raise a child at this stage of their lives, but they love him and they give him all they can.

What is the story of the woman walking ahead of her husband, brandishing a stick like a sword and pretending she doesn't hear him yelling for her to slow down? Her neon blue hat is visible from three houses away. Is she angry, wishing she could stab him with that sword, perhaps for cheating on her with a housemaid back in their native New York? Is she simply bored, imagining a time when she was slimmer, more adept and could fence her way through a sea of competitors at a tournament in Texas?

What was the gruff, whiskered older man at the bait shop thinking when he winked at a Alysia and said softly, "You're a very pretty little girl." Perhaps of a granddaughter too far away to wink at or a daughter now grown to adulthood living her own life out there somewhere. Or perhaps he was thinking of a painting he saw once or a television show. Or maybe he was just struck by the quiet little girl watching her brother gather fishing gear with avid interest.

I so love vacation for the relaxing moments, for the time spent with family and for the stories to be.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What to expect from me...

I like to make plans. I like it so much, sometimes I set aside time to plan for making plans. My plans are grand. When it comes to my blog, for reasons that have to do with time and energy, I have been totally without a plan. 

I want to get serious about this relationship now. The one between you and me. So, I'm making a plan and I'm upping the commitment level. This is where the fun begins. 

My grandmother always says to take it one day at a time. My plan is to post at least twice every week to start. 

You can now look forward to Super Saturdays and Thumping Thursdays, at a minimum. 

Super Saturdays will focus on stories I'm thinking about or working on. Thumping Thursdays will focus on a story I'm enjoying, either a book I'm reading or some other interesting story out there in the world.

Any posts I make in between will likely be fun musings or personal stories to connect us together and let off some steam. 

I can't wait for us to get to know each other better!