Summer Reading Rodeo

Thumbnail reviews of books I've read so far this summer. I may be forgetting some. It's been a hot few months.

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. I was captivated by this at first. Charmed, you could say. The Night Circus is adorable, whimsical, fanciful, fun. Three-quarters of the way through I wanted something a bit more than whimsy, but still enjoyed the book overall--except for the ending. I don't mean the epilogue, but the last sentence which (and this is not a spoiler) circles back to the first sentence. As a teen, I read a book that ended in the same way and back then I was like WHOA. Now, not so much. Still recommended for its incredible imagination and confidence, however.

American Busboy, by Matthew Guenette. This is a collection of mostly narrative poems about working in a clam shack over the summer as a, you guessed it, busboy. A smart and funny book. Sample: "The moon/& a busboy, the beach/& a waitress, and later/maybe karaoke." Ah, youth. There are a few non-narrative gems sprinkled throughout (like freshly ground pepper!). I lol'd. Recommended.  

Damned, by Chuck Palahniuk. I'm a huge Chuck fan. I've even taught him in American Lit survey classes (both Fight Club and Survivor) because he's gonna stick. That's why I was disappointed in this one. It was reminiscent of bizarro fiction which, while interesting, isn't quite the level of sophistication I expect from one of the sharpest critics of American culture. If you want true bizarro, check out the Ass Goblins of Auschwitz.

The Choiring of the Trees, by Donald Harington. Another book in the continuing saga of Stay More, Ark, this one doesn't have as much magical realism (and magic) as the others, but there's a compelling love story at its core. I lost steam at some point, but pushed on through and was rewarded at the end. If you're interested in Harington--America's "undiscovered continent"-- check out The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks first. This one is definitely for the already converted. 

Three Cubic Feet, by Lania Knight. Full disclosure: I read this because it was sent to the Toad Suck Review as an ARC (my wonderful husband edits the journal) and it was sitting on the coffee table. Guess what? I liked it! A YA novella narrated by Theo, a young gay man falling in love and figuring sex and everything else out. Knight has made such a believable teen--Theo can be self-centered and stupid and he turns away from those trying to help him, but you love him and root for him regardless because that's what a sensitive teen is like. Lord knows I was worse. Drama galore, well-rounded characters, beautiful sentences to boot.

Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn. LOVED IT! Enough good stuff has been said about this book and author and I second everything. A suspenseful, compelling, gross-at-times, heart-wrenching, page-turner. The ending felt a bit rushed, but who cares? I'm still basking in the afterglow of having just finished it. Can't wait to read the other two. New favorite author--why did it take me so long?

Currently on my nightstand; The Witches of Eastwick, Babel-17, and The Vanishers.

Anyone have recommendations?
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Why Death Can Be Beautiful

Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 82, but she died back in February.


What I can't stop thinking about is how life-affirming her death was. The mechanics of it. Its intense physicality. 

Let me explain: My mom had a massive stroke, bleeding on the brain, and lost consciousness immediately. She never regained it. They put her on a respirator, but she wasn't really there. Her mind, I mean. It was somewhere else.

They waited for her children and grandchildren to gather around her hospital bed and then "pulled the plug." We held hands, prayers were said, tears spilled, and then...nothing. She stayed alive, kept on breathing. For 12 hours, her heart raced at 150 bpm, aerobic levels, trying desperately to pump oxygen into her blood. Her temperature shot up to 104. Her breaths came in long and short wheezy gasps, reminding me of a fish out of water.

Her body wanted to live, was pulling out all of the stops to live. There was no longer a person lying there thinking and feeling, but an animal thing, clinging to existence as purely as a worm struggling against the hook.

The body has its own agenda, independent of the mind: a blind reaching toward life. In that way, her death was beautiful, an inspiration, a reminder of the striving at the core of existence. 

I miss my mom. Even her death taught me something.



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Why, yes, I do have a super bowl!

Here it is! Made by the talented Warren Mackenzie.


Oh, I do amuse myself.


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Brains on sale now!

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