tuesday topics: one. thing that scares you

May 30, 2017

i'd hoped to have a really good one thing for this particular post. i'd been mulling over what that one thing would be and decided that what i'd most like for it to be is get a tattoo similar to the one my younger brother has on his calf: a sunset scene of the marker where my older brother is buried. instead of a headstone, my parents chose a granite bench. when they go to colorado--my brother is buried in my mother's family's cemetery--she and my father like to get coffee, go sit on the bench and visit. i imagine they talk to him, tell him about what we're doing, what bambam and shazam are doing, what plans we all have... i imagine it helps them. i imagine it helps my brother to have that picture of the bench and the trees and the sky just before the sun falls below our horizon. i was thinking i'd like to have one like his, but on the other leg (i think his is on the left, so i'd want mine on the right) and at sunrise with a mourning dove. 

of course, i'm not employed right now, and i'd only considered the potential pain that would ensue... not the time it would take (which would be lengthy) or the amount of money it would necessitate. so... one day... i will have that. but for now...

ultimately the thing i most fear is actually fear itself. and my mind likes to imagine all kinds of tragedies... all kinds of hell. and it's the worst for me at night when i climb the stairs and get ready for bed... that is my least favorite time of day. because it's the bed my parents bought for me when i was in high school, in the room i've had for more than three decades, and i'll crawl into it every night and pray that one day this won't be the case, that i'll have a home of my own, and i won't have to take something to help me sleep because there'll be someone with me to hold me while i drift off... i've never known what that's like. i've slept with a man before, but it's never been sweet like i've seen in the movies and read in the books... and i keep thinking surely it's like that in real life sometimes... it must be so peaceful... and hot, literally. yes, i'm sure there's that, too. anyway... it's not a prayer i vocalize all that often, but it's there in the back of my mind. always. so i do things to make it as bearable as i can, like buying all the star wars sheets. like the flannel ones shown below, even though the high's getting to be in the mid-nineties here on a daily basis ('bye spring! thanks for hanging out in southeast texas for so long). flannel because right now i'm needing the softness. and the room's in chaos so often because that's the last place i want to be... in that room by myself with only my thoughts for company. and this is how it goes. every day. every. day. and i'm a little too sure that it's going to continue to be the case for all my days.

the bookshop on the corner

May 29, 2017

why i wanted to read it: it's a book about a gal who owns a bookshop. i was a bookseller for eight years. why wouldn't i want to read that?

what i liked: "i never understand," he said, shaking his head, "why anyone would go to the trouble of making up new people in this world when there's already billions of the buggers i don't give a shit about" (page 102).

"i've noticed something else," said surinder.

"you haven't got a book in your hands."

"well... i'm just about to go to the book van. with all my lovely books. and then i'm going to go out and sell some books."

"i know. but you didn't read a book over breakfast."

"i was talking to you."

"you didn't take a book to bed."

"we were drunk and it was four o'clock in the morning."

"you've stopped clutching one everywhere like a security blanket."

"i didn't do that."

"mm," said surinder.

"anyway, what's wrong with reading?"

"nothing is wrong with reading," said surinder, "as i have told you a million billion times before. but it finally seems you're doing both. read/live/read/live. and proceed, et cetera" (page 159).

"yes, you told him you were leaving him so that you could take on the world and go out and do lots of different things, then you sat upstairs in your bedroom reading for the next eight years" (pages 186-187).

"you look nice. as if you've taken off your cardigan for once."

"i don't wear a cardigan."

"your metaphorical cardigan. your librarian's cardigan. it's as if..." this was a long speech from lennox, and he seemed to be flailing a little bit. "it's as if you pull something around yourself, make yourself look smaller and more insignificant. than you really are."

nina blinked.

"like you don't want anyone to notice you" (page 239).

"i think i just stopped seeing books around," the man went on. "you know, on the bus, everyone used to read books. but then they were fiddling with their phones or those big phones, i don't know what they're called."

"they were probably reading on their tablets," said nina loyally. she loved her e-reader, too.

"yes, i know," said the man. "but i couldn't see. i couldn't see what they were reading or ask them if it was good, or make a mental note to look for it later. it was if suddenly, one day, all the books simply disappeared (page 260).

pretty much all of chapters thirty through thirty-six. lennox. nina. the farmhouse and barn and scotland. the bookshop in the van.

what sucked: marek, and the storyline tied to him. the first hundred pages. the name surinder -- seriously. WHY?

having said all that: i liked it well enough. those last six chapters save it from mediocrity. but dear god, getting to them is a chore. 

wait for me

why i wanted to read it: because i met the author at a brunch in houston and liked her. because i was unaware that german prisoners of war were sent to help farmers in scotland; i wanted to know more about that history.

what i liked: the prisoner of war and his story; the author's note and acknowledgements.

what sucked: i had to section this one off, break it into fifths to get through it. for a story that should be rife with conflict (and to the author's credit, it had the potential), i wanted to be enthralled but couldn't be because the writing left so much to be desired. it falls horribly flat and often. it's well over three hundred pages. the ending's simple. the story's tepid. i wanted to really feel for these characters but couldn't.

having said that: the thing i liked most was the author's note, detailing the truths imparted and the liberties taken in telling this tale -- comments on the history. she'd also shared a bit about the letters she'd received about stories similar to the one she'd written. in the acknowledgements, she shares some of her family's history, too. but yall, i've never mentioned the author's note and acknowledgements in a book post before... and i didn't mark a single page in this one, either. i wanted to like it. i really, really did. i like that i'm done with it.

what light

why i wanted to read it: because a friend of mine and i went to a book discussion and signing at blue willow bookshop in west houston. (this was many, many months ago, yall... something like october of last year? i read this thing way back when and forgot to post about it, so... pardon.) i figured i should get one of his books, and since this was the one he was promoting (and because i'd learned at the time that a new edition of thirteen reasons why would be released with new material, i figured i'd wait to read that one.

what i liked: i liked the characters well enough...

what sucked: ...but there's not much conflict, and what little there is isn't well-established or well-executed. it's two hundred fifty pages of cutesy mediocrity.

having said that: i didn't mark a single page, yall. not one. and for me, that's the biggest tell. if i can't find a single line of narrative or dialogue that speaks to me... that's pretty bad. i wanted to like this because it's christmas fiction. who doesn't want to read a good story at christmas time? i needed heartwarming and got lackluster. pardon the pun, but what light?

a man called ove

May 23, 2017

why i read it: because a gal in the book club i'm in picked it.

what i liked: while his proper cup of coffee was brewing, he put on his navy blue trousers and jacket, stepped into his wooden clogs, and shoved his hands in his pockets in that particular way of a middle-aged man who expects the worthless world outside to disappoint him (page 6).

ove was the sort of man who checks the status of all things by giving them a good kick (page 7).

all the things ove's wife has bought are "lovely" or "homey". everything ove buys is useful (pages 12-13).

ove knew very well that her friends couldn't understand why she'd married him...

ove wasn't one to engage in small talk. he had come to realize that, these days at least, this was a serious character flaw. now one had to be able to blabber on about anything with any old sod who happened to stray within an arm's length of you purely because it was "nice"...

ove understood things he could see and touch. wood and concrete. glass and steel. tools. things one could figure out. he understood right angles and clear instruction manuals. assembly models and drawings. things one could draw on paper. he was a man of black and white.

and she was color. all the color he had (pages 36-37).

he was well liked down at the railway, quiet but kind. there were some who said he was "too kind." ove remembers how as a child he could never understand how this could be something bad. 

then mum died. and dad grew even quieter. as if she took away with her the few words he possessed (page 39).

"the director asked me to pass on another message... it would be a damned pity for him to be responsible for kicking a decent man's son into the street just because the son has some principles."

and so it turned out that ove became a night cleaner instead. and if this hadn't happened, he would never have come off his shift that morning and caught sight of her. with those red shoes and the gold brooch and all her burnished brown hair. and that laughter of hers, which, for the rest of his life, would make him feel as if someone were running around barefoot on the inside his breast.  

she often said that "all roads lead to something you were predestined to do." and for her, perhaps, it was something.

but for ove it was someone (page 79).

he never understood why she chose him. she loved only abstract things like music and books and strange words. ove was a man entirely filled with tangible things. he liked screwdrivers and oil filters. he went through life with his hands firmly shoved into his pockets. she danced (page 108).

his days passed like this, slow and methodical. and then one morning he saw her. she had brown hair and blue eyes and red shoes and a big yellow clasp in her hair.

and then there was no more peace and quiet for ove (page 116).

ove had never been asked how he lived before he'd met her. but if anyone had asked him, he would've answered that he didn't (page 131).

so i listened to this one on audible. but i had to look through the pages and mark the passages that spoke to me because i LOVE ove's and his wife sonja's love story.

i love how this cranky, quiet man finds someone who can look past the cranky and the quiet and see the good. one of the gals in my writing critique group commented that she couldn't understand why my guy reese likes my girl isabel. and what i wanted to say to her was because he does. same way sonja loves ove, no matter that everyone she knows would prefer she didn't. i'm all for stories like this, yall. especially when they're told as well as this one is.

what sucked: the end's a little cheesy. the beginning's a little challenging because ove, again, is a cranky bastard. his character, initially, is hard to love.

having said all that: this should be on your to be read list. there's a lot more i loved about this book. i didn't feel like digging through the whole thing for all of the things. there's a lot of them.

hold your tongue

the first crucial instance in which i know i raised my voice for good, in which i attempted to stand up for myself was in third grade, when my mother picked me up from school and asked how my day was and i'd replied that it was fine except i don't like being in that box. i've no memory of this. we were living in natchitoches, louisiana; i don't have many good memories from there as i'd had no friends and my teacher visibly detested me. there's the sensation of being excluded, of being set apart, but i've no concrete memory of the box or of that conversation with my mother. the teacher had put my desk in an appliance box because she hadn't wanted me in her classroom; she'd tried to have me placed in special education, and when that failed, she must've brought the box to class and put my desk in it and there is where i sat. until i'd found the courage to confess my dislike for the box to my mother. in doing so, my parents addressed the matter with my teacher and learned that i -- who was quite capable of telling stories, even then -- was telling the truth; they took my older brother and i out of that private catholic school and enrolled us in a public one.

there's a blue-gray spot on my left cheek, about the size of a freckle. it's lead from a pencil. graphite. one of my fifth grade classmates jammed one of my perfectly sharpened pencils in my face because he was tired of having to wait on me to finish sharpening my pencils. i had a fistful of them; i wanted to sharpen them before we'd taken our standardized test to determine whether we were placed in honors, level or special education classes the following year -- a test that i later learned was a crucial one for me, as my teachers had again recommended i be placed in special education. that test, by the way, got me in honors classes the next year. got me in pauline elliott's classroom. got me a teacher who praised me and my talents -- a beautiful thing, considering i'd had some of the worst teachers in the world in the past two years. anyway, i wanted perfect points. i didn't want to have to sharpen them during the thing because i didn't want to distract my peers' thoughts during the test. i wanted sharp pencils so my bubbles were perfect and would be scored properly. i'd tried to stand up for myself, to say that he should wait his turn. he didn't like that i'd said so, so he grabbed one of my pencils and jammed it in my left cheek. the next memory i have is sitting in my desk bubbling in my name, being annoyed that there weren't enough spaces for me to bubble all of it and so i'd had to leave the r off, making my name jennife. i've no memory of what happened immediately after he'd hurt me. i've no memory of his doing so, really, except that i know he did it -- the fucked-up freckle's there as evidence. the only clear memories i have of that day are standing at the sharpener, knowing which boy it was who'd caused me harm and the bubbles. and thirty-four years later, every time i look in the mirror, my eyes are instantly, subconsciously drawn to that blue-gray dot.

this is the last instance from childhood that i remember standing up for myself.

so i'm not good at that. but i don't like feeling that i can't speak my mind. that i can't say what i think. that one of the qualities i love about myself, my ability to be direct, that i have to mask that and so often with meekness. that if i don't do so, i'm seen as argumentative, disrespectful, hurtful, bitchy, selfish, thoughtless, insensitive... pick an adjective. if those don't suit you, feel free to supply your own.

a woman lectured me on empathy today, about how i should be more empathetic. i've a vast capacity for empathy. if someone's hurt, i hurt for them. if my words have been the cause of that pain, then pile on guilt along with the hurt and regret that i've said a thing that has offended.

another lectured me a few weeks ago on having respect for others.

here's the thing... i'm being lectured about respect by someone who has no regard for my thoughts and feelings. i'm being told i lack empathy by someone who clearly hasn't considered how her words might make me feel. i'm not a patient woman. i've little tolerance for hypocrisy. i've no tolerance whatsoever for others forcing their beliefs upon me.

yall, the only folks who have the right to lecture me are my mama and my papa. that's it. they're the only ones whose nagging and request for behavioral change i must heed. they're pretty proud of the woman i've become, so they don't lecture me all that often.

i've learned to pick my battles. the greatest one i fight, the one whose victory is most important to me, is the one against the darker aspects of my character -- the depression that's plagued me since i was eight, the physical challenges that have plagued me since birth. i've learned to extract myself from situations that are unpleasant.

in eighth grade, i couldn't do the latter. i was sitting on a row of tires on the football field during lunch break. the day was gorgeous: bright and blue and beautiful. my mood was not: i sat out there wishing a lightning bolt could somehow magically appear and strike me dead because i'd had enough of all the bullshit. the physical and mental challenges i faced were just too great right then, or so it seemed, for my feeble body and brain to handle. i prayed for the bolt. i cried because i knew it wouldn't come, that the request was utterly ridiculous. and of course, a group of the most popular kids in school chose that moment to exit the cafeteria, stroll across the football field and form a semi-circle before me, standing so close that i could not rise, could not turn and walk away. they looked down upon me and slung their insults at me, and i sat there, helpless -- a fragile runt of a girl battling life from within and without and losing on both fronts. there was such rage within me, such hate for their behavior, for them but i could not, would not unleash it upon them.

i know i've mentioned these incidences before. they are defining moments for me. they are the times when i know i should've shown my strength and found the right words but didn't. they are the reasons i strive to say something now. they're the reasons i prefer to speak plainly whenever possible.

i've grown weary of the rage. i've grown tired of not being able to say what i think.

sure i could be more tactful. sure i should do a better job of considering the repercussions of my words before i use them. but if i've been asked my opinion, if i've been asked to voice my concerns, i'm going to do so and in as succinct a fashion as i can. i don't like to mince words. i don't like to be politically correct, and i've been lectured for that, as well. i shouldn't be made to feel guilty for having articulated my thoughts, especially when others have asked for the opinion.

it's taken me thirty years to find my voice. i'll be damned if i stop using it. that said, my moral, political and religious beliefs are my own; i don't generally feel the need to voice them.

writers join critique groups for the betterment of their craft. we are sensitive souls. we're supposed to go into those groups prepared to hear criticism and take what we need from what's offered to make our stories better. we're supposed to be able to handle it when others offer their opinions. these two instances i've referenced -- the ones about empathy and respect -- both involved other writers.

i'd said i choose the battles i fight. i've not been terribly fond of my facebook and twitter feeds in the past year or so because of the sentiments expressed there. but here's the thing: those are my friends, for the most part, or fellow bloggers about whom i've chosen to care. they can say what they think. god love'm for it. i don't have to. i don't have to engage. very often i don't, mostly because i don't want to lose a friend just because his or her beliefs, whatever they may be, differ from mine. they say what they think, and the less i like it, the faster i scroll past it. that's how i've chosen to play that. that is the best way i know to respect them, to extract myself from a potentially unpleasant entanglement.

it's so much easier to do that than it is to engage in actual conversation with those i call friends who aren't being friendly.

i used to pray, desperately, for friends. for a group of girls i could call my allies. and finally, the good lord has seen fit to give me a handful of them, some of whom i love more than others, but i'm sure that's normal. i hadn't realized just how much of a pain in the ass it can be having friends and maintaining those friendships. now i have them... now i have what i thought was becoming a pretty healthy social life, but it's so fucking exhausting, this walking on coals. if that's what friendship really is, then i don't know that i want a part of that. if my friends are implying that i should hold my tongue, how can i call them friends?

on a happier note, when i asked a friend this evening what she liked best about me, her response: that you're genuine. that was exactly what i needed to hear right then. :]

tuesday topics: two. ted talks

May 22, 2017

i've shared both before, but it's been some time, and what's said in them is memorable enough that when i think of ted talks, these are the first that come to mind. the one by zander is long, but stick with it to the end. you'll be glad you did.

tuesday topics: three. ways to deny yourself

May 16, 2017

so this isn't about denying yourself things, like cutting back on coca-cola intake (i was doing really good with that one... was down to one a day... and now i'm back to three. GAH) or not buying all the books every time you walk into a bookstore (not that i could) or not seeing the very first showing of a long-anticipated film but waiting until the thing was on netflix. this is about getting out of our own way so we can go after the things we want, about thinking of ourselves less so that we can be more.

one. the past is a predator. this is the worst one for me. it's the avalanche that crushes me just when i've found the perfect view, the quicksand i trip into when i think i've found solid ground. i spent a saturday cheering on those incredible people who chose to participate in the woodlands' ironman competition. i was enjoying myself. and then some guy i knew from high school, one who'd humiliated me on a school bus during my junior year about a particularly tragic event that had occurred that previous summer, approached me to say hello, to visit. he'd been happy to see me. i was not happy to see him. i lost all of the exuberance i'd felt. i looked, felt and behaved like a bitch because he'd been horribly unkind to me thirty fucking years ago. i could've, should've shoved those memories aside -- forgiving, not forgetting -- taken the high road and been gracious. i'm not the better person in that scenario. and worse, when he asked me if i'd remembered him, i had to insist that yes, i knew who he was, he was that boy who'd humiliated me on a school bus. and of course, he looked taken aback and said that he didn't remember. of course he didn't. why should he? it's juvenile antics from THIRTY YEARS AGO. he's lived a lifetime since. i should be doing that, too.

and i am not that girl anymore. not really. not until the past rears it hideous head.

the memories that will come to mind from that day... that one will rise quicker to the surface than any other. by allowing the past to thrive in my present, i'm perpetuating the past into my future, so i can never be free of it. unless i make a conscious effort to cut the ties it strives to tangle around today.

two. do the things you detest. because guess what? someone else detests doing them, too! like moving from a townhouse to a second-floor apartment less than half-a-mile away. a friend's doing that, and she'll be doing much of the work herself. sure, she's hired some guys to move the furniture, the things she can't carry. but the rest... she'd rented a u-haul van and spent yesterday lugging things to and fro. i didn't want to help. i've moved more times in my life than i could possibly count, so i'm well aware of how much it sucks ass. i had absolutely no interest in helping her, but i did. the two of us accomplished in an hour what would've taken her more like three to do by herself. it was one hour of my time. i'm sorer today because of it, which i don't mind because my muscles are telling me i did good.

three. be present. i spent yesterday evening watching a friend's son play a (blatantly, ridiculously rigged) game of baseball; the winner of this game would determine who competed in the championships. his team was up nine to two in the fourth inning, and then all of the sudden the umpires began making all kinds of crazy calls. like the one where my friend's son was squatting on home plate with the ball in his glove as the runner crossed, the ump called the runner safe, and the son twisted, turned a baffled glare to the umpire, held up the glove with the ball smack in the center of it as if to say what the hell? and still the ump said safe. and that was the first i'd noticed of what was a slew of shitty calls. why was that the first one? because my friend and i'd been bitching to each other about the drama, much of it familial, we'd encountered since i'd last seen her. we should've been paying attention to the boy's performance (because he'd been pitching well... the kid's a natural for the game... pun intended). anyway... we tuned in now and again. and then all the sudden it was nine to eight, in what should've been the last inning. somehow we'd missed six runs by the opposing team. not that they could bat worth a damn. they were horrible at that. they got on base because the umps were declaring strikes to be balls instead (we caught a couple of those calls), and because they were stealing bases.

so it's nine to eight, and my friend's son strikes someone out at first, which would've ended the game, should've ended the game. but the field umpire, who'd originally declared the game over, changed his mind (after all the kids had left the field) and so there was some intense debate between the coaches and... it was UGLY yall. so that call got reversed, a run counted so the game was tied up. the rival team was at bat again and got two more runs. and then the son's team was at bat. the son stole home (YAY). two more batters got on base. a third whacked the ball to second, and all three of those boys crossed home plate. thirteen to eleven. game over. that one play was a beautiful thing to see. imagine how many others like that i could've witnessed if i'd been WATCHING THE GAME instead of running my mouth.

the best hundred songs

May 12, 2017

so since i did a list for books and another for movies, i figured i should do one for my first love: music. of the lists, this one's been the biggest bitch to compose. my library is vast, yall, and not all in one place, so given that i'm weeding the itunes account on my mother's desktop rather than on my laptop or the archives i've got from the laptop before or my disc collection... given that... these are what i think are the best songs ever written, with the performing artist following the title. also, please understand that of these three lists, this is the least concrete. also there were some three hundred songs on here. this one hurt me. i had to take off van halen and def leppard and acdc and jimi hendrix... it hurt, yall. and then clicking publish... i was actually nervous about that, and that's never happened.

almost gone. mary black.
anna begins. counting crows.
anna molly. incubus.
angel. sarah mclachlan.
at this moment. billy vera.
baker baker. tori amos.
bend and not break. dashboard confessional.
between the lines. sara bareilles.
the blower's daughter. damien rice.
breathe (two a.m.). anna nalick.
the chain. ingrid michaelson.
cheap wine. what made milwaukee famous.
the climb. miley cyrus.
a common disaster. cowboy junkies.
control. poe.
crash into me. dave matthews band.
desperado. the eagles.
the dog days are over. florence and the machine.
everybody knows. concrete blonde.
faithfully. journey.
fast car. tracy chapman.
fire away. chris stapleton.
fortress around your heart. sting.
the freshmen. the verve pipe.
gates of the country. black lab.
the god of wine. third eye blind.
hallelujah. jeff buckley.
hang. matchbox twenty.
happiness. abra moore.
hemorrhage. fuel.
here's a quarter. travis tritt.
hope for the hopeless. a fine frenzy.
i will always love you. whitney houston.
i'll lead you home. michael w. smith.
i'll stand by you. the pretenders.
i'm gonna be (five hundred miles). the proclaimers
i'm gonna love you through it. martina mcbride.
i'm sorry. adam wakefield.
innocent. our lady peace.
invisible city. the wallflowers.
judith. a perfect circle.
just give me a reason. pink and nate ruess.
just go. staind.
king of pain. the police.
leave the light on. beth hart.
let it be me. ray lamontagne.
like a friend. pulp.
like a stone. audioslave.
a little less conversation. elvis presley.
live to tell. madonna.
lonely boy. the black keys.
lose yourself. eminem.
me and bobby mcgee. janis joplin.
missing you. john waite.
must be dreaming. frou frou.
my immortal. evanescence.
name. goo goo dolls.
not even the trees. hootie and the blowfish.
nothing. the script.
nothing compares to you. sinead o'connor.
numb. linkin park.
on fire. switchfoot.
one. metallica.
one more try. george michael.
operation spirit (the tyranny of tradition). live.
paint it black. the rolling stones.
payphone. maroon five.
pour me. trick pony.
prince of darkness. indigo girls.
roads. portishead.
the rose. bette midler.
rumour has it. adele.
san francisco mabel joy. john denver.
say hello to heaven. temple of the dog.
the scientist. coldplay.
secret garden. bruce springsteen.
seen it all before. amos lee.
she talks to angels. the black crowes.
sleep to dream. fiona apple.
sometime around midnight. the airborne toxic event.
sometimes love just ain't enough. patty smyth and don henley.
the song remembers when. trisha yearwood.
stand inside your love. smashing pumpkins.
stay. lisa loeb.
sway. bic runga.
a thousand miles. vanessa carlton.
'til it happens to you. lady gaga.
underneath your clothes. shakira.
uninvited. alanis morrisette.
uptown funk. bruno mars.
vienna. the fray.
wander this world. jonny lang.
we belong. pat benatar.
when i look to the sky. train.
why go. pearl jam.
wild horses. the sundays.
with or without you. u2.
wolves. garth brooks.
you may be right. billy joel.
you raise me up. josh groban.

the best hundred movies challenge

so i did nathan bransford's the best hundred novels challenge. he'd also prompted others to take the best hundred movies challenge. as you wish... the ones in bold type are the best of the best.

about time
american sniper
apollo thirteen
a beautiful mind
charlotte gray
cinderella man
the client
the count of monte cristo
crazy stupid love
the dark knight
dead poets society
the divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood
donnie brasco
erin brockovich
eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
the family stone
fear and loathing in las vegas
a few good men
the finest hours
fight club
(five hundred) days of summer
for love of the game
the founder
fried green tomatoes
full metal jacket
gangster squad
the great raid
good will hunting
hacksaw ridge
the help
hidden figures
the hundred foot journey
the hunt for red october
inside out
life as a house
the lincoln laywer
lone survivor
the lord of the rings: fellowship of the ring
the lord of the rings: the two towers
the lord of the rings: the return of the king
the martian
memoirs of a geisha
mr. magorium's wonder emporium
murder in the first
my cousin vinny
the notebook
ocean's eleven
ordinary people
the painted veil
people like us
pirates of the caribbean: the curse of the black pearl
playing by heart
the princess bride
a river runs through it
robin hood: prince of thieves
saving private ryan
schindler's list
the secret life of walter mitty
the shawshank redemption
the silence of the lambs
the sixth sense
sleepless in seattle
spy game
stand by me
star trek
star wars: episode iv - a new hope
star wars: episode v - the empire strikes back
star wars: episode vi - return of the jedi
star wars: episode vii - the force awakens
steel magnolias
a time to kill
twelve monkeys
walk the line
the way way back
we are marshall
we were soldiers
when harry met sally
wind river
wolf of wall street
you're not you

the best hundred novels challenge

May 10, 2017

i'm procrastinating. that's got to be it. i've written twenty pages in four days which is five times more than i've written in six months. i'm on a roll. i should be writing. but yesterday was show us your books day, and i arrived late to that party, as usual. and i'd been feeling guilty for not being a better reader of others' bloggies, so i put the picky reads roll back in my sidebar in hopes that its presence might encourage me to be more social (because i'm not social. AT ALL. i'm hot. it's may in texas, and i'm hot inside my house). anyway, i was looking through my feed and came across nathan bransford's the best hundred novels challenge. and i was all: OOH! I CAN MAKE ANOTHER LIST! let me at it. so apparently the only writing i'll be doing today involves banging on the keys for this here blog. it's half past three in the afternoon, and i'm still in my jammies, yall. whatever.

the rules: there's only one. you can only name books you've actually read. so there goes a huge chunk of the literary canon. i graduated with an english degree but was never assigned anything by dickens, austen, either of the brontes, none of the russians... there was some faulkner and hemingway in there, but i never read more than a few paragraphs. the rest of the stuff held little to no appeal. unless you're teaching, an english degree's little more than a license to bullshit, and in five years of studies, i got really good at it. i did get around to reading austen at some point; ain't no way she's making this list, but god love her for paving the way. i spent freshman and sophomore year at a small women's college in the middle of nowhere. sure, we read. we read smut. and as i got older i graduated to good love stories and discovered i liked writing those as much as i enjoy reading them, so yeah... there's gonna be a lot of love on this list. it was jumbled, but the obsessive-compulsive streak my father gave me couldn't have that, so now it's alphabetized by author; if there're multiple works by an author, they're either listed by preference or series order. so of the books that i have read, these are the one that i think are the best. those in bold are the ones i can heartily recommend.

love rosie. ahern.
p.s. i love you. ahern.
thirteen reasons why. asher.
a man called ove. backman
a school for unusual girls. baldwin.
fahrenheit 451. bradbury.
best kept secrets. brown.
french silk. brown.
the good earth. buck.
the perks of being a wallflower. chbosky.
nick and norah's infinite playlist. cohn and levithan.
more than friends. delinsky.
coast road. delinksy.
suddenly. delinsky.
for my daughters. delinsky.
our mutual friend. dickens.
the language of flowers. diffenbaugh.
if i stay. forman.
where she went. forman.
 just one day. forman.
the saving graces. gaffney.
caraval. garber.
something borrowed. giffin.
something blue. giffin.
i see you everywhere. glass.
the princess bride. goldman.
one wore blue. graham.
one wore gray. graham.
and one rode west. graham.
straight talking. jane green.
bookends. jane green.
jemima j. jane green.
the fault in our stars. john green.
the rainmaker. grisham.
the maltese falcon. hammett.
red dragon. harris.
the silence of the lambs. harris.
splintered. howard.
the duff. keplinger.
the secret life of bees. kidd.
a separate peace. knowles.
a wrinkle in time. l'engle.
a wind in the door. l'engle.
we are okay. lacour.
love only once. lindsey.
tender rebel. lindsey.
gentle rogue. lindsey.
the truth about alice. mathieu.
whitney my love. mcnaught.
once and always. mcnaught.
paradise. mcnaught.
something wonderful. mcnaught.
almost heaven. mcnaught.
gone with the wind. mitchell.
one day. nicholls.
the time traveler's wife. niffenegger.
all the bright places. niven.
1984. orwell.
wonder. palacio.
finding paris. prebel.
redeeming love. rivers.
daring to dream. roberts.
holding the dream. roberts.
finding the dream. roberts.
born in fire. roberts.
born in ice. roberts.
seaswept. roberts.
rising tides. roberts.
inner harbor. roberts.
tears of the moon. roberts.
heart of the sea. roberts.
honest illusions. roberts.
the macgregor brides. roberts.
the macgregor grooms. roberts.
the macgregors: alan and grant. roberts.
landline. rowell.
eleanor and park. rowell.
attachments. rowell.
fangirl. rowell.
harry potter and the sorcerer's stone. rowling.
harry potter and the chamber of secrets. rowling.
harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban. rowling.
harry potter and the order of the phoenix. rowling.
harry potter and the half-blood prince. rowling.
harry potter and the deathly hallows. rowling.
the lovely bones. sebold.
right before your eyes. shanman.
love is a mix tape. sheffield.
the notebook. sparks.
a walk to remember. sparks.
the gamble. spencer.
separate beds. spencer.
the pearl. steinbeck.
the help. kathryn stockett.
fear and loathing in las vegas. thompson.
in her shoes. weiner.
the divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood. wells.
refuge. williams.
everything everything. yoon.
the book thief. zusak.

show us your books

so some of yall may have noticed i've done a lot of reading in the past five months. or at least i've done a lot of reading for me. i've not done a reading recap post since december seventeenth. at that time my tally of books read since january 'thirteen was forty-eight. that's it -- an average of sixteen books a year. pathetic. since the beginning of this year i've read fourteen, and because i've read so much these past months, i FINALLY felt like i could come to the show us your books table. i'd wanted to in the past, but i'd only read (maybe) one book. and one book does not a blog post make. i figured summarizing what i'd read so far this year'd be a good way to transition from the recap list to participating in this linkup, hosted by jana and steph. this'll be chock full of stories, yall. the next one'll be just one month's worth. promise.

one. my true love gave to me: twelve holiday stories edited by stephanie perkins. i chose this book because of the short by rainbow rowell, who is at present my absolute favorite author. with the exception of carry on, i've loved everything she's written. her story, called midnights, shows mags (short for margaret, i think?) and noel on new year's eve three years in row (i think it's three. i've lent my copy to a friend, so i can't check). they are friends, but mags has fallen in love with the boy. and on this last new year's eve, she can't quite bear to be near him, can't watch him kiss some other gal when the clock strikes midnight. i found myself wishing she'd made this story a novel because i loved the characters so much. as far as compilations go, this one's typical: there's some really good ones in here, and there's some REALLY bad ones. the rowell story gets a five of five. the rest of the book gets a two.

two. the twelve days of dash and lily by rachel cohn and david levithan. i LOVE the idea of having two authors collaborate on a story, love that the chapters alternate points of view. love the premise: lily, a girl who generally has as much christmas spirit as santa claus, has none this year, and dash, a guy who generally has as little spirit as ebeneezer scrooge, is desperate to help revive it. but oh my god, for such a small book, it took me days to read it. for such a fantastic idea and with characters who should be so lovable, this falls pretty damned flat. two.

three. twenty wishes by debbie macomber. a gal who's husband has passed falls into horrible despair. on valentine's day, while she and her single friends are wallowing in despair, they decide to make lists: twenty wishes for themselves that they work toward making realities. not a completely awful idea for a novel. but good god. good GOD it was an awful book, yall. it's one of the worst things i've ever read. don't bother. big, fat zero.

four. i was told there'd be cake by sloane crosley. a memoir, a compilation of fifteen essays just over two hundred pages in length. i loved the title. she has a keen grasp on language and how to use it to tell a story, which is not to be confused with writing well. were she to have written it well, i would've finished it in a matter of hours. the voice is good. the writing is alright. maybe on the whole stories weren't as interesting as i would've liked. i'm not sure what bugs me about this book, other than i wanted to be able to finish it quickly, wanted to love it but couldn't. some of the stories, though, are really, really good. three.

five. thirteen reasons why by jay asher. met this author last year. a friend of mine and i spent time with him before and after a book signing hosted at an independent bookstore i adore in west houston called blue willow bookshop (WHY CAN'T YOU BE CLOSER, dammit!). my friend kept insisting i should read this book. i was wary because i battle some pretty fierce depression and my thoughts like to veer dangerously close to the bring far too often for my comfort, so i don't like to read books about suicidal characters. but finally i relented and am glad i did. when a girl kills herself, her school is shaken and confused by the tragedy. and then one day, a box of tapes arrives at a boy's house -- tapes she had recorded before, the reasons for her death. it's told well. i read it in a couple of hours. five.

six. the shack by william paul young. a man's daughter is kidnapped and killed, her body found in a shack. sometime later, the father receives a mysterious note requesting he return to the shack. curious, he does. he expects to find hell but gets heaven on earth instead. so twenty wishes is one of the worst books i've ever read. this one is THE WORST. don't bother. it's ATROCIOUS. a zero's too good for it.

seven. life after life by kate atkinson. ursula -- that's the name the author chose for her character. ursula. i cringe. anyway, every time she dies, the story resets to the day of her birth, and every time she's reborn one small detail changes everything about that life. i listened to this one rather than reading it. the only time i found myself gripped by the story was toward the end of the fifth disc (hello, library) and the beginning of the sixth. how ironic, really, that the middle should be so exceptional. that's usually not the case. otherwise, all too often i found myself thinking just die already. i know there was one point at which i actually shouted that at my car's stereo. let's see whether the next life brings you some good... but none of them really do. i think there were twelve discs. GAH. how many times and in how many ways can you kill a character? a lot, apparently, and only one of them was all that impressive (the one at the beginning of the sixth cd). a friend of mine pointed out that the main character wasn't ursula at all, but one of her siblings. that pissed me off even more. just put me in that guy's story, then, dammit. two.

eight. we are okay by nina lacour. this one alternates from past to present, which i personally love, but i can understand that past is backstory and most people hate reading that. i'm usually intrigued by it, especially when it's told as though it were its own story... hence backstory. but whatever. this one's about a girl who's left behind everyone she knows and traveled cross country, from warm and golden california to the cold, bleak winter of new york for college. she's dreading the arrival over christmas break of a girl who was her best friend. she's dreading her past catching up with her. it's beautifully written. one of the most well-crafted stories i've ever read. it's gorgeous. that cover, though... BLEH. five.

nine. everything everything by nicola yoon. i opted to read this after suffering through life after life and the shack. i needed something quick and engaging, and this one didn't disappoint. the writing's not phenomenal, but it reads fast, which i liked. the story's not either -- and yet, the ending was, for me, completely unexpected, which i LOVED. i like the characters quite a bit. it's good. four.

ten. the divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood by rebecca wells. surely yall've seen the movie. if not you should because it's got a pretty damned fine cast, and the story's got some wicked power behind it. if not... sidda lee walker's in theater. she was recently interviewed for a magazine article, but the person writing the piece paints a negative portrait of sidda's childhood, which pisses her mother, vivi, off so much so that they're no longer speaking to each other. vivi's friends encourage her to send her daughter their memory book, their divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood. in perusing them, sidda learns of her mother's own childhood, one riddled with tragedy. i went for the audio recording on this one, too. wells reads it, and yall, i swear the film's cast must've listened to her tell the story because hearing wells voice teensy was like having fionnula flanagan read that part. so cool. the movie's better, i think. but the book's alright. four.

eleven. the jealous kind by james lee burke. set in fifties' era houston, a boy in high school's got the hots for a gal who's way out of his league, but when he overhears her having a fight with her boyfriend, he steps in... and gets his best friend and he in a heap of trouble with the mafia and other miscreants. burke said in his acknowledgements that he felt it's his best book yet, which makes me really not want to read anything else by him because this book, for all the conflict and characters in the story, is boring as shit. the writing's unimpressive, the voice uninteresting. one. 

twelve. the obsession by nora roberts. she used to be my favorite author. once upon a time, i could pick up one of her books without questioning whether it was good -- it was. always. and then, maybe a decade ago, that stopped being the case, so i've become more wary. the beginning of this one got me thinking she was back to being badass, and then it fizzled out and never really ignited again. a young girl, naomi, follows her father into the darkness and finds a cellar. when the father's not looking, the girl goes inside to find a girl he's kidnapped and tortured. naomi frees her and helps her find safety, and in doing so alters her life forever. she becomes a photographer, never settling in any one place or involving herself with anyone for too long. then she falls in love with a house on the washington coast... then she falls for a dog... and then a man. and then the killing begins -- women tortured and murdered just as her father had done. it's a good story. the characters are alright. but it's told like every. other. roberts. novel. in. existence. if i wanted more of the same, i'd reread one of her better books. still, the beginning is powerful. three.

thirteen. the secret life of bees by sue monk kidd. lily lost her mother when she was young and has been raised, poorly, by her father and, decently, by a woman who works for her father. when her caretaker gets in trouble and is jailed for her actions, lily decides that she must rescue the woman, and together they hightail it to tiburon, south carolina. there, they meet a woman and her two sisters and learn all kinds of things about bees and humans being. i borrowed the audio from the library. the gal who reads it does a phenomenal job. it's a BEAUTIFUL book, yall. the best-written novel on this list. it needs to be at, or at least near, the very top of your to be read list. so good. so glad erin talked me into reading this one. FIVE.

fourteen. just one damned thing after another by jodi taylor. i needed another book about time travel for erin's book challenge, but both of the ones i'd chosen (time between us by tamara ireland stone and the rose garden by susan kearsey) weren't doing it for me. a friend recommended this one about a gal who's recruited to work as a historian for a super secret agency, traveling through time for research purposes. i was intrigued. i liked the characters. i liked the premise of the story. but it is just one damned thing after another, and maybe it's one thing too many. also there's what i think is a pretty crucial detail with regard to the major conflict that isn't fully addressed, and while i liked the story well enough, i'm not reading seven more books for the resolution. three.

placement in the reading recap queue: bees would be after eleanor and park; we are okay would come after wonder; thirteen reasons would go after that; everything everything then divine secrets would follow one day; one damned thing and obsession would be after a school for unusual girls; twelve holiday stories and cake would come after the truth about alice; life after life and twelve days of dash and lily would go after divergent; the jealous kind would follow all there is: love stories from storycorps; and twenty wishes then shack would be at the absolute bottom.

additions (i'd neglected to include) to the ones i'd started list: the lake househope was herethe death and life of zebulon finch; playlist for the dead; the opposite of lonelinessthe bookshop on the cornerlittle beach street bakery; and wait for me.

additions to the ones (i wish i could've) took back because they bored me list: the absolutely true diary of a part-time indian (in truth, this was donated to a youth shelter at christmas... i might get it again. maybe); althea and oliver (also donated; i won't get it again); a stained white radiance (coincidentally by burke... the writing was better, the story might've been alright but it wasn't one i could read); the storied life of a.j. fikry (i'd been listening to the audio... the dude started saying how he'd missed his wife's armpits... i'll stop there, thanks); time between us (the more i listened to this one, the more i found myself making fun of it); yes please (tried. no, please); the rose garden (i won't read outlander; why would i read its fan fiction?); the sun is also a star (i'm quite capable of sympathy, yall; those who know me well can attest to this. but i can't read a book about an undocumented family and their plight. come to america, yes. absolutely. but don't take advantage of her and don't let others do so). 

tally: sixty-two. i'm going to see if i can get to a hundred by the year's end. one of my new year's resolutions was to finish both the regular and bonus lists for both of erin's book challenges this year. if i do that, i can get damned close.

tuesday topics: four. film soundtracks

May 9, 2017

the key word here is soundtracks. there's a difference between scores and soundtracks. i feel the need to clarify because if you google best film soundtracks, that colorful bar at the top of the search results, the one that lets you scroll through a sample, the first mentioned is blade runner. music composed for the motion picture. if i were to have said film scores rather than soundtracks, that list would be compositions by john williams for star wars and harry potter, howard shore for lord of the rings and klaus badelt for pirates of the caribbean.

but technically, it's soundtracks. and i limited yall to four. because i'm nice like that. if yall already did your posts (because yall were on the ball and had them scheduled to go up sometime in the wee hours of tuesday morning because you're smart, and i forgot last night that today was tuesday and didn't come to class prepared... anyway, if your posts include scores, i'm good with that. you don't have to redo them.)

featuring: above the law; concrete blonde; cowboy junkies; chagall guevera; liquid jesus;
peter murphy; ivan neville; pixies; henry rollins; sonic youth; and soundgarden. 
favorite song: everybody knows performed by concrete blonde. 
released: august 'ninety.

featuring: alice in chains; chris cornell; the jimi hendrix experience; lovemongers; mother love bone; mudhoney;
pearl jam; screaming trees; the smashing pumpkins; soundgarden; and paul westerberg.
favorite song: would performed by alice in chains.
released: june 'ninety-two.

featuring: tori amos; chris cornell; lauren christy; fisher; mono; poe;
pulp; reef; duncan sheik; the verve pipe; and scott weiland.
favorite song: like a friend performed by pulp. 
released: january 'ninety-eight.

featuring: joan armatrading; brick; the cardigans; george clinton; richard gibbs; leroy; letters to cleo;
madness; save ferris; jessica riddle; semisonic; sister hazel; and ta-gana.
favorite song: your winter performed by sister hazel.
released: april 'ninety-nine.

what are your favorite soundtracks? share them with me!