Books: Why YA?

tumblr_static_picmonkey_collageMy formative years were in the late 70’s. I got to hang out with HR Puff n Stuff and I even caught reruns of Thunderbirds. I had the privilege of being teen in the 1980’s which meant I was witness to Madonna Wannabe mania and Hulk Mania. I had feathered hair. I saw The Goonies, every Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, in the theater – first run. It was a great time to be a kid! PG 13 didn’t exist (thank god) so I was allowed to see boobies on screen. Revenge of the Nerds was a very formative film for me. No one worried that something might be over my head, or offensive. I was a kid. Who cares?

But that was right before, riiiiiight before, the whole “marketing to kids” thing. He-Man and Care Bears, The Smurfs, and a handful more of my Saturday Morning favorites were invented for the sole purpose of selling product. Genious! I mean it’s horrible, and it still happens today, but I can’t say it isn’t smart. Anyway, the point is that I was lucky enough to be “too old” when it happened. My childhood was unaffected by the Toy Manufacturers. There wasn’t a slew of licenced product aimed at little me. I had Star Wars figures and a few Barbies, but that was that. 

There certainly wasn’t anything like the YA Industry. There were Children’s Books and books for Adults. The Children’s section of the library was: books for little kids and beginning readers, Choose Your Own Adventure, and the classics. I was forced into mature books because there was not an entire industry aimed at stunting my literary growth. I naturally grew out of Little House on the Prairie , The Box Card Children, and Roald Dahl, and moved on to the Bronte sisters and Judy Bloom. I remember being pretty excited (and then disappointed) about the Sweet Valley High books, and the only Vampires I read were in Dracula. Ok… and Bunnicula, but that book is awesome. The point is, there were a good chunk of books written for teens. But teens were expected to move on. 

While there is nothing wrong with indulging in the occasional Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen, to read only YA fiction is like living off baby food, cola, and movie snacks. While these things seem awesome and inviting, they will eventually make you tired, sick and you’ll just stop growing. And if you stop growing as a reader – you stop growing. The themes and vocabulary of most YA fiction is (or should be) unchallenging to adult readers, and therefore a waste of time to read. When I find myself wanting to read of giants, wizards, of fantastic realms- I tend to reach for the classics.

Everyday I speak to people in their twenties asking for the latest in YA fiction. Or the latest Gillian Flynn or Nicholas Sparks. Great writers go unnoticed because younger adult readers find the vocabulary too difficult, or the sheer amount of pages is a turn off. A father and daughter came in looking for a dark romance, fit for teen readers. No vampires, said dadI happily led them to Jane Eyre. I plucked it from the shelf and handed it to the young girl. She looked about seventeen. Dad smiled and said, “Ah! A classic! It doesn’t get much more dark and romantic than this!”

I grabbed a copy of Wuthering Heights and said, “Except for this. This has ghosts. And revenge! Oh it’s so good!”

Dad and I were having a grand time, but the girl just held out Jane Eyre and said, “It’s heavy. And it looks long.” She handed the book back to me, grabbed her phone, and wandered over to YA Graphica. Perhaps just to spite me. Dad took the books from me while both thanking me, and apologizing.

Later I rung them up and I was surprised to see copies of both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights nestled in the stack of Maze Runner books and various graphic novels with hand drawn hipsters. I grabbed Jane Eyre, and dad looked at me. “Those are for me. You’re a pretty good sales lady.” He smiled.

“Nah,” I said. “Good books sell themselves.” 

He smiled and said he’d be back for more recommendations. As I watched them leave the store I fantasized about dad finding cigarettes in her desk drawer and punishing her by making her read real books. 

One can dream…

Short Story: The Guest

BeFunky Collage

The cards I picked yesterday yielded a WILD CARD! So all of my characters had to be animals… here’s the silly story I came up with.

It was Winter and Moses was preparing a nice, piping hot mug full of hot tea. He gently swirled in a generous helping of honey, watching as it dissolved into nothing. Just what I need.  He adjusted his glasses and plucked a copy of Wuthering Heights from the tightly packed shelves. He stroked the leather cover with his claws, resulting in a rather irritating scratching sound. He checked the novel and no damage had been done.

“Very well,”  he said sitting back into his rocking chair, his tail just skirting the wooden floor beneath. “Chapter 1, 1801. – I have just returned from a visit to my landlord…”

A knock at the door. He could hear the wind whipping about outside. Who could be out there on a night like this? He looked down at the novel. The irony hadn’t escaped him. He  placed the book on the piece of Redwood which served as his coffee table and approached the door.

“Who’s there?” he growled.

Knock. Knock. Knock. POUND. POUND. POUND.

“Who’s there?”

“Please open the door sir. I am an officer!”

“An officer?” Moses wrinkled up his nose. He doesn’t sound like a bear to me. “A police officer?”

“No sir. But if you would be kind enough to open the door you’ll understand.”

“And why should I? You could be some sort of predator with good manners!”

A long silence preceded the next exchange. So long that Moses thought he had moved on.

“Sir!” Cried the voice from outside the door. “The weather is soon to get worse. Please! You have my word as an officer – No harm will come to you!”

Moses thought for a minute and remembered that he was a Badger. He might be old, but he still had teeth and he still had claws. It was legal to defend yourself these days. “Alright. I’ll open up. No funny business.”

He unlocked the door and stepped back, allowing the officer enter. When he entered the dwelling, the beast was covered in snow and ice from head to toe. And what a head it was! Moses instinctively cowered near the fireplace. He tried his best to remain at ease, relaxed even, but it was difficult. There was a Lion in his living room.

He was enormous, although not full grown. He couldn’t be, thought Moses. He’d be twice as big. The animal was beautiful to look at, with his glowing green eyes that seemed to listen to the spirits in the air. And his mane was magnificent! He even stepped outside to shake it off. “Your beautiful home will be drenched. Please, let me do you this small kindness,” he said.

Moses watched in awe as this Lion, this Officer of the King pawed about his living room. The beast admired his watercolors, his deftness of hand, and compared them to the great Don Romalli, noting that it must be more difficult for a Badger to hold a brush than a Chimp. He hung his great cape like a curtain between the kitchen and the den, and set his giant boots next to the fire. Moses could have fit himself into just one of those boots. I could probably have a nice summer home in there, he smiled to himself.

“Now then,” said the Lion. “My name is Officer Madrigal, and I insist you allow me to make you some tea.”

“Oh no. Oh no… I have just…. I have this!” Moses found himself holding his mug of now lukewarm tea between both hands, arms reached out before him as if to say, “See! See my magnificent tea Yes! Yes!”

Officer Madrigal peered into the mug and snorted hot air into it. “Cold. More tea for my gracious host!” He padded back towards the kitchen. “Black or herbal? Or do you have a preference? I certainly enjoy a nice chamomile, but nothing beats Earl Gray on a night like this. Thank the King for tea, eh old chap?” The Lion looked at Moses with expectant eyes.

“Oh… I’ll just have whatever.” Moses tried to smile, but it has never been the strong suit of the Badger. The Lion went into the kitchen and Moses could hear cupboards opening and closing, water from the spiggott, a kettle slammed down on the old iron burner.

The Lion appeared with the Badger’s favorite tea set – delicate cream colored china with small mice and purple flowers linked in a daisy chain around each piece. “Interesting design,” remarked Officer Madrigal. He placed the tea set on the coffee table.

“You looked practised at tea service. Do they teach you that in the Academy?” It was a sincere question, but the lion began to laugh. Moses found the sound to be rather aggressive for such a joyful expression of emotion, but one can’t control everything. He looked down at his long claws and sighed.

“That is hilarious!” Howled the Lion. “I apologize, but I began to picture all of us cadets carrying trays of tea instead of rifles and…” His roars shook the den. “What they do teach us is dexterity. We are rather large animals, and as Officers of the King we can’t go around knocking over every little thing. So they give us dexterity drills to make us more…”

“Dexterous?” said Moses.

“Well, yes. I guess that is it. We are supposed to acclimate so the humans fear us less. The few of them left out there.” Officer Madrigal walked past his cape and back into the kitchen. “I’ll just be a moment longer. Where do you keep the tea?” He called.

Moses sat silent in his favorite rocking chair watching a large hunk of ice melting in front of the fire. Any minute now…

The Lion came back through the black cape curtain holding a small rectangular box in his paw. He sniffed at it and opened it using a single, magnificent claw. He winced and the box fell to the floor. Its contents strewn about the floor. The old Badger sat in his chair rocking back and forth, eyes glazed over by the fire.

“Is that…? Do you keep hair in your tea box?” Cried Officer Madrigal.

“Perhaps,” said Moses. The Lion nosed the hairs. Clumps of matted animal hairs were mixed with dirt and sap. He smelled rodent, mouse probably, and the distinctive odor of chipmonk.

“What is that supposed to mean? This is disgusting!” Officer Madrigal began to snort and sniff and paw at the matted hairs stuck to his nose. He stood on his hind legs and snatched his cape. He was putting on his boots when Moses spoke again.

“You see Lion, I am a Badger. I eat mice and other small disgusting creatures. I understand that the world has adapted to Human ways, but I am not of the world. I stay here in my Den and read my novels and stay out of the fray. You sir, Officer Sir, entered my personal space in the middle of the night. And while you were quite pleasant and respectful, you were still a guest in my home. You should have just quietly declined the tea, sir.”

The Lion was frozen, stunned, with his boot half on. His mouth hanging open allowing for a rather large puddle of drool to accumulate on his trousers. Moses picked up the small wooden tea box and brought it to the offending spill. He swept up all the hair and shook it back into the box.

“Now then,” he said to the Lion, “Will you be staying for tea?”

 

Short Story: The One That Got Away

SN850448On a Thursday evening in June, inspired by the picturesque weather, Jenny Gleeson checked on her beehives. She had three now. She reluctantly started only six months ago when her hippie sister gave her a Beehive Starter Kit as a present. Just what a cop needs, she thought.

But that was six months ago, and now Jenny Gleeson was a full time Beekeeper. At least in her mind. She was still a cop above all else (an I Bleed Blue bumper sticker on her Toyota hatchback) but she enjoyed the bees. She liked their devotion to work and their aggressiveness. She also enjoyed having something to look after. She had Reginald, but cats are independent and don’t need much looking after. Her caretaking of Reggi consisted of putting out food in the morning and evening, if she was around. No litter box as he did his business somewhere in the lush backyard of her childhood home. She felt lucky to live in the house she grew up in and the back yard gave her  ample space for her hives.

The hives were buzzing, and that was good news. In June you had to watch out for swarms – not as much as in May – but you never know. She’d given them ample room to spread out so she wasn’t particularly worried. She found a few dozen bees hovering outside the hive which was normal when the weather was this hot and humid. She went back to the house, poured herself a tall glass of iced tea and sat back in the wooden deck chair near the hives. She enjoyed watching the bees form a beard on the front of the hive, and felt that it was the bee’s way of chilling out on a hot summer night.

Jenny hung the laundry on the line, finally, it had been waiting in a moist pile for a few hours. Jenny found it difficult to care about around the house tasks, but nevertheless they needed to be done. Her phone chirped from the table. Sgt. Cobb.

Yeah? It’s my day off you know.

Well hello to you too! What if I was just calling to see if you wanna get a drink?

Are you?

silence. No.

I didn’t think so. What’s up? And it better be important. I’m busy.

I bet you are. Speaking of which, Francis would love another jar of that honey if you could manage. You know I like to keep the wife happy.

I could if I had some time to myself.

Alright, alright. Listen. The jewel thief. We know where he’s gonna hit tonight and I thought you’d want in. He’s your collar if you want em. PAUSE But if you’d rather watch your bees…

***

Three months had gone by and Jenny was still in the wheelchair. Catching that Jewel thief had been more than she’d bargained for- it left her with two broken legs. A fall from three stories will do that. At least the scum is behind bars, thought Jenny. Her legs itched, but she’d learned to live with it. She learned to live with a lot. She learned to live with daytime television and meals being brought by squad cars. She learned to live with the fact that her ass will be flat forever. She was learning to live with the time on her hands. She was even learning to speak french. Because… why not?

What Jenny couldn’t stand was being away from her bees.The irony of having three months off – paid – and not be able to go outside was too much to bear. It was mid September now and the bees would be busy gathering nectar and helping the queen with the eggs. Cobb had been checking in periodically, but Jenny didn’t trust him. Not with the bees. He was only trustworthy if it was something which affected him personally, and the bees certainly didn’t qualify. But with two broken legs, three steps down, and a walk to the hives, she didn’t have a choice. She had to trust the old man.

He was supposed to swing by at 3:30, and it was nearly four when Jenny heard a loud crash coming from the back yard. She managed to get herself out of the Lazy Boy recliner after quite a struggle, and sat herself down in the chair. Reggi was growling at the screen door in the kitchen.

“What is is Reg?” Jenny wheeled herself to the screen door and Reggi jumped out of the way. “Who’s out there?” She called. “Cobb is that you? Cobb?”

Silence. The lights should have come on. Why didn’t the motion sensors come on? “Hey! Who the fucks out there? You’ve got ten seconds to get off my property and then nothin’! I don’t have to call anybody! I’M A COP!”

The screen door slammed and scared the cat. Jenny was panting, upset. She opened the screen door again and wheeled out as far as she could and looked at the stairs. “Fuck!” She wheeled herself back inside and heard the front door opening.

“Jenny? Hey It’s Cobb. Here to check on your demented replacement for kids. Jenny?”

“In the kitchen!” She yelled.

“Hey there… what’s going on? You are white as a sheet.”

“Someone’s out there. I heard a crash.”

Cobb placed a hand on his weapon at the word crash. “I’m on it,” he said.

“That wasn’t you back there, was it? Just now?” She looked up at his face. She wanted to see if he was telling the truth. That’s what the city paid her for.

“Ha ha ha, what? No. Nope. I just got here. Hell you heard me come in the door, Jenny.”

“I know I did. It’s just that the timing is funny.”

“Right. I get that. But… why would I sneak around in the dark in your backyard?” Cobb was watching Jenny now. He was worried. “You’re getting a little paranoid. Don’t go all Rear Window on me now.” He smiled.

Maybe he was right. Maybe, thought Jenny, but maybe not.

Cobb was twitching. Moving his shoulders around and wincing. “I’ll just go take a look to be on the safe side.” He reached for the door. Something made a noise. Reggi growled at Cobb, something he never does.

“Hold it right there,” said Jenny. She drew her weapon. “Stay right where you are Cobb.”

“Jenny! What? What are you-”

As the words were falling from Sgt. Cobb’s mouth, a bee emerged from his collar and landed on the hammer of Jenny’s gun.

 

Short Story: Vivian Grable

SN850431Her name was Vivian Grable. She was born wealthy. An heiress really, Vivian never worked a day in her life. She never had too. From an early age Vivian understood that life would never be full of challenges. If she needed something, all she need do was ask Daddy. If Daddy wasn’t handy then Mommie or Nanny or Other Nanny could get it for her. Spills were cleaned before she could figure out what happened and soiled toys were replaced immediately. Vivian Grable was spoiled. Through no fault of her own.

She realized, as children do, that having the most and the best toys does not make you popular. Sure, at first everyone wants to be your friend, even if it is just to play with your toys. But soon the rainbow of excitement turns bitter and green. They begin to call you names and point. Vivian found this out at her eighth birthday party when she opened a new Barbie Doll – one which wasn’t for sale yet. All the other little girls looked on as she unwrapped the familiar sized box, they all knew what was in there. But which one? Vivian gleefully shouted, “It’s Sunset Malibu! And it’s not even out yet!” She brought it to her chest as if it were a rescued puppy, spinning and smiling as she thanked her Uncle Cody for getting it for her. He rustled her hair and muttered something about a favor for her father. He left to smoke a cigarette and never came back.

The rest of the party was unusually tense. Vivian noticed that none of the girls were playing with her or talking to her unless their mothers made them. She took her new Barbie, her aqua blue eyes staring through to a sunset somewhere beyond the plastic walls she calls home. Maybe she’s thinking about Ken, thought Vivian. She smiled. She always wanted her toys to have happy unions, like on TV. Not like at home. Mommies and Daddies should live in the same room, like on Little House on the Prairie, not in separate rooms like her and her brother.

She approached the girls and asked if anyone would like to see her new doll. While two or three of the girls genuinely did want to see this new, tan Barbie, who had pink sunglasses and hair down to her waist, DOWN TO HER WAIST! They did not step forward. A single look through the narrowed eyes of Debbie Johnson was enough to stop any girl dead in her tracks. The flock of little girls in their pastel party dresses stood there silent, like cotton candy melting in the sun.

“Nobody wants to see your doll. BABY,” said Debbie Johnson. It was only a second before The Cotton Candy Girls understood what was expected from them and the laughter began. Giggles like machine guns, all pointed at Vivian. “It’s cute. Really,” said Debbie. “Come on girls. Let’s get some cake.”

They walked away and left Vivian there holding her doll. She ran into the house in tears and didn’t come back to her own party. Years later in High School Vivian would remember that Birthday and demand that her Father return the Ferrari he purchased for her. She had managed to make a few friends who understood that it wasn’t her fault she was rich, and they liked her anyway. Daddy was angry, but eventually he relented as he always did, when Vivian began to sob. It would be another ten years before Vivian understood that it was not just her father who would do anything to make her stop crying, but all men. Men are very uncomfortable around a crying woman, she once told me.

The Ferrari was taken back to the showroom and Vivian insisted on something a little less flashy, but still cool. They agreed on a Mazda Miata. It was cute, and a few other schoolmates had been seen in them, so they couldn’t make fun.

Vivian was excited. A new car meant freedom. Vivian was ready to leave home, but her parents were not. They wanted their baby home where they could be a part of her life. That’s what they told her. The truth was that Dad was having two, maybe three affairs, and could no longer afford to send his precious daughter to Harvard. Where she had been accepted. With honors. And mom, well mom knew about at least one of the affairs and handled it the way most rich women do. She spent his money.

But Vivian didn’t know any of this the day her father drove around to their front door, honking a horn which sounded like it belonged in a clown car. It was red and it was shiney. Vivian didn’t care that it wasn’t exactly new. She was happier not flaunting wealth. Good thing too. She ran outside and jumped up and down until her father finally got out and hugged her.

“For you my little angel. My Vivian Lee. I love you.” He kissed her forehead and dangled the keys in his fingers.

“I love you too, Daddy.” She snatched the keys from his hand and opened the car door. And for the briefest moment Vivian Grable was happy. She didn’t feel guilty about this gift and she felt her father really meant what he said. She smiled, put the key in the ignition and turned it. Mom and dad cheered. Her brother had already wandered back to his video games.

“Alright. That’s enough for now.”

“What are you talking about Mary?” He walked around the front of the car. Vivian turned off the ignition. “She literally just got the goddamned thing and now she can’t even drive it? jesus christ you are something.” His hands were plowing rows in his graying hair.

“Phil. She doesn’t even have a licence. She’s never even been behind the wheel for christsakes.Be reasonable.”

“How about in the driveway. Even Rain Man was allowed to drive the the driveway.” Both parents turned and looked at their daughter. She hesitated. “I mean, it’s like… just the driveway mom.”

Phil smiled and came back to his daughter. He was laughing now, and seemed to be back in a good humor. Daddy was like that. He told her to go ahead, and just stay in the driveway before walking to the porch. Vivian wasn’t sure if he was getting out of the way or going to apologise, but she kinda figured on the former.

Key. Turn. Ignition. She fiddled with the radio and cranked it up when she landed on I Saw the Sign. The pedal was a bit harder to press down than she thought. And why are there two? Oh well, here we go! The car began to lurch forward  and she saw her father leaping down off the porch, waving his hands wildly. She couldn’t make out what he was saying but she took it as encouragement.

She didn’t think cars were supposed to grind so much, but she figured it out. Well, after her father caught up with her and explained what a clutch was. But that was months later. Vivian crashed that red Miata at the end of the Driveway that day. She didn’t suffer any injuries, but she didn’t want to drive again after that. She was a bad driver. Daddy told her that not everything was easy the first time, especially not driving stick. And especially for a woman. Her mother hit him and threw him out of the house for that.

But he was right. Not every thing would be easy the first time. Driving was the first thing in life which she hadn’t been prepared for. Or rather, which hadn’t been prepared for her. This is my first challenge, she thought.

And Vivian set to work on becoming a good driver. When she wasn’t studying for school she was often found in a garage covered in grease under a car. Knowing the why takes away the fear. Cars stopped being scary after she understood them. By the time she left Harvard, at the top of her class of course, Vivian could take apart any engine, foreign or domestic. But she still wouldn’t drive a car.

Vivian lived a pretty successful and exciting life, from anyone’s standpoint. She stayed in Cambridge after graduation and worked both as an auto mechanic in town, and also as a journalist known as Max Wheeler – Automobile Expert. She wrote columns for Men’s magazines about cars and women. Publishers never asked to meet in person, and her articles soon brought in a lot of money and attention. She feared being found out and decided that Max Wheeler – Automobile Expert should have some sort of poetic demise, run his car off a cliff maybe. But in the end she decided to just stop writing pieces. Editors and publishers called, wrote letters, but eventually they found another person who could write about cars and women.

For years nobody knew where she would go during those long trips. Some say she traveled the world, a lover in every country. Others said she holed up in a hotel because she was afraid of people. She might have done those things. I wouldn’t put it passed her. But I know for certain.

The truth is, every so often Vivian Grable would go back to her home town and drive a car in her old driveway. No one knew that she paid the owners to allow her this indulgence, and furthermore no one knew she drove not just cars but motorcycles.

That is until I saw her. I had never gone anywhere my whole life. I mean I took some vacations with Jerry and the kids, but that’s not the same thing. Vivian lived a life full of adventure and secrets and strangeness that I never had. My life was plain and simple and dull. Kids and cars and Mommie things. And there she was after all these years. I couldn’t believe it. I literally ran across the street and hid behind the bushes.

That was the first time. I watched her do this two more times before my curiosity got the better of me and I knocked on the door of the house. He told me the former owner of the house paid him $200 cash every time. No questions asked. I asked him to phone me the next time, anytime she came by. He was nervous, but I promised not to cause problems. She wouldn’t notice I was there. And, we were old friends anyway.

I waited for her at the end of the Driveway. She wouldn’t see me until she drove back around. I waited for just the right moment and I darted out in front of the car. She screeched to a halt. I was flooded in light, my arms out, palms up. She left the car going and opened the door.

“Debbie Johnson,” she said. “I haven’t seen you since you made me cry at my eighth Birthday party.”

“You remember that?” I said. I knew she did. I had made sure it would stick. I wasn’t a nice kid.

“Yeah. I remember. What are you doing here?”

“I followed you here. I saw you a month ago and got curious. I’m still curious.” I looked at her. She didn’t move and I couldn’t see her face with the lights in my eyes. “Mind turning those off?” I said, raising an arm.

“Yeah. I mind. What are you curious about? You hate me.”

“No… I don’t. Vivian. Listen whatever you’re doing here. I don’t care. The truth is, I want to be your friend. You come to the house you grew up in once or twice a month and pay the owner to let you drive in the driveway. Is that about the size of it?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

She took a deep breath and motioned towards me. “Get in,” she said.

I lowered my arms and came to her. She looked older but not old, her long blond hair still held back in a single long ponytail.

“I’ve got a better idea,” I said. “Let’s take a long walk.”

She blinked, reached in and turned off the engine.

Writing: Short Story a Day

prod240087_H12I’m on holiday, and I’m too poor and lazy to travel at the moment, so I’m having a “Staycation”. (What a stupid word) I promised myself I would be productive and not simply watch The Great British Bake off for five days in a row. I guess I can still do that, but in between episodes I have to write! It dawned on me that I can write an entire novel (50,000+ words!) in one month when I put my mind to it, but the rest of the year I am an excuse factory. Something which I cannot abide. If you can make an excuse, you can fix it.

The solution is: For the next four or five days, I’m using the game STORYMATIC. It was a Christmas gift from my fella, and it’s pretty cool. (And it is also available for Tiny People, we sell them at my work) It’s a card system for building stories either audibly, or in writing. It’s for groups or for a single, solitary person to use as writing prompts over their “Staycation” in Seattle when it is pouring rain. Every. Single. Day.

It’s an easy game. You choose two GOLD cards first. These are your character cards. Next pick two BRONZE cards. These are your story cards, or elements you need to work into your story. I like having challenges, so I’ll post the stories here, along with the pictures of the prompts.

Please keep in mind that I’m writing these as stream of consciousness, so you are getting the first and only draft. 

Nope, I Don’t Want Kids

REPOST FROM 2013: Seems this conversation is finally happening!

American Vagabond

imagesIt happened again today. I was at a new salon getting a super cute summer do, enjoying a glass of white wine, when the stylist asked me if I had kids. “Nope”, I said. And I politely changed the subject.

Like many, many women the world over, I won’t be having kids. I thought about it here and there, but it never seemed like the type of commitment I was willing to make. It costs a lot of money, time, and energy to raise an upstanding human. I choose to spend my time, energy and money differently. That’s my choice. Don’t get me wrong – I love kids. We get along great! I have been teaching preschool (infants – six years) for a while now and I’m a very popular teacher. I’m strict but fair, and I’m one of the only teachers who plays with the kids. I like coloring…

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End of the Year Book Round Up

I read a lot of good books this year. Participation in Seattle Library’s “Summer Book Bingo” helped me not only diversify my reading list, but helped me reach a whopping 47 books read this year. I set a goal of 33 and crushed it, even taking November off for NaNoWriMo.

So… here is what I’ve read, with a few descriptions of my favorites.

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From the top…

I absolutely hated Gillian Flynn’s utterly predictable Sharp Objects. I had the entire thing figured out at page 18. No lie. I circled it. Anyway, both of Stephen King’s available novels in the Bill Hodges Trilogy are a lot of fun. If you are not a fan of Mr. King’s gorey, scary horror novels, then maybe give these a try. These two novels (and a third to be released 2016) follow Detective Hodges the first, in search of a mass murderer who uses a Mercedes as his weapon, and the second is a cat and mouse game centering around a famous novelists lost, handwritten manuscripts. A lot of fun for a book nerd like myself.

Richard Adam’s Watership Down should be required reading. My only memory of it was the grizzly yet completely awesome cartoon. It scared the shit out of a generation. And rightly so. The novel is an allegory of war, and it was written for children. Who else should we teach the horrors of what war can bring? But, you know… in the form of adorable yet frightening bunny rabbits. It’s masterfully written, and beautiful, and go read it. Another novel about animals at war is the wonderfully weird MORT(e), by Robert Repino. See, the ants have taken over and declared war on the humans. They’ve enlisted the animals giving them the power to speak by helping them evolve. I know. It’s crazy. But it’s about a TALKING WARRIOR KITTY.

Gregory Maguire’s “After Alice” was wonderful. I wrote an email to him telling him so, and to my surprise, he responded. He was funny and gracious. His book is full of new characters and familiar friends from Wonderland. He seamlessly infuses reality with Wonderland. Along those lines we have the always delightful Jeanette Winterson and her novel about Napoleon and his love for chicken – The Passion. It’s so funny!

Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, is great. Do it as an audiobook for extra hilarity and extra celebrity cameos. Think Like a Freak is also an excellent choice for audiobook. Chop some onions and learn why David Lee Roth really demanded no green m&m’s in his dressing room.

Ok. I gotta speed this up…

My favorite book of the whole year was Anna Karenina. I read it in 24 days. Amazing. Lolita was also incredible and hilarious and so well written I had to put it down a few times. The short stories in both Trigger Warning and Bad Behavior were dark and creepy and scary… but for completely different reasons. The Muse and The Price of Salt were suburb (the later was the inspiration for Nabokov’s Lolita) and The Detective Magritte Mysteries by George Simenon are oodles of fun which you can devour in one sitting. John Irving (i love you) is back with some familiar themes in Avenue of Mysteries. I liked it, but if it’s gonna be your first outting with Mr. Irving, choose an older title. He’s way better than this book.

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Okay… Elena Ferrante and her pastel colored, Neapolitan Novels: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, The Story of a Lost Child. As I write this I am  pages away from completing Book Three. I could write 1,000 words or more on these books, but I’ll attempt to be brief. The vulgarly colored covers are a lie. A lie which is only revealed in the reading of the books. I wish I could convince more men to read these because they are full of politics and violence. Love and revenge and hate and war. Yes, it centers around the “friendship” of two females, but this book is not about two women who get cocktails and talk about men. These are more Joyce Carol Oates than Bridget Jones Diary. Anyway… go out and get them. And get all of them because you’ll finish the first one and be really, really mad if you don’t have that next book handy. So good!

Twyla Tharp: The Creative Habit, Steering the Craft by Ursula K. LeGuin, and Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury are seriously fantastic and should be a part of any creative person’s library. They each attack creativity in a different and compelling way. Also by the great Mr. Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Oh my gosh! It’s so good! So scary! The witch scene was particularly spooky. If you enjoyed the film, read the book. Also scary, more so even, was Don’t Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier. This collection of stories is thrilling, chilling and absorbing. Aside from the title story, the best is The Birds, from which the Hitchcock film was very loosely based. The story is far more frightening. The Turn of the Screw and Revival were also pretty terrifying. In a good way.

Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, about the sinking of the Lusitania, is eye opening and riveting. All of his books are.

I can’t say enough about Lauren Groff’s superbly written Fates and Furies. For this bookseller, it was far and away the best book (new 2015) I read this year. It played with style and language. It didn’t spoon feed anything to the reader. (Take note, Gillian Flynn.) And it was both touching and funny. The first half of the book is told by The Fates, the second by The Furies. They tell the story of one marriage from two perspectives. It’s perfect. If I could ever write a book even half as good as this one, I’ll die happy. Well done, Miss Groff!

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And finishing out the list… the prolific and insanely good, Joyce Carol Oates wrote The Sacrifice – a retelling of the Tawana Brawley case. And oh boy, does she go for it. If you don’t know what that is: Google it. I’ll wait. The racial climate hasn’t changed that much, and she shines a light on all of the ugliness – on both sides. It’s an intriguing read. If you want to laugh your ass off pick up Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck, and Ron Koetrge’s book of Flash Fiction, Sex World. 

Lastly, I encourage everyone to read The Book of Strange New Things, by Michel Faber. All of his novels are incredible and very different from one another. He wrote Crimson Petal and the White (SO GREAT!) and Under the Skin (SO WEIRD!) He’s an incredibly talented writer, and sadly he says this would be his final book. If that’s true, he left us with a masterpiece. It’s about a man who travels to a distant planet to spread The Gospel to the “aliens” who live there. He has to leave his beloved wife and their cat. The book is about love and loss and distance and peace. It’s beautiful.

So there you have it. The best of what I read this year. And just because I don’t mention a title doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. I just don’t have all the time in the world for book reviews. I gotta read! And, I’ll have you note that my booklist was unintentionally diverse. I don’t choose books based on what the writer looks like, where they were born, or what their sexual preference is. I just read. That being said I read books from authors hailing from The Netherlands, Belgium, America, Russia, the UK and more. I read books by women and men, and I read graphic novels, nonfiction, and kids books. I covered everything.

And it was good.