Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tube Talk : Supernatural Season 2 Episode 21

Tube Talk Supernatural
Every week, Elizabeth and I talk about a few episodes of Supernatural. And every week I have a fail of some sort...fail to watch the episodes on time, fail to post on time, etc. I'm sorry, Elizabeth! I love you and this show! We are already at the end of season 2. Time flies when you love a show. Season 3 was cut short due to the blasted writer's strike so before you know it we'll be whining about how we can't get our hands on season 4. The things you have to look forward to. By the way we totally post with spoilers, just an FYI.

Episode 21: All Breaks Loose
Synopsis: Sam is abducted by the yellow-eyed demon and finds himself in a ghost town with children who have special abilities. They learn that the demon has brought them together to initiate his endgame: an all-out war against the human race.

Amy: OMG, this episode was like Heroes meets the Hunger Games!!!!!!!!

Elizabeth: I know - I thought the setup was brilliant.

Amy: What a creepy little town they found themselves in. Did you feel at all suspicious of Ava having been there for 5 months? How bout Lily's ability? I would have just wanted to die anyway, if I couldn't touch anyone.

Elizabeth: Yeah, Lily's ability was awful. But I can understand why the demon might want that for its army. I thought it was a little weird that Ava had been there for so long, but she seemed so completely innocent that I didn't imagine she had turned so heartless. Although, I suppose at some point your self-preservation instinct would have to kick in, so I can't say that I really blame her.

Amy: I knew the Roadhouse was doomed when Ash said he couldn't talk on that line. Seriously bummed about that.

Elizabeth: That was awful! The roadhouse was the closest thing the brothers had to a home, and now that is gone, too. And I'm so sorry to lose Ash! Amy: Me too.

Amy: I was kind of sorry to see Andy kick it.

Elizabeth: He had really grown on me, but I was happy it was him and not Sam. Amy: Oh just you wait. ;)

Amy: I was hoping Sam could kill that kid, but he couldn't. Sad times.

Elizabeth: I think it just showed that Sam is NOT, in fact, the killer that everyone tells him he will become. Amy: Sam is no Katniss.

Amy: How heartbreaking was Sam's death?

Elizabeth: That was really horrible. The despair in Dean's eyes was heartbreaking. I knew at that point that he was going to do something tragic to try to bring his brother back - it was his one job, and he failed. I had a pit in my stomach, anticipating what would happen next.

Amy: I love Dean. Just realized I hadn't gotten that in somehow this week, so I better take the opportunity. :)

Go see our thoughts on the end of the season at Elizabeth's blog and join us next week for the beginning of our discussion on Season 3.


Read the First Chapter of Critical Care by Candace Calvert!

I gave Critical Care by Candace Calvert to my mom to review and she did over at the Friendly Book Nook! Read the first chapter here and then read her review!

Don’t die, little girl.

Dr. Logan Caldwell pressed the heel of his hand against Amy Hester’s chest, taking over heart compressions in a last attempt to save the child’s life. Her small sternum hollowed and recoiled under his palm at a rate of one hundred times per minute, the best he could do to mimic her natural heartbeat. A respiratory therapist forced air into her lungs.

Don’t die. Logan glanced up at the ER resuscitation clock, ticking on without mercy. Twenty-seven minutes since they’d begun the code. No heartbeat. Not once. Time to quit but . . .

He turned to his charge nurse, Erin Quinn, very aware of the insistent wail of sirens in the distance. “Last dose of epi?”

“Three minutes ago.”

“Give another.” Logan halted compressions, his motionless hand easily spanning the width of the two-year-old’s chest. He watched until satisfied with the proficiency of the therapist’s ventilations, then turned back to the cardiac monitor and frowned. Asystole—flatline. Flogging this young heart with atropine and repeated doses of epinephrine wasn’t going to do it. A pacemaker, pointless. She’d been deprived of oxygen far too long before rescue.

Logan pushed his palm into Amy’s sternum again and gritted his teeth against images of a terrified little girl hiding in a toy cupboard as her day care burned in a suffocating cloud of smoke, amid the chaos of two dozen other burned and panicking children.

“Epi’s on board,” Erin reported, sweeping an errant strand of coppery hair away from her face. She pressed two fingers against the child’s arm to locate the brachial pulse and raised her gaze to the doctor’s. “You’re generating a good pulse with compressions, but . . .”

But she’s dead. With reluctance, Logan lifted his hand from the child’s chest. He studied the monitor display and then nodded at the blonde nurse standing beside the crash cart. “Run me rhythm strips in three leads, Sarah.” After he drew in a slow breath of air still acrid with the residue of smoke, he glanced down at Amy Hester, her cheeks unnaturally rosy from the effects of carbon monoxide, glossy brown curls splayed against the starched hospital linen. Dainty purple flower earrings. Blue eyes, glazed and half-lidded. Tiny chin. And lips—pink as a Valentine cupid—pursed around the rigid breathing tube, as if it were a straw in a snack-time juice box. Picture-perfect . . . and gone.

He signaled for the ventilations to stop and checked the code clock again. “Time of death—9:47.”

There was a long stretch of silence, and Logan used it to make his exit, turning his back to avoid another glance at the child on the gurney . . . and the expressions on the faces of his team. No good came from dwelling on tragedy. He knew that too well. Best to move on with what he had to do. He’d almost reached the doorway when Erin caught his arm.

“We’ve put Amy’s parents and grandmother in the quiet room the way you asked,” she confirmed, her green eyes conveying empathy for him as well. “I can send Sarah with you, if—”

“No. I’ll handle it myself,” Logan said, cutting her off. His tone was brusquer than he’d intended, but he just wanted this over with. “We need Sarah here.” He tensed at a child’s shrill cry in the trauma room beyond, followed by the squawk of the base station radio announcing an ambulance. “There are at least five more kids coming in from the propane explosion. We’ll need extra staff to do more than pass out boxes of Kleenex. I want nurses who know what they’re doing. Get them for me.”


Why am I here?

Claire Avery winced as a child’s painful cry echoed up the Sierra Mercy emergency department corridor and blended with the wail of sirens. Almost an hour after the Little Nugget Day Care explosion, ambulances still raced in. Fire. Burns. Like my brother. No, please, I can’t be part of this again.

She leaned against the cool corridor wall, her mouth dry and thoughts stuttering. Being called to the ER was a mistake. Had to be. The message to meet the director of nursing didn’t make sense. Claire hadn’t done critical care nursing since Kevin’s death. Couldn’t. She wiped a clammy palm on her freshly pressed lab coat and stepped away from the wall to peer down the corridor into the ER. Then jumped, heart pounding, at the thud of heavy footfalls directly behind her.

She whirled to catch a glimpse of a man barreling toward her with his gaze on the ambulance entrance some dozen yards away. He looked a few years older than she was, maybe thirty-five, tall and wide shouldered, with curly dark hair and faded blue scrubs. He leveled a forbidding scowl at Claire like a weapon and slowed to a jog before stopping a few paces from her.

“What are you doing?” he asked, grabbing his stethoscope before it could slide from his neck.

“I’m . . . waiting,” Claire explained, awkwardly defensive. “I was paged to the ER.”

“Good. Then don’t just stand there holding up the wall. Let’s go. The charge nurse will show you where to start.”

“But I—,” she choked, her confusion complete.

“But what?” He glanced toward sounds at the ambulance bay and then back at her.

Claire cleared her throat. “I don’t know why I’m here.”

He shook his head, his low groan sounding far too much like a smothered curse. “If that question’s existential, I don’t have time for it. But if you’re here to work, follow me. Erin Quinn will tell you everything you need to know.” He pointed toward a crew of paramedics racing through the ambulance doors with a stretcher. A toddler, his tiny, terrified face raw and blistered behind an oxygen mask, sat bolt upright partially covered by a layer of sterile sheets. “See that boy? That’s why I’m here. So either help me or get out of the way.” He turned and began jogging.

Speechless, Claire stared at the man’s retreating back and the nightmarish scene beyond: burned child, hustling medics, a flurry of scrubs, and a hysterically screaming parent. Help or get out of the way? What was she supposed to do with that ultimatum? And what gave this rude man the right to issue it?

Then, with a rush of relief, Claire spotted the Jamaican nursing director striding toward her. This awful mistake was about to be cleared up.

“I’m sorry for the delay,” Merlene Hibbert said, her molasses-rich voice breathless. “As you can imagine, there have been many things to attend to.” She slid her tortoiseshell glasses low on her nose, squinting down the corridor. “I see you already met our Dr. Caldwell.”

Claire’s eyes widened. Logan Caldwell? Sierra Mercy Hospital’s ER director?

Merlene sighed. “I’d planned to introduce you myself. I hope he wasn’t . . . difficult.”

“No, not exactly,” she hedged, refusing to imagine a reason she’d need an introduction. “But I think there’s been a mistake. He thought I’d been sent down here to work in the ER.” Tell me he’s mistaken.

“Of course. A natural mistake. He’s expecting two more agency nurses.”

Claire’s knees nearly buckled with relief. “Thank goodness. They need help. I can see that from here.” She glanced at the ER, where patients on gurneys overflowed into the hallway. A nurse’s aide held a sobbing woman in her arms, her face etched with fatigue. Styrofoam coffee cups, discarded cardboard splints, and scraps of cut-away clothing littered the floor. All the while, the distant cries of that poor child continued relentlessly.

“Yes, they do,” Merlene agreed. “And that’s exactly why I called you.”

“But I’ve been at Sierra Mercy only a few months, and my hours are promised to the education department—to train the students, write policies, and demonstrate new equipment.” Claire floundered ahead as if grasping for a life preserver. “I’ve interviewed to replace Renee Baxter as clinical educator. And I haven’t done any critical care nursing in two years, so working in the ER would be out of the—”

“That’s not why you’re here,” Merlene said. Her dark eyes pinned Claire like a butterfly specimen on corkboard. “I need you to assess my staff to see how they’re coping emotionally. I don’t have to tell you this has been one miserable morning.” She studied Claire’s face and then raised her brows. “You listed that in your résumé. That you’ve been recently trained in Critical Incident Stress Management?”

CISM? Oh no. She’d forgotten. Why on earth had she included that? “Yes, I’m certified, but . . .” How could she explain? Merlene had no clue that Claire’s entire future—maybe even her sanity—depended on never setting foot in an ER again. It was the only answer to the single prayer she’d clung to since her firefighter brother’s death in a Sacramento trauma room two years ago. Being helpless to save him left her with crippling doubts, sleep-stealing nightmares, and . . . She’d mapped her future out meticulously. The move to Placerville, a new hospital, a new career path, no going back. Everything depended on her plan.

Claire brushed away a long strand of her dark hair and forced herself to stand tall, squaring her shoulders. “I understand what you’re asking. But you should know that I haven’t done any disaster counseling beyond classroom practice. I’m familiar with the principles, but . . .” What could she possibly offer these people? “Wouldn’t the chaplain be a better choice?”

“He’s going to be delayed for several hours. Erin Quinn’s my strongest charge nurse, so if she tells me her ER team is at risk, I believe it. They received six children from that explosion at the day care. Four are in serious condition, and a two-year-old died.” Merlene touched the amber and silver cross resting at the neckline of her uniform. She continued, frowning. “Dr. Caldwell’s working them ragged. An agency nurse threatened to walk out. Security’s got their hands full with the media. . . . You’re all I can offer them right now.”

Claire’s heart pounded in her throat. With every fiber of her being, she wanted to sprint into the northern California sunshine; fill her lungs with mountain air; cleanse away the suffocating scents of fear, pain, and death; keep on running and not look back. It would be so easy. Except that these were fellow nurses in that ER; she’d walked in their shoes. More than most people, Claire understood the awful toll this work could take. The staff needed help. How could she refuse? She took a breath and let it out slowly. “Okay. I’ll do it.”

“Good.” Relief flooded into Merlene’s eyes. She handed Claire a dog-eared sheaf of papers. “Here’s our hospital policy for staff support interventions. Probably nothing new there.” She gestured toward her office a few yards away. “Why don’t you sit down and review it for a few minutes before you go in? You can report to me later after I make my rounds.”

Before Claire could respond, the ambulance bay doors slammed open at the far end of the corridor. There was an answering thunder of footsteps, rubber-soled shoes squeaking across the faded vinyl flooring.

Logan Caldwell reappeared, shoving past a clutch of reporters to direct incoming paramedics. He raked his fingers through his hair and bellowed orders. “Faster! Get that stretcher moving. Give me something to work with, guys. And you—yeah, you, buddy—get the camera out of my face! Who let you in here?” The ER director whirled, stethoscope swinging across his broad chest, to shout at a tall nurse who’d appeared at the entrance to the ER. “Where are those extra nurses, Erin? Call the evening crew in early; a double shift won’t kill anyone. We’re working a disaster case here. Get me some decent staff!”

Claire gritted her teeth. Though she still hadn’t officially met him, there was no doubt in her mind that Logan Caldwell deserved his notorious reputation. Dr. McSnarly. The nickname fit like a surgical glove. Thank heaven she didn’t have to actually work with him—the man looked like he ate chaos for breakfast.

Claire turned to Merlene. “I’ll do the best I can,” she said, then drew a self-protective line. “But only for today. Just until the chaplain comes.”

“Of course. Very short-term.” Merlene began walking away, then stopped to glance over her shoulder. “Oh, a word of caution: Dr. Caldwell hates the idea of counseling. I’d watch my back if I were you.”

Claire hesitated outside the doors to the emergency department. She’d reviewed the summary of steps for an initial critical stress intervention and was as ready as she’d ever be. Considering she’d never done any peer counseling before. I’m a fraud. Why am I here?

She shut her eyes for a moment, hearing the din of the department beyond. It had been stupid to put the CISM training on her résumé. She’d taken the course last fall and participated reluctantly in the mock crisis situations, mostly because it would look impressive on her application for the clinical educator position. But afterward Claire knew that she could never volunteer as a peer counselor. Never. It felt too personal, too painful.

Healing the healers, they called it, the basis for the work of volunteer teams that waded into horror zones after events like 9/11, the killer tsunami in Indonesia, and the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And a Sacramento, California, trauma room after a warehouse fire that killed seven firefighters.

Claire fought the memories. Yes, the counseling teams made sure that caregivers took care of themselves too, assessing them for burnout and signs of post-traumatic stress. Like difficulty making decisions, sleeplessness, nightmares, and relationship failures. Claire knew the symptoms only too well. She’d struggled with most of them herself these past two years, exactly the reason she’d run away from that Sacramento hospital—after refusing its offer of stress counseling—and never looked back.

But here she was at another ER door, peeking inside through a narrow panel of bulletproof glass. And now she was responsible for helping these people deal with everything she was trying so hard to forget and expected to offer the kind of counseling she’d never accepted herself. Beyond ironic—impossible and completely at odds with her plan.

Claire raised her palm and pushed the door inward.

Heal my heart and move me forward. She’d prayed it every single day.

So why was her life slamming into reverse?

The essence of Sierra Mercy ER hit Claire’s senses like an assault. Sounds: anxious chatter, a burst from the overhead PA speakers, beeping of electronic monitors, inconsolable crying, and painful screams. Smells: nervous perspiration, stale coffee, surgical soap, bandaging adhesive, the scorched scent of sterile surgical packs . . . and of burned hair and flesh.

No, no. Claire’s stomach lurched as she clutched her briefcase like a shield and scanned the crowded room for the charge nurse. Find Erin Quinn. Concentrate on that.

She took a slow breath and walked farther into the room, searching among the eddy of staff in multicolored scrubs—technicians, nurses, and registration clerks. She forced herself to note the glassed-in code room, a small central nurses’ station and its large dry-erase assignment board, the semicircular arrangement of curtained exam cubicles with wall-mounted equipment at the head of each gurney, and the huge surgical exam lights overhead.

Claire tried to avoid the anxious faces of the family members huddled close to the tiny victims. Because she knew intimately how much they were suffering. No, much worse than that. I feel it. I still feel it.

When she’d agreed to do this for Merlene, she’d hoped this smaller ER—miles from the Sacramento trauma center and two years later—would be somehow different, but nothing had changed. Especially how it made Claire feel, the same way it had in those weeks after Kevin’s death. Unsure of herself for the first time in her nursing career, she’d been antsy, queasy, and clammy with doubt. Dreading the wail of approaching sirens and jumping at each squawk of the emergency radio. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t shake the irrational certainty that the very next ambulance stretcher would be carrying someone she loved, someone she’d be unable to save, and . . .

A cry in the distance made Claire turn. Her breath caught as the young charge nurse opened a curtain shielding a gurney.

A child, maybe three years old, rested upright in a nest of blue sterile sheets, tufts of his wispy blond hair blackened at the tips—some missing in spots—reddened scalp glistening with blisters. One eye had swollen closed, and his nose was skewed a little to one side by the clear plastic tape securing a bandage to his cheek. The other blue eye blinked slowly as if mesmerized by the drip chamber of the IV setup taped to his arm. An oxygen cannula stretched across his puffy, tear-streaked face.

Beside him, a stainless steel basin, bottles of sterile saline, and stacks of gauze squares sat assembled on a draped table. Burn care: control pain, cool the burn to stop it from going deeper, monitor for dehydration, and prevent tetanus and infection. All the bases covered. Unless the burns are horrific and complicated, like Kevin’s. Unless there is profound shock, heart failure, and . . . No, don’t think of it.

Claire exhaled, watching as Erin Quinn pressed the button on a blood pressure monitor and efficiently readjusted the finger probe measuring the child’s lung status. She made a note on a chart and moved back to the bedside as the child stirred and cried out.


“Mom’s getting a bandage on her leg, Jamie, remember?” she explained gently, then caught sight of Claire and acknowledged her with a wave. She called to another nurse across the room. “Sarah, can you finish the ointment on Jamie’s scalp? watch him for few minutes?” After giving a brief report to the petite blonde nurse, she crossed to where Claire stood.

“Good, you found me,” Erin said, noting Claire’s name badge and offering a firm handshake. Strands of coppery hair had escaped from her ponytail, and her blue scrubs were splotched with snowy white burn ointment. She nodded as Claire glanced once more at the injured boy. “Second-degree burns. No explosion trauma, otherwise he’d be on a chopper ride to Sacramento. But Jamie’s got asthma, and the smoke stirred things up. So . . .”

“He needs close observation,” Claire finished. “I understand.”

Erin smiled. “Hey, I really appreciate your coming here. We’ve had a horrible shift, and my staff are workhorses, but the Hester child was a real heartbreaker. We worked a long time to save her, but it didn’t happen. And only last weekend we had the first drowning of the season. Junior high boy fishing on the river. Overall my crew seems to be coping fairly well, but today might be that last straw, you know? So I have a couple of issues I’d like to discuss with you. I can spare about ten minutes to fill you in. Will that be enough to get you started?”

“Yes . . . okay.” Claire tried to recall the details of her review. How much could she offer here? One person couldn’t do more than a brief assessment and let the staff know more assistance was available. At least she’d found the self-help pamphlets. “But first I should tell you that I left a message for the hospital social worker because if an actual debriefing is needed, then a mental health professional is required. That’s policy.” She swallowed, hoping she sounded more confident than she felt. “The debriefing should be done tomorrow or the next day.”

“What?” Erin shot her a look that clearly implied Claire was the one who needed mental help. “Tomorrow? I called you here because we need help now. Didn’t Merlene tell you that?” She pressed her fist to her lips. “Look, I’ve had a lab tech faint, the media’s harassing family members in the waiting room, and an agency nurse threatened to walk out. Walk out, when I’m short-staffed already! I’m sorry if I seem testy, but I’m responsible for the quality of nursing care here. My team needs help, and I’ll do everything it takes to make that happen. Merlene told me you were a trained peer counselor. Aren’t you?”

She hated herself. Erin Quinn was right. Claire needed to do whatever she could for these people. Somehow. She reached into her briefcase and grabbed a sheaf of glossy pamphlets. “Yes, I’ve been trained. And I can start an initial assessment, get things going in the process. I promise I’ll do as much as I can to help, and . . .” Her voice faltered as heavy footsteps came to a stop behind her. She fought an unnerving sense of déjà vu and impending doom.

“Help?” A man’s voice, thick with sarcasm, prodded her back like the devil’s pitchfork.

Claire turned, several pamphlets slipping from her fingers.

It was time to officially meet the newest threat to her plan, Dr. Logan Caldwell.

Chat with Beth Kephart

Thanks to all who came to the chat! It was a very fun time and Beth is a classy wonderful person!

Nothing but Ghosts Book Party!

Hello and welcome to the Nothing but Ghosts book party! We've been getting ready all week for this and up to this moment 43 of you have purchased the book! Thank you so much for your support of Beth and her fabulous new novel! But don't worry! It's not too late! We still have a goal of 200 and I still believe we can reach that. In fact, I know that after you watch this reading from Beth, you'll be eager to buy the book if you haven't already. It gave me chills, it's just absolutely beautiful!

If you do decide to buy the book today, please forward your receipt to me today so that I can tally it by tonight's chat! But the drive doesn't officially end until Friday, so there's plenty of time to get your book!

That's right...tonight's chat! Don't forget to show up at 9 PM EST/6 PM PST for a live chat with Beth! It will earn you an entry into the prize drawings.

Boston Globe had this to say about Nothing but Ghosts, "Kephart’s language is diamond-sharp and bright." I couldn't agree more!


Monday, June 29, 2009

Game On! Diet! Yes, Me!

I think I'm the last of the Ding-Dongs to blog about this, but I wanted to wait until I had the book in hand before I tried to put together a post. Here's how it went down:

Dawn suggests we do this Game On! Diet thing. She reminds me that Jennifer of Book Club Girl has been doing it. "Oh yes" I think, vaguely remembering scanning those posts. "Sounds like a good time, count me in!"

For some reason, I actually thought "diet" and "sounds like a good time" went together.

So when I started realizing what this entailed ("Giving up diet soda...WHAT???) I have to admit I started to feel a little grumpy. And then my book didn't show up before we started and while I could read the book online, well, we all know how that goes. I felt like I was taking a huge exam after only glancing at the notes.

But I did my best to eat 5 meals that fit into the plan of the diet, avoided snacking, and drank 3 liters of water. My book showed up today and so I tucked it in my purse and headed to the grocery store.

Yes, I'm starving myself, it sure feels like it. But as I was chopping up cucumbers and basking in their wonderful scent, I got to thinking that I'm going to enjoy this. It's fun to do it on a team and to award myself points for doing things right. It always feels good to make healthy choices and as I said, I love cucumbers. So this just might work out after all. Besides, I've always wanted to do this review a diet book by doing it sort of thing. I meant to do it with the Ultimate Tea Diet, but it never happened. So now I'm doing it!

Here are the details! (Stolen from Jenn's Bookshelf)

The Game On! Diet is the brainchild of Krista Vernoff, head writer and executive producer of tv's Grey's Anatomy and Az Ferguson, winner of the Body-for-Life Challenge. When Krista returned to work after having her baby, she called on Az to help her lose the baby weight. He made her a workout regimen and eating plan that she, well, didn't follow at all. So Az went back to the drawing board. Knowing that Krista had a VERY competitive nature, he decided to present her with a healthy lifestyle plan in the form of a game, that she could play with a team, and that she could play to win. This appealed to her very much. Rather than the focus being on losing weight, the focus is on winning points, a far more tantalizing prospect.

So how do you earn points? You can earn a maximum of 100 points a day for doing the following:

1) Eating 5 balanced meals a day, every 2-4 hours -- 6 points per meal
2) Exercising for at least 20 minutes a day -- 20 points
3) Sleeping for a minimum of 7 hours per night -- 15 points
4) Drinking 3 liters of water a day -- 10 points
5) Adopting a healthy new habit that you practice every day -- 10 points
6) Dropping one unhealthy habit -- 10 points
7) Communicating with your team members every day -- 5 points

You earn penalties (points lost!) for:

1) stepping on the scale more than once a day
2) unsanctioned snacking (you can have as much celery and cucumber as you want throughout the day, plus 100 free calories of whatever once a day, no other snacking)
3) Colluding with the opposing team to get them to break a rule
4) Drinking alcohol (see exception below)
5) changing the healthy or unhealthy habit during the course of the game (you have to pick those and stick to them).

It's not about total deprivation as you get:

1) One day off a week, when you don't have to follow any of the rules
2) One meal off a week when you can eat what you want and have one unit of alcohol
3) each day you can have 100 calories of anything as a bonus treat

My Habit to stop: Checking email on my phone. Being fully present with the people I'm with.

My Habit to Add: Organzing all the piles of paper I have around in my office and home. I hope to spend a little time each day doing just this!

We have three teams participating...The Ding-Dongs, the Ho-hos and the Twinkies. Yes such cute and clever names. And yes I am on the appropriately named team the Ding-Dongs.

Here is the line up of the three teams:

The Ding-Dongs:
Julie from Booking Mama
softdrink from Fizzy Thoughts
Amy from My Friend Amy
Jill from Rhapsody in Books
Ti from Book Chatter and Other Stuff

The Twinkies:
The HoHos:
Kathy from The Brain Lair
two of Kathy’s IRL friends who will be updating their progress on Facebook

I think I have to post about this once a week, and can you also see my whining on Twitter at #gameondiet :)


Summer of Hitchcock: Rear Window

Summer of Hitchcock
Rear Window
I hope you all enjoyed watching Rear Window! I found it to be very amusing.

Rear Window is the story of L.B. Jeffries who is confined to his apartment due to a broken leg. Since he is photographer accustomed to travel, he is bored out of his mind, and succumbs to watching the lives of other people through their windows.

Which raised the first question for me....who leaves their windows open like that? I'm such an intensely private person, that if I knew there was a chance someone would be watching me I'd have my blinds shut all the time! There were some very strange people in the apartment complex, from the exhibitionist girl who danced around doing everything, to the people who lowered their dog down in a basket, to the very sad Miss Lonelyhearts.

As Jeffries watches his weirdo neighbors his beautiful girlfriend tries to convince him to marry her, Jeffries doesn't feel ready for marriage though, and would rather keep the status quo. It's kind of hard to believe any man would try to turn Grace Kelly away!!

He starts to become suspicious of that one of his neighbors has murdered his wife when he no longer sees the wife, and observes a great deal of suspicious activity coming from his apartment. The film then moves in the direction of Jeffries trying to convince his friends that he's not paranoid and something bad really did happen.

I really enjoyed this one, I thought it was funny and suspenseful and even a little thought provoking. We knew nothing of the neighbors except for the little snatches we saw of their lives through Jeffries observations...how like life!

Did you enjoy this movie? Did you ever doubt that the murder had been committed? Who was your favorite neighbor to watch? Discuss and share!

Blog Tour: Seduce the Darkness by Gena Showalter

Seduce the Darkness
Book Synopsis from Publisher: The war between otherworlders and humans changed Earth beyond recognition. It also saved Bride McKells's life. Before, the gorgeous vampire was a target for every fanatic with a stake and a crucifix. Now, she's free to roam the streets -- and desperate to find others of her kind. One man claims to have the answers she seeks. Devyn, King of the Targons, is a warrior and a womanizer, and he makes no secret of how much he wants Bride -- and how dangerous he could be to her in every way.

An avid collector of women, Devyn easily seduces human and otherworlder alike. Until now. Not only does Bride resist him, but she leaves Devyn feeling something entirely new...a bone-deep need bordering on obsession. Her blood is the key to curing a vicious alien disease, but helping Bride uncover her origins will compel her to choose between electrifying passion and a destiny that could tear her from Devyn's side forever.

My Thoughts: Romance is a genre I enjoy reading, but I struggle to find the right books to read. While some explicit sexual content is okay, there is a certain line for me and sadly this book was it.

I was interested in this book because I DO like the paranormal. And I did have a lot of interest in the world Showalter had created here...one mixed with aliens, vampires, and pretty much everything you could think of. But when sex and the hero's sexual conquests enter into every paragraph, well, I just need something more than that.

I probably should have been alerted by the title, but I didn't do my research and I apologize to the publisher for that.

Having said that, I know for a lot of people that won't be a problem. I do enjoy Showalter's writing style and like I said she's created a very interesting world. And it's possible that a different set of characters might have less of the sex, in this book the male was sexually repressed as a youngster so he goes around "collecting" experiences with females of every species now that he's free of that. And the female vampire hunts naked. I mean, really?

Anyway, I do think it would be a quick enjoyable read for someone who enjoys this genre.

Thanks to Pocket Books for sending me the book.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Weekly Review: Week Ending June 28

This is a little late this week, all apologies!

What You Might Have Missed Here
I launched a book drive co-sponsored by Lenore for Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart. I also announced there will be a virtual book party here on Tuesday for Nothing But Ghosts including a chat with Beth! I hope you come. I reviewed Shepherd's Fall by Wanda Dyson, Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart, Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove, and The Body of Christopher Creed Carol Plum-Ucci.

Other Important Posts about the Book Drive
I have been blown away by the support of the book blogging community in getting the word about Nothing But Ghosts book drive. I think it's sparked some interesting discussion on the importance of buying books. Here are some of the posts I've seen, please, if I've missed yours, leave it in comments and I'll add it.
Do You Buy Books? at Write for a Reader
Why I Buy Books at BermudaOnion
Let's Show Our Support! The Nothing But Ghosts Book Drive at Debbie's World of Books
Nothing But Ghosts Book Drive at S.Krishna's Books
In Celebration of Nothing But Ghosts at The Betty and Boo Chronicles
Big Party for "Nothing But Ghosts" by Beth Kephart at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?
The Importance of Buying Books at Beth Fish Reads
Nothing But Ghosts Book Drive at The Book Resort
Nothing But Ghosts and Everything Austen at Bookstack
Book Drive: Nothing But Ghosts at My Own Little Corner of the World

A Few Other Good Links to Note Regarding Nothing But Ghosts
Lenore reviews the book and interviews Beth
Nothing But Ghosts review at Em's Bookshel
Nothing But Ghosts review at From my Bookshelf

So...that should hopefully be enough to push you over the edge, right? We're getting awfully close to being able to give out that prize for the 50 milestone. Also, an anonymous donor has upped the final prize to 100 dollar gift certificate if we sell 200 books. So what are you waiting for??? Buy Nothing But Ghosts at Amazon or Indiebound and forward me your receipt! Please note if you purchase the book at any place besides Amazon you must forward the receipt for it to be counted towards the total. If you want to be entered for the prizes, you must forward the receipt period.

A Few other Links of Interest this Week

Love this post on McMommy in defense of procrastinators. LOVE.

Michael Jackson passed away this week and I was never really a big fan so I can't say as though I have any real feelings about it. Farrah Fawcett also passed away and Betty and Boo's Mommy wrote this nice post that helped me to appreciate her life's work.

Raych reviewed the Hunger Games making me laugh. Is that girl on Twitter yet?

And that's all for this week!

Except: Did anyone watch Virtuality? I am seriously sad that won't be a series!!


Review: The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci

The Body of Christopher Creed
Becky reviewed this a couple of weeks ago and I ordered it immediately. I'm so glad I did.

This is what happens when a kid suffers a personal tragedy. Nobody wants to take responsibility. Nobody wants to admit they had a part in it. So, they spend a lot of time pointing a finger and things just get worse and worse.

Let me tell you what kind of compulsive reading this book was for me. I had to stop reading for a little bit to eat and I put on an episode of Supernatural while I was eating. But I ate really fast and turned off Supernatural so I could get back to the book. Yeah. It was like I couldn't stand to be away from the story for a few minutes!!!!

The town of Steepleton is a great place to send your kids to school and live. It's got that warm smalltown environment where everyone should be happy. At least that is what Torey thinks until the day Chris Creed disappears. What happened to Chris Creed? All that is left behind is a suicide note sent via email. Did Chris really send it? Did he commit suicide or did he run away?

His disappearance really unsettles Torey, a sensitive kid, who is unable to deal with it in the casual manner many of his friends do. And the more he finds out about Chris's life, the more his eyes open to what's really going on in the town of Steepleton. Tensions are rising, secrets are coming out in the open, and Torey finds himself in the middle of it all.

In many ways this book reminded me of 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. There is the same exploration of how our behavior affects other people and to what degree we can be held responsible for how they react. But I just liked it about ten thousand times more and I really liked 13 Reasons Why so that's saying something. I think the themes were more deeply explored. Additionally, the fact that we don't really know what happened to Creed lends this whole mystery element that has you tearing through the pages with both hope and the driving need to know. Additionally, there's a real sense of who the adults are in the kids lives. While not always the best examples or role models, you know what role the parents play. (unlike 13 Reasons Why where the lack of adults was just puzzling)

Another theme richly explored is how we judge other people and simply can't know what's really going on in their lives. As Torey gets to know some of the town's outcasts so to say, he sees that for all their brutality or stupid decisions, there are often unseen reasons behind them. About one of them, he remarks how much courage it takes just for the kid to live his life.

If there was one thing for me to say I didn't like about this book, it's very minor...I didn't like that Torey used the word "like" so much! It seemed especially strong in the beginning, I may have gotten used to it by the end.

Really, I can't recommend this one enough. I really don't think you'll be able to put it down once you pick it up and it will take you on a roller coaster of a ride. I've already ordered two more books by this author, I can't wait to read more of her stuff. And if you don't believe me, than just know it's a Printz Honor Book. Enough said, right? You can buy
The Body of Christopher Creed now.

Rating: 5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: There's some strong language in parts.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Faith 'n' Fiction Saturday: What are you reading now?

Please note: There will be no Faith 'n' Fiction next Saturday July 4th.

Since it's summer and participation has been really low let's have a freebie day...tell me in comments what you're reading now and whether or not you'd recommend it. Also let me now if you think Faith 'n' Fiction Saturday should take a summer break--I still have plenty of ideas for discussion, but would rather have more people around to discuss!


Friday, June 26, 2009

Review: Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart

Nothing But Ghosts
Okay here's a little confession. You know how I launched a book drive this week and asked 200 of you to plunk down at least $12.23 of your hard earned cash for a book? Well, I hadn't even read the book yet. In my mind it didn't matter, I knew it would be great. You don't maintain a blog of the quality of Beth's and then turn around and write a crappy novel, it just doesn't happen. So how's that for honesty? You can eye me with suspicion or you can see that this book drive is pure...I didn't even receive a review copy, I have no Harper Teen contacts (they've ignored me on Twitter so far regarding the drive), this is all about the love of reading good books.

But! I got my PURCHASED copy in the mail and easily read Nothing But Ghosts in a few hours. I'm so glad (and a bit relieved!) to say that I thought it was absolutely beautiful.

Katie is working on the grounds of the town's recluse for the summer. They are digging an area for a gazebo and luckily Katie has a bit of eye candy to enjoy while she's all of this had work. Her mother passed away some months back and both Katie and her father are slowly finding a way back to their lives. While digging, Katie becomes curious about the town's recluse and sets out to find out all she can about why this woman has chosen to no longer embrace life. At the same time, Katie learns that the painting her father is working on ties into the mystery she's trying to solve.

Nothing But Ghosts is written in Beth's trademark lyrical style. It's a rich look at the heart and at life and loss. It unravels slowly, like a lazy summer day giving us glimpses into what makes a person disappear, what grief looks like, how life can go on after we lose someone we love. I liked that there was a bit of mystery, a hint of romance, a lot of reflection.

But what I loved most about this book is the simple truth that we are all a bunch of people who have loved and carry around aching loss in our hearts, and yet there is hope to be found somewhere, often in each other.

As I was reading, I got to the ending and I just felt incredibly satisfied. The ending really touched me in its simplicity and honesty and hope.

By the way, I think Beth's prose is the kind to be savored. I'm glad to own a beautiful hardcover copy of this book so that I can read it again. I hope you feel the same way.

Rating: 5/5

Um, the reason I haven't added a meter to the sidebar is because I've had about 20 free minutes on the internet and also because we haven't even hit 25 yet. I'm so sad about this so incredibly bummed. But I am deeply thankful for the 21 books so far that have been sold and for the incredible amount of support some of you have shown. Many thanks for your tweets and your stumbles.

I was thinking about this and I have decided to extend the book drive to next Friday, July 3rd. The reason for this is that sometimes when you see an author read or meet them you become more interested in buying their book. So in good faith that the party next week will encourage more people to buy the book, I will extend the drive by a few days. BUT, I'd still like to meet the original goal, SO if we sell 200 books by the end of the day on Tuesday June 30th, I'll throw in an extra prize of 5 gently read books to someone as well as increase the 50 dollar Amazon gift certificate to 60 dollars. So let's get the word out!

Buy Nothing But Ghosts!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Review: Shepherd's Fall by Wanda Dyson

Shepherd's Fall
I know there are many bounty hunter stories out there, but I personally haven't read any of them, which is probably just as well because it was the most interesting aspect of this book to me. Nick Shephard is a bounty hunter whose business is failing. His wife left him and to top matters off, one of the criminals he helped put away has escaped...and is threatening his daughter's life.

Now Nick is on the hunt for this man. Meanwhile, Annie is dying and trying to find her sister for a much needed donor match. Nick is also hunting Annie's sister. Can they work together to find her?

I was pretty interested in Shepherd's Fall for about a fourth of it, and then I lost interest. I can't exactly say why, perhaps the novelty of a bounty hunter story had worn off by that point. Or maybe it was that too many storylines were being tackled which led to insufficient development of any of them. In any case, it was an average read, but not one I'm likely to remember in a few months time. When you read as much as I do...you really need compelling!

Having said that, if you enjoy Christian suspense, you might enjoy this one, as it in a similar vein of much that is out there.

Rating: 2.5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Christian fiction


Book Spotlight: The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K. Paul

About the Book: Donita K. Paul’s 250,000-plus-selling DragonKeeper Chronicles series has attracted a wide spectrum of dedicated fans–and they’re sure to fall in love with the new characters and adventures in her latest superbly-crafted novel for all ages. It’s a mind-boggling fantasy that inhabits the same world as the DragonKeeper Chronicles, but in a different country and an earlier time, where the people know little of Wulder and nothing of Paladin.

In The Vanishing Sculptor, readers will meet Tipper, a young emerlindian who’s responsible for the upkeep of her family’s estate during her sculptor father’s absence. Tipper soon discovers that her actions have unbalanced the whole foundation of her world, and she must act quickly to undo the calamitous threat. But how can she save her father and her world on her own? The task is too huge for one person, so she gathers the help of some unlikely companions–including the nearly five-foot tall parrot Beccaroon–and eventually witnesses the loving care and miraculous resources of Wulder.


Meeting Michael by Jessica Inclan

Because I write romance novels, folks often ask me questions, assuming that I’m some kind of love expert. So not true. I’m as failed as many in the love department, though I had a lovely bit of luck three years ago when I met my boyfriend, Michael. This is an essay that started as a Valentine’s Day blog in 2008. I’ve been working on it (and my relationship) ever since!

Meeting Michael

Three years ago, I stood on a sidewalk in Manhattan Beach, watching my date drive up toward Rosecrans Avenue and turn right, disappearing into the night. Walking back to my friend’s house, I contemplated the kiss I’d just shared with this man who had made the perilous drive from Malibu all the way to my friend’s party and me. We’d met two weeks before in a class I’d taught, and after the class was over, he’d walked up to the desk as I packed my books and extra handouts.
“Great class,” he said, a hand on his hip. “I really liked it. Maybe next time you’re down here, you and I could go out. Get to know each other.”
The air around us seemed to still and then glimmer. I’d fantasized about this moment for years, even when I was married. There I’d be, teaching my heart out, and the good looking guy at the back of the room would fall deeply in love with me. How romantic. Finally, my dream had come true. The good looking guy was right here, now, watching me as I stared back at him, my mouth likely agape. His voice was low, smooth, calm, and his eyes were dark brown. He was an actor, lived in Malibu, and was writing a young adult novel. All class long, he’d asked great questions and cracked good jokes.
“Okay,” I said. “Sounds great.”
When I told my LA friends about meeting the actor, they were overjoyed that I had met someone viable, so overjoyed that one of them decided to throw a party in two weeks and invite us both.
He’d arrived at the party on time and with flowers, and we’d had fun, but after the sidewalk kiss, the upshot was this: The actor and I had absolutely zero chemistry. You all know that lack of fizz when your lips meet? Your body does not heat up. Your skin does not prickle. Your heart does not even beat an extra beat.
That was our kiss. Dream man no longer.
The next day, I flew home to the Bay Area a bit dejected. I was a firm believer in the Yes Plan, taking what the universe provides and going along with it. Yes to Malibu man. Yes to LA. Yes to the party. But sometimes it was hard to not fall off the yes wagon and stay at home and eat popcorn, drink Cabernet, and watch HBO on demand. Despite myself, sometimes I took these dates personally, wondering what it was about me that evoked bad kisses and dull conversation. But I didn’t have too much time to contemplate this because I had yet another date to go on.
After disembarking and scooting out of the terminal,, I stood in the florescent glow of the Oakland Airport parking lot, opened the rear door of my Volvo, and changed into a very fancy black dress with sequins. Trying not to trip in my new high heeled black pumps, I teetered into the car and drove to meet a man I had a dance date with, a guy I’d had a mad crush on. We’d met months ago at our gym, and he was funny and could incline bench press 100 pound dumbbells. He was tall and dark and handsome and financially solvent, though he did have this unnerving habit of talking incessantly about his ex-girlfriend Tammy.
On our first date, he talked about her for the first two hours and about his relationship with her for the second two. Each time we saw each other on a date or during our workouts, I learned a new fact about her, down to the scar on her abdomen from an appendectomy. They’d been broken up for well over a year, and he wasn’t over her.
When I arrived at his house—my suitcase and shoes thudding around in the back of the car—he came out before I had a chance to even take off my seatbelt. He was wearing a stylish jacket and sleek, black pants but looked bleary-eyed and unshaven.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Oh, Tammy came for a visit,” he said, sitting down in the passenger’s seat and closing the door.
“Really,” I said. I looked toward the front of the house, and there Tammy was, wearing a bathrobe, waving to us from the window.
Apparently, they’d been very busy for a few hours before I arrived. He was clearly not over her except, I guess, in a literal way. He’d been over her all afternoon.
“Are you sure you still want to go out?” I asked.
“Of course,” he said, his eyes rimmed red.
For a second, I thought to tell him to get the hell out of the car. Why was I bothering with him? What was I doing? The Yes Plan has an eject button, and I needed to use it. Flip him out of the car and wing myself home, where I could slip into bed, and try to forget about the entire weekend.
He smiled at me as if nothing were out of the ordinary, and maybe nothing was. We’d gone out on dates but they had been more like outings. Urban adventures with some flirting and split checks at the end of the night. And besides, I’d been looking forward to learning how to salsa, buying this flouncy dress especially for the moves the instructor would teach us. I wanted to hear some music, and there would be other men to dance with during class time. When the class was over and the club opened for general admission, I might actually meet someone who wasn’t dating Tammy.
And I had stayed in a 23-year-long marriage out of lethargy, inertia, and fear of doing anything different or new or scary or dumb. This evening was potentially dumb and certainly different.
“All right,” I said.
He waved to Tammy, and I pulled out of the driveway.
Our few previoThe Beautiful Beingus dates had been not unpleasant but involved nothing physical, and on this third date, nothing more than dance moves happened between us. As we tried to flow in a salsa way on the dance floor, I hoped he would take me in his arms and pull me close, but did I really want that? I had the same lack of buzz with him as I did with my actor date the night before. The idea of this man was more exciting that the him of him, despite his good looks and humor and nice suit.
After the dancing and a meal at an oyster bar, I came home from the date and the trip to my empty house, and fell into a deep sleep. Exhausted and slightly deflated the next morning, I slogged out of bed, and tried to do a little writing on my novel, but the words wouldn’t come so I wrote emails instead. After cleaning up the house a bit, I got back in the car, headed to the gym, worked out, dressed, and then powered through the Caldecott Tunnel to College Avenue where I was to meet my third date of the weekend, a man I had been corresponding with on Match.com. As part of my Yes Plan to the universe, I was going along with what the universe was lobbing at me. And this man was one of the big softballs I’d caught.
However, I'd almost let this man slip out of my glove--I was teaching and writing and traveling a lot that month. I was busy with my high school senior's activities, and I was dating the men I met online and onland. The Yes Plan had kept me busy, introducing me to strange and interesting coffee partners, including a 34-year-old man and a man with one black tooth. But this man Michael had continued to email through my periodic radio silence, and finally, we picked a time and date to meet.
From his Match.com ad, I wasn’t convinced we’d ever see each other again after this first date. I’d long given up the notion that each man could be “the one.” This fellow seemed nice, was persistent, and had a charming smile (at least in photos). What did I have to lose? At least his teeth looked the same color. And he was a respectable 50 years old. I wouldn’t have the feeling I was talking to my oldest son. So what that I was tired. So what that I was zero for two for the weekend? So what that I had a stack of 30 essays to grade? There would always be time to read those in the evening.
When I arrived at our designated spot at the corner of College and Shafter in Oakland, I found that the restaurant we had picked was just about to close. As I walked out, I noticed a man walk in, someone I recognized. Wait, I thought, was that my date? I stared at the man, realized my mistake, and then kept moving. No, he was not the man from the pictures. So I headed for the sidewalk. As I was waiting, the man I thought I knew approached me. He said, "Are you Jessica?"
"Yes," I said.
"I'm Jim."
Jim, I thought. I blinked. Oh. From Match.com. The man who liked James Joyce. Who had actually managed to finish Finnegan's Wake. How strange to be spotted in the real world because of the virtual. These meetings were supposed to be choreographed and ordered and fixed. There was supposed to be no interface except for the arranged. In fact, so much of it seemed like a dream, the clicking through profiles, the assessing of a person in quick, easy reads, all of it done to the flickering buzz of a computer, none of it tangible, defined, sure.
I scanned the busy block, cars and people everywhere but no other Match.com date in sight. I shrugged and started talking to Jim, knowing that when my date showed up, this conversation would look a little strange. Michael would show up, and I'd be talking with a man I had tried to end correspondence with online. Jim was an interesting man, but the Yes Plan also included the right to pass. And I’d wanted to pass on Jim because the truth of that matter is that I’ve tried to read Finnegan’s Wake 100 times and only get to the bottom of the first page before closing the book.
As Jim spoke, I noticed another man crossing the street. Was it Michael? What would he think of me? What would he think? That he was five minutes late and I turned to the next available man as recompense? What must it seem like to him? That I was scavenging men up off the sidewalk. I’d been on too many sidewalks this weekend talking to men I didn’t like, and I wanted to chase after this man, even if he wasn’t Michael, ending this conversation with Jim.
I thought of things to say because it was Michael. Yes, it was. It was Michael. He was tall and walked with a sure, brisk step. But then he kept walking.
Come back, I thought, but he didn’t, striding away up toward Zachary’s Pizza.
Rats. He was cute.
I sighed, and Jim and I kept chatting. I talked about Joyce a little bit more (Please, only The Dubliners for me) and then I felt a tap on my arm.
It was the man who had crossed the street.
"Hi," he said. "I'm Michael. And I got a little lost down there."
Michael looked at Jim, and I smiled. “Michael, this is Jim. He recognized me from Match.”
Jim extended his hand, and the two men shook hands. How weird, I thought. Please, don’t let me forget this. Or please, let me.
“Well,” I said to Jim. “It was great to meet you, but we’re off for a date.”
I have to give it over to Jim. He was gracious and nice, and he waved a little, and we all parted.
I was nervous at first, I think, talking too much to explain what had happened and about the restaurant closing. For some reason, my heart seemed to need an intervention, pounding out of rhythm and too hard. I focused on my footsteps, the clack clack on wet pavement, and not how I thought I’d missed Michael back there, watching him walk away. But then he’d come back.
I must have been talking too much because he said, “If this isn’t a good time, we can reschedule. Or, not do it if it’s too much.”
Right then, I knew that I wanted to be on this date, the first date I’d wanted to see through to the end for a long while. This weekend, I’d already had a lot of nothing and too much actually sounded like a great idea. Michael was patient and unflustered by the Jim incident. Unconcerned that every restaurant we passed on our way down the right-hand side of College Avenue seemed closed.
“I’m fine,” I said. “Just a little confused.”
Michael looked at me, waiting for something more coherent.
I knew I couldn’t completely explain the whirl of weekend dates or the weirdness of meeting Jim in one articulate sentence, so I smiled instead.
We kept walking. We chatted in that new, nervous way of people meeting each other, crossing the street to find another closed restaurant, and then finally finding one that was open and crowded. We stood in line to order our salads, and talked about the day, the weather, what we did, where we were in our lives. We were bumped and jostled by servers and patrons, and I wondered if I would ever relax, feeling strung out and nervous. Maybe Michael was right. Maybe this wasn’t a good time.
Finally, we sat down at a table and began to talk and to explain why what we were doing on Match.com. As we talked, I felt myself let go, relax. I began to breathe, one, two, in and out. And as I looked at him, I saw something I hadn’t really seen in any of my dates. Actually, he was seeing me, looking at me, listening to what I was saying. He moved his chair closer to mine, making sure we could hear each other over the din of the restaurant. We pulled out the photos of our children, we ate big green salads, we laughed. I didn’t want lunch to end, but it did, the server taking away our plates, diners waiting for a table glaring at us.
Without touching, I felt more excitement than I had in Manhattan Beach with my actor. Without even knowing why, I knew that Michael and I connected in a way that my dancing date and I never could. And I knew that Jim and I would not have had this date either. By now, he’d be explaining Finnegan’s Wake, and I’d be longing to grade my 30 essays.
Outside, it started to rain, the weekend closing down into storm. Michael and I were done with the restaurant, though we weren’t done with the date.
“Do you want to get coffee?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said, not ready for this to be over. Not ready for my empty house and a long rainy night alone. Not ready to be done with this gentle, beautiful man.
So we walked down the street, under his umbrella, and he put his hand at the small of my back. That’s when I knew. His touch did more for me than all the quick end-of-the evening kisses I’d had. The heat from his hand pulsed into my back. He guided me, and we walked together. We were moving forward, into the rain, down the street, toward something bigger than just coffee.
Three years later, today, I think of that day in February 2006. We lucked out, that date turning into more dates, and then a life together. It wasn’t always easy, both of us coming out of long, sometimes complicated marriages, both of us with almost adult children, both of us with patterns we developed long ago. But here I am. I’m in that life right now, writing from the house we share together. He sits behind me on the couch in the office, working on a computer program, typing softly, clearing his throat, drinking his coffee. It’s February, and it’s raining, just like that February day we met. And I know that the warmth from his hand was true and real and I am exactly where I should be.
But how possible for it to not happen at all. So many small incidents could have change the space-time continuum and thrown us both off course. I could have ended up in Malibu, canceling all additional weekend activities. My plane from Los Angeles could have been delayed. My dancing date the night before could have gone theoretically better, and I would not have even wanted to teach that morning. I could have bailed on the Yes Plan and decided to blow off the whole date with Michael after the class and claimed fatigue, a tiredness that was really very true. Michael could have imagined I'd blown him off when he saw me talking to Jim and jumped back on BART in a huff. He could have given up looking for me and sat down at the pizza parlor and had a nice hearty slice. He could have enjoyed the date he’d had the day before much more than he had, canceling on me at the last moment. Just about anything in our lives before three pm on February 26th 2006 could have been different, and it wouldn't have been us on the corner of Shafter and College, waiting for each other in front of the closed restaurant.
Until that day, every date I’d been on had been like the first page of Finnegan’s Wake, unintelligible, confusing, and impossible to get through. Until Michael tapped me on the shoulder and I turned to him, I wouldn’t have believed I would ever get to page two.
In my mind, I see him still, coming down the BART escalator, crossing the street and walking on past me, and then coming back, touching my arm, saying hello.
How ordinary. How miraculous.
Life's like that. We never know that one day will be the important day, the one we will never forget. We can’t wake up thinking that this will be the day that changes us forever or else we might freak out and stay under the covers eating chocolate. But we have to show up, keep trying, saying “yes” to what is in front of us that could help us grow. We show up and live, and then we look back and say, “That was it. That the day I met you.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Review: Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove

Contrary to what the title might suggest, this book has nothing to do with seances. It is, however, a touching and beautiful book about grief and learning to live with the past.

Kate's husband, Kevin, passes away unexpectedly and Kate is lost in a fog of grief. She can't remember anything leading up to Kevin's death, apart from the single phrase he uttered, "Don't wait for me." She is unable to function and in the midst of her sorrow, she starts to hear Kevin talking to her.

Afraid that she is going crazy, she seeks help from a variety of sources who help Kate learn to live with her grief and confront the painful past she is running from in her mind.

For some reason, I was really excited about Talking to the Dead. It's a debut novel so it wasn't that I'd read Ms. Grove's work before. I think it was all in the title! And I was right to be looking forward to it, this is a stand out example of what Christian fiction can be...it's honest, raw, painful, bittersweet, and beautifully true.

One of the things that I think is lacking in Christian fiction is the kind of lyrical prose that makes me reread sentences or sit up and think "I never thought of it that way, but how true!" So it was with great delight that I savored the writing in this story. Plot is nice and all, and yes there's a plot, but I love beautiful writing that sets the tone of a story.

In any case, this book is a tale of grief in many layers. And it's a story of coming to life again and coming to life in new ways. Recommended.

Rating: 4.5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Christian fiction

©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Kevin was dead and the people in my house wouldn’t go home. They mingled after the funeral, eating sandwiches, drinking tea, and speaking in muffled tones. I didn’t feel grateful for their presence. I felt exactly nothing.

Funerals exist so we can close doors we’d rather leave open. But where did we get the idea that the best approach to facing death is to eat Bundt cake? I refused to pick at dainties and sip hot drinks. Instead, I wandered into the back yard.

I knew if I turned my head I’d see my mother’s back as she guarded the patio doors. Mom would let no one pass. As a recent widow herself, she knew my need to stare into my loss alone.

I sat on the porch swing and closed my eyes, letting the June sun warm my bare arms. Instead of closing the door on my pain, I wanted it to swing from its hinges so the searing winds of grief could scorch my face and body. Maybe I hoped to die from exposure.

Kevin had been dead three hours before I had arrived at the hospital. A long time for my husband to be dead without me knowing. He was so altered, so permanently changed without my being aware.

I had stood in the emergency room, surrounded by faded blue cotton curtains, looking at the naked remains of my husband while nurses talked in hushed tones around me. A sheet covered Kevin from his hips to his knees. Tubes, which had either carried something into or away from his body, hung disconnected and useless from his arms. The twisted remains of what I assumed to be some sort of breathing mask lay on the floor. “What happened?” I said in a whisper so faint I knew no one could hear. Maybe I never said it at all. A short doctor with a pronounced lisp and quiet manner told me Kevin’s heart killed him. He used difficult phrases; medical terms I didn’t know, couldn’t understand. He called it an episode and said it was massive. When he said the word massive, spit flew from his mouth, landing on my jacket’s lapel. We had both stared at it.

When my mother and sister, Heather, arrived at the hospital, they gazed speechlessly at Kevin for a time, and then took me home. Heather had whispered with the doctor, their heads close together, before taking a firm hold on my arm and walking me out to her car. We drove in silence to my house. The three of us sat around my kitchen table looking at each other.

Several times my mother opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Our words had turned to cotton, thick and dry. We couldn’t work them out of our throats. I had no words for my abandonment. Like everything I knew to be true had slipped out the back door when I wasn’t looking.

“What happened?” I said again. This time I knew I had said it out loud. My voice echoed back to me off the kitchen table.

“Remember how John Ritter died? His heart, remember?” This from Heather, my younger, smarter sister. Kevin had died a celebrity’s death.

From the moment I had received the call from the hospital until now, I had allowed other people to make all of my bereavement decisions. My mother and mother-in-law chose the casket and placed the obituary in the paper. Kevin’s boss at the bank, Donna Walsh, arranged for the funeral parlor and even called the pastor from the church that Kevin had attended until he was sixteen to come and speak. Heather silently held my hand through it all. I didn’t feel grateful for their help.

I sat on the porch swing, and my right foot rocked on the grass, pushing and pulling the swing. My head hurt. I tipped it back and rested it on the cold, inflexible metal that made up the frame for the swing. It dug into my skull. I invited the pain. I sat with it; supped with it.

I opened my eyes and looked up into the early June sky. The clouds were an unmade bed. Layers of white moved rumpled and languid past the azure heavens. Their shapes morphed and faded before my eyes. A Pegasus with the face of a dog; a veiled woman fleeing; a villain; an elf. The shapes were strange and unreliable, like dreams. A monster, a baby—I wanted to reach up to touch its soft, wrinkled face. I was too tired. Everything was gone, lost, emptied out.

I had arrived home from the hospital empty handed. No Kevin. No car—we left it in the hospital parking lot for my sister to pick up later. “No condition to drive,” my mother had said. She meant me.

Empty handed. The thought, incomplete and vague, crept closer to consciousness. There should have been something. I should have brought his things home with me. Where were his clothes? His wallet? Watch? Somehow, they’d fled the scene.

“How far could they have gotten?” I said to myself. Without realizing it, I had stood and walked to the patio doors. “Mom?” I said as I walked into the house.

She turned quickly, but said nothing. My mother didn’t just understand what was happening to me. She knew. She knew it like the ticking of a clock, the wind through the windows, like everything a person gets used to in life. It had only been eight months since Dad died. She knew there was little to be said. Little that should be said. Once, after Dad’s funeral, she looked at Heather and me and said, “Don’t talk. Everyone has said enough words to last for eternity.”

I noticed how tall and straight she stood in her black dress and sensible shoes. How long must the dead be buried before you can stand straight again? “What happened to Kevin’s stuff?” Mom glanced around as if checking to see if a guest had made off with the silverware.

I swallowed hard and clarified. “At the hospital. He was naked.” A picture of him lying motionless, breathless on the white sheets filled my mind. “They never gave me his things. His, whatever, belongings. Effects.”

“I don’t know, Kate,” she said. Like it didn’t matter. Like I should stop thinking about it. I moved past her, careful not to touch her, and went in search of my sister.

Heather sat on my secondhand couch in my living room, a two seater with the pattern of autumn leaves. She held an empty cup and a napkin; dark crumbs tumbling off onto the carpet. Her long brown hair, usually left down, was pulled up into a bun. She looked pretty and sad. She saw me coming, her brown eyes widening in recognition. Recognition that she should do something. Meet my needs, help me, make time stand still. She quickly ended the conversation she was having with Kevin’s boss, and met me in the middle of the living room.

“Hey,” she said, touching my arm. I took a small step back, avoiding her warm fingers.

“Where would his stuff go?” I blurted out. Heather’s eyebrows snapped together in confusion. “Kevin’s things,” I said. “They never gave me his things. I want to go and get them. Will you come?”

Heather stood very still for a moment, straight backed like she was made of wood, then relaxed. “You mean at the hospital. Right, Kate? Kevin’s things at the hospital?” Tears welled in my eyes. “There was nothing. You were there. When we left, they never gave e anything of his.” I realized I was trembling.

Heather bit her lower lip, and looked into my eyes. “Let me do that for you. I’ll call the hospital—” I stood on my tiptoes and opened my mouth. “I’ll go,” she corrected before I could say anything. “I’ll go and ask around. I’ll get his stuff and bring it here.”

“I need his things.”

Heather cupped my elbow with her hand. “You need to lie down. Let me get you upstairs, and as soon as you’re settled, I’ll go to the hospital and find out what happened to Kevin’s clothes, okay?”

Fatigue filled the small spaces between my bones. “Okay.” She led me upstairs. I crawled under the covers as Heather closed the door, blocking the sounds of the people below.

Trading my Jeans and Boots for Heels and Glamour! by Donna Alward!

Trading my Jeans and Boots for Heels and Glamour! By Donna Alward

I was recently talking to my editor about what sorts of books I’m going to be writing next for Harlequin Romance. I think there are going to be some neat, fun stories coming up but when talking about my current release, Hired: The Italian’s Bride, I realized something.

As much as I love writing small town, western settings, I loved being able to trade in my jeans and boots for a pair of red sequined Manolos and the glamour of an opulent resort.

Hired: The Italian’s Bride is set in the gorgeous townsite of Banff, in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. I lived in Calgary for several years, and made several trips a year to the mountains for hiking and sightseeing and even simply a fancy lunch. I remember the first time I stepped into the Banff Springs Hotel and got a look at the Mount Stephen Hall. I was awestruck. I had never been in such a place in my life. The whole place is like a mountain castle, majestic gray stone on the outside and the epitome of comfort and pampering on the inside – from the décor, to the food, and the shops quietly tucked into hallways.

It was like writing a fairy tale, letting my characters get dressed up in suits and gowns and eat fancy food. And oh, the food. I scoured menus of the local hotels – not just the Banff Springs. The hotel in the book – The Fiori Cascade – is certainly not based on the Banff Springs, but it does include some of my favourite parts combined with a vision all my own. When Luca takes Mari to the balcony and they overlook the river, there is a particular spot as you climb the hill towards the Hot Springs that I imagined. The same with the dining room – The Panorama. Complete fabrication, taking all my favourite parts and blending them with wishes to come up with a very Hollywood Golden Age feel. It was timeless – like Mari. It is one of the things Luca loves most about her.

I also loved the office romance element – the first one I’ve done. The ethics of getting involved with someone you work with was an added dimension. The proximity, the butting of heads, the earned respect.

Am I going to be writing more westerns? Of course. My next three (November, January and March) are western Romances. And I do love writing them dearly – in the same way that I like I love my job since I can work in comfy yoga pants most days. But every now and again I like to get dressed up – put on high heels – maybe some makeup – and go to the ball like I did with Hired: The Italian’s Bride.

Why don’t you come with me? The more the merrier….

Hired: The Italian’s Bride is available at eharlequin and at Amazon.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Nothing But Ghosts Book Drive (Yes there will be prizes)

I am so excited to announce a project that Lenore is helping me with this week...the Nothing But Ghosts Book Drive. Or should we call it Book Sales Drive! Earlier I announced that I'd be hosting a Nothing But Ghosts book party on my blog next week, complete with a reading from Beth and live chat! But if this was just like a party taking place in a bookstore there would also be books for sale. Since this is the internet, there are always books for sale...just a click away!

Here are the details of the Book Drive:

When: June 23-June 30 at 9 PM EST.
Where: Well, here, of course!
What: The book drive is an intentional effort to expand the readership of Nothing But Ghosts by driving sales. It is the book buying fun part of a book party!
Why: Because I believe Beth is a very gifted author who deserves a wider audience. Also, first week sales for a book are always important. Lastly, I'd love to have a measurable example of how book blogs can drive sales for a book.
The Goal: 200 books sold.
How Will it Work: If you choose to buy from Amazon I am asking that you use this link so that I can track the number of books sold. We want and actually NEED to track the number of books sold...because....

There are prizes! The goal of seeing 200 copies of Nothing But Ghosts sold through our combined efforts is admittedly a daunting one. But this book deserves it. So to encourage you to spread the word to all your friends to buy Nothing But Ghosts this week Lenore and I have come up with a few little gifties. For each milestone we reach on the way to 200, another prize will be released!

If we see 25 copies sold, one lucky person will get a paperback copy of Undercover along with a limited edition not available in stores My Friend Amy keychain!
At 50 copies, a 10 dollar Amazon Giftcard.
At 75 copies, a copy of No Such Thing as the Real World and a special limited edition My Friend Amy pen!
At 100 copies, a 15 dollar Amazon Giftcard
At 125 copies, a surprise box of 5 gently read books
At 150 copies, a 25 dollar Amazon gift card
At 175 copies, a custom designed blog header by Daniel, Lenore's husband. Daniel has a book coming out in July of 2010, so you have your blog header designed by a world famous published illustrator! The book, Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? releases in July 2010 from Balzer and Bray (Harper Collins) Check out Daniel's drawings.
At 200 copies, a 50 dollar Amazon gift card.

There are only two ways to enter these giveaways. One is to buy a copy of Nothing But Ghosts and forward your email receipt or a scanned copy of your store receipt to mypalamyATgmailDOTcom . The other is to attend the live chat with Beth Kephart right here on My Friend Amy next Tuesday at 9 PM PST/6 PM EST. You can earn a total of two entries by doing both.

But remember...we must see all those books sold in order to be able to give away all of these prizes! And we really really want to! So we are COUNTING on you to:
1) Buy a book :)
2) Post about the book drive on your blog
3) Tweet about the book drive
4) Post on forums about the book drive
5) Stumble this post.
6) Tell everyone you know including and up to your neighbor's dog. Just kidding. About the dog.

If you choose to purchase your book through Amazon, I once again ask that you use this link. This will enable me to track the books sold. But of course, as long as you send in your email receipt it will count. The most important thing is that you buy the book!

EDITED TO ADD: By request, here's a link for Indiebound purchases: Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart If you choose to buy the book through an independent bookstore, please forward your receipt, otherwise your purchase won't count! (Indiebound does not report daily like Amazon)

I hope that you will take a chance on a great author and consider buying this book! I'm going to try to figure out how to put a little meter up on the sidebar so we can track the sales together!

Final note: Beth has absolutely NO IDEA that we are planning this. We are doing this because we love Beth and her books and we want to do our part to help Nothing But Ghosts get some recognition.