Summerlong by Dan Bakopoulos

This book.  Man.  This book.

Don is a has-been real estate agent.  He hasn’t had a commission check in months but he has had a lot of notices from the mortgage company, notices he’s chosen not to share with his wife.  Don feels like a shadow has passed over his life but he feels helpless to escape it, positive that he will repeat his father’s mistakes.

Claire has been stuck in the same little Iowan town for too long.  Her husband is sullen and has kept the foreclosure of their house from her.  Suddenly she is sure that she is not happy and that she is not in love with Don anymore.  She is done.

ABC is a young girl, hanging out in the town where her and her college lover made most of their memories together.  But now that her lover is dead, ABC has decided that she will join her.  One way or another.  Caring for Ruth, an elderly woman, ABC runs into Don, who her lover promised to send to her if she died, and begins to plan her exit to the spirit world.

Charlie’s father is in a home and his mother has asked him to clean out his father’s office while she gallivants around the country with her new boyfriend.  Charlie is determined to cut himself off from the world and find the manuscript his father was working on.  Then maybe he can find a publisher and finally earn his father’s admiration.  Only, his father has his own secrets hidden in the storage boxes.

What happens when you throw these people together during a heat wave and toss in a heaping handful of coincidences?  One confusing, amusing summer that can change everything.

This was dark and funny and heartbreaking.  The writing was so simple and it was such an easy read.  I never wanted to put it down until I got about 20 pages from the end, then I didn’t want it to read it because I didn’t want it to end.  I love these stories, character driven and trapped in the net of a small world.  Plus, we had our heatwave this week and it was utterly appropriate reading.

Tally Monday- July 27, 2015

Checked Out

  1. In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

Bought

None!

Read

  1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (audio)
  2. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  3. “This is Not a Love Song” by Brendan Mathews
  4. It was a Dark and Silly Night
  5. “La Pulchra Nota” by Molly McNett
  6. In Real Life by Cory Doctorow
  7. “God” by Benjamin Nuggent

TBR: 31

Today I renewed a book and returned another and printed a fresh library receipt for myself.  I was surprised to find that I am down to 26 items.  My TBR stack still seems so tall!  In fact, my TBR stack is actually two stacks at the moment and last week I had the crazy idea that I could finish the half stack by the end of the month.  Pft.  As if.

Boy, did I enjoy the reading last week!  Hubby was in a reading mood and based on the fact that he stopped at Barnes and Noble on the way home today and picked up three books I think that he may still be.  This is my favorite.  I do everything so much better when he’s on board.  At night the house is quiet as we sit in separate rooms and read, sometimes calling out little bits to one another.  It works with dieting too.  If he decides to watch his weight, I am bound to lose weight too.

The short stories this week were GREAT.  GREAT.  I loved them all.  My disappointment for the week was It Was a Dark and Silly Night which I wanted to read because Neil Gaiman wrote a comic for it.  It was just… weird.  So weird.  Actually, other than that I really enjoyed all of the books too.  I think that Azkaban is my favorite HP.  It’s taking me a while to get into Goblet.

Right now it is still a sweltering Michigan summer.  Today it hit 88 and tomorrow it is supposed to be 90.  At present, the AC still isn’t working and I imagine that reading is really all that I will be capable of doing when I get home.  Oh!  What a tragedy!  LOL.  Here’s to hoping that I can pull off another awesome week!

Sweltering Michigan Summer Sunday- Randomness and Writing

Here are some thoughts about my current reading and writing, the long way around.

We are finally having one of those sweltering series of days here in Michigan.  Yesterday I made my way down to an Everlast concert in Taylor only to find it outside in the 90 degree heat with swamplike humidity.  A storm blew through and the stage cover filled with water and had to be cut.  An adventure and possibly the most physically uncomfortable days of my life.  I sweat buckets and stood in cheap flipflops on uneven pavement for 6 hours and it was possibly the best performance I’ve seen all summer and I had a blast.  My feet still hurt.

On the way home, I declared that I would spend my day today in my dark, cool bedroom, under the fan, reading.  Our AC took a shit last weekend and I shouldn’t be surprised because it appears to be at least 20 years old.  Something I don’t have the money to fix currently and that I can live without until I am actually living without it.  I also decided yesterday that if I have to live in my shitty little neighborhood, I am going to save up the money for that back deck and a fucking pool next year.  Those are things I have discovered I can’t live without.

I woke up this morning and read a short story.  “God” by Benjamin Nugent.  It was good.

I did have to make a voyage into the world today because we decided to try to fix that damn AC.  We ran into town and then the next town over in search of fuses and then grabbed way too much cheese wrapped in tortilla.  Back at home, I died a napping death for a couple of hours and woke up to start in on Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos.

I want to preface by saying that a couple of weeks ago I decided to take a break from my writing.  I have been working on one novel for over a year now, off and on.  I started it and then decided it was crap and put it aside, only to pull it up out of curiosity one day.  I’ll be damned.  It was good.  It was good. I sent the first 50 pages to my best friend and got a text that said, “WTF???  Where is the rest of it?  What happens?  How can you do this to me?”  I beamed and started writing again.  Since I have been blasting forward, deciding to rest, blasting forward, being confused on where to go next.  But I still liked it and knew that it was just the kind of thing that takes time.

It was all good doing it this way.  I would take a break and work on the other project.  See, I have a little young adult series that I have been working on for, I kid you not, 20 years.  When I was 11 it started as a Fear Street rip off and it was great.  I read the start to my mother and once in a while she will bring it up without even knowing that I am still working on it and working on it and working on it.  Over the years, one book has become a plan for four, maybe five.  The world building has gone crazy.  The town is mapped and has legends and history and street names.  I’m proud of the town and realizing how much can happen there to the point where I started randomly writing something and realized that it was taking place there too.

The problem is that, to my complete and utter, I don’t even know…  Disappointment?  I have been beaten to the punch.  On both fucking projects, you guys!  Both!  My lovely cousin, Zac Brewer, set a story in the same town that I had altered into my town and it has a way cooler back story!  Then I heard a review of Summerlong and thought, “That sounds a lot like my adult fiction piece…”  And it is!  It’s so close!  How does this even happen?

But I can’t turn away.  I have to read on and I have to write on.  In fact, reading something so similar to my work has heped me figure out some plot stuff that was at a dead end.  It will be a different book because I think that we are writing about different things but I’ll have to continue to see.

Some days I am flooded with ideas.  They pour into my brain and fill me to the brim and I am near bursting.  I just wonder how many people are having the same or very similar ones.

Also, if you ever have a chance, you should go and see Everlast.  The man has a voice and is so Irish that he could have been Hubby’s cousin.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee: A Personal Reflection

I’m just going to lead this whole thing off with SPOILER ALERT because I honestly don’t know exactly what I am going to say once I get going about this one.  Plus, you’ve all read the headlines already, right?  And a lot of people seem to have already read the book.  I had a lot of thoughts when I finished reading this last night and I wanted to take some time to think it over and give a nice, personal reaction to this book.

First off, I enjoyed reading it.  It read like Harper Lee, which I really was not actually expecting.  If this is a pretty much unedited draft, I anticipated it being very different from To Kill a Mockingbird but it wasn’t.  There were parts of the book that were difficult to stomach and there were parts of the book that seemed frivolous but all in all I kind of had a hard time putting it down.

Second, I was inundated with so much noise about this book.  There were headlines and podcasts and even people talking about it on my Facebook, which hasn’t happened since the 50 Shades phenomenon.  I wasn’t going to buy it but then I had to have it purely out of rubbernecking curiosity.  Plus, it just felt too important to miss out on regardless of whether or not it was (a)any good, (b)completely character wrecking, or (c)published against a dear old woman’s wishes.  I am a reader.  I have to know.

Go Set a Watchman seemed to me to be exactly the kind of book that we needed right now.  It spoke to two of the big civil rights arguments going on currently and actual things that I have heard actually said about them.  Guess what!  Atticus is fighting for states’ rights against the Supreme Court.  He feels that they’ve overstepped the Tenth Amendment by overthrowing segregation which is EXACTLY an argument I’ve heard about marriage equality.  “Well, what else can they do if they can just force an issue like this?”  Also, I felt like the Community Council stuff was exactly what I’ve been hearing about the Confederate flag.  “It’s about being southern.  This is our way of life.  It has nothing to do with race.”  Except that it does.

I’d like to take a moment to react to one of the reactions I’ve heard.  Somebody along the way made a comment about how she couldn’t believe that Jean Louise could just Forgive her Racist Father.  I’d like to explain something.  I grew up in an itty bitty farming town in Michigan.  There are families who have lived in this town since the 1850’s who fly Confederate flags in front of their houses and talk about being southern.  When I was in school, I met a handful of black people: one foster child and a number of boys from the local juvenile detention center.  That is just the area that I grew up in.  I am not a racist but I know a lot of them and I am related very closely to one.  Does it bother me that he is a racist?  Yes.  Can I cut a close relative out of my life because he is racist?  No.  Because I still love him as a relative and know that he is, actually, a good guy other than that.  And that’s not my father!  I mean, seriously.  Jean Louise is human.  Atticus is human.  Not a single one of us is perfect.

And that’s the moral of the book, even!  Jean Louise has to learn that her father isn’t perfect so that she can grow up.  To Kill a Mockingbird is Jem’s coming of age story and this is Jean Louise’s.  To me it felt like a book that needed to happen.  We saw the world through Scout’s eyes when she was a kid and it was interesting to see the woman she grew into.

Missoula by Jon Krakauer

Does Krakauer write like this all of the time? The man can write. I went into this book expecting to be upset, angry, disgusted, and unable to read it. Then I looked up and I had read over 100 pages and while I felt those things I felt them to a much lesser degree than I had expected. I kept reading. I kept feeling those things.

Sometimes, I felt them a lot. Did anyone else get the feeling that Kristen Pabst is the real wolrd equivalent of Professor Umbridge? I wanted to shake her.

Krakauer’s ability to write about the subject of date rape in a cool headed manner and maintain a distance from the subject was really what kept the book going. In each of the cases discussed, he told the story from both sides and laid out the facts as best he could. He managed to go through the legal processes involved without being boring. He managed not to say, “Can you believe this person? What a horrible person.”

This is an important book about an important subject. I honestly cannot imagine what a disaster it could be in the hands of someone less capable. The controversy of date-rape and how the cases are handled or mishandled is really the kind of thing that we should be teaching college-bound women. Other than that, I don’t really know what to say about this book because I do believe it is best discovered on one’s own. I cannot give you the facts. I cannot give you the numbers. I can give you the book recommendation.

Tally Monday- July 20, 2015

Checked Out

None!

Bought

  1. Collected Short Stories by William Faulkner
  2. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Read

  1. Missoula by Jon Krakauer
  2. “Kattekoppen” by Will Mackin

TBR: 33

Ugh.  UGH.  UGGGGHHHHHH!  That is the sound of me, buried under the pile of books that I want to read.  That is also the sound of me sitting in a hot, humid house and being too tired to read.  I just want to grab myself by the shoulders and shake me and yell, “Come on, self!  If you want to read, read!  Go sit in the cool basement!  Quit making tons of plans!  Screw off a little bit!”

Every July I go through this “dog days of summer” thing.  I tell myself that I can have a summer vacation.  I tell myself that there’s no more rushing around now that it’s hot.  Instead there are shores to visit and meats to grill and the pleasant shade of the front yard to read in.  Then I wake up one day and I realize that July is over half gone and I need to garden and do laundry and clean the house and what about that wedding and that open house?

Today I do not want to offer excuses but I also don’t want to blame myself.  Surely there is something about this American life that sucks all of my energy and time.  Surely it is the culture.  But me?  I just want to slow down and read more.  That’s alll that I can tell you this week.  I want to read… but there’s a lot of stuff to be done.

Ugh.

Tally Monday- July 13, 2015

Checked Out

  1. Eating the Cheshire Cat by Helen Ellis
  2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rolwing

Bought

  1. Spells of Enchantment by Jack Zipes

Read

  1. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  2. “Evie M.” by O.A. Lindsey

TBR: 32

There was a point this week when I felt exactly like the Anchor Man meme.  I looked at my now double stack of TBR books and thought, “Well, that escalated quickly.”  Wasn’t I supposed to be whittling the pile down?  Wasn’t I supposed to stop checking out random stuff?  Wasn’t I supposed to actually be reading?  The most surprising thing was when I counted the books in my stack and realized that it was actually still hanging around the same amount it’s been at forever.

Still, things feeling a little out of control isn’t always a bad thing.  I felt a real need to get my ass in gear last week so I plowed through the last bit of The Sound and the Fury, which I really did like and probably actually liked more for the speed with which I finished it.  Then I started the laborious task of pushing through a collection of short stories.  When I realized that I was actually dreading reading more of them, I tossed it aside and moved on.  I grabbed the new Krakauer, Missoula, and was sucked in before the action packed adventure that was my weekend and also made any reading virtually impossible.

By the way, I have never read Krakauer  before but there’s this really funny story about Hubby reading Into the Wild when he was going through a notoriously tough time and taking off in the middle of the night with nothing but his fishing gear and a hatchet to “go into the wild.”  Honestly, if the man writes like this all of the time, I’m not surprised.  I cannot believe how easy this is to read, given the subject matter.  I totally expected to just be upset the whole time that I was reading this but I’m not.  I’m having a hard time putting it down!

I still feel a little buried in the TBR.  I thought earlier, “Why can’t I get it down to 25?  20?  10??”  The idea of having only 10 books stacked up to read was enough to make me swoon.  If only.  If only!  Now I have convinced myself that I am prepared to blast through SO MANY BOOKS in the next couple of weeks.  I’ll try.  One of my goals is to steal time whenever I can, before work and after work and when I drive really fast and get somewhere early.  I will not leave the house without a book.  This is my charge!