Heating & Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly

This was great!  I don’t know how else to write an intro for this review.  It was such a short book that I don’t want to weigh it down with more words than it needs.

Fennelly, a poet, presents a memoir in micro-memoirs, 52 of them to be exact.  Some of them span a few pages while some of them are less than a paragraph.  Still, these micro-memoirs managed to make me laugh out loud and also nod my head in understanding.  I read a couple of them out to my husband.  They even made me pause to think back over my own experiences.

This was wonderful.  It’s a great example of how a whole life can feel summed up in just a few words, proof that size doesn’t matter.

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The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

This was mentioned somewhere a couple of weeks ago and I had a nice minute thinking about the made for TV movie from 1986 and found myself wandering over the youth department and grabbing it from the shelf.  I read it in one afternoon when it was quiet and I needed a little pick-me-up and it did the trick.

First, if you are an old woman like myself and want a little nostalgia, this will do the trick.  The movie follows along perfectly with Murphy’s book.

This is the story of Mildred who is really a kind of terrible witch.  She’s always making the wrong potion or casting the wrong spell, sometimes to disastrous consequences.  But Mildred has a lot of heart and in the end she does something pretty amazing.

I don’t think that I’ll be reading the rest of the series but this was a nice dip into the past.

The Naked Witch by Fiona Horne

As mentioned previously, I’ve been getting back to my Pagan roots.  For about a year now, I have been listening to the Fat Feminist Witch podcast and Paige interviewed Horne earlier this year.  I was intrigued.  At some point I picked up Horne’s Witch and I remember really liking it and being amazed when I came across a lot of Fiona Horne hate online.

Have you ever read a story of someone’s life (I’m including bio, autobio, and memoir here) and wonder how it can all fit in so many years?  When I was reading this, I had the vivid memory of reading Witch when I was in high school and I kept thinking, “It hasn’t been that long!  How can someone have gone through all of this in such a short amount of time?”  Well, guys, I’m older than I think and it’s been 17 years since Witch was published.

Horne has had a wild life.  Her childhood was rough.  She got into drugs and music.  She broke into the music scene.  She dated freaking Tom Jones.  After her band fell apart she had to piece together a new life and this one was just as hard, marked by betrayals big and small.  She battled alcoholism.  She became a pilot.

I enjoyed this book.  It was an easy read it made me nostalgic for those 90’s and 00’s.  What I liked best about it, I think, is that Horne doesn’t quite seem like a whole person yet but, like most of us, she is constantly gaining more of an idea of who she is and what she needs to be happy.

Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver

I don’t know where I first saw this book or how it ended up in my hands.  It just seemed to appear and, as with most books that just show up in my life, it was exactly what I needed.

Carver was working and busy and stressed.  She was trying to provide the best life for her daughter and to her that meant spending money she didn’t have and stuff that they didn’t need.  It’s the kind of thing you hear about every day, the kind of life that we all seem to be living.  Only, one day Carver was diagnosed with MS and everything changed.  She knew that she would have to alter how she lived and fill it with more time and love and a lot less stress.  She started making small changes and taking baby steps to create a new life for herself and her family.

What resulted was the discovery that less stuff gave her more life.  Over the years, Carver and her husband paid off debts, got ride of oodles of stuff, and even downsized to a smaller home.  They learned that they didn’t have to live their life in order to look successful to other people.  They cut stress.  They created space.

I really enjoyed this book and really connected to it.  Carver talks about simplifying gently.  When I finished the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I felt mostly like I could never follow Kondo’s rigid plan and rigid rules.  Carver encourages you to do what you can and to always bring it back to your heart, a very woo-woo part of her life that actually made a lot of sense to me.  When I finished this book, I felt encouraged to make small changes that would add up and I also felt a lot better about my life and where I’m at.  I love how much Carver encourages you to be you and make your life your own.  It was exactly what I needed.

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

Shortly after I started working in libraries, the young adult publishing started to blow up.  I was 16 and the library that I worked at had two small shelves of hardcovers and one small shelf of paperbacks.  When Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging came out, it caused a bit of an uproar.  It seemed like everyone was reading it and finding it hilarious.  So, I checked it out and I started it and… I couldn’t stand it.  Little goth me found Georgia so annoying and stupid.  What were all of these people laughing about?

Adult me is happy to say that this was a FAB listening experience!

I don’t know why I decided to give it another try but I am so glad that I did.  This is a perfect slice of nostalgia for me.  It’s like my high school years meets Bridget Jones.  I was laughing ridiculously in my car.  I even drove the long way around a couple of times to listen a little more.  It was short, fast, and funny.  It was kind of perfect for me.

Georgia is a 14 year old in England.  She’s stumbling through her adolescence, surrounded by friends who help to add to the comedy and drama.  They are just figuring out boys and kissing and who they are.  Georgia talks about her life, from her 3 year old sister to her huge cat, from her friends and the general chaos they cause to the boy down the street who is snogging all of the time, from the obnoxious neighbors to her hopeless father.  Georgia IS shallow and vain and hopeless in a way that can’t help but be funny.  It’s easy to see the disaster coming, like when she decides to pluck her eyebrows.  But there’s more to it than that.  There’s this mix of naive with knowing that feels very specific to that age and that time period.

I loved it.

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

I read a post by Valente on Chuck Wendig’s blog and was charmed enough that I HAD to read this book as soon as I could get my hands on it.  What followed was a very involved system of trying to request it every single day until a library was willing to send me a copy.

Then I was kind of iffy about it.  It took me a little while to get into it because at first it felt very wordy.  By the time I slid into the story, though, and got used to the style, it had me hooked.  I even downloaded the audio so that I could get through it even faster.

Sentient life has been discovered on Earth by the rest of the of the sentient universe.  Still reeling from an intergalactic war, a war about answering the age old question of who is meat and who is not.  In resolution, the planets have banned together to create a musical competition, the Grand Prix, which all planets with sentient life must compete in every year.  In order for a newly discovered planet to be accepted in, they must not finish last.  Enter Decibel Jones, a washed up glam rocker whose band is the last on the list to compete for Earth’s place in the universe.  Unfortunately, the rest of the performers on the list are dead.

Decibel needs to get his band back together except that Mira, his old drummer, is dead and Oort has been busy becoming normal since the band broke up.  Decibel and Oort have eleven days to write a song and when they get to the host planet of the Grand Prix, they discover that they also have to make it to the Grand Prix while other species attempt to kill them, move them through a wormhole, and even steal Decibel’s voice.

This is definitely one of those books that you are either going to love or hate.  I don’t think that there’s anyway that you could feel “so-so” about it.  I loved it but I wasn’t sure that I loved it until it made me cry after making me chuckle so much.  A fun romp with some feeling.

The Dead Zone by Stephen King

The Great Stephen King Read continues!  I went into The Dead Zone with no prior knowledge.  I had no idea about the TV show.  I hadn’t read the back of the book since I was 12 and just hung out in used book stores, reading the backs of Stephen King books.  I went in completely blind.

And, honestly, this is probably one of my favorites so far.

I don’t know how to describe this book.  It’s more on the paranormal phenomena spectrum than the horror spectrum.  I believe that I described it to my husband as “a kind of slow-burn, political thriller.”

John Smith is just an average boy who takes a spill on the ice and blacks out but that’s all it takes for his life to drastically change.  While he easily forgets about his fall, he has premonitions over the years.  A premonition is what gets him a lucky streak on the Wheel of Fortune when he takes his girlfriend to a county fair.  Only, that luck has to be paid for and Johnny is in an accident that puts him in a coma for almost five years.  Then the premonitions are even worse.

I love how King manages to start off with three or four different story lines that feel completely unrelated until they come together.  I love how he references his own work, kind of tongue-in-cheek.  (This book featured a reference to Carrie and a mention of Jerusalem’s Lot.)  I enjoyed this one enough that I enthused about it to numerous people while I was reading it.  It’s easily in my Top 10 Stephen Kings.

Also, it was fin to read King write about a politician in exactly the way that he would write about Trump today.