Thursday, March 31, 2016

March 2016 Reads

This month I finished 9 books:

The Best American Short Stories 2015 ed. T.C. Boyle
Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair
The Best American Short Stories 2014 ed. Jennifer Egan
Pushcart Prize XXXIX ed. Bill Henderson
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Cheap Diamonds by Norris Church Mailer
The O. Henry Prize Stories 2015 ed. Laura Furman
Until it’s Right by Jamie Howard
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer
Let’s talk about the ick first. I did not finish The Castle in the Forest.

It is very rare for me to put down a book with not intention of picking it back up and finishing it. But I could not make myself finish this one.

The first 75 pages or so is told by a narrator who hypothesizes that Hitler was who was due to the incest that occurred in his family tree. Way too much information about his parents and grandparents sex lives.

I was not really loving the book, but was trying to hang in there. Then I turned the page.

The narrator revealed that he was actually a demon and that Hitler was evil because he and other demons were present at the time of his conception.

I closed the book. There was no way I could make myself slog through another 400ish pages.

I’m not sure where the book was headed. Maybe it would have been okay in the end. I just wasn’t willing to entertain the idea that someone’s choices weren’t really their fault, that literally, the devil made them do it. I can’t even buy that excuse in fiction.

On to the good.

So many short stories. I am in the process of sending out some of my own short stories to journals and magazines, which is what inspired this flurry of short story activity. Lots of good stuff out there. And a lot that made me feel good about my own work.

Favorite read of the month? The Raven Boys.

I read two YA fantasies this month (Red Queen and The Raven Boys). Both were very good. But for me, in a head to head battle, the boys beat the queen.

Red Queen is much closer to high fantasy. The story takes place in a world other than our own. Which means there is world building that has to take place. Aveyard did a good job with this, it’s just not my favorite to read.

The Raven Boys is more in line with contemporary fantasy. It takes place in our world. But something exceptional or magical is added. This is much more my speed as a reader. I love stories that could be reality, if the world were just slightly different. This is also much closer to what I write.

I will continue to read both of these series, but I more excited to finish the raven cycle.

What’s the most recent book you walked away from? What made you do it?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


I met him ten days ago. He was standing at the bus stop in the rain. I offered to share my umbrella. He looked down at me and smiled. He said he was too tall, that if we tried to share, I would end up soaking wet. He just stood there, let the rain soak into this clothes, push his dark hair into wild rivulets on his face. I was mostly dry under my umbrella. I tipped it to the side so that I could see him, watch him.

The bus pulled up before I was done staring. So I sat next to him. He told me he has nine brothers and sisters. Insane. He is the only single. The others are sets of triplets. After the first set, his mom didn’t think it could happen again. After the second set, she claimed it was statistically impossible to have a third. I wanted to tell him that nothing in statistics nothing is impossible.

We both got off the bus at eighth street. I stood first as the bus began to slow. He chuckled behind me. I turned to see him towering over me yet again. “This is my stop, too,” he said. We stood on the sidewalk and continued our conversation until the rain slowed to a stop and the street began steaming. I turned to walk to my house. He walked the opposite way. I didn’t think I’d see him again. I still didn’t know his name.

I was carrying seven pounds of butter the next time I saw him. Mom was baking Christmas cookies. In October. But, that’s a story for another day. I ran to the market two blocks from our apartment to get the butter she had somehow forgotten to purchase with the rest of the cookie supplies. He was holding a box of instant mashed potatoes. We laughed at our slightly odd purchases as we stood in line to pay. I asked him for his name. Tucker. He asked me for my phone number.

He called at six in the morning. He wanted to watch the sunrise over the lake. I said yes. We shared a bench with a lady who sang softly under her breath as she tossed out handfuls of bird seed to the flock of pigeons in front of us. When she got up to leave, they took to the skies in a flurry of grey and black feathers.

On the way home, he stopped at a flower stand and bought me a parcel of flowers. Five yellow calla lilies. When I asked why five, he told me one for each day that he had known me. One for each day that he had been able to appreciate my beauty. I won’t lie. It may have been a line, but it still earned him a kiss.

Four kisses and four dates later he gave me a ring. It was a simple silver band with what looked like a Nike swoosh on it. I turned the ring in my hand, puzzled and a little afraid. He reached into his pocket and pulled out another silver band. This one also had the swoosh-thing. He held the rings side by side. Together, the swooshes formed a heart.

I must have had a look of total panic on my face. I wasn’t ready for a ring. We’d only known each other for a little over a week. This was crazy even by my standards. He assured me that this wasn’t an engagement ring, or even a traditional promise ring. It was an acknowledgment. That I had already taken up residence in his heart. His commitment was to seeing how things turned out. He wanted to find out what we could be in three years.

I took the ring. Well, really he put it on me. He slid my ring onto the ring finger of my right hand. Then the other ring onto his hand. Two rings. Two hearts joined in a journey.

I woke up one hour ago. It is dark in here. Through the thin fabric over my face I can smell gasoline and oil. I want to feel my head, check the moisture that beads thick and sticky along my hairline. But my hands are tied. I can move my fingers just enough to spin the silver band on my finger. I can hear Tucker outside. He is still making promises.

There is zero chance that I will make it out of this alive.