Date Archives October 2012

My first book review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I’m a massive book lover across many genres but I have to admit: My reading of fiction has suffered over the past few years.

This has nothing to do — or at least little to do — with getting sucked into checking Facebook on my iPhone before bed instead of reading a book.

The problem is this: I haven’t been able to get past those damn Harry Potter books.

That story transported me so completely that everything else since then has fallen short. I’ve been desperate for a book to pull me in but it just hasn’t happened.

Until now.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs may have just scratched that itch for me.

But don’t let my HP comparisons lead you to believe that this is a Potter knockoff for a second.

Sure, there are similarities: Children, largely unsupervised, with special powers. Bad guys. A family mystery. Danger and intrigue. Oh my!

But Miss Peregrine is an entirely different animal. (For those literary goons in the audience, yes, that’s some foreshadowing for you, you observant bitches.)

How I got suckered in

I’ve never done an official book review before. But this one grabbed my attention.

I loved the title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

I’m a sucker for alliteration. Especially p’s.

Then the cover had this delicious photo:

What I didn’t see coming is that the book is stocked with other equally fascinating — and sometimes disturbing — images.

And these photos aren’t just eye candy. They’re integral to the story.

Young Jacob, our protagonist, grew up looking at these photos and hearing his grandpa’s tales about the peculiar children in them. Granddad would go on and on about the special powers these kids possessed — the invisible boy, the levitating girl (who graces the cover — did you notice that her feet aren’t touching the ground?) and the brother and sister who had incredible strength.

Granddad supposedly knew these kids because he lived with them for a time during WWII.

And there were other stories too. About monsters.

As Jacob grew up, he decided that his grandfather’s stories were nonsense and that all the “monster” talk was probably referring to the Nazis.

But then grandpa died under mysterious and extremely violent circumstances, prompting Jacob to set out on a quest to unravel his grandfather’s mysterious past.

Golly, I love a pretty book

The physical book is quite beautiful. I’m a book geek so I couldn’t help but notice the two-color print. Nice touch. Also, it’s worth taking the dust jacket off for a tasty little surprise. Quirk did a good job.

And those photos I mentioned? They show up at a perfect pace. Riggs gives an explanation of each — usually right before the picture appears — and these explanations certainly prompted me to spend considerable time examining each photo. While reading the book, I kept thinking that not only was Riggs an imaginative writer, he was also quite adept at creating haunting and beautiful visual images.

However, some of the most mysterious and disturbing images were left unexplained. (Mr. Riggs: Of course there’s a sequel in the works, yes? There are few little ribbon eaters I’d like the pleasure of meeting, mmmkay?)

My little caveat

My only complaint is minor. That is, every now and then there are some awkward details.

For example, early in the story Jacob explores an abandoned house. After a lengthy discussion of the devastated condition of the first floor (which we later find out was bombed out), he goes upstairs to the second floor — that appears to be perfectly intact and structurally sound.

During another key action scene, two people attempt to knock over a rickety structure, only to turn around and attempt to climb it a few minutes later with the hopes that it will hold them.

But that is all minor shite and I’m probably just being picky. I’m a stickler for continuity in movies, too, so perhaps I have some OCD about this sort of thing.

More. Give me more.

When the book ended I felt satisfied, yet hopeful that there would be more to come. Great way to end a book, yes?

However, one of the most tantalizing things about this book was what happened after the story was over.

I turned the page to find an author’s note about the photographs. And then I think I exclaimed something like, “No way, motherfarker!”

And then I had to flip through the entire book and look at every photo again.

I’m so tempted to tell you what the author’s note said, but I wouldn’t have wanted to know myself. I remain silent.

I hear there’s a movie in the works. I can see how this story would lend itself well to the screen.

But my suggestion? Read it first. This book is far more than words on a page — it is an experience. And, as all book geeks know, there are some things that just don’t translate to screen.

Happy reading.

Click here to see the website for the book.

 

 

Check me out!

Hey, blogmuffins! See that new blog bling I’ve got going on over there?  —->

Blogher.com has decided to feature one of my blog posts today! Check me out at Blogher.com under “What’s new” on the home page. (Not sure how long it will be there, so go NOW! What are you waiting for?)

Thanks to Blogher for being totally awesome and sharing my work!

Please be sure to check out Blogher.com for smart, enlightening viewpoints from women bloggers of all stripes.

The pangs of sympathetic divorce

Note: I wrote this more than a week ago. Certainly this situation aggravated the slow, acid-reflux burn of my own breakup.

Feeling much better now than when I wrote it. No need to call the men with the white coats. You know, unless they’re single and cute …

_____________

A marriage very close to me is breaking up. It’s so sad that I can’t bear it. Sad for everyone involved and sad for me, too.

It all hits too close to home.

They say that a tree will do a process like self-cauterization if a limb becomes infected. It will cut off any sap to that area and block it off. That way the limb can die without killing the tree.

That’s what happens when you get divorced. You have to cut off circulation to certain areas of yourself so they can die and you can live. Otherwise there’s just no way to get through the day.

Obviously, I’m one chick who positively wallows in feelings in sometimes. I can milk a moment. But man, not with my divorce. If I sit and think about it too long and turn it over and over as is my nature, it’s too much to bear. There are so many things that are surrounded with sadness and worry for me. I just can’t dwell on them. I have to move forward.

I had to sacrifice that limb so I could keep breathing, keep walking.

To use another metaphor, sometimes it feels like I’m learning to use a prosthetic limb. It’s not the same as the old limb. It doesn’t look the same — people know it’s an after-market part. It doesn’t feel the same. I have to move a little differently. I have fallen down a lot while learning to incorporate this new limb into my body.

The idea is that eventually it becomes mundane. The way life is. No need to dwell on it. Just get up and put it on and go about your day.

The phantom pain from the old limb is still there sometimes, though. It hums and it aches and it’s so real that sometimes I swear I’m going to wake up in my old house.

But then I remember where I am.

How things are now.

Remind myself not to dwell.

And shut it off.

This divorce close to me is tough. It has shaken my faith. I rarely freely cry for my own divorce anymore, but I can let it rip for this person. My phantom limb picks up on what’s going on and it hums with sympathetic vibrations. Everyone’s pain is different, but there’s a kinship and a commonality with people who have had to do this.

This gorgeous, strong woman can’t see my tears for her. It would kill her. I know. When I was in the middle of it, I needed to summon every ounce of courage I had.

People falling to bits around you knocks you off kilter when you need to stand firm.

People looking at you with pity just about undoes you.

If this girl is in your life, tell her you love her and that if anyone can do it, she can. Tell her she’s a great mom and that she’s capable of so many things and that in many ways, life for her is just beginning.

A new beginning. A true one.

 

Grief is a greedy bitch (or) Fuck, I’m depressed

 

My friend called me yesterday. “I, uh, just thought I’d call …” she stammered. I finished the sentence for her “… to make sure I’m not cutting into my arms?”

I laughed.

I’m not sure that she did.

The people around me are worried about me. I spent about five days walking around this world feeling so fragile that had I not looked in a mirror I would’ve sworn that I’d been walking around without skin.

I wasn’t happy about this breakup at any point, but in the beginning I could rationalize it. It’s so much easier to think through these sorts of things than to feel your way through them.

But grief demands its time.

Pretend there is a relevant subhead about grief here

This was a robust grief. This was the sort of grief that caused instant and profuse tears whenever I was alone (which included being alone in the front seat of the car while the kids were in the backseat, distracted by their kiddie world). This was the sort of grief that made it impossible to even pretend that I was OK, to my mother or to the grocery store clerk. This was the sort of grief that made it feel like a monumental effort to even stand upright.

I felt like God should’ve scooped me up in a soft blankie and cuddled me to his chest until I felt strong enough to face the world again.

He didn’t.

But, as I told my friend, even at my worst I’ve got some sort of little brain defect that will never let me give up hope entirely. Perhaps that’s the equivalent of getting scooped up in the blankie.

I can talk a good game about how wrecked I am — and I can mean it — but there’s always that little tiny flicker of hope in my head that just won’t go out. There’s always that feeling that all of this is a learning experience and that I’m going to come out on the other side at some point and that there will be sunlight, peace and joy.

I’m ready for it.

—-

Hey! Did you enjoy this superfun walk through misery? Want to read more about loss, disappointment and shattered dreams? Awesome. Sign up to get this depressing drivel in your email. Warning: All messages will probably come wrapped in soggy newspaper.

 

 

Funeral for a friend

Megan’s beloved hermit crab died the other week. She sobbed and sobbed over Isabella (whom Benjamin always delightfully referred to as “Mrs. Bella”). She cried in my arms when we found her deceased crustacean companion, and then again when we buried the tiny, now-exposed crabby body in the front flower bed. Megan used Isabella’s rainbow shell to mark the spot.

After the burial Megan said to me rather frantically, “Mommy! I need to get another hermit crab! Can we go right now? Please??!!! Let’s go right now!” She hopped up and down and swiped tears from her face with forearm. She was in a desperate panic to fill the void.

I’d already told her that we’d get another crab, but no, we weren’t going to get one that day. I told her, as I had the night before when we’d found Isabella dead in her cage, that it hurts when someone we love dies and that it was normal to feel bad about it. You’re supposed to feel bad and there’s not much you can do about it. And then eventually you won’t feel so bad about it anymore, even though you’ll always miss your friend.

Bigger than a hermit crab

My mom called me last week and said that I seemed sad. I said I was. A major relationship in my life had just ended, I reminded her. I felt bad about it. Because I was supposed to feel bad when I had to say goodbye to someone I loved.

I wanted to have my moment of silence in the front yard and then go about my day.

And at first, that’s pretty much how I handled it.

Then I spent a few days being pretty angry about the whole thing.

But then Friday morning I had to go to the bank, which is near the Irishman’s house. He had a whole lotta stuff over here, so I bagged it all up and was going to  leave it on his porch while he was at work.

But he was home. I considered driving on and doing it another time but that seemed stupid.

He answered the door. It was all pretty perfunctory. A few sentences from each of us that I found myself playing over and over and over on the way home.

Then I dropped off Benjamin at school and spent the rest of the day completely unraveling.

It was so not pretty. I’ll spare you the details. You’ve probably been there at some point or another and can fill in the blanks well enough.

Then I spent yesterday with my family and managed to only randomly fall apart twice.

Today I feel slightly better.

(And thanks to the many, many, many friends and strangers who reached out to me. It meant so much.)

I’m processing all of this. I’m filling notebooks with my thoughts  — because I guess that’s what I do. It’s all still coming together. Maybe later it will all make more sense.

Hard to say goodbye to the good times, of which there were many. Hard to say goodbye to the little daydream I had about what our crazy mixed family could’ve been like.  Hard to feel the cold bitchslap of reality when I remind myself again that that daydream wasn’t real and that any future was probably going to be much less cozy and far more turbulent and full of angst.

Angst. Yes. Great word for it.

I went out to dinner with a friend on Friday and unloaded the whole story on him. “Tragic,” he pronounced it.

Yes. Another good word. I told him “Today I’m in mourning. Then I don’t know what.”

Then I guess it’s time to bury it all in front yard. Time to heal a little bit. Then time to dream some new dreams.

Up around the corner

A longtime, soul-sista friend of mine adopted a baby two years ago. Her holiday card from that year is a closeup photo of the two of them. Her gorgeous little girl is in her lap, looking at the camera. My friend is in profile, looking down at her precious new daughter, whom she hadn’t known only a few months before.

I’ve had that photo stuck on the wall above my computer for two years now. It reminds me that sometimes the people who will have the most impact on us, the people who we will love the most in this world and who will capture our hearts completely, are sometimes people we haven’t met yet.

You never know when they’ll arrive. Today, tomorrow, maybe  just up ahead around the corner.

 

 

No Irish, no more

Well, peeps. Looks like I have some bad news for you all. Sorry.

The Irishman? Done. Over. Finished.

Sorry to disappoint. I know a lot of you liked hearing about him and the idea that I, a 40-year old single momma, could have a little true-life, fairytale romance.

And it so started out that way.

But as many people have pointed out, fairy tales always end at the beginning of relationships. So you never find out that Cinderella is a pill popper and that Prince Charming solicits prostitutes online after the wifey is asleep. (Not that any of that was happening here, btw.)

So yeah, you probably want to know what happened.  But dearest blogmuffins, you know I can’t get into all that super-personal stuff on the bloggity.

Let’s just say that while I (and nearly everyone else) found the Irishman to be a lovely person, he has some issues going on in his life that I cannot take on.

While I define myself as someone who stands by the people I love when they’re down, I found that I had to make some hard choices this time around.

I kept thinking to myself: If you see someone drowning do you jump in and try to save them, knowing that they might pull you under with them?

At one point in my life, I might have jumped in. I would’ve given it some serious thought, anyway.

But now, my kids are on the shore with me.

It’s my main job in this life to take care of those two little people. Anything that’s going to jeopardize my ability to do that is a no.

Just no.

So that is that.

These issues have been brewing for months and, in fact, the Irishman and I haven’t seen each other much since the spring. So this final ending does not come as a shock. I’m OK.

Am I disappointed? Yes.

Hurt? A little.

Sad? Sure. For many, many reasons.

Relieved? Most definitely.

In the grand scheme of things, I know this was the only possible solution for me. There’s peace in that.

Time for the next chapter.