Dark Digital Sky

darkdigitalskyI think I definitely have a crush on Los Angeles Private Investigator Chalk (short for Chaucer, his father was an English professor), the protagonist in Carac Allison’s thriller Dark Digital Sky.  Any man who has scrolling text on a screen from classic literary works alongside another screen displaying horror in his living room is a man after my own heart.  In addition, Chalk’s no nonsense worldview and ability to read people is refreshing:

I spend most of my life working life in the 911 driving around LA.  I’m not going to go home, pull on some runners, and see LA. slower while panting.  I can’t swim.  I disagree with pick-up basketball as a philosophical concept.  I feel that rec softball leagues are most likely communist sleeper cells.  I believe in-line skating invariably leads to spectacular death.  I suspect that racket ball is entirely made up each time it is played.  (Loc 143)

Everyone assumes that sperm banks are for women who have given up on finding a decent guy alive and in the wild.  (Loc 207)

Autocomplete is limiting discourse and killing the language.  (Loc 540).

We’ve reached her home.  And waiting on the step is the daughter who had a different dad for one confusing month in a Hollywood mansion.  We just keep finding ways to fuck up kids.  (Loc 874).

A former FBI agent, Chalk is hired to find the adult children of a man who was once a sperm bank donor.  Yet, during his investigation Chalk stumbles onto far more.  Instead of causing one’s eyes to glaze over, Allison is able to portray Chalk’s work with technology as an investigative aid in terms an admitted user of blanket statements such as, “The intricacies of technology are boring,” would recant.

With Chalk being the son of an English professor and one who alludes to classic works, the numerous typos, missing articles, and repeated words sprinkled throughout Dark Digital Sky are distracting.

“frunk”  (Loc 119 and 3752) instead of “trunk”

“get back the condo” (Loc 2239) instead of “get back to the condo”

“And I when I sober up . . .”  (Loc 2709)

“I give the him a . . .” (Loc 3354)

For the purposes of book club, pizza delivery would mirror Chalk’s typical eating habits, but his visit to The Sunset Tower Hotel involving a “California omelet with goat cheese, avocado and scallions” (Loc 1000) sounds much more mouthwatering in order to enlist a lively discussion.

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Accidents of Marriage

accidentsofmarriageRandy Susan Meyers’ Accidents of Marriage is not your typical happily-ever-after, and I like that.  Instead, what Meyers offers in black and white is brutal honesty reinforced with extensive dialogue throughout so that the reader is truly able to “listen” to each of the characters from his/her perspective.

Accidents of Marriage revolves around the marriage of Maddy and Ben, two successful professionals with three children.  A tragedy occurs which pushes to the forefront a marriage and family in trouble, trouble which can no longer be ignored or masked by other means.

As for Meyers’ writing style, her descriptive detail makes use of the senses:

Why?  That’s your first worry?  Why?’  Ben smelled his musk rising- exhaustion, court, aftershave gone flat, and beery rankness.  (Loc 610)

In addition, throughout, the carefully constructed dialogue offers life lessons to be absorbed by all:

She pointed her finger at him like a gun. ‘I’m not asking anything- I’m assuming you were out having a drink.  But don’t try and bully your way out of anything with me.’

‘I love your daughter,’ Ben said.

‘Love isn’t an excuse for anything but treating someone well.’ (Loc 2227)

Moira’s smile lit up the face that must have been lovely before old bruises and lines set in so deep. ‘I said to myself, stop worrying about him killing you.  You’re murdering yourself.  All he has to do is finish the job.  I’d been praying to God, not realizing that all that time God was helping, I just didn’t recognize his hand.  He’d sent me you all- I just hadn’t been listening.  All these years, it was like the Bible says, I’ve been a prisoner of hope.’ (Loc 4318)

If hosting a book club discussion to accompany Meyers’ Accidents of Marriage, the meal of choice should definitely be turkey meatloaf, honeyed carrot pennies, baked potatoes, and croissants in honor of Maddy’s independence.

Tracy McMillan’s I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway

A fan of the memoir, I discovered this latest read, I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway, while perusing the shelves at Horizontal Books in Cleveland, Ohio.  Tracy McMillan writes with honesty as she details her childhood dysfunction and its lasting effects which reach into her adulthood especially in her relations with men.

mcmillan

What drew me in as a reader were her thought processes from the perspective of her childhood self as well as her adult self intermingled with one another within a single chapter.  The weight of what McMillan had to endure as a little girl resulted in my taking numerous breathers from the reading.  Born to a father who was a pimp/drug dealer and a mother who worked as a prostitute, McMillan finally found some normalcy at the hands of Gene and June Ericson, her foster parents, for four and a half years.  Then, she was uprooted from this home only to live with her father and his girlfriend until his return to prison.  Her parenting then fell into the hands of her father’s girlfriend turned wife, Yvonne.

As an adult and reflecting on her current relationship with her stepmother which is pretty much nonexistent, McMillan writes:

I feel a twinge of sadness, not because I wish that we were going to be a part of each other’s lives- I don’t see a life of merry Christmases and summer vacations with Yvonne- but there’s a part of me that loves a happy ending, and as endings go, this one isn’t happy.  It’s just okay. . . . on second thought, an okay ending will do just fine.  (312)

This is just one of many sympathetic introspections the author engages in throughout the memoir resulting in a resolution of profound thought.

Furthermore, in dealing with her son who questions McMillan as to why she divorced her third husband, McMillan takes full ownership of her role as parent, “I know my choices have affected you, honey.  I’m so, so sorry. . . .We can make it count for something”  (333), and responsibility to stop the cycles of dysfunction.

If reading I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway for book club, perhaps a trip to Paris (where McMillan and her son commenced a fresh start) for discussion will fit into everyone’s schedule.  If not in the budget, then perhaps coffee to mirror how McMillan not only starts her day, but how this beverage makes an appearance during many of McMillan’s life-changing events.

 

Five Minute Friday: Exhale

Exhale . . .  Yesterday I watched a friend’s kiddos while she had to work.  This summer she and I are swapping days with our kiddos who are identical in age so that each of us has time to exhale.

The kiddos and I visited one of our favorite parks and ended up staying for over two hours.  Children’s laughter . . . exhale.

They then fed “dead bread” (expired bread/cereal) to the ducks who happened to be M.I.A.  Exhale . . .
 

LOVE


A short walk to the local library followed where the kiddos selected books and movies . . .  Their love of reading . . . exhale.

A day I wish didn’t have to end . . . exhale.

Share your idea of LOST in only five minutes . . .

Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday:  Lost

Five Minute Friday: Lost

LOST . . .  Using this summah to truly unplug and be LOST in my children and the hub.  As witnessed on the insides of their doors with Sharpie marks, my kiddos are growing like weeds.  When did this happen?

So, this summah, we are LOST in one another. . .  No scurrying from camp to camp as in previous years.  A VBS here and a Sports Camp there rounds out the summah.

Facebook deleted . . .  Long summer days and nights LOST in one another, in books, in play, in conversation . . .

Share your idea of LOST in only five minutes . . .
Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday:  Lost

Book Club Babes: Let’s Talk Books

Personally, I love to discuss books, analyze books, and write about books.  For many years, I was a book hoarder refusing to share my love of reading by passing a book along for fear of never seeing said book again.  This unreturned phenomena happened many times to me, by the way, before I decided to put an end to the lending process.  Instead, I chose to alphabetize my books, color-code my books, and stack them in piles by my bed instead of deal with the frustration.

Then, one day I decided not to lend the books, but give them away by stuffing them into friends’ mailboxes or hanging them on their doors, and this felt good. . . right.  I was sharing my love of reading and decluttering my house at the same time.  The likelihood of my rereading a book is slim to none due to the vast assortment of reading materials out there, and I want to read them all.  In truth, I reread books now simply because I have forgotten I have read them at all (until about halfway in) or if a character named Ranger or Morelli is involved. 

So, this morning, my eldest daughter talked books with me, and I was like a kiddo in the candy store.  Scout’s honor, I did not prompt the discussion.  Instead, she admitted to starting Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab (our third book club selection courtesy of Book Club Babe Colleen) last night after we told her for the third time to return to bed.  Sneaky!  She told me her book club buddy, Ava, had been reading it, so my squirt guesstimated Ava was nearly finished with the book (as she is a voracious reader).  

I asked my daughter, “When did you discuss Nick and Tesla with Ava?”  

She responded, “When I was at her house for the slumber party . . ..”  

I took a brief intermission, ran to my room, popped another Benicar due to my excitement, and then returned to our literacy . . . yes, literacy discussion.  

She continued with, “It’s weird how their names are Nick and Tesla, but are referred to as ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ in the book.”  

She then loaded Nick and Tesla into her backpack with “I’m going to take this to school,” and off she went.

When this same reader returned from school, she took off her backpack and told me she found “older” was mispelled in Nick and Tesla.  

I asked how it was spelled, and she said, “E-l-d-e-r”  (13).

Aha!  I explained the meaning of “elder,” but then asked where she found the word in the book.  She went right to the page as she had asked her teacher for a post-it note (what I use to mark passages in my book).  Happy Mother’s Day to me.  We reread the passage together, and I explained how “elder” was, in fact, the correct spelling in this particular sentence.  Learning vocabulary through context . . . an English teacher’s dream.

Furthermore, she said, “There was a funny line in the book, ‘IF YOU’RE SELLING GIRL SCOUT COOKIES, I’M NOT HOME'” (14).  We giggled together as we are both registered Girl Scouts (adult and child) and have sold and eaten our fair share of cookies.

She then continued the conversation by telling me how another book club buddy, Emma “. . . talks about book club all the time.”  

I asked, “When?”  

She said, “When we’re at recess, and she uses Bink and Gollie to answer questions.”  

I asked, “How does she use Bink and Gollie to answer questions?”  

My squirt thought about it for a minute before responding, “Like she’ll say, ‘I read this book Bink and Gollie, and one girl wanted a pancake, and the other wanted her to take her sock off, so the one girl shared the pancake, and the other girl took her sock off.'”

“Cool!” I said trying to mask my near hyperventilation.

The conversation ended with, “Emma said she started Ivy and Bean and is reading Chewy and Chica.”  

Feigning an eye itch, I wiped a tear from the corner of my eye.

Larry McMurtry’s Books: A Memoir Book Club

Who would have thought reading a book about a man’s love affair with books would be so addicting?  I’m a bookaholic, and even I wasn’t so sure when I checked Books:  A Memoir out from the library.  I was hooked on the cover photograph, though, gaggles and gaggles of books.
McMurtry discuss in great detail his own obsession, “I had to have books,” (20) with books which eventually led to his buying and selling books.  In fact, he utilizes his love of books to remember prominent points on his personal time line:  the beginning of his teaching career, the end of his marriage, the growth of his son, etc.  
The wit, intellect, and characterization found in this memoir is mesmerizing to say the least, and I noticed I read with a permanent smirk on my face throughout.  When McMurtry tells of some eccentric book sellers he came across during his book hunts, such as the owner who had books piled high in a one-room shop, I had no choice but to laugh out loud.  In order to “view” the books, a customer was to make use of provided binoculars for which McMurtry spent hours scanning the titles giving a whole other meaning to browsing the shelves.”
For the purposes of book club, Coca-Cola served in the bottle should be the beverage of choice served for your discussion.  Without giving too much away, this would be an ideal conversation starter on the topic of difficult customers McMurtry encountered at his own book shop, Booked Up.  An assortment of chocolate ” . . . we might offer our children”  (20) to accompany the soda in lieu of beef intestines would be my preference.

Babies, Birthdays, Books, and Broadway Bound

Having received a clever invitation (devised by a teacher- let’s hear it for our teachers!) in the form of an airline ticket to a baby shower, a trip to the bookstore was now a high priority on my to-do list (yes!).  In lieu of cards, picture books were requested for the baby.  Be still my heart . . .  a fellow author groupie in the making.  
In the same week, my eldest daughter received a “FREE Birthday Treat” coupon in the mail from Barnes and Noble, so it was a nobrainer which bookstore was in our near future.  
After school pick-up, my two squirts and I headed in great anticipation to our nearest store location in Fairview Heights, ILme looking ahead to heady floating between rows of books, the oldest squirt discerning between the cupcake or the oversized cookie, and the youngest squirt racing towards the Thomas Train display, with all of us rounding out our visit with a lengthy stretch of time at the stage.  

This stage in question, located in the children’s section, is where my squirts have observed many preschool storytimes, danced many jigs, and now conduct many performances for me and for one another.  Priceless!  Yes, I own a Kindle and use it, but I am still in awe of the written word on paper and the stores which house these books. Thrilled to know my squirts, too, love to turn the pages of a book, I am hopeful this future squirt whom we’re celebrating at the baby shower will embrace the physical book also.

Molly’s Magic Pencil: The Blue Genie

     Peter Davies’ second book, The Blue Genie,  in the Molly’s Magic Pencil series is an ideal picture book to use for dramatization.  With only four prominent characters in the story, our family of four had no problem in dealing with lack of participation.  Having short jumpers the squirts consider “genie” outfits, I figured the two girls would be taking turns playing the Blue Genie.  Instead, they both chose to play the protagonist’s part, Molly.
      So, we dug in closets for red (okay, hot pink) outfits to mimic Molly’s red jumper.  Then, backpacks were filled with paper and the crucial Magic Pencil.  By default, the hub played Blue Genie since he was wearing a blue shirt and blue jeans, and I was inevitably Mrs. Jones, the tearful geriatric lady (I’m being typecast already, yet still a month away from 40) whose cat, Tiddles (played by our stuffed black cat), is stranded high on a tree limb.

Tiddles stranded in the tree.

     Since each squirt wanted the spotlight to herself, we rehearsed the scene several times (more than I had planned) in our backyard (luckily, the neighbors already know we’re nutty) each time alternating the actress who portrayed Molly.                           

Take 1:  Molly #1 searching in her backpack for the Magic Pencil.

                                                                               

Take 1:  Molly #1 drawing a teapot.
Take 21:  Molly #2 searching in her backpack for the Magic Pencil.
Take 21:  Molly #2 drawing a teapot.
The Blue Genie saves Tiddles.

      When every blank space on the paper had been filled with a drawing of a teapot,  we brought the dramatization to a close by singing the first verse of, “I’m a Little Teapot.”  Bedtime was accomplished only with a sincere promise, “Yes, we will act out The Blue Genie again tomorrow.”


Peter Davies

Reading Camp Rocks- Week 2

     My oldest squirt and her buddy attended Week 2 of Reading Camp offered through Saint Louis University.  We barely were able to finish the homework in time for class due to the fact my squirt was attending camp during the evenings and sleeping late throughout the mornings, and, to be honest, she felt it was “boring,” a new term she had learned and embraced wholeheartedly from some of the older girls at camp.  Anywho- workbook pages were completed, CDs were listened to, and a dramatization of a picture book completed.  Mistakenly, I had her watch with me a video intended for parents, to be fair, which was “boring.”  I loaded her into the van with her final words, “I am never going to Reading Camp again,” escaping the sliding door.  While buckling my seat belt, I assured her that one week was already down with only four more to go.  Really only three more to attend if she considered “today” as a completed Reading Camp day.  Besides, Miss Rebecca (the young, energetic teacher) would miss her . . . .
     Arriving at the high school and following last week’s route through the building, we discovered that our class was to meet in another room due to ACT testing being offered concurrently.  Thus, with both squirts leading the way by following the arrows, we made our way to the new classroom.  We decided potty breaks were needed, so all four of us hustled down towards the bathrooms so as not to miss the beginning of class.  Again, my inner immaturity (since being in a high school setting) eventually found its way out when I wet a paper towel and threw it into my friend’s stall (hey- at least I didn’t throw it up on the ceiling).  Stifling giggles, I listened closely for her reaction, but heard nothing.  When she opened her door and exited her bathroom cubby,  a mere, “Did you do that?”  She had figured her son had performed the act in question.  I suppose being out of high school for twenty plus years along with motherhood does and should mellow or mature most of us (or at least make us better examples for the youth of today . . . as my daughter watched my actions with wide-eyed amazement).
     Class started promptly on time, and questions were asked of the 4 and 5 year-old students.  Excited hands were raised, and before we knew it, it was story time with Eric Carle’s A House for Hermit Crab.

Each student was given a copy to “read along” with the teacher.  After the reading, Miss Rebecca discussed the story with the students and then wrote a short story of her own on the board and drew a house to her liking- red with green stripes.  Students then were asked to narrate his/her original story to his/her parent with the parent writing the story verbatim- taking no grammatical liberties.

  Rhyming and phonetic work ensued before class ended with a reading of Audrey Wood’s big book,  King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, an entertaining read with beautiful illustrations where each page takes on a color scheme of its own.

Class was dismissed for the week, and we plan to have our student squirts take part in a homework session together to promote the “fun” of reading and working together.  Of course, today is Tuesday, class is Saturday, and we have yet to crack the books.  Aaaaaaah . . . the humanity!!!!!