Wednesday, November 18, 2020

'Ship It' by Britta Lundin

Ship ItShip It by Britta Lundin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All the Destiel feels.

Forest and Rico are the Jensen and Misha of this fictional universe. (Supernatural exists in this universe, but we don't have time to unpack all of that). They're on the first season of a show called Demon Heart.

We alternative between the point of view of Forest and of high school junior Claire Strupke, who ships their characters HARD. Claire asks Forest about her OTP, SmokeHeart, at a fan conference and then things get...awkward.

No characters in this book are on their best behavior, but that's ok, because they grow as people over the course of the book. Claire learns a lot, including some lessons she needed to learn about understanding herself, and her own sexuality, better. She meets a talented artist named Tess and goes on a maybe-date with her. Forest ships it. All ends well because, well, the characters grow, making this an enjoyable, if somewhat fluffy, YA read.

I checked this ebook out from my local library using the Axis 360 app and wasn't obligated to review it in any way.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Horror Novella: 'The Atrocities' by Jeremy Shipp

Our protagonist Danna Valdez has taken a new job at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Evers. She's set to teach the Evers' daughter Isabella. Isabella has recently had an accident.

This Gothic novella eerily drifts back and forth between the waking world and dreams. It walks a fine line between the worlds of the living and the dead, between real monsters and works of art that are merely disturbing.

I purchased this book from Powell's as a spooky read for Halloween season, but there really is no bad time of year to read a chilling Gothic story. If you're looking for something weird and different, you will not be disappointed.

I bought this book with my own funds and was not obligated in any way to review it. Follow Jeremy on Twitter

Saturday, October 31, 2020

'Haunted Indiana' by James A. Willis

I finished this short book yesterday. The author is from Ohio, but I'm from Indiana. This is my two cents and experiences with Haunted Indiana: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Hoosier State.

Ghosts of Northern Indiana

The first section is called South Bend and Northern Indiana, which is where I'm from. The very first story is about Bremen, a very small town which can be most easily reached by going next door to South Bend - to Mishawaka - and then heading directly south on the highway. I've only been to Bremen a few times and know little about it, but apparently when teens go legend tripping, they go to Ewald Cemetery, reach through the high fence, and try to throw coins onto the graves of children, hoping to hear the ghostly voice of a child on whose grave a coin lands. 

Now, there's absolutely no evidence whatsoever that any actual living person has heard such a ghostly voice. That's the main drawback to this collection: the tales may be creepy, but they're basically only creepy rumors with nothing substantial to back them up. 

The third story in the collection is about a circus train that originated in Peru, Indiana, which during the 20th century billed itself as the Circus Capital of the World. There's still a circus museum there, but I've never visited it. (Peru is also the hometown of Cole Porter.) In 1918, the circus train from Peru got into a terrible crash with another train in Hammond, Indiana. Hammond is a stop along the South Shore train and is located in Lake County, technically the only part of Indiana that counts as Greater Chicagoland. 

It's the site of the crash that's said to be haunted. People report hearing the disembodied sounds of people and animals in distress as they would have been after the horrific crash of the wooden train cars and the fire that followed. (Wooden train cars were lit with kerosene lamps in the 1910s; that's just asking for trouble.) I've read this story before, although I can't exactly remember where. Maybe Wikipedia, maybe a magazine article about Chicago hauntings, since the bodies of the unfortunate victims of the circus train crash were buried on the other side of the Illinois border. 

Next comes the ghost story nearest and dearest to my heart, the one about the old Gipper. Unless you're from South Bend or a Notre Dame alumnus, you may not be familiar with the story of turn-of-the-20th century college football star George Gipp, who died tragically young from a terrible case of pneumonia. If you're old enough to remember former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, you might know that Reagan played Gipp in the movie Knute Rockne, All American. If you've heard of Rockne, you probably know he was Notre Dame's coach in the late 1910s and early 1920s. 

George Gipp is buried in his native Michigan, but an often-told legend around the Notre Dame campus is that Gipp's ghost haunts the old theater building, Washington Hall. Washington Hall is the place where I watched Richard III, but larger productions are now staged at the theater hall Regis Philbin donated to the Notre Dame campus about 10 years ago. I've been to Washington Hall many times, and although I've seen the bat that lives there, I've never seen George Gipp's ghost. 

From Notre Dame, the book skips to Merrillville and then to Lake County's Gary, both of which are said to have vanishing hitchhikers of the kind one might read about in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The next ghosts occupy a cemetery in Crown Point, a pretty little Lake County town you'll glimpse in the Christian Bale movie Public Enemies. Its jail once held the notorious Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger. 

Dillinger is buried in Indianapolis (his hometown), but Dillinger-related hauntings don't merit a mention in Haunted Indiana. He's sometimes said to haunt a building he once robbed in South Bend, a building that longtime SB residents will know as the Dainty Maid bakery building. One of my cousins used to work as a baker there, but she never saw the ghost. 

Nor is there any mention of Posey Chapel, where my sister-in-law was once menaced by some of kind of spirit as a Ouija board-wielding teen. Skipped, too, is Mishawaka's haunted house, now a Hacienda Mexican restaurant (part of a local chain) but once a home belonging to the Kamm family, whose former brewery is only a few yards away. The former Kamm house is said to be haunted by the spirit of a servant who killed herself over an ill-fated affair with a Kamm heir. 

Mention IS made of Mishawaka's tiny eastern neighbor Osceola. A house there is said to have been troubled by a poltergeist. The paranormal activity begin and ended, once and for all, in 1966. If you get a chance to visit Osceola, do so not for its alleged poltergeist, but for Ferrettie-Baugo Creek County Park. Baugo Creek is very pretty place to go for a peaceful canoe ride on a hot summer day. 

Ghosts of Indianapolis

If I wanted to get haunted in my current home of Indianapolis, where would I go? The two most likely candidates, according to this book, are the Slippery Noodle Inn and the campus of Marian University.  The Slippery Noodle claims to be the oldest continually-operating bar in Indiana. Located near Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts, it's tremendously popular on the days of Colts home games. I'm ashamed to say I've never been there, even though I was within walking distance when I lived downtown.

It's said that barware at the Slippery Noodle will sometimes be moved around by ghostly hands, but for your best chance to spot a ghost, you have to go to the second floor. That's where the old bordello was. The ghosts of sex workers are said to prefer female visitors and may occasionally slap a man who wanders into their territory.

Marian University has two mansions on its campus that are said to be haunted. One is the current Admissions building, which used to be the private home of Frank Wheeler. Wheeler shot himself to death with a shotgun inside the home, but the most commonly reported haunting there is a phantom carriage that pulls up into the porte cochere. A phantom woman gets out of the carriage, heads toward the house, and disappears. Marian's other haunted house is Riverdale, the former home of James Allison, one of the founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Allison is said to occasionally rearrange the books in his former private library. 

Should pandemic conditions ever lift and I ever go to see a show at the Old National Center, formerly the Murat Shrine Center, I might see the ghost of the old Shriner's temple's builder, Elias J. Jacoby. 

And those are the hauntings closest to me. What's haunted in your town?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

October 2020 Currentlies

Currently Making: Another handmade, one-of-a-kind collage and art book that will be featured in my Etsy shop, Writer's Brain Has Wings like this one.

Currently Watching: The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix, based on The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, which I finally read about Halloween time in 2019. In the TV series, the governess's name is Dani. The setting has been moved to the 1980s, which I enjoy for the nostalgia factor.  

Currently Reading: Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer. I'm reading it slowly. I started it in the middle of July and so far I'm only up to the part where Edward and Bella have dinner together at the restaurant in Port Angeles. 

Currently Listening: I have a rotation of favorite podcasts. I don't listen to every single episode, but I do listen to all the ones that interest me. Some of my top podcasts include:

- Omnibus with Ken Jennings and John Roderick. Check out the recent Aztec death whistles episode: eerie and informative!

- FireStarters Podcast. Dan and Henry explain the history of everyone and everything mentioned in Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire." We're learning world history of the 20th century and it's fun!

- None of This Is Real. Sarah and Damani are two North Carolina friends who tell each other stories about weird phenomena. On one episode, a listener shared a dream about a fictional person called Nut Guttson and I have been laughing at the name "Nut Guttson" ever since. 

- Terrible Book Club

- Book Vs Movie Podcast. The two Margots have done The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Toni Morrison's Beloved, In Cold Blood, Elton John's biography Me vs. the movie Rocketman, and many more. This is one of my very, very favorites. 

- You're Wrong About. Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall debunk pop culture myths one at a time, sometimes with the aid of a book. They're both writers and Sarah is currently working on nonfiction about the "Satanic Panic" of the 1980s. The "killer clowns" episode references Loren Coleman, who writes the Twilight Language blog. It doesn't have anything to do with the Stephenie Meyer series at all, but it does have to do with eerie synchronicities and other kinds of things you might see on Ancient Aliens. 

I listen to all of my podcasts on Spotify Free, but many of these are available across numerous platforms.

What are your currentlies? What are you making, reading, watching, and listening to? 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Mini Review of 'Gone At Midnight: The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam'

If you enjoyed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, you'll likely enjoy this book as well. The author, Jake Anderson, is an indispensable part of this story the way that author Rebecca Skloot became part of the story of the descendants of Henrietta Lacks. 

Like Lacks,
Elisa Lam lost her life far too young. This book is part true crime story, part exploration of what it's like to live with a mental illness in the U.S. and Canada. It's certainly different from a typical true crime book. 

Featured in this book is YouTube vlogger John Lordan, whose video channel I subscribe to and who investigates primarily cases of missing persons. Lordan takes a very practical, rational, ethical, and empathetic approach to such cases, which I appreciate. 

If you're interested in reading more about true crime stories, I recommend checking out Mitzi Szereto's Best New True Crime Stories series. She doesn't pay me to say that; I've just liked several of her other anthologized collections of stories. 

Gone at Midnight is a book I checked out from my local library using the Libby app. I was not compensated in any way to read and review it. This mini review represents my own honest opinion. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

'New Age Lies to Women' by Wanda Marrs

New Age Lies to WomenNew Age Lies to Women by Wanda Marrs
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Wanda Marrs was half of Living Truth Ministries, the Texas-based Evangelical Christian ministry with her husband Texe Marrs. Texe was renowned outside certain strains of Evangelicalism for his antisemitism and anti-Roman Catholic bias. Although I don't recall reading anything explicitly antisemitic in this book, it's clear from the text that Wanda shared her husband's anti-Catholic prejudice.

I did not contribute to Living Truth Ministries in the acquisition of this book. I bought it from a secondhand store, where it caught my eye with the beautiful Pre-Raphaelite painting on the cover and many beautiful "New Age" illustrations within. I bought it quite cheaply with all the proceeds going to my local used book store.

This book was a quick, easy read owing to the many pictures, blank pages between chapters, and numerous quotations, some of which are quoted on two different pages, sometimes within the same chapter. I don't quite understand that last decision. It's as if Wanda knew we'd forget what we just read as soon as we read it.

I wouldn't read this book to try to follow Wanda's arguments, since she uses a combination of extreme cherry picking; conclusions drawn from her few, unrelated, cherry-picked examples; and "facts" passed off as Biblically and historically accurate even though her sources are listed by Wikipedia under its "pseudohistory" macro-category. (Example: Alexander Hislop's 1853 book The Two Babylons is not a reliable source. It's anti-Roman Catholic propaganda plus bad archaeology.)

Indeed, if there is any reason to read this book at all, and I don't recommend that you do, it's that some of Wanda's cherry-picked examples of New Age witchcraft are examples of beautiful 1970s and early 1980s feminist spiritual writing. To Wanda Marrs, Miriam Starhawk (to name one example) is literally possessed by the literal devil; to me, Miriam Starhawk is a feminist author who writes beautifully.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

'Had I Known' Mini-Review: Essays by Barbara Ehrenreich

Had I KnownHad I Known by Barbara Ehrenreich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this audiobook, which I checked out from my local library using the Libby app. I had heard a few of the essays before, having listened to Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America and Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer as well as reading Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, but I didn't mind hearing them again. They bear repeating.

My favorite of the essays was "The Cult of Busyness." I strongly relate to those individuals who have survived to adulthood without being habitually busy. It describes my personality well.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Enjoy Nostalgic 'Last Dance' Toni Kukoc Zine

This first issue of my zine inspired by the ESPN Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance is all about my favorite European teammate of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen - #7, Toni Kukoc.

Am I a little fascinated with the countries that used to be Yugoslavia? Maybe. You decide.

Recommended for mature audiences teen and up. Think of this as The Last Dance if, instead of meticulously compiled from hours of interview footage, it was just written by a weird nerd.

I will refund you the cost of shipping this zine to your address if your mailing address is in Croatia or if you are Will Ferrell.

Get it on Etsy or for $1, get an instant download of my poetry and list zine!

Monday, June 8, 2020

Favorite Books by Black Authors

I stole this idea from godzilla-reads. Support Black authors and Black-owned independent bookstores. I'm originally from South Bend, Indiana, so I'm biased in favor of Brain Lair Books, owned and operated by an African-American woman.

These are non-affiliate links to pages within this blog. Each page contains a review and further details about the book:

Around the Way Girl by Taraji P. Henson  - nonfiction - memoir/autobiography

Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston - nonfiction - American history/African-American folklore

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi - YA fiction

Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. - nonfiction

Hustling 101: Selling Your Talent Without Selling Your Soul by Rebecca Scott - nonfiction

I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan - contemporary adult fiction

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison - children's nonfiction - biography, picture books

Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - fiction

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

In the comments, please feel free to leave suggestions for other books by Black authors and your favorite Black-owned independent book store.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Poem for Jewel Kilcher's Birthday

Happy birthday to songwriter, poet, and singer Jewel Kilcher! 

The text of her "Poem Song," which can be found on JewelWiki:

"I like to call you my wild horse 
And feed you silver sage 
I'd like to paint my poems with 
desert tongued clay across her back 
And ride you savagely as the sweet and southern wind 
Through green and wild Kentucky

"I'd like to make you my secret song 
Blaze and dark and red in the orchards 
And I would steal away to watch the way 
Your silver belly bends and bows beneath me

"I'd make you my wings in the foothills of Montana 
My lover in the oceans of the world 
I'd make you... of children 
And I would scatter you across my green memories of home 
I'd make you my hungry valley 
And sow your golden fields and wheats my own

"If I were a painter 
I would paint you with this note 
Silver traces on your skin 
And if I were a writer 
I would write these words on your back 
In desert tongue clay, deep in (your wind?)

"I'd make you my secret song 
Blazing in the orchard 
And I would steal away 
To watch the way your silver belly 
Bends and bows beneath me

"I'd make you my wings in the foothills of Montana 
Make you my lover in the oceans of the world 
I'd make you my calico children 
And I would scatter you across my green memories of home 
I'd be your hungry valley 
And I'd sow your golden fields of wheat my own"

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Dream / Job / Dream Job

This is a writing exercise I call Dream / Job / Dream Job; feel free to steal it. What I've done is take a snippet from Erin's Dream Diary, then a line from the "Other Work Experience" section of my resume, then combine the two into an imaginary "dream job."

Dream: What am I? A poet, some would tell you. A monster, others would say. They call me “monster” because they have never known one like me. What they call badness I merely call enjoying the full range of pleasures bestowed on me by my Creatrix.

I traveled with a man-servant I was in the habit of calling The Boy, because he had been in my service since, when he was eleven, his aristocrat mother turned him out of the house, deciding he should make his own way in the world. That was nearly a decade ago, and he was certainly a man now, with a beard and a physique any Classical sculptor would have killed to reproduce in stone. Not that I thought of The Boy like that…until the occurrence at Lillian’s.

Job: Document Preparer, Information Records Associates, 1998

Dream Job: I’m the professional assistant to a charming, quirky best-selling author with a reputation (mostly unjustified) for being slightly...dangerous.


Dream: Suffice it to say, under a scenario in which a weird biohazard reduced the human population to about 300 individuals, including myself and the de facto leader of the survivors, my husband Tit Elingtin. Hubby was busy, what with the effort to ensure the survival of the human race and all, so I developed an attachment to a fellow survivor.

Job: Night Receptionist, Memorial Hospital, 1999

Dream Job: As the night receptionist at the hospital, I’m in charge of letting the on-call doctors know when something unusual is happening. My close attention to detail and quick actions alert the hospital to the very beginning of a zombie virus outbreak, helping them head off the zombie apocalypse in its very earliest stages.


Dream: On his home planet, he was also a witch. He showed me a book of the Craft from his home world that told him which roots to dig up and give me for morning sickness. Fortunately, they also grew on Earth, but he could only dig them up by the light of the full moon, and he had to chew them up for me. (This is oddly sweet - the father having to chew up the roots that will benefit his child in utero.)

Job: Hostess/ Bartender, East Bank Emporium Restaurant, 1999-2001

Dream Job: I’m the hostess and an occasional bartender at a bar run by witches. When it’s my shift behind the bar, I mix up cocktails with magical ingredients to create spells to help the customers with their minor troubles, from heartache to problems finding a job.


Dream: a) I found a bullhorn, with which I intended to lead the neighborhood in a sing-along of the B-52s song "Love Shack," and

b) I ate some Legos.

Job: Mental Health Technician, Madison Center for Children 2001-2005 and 2008-January 2010

Dream Job: I work with children aged 7 to 12 in an outpatient setting with the goal of helping them meet specific behavior targets. We emphasize group participation in fun, hands-on activities and lots of positive reinforcement and verbal praise. At snack time, we eat healthy snacks cut into fun Lego shapes.

Find this book on Goodreads:

Dream: We found an unguarded stash of snacks bound for the cafeteria and snagged a bag of Cheetos. Then we sat on the gym steps, eating our ill-gotten gains, and I joked that I was sexually aroused by Cheetos.

Job: Remodeling Contractor, Self-Employed, 2005-October 2010

Dream Job: My husband and I are a remodeling team, but the houses we remodel are like gingerbread houses, except rather than gingerbread they’re Cheetos.

My other writing exercise, which you can read over at Archive of Our Own (AO3), has been tweaking the Professor Bhaer chapters of Little Women - using Louisa May Alcott's original text - so that rather than a Friedrich, Professor Bhaer is a Frederica. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

An Adrienne Rich's Day Celebration

     I celebrated Adrienne Rich's Day by eating breakfast at my local poet house. A poet house, you’ll find, is like a pancake house, but with better coffee.

     Adrienne Rich's Day (May 16) is a made-up holiday. It doesn’t exist, although Rich was born on the 16th of May. But that doesn’t stop me from celebrating Adrienne Rich's Day to the fullest. I’d already written out my Poets’ Day cards, trimmed the Poets’ Day tree and opened each one of my Poets’ Day gifts. All that was left to do was brunch at the Poet House.

     There I heard Lewis Carroll as he ordered the seafood omelet with extra oysters.

     "We cannot do with more than four," his server responded. "To give a hand to each."

     Carroll frowned, and when his omelet came, he complained that the lobster was baked too brown. "I must sugar my hair," he said in frustration. He had the server take away the omelet and bring the soup of the evening, beautiful soup, instead.

     George Gordon, Lord Byron said that he wasn’t hungry, but I caught him staring at Emily Dickinson’s waffles. Dickinson led the poets in saying grace in the name of the butterfly, and of the birds, and of the breeze, amen. She washed down her waffles with the sherry which the guest leaves.

     Allen Ginsberg let me have a bite of his kosher Zen New Jersey nowhere, howling as he sipped his hot matzo ball soup. Meanwhile, Lawrence Ferlinghetti ate a good deal of spaghetti.

     Along came Adrienne Rich, who ordered strong black coffee. It came nestled sensuously between the waitress’s breasts.

     Langston Hughes had the raisin toast in the sun, but said that it was dried up. Edgar Allan Poe had the toast as well. His came with cognac and three red roses. When asked if he wanted a side of bacon with that, Poe said, "Nevermore." When the check came, Poe was nowhere to be found.

     Oscar Wilde went wild when served his Oscar Meyer wiener. Robert Frost stopped by to watch the powdered sugar fall on my french toast, but he couldn’t stay. "I have promises to keep," he said. "And miles to go before I sleep."

     William Shakespeare ordered the turkey dinner, and made much ado about stuffing. But all was as he liked it in the end. He washed down his meal with a winter’s ale.

     It was impossible to tell what Robert Pinsky wanted for an entree, so we put him in charge of ordering dessert. He chose Basho, banana pudding. It was the perfect ending to the perfect Adrienne Rich's Day celebration.

***Author's Note: An earlier version of this poetic fantasy appeared in Wild Violet literary magazine. ***

Thursday, May 7, 2020

A Tribute in Pictures to My Best Feline Friend James

With a very heavy heart I must announce that I've lost my 12-year-old cat companion, James. He was a charming, adorable animal with no bad habits other than biting my shins if I wasn't paying enough attention to him while I was sitting on the toilet. The animal hospital did the best they could to save him, but he had internal illnesses that, taken together, were too much for him to overcome.

Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

'Spellbound' by Sylvia Day - Paranormal Erotic Romance

SpellboundSpellbound by Sylvia Day

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Have I read anything else from this author? No. I've heard that she's an erotic writer better at writing consensual BDSM better than the ubiquitous 50 Shades of Grey series.

Was this book enjoyable? It was a quick, mildly amusing read requiring no deep thought. Pure escapism.

Did I learn anything new from this book? No, not at all, which was fine since it was just for fun.

Where did I get this book? I bought it at a library used book sale. It formerly belonged to the St. Joseph County (Indiana, USA) public library.

This was several years ago; I no longer live in St. Joe County. (I add that to let you know I didn't break social distancing protocol to go get a fluffy book.)

Do I recommend this book to other readers? I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys erotic romance with a touch of the paranormal. Keep in mind, there's not a lot of depth of these characters. "Sexy" isn't really a personality trait, nor is being a warlock or a house cat shapeshifter. But if you're interested in some light fluff, this may be the book for you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Highlights From My Day in Music, April 29th, 1999

Still being in self-imposed Covid-19 quarantine, I've broken into my old diaries, day planners, and sketchbooks quite a bit lately.

Perhaps you too have a special interest during the quarantine time; mine is music from the '90s.

April 29th, 1999 was a really good day. It was the first time I ever went to the South Bend Chocolate Cafe, but the last time as a college student I ever went to Notre Dame's Acoustic Cafe (open mike night). Although I sometimes played guitar and did a little singing at Acoustic Cafe, on that night I only listened.

The following songs were songs I heard covered by fellow students. First a group of two women performed this 10,000 Maniacs song:

They followed up this performance with an Indigo Girls cover:

Next up was another group of two women. (Unfortunately, I didn't record any of the names of the performers that night.) They first performed this Ani DiFranco song:

That's probably my favorite Ani DiFranco song, still to this day. Their next cover of the same artist was the following:

Also a very good one. The young women were followed up by a male solo singer who sang an original song about waffles, which he warned us in advance would have an "inappropriate" verse. This verse was about wanting to have sex with dining hall waffles. It contained a lyric something along the lines of:

"I'm gonna eat you...
And I wish you could eat me!"

I quite enjoyed this orally fixated tune. This young man was followed by a friend of a friend (Nina) of a friend (Alissa), who did a Foo Fighters cover, but I don't remember which one. The last act I enjoyed that night was a performance by a male friend of Alissa's friend Carla. He played and sang this U2 classic:

In the past I've been a very big fan of U2. Then in 2016 I got quite upset at Paul "Bono Vox" Hewson for making sexist comments, as you can read about here. Since he appears to have sincerely learned from and grown from the reaction to his sexist remarks, I'm not upset with Bono anymore.

Which is good, because I still really enjoy an occasional U2 oldie.

Stay safe, wash your hands, and continue to support your favorite artists in all genres!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

'Looking for Alaska' (Book) by John Green - No Spoilers

Looking for AlaskaLooking for Alaska by John Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have I read anything else from this author? Yes, I've read The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns.

Was this book better than this author's other book(s)? I still think The Fault In Our Stars is the best of the three.

Was this book enjoyable? Parts of it were enjoyable and parts of it were very sad.

Did I learn anything new from this book? I learned about the last words of some famous people, since that's the interest of the main character, Miles "Pudge" Halter. (Exceptionally thin, Pudge has an ironic nickname.)

Where did I get this book? I bought this book from the Book Rack at 1930 E. Stop 13 Road, Greenwood, Indiana. I was under no obligation to review it.

Do I recommend this book to other readers? Yes, if they're not going to get too sad by the sad things that happen.

Here's a fun fact about this book: John Green got the name "Alaska" from the Velvet Underground song "Stephanie Says."

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Diary Entry for March 17, 1997


At noon I went to the Little Theater of Moreau Hall and heard Noah and Irene Carver, folk singers. They're a husband and wife. They sang two Joni Mitchell songs ("Big Yellow Taxi" and "Both Sides Now"), a James Taylor song, "Here Comes the Sun," "This Land Is Your Land" (with one guitar and one autoharp), a couple of traditional folk songs, and some of their own. 

The first song Irene sang was:

"Baby, now that I found you, I can't let you go,
I built my world around you, I need you so,
Baby even though you don't need me..."

I think she said the writer's name was Alison Proust.* I've heard it on the radio, performed by ? I had a lot of fun at this performance. 

While I was home for "spring" break I got into the [vinyl] records, and I found a single, some unknown group's cover of "Big Yellow Taxi." It sounded familiar; I think a new cover of it was on the charts within the past year. 

Furthermore, I found old country-western records; Johnny Cash singing "Goodnight Irene," a version of "Stand By Your Man," some cool stuff. 

Cultural Activity

I took a look at the Women's Art Exhibition which is set up in LeMans Hall. Cool. Someone made a dress out of ties, and there was another cloth sculpture which incorporated a live goldfish in a bowl. 

The only name I recognized was Poogie Sherer. She had two sculptures in the exhibit. The better one was "One Woman Army," consisting of a girl-sized ceramic bulletproof vest over a small red satin dress. The other looked rather like a tortoise shell being used as a gong. 


Noah Carver told this one:

There were two clams, Sam and Dave, They were friends, but they couldn't agree on what kind of music to listen to. Sam liked disco; Dave liked Classical.

One day someone stepped on Sam, and he died. Eventually Dave died, and when he got up to heaven he asked St. Peter if he could see Sam.

St. Peter said, "I'm sorry, Sam's not here, he's down there." 

Dave asked if he could go see Sam, and St. Peter said, "Okay, but I can't let you back in without your harp."

So Dave went "down there" and Sam was having a good time with all the clams, listening to disco music. After a while Dave went back up to heaven. 

St. Peter said, "Where's your harp?"

Dave said, "I left my harp in Sam's clam disco."

Monday, March 16, 2020

Black Dagger Brotherhood #15: 'The Chosen' by J.R. Ward

The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #15)The Chosen by J.R. Ward

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have I read anything else from this author? Yes, I've read the other 14 books in this series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide, the first three Novels of the Fallen Angels, and Blood Kiss.

Was this book better than this author's other book(s)? It wasn't as good as my favorite one, Lover Mine, and it also wasn't my least favorite one either.

Was this book enjoyable? As with all the books this far into the series, there are parts that I pay close attention to and parts that I skim over. I care a lot about the relationship between Layla and Xcor and the brand-new relationship between Trez and Theresa.

Did I learn anything new from this book? It seems like Ward is setting Vishous and Doc Jane up to have problems in their marriage, and I'm not very happy about that development. Get your sh*t together, V.

Where did I get this book? It's my mom's.

Do I recommend this book to other readers? Yes, if you like the BDB series. I'd definitely say keep going with it. This series is still fairly addictive, even though I'm not caught up to the very latest book yet.

So, what books are you finishing while we're in COVID-19 quarantine?

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust Volume 2)

The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, #2)The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have I read anything else from this author? Yes, I've read the His Dark Materials trilogy and the first book in the Book of Dust series, La Belle Sauvage.

Was this book better than this author's other book(s)? So far it's been my least favorite of the five, but I fully expect to like the sixth book better.

Was this book enjoyable? It wasn't as enjoyable as La Belle Sauvage. The tone was much darker, and while I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing, it didn't read as easily as the first book in the series did.

Did I learn anything new from this book? I learned a bit about what Lyra Silvertongue will be like as an adult, but this is the middle book in a trilogy, so I won't really be able to confirm until the third book is over.

Where did I get this book? I bought this book at Barnes and Noble with a gift card I got for Christmas.

Do I recommend this book to other readers? Yes, but even more strongly I recommend the His Dark Materials trilogy to anyone who hasn't read it yet. I want everyone to finish The Amber Spyglass and learn what Philip Pullman knows about love.

Monday, March 2, 2020

'Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia'

Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in BosniaNot My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia by Savo Heleta

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you find this book, read it. Heleta's Serbian family was so, so lucky to survive the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They came shockingly close to death many times, but their bodies and spirits couldn't be broken.

Two favorite quotes, one serious and one basketball:

"I realize that what happened in Bosnia could happen anywhere in the world, particularly in places that are diverse and have a history of conflict. It only takes bad leadership for a country to go up in flames, for people of different ethnicity, color, or religion to kill each other as if they had nothing in common whatsoever. Having a democratic constitution, laws that secure human rights, police that maintain order, a judicial system, and freedom of speech don't ultimately guarantee long lasting peace. If greedy or bloodthirsty leaders come to power, it can all go down. It happened to us. It can happen to you."

We Americans should probably be heeding that warning right now.

Now the just-for-fun quote:

"We had watched the Sacramento Kings, my favorite NBA team, playing the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers had won but it was still fun, especially since we had tickets for the third row. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Vlade Divac and Predrag Stojakovic, two Serbs playing in the Kings, waving at me and saying hello. They recognized the jersey of Divac's former team from Belgrade that I had been wearing."

This memoir has been on my to-be-read list forever, seemingly. I found out about it from a now-defunct social networking site called It was like my Tumblr before I discovered Tumblr. I'm glad I finally tracked down a copy and read it.

I purchased this book from Half Price Books (non-affiliate link). I was under no obligation to read and review it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

'His Bright Light: The Story of My Son, Nick Traina' by Danielle Steel

His Bright Light: The Story of My Son, Nick TrainaHis Bright Light: The Story of My Son, Nick Traina by Danielle Steel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of Danielle Steel's nine children - her 2nd-oldest, the only one fathered by Bill Toth - had bipolar disorder. Although he usually stayed away from hard drugs, he died of an apparently deliberate morphine overdose. Nick Traina was a lovely young man (inside and out; all the Steel children are gorgeous), a gifted musician and a talented songwriter, but just bipolar. Unfortunately his illness took his life.

I'm very sorry for the Steel family's loss. Danielle Steel seems like a genuinely sweet person. Her writing is a little sentimental for my personal taste, but she's French, so it's fine, really.

Monday, January 27, 2020

'In the Dream House' by Carmen Maria Machado

In the Dream HouseIn the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have I read anything else from this author? Only the first issue of her comic book, 'A Low, Low Wood.' Which is great and I can't wait for more issues.

Was this book enjoyable? Even though it addresses the incredibly difficult topic of domestic abuse, the writing style of the book and Machado's unique voice makes it enjoyable as a reading experience. She combines a wide variety of genres and writing styles, adding up to short chapters each organized around a theme. It's a unique storytelling style and surprisingly suited to this type of memoir.

Did I learn anything new from this book? Because this book combines Machado's personal experience in an abusive relationship with research, I did learn a great deal from this book.

Where did I get this book? I checked this audiobook out from my local library using the Libby app.

Do I recommend this book to other readers? Yes, I would recommend it to anyone unless they would be too triggered by reading about domestic abuse.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

'Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion' by Jia Tolentino

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-DelusionTrick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have I read anything else from this author? No

Was this book enjoyable? I got a little bored with the reality TV essay, but then the essay about drugs and religion won we right back. It's really a beautiful essay; if you only read one chapter of the book, read the religion/drugs one.

Did I learn anything new from this book? I don't know that I necessarily learned any new information from these essays, but they were certainly thought-provoking and shone a different light on a number of topics.

Where did I get this book? I borrowed this audiobook from my local library using the Libby app.

Do I recommend this book to other readers? Yes, I think this collection of essays will be interesting to anyone in the Millennial generation or older. People younger than young Millennials, it might not seem that relevant to you yet.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Why Can't Women Seem to Get Enough of True Crime? Rachel Monroe Explores

Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and ObsessionSavage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession by Rachel Monroe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven't read any other books by this author.

Was this book enjoyable? It was very interesting, and it also made me keep questioning my motives in being interested in it. A recurring theme in the book is why women are the primary audience for true crime media.

Did I learn anything new from this book? Yes, I learned about the four women covered as its subjects: Frances Glessner Lee (the first woman police captain in the U.S.), Alisa Statman (friend and possibly lover of Sharon Tate's sister Patti), Lorri Davis (who married Damien Wayne Echols while he was on death row for a murder for which he was later exonerated), and Lindsay Souvannarath (an American serving a life sentence in Canada for planning a massacre). I wasn't familiar with any of their names or stories before reading the book.

Where did I get this book? I checked out this audiobook from my local library using the Libby app.

Do I recommend this book to other readers? Yes, it's quite fascinating.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Crisis in the Red Zone: The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History, and of the Outbreaks to Come

Crisis in the Red Zone: The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History, and of the Outbreaks to ComeCrisis in the Red Zone: The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History, and of the Outbreaks to Come by Richard Preston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have I read anything else from this author? Yes, I read The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus. I remember that I listened to part of the audiobook of The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring several years ago, but I can't remember if I ever finished it or not.

Was this book better than this author's other book(s)? It was as good as his previous book about the Ebola virus.

Was this book enjoyable? It was educational. It's never enjoyable to hear about other people getting a serious illness.

Did I learn anything new from this book? Yes, I learned a lot about virology.

Where did I get this book? I checked out this audiobook from my local library using the Libby app.

Do I recommend this book to other readers? Yes, as long as they won't be too horrified by graphic medical descriptions.

More medical nonfiction:

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital
Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
In a Different Key: The Story of Autism
Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus

Thursday, January 2, 2020

'Medallion Status: True Stories from Secret Rooms' by John Hodgman

Medallion Status: True Stories from Secret RoomsMedallion Status: True Stories from Secret Rooms by John Hodgman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have I read anything else from this author? Yes, I read Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches last year.

Was this book better than this author's other book(s)? I thought Vacationland was hilarious, and this is very much in the same vein. If you liked one, you'll like the other.

Was this book enjoyable? Very much so. I laughed out loud at several points, and at other points, I didn't laugh but I did say the word "Ha." Which I do sometimes when I'm amused by a particularly pointed sarcasm.

Did I learn anything new from this book? I learned that life in a small Maine town isn't necessarily accurately portrayed in the novels of Stephen King. And that John Hodgman has a cordial relationship with E.B. White's grandson.

Where did I get this book? I borrowed it from my local library using the Libby app.

Do I recommend this book to other readers? Yes, if they have a sense of humor.