First Meetup/Starting a Book Club

In my experience, planning and organizing an event has never gone well. It doesn’t matter if the event is public or private, I never seem to reach enough people that are interested and committed to turning up. However, the consistent rejection from friends, family, and strangers alike doesn’t stop me from trying, because if even one person shows up, that’s still better than trying to play Smash Up by myself… right?

As friends who could regularly be relied upon to show up for such aforementioned shenanigans are packing up to move out of state or abroad I thought it might be time to reach outside my current social circles to find new people to be rejected by, all in hopes of finding a few faces that could come together once a month or so and talk about a common interest: reading.

I Googled how to go about doing this, because really how do you get strangers together without coming across like you want to harvest their organs? I really didn’t want to end up on a watch list, or find myself a victim of such a heinous act. Google supplied Meetup, a site I’ve heard other more adventurous acquaintances utilize but never really gave much thought, because most of the time I’m happy to be in my own house with my own things with my own people. Who needs new?

Meetup would mean spending money so I also searched free alternatives, even signing up for a few of them. In the end the free Meetup-like sites didn’t come with some convenient features and it relied on me posting and advertising the event – which would mean the only people seeing it are people I already know have other things going on in their lives, so I’ll see them at Christmas while a I drop sixty on attempting to meet new people.

As I’m making my Meetup group I have about 10 other book clubs open in other tabs. I had no idea how to say come hang out with me without it being weird. I needed some guidance but I also didn’t want to plagiarize another group. In researching other groups I found that they typically seem to be exclusive, which was definitely not what I wanted. Groups tending to be all women, or singles, or couples, or religious, or… I think you get the hint.

This isn’t to say that a book club that is exclusive about its members is bad, sometimes you just want to focus on reading books through a particular lens, or a safe space is needed, or enter another perfectly valid reason here. That’s just not what I wanted to achieve in creating a book club. Honestly, I hope to be in our little corner of the cafe one day, talking about our pick and have some random customers join the conversation because they read the same book, and not be afraid to chime in, the more the merrier.

After my preliminary research, I’ve got a general idea of how to tell people there’s this thing happening and they should come, I’ve got an approximate time that’s not too early but not too late in the day, and I’ve got a location that doesn’t charge to use the space. Within minutes the group is created, I fumbled trying to get a few Meetups scheduled, and then I waited.

Within a day one person had joined. I was ecstatic. I figured it would take at least a week before anyone noticed. Seven days later I had 40 people in my little group, and it continued to grow. As the first meetup drew closer I saw the RSVP list max out and a waiting list start, but as excited as I was about the interest I’m a realist. 20 people may RSVP yes but odds are only 5 are going to show and let’s be perfectly honest here, that number includes myself and my husband.

Sure enough the day before the first Meetup my email was slowly filling with alerts of new RSVP’s, the yeses were turning to noes and no one was on the wait-list. Now, typically this may dishearten me but I was really impressed that people had the wherewithal to actually cancel and let the space open up for someone else. Thank you for your consideration.

As I was gathering books the day of there were still 13 people going. I made my way to the local cafe, ordered myself a lemonade and took a seat and waited. It wasn’t long before a woman approached and asked, “Ashlie?” and just like that book club started. It was about ten minutes after the listed start time when everyone who was going to show arrived. Seven of us total, more than half of the RSVP list, even if only by the smallest possible amount, and it was wonderful.

Our first meeting wasn’t long, only about 40 minutes from our start time to packing up (50 for those of us that got there early.) However, we all took a few moments to introduce ourselves, giving our names, the cities we currently reside in, and what we do to keep our bookshelves flush. We easily moved the conversation to books we had just finished reading and it really spoke to the wide range of interests everyone will bring to this group. There was even a bit of overlap, several members having read the same books. I was so pleased at how natural the conversation developed, because I may have started this thing, but I’m not sure how much of a leader I have the capacity to be.

Since this was the first meeting, I had requested everyone bring suggestions for the first few picks so I could set up a calendar. No one disappointed, and suggestions varied just as much as our discussions on recently finished/currently reading titles, and they all sounded absolutely interesting. I can hardly wait to get together next month and talk about a common read, until then I’m trying to figure out the best way to get information to the members that didn’t make it.

Currently Reading or Recently Finished:

Maria: Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson
Robin: The Power of Eloquence: Magic Key to Success in Public Speaking by Thomas Montalbo
Kelly: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Jonathan: Columbine by Dave Cullen
Shari: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Ashlie: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Suggested Reading:

Maria: Dietland by Sarai Walker (October pick)
Kelly: a title by Walter Mosley
Jackee: Empress by Shan Sa or The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela
Jonathan: Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America by Yong Chen
Shari: We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
Ashlie: The Wool Trilogy by Hugh Howey (September pick)


Silent Hill by Konami

Reviewed by: Jonathan B.
Previously posted on 1.3.16 by twentyfourpagespersecond
Originally Posted: 5.20.12

Game or Movie First:


What we got into:

Well, Silent Hill is a popular video game series which became a movie which is definitely a thing. The first video game begins with Harry Mason (who’s in town on vacation) driving along a road with his young daughter Cheryl. A motorcycle cop passes them, and they soon drive by the dumped bike with no sign of the driver. Apparently unphased, Harry drives further on until a little girl walks in front of the speeding jeep – a young girl who looks suspiciously like Cheryl, mind you – he tries to avoid hitting her and ends up crashing over the embankment. He wakes up in his destination, Silent Hill, only his daughter is missing. He finds that the place is all sorts of fucked, darkness falling in a matter of moments and the city itself turning into a warped and bloody version of itself. Harry remains unphased, emotionlessly slaughtering faceless children demon things and lizard men (or something) in a quest to kill a god who was implanted in the womb of his daughter’s soul-doppelganger eight years ago. Harry wins (spoiler, I guess) and remains emotionless as he gets a brand new baby because his old one got fused and burned alive. Harry continues to be unphased until he is eventually murdered. Shit, spoiler, I guess. The movie is similar, in the fact that Silent Hill is a town and a daughter goes missing. While the girl’s adopted mother, Rose, is running around the empty town trying to find her daughter, monsters vaguely pose a threat in a shuffling, kinda-scary way. The emotional heart of the movie is actually Sean Bean’s character, as he’s the only person who is remotely concerned that his wife is clearly batshit insane and no one else really gives a fuck that she wandered into a town which should really be renamed “Stay Out, Seriously Guys, This Place is Fucking Nuts.” But that probably wouldn’t fit on maps too well. The video game is a treat for the nostalgia. What do I mean by that? Well, if you’ve never played the game, go do it now. It’s on PSN, and it shouldn’t take too long. I’ll wait.

A Look at the Game:


Did you enjoy the game? I mean, really enjoy the parts where you’re exploring and fighting monsters? Chances are, you thought it was a stiff, awkward mess – and that’s because it really was. Silent Hill’s biggest strength probably came from the unintentional tension that the awful controls created for the player. You got to experience horror through the eyes of everyman Harry Mason (who’s in town on vacation). He was slow, clumsy (he actually fell off shit, which was a nice touch) and a terrible shot. Most monsters, if you tried to fight them in a group, could very easily wreck your writer ass. The game emphasized running away versus destroying everything you came across. It was great for 1999, when it came out. The tragedy, however, is that games have gone far in eliminating the crappy controls which made Silent Hill scary. The result is a game which is more frustrating than fun to play – which is a shame, because the plot alone is worth playing for.

That isn’t to say that it’s an absolutely fabulous plot. Especially toward the end, it goes off the deep end. I think they had a lot of ideas and ran out of budget (Talisman of Metatron? Care to fucking explain concepts before bitching about them Dahlia “My Daughter Will Be The Mother Of Gawd” Gillespie?). Honestly, the game’s plot owes much more to the community which developed around it. The developers inadvertently (or possibly intentionally, but, I think Silent Hill 2 proves that by that time, the team knew what it was doing… only to drop the ball with every sequel thereafter) put in tons of symbolism in the game which was great fun to read about and discover, adding a lot of depth to the game. My younger self was thrilled when, moments before the final boss, I found myself in a little girl’s room and saw a scribbled picture of one of the monsters on the ground. On top of that, a display of pinned moths greeted the careful observer – one of the earlier bosses was a giant moth (THE TERROR).

This isn’t to say that it’s a bad game, I just think that a lot of my love for it is incidental. The iconic Silent Hill fog was originally meant to prevent graphics from ‘popping in’ – newer games are sleek and actively use the fog to create an atmosphere of foreboding, whereas its only real purpose was to stop the PlayStation from bursting into flames. The Cult which provided the villains for the plot worked for the first game because we didn’t know that Silent Hill could move away from that, and the first sequel and not-really-a-reboot-but-whatever Shattered Memories proved they can. Silent Hill was a product of its time, and it worked well as a function of it. Just like the sequel (which, if you can’t tell, I’m fantasizing about right now), however, it can be a frustrating mess of a game to play.

A Look at the Movie (2006):

The 2006 movie follows Rose, who takes her adopted daughter Sharon to Silent Hill. Why? Because the little girl sleep walks and shrieks about it. She takes off with her daughter, prompting her husband Chris (Sean Bean) to do the rational thing and chase after his wife and freshly-kidnapped his daughter. Rose seems intent to find a way into a place which sounds like a horror movie fucked Jacob’s Ladder and this was the result. Rose is pursued by a police officer (Cybil… but don’t get attached) and they get into a car crash. Daughter goes missing. Rose searches like a dumbass. Monsters appear and Rose does her damnedest to not emote, even when she saw beetles eat human beings in front of her. She learns that a little girl, who looks like her adopted daughter, was burned alive and made a deal with a demon to exact revenge by splitting her soul into two and luring someone’s mother into Silent Hill and… urgh, I’m done.

There are many problems with the movie, the first among them being that there’s never really a clear threat by most of the monsters. There are a sum total of three really intense scenes in the movie – in the alley, in the school, and briefly in the hospital. But other opportunities to develop some life-threatening monster attacks or something are squandered. Was anyone scared when the strait-jacket demon popped up and was shot by Cybil? Yeah, it spat acid, which would be scary if it moved faster or there was fucking thousands of them. The horror in Silent Hill was never the individual monster – it was being swarmed (which happened in the daylight, too, for those with shitty memories) by heavily damaging, slow chucklefucks that snuck up on you. And yeah, we see the monsters kill people, but I guess in the in-movie universe, Rose was never in any danger. If she died from the monsters (which was being controlled by her daughter-demon-thing, ah, fuck it), then the demon’s plan was ruined. It needed Rose to win, so there was never an actual threat. The monsters stood in the way of Harry because he was trying to stop the god from being born. See how this is kind of different and makes the main character vulnerable? And don’t give me any goddamn argument that the demon needed to test her or some shit – it doesn’t work that way. If anything, the demon should have been all like “Hey, Rose, I got your daughter in the basement of the hospital. See me. Ignore the huge titted nurses, they’re for the guy looking for his wife.” And when she got there, it could have been all like “Shit, the cult’s got the girl. I can save her, you know… but you gotta get me inside. And you’ll need to get stabbed. But don’t worry. Chicks before dicks, amiright?”

Movie compared to the game:

Other problems with the movie are really pale in comparison here. There are a couple of spots with wooden line delivery, but the same could be said of the games, only replace couple with EVERYWHERE and you’ll be accurate. The movie has a lot of references to the games, both in creature design (inappropriate and otherwise) and camera angles. It really does ‘feel’ like a Silent Hill movie should, with a sense of loneliness and isolation. If they just fix the whole ‘horror’ aspect, it would have been a good movie.

I think, in general, that what I just covered is the biggest problem – the film had a good property with an established audience. Why did they not trust the audience to ‘get it’? I get that concessions have to be made, but why was Harry looking for his daughter so difficult to agree with? Honestly, it would have made the relationship with the cop a lot more interesting and less awkward. Why did we need Silent Hill 2 monsters in a movie where their presence doesn’t make any fucking sense? Pyramid Head was punishing James, the protagonist of the second game.

The nurses with the huge racks were also a part of punishing James. Yes, there were fucked up doctors and nurses in Silent Hill, but they were covered in fleshy parasites and hunched over, not the dancing conga-line of sexualized professionals. Overall, the movie isn’t terrible or bad, it’s just disappointing. Just like playing Silent Hill for the first time today would make the dedicated player call out for a remake, the movie just makes viewers see the possibilities of what the franchise has for film.

Also, there’s a disgusting barbed-wire vivisection. So… if you’re into that sort of thing, it’s a plus, I guess.

And the Winner Is:

The game. And this isn’t saying the movie is bad, it’s just a bad tie-in. However, if you have no experience with the franchise and have no tolerance for older games’ hangups, then I don’t know what to tell you. The later games are certainly not indicative of the quality ground the series covered, so you may just have to stick it out and slog through a muddy-controlled, ugly game. You’ll be a better human being because of it! (Not a guarantee)

Want to read more by Jonathan B.? Well here’s how you kind find him:




Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Reviewed by: Myself wild1

Previously posted on 1.3.16 at twentyfourpagespersecond
Original appearance on 4.26.12

Book or Movie First:


What we got into:

Young Max is a highly imaginative boy. One day, after getting into more mischief than normal, he is sent to his room without dinner. In his room, his imagination takes him far away, to where the Wild Things are, and he becomes their king. After rumpusing about with the Wild Things, he decides to return home where a delicious meal is waiting for him.

A Look at the Book:

The book leaves little to the imagination of the audience. This is not criticism, but praise. It seems common that picture books not only have simple wording but also simple pictures, with little thought given to the complexity and depth in what a person sees, much like a coloring book: thick hard lines and solid color. Maurice Sendak’s illustrations show depth, warmth, and detail.

My only contention with the book is the mother calling her child “WILD THING!” It is not that it is insulting or demeaning, but playful. It seems obvious that the name would encourage her youngster to do more mischief. That is exactly what happened, and of course Max gets punished for it. I don’t know a single child that doesn’t instantly know the severity of the situation when they get the full name treatment. So instead of “Wild Thing” why didn’t she say “Maxwell Thadious Wifflebottom?” Bet you he would have stopped dead in his tracks and probably started to cry. Then again, the book would have been much less interesting.

Instead of being sent to his room and having a tantrum, Max picks up right where he left off and continues playing the part of a “wild thing.” Fantasizing about the fun and games, and being their king. This conveys to the readers that a little mischief isn’t bad, but the story concludes with Max knowing those at home – in reality- will love him best.


A Look at the Movie (2009):

The movie starts out very intense: Max chasing his dog through the house with a fork. I honestly thought the kid needed to be medicated. Very quickly, it is established that he is the much younger of two kids and that his family is adjusting to life after divorce. The audience is shown his rage, loneliness and creativity before his need for attention gets him into trouble. When he doesn’t want to stop playing and calm down, he is chased around the house by his mother whom he eventually bites. Her frustration and pain leads to Max running off. Max finds his way to a boat and without thinking, climbs in and sails off. After days of being at sea, in hot sun and pouring rain, he spies an island. He drags his little boat up the beach and secures it, then makes his way through the forest where he happens across the Wild Things.

He stays undercover as he watches these strange creatures, all an assorted assembly of different animals, plus sharp claws and teeth, as they destroy huts. When it seems that some want to give up on destroying huts, leaving one of their kind to the business alone, Max rushes in to join. At first the Wild Things want to eat him but he says, “Be Still” and tells them of his great magic that could destroy them if they don’t listen. The Wild Things are convinced and they make Max their King and introduce themselves: Carol, Ira, Judith, Douglas, Alexander, KW, and The Bull (though he is only named in the credits). Part of being their King is promising to keep them happy and from being lonely.

At first there are games and adventure and fun, but he slowly starts to see what is making the Wild Things unhappy and lonely. KW has found new friends, two owls. She is the only one that can understand her owl friends, but the other Wild Things play along. Carol takes this the hardest and, even though Max is their King, it is clear that Carol plays the role of their leader, and his bad attitude against the owls and KW’s preference of them leave all the Wild Things in a bad state. Max eventually realizes that he can’t keep his promise as their King, or even as just the boy Max. This revelation leaves him feeling sad and lonely and wanting to go back home, which is exactly what he does.

Though the movie is set up to look like Max runs away, I appreciated the subtleties that could make a viewer interpret that it was a dream, without straight out saying it was a dream all along. It plays more like, after he ran off, he found a corner to ball up in and fell asleep. And who blames the kid after all the energy he exerted playing, throwing a tantrum, and running away? He starts to dream that he is running away, finds a boat and sails off to where the Wild Things are. After his first night with the Wild Things, Max is being carried while he sleeps, all the audience sees is Max and a mound of brown hair, just like his mother’s. As he is walking through the sand dunes with Carol, there is a giant dog in the background, a mess of gray curls just like his pet at home. Carol has a city made of sticks, similar to Max’s city made with empty toilet paper rolls from the beginning of the film. And when Max comes home, it is to a house where his mother is sitting calmly in the kitchen (possibly waiting for him to wake up), instead of a bombardment of neighbors and police working to find him before he is lost or hurt. These images and similarities reflect when a person can sense the things around them while they sleep and they become part of the dream.

The Wild Things themselves also represent a different trait in Max or his family. Carol has his temperament: one minute playing and having a jolly time, the next in rage. Alexander is quiet, the character no one really listens to. Judith likes to be the center of attention and throws around attitude when she is not. Douglas reflects Max’s rational side and knows that everything is in fun but not real. The Bull just wants acceptance. Lastly, KW is a combination of his family. Her relationship and preference of the owls over Carol reflects Max’s sister’s preferred relationship with her friends and his mother’s attention being focused on her boyfriend. Though it is clear that KW cares about Carol, just like Max’s sister and mom care about him, these new relationships cause friction for Carol/Max who feel they are being left out.

At no point did I feel the film’s length, or wish that the story would hurry up. I got lost in Max’s imagination which turned out to be much more complex and based on reality than he might be given credit for. There were fears from parents that the movie might be too scary for their children, but the only part that was even mildly awful was Max’s teacher telling them how the sun would die one day and would eat everything up.

A Line From the Movie:

Judith: I believe part of that idea was mine.
Carol: Which part?
Judith: The part where I said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.”

Movie Compared to the book:

Honestly, if I didn’t know better, it would seem more like the book came after the movie. Every little detail that was captured by the writers, costume designers, and director was astounding. Max’s fort building, his drawings, chasing the dog with the fork, his fox costume, his name on the boat, each of the Wild Things, his crown, the wild rumpus, his bowl of stew/chili for dinner with a slice of cake. No little thing was left out. They only major difference that worked in favor of the movie was a more substantial reason for getting into trouble in the first place. Nothing was added to the film that didn’t have a purpose in the more complex version of the story; even being told the sun was going to die played a part in his time with the Wild Things.

And the Winner Is:

The book definitely has its place. It is a classic that hasn’t died since its publication in 1963, and will continue to be found on bookshelves for decades, if not centuries, to come – unless the sun dies before then. The movie takes the simple story of the book and expounds upon it. The depth and detail of the story become much more compelling and entertaining. This seems to be an excellent start for parents to sit with their children and not only share with them the joys of reading, but to also start honing their story telling and critical thinking skills. Both media can stand on their own, but they work best together. It’s a tie!

(Illustrations by Maurice Sendak published by HarperCollins)

Stood Up By The Electrician

Here is a lovely example of how reviewing something that is bad is so much easier then reviewing something that is good. Last week I had intended on writing a review for a quote we received on finishing our basement. I had two pages written, but the service was so good and complete just for a quote that the review sounded more like an advertisement. It just wasn’t anything that would add value to anyone searching for their services because their web site and other reviewers covered it all. (It was also in need of an editor because it was bland AF.) Monday of this week I was supposed to get a quote from an electrician, well, if you’ve read the title you know where this is going.

8:30 am came and once again I was kicking myself for not putting up a note regarding the lack of working door bells. I wondered if he would park in the driveway and make his way up the side stairs just as the plumber and HVAC guys had, or maybe he’ll park in the driveway and make his way around to the front of the house just as Sam had attempted when she came to give us an estimate on our basement. (I knew who she was so I waved her in before she got too far.) Would he even park in the driveway at all?

8:40 am and I was hunting down the email with the appointment details. Yes, it was that Monday at about 8:30 am. Well, “about” leaves it a little iffy. I sat in silence at my laptop nestled between the front and side doors so I could hear anyone making their way up our squeaking steps.

8:50 am and I’m wondering if the traffic on I94 had him held up. It was a “parking lot” based on one facebook friend’s observation. The hubby even reported Waze taking him on a rather round about way to get to campus. I scowled at the temporary blinds, stuck in their down position because we put plastic over the windows to help protect against the cold snap that came through weeks ago, preventing me from seeing the comings and goings of the street. I can hardly wait to be able to see out our windows again.

8:55 am and I’m weighing my options. The appointment was going to be about an hour, I was expected at work about 10:30 and it was a 20ish minute drive there. I hadn’t eaten breakfast or packed a lunch. Should I leave a note in the door saying, “Thanks for Nothing” or call and check in like a rational human being, even though I hate making phone calls.

9:00 am I make my way back to the email and find a number to call. Paula, was apologetic, confirmed my appointment and said she’d call me back once she got a hold of the electrician.

9:05 am I get the call back. Apparently technology is to blame. The electrician had a new PC and my appointment didn’t carry over, so he was on another job in another town and I would have to reschedule. Now I’m pissed.

Really? Of all the appointments made mine got lost in the fields of data that is the cloud? What are you possibly using that the appointments in front of your face in the office don’t match the appointments in front of the face of the electrician going to the job? I could have been uber productive at work!

9:10 am I’m in a pissy mood as I pack up my laptop and lunch for the office. I even take some leftovers to make as breakfast, because Stir Fry is good any time of day even when I don’t use enough Soy Sauce.

On the one hand, accidents happen. I have lost appointments, both personally and professionally, at some point or another due to user error. On the other hand, I gave up several hours of work and being in proximity to awesome people, in hopes to give someone my money to do a job I probably could take on myself but would rather pay a professional to do. Yes, the office manager was apologetic, and there was nothing that could be done to get the electrician there at that point because neither time travel nor teleportation exists. However, a follow up email offering alternative appointments would have been appreciated, and if they had included a small discount off services for the mishap that would have been even better.

Now, I’ve got several options. I can schedule another appointment with the same service provider, I did reach out to them for a reason; they’re local, they come with good reviews, and have an excellent score with the BBB. I could reach out to other electricians, besides the one I googled Monday in anger and haven’t heard back from. Or, I could take the recommendation of a friend of a friend and call (ick) a guy who doesn’t come with a company name so I can’t do my pre-appointment scheduling research.

After a few days to chill out, I ultimately decided to give them another try. One email to Sam and Mike was scheduled to come out today. Hubby was left with a sizable list of needs, wants, and questions, here’s hoping that it gets put to good use today. If not, well our insurance premiums just went up so maybe it would be one less thing to pay for in the immediate future.


A Book Review: The Grisha books by Leigh Bardugo

The first read of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge, as well as the second and third, were The Grisha Books (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, & Ruin and Rising) by Leigh Bardugo. I’m going on record here, it is much easier to review a book that I absolutely love and easier still a book that is just terrible, but a book series that is just meh, well, it takes a lot more effort.

The Grisha series is okay. It definitely scratches an itch, hitting all the narrative points of a young adult trilogy. You’ve got a no-one lead that suddenly becomes someone. The bff they’ve been in love with forever all of the sudden sees their relationship threatened and, as it turns out, loves them back. The thing that all-of-the-sudden makes them special also makes them wanted and hated by all sorts of people that wouldn’t have looked at them twice otherwise. There are triangles of emotion… possibly squares in this case, but love shapes never did make sense to me. There’s a dark side to their new specialness, but they overcome and become the hero they wanted, but not in the way they intended. Now that the world is saved they can go back to being normal, maybe they’re happier that way but they feel the loss and scars that came with their moment in the sun.

Yeah, that’s it. Real impressive, huh?

Alright, let’s take this one book at a time.

Shadow and Bone: the biggest strike against this book is that our lead is led. Everything she does, aside from putting up 30 seconds of fight, is what she is told. Everyone around her defines her: they define her powers, her use, her allegiance, who she should be with. It’s done so unobtrusively that it didn’t really settle until I was through the book, and I feel like this is more normal that it should be. I kept reading because I wanted to see her take the reins and play a part in her role in saving the world.

Siege and Storm: our lead definitely grows, but a large chunk of it is coached by a pirate who is easily my favorite character in the series. Sadly, the lead is still being led by others’ expectations and desires for her usefulness. She does work at putting on a show for the masses, but it still falls short of being done for herself and not for the decision makers. Again, this is all done so subtly you can hardly tell it happens.

At the end in both of the first two books, our lead has a moment where she makes a decision and she acts based on her own fury and hope. Maybe that’s why I had hoped that the next books would lead to more growth and a more active lead. But…

Ruin and Rising: more of the same. Too much of what our lead does is based on other people wanting to use her in a very specific capacity or people trying to protect her from being used in that specific capacity. Any struggle between what the others expected of her and what she wanted and the actual outcome wasn’t played up enough to feel like she grew into this new person who did what needed to be done. Even the major decision at the end that ultimately saves the world isn’t her choice, her sacrifice. But, and I’m sounding like a broken record, again it’s done so blandly that you hardly notice to take offense.

This isn’t the first book to be guilty of being a decent read but having a female protagonist who exists, not for themselves, but for the Decision Makers. Katniss from The Hunger Games for example, makes three decisions in the whole series and two of them are in the first book: she volunteers as tribute, plays Russian roulette with poisonous berries, and kills Coin. Everything else is her being manipulated by the decision makers, whether it’s President Snow trying to get her to fall in line, Haymitch coaching her to survive the games, or Plutarch and Coin using her to rally the rebels, in the larger narrative she’s a pawn. Her role as a lead is purely symbolic, because she is not a leader.

The biggest gripe I have about this series, and all those like it, is that it is probably exactly how I would write a series myself, with a lead character so compelled by what everyone else is doing and wanting to please or survive that they follow around with little question, fight, or opinion. Now that this has all been written down, I’m a bit disappointed with myself for finding the series as inoffensive as I did. It should be really offensive, but I can’t be motivated to care about it any more or less than already expressed. On the plus side, it does make me all the more appreciative of stories where the female lead actual leads and is active in making the story happen.

2018 Read List

We are four weeks into 2018 and I’m two books into my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 40. I couldn’t wait until all my unread books were unpacked so I started the year off with Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and quickly devoured the second book Siege and Storm. I started the last book in the trilogy, Ruin and Rising this morning, and will likely polish it off by the end of this weekend. No comments until I’ve read the entire series.

Knowing the challenge that awaits me, as well as a new bookcase that needs some space filled, we hit up Half Priced Books this past weekend and got some new-to-me books. Some I’ve read, others not so much. First, the books I’ve read:

Wicked / Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
Heir of Fire by Sara J Maas
Queen of Shadows by Sara J Maas

The Throne of Glass series, as well as A Court of Wings and Ruin, by Sara J Maas were originally Kindle purchases. They have easily become favorites and it’s time to upgrade them from digital to physical copies. Wicked and Son of a Witch I owned a couple of life times (and addresses) ago. It’s nice to have a hardcover copy of both as I build out my collection of Gregory Maguire books. I may not have loved all the ones I’ve read so far, but his take on the classic tales is fascinating.

For my new-to-me books I haven’t read I picked up everything I could by Jojo Moyes. Me Before You was such a good cry and it’s about time to continue the series with After You, possibly in time for the release of the third, but that would be quite ambitious. I also found The Girl You Left Behind and The Last Letter From Your Lover. Lastly, I picked up In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. After seeing it’s stunning cover, what feels like everywhere, I just had to have it. Here’s hoping it was worth the fascination.

Now for the real reason I started this blog post. Part of my 2018 “resolutions” include reading all the unread books I have. Well, now that they are all unpacked here’s the list, in no particular order, of all the (fiction) books I have that I’d like to get through this year:

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong
Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jasmyn Ward
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Final Girls by Riley Sager
The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
Wool by Hugh Howley
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Unforgettable by Paul McComas
The Detective by Roderick Thorp
Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp
Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut
Liminal States by Zack Parsons
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire
The Alchemaster’s Apprentice by Walter Moers
The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers
The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers
Grimm’s Fairy Tales illustrated by Noel Pocock
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski
Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick
The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce
Step Aside Pops by Kate Beaton
Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
The Tick The Complete Edlund
Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem by Steve Niles, Dave Wachter, & Matt Santoro
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore, David Lloyd
Code Monkey Save World by Pak, Coulton, Miyazawa, Kholinne, & Bowland
Maus by Art Spiegelman
Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh
Stephen King’s The Dark Tower – The Gunslinger Born by DAvid, Furth, LEe and Isanove
American Splendor by Harvey Pekar
Expedition by Wayne Douglas BArlowe
Poorly Drawn Lines by Reza Farazmand
The Evil Garden, The Willowdale Handcar, The Iron Tonic, The Doubtful Guest, & Amphigorey all by Edward Gorey
Billy Purgatory: I am the Devil Bird by Jesse James Freeman
Trampling in the Land of Woe by William Galaini
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Blackadder 1485-1917
The Princes Bride by William Goldman
Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Tailchasers Song by Tad Williams

If my math is correct, counting the trilogy I’ve started by Bardugo, that brings my total reading list to 60 books. That’s not even including the books I’ll be accumulating from Book of the Month, or whatever other covers catch my fancy, not to mention the pre-ordered Maas book I should get in May, or even the handful of non fiction titles I’d like to read, such as Lauren Graham’s, Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between). Which means I’m well on my way to reach and exceed my goal.

Now, to be completely honest, a few of these titles (Pride and Prejudice and Bloodhound to point fingers) I have tried to read on multiple occasions, and they just didn’t hold my interest. I don’t know if that was the fault of the writing or the fault of whatever life was like at those particular moments. However, I’ve lumped them in the Catch 22, no matter how much I’d like to read them, they just might not be something I can enjoyably get through, and I feel no need to take on compulsory reading.

For the few that are reading along, share what your reading or a book you love to recommend. It’s never too early to start next year’s books I have and need to read pile.

Where to put the books?

I’ve been a fan of Beauty and the Beast since it’s 1992 VHS release. Even at eight years old one of the most magnificent things about the movie was Beast’s library. Now, 27 years after it was in theaters, book lovers share memes regarding that library being their dream versus others dreaming of the prince.

In our apartment we had nine bookshelves (four tall, five short) and no wall space to add more. We debated upgrading the short ones to tall ones, but then we’d have no space for our limited collection of wall decor. It was a conundrum. When looking at houses, one of the things I looked for was the wall space to accommodate more bookshelves. With the house we ultimately purchased the possibilities are great.

Since the walls have been painted, we’ve been working on one of the first major projects for the house, “built in” bookcases. This project will do several things for our living space:

1) Give us some much need storage space for our books. Not to mention allow us to unpack said books.
2) Bring me a little closer to the dream of having my own library.
3) Help insulate an exterior wall, without actually opening up the wall.
4) Get me acquainted with new hardware (toggle bolts) and reacquainted with power tools I haven’t used since middle school wood shop.

5) Test the new years resolution to not overestimate myself. If I can successfully build this, it would instill confidence to take on other household projects. If not, I would need to start budgeting to pay other people or start calling in the generous offers of friends.

I started with Pinterest, of course, and was immediately drawn to the IKEA Billy Bookcase “hacks”. I couldn’t get enough of how people took the variety of prefab cases and made them one with their homes, from rec rooms, to offices, to living rooms, each was a bright idea come to life.

The downside to IKEA is the closest one is currently a 90 minute drive away, and I was much too antsy to wait until summer for the local one to open. However, since our new house lacked closet space and our bed frame broke when deconstructing it for the movers, the $75 shipping fee would go a long way when ordering three bookcases, a bed frame with built in storage, and a wardrobe each for the hubby and myself.

While waiting for our goods to arrive I plotted out how I wanted to approach this project. We have a 7.5 inch baseboard currently so thoroughly attached to the wall (preventing the cases from being flush) that I dented the wall trying to pry it off. Instead of causing further damage, we’d build a base so the cases go over the baseboard, and will affix the same patterned board to the front and exposed side at the base of the cases.

I toyed with the idea of putting drawers underneath the cases and utilizing what would otherwise be dead space. As useful as the extra storage may have been, I one) didn’t want the extra work, and two) didn’t want to weaken the base for the number of books that will be stored on top of it. If these shelves were being used for a dozen books and various light-weight tchotchkes the drawers would have been perfect. However, these bookshelves will house books. Lot’s of them. Some dainty and light like The Princess and the Pony, others huge and hefty like the hardcover version of The Complete Far Side: 1980 to 1994 (weighing almost 20 pounds).

The first stages of the project took longer than I hoped. First, and probably the most frustrating (not to mention embarrassing) is when cutting the pieces to make the base I mathed wronged. The saying may be “measure twice, cut once” but it doesn’t help you if you calculate the wrong lengths to start with. Along with needing to cut the longer boards shorter for the un-accounted added width of the short side boards, we also needed to trim the boards that would be used for support. The long boards were hardly a problem, but we didn’t have the best means of making sure the smaller pieces were secured to ensure a straight(ish) cut. However, hubby managed.

Next up, is we wanted to paint the backings to match the wall. We learned the hard way that you don’t paint first and then slide into place. Paint scraped off and in one case gummed up the track so bad the backing didn’t fit in properly. It took some work with a pliers and flat head screw driver to correct. Once the backings were all nailed into place (using twice the screws provided) the hubby taped up the side and put on another coat. Some peeled off when we removed the tape, but not enough to bother touching up. This is a good note if we ever attempt this again.

Third, and totally out of our control, the baseboards in our house are not readily available at the local hardware stores. Further, when removing the baseboard shoe so our base would be flush with the current baseboard, we found that the floor was built after the baseboard was installed. About ¾ of an inch of the baseboard is below the floor – no wonder I couldn’t pry it off to begin with. This leaves us needing to either custom order baseboard so our bookshelves match or potentially finding new baseboard and fastening it over the current stuff so everything matches (not to mention gets a much needed facelift). Honestly, this isn’t nearly as important as getting everything properly secured to the walls and loaded with our books.

Finally, we came to the moment of anchoring the base and shelves to the wall. The base was too narrow to fit a drill and the screws, leaving us to hand tighten 2 of the 2.5 inches until there was enough clearance for the drill. Doing it this way I realized we didn’t quite hit the mark of our pre-drilled holes, but we managed. If we were to do it again, we’d get the nails into the base and press the base side into the wall to get a more accurate marking for pilot holes, but I digress.

With the base secured to the wall, we needed to get the shelves onto the base. We attempted at first to lean the shelves and slide them on, but our space prohibited us from achieving the proper angle to pull it off. In the end it was all in the knees, we lined it up to the base, counted to three, and lifted straight up and back. OMG it was on the base! It wasn’t perfect, I didn’t take into account how far the wall bowed out so even though the shelves are on the base and the tops of the shelves are flush with the wall, a gap starts to form about a third of the way down leaving a two inch clearance from the bottom shelves and the wall. However, with the base and knowing the patch work that was done to the plaster on that wall, this doesn’t concern me in the least, so we kept moving forward.

We took a moment and set up everything needed for the last step, anchoring the shelves to the wall. We pulled out the step ladder. Un-boxed the brackets that already had the toggle bolts set up. Brought in the mini shop vac and extension cord for the mess that would be made. Then set up the drills. Our toggle bolts required a 9/16th inch pre-drilled hole. We did not have a 9/16th inch drill bit.

I looked at the time, it was just after 7pm. I did not want to go out into the cold and go to Menard’s for what felt like the hundredth time since buying our home in December. But an hour later, with smaller toggle bolts (because our drill wasn’t big enough for a 9/16th inch drill bit) and chocolate shake in our bellies, we had the means to anchor the shelves to the wall.

Jonathan took to taking apart the brackets with the too big toggle bolts and assembling the small ones while I put holes through our wall. A few moments later, holes drilled through plaster, wood lath, and a bit of insulation, I was ready to plug up the slight drafts with bolts, washers, and brackets. Now, the toggle bolts didn’t slip in nearly as easily as I expected, but wholly cow did they work wonders once they were in. Another moment and the brackets, six in all, were secured to the tops of case.

I was ecstatic. We were so much closer to making the house home! We cleaned up, and put in the shelves and just basked in our progress. It was almost nine thirty, past our usual bedtime, so we didn’t want to take on the task of filling the shelves quite yet. Figured I’d leave it to hubby the next day while I was at work.

Well, come morning, I became a little worker bee as I started pulling boxes from the side room that had become a catch all. I sorted books based on fiction or nonfiction, only pausing to make breakfast. I had to call it quits when it was time to leave for work, and there’s at least one box that still has books in it, if not more. There was an incredible surge of warmth, and pride, and confidence in getting this far, and I can hardly wait to get the rest of the books shelved, and alphabetized.

Now, as mentioned before this is not finished, but the details aren’t a priority. It is such a huge relief to finally have sentimental and personal stuff out of boxes. There’s about a dozen more to sort through, odds and ends like cables, light fixtures, and knickknacks, be we are getting there. Now that there’s room in the office, maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually be able to set up my desktop and start making the office functional instead of glorified storage. Once we get all those boxes unpacked, the major stuff where it needs to be, then we can start to worry about the details.