Skinny: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“I know what they think because she whispers their thoughts into my ear. I can hear them. Clearly. Constantly.

“‘If I ever look like that, just kill me.’

Her name is Skinny.”

Skinny by Donna CoonerSkinny has been the voice in Ever’s head for years. She showed up after Ever’s mother died and she started to gain weight. In the years since then, Skinny has only gotten worse–always quick to share the nasty thoughts everyone has for the pathetically fat girl.

Ever is fifteen years old and 302 pounds.

After one too many embarrassments at school, and far too many hopes being drowned out by Skinny’s poison, Ever makes a life-changing decision to undergo gastric bypass surgery–a risky procedure that could finally help Ever regain control of her weight provided she doesn’t fall victim to any of the dangerous complications.

As Ever starts to lose weight she allows herself to imagine a different life for herself: one where people don’t notice her because of her weight but because of her magnificent singing voice. One where she isn’t always on the periphery, alone.

But even as that life starts to seem possible, Skinny is still there telling Ever each and every thing that’s still wrong with her. If Ever really wants to take center stage in her own life, she’ll have to confront the toxic voice in her head first in Skinny (2012) by Donna Cooner.

Skinny is Crooner’s first novel. A gastric bypass patient herself, Skinny is also partially inspired by Crooner’s own experiences with the procedure.

Novels about characters with body image issues are hard. They are hard to read and they are hard to write. With such a fraught topic, everyone is going to have baggage of some sort that will affect their reading of the story. Having been overweight myself in high school,  I’m no exception. I was very wary going into Skinny, unsure of what to expect or how I would feel about what I read.

At 272 pages (hardcover), Skinny is a short book. For that reason, I’m willing to let a lot of things slide. The quick transition from Ever’s daily life to Ever getting the surgery. The abrupt shift from fat girl to not fat girl. Even the piecemeal information presented about life after the procedure.*

The story picks up after the surgery when Ever, with Rat’s invaluable assistance, starts the long process of recovery. I love a story where a character has to learn to re-engage with the world. And if anyone needs to re-engage, it’s Ever. Watching her subtle changes in self-perception and interaction with people at school is satisfying storytelling at its best.

That said, Skinny does have its share of frustrating moments.** While Ever’s transformation feels authentic (to the point that it reminded me of what it was like when I was heavier in high school), the sequence of events bothered me. We always know that Ever is going to have the surgery–it’s key to the plot and the story’s forward motion. It is important for Ever’s health. All of that is fine.

The problem comes when all of Ever’s friends and acquaintances start to interact with her and tell her how great she is as a person after she starts to lose weight. Everyone claims they liked Ever before but, with the notable exception of Rat, no one else makes an effort to stay close to Ever–in a sense not even her own family–when Ever is heavy.***

Skinny‘s strength is in Ever and her voice throughout the story. With a passion for musicals and a love of the stories they tell, Ever is a multi-faceted character. She is never just a fat girl and I appreciated that as a reader. Characterization of Ever’s best friend, Rat (who is fantastic in a mad genius/juvenile delinquent kind of way) and family are also handled well. (I was especially fond of the quirky small town Ever calls home and would have loved a bit more about the setting throughout the story.)

With a school musical sub-plot and just the barest hints of romance, Skinny is a strong, entertaining book ideal for readers looking for a novel with an emphasis on the “young” instead of the “adult” in “young adult.”

Possible Pairings: The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart, Fix by Leslie Margolis, Fracture by Megan Miranda, My Big Nose and Other (Natural) Disasters by Sydney Salter, How To Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, Drama by Raina Telgemeier

*It wasn’t really key to the plot but I would have liked more consistent information about what Ever needed to do post-op. Ever is mostly in a daze reading all of the information to avoid overwhelming readers with extraneous text but I am still left wondering how the surgery is going to impact Ever’s life further down the line.

**Early on, Ever comments that there are no musical parts for overweight girls. And, I mean, that is partially true in that most plays do not make a point of mentioning a characters weight. But it also ignores Hairspray! And, worse, saying there are no parts for overweight girls feels tantamount to saying there are no parts for tall girls or Asian girls or dark-haired girls, etc. I know part of this was Ever’s own self-esteem issues but, come on. Musicals are tweaked all the time to accommodate actors who may not fit the “traditional” perception of a character’s appearance. Crooner also laid in a lot of details to suggest that Ever’s weight problem ties back to her own mother’s weight issues but these breadcrumbs never lead to a big revelation–instead they just sit there and Ever confronts Skinny without addressing what might be the underlying problem.

***Granted, Ever’s own self-esteem and image issues are obviously at work in pushing people away. But I would have really liked just one other character to tell Ever she was okay and lovable without the surgery. (It isn’t this novel’s fault, but I really don’t think there are enough books in the world with positive, engaged, characters who fall outside normative body shapes. Skinny begins to hint at that but the novel is practically finished by then. And thanks to the surgery, Ever is much more closer to those norms herself.)

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*

False Memory: A Review

Miranda wakes up on a park bench with no memory of how she got there. While some details–like her name–are perfectly clear, Miranda’s own reflection is a mystery. Worse, she soon realizes her amnesia is far from normal.

Panicked and alone, Miranda releases an energy that creates pure panic in almost everyone around her. One boy named Peter is immune. He also has answers.

Trusting Peter, Miranda soon learns she is part of an elite force–genetically engineered and trained to be a weapon. While her combat skills feel natural as they return to her, real memories are slower to come. Back home in her supposedly real life, Miranda feels like a stranger as she meets a boyfriend who did the unthinkable to “protect” her and handlers who seem to have even more unthinkable plans in store for Miranda and her friends in False Memory (2012) by Dan Krokos.

False Memory is the first in a series and also Krokos’ first novel.

If the summary didn’t make it clear enough, let me say right up front: False Memory is an action packed adventure filled with chases, fights and more twists than a stick of licorice.*

Krokos has created an interesting premise–teenagers with genetically altered brains able to induce fear–and works with it very successfully for the most part. Some of the science starts to seem more like pseudo-science but since False Memory is a work of fiction, that’s easy to forgive.

Problems with the plot and characters are harder to ignore.

While Krokos works well with Miranda’s checkered memories of her past, not to mention her growing understanding of her present and possible future, she often comes across as one-dimensional as she fails to venture far from the “amnesiac girl” identifier she receives in the beginning of the story.

The circumstances surrounding Miranda’s memory loss are also impossible to ignore. Or accept given the premise of the story.** (Follow the stars for a spoiler discussion.)

Readers looking for something beyond non-stop action and twists will be better served by another book. While Miranda is likable and more than capable, she always manages to come across as secondary to Noah and Peter–despite literally being the narrator of her own story–illustrating that it takes more than showing a female character doing kickass things and being tough/smart to make a strong female character. It takes depth too. Hopefully readers will get more of that in book two.

Regardless of who is taking the lead in the story, readers hoping to find an exciting read that is heavy on action and plot twists will not be disappointed here. Plus, the ending of False Memory points to even more shocks and adventure to be had in the sequel False Sight due out in 2013.

*Seriously, it’s twisty and turny fun from start to finish!

**SPOILERS AHEAD: We learn fairly early on that Miranda’s memory loss is a direct consequence of not getting her proper memory shots. The shots were altered. By her boyfriend. I kept reading the story waiting for some big reveal when I could say to myself, “Ah, I finally understand! That right there is why he changed Miranda’s shots. All is clear now.” But things never got clearer. Instead we learn that Noah absconded with Olive***, who stayed in possession of her memories, while he left Miranda stranded in a city with no memories of her life. Why? For her protection. To keep her safe. Miranda, even without any memory of her past, can induce heart-stopping panic, wield a combat staff and identify countless guns. She is great with a sword and hand-to-hand combat situations. So, let me ask you, dear readers, does this sound like a girl who needed anything done for her protection? That Noah has no other justification, no other logic is vaguely ridiculous and systematic of poor plotting. Miranda needed amnesia and this slap-dash logic on Noah’s part was somehow the best way to make that happen.

***Don’t even get me started on Olive. I’m assuming she is an Asian character between her long dark hair and almond eyes which are usually shorthand for minority character. Which is fine. Let’s talk about why the only secondary female character (who wasn’t evil) and the only minority character that I spotted (did you see others) was so quickly dispatched at the end of the story. It could easily have happened to a different character. It could easily have been skipped all together. So why, exactly, did it have to be Olive?

Possible Pairings: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison, Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*

Give Thanks. Giveaway. (And why you should enter!)

You guys! One of my favorite authors, Victoria Schwab, has a new book coming out in two months.

To celebrate she is hosting a giveaway on her blog until November 25. If you’re a fan, you can win a cool prize. But even if you aren’t sure about the prize, you should enter!

For every entry up to 500, Victoria is donating $1 to one of three charities (you can choose which when you enter).

I know lately I’ve found a lot to be thankful for, I’m sure you have as well. This is one of the easiest ways to share what you’re thankful for and help others at the same time.

Remember you can enter here until November 25:

Bitterblue: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Bitterblue by Kristin CashoreKing Leck has been dead and gone for eight years. His deadly Grace–the preternatural ability that allowed him to influence people and control an entire kingdom–will never hurt anyone in Monsea ever again.

Crowned queen at just ten years old, Bitterblue is still haunted at eighteen by the ghastly legacy Leck left in his kingdom. Monsea is now filled with broken people and more secrets than she can begin to fathom. Trapped by the bureaucracy of running a kingdom, Bitterblue knows little of day-to-day life in Bitterblue City and even less about how to begin to repair an entire country so irreparably damaged by Leck’s reign of lies and horror.

When she begins exploring the secrets and puzzles that abound in Monsea, Bitterblue comes to understand that the key to securing her kingdom’s future is inextricably tied to understanding not just Monsea’s and Leck’s past but also her own in Bitterblue (2012) by Kristin Cashore.

Find it on Bookshop.

Bitterblue is a companion to Cashore’s earlier novels Graceling and Fire. The story of the seven kingdoms starts in Graceling with Katsa’s story. Fire is a prequel to Graceling with Bitterblue set about eight years after the conclusion of Graceling.

Although this book is not, in many ways, the beginning of the story, Bitterblue can easily be read out of order. While the beginning of the story may be muddled or confusing , the feeling is not inappropriate given the content of Bitterblue. Certain nuances with common places and characters will be perceived differently but as with many strong novels, any of the books in the Graceling trilogy can be the beginning of your reading experience.

I have many complicated feelings about Graceling and Fire. Before starting Bitterblue, I knew it would either become my favorite of Cashore’s Graceling novels or it would be the one I liked the least. I suspected it would be the former when I saw the lovely cover (art by Natalie C. Sousa, designed by Kelly Eismann) and the stunning illustrations marking each section division in the book (illustrated by Ian Schoenherr). Upon finishing the novel, I can state without doubt that Bitterblue is easily my favorite and, in my opinion, the best of Cashore’s Graceling books.

As the title suggests, this story focuses on Bitterblue. Characters readers grew to love in Graceling do appear here with varying levels of importance to the story.* Fire‘s place in the Graceling universe is also better explained as Cashore ties the three books seamlessly together.

Cashore is at the top of her game as she conjures the complicated history and current state of Monsea. Instead of shying away from the damage created by Leck’s brutality, Cashore stares at it directly to create a complex and often painfully real kingdom with flaws, scars, and sometimes a fair bit of beauty and resilience despite Leck’s influence. (As Bitterblue learns more about the specifics of Leck’s cruelty, the novel does get heavy–not overly so and not to ill-effect. The material is often brutal and will stay with readers long after this story is told.)

While moments in both Graceling and Fire often felt anti-climactic or excessive, the entirety of Bitterblue is carefully plotted and purposefully presented. Even at more than 540 pages (hardcover, with a cast of character and additional maps to be found at the end of the story), Bitterblue never veers into the tangential or extraneous. As with the large cast of characters who all matter, every plot device is an important part of the whole here.

Cashore also makes use of a variety of motifs throughout the story including keys and ciphers. The recurring themes of literacy and storytelling also add another dimension to the narrative as characters explore the power of memory and claiming one’s past to move forward.

Both subtler and more nuanced than Cashore’s earlier novels, Bitterblue is as much its own story as the culmination of a chronicle three books in the making.

*Oh my gosh! Giddon is finally as awesome as I always knew he could be in Graceling!

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, White Cat by Holly Black, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Furyborn by Claire Legrand, Proxy by Alex London, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, Soundless by Richelle Mead, There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool, The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff, The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*

Cold Nights and Warm Books Holiday Book Swap

Well, dear readers, it’s that time again. I’m excited to be part of the

This is a great opportunity to give some books to people who share your interests, and GET some books to add to your library! But it only works if lots of people sign. Up. You can sign up either at Emily’s blog or Enna’s blog. Sign ups are open until November 22nd.

Every Day: A Review

“Every day I am someone else. I am myself–I know I am myself–but I am also someone else.

It has always been like this.”

Every morning, A wakes up in a different person’s body. The person’s memories are still there, but so is A. Every day it could be anyone. There is never any warning.

A has no family, no attachments. No religion, no traditions. Genderless, raceless, it is a very insightful life. But it is also very lonely. The only way A has found to survive is to stay on the periphery: Never get attached. Never stand out. Never interfere.

Until A wakes up in Justin’s body and meets his girlfriend, Rhiannon. Previously the ultimate interloper, A finally finds someone worth staying for; someone to know. As A struggles to connect with Rhiannon from different bodies and distances, they will both learn that love can come in many different forms in Every Day (2012) by David Levithan.

Find it on Bookshop.

As an editor and veteran novelist, Levithan is no stranger to writing compelling stories. Every Day lives up to the hype and praise it has been receiving. Levithan’s writing is strong and often quite beautiful in this story of love and isolation.

The initial premise is, understandably, difficult to accept. If you can get past that and willingly suspend your disbelief to go along with the story, you’ll probably be able to deal with the other problems in the book. (If you can’t, well, fantasies aren’t for everyone.)

Every Day starts strong, diving right into A’s world and all of its inherent problems. Things get complicated both for A and the reader when Rhiannon enters the story and A falls in love with her based on seemingly nothing but first sight.

Aside from feeling unconvincing in its speed and quick development, this love story came off very much as a plot device. In order for there to be a story connecting what would otherwise be day-long vignettes, A needs a reason to want to stay in one life. A needs a thread running through all of those different bodies. That thread becomes Rhiannon. But it could just as easily have become any number of other characters or things–making for a love story on shaky ground from the beginning.

Throughout Every Day, Levithan is at pains to use A to highlight the diversity of our world and the different and varied lives teenagers inhabit each day. Through A, Levithan points out that gender, religion and many other identifiers are little more than arbitrary social constructs. While this is absolutely true, and generally well-handled throughout the book, it also started turning up in places where it did nothing to move the plot forward instead just reminding readers that diversity is real and valuable. (Again, true and well-handled, but not key to a gripping read in and of itself.)

Similarly, the sheer scope of A’s world and the book’s premise often worked against Every Day. A inhabits many diverse characters throughout the story. But even while marveling at the myriad lives, it’s easy for Every Day to feel very normative. The people A inhabits who are religious go to church. There are no synagogues or mosques here. There were no obviously unattractive bodies. While an injured person features, there was no one with a physical disability.

Depression, addiction, suicide, and unhealthy relationships are all mentioned. But bullying never is. Abusive parents never are.

Finally, and more annoyingly, while A necessarily has no gender, race, etc. A is apparently thin. Because when A is in an overweight teen, things really go over the top. Aside from being incredibly one-dimensional as A talks about the sheer effort needed to do little things when weighing so much, this depiction made no sense given A’s context. Why, in this incredibly forward-thinking book, is weight so shocking and upsetting when gender/race/religion/social status are not? Why is this supposedly open-minded character so upset to be heavy? Why, in a book where looks are supposed to be secondary to personality, does overweight equate with being unattractive?

The story ends optimistically enough to make any romantic swoon and almost makes up for the earlier issues with the plot and characterization. Every Day really is easy to enjoy with Levithan’s effortless writing and the fascinating windows into so many different lives and worlds. The impact of A’s condition and the resulting connections and eventual aloofness are achingly poignant. Unfortunately, because Levithan does so many things well in Every Day, it is also very easy to see where the novel ultimately falls short.

Possible Pairings: Take Me There by Susane Colasanti, What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, Mayday by Jonathan Friesen, Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman, Slide by Jill Hathaway, Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier, Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Pirates at the Plate: A Picture Book Review

Baseball games can get heated at the best of times. But when pirates and cowboys face off anything can happen. With famous figures like Long John Silver at bat while Wild Bill Hickok pitches under the direction of coach Bat Masterson, this game is sure to be one for the ages.

The bases are loaded and relations between the teams are getting heated when the game reaches an unexpected conclusion in Pirates at the Plate (2012) by Aaron Frisch and Mark Summers.

With only thirty-two pages, it’s sometimes difficult for picture books to have any real twists or surprises–unexpected outcomes that are a shock even to older readers.Frisch and Summers have created one such book in Pirates at the Plate.

With eye-catching illustrations that look like retro television footage complete with lines through the images, Summers’ artwork bring this epic baseball battle vividly to life. Frisch’s text leaves plenty of room for wordplay as the Cowboy bullpen is filled with bulls and a Pirate steals a base only to literally steal it in his loot sack.

When the game goes in an expected direction courtesy of one very imaginative boy, the story is nicely tied up–at least until the next day’s game. Pirates at the Plate is truly clever and sure to garner a few laughs. However, it is also filled with baseball terminology that may not translate well for non-sports fans making this a must-read for baseball fans but a harder sell for readers who are in it for the cowboys (or the pirates).

Possible Pairings: Half-Pint Pete the Pirate by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Geraldo Valerio, Shark Vs. Train by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld, Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs and Paul O. Zelinsky, Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown, How I Became a Pirate by David Shannon, Casey at the Bat by Ernest L. Thayer and Christopher Bing, Bad Day at River Bend by Christopher Van Allsburg

The Shadow Society: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Shadow Society by Marie RutkoskiDarcy Jones doesn’t remember anything before the day she was abandoned at a Chicago firehouse. She was five years old.

Since then, Darcy has been bounced from foster home to foster home–never quite fitting in, never quite putting down roots.

Things finally seem to be different on Darcy’s first day back at Lakebrook High. Her second year at the same school, Darcy finally has friends and even a foster mother who seems keen to keep Darcy around; all simple reasons for Darcy to be happy.

Then a new boy arrives at the school and eyes Darcy as if she were an enemy, maybe even a threat. Conn McCrea is both fascinating and frightening as he insinuates himself into Darcy’s life. As she gets to know Conn she also begins to discover strange truths about herself and a world that shouldn’t exist–a world where the Great Chicago Fire never happened and creatures called Shades have created an organization called the Shadow Society intent on eliminating humans.

Darcy always wanted to be part of something, to belong somewhere. But she may have more than she bargained for with Conn and infiltrating the Shades in The Shadow Society (2012) by Marie Rutkoski.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Shadow Society is Rutkoski’s first young adult novel. She is also the author of the popular Kronos Chronicles series for younger readers.

Part fantasy, part alternate history The Shadow Society is an evocative novel that is as haunting as it is enchanting. Rutkoski masterfully brings not one but two versions of Chicago to life on the page with characters that are charmingly real and entertaining. While the story is grounded in Darcy’s journey to find the truth about herself, the novel also is refreshingly grounded with strong friendships. (Conn and Darcy’s complicated relationship doesn’t hurt either.)

A well-realized world and completely delightful characters come together with a gripping, surprising plot to create a winning combination in The Shadow Society.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Shadow Society by J. Q. Coyle, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Two Summers by Aimee Friedman, The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye, Iron Cast by Destiny Soria, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Pivot Point by Kasie West, The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot

Boot and Shoe: A Picture Book Review

Boot and Shoe are brothers. They live in the same house where they eat out of the same bowl, pee on the same tree and sleep in the same bed. But that’s where the similarities end because, you see, Boot is a back porch kind of dog while Shoe is a front porch kind of dog.

And that’s fine.

Until a pesky squirrel comes and turns everything upside down in Boot and Shoe (2012) by Marla Frazee.

When a squirrel turns around these two doggy friends, it makes for a long night as Boot and Shoe each stand vigil (on opposite sides of the house) waiting for the other to return. It makes for a long day and a longer night until one shared tree restores order.

Illustrated in Frazee’s signature style, the breezy artwork compliments the quick pace of the story. The small color palette makes the illustrations stand out. With large spreads and smaller scenes throughout the layout remains interesting.

Just a little bit serious and quite silly Boot and Shoe is an endearing read about loyal friends. Although the story is broken into smaller pieces on each page there is still a lot of humor to found, making this book ideal to read aloud and certain to stand up to repeat readings.

Possible Pairings: Boy + Boy by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino, Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship by Edward Hemingway, Forsythia & Me by Vincent X. Kirsch, The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell, Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator by Mo Willems

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*

And we are back

So I was going to write a big post about my experiences with Hurricane Sandy complete with pictures. But the truth is getting back online and back to normal was a lot more work than I expected. It also feels wrong somehow to be harping on my experiences and problems when there are so many people still struggling without power or homes in more affected areas.

So here’s a brief explanation just in case anyone was wondering what happened to Chick Lit Wednesday last week:

The lights went out in my apartment building (and neighborhood) the night Sandy landed. They stayed off for five days. It was very cold and very dark, but I was lucky because my building had running water and I had my mom for company. Towards the end it got hard because there was no food in our area and we were running out in our house as well. The darkness was also hard to take because of all of the obvious reasons and also because I am afraid of the dark at the best of times.

But, like I said, a lot of people have it worse. (If you can donate your time or goods or money, there are a lot of people who still need help.)

What I will take the time to say is that the whole ordeal without power and the subsequent return to normalcy reminded me that I have a lot to be grateful for even when things get rough. Electricity and hot water and heat are amazing things. Waking up at 4:30 in the morning to find all of three returned after five days is even more amazing.

I am also truly lucky to have a lot of friends who checked in on me during the storm and who I could reach out to when I needed to talk. It’s no small thing to know there are people in the world thinking about you. The storm was good for little else, but it showed me that I matter to a lot of people and that I’m not alone. It also reminded me, when I was ready to climb the walls, that I have people in my life who make me smile. That’s no small thing either.

If you’re reading this post, I hope you’re doing so in a warm, well-lighted room knowing that you are loved.

(Normal posting will, of course, now resume. I read two books during the blackout and have some others stewing in my “to review” pile among other posts that I should have more time to get to in the next few days or weeks.)