Suddenly Yours (One Fine Day, #2)

Suddenly Yours (One Fine Day, #2)Suddenly Yours by Jacob Z. Flores

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a drunken game of Truth or Dare two guys who just met marry at a Las Vegas chapel. When they wake up the next morning, they decide to stay married (both want a partner but neither want love). Of course they fall in love.

Bonus: Bruce Boner.

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Freeing Zane

Freeing Zane (Barretti Security Series, #4)Freeing Zane by Sloane Kennedy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the last in the series (so far), and I think I need to take a step away from this group of friends.

I feel for Connor — brain damage and part of his leg missing from his time as a soldier. I admire Connor for going on and following his dreams.

And I admire Zane for his switch in legal careers.

Too damn many kids in the epilogue, although that shout out to Sylvie was touching.

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Turn (Turn!verse, #1)Turn by Saras_Girl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I saw an article recently that mentioned Harry Potter fan fics that should absolutely be read.

No Harry/Severus, which is my ship of choice.

So, I went back to my first ship: Harry/Draco. And my preference, which is post-Hogwarts. This is even Deathly Hollows compliant.

Harry gets a glimpse of a life he could have had if he’d made a different choice while still in school. When he gets back to his real life, he decides changes should be made.

Really good.

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I Quite Like the Songs

I went to a Christmas Vespers service a couple days ago. The first time I attendImageed one was my freshman year at Moravian College (1981), and I’ve been sitting in the same pew at Central Moravian church almost every year since then.

A Moravian College press release explains Vespers this way: “The Vespers service is an expression of two traditional forms of worship in the Moravian Church, the Singstunde (Singing Hour) and the Candlelight Service. … In the service, the music has been carefully selected and arranged to bring the Christmas message without need of a sermon.”

And it’s true: There is no sermon. But students from Moravian College and Moravian Theological Seminary read Bible passages, and a college professor says a prayer. There are also a couple of responsive readings.

At the time of my first Vespers service, I was a religion minor and a Born Again Christian. So I was pretty into the Jesus stuff. But over the years, I’ve become disillusioned with Christianity. Homophobia, the lack of women in senior leadership roles, pedophile priests, and abortion denial are just a few of the things that have caused me to rethink my blind obedience to an old book.

But I was loath to give up Vespers. Over the years, it has come to represent the start of the Christmas season, which to me is about friends and family and a little more kindness in the world. So I remain silent during the responsive reading and listen to the Bible verses as if they’re poetry. It’s the prayer that does me in.

This year, the professor seemed to take particular joy in calling God something different each time she started a new stanza of the prayer (“God of light and dark”), which I found pretentious. And not for the first time, I found myself getting angry about what she was praying for and angry with the people around me for bowing their heads and blindly supporting whatever she said. She wasn’t praying for anything bad — world peace, in one instance — but I found myself thinking that it would be better if she did something rather than pray about it because God surely wasn’t going to intervene (even in wars being fought because of him).

So, if I have all these issues, why do I go each year? To quote Tim Minchin’s “White Wine in the Sun,” I quite like the songs. My favorite is “Morning Star,” which is a responsive hymn with a child in the lead. There’s something about hearing the quivering voice of a child followed by the supportive voices of the congregation that warms my heart.

This year, even my favorite song didn’t “fill my heart with light divine.” For the first time, I’m wondering if I should continue going or if I’ve finally reached a point where Vespers causes more heartache than good feelings.

I do get that it’s my problem. It’s a service that celebrates the birth of Jesus. It makes sense that there would be Bible readings and prayers. But I don’t know that I can deal with them anymore.

Today, I heard a BBC4 show called “Songs of the Sacred Harp.” The show blurb says, “Once called ‘white spiritual,’ this haunting unaccompanied choral tradition survived in the small rural Baptist churches of the American Deep South. … Also called ‘shape note singing,’ the music is based around the Sacred Harp hymn book compiled in Georgia in 1844. The pages show different shapes above the words to indicate the notes, enabling songs to be sung on sight. Gatherings are arranged in a hollow square with the self-selected leader entering the middle to call out the number of their chosen song. No applause or audience is allowed. Far removed from ‘happy clappy,’ they are often austere hymns with themes of death and the pain of everyday existence.”

Several people who sing are not Christian or even religious at all. One woman said, “I once had a southern Baptist ask me, ‘Why do you sing this music if you don’t believe in the words?’ I think that there’s a misconception that because so many of these words are either based in the doctrines of Christianity or have to do specifically with Jesus Christ or God that you cannot find a way to align yourself with their morals and their understandings. And I find that the lyrics of these songs quite frequently apply to any person who considers himself one who does good works…” A man went on to say, “The poetry is strikingly eloquent — even for people who are not religious.”

I get angry with friends who support the Boy Scouts because the organization discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. I don’t understand how people who are prochoice can attend Mass each Sunday. Would I be a hypocrite for being upset with my friends if I take a page from the non-religious Sacred Harp singers’ books and continue to go to Vespers?

I have months before I have to make a final decision, but right now, I can’t help but think of the chorus of a Sheryl Crow song: “If it makes you happy/Then why the hell are you so sad?”

Never Take a “Which Caracter Are You” Quiz When You Really Hate One of the Characters

I did, and I got these results. I hate Gwen Cooper. A lot.

I guess it’s that thing about hating qualities in others that you have yourself.

Which Torchwood Character Are You?

Your Result: Gwen Cooper

You most resemble the team’s second-in-command and ex-police officer. Empathetic and stubborn, you tend to grab the bull by its horns and have difficulty admitting when you’re wrong, though you always mean well. You are inconsistent in your relationships, wanting stability but also craving drama, and sometimes end up putting yourself first.

Ianto Jones
Owen Harper
Toshiko Sato
Captain Jack Harkness
Which Torchwood Character Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

The Wire in the Blood/The Catch Trap

Book Number: 21
Title: The Wire in the Blood
Val McDermid

Amazon Synopsis: Across the country, dozens of teenage girls have vanished. Authorities are convinced they’re runaways with just the bad luck of the draw to connect them. It’s the job of criminal profilers Dr. Tony Hill and Carol Jordan to look for a pattern. They’ve spent years exploring the psyches of madmen. But sane men kill, too. And when they hide in plain sight, they can be difficult to find…

My Thoughts: This one was slow going in the beginning for me. I had a hard time getting pulled in to the story. But I wound up being quite happy when the bad guy got his in the end. I really disliked him — probably because he was covering his wrongdoings so well. It just feeds my paranoia about people not being what they seem to be.

Book Number: 22
Title: The Catch Trap
Author: Marion Zimmer Bradley

Amazon Synopsis: A magnificent, colorful novel of the circus world of the 1940s and 1950s, rich in detail, and bursting with power and emotion. Mario Santelli, a member of the famous flying Santelli family, is a great trapeze artist. Tommy Zane is his protégé. As naturally and gracefully as they soar through the air, the two flyers find themselves falling in love. Mario and Tommy share sweet stolen moments of passion, but the real intensity of their relationship comes from their total devotion to one another and to their art. As public figures in a conservative era, they cannot reveal their love. But they will never renounce it. A tremendously moving tale, a rich family saga, a wise and compassionate portrait of a special love in a special world.

My Thoughts: I read and enjoyed this book about 20 years ago. I was thinking about it a lot lately, so I decided to read it again. I didn’t remember it being so sad. It was tough to read about the homophobia that Mario and Tommy endured. And I think whoever wrote the Amazon synopsis didn’t read the book very closely: Their relationship was far from filled with “sweet stolen moments.” There were stolen moments, sure, but there was nothing sweet about them. I read the Kindle edition of the book, and it was filled with typos. I’m not sure how Kindle editions are recreated — are the books retyped? If so, they need a proofer!

Note: I’ve read these books for Bookalicious Babe’s 100 Book Challenge for 2011.

Next up: Dunno. It’ll probably be Laurell K. Hamilton, Preston & Child, or J.D. Robb. It’s going to depend on my mood.

Torchwood: Miracle Day

We’re only a couple weeks away from Torchwood: Miracle Day. I’m looking forward to the new series, but I’m wary of what’s going to happen with Captain Jack. I know the show is about protecting the Earth from evil aliens, but it’s always been about the people for me. And the main person has been Jack. I fell for him the first five minutes I saw him on screen. I didn’t know a damn thing about him or Torchwood — had never watch Doctor Who, didn’t realize his character had been birthed there. I was as shocked as Gwen was when he came back to life. And as Ianto and Jack’s relationship developed, I grew to love Ianto, too. I was sad when Tosh and Owen died. And I cried. But I remember that one thing kept going through my head over and over: “At least it wasn’t Ianto.” Cue Children of the Earth. What was that, two years ago? I still haven’t gotten over Ianto’s senseless death. And for fear of a total meltdown, I think that’s all I’ll say about it. Anyway, as I wait for the full-on man sex that John’s promised us, I’ve been wallowing in Jack/Ianto fic.

I spent a lot of time reading everything that magikalrhiannon wrote. She’s done a fair amount of detailed stories, and I’d recommend any one of them.

I’m currently reading and enjoying Lazuli’s Attrition. Jack is trying to talk his way in Ianto’s good graces after his missing time with the Doctor. It’s angsty but good and features a strong Ianto. I figure the “real” Ianto must have been plenty strong for Jack to have fallen for him.

I’m counting all the Torchwood-related reading I’ve been doing at Books 19 and 20.

Still Grieving for Kate

My friend and work colleague Kate hanged herself on August 30, 2007. We were in Chicago at our annual editorial meeting. When she didn’t show up for breakfast, I was slightly concerned. But since we were scheduled to leave in the early afternoon, I figured she was still packing. Then she didn’t show up for the meeting, and calls to her room went unanswered.

Kate had a history of anxiety, depression, alcoholism, and bulimia. So when one of the people who had gone to her room to check on her returned to the conference room in tears, I knew that she’d killed herself. Hanging was a surprise, though; I would have bet on pills.

One of the nurses broke the news to me. I work for a healthcare magazine, so there are always nurses around. She did it well: reached out, took my hand, and said, “Lisa, Kate hanged herself. The police want to talk to you because you were the last person to see her alive.”

I was taken to a room a couple doors down from Kate’s, and two detectives asked questions like they do on TV crime shows. It was a surrealistic experience. I remember kind of looking down on the conversation and registering that they were being really nice to me. After that, I called Cee (who works for the same company) to tell her about Kate. She already knew because the office grapevine really does kick ass. I remember some salesguy who I didn’t know chatting to me in the limo on the way to the airport, keeping me grounded and present. And I remember looking for a book to read on the plane home and discovering how many mysteries feature someone who’d hanged him- or herself and thinking how I wouldn’t have even noticed 24 hours before.

It’s weird when someone commits suicide. I felt guilty, of course. The night she did it, Kate and I had ditched the group dinner and gone out by ourselves. I had a really nice time. We enjoyed our meal, and Kate even had dessert. The conversation flowed, and we had a lot of laughs. I went back to my room and called Cee and told her how nice it had been. And while I was literally dancing around the room in my underwear singing the “only one more day of this meeting and I get to go home” song, Kate was hanging herself. Did she try to call me when I was on the phone with Cee? While I was celebrating? I was never told the time of death, so I guess I’ll always wonder.

Kate was one of the best editors I’ve ever worked with. Not only was she good at turning piles of crap into readable articles, but she could answer any grammar or punctuation question ever put to her. She was my secret weapon, the person I called when I ran up against a stubborn sentence or when I needed validation that something didn’t make sense. She was so intelligent that it was flattering that she thought I was smart enough to be her friend. And she loved to laugh.

At first, it was hard for me to remember she’d died. I’d have her number half dialed, and then my brain would kick in. I cried a lot at first. And then I got angry. And I’m still not exactly pleased with her. She could have said something at dinner. But she sat there and fucking smiled and laughed and acted like she was having a good time. See, still angry.

I wish she were still alive. I miss her. I’m lonelier because she’s not around.

If Kate were alive, I’d make sure she had a Twitter account. She would love some of the funny people I follow and get a kick out of the bad grammar tips from @FakeAPStylebook and the workplace antics from @27bslash6.

If Kate were alive, I’d invite her to visit again. Last time, we visited historical sites in Philadelphia and ate cheesesteaks. If I had another chance, I’d keep her in the house and listen to her and talk to her and show her that someone cared about her. I’d go to Florida and visit her, too.

If Kate were alive, I’d make a John Barrowman fan out of her. I’d make her watch Doctor Who and Torchwood — or at least Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, which is so bad it’s good. She would have laughed herself sick watching the shark feed on anything that got in its way (including a small boat).

If Kate were alive, I’d make sure I got her the funniest birthday and Christmas cards I could find. And I’d send her funny “just because” cards, too.

If Kate were alive, I’d do whatever I had to do to get her back on her meds. She called me one day and said she wasn’t going to take them anymore because she’d read they could eventually hurt her liver. I asked her to investigate other options, but I didn’t really follow up because I felt awkward discussing her mental illness with her. Screw awkward. I should have followed up. I should have been more forceful. I should have hounded her until she found a new psychologist after the one she was seeing moved.

I should have done a lot of things. And I’d do them now, if I had the chance. But I don’t. She’s gone. And she didn’t say good-bye or leave a note.

I have no illusions about how many people read this blog. I’m no Neil Gaiman or Stephen Fry. But if I actually tagged it correctly and someone who is considering killing him- or herself is reading this, please don’t do it. You will be missed. There is someone out there, like me, who will grieve for you and whose life will feel empty because you’re not in it. Take the last ounce of energy you have and call someone. If you don’t know who to call, try 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 08457 90 90 90 and let a professional give you some advice.

This isn’t the usual kind of thing I write about, and I’m feeling kind of uncomfortable about posting it. More than most things I write, I feel like it should be perfect because the topic is so important to me. Know who would have been the ideal person to help me with it? Kate.

Photo by WillBurton2.

Third Time Lucky

When I spill salt, I quickly toss some over my shoulder. I cross my fingers when Berbatov gets near the net in hopes that he’ll score another goal.

Most of my superstitions are fairly harmless, even if they make me look a little silly. But as I watch other people gear up for Christmas, I’ve come to believe that some of my fatalistic superstitions are just making me unhappy. You see, I don’t want to get too excited about Christmas too early because then The Bad Thing will happen.

There is a basis for this belief. One year, I was really excited about Christmas. Right after Thanksgiving, I got out my trashy Christmas romance novels and started reading them. I was listening to Christmas carols and wearing holiday socks and shopping up a storm.

The day before Christmas Eve, I got a call at work from one of my then-husband’s coworkers. Then-Husband had had a seizure, I was told, and he was at the local ER. He’d been sitting down when the seizure hit, and his chair had tipped over backwards. He dislocated one shoulder and broke the other in a couple places. He spent Christmas Eve in the OR getting his shoulder screwed back on and Christmas Day in the hospital. We spent the rest of the holiday season learning about epilepsy. I still can’t see an ambulance racing down a street without thinking, “Somebody’s life just changed.”

After the seizure incident, I figured that if I could get to Christmas Eve without The Bad Thing happening, everything would be OK. So, fast-forward several years to one of my first Christmases together with Cee. We were living together, but neither of us knew the other’s family too well. We each wanted our family to like our partner/girlfriend/lover before we came out to them. So, we decided to have her family for brunch on Christmas Eve and my family in the evening. Great.

Brunch was well underway when I started having these pains — kind of like cramps on steroids. I excused myself and went upstairs to writhe around on the bed and then puke my guts out. Repeatedly. I didn’t tell anyone what was going on because I didn’t want to make our guests uncomfortable. After her family left with a “Well, tell Lisa Merry Christmas wherever she is,” Cee came up to find out what was going on. I explained, and we headed out to the ER. I was diagnosed fairly quickly as having a kidney stone. After a shot of industrial strength ibuprofen, I was discharged in time to play hostess to my parents. But I spent the rest of the holiday season waiting for the stone to work its way out. And it did. It was not pleasant.

I’ve spent the years since then keeping my head down and my expectations low. But I’m feeling a stir of cautious optimism this year. I’m ready to believe that looking forward to Christmas and The Bad Thing really, really don’t have anything to do with one another.

So I’ve subscribed to this Advent calendar thing where I’ll get a short story every day in December. I’m guzzling water and taking cranberry pills to ward off kidney stones. (It’s only practical.) And I’m going to listen to the radio station that mixes in the occasional Christmas carol. Baby steps, right?

Looking forward to Christmas will not make The Bad Thing happen. Knock wood.

Photo by TooFarNorth.