convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #10

here’s why i’m talking with strangers.

a group of three mothers and six kids (five boys, one girl) get on the T. there are two empty seats on either side of me. the mom sits on one, the little girl on the other. she’s holding a rock. i stand up and offer to switch seats with the 4yo girl so she can be next to her mother. the girl shakes her head no, so i sit back down as the mother smiles her thanks.

me to girl : is that your pet rock?

her: yes. i’m going to paint it.

me: *noticing her pink shirt, pink leggings, pink socks, pink shoes.* pink?

her: yes. *waves hand over the top of the rock* spray paint. maybe stripes.

me:  that sounds lovely.

her: i like pink.

her mom, noticing my pink vest and pink scarf, smiles.

me: me too! i”ve got some pink going on here.

the girl smiles at my clothes, but the smile doesn’t stick because meanwhile, the other kids, the boys from the group are sitting across from us having their own conversation.

a 5yo boy says:  i’m not in love with her.

the other boys say something i don’t hear over the screeching of the train’s brakes, but it definitely riles him up because the boy says again:  i do not love her. we were never getting married.

her, swinging her feet higher and higher, looks over at her mom: they’re making fun of me.

and my heart breaks a little that she, this adorable bundle of pink, is so aware at such a young age. and i can’t wait for the day that kid realizes he does want to get married and publicly declares so.

maybe even while riding the T.

book club

BOOK HUNGRY: the sky is everywhere

who says you have to be crowded into the living room, kitchen, and/or dining room to hold a book club? we are ladies of the 21st century. we don’t need no stinkin’ couches. so pull up a blog and join in the conversation.

the members of the BOOK HUNGRY are (alphabetically): patty blount, kelly breakey, karla nellenbach, vanessa noble, alyson peterson, cynthia reese, elizabeth ryann, and myself. here’s the deal. we pick a book to read. we discuss via email. we post a review on our individual blogs on the same day (3rd thursday of the month). we link to each other. done. i know, genius. click on each one of their names (above) and it’ll take you to their review. browse. enjoy.

this month’s BOOK HUNGRY selection is:

THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by jandy nelson

what it’s about from amazon: When her older sister dies from an arrhythmia, 17-year-old Lennie finds that people are awkward around her, including her best friend. While dealing with her conflicted feelings toward her sister’s boyfriend, her anguish over Bailey’s unexpected death, and her sudden curiosity about sex, Lennie must also cope with her unresolved feelings about her mother, who left when Lennie was an infant. Debut author Nelson expertly and movingly chronicles the myriad, roller-coaster emotions that follow a tragedy, including Lennie’s reluctance to box up her sister’s belongings and her guilt over bursts of happiness. The portrayal of the teen’s state of mind is believable, as are the romanticizing of her absent mother and the brief scenes of underage drinking and sexual exploration. Chapters are typically anchored by brief snippets of Lennie’s writings. This is a heartfelt and appealing tale. Girls who gobble up romantic and/or weep-over fiction will undoubtedly flock to this realistic, sometimes funny, and heartbreaking story.

my opinion:

*KERPLUNK* that’s the sound of my jaw hitting the floor.

this book? oh my, this book. it is one of the MOST GORGEOUS books i’ve ever read. ever. ever. the prose is luscious, the poems are divine, the images are vivid, and throughout it all, the emotions, the love, the anger, the betrayal, the giddiness, the pain, the love! but most especially the grief, are tangible. plain and simple, the story and the characters are flat out orange.*

jandy doesn’t use big words. she doesn’t try to show off her intelligence or confuse you with deeper meanings. she simply picks the very best word for the story at hand and lets it radiate, and let me tell you, you’re going to need sunglasses. she is a master of both prose and poetry. it’s not fair really, i mean, there are these bits of poetry at the beginning of some chapters and OMG! if they’re not the most stunning poems i’ve ever read. they make emotion accessible. in fact, the poems wring out so much emotion, the pages drip with it and you’re doused with the excess. AND YOU WILL LIKE IT.

i haven’t even mentioned any of the relationships or specific characters because my words are pale and meager and, you guys, seriously, just pick up this book and read it. proceed with caution, but PROCEED. and quickly! you can thank me (and jandy) later.

* “orange is…the color of extraordinary.” pg.32

p.s. as an added bonus, HERE’S an interview (done by gayle forman) with jandy nelson. the authors of my two favorite books that were released in 2010. so much goodness is going on in there!


book club

sean griswold’s head

you’ve recently heard me waxing pretty things about one lindsey leavitt, specifically about how i want my writing to be like hers. how do i know this?

i’ve read this:

and this:

the latter of which was released just this month and is the subject of this GUSHY post (you’ve been warned).

the first time i remember hearing about lindsey was when she posted this video about stephanie perkins’ ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS:

her sense of humor was right up my alley, so i figured i’d take a look at her books. at the time, only PRINCESS FOR HIRE was out, so that’s what i picked up. that book is a lot like LEGALLY BLONDE in the sense that you’re expecting a light chick flick, but are pleasantly surprised to discover it’s got a lot of heart, charm, and intelligence waiting for you. this book could get into harvard law school. it’s a middle grade series, which i’d recommend for any girl aged 9-13. yeah, ok, i certainly don’t fall into that age bracket, so heck, i’d recommend it for any girl, any age.

needless to say, i was won over and anxiously awaited her next offering, SEAN GRISWOLD’S HEAD, a YA title. it got a lot of early buzz, so i was even more impatient for it to be released.

the gist (from amazon): “According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object-an item to concentrate her emotions on. It’s supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold’s head. They’ve been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas-it’s an alphabetical order thing), but she’s never really known him.

The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father’s newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it’s working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking-er, focusing on-Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He’s cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.

In this sweet story of first love, Lindsey Leavitt seamlessly balances heartfelt family moments, spot-on sarcastic humor, and a budding young romance.”

you know how i am with expectations…so i was a wee bit nervous to be so excited about a book’s release. but i’m here to tell you the wait was worth it, folks. this book is practically perfect. i don’t even know what to say about it except i laughed A LOT, i cried (a little, just at the end), i swooned, i dog-eared pages because i wanted to remember particular passages, i cheered, i winced, i sighed, i loved. the characters jumped (or should i say, rode) off the page and straight into my heart, flaws and all.

i may be 30 and payton may be half that, but i can admit i really related to her. the way she communicates (or not), her fears, her dreams, her actions in real life. she’s flawed and stubborn and confused and all around fantastic. it takes a lot of talent to make a character that well rounded. and sean?! sean! oh sean. he’s ADORABLE. and he’s a good guy! not a mean-baddy-mc-I’m-so-hot-and-unattainable-and-I-brood-a-lot-so-you-must-fall-in-love-with-me-immediately-though-i-shall-play-hard-to-get guy. payton never fears for her life, well, not in the way she would if he was a vampire or werewolf or zombie. to have the boy be steady and caring and awesome and a real boy in real life (you know what i mean, contemporary), what a refreshing change of pace that was.

the other thing i loved about this book was every single scene and action and decision and moment was true to the story. i never felt or even thought about the author. it was like i was sitting in the classroom with these kids listening to them talk to me directly. the voices and personalities were spot on. it’s an incredibly difficult thing to do — to write a story so clearly defined by your characters that the author herself becomes invisible. i’m beginning to think lindsey could have gotten into harvard law if she’d wanted to…

and you know another thing that got me? lindsey’s admitted her husband was a bit like sean in that he’s the guy that was always there, in class, in school, but she was distracted by other, shinier boys so she overlooked him. until she didn’t. but that’s a story for another time and place (so she says…it’s also one i don’t know considering i’m just a fangirl and not in her inner circle. minor details, people.) i love knowing this small detail about the leavitts because, let’s face it, i have a feeling i’m a bit like sean in that sense. i’m the girl who’s overlooked, who’s just the friend, until the day i’m not*.

ok, i’ve rambled on long enough — you see the effect her writing has on me? she gets ME to RAMBLE. that doesn’t happen often. let’s hope i’m not MUMBLING while i’m doing so.  read the book, kids. you won’t regret it.

*let’s not hold our breath, people.


book club

BOOK HUNGRY: 13 reasons why

who says you have to be crowded into the living room, kitchen, and/or dining room to hold a book club? we are ladies of the 21st century. we don’t need no stinkin’ couches. so pull up a blog and join in the conversation.

the members of the BOOK HUNGRY are (alphabetically): patty blount, kelly breakey, karla nellenbach, vanessa noble, alyson peterson, cynthia reese, elizabeth ryann, and myself. here’s the deal. we pick a book to read. we discuss via email. we post a review on our individual blogs on the same day (3rd thursday of the month). we link to each other. done. i know, genius. click on each one of their names (above) and it’ll take you to their review. browse. enjoy.

this month’s BOOK HUNGRY selection is:

13 REASONS WHY by jay asher

i originally read this book after i won it in a contest hosted by karla nellenbach. admittedly, i hadn’t heard of it until then, but considering she named it one of the five books that inspired her to be a better writer, i knew i was in for a treat.

this book is an odd little duck in that if you break down the parts, it’s not really anything that hasn’t been done before, but when all the pieces are put together, well, honestly, IT KNOCKED MY SOCKS OFF. and considering my apartment is at a constant 58 degrees and i wear slippers over those socks, it takes a lot to knock them off.

the premise is this: When Clay Jenson plays the casette tapes he received in a mysterious package, he’s surprised to hear the voice of dead classmate Hannah Baker. He’s one of 13 people who receive Hannah’s story, which details the circumstances that led to her suicide. Clay spends the rest of the day and long into the night listening to Hannah’s voice and going to the locations she wants him to visit. The text alternates, sometimes quickly, between Hannah’s voice and Clay’s thoughts as he listens to her words, which illuminate betrayals and secrets that demonstrate the consequences of even small actions. Hannah, herself, is not free from guilt, her own inaction having played a part in an accidental auto death and a rape. The message about how we treat one another, although sometimes heavy, makes for compelling reading.

it came out in 2007, but it’s particularly timely with all of the bullying in the headlines these days. high school is hard and the students don’t make it any easier for themselves or each other. we may learn it in class, but this book really shows us how each action has an opposite and equal reaction.

unfortunately, all of those events pile up on hannah and it becomes too much for her to bear. she creates a set of tapes (yes, tapes) as a suicide note/type of revenge, and on them, she points out how certain individuals’ actions drove her to despair. this in turn reveals/reminds us just how interwoven our actions and our lives are, especially in high school when every class, project, and party feels oh so important. hannah is self-aware enough to realize that she is as guilty as everyone else she names, so she doesn’t leave herself or her actions out of the tapes. it’s brave, and in a weird twist, it’s the very plotting of her death that reveals the true strength of her character. she is crafty, organized, stubborn and smart. if only she could see herself as the readers do, maybe then she wouldn’t have gone through with it.

and clay, oh clay. he’s sweet and quiet and had almost worked up the nerve to spill his feelings for hannah to hannah. he’s exactly the kind of guy you wish had a crush on you.

the structure of this book adds to the overall haunting feeling. hannah and clay are both the narrators and their alternating viewpoints transition continuously and seamlessly from one to another. hannah’s words are eerie and vengeful while clay’s voice is honest, sad, hurting, and yet, romantic. the combination of hannah’s version of events plus clay’s own memories is terrifying and nerve-wracking and you can’t help but wish you didn’t already know the end result.

verdict: read this book and be prepared to be stunned in a way that educates, uplifts, and ultimately, inspires you.

p.s. join us next month as we read kelly’s pick:  NATURAL BORN CHARMER by Susan Elizabeth Philips.