Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this last Wednesday of May? Actually, it’s the last day of May in general. Time flies, I suppose. Things here are fine, so let’s get to what this post is about. It’s book review time! I was looking for something in the fantasy vein, but the genres listed on NetGalley lied to me. It happens sometimes. The book is fantastical in the sense that these things don’t happen, but that’s about it. Mostly it’s regular old fiction with a little zest. Anyway, The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer was released yesterday (May 30th) from Ballantine Books. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s do the thing!

The Wishing Game follows Lucy Hart as she struggles to make her dreams come true, the biggest of which is adopting Christopher. When everything seems impossible, she receives an invitation to her favorite childhood author’s private island to participate in a potentially life changing contest. Can she win against the other contestants? Can she face her fears? Can she resist the brooding artist who lives on the island with the author? Will all her wishes come true?

There’s definitely a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory vibe, but without the fantasy elements. More of a made-for-adults version (not the smutty kind of adult, just the kind of book kids wouldn’t appreciate as much). The golden ticket is a blue envelope and the factory is an island off the coast of Maine with a sad little amusement park that was never finished for reasons you’ll find out if you read it. Honestly, it’s pretty neat because it’s tied in with a (fictional) series of children’s books. The books have fantasy elements, but the novel itself reminds me more of a slightly dark Hallmark movie. Everything could potentially happen in the real world.

As far as the plot goes, it’s predictable, but that makes it comforting. You have to have a couple of miserable losses to make the wins seem earned. There’s a bit of romance just to spice things up. And the author dude is super rich and benevolent, so you know everyone is going to win in the end somehow, even though it might not be what they thought they wanted. There are plenty of trials along the way and everyone has their own fears to face. It’s well paced and despite the predictability, it’s intriguing.

The characters are mostly well rounded. Lucy is likeable and relatable for the most part. Her relationship with her sister felt really cringe-y until it’s finally revealed what her sister did. I feel like that reveal could’ve been made earlier and it would’ve helped a lot. Up until it comes out, Lucy comes off as selfish and ableist in a way and I didn’t want to feel that way about her. Especially when it was the fact that her sister was a dick rather than the fact that she was sick that caused everything. Anyway… Christopher’s age is difficult to pinpoint in the beginning. It seems like he’s 12 or 13 at first, but then he’s 7, which is a little jarring, but he finally settles into his age. Hugo is my favorite, of course. And Jack is interesting. I did wish that the other contestants were fleshed out better. They felt like they could’ve been anyone really, like they were just cardboard placeholders basically. And the potential bad guy just disappears, so that was awkward. But mostly the people were cool.

And the writing was nice. It made for a quick read. I actually finished it like two weeks early, so it went surprisingly fast. And I kept thinking about it for a couple of days afterward, but I haven’t thought about it much since. I guess that means it’s one of those books I enjoyed in the moment, but won’t remember much of a few months from now, which isn’t a bad thing.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed The Wishing Game despite the fact that it wasn’t what I was expecting. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for more books by Meg Shaffer.

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Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. It was fun and if you enjoyed stuff like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a kid, you’ll probably like this book.

Sweet Nothings

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing this lovely Wednesday? Things here are pretty okay. Just reading a lot and that’s about it. I try writing and eventually give up after a few days. Can’t even force it. Anyway, I’m not here to complain. It’s time for another of those “ask me about” prompts. I’ve done 13 (you can find the prompt list there) and 31. Today is 41. Next month I’ll answer 54 and 7. Feel free to pick more numbers to add to the list. But let’s see the prompt for today! Ask me about the nicest thing said to me…

Well, this is difficult. I’m not someone who knows how to deal with people saying nice things to me, so I usually just file them away as people being kind but not really meaning anything by it. Thus, I forget those things. You can only get so many “You’re so inspirational” and “If I were you, I’d never get out of bed” types of comments before you start realizing people are just nuts. Eh, that’s unfair. They think they’re being nice. It’s not. It’s low key ableism. But that’s not what this post is about! This is about my inability to take a compliment.

Unless those compliments are super weird, then I’m okay. I still remember the time the dude said my eyes were like blue crystal and he wanted to cut them out and hang them on the wall. A friend dude, not a stranger dude. Even I would be like “Stranger danger!” if I didn’t know the person. Don’t tell strangers things like this, please. Anyway, this same dude also told me that he forgets he doesn’t have to explain his creepiness to me and is glad I’m crazy too. So, those were good compliments.

Me trying to figure out how all my friends end up being creepy.

Believe it or not, he’s not even the weirdest person I know/have known. Anyway, I’ve also been told normal things too. Back when I was studying psychology at SMU, I had to take an extra random science course because one of the ones I did at Eastfield didn’t transfer. I chose Physics. The teacher dude lagged behind after lab one day just to tell me that psychology was kind of a science, but I should pursue a real science degree… preferably in physics. It was funny and weirdly nice. I would’ve if I’d had more time on my scholarship, but I didn’t and I would’ve needed too many math courses to catch up even if I had enough time for the regular physics degree, so somehow (blame Dad if you know the story) I ended up switching gears entirely… to English. So science-y, right?

I could probably list more nice things now that I’m thinking about it, but I won’t. It feels awkward to dwell on these things. I like randomly recalling them, but thinking about them in order to write about them is weird in the creepy way. So, your turn. What nice things have people said to you? As always, leave your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Lottery Dreams

Hello, hello! How goes it on this delightful Wednesday? Things here are okay. I have to venture out in public tomorrow for an ENT appointment to get my ear cleaned out. Fun. Not really. But you gotta do what you gotta do. Anyway, I was planning on procrastinating writing this until I remembered I have some of those Ask Me About thingies left to answer. You can find the prompt and answer to number 13 here. Today is 31. I still have 41, 54, and 7 to go. Feel free to pick a number to add to this list. Today’s prompt is: Ask me about if I won the lottery…

How big of a lottery are we talking about? Take home, not the actual “prize” amount, because we all know that’s not what you get. And I’d take the lump sum because no one has time for that yearly payout crap. Anyway, it’s a dream. Let’s splurge and say half a billion. I’d be comfortable with 10 million, but I’m supposed to be dreaming big here.

First up is land. Because we’re getting out of Texas if one of us ever comes into so much money we aren’t stuck relying on my benefits. How much are islands going for these days? Something warm, preferably. If those are too expensive, we can at least afford to leave the states. Or not. Maybe we’ll just find some land by an ocean. Have a house built to our needs and wants. Hire people to help take care of me without having to worry about what the government will pay for or allow or whatever. People to clean. A part-time cook. Gasp! Pastry chef! But yeah… sorry, Dad. You’d still have to cook sometimes.

Healthcare and medical equipment. A new wheelchair whenever I want one without having to argue with people about what I NEED, let alone what I want. The fancy insurance won’t cover it? I’ll just pay out of pocket. Whatevs! That would be glorious. And with people to help take care of me, Dad could use his fancy insurance to get fixed up without worrying about money or me. Why do people keep saying money doesn’t buy happiness? It gets rid of like 90% of the stress in life when you can afford everything you need, like shelter and food and clothing and healthcare and (in my case) personal assistants/caregivers. That’s a happy boost if I’ve ever seen one.

I’m sure we’d get new vehicles. How much does a used cruise ship go for? We could refurbish it and create a writers’ retreat (or artist get away or pretty much any kind of retreat people want to pay for) at sea when we’re not using it to travel. Boat maintenance and storage is expensive, so some kind of income from it would be helpful. Or maybe just a fancy yacht for us. Something to go all over the place in. I don’t know.

Oh! And I could get a job without having to worry about losing my Medicaid. That’s the best part of having money. I can become a productive member of society without some government peon constantly threatening to pull all my attendant care and healthcare before I’m actually capable of supporting myself and Dad.

Money sounds delightful. A house in a place that isn’t Texas. Healthcare and medical equipment. Care attendants besides Dad. Vehicles. The freedom to get a job. I could go for all that. Anyway, pick a number if you want. And, as always, feel free to leave your thoughts or comments or questions here or on my social media pages!

I Still Have Nothing To Ramble About

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this fine Wednesday? I’m lacking things to blog about. Again. So, I vaguely remembered sharing one of those “Ask me about…” things on Facebook and never actually answering most of them that Jenae picked or the one Joe chose, so I’ll do those here. I’ll also put the list of questions here, so feel free to pick any you want added to the blog post list. Jen chose 13, 31, 41, and 54. Joe chose 7. Multiple selections are acceptable, but I’ll only answer one per post to drag this out as long as I can. That means first up is 13: Ask me about what I did yesterday.

First, I need to figure out if yesterday means today since you’ll be reading this tomorrow or if it means Monday since today is Tuesday. Not that it makes much difference. My days slide into each other. Let’s go with Monday! It started off a little slow because Dad had to keep going out to check the pond during our usual routine. We have a leak somewhere, but he has to test certain areas in order to narrow down where in the pond or waterfall it’s at. Anyway, things started slow but okay.

For breakfast (lunch? It’s usually around 2:30 because I’m lazy and don’t get up until after noon), Dad made Matzo Brei for the first time. He used America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe (I borrowed the picture below from them) and topped it with some salmon, dill, and crema. It was yummy. Be jealous. While he was making that, I posted on my author profiles and played my stupid games. While we ate, we watched an episode of Murdoch Mysteries.

Afterwards, Dad did stuff in his shop and I mostly just read. I got through a chapter in my review book, which I’m weirdly ahead on. And I almost finished my for fun book. I also checked random stuff that I need to keep an eye on. But mostly just read and played stupid games.

For dinner, we had leftover brisket and beans. Mmm. We watched Dalgliesh because for some reason, Acorn didn’t have the latest Brokenwood episode up. Then, Dad went outside and I did the crossword. When he came back in, we watched an episode of My Family and I ate a Jason’s Deli version of a Rice Krispie treat. Then, stupid games until the bedtime routine began.

I’m boring. I know. Don’t forget to pick a number! And as usual, feel free to leave your comments or questions or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Pupper Post

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this lovely day? I’m tired and lacking things to ramble about. Allergies are evil. And sleep is elusive for some reason. It’s never great, but the past few nights it’s been worse than usual. Anyway, that’s my excuse for making this a lazy post. It’s been a while since I’ve shared pupper pictures here, so you need a dose of cuteness.

That was Mardi on April 8th. She was looking a little sheepdogish. So cute, right?

That was Mardi on the 19th after a groom by Mindy’s Mobile Pet Styling! She looks like a different doggo, but she’s still the same spoiled brat.

And that was a week ago after she got stuck under the deck and Dad had to dig her out. She had a bath afterwards and became white again. Then, a few days ago, she jumped in the pond and went for a swim. First one of the year. Yes, she knows how to get out by herself. No pictures of that.

I think Mardi’s living her best life.

Thoughts on THE GIFTS

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing this wonderful Wednesday? Things here are quiet. That’s about it. Luckily, it’s the last Wednesday of the month, so I do have something to ramble about! It’s book review time. This month, I decided a little fantasy might be nice, mixed with a bit of historical fiction which is outside my wheelhouse. The Gifts by Liz Hyder was released yesterday (the 25th) from Sourcebooks Landmark. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it.

The Gifts follows a number of different characters on their journeys until it becomes clear how they all fit together. A woman who doesn’t really know what kind of man her husband is. The husband who doesn’t realize how far he has fallen in his path for righteousness and riches. Two women who lose everything before they can find themselves. And another young woman who follows her heart in an attempt to find her calling. It’s a story of fates intermingling and the strength it takes to look at the world even when you don’t like what you see.

So, I went into this book knowing that it was told from five different perspectives. That’s a lot, but manageable. What I didn’t know was that it’s written in third person omniscient, which means that we get thoughts and feelings from pretty much every character mentioned in this story. I hate this POV because it causes unnecessary confusion and is almost always a cluttered mess. This particular book has a few confusing moments, but it’s fairly good about separating people and their thoughts/feelings. It still seems cluttered, though. If you are wary about this POV, I admit this is one of the better examples of it that I’ve read, but I’m still bitter that I chose something with it. This is definitely a me thing.

For me, the pacing was slow and things were super repetitive. This seems to be a trend in most of the historical fiction I’ve read, so I don’t really know if it’s a pro or a con. I don’t care for it. I wanted to skip a lot of it. Is this something people enjoy? Being told basically the same stuff over and over? And then the ending feels rushed, even though it’s actually nicely paced, because everything else was so slow.

The characters were an interesting mix. I would’ve liked to learn more about Natalya. Her and Mary were my favorites. Annie and Etta came across as too perfect and didn’t really have any room to grow. I was a little annoyed that all the men were douches. Even Richard, though I don’t think he was supposed to be. The only male character with any hope of being a decent human being is Charlie and he’s just a kid. It was weird. I get the book is about tearing down the patriarchy and all that, but there should be at least one likeable dude.

The writing was nice. There were some lovely images and a few lyrical places. And there were grotesque places at times. Even though the book was long and slow, the writing made it a smooth read.

Ultimately, The Gifts wasn’t my cup of tea. Most of my issues with it were me problems, but I liked the writing, so I wouldn’t turn away from another book by Hyder.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. Maybe 2 and a half. If you’re into historical fiction with a little fantasy splashed in, check it out. Otherwise, you’re not missing much.

National Poetry Month: Emily Dickinson

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing? I currently have a headache and just want to hang out with the pupper, so I’ll make this short. This week’s poet is Emily Dickinson.

Because I could not stop for Death

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed Us –
The Dews drew quivering and Chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – ’tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –

National Poetry Month: Dylan Thomas

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this lovely day? Things here are okay. We left the house on Monday for a couple of errands. Even tried going to an actual restaurant for the first time since March 2020, but the patio was closed, so screw that place. Home and Hot Pockets for the win! Anyway, it’s time for another poem. This is one Dad used to recite to me when I was little, especially when I was sick or going through surgery stuff. It’s probably why the villanelle is my favorite form. Without further ado… Dylan Thomas.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

National Poetry Month: Robert Frost

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing this wonderful Wednesday? It’s National Poetry Month, so I’m going to take April easy and just post a poem that I enjoy each week (except, of course, on review day). Mostly because I’m lazy and have nothing good to ramble about. Anyway, first up is Robert Frost.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Thoughts on CHLORINE

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this lovely Wednesday? It’s (finally) the last Wednesday of March, so you know what that means. Book review time! This month, I decided to request something a little different. More traditional fiction with horror and magical realism elements sprinkled in. At least that’s what the description suggests. Sounded interesting, so I gave it a shot. Chlorine by Jade Song was released yesterday (the 28th) from William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins). As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for granting me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it.

Chlorine follows Ren Yu as she navigates high school, cultural differences, falling for a girl, and growing up in general. Combine all of that with an obsessive love of mermaids and being the top female swimmer on the swim team, and things get weird. She starts out looking for her place in the world and when she finally finds it, she’ll stop at nothing to achieve her goal. No matter the pain she causes herself or others.

I actually want to start with the characters this time. None of them are remotely likeable, which is interesting. Ren, who is extremely unhappy and manipulative, is telling us her story, so we’re seeing everyone through her eyes. The only character who comes close to being redeemable is Cathy, but even she is portrayed as weak and untrustworthy unless she’s doing exactly what Ren wants. Coach is either one step away from being a child molester or he’s a father figure depending on her mood. Her mother is a saint unless she’s interfering in Ren’s life. And Ren herself is above all the human drama despite being the cause of most of it. I actually enjoyed the self-centered nature of the character development. It felt honest, especially as Ren sank further away from reality.

Ren is definitely a drama llama.

The plot was cluttered. A lot happens in this short book, so there isn’t much room for most of it to be explored. There’s a sexual assault and it ends up being nothing more than a passing mention in order to explain the summer Ren blew off swimming. As if burnout isn’t excuse enough to take a break and waver from the perfect child routine. There were a few places where major incidents were glanced over in favor of smaller things. Yes, it’s probably just how Ren prioritizes things, but if you’re going to cover heavy topics, the whole “oh, that’s just the character’s way” shtick feels like a cheap trick for not dealing with things.

As far as the genres go, this book isn’t really what it’s marketed as. The description gives off horror mixed with magical realism vibes. The horror is there in the sense that body horror is a thing and a slow descent into mental illness can be horrific. But the magical realism doesn’t come into play until the last chapter and then it’s too little too late. This book is straight up fiction about mental illness and how Ren’s delusions led to a romanticized ending. I’m okay with that. I still would have read it if the description had been more accurate and I probably would’ve enjoyed it a lot more if I weren’t looking for the genre elements that barely existed. It feels like the marketers are trying to force the book to be something it isn’t instead of letting it be what it is.

The writing was raw and open, but nothing special. There were moments where it was amazing, but mostly it was mediocre and occasionally could have used some trimming. I didn’t feel compelled to keep reading when I had reached my quota for the day, but I didn’t dread picking it back up the next day either.

Ultimately, I liked Chlorine for what it was, but not for what they claimed it to be. I don’t regret reading it. I don’t want my time back. But I don’t want other people going into it with the hope that it’s something magical when it isn’t.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. Despite my issues with it, I do feel like it’s a worthwhile read and a good look into the selfish side of growing up and how seemingly innocent obsessions can spiral out of control. Just be aware that it’s probably not what you’re expecting.