Brag Book (Not About Me)

snoopy-danceI am so happy for Cobalt Stargazer’s guest review has been so positively received, and she is too. In fact, I got a message from her that she’s doing the “Snoopy Dance.” Look for more reviews from the lovely Cobalt.

And in other Book Self news, I am working on a potential new series but this idea is still percolating in my brain, so be patient. Thanks!

Guest Book Review: The Drop by Dennis Lehane-Guest Review by Cobalt Stargazer

The DropI am introducing Guest Reviews and the lovely Cobalt Stargazer is my first guest reviewer. You can learn more about Cobalt Stargazer below.

You may not know the name of Dennis Lehane, but most undoubtedly you are familiar with Lehane’s books. Two of them, Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone were made into very successful movies, both commercially and critically. Lehane’s novel The Drop started out as a short story called Animal Rescue, and then it was stretched out into the screenplay for the movie version, which starred Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, and James Gandolfini in his last film role.

The Drop opens as Bob Saginowski is walking home from work on a cold Boston night. Bob is a bartender, and he works for his cousin Marv, who used to own the bar until he was pushed out by the Russian mob. Now Marv is just a figurehead, and Bob is his loyal, if plodding, employee. On his way home, he hears a noise, and when he investigates he finds a pitbull puppy, hurt and shivering, in a trash can. He lifts the dog out, which leads Nadia, the occupant of the house the trash barrel belongs to, to step outside to discover why a strange man is loitering in front of her dwelling. After some uncomfortable conversation, Nadia invites Bob in to check the dog out. After taking his picture with her cell phone and sending it out to six other people, including the local parish priest.

Bob is extremely reluctant to take the dog in, even though his loneliness is such that he feels it in his bones every time he thinks about it. He wants to make friends, and he even tries to, but he’s so shy and withdrawn that people generally give up after a few attempts to make conversation. Nadia practically has to browbeat him into taking the puppy with him by saying that if he turns the dog over to Animal Rescue they’ll keep him for only so long, then likely put him to sleep. He ends up taking the pup home, where he gives him the name Rocco.

Cousin Marv’s gets robbed (the bar serves as a drop for mob money) and a cop named Torres enters the picture. Bob mentions that one of the robbers wore a broken watch with the face turned inward. Eventually, they find a plastic bag with blood-stained money inside…and a broken watch still on it. Together, Marv and Bob literally launder the money and Bob throws the forearm into the channel after wrapping it in plastic, like a piece of meat from the butcher’s.

The advent of Rocco – and Nadia – in Bob’s life eases his loneliness somewhat, but it also brings a guy named Eric Deeds sniffing around. Eric is Nadia’s ex, and Rocco’s owner, but he’s also a little psychotic and a stalker to boot. He ends up telling Bob that he wants ten grand for the dog or he’s going to do something terrible, some unnamed something that he never describes. Supposedly Eric killed someone named Richie Whelan, a former high school football star everyone called Glory Days, and he’s been coasting on the notoriety of that for years. No one can prove or disprove the claim, but that’s the rumor.

It turns out that Marv is the one who set up the robbery, trying to get back at the Russians for forcing him out. Bob seems to get an inkling of this, and he semi-confronts Marv with: “Are you doing something desperate, again? Something that maybe this time we won’t be able to clean up?” Marv tells him to beat it after a speech about how he used to be somebody in the neighborhood, and the stool he sits on in the bar used to be just his seat, and that it meant something. Before he leaves, Bob says, “But it didn’t.”

Near the end, Eric and Nadia come to the bar on Super Bowl night, and its Eric’s intention to steal the drop money. He broke into her house and more or less kidnapped her, forcing her to accompany him. They wait until everyone’s cleared out, even old Millie, who shows up every night and stays until closing even though she can’t pay her tab (Bob does it for her). Eric knows that the safe has an automatic lock, and he’s just waiting for it to open so he can get at the cash.

Without spoiling the ending, it suffices to say that Eric ends up dead at Bob’s hand, and Nadia and Rocco are both free from him. Marv’s part in the burglary gets found out by the “hard guys”, and he meets his own end with a bullet to the bridge of his nose. Bob’s loneliness, that marine layer of gloom, shows signs of breaking up in the rays of light from Nadia’s budding trust, and possibly even affection.

Is Bob a good person? Not particularly. On the morality scale of one to ten, I’d give him a seven or maybe an eight. He spends most of the book seeming a bit slow in the head, so when it turns out that he’s actually dangerous it’s a surprise. But Cousin Marv and Eric Deeds combined aren’t as good of a person as he is by himself. Marv is too venal to be genuinely evil, and Eric, while legitimately violent, is also so overconfident that he badly underestimates his supposed quarry, taking him for a half-wit that he can run roughshod over.

Ultimately, The Drop is a story of what it means to get along in a hard world, and that it really is possible to find happiness and contentment as long as you’re willing to take the risk. Sometimes you just have to be more dangerous than anyone thought you could be.

Meet Cobalt Stargazer! Cobalt Stargazer is a lifelong resident of North Carolina, where she attended NSCU and graduated with a degree in literature, which looks very attractive hanging on her wall. After a long stretch of retirement, she started writing fanfiction again, having found ample inspiration in the show Criminal Minds. The powers of fandom in general are strong with Cobalt Stargazer, from the Buffyverse to the worlds created by several movies and even procedurals, so if there are questions, please direct them to the awesome chief blogger here, who can pass them on. Cobalt Stargazer really looked forward to this gig, which gives her the opportunity to do what she like best – read, and then be opinionated about what she’s read.



Writer’s Block


Well, hello everyone. I hope everyone is having a happy May. Once again, I have been very busy. There is a lull at work until we have a major uptick with a new upcoming assignment, so I’m working an abbreviated schedule. Having some time off has encouraged me to tackle some projects at home. I’m currently organizing and cleaning by drawers, cupboards, closets and desk. It’s a huge undertaking, which is going to take several weeks to truly get done, but already I’m feeling a huge sense of accomplishment. Just seeing my book shelf all organized is making me want to do the happy dance.

And I’m also feeling a huge surge of creative adrenaline. I love to make beaded jewelry and in the past couple of weeks I have made over a dozen pairs of earrings, a statement-y necklace, and a bracelet for one of my dearest friends. This friend also commissioned me to make a necklace for her niece.

As for this blog, the publisher who sent me an advanced copy of In the Company of Legends sent me another book to review and read, so look for a blog post on that shortly. Plus, a lovely on-line acquaintance of mine is writing a guest book review that I hope to receive shortly. I met this potential reviewer through an message board devoted to one of our favorite TV shows. She writes wonderful fan fiction based on the characters of this TV show, so I’m really looking forward to her guest review.

And what else? Well, on July 3rd I, along with two great friends of mine, will be at the U2 show at Chicago’s United Center. Can’t wait.

Brag Book (and Not Just About Me)

you_go_girl_lady_bug-3124a6d95dd49bbba34dec6fbf667096I’ve been keeping up with the lovely Rosie Blythe, author of The Princess Guide to Life, via Faceboook, and she just loved my review. Well, I just love her book and I hope she and The Princess Guide to Life are huge successes.

Now I have to brag about someone else. Dasha Kelly is a Milwaukee-based writer, spoken word artist, teacher and activist. She is at the helm of Still Waters Collective, an organization that mentors “language artists” to fulfill their greatest potential as both writers and speakers. A few years ago I was able to cover a poetry slam Still Waters hosted for high school students for Third Coast Digest (now called Urban Milwaukee Dial), and it was truly one of the most memorable moments in my writing life. Here is a link to my article.

Now Ms. Kelly has a new novel out, and I am so proud of her I could just plotz! Her novel Almost Crimson has just been released and to rave reviews. And Almost Crimson has definitely been added to my very lengthy reading list. Brava, Dasha Kelly, brava! You are an inspiration and a gift to all lovers of the written word.

almost crimson_

The Book of Love

love-quotes-22I’ve decided to start a new post series called “The Book of Love.” And by love, I don’t just mean romantic love, which of course, is truly divine. I’m talking another definition of love-agape. Agape is the concept brotherly love, or the love of your fellow man. To me, it means showing love to your fellow human beings by expressing empathy, especially in times of need. Empathy isn’t just feeling for a person; it is also feeling with that person. And if there is anything this messed up world needs is more empathy, or love concept of agape.

As many as you know I wrote a little rant about blogger Penelope Trunk and the evil comments she wrote about Sheryl Sandberg in the wake of her husband Dave Goldberg’s sudden death. Ms. Sandberg is grieving deeply, and Trunk’s reaction was so insensitive, so ignorant I just had to respond. Where was Trunk’s sense of decency?

Fortunately, there are people like journalist Katie Hafner. Ms. Hafner lost her own beloved husband, Matthew Lyon, quite suddenly and has an idea of what Ms. Sandberg and her family is going through. And in this open letter to Ms. Sandberg, Ms. Hafner not only expresses true compassion for Ms. Sandberg is going through, she also offers wise counsel on how to cope. Don’t be surprised if your eyes fill with tears while reading this. Mine did.

A Letter to Sheryl Sandberg

Thank you so much Katie Hafner for your letter and putting your love out into the world. You are a treasure.


Book Marks

bookmarks obamaMeet Jessica Hopper, music critic, supporter of women writers, bad-ass feminist, and all-around cool chick.

Here is the book cover for Mindy Kaling’s latest tome, Why Not Me.

Please get this smart and delightful young gentleman a book deal!

Have you ever wondered what the coolest words are in the English language? The website has the answer.

I am just dotty about office supply and stationery stories; this article explains why people like me are drawn to places that sell pens, notebooks, highlighters and other assorted items that take up residence at our desks.

Book Review: The Princess Guide to Life by Rosie Blythe

25071062Just like a lot of people, I often feel a bit out of sorts in our mixed-up world. I can’t seem to get it together personally, professionally and romantically. So in these moments of confusion I make the decision to peruse self-help section of my favorite book store. I hope to find a nugget of wisdom to help me improve my lackluster life. But after a while, I fail to be inspired, and my romp in the self-help section turns to self-hate.

Women are constantly getting the message “Girl, You’re Doing it Wrong.” We fail to “act like a lady and think like a man.” We don’t follow the “rules, girl.” And Dr. Laura is not shy of telling us of the ten stupid things we’re doing to mess up our lives. Interestingly enough, dropping the N-word nearly a dozen times while talking to a black caller is not on the demented doctor’s list.

But I digress…

So after leaving the book shop, throwing my dainty hands in disgust, I shout to the heavens, “Is there a book that will truly help me without me ending up a petite ball of self-hate? Am I destined to be an utter failure as a woman?”

Well, thank goodness for Rosie Blythe and the kindness, decency and gentle “you go, girl” spirit she conveys in her book, The Princess Guide to Life. The Princess Guide is like having your best friend in your corner, and Ms. Blythe’s advice is comforting, not shaming and scolding.

Now at first, I bristled a bit at the Princess in the title. I couldn’t help think of spoiled, entitled and vapid divas-in-training who are obsessed with material items and think success should just be handed to them. Or misguided women who think taking selfies of their bottoms and posting them on Instagram should lead to fame and fortune instead of developing a talent or a skill.

And then I thought of Princess Leia from the iconic film series Star Wars, which shaped so many girls of my generation in positive way.

Fortunately, The Princess Guide to Life is more of the latter…and so much more.
The Princess Guide to Life is divided into several chapters on how to navigate our often befuddling and sometimes cruel world—personally, professionally and romantically. At the root at all of this is compassion; but just as all princesses exude compassion towards others, princesses most also show compassion towards themselves. Self-care, The Princess Guide to Life, reminds us is not selfish. It is anything but selfish.

After a brief introduction, Blythe offers sound, and often fun, advice, on how to Princess-up our lives whether it’s our personal fashion style, decorating our homes, nourishing our bodies or keeping our bodies fit. Blythe tells us Princesses follow their own instincts and preferences when honing our own unique style. Don’t blindly follow trends that don’t suit you. Yellow may be the on-trend color of the year, but if you’re more drawn to emerald green, then buy that emerald green clutch bag if that’s what you want.

A princess’s home is her castle, and we should also bring a unique sense of style to our abodes. Princesses make decorating choices that truly make their house a home, and also make visitors feel welcome.

When making food choices, princesses make smart, healthy and nutritious food choices, but an occasional indulgence is every princess’s right. And when it comes to exercise, princesses eschew the fitness regime du jour and choose workouts that suit their budget and bodies. For instance, if God intended me to run marathons, he’s put a TSE cashmere sweater at the finish line. I hate to run, but I could spend over an hour walking along Lake Michigan (fortunately I live only a few blocks away from the shores of Lake Michigan). I also love to dance, and a few years ago I discovered belly dancing. Belly dancing is truly empowering, and all women are beautiful when they belly dance.

Okay, the princess has taken care of her style, body and home. Now it’s time to craft the persona. Princesses never fail to remember their prestige as woman, being a lady is a good thing, the importance of maintaining a veil of mystery in a time of TMI, and how to network without being an obnoxious pain the arse. Princesses also know that one can be both a feminist and fully feminine. In the slightly altered words of the Helen Reddy classic, “I am woman ; hear me roar…now enjoy these sugar mint cookies I just made.”

In the stereotypical idea of a princess, awaits to be saved by Prince Charming. Well, in Blythe’s book a Princess adores a charming prince (or princess if that’s how she rolls) and saves her own damn self. A princess maintains her independence by honing her education, skills and experience via her career and strives to keep her finances fit as a fiddle.

But being a princess isn’t all work and no play. One of the most fun parts of The Princess Guide to Life is how we can use pop culture to further shape our lives. Blythe offers songs, movies, and books to suit every mood. Of course, Blythe’s picks are merely suggestions; they are not set in stone.

Finally, The Princess Guide to Life tells us of one particular day in the life of a princess and other princess-like ideas, advice, and suggestions to help us be the best we can be.

Not once while reading The Princess Guide did I feel like I was an ugly, stupid, lazy loser like most self-help books make me feel. Blythe’s book is fun, joyful and conveys a genuine sense of warmth and empathy for its reader. My copy is now dog-eared and covered in post-it notes so I can easily refer to Blythe’s comforting words of wisdom.

The Princess Guide to Life is the perfect tome and a very welcome addition to my book shelf. From the shores of Lake Michigan all the way to London, England, I’m sending Rosie Blythe royal wave of approval for writing a truly majestic labor of love.

Readin’, Writin’ and Rantin’: Penelope Trunk on the Death of David Goldberg

As many of you probably know, Dave Goldberg, husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, died quite suddenly in Mexico while working out on a treadmill. His death is a tragedy and I’m sure his family is deeply grieving. I can’t imagine what Ms. Sandberg, who also authored the hugely successful book “Lean-In” is going through. She, and her family, have nothing but my compassion and warm thoughts.

That been said, I am infuriated by so-called Career Guru, Homeschooling Expert, and Mommy Blogger, Penelope Trunk had to say about the this horrible news. In fact, I am filled with rage. After you read her remarks you will understand why:

Penelope Trunk Accuses Dave Goldberg of Committing Suicide

The lack of kindness, empathy, thoughtfulness, wisdom and compassion Trunk displays towards Mr. Goldberg and his wife, Sheryl Sandberg offends me to my very core. Trunk is so purely evil “Criminal Minds” could base an unsub on her.

I will probably have more on this once I calm down and can collect my thoughts. I know quite a bit on Trunk and how she influences people in a truly despicable way.