Book review: Paint it black/ Fitch, Janet

Paint It Black Paint It Black by Janet Fitch

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Set in 80's punk LA, Josie Tyrell struggles to come to grips with the suicide of her tortured, gifted, artistic boyfriend, Michael. Michael's mother, a world-renowned pianist, and Josie are simultaneously drawn to and repulsed by one another as both attempt to cling to the bits and pieces Michael has left behind. Gritty, very sex-drugs-and-rock-n'-roll, and filled with all sorts of Oedipal craziness, this proved to be quite a compelling read. I knocked off a star only because Josie's ruminations tend to be a bit long-winded and repetitive. Side note: I got to meet Janet Fitch at last year's Literary Orange and she's nothing short of amazing!

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Screaming into the void

That is what I feel like tonight as I sit here remembering my mother. It's been four months now since she passed away and the grief just comes out of nowhere and knocks me senseless. I must be senseless right now since I know my logical mind doesn't usually allow me to bare this much soul online.

I usually feel like I put up a very brave front -- few public tears, laughter as if nothing this sad and awful could possibly be happening to me. Some days I even wonder, "What's wrong with me? Am I done with the whole grieving thing? Wow, that was quick." But some nights, the sadness just comes barreling into me, making the tears fall like, well something poetically tragic that I just can't think of right now. No idea, really, what's triggered this current onslaught. A stroll through Lowe's yesterday afternoon in search of kitchen tile brought on tears as I hit the ridiculously gaudy Christmas section, a section I know my mom would've loved. Sometimes there's just this dull emptiness....

I'm so frustrated and even a little pissed off that I can't just pick the phone and call her anymore. Such a cliche, but all the little things I took for granted are the things I miss about her the most. Her calling, leaving message after message, wanting to talk to Koa on the phone even though all she'd do is stand there and nod. Knowing I could always get good parking when she was with me because of her handicap placard. I can't even begin to describe how angry I am at myself for not realizing how little time we had left.

Ah, enough for now. This crying jag has left me weary and my logical brain is telling me that it's way past my bedtime.


Book review: Hunger games/ Collins, Suzanne

The Hunger Games The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Since the death of her father, 16-year-old Katniss has been forced to hunt beyond the fences of District 12 to feed her mother and little sister. Despite being abjectly poor, Katniss finds solace in caring for her sister, Prim, and her friendship with Gale, a boy 2 years older and in similar circumstances. All that is stripped away by the Hunger Games. The Capitol, the authoritarian center of Panem (what's left of North America) keeps the Districts in line by forcing two teenagers from each District to compete in the annual Hunger Games, a media-frenzied gladiator-style tournament where there can only be one victor -- the last one alive. A bit 1984, a bit Blade Runner, and a bit Uglies, this one was so wonderfully suspenseful I couldn't put it down once I started. This one is a must-add to my list of best YA books.

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Book review: Brisingr/ Paolini, Christopher

Brisingr (Inheritance - Book 3) Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I still can't believe Paolini is so young! While a bit overwrought with the weapons/armor jargon (a D&D kid's dream!), this is still pretty masterful storytelling. Despite a bit of predictability, I was pretty much glued through all roughly 750 pages. Can't wait for the final installment.

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Pinoylife is back!

Yay, Moonie! So glad you're back:

Book review: The witch of Blackbird Pond/ Speare, Elizabeth George

The Witch of Blackbird Pond The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Although slow to start, but beautifully written, you can't help but wonder how newcomer Kit Tyler will fare in her Puritan uncle's household. Kit, arriving fresh off the boat from Barbados, is a colorful, tropical bird amongst a flock of brown sparrows and just doesn't get these uptight colonial New Englanders. In an act of teenage rebellion as well as a desire for friendship with a fellow outsider, Kit defies her uncle and befriends Hannah, Quaker and fabled "witch." As I was reading this, I thought to myself that if I had read this during middle school, I would've found American colonial life a whole darn lot more interesting!

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Book review: No more dead dogs/ Korman, Gordon

No More Dead Dogs No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I love Wallace Wallace -- goodhearted, honest football player -- the protagonist of this quite funny piece of kids' lit. Wallace, banned from football practice until he can write a more positive review of his English teacher's favorite book, is sentenced to attending rehearsal sessions for the school play which also happens to be based on said book. Rachel is the aspiring star actress and Julia Roberts pen pal who greatly resents his presence and subsequent script suggestions. While not completely realistic (I can't imagine that any English teacher would be this pathetic), this one's got lots of funny dialog and well-developed, likable characters.

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Book review: Life as we knew it/ Pfeffer, Susan

Life As We Knew It Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
Told in diary format, this is *ugh* teen angst meets apocalypse. Compelling in that you really do want to find out what happens to Miranda after life goes haywire in the aftermath of the moon getting knocked out of its orbit by an asteroid, but she is just so annoying and self-centered it drove me nuts. Lots of positive reviews, so perhaps it's just me that found her voice incredibly grating.

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Meeting Stephen Cannell

So this past weekend, instead of working I got to volunteer at Literary Orange, Orange County's premier author festival. It really was quite amazing, despite having any hopes of my ever being published absolutely crushed as I sat in on the "How To Get Published" panel discussion. I got to hear Janet Fitch (of White Oleander and Oprah fame) speak about rejections and writing and life in general, and eat some pretty fabulous food (white chocolate fondue with fresh berries + brownies = yum).

The highlight for me though was getting to meet Stephen Cannell, mystery writer, TV god, and creator of the "A-Team." For my brother and I, as quintessential children of the 80s, many a childhood hour was wasted watching BA, Hannibal, Faceman, and "Howling Mad" Murdoch, as well as other Cannell creations: Greatest American Hero, 21 Jump Street, Baa Baa Black Sheep. So as I'm watching Stephen talk about dyslexia and his fiction writing process (very similar to the way he would plot out his TV shows, he says), I text my brother, "at a talk w/ stephen cannell, creator of the ateam!!!!" He texts back, "get autograph pls!"

Now, at an author event the only courteous way you're going to get an autograph is to buy a book, which is of course the only reason authors even mingle with the masses at these things. I buy a paperback, as I've already plunked down $30 for Janet Fitch's Paint It Black and another earlier in the day. I write my brother's name on a little sticky note, affix it to the title page, and get in line. When I get to the front of the line, there's Stephen with his mirrored sunglasses (oh so Hollywood of him, since we are indoors) and his salt-and-pepper pompadour. I gush, quite embarrassingly, "My brother and I were HUGE A-Team fans!" Yeah, like he's never heard that before. Stephen says thanks, signs my book, and sends me on my way.

As I'm walking away, I take a moment to stop and read that title page. There in black ink it says, "To D-- I love it when a plan comes together. Stephen Cannell." Woo hoo! I honestly can't help but smile, as an image of my brother and I, laying on our stomachs on a heathered brown shag rug, eating Stouffer's frozen lasagna, and staring at that damn television, comes flooding back. Thanks for the memories, Stephen!


Diary of a paintball widow, part 1

Yes, I admit it. I mourn the loss of my dear husband every Sunday. One day a week, my husband leaves me to run around, shoot paint from a CO2-powered "marker", and slide around in mud with other boys (and some girls). He comes home at the end of the day smelling of sweat and sun and that mysterious paintball paint smell that's a cross between cow dung and crotch, so spotted with bruises he looks like he's half cheetah, yet invigorated from his adrenaline fix.

This past Sunday, I spent the latter half of the day at Huntington Beach -- not to frolic in the waves or sunbathe, but to watch him play amateur tournament paintball in the world's biggest paintball competition, the first event of the National Paintball Players League's (NPPL) Super 7 World Series of Paintball. A team member of his even got quoted in the OC Register. If you've never been to a paintball tournament before, it's definitely an odd sight to see -- a jumbled maze of three-story-high nets, vendor tents, and grandstands, music blaring, a million guys (fat, skinny, young, old, you name it) in motocross-like gear, and even the occasional paintball hootchie (just like at a car show!).

I did what I suppose all good paintball wives do: I hung out backstage in the player paddocks, watched from the sidelines (well, at least tried.... I have no idea what the hell I'm seeing 90% of the time), cheered his wins, gave him his space to lick his wounds after his losses, chatted with the other paintball wives about babies and fertility. I'm supportive, I have no desire to play the sport myself despite his urging, and I respect that this is his time to be athletic, be part of a team, and indulge in some quality testosterone time.

But, I would be lying if I said I didn't miss him those Sundays. As a working mom who works weekends and nights, family time is limited. For the first few years of his paintball "career", after I realized that this was more than just a passing fancy, as recreational play evolved into full-on team tournament play complete with names and nicknames on custom-made jerseys, we had a bit of turmoil. We engaged in more "Who do you love more, me or paintball?" arguments than I care to remember. I even admit that I relished the time he was injured and couldn't play for over half a year because it meant whole Sundays together.

However, it was during his time on the DL, that I also realized how unhappy he was without the camaraderie of his boys and his weekly muddy romp. Like any wife with a sports-obsessed husband, be it golf, or basketball, or other more traditional pastimes, I was jealous of what another paintball wife I talked to this weekend called "the other woman." What I've come to realize is that I need to accept the fact that this is what makes my man happy, and even a little bit healthier. He's a handsome, faithful, loving, attentive, and stable husband without a drug, alcohol, or porn addiction -- what more could a girl like me ask for in life? I finally realized (duh!) that instead of sulking and mourning every Sunday, I should be using this time to bond with my toddler, catch up with girlfriends, and shop for shoes without him looking over my shoulder and tormenting me with, "And why do you need another pair of black shoes?"

I suppose I finally have made my peace with my status as paintball widow. Sundays I can now handle with grace. One day a week is just fine. But, if that one day should somehow become two days.... Well, let's just hope, for his sake, that day never comes.