American Horror Stories: Part III

The best day (Friday) of the week is almost here.

Over the last few days I have posted books by Lisa Genova. As much as I love her books, if I think too much about them for extended periods of time, they really do scare me.

Health, or lack of it can be frightening. So many advancements have and are being made in the medical world, but there is still so far to go. Too many people are suffering from incurable diseases.

Today brings the spotlight to the fifth and most recently published book by Genova.

Every Note Played

Although I can relate more personally to Still Alice, which was featured in yesterday’s post, Every Note Played is not only her best book to date, but also her most terrifying.

I first received this book from Overdrive on my Kindle during the summer of 2018. I began reading it and about 20% in I had to stop.

I had no personal tie to this story and the disease it is about, but it was just too heavy for me at the time. Skip ahead to just a few months ago. I came across this book and thought, ok, I’m going to try again.

I finished it in record time and was horrified.

Every Note Played is about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. After reading this, there are no words to describe how disgustingly terrible this disease is.

This story follows Richard, who is a concert pianist who has performed the world over. His fingers are, “finely calibrated instruments” (book flap) that allow him to play with incredible deft and precision.

Richard’s right arm begins to feel weird and then his fingers, hand, and arm become paralyzed.

He is diagnosed with ALS.

After this he begins playing music written for just one hand, although knowing his left arm will follow the same suit as his right.

During the beginning of this story you learn that Richard wasn’t/isn’t necessarily the most likable person. Since his divorce (way prior to the diagnosis)he has become a very arrogant womanizer. He and his ex-wife Karina have a grown daughter who is away at college.

As Richard’s illness progresses, his doctor attempts to prepare him for what the future holds. ALS takes away all muscle control, putting a person in to a completely paralyzed state from head to toe. ALS even takes your voice. His doctor recommends making voice recordings for those he holds dear. Initially he sort of brushes it off. Even with his right arm paralyzed, the realty of what he is ultimately going to face takes time to set in-yet time is what he doesn’t have.

He has to order a specialized wheelchair that he can control with his mouth way before he needs it, his home which has stairs has to be sold. His career is gone. The things he held dear are slipping away at record speed.

While this is going on you learn more about Karina, and although she holds a lot of anger towards Richard, she is also still heartbroken over the divorce.

When Richard’s condition worsens he can no longer live alone. He has a home care worker who comes every day (this character is amazing and brings another layer of wonder and amazingness to this story), but is still in need of someone to live with him full-time. This is when Karina, despite her anger steps in and moves in with Richard.

Their relationship is intense and is a beautiful part of this, at many times, ugly story. Moving in and helping Richard is not something Karina wants to do even though she feels sorry that he has ALS. It’s a rocky combination to say the least, but Richard and Katrina grow incredibly alongside each other and also within themselves despite this terrible disease. Their story, along with the other characters make this one incredible book.

This story, if I could only pick one of Genova’s books, is the one I would recommend most to you. I think what bothers me most about ALS is that the mind is still aware of everything versus something like Alzheimer’s where the mind goes first (usually).

This book will break your heart, I promise. But I also promise you will learn (if you didn’t already know) so much about ALS and that knowledge cannot help but make you a more compassionate human being.

This world needs many things, and of kindness and compassion, there will never be enough.

“Every note played is a life and a death.” – Lisa Genova, Every Note Played

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American Horror Stories : Part II

Yesterday I began my week-long theme about books that terrify me.

This first week of October is dedicated to books by Lisa Genova. On Friday, (since I will have covered all of Genova’s books) I will post a book by another author who writes in a similar vein to Genova.

I’m not featuring the books in any particular order, but I am featuring the one that I liked/scared me the most on Thursday. Yesterday’s post featured Left Neglected and Love Anthony.

Leading off today is:

Inside the O’Briens

This story follows an Irish Catholic family living in Massachusetts. The father, Joe, is a policeman and is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease.

HD is a neurodegenerative disease. It has no treatment and no cure.

Joe begins having random outbursts, flares of temper, and random movements. He associates these to getting older and the stress of his job, but they are actually symptoms of HD.

Joe and his wife have four children. Two boys and two girls. Because Joe has HD, there is a 50% chance that each of his children will develop this disease. As if having the disease isn’t terrible enough, Joe struggles greatly knowing he is the source of where his children would acquire this disease from.

He struggles greatly with telling them. Upon knowing, each child has the choice to be tested to find out whether they carry this gene. Do you think you would want to find out if you has the choice? I feel like there are reasons for both.

Although this isn’t her most recent book, it’s the one I read most recently.

Genova writes with insight and great compassion. In the afterward section she talks about the individuals and families she worked along side with that were dealing with HD. Their lives and deaths allowed her writing and subsequently our reading to be only that much more of an authentic experience.

Next up:

Still Alice

Still Alice is one of Genova’s most popular books and was my introduction to her. She self-published this book in 2007 and after gaining such popularity it was picked up by Simon and Schuster.

This is the story of Harvard Professor Alice Howland, who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

This story hit very close to home at a time when I needed to read it most. I do plan to write and share more with you all about this at a later date.

This is the the only book that has brought tears to my eyes in as long as I can remember. I highly recommend this book. If you have dealt at all with Alzheimer’s up close and personal, the very last part of this book cuts like a knife.

I could say a million cliched things about the horrors of Alzheimer’s, but the simple fact is that it robs people of ultimately everything they ever held dear. The only reprise (if it can be called that) is that the surrounding loved ones still know the soul who is tangled beneath this disease.

There is nothing to say except to love and hug harder those who you have been blessed to spend this life with.

Until tomorrow.

I had multiple favorite quotes from Still Alice:

“You’re so beautiful,” said Alice. “I’m afraid of looking at you and not knowing who you are.”
“I think that even if you don’t know who I am someday, you’ll still know that I love you.”
“What if I see you, and I don’t know that you’re my daughter, and I don’t know that you love me?”
“Then, I’ll tell you that I do, and you’ll believe me. –Still Alice

“And I have no control over which yesterdays I keep and which ones get deleted. This disease will not be bargained with.” –Still Alice

“My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment. Some tomorrow soon, I’ll forget that I stood before you and gave this speech. But just because I’ll forget it some tomorrow doesn’t mean that I didn’t live every second of it today. I will forget today, but that doesn’t mean that today didn’t matter.” – Still Alice

Taylor Swift Is 22, But She’s Immortal, So There’s That

Did you just read the title and think, wait, what blog am I reading ?

Also,

Did you know Taylor Swift is immortal? I totally did not.

You’re at the right blog, keep reading.

Another question. What makes you keep a book versus giving it away or trading it at a used book shop? Are there certain authors or editions you automatically hold on to? Do you keep books for sentimental purposes? Just because someone gives me a book doesn’t necessarily mean I will keep it forever. I don’t mean that harshly at all, I promise. I have limited book shelf space, as we all do. Most likely if I loved the book, no matter who gave it to me, I will hang on to it. If I love it and someone I love gave it to me-there’s no question, that book has a permanent home. But what if the book kind of stinks, but someone I love or think highly of gave it to me- then what?

PS. I’ll get back to TSwift in a minute.

Well I would most likely give the stinky book away. So, now answer this, what if that stinky book has a a lovely tribute written to you inside the cover by the said gift giver?

Now what? Would you keep it? I’m not a complete heartless-a$$hat, I’d keep it, just so you know. However, to (maybe) contradict what I just said, one time I did give away a book that was truly stinky. There wasn’t a heartfelt tribute written, but there was a “To _____ “ and then “From______.” Before I put it in my used book trade stack, I did Sharpie the whole to/from thing out, so that sort of doesn’t count, right?

But what if you received a book and this was written inside?

This is the message:

“Camille, Happy Birthday! Now you are twenty-two, like Taylor Swift is (I don’t think T. Swift is still 22, but she is immortal, so there’s that.) I think I might be incapable of giving gifts that aren’t books* but this book is really excellent and I think you’d like it. I hope you enjoy it.

Jim

*I feel like this, more than any other factor, is going to scupper my bid to be a “cool uncle” but what can you do?“

Note: I had never heard of the word, scupper, so I had to look it up. It means: to thwart.

So my dears, have you figured out where TSwift comes in? It’s all coming together now, isn’t it? Except now we also know that Camille is a jerk. Poor Uncle Jim was right, his gift truly did scupper his bid to become the cool uncle, because his thoughtful gift was given away by the unthoughtful Camille.

If someone had taken the time to write that sweet note and tell me that TSwift is immortal, that would equal an instant keeper in my book (even if Uncle Jim was kind of lame). But Camille has no heart, apparently.

Regarding the book in question, There But For The by Ali Smith, I have not read it, but I want to (and not just because of this whole Camille/Jim fiasco). Below is the Amazon synopsis:

• At a dinner party in the posh London suburb of Greenwich, Miles Garth suddenly leaves the table midway through the meal, locks himself in an upstairs room, and refuses to leave. An eclectic group of neighbors and friends slowly gathers around the house, and the story of Miles is one told from the points of view of four of them: a woman in her 40s called Anna, a man in his 60s called Mark, a woman in her 80s called May, and a 10-year-old child called Brooke. The thing is… none of these people knows Miles anything more than glancingly. So how much is it possible to know about a stranger? And what are the consequences of even the most casual, most fleeting meetings we have every day with other human beings? •

The only other Ali Smith I have on my shelf is, How To Be Both. I’ve yet to read it, but it was a gift from my brother. He rarely gives me books, so this is definitely a keeper. Sadly, there’s no tribute to TSwift written inside.

Happy Monday, Bookworms.

“When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue, you give him the possibility of a whole new world.” —Christopher Marley

Read With The Safety Turned Off

I have a bone to pick.

In a conversation not long ago the subject of trigger warnings arose.

If you aren’t familiar, trigger warnings are warnings that give you a “heads-up” as to what a book contains. These triggers are things or subjects that may upset or possibly offend a perspective reader.

Now before you jump all over me, let me state a partial exception – books for children. I understand that books may contain subject matter that you feel is too mature in content or language. I understand these concerns and they are definitely valid. The reason I stated this exception as only partial is this: if your child is at the skill level to read books that contain more mature content (that you feel they may not be ready for), there is a chance that they may be able to also readily discuss these subjects with you on a more mature level. You may not be ready for these conversations, but these books may be the perfect avenue for some authentically great communication that might not otherwise have come up either at all or not until much later. Every parent obviously makes the call here, and these are just my own thoughts.

Now that all of that has been said, the rest of this post pertains to adults.

The back of a book or the cover flap of a dust jacket is where a book synopsis is typically found. Other times, you may go online to places like Goodreads or Amazon to find this information. Another source may be a friend who tells you about it and follows up with a “must-read”, a “steer clear”, or somewhere in the middle.

To me, the above options are plenty. There have even been times when I pick up a book without reading any kind of synopsis, just for the heck of it.

Honestly I had never even heard of trigger warnings for books until the aforementioned conversation. Now I feel like I am seeing more and more books or posts prefaced by these.

Have we become so worried that someone will be offended or upset by a book that specific details have to be spelled out? I do understand that life sometimes deals a raw hand and maybe you are dealing with something horrible. And maybe you don’t or aren’t ready to read something because it’s a little too close to home-but that’s what book friends are for. They are the absolute perfect source to say, “Hey, you may want to skip over that for now or forever.” What’s not perfect is assuming the masses want that labeled across everything they read. Not to say something of the sordid or intense in nature is a spoiler, but in a way, it sort of is. And we all know that spoilers tend to piss people off.

So the books in the picture, Gone With the Wind, Lolita, Lonesome Dove, and The Prince of Tides deal with some pretty heavy subjects. But I can read the back and get a pretty good idea of whether or not I want to read it or not.

Lonesome Dove is an old western. It goes without saying, or at least I thought it did that Indians and Mexicans will probably be referred to in negative ways. Does it make it right, no, of course not. On the same note, am I offended by it, should I be? No and no. It’s a book. Stop taking everything personal or as if you have a personal stake in it all. You don’t, none of us do. These references were true to the time they were written in, therefore since LD is more or less realistic fiction they should rightfully be there. It’s part of history whether you like it or not, not whether you are offended or not.

We as readers are some of the most open-minded people, and because of this it amazes me that trigger warnings are a thing. That labels have to further specify what the synopsis apparently did not do a good enough job of. Read with abandon, read to gain insight and knowledge, read to understand change or to make change happen. But read the book and then decide, don’t let a label cheat you out of what could be something great.

We don’t need labels or warnings to assume we are going to be upset or offended by every blessed thing. We are adults and we don’t reside in bubbles. We aren’t made of glass and our minds are usually pretty discerning, so remember that next time you see a trigger warning. Skip over it and let your own beautiful mind decide and then let that be enough.

“If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.” – Sherman Alexie

Forever Fall & Forever Friday Please

Dear Bookworms,

Today was beautiful and because it’s Friday, well that’s just the icing on the cake.

It was so beautiful that it almost made me sad. Fall does not ever last long enough in my humble opinion.

If it could just be forever fall and forever Friday.

If you are new to my blog, on Fridays, along with book stuff I also post about dessert and wine. So now that you are caught up, let’s go!

The Book:

Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen was first introduced to me by a girl in my bookclub. She raved and raved about it so I went to Overdrive (free library app for e books for my Kindle) to put it on hold. As amazing as Overdrive is, it didn’t have Harry’s Trees in its collection yet, so my only choice was to put it on their recommendation list. Usually my library is pretty good about buying recommend books, it’s just sometimes you’ve got to be a little patient.

A few weeks later, translating: last week, I went to the library looking for a different book. I found what I was looking for and was on my way out, when Harry’s Trees about hit me in the face! The cover is so darn beautiful too, and I’m a sucker for a stunning cover. I added HT to my bundle and headed home.

Of course I’m reading a million other books and truthfully I did not open HT for at least four days after checking it out.

But it’s just so pretty, that it simply begs to be opened.

So I opened it and started reading it. I know, I know, I should’ve stopped, but my will power is complete crap when it comes to books. I’m just a few chapters in and so far, so good. Below is the Amazon synopsis:

• Thirty-four-year-old Harry Crane works as an analyst for the US Forest Service. When his wife dies suddenly, he is unable to cope. Leaving his job and his old life behind, Harry makes his way to the remote woods of northeastern Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains, determined to lose himself. But fate intervenes in the form of a fiercely determined young girl named Oriana. She and her mother, Amanda, are struggling to pick up the pieces from their own tragedy – Amanda stoically holding it together while Oriana roams the forest searching for answers. And in Oriana’s magical, willful mind, she believes that Harry is the key to righting her world.

Now it’s time for Harry to let go….

After taking up residence in the woods behind Amanda’s house, Harry reluctantly agrees to help Oriana in a ludicrous scheme to escape his tragic past. In so doing, the unlikeliest of elements – a wolf, a stash of gold coins, a fairy tale called The Grum’s Ledger and a wise old librarian named Olive – come together to create a golden adventure that will fulfill Oriana’s wildest dreams and open Harry’s heart to a whole new life •

So what do you think? Have you read it? Let me know your thoughts.

The Dessert:

These are Almond Butter Blondies. What makes them so amazing besides being low sugar (low carb) is the key ingredient. I use Trader Joe’s Almond Butter and it makes them nothing short of phenomenal. A friend of mine figured this out when she was experimenting with the recipe one day. On my next trip to the grocery store I grabbed some random jar of almond butter. They were good, but they weren’t what my friend had made. The skeptic that I can be (and totally not doubting my friend) was thinking how can one almond butter be so drastically different from another. The other reason, the closest Trader Joe’s is an hour from me. And you can’t order it online unless you want to get ripped an new one by some price gouger on Amazon selling it for $14 a jar (normally it’s $5 something a jar at TJ’s). So now when I make the trek to TJ’s I buy it in obsessive amounts-as in nine or so jars. If you were eating these right now, you’d understand.

The Wine:

This is my first time trying Crushed. It’s a red blend from California. It’s good, pretty smooth and somewhat dry. No complaints for under $10 and a screw off top.

So there you have it, my dears. Another Friday post for the books, or the blog? I don’t know how the saying goes, just go with it and have another glass.

Cheers.

“I think books are like people, in the sense that they’ll turn up in your life when you most need them.” – Emma Thompson

Weekly Goal: Low-Key Decadence

Good morning.

The hours of Friday have spilled nicely in to Saturday. Because The Goldfinch was released in theaters yesterday, I traded my normal Friday post of books, dessert, and wine to talk about that.

But in my thinking, it just wouldn’t be the same without including some kind of post featuring my favorite trifecta, so here we are.

If not fancy, then decadent is the feeling of a Friday night. Saturdays on the other hand, especially the morning, feel more low key. So—can you be decadent and low key? Yes, you absolutely can, in fact that’s my preference. I am not a fancy person. Brontë has more fancy-ness in her front paws than I could ever have, even if I tried every day for the rest of my life. Her fancy-ness always seems to add a little something to the mix, so she too, is a key ingredient to many of my photos on here. She ups my game (if I have a game?) a bit, maybe she appeals to literary snobs, while my twist-off bottles of wine appeals to the simpletons?

The Book

The Hours by Michael Cunningham, like The Goldfinch (of yesterday’s post) was made in to a movie (interesting tidbit-both films feature Nicole Kidman), and both books won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction—1999 and 2013, respectively. If you are at all familiar with this blog, then you may know I have mixed feelings about books that win prizes. So it surprises me a little that for two days in a row I have posted two award-winning books. If you want to read the original post about my thoughts regarding Pulitzer winners, the link is below. If not, scroll past and move on, no judgement.

https://themostconstant.com/2019/08/14/a-diner-coffee-rings-and-the-pulitzer/

Unlike The Goldfinch, I have not read The Hours, but it is a book that has interested me for awhile, because part of its premise is the book in its entirety takes place over the course of one day. One of the characters is the lovely Virginia Woolf, who’s book, Mrs. Dalloway also takes place over the course of a day. The Hours, unlike TG is much shorter in length, 239 pages versus 760. I think it would be fun and quite fitting to read The Hours over the course of one day.

Below is the Amazon synopsis:

The Hours tells the story of three women: Virginia Woolf, beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway as she recuperates in a London suburb with her husband in 1923; Clarissa Vaughan, beloved friend of an acclaimed poet dying from AIDS, who in modern-day New York is planning a party in his honor; and Laura Brown, in a 1949 Los Angeles suburb, who slowly begins to feel the constraints of a perfect family and home. By the end of the novel, these three stories intertwine in remarkable ways, and finally come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace • Side note, the main character in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is named Clarissa.

Doesn’t it sound interesting? Not exactly a short story because of its length, but a story written over a short time period, while covering different short time periods, and can ultimately be read in a *short amount of time. Kind of a conundrum.

* Please excuse the excessive use of the word short in the above paragraph.

Ok, book covered, on to the dessert and wine.

The Dessert

My aim is to make something homemade every Friday to enjoy over the weekend, but that doesn’t always happen. This week was good, but was a little busier than normal. One of my go-to’s in an event such as this, because forgoing dessert is not an option, is #Lily’s chocolate. If you live in a larger city Lily’s is most likely readily available. I do not and up until recently I had to travel an hour or order online. It has finally made the trek from the olden days to 2019, probably in a covered wagon to a few of our local grocery stores—my heart was singing upon its arrival. There are several varieties, including milk chocolate, dark chocolate, with nuts, without, some with coconut, and even baking chips. The beauty of Lily’s are the ingredients and taste. You should know by now that I eat low carb, which massively cuts my sugar intake and therefore my craving. In addition, Lily’s uses stevia and erythritol and no maltitol. This is major because ingesting maltitol OFTEN causes EXPLOSIVE 🧨 reactions in the bathroom 🚽 (unless you are like my friend J, who has a stomach and intestines made at least partially of steel, which I am jealous of). This chocolate costs a little more than regular chocolate, but is well worth it in my opinion.

(Moving on from the Lily’s Public Service Announcement to wine)

The Wine

This week I am back to featuring #JamJar’s sweet Shiraz. It originated from South Africa and is one of my favorite things. It’s inexpensive, around $10-12, and can be found easily, and has *no need for a corkscrew.

*If that fact, and that I drink it over ice makes me a redneck, so be it.

This is how you open Jam Jar
A. in the wild
B. If you don’t have hands
C. If you are lazy (like Brontë)

Happy weekend, Bookworms!

Sincerely,

tmc

“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” – Jacqueline Kelly

The Goldfinch & Other Tartt Art

Today is two fun things.

1. It’s Friday!

2. The Goldfinch movie, based upon Donna Tartt’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning book by the same name, is released in theaters.

Most of you, I’m sure are familiar with Donna Tartt, or at least with her books.

Her three fiction novels are The Secret History, The Little Friend, and The Goldfinch. All are lengthy novels, each coming in at over 500 pages, and The Goldfinch coming in at over 700 pages.

Tartt’s novels are each unique, I would in fact say their length would be the only thing they have in common. There are several authors, in my opinion that seem to have a formula for writing books. Their books have very similar plots or storylines and occasionally their characters have similar qualities. This obviously works for them-yes, Nicholas Sparks I’m talking about you and your books that mostly all take place in North Carolina, someone named Cody (or other name in the same vein), and someone finding or losing a letter.

Anyway.

All that being said, because Tartt’s books really stand apart, most people have a definite favorite. I like and have read all three, but hands down, my favorite is The Goldfinch. Do you have a favorite? One thing I have often heard about her books are that they could be cut down a bit in length— what do you think? Although I liked it, The Secret History is my least favorite and I do feel it was a little wordy. But it’s a great book—I promise, you should read it, as well as her other two if you haven’t.

I’m somehow rarely get the chance to see movies, but I do hope to see The Goldfinch at some point.

Fun Fact:

Donna Tartt and author Bret Easton Ellis (author of American Psycho and other books) became friends in college when they both attended Bennington College in Vermont. Also there is a ten year gap between each of her books, technically eleven between The Little Friend and The Goldfinch. Maybe thats how long it takes to write that many words? Just a thought 💭

I hope all of you bookworms have a wonderful Friday and perhaps some of you are going to see The Goldfinch? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Sincerely,

tmc

To understand the world at all, sometimes you could only focus on a tiny bit of it, look very hard at what was close to hand and make it stand in for the whole;

Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch