Wednesday, April 28, 2010

One of the Best Sounds in the World

Tonight I was warming up my supper while my mom was putting Gigi to sleep. From the kitchen I could hear them. The nightly ritual is as follows: a book or two or three or four, prayers, and then a couple songs.

One of Gigi's favorites is "Itsy Bitsy Spider" mostly because of the part where the rain washes the spider out of the water spout. Tonight I could hear her singing that song and being all dramatic during that part and I loved it. It put a smile on my face.

I'm going to have to record her singing sometime soon so that it can be shared with the world!

Sunday, April 25, 2010


This book took me awhile to get through and I couldn't figure out why. The story is very touching and, at first, I thought it would be hard to read about death and such for obvious reasons. There was a chapter wherein Bernice, the mother, talks about losing her daughter and I got a little teary-eyed I'm not ashamed to admit.

By the end of the book, I was really attached to the characters and that is a sign of a good writer. If you can make your reader care then you're golden. While the plotline of this book itself is not all that exciting, it is the relationships between the people that really makes it a novel worth reading.

Alex Voorman

Alex is probably my favorite character in the novel simply because he seems to react to the whole thing so humanly. His wife decides to be an organ donor and then, when she dies, he okays the harvesting of her organs. That, in itself, would be tough enough. But then that is prolonged by Bernice, who wants to meet the woman who got her daughter's heart, and Janet, who actually got the heart, and Jasper, the one who hit Alex's wife and killed her. While some of his reactions seem childish and whatever, I definitely think more people would react like him than Bernice.

Now that I'm going through this as I am I wonder if Stephen Lovely meant to create such foils between Bernice and Alex. Yes, the tension between them is there because they both have different ideas in mind about how to react to Janet but, looking at them figuratively, they are direct opposites of each other and, therefore represent the different choices one could make in their situation. You could be like Alex and try to pretend that your loved one's heart isn't out there beating in someone else's chest. Or you could be like Bernice and accept it and want to meet the recipient. I guess it's all a matter of perspective.


Bernice is a lonely older woman who finds comfort in Alex because he is a part of Isabel, her daughter. I was moved, as I said before, when she tells so succinctly about her loss. In her I see a woman who is searching for any remnant of the things that have been taken from her. A woman desperately clinging to normalcy. She finds this in an odd way. Lotta, Janet's mother, contacts her and they communicate via email constantly. To Bernice, this is something she has to do.

Janet Corcoran

Part of the beauty of this story is that it tells both sides of the story: the donor's family and the recipient's family. I had never thought about how people waiting for organ transplants could begin wishing for a tragedy so they could receive their needed organ. And I had not understood how, with heart transplants, the heart is denervated (sp?) so it's really not as fully connected as a heart you are born with. I guess it sense.

Janet is a pretty likable character although it seems like she just lets things happen to her. She seems like a victim in more ways than one. At the end, however, she gives some great words of wisdom with Alex and Bernice. Her husband leaves her (spoiler, sorry) but she remains strong. She's a very interesting character because she manages to be both vulnerable and strong at the same time.


Jasper is the antagonist which is an interesting move on Stephen Lovely's part. I had hoped that he would make Jasper less crazy, weird, and intense and a little more sympathetic. At first that was where I thought he was going. Maybe he realized that it would be hard to get his readers to sympathize with someone who drove a little recklessly and accidentally hit a woman on a bike and killed her. Whatever the reasoning behind making Jasper the antagonist, I think it was handled really well.

Isabel Voorman

While she only appears in the prologue, alive, Isabel is a huge part of the book. She is an underlying current beneath it all, forcing the people's lives together. It really is quite remarkable how one person can affect so many lives even after death.

With that being said, let's talk about the relationships in the book.

Bernice/Alex: I like that they rely so much on each other and have become such good friends. Neither of them really have anyone else to keep them company. Part of Alex feels obligated to be around Bernice and to take care of her but, at some point, he realizes that he really does value their friendship. Ok, here's a little spoiler so beware. At the end of the book there is a scene in which these two kiss. While the chemistry was there before, I tried to ignore it because it made no sense to me. I thought I was just reading into things. But no. This scene came out of nowhere yet it made sense at the same time. I just did not understand why it was necessary because right after it just kinda got blown off.

Jasper/Alex: Very nice conflict of course. A good tension exists between them. It's interesting how Jasper thinks that Alex will accept him and want to be friends with the man responsible for his wife's death. Even if it was an accident it just seems wrong.

Jasper/Janet: While they don't meet until the very end, at the climax of the book, it seems like Stephen Lovely wanted to make it seem like Janet would accept Jasper. When they finally do meet it is quite the opposite and that is a great scene. I respected Janet more by the end of that thing. And the beautiful thing that came out of it was:

Alex/Janet: After Jasper confronts Janet, Alex saves her (spoiler, again, I'm sorry) and, from then on, their relationship changes. He no longer seems to resent Janet for what she represents but sees her as a real person who just so happens to have his wife's heart inside her chest. A beautiful part of the story is when Janet allows him to listen to the heart. Although it is sort of weird, I can see why it's such a poignant thing to him.

Ok. I am being really longwinded on this review. Speaking of longwinded. Let's talk about Lovely's writing. It is really heavy on exposition and not so much on dialogue. You get a lot of details that don't really seem all that necessary. I still have yet to figure out why I needed to know what they ate at dinner and all that. If you just flip through the book you can see the thick paragraphs and the lack of dialogue. It is daunting but really Lovely is able to write deftly enough that it isn't too sluggish. There are parts I began skimming simply because I just wanted to move on to the next scene.

His details, however, are beautifully written. There are some great metaphors. At some point he likens something to dolphin skin which is quite original. The way he describes people and places does not come off as overtly descriptive and mundane but seem to flow together. And he does all of this in present progressive which is really impressive. Kudos to you, Mr. Lovely!

That being said, Lovely's dialogue, when it is there, sparkles. I wanted more dialogue because it flowed so naturally and really showed the relationships more than the telling.

Now that I've filled you with all of that, go read the book. It's worth the read because of its study on human nature. I give it a 4.5 out of 5 licorice sticks.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dream into Novel


I've taken time off Shepherd of the Damned...


Chip away at another novel...

I'm crazy.

I actually wasn't going to do this at all. Wasn't even going to touch writing for a few weeks. Let things percolate.

But this idea has been bugging me for awhile. Maybe that's why I've been so stagnant with SotD.

This project is currently untitled and I'm okay with that which is odd for me. I'm getting closer to figuring out a title...I think...but for now...we'll just call it Jake's Untitiled Dream Book.

Background on the conception of this idea:

I had a dream.

Wrote it down in my little notebook. Quickly scribbled down some scenes in my computer.

Had another dream featuring the same characters.

That has never happened to me before. Weird.

Brief plot synopsis so far:

It's a post-apocalyptic world in which mankind has rebuilt a society that has reverted to a civil barbarism like that of the gladiators. High school-aged teens are either Scholars or Athletes. The Athletes are put in a series of games in which they are supposed to play to the death. If they win, they go on to the next match. If they lose, they are executed.

The story follows three Athletes: Zephyr, Skye, and Cobalt.

As of yet I'm still not sure about specifics in the plot. I'm still working on that.

A brief intro to the characters:


This is Burak Ozcivit: the face for Zephyr. Thus far, he is a kid trying to live up to the name of his ancestor, John 'Revenant' Bullock who saved the world from utter destruction. No pressure.


Penn Badgley is a good face for Cobalt. He is the son of the principal at his school. The principal is basically like the mayor of a city in this world. As star athlete he has pressure but eventually he is supposed to prepare to take over as principal in his dad's shoes.


Skye is team captain and must lead his team to victory every game or else they will all be sentenced to death. This is Chris Pine who would be a good Skye.


This is Lea Michele from Glee. Peridot is Cobalt's sister who is left at the School as a Scholar. She is at the top of her game and may or may not be in love with Skye, her older brother's boorish friend.


Lark Germaine is Peridot's BFF. They soon find that the possibility of death is just as probable at the School as it is for the Athletes.


Sam Worthington, of Avatar, is a good face for Pelias Harper, the coach who has his own dark past as an Athlete.


Johnny Depp as the main villain. Could it get any better than that? Kingfreak is an unofficial name. I like it, but I may have to change it.


Yes, that's Nicole Kidman with black hair. Looks great. And it's the perfect look for Zayza who is another villain in the story.

There are a few more characters but I should probably just leave it at that. That's a good enough little teaser for you. It's been nice to focus on something else. No worries, though, SotD is still going to happen. I've just put it on hold for awhile so I can return to it with a fresh perspective. For now, I am going to let this other project have its time to shine.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I wish I were more photogenic. Oh well.

I took this quick webcam photo because Mike and Liza on the morning radio show are doing a little promo for tolerance and peace in Eastern Idaho. After hearing about rocks being thrown through windows of LDS churches just a few miles south of where I live and also so Aryan Nation campaigning going on in Pocatello I thought I'd join in.

So here is my peace sign, world!

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Chillin' with the Phoebster. Why am I sticking out my tongue? I have no idea.

This is an older picture of a drive Phoebe and I took together up in the dry farms by Rexburg.

I now have full custody of my car, Phoebe!

That is right, my friends, all that beautiful piece of sexy white Toyota Corolla-S is mine!

Technically this post isn't all that late because I actually just got my title in the mail the other day. So we'll just go with that.

I used my tax refund to pay for the rest of her which means I will be able to save some more money (but I had better stay away from Barnes & Noble for awhile).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Riddle Me This

Ok, ladies out there...

Riddle me this:

A guy asks if you want to go out sometime. He's clearly nervous. So you say "Yeah sure." Then he gets your number while making an awkward joke about how it's a good idea to have a number if he wants to call you.

He calls you the next night. You don't answer. He leaves a message. Slightly less awkward but still sounds nervous. In the message he says "I will call you another time."

The next day he calls again. Another message. This time a little more relaxed and less awkward. Again, in this message he tells you that he will try again another time."

It's a Saturday. He calls you again in the afternoon, obviously trying different times of the day to see if you're available. This time, at the end of the message, he tells you that, if you want, you can call him after a certain time and he will be available.

That night you don't call.


Is it so much to ask for common courtesy of "Thanks, but no thanks..."? I put myself out there by asking for the number. If you're not interested I will respect you more if you say "No" than if you say "Yeah" and then don't respond when I call.

THIS, my friends, is why I don't date.

So if anybody has any light they can shed on this I'd be glad to know.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Alchemist

Sometimes there are books that just keep popping up out of nowhere. Every time I went to Barnes and Noble I looked at The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, knowing that it was a contemporary classic that several people I know had read. My mom, for the past few months, had (probably unknowingly) mentioned it several times. So I finally relented. Not that I had any good reason not to read it. I wanted to read it, really.

It's a really short read and it actually reads like a fable or a parable. The main character's name is only given at the very beginning and then he is referred to as "the boy." I'm still trying to figure out the significance of that.

For this review, I'm just going to share some gems I found in the book. But, before I do that, I should explain my reasoning behind this tactic.

Throughout the story are stories within the main story which is quite a remarkable feat simply because of the shortness of the main story. One of the stories within the story is about a young man who wants to learn the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world. Once he finally meets the wisest man he is told to carry a spoonful of oil through a beautiful castle without spilling a drop. The young man does as he is told and returns to the wise man without a drop of oil spilled. When the wise man asks the young man about the beautiful tapestries in the castle he cannot answer because he did not see them. He had been too preoccupied with the oil on his spoon (I have oversimplified the story and told it not-so-prettily. If you want the pretty version, read the book!).

Coelho set up the book in an interesting way. He has set up little gems nestled beautifully within the words of the story. However, if, like the young man with the oil on his spoon, you get too carried away with technicalities or if you're not paying attention, you will miss these gems completely. It is a master of the writing art that can pull off such a feat.

So here are some of the gems I found:

"What's the world's greatest lie?" the boy asked, completely surprised.
"It's this: That at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That's the world's greatest lie (18)."

"He still had some doubts about the decision he had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision (68)."

"The wise men understood that this natural world is only an image and a copy of paradise. The existence of this world is simply a guarantee that there exists a world that is perfect. God created the world so that, through its visible objects, men could understand his spiritual teachings and the marvels of his wisdom. That's what I mean by action (127)."

"...all you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation (127)."

"You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it's better to listen to what it has to say. That way, you'll never have to fear an unanticipated blow (129)."

"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity (130)."

"Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him," his heart said. "We, people's hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them. We speak of them only to children. Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate. But, unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out for them---the path to their Personal Legends, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.

"So, we, their hearts, speak more and more softly. We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won't be heard: we don't want people to suffer because they don't follow their hearts (131)."

Those are only a handful of the beautiful gems of wisdom in this story. Very few books are life-changing or have the ability to alter your perception on things around you, but this one is definitely one of them.

I give it five out of five salmon patties. Go read it!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bitsy Boodle

Don't ask why my family has to give weird nicknames to people. It's just a weird and endearing (sometimes) quirk.

Giselle's nicknames are as follows:

Gigi (obviously)
Bitsy Boodle
Little Monster
Gigi Bottoms

I'm sure there will be more but that is a lot of nicknames for a two and a half year old.

Tonight I was playing with Gigi. At one point I had her wrapped up in a blanket and I was twirling her around while she was cocooned in said blanket. It was fun but I was worried that I would accidentally let go of the blanket and she'd go flying out. That would not be good.

Another moment tonight made me laugh pretty hard. Gigi likes to make beds out of whatever she can find: pillows, blankets, cushions, etc. Tonight I was sprawled out on the floor after twirling Gigi (it's hard work!) and she lay down next to me, putting her head on a pillow. I did not have a pillow but I was just catching my breath.

Gigi: You don't have a pillow! (She said this as if it were the greatest catastrophe since...MC Hammer pants.)

Me: I don't. I'm okay though.

Gigi: I'll get you a pillow.

Me: Okay. (I think I may have closed my eyes.)

It got quiet and then I heard the Little Monster approaching.

Gigi: Here's your PILLOW! (I opened my eyes to see Gigi standing above me with the pillow raised high above her head and then it came crashing down onto my face. Not only did she throw the pillow at me but she proceeded to press it into my face, giggling the whole time. I was laughing too.)

I just realized that all of that could be misconstrued as Gigi having killer instincts. Literally. But she was just being funny.

That and this next part were the best moments of tonight.

Gigi loves, loves, loves to sneak up on people and scare them with a big RARRRRR! All you have to do is start whispering to her all conspiratorially and say "Let's sneak up on Mom!" and she's all for it.

So we did. We sneaked up on my mom while she was cooking dinner. It was awesome. One of the sad things about this is that I got as much thrill out of it as Gigi did (possibly). The other sad part is that my parents have become desensitized to being sneaked up on and scared taking most of the fun out of it.

Oh! Another part that was fun:

I buried Gigi in pillows and had her wait til I said "Where's Gigi?" at which point she was supposed to bust out of her downy bonds and scare my parents. It failed miserably because my dad said the magic words before I did.

Oh well. There's always next time.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Things That Keep Us Here

When I go to Barnes and Noble I love to peruse the new author section. Part of me visualizes my own book being there someday. The danger of this section is that the books usually look really good and there is a bigger risk of not-so-good books. I've had some victories and good finds in this section, but I've also found some real duds.

To look at the cover of Carla Buckley's The Things That Keep Us Here you would think it was a novel Jodi Picoult would have written. It definitely has a Picoultian (huh. She'd be proud to know someone put an -ian after her name. That's when you know you've hit the big time as a writer. ha!) look to it. I read the synopsis and I became intrigued because it sounded like it focused more on the relationships than on the tragedy going on around them.

Here's a brief summary of the story: Peter and Ann have a rocky marriage. Peter is a dork and says he can't be with her and their two daughters anymore (Right from the beginning I hate Peter because of this). Peter researches migratory bird patterns. An avian flu strikes America with a vengeance. Peter and his beautiful assistant, Shazia, are forced to take shelter with Ann and the two girls while the world falls into chaos outside the walls of their home. Suddenly Ann and Peter don't know who to trust. It's a story of basic human survival, human nature, and familial relationships.

It took me awhile to get used to Buckley's sparse writing that hints at naturalism and some sort of stream of consciousness. Really, it is quite good. It takes talent to give only certain details and still be able to pull out the story. Once I got used to her writing I enjoyed it.

Then things got a little predictable. I knew Ann's friend, Libby, would end up being an antagonist later on in the story. Something about the way she acted I knew Libby was not going to be a strong enough character to make it through the oncoming pandemic. That being said, there is a scene in which Libby and her husband Smith fight in the driveway. This fight seems to be a crucial point in the story but it never gets addressed afterward. That bugged me.

Ok. Now I'm going to address the characters.

Ann is by far the best character. She is the driving force that gets things done when the crap hits the fan. Her motherly instincts kick in and she finds she is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her family from the viral onslaught or any other force out there. In fact, I like her better when she's not with Peter. I don't know if Buckley did that on purpose.

Peter drives me nuts. He separates himself from his family, shirks his responsibilities as a husband and father to study birds. Wow. What an idiot. By the end of the story I do like him though.


Ok. So. Peter and Ann do get back together. The whole story is revolved around their relationship. And then Buckley does something really cruel. She kills off Peter. I was so ticked at that. After that I ended up skimming the rest of the story because I lost interest. Granted, I never liked Peter, but I didn't want Ann to suffer more than she had to. She lost a baby, her best friend (she "betrays" Libby and won't let her inside the house when Ann knows Libby is sick), her kids hate her, and she loses her husband not once but twice. (Are you seeing the naturalism here? The characters never catch a break. Especially Ann.)

There are some cool things in the story. The avian flu soon symbolizes the chasm, the wedge that drives us apart from each other. In Peter and Ann's case it symbolizes the loss of their baby that resulted in the disintegration of their marriage. The coolest scene in the book is when Peter thinks he's infected and Ann is standing far from him and she wants to go to him but there's literally this monster between them, keeping them apart. It's this magical stuff that makes me realize that Buckley has major potential.

With that being said, this book was merely okay. Maybe it was the subject matter. I don't know. I just found myself not really caring about the characters after awhile. Ann remained my favorite until she got back with Peter. I wanted her to be stronger than that. Then there's the random shooting at the very end of the book. It just didn't make any sense.

So there you have it. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book to anyone. It's a depressing book but it does have some literary value to it.

(I still need to come up with a good, unique rating system. If you have any suggestions, let me know!)