Monday, August 20, 2012

So about Hidden Things...

You may remember that I made a post recently about a new book that I'd just read, Hidden Things by Doyce Testerman. If you haven't read that post, go do it now! We'll wait...

Ok, so it seems I've used my copy of the book a LOT during the THREE WHOLE WEEKS that I've owned it. I won't go into why I've used it so much, but suffice to say it was a worthwhile pursuit in my opinion. In any case, I find it amusing that it's suffered so much wear and tear in its short life, so I thought I'd post a few pictures to prove it.

Here's the front cover. Note the wear on the author's name, the S in "Things", and  the dragon's head and neck.

(For comparison, here's what it looked like when it was new.)

Here's the back cover. Most of the wear is just in the middle of the long edge, where I grab it.

And here's a bit of the inside, deliberately blurred to avoid inadvertently giving away sensitive information, but clear enough that I think you can see how much I mark up my books.

In this one spot alone you can see a bracket with some page numbers next to it, an arrow with another page number, a circled word, a little note to myself in the margin and, if you look very carefully, an underlined word. And it's not just this one page, Pretty much the whole book looks like that. (And, to be honest, most of my other books do, too. This is why I'm not interested in electronic media. You just can't do that on a Kindle, folks.)

So yeah. I'm pretty sure if a book's good enough to make me wear it down that fast, you really need to read it too. Yes. You do. Here's the link again. kthxbai. <3

WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?? Go get it, wouldja?! Gosh!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hidden Things: My Thoughts

A few weeks ago I was the happy winner of a contest to win an ARC of Hidden Things, the forthcoming novel by Doyce Testerman, also known as @doycet on Twitter. In addition to enjoying his tweets, I've been reading Doyce's blog posts for some time now and have become a big fan of his writing. I was excited to read the book, and my high expectations were fully met.

Hidden Things begins with a phone call in the middle of the night. Because they are good friends as well as business partners, Calliope Jenkins is at first unsurprised to hear from her boss, Joshua White, even at such an unusual hour. However, their conversation takes an odd turn when, just before hanging up, Josh tells her to "Watch out for the hidden things."

Things get even odder the following morning when Calliope is informed that Josh was found dead shortly after she spoke with him... and then discovers a message from him on her answering machine with a timestamp after his alleged time of death.

The following evening, Calliope makes the acquaintance of a mysterious individual who claims to have information about Josh and his whereabouts. She is skeptical at first, to say the least, but eventually teams up with him to search for clues that might lead to her missing friend. Along the way, Calliope and her guide run into an amazing array of fantastic characters, ranging from terrifying to wonderful, and have an adventure that will change both Calliope's life and her understanding of the world around her.

Look, I'll just come out and say it: Hidden Things is a great book. It made me laugh, made me cry, angered me, mystified me, and, at times, creeped me out to the point of shuddering. It tells not just one but, in my opinion, at least two love stories and yet at the end no one really "gets the girl" because real life just isn't that simple. It also has a lot to say about the directions that love can take after romance dies and about the deep, important ties that can exist even in the most dysfunctional of families. It is the story of a highly unlikely friendship that grows as old misconceptions and assumptions are replaced by the truth and of doing the right thing even when we want with all our hearts to do something different. I recommend it highly if you're a fan of fantasy or mystery or even if (like me) you just enjoy a good story.

And if a great story just isn't quiiiiiiiiite enough to get you to have a look at this book, I'll tell you a not-so-secret little secret: There's a real, playable word search on the title page that's related to the story. Hidden words about Hidden Things. How many books offer that kind of fun?!

I know you're going to want this book, so I should tell you where you can get it, right? Yes! Hidden Things is due for release on August 21 and is available for preorder at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many independent booksellers. Now go order it! You'll be glad you did.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Esther Day 2012

For those who don't know, today is Esther Day. It's the birthday of a girl named Esther Grace Earl who lived only 16 years but who made a huge impact on lots of lives, including mine, in that time.

When she was 12 years old, Esther was diagnosed with thyroid cancer that had already spread to her lungs by the time of her diagnosis. She went through a long string of aggressive treatments that were often torturous in themselves and endured the disease itself weakening her body for four years before it finally took her from us on August 25, 2010. Despite her physical suffering, however, she never allowed the illness to change her spirit or to dampen her love for life and the people around her.

I won't go into details here about my relationship with Esther. I'll just say that in 2008, she and a couple other people noticed me in a corner of the internet, observing with interest but bound in silence by my shyness, and they very sweetly lured me into conversations. They talked to me every time they saw me after that and their kindness gave me the courage to get increasingly involved in their community.

Over time I got to know many of Esther's friends and they were and continue to be some of the loveliest, funniest people I've ever met. I continued talking to Esther throughout the two years that I knew her and she was never anything but sweet to me, except on those occasions when she had to kick me out of my melancholy and remind me that life does go on.

As these friendships grew, I found the courage to branch out and eventually I met so many great people that I probably wouldn't even know most of the people reading this if it weren't for the seed that Esther planted. I would, in fact, be a very different person from the one I am today. I'm easily old enough to be Esther's mother and yet she taught me some important life lessons that I hope I never forget. She truly lived and died with the grace of her name and has lit a star -- Esther means "star" in Persian -- that won't go out in the hearts of those who knew her.

That brings us to today. Shortly before she died, Esther expressed a wish that people would celebrate her birthday, August 3, every year by telling the people they love that they love them. She wanted it to be a day for family and friends and for expressing the love that we sometimes have a hard time putting into words.

This is kind of a tough day for me. Partly, yes, because it's Esther's birthday and I miss her, but also because she's asked a hard thing of me. I do love a lot of people very much. If I know you well enough to have conversations with you, I almost certainly love you, and if I've opened up to you enough to know you well, you can be sure that I love you deeply. There are even a few people with whom I feel comfortable enough to tell them regularly that I love them. But it's not easy for me and it's much harder face to face. I don't know why it's so hard to say it, but I can barely drag the words out of my mouth and I feel embarrassed every time I do. So I find myself filled with love but lacking the ability to share it with anyone. It's frustrating, to say the least.

I will do it though. I'll do it for Esther and, even more, for all the other people that I love. I've already said it out loud a couple times today and I plan to say it at least a few more times before I sleep tonight. And for those of you that I don't see in the flesh or talk to with my voice, I'll say it here: I love you. I really, REALLY do. Thank you for what you mean in my life, for putting up with my quirks, my failings, my fears, my neurotic tendencies, and so much more. I love you.

And a belated thank you to Esther for drawing me out and showing me kindness, and for this day that reminds me to do what I should do every day. Thank you also to her parents and others who are keeping her memory and ideals alive by running the This Star Won't Go Out organization. If you'd like to learn more about Esther or donate to help other families of children with cancer, please visit TSWGO and/or buy a bracelet (all proceeds go to TSWGO) at DFTBA Records.

Now go say "I love you" to someone! You can do it! I know you can!