Why would you apologize for what you read for pleasure? Every book read for pleasure should be celebrated. And novels that celebrate love, commitment, relationships, making relationships work -- why isn't that something to be respected? - Nora Roberts

I Tweet not, neither do I Like. OK, so now I Tweet. So sue me.

Here we may criticize the book, but never the one who reads it.

Proud supporter of the Oxford comma, and any other comma I can wedge into a sentence.

Authors: You are welcome to comment here, on the review of your book or any other post.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Strange days indeed, mama. (personal, about grief mostly)

Some shirt-tail relative came up with a baby photo of Mr. Bat in a stroller and gave it to me, I'm guessing six months old. Such a fat little guy that it's difficult to make out his features, although I do see the deep-set eyes, the nose that's going to be prominent, and his lips (oh, his lips ... no, Bat, don't go there). How big his hands were! (No, Bat, don't think about his hands, either.)

Since my husband was taken into state custody when he was six years old, starved, beaten, septic from untreated infection, nearly deaf in one ear due to chronic untreated infection, I cannot tell you how glad it made my heart to see that at some point, at least, he had been well-fed, adequately clothed, and attended to enough to have little shoes on his chubby little feet.

One finds comfort in the oddest places.

I remain computerless. This is likely the last one I will buy, so I want a good one, but I can't afford a good one and so I go around and around and around, deciding and un-deciding and generally making every computer salesman in a 25-mile radius and all my friends want to throttle me. I need more than a tablet, more than one of those things that stores everything in the cloud (which I don't entirely trust yet), I need a nice desktop because I'm doing a lot of stuff with photos and videos, and I have a lot of written stuff going. Given my vision, I need a biggish monitor. So round and round and round she goes.

Meanwhile, I use the library computer or sometimes one a friend drops off while she shops.

I'm doing better, I think. I have this constant sadness that colors everything, flavors everything. But I no longer expect to hear his voice or have him be here when I come home, and I no longer flinch when I pass by the produce aisle or candy aisle at the store. My list of firsts grows longer: first time since 1973 to buy clothing without his opinion. First time to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. First time of picking out new eyeglass frames without his opinion. First time since 1973 of trouble-shooting the kitchen drain. Small things all adding up to a large thing: I am getting used to Mr. Bat not being here.

I don't like it a bit. But I am starting to get used to it, mostly.

Because very complex reasons I'm not about to go into on the internet (and not directly any fault of his although he handled the situation poorly), he was estranged from his first family. The estrangement was never resolved properly. Right after he died, I took steps to locate them and establish contact. (Oh, Lord, I was so scared, but right is right and wrong is wrong.) I now have a cordial relationship with his daughter, and this gives me great joy. Both she and I are being careful, but indications are favorable. I feel Mr. Bat's peacefulness about this issue, and that also gives me great joy.

I wish he would come to me in a dream, or something in nature, or talk to me in my head. All the other widows in my support group say that they hear from their husbands all the time, and even feel a a kiss or caress. Not me, and at times I feel like a hungry child watching through the window of a restaurant as other people feast. My counselor says that perhaps he is still being healed in heaven, or perhaps he thinks I'm so strong I don't need to hear from him. This is what I get, I guess, for telling him that I'd be okay.

A friend, old friend, knows me well, has tried to set me up on a blind date with a recent widower. I'm glad she did it by email rather than in person because I would probably have thrown a vase at her. Is she insane? I told her, calmly, that I thought generally it's a bad idea to seat four people at a table for two. I'm still wearing not only my wedding ring, but Mr. Bat's. Clue? I still feel married. Even so, her heart is in the right place, and I do admit that she has had several off-the-wall suggestions for me the past five months that have paid off. But I'm not going out. No. I got an email from her today that she fixed him up with someone else. Good. Fine. Fine. That's fine. We'll let this gal work out the rattles and squeaks and then maybe I'll meet him for coffee in 2017. Late 2017. On another planet.

It's interesting in that in my support group, when the question of the day was "Are you interested in starting another potentially intimate relationship?" all 20 of the women said, "Are you nuts? No way am I going to be half-servant, half-nurse to another man!" while all 6 of the men were quite interested including one widower of 4 months who was already in an intimate relationship. I don't judge, but I wonder if they're setting themselves up for more heartbreak. My dad remarried, though, less than 2 years after my mom died, and it was successful.

I am going to be connecting with a recruiter this coming week to see about a part-time job. I want something with no responsibilities. All I want is a job where I give them an honest day's work for an honest dollar, one or two days a week, allowed to go home without toting a bulging briefcase. In short, I've had two careers, now I want a job. Even one day a week would put some ease in my budget and would have the side benefit of getting me out amongst 'em.

I hope the world is treating you all well, and that you're not too caught up in the Outrage of the Day. I must say that being off the internet for the most part is quite restful. I do miss you, though! I miss you a lot!

Friday, April 8, 2016

I'm okay, just computer problems.

Hi. This is just a check-in. I went inactive on Twitter because my computer, which is sick unto death, kept blue-screening when I'd try to sign on. I went inactive to reduce the temptation to visit Twitter. I've been almost computer-less for about a month, I guess. It works at times and then it doesn't.

I deleted my photo on Twitter because I learned that some of my nutso family - and I've got some genuine nuts on my branch of the family tree - could find my Twitter account and thereby my blog by Googling that photo, which a relative shared on Facebook. I wouldn't put it past them to do so, and I have little enough privacy as it is.

Friend of a friend came in yesterday and deleted some programs I don't use, did a bunch of diagnostics (that didn't turn up anything interesting) and updated the one driver I missed when I uninstalled and reinstalled them last month. It seemed better, but last night started sputtering again.

No viruses. No temp files. I've changed routers twice. I've unplugged the printer/scanner and uninstalled it twice. Nothing corrupted that we can find. I don't download stuff or play games. I think the darned thing is just old (about 9 years, I think) and I think there may be some bad spots on the hard drive, so that when I happen to hit those spots in its rotation, then I'm screwed for whatever time.

I need a new one. But I'm having trouble with impulse control and decision making (I'm told this is normal) so I'm trying to keep an exceptionally tight rein on the pocketbook just now until I become closer to sane (which they tell me I will). That's why I haven't just gone out to buy a new one. I don't trust my shopping skills. I have, like, six of them bookmarked on Amazon, but I'm having trouble deciding which shirt to put on in the mornings, so a long-term money-intense decision like a new computer is simply beyond me. Thank God I don't need a new car!

Like - I went to a furniture store the other day to get a small, two-shelf bookcase to put right by the desk. I have two of those huge, towering things that worked well when our living room was nearly the size of this whole condo, and I had a separate study, but it's overwhelming now in these close quarters. By the time I got out of there (sans bookcase, BTW), I'd looked at beds, bedroom sets, reading chairs, slipcovers, and I don't actually recall what all else, had burst into tears twice, and annoyed six people working on commission due to my inability to make up my fricking mind.

The nearest library, where I could use their machine, is about a 20-minute drive from here. I've used their equipment a few times, and a couple times a friend has dropped off her laptop for a few hours, which is really nice of her, since she's pretty much glued to it normally.

So if I owe you an email, I do apologize. I'm not normally this rude. I tell you straight, grief is the damned pits. It sucks, blows, stinks -- you choose your word. I wish to hell I could do this more gracefully, but I am not, and that's just the way it goes. Himself was my world, and all I really want out of life now is just that: out of it. I would give anything - except my eternal soul - to be with him.

I hope your lives are perking along with no more than the normal amount of stress and that the coming of spring up here and of cooler weather down under gives all our spirits some relief.

If someone could please post a link to this on Twitter, or at least mention that I'd blogged, I'd be very grateful. I would worry about you, so I suspect people are wondering if I fell off the face of the earth.

PS: Found a photo of Himself the other day, and it's not postable, being X-rated, but it's one of the very few I have of him in which he's not wearing that bland mask he always put on when photographed. I took him by surprise with his hair messed up and this look of mischief and satisfaction on his face that reminded me that our life together wasn't all heartache, sorrow, and illness. We had a lot of fun, too. Much more fun and laughter than heartbreak. I'm thinking of having the image tattooed onto my forearm. (Just kidding.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Roy Orbison?

Let me see if my computer will work long enough for me to post this fast. I'm having major computer troubles, the nearest library is a 25 minute drive, and emails and book and movie reviews are stacking up. I have something like 450 emails in my Inbox, so if I owe you an email, please forgive me.

I've been up and down, up and down, the roller coaster of great grief. On the whole, I think things are not as bad as they were, but I did spend quite a bit of last week in The Pit, which is a bottomless fall into despair, a place where there is no light, and no hope. It's a miserable place, but I've been in The Pit before and climbed out - temporarily. The counselor says I'll be in and out of The Pit for however long it takes me. (One of the really frustrating things about grief for someone with my personality is that there are no rules, no guidelines, no timetable, no roadmap out. It's all very loosey-goosey New Age-y, do whatever works for you when it works for you, peace, love, rock 'n' roll, dawg.)

So the other day, I was about as far down into The Pit as I can go without being suicidal - which I've been on and off, mostly off, thank God - when a friend dropped off her laptop for me to use for a couple of hours so I could get some business done because I do everything online. I had a few minutes left, so I checked my email and there was one toward the top from a woman I haven't heard from in awhile and it was marked "Urgent, you need to see this right now!" so I opened it.

It turned out to be a number of YouTube links, and this woman I know is quite careful on the internet, so I clicked. It turned out to be Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely." Okay, fine. I'm a big Roy Orbison fan (if you grew up in the 1950s and '60s, you recognized how innovative he was at that time, a real genius). Next link: "In Dreams." Huh. Next link: "Love Hurts." Yikes! Next link: "It's Over." Holy catfish.

By that time, I had the sense to turn off the speakers on the computer. Every single link was to a sad Roy Orbison song. Every. Single. Link.

So I was thinking about my options. The gracious one would be to send her a simple thank you and ask after her grandson. The ones I wanted to send started off "You idiot" and continued with "Listen up, moron." Because who in their right mind sends sad song links to a new widow. I mean, really.

Then the absurdity of it all hit me and I started to laugh. I had a great laugh over this. Mr. Bat would have found this hilarious, and after my first response, I did, too. I played all the links and had a terrific two-hour crying session, and felt much improved after. I still feel better.

What's more, I now have the distraction of looking up things about Roy Orbison. It is my brain's habit to either ignore something or become obsessed with it, and right now I am obsessed with Roy Orbison. Well, hell, there are worse things. This is, apparently, exactly what I needed: a new obsession (why do I always hear Rocky Horror movie when someone says a new obsession?).

So you just never know. I sure wouldn't recommend sending links to unbearably sad songs to someone who is struggling with grief, but OTOH, maybe this woman knows me better than I know myself.

I can't afford a new computer just now. That's just the way it goes. A friend of a friend is going to be tinkering with mine to see if something can be done (he thinks he can fix it), and all he wants in return is a couple dozen of my peanut butter cookies and, come summer, a fresh peach pie. He's a good guy but really busy so I don't know when I'll be back again. I just wanted to say Hi and share a funny story.  And a video of "In Dreams." Enjoy. :-)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Everybody's Fine (movie, Robert De Niro actor, 2009)

This is a family drama that I watched because it was free on Amazon Prime and I like De Niro. I knew that De Niro played a man recently widowed, four grown children. That was about it. Watching the movie was a fairly intense experience for me, not because of the character's recent bereavement, but because of its depiction of family issues that brought up a lot of shit I thought I buried decades ago.

The movie is a remake of a Marcello Mastroianni movie from the 1990s. I have not seen that movie.

Frank (De Niro) is a man in his early 60s who was widowed about eight months earlier, and apparently is retired due to pulmonary fibrosis from toxic exposures in his work making the insulating plastic for telephone wires (this matters). It seems he has never been real close to his four children, now all adults, who communicated through their mother. He worked hard to support them and encouraged them to be the best, to make him proud. Apparently the mother reinforced this, that they owed him their best, to be the best, tops in whatever they do.

Frank has been planning a weekend get-together with all four kids finally back at the table at one time, a goal I often hear from folks with adult children. One by one, they cancel on him at the last minute, and the reasons sound rather vague. Against medical advice, Frank takes it into his head to visit his kids, who are scattered across the country, starting with the oldest, David, an artist, in New York City. This will be a big surprise.

But David isn't there. We learn, but Frank does not, that nobody knows for sure where David is. Frank moves on to his musician son Robert, to his ad agency star daughter, to his dancer daughter in Las Vegas. None of them want him to stay - they are frantically trying to find out what happened to David without letting Frank know that there's a problem. What they are telling Frank does not accord with the evidence of his eyes, or his instincts as a father.

There's a lot of love in this family but not a lot of communication. Frank had high expectations for his kids, even though he had no particular dreams for himself - except to be a good father. We follow Frank on his road trip and we see him begin to understand that all of his kids are lying to him about how successful their lives are. Frank may have been a distant and hyper-critical father, but he's not stupid and he loves his children. He also expects to be respected as an adult, and as their father.

Events occur, the truth comes out, and there's a satisfying, sad but hopeful ending with a sense of forgiveness and new trust built on the constancy of a father's love, and the memory of a mother's love, and the children's love for one another.

I teared up on and off through the whole movie. De Niro gives what is for him a subtle performance as a man who always thought he'd done the right thing only to learn that, well, maybe he hadn't. Or maybe he'd done the right thing in the wrong way. If you're tired of De Niro's trademark mannerisms, you'll be pleased to know that we don't see them in this movie.

Again, this is a quiet movie. No big emotional scenes, no screaming confrontations, no sex, and only a little bit of a scuffle with a vagrant for violence. There's a little "language" as Frank jokes with an adolescent grandson. I can't think of anything in the movie that would be a specific trigger. Frank has a medical emergency, but it's not very graphic - at least I didn't think so. There are moments of humor here and there, and at times I caught myself rolling my eyes at Frank as if he were my father. :)

An interesting point is that we see Frank always using a landline phone, but everyone else uses a cell phone. Telephone wires have an important symbolic place in the film, since it's all about communication. Something else that worked at first, but would really have stomped on my nerves had there been much more of it is that Frank sees his kids as children still - I mean, really as children, little kids - when they talk to him. It made me smile at first and then got a little bit threadbare.

I liked Frank, and recognized him from people I've known in my own life, or known of. I liked his kids, too, who loved him so much but were so afraid of being a disappointment to him that they fabricated success stories.

The critics, I see, didn't care much for the movie, saying it was a stereotypical Christmas family drama. I guess that's fair, although I haven't seen very many Christmas family dramas so it didn't seem stale to me. I did enjoy it. As I said before, my tastes are hardly sophisticated, and as with books, if you tell me a good enough story and don't make me crazy with big goofs, I'm contented. I probably wouldn't watch this movie a second time, but it was good enough to keep my own current personal shadows at bay for a couple of hours, and I ask very little more than that just now.

Here's the trailer, the tone of which is funnier than I found the movie to be: Trailer on YouTube

Monday, February 29, 2016

Neanderthal Seeks Human (Knitting in the City Book 1) by Penny Reid (contemporary romance or maybe chic lit)

If you follow this blog much, you know that following my husband's death in December, I was unable to read books for a time due to lack of concentration and general screwed-upness. Recently, I have been able to read a little bit more, not a lot, but mostly non-fiction. (Enjoyed Alexander Hamilton thoroughly!) I seem to have to take things slowly, and if I take my time on fiction, I forget the plot and characters. But this was a freebie and it sounded light and like maybe something I wouldn't have to think about. It was okay.

Janie is too big and too smart and too scared of even the slightest emotional involvement. She's tall and built curvy (bless the author, she gives no numbers on this, so we didn't have to deal with a size 8 "plus-size" heroine) and her hair is one of those wild curly things that cannot be tamed (I know people get tired of reading that, but that's the kind of hair I had when I was younger if I let it grow out). She's got a photographic memory, graduated summa cum in math and architecture, and spouts completely random facts - paragraphs and paragraphs of facts - when she doesn't know what to say to another person, which is a lot of the time.

Her family of origin is a mess, and she has as little contact with them as possible. Because of the mess, she had some counseling early in life, and has learned to put troublesome things that buzz around in her brain into a box, into a closet, close the door, lock it. It's a useful technique.

Janie has some good friends in a knitting stitch-and-bitch group and they are solid friends, the kind of friends we all want. Her boyfriend, Jon, with whom she has been living, is a spoiled and controlling jerk, someone she has just kind of settled for. But when she learns that he's been unfaithful, she is outta there, and goes to live temporarily with her BFF. The next day, she goes to work and is fired, just like that, no particular reason.

Well, all in all, this is turning out to be not such a great day, huh.

The security guard who escorts her out of the office is a guy she's been watching covertly for some time. He's gorgeous, and he carries himself in such a way that is really attractive. He actually sends her home in a limo, and the driver is every kind of courteous and courtly that you might want in such a situation. (Janie does not question this.) 

Turns out that Quinn, the security guard, is able to get her a really cool-sounding accounting job at the same business where he makes his living. It's all about security, and it's all kinds of vague, and the author tries to get away with that by making it all top secret stuff that Janie can't talk about, even with Quinn. Because Quinn is around. He saves her from a drugged rape situation before bad things happen, and he's very protective. In fact, every time you turn around, Quinn is rescuing Janie, because Janie is clueless, and she is even a little proud of the fact that she's brilliant but doesn't pick up on the obvious. There was some eye rolling on my part about this, especially but not solely when the potential rape doesn't seem to bother her much. 

Quinn, of course, has his background, too. But the attraction is so strong between them.

I got the feeling at times of Janie being tumbled about in the rapids of a river, with things happening so fast and so unexpectedly that she had little time to react. A lot happens to her in a short period of time, but she does rise to the occasion, grows a little, becomes a little less eccentric, a little more assertive, a little more confident. And the epilogue gives us a hint at the HEA we demand.

Kindle formatting fine, grammar okay I think, and some word choice problems that I can't tell were due to autocorrect or just not being very precise. On the other hand, there were some cute or right-on turns of phrase. The Rohypnol-type scene occurs off page, and she was not harmed, except for the drug hangover. There are some bad guys, but things don't get too hairy. The episode of violence toward the end of the book was more cartoonish than real, and only the bad guys are harmed. Ick factor about a 1-2. The slut shaming really, really got on my nerves. The sex scenes are mostly closed-door, certainly no clinical details. Also, can we move on from calling men things like Sexy McHotPants? I mean, come on.

There were quite a few dangling threads, and only after I read the book did I notice that it's a five-book series, so maybe some of those questions will be resolved in other books. If not, much is left unexplained, with insufficient data for formulating our own answers. I have to say that while the book was mildly entertaining, I don't care enough about the loose threads to read another book in the series.

It's a long book, about 400 pages, and a good 75 could have been edited out. I know some of the detail is to reflect the way Janie thinks, but it did get old.

My big quarrel is this: Janie's boyfriend Jon was a controlling ass. Quinn is a controlling good guy. Just because Quinn has her best interests in mind doesn't make it less of a problem that he gets her a job, gets her an apartment, gets her this, gets her that, is always there, insists she use a cell phone when she doesn't want to, takes charge of her life … . Maybe it's my age showing, but a man who will control you with nice things will eventually want to control your every breath. There's more along this same line, but it would involve some potential spoilers. Quinn does not respect her boundaries any more than Jon did. The fact that he is a rescuer rather than a user does not change this.

I guess it's one of those books you could read after dental surgery or something. Don't think about it. Don’t think about the plot holes, don't think about the dangling threads, don't think about the uneven writing. Pick the things you like out of the bridge mix of this book, and leave the shriveled chocolate-covered raisins to those who like them. If your TBR is low and it's still free, well, I've read worse. (Extra points for basing the story in Chicago.)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hereafter (movie, 2010, Clint Eastwood director, Matt Damon actor)

This is one of those death theme movies. Nobody recommended it to me. It was one of those things where you start googling for a recipe for apple tart and then the next thing you know it's the names of Napoleon's marshalls and then Matt Damon movies. It looked interesting. I enjoyed it. (Again I should point out that I have no qualifications to review a movie. Just opinions. Uninformed, emotional opinions, just like my book reviews. My degrees are in sciences and I took only enough liberal arts classes to get my degrees.)

You need to know that Hereafter is a very quiet movie. Mr. Bat would have been bored senseless. No car chases, no explosions, no angry outbursts or big emotional scenes.

George (Matt Damon) is a legitimate psychic who used to make a living that way but retired to try to live a normal life. That's not working out too well for him. He gets his visions by touching another person, even for a split second, so you can see that this would pose some difficulties. He works in a warehouse, running a forklift, and wears gloves a lot. At night, he listens to audiobooks of Charles Dickens's books. Alone. His brother is pushing him - hard - to go back to the highly profitable old life. After all, the website is still up and there's a huge demand for his services. George resists.

Meanwhile, a French investigative journalist and TV news personality, Marie (Cecile De France), is in Southeast Asia (on assignment?) with her lover. She is caught in a tsunami and drowns. She is dead. She sees light, and shadowy creatures, and she feels peace and contentment. Suddenly she revives. The experience changes her life in nearly every possible way, in difficult ways. She turns her talents to investigating near-death experiences.

In London, twin boys, perhaps ten years old?, are being raised by a single mother who has a serious substance abuse problem she is trying to get on top of. The boys pretty much shift for themselves and cover for her when the child welfare people come around. One day the older of the twins, the more dominant personality, is killed in a traffic accident. Mom goes into rehab, remaining twin goes into foster care. He does not flourish. He misses his brother so much and obsesses with tracking down psychics, but all he sees are frauds.

Three lives. So lonely. So lost. So -- living without the things they thought they could not live without. Toward the end of the film, the three lives converge in a, well, reasonably possible scenario. It could happen that way, I guess. A big series of coincidences, but it didn't take me out of the story. Their lives intertwine, and the ending is quite positive.

First, the film asks a lot of questions and doesn't really answer any of them. There's no religion here, no firm stand taken. It seems to say that consciousness goes on after death, and that while the departed still have interest in the bereaved, it is not a whole lot of interest. They are caught up in, as one of the spirits says, being able to be everything, all the time. No other answers are provided. You may find this frustrating or enjoyable - I enjoyed it.

It's never made clear whether George does in fact see into the next world, or if he is telepathic and picks up the subject's memories and hopes. 

It is a very quiet film. As I understand Eastwood's style, there's not a lot of prep once filming starts, and you can see in this film that the dialogue isn't always polished. For me, that made it seem more authentic. When an actor stumbles over a word but keeps going, well, that's how we talk, isn't it? There's no screaming or fighting, no clever one-liners. it's all very quiet, which for some people will = boring!

One of the things I liked: Eastwood uses a lot of long exterior shots in which we see our characters surrounded by people, but alone. Similarly, interior shots show our characters either alone, or with someone who simply does not understand them. Feeling as if nobody understands, being alone in a crowd, is a common human feeling, and it is increased exponentially when grieving. (One of my frustrations is the feeling that nobody I know IRL gets it. My online friends mostly do seem to truly get it.) He also uses light and darkness well, I think. 

There are a couple of other characters who bring their own needs to the picture. One is made better, a little, maybe. A bit of peace. Another one - we don't find out. We get to find our own ending. We get to find our own ending to everything in this movie, and that suited me just fine.

Warnings: the movie starts with Marie's drowning. It is shown, but we don't really see her struggling a lot. More we see the power of the tsunami as it takes down buildings. I had a near-drowning as a child and am still a little scared of water, and the scene did not make me anxious, but YMMV on that. Childhood sexual abuse or other abuse is implied very briefly and very vaguely with one character, but that is only one possible interpretation of what is said. A child is bullied, then accidentally hit by a car, and we do see in a split second the actual impact and we do see the child, still, on the pavement, with a little bit of blood. For me, the ick factor was quite low, a 2 maybe, but you know your own tolerance. Again, there is no religious aspect addressed, no visions of Jesus or Hell or angels, but it does show what we all have heard of as near-death experiences. But that's all, no judgment, no life review, just floating in peace.

I found the movie entertaining and comforting. It is hopeful, in the end, and I liked that. You should know, however, that it did poorly at the box office, being I guess neither fish nor fowl, neither religious nor a thriller, and many of the critics don't seem to have cared for it either. Its approval ratings hover in the 50% range. My tastes, however, are not terribly sophisticated, as you no doubt know by now, and I liked its quiet earnestness.

Here's a link for the trailer: Trailer on YouTube

Friday, February 26, 2016

Will start reviewing some movies for awhile, since reading now a problem.

As part of my little walk through hell, and because once upon a time I was a serious movie buff (was engaged to man getting his Master's in film history, so I have watched all major and many minor pre-1939 movies frame … by … frame), I was recently advised to start watching movies during the endless evenings when I sit here alone and miss Mr. Bat. Especially recommended were movies about death or about people moving on in life after a death. I have Amazon Prime, so there are some free movies, and others are quite inexpensive, perhaps $3 to rent for 24 hours, so if something does not work for me, it's not much of an investment in time or money. 

Well, I've already watched Steel Magnolias so many times I can quote huge swatches of dialogue. Ditto Ghost, which was a movie Mr. Bat enjoyed. Both versions of Heaven Can Wait. What Dreams May Come (the book was better, but both Robin Williams and the special effects were pretty good in the movie). Terms of Endearment. Ordinary People. And another Mary Tyler Moore movie, Finnegan Begin Again. Flatliners. The Sixth Sense, of course. Heck, Bambi and Old Yeller. Truly dozens of others. [ETA: My Life, Philadelphia, Don't Look Now. Truly, Madly, Deeply. Jacob's Ladder. Star Trek II. Defending Your Life.

But I haven't seen many movies released after about 1990, when is when Mr. Bat's arthritis made it just too hard for him to sit in a theater, and we found that he could not maintain attention for two hours to watch them at home, again because of arthritis in his hips and back, and then later his increasing deafness that could not be helped. He found closed captioning distracting. Eventually we simply stopped watching movies.

So there are a lot of movies I haven't seen. And it seems that there are a fair number of movies about death I haven't seen. So I am watching them and I think I will review them here, if that's okay with you folks.

I should say that there are movies I admire - The Godfather, for example -- without liking them. Sometimes the art and craft that go into making a movie are a jaw-dropper, or a particular performance is so raw and honest that quibbles about, oh, dialogue, or goofs fall by the wayside. I'm not a qualified movie critic any more than I am qualified to judge a book, but I'm breathing and I have an opinion and a blog :-)

Not every movie will be about death. Jeepers, I need a break! I love the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice, for example. (My counselor, late 20s, sheepishly admitted that she has never read the book nor seen any of the movies. My heart stopped for a moment. I encouraged her to watch the 1995 version with Colin Firth. She likes Colin Firth. Where was I? Oh, yeah.) There will be others, as Amazon rolls out their freebies.

I'm trying to figure out who I am, now that I have neither job nor husband, the things that defined me all my adult life. I remember that I am naturally frugal, something that Mr. Bat effectively canceled out, God love him. I remember that I like starched pillowcases, and Mr. Bat did not, so I stopped, and have now started again. I used to enjoy singing in church, going to church, but Mr. Bat was firmly anti- organized religion, so I stopped going. And I used to love movies, but stopped going. I'm picking these things up as I go along, trying to fit together these random ragged and torn pieces of life that fly by my head, trying to fit them into something I will recognize. A life. Not the one I had before. Not the one I enjoyed and cherished. But a life, nevertheless.

Edited to correct error in grammar, for pity's sake. And another one. Yikes!
ETA further: Maybe 15 years ago I watched most of a movie, the name of which I cannot remember. The premise was this: when you die, you have a life review that is like watching a movie. After 3 days, you have to pick one memory, just one, just one moment, to take with you into the next life, heaven? If you pick a memory from childhood, then you won't remember your husband and children, for example. It made for a fascinating dinner conversation with a large group of friends one night (all but 2 of us now dead ...) but I cannot for the life of me remember the name. I remember picking one particular moment in one particular autumn day early in our marriage, one of those perfect, perfect days. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Improper Bride, by Lily Maxton (historical romance, probably Regency, with personal update at end)

Old Latin Teacher, an Amazon reviewer, has opinions that usually accord with mine. If she likes a romance, chances are I will too. The things that irk her also irk me. So I tend to buy without sampling when she likes a book. Also, I liked the idea of a slightly older couple, and I liked the idea of a childless widow who had started her life over. I've been reading almost exclusively non-fiction and this sounded like a good way to break back into romance. 

Oh well. 

Henry is a mid-30s marquess, heir to a duke, who has been vaguely thinking, and avoiding thinking, lately that perhaps he needs to do his duty with respect to the family name and find a bride. An unexplained housefire results in bad burns to his face and one arm. I'm not sure who, if anyone, nursed him, but his housekeeper, Cassandra, early 30s, widow, at least checked on him at one point and brushed her hand over his forehead. 

Cassandra, who had been very happily married to a sailor who was practically never at home, has had minor stirrings of attraction for some time, but since she rarely sees Henry, it's not a problem. When the doctor suggests that she keep Henry's mind occupied during his long healing process, she proposes to him that he teach her to read German. Henry is intrigued, because all women prefer the romance languages, so this woman is different. He flirts a bit. She does not really respond. Henry beats himself up for flirting with the help, because, after all, she's just staff, barely human. 

Well, you know where this is going, don't you? And it does. Upstairs, downstairs. Most of the conflict has to do with the class difference. Henry slowly goes from being appalled with himself for even thinking of marrying Cassandra, to being willing to fight a duel to defend her honor, to proposing marriage. Cassandra has vowed never to remarry because, well, she doesn't want to (which was refreshing). Her first marriage was perfect and she just isn't interested, thank you. But oh, the attraction, the pull. One set of gonads calling to another. Of course, Henry admires her mind, too, oh surely yes. 

Well, I've read worse. We need to remember that my view these days is decidedly downbeat and critical. Even so, I found the slow workup to be just plain tedious. I finished it, but read the last, oh, third quickly. 

There's a minor subplot about a peer who messes with the help. 

Kindle formatting fine, no grammar problems, although there were some word choices I would argue about. The conversation seemed rather contemporary to me. There's no real violence. There's a fire, but we don't get much detail. There's a maid who is nearly raped, but we don't experience it or have details. There's a duel, not much going on there. Ick factor negligible. This apparently is part of a series, but it stands alone just fine. I read it two days ago and honestly don't recall the sex scenes. I know that there are kisses only for most of the book, but I don't remember the sex scene. I'm sorry. I know there was one, though, so probably not clean/gentle/whatever word we are using now. 

The lack of medical detail made me nuts, but probably wouldn't bother most readers. The author gives a small nod to the need to do range of motion with that arm, but we don't get anything really about how Henry copes with what had to be terrific pain in between doses of laudanum, or much about infection risk, or the way scar tissue impedes the use of the arm. Supposedly one side of his face is just red and scar and much disfigured, but nobody seems to care much, even the ton. 

I will say that the author has some phrases that made me smile, and there weren't any awkward sentences that I had to read twice to make sense of. Also, I could see how Henry and Cassandra thought, why they thought what they did, and as they changed, why and how. So that part was good. 

Henry's sister could be a hoot, and I wished she'd had more page space. Apparently in her youth, when her father locked her in her room for bad behavior, she was freed after about ten minutes of belting out some bawdy song. A woman after my heart. 

Once Henry gives in on the class issue, it mostly disappears. Cassandra apparently charms the ton into forgetting her background. Yes, I know that it did happen, that dukes or near-dukes would marry their mistresses or the governess, but wouldn't it have been more realistic to retire to the country rather than forcing the ton to accept them? 

I don't know, the thing just didn't ring true to me. I liked the characters well enough, but not that well. But other reviewers have really liked it, so it may just be me. 4 stars on Goodreads, a B from AAR. If I were still grading, I'd probably give it a C or C- as a perfectly reasonable romance novel, meeting its goals for the most part, but not memorable in any way. I think this is a Regency, but I didn't really notice. It's probably best read as a fairy tale. PS: For you chin lifting lovers, I forgot to keep count, but Cassandra lifts her chin a lot

Personal note: They tell me I'm doing fine, just as expected or even a little better, in which case I'd hate to see someone who isn't doing fine. I miss Mr. Bat with every breath. The social media diet I put myself on seems to be helping in that I have time now to face my fears, face my pain, face the loneliness and the despair, and I'm told that this is the ticket out of hell: to face it. It lacks about a week of being 3 months that he's been dead. It feels like forever. I keep thinking that "next week" I will join a book club, join a Bible study group, find a volunteer position, send out resumes for a part-time job. "Next week" I will do all these things. OTOH, I did make appointments for the dentist and eye doctor, so that's some movement. I see a counselor once a week. I go to a grief support group twice a month. I am trying, beloved, I am trying to learn to live without you. But it is very hard. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Some progress (personal, not a review)

One of the really annoying features of this grieving I've been doing is that I can be sitting quietly, minding my own business, typing up a recipe for lemon bars or talking with a friend about how to trim a dress they're making for a granddaughter or talking with the condo manager about snow removal when - bam! - here comes a crying spell. And I don't mean one of those misty, eyes slowly filling, delicate little cries that doesn't even get your nose red. I mean one of those hell-on-wheels, overwhelming, choking, sobbing, can't get your breath, can't stand up, body fluids everywhere kind of cries.

They're exhausting. And embarrassing when they occur in public or around strangers when you're just standing in line at the post office and you thought all you were thinking about was how much a first class stamp costs these days, since you've lost track.

I haven't had one of those in two days.

Now, I've had tearful moments. Of course I have had them. I'll be working on something and that will trigger a memory, and I'm still in a place where memories don't comfort, they hurt. And I'll start to cry and I may cry for five minutes, which seems to be about my limit, and then I mop up and carry on.

But none of those overwhelming, I'm drowning, where the hell did this come from, I can't breathe, episodes.

I am choosing to see this as progress. Maybe I'm passing from acute grief to chronic or subacute grief. Or at least I have some of my toes over the line into chronic grief, since this whole thing seems to be a two steps forward, one and three-quarters steps back process.

I've been crying my head off since September - did a fair amount of anticipatory grieving - and it seems that for me, maybe it's time for it to subside a bit. Humans adapt - we do - we adapt, adjust, evolve. Nobody can live in a crisis state forever. We adjust. Can it be possible that I'm adjusting, just a bit?

I've been warned that I may feel that this is being disloyal to Mr. Bat, but it doesn't feel like that, at least not at this point. It feels the way it feels when you've had respiratory flu, when you've been so feverish and achy and weak, and then one day you feel well enough to get up and take a shower. It wipes you out, but you feel cleaner and you start to believe that well, yes, maybe you will get well.

I dunno. I'm making this up as I go along. Mr. Bat used to say that my motto should be, "I'll think of something," because in truth that is what I say when I'm not sure how to deal with a situation. But it feels like progress.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Now That You've Gone Home: Courage and Comfort for Times of Grief, by Joyce Hutchison and Joyce Rupp (non-fiction, Christian, self-help)

First, this book is overtly Christian in its message, so if that will annoy or offend or bore you, then I bid you peace and hope you'll come back another time. 
Regular readers of this blog know that my much-loved husband died in December and I have been, as they say, taking it hard. I thought I was prepared but I had not the first fraction of a clue as to how hard it would be to form a new life without him. For the first time in 42 years, he is not at my side as I confront some problem. We did not have children, I don't have any close relatives, I quit my job in 2014 to take care of him, and I am socially quite isolated. I have face to face human contact perhaps once a week. So there's some background. 
A reader from the age of 2 1/2, of course I turned to books to help me find my way out of this. I have found books on grieving to be lacking, sorely lacking. They're either so religious in bent that they made me crazy ("It's all part of God's plan" or "You must submit to God's will" with God as micromanager of humanity) or they're all about Staying Busy and Keeping a Good Attitude (Tell me, author, did you actually love your husband?) or they're downright depressing (You will never really heal. Any joy you feel for the rest of your life will be bittersweet. All laughter will be tinged with regret because he is not here. Excuse me, but fuck that shit sideways, I am not going to be a professional widow.) 
Today it is nine weeks since Mr. Bat died. Part of me goes about daily life, conducts business, lunches with friends from time to time, laughs, and apart from some uncharacteristic absentmindedness or inattention to details, is pretty normal. The other half sits in a corner, rocking and making animal noises of pain and distress. Recently I've been, I think, hitting bottom and sitting in a very dark place, so dark it has been scary. I have considered - and rejected - taking my own life, just for the possibility of being with him. 
So it's been bad. I sit here with no road map out of this place where I am. Somewhere along the line I lost touch with my religious faith (liberal Christian) and I've been trying to find it, or scraps of it, or what I can make of it now given all my other rather unconventional beliefs. Still, I know how my grandmothers and mother and others made it through this stuff, and it was through their faith, so I've tried to be ... at least open to the ideas, even if they don't fit into someone else's construct. 
Even reviewing my browsing history, I can't figure out how I happened upon Joyce Hutchison's book, Now That You've Gone Home: Courage and Comfort for Times of Grief. It just showed up on my computer monitor. Disclaimer: I worked with Joyce for a couple of years in oncology back in the 1970s and know her to be a smart, funny, skilled, compassionate nurse. She's also very practical in her outlook. So I downloaded a sample for my Kindle, read the sample, and then could not buy the book fast enough.
Oh my goodness, this book. Joyce tells us about her struggles and thoughts and victories after losing her husband, Gary, who battled heart disease and cancer for most of their married life but died suddenly and without warning. Every word Joyce wrote, except things about having children and grandchildren, I could have written. Every thought and emotion she recorded is one I have had or am having. And I wanted to shout, "Finally, someone who gets it!"
The book is overtly Christian, and includes meditations, prayers, and coping strategies for all kinds of deaths. Not just the loss of a life partner, but also a friend, a grandparent, a sibling; suddenly, slowly; through suicide or accident or illness - it covers a whole range of possibilities with first person accounts from the bereaved of what happened and how it felt and how they coped and how they're doing now.
With the first prayer, the first meditation, I felt a little trickle of peace seep into my soul. It's not a miracle-worker. I didn't wake up full of energy and purpose today, having put grief behind me. It's not even noon as I am typing this and I've already had my first two big cries of the day. But I have a little peace, just a touch, a glimmer, a bit of movement away from rock bottom, and I am so grateful.
If you know someone who is grieving, especially if it's fairly fresh grief, and if they are Christian, I recommend this book highly. Tremendous insight, exceptionally comforting.
(Now if someone would just write a book about grieving when you don't have kids to ground you and you're socially pretty isolated. That I would read, too.)
A word about the writing: it's informal but it's pretty doggone good for a non-professional writer. No errors in grammar that I noticed, and the Kindle formatting is perfect. Some of the first-person accounts are better written than others, but all are honest. The chapters are short -- which is good, because when you're acutely grieving, your attention span is  ---squirrel! I did not find it amateurish at all. But it is directed at a very specific audience. 
Amazon non-affiliate link
ETR a repeated sentence. As I said, inattention to detail ... .