Twenty Eight

Happy Birthday, Kelly Jo. No suspense here, this one’s for you. I started out with a grand plan to make you a video, I even got up early this morning to do it. I did several takes and finally got it right. Then as I stood up, I dropped the phone and somehow, in the picking it up, I deleted the freshly completed video. Which is how my celebration of your day started out with a giant Fuck You to the universe. Man, oh man, that made me crabby. I didn’t have time to re-record the video because I’d done more than one take to try and get it perfect.

Then I spent the entire day stewing over it, because I was annoyed my plan had failed. I had every intention of heading home tonight and doing it again, except that it is dark when I get home now and the lighting in my house is terrible and I knew it would look better in natural light.

Then it hit me. Kelly likes words. Specifically, she likes it when *I* write words for her (feels like there is more than one meaning to that sentence!) And in days gone by I used to write sonnets to our friendship or post montages of photos glorifying our BFF status and post them to my blog. I don’t use the blog much anymore, at least not for things like that.

But I could.

I did.

I am.

I’ve spent all day thinking of you. I was in a meeting this morning (that I was NOT late for, despite my tech snafu, thank you very much) at the University of MN and the woman was talking about the children’s picture book digital art collection and I thought of you and how you’d be able to use that for your art unit.

I thought about you in the parking ramp when the person in the next spot parked so close to me that I could not fit between our cars and that was the driver side. And I ended up climbing in the passenger seat and over the console and contorting my body to squeeze into my driver’s seat. And even though it pissed me off, as I drove away I thought how funny it was and wished you were there because we’d laugh about that craziness for YEARS to come.

I stopped at Subway and thought of you and how much you enjoy Subway and how much you enjoy eating out, and that time you called me on the phone to tell me that Subway started offering breakfast and it was awesome.

I drove past Peppers & Fries and thought fondly of our lunches there, with and without your children. Then I thought of all the other lunches we’ve had and how much you enjoy going out to lunch. More than anyone I know.

All day today, every little thing I do, my mind has found a way to relate it back to you. Given the two very different lives we lead, this should seem a difficult task. But it isn’t. I can connect almost anything to you. And the reason is that we’ve been friends for twenty-eight years. 28. Our friendship is old enough to vote, buy cigarettes, lose money at a casino, drink alcohol and rent a car.

The Civil War lasted four years. World War I lasted four years. World War II lasted six years. The Korean War lasted three years. The Great Depression lasted ten years.

Our friendship outlasted all of these major events….added together. We have been friends longer than it would have taken to fight in four major wars and survive the greatest economic hardship our country has endured. With a year to spare.

I’ve spoken many times on my blog about you and our friendship. I’ve listed those if you wish to reread my words about you.

25 Birthdays

35/35

Lent Letter

Brecken’s Ultrasound

The Wonder (I think this is my all-time favorite Kelly post)

Chicago Trip (Although this is a close contender, still makes me LOL, literally)

The Right Stuff

33

First Sleepover

One of these posts contains a different list of posts about Kelly (there are a LOT to choose from) and in that one I put four and mention specifically that I stop at four just for Kelly. In this one I stopped at nine. It killed me to do it, but I did. Only nine lovable posts about my BFF. Because she likes lists that don’t conform. It’s me who doesn’t.

But here’s the crux of the thing. I love you, Kelly Jo. I’ve been loving you forever since 1989 and fully plan on that being the case forever. It’s a remarkable thing to know someone that long. Outside of blood relatives, there is no one I’ve known longer, and I know it is the same for you.

When we met, we didn’t have boobs. We didn’t shave our legs, we’d never gotten our first periods. We’d never kissed a boy. Our lives were small and sweet and innocent, as a child’s should be. The size of the world has grown immeasurably since we met, but it is in keeping with our friendship. More succinctly, the older we get, the better friends we become.

I know this is your first birthday since losing your dad and I know how hard that has been, and still is, on you. I think of you every day hoping, praying, that today will be a better day than yesterday. Also, I think of him, his warmth and his laughter and how very, very, very much he loved you. He is responsible for us, he moved you from Woodbury to St. Paul, and if he hadn’t done that, in 1989, you and I would never have met, never become friends, and what an immense loss that would have been. Nearly as awful as losing your dad. I hope that brings you comfort. Of all the things he’s given you, and Heaven knows that is a lot of things, he helped give you my friendship. And I’m still here, always.

Sometimes, Kel, sometimes it is hard to write to you because there is literally nothing I don’t say to you. I love that about us, our openness, even on the rare occasions that we fight, we always communicate our every thought. So many times I’ve set pen to paper (okay, fine, fingers to keyboard, but whatever, pen to paper is more poetic, and alliterative) to talk about you, about friendship and about how incredible it is that we are still forever friends.

Or BFF. As you like to say.

You are never far from my thoughts, and today, well, you are my favorite thought.

Happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy birthday.

39 happys. Really. Count them.

Love you always, BFF.

kel

P.S. even though I never specifically mention NKOTB, I do reference them in the post. And because it felt weird to write to you, on your birthday and NOT mention them, I felt compelled to at this postscript to point that out, thus sneaking in a mention of your favorite band. I’m clever like that. Happy Birthday #1 Fan!

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Long Live Livlife

My friend Elena recently had someone reach out to her on Facebook. As most of you know, I don’t do FB. But this person, Katie, reached out to Elena asking for my contact info because they wanted to send a yearbook.

Um, what?

Elena asked me and I asked who this person was. You see, I don’t really remember high school. But Elena does. So I figured she would know who this was and if it was worth sending along my contact info. She said, “I think she went to HS with us.” Well that’s strange. If Elena doesn’t remember her, then who is this person? More importantly, how does this person know that Elena and I are friends?

So I gave Elena permission to pass along my contact info, but not my regular email, my junk email, the one I use to sign up for stuff, and, apparently, pass along to people I may or may not know from Elena’s FB page. Obviously, I was curious. Then, Elena emailed me, “there is more to this story.” GAH! Tell me. Tell me NOW. She said she’d tell me in person, fortunately, we were seeing each other last night.

We went to a concert and Elena slipped in just as the lights were dimming, so there was no time to talk. After the show, after hours of waiting, she gave me this.

Katie Whatsherface reached out to me on FB about a yearbook. Apparently, she learned that you had died and wanted to send a copy of the yearbook to your family.

WHATTHEEVERLOVINGWHAT?!?!?

I’m not dead.

I’m really not. This is not a ghostly memoir. I’m a real, live girl, who reads a lot of books.

Now, of course, I have so many questions, so.many.questions, and I am just waiting to see if Katie Whatsherface reaches out. She’s had my email for two days and I’ve heard jack, with a side of squat. I’m wondering if she’ll even bother now that Elena confirmed that I am, indeed, still among the living.

Also, if I were dead, why would my family want my high school yearbook. Which is especially weird because I have a high school yearbook. One from every year (which I plan to use to look up Katie Whatsherface tonight, I forgot last night after hearing the story.) Junior high as well. And one from sixth grade. All on my bookshelves. So if my family wants them they are free for the taking when they clear out my house.

So odd. So, so, SO odd.

But I am here to state, firmly, that despite the fact that I am not a member of the Facebook community, I am, as a matter of certainty, alive and kicking. (I even just did an air kick just to prove it.)

I am alive.

Long Live Livlife.

September 2017 Books

Ah, September, one of my favorite months of the year. Everything smells good outside in September, the smells of summer seamlessly blending into the smells of fall, which becomes its own scent. The weather is starting to change but it is still nice enough to enjoy reading outdoors in my swing. And tons of new and exciting books are released by the publishing industry.

Curiosity compelled me to go back and look at how many books I had read in the previous Septembers, since I’ve been recording. 2013, 19 books. 2014, 16 books. 2015, 13 books. 2016, 21 books.

Apparently I read a wholly respectable amount in September. Until this year. There was nothing respectable, but something irresistible in the air throughout the month. That’s the only explanation I have for this result.

September: (36 books)

  1. Good Girl – Lauren Layne^
  2. Love Story – Lauren Layne^
  3. Dating You/Hating You – Christina Lauren^
  4. After We Fall – Melanie Harlow^
  5. Ransom – Julie Garwood*
  6. A Kingdom of Dreams – Julie Garwood*
  7. Bully – Penelope Douglas^
  8. Whitney, My Love – Judith McNaught*
  9. Almost Heaven – Judith McNaught*
  10. Something Wonderful – Judith McNaught*
  11. The Secret Passion of Simon Blackwell – Samantha James*
  12. Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer^
  13. The Problem with Forever – Jennifer L. Armentrout^
  14. Trust – Kylie Scott^
  15. Nowhere But Here – Katie McGarry^
  16. The Impossible Vastness of Us – Samantha Young^
  17. Perfect Chemistry – Simone Elkeles^
  18. Sweet Southern Trouble – Michele Summers^
  19. Wrong – Jana Aston^
  20. Hot as Puck – Lili Valente^
  21. Right – Jana Aston^
  22. Fling – Jana Aston^
  23. Times Square – Jana Aston^
  24. Not So New in Town – Michele Summers^
  25. Sweet Southern Bad Boy – Michele Summers^
  26. The Sea of Tranquility – Katja Millay^
  27. Punk 57 – Penelope Douglas^
  28. The Road that Leads to Us – Micalea Smeltzer^
  29. The Lies that Define Us – Micalea Smeltzer^
  30. The Game that Breaks Us – Micalea Smeltzer^
  31. Wish You Were Here – Renee Carlino^
  32. The Story of Us – Tara Sivec^
  33. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell^
  34. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell^
  35. Ten Tiny Breaths – KA Tucker^
  36. One Tiny Lie – KA Tucker^

Whew! That’s a long list. And you want to know something…? A super good one. As I look over this list there were definitely a lot of okay books, but nothing truly awful. The Story of Us by Tara Sivec was mind-numbingly boring and predictable and I didn’t care for the story or the characters of Punk 57, but they weren’t bad.

I did do a fair amount of rereads this month, I decided to reread every book that I have given a five star rating to and see if it holds up. The Secret Passion of Simon Blackwell is the only one that hasn’t, I dropped it from a five to a four. Still a good book, but not as perfect as I recall.

As for new books, some interesting stuff. Eleanor & Park was a book that caused a huge divisive issue of censorship when it came out. I finally got around to reading it and was surprised. It’s a good book, but not a great one, and I found nothing offensive about it. I abhor censorship anyway, but sometimes I’m at least able to stretch myself to understand the whys of it. Not in this case.

I also read Fangirl, which was interesting because I really did not like that book when I started reading it. There was something off-putting about it and I almost stopped, but I didn’t and at some point I really started to like it. That doesn’t happen often. It ended up being a really good story.

After We Fall by Melanie Harlow I just loved. LOVED. Great book. The Problem with Forever and Trust were also excellent reads. Wrong and Ten Tiny Breaths were likewise very good books.

Then, oh then, is Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer. When I finished reading it I was floored. And sad. Floored because it is excellent; sad because I felt that I read the best book of the year in March (Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner) and then along comes this story. In any other year, if I hadn’t read Goodbye Days, there is not a doubt in my mind that this would be the best book of the year. Honestly, it was so good it could still be the best of the year. I kind of wish I hadn’t read it until 2018 so I didn’t have to make this heart wrenching choice.

THEN, somehow, I randomly pick up a book called The Sea of Tranquility. And HOLY GUACAMOLE, that could be the best book of the year! So now I have three solid entries and I read two of them in the same month, mere days apart?!?!

And then, AND THEN, Renee Carlino had a new book out. Wish You Were Here. I was seriously concerned it would be another contender. It wasn’t. It’s very very good, no doubt, but it doesn’t play at that level.

What is this world coming to? Just kidding. I’m thrilled, honestly that these books were so good. It’s better to have too many “best books” than none at all I suppose.

And we see how it all shakes out come January.

As far as totals, Ransom, a reread, was my 175th book of the year. I finished that and my goal in the first week of September. By the end of the month I had read 206 books. This is now the highest total ever (since I started recording), with 194 being the previous high. So, this is the first time I’ve read more than 200 books in a year. And somehow I accomplished it by the end of September. Three months to go and I am on pace to complete 275 books. I mean, wowza. Stay tuned!

 

August 2017 Books

So here’s the thing, August in Minnesota was bizarrely cold. August is usually blisteringly hot and humid and oppressive and while I don’t enjoy that weather, per se, I do enjoy it as someone who likes to read outside. LOVES to read outside. I can sit up half the night reading and it is warm and perfect for swinging away. However, this particular August, by the time the sun went down I was needing long pants, long sleeves, and my sweatshirt. And several nights I had to bring a blanket as well! Honestly, there was more than one night when I was shivering in my swing and wondering why I can’t be normal and just go inside? But knowing that fall is imminent and my days of outdoor reading are numbered for 2017, I wouldn’t give up.

That dogged determination led me to a stellar month of reading.

August: (32 books)

  1. Beauty and the Mustache – Penny Reid^
  2. Ninja at First Sight – Penny Reid^
  3. Happily Ever Ninja – Penny Reid^
  4. Dating-ish – Penny Reid^
  5. The Sure Thing – Marie Harte^
  6. Alex – Sawyer Bennett^
  7. Garrett – Sawyer Bennett^
  8. Zack – Sawyer Bennett^
  9. The Player – Claire Contreras^
  10. Ryker – Sawyer Bennett^
  11. Hawke – Sawyer Bennett^
  12. Wired – Julie Garwood^
  13. Off Base – Annabeth Albert^
  14. Barely Breathing – Pamela Clare^
  15. Find My Way Home – Michele Summers^
  16. Made for Us – Samantha Chase^
  17. Love Walks In – Samantha Chase^
  18. Always My Girl – Samantha Chase^
  19. This is Our Song – Samantha Chase^
  20. A Sky Full of Stars – Samantha Chase^
  21. Hot in Hellcat Canyon – Julie Anne Long^
  22. The Rule Book – Jennifer Blackwood^
  23. The Rule Maker – Jennifer Blackwood^
  24. Easy Nights – Kristen Proby^
  25. One More Kiss – Samantha Chase^
  26. Never Loved – Charlotte Stein^
  27. Never Better – Charlotte Stein^
  28. Breathless in Love – Bella Andre^
  29. Absinthe – Winter Renshaw^
  30. Country Nights – Winter Renshaw^
  31. Beard In Mind – Penny Reid^
  32. Some Kind of Hero – Suzanne Brockmann^

 

So that’s a bunch of books. And most of them were even pretty good. A couple of stinkers, notably Off Base, The Sure Thing, The Player, and, regrettably, Wired by one of my all time favorite authors, Julie Garwood. She hasn’t written a winner in so long it actually makes me want to cry when I think about it, so I try not to and keep hoping for the best.

Here are the standouts for the month. Dating-ish by Penny Reid, this is the penultimate book in her Knitting in the City series and, wow, is this by far my favorite. I’m surprised when books get so much better toward the end but this one did. I just adored it and it makes the whole series seem more worthwhile. I’m really looking forward to the finale (hopefully that sentiment won’t come back to bite me in the ass) due out early next year. I very much enjoyed Hot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne Long, I have always enjoyed her historicals, but was eager for her first foray into contemporary, so are many people I think as the library wait was long and I am still waiting for the next two, but this was great. I also really enjoyed The Rule Book by Jennifer Blackwood, which was a recommendation by Amazon (thanks Amazon!) and it was awesome. Great story. Most of the rest are very good, too, but just not outstanding.

Finally we end with the last book of the month. This is book 17 of Brockmann’s Troubleshooter series. I started reading these years ago, like she was on book 6 I think, and this was before I understood I don’t care for romantic suspense as a genre. So I stopped reading them. Then this one came out and I liked the synopsis and thought, “why not?” and read the thing. Well, READ is probably a bit strong. I really don’t like romantic suspense and found myself skipping all the suspense stuff in favor of the romance stuff. If you like that sort of thing, (MOM), then this might be a good series for you, Brockmann is a great writer and tells a well-crafted story, I just don’t care. All the B plots detract from the good stuff, in my opinion. So this is my reminder to myself to just…stop. Stop picking these up thinking “maybe this one will be different” because they never are.

And there you have it, my August books. When I finished this month I was at 170 books, five shy of my annual predicted total, so I feel good about my chances. I’m currently on pace to read 255 books this year. While I do not expect to keep up that pace, I will definitely beat my guess, so if you bet on me, then kudos, go buy a new book.

July 2017 Books

Okay, now that July officially ended only three days ago, I’m feeling much more on track. I’m surprised at how much I read in July, given the holiday, various and sundry to-dos and events, and a family vacation. Yet, I must have been reading constantly during the moments I wasn’t with friends and family. Alright, well, I pretty much always read constantly when I’m not with friends or family. That should stop surprising me at some point.

July Books (16 books)

  1. Blurred Lines – Lauren Layne^
  2. Royally Screwed – Emma Chase^
  3. Royally Matched – Emma Chase^
  4. Royally Raised – Emma Chase^
  5. Royal Scandal – Marquita Valentine^
  6. Royal Affair – Marquita Valentine^
  7. Walk of Shame – Lauren Layne^
  8. Now That It’s You – Tawna Fenske^
  9. Edge of Chaos – Molly E. Lee^
  10. After All – Karina Halle^
  11. Hello Forever – Sarina Bowen^
  12. Way Down Deep – Charlotte Stein^
  13. Sex Symbol – Laurelin Paige^
  14. Dream of Me – Gaelen Foley & Jaz Kennedy^
  15. Friends Without Benefits – Penny Reid^
  16. Love Hacked – Penny Reid^

Now that I’m looking back, this was not a terrific reading month. It was okay, sure, I mean, any month with a new Sarina Bowen is good for me, but a lot of these books are wholly forgettable. As in I read them a month or less ago and I still can’t remember anything about them. Yet, nothing was truly terrible. I did not like Sex Symbol. Not a worst book, just not good. And there was good, for sure. Hello Forever was good, but, again, Sarina Bowen. I finally dove into the Knitting in the City series by Penny Reid, which I waited too long to read, given my love for Neanderthal Seeks Human, and enjoyed it. I really liked Walk of Shame. It was surprising how much I liked it. And I was super shocked by how much I enjoyed Way Down Deep. A romance where the two characters literally never meet. Go figure. And yet, I loved it. So, some gems, but not a truly standout reading month.

At the end of July I had completed 138 books, putting me on pace to read 237 books this year. We shall see how it goes. We’ve just dipped into August, which is usually a big month of reading for me. See you in a month!

June 2017 Books

I’m basically just plowing through these lists now, just to get back on track. We finally hit summer and I got a new swing and intended to wow you with my outdoor reading, but then the weather got wonky and it didn’t go as planned, but I think I still managed okay.

June books (29 books)

  1. The Duff – Kody Keplinger^
  2. Geekerella – Ashley Poston^
  3. When It’s Real – Erin Watt^
  4. Pipe Dreams – Sarina Bowen^
  5. Buns – Alice Clayton^
  6. Famous in Love – Rebecca Serle^
  7. Truly, Madly, Famously – Rebecca Serle^
  8. The Hook-up – Kristen Callihan^
  9. The Friend Zone – Kristen Callihan^
  10. The Game Plan – Kristen Callihan^
  11. The Hot Shot – Kristen Callihan^
  12. Come Away With Me – Kristen Proby^
  13. Left Drowning – Jessica Park^
  14. Thoughtless – SC Stephens^
  15. The Debt – Karina Halle^
  16. Before I Ever Met You – Karina Halle^
  17. Steadfast – Sarina Bowen^
  18. Louder than Love – Jessica Topper^
  19. Love to Hate You – Anna Permoli^
  20. The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband – Julia Quinn^
  21. Lost Without You – Molly O’Keefe^
  22. Where I Belong – Molly O’Keefe^
  23. The Knocked Up Plan – Lauren Blakely^
  24. Hot Mess – Emily Goodwin^
  25. Twice Burned – Emily Goodwin^
  26. Easy Magic – Kristen Proby^
  27. Strong Enough – Melanie Harlow & David Romanov^
  28. The Rocker that Holds Me – Terri Anne Browning^
  29. The Rocker that Savors Me – Terri Anne Browning^

And there’s June. A lot of goodness here, but mixed with a lot of crap, which is probably to be expected by 29 books in 30 days. Here’s the good: Geekerella, an adorably geeky take on the Cinderella classic. When It’s Real, Erin Watt is quickly becoming a go-to author for me. Liked this even more than the Royals series. Buns, because, well, Alice Clayton’s humor. The Kristen Callihan series is good if you like sports romance, which I do. This one is football and enjoyable. Karina Halle is on my must read list and I enjoyed these both. The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband is a favorite. This is a stellar new series by a beloved author and she, again, knocked it out of the park.

Molly O’Keefe started a new series after her wildly successful (with me at least) series Everything I Left Unsaid, which is also the name of the first book, AND the best book of the year for me in 2015. This was a bit of a letdown. Good, yes, but in comparison they left me wanting.

The Knocked Up Plan. I really like Lauren Blakely’s humor as well. What I don’t like are books about pregnancy and babies, etc. Yet this one? Blew me away. I loved everything about it.

The one from the dark side that pops out was Thoughtless by SC Stephens. Let me just say this. I HOPE this is the worst book I read all year. I shudder to think there are worse out there.

And there you have it, a worthy June. I ended the month with a grand total of 122 books, and, as you know, July 1st marks the halfway point. Which means that I was on pace to read a whopping 244 books this year. Yowza.

July is coming….but tomorrow. I need to organize my thoughts. Stay tuned…

May 2017 Books

Sweet Mary and Joseph, I meant to stay on top of my book lists this year and then I blinked and I’m three months behind. How does that happen? I honestly can’t remember much about May, so I’ll just jump to the list and hope the books were somewhat memorable.

May books (15 books)

  1. Complete Nothing – Kieran Scott
  2. Devil in Spring – Lisa Kleypas
  3. Wicked Abyss – Kresley Cole
  4. The Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy – Rick Riordan
  5. Shy Girls Write it Better – May Sage^
  6. The Girl From Everywhere – Heidi Heilig^
  7. The Perfect Illusion – Winter Renshaw^
  8. Bitter Rivals – Winter Renshaw^
  9. Arrogant Playboy – Winter Renshaw^
  10. The Ship Beyond Time – Heidi Heilig^
  11. The Crown’s Game – Evelyn Skye^
  12. The Crown’s Fate – Evelyn Skye^
  13. 180 Seconds – Jessica Park^
  14. Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor
  15. Red Sister – Mark Lawrence^

Whew! This was a surprisingly good month of books. Devil in Spring is the continuation of a series I enjoy, where the characters are related to the characters of another series I enjoyed. Sounds convoluted, is actually quite nice. I always enjoy Kresley Cole’s IAD series, and this new entry did not disappoint. The same goes for the new Rick Riordan.

The duology from Heidi Heilig was delightful and completely unlike anything I’ve read before. I enjoyed them both and recommend them heartily if you don’t mind a bit of fantasy and history in your reading.

Same with The Crown’s duology, which I found browsing about the Heilig books.

Strange the Dreamer is a book I was looking forward to for a long time. It was okay. It was a bit of a letdown. I wanted it to be so much more than it was. It was so close to being an excellent idea.

Red Sister was another unusual choice that I enjoyed. Nun assassins. Need I say more?

Lastly we have 180 Seconds. I was woefully unprepared when I read this book. I simply wasn’t expecting it. And it may well be the best book I read all year. We shall see.

And that, my friends, was May. At the end of May I had 93 books completed, on pace to read 223 books. Stay tuned….