Monthly Archives: July 2013

Look What I Found, Advice from Two of My Favorite Writers

Don’t Run From Who You Are: Writing Advice From George Saunders & Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed posted a link to this on her Facebook page today, and the post is great. The writing advice is better. There are no words to tell you how much I would loooooovvvvve to go to a talk, workshop, signing…whatever with these two writers.  There are a couple of collections below that I highly recommend.

Tenth of December by George Saunders

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Who do you admire?

‘Til Next Time,
Jessica

 

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City of Ashes

The Mortal Instruments Book #2

The Mortal Instruments Book #2

City of Ashes,the second book in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, is fast paced, filled with great action, and (my favorite bit) character development. (When I read this, I hear “character development” in a big booming announcer voice, you know the one I mean, right?  Every. Single. Time.)  As always, I promise not to spoil the surprises for you…no matter how hard it is. I swept through this book like a wildfire. There were no slow bits, no lagging parts, just good stuff. Clary, Jace and cohorts continue to gain depth, which just makes my little character-centric heart squeal with glee.

City of Bones kicked off the series. (Yes, yes, I know the review of City of Bones just went up last week….I really do like these books that much.) City of Ashes is a great follow-up.  While I felt City of Bones began a bit slow or rather flat (I still think it may have been purposeful); City of Ashes keeps you going at double time clear to the end.  The relationships get more complicated and there is strain placed at the very heart of the characters. Their fault lines are being uncovered and bits and pieces are exposed and hammered. The cracks that were hinted at in the last book are assaulted here, and new  weaknesses exposed.  Will anyone be safe?

Maybe I’m a bit evil, but I really hope no one gets a pass here. (Insert evil laugh here.  Bwahahahaha!)  Maybe, I’ve just been watching/reading things in which the writers are not nice to their characters, but the stories are just fantastic.  The worse things are for them the harder I root for them. (Unlike my father, who likes the bad guys.  He cheers and giggles when Ursula gets ginormous and looks like she’s going to win in The Little Mermaid. That just takes cheering for the underdog a bit too far…or maybe he just  likes to stir up trouble…yeah, I’m betting on trouble too.)  Seriously though, when bad things happen to good characters, as a reader/viewer/spectator, you get behind them.  If there life just went merrily on, there would be no real reason to jump on the proverbial bandwagon, now would there?

Confession, a scene or two made me a bit misty eyed.  Unlike movies, books have always gotten to me. Characters can’t hide anything.  In the real world, people can put up a front, keep the hurt inside and stopper up the tears to keep anyone else from seeing the damage.  Characters don’t always get that option.  You get to see every scar, all the turmoil, and each teardrop they refuse to let show, and it can break your heart a bit.  As the characters here have whatever remains of their childhood innocence ripped away in various ways, they’re growing up, getting stronger, more vulnerable, and leaving behind the world they once knew.  Kind of like coming of age while avoiding dying because a variety of creatures great and small are after you…because, you know, just growing up isn’t hard enough.

Ms. Clare touches on some big issues here. Racism, for starters, and I like the way she went about it. In the first book you see some hints, but nothing really overt.  In this one she calls it for what it is, and it becomes more of an issue.  We see it through a different lens here, Shadowhunters, Mundanes, and Downworlders, vampires, werewolves, and faeries, instead of skin color, nationality or religion, but it works the same. The younger generation, follows the teachings of their elders. Then, through the eyes of an outsider who has no preconceived notions of how it is supposed to be, the walls begin to break down. It’s slow, painful, and incomplete. Just as in the real world, but it is still breaking down. I have a feeling that nothing in this world of Ms. Clare’s will be the same by the end of the series.  I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Hmm….yes, I do believe I can squeeze a trip to the bookstore in this evening.  That next book City of Glass is calling my name.  Used bookstore?  The Frugal Bookworm is my favorite used bookstore here in Tulsa, but it is a bit of a drive.  Especially, now with the ever-loving construction…well everywhere.  Next up…City of Glass, Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy, or Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness?  Not even I can tell you.

First line:

The formidable glass-and-steel structure rose from its position on Front Street like a glittering needle threading the sky.

What’s your favorite bookstore?  Where do you geek out the most when you shop?  (Hint: I geek out at bookstores…and places with Doctor Who merchandise, God help us all if I find someone selling Sherlock merchandise in a store…I really don’t know what would happen then, well, I do know my credit card statement would beat me up the next month.)

Any good words about City of Glass, Urban Shaman or Shadow of Night to get me amped up about one of them?

What is next on your to-read list?

Jessica


Book Before Movie? Movie Before Book? Decisions, Decisions

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

City of BonesI’m breaking my rules with this book.  There is a movie, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, being released in theaters on August 21, and normally I watch the movie first then I read the book.  This way I’m not disappointed in the movie and I enjoy the book.  Books are always better, you know that, and they have to cut so much out of the book to make the movie less than 17 hours long that I’ve generally been safe with this approach.  (Well, the only exception has been The Hunger Games I almost didn’t read that book because I watched the movie first.  However, my best friend bought the book for me as a gift, and I did end up reading it…and loving it too.)

It all began when I was in Dallas for the Neil Gaiman signing, I went to the Half Price Books headquarters, and came across Clockwork Angel also by Cassandra Clare.  This is the first book in the Infernal Devices series…it comes after The Mortal Instruments series, and it looked good…really good..really interesting, and I realized that if I didn’t start at the beginning there might be spoilers…I hate spoilers.  The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices are all part of the Shadowhunter Chronicles…I’m listing them below, because they are now on my literary “grocery list”.

So should I risk it?  Should I break my own rule and read the book before watching the movie?  My rule hasn’t been a secrete, I’ve proclaimed it often and sometimes loudly (I’m just not a quiet person), and since announcing my rule about watching the movie first, I have had several people inform me that I have it backwards.  Really? Can you be wrong about this kind of thing?

Well, wrong or right, I’m not able to wait.  Patience may be a virtue, but it really isn’t one I can claim….and people told me I was wrong, so I have to at least test their theory, right?  Can anyone say unnecessary justification? Basically….screw it, I’m reading the book now.

onesheetCity of Bones has that whole bit with a layer of the world beneath ours that most people can’t even see that I just can’t get enough of.  I found Ms. Clare’s world to be very well built.  There were none of those so-how-does-this-work? moments for me.  Only people with the Sight can see Downworlders, demons and Shadowhunters for what they really are.  Everyone else lives on blissfully ignorant of the war being raged around them…it isn’t a new plot device, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good one.

I like the mythology that she uses to build her world as well, and I’ve read enough to have heard mention of the Nephilim and the mortal instruments.  In this last season of the television show Supernatural they referenced the human-angel hybrid, Nephilim.  House of Night series by P.C. and Kirsten Cast also reference the creatures.  Wikipedia’s page lists a whole ton of references from Assassins Creed, The Dragoneers, X-Files, Magic: The Gathering and Hex.  Even before my trip down the fascinating rabbit hole that is Wikipedia, there was enough tickling the edges of my brain to make me want to go digging.  (Where did I read about this stuff?  The bible?   This is what happens when you pair an English Literature Major with a Minor in History…It has been driving me bonkers!)

clockworkangle-265x400WARNING!  Sometimes I’ll go off on random tangents to dig up all the information I can find whatever subject strikes my fancy at the moment. (Don’t worry,  I promise that if I go a-researching I won’t stop writing my blog….it may get a bit more…esoteric at times though, fair warning.)  Previous “hunting trips” have included gemology, theology (everything from Judeaism to Buddhism to Wicca) and how to read and write in Arabic (I did live in Saudi Arabia at one point.  I also don’t recommend trying to learn a language on your own…especially if it involves another alphabet…it is REALLY hard!)  Curious minds want to know!

Aaaaaannnnddd, back to the book!  City of Bones started out a bit slow, but picked up nicely with in the first couple of chapters.  I say it started out a bit slow, but there’s a murder in the first handful of pages, so really not that slow.   The more I think of it the more I wonder if could have been done a bit deliberately.  There’s a roughness to the beginning of City of Bones opening chapters.  You already know I’m a sucker for a well written, well rounded character, and Clarissa (Clary) Fray seemed a bit flat at first.  Something in the first few chapters just seemed off, unfinished maybe, but I think that’s intentional because there are revelations to be had, my friends.  My thoughts are either that the unfinished feel of the early chapters was an intentional device or the author was trying a bit too hard not to reveal secrets, because, without revealing spoilers, there are secrets aplenty.  With each new unveiling, the characters gain depth, the plot, as they say, thickens, and even the imagery gains sharpness that was lacking.  Friendships are built, relationships are broken, enemies made and allies gained….and nothing is really as it seems.  Excuse me while I go grab the next book City of Ashes  so I can see what happens next….

First Lines:

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” the bouncer said, folding his arms across his massive chest.  He stared down at the boy in the red zip-up jacket and shook his shaved head.  “You can’t bring that thing in here.”

Would you rather read the book first or watch the movie first?

Any books that are coming to the big screen that are “must reads” ?

‘Til Next Time,

Jessica

The Shadowhunter Chronicles

The Mortal Instruments Book #1

The Mortal Instruments Book #1

The Mortal Instruments Book #2

The Mortal Instruments Book #2

The Mortal Instruments Book #3

The Mortal Instruments Book #3

The Mortal Instruments Book #4

The Mortal Instruments Book #4

The Mortal Instruments Book #5

The Mortal Instruments Book #5

Coming April 2014 art by Cassandra Jean

Coming April 2014 art by Cassandra Jean

The Infernal Devices Book #1

The Infernal Devices Book #1

The Infernal Devices Book #2

The Infernal Devices Book #2

The Infernal Devices Book #3

The Infernal Devices Book #3


Just Let Me Add You To My Contacts

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
― J.D. SalingerThe Catcher in the Rye

Which authors would you like to call up whenever you wanted?

Which book of theirs inspired you?


Really, I Need to Stop Searching for Zombies on the Internet….

So, ya’ll remember that post I did not too long ago, World War Z..Just Another Zombie Movie?  Well, the movie started me on a…zombie…frenzy?  Spree?  Well, a zombie something anyway. Technically, I guess it all began with the BBC mini-series, In the Flesh that aired just before World War Z was released in theaters.  Then, as soon as I wrote that post, I went out and bought Laurell K. Hamilton’s Affliction.  Hint: This book has zombies.  Read a bit about LKH and her Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series in Affliction:The Book That Consumed Two Days of My Life…When’s the Next One?.  I also started watching The Walking Dead.  Now, I find this older vlogbrothers video….I Am Legend is a book?!? Add another to my  literary “grocery list”.  So, really, I just need to stop searching for zombie stuff on Google….


Center of the Universe Festival…T-Town is Hot, Hot, Hot!

photo (13)This week I got to experience the first ever Center of the Universe Festival here in Tulsa, OK.  Now how exactly do we get a “center of the universe” moniker?  Well, let me ‘splain it to you, Lucy.  The Center of the Universe is a well worn concrete circle in Tulsa that is an acoustic…anomaly.  When you stand in the center of the….circle, any noise you make is reflected back at a greatly increased volume.  So, imagine dropping your earring and expecting to hear a little ping, but what you really get sounds more like a gong.  Oh yeah, already planning a trip with my niece and nephew, just so I can freak them out.  Why would that freak them out?  I’m not TELLING them what happens when they stand there.  I’ll let them figure it out on their own.  The reason this would work with both of them…and maybe a few select friends who don’t read my blog, (let this be a lesson to them) is because, when you’re standing outside the circle you can’t hear anything.  Well, they can’t hear anything but a really distorted voice.  I’m sure there are some sciency types out there that can explain, but I am not a sound wave expert.

The Center of the Universe is located in the heart of downtown at the top of the Boston Street bridge that spans the railroad tracks between 1st Street and Archer.  Seriously, it isn’t hard to find.  There’s a brick path that leads to the pedestrian bridge that goes over the railroad tracks.  It is accessible from the corner of W. Archer St and N. Boston Ave.  The old Union Train Depot is there, although it is more recognizable now as the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, just south of the Williams Tower.

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Cain’s Ballroom

The festival took up a little more than two square blocks in downtown and was comprised of two stages, vendors, food trucks, shops, bars…it was a fun time to be had by all.  The main stage was right outside the scene of last week’s escapades, Cain’s Ballroom.  The main stage was located on Main Street, and that’s handy. After a few drinks it is best not to confuse people.  Downtown does that to enough individuals with all their crazy one way streets and such, or it could be a happy coincidence.   Based on this quote from the Festival’s webpage, I’m thinking it is probably not an accident, “Where do you drown a hipster? In the mainstream. Where do you drown your eardrums full of hip music? On Main Street.”  The second stage was just a couple of blocks away at Guthrie Green, so named for Woody Guthrie.

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Guthrie Green

They had arranged it so you were able to purchase VIP Passes, BOK Zone tickets, or you could just print off the free passes…I opted to pay nothing.  It isn’t that I’m cheap, but I couldn’t see the appeal of paying that much money to get that close to the stage, when they had LED screens and a decent view of the stage from the free area.  Damian Kulash of OK Go referred to it as the “fancies” and the “non-fancies”  I was definitely a “non-fancy”, but back to the music…again!  The lineup was fantastic.  There were nearly 70 bands that played over the course of two days.  Mutemath, OK Go, and Neon Trees played on the main stage on Saturday.  These were the bands I was there to see.  Tulsa has some great acts, but quite frankly, it was too dang hot to be walking back and forth between the two stages.  (Walking from a viewing spot to an air conditioned bar?  That was super easy!)  Although many of the bars were only supposed to be open to VIP Pass holders, I think they took pity on everyone, because did I mention it was hot?  The heat index soared to 100.  Personally, I think it felt hotter than that, but once it hits the triple digits does it really matter 100, 101, 105…freaking hot.  The sun was relentless, because although we were downtown, this section of Main Street is flat on the West side.  No protective buildings to provide shade, minuscule trees, pretty much nothing to relieve the heat…well, the scissor lift for the camera crew provided a bit of shade.

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Mutemath

My friend and I arrived about halfway through the Mutemath performance (it didn’t help the temps go down any) grabbed a frosty beverage and got to watch the inflatable crowd surfing…right, just let me show you.  He crowd surfed on an inflated square with lights around the edges.  It was kind of awesome.  It would be the kind of crowd surfing I would enjoy.  Have you ever crowd surfed?  They were fun, energetic and definitely kept the masses engaged despite the sweltering temperatures and soaring humidity.

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OK Go Guest Guitar

Next to take the stage was OK Go, and I have to say this was my favorite performance of the day.  Damian Kulash was engaging and funny.  He talked to the people in the crowd more than most.  There were questions about which section was which, was Tulsa always this hot in the summer, who could play guitar….wait, what?  Yep, he asked who in the “fancies” could play guitar.   Then he pulled a guy from the crowd on stage to play.  There was even a warning that if he was lying he was going to look like an idiot. (I may be paraphrasing a bit, but you get the idea.)  There’s the concert goer, playing guitar with OK Go on the left.  You can tell it’s him because a) he’s not actually a member of the band and b) he’s wearing a bright blue shirt…actually his shirt kind of matches the banner at the side of the stage too, although you’ve probably already figured that out by now.

OK Go

OK Go

Mr. Kulash also came down to the fencing that separated the “fancies” from the “non-fancies”and sang there for a while.  There’s a picture, but all you can see are a bunch of people holding their phones aloft…I’m just not that tall, even standing on a curb.  They also did an entire song with handbells.  It was a really cool concept, but I don’t know that it translated well for an outdoor event.  The sound of the handbells didn’t project well (at least not to us “non-fancies”), and how do you get sound set up for that outside?  Damian Kulash actually took a picture of the crowd and posted it on instagram….what do you think?   I’m told there were 20,000 people at the Center of the Universe Festival, and I think I agree with that.

In between OK Go and Neon Trees we took the opportunity to wander a bit.  There were food trucks to check out, t-shirts to buy and vendors to explore.  Also, my friend had a craving for nachos and cotton candy. (Completely gross combination, in my mind, but whatever floats your boat, my friend.)  Unfortunately for her, although there were a multitude of food trucks offering a plethora of tasty treats, none of those treats included cotton candy, and we forgot where the nachos we saw were located…Does stuff like this ever happen to you?  Maybe it is just us.  Anyway,  to make a already long paragraph shorter, I spent more money than I intended.  I needed a festival t-shirt…yes, I do mean NEED.  Then I checked out a new shop that will be opening downtown, The Bookerie, and they had pendants made from bits of maps.  I found one with Dublin, which is probably tops the list places I’ve been…I had to buy it.

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Guthrie Green Splash Pad

We moseyed on down to Guthrie Green and listened to a brass band there for a little while.  Watched the kids playing catch, and playing in the splash pad.  I did not join the kids in the splash pad, although I did think about it, for a while…quite a while.  The evening was actually really pleasant now that the sun was going down, and I really appreciated the chance to explore a bit.  This space is really cool.  They have Fitness on the Green with Tai Chi, Zumba, Boot Camp, etc. out here.  They have a Sunday Market, Guthrie Green hosts a lot of musical acts and they even show movies out there as well.  Luckily they have a webpage, because when they reopen August 2nd, I’m going to have to come back…like a lot.

Neon Trees took the stage around 9:00 pm, and we were not feeling the crowds anymore.  However, the festival organizers had done a fantastic job by providing a LED screen for those of us who decided to hang back a little.  They were really great.  Hopefully, the crowd was more responsive closer to the stage, because they were working hard to get everyone pumped up and engaged in their show.  I know, I was singing along…I may have been the only one in at least a 20 foot radius, but I was having a great time.  Admittedly, I didn’t stay for the entire set, I wish I could have but there were people to meet, nachos to find…

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Neon Trees…way up there

‘Til Next Time,

Jessica

P.S. I learned how to take panoramic pictures this weekend…could you tell?


Affliction: The Book that Consumed Two Days of My Life…When’s the Next One?

afflictionThe Universe was telling me I had to read Affliction by Laurell K. Hamilton…now….no waiting for the paperback.  See, I had a trip to Houston this week, just for the day, and apparently I’m not at my best at 4:30am.   On the way, I had work to do, and on the way home I worked on a short story I’ve been playing with…until I ran out of paper in my notebook.  I didn’t bring a book, nook, headphones, iPad and my laptop battery died.  Seriously?  I can’t remember the last time that I left home without a book in my purse or a spare notebook and pen.  Therefore, I had to buy a book at the airport.  I am not a sit quietly and do absolutely nothing kind of girl.  After scouring shelves for a paperback that caught my fancy, something blue caught my attention out of the corner of my eye.  I waffled a bit, I can’t lie.  Usually, I’ll check the hard cover out of the library, but wait to buy Ms. Hamilton’s books until they come out in paperback.  Books are expensive in hard cover, and Affliction is the 22nd Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter novel…I own all of them…a paperback would match the others.  The waffling lasted all of maybe five seconds before I trotted up to the counter to pay for my entertainment.

If you haven’t read any of the Anita Blake books, start at the beginning with Guilty Pleasures.  The full list, in order, is below.  Set in St. Louis, vampires have been given equal rights by the Supreme Court.  They are people now.  Lycanthropes are out there too, but they don’t have the same rights as people, at least not yet.  The characters develop so beautifully over the subsequent books, and that arc is so fun to read…and re-read again and again.  Sometimes, I’ll go back to read the early novels and I just want to give her a hug…or warn her away…or laugh because I know she is SO changing her mind about that in a few books.  LKH never disappoints, and Affliction is no exception.  Filled with bad guys (both preternatural and human), good guys, emotional landmines, and a special brand of romance, her books are fraught with one disaster or near disaster after another.  For books about the paranormal, the characters are relatable.  Anita likes to pick at her relationships, and uncovers damage, strength and insecurities that most of us would never show the world.  Some of these I can see in myself sometimes, and it makes you love or hate the characters all the more because of it.

In Affliction I found myself smacking myself in the forehead and saying out loud, “Asher, what have you done NOW.”  Mentally begging someoneguiltypleasures to pull their head out, so they can see what’s in front of them, and shaking my head because I was sure her irrational jealousy was going to get her or someone else killed.  I usually read Ms. Hamiton’s books in one shot, because I simply have to see what happens.  They are those “just one more chapter” kind of books that are hard to put back down to go back to normal life.  There are cliffhanger chapters that are nearly impossible to walk away from.  I felt bereft every time I had to walk away.  These are characters and stories I dream about if I have to sleep mid-book, and Affliction wasn’t any different than the last 21 Anita books.  This book, my schedule demanded that:

1) I put it down to sleep, at least four hours the first night.  I was NOT happy, and my dreams were filled with Anita, vampires, weres of all shapes and sizes and, of course, zombies.  You can’t have Anita without zombies.

2) I put the book down to go to work.  That’s what keeps me in books.  It was done grudgingly, and with a chapter or three read over breakfast…I may have been a bit late for work too.

3) I put to book down to talk to people who actually deserved an answer, and didn’t know better than to talk to me while I’m reading (especially the last 20 pages of a book).  I managed polite, but I don’t know about friendly.

Anita Blake is not only a vampire hunter, she’s also an Animator…she raises the dead.  Yep, that’s zombies. That’s her day…well, it is the job she gets paid for.  You have to raise zombies at night.   Until now, she’s never really been afraid of them.  She’s always known what to expect, because raising the dead is something that she had to learn NOT to do.  As she says:

Most animators need practice and training to raise the dead; I got training so I could stop doing it by accident.  A beloved dog that crawled into bed with me when I was fourteen, roadkill that followed me like I was some nightmarish Pied Piper, and finally a college professor who had committed suicide and came to my dorm room so I could tell his wife he was sorry.  I wondered if the lone shambling zombies that they’d occasionally find wondering around were accidents from untrained animators like I had been once.

These zombies are nothing she’s ever seen before, and Anita is afraid.  When The Executioner, preternatural expert and all around badass (it really doesn’t matter that she is a petite woman) has no idea what’s going on, you know you’re in trouble.  Micah’s estranged father is dying.  They knew the trip would raise issues they would rather let die, but this was not what they had in mind.  Who knew that going home would this dangerous?

Have you started to notice that I love books with great characters.  This series has great characters, in every sense.  Quirky, endearing, dangerous, maddening, lovable, frustrating, terrifying, funny, and human; more often than not these traits all come around in one person.  As I re-read that last sentence, I think of all the other characters I love and love to hate in this series and realize that I could list the whole gamut of personality and emotion here, and you still won’t know what I’m talking about until you read about them. She doesn’t shy away from any aspects of their personality, even (thankfully!) their sexuality, so be prepared.

However, good books are not driven by characters alone (although, I do think that a great character can save a mediocre plot).  I really liked the plot in this one (and all the others).  Although at first, I was sure that I knew what was going to happen.  Really wrong about huge parts of that, and I should have known better…forgive me.  I figured out who the baddie had to be, but couldn’t figure out how it happened or where the badness boost came from.  The story moves fast, and there’s sub-plots and relationship arcs and…and…nope, can’t say anything else…spoilers.  The details are great too, and you can tell that there is some serious research behind weapons, police procedure, etc.  Sometimes you even get unexpected biology lessons…no, I’m not joking.

A personal aside, to Ms. Hamilton…thank you, thank you, thank you for more of Jean-Claude in this book.  I had missed him, a lot.  I needed more of him.  I was worried that he was starting to feel ignored.  (I do know he’s fictional, thank you very much.)  Truly, you’ve made so many characters such an integral part of Anita’s life that, while I know everyone can’t be on stage all the time, I miss them when they aren’t there.  Thank goodness for re-reading old books.  They are a balm when I am missing certain characters.

Laurell K. Hamilton has another series sourrounding a Faerie princess, Merry Gentry that is definitely worth a look as well…I have all of the Merry books as well.  We’re all waiting anxiously for the next in the series.  The author is also on Twitter, @LKHamilton.  Through her tweets, I’ve been introduced to a lot of great authors, like Neil Gaiman (as I mentioned in my very first real post), and she also gives quite a bit of insight into her writing process through the tweets and her blog.  The good days and the bad.

First Lines:

My gun was digging into my back, so I shifted forward in my  office chair.  That was better; now it was just the comforting pressure of the inner-skirt holster, tucked away underneath my short royal blue suit jacket.

‘Til Next Time,

Jessica

guiltypleasures

Anita Blake Book #1

Anita Blake Book #2

Anita Blake Book #2

Anita Blake Book #3

Anita Blake Book #3

Anita Blake Book #4

Anita Blake Book #4

Anita Blake Book #5

Anita Blake Book #5

Anita Blake Book #6

Anita Blake Book #6

Anita Blake Book #7

Anita Blake Book #7

Anita Blake Book #8

Anita Blake Book #8

Anita Blake Book #9

Anita Blake Book #9

Anita Blake Book #10

Anita Blake Book #10

Anita Blake Book #11

Anita Blake Book #11

Anita Blake Book #12

Anita Blake Book #12

Anita Blake Book #13

Anita Blake Book #13

Anita Blake Book #14

Anita Blake Book #14

Anita Blake Book #15

Anita Blake Book #15

Anita Blake Book #16

Anita Blake Book #16

Anita Blake Book #17

Anita Blake Book #17

Anita Blake Book #18

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Anita Blake Book #19

Anita Blake Book #19

Anita Blake Book #20

Anita Blake Book #20

Anita Blake Book #21

Anita Blake Book #21

Anita Blake Book #22

Anita Blake Book #22


What are some of your treasured books?

“There are books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story… don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that. Read sometimes for the words–the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers who won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.”
― Stephen King


For All the Firefly Fans…Stay Shiny, My Friends

firefly“Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don’t care, I’m still free
You can’t take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain’t comin’ back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can’t take the sky from me
There’s no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can’t take the sky from me…”
― Joss Whedon


Shakin’ It with Alabama Shakes at the Cain’s Ballroom

CainsNow, not everyone is able to wrap their heads around the fact that Tulsa, Oklahoma is a rockin’ place.  Okie’s have a history of great music.  Oklahoma natives include The Flaming Lips, Carrie Underwood, Reba McIntyre, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Hinder, All-American Rejects, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, Joe Diffee, Ronnie Dunn…the list goes on and on.  Tulsa has always been a great place to catch some live music.  Let’s take this last show I attended as an example.  The venue, Cain’s Ballroom, is on the historical registry in Tulsa and has quite a history…here’s a little snippet from their web page…there’s going to be a book too…no seriously.

Built in 1924 by Tulsa entrepreneur Tate Brady, The Cain’s Ballroom has gone from a garage, a dime-a-dance joint and a dancing academy until it became what is known by artists and patrons alike as one of the top performance venues in the world today.

The highlight of the ballroom is a historic maple, spring loaded dance floor designed in a “log cabin” or concentric square pattern. Lighting the dance floor is a four-foot neon star and a silver disco ball. The walls are decorated with oversized photographs of various musicians who played Cain’s, including Bob Wills, Johnnie Lee Wills, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Tex Ritter, Kay Starr and Tennessee Ernie Ford. Between the portraits are black fiddle-shaped fixtures illuminated by a single red bulb.

Bob Wills was born into a family of fiddlers where he learned to play the fiddle and mandolin. As a young man, Wills performed at house dances, medicine shows and on the radio. On New Year’s Night 1935, he made his debut at Cain’s and the venue soon became known as “The Home of Bob Wills.”

As The Home of Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys from 1935 to 1942, the ballroom was especially significant for popularizing a new sound of western music called western swing, a form of country and western that combined jazz, hillbilly, boogie, blues, big band swing, rhumba, mariachi and jitterbug music. Weekly dances, a midnight radio show and a daily noon-hour program were played by Bob Wills during what are remembered as his “glory years.”

Bob Wills is remembered as “The King of Western Swing.” He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1978, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 for his significant contributions to American music from the 1930s through the 1960s. During his career, Wills wrote and recorded at least 470 songs, including “Take Me Back to Tulsa” and “San Antonio Rose,” and he influenced such artists as Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Asleep at the Wheel.

CainsBallroomCain’s is known throughout the music industry as not only “The Home of Bob Wills,” but also as the “Carnegie Hall of Western Swing.”

Cain’s has also been listed as a top music venue in the United States. In fact, Travel CNN lists Cain’s in their 10 Fabulous U.S. Music Venues.

Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa, Oklahoma

In what has to be one of the most incongruous pairings of band and venue, the Sex Pistols played the historic Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa in 1978 on one of only seven stops on their U.S. tour.

To this day, a framed piece of drywall Sid Vicious ostensibly punched a hole through commemorates the historic gig at the even more historic venue.

The Pistols were just passing through, but in generations past, the hallowed hall was home turf for Wills and His Texas Playboys, who broadcast their performances on national radio here on KVOO from 1934 to 1942 and would routinely pack more than 1,000 dancers onto the supposedly spring-loaded maple dance floor.

Originally intended to be a garage when it was built in 1924, the building instead became Cain’s Dance Academy in 1930 — its neon sign still advertises “ballroom dancing” — and finally a music venue in 1976.

Others who have filled the floor at the Cain’s include everyone from Ernest Tubb, Tex Ritter, and Tennessee Ernie Ford to The Strokes, Metallica and Elvis Costello.

Still going strong, the Cain’s manages to be both a landmark in the National Register of Historic Places and a pioneering live venue where you’re as likely to see the Josh Abbott Band and the National Fiddler Hall of Fame Induction as The Polyphonic Spree and dubstep deejay Excision.

However, as fascinating as I’m sure this history lesson has been, what you really want to know about is the show, right? Right! Alabama Shakes was the main event at Cain’s Ballroom. Their opening acts were Hurray for the Riff Raff  and Fly Golden Eagle.  I know a lot of people like to skip opening acts and just show up for the main event, but I kind of like them. Getting a sneak peek at up and comers is always fun for me.  Then again, I just love music, especially live.  Rock, Country, Broadway, Symphony…doesn’t really matter as long as it is done well, music makes me happy, and the opening acts were definitely well done.

Hurray for the Riff Raff  has a folksy kind of country sort of sound.  I’m a sucker for the string section, and Hurray for the Riff Raff  has a good fiddle player and someone plucking the bass as well.  A lot of the songs they played carried a message, about violence in their New Orleans neighborhood, the death of Treyvon Martin were just two of them that stayed with me long after the house lights came up.  Their songwriting digs deep.  The message is delivered with a nice mellow sound, and if I was looking to kick back and relax on the porch with some sweet tea, it would be perfect.  After a burger and sweet potato fries at McNellie’s…it was not waking me up so much.  The Bushmill’s Irish Honey whiskey probably only increased the overall mellowness, but that was not a bad thing.

Fly Golden Eagle was up next and their sound was much more energetic, and although space was at a premium on the floor, the music was something you wanted to move to. The crowd around me had started to get a bit restless and I couldn’t hear all the lyrics, but what I did catch had a philosophical bent to it.  Greek myths were mentioned, and overall it came across as smart, intellectual songwriting.  If Hurray for the Riff Raff conjured images of front porch rocking and sweet tea drinking,  Fly Golden Eagle did the same for college.  Fun, smart, a little ragged around the edges, but none of it mattered because you’re doing exactly what you want to do.  The complete and total worn out, holey look of the lead singer’s shirt was a bit distracting, and only intensified the frat house feel….well maybe the frat house the morning after the party anyway.  I really hope it was on purpose and not just a really really old shirt.  When his hipster type black framed glasses flew off as he head banged his way across the stage, I chuckled.

At this point my patience with the jostling crowd was wearing thing in spots, and the temperatures were starting to rise.  (When you’re Oklahoma, you become very concerned with the state of the air conditioning in mid-July when there’s a sold out show happening.  It can go from a fun time to getting your goose cooked, pretty quickly.) Now it was time to take a quick walk before squeezing a bit closer to the stage, fluffing up the ole patience, love and human kindness to get ready.  Alabama Shakes was up next.

Alabama Shakes

Not bad, huh? I think I’m getting better at blindly taking pictures with my phone held above my head in crowded places…well maybe not better but more accepting of the result anyway.  As annoying as the press of humanity had been before, once the music started washing over us, I kind of loved them all.  Everybody was happy and singing along.  There is something particularly…awesome about the crowd singing along out of tune with their favorite songs as the band plays on stage.  You should have heard the crowd sing along to Hold On.  I always forget my phone takes video when I’m at a concert.  I get so wrapped up in the moment, and the  music, and the movement. That is one bit I wish I could share, the sound of the crowd belting out the chorus.  I’m grinning from ear to ear singing along with every song…most of the time I even know the words!

One of my favorite things is to watch the performers faces during those songs where everybody is singing along with them.  That moment of awe that their music has touched that many people…again.  I imagine it never gets old. Doesn’t it just make a show so much better when you know they’re up on stage doing what they love?

About halfway through the show, my friend and I decide we need some air.  We take another walk around the floor, out to where you can still smell the barbecue from Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ .  Although they had stopped serving their mouth watering pulled pork a while back, the bar is still open and the air is a bit cooler.  We each run into old friends, acquaintances, and even co-workers.  We watch couples dance and laugh and make fools of themselves.  The look on the security guard’s face as he walks past some of the antics may have been one of my favorite parts of the evening, aside from the music….oh, God the music.

You learn something about people from the music the love, don’t you?  Not just what they listen to but the stuff that lights them up when it comes on the radio.  Music is just one of those things that speaks to the soul.  It gets in your blood and pushes its way through the mind and the body…wow, now who’s waxing philosophical.  Anyway, speaking of music there’s a new music festival in town this weekend that I think I’m going  to try to check out, Center of the Universe Festival.

What’s one of your favorite places to see live musics?  Do you have a “don’t miss” festival?

‘Til next time,

Jessica