Tag Archive | grief

Book review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American GodsAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

2003 Review

Neil Gaiman is one of the most original writers currently publishing. He defies category: how does one classify an author whose work ranges from SF to horror to social commentary to parable and back, all within the pages of one book? His style is reminiscent of Clive Barker and Harlan Ellison, perhaps with a touch of Lovecraft thrown in for seasoning.

AMERICAN GODS tells the story of the war brewing between the “old” gods of the United States — the piskies and brownies and vrokolaks brought over from the Old Country by immigrant believers — and the “new” gods of technology and progress worshipped by the descendants of those immigrants. One human, an ex-con called Shadow, is enlisted by a man calling himself Wednesday to help unite the old gods in resisting the new. Shadow, at loose ends after the sudden loss of his wife, agrees to work for Wednesday, and is plunged headlong into intrigue and strangeness, where people are not who they appear, time does not track, and even the dead do not stay in their graves.

A haunting tone poem of a novel. Highly recommended.

2017 Re-read

Although I had been intending to re-read this book for years, the impending debut of the Starz series (April 30!) finally got this book down from the shelf and into my hands in mid-April.

Seasons of ReadingIt’s funny how time can distort the memory of a once-read novel. I remembered this story as being mostly a road trip with Shadow and Wednesday. While there is definitely a great deal of travel involved, I had completely forgotten the events that take place in sleepy, quiet, wintry Lakeside. I had also forgotten the outcome of Wednesday’s machinations, and how truly noble Shadow turns out to be.

Now I’m prepared for the TV show. It better not be awful.

2017SFFReadingChallenge(Side observation: I expect researching this novel is what eventually led Gaiman to write Norse Mythology.)

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Read as part of the Spring Into Horror read-a-thon.  This is the only book I managed to finish during the time frame.  Join us next time!

Also read for the 2017 Award Winning SF/F Challenge.  You can still join in on that one.

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Sweet dreams, Mote

Baby Mote 3We knew this day was coming. And on Wednesday, it arrived. Our darling Mote was put to rest at last.

Mote came to live with me in late March 1997, when he was — best guess — not quite six weeks old.  He and his littermates had been dumped by the side of the road near a friend’s house; I couldn’t take all of those babies, but I could take one, and this sweet-faced blue-eyed ginger tabby grabbed my heart.

Q and Teenage Mote Although he was weaned much too early due to being dumped, he didn’t lack for mothering from Jacquenetta, then three years old.  She adopted him like he was her own, and did the best she could to make up for the lack of his real mother.

As a kitten, Mote had a fondness for ice cream.  I remember  once noshing on some creamy vanilla goodness, when a delicate little orange paw came questing along the edge of the bowl, followed shortly by an inquisitive orange nose.

He got to lick the spoon.

Mote and Books 3
Mote’s eyes didn’t stay blue; they turned a startling golden amber in short order, and changed that sweet kitten face into something fierce and wild.

He was a difficult cat to love.  Being weaned so early made him neurotic and skittish, despite being showered with love and affection nearly every moment.  He could be sweet, so sweet, and would hop in my lap (or my husband’s when he joined the family in 2000) and demand to be petted.  In a flash, though, those amber eyes would turn icy, and his sharp claws would strike, and he would launch himself across the room with a hiss and a growl because he was petted just one stroke too many.  He had a habit of trying to nurse on a shirt or a dish towel, if I left one lying on the floor, kneading it and dragging it beneath him while he purred and suckled on a tiny corner.  One gets comfort wherever one can, I suppose.  I never begrudged him his lovey.

Mote TailAnother thing that contributed to his wild neuroses was getting his clock punched on countless occasions by the neighborhood feral cats. After the third or fourth time spouse and I paid a couple hundred dollars to the emergency after-hours vet to have an ear sewn or a bite inspected, we decided he was no longer allowed outside. He pouted and moped and yowled and whined, and eventually accepted his fate. He and Jacquenetta both became indoor cats — it wouldn’t have been fair to allow her outside and not allow him.

Once he became an indoor-only kitty, Mote mellowed out a little. Not quite so jumpy, not quite so skittish, but a sudden sneeze would forever send him scampering and seeking shelter. Still, when he settled, he settled. He loved his fleece bed, and he loved sleeping on (or under) the bed in the spare bedroom. He also loved to perch in high places, one of them being a highboy dresser in our bedroom. We eventually made him a special red throne pillow and put it on top of the dresser to provide him a soft place to sleep (and not-so-coincidentally, keep the finish from getting scratched).

Mote became quite the traveler, though no fault of his own. I work for the federal government, you see, and advancing in my career meant we pulled up stakes every few years and moved across the country.  Mote went from Arkansas to California to Alabama to Georgia, and only meowed for the first three hours on the road for each day of driving.  No, seriously, he was a good passenger.  He was content in his crate; he didn’t try to escape the motel room when we stopped for the night, and he accepted the indignity of using the cardboard lid of a case of paper for a litter box while we were in transit.

Through it all, Mote returned time and again to snuggle with his life-long companion, Jacquenetta.  When we lost her in late December 2014, he didn’t know what to do with himself.  He prowled the house, searching and searching, and he cried, and came to me wanting comfort, then rejected the comfort as soon as I tried to provide it.  And about this time last year, some six months after Jacquenetta died, he started his own decline with kidney failure.

Snuggle KittiesTuesday evening when I came home from work, I noticed three things: Mote hadn’t touched his food; he hadn’t used his box; and he couldn’t walk more than a few steps before he lost his balance and had to lie down. I suspected he’d had a seizure that day while we were at work. After a tearful discussion with spouse that evening, we decided it was time to let him go.  I called my office first thing Wednesday morning and told them I wouldn’t be in.  And Mote and I took his last car trip together to the vet, where I held him in my arms and cried while the doctor administered the medication that let him rest.

And now he’s snuggling with Miss Q again.

Goodbye, sweet Mote, prickly Mote, cantankerous and lovely and ferocious Mote.  I’ll love you always and always and forever.

23 Nov 2007 Upload 001

Mote.  2/15/1997-7/27/2016.

Sweet dreams, Jacquenetta

With heavy hearts, my husband and I announce the loss of our beloved and beautiful Jacquenetta, age 20 years, 10 months, and two weeks.

Jacquenetta entered my life as a six-week-old kitten in late March 1994. She was one of two kittens that came home with me from the Garland County (Arkansas) Animal Shelter (the other kitten, Puck, was sadly lost in the woods several months later). She was quiet and affectionate and loved sitting Baby Q 1behind me on the back of the sofa so she could groom my hair.

She was a mighty hunter in her day, a terror to the local rodent and bird population. Many’s the day I came home from work to find an offering on the front porch: a field mouse, a vole, the occasional sparrow, once even a baby rabbit. Then came the day she hopped in through the hole in the screen door and dropped a bluejay at my feet. A live bluejay, which promptly flew about my kitchen in a panic while I chased it around with a dishtowel until I managed to herd it out the back door.

Q and Teenage MoteWhen Jacquenetta was about three years old, I brought another rescued kitten home and Miss Q immediately began mothering him. She and Mote became bosom companions, and could be found snuggled up together most evenings.

Snuggle KittiesAfter my husband and I met, moved in together, then married, Jacquenetta became a well-traveled kitty, because that’s when we started moving around a lot. She became an indoor kitty, as well, because when we moved, it was out of the country and into town. She never lost her sense of adventure despite her confinement to well-defined square footage. Bill and Miss Q on the LedgeIn fact, she scared me nearly to death when we lived in a condominium with a 20-foot vaulted ceiling and a plant shelf at about the 12-foot mark. I looked up one fine day and saw her on that plant shelf, shrieked, and sent spouse upstairs to coax her off the shelf. She cooperated, and we blocked the pass-through to deny her future access.

Due to either my work or spouse’s work, we moved from that condo in South Arkansas to another condo in Little Rock and then to a house in the Quapaw Quarter; from there we went to California for a few years; returned to the South in 2010, and finally we landed in the Atlanta metro in early 2013. During those years we added two Pomeranians to the household. All animals handled the moves well, including being driven across country twice.

Playkitty1And somewhere during all these moves, Jacquenetta found time to pose for Kitty Hustler. Okay, not really, but that’s what we called it whenever she sprawled out on the sofa like she was waiting for someone to hand her a beer and the TV remote.

It was shortly after we moved to Atlanta that I noticed Jacquenetta wasn’t her usual self. She spent most of her day upstairs, away from the exuberance of the dogs and the noise of the television. She would come downstairs to eat and use her box and for the occasional snuggle with me or Mote, but generally she could be found in the dimness of the upstairs hall just outside the door to the guest bedroom. I put it down to her age but I watched her. We started getting more concerned when she could no longer groom Warm Noses 3herself as usual and became matted in her hindquarters. She also couldn’t tolerate being brushed for long, so keeping the matting under control became difficult. Then one day last April, she had a horrific seizure. Spouse and I rushed her to the vet, who kept her several days for observation and testing, and then delivered the diagnosis: end stage renal failure. This condition could be managed for a while, but in the end, it would be fatal.

“Is she hurting?” I asked. “No,” said the vet. “It’s painless.”

Spouse and I chose to manage Jacquenetta’s condition at home, with medication to prevent seizures and twice-weekly subcutaneous fluids. We ground the Valium and calcium into a fine powder and mixed it into soft foods; we hung the IV bag from the dining room light fixture while we pumped saline solution under the skin between her shoulders. Mote recognized his life-long companion was desperately ill, and spent as much time snuggled up with her as he could. We also let her outside now and then to bask in the sunshine on sun-warmed concrete.

Miss Q in the Sunshine

Jacquenetta 12-30-14
Shortly before Thanksgiving, I noticed Jacquenetta no longer climbed upstairs; instead, she lay across one of the floor vents downstairs for the warm air rising through the register. I laid a towel across the vent so her paws wouldn’t get caught in the grating and told spouse it wouldn’t be long now. A couple of weeks later, we put up the Christmas tree and spread the skirt out in such a way that her preferred floor vent was covered and she could still rest on top of the warm air. She stopped eating the Sunday or Monday after Christmas; when I came home from work Tuesday, spouse said she was passing blood in her urine. We called the vet and we all agreed it was time.

I left work early Wednesday and we took Jacquenetta to the clinic. They wrapped her in a soft fleece blanket and let me hold her while they administered the medicine that would let her rest. Spouse and I both petted her and loved her and talked to her while she went to sleep for the last time.

Sweet dreams, baby. You were loved so very very much.

Jacquenetta

Jacquenetta, 2/15/1994-12/31/2014

Book review: The Enchanted Orchards by Kristin Maddock

The Enchanted Orchards
The Enchanted Orchards by Kristin Maddock
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I downloaded this book because the premise intrigued me: A young woman and her family dealing with the aftermath of the death of the younger daughter.

A year ago, Fern’s younger sister, Lily, drowned in a pond near their rural Georgia home. In the year since, their father spends all his time at work and their mother spends all her time cleaning and reading the Bible: “Her days consist of a thousand scriptures and a bottle of Clorox.” And Fern herself didn’t return to college; instead, she remained home with her parents and her grief. She doesn’t socialize much, but unlike her mother, who refuses to leave the house except to go to church, Fern visits regularly with an older neighbor, Fancy, who is every Southern Belle stereotype imaginable rolled into one flamboyant package. Fancy is fun, and good for Fern. But Fancy has issues of her own.

The story starts out beautifully, almost lyrically:

It was sunshine that liked you best. It followed you wherever you went, turning to you like the sunflowers turn their faces to the sky. With your obsidian hair and ivory skin, you were like an ethereal sunlit goddess, too beautiful and too perfect for this world.

And:

You didn’t leave me utterly alone. Still, there are times I forget that detail. It feels odd to think there are others with me in the house. But there are. I have two parents and I suppose in a way they disappeared the same day you did. Though here in form, their bodies are like empty, listless shells. Something inside them has been extinguished and they move about like shadows, dull fragments of their former selves. It isn’t a particularly large house, but apparently it is big enough for three people to lose each other in.

Okay, both those paragraphs could use a little editing, but do you see what I mean? There’s good stuff in there. But then we start getting this:

I scrape the remaining bit of pie into the trash very conspicuously so that Luanne and the other cooks won’t see…

And this:

He makes me weak in the knees, he makes it hard to breath…

And so on and so on throughout the rest of the book.

If I hadn’t liked our narrator and the rest of the characters so much, I’d have given up before getting to the 25% mark. But the story itself is good, and there are bits and pieces of some fine writing in here. Unfortunately, it’s all mixed up with the plethora of not-so-fine bits. This is a failing with nearly all of the self-published novels I’ve read: they suffer from a desperate need for a good editor and an anal-retentive proofreader.

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