You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness, Julie Klam

I’ve really never considered myself a pet person. I think my parents would laugh, then shudder, to hear that because my brother and I banded together on very little as children, but one of those things was the acquisition of pets. My parents were powerless against the combination of our good behavior and camaraderie, and we always won. A pair of gerbils born after the pets in my third grade class turned out to be male and female instead of two males? Two of the meanest, most bitey rescue rabbits imaginable? A whole flock of finches saved from a college dorm? A turtle found on the side of the road during an early morning dog walk? Oh, and dogs? Of course we had dogs.

My earliest memory is actually the acquisition of the first dog my brother and I owned. He was a mutt fox terrier we got from the pound when I was three, and although I don’t know whether he came with the name Spot or I gave it to him (he was white with brown spots – I never claimed to be a genius of subtlety), I remember standing in the parking lot while my brother received enthusiastic doggy kisses.

That memory might as well have substituted itself for Spot’s entire life. I lived with him, but his love and adoration were saved exclusively for my brother and mother. He was a good dog, but he was, to me, like a roommate I never got to know very well. When he died (at quite an advanced age), I called my best friend up and found out the cat they’d had since she was tiny had died on the same day. That cat had been ornery and mean, and had loved my friend’s older sister to the exclusion of all others, but we were both still sad.

A few months later, we rescued another dog, an Airedale terrier mutt, who had been saved from an abusive home where she’d been chained beneath a porch, cut across the head with a knife, and taught to bark ferociously at men in uniform. She’d had a whole litter of puppies under there too, and even though she was big and sort of ugly (we affectionately called her Frankenstein for many years), she was a love.

By the time we got Shady Lady, my brother had left for college, and I was able to win her affection more readily. She would occasionally sleep on my bed, although the slightest noise would send her careening downstairs barking. I left to go off to school a year later though, and she became very much bonded to my parents, and then, of course, my brother, when he moved back to town. When she passed away in 2010, my parents decided to wait until after my wedding to get another dog. They didn’t want to be traveling too much while helping the new dog adjust. It was a tough year for them, and it was the first time I clearly understood that I was not a pet person. It was unbearable of my parents to live without a dog. When they rescued Willie (the beagle) in 2011, it was like a light came back on in their lives. Even though his nickname quickly evolved into Wily Willie (Google “beagles stealing food” to have some idea of what my parents willingly go through for this animal), they adore him.

That same year, I was out for a run and I came across a dog running loose in my neighborhood. It didn’t have a tag or a collar, and I had no cell phone to call for assistance. I stopped only because he seemed to think my running was a game and kept sprinting into the street – an act that earned me dirty looks from passers-by. After about fifteen minutes, a man walking his dog came by and reprimanded me for not keeping my dog on a leash. I explained to him, almost in tears, that he wasn’t my dog, that he snapped at me when I tried to get close, and that I really didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, he lived across the street and was able to get the dog into his backyard and took over all responsibilities from there.

When I called my brother, he immediately asked me why I didn’t just make a lead out of my belt. I explained to him that sweatpants don’t generally have belts, and he proceeded to give me a lecture on all the ways I could have helped that dog. My brother doesn’t understand; he’s the dog whisperer and has, on many occasions, jumped out of his car into traffic to rescue animals. He will then spend hours caring for them while searching for their owners.

I, on the other hand, barely notice that animals exist. I like them, sure, but I don’t feel that deep bond. That was part of the reason I wanted to read Klam’s memoir. I thought it might give me perspective. I wanted to better understand the pet people I came from, and she is very much like them. She’s a wonderful writer, funny and poignant, and I’ll admit I cried through about a quarter of the book. When it was finished though, I felt, if anything, more alienated from my family. Pet people are a certain kind of wonderful. They’re crazy, but it’s a warm, fuzzy crazy. Reading about it made me feel a little monstrous. How could I be so indifferent? And yet…I am. Sure, I’ll take a doggy cuddle now and then, and yes, my husband is trying to convince me that we need to adopt a cat, but honestly, if I never had another pet, it would be fine. Good, in fact, considering that my father took responsibility for just about all the pets I ever begged for (aside from the dogs, who are members of the family).

But you know, if you’re not heartless, this book is great. As for me, I’m sending my copy east to be appreciated by people far better than I later today…

For more about Julie Klam, head here.

Young House Love, Sherry and John Petersik

Am I the only person who gets hit by an intense wave of pride after replacing an old toilet seat with a brand new one? Or after putting up shelves in the garage that require several iterations of measuring, drilling, and stud finding? Or planting tomatoes and keeping them alive long enough for them to actually provide me with fruit?

I  can’t be the only one who sometimes stares at home improvements months after they’ve been completed with a disproportionate sense of satisfaction at what I’ve accomplished. If I am, well then, you’re not doing right. Or possibly you are so used to doing it right that it’s lost its magic. Maybe you picked up a hammer as a child and you’ve been wielding it Thor-style ever since. You probably look at homes that need a little TLC and think, yup. I can do that. I can take that run-down pile of junk and turn it into something unique and wonderful.

That’s not me. It never has been. I didn’t grow up in a house with handy folk (apologies to my parents, who are wonderful people, and talented in many other ways, but it’s true). After my grandfather passed away, my brother was the only one of us with innate mechanical skills, and we’ve always turned to him when we need something repaired. The thing is, he lives three thousand miles away, and even if he didn’t, I’m as capable as the next guy (seriously – you should see those shelves I put up!), and with a little bit of research and a lot of patience, I’ve taught myself a lot about home and garden improvements over the last few years.

Of course, it helps that my husband knows about things like turning off the power at the source before beginning an electrical repair and measuring twice (yes, twice!) so we only have to cut once. His dad was apparently more hands-on when it came to tackling home repairs, and he has benefitted from those early years of experience. When it comes down to it though, most of the projects we take on are totally out of our wheelhouse. Typically what happens is that one of us will be struck by an idea, and after a few week of casual discussion, we’ll jump in. (“Let’s just try it!” is basically my mantra when it comes to all things home related, followed closely by “What’s the worst that could happen?” Let me tell you, I’ve changed my tune about that one after almost losing my left eye while trying to cut dead branches off our tree without safety goggles on.)

I probably should let inspiration guide me a little less than planning and research, but that’s one of the great things about Young House Love. The projects discussed by Sherry and John Petersik are cheap,  straightforward, and satisfying (like a big bowl of spaghetti without the carb coma). When I’m in need of a simple pick-me-up project for an afternoon, I can flip through and get inspired, and when we’re  about to tackle something bigger, I can check both the book and their blog for help. Their instructions are easy to understand (and include plenty of pictures), and as a family, they approach these tasks with a sense of humor and enjoyment I find refreshing.

Summer is here, and with it, my desire to clean up, reorganize, and tackle projects I’d been putting off in colder weather. With hours more of sunlight to work with, even week nights are becoming project friendly, and with the Petersiks behind me, I’m ready to break out the tools and go to town on our house! After I buy some safety goggles. Very important, those. Not the same thing as sunglasses, by the by…

 

For great project ideas, check out Young House Love at its source.

Skin Game, Jim Butcher

Michael snorted. “You destroy buildings, fight monsters openly in the streets of the city, work with the police, show up in newspapers, advertise in the phone book, and ride zombie dinosaurs down Michigan Avenue, and you think that you work in the shadows? Be reasonable.” (p 267)

There are few things I love more than a new Dresden Files book. I have to give Jim Butcher major props too, because come spring, he delivers. I’ve been reading this series since 2007 (seven years after he began publishing stories about Harry Dresden), and although it’s painful to wait for the next volume after I finish a new one, it’s comforting to know I won’t be left hanging indefinitely. I cannot overstate how much I value consistency when it comes to a series I love.

An author can buy my affection for the low, low price of a great book written every year. Piece of cake, right? If you have a pact with the devil, maybe. Or you’re heavily into witchcraft. I suspect Jim Butcher of both. And I am fine with that. He works hard, and his books are such fun that even while my rational brain is applauding him for the grueling writing schedule he must have to keep, I never get the feeling it’s hard work – just the contrary. His style is sarcastic adventuring at its best, and it reads like he enjoys spending time in his version of Chicago more than the world outside of its pages.

I don’t know anything about Butcher’s personal life. I don’t where he lives, or whether he’s married or has kids. I’ve never seen him speak or read any interviews, and yet I’ve created a mental image of him after reading his books that informs my own work as a writer deeply. I greatly admire his work ethic. I don’t need to do more than look at the number of books he’s published to know that he lives by the adage “a writer writes.” I, like many writers, go through periods over the course of every year where I write more or less, and at the moment, I’m in one of those lulls that forces me to confront the fear that I’m not doing enough to prove myself in my field. When I read books by authors like Butcher, I’m humbled by his dedication to his characters, to his fans, and to his own desire to tell stories.

It’s such a beautiful thing to read books by writers who are clearly in love with writing. That creative fire ignites their work to create spectacular energy on every page; Butcher is the kind of writer who stokes that fire for all its worth. He could just as easily fall back on the great novels he’s written in the past, but instead, he breathes new life into his characters with every book. When I finished Skin Game, I was reminded again of the joy that lies beneath his stories. It’s a feeling that makes me wish I had time to go back and reread the series every year. I could easily live in Dresden’s universe for months at a time, and the most butt-kicking part of realizing that is that knowledge I should take as much pleasure from my own fictional worlds as I do the ones created for my enjoyment…

 

For more about Jim Butcher, go here.

A Skeleton in the Family, Leigh Perry

When my mother was visiting a few weeks ago, she brought a novel she’d picked up at Boskone, a cozy mystery that was perfect for reading under the nap blanket she had made me last Christmas. (Yes, I have a nap blanket. What can I say? I appreciates naps and all things nap-adjacent.) It’s been grey almost every day for far too long now without the rain we really need, and while I love wet weather, I’m much less fond of the general air of gloominess that has settled over us here.

The perfect remedy for such weather, and for the air of melancholy that descends on our entire household after too many days without sunshine, is a book like Perry’s. It’s sweet, funny, and has a hint of the supernatural without going all sparkly vampire on me. Not that I mind vampires, sparkly or otherwise; I’m in favor of all manner of monster being converted into friend, ally, and when appropriate, love interest. (Of course, in this case, her “monster” is a skeleton, and I was the one falling in love with him.) Perry’s book, in fact, hit a couple of sweet spots for me, including a protagonist who’s a single mother with a realistic(ally good) relationship with her adolescent daughter, several relationships between said protagonist and men that weren’t romantic, a quirky friendship between a woman and her supernaturally reanimated skeleton buddy, and a sisterly dynamic that was both tense and loving  (in other words, completely believable).

After I finished the book, I was thinking about all of these characters, and about how hopeful I was that Perry would write another book about them, and I realized the reason I’m drawn to series’ like The Dresden Files or Sookie Stackhouse is my obsession with lovable characters. Even in my own writing, I’m never nearly as interested in the plot as I am the motivation behind a character’s actions, or the connections people build when put under pressure. That isn’t to say a well thought-out plot is a waste – not at all – but it’s less important to me than the people who are driving the story.

When it comes down to it, I will always come back to an author who writes characters who have been altered by the Velveteen Rabbit affect – the people on the page who have been lugged around and played with until they spring up, animated by the love of those who have created them. Those are characters I can engage with, who I can think about long after I’ve put a book away on the shelf. As a reader, it’s important to me to find stories that are motivated by the people in them rather than books that could almost be myth – an important story, but with any number of people substituted in on a whim with the same results.

This isn’t true for everyone, and I’m glad of that. I would hate to walk into a library and know that every single book on the shelf was exactly what I think I want. It wouldn’t allow for any growth as a critical reader or as a person. It’s wonderful to find a great read totally outside of what I already love, of course, but there will also always be a place in my heart for novels that fit into my heart from the first few pages. Those are the books that get me through long winters, and sleepless nights, and sunny afternoons by the shore. Authors like Perry will always be the ones I search for on a whim in little bookstores because I know I’ll find comfort in their stories and friends in the characters they write. They will be good company no matter the season, and that is not a gift to be taken lightly.

For more about Leigh Perry, head over here.

Satan’s Short, Heide Goody and Iain Grant

Well, the wait is finally over, and I can say I came in second place in Ten to One! Thank you so much to everyone who supported me and sent votes my way on Facebook. I’m very happy I no longer have to beg votes from family, friends, and strangers, but that won’t keep me from pimping the book itself when it comes out in the fall! It’s a fun read, and I’m really proud of what we’ve put together…which doesn’t mean it doesn’t still need plenty of editing, but that’s okay. I actually enjoy the editing process. I mean, who doesn’t prefer to start with raw material rather than an empty page?!

At any rate, I needed a palate cleanser after last week, and I was finding it difficult to get into anything long. My mother was visiting from New Hampshire, my husband was sick, and my brain was still half in grieving mode from Young Widower. The rest of me was trying very hard not to think about that final round of voting for Ten to One. It turns out, not thinking about something requires nearly as much energy as thinking about it does! Funny how that works, isn’t it?

It seemed fortuitous, somehow, that in the midst of all that not thinking and not working (because between my mum’s visit and playing nurse, there was zero actual work happening), Goody and Grant’s collection of shorts about Clovenhoof was released on Amazon. It was a year ago, in March, that I sent off my audition packet to Grant, and only slightly less than a year ago that I decided I wanted to read his work before I got really excited about the possibility of being invited to join the project.

I read Clovenhoof in a Starbucks in London, and it killed me. I didn’t think its follow-up, Pigeonwings, could possibly hold a candle to it, and then I loved it just as much. Goody and Grant are just dynamite writers, and now that the contest element of Ten to One is over, I can rave about them without worrying about whether it’s a conflict of interest! Instead, I can just be thrilled that they decided to write a few more stories in this universe and then only charge me a dollar for the pleasure of reading them.

Honestly. It’s March – the one month a year that has neither the benefit of a three-day weekend to break up the monotony of the work week, nor the redeeming quality of long lazy summer days (unless you live in the southern hemisphere, in which case, August is your March, so save this series until you need it). This is the perfect time to curl up with unrelentingly funny books. They may not change the dreary weather or help you kick that inevitable St Patrick’s Day hangover (even if you don’t drink, I have to imagine corned beef and cabbage takes time to recover from), but they will bring much-needed light to this slow month. And hey! Since I’ve already read them all, I’m open to suggestions in the comments for other novels that might perk March up for me. Sure, I have a huge stack of books I should be reading, but none of them really screams “escape.” I’d be grateful to hear about your favorite winter break reads…

Fun Camp, Gabe Durham

There is definitely something distressing about reading a book about sleep-away camp in the dead of winter. The very quality of sunlight mocks the idea. Summer? Ha! There is no summer here, and it will be months before those dark, bitter mornings and soul-suckingly short afternoons begin to fade into the soft melody of spring. And yet Fun Camp is the book I chose halfway through January  – or as I like to call it, the longest month of the year.

What can I say? Amazon knows me too well. It’s like I’d already told it about all those summers I spent hundreds of miles from home, subsisting on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the care packages all the nice parents (mine included) sent. One year, of course, was bad (I believe it was just after seventh grade, but it may have been just after eighth – thankfully, all those awful junior high experiences sort of blend together after a while), but mostly, I adored that precious week of independence every year with a near religious fervor.

In fact, I remember wishing that my parents could send me away for a month at a time because I enjoyed hiking and making ugly crafts and singing songs around the campfire so much that one week was just not enough for me. As an adult, of course, I realize that camps are pricy, and if I had gone to an awful one for four weeks, I’d probably still be lugging that emotional baggage around.

And, hey! Maybe my parents weren’t actually sick of me three days into summer vacation…although that doesn’t seem right. My brother and I were happy enough to be left alone until shots were fired and the battle spilled down the stairs and into my mother’s office. (I really don’t understand how families handle summer vacation. My parents worked full-time, and summers were far more stressful than the school year in terms of coordination and execution of care.)

Basically, I saw camp as a chance to escape being a bratty little sister for a few days while doing things that freaked me out (trust falls, eating questionable looking meat, kissing boys) in a safe but less supervised environment. Fun Camp is a look back at that experience through the slightly jaded perspective of adulthood. Durham’s book is a mix of speeches, letters, and one-sided conversations from narrators we only really get to know through biased and often ridiculous excerpts. It isn’t a novel, per se, although it does tell its own fractured story.

Durham’s perspective occasionally borders on hostile, although it’s tempered with moments of unexpected joy, and his sense of humor is spot on. He ultimately does the experience justice, and by the end of the book, I felt myself transported back to the hot, buggy days of my youth. There were the boys who thought they were really getting away with something because they didn’t shower, the stupid pranks that often ended up with someone in the infirmary, the surprisingly passionate best friendships that burned out as quickly as they had ignited.

The feel of camp was just something out of the ordinary. Some people might get a similar experience out of going away to college or joining a band, but for me, I was always the best version of myself – the coolest and the most fearless – during those precious summer weeks. Even though Fun Camp wasn’t exactly the book I hoped it would be, I love that it brought me back to a place and time that was so formative for me. Was it a perfect execution of a difficult format? Probably not, but it found its footing by the end and delivered a surprisingly powerful punch I hadn’t anticipated. Sort of like a week at summer camp does, come to think of it…

 

For more about Gabe Durham, go here.

Enchanted; Hero (Books 1 and 2 of The Woodcutter Sisters), Alethea Kontis

November has officially swallowed me up. Between NaNoWriMo, Ten to One, publicizing the new book and helping my sister-in-law with her wedding, my free time has seriously dwindled. Somehow, however, I found time to read not one but two of Kontis’ Woodcutter Sister books. And I really wish I had a third…

Not that I have time to read another one – certainly not when I have so many other more pressing projects I absolutely have to be working on – but if Kontis magically put out a new book tomorrow, I would find a way to squeeze it in.

Shoulders squared, feet apart, and tailbone centered, Saturday lifted the wooden practice sword before her. “Again.”

Velius laughed at her. Saturday scowled. There wasn’t a speck of dirt on her instructor; no dirt would be brave enough to mar his perfect fey beauty. Nor did he seem fatigued. She hated him a little more for that.

“Let’s take a break,” he said.

“I don’t need a break.”

“I do.”

Lies. He was calling her weak. The insult only made her angrier. “No, you don’t.”

Velius lifted his head to the sky and prayed to yet another god. Temperance, maybe, or Patience. Was there a God of Arguments You’ve Lost Twenty Times Before and Were About to Have Again? If so, Saturday bet on that one. (pg 2, Hero)

Kontis writes the kind of books I would have adored at twelve. Apparently not much has changed. Just as I needed a break from algebra and French grammar lessons back then, I still crave that peaceful feeling that comes from reading novels like these when I’m drowning in deadlines.

The love stories here are simple and predictable, yes, but that’s okay because the books aren’t about romance. They’re about Kontis’ young heroines figuring out how they fit into their family, and into the world. Along the way, they do happen to meet some sweet young men who are fall head over heels in love with them and are perfectly happy to be supportive of being, well, support. These guys enjoy the pleasures that comes from being partners (and occasionally sidekicks); since I know plenty of men just like this, I was tickled to see them appear on the page in more than one guise.

What I especially loved about these books (besides the author’s spot-on sense of humor) was that the women – not only the protagonists, but every woman encountered – had power. These women altered destinies; the men were mostly around to be loving and helpful (or pawns…sometimes they made excellent pawns). A few of her women were selfless, and some were wicked, but Kontis also wrote characters who fell along the spectrum in between.

Given that these books are aimed at a younger audience, I especially appreciated that fact. I read all sorts of trash when I was a kid, but I gravitated toward stories about competent, tough, questing women who also fell in love. I was a romantic, always, but I often wanted more from the female characters written for me. I read stories about two-dimensional women because my choices were limited. All I had access to was a single, small library, so it felt special to find something that fit my favorite niche. It turns out, it still does.

Of course, these days, I not only want stories about kick-ass ladies, I also long for fun books like these with a little more diversity. Where are the adventure romances about non straight/white/young characters? When I find books like Kontis’, that hit so many of my happiness buttons, it really does make me crave more. But why can’t I have the treat I love in other flavors?! It’s National Novel Writing Month, so I can only hope some of you are busy crafting what I seek – not books about issues, but stories that capture powerful, relatable, exciting protagonists who are more like us and less like the fairy tale characters Hollywood has cursed us with.

In case you aren’t writing your own but want to point me in the right direction, I’m looking for books to read in December with interesting, underrepresented narrators. Bonus points for humor, fantasy and/or YA.

 

For more about Alethea Kontis, head over here.

 

Zombie Baseball Beatdown, Paulo Bacigalupi

Happy Halloween everyone! And by “everyone,” I mean those of you who celebrate Halloween. For the rest of you, Happy Thursday! It’s almost the weekend, and my brother’s birthday is tomorrow…and oh yeah, National Novel Writing Month kicks off. Tomorrow. Huh. That came up quickly. Thank goodness today is Halloween so I can drown my problems in bite sized candy bars! (Tomorrow I’ll be doing the same thing, but all the candy will be marked down eighty percent, so that will be something special.)

I’m actually not big into Halloween. I’ve never liked costumes, and I hate being scared, so the only thing this day has going for it is the candy. Don’t get me wrong – I do really enjoy free candy, but even that’s less exciting as an adult. I can go buy candy whenever I want, and I don’t have to wear a wig or a hula skirt or whatever to get it. As a child, I always just latched onto the biggest group of trick-or-treaters I could find so I could hide in the back and score treats on their enthusiasm. (That’s a pro-tip right there, so if you have a child who loves candy but finds it difficult to break the “don’t talk to strangers” rule, I highly recommend this method.) Even though I don’t get particularly excited about October 31, I did want to give you all a fantastic quasi-horror story to enjoy when you come down off that sugar rush, and thankfully for all of us, Bacigalupi delivers in spades.

I’ve actually owned his first novel, The Windup Girl for quite a while but have never gotten around to it. When I read his Big Idea post on Whatever about his foray into middle grade fiction while I was traveling in September, I decided not to wait around. Sure, other people were giving him crap about branching out to try something new, but I wasn’t tied to his other books. I had no reason not to like this novel, and, as it turns out, about a dozen reasons to find it utterly delightful.

I highly recommend you scroll up and click on the link to his Big Idea post because I actually think Bacigalupi can sell this book to you better than I can. I’m so worried about spoiling it (and I really don’t want to spoil it for you) that I keep writing and deleting a list of the things I love about it. I can’t decide what information you should have to convince you to run right out and buy a copy (or twenty, if you happen to teach fourth through seventh grade – and yes, I do think it would appeal to that wide a range of readers, not to mention adults, who would be crazy not to enjoy Bacigalupi’s approach to the zombie apocalypse), so I’m going to share the one paragraph from his post that sold this book to me:

Ultimately, it turns out that whether I’m writing novels for adults or for middle school zombie enthusiasts, my themes and agendas still sneak into my stories. It was probably inevitable that my zombie apocalypse would come oozing out of the local meatpacking plant, with its overuse of antibiotics and strange feed supplements and questionable government oversight. And of course, once you’re writing about industrial meat, you can’t help but write about the workers who are often exploited by the meatpacking industry. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, a story about bashing zombies with baseball bats becomes a story about food safety and corporate greed, immigration policy and race in America. (excerpted from The Big Idea: Paolo Bacigalupi at whatever.scalzi.com)

I mean, come on – it has something for everyone! Kids, baseball lovers (and baseball haters, incidentally), zombie fans, vegetarians, political junkies…and I’m actually none of these (well, I do love the Rockies, but I’d never read a book about baseball by choice, so that hardly counts), and I still thought this book was freaking fantastic. I’m already hounding my library to get more copies because it’s just that good. Seriously. It grossed me out, and I teared up on at least three separate occasions, but mostly, I laughed and cheered and generally felt a sense of awesome that can’t be denied.

But, you know, I’m not going to twist your arm. If you’re not into it, that’s…cool. I still have this bowl of candy to help see me through the dark times, and when I come out on the other side of…well, today, it will be November. I’ll be trying to write three thousand words a day. I won’t have time for your rejection of zombies, people! Nope. I won’t have time for anything but pretending you love what I love, so you may as well just give in and love this book now.

 

For more about Paulo Bacigalupi, head over here.

Untold, Sarah Rees Brennan

“Good practice, everyone,” Rusty said at last. “Light on the actual learning, heavy on the emotional catharsis, and thanks to Jared I think I need a rabies shot, but them’s the breaks.” (loc 1627)

 

I’m going to come right out and say it. I read book 2 of The Lynburn Legacy because I wanted more Rusty. He’s only a peripheral character in the first book; fortunately for me, he plays a bigger role in the second. My hope is that by the third installment, he has completely taken over the narrative so that I’m no longer forced to read about an obviously unhealthy romantic triangle, and I can spend all my time delighting in the antics of Rusty, his badass sister Angela, and her spunky crush, Holly Prescott. I’m even happy to invite Brennan’s protagonist, Kami Glass, to the party as long as she doesn’t bring her mopey suitors along.

I like Kami and her friends, I really do. The first book had a lot more of her with them, and the romance was more of a side note. That was great. Although I have no problem with romance – not even fraught romance – I’ve never been a fan of the Romeo and Juliet school of pining, or the even more dire Othello method of investigation (guilty until proven…nope, just gonna kill her without bothering to talk it out). One of my biggest pet peeves is when assumptions are made over and over again without a single question ever being asked. One assumption? Sure. We all occasionally make decisions based on hearsay or a meaningful look, but how many times does a character have to be proven wrong before he or she figures out that a little conversation can go a long way?

This sort of thing is overdone in YA fiction, and it drives me crazy, especially when a character is written to be as smart and inquisitive as Kami Glass. She’s a journalist! She’s comfortable cold calling strangers to ask about their potential involvement in sorcery and murder, but she can’t be bothered to ask her quasi-boyfriend how he really feels about her? I know she’s a teenager, but I just don’t buy it. She hasn’t been written as a pushover, so why does she have to fall into that stereotype when it comes to romantic relationships? I’m not saying never write that person, but newsflash: some teenagers are comfortable talking about their feelings! Some teenagers are actually pretty mature about these things, and it’s okay to occasionally portray such a person on the page.

Maybe it makes good drama. I happen to think murder and sacrifice coupled with a major family meltdown is plenty of drama. Why can’t dating be a little less…extreme? Why can’t it be more of a comfort in the midst of all the craziness? I remember very few people in high school bandying around the word “love.” Instead, there were group dates, and people to dance with and giggle over. There were parties, and hooking up, and girls getting pregnant. There were summer flings at camp, and major school year crushes. There were notes passed, and occasionally, two people got their shit together and actually dated for longer than three weeks. They were looked on with a certain awe because, regardless of what books and television want us to believe, few teenagers actually have the time and energy to be in love, and even fewer fall in love with people who love them back. Between homework, sports, work, band, etc, the teenagers I know have about fifteen minutes of free time a day. I don’t think most of them would even have time to deal with the crucial murder-y part of this story, much less that, plus magic,  a love triangle, and running the school newspaper!

I’m willing to suspend my disbelief about how little time these kids spend in school, how often they spend the night somewhere other than their own homes without so much as a check-in text with their parents, or how every day seems to be about forty-two hours long, but after all of that, my powers of suspension are pretty much spent. The only thing I have energy for in the end is Rusty and the self-defense classes he teaches in a little room above the grocery store. Because that’s helpful, and adorable, and he deserves all the love.

 

For more about Sarah Rees Brennan, go here.

Fortunately, The Milk, Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman’s having a pretty big year (who am I kidding – he’s having a pretty big life). In June, his newest adult novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, hit the stands, and he made another splash in September with a new brief chapter book for children called Fortunately, the Milk. Since I buy every novel Gaiman writes in hardcover months before it’s actually published, I usually forget all about his books until they show up on my doorstep. (Well, that’s not entirely true. I follow him on twitter, so “forgetting” is not exactly possible, but I zone out after I reach a certain saturation point on promotional material.) As it happened, I was traveling when Fortunately, the Milk arrived, so although the internet seemed insistent about spoiling it for me, I didn’t get around to reading it until about a week ago.

If I seem a little annoyed with the internet, I am. This is the second book in a row by Gaiman that has been so mercilessly hyped through the few channels I pay attention to that I felt a little underwhelmed when I actually got around to reading it. Don’t get me wrong – it’s adorable, and, as advertised, it is definitely Gaiman’s most ridiculous book to date; if you have young children (or, like me, enjoy the occasional foray into picture books, or picture short stories, as this turned out to be), this book is a lovely choice.

It’s written as superbly as ever, and the illustrations in the American version (a different artist worked on the UK release, although I can’t remember what this means for copies going to other countries) were wonderful, if not my personal favorite style. As far as I can tell, every other person using a computer and writing in English adored it, and I don’t think they’re wrong. I’ve already recommended it to my friend (both for herself and to enjoy with her sons), and I will happily buy copies of it for the upcoming birthdays of several children I know. I often found myself smiling as I read it, and although I don’t want to share the plot, I will say it’s a sweet book for the slightly absent-minded but wonderful fathers in our lives (an interesting juxtaposition, in fact, to the father figure portrayed in Ocean).

I think, though, that the reason I’m not over the moon about this book (and why I liked but didn’t love The Ocean at the End of the Lane) was not because Gaiman’s writing has suffered any changes in recent years, but because his books no longer feel like the secretive, magical experience I used to have. I’m now so inundated with information about him as an author and human being, with dates of tours, with promotional material months before his books are released – I just don’t have the opportunity to discover his work in the way I once could. I desperately want to love them because he’s been my favorite author for nearly as long as I’ve had such a thing, but this year, it just hasn’t felt the same.

Maybe I need to pull back, disconnect myself from the special opportunities and information he provides on sites like Twitter so that I can return to a place where I am once again delighted by the incredible stories he has the power to tell. I certainly never get tired of rereading my old favorites, but I don’t want to miss out on having another experience like the one I had when reading, say, The Graveyard Book for the first time. That novel was published almost exactly five years ago, and I still remember how powerfully it moved me. I had been reading Gaiman for nearly two decades, and yet I was overwhelmed anew by his gift for storytelling. I want that feeling again.

I want to wander into a bookstore and be surprised by the sight of a new book by him. I’d like to take it home and curl up with it without ever having heard a word about it. I need selfish me time to be alone with his stories before the whole world shares their very special feelings, and those perceptions start to bleed over into my own.

Maybe that’s too much to ask for. Or maybe it’s too much to receive, but I can still ask, and hope, and work to find that lovely old feeling again.

 

For more about Neil Gaiman, go here.

Welcome to Night Vale, created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (Commonplace Books)

Every once in a while, I come across a story being told in an unconventional way and I inadvertently fall in love with it. A few months ago, it was The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. At the moment, “fresh” off a twelve-hour flight, it’s this podcast, Welcome to Night Vale. And yes, I realize I live in a shuttered world where the concept of storytelling via podcasts is novel to me. I’m guessing everybody else has been listening to them since around 200…6? Maybe? I honestly have no idea when podcasts really took off. Was it related to smart phones? Could I look all this up? Probably! But jet lag! So no. I’m just going to assume I’m a minimum of eight years behind the curve on anything that has to do with the internet.

So, podcasts! Yes! I love them, especially since I can’t read on planes, trains, or in automobiles (motion sickness is the devil), and I have begun to get migraines from trying to watch movies on the little television stuck into the seat in front of me. The angle is just wrong and it causes neck strain because I have an abnormally long torso…but I digress. I get bored listening to music after about three hours, and even factoring in napping and boredom snacking, that still leaves about five or six hours I have to fill when traveling this far.

I’ve recently been coming around to audiobooks to try to fill this need, but they’re expensive to buy and nearly impossible to download from the library onto a Mac. (I don’t know why that is, and maybe I’m doing it wrong, but it sends me into a tailspin of rage whenever I try it, so…) Welcome to Night Vale, on the other hand, is free and downloads easily onto my phone for hours of stress-free listening pleasure.  Those two factors alone sold it to me pretty hard, I have to admit, but fortunately, in addition, the content, designed as twice monthly radio broadcasts from a small desert town with dark roots and frequent paranormal happenings, is also delightful.

Readers who have been following me awhile know that I adore humor – dark, silly, vengeful, romantic – I crave it all on a regular basis. In fact, I can forgive a whole boatload of issues with a story or writer if the content has made me laugh. I can even squint my eyes at a podcast and call it enough of a book to review here if it has entertained me thusly. What can I say? I have literary scruples that are very easily bested by a case of the giggles.

Welcome to Night Vale  was the perfect brain candy for this flight. It kept my spirits up over the incredibly long hours, it split into twenty-minute segments so I could doze and listen as fitfully as a I pleased, and it made me into that person who snort-laughs into complete silence (which, if I’m really being honest, I love to do). Is it a book? No. Is it damn fine story-telling, available free of charge to anyone with access to the internet and a pair of headphones? Yes.

I call that a win.

Pigeonwings, Heide Goody and Iain Grant

I spent about a week trying to decide whether it was ethical to write a review about a book written by Iain Grant, my editor for Ten to One, and Heide Goody, one of the judges for the project. Since I already published one for the first book (Clovenhoof) in the series back in March, it seemed worth exploring the reasons behind my hesitation and my ultimate decision to joyfully endorse Pigeonwings.

The reason for hesitating is pretty straightforward. I’m the middle of a writing a book that also has an element of competition. (If you’re new to this site and have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll throw you some context about Ten to One over here.) At the moment, we’re down to eight writers (out of the original ten), and the bar was raised impressively between Chapters 1 and 2. Do I want to be the last writer standing eight chapters from now? Of course. We all do.

This made the decision to write a glowing review even more difficult. I blame this difficulty entirely on the fact that I was not brought up to believe I should do whatever was necessary to win. My parents had deeply entrenched beliefs about the ethics of competition in all aspects of life. We were to be open-minded, compassionate, hard-working; if we didn’t win the day with those methods, then we weren’t meant to win it at all.

They stuck to those ideals, occasionally to their own professional detriment, and without a doubt, those lessons, taught almost entirely by example, stayed with me. They were harsh ones to learn too, since the disappointment of being passed over after putting forth an honest best effort is excruciating. I think what saved me from the heartbreak of the many (many) times I’ve learned that I am not the best or most valuable person in any given situation is that my parents didn’t tie self-worth to success; instead, I was brought up to believe two things: self-worth is connected to effort and intention – not results – and love is unconditional.

What it came down to ultimately was that I didn’t want to write a review of Pigeonwings only because it felt a little funny to promote the work of people in a position of power over me. On the other hand, I think I may have unintentionally just defined what most people consider a form of networking. I’ve never been very comfortable with networking or self-promotion (as far as I can tell, most introverts aren’t), but I understand the value of it.

What I understand even better, though, is the value of working with people who are good at what they do. I enjoy collaborating with writers who are talented, competent, and passionate. It’s easier to put aside concerns about conflict of interest when I consider how difficult it is to get a great book published, and how fortunate I am to be working with people who manage to do just that. It might make me a little uncomfortable to get out my pompoms and start cheering for this book, but to be honest, back in March, reading Clovenhoof  was what convinced me to fight for this job. Finding these authors and loving their work has given me to the opportunity to work on a book I adore, and if that doesn’t earn them a little well-deserved recognition for their own literary efforts, I don’t know what does.

I also loved Clovenhoof so much that when I went to Amazon last week to pick up the new novel and saw that I could borrow it for free with Prime, I didn’t. I paid for it (because yes, I do believe spending money on something signifies worth), and then I spent the next few days carving out little blocks of time around hosting two of my best friends to read it. (I discovered I could read fifteen percent in the fifty minutes it took me to go four miles on the cross trainer at my gym, which made me feel like a multi-tasking maven.) 

While Clovenhoof got me (and my apparently disruptive laughter) glared out of a London Starbucks on two separate occasions, Pigeonwings nudged me to wake up before my alarm just so I could squeeze in a chapter before the start of another day. Let me tell you about how only the promise of truly pleasurable reading could ever convince me to roll over before dawn…

Clovenhoof, who had been enlivening the quiz night at the Boldmere Oak by shouting out random wrong answers before he was kicked out by Lennox the barman, staggered home, turning each merry stumble of his hooves into a tap dance worthy of Gene Kelly. He tottered up the high street, not yet decided if he was going to indulge in a goodnight kebab, curry or pizza, and saw two shady looking figures outside Books ‘n’ Bobs.

“There’s nothing worth stealing in there,” he called out.

“It’s us,” said Ben.

And it was. Ben and Michael were sitting on folding garden chairs, wrapped in winter coats and blankets, Michael with a clipboard in his hands, Ben with a computer tablet in his.

“We’re doing a scientific study,” said Michael, a phrase that Clovenhoof typically understood to mean ‘spying on naked neighbours with a telescope’. As there were no neighbours, naked or otherwise, in sight, Clovenhoof was nonplussed.

“We’re recording local bus traffic,” said Ben, “and comparing it to relevant astrological data.”

“What?”

“We log the bus and use its registration number to find its place and date of manufacture and draw up the corresponding horoscope.”

“You’re calculating the horoscopes of buses?” said Clovenhoof, who was quite sure he hadn’t drunk enough to be making this up himself. (loc 1489)

 

For more about Goody and Grant, head over here.

Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son, Michael Chabon

The handy thing about being a father is that the historic standard is so pitifully low. One day a few years back I took my youngest son to the market around the corner from our house in Berkeley, California, a town where, in my estimation, fathers generally do a passable job, with some fathers having been known to go a little overboard. I was holding my twenty-month old in one arm and unloading the shopping cart onto the checkout counter with the other. I don’t remember what I was thinking about at the time, but it is likely to have been the original 1979 jingle for Honey Nut Cheerios or nothing at all as was the needs, demands, or ineffable wonder of my son. I wasn’t quite sure why the woman in line behind us – when I became aware of her – kept beaming so fondly in our direction. She had on rainbow leggings, and I thought she might be a little bit crazy and therefore fond of everyone.

“You are such a good dad,” she said finally. “I can tell.”

I looked at my son. He was chewing on the paper coating of a wire twist tie. A choking hazard, without a doubt; the wire could have pierced his lip or tongue. His hairstyle tended to the cartoonier pole of the Woodstock-Einstein continuum. His face was probably a tad on the smudgy side. Dirty even. One might have been tempted to employ the word crust.

“Oh, this isn’t my child,” I told her. “I found him in the back.”

Actually, I thanked her. I went off with my boy in one arm and a bag of groceries in the other, and when we got home I put a plastic bowl filled with Honey Nut Cheerios in front of him and checked my e-mail. I was a really good dad.

I don’t know what a woman needs to do to impel a perfect stranger to inform her in the grocery story that she is a really good mom. Perhaps perform an emergency tracheotomy with a Bic pen on her eldest child while simultaneously nursing her infant and buying two weeks’ worth of healthy but appealing break-time snacks for the entire cast of Lion King Jr. (p 12)

I stole this book right off my father’s shelf and I don’t plan to give it back. He doesn’t need it anyway; he’s already placed well in his roles of Husband, Father, and Son, and I don’t want him getting any new ideas at this stage of the game.  Frankly, even if he changed the parts of himself that drove me crazy – and tangled within my absolute love and loyalty to him, there certainly are such things – I would be…concerned? Confused? Off-put, perhaps, by any extreme changes to his nature.

Possibly, that is because those parts of him are also deeply parts of me – the stubbornness, the curmudgeonly grumbling, the anxious and overprotecting love for the people closest to us. The traits that frustrate me in him are the same ones that drive people crazy when dealing with me, and it’s comforting to know that I have in him both an ally and an example of how deeply cherished a person with such quirks can be.

Where my mother and I negotiated, my father and I argued. We availed ourselves of the age-old stereotypes of fathers and daughters while remaining dear companions and confidantes. I can wholly imagine him in the situation Chabon writes of above, preening while simultaneously recognizing the patent absurdity of the situations inherent in fatherhood. I’m sure this familiarity is part of the reason why I loved this book so much. Chabon feels, not only like my own father, but like my brother, and my husband, and all the men I know who are well-intentioned but occasionally good-naturedly clueless.

Chabon manages to poke a little fun at himself while remaining just as wise as one might want such a man to be. He has his insights, his disasters, and flaws. He writes gorgeously, as I have come to expect him to, but his talent doesn’t overshadow the spectrum of human emotion he’s excavating. Instead, his mastery of language enriches the (at times excruciating) honesty of his own story. The book is as brutal and hilarious and heartbreaking as each of our stories would be if we had the ability to cast them out as he has, and because of that, the experience of reading it is one of precious, undisguised kinship.

 

For more about Michael Chabon, go here.

 

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy Book 1), Sarah Rees Brennan

Just a quick note: voting for Chapter 2 of Ten to One (the collaborative novel I’m working on) is now open. If you would like to support this great project (and me!), you can “Like” my newest section here. Every vote is precious, so if you have a moment to check it out, I’d be incredibly grateful. Thanks!

I was traveling for eighteen days, nearly three weeks during which plenty of lovely things happened. And yet. The story I have told most often since I got back on Monday was about the kid who threw up on my feet right before I got on the plane to fly home. I was wearing flip-flops, had woken up at four am, and was making a haphazard pass at my email when it happened. I actually thought his father had spilled a latte on me, and it was only after I had sprinted to the bathroom to get paper towels for the poor guy (he was stuck with two kids under five while his wife was getting the family breakfast, and it would have been impossible for him to manage to clean things up himself before she got back) that I realized what had actually happened.

It could have been worse, honestly. He could have hit me in the face. As it was, I wiped myself off the best I could and flew for six hours smelling…less than fresh. I didn’t make friends with my seat mates, in case you were wondering. I actually suspect they thought I was hung over and had puked on myself, and for that, they had no sympathy. I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t have either. It also seemed in bad taste to place blame on the real culprit, given that he was maybe three years old and clearly was having a rough time of it.

What does this have to do with Unspoken? Nothing, really. I just wanted to point out that after a trip that included a wedding, an extended family visit, three days on my favorite lake, and moving my best friend from NY to DC (which involved, amongst other things, the climbing of a hundred plus flights of stairs with heavy boxes, followed by five hours in the jump seat of a U-Haul) – after all of the chaos and crazy, I still had the energy to laugh off projectile vomiting. If that’s not the definition of a good trip, I don’t know what is.

Unspoken, fortunately, found itself snuggled right into the most relaxing part of my travels – my long weekend at the lake. For the last two summers, I’ve managed to score an invitation to stay at a lovely little house in upstate New Hampshire with some of my favorite people in the world. It has a deck overlooking the water, and it comes stocked with friends who love to cook, swim, play raucous games of Pictionary, and who, most importantly, understand and approve of curling up quietly with a good book.

I read most of Unspoken while my husband led the more ambitious members of our group in learning the rules of Mahjong. On our first morning there, he had discovered a book detailing the game’s rules, tiles, and etiquette in excruciating detail and was determined to learn. During the one rainy afternoon we had, I laid on the couch reading while they gathered around the table; this peaceful tableau was occasionally interrupted by bellowed phrases like “I’ve got a chicken hand!” and “Red dragon?! No!” They completely ignored my laughter, and instead debated intensely over a quantity of rules and behaviors I couldn’t have hoped to comprehend. It didn’t help that not one of them had even the slightest understanding of Cantonese and consequently had to sort the pieces through a laborious process I would never have had the patience for.

It was in this oddly studious vacation environment that I finished Unspoken only to discover that the sequel wouldn’t be released until the end of September. Although it wasn’t the best book I’d ever read, I’d certainly been swept up in the world Brennan created, and I found her characters so lovable that I was dying to know what happened next. In retrospect, it was probably for the best that I didn’t have the second one. I might have disappeared altogether back into that British hamlet and forgotten to appreciate the story unfolding all around me.

I might have missed out on picking twenty-five pounds of blueberries (too much for seven people – way, way too much), or swimming out to the floating dock, or having my friend translate from Portuguese the hilarious gossip of the Brazilian teens staying next door. Brennan certainly writes some lovely friendships into this YA adventure, but it just can’t compete with real life. Come September, though, when I need an escape from the ramp up of fall? I know exactly where to look for a lightweight escape.

For more about Sarah Rees Brennan, head over here.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (part the second), Jonas Jonasson

I finished this book last week just before heading out for the holiday weekend, and I have been wracking my brain for something brilliant to add to my post from the 1st. Usually, when I finish a book, I feel differently about it than I did partway through, or I’ve had some revelation either for or against it. I’ve waited eagerly for five days, and nothing has come to me.

The only thing I know for certain that I didn’t a week ago is that I’m going to give this book to my brother when I see him at the end of the month. I think he’ll enjoy both Jonasson’s subtle humor and the fact that more than half the book is political historical fiction. I’m guessing he already knows more about the actual events related in the novel than I did (for example! I learned how North and South Korea were created! Ditto on East and West Germany! Also, how President Roosevelt died!). He’s always been the kind of political junkie who bothers to find out how current events are connected in the past (wow – just typing that made me simultaneously yawn and feel guilty for my own ignorance).

Also, the protagonist, 100-year-old Allan Karlsson, reminds me of my father’s father. Even though he lived until I was twenty, I never felt like I understood him very well. He was quiet and patient and diligent (three words that have only ever been applied to my person by those who don’t know me well). He’s in the background of so many memories from my childhood – meticulously tending his lawn, making sure the badminton net was set up when we came to visit, caring for the dog – and in all those years, I can’t think of a single time when he was unpleasant. He never raised his voice; instead, when he was annoyed, he would throw us a wink and with a secret smile, simply disappear for the next few hours.

My brother adored him. I suspect he loved that there was one person in our family he could spend time with who wouldn’t demand conversation. When the two of them were together, they could work in silence with perfect contentment. After reading The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, I can actually comprehend the benefit of that. I also better understand the value of being the type of person who relaxes in the face antagonism, who shrugs off the decrees of others and goes right on doing what needs to be done anyway.

Of course, that will never be me. I will forever take after my stubborn, loud-mouthed, arrives everywhere 30 minutes early grandfather. I’m much more like the people who come into Karlsson’s life and are constantly teased for their brash idiocy. Fortunately, the world needs all sorts of people in order to tell its stories…

Now, on a somewhat unrelated note, I had already decided I wanted to share the (rather long) passage below, and I’m still going to even though it doesn’t have anything to do with what I’ve ended up discussing. It’s a lovely example of Jonasson’s work and a better indicator than I am for whether you’ll enjoy his novel as much as I have.

To provide a bit of context, this story is told, not by Allan, but by a new acquaintance of his over dinner with friends. Bosse is sharing the history behind his possession of several pallets worth of “damaged” Bibles, and how he had ended up reading one of the copies from cover to cover in order to find a single misprint:

Then one evening he reached the last chapter, and then the last page, the last verse.
And there it was! That unforgivable and unfathomable misprint that had caused the owner of the books to order them to be pulped.

Now Bosse handed a copy to each of them sitting round the table, and they thumbed through to the very last verse, and one by one burst out laughing.

Bosse was happy enough to find the misprint. He had no interest in finding out how it got there. He had satisfied his curiosity, and in the process had read his first book since his schooldays, and even got a bit religious while he was at it. Not that Bosse allowed God to have any opinion about Bellringer Farm’s business enterprise, nor did he allow the Lord to be present when he filed his tax return, but – in other respects – Bosse now placed his life in the hands of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And surely none of them would worry about the fact that he set up his stall at markets on Saturdays and sold bibles with a tiny misprint in them? (‘Only ninety-nine crowns each! Jesus! What a bargain!’) 

But if Bosse had cared, and if, against all odds, he had managed to get to the bottom of it, then after what he had told his friends, he would have continued:

A typesetter in a Rotterdam suburb had been through a personal crisis. Several years earlier, he had been recruited by Jehovah’s Witnesses but they had thrown him out when he discovered, and questioned rather too loudly, the fact that the congregation had predicted the return of Jesus on no less than fourteen occasions between 1799 and 1980 – and sensationally managed to get it wrong all fourteen times.

Upon which, the typesetter had joined the Pentecostal Church; he liked their teachings about the Last Judgment, he could embrace the idea of God’s final victory over evil, the return of Jesus (without their actually naming a date) and how most of the people from the typesetter’s childhood, including his own father, would burn in hell.

But this new congregation sent him packing too. A whole month’s collections had gone astray while in the care of the typesetter. He had sworn by all that was holy that the disappearance had nothing to do with him. Besides, shouldn’t Christians forgive? And what choice did he have when his car broke down and he needed a new one to keep his job? 

As bitter as bile, the typesetter started the layout for that day’s jobs, which ironically happened to consist of printing two thousand bibles! And besides, it was an order from Sweden where as far as the typesetter knew, his father still lived after having abandoned his family when the typesetter was six years old.

With tears in his eyes, the typesetter set the text of chapter upon chapter. When he came to the very last chapter – the Book of Revelation – he just lost it. How could Jesus ever want to come back to Earth? Here where Evil had once and for all conquered Good, so what was the point of anything? And the Bible… It was just a joke! 

So it came about that the typesetter with the shattered nerves made a little addition to the very last verse in the very last chapter in the Swedish bible that was just about to be printed. The typesetter didn’t remember much of his father’s tongue, but he could at least recall a nursery rhyme that was well suited in the context. Thus the bible’s last two verses, plus the typesetter’s extra verse, were printed as: 

20. He who testifies to these things says, Surely I am coming quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! 21. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. 22. And they all lived happily ever after. (p 198)

 

For more about Jonas Jonasson, his site is here.