Sunday, November 28, 2010

EVEN in the Pasta Aisle

I was recently asked if I had a favorite book or author that has somehow changed my life...this was my answer.  The book is Even by Andrew Grant. 

It was the third Saturday in May 2010.  I had gone through my weekend chore list and was headed to the credit union, the post office, and the grocery store.  It would be the same locations, in the same order just like every Saturday before, minus weekends when I would be on vacation.  Nothing unusual at the credit union, nothing unusual at the post office, but there was something strange at the grocery store.

After pulling the grocery list from my purse I started shopping.  I was half way through my list when I realized the grocery list had a date from two weeks prior.  I dug through my purse and found the new list and stood in shock and confusion when I realized the new list was exactly like the old list.  It had the exact same items.  Worse, the items were in the exact same order as the list from two weeks ago.  There was no difference between the two. 

At that moment the grocery list became more than just a list of shopping items, it became a symbol of all that was wrong with me. I saw the disaster of my childhood, the constant struggle for order in my early twenties, and the difficulties that I had never expected to encounter once I found my prince charming.  Here I was, two months into my fortieth year standing in a grocery store acknowledging my inability to have children, embracing the reality that I'm dying from a disease that will more than likely never have a cure during my lifetime, and confronting the truth that in my attempt to protect myself from everything around me, I had forgotten to live.  

I was so busy processing the meaning of that grocery list that I wasn't paying attention to my surroundings.  I took a wrong turn and ended up in the wrong aisle.  Before I could turn and back out, the entrance became crowded and I found myself forced to move forward.  MOVE FORWARD?  Tell me that isn't symbolic!  I pushed along with my cart and then noticed something odd.  I found a book nestled next to a package of spaghetti in the pasta aisle.  When I took it from the shelf my intention was to return it to the book section, but I have a tendency to get sidetracked when I hold a paperback book.  Once they're in my hands, they go straight to my nose.  For some ridiculous reason I have to smell them.  Once my smelling time is over I like to hold them close to my face and fan the pages so I can feel the breeze against my cheek.  At that point, I always go for the first sentence in the book.  I knew when I read the first sentence that I was taking the book home with me. I had an instant connection to David Trevellyan.  I've never come across a dead body in an alley on the streets of New York, but I do know where some bodies are buried.  It doesn't matter how much I don't want to get involved, like David Trevellyan, I'm always compelled by my own morals to do the right thing.

Long story short-found it, read it, loved it, kept it. I loved the book so much I started it from the beginning the same day I finished it.  I carried it in my purse like a treasure I couldn't live without.  When I finished it the second time I ordered the second book, and while waiting for the second book to arrive, I researched the author.  There was something about his reason for writing that truly sparked an interest in me.  I liked how he was doing something that made him happy.  He set out to do something that he truly loved and in the process his entire life had changed.  It was amazing to me and, well, it made me happy! 

It isn't that I wasn't happy before.  I think I was just grateful that out of all the things this man could be doing, he chose to write a book.  He wrote a book that sold me on crime fiction, and his personal story for writing a book made me look at why I was doing the things I was doing in my life.  I guess you could say I reevaluated my surroundings.  I pulled out that long forgotten list of goals I had written way back when, and realized with great disappointment that there really wasn't anything on my list that I really wanted to do.  They were things that I felt I was expected to do or things that I knew would please others.  Some were items that I had seen on my friends list and thought they would look good on mine.  In the end, I did the only thing I knew how to do; I threw the list away and started over.  I actually have three lists now.  I have a list of Things I Want to do and Love, People I want to Meet and Thank, and a list of Places I want to See and Explore

Yes, I was happy before I read EVEN by Andrew Grant,  but I can honestly say that I'm happier now and I'm having a lot of fun marking items, people, and places off my lists.  Thanks to Mr. Grant I have this book blog, a Twitter account, more activity on my Facebook page, many friends reading his books, an incredible love for crime fiction, and a hotel room in St. Louis with my name on it for Bouchercon 2011.  I've listed Mr. Grant as my most favorite author not because I'm secretly in love with the guy, but because his happiness is infectious and truly changed my life.  Well, I know I'll be forever thankful for the person who disposed of his book in the pasta aisle at the grocery store, but are there any authors or books that have changed your life?

This week I'll be introducing a friend that has accepted my offer to do reviews on my blog.  I can't wait to introduce you to him.  Yep, it's a he!  I'd make him some business cards with his name on them, but something tells me the female lying on the sofa reading a book thing might look a little odd with a boys name on the card!  And just in case you're wondering, he'll be reviewing the David Trevellyan series by Andrew Grant!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ten Degrees of Reckoning by Hester Rumberg

"In 1993 my husband and I, along with our son and daughter, set out to live our dream-to sail around the world.  For almost three years we did exactly that.  But in 1995 my family and I were in a devastating collision that took away from me everything in the world I held dear."    Judith Sleavin

Ten Degrees of Reckoning is the heartbreaking story of Judith and Michael Sleavin and their two children Ben and Annie.  Just twenty miles from their final destination at sea, the Sleavin's sailboat, the Melinda Lee, was struck by a South Korean ship carrying thousands of pounds of lumber.   While the ship had all the necessary equipment to abide by International Maritime Law, the crew was inexperienced and chose not to use any of the instruments that could have prevented the devastation that they had caused to the Melinda Lee and to the Sleavin family.  Worse, the crew, knowing they had made contact with something in the water, failed to use search lights and assist in the rescue of the Sleavin family. 

Based on the impact of the two boats, it was determined that their son, Ben was killed instantly.  The remaining members of the family would climb aboard a partially inflated dingey, and cling to it desperately while awaiting a rescue that would never come.  After surviving the first night in the ocean, the dingey is capsized and the family members are scattered.  Annie drowns while waiting for the aid of her father, Michael.  Michael, suffering from the effects of hypothermia, is delusional as well as grief stricken by the loss of his two children.  When he reaches Annie's lifeless body, he kisses her goodbye, and after making eye contact with his wife, blows her a kiss and disappears below water.  Judith Sleavin, determined to survive, if only to tell the story of her family and the ship that caused the accident, finally makes it to shore after 46 hours at sea. 

You'll weep when you read how Judith knows, based on what is floating inside the cabin after the impact, that  her son is dead. You'll weep and feel the anger in Michael Sleavin when he realizes, with absolute certainty, that the ship is going to leave them behind.  You'll weep at the loss of little Annie, and the story of her mother, while helpless,  is forced to watch her daughter drift away in a red coat that stays visible for what seems like an eternity.  You'll also weep at the courage Judith shows during her recovery, and you'll be filled with hope as she regains her footing and becomes a permanent part of the people of the residents of Te Rawhiti Marae; the islanders that found her on the shores at Deep Water Cove.

The story is written by family friend, Hester Rumberg.  After the tragedy, Hester Rumberg and Judith Sleavin established the Sleavin Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting maritime safety throughout the world.  Juidth Sleavin divides her time between New Zealand and the United States.  She  designs glass-beaded jewelry that is currently showcased in New Zealand.  She also has an online business, Annie Rose Ltd.(  that sells equipment for glass artists. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child

I've always hated ATM cards.  I've had one a time or two in my life, but after I was married I put the kibosh on them real fast because Richard never brought home receipts and he never tracked anything.  I was constantly transferring funds to cover the shortfall that consistently showed up in our accounts caused by Richard's spending.  One day after arriving home from work I told Richard that I needed to see his ATM card.  He gave it to me without hesitation, and I took a pair of scissors to it and chopped it up into little tiny pieces.  I then gave him some cash and told him that his life with an ATM card was now officially over.  Hey, you can think I'm harsh all you want, but I do the finances in our household.  He was draining us dry.  I had to do something.  So, why bring this up in a book review?  Easy.  In book eleven of the Jack Reacher novels, Reacher uses an ATM card for the very fist time.  Although I'm secretly happy that Richard loves the Reacher novels now that he's met Lee Child, I'm secretly hoping he never makes it to book eleven for fear that he will want his ATM card back.  After all, if Jack Reacher can have an ATM card then Richard will think he should have one too. 

In Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child, Reacher is still the same Reacher I've always known.  The only real difference is that he has an ATM card now and he also carries his passport with him along with his never forgotten folding toothbrush.  After discovering an unusual amount of money being transferred into his account, Reacher deciphers the hidden meaning and finds that there has been trouble brewing with some of the guys in the old unit.  In fact, four of them are dead.  Their bodies have been found in the California desert, and the forensics show that, while still alive, they were dropped from a helicopter from the height of three thousand feet.  Reacher meets up with the rest of the old unit; Frances Neagley, Dave O'Donnell, and Karla Dixon, and together they set out to find the people responsible for the death of their friends.

In the story you'll meet a terrorist that has made a deal to secure 650 missiles, see first hand how the bond of a military unit extends beyond death, wish you had paid more attention in math class, never look at a P.O. Box at the Post Office again without thinking of Reacher, and sit in disbelief when you read what happens to Reacher's toothbrush.  I'm still in shock over it. Honestly, when I read about the toothbrush incident I was so upset I called the culprits responsible, well...I can't type it here for fear of offending.  Let's just say it was a naughty word that started with the letter b and ended with the letter s.   My response was right on the money since Reacher used the same word to describe them as I did. 

I've always known Jack Reacher was a numbers guys, but even I had to laugh out loud when reading how Reacher would come up with a number to use as a computer password. "...I'd probably write out my birthday, month, day, year, and find the nearest prime number...Actually that would be a problem, because there would be two equally close, one exactly seven less and one exactly seven more.  So I guess I'd use the square root instead, rounded to three decimal points.  Ignore the decimal point, that would give me six numbers, all different."  Neagley's response was classic, and I couldn't have agreed more.  In fact, I'm still shaking my head and giggling just thinking about the look that must have been on Neagley's face as he recited this mathematical solution to her. For me, a computer password is whatever happens to pop into my head when the computer tells me it's time to change it.  At work, I have so many different programs requiring passwords that it would be impossible for anyone to crack them.  Well, people that know me really well might be able to figure them all out.  But still, the square root rounded to three decimals?  It's safe to assume that my mind doesn't work like that! 

You can find more information about Lee Child and the Jack Reacher novels on Lee Child's webiste:

I'm currently finishing up Ten Degrees of Reckoning, by Hester Rumberg.  This is a true survival story that tells of the horrific ordeal that the Sleavin family encountered in 1993 when they set out to sail around the world.  It was highly recommended by an attorney at work.  I'll also be starting book twelve in the Reacher novels soon.  By the way- my blog posts showcasing my time in New York was a big hit.  I came home to Utah and had more than one  friend tell me they had started the series based on my intriguing blog posts.  Is that not the coolest?  So- I might have come across as a crazy lady after attending both book signings, but at least my  interest in Lee Child and my love for Jack Reacher have people discovering the series.  Eventually, I'll be able to have friends to discuss the books with.  If my plan works just right, I might even be able to persuade Mr. Child to make a trip to Utah.  See, I have plans...lots and lots of plans!