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Book Review - Fredrik Backman

Book review :: And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

First line: “There’s a hospital room at the end of a life where someone, right in the middle of the floor, has pitched a green tent.”

Book Review - Fredrik BackmanIt isn’t Black Friday yet, but I have my first literary gift recommendation for 2016. Fredrik Backman’s new novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, is stunning. This beautiful little book is a gem of a read that will be devoured in a couple of hours at most, but will demand to be read over and over.

Backman’s amazing stroll through the lives of three generations–father, son and grandson–will make your heart smile through the tears your soul cries. He paints a debilitating disease using his magnificent brush of creativity. In phrases only he could compose (and Alice Menzies deserves accolades for her astounding translation), the man who brought us Ove, Elsa and Britt-Marie, tells a mesmerizing story of minds that betray before the bodies wears out. A story of sons and grandsons who have to say goodbye to someone who’s still with them. In his letter at the book’s opening, Backman says, “This is a story about memories and about letting go. It’s a love letter and a slow farewell between a man and his grandson, and between a dad and his boy.”

Parts of the book take place in the man’s mind, a lovely little town square that he says gets smaller every day. The faces of the people that pass are fuzzy. They look familiar but he simply can’t focus in on exactly who they are. The man’s grandson, Noah, sits with him in his mind. “Noah’s feet don’t touch the ground when his legs dangle over the edge of the bench, but his head reaches all the way to space, because he hasn’t been alive long enough to allow anyone to keep his thoughts on Earth.”

The man’s wife also visits him in his mind. She’s been dead awhile now. “Her hair is old but the wind in it is new, and he still remembers what it felt like to fall in love; that’s the last memory to abandon him. Falling in love with her meant having no room in his own body. That was why he danced.”

While the heart-breaking dementia invades the man’s mind, Backman helps the reader experience his glorious life–his blessings as well as regrets.

This gorgeous, little volume has less than 100 pages and includes delightful, color illustrations throughout. After you get a copy for yourself–this is one you’ll want to keep, but really what Backman don’t you want to keep!?–snag some extras to tuck in stockings, to share with friends and family who might be experiencing something similar, or just to gift to someone you care about. I’d add a package of tissues to the gift though. You won’t get through this one without crying.

New Photo Friday - long exposure

New Photo Friday – Week 11

jennifer forbus - new photo friday

Happy Friday friends! I hope you had a great week. Mine was a whirlwind it feels like. How is it the last Friday of October already? As I mentioned last week, I went to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park last Saturday with my photography club–Erie Shores Photography Club–and shot beautiful nature. We saw three different falls and a nature trail. It was such a wonderful–and exhausting–day.

This weekend is going to be a little mundane as I have a lot of work to catch up on, but next weekend is Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee. Are you planning to attend? I’m looking forward to a fun bookish weekend since I had to miss the last two M&Ms.

So let’s move on to this week’s photos!

Jen

I had a hard time picking which photo to use today. We had such great content to shoot. I have a few heron images that came out nice from the nature trail, but I opted for a water image because I used long exposure for these and I really haven’t done that technique in the past. And I was like a fascinated little kid. I’d adjust my settings to use the fastest shutter speed I could and then I’d go to the slowest, and then I’d play with the ones in between. So I ended up with a slew of the same shots, just different water effects. (It really doesn’t take much to amuse me!)

This one ended up being one of my favorites. The leaves aren’t spectacular, we’re having an overall disappointing color change this year–maybe due to the strange weather–but there’s still some color. The shot was taken with an ISO of 100, an aperture of 18 and a 20 second shutter speed. Obviously I took this on a tripod at that shutter speed. 😉

New Photo Friday - long exposure

Maddee J.

Maddee is sharing some faith with us this week. She has a lovely church, and this is what she shared about it:

“I took this in San Miguel de Allende, like last week’s photo.  It’s this amazing church in the main square.  Taken with my iPhone in the evening so the edges aren’t sharp… but the lighting was so pretty, and I adore palm trees so the lone one there next to the church made me happy!”

New Photo Friday - San Miguel de Allende

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed our photos this week. Definitely let us know if you have pictures we can come check out. And have a wonderful last weekend of October!

New Photo Friday - Maddee Week 10

New Photo Friday – Week 10

jennifer forbus - new photo friday

Happy Friday friends! We’ve hit a little milestone today at week 10 of the New Photo Friday feature. I hope you’ve been enjoying the photos. It’s keeping me on my toes and reminding me to practice, practice, practice. This weekend the Erie Shores Photography Club is heading out to shoot some waterfalls, so I may have a lovely nature photo for next week’s post.

Earlier in the week I was able to see the movie of A Man Called Ove. If you’re not familiar with the book or my fan girl obsession with it, check out my review from a few years back. My review was blurbed for an ad in the New York Times. My claim to fame. 😉 I’m working on a movie review, which I’ll hopefully post for you next week. Stay tuned.

Now on to the main event…

Jen

I worked on some portraits of my sister and her kids this week, so I thought I’d share one of these. My niece is a joy to photograph as she’s so natural in front of the camera. My nephew is a little more challenging. His smile often looks forced and he never seems to be able to relax when the lens is turned on him. So a number of pictures I caught of him that were unplanned ended up being some of my favorites. This one. I like the way the shadows play on his face and the contemplative expression he has.

I took this one with my 50mm lens. I used an ISO of 100, an aperture of 1.8 and a shutter speed of 1/640 of a second.

New Photo Friday - portraits

Maddee J.

Maddee has a beautiful nature shot for this week’s photo. Here’s what she has to say about this one:

“Taken with my iPhone on a cloudy/rainy morning walk.  When I took this, I tapped the iPhone focus to get the drops on the leaf in the best focus (as opposed to the flower in the foreground).  I was amazed at how beautifully clear some of them are.  I’ve taken [or rather, tried to take] many photos like this and it’s hard to get the focus to really kick in so I was happy about this!  I also LOVE the colors!!”

Me too!

New Photo Friday - Maddee Week 10

How about you? What do you think of this week’s photos? Do you have one to share with us? Leave us a link in the comments if you do. We’d love to check them out.

New Photo Friday - Bokah

New Photo Friday – Week 9

Happy Friday, friends! The leaves are turning colors here and I’m off this morning to take pictures. I hope you’re looking forward to a wonderful weekend. I’m going to dig right into our pictures today because I’m super excited about today’s selections. So here we go…

Jen

This year I joined my local photography club, Erie Shores Photography Club. And on Wednesday we did a workshop that centered around focus, depth of field and bokah. I had seen bokah before but had never done any photography with it. So we got this video ahead of the workshop. And another club member mentioned doing cut-outs for her lens, so I looked up information on that and found this site.

Armed with that information, I made myself some cut-outs and created this photo:

New Photo Friday - Bokah

My hearts didn’t come out quite as defined as I would have liked, but I was delighted at this result for my first time. These are actually Christmas lights in a clear vase. I shot the picture using my 50mm lens (on a tripod), aperture 1.8, shutter speed 1/40 sec, ISO 100.

Have you tried bokah before? I’m taking a Photoshop class right now and I might try some of my blending mode activities with this image. I’ll let you know how the results come out.

Maddee J.

This week from Maddee we have a picture from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (I love this frog!). She says, ” I’m a huge fan of fountains and take photos of them every chance I get. I just adore off-kilter images but I wonder if I would like it even more if I had gotten the entire fountain and cool frog sculpture in. Not sure; I kind of like it as is. What do you all think? (taken with iPhone, no filter)”

New Photo Friday - fountain

New Photo Friday - Carmel

New Photo Friday – Week 8

jennifer forbus - new photo friday

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you had a great week. We had a lovely week here in Northeast Ohio. I’m trying to soak it all up because I know it’s not going to stay for much longer. *sigh* I’ve had an especially busy photography week, doing more work on my class project and taking some pictures of a Halloween house. I had hoped to post a Woollybear Festival picture this week, but I didn’t end up staying long at the festival because it was SO crazy crowded. At least a half a dozen people told me Rufus looked like a woollybear. Too funny.

Anyway, this weekend is going to bring some photography excitement for me as I’m going to be a second shooter at a small wedding. Cross your fingers for me, and pray I don’t mess up. I’m a wee bit nervous.

Jen

Since I just posted about my project last week and I put the Halloween house on Facebook, I’ll share a picture I took this week of my spider. She comes out every night on my porch and spins her web. I’m trying to capture her for a creepy-crawlies competition with our Erie Shores Photography Club. This one isn’t going to cut it–it’s not very sharp–but I’m going to keep trying. I shot this one using my 50mm lens at ISO 6400, aperture f1.8, shutter speed 1/100s.

New Photo Friday - creepy crawlies

Maddee

This week Maddee has switched to her Canon Rebel, which she says is “the original model, actually, which shows how old it is!” She took this stunning image in Carmel, CA, just after the sun went down. She used her automatic setting and no filter. I love the clouds in this one!

New Photo Friday - Carmel

And that does it for another New Photo Friday. I hope you enjoyed our new photos for this week. Let us know if you have a new photo from this week that we can come and check out. In the mean time, I’m off to practice for tomorrow and try to keep from hyperventilating. Have a great weekend!

Book review: Balls by Chris Edwards

Book review :: Balls

Earlier this week, Chris Edwards’ debut released. My review of Balls: It Takes Some to Get Some was my first to appear in Shelf Awareness Pro, so it’s a little longer than the reviews I have from SA Readers. I am just delighted to post it today with their permission because right now this is my absolute favorite book of 2016. It blew. me. away. I hope you’ll give it a try. And if you do, let me know what you think! Here’s what I thought…

First line: So I’m standing there, peeing at a urinal for the first time.

Book review: Balls by Chris EdwardsIn this bold memoir about gender dysphoria and gender confirmation surgery, Chris Edwards explains, “That feeling of finally being complete—of being who you really are—trumps everything.” It ultimately takes Edwards more than three decades and 28 surgeries to realize his consummate body, but in 1974, at five years old, he already knows his true gender. It’s everyone around him who seems to be confused, so in his childish wisdom he deduces the answer is as simple as a haircut:

“Since everything about me was boy-like—my clothes, my toys, my obsession with all superheroes except for Wonder Woman and her lame, invisible plane—I put my five-year-old brain to work and determined that the only thing lumping me in with the girls was my hair length.”

However, a haircut doesn’t stop the female body from developing around the man locked inside. Throughout high school and college—breasts, menstruation, estrogen and a sorority—Edwards battles depression and thoughts of suicide. Using a cunning blend of heartbreaking sincerity and humor, he navigates his audience through this excruciating stage of his life:

“I was apparently too scared to actively take my own life, I drove around without a seatbelt on, hoping for someone to hit me. And I was hit. Twice. But both times the car was parked and I wasn’t in it.”

When Edwards, through the help of an amazing counselor, is finally able to share his battle with his family and friends, he finds support, compassion and encouragement. Despite his first instinct to move away and transition, Edwards remains at his job in a Boston advertising firm and courageously opens his quest to the company’s board members, his colleagues and the clients. While everyone doesn’t always understand, he patiently educates them—and his readers. Edwards also invites everyone to laugh with him—learning to pee standing up, mistakenly inviting the wrong woman on a date. His stark openness and dogged determination allow the audience to identify with him through their similarities, instead of fearing the differences.

Balls is a stunning self-portrait of an exceptional man, an inspiration for others who may be a gender not recognized by those around them. And it is a primer for those fortunate enough to be born “complete.” With eloquence and grace, as well as sharp wit and brutal honesty, Edwards explains to his audience, “The key to understanding gender dysphoria is realizing that sexual orientation and gender identity are two totally different and completely separate things.” More than anything, he exemplifies the definition of bravery. From opening himself up to his family, friends and colleagues to sharing the intimate details of his story with the entire world, Chris Edwards has no shortage of…um…MOXIE! 😉 Smart, funny, genuine and uplifting, Balls is sure to win a lot of hearts.

Book review :: Rise the Dark

Don’t fall over because I’m posting a review today. I don’t mean to cause any cardiac problems for anyone. 😉 Today’s review for Michael Koryta’s Rise the Dark first appeared as a starred review in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Of course it also appeared there in a more timely fashion, but for those who missed it, I’m posting it here today with their permission.

First line: The snow had been falling for three days above six thousand feet, but it had been gentle and the lines stayed up.

book review - rise the dark

Markus Novak, no longer investigating for the Florida-based Death Row defense firm Innocence Incorporated, is taking on the intimately personal case that has plagued him since his introduction in Michael Koryta’s Last Words–the murder of his wife, Lauren. Garland Webb, the man accused of killing Lauren, is out of prison, and Novak is determined to exact justice for both Lauren and himself. He just has to find the monster first.

Webb’s trail leads Novak back to the scene of Lauren’s death. Then it takes a sharp turn, introducing him to an honest-to-goodness Pinkerton PI and sending them both to a place Novak swore he would never return, Red Lodge, Montana. Here Novak’s past collides with his present, and he uncovers the truth behind Webb–who is just the tip of a terrifying iceberg–as well as the meaning of words left on Lauren’s notebook before she was murdered, “Rise the dark.” As Koryta raises the dark on his determined protagonist with a brilliantly sadistic villain, Novak races time to prevent a global crisis.

Koryta’s second installment in the Mark Novak series is easily appreciated on its own, but readers of Last Words and Koryta’s standalone Those Who Wish Me Dead will delight in small references to his earlier works. While some of the explanations for electrical processes deter from the thrilling action, Koryta constructs an enveloping atmosphere that artfully merges the landscape’s beauty with the plot’s terror and the darkness of his characters. This dichotomy ramps up the suspense, making Rise the Dark heart-poundingly swift and chock full of explosive excitement.

new photo friday - love of story

New Photo Friday – Week 7

jennifer forbus - new photo friday

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you’ve enjoyed a good week. It’s been a little rainy in my neck of the woods, but alas, summer has vacated the area. I saw our first signs of leaves changing colors. I love fall’s palate, but I always mourn the loss of summer. To alleviate a little of my melancholy, I’m hoping to take Rufus to the Woollybear Festival this weekend.

I also had an, um, interesting run-in with a possum this week. It wasn’t pretty–for me, the possum is just fine. 😉 And I registered for Murder & Mayhem in Milwaukee this week. Anyone planning to be there, too? Should be a grand time.

Anyway, we’ve got some fun photos for New Photo Friday, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

Jen

I mentioned earlier that for my current photography class we have a special project. I’ve been working on that project and wanted to share one of my current iterations today. In the past three weeks this has already morphed quite a bit and I see more significant changes in the future, but thought I’d get your thoughts on it at this point. The theme of my project is “Love of Story,” and I’m trying to evoke a comforting, reassuring emotion in reading.

I’m using a couple of light sources and have been playing with their placement and power. The ring in the gutter of the book is a new addition and I am still working on getting the lighting on it correct so it creates the heart shape evenly in the shadow.

I shot this time around with a 2.8 aperture, an ISO of 100 and a shutter speed of 1/160. When I go to work on it next, I’ll be removing some of the clutter — the post-its, the bookmark. My eventual plan is to have tea in the cup, but I want to get the composition right before I move on to that step. And obviously the lighting needs work so my entire background is not black and the highlights on the book aren’t blown out. Other thoughts about things you like or don’t like? All constructive criticism welcome!

new photo friday - love of story

Maddee

Maddee really loves taking flower shots. And she is sharing one with us this week for her new photo. This is what she told me when she sent the picture: “Taken with my iPhone, no filter. I just love the balance of rich colors and textures with the background faded out. I decided to start naming my photos for fun… this is Flower Candy.” I love that name, especially since the flowers look good enough to eat!

new photo friday - flower candy

And there you have it from us this week. Do you have a new photo to share for this week? Let us know in the comments so we can stop by and see your work! All photos, all levels of ability welcome.

Have a super weekend, friends.

New Photo Friday - mardi gras beads

New Photo Friday – Week 6

jennifer forbus - new photo friday

Happy Friday all. I hope you’ve been enjoying a nice week. I know a lot of folks returned from their big party weekend in New Orleans for Bouchercon. I hope you’ve recovered successfully.

I’m typing this after my photography class and all giddy because I’m learning to use off-camera flash and it’s pretty amazing. I’m looking forward to playing with it this weekend and seeing what I can do on my own at this point. But I’m going to share a picture from class for today’s new photo. And Maddee’s returned so we have a great contribution from her as well.

Jen

My flash is the Cactus RF60 with the V6 transceiver. I shot with my 18-55mm lens using an aperture of 5.6, a shutter speed of 1/4 of a second and an ISO of 1600 in evaluative metering mode. I also had an umbrella on the flash at 1/32 power for this shot.

While I know that this picture is not perfect by any means, it is ground-breaking for me. To have gotten the ambient light behind her (she’s standing in front of a plate glass window) without completely turning her into a black blob of shadow is so exciting. Oh and the “her” is my adorable niece Payton. She was such a good sport coming to the class and serving as a model.

New Photo Friday - off camera flash

Maddee J.

This week Maddee really gave me a challenge. I had to pick from several pictures she took in New Orleans. They were all great and I had a hard time picking, but I settled on this one because it just made me happy to look at it. In her words, “They’re all arty and taken on the iPhone with a filter.” And about the image I chose, “love me some Mardi Gras beads!” Me too!

New Photo Friday - mardi gras beads

I hope you enjoyed the images for today. As always, feel free to leave your constructive criticism in the comments as well as links to YOUR new photos this week. We’d love to see. Have a super weekend!

New Photo Friday - Elyria Mural

New Photo Friday – Week 5

jennifer forbus - new photo friday

Sorry for the late post today, folks. My computer was being uncooperative this morning and then I had to run to watch HARRY. Is anyone watching that along with me? I don’t watch TV but this week Harry Connick, Jr. started his daytime talk show. He may become partly responsible for me losing weight because I climb on the treadmill for an hour while I watch his show. Anyhoo…

It’s Bouchercon weekend, so some of our regular posters (including Maddee) probably won’t be active today. But I still have a photo to share with you. This picture is of a segment of a fantastic mural that is going up in Downtown Elyria. It’s being painted on brick walls right outside our photography class building, so I’m watching the development as I go back to class each week. You can see in this image that it’s not complete, but even incomplete it’s amazing. I love the detail of the produce in the window behind the two men. And the incredible effect of dimension on a flat brick wall. I’ll get some pictures each week and do a post in the future on the progression of the mural. It’s pretty stunning. In the mean time, this photo was taken using my 18-55mm lens at an ISO of 400. Aperture 5.6 and shutter speed 1/80 of a second.

New Photo Friday - Elyria Mural

By the way, the grass along the bottom strip of the image is actual grass–everything else is the brick wall.

In our photography class we’re starting into our “project” so you may see updates here on that. My theme right now is “Love of Story.” Stay tuned for more on that!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and be sure to share your photo links in the comments so we can take a look!