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Jacey’s Epic Love of Picture Books: #14!

1SharkVTrain_FINAL

Shark vs. Train, by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld.

This is one of those books that I have a hard time imagining any kid not liking. (Yes, even girls. Girls can like sharks and trains, too.)

At its base level, it’s incredibly silly — a shark versus a train? — with vibrant, kid-friendly art. The “plot” is precisely what it sounds like: A shark and a train strive to prove themselves against the other in a series of increasingly goofy competitions.

Sometimes, Shark wins. (At trick-or-treating, eating pies, high-diving, bowling, etc.) Sometimes, Train wins. (At shooting baskets, running lemonade stands, giving rides at a carnival, roasting marshmallows, etc.)

“It can depend on who gets to pick first…who names the game…and who deals the cards.”

Sometimes, though, no one wins.

Such as when they’re playing hide-and-seek. Or performing in a piano recital. (“Sorry, the sound of the C always gives me the munchies,” Shark says sheepishly as he sits at his half-eaten piano, with Train’s own crushed piano beside him.) Or playing Extreme Zombie-Squirrel Motocross. (“Sure would help if we had thumbs.”) Or swordfighting on a tightrope. (“Swordfight?! I thought we were having swordfish.”)

And so it goes, until even Shark and Train acknowledge that things are “getting ridiculous,” and that it would, finally, be a good time for a break.

And there’s the real genius of the book, even beyond the giggle-inducing antics. Someone’s always going to be better than you at certain things. You’re always going to be better than someone else at certain other things. That’s just the way the world works, and if you get too caught up in this face, chances are, you’re just going to look like a damn fool.

So, instead, just focus on what you have in common — such as what you both suck at, for instance. :)

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Sugarbomb the bookstore hamster, self-cannibalizing children, and…Kenny Rogers?

Today at work, I was bitten by a hamster.

Mind you, I work in a bookstore.

Yep. I was bitten by a hamster in a bookstore.

I was walking past the magazine section, when I noticed a tiny sproglet scooting a cardboard box across the floor. And then I noticed that there was a small animal house inside the cardboard box.

So naturally, at that point I knelt down next to her, and I asked her what she had in there.

She then lifted up the animal house, and introduced me to Sugarbomb(?) the hamster. (Sugarbomb? Sugarbob? Sugarball? SOMETHING TO THAT EFFECT, ANYWAY.)

I asked her if she had just gotten Sugarbomb. She said no. I asked her if Sugarbomb just liked going out for walks, then. The sproglet shrugged, and seemed arguably even more confused than I was as to why she was scooting a hamster along a bookstore’s floor.

And then Sugarbomb poked its little head out of its little house to stare at me, and I offered it my finger to sniff.

And then Sugarbomb saw my glittery nail polish and was, apparently, overcome.

Because Sugarbomb latched its teeth right onto my fingernail and did not want to let go.

So, in short: Today a bookstore hamster tried to eat my sparkly nail polish.

The end.
 
 
 
Or, alternately, if you want the short version —

Friend: WHY was there a hamster at your shop
Jacey: Because it’s my shop.
welcome to the vortex
(Thank you, Bernard Black. ♥)
 
 
 
But, naturally, the fun did not end with Sugarbomb.

After work, I got on the train to go home…and promptly realised I was sitting across from an even smaller child, this one screaming because he could not eat his own hands.

I still don’t know.

I’m still not sure that I want to know.
 
 
 
And then?

Then, I got off the train.

And walked past a man standing proudly on the sidewalk, next to a life-size cardboard cutout of Kenny Rogers.

I couldn’t help it: I stared, and couldn’t stop my grin.

The man noticed, and beamed right back at me.

“ISN’T IT GREAT?!”
“That is beautiful. Where did you even acquire that?”
“The restaurant!” (Why exactly this restaurant had had a cardboard cutout of Kenny Rogers, I just decided not to ask.)

And as the man attempted to fit Kenny Rogers into his car, his wife walked up, laughing.

“Only my husband would manage to get a cardboard cutout of the most interesting man in the world!”

And I started laughing even more myself, and simply left them with, “Your husband might just be the most interesting man in the world, at this rate!”

She didn’t argue.

(But I still maintain that my own life wins any and all proverbial Interesting Awards. And if I am wrong, and there is in fact someone out there who can beat me, I want to meet them straightaway and quite possibly propose.)

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Panic and a writing playlist!

Yesterday after work, I finally was able to get my hands on Lauren Oliver’s latest, Panic! :D (I say “finally” as though it hadn’t just come out the day before, but I couldn’t help being extra-impatient for this one.)

I started reading it on the train home. Kept reading. Got home. Curled up with my cats, and kept right on reading until I’d finished the whole thing a few hours later.

I’m going to do a proper review of it here soon, but for the time being? Let that last paragraph stand for itself. :)

(And if it still doesn’t suffice — then in a word, love.)

Yesterday was a damn good book day.

And on the writing side of things… I finally got around to making myself a writing mix, too! Not a playlist for any piece or project in particular, but rather for my writing life in general — songs that inspire me, songs that I feel suit the mood I go for with my prose, etc.

And after much fussing, I think I’m actually pretty happy with how the whole damn thing turned out.

So, if any of you lovely folk would like to have a listen and some fun music to go write to yourselves (or for the hell of it)… ;)

Feel free to pop on over to look up: a writing mix!

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[Short Story] “My own body might as well be your grave.”

My brain is like some horrifying hybrid of the Energizer Bunny and Billy Mays.

By which I mean that it keeps going, and going, and going, and going…and just when you think it may finally stop for a breather BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE.

And so it also has a penchant for suddenly vomiting a new narrative at me out of complete and utter nowhere, and refusing to shut up until I finally give up and start writing the damn thing down.

This happened again the other night, and perhaps stupidly, I fought it like hell. I already have roughly 2934875 writing projects going that I need to work on and decidedly did not need yet another, and in particular I really did not want this one.

At all.

This one, see, is a girl writing to her best friend. Her best friend, who has just committed suicide.

You can probably understand why I didn’t exactly rejoice when her voice popped into my head without any warning, ahah.

But in the end, maybe the only thing actually more stubborn than me is my own damn brain, and of course, it won. I gave in, and all almost-1,500 words of it tumbled out in a writingfit that night, despite my own initial protests.

Fair warning: This really is not at all a happy sort of thing.

But apparently it had to come out, so here it is.
 
 


 
 
April 27th
You bastard.

I wrote those words on my own skin when they first called to give me the news, did you know? I dropped my phone onto the floor and I could still hear her talking, could still hear Are you okay? Are you okay? Are you there? and instead of picking it back up and answering with No — No — God I wish I could say no for that too — I picked up a pen.

I picked up a pen, and I half-wrote, half-carved the words You bastard into my skin.

You bastard you bastard you bastard you bastard you bastard —

Again and again and again.

I wanted to scream those words into your face instead, but of course by that point your face was probably already covered by a sheet, and anyway I could barely even breathe.

And so my own skin simply had to do.

I suppose it will always have to do, from now on.

You motherfucking bastard.

You motherfucking bastard.

Come the fuck home.
 
 
 
April 28th
No.
 
 
 
April 29th
No.
 
 
 
April 30th
No.
 
 
 
May 1st
No.
 
 
 
May 2nd
No.
 
 
 
May 3rd
It’s been a week now, and there are still profanities lingering all over my skin, thanks to you. It makes me even angrier to think of how hard this fact probably would have made you laugh.

To be fair, I’ve barely moved from my bed this entire week, let alone bothered to shower. (And this probably would have made you laugh too, your hands pointedly ruffling my greasy hair…)

And I still can’t think of any better way to express myself right now than this.

You bastard, indeed.
 
 
 
May 4th
I wish that I could actually hate you.
 
 
 
May 5th
I refused to go to your funeral. Did you at least know that? Did you get to watch, could you scan the crying faces, did you look for me?

Do you miss me, too?

Do you miss me at all, even though you’re the one who chose to go?

Maybe the answer to all of those questions is yes. Maybe I’ve made you sad.

But I still think that you would know me better than that, even now.

And even now, I think that I know — fuck, knew — you well enough to know that this is not what you would want. Everyone standing around, crying, crying over a now-immobile sack of muscle and skin packed inside a wooden box that they are now lowering into the ground, a buried box of decaying biological matter that they will mark and continue to come and cry over for years to come…

Funerals are stupid, I remember you once said. You had wanted to be cremated, to be burnt to millions and millions and millions of almost-microscopic bits of ash and then thrown into the sea. Life is the exact opposite of clean and controlled, you said, and at the very least people deserved to have that when they died. Maybe there isn’t a heaven, you said, maybe there is no such thing as eternal life and absolution, but there are furnaces and fire and that one beautiful moment when you are scattered into the air and free, and maybe that will have to be enough.

But you didn’t bother to leave behind any sort of letter, and so I was the only one who knew, and your mother was so desperate for a wooden box in the ground (with a rock overtop it where she could go and sob at the mere sight of your name) that she refused to listen to me when she and your father made the arrangements for you.

I guess that’s what you get for not even bothering to say goodbye.
 
 
 
May 6th
I don’t need a hole in the ground to remember you.

My own body might as well be your grave.
 
 
 
May 7th
They think that I’m in denial, because I refuse to go and see your grave.

I know you’re gone.

I fucking know.

And I know that if you’re fucking gone then that means that you wanted, more than fucking anything, to finally be fucking free.

Free is not a fucking box in the ground.

You sacrificed me for your chance at freedom, and I don’t need to be reminded that you failed, that it all was in vain.
 
 
 
May 7th
I still wish that I could hate you.
 
 
 
May 8th
I want to hate you, because maybe that kind of intensity could actually get through, could actually reach you, wherever you are.

Clearly, love did not.
 
 
 
May 9th
It occurs to me that I want to hate you so that I can maybe somehow catch your attention long enough, get you to listen to me for long enough, to tell you that I don’t hate you.

Christ, how much sense does that make? I want to hate you so you’ll listen to me when I say that I don’t hate you?

Maybe losing you has fucked up my head even more than I’d realized. There’s a scary thought, or at least it would be if I could be bothered to care.

But love wasn’t enough to make you hear when I told you that I did love you, that it would be okay, that it would get better, that you weren’t alone. That you would never be alone.

Except now you are alone, and so am I, and so maybe love is nothing but a lie.

So would hatred be strong enough to get through to you? Would hate make you hear me?

Not that it would make any sort of fucking sense, being that the only thing I need you to hear is I don’t hate you, which would make this whole process utterly moot, but hey. I’m desperate here.

I’m desperate, and I have no idea what in hell to do.

But I’m so terrified that you left (“left,” I know you’re gone but I still can’t bring myself to say the D-word, I can’t) believing that I would hate you for what you’d done.

If you didn’t think I would hate you, then why didn’t you leave me a letter? Why didn’t you tell me goodbye?

I don’t hate you.

I do not hate you.

I don’t I don’t I don’t; I cry myself to sleep every night now and I’ve actually cried so hard I made myself throw up on more than one occasion and I wrote profanities all over my own body and people think I’m going slowly insane and okay maybe I am and my room is still a disaster from where I broke half my shit throwing it at the walls during one of those lovely crying fits that ended in vomit, but I do not hate you.

I do not hate you.

I love you, still.

You are still my favorite person, even if your body is now trapped in the ground.
 
 
 
May 10th
I miss your hugs.

I miss pretty much everything about you (not the way you’d always steal my headphones, though, just for the record), but I think it might be your hugs that I miss the most. You hugged hard, like everything was all over-dramatic and you were holding onto me like I was your only proverbial port in a storm, and…fuck.

Fuck.

I wish that I had never ever been the first one to let go.
 
 
 
May 11th
Even if I somehow had the chance, I think that I would be too terrified to ask you why.

Not why you did it, why you must have felt that you had no other choice but to do it; all that, I already knew. It’s not like you ever had to explain yourself to me. (I was your best friend for a reason, dammit.)

I knew, and even if I didn’t understand well enough (clearly, if I didn’t see this coming, if I didn’t realize that you actually would)…I still understood as best I could.

What I want is to know why you did it without telling me. Why you did it without telling me goodbye.

But I’m almost grateful that I can’t hear your answer.

If you even have one. If you can even hear this question at all.
 
 
 
May 12th
Let’s try an easier question.

Here: Do you remember when we had to read Romeo & Juliet, our freshman year? Do you remember how much we laughed at it, at them? How stupid we said they were, how stupid everyone who cried at them was, how over-dramatic and unnecessary it all seemed?

They suddenly don’t seem so stupid, now.

Any ending is a happy ending, because at least it means that you get an ending, that it’s done.

And I guess even they did better than we are, right now. Ironic, that.

I wish that I could laugh.

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Writinglust: USB Typewriter!

As a Bookslut, my Booklust is admittedly …profound. (As anyone who has ever seen me in a bookstore knows, dear lord.) But my Writinglust — that is, my lust for writing tools, such as pens — tends to be somewhat more manageable.

Somewhat.

(I do have a near-irrepressible urge to buy every single pretty notebook and blank journal that I see, and a ridiculous collection of still-blank ones I cannot bring myself to actually write in because they are too pretty, buuut we’ll just not talk about that. Ahem.)

Compared to my Booklust, it really isn’t all that bad.

Or, rather, it wasn’t all that bad. And then I saw this:
 
 
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Yes, that is exactly what it looks like — a typewriter converted into a functional keyboard for an iPad.

Aaand my lust instantly flew right off the charts.

Mind you, I do not have an iPad. I never particularly wanted an iPad/full-sized tablet, and certainly never planned to buy one. (I am a very tiny thing, and me carrying around something iPad-sized would just be unnecessarily unwieldy.) But suddenly? DON’T CARE.

This is fabulous. And, I think, it’s the way that I would ideally want to write.

It’s made even harder to resist by the fact that the model pictured above is my absolute favourite typewriter of all time, and I’ve wanted one from the moment I first saw it, even if just for decorative purposes. But with this, that gorgeous typewriter wouldn’t just be decorative, or impractical!

Yep. Writinglust is off the charts, and I couldn’t resist sharing this amazing little thing with everyone else. ♥

Now, to somehow magic up the money for this and a tablet both…

Ahh, nothing like shiny pretty things to inspire you towards new goals. :)
 
 
Edit: Alternately, you can use this with a smartphone, instead of a tablet! Dammit, now I want it even more.

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Bookslut Adventures: The Epic Saga of the Would-Be Shoplifting of the Clearance Shrimp. (No, seriously.)

Today, at my day-job as a professional bookslut (read: bookseller), I spent roughly two hours helping to tail a young gentleman who was, apparently, bound and determined to shoplift himself some clearance shrimp.

Yes, you read that right.

No, I am not making this up. (Dear god, how could I?)

And so begins The Epic Saga of the Would-Be Shoplifting of the Clearance Shrimp.

Once again, I remind you: You can’t make this shit up.
 
 
Nothing ever stays normal in my bookstore for long. Ever. At all.

I call it The Vortex, and for damn good reason — it’s like its very own alternate reality of WTF, and once you are sucked into it, you will never be free.

So, when my manager alerted me to a young man lurking suspiciously in my department (Educational Toys & Games, because I am a pixie bookslut, after all) and asked me to keep an eye on him, I really should have known.

But then again, no one expects the Shrimp-Shoplifting Fiasco, not even in my store.

Not yet thinking much of it, I approached the young man, who was indeed suspicious — staring at me shiftily as I did so — and asked him if he needed help; and, when he said no, pointedly hovered near him cheerfully rearranging toys.

He did not take the hint, and continued to poke at them (quite literally; at one point spending several minutes playing with a Simon game and producing a series of bleeps and bloops of which even RD-D2 would have been dubiously proud) until my coworker showed up to relieve me and send me on break.

I alerted her to his presence, and left her to keep an eye on him instead.

And, sure enough, when I came back half an hour later, there they still were, her straightening toys in my stead as he continued to poke at them.

He was clearly a persistant one, having poked at toys for well over half an hour by that point, and I was starting to get amused.

I swapped places with my coworker again; and, eventually, with aforementioned manager, who purportedly spent forty minutes staring at him after he moved up to the front of the store to poke at our e-readers instead.

Still he would not be dissuaded. Clearly, he wanted something, and he wanted it badly.

And, when I ended up tailing him in again, in my manager’s stead, following him back to my toy department and then back up to the e-readers and finally back to the toys again… I figured out just what that something was:

Clearance shrimp.

A grow-your-own shrimp kit, currently on clearance for half-off.

This is what the young man spent his afternoon quite stubbornly attempting to steal.

I had seen him with it opened around the time I first approached him, and, though he put it down shortly after, he eventually did go back for the thing, and proceeded to carry it with him up and down the store. And then set the shrimp beside him as he poked at the e-readers, despite my having offered to hold them at the cashiers’ for him.

And he clung to his coveted little box of shrimp, despite being blatantly stared at by myself, at least two of my coworkers, two of my managers, and our security guard, and watching us (still quite shiftily!) watch him.

And by this point, going on two hours of his pacing back and forth throughout the store in an attempt to lose us all as he quite literally poked aimlessly at anything shiny, it was more than obvious that he was not going to buy these coveted clearance shrimp to which he clung.

Here, too, I should make a few other things clear:

1. These shrimp were not terribly expensive, even at their full retail price. ($34.95, which, while arguably expensive for pet shrimp, is not the sort of high-ticket item you would expect someone to go to this kind of trouble to steal.)
2. This was not an attempt at impulse stealing — something that he just tried to take, because it was there, and the opporunity was there, and he figured why the hell not. No, he put considerable effort in his attempt to steal these shrimp, and these shrimp specifically.
3. Bloody clearance shrimp, dude.

There is no even pretending to make any sort of sense out of this one, I’m sorry to say.

Eventually, his shrimp-stealing aspirations were thwarted, however. Finally the second of my managers grew bored with staring at a boy clinging to a box of clearance shrimp while poking aimlessly at an e-reader, and simply took the shrimp away from him under the pretext of offering to put them away if he didn’t want to purchase them after all.

And so finally he apparently wandered away, shrimp-less and alone.
 
 
But wait! There’s more!

(My life may as well be an infomercial; there is always more.)
 
 
Once he was gone and I filled another coworker in on the whole fiasco, she saw my shrimp-stealing story and raised me a story from the other day!

When a much older gentleman, presumably in his fifties or so, with very frizzy hair, actually succeeded in shoplifting from us!

And what did this older man with frizzy hair steal from the bookstore, in lieu of clearance shrimp?

Hello Kitty headphones.
 
 
WELCOME TO ‘HOW NOT TO HAVE STREET CRED 101’, INTERNET:

STEAL (OR ATTEMPT TO) A BOX OF CLEARANCE SHRIMP AND/OR HELLO KITTY HEADPHONES FROM YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE.
 
 
The more you know.

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[REVIEW] American Horror Story, season 1. (/ANGRILY EATS WATERMELON)

At about four yesterday morning, I finished watching the first season of American Horror Story, and while I don’t normally talk much about (let alone review) television…it somehow feels the thing to do, here.

So, then!
 
 
american horror story season 1
 
Before we even get into the show itself, let’s take a moment and talk about some of the official images put out for it. Such as the above!
 

/poses sexily in a falling-open French maid outfit…distracting from the ghostly figure behind her, who is inexplicably on fire whilst wearing a fedora

‘I AM THE MAN OF THE HOUSE. I GOT THIS SHIT, YOU GUYS.’ /POINTEDLY IGNORES GHOSTLY MAN ON FIRE AND STARES BROODINGLY INTO THE DISTANCE INSTEAD

/ANGRILY EATS WATERMELON

 
Congratulations: After viewing that one picture, you now know everything you need to know about the first season of American Horror Story!

Except for the fact it is still, somehow, actually kind of awesome.

Somehow.

In case you couldn’t already guess, the writing, ‘plot’-wise, is rather reminiscent of Stephen King guest-writing an episode of Passions. And after more than one ‘big reveal’, I felt like that’s exactly what I was watching.

Don’t get me wrong; I found this to be wildly entertaining. Just…probably not so much for any of the right reasons, hah.

But I’m not here for plot. I can certainly appreciate it when its done well (and even AHS did have its moments*, to give credit where credit is due); but plot, to me, is a vehicle to tell character stories, and not the other way around.

I’m a character-writer myself, and so I view everything else through that lens.

And with AHS, it’s there that things start getting impressive.

Impressive enough to successfully overshadow the Stephen-King-writing-Passions plot.

Here, the ‘normal’ characters, the easy ones, the ones you could make likable and relatable and audience-engaging with relatively little effort, aren’t. The ‘normal’ characters aren’t particularly likable, at least not if you ask me.

The characters I found to be most likable instead?

A literal psychopath, and an incredibly obnoxious aging Southern socialite who aspires to raise demonspawn.

Allow me repeat that: The most likable characters are a literal psychopath, and an incredibly obnoxious aging Southern socialite who aspires to raise demonspawn.

And those characters are legitimately likable, in their own rights, and don’t simply earn those spots just by virtue of everyone else being so awful you’d prefer anything else over them.

Likable, mind you; I’m not even talking about these characters being the most interesting. Personally, I spent the entire series wanting to fold the psychopath up and put him in my pocket; I found him that precious.

Somehow.

This show made me want to put a psychopath in my pocket.

If that is not good character-writing, I don’t bloody know what is. I especially appreciate the fact that the writers didn’t take the easy road — they make you care about the characters who by all rights should be damn hard to care about, they make you emotionally invested in them despite your own better judgement, rather than just letting you care about the more normal characters you can probably already relate to anyway.

They took a risk with their characters, and they pulled it off.

The actors who played those characters in particular were absolutely fabulous, as well, which definitely helped more than a little. ♥ They were wonderful to watch.

In short, character-wise, AHS made me happier than anything else has in a while, and that’s saying something.

And the other thing it did that impressed me?

It succeeded in almost kind of freaking me out.

To put this into perspective, I once decided it would be a fantastic idea to first read The Shining in a hotel, right down the hall from Room 217, and was still almost completely unfazed by it. (Except for the hornets, that is. Because…hornets. Enough said.)

It takes a lot to faze me.

But American Horror Story managed, at least in one regard. (Reading about haunted hotels in a hotel is one thing; ghostly gimp suits are apparently another, if you ask me.)

And it was the good kind of fazed — it freaked me out in between making me laugh out loud with its own sheer ridiculousness and making me emotionally invested in characters I had no business being invested in.

That is to say, the show as a whole completely played with my emotions, and I am quite pleased.

And, on a final note, while I’ll avoid spoilers…the final scene was one of the most fantastic things I’ve ever seen in anything. Period.

And I’m still laughing, even if I shouldn’t be. ♥
 
 
 
* ‘Not many of them, but it did have them.’