I’m Starting to Get Nervous

I was really nervous on my way in to work this morning. Not about work, though. About NaNoWriMo. I think I like my plan of attack — eight short posts a day, on various topics including travel, parks, books, cooking, etc.

And, of course, on November 3 and 4, I should have a pretty good topic in the presidential election. If Trump wins again, I should be able to rant about that for quite a while, and if Biden wins, I wonder how many words I can get out of pleased astonishment.

Also, if Trump wins again, I’m going to be sucking on a shot of my dad’s Harvey’s Bristol Cream, so we’ll see what that does for my output.

Gratuitous photo time. This is what I’m pretty sure is the original Espada Dam in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. I’ve been walking down the River Walk and I reached this part last time, but totally forgot to take a new picture. This is from 2009; it probably looks pretty much the same now, in all honesty.

I’m going on a short road trip on the, like, 7th and 8th. I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to work, since “my” dog is being spayed on the 6th at my vet’s office. I might take her with me, since she needs to be watched to keep her from overdoing and opening her sutures. How better to keep an eye on her than to have her seatbelted loosely in the back seat of my car, which I am driving?

Well, I’m using too many November words here in October.

I think I might just be able to do this this year.

Wish me luck.

Ack! I was in the process of posting this when I realized that I forgot my Gratuitous Amazon Link. I almost panicked, going, “Oh, my gosh! Which book am I completely going to fail to sell them this time?” Then I realized that Allie Brosh’s second book, Solutions and Other Problems, has already been released. So go forth and don’t buy this book, either.

Two Weeks to NaNoWriMo

So I need to come up with some kind of plan. I remember telling y’all (or yelling into the void, whichever) that I need to write about eight 200-word posts a day to make my goal. Eight and one-third, to be precise.

In addition to travel and book blogging, I think I may add a round of food blogging as well. You see, I’ve got a whole bunch of cookbooks and I’ve hardly ever used them. So since Alex is grown and hardly ever home, I’m going to start to, well, use them.

I cooked Diane Seed’s version of Pasta al Boscaiola, which is the rosso version. The rosso version uses tomatoes and the bianco version uses cream. You basically sautee garlic in olive oil, then add mashed up tomatoes, salt, pepper and parsley. Then you top with sauteed mushrooms. I love sauteed mushrooms.

I knew that the recipe I was following was supposed to feed six people, so I cooked a bunch of mushrooms and then realized that the mushrooms were a topping and not an ingredient in the sauce. So I topped the spaghetti with a few mushrooms and ate the rest as a rather odd dessert.

Today’s gratuitous photo. I took this at the San Antonio Botanical Garden in 2009. The sculpture there is one of my favorites. I don’t know if the gardens own it or what, but I look for it every time I go to the garden. Speaking of which, I haven’t been there in more than a year, I don’t think.

It was really delicious and an excellent way to start my exploration of these cookbooks.

Not-so-gratuitous Amazon Link this time. The book I got the recipe from is The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces, by Diane Seed. I’m going to try posting my Amazon link with an image. Let’s see how it turns out:

ETA2: It didn’t. It was just a big block of HTML. So, back to just text links for now. The Top Hundred Pasta Sauces, by Diane Seed.

ETA: This post was 253 words. If I can do that consistently next month, I’ll have over 60,000 words for the month

Foreign Languages, Reading, and Reading in Foreign Languages, Part 3

I can’t find a subtitle box

So I’m going with headings

Subtitle: A/K/A The Weirdest Language Project I’ve Started So Far

Sub-subtitle: Our Gratuitous Amazon Links Aren’t So Gratuitous for This Post.

In the beginning (as I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before), my mom was a youth services librarian. I helped her read a bunch of the books that she purchased w-a-a-y past the point when it was age-appropriate for me.

And then I got a BSEd in Curriculum and Instruction (the fancy way of saying “elementary education”) and had to read kids’ books both for the degree and for planning my classroom library. I ended up becoming a paralegal, but the kidlit was definitely a high point.

Fast forward, oh, nine years? Ten? Alex was a baby and Harry Potter was the next big thing. I was kind of dubious because once something becomes what everyone I know talks about, unless I was an early adopter, I feel kind of excluded by the topic.

But when we were house shopping (and in this very house, btw), one of the kids’ bedrooms had Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on the desk. It was this huge doorstop of a book and I was instantly intrigued. So I went out and got Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, and soon afterwards the rest of the series up to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I joined the fandom and wrote fanfic and waited impatiently for each book, despite growing sort of disenchanted with them as we got further into the series. More on this in maybe another book-blogging post.

Where to go next? Okay. While waiting for . . . . No, actually that came second, I think. Upon a quick visit to Wikipedia, yes, that came second.

In 2003*, Thomas joined a book club. One of the books they read was a mystery by a writer named Rick Riordan. Thomas told me about it, and it sounded interesting to him but didn’t do much for me.

In 2005, Thomas and I took a road trip and he wanted us to listen to an audiobook by Riordan on the trip. I was dubious until he told me that it was kidlit. So we gave it, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, a shot and I loved it.

Then, during the two-year hiatus between Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, one of my friends recommended Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. I read the first two books. This had to have gone down earlier than 2006, because I remember talking to my mom about this. I wasn’t really gripped by it and stopped at two. I have no regrets about not reading the third book.

I realized after a bit, though, that I already had the perfect books to read (and reread) and plug to all and sundry, Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and the people I plugged it too would still kind of get in on the ground floor, because there were, at that point, only two books into the series.

Gratuitous photo time. I was tired last night. I forgot that I’d already dug up a second photo to post. This is the Dyfi furnace in Wales. Originally built so smelt iron, it also was used as a sawmill. At least, I’m almost sure that’s what it is. We were doing the American-style tour of the UK and didn’t have any time to dig around for interpretive signage or anything on that date. i snapped this picture out the car window and looked for what it was later.

At some point, Thomas gave me Harry Potter y el Prisionero de Azkaban as a gift, and I realized that I could get all of the Harry Potter books in translation as foreign language practice. I started with Chinese and got the Chinese translations of Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (for some reason, I can’t get typing in Chinese to work right now) and have spent the last couple of years working on them. I also have the Italian and German translations of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Then JK Rowling came out as a transphobe. I have friends, coworkers, and patients who are trans. My son has friends who are trans. I thus kind of reluctantly** decided to stop buying foreign translations of her Harry Potter books.

And then it hit me. Riordan has written, oh, dear, God, so many books in the world that started with The Lightning Thief. And so many translations! Spanish and German and Dutch and Vietnamese and Icelandic and Czech and Turkish and . . .

So, now the weird project. To get all of the translations of all of Riordan’s mythology books — Percy Jackson, Kane Chronicles, Magnus Chase, wherever else he ends up taking us. In every language we can get them in.

I know that I don’t speak Dutch, or Icelandic, or Turkish (and I barely speak Vietnamese and Czech, but I’m working on them!). But who knows where time and curiosity will take me in the future? And when I finally do start this degree, maybe I’ll have a classmate who wants to study one of these many languages and I can lend (with emphasis on lend!) a book or two to the cause.

I hope that Riordan is as great as he seems because I love his books so much.

At this point, it’s 1 in the morning and I’ve been writing for an hour. I have to work tomorrow so I’m going to leave this here and dig up a gratuitous travel photo sometime tomorrow (well, later today, I guess) and then post.

*I can remember what year it was because the only book they did that sounded interesting to me was The Devil in the White City, which was a new release that year. Thomas and I read it in parallel. I don’t remember if I went to the meeting or not, though.

** See also my growing disenchantment with the series.

Foreign Languages, Reading, and Foreign Language Reading, Part 2

I’ve been feeling kind of down on myself lately because “I haven’t been reading so much.” The fact is, though, that I read a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. I just read articles, and blog posts, and comments on those blog posts, and Facebook posts, and comments on those Facebook posts, and Reddit posts, and comments on those Reddit posts.

And that’s not even counting the rabbit holes. I’ll see a reference to this place, or this person, or this company in an article and down the rabbit hole I’ll go. I was reading an article on “Lean In” feminism and Elizabeth Holmes (alleged con artist who started a company that had technology that supposedly could do an entire workup of your bodily functions from one drop of blood).

I followed a link from the article to a short article on Holmes’s claim that her dog, a Husky she named “Balto” was a wolf. That led me to wondering what was up with the case against her, so now as I write this, I have another tab open to two different articles about how she may be going to claim a “mental disease” caused her behavior and how the judge is allowing up to 14 hours of psychological testing over a two-day period to see if her brain is malfunctioning.

That’s a small divergence rather than a true rabbit hole, but I’ve gone from article to article, then back to Google to research something else that one of the articles reminded me of, for hours.

Today’s unrelated photo. I really loved this picture of the Iron Bridge in Ironbridge from our 2002 UK tour. Unfortunately, the very top of the picture was overexposed or something. I played around with the clone tool to try to darken that section, but it was imperfect, so I cut it off. I’ll continue playing with it, and one I get my butt back to my travel memories posts, and I get to that part of the UK trip, maybe I can do a new version of this image as it should look.

What I mean when I say that I’m not reading “enough” is that I’m way, way behind on my National Geographics and I’m not plowing through novels the way I used to. I am therefore putting forth an actual effort. Fiction is still going slowly for me, which kind of worries me, but I’m hoping it’s just that I’m just out of practice.

I’m really, really hoping that I’m just out of practice.

Thomas’s side of my bed is now covered in novels (more on those in my next post) and National Geographic magazines. Once I finish my current National Geographic issue, I’ll post about the travel-y stuff in it. Or maybe I’ll leave it until November. Oh, I’ve got so many National Geographics to read that I’m sure I can do this one now and still have plenty for November.

As to books, I’m a member of a book club, so that’s at least one fiction book per month. And there are occasional bonus books, so that’s two books per month for those months.

I also have a new fiction-reading thing I’m doing, but that’ll have to wait until my next post, because it deserves a post of its own rather than being crammed at the end of this one.

Foreign languages, Reading, and Reading in Foreign Languages Part 1

Back in . . . June, I guess? I decided that I needed to focus on each of my languages for an extended period. While I’m still working on Spanish and Chinese daily (they’re my two strongest languages, after all), I’ve been changing all of my games over to my target languages, chronologically by how long I’ve been speaking them, for two months each.

So my first two months were Latin American Spanish for Animal Crossing Pocket Camp and Wizards Unite. The next two (which I’m in the middle of) is German for those two games, and also Design Home. And I’ve totally forgotten to do this with Pokémon Go.

Well, apparently I can’t change my language for Pokémon Go. Actually after looking around, I would need to change my phone’s settings to the language in question to make Pokémon Go run in that language. Now, due to something I haven’t gotten to discussing here yet, let’s see if I can get Pokémon Go to run in Czech.

I’m 90% certain that this is Caernarfon Castle in Wales. I’m also 90% certain that this is my photograph. Most of the disposable-camera photos from that trip that weren’t in London or Paris were my work. Not that this has anything to do with the topic at hand (Welsh is way down my list of priorities in terms of languages). I’m just tired of not having any photos in my blog posts.

And no, I can’t. Poot. Well, let’s try resetting my phone.

Why did I try Czech? Because my languages, in order, are Spanish, German, Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese, and Czech. I’ve only done Rosetta Stone in Vietnamese, and I’m just starting on Duolingo Czech.

Resetting my phone didn’t work either. Darn.

Looking ahead on my games, though, I’ve discovered that the ones that have Chinese they only have traditional Chinese characters, and none of them, so far, have Czech. I haven’t had any luck with Vietnamese, either.

My phone has simplified characters, but Pokémon Go doesn’t seem to have them, either. I can get the game to work in Spanish, so I know I’m changing the right setting.

So I guess it’s going to be Spanish, German, Italian, traditional Chinese characters? I don’t want Spanish and Italian to be right next to each other. I’ve got almost another month before I have to commit to my October and November language, so we’ll see what happens by then.

Gratuitous Amazon Link. . . . Gratuitous Amazon Link . . . What have a I read recently? Let’s go with Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Noemí is sent by her father to check up on her cousin Catalina, who sent a letter to Noemí’s family saying that terrifying things were happening at the home of Catalina’s new husband, Virgil. Are terrifying things happening or is Catalina having delusions? One warning, though, it is more than a little body-horror-y when we find out exactly what is happening. If you’re squicked by body horror, let’s see what I come up with for my next Gratuitous Amazon Link.

I’m Going to Try Writing Again

I actually had a point when I first opened this editor, like, two days ago, but I can’t remember what it was.

I’ve tried, off-and-on, to “win” NaNoWriMo, which is, on the surface, writing 50,000 words in the month of November, but in practice, is about turning your brain off and not worrying about what you’re writing and just writing. So, in September and October, I’ll try to have some kind of point to my posts.

But in November, on days when I don’t have enough idea (and since my blog posts tend to run, you know, 200 words or so, I’ll have to come up with about eight blog posts a day), God only knows what I’ll end up writing about.

I’m also thinking that November would be a good time to take some kind of trip. If we can leave Texas by then, maybe Carlsbad. If not, maybe Big Bend?

Actually, if I take a four-day road trip in November, that’ll only give me 26 days to write. So nine blog posts a day.

Maybe I’ll come up with some kind of pattern. A travel idea first, a reading topic next, something from Google’s I Feel Lucky button next, a mobile phone gaming idea next, unpacking a childhood trauma next, something, I don’t know, music-related next, another I Feel Lucky result. That’s, oh, dear God, seven blog posts. What can be my eighth and ninth? Foreign languages? Art? That looks like a good place to start.

There has to be more to me than travel, mobile phone gaming, reading, art, foreign languages, music, and childhood trauma. Maybe this will let me find it.

Maybe I should dump one of those I Feel Luckies and post about trying to get my stuff together. I need to empty out my closet and find someone to gift a bunch of knit blankets to and bag up a bunch of books that I’ll never read again and shred so much junk mail.

And maybe, at some point, I will be able to turn off my inner critic and will be producing more than 200 words per blog post and thus can cut down on the number of posts I have to produce per day.

How do I know how many words a post is? I swear there used to be a tool somewhere that would tell me. I guess I can just paste the blog posts into a Word document and count them that way.

I remember what the point was supposed to be! It was reading and foreign language. But that’s another post for, probably tomorrow. I’m meeting Ray to go for a walk in nine hours and I haven’t gotten any rest yet.

Ooh! Photography! I haven’t posted an image in a blog post in ages. I think I’m just going to start looking through my old photos and picking out ones I like and pasting them into my blog posts regardless of whether they’re on-topic or not, and for the ones I *really* like, I bet I could make an entire blog post about them.

But, for now, good night.

My History as a Reader, Part Two of However-Many

The next milestone in my history as a reader was in August of 1974. My mom had breast cancer (though she didn’t know about it yet), and Nixon had just resigned.

My family was in North Carolina visiting my grandfather, and I had run out of books to read. We were in some kind of convenience store/ice house place. I think the building was painted red and it had a screen door.

Anyway, I told my parents that I’d run out of books. There was a rack of comics there and one of them (I think it was my dad) said, “Buy a comic book.”

I felt really uncomfortable, almost like I was doing something wrong, or someone was playing a practical joke on me. But I took a Superman comic book and we paid for it. The story in the comic book wasn’t really gripping to me, but the ads had something that made a big impression on me. Super heroines. Supergirl in particular at first. So I mentioned that Supergirl stories sounded like they’d be interesting.

My dad worked in the circulation department of a newspaper and when he was making his rounds, he saw a Superman Family comic book that featured Supergirl. So he picked it up and it was all downhill from there.

Soon my dad was buying me any comics he saw with female leads, or groups with multiple female characters — Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Ms. Marvel, Justice League . . . . Also Howard the Duck, which is awesome, even if it didn’t fit the theme. This lasted about eight years? 10 years? Until pretty late in my high school career, at least.

In 1991, I married Thomas. He’d seen my comic book collection and wanted to start collecting as well. When we first got married, we’d occasionally go to the 7-11 and get two Slurpees and a couple of comic books.

On or around our first anniversary, Superman died. I knew there was no way they’d leave him dead, so even though I was tempted to bite on those comics, I figured I’d wait until they brought Superman back.

As fate would have it, the first of the Return of Superman storyline came out just before I moved to Texas. Thomas was already here and I was living alone while I got to the midpoint of my final semester of paralegal school, at which point I would take incompletes and have the rest of that semester and all of the next to write papers to finish up those classes.

I went to a comic book store on Jackson Street just around the corner from the Sears Tower and picked up the first of the comics in the arc. I felt very conspicuous, as I was the only woman in there. But I got the comic and reading comics was just as much fun as I remembered.

Once Thomas and I were reunited in Texas, we decided to really commit to collecting comics. There was a comic book store not too far from where we were living, and when we went in there, they didn’t stare at me like I was some kind of alien lifeform. They treated me like a customer.

So, for the next 10 years, Thomas and I had a date night to go out to the comic book store and then go out to dinner. We had pull lists and when the daughter of the man who owned the store got married, we sent her a wedding card. When I was pregnant with Alex, she sent us a card, as well.

Good times.

Eventually, it just wasn’t as fun as it had been, so we stopped. Then, like, six years later, we got divorced. I asked for my pre-marriage comics and a couple of other series that I really loved in the divorce. Thomas got the rest of the comics.

The post-2003 break from comic reading ended up a bit longer than my first break. In the late 20-teens, I began to hear new things about comics that sounded interesting. Specifically, the comics that sounded good were the new Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Since I came into these series pretty late, rather than going back to my old comic book store, I started buying the compilations as ebooks.

Squirrel Girl is over and I’m putting off buying that last compilation. It’s weird, I know, but I don’t want it to end. Once I can face the ending I’ll get it. I was waiting for the next volume of Ms. Marvel to come out and apparently with COVID and everything else, I missed it entirely. The latest volume came out in April. So that’s probably next on my list of things to buy.

Will I keep buying comics or will I enter a new break? I don’t know right now. I do know that it’s likely that even if I do take another break, I probably will never stop reading comic books entirely.

As for my mom’s cancer, it was Stage 2, and she needed some pretty exciting surgery for it. She found the lump on Thanksgiving of 1974 and had the surgery on Christmas Eve. She was fairly traumatized by the whole experience and used to go into a depression during the holiday season every year. 27 years later, when I got my diagnosis, I started seeing a psychiatrist so that I wouldn’t end up as emotionally scarred as my mom did. I’m pretty sure it worked.

Oh, and 1974 was momentous for another reason. Not too long after we got back from North Carolina, my mom, who was a preschool teacher, had a very important preschool student. Thomas.

Now, for the Gratuitous Amazon Link. Let’s go for it. Ms. Marvel: No Normal, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona.

The Truth About Belle Gunness, A Reaction

I don’t know if this is going to be a review or not. It’s 11:30 and I have to be up at 7. But I alluded to this book in my last post, so I figured I should update y’all.

I finished it. I’m trying to enumerate exactly why I found this so . . . ungripping. First the truly offensive thing. Elizabeth Smith, an African-American woman, is sort of a sideline character. And every damn time, de la Torre refers to Smith as “(N-word) Liz.” Granted, the book was originally written in 1955, and the past is a different country and all, but still. God gave us editors so that we could fix stuff like that. Just globally search-and-replace that string with “Smith.” I mean, that was her name, and we don’t see another Smith until the trial, where Smith is the surname of the prosecutor, or something. Argh.

There’s a reason why Twain chose that word in Huckleberry Finn and I understand the pushback on changing it. But The Truth About Belle Gunness is not a classic of American literature. It’s not even a classic of the true crime genre. I think that this time it should be possible to engage in a little judicious editing.

Speaking of the trial. Well, I wasn’t really expecting a book on a female serial killer to turn out to be a book on the man accused of killing her. That’s what this turned out to be. The Truth About Belle Gunness is actually the story of Ray Lamphere, former handyman and sex partner of the killer who was accused of killing her and her children and then setting fire to their house. The middle section is basically just trial transcripts rewritten so that they look like dialogue.

Additionally, there is some question about whether the body of the woman was Gunness at all. The body of the woman was found without a head and no head was ever found. Some time later, they found Gunness’s teeth in the ashes, which was apparently enough for the authorities to identify the body as Gunness. The book ends with de la Torre’s supposition on what actually happened. It’s an interesting theory, but she doesn’t back it up with any kind of evidence.

Speaking of editing, I’m not going to have any time to do any here, because I have to be up in a minute.

I’m going to end this with a Gratuitous Amazon Link to a real classic of the true crime genre, The Stranger Beside Me, by Ann Rule. This took me a while because all of the paper copies I could find were so expensive. So I ended up linking to the Kindle version.

What will be my next book? Looks like Kara Cooney’s The Woman Who Would Be King. I have so many books to read. So. Many. Books.

My Life as a Reader, Part 1 of Who-Knows-How-Many

I can’t wait to see how many parts this series ends up having.

I feel like I haven’t been doing enough reading lately. Then I realize that I read blog posts. I read comments to the blog posts. I read thinky articles linked in the comment to the blog posts. I read subreddits I read articles linked in the subreddits. I also am a member of Jenny Lawson’s Fantastic Strangelings Book Club, so I’m reading at least one book per month. I’m also about 3/4 of the way through one of the least gripping books I think I’ll ever have finished. Assuming I can make it that last 25%.

I’m also going back to reading National Geographics. Probably. I cracked open the latest issue that my dad has given me today, at least.

If I’m going to book-blog while I wait for my opportunity to travel to return, I figure that I should talk about my relationship with the written word.

I actually can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read. When the time came to help Alex learn to read, I asked my mom how she taught me to read and she said that, near as she could remember, I just picked up a book and read.

I remember that my mom signed me up for a children’s book club when I was little. It had books like One Kitten for Kim, and Andrew Henry’s Meadow, and Bear Circus. Bear Circus was published in 1971, so let’s say I was five or so.

Oh, and then there was The Mice Who Loved Words. I loved that book. I wonder what happened to all of those books. I hope my mom donated them to her library or something. It would make me happy to think of the kids of my now-underprivileged hometown reading the books that gave me so much pleasure when I was their age.

Then there was The Secret Garden. I often credit The Secret Garden as being the book that made me a reader. I was a bit young, I seem to recall that I was maybe eight* when my mom bought it for me. We went to the Kroch’s and Brentano’s at River Oaks in Calumet City and my mom bought something (I wasn’t really paying attention to what she was doing). She handed me a taped-shut white bag with “Kroch’s and Brentano’s” written all over it and told me that it contained one of her favorite books from when she was my age.

I opened the bag and there was the most daunting book I’d ever seen in my life. It had a few illustrations, but otherwise was just words. As I recall, I wasn’t expecting to be thrilled with it. But I opened the book and started to read.

Suddenly I found myself in India watching Mary, a lonely rich girl, lose everyone around her to cholera. I sat there as she was sent to live unhappily in the home of a clergyman in England, being teased by the children. Then she went to Yorkshire and things began to improve for her.

I fell in love. Both with reading and with the book. The family story, so I’m pretty sure it’s at least somewhat accurate, was that I was sitting in the back seat of the car when I finished The Secret Garden. I told my mom that I wished it hadn’t ended, so she said that I could read it again. I was silent for a long time so she turned around to see what was going on. She hadn’t intended for me to read it right away, but I had taken her literally. I had gone back to the beginning and was reading it again.

Now that I think of it, I’m not sure where my first comic book (Superman #280) fell in relation to The Secret Garden. I think The Secret Garden was not too long before the comic book, but I couldn’t swear to it.

As you can see, my Gratuitous Amazon Link is less gratuitous today. I’ve been doing a lot of Kindle books, what with COVID, but today I chose the paperback for one reason. The paperback has the same Tasha Tudor illustrations as my childhood version (which I reread until it literally fell apart) did. Maybe the illustrator of the Kindle version is amazing. I don’t know. I chose the illustrations I loved.

* I guess I might have been seven if it was before my first comic book.

Dictating Blog Posts, Take Two, Also a Maybe Book Review

So the new app I downloaded was more effective than the last, but still not quite what I was looking for.

On the plus side, it definitely got more words correct than the other one. And it didn’t spontaneously rearrange my paragraphs. So, yay!

On the negative side, the app was designed more for making notes than for long-form dictation. Every time I so much as took a breath, the app would stop taking dictation and I’d need to press the microphone button. And, furthermore, if there’s any way to get those notes off of my phone and onto my computer, I haven’t figured it out.

So, the search continues.

I’m not getting very far on that book on Belle Gunness so I was going to talk a bit about the book I read before that, The Authenticity Project (the easiest Gratuitous Amazon Link ever, maybe because this time it’s not really that gratuitous) by Clare Pooley. Our protagonist is woman named Monica (what’s Monica’s last name? Do we find out? Crap. Now I’m going to have to reread and see what it is*) who runs a cafe in London.

One day at work Monica finds a notebook with the words “The Authenticity Project” written on it. Inside the book are the words of an artist named Julian Jessop who was once fantastically successful but who disappeared from public life 15 years ago. He writes that he feels that people are too busy trying to project this image of perfection and he hopes that people who find this book will use it to tell their truths and maybe that truth will, as the saying goes “set them free.” He tells his future readers that his wife died and afterwards he lost the desire to make art. His friends have died one by one and now he’s elderly and alone.

Monica writes her truth (that despite her financial success at her previous career and her lovely cafe, she longs to find a husband and start a family) in the book, leaves the book in a wine bar, and sets out to improve Julian’s life.

Over the course of the book, we accumulate six POV characters and an assortment of supporting characters and, one by one, we find that maybe their lives aren’t as wonderful as they appear on the outside. But together, they do make something terrific.

The characters were engaging and I loved watching them come together from so many individuals experiencing various forms of loneliness to form a group of friends.

One of the subplots is about how people’s lives always look more perfect online than they are in real life. I don’t know what kind of online friends Pooley has, because my online friends, well, if they’re making their lives look better online, I pity them. One friend, for example, had been struggling to make her marriage work and just as she decided that, as much as she loved him, it wasn’t ever going to work, he died. For real. I’m no longer close enough to her to feel comfortable asking how he died. I think it might have been an accident.

As much as I loved this book, I don’t think it’s one of those that I’d need on a desert island, so I gave it four stars, and I really wish they had a ten-point system, because this may even deserve four and a half.

*I skimmed about 1/3 of the book with no sign of a last name for Monica. I have the idea that it’s Charles. But don’t quote me on that.