Sneaking a Peek

My mother stumbled upon this young adult series called The Rule of 3 by Eric Walters. It’s an apocalyptic story beginning with a global electrical and digital blackout.  I read the first book last year.  It was good and really action packed. It had me on edge, and while it’s a gripping tale, it’s hard to read at times. It gives a very realistic portrayal of how evil and terrible people can be when civilization’s modern conveniences cease to exist.

Thus, while I liked the first book, I took my sweet time getting to the second book.  A few weeks ago, I felt up to the challenge and dove in to the second.  Both characteristics of the first book: action and the cruelty of people were ever present and in many ways were amplified.

I tore through it, but I knew that I would need another break before taking on the final book.  Then the ending happened.

Just as a heads up, this is sort of spoiler part.  I won’t name names, but someone dies.  I couldn’t believe it.  Or rather I didn’t want to believe it.  But it was one of those maybe he didn’t die deaths, the only way to find out is to read the next book.

However, I wasn’t ready to read the next book.  I had finished the second book at work.  I was upset to be left on a cliff.  When I got home that night, I committed one of the ultimate sins.

I looked.

I had to know.  I flipped it open and saw [character name] said.  I leapt for joy.  I don’t know how death was cheated, so I have that to look forward to, and to see if everybody including that character survives all the way through to the end.

I know there will be people that judge me for looking.  I’m pretty sure my husband did, but on this particular event I’m taking the Harry Burns attitude from When Harry Met Sally. He reads the end in all the books first just in case he dies before he finishes it.

So that’s my excuse.  I can happily go about my life until I’m ready to take on the final phase of this series knowing a bit of happy news.

Okay, admit it how many of you have done this?


Literarily Naked

A few weeks ago, I ran out of my house. It was a Friday, and I was running a tad behind schedule. I left with my current book in tow per usual. I had about 90 pages to read. The book was going quick, so I had a fleeting thought of grabbing another one. However, I couldn’t imagine getting through that much before I got home.

Alas, you can probably see where this anecdote ends. I not only finished the book, but I finished it before I even started work. I actually had ten minutes to spare before I would be on the clock. I was left with no bookish material for lunch and the commute home.

I was irked that I hadn’t grabbed another book. I tried to console myself by noting that my lunch hour would be best used writing anyway, and I did have a couple of issues of Science News that I could take on the train to occupy my time.

But I couldn’t help but feel naked. It’s the same feeling I get when I leave my phone at home. I feel weirdly vulnerable and out of sorts. As with my phone and feeling cut off from the world without it, I had no book “blankey” to wrap and protect myself in on my commute home.

The Editor, Kelsey, did have a book at work that I could take home with me, but I wasn’t ready to read that book yet. I had one already picked out at home, and I was really looking forward to it. When 5 o’clock came, I left with my science periodical for the train.

I survived the journey. I learned that there are competing theories on the genetic origins of who populated the Americas first, and that boas kill their prey through breaking blood pressure as opposed to the assumed strangulation.

I love learning new things, but not having a book within my grasp is hard for me to cope with in general. But there’s even something more difficult when I’m between books. I would always be angry to have left my book somewhere to prevent me from reading when I had time, but there is something even more unsettlingly by knowing that currently I have “no” book in the world that I am attached. It’s as if I’ve entered a black void.

Does anyone else feel naked without a book at hand? Or being between books?

Hidden Surprises

I know many of us struggle to find time to read the books that we really want to read.  We “must” read books for book group.  We have books that we need/want to review for Goodreads, our blog, etc.  We have books lent to us by friends and colleagues that we feel an obligation to hurry up and read so we can return them.

I understand that the use of the phrase “must read” sounds ominous, like we have homework. I get that we kind of do it to ourselves, but occasionally we crave to read something that strikes our fancy rather than something with a deadline. Nevertheless, out of all these books that we “must” read, we find ones that are truly surprising.  There are books we never would have picked up if someone hadn’t forcefully thrust them into our lives.

One of these reads came to me as a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law.  My husband, Scott, and I are planning a trip to England and Scotland this year, so she purchased me a book called Call the Nurse: True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle by Mary MacLeod.

I can honestly say I wouldn’t have read this book up if left to my own devices, but, finding myself in possession of it, I felt that it deserved a fair shake. After finishing Brandon Sanderson’s 1300-page tome Word of Radiance—awesome in spite of its length—I felt that I needed a change of pace. It seemed like the perfect time to give Nurse a go.

I admit that the writing style isn’t the most eloquent or masterful, but it is genuine and straightforward. I found the short, simple anecdotes charming and interesting. MacLeod’s descriptions created a great picture without being overly burdensome.

I grew up in the middle of nowhere Iowa so on certain levels I identified with the simplicity of country life MacLeod portrays.  Although, I was a bit luckier to have a few more modern convinces. If anything, it inspired me to jot down some of the crazier stories of my childhood.  Perhaps people would like to read about working in a corn maze or learning about the concept of beer chips.

Anyway, Call the Nurse turned out to be a nice read that I’m really happy my mother-in-law picked up for me.  I find I’m now more interested in exploring other memoirs. Sometimes those “must” reads turn into “glad I did” reads.

Are there any hidden treasures you’ve discovered?

The Schedule

As a writer, I have always struggled with finding time to write. I was hoping that starting a blog would make me be better about it. Except that, well last year, I still had numerous last-minute writing sessions and frantic posting moments. I tried to plot out a schedule, but I could never stick to it.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to make one of my goals be to “create a sustainable writing schedule that includes at-home writing time.”  Up to that point all my writing was happening either before work or during my lunch hour.

I figured to find a schedule I was going to have to do a lot of experimentation.  I would need to discover what worked and what didn’t work.  So, on January 11th, I decided to start with taking it back to basics.

I made the following schedule:

Monday: Edit

Tuesday: Write

Wednesday: Write

Thursday: Edit

Friday: Write

Saturday/Sunday: Write one day; off one day

That’s it.  That is the schedule. I thought that a basic, less confining schedule would help me focus, but still give me freedom.  So, I got busy writing and editing on my assigned days.  After two weeks, I was surprised I was not only sticking to the schedule, but I had a number of posts lined up.

The ideas seemed to flow. Even on days when I was supposed to edit, sometimes a new writing idea would strike me. But instead of deviating from my schedule I would jot it down on a sticky note and put it in my journal on the next blank page. Then the next day when I opened my journal to write, I had an idea and prompt already waiting for me.  I’ve also been able to write on weekends, which is something new and exciting.

I’ve been at this schedule for about two months, and honestly, I’m shocked that it’s going so well.  I’ll admit I still get distracted and some days I don’t edit or write as much as I would like to.  But it’s a good base for right now.  It gives me a focus without being too complex or overly burdensome.

My weekend writing has not been as fruitful as I would like, but since this basic outline seems to be working I can now focus more on how to make my weekend writing more productive.  It’s still a win that I am picking up a pen at home in the first place.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that this continues, because it feels really good to have hit upon a regular schedule. It has gotten me writing at home and put ahead on my blog posts. I hope in the future to tweak it so all the various writing project I want to work on get the attention they deserve, but that will be a slower process. And right now, I’m okay with that!

Happy writing!

The Commute

It’s 6:58 in the morning.  The sky is a violet gray as the morning light begins to dawn. Bright orange streaks hover at the horizon.  There is stark white snow on the still, bare branches of the trees in the park.  It is a peaceful scene.

I stand admiring the view at my usual stop.  I hear the squeal of breaks as the bus clamors to a halt.

I board with the other morning commuters and make my way to the back of the bus.  I choose a seat, facing the rising sun.  It’s nice to see something so beautiful on an ordinary day.

I pull out my book and turn to my red paper-clip.  As a bookmark, paper-clips may not be pretty, but they are functional.

I’m on the Vegas strip.  I’m looking out a hotel window at the brilliant lights.  I’m anxiously waiting for the phone to ring.  I’ve changed from my red evening gown into my normal uniform: a starched white button-down shirt and black pants.

This will be over soon.  As which point there will most likely be an ethics committee hearing but sometimes you have to work on the edge in order to win.  That’s what Vegas is all about.

The phone rings. It’s not the sharp trill one would expect. It sounds like the ring of a phone in a quiet receptionist suite. It is unnervingly calm.

I feel a jolt and look up.  The bus has stopped outside my office building.  I move my red paper clip and quickly close my book as I scramble to exit the bus.

It’s been a half-hour since I got on.  Traffic must have been moving well.  I hadn’t noticed.  And in that time, I travelled to two places simultaneously.

I look down the street.  The sun is up. It is looming above the lake, and I realize that it is going to be an extraordinary day.


Book Stickage

When I was a kid my mom and I came up with the term “song stickage”. It referred to how easily songs got stuck in our heads.  “Beauty School Drop Out” from the soundtrack in Grease was so “sticky” that we skipped the song almost every time we played the CD because neither one of us wanted to sing it for the next week.

There are quite a few songs that easily lodge themselves in my brain; however, I can’t necessarily say the same about books.  Other bloggers have mentioned that they can say they’ve read a book.  They can even say they thought it was great, but they can’t remember anything about it.

I figure, at least, I’m in good company, but this can be problematic especially with book series.  I don’t generally binge read series. I need breaks in between each book.  There are a few fancy series, I really need a break from since all the books are thousand plus page tomes.  The books are great, but they can be literally and metaphorically heavy. The breaks I take can be lengthy, a year plus.  I don’t always want them to be this long, but they can be for a variety of reasons.

Then of course, when I get back to a series, I run the risk of being confused for the first third of the next book as my brain struggles to re-call what the hell happened in the last book.

However, there are some books that do stick. Given that this is rare for me, these are the books I tend to view with a bit of awe.  For instance, I read Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings approximately ten months ago, and when I began the second book just a few weeks ago, I was shock at how much I remembered of the first.

My husband listened to these books, so we talked about them, but I talk about a lot of books and don’t normally remember much.  Perhaps it’s because he constantly asked me what was happening in the book.  I would then give a brief update on all the characters, maybe this is what cemented them in my memory.  I had to constantly recall them to give a summary report over dinner? Or it could be Sanderson writing style? I honestly don’t know.

Now the trick is to remember the 1300 page of Word of Radiance until late this year or early next year, when I will read the next book in the series. My husband and I talked a lot about this book as well so perhaps I can test my theory about nightly quizzes being the key to remembering.

In the past, the books with the most stickage were books I actually didn’t like, and I wished I could forget.  This kind of bad stickage is really annoying and thus while I can give some kudos to catchy songs that get suck in my head even if they aren’t works of musical genius, I can’t say the same for books.

Does this happen to you?  Do the books you didn’t like stick around in your head while the ones you loved leave?

90’s Kid Book Tag- Double Trouble

While I was scrolling through my feed a week or so ago, I saw this tag done by Thrice Read. It was awesome!  I love reading tags, but never had done one myself and thought that being a 90s Kid would make this book tag be a perfect first go.

I sent the link to Kelsey, the editor, and she thought it was great!  She was also a little bummed that she didn’t have her own blog to do it.  This got me thinking, why don’t we both answer!

So, lucky for you all, you get two for the price of one! We have both answered. My answers are in purple and the editor’s are in blue, and as you’ll see we don’t always agree!

The Rules

  • Please, please, please steal this tag and spread it around! I only ask that you link back to The Literary Phoenix so that I can see everyone’s answers!
  • Freeze tag was all the rage in the 90s Tag someone (or many) you think would have fun with this!
  • Have fun!


A GBA game and trading card game where you battled pocket monsters and strived to catch them all. Back in the day, there were only 150 Pokemon.

The author you need every book from. 

The Editor: Erik Larson & Cassandra Clare (I’m aware that these authors are about as different as you can get.) But honestly, I jump around A LOT and even with authors I’m hooked on, I tend to stray eventually. Variety is key.

Me: I totally agree that variety is key, but Sam Kean is the only author that pops to mind where I actively track new releases. And anything he writes I will be buying and reading.


AOL Instant Messaging – how 90s kids communicated with their friends after school before everyone had a cell phone.

Book that connected you with your best friend.

The Editor: This is hard for me to pinpoint. The Historian was one of the first books I remember bonding over. But there was the Divergent series and The Mortal Instruments too…

Me: The Killing Game by Iris Johansen. It was the first book I remember a friend recommending to me in high-school. 

The other would be The Mortal Instruments. I’m not sure if the Editor is referencing me or someone else with this selection above, but this series is what sort of got us bookishly connected.


Creepy needy robots you could teach to talk and were probably demon possessed. Somehow these made a comeback?

Book that seemed like a good idea but was actually a monster.

The Editor: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I wanted to like it so much. The concept seemed so cool and then… meh. I don’t know if it was a monster per say, but I was quite disappointed after having high expectations. Hollow City was even more of a letdown, and I don’t know that I’ll ever bother reading the third.

Me: The Magician’s King by Lev Grossman. I liked the first book in the series and while I wasn’t expecting to be head over heals for the second book I didn’t expect to leave so scarred.


90s quintessential boy band. You may have heard of Justin Timberlake?

A book you hated to say Bye, Bye, Bye to.

The Editor: Dead to the World my favorite, by far, of the Sookie Stackhouse novels. How does one say goodbye to amnesia Eric?

Me: I’m not sure how to answer this. There are many books I’ve loved, but I’m not sure if I’ve truly wanted a book to not end.  The closest I can come to is The Stand, and I choose this one simply because I probably had the best and yet biggest “hangover” from it.


Getting green slime thrown on you, courtesy of the show Figure it Out. Also apparently still a thing at the Kid’s Choice Awards?

A book everyone loved but you hated.

The Editor: Catcher in the Rye. Someone explain to me why this is required reading. ::crickets:: That’s what I thought.

Me: Hate is such a strong word…but I did not like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and everyone else thought it was the bee’s knees.


90s computer game you could usually play at school, which was great. It taught us people used to die a lot of gruesome, messy deaths.

A book that made you wish you died of dysentery.

The Editor: The Handmaid’s Tale. Hands down. Pun intended. This could also easily qualify as my SLIMED! Award winner. Which is just upsetting because how? Why? Why do people love this book?! I’m putting it here because I like to pretend I’m not alone in the world on this.

Me: Burned by Ellen Hopkins. I don’t think I’ve ever been that angry at a book before or since.


Back before everyone had music on their phones (remember, we didn’t have cell phones!) folks would rip their CDs and make mixes for each other.

3 books you recommend to anyone, anywhere, no matter what.

The Editor: The Devil in the White City, The Discovery of Witches, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Me: First off, yes, the Editor is across the board recommending my Slimed pick. I’m pretty sure it validates it as “loved by all, hated by me.” Anyway, this is actually quite difficult for me because there are loads of books I love, but there are little few I would recommend to all. However, after some serious brain crunching these are my picks.

  • Sphere by Michael Crichton. I remember after I read this in high school thinking that this book would be enjoyed by many.
  • Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I know many who have read this, and they have all loved it expect one, but he also didn’t like Harry Potter, so his opinion doesn’t really hold water.
  • How We Got to Now by Steve Johnson. This is a non-fiction book that is remarkable and fascinating as it discusses six major advancements in history that got us where we are today.



A book that took FOR FREAKING EVER to read.

The Editor: Dragonfly in Amber. After Outlander I dove headfirst into this book. It was… not like the first. I think I put it down and picked it back up no less than 4 times over the course of two years before I finally finished it.

Me: Mine would weirdly be Jane Eyre. I don’t know why it took me so long to finish this book because it’s awesome! But I wasn’t as big of reader back when I picked it up, and it took me months, but I’m glad I stuck with it.


He’s that guy who’s been on SNL forever. Also Mighty Ducks. Good Burger. Keenan and Kel. All That. Everything.

That book that you see referenced everywhere and is in everything, but that’s okay because it’s awesome.

The Editor: I don’t know if this is exactly what this is getting at but Dracula. He’s directly a part of some of my other favorite books, such as The Historian, and honestly if a book has something to do with him, I’ll probably buy it (i.e. Dracula in Love, Anno Dracula). Vampires are my favorite and Vlad started it all.

Me: I’m with the Editor on this as far as meaning, but my pick would be The Wizard of Oz. I know that a lot of the references are probably due to the movie, but remember folks, it was a book first! (My mother is beaming with pride right now. She’s a total fangirl of both the movie and the books.)


A game where most the class closed their eyes and seven people tapped someone’s thumb and you had to guess who did it without peeking.

Book where you peeked just REAL quick at the ending because you don’t like guessing games.

The Editor: I never really peek at the ending of a book. I definitely scan ahead on the page when I think something good is about to happen and I’m excited. I’m only human. I accidentally, sort of, saw the ending of House of Leaves, through absolutely no fault of my own. That whole book is a guessing game and it’s no wonder I read things I shouldn’t have due to the inherent design of it.

Me: The Cellar. I looked at the end.  I had to know. I then didn’t finish it.


These were basically just Teddy Grahams dipped in frosting, which is still a wonderful snack idea.

Your ideal bookish snack.

The Editor: Wine… That’s a snack, right?

Me: First off, to the editor’s answer…this is why we be friends. But I have to admit that a chocolate croissant and reading is a heavenly experience.


Collections of short stories that would scare any sensible kid! Plus, there were illustrations…

A book that kept you up all night.

The Editor: The Hunger Games not for fear, but because I just couldn’t stop reading it. I did the same with Catching Fire. Mockingjay… not so much. The one chapter of IT I read in high school kept me up a few nights. Still working up to actually reading the whole thing.

Me: Time for Andrew by Mary Downing Hahn. It’s a kid’s book, and I read it when I was probably in upper elementary. I remember it being an awesome book.  It was the standard I used when deciding if other books where good or not.  It also was the first book to give me unsettling dreams.


Basically the coolest thing you got to do in science class was watch Bill Nye. He has a Netflix show again!

A book that taught you something new.

The Editor: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Me: A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemmingway. He discussed writing until he knew what happened next, so when he sat down the next day it was easy to get started.  This was a revolutionary idea to me.

What do you think of our answers? What would be your slimed pick?  Happy Reading!