Tag Archives: Shebooks

The Sunday Salon: Recuperation Reading

“A grey day in February
Some flecks of white, but mostly brown
Purple surprises riding in on a nerve
Begins to excite you before it settles down
It’s after the knives and the sutures and needles
I’m left with an arrow that points at my heart
I call it the seat of my sentimental sorrow
Gone seems to be one of the sum of my parts.”

Carly Simon, “Scar”

It has been an interesting week, to put it mildly.

Since last fall, I’ve been having gallbladder issues. A nuisance, mostly – something my doctor and I were “keeping an eye on.” The first attack was scary enough to send me to the ER. If you’ve never dealt with gallstones, they tend to make their presence known with sharp chest pains (accompanied by pain radiating to the right shoulder and/or middle of the back), shortness of breath, nausea, chills, and dizziness. In my case, I got very pale. This can last, on average, from an hour to 5 hours. It’s scary because a lot of the symptoms mimic a heart attack, which is what I thought I was having.*

Last fall an ultrasound revealed a few gallstones, and by the end of January, the gallbladder attacks were becoming more frequent and more severe. My doctor referred me to a gastroenterologist, whose nurse, when I called, told me to make an appointment with a gallbladder surgeon as soon as possible. Which I did, and my surgery was scheduled for March 6.

This past Monday I was at work when a gallbladder attack hit. Two hours later, I was on the phone to my surgeon’s office and by lunchtime, I knew this was not one of my typical attacks. (It would turn out to be a 9 hour gallbladder attack, my longest yet.) Surgery was moved up to Wednesday.

Usually gallbladder surgery can be done as an outpatient procedure, but apparently a wayward stone had gotten stuck in my common bile duct and the surgeon couldn’t get to it – hence, they would need to keep me overnight in the hospital and the gastroenterologist would do another procedure (an ERCP) the very next day.

So, the end result is that I no longer possess a gallbladder nor any offending stones, and I’ve been recuperating from two surgeries in two days. I’m still pretty sore and spending a lot of time in bed. The good thing is that being bedridden provides ample opportunity to get a lot of reading accomplished.

Nest. Flight. Sky.

While in the hospital, in the very small hours of the morning as my husband (who has been the most amazing caregiver and partner and parent during all of this) slept in a chair beside my bed, I turned on my Kindle to read Beth Kephart’s new memoir Nest. Flight. Sky.: On love and loss, one wing at a timepublished by Shebooks. Now, you know several things about me and my books. You know how much I love my friend Beth Kephart’s writing – and this short piece (it’s only 34 pages) is wonderful in so many ways. You also know how much I believe that the right books find us when we  most need them, and this one absolutely did. I’ll have a longer post about this later, but I am so very grateful for this.

(Shebooks, incidentally, are the perfect thing to read while you’re recovering in the hospital.)

Pictures of YouI also read Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt, which was just okay. I wanted a book that I didn’t have to think too much about and this was a good choice as a recuperation read. (This reminded me of Jodi Picoult’s novels and indeed, there’s a blurb from Ms. Picoult on the cover.) I liked the first half better than the second and there were some predictable instances in this story about the aftermath of two women fleeing their unhappy marriages, but otherwise, it was all right. (Pittsburgh makes a brief cameo appearance in this one, which was rather enjoyable – although McGee Hospital for Women is really Magee.)

TransatlanticYesterday I started Colum McCann’s TransAtlantic. One of the reasons I’m glad my surgery got moved up is because I have tickets to see him on March 10, so if my surgery had been on the 6th, that could have been questionable. I love Colum McCann – although it’s taking me awhile to get into this novel – so I really don’t have an opinion on this right now.

I’m told I should expect to feel better within a few days, and that seems to be the path I’m on. So, that’s been my week – sleeping, reading, and not all that much else. (If surgery wasn’t involved, it would have been a pretty good week.)

*Keep in mind, I am not a physician and this post is no substitute for seeking professional medical advice and attention.

Thanks for sharing this post!

Shebooks, and a Review of Mating Calls, by Jessica Anya Blau

My Kindle is the old-fashioned kind. It’s the version with the keyboard, the one that doesn’t do much more than its original purpose of being an e-reader.

After a bit of flirtation with the idea of divorcing my device for a Kindle Fire, I’m content with it because it meets my needs – which is for me to have something available to read whenever the opportunity strikes.

But here’s the thing. As a reader, I often find myself with pockets of time when I don’t feel like starting a novel or continuing with one. I’m talking about during my lunch hour, or the 45 minutes before falling asleep, or waiting for a child at an appointment or … whatever. You want something short and quick, yet you want to feel your time wasn’t wasted on fluff.

At least I do.

That’s where Shebooks come in. According to their website, “Shebooks is the new e-book publisher of great short stories by women, for women. We publish short memoirs, fiction, essays, and long-form journalism by some of the best writers in the United States and beyond, both well-known and yet to be discovered. Each Shebook is between the length of a magazine article and a book—long enough to immerse yourself for a plane ride, or a good read before bed.”

I love this concept, and I think that this will resonate with a lot of busy women. It’s exactly what I had in mind when I published my short-short story, “Extractions” on Amazon. I wanted to write something that could be read quickly, while waiting for the dentist or therapist, in the pick up line at school, etc. (And because, well, sometimes I like to bury myself in a book and not talk to anyone in such situations, you know?) 

Several titles are available now each for $2.99, and plans are in the works to launch a subscription service this spring. Intrigued, I decided to give it a try.

My first Shebooks download (actually courtesy of NetGalley) was the very fun and highly entertaining Mating Calls by Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Wonder Bread Summer, Drinking Closer to Home, and The Summer of Naked Swim Parties. I had heard of Ms. Blau previously, but hadn’t read her work. 

Mating Calls

Mating Calls consists of two short stories, “The Problem with Lexie” and “No. Seven,” both of which I really liked and read while waiting for my daughter at gymnastics practice last Monday. (See what I did there?) In “The Problem with Lexie,” this chick – that would be Lexie – is a high school guidance counselor having an affair with the father of one of her students. Her life is a bit out of control, to say the least. She’s one hell of a hot mess, sinking into a Klonopin and alcohol-induced spiral. 

The thing is, we all know that person like Lexie – or were on the cusp of being her at one time – which makes “The Problem with Lexie” so relatable.

Flashbacks to high school resurface in the second story, “No. Seven,” when now-grown up Zandra runs into someone she once knew intimately. The reasons why are excruciatingly sad, but how she eventually handles the situation is brilliant.  Still, our grown-up hearts break for what teenage Zandra doesn’t know and give a standing ovation for what grown-up Zandra does. We remember our own teasing and our own mortifying moments of wannabe acceptance and struggles of insecurity, and we have our own kick-ass moments, if only in our mind.

These were escapism stories, fiction that took my mind off of the worries of the day and week. Jessica Anya Blau’s writing was-whip-smart-fast and kept me grinning to myself, living vicariously through Lexie in particular while the other moms at gymnastics practice chased around after toddlers and sippy cups. (I don’t miss those days.)

All this for $2.99.

As I said, I’m excited about this idea and to see where this goes. I have a few other Shebooks on my Kindle and am looking forward to several others that are expected shortly. To learn more, visit Shebooks.net.

Aside from receiving a free download of an e-book from NetGalley, I was not compensated for this post. I’m just a happy supporter. 



Thanks for sharing this post!

The Sunday Salon: Sex, Food, and Death

The Sunday Salon

Sex, food, and death.

There’s your summary of my reading week, baby, right there.

(What can I say? I read about only the important stuff in life.)

Mating CallsI started the week with the very fun and highly entertaining Mating Calls by Jessica Anya Blau, consisting of two short stories: “The Problem with Lexie” and “No. 7.”  Mating Calls is one of the first offerings from Shebooks, the new e-publisher of short stories, essays, short memoirs, fiction, and long-form journalism written by women and for women.

(I’ll have much more to say about Shebooks in a separate post with my full review this week about Mating Calls, but suffice it to say that I am a fan.)

I adored both of these stories, which I read while waiting for my daughter at gymnastics practice on Monday. In “The Problem with Lexie,” this chick – that would be Lexie – is one hell of hot mess. She’s a high school guidance counselor who is having an affair with the father of one of her students. Her life is a bit out of control, to say the least.

Flashbacks to high school resurface in the second story, “No. 7,” when now-grown up Zandra runs into someone she once knew intimately. The reasons why are sad, and how she handles the situation is brilliant.

Pandora's LunchboxFor my audiobook this week, I’ve been listening to Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal by Melanie Warner. This jaw-dropping book, about all the crap (chemicals, additives, preservatives) in our food and how and why they got there, is the modern-day equivalent of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. I’m not kidding. This is making me want to eat … well, nothing. That’s kind of the point. Nothing is safe. This is packed full of information and it is unbelievable.

CNF41_coverA much more palatable read on the food front has been Issue 41, Spring 2011 of Creative Nonfiction, which I’m still working my way through. I mentioned in last week’s Sunday Salon that I’m reading back issues from the library, and this one has essays all related to the topic of food. Heather A. McDonald’s piece “How to Fix Anything” is a highlight of this issue. I’m really getting hooked on this quality literary, top-notch magazine, which has an international reach and is published right here in Pittsburgh.

The Viewing Room

Finally, there was a DNF this week. I really wanted to like the short story collection The Viewing Room more than I did. Jacquelin Gorman won The Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction for this, which is certainly impressive, but I found The Viewing Room difficult to get through – and I say this as someone who usually can handle books with heavy topics. I made it through “The Law of Looking Out for One Another” about baptizing an infant who died from shaken baby syndrome and “Ghost Dance,” about a spiritual woman with an array of medical complications, including gangrene.

However, “Having Words” – which references a 10 year old girl’s suicide – did me in after just a few sentences. We all have things we can’t handle and that crosses my personal tolerance threshold, right there.

All of these characters have one thing in common: they all wind up in the viewing room of the hospital where Henrietta is the on-call chaplain. This is as much Henrietta’s story as those who are dead. She’s new on the job and unsure of herself (at least in the first 30 pages) and we get the sense she isn’t quite living her life as much as she should be. There’s a holding back, of sorts.

It’s a good concept (it reminded me of “St. Elsewhere,” still my all-time favorite show to this very day) and the writing is okay, but this one just wasn’t for me.


In other news, today is the second and last day of the Mini Bloggiesta. Aside from getting two posts written (including this one) and 135 blog posts in Feedly read, I’ve been a sluggish participant this time around. We’ll see how much of my to-do list I get through today, although other chores around the house are beckoning, too.

Enjoy your Sunday (and if you’re snowbound like we are, you have my sympathies).

Thanks for sharing this post!