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Suicide Prevention

Monday, May 25, 2015

I've struggled with whether to write this post. If you've been around long, I'm sure you've noticed I don't write many personal things. I'm a private person. The few I have written have been fun little stories, nothing serious at all. But I feel this needs to be shared, just in case it helps anyone.

My husband and I lost a very dear friend on May 3 when he took his own life. I don't feel that his story is mine to share, so I'll only say that he was an Iraq War veteran who had been through more personal tragedy in his lifetime than anyone should have to experience in a full 80+ span of years. All of us who knew him well knew that he needed help and begged him to go somewhere or talk to someone or just--anything. But he never would and here we are. He was one of the most deeply kind, generous, and just mischievous people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting and his absence is a loss not only to my husband and me and his other friends but to the world. Kindness feels like it's in short supply some days.

So I'm writing this to ask that if you need help, please seek it out. There's no shame in asking for it. Everyone needs assistance getting through something in their lives. If you know someone who needs help, please don't give up on them.

Here are a few resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Here in NC, some employers participate in the confidential Employee Assistance Network. See if your employer offers anything similar.

Veterans can get help at Restore Warriors, a division of the Wounded Warrior Project, or find a facility of the Veteran's Health Administration.

I'm sure there are lots more, but that's a start.

In my friend's memory, I'm going to keep a link to this page and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on my sidebar for quick reference. I hope none of you ever find yourselves needing this kind of assistance, but if you do, please know that I care and help is out there.
I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Friday Flashback Review: Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

Friday, May 1, 2015

Reviewed September 7, 2009

Cover of Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman


Busy week + training + overtime=forgettable review. Sorry, guys.

These stories/poetry were pretty dark. But then it's been a while since I read any Gaiman, so maybe I've just forgotten how dark he can be. I would really put this on a dark fantasy/horror lite shelf, but that's fine by me.

As in all short story collections, some of these were winners and some were okay. Some that stood out were

"A Study in Emerald"--A fun take on the classic Sherlock Holmes format.

"October in the Chair"--Memorable more for the framework than the actual story, although that was pretty good too.

"Bitter Grounds"--Pretty creepy

"Other People"--I'm surprised I didn't have nightmares after reading this one. But that really has more to do with my own buttons than the story.

"The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch"--Just might be my favorite. He stops in just the perfect place and tells just enough. Loved it.

"The Problem of Susan"--Should have come with a warning a la Stephen King and The Dark Tower. He has a point, but I will never look at Aslan the same way again.

"Feeders and Eaters"--I hate to pick on The King again, but I really think this one would have done him proud. Super creepy.

"Goliath"--Absolutely perfect for what it was written for

"The Monarch of the Glen"--I can't honestly say that I remember all that much about American Gods, except that I liked it. Still, it was fun to check in on Shadow.

One last thing. There are a few poems scattered throughout the book. I did not care for the earlier ones, but as I continued reading, they improved, and I genuinely enjoyed "The Day the Saucers Came" and a few others.

Highly recommended for Gaiman fans.

Read an excerpt.

Find author Neil Gaiman on his website, his blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy Fragile Things at

Friday Flashback Reviews, a feature at The Introverted Reader
Friday Flashback Reviews are an occasional feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!
I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cover of Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman


When I was offered a copy of Neil Gaiman's newest short story collection, Trigger Warning, for review, my first thought was to jump on it. I adore Neil Gaiman's work. He is one of only about three authors who get their own shelf name on my GoodReads account. And then I remembered that I wasn't particularly happy with The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I know I'm in the minority and I've never even written a review for it, but all I can say is that it was too weird, even for me. I hate feeling honor-bound to review a book that I didn't love so I wavered. Then I decided to go for it. I'm so glad I did!

Overall impression: It started off with a couple of stories that I didn't particularly care for so I was getting worried. I'd read the third story earlier (In George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois's Songs of Love and Death) and enjoyed it, but still, it was a re-read. The fourth story started to catch my attention and by the fifth, I was hooked. There were probably one or two others I didn't care for in the remaining nineteen stories, but the collection overall is fantastic.

And because I find it impossible not to mention what I think of every single story in a collection, here's where I get long-winded.

"Making a Chair"--A poem about--you guessed it--making a chair. I assume Gaiman was pushing through some writer's block with this one. Haven't we all been there? You have a million real things to do but something unimportant proves to be a welcome distraction?

"A Lunar Labyrinth"--Normally short horror stories scare me to death. So much is left unsaid. I can generally read Stephen King novels and sleep like a baby, but hand me one of his short stories and I'll be up all night, jumping at every sound. This story left a bit too much unsaid. I was uneasy but I didn't really understand what was going on so it stopped there. I'd completely forgotten about it until I started looking back through the book to write this review.

"The Thing About Cassandra"--I like the way this story turns completely upside down about halfway through. Even as a re-read it felt surprising.

"Down to a Sunless Sea"--I suspected where this atmospheric creeper was going but I still liked it.

"The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains..."--Probably my favorite in the collection. It has a dark, twisted fairy tale feel to it. Gaiman writes so much that he's practically impossible to categorize. This is written in the style of his that I like best.

"My Last Landlady"--I had no idea where this was going but it got darker and darker. I liked it.

"Adventure Story"--This one was just a lot of fun. The narrator's mom refers to meeting someone unexpectedly in the grocery store as an adventure. But she occasionally hints at some real adventures his dad (and possibly her? I don't remember now) had when they were younger. It made me think about the untold stories that people walk around with every day.

"Orange"--I love the format. It's written as a sort of police report so it unfolds gradually, leaving the reader to piece everything together. It's the story of an ordinary family and the extraordinary things that happen to them when the older sister is--well, that would be telling, wouldn't it? I enjoyed it.

"A Calendar of Tales"--I'll try to restrain myself from reviewing each of these. I read about the idea for this mini collection on Twitter and I was excited to see the end result. It was a bit hit-or-miss for me.

"The Case of Death and Honey"--Sherlock Holmes. I liked it well enough but it dragged on a bit too long and moved through time a bit too much for my taste. I prefer Gaiman's Sherlock tale in Fragile Things.

"The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury"--I enjoyed this while I was reading it but now that a little time has passed, I find that I've, well, forgotten it a bit. Not even trying to be ironic.

"Jerusalem"--Apparently there is a real disorder-y thing where people visit Jerusalem and then find themselves sort of spreading God's Word through the streets. Who knew? Not this girl. Of course this is fodder for a good story in Gaiman's hands.

"Click-Clack the Rattlebag"--Now this is the kind of horror story I like!

"An Invocation of Incuriosity"--I liked the idea but the story felt like the introduction to a novel. I really wanted to know more.

"'And Weep, Like Alexander'"--Fun enough. What if there were an uninventor running around out there, erasing some of our more egregious inventions?

"Nothing O'Clock"--An unsettling Doctor Who story. I've only watched the show a few times because my husband can't stand Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, but this feels like it fits right in that world.

"Diamonds and Pearls: A Fairy Tale"--This apparently went along with some artwork on one of Amanda Palmer's albums. It was okay but I would like to see the photo it went with.

"The Return of the Thin White Duke"--This was one of those stories that, in your heart of hearts, you know works best as a story, but you really, really want to know what came before and after. It felt cyclical in a way that I can only compare to Stephen King's Dark Tower series. There's definitely more to it but we'll never know what it is.

"Feminine Endings"--Another creeper. It reminded me a bit of "Stilled Life" by Pat Cadigan, a short story that I think about surprisingly often.

"Observing the Formalities"--A story poem told from Maleficent's point of view. Pretty good.

"The Sleeper and the Spindle"--Another fairy tale. This has a bit of a feminist slant so of course I liked it.

"Witch Work"--Another poem but I can't say that I really understand it.

"In Relig Odhráin"--I took this to be about religion and the inconvenient truths that get buried under dogma. I think this is one of those things that everyone will interpret differently though. I liked it well enough.

"Black Dog"--Shadow from American Gods turns back up. I really need to re-read that someday. This was a solid story that kept me turning the pages.

Read an excerpt from the introduction.

Find author Neil Gaiman on his website, his blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy Trigger Warning at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Five Nights in Paris: After Dark in the City of Light by John Baxter

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

So, I goofed. I was offered an opportunity to review Five Nights in Paris: After Dark in the City of Light by John Baxter and I accepted. I mean--Paris, right? I'm always up for a little armchair travel. Or real travel, for that matter. I had good intentions, but somehow time slipped away from me. Now I find that the deadline for downloading my review copy from Edelweiss has passed. So I thought I'd post the synopsis here to spread the word and do a little to remedy my error. Let me know if you've read it and what you thought!

From GoodReads:

Cover of Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter
The preeminent expat writer on Paris and author of The Most Beautiful Walk in the World takes you on an unforgettable nocturnal stroll through five iconic Parisian neighborhoods and his own memories

John Baxter enchanted readers with his literary tour of Paris in The Most Beautiful Walk in the World. Now, this expat who has lived in the City of Light for more than twenty years introduces you to the city’s streets after dark, revealing hidden treasures and unexpected delights.

As he takes you through five of the city’s greatest neighborhoods—Montmartre, Montparnasse, the Marais, and more—Baxter shares pithy anecdotes about his life in France, as well as fascinating knowledge he has gleaned from leading literary tours of the city by dark. With Baxter as your guide, you will discover the City of Light as never before, walking in the ghostly footsteps of Marcel Proust, the quintessential night owl for whom memory was more vivid than reality; Hungarian photographer Gyula Halász, known as Brassai, who prowled the midnight streets, camera in hand, with his friend Henry Miller; Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault, who shared the Surrealists’ taste for the city’s shadowed, secret world; and Josephine Baker and other African-American performers who dazzled adventurous Parisians at late-night jazz clubs.

A feast for the mind and the senses, Five Nights in Paris takes you through the haunts of Paris’s most storied artists and writers to the scenes of its most infamous crimes in a lively off-the-beaten-path tour not found in any guidebook.

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted at Book Journey

It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I am still here! It's been a busy month or two. My parents' 40th anniversary was last month so my sister and I threw a party for them. Then we surprised them the following weekend with a family trip to Tybee Island in Georgia. We had a wonderful time! We drove into Savannah one day and it is gorgeous in the spring time with the azaleas blooming. I got my hands on some of my mom's old family photo albums for the party so I've been working on scanning those pictures before I give them back. My husband has also started a new job and he's completely off of night shifts. Yay! It's great to have him home with me every night! We're working to balance "me time" and "us time" now though.

That said, I haven't posted since March 1. Holy cow. I did write one review, then I realized the book isn't published until June. Oops. It's scheduled but that didn't help me look like any less of a slacker.

Posted:
Nothing since March 1.

Read since March 1:
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, translated by Simon Pare--3 Stars

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman--4 Stars

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker, read by Cassandra Campbell, translated by Kevin Wiliarty--2.5 Stars

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman--4 Stars

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor, read by Khristine Hvam--4 Stars

Raney by Clyde Edgerton--4 Stars

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, read by Grayce Wey--4 Stars

Trader by Charles de Lint (re-read)--4 Stars

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan, read by Trini Alvarado--4 Stars

Currently Reading:
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

The Places in Between by Rory Stewart

Mississippi Jack by L. A. Meyer, read by Katherine Kellgren

Chasing Darkness by Danielle Girard

Up Next:

I've offered to read the first draft of my friend's urban fantasy novel and give feedback. I've been slacking on that too and need to get it read by Thursday for her. Everything else will be on hold until I finish that! Luckily I'm one of several beta readers and she's not pressuring us but I still want to get it done. I read the first chapter or so a while ago and I think this is going to be fantastic!

What are you reading this week?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted at Book Journey

It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

As predicted, I haven't had time to post much in February and March probably won't be any better. But here's what I've been up to since February 8.

Posted:
Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times at Biltmore Estate--Costumes from Downton Abbey are on display at the Vanderbilts' estate here in Asheville, NC. It's a must-see for fans of the show!

Read:

Cover of A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin--4 Stars


Cover of Hawaii by James Michener
Hawaii by James A. Michener--3 Stars


Cover of Romancing Miss Brontë by Juliet Gael
Romancing Miss Brontë by Juliet Gael, read by Rosalyn Landor--3 Stars


Cover of All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg
All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg--4 Stars

Currently Reading:
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, translated by Simon Pare

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker, read by Cassandra Campbell, translated by Kevin Wiliarty

Up Next:
I need to get started on Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warning as soon as I finish one of my print books.

What are you reading this week?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times at Biltmore Estate


I'm pretty sure I've never mentioned Downton Abbey here on the blog, but I am a big fan! My husband and I started watching it late and we're slow series watchers, so we only caught up right before the new season started in January here in the US. I can't believe tonight's already the season finale! No spoilers, please! I won't be able to watch it until later in the week.

Biltmore Estate
A photo of the Biltmore house my husband took several years ago
So, anyway, we are incredibly lucky here in Asheville, NC. One of our biggest tourist attractions is Biltmore Estate, a huge house castle? built by the Vanderbilts in the style of a French chateau. It's beautiful. My husband and I spend a lot of time there, wandering the grounds, biking, and catching outdoor concerts. But now they've outdone themselves.

They've brought costumes from Downton Abbey to display throughout the house! Aaaaahhhhhh!!!! I was so excited when I saw this exhibit was coming! It opened on February 5 but yesterday was the first opportunity we've had to check it out.

Oh my gosh. The costumes are gorgeous! And there are so many! There are over 45, many of them very iconic outfits that we immediately recognized. Each costume has information posted about it in the room, detailing whether it was a new piece or a vintage piece from the era, the details of the fabric and decorations, which character wore it (generally including a picture of that character in the costume), and which episode it appeared in. I really liked being able to orient myself to the show like that. There were very few rooms in the upstairs part of the house that didn't have at least one costume displayed. The downstairs (servants' quarters) didn't have very many, but how many maid uniforms do you really need to see?

The surroundings were perfectly suited for the display. The Vanderbilts lived in Biltmore at around the same time that Downton takes place. The house is richly decorated, giving the feel of the show. I can't tell you how many times I've toured the Biltmore house over the years, but seeing these costumes on display brought it to life for me. Instead of museum-like spaces, I was finally able to see it as a place where real (albeit unbelievably wealthy) people lived and breathed.

We were a group of six, including me, my aunt, our husbands, and my two teenage cousins. I think we were all thrilled with the exhibit, even the men!

Photos aren't allowed in the house, but I was able to take a picture of one of Lady Violet's outfits in one of the gift shops.


We were in a bit of a hurry so there may be more scattered in other shops and spaces that I haven't found yet. I intend to go back before the exhibit ends on May 25, so I'll post more pictures here if I find any other unexpected displays.

This gift shop also had a wide variety of Downton merchandise for sale. Of course. But it was really cool. From t-shirts to DVDs to books to fragrances inspired by each of the Downton women to hats to jewelry, there is something for every taste and every budget here.

Here's a link to an official photo gallery of some of the costumes on display. The first few pictures are stills from the show but the rest are photos of the display at Biltmore.

If you're going to be anywhere near Asheville before May 25 and you're a fan of Downton Abbey, you have to stop by and see this! The house was packed yesterday, but it was absolutely worth the slight agoraphobia. The display is amazing!

If you do go, call ahead to make reservations for your house entry time as soon as you know you're going. I was with family members who had free passes that expired today. We tried calling Friday night to make reservations and were told that the only entry time they had for the house for the whole weekend was at 7:00 pm on Sunday night. We took a chance and drove out there Saturday morning and were lucky to get a 1:45 entry time on the same day. We were a bit nervous about it though, so do yourself a favor and plan ahead.

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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