A few weeks ago, this video popped up in my Facebook news feed:
How is it possible for one video to be both heartbreaking and heartwarming? I don't know, but this was genius marketing because I immediately clicked over to Amazon to pre-order my copy of Jenny Lawson's second book - the magnificently titled Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things.
So when my copy arrived in my mailbox this Tuesday, I set about to devour it immediately. It's taken me a few days, but has resulted in several humorous moments in my own life - such as when my husband became concerned for my well-being upon hearing me make a choking sound and turning to find me laughing so hard that I literally couldn't breathe and tears were running down my face. (The chapter where Lawson describes the sleep study she participated in was my demise that time.) Or the next evening, when I took the book with me to my son's football practice and sat there trying not to laugh out loud (but still with tears running down my face because it was so funny!) as I read Lawson's tale of the surgeon who removed her gallbladder.
As marvelous as Lawson's humor can be, the book isn't just a barrel of laughs; humorous anecdotes are intertwined with serious glimpses into Lawson's lifelong struggle with mental illness. As someone who suffers from anxiety (though admittedly mine isn't as severe as what Lawson describes), I was both sympathetic and empathetic reading about how anxiety, depression, and other disorders have affected her as a woman, a parent, a wife, and a friend.
I hope we can look forward to more books by The Bloggess in years to come. Jenny, if you happen to read this, I'm one of those on the outskirts whispering, "Me too." Thank you for letting us all laugh and cry along with you.
Rainbow Reading is our weekly series focusing on book recommendations with a geeky/sci-fi/fantasy/supernatural flair with LGBTQ characters. Today I discuss “Fish and Ghost” by Rhys Ford.
I love the premise of Fish and Ghost. Tristan is caretaker of a home that is a way station for ghosts for their last three days on earth before passing on. Wolf and his team of ghost hunters are called in by Tristan’s family to prove that he is crazy. What could go wrong?
Hoxne Grange was given to Tristan by his great uncle Mortimer. Mortimer did this because he knew Tristan would take care of his guests as he had done for all of these years. Tristan can not only see the ghosts – he interacts with them, checks them in and provides them rooms for their last days on earth. After three days, any ghostly guests move on. To Tristan these ghosts are as real as people. Wolf leads Hellsinger Investigations, and Tristan invites him into his home once he has learned that his family hired Wolf.
Hellsinger Investigations focuses on exposing people who claim to have paranormal activity in order to increase business but in reality it is human trickery. Wolf can’t figure out Tristan’s angle and what he stands to gain by claiming that there are ghosts at Hoxne Grange. The place isn’t open for any type of business. Wolf’s team consists of Matt, the cameraman, and Gidget, the technical expert. During their first night of recording, all of the equipment gets moved around or has issues. Wolf is convinced that Tristan is doing this, but Tristan says that ghosts are perturbed at the intrusion by Wolf’s team. Things start to get really interesting as Matt and Gidget starting fighting. There is something to be said for not sleeping where you work. Matt and Gidget seem to awaken a malevolent force that is affecting all ghosts at Hoxne Grange.
Tristan demands that Wolf fix the problem since his people caused it. Tristan’s ghostly guests are not showing up, and his in house ghosts are disappearing. Heather, the cook, comes through every Tuesday, and Tristan greets her with the same message every week the same as Mortimer used to do. Mara, the cranky housekeeper, is around on a daily basis and watches over Tristan like a mother or big sister. There is Jack, the ghost dog, who will drive people crazy with his continual need to have someone throw his red bouncy ball. Tristan wants his people back in his home, and he is demanding that Wolf fix it. So, what does anyone do in that situation? Wolf brings in his mother, Meegan. This is when s*** gets real. Meegan brings the chaos while trying to restore order to Hoxne Grange.
This book has humor, ghosts, romance, crazy family members and scenes straight from a horror movie. What I always love about Rhys Ford’s book is the relationships - relationship among the two main characters, but also between Wolf and Meegan, Tristan and Mara, Meegan and Tristan, Jack and Wolf. I fell in love with all the characters in this book. Duck Duck Ghost is the next in the series, and is available to be read. There are to be more in this series as well, and I can’t wait.
Did you know that there's a place on the Internet - right now - where you can vote, comment and share to keep a snail alive! It's true!
Some background: When Brooke & I walked into the artist market at DragonCon, we were almost immediately drawn to a booth full of amazing, adorable illustrated characters.
Their merch was on point. Hand-painted magnets and woodcuts of adorable pandas, cats and sad robots. There were awesome t-shirts with the children's book cover spoof "Are you my Mothra?" We wanted all the things!
But then we saw the books, and the beautiful illustration work in them. The friendly people behind the table decided to chat us up - and I'm so glad they did!
"Do you like weird and creepy things?" the man behind the table asked.
"Yes, of course we do!" we exclaimed, "This is DragonCon after all!"
The man behind the table was Jason Thomas - the artist himself. He explained to us about the Red Rocket Farm community and how the books are developed - and it is genius. The books take place in and around Story Town, which is full of interesting, friendly and not-so-friendly characters. Just like any 'real' town would be, you know - if animals could talk.
Jason starts a story and posts the pages online a few at a time. At certain points during the book's development, Jason will take suggestions, make requests, and leave the fate of his adorable characters in the hands of his web community. These decisions can take the story in a whole new, exiting direction - or into an abrupt end...
During a break in my DCon festivities, I sat down and read To Lumber Home. It made me laugh. Out loud. It made me cry. Like seriously cry. I don't think I have ever been moved by something that looks like a children's book before in my life - and I am a grown-ass adult. In fact, it is BECAUSE I'm adult it spoke to me. I've been an outcast. I've been bullied. I've lost homes, and friends, and felt like there was no place in the world for me. I've also learned that finding even one person who really 'gets' you can change your life forever.
To Lumber Home may look like a story of a bear (Pilot) who befriends a cat (Zipper), but it's about us. It's about not giving up and holding out until you find your 'people.' It's inspiring. It's quirky. It's sad and dark. It's uplifting and it gives you hope.
Well, sharing only one copy of this book with Brooke was out of the question. It would have required a structured visitation schedule. So, I made Jen read it (and she laughed and cried and loved it too) and we ran straight back to the booth the next day to buy our own copies of To Lumber Home and all the books he had left. Jen also bought an owl of fortune figure - for luck.
"I somehow just knew you would like them! I'm so glad you did." Jason said, remembering me from the day before.
"We have a blog and I am going to tell everyone about your awesome books and Red Rocket Farm and follow all the stories from now on!" I babbled. And now I have.
I've since read all the Story Town stories and loved them each deeply. Finding these books was (other than meeting Felicia Day) my very favorite part of DragonCon.
We hope to have an interview with Jason Thomas for you all in the coming weeks, to learn more about how he came up with Story Town and how he makes interactive storytelling work!