Miscellaneous Meanderings while Waiting for the Dryer to Finish.

I knew I should’ve banked one of the posts I wrote this weekend to post today, but I felt energetic enough that I didn’t need to.

Cut to the end of a good, but energy-tapping day, and I have two posts that I tried to push out and got a good paragraph done on each before abandoning both for now and nothing to post. I’m hoping I can get one of those done tomorrow, but I’m not sure I can count on it. Bah.

Nevertheless, it was a good day for being a Reader, if not a Blogger. I was hoping I’d finish Matthew Dick’s Twenty-one Truths About Love this evening. I clearly estimated poorly—I finished it before work.

Barely. I apparently was so into the ending that I turned off the alarm that’s supposed to keep me from being so into a book that I get to work late without noticing I’d done so. I still made it into the office on time, but without any cushion. It was just that good.

Probably wouldn’t have worked out too well, “Sorry I’m late, boss. I was in the parking lot getting misty-eyed over a novel.”

The downside of finishing a book 9 hours earlier than you’d expected is, of course, I had nothing to read the rest of the day (2 breaks and lunch). I downloaded an ARC onto my phone and got through the day without having to actually talk to people during my downtime. But it did mess up my plans (moved up reading that ARC by 2 weeks), So once again, I’ve put off reading Hacked by Duncan MacMaster for the 43rd time (or so) since it came out in August. And then there’s the joy of reading on a tiny screen…but that a whine for another day.

So I tell all that for no real reason, just something to say that doesn’t take a lot of editing. But I got an important lesson/reminder from this—there are books out there that are so good you won’t notice your phone making a loud and obnoxious sound, chosen specifically so that you have to pay attention to it, and those’re what I’m supposed to be focusing on—the rest of the stuff around my reading/blogging isn’t.

Hopefully you’re reading something about as good—just be sure to get to work on time.

Not-So-Common People by T Gamache: Family disasters bring out the best in this protagonist

Not-So-Common People

Not-So-Common People

by T Gamache

Paperback, 209 pg.
Indie Owl Press, 2019

Read: November 27-28, 2019

Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

” . . . I don’t want to surprise you.”

Surprise me, hell I’m Captain Blindside lately! Every time I turn around one of my siblings is tossing a proverbial bombshell in my direction. I’m barely keeping this crap together, Calvin! When did it become a good idea to throw your emotions at Nathan? I’ll tell you when, NEVER! I’m the introverted, quiet, keep to myself guy in the family. Not the “hey, here’s our crazy laundry” guy!

Nate is a self-professed music geek/snob. That’s his primary description. He’s also a hipster barista with control issues (which he keeps hidden most of the time). He’s around thirty now and should really be making an effort to do something with his life/college degree rather than work part-time at a coffee house. This novel isn’t so much a coming-of-age novel about Nate, as it is that external forces impose age/maturity upon Nate. Which is a great and novel way to approach this kind of character.

I was trying to come up with something to say about the other characters in the novel, and realized that I really didn’t get enough of any of them, except maybe Rick and his parents. I do think they’re probably well-developed and three-dimensional, but there’s so many of them (including people who are maybe around for one scene—like various co-workers) that they can come across as flat and two-dimensional just because we don’t get to spend that much time with them.

For starters, we’ve got Claire, the BFF and roommate—always good for emotional support and sage advice; Frank, his other roommate; Gary, Frank’s fiancé; and Rick, the proprietor of Nate’s record shop—a frenemy of sorts. There’s Nate’s parents and then his siblings—Graham, the Type-A businessman; Calvin, the Lutheran minister; and Marcie, a housewife and mother. Last, but not least, we have the object of his affections, Anne, a little quirky, a little geeky, and driven to succeed.

In the weeks following a fateful Thanksgiving, each of his siblings goes through a major life-changing event (or series of events). And for reasons that he cannot understand, they turn to Nate. Not only do they turn to him, he steps up to help (which might surprise him more than the fact that they came to him for support). Sure, he doesn’t always know what to do for them (this is where Claire and Frank come in), but he’s willing.

In the middle of all this induced maturing, Nate meets Anne. Who is charming, attractive, and funny. Nate falls for her—probably in a ridiculous way—in a time when that’s the last thing he has time for.

While his siblings are reeling and he’s twitterpated, Nate realizes that his life needs some less dramatic life-changing, too.

We really need more time with Anne—it’s hard to buy how involved he gets given their time together (but, it’s cute and you do want to root for them to have a Happily Ever After). And it would be good for us to get more time with the siblings and roommates, too—they all need a little more space.

I have issues with Calvin being a Lutheran minister. If he was some sort of Methodist or non-denominational minister, I’d buy it. But he doesn’t seem that Lutheran to me (he’s definitely not a Missouri Synod or Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran; and he’s not believable as a ELCA minister, either—but that’s closer). I definitely am uncomfortable with the way his religious activities are portrayed, but I can understand why an author would characterize them in the way that Gamache does.

This is a sweet story, a touching story, with a very likable protagonist (even if he wouldn’t believe me saying that), and you can’t help but want to cheer all these characters through their lives being upturned. If my biggest complaint is that we don’t spend enough time with the characters, I think that’s a pretty decent compliment. Recommended.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. I appreciate getting the book, but not so much that I altered my opinion.


3 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Catch-Up Quick Takes on Audiobooks of This is Where I Leave You, When You Reach Me, How Not to Die Alone, The Right Stuff

Trying to clear the decks here with these quick takes on Audiobooks, like I indicated I would be doing yesterday (which also helps from the deep dive I took on Hands Up yesterday, too).

This is Where I Leave YouThis is Where I Leave You

by Jonathan Tropper, Ramón de Ocampo (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs., 17 mins
Recorded Books, 2009
Read: October 9-10, 2019

(the official blurb)
This is not my favorite Tropper novel—but it’s a really good one, and I get why this is his most successful and the only one that’s actually been adapted as a movie (or anything).

From the hilarious (and painful in many senses) opening to the heights of hope, the lows of sorrow, the uncomfortable nature of sitting shiva with estranged family, oh, and the obligatory Tropper awkward fight scene, this is a heartfelt, funny, and entertaining read (or, listen, in this case)

de Ocampo does a better job than I’d anticipated anyone doing with this—he captures Judd’s anger, heartbreak, grief and everything else. He also gets the other characters—including some of the more difficult ones (Phillip, Tracy, Alice). I was really impressed with him, and am a little tempted to get a Wimpy Kid audiobook just to see how he does with that.
4 1/2 Stars


When You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me

by Rebecca Stead, Cynthia Holloway (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 4 hrs., 19 mins.
Listening Library, 2019
Read: October 29, 2019

(the official blurb)
I didn’t realize this was an MG novel when I grabbed it—I thought it was YA—it wouldn’t have made much of a difference, it just would’ve been good to know what I was getting into.

Miranda is in 6th Grade, has one friend (who has just decided not to be friends anymore), and is obsessed with A Wrinkle in Time. Her mom is a paralegal and is dating a lawyer in her firm. It’s the late 70’s and latch-key kids are becoming more common, but not as much as they will be.

As Miranda tries to find new people to connect with, she receives odd messages about needing to write a thorough and completely true account of something that’s about to happen. She’ll know the thing when it happens. Totally normal, right?

There’s some time travel, there’s some personal growth, there’s some tribute to L’Engle’s novel. It’s a charming little work, really. Sure, I could see most of it coming from miles away, but that’s because I’m a few decades older than the audience, not because Stead didn’t know what she was doing.

Holloway does a fine job, too. Capturing the bouncing emotions just right. I dug it, upper MG readers probably will, too (L’Engle fans are shoo-ins).
3.5 Stars


How Not to Die AloneHow Not to Die Alone

by Richard Roper, Simon Vance (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hrs., 52 mins.
Penguin Audio, 2019
Read: October 14-16, 2019

(the official blurb)
The concept for this novel feels like something that’d happen to George Costanza, but what makes this novel work is that Roper makes Andrew a believable, sympathetic human being—not the dumpster fire of a person that George was. It’s utterly preposterous, really. But you can’t help but believe it happening (and can likely see yourself doing something similar).

I’ve seen repeated—almost ubiquitous—comparisons to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. And I get that, and can kind of agree with it. I found the character and story in this novel better than Ms. Oliphant or her life. Although that book seems much more plausible. (and I quickly decided not to care).

Andrew’s friendship with Peggy is wonderful, I wish we had more time with them working/hanging out. Peggy’s a great character on her own—and if Roper were to write one of those ridiculous “same story just from someone else’s POV” sequels, I’d have to cast aside my prejudice against those so I could spend more time with her.

Vance gives one of those audiobook narrations that convinces you there’s no other way for the book to sound—if you read the text version, the voice in your head would have to be Vance. And if you’d never heard of him before, that’s okay, because your subconscious would invent a voice just like his.

Moving, amusing, hopeful. Great job.
4 Stars


The Right StuffThe Right Stuff

by Tom Wolfe, Dennis Quaid (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 15 hrs., 42 mins.
Audible Studios, 2018
Read: October 29-30, 2019

(the official blurb)
I read this book about 2-3 times a year from Middle School to the first or second year of college, and haven’t been able to do it since (I’ve tried off and on). But when Audible had a sale on this earlier in the year, I had to give it a shot. Especially with one of the stars of the remarkable movie adaptation doing the narration.

Now an audiobook of Wolfe is a tricky proposition (at best). Wolfe’s a master stylist. But so much of it (to me anyway) is how the words are on the page. His idiosyncratic capitalization, punctuation, visual rhythms . . . it’s all about how the text shows up in the book. But Quaid gets close enough. So I was able to fully enjoy and immerse myself in this story about the early years of the US/USSR Space Race—the test pilots around Yeager’s feat and then transitioning into the Mercury Program and a little beyond.

Wolfe educates and then entertains with the way he tells the story, editorializes about the events and people, and captures the essence of the various people involved. Listening to this brought me back to the first time I read this book and reminded me why I fell in love with Wolfe.

Quaid did the near-impossible here, he got as close to humanly possible to capturing Wolfe’s style, sensibilities and je ne sais quoi. He didn’t quite get it, but I can’t imagine anyone doing better. It’s probably one of my favorite audiobook performances to date. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Quaid guy just might have a future in show biz.
4 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

Hands Up by Stephen Clark: The Aftermath of a Police Shooting Seen from Multiple Angles

Hands Up

Hands Up

by Stephen Clark

Kindle Edition, 292 pg.
Wido Publishing, 2019

Read: November 5, 2019

“If you want to survive as a cop on these streets, then you need to check your conscience at the door. Sometimes there’s casualties. But if we don’t do whatever it takes to get the bad guy, then we could end up like your dad”

About a month ago, I posted about N. Lombardi, Jr.’s Justice Gone, and as I started to write this post, I noticed I was about to write something very similar here. But why re-invent the wheel? I’m just going to repeat the first few sentences (don’t worry, I get original after that).

I’ve mentioned before here that after I decide to read a book I forget what its about (if I even know) to keep myself coming from being disappointed by preconceived notions. It worked this time, I really had no idea what it was about when I opened it on my Kindle last week.

Which made the opening pages, featuring the killing of an innocent and unarmed black teen by the police, as shocking as they could’ve been. But they also led me to believe I was in for a grim, adult version of The Hate U Give.

That I’ve used that idea twice in a month says a few things to me, including: 1. Angie Thomas has clearly taken up residence in a corner of my mind (welcome, Angie, sorry for the clutter); 2. the fact that I keep running into novels about the police killing innocents says something about our cultural moment (and it’s not positive); and 3. thankfully, all three of these authors run with the concept in very different directions.

Lombardi quickly becomes about other killings (prompted by the police’s unjust actions and the officers not facing any consequences), Thomas focuses on what happens to the witness of the shooting (but includes what happens to the family of the victim and the city in the aftermath), Clark focuses on the aftermath of the killing on the victim’s family and the officer who pulled the trigger ending Tyrell Wakefield’s life.

Let’s start with that officer, Ryan Quinn, shall we? We meet him in the opening pages, working to reassure himself that he’s not a murderer as he prepares to give a statement about the shooting. He’s been a part of the Philadelphia Police Department for 8 months at this time. His partner, Sgt. Greg Byrnes knew Ryan’s father when he was an officer, too. And after Ryan’s dad was killed on the job, Byrnes has acted as a surrogate father. It’s because of Byrnes that Ryan was in a position where he had to make that fatal choice, and it’s Byrnes that guides him through the aftermath (for good or ill, I’ll let the reader decide).

Clark makes the very uncomfortable choice (for the reader, and I can only imagine for the author) of making Ryan the only first-person narrator of this book. Early on, I resented having to be in his head through all of this—especially as I learned just how sketchy the circumstances around the shooting (and what Byrnes did afterward) were. I didn’t want to be that close to this man’s thoughts at this time, I didn’t want to find him sympathetic, I didn’t want to pull for him at all through this process. Which is exactly the reaction I think that Clark wants. It’s uncomfortable by design.

The shooting affects Ryan, his family and his fiancé. He starts having panic attacks, getting professional help, and taking steps to become a different person on the one hand, while trying to keep his job, avoid prosecution, and rescue his career on the other hand. Too many authors would make him a complete villain or a misunderstood hero. Clark does neither. Or maybe he does both. Either way, Ryan is depicted in a very believable way.

One complaint with Ryan: throughout the book, Ryan thinks of his mother by her first name. I found that distracting at best. I can’t help but wonder if Clark changed him from third-person to first late in the process and forgot to change that to “Mom” (or an equivalent) in the editing process.

As far as Byrnes? Ugh. Clark clearly wants the reader to not trust him, not like him, and wish that Ryan would get away from his influence. He succeeded in all of that with me. He’s not a cartoonish racist cop or anything, he’s just a horrible person.

Now, on to Tyrell’s family. We first meet his sister Jade minutes before she discovers what had happened to him. She then has to break the news to her mother. Their grief and anger feels real, it feels raw, and you can’t help but share their desire for justice and their pain.

Jade’s our second protagonist and from the moment we meet her up until the very end of the book, she’s the one you really identify with, pull for, and agree with almost every step of the way. If Clark had put her in another novel, I’d really enjoy spending time with her as a character instead of watching her in the tumultuous days of anger and grief.

She’s a bartender, and one day Ryan comes into her bar for a few drinks. She recognizes him, he has no idea about Tyrell’s family. Things get interesting from there.

The third protagonist in the book is Tyrell’s estranged father who comes back to Philadelphia after a decade or so away when he gets the news.

Kelly saw his son for the first time in ten years, lying still in a casket, he could feel his heart breaking. He knew he could never get back all the time he lost with him. But if only he could have five minutes. Five minutes to catch up on his life. Five minutes to pass on his wisdom. Five minutes to tell him how much he loved him. Kelly just sat in the pew, staring at his son’s body in silence.

Now, Kelly’s a major complication that this family didn’t need at this time. Initially, I was very sympathetic toward him and wasn’t sure that Jade (and the others, but primarily Jade) were giving him a fair shake. Jade’s openly hostile toward her father—even when others warm to him. It didn’t take me long, though, to get on Jade’s side and start to wonder about Kelly (and Clark did a nice, subtle job with his character).

Each protagonist’s storyline takes on turns that you might not expect going into the book—Kelly and Ryan do a lot in a short amount of time and their characters change and develop. Everything that happens—even though much of it has nothing directly to do with the shooting happens in the shadow of Tyrell’s killing. It colors every conversation, every event, every reaction. In time Jade, Ryan, Kelly and the others will be able to move past this and do other things with their lives. But none of that happens now.

There’s some stuff with Kelly and Jade at the end that made me think about rating this lower, but in the end, Clark pulled it off (and more than once I wondered if he could). Kelly makes some choices that I initially thought unnecessarily complicated a pretty full plot, and I’m still not sure that Jade would have done what she did (and I’m less sure I should accept her explanation of it). But the more space I give those events, and the more I mull about Clark’s resolution, the better I feel about them. But I’m primarily giving this rating for what happens in the first 80 or so percent of the book.

Also, some of my reactions (still) to what happened in this book are so visceral that I’ve got to give Clark the credit for that. This is a much more even work than his first novel (which I liked, but had reservations about), but shares his talent for taking people who should be antagonistic toward each other, untrusting, and disinclined to to build any sort of relationship with each other—and helping them see the common humanity in each other and moving on past their differences. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing, as long as it’s not done in a cheesy, “A Very Special Episode of…” kind of way. Which, I want to stress is why I like Clark’s approach.

It’s not a perfect book, but it’s a good one—with some powerful moments that are dealt with skillfully. I encourage you to check out Clark’s work and join me in waiting to see what he’ll do next.


4 Stars

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds: A School Bus Falls from the Sky but More Interesting/Important Things are Going On

Look Both Ways

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks

by Jason Reynolds

Hardcover, 188 pg.
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2019

Read: October 31, 2019

A school bus is many things.

A school bus is a substitute for a limousine. More class. A school bus is a classroom with a substitute teacher. A school bus is the students’ version of a teachers’ lounge. A school bus is the principal’s desk. A school bus is the nurse’s cot. A school bus is an office with all the phones ringing. A school bus is a command center. A school bus is a pillow fort that rolls. A school bus is a tank reshaped—hot dogs and baloney are the same meat. A school bus is a science lab—hot dogs and baloney are the same meat. A school bus is a safe zone. A school bus is a war zone. A school bus is a concert hall. A school bus is a food court. A school bus is a court of law, all judges, all jury.

This is a novel—sort of. It’s a short story collection—sort of. It’s a hybrid of the two like Winesburg, Ohio was. I can’t tell you how often I thought about Sherwood Anderson’s book while I read this.

A lot happens right after school lets out for the day—particularly on the way home. The last gasp of socialization for many before the reality of home, chores, family, homework, game systems, etc. take over. Jason Reynolds gives us the stories of ten individuals/friend-groups on the way between school and home (some take interesting detours, too). There’s drama, comedy, romance, tension, action, and . . . some things that defy explanation.

There’s no overarching theme or plot, just these ten stories, so it’s hard to encapsulate this much. I can’t even say some characters stand out more than others because they all do.

This is one of those YA books that I wish didn’t have that tag, because too many non-young adults are going to ignore this because of that label. Yes, the book is written for the YA crowd, but non-YA readers will appreciate this just as much (if they let themselves read it).

No two stories/chapters are the same in tone, voice, or character. Some are pretty straightforward, some get a bit more unconventional in structure. But through it all, they’re well-written stories. While none of the chapters will affect the way things go in others, there are layers of interconnectedness (leading to some chapters giving some nuance or new understanding to things you’ve already read).

While I enjoyed some of the chapters more than others, there wasn’t a dud in the bunch—and it’s not often I say that about short story collections. All of them tapped into something that you can probably relate to today—if you can’t, you certainly could have when you were a young adolescent. It’s a truly impressive collection.

I don’t know what else to say at this point, so I’ll stop—bring this one home, get your teens to read it, too. It’s funny, it’s poignant, it’s touching, it’s inspiring—and it’s a fun read during it all.


3.5 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner: This novel is as Troubled as the Eponym

Fleishman is in Trouble

Fleishman is in Trouble

by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Hardcover, 373 pg.
Random House, 2019

Read: October 22-23, 2019

Hr, which was what his preferred dating app was called, was now his first-thing-in-the-morning check. It had replaced Facebook, since when he looked at Facebook, he became despondent and overwhelmed by the number of people he hadn’t yet told about his divorce. But Facebook was also a landscape of roads not taken and moments of bliss, real or staged, that he couldn’t bear. The marriages that seemed plain and the posts that seemed incidental and not pointed, because they telegraphed not an aggressively great status in life but a just-fine one, those were the ones that left him clutching his heart. Toby hadn’t dreamed of great and transcendent things for his marriage. He had parents. He wasn’t an idiot. He just wanted regular, silly things in life, like stability and emotional support and a low-grade contentedness. Why couldn’t he just have regular, silly things? His former intern Sari posted a picture of herself bowling at a school fundraiser with her husband. She’d apparently gotten three Strikes. “What a night,” she’d written. Toby had stared at it with the overwhelming desire to write “Enjoy this for now” or “All desire is death.” It was best to stay off Facebook.

Back with my In Medias Res post about this book, I pretty much covered everything I want to say about this book. I was hoping that the last half would pick up (and I almost decided it did). But, really, it just kept doing what it had been and ended up killing almost all my interest in the book.

The official blurb says:

Toby Fleishman thought he knew what to expect when he and his wife of almost fifteen years separated: weekends and every other holiday with the kids, some residual bitterness, the occasional moment of tension in their co-parenting negotiations. He could not have predicted that one day, in the middle of his summer of sexual emancipation, Rachel would just drop their two children off at his place and simply not return. He had been working so hard to find equilibrium in his single life. The winds of his optimism, long dormant, had finally begun to pick up. Now this.

As Toby tries to figure out where Rachel went, all while juggling his patients at the hospital, his never-ending parental duties, and his new app-assisted sexual popularity, his tidy narrative of the spurned husband with the too-ambitious wife is his sole consolation. But if Toby ever wants to truly understand what happened to Rachel and what happened to his marriage, he is going to have to consider that he might not have seen things all that clearly in the first place.

A searing, utterly unvarnished debut, Fleishman Is in Trouble is an insightful, unsettling, often hilarious exploration of a culture trying to navigate the fault lines of an institution that has proven to be worthy of our great wariness and our great hope.

I’d summarize it as: two messed-up people in a very troubled marriage (that had been troubled for a while), going through a divorce and bringing out the worst in each other and themselves. Hurting careers, friendships, their children and each other along the way. By the time we meet them, they’re like many going through a bitter divorce, and are (at least then) terrible, horrible, no good, very bad people doing terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things to each other (while exonerating themselves of all but a few faults). And this is supposed to be comedic.

All of which could have been addressed years ago if they’d just talked to each other and worked together, rather than keeping score, justifying themselves, assuming the worst of each other and holding grudges. But that’s neither here nor there.

There were some saving graces:

  • Brodesser-Akner’s writing, there are some great passages, great insights, and sentences worthy of praise, study, and quotation. As I said previously, the prose is delightful, there are turns of phrase that I’ve stopped to re-read. Brodesser-Akner has a sharp wit and an equally sharp eye for observation/social commentary. If/When she publishes a second novel, the technical aspects of b>Fleishman is in Trouble were strong enough that I’ll be back.
  • When Toby (a hepatologist) is at work and caring for patients and/or instructing his interns, he’s a great character. Inspirational even. I’d read a book about him at work dealing with the bureaucracy of a hospital, insurance companies, young doctors and suffering patients and probably do little beside sing its praises. This, it should be stressed, is not that book.
  • Toby’s friend Libby. I don’t approve of (not that she asked)/appreciate a lot of her choices and attitudes. But she feels real, she’s genuine, she’s relatable (even—especially—when she’s treating her husband like garbage for no good reason), she deals with her problems (and her friends) in a way that most readers can see themselves in. She actually has a greater role in the novel than you think she will in the first half (or more), but the book would really benefit for more of her.
  • I have neither the time, inclination, or interest in listing my problems with this novel—just see my summary of the novel as a whole, and we’ll call it good.

    Based on some of what I’ve read about this novel, and my own observations, you could get away with calling this a Feminist John Updike. Which is a pretty good summation of why I wouldn’t recommend it, actually. It’s also reductionistic, so you probably shouldn’t say it. However, if a Feminist Updike sounds like something you’d really enjoy (not just are mildly curious about)—you might find yourself enjoying this.


    2 1/2 Stars

    2019 Library Love Challenge

Opening Lines: Look Both Ways

We all know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover (yet, publishing companies spend big bucks on cover design/art) (also, this has a great cover). But, the opening sentence(s)/paragraph(s) are fair game. So, when I stumble on a good opening (or remember one and pull it off the shelves), I’ll throw it up here. Dare you not to read the rest of the book.

from Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jayson Reynolds:

This story was going to begin like all the best stories. With a school bus falling from the sky.

But no one saw it happen. No one heard anything. So instead, this story will begin like all the . . . good ones.

With boogers.

“If you don’t get all them nasty, half-baked goblins out your nose, 1 promise I’m not walking home with you. I’m not playln’.” Jasmine Jordan said this like she said most things—with her whole body. Like the words weren’t just coming out of her mouth but were also rolling down her spine. She said it like she meant it.

The only thing better than that first paragraph is the third. And I can already see Jasmine as clear as day.