Stacking the Shelves: August 2016

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

2016-08-16 - New Comic Books - 0002 [flickr]

2016-08-16 - New Comic Books - 0008 [flickr]

It’s been a rather shitty month (literally and figuratively, hardee har har!; no but really, the new fosters introduced a worm into the pack, and everyone’s had varying degrees of diarrhea, yay!), so I decided to treat myself to a few comic books from my wishlist. Also: A Helena Pop, because 1) it was on sale and 2) Helena is easily the best character in one of the best shows on television, so.

2016-08-19 - Kaylee Pop - 0001 [flickr]

2016-08-19 - Jayne Pop - 0002 [flickr]

…aaaand of course, once you buy one Funko Pop, you can’t stop. My next two purchases were Kaylee and Jayne, in honor of my little ladies, may they rest in peace. Kaylee looks scrappy as heck – wtf is up with that hairline!? – but there’s no way I can return her. Besides, my Kaylee was pretty funny-looking too, so I guess it evens out.

2016-08-19 - Kaylee & Jayne Pops - 0010 [flickr]

Pictured here with our 2011 FSMas card, which featured some pretty hardcore cosplay. (We leave a laminated version on the fridge year-round, because how could we not?)

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Senior Dogs Across America: Portraits of Man’s Best Old Friend, Nancy LeVine (2016)

Friday, August 12th, 2016

Old Dogs Rock (and so do Nancy LeVine’s Portraits!)

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: Schiffer Publishing provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

An old dog’s eyes, milky white, are not so much going blind as they are being clouded by memory: every stick, every ball, the squirrel that got away – they’re all there. Nothing is forgotten. The day she swam across the lake, or chewed your mouthguard into a million pieces. Remember when she was lost for two days, and came home soaking wet, muddy, and with a bird’s feather – blue and white – somehow lodged beneath her collar? She remembers. They all do. Every word, every walk, every time you RUBBED their neck. The memories spill into their eyes, and eventually all they can see is the past.

– Daniel Wallace

Anyone who’s ever opened their home and their heart to a dog is sure to love Senior Dogs Across America: Portraits of Man’s Best Old Friend. Award-winning photographer Nancy LeVine traveled across America, photographing senior dogs in their natural habitats: in forever homes and animal sanctuaries; lounging on couches, riding along with their humans in tractors, and playing with their siblings, human and non; aging with dignity and wisdom and grace.

The eighty-six portraits included here promise to tug at the heartstrings – and make you hug your canine companion just a little bit tighter tonight. The dogs featured run the gamut: there are big dogs and little dogs; pit bulls, dachshunds, greyhounds, Chihuahuas, and mutts; and several tripods, a few one-eyed dogs, and one very big German Shepherd on wheels (hey, Abby!). There are even two Otises, both chocolate Labs by the look of ’em, living just a state apart in Washington and California. LeVine lovingly captures the spirit and personality of each of her subjects; while the book is rather short on words, each picture sings and shines and speaks volumes, dancing off the printed page and right into the reader’s heart.

(More below the fold…)

Stacking the Shelves: July 2016

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

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July’s comic book pre-orders!

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I won an autographed copy of Reliquary along with some shiny book swag, also signed by Sarah Fine. Thanks Sarah!

(Photographed next to my giant TBR comic book pile. SO MANY BOOKS SO LITTLE TIME.)

2016-07-15 - Senior Dogs Across America - 0014 [flickr]

Schiffer Publishing was nice enough to send me a copy (beautifully wrapped, I might add!) of Nancy Levine’s Senior Dogs Across America, which is 1) lovely; 2) already out; and 3) makes a wonderful gift for dog lovers of all ages.

2016-07-15 - Senior Dogs Across America - 0010 [flickr]

Mags is rather miffed that she didn’t make the cut. :P

2016-07-05 - The Call - 0001 [flickr]

Shelf Awareness FTW! Specifically, an ARC of The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín.

2016-07-09 - Book Mail - 0001 [flickr]

Also from Shelf Awareness: an autographed copy of Vengeance by Zane.

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For review from the publisher: A Vegan Ethic: Embracing a Life of Compassion Toward All by Mark Hawthorne. I had the pleasure of reviewing Mark’s previous two books, and the intersectional focus of this one really has me psyched!

2016-06-28 - Signed Katherine North - 0003 [flickr]

I know we’re barely halfway through the year, but The Many Selves of Katherine North is poised to go down as one of my favorite 2016 releases. I was lucky enough to win a hardcover copy, signed by Emma Geen herself, in a launch day giveaway on Twitter.

(Check the shiny little blurb graphic Bloomsbury made for me!)

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Normally I’m not a huge book collector, but. I AM SO HAPPY YOU GUYS I CANNOT EVEN!

2016-06-27 - In My Humble Opinion - 0003 [flickr]

I wasn’t quick enough to snag an ARC of Soraya Roberts’s upcoming book, In My Humble Opinion: My So-Called Life, on NetGalley – but when I emailed the publisher to inquire about a physical ARC, ECW Press was kind enough to put one in the mail for me. Thanks a bunch, Sarah!

 
I also snagged a few great deals on ebooks this month:

  • The Chain (The Kinship Series #1) by Robin Lamont ($2.99)
  • The Other Side of the Stars by Katherine King ($.99)
  •  
    For review on NetGalley:

  • The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race edited by Jesmyn Ward
  • Haters: Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online by Bailey Poland
  • Ice Crypt (Mermaids of Eriana Kwai #2) by Tiana Warner
  • The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke
  • Hag-Seed (Hogarth Shakespeare) by Margaret Atwood
  • Everfair: A Novel by Nisi Shawl
  • A Vegan Ethic: Embracing a Life of Compassion Toward All by Mark Hawthorne
  •  
    For review on Edelweiss:

  • Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt
  • History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
  • Yesternight by Cat Winters
  • The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics
  •  
    For review on Library Thing:

  • The Kraken Sea by E. Catherine Tobler
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    (Not-So-) Happy Ralphieversary!

    Thursday, July 14th, 2016

    X-Mas 2015 - In Memoriam (Ralphie) (cropped)

    Oh, Ralphie. I miss you so much.

    It’s been a tough three years since you left me. Kaylee followed you soon after, and then not a year later, Peedee was diagnosed with cancer. He put up a really good fight, but last November we had to say goodbye to him too. He was only thirteen. Thirteen! Of all you guys, I thought he’d live the longest.

    Pictures of happy young Peedee, with his huge goofy grin, still make me cry. Pictures of you two (or three!) together are even worse. Sometimes I wish I believed in heaven, or an afterlife. Images of you guys snuggled together, running through fields and chewing on Kongs stuffed with peanut butter, taking care of one another in my absence, sure would help. But the past is a kind of comfort too. Everything that made you you is gone, dispersed into the atmosphere to form new creatures, but your memory will always live on in my heart. Some days it’s not nearly enough; and yet it kind of has to be.

    2008-03-12 - Dogs Outside - 0028

    And now we’re going through the same thing with Jayne. She had surgery, and then chemo, but she’s having a much harder time with it than Peedee did. We got some really bad news this morning. Things aren’t looking good. Probably we should stop scheduling vet appointments on anniversaries and birthdays. It was on the two-year anniversary of Kaylee’s death that Peedee got his death sentence. And we found about Jayne’s possible cancer on Rennie’s birthday. Sigh. How am I supposed to deal with that?

    I wish I could bottle that feeling of nervous excitement I felt fifteen years ago. There’s nothing quite like welcoming a new dog into your home; knowing that you’re about to meet your new best friend and constant shadow. The love of your goddamn life. I’d give anything to go back there and do it all again. All this pain and heartache is worth it … though in times like these, it can be so, so easy to lose sight of that.

    I wish this was a happier letter, but it is what it is. I miss you so fucking much, my little bear. You may be gone, but I keep you alive every single day.

    P.S. It kinda sorta breaks my heart that I don’t have any new photos to add to these posts; instead I just have to keep repurposing old ones.

    2016-07-14 - Ralphie's Adoption Day

    ###

    Previous years: 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2011 | 2008

    Book Review: Listen to Me, Hannah Pittard (2016)

    Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

    Nope, no thanks, not for me.

    two out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. This review contains clearly marked spoilers.)

    Mark and Maggie’s annual drive east to visit family has gotten off to a rocky start. By the time they’re on the road, it’s late, a storm is brewing, and they are no longer speaking to one another. Adding to the stress, Maggie — recently mugged at gunpoint — is lately not herself, and Mark is at a loss about what to make of the stranger he calls his wife. Forced to stop for the night at a remote inn, completely without power, Maggie’s paranoia reaches an all-time and terrifying high. But when Mark finds himself threatened in a dark parking lot, it’s Maggie who takes control.

    (Synopsis via Goodreads.)

    Surely I can’t be the only one envisioning a Roaring Rampage of Revenge after reading this description? Picture it: months after being mugged at gunpoint and knocked unconscious in an alley, Maggie once again finds herself in a perilous position. Only this time’s she’s ready. Prepared. Expecting it, even, thanks to the PTSD and anxiety and depression. And she fights back. Kicks some serious ass. Maybe comes to her husband Mark’s rescue. Mark, the same guy who’s spent the better part of a year tiptoeing around her, walking on eggshells, maybe even scoffed at her paranoia, once or twice, when he thought she wasn’t looking. Bonus points if he’s entertained fantasies about how he would have protected HIS WOMAN, if only he had been there when it happened. But now that he is, he’s paralyzed with fear, unable to protect himself, let alone his wife. Yeah. That’s what I’d expected, going into Listen to Me.

    As it turns out, this is the most misleading yet still dead accurate book description I’ve seen in a while. Maybe ever. Certainly in recent memory.

    Here are three reasons why I disliked Listen to Me, from least to most spoilery:

    (More below the fold…)

    Stacking the Shelves: May 2016

    Saturday, May 28th, 2016

    2016-05-10 - Birthday Books (& Rennie) - 0003 [flickr]

    2016-05-10 - Birthday Books (& Rennie) - 0007 [flickr]

    2016-05-09 - Cookie Dough Cake - 0003 [flickr]

    First things first: My birthday was earlier this month. (Yay me!) Shane made me a chocolate cake with almond buttercream frosting AND BITS OF COOKIE DOUGH STUFFED INSIDE (genius!) and I got a big stack o’ comics and vegan thin mints and a Supernatural messenger bag that I’m maybe probably most definitely too old for.

    (The Orphan Black TP is still on my wishlist, in case anyone wants to send me a late gift. Just saying.)

    2016-05-10 - Brain Freeze Journal - 0002 [flickr]

    I requested yet another journal from Blogging for Books; I’m pretty sure I have enough to cover the next decade at this point! Even though I’m kind of over the teeny tiny sizes, I just had to have the Brain Freeze Journal. It looks so much like a Neapolitan ice cream sammie I salivate a little every time I look at it!

    2016-05-23 - Long May She Wave - 0009 [flickr]

    True story: I put in for a copy of Long May She Wave (also from Blogging for Books) mostly on accounta I was wondering just what the heck it was. A book of American ephemera? Tear-out postcards? A stationary set? As it turns out, it’s a cross between two and three: a faux book housing 100 individual postcards: 50 unique designs, with two of each so you can send a card/keep a card, if you’d like. Kind of neat, eh?

    2016-05-03 - Places No One Knows - 0002 [flickr]

    Thanks go to Natalie C. Parker for this ARC of Places No One Knows! I also won an ebook of Beware the Wild in her twitter giveaway!

    2016-05-03 - Life Without Nico - 0001 [flickr]

    For review through Goodreads: the children’s book Life Without Nico by Andrea Maturana and Francisco Javier Olea. This is the first GR giveaway I’ve won in, like, a year! That’s okay, though; since I started with NetGalley and Edelweiss, I’ve been entering fewer drawings for physical books, so that’s probably (mostly) why.

     
    For review on Edelweiss:

  •  
    For review on NetGalley:

  • American Girls by Alison Umminger
  •  

    (I’m still working through last month’s stack, so it was a slow month, galley-wise!)

    Some anniversaries just suck ass.

    Friday, May 6th, 2016

    It was three years ago today that we had to start saying our goodbyes to Ralphie. He was in renal failure and, after several days in the hospital, wasn’t showing any signs of improvement … we were able to give him a few awesome last days, at least, filled with treats and tummy rubs and afternoons sunbathing at the park. He was tired but happy, and basked in the attention we lavished on him. He died at home, three days later, on my 35th birthday.

    Two days later we found out that Kaylee was sick too; also from renal failure, in a crazy-making coincidence. She passed away a few weeks later, on May 21st. It was a surprise – she had a stroke and lapsed into a coma – but also not, because though we were treating her, or trying to anyway, it was a struggle. I wish Kaylee’s last days had been as wonderful as Ralphie’s; she deserved that much, and more (so much more!). I try not to think of them too much.

    It was two years later, to the very day, that we learned of Peedee’s relapse; that the cancer had stopped responding to the chemo and the best we could hope for was two good months, three if we were super-lucky. He lived six months and two days, almost all of them healthy (relatively speaking) and happy and spoiled rotten. God, how I miss his goofy smile and stupid pink tongue and soft, pink fur. His bark and excitability and spirit. His intellect and empathy. I could use his shoulder for a good cry right now, I tell you what.

    I’ve been missing Kaylee and Ralphie and Peedee so, so much this week and month. I wish I could strike May from the calendar and never think of it again. But I can’t so instead I’m gonna watch this Heinz commercial on repeat because it makes me grin like a weirdo every time it plays on the tv. Also, standing in the receiving line of a wiener dog stampede is how I’d like to go out. (Though none of these guys is nearly as cute as my Ralphie Bear.) Someone make this happen please.

    2011-02-21 - Dogs! - 0057

    Book Review: Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth, Guinnevere Shuster (2016)

    Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

    Epic Photos for an Awesome Cause

    five out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free ebook for review through NetGalley.)

    Every year, approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter U.S. shelters; of these, 3.9 million are dogs. Roughly 35% are adopted, while another 26% are reunited with their families. The remaining 26% are killed, usually for lack of homes.* This translates to a staggering 1.2 million dogs (not to mention 1.4 million cats) per year.**

    Given the overwhelming scope of the problem, animal shelters and welfare groups have gotten pretty darn creative in their rescue efforts – aimed at both placing animals in homes, as well as preventing them from entering the system to begin with. For example, some groups offer grants to low-income pet owners who are facing unexpected veterinary bills. Others provide free or low-cost checkups and spay/neuter services to those in need.

    Nonprofits that focus on humans have gotten into the act as well. With an increasing awareness of the link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence comes programs that cater to both human and nonhuman victims. For instance, domestic violence shelters are starting to open their doors to the companion animals of their human clients, as a sizable percentage survivors refuse to leave their furry friends behind.

    (I volunteer as a foster home for one of two such groups in the Kansas City area, and it’s extremely rewarding. In particular, I find it easier to foster dogs who already have homes. Don’t get me wrong, I still fall in love with them, but at least I know I have to give them back. Otherwise I’m likely to adopt myself out of fostering in no time flat. Anyway, I cannot recommend it enough.)

    (More below the fold…)

    Thanks for the memories.

    Friday, March 18th, 2016

    2015-08-31 - Going to the Drive-In - 0022 [flickr]

    When I was sixteen, a work friend of my father’s got us tickets to see The Rolling Stones. He worked for Coke (or was it Pepsi?), and I think they were sponsoring the concert? Anyway, they were primo seats – my friend Heather and I were able to muscle our way up to the fifth row – and we even carpooled with him. (To Syracuse, maybe?) My parents went too, but they hung out with the other adults. It was pretty flippin’ awesome, all around. I still have the concert tee, all these years later.

    My mom was really big on thank you cards, and this was an instance where I actually agreed with her policy. Of my own accord, I wrote him a thank you note, attached it to a pricey box of chocolates (not vegan, sadly), and tasked my father with its delivery. Apparently the Coke guy was so impressed that he shared it with his class (I think he taught a class, anyway; or was it his employees, maybe? I forget!) as an example of how to behave in the business world.

    After Ralphie and Kaylee died, I thought about bringing a basket of home-made (vegan!) cookies to the staff and doctors at Blue Pearl, where we were regulars for most of May. Everyone was so kind to us, and I wanted to show them that it didn’t go unappreciated. (Especially that one vet tech who helped us carry Kaylee’s body to the car and then hugged me and let me cry on her shoulder. If you know me at all, you know just how damn out of character that is. I must have been a hot mess.) But between the grief and the heat, I never quite got around to it, and I still kind of regret it to this day.

    2015-10-25 - Going to the Drive-In - 0038 [flickr]

    These anecdotes bring us to Peedee. The Summer of Peedee, to be exact, in which the I-70 and Twin drive-ins played a prominent role. Maybe this letter is a little silly or sentimental, but it’s coming from the right place. As in, straight from my heart.

    After Peedee relapsed, we started taking him to the drive-in with us…partially because we wanted to try new things with him, but also because we didn’t want to leave him home alone. (And I don’t think we did, not even once!) I was so nervous, since we’d tried it when he was younger and it was an epic failure. I thought for sure he’d make a scene and we’d be asked to leave. But he was okay and, perhaps more importantly, they were okay with him. The I-70 and Twin are really very dog-friendly; not only do they allow dogs, but they keep the ticket windows stocked with dog treats and sometimes host dog-themed events during the day.

    I’ve learned not to take this for granted, particularly in light of the drive-in that opened in St. Joseph a few years back – and explicitly disallowed dogs. (They only lasted a season or two. You do the maths.)

    Anyway, to get the point: they helped us create some really special memories with Peedee, and I’m forever indebted to them for that. And it certainly can’t hurt to tell them as much.

    2015-07-21 - Going to the Drive-In - 0061 [flickr]

    The 2016 season opens tonight, and though Peedee won’t be there with me in person, you can bet his spirit will do a little happy dance in my heart.

    (More below the fold…)

    I’ll always Gotcha, Peedee. (aka, “The Peedee Post”)

    Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

    X-Mas 2015 - In Memoriam (Peedee)

    Oh, Peedee. I can’t believe it’s been thirteen years since we met. I wish I could say that I remember it like it was yesterday, but I’m getting on in years and my memory isn’t quite what it used to be. Plus, there’s the hazy cloud of grief that’s been hanging over my head … since your death, and those of Ralphie and Kaylee. Some days it makes it impossible to think. Like swimming through dark molasses, half blind and sluggishly slow.

    So no, not like yesterday. But clear enough. I still remember the moment a volunteer (your foster mom?) placed you in my lap. You were so silly and squirmy and full of crazy puppy energy. We went to the adoption event looking for a slightly older companion for Ralphie. But the second I wrapped my arms around you, I knew you were coming home with us.

    It still hurts my heart, all these years later, to think that we ever considered giving you back. Ralphie got sick of your antics about a week in, remember? And us being the young and (somewhat) inexperienced dog people we were, we kind of panicked. But things got better. So, so much better. You and Ralphie ended up besties.

    2003-08-15 - Peedee&Ralphie-16 [1024x768]

    (Ralphie and Peedee and Rennie – I’ll always think of you guys as the original three. Even though there was less time separating Kaylee and Jayne’s adoption from Rennie’s than between, say, you and Ralphie or you and Rennie, you three stick together like glue in my mind. Maybe it’s because you three all got on so well. Kaylee mostly fit in, except that Ralphie all but ignored her. Like he thought two friends was enough and refused to acknowledge the later adoptees. And then the same thing happened with Mags and Finnick: Mags integrated rather quickly, while Finnick is still fighting to, much like Jayne. Three and five and seven, that’s how you all appear in my mind. You all reference each other, in a weird way, and maybe that makes each loss hurt all the more.)

    The sense of shame and regret lingers, though, especially now that you’re gone. To think that we almost never got to know you – it’s too much to bear. Even with the cancer. I’d go through it all a million times over; you’re worth that, and so much more.

    It’s been nearly four months since we lost you, and it’s hasn’t gotten much easier. Take this post, for example: I meant to write it months ago, but kept dragging my heels. It all feels so final, you know? Talking about it. Admitting that you’re really, truly gone. That those last six months went by just as quickly as I feared they would.

    I’ve been holding a lot in, so this is bound to be long and rambly. Then again, you always were the best listener. Humor your old mom, okay?

    (More below the fold…)

    Twelve Little Rennie Things

    Friday, March 11th, 2016

    2016-02-19 - Rennie - 0003 [flickr]

    Eleven years ago today Shane and I drove up to Animal Haven (now the Great Plains SPCA) in Merriam to meet a few dogs available for adoption. There was Sir Wagsalot (actually I think his name was Wagsley, but I like my version better), a beagle mix who looked friendly enough but had just arrived and wasn’t quite ready to be adopted out yet. Then there was Rachel, a rat terrier who was so disagreeable around other small dogs that she got a whole outdoor run to herself. Her kennel had one of those igloo-type dog houses, plopped down right in the center of the yard; I remember when we pulled up, she was perched atop it like she was queen of the world. And last but not least was Rennie, our lukewarm porridge: just right. Ready to go ASAP and a little ball of friendly energy.

    Trouble was, we weren’t the only family interested, and the staff wanted to introduce her to Ralphie and Peedee before taking her home. So we raced back to Stilwell – a twenty-minute drive one way – to grab the little buggers.

    Ralphie was totes chill about the whole thing, as per usual, but Peedee. Peedee! He was soooooo nervous. Ralphie only spent one night in the pound before he was snatched up by DRNA and put right into a foster home – so maybe he didn’t remember enough to be scared by a visit to an animal shelter? But then Peedee went right into foster care too; I don’t think he really had any negative experiences to color his perceptions either. Probably it all came down to Peedee being a high-strung, overly anxious bundle of nerves. (Yet another thing he and I shared in common.)

    So anyway, Ralphie went right up to Rennie and started checking her out, while Peedee hid behind me and tried to retreat back to the car. All while Rennie chased him around with no small amount of curiosity and excitement. He was terrified of her! Little ten-pound Rennie, scrappy and sniffling with kennel cough. Even back then, they were so cute together.

    Of course, you all know how the story ends: we brought Rennie home and she and Peedee and Ralphie all got to be the best of friends. And then Kaylee came along and adopted her as a porcine daughter; and when she passed away, Mags stepped in to fill the role. She’s a little bossy and doesn’t have Kaylee’s curvaceous marshmallow shape, but I know that Rennie’s happy to have her just the same. I sure am.

    Here’s the part where I share twelve little things I love about Rennie: one for each year of her life. I’ll keep adding to this list annually, until I run out – so basically from now until the day I die. Because Rennie? She’s all kinds of awesome.

    2016-02-18 - Digging With Rennie & Jayne - 0062 [flickr]

    (More below the fold…)

    Book Review: Burn Baby Burn, Meg Medina (2016)

    Monday, March 7th, 2016

    Burn that mother down.

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free ARC for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program. Trigger warning for domestic violence.)

    The bruise on my neck is compact and the color of liver. It’s right at my voice box, too, so when I stand at the mirror, it looks like a bullet hole to the throat.

    Mima pretends she doesn’t see it.

    We’re in a secret club together. All those times I never asked about her wrists, about the fleshy part of her thigh, even the faint circle of teeth at her cheeks all those years ago after one of Hector’s tantrums. More recently, the days she uses my CoverGirl without my permission.

    All too often, anti-rape campaigns focus on the victims rather than the perpetrators. Under the guise of “helpful advice,” women are told what we can do to avoid being raped: Don’t accept drinks from strangers. Don’t take your eyes off the drink you bought yourself. Don’t get drunk in public. Don’t drink in public, period. Don’t walk home alone. Don’t walk the streets at night, period. Sometimes the advice is downright contradictory: Wear pants, since they make rape slightly more difficult. But don’t wear skinny jeans because, in the event that you are raped, no one will believe you. (Skinny jeans are so difficult to peel off that your rapist must have had your cooperation and thus your consent.)

    At best, these “tips” are given with good intentions and provide a false sense of control over a chaotic world. At worst, they’re a crass attempt to police the behavior of women – for our own protection, of course. *

    Perhaps most alarmingly, these types of rape prevention campaigns contribute to the stereotype of the rapist as a menacing stranger, lurking in the bushes or an alleyway, just waiting for the perfect victim to come along; an animal prowling the urban jungle. Someone evil and unknowable. An anomaly.

    In reality, 82% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. They are our partners, our dates, our friends, our coworkers, and our classmates. How does walking home in a group help to prevent rape when the rapist is waiting for us at home?

    (More below the fold…)

    Mini-Review: Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess, Janet Hill (2016)

    Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

    Whimsical Artwork Paired With Sage Advice

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free e-book for review through NetGalley.)

    I don’t usually gravitate to kids’ books, but with a title like Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess I was powerless to resist. Dog Governess? Hello! That’s only my dream job! That and reading books for a living. Preferably from the bottom of a warm, cozy dog pile. But I digress.

    I have four rescue dogs (down from seven at the highest point) and also foster, so I’m betting that I’m the target audience for this book. Or one of them anyway. While obviously suitable for kids, Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess is also likely to appeal to adults who love dogs, as well as connoisseurs of irreverent animal art.

    Mother to a monkey named Mitford and Petunia the French bulldog, the redheaded Miss Moon is employed as a governess to sixty-seven dogs on an island off the coast of France. In this book, she shares the lessons she’s learned from her canine companions. Twenty pieces of wisdom, each illustrated by a lovely portrait of Miss Moon and her furry charges.

    While Miss Moon’s guidance is indeed inspired – who can argue with advice like “Friends come in many shapes and sizes” or “A good book will chase away the dark”? – really it’s the artwork that will take your breath away. Each scene resembles a painting on canvas; I would happily hang any one of these images on my walls. There are dogs in hats, dogs in Halloween costumes, and dogs dressed as pirates. (So many pirates!) Dogs at the dinner table and dogs riding bicycles. Big dogs and tiny dogs and every dog in between. I think I even spotted my own dogs: a dachshund (no surprise – everyone loves a wiener dog!) and a fox or Jack Russell terrier of some sort (representations of these being a little harder to find).

    Even the book’s layout appears to be carefully considered; the colors and background on the “advice” pages complement the illustrations like whoah. Really, this is one gorgeous children’s book – and I say this having only seen the electronic version. Usually I prefer the print version for books that have a heavy graphic element. I can’t wait to get my hands on a “real” copy.

    (More below the fold…)

    This Week in Pictures: Telling Peedee’s Story to Its End

    Sunday, February 14th, 2016

    2011-06-30 - Peedee hearts HDM - 0007

    Oh, man. I’ve been putting off writing this post for so long that I’m not quite sure where to start. I guess the beginning is as good a place as any?

    Many of you know that my oldest furkid, Peedee, passed away right before Thanksgiving due to complications from cancer. He was first diagnosed in March 2014; a few weeks later, he underwent surgery to remove a tumor, along with a sizable portion of one lung. Nine months later, the cancer returned and he started chemo. It worked swimmingly until it didn’t. (That was always the case: we got bad news when we were expecting good, and good when we expected bad.) On May 20th – the two-year anniversary of Kaylee’s death, as it just so happened – the oncologist gave him 2-3 months to live. Probably closer to two. She was doubtful that he’d still be around to celebrate his 13th birthday at the end of August.

    We immediately put him on CBD oil. I would have done it a year+ sooner, if only I’d known that you can buy it online, legally (or semi-legally) in all 50 states. It’s not quite as potent as the stuff you can get in medical or recreational marijuana states, but I still think it helped. Scratch that: I’m positive it helped. He outlasted the oncologist’s best-case scenario by three months, and had a really good quality of life right up until the last few days. In any case, it was better than doing nothing; just sitting back and watching him die. This topic deserves its own series of posts, but suffice it to say: this ordeal only strengthened my stance on legalization. It’s like my main beef with Hillary Clinton at this point. But I digress.

    About the same time that Peedee was waging his 20-month battle with cancer, I discovered Cane’s Bucket List on facebook. Cane was a 6-year-old pibble whose people planned a whole “bucket list journey” for him after he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Simple goals like “pictures in front of the Dallas skyline” and “paw print art projects” soon gave way to some really amazing experiences when Cane checked off item #14, “be featured on NBC DFW.” Not only did he get to sit on Santa’s lap – Cane’s caregivers threw him his own damn Christmas party. Talk about shiny!

    I wanted to do something similar for Peedee, but … by this time, he was old and a little fussy and set in his ways. Also, the phobia he’d developed of the car – thanks in no small part to all those unpleasant vet appointments – didn’t really help. So I came up with a slightly less ambitious bucket list (called the Peedee-Do List) and resolved to share pictures of our progress each week. Enter: This Week in Pictures. (I still don’t love the series title, but it’ll have to do.)

    Our last post was on November 3rd. Peedee was still doing reasonably well then, but symptoms of his illness (labored breathing, a decline in endurance) had begun popping up and just couldn’t be ignored. I knew Peedee didn’t have much time left, and I wanted to spend as much of it as I could spoiling him. So I put the bucket list blogging on hold.

    This week, I’ve spent a lot of time looking back on those old posts. It’s a bittersweet thing. We created so many happy memories together, but now they’re all I have of him. I wish I could go back and do it all over again. All the stress and worry and anticipatory grief? I’d relive it in a never-ending cycle, just to see him again.

    After Peedee died, I was lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself. When Peedee relapsed, he became the center of our lives. Everything we did, we did with him in mind. Fostering, doctor’s appointments, traveling: we put it all on hold. Peedee went everywhere with us…and if he couldn’t come, we didn’t go. I don’t think I ever left him home alone, not once. Now that he’s gone, I’m adrift. Unmoored. Directionless.

    It took months before I was able to go through those last batches of pictures. Nearly three, apparently, before I could bring myself to write this last This Week in Pictures post. Even if it’s really just for me, I feel like I have to. Tell the story to its end, that is. (Yes, I totally lifted that title from a book in my TBR pile.)

    Peedee was a devoted friend, a loving older (and younger) brother, and a crazy smart dog with a big, mushy heart to match. If I needed comforting, I could always count on Peedee to give it, and generously. He felt timeless, as though he’d always been with me, and always would be. And he will, in a way: in pictures and memories and blog posts like this one. He lives in my heart, and in the tubes, and in the stars. In bubbles in a glass of champagne.

    On his last night, we told him stories.

    (More below the fold…)

    The Christmas Post: Better Late Than Never

    Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

    2016-01-05 - O-Ren - 0004 [flickr]

    The title pretty much says it all. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a month now, but what it lacks in timeliness, it makes up for with cute doggy pics.

    Shane and I didn’t do much for Christmas, on account of being in mourning and all, but I did spoil the dogs with a ton of gifts. Buying dog toys is a bit of a gamble, since they can be kind of random with their preferences. That’s okay, though; if my dogs don’t like a certain toy, sooner or later a foster will come along who does. (ALWAYS send the fosters home with a gift basket!)

    Rennie does have one weak spot: BALLS. She was big on tennis balls for awhile, but once she lost most of her teefies, she switched to plush balls. Her all-time favorite is the medium Skins ball made by Aspen/Booda. Made, past tense: while I was doing my holiday shopping, I discovered that they discontinued it. I was so bummed, you guys! I imagine this is how parents feel when, rushing around on x-mas eve, they spot the very last Barbie Saddle ‘N Ride Horse on the shelf, only to have some stranger beat them to it by a millisecond. I SHOULD HAVE FILLED A WAREHOUSE WHEN I HAD THE CHANCE.

    So I did what any good mom would do, and I bought every single other kind of plush ball I could find. Something like 48 of them, when all was said and done. Rather than wrap them all individually, I put them all in one box and dumped it over Rennie’s head. The video was not as dramatic as I’d hoped.

    But she loves her new balls and really that’s all I could ask for. Still, she has not abandoned her six original Booda balls, which are scrappy with saliva yet in surprisingly good shape considering how much she uses them. I guess she treats them with extra loving care. Most of her balls look like swiss cheese or fluffy amoebas after just a few days.

    Sadly, Rennie was more or less alone in unwrapping gifts this year; Peedee was the only other dog who was super-into it. Jayne helped, a little – but she was more interested in eating the paper than playing with the gifts inside.

    2015-12-25 - Christmas Doggies! - 0074 [flickr]

    Mags and Finnick want nothing to do with our human nonsense. I even tried wrapping a few treats for them – like I did for Peedee’s birthday – but even that wasn’t enough to pique their interest. They just are not accustomed to working for their meals. (Mags has trained me to feed her by hand, yo! Diva much?)

    After the jump you’ll find some more x-mas pics, mostly of Rennie since she’s the only one who really performed for us. Most of the presents were for her, so…fair’s fair I guess.

    (More below the fold…)

    Vegan Christmas Cookies Infiltrate Your Gift Basket

    Thursday, January 7th, 2016

    2015-12-24 - Vegan Christmas Cookie Basket - 0005 [flickr]

    Admittedly, our Christmas cookie game was a little on the weak side this year; all I wanted to do was binge-watch The Closer and shovel potato chips down my gullet. But we always make a gift basket for the neighbors, and Shane insisted on keeping with tradition even if it meant he made everything himself. The horror, right? So we compromised and split the work.

    For a change of pace (and also because I’ve all but exhausted the holiday options in The Vegan Cookies Connoisseur), I decided to pull the recipes from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. This was my first time baking from it, and I was curious to see how Cookie Jar would stack up next to my well-worn, much-loved copy of Connoisseur. Which I honestly cannot recommend enough.

    As per usual, we planned to make more than we needed – that way, if one of the recipes didn’t come out quite right, we’d still have enough cookies to fill a good-sized tin. (It’s never come to this, but it doesn’t hurt to have a Plan B.) Best-case, we’d end up with some leftovers to enjoy ourselves. (A-hah! Our true motivation.)

    2015-12-23 - VCIYCJ No-Bake Pecan Choc - 0005 [flickr]

    No-Bake Pecan Chocolates – A cross between a cookie and a candy bar (cluster?), these no-bake pecan chocolates are super-easy to make and keep well – so basically they’re the perfect choice for a bake-a-thon such as this, since you can make them ahead or in a pinch. They’re okay-tasting; not my favorite, but not my least favorite either. (Shane liked them more than I did.) The brown rice syrup is a little overwhelming, threatening to drown out the chocolate and pecan flavors. Also they’re very sticky, though this isn’t necessary a negative; unlike the oh-so-delicate PB Crisscrosses (see below), these bad girls should hold together well during shipping.

    2015-12-23 - VCIYCJ PB Crisscrosses - 0002 [flickr]

    Peanut Butter Crisscrosses – These were by far my favorite of the bunch; so much so that I claimed all the extras for myself. (They don’t call me Cookie Monster for no reason, okay.) The instructions say to cook these directly on a greased cookie sheet – no parchment paper allowed! – which had me sweating bullets. (Barenaked cookie sheets and I have a history, and it is not pretty; more often than not, it ends in ashes and tears and broken dreams.) But it worked! Not a burnt or broken cookie in sight. In fact, these are thin and delicate and deliciously crumbly, in stark contrast to the thick and hearty peanut butter cookies I’m used to. So good, but tricky to pack (pro tip: let them chill overnight).

    2015-12-23 - VCIYCJ Chocolate Crinkles - 0008 [flickr]

    Chocolaty Crinkle Cookies – I’m still on the fence with these. They’re easy enough to make, but go much faster if you have a partner – one person to scoop the dough and another to roll them in the two (two!) different piles of sugar (white and powdered). And while they’re actually kind of addictive, with a rich, fudgy center, I swear they have a slightly funny aftertaste, similar to the No-Bake Pecan Chocolates. Maybe it’s the dark corn syrup I’m tasting? idk, I’ve never worked with it before.

    Thankfully, dipping them in vanilla buttercream helps. The taste, if not your general mood and energy.

    Note to self: Must make these into cookie sandwiches some time.

    2015-12-24 - VCIYCJ Irish Creme Kisses - 0002 [flickr]

    Irish Creme Kisses – Alcoholic cookies ftw! I love me a good frosted cookie, and Irish Creme Kisses are no exception. These cookies are a little on the stout and fat side, so I had to thicken the icing substantially to prevent massive runoff. Other than that, the recipe went off without a hitch.

    2015-12-24 - Peppermint Mocha Brownies - 0001 [flickr]

    Peppermint Mocha Brownies – This is the only non-cookie dessert we made this year. It was kind of a last minute executive decision, so decreed because we had the time and also miscellaneous ribbon candy to spare. All but two squares got shipped off the the neighbors; enough for Shane and I to each get a taste. These are kind of interesting, kind of like a fudgy brownie with a crispy candy topping. Not the kind of dessert I’d have a lot, but perfect for this time of year. (Recipe via Fried Dandelions.)

    2015-12-24 - VCIYCJ Irish Creme Kisses - 0004 [flickr]

    Finnick and Rennie can has kisses?
    Or, How the sausage is made. (The sausage being gourmet food porn photos.)
    ——————————

    Oh, bother.

    Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

    2015-12-16 - Mags Eeyore - 0057 [flickr]

    Since losing Peedee exactly one month ago today, the mood has been pretty morose around here. “Not in the holiday spirit” is kind of an understatement: I didn’t even realize that it was Thanksgiving until ~6PM the night of; I did the bare minimum in terms of Christmas decorating (the requisite tree + a few childhood items and every dog-themed decoration I own; I may have been several weeks late, but I got it done in record time – three hours instead of the usual three days!); and the only gifts I managed to buy were for the dogs. For a hot second, I actually considered skipping the annual holiday cards entirely: TOO. MUCH. WORK.

    But my kiddos aren’t getting any younger, and I’m afraid that we don’t have that many more Christmases together. For all I know, this could even be someone’s last. (Knock on wood; I can’t handle any more bad news for at least another year or two. Preferably twenty.) And how shitty would I feel in retrospect if I decided to hell with Christmas this year? (Worst human mother in the world type shitty, more or less.)

    So I decided to power through with an impromptu Winnie the Pooh theme, and who cares if I’m a little late? (Dear friends and relatives: Your cards will be late this year. Don’t think it’s because you got bumped from my list, or that I only sent you a card after receiving yours. I am just moving like molasses on account of my depression and apathy.)

    The theme was inspired by the dread I felt as the holiday season approached: “Oh, bother.” And then I thought, hey, wouldn’t it be adorable to dress Jayne – mopey, doe-eyed, sad sack Jayne – up as Eeeyore, Eeeyore being what would really should have named her in the first place? (Jayne Cobb the girl ain’t.) And simply title it “Oh, bother.” The sentiment is apropos, but also still hella cute.

    To wit:

    X-Mas 2015 - Oh Bother (Main)

    (Click on the image to embiggen. They look better in the larger sizes, I swear!)

    But of course I couldn’t begin and end with Jayne; for the supporting cast, I bought an Eeyore hat online (stuffing the top with newspaper, so the adult size would kinda sorta fit on their tinny lil’ goggie heads) and took some pictures that I’d planned on making into “outtake” cards. But I’ll be damned if the outtake didn’t turn out better than the original!

    X-Mas 2015 - Smallest Things (Main)

    (All the quotes, by the by, are Pooh-based. I like saying that – “Pooh” – because it reminds me of Peedee. Pooh, Pooh, Poo!)

    So everyone will, in point o’ facts, be getting two cards this year, to make up for their tardiness. Win/win.

    I also made a series of “in memoriam” pseudo-cards just for me. Normally I’d say “just for funsies,” except I was bawling my eyes out the whole time I worked on them. Damn you, A. A. Milne, and your lovely, life-affirming, friendship-celebrating one-liners.

    (More below the fold…)

    untitled

    Thursday, November 19th, 2015

    I’m afraid we might be nearing the end with Peedee. :(

    Last night was rough. Because of his reduced lung capacity, he has trouble getting comfortable; his breathing is rapid and shallow, and his lungs need plenty of room for their extra workload. It was much worse than usual yesterday evening, so we decided to try some melatonin before bed.

    (Which, as it turns out, has recently been studied in canine cancer. Early results suggest it might “neutralize” – I’m paraphrasing here – certain cancer cells. Another thing I maybe should have been doing all along.)

    Anyway, it didn’t work as I’d hoped; I got up at 3AM to go to the bathroom and noticed that he was awake, but not moving around, shifting and readjusting like he would normally. The most comfortable position for him seems to be lying on his stomach with his head up and alert, which isn’t exactly relaxing. But that’s how he sat most of the night. So I stayed up and comforted his as best I could, but. Yeah. It wasn’t nearly enough.

    (It’s weird, Mags came and joined me on the queen bed overnight, but Rennie stayed waaay over on the opposite side of the king. She didn’t even try to wake me when the sun came up.)

    I don’t know if we can survive another night of this. This morning Shane and I had THE TALK. I mean, we’ve discussed euthanasia before of course, but this was the first serious, maybe it’s time to pull the trigger discussion.

    But he still enjoys eating, and going on walks (short as they may be), barking at strangers (and Finnick!), and playing with his toys! All the benchmarks those do-you-or-don’t-you euthanasia lists tick off. How can I end his life when there are still parts of it that he loves?

    I don’t know. We’ve got some calls out to the mobile vets to see how early they could come if we made an appointment today. Shane’s first choice can do it in an hour…or on Monday. There’s always Blue Pearl in a pinch, but I don’t want a sterile office to be the last thing Peedee sees. I really want him to die at home, in his own bed, if possible. But Monday seems so terribly far away this morning.

     

    Updated 11/19/15, 7:45PM:

    We have an appointment scheduled for 3PM on Monday, with promises from three different mobile vets to call us if they have an opening before then. Worst case, we can take him to the ER at Blue Pearl; throw some blankets in the van, bring Rennie for the ride, and pretend we’re going on a walk. As to keeping him comfortable in the meantime, our regular vet recommended Benadryl to help him sleep. He’s so sick of pills that we finally gave up on the CBD oil and decided to shove the Benadryl down his throat, lest we ruin food for him altogether. (He’s an expert at sniffing it out, we’ve been at this for so long.)

    We gave him a little Benadryl this morning and I think he was able to get a few hours of good sleep in before lunch. There are like four places in the house that he really seems to like, the memory foam pillow at the end of the twin bed in the sunroom being one. (He is VERY SPECIFIC in his preferences!)

    After that we took him to Wallace State Park. I think he enjoyed the fresh air, but it was slow going (.6 miles in 40 minutes slow). And he loves car rides again, so worst case, we would have driven there, walked a circle around the van, and driven back. Gonna try again tomorrow and the day after that, if he’s feeling up to it.

    Right now he’s kinda-sorta snoozing on the couch (on top of the corner back cushion, which is perfectly indented in the middle to fit his growing belly – spot #2). He had some Benadryl with dinner and we’ll give him another dose before bed, so hopefully he’ll sleep some (most?) of the night. I’d rather not dope him up all day if I can help it, but this morning was a special exception – we were both beat from the lack of sleep last night.

    So that’s where we’re at. Thanks for all the kind words – I haven’t had a chance to respond to everyone yet, but it means the world. This never gets any easier, but I feel so, so lucky to have had as much time with him as I did. Tomorrow will be six months since we learned of the relapse. The oncologist gave him 2-3 months then. Everything past August? Gravy.

    (I sound chipper, but nah. I am bawling my stupid eyes out over here. Pretty much every time Peedee’s not in the room.)

    This Week in Pictures #24: Halloween ed.!

    Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

    — SUNDAY —

    2015-10-25 - Napping in the Sunroom - 0002 [flickr]

    The weather was warm-ish, so we spent the afternoon napping (them) and reading (me) in the sunroom before we left for the movies. I suspect we’re going to have to close it up soon for the winter, so best enjoy it while we still can!

    2015-10-25 - Napping in the Sunroom - 0011 [flickr]

    2015-10-25 - Napping in the Sunroom - 0010 [flickr]

    I’m really starting to build quite the collection of pictures of Mags paired with adult-type books: Mags and Bitch magazine; Mags & Other Monsters; Mags hearts Bitch Planet. Now: Mad Mags, Furry Road. I feel like maybe I should start a Mags + Books tumblr? Yay or nay? (I think you know where Mags stands on this.)

    2015-10-25 - Going to the Drive-In - 0001 [flickr]

    Going to the drive-in! We saw The Last Witch Hunter (predictably cheesy) and Sicario (a little weird, but good; ever since Edge of Tomorrow, I love me some Emily Blunt).

    2015-10-25 - Going to the Drive-In - 0038 [flickr]

    Peedee wants to know, what is the holdup on his french fries? (Yup, I share my fries with him. ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING HE WANTS.)

    (More below the fold…)

    Stacking the Shelves: October in Books

    Saturday, October 31st, 2015

    2015-10-29 - Book Mail - 0001 [flickr]

    Lucinda Riley was nice enough to give away a copy of her latest novel, The Seven Sisters, on her Facebook page, and I won! This book traveled all the way from the UK to be with me, you guys.

    2015-10-28 - Banned Books Week Prize Pack - 0003 [flickr]

    Check out this awesome Banned Book day prize pack I won from @Simon Teen – a whole set of Ellen Hopkins’s YA titles. Enough to keep me busy for at least a month.

    2015-10-24 - You're Never Weird - 0001 [flickr]

    Shelf Awareness sent me a copy of You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), signed by Felicia Day herself!

    2015-10-23 - LT Spoils - 0001 [flickr]

    The latest in Library Thing spoils: an audio version of Devoted, courtesy of Recorded Books. I really enjoyed Jennifer Mathieu’s first book, The Truth About Alice, and have been looking forward to this one as well!

    (More below the fold…)