Sunday Salon – A Brand New Education

It took a while for me to decide whether or not to do the RN/BSN program. Weighing pros and cons, what have you. Besides the cost, which is considerable, I got some very bad news. First, I went to a private school for my nursing program and none of my credits transfer. It is a complete redo. Another problem is general ed. Most of the classes stay good for 30 years but guess what? I went to San Jose State OVER 30 years ago! I’m old!

When I saw the list of general ed and nursing prerequisites I had to take I almost backed out. Almost. Then I decided to be brave. This is a challenge, no doubt. Should I stand strong, or give up and run away?

I decided to accept the challenge and do one better. Adjust my attitude. Look at it this way. I get to redo everything I did way back when I was a kid, not married, no children, and no significant life experiences to speak of. Of course I thought I knew everything, which is laughable now.  So I am curious. What will that same education be to a grown woman who has lived life, raised children, and has had much more experience?

Turns out, pretty interesting. Yes I started out with Anatomy and Physiology. That is where I live now. But I have a couple of Literature/Composition classes and thought it might be good to get some old familiars out of the way.

English Literature was my major way back when I wanted to be librarian. So I got my binder and Literature book for the first class and leafed through the index. Wow, there is some good stuff here! Ok, we have to read Ibsen. I guess there is just no getting away from Ibsen when studying literature. He’s like the insufferable uncle that you always have to invite to family functions.  There is also not as much Shakespeare as I would like, but to me, there can never be too much Shakespeare.

But the selection of short stories I have read so far are terrific! I just finished Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find. So scary. I also read The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.

I don’t know what it is, but I just seem to get it now. The nuances, the subtle language, the flow of the writing. I love it!

I figure, get the most out of the non-nursing/science classes. Expanding your mind in any way is good, right?

Bring it!

Sunday Salon: I Can Finally Read Regular Books Again!!


Finally! I graduated from nursing school at the end of September and last Monday took my NCLEX and passed! I am a licensed nurse now! Yep. Nurse Jaimie on duty. So I put all my nursing, NCLEX prep, etc. books away for the first time in over a year.  My house looks like a normal home now!

Here are a couple pics from my pinning ceremony. My husband pinned me, he was so proud. What a wonderful night that was!


DSC_0092Yesterday we finally were able to celebrate and among other things we did, ended up at Barnes and Noble. Oh my goodness gracious am I behind in my reading! I picked up a couple books but it was difficult to hold back. I wanted everything!

When I was standing in line the women behind us were chatting and one of them said, When I get home, I’m just going to read.” I thought, wow! I can say that now too!

I have  Nook too, and for a while, that was all that I was using. But now that the novelty has worn off I have started to buy books again. I actually like having both, each has it’s place.

Here are the books I got.  I am going to start The Dante Club today because it seems like a fun and fast read. I probably need to ease mysef back into it.



Sunday Salon: I Know It’s May, But Can We Talk About Ghost Stories?


Last week my Nook shopping feature listed a haunted house book for only .99 which got pretty good reviews. I decided that despite the May flowers and sunshine, it was time to scare myself silly. It’s fun, isn’t it?

I don’t like to criticize authors so I won’t mention their name. The book was awful, terrible, very badly conceived and written. Finally giving up in disgust, I realized that most of the ghost stories I read over the years either fell into the category of fantastic or a complete dog. Why is this?

On the surface, writing a ghost story doesn’t seem tremendously difficult. They all follow certain patterns and many use the same stereotypes. So what makes one story spine-tingling and another completely ridiculous? How can one allow the reader to suspend disbelief while another causes the reader say, yeah right?

What makes a good ghost story work?

First, it is all about escalation. The writer must build suspense. Apart from the popular use of the appetizer prologue, throwing spooks at people too soon ruins the tension. It is far scarier to think you are safe and slowly realize that something ain’t right in Denmark.



Stereotyping works up to a point in a scary story. You know the one where Mom/girlfriend and the kids see weird stuff while Dad/boyfriend is totally clueless. But if the character’s experience remains one-dimensional, the story quickly becomes tiresome. And this is important: unless the female character is intentionally being driven insane by her husband, ease up on anything approaching gaslighting. These stories with “Honey, it’s all in your imagination” husbands drive me crazy. You want to see something scary? Tell me I’m imagining things. No ghost can compete with my wrath.

Ghosts have a purpose or a reason for their hauntings. Traditionally they are:

  • To exact revenge on an evildoer
  • To send a message
  • Get out of my house! Or, join us here.
  • Acting out because they are ticked off/opportunistic at being woken or called up via occult or other means.
  • Random hauntings that are associated with a particular place, time, or thing.


The human element needs to be believable. In fact, the more plausible the character’s responses, the more the reader can suspend disbelief towards supernatural events. In ghost stories, identification with the characters is crucial. You can’t get scared if you can’t put yourself in their position. Dysfunction or addiction in other characters can intensify the drama. For example, the mom’s religious mania in Carrie or Jack’s alcoholism in The Shining. Ok, Carrie isn’t technically a ghost story, but you see what I mean?

Death in ghost stories is a natural by-product.  However, knocking off people right and left will sometimes weaken, rather than strengthen the effect. Why is this? Because it is the threat of harm that builds terror.

Some people just have a gift for storytelling. I once read a short story called The Haunted Saucepan. Really, a pot? But seriously, it was creepy! My husband thought so also. In fact, while I was writing this post, he mentioned that story specifically.

A good storyteller can make the ordinary super scary. Remember in the movie Paranormal Activity when the sheet blew up just a little bit? Or when the bedroom door moved just slightly? Bleeding walls couldn’t compare to the start those gave me.

Here are some of my all time scary ghost story faves:

2c6f1ccb8c52d565934514a53774141414d6741The Shining by Stephen King

Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

It by Stephen King (more a monster than a ghost)

Ghost Story by Peter Straub

The Virago Book of Ghost Stories edited by Richard Dalby (has The Haunted Saucepan)

What are your favorite ghost stories? What makes them scary to you?

Sunday Salon – Reading Between Terms; Or, Finally a Free Weekend!


Third term finals are over and fourth term begins bright and early at 6:00 Monday morning. What to do with two and a half days of freedom from homework and stress? How about a little reading? I started a couple of books quite a while ago and have been inching my way through them.

The first one is Clara and Mr. Tiffany by SusanVreeland. It is the story of Clara Driscoll, a designer who worked for Louis Tiffany in the late 1800s. It’s a fascinating story, not only because of the details that went into describing the beautiful glass artwork, but because it is about a woman who had a relatively successful career in a time when most people thought women stayed at home. News flash: many women worked.

Another aspect that I am just getting to is where I found out that it is Clara and not Louis Tiffany who brainstormed and designed the famous Tiffany lamps. She’s just now getting started on the dragonflies which is special to me because I own a beautiful table lamp with the Tiffany-inspired dragonfly pattern. It is one of my favorite things.


Another book I started on is Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult. It was given to me by a nurse at work who said it was pretty good for a Jodi Picoult. Both of us feel the same way about this author. Picoult is a good writer, but we just don’t know if we like her books. I had previously read Plain Truth and was completely weirded out, especially by the ending. She had a similar experience with another one of her books but assured me that Salem Falls was pretty good, so I’m going with that.

Other than that we had a pretty quiet weekend. My daughter’s car had some trouble so we went over to help with that. Correction, my husband helped with the car while my daughter and I yakked and played with Zach.

<a href=””>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

I’m a Free Woman!… Sort of…


Yesterday was my last night at work! After working full time and going to nursing school full time, I finally took the plunge and quit to focus on school. It is both super scary and a tremendous relief. So here I am, up at 6:00 am, typing on my computer. I couldn’t even sleep in the first day! I figure it may take some time to sink in.

So what have I been reading lately? Uh….nursing books. Does that count? I found the underlying themes for the Gastrointestinal Disorders chapter quite riveting. Sorry, I’m feeling a little punchy. Did I mention I just quit my job?

One of my goals is to post every week in Sunday Salon. And a super-duper goal is to do two regular blog posts a week, one for cross stitch, one for books.  Which of course means I need to find time to read and do cross stitch every week.

I have other goals too. One is to get my health back. I am run down. I used to kid around that I had chronic fatigue syndrome, but in the last month, it was no joke.

I’m thinking about making some coffee and watching the sunrise. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

Books Read in 2012 – Or, A Year Interrupted

TSSbadge4[1]This year I read just 34 books. I knew going in that it was not going to be a high count. With work, school, and all my other commitments, I simply had very little time to read for pleasure. However, I took much care in choosing the books I read. Of course there were a few dogs, there always are. I was careful in trying to locate well reviewed books, in many different genres, in order to have a solid, if pitifully small body of works read by the end of the year.

Top Five Books of the Year in no particular order:

92689786The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier – taking place in the fifteenth century, this story is a fictional account about the commission and creation of the series of six tapestries that now hang in the Musee du Moyen-Age, in Paris, France.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – two illusionists compete against the backdrop of a fantastical black and white circus.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – children compete to the death in a game of power and control.

82714967The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson – a clever interweaving of two stories: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the construction of the Chicago 1893 World’s Fair and H.H.Holmes, a serial killer who designed  his own torture and murder house.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – a woman goes missing and everything points to her husband. But things aren’t always as they seem.

Most Challenging Book:

29182687The Satanic Verses by Salmon Rushdie – I will definitely reread this incredibly complex work someday. It contains highly fantastical elements along with history, legend, and family drama. This is a very controversial work in the Muslim community. If any of my Muslim fb friends feel offended that I read this, please know it was not meant in any way as an insult to you or your faith. To be honest, I do not know enough about your religion to even judge this book according to those aspects.  My ignorance in that regard has challenged me to research and understand your beliefs better. I welcome your comments.

Book Club Books:

92689820Ragnarok: The End of the Gods by A.S. Byatt – I read this for Slaves of Golconda. A young girl who escapes from the London bombings with her mother passes the time reading Norse mythology. Mythology can be quite daunting, but it was a surprising little read. Thinking back, I haven’t read mythology beside the Metamorphoses by Ovid and I barely know any Norse mythology. Check it out.

I thought I would also present my list of cross stitch finishes. Yep, here it is, my list of one.

DSC00827You are My Sunshine by Country Cottage Needleworks. I did this for my brand new granddaughter back in May when she was born.

Pretty pathetic, I know. I have so many WIP’s but at some point this year they were put on the top shelf in my closet. I knew I wouldn’t get to them. Probably most of this year will be the same. But they will wait for me.

I hope everyone had a fantastic reading year. Looking forward to 2013!

The Sunday Salon – Good Reading Lately!

Nursing school starts at the beginning of October. Translation: I will have no personal life whatsoever for at least a year. So I’m prioritizing my reading to include my top TBRs. However, my best laid plans have gone off course repeatedly because great books are popping up along the way. The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol was a Nook freebie that my husband raved about so much, I left my precious list to read it.

I highly recommend it. You can get it for like $1.69 on Kindle right now and it’s worth it.  BTW, the boy was alive. That is not a spoiler, it is stated clearly in the details. I simply will not read a book about murdered children. No can do. The one glorious exception is It by Stephen King. But I’m talking about regular crime dramas and thrillers.

Nina, a Red Cross nurse in Copenhagen, is part of a network that gives medical care to illegal refugees. When an old friend asks her to pick up a suitcase in a public locker at the train station, she gets the surprise of her life. What follows is an intense, fast paced story about human trafficking, kidnapping, familial deceit, and betrayal.

Another book I read was The Power Of Myth by Joseph Campbell. I’m a fan, what can I say? After reading Ragnarok, The End of the Gods a few weeks ago, I needed to read more mythology. It’s fascinating stuff.

A bazillion years ago when I was an English major back at San Jose State, I became fascinated with archetypal imagery. An archetype is a universally understood symbol that can be a model of a person, personality, or behavior. Since the beginning of storytelling time they have been present in mythology, folklore, and literature.  Carl Jung advanced the concept of psychological archetypes.

Once upon a time I did a presentation on archetypal imagery. For examples I used the Major Arcana in a Tarot deck and compared them to Star Wars characters. It was a huge hit. There were a lot of Christians in class and they were practically on the edge of their seats. Everyone knows that taboo subjects increase interest and Tarot is a major no-no.  Many people came up to me afterwards to express surprise at how-not-satanic Tarot cards are. Some people apparently use them to tell the future but, let’s get real, tea leaves are also popular among the divination crowd and no one is starting a “drinking tea is satanic” campaign.

Have I gotten off the subject of books? It’s that kind of Sunday I guess. I finally started reading The Book Thief, and I’m eager to spend my afternoon with it. I made a huge pot of chicken chili yesterday which is almost gone and tacos are on the menu for tonight. We may go to Target later for a new pastry cutter. I made scones for breakfast yesterday and my old one has definitely seen better days. Not a very exciting weekend, but I feel very relaxed.

Historical Fiction – The Antidote to a Really Bad Week?

But no, I’m not going to talk about it. Just trust me, bad. Once the dust settled I wanted to settle down with a good book.  On a whim, I clicked on The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick in my Nook library. It was on sale a couple of months ago and I snagged it along with To Defy a King. Just a few pages in and I was hooked! It’s about the life of William Marshall, a 12th century knight at the time of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. I had already read a rather dry biography of the royal pair but this story brought them all to life. Marshall is very skilled and known for his loyalty, even when it costs him dearly.

What is it about history that is so comforting? The story is filled with war, family infighting, intrigue of every sort, envy, and betrayal. You know, just like real life. It also has loyalty, love, and hope which is real life also. We all have difficult people to deal with and not all situations end well. In fact, many are tragic. But the bigger picture shows that life and family are good, and so worth the energy and love we put into it.

Sorry if that sounds a little dramatic. I’m feeling very thoughtful these days and need to change gears. Since I finished the book I decided to start a little cross stitch project by Country Cottage Needleworks for my daughter whose baby girl is due in two weeks!!  I hope the blue background doesn’t look too boyish. It’s just supposed to be the sky. Melissa used to sing You Are My Sunshine when she was little and sounded so cute. This reminds me of her.

I hope everyone has a good week and Happy Reading!!

Sunday Salon – The Ultimate in True Crime

Back in the eighties and early nineties I was an ardent fan of true crime. It started with Ted Bundy: The Killer Next Door and moved on to other serial killers, domestic tragedies, and mafia leaders. I was starting to think I had a problem! But as they grew more formulaic, becoming light on story and heavy on police reports, my interest gradually faded. Problem solved.

Enter Eric Larson with his brand of true crime. He is scrupulous about fact yet tells a richly detailed story. The Devil in the White City tells the story of two men: serial killer H.H. Holmes (aka Herman Webster Mudgett) and Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the construction of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Amid slow committee decisions, financial problems, and temperamental architects, Burnham built Chicago’s wondrous White City while Holmes was constructing his terrifying dungeon where no one targeted for death left alive. Women, children, and a few men were among his victims.  He killed for profit and for fun. The juxtaposition of building the fair and wanton destruction of humanity was fascinating and kept what was really a rather horrifying story from becoming too dark.

I hope you pick up one of Eric Larson’s books this year. If you don’t want to read something this horrific, and I don’t blame you if you don’t, then try Thunderstruck.  I read this old-fashioned murder mystery years ago and it has none of the horrors of White City. It is set against the invention of wireless telepathy and is really quite interesting.

My review for Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman should be up soon. I hope everyone has a great reading week!

Sunday Salon – Old and New Genres

I read an outstanding book this week. I know already that it will be on my list of favorite books read in 2012. This is Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel The Night Circus, a beautifully crafted novel with magically wondrous imagery.

The actual plot of the story is a little disturbing.  Five-year old Celia arrives at the circus to meet her father Prospero the Enchanter after her mother commits suicide. After seeing her spectacular gifts in illusion he calls his friend Hector Bowen to stage a mysterious contest using her and someone of his choosing. After selecting a boy seemingly at random from the orphanage, Hector raises him solely to be part of this contest with Celia. The two illusionists learn that their only role in life is to be a pawn for the two men and must proceed without knowing the rules or when the game will end. Little do they know that the contest is over when one of them is dead.

The venue for the contest is The Night Circus, the extraordinary brainchild of Chandresh Christophe Lefevre and the two eventually become aware of the other’s identity. But what are two illusionists to do when they are in love and yet pitted against each other for the greatest stakes?

I so wanted to visit the Night Circus with its series of black and white tents, each holding a single event. Each tent is more fantastic than the last. Unbeknownst to Chandresh the two illusionists are creating additional tents with increasingly wondrous sights and experiences.

The abuse the two children experienced at the hands of their fathers was quite disturbing, Celia with physical and Marco with psychological. They were trapped for the whole of their lives to these two monsters. Yet, despite it all,  they managed to create something beautiful and love each other. It’s an uplifting story and I heartily recommend it.

It’s almost anticlimactic to talk about Silent Partner by Jonathon Kellerman. It’s a formulaic crime drama with a child psychologist as the investigator. Kellerman has been writing them for years but somehow I didn’t read this one from the 1980’s. His older ones are much, much better and I enjoyed this one quite a bit. It’s about two twins, the good and the bad, but because of their secrecy, it gets tangled up and it’s hard to know what is true or not. Of course there is the twist at the end that I wasn’t expecting and it all came together for one of those guilty pleasure type dramas.