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December 21, 2007

Book Review: Dangerous Admissions

Another publisher recently contacted me to ask whether I was interested in receiving a review copy of yet another new book. Never one to pass up a free book, I said yes. I don’t know exactly how they keep finding me, but I love this added benefit of blogging.

Dangerous Admissions: Secrets of a Closet Sleuth is billed as a “romantic suspense” novel. The author, Jane O’Connor, writes the bestselling children’s Fancy Nancy series. Since my little girl is all grown up and on to more adult reading now, I was not familiar with the Fancy Nancy books. Coincidentally, however, about a week after I received Dangerous Admissions I noticed one listed in the book order form that Matthew brought home from school. After reading O’Connor’s adult fiction, I am curious about her children’s books and would like to take a look at one of those, as well.

Dangerous Admissions takes place at a Manhattan prep school and opens with the shocking murder of the school’s college admissions counselor. The main character, 43 year old Rannie Bookman, has recently been fired from her job as a copyeditor at Simon and Schuster and is working part-time at the prep school when the murder takes place. She is immensely likeable, mostly because she seems much like your next door neighbor. It isn’t long until the endearingly neurotic mother of two with a fine-tuned attention to detail begins to look for possible clues to the murder. She has good reason to want to solve the mystery when her son, a senior at the prep school, becomes a prime suspect. There are plenty of suspects to choose from among O’Connor’s cast of characters who are multi-dimensional and believable (the teenagers certainly seemed authentic to me!) and help to carry the action along.

The prep school setting gives the reader a glimpse into that exclusive world, much as The Nanny Diaries did for Manhattan high society. It makes a perfect setting for a murder mystery when you factor in the storied competition for Ivy League undergrad spots that we have all heard about. As details about the victim’s puzzling relationships begin to emerge, the cast of potential suspects grows longer and Rannie’s search for the killer becomes increasingly complex.

O’Connor’s adult fiction debut is smart and funny and suspenseful. She is a talented writer and she does a masterful job of weaving together the various plot twists, turns, and a few red herrings as the story unfolds. While it won’t soon be added to any lists of great literature, Dangerous Admissions is a well-written, engaging mystery that keeps the reader turning the pages right up until the end. I recommend it to anyone looking for an entertaining and enjoyable mystery novel.

December 18, 2007

Catching Up

I know, I know…I’ve been MIA. I’ve been a bit preoccupied with finals and shopping and fighting spam bots, but I think I’ve gotten through the worst of it all. Well, I don’t know about the spam bots, but they’re at least under control even if they’re not yet completely vanquished. Finals prep is mostly to blame for the dearth of posting though. There’s something about preparing to write for 3 hours straight per test that totally messes up your writing mojo.

My last final brought a big sigh of relief. I can’t believe I made it through this semester and out the other side. I have no idea how I did, but I do know that I feel like I worked harder this semester than any other. My final final brought some comic relief, as well. The first sentence of the third and last question started like this, “John Smith is terminally ill with cancer.” When I first read it my heart sank, and I wondered if maybe I would end up crying while reading the fact pattern. I didn’t cry, though, and was able to write down something resembling an analysis of John Smith’s problem, which was that he wanted to have access to potentially life-saving drugs that had been banned by the FDA, yadda, yadda, yadda.

So finals are over and I fought the crowds to purchase the last Christmas gift today, so now it’s on to cleaning and cooking and preparing for a houseful of family over the next week or so.

And then I have to figure out what I’m going to write about. I’ve had more than enough to choose from over the past 8 months, but now that every day isn’t a struggle life has started to fall back into its normal, boring patterns for the most part. And I am so thankful for those normal, boring patterns. I love and appreciate how wonderful it is when my biggest concern is what I’m going to make for dinner or whose turn it is to carpool. I love being able to eat whatever I want and I love feeling good every day. But all this banality definitely cuts into my interesting writing material.

For today, I’ll leave you with an update about where I am. My hair is growing every day. It’s still short and thin and I keep it covered for warmth, but it’s very visible to everyone who sees my head. It has turned from light blond to dark blond (or possibly brown…it’s hard to tell what the color is right now). I also can’t tell yet if it’s going to be curly or straight. But I do find myself staring longingly at the top of my head in the mirror each night before I go to sleep, willing the hair to grow faster and longer and rubbing my hand over it to feel it. I also have new eyelashes! Unlike my hair, they are growing more rapidly than I would have expected. They are not very thick, but they are getting there. I even threw a tube of mascara in my cart while I was at Target this morning. I don’t think there is much to put it on yet, but I’m hoping that by next week I can actually use it. Small steps, right?

My nails are also growing fairly rapidly, which means that the part that was damaged by that last round of AC is on the top half of my nails now. The damaged part is quite brittle and weak so they keep breaking all the time, but it won’t be long until it’s all gone. I hope that I’ll be left with strong pink nails once the damaged stuff is gone.

Physically I feel great. Finals cut into my yoga time as well as my writing time, so I haven’t done much physical activity in the past couple of weeks. However, I think I am ready to go back to a regular work-out of some kind, and plan to do that once the holiday rush is behind me. Often when I wake up in the morning I find myself doing a self-check, half expecting to have some kind of bone pain or nausea. And each time I am immensely relieved and happy to realize that I’m done with that and that there’s nothing to keep me from feeling great every day. I suppose I have to begrudgingly thank cancer for teaching me to never take my health for granted, and to appreciate all the strength and health and vitality in my body every day.

I have a follow-up visit with the radiologist tomorrow and a follow-up mammogram scheduled for next week. I am already nervous about the mammogram, even while I’m anxious to get it done so that I know where things stand in there. It will be a diagnostic mammogram and I have scheduled it for the same place I had the diagnostic mammogram last April. On that day, the radiologist’s reaction to the films led me to believe that the lump I had found a few days before might be something very bad. My hope is that this trip to the same room has a very different result.

December 07, 2007

Technical Difficulties

I think the whole blog has been hijacked by the spam bots now. I can't seem to get any comments to work. If you've tried to leave a comment and you received a message that said the comment was being held for approval, I didn't get it. I'm only getting spam comments right now. (E-mail seems to be working fine, though, so you can always e-mail me instead.) I'm trying to work on the problem periodically when I have a few moments, but it's low on the list compared to studying so a fix may have to wait until after finals.

December 05, 2007

The Long and Short of It

With kudos to Anne-Marie for finding it, here is a picture of weekly post-chemo hair regrowth as documented by Karin Stack.

I started to do something similar with my own regrowth, but as you can see from the 4th picture there's not much for the camera to catch yet. I can see it coming back, but you can't unless you're standing right next to me. I promise to document my own regrowth as it becomes visible to more than just me.

I can tell you that it feels like it is taking way. too. long. to come back!