[TSS] The Week That Got Away From Me

It’s been one of those weeks – you know the kind, where at first glance it doesn’t look like you have too much scheduled, and then you find out first glances can be mighty deceptive.

It started with a trio of deadlines – which weren’t, surprisingly, the problem. I met the deadlines with no problem. Post-deadline, though! Dylan turned ten (I know! Ten! If it wasn’t so trite, I’d say time really does fly), and there were all the activities associated with a little guy turning ten – gifts to buy, the perfect birthday card to get, lunch, dinner, get-together with family. And Mother’s Day on top of everything – another lunch, more shopping.

(I know, it doesn’t sound that rough. And it wasn’t. But I just hadn’t been expecting all the running around and eating out, which cuts huge chunks of time out of the day.)

And it’s already time for another Sunday Salon! I never even got around to replying to comments from last week’s post, so I hope you all won’t mind if  I just pretend that I already did and start fresh with this one. When seen from my Sunday Salon perspective, this week actually doesn’t look as chaotic as it really was:

Eating: Ward didn’t have a performance Friday night, so he made roast chicken. To those not in the know, my husband makes the best roast chicken – juicy, tender and lightly flavoured with rosemary and lemon. To make things easier for today (we’re heading over to my sister’s for Mother’s Day), he roasted a second chicken and we’re bringing cold chicken slices and scallion and ginger oil as our contribution to today’s feast.

Drinking: This week I discovered the pleasure of iced mint tea. It turns out Second Cup, my favourite coffee place (even now, when I’m not drinking coffee) will make iced tea out of any of their regular teas, so I gave the iced mint tea a try. It is SO good!

Reading: I didn’t have much time for reading this week, but I did manage to finish one book: Anne Holt’s Blessed Are Those Who Thirst. I know a lot of people liked this one, but it just didn’t grab me. I must admit, I skim-read through the second half rather than DNF’ing it because I wanted to know who did it. It might, however, just be the translation, and perhaps if I understood enough Norwegian to read it in its original, I would have liked it better.

Writing: Totally out the window this week. Not even a blog post to break up the midweek monotony here. (Yes, I’m hanging my head in shame.)

Making: Zilch. Nada. Nothing. It’s been that kind of a week.

Exercising: I finally downloaded a pedometer app and when I went for my run on Monday this week, I came back and told Ward my time. After doing the necessary km to miles conversion, I announced, “I ran a 14-minute mile.” Ward, polite guy that he is, managed a strangled, “Oh, yes?” but I could tell from the look on his face that most people probably could walk faster than that. I’m chalking it up to my using my meditation songs playlist for running (running meditation, get it?) so I put together a faster playlist and I’m happy to say when I went for my second run of the week, on Friday, I ran an 11-minute mile. Much better, although I’d love to get it to ten minutes.

I seem to have developed a consistent walking habit, which makes up for not running as regularly as I’d like to. Most days I manage a brisk 40 minute walk, with some days (when I’m going to Chinatown, mainly) I clock 80 minutes.

Rice_noodle_rollsSource: By Themightyquill (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

(Those 80 minutes walking to and from Chinatown are a good thing, as I tend to head over to dim sum when I’m in Chinatown and it’s a good way of walking off the calories before and after I ingest them. Sadly, rice flour, the main ingredient of my favourite dim sum dish – shrimp cheong fun or rice noodle rolls with shrimp – is very high in calories.)

Anticipating: A more restful week, during which I plan to (1) clean/clear out my desk (a Herculean effort may be required, I’m afraid), (2) clear out my clothes drawers to make room for hot weather clothing and (3) READ, READ, READ!

What about you? How has your week been?

[TSS] One Of Those Funny Reading Moods

It’s been one of those interesting weeks around here, where I don’t feel like I did very much, but at the same time I seem to have gotten most of the things on my to-do list (the one in my head) checked off.  I do love weeks like that!

Time: 9:51 AM

Place: At my desk, which I still haven’t cleaned up yet. I’d snap a photo for you all, but I’m way too embarrassed. Let’s just say my desk is pine-coloured, but you don’t see a whole lot of pine anywhere.

Drinking: Yes, that pomegranate/kale/flaxseed smoothie. This is what I have for breakfast every day, so it’s probably not going to change for a while.

Eating: Ward didn’t have rehearsal last night so he cooked for us! He made his fabulous Japanese gyozas, and also these delicious shrimp and chive dumplings I found online earlier this week. Whenever he makes Asian dumplings, we always have lots of leftovers, so I’m looking forward to more gyozas and shrimp and chive dumplings for lunch.

Reading: Fiction-wise, I’ve still been going through a lot of starts, trying to sink my teeth into a book but just not too sure what that book will be. I’m about a chapter into Blessed Are Those Who Thirst, by Anne Holt, and I’m still working my way through Leif GW Persson’s Another Time, Another Life: The Story of a Crime. I have Ransom Rigg’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children waiting for me on the Overdrive app on my iPad, and Dylan and I are reading The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan, by Nancy Springer during the day, and Peter Pan at night, as his bedtime story.

I did race through Gretchen Reynold’s The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer, finishing up the book yesterday, mainly because it’s due back at the library tomorrow, and it’s a book I’ve been really wanting to read. Some really fun, eye-opening stuff in there, and motivating to boot.

Listening: Again, lots of starts – I seem to be in a really funny reading mood this week, dipping in and out of various books trying to find something that suits my mood. I listened to the beginning of 61 Hours, by Lee Child, Bitten, by Kelley Armstrong and Peril at End House, by Agatha Christie before finally settling into David Baldacci’s Split Second. Earlier this week, I did finish another Jack Reacher novel, Gone Tomorrow, which might have been why I just wasn’t in the mood for 61 Hours – just a little Jack Reacher-ed out, I think!

Writing: Haven’t gotten back to my current novel yet, but I’m going to be writing a regular feature at Reel Life With Jane – I’ll be writing about the summer series Rookie Blue which premieres on May 23. Rookie Blue is one of my favourite television shows,  so I’m very excited about this! This past week, I’ve been brainstorming ideas for pre-premiere posts and hope to have my first article up there sometime this coming week.

Creating: Nothing yet, BUT I signed up for Trish’s Pin It and Do It challenge (again – and fingers crossed I’ll do better than the last time, which wouldn’t be hard, as I didn’t do a thing last time …). I signed up for the Timid Pinner level, which puts me on the hook for making only one to three things from my Pinterest boards. Surely I can handle that, right?

Working: I have three deadlines coming up this week, so a lot of this past week has found me working on indexes. Still slogging through that high school biology text, which was delayed somewhat, pushing the deadline from this past Friday to tomorrow morning.

Exercising: After I wrote last week’s Sunday Salon post to procrastinate on going on my first run of the year, I did actually go for my run – yay! And it went much better than I’d anticipated. Usually when I haven’t run for a while, my legs give out – the lungs work fine, but there’ll come a moment when my legs turn into limp spaghetti and all I want to do is flop down on the ground and rest them – but this time around, my legs didn’t tire out. Afterwards, I realized all the walking I’ve been doing must have really helped keep my legs in shape.

This past week, I walked for a total of 250 minutes, which surprised even me. And guess what? The First 20 Minutes suggests doing your workout first thing in the morning, before you eat, so I actually went for a run earlier this morning! And all I can say is, it’s a lot harder running in a fasted state. A lot harder. I’m not sure if I want to do that again – I do like running first thing in the morning, but next time it will probably be with my breakfast smoothie in me first.

carmelites_thumbPhoto credit: Canadian Opera Company

Anticipating: Ward has his full dress rehearsal of Dialogues des Carmélites tonight, and I have a ticket for the performance! So I’ll be watching him on stage – I’m really  looking forward to it! I’m sure it will be worth having to live through my own cooking the past six weeks while he’s been tied up with rehearsals. And opening night is this coming Wednesday!

So that’s been my week. How did your week go?

Itty Bitty: My New Micro-Journal Habit

Okay, so it’s a little too early to say  it’s my “new habit”, but I really want to establish a good, solid journaling habit this year, and if intentions count for anything …

As we headed into the new year, I played with several ideas, hoping to find one that would ease my transition from not-very-consistent-journaler to “why, yes, I do journal every day”.  I’ve had many a new year start with the shiny, enticing new resolution “Journal Every Day” but it’s always ended up being, as my youngest would put it, an epic fail.

It occurred to me that perhaps it might be best to ease into the journaling habit. Start small. And structured. Limit myself to one page a day.

So, no beautiful blank book. All those blank pages all at once have always proven to be too overwhelming.

At first I thought I’d get myself a one-page-a-day daily planner, and commit to writing something on each page. But all the planners I looked at had lined pages, and I really wanted blank pages.

So then I thought I’d go to the art supply store and buy a small sketchbook. I’d prep it by stamping all the days in January in it, and maybe that would become an end-of-the-month ritual. You know, where I’d flip lovingly through all the pages I’d remembered to fill out the previous month and then stamp all the days of the new month, in preparation for all the days to come which I would also remember to fill.

But then I saw this. The Moleskine Daily Diary/Planner. It’s an absolutely ADORABLE teeny tiny book filled with blank pages, one for each day of the month.

Photo 2013-01-04 9 59 31 PM

It’s so small, it fits in the palm of my hand.

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And the best thing? I only have to fill one 2X3 blank page a day! Not a whole lot of space, so that takes care of the whole being overwhelmed thing.

How have I been doing so far? Well, I didn’t buy it until January 4th, so that’s when I started. But I’ve filled each page since then (although there were a couple of nights where I forgot, and had to write my entry the following morning).

My problem has always been that I have lots of days where not much happens, but I’ve been finding that even a day spent at the computer working madly away at a deadline gives me enough fodder to fill one teeny tiny 2X3 page.

They say it takes 30 days to create a new habit (some say 21 days, but I rather like the 30 day number). I’ve done seven days so far. Wish me luck on this one, because consistently keeping a journal is something I’ve wanted for a very long time!

Monday ramblings: NaNoWriMo Win, Readers’ Workouts and Book Buying Binge

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NaNoWriMo

It’s a little early yet, I know, but the writing’s been going really well and I actually “won” NaNoWriMo on November 22, the American Thanksgiving, but couldn’t validate my win until yesterday.

I am now firmly ensconced in “Act III” of my children’s novel, and could possibly finish the first draft this week. Or not, as I’m in for a very busy week. I had a number of indexing deadlines scheduled for earlier this month that were delayed and guess what? They’ve been rescheduled for completion this week and next!

Yes. Welcome to my freelancing life …

Readers’ Workout and #30DS

It’s a good thing I’m writing now about the 30 Day Shred Twitter group I’ve been participating in, because one thing I’ve noticed: when I’m busy, exercise is one of the first things that gets prioritized right out the window. Which is very, very sad because it should be in my top three priorities, right after meditation and writing.

Participating in #30DS has been really motivating so far, though, so who knows, right? Just knowing if I do get the Shred done for the day, I can send out a tweet to my #30DS support group really pushes me to simply get it done. That, and telling myself it’s only 20 minutes. (It’s really about 25 minutes if you count the warm up and cool down, which I do, because apparently I’m supposed to be getting 150 (or is that 160?) minutes of exercise a week).

#30DS is part of Joy Weese Moll’s Readers’ Workout challenge. Anyone can join in; the weekly post goes live every Tuesday and you can either blog about your weekly Readers’ Workout goals and successes, or chime in on the comments. If you want to do the 30 Day Shred with us on Twitter, just jump right in. We’re all doing different levels of the Shred so you don’t have to be at any particular level.

Book Buying Binge

I’m sad to say I went on a book buying binge yesterday (well, okay, not really. I’m actually really happy about it and enjoyed myself thoroughly!).

After my big book purge last year, before moving to the city, I swore to myself I wouldn’t go on such binges again.  I think I’ve done quite well, actually, since we moved last November and this is my FIRST book buying binge since we moved. I should be patting myself on the back, right?

Anyway, I blame Memory and Kailana. I saw their tweets about the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale at Bookcloseouts (can you say 50% off already discounted prices? I can, over and over and over again!) and couldn’t resist taking a look – and then I was trapped! I spent yesterday doing indexing, taking a break to browse Bookcloseouts and add more stuff to my cart, indexing some more, taking another break to add more stuff to my cart, and so on.

I was up until 3 A.M.!! Bookcloseouts has only limited quantities of each book, and several of the books in my cart had only two or three copies left. I wanted to make sure I finished up the purchase before bed, because who knew if there would be any copies left in the morning, right?

As it was, I only managed to hit the following categories: Children’s Fiction, Children’s Non-Fiction, Art, Crafts & Hobbies and Cookbooks.

The sad news is, I only got two books for myself – I’m trying to be thrifty, so each time I saw a book I wanted, I checked the library, which had copies of nearly every book I was interested in. Right now I’m trying to buy copies of books that I’ve already read and really really loved, so I just couldn’t justify adding new-to-me books that are already available from the library (there’s also the NOT-ENOUGH-BOOK-SHELVES motivation).

The good news? I checked off a lot of people on my gift list! So that was very, very good indeed.

I can’t resist temptation, though. The sale at Bookcloseouts doesn’t end until tonight, and I still have all the Fiction categories to browse through. I just might end up with a second order!

Rebel!

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Up until three days ago, I hadn’t been planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. Some of you know that I got back on the writing track about three weeks ago, and my progress has been really good. To participate in NaNoWriMo officially, you must start with a totally new work, and I just wasn’t ready to step away from my current WIP to start on a new one.

However, someone asked me the other day, “are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?” And before I dashed off an answer, it occurred to me to look up my stats for my current book.

I had written 30,000 words over 17 days, and when I did the math, it turned out I’ve been writing at a NaNo pace anyway.

Well, how could I turn my back on that?

There is a way to participate in NaNoWriMo without following the rules to the letter – you can sign up and declare yourself a Rebel. To qualify as a Rebel, you must break a rule. Which I am, by continuing with my current WIP instead of starting a new one.

So here I am! I’m thrilled to be doing NaNoWriMo this year (especially after last year’s disastrous showing – somehow, NaNoWriMo and major move into the city simply didn’t mesh well).

What about you? Are you participating this year?

Back on Track (plus: do you know this book?)

It’s been a while since I last posted about my writing – and that’s because I hadn’t been doing any writing!

After a good start to the summer (I handwrote my way through a Moleskine notebook) I developed major resistance to writing. And while I kept thinking about my writing, I just couldn’t seem to sit down and actually do any writing.

Luckily, I have the best writing buddy in the world. Janel Gradowski kept the magic of writing alive for me through her daily emails to me. She’d write about her progress in her latest WIP and talk about plotting, outlining, POV, making characters come alive – stuff that made the writer in me itch to get to the keyboard. She’d write about organizing things with post-its and index cards (I love organizing with post-its and index cards). She’d send me links to great writing books and posts and interviews.

She never made me feel guilty, though. It was more like she’d hold open the doorway to the writing life, and just gently made sure I knew it was still there, waiting for me.

All of her support helped to eat away at my resistance. Last week, the last remaining bits of resistance suddenly lifted. I found myself embracing two words that I’m not really that fond of: Discipline and Commitment. (“Not really that fond of” is putting it mildly.)

I decided to make my writing a priority. I committed to sitting down to write first thing in the morning, right after my meditation but before I did anything else. I decided I had the discipline to keep that commitment.

Now, I’ve done this before – say to myself, my writing is a priority. And “I’m going to just do it”. And it always kind of fizzled out. But the strange thing is, when you add a dash of Discipline and a spoonful of Commitment into things, things don’t fizzle out.

I’ve been writing a chapter a day (I’m doing a rewrite of my old WIP, WAVERLEY). I have absolutely no resistance to sitting down to the keyboard.

I’m not making excuses, procrastinating, picking up a good book instead, cleaning the dishes, taking a nap, working on the next index, surfing the net – I sit down and I write. I try to write for at least an hour. Mainly I write until I’ve finished the chapter, which might or might not take an hour.

I’m not sure if I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo this year; it depends on whether I get Waverley finished before November 1. But it’s okay, because I’m back on track!

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In reading news: I just finished Midnight Riot, by Ben Aaronovitch. It’s a very fun urban fantasy about Constable Peter Grant of London’s Metropolitan Police, who interviews a witness to a murder, only to discover the witness is a ghost. Very tongue-in-cheek, with fun sci-fi and fantasy pop culture references.

Which reminds me of another book I read recently. I’ve been trying to remember the name of it (I forgot to mark it down in any of my usual TBR-recording spaces). It’s a newer release, and it’s about a woman who wakes up in this woman’s body, and all she knows is someone’s trying to kill her. The theme is a little like Midnight Riot, as it’s about a ministry or department in England where people with magical powers police the magical things that are happening.

The woman discovers that the woman whose body she has now, was a doormat, but it turns out her powers are very powerful. There’s a “Court” that the woman turns out to be a part of (and a conspiracy within the court). There’s a being who inhabits a number of bodies all at the same time, and another being who turns out to be a vampire. It was quite an exciting book. I’m hoping the name of it will come to me (if you know what book I’m talking about, please let me know in the comments!) as I’m hoping there’ll be a sequel and if there is, I want to read it!

Update: I was just looking through the latest issue of Shelf Awareness, and I discovered the name of the book! It’s The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for a sequel.

For the Joy of It

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I spent yesterday afternoon curled up on the sofa, reading Lynda Barry’s What It Is.

This past year, I’ve borrowed What It Is from the library three different times. Twice now, I had to return the book to the library unread, but third time’s a charm, don’t they say? I’m very glad, because this is a book I was meant to read.

I’ve spent a long time pursuing something magical that’s eluded me for most of my adult life; until I was well into my late teens, writing was something I did simply because, when I wrote, I slipped into another world. Time lost all meaning; I plied my art with utter absorption.

And then I grew up. I became an adult, and I misplaced my keys to that world.

I’ve been looking for those keys for so many years.  I’ve searched high and low. I’ve enlisted books on creativity for help. I’ve called what I’ve been searching for many things: the flow, process, the zone.

And yesterday, as I curled up with Lynda Barry’s What It Is, I found those keys again. I can feel them, right now, in my hot little hands.

What It Is

I was so excited as Barry began talking about her own childhood world of drawing and storytelling, of that state of absorption, where time is warped. She talked about that floating feeling of being both there and not there, and what she described was so familiar to me. So joyously familiar.

And then I turned the page, and she began talking about how she discovered her way back to that world.

It all boils down, of course, to simply writing for the joy of it – not for the accolades, not for money, not even for other people to read. And I’ve always known this intellectually, but knowing it and experiencing it are two very different things.

What Barry showed me was how to experience this again.

In that vital daydream state from which all of my writing flows, my stories always play out in my mind as moving images, a movie. But when I sit down to the physical act of writing, I forget to experience the images, and instead try to do everything with thoughts alone.

Thoughts can take me pretty far. From a single opening image, I have been able to use thought to propel me tens of thousands of words into a story. But it’s the experiencing of the images that I’ve been missing. It’s this experiencing that has the energy to take me through to the end of the story.

So now I have the keys again. I know now I can go back to writing for the joy of it, immersed in that floating feeling of both being here and not being here.

Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, by Joe Dispenza

I’ve been reading Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, by Joe Dispenza as part of an informal book club with some of my friends. And since I happened to be in a sketchnoting frame of mind while I was reading it, I ended up taking sketchnotes of every chapter.

Here are my notes from chapter one (click on the picture for a bigger version). Please excuse the sparkly nature of the pen; I’d just come across an old set of really nice gel pens and couldn’t resist using them (I used a different colour for each chapter of the book – thankfully, the lighter pens were used for later chapters!).

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As you can see from my notes, the book goes quite a bit into quantum mechanics, and how we can apply what we know of the quantum field to “rewiring” ourselves and breaking out of old habits. It’s a very interesting discussion, although sometimes the application of theory seemed a little bit forced to me. But since I believe there are mysteries of life and consciousness that just aren’t explainable by our current scientific knowledge, that didn’t bother me much.

For me, the power of Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself lies in the four week meditation program outlined in the last half of the book. I actually spent several weeks going through the process – but found myself resisting taking it beyond week two every single time.

But luckily, I’ve been reading this book with some friends of mine, one of whom went all the way through the four week process – and rather inspiringly, she has been experiencing all sorts of lovely and welcome career-related surprises in her life. I am currently standing at one of those proverbial forks in the work/life road, and such surprises would definitely be an asset right around now!

So I ended up going to Joe Dispenza’s site and buying the MP3 download of the guided meditation, which was what my friend was using as a companion to the book. The book refers to this meditation a few times; unfortunately, access to the meditation doesn’t come with the book but both Ward and I have been doing the meditation for a few days now and I’d say it’s well worth the $4.95.

For one thing, each time I’ve finished the meditation (which, at over an hour, is quite long) I find myself just bopping with energy. This morning, right after I finished, it occurred to me to go to the local coffee shop and work on my current novel. I spent a wonderful two hours there, and managed to discover the solution to a plotting problem I was facing.

Pretty powerful stuff. If you’re into the quantum mechanics aspect of changing old habits, you’ll probably find the book interesting. And if you find yourself having problems with the meditation program outlined in the book, you might want to give the guided meditation a try.

At the very least, Ward and I are both enjoying our meditation practice a lot more these days!

That Whole “Time Flies” Thing, Writing Mojo, and Stephen King

So now that I’m doing the big city living thing, I’ve been discovering something interesting: time flies when you’re doing nothing more than going through your day.

That sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? I mean, time flew for me back in the suburbs, too. But it’s a very different feeling in my new “city life”.

Back at our old place, time flew, yes – time always flies, except, of course, when you most want it to – but it flew very predictably. Every day saw the same old, same old and so time flew over very familiar terrain.

And before you start thinking, wow, Belle, you must be so busy running about now, doing stuff, LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST … Um, no, I’m not.

It’s that whole “potential” thing.

Photo 2012-04-06 10 07 09 PMMoon shining on Lake Ontario

(Disclaimer: This picture has absolutely NOTHING to do with anything in this post. I took it sometime last week or the week before that. The moon shining down on the lake was just so pretty. Unfortunately, my iPhone camera simply didn’t do it justice. But I’m sharing it with you all anyway!

Now back to my post …)

To be honest, I haven’t yet fully clicked into full-on city living. Not yet. And at the pace I’m going, by the time I’ve truly thrown myself into doing and living all the amazing events and experiences Toronto has to offer – BAM! – I’m going to be knee deep in deadlines again.

(Well, there you go. That’s motivation enough to start living more fully, isn’t it?)

But you see,  every day here there’s the potential of doing something different, something new. And up until our move, I’ve had such an isolated, hermit-like existence, even this potential is like a breath of fresh air.

And I’m realizing, I really must get a grip on things. Savour the potential, sure. But I really don’t want to let that put me off-track. Potential is fun. It’s enticing. But there’s more to life than just savouring the potential while time flies right by you.

(OMG, Belle, is this your long-winded, very strange way of explaining your recent blogging absences?

Why yes. Yes it is. Is it that obvious?

Yes.)

In other, more exciting (to me) news: I have my writing mojo back!

Yes, that bit of news deserves bolding …

And all it took was recognizing that my habits have changed. Where I once was that bright and sparkly night owl, ready to tackle huge manuscripts late into the night, I’m now that sleepy, tired is-it-time-for-bed-yet owl who wakes up (those who know me well won’t believe this, but it’s true) at the ungodly hour of 8:00 a.m. Yes, you read that right. Ever since our move, I’ve been waking up around 8:00 – without even trying!

This has had a major effect on my nightly activities. So in recognition of this, I changed things around. My writing time is now in the mornings (or close to it).

I have somehow managed to become a morning person. Well, okay, maybe “morning person” is a bit of an exaggeration.

How about mid-morning person? And some days, an early afternoon person.

Because it does take me that long (after my mandatory two cups of coffee) to get going some days.

And in the reading department … I finished Stephen King’s 11/22/63 the other day. I will probably post a review, but here’s my super-micro review:

1373830_twirl_2(Photo credit)