What it says on the tin.

I’m reading The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon, which has been “the new Jennifer McMahon book” in my head for a long time, but I just saw that she has a real new book up on netgalley, so I decided it was time to read this one. Also I just finished The Winter People which was suitably melancholy and creepy. All of JM’s books are a mix of that. A bit fairy tale, a bit swamp horror.

Ann knew this before I did, because they had already purchased half of JM’s books before I started reading them. I requested ones they didn’t have from the library and read those first, I think…and now I’m returning to the others on our bookshelves because the mood feels right.

Today I am wallowing in grief, letting myself sink into the depths of it. I was lying in bed this morning and thinking just how much I would give literally anything for the front door to open and Ann just be coming home from spending a night with one of their partners. It seems ridiculous that that can’t happen. The door stays closed. Ann doesn’t come home.

For the first time in my life I know the meaning, the weight of alone. I guess that isn’t bad for thirty six years.

I cried my way through a shower (griefstricken but hey, clean hair) and then I ran a bath and listened to High Violet and cried some more. The towel I was clutching against my body imprinted on my chest. The tears joined the bath water. I had a lemon la croix, cold and waiting. The apartment doesn’t run out of seltzer as quickly as it used to. Ann’s not here to drink it.

One of the things Ann and I were going to do before the pandemic started was drive to Ohio and see the National play the entirity of either High Violet or Boxer, and I can’t actually remember which one it was. Anyway, it was gonna be a great night.

We were also going to England that spring.

It’s like I don’t let myself remember this that often. It hurts too much. Why couldn’t we be in that version of 2020. Why isn’t Ann alive and we visit England and we listen to the National and it’s a better world and I want it.

Or there’s one where Ann and their husband at the time stayed in England longer than a year. They get a bigger flat and Ann writes all those stories that were just waiting to be told. And the distance is hard as it was that year, but we write letters back and forth and I visit every year and we walk in St James Park and visit our favorite statues. The air smells so right. Ann is happy, and I like that, even though it’s hard to be oceans apart.

There is a sister who hunts monsters in the Children on the Hill, and one of the monsters is her adopted sister. I’d take that version too. Track Ann across the US. I’d let the victims be sacrificed though, even though I know you’re supposed to rescue the dead or missing, you’re supposed to try to save them.

I would let A run free if I could. Give me a monster, give me a ghoul, give me fucking skeleton hand to hold in my palm. Just give me my sister back,

I don’t know if that’ll happen in the end of this one. I suppose I should finish it and find out. But this moment of before, where any ending is possible and it could be that one…let it be that one.

let your monster sister roam free, Violet. People die every day. What’s one more body? Who can say this wasn’t the time and the fate that had always been meant for them in the end? Monsters have to eat too.

The unfairness of this reality leave me breathless at times. Who decided this was the way it was supposed to be?

I’m reading a book you would like. The Skeleton Key by Erin Kelly. There’s a picture book with a mystery and a long hidden treasure and some bones, but beyond that the narrator lives on a houseboat with her semi-adopted daughter and that part is right up your alley. You always wanted to live on a houseboat somewhere (England, let’s be real) or on a barge. You wanted to live so many places, so many lives. You wanted to live. 

Even on the worst days you still wanted that. To experience things. A story, a sandwich. A new place. A caravan somewhere. Your current song on the radio. 

These may not seem like reasons to go on but they were.

How will we know what happened next, you’d say? You wanted to know what happens next. 

Maybe there’s a universe where we live on a boat together, dangling our bare feet into the water as the sunshine covers the deck. Too warm to drink tea just then, but later when the sun goes down and we’ve dried our feet and lit the lantern we’ll put the kettle on and talk about that stars that are just out of sight, other cats on our laps. 

I was going to start with something kinda easy. Two books that I regretted not reading sooner because I know Ann had read them both, and why didn’t I read them sooner so we could discuss them? Why was I saving them?

I have a habit of that. Saving stories for when I need them. Or delaying them, in case they’re not what I hoped for. Could be both.

But this morning I finished Mister Magic by Kiersten White (out in August). And I wanted Ann to be there so much so that we could talk about it.

Mister Magic

Val is living a small, safe life on a ranch where she’s been since she was eight years old. Her memories don’t go back any further than that. But then her dad dies, and a door opens and the past comes back.

Once upon a time she was once part of a famous children’s tv show (Mister Magic) that people are still obsessed with. A show about friendship and imagination and, yes, magic. Now, the original cast is returning to do a podcast at the original site. The gang is back together again and Val is the missing piece.

Val goes along to recover her memories and the past she’s always been afraid to probe at. Only the past is more confusing and strange than she could have expected.

Okay. so I loved this book. I’m a huge fan of Kiersten White, which I know sounds weird becauses I’ve only read two of her books now (The Guinevere Uprising and now MM.) I’ve been saving the next two books in the the Camelot Rising trilogy for years now (again with the saving of stories! What am I doing it for? There’s no point.) because I know how much I’ll love them, and yet then I will want more Arthurian stories in the same vein and there won’t be any, etc, etc. I told you it was dumb. I should just read them. Maybe they’ll prod me in the direction of returning to my own Arthurian project. Maybe.

I own Hide in hardback already. I bought it at a local bookstore this summer when I was grieving and browsing and I already wanted to read it.

But Mister Magic is just so my jam. The imagination, the guilt over what you’ve done in your childhood, the missing…the attempts to right them. The weird house in the desert, the group of friends still bound together by the story they shared, the missing memories and the strange inner grief of knowing your life could have been different.

Suffice to say, it’s good. I’ll probably buy it in hardback even though I prefer paperbacks, I just do! They’re easier to haul around with you.

More thoughts and spoilers beyond this point.


This has been the longest year. Even now I don’t quite believe it’s going to end. I know there are things in 2023 to look forward to. I know there’re good things in the future. I know that everything has changed and forever will be changed.

My sister died in August.

No matter how much time passes, and we’re coming up on four months now, it still doesn’t feel real. I get up every morning, I feed my cats, I go to work, I chat with coworkers and patrons, I get through the day. I feed the cats again, I shower, I eat something. I watch some tv, some nights alone, some nights with friends. And I go to bed and dream briefly that Ann is still alive, and things are all right. And then I wake up.

And I read.

For the first two months I couldn’t really read at all. It was like the ability to lose myself in a fictional world, the one real escape where I’m not distracted by my phone, was simply gone. Lost. It seemed like it wasn’t physically possible. You’d think I’d have thrown myself into reading even more to get away from this reality. That’s what I’ve done steadily since before 2016. But not now. Not with this.

Yet, I knew Ann wouldn’t have thought that was the right thing. “I’m dead, and you’re not even reading? Really? Really?”

So I started again, a bit slowly at first. And then it all came back, the hunger for new stories and other worlds. Other experiences. Other minds.

I don’t remember getting my first library card. I remember learning to read and hating it, thinking ‘this will never be useful to me.’ And I remember the moment it clicked and everything fell into place. And I thought, ‘Oh. now I get it.’

Ann and I talked incessantly about books and stories. It was the daily thread of our conversation, everything came back to that. My sister is the only person I’ve ever met who read as much as they did, hungrily, voraciously, curiously. They would tell me about books they’d read and the premise wouldn’t appeal to me but the way Ann described it made me want to read it.

We always talked about starting a blog. We always meant to. Something where we’d do writeups and lists of our current reads and new books, and general reviews and just everything. And we never did.

So here I am with this blog. Partly spurred on by the trainwrekc of Twitter these days, but also because I’m still reading. And I still want to talk to Ann about all the books.

So there there will be book reviews, and lists, and general ramblings. And talk of grief and missing because my sister was, and is, the most important person in my life and whatever form the future takes…that’s not going away.

Thanks for reading.

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