Bout of Books!


Down to the very last minute, I’ve decided to participate in the Bout of Books! For a little bit more information about this readathon:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

I am pretty much a two books a week reader, some weeks it’s more, and some weeks it’s less, so it evens out over the year. Since the only goal of this week is read more than I usually read, my goal will be to read at least five books. I’d like to get started on my stack of books for the Diversiverse challenge in September and a few books I’ll be picking up from the library tomorrow. First up on my list is The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya. I was also craving some crime fiction when I went to the library last and I picked up Mind’s Eye by Hakan Nesser. It’s something a little bit different for me, so I’m looking forward to seeing if I like it!

Are you participating in the bout of books? What goals did you set for yourself?

A More Diverse Universe


The wonderful Aarti at BookLust has been running A More Diverse Universe every fall for the past two years. In past years, she’s challenged bloggers to read science fiction and fantasy novels by people of color and post about them. The first year, it lead to me reading The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun by NK Jemisin. Just reading through this post again made me want to reread the series! They’re wonderful fantasy novels that I highly recommend. Lsat year, I had every intention of participating, but I didn’t quite make the date, but it did make me take a serious look at my reading habits and what I can do to make sure I’m reading more and more books by authors of color.

This year, Aarti is opening up the challenge a little bit. Instead of reading fantasy and science fiction books by an author of color, the task this year is to read and review any book by an author of color during September 14-27th. I also have a goal (that I’m woefully behind on) to read books on my TBR, so I pulled the books that I could reach (there are a few boxes in front of my bookshelves still unfortunately) from my shelves and I came up with a reading list. Here are my pool of titles!




I don’t expect to finish all of these, but I think it’s a good selection that includes nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Historical fiction and contemporary. A lot of these books are BIG though, so I’m not quite sure how many I’ll get through in the next three weeks, but hopefully I’ll have a few reviews for you during A More Diverse Universe.

If you’re interested in participating, head on over to Aarti’s post to sign up. I can’t wait to read your reviews!


Why do you go away? So that you can come back.

When I last posted here, I had an inkling that big changes were on the horizon. They were a possibility, an opportunity, a decision not yet made. But here we are, almost five weeks later and life looks so different. New state. New job (as of Monday). New apartment.

When I moved to New York, I wanted nothing more than to work in books. I was so fortunate that I got to do just that – I worked in the special sales department at a large independent book publisher for 3 years. It was amazing. I had the best coworkers anyone could ask for and I’m sad to leave them.

When I left Virginia and then North Carolina I had a feeling it wouldn’t be for forever. I missed my family and being a short drive away. There were things about New York that I could never get used to. When Michael got a job offer back in our home state, we just couldn’t let the opportunity go. Now, I can drive to see all of my sisters in one afternoon, something that felt impossible before. I’m halfway between my mom and my dad again, which is a good place to be.

I’m going to miss NY – the food, the movement, not needing a car. Don’t get me wrong, I love to drive, but I tried to figure out how I could take a train from Virginia to NY at 4AM without having to ask anyone to wake up super early to drive me and there was no way. I’ll miss being able to get off the subway and feel like I’m in a totally different city, a different version of New York. Mostly I’m going to miss the people. All of us, most of us, from all over the country, all over the world, who turned up there for one reason or another.

But I’m excited about all the things I missed about Virginia and DC. Beautiful, technicolor springs. Snow days. (I walked to work in a lot of snowstorms this year.) Quick errands. The ability to travel so many places in one day. I can get to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Richmond, or Raleigh in 5 hours or less. Free museums. People, from all over the world, who have traveled to make this their home, making it an interesting and vibrant place. New York and DC have that in common.

And I’m excited for a completely new direction in my career. I will miss publishing, but I’ll always have something of a link to it through my blog. I’m determined to stay up-to-date with publishing news and new releases. But I just accepted a job at a nonprofit and I’m excited to be back in that world, too. It feels like the exact right decision.

I’ve missed writing about books and talking to you and now that things have settled and things are almost in order, I plan on being around here a lot more with renewed enthusiasm.

The title of this post is from Terry Pratchett’s A Hat Full of Sky. I haven’t read it, so I hope I’m not taking this quote completely out of context, but it felt very appropriate for how I’ve been feeling about returning to Virginia, about leaving NY, about switching careers. The full quote is: “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” Life is full of choices that change the course of where we’re going and you never know how one or the other is going to affect things in the long term. I’m so looking forward to finding out, though.

10 Days of #100happydays

A good friend of mine jumped at the chance for #100happydays early. She’s almost done! And I hesitated for a long time – I didn’t want another project that I was sure to drop, especially when days got hard. Seeing more people join in, though, and seeing all their happy things? I caught the happy bug and now it’s been ten days of happy things. I have to say, there is something wonderful about planning ahead, picking the one thing that represents the things that made you happy that day. The best days are when you can’t pick what to do. There are the days where it’s a struggle, but I’ve been making myself go out and find a happy thing. I think this little project is doing what it’s meant to.

100happydays1. “Take Me to Church” by Hozier – I started #100happydays at about 9PM when the only thing making me happy was curling up into bed and going to sleep. Oh, and listening to this song on repeat.

2. A rose! When I was in college, I often passed by a florist on my way home from studying in a coffee shop. I would buy just one flower for a dollar or two and put it in an Orangina bottle on my desk. We were walking through Queens when I decided I wanted to do that again. Michael bought me this rose and I put it in a Cheerwine bottle and it’s living on our kitchen table.

3. “Pulaski At Night” by Andrew Bird – I used to listen to Andrew Bird all the time, but I didn’t fall in love with his last few albums and he sort of fell off my radar. Until I heard “Pulaski At Night” in the first episode of season 2 of Orange is the New Black. Hearing that song was like coming home. Needless to say, it’s been on repeat since. I’m only allowing myself one music post a week, though, because otherwise it feels like cheating. I’m not REALLY taking a picture of anything, just a screenshot.

4. Homemade Strawberry Popsicles – Last year Michael and I went crazy with our ice cream machine, which was awesome because homemade ice cream is infinitely better than the store stuff, unless you’re getting it at a small-batch ice cream shop (yes, I just got a little ice cream snobby – don’t get me wrong, pretty much all ice cream is good, but some ice cream is better than others). This year, though, we went a little bit lower maintenance and bought a popsicle mold. These were the first ones! And they’re delicious and so easy it’s silly. Just pour lemonade into the mold about 3/4 full, slice up some strawberries, freeze.

5. My best friend and college roommate (remember when we went to Luray Caverns together? #tbt) sent me a postcard with our cute faces on it. I immediately put it on my cube bulletin board of love, filled with post cards, birthday cards, photos of me and Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, Galentine’s Day cards, and pictures from my calendars that I like enough to stick on the wall. It makes me happy to look at every day.

6. Finally, ice cream from Big Gay Ice Cream, because it was a crappy day and this made it infinitely better. Plus a cameo from spiderman.

Not pictured: Some amazing times with friends (I don’t want to post these pictures without asking! They know the photo is up on Instagram, and that’s one thing, but I’d prefer asking them all before I posted it on the blog) and Thursday night’s #100happydays, which will almost certainly be a picture of The Three, because I can’t put it down at all.


On repeat this week.

The Family Crest – Beneath the Brine

I discovered the band The Family Crest listening to a radio station and I’m so happy I did because Beneath the Brine has been my go-to album this week. I love the song “Beneath the Brine,” but also “She Knows My Name” and “Love Don’t Go” and “Howl.” Beyond just being a great album, I love the story behind the band of two musicians who wanted something different and something they could be proud of, so they called up all their musician friends that they knew, and all the musician friends they knew and asked everyone to contribute to the album. There are something like 400 musicians who added instrumentation or back up vocals, with recordings done in living rooms, cafes, and churches around the country. You would think that would make the album sound disjointed, but it doesn’t at all. Every song sounds a little bit different, but in the best way.

Kishi Bashi – 151a

Something between Andrew Bird and Final Fantasy/Owen Pallett, with some Sufjan Stevens thrown in there, so you know, those are pretty much magic words to 2008-Lu. This album at once feels fresh and nostalgic, plus he’s from my home town, so I’m excited to support someone local! Like The Family Crest, every song sounds just a little bit different and Kishi Bashi is hard to pin down, hard to define, but that’s how I like it. Unlike The Family Crest, Kishi Bashi is just one guy and I don’t even understand how that’s possible. My favorite song on the album is probably “Wonder Woman, Wonder Me” but I think you’ll all really like “Manchester.” It’s the song that got me hooked on the album. Like Owen Pallett, it’s just so cool to see him in action, layering sounds by himself to make it sound like there’s a huge band behind him when it’s really just him making music on a loop. I’m absurdly excited to see him do this all live in a few weeks!

Stromae – Racine carré

I’m so thankful for tumblr for introducing me to Stromae and his crazy cool videos, but also his infectious songs. Sometimes it feels like it’s so hard to discover awesome international music, Stromae is Belgian and his songs are all in French, and this is a good reminder that I just need to try harder. I’m constantly looking for translations of Stromae’s songs when I listen, because he’s so good at communicating what’s going on in his videos and I feel like he has such interesting things to say. Plus it sounds pretty good, too.

Jamestown Revival – The California EP

“California (Cast Iron Soul)” has lovely lyrics with perfect harmonies and a great sound. And honestly that’s all you really need to know.

The season finale of Once Upon A Time

Okay, I know this isn’t a song. But I just wanted to talk about for a second how incredible I thought the 2-hour season finale was. If you haven’t watched it yet, spoilers below! You’ve been warned!

First – TIME TRAVEL. Have I mentioned how much I love time travel stories? No? Well I do. I really liked X-Men First Class, it got me into the X-Men stories in a way I’ve never cared about, but I’m absurdly excited for Days of Future Past because, obviously, TIME TRAVEL!!! I mean, obviously someone had to go back in time after every character except Zelena pretty much said that it was impossible, but I was so glad it was Hook & Emma. It was light-hearted, even among the changing-the-past drama, which was really needed, especially for Emma’s character. Plus, I’m pretty happy with Hook & Emma hanging out.

I’m also super into Regina & Robin Hood. I’m not a big shipper, I’ve just never gotten seriously invested in a couple, but I like Good Regina (though I sorely miss Evil Regina’s outfits) and I think Robin is just so wonderful, and I like them together. I knew that something horrible was going to happen at the end of this finale and I there is a moment 3/4 of the way through when everyone is happy. Robin & Regina are hanging out, Regina is getting to know Roland. Marian, as in Robin Hood and Maid Marian, is back!  I also had a hard time believing that Robin would have ever forgiven Regina for executing Marian, unless they’re going with he just didn’t know that that’s how she died, but I have a hard time believing that as well. This was my least favorite part of the episode because that just didn’t add up for me. It makes no sense! (Okay, after I wrote this up, I read that Robin DID NOT know that Regina executed Marian. So, all is well for continuity and logic etc.) I am, however, very happy that Roland has his mom back and Robin Hood his first true love. And I am kind of interested to see where this leads Regina, but at the same time… man, I am going to miss Happy Regina. The show runners are promising that this isn’t a return to evil Regina. That she’s grown and we’re going to get to see how she reacts to this as a new person.

Then that ending! I love that Once Upon A Time has so much story to play with. I think it’s interesting that they’re bringing in a character that’s so recent and I cannot wait to see where they go with it.

What’s on repeat for you this week?

What I’ve Been Reading…

I didn’t read too much in April, since I was traveling so much, but I did manage to finish a few books and this week I had a personal little readathon.

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The Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead – My sister has been long telling me to read this series, claiming it was one of her favorites, but I was unconvinced. It sounded like a bad mashup of Twilight and Harry Potter. But my little sister reads every book I give her and she gave the first book for Christmas, so of course I read it. And, well, I thought it was just okay. It lingered on my desk for a while, when a coworker picked it up and read it. Then another. They moved onto the second book without me and assured me: it gets really good with the second book. So we started a little Vampire Academy book club, reading all the books in the series over the course of February and March. My sister was right! I’m sorry I ever doubted her. No, these books aren’t the most well-written books in the world, but they’re a ton of fun. The romance is steamy, the vampire lore is different enough to be interesting, and the heroine, Rose, is kick-ass but in a very real way. She can wield a stake with confidence and likes make-up and doing girly things with her best friend and is a little bit cocky and a little bit insecure.

Saga Vol. 2 & 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples - This comic series is so good. If you haven’t started reading it please get to a comic store or bookstore and pick it up ASAP! The art is amazing, the story is perfect. I can’t get over how great it is at every turn. Please read!

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki – I adored Skim when I read it a few years ago and I practically jumped for joy when I got my copy of This One Summer. This comic is lovely about that summer when you’re between the grown-up world and the kid world and how it can all seem so confusing. Do you want to build sand castles? Or talk to boys in the convenience store? It was all so perfectly rendered, I was immediately transported back to my own confusing summers. I loved Rose & Windy and their very flawed parents. Also highly recommended: this piece “Where Are All the Fat Girls in Literature?” by Mariko Tamaki.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson - I’m still not sure how I felt about this book, weeks later, but I think I really liked it. I found it to be occasionally slow, but I liked the narrative structure of it and I think that Jodi Lynn Anderson is a beautiful writer. It was an interesting variation on Peter Pan, but I do think ultimately it’s going to be pretty forgettable.

Various work books - I don’t often blog about my job, but BEA is coming up soon and I decided to try and read all the novels we’re publishing this fall before the show. I don’t sell a ton of fiction in my market segment (we’re more into very specific books, practical how-tos, and gifty impulse books), but I was so in love with the way everything was described at sales conference this year. I have to say, I’ve loved everything I’ve read so far! I have a few more I’d like to read in the next two weeks before BEA, but overall I think this is just a really strong fiction list and I’m eager to see all the wonderful things it does. I’ve read three books from Fall 2014 and one from Spring and none of them have disappointed.

What have you been reading?

This past month…

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I feel like so many things have happened and I don’t even know where to begin. The days all jumble together until I can’t tell one week apart from the other. I’ve traveled a lot – to Philadelphia, Virginia, North Carolina, Indianapolis. That picture up there is from my plane and that’s Cincinnati. Did you know that the Cincinnati airport is actually in Kentucky? I’ve worked. I made up for only reading one book the entire month of April (to be fair, it was A Feast of Crows) by reading 5 books this weekend (four comics, one novel). I’ve enjoyed good weather and bad. I’ve had wonderful news and horrible news and all the ups and downs that come with it. I’ve learned things about myself and feel like time has passed both too slowly and too quickly. All in all, I’m incredibly grateful that I got to just sit on my couch this weekend.

There have been times this past month when I didn’t miss blogging. A few afternoons when I thought I could give this up, probably. But there have been other days when my fingers have itched to write and I tried to let them write without a purpose, in a journal, in a google doc, and I missed this. What I really missed was you. I have felt a little bereft not knowing what’s going on in your lives. I’ve spent the past few days catching up – I’m sorry if I didn’t comment, but know that I read it and I want to know more! What has happened to you this month? What have you been reading? Tell me everything.

National Poetry Month Tour – Reach for the Horizon

I have been traveling a lot lately, the past four weekends to be exact and I’ll be traveling again this weekend. (Hence the lateness of this post! When I signed up, I was expecting to be home on Sunday night, but we decided to come home a day later.) I have seen thousands of miles of road and I’m craving a quiet weekend at home. Only one more weekend! Fortunately, there’s a poem for everything, so I thought I’d share this lovely one by Charles Tomlinson that expresses my feelings exactly. I wonder if there is some ambiguity at the end, about longing for travel while at the same time savoring in being home? I feel that, too. Against Travel by Charles Tomlinson

These days are best when one goes nowhere,
The house a reservoir of quiet change,
The creak of furniture, the window panes
Brushed by the half-rhymes of activities
That do not quite declare what thing it was
Gave rise to them outside. The colours, even,
Accord with the tenor of the day—yes, ‘grey’
You will hear reported of the weather,
But what a grey, in which the tinges hover,
About to catch, although they still hold back
The blaze that’s in them should the sun appear,
And yet it does not. Then the window pane
With a tremor of glass acknowledges
The distant boom of a departing plane.
Click here to read more of the posts in this month’s National Poetry Month blog tour hosted by the lovely Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit. 

Quotes & Notes: Lexicon by Max Barry




“That’s bullshit! I loved Cecilia!”
“If you say so.”
“I’m being lectured about love by a robot! I’m broken? You’re broken! Tell me what you think love is! I seriously want to know!”
“Okay,” Eliot said. “It’s defining yourself through the eyes of another. It’s coming to know a human being on a level so intimate that you lose any meaningful distinction between you, and you carry the knowledge that you are insufficient without her every day for twenty years, until she drives an animal transport at you, and you shoot her. It’s that.”
Wil watched the road awhile.
“I”m sorry I called you broken,” Eliot said.
“Forget it.”
“Everyone’s broken,” Eliot said, “one way or another.”


Reading the descriptions of Lexicon, and there have been a lot of them because this book was everywhere a few months ago, I thought it would be the kind of book that would be difficult to get into. I was pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t, not even a little bit. It grabs you and speeds along from page one as you slowly piece together this strange world where words have an almost magical power.

And that’s part of the fun – piecing together the story and how it will fit together in the end, so I won’t tell you too much. There is a mysterious school and a sinister organization run by “poets,” people who take on the names of famous poets throughout history who wield the power of words. Poets must control every aspect of their personality so they can’t be controlled or “compromised” by their words. Showing emotions, desires, wants reveals your inner thoughts and feelings. There is a poet named Eliot who is on the run along with Wil, a man who can’t be controlled by the words, which makes him dangerous to the poets. Finally there is Emily, a drifter and con artist who has nothing to lose and so attends the school, even though she thinks it must be too good to be true, but who does the worst thing you can possibly do there: she falls in love.

Lexicon feels fresh and different, it feels like a smart book that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I think if I had any complaints about the story it’s that sometimes the world-building felt a little bit on the weaker side, especially if you’re used to reading more complex science fiction and fantasy. I really wanted to know more about the intricate structures of the organization, how the words worked, and what other sinister acts the organization was getting up to. Max Barry is an author I can’t wait to read more from, though. It sounds like his other books, like Jennifer Government and Machine Man, have that same combination of plot-driven satire with sci-fi elements. I certainly wouldn’t complain if he decided to write another book set in the world of Lexicon. Just throwing that thought out into the world!

Quotes & Notes: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor




The real world, already a distant thing – just a crackle of fireworks at horizon’s edge – faded away entirely. A high, sweet thrill sang through Madrigal as if she were a lute string. Akiva took off his gloves and dropped them, and when he touched her, fingertips trailing up her arms and neck, it was with his bare hands. He reached behind her head, untied her mask, and lifted it away. Her vision, which had been narrowed all night to what she could see through its small apertures, opened, and Akiva filled her sight, still wearing his comical mask. She heard his soft exhalation and murmur of “so beautiful,” and she reached up and took off his disguise.

“Hello,” she whispered, as she had when they had come together in the Emberlin and happiness had bloomed in her. That happiness was like a spark to a firework, compared with what filled her now.


I am smitten. I read this book on planes and trains and buses and, yes, sometimes this story was enough to distract me from beautiful rolling hills and glorious mountain countrysides. It’s the kind of book that benefits from having no knowledge going into it. All you really need to know is that it’s a magical, tragic story about an artist in Prague with blue hair and mysterious tattoos.

Laini Taylor’s writing style is so evocative and has poetic flourishes that I just devoured. I am sad that it took me this long to read – I kept confusing it with Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, which I liked, but oh, I loved this one so much more. I’m in awe of Taylor’s imagination and the world she created in Daughter of Smoke & Bone. My heart was Taylor’s puppet: it sang when she wanted it to and broke on command.

I never wanted it to end. I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley, I suppose so they could hook a new reader in advance of the publication of the third book, and I just wanted everyone at Netgalley and Little, Brown to know: your scheme worked. I have already purchased the second book, I’ll be purchasing the first to have in my physical collection, and I’m sure the third will not be far behind.

2014 Travels

When I graduated from high school, my aunt took me on an amazing trip to Spain. I loved it so much, I ended up studying Spanish in college and going back to live for a month five years later. This year, my sister graduated high school, and my aunt took her on a trip to her destination of choice: Ireland. Of course, I hitched along… because how could I not?? That’s why I kind of dropped off the face of the planet for a few weeks. I was so busy at work preparing to leave, then actually leaving for a week, and now it’s taken me a few days to get sorted out and recover from jet lag. I promise I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled programming soon!

I spent 3 days in Ireland, 2 days in Paris, and 1 day in Geneva, then one day traveling back to Ireland to catch my plane back to the States. Everything was amazing! Dublin is a big city that feels like a small town and the Cliffs of Moher are stunning. Plus, I learned a lot about Irish history and came away wishing I knew more about my ancestors who left Ireland and why. Did you know that Ireland still hasn’t recovered population-wise from the Potato Famine? Paris is just like any other big city, and it feels HUGE, but the sites are out of this world. They don’t even look real most of the time. Also… the food. Can we talk about the food? Everything I ate was impossibly good. In Geneva, I got to visit ATLAS at CERN. Did you know that fewer people have seen ATLAS as have climbed Mount Everest? There’s a good fact for you to pull out at parties. I got to see where all the Higgs Boson magic happens. And it was really cool. Mostly I just spent the week in awe of what the world contains and feeling so lucky that I got to see it.


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Quotes & Notes: girlchild by Tupelo Hassman



The letters are sitting right here, bound in dirty string so they can’t come open too easily, so they can’t steal my nights as I look for secrets in their creases. Mama developed Grandma’s preference for onionskin paper too, and felt-tip, I wait for this to happen to me, I’m certain it will. The only way to tell the difference between Mama’s letters and Grandma’s at first glance is that Mama’s stay bundled up so tight the string rips into their pages and Grandma’s are loose and open, all over this table. I keep Mama’s letters closed, keep their edges close together like a cut that needs force to heal. I’m all wrapped up in there, jumbled with her, small i‘s and slashes, her story in my story at every turn. (70)


Oh, girlchild. I finished reading this book earlier this afternoon, but I don’t know how I felt about it. Rory Dawn Hendrix has grown up in the Calle, a trailer park in a town north of Reno, and all she wants, all her mother and grandmother want, is to grow up and get out without making the same mistakes that the women in her family have made before her.

On the one hand, it’s hard to believe in Rory’s voice. On the other? The writing in this book is absolutely beautiful, with a lilt that makes the words sing in a way I find so appealing. This is the story of a lot of ugly things. About what it’s like to grow up poor. About what it’s like to be unable to escape the abuse that is rampant in your community. About what it’s like to want. It’s also about the beautiful things that can be found anywhere, even a place like the Calle. A mother’s love for her child. Hope when it seems impossible to do so. A patchwork carpet made from sample tiles from the carpet store, mismatched and lovely for it.

We bring home another stack of carpet pieces, outdated samples and remnants too short to sell, different-colored, different-styled, different-lengthed, and different-piled, and Mama gets down to it. She cuts the squares precise, the colors blending against the mortar and brick under the woodstove, against the frame of the door, and she mumbles through the nails she holds in her lips, murmurs about this green and that yellow while she hammers them in, and never after that does she ask for my help or advice, and I don’t offer anyway, and as the paydays roll past, our wall-to-wall becomes a reality.

Six pay stubs later and our living room is carpeted in the brightest blues, golds, and violets, patterned and deep. As she’s packing up her tools, Mama is all smiles and says, “See if you can pick a favorite, R.D. I bet you can’t.” I don’t think to question this until I walk across it in bare feet, sink into the plush of this square and that. I don’t think to question this until I imagine doing it myself, deciding what goes with which and making it permanent, believing in my choices enough to pound them with a hammer. (196)