Greetings strangelings!

Yesterday’s post was heavy and I can’t thank you enough for your love and support.  My sister sends you non-germy long-distance hugs.

Today we’re going to concentrate on happier things because today we open up the discussion for this month’s Fantastic Strangelings Book Club pick, We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry.  Have you started it yet?  Have you devoured it?  Are you certain that Greta Gerwin and Ava Duvernay need to pair up and make it into a movie?  Are you waiting to read it when things get better and you’re on a lovely beach?  All answers are fine because, as always, there are no rules with this book club.  But if you have read it and want to discuss it you can do so on the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club Facebook page, or if you don’t do Facebook you can leave your thoughts here.  Or you can lurk.  I’m a big lurker.

If you’re a paid member of the club then you already receive my ridiculous emails with the Q&A and got a sneak peek of next month’s book but for you honorary members, I’m so excited to announce that next month’s book will be WOW, NO THANK YOU by the always hysterical Samantha Irby so we’ll be sending those out in a month.

(FYI…Samantha’s new book is a paperback so it’s less expensive than our normal $25 book club fee so we’ll be sending you something special along with the book to make it even more worth your while.  YAY FOR SURPRISES!)

Also, a quick thank you here.  The opening of Nowhere Bookshop is on hold until we can assure it’s safe for us and for you to be open.  This book club is literally sustaining the store and our employees during this time.  I cannot stress enough how lucky we are to have you.  And for those of you who live overseas or who buy the book month to month on your own, consider buying from your local indie bookshop whenever you can.  Lots of them are moving to online sales for the moment and have great books to hold you over.

And now, a Q&A with Quan Barry:

Me:  Okay, I LOVED this book. Thank you for writing it! I was concerned when I first started it that I wouldn’t be able to keep all the characters apart but they were so fully formed that I could picture each of them easily and I actually missed them when the book was finished. How in the world did you do this?

Quan:  I wish I could say I worked really really hard to make sure they were each distinct and memorable in their own way, but honestly, because I knew who these girls were pretty much from the get-go, it wasn’t difficult to show them in all their glorious messiness, warts and sparkles and Jordache, et al.

Me:  Is there a character that you related to more than any of the others?

Quan:  Hmmm…not really, but maybe I wish I were a little more like Abby Putnam.

There’s a fearlessness in her that I admire. I don’t think of her as being the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she’s kind and reliable and a rock to her friends and pretty non-judgmental to boot. True, her raw vegetable diet would drive me nuts after a single meal, but in every other way she’s a keeper.

Me:  There were so many times I screamed “YES! THIS EXACTLY” while reading your book that it was a bit insane and I probably scared everyone in my house.  There are so many themes and life lessons that run through your writing but I think my favorite one was this: “AJ Johnson made a mental note to herself: always be laughing. The woman from the shop who’d read Sue’s Tarot just 30 minutes before was already being proven right. Fuck ‘em.” There’s a lesson I wish I’d learned in high school. Are there any other lessons you wanted to impart in the book?

Quan: I don’t think there are too many BLLs (Big Life Lessons) I condensed down into lines like the one you quote, but hopefully there’s a lot of little wisdom sprinkled throughout. There’s stuff about mother-daughters, about living your own dreams, about being creative and what it means to be a member of a team/community. Also, when the girls chant, “Be. Aggressive. B-E aggressive,” maybe what they’re really saying is stand up and be counted, be in whatever number you want to be among as you come marching in, head held high.

Me:  What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as an author?

Quan: As any kind of artist (and probably in any field in general), you just have to put in the work and let the chips fall where they may. Consequently, I readily acknowledge the importance of having said chips fall in your favor. We don’t like to admit how much luck and good fortune play prominent roles in our lives, but they do. We want to think we got where we are today solely on our own initiative, but the truth is that our success is often predicated on things beyond our control. This keeps me humble. I know loads of talented writers, and for most of them, their audiences will remain relatively small not because their books aren’t amazing, but just because of what Le Splotch would call that certain je ne sais quoi otherwise known as bonne chance.

Being an author has taught me to be grateful and humble about my work—grateful to be able to share it with an audience, and humble to know that I didn’t accomplish this in a vacuum.

Me:  Amen.  So what’s next for you?

Quan:  I’m working on a highly meditative and hopefully thought-provoking book about a young Buddhist monk who goes on a search for a reincarnated lama in Mongolia. I’ve been lucky to have traveled extensively in Asia in many specifically Buddhist spaces and have spoken to a lot of people—monks, academics, everyday citizens, etc. I still have my work cut out for me, but although I’m not Mongolian and wasn’t raised Buddhist, I’m hoping to be as true to that culture and place as I can be.

Happy reading!

PS.  If you’re anything like me you’re reading more than ever right now and are needing wonderful book distractions so please share your favorite comfort book or current read in the comments.  Right now I’m reading The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires: A Novel.  If you like horror I think you’ll love it.  It comes out in a few weeks.

Wash your hands.  I super crazy love you.

47 thoughts on “Greetings strangelings!

Read comments below or add one.

  1. I seldom can afford new books, so it may be a while before I can catch up with you all! My daughters and I pass books around, but right now I am going to my bookshelves where reside many, many books I thought I might read again. This might be again… In another vein, if you have NOT read Station Eleven, this is probably not the time for it. I read it last year, and it is kind of hovering over me right now, worldwide epidemics being what they are…

  2. Just got the book yesterday and appreciate the distraction those pages offer from EVERYTHING. My brain needed this vacation.

    Glad to be able to support Nowhere and repay all the love from your Blog I’ve received over the past couple of years. Let’s not forget the pen pals we found a year ago (in a few days mine will be receiving a tiny something to brighten their day and feel less alone).

  3. I too would like to order a book here and there, but can’t buy into the whole book club shebang just now. Will you consider expanding sales on individual books? Samantha Irby is a great place to start. ‘We Are Never Meeting in Real Life’ is hysterical, angry, and perfect and I can’t wait to read her new one. I’ve bought all of your own books, multiple times, and even bought copies for my off-kilter friends. Honestly, I’m still regularly sticking my nose into your coloring book but it’s just that I don’t color that fast. Which color should I use here? And how did that beautiful page morph into such a monstrosity?

    Still feeling like your friend even if you can’t right now,

  4. I’m loving “Cute Hand Lettering for Journals, Planners, and More” by cindy Guentert-Baldo, Love it! I’m not an artist. This is Very easy to follow, and it keeps my hands busy so I do not eat or touch my face.

  5. I’m reading a LOT more. I am trying to make reading a part of my self care because I really do feel better after I read. My comfort read is Dune by Frank Herbert. So I am reading that on and off. I am reading a book by John Grisham also right now…but I can’t remember the title. I fell away from reading for a few years and he used to be an easy favorite, so I’m going back. I also enjoy Graphic Novels, because they allow me to get even deeper into a story. I have been surprised by that, but once I learned how much input an author has into the illustrations, I realized that the illustrations are as important as the dialogue. so, I am enjoying falling into comic books and graphic novels as a more immersive experience than traditional books. When my brain wants to kill me, that’s when I turn to your books, Jenny. Nobody has ever, ever, been able to give me mental relief like your books have. Thank you.

  6. Unfortunately I can rarely read a real paper book or I’d join. By any chance are you considering e-books for sale at Nowhere? Although I’m mostly Kindle, they were first and my vision was in need so I’m kinda stuck with it. But, I have a very old iPad I could read universal type e-books on, I’d do this if it helped the book store!

  7. Thank you Jenny for encouraging us to find a positive part of every day. . . it’s been a struggle lately. I moved my octogenarian parents in with me. . . and their caregiver. . . . so it’s been more like a sanitarium here than a home lately. I have a FB friend who posts something every day of “Things that don’t suck”. My goal is to find at least one day about this whole scenario that doesn’t suck. Challenging, but definitely do-able.
    I didn’t sign up for the book club because I have too many hear already awaiting my attention. But now that I’m working from home, and gave my father my bedroom, I finding I do indeed have a few minutes every day for me. I pre-ordered the next Strangelings book, mostly because I’m a complete sucker (pun intended) for the whole vampire genre.
    I’m looking forward to sharing it all with you and the Strangelings next month!
    Stay safe everyone!

  8. Weird that I had problems posting my comment. But then again, it’s not totally surprising that technology isn’t my friend lately. 🙂 Can’t wait to read the new book.

  9. Jenny, thank you for having a book club.
    I really need this. I read Furiously Happy on
    an airplane and when I gaffawed out loud, I
    literally scared people with my laughter.
    Your humor sustains me when I
    need it most, and mostly I need it now!
    Thank you!!!!

  10. I just finished The Starless Sea, Royal Holiday and Born a Crime. All over the place for book genres but all very good. Deciding on my next book now….

  11. I didn’t know if you knew…
    It’s now on the New York Times recommended reading list 👍

  12. I was talked into joining a non- fiction book club so it has be, Talking to Strangers, What the Eyes Don’t See, Places for the People and next month is Dopesick (a subject I know too much about).

  13. If you want a zombie novel that’s about more than zombies, including topics such as journalism, politics, and epidemiology, try Feed, the first book in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series. (Read the rest of the series too.)

  14. I heard great things about the memoir “Let’s Pretend This is Normal”.
    It’s a story of how heartbreak led a young women to embark onto an adventure that would change her life: she found a man, a ready-made family she wasn’t ready for, a new country, and most of all: herself.
    Okay okay, it’s my story and my book. Everybody who’s read it had nice things to say about it, and it’s an entertaining read full of embarrassing stories and hope and love – and one smelly, sweaty, bare-breasted giant group hug that I will never be able to erase from my shocked mind.

  15. I’m escaping prepping my online classes with one serious and one fun read.

    “The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American” by Andrew Seidel. This is an excellent antidote to some of the motivated rewriting of American history by some groups. Not for everybody, but then, what is?

    I’m also six books into Elly Griffiths “Ruth Galloway mysteries”. Dr. Galloway is a British forensic anthropologist who ends up working with the police to solve murders. They are extremely well written!

  16. All the little humans are home all the time now annoying the crap out of me so I haven’t read it yet, but it’s sitting in my “to sit on and read” pile. I can’t wait. It’s nice to have books to read now that the libraries are closed.

  17. A really great book I loved as a preteen is the Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Somehow the story about a little girl who is the only person who survived a cholera outbreak in a village in India during the British occupation who then is sent to live in a huge mansion in damp England with her weird elderly distant relatives and discovers her disabled cranky cousin hidden in a far away room and a groundskeeper’s son who all band together and rescue themselves for depression, anxiety and loneliness seems really relevant right now. In fact anything this author wrote was all about children surviving really bleak times in history and becoming heroes in their new world.
    If you explore fairytales and children’s classic books written before 1950, you’ll discover all kinds of horror and cautionary tales and people trying to survive this difficult, weird world with all its dangerous monsters. Books give us hope, lessons for life, coping skills, and take us away from the real world in the way that movies and television don’t always match. If you read the book first, before you see someone else’s visual version of it, the images your imagination makes are usually so much better!

  18. In the chapter, “Danvers vs. Lynn Classical”, I was intrigued by the reference to AJ’s family second home in the “Inkwell”. So I tangented to “The Real Story of Black Martha’s Vineyard”
    AJ woke my white-ass to long standing apartheid in our wonderful but flawed country.
    BTW I just read, The Not-Ready-for-Juilliard Players by Eileen Duggan and my next is going to be The Alice Network by Kate Quinn.
    Stay home and be safe.
    – Michael Boyd

  19. I just finished We Ride Upon Sticks last night. Wow. This is what I love about the book club; I would NEVER in a million years have read this book on my own, especially as it started out in the middle of a field hockey game, and I am so glad I did. This is one of those immersive books with characters so well drawn you just sink right through the pages into their world.
    I’m still thinking through some things. Was it ‘real’? the whole thing about the pact w/ darkness? I think they made it real, like when they all thought they saw Emilio at the mall. They saw him because they were primed to see him. They won games because they were primed to do it. They broke through rules and barriers and tapped into their power. Abby was right to do what she did at the end because she saw they could become slaves to the thing they created to free themselves. I just have to quote one line (not a spoiler) cause I love it so — “. . because while the moon is our soul sister, unlike her we are no one’s reflection — we shine in dark places by the light of our own being.”
    P.S. It’s hard to discuss a book without being spoilerish. I’m trying but keeping details kind of vague. Hope I haven’t spilled too many beans.

  20. My comfort reads are anything by Gail Carriger. Mostly steampunk-romance-comdedy-of-manners books, but I also loved her sci-fi-mystery-romance The 5th Gender.
    Also, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series always makes me laugh. I’m getting into his other books too.
    I would also recommend Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mystery series, which I am only part way through but loving. Cozy contemporary mysteries in San Francisco featuring a witch.

  21. @Datdamwuf I 100% agree! I have a hard time with regular paperback/hardback books because I do most of my reading at night before bed. When I read on my iPad (via Kindle or Overdrive) I can put it on dark mode and not bother my husband. If I’m reading a regular book, then I need the light on which annoys my husband and makes it hard for him to sleep.

    So, yes to eBooks!

  22. Dorothy Barker’s photo bombs crack me right up.

    I might try to get in on this one. I’mma need something to do if they put us on lockdown because I will be spending 2 weeks at work to take care of my critters – like, not coming home for 14 days. It would be an adventure, but the nights will be lonely. I’ll need some good reading material.

  23. Song of the Spirits, by T. Damon is my next read. She wrote the Forest Spirit series & I am excited to see this new collection she has published.

  24. My husband is a small self published author waiting for that luck to hopefully strike! He has three books out. I can recommend them although I guess I am a bit biased.

    The Last Cruise Ship – a SciFi adventure that is also a journey of self discovery and finding self worth

    Rebyrth – a thriller aimed at 10-14 year olds about odd happenings in a small Australian town

    The Steele Trap – a mystery story with ghosts and spies aimed at 8-12 year olds

    The kids books are still fun fast reads for adults which might be what you need in these stressful times. Sales would be so appreciated in all this uncertainty. Thanks for your blog Jenny and all that you do.

  25. Hi Jenny,
    Reading your blog has lifted my spirits for years but I’ve never commented. My husband just showed me this video on youtube and I immediately thought of you. It seems like you and this quirky dutchman (I think he’s Dutch?) share sweet & creative souls. I had to share, in case you’re interested:


  26. Just finished reading “We Ride Upon Sticks” and it was ok. The reason I say that it is okay is that it is not the type of book I would typically read. The book itself read like a Young Teen or Adult book. The book was a nice “coming of age book” for readers. I did like the nostalgic late ’80s vibe. It brought back a lot of good memories that I wish I could relive (especial during these dark times of the virus). I did give the books 3 Stars in Goodreads. I did want some blood (or human sacrifice) towards the end of the book but never got it! I was a bit disappointed.

  27. I started We Ride Upon Sticks thinking, “this is SO not my kind of book – female lacrosse players? Really? I won’t finish this one.” WRONG. I loved the dark Shirley Jackson twist it all took, and I really enjoyed the delicious writing full of funny sentences like “Old Mrs. Bentley, the librarian, sat there like a cactus waiting to be watered.” Really fun book; I will look up Quan Barry’s first book now. Thanks for this – I love being wrong in my pre-conceived notions of a book!

  28. Hi Jenny 🙂 I am a member of the book club but I don’t receive your emails for some reason. I receive emails saying the book is being shipped but that’s it. How can I get on your email list?
    Thank you!

  29. Just finished We Ride Upon Sticks. First of all, thank you Ms. Barry – you made my quarantine. And thank you Jenny, for suggesting a book that I would never have picked off the shelf on my own. Great characters, great setting (time and place), and such beautiful writing. So looking forward to the next book to arrive in the mail.

  30. Finally caught up and finished “We Ride Upon Sticks,” and I just loved it. It’s my favorite of the book club titles thus far! Loved the 80’s nostalgia, which made it so much fun, but I loved the friendship and the bonds between the girls. Loved “Remember that darkness simply requires another way of seeing. Be your own light.” This is one of those books for which I’m going to miss the characters now I’m finished.

  31. Just finished reading “We Ride Upon Sticks” and it was ok. The reason I say that it is okay is that it is not the type of book I would typically read.

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