All Hail the Queen

Nowadays everyone’s all, “OMG have you read Gone Girl?!?” and “Duuuude, you have to read The Girl on the Train!” I’ve read each of these works and confess that I enjoyed them both thoroughly; who doesn’t love a good thriller?
Impressed as I am though by the gripping prowess of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins and so many other authors doing great things in this genre, they don’t yet for me hold a candle to my all-time favorite author. She was blowing minds as far back as the 1920s, slaying the scene in her decades of writing with epic twists, dizzying turns and bombshell endings you never saw coming. Her collected works comprise a list of almost 100 titles and it is my life’s mission to own each and every one of them. I’m of course talking about the original Queen of Crime: the one, the only, the incomparable Dame Agatha Christie.  

Whether you’ve recently dabbled in the mystery/thriller category or are a seasoned fan of the genre, if you haven’t yet given ol’ Aggie a try, there is no time like the present. Her works are rife with that healthy dose of suspense you crave, wrapped in the unique literary ingenuity of Christie’s own.

Here are my five favorite Christie masterpieces, complete with links to purchase your very own copies in the format of your choosing. Now get cracking!

1.  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Let me tell you how hard I want to drop a plot spoiler on you right now. Hard. Set in the village of King’s Abbot, this tour de force features famed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot who comes out of retirement to investigate the suspicious death of the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. Christie deftly drops a trail of breadcrumbs from beginning to end that will lead you in a hundred different directions, each one more convincing than the last until you’re plum baffled and begging to know who dunnit. Then comes the grand reveal and you’re like, “Whaaaaaat?”

Read it, read it now. Click here. Do it fast.

2.  And Then There Were None
This one was just about tied with my number one choice for its creepy mind-blow potential. The plot: ten people each receive a suspicious invitation to an island and are then slowly murdered one by one after arriving. It keeps you guessing at the edge of your seat the entire time, a flawless example of Dame Agatha’s penchant for a psychological thriller with an unexpected mind f*ck ending. Interesting fact: the original titles for this work include Ten Little Niggers and Ten Little Indians. Glad we stuck with the title as it stands now.

And then there was your own copy, which you can purchase here

3.  Murder on the Orient Express
I first became a fan of Murder on the Orient Express before I’d ever read or even heard of it; I was actually cast as Mrs. Hubbard in my sixth grade class production of this famed Christie classic, and in case you’re wondering: of course I stole the show. Set aboard the Orient Express, the glamorous train service best known for its service from Paris to Istanbul, it once again features Hercule Poirot as he tries to solve the perplexing mystery of a murder committed on board. This piece has been turned into a film not once but twice and is featured as an episode on British television series Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

As Monsieur Poirot would say, cliquez ici! (click here)

4.  A Murder is Announced
So I’ve always had a thing for smart & sassy old ladies (hence my obsession with Sofia Petrillo and the rest of the Golden Girls crew). My favorite spunky senior though has got to be Miss Marple. This dowager detective of Christie’s is not really a detective at all but rather a sharp-witted spinster from the fictitious village of St. Mary Mead; she is especially known for using observations of small-town life to solve complicated crimes. In A Murder is Announced, a murder is (you guessed it) announced mysteriously in the village of Chipping Cleghorn’s gazette, complete with date, time and location. The town’s locals show up out of curiosity expecting perhaps a fun little murder-mystery parlor game. It’s not a game at all, and Miss Marple is called upon to find a killer.   
Read the announcement here.

5.  Crooked House
The last but not least of my bunch of favorites has an ending initially considered too bold and shocking even for the likes of Agatha Christie. It is the tale of the Leonides family who all live together in Crooked House, and among them lies one guilty of the poisoning of patriarch Aristides. Like in And Then There Were None, the murder represents a dark interpretation of a nursery rhyme and will give you a mean case of the Oh-No-She-Did-Nots. It made me blurt, “Oh SNAP!” out loud in a coffee shop, so you know it’s going to be good.
Get in on the crooked fun here.

So that’s my list!  I have my eighth grade teacher to thank for introducing me to dear old’ Aggie, and I often wonder if Mrs. Geraldine Nau knows she changed my life forever when she did. In any case, I’m ever thankful for the suggestion and hope that you will be as well. Happy reading!
Bookishly  yours,

Word Vomit, and Lots of It.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that today's blog entry may find you choking down the vomit induced from what you might initially perceive to be a contrived and banal attempt at introspect on my part. I kindly ask that if you've gone so far as to click on the link to get here, that you keep on reading. I mean you're already here. Stay awhile.

Today is July 18th, 2013. It's been a day like any other. I woke up, I went to work. I worked at work. Came home from work. I checked Facebook, checked Instagram. Opened my mail, ate some cheese and crackers. I started a new book, I looked up from the book. And then it happened. I started to think.

About what? Life (swallow the vomit!). This happens to me from time to time. Well, a lot of the time, if I'm being honest- which is what I said I would do with this humble little blog of mine. I'm in my head a lot, as the people who really know me will tell you. Today it started when I put on my "Pensive" playlist. Yes, that's what its called- any of my Spotify peeps can attest to that. So I've got stuff like this blaring in my ears:

- Temper Trap, "Love Lost"
- Coldplay, "Trouble"
- Macklemore, "Same Love"
- Florence + the Machine, "Never Let Me Go" (unplugged)
- Bloc Party, "Day Four"
- Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, "Stars"
- Carter Burwel, "A Nova Vida"
- John Mayer, "Belief"
- The Weeknd, "Wicked Games"
- Duffy, "Stepping Stone"
- Adele, "Hometown Glory"
- Bon Iver, "Roslyn"
- Lauryn Hill, "X Factor"
- Foo Fighters, "Everlong" (acoustic)

The list goes on, and there's no one topic or theme- it's not a sad, mopey playlist per se and it's not a list of heartbreak tracks (for that, you'll want to see to my "Ache" playlist). It's just music that makes me think, music that would play in the movie of my life in a scene where I'm staring out of a window while its raining and I have a glass of wine in my hand and am wearing a torn sweatshirt that falls loosely over one shoulder.

As for what I've been thinking about... like I said, about life. Specifically my life, and the people in it. It's the change all around me. A few people in my close-knit work family are leaving our team soon. One close friend just finished grad school, and one of my best friends is leaving for law school; 85% of my acquaintances and Facebook feed are either getting engaged, married or popping out their first born children. Everywhere I look, I see forks in roads and setting suns; revolving doors, new life chapters. Beginnings, endings. Choices, risks. Love, fear. Excitement, anticipation. Life.

So I look at mine. And I see... confusion. Not sadness, mind you. Let me be very clear in my assertion that this life I lead is rife with good fortune- family, friends, health, food, and a few bucks to spend on travel. But I'm not 100% sure that the pace, the inertia of my life is ... enough. When I get in these moods, I get restless and all I can do to assuage it is to write it all down. I decided that this time, instead of writing it in a journal, I'd put my thoughts in a more public place. It's a tad risky to put the contents of my overly actove brain where the world can see and scrutinize it, which is why I've been hesitant to write such a personal entry in the past. I fear being perceived as too self-indulgent, and you know, annoying. But I'm putting stock in the concept that there is catharsis in truly honest writing and that people respond well to genuine self-expression. So... here it is. Sheer and utter word vomit.

When I was younger, I was an obnoxious over-achiever. I had my hands in a little bit of everything because I knew there were places I wanted to be and being good at stuff was going to help me get there. I stayed up too late and studied too hard so I could set the curve and take home a college acceptance-worthy report card. If it was extra-curricular and looked good on a resume, I was there with bells on and likely got there 15 minutes early. I retook the SATs because my first score, which many envied, was not going to cut it in my mind. I took one more year of every subject in school than I needed to, which meant summer courses every year on top of my part-time job, and I practically lived in one of those AP testing booths my junior and senior years in high school. It all paid off when I landed a scholarship to my dream school, the University of Southern California. Everyone was so proud and so impressed with me, which I admit I loved. Everyone asked what my major would be and what I wanted to do with that, so I answered confidently.

Here's the thing, and I'm literally only being honest with myself about this at age 28- it was all a crock of absolute bullshit.

I wasn't lying- I meant it all the time. I really did want to be a physical therapist when I graduated high school; I'd volunteered for hundreds of hours at a local hospital and found the concept of improving and rehabilitating a life a heady one. I wanted to be a hero, wanted to make a difference like every sappy heroine you've even been annoyed with in a nauseating after-school special or Lifetime movie. Then I started taking those college courses and realized something: I was sooo hosed. I didn't really like science, it turns out. I'd apparently neglected to really think about the 24 letters of the alphabet between A and Z, the steps you take between getting accepted into college and teaching paraplegics how to walk again when no one thought they would. I freaked out, I talked to school counselors, and they all agreed I was in the wrong major. So what next?

I chose business school. It seemed like the next logical step. I could do whatever I wanted with business, right? When word got out that I'd changed my major, the "what are you going to be when you grow up?" questions resumed. Again, I had confident answers: I was going to open up my own restaurant, or possibly a dance studio. I might try to be a buyer for a major retailer or possibly go into the music business. Whatever I did, I was going to RUN THIS SH*T. And everyone seemed to agree.

But... I didn't. Not because I tried and failed- but because I didn't quite try to realize any of those pipe dreams at all. I claimed to have all these passions but couldn't seem to muster up quite enough passion to put all my eggs in one basket and give it hell. Instead I put just a few little eggs in the closest basket at hand took on a summer internship that led to a full time job in sales, which I was good at because I tend to find a way to be good at things on mere principle. I was promoted once, twice, and a few more times, changed departments a few times, got another pay bump here and there... and at the end of the day, I have nothing bad to say about any of that. I made some of my lifelong friends along the path I chose to pursue, created some amazing memories; I spent my early twenties gallavanting around the City of Angels, that giant ball of craziness everyone loves to hate but that stole a giant piece of my heart that it refuses to give back. I was happy to have a job that paid the bills and came with benefits and a 401K match. That I could also squeeze in weekend wine-tasting trips, nights at The Room and Zanzibar, USC football and the Getty made me more than content.

BUT. Where the hell did my passion go? I swear, I had it here somewhere. But wait, wait- more importantly- what the hell IS my passion? A few years ago I thought I was onto something when I made the bold move of leaving LA and moving back to my hometown in the name of all that "fresh start" stuff. I had one plan, then another, but again and again I found myself changing my mind. I've detected this pattern wherein I pick a goal, an activity, a path to pursue that I think sounds really cool, sounds impressive, sounds impactful and noble and worthwhile. But the passion, again, is lacking. Therein, my friends, lies the rub.

I've spent way too much time analyzing this "passion" shenanigans in the last several years, in particular because I've made a habit of surrounding myself with go-getters who are making moves, kicking ass and taking names at an alarming rate lately. In what I refer to (in my head) as my Fab Five of best friends, one is the executive director of a senior living residence in the greater Boston area, and she and her Harvard-graduate husband just scored themselves an apartment in my beloved Beacon Hill; one is off to law school next month after crushing the LSAT; one recently got her Masters in education and is teaching at a private school in Calabasas; one is really hitting her stride in the commercial real estate business and the last but not least of them is a counter manager and makeup artist for Chanel. Let me be clear- I feel no jealousy, only pride and appreciation of their formidable accomplishments. I am my friends' greatest champion, probably more so than some of them are comfortable with (yeah I'm looking at you, Batman). But all this movement inherently causes me to take a look at my own life's direction. I think after a lot of walks in the park and glasses of wine, I've honed in on what I think is my problem: I do not for the life of me know how to stop guessing, how to stop giving so much consideration to the concept of what I should want to do or accomplish, or what would be nice to say I achieved on paper. It only makes matters worse that I happen to work somewhere where I love the team I work with, where I have fun and have tons to keep me busy- it makes it so easy to stay where I am and keep doing what I'm doing. There is nothing wrong with where I am- it's just all very ordinary. For a kid who everyone expected to see sitting pretty as a CEO someday, this is a sobering fact.

Except for the fact that it isn't. Here's another big "aha" moment I stumbled upon in the last couple of years- I have zero desire for power or prestige. None. Itried to be that kind of person, and I pretended to be motivated by those factors for a long time. But the fact is, I don't want to be the one in charge and I don't care if I ever top (or even make it onto) the Forbes list. I just don't. Do you know how exhausting it is to fight that sensation? To constantly wonder where the abberation in your deoxyribonucleic acid is that makes you NOT want to be THAT chick? I do. But I'm done with all that. I've come to terms with the fact that my measure of success is not the same as yours, just as yours differs from the guy or girl sitting next to you. And what's more, there is nothing wrong with that. There really just isn't. I repeat that mantra daily, and it sinks in a little bit futher each day.

The other epiphany that I'm fairly certain NO one is surprised at but me is that I FREAKING LOVE BOOKS. 100%. I love to read, I love to write, I love to write about the things I love to read and love when people read (and enjoy?) the things that I write. The only thing surprising about that is that I've failed to explore these concepts further or really let the idea of them floursh in the light. I sit in bookstores constantly, and I have to touch the books. I find the smell of an old book comforting. I have the grand opening of the new library in downtown San Diego in my calendar with a pop-up reminder for the day before (you now, so I can pick out an outfit to be seen reading in). I carry my Kindle and iPad mini with me everywhere, because they're good for reading in different light and I'd die if I didn't have both within arms reach. I write in a journal that I also carry with me at all times- and yeah, my purse weighs about a thousand pounds. I light up when people want to talk about books. And this is not a new thing- I've explored my bibliophilia in this very blog. I've been this way since I was a child.

This is why I'm so annoyed at myself. I've spent all this time telling other people and myself that I've just never truly known what I was passionate about or what drove me, but deep down I kind of hate myself for knowing that it just ain't true. In so far as big life decisions, I've been afraid to take risks (well, in my career, anyway. In stuff like love and relationships, I go in hard and reckless!) I hate saying that out loud, because who wants to say they're a safe, boring person? But I really have been scared to admit that I want to write. I do write, actually. I just don't share it very often even though I tell myself all the time that *today* is the day I sit down and make progress towards becoming a published author. I'm not entirely sure why this is such a daunting subject for me, why the heck I find my passion a source of potential embarrasment or humiliation. Don't most people shout this type of stuff from the rooftops? Am I just wired wrong? Is it too late to rewire? I sure as heck hope not.

How appropriate: my "Pensive" list just played itself out so I hit the shuffle button on my "Hodepodge" mix. First song to come on? Beyonce's "Girls." Yeah. You can't make this stuff up.

That's all for now. Good night, world.