Book Review: KooKooLand

KooKooLand Book Review

About the Memoir

Gloria Norris, the author and main character, writes about her upbringing in the projects of Manchester, New Hampshire. Much of the book chronicles her life in the 1960s with her mother, Shirley, father, Jimmy, and half-sister, Virginia.

Norris’s prose is hilarious and poetic. Though some may find some of it offensive, it captures the slang of the 60s and her deadbeat dad who’s a well-read but deeply disturbed, volatile, ex-merchant mariner, of Greek descent. A low-level criminal, he threatens to kill people and degrades every person, no matter their race, creed, sex, or heritage.

Gloria pals around with him on hunting and fishing expeditions to put food on the table. They visit the race track to bet on nags hoping for the big payout, and she rides along with him when he goes to manicure the lawns for the rich people across town.

He refers to Gloria as Dummkopf, Pipsqueak, Dracula, because of her crooked teeth, Slowpoke, because he challenges her to a race and never let’s her win, and Egghead, because she’s smart and makes straight As.

Gloria fantasizes about becoming rich and getting out of the projects like her father’s friend, Hank, who owns a gun shop. Hank’s daughter, Susan, bright and beautiful, becomes Gloria’s idol. Susan wants to be a doctor and move to KooKooLand, says Jimmy about California, to save poverty stricken, children. Gloria sets her sights on becoming a doctor too, “to get the hell out of the projects.”

Violence reaches the climax half-way through the book when two people are murdered. Against the odds, Gloria manages to persevere and create a life void of poverty—a life in KooKooLand.

Rating

I gave it a 4.5 out of 5 because I was only mildly disappointed in the last several chapters. Norris’s voice from her childhood was replaced by her adult voice. Though appropriate for the pacing of the book, and her age, I missed the verbiage she through around as a child.

I found this book on BookBub, and I was hesitant to purchase it because it was only $0.99. This was a steal! The book is riveting, dark, and hilarious, I couldn’t put it down! I have a Book Hangover!

Purchase the Book on Amazon or BookBub

Buy on Amazon: KooKooLand or Buy on BookBub: KooKooLand

More About the Author

Gloria Norris Website

Road to Recovery

My road to recovery, and my battle against cancer started one year ago today. At this time last year, I was recovering from a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. When I woke up from my five hour surgery, I was surrounded by my husband, my parents, and my dear friend Katie. Katie, a nurse at the same hospital, pulled some strings to get me a large, private room at the end of a quiet hall so I could rest peacefully through the night.

Here’s a brief excerpt from my journal entries I affectionately call, The Journey of My Jugs.

~

Waking up from surgery was a blur. I remember opening my eyes to find my family sitting in a large private hospital room at the end of a hallway. The surgery lasted five hours, two more hours than they planned. While my plastic surgeon was finishing his handiwork, the pathology report came back from the lab with devastating news. There were trace amounts of cancer found in three lymph nodes. The lab insisted on removing more lymph nodes so they could be tested.

As I looked around my room, I reminded my mom of the three magic questions I wanted her to answer when I woke up from surgery. Was I alive or dead? Did they go straight to implants or did they use expanders? Did they find cancer in the lymph nodes? I was alive, and they were able to go straight to implants instead of having to go through the pain of expanders. (Expanders are temporary fluid sacks filled weekly so the skin can stretch slowly. Apparently, I had ample skin leftover to stuff and sew.) I was so happy to hear this news, but she had saved the worst news for last. The cancer was found in my lymph nodes. They removed several nodes; the surgeon wasn’t able to guess how many were taken. The news crushed my spirit for a moment. I couldn’t find any tears to go along with the disappointment, so I smiled and reminded myself to be grateful for another day on this planet. I am sure the anesthesia helped bring a smile to my face as well.

~

Thank you for stopping by and reading a part of my journey.

Nicole

Breast Cancer Diagnosis: A Wave of Sadness

When I was diagnosed at age 42 with stage 3 breast cancer, I knew I wanted to write a book about the journey. I knew the writing process would be cathartic for me, and I wanted the end result to inspire others tackling breast cancer or adversity of any kind.

One in eight women will develop an invasive form of breast cancer in their lifetime, so another goal I have for this book is to bring more awareness to younger women. It’s so important to do your monthly breast exams and to make that appointment for your first mammogram when you turn 40.

Many of you may have followed me on my CaringBridge site for the weeks following my diagnosis. I mused about my double mastectomy, the strength and courage I was given from family and friends, shaving my head, and a few other milestones.

The next few paragraphs are from my first journal entries, moments after I received the dreaded breast cancer diagnosis.

~

There was still no fighting the tears and the ugly cry that had taken over me, so I called my husband Adlai, and I heard those famous words, we’ll get through this together. Another wave of sadness hit me. One deeper than anything I have ever felt. I haven’t been giving our relationship the time it deserved; instead I have been working full-time and picking up freelance writing jobs to grow my byline. My weekends were filled with writing assignments while my week nights were filled with teaching fitness classes or preparing for 5k and 10k races. I made my husband entertain himself. I felt like a terrible wife. Now, I was a terrible wife with cancer and a pity party was already in progress.

What would I say on my deathbed? I would tell him to find someone else, to remember me, but find someone else to love. I would tell him to find someone who will share a hunting experience with him, someone who loves to ride in boats that go really fast, someone who is a better wife than me.

I sobbed the entire way home. I felt like there was no hope for a new life after cancer even though my doctor was positive about my prognosis. My doctor drank from the glass that was half full, while I was drinking pulp at the bottom of a glass.

~

I hope you enjoyed this passage from The Journey of My Jugs. Be on the lookout for future posts that include more excerpts from my book. If you want to read more, please check out my CaringBridge site for longer passages.

Tuesday’s Writing Tips: Personally

Tuesday’s Writing Tips 

The Elements of Style

It’s time for another writing tip from the book The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

Misused words and expressions.

Personally.

Often unnecessary.

Incorrect: Personally, I thought it was a good book.

Correct: I thought it was a good book.

~

daisy haiku

 

Today’s Haiku

reaching for the sky
she pushes past obstacles—
escaping dark clouds

 ~

Have a fantastic day!

~Nicole

Tuesday’s Writing Tips: Careless

Tuesday’s Writing Tips 

The Elements of Style

It’s time for another writing tip from the book The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

Misused words and expressions.

Care less.

The dismissive “I couldn’t care less” is often used with the shortened “not” mistakenly (and mysteriously) omitted: “I could care less.” The error destroys the meaning of the sentence and is careless indeed.

 

~

cat hummingbird friend haiku

 

Today’s Haiku

open your heart
and build a lasting friendship—
all judgment aside

 ~

Have a fantastic day!

~Nicole

Tuesday’s Writing Tips: Don’t Construct Awkward Adverbs

Tuesday’s Writing Tips 

The Elements of Style

It’s time for another writing tip from the book The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

Don’t construct awkward adverbs.

Adverbs are easy to build. Take an adjective or a participle, add -ly, and behold! you have an adverb. But you’d probably be better off without it. Don’t write tangledly. The word itself is a tangle. Don’t even write tiredly. Nobody says tangledly or tiredly. Words that are not used orally are seldom the ones to put on paper.

NO: He climbed tiredly to bed.

YES: He climbed wearily to bed.

NO: The lamp cord lay tangledly beneath her chair.

YES: The lamp cord lay in tangles beneath her chair.

Don’t dress words up by adding -ly to them, as though putting a hat on a horse.

Instead of overly, use over.

Instead of muchly, use much.

Instead of thusly, use thus.

~

typewriter-haiku

 

Today’s Haiku

Speech constricted while
paranoia wraps each word—
truth is on paper

 ~

Have a fantastic day!

~Nicole

Tuesday’s Writing Tips: Avoid Foreign Languages

Tuesday’s Writing Tips 

The Elements of Style

It’s time for another writing tip from the book The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

Avoid foreign languages.

The writer will occasionally find it convenient or necessary to borrow from other languages. Some writers, however, from sheer exuberance or a desire to show off, sprinkle their work liberally with foreign expressions, with no regard for the reader’s comfort. It’s a bad habit. Write in English.

~

Last weekend, hubby and I hiked in Whitewater State Park. In mid-summer there is a canopy of leaves covering the trail, but there are still dead leaves from last fall that coat the ground. There was a slight breeze blowing through the treetops which made the dead leaves look like they were dancing along the forest floor.

 

dancing leaves haiku

 

Today’s Haiku

dead, crunchy leaves—
shadows dancing like sunlight
piercing a prism

 ~

Have a fantastic day!

~Nicole

Tuesday’s Writing Tips: Allude

Tuesday’s Writing Tips 

The Elements of Style

It’s time for another writing tip from the book The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

Today’s tip comes from the Misused Words and Expressions portion of the book. The word is allude.

Don’t confuse with elude. You allude to a book; you elude a pursuer. Note, too, that allude is not synonymous with refer. An allusion is an indirect mention, a reference is a specific one.

~

Just-as-our-eyes-need-light-in-order haiku

Today’s Haiku

mind is ticking
our path is guided by thoughts,
so dream with purpose

 ~

Are you dreaming with purpose?

~Nicole

Tuesday’s Writing Tips: Hyphen

Tuesday’s Writing Tips 

The Elements of Style

It’s time for another writing tip from the book The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

When two or more words are combined to form a compound adjective, a hyphen is usually required. “He belonged to the leisure class and enjoyed leisure-class pursuits.” “She entered her boat in the round-the-island race.”

Don’t use a hyphen between words that can better be written as one word: water-fowl, waterfowl. Common sense will aid you in the decision, but a dictionary is more reliable. The steady evolution of the language seems to favor union: two words eventually become one, usually after a period of hyphenation:

  1. bed chamber, bed-chamber, bedchamber
  2. wild life, wild-life, wildlife
  3. bell boy, bell-boy, bellboy

The hyphen can play tricks on the unwary, as it did in Chattanooga when two newspapers merged—The Chattanooga News and the Free Press. Someone introduced a hyphen in to the merger, and the paper became The Chattanooga News-Free Press, which sounds as though the paper were news-free, or devoid of news. Obviously, we ask too much of a hyphen when we ask it to cast its spell over words it does not adjoin.

Today, I leave you with a quote from Napoleon Hill.

“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.”

patience haiku

 

Today’s Haiku

meditation
close your eyes open your soul
envision your dream

 ~

How is your patience level today?

~Nicole

Tuesday’s Writing Tips: Parentheses

Tuesday’s Writing Tips 

The Elements of Style

It’s time for another writing tip from the book The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

I selected parantheses because I am reading Gone Girl, and there are lots of sentences and expressions in parentheses in this book. I wanted to make sure I knew the rules of punctuation. I thought this tidbit was useful.

Parentheses

A sentence containing an expression in parentheses is punctuated outside the last mark of parenthesis exactly as if the parenthetical expression were absent. The expression within the marks is punctuated as if it stood by itself, except that the final stop is omitted unless it is a question mark or an exclamation point.

I went to her house yesterday (my third attempt to see her), but she had left town.

He declares (and why should we doubt his good faith?) that he is now certain of success.

(When a wholly detached expression or sentence is parenthesized, the final stop comes before the last mark of parenthesis.)

Obstacles are things a person sees when he takes his eyes off his goal.”
~E. Joseph Cossman

obstacles haiku

Today’s Haiku

blockade lies ahead
but only for a moment—
eye on the prize

 ~

Are you plagued with obstacles?

~Nicole