Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

I had not thought much about Janet Evanovich's other series of books, outside of Stephanie Plum. I needed a no-brainer read (this isn't an insult!) so I picked up The Heist from the library. This is the first book in the Fox and O'Hare series (see that clever name selection there??) and it was really pretty good.

Kate O'Hare is an ex-Navy SEAL and an FBI agent who has been tracking con artist Nick Fox for years. She finally catches him, by hitting him with a bus, and he ends up getting away. But wait! He doesn't actually get away.

He gets recruited by the FBI to help con cons and ferret out some of their most wanted criminals outside of the law....with Kate as his partner. EVERYTHING about this set up is terribly improbable. But it's terribly entertaining. Whereas Plum is inept and bungles her way out of problems, Kate is actually a damn good agent and lethal with just her hands and an eyebrow tweezer. She may spill food on her shirt all the time but even the best of us do. Nick is a too-good-at-this con artist and is naturally charming and handsome.

This is a complete suspend-belief-of-any-kind-but-at-least-the-woman-kicks-ass-and-saves-people- instead-of-needing-saving type of book.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

I know I've read this before but it apparently was before I started tracking books on Goodreads. I remember busting a gut to SantaLand Diaries but strangely.....not this time. Am I getting old?

Nah. I think I've now read enough of Sedaris' works, and listened to him tell stories, that I can tell when he was "fresh" and just starting out. Holidays on Ice is a collection of stories but they are not the Sedaris that I now know and love.

Santaland Diaries IS still a funny story about Sedaris becoming a Macy's elf for the holiday season. With all the hubbub about Black Santas, it's interesting to note that Sedaris was an elf for the black santa back in the day. Why the hubbub, bub?

Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!!! isn't very funny, despite all the exclamation points.

My favorite story, this go round, is Dinah, The Christmas Whore. I have no idea why but I laughed at this and really preferred it over Santaland Diaries.

Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol,  Based Upon a True Story, and Christmas Means Giving are the last three stories and


Try to find Santaland Diaries and Dinah, The Christmas Whore to read. That's all you need.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

This has been on my to-read list for a bit but just never made it to the top until this last week. I'll be honest, it made it to the top because it was very short (130+ pages or about 4 hours) and I wanted to hit my goal of 50 books for 2016. I'm not sorry I picked this book but I am sorry I listened to the audio and didn't linger over the writing. The audio from Librivox was just fine, don't get me wrong, but I think this book needed to be read and mulled over.

Apocalypse Now (the movie) was based on this book and I'll admit to being very curious to see it now. Marlow, our narrator, is on a ship going up the Congo River in Africa. He takes a job as a riverboat captain on his way to see Kurtz, a "remarkable, respected, intelligent" ivory trader in charge of the trading post. He's infamous and there is much legend and lore about him. Marlow encounters multiple setbacks on his journey, including having his steamboat sunk. While he waits out the repairs at Central Station, he notices "with horror" how the natives are treated. They are worked to death by the so-called civilized white people, abused and treated abhorrently. Yet, while talking to the white folks working for Central Station, it's a constant stream of how savage and horrible the natives are. This all sounds very familiar from an American standpoint too, eh?

Marlow finally gets his crew of pilgrims and cannibals and makes his way to Kurtz. Again, multiple problems seem to try and derail him, but he makes it there. Once there, for all his bluster about exterminating the "brutes" (the natives), Kurtz seems to be revered by them, seen as a god. He is very ill and is put into a cabin on the steamboat.  Kurtz tries to leave the boat and go back to his station and Marlow realizes how overcome with madness Kurtz really is.

I might put this on a re-read list. The writing was quite interesting and I discovered after Googling, that I missed some things through the audiobook that I might have caught while reading.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists by JK Rowling

A short little book that gives background on well, evil, and accomplices to evil. We all know Lord Voldemort is EVIL. If you pay attention you know Dolores Umbridge is also EVIL. But there's someone in here that I would not have ranked in this book but... yeah, he caused some problems.

We get some good background on Umbridge and there's not much that makes anyone pity her. Just evil evil woman. The Ministers of Magic history is pretty interesting and there are some names that are very familiar!

History on Azkaban, polyjuice potion, cauldrons and potions fills in some space but I was pretty interested in Horace Slughorn. He seemed...kindly but a bit inept in the book and movie. But I see now that he wasn't inept, he was quite smart, and he was terrible inclusive and snobbish. His need to have his ideal students love him led him to reveal to Tom Riddle (aka Voldy) how to create Horcruxes (and we all know where that leads).

Another great little book with extra information on our favorite wizarding world.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide by JK Rowling

I read this out of order, although I don't think it matters. This is technically book 3 of the trilogy of short books behind the scenes, so to speak.

Am I the only person who didn't realize Hogwarts was in Scotland?? How did I miss that?

This little book is a quick 79 pages of insight into Hogwarts and how JK Rowling came up with some of the things we all love. We learn more about the Hogwarts Express and Platform 9 3/4. Got some good info on the Sorting Hat and the 5 minute rule.

The castle itself was explored with the Hufflepuff Common Room, which we've never seen, and the Marauder's Map ("I solemnly swear I am up to no good"). Time travel is discussed via the Time-Turner as well as all the Castle residents - ghosts AND portraits!

Lastly, we get the secrets of the Castle. Very good background information!

I love these little books!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

The strange thing about re-reading books you read in high school is how your age and (I assume) wisdom, changes how you view the book. I remember reading this and despising Phineas and Gene. I didn't know why I didn't like them, I was a dumb teenager, but I didn't like either of them.

After a re-read, I still do not like Gene but Finny has a pass. I realize, now, that the codependency of the two is what led me to not like either of them. I've never been a codependent person, never needed someone around all the time. I don't need to be a leader, I don't want to be a follower. Relationships like this have always irked me. But now I see that Finny became codependent out of necessity. Gene still sucked.

Set in a boy's school in New England, Gene and Finny are roommates and best friends. Finny's personality is outgoing, confident and incorrigible. Gene is meek, quiet and self-loathing. The leader-follower relationship is set. As Gene becomes more envious of Finny, he causes a deliberate accident that causes Finny to shatter his leg, thus ending his athletic dreams. Shitty move, Gene.

Finny eventually comes back to Devon, the same but crippled, and is forced to rely on Gene. Gene is still hating himself for what happened (which he should) and actively delves into daydreams and trying to become "Phineas" for Finny. Keep in mind that while this is all happening World War II is going on and each student at Devon is in danger of being drafted. The book never goes near the war, it just keeps it as a dark cloud over everyone and influence their decisions.

Just to keep the spoilers at bay, know that Finny and Gene's story gets more complicated with help from Brinker, another self-important student at Devon. Things do end badly and lessons don't entirely seem to get absorbed.

I couldn't remember anything about this book when I picked it up, except that I read it and it was set at a boy's school. Each page gave me deja vu and I realized it was there all along. I just didn't realize the plot I had in my mind was to A Separate Peace.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

A quick (about an hour) audiobook I found on my iPod. Gillian Flynn is known for Gone Girl and if you've read that, you might know what to expect with this.

This starts off with a ....bang

“I DIDN’T STOP giving hand jobs because I wasn’t good at it. I stopped giving hand jobs because I was the best at it. "

A young woman, never named, works in the back room of a psychic giving handjobs but when carpel tunnel ruins that career she moves to the front of the shop to predict futures. Susan Burke, a mousy rich lady, walks in and needs help. Her stepson is crazy and she lives in a haunted house. Our con lady cum hooker is all to happy to help and see how much she can scam from Susan.

Being a Flynn story, I knew we'd be taking some hairpin turns. We did....actually, several of them. And I'm not entirely sure what road we ended up on. Great little novella!