Friday, August 26, 2016

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

LOVE Cormoran Strike and love Galbraith (*cough* JK Rowling)

Second in the Strike series, we get a little more involved in the case rather than getting to know Strike and Robin (the first book sets you up for those). I listened to the audiobook from the library and it was fantastic. The narrator was really top notch.

Mrs. Quine approaches Strike to help find her husband, Owen. He's a novelist who, while tending to run off by himself, has been gone much too long. Strike is fairly famous at this point for solving the Lula Landry case in the previous book so he's doing fairly well with business. Most of it is rich people cheating on each other so, despite Mrs. Quine not looking like she can pay, he takes her case for the interest.

And interesting he got. Owen wrote a novel that skewered every one he knew and lawsuits were piling up before the book could even be published. Seems like a good time for a novelist to disappear.

Strike eventually finds Owen and he's not among the living anymore. The missing person case has turned into a gruesome murder case and there are too many suspects to sort through.

This was a long book (455 pages or 17+ hours of audio) but it was intriguing all the way through. I enjoyed the ending wrap up because Galbraith made sure we had no idea what Strike was thinking or planning when he figured everything out. Excellent hard-boiled mystery!

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks

This one wasn't up my alley. It was a very short book and it has a good premise (What would you say to that bully 20 years later??) but it seemed to fall short.

Caroline is a meek, mouse of a woman who, one day in PTA, suddenly drops the f-bomb to the head of the PTA. I'm guessing this has built up over time because that seemed odd. When Polly, Caroline's daughter, gets in a fight, Caroline pulls her out of school and several states away so Caroline can deliver the "perfect comeback" to HER school bully.

The characters didn't really work well for me. I get why Caroline would want to go back and tell off her bully (who used to be her best friend) but it didn't seem to go where I think it could have went with the idea and characters. There are some fun characters who pop up but they don't really add to the story.

I think this would appeal to folks who like chick-lit, but it really didn't appeal to me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Listening vs. Reading

I tend to listen to audiobooks a lot lately, on my commute, exercising, while knitting, etc. I never thought audiobooks were "cheating" but apparently some people do. Interesting article on why audiobooks are not cheating :)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Grunt by Mary Roach

Or Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War

I've never met a bad Mary Roach book and this was no exception. War books, war movies, none of those are my "thing" but since this is Roach I figured it would be funny and informative and not so much with the horrors of war....all that was true, until the last chapter.

I listened to this in audiobook format so I can't go back and get chapter titles and this all has to come from memory (I should really write things down when I listen to audiobooks) but essentially Roach delves into the science of soldiers at war. But she takes the approach that others don't normally take such as: Is diarrhea a threat to national security? Turns out, yes. It's a huge problem for soldiers in other countries and it's actually not something I would have even thought about. There are departments dedicated to research of diarrhea just to help keep the soldiers healthy.

Roach researched hearing loss - another big problem with soldiers as well as uniforms and how to protect soldiers from IEDs that explode under vehicles. Again, it turns out that those injuries are unique and that lead to Roach researching penis reconstruction and how surgeons at Walter Reed hospital are doing everything they can to put soldiers back together. An interesting and sad side note, when Roach asked about women and their reproductive organs during IED explosions, it was pointed out that if the damage reached the ovaries, then the soldier was dead.

We delved into flies and research on maggot debridement as well as heat exertion and life on a submarine (think severe sleep deprivation). All of the chapters had Roach's trademark wry humor ("Brian Williams loved caffeinated meat.....or did he?"). The last chapter was somber and serious. Roach went to a morgue where soldiers are taken in order to meet with physicians who are doing their best to understand how the deaths happened and what can be learned to prevent future deaths. Something as simple as a tourniquet not being placed right is a difference between life or death and medics in the field are constantly briefed on what went right and what went wrong. Roach was clearly taken with the images of dead soldiers and, honestly, that chapter was hardest to listen to.

I hate war, I hate the thought that all of this is needed because we have to be at war. I hate what the men and women of the military have to endure to do their job. But I'm very happy they are brave enough to do it and I thank them for that.

Two good interviews with Mary Roach can be found:

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Some books put in family trees of their characters, which I mostly ignore, but for Homegoing, I referred back to it repeatedly. Not because it was confusing, but because I wanted to keep making sure lineages carried on. Let me explain why.

First let me say that for a debut novel, this was wonderful. This author is going to shine bright so keep an eye on her. Homegoing tells the story of 2 half sisters, Effia and Esi, who know nothing of each other but share the same mother. Maame is at the top of the tree. We start off in 18th-century Ghana and, in each chapter, we follow one person on the family tree. Effia is known as Effia the Beauty in her village. She is married off to an Englishman and lives in a Castle. Esi is kidnapped from her village and sold into slavery. Slaves were kept in the dungeon of the Castle while they waited for ships to take them to America. Effia and Esi are literally separated by a floor. 

As we move through the chapters, we branch out to follow Effia's lineage in Africa and Esi's lineage in America. We end in modern times, 8 generations from where we started. 

This is a heartbreaking, heavy book. When we hear now of black reparations, most people just scoff that slavery ended and the current generation of African Americans are not affected anymore. Reading this novel can change minds. When slaves were freed and black people had to carry "free papers" everywhere they went, when, even with free papers, they were thrown in jail and sentenced to 9 years of hard labor because they didn't cross a street when a white person walked by, when mothers were kidnapped off the street in Baltimore and taken South to be sold into slavery even though she was born free up North....all of these are heartrending to read. 

Each chapter closes the door on the person we are discovering which is why I kept going back to the family tree to see if that person made it out and continued on. We learn bits and pieces in the next chapters through the eyes of the children to see how the parents faired. It's truly an interesting way to introduce everyone to us and to show how slavery affected one family, multiple generations in.

Must read, you guys, you must read.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

End Of Watch by Stephen King

Ah, Mr. King. You just kill me.

We're at the end of the Bill Hodges trilogy and what an end it was. I'm not going to spoil anything for anyone because this ride is worth taking your time on and enjoying.

We started off with Mr. Mercedes and Brady as the Mercedes Killer. This was a typical "humans are so evil I don't need the supernatural to help" type of King novel. Next up was Finders Keepers with started off in the same vain but ended making us believe the supernatural was about to enter and give evil a hand.

We know from Finders Keepers that Brady woke up from his coma with brain damage and wasn't deemed competent enough to stand trial. We also know that Hodges suspected (correctly!) that Brady was faking it and that he somehow ended up with a bit o'telekinesis.

Oh but that's not all Brady brought back with him.

Hodges, Holly and a bit of Jerome are back together and doing their best to suspend belief, accept the supernatural and impossible and bring down "the suicide prince".

I listened to this from and was terribly sad to have to sleep, go to work... really to have a life aside from listening to this book. I admit to tearing up at the end. King made this a final book in the most permanent way.


The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks

Max Brooks is well known for World War Z but this was the first I knew of a graphic novel by Brooks (and Cannan White as the illustrator). The premise was so interesting that I put this on my to-read list on Goodreads and was ecstatic to find it at my (little) local library.

The Harlem Hellfighters (as nicknamed by the Germans) were an regiment of black men who willingly enlisted in the Army during WWI when America finally decided to step into battle. The 369th infantry started off brave, stayed brave when white soldiers and civilians were killing them, when their own army was refusing to give them weapons or training, when they were finally sent over seas to fight and fight hard. They were not given a parade when they were sent out, but the white men were. So much of this novel is brutal but it's not the war portion that is heartbreaking. It's the racist acts by others that make me angry. If you enlist, you are brave and you are deserving of respect, regardless of your color or sex or anything.

This is a fictional account of a real regiment. Some of the characters are real people and at the end Brooks explains who people are. This is a terribly interesting portion of American history that I have never even heard of and now I want to know more!

In the end, they got their parade (along with many years of violent racism) and ended up being one of the most decorated regiments in the army.  Take a look at this and then go find out more about this awesome history.

The quote in this video that sums things up: "Had he been white, he would have walked out of that war with a Medal of Honor"