Thursday, December 1, 2016

Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers

Another recommendation from Books on the Nightstand and, while it was a good novel, I had trouble finishing it. But finish it I did.

Josie is a dentist, who has had to sell her practice to pay off a lawsuit. At the same time, her deadbeat boyfriend, Carl, with whom she has 2 kids, finally leaves after 8 years of never working and never spending time with the kids. In the beginning, I didn't feel like Josie was a person who made smart decisions.....

And she's off to Alaska with her children! In a rented, run-down RV! And no cell phone! With no idea where is she going or why she's doing it! In the midst of horrible wildfires happening in Alaska! All to avoid what she thinks is Carl's ploy to take the kids to show his future in-laws that he's an awesome dad. All of Josie's "decisions" seem like horrible leaps of thoughts that just don't connect.

The RV apparently is not a fun place to live so they end up breaking into B&B's and empty cabins along the way. When Josie contemplates, "Am I a bad mother?" I always answered her with "Yeah, you kinda suck".

I think Josie and her kids were meant to be whimsical and adventure loving people. That I was supposed to look past all the trials they endured and see what free spirits they ended up being. I couldn't, though, because all of Josie's reasons for running were not really based in reality. The trials they endured were brought on by Josie, not chance or fate.

Eggers is a great writer, however, so you can easily ride the story line. For me, though, I didn't like Josie enough, or respect her enough, to cheer her on.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Wastelands by Stephen King

The third book in the Dark Tower series. This is a re-read but once again while I remember the whole, I've forgotten the details. We're travelling along with Roland, the Gunslinger, Eddie and Susannah, newly discovered Gunslingers.

Eddie and Susannah, having been brought through their doors from New York City, are learning from Roland how to be a Gunslinger. He is apparently a very good teacher because both Eddie and Susannah are able to prove their worth and dexterity very early on. Roland, on the other hand, is slowly falling apart mentally. We know from the first book that Jake met up with Roland and traveled with him to see the Man in Black. But Jake died, sacrificed by Roland for the Dark Tower ("Go then, there are other worlds than this"). Roland remembers all of this happening, yet, it didn't happen, because Roland killed the man who initially killed Jake. This is all very complicated but you'll get it. He is living in double memories and it's driving him mad. Unfortunately, Jake Chambers is in NYC and living in his own hell because he knows he's supposed to be dead in "real life" and he's supposed to meet Roland and die again. But he goes on living, trying to understand what's happening to him.

Eventually, through a horrifying process, Jake makes it to Mid-World and back to Roland and the others. Their minds clear and they continue the journey to the Dark Tower. Almost 600 pages of adventures also give us Oy, a billy-bumbler, who befriends Jake and, oh my goodness, I want an Oy of my very own. Alas.....

We're left with Blaine the Mono. Blaine is a pain. And Blaine ends this novel by taking our friends on a riddle-filled, suicide trip at 800 miles per hour.

I've summarized this greatly because well, you need to read it. This is a fantastic adventure. I started reading it on a plane to NYC (coincidence? I think not!) and was just pulled right back in. Fantastic.

Also, Stephen King actually published Charlie the Choo-Choo. It arrived yesterday at my home and it's just as creepy and awesome as you think it would be (you have to read Wastelands to understand this!!!)

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

I'm so torn on this book. First, I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was quite good. The storyline was quite good. The writing....oh....

If you read Cormac McCarthy, you will recognize the attempt at his writing in The Dog Stars. McCarthy has a flow, so even though the writing is fragmented and somewhat staccato, there IS a flow to McCarthy's writing and you can easily get into it. Heller has the same writing style (at least in this book - I've not read anything else by him) and I could not, for the life of me, get into his flow. Maybe it was because it was an audiobook but the fragments and pauses made it hard for me to get lost in the story.

So let's talk about the story.

We're in a bit of an apocalypse when we meet Hig, Jasper and Bangley. A flu has killed a good majority (probably high 90%) of the population and the survivors are 9 years past the major fallout. Hig and Jasper, the dog of Dog Stars, end up in a town near Denver, Colorado with Bangley, a bit of a gun nut, a bit of a damn good survivor. Bangley is really the reason the poetry-loving Hig is still alive. There are 3 books to this novel and the first introduces us to their current situation. Scouting for food, using Hig's airplane to keep a watch on the roads, killing people who attempt to break into their homes, and just surviving.

Book 2 takes us on a journey with Hig to try and find a voice on the radio that he heard while flying three years prior. This book made me angry. One, 3 years ago you heard a radio transmission and NOW you are going to try and find it. Two, you are leaving Bangley alone to defend your homes. Three, when you did find other people, Hig, you were a jackass. I was rooting for you to be shot. You seem to have forgotten how you distrusted people approaching YOUR home and how easily you and Bangley killed invaders. Then you waltz up to another home and add like a son-of-a-bitch, expecting the woman to disrobe for you the minute she saw you. Ugh.

Book 3 takes us back to Bangley and the airport outside of Denver. A good deal more happens in book three that makes you want to slap Hig again, but it wraps up the storyline fairly well.

The story was a good one. The characters were good, especially if the point was to make you want to punch Hig on a regular basis. If you can get past the fragmented writing, it's worth the read.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin

I'm terribly sad that Books on the Nightstand has completed it's journey. Without it, I would not have read as many great books as I have. They are keeping their episodes up for 2 years so go out there and check out their recommendations.

American Heiress is another great recommendation from BOTNS. A non-fiction book about the saga of Patty (Patricia) Hearst, it held my attention. The entire Hearst deal happened before I was born but it's something that pretty much everyone knows about. An heiress to the Hearst fortune, Patricia was kidnapped by the stupidly named Symbionese Liberation Army in February 1974. Toobin's account shows a group of "revolutionaries" who really just seemed bored and wanting to do something to make a statement. Their leader, Donald DeFreeze, was a felon who escaped (and the prison actually didn't even bother looking for him - what does that tell you?) who fancies himself a George Jackson, which he wasn't. He fancied himself the leader of the SLA and African-Americans, except he was the only black member of the SLA. Their first real act was murdering Marcus Foster, an African American educator who was actually doing some good, but the SLA got all the facts wrong and a man who was trying to help was now dead.

Next up, the SLA thought a kidnapping was a good idea. Enter Patricia Hearst. This book was written without any input from Hearst but her own memoir, Every Secret Thing, was the starting point for Toobin's research. Hearst was kidnapped, her fiance, Steve Weed ran away from the fray and a neighbor was injured. At first, Hearst was kept in a closet, blindfolded. That didn't last terribly long as the chattier members of the SLA took to being her friends and leaving the door open so they could talk. As we move on, Hearst is given the option of being left somewhere where her family could come get her or joining SLA. She chose to join.

Her participation in bank robberies, bombings, etc. is pretty well known. She had ample opportunity to flee her captors, often being left alone in vehicles while others shopped. Bill Harris, a member of the SLA, often said he wanted her to leave as she was too conspicuous and was causing them problems. Eventually, they are caught, arrested and made to stand trial.

The Hearst family brought in F. Lee Bailey to defend Patricia and he chose to go the route of brainwashing. Long story short, Hearst was convicted, served time, had President Jimmy Carter sign a commutation of her remaining sentence and demanded a full pardon from President Bill Clinton.

My overall feeling of Hearst was "poor little rich girl". She was bored with her life when she was kidnapped, decided being an urban guerrilla would be fun, went to jail, decided being a rich Hearst again would be better, then went on to convince herself that she never did anything wrong.

The SLA did not seem to have enough brain power to keep themselves together, let alone brainwash someone. They barely survived, barely caused a reaction, barely did anything but pretend to be revolutionaries.

Definitely recommend for a good read.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I need to get back to Key West

I got to visit Key West, briefly, on a cruise. We only got about 8 hours there and I didn't get to wander around NEARLY as much as I wanted. Now, I need to go and spend more time...

and this also makes me want to go back (I know Norman won't be there...hush)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

How about them goals?

I probably should have checked in earlier on my goals but, looking at my posts this past year, it's obvious that I lost my reading oomph. It's also obvious that I have it back. So let's check in, yes?

My initial goal for the year overall is to read 50 books. Goodreads informs me that I'm at 37 which isn't a terrible amount. Here's my current list of books for 2016. I will say, I've really enjoyed the books I've read. I've ended up reading things I normally wouldn't have picked out for myself thanks to the Postal Book Club started with the Books on the Nightstand podcast (now a defunct podcast which hurts my heart!). The current postal book club will be ending soon and I already signed up for the Before They Were Movies postal book club. I just need to find a good book to read and send on!

My next goal was to have 10% of my reading be classics. I was hoping to read 5 classics this year:

Wuthering Heights
The Handmaid's Tale (this technically could have fit in the re-reads but I moved it)
A Tale of Two Cities

I think I can knock 2 more classics out by the end of the year.

My other goal was to have 10% of my reading to be historical reading, either true stories or biographies.

Dead Wake
The Harlem Hellfighters

Looks like I need to beef this up a bit. Right now, I'm reading American Heiress so that will land nicely in the historical category!

I was also going to re-read 2 books. Because of the Dark Tower movie coming out, a friend and I are re-reading the entire Dark Tower series so that, including re-reading The Stand, covers my re-read goal (and more!).

I'm really not doing too badly here. Honestly, any year where I read this many books is a good year!

Escape Clause by John Sandford

Do you remember when Virgil Flowers aka That Fuckin' Flowers was just a bit player in the Lucas Davenport series? Flowers is already on his 9th book, y'all!

Lucas makes a VERY brief appearance in this, the rest is Flowers holding his own. I will admit that when I first realized, by Chapter 2, that this was about missing tigers from a zoo, I almost put it down. How exciting can that be?

Turns out, pretty damn exciting.

There are actually several things happening at the same time:

Missing Amur tigers from the Minnesota zoo

Frankie's sister coming to stay and wanting to interview migrant workers in a pickle factory

Pickle factory owner getting angry and sending out goons

Animal activists aiming to kill people.

Lots of folks dying

It started to get a little twisty and you have to remember which parts affect which case but I read this in a day and it was a pretty good ride. I really appreciate the Flower series. My only complaint with this book is that the characters seemed a little.....cartoony. Flowers was still awesome, but once Sparkle and Father Bill came into the picture, well, they were caricatures. If I want cartoony characters, I'll hit up the Stephanie Plum series (which I do, frequently). I just don't want them in my Sandford books.