Sunday, December 27, 2015

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

According to Goodreads, I started this book in March 2014 and finished it a few days ago. There's a reason for that and it has nothing to do with the book's quality. Trust me, it's a wonderful book and I'm eager to read the rest of the series.

I got distracted

Yes, I started watching Outlander on Starz before I really got into the book and Sam Heughan really got me all distracted. When you consider the number of times that Claire and Jaime have sex in the book and that the show really tried to remain faithful.... *fans self*

Outlander is a book about time travel? No. Romance? No.... The 1700's in Scotland? Maybe. Sex? Mostly. Claire is a war nurse from 1945 and is recently reunited with her husband, Frank, for a little after war vacation. She ends up in an area of the British Isles and POOF! is suddenly sent back to Scotland in 1743. She is obviously an outsider (a Sassenach) and comes across a clan of highlanders who take her back to their castle (prisoner for the most part, since she is so unusual for the time).

Since she is a nurse, she has purpose in this time as a healer. But since the Scots still feel she is a spy, she is closely watched even as she keeps attempting to get back to the spot she fell through to get back to Frank.

She meets up with Redcoats, including Black Jack Randall, an ancestor of her husband's. Black Jack turns out to be a sadistic son of a bitch and Claire must be protected from him. In order to try and keep her safe, she is married to Jaime Fraser (see above photo and swoon). At first unhappy, Claire and Jaime enjoy quite the physical relationship and she grows to love him dearly (can you blame her?).

There are a lot of adventures for this clan in this novel so I won't go into all of them in this review but,with 800+ pages, it's an amazing read. First in the series, I cannot wait to read the rest and to see season two of the show.

(oh, and Scots really don't wear anything under their kilts)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

“As always, an educated woman was a dangerous woman.” 
 I picked this book going in because it was a fairly straightforward historical account, not one of those silly romantic non-fiction books that read like fiction. I listened to all 13+ hours and was hooked. I've never watched the movies, never cared for Elizabeth Taylor, so I went into this with very little knowledge of the Queen of Egypt. 

Unfortunately, history is written by the winners and Cleopatra was a loser in the sense that Rome won and took over Egypt and she committed suicide. Naturally, being a woman, she was stripped down to her sexuality instead of commended for her intelligence. Good to know that things haven't changed really since then. (/sarcasm)

Cleopatra wed twice, both times to brothers (incest wasn't even a known word then), had a child with Julius Caesar and then had three more children with Mark Antony. Antony proved to be her undoing in the world, as she proved to be his as well. What is written about Cleopatra is scarce and probably not to be believed (written by the winners, remember?). But we can deduce that she was an intelligent ruler who was beloved by her countrymen. It was in her blood to be murderous, but it seemed to be in everyone's blood back then so she can't be faulted for that. 

Schiff clearly loves the subject of Cleopatra and this was an engrossing book on history that people pretty much have forgotten. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

Fresh off of seeing Sleater-Kinney perform at the Murat Theatre (yes, I'm still calling it that) in Indianapolis on December 4, 2015, I went home and purchased Carrie's book to take on vacation with me. Carrie is a bona fide rock star.

She leads us through her upbringing, finding music, starting bands and beginning Sleater-Kinney with Corin Tucker (Janet Weiss comes in a smidge later). Once the band is fully formed and on it's way, we get front row seats through Call The Doctor up to No Cities To Love.

What is particularly interesting (aka sad) is how hard SK had to work to be known as a BAND. Just a band, without adding in the fact that they were all female. As Carrie points out, does anyone call a band with only guys an All Male Band? No, they don't. Even somewhat well meaning interviewers still focused on their gender, describing their outfits rather than their music.

Carrie is a bit crazy and a lot dorky and she acknowledges and embraces both. It's actually kind of nice to see someone who I think is a cool, talented rock star start off as a complete dork. Gives me (and other dorks) hope.

The writing got to me a bit. It was well written but Carrie has a tendency to described things in threes. It happens a lot and I couldn't help notice every time she did it. Otherwise, this is a must read for any Sleater-Kinney fan. And if they come to a town near you, go see them! You won't regret it.

No Way To Treat A First Lady by Christopher Buckley

I knew this would be a good one since I had previously read Boomsday and enjoyed it. I wasn't disappointed.

The President of the United States is having an affair and is boinking his mistress, an actress and "activist", in the Lincoln bedroom. He seems to be.... having trouble but finally finishes the deed. He heads back to his wife, First Lady Beth MacMann, in their bedroom. Beth knows about the affair and just turns over to go back to sleep. In the morning, the President is dead and Beth is arrested for assassination.

Beth calls up her old boyfriend who she abruptly dumped in college to defend her in court. Boyce Baylor, aka Shameless Baylor, takes the case for $1,000 an hour. Did I mention Beth dumped him to marry her now-dead husband??

Buckley makes the media circus that surrounds the Trial of the Millennium hilarious and frighteningly accurate. He's clever with his words and twists and turns. Well worth reading!

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

This was one of my choices to take on vacation since I was hoping to pack in a lot of reading while aboard a cruise ship. I didn't read what this was about, just relied on a friend's recommendation that it was "charming" (and cost me $1 at Half Price Books).

I ended up reading this in one day and leaving it on the cruise ship for someone else to enjoy so I don't have it with me to refer back to for the review.

Precious Ramotswe lives in Botswana with her father, raising cattle and taking care of her dad and the land. She tried marriage before and ended up abused, beaten and having a miscarriage for her efforts. Once her father dies, she sells the cattle and opens her own business. This business is a detective agency and she can claim it to be Number 1 because, well, no other detective agency exists, let alone one ran by a woman.

Ramotswe takes on various cases and cleverly solves them all. The blurb on the back claimed a missing boy was her biggest concern, yet that case wasn't technically a case and it took up very little of the book. Either way, this is a cute and charming book but I'm doubtful I will read the rest in the series.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Books on the Nightstand recommend this one and they didn't get it wrong:

Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation is a read-in-one-sitting powerhouse of a novel, full of emotion and gorgeousness. It’s a look at a woman who is suffering a crisis in her marriage, written in the form of letters that read like journal entries. This isn’t an easy book to describe, but it’s a novel that works on many different levels and is quite unique in style.
This is a crazy ass book. I almost think I would recommend reading rather than listening, although listening was a bit of a trip. Super short book- 3 hours or 182 pages - we walk through a marriage that breaks down with the narrator, simply known as "The Wife".

Before The Wife became The Wife, she was single and fell in love. A baby girl came along, happiness was abundant even with a colicky baby. Then things settled and became ... there. The Husband found someone else but The Wife wasn't letting go.

As a reviewer of books, I shouldn't say I'm at a loss to describe why this book is worth the read and why it's so good. It's a stream of consciousness. It's lyrical. It's real. It's how I would imagine myself in a marriage - constant doubting of my ability to even be a normal human being. Doubting, but still trying anyways. Doubting, and being called The Crazy Wife. Trying not to ruin the little human I'm tasked with making into a responsible adult.

“Three things no one has ever said about me:
You make it look so easy.
You are very mysterious.
You need to take yourself more seriously.” ― Jenny OffillDept. of Speculation

“How had she become one of those people who wears yoga pants all day? She used to make fun of those people. With their happiness maps and their gratitude journals and their bags made out of recycled tire treads. But now it seems possible that the truth about getting older is that there are fewer and fewer things to make fun of until finally there is nothing you are sure you will never be.” ― Jenny OffillDept. of Speculation 

“What Rilke said: Surely all art is the result of one’s having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, to where no one can go any further.” ― Jenny OffillDept. of Speculation 

So....give it a try. It's only 182 pages of your life

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

Since I am still trying to read from my stacks (1,100+ and growing - eep), I was going through one of the bookcases for the next book I wanted to try. I don't really remember buying The Stepford Wives but I know I got it at my friend's bookstore (may the wonderful store RIP). I've never seen the movie (the 1975 version OR the 2004 version)  but, like a lot of classics, the lexicon of the Stepford wife has permeated our vocabulary. I felt that I should read this.

It's a super quick read, just 145 pages, and it is damn creepy.Walter and Joanna Eberhart move to Stepford with their 2 kids and it becomes obvious to Joanna that "Stepford is out of step". Walter joins the Men's Association (please note, there is no Women's Association) and things start getting more out of step.

Joanna befriends Charmaine and Bobbie who both dislike the typical Stepford wife - dutiful to the husband, keeps a spotless house and perfect children. Bobbie and Joanna are sure something is up when Charmaine suddenly becomes the perfect housewife after a weekend away with her husband.

Then Bobbie takes a weekend away with her husband.

Then Walter wants a weekend away.

What is actually creepy about this book is that there is speculation that something is wrong and that the husbands are behind it, but in the end, there is no answer and Stepford is full of perfect housewives.

I plan on seeing the original movie because my understanding of the newest one is that they try to explain what happened to the wives. No please, I like my creepy to stay creepy.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Bookman's Promise by John Dunning

I devoured this series when I found it. It's a good mix of mystery and book collecting. If you really love books, you would like this series. But I was surprised when I was rearranging my books to find The Bookman's Promise. I read the synopsis and it didn't sound familiar. How did I read all other books in the series and not this? We must remedy that!

We're back with Cliff Janeway, ex-cop turned bookstore owner/bookscout. He comes across a rare Richard Burton book and purchases it for fairly hefty sum. Doing this gets him in the spotlight a bit and all the crankpots start calling with "rare" books of their own to sell him. Josephine Gallant seems to be one of those crankpots. An elderly lady, very much near her deathbed, not only calls but takes her last bit of energy to visit Janeway. She claims the book he purchased from stolen from her grandfather, Charles Warren, who traveled with Burton. Trouble is, no one can find proof Warren and Burton even knew each other. Gallant is intriguing enough that Janeway listens and tries to help. Denise and Mike Ralston let Gallant stay with them and sadly, she dies. But not before getting Janeway to promise to get the books that were stolen. He promises.

Things take an ugly turn when Denise is killed. And Janeway is off to find the killer and why the books were so important.

A motley cast of characters join Janeway for some Southern history and back story on Richard Burton (yes! a real person!) and the tensions that led to the Civil War. Mystery, murderers, books and American history. Seriously? What more do you want?

Dig out the series - it's over 10 years old - and start devouring.

X by Sue Grafton

I listened to this one as an audiobook and I think that is what left me feel ambivalent about it. Kinsey Millhone is the PI in this series and she is only 38, but in the audiobook, she sounded much older and more bitter. That's not how I like Kinsey and I think if I had read the book, I would have gotten a different tone.

We start this one off with Teddy Xanakis, a very bitter woman who caught her husband, Ari, having a sex with her best friend. We know she's planning some revenge and we know it will eventually involve Kinsey.

All of the books in this series can act as standalones since Kinsey will "get people up to date" at the beginning of each book. All the books are well worth reading, however. Kinsey lives alone in Santa Theresa, CA, is 38 and a PI. Also, it's 1989.

Kinsey meets up with a Hallie Bettancourt to help her find her son who she gave up for adoption.

Kinsey also helps Ruth, Pete Wolinsky's widow, with some unfinished business of Pete's and is on the trail of a serial killer.

Kinsey also tries to figure out what is up with her new neighbors, an elderly couple who just have an iffy quality about them

Does this sounds like a lot of non-connecting story lines? Yes, because it is. This book bounced around too much to make a lot of sense. I was actually expecting all of the 3 lines to converged but they never did. If we had just ditched the new neighbors and the Xanakis, Bettancourt storylines, this would have been a good, fleshed out book. There were issues with the serial killer line that made no sense but I think all the other people were fighting for page space.

Do read this series, but don't start with X. Maybe, leave it for very last or skip it all together.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir

I had heard about the movie with Matt Damon and just dismissed it (Matt Damon needs saved AGAIN??) but as I was listening to my backlog of Science..Sort of podcasts The Martian came up again in the form of an interview with the author (episode 228). Even though they warned several times that there were spoilers, I kept listening. As soon as I got to work, I logged on to my library to get the book and was sucked in from sentence one.

The most basic premise of this book is an astronaut is left stranded on Mars. There is a dangerous dust storm that forces the Ares 3 crew to abandon their missions 6 days in and Mark Watney is injured and presumed dead during the storm. The rest of the crew has to leave before they all die. Watney survives his injury and the storm and makes it back to the HAB. And thus we begin a year and a half of MacGyver on Mars. Seriously, I would have curled into a ball and cried.

The science of this book is 100% believable and almost makes the book feel like non-fiction. Watney is a great character mainly because, as smart as he is, he's a damn doofus. Sometimes, he was his own worst enemy and Mars was just watching him nearly blow himself up.

Told through the logs Watney keeps while he's alone on Mars and from the POV of the NASA folks trying to get him home, this is a rollercoaster. My only complaint is I had to work, eat, sleep, etc and couldn't just read it cover to cover.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

I Love You More by Jennifer Murphy

My last postal club book for 2015 and it was unexpected! One of the things I like about joining a postal book club is the breadth of the books that make the rounds. Some of these I don't think I would have picked up on my own and read, but I'm always glad I read them. This book was one of those. I know I shouldn't but sometimes I judge books by their covers. There's a whole cliche about that and yet, I still do it! I almost never read the dust jacket either - I like being surprised. I Love You More pictures 3 well dressed women (with half their faces cut off at the top of the book) and one is holding a gun. Meh. Woman scorned? Eh.

I started reading because it's for the book club and the person who sent it wanted folks to read it. We start off with Picasso, a little girl who loves words and spelling and who might be too smart for her own good. Her mother is Diana Lane and her dad is Oliver Lane.

"The rumors started before my daddy's body got cold"

Well ok. You got me. Oliver Lane is murdered while Diana and Picasso are on vacation. The police show up and the investigation begins. Each chapter gives us the point of view of either Picasso, Detective Kennedy or The Wives. Wait, what? Ah yes, Oliver is a scumbag. He married Diana, then married Jewels, then married Roberta (aka Bert). Technically, he was only married to Diana but the other wives didn't know this. Each wife had a child or children with Oliver. He managed to keep 3 families completely separate and no one suspected anything. Jewels finally caught a whiff of something smelly and followed Oliver, only to find his other families. She introduces herself to each wife and they start meeting.... and planning.

We get all the backstory of the murder, the wives and their (weird) rituals, Picasso's newfound love of lying, Detective Kennedy's newfound lust of Diana. It seems like a basic mystery-that's-not-a-mystery. The wives did it.

Did they?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

This turned out MUCH better than I had hopes for.  In case you haven't left your rock, Robert Galbraith is actually JK Rowling. As much as I loved the Harry Potter series, her writing was ok. I'd been ignoring her newer books because I didn't have high hopes for an adult novel. Color me wrong.

This is the first in the Cormoran Strike series and I hope she keeps this going for a long time. I listened to the audio read by Robert Glenister and it was fantastic. As long as he narrates the rest of the series, I will be listening to them.

Strike is a down and out private detective who, due to being dumped by his crazy fiance, has taken to living in his office. He is barely making money and had to let his temporary secretary go because he could no longer afford to pay the temp agency. Let's not mention the loans he had with folks who were getting scary about getting re-paid. Also let's not mention that he is a war veteran who lost part of his leg in Afghanistan. Dude is very down on his luck.

The temp agency sends a new secretary and, because of their "smashing" meeting, he feels obliged to keep her a week while she interviews for other jobs. At this point, a new client comes in. John Bristow wants to hire Strike to investigate the supposed suicide of his sister, supermodel Lula Landry. Bristow doesn't believe it was suicide and wants to prove it. Everyone else in the family, the cops and the media believe she killed herself. Strike ends up taking the job and begins the gumshoeing.

And that's all I'm going to say. I was drawn in immediately and really disappointed in myself for not figuring out who the killer was. I was actually surprised enough at the outcome I immediately texted my friend, who had already read the book, with a WTF?!?!?! I think she laughed at me.  This is an excellent hard-boiled detective novel, worthy of all 5 stars!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

M Train by Patti Smith

I made the mistake of assumption with this book. I assumed it was similar to Just Kids, which I read back in 2010. I assumed I could take this book around with me - it did fit nicely in my purse - and just pick up and read when I had spare time. I assumed a lot. M Train is not Just Kids. M Train commands you to sit down, sit still and have a beverage in solitude. M Train demands that you lose yourself and walk with Patti.

At first, I just didn't want to keep reading. Smith is incredibly non-linear in M Train, floating between past, present, dream and reality. It was often hard to decipher where I was. That frustrated me to no end. But I kept going and finally, poured some bourbon, got under the blankets on my couch and just let go. Non-linear prose, be damned.

It amazes me how Patti makes serial crime dramas, coffee and cats lyrical. But that is one of the reasons I listen to her music as well. Travel with Smith and Fred, mourn Fred, travel with Smith to where the wind takes her. Look at her photos, read her books and watch as she struggles to write (and say hi to the cowboy).

There is no plot, no grand plan to this book. Just go with. In the end, it's a beautiful journey.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible by Tim Gunn

I'm a huge fan of Project Runway and Tim Gunn. I found this book at my library while I was skimming the shelves for new knitting books to check out and investigate. My local library is pretty small, as is the town I live in, so fashion books were literally shelfmates with the knitting books.

From what I've gleaned from the show and Gunn's other books, he likes the classics, but also likes a statement. But a tasteful statement. He's fussy about fashion but knows his stuff. This book cemented that impression.

Gunn walks us through the history of every article of clothing in your closet. He goes as in-depth as he can, and it's a pretty substantial book, but he notes fairly often that there is even more history that he has to skip over. Fashion has, apparently, been in our DNA since the dawn of time. Gunn covers: Underwear (it is your foundation to fashion, after all), T-shirts, dresses, jeans, dress shirts, belts, capri pants and shorts (word to the wise: if you adore your cargo pants, Gunn has some harsh words about them so man up), ties and scarves, coats, hosiery, sweaters, athletic wear (NO YOGA PANTS AT THE STORE), handbags, coats, etc.

The most important thing, I think, to come away from this book is

LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS. Please, for the love of God, quit wearing them as pants. Yoga pants should not be your casual wear to run errands. I love my yoga pants, but they stay on me only in the house. I don't wear them out to run errands nor should you.
Fashion definitely has its ups and downs. There are areas I do disagree with Mr. Gunn, such as, I do like my cargo pants. Are they attractive? I'm quite sure they are not, but I wear them anyways. I agree about the leggings and yoga pants. I agree about fit - wear clothes that FIT, not the size you wish you were. Americans have gotten to the point where comfort trumps style and that is a bit sad. Sure, it's comfortable to go to the grocery store in pajamas but have some respect for yourself. Getting dressed and taking a bit of care with your appearance does wonders for your attitude. There have been outcries about this: specifically that people with depression can't get dressed. I disagree. I also have depression but I have yet to leave my house in my PJs. When I am very down and out, that's when I usually pull out the red lipstick and cute shoes. I want to feel better and taking care of myself is the start.

Off the soapbox there.....

This book is a very fun read. As a knitter, I really liked the sweater chapter and the brief history of knitting. Gunn is an excellent writer and so easily appalled by fashion faux pas' that it's very entertaining.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

I finally got a book for book club read. This year hasn't been my year for the book club.

I started off reading this but decided to download an audio from Librivox instead since I had to spend a good portion of the day in the car. I recommend the version read by Chip. It was about 1.5 hours long and quite well done.

Sleepy Hollow is a short story that was published in 1820. I knew of the story but still know it best from the current TV show and the 1999 movie with Johnny Depp. Give me those Ichabod Cranes any day.

Sleep Hollow is set in a Dutch settlement called Tarry Town back in the 1700s. There are rumors and tall tales of the Headless Horseman, a Hessian soldier who lost his head to a cannon and now spends nights riding around trying to find it. Crane is a schoolteacher who has fallen for the 18 year old Katrina Van Tassel and attempts to woo and marry her. Unfortunately, also in the picture is Brom, who sounds like a douchebag, and who wants Katrina for himself.

Crane encounters the Headless Horseman one evening after being spurned by Katrina. He's never seen again. Irving left the story fairly open to interpretation: was there really a Headless Horseman or was the ghost that Crane encountered really Brom playing a prank?

Who knows......

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What is Punk? by Eric Morse

Another LibraryThing Early Reviewers success story.

This is an incredibly cute book telling of punk rock's history in rhyme with claymation type illustrations. While you could read this in less than 5 minutes, it's still worth picking up to read. Read it to  your child and, maybe, play the music! Teach 'em young.

We start off at CBGB (David Johansen's claymation is even wearing high heels) with Blondie, Television, New York Dolls and The Velvet Underground - all bands I still listen to today.

Then we grab The Ramones. Hey ho!

Up to Michigan to meet Iggy (seriously, put on a shirt).

Then over to the UK for some Sex Pistols, Clash and Buzzcocks!

Don't forget the females of this movement: Slits! X-Ray Spec! Siouxsie Sioux! Go Gos!

Onward to Black Flag, Bad Brains, Circle Jerks!

Go read. Go listen.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

AKA A Funny Book About Horrible Things

Jenny Lawson is also known as The Bloggess. If you didn't find her with her blog or her first book (Let's Pretend This Never Happened) you need to find her with this book. You don't technically need a mental illness to appreciate this book, you could love someone with a mental illness or you could just be curious what all this depression this and anxiety that means. Jenny is here to help.

Suffering from depression and anxiety (along with several other illnesses) Jenny brings her incredible brand of humor to this book. Some of the things are pretty horrible, but she makes them funny. See how the subtitle works?

“What I want you to know: Dying is easy. Comedy is hard. Clinical depression is no fucking picnic.” 
This book consists of essays. Some hysterical and bizarre, some thought provoking, some "I thought I was the only one!". I have also been told by a medical person that I have depression. I feel it somewhat on a regular basis, when I'm down deep in the horrible dark well, but mostly I can still pull myself out and keep moving. I also have some anxiety, mostly in social arenas. People think I'm a bitch or cold, but honestly I have no idea how to talk to strangers. I panic and stop. I always thought it odd that I can handle giving presentations at work or elsewhere, but can't approach a stranger (or someone I know).

Jenny talked about this in one of her essays. Specifically how she is able to be terrified but still do book tours. One of the first "I thought I was the only one!" moments. She knows of what she speaks and she does so with profanity and great humor. Plus there's quite a bit of taxidermy.

Read her blog. Read her books. Listen to the audio because Jenny reads it and she is amazing at it.

“AWESOME. In fact, I’m starting a whole movement right now. The FURIOUSLY HAPPY movement. And it’s going to be awesome because first of all, we’re all going to be VEHEMENTLY happy, and secondly because it will freak the shit out of everyone that hates you because those assholes don’t want to see you even vaguely amused, much less furiously happy, and it will make their world turn a little sideways and will probably scare the shit out of them. Which will make you even more happy. Legitimately. Then the world tips in our favor. Us: 1. Assholes: 8,000,000. That score doesn’t look as satisfying as it should because they have a bit of a head start. Except you know what? Fuck that. We’re starting from scratch. Us: 1. Assholes: 0.”

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Reliquary by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Pendergast #2

The first in this series is Relic (reviewed back in February 2013), which I liked. Reliquary takes the Museum Beast from the first book and goes deep underground to the tunnels of Manhattan. The sequel held my attention and was ok but definitely not as good as the first book.

We meet up with all the regulars from the first book: Margo, D'Agosta, Pendergast, Frock and Smithback. A few new faces are thrown in but don't bother with some of the names, their heads come off pretty quick. Something is out there killing folks again and taking the heads of the victims. No one really cares when the homeless are being preyed on but when a debutante loses her head, well, now we need to do something about this!

The authors claim that the Astor Tunnels (aka Devil's Attic) are real. A google search comes up inconclusive (but does point to this book as a source). Supposedly, thousands of homeless live in the abandoned tunnel system under NYC and since the Museum Beast abhors light, he goes underground. He...she....all of them. Because now there are many, many Museum Beasts.

Kawakita, a scientist from the first book, thinks it's a good idea to isolate the virus that manifests people into Museum Beast and sell it as a drug. I don't even know what to say about this one.

The ending, with the leader of the beasts unveiled and all the chaos that happens, was, at best, eh. It was a twist that wasn't completely unexpected.

I would say, this is a readable book, but stick with the first one and just enjoy that.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington

I became interested in Grace probably the same way most people did - by watching The September Issue documentary from 2009. I mostly watched it because 1) it was Vogue and 2) Anna. Grace was a pleasant surprise.


I listened to the audiobook from and Grace herself read it. She has a lovely British voice and it ended up seeming like I was just listening to someone tell stories. Fashionable stories, true. Name dropping stories, double true. But stories from her long life about the people and jobs that she has loved.

Grace started off in London as a model and, after a car accident, went on to work at British Vogue and eventually became the fashion editor. There was some disappointment, for me, because as much as I like reading and flipping through fashion magazines (although you'd never tell by looking at me), I have no idea what the jobs are there. And I still don't. Grace is light on the details of the mundane and heavy on the designers and FASHION. Also, her cats.

She's brash, she speaks her mind and always has an opinion. This was an entertaining listen, even if it's a half-listen while you are doing other things.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Far Beyond The Pale by Daren Dean

I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

I'll start off by saying my only real complaint probably has nothing to do with the book. I got an .epub version and converted it to .mobi. I'm not sure the conversion went well, as full sentences were "re-created" in other areas which really through off my reading rhythm. I think with some editing and more proofreading, this would be good to go, if it wasn't my conversion.

I don't normally read the inside covers (or summaries, in the case of e-books) before I read. I like to be surprised. Far Beyond the Pale is about a boy named Honey Boy (aka Nathan) who is dragged all around by his fairly pathetic mother before ending up back in their home town in Missouri. Honey Boy's mom is one of the can't-keep-a-job, shacks-up-with-women-beating-idiots type of person, who often just up and leaves Honey Boy at Aunt Oleta's when she either needs a break, is feeling frisky or is outrunning the law. Or all of the above.

In the town of Fairmont, we're introduced to the local color. The colors are red(neck) and white(trash) and there really isn't a redeemable character among them. Roy, at the gas station, is fairly decent to Honey Boy, especially in the midst of the upheaval and drama his mama created, but even then, Roy is terrified of the local moron/trash/"tough outlaw" Vaughn, so Roy doesn't do a lot of standing up.

Honey Boy is just a confused thirteen year old boy, no dad, no prospects and no good role models. He goes on vandalizing sprees with Vaughn, steals with Vaughn and almost seems to look up to this lout. Honestly, the story just made me angry.

While my town isn't quite like this, it's close. People of my town could watch Gummo and could recognize it. They could read this novel as well and recognize the characters on the street. Which is exactly why I believe this made me angry. While some things shake out in the end, reading Honey Boy's inner torment as he tries to be good while being around so much evil, trying to love a mother who just isn't there, and trying to not care about the man who is his dad (oh yes, that's revealed) is just heartbreaking.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

I decided to actually listen to The Hobbit since I was keeping up with the movies. I downloaded a copy from my local library and turns out..... I was in for a surprise.

I kept thinking that this audio book was well done but then I realized it was an old (1979) radio show. No wonder it was so well done! Music, sound effects, actors out the ying yang.

If you listen to The Hobbit, listen to this version!

The Hobbit is an age old story about Bilbo Baggins, a little Hobbit who was quietly living his Hobbit life, when Gandalf arrives to take him on an adventure. He is employed as the burglar in a quest of dwarves to get back the dwarf fortune and mountain from Smaug the dragon. Hobbits don't normally take on such adventures, or adventures at all, but Bilbo more than handled himself and saved his new dwarf friends more than once.

We meet Gollum ("My Preciioooooouuuusssss") here as well as trolls, dragons, elves, and shapeshifters. It is truly a wonderful adventure to go on with Bilbo.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

I assumed this would be a difficult read and I was correct. I had heard about this because of the movie starring Julianne Moore of the same name and all I knew is that it was about a woman with Alzheimer's Disease.  It's so much more than that.

I thought this would be difficult to read simply because my dad had dementia. He had Parkinson's Disease and no one told us that Parkinson's Induced Dementia was a thing until that thing happened. Dementia in Parkinson's patients is very similar to Alzheimer's and just as upsetting when watching someone you love disappear. So, I guess what I am saying is, this book was very hard to read for me. My dad has been gone for almost six years and this brought a lot back.

Alice Howland is a linguistics professor at Harvard, one the most brilliant minds in the business, when she starts noticing that she is forgetting words, misplacing items, etc. All of those symptoms are easy to write off as stress or fatigue. Alice only became worried when she went for a run in Harvard Square, a place she has lived at for over 25 years, and became lost.  She went to her doctor and asked to see a neurologist. Many tests later and she had the diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's Disease at the age of 50.

Still Alice is very interesting in how her story is told. Her neurologist tells her in the beginning "You may not be the most reliable source of what's been going on." which struck me since this novel is Alice's point of view so we wonder if the story is reliable. I think it is because it is heartbreaking and terrifying. Walking with Alice as her memory declines rapidly is not for the weak and her family, her children, are by her side through it all. I very much worried about her husband, John, who did not seem to want to accept the diagnosis nor want to be around to see the decline.

There's nothing to spoil, per se, but I cannot do justice to this book with my words. It's an important book to read as nearly everyone will be, or has been, touched by Alzheimer's or dementia in their life. Standing in the shoes of someone who is losing their memory, losing their mind, is something everyone should do... once.

The thought of my dad feeling as helpless and confused as Alice describes breaks my heart all over again.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Heat Wave by Richard Castle

Junk food reading.

So I am out of order again on this, Heat Wave was the first book in the Nikki Heat series and I apparently should have started there, but let's be honest, with these books it doesn't matter where you jump in.

I've been watching Castle, mainly because Nathan Fillion, so I have a good idea what this whole thing is about. So jump in wherever you please.

Nikki Heat is a young, attractive New York Homicide detective and Jameson Rook is the writer who is shadowing her and her team, using her as a muse for his novels. Heat Wave revolves around a murder of  Matthew Starr, a very rich man in New York, who plummets to his death from his incredibly tastelessly rich apartment.

Heat and Rook are forced to work together and I must say that Rook was incredibly annoying. Thankfully, I've read ahead and I know his character changes a bit so it's ok.

This is a formulaic crime novel and it's good. I read it for fun and filler and usually enjoy myself.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Speaking In Bones by Kathy Reichs

Another lovely advanced reader's copy from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers group. I really love this series so let my bias show.

I do NOT love the TV Show Bones so more bias.

The basic premise of this series is Tempe Brennan is a Forensic Anthropologist who works out of both Charlotte, NC and Montreal, Canada. Her on again off again beau is a detective ,Andrew Ryan, who is currently on again and proposing. Brennan has some cold feet going on during the course of this novel.

A websleuth, Hazel Strike aka Lucky, comes to Brennan with some evidence that some unidentified bones might belong to a Cora Teague. Probably half out of interest, half out of avoiding Ryan and his proposal, Tempe starts investigating.

What comes out of this is actually an interesting case with many twists and turns. If you have ever read Kathy Reichs' books, you know she ends each and every chapter with a cliffhanger. Just enough to make you say "One more chapter" and before you know it, it's 2AM and you have to get up for work in 3 hours...... Sorry...digressing.

Speaking in Bones definitely moved the Brennan/Ryan plot along and picked up an interesting case to boot. Another excellent addition to the series.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

Let's start with: there will be spoilers.

I had no idea how to write this review. I have been reading other reviews and hearing other opinions and I know how upset people are over this book. Interestingly enough, this was the first book written. To Kill A Mockingbird came second to give the characters a start. Go Set A Watchman finishes out the Finch family.

So people are upset. I was too! I stopped reading for a bit because Atticus being racist killed me. Scout's vocal outbursts and the vitriol she shouted at Atticus killed me. What is wrong with all the characters I loved??

To Kill A Mockingbird is a book I re-read about every 5 years. And I probably still will. Because, in actuality, Atticus didn't change.

Hear me out.

Keep in mind when both of these books are set. GSAW is in the heat of the Civil Rights movement. By 2015 standards, how the characters react is horrible and sad and despicable. But, back then, I think a lot of people were trying to figure out what was happening.

Now, we have legalized gay marriage and that is a HUGE step forward. But, we still have folks who grew up believing this is wrong. Some people still believe women shouldn't make the same pay as a man for the same job. We'll never stop fighting for equality. Sheesh.

Anyways, yes, Atticus is fully against black people joining the white race in... anything. But Atticus never wavered in defending a black person. He is staunchly standing by his principles of justice. I can't hate him anymore than I can hate someone in my family doing the same. Do I think it's wrong? YES. Humans are humans and we should ALL be equal. What I saw in GSAW though was Atticus breaking the cycle.


Look at how he raised Jem and Scout. Since Jem has passed, we only have Scout to look at as an example. She is color blind. People are people to her. Atticus did not raise her with his beliefs. He raised her to find her own. He raised her to be her own thinker, her own person. She grew into a defiant, stubborn, strong woman. Do I like how she handled Atticus and Hank? NO. I do think compassion is a nice thing to show when you are at a disagreement with another.

One of the things I talked about with my mom was how hard it is to break the cycle of family beliefs. I don't believe what my mom or dad think. I found my own path and I sometimes paid for that.I gave my parents heartache when I went against what they believe....but it worked out. Atticus broke his cycle, knowingly or not, by letting his children make up their own minds. Despite everything Scout said to his face, his response was "I love you".

Atticus is not a bad man. Scout is not a bad woman. I still love them both.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Adventures In Yarn Farming by Barbara Parry

I think if you have any interest in knitting, hand-dying, spinning or sheep, this book is a good one to read. There are several knitting patterns as well as dying and spinning "patterns".

Parry takes you through all four seasons of working on a fiber farm in New England. The photos of the sheep, llamas and goats are just too adorable for words but read on into the book because the amount of work that Parry and her husband do to keep the farm running is a bit daunting if you if ever had dreams of having your own fiber farm (like I do).

Parry literally takes care of the entire process of making yarn: from shearing the sheep (after caring for them year round and through lambing season), skirting the fleece, sending it off to be spun into yarn (with over a hundred sheep on the farm she can't spin it all!), dying the yarn and then heading to fiber festivals to sell it. She also sells the yarn online and through Sheep Shares CSA at Foxfire Fiber and Designs ( I would love to sign up for a sheep share!

Even if you are not interested in knitting or the end product of having a fiber farm, you can still delve into the trials and fun of owning sheep and running a farm.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I knew this was an Utopian novel going in. If you've followed any of my reviews for a while, you know that Utopian novels are not my favorites. I probably lean more towards Dystopian because that seems more realistic (Am I jaded? Because I think I might be).

I'm always up to listen to novels I normally wouldn't listen to if Heather Ordover from the Craftlit podcast is handling them. She goes out of her way to do research to complement and expand every book and it's a sheer pleasure to learn from her. If you aren't craft minded, it's ok too, she tells you at the start where the book talk starts.

It was from Heather that I learned this was a feminist utopian novel, although I was already figuring that out by the second chapter. This novel stirred up enough emotions and thoughts that, while it's not a favorite book, it's going to be one I recommend. Written in 1915 by the woman who brought us The Yellow Wallpaper (another uncomfortable book but I still recommend), Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Think for a moment before we start the review about the rights women did NOT have back in 1915......

Keep that in mind.

Herland is a country of 3 million women, absolutely no men have lived here in over 2,000 years, and 3 men have decided to try and find this mythical land. They land their aircraft in Herland and are promptly, but politely, taken as captives. The women of Herland do not harm the men. In fact, they want to teach them about their country and learn everything about theirs. They are secluded from the world, not by choice, but by nature.  Van, Jeff and Terry are happy to tell them the good parts about America (willfully choosing to leave out the undesirable parts). In Herland, there is no crime, war, or domination. Every woman works together in harmony and raise their children to be good, upstanding citizens.

Their children?

Through parthenogenesis (basically asexual reproduction) the women of Herland have their children. They use this to "weed" out the undesirable behaviors. If a woman shows an inclination towards "bad" behavior, she isn't allowed to reproduce. In the book, not allowed to reproduce just means keeping her too busy to think about having children.

Terry was a despicable character in that he is a male that I have encountered many many times. Women are to be conquered and won and are to bend to what he wants. He is certainly in a sad place in Herland. Jeff feels women should be sheltered and protected....again, he is in a sad place here although he bends very easily to what the women want. Women built Herland: the buildings, the roads, the food, the rules, the LIFE. There is some scorn when Jeff takes a basket from one of the women to carry "because women shouldn't carry things" and the women looks around at everything only women built and toiled over and is confused. I'm with you, lady.

Women have come a long way since the time this novel was written, but we still haven't achieved gender equality. Since 1915, we have rights over our own bodies, for the most part, but still can't get the same respect or even the same pay as men.

This is why the novel discomfited me. I wanted to punch Terry and Jeff, often, while listening to this. But I couldn't just think "Well, this was 1915 and we're completely equal now." Because, in the IT world that I work in, it's very obvious that the genders are still not equal. And that..... that makes me sad.

Here are some links that Heather played during the audio of the book. I loved what each one has to say about how much more there is to accomplish in order for the genders to be equal.

I didn't shirk from the label of feminist before and I definitely embrace it now.
Emma Watson - UN Speech - He for She Campaign
Joss Whedon - Equality Now

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Die Again by Tess Gerritsen

Once again, I step into a series right in the middle. Will I ever learn?

Rizzoli & Isles is a series, and apparently a TV show, with a Boston Detective and a Medical Examiner as the main characters. Women characters. Just so you know....

I got this book as an Advanced Reader's Edition from LibraryThings Early Reviewers. I feel bad I'm just getting to it but not that bad, because I devoured it in a day and am already searching out the other books in the series

Rizzoli is on the case of Leon Gott, a big game hunter, who was found suspended by his ankles and gutted - much like the game he hunts. He was low hanging fruit and when the family pets get hungry.... the detail was pretty descriptive for how Bruno the dog and the kitties had to fend for themselves.

Isles is the ME assigned to the autopsy. As gruesome as it is, it seems like a stand alone. Someone angry at big game hunters and takes their revenge.

The story jumps back six years to a safari team in Botswana. Six of the seven members of the vacationing group are either murdered or missing. One of those is Gott's son.

A vicious attack on a zoo keeper leads Rizzoli and Isles to the zoo where a leopard is munching on Debra. What is happening here? More deaths, most are seemingly unrelated, more jumps back to the bush camp in Botswana, more confusion.

This really was a fantastic mystery. I don't hunt, so that didn't hold any appeal to me, but it was a great addition to the story. Well worth picking up even if you haven't read any of the series (like me).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Walking Dead, Compendium 1 by Robert Kirkman

I love Goodreads. It showed me that I started this massive set of comics in February 2013 and finished it yesterday. It seriously did not take me this long to get through it because I kept putting it down and away as I watched the series. It was difficult for me to decide if I wanted to travel along with Robert Kirkman - the TV writer - or Robert Kirkman - the comic author.

I chose the TV writer.

The TV show is dark and violent. The comics are even more so which actually, I don't know why, surprised me. I would say there is more sex, but in reality it was the violence of the sex that caused me to put this away for a bit and carry on with the, less sexually violent, show. Having finished the first compendium, I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of the show. Unless they are one of those Daryl Dixon fans ("If Daryl dies, we riot" people) because the Dixon brothers don't exist in the comic world. As much as I do like Daryl, I was fine with him not being in this world.

We have a lot of the same characters as the show and a lot of the same plot points. But throw those in a basket and mix them up because the same plot points don't happen to the same characters. Which made this a very interesting read and comparison to the show. I wondered, more than once, why the change to the show? Rick loses a hand in the books, doesn't in the show. Dale lives and loses a leg, Dale dies early in the show. Hershel loses the leg but doesn't in the books. Andrea is actually someone I like in the books, not so much in the show. And Lori and little Judith? That part actually took me by surprise, the violence of that scene in the book.

We end this compendium with the Governor's storm (and several botched attempts - he was a bit smarter in the show) of the prison.

I already have Compendium 2 so hopefully that won't take me years to finish.

Gathering Prey by John Sandford

I notice that I start some series, read a bit, then get bored because it becomes very formulaic. You can basically pick up any Stephanie Plum book or any Anita Blake book and just start because, to me, they are nearly all the same.

The Prey series doesn't feel that way. Gathering Prey is book #25 of the Lucas Davenport series and I'm still sucked in to each one. I remember starting these WAY back in the day and thought it had promise. Davenport, as a character, is complex and can be unpredictable, as in this book. The cast of characters that he surrounds himself with - Shrake, Jenkins, Del, Flowers, Letty - are always good for a side plot that never really takes away from Davenport. I even really love the Virgil Flowers series just as much.

In this book, there is a gang of "disciples" (think Manson) who follow Pilate, a frickin' insane biker guy, into torturing and killing people. Travelers, folks who just travel the country, are targets, but not always. Skye and Henry are two travelers who meet up with Letty, Lucas' daughter, and they tell her about Pilate (or Pilot). They part ways and eventually Henry becomes prey to Pilate and his gang. Skye contacts Letty and Lucas for help and we're off to the races.

My main problem with this book is that the characters seemed.... stupid? I guess that is the word I want because the disciples were all morons, Skye herself acted completely naive (you get kidnapped once, you're saved, don't go back to the people who kidnapped you in the first place - really?) that I wasn't surprised at what happened to her. The cops, Letty and BCA investigators all were top notch so I'm just sorry the people they were trying to catch and/or save were so dumb.

Overall though, this was another great Davenport book and, based on the ending, I'm not sure where the next one will take us. But I'm happy to keep following along.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

I don't know that I would have picked this book on my own. But since it was part of a book club, I read it. I wondered, as I read, if I liked it. I felt that it had a slow start and I didn't quite get how this would be

"A pitch-perfect, wonderfully evocative examination of violent loss... " Dennis Lehane

But I get it now.

We settle into New Bremen, MN in 1961. Frank and Jake Drum are two preacher's kids who are typical kids, wandering the town, doing yard work for their grandpa, getting ice cold root beers from the drugstore and just hanging out being kids. The novel is Frank the adult's memories of a summer of death that seemed to skirt around the boys until it finally clobbered them.

Initially, a little boy is killed in a train accident and everyone knew that Bobby was a little slow and probably didn't mean to be on the tracks at the time. Frank and Jake knew Bobby so it was close to home but not a big part of their reality.


After following the train tracks and ending up in an area known for homeless men, they encounter their second death of the summer: a homeless man who had passed on. They meet an Indian who was going through the pockets of the dead man, pointing out that he didn't need those things anymore.


The next death hits terribly close to home and threatens to destroy not just the Drum family but the Brandt (the wealthiest residents of the town) family as well.

Suicide. Murder.

This isn't a murder mystery. It's really just a recollection of Frank Drum on how he and his brother survived the summer. It's heartbreaking and sad but there is also optimism from the little brother, Jake, who seems to understand things about life that others fail to see. And Frank, not letting the deaths of anyone go unnoticed and not letting himself go unchanged by them.

"The dead are never far from us.  They're in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all the separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air."

A Beginner's Guide to Reality by Jim Baggott

I made a mistake with this one and listened to the audio book. There was just way too much information to take in while attempting to commute to and from work. Read the book.

The book is basically an attempt to take a look at what we perceive our reality to be. The Matrix is actually referenced quite a bit. The first section, Money, really focuses on the reality that society has set up and the reality that everyone buys in to. That rectangle with Andrew Jackson on it that you exchange for goods? That only means $20 because society has deemed it as such, ergo that is our reality. This was an interesting section mainly because we really do take a lot for granted because we just accept that this reality and the social norms are what we must accept.

Colours is the next section and it's about what we perceive with our senses (Does color exist in the dark?). The we get into Light and some physics that I will admit lost me for a while. Here is where an actual book would have made a lot of difference.

While Baggott does reference the Matrix, this book uses the movie as a jumping off point. The philosophy and physics discussed could lead to some very interesting thoughts and conversations. Again, the audio book was well narrated but not how I should have read this book.

Monday, May 25, 2015

It's A Long Story by Willie Nelson

My dad was a Willie Nelson fan so I grew up hearing all the radio hits. When I saw Willie on The Daily Show, I figured I would give the book a shot.

"How does someone who smokes that much pot get so much done?"

I really had no idea of the scope of Nelson's work. He's been doing the music thing since he was just a little kid and is still doing it at 82. Over 60 albums, tours all the time, beat the IRS, 4 wives, many kids, pot advocate, Farm Aid, etc etc etc. How in the world does he keep doing this??

Willie has had a crazy life and the book reads like a conversation, sitting around a firepit, drinking a beer (or having a smoke). Excellent read for anyone who likes the "old" country.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

This one is for a book club night coming up and I went 100% into it not having read a thing about it.

I was sucked in after the 2nd chapter and could not stop reading. Darn going to work, eating and sleeping! *shakes fist*

I had no idea until the very end that this was based on a true story. Agnes Magnúsdóttir was a real person and was the last person to be executed in Iceland in 1830. Kent, in her first novel, did a wonderful job in humanizing Agnes and giving an account, based on actual official documents, of what might have happened with the murder of Natan and Pétur. I was actually hoping for a different ending, until I realized it was history and we can't really change that!

Ah well.

The story is bleak, the writing is bleak and stark and bare to the bones. It fits so perfectly with the Icelandic landscape and harrowing times in which it was set. I can't even comprehend the poverty that the farmers of this land had to endure during the winter months.

Agnes requests, as her guide to death, assistant reverend Toti. He is able to pull the story of what really happened that night those 2 men were murdered from Agnes by just... being there. Being her friend and a comforting ear to listen. The family whose farm Agnes is forced to work on before her execution comes to find out that she is a human being and, while she did the crime she was accused of, it was for entirely different reasons than anyone thought.

“To know what a person has done, and to know who a person is, are very different things.” 

I couldn't help but feel for her and wished a different outcome for her. Historical fiction is still fiction but I want this version to be true.

 “They will see the whore, the madwoman, the murderess, the female dripping blood into the grass and laughing with her mouth choked with dirt. They will say “Agnes” and see the spider, the witch caught in the webbing of her own fateful weaving. They might see the lamb circled by ravens, bleating for a lost mother. But they will not see me. I will not be there.” 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Amy, My Daughter by Mitch Winehouse

I had downloaded this as an audiobook, read by Mitch, from my library. I liked Amy's music, didn't like Amy's lifestyle, but thought it would be good to see how that lifestyle may have come about.

Clearly, this wasn't a book Mitch wanted to write as no parent wants to outlive their children. So I felt for him there. He starts off describing how he got the news of Amy's death and then goes back to the beginning of Amy's life.

Apparently, from the time she was very little, Amy was destined to be famous. Singing anywhere and everywhere so that the most common phrase around the house was "Be quiet, Amy!". Her parents divorced but she stayed close to both, along with her brother Alex.

Once we get up to the point of Frank, her first album, things start rolling, mostly drink and pot. I had no idea of Amy's stage fright. I've watched many a Youtube video of her performing and, the drunken years notwithstanding, she seemed pretty good.  Amy meets Blake and anyone who could read remembers the tabloids about those two. Blake got Amy started on drugs - yes, it was her choice to take them, but also remember that addiction is an illness and some people are more susceptible to addiction. Things went downhill quickly once crack cocaine and heroin were introduced.

Back to Black, Blake in prison, kicking drugs, becoming an alcoholic, attempting to kick alcoholism... Amy had lived a tremendous amount in her 27 years.

The above are just facts. Listening to Mitch Winehouse tell the stories is emotional. It's a rollercoaster ride that people who love someone who is an addict have to ride. For Mitch, it didn't seem that he had any intention of getting off that ride. He was 100% alongside Amy.

Based on this book, which naturally is just Mitch's side, I want to say SHUSH to all those people who wonder why her parents didn't do anything. They did, but if the addict doesn't want to quit, they won't. That is a sad fact and Amy's family learned it the hard way.

I love Amy's voice and crank up the stereo when her songs come on. She could have been so much more ....

Her family set up The Amy Winehouse Foundation. Proceeds from the book go to that to help other kids with addictions.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

The blurb on the front of the book reads

"A Literary Miracle"

I'm inclined to agree. I put off reading this book until the 11th hour, for no particular reason (perhaps because I had seen the words "love story"). I'm very glad I picked it up and gave it a chance.

We begin in 1962, as a dying young actress arrives by boat to Porto Vergogna to stay at The Hotel Adequate View. Pasquale Tursi is out building his beach to try and bring in American tourists. The actress, Dee Moray, was working on the film Cleopatra when she was told she had stomach cancer.

We jump to present day and Claire Silver, an assistant of Michael Deane, a somewhat washed-up but cunning film producer who jumped the shark and is trying to get back. Shane Wheeler is a young man meeting with Claire to pitch his movie about the Donner Party.

From here, the book jumps back and forth between, one thinks, two different stories. Not so, dear reader. As Alvis Bender, an "author" who stays at Hotel Adequate View 2 weeks a year to write his novel (of which there is only one chapter) says to Pasquale:

"Stories are people. I'm a story, you're a story.... [ ]. Our stories go in every direction, but sometimes, if we're lucky, our stories join into one, and for awhile, we're less alone." 
 The stories in Beautiful Ruins are so wonderfully woven together that once I got started, I couldn't stop. I had to know more and be with the characters longer. It is a love story, a story about family, a story about chances and regrets. It's beautiful.

There is much more to the novel, but you need to discover it for yourself

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Amped by Daniel H. Wilson

1) I'm really surprised I even bothered to read this book.
2) I'm more surprised that I enjoyed it.

I listen to a few science podcasts but my favorite is Science...sort of. When I was listening to the backlog (episode 166), I heard an interview with Daniel H. Wilson while I was commuting to work. He was discussing his science fiction book, Amped, and it sounded interesting but honestly, I don't really read science fiction so I wasn't inclined to read the book.

But the more they talked, the more I thought I should give it a shot. So I downloaded it from the library as an audiobook and started it on February 3rd. I finished it today, April 11th. No, it's not really that long of a book.

Amped is set in the near-future where humans have a choice to get brain implants to help them become smarter or faster. It's used for kids who are a little slow or people with mental illnesses or brain problems (ie. epilepsy). But the non-implanted people are getting upset about the amps (implanted people) getting ahead in schools and work. How dare they be able to change themselves to be better? We come in to the story with Owen, a teacher who is trying to talk a student off the ledge, literally. Samantha is an Amp and she doesn't think the world will accept them. She jumps.

Things start going downhill fast because Samantha wasn't wrong. Laws are set that say Amps are not considered people. They have no rights. Owen is forced on the run since he has an implant for epilepsy following an accident.

Owen ends up in Eden in a trailer park refuge with other Amps and soon discovers that his implant isn't what he thought it was. He is right in the middle of a war: between the Pure Humans and Amps. And it's getting ugly.

It took me a bit to get through because I'm not terribly intrigued by science fiction and, in the beginning, it just didn't grab me. I wanted to finish it though so I kept going. I forget which chapter or point finally dragged me in but this book really picked up for me and I couldn't stop listening to it. I finished the last 5 hours in a matter of days.

After this, I'm definitely not opposed to trying out Wilson's other books and giving more Sci-fi a try.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs

I'm really good at reading series out of order lately. I used to watch Bones on a regular basis but have since quit (mostly when Brennan and Booth had a kid....). I still love the books because the Tempe Brennan that is in the books? A much more likable person.

Reichs is also a forensic anthropologist and her books read true. The crimes to solve are often horrifying and this latest novel is no less awful to read about since it involves children.

It looks like Anique Pomerleau showed up way back in Monday Mourning. Goodreads tells me I read it back in 2007 but amazingly enough, the plot from back then was easy to recall when Pomerleau's name appears again in this novel.

Children are being murdered and showing up in Brennan's Charlotte, NC backyard. She's asked to work some cold cases and manages to tie several disappearances and murders together. DNA is established as Pomerleau's and Brennan is off. Off to get Andrew Ryan who has disappeared off the radar since his daughter died. The two of them get back in to the (rocky) swing of things and go after the killer.

There are several twists along the way and, although I felt that the first twist was false, things did get interesting.

Enjoyable book. I think this could be read as a standalone because history on Pomerleau is given but it's worth a read of Monday Mourning too.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Raging Heat by Richard Castle

This is #6 in the Nikki Heat series but it appears I'm just reading them as I see them on the shelf. It doesn't seem like I'm missing too much doing it that way though.

I love watching Castle on TV and always enjoy these books (as a coworker calls them "junk food for the mind"). This one was not an exception.

Nikki and Jameson are investigating a body that falls from the sky and crashes into the planetarium. There's little left of the body to go on but what they find leads them to some powerful politicians.

This is a nice little murder mystery that even takes you a bit to the side to start doubting the main characters. To add to the stress of the murder, Hurricane Sandy is about to touch down and they have to catch the bad guy before it hits!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Saint Odd by Dean Koontz

Thar be spoilers.......

This is the last in the Odd Thomas series and that makes me sad. I started reading this on February 14th and just finished it today. There's a reason it took me this long to read a book that I've been anticipating for a while now (and a reason I actually went past the library due date - sorry next person in line!).

As I started reading this and Odd was heading back to Pico Mundo in an attempt to stop another horrific mass murder (think the mall massacre where Stormy was killed - but bigger), I started slowing down my reading. Odd is convinced this is his last stand and that the fortune teller card that he and Stormy got at the carnival will finally be fulfilled (You are destined to be together forever).

The more Odd knew that his time was over, the less I wanted to read it. Not because it was a bad story, not at all. Because I didn't want this to end. Based on the title of the book, Odd was going to die and I didn't want to let him go just yet.

So I drew this out.

And lingered.

Odd was being chased (aka hunted) by cultists who wanted him out of the way of their plans. Knowing that Odd was not going to make it to the end, I kept wondering if every chase, every encounter, would be his last. He made it in time to stop the terror moments before it was unleashed... this is true.

But in the final moments, Odd was shot and killed.

My heart broke.

Even though the book cover says it's the last in the series, based on how it ended, I'm hopeful for more adventures, just not adventures in THIS world.

RIP Odd Thomas.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Nefarious by Steven Freeman

I was given a copy of this by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Once I started reading this, I was skeptical about continuing only because I really do not care to read war books. However, since I said I would read it, I did. I'm glad I continued on!

While I still don't like war books, this turned into something different. I wasn't sure how the two separate plots would meld together but, in the end, they did, in a pretty horrific way.

We start off tagging along with Alton Blackwell in his mobile communication unit in Afghanistan. After an IED explodes with casualties and injuries, we follow Blackwell to a desk job while he recovers.

In North Carolina, we follow Jeffrey Finch as he and his son go camping only to have his son bit by a raccoon and contracting rabies.

Finch is the head of R&D at a large pharmaceutical company and plans to create an aerosol rabies vaccine.

Meanwhile, Blackwell is getting back into life and possibly finding a new love interest in Mallory Wilson.

From here, we spiral into a web of deaths, lies and military deceit that is frightening if this really happens in our upper echelons of government. And, trust me, the two plots DO come together.

This book is labeled The Blackwell Files, #1 so I'm hoping for more to come. The characters were engaging and likable and the mystery of the story was so well done that I did not guess the outcome!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

This was another recommendation from Books on the Nightstand....


I neglected my dog to keep listening to this (like dog would be neglected).

I'm not one who is overly macabre about death but having grown up with a pretty serious illness that made the doctors at the children's hospital think I might not make it past age 8, I got acquainted with death early on in my life. Perhaps that is a good thing, since I wasn't the typical idiot teenager thinking I would live forever when I damn well knew I could die at any time. I've since settled into a relaxed relationship with death, choosing to pack as much living in as I can and knowing when it happens, I'm ok with it.

I already chose cremation as my ending. I recycle and try to save the planet and all that good stuff now, why would I clutter it up with my corpse and tomb and casket and yadda yadda? Not for me. I had read about the green funeral and I'm not opposed to that either.

Listening to this book has re-doubled my determination to just go back to nature when I'm done. Let's go to the beginning though....

Caitlin is a 20-something who is fascinated by death and ends up as a crematory operator at a mortuary. She takes us on a journey of learning all about cremation (SO many interesting facts), the funeral "business" (of which I got a bellyful when my dad passed - disgusting), and onward to her journey in becoming a mortician.

If you cannot stomach gallows humor or just basic facts about death, this book probably isn't for you (I'm looking at you, baby tossing). If you can handle it, you need to read this. It's a conversation about death that is long past due. We all will die. There is no way around this no matter how hard rich, white men try to be immortal.Caitlin gives her point of view on what a good death is and, you know, I agree with her. I appreciated being able to travel with her on her path to acceptance and helping to show others that death is not to be feared. Corpses are not something to shy away from and families should take an active part in caring for their departed.

Caitlin also has a Youtube channel called Ask A Mortician that is awesomely informative and funny. I'm now a fan for life.