Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Storm of Swords (Fire and Ice #3) by George R.R. Martin (read 11/29 to 12/7)

The next book in this epic fantasy did not disappoint, and finally I moved beyond the show and read something that I didn't already know.  Although, my library due date came, and I hadn't finished the book but I couldn't extend my time because someone else had reserved it, so I had to literally read the last 424 pages in 24 hours, whew!  But I didn't really get to digest either.  The Red Wedding was horrible but in the show, so I knew it was coming, although in the show Robb's pregnant wife was at the wedding, and in the book she wasn't so maybe he knocked her up and their is a chance for a Stark baby.  I love that Sansa married Tyrion, I just wish she wasn't such a bitch to him, he deserves a good woman.  I think Sansa could actually come to appreciate him, and the good man that he is if she could just get her head out of her ass.  He has always been kind and respectful to her, and the fact that he didn't force himself on her shows that he is more of knight than any of the stupid pretty boys she thinks she wants.  I hope that they actually work out, it would redeem Sansa in my eyes for getting her father killed, at least she would grow beyond the stupid girl she is.  I hope Ayra becomes an assassin, she would be awesome.  I'm glad she got her Needle back, now to find her wolf.  Jon deserves the command of the Wall, he will save the world!

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson (read 11/10 to 11/28)

I had originally planned on posting each book as a separate entry, however whenever I finished one book, I couldn't seem to take the time to write a post before starting the next one.  So I guess I will talk about them as a set.  This series consists of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest.  From what I understand these were the first three in a series the author had intended to be 10 books, but sadly his death limited the vision.  His own life and death seem to be as full of intrigue as his books,  I have already gotten lost in the articles surrounding the controversy of who has the rights to his work, his family or his long time lover.
These books are about Lisabeth Salander, a girl with a photographic memory and major trust issues that have lead to poor social skills.  At first you don't realize Salander is the main character, you think it is the journalist she has been hired to do research for, Mikael Blomkvist.  And yes the first book does revolve around him a lot, but he isn't it, Salander is the first book is just a set up, and introduction so to speak to the meat of the story, to Salander and her amazing detective skills, and her amazingly complicated and in many ways tragic life.
During my book club for The Girls with the Dragon Tattoo, one of the members stated that she was annoyed about Lisabeth falling in love with Blomkvist, since he was such and obvious player and so much older.  I never saw this as a love story at all, it feels the exact opposite of a love story, it is a mystery thriller with some sex thrown in. Lisabeth falling for Blomkvist isn't really a love story, it is about a socially awkward and walled off individual finally letting some of her walls down and trusting someone besides herself, I think it is sad that she feels so betrayed by Blomkvist, because who she really is betrayed by is herself. She knew going in what he was like and she is mad at herself for falling for him anyways. And because she has never had to deal with those types of feelings she is projecting her hurt and anger at him, rather than herself, I know I have projected bad decisions not the person I made the decision with rather than myself for making that decision too. I think the love angle was thrown in at the end to give a lead in to the next book.  And Blomkvist is not bad looking, but he has the personality that puts women at ease and allows them to let their guards down, again why Lisabeth is so mad at him.
This story was about the crimes, the murders, the corruption. I really do think Larsson was trying to make a statement about the corporations in Sweden and the corruption in government. If you read between the lines he really does not like the big companies and he seems to have little faith that the Swedish Government is doing anything to regulate or correct. These books have much more social commentary than I expected, and the next book goes into a similar but new issue. I don't know much about Sweden and how the country is run or its laws, but I can see the same issues being present in the US. This book came out in 2008, right in the middle of the "recession," so I can see how a lot of people could relate because of what was happening at the time. There was so much loss of trust in traders, the stock market and banks, and I think this was published at a great time to ride that wave. At the same time I think it was more than the timing that made this book so good, we are 6 years past and it still grabbed me. Maybe it is because I work with business that are now always not the up and up, and I can see this in action. But I was way more enthralled with the mystery and the uncovering of the corruption, the love story that wasn't was a side bar for me.
In the next two books we really get into Salander's life and why she is the way she is.  It makes so much in the first book clearer, and explains why she acts the way she does.  By the end of the third book Salander is not healed or whole, but she has started down the path, I would have really loved to see where Larsson had her end up.

Getting Waisted: A Survival Guide to Being Fat in a Society That Loves Thin by Monica Parker Read (11/4/14 - 11/9/14)

This was a book that my book club won through book movement.  It is the memoir of Monica Parker, apparently a famous writer and actress in Hollywood that I have never heard of and I did't recognize her picture not the back cover either.  This is her story of her struggle with her weight and her need to be accepted and loved.  She is born in Scotland and moves to Canada during childhood, somehow she becomes involved in a Canadian Fitness show, although she is overweight, or as she puts it fat.  She meets the love of her life in Canada, then after her parents death she decides to move to Hollywood.  Why, she is already struggling with her self esteem and body issues, and she move to the most superficial place on earth and seems surprised that it causes more complexes.  At some point she comes to accept that she is a fat woman in a thin society, after a meal in complete darkness of all things.
I didn't get this book.  It was supposed to be super funny, and it wasn't.  I mean I got a few chuckles, but nothing to write home about.  Monica didn't really seem to learn to love herself, at the end of the book she is still struggling and still trying to loose weight, just not on a fad diet anymore.  I think I missed the point entirely.  I struggle with body issues, I have gained weight after my children were born that hasn't gone away.  I am lazy though, and I haven't really tried to loose the weight.  I suspect if I actually attempted and ran into a wall I would be more sympathetic to her.  She never joined a gym, and the one time she used a personal trainer she decided it was too hard and fired her.  I understand struggling to love your body, but it never seemed that Monica did learn to love herself.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Clash of Kings (Fire and Ice #2) by George R.R. Martin (read 10/20 to 11/4)

So finished, next book at library is on hold, and there is 2 people ahead of me.  These books seem easier to read in a  book rather than electronic format, I think it is because they are my genre of epic fantasy and I NEED to hold them in my hands LOL. is the second book in the Game of Thrones series, and much like the first it was full of details and a richness in the writing.  This book picks up just where the first one left off.  The Seven Kingdoms is in a civil war with five declared Kings and one declared Queen.  Jeoffery at Kings Landing, his bastard status hinted at, but unconfirmed.  Robert's brothers Stannis and Renly both declaring they are the rightful heirs as Jeoffry is not.  And Robb Stark is "King in the North" and wants to separate from the Seven Kingdoms.  Meanwhile Theon Greyjoy has declared himself King on the Iron Island and has mounted an attack on the North.
The Night's Watch is mounting a reconnaissance mission to investigate the Wildlings.  And Daenerys continues her plan to reconquer the Seven Kingdoms now that she is the Mother of Dragons.
I do like that the books give more depth to Ayra's story than the show did, since I really like her, I always felt the show really glossed over her parts.  Bran I also find is a much deeper character than the show gave him credit for.  The show focused too much on Robb, Sansa, and Daenerys, and ignored the other characters.  Their stories were there but not as richly .
I'm glad that Sansa is finally getting some brains and not wearing the stupid rose colored glasses, she is still at fault for her father's death in my mind but at least she is not as naive.
In the introduction chapter I found it interesting that Shireen has a disease called grayscale that makes her scaly like a dragon, I hope that she becomes a bigger part of the story.
Speaking of minor characters, I hated Davos's chapters, they were just so dry and boring to me.  I hope he died at the King's Landing battle so I don't have to read any more of him.  Shae in the show is much better than in the book, in the book she comes across as a shallow stupid whore, whereas in the show she is cunning and a real asset to Tyrion, whereas in the books she seems more of a liability.
I still love Tyrion by the way, which is probably why I don't like Shae's character in the book as much, she harms him I think.  He is crafty and sly, but he is smart and despite it all he is honorable, he protects Sansa and the city, and he gets no thanks only disrespect and is despised.  But he is honest and the only one that I think actually cares about the people of seven kingdoms.
I think there is too much inbreeding in the Seven Kingdoms, all the men are stupid!  Renly, Stannis, Theon, Robb, Jeoffrey.  They have no concern for the people, only their stupid puffed up egos, and are too prideful to do anything or the greater good.  In the end I hope either Daenerys or Tyrion sit on the throne, and actually care for the kingdom as a monarch is supposed to do.
What is up with the wolf dreams, and it seems everyone is having them?  Bran had them in the show, but he was the only one, this is a fun new twist.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Game of Thrones (Fire and Ice #1) by George R.R. Martin (read 9/8 to 10/19)

This is another BofM selection, one I must say I have been waiting for.  I love the TV series.  The hard part about this book is that it follows the series so closely that there was no real new information discovered from my read.  I wish I had read this before watching the show, much to my husband's dismay I am now stalling on watching the latest season until I read all the published books.  
This is an epic novel, encompassing so many characters and so much land,  the really hard part about this series is that no one is safe, Martin will kill off a character at a whim, and because I know from the series who dies, it made it hard for me to connect with the characters in book, especially if I know they die, and if I don't know, I don't want to get to attached because who knows when he will kill them off, as I said no one is safe, main character, supporting character they all are up for grabs when death comes calling. Fortunes change with the winds, and the story line has no set course.  It is what I both love and despise about the series, it keeps me guessing and on the edge of my chair.
In this first book we are introduced to the Starks, the Lords of the North and their home Winterfell.  Lord Ned Stark and his wife Catelyn, their children are Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bandon (Bran) and Rickon.  Ned has a bastard son Jon Snow, although personally I don't think he is Ned's son, I think he is Ned's nephew the son of his sister Lyanna  and Rhaegar Targaryen, but it hasn't been revealed if I am right or not.  Each of the Stark children have a Direwolf as a pet, Direwolves are the house symbol, and have not been seen in the world for a long time, their apperance is a sign that all is not right in the world.
The Starks are visited by Ned's good friend Robert Baratheon and his family, wife Cersie, and children Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen.  Along with Cersie's twin brother Jamie Lannister, a guard of the King.  The Hand of the King has died and Robert wants Ned to come south to fill the position, Ned doesn't want to got but at Catelyn's urging he takes the job and the result is a dead king, a land in chaos and more dead characters than I care to count.  
I found this fun image on pinterest, each flag is a death in the book. See I'm not exaggerating.

Anyways, Bran falls off a roof, or more accuratly he was pushed, so Catelyn and the boys stay behind as Ned and the girls head south with the King.  There is trouble along the way, the kings family is corrupt and dangerous.  Jon being a bastard son is not welcome in the South and chooses to join the Black brotherhood on the wall rather than remain in Winterfell without Ned's protection from Catelyn.  The Wall is a gigantic 700 foot wall that separates the 7 kingdoms from the free lands, where those who do not obey the king live.  The Wildlings are separate tribes that are not united like the 7 kingdoms, and supposedly there are monsters on the other side of the wall.  The Black Brotherhood's duty is to guard the wall and those that are on the southern side of it, they have no loyalty to kings, only to the brotherhood and he wall.  They take no wives and have no children, it used to be an honor to be a Black Brother, but now it has become a place to send criminals and other undesirables, such as bastard sons.

Divergent: The Complete Four Book Series by Veronica Roth (read 10/7 to 10/12)

I purchased this series to read while I was on vacation, and I read all three books plus the short stories in 6 days.  It was really good to say the least, I loved both the story-line and the writing.  The book was very similar to the movie, the book just added more depth.  This is a story of future world, the history and where exactly the book take place is revealed in the third book Allegiant.    In this post-apocalyptic world, survivors divide into five factions based on their dispositions.  Abnegation, for the selfless; Amity for the peaceful; Candor for the honest; Erudite for the intellectual; and Dauntless for the brave.  Every year all 16 year old adolescents must take an aptitude test that describes what faction they are best suited for.  However, they still have free will can they can decide to follow the tests results or choose a new faction.  Each faction has an initiation and if the initiates do not complete the initiation they become "Factionless" and live in poverty on the streets.
Divergent begins with the main character Beatrice "Tris" Prior taking her aptitude test and getting inconclusive results, making her what is called Divergent.  She has aptitude for Abnegation (her families faction), Erudite, and Dauntless.  When choosing day comes she makes the hard decision to leave her family and joins Dauntless.  The book surrounds her initiation into Dauntless.  At the end of Divergent one of the factions tries to overthrow the system and destroy the Abnegation faction.  Because Tris is Divergent she is able to resist the mind control and fights for Abnegations survival.  At the end of the book Abnegation is damaged but not destroyed and Tris is on the run.
Insurgent picks up where Divergent ends, Tris and her companions go to Amity to hide, but must soon leave to join the revolution and protect the Dauntless and the Abnegation.  This book follows the revolution and the discovery of the cities history that has been suppressed.  At the end of the book the secret is revealed with mixed reactions from the citizens.
Allegiant pick ups same as Insurgent did, however the difference is that it is told from two points of view, Tris and Five's.  This change in writing style confused me, by the end of the book I understood it.  
The short stories are all about Five and his initiation.  They were ok, but I didn't have to read them, and I didn't feel that they gave me any extra insight into his character. 
As I said before I couldn't put these books down, they are formulaic of many of the YA novels out right now, but they were still really good, and as bonus the ending surprised me, I did not see it coming.  That is rare for me, I read so often that it is hard for a book ending to surprise me.  I admit I cried, I'm not telling if it was from joy or sadness though, I wouldn't want to ruin it for anyone else.  This was a really easy book to get caught up in I truly came to love all the characters even the unlikable ones, such as Peter.
I think this book explores a lot of themes, personal and socially  One theme I can see is when a child must choose to become an adult and leave the nest and the anxiety and fear that goes along with that.  A social theme that I think most emphasized is that categorizing and discriminating against those that are different will get us nowhere, society will fall apart and destruction will result, only when we begin to accept each other and stop discriminating against those that are different can we become a successful society.  Do not fear what is different, embrace those differences and realize that your weaknesses maybe someone else's strength and when we embrace rather then reject we become a whole society.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (read 10/4 to 10/7)

This is a detective story by Robert Galbraith, or better known as J.K. Rowling.  Coroman Strike is a private investigator in London, who has just taken on a temp secretary he can't afford.  Robin is newly engaged and working yet secret dream job with Strike, much to her fiancés disapproval. Just as Robin is hired, John Bristow hires Strike to investigate the death of his sister Lulu Landry, a supermodel whom supposedly committed suicide 3 months earlier.  Strike is reluctant to take the case as he police have already determined the case suicide not homicide.  But as time goes on Strike is glad he took the case, and has a chance to catch up he killer, not without invaluable help from Robin.
This was an amazing novel, it kept me engaged and enthralled.  I read this over three days on vacation, every spare moment was devoted to this story.  The writing was wonderful, more grown up than Harry Potter, but still such a easy read that really attests to Rowling's writing style.  And unlike most mysteries, I was wrong, I had the wrong person pegged for the killer, and was truthfully shocked not only by who but why.  Rowling really pulled a fast one on me.

Anne of Avonlea (Green Gables #2) by L.M. Montgomery (Read 8/24 to 9/7)

This is the second book in the Anne of Green Gables series.  It picks up the fall after the first book ends.  Anne is about to start her first term teaching at the Avonlea school, although she will still continue her studies at home with Gilbert, who is teaching at the nearby White Sands School. Marilla's third cousin dies and she takes in her two children while their uncle is out of the country.  The children are Davy and Dora, a set of twins as opposite as day and night.  They are initially meant to stay only a short time, but the twins' uncle postpones his return to collect the twins and then eventually dies.  This book follows Anne from the age of 16 to 18, during the two years that she teaches at Avonlea school.  The book soon introduces Anne's new and problematic neighbor, Mr. Harrison, and his foul-mouthed parrot.  Some of Anne's new pupils, such as Paul Irving, an American boy living with his grandmother in Avonlea while his widower father works in the States. He delights Anne with his imagination and whimsical ways, which are reminiscent of Anne's in her childhood.   This book sees Anne maturing slightly, even though she still cannot avoid getting into a number of her familiar scrapes that we all know and love Anne for.
I still love Anne, and I love Avonlea, being older than when I first read this book I'm able to relate to the maturity that a girl grows into, without loosing her sense of fun.  I'm sad there IAS not more of Gilbert in this book, and I relate to Anne's feeling of being left behind NY all her engaged friends.  But she still maintains her imagination and her joyfulness no matter what.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Anne of Green Gables (Green Gables #1) by L.M. Montgomery (Read 8/11-8/24)

Another BOTM selection, and one of my all time favorites,  In fact this was my favorite book before I discovered The Hobbit.
I still have my original book I got from my Mom, which she got when she was 9.  My version was published in 1944,  and according to the front there were only 4 books in the series at that time, now there are 8, the last published in1939.  It is considered the "deluxe" version because it has a cloth cover and 8 illustrations by Elizabeth R. Withington.   It is still one of my most cherished and loved books, it holds a place of honor on my bookshelf.
Anne Shirley is an 11 year old orphan that is adopted by Marilla and Matt Cuthbert (elderly brother and sister), and from the start there are mistakes and hi jinx.  Marilla really has no idea what to do with a  child, and shy Mathew just wants to spend time with the girl.  Anne meets her bosom best friend, Diana, and her arch rival Gilbert.  The book is set in the early 1900's on Prince Edward Island in Canada, in a small made up town of Avonlea. (Fun fact: the house Montgomery based Green Gables on was her neighbors, and it is located in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island)  It was published in 1908, so I can only assume that the setting is about that time  Being set in a simpler time, the story is simple at heart.  A girl and how she grows into a woman and brings love and light to all of those around her.  There is no technology, no cyber bullying, no television or radio even to be a distraction and a hindrance.  Anne's entertainment is her books, and of course her imagination.
Anne is such a fun and great character, a true kindred spirit to myself.  I have always felt a connection with her character, so full of imagination and hope and a general goodwill towards here fellow human beings.  She really makes Green Gables a lively home, rather than a lovely house.  In fact while reading this book, I realized that I had bought my own version of Green Gables, my new house is cream with green trim and cherry trees in the backyard.  I'm afraid to go to much into the plot, because I will give away all the fun things that are to discover in this book.  The way Montgomery writes is so straightforward and enthralling, that you can't help to love the characters, even the Pryes. All I can say, is read this book if you want to escape to a simpler world, where the golden rule still applied and honesty was the highest valued trait of them all.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett (read 8/5-8/7)

I read this for my live book club, then sadly I missed the discussion meeting.  This is the story of Sabine (a magician's assistant) after her Magician and husband, Parsifal dies.  She is not handling his death well, and then secrets about his past and his family come out to throw he life even further into turmoil.  I loved Patchettt's writing, and her ability to create a complete character.  Did I understand each character and the characters reasons for who they were.  No not completely, but I still felt that they were a whole character, and like people in real life, not always fully understandable.  I loved the book.  I sped through it in a two nights after work.  It was so easy to slip into Pratchett's world.

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison (read 7/10 - 7/14)

First book by author and is semi-autobiographical, it is set in Greenville, South Carolina in the 50's.  For some reason I had originally thought this was the story of a black girl, then realized that Ruth "Bones" Boatwright is white.  This is a story of family and family loyalties, Bone suffers abuse at the hands of her stepfather, Daddy Glen, and this book is about not only how Bone deals with the abuse, but how her whole family deals with it.  Loyalties are tested and hard choices are made.  The family is lower-class and poor in the South in the 50's and 60's and the family members often stick to their traditional gender stereotypes.  I thought it was really well written, and  the story was engaging.  It was a can't put down read for me.  Being such a controversial book, I have read plenty on the story line, and I may have even seen the movie once.  So I knew the general storyline before I read, but that didn't stop me from wanting to know what would happen next.  I cried that whole last chapter because I was so invested in the characters.

The Dark Tower (Dark Tower #8) by Stephen King (Read 7/3-8/5)

Finally, we reach the end of this story!  We are getting back to the heart of the story, ka-tet back together.  Only to be broken in order for Roland to finally reach the Tower.   I think that because I as so unhappy with the previous books that this one had no appeal for me either, although finally King cuts himself out of it, can I get an Amen!
King's writing seems to be a bit more normal but thanks to the distaste of the last two book I couldn't appreciate this one.  The story ends poorly in my opinion and I wish King could have finished this series so much sooner.

Song of Susannah (Dark Tower #7) by Stephen King (Read 6/16-7/3)

Next in the BOTM series read. I think I am starting to get burnt out, I had a hard time with this one.  *SPOILER* probably because King inserts himself quite prominently, and it bugs the hell out of me.  This was written after Kings accident, in my opinion he list his edge after his accident, and writing himself into the story is just vain and stupid.  I wish he had focused on the characters instead of himself.  The whole King portion of this book really turns me off, and makes the whole read a pain for me.
This book focuses on Susannah and her pregnancy, and the effects it has on the ka-tet.  We meet a new personality of Susannah's and seem some more twisting and conniving by the Red King.  There are some good fight scenes, but for the most part I felt that this book did nothing to move the storyline along and I could have been just as happy if I hadn't had to read it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Terminals: Spark by Michael F. Stewart (Read 6/14-6/19)

I received this book from the LibraryThing Member giveaway.  The premise is that when people die, they can communicate for a shot period of time with a psychic, Atilla.  It is by this means that criminals are contacted after death and crimes solved.  Bam!  Who says the death of the main suspect has to bring a case to a halt.  Except that a terminally ill patient has to volunteer to end their life early so that they can communicate.
Lt. Col. Christine Kurzow attempted suicide after eleven soldiers under her command were killed by a suicide bomber, of course she blames herself.   She no has special talents and is recruited into the Terminals as a handler.  Her first case is to convincing a Gnostic Monk to follow Hiller the Killer into the afterlife and find the location of a bus with eleven children he kidnapped before his death.  Does it seem coincidental that she lost eleven soldiers and now must rescue eleven children, tit for tat?  One little problem, this is a highly spiritual job, and Christine is an atheist.
I really liked this book, Stewarts writing style kept the story flowing and the pages turning, I kept getting drawn back in, with the classic line  "Just one more chapter."  I can't wait for the next one in the series.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Rooster by Richard Peters (read 6/14)

This was a story I received from Library Thing's early reviewers.  It is a short story about a survivors in post apocalyptic south Texas.  The main character John Randell is kidnapped by 5 commandos while out on a foraging party.  He comes to find out that camp yea has been sent to is ran by all women.  I love the idea that this camp is run by women has all of the amenities, while the men's camps are living like cave people.  The women essentially rape men to get pregnant, they really have no other need for them.  However, the upper command has no idea that a rebellion is brewing.  This was a surprisingly good novel, there was an actual story line and not just sex scenes.  It was interesting to have the women be the aggressors, as in most romance novels, rape isn't really rape which I think is horrendously misleading, but I don't have a soap box about it either.  I was surprised that when I got to the end I felt it was too short of a story and I wanted to read more and find out what happens with the rebellion.   Peters has good writing, very easy flow.

Wolves of the Calla (Dark Tower #6) by Stephen King (Read 5/29-6/15)

Well I know that I finished this book in June, and things have been crazy, I now have at east 8 other books to write about too.  But I will start with the oldest and just try and catch up.  This whole parenting thing takes up a lot of my time.
This is the next in my BOTM club reads.  This is where I start to dislike the series.   Kings writing really takes a turn for the worst in my opinion. This book picks up after Wind Through the Keyhole our Ka-Tet has come to a small farming community, Calla, that has a major problem.  Every so often, riders called Wolves because of the masks they wear, comes and steals half their children.  Most of the children in Calla are born as twins, the Wolves steal one half of the pair and send it back years later "roont", which means they are now mentally disabled, unusually large, and die at a very young age.  As usual, the Gunslingers are asked to solve the problem, but it is never as clear as just getting rid of some bad people, the Wolves are agents of the Crimson King, and there is the added complication of Susannah being pregnant, and it isn't a wanted pregnancy.
King pulls in a lot of info from his other books and even writes himself into the story line.  That is really annoys me.  It is very egotistical and makes me boil.  King also steals ideas from from other series, in fact one of the weapons is called a Sneetch, Harry Potter Edition.  That upsets me a ton too, King is an established writer, and has fame all his own, does he really need to steal ideas from other writers?  It feels false to me, like King couldn't think up a name for his weapon so he just stole J.K Rowlings idea, but gave a shout out to make it ok.  It just feels sneaky and dirty.  The Star Wars references don't bother me as mush, because Star was has become some a icon and been pillaged and plundered by so many.  So anyways again not a favorite book, and really, if the series had ended with this one, I would have been just fine.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty (read 5\25-5\28)

This was for my book club on meetup.  Husband writes letter to wife to be opened after death - his deepest darkest secret.  For about a week or so we follow the life of three women whose lives intersect and intertwine over this secret.  His wife Cecilia Fitzpatrick reads letter while husband is still alive.  Tess, her husband and cousin (felicity) have an affair.  Felicity is more like Tess's sister, making the betrayal even worse.
Rachel is the grandmother of Jacob (4 yrs).  Jacob's family is moving to NY, destroying her.  Rachel's daughter Janie died at 17 she had shut down emotionally until Jacob is born. His leaving makes her fear she will go back to the place she was in her life after Janie's death and before Jacob's birth.
I loved the writing style, I couldn't wait to see how their lives intertwine.  It makes me want to know what will happen.  I think women's lives were intertwined mildly before, but now will be more so, because of Cecilia's husbands secret.  Although he seems so unimportant to the greater story that I can't remember his name.
The end was a bit of a let down, seemed too little.  Like the story didn't end neatly, I guess that is more realistic, but I wanted more.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

One Last Thing before I Go by Jonathan Tropper(Read 5/19-5/23)


This was a book from my other book club that I missed, so when I finished The Wind Through the Keyhole so quickly I decided to pick it up and have a go.  This is the story of Drew Silver, a loser.  He was in a band with a hit song, the the band broke up.  He was in a marriage, then the marriage broke up.  Now he lives a lonely depressing life, and to top it off he finds out he is dying and his daughter is pregnant.  Silver must struggle with the relationships in his life and try to mend some of his mistakes, while deciding if he wants to fight for his life, or just accept his death.

Surprisingly, this was a page turner, there were times when I couldn’t put it down.  I really thought in the first chapter of so when I was reading about the disaster that was Silver’s life that this would be depressing and an awful read.  But the writing was wonderful, there was an easy flow to the storytelling, nothing fancy, just a good story well written.  I think the fact that all the characters in the book are so flawed and broken, makes them relatable and loveable.

There was a great rhythm in both the writing and the storyline.  There were no super fast or thrilling sections of the book, but neither were there slow sections.  You just rolled along at a happy place, and often I found that I was rolling so well that I couldn’t find a place to stop.    I’m not afraid to say that this book made me cry at some parts, they were just so well written and touching.  I didn’t have any laugh out loud moments, but those are much harder for a book to get from me.  I did quietly chuckle once or twice though.

The Wind through the Keyhole (Dark Tower #5) by Stephen King (Read 5/11-5/19)

The Wind Through the Keyhole

Next up in the BOTM series, Stephen Kings The Wind through the Keyhole.  This was a new read for me, since it was published after I read the series the last time.   It was refreshing to read something new.  It was when I mentioned that in my book club that I realized this book was published after he series had been completed.

This story picks up after Roland and the crew leave the tower in wizard and glass.  They encounter this crazy storm called a starkbast, it is a deadly ice storm, but worse.  While they wait the storm out, Roland tells another story of his youth, in which he chases a “skin-man.”  While on the hunt for the “skin-man” Roland and his companion Jaime find a young survivor Bill Streeter.  Bill is scared and Roland tells him a story from his childhood, the story of Tim Stoutheart.

This was a super quick read, which was a very nice change after Wizard and Glass, my book club split the reading up over two weeks half one week half the next.  In actuality though, I read this whole thing in two days. 

It was fun and light for a tower book, and we got to hear a fun fairy tale for Gilead.  Which left me wanting to hear the rest of the Tim Stoutheart tales.  king’s writing wasn’t as heavy as in Wizard and Glass, and this is a nice bridge between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of Calla.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Wizard and Glass (Dark Tower #4) by Stephen King (Read 4/22/14 to 5/11/14)


BOTM continues with the Tower series, the fourth installment is Wizard and Glass.  This is one of my least favorite in the tower series.  It is slow and I just can’t seem to get into the storyline. 

This is the story of Roland’s first mission as a gunslinger and his first love.  Roland and the others have found a strange glass tower in the Stand’s Topeka, before they enter the tower, Roland tells a story.  As a reader I found myself caught up in the a story that Roland is telling his Ka-Tet.  I love hear about Roland as a youth, but for some reason King’s writing just makes it drag.  So I flip flop between loving and hating the storyline.

Roland and two of his friends, Alain and Cuthbert are sent to the Outer Barony of Mejis.  On his first night, Roland meets Susan, his first love and I think is only true love.  And that chance meeting sets off a whole series of events that change and shape Roland into the Gunslinger he is.  We are able to see the coldness and talent, tampered some by youth.  And Roland makes mistakes, not many, but sadly the ones he makes cost him dearly. 

Like I said before I like to hear about Roland’s youth, it gives Roland a human side.  But both the first time I read this book and again this time, I just found the writing dull.  I love the characters and the insight, but it takes me forever to read and feels like a chore.  And I’m not sure why.  It is a must read for the series, but I wish King had written it better.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The House Girl by Tara Conklin (Read 5/6-5/7)

The House GirlThis is a beautiful story following the lives of two woman linked through art, history, and personal mysteries.   The story moves between antebellum Virginia and a modern-day New York.  The truth of one, with lead to the truth of the other.  It is full of heartbreak and loss, but don’t be discouraged, the truth leads to justice.

Josephine Bell is a slave on a failing tobacco farm in 1852’s Virginia, she is a house girl and nurse to her Mistress Lu Anne Bell, an artist.  Josephine is also an artist, and our story begins on the day she has decided to run.  Her chapters follow her through her day as she prepares to run, and the information her Mistress finally tells her after 4 years of secrecy.

Carolina “Lina” Sparrow is a first-year associate at an elite law firm in 2004’s New York.  She is ambitious and talented and on the “Partnership tract.”  She is given an assignment to find a “perfect plaintiff” in a historic lawsuit regarding reparations for the descendants of American Slaves.  It is while on this search, that Lina discovers Josephine.  Currently all of her artwork is attributed to Lu Anne, but there is some suspicion in the art world that Josephine was the true artist.  Lina’s chapters follow her through her search for the descendants of Josephine and the truth of who was the real artist of the Bell Paintings.

This was a short book, about 370 page in paper back, but electronically only about 150 (font size does make a difference I think).  I read this book in two evenings, I could not put this book down and the writing was so easy to read.  I loved Conklin’s style, it was smooth and idiomatic.  Conklin did a wonderful job of describing both Virginia and New York, with just enough details to guide my imagination, but not so many the I had no creative freedom.  The story line flows, and like I said I kept coming back and couldn’t put down.  I really liked Lina, I was able to relate to her and her drive and need to know the truth, not just for her job, but for her own peace of mind.  The need for the truth, whether good or bad, the need is what drives Lina. 

I didn’t like the ending, I don’t want to go into too many details because of spoilers, but  really wanted things to turn out differently for Josephine, although I was pretty happy about how things went for Lina.  The fact that things turned out the way they did, contributed to the realism of the novel.  Things are not always unicorns and rainbows, and not every story can have a happy ending, although I can still wish for it.

I would definitely recommend this book as a light read, maybe for a weekend trip something light to keep you entertained and interested, but not so long that you couldn’t finish it on your days off.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Lineage of Tellus Book1: Memories & Murder by Lauren J. Hasbrouck (Read 4/5-4/21)

Memories and MurderThis was a book I received from’s Early Reviewers.  I guess I should have read the description better before I said I would read it, I read the part about the fantasy quest to avenge Ashei’s Mothers death.  I missed the disclaimer that this was a high fantasy series for fans of adventure, dry wit, and broad sexuality.

In fact the “broad sexuality” threw me for a loop at first, it was just so in my face.   That it really distracted me from the story line.  I mean I don’t mind reading about sex, and I made it through Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty Series, and this has nothing on that series, but because I missed the disclaimer I was a bit unprepared for it and like I said distracted trying to figure out what I had gotten myself into checking the box for this book.  After awhile all the gay jokes became offensive, just because there were SOOO many of them.  I think sex and sexuality can add a lot to a story, this book just wasn’t written well enough to do that, so instead the sex and sexuality was a boring and upset me because I really wanted to get to the heart of the storyline and I couldn’t get through the fluff.

Laying all of that aside, this book is obviously a first attempt at a novel.  There was too much background in the first few pages, I felt a bit hammered over the head.  And Lauren’s writing style is a bit difficult to read, it is very choppy.  The storyline seems like a great concept if Lauren’s writing skills didn’t distract form it so much.  I think she felt she needed to add to much to the story to fill it out, when she had a great underlying base that could have really flourished if she had just let it be a little less fluffed.

The characters are a bit stereotypical, the barmaid with the courage of a warrior, the harlot with a heart of gold, the effeminate elf, the strong man who’s downfall is love, the evil wizard….I’m sure you get the idea.  Tellus is a strange mix of modern and medieval landscape.  I like it, and I think it is a great background, I just wish the characters were as deep.   The entire book felt a bit teenage cliché to me.  Why in the world would the characters act the way they did, and yes I know the obvious reason is because they had to in order to move the story in the direction Lauren wanted it to go.  Why was Ashei so sure her mom was murdered and part of some big conspiracy?  I mean from what I could tell until she died, Ashei thought she was perfectly normal. 

Why do Tris and Anne agree to go on the “quest”?  How do they even know where to start looking and why to start looking there?  And Finn…why the heck would he ever say yes.  The entire first part of the book I was was asking myself these sorts of questions, because the actions just seemed so random.  I think part of the problem was that Lauren was so focused on setting up the sexual tension scenario’s that she forgot to actually write about the characters. 

This is the 1st in a series and by Chapter 6 I knew Finn was a dragon and the son of the evil wizard.  I also knew the whole book was going to ramble and be one pointless adventure after another that really didn’t help move the core storyline along.  They could have if only they had been written better.  I am sorry to say, but I have no desire at all to read anymore of this series, I usually don’t say that but this was just awful…the writing was crude and the sexuality became tedious and offense after a while.  I applaud Lauren for following her dreams, but I’m sorry that this book was not a dream come true for me.

The Wasteland (Dark Tower #3) by Stephen King (3/18-4/5)

The wastelandNext up in the BOTM reading is The Wastelands.  This continues the story after Roland pulls Eddie and Susannah through the doors.   But now Roland is going mad because he save Jake.   I love that King didn't ignore the paradox Jake's death created.  That paradox is a main part of the story line not just for Roland, but for Jake too.  The drawing of the actual third is Jake, not jack…maybe that is why the names were so close. 

My Favorite character of the whole series is Oy. I couldn't wait for him to show up.  He is just so adorable and smart and funny, the most lovable character of the whole series in my mind.  I guess it helps that I am such a dog lover, but Billy Bumblers are better than dogs and I really want one.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale (Read 3/12-3/18)

Catch me if you can I read this book because I was in between book club reads and I needed something quick to read.  This turned out to be just that.  I had seen the movie, so I knew the basic storyline.  I have to say the movie glamorized it much more than the book did.  It was a bit of a dry read, I mean the story itself was interesting Frank became a pilot because he saw one and wanted to be adored that way.  Everything fell into place for him to pull the scam because people were so trusting.  He would just walk in somewhere and get what he needed, that would never happen in today’s society.   The fact that he could pull off his impersonation for so long, is a sign of his intelligence, and his luck.  He did get caught eventually, but there were some tight spots before then he charmed his way out of.  When he was finally caught, I though France’s punishment seems too harsh for his crime; I mean he isn’t a murderer or a rapist.  They just about killed him for scamming some airlines.  Little bit of a let down at the end, I mean he just escaped in the US and the book ends.  Like a I said a quick read, but not a literary masterpiece.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Drawing of Three (Dark Tower #2) by Stephen King (2/23-3/10)

The Drawing of ThreeBOTM voted to read the whole Dark Tower series, so I will be reading and reviewing the remaining 6 books in the series, and I may even try to fit in some side books.  I like the Dark Tower series, it is a fantastic mix of old west and fantasy that just gives me happy thoughts. 

The story of The Drawing of Three picks up with Roland on the beach we left him on at the end of the Gunslinger.  But there is a new danger, these crazy lobster monsters attack him wile passed out and he looses two of fingers and a toe.  for the rest of the series we will be constantly reminded that he has lost two fingers, but the toe is never mentioned again that I can recall.  I have always wondered what was the point of Roland loosing his fingers?  Did he need to be maimed to create a need to draw in other gunslingers? The shock of Roland loosing his fingers isn't the violence of losing his fingers, it was a that he lost such an essential part of who he is. I mean, who is Clint Eastwood or John Wayne without his guns? There was some debate in my book club about the simplicity of naming the monsters Lobtsrocities.  I like Lobstrocity, Roland isn't an imaginative character, so he wouldn't come up with anything that wasn't descriptive and based on what his realist mind sees.

After Roland is maimed he then wanders further down the beach and finds a door that says the “The Prisoner.”  Now if it was me and I found a random door on a beach, with no building or frame attached I’m not sure I would walk through it, but because he is Roland, and the fantastical seems to have no effect on him, he opens it and walks through.  Just like in the movie “Being John Malcovich” (which was made after this book was written) he is now in some other guy’s head.  Roland is a passenger in the head of Eddie Dean, a heroin addict about to be busted on a drug run.  So what does Roland do?  He magically takes the drugs back to the beach so Eddie doesn’t get busted, but that still doesn’t save Eddie’s ass from the Drug Dealer/Crime Lord he was running the drugs for.  In true Gunslinger fashion, this leads to a shoot out at the Drug Dealer/Crime Lord main base of operations, a night club called Tower.  Coincidence?  I think not.  I LOVE the image of Eddie fighting naked – all cracked out and crazy.   When all is said and done, and all the bad guys are dead, Roland takes Eddie back through his own head, i.e. door, to the beach and the door disappears.  I I like the Eddie, and I think Roland draws Eddie because even though he is from our world he is a gunslinger, that is after all why he was sent on the drug run, because even cracked out he still held it together. Roland can relate, and he even compared him to one of his old buddies.

Roland has gotten a really bad infection from loosing his fingers and toe, and Eddie, even cracked out had been smart enough to grab some antibiotics before going through the door.  So Eddie takes care of Roland and gets clean, and the ka-tet starts.   now I’m not saying Eddie, wanted to get clean, but all the heroin had been taken back before the big shoot out.  Just imagine a deathly ill gunslinger and heroin addict going through withdraws on beach, both probably hallucinating, have fevers and chills, raging at each other, doesn’t it sound like fun.  So Roland and Eddie both start to get better, not cured but better and the next door appears, titled “The Lady of Shadows.”  Eddie wants to go through and get a fix and Roland won’t let him.   Roland goes through the door, and again is in the mind of another person.  This time it is a black woman, shop lifting from Macy’s, her name is Odetta Holmes, but she also is Detta Walker.  O/Detta suffers from multiple personality disorder, and strangely enough Roland meets both women in the 5-10 minutes it takes him to haul her back through her door.  Which is timely because Eddie was just about to cut Roland’s throat. 

When Eddie and Roland discuss the O/Detta situation, Roland immediately understands the diagnosis, and by instinct knows the treatment is for O/Detta to be joined.  Of course Eddie had to fall for Odetta, before her Detta personality came out.  Seems a little cliché to me, but I know it is important to the storyline, not telling how though at this point.  Although, I personally think it would have been worse if it had been Odetta and Roland, because I know King always has a couple.

Did anybody else catch that Eddie mentions The Shining movie? This book was published in 1987 and The Shining movie came out in 1980, so there was only 7 years between the movie and the publishing, when King wrote this did he know his move would become a cultural icon, or did he just add the little blurb to pat himself on the back?

After a while of dealing with crazy Detta, which does seem to take forever!  The third door appears, title “The Pusher.”  Roland once again goes through alone, not because he feels he needs to hold Eddie back from a fix, but someone has to guard his body for Detta, or she is going to kill them both.  Roland’s infection has come back and maybe that is why I always feel the pusher chapter is rushed compared to the rest of the book. Maybe because Roland is sick and rushing the storyline, but still it is really a quick read to me.  When Roland goes through the door this time, he is in a sick man’s mind, and I don’t mean sick like as in ill, I mean sick as in likes hurting people.  While in there Roland saves Jake from being pushed, and then once he has his antibiotics he throws the pusher in front of a train.  Thereby forever saving Jake.  But now there is a paradox....Jake wasn't pushed in front of the car and sent to Roland's world...what does that do to the timeline...who did Roland let fall? Will Roland forget Jake? Is that the man in black's plan? Does Jake still die just some other way? 

When Roland comes back through, there is a brief fight with Detta, and Roland forcers her to face Odetta, and they join to become a whole new woman, Susannah Dean.  Now Roland has two new gun fighting companions, and they set off in search of the dark tower, and leave the beach behind.

This is an easy read, everything moves along at a nice pace, except the end of course, it seems to move to fast.  It stays pretty true to King’s writing style and we can see influences form other books.  I really enjoyed this book, it’s not my favorite in the series, but it is a good one.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai (Read 3/3/14 to 3/8/14)

I am malala

This is a story about a girl born in Pakistan who stood up for women’s rights against the Taliban.  On October 9, 2012 her courage became around the world because she was shot while riding the school bus home.  Against all odds she survived a head shot and the world prayed and held its breath, and now we hear her story in her own words.

Malala comes from a non-traditional family, first of all her parents marriage is a love match, not an arraigned marriage.  Secondly, her mother had strong women as her role models, and although they never stepped out of their traditional role as women, she still had her opinions.  Mala’s father again bucked tradition by not only talking to but listening to Malala’s Mother’s advice.  Finally, and I think most importantly her father father loves/proud of daughter instead of ashamed that she wasn’t a son.  Malal’s father felt that education was just as imprortant for girls as for boys and he encouraged it in his own school.  Although he was a Muslim,Malala’s father did not prescribe the the stereotypical woman oppressing Muslim male image.  He believed in woman’s rights and would often say “Malala is free as a bird.”   Malala’s father was proud of her public speeches advocating for women’s education and condemning the oppression of the Taliban.  He never thought that Malala would be a target, their mistake was in thinking the Taliban would view him as the threat.  When Malala would discuss the potential danger her education and public speeches posed he would say to Malala “I will protect your freedom, Malala. Carry on with your dreams.”   I think he really did think she was safe, and that if anyone would be shot it would be him.

What I really liked about this book was that it provided a history of the Swat Valley of Pakistan and surrounding regions.  This explains how the Taliban took over and emphasis how lack of education, especially in women, contributed to the take over.  Malala lovers her her country and despite the terror and suffering she suffered in it, she still wants to return and make it a better place.  She has a love and a drive to make it someplace safer, someplace better.  Her dream is to become a politician and make actual changes and improvements for her people.  I hope that Malala does become a politician and betters the lives of her people.   This book made me want to support her dreams, and follow her story.  I’m hoping that years from now I will be reading about the differences she has made, and I hope she goes down as another Nelson Mandela type for the Pakistani people.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Death Penalty in the United States: A Complete Guide to Federal and State Laws, Second Edition by Louis J. Palmer Jr.

0786476605.01._SX140_SY224_SCLZZZZZZZ_This was a book I received as an Early Reviewer on LibraryThing.  I did not remember checking the box to say say I would read it, yet there it was in my mailbox.  I’m not going to lie, it is a very dry book, I am 99% sure it is aimed at being a text book.  I am not a legalese and if I hadn’t received this book the way I had I would not have read it.  It was very dry and hard for me to get through, and sadly I didn’t I made it to chapter 8 and just gave up.  I started just reading, but that didn’t work, I got lost and sadly had to start the book a second time.  On the second read I took detailed notes and underlined like a mad woman,  and it still didn’t work, although I did retain the information that I was reading.  Although I could not read this book as a lunch read or during other times that I didn’t have a chunk of time to devote to it.  There was just too much potential for loss of information if I didn’t read a whole chapter at a time.

In the intro, the author states that this book “aims to provide an objective review of how capital punishment works in the United States.”  He further states that “the primary focus of the book is upon issues that are resolved after a defendant has been convicted of a capital crime.”  Being the general populace I feel that he achieved his goal.  Again, not saying I would recommend this book to my book club, but it was an informative read.   The book is split into 6 parts. 

Part I lays out important foundation information. (5 chapters)  lots of law and history,  I made it through though.  Some of it was good, some of it was bad.  Some of the history was interesting, I think that is the only reason I kept reading.  It was just sooo dry and text bookish.

Part II examines specific issues involving the governmental office responsible for enforcing death penalty statutes – the office of the prosecutor. (5 chapters)  This is the section that lost me, it was all law and nothing of interest for me, and as much as I hate to say it, I just gave up.  My reading time is too precious to continue with something I am having this much trouble getting through.

Part III is an examination of substantive issues involving primarily the sentencing phase of death penalty prosecutions. (6 chapters)

Part IV is concerned with post-conviction remedies that a capital felon will try to obtain after being convicted. (4 chapters)

Part V outlines the laws involving execution of the death penalty. (4 chapters)

Part VI provides some discussion of diverse death penalty issues. (5 chapters)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

White Oleander by Janet Fitch (2/15-2/22)

white oleanderThis was a bit of a busy month for me, so I thought I would try to listen to the book on tape, and I watched the movie.  Not good, I got to my book club and they were talking about sections I had no recollection of at all.  I guess I really do need to read it to absorb it, not just listen.  So as a result, I picked up the book and read it.

This is the story of Astrid, a young girl who grows into a woman while in foster care.  When Astrid is 12, her mother Ingrid poisons her boyfriend and is sent to prison.  The book follows Astrid through various foster home as she grows, both physically and emotionally.  Ultimately, this is a story of a girl growing into a young woman and finding herself, while leaving the shadow’s of her Mother’s personality behind.

The imagery in this book is amazing, I get lost in Fitch’s descriptions of things, beautiful poetry that I could stay lost in for hours.  Everything is so organic, there are flowers and plants everywhere.   In the beginning everything is beautiful and mysterious “the blue of the evening , turn velvet, indigo lingering like an unspoken hope.” Astrid is 12 and on the verge of puberty.  She is still an innocent girl who worships her mother, she hasn’t yet discovered that her mother is imperfect and human.  Ingrid is Astrid’s goddess and she worships her wholeheartedly, and Ingrid likes it that way.  “She thought because I was her daughter that I belonged to her, that she could do anything she wanted with me.”  The world is about Ingrid, who is a selfish and manipulative woman that uses her “art” as a reason to not be held to societies same rules of conduct.  If Ingrid hadn’t been sent to prison, there still would have been conflict because Astrid was growing up and on path to becoming her own person, which her mother never would have understood.  “I felt on the edge of something, a mystery that surrounded me like gauze, something I was beginning to unwind.”

Finch describes every home that Astrid is sent to, and it foreshadows the events that will happen there.  The first foster home that Astrid is sent to is with Starr, and ex stripper, alcoholic, and born again Christian.   “A plastic garden pinwheel stood motionless in a patch of geraniums.  Spider plants hung from pots on the wide trailer porch.”  “there were no fringy jacarandas here, only oleanders and palms, pear cactus and a big weeping pepper.”  Astrid is still naïve, and she still sees the beauty that is possible, but there is a sadness to the place, a loss of childhood and innocence that will happen when Astrid and Ray’s relationship develops and drives Starr to shoot Astrid and loose all that she has worked for.

After Astrid is shot she is sent to live with Marvel and Ed, a bigot who only sees Astrid as a hired maid, that she doesn’t have to pay.  “It was the color of a tropical lagoon on a postcard thirty years out of date, a Gauguin syphilitic nightmare. It was the gap in the chain of deciduous trees that cradled every other house on the block, defiantly ugly in its nakedness.”  Marvel is cheerful on the outside, but inside she is full of hate, for her neighbors, for Astrid, and possibly even herself.  Here Astrid meets Olivia, a whore, and learns that as a woman, she can have some control of her life, if she just takes it.  But one Marvel finds out about Astrid and Olivia’s friendship, she sends Astrid away.

Astrid arrives at her 3rd home, “A big wooden craftsman with a deep eaved porch, too nice for foster care.  Inside it was dark, the windows covered with heavy curtains.  The woodwork gleamed halfway up the walls, smelling of lemon oil.”  Amelia, looks picture perfect on the outside, nice house, nice person, but she isn’t she is cruel and vicious, taking the girls money from the foster system and remolding her house, all the while starving the girls.  Astrid learns here, that as cruel as it may seem, sometimes you have to look out for yourself and no-one else.

The home that Astrid finally found the love she had been looking for was with Claire.  “An old neighborhood of stucco bungalows and full-growth sycamores with chalky white trunks and leaves like hands.”  Claire was sick, and mentally unstable and Ingrid jealous of Clair and Astrid’s relationship manipulated her into committing suicide.  Astrid blames herself and feels that anything she gets after Clair is deserved.

When Clair dies, Astrid is sent to McLaren Children’s Center “Block walls, linoleum floors, the shadows of pines against the outside lights, and the sleeping shapes of my roommates under their thin thermal blankets.”  This is her own version of prison, where she must serve her time for allowing Clair to be touched and ruined by Ingrid.  Astrid has stopped worshipping her mother and has broken the connections as best she can.  But because of Clair’s death she doesn’t feel she deserves redemption or a good life and that is why she passes on a good family and instead chooses to go with Rena when she leaves the center.

Rena is a Russian immigrant who has a very selfish view of the world.  “A glum cocoa-brown Spanish bungalow with heavy plasterwork, dark windows and a patchy lawn surrounded by a chain-link fence.”  Rena is constantly asking “What is in it for me?”  She teaches Astrid to stand up for herself, and that she can demand things.  Astrid finally builds some defenses, not only against the world, but also against her mother.

In the final chapter, Astrid is living in Berlin with her boyfriend Paul , “It was crumbling and coal heated, but we could afford it most of the time.”  “I liked Berlin. The city and I understood each other.  I liked that they had left the bombed out hulk of the Kaiser Wilhelm Church as a monument to loss.  Nobody had forgotten anything here.  In Berlin, you had to wrestle with the past, you had to build on the ruins, inside them.  It wasn’t like America, where we scraped the earth clean, thinking we could start again every time.  We hadn’t learned yet, that there was no such thing as an empty canvas.”   I could see the wrap up for Astrid, free of her mother, still drawn to her, but not giving into the temptation.  I was however very confused about her and Paul’s relationship.  There was no real build up to it, yeah they met at McLaren’s and connected but then nothing until she is living with him in Berlin.  It didn’t fit with Astrid’s character.  The whole book was about her growing and becoming her own person, a woman strong enough to defy her mother, then boom she is a girlfriend trying to promote her boyfriends dreams and not pursuing her own.  How did that happen?  What was the point of the book if she just becomes another woman behind the man?  Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it wasn’t the way the character was going.  It’s like at the end, Finch said oops nope that isn’t what I meant to write lets do a complete 360.  I loved the book, the rawness, the beauty in the writing.  But I think if I ever re-read it, I will stop at chapter 31.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower 1) by Stephen King Read 1/13-2/9

the-gunslingerThis is from my BOTM series, it is a second reading for me.  It was just as good as I remembered.  This is a fantasy novel meets the old west.  The main character Roland, is a “gunslinger” i.e. knight of his society.  The world has moved on, or is dying, it is full of mutants and empty landscapes.  I love the scenery, the old west and end of the world colliding.  Images of Mad Max fill my mind, but more Clint Eastwoody from The Good, The  Bad, and The Ugly.  The one town we encounter is a essentially a boarder town, that reminded me of Lonesome Dove, right down to the Saloon and piano player.  Don’t get me wrong, this is not like any other King series, there is no real jumpy parts, even when the mutants attack, it isn’t King’s normal scary stuff.  This is a nice quick read with limited main characters, Roland, Jake (enters half-way through) and the Dark Man.  After some of the more complicated storylines having just a few main characters to focus on was a really nice reprieve for my brain.  King does a great job setting up the series, he gives tid-bits of Roland’s past and the back story and the mission, without really telling us anything and making us want to read more.  This is a great start of the series.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Odd Hours (Odd Thomas #4) by Dean Koontz

This is the fourth book in the Odd series.  Odd left the monastery at the end of book three and headed off to the Coast with Frank Sinatra and his ghost dog Boo in tow.  When he gets there he gets the job of an in house chef for an reclusive actor from the 40's or 50's, his employer has a very small part and really adds nothing to the storyline.  In fact not many of the characters introduced add much to the storyline, every character is weirder than the last and I'm not sure what value they have other than that Koontz wanted to write about them.
The flow if this book wasn't as easy as the first one or even the second one, this book took me almost three times as long to get thorough just because I couldn't seem to get invested in the storyline.  And on top of that, every time I picked the book up I had forgotten what had gone on before, the story just didn't stick in my mind.
There is something happening, Odd saw it in a dream, but what oh what is it?  Man have we seen that storyline before, and it would be fine if he wants to keep up that premise, but that means there has to be a bit more development to Odd as a character, and he has turned out to be rather flat.  Oh so sad his girl is dead, oh so troubled that he sees dead people, his only ambition in life is to sell tires because it seems easy.  Really isn't it time for Odd to have some growth?  And in this book, I think Odd only saw one other dead person besides Frank Sinatra, whom he helped move on.  What famous singer will haunt Odd now?
I think Koontz tried to do something larger with the good vs. evil and Annemarie, but he just didn't make it.  It del choppy and incomplete.  There was too much vagueness, and what I assume Koontz thought was foreshadowing and not enough real story.  I think Koontz tried to hard, wanted to make what I assume started out as a fun story about a guy who sees dead people, into a larger, deeper story.  When he should have just stuck to a kooky book about a guy who sees ghosts, and left the deeper meaning of life to another storyline or another writer.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Brother Odd (Odd Thomas #3) by Dean Koontz

This is the third book in the Odd Thomas series.  Odd has taken himself off to a monastery in the Sierra Nevada's, and big bad thing comes to play.  the Baddie in this book is a new creation, not a Bodach or a bad person in general.  I still got through the book very quickly, but it had parts that were slower than in the first two books.  There were times when I had no problem putting the book down at all.  Don't get me wrong, it was still really good, there were just times that I felt I would be more inclined to clean or do something besides read.  Whereas with the first two books I just wanted to read and find out what the heck was happening.
We really get a chance to understand Odd a bit more and his character is developed nicely in this book.  At the end we finally see Elvis off to the next plane, which is nice for Elvis, but I was sad to see his character go.  I like how even though Koontz killed Stormy in the first book, she still never really leaves Odd behind, I think their love shaped Odd more than could have been known while Stormy was alive.  Odd still takes risks and does dangerous things, but now his goal is to be reunited and he doesn't want to step out of line in this world for fear it could make their separation more permanent.  He is still grieving but slowing healing.  There were some characters in this book that I really liked and I hope we see again later in the series, the Russian Romanovich mainly.  I love his character and I hope he become a recurring character.  I fully admit, at the end when it turned out that Boo was a ghost dog, threw me for a loop.  I had no idea, I thought he was just special and saw ghosts (i.e. Elvis) because he was a dog, not a dead dog.  There was a lot of spirituality and science mumbo jumbo that I suspect are setting something up later on in the series, but I am not sure.  So we will just have to wait and see how it turns out.  But in the end I say another hit by Koontz.

Forever Odd (Odd Thomas #2) by Dean Koontz

I enjoyed the first Odd Thomas so much that I decided not to wait for my book club to finish the series in a year or so.
In this second installment  Odd is still reeling from the events of book one, mainly Stormy's death.  A good friend is kidnapped and it is up to Odd to search and rescue him before it is too late.
Because I was reading this book as a side book to my book club books I could read at my own pace when I had time.  That being said I seemed to fly through it.  As usual Koontz's writing is solid and the characters are well developed and maintain the same level of believability that they did in the first book.  The main baddie is a wealthy psycho named Datura, who thinks Odd has the power to let her see ghosts, I'm sure if Odd had that power he would share without having a good friend threatened.  The book is still set in Pico Mundo and we get a lot more history of the area around the town.  I think Koontz thought this story through more as a part of a series than as a stand alone like the first book.  I should have written my review before I started the next one in the series, because I can see the set up for the next book so clearly and the two kind of blend.  It was a super quick read and easy to follow.  There wasn't any shocking endings or crazy mass murders and I missed the Bodach's presence.  But there were some pretty strong poltergeist, and nice set up for book 3.  It wasn't as good as the first but, still good.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

This is another time jumping book, which usually drives me crazy but I was ok with in this book.  Part of the book takes place in the WWII England during the Blitz and the other part of the book takes place in the present.  At the age of 16, Laurel Nicholson witnesses her mother Dorothy kill a man, Laurel pushes this memory to the back of her mind until her mother essentially lay on her death bed unable to answer questions.  What a better time for Laurel to try and find out what really happened right? So part of the book is Laurel's search to discover her Mother's history.  The other part is her mother's history and why she killed the man when Laurel was 16.  Of course Laurel never really gets the full picture of her mother's life, but she does learn quite a bit.
I really enjoyed the mystery and the writing.  There were some twists and turns and a surprise ending that I did't see coming at all!  
I have never read a Kate Morton book before this one, but it was so good that I have added her other two novels to my want to read list!  She is a fantastic story teller, she keeps the reader engaged and interested, and actually knows how to switch between timelines flawlessly.  There were parts of the story that weren't as interesting as other, which I was glad of because I could take a break digest and come back excited to finish the read.  I defiantly recommend reading this book!

His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik

This is a BOTM club read.  It was described "Alternate history during the Napoleonic Wars -- really?  I know, I know, BUT it's got TALKING DRAGONS!! Trust me, this is a fun and enjoyable read, not truly weighed down by war talk" by our  moderator.  And she was right that it isn't weighed down by a war talk and it was a fun light read.  I liked the read.  I found the story to be very predictable, Laurence does't want to have a dragon but Temeraire chooses him and wins him over.  All the supporting characters are predictable and boring too.  There is a class issue and the characters are a lot of snobs, I guess it would be most likely historically accurate, if there had been Dragons in 18th century England. But they are still really stuck up!  I think I went into this read expecting too much.  I was expecting a book that matched Eragon or Pern.  In my opinion this just did not meet their standards.  The writing was solid and the story line was well written, even the betrayal was predictable.  Reading some other reviews it appears the battles are historically accurate.  If I had been more interested I many have followed up to see if they were, but I wasn't.
It's an easy read and fun, but not an "Oooh I can't believe I didn't know about this book" read.  If you want a light read with some history and some fantasy this is a good choice, and maybe I would have liked it better if I had discovered it on my own and had no expectations going into the read.