Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Year of Fog

Book 12 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

Summary (via Goodreads)
Six-year-old Emma vanished into the thick San Francisco fog. Or into the heaving Pacific. Or somewhere just beyond: to a parking lot, a stranger's van, or a road with traffic flashing by. Devastated by guilt, haunted by her fears about becoming a stepmother, Abby refuses to believe Emma is dead. And so she searches for clues about what happened that morning - and cannot stop the flood of memories reaching from her own childhood to illuminate that irreversible moment on the beach. 
Now, as the days drag into weeks, as the police lose interest and fliers fade on telephone poles, Emma's father finds solace in religion and scientific probability - but Abby can only wander the beaches and city streets, attempting to recover the past and the little girl she lost. With her life at a crossroads, she will leave San Francisco for a country thousands of miles away. And there, by the side of another sea, on a journey that has led her to another man and into a strange subculture of wanderers and surfers, Abby will make the most astounding discovery of all - as the truth of Emma's disappearance unravels with stunning force. 

My Opinion
This is not an "I'll just read a little bit before bed" kind of book because the story and the chapters only being 2-3 pages long worked together so I read much more at a time than I intended.

It was very realistic as the relationship between Abby and her fiancĂ© (Emma's father) became strained because of the guilt/blame they felt since it happened under her watch.   It was suspenseful but not like a typical mystery because even as I went along with Abby on her journey of "whodunnit", I still had to keep it in the back of my mind that Emma could've drowned and nothing nefarious happened.  Death would be tragic and horrible but I think not knowing is the worst outcome of a disappearance because you would never be able to find closure.  Whether or not closure is found in this book is part of the ride so I won't give that away.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"There is a girl, her name is Emma, she is walking on the beach. I look away. Seconds pass. I look back, and she is gone. I keep thinking about the seconds, the ever-expanding circle. How I set this chain of events in motion. How I must find some way to make amends."

"Memory is the price we pay for our individual personalities, for the privilege or knowing our own intimate selves; it is the price we pay for both our victories and defeats."


Book 11 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Summary (via Goodreads)
Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there's still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly. 

My Opinion
This graphic novel is a true story and she went through a lot at that tough age where nobody wants to stand out, especially for something medical.  It sucks that one trip and fall impacted her for years.  The graphic novel format added a lot to the story and my girls enjoyed reading it too.

Although my story isn't as dramatic as hers, it reminded me of my own experience with false teeth.  My baby teeth didn't have enamel on them so when they came in without that protection I experienced a lot of pain and they had to be pulled out.  I had false teeth and it was fine until first grade when everybody else was losing teeth and obviously I was keeping my full set.  My dentist actually removed of my front false teeth so I had a gap-toothed smile just like my classmates and I still remember that act of kindness.  And my adult teeth had enamel so I've had no lasting effects.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Flying Circus

Book 10 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

The Flying Circus by Susan Crandall

Summary (via the book jacket)
They were barnstormers...the daring fliers whose airborne acrobatics were a thrilling spectacle, swooping and crisscrossing the Heartland skies. Rising above each of their circumstances in their own "flying circus" are Core Rose Haviland, a privileged young woman left penniless when her father's fortune is lost; Charles "Gil" Gilchrist, a World War I pilot whose traumatic past fuels his death-defying stunts; and eighteen-year-old Henry Schuler, the son of a German immigrant farmer, on the run from shocking accusations. Each holds secrets that could destroy their makeshift family. And, on their adrenaline-charged journey of self-discovery, one of them must pay the price.

My Opinion
The pages turned so quickly and this was a very satisfying read.  I will definitely read more from this author.

Even though the book went through a perfect story arc, I wasn't ready to say good-bye to the characters when it was over. 

A Few Quotes from the Book
"To meet the family, Henry put on a face that made people like him, that of a nice, fun-loving boy. He knew what that face felt like because he'd worn it before the war."

"There was confidence and there was foolishness. Cora had yet to discover the difference."

"The war had left a lot of men with a lot of stories. Some closed the book and refused to let those stories see the light of day. Others seemed to need to recite and relive them time and again. Henry didn't know which was more poisonous to the soul."

"Sometimes we're born were we belong and sometimes we have to search to find our place."

Monday, March 5, 2018

Stories I Tell on Dates

Book 9 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

Stories I Tell on Dates by Paul Shirley

Summary (via Goodreads)
Everyone tells stories on dates. Sometimes we tell these stories to make people laugh. Sometimes we tell them to make people think. Sometimes we tell them so we can increase the chances we'll see the other person naked.
Paul Shirley's stories are about an adulthood spent all over the world: living in Spain, playing in the NBA, and having his heart (and spleen) broken. But they're also stories about growing up in small-town Kansas: triumphant spelling bees, catastrophic middle school dances, and a Sex Ed. class taught by his mother. 
They're funny stories. They're vulnerable stories. Most of all, they're universal stories, just as the stories we tell on dates should be. 

My Opinion
Although I've never met the author I still feel my 5 star rating needs a small disclaimer.  Not only am I an Iowa State graduate but my husband and I were enjoying our college years at the exact same time that Paul Shirley was there playing basketball and, as a fellow engineering major, he was my husband's favorite player.  So even though I'm not much of a basketball fan (even now I only follow ISU's entire season and everyone else during March Madness) I knew every player/coach he was talking about, even the ones he didn't mention by name, I saw pretty much every college game he referenced and we followed his career enough to be able to be familiar with his overseas and NBA career.  

Honestly, the only reason I didn't finish this book in one sitting is because I had to put it aside after reliving the MSU heartbreak/bullshit call all over again.  It's been almost 20 years but I can still remember seeing his tears of frustration and sadness as our entire floor was watching it as a group; we had dragged tvs and couches out of our rooms and set up in between the elevators of Towers.  There is no such thing as a double foul!!!!!

Even though I can't rate it objectively since it was so easy for me to find a connection to his stories, I will say that he's a great writer (I really enjoyed his first book as well) and I believe anyone would be able to relate to his struggles and accomplishments over the years.

Quote from the Book
"The stories in this book are my stories.
  Sometimes they are the stories I tell when I am trying to explain where I came from. Sometimes they are the stories I tell when I am trying to explain where I'm going. Sometimes they are the stories I tell when I'm just trying to make someone laugh."

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

I Drink for a Reason

Book 8 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

I Drink for a Reason by David Cross

Summary (via Goodreads)
After a decade spent in isolation in the Ugandan jungles thinking about stuff, David Cross has written his first book. Known for roles on the small screen such as "never-nude" Tobias Funke on Arrested Development and the role of "David" in Mr. Show With Bob And David, as well as a hugely successful stand-up routine full of sharp-tongued rants and rages, Cross has carved out his place in American comedy. Whether deflating the pomposity of religious figures, calling out the pathetic symbiosis of pseudo-celebrity and its leaching fandom, or merely pushing the buttons of the way-too-easily offended P.C. left or the caustic, double-standard of the callous (but funnier) right, Cross has something to say about everyone, including his own ridiculous self.
Now, for the first time, Cross is weaving his media mockery, celebrity denunciation, religious commentary and sheer madness into book form, revealing the true story behind his almost existential distaste of Jim Belushi ("The Belush"), disclosing the up-to-now unpublished minutes to a meeting of Fox television network executives, and offering up a brutally grotesque run-in with Bill O'Reilly. And as if this wasn't enough for your laughing pleasure in these troubled times, some of the pieces splinter off with additional material being created online in exclusive video and animated web content created solely for the book-a historical first (presumably)!
With a mix of personal essays, satirical fiction posing as truth, advice for rich people, information from America's least favorite Rabbi and a top-ten list of top-ten lists, I DRINK FOR A REASON is as unique as the comedian himself, and cannot be missed.

My Opinion
I would love to read the review of someone that had no idea who David Cross is and picked up this book.  They would think he was a psycho.

I like his standup and acting but it didn't translate to an enjoyable book for me.  The bits in the list form were too long when being read instead of performed and things come off as abrasive (not in the good way) when not accompanied by his delivery which makes it abrasive (In the good way).

So I was plugging away thinking this would be a 2 star review but the number of times he used "retarded" dropped it to a 1 star for me.  

Favorite Piece
"Correspondence with Dave Eggers"

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Lake and the Lost Girl

Book 7 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

The Lake and the Lost Girl by Jacquelyn Vincenta

Summary (via the book jacket)
On a stormy night in 1939, Mary Stone Walker disappears from her home in White Hill, Michigan. Everyone knew the talented poet was desperate to escape her demons, but when Mary goes missing without a trace, one question lingers in the small town: Did Mary successfully break free of her troubled past and flee, or did her life end that night?
Sixty years later, Lydia Carroll's husband is fixated on the local mystery. English professor Frank Carroll has invested years in the search for the local poet and her lost works, sacrificing his family, his reputation, and even Lydia for the ever-more-unlikely discovery. As Frank's behavior grows more erratic, Lydia fears his interest in Mary has evolved into an obsession - on that threatens to destroy the family they have built together, and which can only be undone by solving the mystery of what happened to Mary on that rainy night in 1939.

My Opinion
I really can't say anything about the book or plot without spoilers.  I liked the author's writing a lot but this particular story left me more annoyed than anything else.  Without saying what the ending turned out to be, it could have been discovered much earlier if people had communicated earlier and I have a low tolerance for that in stories - my personal preference.

Quote from the Book 
"To have someone like that. It was a wish, a prayer, and it became something that never completely left her mind. Her life would be safer if she had someone like that. To have someone like that in her life would mean this world, and even her marriage, would feel less bleak."

Monday, January 29, 2018

Betsy Ross and the Making of America

Book 6 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

Betsy Ross and the Making of America by Marla R. Miller

Summary (via Goodreads)
Betsy Ross and the Making of America is the first comprehensively researched and elegantly written biography of one of America's most captivating figures of the Revolutionary War. Drawing on new sources and bringing a fresh, keen eye to the fabled creation of "the first flag," Marla R. Miller thoroughly reconstructs the life behind the legend. This authoritative work provides a close look at the famous seamstress while shedding new light on the lives of the artisan families who peopled the young nation and crafted its tools, ships, and homes.
Betsy Ross occupies a sacred place in the American consciousness, and Miller's winning narrative finally does her justice. This history of the ordinary craftspeople of the Revolutionary War and their most famous representative will be the definitive volume for years to come.

My Opinion
This was very thorough and just as much about the time period as about one specific person.  I was surprised to discover that as I was reading because of the title but as I'm preparing this review I realize that observation is right there in the description.  I didn't look at what it was about before I bought it because it cost $1 brand-new.  I couldn't read many pages at a time because of the depth and detail but it was a good one to carry in my bag for the times where I had a few minutes to read.

Although there is no definitive answer on how instrumental Betsy Ross was to the creation and/or design of the flag, the author did a good job both of explaining why we want there to be one figure to hold above others when inventions are almost always a collaborative process and why Ross deserves her place in history even if it was a group effort.  To quote from the book, "Congress knew then what we must understand now: there was no single maker and no one prototype. That subsequent generations have tried to bring order to these chaotic circumstances - to strive to identify a single moment and a single maker for the first United States flag - is an artifact of the way we have come to think about the Revolution itself, as the result of orderly deliberations by larger-than-life statesmen, rather than a desperate, ad hoc scramble to defeat the greatest military force in the world."

I love the expression "He takes out his words and looks at 'em, 'fore he speaks." to describe a quiet, thoughtful talker.