Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Purity in Death

Book 88 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from December 9 - 14

Purity in Death by J.D. Robb
Book 15 of the In Death series

Summary (via Goodreads)
Louie Cogburn had spent three days holed up in his apartment staring at his computer screen. His pounding headache was unbearable--it felt like spikes drilling into his brain.
And it was getting worse. Finally, when someone knocked at the door, Louie picked up a baseball bat, opened the door, and started swinging....
The first cop on the scene fired his stunner twice. Louie died instantly. Detective Eve Dallas has taken over the investigation but there's nothing to explain the man's sudden rage or death. The only clue is a bizarre message left on his computer screen.
ABSOLUTE PURITY ACHIEVED
And when a second man dies under near-identical circumstances, Eve starts racking her brain for answers and the courage to face the impossible ... that this might be a computer virus able to spread from machine to man....

My Opinion
Maybe this line was supposed to be sexy but I found it unintentionally funny: "He was rock hard and desperate to mate".

I always read series in order but I really recommend doing so in this case.  The personal stories (such as everyone caring about the team member who was injured in this book) are an important element.

Maybe it's because we're always presented with the story from the cop's angle or maybe it's because the scumminess of the victims wasn't really played up but I didn't feel the moral questions some of the characters did about whether Purity is right or not.  However, it did capture some of the gray areas around making deals with certain criminals to catch "bigger" ones and how to justify it when not all the bad guys go to jail.

I got the worst headache about halfway through reading it.  Was it subliminal after reading so much about people having the worst headaches of their lives before dying?

Sometimes in these books you know either the 'why' or the 'who' and sometimes you're guessing until the end.  In this book we knew the 'who' and the 'why' and it was the most frustrating because they couldn't quite catch them yet because of legalities or because they stayed a step ahead for too long.  

A Few Quotes from the Book
" "Most people are, academically at least, barbarians." Morris smiled when she looked at him. "Easy to say 'Off with their heads' when you don't have to stand in the blood and have that head roll between your feet. A little of it splatters on them, they start calling for a cop."
   "I don't know, Morris, sometimes it splatters on enough of them, and they get a good taste, they turn it into a mob." "

" "Before we leave this topic, I'll tell you one more reason I did what I did this afternoon."
   "Because you like to show off?"
   "Naturally, but that isn't what I was going to say. I did it because whatever else I feel or believe or don't, I believe in you." "

The Quick

Book 87 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from December 6 - 9

The Quick by Lauren Owen

Summary (via Goodreads)
London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.

My Opinion
It read very quickly for a 500+ page book and I was very interested in what would happen, apart from two points in the book.  One was when the first major changes happen and multiple new characters were introduced; it was so chaotic it made my head spin.  The second was near the end; once the major excitement was over the book dragged a bit to get to the resolution.

I would definitely read this author again.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Charlotte had no acquaintance in London, so there was no one to help her discover what had happened to James - other than the police, perhaps, but it hardly seemed a fitting job for them. After all, he could easily be ill or out of London; he had written, not long ago, of wanting a holiday."

"This was the thing about London, the fact he had always suspected. One left so little impression on the walls and pavements. In London, one's past was not safe; the roads were overwritten by a thousand histories, trodden by millions of feet."

Then Comes Marriage

Book 86 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from December 2 - 6

Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA
by Roberta Kaplan

Summary (via Goodreads)
Renowned litigator Roberta Kaplan knew from the beginning that it was the perfect case to bring down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer had been together as a couple, in sickness and in health, for more than forty years—enduring society’s homophobia as well as Spyer’s near total paralysis from multiple sclerosis. Although the couple was finally able to marry, when Spyer died the federal government refused to recognize their marriage, forcing Windsor to pay a huge estate tax bill.
In this gripping, definitive account of one of our nation’s most significant civil rights victories, Kaplan describes meeting Windsor and their journey together to defeat DOMA. She shares the behind-the-scenes highs and lows, the excitement and the worries, and provides intriguing insights into her historic argument before the Supreme Court. A critical and previously untold part of the narrative is Kaplan’s own personal story, including her struggle for self-acceptance in order to create a loving family of her own.
Then Comes Marriage tells this quintessentially American story with honesty, humor, and heart. It is the momentous yet intimate account of a thrilling victory for equality under the law for all Americans, gay or straight.

My Opinion
Normally I would question including so much of the lawyer's backstory but in this case, I understand.  The journeys of Roberta Kaplan, Edie Windsor, and Thea Spyer were so interesting and it really seems like they all came together in a serendipitous way to take on this battle together.  It was the right people at the right place at the right time.

It's no secret what this book is about so if you're interested, you won't be disappointed.  It presented the behind-the-scenes of how they prepared but it wasn't dry.  I learned new things, not only about this case but also about the Supreme Court in general.

And now I want to grab some Kleenex and watch the documentary about Edie and Thea.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"One of the great benefits of marriage is that it gives couples the opportunity to experience their community rallying around them, to feel the support of loved ones who pledge to celebrate the joyous moments but also to be there for them during the dark times as well. Gay people were never allowed to have that community support, and I think it wounded many of us in many ways. Because we had always been excluded from marriage, many of us had never fully understood what is at the core of the marriage experience - that it is not simply a relationship between two people, but also a relationship between a couple and their larger community." 

"The footage is a little shaky, the sound quality isn't great, but there they are: Thea, dressed in a black suit and white turtleneck, a corsage of two red roses pinned to her lapel, and Edie, perched on the armrest of Thea's wheelchair, wearing a cream-colored suit and a string of pearls. It is May 22, 2007, and after more than forty years together, seventy-seven-year-old Edie Windsor and seventy-five-year-old Thea Spyer are finally getting married."

"In order to make sure I kept my focus where it needed to be, I wrote the following five words on a Post-it note, which I stuck to my laptop screen: "It's all about Edie, stupid."...I wanted to make sure that in all the writing and rewriting, all the back and forth about strategy and tactics and angles, I did not lose sight of the single most important part of our case."







Summerlong

Book 85 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from November 30 - December 2

Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos

Summary (via the book jacket)
In the sweltering heat of one summer in a small Midwestern town, Claire and Don Lowry discover that married life isn't quite what they'd predicted. 
One night Don, a father of two, leaves his house for an evening stroll, only to wake up the next morning stoned and lying in a hammock next to a young woman he barely knows. Meanwhile, his wife, Claire, leaves the house to go on a midnight run - only to find herself bumming cigarettes and beer outside the all-night convenience store.
As the summer lingers and the temperature rises, this quotidian town's adults grow wilder and more reckless while their children grow increasingly confused. Claire, Don, and their neighbors and friends find themselves on an existential odyssey, exploring the most puzzling quandries of marriage and maturity. When does a fantasy become infidelity? When does compromise incite resentment? When does routine become boring monotony? Can Claire and Don survive everything that befalls them in this one summer, forgive their mistakes, and begin again?
Award-winning writer Dean Bakopoulos delivers a brutally honest and incredibly funny novel about the strange and tenuous ties that bind us, and the strange and unlikely places we find connection. Full of mirth, melancholy, and redemption, Summerlong explores what happens when life goes awry.

My Opinion
5 star read for me.  It's definitely not for everyone but if it hits for you, it's going to hit hard.  I don't read other reviews until I've posted my own but I know this only has a 3.5 average on Goodreads and I'll be curious to see why.

This was odd like a fever dream; hazy and thick but compelling. 

I think I enjoyed it so much because I'm from Iowa and I KNOW these characters.  I've BEEN these characters even as I was reading with my eyes half-covered because they kept messing everything up.  Maybe it reveals too much about me that I related so much.  It may have gone a little too far beyond what's workable in a marriage but the journey felt realistic.  Most people don't set out to royally fuck things up, they just keep going one step further than yesterday until they're so far off their original path they don't know how to get back.

A lot of times in fiction, Iowans are portrayed as either a folksy, nice, pure rube or as an artsy intellectual desperate to flee to a coast where they can fit in.  But that wasn't the case here.  There wasn't a farmer in sight!  I loved ABC's story of blossoming in Grinnell after leaving LA (unexpected, right?) and how it counteracted Claire's feelings of being stifled and missing NY.  Plus there were shoutouts to my husband's tiny hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa and to Adventureland, the amusement park in the town where we live...I mean, c'mon, that's an extra star right there. :)

Charlie and ABC visiting Charlie's dad ripped my heart out.

The ending was crazy and it was shenanigans getting everyone to the lake but I'm not going to let the last 20 pages dampen my feelings for the book.

But let me mention it again...it's not for everyone.  I'm uncomfortable giving recommendations and I don't put my heart in how other people review it.  If you want to read it, fine.  If you don't want to read it, fine.  If you read it and hate it, fine...we can talk about it.  If you read it and love it, fine...we can talk about that too.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Every time she does anything purely selfish, she worries she'll come home to find one of the children sobbing or maimed...she's motivated by an unseen force many mothers believe in: guilt. Guilt as not only an internal emotion, but guilt so powerful that it is a force in the world, one that will, when given enough attention, rise up out of the ground and smother your children while you work late, or go for a massage, or spend a weekend in Chicago."

" "You're not in touch with them?"
   "I try to be. But I did something they consider unforgivable."
   "I won't ask what it was," Claire says. "But I'm sure it was forgivable."
   "It doesn't matter," Ruth says. "Nobody forgives mothers."
   "Oh?"
   "Fathers get forgiven. A million novels and movies about that - but mothers, mothers die and then the forgiveness comes. If they're lucky, there's a deathbed sort of confession. Maybe they weep over your ashes. That's not what I want." "

"Do we all have secrets and do we all leave evidence behind of such secrets when our end comes without notice? What would Charlie want burned if he were to become incapacitated someday? Maybe that is the sign of a good, ethical life? The idea that there is nothing you need to burn before you die."

"Mothers have secrets," Ruth says. "I mean, all women do. But mothers? Oh, they die full of secrets. There are certain things nobody wants mothers to say, to think, or to feel. There are restrictions, rules. And if those secrets get out? Unforgivable."

Monday, December 28, 2015

Rump

Book 84 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from November 29 - 30

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

Summary (via the book jacket)
In a magic kingdom where your name is your destiny, twelve-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone's joke. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold - as much gold as he wants! His best friend, Red, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she's right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.
To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship - and a cheeky sense of humor - he just might triumph in the end.

My Opinion
The author did a great job of making the reader feel for Rump and his position.  It's good for kids to think about another side to the story and have the opportunity to put themselves in someone else's shoes.  Nobody, not even in fairy tales, is 100% good or 100% evil.  It reminds me of the saying "everyone is the hero of their own story".

It kept my attention much more than I expected from a J Fic book and I wasn't sure how it would all wrap up.  

It's on the higher end of J Fic comprehension wise and it helps to know the fairy tales mentioned (particularly Red Riding Hood and Rumpelstiltskin). 

A Few Quotes from the Book
"If I found lots of gold, then maybe no one would laugh at me or make fun of my name. Gold would make me worth something."

"Whir, whir, whir. Gold, gold, and more gold. I had searched for it my entire life, and here it was, pouring out like water. I hated the sight of it."

The Midwife's Revolt

Book 83 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from November 17 - 29

The Midwife's Revolt by Jodi Daynard

Summary (via the book jacket)
On a dark night in 1775, Lizzie Boylston is awakened by the sound of cannons. From a hill south of Boston, she watches as fires burn in Charlestown, in a battle she soon discovers has claimed her husband's life.
Alone in a new town, Lizzie grieves privately but takes comfort in her deepening friendship with Abigail Adams. Soon, word spreads of Lizzie's extraordinary midwifery and healing skills, and she begins to channel her grief into caring for those who need her. But when two traveling patriots are poisoned, Lizzie finds herself with far more complicated matters on her hands - she suspects a political plot intended to harm Abigail and her family. Determined to uncover the truth, Lizzie becomes entangled in a conspiracy that could not only destroy her livelihood - and her chance at finding love again - but also lead to the downfall of a new nation.

My Opinion
A strong start pulled me in from the beginning.  I could vividly imagine myself there and it was very much an "I'll stop at the next chapter...okay, just one more chapter" kind of book.

Then the poison/mystery things began happening and it made me uncomfortable - I wasn't sure if it was going to be too much foreshadowing and a super obvious culprit or if it was just going to be too long of a distraction when the person could've been cleared and we could move on.  Then Lizzie took on a completely different role and I was waiting for her to catch on to the true motives of one of the characters.

By the end the timing and rhythm felt completely off.  There was so much time spent on buildup and then the entire conspiracy unraveled "off camera" - something that important should be shown, not told.  Also, no resolution to Eliza's story was a letdown.

I loved the beginning when it was strictly historical fiction but felt the addition of so many other things jumbled it up.  It was still good but not as great as it could've been.  I will read the author again. 

A Few Quotes from the Book
"I felt damp and chilled, but my spirit was light as I nestled myself in my shawl. I had done some good in the world and felt myself no longer quite so entirely alone."

"The town continued to whisper, and I thought it was only a matter of time before whispering would turn to accusation, accusation to condemnation...As the Salem of our forefathers had taught us well, once such panic takes hold, there is hardly a fact on earth that can serve to dislodge it from the minds of men."

"Nowadays it is common to exaggerate the virtues of our "women of the revolution", of which I was one. Each year broadsides marking the anniversary of our victory, replete with caricatured renderings, make us out to have been stone statues of righteousness.
  But I am here to say that it was not the case. We were flesh and blood. We suffered great loneliness and loss. We felt the spectrum of contradictory desires, intensified by starvation of body and spirit. We felt drawn to unsuitable men. The temptations of improper conduct warred with parental whispers and exhortations. But it was not merely our virtue at stake. It was our place in history. We did not work for such a place, but we were uplifted by the notion. We hoped our stories would no go entirely unnoticed." 




Sunday, December 27, 2015

Life is Short

Book 82 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from November 15 - 17

Life is Short (No Pun Intended) by Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein

Summary (via the book jacket)
Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein have inspired many - family members, close friends, and coworkers, as well as the millions of people who have followed their lives on TLC's hit show The Little Couple. Though they both have dwarfism, they have knocked down every obstacle they have encountered together with a positive, can-do attitude.
Now, for the first time ever, Jen and Bill open up about their childhoods, the struggles of their teen years, and the passions that drive their success. They talk honestly about the challenges and prejudices they've faced, as well as the incredible friends, families, and doctors who have been there for them all along. They also pull back the curtain and tell us all about their romance, the joy they've found as parents, and what it's really like to have a camera recording your every move.
Jen and Bill have a simple purpose in life: make the world a better place. A must-have for fans of the show or anyone who has ever faced a difficult challenge, Life is Short (No Pun Intended) gives readers a glance at what inspires these positive people to approach life with such optimism and share their lives with the public every day.

My Opinion
I've never seen their show but my impression of them going into this book (based on limited magazine articles and TV commercials) was that they seem personable and a good team.  My impression after reading the book is the same; they seem very compatible and nice.  I might check out the show now.

I've never read a biography of a 'duo' that gave so much of before they met so I wasn't sure how it would play out.  They alternated chapters, each writing from the first person, so it followed chronological order.  This was very easy to follow; the only time I had a problem was when I had to step away mid-chapter and then take a minute to flip back and see who was 'talking' (writing) before I picked it up again.

They're incredibly lucky to have found such a genuine love and complete partnership.  It's great that they can relate so easily to what the other has gone through.  I hope they both stay healthy but I'm sure they have a plan in place if one starts struggling and needs more physical help than the other can provide.

As always, I pick up on a "fun fact" because it's always great to learn something unexpected and new...the term 'making rounds' for doctors came about because the practice started at John Hopkins and their patients' rooms were in a circle, so going around the dome examining everyone was called 'rounding'.

The reason I rated it 3 stars and not higher is because I think there were plenty of opportunities to go deeper into the struggles.  I'm not judging how they chose to tell their stories but based on the description (talking honestly and the challenges and prejudices they've faced, and pulling back the curtain) I felt the hardships were glossed over.  So if you're looking for an enjoyable, happy-go-lucky book, this is absolutely for you and you won't regret reading it.  If you're looking for reassurance about living as a person with disability, you won't regret reading this book but may not get all the information you were looking for.

Quote from the Book
"Yes, ours is a tale of two people born with a physical disability that could have defined us. But instead we thrived and flourished, mostly because of the love and support of our families."

Down the Rabbit Hole

Book 81 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from November 3 - 5

Down the Rabbit Hole

Summary (via Goodreads)
Some of your favorite New York Times bestselling authors present five all-new stories told through the looking glass—including a new Eve Dallas novella!
You’re late for a very important date...
 Enter a wonderland of mesmerizing tales. It’s a place that’s neither here nor there, where things are never quite as they seem. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s whimsical masterpiece, ranging from the impossible to the mad to the curiouser, these stories will have you absolutely off your head.
 Don’t be afraid to follow them…

Contains
  • Wonderment in Death by J. D. Robb
  • Alice and the Earl in Wonderland by Mary Blayney
  • iLove by Elaine Fox
  • A True Heart by Mary Kay McComas
  • Fallen by R. C. Ryan 
My Opinion
Since this was 5 separate novellas in one book, I'll divide my review accordingly.

Wonderment in Death
This was a little Eve Dallas treat.  Since I'm way behind in the series, there was a spoiler for me (2 characters were married that haven't even started dating yet in the last book I read).  It was a good story but it made me realize just how short the mysteries would be if there wasn't all the personal stuff in the books as well.

Quote from the Story
  " "I'll get Mama and Daddy now, so you can talk to them. Sit right there!" She raced across the meadow, pushed past long, flowering vines that barred the view. And climbed to the top of the hill.
      She saw her parents dancing by a silver lake and, laughing, flew toward them.
      And flying, never felt the fall."

Alice and the Earl in Wonderland
Apparently the characters in this story are previously known too.  I hadn't heard of them but I liked this story and it made me want to seek out her books.

Quote from the Story
   " "While you were distracted, Weston, I asked what you think time travel is about."
      Relieved that she did not pursue her questions about ogling, Weston answered promptly. "Questions, my dear. Time travel is all about questions. For everything I learn, ten more questions come to mind." "

iLove
This one dragged on when it was so predictable and cheesy and I knew what was going to happen.  Barf.

Quote from the Story
"You don't have to have everything planned out and all the little boxes checked the moment you fall in love, or even when you get married. A relationship's a path, not a room. Let it wind around the forest for a little while."

A True Heart
This story was okay.  Definitely the weakest connection to the Alice in Wonderland theme.

A Few Quotes from the Story
"It is the gap between our assumptions and expectations that deliver most of the surprises to our life - and would not our lives be abysmally dull without them?"

"Acknowledging your inferior behavior is a beginning, but for true insight you must also know why you behave as you do. Remember, the way you treat people affects them, but it isn't necessarily about them. It is, however, always about you."

Fallen
This story was very romance novelish but it was good.  I might give this author another try sometime.

Quote from the Story
"My stepbrother and his sister were not so fortunate. Their mother spoiled and pampered them, and when my father tried to intervene, she took them back to her clan. But that is no excuse for the choices they make now. As children, we can lay the blame at the feet of those who were our elders. But there comes a time when we must step out of their shadow and cast our own."

  

The Residence

Book 80 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from October 24 - November 2

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House
by Kate Andersen Brower

Summary (via the book jacket)
America's first families are among the most private public figures on earth. From the mystique of the glamorous Kennedys to the tumult that surrounded Bill and Hillary Clinton during the president's impeachment to the historic yet polarizing residency of Barack and Michelle Obama, each new administration brings a unique set of personalities to the White House - and a new set of challenges to the fiercely loyal and hardworking people who serve them: the White House residence staff.
No one understands the president of the United States, and his family, like the men and women who make the White House run every day. Now, for the first time, their stories of fifty years, ten administrations, and countless crises, large and small, are told in The Residence. Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews with butlers, maids, chefs, florists, doormen, and other staffers - as well as former first ladies and first family members - Kate Anderson Brower, who covered President Obama's first term, offers a group portrait of the dedicated professionals who orchestrate lavish state dinners; stand ready during meetings with foreign dignitaries; care for the president and first lady's young children; and cater to every need the first couple may have, however sublime or, on occasion, ridiculous.
In the voices of the residence workers themselves - sometimes wry, often affectionate, always gracious and proud - here are stories of
  • the Kennedys - from intimate glimpses of their marriage to the chaotic days after JFK's assassination.
  • the Johnsons - featuring the bizarre saga of LBJ's obsession with the White House plumbing.
  • the Nixons - including Richard Nixon's unexpected appearance in the White House kitchen the morning he resigned.
  • the Reagans - from a fire that endangered Ronald Reagan late in his second term to Nancy's control of details large and small.
  • the Clintons - whose private battles, marked by shouting matches and flying objects, unsettled residence workers.
  • the Obamas - who danced to Mary J. Blige on their first night in the White House.
And just as compelling are the stories of the workers themselves, including Storeroom Manager Bill Hamilton, who served eleven presidents over fifty-five years; Executive Housekeeper Christine Limerick, who married a fellow residence worker; Chief Usher Stephen Rochon, who became the first African American to hold the post; Executive Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier, who feuded fiercely with Executive Chef Walter Scheib; and Butler James Ramsey, who made friends with presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and whose spirit animated the White House through six administrations before his death in 2014.
Working tirelessly to provide impeccable service and earning the trust and undying admiration of each new first family, these extraordinary White House workers served every day in the midst of history - and lived to tell the tales.

My Opinion
As you can tell by the summary, there is a lot of information in this book!  It should go without saying that if you're not interested in behind-the-scenes of the White House and its occupants, you shouldn't read this book.  But if you are, you won't be disappointed - there are a ton of details and new things to learn.  

I learned that the first family is responsible for all of their personal expenses and pay monthly bills, including food and drink for themselves and their personal guests and their dry cleaning bills.

It's well-researched and thorough with a list of sources and chapter notes at the end.  For the most part, the author shared new things in a way that didn't feel gossipy.  One exception - to me, some of the things she included about the Clintons and their behavior during the Monica Lewinsky scandal seemed like huge rumors and I was surprised she included them when she showed such restraint at other points in the book (such as dealing with the rumors surrounding JFK's fidelity, for example).

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Rising at dawn, [the residence workers] sacrifice their personal lives to serve the first family with quiet, awe-inspiring dignity. For them, working in the White House, regardless of position, is a great honor. Elections may bring new faces, but they stay on from administration to administration and are careful to keep their political beliefs to themselves. They have one job: to make America's first families comfortable in the country's most public private home."

"In the small moments that make up a life, the residence workers catch a glimpse of the humanity in the presidents and first ladies whose true personalities are rarely known beyond the walls of the White House. Just like anyone else, America's leaders have moments of indecision, exhaustion, frustration, and joy."

"Residence workers look on patiently as each new family learns to live within the confines of the White House. They know it's only a matter of time until their loyalty and discretion become lifelines for the president and the first lady. They are, after all, the only people there with no motivation other than to serve and comfort."





Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Birth House

Book 79 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from October 24 - November 1

The Birth House by Ami McKay

Summary (via Goodreads)
An arresting portrait of the struggles that women faced for control of their own bodies, The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare—the first daughter in five generations of Rares.
As apprentice to the outspoken Acadian midwife Miss Babineau, Dora learns to assist the women of an isolated Nova Scotian village through infertility, difficult labors, breech births, unwanted pregnancies, and unfulfilling sex lives. During the turbulent World War I era, uncertainty and upheaval accompany the arrival of a brash new medical doctor and his promises of progress and fast, painless childbirth. In a clash between tradition and science, Dora finds herself fighting to protect the rights of women as well as the wisdom that has been put into her care.
 

My Opinion
This read was nothing like I expected.  It ebbed and flowed and there were points that I wasn't sure what the book was actually about but I was very interested as I read.

There was a life choice of Dora's that I didn't want to happen.  And I was very surprised when vibrators were introduced - I never thought a woman's pleasure was considered until much later in time.

A Quote from the Book
"My house became the birth house. That's what the women came to call it, knocking on the door, ripe with child, water breaking on the porch. First-time mothers full of questions, young girls in trouble and seasoned women with a brood already at home...They all came to the house, wailing and keening their babies into the world. I wiped their feverish necks with cool, moist cloths, spooned porridge and hot tea into their tired bodies, talked them back from outside of themselves."


Bulletproof

Book 78 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from October 17 - 24

Bulletproof by Maci Bookout

Summary (via Goodreads)
Maci Bookout was just a normal, slightly overachieving high school girl in Chattanooga, Tennessee. But then she got pregnant, and everything turned upside down. Even as she rose to fame on MTV's hit series Teen Mom, Maci was struggling to balance life as a single teen mom with her own hopes and dreams...all while honoring her own sense of independence. 
This is the true story of how she took charge of the unexpected to build a life for herself and her son Bentley, and managed not to go crazy in the process. Because sometimes growing up is an act of will...and Maci's will is bulletproof.

My Opinion
Since I watched the season (and that season alone) that she was on Teen Mom, and I suffered through Farrah's book, it's only right that I should read this too.  

It wasn't a bad read.  She knows her blessings as far as her family support and financial situation.  She had a good example in her mom, who was also a teen mom but still graduated from high school and college on time.

In the beginning I liked that she didn't throw Ryan under the bus when describing how they got together.  But it was strange that she was writing about how much of a comfort it is to her that Bentley was too young to realize what was going on with her and Ryan, but then she writes about it?  Does she expect Bentley to never read this book?

A Few Quotes from the Book
"This is the story of a regular teenage girl who found herself with a life she never expected - two lives, to be exact."

"my story started decades ago,
  but life as i know it...
  began when yours did."

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Book 77 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from October 13 - 20

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Summary (via Goodreads)
1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something. When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a sweeping, atmospheric narrative that takes the reader on an unexpected journey through Victorian London, Japan as its civil war crumbles long-standing traditions, and beyond. Blending historical events with dazzling flights of fancy, it opens doors to a strange and magical past.

My Opinion
I wavered on this rating but went with 5 stars because it was original and unexpected and I had to keep reading, even though I didn't completely understand it.  At some point I just gave up trying to figure it out and went along for the ride.  And I loved the ride.  

I was intrigued by Mori the more information we learned about him, I liked the banter and relationship between Mori and Thaniel, and even though I didn't want the story to be over, I loved the ending.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Honour is leaving your family behind because your own conscience is more important."

"Although one could do proper science with a magnet and some iron filings, it felt professional to have made something that looked like a mutated windmill. Science had to have some mystery, otherwise everyone would find out how simple it was."

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

Book 76 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from October 16 - 17

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Summary (via the book jacket)
From online entertainment pioneer, actress, and "queen of the geeks" Felicia Day, You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is a funny, quirky, and inspiring memoir about her unusual upbringing, her rise to internet stardom, and embracing her weirdness to find her place in the world.
When Felicia Day was a girl, all she wanted was to connect with other kids (desperately). Growing up in the Deep South, where she was "homeschooled for hippie reasons", she looked online to find her tribe. The internet was in its infancy and she became an early adopter at every stage of its growth - finding joy and unlikely friendships in the emerging digital world. Her relative isolation meant that she could pursue passions like gaming, calculus, and 1930s detective novels without shame. Because she had no idea how "uncool" she really was.
But if it hadn't been for her strange background - the awkwardness continued when she started college at sixteen, with Mom driving her to campus every day - she might never have had the naive confidence to forge her own path. Like when she graduated as valedictorian with a math degree and then headed to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting despite having zero contacts. Or when she tired of being typecast as the crazy cat-lady secretary and decided to create her own web series before people in show business understood that online video could be more than just cats chasing laser pointers.
Felicia's rags-to-riches rise to internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now Felicia's world is filled with creativity, video games, and a dash of feminist activism - just like her memoir.
Showcasing Felicia's hilarious and unique voice, You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is proof that everyone should celebrate what makes them different and be brave enough to share it with the world, because anything is possible now - even for a digital misfit.

My Opinion
I really like how the pictures were inserted throughout the book to add emphasis to her stories.  And when the stories include starting college at 16 with a double major in math and violin (and that's before she even gets into the Hollywood stuff), you know they will be unique and interesting.

It was so relatable when she wrote about putting off her mental health because of the stigma around it.  A note for fellow empaths: read this in a quiet space because her anxiety will make you sweaty and you'll need to remind yourself she became successful enough to write a book and it all works out.    

A Few Quotes from the Book
"My story demonstrates that there's no better time in history to have a dream and be able to reach an audience with your art. Or just be as weird as you want to be and not have to be ashamed. That lesson's just as legit."

"I was born anxious...My biggest fears in life are to be locked in a department store after hours, or to be kidnapped while walking to my car at night and my body disposed of with a wood chipper. Clearly, you can understand how challenging REAL problems are for me, like being late to a lunch meeting. "I'm sorry, I couldn't find a parking spot. Where would you like me to shoot myself: through the face or heart?""

"I love it when people tell me I'm doing the wrong thing, or that something isn't possible, or just straight dismiss me. That lights my fire in a perverse way, like a two-year-old who deliberately touches the hot stove after you tell them not to. But compliment me or expect something big? That's the perfect way to destroy my confidence. There's a crazy people pleaser inside me screaming, They won't like you if you mess up. You set the bar too high. They're all waiting for you to fail! And you're definitely going to. Good luck, stupidhead!"

"Once someone posts that you're "So ugly I would have sex with your corpse," that's when you know you've arrived online!"








Monday, December 21, 2015

The Keeper

Book 75 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from October 14-15

The Keeper: A Life of Saving Goals and Achieving Them 
by Tim Howard

Summary (via Goodreads)
"I believe that we will win."
In the summer of 2014, Tim Howard became an overnight sensation after more than ten years as one of America's leading professional soccer players. His record-breaking 15 saves for the United States national team against Belgium in the World Cup electrified a nation that had only recently woken up to the Beautiful Game after decades of hibernation.
An estimated TV audience of 21 million viewers in the U.S.—larger than those of the NBA and NHL finals—watched Howard's heroic performance against the heavily favored Belgians in which he repelled shots with his hands, feet, legs, knees, and even his signature long beard.
Suddenly an athlete who had toiled in relative anonymity for much of his career became the star of his own Internet meme ("Things Tim Howard Could Save": from Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" to the Titanic), and fielded personal calls from the likes of President Barack Obama ("You guys did us proud. . . . I don't know how you are going to survive the mobs when you come back home, man. You'll have to shave your beard so they don't know who you are").
In this inspiring and candid memoir, the beloved U.S. and Everton goalkeeper finally allows himself to do something that he would never do on the field: he drops his guard. Howard opens up for the first time about how a hyperactive kid from New Jersey with Tourette Syndrome defied the odds to become one of the greatest American keepers in history. He recalls his childhood, being raised by a single mother who instilled in him a love of all sports—he was also a standout high school basketball player—and a devout faith that helped him cope with a disorder that manifested itself with speech and facial tics, compulsive behavior, and extreme sensitivity to light, noise, and touch.
The Keeper is also a chronicle of the personal sacrifices he's made for his career, including the ultimate dissolution of Howard's marriage—a casualty of what he calls his "addiction to winning"—and its most painful consequence: his separation from his two children.
A treat for soccer fans, The Keeper will even captivate readers who are unfamiliar with the sport but want to know what makes a world-class athlete different from the rest of us—and where that difference gives way to common ground.

My Opinion
I could have read this cover to cover in one sitting.  It had a nice flow; a hook from the present to start off and then going back to start from the beginning.  He's easy to root for because his love for the game and respect for others comes through.

It helps to have an interest in soccer (I was able to picture most of the World Cup plays as he talked about them) but the message of overcoming obstacles and meeting milestones is universal to any athlete.

Putting it all out there makes for a very engaging read but, as with any biography I read, I always put myself in the shoes of the other people in his life.  Was it necessary for his ex-wife to have it in black and white just how long he prayed and struggled with his waning feelings for her, or to read how he put off being honest with her as she tried to draw him back in?  I know it's his story and he was definitely honest but that section was painful for me to read.  However, he redeems himself before and after with his glowing praise of her as a mother and their abilities to co-parent together.

I noticed there is a junior version of this and I would definitely pick it up for my soccer-loving son because his message of perseverance, both as an athlete and as someone with Tourette Syndrome, is a good and strong one to hear.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"I can't know what's coming. I can only know how to make myself feel ready for it."

"I was 18 years old. I had a Superman tattoo, and someone was paying me to play a sport I loved.
 My senior quote, in the yearbook that would come out after I'd already started playing professionally, was based on a lyric from Public Enemy: It will take a nation of millions to hold me back."

"It's hard to juggle it all week after week. It's hard to go seamlessly between Family Man and Professional Athlete, back and forth, without missing a beat. Sometimes, you just want to lock yourself up in a room somewhere, get your head into the space that pushes you to win. Or - if you lose - allows you to snap out of your funk.
  And that's hard enough to keep up every week straight for nine months.
  Then you get a break. Just a few days off, long enough to fly home in time to watch your wife give birth to your second child and get them both home from the hospital before you walk out the door again. Because you have to. Because your manager might make you the starting keeper. Because you're pushing 30, and you've got five years left - maybe ten if you're incredibly lucky - before it's over.
 Five to ten years. To accomplish everything I've ever wanted. And then - well, frankly, I had no idea what would happen then."