Monday, July 25, 2016

Indemnity Only

Book 29 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from March 21 - 24

Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky
Book 1 in the V.I. Warshawski series

Summary (via Goodreads)
Meeting an anonymous client late on a sizzling summer night is asking for trouble. But trouble is Chicago private eye V.I. Warshwski's specialty. Her client says he's the prominent banker, John Thayer. Turns out he's not. He says his son's girlfriend, Anita Hill, is missing. Turns out that's not her real name. V.I.'s search turns up someone soon enough -- the real John Thayer's son, and he's dead. Who's V.I.'s client? Why has she been set up and sent out on a wild-goose chase? By the time she's got it figured, things are hotter -- and deadlier -- than Chicago in July. V.I.'s in a desperate race against time. At stake: a young woman's life.

My Opinion
This book was published in 1982 and it does not hold up well today.  It's pretty dated.  I know things change so I absolutely overlook the technology/cultural references; if anything, they give me a little smile to remember how things were.  But I can't overlook the things like all the "girls can't/shouldn't be detectives" nonsense V.I. deals with, or the fact that she's described as "stunning" in her suit as she works twice on the same page.

The mystery itself wasn't bad.  It held my interest and then it really picked up at the end and I couldn't wait to race through the last few chapters to find out the resolution.

Overall, not a series I expect to continue but I would probably read the author again if she wrote anything more recently.

Quote from the Book
"There really are times when I wish I did have a couple of children and was doing the middle-class family thing. But that's a myth, you know: very few people live like an advertisement, with golden harmony, and enough money, and so on. And I know I'm feeling a longing for a myth, not the reality. It's just - I get scared that I've made the wrong choice, or - I don't quite know how to say it. Maybe I should be home watching the soaps, maybe I'm not doing the best thing with my life. So if people try to suggest it, I bite their heads off."

Dad or Alive

Book 28 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from March 19 - 23

Dad or Alive: Confessions of an Unexpected Stay-at-Home Dad 
by Adrian Kulp

Summary (via Goodreads)
When Adrian Kulp first learned that he was about to become a father, he was essentially a teenage boy trapped in the body of a thirty-two-year-old high-powered executive. He did what his wife asked him to do: grow up. He packed away his Phillies baseball memorabilia, hid his GI Joes, and converted their guest bedroom from his private man cave into a nursery. Goodbye sticky beer cozy. Hello Diaper Genie.
Based on his mercilessly funny and brutally honest blog, here is the hilarious story of one man’s journey from being the one who brings home the bacon to the one who fries it—along with assembling the crib, learning how to “accessorize” his daughter, and flying with an infant for the first time. From numbing booze-free co-ed baby showers to navigating the Farmer's Market with a baby (and loaded diaper) strapped to his chest, to locking himself out of a childproofed toilet, this often-sweaty and exhausted SAHD (stay-at-home dad) gets down and dirty about surviving life as a new parent—dad or alive.

My Opinion
Another book based on a blogger I'm not familiar with.  I'm not sure since I haven't read it but I would assume at least some of the material is similar to the blog since it covers the first year of him being a SAHD (stay-at-home dad).

Hmmm, when he started off by comparing sex with his pregnant wife to moving a refrigerator I wasn't sure I would like his humor.  The book did calm down but I wonder if he and his wife are still married (yet not curious enough to actually research it).  Maybe it's my sensitivity coming through but his little comments about her behavior portrayed her as a shrew and he doesn't seem to like her very much.  Does she appreciate his humor when his daughter weans, allowing his wife's breasts to "be available for occasional recreational use", and he says he needs to "arrange a lesson on etiquette and speak with Ava [his daughter] about the condition in which she returns items she borrows"?

I did think it was funny when he referred to getting his wife pregnant as when he "used my penis to its ultimate potential".

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Nine months of buying Cheetos and Bagel Bites (her pickles and ice cream), being shoved out of the bed by a body pillow the size of a hay bale, and having to pull the car over every five minutes to find a bathroom because my wife's bladder was being crushed were all suddenly worth it."

"As I opened my arms to embrace my in-laws with a hug, they swiftly floated right by, as if I were invisible. That's another thing I had to get used to. I'm not as cute as a newborn baby and never will be."

"Anytime I even came close to complaining about my situation, someone was always right there telling me that they would trade with me in a second or kill for my job. Really? You're looking to be thrown into a new job in which you're responsible for the life of another human being? You want to battle occasional depression and question your self-worth? You would actually kill someone to be in a position where you're changing diapers out of the trunk of your car and can't take a shit without an audience?"

"I bought baby gates for every room and floor. I picked up doorknob protectors and cabinet locks and even found a lock for the toilet seat. I got wind-up knobs for the window blinds to keep the strings up high.
 Once one problem was solved, another was born.
 Now I was the one who couldn't get into anything. I had locked myself out of everything. My hands were constantly cut and blistered from trying to get into the pantry and open children's Tylenol that I could barely get the toilet open fast enough on most occasions.
 I had become a prisoner in my own home."


Book 27 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from March 20 - 21

Dash by Kirby Larson

Summary (via Goodreads)
New from Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson, the moving story of a Japanese-American girl who is separated from her dog upon being sent to an incarceration camp during WWII.
Although Mitsi Kashino and her family are swept up in the wave of anti-Japanese sentiment following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mitsi never expects to lose her home -- or her beloved dog, Dash. But, as World War II rages and people of Japanese descent are forced into incarceration camps, Mitsi is separated from Dash, her classmates, and life as she knows it. The camp is a crowded and unfamiliar place, whose dusty floors, seemingly endless lines, and barbed wire fences begin to unravel the strong Kashino family ties. With the help of a friendly neighbor back home, Mitsi remains connected to Dash in spite of the hard times, holding on to the hope that the war will end soon and life will return to normal. Though they've lost their home, will the Kashino family also lose their sense of family? And will Mitsi and Dash ever be reunited?

My Opinion
I read this based on the recommendation of my son who is in 5th grade and read it for a 'Battle of the Books' competition.

According to the author's note, the inspiration came from a true story of a woman named Mitsue "Mitsi" Shiraishi who asked if she could bring her dog Cubby to the camp.  After finding out she couldn't, her neighbor took the dog in and wrote letters from the dog's perspective until they were reunited a year later when pets were allowed in the camp.

My heart hurt while reading it.  These situations always seem cruelest for the children because they have no way of understanding or processing it.  It would be difficult to live through but a million times worse to be a parent trying to get your child through it.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Mitsi stood there shivering and alone, wishing she had packed Dash in her book bag. What happened on December 7 hadn't changed the way he felt about Mitsi. Not one whit. Why couldn't it be the same for people?"

"[Mitsi] wanted to say, "I was born here in Seattle. At Swedish Hospital, just like you, Mags." She wanted to say, "I have brown eyes, just like you, Judy." She wanted to say, "I have never ever been to Japan." But those were things she shouldn't have to say. Not to friends."

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Way of the Wizard

Book 26 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from Feb. 24 - March 21

The Way of the Wizard 
multiple authors, edited by John Joseph Adams

Summary (via the book jacket)
We all want it, they've got it - witches, warlocks, sorcerers, necromancers, those who peer beneath the veil of mundane reality and put their hands on the levers that move the universe. They see the future in a sheet in glass, summon fantastic beasts, and transform lead into gold...or you into a frog. From Gandalf to Harry Potter to the Last Airbender, wizardry has never been more exciting and popular.
Enter a world where anything is possible, where imagination becomes reality. Experience the thrill of power, the way of the wizard. Now acclaimed editor John Joseph Adams (The Living Dead) brings you thirty-two of the most spellbinding tales ever written, by some of today's most magical talents.

My Opinion
I have little notes about each story.  There was also a problem with the book itself that I will explain at the point in the stories that it happened.

In the Lost Lands by George R.R. Martin
I've never read this author before but after reading this story, I can see why people like him so much. There was a full emotional arc packed into a short story. It was excellent and I would definitely read him again.
Quote from the Story: "Those who dealt with Gray Alys did so at their own peril, it was said. Gray Alys did not refuse any of those who came to her, and she always got them what they wanted. Yet somehow, when all was done, those who dealt with Gray Alys were never happy with the things that she brought them, the things that they had wanted."

Family Tree by David Barr Kirtley
It was really good but the ending fell a little flat. I wanted more for Simon.
Quote from the Story: "Meredith stood then, turning to regard Simon. She was tall and grim and wrathful, her hair dancing on ethereal winds, arcs of lightning adorning her fingers, eyes full of a fiery hatred. Simon beheld those eyes and knew there could be no more pleading, no more chances. His dreams had died along with Malcolm."

This is where something bizarre happened. At page 52, partway through the story John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner, the pages turned into a completely different book, Delfina's Gold by Willard Thompson, which isn't a story from the book and actually isn't a short story at all.  That continued until page 96 and then the book went back to the correct stories.  The end result was that I didn't get the ending of John... or any of the stories Wizard's Apprentice, The Sorcerer Minus, and Life So Dear or Peace So Sweet.

Card Sharp by Rajan Khanna
Very entertaining with a good story arc.
Quote from the Story: "Quentin had played the Fool and luck had carried him through. Now was his time to make a new play. Now he would be the Magician."

So Deep That the Bottom Could Not Be Seen by Genevieve Valentine
The message was given in a lighthearted but powerful way. The ending was a little flat.
Quote from the Story: "The woman sat, amid a chorus of derisive laughter from the spellcasters. James said, "If they had to call their spells from the grass, they wouldn't be laughing." "If they had to call their spells from the grass," Anna said, "we'd still have grass.""

The Go-Slow by Nnedi Okorafor
There were a lot of elements thrown in for a short story. It was fine.
Quote from the Story: "It was amazing how slowly time moved in certain situations, especially ones of deep annoyance. Go-slows were like getting stuck in time warps."

Too Fatal a Poison by Krista Hoeppner Leahy
This one was very short even by short story standards.  It had a cliffhanger ending - I hope he found happiness.
Quote from the Story: "Somewhere in the long middle of the war, there came a day when Odysseus ordered the two of us to collect all the eyes from the dead. We never talked about that day. But that was the day we became brothers."

Jamaica by Orson Scott Card
I got lost in the story.  It had potential for more; I'd read a full length book about Jam and Gan.
Quote from the Story: ""The only way I'll ever get on the basketball court is if I'm already dead and they're using me for a freethrow line.""

The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Robert Silverberg
The ending didn't feel like an ending. I was really into the story but then it just stopped; it's like he hit a max word count and said he was done.
Quote from the Story: "But he wanted to remain her, and so he would do whatever she asked of him, call her by whatever name she requested, and so forth, obeying her in all things. In this ugly, unfriendly city she was the one spot of brightness and warmth for him, regardless of the complexities of the situation."

The Secret of Calling Rabbits by Wendy N. Wagner
That was satisfying. I liked that story.
Quote from the Story: "An odd piece of him wanted to hide and watch her enjoy his disappearing act. But instinct and habit kept him running. Instinct, and a breeze carrying the graveyard smell of mandrake."

The Wizards of Perfil by Kelly Link
The premise was really intriguing but it felt longer than it actually was because I was bored.
Quote from the Story: ""There's a man who comes to the market today, who buys children for the wizards of Perfil. He pays good money and they say the children are treated well.""

How to Sell the Ponti Bridge by Neil Gaiman
This was really intriguing. Although the link to wizards is weak, this may be one of my favorites in the book.  It reminded me of a 2 minute mystery.
Quote from the Story: "And there was silence in the Hall of the Lost Carnadine Rogues' Club. We were lost in contemplation of the brilliance of the man who sold the Ponti Bridge."

The Magician and the Maid and Other Stories by Christie Yant
I liked the back and forth between the story and "real life" but there was no twist for me because I was able to predict where it was going.
Quote from the Story: ""A real fairy tale. With wolves and witches, jealous parents, woodsmen charged with murdering the innocent. Tell me a story, Miles...tell me a story that is true.""

Winter Solstice by Mike Resnick
This story was a good length and I really liked it.
Quote from the Story: "Did I love her, the owner of this face? Will we bring joy and comfort to one another, will we produce sturdy, healthy children to comfort us in our old age? I don't know, because my old age has been spent, and hers is yet to come, and I have forgotten what she does not yet know."

The Trader and the Slave by Cinda Williams Chima
The main character is from the Heir series my daughter has recommended to me and based on this story, I'm looking forward to reading them.
Quote from the Story: "Life is a series of trades - a heartstone for an enchanter. New stories for old. Sin for redemption. The devil you knew for the one you didn't. Perhaps an ending for a new beginning."

Cerile and the Journeyer by Adam-Troy Castro
I loved this story!
Quote from the Story: "The journeyer was still a young man when he embarked on his search for the all-powerful witch Cerile. He was bent and gray-haired a lifetime later when he found a map to her home in the tomb of the forgotten kings."

Counting the Shapes by Yoon Ha Lee
Meh, it was okay. I'm not quite sure what happened but it was fine.
Quote from the Story: "A problem may have several solutions, but some solutions can still be wrong."

Endgame by Lev Grossman
It was good until the ending which was abrupt and not really an ending.
Quote from the Story: "Here they were, the winners of humanity's great historical lottery, living in the richest city in the world, in the richest period of human civilization ever, and they were trudging to work in a rat-infested cement cavern on their way to stare at computer screens for eight hours."

Street Wizard by Simon R. Green
I loved the main character and would read an entire series about him.  It was an unique, interesting premise and he could have all sorts of adventures.  I will read this author again.
Quote from the Story: "Someone has to watch their backs, to protect them from the dangers they don't even know are out there."

Mommy Issues of the Dead by T.A. Pratt
This has the best title of the book.  I like his writing style and would like to read his series featuring this character.
Quote from the Story: "And to make matters worse, as Marla clung halfway down a muddy hillside in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, she couldn't stop thinking about her mother."

One-Click Banishment by Jeremiah Tolbert
Nope. This story was only 16 pages long but I had to put it down multiple times before finishing. The ending wasn't bad but there were so many twists and turns that it felt like a ripoff to have the whole thing explained through dialogue at the end.
Quote from the Story: "Yeah, the rumors are true. Big Mother caught me..."

The Ereshkigal Working by Jonathan L. Howard
The story was the perfect length and I liked how it ended with a witty line.  It looks like this character is part of a series; I would definitely read about him again.
Quote from the Story: "This was not the first time a corpse had abruptly sat up on the mortuary slab and turned to face Johannes Cabal with murder in its eyes; it was, however, the first time one had done so without waiting to be formally reanimated."

Feeding the Feral Children by David Farland
Their actions throughout the story were a bit of a stretch but it was a good story.
Quote from the Story: "Every soul embodies both the yin and yang, he told himself. Each is balanced between darkness and light. I gave into the darkness for a moment, and now I must seek balance again."

The Orange-Tree Sacrifice by Vylar Kaftan
This 2 page story was the shortest of the bunch.  Not a lot of time to form an opinion; it was fine.
Quote from the Story: "She was just alive enough for the pain to crush her thoughts."

Love is the Spell That Casts Out Fear by Desirina Boskovich
The alternating between wizardry and religion was too heavy.  I almost didn't finish it in one sitting.  Too much was left unanswered; I think I know what happened but it was pretty vague.
Quote from the Story: "A wizard's job is to untangle time, to retie the ropes. And to fight the danger they're facing now."

El Regalo by Peter S. Beagle
It took a long time to tell that story.  The plot was decent but it was all details and then the big ending was summed up very quickly.
Quote from the Story: "Witch or no witch, he was still a small boy, with almost no real idea of what he was doing. He was winging it all, playing it all by ear."

The Word of Unbinding by Ursula K. Le Guin
This was a good quick story.
Quote from the Story: "It was up to him to protect the land."

The Thirteen Texts of Arthyria by John R. Fultz
It had a strong start but wrapped up so easily it seemed pointless.
Quote from the Story: "Alone in his bedroom, his feet tucked beneath the warm covers, he began to read about the One True World."

The Secret of the Blue Star by Marion Zimmer Bradley
It went a direction I didn't expect.  The story was a little melodramatic but I would read her book about this character.
Quote from the Story: "Painfully, Lythande thought: If she had only loved me, without the spell; then I could have loved."

The Wilderness of Ruin

Book 25 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from March 02 - 19

The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Fire, and the Hunt for America's Youngest Serial Killer by Roseanne Montillo

Summary (via Goodreads)
In 1871, young children were disappearing from Boston’s working-class neighborhoods. The few who returned told desperate tales of being taken to the woods and tortured by a boy not much older than themselves. The police were skeptical—these children were from poor families, so their testimony was easily discounted. And after the Great Boston Fire of 1872 reduced much of downtown to rubble, the city had more pressing concerns. Finally, when the police apprehended Jesse Pomeroy for the crimes, he, like any twelve-year-old, was sent off to reform school. Little thought was given to the danger he might pose to society, despite victims’ chilling reports of this affectless Boy Torturer.
Sixteen months later, Jesse was released in the care of his mother, and within months a ten-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy went missing, their mutilated bodies later discovered by police. This set off a frantic hunt for Pomeroy, who was now proclaimed America’s youngest serial killer. When he was captured and brought to trial, his case transfixed the nation, and two public figures—Herman Melville and Oliver Wendell Holmes—each probed the depths of Pomeroy’s character in a search for the meaning behind his madness.
Roseanne Montillo takes us inside those harrowing years, as a city reeling from great disaster reckoned with the moral quandaries posed by Pomeroy’s spree.

My Opinion
The pages turn quickly but there's so much detail that I'm not sure what's important or not.  At first I wasn't sure if the sidetrack into the fire chief's life study of the Chicago fire would be important (yes, it would).  I also wasn't sure if the tangent on Melville would be important (no, it wouldn't).  I had a similar struggle when I read another book by her; it really varied up and down in terms of interest for me.

Some things never change. Even back then people were blaming vaccines (in this case, the smallpox vaccine) for illness, saying Jesse's whole body had been poisoned at age 4 including his mind.  Even back then people were blaming the mother (in this case, Jesse attacked children because he was allowed to read violent "dimestore" books).

"For the prisoners' uniforms, the board decided on a humiliating combination of half-red and half-blue fabric". No further explanation was given and this was a time I would've liked some extra details - why were those colors humiliating?

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Jesse was an anomaly in a society that sought out order and justice, and in trying to reconcile with the idea of justice and evil as they figured in the form of a fourteen-year-old boy, the death penalty became but a kindness bestowed onto him from the loving people of Massachusetts."

"[Jesse] knew people found him cold, but that was not his nature. "I know the crime that has been committed, but I do not feel its awfulness," he wrote. "I do not realize that which I am charged. Nature has given me a mind, that when anything wrong comes, or when bad news comes, I do not manifest any feelings, though I have feelings in me. I know I am arrested for murder, I know what murder is; I know that I have been tried and convicted for murder, but I do not realize the position I am in." "

"Every man's life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguishes one man from another." ~ Ernest Hemingway

Assassination Vacation

Book 24 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from February 15 - March 02

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Summary (via Goodreads)
Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other—a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage.
From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to the Dry Tortugas, Vowell visits locations immortalized and influenced by the spilling of politically important blood, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism. We learn about the jinx that was Robert Todd Lincoln (present at the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and witness the politicking that went into the making of the Lincoln Memorial. The resulting narrative is much more than an entertaining and informative travelogue—it is the disturbing and fascinating story of how American death has been manipulated by popular culture, including literature, architecture, sculpture, and—the author's favorite— historical tourism. Though the themes of loss and violence are explored and we make detours to see how the Republican Party became the Republican Party, there are all kinds of lighter diversions along the way into the lives of the three presidents and their assassins, including mummies, show tunes, mean-spirited totem poles, and a nineteenth-century biblical sex cult.

My Opinion
I like her dry humor. "With a century and change between the 1880 convention and now, I'll admit I rolled my eyes at the ideological hairsplitting, wondering how a group of people who more or less agreed with one another about most issues could summon forth such stark animosity. Thankfully, we Americans have evolved, our hearts made larger, our minds more open, welcoming the negligible differences among our fellows with compassion and respect."

But there was a HUGE turnoff for me - she used the "r" word.  It wasn't quoting someone using it back when it was common either, they were her sentences, such as "He was so inbred and crazy...He was probably retarded." and "I can relate. (Not to being retarded...)".

A few "fun" facts I learned:

  • Robert Todd Lincoln was nearby for all 3 assassinations he was alive during. He was at his father's deathbed, he was only a few feet away when Garfield was shot, and he arrived in Buffalo moments after McKinley was shot.
  • Only JFK was shot with a rifle; the other three assassinations (and attempts on Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Truman, Ford, Reagan) all with handguns.
  • Edwin Booth (John's brother) rescued a man that had fallen on the train tracks during the Civil War. That young man was Robert Todd Lincoln the president's son.  What a crazy coincidence.
  • As pallbearers carried Edwin Booth's coffin outside in NY, 3 floors of Ford's Theater in Washington collapsed. It had been turned into a government office and 22 federal employees died.
  • People agreed Charles Guiteau was insane and should be committed before he assassinated Garfield but nobody could afford to pay for him to do so. "If Guiteau had received proper treatment from mental health professionals in a caring, padded facility with locks on the doors, it might have spared James Garfield's life."
  • Civil war sculptural tradition says that if the rider was wounded in battle, one of the horse's hooves should be raised.
  • "As [George] Westinghouse's alternating current become more popular than [Thomas] Edison's direct current, Edison launched a smear campaign against Westinghouse in which, attempting to prove the danger of AC, he staged demonstrations electrocuting horses and dogs that caught the eye of New York prison reformers looking for humane methods to carry out capital punishment. Hence the electric chair...Before the verb "to electrocute" came to define death by electricity, Edison advocated that the verb be named for his nemesis, that a person who had been electrocuted would have been westinghoused instead."

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Bennett asked, "You know the Kevin Bacon game?"
 "The one where he can be connected to every other movie star?"
 "Yeah, that's the one. Assassinations are your Kevin Bacon. No matter what we're talking about, you will always bring the conversation back to a president getting shot." "

"Going to Ford's Theatre [now as a tourist] to watch the play is like going to Hooters for the food."

"There it lay upon the white china, a little black mass no bigger than the end of my finger - dull, motionless, and harmless, yet the cause of such mighty changes in the world's history as we may perhaps never realize..." ~ quote from a letter Edward Curtis wrote to his mother after assisting in the autopsy of Lincoln

"A platform was built under the painting of George Washington to hold Lincoln's casket. It was here under the Washington portrait's gaze that the future president delivered his "House divided" speech in 1858, famously prophesizing that "this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free," unaware that he would be the man to fulfill this prophecy, that he would be the man who made the government "all one thing, or all the other," and that for his trouble he would be murdered only to end up here, again beneath this portrait, a corpse."

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Dirt on Ninth Grave

Book 23 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from February 14 - 24

The Dirt on Ninth Grave by Darynda Jones
Book 9 in the Charley Davidson series

Summary (via Goodreads)
In a small village in New York lives Jane Doe, a girl with no memory of who she is or where she came from. So when she is working at a diner and slowly begins to realize she can see dead people, she's more than a little taken aback. Stranger still are the people entering her life. They seem to know things about her. Things they hide with lies and half-truths. Soon, she senses something far darker. A force that wants to cause her harm, she is sure of it. Her saving grace comes in the form of a new friend she feels she can confide in and the fry cook, a devastatingly handsome man whose smile is breathtaking and touch is scalding. He stays close, and she almost feels safe with him around.
But no one can outrun their past, and the more lies that swirl around her—even from her new and trusted friends—the more disoriented she becomes, until she is confronted by a man who claims to have been sent to kill her. Sent by the darkest force in the universe. A force that absolutely will not stop until she is dead. Thankfully, she has a Rottweiler. But that doesn't help in her quest to find her identity and recover what she's lost. That will take all her courage and a touch of the power she feels flowing like electricity through her veins. She almost feels sorry for him. The devil in blue jeans. The disarming fry cook who lies with every breath he takes. She will get to the bottom of what he knows if it kills her. Or him. Either way.

My Opinion
This series was going off the rails but this one was better and reminded me of how it used to be and why I enjoy these books.  It wasn't perfect though; there were some typos throughout and some continuity issues (for example, only knowing an initial of a name but knowing the full name later in the same conversation).

Due to the circumstances in this book there wasn't as much interaction between Charley and her friends.  However, there were moments of the snappy dialogue I love so much and there was one particular moment with Reyes that made me swoon.

I still enjoy the series and look forward to reading the next one (this one had another cliffhanger ending - the author is so good at those!).  These are NOT standalone books - you must start with the first and read in order if you want to understand what's going on.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"I chuckled. "Not lately. I brought your favorite [sandwich], but it's kind of squished. And frozen."
 "Oh, honey, squished and frozen are my middle names."
 Yesterday her middle name was suppository. Long story."

"There was nothing like a wrecked house and a poltergeist to rob a girl of a good night's sleep."

"It was one thing to see the departed as being other. As almost not being real. It was another thing to know on a visceral level that they were once alive and dynamic and worthy of all that life had to offer."

The Antelope in the Living Room

Book 22 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from Feb. 10 - 15

The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle

Summary (via the book jacket)
They say that marriage is a lot like insanity, in that they both require commitment. I so get that.
When you're in those first giddy stages of dating, you have no idea what life is going to throw your way. You're just two bright-eyed kids full of optimism, convinced you're going to be the happiest married couple ever.
Y'all. Trust me. Saying, "I do" is easy. It's the next fifty years or so that can get a little tricky.
There are days you feel like you've never loved each other more. But there are also days filled with disappointment and silence that never seem to end because you just can't seem to find the words to make it right.
Marriage can be the biggest blessing and the most significant challenge two people ever take on. It's the joy of knowing there's someone to share in your sorrows and triumphs, and the challenge of living with someone who thinks it's a good idea to hang a giant antelope head on your living room wall.
And yet we are in this thing together. For the rest of our lives. Not just for better or for worse, but for better AND for worse.
That's what this book is about. The times that brought us together and the times we were falling apart. The days we wouldn't trade for anything in the world, and that time he hung an antelope on my wall.
Welcome to the story of a real marriage.

My Opinion
Another book from a blogger I haven't heard of.  Since I haven't read the blog I can't say whether this is new material or not.

I learned Sandy's last name from the movie "Grease" (Olsen). I'm not sure how I never knew it before.

At first I was concerned because she kept sneaking in things about the importance of God - my personal preference to to read as few books about religion as possible.  But it wasn't heavy-handed and she made jokes about it so other than chapter 21, it came across as part of her life story and not the main attraction.

I don't want to run off and read her entire blog archive but I would like to read her other book "Sparkly Green Earrings".

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Since we'd just met, I had no idea that the detailed explanation was part of his charm. To this day, he loves nothing more than to lecture on a variety of topics. A few of his more classic offerings are "Why You Should Always Lock the Back Door," "Tools Should Never Be Left Out on the Back Table," and my personal favorite, "The Importance of Turning the Closet Doorknob the Right Way." They never get old. And by never getting old, I mean that if I have to hear them one more time, I may pack my bags and move into a hotel for the weekend. Or a year."

"I am not a woman equipped to handle a world where I have to hold a small chalkboard with our wedding date written in some sort of handcrafted calligraphy."

"The next thing I knew, I was looking into Perry's eyes as I heard the words, "I now pronounce you husband and wife."
  Which I believe is the wedding day equivalent to "Please fasten your seat belts. We are about to take off.""

"As we navigate our way through this life ,there are so many people who are ready to take shots at us and hit us in our blind spots. Your spouse should fall into the category of people you can trust to have your back and say, "Oh, it wasn't that bad." Because enough voices will tell you, "YES, it was that bad," and sometimes we all just need a soft place to land."

"I believe there is no greater act of marital love or martyrdom than attending an event involving your spouse's family without your spouse in attendance."

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Book 21 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read on February 14

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Summary (via the book jacket)
Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.
A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?
Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

My Opinion
This was a cute read perfect for Valentine's Day.  Which is when I read it even though I'm publishing this review in July.  Backlog problems...

The pages turn quickly and it was a sigh-worthy YA version of a romantic comedy. 

A Few Quotes from the Book
"There are so many ways it could have all turned out differently."

" "I think this [lightning bug] would be happier, too, if you let him go."
  Hadley said nothing, though she hugged the jar a bit closer to her.
   "You know what they say," Dad said. "If you love something, set it free."
   "What if he doesn't come back?"
   "Some things do, some things don't," he said, reaching over to tweak her nose. "I'll always come back to you anyway."
   "You don't light up," Hadley pointed out, but Dad only smiled.
   "I do when I'm with you."" 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Corn Maiden

Book 20 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from February 08 - 13

The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates

Summary (via the book jacket)
Step into the vivid imagination of Joyce Carol Oates for seven tales of suspense that will keep you riveted to the page. 
In "The Corn Maiden", you'll meet sweet and naive Marissa Bantry, an eleven-year-old with hair the color of corn silk, who vanishes from her mother's house one dark evening. As her mother, Leah, and the police frantically scour the town for her whereabouts, little do they know that Marissa has come under the influences of her fellow student Judah, a troubled young girl who relishes the opportunity to physically and emotionally hold Marissa captive. Judah teaches Marissa the story of the Corn Maiden, an urban legend in which a young girl is sacrificed to ensure a good crop. As all leads begin to hit dead ends, Marissa's life hangs in the balance as Judah prepares to reenact the horrifying legend with the unsuspecting young girl as the sacrificial maiden.
In addition to the terrifying title story, Oates offers six other tales of the night, including the never-before-published "Helping Hands", in which a shy woman meets a man whose friendship and illicit desires may break down her defenses, until she realizes that there are some doors that should never be open.
Joyce Carol Oates is one of the greatest writers of our time, and once you begin these suspenseful tales you'll be at the mercy of a supremely gifted storyteller who refuses to let you go until the last page is turned.

My Opinion
This probably sums up my feelings about the book.  A friend saw I was reading it and said, "I didn't know Joyce Carol Oates writes thrillers".  My answer..."she doesn't".

The stories just skimmed the surface, jumping right into the action without much thought to the storyline or plot.  The stories usually only had 2-3 characters and since they're labelled as thrillers, I knew there would be at least one victim and at least one aggressor; with not many options, it took a lot of the suspense out of it.

Creepy, sure. Thrilling, nope.

A Few Quotes from the Book
Quote from the Story The Corn Maiden: "Jude said you can't believe the magic you possess until somebody instructs how to unleash it".

Quote from the Story Helping Hands: "She dreaded the terrible intimacy of grief. She was a wounded creature preferring to crawl away, to nurse her pain, and not to share it with others". 


Book 19 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from February 04 - 10

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

Summary (via Goodreads)
Missoula, Montana is a typical college town, home to a highly regarded state university whose beloved football team inspires a passionately loyal fan base. Between January 2008 and May 2012, hundreds of students reported sexual assaults to the local police. Few of the cases were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical.
In these pages, acclaimed journalist Jon Krakauer investigates a spate of campus rapes that occurred in Missoula over a four-year period. Taking the town as a case study for a crime that is sadly prevalent throughout the nation, Krakauer documents the experiences of five victims: their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the skepticism directed at them by police, prosecutors, and the public; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them. These stories cut through abstract ideological debate about acquaintance rape to demonstrate that it does not happen because women are sending mixed signals or seeking attention. They are victims of a terrible crime, deserving of fairness from our justice system. Rigorously researched, rendered in incisive prose, Missoula stands as an essential call to action.

My Opinion
This was a tough read.  The writing was excellent but it made me so mad to see what these women went through.  To reiterate from the book jacket, "acquaintance rape is a crime like no other..." and it's true; there's no other crime where the victim is scrutinized as heavily.  It's disgusting.

This was a discouraging statistic: "Rape is the most underreported serious crime in the nation. Carefully conducted studies consistently indicate that at least 80 percent of rapes are never disclosed to law enforcement agencies. Analysis published in 2012 by Kimberly Lonsway, director of research at End Violence Against Women International, and Joanne Archambault, formerly a police sergeant in charge of the San Diego Sex Crimes Unit, suggests that only between 5 percent and 20 percent of forcible rapes in the United States are reported to the police; a paltry 0.4 percent to 5.4 percent of rapes are ever prosecuted; and just 0.2 percent to 2.8 percent of forcible rapes culminate in a conviction that includes any time for the assailant. Here's another way to think about these numbers: When an individual is raped in this country, more than 90 percent of the time the rapist gets away with the crime."

Trigger warning if you've been the victim of sexual assault.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"She had many nightmares. "When I'd have a dream like that," Huguet said, "I'd wake up emotionally drained. The images from the dream would be really vivid, and they would stay in my head throughout the day. I couldn't get them out of my mind. People don't understand how exhausting that was - the nightmares, and not sleeping, and constantly worrying about who might be hiding behind the shower curtain. They just don't get what you go through, day after day, when you've been raped." ~ Allison Huguet

" "People in Missoula need to know that if you rape an acquaintance, it is a serious crime, and that there needs to be a punishment that fits the crime." " ~ Fred Van Valkenberg

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pray for Silence

Book 18 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from February 05 - 08

Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo
Book 2 of the Kate Burkholder series

Summary (via Goodreads)
The Plank family moved from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to join the small Amish community of Painters Mill less than a year ago and seemed the model of the Plain Life—until on a cold October night, the entire family of seven was found slaughtered on their farm. Police Chief Kate Burkholder and her small force have few clues, no motive, and no suspect. Formerly Amish herself, Kate is no stranger to the secrets the Amish keep from the English—and each other—but this crime is horribly out of the ordinary.
State agent John Tomasetti arrives on the scene to assist. He and Kate worked together on a previous case during which they began a volatile relationship. They soon realize the disturbing details of this case will test their emotional limits and force them to face demons from their own troubled pasts—and for Kate, a personal connection that is particularly hard to bear.
When she discovers a diary that belonged to one of the teenaged daughters, Kate is shocked to learn the girl kept some very dark secrets and may have been living a lurid double life. Who is the charismatic stranger who stole the young Amish girl’s heart? Could the brother—a man with a violent past, rejected and shunned by his family and the Amish community, have come to seek out revenge? As Kate’s outrage grows so does her resolve to find the killer and bring him to justice—even if it means putting herself in the line of fire.

My Opinion
The beginning pulled me in with a shock.  The book wasn't gory but my imagination of the crime scenes filled in the blanks and it was a visceral reaction to the horrific crime.

Kate's personal relationships showed a side of her we didn't see in the first book.  She didn't want to cry in front of someone she's slept with because emotional vulnerability is much harder for her than physical intimacy.  I look forward to seeing her character's journey as the series progresses.

It was pretty unbelievable that one of the characters wasn't killed but I'm happy he's still around so I'll let it go.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"As Skid speaks into his radio, I look at the two dead girls, and I feel the crushing weight of my responsibility to them settle onto my shoulders. I've heard veteran cops talk about life-altering cases. Cases that haunt a cop long after they're closed. I've had cases like that myself. Cases that fundamentally changed me. Changed the way I view people. The way I perceive my job as a cop. The way I see myself.
 Standing there with the stench of death filling my nostrils, I know this is going to be one of those cases. It's going to take a toll. Not only on me, but on this town I love and a community that's already seen more than its share of violence."

"I should be comforted by the constancy of our existence. The routine of small town life. The prettiness of the town. The friendliness of the people I've sworn to protect and serve. Instead, I feel strangely indignant that life continues on with so little interruption when just down the road a family of seven has been wiped off the face of the earth."

"I'm not sure why I do this to myself, this revisiting of the dead. There is some information a cop gleans from seeing a body up close and personal, but most truly useful information comes from the autopsy report. Still, I come here. I pay final homage. Maybe I do it because seeing the victims reminds me that there are real people behind every crime. I work for them now."

Go Ask Alice

Book 17 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from February 01 - 05

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

Summary (via Goodreads)
A teen plunges into a downward spiral of addiction in this classic cautionary tale.
January 24th
After you've had it, there isn't even life without drugs....

It started when she was served a soft drink laced with LSD in a dangerous party game. Within months, she was hooked, trapped in a downward spiral that took her from her comfortable home and loving family to the mean streets of an unforgiving city. It was a journey that would rob her of her innocence, her youth -- and ultimately her life.
Read her diary.
Enter her world.
You will never forget her.

For thirty-five years, the acclaimed, bestselling first-person account of a teenage girl's harrowing decent into the nightmarish world of drugs has left an indelible mark on generations of teen readers. As powerful -- and as timely -- today as ever, Go Ask Alice remains the definitive book on the horrors of addiction.

My Opinion
I'd like to research more about how this book came to be.  Parts of it were realistic and parts of it read like adults trying to guess what kids sound like.

Gutpunch ending.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Sometimes I think we're all trying to be shadows of each other, trying to buy the same records and everything even if we don't like them. Kids are like robots, off an assembly line, and I don't want to be a robot!"

"...and her mother nags a lot but then I guess all mothers do. If they didn't I'd hate to see what homes and yards and even the world would look like."

"I couldn't tell what was real and what was unreal. Was I the table or the book or the music, or was I part of all of them, but it didn't really matter, for whatever I was, I was wonderful. For the first time that I could remember in my whole life, I was completely uninhibited."

"Adolescents have a very rocky insecure time. Grown-ups treat them like children and yet expect them to act like adults. They give them orders like little animals, then expect them to react like mature, and always rational, self-assured persons of legal stature. It is a difficult, lost, vacillating time."

Dear Mr. You

Book 16 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from February 01 - 03

Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker

Summary (via Goodreads)
A wonderfully unconventional literary debut from the award-winning actress Mary-Louise Parker.
An extraordinary literary work, Dear Mr. You renders the singular arc of a woman’s life through letters Mary-Louise Parker composes to the men, real and hypothetical, who have informed the person she is today. Beginning with the grandfather she never knew, the letters range from a missive to the beloved priest from her childhood to remembrances of former lovers to an homage to a firefighter she encountered to a heartfelt communication with the uncle of the infant daughter she adopted. Readers will be amazed by the depth and style of these letters, which reveal the complexity and power to be found in relationships both loving and fraught.

My Opinion
Who knew so few words could paint such a vivid picture?  The author has an excellent way of telling you everything without telling you anything.

It's an unusual style.  We're just thrown in with no backstory, no follow-up, usually no names.  It was a little less interesting as she writes to animals but Dear Ceberus was very powerful and my favorite one.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"We all miss you something fierce, those of us who wouldn't exist had you not kept walking when an ordinary person would have fallen to his knees. To convey in any existing language how I miss you isn't possible. It would be like blue trying to describe the ocean."

"I love attempting to describe a thing, but I might love even better the fact that the more words you have available to encode with when you attempt denotation, the farther away you can sail into ambiguity. I could go on about you forever and that might only make you less clear to someone discovering you through my words. We might have had another twenty years to reveal ourselves to each other and not come away as sure of each other as we did."

"You were a living reminder of what I always professed to believe, that you never know what happened to someone that day, so try to cut some slack, but being bound by my own ropes I was unable to give you that. I realize now that whatever I was walking through was a part of my life, one piece of a bigger story that is mostly beautiful.
 So, Mr. Cabdriver, I apologize for the profanity and the blame."

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Father of the Bride

Book 15 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from January 29 - February 1

Father of the Bride by Edward Streeter

Summary (via Goodreads)
Poor Mr. Banks. His jacket is too tight, he can't get a cocktail, and he's footing the bill....He's the father of the bride.
Stanley Banks is just your ordinary suburban dad. He's the kind of guy who believes that weddings are simple affairs in which two people get married. But when daddy's little girl announces her engagement to Buckley, Mr. Banks feels like his life has been turned upside down. And any man with a daughter can appreciate Mr. Banks's feelings.

Kay: Now, Pops, please. If we're going --

Mr. Banks: -- and what's his last name? I hope it's better than his first one.

Kay: Pops, I'm not going to sit here --

Mr. Banks: -- and where the hell does he come from -- and who does he think is going to support him? If it's me he's got another guess coming. And who in God's name --

To say the least, Mr. Banks isn't taking it well, and to make matters worse, he must host cocktail parties with the in-laws-to-be, initiate financial planning talks with Buckley, and moderate family conferences on who will be invited to the reception.
Who can blame him when he sinks so low as to offer Kay $1500 to elope?
But Mr. Banks holds his peace, and when the last wedding guest has departed from his confetti-matted house, he has his memories, and you have a merry record of his tribulations.

My Opinion
The book was originally published in 1948 and I read a first edition.  I love the style of older books with illustrations; there was a lot of care put into the whole 'experience' of reading, not just getting the words on the page.

That being said, I'm not sure why my library still had this on their shelf.  I don't believe the author is well-known and nothing really holds up, from the dollar amounts to the constant drinking to the traditions.  But it was a fun look at the past (even if I can only picture Steve Martin as I'm reading since he played the dad in the Father of the Bride movie).

I guess this funny quote shows one thing about large weddings hasn't changed with time - there is often no room for the groom or his opinion, haha! "It struck Mr. Banks that the accepted belief that men married women was a colossal hoax - they were merely married by women." 

A Few Quotes from the Book
"The only recognition he received was when Kay occasionally pushed him aside with "Please, Pops. Can't you see you're right in the way? Why don't you go downstairs and read? You just don't understand."
  At those moments he would be in full agreement with his daughter for the first time in days."

"What an innocent he had been! His original wedding budget had included a case or two of champagne, a couple of hundred water cress sandwiches, a wedding dress (if he was unfortunate enough to have reared a daughter who couldn't slip into her mother's), a handsome present to the bride, some miscellaneous tips and that was about all (although bad enough). The church was free. What else was there?"

"A moment later Mrs. Banks entered the room and Mr. Banks forgot everything else. He knew that he would never be able to remember what she was wearing. He knew also that, to his dying day, he would never forget her as she stood, framed in the doorway, waiting for his approval - slim, graceful and lovely."

"They lapsed into exhausted silence. In the brain of each a projector was unreeling the film of the day's events. It would have amazed them if they could have known how different the films were."