September 26, 2013

Cain's Blood

Cain's Blood
by Geoffrey Girard
publisher Touchstone
published September 2013
source:  publisher

Reflections:   I almost didn't graduate from college because I made a D in biology.  Even so, I know about Mendel,   the father of genetics.   Girard opens his book Cain's Blood telling us about Mendel's work, moving on to the more recent science of genetics, study of DNAs and cloning.   I would have liked biology better if Girard had been my professor.

Girard makes three chilling statements even before his story begins:
  • Scientists isolated DNA factors.   Once isolated, analyzed each factor to understand how it really worked.  Once understood, explored how to modify.
  • The scientist who led the team that cloned Dolly the Sheep, said in reference to cloning humans, "It would be naive to think it possible to prevent."
  • Cloning humans,  by the way, is still completely legal in the United States.  Everyone just assumes it's not.
What a super background for such a suspenseful novel.   Fiction:  the U.S. Department of Defense  cloned serial killers to develop a new bio-weapon.   Yes, fiction ... but it could happen.   What if serial killers were cloned in order to study nature vs. nurture?   What if some of these teenage clones left the compound on a rampage?  A former special ops soldier is asked to track them in Cain's Blood.

S H I V E R 

That is what I did when I read Cain's Blood.   You will too.   To be honest,  parts of this book held too much horror for me, even though I enjoy reading about serial killers.  Still shuddering.

September 23, 2013

Burial Rites

Burial Rites
by Hannah Kent
published September 2013
publisher Little, Brown and Company
source:  publisher

The day after I returned home from Iceland and other countries,  I received Burial Rites.   Since the story is set in Iceland, I immediately opened this book.

The author, Hannah Kent, is a young Australian woman who traveled to Iceland as a teenage exchange-student.   She tells the true story of Agnes, a real person -- the last person executed in Iceland.

There is no jail in northern Iceland to keep Agnes before her execution, so a family is ordered to have her stay with them.    The wife Margret, says to Agnes, "I have been forced to keep you here and you ... You are forced to be kept. "

Such writing!  Descriptive.  Elegant.   You smell the body stenches,  you shiver in the cold,  you peek into the minds of the characters.   It was difficult at first to get used to the Icelandic names, however once you know the characters, you forget that difficulty.

It is so difficult to know what label to give this book:  biography, fiction, mystery.  It is neither and all.   Therefore, I added a new label:  historical fiction.

September 19, 2013

The Sensory Child Gets Organized

The Sensory Child Gets Organized
by Carolyn Dalgliesh
published September 2013
source:  Touchstone, the publisher

Some people (aka OCD) are very organized.  Some like me (messy hoarder) are not. 

Some people have a sensory processing disorder.  Statistics from the publisher:

 ·      1 in 20 kids have Sensory Processing Disorder.
·       8.6% of kids are diagnosed with AD/HD.
·       Anxiety Disorders are diagnosed in as many as 1 in 8 children.
·       Currently, 1 in 88 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
·       As many of 50% of kids with a diagnosis also live with a co-existing condition
·       Most kids receive a sensory or special-needs diagnosis between ages 3 to 10 years.
·       Many kids will not be eligible for special services and parents need help supporting day-to-day life at home.

I was eager to read the book, but ended up skimming it because (1) I'm the least organized person here  (2) I've retired from the classroom.    I have seen Dalgliesh's organizational hints in other teachers' classrooms, most specifically labeling items. 

Dalgliesh's blog has several more articles well worth reading.   Her book is recommended for parents who need organizational systems to help their children cope in the home.   Some items can be purchased at your local big-box stores. 

August 13, 2013

Speak of the Devil

Speak of the Devil  
by Allison Leotta
publisher Touchstone
source Publisher and Netgalley

I was first introduced to Anna Curtis, federal sex-crimes prosecutor, in Law of Attraction.   Allison Leotta, the author,  is also a D.C. sex-crimes prosecutor.   She writes what she knows, and draws us into the sordid life of the criminals.

The novel opens with a quote from National Geographic Explorer, "The Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, is the world's most dangerous gang."  

Leotta did extensive research into MS-13 for her novel.  She "spoke to police officers and federal agents, and drew on my own experience prosecuting these crimes.   ....  I try to provide an authentic glimpse into the shadowy world."  

Speak of the Devil tells about the most violent member of MS-13 in metropolitian Washington, D.C.,  Diablo, or the Devil.   He is tattooed all over, has had surgery to alter his face and his teeth filed to sharp points.  People who see him, even the homeboys in MS-13,  quake in fear.   Our heroine, Anna Curtis copes with finding Diablo and other gang members while planning her engagement and wedding.  

On a personal note:  as usual, I enjoy reading Leotta's description of DC neighborhoods because I used to live and work in DC aeons ago.   She describes New York Avenue spot-on;  it was a road I used daily in commuting to work.

Some scenes of Anna's wedding planning lull the reader into relaxation and the romance, then BAM! there's violence coupled with twists.   There are secrets.   How far will people go to protect their families?  Can people be redeemed?   

Leotta's first book Law of Attraction covered domestic violence.  The second Discretion* is about high-class call girls.     Speak of the Devil has Anna battling gang violence.   I'm  eager to find out the topic of Leotta's fourth Anna Curtis book.   And more anxious to learn more about her future personal life;  I care about Anna.  

*Ten Rules for a Call Girl is an eShort Story prequel to Discretion.  It is available free for Kindle and Kindle apps.   If you haven't read Leotta yet,  try this short story.

August 5, 2013

Secret Sister

Secret Sister
by Emelle Gamble
publisher:  Soul Mate
published July 2013
source: NetGalley

Cathy and Roxanne are best friends.   They have been best friends for life.    Cathy is married to Nick Chance;  it is a marriage made in heaven -- they are perfect for each other.

Roxanne has issues and visits psychologists frequently.  One afternoon Cathy and Roxanne go for a drive in Roxanne's car.  There's a wreck.    One dies.  One lives. 

My review stops here.  I do not want to say anymore because of the danger of spoilers.   Suffice to say I was absorbed in the book.    Some characters I liked,  some I didn't, some I sympathized with.    We are treated to different POVs (points of view).   I wanted to know what would happen next.  Even though I had suspicions about what happened, there was a surprise twist at the end.

I hope the author will continue to write and publish more.  

August 2, 2013

This Girl

This Girl (The Slammed Series, book 3)
author Colleen Hoover
publisher Simon and Schuster, Atria imprint
on sale  August 13, 2013
source:  publisher

A saying I often quote:  There are three sides to every story;  his side, her side, and the truth.     

The Slammed series  is a popular one,  between 4 and 5 stars on Goodreads and Amazon.   Reviews are glowing.   The first book Slammed tells Lake's side.  The next one Point of Retreat gives Will's point of view.

Book 3, This Girl, continues the story as told by Will.   Now married, Lake wants to know everything about the past.  She frequently asks, "What was it like when you first saw me?" or "What did he say when....."

Will's Slammed poetry continues in this book.  Fans of the first two will cherish reading this third.

This is a sweet read of a young couple beginning their honeymoon.  However, I did not fall for the story because (a) YA romances do not appeal to me and (b) I have not read the first two books. 

June 19, 2013

The Still Point of the Turning World - review

The Still Point of the Turning World 
by Emily Rapp
publisher Penguin Press
source: publisher

Reflections:  There are no reflections for me to post before the review.  Emily Rapp has lived what I have not lived through.  She is a mother to admire. 

Emily Rapp describes the day she discovered her son Ronan, age nine months, had Tay-Sachs disease.   She wailed.  We all would wail too.     During her pregnancy she specifically had asked to be tested genetically for Tay-Sachs.  She was tested, but did not know she needed to ask for a deeper combination test.

Rapp quotes from well-known authors such as Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein.  Her quotes add poignancy to her book.    This is such a poignant read --- took me several days to follow Rapp and Ronan's journey. 

Read Notes from a Dragon Mom in the New York Times for a taste of Rapp's writing;  then get the book to linger over with tears.

June 17, 2013

Brain on Fire - review

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
by Susannah Cahalan
publisher Free Press, division of Simon and Schuster
published November 2012

Reflections:  One summer was rough for me.   Four people in my family had brain issues:  bipolar, cancer, PTSD, and early Alzheimer's.   A group of friends I knew on-line got together and sent me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers.   Our brains certainly do affect us, as well as the people surrounding us.

Susannah Cahalan is a reporter for the New York Post who was hospitalized with a mysterious illness.  Day by day she became worse -- hallucinations, attempt to flee,  blurred speech, short-term memory loss, and psychosis.

Her family and boyfriend stuck by her side.  More and more doctors looked into her case.  A brain biopsy was performed.  Eventually, one doctor made the diagnosis simply by asking her to draw a clock.  Susannah's fire in her brain finally faded.  A medical mystery became a medical miracle simply because her family refused to let her go into madness.

Because Susannah is a reporter, she wrote a short article about her experiences in the hospital and during recovery.   She interviewed the people who were there that month,  read her hospital files,  read her journal, and watched videos of her actions while in the hospital.   After more research, her article became a book.   Some of the book gives details about other people who suffered the same kind of mystery.  

I ended up closing the book with appreciation for medial personnel who won't give up and for patient advocates such as family members.

pages from The Reader's Digest

June 16, 2013

Anything but Typical - review

Anything but Typical
by Nora Raleigh Baskin
publisher Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
source: purchased

Reflections:   Aeons ago I had a student with Asperger's.   He had difficulties reading emotions on people's faces and understanding why they were so mad.   He adored writing stories, creating scenarios and names for his characters,  and told me about a girlfriend he met on the Internet because both of them wrote stories. 

Ahhh, when I read Anything but Typical, I kept nodding ...   my student could have written this.  This book is written in the first-person.

Jason Blake is 12-years-old.  He has difficulties in school and in the community because he is autistic.   He calls "normal" (non-autistic) people typical neurotypical.   They don't understand him,  they don't understand his thinkings,  they have issues with him.

Jason enjoys sharing his stories on the Storyboard website.   He meets PhoenixBird (gasp! a girl!) on-line.   She could be his first real friend.   Jason's brother is Jeremy -- the book doesn't say he has OCD tendencies, but we learn Jeremy doesn't like his food to touch each other, so their mom gets plates with dividers, or "plates with the little rooms."   Their mom has a sadness about her because of her difficulties dealing with Jason's autism.  Dad doesn't pester Jason about his differences.

Jason suggests various ways to be a good writer, such as "Names are important." One of his characters is a dwarf named Bennu. We go "ah-ha!" when we discover why he chose this name.

Books are like brownies. 
 This is one of the gems we pick up from Anything but Typical.  There is no one way to write a book, just as there is no one way to bake brownies (chewy or cake-like? one egg or three?) The author, Baskin, has written a perfect book.

June 15, 2013

Life Without Limits

Life Without Limits
author  Nicholas James Vujicic
source  Blogging for Books

Reflections:    When I was  around age five years old,  I was playing in my aunt and uncle's living room.   All of sudden my parents said to me, "Look at the t.v.  A man with no hands is playing the piano!"   I watched.    From that point on, that "man with no hands" became my bogeyman.   I was scared of him.  I thought he lived under my bed, and I was afraid he'd grab my ankles when I got out of bed.

After that fear, it is amazing that I requested to review Life Without Limits.    The author Nicholas Vuijcic was born without limbs.  He is an evangelist and a motivational speaker.   His memoir tells of his early years, how he overcame his limits, and gives inspirational paragraphs and chapters.

This book was an enjoyable read.  The photos!  Vujicic has an amazing smile,  you can see his spirit glowing thorough that smile.  

Learning to Fly - review

Learning to Fly
Steph Davis
publisher: Touchstone, Simon and Schuster
published April 2013
source: publisher

Reflections:  me climb mountains?  Hah! The closest I ever did that was Stone Mountain near Atlanta.  Our college P.E. class camped there twice.  We rode the cable car up the steep part and walked down the sloping side.  I tripped,  slid on my stomach and knees several feet, and ruined my favorite pair of slacks.  Didn't even skin my knees, but it was enough to turn me off climbing.    Now Steph Davis is completely opposite of me.  That is what makes reading books so much fun --- we live adventurously through them. 

Steph Davis dropped out of law school, lived in a truck and climbed wherever and whenever she could.    "It was a life of pure adventure, and nothing about it was safe," she said.  However her marriage and career as a professional climber unraveled.   What next?

Learning to Fly describes her discovery and exploration of free fall,  skydiving, and BASE (building, antenna, span, earth)  jumping.   Always at her side was her dog Fletch.  

I enjoyed reading about Davis' adventures;  my favorite parts were when she talked about Fletch, the four-legged love of her life.   Fletch tugged at my heart.   I felt the book could have been better edited and organized chronologically.   Rather it jumps from one scene to another several years in the future back to the first.   She describes how she met Fletch and her husband in several points in the book.   Fortunately there's an index in the back.

June 14, 2013

The True Secret of Writing - review

The True Secret of Writing:  Connecting Life with Language
by Natalie Goldberg
publisher:  Atria
source:  publisher

Reflections: I have been told I should write a book --- truthfully, I'm more of a reader than a writer. I'm content with this blog, my too-many Facebook posts, and notes to friends.

Natalie Goldberg holds writing workshops. Her newest book The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language focuses on mantras.  Two are:
 Sit. Walk. Write.
 Shut Up and Write!

Goldberg describes her life -- this was the most interesting to me; then gives exercises and lists of things to meditate upon and write about. This was an interesting book to skim through, however I was not motivated enough to actually want to sit down, shut up, and write.

June 11, 2013

Sniper Elite: One Way Trip - review

Sniper Elite: One Way Trip 

author: Scott McEwen and Thomas Koloniar
publisher:  Touchstone, Simon and Schuster
source:  publisher
published June 2013

Reflections:   Ten years ago, a U.S. Army soldier named Jessica was captured in Iraq when her convoy was ambushed.  She was rescued by a Special Ops team.    Two years ago, a humanitarian aid worker also named Jessica was kidnapped by Somali pirates and held for 93 days.  She was rescued by SEAL Team Six.

In Sniper Elite: One Way Trip, McEwen and Thomas Koloniar write fiction about Gil Shannon,  one of the most lethal SEAL snipers ever.   Gil lives in Montana with his wife when he is not on a military mission.  However, he considers his true home to be the Navy.   We read about Gil's hunting of a bull elk and the calculations in his brain while looking through the rifle scope.  We learn through his flashback about his first kill.

In the meantime, a female Black Hawk pilot Sandra Brux is captured in Afghanistan.  The scenes of what her captors do to her are difficult to read.

The military code is:
Leave No Man Behind.
It also should be
Leave No Woman Behind.

However, the President of the U.S.  orders that Brux not be rescued.  Say what?!  Gil and the others in the special ops community plan to defy this order.

Our hearts race with adrenalin when we learn about another One Way Trip.  Gil talks to Brux's husband.  He calls his wife ---  this phone call is a tear-jerker.    No spoilers here about the rescue attempt.   At the very last page, a cold chill ran down my spine.  

Highly recommended!

June 3, 2013

Ten Things I've Learnt About Love - review

Ten Things I've Learnt about Love
author:  Sarah Butler
publisher:  Penguin
to be published July 2013
source:  publisher

Reflections:   One of the first books that we discussed in Book Club was  Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.   Opal learns ten things about her mother.  We ate egg salad and wrote ten good things about each other.   That list about me has been on my refrigerator the past 8 years.  Therefore I had some positive sentimental feelings when I approached Ten Things I've Learnt about Love.

A debut novel based in London tells the story of a backpacking young woman called to come home because of the impending death of her father.  It also tells the story of a homeless man in London.

Is there a connection between the two people?  Yes.    Early in the book, the reader will figure out the connection.  

Both characters are written in first-person;  I had difficulty at the beginning figuring out which person was speaking.   We follow the past and present of the two characters.   The city of London itself can be considered a character as well.

Each chapter begins with a delightful list of "Ten Things ...."   Some examples:
  • Ten ways other people might describe me.   
  • Ten inappropriate thoughts during my father's funeral.
  • Ten things I'd say about London. 

Blue Plate Special - review

Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites
author Kate Christensen
publisher Doubleday
publishing date: July 2013
source Publisher

Kate Christensen, author of six novels along with a foodcentric blog and a column about drinks, has written her autobiography connecting her life with desire for food and other things.

She grew up in a free-style family, with a violent hippie-type father.  Fortunately he finally left.   The family moved frequently. Kate gives vignettes of her childhood with two younger sisters and teenage years. Frequently I winced in pain while reading.   She married in her mid-thirties and describes her marriage.  He had a conventional calm upbringing completely opposite of hers.

Because this is a book supposedly about food, a few recipes are included.   Mmmmm.  These recipes help off-set the angst.  I don't cook, so won't be trying these recipes.

May 29, 2013

Always Watching - review

Always Watching  

author:  Chevy Stevens
publisher:  St. Martin's Press
to be published June 2013
source:  Publisher

Always Watching has
  • a psychiatrist
  • a commune
  • repressed memories coming to light
  • an estranged druggie daughter
The psychiatrist is a take-charge type of woman who is determined to investigate, report, and make things right. It is written in first person: "I did this. I remembered that. I went there. I talked to..."  I read the whole book, although I'm not sure why I did.     By the time I finished, I just didn't care about what happened, the twists and coincidences.  I hated that because Chevy Stevens' first book was such a favorite of mine.

YMMV -- your mileage may vary. 

May 4, 2013

The Testing - review

Reflections:  The last ten years I taught, my main responsibility was Transition Assessment, to prepare Middle School and High School students for life in the great big wide world.  Basically, it was "What do you want to be when you grow up?   How will you get there?"   I tested the students' aptitudes, achievements, abilities and interests.  Therefore when I was offered the chance to read The Testing, I jumped at it!

 The Testing
author:  Joelle Charbonneau
publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
to be published:  June 2013
source:  publisher and Netgalley

The Testing is a cross between Hunger Games and Divergent.    All three begin a trilogy about a girl chosen from her district/faction/colony in a ceremony to compete against others in a Big-Brother society-government-nation. Despite these similarities, each book is unique.

Cia Vale, on graduation day, is now an adult and can wear red.  The whole colony gathers together for graduation and to see if anyone from their colony is chosen for THE TESTING for admission to the University.   Those chosen are tested for the correct combination of intelligence,  ability to perform under pressure and leadership.   Of course it isn't a spoiler when I tell you Cia is chosen to be tested .... if she wasn't, there wouldn't be a book to read!

Hours before Cia leaves for THE TESTING, her dad tells her about his own testing.   Memories of those who have been tested are wiped.  Therefore her dad has memories arising during nightmares.   As you probably know, some veterans who return from war are very reluctant to tell their family members and friends what it was like over there and they have nightmares.    Cia is surprised to learn that her family did not want her to be chosen.   Her dad also warns her:

Do not trust anyone.

 So what is Cia to do?  

I thoroughly enjoyed this book much more than the other dystopian series.   We get to see Cia's thinking and her reasons for her choices.   We learn the history of her nation and why it became that way (Seven Stages of War).

While you're waiting for The Testing, download the prequel free at  the Testing Trilogy site.  You're also challenged to try the test too!

April 30, 2013

Guest post - Gregory Widen

This is a guest post by Gregory Widen, author of  Blood Makes Noise. Gregory studied film and screenwriting at UCLA, and penned scripts for the films Highlander, Backdraft, and The Prophecy. He’s a native of Laguna Beach, California and he lives in Los Angeles. Blood Makes Noise is his first novel.

I remember the moment I got the idea for Blood Makes Noise. I was visiting a friend in an unnamed Latin American country who was a field officer for the CIA. Now, this friend has been involved in all sorts of craziness, including – on direct orders – supervising not only the murder of certain bad individuals, but “making it hurt.”

Despite a life of anecdotes like this, in the nights we spent drinking, the only time I ever saw him express disgust for anything was the following anecdote: “On 9/11, the FBI office in Miami was given the photos of the hijackers. This was critical – it had to get to Washington immediately – and they sent it by FedEx. Why not e-mail? Because there wasn’t an agent there who knew how to attach a photo. That is all you need to know about the FBI.”

I’d already decided at this point to write a novel titled Blood Makes Noise, centered around the craziness that accompanied the disappearance of Eva Peron’s corpse in 1955 Argentina. I knew my hero would be a troubled CIA officer sucked into those events and nearly destroyed by them. But when you write a novel, character and plot are just two of three things you need. The third, and often most elusive, is a unique background that provides the kind of catalyst to propel characters forward beyond the requirements of plot.

It occurred to me that I might have just found my catalyst.

As my friend’s white-gloved butler served us bourbon martinis at precisely six o’clock, I pressed further. Everyone knows of the historical mistrust between the CIA and FBI, but I quickly learned just how toxic it had been in South America – to the point where the CIA and Hoover’s FBI were nearly in open warfare with each other.

Prior to the CIA’s creation in ’47, the FBI had always been in charge of spying in South America. But Truman, who never trusted J. Edgar Hoover, now wanted to hand that responsibility over to his new agency. From that moment on, Hoover committed himself to strangling the baby CIA in its crib.

As servants built a fire in the living room, “drinks” became a cocktail party as various local spooks arrived. There was the BND (German spy agency) guy, another who’s family ran Cuban Intelligence, and some current and retired CIA. Working through my third martini, I soaked up the stories.

Despite Truman’s change, Hoover managed to keep many of his people in place, effectively creating an FBI-run CIA within the CIA. As the agency fought to get control, Hoover just went to greater lengths to discredit it.

As the party devolved, I remembered a dinner commitment. My friend’s crew decided to join me. Off we went to a large dinner party most memorable for the moment my friend informed me that my host was the son of the country’s biggest narco boss. I worried I’d unknowingly made some terrible mistake. But he only smiled wryly: “No. Thank you. It would have taken me months to make this meeting happen by accident.”

Both the drinks and stories kept coming: how in an effort to discredit the CIA, Hoover had ordered his men – while a CIA team burglarized a foreign embassy – to fire shots outside to alert the security people within. Or the time the CIA had arranged the defection of a KGB officer in Buenos Aires and Hoover, wanting the credit – and to embarrass the CIA – had his boys grab the defector in a restaurant first. But a CIA team arrived at the same moment and a brawl broke out between the two groups, trashing the place.

It was chaos in the CIA stations down there at the time. The old FBI officers still in place did everything possible to frustrate and humiliate the new arriving CIA personnel, including burning their files when they were finally ordered out. Those days in South America, sighed an old hand, were one wild circus.

As evening crawled to dawn, I knew now the atmosphere my character would be thrust into: a freshly minted CIA officer arriving in Buenos Aires and going to war against the old FBI hands still in place. A young man whose greatest threat would turn out not to be the KGB, but the people in his own embassy.

Walking home later, I thought, not for the first time: It’s funny where ideas come from.

April 20, 2013

On the Map - review

On the Map
author:  Simon Garfield
publisher:  Penguin Group, Gotham Books
source:  publisher

We grew up with maps;  some of us have maps in our brains and know to turn left or right while driving.   Once I visited a friend in New Jersey -- we went into New York City.  Coming back to her parents' home,  she told me to turn right,  I said "no" and turned left.  That was the correct way to her parents'.  Other people have absolutely no sense of direction;  for example, my sweet husband cannot drive himself to one of the Malls in our town because he can't remember how to get there.

I thoroughly enjoyed browsing through the maps and tales in Garfield's book  On the Map.  He begins with the earliest maps in the Great Library of Alexandria during the third century B.C.

Garfield covers the globe well.  Some intriguing chapter titles are:
  • Cholera and the Map that Stopped It
  • X Marks the Spot: Treasure Island
  • Pass Go   (about maps as games)
My favorite chapters were about the London Tube and the celebrities' homes in Hollywood.  How I wish I had bought a t-shirt or coffee cup of the Tube when I visited there in 1989! 

Simon Garfield is a fabulous writer who can boggle one's mind on the way the world looks.

April 19, 2013

Keep No Secrets - review

Keep No Secrets
author Julie Compton
publisher FreshFork Publishing
source NetGalley

Goodread's question  After the ultimate betrayal, which is more important: trust or forgiveness?
I thoroughly enjoyed Julie Compton's  Tell No Lies a few years ago.  When I found out she had come up with a sequel,  I jumped at the opportunity to read it.   Keep No Secrets reads well as a stand-alone.  

Jack Hilliard, district attorney,  wakes up to the sound of his son and son's girlfriend making out downstairs.   Jack attempts to defuse the situation.   Then he is asked for help.   Can a person ever be too helpful?  Yes, this Jack learns to his dismay.

Compton knows how to make her books full of suspense.   She repeats the same phrase again and again.   It starts with, "This is when Jack makes his first mistake."    "...second mistake."   "...third mistake."   The reader thinks to herself:  Oh, Jack, Jack, Jack!  You're digging yourself in deeper.  

Another excellent example of Compton's suspenseful repetition: "The lies aren't what he says; they're what he doesn't say."    That brings to mind the expression:  lies of omission.

I was enjoying this book with its twists until Jack is determined to get in his car and go out of state to a hotel.  Problem: he doesn't know which town, which hotel in the other state.  How could he find the hotel if he doesn't know which town?  Those few chapters connected with that hotel seemed to be written hurriedly as if for a scene for a television show.

This minor issue won't keep me from reading other future novels by Compton.   

April 18, 2013

BTT - language

Today's Booking Through Thursday says:  "I saw a Latin edition of “The Hobbit” last time I was at the bookstore… Do you read any foreign languages? Do you ENJOY reading in other languages?"

The last time I read a book in a foreign language was in Latin class, Julius Caesar. "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres,"   That doesn't count because it was a mandatory read in school.

One book that I recently read,  Strong Deaf,  has both English and written ASL (American Sign Language).    Actually, ASL cannot be written in pen, ink, nor typed.  ASL is a three-dimensional language that incorporates movements which depend on placement on the body, around the face, certain repetitions, and hand shapes, along with facial and eyebrow expressions, and its own grammar.  How can you write THAT?!   If I were to read a complete book in ASL, I would be viewing in on-screen.

Back from my digress,  I recently read and reviewed  Strong Deaf by Lynn McElfrish.  It is about two young sisters, one hearing and the other deaf.  I wrote:  "The story is told from both girls' perspectives.  Jade's narrative is in perfect English.  Marla's is typed as if signed in ASL.  The casual reader may find reading ASL a bit off-putting.  Even though I know ASL, I had a hard time reading it at first.  Consider Marla's narrative as a dialect told through the hands, instead of voicing."

April 4, 2013

Lighthouse Bay - review

Lighthouse Bay
by Kimberley Freeman
publisher Touchstone, Simon and Schuster
published April  2013
source: publisher

Lighthouse Bay is a novel about two women a century apart.   They have much in common:
  • jewelery
  • leaves Europe
  • with deep grief
  • arrives in Australia, specifically Lighthouse Bay
  • a fresh start
  • a sister
I adored this book!   Freeman's style of writing expresses the characters' innermost desires and fears.   When she switched from one character (Isabelle in 1901) to another (Libby in 2011) and back again, I was so tempted to skip a few pages so that I could keep on reading about that certain character.     A wonderful, light read with some questions which do get answered.

I definitely will look for more Kimberley Freeman books, especially Wildflower Hill

April 1, 2013

Reboot - review

author: Amy Tinterra
to be published May 2013
publisher HarperTeen
source: publisher 

In a dystopian world, there are viruses that kill. The government has contained cities so that the diseases don't spread. 

Goodread's summary: Five years ago, Wren Connolly died. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas.
 Among Wren 178's duties are to (a) go on assignments  and (b) train newer Reboots who have come to the compound.    Callum 22 arrives;  his number is the lowest which means he has the most human qualities for a Reboot. He smiles too much.  Somehow, something inside Wren 178 makes her choose him as her new trainee.  

HARC (humans running the compound) injects some of the medium-numbered Reboots, such as 178's roommate and best friend Ever 56, with experimental drugs.  These drugs cause those  Reboots to growl and bite everyone nearby.  

In the meantime,  178, 22, and other Reboots go on assignments for HARC.    22 refuses to do an assignment because it is too cruel.   178 is ordered to kill him.  Uh oh.  How can Callum 22 be forced to lose his humanity?  As the blurb says,  178, the perfect soldier is done taking orders.

Wonderful dystopian story,  I breezed right through.  Bar codes on the skin,  trackers under the skin,  forced obedience, modesty,  lack of rights.   This book has it all.

March 30, 2013

The Girl Next Door - review

The Girl Next Door (Carter Ross, book 3)
author Brad Parks
publisher St. Martin's Press
source:  publisher

Sometimes I think I have newsprint in my blood.  Three of my uncles worked in the newspaper business;  one of them even owned a weekly-smalltown paper.  After my dad retired, he helped his brother get the paper out.   I have edited quite a few newsletters.  Therefore, when I discovered Brad Parks' Carter Ross, it was like homecoming for me.

Ross is a report for a New Jersey newspaper.  Even though only 32 years old, enjoys reading the obituaries because it brings a sense of joy to read about people in their 80's and 90's who have lived a full life of success (failures aren't mentioned in obituaries).

One day, Ross reads about a 42-year-old woman who died (oh so young!) suddenly.   He decides to write a human interest story about this woman.  It is not until he goes to the wake when he finds out her sudden death is due to a hit-and-run.

Parks writes with a wry sense of humor and describes his characters very well.  I could easily picture the woman's sister who came from California in bohemian dress and a tic.   This novel tells about people in this New Jersey town and the escapades Ross gets into before the mystery is solved.

March 29, 2013

The Hope Factory - review

The Hope Factory
by Lavanya Sankaran
to be published April 23, 2013
Publisher:  Random House
source:  publisher

India - a country with extreme wealth and extreme poverty.  Bangalore - occupations are outsourcing and manufacturing.

The author, Sankaran, lives in Bangalore.  She writes of what she knows and brings it close to us.   Her book focuses on two main characters and their vastly different lives.

 Anand K. Murthy owns Cauvery Auto, a factory that makes auto parts.  He is preparing for an important meeting with international buyers;  if his factory wins the order, everyone's lives will be transformed.

Kamala is a maid who is in Anand's family.  She has never been in a car but watches proudly when the owner drives by.   Kamala lived in a very dusty construction site with her young son, Narayan.  When Narayan was two-and-a-half, Kamala gave him his first full body bath, bathed herself, and got a job as a maid.    Her goal is for Narayan to have a good education, learn English, and have an office job with a computer.  Narayan, now age 12, has found a way to earn as much money as she does each month.   

The writing is lovely;  the characters are well described.  For a change, this is a book about India which does not focus on arranged marriages or Americans coming back home to India.   

I had to write down the names of the characters, however, beginning with  Anand K. Murthy and Mr. Ananthamurthy, the operations manager of his factory.  It did become confusing with other similar names.  I recommend you do the same.

I'm now going to my favorite Indian restaurant for some lunch, and will ponder on Anand and Kamala and their families. 


March 14, 2013

One Step Too Far - review

One Step Too Far
by Tina Seskis
to be released April 15, 2013
source:  NetGalley

Emily runs away from her husband Ben and Charlie.   Why?  We don't know.  She goes to London,  changes her name to Cat,  finds a place to live and a job.

Different points-of-view are given chapter by chapter.  We see the mother's difficult day of  birth and her shock that it is twins.  We follow the philandering father that same day.  We understand why Emily's identical twin sister Caroline becomes the "evil" twin.  We watch their upbringing.  We also learn a bit about other people Emily/Cat meets. We see what happens the day Emily and Ben marry.

This book has everything:  twists and turns, twins - good and evil, jealousy, pregnancies, adultery.  And above all, a delicious mystery goes throughout, we keep asking why?  Why?  Yes, we do find out why; I was surprised but I won't tell you here. 

While reading the book, I had a hard time remembering the title One Step Too Far.  When I finished, I had an a-ha moment, and the title makes perfect sense.

March 1, 2013

Relish - review

Relish:  My Life in the Kitchen
Lucy Knisley
publisher FirstSecond
This link:  MacMillan  has the first few pages for you to enjoy
available April 2013

Wonderful graphic memoir. Lucy Knisley describes growing up with parents who loved food and passed on that love to her. As a child she moved from New York City to the country, a cultural shock. Her discovery of Junk food was "my most parentally-abhorred rebellion." 

A recipe is drawn in easy-to-follow steps at the end of each chapter; there's a secret topping to make chocolate chip cookies even better. 

She uses the word "relish" three different ways, meanings, in three sentences including a quote from Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. Marvelous book. I'm hungry!

This was my first Lucy Knisley book.  It won't be my last --- I immediately looked to see what else I could find by her.

February 22, 2013

Strong Deaf - review

Strong Deaf
author Lynn McElfresh
publisher Namelos
source NetGalley

Combine sibling rivalry within a "strong Deaf" family that includes a hearing daughter leads the reader to understand a bit about Deaf culture.    Jade is twelve,  her sister Marla fourteen.   Marla attends a residential school for the deaf and comes home for the summer and weekends.   Neither girl likes it when Marla is home, and the rivalry becomes intense.  Their parents and one set of grandparents are Strong Deaf, more about that below.

The story is told from both girls' perspectives.  Jade's narrative is in perfect English.  Marla's is typed as if signed in ASL.  The casual reader may find reading ASL a bit off-putting.  Even though I know ASL, I had a hard time reading it at first.  Consider Marla's narrative as a dialect told through the hands, instead of voicing.

The author does a great job showing unspoken motives behind the characters' actions.   One example:
that summer Dad decides he doesn't want to have to drive to two different softball practices and games.  He, therefore,  convinces the softball league organizer that Jade should be on Marla's team, even though she isn't actually old enough.  His excuse is for Jade to act as an interpreter.   Interpreter?  No way!  This only adds fuel to the fire of sibling rivalry.

The parents are so Strong Deaf that they drive to Gallaudet University when there is an uprising about hiring a new president.   They leave the girls behind with Grandma H (the hearing grandmother).

Lynn McElfresh, the author, herself  had a deaf sister.  She  "was a high-demand babysitter for families with deaf children. As a teenager, Lynn volunteered for Summer School for the Deaf and a deaf Girl Scout troop. Those experiences allowed her to observe a variety of interesting family dynamics between hearing and deaf cultures."

February 21, 2013

New Kids on the Block - review

New Kids on the Block
subtitle:  Five Brothers and a Million Sisters
author:  Nikki Van Noy
published:  October 2012
publisher:  Simon and Schuster - Touchstone
source:  publisher

Ahhh,  every generation of tweens and teens have their idols! squeeeeeal!   For my older cousin, it was Elvis.  For me, the Beatles!  For my middle school students in the early 1990s, it was New Kids on the Block (NKOTB).

Five boys from the Boston area rose from nothing and became the first organic band of young boys from the same area.  Other bands that followed were different because they brought together band members from various locations through talent search.

We follow DannyWood, Donnie Wahlberg, Joe McIntyre,  Jon and Jordan Knight through their childhood and school years.   Busing was mandatory in Boston, so some of the boys met each other in elementary school.   We learn about the band years beginning with Nynuk, the transition effect away from NKOTB in 1994, and finally their reunion.  

In 2008, they played at Madison Square Garden.  In 2011, NKOTB was second on Time's list of Best Comebacks for the year and they became the first pop band ever to play Fenway Park.   Some of the squealing fans, now older women,  are interviewed about their memories.  

As always, it is interesting to see how kids and teens of the past are now adults of the present.

February 19, 2013

Glow - review

publisher Penguin
paperback version to be published February 26
source:  author

 When I opened Glow, I was delighted to see the family tree at the very beginning.  I adore genealogy  and tracing the generations back and forth. 

Ella McGee was born in 1930, and lived in Washington, DC.   Her father is black,  her mother a mixture of Cherokee and Scotch-Irish.   At age 11, her mother sent her back home on a bus to a small town in the Georgia mountains.

Ella disappeared.   There comes a magical meeting with Willie Mae and Mary-Mary who find her.  Are they ghosts?  I don't think this word adequately describes them.

In the course of the book, we meet Riddle Young who was born in 1818.  His mother died in childbirth when he was twelve.  His dad makes him promise to take care of the baby, Emmeline.

What a special weave of stories!  Glow is a mixture of people and the influence their heritage has upon them.   

February 16, 2013

Gods of Mischief - review

Gods of Mischief 
by George Rowe
published February 2013
publisher Touchstone, Simon & Schuster
source:  publisher

I lead such a sheltered life.    Thousands of motorcyclists come to this part of the country for the Honda Hoot or the Gold Wing gathering.   These are friendly gatherings.  We wave to the riders when we see them heading towards the mountains.

The Gods of Mischief are definitely not the same!   They bring terror to communities in California:  barroom brawls, gangs, drugs, murder, especially when they feel they are not "respected".   The federal government wants to bring down the "Green Nation", the Vagos outlaw motorcycle gang.

George Rowe was a "bad boy" who grew up with a very rough childhood.  We learn about Rowe's childhood, including being taken out of school for four years of fishing with his dad.  We learn why he reformed.   We learn how and why he agreed to let the feds convince George to go undercover and infiltrate the Vagos.

Most of the book is written in R-rated language, bordering on X-rated.   This rough language emphasizes the way George, his girlfriend, and the Vagos talk. 

The best part of the book was the details of how Rowe and his family went into the witness protection program.  I sense that Rowe had assistance in writing the book, as he himself said he could barely read and write.  My guess is that the "ghost author" cannot be identified due to the security.

Again, I lead such a sheltered life and am glad to get a glimpse of this type of terror through the printed word, rather than in real life.