Friday, March 17, 2017

Women against Abortion by Karissa Haugeberg

Summary:

Women from remarkably diverse religious, social, and political backgrounds made up the rank-and-file of anti-abortion activism. Empowered by—yet in many cases scared of—the changes wrought by feminism, they founded grassroots groups, developed now-familiar strategies and tactics, and gave voice to the movement's moral and political dimensions.

My take: 2.5 looks

Well-written, but a bit on the dry side. There are lots of facts, accounts, and supporting info, but nothing that ever draws a reader in and makes her (or him) a member of the debate. Would have been perfect for a research paper, but to read a compelling account of the trajectory and growth of the movement was missing here. If I were writing this, I would have treated each chapter as a stage in am embryo's cycle, moving it along and growing it with the anti-abortion movement. Include more word-pictures to make it real to any reader. That was missing, for me.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Summary:

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”


My take: 2.5 looks

There was a great deal of hubbub surrounding this novel upon its release. It was on library waiting lists all over, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. After reading it, I highly recommend Crouch's publicist.

It took me less than 24 hours to read it. That should be seen as a testament more to simple, easy-to-follow writing than an intriguing story.

As a matter of fact, this story, of parallel dimensions, is not a new one at all. From Kate Atkinson's "Life After Life" and Katherine Webb's "The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August", where lives are replayed over and over; or alternate realities like Stephen King's "11/22/63"; or even films like "Sliding doors" and "Groundhog Day"... my point? It's been done before, and it's been done better.

Jason, our protagonist, at one point becomes so narrowly focused on "love" that it is almost like watching a 16-year-old boy try to get his girl.

"He knew he shouldn't open the door, but..."

"He new he shouldn't leave Amanda, but..."

This irritating dependency on feeling rather than thinking, or irrationality versus rationality,... I didn't buy it coming from a physicist. If the book had been longer, or written at a more complicated reading level than about 6th grade, I would not have wasted my time finishing it. As it was, I knew I could blow right through it and mark it from my TBR.

Not recommended.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Cellar by Natasha Preston

Summary:
 Nothing ever happens in the town of Long Thorpe – that is, until sixteen-year-old Summer Robinson disappears without a trace. No family or police investigation can track her down. Spending months inside the cellar of her kidnapper with several other girls, Summer learns of Colin’s abusive past, and his thoughts of his victims being his family…his perfect, pure flowers. But flowers can’t survive long cut off from the sun, and time is running out….

My take: 1 look

Ugh. I had high hopes for this one based on a review I read. However, I know now that the review must have been from a middle-school-girl. 

It has been a few months, but I recently read "The Butterfly Garden" by Dot Hutchison, which is a story along these same lines. Abducted girls who are deemed "perfect", kept by a seemingly normal older man, and the latest addition is very young. When I got to the part where he names them after flowers and eventually has sex with them, I stopped. There was nothing compelling that I could read, especially at 347 pages, that would interest, intrigue, or captivate me that I had not seen a thousand times. It's practically every third "Criminal Minds" episode.

So, skip this one. Read "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" instead. It's better written, more visceral, and you will be more apt to read the series than anything you will find here.

Not recommended.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Good News from GoodReads!!


After what must have been a kitten-ton of comments, GoodReads has added a ReReading feature!

From the GoodReads blog:

How Do I Start Using the Rereading Feature?
Next time you decide to reread a book that you've already marked as Read on Goodreads, simply mark it as Currently Reading. When you are done, just mark it as Read. You can do this from the Goodreads iOS and Android apps and on Goodreads.com, as well as in the About the Book feature on Kindle (if you have connected your Goodreads and Amazon accounts - click here to connect your accounts). We take care of marking it as a reread for you. Bonus, it will also automatically be included in your Reading Challenge.

Rereading Rolling Out In Stages
While it sounds like a simple thing to add, rereading turned out to be a complex engineering challenge that involved our entire database. To give you a sense of that scope, our 60 million members have added more than 1.7 billion books to their shelves! That's why we're rolling out rereading in stages. So, if you're not seeing it yet, you will soon!

How Do I Add All The Times I've Reread My Favorite Books?
On Goodreads.com on desktop, use the brand-new "Add read date" button in My Activity on the Book Page to enter when you read the book; then hit save! (You don't have to have a start date, but you must have a finish year for the book to count toward your Reading Challenge.)

What Happens If I've Been Keeping Track of My Rereads With The "Number of Times Read" Option?
If you previously used the "Number of times read" field, don't worry, we've already done the work for you and all your rereads are still there. If you added a number, it automatically shows in the new feature. If you used text, we've included it in the private notes section of your review. Simply click on edit Review, to change any dates or add more information.

There is more info on the blog post, so I encourage you to visit.

This calls for a toast to GoodReads for listening, responding, and just being awesome! CHEERS!

Monday, January 30, 2017

BOTNS: Winning Reads 2017



It's so difficult to let go of my favorite podcast when they string me along like this. Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness send a monthly email to their faithful followers with a book recommendation from each. Here is what we have this month:





 
A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman

In A Really Good Day, Ayelet Waldman writes about her experimentation with micro-dosing LSD in an effort to cure her debilitating mood swings that had been difficult to control with conventional psychiatric medicine. Micro-dosing (taking a tiny amount of LSD every few days) does not give the kinds of psychadelic effects that we tend to associate with LSD, and Waldman explains, with the help of experts, the history of LSD and its potential uses that may never be made available because of governmental regulations about research.

This is also a memoir of how Waldman's marriage (to novelist Michael Chabon, though she never names him in the book) was strained by her mood disorder, and how her experiment with LSD may be the thing that saves it.

This book is truly fascinating and, I confess, had me wondering for a moment if maybe I knew a guy...


I love that Kingman, before introducing the book, prefaces with this:

I debated whether or not to include this book in our prize package, since I don't know the winners personally and I didn't want them to think that I was advocating for the use of illegal drugs. But in the end, I loved it so much, and it's not really about illegal drug use in the standard way, and most readers are open minded, so here we are.

She is sensitive to her readers, but also acknowledges our reading maturity, ability to decide for ourselves, and in general, gives us the power to choose. That is respect. Thanks, Ann.

Kindness is next with this suggestion:

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsay Lee Johnson

Though I think The Most Dangerous Place on Earth had its title early on, the plot was a mystery to me. That's a good thing because I think if I had known what it was about beforehand, I might not have read it. And that would have been a shame.

Lindsey Lee Johnson's debut novel is the story of a group of teens at a high school in affluent Marin County, CA. At first, the characters appear to fit into the usual high school stereotypes: the A-student, the athlete, the bad-boy screwup, the once-popular, now-ostracized girl. But in this novel, no one is quite what they seem, making them all the more real.

But back to why I wouldn't have wanted to read it if I'd known the plot. At the heart of the story is Tristan Bloch, a shy outcast and the target of online bullying. As a parent, the tragedies of this book were nearly too much to bear. But Lindsey Lee Johnson's writing makes this book worth the pain.


Again, a simple yet poignant warning to the reader that this will not be an easy journey, especially if you are a parent. However, if you choose to, you may just be a better person for it.  

And with that, you can see why I still miss this weekly podcast from these two exceptional readers. I have downloaded both of these, and added to my TBR. Let me know what you decide!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Himself by Jess Kidd

Summary:

When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the village’s lies.
My take: 4 looks

For a debut novel, this one hits it, if not out of the park, at least to the wall. The opening chapter is a combination of all of my favorite genres: mystery, action, magical realism, and fantasy. You see, there is a young mother with her child running from a murderous cad. She doesn't make it, but the forest hides the child so the cad won't find him.

That's right! The forest hides him!

Fast forward thirty years, and he is back. With the help of some very interesting and colorful characters, as well as more than a few undesireables trying to thwart his efforts, he returns to Mulderrig to unearth the truth.

Oh, and did I mention that he sees dead people?

Highly recommended.

Thanks to NetGalley for this copy in exchange for my honest review. Published in October 2016, the book is available through Canongate Books.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Summary:

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab.

Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

My take: 2 looks

Egad. This book read like a season of Dallas or Dynasty, two prime time television soap operas in the 1980s. The story follows four siblings straight out of a caricature: Melody is an overachieving helicopter mom, Bea is a talented writer with no self esteem, Jack is quintessentially gay, and Leo is a larcenous cad. Cue the close-ups of each face as they discover that Leo's latest antics have siphoned their inheritance, and let the games begin.

Not compelling in any way, the story is a tired one, full of shock, lies, betrayal, and slight-of-hand. Of course, it is tied up neatly in the epilogue so that everyone lives happily ever after. That gives me some hope: there will be no sequel.

Not recommended.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Image result for nutshell ianSummary:

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse but John's not here. Instead, she's with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month old resident of Trudy's womb. 

My take: 3 looks

Brilliant premise: the story is narrated by an unborn child. He can hear what goes on around him, as well as feeling his mother's feelings, and noting her heart rhythm and adrenaline surges. He is also very aware of her alcohol consumption and none-too-happy with the high activity level of her sex life.

Writing: I found the wiring to be a touch verbose, overly descriptive. However, at less than 200 pages, the editor of this one was probably hesitant to cut too much.

Overall: It was a fast and easy read, albeit unexceptional. I recommend it if you need a quick "palate cleanser" to assist in getting over a book hangover. Otherwise, look past this one.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

David Bowie had a reading list?

Heck, yes! Superstar musician and brilliant performer David Bowie was a prolific reader. As a matter of fact, it is said that he took all 400 books in his then-collection when he went on location to film "The Man Who Fell to Earth."

That set a pattern of taking a travelling library on tour and Bowie said: "I had these cabinets – it was a travelling library – and they were rather like the boxes that amplifiers get packed up in. . .  because of that period, I have an extraordinarily good collection of books."

When Vanity Fair asked him “What is your idea of perfect happiness?” he responded simply “reading.”

In 2013, Bowie posted his 100 favorite books on his public Facebook page. The list is a characteristically eclectic list featuring everyone from Junot Diaz and George Orwell to Angela Carter and Muriel Spark.

To find the complete list, look no farther than his official site. I can think of no better tribute on this one year anniversary to The Thin White Duke than to delve into the list, and then into one of the books.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Waking Gods (Themis Files, #2)Summary:

In the gripping sequel to Sleeping Giants, which was hailed by Pierce Brown as “a luminous conspiracy yarn . . . reminiscent of The Martian and World War Z,” Sylvain Neuvel’s innovative series about human-alien contact takes another giant step forward.

My take: 5 looks

Again, any book read in one sitting gets an automatic 5 looks. I was a little hesitant to read this one without refamiliarizing myself with the first in the series, "Sleeping Giants", but no fear. While it would have been a bit richer to build on the characterizations of the main players, it was not necessary to dive right into the story. Enough background was provided to jog my memory. However, I do recommend reading these in sequence.

I remembered the first book being quite the exciting rollercoaster ride, and this was the same. Written in epistolary form, the science fiction-heavy story is made personal and easy to follow. I am not a huge fan of science fiction because I get bogged down in the science, unfamiliar words, and implausibility of the scenarios. Neuvel makes this science fiction feel very real and possible, and brings the genre home to readers like me.

A few of my fave lines:
Scientists are like children: They always want to know everything, they all ask too many questions, and they never follow orders to the letter.
Believing you're the only person with their head on straight is usually not a sign of good mental health.

This is highly recommended, and is available April 4th, 2017, by Del Rey.

Many thanks to NetGally for an advance copy in exchange for my review.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

Lillian Boxfish Takes a WalkSummary:

It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.

As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America—a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.

A love letter to city life—however shiny or sleazy—Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.

My take: 5 looks

My first finished book of 2017 was a winner! I was dazzled and intrigued by the title, and the fact that Lillian is an octogenarian, taking a walk through Manhattan on New Year's Eve, made it that much more compelling. Rooney's writing is fluid and strong, witty and poignant. I very much wanted to meet Lillian at the beginning of the book, and I felt as if I had met her when I finished the last page. Lillian's personality, retorts, perfect timing, and sense of style came together to paint quite a character.

Imagine my surprise and delight upon discovering that Lillian Boxfish was patterned after a real person! Margaret Fishback Antolini (March 10, 1900 – September 25, 1985) was a published writer of prose and poetry, worked for Macy's in the advertising department, was reportedly the highest-paid female ad copywriter during the 1930s, and married the chief rug buyer from Macy's, which whom she had one son.

Because of the strong writing and compelling characterization of this fictionalized night in the life of a real person, I am looking forward to reading Fishback's books, and finding out more about this intriguing woman. A book that springboards to additional reading and research is the best kind of book!

Highly recommended.

Many thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.