Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Memory of Love by Linda Olsson

Marion Flint, in her early fifties, has spent fifteen years living a quiet life on the rugged coast of New Zealand, a life that allows the door to her past to remain firmly shut. But a chance meeting with a young boy, Ika, and her desire to help him force Marion to open the Pandora’s box of her memory.

My take: 5 looks

Oh, how I love this author's writing. It is like sitting on a float in the water, gently moving in the direction the water desires, while you just relax into it. And since much of this story takes place on the beach, that is a appropriate analogy.

The Memory of Love is all about coming to terms with old memories while making new ones. As Marion's present person is challenged and changed, her past person also unfurls like a newly-born fern frond. A mixture of tragic souls converge on a beach in a remote and tightly-knit town. These three have this in common: they are all outsiders and have no one else.

Written with simplicity, this is a story of the heart. With a bit of a surprise twist toward the end, Olsson writes a moving and well-told story of love, loss and finally redemption, often from the most unexpected sources.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Egad! But time does march on...

Where on EARTH has the time gone? There have been personal issues and challenges that I will not detail, but suffice it to say that I have missed the written word.

In my short hiatus, I have taken to rereading some old, comfortable, and familiar favorites. Jan Karon's Mitford Series always soothes an internal tempest. Dorothea Benton Frank's "The Christmas Pearl" is a delight at the holidays, and leaves me wishing I possessed some Christmas Magic. Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End" reminds me that even at one's sunset, there is beauty on which to reflect.

As true as a lover's shoulder, as pure as a child's delight, and as enticing as a beautifully wrapped gift, these treasures never fail me.

As we enter the holiday season, dearest reader and friend, may your days be merry and bright. I will bring forth new reviews, new words with which to play, and always my own insights into this crazy reading world in the new year.

Happy Reading!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn


I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her. The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club . . . and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.

My take: 2 stars

I just can't jump on the Gillian Flynn bandwagon, and this book gets me no closer to liking this author. The story is presented from several points of view, and goes back and forth in time in alternating chapters. Flynn's writing is loose and cumbersome, and could have used a little more editing to tighten up the storyline, while adding space for necessary character development. I found that I could skim quite heavily without missing a beat.

The characters were also very flat. Libby is a grown woman now and stunted emotionally by her past. I didn't feel the desperation from Patty as a single mom struggling to make ends meet that I think Flynn intended. While Runner was a rascal, he was almost comical in his singular focus on asking for money - like a caricature. The depictions of the daughters read like an afterthought and lacked the detail and depth that could have garnered sympathy from me. Ben was a compilation of every wayward male teen I've ever seen in the movies.

The climax was completely unbelievable, and the viewpoints of the peripheral characters at the end felt manufactured to facilitate the reader's belief in the wrap-up. The only group that I was interested in as a "real" portrayal was the Kill Club. If the rest of the characters were as real as these members seemed, it would have been a much better book. This is probably my last Flynn novel.

Not recommended.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Silver Crown by Robert C. O'Brien


On her tenth birthday, Ellen wakes up to find a silver crown on her pillow; a few minutes later her house burns up, her parents disappear, and she is launched on an adventure involving a trek through the woods, a castle full of brainwashed captives, and the powerful Hieronymus Machine which wants her crown.

My take: 3 looks

This was a fun, well-written book. Specifically for the younger reader, the book is a page-turner with lots of action and rich characters.

The protagonist, Ellen, finds a fast friend in Otto, as she sets out on an adventure that may or may not end up with her being the queen of ... well, something.

Very entertaining, and a book this size and this pleasant to read is sure to encourage tentative readers to read more.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Author Spotlight: Linda Olsson

When I first picked up Linda Olsson's novel Astrid & Veronika, I was drawn to the cover. The simplicity of the photograph, along with the simplicity of the title. And yet, there were so many layers to these two things.

The cover of the book is a pair of hands holding picked fruit. The colors are stunning. Creamy white hands and blood red berries. Light blue at the top of the photo, and black at the bottom.

And the title: the names of two women. Not only names, but unusual and old-fashioned names, at least by today's standards in the United States.

The book promised so much, just in the cover visual. I was not disappointed. I read this book and fell in love with the author.

When Linda Olsson was invited to speak about this book, this is what she posted on her webpage:

There is the landscape, the seasons, the land. My native Sweden. In a sense perhaps the book is a love letter to the country where I was born. Perhaps it is a letter of farewell. But, more importantly, I think it is a book about friendship. The novel tells a story of an unusual and unexpected friendship. It describes the strength that is to be found in friendship, the comfort and perhaps the love. It describes how a deep friendship can be found and developed anywhere, anytime, at any stage in our lives and between persons who may superficially seem to have very little in common.

Because of the simple manner in which she writes, her stories are personal, completely relatable, and poignant. When I say "simple", I mean that Ms. Olsson does not rely on archaic words and seldom-used phrases that put some authors out of reach. Her words are charged with visions, emotions, and longings. Her descriptions enable you see clearly in your mind's eye where the characters reside, make your mouth water when they prepare meals, and tug at your heart when there are joys or conflicts.

Only a few authors are able to reach me in this way, and I have added each of her published novels to my collection. As a matter of fact, when I see one available, I purchase it to give away. I want everyone to find what I have in her works.

I hope you will seek out Linda Olsson and add her to your reading list.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman


THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac - as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly's wing, as dangerous as a knife in the dark, from storytelling genius Neil Gaiman. It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

My take: 5 looks

A fairy tale for adults - perfection!

As a 7-year-old boy, the narrator experiences situations, people, and creatures he had only ever read of. A malevolent spirit is awakened in the forest, and makes a way to follow him home, inserting herself in his world as her new playground. When Lettie, his new friend from down the lane realizes that she had a hand in this creature's presence, she determines to send it home.

And it goes from there. A novella written with several layers of meaning, I found what I think is the heart of the story on page 112:

"I'm going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the while wide world."

And there-in lies my love for this book. Gaiman hits it right on the head. Grown-ups need fairy tales, too, and here he delivers a grand one!

Highly recommended.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz


Enter the world of the Pendleton: The original owner became a recluse - and was rumored to be more than half mad - after his wife and two children disappeared in 1897 and were never found. The second owner suffered a worse tragedy in 1935, when his house manager murdered him, his family, and the entire live-in staff....
Craftsmen and laborers working on renovations disappear or go mad....
For years, the Pendleton is a happy place, until a bad turn comes again....
Voices in unknown languages are heard in deserted rooms, everywhere and nowhere....
Disturbing shadows move along walls but have no source....
Images on security monitors show strange places that exist nowhere in the building or its grounds....
A young boy talks of an imaginary playmate - who turns out to be terrifyingly real....
A figure like a man but clearly inhuman is glimpsed in the courtyard gardens at night and in other locales, perhaps a hoaxer of some kind, seemingly oblivious of those who see it - until it suddenly takes an interest in one of them....

My take: 2 looks

To end my October Scary Reads, I chose a book by Dean Koontz, usually a master of suspense and horror. Unfortunately, I didn't choose wisely.

While this looks great on the summary-level, the story is extremely cumbersome and in need of editing. Koontz overuses terms that are so unique that they should be use sparingly, like "they are legion". Well into the second half of the book, he continues to introduce new characters, while seemingly casting what were major players to the side.

In the end, when the reader finds out exactly what is happening, why it is happening, and when it is happening, it elicits less of an eye-popping and more of an eye-rolling reaction. With so many other quality horror novels out there, this one is...

Not recommended.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Fury by Salman Rushdie


Malik Solanka, historian of ideas and world-famous dollmaker, steps out of his life one day, abandons his family in London without a word of explanation, and flees for New York. There's a fury within him, and he fears he has become dangerous to those he loves. He arrives in New York at a time of unprecedented plenty, in the highest hour of America's wealth and power, seeking to "erase" himself. But fury is all around him. Fury is a work of explosive energy, at once a pitiless and pitch-black comedy, a profoundly disturbing inquiry into the darkest side of human nature, and a love story of mesmerizing force. It is also an astonishing portrait of New York. Not since the Bombay of Midnight's Children have a time and place been so intensely and accurately captured in a novel.

My take: Not finished

I am putting this one down. I have vacillated between finishing/not finishing long enough, and reached my decision this morning.

Why put it down? Because it's an exhausting read. It's the non-stop self-pitying rant of an extremely wealthy man who can't find happiness. A man who abandons his wife and son (after thinking seriously of murdering the former) in London for the fury of New York. In a nutshell, he wants the fury of New York to overpower the fury he feels within himself.

What I suspect is a thinly veiled autobiography (and you know how I hate those, Holden Caulfield), Fury is full of beautiful writing and wonderful quotes for publishers about the excess of America. However, it descends quickly into whining. Beautifully written, irrepressible whining.

It is not very popular to dislike Rushdie's writing. People think of him as so esoteric, on a different plane, writing at a higher level than most. Perhaps his vocabulary is larger than the average fiction reader, but that only serves to give his writing a sense of arrogance. I can imagine him writing and thinking, "No one understands me. No one will "get" this."

This was the first Rushdie book I have tried, and I will more than likely try another one. After all, perhaps some of his earlier writing, before he was jaded by wealth and beautiful women half his age, will prove to be a bit more accessible for us common folk.

Not recommended.

Friday, October 23, 2015

House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker


 Enter House - where you'll find yourself thrown into a killer's deadly game in which the only way to win is to lose...and the only way out is in. The stakes of the game become clear when a tin can is tossed into the house with rules scrawled on it. Rules that only a madman - or worse - could have written. Rules that make no sense yet must be followed. One game. Seven players. Three rules. Game ends at dawn.

My take: 3 looks


Entertaining and fast read of yet another "game" in a creepy house with strangers brought together under suspicious circumstances.

The difference with this one is that it's Christian fiction, which gives it a bit of a different flavor and none of the gore, sex, or language that you'd find in a Clive Barker, Joe Hill, or Stephen King book.

With an interesting twist that the horrors in the house are of the guests' own making, with sin directly from their own souls, this delivers frights of the supernatural kind. Angels? Check. Demons? Check. Good vs Evil? Check.

However, it wouldn't be Christian fiction without a salvation message. Of course, in the course of the game, two players see their need for Jesus and it ends well for them. The others? Not so much. What happens to the house? Well, I guess you'll have to read it to find out.

It's a very quick and easy read. It probably won't change your life, but it's a recommended read for Halloween month.

Oh! And there is also a movie! Released in 2008, you can watch the trailer here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Now active on TWO book sites

I have long fought duplicating my reading/reviewing efforts on more than one book site, but, ALAS, I now find it necessary to do just that.

Shelfari is my site of choice. I have spent more time there, and find it much less cluttered than goodreads . Unfortunately for me, goodreads seems to have more author activity and traffic. I have also noticed that book bloggers and reviewers seem to prefer goodreads .

With that in mind, I am in NO WAY abandoning my Shelfari. I am sure I will always prefer it because it was my "first love", but I will now post book reviews and ratings in both places.

My Shelfari Profile

My goodreads Profile

I have spend a few days copying reviews from Shelfari to goodreads, and have done all of my titles A-L. I will work to get the rest on there, and then will continue to maintain both sites.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Time and Again by Jack Finney


"Sleep. And when you awake everything you know of the twentieth century will be gone from your mind. Tonight is January 21, 1882. There are no such things as automobiles, no planes, computers, television. 'Nuclear' appears in no dictionary. You have never heard the name Richard Nixon." Did illustrator Si Morley really step out of his twentieth-century apartment one night -- right into the winter of 1882? The U.S. Government believed it, especially when Si returned with a portfolio of brand-new sketches and tintype photos of a world that no longer existed -- or did it?

My take: 2 looks

My goodness. I'm glad that's over. Not that this is a bad book ... or badly written. It is neither. Maybe it just wasn't my cup of tea. First of all, I am a very literal thinker, and to suspend belief that self-hypnosis will actually and literally place you in the past was something I could never quite attain. If I am reading about vampires, I know that they don't exist, so there is really no suspension of belief needed. There was never any belief to begin with. With this one, though ...

Si is a likable character, as is Julia. Rube and Dr. Danziger are likable enough on the periphery. Kate played a big role in the beginning and then just disappeared. I never felt any compassion or affinity for any of the characters. I was never invested in whether or not the project continued, whether or not Julia married Jake, or whether or not Si ever accomplished his goals. The twist at the end left me neither hot nor cold.

I can't say that I don't recommend the book, but there are so many other books out there with time travel which I found to be more engaging. I would recommend those, instead. I will not be reading any further in this series.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time. She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born. It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past?

My take: 5 looks

One of my favorite authors, Lisa Lutz has ventured out of the realm of the Spellman family and tried her hand at an honest-to-goodness thriller/mystery. And she succeeds.

At first, the reader has no idea who this woman is, what her role will be in the book, and whether she truly is innocent of anything. One thing is for sure, Tanya Dubois seems to know how to run, how to change her looks, and how to use her wits to survive. Enter Ryan, who seems to be a love interest from the past. Enter Blue, who seems to be much more than a barkeep. Enter Oliver, who seems to be a very bad guy somehow connected to Tanya's mother.

The story is propelled forward by Tanya's running from relentless pursuers. She manages to stay one step ahead of them by using her skills at identity theft and knowing just how long she can impersonate someone. Blue turns out to be more than a secondary character, and I fluctuated almost the entire book on whether or not to trust her. Turns out, I still don't know.

What we have here is very good, very tight writing. The story was wound up nicely, but with long threads left loose, perhaps for a sequel. I can only hope.

Highly recommended when published March, 2016.

Many thanks to NetGalley for this Advance Reader Copy in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Out on the Wire by Jessica Abel

Image result for out on the wire

Go behind the scenes of seven of today’s most popular narrative radio shows and podcasts, including This American Life and RadioLab, in graphic narrative. Every week, millions of devoted fans tune in to or download This American Life, The Moth, Radiolab, Planet Money, Snap Judgment, Serial, Invisibilia and other narrative radio shows. Using personal stories to breathe life into complex ideas and issues, these beloved programs help us to understand ourselves and our world a little bit better. Each has a distinct style, but every one delivers stories that are brilliantly told and produced.

 Out on the Wire offers an unexpected window into this new kind of storytelling—one that literally illustrates the making of a purely auditory medium. With the help of This American Life 's Ira Glass, Jessica Abel, a cartoonist and devotee of narrative radio, uncovers just how radio producers construct narrative, spilling some juicy insider details.

My take: 3 looks

Podcasts and narrative radio are genres that are changing the way listeners get information. A wide variety of topics, appealing to a vast audience doesn't just happen, but is born of much work and preparation.

Jessica Abel's graphic book is a great format for a book on how visual radio is, and how much work goes into a story. Wow! I had no idea that there were so many components to work out before going on the air, from the story pitch to the timing of the pieces, to the music used to support the tone. The nuances like segues from story to story are something that I have forever taken for granted. Now I know how many people it takes to make these shows work.

But that is not all. Abel uses a wonderfully visual format to get all of the information to the reader. Laid out like how I imagine storyboards are prepared, I almost felt like a voyeur in a graphic world. A topic introduced in one chapter shows up again in another chapter, as that story goes through the entire process of conception to presentation. The personal reflections of those intimately involved in this genre add to the down-home feel of the book.

The only drawback I had in reading this is that I felt that it was a little long. In the effort to bring it from informational only to something understandable to the lay-reader, I got a little bogged down more than once. I don't fault Abel with this, however. She has taken a very intricate subject, laden with components and options that would otherwise make my head spin, and placed it within my grasp.

If you love listening to these shows and podcasts, this is a book that you must add to you shelf.

Many thanks to for this copy in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bookish Amusement Parks

From sea to shining sea, there have been (at one time for another) a number of book-themed parks. Interestingly enough, most were called a variation of "Storybook Land". Here are a few.

This handsome fella is in the Land of Oz, located in Storybook Land, Aberdeen, SD. This park is over 200 acres and is open during the warmer months. Dorothy and her friends greet you at the entrance to the Land of Oz, where you follow a yellow brick road to the rest of the park. You can live through a simulated tornado experience, See where Dorothy was raised, and take a ride on a Wizard balloon. Elsewhere in the park, Captain Hook's boat, Old McDonald, and Goldilocks await you.

Back in the day near Mt. Vernon, VA, Story Book Land was a nice day trip for kids to see Mother Goose brought to life. There was a crooked man who lived in a crooked house, Little Red Riding Hood at her grandmother's house, Little Bo Peep walking her sheep, and Humpty Dumpty before his tragic fall. However, this park has fallen into disrepair since closing in the early 1980s.

Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township, NJ, however, is alive and well! Greeted at the entrance by Mother Goose, with directions to other classic stories, this park has been in service since 1955. Catering to young children and families, there are holiday-themed events, lots of rides for the kids, and a pretty conservative list of policies to ensure a good, clean time for all.

Right down the road in Hope township, NJ, is the Land of Make Believe, which caters to children ages 8 and under. There is a pirate ship, a civil war train, a pint-sized roller coaster, and a petting zoo.

Oakland, CA boasts Children's Fairyland, with close to 60 storybook sets on 10 acres. There is a puppet theater with daily shows, a Jack and Jill hill for sliding, and a huge gaping mouth of Willy the Whale.

Of course, a special shout-out to all things Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. At a cost of over $200M, this is a crazy-over-the-top book experience

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wednesday Word: Enmity

noun en·mi·ty \ˈen-mə-tē\

1 : positive, active, and typically mutual hatred or ill will

Origin of ENMITY
Middle English enmite, from Anglo-French enemité, enemisté, from enemi enemy
First Known Use: 13th century

This word is used in the Bible, and I came across it in my studies the other day. To be at enmity with someone is to be at odds with them. The use of the word "hatred" in the Merriam-Webster definition above would seem to be a bit harsher than I would normally attribute to this word.

Another definition would be: the state or feeling of being actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.

That is more in line with what I intend when I use this word.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica


"I've been following her for the past few days.  I know where she buys her groceries, where she  works. I don't know the color of her eyes or  what they look like when she's scared. But I will." 

One night, Mia Dennett enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. At first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life. 

When Colin decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota instead of delivering her to his employers, Mia's mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them. But no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family's world to shatter.  

My take: 4 looks

The story is all about Mia and Eve, Colin and Gabe. Mia is on the verge of her 25th birthday and, unlike her sister Grace, has eschewed the powers and comforts that come with being in the family of a powerful and influential judge. Eve is a British expat who has left behind her culture, her family, and her backbone in order to become the perfect wife to a judge.

On the other hand, Colin is a likable criminal, doing what he feels he needs to do to survive, including kidnapping Mia to hand over to a very bad guy. Gabe is the detective making it his life's mission to find Colin and put him behind bars, returning Mia to what seems to be an idyllic life.

Written in first-person narrative, both before and after the "event", the reader is privy to the internal thoughts, struggles, and backgrounds of each of these characters, culminating in a climax, which is then surpassed by a twist guaranteed to set your mind spinning.

Highly recommended.

Monday, October 12, 2015

18 Horror Novels Every True Fan Should Read Before Watching The Movie Version

Thanks to BuzzFeed Books for this incredible list!

1. Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (1988)
Because fans of Hannibal Lecter will enjoy how the story dives deeper into his character.
2. The Shining by Stephen King (1977)
It offers more backstory than the movie, and it’s guaranteed to leave you tense with suspenseful anxiety.
3. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin (1967)
Because the story offers details the movie left behind all while building creepy, intense anticipation.
4. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson (1977)
Because the descriptive imagery of this story will give you even *more* chills than the movie.
5. Psycho by Robert Bloch (1959)
The details within the pages provide insight that will make the movie a more chilling experience.
6. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971)
The story offers a deeper sense of the characters and successfully capitalizes on these terrifying events.
7. It by Stephen King (1986)
Aside from King being a profound storyteller, you’ll quickly become invested in the haunting, unputdownable plotline of this novel.
8. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1879)
Because it’s a classic, but also because you experience this well-known story through intriguing letters and journal entries.
9. (The) Ring by Koji Suzuki (1991)
The story is even more unsettling than the movie. Plus it’s also a trilogy… so the horror doesn’t have to end with the first book.
10. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum (1989)
As a fictional story based on true events, it provides an even more disturbing look into the minds of twisted sociopaths.
11. House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker (2006)
You quickly become invested in the characters, and the unexpected twists will have you tearing through the pages.
12. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1983)
Because the writing is gorgeous, atmospheric, and the intensity of the plot will keep your heart racing.
13. Ghost Story by Peter Straub (1979)
You’re able to learn more about these characters and experience classic, bone-chilling horror writing at its finest.
14. Carrie by Stephen King (1974)
Because you’re able to gain a deeper understanding of these well-known characters while immersing yourself in brilliantly creepy writing.
15. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (1976)
Because Rice’s writing is rich and intriguing, and you’re able to indulge more fully into this world.
16. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
Because the story takes a better look at creation and humanization, and it’s easy to become invested in Shelley’s characters.
17. 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles (2001)
This graphic novel is visually gorgeous with a tense, suspenseful storyline
18. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991)
Because you get a closer, even more disturbing look inside the mind of America’s most famous psychopath.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

N0S4A2 by Joe Hill


Charlie Manx burned a man to death in his black 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith, but that’s not the worst of it. Rumor has it that he kidnapped dozens of children, taking them to a place he calls “Christmasland.” The only child ever to escape was a very lucky girl named Victoria McQueen. Vic has a gift – she can ride her bike through the Shorter Way bridge and she’ll come out the other side wherever she needs to be, even if it’s hundreds of miles away. Vic doesn’t tell anyone about her ability; no one would understand. When Charlie Manx finally dies after years in prison, his body disappears...after the autopsy. The police and media think someone stole it, but Vic knows the truth: Charlie Manx is on the road again...and he has her kid. And this time, Vic McQueen’s going after him...

My take: 4 looks

Probably the longest book I've ever read, it was a humdinger! Joe Hill has the honor of writing the scariest book I've ever read: Heart-Shaped Box. With that in mind, it was a natural choice for me to read this in the month of October.

I was not disappointed. This son of horror king Stephen King, the writing styles are very similar. Hill takes time to develop his characters, set the stage, and build anticipation, stress, and ... did I say anticipation?

Victoria finds a way to find lost things, but at a cost. A cost that she doesn't see until it is almost too late. Her father blows things up for a living, including his marriage. Lou is a big 'ole teddy bear that we would all like to invite over for a beer. Charlie Manx and Bing Partridge are evil incarnate. On the periphery, Maggie is a completely likable drug-addict-turned-prostitute, and Agent Hutter is a no-nonsense profiler who listens to her gut when she most needs to. All of these characters meld to make one helluva story.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Wednesday Word: Apathy

noun ap·a·thy \ˈa-pə-thē\

1 :  lack of feeling or emotion :  impassiveness
2 :  lack of interest or concern

As many of you know, I am battling a sense of apathy at my local library.

To update you, I sent an email to our mayor and asked to be appointed to the Library Board. Of course, and I should have considered this, the board specifics are governed by the Code of Alabama, and our mayor is tied by its binds.

So, I asked him to send to me a list of the current members, and the minutes from the last two meetings. I also listed a number of things that could be implemented without regard to funding. He promised to speak to the library director about these items.

I will keep you posted!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Martin Vargic's Map of Literary Genres

I stumbled upon an incredibly clever Map of Literary Genre's by 17-year old Martin Vargic, and the more I looked at it ... well, my heart fairly skipped a beat!

You may see it here:

Huffington Post Books Article Here

The article points out that Vargic maps based on how we live, as opposed to where.

<sigh!> Just look at it! Young Adult is across the Character Sea from Children, where Mother Goose is due north of L. Frank Baum. On the coast of the Dystopian Sea is Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card and Jules Verne.

I could spend hours looking at this! Well done, my young man!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Centuries of June by Keith Donohue

Face down on the bathroom floor after "a conk on the skull," Jack, the narrator of Donohue's unconventional latest, embarks on an epic and darkly funny journey through time and space without traveling much beyond his own bathroom.

My take: 3.5 looks

I don't like to give 1/2 looks, but this one demanded it. Falling past 3 looks, but just short of 4, this was a book that held my attention, but seemed to take a long time for me to read.

The book opens with Jack having a terrible blow to the head, and while he is lying on the bathroom floor feeling the blood seeping my his body, things being to get kind of weird. Visited by seven women, from different time periods and various backgrounds, each tells a story of their lives and lost loves.

Most of the action takes place in the bathroom of Jack's home.
There is also a mystery man who resembles Jack's father, or perhaps he is author Samuel Beckett; Jack can't be sure. There is also the mystery of an eighth woman lying on the bed in Jack's bedroom. He finds her vaguely familiar, but she keeps her back to him, and he can't quite remember why he should know her. And that cat which always seems to show up...

The title is clever in that it doesn't really draw on the characters or story, but instead embraces a feeling that we have all experienced:

That is what I longed for, what I needed. Another June, another eternal summer stretching out before me and a chance to recover. Centuries of June, life by life, bring the primrose of another beginning.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Younger by Suzanne Munshower

When PR pro Anna Wallingham gets dumped by her last client, she finds herself running out of options in LA, where looks trump experience. Desperate to prove she is still relevant, the fiftysomething accepts a shady job offer from Pierre Barton, secretive billionaire owner of Barton Pharmaceuticals.

Isolated in a facility outside London, she agrees to test a new top-secret product guaranteed to make her look thirty years younger. Anna is starting to look on the outside the way she feels on the inside: ageless. But she soon discovers that her predecessor died under mysterious circumstances, leading her to research just who stands to gain—and lose—with this miraculous product. When Pierre drops dead in front of her, she takes off on a dangerous journey across Europe hoping to stay alive long enough to uncover the truth. With the hard-won knowledge that younger isn’t always better, Anna is determined to escape and reclaim her life before it’s too late.

My take: 4 looks

This book was a fast and easy read. Built around the vanity of (primarily) American women, a revolutionary beauty product promises what so many desire: youthful looks. With an interesting cast of characters and many turns of events, it is hard to know whom Anna should trust. Her name has been changed twice, she has a variety of passports, an ironclad nondisclosure agreement, and she keeps running into an MI6 agent. Oh, and is it her imagination, or is she being followed?

Tapping into the truth that we all must face aging, the constraints that society puts on older women, and the exceptional lengths that some will go to to retard that process, this is a very timely and relevant book, aside from the mystery and intrigue of the story.

A compelling story with a twist at the end, this is highly recommended.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Banned Books Week: Yes, it's still happening

Ruth Graham wrote a column in Slate magazine titled "Banned Books Week is a Crock", with the subtitle, "That’s good news! No one bans books anymore. We won!"

Unfortunately, this kind of ignorant statement can be expected from a columnist who intimated in 2014 that adults should feel embarrassed if they read books written for young adults or children. I can only come to the conclusion that Slate keeps her on their list of writers to troll readers. After all, controversy many times increases readership.

And therein lies the sweet irony. When a book is challenged, even if it is not ultimately pulled from the shelves, a firestorm of activity ensues, with the publisher and author usually coming out victorious.

Author Ted Dawe with a copy of his banned book Into the River.
Case in point: New Zealand's Office of Film and Literature Classification (where the head is called the Chief Censor) placed an "interim restriction" on Ted Dawe's YA book "Into the River".

Interim Restriction = BANNED. You can get details on it here and here,

Dawe himself supports the "Streisand effect" in this statement: The censorship of my award-winning young adult novel, Into The River, made me a minor literary celebrity. All I wanted was to get working-class boys to read.

You see, while books may only be challenged in the United States, they are, indeed, still banned around the world, and in places that may be surprising (like New Zealand). Banned Books Week is not about bringing life to a dead topic. It is about maintaining a spotlight on what Americans hold dear, and people everywhere should be able to enjoy: FREEDOM.

I am going now to get my copy of Dawe's book!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Banned Books Week: Why does it matter?

Why should you be interested it keeping ALL books on the shelves?

A Book Challenge: Why Banned Books Week MattersBecause we need to protect the freedom to read whatever we want; and, that includes explicit, suggestive, disgusting, violent, and everything else under the sun of which writing consists. You are not endorsing the books. You are endorsing the freedom of choice.

For example, I will more than likely never read 50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James. Not because it's erotica; not because it's subject matter is S&M. I will probably never read it because I have read so many reviews that state it is just plain bad writing. I don't have time for that. Otherwise, I probably would have read the first one, just to see what all the hype was about. That's the same reason I read Twilight by Stephenie Meyers and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. However, they didn't interest me, and I didn't read any further in their respective series.

Here are a few others that I remember, off the top of my head:
  • Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs - It took weeks for disturbing images to leave me.
  • Guts by Chuck Palahniuk - I am still disgusted whenever I think of it.
  • Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris - One objectionable story left me crossing this author off any further reading.
  • The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan - How many ways can you describe anal sex, anyway?
The author on the movie set of Naked Lunch.
Here's the thing: My list may make you go out and explore some of these titles. And you should! To read is to think. To think is to consider. To consider is to grow. I am not a bad person because I read those books. I am not damaged emotionally, and my intellect grew a bit with each one. Would I undo reading them? Not for a moment.

I kept my son from reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote in 8th grade. I didn't think he was ready for the violence, and nuanced relationships discussed in the pages. However, now that he is older, I would encourage him wholeheartedly to read it, and would love to discuss it with him.

Additionally, I didn't request that it be removed from the 8th grade suggested reading list. That was not up to me. That is a line that does not and cannot be allowed to be crossed in this country.

Individual freedom of choice. If you want to read what someone else would consider objectionable, that should be up to you.

Remember, it's ultimately NOT about books, but about FREEDOM.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Banned Books Week's Wednesday Word: Smut

noun \ˈsmət\
obscene language or matter

Most books are challenged because someone finds something offensive about the story, language, or characters. Much of the time, it's considered obscene. In the old days, we called that "smut".

Listen to what Tom Lehrer thinks about banning smut, in all forms:

This was filmed in 1967, so there has been a faction of people speaking on behalf of intellectual freedom for decades. Lehrer uses the word "pornography", the definition of which we have honed a bit in modern usage. In 1967, it was anything that may "arouse the prurient interests of the average person." Today, it means more alone the lines of  anything that serves to "show or describe naked people or sex in a very open and direct way in order to cause sexual excitement". So, we have upped it a notch in modern times.

2014 Books challenged because of "smut":
  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
  2. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
  3. And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  4. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
  5. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
  6. Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  7. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
  9. A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard
  10. Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Yes, that makes the entire top 10 list of 2014 Challenged Books, done so with SMUT being one of the chief reasons.

Your word for this day of Banned Books Week: SMUT!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Banned Books Week: This will make you laugh

The most challenged book of 2014 was a mere third in 2013. What was the most challenged book that year? I'm glad you asked!

Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence

No, I am not somehow mistaken. As a matter of fact, this was the most challenged book for two consecutive years, 2012 & 2013.

In 2013 alone, there were 307 attempts to remove or restrict books from school curricula and libraries. And that's just the reported challenges. The ALA estimates that there are 5 actual challenges for every one made formal. And in 2012, Captain Underpants beat out 50 Shades of Grey! Go figure...

The author's response is wonderful:

LOVE this response! Do me a favor, and buy the first book in the series of Captain Underpants, just to add to your collection!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Banned Books Week: The Most Challenged Book of 2014

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”.

Written in 2007, this is a coming-of-age story of a Native American teen. Although it is fiction, it draws on the author's experiences as a Native American with ancestry of several tribes, growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Challenged and removed from required reading as recently as 2014, it is an unapologetic look at the harsh side of how many  teens in this nation, and especially in Native American Reservations, are raised.

In 2010, the Arizona State House of Representatives actually passed a bill which outlines HOW to censor:


Unbelievable. The entire state of Arizona doesn't want an entire collection of books taught in school. There is no reading, discussion, teaching, exchange of ideas, or freedom to read inside these schools.

In the United States of America.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Time to exercise your reading freedom, bibliophiles!

September 27 - October 2 is Banned Books Week

What will YOU read?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square-shaped hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.  

 Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—the object’s origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.  

 But some can never stop searching for answers. Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top-secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the relic they seek. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and finally figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?  

My take: 5 looks!

LOVED this book! I was immediately intrigued with the premise of the story, and the writing pulled me into the non-stop action.

Written in a series of personal journal entries, meeting notes, and transcripts, the action and character development feel so personal and present. I was completely sympathetic to Rose, Kara, and Vincent. Mitchell's character was a complete surprise as the story progressed. Alyssa was a great antagonist ... or, is she?!

The flow of the action, the concert of the voices, and the sheer tension of finding all of the parts, putting them together, and seeing what they can do was enough to make this a one-sit read for me.

My favorite? The narrator. Who is he? For whom does he work? How long has he known about these parts, buried around the planet? Is his mystery lunch companion one of the aliens? A bit reminiscent of the television series "Person of Interest" character Harold Finch in his intelligence, foresight, and ability to distance himself emotionally from events.  I sincerely hope there is a sequel well in the works!

Highly recommended, upon it's availability April 26, 2016. Many thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy of this beaut in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Book Club Meeting

(L-R) Patricia, Theresa, Stephanie, Mary Ann, Donna, Gail, Carmen
I am so happy to report that The Happy Bookers have agreed to start meeting monthly, as opposed to every two months! yay!

Last night, we met at Patricia's lovely home to discuss Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. Unfortunately, I decided to put this one aside for the time being, with the intention of picking it up again later. It just didn't grab me, and my TBR is too long to tarry.

As usual, the conversation was lively, and there was much laughter. Patricia had delicious foods for us, as well as a variety of tasty beverages. It was a very fun way to spend a Wednesday night.

Next meeting is at Donna's and we are reading NOS4R2 by Joe Hill, in honor of the month of October!

When your local library disappoints...

I live in a VERY small town. It's a cross between Stepford and Mayberry.

I love living here, but not much has changed since I moved in, fourteen years ago. By far, my biggest disappointment has been the public library. I know that funds are very limited, and that has a significant impact on the library's offerings, but my issue is more with the complete lack of excitement and fervor for all things literary.

The library director has been in her position for years and years, and is probably set to retire. There is another librarian whom everyone assumes will step into that role when it is available. Both of these women seem to lack any type of fire, drive, or desire to put books into the hands of the town.

There are no book clubs at my library!

September is National Library Card Drive month, per the American Library Association (ALA). What did my local library do to encourage patronage? Nothing.

Next week is one of my favorite literary weeks of the year: Banned Books Week. What is my library doing to encourage the freedom to read? Nothing.

What does my library do to partner with area public schools to foster a love of reading? Nothing.

What is the social media presence of my library? Practically non-existent.

What makes it harder for me to swallow these bitter pills is that I met with the library director not too long ago, and talked to her about ways to make the library more exciting and engaged with the community. I even offered to facilitate a reading group. She just looked at me, smiled, and thanked me for my input. She could not wait for me to leave.

Oh, and did I mention that the library is closed every Thursday? Why? Because it's always been done that way.


I want a library that dresses up when it's Dr. Seuss Day! I want a library that holds classes on how to use the internet for research. I want a library that displays children's art from local schools (and not photocopied coloring pages). I want a library that has "If you loved this, read this!" recommendations. I want a library with a freaking book club.

I want a library that doesn't depress me when I enter the doors, and librarians that don't shush me when I am talking too loud. Besides, there's no one else in there for me to bother.

See? Very disappointing, and not one thing to do about it. Status Quo will kill the library in town. Or at least make sure it stays comatose and on life support.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Having trouble reading? Again?!

It is quite common for a voracious reader to hit a reading slump. I wrote about it here. And in May of this year, I addressed the conundrum of putting a book aside until a later time, if you can't get into it. That piece is here.

The reason I bring this up again is that it has happened to me. AGAIN. I am having a great deal of trouble reading The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. It's not that it's hard to read. It's not hard to read at all. It is just mind-numbingly boring. I can't help by think that it is too wordy, and could have used editing. It is about a young boy of both Mexican and American descent. It's written to be an epic of his life, but I have to think that "epic" doesn't mean that it must be "long".

However, I remember the enthralling The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, at a healthy 488 pages.

The Lacuna is a touch longer at 507 pages, and I am stuck around page 150. What to do? Put is aside for later.

The other is, unfortunately, for my book club which meets every two months. Surely I must be able to read a book in two months! WRONG!

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann is not grabbing me, either. So, that is two books that I can't get into, almost back-to-back. Makes me wonder if I am the problem. However, I have had no issue reading other books in the meantime.

The book club meets tonight, and I have barely broken 100 pages in this 454 tome. Do you really need that many pages to tell of the downfall of three woman in New York in the 1940s? Again, I am going to put this aside for now and move on to another on my TBR.

I still want to read these, but just not right now. It's too much work.

Wednesday Word: Respite

noun re·spite \ˈres-pət also ri-ˈspīt, British usually ˈres-ˌpīt\

1:  a period of temporary delay
2:  an interval of rest or relief

Origin of RESPITE
Middle English respit, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin respectus, from Latin, act of looking back
First Known Use: 13th century
Another word that I love, and think should be used more often in conversation.
This word came to mind this past weekend, as I attended a caregiver seminar at my church. One of the points made again and again is that caregivers need a time of respite. It can be very stressful to be a caregiver and often becomes all-consuming.
A time of respite, away from the tasks at hand, will refresh and renew both your body and mind.
I'll bet you could use some respite right now!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

When she was fifteen, Amy Stevenson was attacked and left for dead in a park not far from her house. Her attacker was never found. Fifteen years later, she still lies in a hospital bed in a vegetative state. She's as good as dead, unable to speak, see, move. But not even her doctors will categorically state that she doesn't hear or understand anything...

Alex Dale is the same age as Amy, and grew up in a neighboring town, familiar with the story of the attacked girl from her own school days. She's now a journalist, but in a sort of waking trance of her own. A barely functioning alcoholic, her career is on the skids, her marriage is over, and she rarely makes it past noon without disappearing into a drunken haze. During a visit to a hospital ward for a routine article on patient care, she comes across Amy. And for the first time in years, she cares about something other than at what time that day she can start drinking.

My take: 3 looks

This was a hard one for me to get invested in. However, I found that once the characters were set, I was into the action. The writing style of presenting different voices at different times was a nice tool, and only a few times did I need to re-reference the date at the beginning of the chapter. The fact that the comatose Amy also had a voice was a huge plus for me. I have long believed that coma patients are very aware of their surroundings, and this was a nice story to support that.

With that said, I found it very difficult to believe that Jake was still so caught up in a puppy-love feeling after 15 years. Certainly he knew that he shouldered no guilt in her attack and current situation. There was nothing compelling in the fact that he was still so drawn to her. As a matter of fact, I found it a little creepy. Her best friends had moved on, after all, as had her own step-father. Jake, however, was alone is his stagnant life-role.

Fiona was another piece of work. I felt that the author wanted the reader to be a bit sympathetic to her, but her crazed antics over Jake's bank accounts were over-the-top. The fact that he married one woman, and she morphed into another would have been a believable premise, if she hadn't swayed back and forth between sane and off-the-rails. I would put it to pregnancy hormones, but the bank-account-incident was early in the marriage.

Alex was the savior of this novel for me. She was fully developed and drawn with precision: her continued struggle with being divorced, her dependence on alcohol, and her grasping for the story of Amy, hoping this story would get her back on track in her life. As she progressed, you saw her dependence slowly become independence, her weakness change into resolve, and her world in a bottle expand to include others around her.

The writing is a bit sluggish, the outcome is completely predictable, and the title of the book leaves me scratching my head. However, while this is no "Gone Girl" or "Girl on the Train", it is an interesting read, and worth your time.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dying Declaration by Randy Singer

Thomas and Theresa Hammonds believe in tough love and old-fashioned discipline. They do not believe in doctors. When their controversial religious practices lead to personal tragedy, however, the Hammonds face heartbreaking loss, a crisis of faith–and a charge of negligent homicide by a relentless prosecutor.

Defending Thomas and Theresa is freewheeling African American lawyer Charles Arnold. Charles believes in grace and mercy. But nothing in his colorful past has prepared him for the challenges of this shocking case, or for the dangerous conspiracy at its heart. Cultures and Lawyers Collide… Teaming with Nikki Moreno, the court-appointed guardian for the Hammonds children, Charles pursues intractable questions. Who is responsible for Joshie Hammonds’ death? Will this family’s tragedy lead to their destruction? Which will triumph–mercy or judgment? The answers hang on the traitorous testimony of a key witness…and on a dying declaration that will revolutionize the lives of everyone who touches the case.

My take: 3 looks

You all know how I feel about Christian Fiction, blah, blah, blah. However, this one is pretty good. Charles is a street preacher, so the faith aspect of the story is very natural and not at all forced. He is a real man, with real issues, in a real world. That is hard to find in Christian fiction.

However, I am a very black-and-white thinker, and I can't help but feel that the parents are, indeed, guilty of negligent homicide. While the doctor was definitely at fault, his decisions would have been moot if the parents had sought medical attention even one day earlier. Thomas and Theresa were certainly likable, but there is no denying that their lack of action was the cause of their young son's death. Blindly following an ignorant teaching is no defense.

While the author obviously wants the reader to despise Rebecca, even going to the lengths of giving her the nickname "barracuda", I found myself thinking that she was only doing her job. As the state's deputy prosecutor, her job was to prosecute. The fact that she was ambitious and preening for the camera made no difference to me. Again, she was trying to find justice for this child, as she said several times in her internal monologue.

Nikki was a redrawing of Marisa Tomei's character in the 1992 movie My Cousin Vinnie, except Nikki was infinitely more irritating. She was a caricature, as the "scantily clad with a heart of gold" Latino.

The relationship of Buster and Armistead required some suspension of belief, but to say anymore would be a spoiler.

I give this 3 looks despite all of the negatives because the story itself was gripping, and the ending had my head spinning.