Today's Grateful List/13 September 2014

  • Girls are home!
  • New dishwasher coming
  • House feels cleaner
  • Overcast sky
  • Fall's on the way!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

In a Handful of Dust is the sequel to Not a Drop to Drink, a post-apocalyptic novel I enjoyed greatly. While this one is good, it's not quite as enthralling as the first installment. Let's recap.

In a Handful of Dust focuses on Lucy, not Lynn, and it's obvious that Lucy is still young in many ways, though we learn she's sixteen. Still living in Lynn's house, disaster breaks out when polio hits the small community and many children and adults die or are paralyzed. As the epidemic is studied by Lucy's grandmother, it becomes obvious that the outbreak is centered on either Lucy or her friend Carter as a carrier. Forced to leave the community, Lynn and Lucy trek across the country with a goal of California, which they've heard has desalinization plants for ocean water. Along the way, their path is filled with peril, not least of which arrives in the form of other people, including a horrifying stop in Las Vegas.

This novel seemed to move much more slowly for me than Not a Drop to Drink; there's a lot of action but I just wasn't as engaged for some reason. Not that it's not good by any means; the dangers the women face are real and brutal and there's never an assurance that they will reach anything worth the travel. I suppose I just got tired of Lynn's continuously dour demeanor and Lucy's rather childish actions. The final payoff is quite short and could have stood at least a couple more chapters of explanation and resolution. But overall this is a good book and it continues the story in a mostly satisfying way.


Monday, August 25, 2014

The Half Life of Molly Pierce

Molly Pierce has a secret, but she doesn't know what it is. Everyone else around her does, but they won't share. Oh, and it's about Molly. If she wants to know what it is, she's going to have to peel the layers back and find out for herself.

I have to say, this book kept me guessing. I read it in one day because I needed to know what was going on and how it was all going to play out. There's just enough revealed at a time that you start to glimpse the bigger picture at least by midway, but it's still unclear as to details, right up until the very end. There's death, there's love, there's friendship, there's family, and there's Molly, trying to make sense of it all, just as we are.

I won't give away the secret here, but I will say it's plausible in a lot of ways, and not so plausible in others. The idea that so many people actually know what's going on yet they all allow Molly to figure things out in her own frustrating time wasn't the most realistic experience, in my opinion, but since it works in the book, I could go with the flow. And flow it does; one page leads to another quickly as you just have to find out what's going on. It's not the best writing in the universe, but it is engaging and it is a page-turner. I'll be thinking about this one for a while.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Robin Williams

I hesitate to write this post because maybe it's silly to mourn someone you never met, but I do. When word of his death appeared on my Facebook feed, it hit my gut like an ice cold knife. Robin was one of my Top Four guys--along with Billy Crystal, Dick Button, and Scott Hamilton--guys I "claimed" as my own, who touched me deeply in some way. I never, ever thought I'd lose him so young and so tragically.

I know I'm not alone in my grief, and that's comforting. I really don't care if you "don't get it" or don't understand why I was devastated. These feelings are mine, and for me, I've lost a friend.

Rest in Peace, Robin. God hold you close.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

That's My Baby!

I've gotta baby girl (well, I don't care if she's 18...she's still my baby!) narrated a video last spring about the Academies at her high school. She just showed it to me tonight, and I'm so proud I could burst. As we get ready to move her into her dorm on Friday, I just know she's going to do great things because...well, LOOK AT HER.  She's just awesome.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

So...I Read a Romance

 You know sometimes you need to jumpstart your reading? Maybe pick up something mindless? So, because a good friend really liked this one, I picked it up.

They say confession is good for the soul. So...yeah...I read a romance. One with a horrible title, no less. And get this: I enjoyed it. For what it is, it's a fun romp with some delicious sex mixed in. So there.

The story matter is very light: Caroline moves into an apartment and is almost immediately kept awake by her neighbor's sexual antics next door. She endures until finally she snaps and goes over there, letting him have it. OF COURSE he's sexy and arrogant, which just inflames her, until they sort of become friends. A misunderstanding ensues, but it's worked out, and then...well, yeah, it's formulaic and silly, but it's still fun. Oh, and there's a cat involved. And lots and lots of sexual innuendo.

Wallbanger is funny, though I didn't just die of laughter like I'd thought I might. Caroline's pretty snappy with the comebacks, and her inner monologue is great. I went from disliking Simon (the "Wallbanger") to liking him a lot, even if I did find the amount of sexual escapades toward the end ridiculous. Would I read more by the author? Sure, if I'm in the mood for a mindless romance with only one possible outcome. That's not always a bad thing.


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Dear Killer (This Book Needs to Die...and NOT in a Good Way)

Here's the disclaimer...I didn't finish this one, so take my review for what it's worth. It's not that the writing is bad; in fact, it's fairly engaging, and maybe with another topic, I might've been giving a totally different review. My biggest issue with the 60+ pages I read was the amorality of the title character. If there had been anything at all redeemable about her, I'd have kept on reading. And perhaps there is, later on in the book, but I just felt sorta icky reading a story told by a character who sees killing, even people she knows, as a business. Maybe that's not even it; maybe it's just that, no matter her childhood, I just couldn't root for a teen killer. This isn't Dexter, and killing people you know because you can is just not for me.

I'm giving this book 2 stars because I recognize it's unfair to judge an entire book on less than 100 pages, and I also recognize that maybe I'm missing something vital in not continuing to read. I just know, for me, this book just left me feeling unsettled, and not in a good way.


Orange Is The New Black

I read Orange is the New Black because of the hype surrounding the Netflx show (which I haven't watched yet). Now that I've finished the book, I have to say it's an interesting look at life behind bars but not exactly compelling reading. I believe the fault in the book lies in the fact that it takes place in a minimum security prison, and the author is doing only fifteen months' time. Not that that makes it necessarily easier, but there's no hardcore drama because most of the women incarcerated just want to put in their time and get out. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Piper Kerman writes the story of how she came to be a criminal with a clear voice, and it's obvious she's not like many of the women with whom she does time. After a misspent youth that led her to do a drug drop, Piper thinks she can move on, until she finds herself indicted on the charge five years later. Luckily for her, pleading guilty greatly reduces her jail time and her family, and most especially her boyfriend, are very supportive of her. Once she is sentenced to Danbury, it takes her a bit to get used to all the customs and regulations she must endure, but she seems able to make friends and learn how to get along. I have no idea if she did, in fact, have many friendships with women of all races and religions, and it doesn't really matter because this is her story to tell in whatever way she wants. I did find it interesting how the women were able to move about freely within the building and on the grounds, and how they made do with contraband just to enjoy a few moments and treats.

I think my biggest issue with the book is that, really, not much happened during the time Piper spent in jail. Sure, there were a few situations and there were some tear-jerking relationships made, but really, the book is mostly about the day-to-day mundaneness of being in prison. While I appreciated the stories, they never had me on the edge of my seat, dying to know how it all turned out. While the book is interesting, it's just not a page turner, and no one should go into it expecting it to be like the series.


Sunday, August 03, 2014

Monsters...and not the good kind

Monsters brings the Ashes trilogy to a close, but it complicates matters and drags things out way more than was necessary. As the book opens, Alex and Tom are separated and trying to survive in a zombie-filled world where humans are almost as big a problem as the people-eaters. There's a lot of traveling, and Alex is back with Wolf, the zombie who seems to still retain some human emotion. Meanwhile, Chris meets up with Ellie, the girl originally with Alex when the Zap happened, but his story takes a major turn when his injuries turn out to be much worse than feared. Somehow, the main characters slowly, slowly make their ways back to one another in a showdown that may take the town of Rule down in pieces.

I wasn't a fan of the multiple points of view; there's a section in the book that I found myself skimming in order to get back to the main stories. By the time we finally end up in Rule, I was about ready to blow the town up myself. However, I really did enjoy the final third of the book, and the chapters moving back and forth between characters' action was riveting. I loved how it all played out, even if I do feel the story would've benefited from serious culling. It took me quite a while to remember who was who and where we were when I began the book; whoever decided that the "catch-up" pages belonged in the back of the book--after the ending!!--was a major idiot. It really slowed my reading down while I came to grips with what all was going on since it'd been more than a year since I read Shadows.

Monsters is a book I can recommend, with reservations. I think it would've been best had I read it right after Shadows, and if you feel like skimming, it's all right to do so. You won't miss any major plot points and it will get you to the action, which is really good once you arrive. And be forewarned--this is one majorly gory book! Bick doesn't shy away from details of zombie-people-eating, and you'll need a very strong stomach to read it. I also got very tired of hearing about the "monster" in Alex's head--okay, I got it, it's all tied into the theme and the zombies and her illness...too much. But I did enjoy the read and am glad I read the entire series.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Where She Went

I'm one of the lucky ones because I was able to pick up Where She Went almost immediately upon finishing If I Stay. I was so emotionally invested in If I Stay, I think I would've gone into a deep, dark depression if I'd had to wait as long as many did to get some resolution to this story. And it is with a happy heart that I can report that this sequel definitely worked the same magic as the first book. I was hooked from the first page.

Where She Went is told from Adam's point of view, and we've fast forwarded three years past Mia's devastating accident. Adam's now a bona fide rock star but he's miserable because only months after Mia left for Juilliard, she inexplicably stopped responding to his emails and texts. It was obvious that she no longer wanted to be with him, and he began a spiral down into depression that only the music kickstarted him out of. But things still aren't good for Adam; he can't get past Mia just dropping him, even though he's been with other girls and even has a serious live-in. Then he finds himself in NYC and he passes a poster for Mia's cello concert, and thinks...he has to go. Even if he doesn't talk to her, he has to go. And of course they meet up and explanations are attempted. Throughout the story, we move back and forth through the three years, seeing what Adam's been through. It's riveting to follow his traumatized losses and his disappointment as we begin to find out Where She Went.

This sequel definitely lives up to the storyline of If I Stay, even if I had a hard time with how Mia finally came to give her reasons. It's so well written, so emotional, that I literally inhaled the book in a day. Forman makes the story make sense and she gives the characters so much life that it's easy to find yourself lost in the telling. Sometimes sequels let a reader down, but this one takes us on an unexpected ride that fulfills its promises. Loved it.


If You Haven't Read This Book Yet...

...then you need to pick up The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry! It's definitely a book for book lovers. I know that I absolutely delighted in the mentions of other books throughout, and the idea that relationships can be built around and by a love of reading is truly uplifting and unifying. If the novel itself is a bit light on plot--and the reader can tell what's going to happen in advance--it's more than made up in the engaging writing and the depth of feeling that flies through the pages.

The story is pretty basic: A.J. Fikry owns the only bookstore on the fictional Alice Island off the East Coast, and he is miserable after the death of his wife. That all changes with the appearance of a toddler left in the shop one night, and before he knows it, A.J.'s opened his heart in more ways than one. Also intertwined with the central story is Ismay, A.J.'s former sister-in-law, herself a victim of a loveless marriage, and Chief Lambiase, the lonely policeman who somehow begins his own book club. There's a mystery, too: A.J. was once in possession of a first edition copy of Edgar Allen Poe's first novel, Tamerlane, but the book goes missing early on. Will it ever be found? As the story progresses, I found myself less interested in the missing book as the lives and personalities of the characters take center stage...and then, bam! the book's back in the spotlight and I was as excited about it as I was in the beginning.

So what makes the story so special? Well, there are some lines that are just gems, such as "We are not quite novels. We are not quite short stories. In the end, we are collected works." Little lines that just sneak up and then hit you full force with their honesty are peppered throughout. But mostly it's the characters, who are flawed, real, charming, and human. It could be anyone's life; it could be my life. And if it was my life, I'd say it was a good one indeed. Just read it. You'll be glad you did.