Whatcha reading?

Whatcha reading?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Blood and Salt: Kim Liggett

This was an intense mystical book for teens. A girl, Ash and her twin brother, Rhy, are raised by their mother, who is slightly scared from being raised by a cult. She practices rituals for "Katia" who she believes to be a dead ancestor. One day the mother disappears and the children drive to a place in Kansas where the cult is suppose to thrive. All that is there is a corn field. I think the book is supposed to build on the "children of the corn" creepyiness. There is a car lot by the field where they stop and the owner tells the siblings that all the cars in the lot were from people who never returned from entering the corn. Ash talks to a boy that disappears into the corn, then she and her brother follow him. They find an entire community that seems a little unhinged hidden in corn field, waiting for the return of this Katia. Evidently this ancestor could live forever and made a pact with the "dark forces", she just needed a "vessel" to return to life. The entire story everyone thinks Ash and Rhy's mother is the vessel, but it ends up being Ash herself. Ash's mom returns to save her from being used by Katia, and "Coronado" who bound himself to Katia centuries before, takes Dane, a boy fell in love with, as his vessel. Then the story abruptly stops...begging for a sequel.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Long Walk: Stephen King/ Bachman

This was a long story where boys living in a dystopian society are chosen to race to the death. Only the readers don't know the "ticket" after 3 warnings of dropping under 4 miles an hour is being shot until the first boy is killed. The boys don't seem to understand the importance of winning the race until they are at the point of getting their "ticket" or at the point of exhaustion. The story is told from 1st person by Raymond Davis Garraty. You know he will not win, but are surprised by the ending. The boys walk for 5 days and never stop, they sleep and go to the bathroom while walking and in front of crowds. This was a very impactful and disturbing novel.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Taking: Dean Koontz

This book was more religious than the others I remember reading. A couple is awaken in the night to a terrible, foreign storm. The wild animals are found together on the porch and the rain smells like semen. As the day progresses they decide to get in their car and check on their neighbors- all of whom are dead. Their bodies have been taken over by extraterrestrial beings. Once in town the couple find other people still alive. They decide to take on the duty of collecting children in an effort to save them from the unknown. The pets lead the way to children in duress. In the end it becomes a sort of Noah's arc where the good survive. The aliens disappear and the protagonist believes the aliens were a sort of divine being who took the evil out of the world so the world could start fresh with hope. It was a very good book until about the last 100 pages.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Cat and Mouse: James Patterson

This book left me with mixed emotions. I liked the story, the searching out the criminal, but the love story that was carried out through the book was out of place and felt forced and silly. So I went from thinking I couldn't finish the book to it being enjoyable. Alex Cross starts the book chasing one insane killer that had gotten out of jail. Alex's shots and kills the man, but then his family and himself are badly beaten. The FBI calls in a behavioral expert who then kills the man who beat up Alex's family. He doesn't just kill the man, he dissects him. We learn that the FBI agent was a murderer plaguing Europe. The rest of the book is chasing "Mr Smith" down so they can charge him as the murderer. He ends up killing himself.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Year of the Rat: Grace Lin

This was a children's book, but for some reason was on my "to read" list. It may have been one of the first of it's kind and was one in a series of "Chinese New Year" titles. Since the Year of the Rat is one of change, the main character, Grace (an autobiography of sorts for the author)deals with losing her best friend who moves across the country. The story deals with Grace's year and how she grew up from different experiences. It captured the personality of the child, as everything had to be about the main character and she sort of pouted when she wasn't the center of attention. I think this was a risky characterization, because the character borders on dislikable, but it is also a person in their purest form, so it was a successful character development.

Stitching Snow: R C Lewis

This was a book geared towards teens, but I loved it! It was like "Star Wars" and "The Left Hand Of Darkness" with the fairy tale aspect. Very original and I loved how it broke the gender barriers. The story opens and we meet the main Character Essie, given name "snow" short for snowflake. She lives on a rough island and earns her keep boxing and working on her droids, which do the mining in the village of all men. One day a boy, Dane, about her age crashes his space ship and she helps him repair it. He kidnaps her and tries to take her home in exchange for his people who were imprisoned after she left home and ended up on the mining planet. She reprograms the ship to take them to his planet. Her mother was from the same planet as Dane and she learns her mother kept her "species" hidden in order to have a child with the ruling planet's leader, knowing the child would one day be ruler. Snow's mother was killed by her stepmother and Snow left when the queen tried to have her killed. The planet it overthrown and peace is restored to the galaxy. The book was a quick read with the right amount of suspense.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Watery Part of the World: Michael Parker

This was one of those subtle books where nothing amazing happens, but it sticks with you long after finishing. I had to reread the first three chapters because there weren't dates on the chapter titles and it was confusing until you understood there were two voices from two different generations. The story tied family together through legend and also explained the duty Woodrow, a black man, felt towards the 2 spinsters, white women. Woodrow's great-great-great grandfather was freed by the Whaley's great-great-great grandfather. However this duty still made him a slave to them generations after being freed. One wonders how long the obligation would have went on had the Whaley's had children. Interestingly enough, the original Mrs Whaley was appalled when her husband brought home a black man, thinking her husband had purchased a slave, not that he had bought his freedom. The current day eldest Ms Whaley would be appalled to call Woodrow a slave, but she treats him as such assuming he will stay on the island and take care of them long after everyone else has left. The climax of the story occurs when Whaley sends Woodrow to the mainland to get her mail, containing a dress. The weather is about to break and she assures Woodrow she will watch after his wife, Sarah should the storm come before he gets back. The storm does come and floods the island, she goes down to check on Sarah and is scared by the fervor in her eyes as she holds her bible and prays aloud. In that moment Whaley knows Sarah will take Woodrow from the island and she and her sister would not be able to sustain alone. She leaves Sarah and takes her sister to the church, which is on the highest part of the island. Sarah's house falls in on her and she dies. Whaley spends the rest of her life wrestling with herself over Sarah's death.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Kindred: Octavia Butler

This was a fascinating SCI-FI novel about a woman, Dana who suddenly disappears from present day and is transported to the early 1800's. She is somehow beckoned by a great grandfather who was drowning. She is then transported back to her world when she is in danger. She makes these shifts several more times and brings her husband, who was holding her, along with her. The decide to live with her ancestors while they wait for something dangerous to happen so they can be transported back. They pose as master(her husband is white) and slave. Dana teaches a slave to read without thinking of the consequences it could have when history changes. The time was also confusing, Dana's husband Kevin was trapped in the 1800's for 5 years and it was 8 days in 1976. In a couple hours after getting home, Dana is pulled back to the 1800's and 6 years have gone by since she left. she continues travelling back and forth saving this white relative Rufus time and time again. Eventually she kills him and loses an arm doing so because he holds on to her as she is transported and the arm he is holding onto stays behind.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Civilization and its Discontents: Sigmound Freud

This book was very heavily laden with thoughts of ID and Ego. He expresses his thoughts that religion is important to people because a person wants to constantly go back to the feelings they had as a child. Religion is like relying on your father's protection, you want to believe someone is watching out for you. He furthers the idea that religion offers hope and that this life is purely for pleasure. " We are threatened with suffering from three directions: from our own body, which is doomed to decay and dissolution and which cannot even do without pain and anxiety as warning signals, from the external world, which may rage against us with overwhelming and merciless forces of destruction, and finally from our relations to other men. Freud argues that we cause our own unhappiness- we create the railroad that carries our children off making the telephone a nessecity. We have created a life where Earth is serviceable to man.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Parisian Prowler: Charles Baudelaire

This collection of poems did seem to be musings about life while one is walking around town just taking it in. They are very raw where he notes things that occur and how the people react. An old woman muses that an adorable baby doesn't have hair or teeth like herself, but when she gets near to amuse it, he screams and breaks her heart. A dog is given perfume to smell and it doesn't like it and barks, the writer is amused that if he had given the dog poop, it would have thought it was the most interesting thing ever. The poems were able to evoke the things the writer is seeing and though none of them seem very important, as a whole they make up what life is about. People are all going about doing their own thing, yet they are all connected within the community.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Madame Bovary: Gustave Flaubert

The book starts with the characterization of Charles Bovary who is a child in school. He is put in a class with much younger children since his education did not start until he was 12, and then haphazardly. The story starts with him behind others, and he stays behind others his entire life. His mother arranges a marriage for him with a much older woman who is reputedly wealthy. He gets hen picked by both his mother and his wife and is unhappy. She then dies and he finds out she wasn't rich. He then marries a woman he adores. His wife marries him because she wants to get off the farm and he is a traveling vet. The book continues with his wife's discontent as she keeps finding life has more to offer she gets unhappier with what she has because she always wants more. She has a couple affairs and lusts after many things. After her affairs leave her lonely than ever she turns to buying pretty things on credit which they cannot afford. Neither lover is willing to help her out so she tricks someone into giving her rat poison and commits suicide. Charles is distraught and sells all of their possessions. He finds Emma's love letters and looks with envy at the men she showed affection to instead of being angry. He eventually dies and their daughter, Berthe is sent to live with her grandmother. The grandmother eventually dies and Berthe is sent to live with an impoverished aunt who send her to work in a cotton mill. There was no happiness in the book and it was hard to read since you kept hoping for something good to happen, but met with disappointments continuously.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Against the Fall of Night: Arthur C Clarke

This was a short Sci-Fi novel about a post apocalyptic Earth where only species of humans survived. Those who live life spans like ours (living in LYS) and those who have mastered how to live centuries(living in Diaspar). A child, Alvin, is born in Diaspar who is uncommonly curious. He questions if there are others on Earth and escapes his city to find them. He finds a community that believes as his does that outside influence will lead to disaster, but has a desire to make the two communities meet. The two communities are further characterized as Lys being rural where the people are telepathic and Diaspar being very technologically advanced where computers do all the tasks, but people live forever. Alvin finds a space ship and ventures out to another planet where no life exists. He feels something probe into his mind and takes it back to Lys. This presence has all the memories of the past, but is childlike and not described very well. In the end, through Alvin's restlessness and the presence of this supreme being, the people of Earth realize they can live together harmoniously and need each other.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fun Home: Alison Bechdel

WOW. This book was incredible. It was a graphic novel/autobiography, but the biography focused on her father. It was both a tribute to her father and a sort of exposure of the taboo things he did. You feel the authors missed emotions about her father long after his death. You could really relate because doesn't everyone feel like that about their parents?

Detective Fiction; From Victorian Sleuths to the Present ; M Lee Alexander

This was actually a series of books on tape, I had listened to another series on Science fiction and love it. This one wasn't really a "class" like the other, so it wasn't really what I was expecting. It did however get me a list of new authors and books to read in the detection fiction genre.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Flow My Tears the Policeman Said: Philip Dick

This book followed the idea of the future as in "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep". This time there are 6's in the community as well as the new 7's who have empathy. At the end of the book the 7 is seen crying over his sister's death as well as the likely death of a 6 which he was responsible for framing in order to save his reputation over his sister's death. The US becomes a police state where students are locked up and one has to have all sorts of documentation and identification to stay out of the prison camps. The main character, Jason Taverner, is a 6 and a well known tv entertainer. Being a 6 he has a charming personality which draws everyone to him, his voice is hinted as being, just ok. He fights with a past love interest and she injects him with strange monster-like parasites. He wakes up at a hotel room and calls his girlfriend to pick him up, she doesn't know him. His boss doesn't know who he is either- He races around trying to figure out what has happened that he no longer exists, while trying to remain under the police's radar with forged documentation he obtains. He then meets up with the Police General's sister who is into drugs- she has a record of his, she knows he exists. She then overdoses and dies and suddenly people recognize Taverner again. The drugs created a parallel universe where he wasn't a celebrity. He is tried in her death, but found not guilty and his life goes on as before.

Wild Men, Ishi and Kroeber in the Wilderness of Modern America: Douglas Cazaux Sackman

This was a historical non-fiction story about Ishi, the last of the Yahi tribe. One day he just came out of the mountains into San Francisco and decided to see what the white men had done. He had lost everyone, his wife and child having just drowned in a river. The story switches back and forth to what they learned about Ishi's life and that on Kroeber until the two meet. They form a friendship and Kroeber tries to fight for the First American's rights by keeping watch over Ishi in a world where he couldn't communicate and fighting for Native land that was taken over by the National Park Service. In the end Ishi dies of tuberculosis and Kroeber tries to follow Ishi's tribal traditions in his death by cremating him, which was not actually the Yahi way.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Riptide: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

This was an Indiana Jones/Treasure Island sort of enjoyable novel. The story begins with person after person trying to retrieve Pirate Red Ned Ockham's legendary treasure and either going bankrupt or dying from the pit's traps. In addition to Gold and riches there is supposedly "St. Michael's Sword" which is powerful enough to kill anyone who looks at it. The story then focuses on two little boys whose grandfather lost everything purchasing the island and trying to get the treasure. When their dad is away they go to the island to play and the oldest boy dies from one of the traps set to guard the treasure, the youngest boy ("Hatch") lives with this guilt the rest of his life. As a man Hatch is approached by a treasure seeker and allows them to dig on the Island. The equipment doesn't work right once it gets on the island and they find a mass grave. Unable to come to a conclusion on why all the men in the pit died from different diseases and why everyone is getting sick, they press on. Finally they uncover and decipher the pit architect’s journal and realize the Sword was made from a meteorite and radioactive. This explains the deaths, the equipment malfunctioning, and the legend that anyone who sees the sword dies. In the end there is a battle between the Head of the expedition and Hatch in one of the tunnels. The "bad guy" has gone crazy from his exposure and once the sword is knocked down a shaft he follows it to his death. The book doesn't really tell you how hatch survives after the exposure, but he does and the treasure stays buried...for now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? : Philip Dick

This was a sci-fi Book about the future when life on earth becomes nearly uninhabitable after WWT- World War Terminus and the left over radiation poisoning. Almost all of the animals go extinct and having a real animal is a status symbol. Some people own electric animals which they try to pass off as real. People were given the choice of leaving Earth and moving to Mars where they would get their own android "andy" or staying on earth and being sterilized because Earth wasn't believed to be able to support another generation. The androids then got a mind of their own and started coming to earth. The Main character, Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter of androids. Oddly enough he owns a robotic Sheep, which is acceptable, but robotic humans, androids are hunted down and disabled. Rick is sent to test the "empathy" tests to determine who is human and who is an android. Deckard displays issues with empathy throughout the book, his drive for having an animal is just for the status symbol and he thinks about how he should have left his wife years ago. He teams up with another bounty hunter he met by accident when meeting up with an "andy" and is surprised that the other bounty hunter is human. After "terminating" the female android Rick becomes empathetic and doesn't think he can do anymore, but he buys a goat on impulse and needs the work to pay for the goat. He retires the last 2 androids and learns an android killed his new goat by throwing it off the building. The money he got from "retiring" Andy's that bought the goat ended up killing the goat. In the end he finds a toad and is slightly disappointed when his wife shows him it is an electric toad, but he says he would rather know the truth. Rick is a great example of a dynamic character.

The Sirens of Titan: Kurt Vonnegut

This was a fascinating novel in that EVERYTHING is important. The story wraps every occurrence and every object up in a way that the reader isn't left wondering "why" or "what if". Malachi Constant is the richest man in the United States and seems to also be the luckiest man on Earth. He is invited to materialization where a man, Winston Niles Rumfoord, living on Mars telecommunicates? with his wife, Beatrice. Winston tells Malachi that he will move to titan and have a child with his wife. After leaving the house both Malachi and Beatrice are ruined financially. Malachi joins the Martian army and Beatrice is on the same ship as Malachi on the journey to Mars. Malachi rapes Beatrice and they have a child, Chrono. Both Malachi and Beatrice have their memories erased and they forget about each other. Malachi becomes known as UNK and ends up strangling his best friend because he was commanded to and couldn't remember his friend stony after having his memory erased the 7th time. Stony tells him where to find a letter and UNK finds a letter he has written himself about remembering he has a family and best friend. Chrono ends up finding a piece of metal that becomes his lucky talisman. The family joins back up together and with the help of Rumfoord they travel back to earth where Rumfoord has started his new religion "Church of God the Utterly Indifferent". He then makes fun of both Beatrice and Malachi in front of his followers and they head to Tralfamadore where Beatrice lives in a palace like the Taj Mahal and Chrono lives with the bird population. Malachi lives in the spaceship Salo owned and was waiting for the replacement part for, which is actually Chrono's lucky talisman. Beatrice dies and Salo, with his fixed spaceship, drops Malachi off on earth (where he will die on a park bench waiting for a bus) before taking his message on to distant gallery (the message was a single dot that meant "greetings" which he spent thousands of earth years trying to deliver). Salo hypnotizes Malachi before he dies so he believes Stony came back for him in a spaceship. The story revolved around the idea of free will, or the lack of free will and that all of the earth’s history centered on the manipulation of the Tralfamadorians so we would become civilized enough to make a replacement part for the spaceship delivering the important message of “greetings”

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Star Begotten: H G Wells

This was a short story by H G Wells about Martian invasion. Wells inserted a line that the idea was like "War of the Worlds", but has the character's give other Sci-fi authors credit for the story, as though one of the great authors wrote it, but they can't remember who and don't even guess Wells. We follow the protagonist through his childhood and it isn't until his wife is pregnant that he goes to his club and has a conversation which changes his life. He and some scientist buddies ponder the idea that Martians are trying to change the human species through cosmic rays that would slightly change the baby in a mother's womb to part Martian. The idea is that they would have known their planet wouldn't support life for much longer and would need to relocate. They would be more accepted if they had relatives on the planet they choose to move to. They think the Martian/human half breeds would be taller than the average man, and less inclined to take ideas, like religion, at face value just because they are told to believe. They would be interested in making life better, but wouldn't take action. While they are coming up with this list, the reader knows the protagonist must be part Martian, but it isn't until the very end that his wife questions him and we find out that we are all part Martian, but don't want to believe it.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Little Brother: Cory Doctorow

I had to read this book for a class, so though it wasn't something I would normally read, it was interesting. I was originally turned off from reading the introduction (I read the free online copy, which I was very grateful for because I would have been disappointed had I paid for it)the author was pouting about TSA and England's version of TSA. The protagonist's voice was obviously that of the author trying to get his point across that DHS is evil. It worked in the story though because the character was a 17 year old boy, so you expected him to be arrogant and self righteous. A boy is a hacker and nearly expelled from school for his deeds and those of his classmates. One day he skips school and happens to be near a terrorist attack on the San Francisco bay bridge. He is taken in for questioning and becomes part of the problem instead of the solution once he is released. He starts a website where kids log in to wreck havick on their community- Marcus's own father gets searched due to Marcus's antics and his peers get tear gassed. Marcus's message is "you can't trust anyone over 25" with the idea being to think for yourself and not take up your parent's ideas. HOWEVER the book pushes his message onto the peers that the government is out to get you, so it isn't really telling people to think for themselves. Marcus becomes a terrorist himself, but the book pushes that you should side with him. You never hear if the bridge bomb terrorists were caught...if it was mentioned I may have zoned out- there were very long sections describing out different systems work and such. There was a part in the beginning that hinted at an amazing show if you put a frozen grape in the microwave. I envisioned a lot of kids blowing up frozen grapes in the microwave and leaving their mothers to clean up the mess. There was also this idea that women are easily manipulated because it is women that support Marcus, his mother, his girlfriend(s) and a teacher. Doctorow warns about a world where government agencies are constantly trying to keep up with technology to ensure the protection of citizens; A world where the teenage population is intent on the disintegration of society. He furthers his message by making the reader think of previous works with ideas he wants to express without having to build too much on those ideas in his story. Doctorow also uses the term "Little Brother" to parallel that of "Big Brother" from 1984 (Orwell) to show an omnipresent government. Marcus's computer name is Winston, the protagonist of 1984, triggering the memory of this book makes the reader automatically believe Marcus is an innocent boy targeted by the government. The reader finds out Marcus is a Hooligan whose cyberbulleying antics get his own father searched and peers gassed. The name "Clockwork Plunder" is to make us think of Clockwork Orange where there is extreme youth violence. The obvious difference is that these youth do not participate in physical violence, but a "cyber violence". Like in Clockwork Orange these characters too take a drug (turkish coffee/caffiene) to "sharpen them up". Marcus several times claims he is working for the Bill of Rights and speaks for freedom, though his actions result in taking freedoms away from others. "I can turn innocent people into suspects and turn guilty people into innocents" (86). Doctorow even states in his story" Let's call these spoiled children Cal-Quaeda.They do the terrorists' work on the home front. When...California gets attacked again, these brats will be as much to blame as the House of Saud" (87). Creating triggers to these other works make the reader confused on who we are supposed to be supporting. This is how the characters around Marcus feel as he rallies them to take action. Though I don't agree with "Marcus the hero", the end of the book leaves us wondering what sort of world we are living in and whether our actions help or hinder our society.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Left Hand of Mars: Ursula K Le Guin

In the Spirit of Perkins Gilman in Herland, Le Guin addresses inequality. In Left Hand of Darkness Le Guin focuses on sexuality and acceptance for others. Le Guin uses the idea of androgyny, which is unusual to the reader to parallel that of homosexuality, which may have seemed foreign to some readers when the book was published. Mr. Ai, who is characterized as a man 100% of the time is described by the Gethenians as “a sexual freak, or an artificial monster, or a visitor from the domains of the Void". (32) "You can see he is a sexual deviant". (156) Estraven, who learns to love Ai, says of his fellow men "They look at a man from another world and see what?... a pervert..." (159)The Gethenians are distrustful of the person they do not understand. Mr. Ai also expresses judgement to those he doesn't identify with and says “Cultural Shock was nothing much compared to the biological shock I suffered as a human male among human beings who were five-sixths of the time hermaphroditic neuters." (48) "They behaved like animals...or like women. They did not behave like men..."(49) “It seems like they were an experiment...Their ambisexuality has little or no adaptive value."(89) "There are aspects of ambisexuality that we have only glimpsed or guessed at...we may never grasp entirely."(93) Ai has trouble describing and accepting the Gethenians as equals since he can’t give them gender terms and categorize them. Towards the end Ai admits of Estraven "I saw then...what I had always been afraid to see...acceptance of him as he was. (248) Both sides expose this fear of a people they don't understand. Le Guin pushes the message that until we can accept and give equality to everyone, we can’t be fully human. Ai finally accepts the “other” and accomplishes his mission.

How to Live with a Neurotic Dog: Stephen Baker

This was an amusing humorous book about dog behavior and how you have to cope to live with a dog. I enjoyed the pictures and got it for a gift for someone...but I had to read it first!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Martian Chronicles: Ray Bradbury

This was an interesting and amusing read- originally written for news print it was a collection of short stories. All of the stories deal with life on Mars and sort of poke fun at humans and human nature. Bradbury was a master of many genres. In this book classified as science fiction, we see elements of satire. In “Ylla” a bored housewife envisions a creature coming to Mars in a rocket and fantasizes about him. The story does not immediately notify the reader that Martians are telepathic. Mrs. K has to tell the “dream” to her husband because he wasn’t attentive when the image originally played in her mind. The story states that they are no longer happily married and this need to tell their thoughts further shows how distanced the couple has become. Mr. K only knows when the rocket is due to land because his wife spoke in her sleep. Telepathy is first mentioned when Mrs. K wonders how she understood the Earthling. Ms. K is more connected with York, from another planet, than her husband. Mr. K has to voice “you can’t keep secrets from me!” (11), yet he can’t seem to read Ylla’s mind. Mr. K seems more alienated from Mrs. K than the actual alien. On the day of the rocket’s arrival Mr. K suddenly goes out “hunting”. He has to literally put on a mask to “mask” his emotions when his wife should be able to read his mind. The story doesn’t actually state what Mr. K hunts. We have to infer that he kills the Earthlings based on Mrs. K’s reaction to the shots. The story pokes fun at humans because couples, though married, live separate lives. Martians possess the power of telepathy, but don’t know what their spouse, the person closest to them, is thinking. Though the story is set on Mars and has fantastic things happening which makes it science fiction, this story is also very satiric. It sends the message that marriage is a trap with someone you do not understand.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Princess of Mars: Edgar Rice Burroughs

I know this is a classic, so maybe I missed something...something huge. I thought this book was awful, the only thing it had going for it was that it was short. There were a few things that didn't make sense, but I got to the point where I didn't care anymore. A lot of the frustration came from the writing. The author would have the characters talk about something and give answers, but yet the idea didn't exist on Mars... so how could then have talked about something they have no knowledge of. There was also a scene where the hero helps a Martian, who is 10 feet tall and has more gravitational pull out of a window... he would have been smashed to smithereens. The story is about a man who is being chased by Native Americans and hides in a cave, somehow the cave transports him to Mars where he falls in love with a beautiful Martian who resembles a human, he fights for her, she is kidnapped, he frees her, they fall in love, he dies and comes back to earth never seeing his Martian baby.

Herland: Charlotte Perkins Gilman

This was an interesting, yet humorous account of what woman could do in a world without men. Three learned men seek out a society they've heard of from natives, where there are only women. Once they find this place, Herland they are taken back by how advanced and peaceful the woman are in living. The entire book deals with the men and woman comparing their homes and Herland and Herland looking better. In the end the men are banished from one of the men trying to take advantage of a woman, and one of the women leave with them. Gilman furthers her feminist agenda by the use of a male narrator, Vandyck Jennings. Van is characterized as the most reasonable and objective of the three men. He is the male character that men and women readers alike find agreeable. He serves as the middle man where Jeff and Terry are completely different. Throughout the book Van's interest in Herland is presented as educational and distant, instead of personal. Towards the middle of the book two long conversations occur from Van’s disbelief that woman, without men, are neither vain nor competitive. He is surprised that women wouldn't want to wear feathers in their hats to enhance their beauty. He doesn't understand the communal raising of children as this takes the ownership and competitiveness out of parenting. The men, Van included, think of these qualities of vanity and competitiveness as feminine characteristics. Van does not grasp the idea Gillman is presenting that characteristics are neither manly nor feminine, but rather human qualities. Van has an example of vanity right in front of him. "Terry, in particular, was fussy to a degree about the cut of his beard". All of the men were vain in their dress "Being offered a wide selection of garments, we had chosen according to our personal taste, and were surprised to find...that we were the most highly decorated, especially Terry." Although Van is presented as the man who understands Herland, he may not be a reliable narrator because he does not address the idea that gender does not dictate behavior. As a reader we are left wondering Van’s actual agenda and if he believes the message that women can embrace the whole of life just as men. After the two conversations above Van shows his own vanity in how he flaunts to the reader his acceptance of the Herland community more than either of his friends as though his need for our acceptance drives the story's end.

The Invisable Man: H G Wells

This was a science-fiction book that made you question the benefits of a special power. A man shows up at a hotel looking for a room to let. The owner thinks the man has just had surgery as he is all wrapped up and wants to be left alone. Through some humorous happens we learn the man is invisible. He was a scientist who, after making himself invisible, realizes there are only 2 benefits to being invisible; sneaking up on people, and sneaking away. This means he can murder people, but not steal, since whatever he steals is still visible. Anything he eats is also visible for a short time. This predicament makes the invisible man even nastier than he originally was when visible and an albino, who never fit in. After attempting to kill an old coworker a manhunt is organized and the invisible man is killed, he then becomes visible again. The book leaves off noting that the scientist's notes on how to become invisible are still out there... as though to ask what we would do with it.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Country of the Blind: H G Wells

This was in incredible clever story about a man who falls off a cliff into a valley and the "Country of the blind" There he goes through many ordeals trying to convince the people there that he is better than them since he has sight. this was an amusing line "It seemed they knew nothing of sight. Well, all in good time he would teach them". As if he could teach them how to see or what it meant to see. He learns to live among them finally agreeing that he must have just been born from the mountains and that is why he is so ignorant. He falls in love with his master's daughter and the only way he can have her is if he agrees to have his eyes removed. He agrees, but on the day of the surgery he decided to climb the mountain. We aare left believing at the end that he would rather die seeing beauty than lose his sight for love.

Alice I Have Been: Melanie Benjamin

WOW. This book really captured the narrator's voice and feeling, which made me very emotional reading it. Possibly because Alice Liddell's life seemed similar to a grandmothers, who just passed away last week. Both had great expectations for life, but it was full or heartbreak and disappointment. Back to the book... The novel was about the life of Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland. The author notes that the book is more fiction than biography because though she did a lot of research into Alice's life, she had to do a lot of piecing together herself. The book largely centered on Alice and her buddy, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the author Lewis Carroll. As a child she was in love with him, but then for reasons she didn't understand, her mother didn't allow him to visit abruptly. She lives the rest of her life wondering why. She knows her relationship with Dodson is strained, but is uncertain why and feels guilty for some reason. The novel has Alice falling in love with Prince Leopold, whose mother won't let him marry a commoner. She loses her favorite sister, Edith, to illness around the same time. Eventually she marries Reginald Hargreaves when she is 28 and has three sons. The two eldest are killed in WWI. At the end of her life once everyone she loves, except her youngest son, are dead she remembers kissing Dodson and it being seen by her oldest sister who turns it into something filthy. I enjoyed the book and was glad it didn't discredit Dodson's name, it still left a lot to speculation and reader interpretation.

Monday, July 6, 2015

An Unpardonable Crime: Andrew Taylor

This book impressed me with the voice, it was very reminiscent of a Sherlock Holmes murder mystery. The narrator, Thomas Shield, and "detective" is a teacher and one of his wards was Edgar Allen Poe. Throughout the book the profession of a professor was characterized as in the servant class and Shield is constantly told what to do. He meets Poe's absent father and solves three murders, one of whom was Edgar's father. The characterization of Edgar Allan Poe was fasinating. I didn't realize "Allan" was actually the last name of the family who adopted him. In this story Edgar and his friend Charlie, who is remarkably similar to him, seem to carry Shield to the right place at the right time to solve the mysteries. There is also a little love story that fizzles out at the end only to be rekindled.

The Island of Dr Moreau : H.G.Wells

A Sci-fi story about a man reading his uncle's (Edward) diary. Edward is shipwrecked and picked up by a passing vessel which is filled with animals and a bizarre man with Dr Moreau. They depart the boat for an island and Edward is sent off the vessel and winds up with the Dr on the island. He fids the island is filled with more strange beings. Once he realizes the beings are part human part man he tries to escape and nearly drowns because he thinks Moreau is turning men into monsters and he may be the next experiment. Moreau then explains that he is turning animals into men, but he needs strong willed animals (which typically end up being carnivores)because the weak ones can't cope once they become men. He also notes that the "human-ness" seems to be temporary. The leopard-man is accused of eating a rabbit (which was brought onto the island because there was a lack of meat for Montgomery, Moreau's aid) and attacks Moreau and Edward shoots the Leopard. Then Puma man and Moreau fight and they both die. Montgomery then also dies from a beast attack as the animals revert back to their natural instincts. Edward finds a boat and is able to escape the island, but doesn't tell his rescuers about the island knowing it is too fantastic to believe. He becomes a hermit once back in civilization because around people he is constantly reminded of their beastliness.

Frankenstein: Mary Shelley

Reading this as an adult was much different than in high school. I had missed the idea that the monster was the foil for Dr. Frankenstein, who could be seen as the evil character. A Dr. decides to see if he can in essence play god and create human life. Using parts gathered from the cemetery he makes a man. As soon as he creates the life he regrets it and cowers away from his creation, who runs off and learns to live in the woods. By watching a family teach a woman to read he becomes literate in record breaking time. He realizes he need companionship and seeks out Dr. Frankenstein with the request for a wife. The Doctor refuses, the makes the wife, then destroys her before bringing her to life. The monster ends up killing everyone Frankenstein loves so then he is alone like his monster. While trying to destroy his creation, he dies. The monster is found crying over his creator that he didn't mean to be evil and says he will die, then disappears into the dark.

The Star: H.G. Wells

This was a very short story about Earth's near miss of natural destruction. A star is noticed hurling toward the Earth. The common class remarks on how it gets brighter and brighter, while the educated comment on how it is getting nearer and nearer. A mathematician notes that it is on course to hit the earth and were he to trade in his knowledge to not be destroyed, he would still choose knowledge. There is a small stir, but then 9 out of 10 people go back about their lives. The glaciers melt and flood cities, many die and the end of mankind seems inevitable. Then the moon eclipses around the earth and saves the Earth from being struck by the star that vears to the sun. Mankind survives and rebuilds much to the surprise of those aliens watching on Mars. Wells used the narrative style and word choice of "The Star" to further the idea that nature has its own plan and man is insignificant in that scheme. The narrative style of the work is third-person omniscient, where the narrator is all-knowing. We are lead to believe the narrator is God from the first sentence “It was on the first day of the new year that the announcement was made”. According to the seven days of creation, it was on the first day that God created night and day. It was deliberate that Wells chose the Star, instead of an asteroid, which will illuminate night into day. The narrative unemotionally states that most humans do not understand the impact this star could have on life and after a few days the panic fades. Earth seems destined to be destroyed until in India “men cried to God”. Only then does the story shift as if in answer. “Out of the East with a strange inexplicable swiftness sprang the sun…star, sun and moon rushed together across the heavens.” The word choice here creates the idea of a supernatural intervention; instant, unexplainable, and heavenly. God created the sun, moon, and stars on the same day, it is proper they would come together again at the end. Earth is spared and the Martians exclaim “Considering the mass and temperature of the missile that was flung through our solar system…it is astonishing what a little damage the earth, which it missed so narrowly, has sustained.” Wells chose the words “missile” and “flung” to create the idea that Nature/God is capable of waging war, which man cannot win. Only the Martians, foils for the humans, seem capable of understanding. Wells points out that we are egocentric by nature, observing natural phenomena through our limited perspective. This may be the first story of its kind warning about what nature could do to us rather than the reverse.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Dracula; Bram Stoker

This was my second time reading this book and since I read it for a class this time I got a lot more out of it. I was interested in one small sentence in the book from Seward's journel 'He is safe now at any rate. Jack Sheppard himself couldn't get free from the strait' Jack Sheppard was a real person that excaped jail multiple times and seems to be the actual "Renfield" of the story " the devil that comes in person" and assists Dracula. Bram Stocker wrote Dracula in the epistolary form in order to build suspense and pace the novel. Stoker had to compete with other gothic novels of the day and needed to make his memorable by being scarier and more horrific. He chose to play with the delivery of the story by telling it through multiple documents written by several characters. The reader has to comb through the documents, provided out of order and told in different tenses, to make linear sense of the story. Each document has a different tone creating a choppy narrative style. Stocker also played with the story by the narrator choice. Jonathan Harker is a lawyer who we expect will keep a calm head and stick to the facts, which make the scary parts even more powerful being told through the voice of reason. The dread builds from the unknown since only bits and pieces of the story are revealed at a time. It is not immediately clear why Harker is making this journey, which adds to the suspense. The story is told out of order to create in the reader a sort of confusion that the characters feel when trying to figure out the Count's intentions. Mina and Lucy are emotional narrators whose naivety and hysterics build the story in ways that Harker cannot. For example, Lucy takes the time to write a memorandum while her mother is lying dead on the floor. Dr. Seward, a man of learning believes in the science of ailments and is a foil for Van Helsing. He believes Lucy's ailments are mental while Van Helsing believes in the folk tales. Both are men of learning, but have very different views and voices in building the story. Together they are able to tell a story that appeals to any reader since they have a character to relate to and tell it in a way that makes it mysterious and sensational. notes:Idea of little death- Dracula gives to mina and lucy, 3 “wives” go after Johnathon Harker they visit in the night like lovers- in French sex means “little death Lucy has the liquids of 4 men by the end- 3 suitors blood transfusion and Van Helsing. Mina needs the men to help her find Dracula- they all confess their love for her. Funny puns- “isn’t there more at stake for him then us?” van helsing “ whiley, while” speech. Why write like this for self- diary entries? Asks us what it is to believe what is written- faith/ folk lore vrs science “Vampyre” goes back to a word meaning witch- wise woman, -being a “vamp”- charming a male w/ sexuality D. Defoe, The History of the Remarkable Life of John Sheppard (1724). Defoe's accounts are regarded as the principle source on Sheppard. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/14065/14065-h/14065-h.htm

The Narrow Road to the Deep North: Richard Flannagan

This was a sad Story. It followed several people during WWII and the effects the war had on everyone. The main character, Dorrigo Evans falls in love with his uncle's young wife, Amy, and they have an affair. When he becomes a POW the uncle tells his wife that Dorrigo died thinking they could go back to how they were before she met his nephew. Later the uncle dies in a house fire. Dorrigo comes back from the war after beheading people and watching a fellow prisoner get beaten to death (which took an entire day) An old girlfriend is waiting for him, she had Dorrigo believe both his aunt and uncle died in the fire, so they would get married. They have a loveless marriage and have children, then one day Dorrigo and Amy pass on a bridge and neither of them turn back to talk, Amy because she doesn't understand why he never came to find her if he was alive all this time. Amy also has cancer and only a short while left to live so she doesn't think it is worth it. Dorrigo is in disbelief and can't believe she is alive, but realizes the chance is gone. The story makes you numb, which is meant to show how life is after losing everything and becoming someone different than you thought you would be.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Alice through the looking glass: Lewis Carroll, Helen Oxenbury

This book was very difficult to read, it was even sillier than the first. Reading as an adult I finally say the adult humor with the pokes at death. Life is a game, in this one it is chess. The story begins with Alice looking in a mirror and finding a parallel world, it ends with her being awakened by her cat and the following poem in hopes Alice Liddell will live forever. A boat beneath a sunny sky, Lingering onward dreamily In an evening of July-- Children three that nestle near, Eager eye and willing ear, Pleased a simple tale to hear-- Long has paled that sunny sky: Echoes fade and memories die. Autumn frosts have slain July. Still she haunts me, phantomwise, Alice moving under skies Never seen by waking eyes. Children yet, the tale to hear, Eager eye and willing ear, Lovingly shall nestle near. In a Wonderland they lie, Dreaming as the days go by, Dreaming as the summers die: Ever drifting down the stream-- Lingering in the golden gleam-- Life, what is it but a dream?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Children's and Household tales: Brothers Grimm

This was the first time I had read so many of the Grimm’s tales; I have previously only read the ones that made it into popular culture. I was surprised by the violence throughout the stories, not only between different classes but of parents towards their children, sacrificing them was viewed upon kindly. I hadn't realized in Hansel and Gretel, they were cast out of the house because the parents couldn't afford to feed them, so they hoped they would perish in the woods. One idea that stood out to me was that these stories were supposed to warn children, of lower working classes, of the dangers in life, but it seemed like the only people who survived the stories were beautiful or princesses. I guess that prepared children for the harsh reality of their future. I find it interesting that fairy tales always deal with animals, in Disney's fairy tales the animals are furry and adorable, In Grimm’s the animals behave, but will still help out. Imagination in Grimm’s is much darker and the tales are often centered on work, spinning, hunting, sewing etc. The idea is that you are born, you work, you die- unlike Alice in Wonderland, which I am also reading, which is all over the place and centered on fun and games.

Alice in Wonderland: Lewis Carroll, Lisbeth Zwerger

This is the first time I have read this story as an adult and it was much different then I realized. The disjointedness of the story where it is all over the place was distracting to read. The Animals were as absent-minded as the story which seemed to add to the mystical-ness of the rabbit hole world. I liked to look at the story from the perspective of class where this story was geared toward upper-class. There was a lot of interest in what the working class was doing and the story was centered on fun and games, cards, crochet, storytelling, tea parties etc. At the end the mock turtle evens talks about a game and then they dance. There are even games with words used in the books; puns, homophones, and rhymes. The idea was that "life is an adventure" and if one has time to dream, anything is possible.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Buried Giant: Kazuo Ishiguro

I didn't like how this book ended, I like to make my own interpretation, but if this didn't end happily (I don't interpret it as doing so)the book seemed pointless to read. The story follows a Briton couple who are having problems with their memory. They decide to visit their son whom they haven't seen in years and prepare for the journey. Along the way they meet up with a Saxon warrior and a Saxon boy who had been bit by dragon. The Warrior has a secret plan to find and slay the dragon. They meet up with Sir Gawain who we find out at the end of the book is the dragon's protector. The warrior and Sir Gawain fight to the Gawain and the dragon's death. The old couple finally gets to the ferryman what they believe to be the final leg of their destination, then their memory returns. Here the dragon was responsible for the mist that had settled on people's minds. The couple remembers that their son had actually died from disease and that the wife had been unfaithful. The Ferryman is to judge if they can both be carried across to the island and asked them both questions. He tells the husband he will take the wife first and come back for the him. The wife thinks everything will be ok, but the husband knows if his wife goes without him, he will never see her again. The boatman starts the journey with the wife while the man wades out to see. The book ends. I took the island to be "death" and that the man would swim there rather than stay alive without his wife.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Gospel of Loki: Joanne M Harris

This was an amusing take on Norse Mythology from the point of view of Loki, the trickster. I loved how it tied in everything, how he got his children, why he played the tricks on the gods though he was supposedly living among them. It was very clever and enjoyable. There is a lot of tongue in cheek humor. Much different than what I usually read.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Relic: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

I really enjoyed this book until the very end. The story starts on an expedition years ago in South America where some scientists are looking for answers about a lost tribe. The entire expedition dies, but the loot makes it back to the United States. Oddly enough everyone on the boat that brings the goods into New Orleans is missing. We come to modern day in the Chicago Natural History Museum where people begin to be disturbingly murdered. The Hypothalamus glad is removed from each of the victims. This begins to happen as the museum is planning for a "superstitions" exhibit. We find out there is a monster living in the museum that was feeding off of the packing material from the ill-fated expedition in South America, and once the crate was moved the monster finds the hypothalamus has the same hormones as its primary food source. I was enjoying the story at this point, there have been references that it was similar to Jurassic Park, and I did agree with that. The ending however loses me. We are to believe this Monster boarded the ship with the boxes the scientists packed and then wandered to Chicago from New Orleans without being seen. Then we find out that the monster is actually one of the scientists from the expedition that ate a plant which had a virus and turned him into this "super being". The story was interesting and a fast-paced read.

Friday, May 29, 2015

What She Left Behind: Ellen Marie Wiseman

This novel exposed the conditions of insane asylums in the early 1900's. Clara, an affluent teenager in the 1920's gets pregnant with a boy, Bruno, her father doesn't approve of and gets toted off to the insane asylum. Geared for teen girls, the story parallels a teenager in the 1990's who is an orphan and has trouble fitting in at school. One assumes the story will expose the two narrators as blood ties, but it doesn't. We follow Clara's life at the asylum assuming she will eventually escape, Bruno comes to rescue her, but dies in the process. In the end Clara is found in assisted living and reunited with her daughter who was raised by the director of the insane asylum.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Leaving Berlin: Joseph Kanon

This was an excellent story, it seemed to take a while to build to the climax, but there were so many pieces being created that would eventually fall together, like a true murder mystery novel. It was suspenseful since the reader didn't know what Alex, the protagonist, had already figured out or what he was thinking. There were a lot of pieces of his life past and present that were still a mystery to the reader. Alex, a Jewish man returns to his childhood home in Germany after the war. His town is now in the Russian sector and we learn he was deported from the United States for being a communist. The reader learns he is actually there as a spy in order to clear his name and return to his family in the United States. On his first day he is set up and nearly killed, his only contact is shot to death. He gets a new contact that he is to report the doings of an old love interest, Irene, and her Russian commander boyfriend. Things get complicated when Irene's little brother escapes from a POW camp where he is mining Uranium for the Russians. Alex seems to get tangled up with Irene again, but the story hints that she can't be trusted. Alex arranged for Irene and her brother to be flown to the American controlled sector of Germany so the brother can get medical treatment. At the last minute Irene backs out. In the end Alex exposes the American general who was his primary contact as the double agent and leaves Irene behind realizing she was also spying on him. The novel did a wonderful job of exposing a war torn town and how no one can trust each other anymore, not even mother and son. People see what they want to see, not the hardships of others. This was an excellent book.

The Cookbook Collector: Allegra Goodman

I ended up listening to this book as an audio and thought it was rather long and drawn out, but that may be because I was multi-tasking. The story follows two sisters who live very different lives and the people who they encounter. The younger sister, Jess, is in college and works at a book store where she goes with her boss to buy a man's collection of cookbooks. She helps her boss make the sale and we find out her boss is in love with her. The Elder sister, Emily, works at a firm and is certain everyone who buys stocks in the company will become rich, she has her sister buy stocks in an effort to look out for her, but it puts her sister into a Rabbi's debt when she can't pay back the money she borrowed from him. Unlike Jess, she has a steady boyfriend who she is supposed to marry, but keeps delaying the date. Her Fiance dies in 9/11 after he stole her company's idea which becomes a success. In the end Jess marries the Book collector, her boss, and the story finally ends.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Persian Boy: Mary Renault

An interesting historical fiction about Alexander the Great through the eyes of his eunuch lover. The story was not what I was expecting and the beginning of the book was surprising to me, I was picturing a dry history of the time. The story starts with the enslavement of a young Persian boy who watches his father get murdered. He is then castrated and sold into slavery as a eunuch watching over the Harem and soon finds himself prostituted out. Through some interesting sales he become property of the king and then at his death becomes a gift to Alexander the Great. The book does a great job of discribing the time and the customs of many different people and the story was interesting as it progressed through different battles and the life of a King, never being safe.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The House of Velvet and Glass: Katherine Howe

Interestingly enough I have read all three of Katherine Howe's books and they all had something to do with witchcraft. In this one the father can trace lineage to a New England witch and he can see the future. The little sister and mom were on the Titanic trying to find a husband for the sister when the ship went down. The eldest sister had been spurned by her beau and the story follows her as she realizes she too has her father's gift. The war starts right when her little brother starts getting into trouble and is kicked out of college. She knows he will die in the war, but if he doesn't he will live miserably and eventually commit suicide. The story ends with her brother being remembered as a hero and the main character getting married.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Janissaries: David Nicole

This was about the Janissaries and their history in the Middle East. The pictures were very well done and the book was interesting while being educating.

The Golem and the Jinni: Helene Wecker

An original story about a lonely man who buys a "wife" by having a man make him a golem. The man then dies on a boat coming to America right after bringing Chava, the golem, to life. The story that runs parallel to this one is about a tin smith who accidently releases a Jinni when repairing a flask. The story flashes back to the Jinni's life before a wizard trapped him in the flask and also the past of all the other characters in the story. A rabbi meets the golem and takes her under his wing, finds her a place to live and a job, just when he decided he would need to bind her to someone he dies of a heart attack. That night leaving the rabbi's home after fetching the doctor, who pronounced him dead, she meets the Jinni. The story seems to be about the Golem and the Jinni, but it is actually about the wizard and the Jinni through the centuries. The wizard had originally met the jinni in the desert and entrapped him in the flask, once the jinni is released from the flask the wizard finds him again. In the end with the help of the golem and some human friends the jinni is able to trap the wizard in the flask and seeks out a way to destroy it without destroying himself. The book ends with the jinni coming back to New York to be with the golem.

Monday, April 27, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See: Anthony Doer

This was a wonderful book, reminiscent of "The Book Thief" where it follows the lives of a boy and girl through World War II. The French girl, Marie Laure becomes blind as a young girl and lives with her father who works at a Museum where he is responsible for a rare diamond. The boy, Werner, is an orphan whose father died in the mines. He is great with electronics and is noticed for his ability to fix radios and is taken into the army when the army adds 2 years to his age. Marie Laure and her father flee Paris with the diamond when the German's arrive. Werner and Marie Laure seem destined to meet when Marie's father is put in prison and her uncle starts working with the resistance sending radio messages. Once Werner arrives in Saint-Malo, Where Marie is with her uncle, he finds the uncle's radio transmissions, but refuses to attack them having fallen in love with Marie. There is no happy ending for romance, Werner saves Marie from a German officer trying to find the diamond and sends her to the Americans so she will be safe. He ends up stepping on a land mind and dies. The readers are unsure if he has the diamond or if it has been put back into the ocean. 30 years later Werner's sister is found and given her brother's knapsack which holds a house replica Marie's Father had made for her. Through odd coincidences she finds Marie and we learn the diamond was left in a grotto, inside the house was a key Marie gave Werner for the grotto.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Peony In Love: Lisa See

I don't like giving negative reviews, but this novel was a chore to finish. It didn't seem to have a goal and just went on and on. The first half was obsessed with sex, the last half just seemed like filler to make it long enough to make a book. A girl, Peony, watches a play about love and then sneaks off to meet a man who she thinks she falls in love with after talked to for a short time for three nights. Her father points out her husband to her on the last night of the play, but she doesn't look. It ends up being the poet she "loves". It is obvious what will happen, it is just surprising it happens so early in the book. Peony dies and becomes a "hungry ghost" because her death ceremony wasn't handled correctly. Peony watches her husband get married twice more and becomes obsessed with getting her writings published. One positive about this novel was that it does do a good job of educating on Chinese culture and beliefs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Thirteen Moons: Charles Frazier

This was an incredible book loosely based on William Holland Thomas, who was an orphan adopted by the Cherokee and then an advocate for the Cherokee to remain on their native soil. Through his land deeds the "Qualla Boundary" was formed in North Carolina. I love novels that make you want to research more, I didn't know anything about this territory and it lead me to research several other things. The book was incredibly sad where he falls in love with the girl and yearns for her his whole life. I liked that you never knew why she chose to leave him once she was widowed, yet life slowly rolls on. The novel was historically accurate where William couldn't legally marry the woman he loved because they were of different races. The story also leaves segments to the reader’s interpretation where a few tales are presented and the reader gets to decide which he/she wants to believe.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Burnable Book: Bruce Holsinger

Set in the time of 1385, this book starts in mystery and murder. The plot is so complex it takes the entire book to unravel, I kept wondering while reading how long this would have taken to write in order to get all the loose ends wrapped up. The main characters are a slightly fictionalized Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a book to amuse his mistress, but it falls into the wrong hands. It turns into taboo book once someone finishes it making it a book of prophesies on how all the kings will die. It suggests a plot to kill the current king, once thwarted everyone assumes the threat was over, but the actual attempt hadn't come. There is another struggle to find those responsible before it is too late. Interesting book, I thought the environment of medieval England was expertly created. The women were rather crude and it probably wasn't appropriate for teenagers, but it was enjoyable.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Conversion: Katherine Howe

This book was similar to the Physic Book of Deliverance Dane in that it goes back and forth from the present to the time of the witch trials. This book, however, was written for teen readers. Several girls in a modern day Catholic school start getting twitches and have seizure-like episodes. The book then flashed back to the late 1600's to the girls who accused their town of witch craft. Weaving back and forth, the narrator, Coleen makes the connection between the witchcraft trails from the book she is reading for class, The Crucible, and what is happening at her school. Girls start getting tics and losing their hair. They have body wracking coughs and cough up pins. The school tries to convince the community it was a reaction from a vaccine the girls had all gotten recently. The media tries to make it out as a contamination/pollution incident. Collen starts to wonder if it has something to do with a friend, who was dating a teacher. As the story builds we hear a confession from Anne Putnam about how the witch trails started. In this novel, it was all from a little girl trying to get out of her chores and other girls saw how effective it was and did the same. The book showed how easy and quickly things got out of control. Coleen realizes the pain her friend Clara is going through is being pushed outward from her to those close to her. They end up getting physically ill. By the end everyone is happy again and heading off to college. Either I missed the part about the relationship between the teacher and student, or it actually did come to an end…I didn’t really like how that seemed glorified and dreamy to a student. That part disturbed me.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Stealing Faces: Michael Prescott

This was a disturbing thriller where the hunted becomes the hunter...temporarily. A sick and twisted man collects young woman to "free" them. He kidnaps them and then sets them loose in a deserted area to hunt them. When captured he peels their face off. A girl, "Kaylie" from his past shows up one day and he realizes she had been following him for some time. The first half of the book establishes that Kaylie is terrified of the police and you are left trying to figure out why. Doctor Cray breaks into Kaylie's hotel room and kidnaps her, but when he takes her to the mountains to hunt her, she out smarts him. Kaylie makes an anoynomous tip and leaves a bag she stole from Cray's car containing his hunting knife at the payphone. Cray had his radio on and picked up the bag minutes before the cop arrived. Kaylie is then arrested trying to break into Cray's house to get evidence and is put back in the mental institute, where we learned she was after killing her husband 12 years prior. The night Cray decides to kill Kaylie and make it look like a suicide the whole story comes out. Kaylie killed her husband because he and Dr Cray were hunting women and keeping their faces as trophies, but no one believed her. Finally justice is served when a cop comes to Kaylie's aid with a gun and she shoots Cray.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Bonesetter's Daughter: Amy Tan

I love the back and forth between present day and the past spanning three generations of memory. Ruth, the daughter, describes her loveless relationship, which seemed to start off so well, she expresses concern for her mother who starts suffering from dementia, and her work, which has become dissatisfactory. Ruth takes her mother to the doctor to do some tests and her mother gives some false information. Later Ruth realizes her mother really did have a different mother than her aunt and really did have a different birthdate, she was telling the truth at the doctor. The story builds from Ruth finding out the truth of her mother's past, which she had written down for Ruth years earlier. The history begins with Ruth's grandmother, who was the only surviving family member of a bone setter. He raised her to be feel and uncharacteristic of a woman at the time. When she married he sent her with a "dragon bone" which ended up being human. The story is filled with tragedy. Ruth's mother was raised in her father's home thinking her aunt's wife was her mother, her actual mother commits suicide and she lives through WWII at an orphanage. Once in the United States Ruth's mother becomes a widow when Ruth is small and does not complain of living in a strange world with different customs while raising her daughter who is American in thought and actuality. It was a brilliant story of family, culture, and learning. It was a very educational and an enjoyable read.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane: Katherine Howe

This was an interesting book that alternates between "present day" the 1990's and the 1700's during a witch craft trial. A graduate student, Connie, moves into her grandmother's house for the summer to fix it up so her mother can sell it. Having never visited the place she was surprised to see the disarray, mushrooms growing in the house, and that it didn't have electricity. She comes across an old family bible with a name on a piece of paper "Deliverance Dane". She checks out the name at the local church and finds out she was tried as a witch and excommunicated. As the story progresses we understand Deliverance Dane was an ancestor of Connie's (Constance) and that there is still magic occurring. Connie's professor tasks her with finding a primary source. Connie believes she can find Deliverance's "receipt book" or recipe book of spells and she finally does through libraries and the help of collectors. Meanwhile Connie meets a boy and he mysteriously falls ill about the time Connie thinks it is impossible to find the magic book. She realizes her professor poisoned her boyfriend when she uses the recipe book to pull the poison from the boy the professor mysteriously arrives. In the end the professor gets the mysterious illness that the boyfriend had and Connie's mom, Grace, decides to keep the family home.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Caleb's Crossing: Geraldine Brooks

This was a historical fiction on the first Native American(s) to attend Harvard University. The first couple chapters were confusing to me because I assumed the Narrator would be Caleb, but it was actually that of a girl who would befriended Caleb. I liked the title of the novel because Caleb's crossing could mean his crossing from a native to a white person's world as well as the physical crossing of the water to college and then later, crossing over to death. Reading it you hope for a happy ending, but knowing the history and what happens to both Joel and Caleb it is disappointing. Joel, who was valevictorian was murdered when their boat capsized coming back from visiting his family. Not long after Caleb would die from tuberculosis. I found the writing to be wonderful, Brooks wove the native beliefs and mystisism in with the white man's obsession over religion all done in a voice that was very reminiscent of the time. An excellently crafted story and a very enjoyable read that leave you looking up more information on the characters.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Sisters Antipodes: Jane Alison

This was a heartbreaking story of a girl who spends her childhood wondering if her father loves her. The father didn't know how to talk to his children, they made him uncomfortable and he didn't like being alone with them. Her story was made more devastating because his new wife had two girls the same age as his and they became a sort of replacement for the girls he didn't see. There was competitiveness between the two younger girls, who shared the same birthday, which seemed to end up defining who they were. I liked that the author referred back to her childhood diary and was able to recreate all the hurtful things said so they still seemed raw and painful. The "other half" Jennifer dies in her thirties leaving Jane to try to determine again who she is and what she has left. At the end there exists a sort of peace between everyone in the family, with the exception of the other stepsister, but there is still a feeling that everyone walks on eggshells to an extent. This was a beautifully written book.

Babe on Board: Konrath Peterson

This was a short story on detective Harry McGlade. He picks up a girl at a bar who is wanted by the Mafia. She comes back 7 months after he helped get her away from the mafia and she tells him she is pregnant. They go to a doctor's appointment together and on the way out of the clinic she is kidnapped by the mafia and he is beat up. With help from his pregnant sister, Jack Daniels, they get to the mobster's house to rescue her and find out she wants to live with the mobster. In the end Harry is both relieved and excited about the baby.

The Ghost Bride: Yangze Choo

I love stories that deal with other culture's beliefs. In this one Li Lan of Malaysia comes of marriageable age and learns her father had made a match for her with a boy she had recently taken an interest in. However the marriage agreement had been terminated because the eldest son died and they could not marry the cousin, Li's betrothed, to a poor girl like herself. The family instead asked for her to become a "ghost bride" to the deceased son. Li becomes haunted by the ghost of the son and journeys to the land of the dead to set things right. She meets her deceased mother in the land of the dead as well as a dragon man, with whom she eventually falls in love. There is adventure and suspense and when she comes back to the world of the living finds another spirit has entered her body. With help from her nanny the spirit is dispelled and she returns to find out she is again betrothed to the man she thought she wanted to marry. I enjoyed how nothing and no one is exactly as they seem and that she changes her mind on who to love once she realizes she has a choice. I also liked the whole idea of the funeral offerings and how they appeared in the land of the dead. I was sort of frustrated at the end, if Li Lan chose death anyway then why not let the spirit remain in her body, and then she wouldn't have to put up with her in the afterlife until she died. This was a very interesting and enjoyable read.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Broken Shore: Peter Temple

This was a murder mystery that a cop was trying to solve. It was really well written, you kept thinking you knew why the man died, but the plot kept getting deeper and deeper. The cop, Cashin, investigates a wealthy man's apparent murder and sees that the man's watch is missing. Later a pawn shop reports that a watch matching the description of the deceased came into the store. A road block is set up to catch the kids selling the watch as they come back into town. It starts to rain and Cashin tries to call off the operation, but no one responds on the radio. Once he meets up at the road block he sees another cop shoot one of the kids and another died in the car crash. The third boy disappears when they set bail and then is pulled out of the river in an apparent suicide. Everyone believes it is a closed case, but Cashin is not happy with how events played out too conveniently. He uncovers an underground pedophile ring that the old man was a part of and realizes two of the boys who were victims are killing off the old men who formed the group. He is almost killed while trying to arrest the murderer.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fever: Mary Beth Keane

This was a novel based on "Typhoid Mary’s life. It starts with her remembering how her family in Ireland was nearly wiped out by Typhoid, but she survived. Later when she comes to the United States and becomes a cook by profession, she shows us how many of the people she cooked for suddenly became sick. A sanitary engineer puts it together that she is a carrier and getting people sick through her cooking. They lock her up on an island used to treat tuberculosis patients in order to keep her out of the public. She loses hope that it will be a temporary stay when they build her a small cabin. She stays there for three years. Then they learn of other people that are carriers, but since they are men and the bread winners for their family, they are not locked up. Eventually they let Mary go home with the understanding that she will check in at the office every 3 months and will not cook as a profession. She doesn't have a home to go home to though. Her "man", Alfred, was engaged to another. She finds a job as a laundress and rooms with a friend. Alfred decided he couldn't marry another woman and becomes a drunk again, Mary says she wants nothing to do with him and he then becomes a drug addict. Mary starts cooking for her friend and friend's children and when they don't become sick she believes she can cook again. She stops checking in at the office and gets work at a bakery, and then a hospital. She finds Alfred again and starts taking care of him and aids him in his drug addiction. The same time Typhoid springs up at the hospital Alfred dies. The Sanitary engineer is alerted by the Thyroid outbreak and finding Mary, locks her up for the last 23 yrs. of her life. By then Mary admits that the people must have died because of her.

Year of Wonders: Geraldine Brooks

This was a novel about the Plague in England in the 1600's. A woman walks to the Rectors home and reminisces about being happy once. The story then starts when she was 15 and meets back up to the "current" time the story begin in. When she was 15 she was married to an older man. By the time she was 18 she was a widow due to her husband dying in a mining accident. By the time she was 20 she had lost both of her sons when a boarder carrying the plague from London stayed in her home. She watched a friend hanged as a witch and her town diminish as the plague swept through. By the time the Plague was over, she had lost all of her family. Her father took advantage of his neighbors by overcharging them for digging graves and was finally punished when he tried killing a man and buried him alive while ransacking his home. Her Stepmother took advantage of the women by claiming she was a witch and selling ridiculous advice on how to keep the plague away. The Stepmother ended up going crazy after all her children died and ended up killing the protagonist's best friend. By the end of the novel the woman gained a new little girl, who was going to be killed because she was born out of sin and gave birth to another little girl after having sex with the minister. She left England by boat and then remarried a Muslim man and became part of his harem. This was a very interesting book about 16th Century England during sickness and was based on an actual town who barricaded themselves from the outside world to keep from infecting them. By the time the plague was over 2/3 of the town had died.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

If Looks Could Kill: Kate White

This story was a murder mystery that has you guessing until the very end. A woman, Bailey, is a freelance writer for a magazine and her sort of friend, Kat, is her boss. Kat calls her early one morning to tell her she has a bad feeling about the nanny, she missed their appointment and wasn't answering her door. Bailey goes over and finds her dead. It appeared that she had been poisoned by a box of chocolates. Upon further searching it appeared the girl was having an affair with an older wealthier man. In the end after several false suspects we find out the head of the newspaper, Leslie had the girl poisoned with the chocolates and had it look like it was supposed to be for Kat, since the girl was her nanny. Leslie's husband was the wealthy lover. Leslie tries to murder Bailey by having her over for dinner and feeding her peanuts which she was allergic to, luckily Bailey survives.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Dive From Clausen's Pier: Ann Packer

This was a terribly sad story that you can't put down, though you know it cannot end happily. A woman, Carrie, who just finished college, realizes she doesn't want the life set before her of marrying her boyfriend, Mike, of five years. He knows things aren't going well and in an effort to show off for her he dives from a pier during a cookout with their friends. The water was feet lower than normal and he hits something on his dive leaving him a paraplegic. Carrie is torn between not wanting to carry on with her life as before, where she wasn't happy, and trying to be the person people expect her to be. Eventually she tells Mike she doesn't want to get married- in a cryptic way. The next day she hopes in her car and moves to New York without telling anyone. There she falls in love and moves in with a friend. She doesn't pay rent or get a job and eventually sells her car so she can take clothes designer classes. Her best friend calls and tells her she needs her to come home. Carrie has no money and tells her she can't- she learns the friend's mother had overdosed herself and was in the hospital, so she puts a plane ticket on her credit card and comes home. The friend is furious and won't talk to her. (The entire time reading this book I kept thinking about all the wasted money!)Carrie books a couple plane tickets back to New York, but never goes back, she never finishes school, and gave her friend a check for rent. Eventually her boyfriend sends her sewing machine and tells her over the phone that he lost a brother named Mike; both of them were forever changed by Mikes. Carrie stays in Wisconsin out of guilt, she wants to go back to New York, but Mike's best friend tells Carrie Mike was suicidal. Then Mike's mom tells her she isn't reliable. For some reason she feels she has to prove herself to these people. Her friend eventually forgives her and life continues as always.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Payment in Kind: J.A. Jance

I liked that this story only gave the reader as much information as the detectives had. It was impossible to solve at the beginning because the key player, though introduced, was lost in the search. It wasn't until the end that we see her connection to the murdered victims. The detective is called to a murder at a school and finds a man and woman locked in a closet in what appears to be an affair as both were partially dressed. The facts don't add up, the closet was dark, the apparent suicide wasn't set up correctly and the woman was a lesbian. Luck happens to be on the detective's side when his interviews turn up vital information. A child was out skiing on the night of the murder and saw someone who looked like the deceased woman's daughter. (what struck me as odd here is that the murderer happened to be a receptionist at the school the skiing boy went to...wouldn't he have recognized her?) We learn the deceased woman's daughter was actually kidnapped and the murder is the girl’s sister taking revenge for the life she had to live since she wasn't "saved" from her crazy mother.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Beach House: James Patterson and Peter De Jonge

When Jack's brother gets mysteriously murdered at a wealthy family's summer party, the entire town becomes tight lipped. The police claim it was a suicide and when Jack starts investigating himself he ends up getting threatened and loses his job. Once the case goes to court it is dismissed as a suicide and Jack ends up finding evidence and uncovering his brother's secret life. His brother was a gigolo for the rich and had started as early as 14- 15 years old. Jack found photos of it and kidnapped all the players. With the help of his grandfather and some friends he holds a fake court live on TV and exposes everyone including who got AIDS from the boss of the Ring. The players end up in jail after the live court is over.

The Kitchen God's Wife: Amy Tan

Wow, this was an amazing book. I really respect the author for putting herself in the light of how her mother sees her and not that she is always right- it speaks volumes of her as a person. The story was both heartbreaking and hard to set down. Amy talks about visiting her mother after a family member's funeral and how her mother's friend told her mother she would tell Amy the truth about their secrects if she didn't. The "story" within the story starts in China in the 1920's where the mom, weiwei, remembers her mother suddenly leaving. She is sent to live with her father's brother, where she is not loved, but not treated unkindly. She has an arranged marriage and a husband who treats her poorly. The Novel continues with Weiwei's story and occasionally picks up characters that Amy knows in her life in California and the connectedness of the people in her life all comes together. This was beautifully crafted .

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Reliable Wife: Robert Goolrick

I picked up this book because I liked the cover, and then luckily really enjoyed the book. An older lonely man, Mr. Truitt, posts an ad looking for a "reliable wife" a woman, Catherine, answers it and sends another woman's picture, which he doesn't find out until he sends for her by train. The story is told by alternating voices with each chapter and as the story progresses we learn there is more to each character's motive than they tell us. Towards the end of the book, after the two get married and Truitt sends Catherine to find his long lost son. We find out Catherine and the son is actually lovers who had answered the ad to murder Truitt and take his fortune. However after Catherine finds her sister, who is near death, she realizes she doesn't have to care for everyone else anymore and she can allow herself some happiness. She falls in love with Truitt and stops poisoning him. The lover/son comes back home and dies after Catherine nurses Truitt back to health and there is finally a glimmer of a happy ending.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: James D. Hornfischer

My husband suggested I read this book because he had read it and it became his favorite book instantly. It was a very well documented book and told the story of the battle of Leyte Gulf in a way that you didn't want to put the book down, but at the same time you couldn't believe the men couldn't catch a break. After the Ships were destroyed the men fought to find ways to get out of the ships with lifeboats that had been shot to pieces, they then wearily swam away from the ship with various injuries from severe burns to missing limbs to keep from getting sucked under when the ships went down, they were then stranded in the ocean for 2+ days while the Japanese floated by and sharks attacked and men suffered from delirium and sunburns/poisoning. This novel really gave one respect for what the service men and women do for our freedom.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Em and the Big Hoom:Jerry Pinto

This was a heartbreakingly beautiful novel. It was sad, but the humor made it uplifiting at the same time. The book starts gradually where the mother says things that shock you, but you don't think of her being ill, which is probably how it was in real life meeting her. Eventually the author comes out and states that the mother is mentally ill, not just brash. I loved the quote from the father " you must pay your debts, even those that you can never fully repay. Anything less makes you less". The story ends with the death of the mother and the mixed emotions one has, guilt for feeling relieved and guilt because you always wanted to be a hero and one day make up for things you did as a child. I liked how mom was never really cast in a bad light, and how stoic the father was able to stay until he lost her. She was such a presence in their life that her passing would have left a huge hole and the book is able to capture that. Excellently written.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Last Man Standing: David Baldacci

Web, an FBI agent is part of a group assigned to take out a drug operation. Upon entering the ally a little boy is sitting there and says "Damn to hell" which causes Web to freeze as his men are all shot to death by automatic machines. Digging deep into the criminal underworld, Web finds out his psychologist was in on the raid and had his office bugged. He implanted the phrase so Web would freeze, though he was supposed to die too. The little boy at the entrance is kidnapped so the Drug lord the group was trying to frame could be manipulated. Everything ends at a horse farm that Web ends up on protecting a family from the past because a white supremist who was responsible for killing the couple's son was freed and people involved with the trial were getting killed. Turns out the wife was responsible for the deaths of the lawyer and judge, but was unaware of the little boy being kept at her house. By the end all the bad guys/ girls are dead and the little boy make it back to his drug dealing father, who we assume is getting cleaned up.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Playing for Pizza: John Grisham

This book was very different from Grisham's other books. A football player makes a mistake in a game and wakes up in the hospital after his injury. It seems like the entire country hates him and his agent finds him a job in Italy, playing semi-professionally. He chases after women for a while, but then comes to love the game, his teammates, and eventually falls in love with another young American in Italy. The story was heartwarming as Rick, the football player, comes to understand himself and what is important in life.