Whatcha reading?

Whatcha reading?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Gate Keepers: Robert Liparulo

This is the third book in the King series. An old man shows up at the house and claims to be the kid's great uncle. He explains he had to move away because the house kept pulling him through portholes on it's own. The kids spend a lot of time "flying" around in the yard which went on entirely too long for me. They find the grandmother in this book and bring her home, dad gets out of jail, grandmother is sucked back into the house, dad, boys, and New character of Uncle Jesse's care provide go to the world of the future and book ends with them being chased by future beings.

Watcher in the Woods: Robert Liparulo

This is the second of the Dream house King Books. The book is aimed for young boys, so there is a lot the adult reader has to just overlook- cheesy humor, the weird stain the book has to establish the young characters that the first book didn't seem to have. The King Family has just lost their mother to the portals in the house and the boys keep jumping into different worlds without their father knowing in an attempt to find her. I found it hard to believe that life would just go on for them when something terrifying like that happens, knowing their grandmother disappeared and never came back. Davis discovers a portal between the school and the house and so do others. A man comes to the house threatening that they need to leave before "bad things happen" the dad is thrown into jail for assaulting an officer. The kids are left to fend for themselves and stop going to school. The stranger keeps coming to the house and frightens the kids.

Sphere: Michael Crichton

This book starts and ends mysteriously. A physiologist, Norman, is flown to a remote island on a mission which he assumed dealt with a plain crash. When he gets to the island the navy has set up an underwater lab. Norman is told there is a spaceship at the bottom of the ocean, which they think is 300 years old, or has at least been siting there for 300 years. Once the team gets to the bottom they realize the "space ship" was made in America...in the future. On board they find coke in the pantry, but no crew. There is also a large "sphere" made of an alien substance. Everyone goes back to the underwater lab and they learn they are going to be stuck down there for a few days because a huge storm has caused the navy to pull out above them. On the camera they see one of the members of the crew, Harry, has gone back into the ship and opens the sphere. he walks into it and it closes around him. a couple hours later he comes out and can't remember much about the experience, just that they NEED to get out and get out now! We later realize that he has become paranoid. Strange things start to happen. Miraculously large sea fans begin growing by the lag, scores of squid, then jellyfish, then shrimp appear, which have no digestive organs. One of the crew goes out and is consumed by jelly fish. People start dying right and left including the captain of the mission. A large squid like something from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea starts coming to the lab and tearing it apart. The remaining three people in the crew start to figure out the appearance of the monsters only happen when a certain person is awake. Norman and Beth put an IV in Harry to keep him asleep in order to keep themselves alive until the storm subsides and they can escape the lab. However Beth starts acting strange as well and she locks Norman in a section of the lab turning off his air and electric. He watches one of the tapes from the ship and sees that Beth also entered the sphere. She was afraid of sea snakes and a tornado of them appeared when she went out to the sub. The things she materializes allow her to be in control and save people. Norman escapes out the lab and enters the ship and the sphere to try to understand what is going on. The sphere doesn't seem to react with him the way it did with the other two. He accidently arms the explosives Beth had set up around the lab and escapes in the sub himself once the storm is over. He is on his way to the surface when he realizes he is no better than the others when he panics and leaves them behind. He goes back and awakes Harry, who knocks out Beth and they just barely get out to the sub before the explosions, Harry's power of positive thinking is more powerful than Beth and Harry's complaints that they will never make it to the surface in time. They are the only survivors and the only ones who know about the sphere. The time frame is wrong for the explosives- which bothered me-it was a 20 min timer at 0140, at 0130 there is still 14 min left? At the end they all agree to forget about the sphere because its power is too much for both them mankind. They decide to just remember the accident (as a reminder of why so many on their expedition died) for the navy questioning that will follow. They are able to use there new found ability to erase the sphere from their mind. We know both Harry and Norman forget, but you are not convinced that Beth went through with it as she doesn't really comment in the same way as the other two and she still has a beauty that the sphere seemed give her. Interestingly enough, the only person not chosen by Norman for the expedition was Levine, who got sea sick and returned to the surface before the expedition began. and the person they most rely on, Harry, turns out to be the one responsible for the manifestations of the creatures that kill everyone off. We are left thinking the spacecraft was probably abandoned by the future Americans who also realized people weren't ready for the power of the sphere yet. One has to recognize and accept that they are part beast and part nice guy.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Pleasures of Tea: Kim Waller

This was a collector's soft of book seemingly designed as a unique gift to give someone. There are interesting recipe sections speckled throughout the book. There is also a section on collecting teapots, throwing a tea party, and books to read when relaxing with a cup of tea. It was a very cute book.

The Nazi Officer's Wife: Edith Hahn Beer

This was a powerful novel about a Jewish woman who survived the holocaust by being clever. Her father died from heart failure as the Nazi's took power, Vienna was then filled with Nazis. Edith was sent to work camps after her mother was able to get both younger daughters sent to Britain and Palestine. She was fist sent to an asparagus farm where she and the other girls lost so much weight they stopped menstruating. After about a year, she was sent to a paper factory where another woman's husband sent news back about the failures at the front line. She caught scarlet fever and shortly after recovering was sent home to be with her mother in relocation. She and the other girls sent home to Vienna decide to take off their stars before leaving the train and the melt into the crowd. Edith finds refuge in the city by constantly moving between people who help her, but she is constantly worried she will be putting those helping her at risk. One day she gives up and tells a Nazi friend that she is going to find her mother, the woman directs her to a friend of hers, who was leaving for Africa the next day. He tells her to find a non-Jewish friend that looks like her and have the friend register that she is going on holiday, then take those food rations, then have the friend say she lost her purse in the river, take her original documents, the friend will then file for replacements. There was still a list of things she couldn't do because they would find out there were 2 of the same woman. Edith then moved to Munich to work with the red cross where a Nazi, Werner, started courting her. She told him she was Jewish, thinking she was signing her death warrant, but he had her live with him. When she got pregnant he was very unhappy, but married her and never told her secret. Once the battle was lost and Werner was a POW in Russia, Edith was able to find another apartment, theirs had been burned, but she was able to get her suitcase with her original paperwork. She finally practiced as a judge and was eventually asked to be at the Nuremburg trials, but being Jewish, she didn't want anyone to accuse her of being bias and pleaded to not go, they took her license away so she wouldn't. She was able to get Werner released from prison, but he was unhappy that Edith stopped being "Grete" and was actually very smart and independent. She was providing for her daughter and didn't have time to do the domestic chores he insisted she do, they divorced. Edith and her daughter were able to get to England out of luck and the tickets provided by her youngest sister and brother-in-law. This was a heartbreaking story as it wasn't until after the war that she learned of her mother's fate and then suffered survivor's guilt as few members of her family survived. It didn't sound like she and her middle sister ever reconciled and a one line sentence was stated that the sister didn't want them with her in Palestine. Edith died in 2009, right before the featured film of her life.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Boys in the Boat: Daniel James Brown

This was a really interesting story, it focuses on Joe Rantz (I assume because he outlived everyone else)and then at the very end talks about the Olympic race in Berlin in 1936. Joe's mother dies when he was very young, his father fled to Canada after her death, though it never really says why. Joe was raised by relatives for a couple years, then his father got remarried and took him back for a couple years until Joe yells at his little step brother for pulling up carrots and his step mother insist the father, who evidently was also a flake with no backbone, finds work for the ten year old who then has to forage or find a way to eat. After a few more years, the father takes him back until Joe comes home from school at 15 to find the family car packed up and the family leaving. For the third time the dad tells Joe he can't come and has the audacity to tell Joe the little kids need him more than Joe does, after having left him when he was four. The story then goes on to explain how the "boys in the boat" where selected and that they were all from working class backgrounds, which was evidently uncharacteristic for boating at the time. The Team heads to Germany by boat and one of the boys, the 1st rower, gets a lung infection yet still competes because his team mates insist they will row him across the line just as long as he is in the boat. The race doesn't start off well, they were given the worst lane, which was choppy from the wind, and couldn't hear the starting call, so they got out late. While rowing, the sick boy sort of went catatonic, and there was so much noise from the crowd that no one could hear the coxswain trying to increase the pace. The Coxwain resorted to pounding on the boat and the sick boy became alert, they rowed to exertion taking the gold metal.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Watchers: Dean Koontz

At the beginning of the book, a psychotic killer is paid to hit 4 doctors. They all worked at the same lab. A man, Travis, is out hiking to try to find meaning in his life and runs across a dog and some mysterious being in the woods. He and the dog run all the way to his car, and he takes the dog home after he realizes the dog can understand what he is saying. We find out 2 creatures escaped from the lab. One is a dog, who was created to be as smart as a human, the other is a baboon hybrid, created to be a killer. The baboon creature spends months stalking the dog, who with Travis, travels a few times. In the end, Travis ends up killing both the baboon and the psychotic killer, though we never really get confirmation that the killer is dead. The dog goes on to have puppies that are as smart as him.

Skink No Surrender: Carl Haasen

This was an adventure book for young adults. Richard is 14 and meeting his cousin on the beach, but she never shows up. While waiting he finds a plastic straw in the sand and starts messing with it. A man comes exploding out of the sand, he was using the straw to breathe while waiting to catch a man illegally collecting turtles. The man, Skink, then helps Richard find his cousin, who was lured into meeting a man she met in a chat room. They go on a wild adventure including saving animals from getting hit on the road, to learning how to drive, to a run in with an alligator, and a fight on a sinking houseboat. Richard does find and safely bring home his cousin. Skink disappears after his hard work, and the kidnapper gets away.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: Rebecca Skloot

This book was about the journey of discovering "who was Henrietta Lacks?" Henrietta died in 1951 of cervical cancer. She left behind five children, the oldest two being about 16 and 12 the last three all under 5yrs old. The little ones never knew their mother and grew up wondering who she was. There is controversy around The removal of Henrietta's cells as neither she nor her husband gave permission to donate the cells to science. Henrietta's cells have made her immortal because they were used to develop the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Rebecca bonds with Henrietta's only surviving daughter, Deborah, on a journey to discover not only who her mother was, but who her sister Elsie was and how she died in a state hospital. The journey is heartbreaking, but eye opening not only to the woman who unknowing made the world a much better place, though she died in terrible pain, but to the scientific experimentation done to people with no voice. This is a must read.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Different Class: Joanne Harris

Another incredible book by Harris. I constantly marvel at her characters, they are all so different and so...human. You don't completely hate anyone and often they remind you of someone you know. In this novel a school master's life is turned upside down when the new head of the school ends up being a previous student, Harrington, who Rob has mistrusted since he was a student. The book is told in two voices and split between 1981 and 2005 (present day)One of the voices is of Roy Straitley , the Latin master and one of the boys from the class in 1981, who we initially think is Harrington, but ends up being his friend. The story centers around 2 murders that happened near the school. The mysterious boy's story is told in letters and we find out he was molested. The town wrongly assumes it was by the gay teacher, Harry, at St. Oswald's. Harry is then imprisoned and dies right before the story begins. By the end of the book we find out Straitley's childhood friend and another teacher at the school, Eric, actually molested the boy. Straitley praises himself for knowing what is going on in his classroom, but this completely catches him unaware. It was a very good book filled with lessons and heartbreak.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Fallen Angels : Walter Dean Myers

Aimed at young boys, this book follows the life of 17yr old Richie Perry who is sent to Vietnam after he signs up for the Army. Perry has a knee injury which he though would keep him out of battle, but the paperwork gets misplaced and he is sent to the front lines where faces death for the first time. Perry struggles with wanting to tell his little brother and mother in his letters about the fighting, and wanting to protect them. There is the discrepancy of life in the letters between the soldiers and their loved ones at home. The soldiers worry over petty things back home even though they are fighting for their lives in Vietnam. Perry and his friend not only fight discrimination in their own squad, but have to figure out how to survive and deal with the loss of people that have become brothers in a war they don't understand. While out on patrol Peewee and Perry are attacked and slide into a spider hole to hide. Eventually the Viet Cong comes back to his hole and the boys kill him. They make it to the drop spot and find another one of their squad sitting strangely by a tree, then realize he has a gun trained on him. In a heroic effort the boys take out the Vietcong and get the other boy on the plane when it comes, their injuries are serious enough that they are sent home. Peewee's injury seems unstable, but I think we are meant to assume both boys make it back to the States and live long lives. The book closes with boys on a plane back home.