Sunday, February 25, 2018

Dramatic Changes

My life has been in a chaotic state lately, which is why I haven't posted. I went from peacefully living in the same home I've loved for two suddenly selling my precious home (which contains my most beloved library room) and trying to find a new house. All the changes are for the better,...just unexpected and rushed. All is well, though, except for my nerves, my frustration level, and my half emptied home where I can't seem to find anything. And, to make matters even worse, half of my library is already packed up...somewhere. I wasn't at home when it was packed, so I have no idea where anything is. Arrrrrgh!


Okay, enough of my personal drama. Let's move on to some fabulous book drama! 

Jo Nesbo! Do you know Jo?! He is the talented writer of the Inspector Harry Hole Series. But I didn't know it was a series when I read The Snowman (which is #7). It didn't hurt the story that I read it out of order because each novel is a different case for the inspector, but I wish I'd started at the first. I also didn't know it was a current movie when I read it. After I read it, though, it made me want to read all of them. I now own the first three in the series and have almost finished the first novel, The Bat, and - while it's not as scary or as intense as The Snowman - it's just as well-written and intriguing.

The Snowman gave me the creeps in a good way. In other words, this genre is not really my typical read, but I was drawn into the mystery and horror of it all. Nesbo is a good author who writes Harry as a very flawed, but likeable, character. This novel is about Harry tracking down a serial killer who only kills certain types of women in horrific kinds of ways. I didn't want to put it down, buuuut...if I was home alone and it was dark outside? I didn't read it, if you know what I mean.

After I read the book, I decided to watch the movie. I was actually curious how they were going to re-create some of the scenes in the book. To say I was disappointed would be a huge understatement. I approved of the actor choices they made for the characters, no complaints there, but they changed an important element of the story and completely changed the ending...and not for the better. Those scenes I wanted to see played out? They didn't do them. At all. I was very disappointed, and I told my husband (who only saw the movie) that the movie was definitely not the book story. He had heard me go on and on about it, and he wasn't impressed with the movie. It was just...okay.

Yes, I know, I know,...the book is always better than the movie, but this movie just left too much out that would've helped the audience understand what was really going on. The web the author wove so perfectly, in writing, was no longer in tact in the movie. So, as usual, please don't judge the book by the movie. In fact, don't see the movie at all. Just read the book.

As I said before, I'm almost done with The Bat, and I can't wait to read Cockroaches, Book #2,...if I can ever find which box it's stored in. And I hope to one day meet Mr. Nesbo and shake his hand. I'm not easily creeped out, and it is a testament to his writing skills that he was able to pull me into a genre I've previously snubbed, for the most part. I think my previous experiences must have been with writers of a lesser caliber. Mr. Nesbo's writing suits me well. And, after reading the first in this series, I trust I will enjoy all the books between the first and the seventh. :)

Happy reading!

(And please forgive any errors in this post. I'm doing this 'on the fly' in the midst of moving turmoil.)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Trying Game

I don't like to write a book review too harshly, especially when it is written by an author I like. It's why I've hesitated, several times, in writing this review. I do believe in being honest with my opinions, though, even when it makes me uncomfortable to do so.

All that being said, I tried to love The Lying Game by Ruth Ware. I swear I tried. I enjoyed her other novels In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10. I was looking forward to The Lying Game, and I am the one who suggested it as a book club read. But, try as I might, I found myself a bit annoyed with the novel...and, thus, a bit annoyed with the author. Please allow me to explain.

I am a patient reader and not quick to judge until I've read an entire novel. Even then, I'm not quick to critique. I like to 'mull over' the story for awhile. I'm also used to novels dragging at some point, or the details becoming a bit more than I prefer, but I take that in stride. I can even break out what I don't like and set it aside to consider the rest of the novel. In other words, to use an old idiom, "I don't throw out the baby with the bath water" when it comes to novels.

For example, I love The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. For me, it is one of the  most well-written novels I've ever experienced. I fell more in love with the art of writing from that novel that anything else I've ever read. However, when he wrote the next novel in the series, The Wise Man's Fear, I felt he jumped the track a bit. I saw where it could've been better. It was, once again, a fabulous novel,...but I would have taken out about 75 pages that really didn't need to be in there. Now, there could be a reason for those extraneous pages, and it may reveal itself  in some kind of 'tie in' to the third novel, then no one cares. Including me. And, again (for the record), I think Rothfuss' writing is genius,...but no one is perfect.

With all of THAT being said (Do you see how I'm trying to justify what I'm about to say about The Lying Game? I don't like saying it, but it has to be said.), here's what was blatantly wrong with Ware's latest novel, in my opinion...

First, let me say what The Lying Game is about. The narrator in the novel is a woman in her 30s who is sent a text message one day by an old school friend. The same message is sent to two other women, also old school friends. These women attended the same girls' boarding school when they were 15 - 16 years old, and they became fast friends,...but have had little to no contact for numerous years. The mystery, of course, is why do all three of the women drop their lives to go running to the one who sent the text? The short answer, without revealing anything, is they all shared a part in 'The Lying Game' and the lies have finally come home to roost. What will they do next? (I'll tell you what they don't do next. They don't act like intelligent, educated 30something-year-old women. And that's part of the problem.)

At its core, when you strip away the unnecessary parts that bog down the tale, it's a good story. But as I read, I felt like Ware had a book contract with a 'minimum pages required' clause. There are elaborate descriptions that go on too long, but that wouldn't be so bad if they weren't repeated over and over again. By the end of the novel, I could perfectly describe Thea's legs, Fatima's hair and hijab, Kate's flat stomach, how a grown woman feels like a 16-year-old hormonal teenager, how a baby smells and coos and cries and smiles, and how to breastfeed. 

Now, if those were the only problems with the novel, I might not complain...too much. I would have just skimmed the repetitious parts. Sadly, those are not the only problems. The narrator, Isa, is ridiculous. Now, to me, this is not the same thing as being "an unreliable narrator," as I enjoy those types of novels. Isa's thoughts are ridiculous, yes, but that's believable because we all have absurd thoughts sometimes. It is how her actions play out that I found myself shaking my head again and again at how the author expected me to believe this is how a human being would behave, especially one as obsessed with her baby as Isa seems to be. It's just not believable. And, in realistic fiction, I should believe it. For me, it was distracting how unbelievable some of the novel's scenes played out. I found myself just wanting to "get through" the novel, and I didn't care about the characters anymore. And that's never a good sign.

Will I ever read another Ruth Ware novel? Yes, of course, I will. And while some people may not agree with this review, I have to wonder if they read her other novels. By comparison, the first two were much better. Even Goodreads reviewers show the other two rank higher in star ratings.

I'm going to mark it up as a 'life happens and writers aren't perfect' and hope Ware's next novel will be better. I believe in second chances. If the next one, though, disappoints me, I won't be trying again. One 'off' novel, I understand. I just hope there isn't another 'off' one after this. I'm good for two tries,...but not three. Life is too short, and my precious reading time is even shorter.

Happy reading!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Steampunk Fiction

Book Review

The first time I remember hearing the word "steampunk" was when Will Smith and the gang came out with the new "Wild, Wild West" movie back in 1999. Wow, that was...almost twenty years ago! Even though the trend was started some time ago, it continues to flourish in a variety of ways. I have quite a few students who really like reading steampunk young adult fiction. I had never tried it, however, until recently.

One of my students, who has heard me say I'm an open-minded reader and will try anything once, gave me a well-worn (well-loved) copy of The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson. I asked what kind of book it was, and she told me it was a fiction mix of steampunk and fantasy. She had heard me say that I've experienced steampunk in movies and music videos and fashion, but I didn't recall ever reading a young adult novel in that genre. My student wanted to make sure she bridged that gap in my education, for which I am grateful.

The Mark of the Dragonfly is about an orphan girl, Piper, who lives alone in an old, dangerous, poor, steampunk-type world. She is a strong, likable character who doesn't take crap from anyone and has a bit of a sarcastic streak (two of my favorite characteristics in a girl). Piper has a talent for understanding mechanical things and has the tools and ability to fix them. This, of course, makes her very valuable in a worn-out world where new things can't be bought, and all things must be repaired.

One day, while trying to help a friend who is mining in the junk fields, she sees a caravan get hit by something falling from the sky. She manages to help rescue a couple of people from the wreckage, which ends up changing her life and forcing her into an adventure she was not prepared for. She makes some new friends along the way,...but she makes some new enemies, as well.

I enjoyed the novel, and I could understand why my student loves it. She had a another student, a boy, to read it before it reached my hands. She wanted to 'make sure guys would like it, too', and he did. Since I've read it and returned it, she's passed it on to others. All of the readers enjoyed it and gave it good reviews.

On a Personal Note

I do apologize for not posting much since the beginning of the new year. Life took a couple of unexpected turns.

First, I was pretty sick - which is very unusual for me (the last time I had to take time off from work for sickness was 2009). I won't go into all the details, but I caught one of the horrid viruses going around here and, even after I recovered, I had trouble getting my body completely back to normal. Thankfully, I'm fine now.

Second, we've unexpectedly decided to sell our home. We weren't looking to do so, but the timing is right, apparently. It's a good opportunity for us and all that, but...I'm still not quite used to the idea. It seems exciting sometimes, but other times it feels quite overwhelming. And there's so much to do! It's like wanting to sing out loud one minute...and wanting to throw-up the next. I'll let you know how it all pans out in the end. Let's hope I'll be singing! :)

That's all for now, see y'all next Sunday! Happy reading!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Happy February!

Yes, I know I haven't posted in awhile. Let me assure you, I have been reading,...just not posting. My life has taken a pretty dramatic change (all for the better, though). Please be patient with me. I promise to post this weekend...on Sunday. I'll give you a good book review and explain my absence. Hang in there with me. 

Happy reading! :)

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Fond Farewell

It was a very good year.

Actually, it was a great year. 

I set some goals this year, and I am happy to say I met most of them (and I continue to work on the others). I find joy in the struggle...when I can see I'm making gains. And, surprisingly, I don't seem to be wearing out at my age.I actually feel like I'm gaining momentum.

I like that.

I like it a lot.

And I feel very, very blessed.

Speaking of goals, I'm happy to say I reached my 2017 Goodreads reading goal! Today, I completed 75 books by finishing the delightful How to Find Love in a Bookshop, by Veronica Henry. What's not to love about a grown daughter who inherits her father's failing bookshop in a lovely English town? There's all sorts of problems to be solved and good friends who help and love to be found...and books! A friend recommended it to me, and I am so glad she did. It's the perfect happy ending to end a perfectly happy year.

So, while I bid a fond farewell to 2017, I look forward to what the new year will bring. I hope you're looking forward to a new beginning, as well.

I wish you all a safe and Happy New Year! May you dream new dreams, set new goals, and enjoy the journey to achieve them in 2018!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Stealing from the Poor to Give to the Rich

From now on, I will get a shiver down my spine whenever I hear the name Georgia Tann. I put her in the same category as Charles Manson and Adolf Hitler. I didn't know who she was until I read the historical fiction book Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. Now, it's a name I will never forget. 

Before We Were Yours is a powerful book that tells the story of families who were forever changed by Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children's Home Society, which consisted of a network of people who stole children from poor families and sold them to rich people. Not only that, many children died from abuse and cruelty of every kind while under the "care" of Georgia Tann and her minions. Georgia Tann was a serial killer, a kidnapper, a human trafficker, and a child abuser...before those types of labels were commonly heard in the United States.

The novel is set in two different timelines by two narrators. One narrator, 30 year old Avery, is a successful lawyer from a powerful political family in present day. While visiting a nursing home one day, for a press opportunity, she encounters an older woman named May...which leads Avery down a path she was unprepared for. Rill is the other narrator in this novel, a young girl from the past who lives in a shanty boat on the river with her family in the 1930s. It is from Rill's narrative that the reader learns about how children are stolen from their families. Wingate weaves an excellent story that includes the joy of family, the sorrow of a difficult past, and learning to come to terms with how life turns out. Rill's story is one of survival.

This historical fiction novel gave me a glimpse into an area of America's past I was unaware of before (which is why I love historical fiction). I had heard tales of movie stars adopting babies (I clearly remember the story of "Mommy Dearest" from Joan Crawford's adopted daughter), but I never would have thought the adopted children were stolen from other families - poor families.

And poor families are something I understand.

I have a deep connection to my extended family on my paternal grandmother's side. In fact, my grandmother's niece still owns, and lives on, the plot of land my great-grandparents owned during the Great Depression. I've heard tales of people walking the dirt roads in search of work back then, some of them approaching my great-grandmother as she labored in the yard over laundry. She never turned anyone away. She didn't have much, but she had a well. And she would always say to people walking by on that dusty road, "We don't have much, but we have plenty of water and welcome for anyone who needs it."

My great-grandparents, like so many farmers back then, had little to nothing...and had many children. I can't imagine someone thinking them "unfit" because they were poor and taking their children from them or stealing them off the front porch when no one was looking. I can't even begin to imagine what this kind of tragedy would do to a family, the grief everyone would suffer. I just can't imagine.

My own mother is the ninth of ten children that survived to adulthood. My maternal grandmother had another child that died from dysentery before he was two. I wonder how Georgia Tann would have viewed my grandparents and all their children living in a two bedroom house with more dirt in the yard than grass, and siblings sleeping head-to-toe to fit in one bed. When I think of how close all of my aunts and uncles have always felt to one another, I can't imagine someone taking them as children, and separating them, simply because they were poor.

I hope there's a special place, in the hottest part of hell, for Georgia Tann. May she burn forever.

Sunday, December 3, 2017


Yes, it's been a lovely weekend. 

Yes, I was able to enjoy some pleasure reading time this last week.

Yes, I finished A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman earlier last week, and I truly enjoyed it (only a real Scrooge wouldn't like it). Who wouldn't love a book about a crotchety 59 year old man who has no filter when it comes to giving his opinions to people? Ah, but that's only what it looks like on the surface. After all, there are reasons why we are the way we are. Isn't there? This book will make you laugh and touch your heart. 

Yes, I started and finished another book by an author I enjoy: Jennifer Donnelly. This time I went back in time to Victorian days to follow a young lady on a quest to solve her father's death...and a few other mysteries. These Shallow Graves was a good YA novel. While it doesn't rank as high as Donnelly's Revolution in my gradebook, I should say that no one else's YA has been able to rank as high as that one, either.

Yes, I'm already reading another book, which is completely different from the two previous ones I've mentioned. Are you ready for this? I'm reading The Snowman by Jo Nesbo. This book is definitely not my usual genre. It has completely pulled me in, and I am totally creeped out by it. Snowmen and a serial killer? It's horrifically fascinating. And the only things I'm saying to myself, at this time of night, is...'Do I have the courage to continue reading this book tonight, while I am curled up in bed and completely alone in my house? There's no snow on the ground here, does that mean I'm safe? Is that the wind howling outside? Is a cold front moving in? You know,...I don't need to read tonight. I can always read tomorrow. In the daylight. With people around. Lots of people around.'

Yes, it has been a wonderfully enjoyable day today, and I am too tired to write anymore tonight.