This Blog is Dedicated to our dear friend Karen.
When she left this life she left a hole in our hearts as well as several to be read books.
We, her friends, will read these books for her.
This blog will be a sort of book club for us to post our thoughts and feelings about the stories and feelings we have of Karen while we read.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

#408 Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult


 A little girl, Willow, was born with a brittle bone disease.  She broke her bones so frequently it became the norm of this family.  I think she said by first grade she had 75 broken bones.  Her disease caused conflict with the family as they couldn't pay all their bills, the mother was constantly stressed out and concerned when the next break would be, the older daughter felt neglected and didn't have any self-worth as all the attention went to Willow and the parents viewed things differently as well. 

Charlotte, the mother, decided to file a wrongful birth suit against her best friend, which also happened to be her obstetrician that delivered Willow.  I think the book was written to make the reader wonder, did she wish she had aborted Willow to avoid this lifestyle?  Or was it all about the money?  Did she just need the money to pay for Willow's care?  I never questioned any of these things, I knew it was the money.  I suppose this is typical Picoult fashion to make the reader think and wonder; was she justified to take her best friend to court, split her family up, make her an enemy in public's eye just so she could afford to care for her disabled child? 

I really disliked this book.  I felt the story redundant as it was told in 5 different point of views so each situation was shared over and over, but by someone else. However, never different.  I kept waiting for something big to happen and I never got it. 

I guess the idea of the book is to Handle with Care the things you truly love and care about. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

#319 Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins


This continues to be a pretty good series. A little more fleshing out of the key characters, and some good, solid action. I'm glad we got to see more of Gregor's family, and I expect at some point there'll be more than just Gregor and Boots visiting the Underland.

I'm impressed that, with this being a juvenile book, the author doesn't shy away from death. In a story like this, there are going to be some characters dying, and Collins makes sure the reader knows that, and knows the effect death has on those that survive. She handles it without a lot of blood and gore, but she makes no bones about the fact that these characters are gone, they're not coming back, and it hurts like hell for those left behind.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Timeline - Michael Crichton #327

I have always been a fan of Michael Crichton books. I actually thought I had read all of his books but apparently this one I missed but thanks to Karen I got a chance to read it.

Most of Crichton's books I can just see being made into action movies. I sometimes wonder if he is imagining the movie as he writes. I don't think this one has been made into a movie but I would definitely go watch it if it was. I enjoy stories with time travel. Such a fun concept to imagine being a part of. But this book definitely shows the scary side of what would happen if you were a part of it. Can you imagine going back in time and realizing you were right smack in the middle of the black plague....scary! 

This book is about a group of scientist from the 14th century that must go back in time to rescue their professor that got stuck back there. It was quite the adventure. Being scientists these people started out thoroughly enjoying the learning of it but the reality of having to live during this time and carry out their task was quite scary. I don't want to give away too much but know it was a page turner!

-Read by Abby 3/27/15

#250 Matilda by Roald Dahl


I just picked this one up a couple day ago at the library and realized I have never read it.  What a great book!  I truly enjoyed it.  I'm a huge fan of Roald Dahl.  I think we share the same sense of humor.  One that can be seen as inappropriate at times, probably taken too far many of times (or too soon) and just odd, which I find likable in Roald Dahl's books. 

Matilda is a bright young girl that doesn't seem to fit into her family's life.  She is different than the rest of them and they, her family, feel she's the odd one when the reader quickly realizes it's the family that has the problem.  Matilda excels at school, makes friends, helps a teacher and develops real relationships there.  I believe most are familiar with this story and knows how it ends.  Matilda is much happier as well as other characters in the story.

Great read.  Enjoyable.  Glad Karen had this one on her list as I probably would have forgotten about this gem.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

#320 Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins


I read this to get away from the heavier fare I've been reading; it seems like lately I've read a lot of stuff that was hitting me hard emotionally or taxing my brain cells, and I needed a little break. And this book was light enough to give the break, while still having enough action and a strong enough plot to keep my interest.

The "questers' (Gregor's word) in this story reminded me of the Fellowship of the Ring in the Lord of the Rings - the group is made up of representatives from different races (or species), and there is mistrust (and some superiority) between members of the different groups. Collins does a good job of showing the different "personalities" of the different types of animals, while giving each of the separate members of those groups some individuality as well. I hope, in the next few volumes, she gives us a better layout of the geography of the Underland itself. (And yes, I do plan on reading more of this series!)


#253 A Wrinkle in Time

I had a hard time getting into this book. I knew it was a classic, so it had to be a good story. I kept wondering why I couldn't get into it. I am not a huge fan of fantasy, I get lost in the made up words or names, my mind just doesn't follow things that don't make sense to me.
But for Karen, I struggled along...and so glad I did!!! The book started to pickup half way through and I then was able to follow the story line. It took me about 3 weeks of forcing myself to read the first half of the book, but only about 3 days to finish the last half.
This book is a great book on Good vs. Evil and is probably why it is a classic. Lots of great lessons in there.
some of my favorite parts:
"No, Meg. Don't hope it was a dream. I don't understand it any more than you do, but one thing I've learned is that you don't have to understand things for them to be." 

"Nothing is hopeless we must hope for Everything" -Mrs. Who quoting Euripides

"Like and equal are not the same thing at all"

"For the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal"

"you mean your comparing our lives to a Sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?" "Yes" Mrs. Whatsit said. "You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

#44 Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer


Oskar Schell's father died in the World Trade Center collapse on September 11, 2001. Or, at least, that's what the family always assumed, since his body was never discovered. But his father often created puzzles for Oskar to solve, so when Oskar finds a key hidden in his father's closet, he thinks his father's disappearance might be part of a grand puzzle for him to figure out, and he sets out to interview people all over greater New York City, trying to solve the puzzle, which he hopes will show that his father didn't actually die.

Although it's never stated outright in the book, I think Oskar has an autism-spectrum disorder, which makes him super-smart in some areas, but lacking some basic social-interaction skills. He asks people impolite questions, which make his mother cringe. But there are also glimpses of how any child of his age would react to the kinds of very serious things that are happening in his life.

I said that Oskar is the narrator of most of the book, and this brings up the one thing about the novel that I didn't like: occasionally, there are chapters written as letters - some from Oskar's grandfather to his son, some from Oskar's grandmother to Oskar. It takes a little while to figure out which of these characters is speaking sometimes, and the grandfather's writing style (with its lack of consistent punctuation) is difficult to read at times.

Some online reviews have complained about the book's ending. Without giving away any plot details, I will say that the story doesn't necessarily end how one would hope it would end, but there is definitely some closure given for Oskar and the other characters.

While the book didn't pass my ultimate test (Did it leave me crying in Taco Bell?), the last 20 or so pages did have me crying in my public library.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

#248 The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

The Westing Game

I enjoyed this one. I think 6th - grade me would have really loved it. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, but they're all pretty broadly defined; none of them has much detail. And the whodunit factor is surprisingly well done for this level of book; I've read a lot of mysteries but was still caught off guard when the mystery was revealed.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

What Every Body is Saying by Joe Navarro - # 93

I knew I had to read this book since my husband is fascinated by the subject of body language and is always telling me things he has read about it. I actually wondered if I had suggested this book to her but Christian said no he had never read it. So I am not sure who suggested it to her but it's for sure interesting to learn what people are saying to you without words. There are so many involuntary things that people do that give away their true thoughts or intentions. For example did you know that when you first say hello to someone if their eyebrows go up it is a sign they like you and are excited to see you. If their eyebrows stay where they are and they may even squint a bit they are not a fan of yours or find you not trustworthy. Pay attention it's pretty interesting. . .

There are a lot of great examples like this through the book that were very helpful to the author in his many jobs especially as an FBI agent trying to figure out if people were being honest in their discussions.

Although I found the author's discussions on body language pretty interesting I sometimes wondered if he himself suffered from a bit of an odd personality. He seemed to pick up body language cues but not so much other ones that seemed kind of common sense to me. Here is my favorite example in the book. He discusses how he had a meeting with a colleague for five hours let me repeat that FIVE hours (can you imagine??). Afterward the colleague was standing at the door and they were reassessing what they had discussed and he noticed the guy had one foot pointed towards the door. He then said "You really need to leave don't you?" The colleague said yes I'm so sorry I don't mean to be rude but I need to go make a phone call. The funny thing is I'm not so sure the colleague really needed to make a phone call but was thinking dude five hours of talking to you I really need a break!!!

If you can look over the odd things like that you can really learn a lot about things to be aware of in your every day life and what people are saying just by watching their feet or if they touch their neck. By the way touching of the neck is often a soothing technique people use when they are nervous or unsure of themselves to help calm themselves down. Who knew?

I would have loved to discuss this book with Karen after we both read it and put into practice some people watching to see what we both noticed!

Monday, March 9, 2015

#468 A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini


This is an incredibly well-told account of the lives of two women in Afghanistan, during the Soviet occupation, the civil war that followed, and the Taliban-controlled emirate that followed. It makes some very powerful statements of what life was like for women during this time, especially under Taliban-interpreted sharia law.

It's no secret that one of the things that drives me is an interest in other cultures - languages, history, architecture, etc. Hosseini feeds the culture nerd in me, detailing the cultural melting pot that is Afghani life. He includes dialog in Pashto and Uzbek (with, thankfully, translation) to help give the reader a better understanding of the rhythm of Afghan life. As a student of international culture, I was very happy with this aspect of the novel.

This is not a happy, light-hearted story. Mariam's husband is abusive - not only physically, but also emotionally; Hosseini does a good job of showing how an abuser can play with a victim's mind until they reach the point that they feel they deserve the abuse. The description of all that has been wrong in Mariam's life makes her redemption and sacrifice at the end so much more powerful.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

#17 First Love by James Patterson

First Love

Karen has several James Patterson books on her list.  I am sure someone recommended them to her, just not sure who.  I picked this one to read.  I haven't read any of James Patterson books other than maybe one of his Middle School books with one of my kids.  I am suspicious of James Patterson and his books because he has way too many out at once and no author can write that many books and publish that many without a lot of help.  I see this one has Emily Raymond as a co-author and after reading about her I see she's a ghost writer for young adult books.  I have a feeling Patterson has many ghost writers, but puts his name real big on top, bigger than the title, like the one above, so more books sell.  That just rubs me wrong so on principle I just avoid his books, but I chose to read Karen's books so by golly, I will read some of his books.

This was a super fast and easy read.  I didn't know what it was about, but like other reviewers have said, it's a Fault in the Stars type book.  Both characters are sick and so they decide to go on a road trip and make the best of their last days together. 

What I didn't like about the book is how it lacked detail.  I felt the writing was so amateur and immature.  It annoyed me.  The book could have been a good one if more was shared such as the surroundings, the people, more character development, etc...  None of that.  Just a super fast read.  Maybe that's how Patterson gets so many books written so quickly?

Friday, March 6, 2015

#194 In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood

I know this one made Karen's list as it was the book chosen from our book club buddy, that is from Kansas, when we were reading books from our home state.  Neither one of us got around to reading it at that time and both of us had it on our list, until now.  I listened to the audio version of the book through the past week and felt the book to be so long and repetitive.  Parts of the crime was retold so many times I was just tired of hearing about it after awhile.  I did like hearing the backgrounds of the killers as it gives the reader some understanding why and how they were able to commit such crimes.  It really is just a sad story and I can't say I'm glad I read it, but I have been curious of it and have been wanting to read it so I'm glad I was finally able to get to it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

#2 The Good Girl by Mary Kubica


I hadn't even heard of this one until I saw it on Karen's list.  Apparently it is Mary Kubica's debut novel.  I enjoyed it. It is a suspense novel about a kidnapping gone wrong and then trying to figure out why and who's behind it all.  I saw on goodreads several people compared it to Gone Girl as it was under "if you liked Gone Girl you may like this one..." and many people/reviewers were disappointed as they felt this one was so poorly written in comparison.  I agree to a point.  This one was predictable, but it was so much cleaner that I actually preferred this one over Gone Girl.  I felt Gone Girl was smut and was/am embarrassed to admit I even read it.  This one doesn't go into all the sexual details which I prefer.  Call me a prude, I don't mind! 

As I was reading it I thought, Karen would love this one!  It's a page-turner with short chapters.  A very fast read with a twist at the end.  The last few books I've read have been so dark and depressing so I actually found this one kind of refreshing.