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.

Monday, August 31, 2015

#303 1st to Die by James Patterson


This is the first book in Patterson's popular "Women's Murder Club" mystery series. A homicide detective, a medical examiner, a reporter, and an assistant district attorney, all women, all far better at their jobs than their male bosses, join forces to solve a series of "bride and groom" murders.
The book is well-written, the dialog is smooth, and there are no big holes in the mystery aspect. The identity of the killer is hidden right up to the end; there are a couple good red herrings leading you to other suspects, but the identity of the true killer and the motive, etc., are plausible. There were a couple small holes in the detective work, but nothing that affected figuring out the mystery itself.
I do have one fairly major quibble with the book, the one thing that keeps me from giving a five-star rating: the whole premise of the Women's Murder Club is that these four very capable women are being held back by their (often misogynist) male superiors. The "moral of the story" here is that these women don't need a man's help to get by. But the main character, Lyndsey, is saddled with this totally unnecessary romance, where she gets all weak in the knees and fluttery when her new male partner shows up. What kind of sad message are we giving women here? "You can do anything you want, be anything you want, you don't have to have a man to excel in life - except you do, because of your girl parts." There is actually a point in the book where the heroine (a police detective) is in the middle of a "liaison" with her man, and there's an earthquake (it's San Francisco), and she seriously considers not responding to the emergency call because she can't control her female horniness? For real? I'd really like to read a female character that isn't either a quivering mess around men or a ball-breaking man-hater.

After all that, believe it or not, I did really enjoy the book. Short chapters, with lots of often funny dialog, and as I said, the mystery part was well written as well.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

#73 BZRK Michael Grant


This had an interesting premise - the use of nanotechnology for not only assassination, but also to tamper with people's minds. Nexus Humanus is an organization that plans to use the mind-tampering concept to create a world of complacent, obedient citizens; BZRK is a group trying to prevent that outcome. These two groups battle in "the macro", that is, on the regular level, but also "down in the meat", that is, on the cellular level. And that's where I lost interest. The technology and science in this book is so detailed, and the combination of the macro and micro-level battles going on simultaneously, it was pretty confusing. Add this to the introduction of quite a large number of (granted, mostly interesting) characters, and I spent a lot of time going back and rereading segments of the book just to clear up some of the confusion. Some of the action parts were pretty exciting, but the climactic scene of the book was, well, a bit anticlimactic. Overall, a decent story, with interesting characters, but too confusing to follow.

Monday, August 24, 2015

#14 What My Mother Gave Me by Elizabeth Benedict


I really enjoyed this book. 

Thirty-one authors were asked, "What did your mother give you?".  I recognized a few of the authors and many I did not, however, after reading their stories I looked them up and wanted to learn more about them and/or read some of their work.

Each story ran 3-6 pages long so the book was a fast read.  Some stories were dull, but most of them I really enjoyed.  I loved the ones that didn't focus on a material item, but shared their mother's background and what they learned from their mother.  I was fascinated by so many of the stories.  It was like getting to see how other people live, what happens behind closed doors, and such. 

While reading the stories one can't help but think of their own mother and what one has learned from them or what was given.  It sparked many memories for me and I wish I would have written each memory down as I read the book so I can go back and share later.  Hopefully, I can remember them. 

I think this would be a great Mother's Day gift with an attachment of your own story about your mother.  I don't think my mom reads these reviews so I can share I am thinking this is what I will do for her one year. 

I do believe Karen would have enjoyed this book and I wish she would have read it with me so we could discuss our favorite stories together.  Which ones really stuck out and which ones we could have skipped and then share stories about our own moms. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

#7 Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight


Well, I went back to check and see why Karen might have added this one I see a few of her goodreads friends gave it high-praise.  Once I finished the book I had the thought Karen would say to me, "you will not like this one Mandy.  Don't read it."  And she would have been right.

The story takes place in Brooklyn at a prestigious private school.  You have the secret clubs with the hazing and bullying that goes too far.  Amelia ends up dead and her mom (which is a single mom that worked 80 hour weeks at a law firm as an attorney) is trying to figure out what happened to Amelia.  The school tries to hide everything and make it look like Amelia committed suicide. As Amelia's mom is pealing away the secrets of her daughter (and the school) she discovers so many heart-wrenching things that were hidden from everyone.

As I read this book my first thought was, this reminds me of Gossip Girl (even though I've only seen one episode of Gossip Girl).  It had that kind of feel to it.  Lot's of back-stabbing and just evilness from a handful of rich kids.  However, the further I got into the book I just felt sick and disturbed by all the bullying that was going on and overlooked.  I just don't read books like this for enjoyment.  I felt stressed and upset while reading this one.  I'm so glad I finished it and now will move onto something a bit more uplifting.

Monday, August 17, 2015

#94 Cinder by Marissa Meyer


An interesting concept - a retelling of the Cinderella story, but set in a futuristic New Beijing. And with androids and cyborgs and other science fiction-y stuff. And Meyer does a pretty good job of maintaining the basics of the fairy tale - wicked stepmother, glass slipper, prince and ball, even the pumpkin coach and the fairy godmother. If you wanted to, you could read this as just another retelling of the Cinderella tale, and it would be good.

But, to be honest, I wasn't even thinking of Cinderella through most of the book; the fairy tale aside, this is a good science fiction dystopian future young adult novel, especially when you consider that it's the first book in a series. I do have a couple of quibbles about the amount of technical information on cyborgs and servo-motors and whatnot, and other reviewers are correct that the story is short on details about this future Earth, and about the history between Earth and the Lunars (moon dwellers). I hope future books in the series will fill in some of these gaps. But overall, this is a well written, entertaining piece of dystopian fiction.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

#19 Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge


I really disliked this book.  I felt it was trashy and just gross.  I don't typically read murder/mystery books and if this is the typical murder/mystery I think I will keep it that way. 

So, we have a serial killer that kidnaps two people and locks them up without food and water and leaves them a gun with one bullet and a message saying, "one will live, you choose."  (Something like that.)  So, after so many days of dehydration and starvation we find out who the survival of the fittest is, although, the survivor never gets over the murder the commit so they suffer, too. 

The main "copper" (British term for police officer/cop) finds herself in the middle of these murders as she knows these people being murdered/kidnapped, but why?  What does it have to do with her?  Who is doing this and what do they have against her? 

Again, I just didn't enjoy this book.  It was like watching a reality show after watching the BBC, I just felt it was a waste of my time.  It's a very fast read, no-brainer, and some how on the best-seller list.  That makes me worry...

Monday, August 10, 2015

#26 The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker


I'm not even sure where to start with this book.  It's a love story told like fairy tale.  That's the best way I can explain it.  Several of my friends raved about this book and said it was the sweetest love story they ever read.  I don't fall in that category, but it was a sweet story.  I felt the author was/is a great story-teller as so many stories were woven into one.  I don't feel like I can share much about the story without giving parts away so I will just leave it at that.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

#57 Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas


Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Ilgunas does a good job showing how he developed his life philosophy - broke college student gets opportunity to spend a summer in Alaska, pays off debt by living frugally, decides to go back to graduate school without going back into debt, so he decides to live in a van (down by the riv-) no, just in a van in a parking lot.To no one's surprise, he quotes Thoreau and Emerson a lot, but toward the end points out that Thoreau was a poseur, since Walden Pond was only a couple miles outside of town and his mom did his laundry for him (but Ilgunas did his own freekin' laundry, and wouldn't accept money from his mom, so take that, Mr. Thoreau!)
I was disappointed that, after developing this frugal life philosophy throughout the book, the author backtracks at the end and says, well, maybe it is ok to live in an apartment and take out a loan to buy a house and let your mom give you gifts of money. But only because you don't want to hurt her feelings. I was also disappointed that some of the best descriptive nature writing I've ever read was often followed by sophomoric poop humor. Some of Ilgunas' writing feels like it's straight out of English Comp 100, but at other times - usually when writing about the Alaska wilderness - it feels like it's been written by a man with 20 or 30 more years of writing experience.

I should caution the reader that, while the book is promoted as being about the author's experience living in a van ("vandwelling", he calls it), a little less than half of the book covers that topic. The remainder of the book deals with Ilgunas' time in Alaska, as a voyageur in Canada, hitchiking across the US, and working in post-Katrina Mississippi. But for the most part, it's all beautiful, and it makes me want to work harder on paying off my debts, so I can go on a wander of my own. But I'm not living in a van.