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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

#46 Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks


Any book that leaves me crying in the bathroom at work can't be all bad, right?

I'm not going to say I really enjoyed reading this book, because - like I said - it left me crying at points. I don't enjoy crying, don't like being made to feel all the feels, make the ugly cry face, etc. But I'm such a jaded old grump that most of the usual heartstring-tugging that authors use to get you to feel the feels doesn't usually work on me. I recognize it for what it is - a cheap ploy to sell books and get people to talk about how the book made them feel (and, thereby, sell more books). So when a writer is able to push past my defenses and make me feel true emotion, I have to give credit.

Max is a young boy on the autism spectrum (though I don't think they ever come right out and say it in the book); Budo is his imaginary friend. (And, really, as Budo puts it, probably Max's only friend.) Most imaginary friends last only as long as their boy or girl needs them to help navigate being a kid; because Max is "special" and needs Budo to get through the routine things that most kids have already mastered, Budo has lasted a lot longer than most imaginary friends.

Something very much out of Max's routine happens, and Budo is forced to decide between leaving things alone (in which case Max will continue to need him, and he'll continue to exist) and helping Max overcome the problem (which could mean that Max grows enough that he won't need Budo any more). The Very Important Lesson in this book is that doing what's right isn't always the same as doing what's easy, or doing what's fun.

Dicks does a really good job of not only showing what life is like for an autistic person, but also showing how hard autism is for that person's family, teachers, etc. to understand. Max's mom is torn between smothering him with affection, which makes him uncomfortable, and giving him the space he needs, and his father thinks everything will be alright if they just ignore it and if Max just tries a little harder to be "normal". My only quibble here is when Max is put into a situation where he is forced waaay out of his comfort zone and he's forced to break his "rules" (like crossing a street, going outside when it's dark, walking on the sidewalk, etc.). I don't know that an autistic child would have been able to make these decisions and "break the rules" as easily as the author has Max do it.
The other area where Dicks has really done well is in creating this whole concept of what being an imaginary person means. The story is told from Budo's point of view; while Max is the only real person who can see Budo, Budo introduces the reader to an entire menagerie of imaginary friends.
Because these imaginary friends are created entirely out of their real person's imaginations, they run the gamut from basic concepts like a smudge on a wall to a two-dimensional paper boy to a spoon with eyes to a fairy princess to Budo, who is like a regular boy in (almost) every detail. Dicks has created an entire list of "rules" about imaginary friends - things they can or can't do, based on how their real friends imagined them. For instance, Budo can't run very fast, because Max never imagined him needing to run fast, but he can walk through doors and windows, because Max was worried he'd be trapped in a room or closet (one of Max's biggest fears). Budo doesn't sleep, because Max imagined Budo watching over him while he slept. And of course, the biggest part of this is the idea that an imaginary friend only exists as long as their real person continues to think of them. Which (without giving away anything) is where the whole "crying in the bathroom at work" thing comes in.
I loved just about everything about this book, from character descriptions, to the final plot resolution, even (especially) the way Budo and Max and the other kids talked, with "washer machines" and "bonus poops".
One last note: I read this as part of our "Reading with Karen" effort to read all of my late sister's to-read list. I know Karen would have loved this book as much as I did, and she would have posted on here that it had her "bawl-bagging" at the end.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

#270 Smile by Raina Telegemier

My daughter has been reading this series and she was telling me about them so I picked it up and was surprised to find certain content in it! For example, crushes, spin the bottle, frenemies, and so forth. Needless to say we had a nice chat after I finished the book and I got to hear her thoughts and feelings on these subjects. I really didn't think I would be having a talk about spin the bottle at age 10, but glad we did! The books ends nicely.

#64 Second Honeymoon by James Patterson


I... have nothing bad to say about this book. The dialog is great, there are no plot holes, and it was an enjoyable read. If I were to have one little quibble, it's this: the story deals with two serial killers - one who is killing newlywed couples on their honeymoons, and one who is killing men named John O'Hara (and is, obviously seeking revenge against the narrator). There are times I got the two plot lines mixed up a bit, but that was through no fault of the authors; I take full blame for not paying closer attention. Otherwise, as I said, this was a great read.

I don't know if it's the fact that Patterson has a co-author on these two honeymoon books, or if - these being written far more recent than the Alex Cross books I've recently read - but these have been far and away better than most of the other Patterson books I've read. The female FBI agent in this book was a pleasant, fully-developed character, similar to Lindsay in the Women's Murder Club books, and not some two-dimensional damsel-in-distress or ice queen like so many other of Patterson's female characters. The constant, gratuitous sexual situations that were so much a part of the first Honeymoon book (and many other of Patterson's books) are missing from this second one, and the book doesn't suffer for it.

This book gives me renewed hope for my mission of reading all the Patterson material that was in Karen's to-read list. I'll jump back into that material soon, but first, I'm taking a short break to read some things by other authors.  


Friday, December 11, 2015

#465 The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank


I remember when I was young, probably the age Anne Frank was in this book, I went and saw the play that was written off this book at the Lyceum theater in Arrow Rock, Missouri.  I was moved and touched by her story then and even more so after reading her story.  She is such a wise young woman and it amazes me.  I really loved the book although, there were parts I was bored with (like the descriptions of the annex or their daily chores).  I'm glad I finally read this one.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

#299 Jack and Jill by James Patterson

Jack & Jill (Alex Cross, #3)

Finally finished this one. It took a long time to read - not because it was badly written, but just because I've had a lot of other things on my plate.

I actually enjoyed this more than the first two Alex Cross novels. There's still a lot of killing going on, but it didn't feel as gory and intense; it wasn't as emotionally draining as the other books, because the Jack and Jill killers are politically motivated, not motivated by sick, twisted psychology like Gary Soneji or Casanova.

Unlike the first two books, which were part mystery and part psychological thriller, this one is more a spy thriller. We know who's doing the killing. (We don't actually find out the identity of Jack till the end of the book, but we do know he and Jill are the ones doing the killing.) The book is less whodunit, and more can-they-be-caught-before-they-kill-again. A couple of really good plot twists at the end of the book, too.

The Jack-and-Jill storyline alternates with another story where there's a person killing kids at Cross's son's school. This storyline is a lot more like those in the first two Cross books - the creepy psychological aspect of the murders, the gory details. Either of these plot lines could have been enough to base the entire novel on, but by having them in the same book, Patterson can show Cross's frustration at being pulled away from what matters more to him (the student murders, in his own backyard) to work on the more high profile case.