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.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

#107 The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling


This is not a Harry Potter book. In fact, the author (and publisher) went to great pains, when the book came out, to make sure everyone knew it was not a Harry Potter book. This is a book for grown-ups, they stressed. And yet.

And yet, when the book was released, parents were buying it for their children, and children were reading it, and they were seeing things about sex, and drugs, and cuss words, and mental and physical abuse. And there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

(And I think Rowling put things like that right up front, so we could see that this was a book for grown-ups. And so we could see that she was not just a writer of children's books, but a grown-up author, able to handle grown-up themes.)

I really enjoyed the book. I liked the small English village setting, even though I didn't like some of the small(minded) villagers, so afraid of change and "progress".

In most of the reviews I've read, the main complaints about this book were the size of it (over 600 pages) and the large number of characters. Rowling spends over 200 pages (the first third of the book) introducing characters and laying the groundwork for the rest of the story. But this level of character and story development pays off at the climax of the book, and at the end when we see how these climactic events affect all the different characters.


#28 The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf


We have 2 girls that become unlikely best friends.  One is from a loving, stable home of a mother and father that worked very hard to get her in their lives and the other is from a broken home of an abusive, alcoholic father that is not predictable and the entire family is scared of which also caused this daughter/friend to go mute for 4 years.  So, the relationship of the two girls is Petra (stable one) talking for the both of them, but somehow this works and they are able to communicate with one another.

 Both girls end up in the woods, in the early morning hours, away from the safety of loved ones and their home, however, not for the same purpose. Both are kidnapped, but by different people.  Both are in danger and have people searching for them, however, neither girl knows the other is in the woods or in danger until one happens to find the other. 

It's a page-turner of "who dunnit".  I had it figured out a little more than mid-way so I do feel it was predictable, but it kept me reading. The chapters are super short and told by a person dealing with the situation so the reader gets to see all sides.  I felt it was an enjoyable debut novel by Heather Gudenkauf and I am certain Karen would have enjoyed this one. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

#121 It looked Different on the Model - Laurie Notaro

This book was a crack up from start to finish. This is pretty much a book about the crazy life this lady leads. She moved to Eugene, Oregon from Phoenix, Arizona. I can tell you that Oregon peeps are just not your regular kind of peeps. I adore them and their weirdness but it is definitely an adjustment! 

This book reads a lot like a blog and reminds me a bit of The Bloggess. She shares crazy stories that as they go you are thinking NO don't do it and then laughing out loud at the silliness of it all. I just know Karen would have loved this book. She would have called me up and said girl this book is up your alley. You know what sealed the deal for me? The story about how the lady in the book woke up one morning to see a fart chart next to her she had made one night in an Ambien state of weirdness before she fell asleep. And the chart is in the book! 

If you are looking for a book that is really just a fluff book that will have you cracking up this is the one for you. You may not get some of the references to Oregon peeps unless you are familiar but let me tell you my experience is she is pretty dead on with her description - in the most hilarious way.

-Read by Abby 5/7/15

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

#167 Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

257803 Karen added this one in October, 2011. I didn't see any of her goodreads friends have this on their list so I am not sure where she heard about this one or why she wanted to read it other than I know she loved young adult books.

We have a teenage girl, named Mena, that is raised in a very conservative, religious home. She does something that has her entire church upset with her and excommunicates her.  Even her parents shun her and we don't find out what she does until mid-way through the book. 

Her religious/Christian ex-friends are back-stabbing, bad-mouthing, bullies and this girl is just trying to do the right thing. 

She shares a science class with several of these Christian ex-friends and they get on the topic of evolution.  The Christian group throws a fit and every time the teacher begins to teach on the topic, the group will turn their chairs and sit backwards, to let the teacher know they did not approve. Mena, the shunned one, sees this group in a whole new light, perhaps how others once saw her as ignorant and judgmental and intolerant. 

We read how confused Mena is with the things she has been taught and the hypocrisy of her church.  Mena makes new friends that seem to be genius (a little cliché for me, the whole genius/high-intelligent equals not Christian and able to see things "more clearer", more tolerant, and laughing at such naïve ideas as Christianity). 

Mena starts to sneak out and lie to her parents so she can be around this new group of people that apparently is good for her as her intolerant parents are way too strict and would never understand the enlightenment this new group has given Mena. 

And so it goes on....

I honestly think Karen would have hated this book.  I never thought of Karen as "religious", but she definitely had a firm foundation and belief in the creation and in Jesus Christ.  Her last wish for everyone she knew was to have a strong relationship with Him so she can see "us" again.  So, I think this book would have rubbed her wrong.

As for me...I'm Mormon.  There are many, many Mormon scientist and we believe in the creations of new worlds AND in science. I can see the difference of evolution and the creation and not get all riled up because you can have both, my belief.  So, I wasn't offended, but maybe a little annoyed by this argument because it is redundant and cliché, for me.  What did bother me was the stereotyping of Christians being intolerant and evil-doers. Yes, there are many that go to church on a Sunday and then will be cussing you out by Monday, however, I do believe there are many more trying their best to progress and become better people.  We go to church to improve, not because we are perfect beings. 

Also, I hate the encouraging of going behind parents backs "because they wouldn't understand" and how those that do not go to church have such calm, cool, understanding parents.  This is a YA book, vulnerable teens are reading this, so I can see many relating and seeing this as a way to behave rather than just talking to their parents.  The idea of restricting our teens from watching or participating in certain things should not be judged but allow parents to parent their own child to the best of their ability.  This book (even I, a moderately conservative person) felt her parents restrictions were a bit much (no Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, eeek!), but too each his own.  No judgment here.  Parenting is hard work. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

#334 Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer


I just picked this one up under the new release section at my library and didn't even realize it was one of Karen's until I had already started it.  I love it when that happens!

This is a biography about a young man named Chris McCandless.  McCandless was a very intelligent guy that seemed to have some demons he was fighting.  We learn he had "daddy issues" and never learned to forgive his father for the things he had done, but held on to that resentment and anger and let it fuel his escapades. 

In a way I could relate with his way of thinking of wanting to be free, go travel the world, leave everything behind, escape to where no one knows you and start over.  I think everyone has those thoughts a time or two, but few really act on them.  Chris McCandless did.  We learn later that Chris McCandless ends up dying in Alaska from starvation.  People assume it was suicide.  I can't help but think, surely there's a better way to kill oneself than starvation, but what do I know?

The book goes into the author's story and this is when it loses me.  Why?  The author starts to share how he can relate with McCandless and tells the reader why by sharing his life story, his adventure and his own issues with his father.  I was confused.  Why is this important?  I don't know... so I started to skim the last couple chapters and then I felt bad!  Karen always had to finish a book she started and here I was skimming one of her books!  Forgive me Karen. 

I've read another book similar to this one a few years back where the young man gave up money all together to live on his own, without rules, without family, without a care in the world and the author followed this man and lived his lifestyle for sometime.  It was interesting to see how appealing it could be to live like this!  Although, I can't get over the thought of how selfish this behavior is to leave your family wondering, what happened?  How painful it must be for the parents and siblings not knowing and always hoping they will come home, but never do, just because they don't want to live a traditional life.  I can't help but wonder, "Was it worth it?"

Sunday, May 3, 2015

#22 Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

This one was a love story about an escaped convict that at first takes a single mom and her son hostage to hide out in their home. The mother is suffering from some serious mental issues such as depression and what I would say is probably agoraphobia (the fear of leaving your house). It later develops into the convict falling for this single mom and she falling for him. The story is told from the point of view of the boy and his observations. It starts out pretty creepy but once you get to know the back story of the people involved you find you are rooting for them to find a way to stay together.

Not usually a fan of love stories but I really enjoyed this one.   Probably because you get to find out what happens to them. I really hate books that leave you hanging wondering what happened to the characters.

#202 The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice A.N. Roquelaure

To say this book was out of my comfort zone is probably the understatement of the year. I didn't read 50 shades of Gray but my guess would be this book is pretty much that book but in the fairy tale form of what happened to Sleeping Beauty and the debt she owed to the prince for awakening her kingdom. 

In the preface of this book Anne Rice tells of how she wants to make almost every page in this book steamy. Yeah she wasn't kidding. I am sure some where Karen is CRACKING up that I was blushing from start to finish of this book and would shut it quickly when my kids walked in the room. I am just glad this book is checked off the list but really there are two more from this series on her list. . .

Friday, May 1, 2015

#182 Something Borrowed

                                                          Image result for something borrowed book
After reading several of my least favorite genre I needed something fast and easy to read. I asked Mandy for suggestions and did she deliver!!! This is the first of a series, Mandy read the second one, Something Blue, earlier.
This is as Mandy said in her review, "a soap opera in written form". When it was suggested to me, I was told it's one of those books you'll be embarrassed for reading and she was right.
The main character (Rachel) and her best friend (Darcy) have been friends since elementary school.
Darcy has the charmed life and everything and everyone come easy to her, which makes her less appreciative. Rachel is the friend in the background who for years has cleaned up after Darcy's mistakes and sits in the shadows as she watches her friend shine. Kind of a "whoa is me" attitude is how I would describe Rachel. Then things change when Darcy's fiance (Dex) and Rachel end up in bed together.
The whole story made me sick as it seemed to justify the betrayal since Darcy always gets what she wants and it's time she learn the hard lessons everyone else learns. It also justified it as Rachel and Dex had feelings for one each other long ago but never acted on it so now it's okay to do so. <eye roll>
This story also made me sick because I would find myself being pulled into it, and I like to think I am smarter then this ( So good job Emily Giffin).
As you can see I was not a fan of this book!! However it did serve it's purpose and it read quickly and kept my interest throughout.