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, July 31, 2016

#193 Tick Tock by James Patterson


The first in the series of Michael Bennett books by James Patterson, and a really good way to start off the series. Patterson co-wrote this with Michael Ledwidge, and it shows. I have a bad habit of bad-mouthing Patterson's writing skills, and I should stop that. But it is nice to have a book like this, combining his plotting abilities with Ledwidge's smoother prose. The point of view changes back and forth from chapter to chapter, between Bennett and the murderer, but Bennett's chapters are in first-person, while the other chapters are in third-person, so it's not as confusing as it has been in other Patterson books.

I was a little bit confused by references made to Bennett's past cases, especially those where he partnered with FBI agent Emily Parker, which made me think that this was not the first book in the series. It's not that these references made me feel like I was missing pieces of the Michael Bennett puzzle; I just assumed from the references that there were other, earlier books featuring Bennett. I'm curious to see if later books in the series dig deeper into those past events.

Without a doubt, the best part of the book is when Bennett, on the verge of death, is visited in a dream by his dead wife. They talk about their children, and she praises his work in raising them without her. He assumes she's come to be his guide into the afterlife, and she has to tell him it's not time yet. This definitely passed the "crying in public" test - if I'd been in public when I read this chapter, I wouldn't have cared who saw the tears pouring out of my eyes.

I had a few small quibbles; I wasn't satisfied with the resolution of the family's problem with the Flaherty clan, and the climactic scene between Bennett and the murderer was a bit... anticlimactic. But overall, this is a really good, exciting read.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

#70 Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Dad Is Fat

I kept getting the feeling that I'd read this book before. I mean, granted, the subject (comedian writes book about being a parent) is not new - Bill Cosby, Paul Reiser, and I don't know who else have covered the topic in writing, and many other stand-up comedians use their children and their family life as the basis of their comedy. But I honestly felt like I'd read these particular jokes before. Either Gaffigan was recycling some of his stand-up material, or I have actually read this book. At any rate, my sister had this on her to-read list, so I figured it would be interesting to re-read the book from her viewpoint.
Gaffigan and his wife have five children and, to plagiarize Cosby, the reason they have five children is because they do not want six children. He also grew up in a large family. One of the best parts of the book is the chapter titled, "Six kids, Catholic", in which he relates that this was his standard response (and explanation) when people asked him about his large family; he uses the same response now when people ask him about his kids, but he said religion had nothing to do with him and his wife having so many kids. (wink, wink; nudge, nudge) A lot of the comedy in the book is based not only on their children, but the special problems involved with having such a large group of kids - outings to the park, family vacations, dwindling lists of babysitters. Because the family lives in a two-bedroom apartment in New York, even getting all the kids to bed at night is a major undertaking.
There were several laugh-out-loud moments, and quite a few chuckles, but overall I wasn't wowed by the book. One of the other reviewers said she listened to the audiobook, which Gaffigan himself narrated, and I think that would have been better; I really like Gaffigan's stand-up, and delivery is a big part of his comedy. But, like with a lot of other books written by comedians, this one left me feeling disappointed.


#308 The Beach House by James Patterson


Another James Patterson book I read as part of our "Reading with Karen" project. I think she had just about every book by him on her to-read list. I only have a few more of his books to read and I'll be done - well, done with that part of the project.
I've said it before, Patterson is a great idea man, he comes up with great book ideas and has the whole thing mapped out with all the plot twists and climactic scenes, but his best books are cowritten with another author. Peter de Jonge is one of his go-to coauthors, and their books are always a pleasure to read.
I only had one big issue with the book, and it may be just a lack of knowledge on my part, and not a fault of the book itself. An inquest is held to determine cause of death; I'd assumed there would be a judge, and that witnesses would be called, but that there wouldn't be a prosecutor or a defense lawyer, because they're just determining cause of death; no one is on trial. But the inquest held in this book has an assistant DA on one side and the high-priced lawyers of a powerful businessman on the other - as if the businessman is on trial. Again, I don't know if this was shoddy research on the authors' part or a misunderstanding of the legal system on my part. Ultimately, though there's a lot of legal action in the book, it's not like something by John Grisham where you can be sure all the legalese has been heavily researched.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

#13 Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea


A strong 3.5 or 3.75, rounded up to 4. This book passed the crying-in-public test, which means I had the chance to show strangers my ugly crying face while reading.

The book has an unusual format, where different members of a 5th grade class take turns relating the events that happen; in fact, we often get the chance to see the same event from several different viewpoints. I did like how each of the kids' chapters was written in a somewhat different style. I didn't care for the obviously contrived valley girl style used for Alexia. I did enjoy the more eloquent style given to the big reader, Jessica, and the very structured, logical style used by Luke.
I would have given the book a higher rating, but while it covers several very emotional and serious topics (and deals with them well), I felt like the buildup to these events was too sudden. I guess I feel like the book should have been a bit longer, and should have taken more time to develop the characters and set the scene for the major event in the last part of the story. (I hesitate to say more for fear of giving away spoilers.)

All of that being said, this is a good book for juvenile readers. It deals with issues like family and death in a straightforward, but not sensational, way. It teaches strong lessons about friendship, teamwork, and forgiveness, but not in a preachy way. And it tugs at your heartstrings something awful.