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, February 28, 2017

#86 Pulse by Patrick Carman

Meh. Faith is a kind of boring teenager, living in what's left of a boring town after most of society has moved into mega-cities. She goes to a mostly boring school, and not much exciting happens. She discovers that she's telekinetic, a slightly less boring boy named Dylan teaches her how to use this power, and they have a big fight with the kids who we knew were villains basically when we first met them.
This isn't bad, but it's also not that good. Pittacus Lore (!) said it had "pulse-pounding action"? Maybe in the last couple chapters, but otherwise it was pretty slow.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

#89 Scheisshaus Luck by Pierre Berg


4.5 stars rounded up to 5. A really good book.

I've read several books about the Holocaust and Nazi Germany's concentration camps - Elie Wiesel's Night, Roman Frister's The Cap, Heinz Heger's The Men with the Pink Triangle. Surprisingly, none of them brought home to me on a personal level the severity of conditions in the camps, like Berg's book has. The heavy labor, the randomness of why one person dies and another lives. The starvation-level rations - including days or weeks where the inmates scrounged for anything to eat - shoe leather, dandelions and grass, and (in at least one case) cannibalism of the recently deceased. And the constant emotional wearing down, so that witnesses to the cannibalism just sat and watched, unable to find the energy or empathy to stop the act.

While Wiesel's story is that of the Jewish experience, and Heger's from the viewpoint of a gay man, Berg's memoir is from the viewpoint of a French teenager who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - the finest example of his "Shithouse Luck". (In fact, the "Scheisshaus Luck" of the title has two meanings - Berg's bad luck that causes him to be sent to Auschwitz, and the incredible instances of luck in that "shithouse" that made it possible for him to survive.) It was especially significant to me that, in addition to the groups we've known of that were sent to the camps - Jews, Romani, Communists, Jehova's Witnesses, criminals and political prisoners - the camps also included random citizens from Germany and the occupied countries, sent there by whim or as payback. The Auschwitz sub-camp of Monowitz (one of the four camps experienced by Berg) even had a contingent of British POWs - though, because of the Geneva Convention and regular Red Cross packages, conditions for them were far better than for the majority.

Although the memories in the book are Berg's, the completeness of the memoir is thanks to Berg's cowriter, Brian Brock, who took Berg's original manuscript, asked Berg questions to flesh out details, polished it, and helped to bring everything together in the final product. Both men admit it was a painful process, reliving (or, in Brock's case, forcing Berg to relive) the experience of the concentration camps. But the result is a stark, clear picture of everyday life in the camps.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

#50 The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion


Definitely mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, for what it is - a romantic comedy about a man with (undiagnosed) Asperger Syndrome and his project to find the perfect mate - it's very well written. It's fun, at times funny, and romantic in places.
On the other hand, it often feels like Don's autism is used solely as a vehicle for comedy. And, while I'm not an expert in the subject, I question some of the information shared. Don feels the need to follow a strict routine; any deviation from the schedule causes him extreme discomfort (typical among those with autism). But the author implies that, with just a little effort, schedules and routines can be broken without any lasting repercussions. From my (limited) knowledge of Asperger's, I doubt that's the case.
It seems that Simsion had an opportunity here to tell a funny, engaging story, while at the same time giving factual information about autism; it appears (at least to me) that he didn't manage to do that.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

#418 The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett


I've only ever read two other books by Terry Pratchett - Good Omens, which he cowrote with Neil Gaiman, and the first Discworld book, The Color of Magic. I really liked Omens, but at the time, I was all about Gaiman, so (because it was not entirely a Gaiman story) I didn't *love* it. And I didn't quite get Pratchett's humor when I read Color of Magic.
But, approaching this book, I was more receptive to the funny bits. This is (I think) partly because it's a Young Adult book, but it's also partly because of the Wee Free Men themselves - the Nac Mac Feegle. I mean, they help around the farm, like pixies, but they speak with a brogue, they wear kilts, and they're blue - they're not pixies, they're *pict-sies*! They're hilariously written, and they're a big part of why I enjoyed this book so much.


#288 The Lost Hero by Rick Riordon


Riordan's first series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, dealt with the demigod children of the Greek gods. In this newer series, we're introduced to the idea that those Greek gods and their Roman counterparts are just different aspects of the same beings. This first book introduces us to three new kids - Jason, Piper, and Leo - and the chapters in the book alternate among their points of view. We're also introduced to a lot of new supporting characters, from other campers in the various cabins at Camp Half-Blood (give it up for my brothers and sisters in the Hypnos cabin!) to various gods and other figures from Greek mythology - most of whom are damaged versions of their legendary selves. Riordan does a good job of teaching readers about the true mythological figures and stories, while entertaining us with new action and humorous situations.

My only real complaints are that the story felt a bit slow at times, and that the girlfriend/boyfriend stuff between Jason and Piper was unnecessary.