Friday, April 13, 2018

Mini Book Reviews (2)

On to the second set of mini book reviews...


I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

I'd heard about this book only after Michelle McNamara died in her sleep a couple of years ago. I know who Patton Oswalt is and that she was his wife. I learned about her book in-progress and became fascinated about her search for this killer. I didn't know a thing about this case before I read the book. Parts of California were terrorized for 10 years while this killer was active. McNamara takes us through the crimes, all the clues left behind and what the investigations have yielded after all this time. It's been a truly frightening look into the actions and psychology of a serial rapist/killer. I can't deny a nightmare or two or checking my windows more than once before bed. I can only hope they finally catch this man and bring him to justice. But read with the lights on....


In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

This was Ware's first book. A lot of people on Goodreads said this was her best and their favorite. Well, I read the Woman in Cabin 10 right after and can tell you I enjoyed that one much better.

This one was a bit rough for me. Nora is a reclusive writer of crime novels at age 26. She likes it that way. But she receives an email from an old friend she hasn't been in contact with for 10 years, inviting her to her bachelorette party (or hen party in the UK). She agrees as long as another friend from high school agrees to go too. It's rough for me because I didn't quite buy that she would go to this party. But OK. The person hosting the hen party seems a bit unhinged and overly dramatic. She seems obsessed with Clare (the one getting married). Well, we find out Nora dated Clare's fiance in high school and something happened with him to make Nora leave school and never contact anyone again.

The story goes back and forth between Nora at the hen party in the dark, dark woods and Nora in the hospital bruised and broken and unable to remember much. It ended up being a bit convoluted for me and the characters a bit weak. It wasn't my favorite but it's quick and maybe it would appeal to a slightly younger audience? At 26 and still hung up on a boyfriend she only dated for 6 months when she was 16 just had me rolling my eyes...


The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

This was a lot better experience for me. Her world and characters seem a lot more mature. I also listened to it on audio and Imogene Church does a fantastic job with voices. She does accents from Sweden to American to Bostonian to Irish...amazing. The story truly came alive for me.

The story did drag in a few spots at the beginning and toward the end. And the protagonist does make a few weirdly plot convenient mistakes. But overall, this was Ware's better book. It's a great thrill ride and listen to it if you can!

I've been reading a lot of thriller/mystery/horror/true-crime for Michelle's Spring Into Horror Readathon!



Thursday, April 12, 2018

Cat Thursday-- April 12, 2018


Cat Thursday is hosted by Michelle over at True Book Addict!

A new trending meme in Japan...taking pics of your cat in a stretch pose! Oh, Japan. How I love you!






This is a cute video of Mulder the magic cat who can open doors! That's why you get the round knob handles!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Mini Book Reviews (1)-- April 11, 2018

I am behind on 7 books for reviewing! Yikes. OK. I'll do some themes here and hopefully catch up between two posts....


Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

This was suggested to me by Powell's Books...25 Memoirs to Read Before You Die. I love lists and I love memoirs and Powell's so great combo. I'd never read anything by her before, but I had heard of her book "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit." Her memoir was not the easiest of reads. She had a very troubled and abusive childhood which was hard to fathom. But her chapters come across more as essays and glimpses into her life rather than a full picture. Which probably makes sense when one writes about one's life...but it was a bit hard to follow.

She's a thinker and a philosopher. Her writing is beautiful and full of insight. I'll just leave one quote:

"...Reading things that are relevant to the facts of your life is of limited value. The facts are, after all, only the facts, and the yearning passionate part of you will not be met there. That is why reading ourselves as a fiction as well as fact is so liberating. The wider we read the freer we become."

She carries a distance from herself in her writing. I can understand why but at the same time it made for a more cold reading of her life. Overall, a fascinating and very different memoir from what I'm used to.


The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesvenich

The material in this book was very disturbing and was hard to get through. She writes about her life while she writes about the murderer of a young boy. The way she intertwines it all is beyond anything I can describe. Reading her memoir and true crime book all-in-one is truly an experience. But you must be up for this grim experience.


The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

As a Linguistics major, I used and studied a lot from the OED. As such, I'd been meaning to pick this one up for years. The story is a conglomeration of history of Linguists at the time, the making of dictionaries, and mental illness and how it was treated at the time. You get a bit of everything. Overall, it truly is a fascinating tale on how a doctor who is criminally insane, helps out with the making of this grand dictionary. It's almost impossible to believe. The only complaint I have is it was a bit dry. It's a quick read but it felt a lot longer than it should have. I don't think this would be a book for everyone. More for those who have a love of language and history who can trudge through the dry bits and dig into the story at hand.


The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas

I read this one aloud with G. It was a surprisingly quirky, fun, and sad book. Great things about this book. She mentions Carl Sagan and his project Voyager that contained a golden disc with sounds and images from Earth that is still sailing away in space. Boom. I was sold.

We follow Stella's journey as she wades through her grief after the death of her father. The book is one long letter to him as she tells him all about a small dog-like black hole that shows up and causes all sorts of problems like eating her Brussels sprouts or pictures of her and her father or other things. It's a beautiful story of grief and how we work through it, though it never truly leaves us.

*all images were retrieved from Goodreads.com

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz


Goodreads Summary:

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

I was very surprised at how much I loved this book. Saenz manages to make his characters come alive. Even the parents are actual human beings with thoughts, feelings, and gray areas. I loved watching the relationship between Ari and Dante. Discovering the secrets of the Universe was an immense pleasure. The lessons it teaches is one for the ages. I look forward to rereading this again and again.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Dewey: The Small-town Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron


Goodreads Summary:

How much of an impact can an animal have? How many lives can one cat touch? How is it possible for an abandoned kitten to transform a small library, save a classic American town, and eventually become famous around the world? You can't even begin to answer those questions until you hear the charming story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa.

Dewey's story starts in the worst possible way. Only a few weeks old, on the coldest night of the year, he was stuffed into the returned book slot at the Spencer Public Library. He was found the next working by library director Vicki Myron, a single mother who had survived the loss of her family farm, a breast cancer scare, and an alcoholic husband. Dewey won her heart, and the hearts of the staff, by pulling himself up and hobbling on frostbitten feet to nudge each of hem in a gesture of thanks and love. For the next nineteen years, he never stopped charming the people of Spencer with this enthusiasm, warmth, humility (for a cat), and, above all, his sixth sense about who needed him most.

As his fame grew from town to town, then state to state, and finally, amazingly, worldwide, Dewey became more than just a friend; he became a source of pride for an extraordinary Heartland farming town pulling its way slowly back from the greatest crisis in its long history.


My Thoughts:

I loved reading this aloud with G. He loves cats and he especially loved this story of Dewey Readmore Books from Spencer, Iowa. We laughed and finally we cried. I knew they found him in 1987 and that there was no way he survived more than 20 years....It broke our hearts.

Myron also manages to write a short history of Iowa and her small town Spencer. She shares some of her personal history too. Those parts dragged a bit and could have used a bit of editing.

I know they have a kid's version of this story without all the major history lessons and personal hardship stories of Ms. Myron, but this is the book I picked up awhile ago and so this is the one we dug into and read together. It opened up some discussions on drug abuse and suicide and as well as death. It got serious a few times but my boy was able to handle it and I enjoyed the discussions that came out of it even it some of it was a bit much to handle.

Overall, it's a great story. And Dewey, may he rest in peace, was a very special cat.


Friday, March 23, 2018

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah


Goodreads Summary:

...Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life...


My Thoughts:

Wow! I cannot believe the childhood Trevor Noah had. Let's just say I couldn't even dream up half the stuff that happened to him. I loved getting to know more about him and his experiences growing up in Apartheid and how it played out after. He brings a lightness and charm to the stories.

The only thing that bothered me was the distance he had with his experiences. He didn't offer a lot of insight and kind of just let awful horrible stories drop without any sort of inspiration or insight. But maybe that's exactly what he intended to do. A more serious memoir/biography may happen in the future when he's willing to share more of how his experiences have truly affected him.

But overall, the stories are interesting and so heart-breaking. I listened to it on Audible and enjoyed him telling his own stories.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Cat Thursday-- March 22, 2018


Cat Thursday is hosted by Michelle over at True Book Addict!

I'll highlight my kitty Shadow this week. She's almost 7 and getting into in her older years. She's a crazy fun kitty. She'll wrestle and chase and cuddle. She's the best of both worlds. So without further ado....

2018-03-13 21.49.52


2018-03-12 00.23.33

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest


Goodreads Summary:

Chuck Dutton built Music City Salvage with patience and expertise, stripping historic properties and reselling their bones. Inventory is running low, so he's thrilled when Augusta Withrow appears in his office offering salvage rights to her entire property. This could be a gold mine, so he assigns his daughter Dahlia to personally oversee the project.

The crew finds a handful of surprises right away. Firstly, the place is in unexpectedly good shape. And then there's the cemetery, about thirty fallen and overgrown graves dating to the early 1900s, Augusta insists that the cemetery is just a fake, a Halloween prank, so the city gives the go-ahead, the bulldozer revs up, and it turns up human remains. Augusta says she doesn't know whose body it is or how many others might be present and refuses to answer any more questions. Then she stops answering the phone.

But Dahlia's concerns about the corpse and Augusta's disappearance are overshadowed when she begins to realize that she and her crew are not alone, and they're not welcome at the Withrow estate. They have no idea how much danger they're in, but they're starting to get an idea. On the crew's third night in the house, a storm shuts down the only road to the property. The power goes out. Cell signals are iffy. There's nowhere to go and no one Dahlia can call for help, even if anyone would believe that she and her crew are being stalked by a murderous phantom. Something at the Withrow mansion is angry and lost, and this is its last chance to raise hell before the house is gone forever. And it seems to be seeking permanent company.


My Thoughts:

I loved Cherie Priest's Boneshaker zombie/steampunk series. She is a fantastic writer and has a great imagination. So I knew I needed to pick this one up. It's a ghost story and it's creepy. I had to keep the lights on while reading. I hope she keeps writing scary stories because she's a natural.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday-- Books on My Spring TBR List!


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.


1. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker

I enjoyed Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature a few years ago and hear this one adds onto it!


2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

The movie is coming out at the end of the month and I'm looking forward to getting it read before I see it!


3. I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara.

I've got it on hold at the library and I want to read and take part in what she was working on before she passed away.


4. Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

I've had this on my shelf for a few years now and feel like Spring is the time to finally dive into this fantasy series!


5. Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Mailhot.

I've heard this is the one to read and I'm only second in line for the library hold. After Sherman Alexie's memoir on growing up on a reservation, I'm ready for a woman's perspective.


6. The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

This has been on my list for awhile but I'll only get to it if I'm in the mood. I can't have too many dark books for Spring!


7. The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith

I've been meaning to read this for a few months and spring feels like the right time to finally get it done!

I doubt I'll get to all of these let alone three more but this is a good start! Bring on spring and flowers and sunshine and warmer weather!

*All pics are taken from Goodreads.com

Sunday, March 18, 2018

2018 Spring Into Horror Readathon!


This is a month long readathon from April 1-30 that focuses on all things horror! It's hosted by Michelle over at Seasons of Reading. Check it out and sign up. And be prepared to be scared!


Some ideas I have for April are The Ruins by Scott Smith, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson, Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti. I may get to a few mysteries as well!

*pic taken from Goodreads.com

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday--Books That Surprised Me

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week is all about books that surprised us (good or bad).


1. Persuasion by Jane Austen. I'd read Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Pride and Prejudice. I thought I'd already found my favorite. But then I read Persuasion and was blown away at how much I loved it.


2. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. It was one of those books I'd heard good things but was completely blown away at how smart this book was. Her attention to detail, world-building and character makes this one of the best young adult fantasy series.


3. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie. Even though he's been getting all the bad press the last few weeks, his memoir is excellent. I was blown away at the depth of this book. I knew it would be good but I didn't realize how good until I listened.


4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Some friends wanted to read it and I decided to join in. I'd read two of his books back in high school and remember enjoying them. But wow. East of Eden is really well written. I'm saying this a lot...it blew me away at how good it is. My friend even got a tattoo on her wrist of the last phrase in the book. Boom. Surprisingly good.


5. The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman. I wanted to love this and I didn't. Sad but it happens.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Cat Thursday-- March 8, 2018


Cat Thursday is hosted by Michelle over at True Book Addict!

Who knew cats love the pizza!



Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Book Reviews: Many Minis

I have not been keeping up with my book reviews. No shocker there. So I will just condense them all into one post with many mini reviews!


One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul.

Thoughts:

I enjoyed her random thoughts on growing up as a first generation Canadian from India. We get to see insight into her parents, their culture, how she feels about going back to India. What being white means or darker complected depending on where she's at. What love and relationships mean to her. 

Some of her essays are better than others. But overall it's a fun journey through the crags of her mind and her experiences.

Some quotes:

"...our inability to talk about race and its complexities actually means our racism is arguable more insidious. We rarely acknowledge it, and when we do, we're punished, as if we're speaking badly of an elderly relative who can't help but make fun of the Irish."

"Fitting is a luxury rarely given to immigrants, or the children of immigrants. We are stuck in emotional purgatory. Home, somehow, is always the last place you left, and never the place you're in."


Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Really Did That?: 101 Stories of Miracles, Mischief, and Magical Moments by Amy Newmark

Thoughts:

I read this aloud with G and we both loved all the fun and poignant stories. We laughed and cried through the whole thing. It's a great collection; cats are truly magical.


A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong

Thoughts: 

True crime non-fiction can be a harrowing read. Miller and Armstrong bring it all together. Two reporters came at this story from two sides of the same coin. How do the police properly investigate rape? And how can an investigation go so terribly wrong? We get both in this true story. One woman is raped in Seattle and no one believes her. While in Colorado the victims of the same man are believed. They collaborate and bring all their resources together. It's an unbelievable story. We learn about how much has changed in rape investigation and criminal prosecution. It's also a history of how rape and the criminal justice system have evolved and just who are these women making and implementing these changes.

This is a must-read. It'll break your heart but also put it back together knowing there are people willing to change the system and fight.


Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge

Thoughts:

Judge writes a biography using poems and art. It's quite a feat and an experience I recommend everyone partake in if they have any interest in Mary Shelley and her classic Frankenstein. How and why does Shelley create this monster? Well, it's a some of her lived experiences. And they were harrowing. It makes me want to pick up a more in-depth biography on her.


Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers

Thoughts:

This is an illustrated children's book. It's a powerful one that I read aloud with G. Eggers writes about the history of the Statue of Liberty. Who made it? Why was it given to America? And what's going on with her right foot? It's about love of immigrants on which America was founded. Go out and read it. It's a timely book.


The Fifth Season by N.J. Jemisin

Thoughts:

This is the first book in the Broken Earth trilogy. I enjoyed her world-building. She seamlessly sews together a society of those with powers and those without. What does it look like? What happens when the earth can break apart and destroy everything at any time? What does it look like when people can look differently without it being weird? That's a weird thing to write but take your typical epic fantasy and being white is a default. And if a person who isn't white is in the story they're usually coffee colored or a smooth caramel or something like that. Jemisin just describes people. You never assume anyone looks any certain way. This world is just amazing. Her characters are never two-dimensional and no one is perfect and everyone has room to grow and be taken down a notch. It's true epic fantasy. And I loved it and can't wait for more!


The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Thoughts:

This was a great dark fantasy. She opened up a world where fairy tales exist and can literally take you and bite you back! I enjoyed the adventure of Alice searching for her mother Ella. It's fast-paced and the world of earth and the world of Hazel Wood feel real. There are no cliff-hangers at the end so you can just read this one and be done. But I have a feeling Albert will toss some more dark and twisted fairy tales from Hazel Wood our way!

*all pics were taken from Goodreads.com

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Cat Thursday-- March 1, 2018


Cat Thursday is hosted by Michelle over at True Book Addict!

Go meet Parsley in the town of Oban, Scotland...

According to Metro Parsley is a Maine Coon cat that has over 6,000 followers on Facebook and tourists come from all over the world just to see him.







Go check out the article for more adorable information on Parsley!

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