Monday, February 24, 2020

In the Woods by Tana French

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In the Woods by Tana French
Published: May 17th, 2007 by Penguin Books
Genre: Crime Fiction
Format: Kindle, 430 Pages, Own
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

A gorgeously written novel that marks the debut of an astonishing new voice in psychological suspense.

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children. He is gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a 12-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox (his partner and closest friend) find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.


My Thoughts:

In my opinion, Tana French has a beautiful way with characters and world-building. I was thoroughly engaged in every character detail and their experiences in her world. Small-town Knocknaree in Ireland becomes a character itself, with its haunting forests, devilish sounds, and shadows.

The two main protagonists, Detective Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox are two sides of the same coin. They're almost like close siblings but not quite. I actually found Ryan as the first-person narrator rather annoying but I was ok with that because I enjoyed the enigmatic Cassie as seen through his eyes a lot more. To me, she's the real star of the story.

But the actual plot does pale in comparison, unfortunately. There is a murder that may be connected to the disappearance of Ryan's childhood friends when he was 12. But he can't remember anything about that experience. He was the lone survivor. But he takes the case and lies about his identity in order to stay on this present-day murder and hopefully find out what really happened to his friends and regain his memories. It's a long shot. The fact that Cassie covers for him is pretty unbelievable. Also, how they finally solve the crime was very disappointing.

But what can I say, I love a good character study. And French has a lot to say about human nature and various foibles and strengths. And overall the plot and the crime were interesting enough that I'll definitely read more her series.

I'm also grateful that she doesn't focus on one detective in every book. That's one of the reasons I don't read a lot of books in one series; it gets boring after the third or fourth book the same character is always in peril, getting kidnapped, beat up, stalked, etc.

I feel like French's books are literary fiction with murder as a plot device to talk about her characters and the world they inhabit. I know some readers aren't going to appreciate the poetic nature of her stories. I do and look forward to continuing her series.

Friday, February 7, 2020

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

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In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado
Published: November 5th, 2019 by Graywolf Press
Genre: Memoir, Non-fiction
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

For years Carmen Maria Machado has struggled to articulate her experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship. In this extraordinarily candid and radically inventive memoir, Machado tackles a dark and difficult subject with wit, inventiveness and an inquiring spirit, as she uses a series of narrative tropes—including classic horror themes—to create an entirely unique piece of work which is destined to become an instant classic.

My Thoughts:

Machado has created something beautiful, haunting, and unusual. She hauntingly describes her abusive relationship. We are thrown into the haunted "dream house" with her. Her chapters are short and she uses each one to brilliant effect. One chapter uses a Choose Your Own Adventure to see if she does something different in her interactions with her partner. It's truly horrifying.

She describes the art of the memoir as "...an act of resurrection. Memoirists re-create the past, reconstruct dialogue. They summon meaning from events have long been dormant. They braid the clays of memory and essay and fact and perception together, smash into a ball, roll them flat. They manipulate time; resuscitate the dead. They put themselves, and others, into necessary context." She uses all of these devices in each essay, laying bare her expertise, her heart, and her anguish.

A lot of her essays focus on the dearth of resources and first-hand accounts of abuse within lesbian relationships. The stereotypes have been two women together are a utopia! There's nothing wrong here, move along. She describes how being a minority, one has to be twice as good, work twice as hard to be seen as human. But this is a disservice since that means people will have a hard time believing the abuse and recognizing it when it happens. "It's not being radical to point out that people on the fringe have to be better than people in the mainstream, that they have twice as much to prove. In trying to get people to see your humanity, you reveal just that: your humanity.

I'm not queer, I've never been in an abusive relationship, nor experienced abuse in the way that she has and yet Machado writes in such a way to make you experience and feel what she's been through. She makes you care and makes you see how we're all human. Her memoir is one I've never quite experienced before.

I'll end with this quote:

"...our bodies are ecosystems, and they shed and replace and repair until we die. And when we die, our bodies feed the hungry earth, our cells becoming part of other cells, and in the world of the living, where we used to be, people kiss and hold hands and fall in love and fuck and laugh and cry and hurt others and nurse broken hearts and start wars and pull sleeping children out of car seats and shout at each other. If you could harness that energy--that constant, roving hunger--you could do wonders with it. You push the earth inch by inch through the cosmos until it collided heart-first with the sun."



*Linking up with Non-fiction Friday

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Cat Thursday


Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! 


It's officially February and that means it's the love month!







Wednesday, February 5, 2020

January Wrap-Up

DH and I were able to finally celebrate the big 16. It's in December but that is such a hectic time, that usually we either do nothing or it's a nice dinner. This year DH reserved us a spot for a mystery dinner theater program. It was a hoot! It was nice to get out and celebrate and be entertained.

2020-01-11 17.32.29


We've been dealing with some illness this month so we haven't gotten out as much as I would like. We've gotten a lot of snow and cold but we did get a beautiful sunset the other night. It's the little things, especially during the long winter months.

                           2020-01-30 17.48.01

                           2020-01-30 17.47.54



5 Books Read:


3 Books Listened to:
  • Climbing with Mollie by William Finnegan on Audible.
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett on Libby from the library.
  • Junkyard Cats by Faith Hunter on Audible.


Watched:

TV:

  • The Outsider on HBO. This is one creepy series! It's so good.

Movies:

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Plotline: Jenn has washed ashore a small tropical island and it doesn't take her long to realize she's completely alone. She must spend her days not only surviving the elements, but must also fend off the malevolent force that comes out each night.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. Tough character who battles for survival. It's creepy and suspenseful and just fun.

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Tagline: Based on the Beloved American Novel by Louisa May Alcott

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this adaptation. I didn't like Laurie as much but I liked that they showed a bit of a love story for him and Amy.

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Tagline: Time Changes Nothing

Thoughts: It took me 3 days to watch this but I enjoyed the historical aspect, getting to know Jimmy Hoffa and what role he played in history and of course the creative theory on his final fate.

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Tagline: The World will Shine Again

Thoughts: Way too long but still a great story with great characters. I loved seeing little Danny again and his new protege who kicked some ass!

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Tagline: There is enchantment in the light.

Thoughts: A more modern take on the myth of Prometheus? Toxic masculinity? I'm not sure but it was a wild and crazy ride.

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Tagline: Act like you own the place

Thoughts: Pure brilliance. His commentary on class and capitalism is so layered, I'll need to keep rewatching it to catch it all. Go see this film.


Made:

I'm still working on G's blanket. I'm almost done with the crochet part. Then it'll be sewing in all the ends and adding fringe! There is light at the end of the tunnel.

I'm starting my great niece's blanket as well. I'm giving myself a couple of months!

I made pulled pork nachos, wings, and pigs-in-a-blanket for the Super Bowl.

Lots of soups this month as well!

Reading Goals:

I've got some books to read with G for Black History month that I'm excited about: Two books of poetry by Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. Also, the young adult adaptation of Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.

I've got How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and Parting the Waters: America in the King Years: 1954-63 by Taylor Branch on my list this month.

I'm also reading Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia and Pet by Akwaeke Emezi.

Currently listening to:

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson on Libby

Looking forward to:

G's birthday is Sunday. We're letting him take a few friends to the local trampoline park for a couple of hours on Saturday. I'm baking cupcakes! Sunday will be out for breakfast and dinner will be a small celebration at my parents' house with ice cream cake and games. The week after that his cousin will be sleeping over for some fun. So he's got a great couple of weeks planned! He's going to be 11! Eleven! Where does the time go?

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Cat Thursday


Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! 





OMG! This one is my fave. My cats don't go outside so their kills are their toys but with all the meowing and look at my skills attached!






Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Mini Book Reviews: Watchmen...


Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
Published: 1987 by DC Comics
Genre: Graphic Comic, Sci-Fi
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages, Library
Rating: 3 stars

Publisher's Summary:

This Hugo Award-winning graphic novel chronicles the fall from grace of a group of super-heroes plagued by all-too-human failings. Along the way, the concept of the super-hero is dissected as the heroes are stalked by an unknown assassin.

One of the most influential graphic novels of all time and a perennial best-seller, Watchmen has been studied on college campuses across the nation and is considered a gateway title, leading readers to other graphic novels such as V for VendettaBatman: The Dark Knight Returns and The Sandman series.

My Thoughts:

Watchmen is a product of the Cold War. It's all about nuclear arms and Russia and communism, along with a dissection of the psychology of people who would actually put on costumes and become vigilantes. It's interesting. But it's also full of too much talking and not enough character. The women characters are not well-represented. Also, I didn't like the ending. The anti-hero hero is a white supremacist, misogynist, racist, and conspiracy theorist who also is a psychopath....hmmm.

But, the series on HBO is a sequel to the comic series and I feel like they address a lot of the issues I had with comic series. It had a nice finality to it and some kick-ass female characters every step of the way. So I recommend reading this in order to truly enjoy the HBO series!



The Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Published: April 22nd, 2008 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Sci-fi
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Thirteen-year-old Jonah has always known that he was adopted, and he's never thought it was any big deal. Then he and a new friend, Chip, who's also adopted, begin receiving mysterious letters. The first one says, "You are one of the missing." The second one says, "Beware! They're coming back to get you."

Jonah, Chip, and Jonah's sister, Katherine, are plunged into a mystery that involves the FBI, a vast smuggling operation, an airplane that appeared out of nowhere - and people who seem to appear and disappear at will. The kids discover they are caught in a battle between two opposing forces that want very different things for Jonah and Chip's lives.

Do Jonah and Chip have any choice in the matter? And what should they choose when both alternatives are horrifying?

With Found, Margaret Peterson Haddix begins a new series that promises to be every bit as suspenseful as Among the Hidden, and proves her, once again, to be a master of the page-turner.
 

My Thoughts:

I read this one for G's school for the Battle of the Books. It's a fun one. I enjoyed the mystery. It looks like every book has quite the cliff-hanger. G has been reading them too and he's already on the third book. He highly recommends them and it's a fun little sci-fi mystery series for kids.


Caliban's War (Expanse #2) by James S.A. Corey
Published: June 26th, 2012 by Orbit (Hachette)
Genre: Sci-fi
Format: Kindle, 595 Pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars
Publisher's Summary:

We are not alone.

On Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, a Martian marine watches as her platoon is slaughtered by a monstrous supersoldier. On Earth, a high-level politician struggles to prevent interplanetary war from reigniting. And on Venus, an alien protomolecule has overrun the planet, wreaking massive, mysterious changes and threatening to spread out into the solar system.

In the vast wilderness of space, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance. When they agree to help a scientist search war-torn Ganymede for a missing child, the future of humanity rests on whether a single ship can prevent an alien invasion that may have already begun . . .

Caliban's War is a breakneck science fiction adventure following the critically acclaimed Leviathan Wakes.

My Thoughts:

This is the second book in the Expanse series and it's so fantastic! We learn a lot more about various characters than you get in the TV series. Events are a bit different and that's fun to get both storylines, one from the books and the one from the TV series. Both are fantastic.


The Dutch House
Published: September 24th, 2019 by Harper
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook, 12 Hours, Library
Rating: 3 stars
Publisher's Summary:

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

My Thoughts:

Honestly, the only thing that kept me coming back was listening to it with Tom Hanks narrating. It was a fine and interesting story but it didn't draw me in. By the end, I just shrugged my shoulders and thought "what was the point?" Interesting but not profound. That's two Patchett novels I just haven't gotten. I'm just not sure if I'll ever pick up another of her books.

I looked at a few reviews from Goodreads with the same rating as mine and a lot seemed to share my sentiments of what? What's the point? And what was she trying to say?


Junkyard Cats by Faith Hunter
Published: January 2nd, 2020 by Audible Studios
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Sci-fi
Format: Audiobook, 5 Hours, 2 Minutes, Own
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

From the author of the best-selling Jane Yellowrock and Soulwood series comes a tough new heroine who is far more than she seems.

After the Final War, after the appearance of the Bug aliens and their enforced peace, Shining Smith is still alive, still doing business from the old scrapyard bequeathed to her by her father. But Shining is now something more than human. And the scrapyard is no longer just a scrapyard, but a place full of secrets that she has guarded for years.

This life she has built, while empty, is predictable and safe. Until the only friend left from her previous life shows up, dead, in the back of a scrapped Tesla warplane, a note to her clutched in his fingers - a note warning her of a coming attack.

Someone knows who she is. Someone knows what she is guarding. Will she be able to protect the scrapyard? Will she even survive? Or will she have to destroy everything she loves to keep her secrets out of the wrong hands?

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this one. Lots of action and battles and cats. I couldn't ask for more...well, maybe a bit better on the dialogue. That was a bit stinted and unnatural. But the performance was fun. And I just loved the intelligent cats. The storyline is pretty sweet, too, with World War III done and over and Chinese nanotech bugs have infiltrated almost everything. I definitely want to read more about Shining and her cats!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Mini Book Reviews: Non-fiction Edition

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Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Published: October 8th, 2019 by W.W. Norton Company
Genre: Nonfiction, Essays, Memoir/biography
Format: Audiobook, 5 hours, 35 minutes, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

The natural follow-up to the phenomenal bestseller Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has attracted one of the world’s largest online followings with his fascinating, widely accessible insights into science and our universe. Now, Tyson invites us to go behind the scenes of his public fame by unveiling his candid correspondence with people across the globe who have sought him out in search of answers. In this hand-picked collection of one hundred letters, Tyson draws upon cosmic perspectives to address a vast array of questions about science, faith, philosophy, life, and of course, Pluto. His succinct, opinionated, passionate, and often funny responses reflect his popularity and standing as a leading educator.

Tyson’s 2017 bestseller Astrophysics for People in a Hurry offered more than one million readers an insightful and accessible understanding of the universe. Now, revealing Tyson’s most candid and heartfelt writing yet, Letters from an Astrophysicist introduces us to a newly personal dimension of Tyson’s quest to understand our place in the cosmos.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this one so much, I listened to it twice. The second time was with the family while driving up and back from Boise over New Year's. Neil deGrasse Tyson narrates his own book and it's just lovely. He breaks up the letters into categories, and they span all the way back before 9/11 to a year or two ago. His letter to his father and his description of his experience of 9/11 while in New York were especially touching. His love of science and people is inspiring and one I will probably listen to yearly!

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Avoiding Clickbait by Kristin Thiel
Published: January 15th, 2019 by Cavendish Square Company
Genre: Nonfiction, Juvenile, Critical Thinking
Format: Hardback, 64 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

As digital natives attempt to navigate news sources, media literacy is more important than ever. Understanding who is behind different forms of clickbait like posts, articles, and ads, and the motivation behind this content, is a critical part of distinguishing reputable sources of information from distorted or false information. This must-have volume examines the roots of modern clickbait in the sensationalism of yellow journalism, while guiding readers through the process of recognizing clickbait and reacting to it in savvy ways.

My Thoughts:

I read this one aloud with G. We were able to talk about online safety and how to spot clickbait and why it happens. They go into a bit about the psychology behind it and why it happens. There is a whole series devoted to media literacy and we are on the second book. It's a great series for kids and has lots of resources to check out and learn more as well.

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Bomb: The Race to Build--And Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Published: September 4th, 2012 by Flash Point
Genre: Nonfiction, Young Adult, History
Format: Hardback, 266 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars
Publisher's Summary:

In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world's most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.

Bomb is a 2012 National Book Awards finalist for Young People's Literature.
Bomb is a 2012 Washington Post Best Kids Books of the Year title.

Bomb is a 2013 Newbery Honor book.

My Thoughts:

I read this for Battle of the Books for G's school. I was thoroughly engaged! I enjoy getting my history from middle grade and young adult books. They know how to get the best stories and to tell the facts in an interesting way.

I had no idea about how the Russians stole the plans for the atomic bomb. We learned why people got involved with the bomb project and how the Germans were sabotaged so they couldn't make the bomb first. So many fascinating tidbits. There are some great photos inside too.

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Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty
Published: September 10th, 2019 by W.W. Norton Company
Genre: Nonfiction, Science, Essays, Biology
Format: Kindle, 222 pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Best-selling author and mortician Caitlin Doughty answers real questions from kids about death, dead bodies, and decomposition.

Every day, funeral director Caitlin Doughty receives dozens of questions about death. What would happen to an astronaut’s body if it were pushed out of a space shuttle? Do people poop when they die? Can Grandma have a Viking funeral?

In Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?, Doughty blends her mortician’s knowledge of the body and the intriguing history behind common misconceptions about corpses to offer factual, hilarious, and candid answers to thirty-five distinctive questions posed by her youngest fans. In her inimitable voice, Doughty details lore and science of what happens to, and inside, our bodies after we die. Why do corpses groan? What causes bodies to turn colors during decomposition? And why do hair and nails appear longer after death? Readers will learn the best soil for mummifying your body, whether you can preserve your best friend’s skull as a keepsake, and what happens when you die on a plane. Beautifully illustrated by Dianné Ruz, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? shows us that death is science and art, and only by asking questions can we begin to embrace it.

My Thoughts:

I read this one aloud with G last month. It was a hoot. It does go into some technical detail about the processes of death. Putrefaction. Can you put your parents' skull on your desk after they die? What about the cat?! Will she eat my eyeballs? The questions are fun and Ms. Doughty answers with clarity and humor. There are even fun illustrations throughout each chapter. This was definitely one of my favorite science books last year and one of my faves reading with G.

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Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
Published: April 2nd, 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Self-help
Format: Kindle, 432 pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

From a New York Times best-selling author, psychotherapist, and national advice columnist, a hilarious, thought-provoking, and surprising new book that takes us behind the scenes of a therapist's world--where her patients are looking for answers (and so is she).

One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but.

As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients' lives -- a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can't stop hooking up with the wrong guys -- she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.

With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is revolutionary in its candor, offering a deeply personal yet universal tour of our hearts and minds and providing the rarest of gifts: a boldly revealing portrait of what it means to be human, and a disarmingly funny and illuminating account of our own mysterious lives and our power to transform them.

My Thoughts:

I loved getting inside a therapist's head. What's the training? How can I use this in my own life? How can I use this with my own therapist?! I loved how she intertwined her story, along with her own therapist, and the stories of her clients. So much info and things to think about. This is one I'll be returning to. I also want to know which show her client wrote for! OMG! It's killing me.

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They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justing Eisinger, and Steve Scott 
Published: July 16th, 2019 by Top Shelf Productions
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, History, Graphic Novel
Format: Kindle, 208 pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

A graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei's childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon -- and America itself.

Long before George Takei braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father's -- and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.

In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten "relocation centers," hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.

They Called Us Enemy is Takei's firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother's hard choices, his father's faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.

My Thoughts:

This was such a beautiful book. Gorgeously illustrated and written. George Takei knocks it out of the park with his graphic memoir. I read this one aloud with G as well over the holidays. He couldn't get enough of it and we read it until it was done over the course of just a few nights. I felt it was important to talk about the illegal detainment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. And having a first-hand experience to read and talk about made it powerful. This should be a must-read in schools.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Cat Thursday--If I Fits, I Sits


Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! 

Here are some If I fits, I Sits photos from Bored Panda. They're always good for a laugh!






And here's Nala's latest If I Fits, I Sits fiasco! G decided to add a few more socks for dramatic effect but that's where we found her after searching high and low for her. Ha!

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Mini Book Reviews: My Brilliant Friend, The Golden Compass...

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Published: October 19th, 2011 by Europa Editions
Genre: Historical Fiction, In Translation
Format: Audiobook, 12 hours and 38 minutes, Own
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.

My Thoughts:

I had forgotten about the prologue by the time I got to the end of the book. Lila goes missing and Lenu begins to tell us a story about her and Lila in Naples. And I'm left wondering who the brilliant friend is... Elena becomes an unreliable narrator and so you never quite know which story to believe or who's the good guy. And that's the point. We're human and we're all unreliable and messy. Such a fantastic story. Did she really disappear? I must keep reading to find out more...

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Published: December 6th, 2012 by Courtney Milan
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Format: Kindle, 270 pages, Own
Rating: 3.75 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Sometimes love is an accident.

This time, it’s a strategy.


Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly—so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don't get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention.

But that is precisely what she gets.

Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie figures out what he’s up to, he realizes there is more to her than her spectacles and her quiet ways. And he’s determined to lay her every secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy miss may prove to be more than his match...

My Thoughts:

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this one. I'd heard it was a step above some of the usual historical romances available and so I took a chance. While romances aren't my faves, this one was right up my alley with a strong female character and a witty and kind alpha male. I deplore the weak damsel and the alpha male dynamics in romances so this was different and I liked it. The storyline was also great with women's rights and class rights in England.

Source
Published: March 26th, 2019 by One World
Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoir, Non-fiction
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

A bold, wry, and intimate graphic memoir about American identity, interracial families, and the realities that divide us, from the acclaimed author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing.

“By turns hilarious and heart-rending, it’s exactly the book America needs at this moment.”—Celeste Ng

“Who taught Michael Jackson to dance?”
“Is that how people really walk on the moon?”
“Is it bad to be brown?”
“Are white people afraid of brown people?”

Like many six-year-olds, Mira Jacob’s half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, has questions about everything. At first, they are innocuous enough, but as tensions from the 2016 election spread from the media into his own family, they become much, much more complicated. Trying to answer him honestly, Mira has to think back to where she’s gotten her own answers: her most formative conversations about race, color, sexuality, and, of course, love.

“How brown is too brown?”
“Can Indians be racist?”
“What does real love between really different people look like?”

Written with humor and vulnerability, this deeply relatable graphic memoir is a love letter to the art of conversation—and to the hope that hovers in our most difficult questions.
 

My Thoughts:

This is a very powerful memoir in graphic novel form. I truly enjoyed her story. And there's so much to chew on.

Source

Published: August 27th, 2001 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: Memoir, Juvenile, Non-fiction
Format: Paperback, 208 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

At the age of fourteen, Francisco Jiménez, together with his older brother Roberto and his mother, are caught by la migra. Forced to leave their home in California, the entire family travels all night for twenty hours by bus, arriving at the U.S. and Mexican border in Nogales, Arizona. In the months and years that follow during the late 1950s-early 1960s, Francisco, his mother and father, and his seven brothers and sister not only struggle to keep their family together, but also face crushing poverty, long hours of labor, and blatant prejudice. How they sustain their hope, their good-heartedness, and tenacity is revealed in this moving, Pura Belpré Honor-winning sequel to The Circuit. Without bitterness or sentimentality, Francisco Jiménez finishes telling the story of his youth. 

My Thoughts:

I read this one for G's school for the Battle of the Books. I really enjoyed his story. He's a very accessible writer for both adults and kids. It was hard to read about him and his brother surviving without their parents for a year, and all of the discrimination they experienced from other children and their parents. I'm sure he glossed over many of his more terrifying experiences and his utter heartbreaks along the way. But his is a story many white kids will learn from. And especially in our political climate, his story is one we need to hear.


Published: July 9th, 1995 by Scholastic UK
Genre: Young adult, Fantasy
Format: Paperback, 399 pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal—including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world.

Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want.

But what Lyra doesn't know is that to help one of them will be to betray the other...

A masterwork of storytelling and suspense, Philip Pullman's award-winning The Golden Compass is the first in the His Dark Materials series, which continues with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

My Thoughts:

I read this aloud with G. And oh boy, we had a great time! We both loved Lyra's and Pantalaimon's adventures trying to save the world and her friend Roger from the Gobblers. The thing I love most about this book is how intelligent Pullman is. He adores his readers and he knows how smart they are. He's writing for teens and he treats them with respect.

His world-building is amazing. Nothing is easy. Everyone has different motives and everyone is definitely human. Not all good, not all bad. You can tell Pullman is a student of philosophy and has a smart writing style to weave it all in. We had some great discussions while reading. It's a beautiful and intelligent fantasy novel. And Lyra is a whip-smart character. We have started The Subtle Knife and it's just as good as The Golden Compass.


Thursday, January 9, 2020

Cat Thursday--Cat Therapy


Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! 

This week comes from YouTuber Ze Frank. OMG! Cats on the couch with voiceovers all about their problems. Hilarious. 




Wednesday, January 8, 2020

2019 Wrap-up and Hello 2020!

I'm going to keep this post pretty simple. I had a really great reading year in 2019! I read 107 books. My longest book was NOS4A2 by Joe Hill at 692 pages and my shortest was Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein.

Favorites in no particular order: (5 stars on Goodreads)


43 children or young adult fiction

7 children or young adult non-fiction

35 non-fiction with most of them being memoirs and a few science books thrown in or history.

12 were on Audible

It's interesting to see over the year what one has read and focused on whether on purpose or not. I do gravitate towards young adult and juvenile fiction. G and I read and share books together so that is one reason. I also gravitate towards memoirs. Humans are so interesting and I love a good story about real humans too.

Top Movies for 2019 (that I watched for the first time, not necessarily debuted in 2019)

  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019
  • Paterson (2016)
  • Marriage Story (2019)
  • Frozen II (2019)
  • Klaus (2019)
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
  • Hustlers (2019)
  • Midsommar (2019)
  • Booksmart (2019)
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
  • Culture Shock (2019)
  • I, Dolours (2018)
  • Free Solo (2018)
  • Us (2019)
  • Captain Marvel (2019)
  • Widows (2018)
  • Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
Lots of great documentaries, horror, and dramas I watched this year!

TV 2019:


Chernobyl on HBO was phenomenal. Hands down my favorite.

2019-09-25 10.48.44

2019-07-14 10.02.01-1-1

With family and friends, my favorites were camping in my local mountains and a trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park with a friend. Definitely my top spots in 2019!

I don't really do too much with resolutions. But I like to think about what I'd like my reading year to be at least. I did sign-up for one reading challenge. And I do some small challenges throughout the year around the summer and horror in the fall and early winter. But other than that I like to take it one day at a time.

I plan on getting some snowshoeing in with family. We also have plans to see the Redwoods in April with friends. I'd like to do some camping again in the late Spring and early fall. Lots of hikes too. G has decided he'd like to learn to ride a bike this spring so we'll be working on that too. I have some professional goals I'm working on too. So I'm hoping this year brings some new experiences and adventures as well as making the world a bit better than we left it last year! One can hope and plan for that! Keep reading and learning and being kind and carry on!