Tuesday, May 31, 2016

REVIEW: Dietland by Sarai Walker

Author: Sarai Walker

Alicia Kettle weighs 300 lbs. Her weight, and the feelings that it gives her about herself and the world, rule her existence. Her nickname is Plum. But she believes that after she has weight loss surgery and loses weight that she can start a new life and use her real name. She will dawn as the New Alicia...wear pretty clothes and be stared at because she is attractive, not because she is fat. She buys clothes that won't fit her....putting them in the closet for when she can become Alicia. She eats small meals each day, counting inside her head how many calories she is eating. Her entire life centers around that number on the scale. Diet Meals. Diet Books. Diet Meetings, Diet Plans. Everything centers around Plum becoming someone else....becoming Alicia. She sits alone every day in a cafe answering Dear Kitty letters from teenage girls who think the replies come from the editor of Daisy Chain magazine. No life. No dates. Few friends. All because she is fat.

At least that is how Plum feels.

Then suddenly, she notices a woman is following her. Every day she sees her. She confronts her, but the woman pretends that she isn't trailing Plum wherever she goes. Then the mysterious girl gives her a book. The book will change her life, pulling her down into the world of a feminist movement, a community of women who want to change the way women are treated and depicted in modern culture and media. Plum is given several tasks that she has to complete, and is promised that once she finishes the results will be life-changing.  At the same time a femi-terrorism group called Jennifer is killing men who have victimized women. As Plum's life becomes embroiled in the chaos, she is faced with decisions that will have a profound effect on her life.


I'm not really sure how I feel about this book.  There were parts of it that I really identify with, as six years ago I weighed more than 400 lbs. I would go into restaurants and have tables of teenage boys "moo'' at me.  I was featured on a British weight loss show as an example of what a woman doesn't want to be. Yikes. Then I had Gastric Bypass and I am a normal weight now....no more moo-ing, no more staring, no more depression, etc. I can be anonymous now....and not that "huge woman that just walked in.''  So I identified a lot with the main character -- in the beginning.

But somewhere about the middle of the story, things took a turn that I really didn't like. A feminist terrorist organization forms and drops blindfolded, bound men out of an airplane and begins killing people associated with 100 men on their "Penis Blacklist.''   Not to mention the feminist group Plum joins that published a book titled "Fuckability.''   Things went downhill fast for me at that point.

It seems to me that in trying to find herself, Plum was still weak-minded enough to get sucked into yet another victimizing mindset. Just as she was starting to see that she was Alicia all along, no matter what her size.....she got cornered by this cultish, ultra-feminist underground society that really started telling her what she should think, rather than let her discover it for herself. There is no self-awakening if someone is telling you what your "Self'' is. Then actual terrorist events with people being killed.....I had a real problem with that.  I believe that women have rights over their minds, bodies, self-esteem and life decisions. We are equal with men, and deserve the same opportunities. However, we do not have the right to victimize and kill people -- no matter what those people have done. Terrorism is terrorism, no matter who is committing the violent acts or why.

I enjoyed the first half of this book and was really looking forward to seeing Plum become Alicia, but an Alicia not based on her weight or appearance. But, that never happened. Instead of becoming a woman that was strong and confident in herself, she lost her personality almost entirely. First she was overpowered by a culture that made her feel ashamed.....then she was engulfed by another that made her feel angry and bitter.

So, on the one side, I was glad to see the main character start to gain confidence.....but I was totally against most of the message in the second half of the book. Being a strong woman doesn't mean kicking the shit out of everyone who makes a flippant remark or impedes you in some way. It means being confident about who you are, believing in yourself, and getting the most out of life that you can while refusing to be victimized. Alicia, or Plum, never got that far.  She vaulted out of the "I'm fat and I hate myself'' mentality into the "Fuckers think they can insult me because I'm fat'' mentality. Neither of those thought processes will take her to the "I'm a strong woman and I'm confident in who I am, and if you don't like me, then I don't need you'' sweet spot.

I do understand the point this book is making.  Modern western culture sexualizes women. It trains us to hate our bodies. It manipulates young girls to starve themselves to get just the right thigh gap, to wear the correct size and be beautiful. It trains men to insult and abhor women who don't fit that mold of the perfect woman. And it sets up fat people -- men and women -- to be treated as less than human, as people that should be shamed, as morons that deserve whatever they get. Look at the difference in men's and women's fashion.....do men wear short pants that display their testicles and penis for us to size up and stare at? Nope. But women's fashion?  Tits, legs and ass everywhere.   Swimsuits.....do we women get to look at men's dangly bits at the beach? nope. All covered.  Women -- hanging out for ogling everywhere.

Double standard.

It gets old.  But, women can become successful, confident and independent without throwing men out of airplanes, or reading books about "Fuckibility.''

So, like I said, I'm not really sure how I feel about this book......some of it was excellent.....and some of it went too far.

But.....if a book makes you ponder and think....then it's successful, right??

A solid 3 stars for me.   Might have made 4 stars if men hadn't been chucked out of an airplane (even wankers don't deserve that....nobody does).

Nice to read a book whose point is that women should be who they are, and that we control the rights to our weight, our health, our bodies and our minds.  Fuck anyone who tries to tell me I don't....but I'm not going to throw them out of an airplane.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

REVIEW: Alone on the Ice - The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration

Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration
Author: David Roberts

I love to read about explorers. Not the ones who traversed the world murdering indigenous people to fill the coffers of their respective countries, but those men who were larger than life, fighting against the elements in the name of science, discovery and documentation. Men like Sir Edmond Hillary and Tenzing Norgay struggling up Mount Everest, or Ernest Shackleton striking out across the ice to find the South Pole.  Men struggling to fulfill their dreams, fighting to survive dangerous conditions while striving to go where no human being has ever been before.

Alone on the Ice is about Douglas Mowson and other explorers who struggled and died in the early 1900's exploring Antarctica. Many of their names are forgotten, overshadowed by the larger than life legends of Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen.  I had never heard of Mowson before I read this book. I'm sure I had read his name before as part of Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition in 1907, but other than a name listed as part of Shackleton's party, I knew nothing about him. Mowson's story grabbed my complete attention immediately because he was driven, not by a sense of competition to be first (as Shackleton, Scott and others), but by a deep sense of wonder at being the first human being to traverse and scientifically document unexplored areas of the world.

The main portion of the story is about the Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by Mowson from 1911-1913. But it also gives information about other earlier expeditions, such as Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition, because the background is essential to understanding Mowson and the difficulties he and others had already faced in Antarctica. Roberts provides many details and excerpts from several explorer's personal journals, plus photographs.

I can't even imagine what it was like for these men struggling to walk miles each day, pulling sledges filled with supplies. These sledges could weigh 600-1000 lbs. Sometimes they had to move only part of their equipment at a time. That meant walking several miles, dumping off equipment and supplies, then doubling back to get the rest of their gear and walking those same miles again. All in subzero weather, across dangerous ice. Not only was the weather dangerously cold, but there was the constant threat of injury or illness. Many times they lost men, supplies and dogs when they broke through thin ice sheets covering deep crevasses in the arctic ice. Desperation and starvation brought about dangerous physical illnesses. At times when food stores were low, the men were forced to eat sled dogs. The men didn't know that husky liver contains too much vitamin A,and if ingested can cause severe illness. They were starving and ate injured or weak sled dogs to stay alive, not knowing that this very desperation was only making them more ill.

This book is not a fictionalized account. It is a non-fiction, true account of these men and their expeditions in Antarctica, giving lots of details about their daily challenges, deaths and extreme conditions. Roberts did an excellent job pulling information from various explorer's personal journals to give a true sense of who Mowson was and to document the expeditions leading up to the AAE and Mowson's survival after losing the rest of his party in 1913.

I highly recommend this book to anyone w ho enjoys reading about polar exploration. I definitely want to read more about the polar explorers who got lost in the shadow of more famous men like Shackleton and Scott. I want to know about the men who were out of the limelight and more focused on science and exploration. This story was a joy to read, and I am still in awe of men like Mowson who were willing to put their lives on the line over and over again to learn all they could about the Earth and its wonders.

The famous photo above shows Alistair Mackay, Edgeworth David, and Douglas Mawson as they set their handmade British flag to mark the spot the believed to be the Southern Magnetic Pole on January 15, 1909 at 4:45 PM.  After this photo was taken the 3 men had to travel 260 miles to meet Shackleton's ship, Nimrod. The ship couldn't stay for very long because it could become trapped in the ice, unable to leave. The trio only had a few days to make the long trek back to the coast, or face being left in Antarctica over the winter until the boat returned the following spring.

REVIEW: Tailing a Tabby

Tailing a Tabby
Bookmobile Cat Mystery #2
Author: Laurie Cass
Cozy Mystery

Minnie Hamilton and her side-kick, Eddie the rescue cat, are back in this second Bookmobile Cat Mystery. Minnie is still happily driving the Bookmobile truck to various locations around Chilson, Michigan ,while Eddie enjoys the love and attention showered on him by most of the library patrons.

Trouble awaits the book-delivering duo once again, of course.  During Bookmobile rounds, the truck is flagged down by a woman in distress running down the middle of the road. She says her husband needs immediate medical attention. Minnie helps the woman get her husband to the hospital, learning that he is a famous painter. Concern for the welfare of the painter turns into a new blossoming friendship with the two. Little does Minnie know that the painter will soon require her sleuthing skills as well when he is accused of murder.....

This series is fun and enjoyable to read. I like Minnie...she doesn't take herself too seriously and enjoys her job. And Eddie.....he is just a hoot. I find it cute that library patrons sometimes come to the Bookmobile just to pet Eddie.

As for the plot, don't expect reality. Cozy mysteries are not really something I expect to be realistic. Just like with amateur detective television shows,  reality has to be suspended allowing readers to believe that an innocent Bookmobile librarian might discover murderers and corpses along her designated route on a regular basis. On television, Jessica Fletcher went 10 years on Murder She Wrote finding at least one corpse each week without law enforcement batting an eye. So I'm able to suspend reality and let a librarian discover as many bodies as is required for the series. With reality suspended to enjoy the story, the plot was well done in this second book in the Bookmobile mystery series. It moved along at the right speed with just enough clues sprinkled here and there to keep me happily reading. I like Cass' writing style and character development.  Her characters are likable, and enough humor and side-plots are incorporated to keep the story flowing nicely without being totally bogged down by the required murder.

The cover art for this series is awesome!

I'm definitely going to read the 3rd book in this series!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

REVIEW: The Ghosts of Stone Hollow

The Ghosts of Stone Hollow
Author: Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Amy's family relocates to Taylor Springs after her father's injury at work leaves him unable to work. Her mother grew up in Taylor Springs and they move in with her aunt, so Amy feels at home there, even though she has never been there before.  Taylor Springs has a secret. Something happened at the old cabin at Stone Hollow.  Nobody will talk about it, except to say that the old cabin is haunted and bad things happened there.

When Amy meets another new student at school, Jason, they begin talking about the old cabin. Jason has been going there, and talks Amy into venturing there with him. He doesn't believe the old cabin is haunted, but that the old stone in the hollow somehow folds time so people can see and hear things from the past.

He cautions Amy that the stone, and looking into the past, might be dangerous. But, Amy is desperate to find out the truth behind what happened at Stone Hollow.

This book is eerily creepy and gives out clues to the mystery very slowly and deliberately. Not all the questions are answered when the story finishes. But that just makes the mystery more realistic. Not every supernatural or mysterious occurrence is ever completely explained or solved. The fact that it wasn't all perfectly wrapped up at the end just added to the mysterious feel of the story. In the end, all of us have mysteries or situations in life that will never reveal the entire truth. As I finished the book I was thinking about those instances in my own life where I will never have the answer, rather than dwelling on the author's purposeful loose ends from the plot.

A fun, eerie read! The book is short -- only 18 chapters. So it's a perfect middle grade book that's also a wonderful rainy afternoon read for adults.

Solid 7 of 10 rating on this one!

Zilpha Keatley Snyder wrote 43 books for middle-grade children, including 3 Newbury Honor Books: The Egypt Game, The Headless Cupid and The Witches of Worm.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Nostalgia Read: Bedknob and Broomstick

Bedknob and Broomstick
Author: Mary  Norton

I loved the Disney version of this story as a child. I always wanted to read the stories, but never got it done. So many books....so many years....so much time and yet so little. Know what I mean? But...I was searching for a book on the shelves at the library recently and this title just jumped out at me! I had to check it out and FINALLY read the story that inspired the movie.

Bedknob and Broomstick combines two stories by Mary Norton: The Magic Bed-knob (or how to become a witch in 10 easy lessons) and Bonfires and Broomsticks. The movie kept the feel of the original story with Eglantine being an inexperienced witch, but the story is vastly different. There are no dancing suits of armor or dastardly, sneaky Nazis hiding in the bushes. In the book, the three children are sent to stay with an aunt in Bedfordshire where they meet Miss Price. They learn that she is an apprentice witch and ready to study more advanced magic. In return for keeping her secret, Miss Price enchants a bed-knob for them. All they have to do is put the magic bed-knob on any bed and give it a twist. They can travel anywhere, or to anytime, at the speed of magic. Through the two stories, the children and Miss Price, have some great adventures!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! In my mind, Eglantine looked and sounded like Angela Lansbury. :) I still love the movie version, but also enjoyed the differences in the characters and situations in the book.  As I read the last few words, I shut the book with a smile and good feeling in my soul. Another one scratched off the reading bucket list....and it was a great read! :)

Mary Norton also wrote The Borrowers series.

Because I loved her performance in the movie....here's a little Angela Lansbury from Bedknobs and Broomsticks.   (I do wonder though why Disney can't make a movie that actually follows the book?? I suppose Nazis and dancing armor is more exciting than cannibals, desert islands and public burnings at the stake  [read the book to find out!]....but, the book was grand the way it was! However.....Angela Lansbury was phenomenal in the part of Eglantine, even if Disney did take huge liberties with the story.) And....in the book Eglantine does use a spell to make inanimate objects move, but she calls it intrasubstantiary-locomotion. :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Nostaligia Read: Goosebumps Triple Header by RL Stine

Goosebumps: Triple Header
Author: RL Stine

My oldest son read Goosebumps books in the 90's and also watched the DVDs back in the day. Often his rewards for good grades or getting his chores done was a new RL Stine book. Many of his old books were passed to my 4th grader who loves them just as much.

Lately I've been reading a lot of children's books. Some are ones I loved as a child, and others are ones I always wanted to read but never did. Because my sons both enjoyed Goosebumps books, I decided to read one! Why not? I'm always up for a good scary story!

RL Stine published more than 62 Goosebumpbs books from 1992-1997. More than 350 million Goosebumps books have sold, and the book series inspired more than one television show, a movie and lots of merchandise. For my journey into fear, I chose Goosebumps: Triple Header Book 1. It has not just one story, but 3! I like to live dangerously!

I had to have just the right atmosphere for enjoying Goosebumps. My son told me that Netflix has RL Stine's Haunting Hour on instant view. So, I went into my room, turned the show on my tv, snuggled up with the cat, and started reading.

The first thing I noticed about this book was the nifty 3D cover art. I can see kids picking up this
book just because the cover looks great! It certainly got my attention! The picture shows a three-headed headed monster. Three stories....three heads. Makes sense. The first story is about an annoying old lady who doesn't let death stop her from making the family she lived with miserable. The middle tale is about one family's appearance on a game show that goes shockingly wrong. And, last but not least, the final tale relates the horror of alien sponges that can look like humans. Every tale is introduced by a bit of banter from the three-headed monster, whose heads are named Slim, Lefty and Righty.

Cheesy horror mixed with cute humor.  This was a fun read! These books always were creepy, humorous fun! The stories had a light scary edge to them, but nothing was age inappropriate. They were more cute than scary. I'm glad I took the time to read one. I may just read others when I need to lose myself in a fun, quick read. It was a nice way for me to unwind after work today!

And, as an aside, The Haunting Hour is really well done! It's a bit like a kid's version of Twilight Zone. Interesting, well done stories.....a bit of scare, but nothing too over the top.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

REVIEW: Me Before You

Me Before You
Author: Jojo Moyes

I have to admit that I was hesitant to read this book. I usually avoid subjects that might be depressing, or overly emotional. I don't like to read books that leave me feeling traumatized at the finish. I read such good reviews of this book, however, that I pushed past my concerns and dove into reading without a backwards look.

Louisa lives a simple life before she meets Will Traynor. Will was paralyzed in an accident two years before, and requires a caregiver to help him with daily tasks. Louisa applies for the job, and is hired for a six month period even though she has no prior experience as a caregiver. At first, Will is sarcastic and angry. He doesn't want her there. But over time, they begin to form a friendship. Then Louisa discovers that she was hired only for six months because Will has announced to his family that at the end of that time he is going to travel to Switzerland to commit assisted suicide.

I am so glad I  pushed past my comfort zone and read this book. Once I started reading, I couldn't put the book down. The story just sucked me right in. I found myself sympathizing with nearly every character in the book, with the exception of Louisa's family. I could only imagine how Will felt, as his entire life changed after the accident that left him paralyzed. I felt real sympathy for Louisa who found herself caring for a man that was so broken, physically and emotionally, and her feelings of being trapped in a weird relationship with family members who seemingly keep her around only to help pay their bills. I could also identify with Will's family in their mixed feelings of sadness, anger, grief, disappointment and fear as they watch their loved one fade from being a strong, risk-taker to a broken, depressed, suicidal quadriplegic. The only characters I found myself detesting were Louisa's parents and her sister. I found their disrespect for her to be annoying, and her sister's use of single parenthood as an excuse for being a freeloader was just asinine. The only problem I had with Louisa was her absolute lack of backbone with her family. Louisa was quite a strong person in her dealing with Will early on in their relationship when he was being insulting, condescending and angry at her as she acted as his caregiver. But, in her dealings with her own family, that strength was just absent.

I picked up this book knowing what the end was going to be, and recognizing that the plot line was going to be completely emotionally manipulative. The very synopsis of the plot should prepare any reader for what the final result is going to be. So, I refused to have any hope for a different outcome, and just enjoyed the story for the thought provoking value, not for the "love story'' or emotion of it. I can't fault the author, or the story, for playing the emotion card. It's not like it was a hidden surprise....anyone who reads even the shortest blurb about the topic of this novel should know it's going to be dark and there is no happy ending, just a bitter sweet, complex, emotional ride. It's not technically manipulation if the actions are totally purposeful with no attempt to soften or misrepresent things, right? This book is emotionally harsh....but that's the nature of this beast. If you are easily emotionally broken, this book is not for you. Period. Pass it by. Read something lighter. Something with sunshine and hope. I do think the Will character was stylized to fit the plot. Many quadriplegics lead fulfilling lives after being injured. It was a bit surprising to me that someone who was so strong before his accident would just utterly give up because of an injury, no matter how catastrophic. Or, that someone with his personality would drag his family and a woman he loves into decisions and circumstances that would be so emotionally painful for them. But, I would suppose that you never know how a strong person will react to having their lifestyle ripped away from them with no hope of regaining any of it. Some people react with greater strength, and others give up. In Will's case, I guess the changes were just too much. Hope fades with time when there is no chance of anything improving.

For me this story was more thought provoking than emotional. I didn't let myself plug into the emotional aspects, as I knew what was coming and didn't want to let it in. I found myself thinking about what I would do if a family member were injured like this. How would that make me feel? How do I think they would feel? What if I was in an accident and was paralyzed.....I can't even imagine going through what Will did on a daily basis. And, could I cope with the daily responsibilities of caring for a family member who was injured in a similar way? It would be gut-wrenching. And, I contemplated the ethics behind assisted suicide. Is it just a matter of a person deciding to die with dignity and on their own terms? Or is it a legal matter akin to murder that those allowing, or assisting, a person to commit suicide should be prosecuted? I can see points on both sides of the issue. But I think in the end I have to quote Will: "It's not your choice.''  In the end, the decision about what is right or wrong when it comes to chronically ill people wanting to end their life lies with that person. Not me. If I was in Will's position and had my life restricted to a wheelchair, not even able to go to the bathroom by myself, I might make the same decision he made. And that would be nobody's choice, or moral dilemma, but mine.

All in all, this is a very well-written and strongly emotional book. It isn't a read for the faint of heart.

And, yes. I teared up at the end. It was impossible not to.

This is a powerful book if you go into it with an open mind from the beginning, and an understanding of what the end is going to be.

Monday, May 9, 2016

REVIEW: Island of the Blue Dolphins

Island of the Blue Dolphins
Author: Scott O'Dell

This book is loosely based on a true story of a native girl who was left on an island for 18 years in the early 1800s.  

Karana lives on a beautiful island with her people. Her father is chief, and she has an older sister and younger brother. One day Aleut hunters come to the island. They offer a portion of the animals they kill in return for permission to camp on the island for an extended time. But, when the hunt ends, they refuse to pay, offering only cheap trinkets instead of the food that they promised to share. A fight breaks out, and Karana's father is killed. Life changes for the tribe. They are afraid the Aleuts will return and kill more of them. So, when a ship arrives and they have the chance to leave the island and relocate, the villagers all board the ship bound for another land. But Karana's little brother has accidentally been left behind on the island. Karana has to make a choice....she dives into the sea and swims back to the island. She watches the ship sail away, and she is left on the Island of the Blue Dolphins with her brother. She spent 18 years on the island, waiting for a ship to come back to get her. 

I loved this book when I was 12. I remember being totally impressed that this girl knew how to build shelter, how to hunt and cook food, and to survive.  She battled the loneliness by befriending animals and keeping busy. The final chapter of the book gives some information about the actual legend of the girl that lived on the island alone from 1835-1853.

I think O'Dell did an excellent job of fictionalizing the legend into a story of a young woman who was strong enough to survive. As an adult re-reading the story, I researched the actual woman who lived alone for so many years. The story is bitter-sweet.  After 18 years on the island, she was found and brought to Mission Santa Barbara. The woman was about 50 years old, and was an immediate sensation. Everyone wanted to meet her and many presents were given to her. But sadly, she died of dysentery only seven weeks after being brought to the mainland.  Maybe it would have been better to leave her on the island? She did have some happy weeks with other people and seemed to enjoy seeing and experiencing civilization that had previously been outside her knowledge.  But, just like the story of Pocahontas, the real story is much different than the fictionalized story. The woman was not a young woman, but estimated at 50+ years. And the story doesn't have a happy ending. Her immune system couldn't handle the bacteria and other invisible dangers that comes with civilization. She survives nearly 20 years on a deserted island, only to die of dysentery. She was buried at Mission Santa Barbara. 

The Island of the Blue Dolphins is today called San Nicolas and is located about 75 miles southwest of Los Angeles. In 2012, archeologists found what they thought might be the cave that the woman survived in for so many years. But the island is now used as a naval base, and authorities halted the dig before it could be completed, citing federal laws and tribal concerns. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Nostalgia Read: Mr. Popper's Penguins

Mr. Popper's Penguins
Author: Richard & Florence Atwater

Mr. Popper's Penguins was originally published in 1939. It has been a children's classic ever since then and has never been out of print. I was delighted with the story of Mr. Popper in the 70's when I was in grade school....and enjoyed re-reading it as an adult.

Mr. Popper is a house painter, but he dreams of far off lands and adventure, especially the south pole. In fact, he wrote a letter to Admiral Drake, an explorer on a polar adventure.  Mr. Popper tunes in to the explorer's weekly radio broadcast to hear about the polar trip.  He is shocked when in addition to the "Hello Mama! Hello Papa'' broadcast from the pole, that Admiral Drake adds "Hello, Mr. Popper!''  Drake sends Mr. Popper a surprise in the post -- a penguin all the way from the south pole! Add a second penguin to the first....and then a load of baby penguins.....and you get pandemonium. And one of the sweetest, most fun children's stories ever!

Richard Atwater was a journalist in Chicago. He was in the middle of writing Mr. Popper's Penguins when he had a stroke in 1934. His wife, Florence, finished the book because her husband was too ill to continue. The book won the 1939 Newbery Honor Award. The inspiration to write the story came from a documentary about the polar expedition of Admiral Byrd that Mr. Atwater saw with his family in 1932.

The book is illustrated by Robert Lawson, who illustrated more than 40 children's books by other authors, and 17 of his own, including Mr. Revere and I. He was the only author to receive both the Caldecott Medal and Newbery Medal for excellence in children's literature.

All in all, a great children's book, but you must be able to suspend reality and just enjoy the story. :) In reality, a house painter could not have a penguin living in his modified refrigerator, and 12 penguins would make a lot of penguin poo all over everything. lol. Just forget about all that.....and go along for the ride. :) Delightful from start to finish. :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

REVIEW: Grave Sight

Grave Sight
Author: Charlaine Harris

When there is a murder, missing person or other deadly crime, Harper Connelly is often called to find and identify victims. But, she isn't a detective or an attorney. Harper is a psychic.

And not the usual sort of psychic. There are no readings, seances, or visions. Harper finds dead bodies. The dead call to her with an ever-present hum, the energy from their life and their emotions as they lived their last few moments.  For Harper, cemeteries nearly vibrate with the energy from many bodies grouped in one place.

With the help of her step-brother, Tolliver, she assists police and grieving families to find the bodies of missing persons and other victims. Unfortunately, the people she helps often treat her like a pariah, looking down on her as someone who benefits from death and grief. Or, they openly accuse her of being a charlatan. Living with a power that came from being struck by lightning, Harper tries to maintain her sanity, while being insulted and threatened by the very people she helps.

Grave Sight is the first of four books in the Harper Connelly series. Charlaine Harris is also the author of the Southern Vampire (Sookie Stackhouse) series.

I enjoyed this book. Harper Connelly is an interesting character. She is often depressed because of the way people treat her, and she is traumatized at times by the flashes of death and grief she feels when finding a body. Her step-brother travels with her to help keep her grounded. At times, her relationship with Tolliver seemed a bit too close.  At first, I was a bit put off by her constant depression and emotional neediness, but as I read further, I began to feel sympathy for her. She was ridiculed, humiliated and threatened by the very people who needed her help. She gets treated like a con artist everywhere she goes, even when she proves over and over again that she isn't a fake. Her power really is a curse. In her same predicament, I would probably be neurotic and depressed too.

I will definitely be reading more books in this series. It's a bit bizarre, but an enjoyable read.

My rating 7/10
Ages: 16+

Monday, May 2, 2016

REVIEW: Uprooted

Author: Naomi Novik

I love fairy tales. And, this book is no exception.

Picture this: A dark, cursed wood that occasionally kills villagers. The village...peaceful most of the time, with the usual small village undertones -- jealousy, petty squabbles, politics. And....a Dragon. Not the usual sort of dragon with scales, wings and claws. But, a human, wizard sort.  Grouchy, demanding, condescending, magical....

The Dragon protects the village from whatever lurks in the dark woods. The price for his service? Once every 10 years, he picks a girl from the village to serve him at his castle. The girls are never molested in any way, but nobody knows what happens to them during their service. They come back changed, dissatisfied with village life. Different somehow. With the money the Dragon gives them for their 10 years of service, most of them pay for college, or just leave to build a different life for themselves.

Agnieszka lives in the village. She wonders about the woods and about the Dragon. The 10-year mark is approaching, and the Dragon will be coming for another village girl. Everyone knows he will choose Kasia at the Choosing ceremony. She is beautiful, accomplished, and sweet. The perfect girl. The Dragon always chooses the most perfect. Kasia is Agnieszka's dearest friend. She is sad for her friend, and afraid of what the dragon will do to her.  But, Agnieszka shouldn't be worrying about her friend. At the Choosing, it isn't Kasia the Dragon is going to choose.

This book was a fun read. The Dragon is a bit of a curmudgeon...always cranky. But after awhile, I grew to like the character. Agnieszka was whiny and immature at the start, but she grew up as the story went along and came into her own. She made a couple decisions that were cringe worthy, but everyone makes mistakes, right?  Some just make bigger ones than others. If I were learning to wield magic, I would probably make some very bad choices myself.

I absolutely love the cover art! Definitely an enjoyable read!

My rating: 8/10