I received this book as part of the Blogging for Books program, and actually read an Advanced Reading Copy of the book.
This may be one of the best booI received this book as part of the Blogging for Books program, and actually read an Advanced Reading Copy of the book.
This may be one of the best books I have ever read. I'm not sure exactly how to describe it. It chronicles the experience of grief that Anna Whiston-Donaldson and her family endure after losing their 12-year-old son Jack in a drowning accident. I wasn't sure what to expect when I received the book, having requested it solely on the recommendation of one of the Blogging for Books officials. It turns out that Anna and her family are pretty strong Christians, and faithful members of their local Presbyterian church, when the story begins.
As would be expected, a loss like this challenges faith. But it did not destroy it. The book is brutal. Anna is completely honest and transparent about her feelings as she writes this. She goes through all the classic symptoms of grief, including blame, when, of course, the death of her son was not her fault at all. But she finds herself asking the same questions that many of us would ask. What if? Over and over again.
The book is heartbreaking. Multiple times I found myself almost sobbing as I read, unable to imagine what she must be going through, but not really having to, because she laid it right out there on the pages. Others may feel differently, but I don't believe that she ever crosses the line of the whiny pity-party "my child died" kind of experience. However, she does get real. She writes about her feelings whenever she sees the other children in the neighborhood, the ones that were Jack's friends. For a long time, she can't even speak to them or their parents. Eventually, she works through this, but it is not easy.
There was one line that really spoke to me. I can't find it in the book right now, so I can't quote it exactly, but it said something to the effect of how important it is to love well the child you have, rather than the child you thought you should have had. That speaks volumes to me about my relationship with my own autistic daughter!
There are some moments in the book that get borderline creepy, one instance being when Margaret, Jack's little sister, states that Jack will die young, as they are on a family car ride together. There are verses that seem to appear randomly on Anna's phone, verses of comfort. There is no doubt that God was at work throughout the process, and he may have been at work in some ways that many of us might be uncomfortable with. But that doesn't matter, because it wasn't me going through this. It was/is Anna and her family.
The verse that was so special to Jack was Luke 1:37. "For nothing will be impossible with God." The family would cling to this verse during the aftermath of the accident that took him from them. Interestingly, the verse that spoke so clearly to his sister Margaret was Isaiah 43:1-2. ""Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." It seems that the Lord directed her to those verses before the accident. She said, "I like these verses, but now I'm worried it means I'm going to have to go through really hard things in life, and I don't want to." She was barely ten years old when she spoke those words of wisdom.
There are no guarantees in life and Rare Bird speaks poignantly to this truth. It speaks it in words that will punch you in the gut and break your heart. I cried. But then I laughed. Then I cried some more. I made sure that my wife and daughter know how much I love them.
The Only Thing is a sequel to the author's previous book, Gani and Sean. Gani doesn't appear quite as much in this book, for obvious reasons (obviousThe Only Thing is a sequel to the author's previous book, Gani and Sean. Gani doesn't appear quite as much in this book, for obvious reasons (obvious only if you've read the first one).
The story pretty much picks up where the first one ended, and to be truthful, I had to go back and peruse the last few pages of Gani and Sean to remind myself exactly what happened. Marian Watts has headed toward Mexico with a few kilos of Kristoff Koczella's pure "product." Sean LePen heads back to Chicago to pick up a "package" and then heads toward Mexico, herself.
We are introduced to a couple new characters as the story shifts to Mexico. Grandmama Maria owns a little shop in Oaxaca de Juarez, called "The Laughing Bowl." Her grandson, Alberto, helps her run the shop. There is also a man named Paulo, who runs a nearby restaurant called "The Fighting Chicken." All of the businesses in that town are terrorized by local thugs who work for the Los Zetas drug cartel. They come around periodically to collect "protection money." But Grandmama Maria refuses to pay. They break her shop windows, along with some of the merchandise, and then they break Alberto's arm. Maria heads to Mexico City to hire an assassin.
Sean happens to be in Mexico City and observes Maria attempting to hire an assassin, but the man will not take the job. He doesn't want anything to do with the cartel. Sean introduces herself to Maria, and our new plot begins to take shape. Sean and Maria eventually meet up, and team up against the cartel, along with Maria, Alberto, and Paulo.
It's an entertaining story and plot with interesting characters. Along the way, we get a little back story about the relationship between Gani and Marian, which we don't know about in the first book. The ending is satisfying. Will there be more? Only Ms. Evans knows....more
Dad Is Fat was pretty much what I expected in a book written by one of my favorite stI received this book as a part of the Blogging For Books program.
Dad Is Fat was pretty much what I expected in a book written by one of my favorite stand-up comics. I could pretty much hear him speaking the words I was reading all the way through the book. In fact, there were numerous instances where the words I was reading were verbatim "clips" from some of his routines. And I didn't mind that at all.
Jim Gaffigan stays true to his traditional themes in this book. Those themes are food, kids, food, and food. And kids. And food. There were many true "laugh out loud" moments. But there were also some very serious moments, moments which I appreciated greatly. One of those is in the chapter titled "Happy Days Are Here Again."
"I used to have a lot of faith in humanity before the advent of the website 'comment' section. These brave, anonymous parents shamelessly gossip and snipe at one another, bragging about how smart and cool their kids are and mocking people who don't share their 'cool' opinions. Newsflash: High school is over. You are not cool. 'Cool' is a ridiculous concept."
I couldn't agree more. In fact, I pretty much stopped reading Internet comment sections.
The other section is in the chapter titled "Six Kids, Catholic." In this segment, he is discussing why he has so many kids (Gaffigan and his wife have at least five . . . there may be more by now, who knows). It's a lengthy quote, but it almost brought tears to my eyes.
"Then why so many? Friends often ask this question. Heck, I often wonder myself. While I can't think of my life without any one of my children, why so many of them? I like to think people would understand when they see I'm married to a woman as beautiful and amazing as Jeannie. Then again, if the number of our children were based on how I felt about Jeannie, we would probably give the Duggars a run for their money.
"Well, why not? I guess the reasons against having more children always seem uninspiring and superficial. What exactly am I missing out on? Money? A few more hours of sleep? A more peaceful meal? More hair? These are nothing compared to what I get from these five monsters who rule my life. I believe each of my five children has made me a better man. So I figure I only need another thirty-four kids to be a pretty decent guy. Each one of them has been a pump of light into my shriveled black heart. I would trade money, sleep, or hair for a smile from one of my children in a heartbeat. Well, it depends on how much hair."
I finally finished this book! 777 pages (if you include the "About the Author" page at the end) that kept me reading for over a month.
Dan Simmons's wI finally finished this book! 777 pages (if you include the "About the Author" page at the end) that kept me reading for over a month.
Dan Simmons's writing style in this book (I can't say about any other, as this is the first book of his that I have read) mimics that of an older time. It is written in first person narrative, and the narrator of the book is none other than William Wilkie Collins (real person), who was an author in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. During the course of Drood, the "fictional" Wilkie even describes the writing of one of the books that the real Wilkie wrote, called The Moonstone. I feel somewhat compelled to locate and read a copy of that book.
The other main character in this book is "The Inimitable," himself, Charles Dickens. So, I guess this novel could be described, at least, in part, as "historical fiction."
The story begins, after some introductory material, with the famous Stapelhurst train accident, in which Dickens was involved (actual historical event). This train accident had such an impact on Dickens that he was never able to ride in a train with complete confidence, afterward. The fictional part occurs when Dickens describes an encounter after the train crash. He was going around helping the rescue effort when he encountered a character named "Drood." Drood had virtually no facial features, as his nose had been cut off, and he had no eyelids. He was wearing a black cape and a large top hat. He, too, was going about from person to person in the aftermath of the crash, but every time he departed one of the injured, he left them dead. Dickens became obsessed with this Drood, and vowed to find him.
Wilkie Collins became wrapped up in this hunt with Dickens, and the rest of the novel tells the story of this hunt. There are many other characters involved, some in Dickens's family, and some in Collins's family. There are plenty of side plots, as well, some involving Dickens and his wife, whom he sends away at one point, and some involving the women that Collins sort of "lived with," yet was never married to. Collins was also heavily dependent on opium and laudanum, which is described as a "tincture of opium containing approximately 10% powdered opium" (Wikipedia). Collins is constantly visiting opium dens, and eventually discovers a premier den in the London Underworld. It is while visiting "King Lazaree's" opium den in the Underworld, that the novel truly begins to take on a horrific nature. Collins becomes enslaved by Drood, by the placement of an Egyptian Scarab beetle in his brain, as it is Drood's intent to have his story written down.
As the novel progresses, Collins becomes more obsessed with Dickens, to the point that he desires to kill him. That's as far as I will go with the description, so as to avoid spoilers.
I vacillated between three and four stars in my rating, as there were times that the book drug a bit for me, but it is, after all, attempting to imitate, I believe, the writing style of the period.
I would recommend Drood for fans of Dickens, for sure. I can't help but wonder how much of the personality quirks of either author were accurate. Charles Dickens may not have been a very nice person....more
I probably shouldn't have liked this book as much as I did, as I figure I am not part oI received this book as part of the Blogging for Books program.
I probably shouldn't have liked this book as much as I did, as I figure I am not part of the "target audience" for it. But Miranda Beverly-Whittemore writes in such a way that I was captivated pretty much from the first few pages.
Bittersweet is a novel about the lives of a family of excessively wealthy people, the Winslow family. It is also about one not-so-wealthy college girl, Mabel Dagmar, who is the roommate of Genevra Katherine Winslow, most of the time, simply known as Ev. Bittersweet is also the name of the cabin at the Winslow resort property that Ev and Mabel wind up staying at for the summer. It seems that, whenever Ev "came of age," she would inherit one of these cottages for her own. The family tradition, it seems, was that all Winslow family members would spend the entire summer at this resort, called Winloch, and Ev and May had the daunting task of cleaning up the cottage that would belong to Ev.
During their stay at Winloch, Mabel (sometimes called "May") learns much about the family history, its politics, its money, and the relationships. The plot twists come frequently, as more is uncovered, perhaps the biggest one being when Mabel learns why she was really there, why she was even selected as Ev's roommate.
As Mabel learns more and more about the sordid details of this family, she tries to escape, but finds it more difficult than she imagined. She builds alliances with unlikely family members, falls in love with one of the brothers (even that plot line has its own twists and turns), and literally inserts herself into the family.
There is love, betrayal, murder . . . you name it, in Bittersweet. Miranda Beverly-Whittemore has a writing style that is truly gripping. I found myself not wanting to put the book down, because I wanted to see what happened next. I find that I'm anxious to read another one of her novels soon....more
**spoiler alert** This book is purr-fectly meow-valous. I promise that's the only bad joke I will make in this review.
In Catfantastic IV, we are treat**spoiler alert** This book is purr-fectly meow-valous. I promise that's the only bad joke I will make in this review.
In Catfantastic IV, we are treated to 18 charming fantasy/science fiction short stories, which all feature cats, sometimes as the main characters.
Among my favorites are "Tybalt's Tale," by India Edghill, in which Tybalt, the Prince of Cats, goes for a stroll at night in the Lands of Men. While he is out and about, he saves a girl named Cathy from a robber. Even though he is the Prince of Cats, he continues to visit her. '"I am a cat and all places are alike to me," said Tybalt, Prince of Cats. 'But some places are more alike than others.'"
"Arrows," by Jane Hamilton, features a couple of jinn, Kip and Key, who are enjoying some mischief one night and stumble upon a cat who is not well. The manage to manipulate a man into taking in the cat, without ever revealing their existence.
In "Professor Purr's Guaranteed Allergy Cure," by Brad Linaweaver and Dana Fredsti, the world has been taken over by cats. The only humans remaining are those who truly love cats. No dogs are left, either. There is one exception. A human male, the boyfriend of one female cat-lover, was spared at the request of the lead cat in the story. By the end of the story, he is cured of his "allergy," in a most unique way.
"Noble Warrior, Teller of Fortunes," by Andre Norton, tells the tale of a unique cat who can, indeed, tell fortunes. He manages to rescue a young boy, and, in doing so, is recognized and united with his family.
"One With Jazz," by Janet Pack, features a cat, "Satchmo," who has a knack for knowing good music. He helps his human win a unique bet, gaining him a great job, and possibly a girlfriend....more