Regina Calcaterra's powerful memoir, Etched In Sand, begins with her flying over the ravaged neighborhoods of Long Island following the hurricane, Sup...moreRegina Calcaterra's powerful memoir, Etched In Sand, begins with her flying over the ravaged neighborhoods of Long Island following the hurricane, Super Storm Sandy. As chief deputy executive of Suffolk County, it is Regina Calcaterra's job to regulate, not just post-disaster funding, but any government resources her county receives. Calcaterra's career in public service is not accidental; growing up with four siblings and an abusive, neglectful, alcoholic mother and an ineffective foster child system, Regina was determined to make a difference. Despite the extreme poverty and constant abuse from her mother, a fragmented education and unpredictable housing, Regina was able to help raise herself, and her siblings, to become stable adults and parents. The story as to how Regina grew up to be the person she is today is candidly written and absolutely heartbreaking.
Regina and her older sister, Camille, were the true parents of the five children. Every time their mother, whom they all called Cookie, found subsidized housing in either a cockroach-infested house or even an apartment above a glue factory, they knew it was only a matter of time until the landlord would kick them out for not paying rent. Traveling from house to house using garbage bags to carry their clothing, a bottle of hydrogen peroxide to finger brush their teeth, a half bar of soap to wash themselves and their dishes, the girls were always on the alert to sneak out in the middle of the night when threatened with eviction. As most of their welfare checks went towards paying for Cookie's beer and cigarettes, the children learned how to shoplift food and live off of the kindness of strangers. And, sadly enough, whenever Cookie would eventually abandon them, sometimes for weeks at a time, the children found these days to be the most stable and enjoyable.
Cookie was a pill-popping, promiscuous alcoholic with five children from five different men. Her only son, Norman, was rarely the subject of her abusive tirades that included calling her four daughters "whores' and "sluts". Cookie would beat the girls, but for reasons then unknown to Regina, she received the more brutal and most constant abuse. Cookie even tied the four year-old Regina to a radiator for days. These parts of the book are disturbing and heartbreaking and make the reader wonder how Regina grew up to be the successful woman we are introduced to in the beginning of the book.
Knowing that if child protective services became aware of the neglect and abuse, and consequently separated into different foster homes, the children learned how to hide the bruises and effectively lie to teachers or social workers about their obviously absent mother. The foster system thirty years ago was inefficiently managed and the social workers were unbelievably incompetent. There were times Regina endured beatings, even sexual abuse, from some of the foster families. And when the children are finally taken away from Cookie and separated into different homes, Regina is able to become an emancipated minor at age fourteen. But then she learns the heartbreaking truth she no longer has any say as to what happens with her younger brother and sister.
As I was reading this book, I was frequently reminded of Jeannette Wall's memoir, The Glass Castle. Though Walls did not suffer any mental or physical abuse from her parents, they did share the same nomadic, unstable childhood of extreme poverty and hunger. The scene in Walls' book when, driven by hunger, she eats ate a cheese sandwich from the school garbage can is similar to Regina Calcaterra's dumpster diving and shoplifting in desperation to feed her four siblings.
Throughout Etched In Sand, the readers are able to see how Regina was able to keep herself and her siblings educated, sane, and loving. Fiercely determined to prevent other children from suffering the same experiences, Regina stays in school and becomes the first in her family to graduate from college. Her career in public service is driven by her experiences and dedication to make a difference.
Etched in Sand is written from the heart. It is disturbing, but uplifting, and it is a story about survivors of abuse, neglect, hunger, ineffective social work programs and the foster system in America. How these five children survived and eventually thrived is a story that must be told.(less)
Since their banishment from the insular underground tribe in the book, Enclave, and facing the loss of their new topside home, Salvation, Deuce and Fa...moreSince their banishment from the insular underground tribe in the book, Enclave, and facing the loss of their new topside home, Salvation, Deuce and Fade must travel the dangerous roads to the next town for help. With their companions Tegan and Stalker, they fight groups of Freaks and finally arrive at the military-style compound of Soldier's Pond. Deuce tells them the Freaks are changing: they appear to have communication skills, their attacks are more organized, and they are rapidly multiplying. With a group of soldiers, Deuce and her friends return to Salvation and find decimation, and few citizens have survived.
Recognizing that if the Freaks are evolving and building an enormous army, a horde, the humans must change as well. After centuries of passive existence, the humans have forgotten how to fight. Instead of hiding and protecting the towns from attacks, Deuce wants to build an army to meet the Freaks in battle. And to build this army, she must go to other towns in search of volunteers. In the past, only the traders have braved the roads between towns. With the maps left to her by her friend, Longshot, Deuce and her small group travel from town to town only to meet refusal and derision. No town is willing to take the risk for another.
Just as the fierce Enclave survived the underground with it's social ranking, and the topside Salvation was established through farming and faith, each town has it's own distinctive constitution. These differences are frustrating to Deuce, as the one thing they all have in common is their inability to see that the horde will soon overrun and destroy the humans. Using an idea suggested by Stalker, Deuce's small army establishes it's own tribe with surprising results. The Huntress receives recognition from not just the humans, and with this acknowledgment, her army grows. And so begins the revolution.
As Deuce builds her army, she must also rebuild Fade's trust. Since his kidnapping by the Freaks, he has become more withdrawn and skittish to her touch and understandably, he does not like her friendship with Stalker. Their relationship begins to evolve from the hunting partners of Enclave into leaders of the new army. But, as Fades tells her, she must be patient and slow with him as a partner. Each time they hold hands or she touches his face without him flinching is a victory to her. Their stolen moments alone are significant, and sweet.
With her army, the newly christened Company D, the humans fight battle after battle with the seemingly insurmountable numbers of Freaks. Exhausted, bloody, and hungry, Deuce fearlessly leads Company D to a town where they can safely rest and recuperate. Then, a shocking encounter with a stranger brings Deuce knowledge that can help end the war; but to accomplish this, she must make the ultimate sacrifice and compromise everything she learned as a brat, as a Huntress, and as a leader.
I have thoroughly enjoyed Ann Aguire's Razorland Trilogy. Her imaginative construction of a post-apocalyptic world of survival instincts, tribal mentalities, and fearsome Freaks is detailed and engrossing. Her main character, Deuce, is a strong-willed, kick-ass heroine with tenderness for her friends and foster family. Her relationship with Fade is multi-layered and constantly evolving. While Deuce may regard her friend Tegan as the curious learner, Deuce herself is able to learn, and to adapt. And it is these qualities that make her a strong leader.
It's a great trilogy with compelling characters, intense battle scenes, strong interpersonal relationships, some very sad moments, and a sly shout-out to Harry Potter. I highly recommend it. Enjoy.(less)
How well do you know your teenager? That is the question Kate Baron constantly asks herself after the apparent suicide of her only child, Amelia, who...moreHow well do you know your teenager? That is the question Kate Baron constantly asks herself after the apparent suicide of her only child, Amelia, who jumped off the roof at her school. A single mom with a high-power job as an attorney, Kate had assumed the two had a strong, open relationship, despite her late hours at work. Never truly believing Amelia would kill herself, Kate tries to accept her daughter’s death until the day she receives an anonymous text: “She didn’t jump”.
And it is when Kate begins to go through Amelia’s phone texts and her computer that she realizes her daughter was living a secret life even her best friend knew nothing about. Reading the frequent texts to a boy Amelia had yet to meet and discovering that the private school she attended allowed secret clubs, Kate is stunned at how far her daughter went to be accepted by the girls in her club, the Maggies. Kate is also heartbroken when she realizes her daughter was in love and had never told her.
Social media today is extensive and central to most teenagers’ lives; it connects them with friends, continues relationships and, unfortunately, it can also be used as a tool to bully. A blog by an unknown person at Amelia’s school cruelly exposes the students’, and teachers’, personal and sexual lives. Responses to Amelia’s Facebook statuses had grown rude and mean. Anonymous texts sent to her late at night are especially vicious. Kate is aghast at the amount of bullying her daughter had endured in the days before she died. She is especially stunned when she begins to receive hateful anonymous texts herself.
Cleverly recounted in two perspectives, the book has Kate’s third person narration begin with the day Amelia dies, and Amelia’s first person account of the events leading up to her death. Well written and never confusing, the book has twists, red herrings, and even some “aha” moments. And the reader will be saddened by the missed opportunities between mother and daughter that could perhaps prevented her death, if not stopped Amelia from making some of her more regrettable choices.
An intriguing book with engaging characters, Reconstructing Amelia exposes how far teenagers, and sometimes adults, will go for acceptance or love. It is also a unique conversation starter for the reader with teenagers because it will compel any parent to ask himself or herself: How well do I know my teenager? (less)
Walt Longmire is more than just the sheriff of the fictitious Absaroka county in Wyoming; he’s a renaissance man well versed in the works of Shakespea...moreWalt Longmire is more than just the sheriff of the fictitious Absaroka county in Wyoming; he’s a renaissance man well versed in the works of Shakespeare and Dante, an old soul, a loyal friend, a Vietnam vet, a straight shooter with a mean right hook, and a softie when it comes to the women in his life. I’m not sure if it’s Walt, or the author, Craig Johnson, or maybe both, but the books keep getting better and better.
Years ago, when I first read The Cold Dish by the then unknown Johnson, I knew I had found an author and a lead character that would keep me engaged with each new book. Johnson’s writing is clever with a wry sense of humor, multi-layered in context, and his novels are peopled with characters so compelling with their individual temperaments and personalities.
His latest novel, A Serpent’s Tooth, begins when Walt discovers a young boy has been living in Barbara Thomas’ pump house, periodically breaking into her home to raid the fridge and repair whatever she has left on her to-do list for him. When Walt catches up to the boy, Cord, he discovers more than just a young man cast out from the Mormon splinter group, The Apostolic Church of the Lamb. He finds intrigue involving big oil, big guns, cults, the CIA, a missing woman, the rather extensive Lynear family with their rather large patriarch, and a cipher of a man claiming to be two hundred years old, blessed with immortality by Mormon leader Joseph Smith himself.
Walt’s job is never easy.
Thankfully, he has his loyal right hand man, Henry Standing Bear, AKA the Cheyenne Nation, and his under deputy, Vic Moretti, a woman who artfully drops F-bombs while she steals Walt’s heart. Henry and Vic make a wonderful yin and yang with Walt in the middle. And when Walt begins to spend time at the jail to keep an eye on Cord and the two hundred year-old Orrin, Vic is jealous he is sleeping more on the office floor with Dog, the dog, than her house. Their relationship has definitely grown and taken a more passionate turn than when he first hired the displaced cop from Philly in the first book.
In true Longmire fashion, Walt is able to use his brains and fearless determination to rid his county of the murderous trespassers. And while the ending is dark and bittersweet, with an unexpected twist, I will never tire of Craig Johnson’s storied world of Walt Longmire and Vic and Henry Standing Bear and Dog. (less)
Like everyone else, I loved the first 2 book...moreSpoiler Alert*********************************************************************************************
Like everyone else, I loved the first 2 books: the female protagonist was strong and resourceful, the stories were clever and engrossing...but what on earth happened with the 3rd book?? It was almost as if this story had characters with familiar names, but completely different personalities. What is worse is I did not like any of these newly written characters. Katniss became weak and nothing more than a puppet that spewed a few angry diatribes aimed at the government and President Snow. And she did not get to display the skills and cunning that had made her so strong and thrilling in the first place. Gale, always loyal and protective, (I always rooted for Team Gale) did a 180 degree turn and became a hollow, uncaring militant figure. And Peeta, don't get me started on Peeta's character. I was very disappointed with how his part in the story was written. Whenever he was part of the story.
The deaths of Finnick and Prim, important driving characters in the first 2 books, died to add drama and angst to the story, yes, but they died in a couple of descriptive sentences. And then they mattered no more. What?
Why wasn't President Coin mentioned before this book? That might have made her appearance in the story less jarring. Otherwise, she was completely unnecessary and would had made more sense if written as an evil military figure.
Why on earth would Katniss even think to vote for another Hunger Game?? She was fighting the government to end them! How could it be revenge for Prim? Perhaps a distraction for Coin? I was not able to read Suzanne Collins' mind for that answer. It certainly was not in the book.
Then there's the ending. Gale goes off to another district with "a fancy new job"? Even if he and Katniss do part ways in the end, his former character would have gone home to rebuild District 12. It was hard to see how Katniss could marry Peeta after spending more than half the book ignoring him, fearing him or wanting to shoot him. The way this book was written, Peeta should have died. Plain and simple. His new character would have become a martyr. None of this makes sense.
I waited so long for this book and I knew it be bittersweet. But, dear God, I did not think I would be so annoyed and truly disappointed by it. (less)
In the beginning of Tana French's newest novel, Broken Harbour, the reader is told that this book, this case, will not end on a happy note. We are inf...moreIn the beginning of Tana French's newest novel, Broken Harbour, the reader is told that this book, this case, will not end on a happy note. We are informed that this textbook homicide is not the "dream case" Detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy of the Dublin Garda imagined it should have been. With that warning, so begins one of French's most psychologically complex, and tragic, mysteries yet.
Kennedy and his young trainee of two weeks, Detective Richie Curran, are sent to a new luxary housing development outside of Dublin to investigate the deaths of the Spain family. The dad, Pat, and the two children are dead; mother, Jenny, is undergoing surgery after being viciously stabbed. The development is in the village of Broken Harbour, now called Brianstown, and it holds deeply personal memories for Kennedy. His family used to vacation there every summer, the "happiest two weeks" of the year, until the death of his mother when he was fifteen. But, instead of the sleepy vacation hollow he remembers, it has become a ghost town of half-built homes abandoned by developers when the economy crashed.
The Spains were the perfect family. Pat and Jenny, once high school sweethearts, married and had two beautiful children; Pat had the perfect job, Jenny enjoyed buying the latest in fashion, they took extravagant vacations, owned two cars. Everything was perfect. Until the crash. Pat lost his job, they had to sell the SUV, and it turns out their dream home was shoddily put together by developers looking to cash in on the housing bubble. And Pat is starting to see signs of a predatory animal threatening his family.
Kennedy and Curran soon find that someone had been stalking the Spains, breaking into their house, even setting up camp in one of the abandoned homes next to theirs. When they catch the stalker and find enough evidence to convict him, they are congratulated for a job well done, shoulders are clapped, hands are shaken. Kennedy is impressed by Curran, he feels he's more than just a mentor to the young detective, that they have a partnership that can last for years and it's a feel good moment for the team; but the book is barely halfway finished. Like a Greek tragedy, the reader recognizes that this is the pride that goeth before the fall, this is the hubris of the tragic hero who must go undergo a change in fortune to achieve revelation.
As in her previous books, French has populated this story with characters that are more complex, and fragile, than they appear. Her characters are compelling and fascinating, making their fates that much more painful. Kennedy looks at everything as "black and white", but human nature is never that way, he should know this from his own life: his mother committed suicide and his sister, Dina, is "crazy as a bag of cats". The Spains may have appeared perfect couple to their friends and family, but why are Pat and the kids dead and Jenny mutilated? And why does the house have holes in the walls and baby monitors scattered throughout? Curran is the best partner Kennedy has ever had, but why does he feel the man is custody is not the murderer, and what does the young detective base this on? And why does Kennedy ignore the subtle, persistent alarms going off in his head.
Psychologically charged, beautifully and hauntingly written, Broken Harbour is an excellent police procedural that examines the frailty of the human condition and our painful submission to the unpredictability of our environment. Rigid and flawed thinking leads us down the slippery slope that proves, despite our best intentions, people are sometimes "no good at life". (less)
That was a an incredibly emotional read for me. I couldn't stop bawling at the end; I kept thinking "it can't end that way, it just can't". I cheered...moreThat was a an incredibly emotional read for me. I couldn't stop bawling at the end; I kept thinking "it can't end that way, it just can't". I cheered up a bit when I checked the internet and found out there is a 4th book!!!!
It is beautifully written with depth and feeling that you can't find in many YA books. In fact, I forgot it was a YA book. And I felt it was so much richer and emotionally complex than the first 2 books. If you haven't read "Beautiful Creatures" or "Beautiful Darkness" yet, please do.
This book requires the reader to find their favorite reading spot, get a huge box of tissues, and get ready to devour an emotional roller-coaster. All your favorites are there: Ethan and Lena, Link and Liv, Amma and Marian, and yes, Ridley. All have evolved with the past events. Some are more mature and are faced with decisions and heart-breaking sacrifices they cannot avoid.
Ethan is still the sweetest, most sensitive teenage boy and still loves Lena unconditionally. Lena, thank god, is no longer the distant moody stranger she was in "Beautiful Darkness". She is more loving and less emo. However, something is happening to Ethan; he is forgetful, his dreams are darker and now they are about him, not Lena. He feels a presence of something following him, talking to him. He thinks Amma knows what is going on but she is secretive, refusing to answer his questions. She is fragile and in denial.
Link will always be the goofball best friend with the rusty beater of a car and quips that help relieve a tense situation. But now, he is Linkubus, the hunky goofball best friend with super powers that he is still learning to control. And Ridley, even as a mortal, continues to break his heart over and over again. That girl still needs to grow up.
Due to past circumstances, Liv is no longer a Keeper -in-training and she misses her best friend Ethan. But she has the best scene with Lena, a long overdue confrontation. Go Liv! Also, she surprisingly falls in love with another character and it seems real; but I'll wait and see what book 4 does with this relationship.
Even the evil characters, Seraphine, Abraham and John Breed show different aspects of their being than last time. We learn how Seraphine turned and why John Breed was such a sullen zombie at times.
I will not spoil the end for anyone. All I can say is everyone in the story is expecting change and a "New Order" as a result of what happens at the end. And I hope that New Order doesn't disappoint.