Friday, December 21, 2012

good news network

Well, the world did not end today.  So that's a good thing. 

And Patrick Ballesteros added to his kids drawings with an ode to The Princess Bride (which is almost as good as the Firefly one) so that's also good.

I've stayed away from the news of the events in Newton.  I know the gist of it, I know what happened and that is enough.  My heart continues to ache for everyone.  Everyone.  I think of how Ray let me sleep in that morning and I didn't get to see Emma before he took her to school.  I just can't imagine.

And so here we are, so close to Christmas and a New Year.  The news is full of people being awful to one another or complaining about insignificant things.  Still, hidden behind all the selfishness you can find the gems.

So here's a collection of good news stories.  I'm not saying they won't make you cry.  Some of them are good in that way too.  But I hope all of them bring a little bit of your heart some peace.

Stranger Buys a Car for Teen with Cancer 
Hana Berg has been going to cancer treatments off and on for a year and unable to attend school.  One of the teachers assigned to help homeschool her, Lea Mattson went online to ask friends if anyone could help out with rides after the family car died.  One of her friends asked her to come over and pick up some money and go buy a car.  So that's what she did.

Anonymous Donor Pays Off 43 Walmart Lawaways
Someone donated $10,000 to pay off Christmas layaways at a Walmart in Hastings, Michigan.  $7,800 was used to pay off the layaways and rest was given to a local charity.

Boy with Cancer Gets a Visit From Heroes  
So far this one is my favorite.  Five year old Nathan Norman is battling a rare form of cancer.  He was asking for Christmas cards from heroes.  He thought that would cheer him up.  A group of police officers, firefighters and first responders went a step further and delivered the cards in person.

Alec Baldwin Donates Thousands to Save Library
The headline pretty much says it all!  A year after donating $10,000 to save the Central Falls Memorial Library in Rhode Island he donated another $5,000 in response to an end of the year fundraising effort.

Eastman Student Gets a Tuba Surpise
Did you know that tubas cost around $13,000?!?!  I did not!  Tara Fayazi has played the tuba for years and is at Eastman School of Music as a Performance major.  She's always borrowed the school's instrument until her friends went behind her back and created a Facebook page to help raise money to buy Tara her own tuba!

Deaf Dog Learns Sign Language
After her Dalmation passed away, Jill Chanel knew she'd want to adopt another and decided to adopt a rescue dog.  She found a group that saves deaf Dalmations from being put to sleep and knew that was the dog for her.  Her other dog is a therapy dog and she was determined that Whitney would be too so she started training her using American Sign Language!

Awesome, Awesome Kids
Three kids who show us that it doesn't take a lot to make a huge difference.  Maybe this is my favorite story now.

Puppies Rescued From Storm Drain
Seriously.  Puppies.  Rescued.  Enough said.

3000 Bags of Food Given Out
The Latin American Chamber of Commerce hands out 3,000 bags full over everything needed to make traditional Noche Buena dinner to the needy in Little Havana.

Wounded Soldier Receives Keys to New Home
During his second tour in Iraq Sgt. Kenneth Harker was wounded by a bombing.  After recovering at Walter Reed Hospital for three years he returned to a home that was difficult to get around in with cramped hallways and narrow doors.  Four years later, thanks to Homes for Troops he and his family now how a wheelchair accessible home to celebrate the holidays in.

12-Year-Old Girl Saves Bus
When 12-year-old Rana Kraftson noticed her bus driver was unconscious she ran to the front of the bus and pressed her hand down on the brake, saving the bus full of kids from hitting a tree on their way to ski practice.  The bus driver had suffered a stroke and has since recovered.

So there's a few articles and I know there's more out there.  When I find them I'll share.  Happy Friday everyone!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

guilty wives

guilty wives
james patterson & david ellis
little brown & co.
published 2012

Abbie Elliot gave up her life to follow her diplomat husband to Zurich. Now, she and her three best friends are in desperate need of a weekend getaway and decide it's the perfect time for a fling in Monte Carlo. They surrender themselves to every temptation: fine dining, high-stakes gambling, and gorgeous men. But the fun comes to a screeching halt when two bodies are found, and they become the police's prime suspects. In a dramatic trial, the women's lives are laid bare. It becomes clear that they have been framed, but one question remains: Who is trying to lock them away forever? 

I've complained quite a bit about James Patterson books.  I've found that most of the books he co-writes (in which I believe the newbie author writes and he just slaps his name on) to be awful.  They are usually full of annoying italics and horrible catch phrases.  I pick them up out of habit and I'm usually angry that I wasted my time on them.

This one was much better than the others.  Abbie was both likeable and obnoxious at the same time, but no matter, you still respected her.

I finished the book in a couple of hours.  Like any Patterson novel it was a super quick read.  The only real problem I had was that it starts out 6 weeks into Abbie prison sentence and they call that the 'Prologue'.  After a few chapters they go back in time to the infamous trip to Monte Carlo and then the circus on a trial resulting in the prison scene we saw in the beginning.  Throughout the entire trial section I was incredibly bored.  I already knew they were going to jail because they revealed that in the first few chapters.  Sure, it's a little interesting to see the interrogation part, but really, I couldn't care less about the trial.

So things didn't really get interesting until you caught up with the beginning of the story and even then you're pretty sure you know what happened.  Nevertheless, out of the last few co-authored books Patterson has done, this one is probably one of the best.

No doubt about it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


sarah dessen
penguin group
published 2000

Ever since she started going out with Rogerson Biscoe, Caitlin seems to have fallen into a semiconscious dreamland where nothing is quite real.  Rogerson is different from anyone Caitlin has ever known.  He's magnetic.  He's compelling.  He's dangerous.  Being with him makes Caitlin forget about everything else - her missing sister, her withdrawn mother, her lackluster life.  But what happens when being with Rogerson becomes a larger problem than being without him?

There are some books that you read that you can hardly get through because it hurts so much to read the words printed there so permanently.  You hold your breath and try to get through it like you would something physically painful, but necessary.  You truly want to stop reading because you cannot stand stand to see where it's going, but you can't stop for fear of never knowing where it ends.  Books that tear out your throat and leave you with tears brimming in your eyes.  Tears that never spill, but are there for the entirety of the ordeal.

You either feel like this because you know what it feels like to be there or because you can't imagine what it feels like to be there, but it's so scary that you have a visceral reaction to reading the experience.  You touch the pages, fingering each word hoping for .... comfort.

Those books are neither pleasant or fulfilling.  They leave you raw and unsure if you want more or if you're just glad it's over.  Those books break you into a thousand tiny little pieces and your remain too exhausted to pick those pieces back up.  Your skin crawls, you feel nauseous and your heartbeat remains irregular for the duration.

You cannot ever say that you 'liked' those books.  You don't recommend them because they're a good fireplace or beach read.  You simultaneously want to forget you ever read them and relive every word of every page.

But you do recommend them.  You do love them.  Someone told your story or narrated your fears.  The writing is poetic and insightful.  There is beauty in the ugliness and it shines so brightly that you can't ever forget.  They fill a hole in you that you had always looked to fill and spoke words you never could articulate on your own.

This is how Dreamland is.

I won't go into any detail.  I won't spoil the book for anyone, but I will leave you with only my favorite line in the book which can only be your favorite line if you read the book.

"And when I was finally ready to take a picture of a face, it was hers I chose, sitting on the green grass on a blanket where we'd just finished a picnic of grapes and chocolate chips."

paper towns

paper towns
john green
published 2009

One month before graduating from his Central Florida high school, Quentin "Q" Jacobsen basks in the predictable boringness of his life until the beautiful and exciting Margo Roth Spiegelman, Q's neighbor and classmate, takes him on a midnight adventure and then mysteriously disappears.

Going through my list of books I've read this year there are quite a few that I really enjoyed.  If I had to pick just one that was my ultimate favorite book of the year it would have to be this one.  I truly loved this book.  It was so realistic and crazy all at the same time.  The characters were incredibly fun.  Q was believable in his barely there angst and well adjustedness.  Radar & Ben rounded out the threesome nicely.  I laughed so hard at some points and was on the edge during others.

I couldn't put the book down.  I couldn't.  I was both afraid and excited of what the ending would bring.  Would Q find Margo Roth Spiegelman?  Would she be okay?  Was she human?  Did anyone in the adult world care?  What brought her to this point?  It was just nerve wracking and I loved every single word of it.


giver series #4
lois lowry
houghton mifflin harcourt
published 2012

Nearly 20 years after first introducing young readers to Jonas in The Giver Lois Lowry brings us the fourth and final book in the series with Son.

In my opinion, The Giver and the subsequent books (Gathering Blue & Messenger) paved the way for the modern YA dystopian novel.  Lauren Oliver's Delirium & Ally Condie's Matched series borrow quite heavily from Lowry's world and ideologies.  And back in the early 90's Lowry got plenty of flack for writing children books that spoke of themes other adults didn't think kids would understand.  But they did.  So much so that she revisited the series again to finish the story she began so long ago.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Giver series you should immediately go out and get familiar with it.  It's stunning.  It's honest and raw and simple, but complex.  It tells a story that must be told and it's beautiful and ugly all at the same time.  I loved them more than I thought I would.

In Son we get to close the circle.  I really can't say much more about the plot than that without spoiling everything.  I loved this just as much as the rest of the books, but I did feel like there were some parts that she took so long on that she had to compromise with parts I thought should have been more detailed.  It gets a little hokey near the end, slightly deviating a bit much, but you can forgive Lowry because everything else is just so brilliant.

kill you twice

chelsea cain
gretchen lowell series #5
st. martin's press
published 2012

Another grisly murder scene, another implausible connection to Gretchen Lowell and another opportunity for Susan to get in trouble somehow.

But there's something different.  Archie is harder, more determined to break free from Gretchen's hold on him.  He's stronger.  Even Susan is different.  While still remaining slightly scatterbrained and quite immature most times, of course.  In fact, for much of the series I forget that Susan is a bone fide adult.  But here something turns her into a grown up.  The universe gives her something to protect.

This could be called Gretchen's origin story (if you were into comics like me).  Archie is bound and determined to find out where she came from and what made her the way she is.  Chelsea Cain's writing is unflinchingly gruesome as usual.  There is no taboo.  She drags Archie through one hell after the other, but he doesn't falter.  Or at least not right away.

The only disappointing thing about this book is that I am finally caught up on the series and this book just came out this year.  Best case scenario I've got 8 more months to wait until the next book.

It's going to be a long 8 months.

the night season

the night season
gretchen lowell series #4
chelsea cain
minotaur books
published 2011

I love Chelsea Cain. Love Love Love Her!

I also loved that Gretchen Lowell was barely in this book. Although I certainly liked the other books this was a refreshing change!  Generally, the books tend to revolve around Gretchen and Archie's relationship and how that one has redefined every other relationship Archie has had or does have.  Whatever homicide they are investigating inevitably circles back to Gretchen somehow.  But in Night Season, Cain barely acknowledges Gretchen.  She's there in the outskirts of the story, her presence is too large to completely ignore, but for once we get the story without any Gretchen drama.

We learn about Portland as a history, as a city.  Find a killer with a new and interesting way of dispatching his victims.  We find that Cain is unafraid to do anything, to write anything.  While I'll say that some of the story seemed missing I still found it thoroughly engrossing.  Just when I figured something out Cain turns the story into another direction and leaves you surprised and a little breathless.

I started to be kind of irritated with Susan for her Daphne-like situations but forgave her because, well, she's Susan.  And she brings along with her her naked yoga practicing-dreadlocked-hippie mother.  Bliss Mountain is the best.

Chelsea Cain - she knows how to write a good book!

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