Tuesday, September 22, 2015


lucy knisley
graphic novel/memoir
first second
published 2013

Lucy Knisley loves food.  The daughter of a chef and a gourmet, this talented young cartoonist comes by her obsession honestly.  In her forthright, thoughtful, and funny memoir, Lucy traces key episodes in her life thus far, framed by what she was eating at the time and lessons learned about food, cooking, and life.  Each chapter is bookended with an illustrated recipe - many of them treasured family dishes, and a few of them Lucy's original inventions.

Oh, oh, oh I loved this book.  Reading all of Knisley's memories of growing up and how they were tied to her memories of food.  From growing up in a small apartment in New York City with chefs and foodies, through her parents divorce, puberty, college and coming home she tells it all while weaving in a memory of pasta she had with her dad, or eating McDonald's much to her parents' horror.

The memories are sweet and honest, sometimes funny and sometimes sad, but always, always there was food.  Her recipes are tempting not only from the description, but the illustrations as well.  I especially loved her recounting of her meal at Alinea, especially just coming off of Bourdain's less than favorable opinion of the restaurant.  I finished the book wanted to eat cheese, pickles, farm fresh veggies and tacos and, well, everything!

medium raw

medium raw
anthony bourdain
published 2010

Medium Raw marks the return of the inimitable Anthony Bourdain, author of the blockbuster bestseller Kitchen Confidential and three-time Emmy Award-nominated host of No Reservations on TV's Travel Channel.  Bourdain calls his book, "A Blood Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook," and he is at his entertaining best as he takes aim at some of the biggest names in the foodie world, including David Chang, Alice Waters, the Top Chef winners and losers, and many more.  If Hunter S. Thompson had written a book about the restaurant business, it could have been Medium Raw.

I must begin my review by stating that I love Anthony Bourdain.  There is very little that he has done or said in his career that I didn't find true or amusing, or both.  And I think that Medium Raw is excellent.  He is honest, both about the people he thinks are wrong and about himself.  No one is safe from his critiques, but he isn't just spewing vitriol or haphazardly calling people douchebags.  There is a method to his madness.  He is equally negative and positive in his critiques and while he may think that Alice Waters should probably retire her gardens for schools idea he thinks her heart is in the right place.  When he names someone a villain he has a reason and a good one at that.

He does a quick 'where are they now' for the co-stars of Kitchen Confidential and it makes me want to go back and read it all over again.  He admits that there is no way he can hack it on the line anymore.  He talks a lot about starting his career moving away from the kitchen and in front of the camera.  He discusses why Food Network is evil and David Chang is brilliant and a maniac.  He validates that Top Chef really is the only cooking competition show on TV worth watching.  ;)  I loved every word.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

knit one, kill two

knit one, kill two
a knitting mystery #1
maggie sefton
berkley books
published 2005

For Kelly Flynn, coming back to Colorado for her aunt's funeral yields a disturbing suspicion: that her death wasn't the result of a burglary, but something more sinister.  After all, why would the sensible sixty-year-old borrow $20,000 just days before her death?  With the help of the knitting regulars at the House of Lambspun, Kelly's about to get a few lessons in creating a sumptuously colored scarf - and in luring a killer out of hiding.

This was a quick cozy mystery read that I found myself enjoying more than I had expected I would.  The characters aren't delved into too deeply and there is still much of Kelly's life that we don't know about.  The ending of the book kind of left you hanging.  The mystery was solved, but once the dust settles, what happened?  But the descriptions of the yarns and knitting had me itching to grab my needles and start again.  I loved that the book included two quick knitting patterns and a recipe for cinnamon rolls too!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

goodnight june

goodnight june
sarah jio
published 2014

June Andersen is professionally successful, but her personal life is marred by unhappiness. Unexpectedly, she is called to settle her great-aunt Ruby’s estate and determine the fate of Bluebird Books, the children’s bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store’s papers, June stumbles upon letters between her great-aunt and the late Margaret Wise Brown—and steps into the pages of American literature.

I was so pleasantly surprised by this book!  This was one of those sweet beach reads that takes barely any time to read and you feel like you know where the story is going, but there are surprises here and there.

The book is told in part through the letters that June finds and I just loved it.  But I didn't think the book would revolve so much around family and the relationships between sisters both blood and the sisters you choose to share your life with.  I actually could have done without the romance part of the story because I felt like June didn't really need to find someone right away.  That her staying in Seattle could be just for the bookstore and the life she needed to carve out for herself and not because she fell in love, but it was wonderful nonetheless.

I think maybe loving the book might have to do a bit with how it reminded me of You've Got Mail which is one of my favorite movies of all time.  A little children's bookstore struggling, part of so many memories.....good stuff.

obsession in death

obsession in death
in death #40
jd robb
gp putnam's sons
published 2015

Eve Dallas has solved a lot of high-profile murders for the NYPSD and gotten a lot of media.  She - and her billionaire husband - are getting accustomed to being objects of attention, of gossip, of speculation.  But now Eve has become the object of one person's obsession.  Someone who finds her extraordinary and thinks about her every hour of every day.  Who believes the two of them have a special relationship.  Who would kill for her - again and again.

For a bit Obsession in Death dragged terribly for me.  She went over and over and over the crime scenes so many times I wanted to scream.  I don't know why this time it seemed like too much.  I didn't feel like she was doing anything different, but it was repetitive.  You see the crime when she sees it.  Then she talks it over with Peabody, then Roarke, then Mira then to her board, in her head, and on and on.  Like this description.

But then when I felt like this book was going to be my first JD Robb disappointment things got good.  I stayed up late into the night because I just couldn't put the book down.

With that being said, it took more than two thirds of the book for me to really get into it.  For the first time in the series I considered putting the book down and taking a break for a bit.  I guess in 40 books it's not that big of a deal for one to be a dud, but I was still bummed.


lunar chronicles #1
marissa meyer
feiwel & friends
published 2012

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Here is an exception to the rule.  Remember this because there are few of these.

I started to hear a lot of hype around this series (as I write this there are currently 3 novels, several novellas and another novel set to release later this year) and everyone was stark raving mad about how much they loved it.  I already owned Cinder (I think I got it one day when it was on sale for $2.99 or something), but hadn't read it yet because it just wasn't high on my radar.  When I started hearing more and more reader friends raving about it I was both curious and put off.  Generally when people all really love a book I end up disappointed in it.  Few exceptions occur (Twilight was the weird one off), but generally when people go nuts over a book I distance myself.

But many of the reader friends who loved it had similar loves as me so I thought, I have the book might as well give it a shot.  And it was good!  Cinder is a fun, complicated character and the story itself (a retelling of Cinderella - obviously) was much more complicated than I expected it to be so it held my interest quite well.

It was most certainly a book that kept me reading and enticed me enough to continue on with the series.  A nice mix of romance, teen angst, sci-fi and suspense.

Friday, July 17, 2015

flower net

flower net
red princess #1
lisa see
published 1997

The first body was found in ice: the U.S. ambassador's son, entombed in a frozen lake outside Beijing's Forbidden City. Thousands of miles away, in the heat-baked hold of a Chinese smuggling ship, another corpse is uncovered, this one a red Prince, a scion of China's political elite. Suspecting the deaths are linked, the American and Chinese governments pair ambitious attorney David Stark and brilliant detective Liu Hulan to uncover a killer and a conspiracy.

The only other book I've read by Lisa See is Snow Flower & The Secret Fan and I loved it!  I was looking for something to listen to while I did some work and saw she had a trilogy of crime novels.  Flower Net is the first, introducing Liu Hulan and David Stark who met in America when they were both working at the same firm.  I think.  I can't remember exactly!  I know they were in love once, but Liu gets word that her mother is sick and she returns to Beijing.  Family obligations have her remaining in Beijing, never returning to American and from what I could gather, never contacting David again until murders oceans apart appear connected and the two must work together.

The story itself was mostly interesting and I'm not sure if it was the narration of the book or the book itself that didn't enthrall me, but I wasn't in love with the book.  I'm pretty sure it was the narration.  And the strange background music that kept going on.  I think I'll try the next book in actual book form.

rules of prey

rules of prey
lucas davenport #1
john sandford
published 1989

The "maddog" murderer who is terrorizing the Twin Cities is two things: insane and extremely intelligent.  He kills for the pleasure of it and thoroughly enjoys placing elaborate obstacles to keep police befuddled.  Each clever move he makes is another point of pride.  But when the brilliant Lieutenant Lucas Davenport - a dedicated cop and serial killer's worst nightmare - is brought to take up the investigation, the maddog suddenly has an adversary worthy of his genius.

It has been over 20 years since I first read this book and started the wonderful journey through John Sandford's prey novels.  These are among my most favorite books and after the last few books I kept thinking, I should re-read this series.  So that's what I'm doing.  One down, twenty-five to go.

I love the way that Sandford has Davenport thinking.  Even though he's fishing he's plotting out what he's going to do to trap this guy.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes shit hits the fan, but it's always entertaining.  I sit there sometimes and try to figure out if and how he's going to get away with stuff he pulls.  It's fantastic.

I love that it's been so long that I've forgotten the details enough that the book is still fun to read.  There are still surprises and at the same time there's the familiarity with the characters.  I did get a little sad when certain characters who met their demise later in the series showed up, but like greeting old friends, it's nice to see everyone.

This is certainly a great introduction to Lucas.  It has all the things about him that I love about him and I remember why I love this series and kept reading it for twenty years!

one kick

one kick
kick #1
chelsea cain
simon & schuster
published 2014

Kick Lannigan, 21, is a survivor. Abducted at age six in broad daylight, the police, the public, perhaps even her family assumed the worst had occurred. And then Kathleen Lannigan was found, alive, six years later. In the early months following her freedom, as Kick struggled with PTSD, her parents put her through a litany of therapies, but nothing helped until the detective who rescued her suggested Kick learn to fight. Before she was thirteen, Kick learned marksmanship, martial arts, boxing, archery, and knife throwing. She excelled at every one, vowing she would never be victimized again. But when two children in the Portland area go missing in the same month, Kick goes into a tailspin. Then an enigmatic man Bishop approaches her with a proposition: he is convinced Kick's experiences and expertise can be used to help rescue the abductees. Little does Kick know the case will lead directly into her terrifying past.

I was soooo disappointed in this book.  Loving Chelsea Cain's Archie & Gretchen books I had high expectations I suppose, but I thought she really missed the mark with Kick Lannigan.

The story is jumbled, missing pieces which I assume it's because the book is part of a series and she wants to keep the reader interested throughout the next few books.  But for me, it only made me frustrated and made characters seem flat and unfinished.

And Kick.  Oh, I was most disappointed in her.  She talks for pages and pages about how many ways she can kill or incapacitate a man.  How she can take care of herself, she'll never be a victim again, etc. And yet every dangerous instance she finds herself in she is over powered, outgunned, out manned and just plain out of her league.  She prepares endlessly for 'every' situation, but then fails at every turn and must be saved by a man!  It was so utterly disappointing.

I'm not even sure I have enough interest in the book to continue with the series.  We read this book for our book club and the ones who hadn't read Cain's other series seemed to like it much better than I did.  So maybe a lot of it was my high expectations, but still....I wanted more from Kick.

Friday, June 12, 2015

the ocean at the end of the lane

the ocean at the end of the lane
neil gaiman
william morrow books
published 2013

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

There is something incredibly bewitching about Neil Gaiman's writing and it's only emphasized when you listen to the audiobook read by him.

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is creepy, haunting, terrifying, sad and magical.  A different kind of coming-of-age tale with the most wonderful of characters.  Lettie and her mother and grandmother were so rich and delicious.  I wanted to be friends with them.  I was desperate for them to come and save the boy from Ursula Monkton.

I loved how the character's names sounded coming from Gaiman.  Ursula Monkton, Lettie Hempstock....and how the narrator, the boy, had no name.

I kept thinking how freaking terrifying the entire experience would be.  How helpless he felt, how strong Lettie was and was heartbroken at the end.  I wanted him to remember.

All in all, a fantastic read (or listen)!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

fresh off the boat

fresh off the boat
eddie huang
spiegel & grau
published 2013

Eddie Huang is the thirty-year-old proprietor of Baohaus—the hot East Village hangout where foodies, stoners, and students come to stuff their faces with delicious Taiwanese street food late into the night—and one of the food world’s brightest and most controversial young stars. But before he created the perfect home for himself in a small patch of downtown New York, Eddie wandered the American wilderness looking for a place to call his own.

I had started reading/listening to Eddie Huang's book awhile back in my quest to find audiobooks that kept me interested.  It couldn't really hold my attention and I found Huang's style slightly irritating so I just let the book expire.  After watching the sitcom Fresh Off The Boat on ABC I decided to give it another try.  I had read about the controversy about the show.  How Huang has said that the show is so far removed from his life that he doesn't even watch it and what a piece of garbage it is, etc. so I wanted to see how different it was.

What I discovered is that ABC created likable characters where there were few.  Did they sugarcoat things?  Of course!  He sold his rights away to a  family network so they could create a sitcom.  If he wanted edgy he should have shopped out to AMC or FX.  But I guess for a guy who hates TV and 'only watches HBO' he just didn't know any better or in Huang speak he was 'ignant'.

What did I like about this book?  I loved the way he talked about food.  He has a knack for describing technically while still painting a picture so you can see the steam rising off a simmering bowl of beef noodle soup.  He has good points about fusion food (it's unnecessary) and how to cook with your senses, with your tastes and experiences than with measuring cups and recipe cards.  It had me craving food the entire time.

Huang is incredibly intelligent.  Well read not because he wanted to be able to say he read Tolstoy but because he really wanted to read Tolstoy.  You could tell that he loved to learn even if he didn't want to be 'that Asian'.  His path to Baohaus in impressive in it's long winding route and he has, at such a young age, accomplished quite a bit.

Unfortunately, the list of things I didn't love about this book is a little longer.  Huang's intelligence has him under the impression that he is smarter, better than everyone else.  He talks about being humble, but that's bullshit.  There is nothing humble about this guy.  He's a major shit talker.  He has a disdain for anyone who isn't 'real', which is kind of ludicrous considering he spent his entire childhood trying to get so far away from his culture that he doesn't even see it.  He hates everyone..  He goes on about ABCs (American Born Chinese), David Chang, frat boys, college kids, Americans, white people, white people, white people.  He has such a chip on his shoulder it's amazing he doesn't tip over.  He doesn't consider himself American, doesn't subscribe to the idea of an American patriot.  When 9/11 happened it didn't really happen to him because this wasn't his country.  Then why stay here?  For a time he has to go to Taiwan for some sentencing thing.  Why didn't he stay there?  Oh, because there were no opportunities for him.  He had to come to AMERICA to do what he wanted to do.  He comes across as snobbish and ungrateful.

But the icing on the cake is how he totally relates with the struggle of black people.  I mean, he understands being held down because his parents sent him to 7 different private schools and raised him in a gated community where Tiger Woods lived.  He tries to distance himself by saying stuff like, well, it was his father's money not his.  When his father gives him a Mercedes for his first car he says it was such an insult because he didn't buy it for himself and showed what a horrible childhood he had.  It's hard to feel sorry for that kind of hardship.

He talks big about being hard and you can tell he so badly wants to be a 'gangsta' but his misdeeds were born out of desperation to be tough, not because he was.  He is, despite his protestations, a poseur.

Now, I'm not saying that he couldn't relate to the lyrics in hip hop.  I'm not saying it was easy growing up the only Asian around white kids or that having parents who beat their kids wasn't a shitty way to grow up, but no, I don't think that means you are the same as another race.  Just be your own.  Own your shit.  Carve your own path.  He doesn't want to be Taiwanese, he wants to be black, but he isn't.  But he'll take the Taiwanese when he sees how he can make it successful.

Maybe it's because I'm just not into the hip hop scene, don't speak the language, but it got tiring.  The book is full of alternately whining about being held down by the white man and patting himself on the back for being smarter than everyone else.  I can see why ABC changed his story and I'm glad they did.  ABC's Fresh Off The Boat might not be the show that Eddie Huang wanted, but it's put main cast Asians on a major network for the first time in 20 years and that should be something to be proud of.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

neil patrick harris: choose your own autobiography

neil patrick harris: choose your own autobiography
neil patrick harris
crown archetype
published 2014

Sick of deeply personal accounts written in the first person? Seeking an exciting, interactive read that puts the “u” back in “aUtobiography”? Then look no further than Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography! In this revolutionary, Joycean experiment in light celebrity narrative, actor/personality/carbon-based-life-form Neil Patrick Harris lets you, the reader, live his life. You will be born to New Mexico. You will get your big break at an acting camp. You will get into a bizarre confrontation outside a nightclub with actor Scott Caan. Even better, at each critical juncture of your life you will choose how to proceed. You will decide whether to try out for Doogie Howser, M.D. You will decide whether to spend years struggling with your sexuality. You will decide what kind of caviar you want to eat on board Elton John’s yacht.

Choose correctly and you’ll find fame, fortune, and true love. Choose incorrectly and you’ll find misery, heartbreak, and a hideous death by piranhas. All this, plus magic tricks, cocktail recipes, embarrassing pictures from your time as a child actor, and even a closing song. Yes, if you buy one book this year, congratulations on being above the American average, and make that book Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography!

At first I worried that listening to this book rather than reading I would lose out on the awesome 'choose your own adventure' aspect of the autobiography, but in the beginning of the audiobook NPH explains how they've changed things to account for that and just that bit of humor had me sold.

I'm already a NPH fan.  Loved him since the Doogie Days and was a huge fan from the beginning of HIMYM so it was a no-brainer once I started listening to autobiographical audiobooks to pick up this one and I'm so glad I did.  I also feel sorry for any person who read the book instead of listening to NPH read it to them.  You missed out big time.

I loved the stories and I loved the way he told them.  I wanted to be his friend and join in on the 40th birthday celebration.  It was all so very the-best-thing-ever.

I cannot recommend this book enough.  For the Scott Caan story alone.

a place at the table

a place at the table
susan rebecca white
published 2013

Alice Stone is famous for the homemade Southern cuisine she serves at Cafe Andres and her groundbreaking cookbook, but her past is a mystery to all who know her.  Upon Alice's retirement, Bobby Banks, a young gay man ostracized by his family in Georgia, sets out to revive the aging cafe with his new brand of Southern cooking while he struggles with heartbreak like he's never known.  Seeking respite from the breakup of her marriage, weathly divorcee Amelia Brighton finds solace in the company and food at Cafe Andres, until a family secret comes to light in the pages of Alice's cookbook and threatens to upend her life.


That sums up what I felt about this book.  It was okay.  It didn't make me feel much of anything.  I wasn't astounded by secrets revealed (or really even a bit surprised).  I didn't fall in love with any of the characters (except maybe Bobby's grandmother) and I wasn't entirely happy with the ending.  But it wasn't a bad book.  It was easy to read and I did really enjoy Bobby's story.  Alice was interesting and mysterious, but the book really seemed to be about Bobby up until the last 5 chapters or so when she switches to Amelia who by then, I cared nothing about.

Maybe if the stories had been broken up more I would have been more invested in Amelia.  If we had switched around so that in the beginning we hear a bit from Alice, then Bobby then Amelia and then back to Alice and so on.  Instead, we start with Alice and her story is so shocking that you spend the rest of the book wondering where that's going to come in.  Then we move to Bobby and spend about 80% of the book reading about his life as a child, discovering his sexuality, his move to New York, falling in love, becoming a chef, etc.  So that by the time I got to Amelia I just didn't care about her.  She was no one to me.  I wanted to know what effect she would have on Bobby and what her purpose was for him.  I almost hated her just because she took the story away from Bobby who was infinitely more interesting that this whiny, bitchy woman.


gathering prey

gathering prey
lucas davenport #25
john sandford
gp putnam's sons
published 2015

They call them Travelers.  They move from city to city, panhandling, committing no crimes - they just like to stay on the move.  And now somebody is killing them.

Lucas Davenport's adopted daughter, Letty, is home from college when she gets a phone call from a woman Traveler she'd befriended in San Francisco.  The woman thinks somebody's killing her friends, she's afraid she knows who it is, and now her male companion has gone missing.  She's hiding out in North Dakota, and she doesn't know what to do.

Letty tells Lucas she's going to get her, and, though he suspects Letty's getting played, he volunteers to go with her.  When he hears the woman's story though, he begins to think there's something in it.  Little does he know.  In the days to come, he will embark upon an odyssey through a subculture unlike any he has every seen, a trip that will not only put the two of them in danger - but just may change the course of his life.

Another freaking winner by John Sandford.  I wait in anticipation hoping that when Letty finishes college and becomes whatever career badass she's going to be Sandford will give her her own series.  Please, please give Letty her own series.

Anyway, lots of crazies here in Gathering Prey and Lucas has kind of gone off the rails.  It started with the events in Field of Prey and we've seen it before throughout the series.  Lucas needs something.....but he's not sure what yet.  All he knows that what he has now isn't working.  So he puts everything into finding these killers.  But about 98% is born from a kind of stupid thing Letty does that seemed slightly out of character, (but then again not) that sends Lucas into a protective father rage.  It's hard to talk about without giving too much away.

The humor is always there, the reality of these people.  The instances that make them seem like real people that you could encounter or know in this life.  After a bad experience Lucas tells Letty he's going to call Weather.  Letty warns, 'She's gonna scream,' to which Lucas replies, 'Yeah, well - it's her turn.'  And later when Lucas is vaguely outlining his plans to Weather she says to him, 'All right, if you say so.  I reserve the right to smirk when it all goes wrong.'

Sandford's writing is just so perfect.  And the problem with that is for awhile after I've finished a Prey or Virgil Flowers novel everything else I pick up to read just kind of sucks.  So I have to take a break from reading for a bit.  I've said I was thinking of restarting the series and I wonder if now is a good time to start.

hope to die

hope to die
alex cross #22
james patterson
little brown & co.
published 2015

Detective Alex Cross is being stalked by a psychotic genius, forced to play the deadliest game of his career.  Cross's family - his loving wife Bree, the wise and lively Nana Mama, and his precious children - have been ripped away.  Terrified and desperate, Cross must give this mad mad what he wants if he has any chance of saving the most important people in his life.  The stakes have never been higher: What will Cross sacrifice to save the ones he loves?

After the long, slow, tortuous buildup that was Cross My Heart I thought Hope To Die would be the end all.  The further along I got, the more I thought, this must be Alex Cross's last book!  Alas, I was wrong on both counts.

**********spoilers of both Cross My Heart & Hope To Die ahead**********

Like all James Patterson books, this was an extremely quick read.  Alex is racing to find his family, who were all kidnapped in Cross My Heart, and always seems to be just a few minutes too late.  There are little things that bothered me quite a bit.  For instance, there is a moment when Cross makes a connection between a case he had been called to consult on and the nutcase that has taken his family.  He is on a deadline, obviously.  He must follow instructions left by the nutcase.  So he's in NYC when we makes this tentative connection and tells his temporary partner to book them flights to Omaha, Nebraska.

Off they go to Omaha to talk to the two detectives who worked the case to tell them what he's discovered.  One even says, 'you couldn't have done this over the phone?'  To which Cross replies, 'I thought you'd want to hear this in person and I wanted to see the scene again.'  But he never goes into the house, he just stays on the curb.  Then after he's said his piece that's all the business they have in Omaha.  So he wasted HOURS traveling some place while the lives of his family are hanging by a thread so he can tell cops in person what he THINKS (he has no proof) about a crime.  It seemed like an unbelievably dumb move.

The other part that really bummed me out was that the most interesting character that exists in the world of Alex Cross is Ava who makes a brilliant reappearance in Cross My Heart, but here in Hope To Die she starts off with Alex and then gets dumped off in Philadelphia to research and we barely hear from her again.  So disappointing.

The villains.....well, Mulch is quite one dimensional and just annoying.  And let's be honest, all of James Patterson's villains are.  They're over-the-top maniacally brilliant.  But there is no depth to Mulch and seriously, what IS his motivation?  Because he can?  That's just lame.  Then you have Acadia who is batshit crazy and vicious in Cross My Heart, but then suddenly has a change of heart in Hope To Die.  And despite knowing how crazy smart Mulch is she does one of the most obvious things she could have done when taking off.

The whole time I was reading I thought to myself that Alex must retire after this.  Patterson could end the series now and that would be all right.  In fact, it would probably be best for all.  But no, another Cross book is due out later in the year.  Yep, he's pumping those out 2 a year now.

Now, for pure mindless entertainment, Hope To Die has you covered.  It's nonstop action.  Everything that could go wrong for Cross does seem to go wrong, but somehow (it seems with prayers to God CONSTANTLY) he makes it through - for the most part.  I'm in no way saying I hated the book, but when you compare these last few books to his first few in the series there is no comparison.  But for a quick, entertaining read Patterson's got you covered.

the bees

the bees
laline paull
published 2014

Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion.  But Flora is not like other bees.  With circumstances threatening the hive's survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw but her courage and strength are an asset.  She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect pollen.  She also finds her way into the Queen's inner sanctum, where she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous.

But when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all - daring to challenge the Queen's fertility - enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power.  Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, her society - and lead her to unthinkable acts.

I realized as I was reading this that I don't really read books with nonhuman characters.  I didn't read the Warriors series or The Secret of NIMH (I did love the movie as a kid even though it scared me) or Watership Down (which until very recently I thought was a book about the Navy).  I generally stick with the humans, but one of the categories in Popsugar's challenge is to read a book with nonhuman characters.  I got an email that The Bees was on sale for $1.99 so I picked it up.  It looked interesting enough.

And it was.  I know very little about bees and the hive mentality save for a few general things.  I know there is a queen and worker bees and they collect pollen and make honey, etc.  But the details that Paull gets into is quite fascinating and it's obvious she has done her homework.

The Bees is a quick read.  Once I got going I was too curious to stop, but at times it was difficult to relate.  Her descriptions of the hive, its layout and structure were lost on me.  She spoke of the Dance Hall, the lobby, the nursery, the morgue, the patisserie, and I just couldn't picture it.  My mind fluctuated between what I normally would picture those things to look like and what they could possibly look like in the a wooden (man-made) live.  I've only seen the hives with the panels.  It didn't make sense to me.  And then it was are they like human bees?  Walking around talking and walking with clothes and such?  Or are they bees who talk?  But they have brooms.  And dustpans.  I'm confused.

Maybe it's my inexperience with animal characters or my inability to be imaginative on that level, but it was a stumbling block for me.  I spent a lot of time trying to understand what was happening because I couldn't picture it.

What was fascinating to me was how the hive struggles with the encroaching human world and the effects humans have on the bees way of life.  It got me thinking about how humans 'steal' the honey and made me want to plant lots of flowers and put out bee drinking bowls for the bees here.

Was the story good?  Yes.  I had to know what was going to happen next.  What were the priestesses planning?  Could Flora 717 keep her secret?  Does the hive survive the winter?  Were the spiders telling the truth?  The creepy factory during several scenes and the abruptly violent moments had me hooked.

Will I read another book about nonhumans?  Um, probably not.  But this one wasn't half bad.

Friday, April 17, 2015

the cousins o'dwyer trilogy

dark witch
shadow spell
blood magick
nora roberts
published 2013-2014

With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance.  From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends. 


With the legends and lore of Ireland running through his blood, falconer Connor O'Dwyer is proud to call County Mayo home.  It's where his sister, Branna, lives and works, where his cousin, Iona, has come, and where his childhood friends form a circle that can't be broken.

County Mayo is rich in the traditions of Ireland, legends that Branna fully embraces in her life and in her work as the proprietor of The Dark Witch shop, which carries soaps, lotions, and candles for tourists, made with Branna's special touch.  Her strength and selflessness hold together a close circle of friends and family - along with their horses and hawks and her beloved hound.  But there's a single missing link in the chain of her life: love.

This is one of those trilogies that just felt kind of like the same book over and over again.  Not that they were boring reads.  They're quick and fun and full of Irish.  It's just that everything was pretty predictable.  I mean, they're fighting an evil witch and there's three books so you know the first two times they try they're going to fail so.....not much to guess at.  It did get a little too repetitious by the third book and I just wanted them to get on with it.  To be honest, the story of Sorcha and her children was more interesting than the present day witches.

Not my favorite trilogy from Nora Roberts, but let's not kid, of course I would have read them no matter what!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

the vanishing season

the vanishing season
jodi lynn anderson
published 2014

Girls started vanishing in the fall, and now winter's come to lay a white sheet over the horror.  Door County, it seems, is swallowing the young, right into its very dirt.  From beneath the house on Water Street, I've watched the danger swell.  The residents know me as the noises in the house at night, the creaking on the stairs.  I'm the reflection behind them in the glass, the feeling of fear in the cellar.  I'm tied - it seems - to this house, this street, this town.  I'm tied to Maggie and Pauline, though I don't know why.  I think it's because death is coming for one of them, or both.  All I know is that the present and the past are piling up, and I am here to dig.  I am looking of the things that are buried.

The only other book I read by Jodi Lynn Anderson is Tiger Lily, a dark retelling of Peter Pan from the perspective of Tiger Lily.  It was beautiful and so, so dark.  I expected a murder mystery with The Vanishing Season, something also a little dark and brooding with a bit of magic.

I did not get what I expected.

I spent most of the time wondering how everything connected, or what the outcome would be.  In the end I was so flabbergasted.  After two books I've come to realize that Jodi Lynn Anderson does not write happily ever afters.  Her books are sad and unfair and beautiful.  There is no way to talk more about this book without ruining it for you so I will stop now.  Read it and it will be hard to forget.

ready player one

ready player one
ernest cline
published 2011

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place.  The only time teenager Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS.  Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines - puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.  But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize.  The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win - and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

Ready Player One is like a geek version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory drenched in 80's nostalgia.  I read a review that said something about the book being 'sprinkled' with 80's references, but I really feel that no, it was drenched.  You cannot find a page in the book that does not bash you over the head with it.

Now, I love my 80's stuff and geek culture is where my heart is.  This book would have been lovely, but it was sooooooooo 'let me explain every reference to you'.  There was a part where two characters are looking at a scene and one says, 'It looks like Rivendell.' to which the other character responds, 'It looks like Rivendell, from Lord of the Rings.'  Oh, I'm sorry, was the first character talking about a Rivendell from another book?

It was stuff like that that began to get on my nerves.  I listened to the book because it was read by Wil Wheaton, and hello! Wil Wheaton.  But even he couldn't make me not want to scream out loud when 2 and a half hours into the book I've listened to listings of nearly every movie, tv show, band and book that existed in the 1980's.  I almost gave up on the book, but friends assured me that there was a story yet to come.

Once things did get going it was somewhat better.  I don't think I really got into the book until near the end at the final hunt and the epic battle that hopefully will translate to screen very well.  I think that this is one of those books that could possibly make a better movie than a book because it will be forced to edit down quite a bit and this book needed editing.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

crazy rich asians

crazy rich asians
kevin kwan
published 2013

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry.  What she doesn't know is that Nick's family home happens to look like a palace, that she'll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia's most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back.  Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick's formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should - and should not - marry.

I don't know what I expected when I finally got my hands on Crazy Rich Asians, but I wasn't quite prepared for what I got!  Crazy Rich Asians was like a cross between Gossip Girl, Sex and the City and Pretty Little Liars.  I have no dislike for fashion or reading about the ridiculous opulence, but it did get kind of monotonous having to hear every designer of every piece of clothing, jewelry, handbag, shoe, glasses, china, table, bedding, car, etc. etc. etc.  If something could be expensive we were battered on the head with its pedigree.

On the other hand, I loved Astrid, liked Rachel a lot and really had fun with the story.  Sure, it's not anything new (except the insertion of Asians) - girl meets boy who she thinks is just a normal guy, turns out he's filthy rich and doesn't tell her until she's confronted with his rich, snobby family - but the characters were colorful and fun.

I listened to the audiobook as well as read though it on my kindle.  I liked being able to hear the Mandarin and Cantonese pronunciations, but the reader's British accents and male voices (she's a female) were slightly distracting.

Kevin Kwan's second book China Rich Girlfriend comes out in June, a sequel to Crazy Rich Asians and I'm sure I'll read it.  I have to find out what happened to Astrid!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

yes please

yes please
amy poehler
dey street books
published 2014

In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read.  Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry, photographs, mantras and advice.

I'm 80% sure I have never seen any movie that Amy Poehler was in.  I have never seen an episode of Parks and Rec.  But she was in my two all time favorite SNL skits, Debbie Downer's first appearance where everyone broke character, and in the same episode when Lindsay Lohan and Kaitlin have a sleepover.  So good.  Oh wait, I just remembered I saw They Came Together.  But I hated it.

Anyway, I decided to listen to Poehler's memoir because I had listened to Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling's books and they both talk about how great she is and since she also reads her book I thought, why not?

There were some funny parts, I loved her 'Birthing Plan'.  Loved it!  I loved her chapter My Boys.  And Patrick Stewart reading her haiku - so good.

I'm going to watch me some Parks and Rec now.

big little lies

big little lies
liane moriarty
published 2014

Sometimes it's the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal....A murder, a tragic accident, or just parents behaving badly?  What's indisputable is that someone is dead.  But who did what?  Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

This book was fantastic!  I've never read any of Liane Moriarty's books despite owning two of them so this was my first.  Someone in my book club had raved about it as she had just finished it and I thought I'd pick it up.  I checked on Amazon and it was on sale for the Kindle for $2.99!  I took that as a sign and snapped it up.

From the start you know someone dies at the school trivia night, but you don't know who, how or why and it's maddening!  But in the most delicious way.

The story focuses on three women and as I got to know them I desperately didn't want them to be the victim who meets her demise.  There was so much that reminded me of the gossiping and backstabbing that goes on with school moms.  Of course, no one has died at our school auction, but I could see glimpses of real life in so much of Big Little Lies.

Of course, now that I've read this book I've got to finally read her others.  One is already on my tbr list for that challenge!


jack reacher #19
lee child
delacorte press
published 2014

Someone has taken a shot at the president of France in the City of Light.  The bullet was American.  The distance between the gunman and the target was exceptional.  How many snipers can shoot from three-quarters of a mile with total confidence?  Very few, but John Kott - an American marksman gone bad - is one of them.  And after fifteen years in prison, he's out, unaccounted for, and likely drawing a bead on a G8 summit packed with enough world leaders to tempt any assassin.

Things I loved:
Jack Reacher
Casey Nice
Jack kicking ass as usual

What I didn't love:
I don't even know what happened

Well, that's not true, but it kind of is.  Reacher is looking for Kott.  We know he's looking for Kott and we know that someone is helping him, hired him, and they have to go through them to get to him.  So there are approximately 270 pages dealing with the gangs, one gang in particular mostly and 3 pages dealing with Kott.  I felt cheated.

There just wasn't much to this one.  I didn't feel that same ole' Reacher magic and it made me sad. :(

the long way home

the long way home
armand gamache #10
louise penny
minotaur books
published 2014

Happily retired in the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, has found a peace he’d only imagined possible. On warm summer mornings he sits on a bench holding a small book, The Balm in Gilead, in his large hands. "There is a balm in Gilead," his neighbor Clara Morrow reads from the dust jacket, "to make the wounded whole."

While Gamache doesn’t talk about his wounds and his balm, Clara tells him about hers. Peter, her artist husband, has failed to come home. Failed to show up as promised on the first anniversary of their separation. She wants Gamache’s help to find him. Having finally found sanctuary, Gamache feels a near revulsion at the thought of leaving Three Pines. "There’s power enough in Heaven," he finishes the quote as he contemplates the quiet village, "to cure a sin-sick soul." And then he gets up. And joins her.

Together with his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and Myrna Landers, they journey deeper and deeper into Québec. And deeper and deeper into the soul of Peter Morrow. A man so desperate to recapture his fame as an artist, he would sell that soul. And may have. The journey takes them further and further from Three Pines, to the very mouth of the great St. Lawrence river. To an area so desolate, so damned, the first mariners called it The land God gave to Cain. And there they discover the terrible damage done by a sin-sick soul.

I've loved Louise Penny's Armand Gamache books.  I picked up one because the photograph on the cover was gorgeous.  Found out it was a series so I found the first one and off I went.  I am now caught up with the series and oh so sad.  For one, to be done with the series (so far, hopefully another one will be forthcoming) and two this was, well, it was shocking.

Peter is missing and you know that something terrible must have happened to him to keep him away from Clara.  So the entire time I'm dreading what they will find.  Now, Peter was always my least favorite villager from Three Pines.  I think he was meant to be the opposite of Clara and their balance kept each other in check, but still I always felt there was no balance there.  I felt like Peter didn't deserve Clara and I was so proud of her when she asked him to leave.

All the books in this series have been slow burners, but this was the most extreme of all of them.  It took so long to get anywhere and most of it seemed to be everyone staring at art, the same art, over and over for pages and pages.

But it was so twisted up I remained unsure the whole time.  I couldn't imagine that Peter was dead, but I couldn't understand why he wouldn't return to Clara so I was in limbo the whole time and everything about the ending was unexpected to me.

Holy cow.

not my father's son

not my father's son
alan cumming
harper audio
published 2014

With ribald humor, wit, and incredible insight, Alan seamlessly moves back and forth in time, integrating stories from his childhood in Scotland and his experiences today as the celebrated actor of film, television, and stage.  At times suspenseful, at times deeply moving, but always incredibly brave and honest, Not My Father's Son is a powerful story of embracing the best aspects of the past and triumphantly pushing the darkness aside.

I have always been a fan of Alan Cumming, but not in a 'he's my favorite actor' sort of way.  When I finished my last audiobook I knew I needed something else to listen to while I crocheted and this book was available from the library.  I tend to enjoy audiobooks more when they're memoirs and read by the author and it's even better read in Cumming's gorgeous Scottish brogue.

Cumming is honest both about his father's behavior toward his two children and wife and about his own coming to terms with accepting his past and moving on.  His memories of his father's abuse are broken up with his quest to learn about his maternal grandfather.  His grandfather had died in mysterious circumstances far away from home while Cumming's mother was still a child and when Cumming is approached by the BBC show 'Who Do You Think You Are?' he realized he could maybe solve the mystery for his mother and himself.

The stories he tells are gripping and wrenching.  His love for his mother, brother and husband are palpable and at times it's that love shining through that keeps the book from being merely brooding and depressing.

I loved this book.  I could have listened to him tell stories all day long (and I did).  I wanted to just have it on a loop and fall asleep to his voice!

american vampire, vol. 1

american vampire, volume 1
scott snyder, stephen king & rafael albuquerque
published 2011

This volume follows two stories: one written by Snyder and one written by King.  Snyder's story is set in 1920's LA, we follow Pearl, a young woman who is turned into a vampire and sets out on a path of righteous revenge against the European Vampires who tortured and abused her.  This story is paired with King's story, a western about Skinner Sweet, the original American Vampire - a stronger, faster creature than any vampire ever seen before with rattlesnake fangs and powered by the sun.

I'm not a big fan of Stephen King, but love Snyder's work and a friend recommended that I try this one out.  As luck would have it the library had it just sitting there the other day so I picked it up and cracked it open.

I really enjoyed the story, especially Pearl's vengeance driven story line.  I wasn't as fond of the old west story (and not because that was King's part), but I'm just not a big fan of westerns although I did find it entertaining nonetheless.  I'm not sure that I liked the whole thing enough to continue to read through the series (is there more?), but I did enjoy this volume.

the kite runner

the kite runner
khaled hosseini
published 2002

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed.  It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption: and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons - their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

This is one of those books that I generally steer away from.  Books I label 'socially conscious' books.  I don't even think that's a real term, but it's always what I think of when books like this.  To me it means that this book is about something we should know about.  Like reading about current events.  Or, books Oprah raves about.  If Oprah is raving about a book I know I probably don't want to read that book.  Oprah and I do not have the same taste in books.

But at a book club meeting with women I love and respect they all unanimously voiced their love of The Kite Runner and one mentioned it was a great audiobook listen because then you weren't stumbling on the unfamiliar words and names.  I like to listen to books when read by the authors also, and this one was.  I was also made more curious after I discovered that Khaled Hosseini grew up in my hometown after moving to the States and even graduated from the other high school in our district.  So I set aside my prejudices about socially conscious books and checked out the audiobook from the library to listen to while I crocheted.

I did not love it.

I don't even understand why people like this book.  The main character, Amir is one of the most irredeemable, disgusting protagonists I've ever had the displeasure of reading about.  I was literally disgusted with him.  It made my stomach roll and at times I would exclaim in frustration because I just wanted him to shut up.  Are we supposed to learn to like him?  Have sympathy for him?  What is the point of creating a character so far removed from human decency?  I kept waiting for the moment when he would step up and atone for his past behaviors, but that didn't happen!  AND EVERYONE KEPT FORGIVING HIM!  He was treated as 'poor Amir' as if these things had happened TO him, when in fact he was the catalyst for ruining the lives of so many people who loved him.  And even in what should have been his great moment of redemption he once again proves to be a coward and useless.  When he should be a protector, he instead terrifies and then kneels idly while screaming instead of attempting to get help.  Waste.

The book dragged on for me with repetitive moments like when Assef is telling Sohrab to put down the slingshot.  It went like this:
"Put it down."  "No."  "Put it down."  "No."  "Put it down!"  "No."  "Put it down!"  "No!"  "Put it down!"  "No!"  "Put it down!"  "No!"
I almost went crazy in that moment.

Then there were the times when he would say something like:
"I have something important to tell you.  It will change your life.  It may be too late."  "What is it?!"  "Well, it may be too late."  "What do you mean?"  "I will tell you, but it may be too late.  Would you like a cigarette?"  "No, thank you."  "Let me ask you first, why do you want to know?"  "It's personal."  "But why do you want to know?"  "I have my reasons."  "But why?"  "It's personal."
Wasn't it painful reading that right now?  That's how I felt.  You may think I'm exaggerating, but I'm really not.

I was not surprised by anything.  Amir's actions and the repercussions of these actions were so obvious it was nearly unbearable.  Ugh.

But all was not terrible.  I loved reading about the Kabul in the 70's.  I loved getting that glimpse of  Afghan culture and traditions.  I enjoyed when Amir and Baba moved to the States and settled in the Bay Area reading about places I had been, like Lake Elizabeth and the Berryessa Flea Market, staples of my childhood.  I could clearly picture the stalls at the flea market and imagined Amir and his father maybe passing by my childhood home on their way back to Fremont.  I did love some of the characters, Hassan and Ali, of course, Baba, Soraya and her mother....but in the end it wasn't enough.

Friday, March 13, 2015

last winter we parted

last winter, we parted
fuminori nakamura
soho press
published 2014

A young writer arrives at a prison to interview a convict.  The writer has been commissioned to write a full account of the case, from the bizarre and grisly details of the crime to the nature of the man behind it.  The suspect, a world-renowned photographer named Kiharazaka, has a deeply unsettling portfolio - lurking beneath the surface of each photograph is an acutely obsessive fascination with his subject.

He stands accused of murdering two women - both burned alive - and will likely face the death penalty.  But something isn't quite right.  As the young writer probes further, his doubts about this man as a killer intensify, and he struggles to maintain his sense of reason and justice.  Is Kiharazaka truly guilty, or will he die to protect someone else?

This could have been a really good book.  It had a mystery, a possibly wrongly convicted man, a twisted romance, murder and insanity.  But there wasn't much to the book.  It was a very quick read and I think that's why I continued to read.  Not because it was hard to put down, but because it was so short I figured I might as well finish it.  I think I read it in a few hours.

The synopsis talks of this young writer and you would think that his character would keep the mystery going for you, but in truth I don't really know what that writer was doing.  And then all of a sudden he solves the mystery.  It's all rather abrupt.

I don't know.  I really liked the idea behind the book, but I felt the execution fell flat or maybe something was just lost in translation?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

all the bright places

all the bright places
jennifer niven
knopf publishing
published 2015

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself.  But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.  Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister's recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it's unclear who saves whom.  And when they pair up on a project to discover the "natural wonders" of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It's only with Violet that Finch can be himself - a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who's not such a freak after all.  And it's only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them.  But as Violet's world grows, Finch's begins to shrink.

There is not a lot I can say about this YA debut from Jennifer Niven.  It is a depressingly good representation of bipolar disorder and the feelings of being in love with someone who suffers from it.  Grief is a huge player in this book and while there are bright spots the book barrels towards the dark without apology.  I didn't cry, much because mostly I was frozen.  Tense and waiting to see what became of Violet and Finch.

One thing that really stuck with me in is how everyone in Finch's life (besides Violet) dismiss his behavior as 'that's just Finch'.  Part of this is a testament to how the few friends he has are kept at arm's length.  They don't know what's going on in his home life, they're not close with him.  Even as they disparage everyone around them in the end, they are not much different from the herd.  His sisters are both caretakers and dependent on him and it is in her love for her brother that Kate shoulders a lot of the responsibility.  Had she not fielded all the questions from school maybe things would be different?  But then you get to his parents.....his mother who is basically useless.  One of those people who only reacts when they feel like events are happening to them.  And his father, who plainly is just an asshole.

It is truly no wonder that Finch's mental health progresses as it does and it's heartbreaking to watch.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

green angel

green angel
alice hoffman
published 2003

Left on her own when her family dies in a terrible disaster, fifteen-year-old Green is haunted by loss and by the past.  Struggling to survive physically and emotionally in a place where nothing seems to grow and ashes are everywhere, Green retreats into the ruined realm of her garden.  But in destroying her feelings she also begins to destroy herself, erasing the girl she'd once been as she inks darkness into her skin.  It is only through a series of mysterious encounters that Green can relearn the lessons of love and begin to heal enough to tell her story.

I'm curious as to just how many young adults enjoyed this book because I don't think this was a book that would widely appeal to the young adult set.  It is lyrical and magical, but it is painfully slow and very, very thoughtful.  The book is a quick read, but I felt like the pacing was too drawn out.  Nothing happened, and yet everything happened.  There are no details, but it was almost as if this was a novella that takes place between two books in a series.  Like how Veronica Roth wrote short stories focusing on other characters between her Divergent books.  I was a lovely book, albeit sad, but it was a beautiful little story about forgiveness.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


keigo higashino
minotaur books
originally published 1996
translated to english 2014

Acclaimed bestselling novelist Kunihiko Hidaka is found brutally murdered in his home on the night before he was to leave Japan and relocate to Vancouver.  His body is found in his office, a locked room, within his locked house, buy his wife and his best friend, both of whom have solid alibis.  Or so it seems.

Malice is told from two different perspectives: Osamu Nonoguchi, the victim's best friend and Kiyochiro Kaga, the detective assigned to the case.  It's an interesting, if somewhat simple whodunit and I think that maybe some of the intricacies were lost in translation.  This one was a super quick read, I finished in a couple of hours and it thoroughly entertained me from start to finish.  If you're looking for a fun, quick read you will find it here.  I'd love to write a bit more about it, but the plot is so twisty I'd hate to give anything away.  What I did find coincidental and kind of funny is that middle school plays a big part in this plot and the last Japanese book I read, Confessions also focused a lot on middle school.  Weird.  Anyway, for a book that I picked up mostly because of the cover it was a good pick!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

gene luen yang

prime baby
first second
published 2010

animal crackers
slg publishing
published 2010

the eternal smile
with derek kirk kim
first second
published 2009


Prime Baby
Thaddeus doesn't his new sister (she's not that smart - and she gets all the attention).  He likes her even less when he discovers that she's an inter-dimensional conduit for peace-loving aliens (who are totally lame - all they want to do is knit socks for the homeless and have sing-a-longs!).  But what's even worse is that no one will believe him about any of this! How is he ever going to manage to grow up to become the President of Earth?

Animal Crackers
Two stories of two very different young people who encounter the extraordinary while living their ordinary lives.  In Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, a not-very-deep-thinking high school student has his life as a bully disrupted when a tiny alien aircraft lodges in his nostril and he must make an ally of his former prime bullying target.  And in Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order, a bright, ambitious girl must question her surety in her intellect when a junk-food-fueled dream encounter with a powerful alien being forces her to ask if it's better to be smart than virtuous.

The Eternal Smile
Meet Duncan.  Charming and brave, he's the Princess's favorite - and he's on his way to winning the throne.  But lately, the walls of reality in Duncan's kingdom are wearing a little thin....  Meet Gran'pa Greenbax.  Nothing seems to satisfy this greedy old frog's longing for a pool full of gold - until, one day, a mysterious smile appears in the sky.  Has his chance at happiness come at last?  Meet Janet.  Her nine-to-five life takes a turn for the romantic when she learns in an email from a mysterious Nigerian prince that she has been chosen to liberate his family's vast fortune.  All he needs is her banking information.

If there is anything that all of these stories had in common it's that there is a deeper meaning in most of them that maybe you just don't see coming.  Animal Crackers was a little more meaningful, or serious than I expected.  And Janet's story in Eternal Smile was so sadly poignant.  The artwork though was gorgeous.  The African scenes were my favorite in all three books.  Out of the three, The Eternal Smile was my favorite.  The line between fantasy and reality and what world you must live in were very central here.  All three characters struck a chord in me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

zita the spacegirl & legends of zita the spacegirl

zita the spacegirl
legends of zita the spacegirl
first second
published 2010-2012

Zita's life took a cosmic left turn in the blink of an eye.

When her best friend is abducted by an alien doomsday cult, Zita leaps to the rescue and finds herself a stranger on a strange planet.  Humanoid chickens and neurotic robots are shocking enough as new experiences go, but Zita is even more surprised to find herself taking on the role of intergalactic hero.  Before long, aliens in all shapes and sizes don't even phase her.  Neither do ancient prophecies, doomed planets, or even a friendly con man who takes a mysterious interest in Zita's quest.

This is a cute adventure series that is loads of fun to read, but not much appeal for adult readers except for the just the sheer fun of it.  I love the creatures (Zita's spaceship is probably my favorite) and the expressions Zita makes at times.  This is the perfect series for Emma who loved Cleopatra In Space!

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