Welcome to my bookshelf

I am a voracious reader who is constantly found with her nose in a good (although sometimes not so good) book. I felt the need to share my experiences and suggestions, so here it is. Recommendations and comments are most definitely desired.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pairing Up

Currently Reading: Matched

Pg 249: "They have perfected the art of giving us just enough freedom; just enough that when we are ready to snap, a little bone is offered and we roll over, belly up, comfortable and placated like a dog..."

Science fiction at its best.  A possible near future that is all too plausible with the way we are headed both politically and scientifically.  The premise of this book is that each person, due to personality and genetics, is sorted into certain groups and relationships by the all powerful, all knowing government.  They look at your data, make predictions, and basically tell you everything about your life from how many calories you consume, how much you are allowed to exercise, who you will mate with for life, and even when you will die.  The story starts with the "Matching Ceremony: of the main character, Cassia.  Her match ends up being one of her close friends, which is a rare occurrence.  At first, this is a good thing, but once Cassia begins hanging out with an aberration, someone who does not fit the qualifications for a normal person due to genetics and whatnot.  He opens her eyes to life outside the main citizenry, teaching her to write (a lost art) and encouraging her to think and feel for herself.  The Observers note her distraction and the changes in her typical patterns and take action to stop her.  At the moment, she and her family are now "exiled" to the farmlands and I am anxiously awaiting the next book so I can find out what happens to her next.

What is the scariest thing about this novel is that it is so possible.  I chose the above quote to include because it reminds me about what is happening in our own political scene right now.  Women are losing more and more of the freedoms we have fought for and shed blood over for years.  Our reproductive rights are being taken over by the government as well as who we can marry and "mate" with.  And that last one is for guys too.  How long will we let this go on?  Are tax breaks for the elite and increased defense budgets worth the cost?  I think not.  This theme is also popping up in another series I am working though in the use of genetic engineering to enhance and perfect people.  I want a blue eyed, engineering major as my son.  Place the order and you are set to go.  While I am all for the advancements of science, what I have a problem with is the fact that we are not going to be allowed to have the freedom of choice when it comes to its uses.  Well genetically you should mate with this guy since neither of you have the carriers for this disease.  Let's just breed out type X people.  Where does it stop?  Where does it start?  I know that a lot of this seems contradictory, but shouldn't you be able to decide whether or not you want to do something with your own body and not have to listen to what someone else tells you.  I fear that if we continue to support, what are often, tea party ideals, we will become a homogenous group of white dummies.  Of course all the easier to string along, something that the leaders amongst this group want.  I'm sorry, but I do not want those pompous men deciding what type of person is good and what type of person does not deserve to live.  To throw the argument back to them, doesn't God care about all of us?  All the more reason I am skeptical about that ever present excuse for bad, inhumane behavior.  Bah!  Now I'm just mad.

Oh wait!  I forgot!  The right to bare arms is totally worth the loss of the rest of my individual freedoms!   (That was sarcastic.)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Flaws of Saints

Currently Reading: Stormy Weather

Yet another Carl Hiaasen where crazy situations and even crazier characters are abound.  We are yet again brought to the Florida landscape, meeting up with Skink, Jim Tile and Brenda Rourke, as well as even the Lambs for a bit.  Always entertaining, but ever predictable in its unpredictability, Stormy Weather provides a brief respite from the sorrows and tribulations of many of my most recent reads.

So sorrow and tribulation bring me to the previous novel I undertook, Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany.  I recently found my promise chip from meetings of yore.  Now I was not in AA, but another anonymous group, but the principles and rules were the same, not that I was ever able to earn a milestone chip.  This one is given to those who want it at any time as a reminder to take things one day at a time.  The alternate side has the Serenity Prayer on it.  You know, the one that reminds you to accept the things you cannot change and all that.  What this has to do with the book is that just after finding the coin, I found myself immersed in the world of an alcoholic mother going through her own recovery process.  The meetings played a sizable, although not major, part in her tale of discovery and hope.  This thoughtful novel brought to light ideas such as imperfection, acceptance, and motherhood.  While I cannot say that I have personal experience with this disease per say, I did feel a connection with the main character, Candence.  She struggled with her demons much in the same way that I struggle with my own.  Of course I shouldn't use the past tense for her either because no one can ever truly be cured from such an addiction.  I think that it is ingrained in our DNA.  Sure you can stop or control your cravings, the deep-seeded thoughts never really leave.

Candence is a lamentable character in that she is a mother, someone who is often put on a pedestal.  We expect more of our mothers that we do of anyone else in the world.  We forgive faults in doctors, police officers, teachers (although that is arguable), children, and most notably, fathers.  However, our ability to forgive even minor sins seems to fly out the window when thinking of the female parent.  Why is this?  How hard it must be to be a mother.  It makes me think of all the horrible things I have said and done to my own mother.  A woman with faults seems to be almost a better mother.  What better way to learn forgiveness than to have it given to you yourself.  I hope that Candence, fictional though she is, finally finds peace and I know that I will think harder about how I treat my own mother, a woman I am so lucky to have in my life.  She is someone who forgave and supported me through the worst of times when even that little coin couldn't help stave off my inner demons.  So thank you momma.  Even if I don't show it all the time, I love you.

Now all of you need to go off and hug your mother too.  No matter what she did, she brought you to the world and without her, you wouldn't be in a position to judge in the first place.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Unique "Needs"

Currently Reading: Compulsion

Pg 98: "I'm always trying to make up for things I do wrong, chasing time, fixing the past."

Pg 115: "If I can't do the things in the right order, everything else gets stuck, in that place between the inside and outside door, a limbo-land where nothing ever happens."

Pg 131: "Just have to make it through the routine.  Go through the steps."

I know.  A lot of quotes, but I swear, I hear the exact same thoughts running through my head each and every day.  Ridiculous so it seems, but not so much to those of us who suffer from, in any degree, obsessive compulsion disorder.  While I do not have it nearly as bad as Jake, I could still relate uncomfortably well to his tale.  People look at you funny when you are lining up the french fries left on your plate or folding a napkin into the tiniest square you can imagine.  Why do you wait until a certain time to do something?  Why do you like to eat your Skittles in groups of five in a certain color order?  Because you have to, that's why.  That compulsion is so strong that you can't say no and when you are forced to (always because of something outside your control), your entire day is ruined, not to mention everyone else's days too since you are moody and, quite frankly, angry that they took this away from you.  Sigh...

Jake is a great character to follow around.  He doesn't try to make you feel sorry for him, but rather just states things like they are.  He has to do it.  Jake is a very likable boy, looking out for his little sister and picking up the slack from his mom's lack of wellness, and you so want to scream, "Just let him have this one thing!!"  Of course not everyone can understand and would probably get frustrated with him.  It makes me wonder how I would have felt if I couldn't relate to Jake's issues.  What if I was a normal person reading this book?  That leads to the whole idea of audience.  Authors have to write with someone in mind as they create their works, but there is no guarantee that the person who picks up your novel will be exactly who you envisioned.  The story takes on a whole new meaning depending on the reader.  It's cool and another of the things that makes reading far superior to movies.  With less spelled out for you, you have more options and can make the story your own. 

Alright, it is time to move on as the clock is ticking and the allotted blogging time is up!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Series of Short Synopses

Currently Reading: Compulsion

Compulsion was recommended to me by the school librarian, unbeknownst to her that I too suffer the same affliction as the main character, although at a much lower level.  He has OCD and is trying to simply survive in high school.  I can speak from experience that it is hard for other people to understand your compulsions and can't imagine having it to the degree that Jack does, particularly not as a student in high school, where they aren't forgiving to any quirk or peculiarity.  I have just started and am eager to read more.

As I promised, this will be a rundown of the past three books that I have read.  I will start in chronological order with Sisters.  This mystery was quite a page turning and had the reader guessing until the end.  I do like those game changers that authors like to throw in just to keep things interesting, but there has to be a limit at some point.  The who-done-it part was fine by me, but then the author does something else to you for a page or two and I got miffed.  One thing I wanted to note in relationship to this book is how important a cover is these days.  I must admit that after seeing the cover on the paperback edition, I did not want to read this book.  It looked like some sappy Nicholas Sparks thing with damsels in distress and all that.  Of course after reading the book, it was mot certainly not the case.  I know that we are not supposed to "judge a book by its cover", but in these days of low attention spans and the need for explosions to catch anyone's eye, I think that publishers ought to be even more mindful of their packaging choice.  Especially considering how few people actually buy physical books these days anyways.  Think "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo".  Everybody wanted to read that stuff and they looked so cool!  Imagine what sales would have looked like (even with the hype) if they had a picture of dreary Stockholm on it or something.

Book number two, Tuesday Night Miracles.  I loved this book and I am not entirely sure what it was about the story or characters as I had very little in common with them or their circumstances.  An almost retired psychologist decides to run her last anger management class by using a unique, never tried before method.  There are four "students" in the class, all of whom are women.  Dr. Bayer thinks completely outside the box, giving each woman unique assignments, allowing everyone to seek and find what it is they personally need.  The four women cannot be more different from each other or even Dr. Bayer.  In the end, only one relapses and all four eventually become friends.  While it is not a sappy happy ending where they are all bosom buddies,  it is more of coming to appreciate what each brings to the table.  I guess I enjoyed following each woman through her emotional journey as well as picking up little tips and tricks of my own for not necessarily stopping anger, but really emotional well being overall.  As you have probably guessed from the description, this one is told from everyone's perspective, a chapter at a time.  (I am a sucker for this type of book!)

Last, I really just want to talk about The Kingdom of Strange to share a couple of quotes.  This is a young adult novel about a girl who wants to be a writer and how she goes about finding her audience as part of a school assignment.  Cool, but nothing to write home about.  These stood out for me though:

Pg 77: "The more people I meet, the more I like my books."  Oh so similar to my own feelings!!

Pg 168: "I think I prefer reading books to reading online.  Library books smell so much better."  Another quote that could have been straight from my own lips!!

So now that you are inundated with information on possible pleasurable tomes, go forth and read!!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tears of the Incredulous

Currently Reading: The Isle of Blood

I haven't been too good about posting lately, eh?  The funny thing is that I have so much to talk about!!  This is the last monstrumologist book and while I am thoroughly enjoying it (of course), I wanted to finish up my discussion of the Templetons as well as mention another I have read in the meantime.

So At Home with the Templetons took be through so many twists and turns that I was dizzy by the end of it!  After my last post, the story quickly moved on to more modern times through the technique of using letters and emails to speed things along.  The Templetons left Nina to take care of the home while they headed back to England for what was supposed to be a month or two long trip.  Needless too say, Nina ended up being the sole person at the Templeton Estate for many, many years.  Her son, Tom, eventually grew up while attending academies and the like focusing on cricket, his sport of choice.  Eventually Tom and Gracie hook up later in London and much, much drama ensues.  There is misdirection and treachery afoot!  Most of which comes from Nina and Mr. Templeton himself.  As I mentioned previously, the twists and turns that this novel takes kept me engaged and eagerly awaiting the finale.  The foreshadowing moment at the beginning of the book did not actually take place at the end of the timeline, but rather a decade before we finally leave the Templetons and their neighbors.  Still, I enjoyed all the various literary techniques that Monica McInerney employed and will seek out more by her in the future.  One note is that most of the twists were due to horrible things, rather than good.  Things end up OK, but much there is also much heartbreak.

Now the second book I want to discuss is the exact opposite.  My Most Excellent Year is told from the perspective of three high school freshman relating their best year as part of an English assignment.  I liked the multiple perspectives as well as the fact that some of the thoughts and actions of the three, in addition to some of the side players, were relayed through emails, instant messages and even newspaper articles.  All that being said, this book was so far from real life that I was about to gag at the end.  OK.  I work with freshmen myself and can wholeheartedly attest to the fact that they never talk like this, are far less open minded, and all those selfless acts?  Forget about them.  If someone wanted a brief foray into the magical and rose-colored world of the deluded, this is the book for them.  If you want a teenager to read a book that they could relate to and find any connection to their own life, well, seek other sources.  (AKA The Monstrumologist!!)  That last bit was a joke.

So now you are all caught up on the interesting stuff that has been read this week.  Of course there were a couple others as well, but nothing worth writing home about.  Now back to the bloody island!

If you are interested in reading along, my next book will be Sisters by Rosamund Lupton.  It is the pick for my upcoming book club meeting.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

G'Day Mate

Currently Reading: At Home with the Templetons

Pg 11: "Fail to prepare; prepare to fail."

No more young adult books for a bit, but rather a book about some young adults (of kids, I guess).  The winter break is almost over and while I am looking forward to testing all of my new ideas, I have also become far too enamored with the routine I've been able to follow over the past few weeks.  Alas and alack, I guess the bills do need to get paid.  I am also very excited about some of my own preparations that have been in the works over the past month or so.  I cannot fail!!

Now onto the actual book.  It is humorous not in the actual content, but in the situation that is presented.  A British family has inherited a manor house in Australia and have traveled there to run it as a historical site.  The father is the one who is most excited about this idea.  He rehabs the entire property and puts his family to work running tours and proliferating the story.  The funny part comes from the fact that Mr. Templeton so believes his own hype and has delusions of grandeur.  The house is serviced by family members themselves, often finding their knees to the floorboards scrubbing and the hands busy polishing the silver.  Needless to say, the Templeton home is not producing fantastic amounts of money.  The youngest of the four Templeton children is a young boy who is a bit too rambunctious for his parents liking.  At this point, they have "hired" the son of their reluctant neighbor, Nina, to keep young Spencer occupied and out of trouble.  Nina and Tom, her son, have their own back story which also plays a part in the characters' decisions and actions.  I am interested to see how it all comes out in the end.  I am a mere third or so of the way in at the moment.

The book starts with a typical "in the future" scene involving Tom and the precocious Templeton daughter Gracie.  This is a tried and true method of story telling, but I must admit that I am falling for it completely.  I continue page by page seeking a hint to what I sort of know comes to past.  The prologue is short on details and the reader is left to create their own event to anticipate.  Will there have been more death?  Will it have been love?  What called Gracie back after all these years and why did Tom decide to stay?  Hmmm...  much more reading will need to happen before any of these questions can be answered.

I am also intrigued to discover what part the drunken aunt in the attic will play in the tale.  There's always got to be a crazy aunt to keep things interesting ;)