Monday, April 29, 2013

The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden, #2)The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

My thoughts: I feel the need to justify less than four stars. Kagawa is an entertaining and well versed author. She creates worlds with her words. She created a rather terrifying world with IMMORTAL RULES. One filled with vampires who had their own heirarchy, humans who were either registered blood bags and promised relative safety and food, or unregistereds who fended for themselves and Rabies who are a breed of vamps gone very, very wrong.

Allies was Unregistered and urged her gang to go outside the safety of the walls when they were attacked by Rabies. Everybody died except Stick, who reprises his role this time around. Allison was mostly dead when Kanin, a Master vamp offered immortality. She took it and became a vampire. He taught her how go be a monster she could accept by not preying on innocent blood. She joined a ragtag group of settlers looking for Eden, a vampireless oasis. She passed as human and formed attachments. Especially with Zeke.

Round 2. Allies can't stay in Eden. She's a vampire. Unrequited love be darned. Her master vamp is calling to her. He's being tortured by psychotic vamp, Saren. She follows the pull. She meets up with some of the old characters. One that gave a great deal of comic relief and an unlikely alliance. Another that leads to a punch packed ending and cliff hanger. I'll definitely read the next one because I love, LOVE the characters. I liked the storyline. It was just so slow getting there. Allies plods and plods along. She ruminates about her rocks and hard places.

That is what took away some of the enjoyment. Still good book.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Chick-fil-A Leadercast Coming May 10, 2013

What is Chick-fil-A Leadercast
Chick-fil-A Leadercast is a one-day leadership event broadcast LIVE from Atlanta, GA to hundreds of locations around the world on May 10, 2013. Strengthen your leadership by simplifying your life. SIMPLY LEAD.

Full. Our lives are full of things that we think will grow our businesses and increase our influence. We are busy - and that may, unknowingly, be holding us back.  What if there was potential impact in simplifying our lives so our leadership could thrive? Leading in a complex world requires simplicity to cut through the clutter. Saying NO to what may seem good could help increase your capacity to live your life to the fullest. Join us at Chick-fil-A Leadercast as we learn to Simply Lead.

•    What’s Your Leadership Style Quiz! Everyone is born with the power to influence and although it may not always feel like it - we are ALL LEADERS in our own way! The question is... what type of leader are you? 

•    7 Tips to Lead Simply! Simplicity enables leaders to cut through the clutter and make the best decisions possible. Read these 7 tips to simplify your life... and remember, it’s the decisions you make that define the leader you become!
•    Find a Location! Chick-fil-A Leadercast will be broadcasted to hundreds of locations around the world! Enter your zip code to find a broadcast location near you - or join us at the LIVE site in Atlanta May 10, 2013! 
•    Get Social! Tweet with the #CFALeadercast hashtag to get your audience excited about Chick-fil-A Leadercast 2013!

Between you and me, John Maxwell (one of the presenters and a KEYNOTE with all caps) is one of my favorite inspirational business people. I know there's a real word for it but I'm just too lazy to look it up. He lives the way he leads. He's the real deal. I would LOVE to see go to this broadcast. Live. I can't but I am having a good time figuring out what kind of leader I am and 7 tips to simplify. Maybe I'll even find a location.

Check it out. Doubt you'll be disappointed.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Game by Barry Lyga

Game (Jasper Dent, #2)Game by Barry Lyga
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads: I Hunt Killers introduced the world to Jasper (Jazz) Dent, the son of the world's most infamous serial killer.

When a desperate New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz's door asking for help with a new case, Jazz can't say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple--and its police force running scared with no leads. So Jazz and his girlfriend Connie hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer's murderous game.

Meanwhile, Jazz's dad Billy is watching...and waiting.

My thoughts: I will preface this review by telling you that I didn't read the first book in this series, I Hunt Serial Killers. That said, I did not find this book to be confusing or feel like I walked into the middle of a story. Through the narrative of this book, I quickly ascertained that Jazz, the protagonist, is the son of a legendary serial killer, Billy Dent. Jazz struggles with nature/nurture and the possibility vs. probability he will also become a serial killer. It also becomes apparent that Billy trained Jazz to become like dear old dad thus Jazz had a weird childhood.

I had a difficult time feeling myself invested in the story. I think that had I read the first book, this wouldn't be an issue. Either I liked the first book and couldn't wait for the second book or I hated the first book and wouldn't pick up the second book. Macabre that it would seem to be, the book is good and the author's use of the language is outstanding. I was just slow to engage.

I like Jazz. I feel for his struggles of wanting to be different from his horrific father yet feeling the tug of his childhood training. Don't get me wrong. Jazz is not a serial killer but he thinks like a serial killer and that both terrifies him and empowers him. It is also incredibly convenient when a serial killer loose in New York City.

It is gruesome yet not on a visceral level. Odd as it is, the reader can see the crime scenes in an objective and technical way like Jazz does. He can take the crime scene apart and see the inconsistencies. I figured out the "game" before Jazz did and a I predicted why Billy was in New York. That makes me feel a little bit haughty, I admit. But there is much, much more to the story than the "Game" and Billy's reason for New York. Much, much more.

Loved Howie to tears. Oh, he is the comic relief that the book could not live without. Connie - I could take or leave. Gramma is a nut job. Still trying to figure her out but her scenes were awfully funny, regardless.

The one spoiler I will give is that the book has no ending. I will read the next book. I am invested in the story now but I did not appreciate the soap opera ending of no ending. It is worse than a soap opera. All our favorite characters are in a perilous situation and the story is

Yeah. Just like that.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer

Nowhere But HomeNowhere But Home by Liza Palmer
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: A brilliant, hilarious, and touching story with a Texas twist from Liza Palmer, author of Conversations With The Fat Girl (optioned for HBO)

Queenie Wake, a country girl from North Star, Texas, has just been fired from her job as a chef for not allowing a customer to use ketchup. Again. Now the only place she has to go is home to North Star. She can hope, maybe things will be different. Maybe her family's reputation as those Wake women will have been forgotten. It's been years since her mother-notorious for stealing your man, your car, and your rent money-was killed. And her sister, who as a teenager was branded as a gold-digging harlot after having a baby with local golden boy Wes McKay, is now the mother of the captain of the high school football team. It can't be that bad…

Who knew that people in small town Texas had such long memories? And of course Queenie wishes that her memory were a little spottier when feelings for her high school love, Everett Coburn, resurface. He broke her heart and made her leave town-can she risk her heart again?

At least she has a new job-sure it's cooking last meals for death row inmates but at least they don't complain!

But when secrets from the past emerge, will Queenie be able to stick by her family or will she leave home again? A fun-filled, touching story of food, football, and fooling around.

My thoughts: I liked this book quite a bit more than the first book I read by this author. I liked the relationship between Queenie and her sister, Merry Carol. I enjoyed the quips between two that understand each other regardless of the fact they haven't seen much of each other for the past few years. I didn't find that unbelievable. Sisters and very old friends are like that. I liked the relationship between Queenie and her nephew and between her nephew and his blood half brother. I didn't care much for the "romance" between Queenie and her one true love. It just didn't work for me.

The story is about making peace and coming full circle. There is a scene in the book that I will admit that I teared up over. I won't tell you anything about it but it's what pushed this book to a level that would have given it 4 stars. Small towns are clique-y but I really, really hope they are not THAT clique-y at grown up age. I would really hope that, despite appearances to be maintained, a grown man or woman would have enough on his or her plate with raising children and stresses at jobs along with any kind of marital strife that the cliques would diminish at least to some degree.

I'd recommend the book for a good story overall with low expectations of romance but abundant closure.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Taken by Erin Bowman

Taken (Taken, #1)Taken by Erin Bowman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?

My thoughts: What I liked about the book is that it is written from a guy's point of view but written by a woman. This eliminated most of the angsty self talk that irritates me so much. There was some reflection but it was necessary since Gray makes decisions that irk me. I'll be honest right up front. I liked Gray in the first part of the book but he was definitely less beloved by the end.

The story itself is fairly good being post apocalyptic, slash dystopian. It had the dictator with too much power and the rebel forces on the outside. There are still a lot of ways the next books can go and I am anxious to see where they lead.

Honestly, I felt a lot more pull to the story before the love triangle formed and, more importantly, Gray being a jerk. Although there was a lot going on and many possibilities, I would have rated it higher before I got to that point. It left a little sour taste in my mouth. He better compensate for being a jerk in the next book.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Out with It by Katherine Preston

Out with ItOut with It by Katherine Preston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description: A fresh, engaging account of a young woman’s journey, first to find a cure for a lifelong struggle with stuttering, and ultimately to embrace the voice that has defined her character.

Imagine this: you’re a beautiful, blonde, stylish, highly intelligent, gregarious young woman—curious about the world with a lot to say about it. But every time you open your mouth, a stutter comes out. In order to do something as simple as say your name, you must physically force the word. Which doesn’t always look so pretty.

At the age of seven, Katherine Preston learned that she was a stutterer. From that point on she battled the fear of communicating with the world by denying that her speech was an issue. Finally, a humiliating experience inspired her to take an unusual action. In Out With It she tells the hilariously heartbreaking yet ultimately uplifting story of her year spent traveling around the United States to interview more than 100 stutterers, speech therapists, and researchers. What begins as a search for a cure becomes a journey that debunks the misconceptions that shroud the condition and a love story that changes her perspective on normality.

Out With It offers a fresh perspective on our obsession with physical perfection and an exploration of what our voice, and our vulnerabilities, means to each of us. It sheds light on an ancient condition that afflicts approximately 4 million in the U.S. and 60 million people worldwide. In addition to experts, Katherine interviewed writers, actresses, musicians, social workers, psychologists, farmers, and financiers—men and women of all walks of life who were working to overcome their speech problems. Combining memoir and investigative journalism, Out With It is an incredibly compelling, informative and heartwarming memoir about understanding and embracing one’s self and the voice within.

My thoughts: First of all, I hated this book. Second of all, I loved this book. I am also simultaneously relieved yet furious that Katherine didn't track me down. It's not like I'm anonymous by any means.

What Katherine provides is an eloquent yet painful reminder of my deepest, darkest fears and insecurities. As a female stutterer, I quickly discovered that my very existence was a huge anomaly. I did not meet another female stutterer until well into adulthood. Like Katherine, I suffered alone and learned to quickly read faces and responses to my stuttering. I have avoided giving my name, given a wrong name, and looked at the telephone with loathing and longing. I spent hours on my knees praying and crying that God would take away the horrible blemish of my existence. Like Katherine, I knew that if I could only be cured, nothing could stop me from becoming this amazing human being.

Now imagine sitting in a high school class and watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Fully aware of the sideways glances from classmates as the character in the movie that stuttered, blocked, stammered, and ticked his way through his lines. I knew that I was being equated to an insecure, intellectually and sanity challenged young man who eventually committed suicide. Yay.

Like Katherine, I have wonderful and supportive parents who wanted to help me find a cure. Problematic in that scenario is that it indicates that I am sick and/or broken. At great expense and sacrifice, I was driven to speech therapy for years, flown to Houston to have neurological tests conducted along with assessments of my intellectual abilities yet my gratitude was the same as Katherine's. I seethed without having an appropriate object to despise.

By the way, thank you, Mom and Dad!

Katherine did forget to mention a contraption from her very island, the Edinburgh Masker which the stutterer fastens onto her neck (scarves were not popular) while the vibration set off a mechanical signal to the earpiece inside the ear canal and "masked" the stutterer's voice. This stunned this adolescent stuttering girl into fluency I couldn't hear yet quickly understood I was speaking in monotone. Picture a pretty blonde teenager across the room. She is attractive and has an open expression in her eyes, big smile and no braces. Now add a weird choker on her neck with wires going downward into a box contraption and wires reaching up (mostly hidden under her shirt, and yet) still visible under her hair and attaching to pseudo-hearing aides. That would be me. Foxy, indeed.

Honestly, although the author and I are two decades apart in age, lived on different continents, she described my childhood (sans my brutal siblings) and therapy in perfect and painful detail. I had a visceral reaction to the words "Delayed Auditory Feedback." I think I threw up just a little bit inside my mouth both when I read the phrase and just now as I typed it. I could write a memoir about my life as a stutterer and the irony is not lost on me. My gift as a lay writer is a direct result of being verbally tongue tied. This is where the author and I diverge then converge.

Katherine is 27 years old as she writes this book. She ran right up to her stutter, teased it, and embraced it. She looked under it, over it, and even into it. Okay, that last part, I did, too, spending all of one year at a university studying communication disorders in an effort to make a career in speech pathology. I decided I didn't love it enough to make it a career. At the age of 27, I was still running from identifying myself with my stuttering. I was trying to prove I was worthwhile in spite of it. Katherine wisely embraced her insecurities and speech imperfection and discovered how it defined her as the exceptional woman she is today. I would love to talk to her and have her explain to me how she found the courage to not only absolve herself of her old life in a different country but to spend a year looking closely at herself and others who stutter. She interviewed hundreds of stutters, researchers, therapists, and significant others. She identified herself with others who stutter. Only a stutterer in denial (like myself) can truly appreciate the enormity and beauty of this endeavor.

Katherine and I converge again at the end, although her realizations and self understanding come much earlier than my own. We are a minority in a minority. We are women who did not outgrow stuttering. We traded our psychological baggage for accomplishments to pin at the end of our names. Aside from The King's Speech, stuttering has been historically and unfairly linked to being emotionally disturbed and stupid. What we both desire is for greater understanding that stuttering is a neurological and physiological issue. Telling us to slow down, calm down, or asking us if we forgot our name does not help. At all.

Non sequitur tangent: Why do people ask that? Again, when Katherine brought that one up in the book, I felt my own ire, particularly after realizing someone asked me the very day I read this book. Although Katherine is more forgiving and understanding of this phrase and listeners' behavior, I will admit my own frailties. I have been known to bluntly state to a habitual sentence-finisher that I REALLY hate being interrupted. Please stop. Now.

But then I started thinking how I don't understand WHY anybody would ask the question, "Did you forget your name?" As a social experiment, I am going to respond to the next person that says this with a shocked look and, "Oh my gosh! I did!" Then I'll just stare at the interrupter in silence, with wide, surprised eyes.

What Katherine eloquently phrases is that she, like a large percentage of stutters, is driven to succeed. I believed my success in academia and then in psychology was to spite my stutter. It was years later that I realized that because of my stuttering, I became more focused on helping people. I became more empathetic and naturally gravitated toward educational psychology. I listen more carefully. My words are weightier because they cost me more. Because I stutter, I love words more than if I didn't stutter. I love to read words, write words, think words. I love to hear myself say words. I don't love to hear myself stutter the words but that is the way I am hardwired.

As Katherine discovered and I can whole heartedly echo, fluency is possible but it comes at a price. We can trade our stutters for a new strange and unnatural way of speaking (she describes it and I ached and laughed since I'd never had the opportunity to talk to another person who stutters and employed the techniques), but the biggest cost of fluency is giving up our hard-earned determination and accomplishments. We would have to give up the essence of who we are.

Highly recommend this book. Love, love, loved it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Melton

Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life UnarmedCarry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Melton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

About the Book: In Carry On, Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton shares new stories and the best-loved material from She recounts her mistakes and triumphs with candor and humor, and gives language to our universal (yet often secret) experiences. She believes that by shedding our armor, we can stop hiding, competing, striving for the mirage of perfection, and making motherhood, marriage, and friendship harder by pretending they’re not hard. In this one woman trying to love herself and others, readers find a wise and witty friend who will inspire them to forgive their own imperfections, make the most of their gifts, and commit to small acts of love that will change the world.

My thoughts: I'd never heard of Glennon Doyle Melton. I can't believe I haven't been reading Momastary. Glennon is the blogger I daren't be. She lives out loud and without apology. She has confidence in the person she is and the direction is going for the simple reason that she is solid in her faith in God and His Love for her. Before you tune out thinking this is another religious book, let me clarify. Many of her ideas on God resonate with me loud and clear. Some don't but it doesn't matter. What connects the loudest and clearest will connect with any person that believes in a Higher Power, regardless of religion or spiritual persuasion. Except atheist, I suppose. Agnostics will be filled with hope.

Glennon is FUNNY! I mean, truly funny. She also brought me to my own epiphany when I looked her up and listened to an interview and researched her obsessively and Aaaawed all over her family and sighed all over her husband and cried all over her separation. If Glennon reads this review, I am certain she will understand my stalker like behavior. Glennon is an incredibly gifted writer who can not only articulate thoughts and feelings and experiences beautifully, but she has the courage to dig out the core truths of them all and write them. When I read her essays, she had a southern accent and she talked fast and with focus. Then I listened to an interview and realized she is not an outgoing, public speaker. I mean no disrespect because I get that. I really, really get that. I realized that I am not alone in my gift of writing and lack of gift of speaking. In fact, I'm an utter failure when public speaking. I'm okay with that but it disappoints me to disappoint others. On the other hand, there is Glennon, carrying on, giving her all, and stepping right up to her fear and sticking out her tongue at it.

I love that.

With perfect and focused honesty, Glennon shares her short road to sobriety (taking a pregnancy test), making a decision to choose every day to stay sober, raise her family, and live out loud. And don't even get me started on the essay she wrote one August when she made the decision that she was finished parenting her children until something significant differentiated one day from the other and when was school going to start again. I laughed and laughed. Because this woman is a mother who loves her children, her family, and the idea of being a mother and a wife. She is also a woman who tells the truth about the reality of daily living as a wife and mother. I have raged my own diatribes about well-meaning women who catch me in the grocery store with four children hanging off a basket while I'm trying to keep it from tipping over, wrestling a package of Oreos from another child before it gets opened only to realize that that isn't my child and that nice old lady smiles nostalgically and says, "Enjoy them while their young." I bite my tongue from telling the old lady to enjoy her ambulatory way of life while she can because death is creeping up on her. Because that would be rude and I'm nothing if not a pillar of politeness.

There is so much more to say. Just read it. Love it. Love yourself and accept that you are perfect just the way you are.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

The StorytellerThe Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: Sage Singer befriends an old man who's particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone's favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses…and then he confesses his darkest secret - he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage's grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.

What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who's committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren't the party who was wronged? And most of all - if Sage even considers his request - is it murder, or justice?

My thoughts: There are so many stories going on in this book, I don't know how Picoult kept the thread going but she did. It is only confusing if the reader is reading an ARC on an electronic device as the differentiation is difficult to ascertain.

The central part of the story is about Sage, a 25 year old recluse with a few (probable) minor scars on her face but deep scars on her emotional being. She carries the guilt and weight of her mistakes and, unknowingly, the weight of her ancestry. In a grief group she meets a very old man who has been a pillar of society. He is German and he befriends Sage and she him. He confides in her that he wants her help to die. He feels like he has suffered from his conscience and needs to be released. Nothing seems to kill him. Sage is horrified by his request so he adds some unsavory detail. He worked as an SS officer during WWII. Worse, he was in Auschwitz, the death camp. Sage contacts a government agency to figure out what to do. As an added part to the story, Sage is having an affair with a married man who is one she can never have. Because deep down she believes she is not worthy.

Eventually the reader discovers that Sage's grandmother is an Auschwitz survivor. She doesn't want to share her story. She wants it to die with her. Upon prodding, she does share and it is grueling and inhumane. Then there is a caveat that the reader might see coming. She has crossed paths with a particularly brutal SS officer.

The old man, in an effort to convince Sage he needs help to die, paints himself as a brutal SS officer. As you might guess, he admits to being one from Auschwitz that Minka knew of. Although this would seem to be a central part of the story, it really isn't. Sage battles with forgiveness for herself and for the man she knows as a monster according to his stories and her grandmother's. It is his lack of remorse that is compelling to me.

This is where Picoult really shines. The book is threaded throughout with a fairy tale that Minka pens that juxtaposes the experiences of Minka. The fairy tale is compelling to all who hear and read it which saves her from death in Auschwitz for the moment. The story is about two brothers who are both infected with the same condition. They are undead and feast upon the blood and gore of their victims. One has mastered self-control for the most part. The other has not. The question Minka and the others struggle over is good and evil. Can a person only be one?

I am reminded of the first time I saw Schindler's List and was struck by how unheroic Oskar Schindler was. He needed workers and chose to use Jews from a concentration camp. He didn't do it because he wanted to save them, at least not in the beginning. He simply used them and saw them as his society had taught him to see them - subhuman. It was through interaction with them that he grew to care about them. Although the movie ended with Schindler clearly being one of the "good" guys, this story is not as clear. Good people do bad things. Sometimes they do it for a higher purpose and sometimes they are simply misguided.

There are so many parts to this book I would love to divulge but they would probably end up being spoilers. In fact, I know they would. They would lead me to divulge more and more until I gave too much of the story away.

Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that I have a new admiration for Picoult and her ability to 1) use the English language. I loved the words she used although I tired of the word "tome." My issue, not hers. 2) The story is multi-layered yet interconnected. What seemingly doesn't connect, eventually fits completely.

I'd use it for a book group.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

The Statistical Probability of Love at First SightThe Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads: Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A. 

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

My take: Jennifer Smith cleverly addresses difficult life situations through Hadley's quick trip to England to (grudgingly) be part of her father's wedding. Hadley's parents split up when her father went to Oxford for a semester to teach poetry. He didn't come home. Instead, he fell in love with Charlotte. Hadley has not forgiven him for breaking up her family and impacting not only the relationship her parents had, but the relationship she had with each parent. Now her father is marrying a fellow Oxford professor, the woman Hadley plans on hating. Her mother has moved on and is dating someone else and claims it is better now. Hadley begs to differ.

So Hadley misses her airplane and is relegated to the next flight, cutting the time before the wedding to minutes. It is on the flight that she meets Oliver, a clever, witty Yale student from Paddington. Oliver hints that his relationship with his own father is also troubled but does not go into detail. But there's a commonality and a connection.

At first glance, it looks like a cute little love story. It is but it is also a book that addresses loss, grief, forgiveness, letting go and moving on. It also addresses the need for communication and negotiation. Hadley finds that, after the rage, she still loves her dad and is open to negotiating a new relationship with him and his new wife. This does not give away the ending. I know the real interest is what happens between Oliver and Hadley.

I'm not telling.
Passes the Mom-o-Meter with flying colors.
Dialogue and swearing: Mild to none
Sex: None
Violence: None

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge

Love Water MemoryLove Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: A bittersweet masterpiece filled with longing and hope, Jennie Shortridge’s emotional novel explores the raw, tender complexities of relationships and personal identity. Who is Lucie Walker? Even Lucie herself can’t answer that question after she comes to, confused and up to her knees in the chilly San Francisco Bay. Back home in Seattle, she adjusts to life with amnesia, growing unsettled by the clues she finds to the selfish, carefully guarded person she used to be. Will she ever fall in love with her handsome, kindhearted fiancĂ©, Grady? Can he devote himself to the vulnerable, easygoing Lucie 2.0, who is so unlike her controlling former self? When Lucie learns that Grady has been hiding some very painful secrets that could change the course of their relationship, she musters the courage to search for the shocking, long-repressed childhood memories that will finally set her free.

My thoughts: I am a fan of Lisa Genova. While Genova writes a moving story around neurology that is captivating and heart wrenching and warming, filling the reader with hope yet not false promises, Jennie Shortridge is Genova's psychological counterpart.

The story is about Lucie, who begins the story standing in the San Francisco Bay, on the verge of hypothermia but only up to her knees in water. Problem is that Lucie has all the street and living knowledge of 39 years but her personal slate has been wiped clean. She has muscle memory to drive, play the piano and her daily tasks but remembers absolutely nothing of herself or the man claiming to be her fiance and takes her home to a house she doesn't know.

The beauty of the novel is that there is no purposeful subterfuge. Lucie truly suffers from a condition in the DSM-IV under Disassociative Disorders called the Fugue. Lucie disassociated when her mind could not cope with a traumatic event.

I supposed the book would be like "Samantha Who" and was pleasantly surprised that it was not exactly. Lucie was different but that mystery is unraveled as her history is pieced together. Lucie devotes herself into understanding what happened the night she disappeared and what caused her to react that way.

The story does not feel contrived because the author stays true to both Grady and Lucie. Both suffered losses at tender ages and both dealt with the losses the best they knew how but then became stuck in their M.O. Even though Lucie's condition forces her to examine herself more closely, Grady finds himself doing the same in a more subtle manner.

It would have been easy to write a book with shallow characters who find the error of their ways and suddenly find complete clarity. Instead the author journeys through the process of healing, regressing, taking steps forward, etc. The journey is the story and the relationship is the glue. None of the characters are or were good or bad, wrong or right. They are humans dealing with the unknowns of life and, in particular, while carrying the burdens of their childhoods.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places by Mary Roach

My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest PlacesMy Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places by Mary Roach
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: A Hilarious Collection of Essays from one of America's Most Gifted Humorists!

Follow New York Times bestselling author Mary Roach -- but be careful not to trip -- as she weaves through personal anecdotes and everyday musings riddled with her uncanny wit and amazingly analytical eye. These essays, which found a well-deserved home within the pages of Reader's Digest as the column "My Planet," detail the inner workings of hypochondriacs, hoarders, and compulsive cheapskates. (Did we mention neurotic interior designers and professional list-makers?) For Roach, humor is hidden in the most unlikely places, which means that nothing is off limits. Whether she is dwelling on her age or talking about the pros and cons of a bedroom night light -- "A married couple can best be defined as a unit of people whose sleep habits are carefully engineered to keep each other awake" -- Roach finds a lesson, a slice of sarcasm, or a dash of something special that makes each day comical and absolutely priceless.

In keeping with our mission -- curating the best reads in the land -- Reader's Digest editors neatly packaged these timeless (and hilarious) Roach essays together for the first time. Whether you read this cover-to-cover or during spare moments over morning coffee, flip to a page in this volume and try not to smile.

My thoughts: I had mixed feelings while reading these essays by Mary Roach. First, I was incredibly amused. She is hilarious and honest yet clean. CLEAN. Did I mention hilarious? That's where the mixed feelings come in. Mary is funnier than I am. So I have to hate her just a little bit.

Still, her writing is so honest and real that I had to read snippets of it to my husband. So many of her essays were centered around her marriage and the differences between herself and her husband, Ed, who sadly resemble in many ways me and my husband. By "sadly," I really mean that it made it all the funnier to me and validated me as I assessed our hygiene gap.

Like any normal couple, we refused to accept each other's differences and did whatever we could to annoy the other person. He confessed he didn't like me using his bathrobe because I'd wear it while sitting on the toilet. "It's not like it goes in the water," I protested, though if you counted the sash as part of the robe, this wasn't strictly true.

Eventually, I brought out my handy highlighter. I do not know why I own highlighters since I haven't been a college student for many years, but I own them, love them and hoard them. Here are a few of my favorite highlighted parts:

Ed is an early-to-sleep sort of chap, who'll announce around 8 p.m., 'I'm just going to change into my pj's and read for a while.' (He falls asleep) This makes it difficult for yours truly, for I really do read in bed... Ed would like for me to do this in a quiet, motionless, pitch-dark manner. Instead, I do it in a chip-crunching, light on, getting-in-and-out-of-bed-for-more-chips manner. 

A married couple can best be defined as a unit of people whose sleep habits are carefully engineered to keep each other awake.

That one I read to my husband. He looked around the house for hidden cameras.

I must also add that my 17 year old daughter came home late the night I had this book on the counter. She sat on a stool and read for an hour before coming in to tell me goodnight. Not that I was asleep. I was actually reading in bed, occasionally getting up to get more chips. Speaking of family -

A family is a collection of people who share the same genes but cannot agree on a place to pull over for lunch. Ed and I, plus his parents and sister Doris and eight year old niece Alisha, are on a road trip to Yosemite. Poppy wants Subway, Ed wants in-N-Out Burger, Mary wants Sonic. In the end, we compromise on McDonalds, where Alisha will get an "Incredibles" action figure that will come in handy later for breaking the heater vent.

I like Mary. I think we should be friends.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan TrainOrphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Goodreads: The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from "aging out" of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life - answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

My thoughts: This book comes just a tad shy of a four star review, honestly. There is no clear reason except that it didn't grab my attention as much as a true 4 star book would but that's subjective. It is still a compelling read.

The idea of writing a novel featuring a child from the Orphan Trains is fantastic. It is one of those moments in American history that is somewhat glossed over. It wasn't taught in any history class I took in high school or college. In fact, I was only made aware of the Orphan Trains a couple of years ago from a colleague who is a former history teacher. Writing a historical fiction book about children from these trains is sobering.

The author brings different experiences into the story that are realistic and true to life. The children on the trains were often already homeless and living on the streets of New York in slums. They usually children of recent immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Poland, and Germany. Tragedy, death and abject poverty are already a constant in their lives before they are placed in orphanages. Without social programs, other solutions needed to be explored and so "Orphan Train" was born.

The number of children that were part of this movement is staggering. Over 200,000 children boarded a train for the Midwest where they traveled in hunger and were paraded to a city meeting building. They were then poked, prodded, teeth checked, and other humiliations, and some were taken from the line where the couple signed a couple of papers and left. Babies were in demand but so were strong, sturdy boys. They were used for free labor on farms for which many were ill-equipped for the hardships of the climate and work. They were used, abused, beat, whipped, occasionally raped, and starved. They slept with the animals in an unheated barn and treated less than human with expectations unheard of in today's society. If they didn't work out for the couple, the couple gave them back in which they would be taken to another home for a similar treatment or sent back to New York.

The story is about Vivian, at least that's the name she finally ended up with. She is born in Ireland, lives in New York, watches those she loves die or otherwise leaves her life. She enters an orphanage and finally a train. The next 12 years are the sum of her formative years.

In juxtaposition of Vivian is Molly, a 17 year old girl in foster care serving community hours while helping Vivian clean out her attic. The relationship deepens and they become close friends as Vivian relives those tragic years while going through her possessions. Molly relates to Vivian in many ways including her rootlessness. Not only is Molly no longer cared for by her parents, she is part Native American and carries the burdens of her forefathers.

It is an engaging book.