Here I Go Again is an utterly charming read. What happens to the prom queen long after high school is over? Well, if she is Lissy Ryder, our sort of heroine, she loses her high caliber job and her quarterback husband and moves back in with her parents. She goes to her high school reunion for a little soul-soothing adoration to only find that all the so-called losers she merciless mocked in high school are now very successful people who happen to hate her. If only she could go back in time and change her choices, perhaps karma wouldn’t be kicking her in her not so pert hinder parts now. Well, thanks to a former classmate turned guru extraordinaire she can. Here I Go Again is about coming to terms with who you are and who you were, about life after Friday night football and mean girls, and about the best revenge is a life well lived.
Far From the Tree is perhaps the greatest non-fiction book that I have ever read. It is luminous and extraordinary, lucid and clear eyed, heartbreaking and redemptive. A spare description is to say that Far From the Tree is about parents of exceptional children and their relationships with their children, the medical and educational communities, societal systems, and the greater world itself. Those few words though fail to even begin to capture the complexity of emotions, personality, and humanity that this book about. Framed by an introduction and a summation, each of the ten chapters deals with a specific condition; some of them conventional disabilities like autism, deafness, or down’s syndrome, and others less easily cataloged, like prodigies, criminals, and children of rape. Solomon draws from forty thousand pages of interviews he conducted over a decade with parents, children, doctors, educators, activists, and researchers. He discusses not only the spectrum of each condition but also the causes and treatments. He cites both cutting edge science and historical precedents. He debates controversies of limb lengthening, cochlear implants, sexual reassignments and executing children. But at its heart, Far From the Tree is about parent and child. What is it like to have a child that is vastly different than you, with experiences you can never really understand, who will likely fail to achieve the basic milestones of life? The parents in Far From the Tree run the gamut of reaction, some become activists and tireless supporters of their children, some try to endure to the best of their abilities, and some institutionalize, abuse, or even murder their children. Solomon never flinches from the complexity of his subject’s lives. The chapters on transgender children and the children of rape are especially heart-rending. Solomon is gay which gives him great insight into being a very different person than a parent expected and also is a parent which gives him the emotional insight of child-love. Far From the Tree is far from an easy read, it is long, extremely dense, and often emotionally wrenching. It is though an extremely worthwhile read that will touch your soul.
Trapped is the newest offering in the excellent Iron Druid Chronicle series. The story takes place twelve years after the last book with our hero Atticus finishing up Grauaile’s apprenticeship. There are new deities, new enemies, and old friends. I highly recommend this series but you must start with book one, Hounded. While not my favorite of the series, Trapped is a good, fast paced read that fans will enjoy. Readers of the series will understand my one real beef; not enough Oberon, there is just never enough Oberon.
Inside of a Dog is a must read for any dog lover. It is a beautiful and engaging book not just about the relationship of people and canines but about dogs themselves and how they perceive their world and how we crazy hominids fit into it. Horowitz balances cutting edge scientific research about dogs and other canids with personal anecdotes of dog owners. Inside of a Dog is not your typical anamorphic dog tome but a fascinating insight into the umwelt of all things dog.
I try to live by the maxim “It isn’t so much that we are disappointed by people but that we are disappointed by our expectations of people.” Thus if I set realistic expectations, I will be let down less often. Easier said than done of course, as with most pithy mottos, but none the less a truism. “Why,” you ask “am I spouting Zen babble in a book review?” Is is indeed, dear reader, relevant. The reads that most disappoint me are the “you gotta read this” or books that I have high expectations for. I wanted to love the book Driving the Saudis. The subject matter is so timely with the continuing tremors of Arab Spring and the clamoring for women’s rights across the world. An inside look from a Western woman into the closeted world of the immense wealth, leashed women, and sharia, details on the fight for women’s suffrage and education under one of the world’s worst human rights abusers. What I got was how much Prada and La Perla the royals bought and what plastic surgery procedures they had done. Given, I expected the book to be somewhat dishy, the cover photo is palm trees and sexy blue eyes peeking from a veil, but the author is Harvard educated and an independent film maker. I should have thought TMZ, not NPR. The people in her memoir could almost be cardboard cutouts, the royals are spoiled snobs and the servants are longsuffering victims. There were glimpses of real substance there, Larson recounts how a young princess mourned that she would never be able to attend college like her brother but instead she would return to Saudi Arabian to be the third wife of an powerful elderly man or that the American security hired by the Saudis kept the passports of all the help so they could not flee. The book that I read was passable but the book that I wanted to read would have been fascinating. Should have remembered the maxim.
All hail the queen of fluff, Janet Evanovich. Do you the reader like books with well-drawn, predictable characters, sparkling dialogue that has nothing to say, and an ending, though mildly satisfying, that you can see from page 20? Then I have the book for you, The Husband List by the prolific bestselling author Janet Evanovich. This is the printed version of a marshmallow peep, sweet, likable, and all air and sugar. I apologize to the very large fan base of Ms. Evanovich but she is just not for me. I found the premise of a headstrong society heiress in 1894 New York with an overbearing mother and titled unwanted suitor irresistible even though I have never liked anything else by the author. I should have resisted. I did manage to finish the book so I didn’t loathe it but I could have spent my time reading something so much more worthwhile. Don’t get me wrong, I am no book elitist. I just like a different sort of book trash. Having said all that, many people will love The Husband List. Evanovich is a talented writer with a deft hand at plot development and likable characters, that is why she sells a bazillion books. Just not to me.
Sequel to Watersmeet. Abisina has found her father and a new home where all people and creatures are welcome but in the battle with the evil White Worm, her father has died. Can Abisina be the leader her new people need and can she form alliances between Watersmeet and the humans when she cannot forgive them? Not quite as engaging as the first book in the series but a worthwhile read.
I really enjoyed this book. Absina is an outcast in a hostile society. Saved from being put outside her villages walls as an infant to die only by her mother’s standing as the healer, she has lived a life of abuse and degradation. Her mother loves and shields her the best she can but when a charismatic leader comes and call for the death of all outcasts, she escapes to find her father. Great storytelling with very real characters and nuanced worldbuilding.
A delightful book about an avowed city girl with closet dreams of owning a farm. When the farm of her dreams comes up for sale, complete with an Amish barn and beautiful vistas, she and her boyfriend buy it and trade a life of walking down the street for a paper and a bagel for bulldozing multiflora roses and pond mucking. Wonderful memoir about how when your dreams come true, then the real work begins. Thanks Tammy for the recommendation.
Informational book with great pictures about our phobias. Some phobias seem very logical to me like atomosophobia, the fear of atomic weapons, or taphephobia, the fear of being buried alive. Who would want to be buried alive? But I bet the people with omphalophobia, the fear of belly buttons, or panophobia, the fear of everything, have a hard way to go. Very entertaining.
Sequel to the compelling Darkness Becomes Her, A Beautiful Evil finds Ari recovering from her battle with Athena in the near-future New Orleans, a half-ruined city ruled by a coalition of vampires, witches, and demigod families. A descendent of Medusa with the power to kill even gods, Ari must come to terms with her curse to save not just those she loves but also herself.
Delightful memoir by Rhoda Janzen, touching and wry. After the week from hell; her husband leaves her for Bob who he met on Gay.com and she is in a serious car wreck, Janzen returns to her Mennonite family to heal and pick up the pieces of her life. Full of great advice (her mother suggests she date her first cousin because he has a tractor), an amazing array of cabbage dishes, and lots of love, she shows how funny going home can be. Very funny and intelligent, a must read. And I now know what Mennonites ladies wear under all those layers and how to make borscht.
Darling book by Doreen Cronin, author of many hilarious books like Diary of a Worm and Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type,is about a retired search and rescue dog who is living the suburban life and trying to keep the chickens in line. In the second book of the series, the first is the highly recommended The Trouble with Chickens, a beautiful new dog has moved in next door. The chickens are entranced with her but J.J. has reservations, how could any dog be that shiny and is posture really important? Throw in a persistent opossum and J.J. has his paws full. Very funny and fast paced with great illustrations.
Retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray set in turn of the century New York. Told as the diary of Natalie Stewart, a girl mute since an accident in her childhood that killed her mother. She returns from school to live with her father, a curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum is hoping to buy an infamous painting,a remarkably life-like portrait of a young lord who committed suicide right after the painting was finished. When Natalie sees the painting she falls in love with the lord, who isn’t dead at all but trapped by dark magic within the painting. Somehow bound to Lord Denbury and able to enter his world, she resolves to free him.
Strange, strange book. The title Every Other Day refers to that on one day, Kali is a normal teen-age girl and on the next day she is an invincible hunting machine with poison blood and supernatural skills. On those days, she hunts down hellhounds, demons, and other monsters. Interesting premise that works well sometimes. I enjoyed most her days when she is just a girl trying to navigate high school which is as scary to her as anything that goes bump in the night. The book loses cohesion as Kali tries to find out what she really is and fight off an evil corporation with nefarious aims. Where are all the good companies who aren’t conducting genetic experiments in the basement with an army of henchmen? I guess profit sharing and retirement plans are not very exciting.
The Horn of Moran is the sequel to the Mark Twain winner Slathbog’s Gold. The Horn of Moran is a very enjoyable and fast paced read. Our hero from the first book, Alexander Taylor, has returned to his humdrum life in our world after defeating the dragon and earning his stripes as an adventurer and wizard. He corresponds with a master wizard to learn his craft of magic while hoping to be called for another adventure. He is asked by Bregnest, the leader of his last mission to go to Alusia to find the Horn of Moran that will sound for the true king and avert civil war. The Horn of Moran is very entertaining with great characters and world building. It is rather light fare with the standard fantasy repertoire of elves, magic beasts, and shadowy evil. There are no great dilemmas or personal insights but sometimes a good story is enough.
What a complicated mess. What a first blush seems like average werewolf with a heart story de-evolves into convolution. The book begins promisingly enough with alpha wolf Bryn saving a human boy from an attacking bear even thought it goes against her pack’s laws. She thinks she will never see him again but of course she does and falls in love with him. Rather Romeo and Juliet with teeth and fur. He is just a boy with an albeit mysterious guardian and she is destined to marry another alpha wolf and rule her pack. That would have been enough for a plot but Cremer doesn’t stop there. She throws on a secret society, an arranged marriage, sorcery, and prophecy. Just too much for me but as Nightshade is an international bestseller, someone must like it.