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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Saying Goodbye

Today we said goodbye to our sweet border collie, Sugar.  I had another post lined up, but deleted it.  I had no idea how shattered her loss would leave me and the tribute I'd written beforehand just didn't pass muster anymore.

Truthfully, there are no words to really convey what she meant to us and the gaping hole her loss has left.  

The procedure was about as peaceful and loving as it could be.  The vet came to the house and Sugar was surrounded by the family that loved her. I thought that would be the hard part, that once they took her away, the healing could start.

Boy, was I wrong.  

Every time I walk into a room, I look for her.  Especially in the bathroom.  I'm not sure I've gone to the bathroom alone more than a handful of times in the last five years, so it is a bit of a shock every time I enter the bathroom and see she's not in her spot. 

I burst into tears when I saw the Ziploc baggie in the fridge with the tortilla pieces we used to fill with peanut butter to camouflage her medication.  I can't bear to toss it out yet, but can't bear to look at it either. 

The picture above used to make me laugh.  Sugar didn't want to go for a walk so my son stubbornly took the empty leash around the block instead.  Now, though, it speaks a thousand words I can't seem to find to honor our precious pup.  Love you, Sugar.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Shrew's Reviews - My Absolute Darling

I finished Gabriel Tallent's My Absolute Darling (13 hours) this afternoon.  If ever there was a book that made me want to reach out and talk to others about, this is it. 

To be honest, I didn't expect to like this book once I got a feel for it.  A 14 year old girl (Turtle) has been raised by an extreme prepper of a father who is just a little bit obsessed about the world going to pieces.  He has abused his daughter in about every way possible, and I wasn't very far into the book before I began hoping that she'd kill him. She certainly would have been justified.

This book is haunting.  Beyond the surface of the story, the characters are so well drawn I feel like I could pick them out of a line up.  Her father is a madman in a lot of ways, but when he explained his rationale for doing something - I almost agree with him, thinking "yeah, that's reasonable" but at the same time I know he's full of shit. 

Excellent book.  Highly recommend unless you are (a) uneasy with lots of cursing or (b) uncomfortable with the abusive bits.  I wont lie.  Those scenes are raw and if you've experienced any kind of abuse in your personal life, reading those sections could be overwhelming.  I would think twice before letting my 17 year old read this, though she would probably love it. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Enough Already

I’ve been reading a lot the last couple years and it has had two very noticeable side effects.  First, no matter what someone is talking about, I can relate it back to a book I read. Second, I start to notice writing clich├ęs like never before.  I think that’s what’s made me a bit of a shrew when it comes to reviewing books.  There are so many books with great characters or a great concept and they fail to fully develop it.  There was one book that used the word “banal” about 2 dozen times throughout the story and by the end I was screaming “FIND ANOTHER WORD!” 

The most recent casualty shall remain nameless, mostly because it’s not the book itself that bugs me but an overall trend I see and it drives me crazy.  These books are always character driven vs plot driven and I’m not ragging on that choice – but if you’re going to write a character-driven novel, you better have characters the reader likes.  Or hates.  There should be some sort of strong reaction there to entice you to delve further into this person’s world. 

I have been finding a rash of well-written books about people I really don’t care for.  Almost always they’re highly-educated and living in New York. The problem is that you spend 8-12 hours in this world and nothing happens. No great character growth, no epiphanies, it’s just a snippet out of an ordinary person’s life.  I’m not saying normality can’t be a beautiful thing, but my god they seem to use a helluva lot of words to convey essentially NOTHING.  I sit waiting chapter after chapter expecting something to happen....thinking all of this has to be a set up for a great ending.  Nope.

These characters are almost always neurotic, usually depressed and angry about something.  They're usually struggling financially and romantically.  That's fine, very few of us will ever be independently wealthy or in perfect relationships, but these characters just seem content to skulk through their lives letting crap happen to them.  Very few try to change things, to make themselves happier or more secure. 

Bottom line:  Enough with the tortured souls of New York.  Give me something different.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Shrew's Reviews - Bearskin

I recently finished Bearskin by James McLaughin (9 hours I think).  Great book, it sucked me in from the very beginning.  In a nutshell, there's a man with a mysterious (and dangerous?) past hired as caretaker to a private nature reserve where he finds hunters are poaching black bears.  He starts poking around to learn who is responsible and all hell breaks loose. 
So, the man kinda loses it while staking out the poachers.  After being in the woods for a couple weeks he returns to his cabin with no real memory of how long he's been gone or how he was injured.  Then the sheriff pulls up asking if he's seen a man who has gone missing.  (dun dun dun)

While most people would be hoping and praying the hero of the story would be innocent (and maybe he was, maybe he wasn't....), I desperately wanted to read that he turned into a bear and ate the would-be poacher. (Is it a spoiler if I only tell you what did NOT happen?)  It'd be the perfect crime...and what a fun read that would have been!   

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

What Kind of Man...

For those who don't know, I work part-time at the courthouse preparing paperwork for court.  I recently read a disturbing police report and am at a loss for words.

A couple (boyfriend/girlfriend) went to a mutual friend's (male) house.  The couple began arguing and moved into a back bedroom to continue the argument.

When the woman began screaming, the male friend in the other room did nothing.

Soon the couple came back and sat on the sofa where the male friend witnessed the boyfriend striking the girlfriend in the face with his elbow - repeatedly.
The friend did nothing.

When the boyfriend began to choke his girlfriend, the male friend did nothing.
(in his own words, the male friend estimated it went on for 10 or 15 minutes - he did nothing)

When the girlfriend passed out from the strangulation, the male friend did nothing.

When the boyfriend kicked his girlfriend in the stomach, back, and legs, the male friend did nothing.

WHAT KIND OF MAN sits by and allows a woman to be brutalized right in front of him? He's no better than the abusive boyfriend.

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Reading List

I'm aware that this list appears to be impossible -- especially with a full time job.  This is nearly a book a day for all of 2018.  First, I listen to audio books at 2x speed because standard speed drives me crazy. Also, I have been scanning THOUSANDS of documents at work this year so I have been able to *read* while at work...toss in a few shorter books and it all comes out in the wash.

1 Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands Chris Bohjalian
2 A Secret Kept Tatiana de Rosnay
3 The Tiger's Wife Tea Obreht
4 The Passage Justin Cronin
5 Raymie Nightengale Kate DiCamillo
6 Grace Natashia Deon
7 Cleopatra Stacey Schiff
8 Me Earl & The Dying Girl Jesse Andrews
9 Dodge City Tom Clavin
10 Moonglow Michael Chabon
11 Under the Wide & Starry Sky Nancy Horan
12 Option B Cheryl Sandberg
13 Fire & Fury Michael Wolf
14 The Postmistress Sarah Blake
15 If You Ask Me Betty White
16 1493-Discovering the World Columbus Created Charles Mann
17 Sarah's Key Tatiana de Rosnay
18 Cold Sassy Tree Olive Ann Burns
19 Scat Carl Hiaasen
20 Doll Bones Holly Black
21 Wrath & the Dawn Renee Ahdieh
22 Being Mortal Atul Gawande
23 The Fourteenth Goldfish Jennifer Holm
24 Jane Boleyn Julia Fox
25 Brown Girl Dreaming Jacqueline Woodson
26 The Red Bandana Tom Rinaldi
27 Argo Antonio Mendez
28 Today Will be Different Maria Semple
29 Oregon Trail Rinker Buck
30 Life After Life Kate Atkinson
31 Hillbilly Elegy JD Vance
32 David & Goliath Malcolm Gladwell
33 Language of Flowers Vanessa Diffenbaugh
34 Swans of Fifth Avenue Melanie Benjamin
35 Better Than Before Gretchen Rubin
36 Pirate Hunters Robert Kurson
37 Girls in the Moon Janet McNally
38 Time of Our Lives Tom Brokaw
39 A Wicked War Amy Greenberg
40 Warmth of Other Suns Isabel Wilkerson
41 Enemies - History of FBI Tim Weiner
42 Mosquitoland David Arnold
43 I Am Half Sick of Shadows Alan Bradley
44 Between the World & Me Ta-Nehisi Coates
45 Vinegar Girl Anne Tyler
46 The Bookseller Cynthia Swanson
47 Destiny of the Republic Candice Millard
48 The Night Circus Erin MOrgenstern
49 Civilization: The West & The Rest Niall Ferguson
50 In the Garden of the Beasts Erik Larson
51 Hamilton the Revolution Lin-Manuel Miranda
52 To Capture What We Cannot Keep Beatrice Colin
53 Omnivore's Dilemma Michael Pollan
54 Alexander Hamilton Ron Chernow
55 Undergroung Airlines Ben Winters
56 The Quick Lauren Owen
57 The Quest - Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World Daniel Yergin
58 The Price of Civilization Jeffrey Sachs
59 My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry Frederik Backman
60 The Sisters Claire Douglas
61 No ONe Cares About Crazy People Ron Powers
62 Little Bee Chris Cleave
63 The Oldest Living Enigma of Humanity Bertrand David
64 Before We Met Lucie Whitehouse
65 Why Buddhism is True Robert Wright
66 The Unlikely Pilgrimmage of Harold Fry Rachel Joyce
67 Elizabeth The Queen Sally Bedell Smith
68 Handmaid's Tale Margareet Atwood
69 Beartown Frederik Backman
70 Murder on the Orient Express Agatha Christie
71 Astrophysics for People in a Hurry Neal Degrasse Tyson
72 Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane Lisa See
73 Little Fires Everywhere Celeste Ng
74 All the Light You Cannot See Anthony Doerr
75 Why Time Flies Alan Burdick
76 Salt: A World History Mark Karlansky
77 Pachinko Min Jin Lee
78 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared Jonas Jonasson
79 Leonard Da Vinci Walter Isaacson
80 MaddAddam Margaret Atwood
81 The Ascent of Gravity Marcus Chown
82 Bloodsucking Fiends Christopher Moore
83 Annihilation Jeff Vandermeer
84 Authority Jeff Vandermeer
85 Acceptance Jeff Vandermeer
86 Practical Demonkeeping Christopher Moore
87 Storied Life of AJ Fikry Gabriel Zevin
88 You Suck Christopher Moore
89 Bite Me Christopher Moore
90 Girl who Saved the King of Sweden Jonas Jonasson
91 Coyote BLue Christopher Moore
92 TMS - Religions of the East Prothero
93 God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater Kurt Vonnegut
94 Divine Comedy Dante
95 Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove Christopher Moore
96 Stupidest Angel Christopher Moore
97 Brave New World Aldous Huxley
98 Eragon Christopher Paolini
99 Flat Broke with Two Goats Jennifer McGaha
100 Salt to the Sea Ruta Sepetys
101 Lamb Christopher Moore
102 Monk of Mohka Dave Eggers
103 Stiff-Curious Life of Human Cadaver Mary Roach
104 Uprooted Naomi Novik
105 Mother Night Kurt Vonnegut
106 Shit My Dad Says Justin Halpern
107 Small Moments Ann Lamott
108 The Next 100 Years George Friedman
109 Cultural Literacy E. D. Hirsch Jr
110 Likeability Factor Tim Sanders
111 In the President's Secret Service Ronald Kessler
112 I Moved Your Cheese Deepak Malhotra
113 Not That Kind of Girl Lena Dunham
114 I was Here Gayle Foreman
115 How We Got to Now Steven Johnson
116 But I Love Him Amanda Grace
117 A Dirty Job Christopher Moore
118 A Spy Among Friends Ben Macintyre
119 MacB eth Shakespeare
120 The Sun is Also A Star Nicola Yoon
121 Geronimo, His Own Story SM Barrett
122 How Did You Get This Number Sloane Crosley
123 Road to Character David Brooks
124 Where Good Ideas Come From Steven Johnson
125 Secondhand Souls Christopher Moore
126 Woolly: Quest to Revive Extinct Creature Ben Mezrich
127 Eat that Frog Brian Tracy
128 Empire of the Summer Moon SC Gwynne
129 Bunk: True Story of Hoaxes, Hucksters, Humbug, Plagiarists, Fake News & Phonies Kevin Young
130 Grain Brain David Perlmutter
131 Serpent of Venice Christopher Moore
132 Enders Game Orson Scott Card
133 Sex on the Moon Ben Mezrich
134 Dear Fahrenheit 451 Annie Spence
135 Normal Warren Ellis
136 The Twelve Justin Cronin
137 Natural Causes Barbara Ehrenreich
138 Circe Madeline Miller
139 Area 51 Annie Jacobsen
140 How to Stop Time Matt Haig
141 Hot, Flat & Crowded Thomas Friedman
142 Paying Guests Sarah Waters
143 The Buried Giant Kazuo Ishiguro
144 Every Day David Levithan
145 All The Bright Places Jennifer Niven
146 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Skloot
147 Dark Money Jane Mayer
148 Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen Hendrik Groen
149 Mindwise - How We Understand What Others Think Nicholas Epley
150 1066 The Year of Conquest David Howarth
151 Bright-Sided How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America Barbara Ehrenreich
152 Thunder in the Mountains Daniel Sharfstein
153 The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook Niall Ferguson
154 Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro
155 Salt Sugar Fat Michael Moss
156 The Mysterious Benedict Society Trenton Lee Stewart
157 The Lost City of Z David Grann
158 The Road to Little Dribbling Bill Bryson
159 SweetBitter Stephanie Danler
160 Burnable Book Bruce Holsinger
161 So We Read On Maureen Corrigan
162 Replaced Kimberly Derting
163 On the Bright Side Hendrik Groen
164 The Ocean At the End of the Lane Neil Gaiman
165 Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Store Robin Sloan
166 Wool Hugh Howey
167 Shift Hugh Howey
168 Dust Hugh Howey
169 City of Mirrors Justin Cronin
170 The Leftovers Tom Perrotta
171 Sing, Unburied, Sing Jesmyn Ward
172 Revenant Michael Punke
173 Landline Rainbow Rowell
174 The Templars Dan Jones
175 The Earth is Weeping Peter Cozzens
176 Fortune Hunter Daisy Goodwin
177 I Am America Stephen Colbert
178 Girls in Trucks Katie Crouch
179 Three Dark Crowns Kendare Blake
180 Queen of the Night Alexander Chee
181 2 a.m. at the Cats Pajamas Marie Helene-Bertino
182 Us David Nicholls
183 The Age of Miracles Karen Thompson Walker
184 Eleanor & Park Rainbow Rowell
185 One Day David Nicholls
186 Matched Ally Condie
187 Mermaids in Paradise Lydia Millet
188 Jane Steel Lyndsay Faye
189 Home Fire Kamila Shamsie
190 Summer Hours at the Robbers Library Sue Halpern
191 A Touch of Stardust Kate Alcott
192 My Dear Mrs. Bird AJ Pearce
193 My Ex-Life Stephen McCauley
194 The Gracekeepers Kirsty Logan
195 Her Body and Other Parties Cheryl Maria Machado
196 The Talented Ribkins Ladee Hubbard
197 That Inevitable Victorian Thing EK Johnston
198 The Incendiaries RO Kwon
199 The Miniaturist Jessie Burton
200 Fat Vampire Adam Rex
201 The Shining Girls Lauren Beukes
202 Feather Thief Kirk Wallace Johnson
203 In Cold BLood Truman Capote
204 Beatrice & Virgil Yann Martel
205 THe Paris Wife Paula McLain
206 Snow Flower & the Secret Fan Lisa See
207 Tin Man Sarah Winman
208 How Hard Can It Be Allison Pearson
209 Titans Leila Meacham
210 Map of Salt & Stars Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
211 What the Eyes Don't See Mona Hanna-Attisha
212 Sweet Lamb of Heaven Lydia Millet
213 The Shape of Water Guilleromo Del Toro
214 Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library Chris Grabenstein
215 Fever Dream Samanta Schweblin
216 Vanessa and her Sister Priya Parmar
217 Female Persuasion Meg Wolitzer
218 Everything Here Is Beautiful Mira T Lee
219 Circling the Sun Paula McLain
220 Barracoon Zora Neale Hurston
221 Devil Finds Work James Baldwin
222 Forgetting Time Sharon Guskin
223 How it Happened Micael Koryta
224 We Were Witches Ariel Gore
225 Unkindness of Ghosts Rivers Solomon
226 Uncle Toms Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe
227 Lost & Found Carolyn Parkhurst
228 Unnatural Deeds Cyn Balog
229 Mom & Me & Mom Maya Angelou
230 If I Stay Gayle Foreman
231 How to Train Your Dragon Cressida Cowell
232 Conversion Katherine Howe
233 The Bone Witch Rin Chupeco
234 The ITalian Teacher Rom Rachman
235 Uncommon Reader Alan Bennet
236 Digging for the Truth Josh Bernstein
237 THe Necromancer Michael Scott
238 Octavian Nothing - Pox Party Matthew Tobin Anderson
239 Lift Kelly Corrigan
240 The Ensemble Aja Gabel
241 Emmy & Oliver Robin Benway
242 Not That Bad Roxane Gay
243 White Tiger Aravind Adiga
244 H Is for Hawk Helen MacDonald
245 The Witches Stacy Schiff
246 The Vanishing Act Jodi Lynn Anderson
247 Little Giant of Aberdeen County Tiffany Baker
248 Cave of Bones Anne Hillerman
249 Everyone Brave is Forgiven Chris Cleave
250 Andy Cohen Diaries Andy Cohen
251 An Ocean of Minutes Thea Lim
252 The Alienist Caleb Carr
253 Less Andrew Sean Greer
254 The Dante Chamber Matthew Pearl
255 The Art of War Sun Tzu
256 The Wonder Emma Donoghue
257 Paper Ghosts Julia Heaberlin
258 Black Dahlia & White Rose Joyce Carol Oates
259 Watch Me Disappear Janelle Brown
260 The Noel Diaries Richard Paul Evans
261 My Name is Lucy Barton Elizabeth Strout
262 The Heart's Invisible Furies John Boyne
263 At the Edge of the Orchard Tracy Chevalier
264 Razor Girl Carl Hiaasen
265 No Ashes in the Fire Darnell Moore
266 The Care & Management of Lies Jacqueline Winspear
267 Seraphina Rachel Hartman
268 Because of Mr. Terupt Rob Buyea
269 Hatchet Gary Paulsen
270 The Dinner Herman Koch
271 Last Painting of Sarah De Vos Dominic Smith
272 Frog Music Emma Donoghue
273 Orphan's Tale Pam Jenoff
274 Our Kind of Cruelty Araminta Hall
275 How To Walk Away Katherine Center
276 Goldfinch Donna Tartt
277 Lafayette in the Somewhat United States Sarah Vowel
278 Behold the Dreamers Imbolo Mbue
279 There's no Place Like HEre Cecelia Ahern
280 Autoboyography Christina Lauren
281 Inside the OBriens Lisa Genova
282 There, there Tommy Orange
283 River of Stars Vanessa Hua
284 Motherhood Sheila Heti
285 A Small Indiscretion Jan Ellison
286 The Problem With Forever Jennifer Armentrout
287 The Book of M Peng Shepherd
288 Gathering Blue Lois Lowry
289 Normal Warren Ellis
290 Ruby Red Kerstin Gier
291 Women In the Castle Jessica Shattuck
292 Angel Time Anne Rice
293 The Sun Does Shine Anthony Ray Hinton
294 Homegoing Yaa Gyasi
295 Broken Monsters Lauren Beukes
296 1491 - Americas before Columbus Charles Mann
297 What Truth Sounds Like Michael Eric Dyson
298 What We Were Promised Lucy Tan
299 Gatehouse Haunting Martyn Chapman
300 Autonomous Annalee Newitz
301 Room Emma Donoghue
302 Number One Chinese Restuarant Lillian Li
303 Gather the Daughters Jennie Melamed
304 The Land of Steady Habits Ted Thompson
305 Still Life with Tornado A.S. King
306 Before & Again Barbara Delinsky
307 We Were Liars E. Lockhart
308 Spool of Blue Thread Anne Tyler
309 Catherine the Great Robert Massie
310 Lincoln in the Bardo George Saunders
311 Restaurant at the End of the Universe Douglas Adams
312 Russian Roulette Michael Isikoff
313 Mozart's Starling Lyanda Lynn Hapt
314 Cloud Atlas David Mitchell
315 Strange Practice Vivian Shaw
316 Can't wait to Get to Heaven Fannie Flagg
317 Grownup Gillian Flynn
318 Since We Fell Dennis Lehane
319 I am Not A Monster Carme Chaparro
320 Thomas Jefferson & The Tripoli Pirates Brian Kilmeade
321 Warlight Michael Ondaatje
322 17 Resentment Court David W Stoesz
323 Fascism: A Warning Madeleine Albright
324 A Gentelman In Moscow Amor Towles
325 Buried in a Bog Sheila Connolly
326 Messenger Lois Lowry
327 Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden
328 Bud Not Buddy Christopher Paul Curtis
329 Jefferson's Daughters Catherine Kerrison
330 Trespasser Tana French
331 Longbourn Jo Baker
332 Time Traveler's Wife Audrey Niffenegger
333 Lying Game Ruth Ware
334 When Life Gives you Lululemons Lauren Weisberger
335 The Pisces Melissa Broder
336 The Immigrant, Montana Amitava Kuma
337 He Is Risen Colin Campbell
338 Sour Heart Jenny Zhang
339 Ruthless Ron Miscavige
340 Flight Attendant Chris Bohjalian
341 Sea Witch Sarah Henning
342 Tell the Machine Goodnight Katie Williams
343 Walk in the Woods Bill Bryson
344 Blood Communion Anne Rice
345 The Book of Dust Phillip Pullman
346 Love & Ruin Paula McLain
347 Bearskin James McLaughlin
348 My Stroke of Insight Jill Bolte Taylor