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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Book Batch 1

The list on the left are the last 24 books I've read (listened to).  Let's see what I can remember from each of these.  

I just posted the Shrew's Review of Georgia Peaches, so moving on to Sapiens.  This book was very interesting, and I will end up buying it because the last chapter raises a lot of ethical questions when it comes to genetic engineering and I'd like to be able to ponder them at leisure, rather than start/stopping the audio book.

The Kiss Quotient was basically the Bride Test (same author) just with the autistic roles reversed.  There were parts of the Kiss Quotient that made me laugh out loud.  I'd say the first half to two thirds were original and the last part fell into your basic romance rut.

Call Me By Your Name was a powerful read. 

Cuckoos Calling - a mystery and I sorta figured it out early on then spent the rest of the book doubting myself.  Seemed like everyone smoked in this - suspects, the detective, which I had to wonder if it was poking fun at those old whodunnits back in the day.

While I enjoyed the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I don't think I'm as crazy about it as the rest of the world was when it came out.  

The Winter of the Witch was the 3rd in a trilogy and the fact that I read all 3 tells you all you need to know.  I don't usually like trilogies but I loved this one.  It's warm and charming and has just a touch of magic like all fairy tales should.  The Girl in the Tower is #2.  This is one of those books that calls to you when you're not reading it.

Red Pencil had some very potent passages and I'd like to distill those into a full-length work with the same power.  

The rest are all a bit fuzzy.  I remember liking The Night Tiger and Librarian of Auschwitz - but don't remember much about how they ended.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Shrews Reviews - Georgia Peaches & Other Forbidden Fruit

First off, I didn't realize it's been 7 months since my last post.  Time really does fly. I'm going to glance over my reading list as I'm sure there are several books worth mentioning.

On the surface Georgia Peaches & Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown is your typical YA Romance.  The writing itslef is fine, and the characters were likeable.  My problem with this book lies in the details. It seems to quietly contradict itself by reinforcing stereotypes.

Joanna is gay, out, and her father (a radio preacher) loves her for who she is.  But when he marries and moves his daughter to a smaller town, he asks her to “tone it down” for a while (so as not to stress out the new inlaws).  This is where the story starts to go off the rails for me. 

Joanna goes into hiding as a lesbian which involves a makeover to soften her look.  This really irritated me because it seems to say all gay people have a certain "look".  How stereotypical can you get?  I would have expected a book aimed at the LGBTQ community to be a bit more nuanced than that.

My other issue is that in order to go under cover, Joanna starts hanging out with straight kids at her new school.  She is supposed to be well-adjusted and confident kid, so how come hanging with "normal" teens is a new experience for her?  

Mostly the whole plot line felt contrived to me and not very authentic. There were a few homophobes thrown in because they had to be there, but by and large Joanna was amazingly well supported and loved, and while that's certainly the HOPE for any teen coming out about their sexuality, I'm not sure that's the reality for a lot of them but this book didn't come close to dealing with those issues.  

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.