Saturday, August 21, 2010

In The Rearview Mirror - What I've Read, Lately

I know I've been very, very bad about blogging. So, I figured maybe a little bit of brief summarizing about the things I've read would be nice. I think I'll just move on to the books I finish during the time I'm adjusting to empty nest life, when I get back to regular posting. These mini reviews are just meant to tide you over, you know, if you're hanging around missing me.

Stash by David Klein - The story of a young mother, Gwen, who smokes a little marijuana in the park to relax. A friend is supposed to pick up her children, but when their arrangement falls through and Gwen is in a fatal automobile accident she must decide whether to turn her former lover and supplier over to the police or face potential jail time. Paired with a story about legal drugs used unethically, this is an interesting and thought-provoking story. There were some little things about this book that really, really bothered me. I found myself wishing I had a group to chat with about the book, actually. I highly recommend this one for book groups because I think it could easily generate some intense discussion. And, just think how fun it would be to paint marijuana leaves on your cookies. No, you may not lace the brownies with pot. That's not legal.

Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti - Two grieving people meet in the cemetery. They are polar opposites in many ways but they fall passionately in love. Can they work out their differences or will they end up having to make do with decent matchmates lacking the passion (and conflict) of their wacky relationship? A really quirky little romance. My utterly delightful friend Care sent me her copy of Benny & Shrimp because she thought I would like it. As always, Care was correct. It's a strange little story, almost an anti-romance, and I liked the fact that Benny and Shrimp turned out to be not quite the characters I expected and much less willing to adapt to each other than the typical romantic hero and heroine.

Moose Dropping & Other Crimes Against Nature by Tom Brennan - A collection of tales and folklore, mostly gleaned from other works, all of which provide tickling insight into the Alaskan sense of humor. Published by Epicenter Press, one of my favorite small presses. At least, I think they're still small. They've had a number of runaway hits, but they're still all about Alaska. I snickered my way through this book and learned a few things in the process. Like "eco-greenies" is one of the nicer terms Alaskans use to describe environmentalists who try to get in the way of their ability to earn a healthy income from land and sea.

Emma and the Vampires by Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson - Some people call this kind of book a "mash-up" (a very overused and lazy term, in my humble opinion), some call it the destruction of a classic. My friend Melissa calls this type of book "classic/paranormal combos" and I'm leaning toward "classic with a paranormal twist." Whatever floats your boat. In this case, Emma Woodhouse is surrounded by vampires. Many of the gentlemen, including Mr. Knightley, are vegan vampires. Wives meet an unfortunate fate - bitten and turned. There are also wild vampires who prey on the local populace. It's a bit of a mess, that combination of wild and gentlemanly vampires, but I loved reading Emma and the Vampires because Mr. Josephson used the paranormal twist in a humorous way. A fun read and a great excuse to revisit Emma, my new favorite Austen character. This book was #2 completed for the Everything Austen II Challenge.

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway - Another paranormal book, this time a young adult novel about three sisters who develop unusual powers. April sees scenes from the future, May can become invisible and June reads minds. Apart from the fact that I thought the author did a poor job of explaining how or why the three girls came to suddenly redevelop their powers after a single childhood incident and it took time for the story to develop, I enjoyed this book. Once the story picks up speed and suspense, it's interesting and fun and I loved the ending. It's as much about sisters as it is about unusual abilities and learning to cope with them . . . and about coping with life, in general. Very light reading.

Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs by Heather Lende - Heather Lende's second memoir about her life in small-town Alaska, its joys and hardships, with particular focus on Lende's horrific bike accident and her recovery, her faith and friendships and the lives and deaths of those around her. Heather Lende has a charming writing style, much like that of Anne Lamott. She's an emotional writer who will tug your heartstrings. I loved this book almost as much as her first, If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name, and hope she'll write many more books about life in Alaska. Of particular interest was her story about a recovered alcoholic's totem pole. I literally sobbed through that one, but most of the time I found that when I set the book down I was smiling.

That's all the recently-finished books in my sidebar, so I'm going to clear the sidebar before I dash off to do my thing. Kiddo is home for the weekend -- wahoo! He's been asleep all day -- boo! Well, it's better than nothing. I like having him nearby.

Happy Reading!


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  1. Nancy!! I just got back from visiting with Debi in New York so I've been missing you!! We talked about sweet ole you a lot :)

    Sorry you're having empty nest syndrome!! Happy for Will, but I know that really must be rough for you. Hope that y'all are getting to enjoy your weekend together.

    That first book, Stash, sounds REALLY good!! I'm going to have to get that one. You're racking up quite a few points in my bad blogger game this go round :p

  2. Chris,

    I missed you like crazy, this week. How sweet of you guys to think of me! I'm glad you had a great time (I peeked at your blog). We're having a great time with Kiddo so I just read your recent posts and didn't comment but it looks like Debi is one heck of a fine hostess. I've been to Niagara Falls. Isn't it awesome?

    Thanks. I'm working on learning to deal with the quiet, more than anything. Fortunately, Kiddo is a great communicator, so he calls and emails often. I really appreciate that!

    Stash is pretty good. I didn't love it, but it's compelling and yeah, you have to read it so I can have someone to talk to about it. In fact, I'll just send you my copy. Will contact you by email. Welcome back!!

    Oh, and BAD BLOGGER POINTS!!!! Wahoo!!

  3. It looks like you've been reading a lot of good books! I think I'd love Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs too.

  4. Kathy,

    I've read some good ones, but boy am I having a slumpy summer! I do think you'd love Heather Lende's books. I'd advise reading If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name first, just because the bike accident happened as she was getting ready to go on tour for her first book and you'll know where she was coming from. Both are terrific.

  5. It's funny, Emma is my least favorite Austen character!

  6. Birdy,

    Thank you!


    That is funny. I just read that Jane Austen expressed concern that nobody would like Emma -- the character, not the book. It would be easy to dislike her, but she always managed to redeem herself in spite of her meddling ways so that's why I loved her.

  7. I saw an ARC of Stash in the pile of free books at work and almost snagged it, but decided I had enough to last me well into the next decade. :)

    Sounds like you enjoyed Benny & Shrimp better than I did. As I recall, I gave up around the halfway point.

    Lende's memoir sounds intriguing. I'll have to look for it and her previous book today at work. No wait! I'm not supposed to buy anymore books! I'm not supposed to acquire anymore books! I need to read what I already own!!!!! :)

    Hope you had a good visit with the kiddo. He had to wake up at some point, right?

  8. I'm getting sick of the "mash-ups" or paranormal takeoffs or whatever we call 'em. I saw one about cyborgs the other day and just kept trucking through B&N. *sigh* The industry is intent on running every halfway interesting idea into the ground.

  9. Les,

    I didn't love Stash or Benny & Shrimp, but I thought Stash was thought-provoking (the end really pissed me off) in many ways and probably would generate some fun discussion. Benny & Shrimp is better after the fact, in my humble opinion. I liked how it ended, but the getting there was kind of frustrating. But, I did love the quirkiness of the characters!

    Confused, yet? I think you'd love Heather Lende's memoirs. Start with the first one, definitely. Maybe your library has it.

    Yep, Kiddo did eventually wake up! :)


    The publishing industry is definitely way too trend-oriented. That has bugged me for years. I like a little humor but I'm extremely selective about those paranormal/classic combo books and don't plan to read a lot of them. So far, I'm 50/50 on enjoyment.

  10. As always, I am correct. HA!!! I'll come back soon and read the rest of the post that doesn't mention mway.


  11. Yes, of course, Care. As always! :)

  12. Anonymous7:10 PM

    I've been very bad about reading blogs, so we're a match made in heaven. :-)

    And I knew I should've bought Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs.

  13. Softdrink

    I'm increasingly finding that there are many of us who simply can't keep up with the blog-hopping and that's okay. If blogs are just records of our reading and/or lives, that doesn't mean they should take over our lives or they'd be meaningless, right?

    Oh, yes, you probably should buy Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs. If you haven't read If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name, though, buy that first. That way you'll have a better understanding of the author as you go into the reading of her second memoir.

  14. I call those books an abomination. Mostly because I haven't read any of them and I can still judge without firsthand knowledge. Still the best & easiest way to slam something. :)

  15. Carrie,

    Abomination works for me. Huh, maybe I should send Emma and the Vampyres to you, so that you can snarl at it and not open it for years and years.


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