Mini Reviews #4

Tucker Jones is an upstanding, caring single father whose life changes dramatically one night with the ring of a single phone call.  His thirteen year old daughter Kat was reportedly seen giving blow jobs to a number of her peers at a party one night.  Tucker shows up at the party to collect his daughter but she is nowhere to be found and the teenage boys at the house seem insensitive to his plight.  This perfect storm results in a scuffle between Tucker and the boys and culminates with one of the boys crashing into a glass table and losing an eye.  Suddenly, Tucker is threatened with the legal ramifications of his actions, not to mention the complications to his personal life.

This is one of those books that demonstrates how a few seconds of pure emotion can result in life changing consequences.  Tucker reacted badly that night, but really, who could blame him? It was difficult to read about the consequences that Kat and Tucker had to face as a result of that awful night, but at the same time you have the other victim too, the teenage boy, who wasn’t involved in the fiasco earlier that evening with Kat, but was instead involved in a relationship with Kat’s best friend.

Typically, this type of book is something I pick up when I want something that is a little more absorbing without involving too much concentration.  While it raised some great questions, in the end it wasn’t the most memorable book I have ever read.  I could see it eliciting a great book club discussion though.

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Towards the beginning of my pregnancy, when I had very little appetite for reading, I ventured more towards quick, “trashier” reads, which led me on a mini Amityville kick.

For those of you unfamiliar with the case, the quick version is as follows; on a November night in 1974, Ronald and Louise DeFeo were shot dead in their beds, as were four of their five children, Dawn, Allison, Marc and John David.  The bodies were discovered by the eldest child, Ronnie, who seemed hysterical at the time but was quickly taken into custody under suspicion of murder.  He eventually confessed and has been in prison ever since, but the case is hardly as clear cut as that.

The Amityville Horror was the first book written on the case (I think) and deals with the Lutz family, who moved into the DeFeo home less than a year after the murders.  They have no qualms about moving into a house where a night of horror recently took place, but soon after they realize that something is horribly wrong with the house and that it is possessed by evil spirits.  They are not the spirits of the dead DeFeo family but instead evil spirits that supposedly influenced Ronnie to commit the murders in the first place.  After living in the home for less than a month, the Lutz family fled, never to return again.

I then read Mentally Ill in Amityville, which purported to tell the true story of the Amityville murders and the subsequent situation with the Lutzes. The investigative aspect of the book was interesting, with the author traveling to Amityville for research and tracking down neighbors who could testify to the circumstances from both the murders and the haunting of the Lutz family.

I’ll admit though, both books left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  The Amityville murders and haunting are one of those subjects that is so muddled with very little answers available.  Ronnie DeFeo has changed his account of the murders so many times that it is difficult to know the true circumstances of that night.  Then you have the Lutz’s, whose story and motivations are countlessly questioned.  I ended up feeling as if neither author really knew what they were talking about and that both books were the result of much conjecture and loaded with falsehoods.

From what I have seen, there is not really a definitive book on Amityville that can be taken seriously, so at this point, I admit defeat.

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Mini Reviews #3

As we prepare for the newest member of our family to arrive, I have had to make some important decisions.  What pediatrician to go with, whether to breast or bottle feed, where baby should sleep for the first few months, etc.  Something that I decided on before I even became pregnant this time was that I wanted to venture into the world of cloth diapers.  The biggest reason for me is cost.  My mother has graciously offered to purchase all of baby’s diapers, so the cost will be nothing for us, whereas the cost of disposables adds up fast.

However, as I have come to learn more about cloth diapering, I have discovered other positives. It seems that cloth diapers are usually better on baby’s skin, not to mention they apparently reduce the number of blowouts that occur and they are better on the environment. Changing Diapers is the one book I have read on the subject, and it not only expounds on the pros of cloth but also educates you on the different styles, brands and also how to care for cloth diapers.

I have a feeling I will be using this as a reference guide in the next few months! Have any of you tried cloth?  If so, please share your experiences!

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The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt is one of those books that I have been looking forward to for a long time.  I tend to enjoy diary formatted books, and this one was even more fun because it was a scrapbook, so it had a lot of fun additives.

It’s 1920 and Frankie hopes to escape a life on the farm by attending college at Vassar. There is a salacious love interest, as well as a Transatlantic voyage, among much else, so it is definitely an intriguing read.

My biggest problem with Frankie Pratt was how quickly it went.  It’s one of those books that can easily be read in one sitting, not only because of the format but also because it is an absorbing book.  The time period injected a bit of fun as well and I appreciated the period elements that Preston included.

Because the readathon is coming up, it is worth mentioning that this would be the perfect choice to break up the monotony of reading all day and into the night!

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I read my first Sophie Hannah book last year and was immediately hooked.  Her mysteries are engrossing and they remind me a lot of Laura Lippman’s, which I am also a fan of.

Naomi Jenkins is having an affair with a married man.  She is completely captivated by him and although she realizes that the situation is wrong, she has convinced herself that her love for Robert Haworth rights any wrongs they have committed.

One year into their affair, Robert fails to show up for their weekly hotel tryst and Naomi is filled with dread.  She never doubts that something awful has happened, and she sets out to find him, no matter what the cost.  She decides to report him to the police as a man who raped her, in the hopes that that will move them into action.

I thought Naomi was completely deluded.  She had already spent so much time becoming enmeshed in an adulterous relationship and now she was willing to accuse her lover of rape in order to discover his whereabouts.  She seemed like an all around nut job, to be honest, but the circumstances of her past and Robert’s disappearance made for a compelling read.

Mini Reviews #2

Home Economics was a very popular class for women to take decades ago.  Education for women wasn’t held in as high regard and it was deemed more important for a woman to be able to care for the family and household. Some Home Economics classes even provided students with a real live trial baby to practice their parenting skills on.  Yes, I am dead serious!

Set at a college university, Martha Gaines is the head of the Home Economics program and every two years she takes in a local orphan to use as a practice baby for a group of girls in her class. Henry House is one of the practice babies, and the book follows him throughout his life, showing the ramifications of such a strange child rearing process.  Henry has trouble forming relationships with others, due to the fact that he was raised by so many different “mothers”.  That, coupled with the rigid style of parenting practiced (never comfort a crying baby, that type of thing), caused Henry to grow up into a more despondent adult.

I really don’t have anything negative to say about The Irresistable Henry House.  At times the length did seem to be a bit much, but Grunwald did a great job of fictionalizing such an interesting piece of history, not to mention conveying the possible psychological issues that could arise after such a practice.

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Oh my goodness.  Yet another fantastic teen dystopian series.  It is getting harder for me to keep up at this point!

Beatrice is 16 and living in Chicago, where every teenager has to choose a faction once they come of age. They are forced to choose between candor (to be unflinchingly honest at all times), abnegation (the selfless), dauntless (the brave), amity (the peaceful) and erudite (the intelligent).  Most teens choose to stay in the faction in which they were raised, which in Beatrice’s caise is abnegation.  If you choose to join a different faction, you are essentially turning your back on your family and friends and being cut off from everything you knew previously. So you can see why Beatrice has a hard decision to make!

As is always the case with YA dystopian fiction, there IS a love interest for Beatrice.  I don’t always find that to be a necessary component of this type of novel, and sometimes the romantic aspect can actually detract from the story.  Luckily, that wasn’t the case with Divergent.  I thought Roth juggled the plot points very well.

Suffice it to say I preordered book #2, Insurgent, the second I finished this one!

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Because I have been having a difficult time a few months ago, it was really hard for me to focus on reading. I picked this one up because I had already read it before and figured it would be a nice distraction.

The Devil in the White City is a dual novel that focuses on the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.  Daniel Burnham is the architect in charge of constructing the entire fair under ridiculous time constraints.  His experience is coupled with infamous Chicagoan HH Holmes, who was reinventing himself over and over again as a charming, successful doctor while he is in fact preying on women. 

Honestly, this one bored me the second time around.  I wanted a good crime/murder story, so reading the lengthy descriptions of the the World’s Fair was tedious.  I don’t say that to dissuade anyone from reading it, because I thoroughly enjoyed it the first time, but this time around I think it boiled down to a case of being the wrong book at the wrong time.

Mini Reviews #1

I adored Karen Abbott’s previous book, Sin in the Second City, so I actually got my hands on this one as soon as it was published.  As is typical for me, the book then sat on my shelves for awhile before I finally got around to it. 

American Rose is the story of famous/infamous performer Gypsy Lee Rose.  Gypsy was a vaudevillian performer as a child and later on became a burlesque dancer around the time of the Great Depression.  She was basically a stipper.  Which nowadays is no big thing, but in that time period it was shocking. And for a stripper, Gypsy was actually quite tame.  You still had a little mystery remaining once her act was finished. 

I had never heard of Gypsy before but apparently she is still well known.  I had more than one person approach me as I was reading this and upon hearing who the book was about, they would respond with recognition.  Given her reputations, as well as the life she lived, I expected to fly through American Rose.  I can’t pinpoint the exact problem, but I just felt bored for most of the book.  It seemed a little too dry and Gypsy’s life didn’t enthrall me the way I expected.  The disconect was too great for me to overcome and I was left feeling lackluster about the book once I finished it.

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Domestic Violets is one of those books that it seemed like every blogger was raving about. Initially I was going to skip it only because there were so many other books I needed or wanted to read first, but I am a sucker for a lot of good hype, so I ended up requesting this one from Netgalley. 

Tom Violet is just kind of stuck.  He and his wife have been trying to conceive but it’s been taking longer than they had hoped and sex, not to mention their relationship in general, has become mechanic.  Tom’s got a soulcrushing job as a copywriter but he really wants to be a novelist.  His father is renowned author and Pulitzer prize winner Curtis Violet, and Tom is stuck in his shadow with no one taking him seriously.

The satirical tone of Domestic Violets is what really sets it apart from most novels.  I laughed out loud throughout the whole book.  When done well, I am such a fan of satire and this one was along the same vein of And Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris. I would not hesitate to recommend this one and I will be keeping an eye out for any future books from Matthew Norman.

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Are you all sick of books about the Holocaust, because I sure am!  All you have to do to guarantee I will stay far away from a book is to tell me that it is about the Holocaust.  I didn’t use to be that way, but one can only take so much. Anyway, you can see now why I stayed away from Sarah’s Key so long. I could only hold out for so long, because once the movie was released, my book club was chomping at the bit to read this one.  I was forced into it I tell you.

Sarah’s Key is about a young girl, Sarah, who is arrested with her parents in Paris during a roundup of Jews during WWII. They are shuttled to a local venue where they are held in squalor for awhile before being separated and deported to concentration camps.

There is so much I could say about the plot of this book, but I would hate to spoil it for anyone who may not have read it yet.  What I described above is the absolute barest of blurbs I can come up with and trust me, I am dying to say more! The movie is just as moving and I can’t decide which rendition is more heart wrenching.  I shudder to think about Sarah returning to her former apartment, and what she finds there. 

Please please please, if you haven’t read Sarah’s Key yet, you are missing out and you need to run out and get a copy ASAP. It is absolutely worth all the hype.  Oh, and once you read it, watch the movie!