A California Christmas by Brenda Novak

A California Christmas is the 7th book in the Silver Springs series by Brenda Novak. I’ve really enjoyed reading many of Novak’s hoiday tales in the past but A California Christmas fell flate for me. Generally, when a holiday tale comes along in the series the author gives you enough back story about others surrounding the main characters, or even the main characters themselves. I found myself getting annoyed because the author assumed I knew things that I did not SO, with that said, I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you’ve read the others in the series. That said, and this is such a personal quirk, I cannot read and engage with any character named “Dallas.” Seriously, that’s a great name for a city and it’s a great porn name but it is not a great name for a character who doesn’t work for the Chippendales. This one was not for me.

Deadly Waters by Dot Hutchison

If I could write a book, this is the one I would write!

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Deadly Waters is an anthem to the “Me Too” movement. It is for all of the women who have ever had to clean themselves up in a bathroom, dried their tears with their friends in a stall, been told they should not have been somewhere, should have worn something different, looked different, just been pleased someone noticed them. This is for women who have been groped in the workplace, who were threatened with lesser grades if they didn’t comply with professors, who batted eyelashes at their bosses to keep their jobs. This is for those who testified against Supreme Court nominees only to see that POS sitting on the highest court of the land. It is for women every where, even those too brainwashed by a male dominated culture to know it is for them.

Eight college women living in a suite at a Florida university know about all of these things. They go to bars where they are touched, groped, have to walk in pairs, watch their drinks so they don’t get tanked and still end up attacked in the parking lot. It is about someone’s revenge against the worst of the aggressors – because this world knows you cannot deal with them all – by feeding them to the alligators who are in the swamps near the campus.  The author grapples with the emotions that all of the women are going through – shock, joy, relief, horror, more joy, the “what-ifs” and we, as a reader, take that journey with them.

Admittedly, even as devout feminist, my first reaction was “why do these girls keep going to these bars!?”  Wait, back that up. WHY don’t these men stop harassing women at bars, drugging their drinks!? You see, I’m originally from the south and I know a thing or two about southern universities and specifically I know about Florida and Arizona universities because they are diving schools. They are the worst. The things written in this book are accurate. It IS this bad. I’m not at all appalled that a woman began doing something about it herself because we have all sat by over the past decade and seen what is done to the men who are accused – NOTHING. EVER. And yet, other readers and reviewers have the audacity to say that the book is about hate? You bet it is! I am enraged at what our society has become. That readers can review books about male serial killers until the cows come home and love them but because this one is about a female, about women who actually are happy that men finally have to meet justice for the horrors that they perpetrate on women,  then female reviewers have their delicate sensibilities in an uproar. Shame on you! How many of us have been in the same situation? How man of us – even on places like Facebook and Goodreads – have to block the trollers who will not leave us alone just because we have tits!? And you think this book is about hate!? No – the world men have created is about hate and it is called misogyny!

I loved the book. I think it should required reading for women just so their minds are opened because, apparently, far too many have been brainwashed by society for far too long. I also love the fact that, because I did not receive this book from a publisher I am able to write an honest review my true opinions and not some watered down version of what I really think. It’s refreshing to be able to do that for a change.

 

Devolution – Max Brooks

On April 1, 1969 the Board of Commissioners of Skamania County, Washington State, adopted an ordinance for the protection of sasquatch/bigfoot creatures (Ordinance No.69-01)

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No, don’t walk away because you think you know what this book is about. You don’t. I read it in all of my smugness, assuming it was going to be silly. After all – Big Foot. How seriously can you take a book about Big Foot!? Very. That’s how much! Because, Devolution really is about so much more than the creature you see skulking around in the movies and in strange commercials. It’s about American society and our fascination with technology, nature and introspection. It’s about ourselves.

Greenloop is meant to be a new urban model society. Set in the mountains of Washington, in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, it is a utopian society for a very select group of people who can contribute to the communal “green” society. The community is wholly self sustaining except for their One-Touch food delivery system brought to them by drones.  Their energy is solar and and waste-based. They have everything they need. They are “green” to gills and relish their very pro-nature, pro-animal, environmental lifestyle. Until Mt. Rainier decides to re-establish itself as the volcano that it is, cutting them off from the grid and from the rest of civilization. It also has cut off the rest of the animal kingdom from civilization. What happens from there is a tale that only Max Brooks could conceive.

The story is told from multiple perspectives – a journal kept by one of the residents, interviews with her brother who is searching for her, a companion guide to Sasquatch, and interviews with a park ranger who has been searching for survivors after the volcano. This method, its interlocking uses of back and forth data, make the story far more realistic than it otherwise might have been. There were times I found myself trying to verify sources before I had to remind myself that there was no eruption on Mt. Rainier. It really is written that realistically.

What further sets this book apart from other “monster horrors” is the character development. We are able to watch as characters are introduced, morph into leaders, fall apart under pressure, die, survive or not. This is the real backbone of Devolution. I would read it over and over again just to catch the nuances of these changes once more. They are brilliantly written. That isn’t to say that the book is without flaws because they are there. There were moments in the chapter segues that I thought Brooks was preaching and doing so about topics that were unrelated to the topics within the book. Hannah’s memoirs from the IDF were completely unnecessary. Others, however, were spot on so I tend to overlook the minor flaws in order to enjoy the greater perks of the book.

Do I believe in Big Foot after reading Devolution? Naaaahhh, wellll, not really. But I certainly won’t be found camping in Washington State anytime in this lifetime.

NOTE: I read this book during COVID and found such striking similarities between the Greenloop residents and those here in the US. Panic set in early regarding the lack of  food that would last more than a few days, undomesticated animals took over areas rather quickly from bears to wild cats to coyotes and foxes. Our technology and supply chains showed their weaknesses within one week. It was so apparent that “city dwellers” are ill equipped to survive any type of crisis which made Devolution all the more believable.

Sunday Morning for the Kids! Featuring King of the Tightrope by Donna Janell Bowman, Adam Gustavson (Illustrator)

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Good morning! I love Sunday mornings because I adore reviewing Children’s books. I always manage to learn something new and different when I read this genre. Does that mean I’m still a child? Hopefully, it means you are  never too old to learn!

KING OF THE TIGHTROPE: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara by Donna Janell Bowman, Adam Gustavson (Illustrator)

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I love all things related to the circus and being a mom of a circus performer, I have heard a lot about the kings of the tightrope – those daring men, and a few women, who boldly did (do) what others could not or will not do. Blondin is one of the most famous of these dare-devils because he was the first in many areas, particularly the first to actually walk on a rope across Niagara Falls, a feat that many considered his death sentence. They were wrong. Not only did he do it, he went on to even greater stunts. But how does a young boy decide this is what he will do when he is older? That is the story given to us here with Bowman’s wonderfully written, beautifully illustrated book: King of the Tightrope.

This is the story of how a boy who was born into a performing family – as many are – became bored with the acts he was doing and began challenging himself to do bigger, greater, more daring acts that he and others never had done before. What is so fascinating about this is that he had to use physics and mathematics to figure out how to accomplish these feats without falling. It is both an art and science to all of these types of performances. Kids reading this book are subtly made aware of how important being knowledgeable and well rounded is for success.  In addition, the illustrations are marvelous! Using bold, bright colors, the illustrator creates images that stimulate the child’s imagination, as well as those of an adult. This is a book that opens up new possibilities for kids of all ages. My own son had a such an “aha moment” experience when he was quite young and it led him to be a circus performer for the largest circus in the world – Cirque du Soleil. You never know what being introduced to magical performances will bring.

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My son, Toby, during a recent performance of the “O” show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

King of the Tightrope is the perfect book for children ages 6-11ish. I hope they will love it as much as I did!

 

 

 

Fab Fiction on Friday: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Let me just say that Such a Fun Age definitely will be on my Top Ten list of reads for 2020. That just goes without saying, I think, and I also think it will be on a lot of “favorite” lists this year. I have, however, hesitated to write a review of the book out of fear of diminishing its importance as well as its enjoyability.  Such a Fun Age is a cross-genre tale about race, class, upbringing and the difficulty it is to cross those barriers. Age even plays a role in this clever, well written, very timely book.

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Emira is a babysitter – not a nanny – for Peter and Alix (who changed the spelling of her name to be more relevant.) Peter is a newsreader on television and Alix is an “influencer” on social media. Emira is charged with caring for Briar, their very precocious, charming daughter and she loves it. There is a beautiful, loving relationship throughout the book between Emira and Briar. It reminded me a bit of the The Help, another book that looks at these same themes. Problems arise when Peter makes a racist on-air remark and their house is egged as a result. Alix asks Emira to take Briar out of the house to an upscale store until things can get sorted. There, however, Emira is accused of kidnapping Briar; after all, why would a black teenage girl have a white little girl at a store at 11pm? There is a huge scene and isn’t resolved until Peter arrives to clear up the confusion. Emira remarks that the security guard should be pleased since “Peter is an old, white guy.”  Things escalate from there as Alix and her extremely politically correct friends try to make things better for Emira who is more concerned about not having health care than she is about “the incident.” Things grow more tense throughout the book leaving you feeling as though you are watching a snowball grow into an avalanche until the very final page of this book.

So, after reading Such a Fun Age twice through, I realized that this is far more than a book about “transactional relationships,” – seriously, did you even know that word existed until this book? I didn’t. It is far more than a book about race, although it very clearly is that too. This is a story about the disconnect we all have with one another as we make assumptions about the people who come into and out of our lives. Do I treat the migrant differently than I treat others in my world? Do I see a person in their 30s and immediately make assumption about their “millennial” lifestyle? Do I try to make others see me as “relevant,” when, in fact, we all are. But, what I came away with most is that Emira was her own person, with her own goals and her own identity. She didn’t want to be super successful like some of her “home girls.” Neither did she want to be left behind in the job market. Most importantly, she didn’t have her life all figured out on the time-table that society set for her – few do! We forget that we are individuals and each of us – regardless of race or religion or lifestyle choices – have to allow that individuality to flourish. Stop putting people into boxes to fit your own ideas, ideals or beliefs. It really is that simple and Such a Fun Age illustrates this beautifully.

GENRE: Domestic Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Thank you to #PenguinPublishingGroup and #GPPutnamandSons

AtoZ Reading Challenge 2020

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This reading challenge is created and hosted by Megan and Crystal from GingerMomAndCompany and they’ve been doing this for three years now. I discovered it through Lili’s Blissful Pages and now will share it with you. This really shouldn’t be too difficult, should it? I even have the “Z” book already started!! Each week I will update this page to reflect my progress .I hope you will join in the fun too!

UPDATED THROUGH JANUARY

First Cut by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

First Cut is the first book in an exciting new series featuring Dr. Jessie Teska (don’t even ask what her first name really is!) She is brilliant, thorough and very flawed, exactly the type of character I love in books.

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Dr. Teska has newly arrived in San Francisco where a drug epidemic seems to be washing through the city. A new, highly volatile version of heroin has hit the streets causing overdoses among the most hardened users. Dr. Teska begins to see a pattern, however, in those who are ending up on her slab and the results of her investigation leads a little to close to home – the ME’s office!

The writing in First Cut is taut, precise and it is obvious the author knows her craft – Melinek is, or was, an ME. The computer stuff was a bit over my head but still easy to follow and actually quite fascinating. The characters were interesting and, while I didn’t like them all and some of them made me physically ill to imagine their existence in my world, they were exceptionally well written. I can’t wait for the next in this series!

The Turning – a collection by Henry James

Bwahahaha – horror is back and it is back with a vengeance! Welcome to The Turning….
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Growing up in the 70s, I cut my teeth reading Stephen King’s original books, you know, their first publication back in the day and when I couldn’t get more of King, I turned to the classics like Shelley’s Frankenstein, a love story (!), Shirley Jackson and Henry James. My favorite of all was Henry James and his terrifying short stories. Every now and again someone makes a movie about the Turn of the Screw and 2020 is apparently the year for major film producers to go all out trying to outdo one another. The Turning is a compilation of James’ short stories as a movie tie-in for the first 2020 release, The Turning, directed by Stephen Spielberg. It is a great, and horrifying re-grouping of James’ most noteworthy scary tales. If you love classic horror then this should be a must read for you! I loved having them collected all together. Yes, it is written in his original stilted Victorian prose but, for me, that just makes it all the better.

As a side note, the director who brought us The Haunting of Hill House also is creating a sequel based on James’ short stories called “The Haunting of Bly Manor.” You will want to read The Turning to be fully prepared for this spine=tingling, nerve-rattling sequel when it airs in a few months!