Author Archives: ocdreader

Review – The Chaperone

chaperoneThe Chaperone

by Laura Moriarty (Riverhead Books 2012)

Fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks, a few years before she becomes famous as a silent screen actress, leaves Wichita for New York City with a chaperone, Cora Carlisle.  Cora is neither family nor friend and has volunteered to chaperone this feisty teenager for propriety’s sake and because she has some reasons of her own to visit New York.

I didn’t know much about Louise Brooks before this book and I think I would like to see some of her pictures and definitely read her biography, Lulu in Hollywood. She is fascinating, precocious, driven and uncontrollable.  She is kind of like the first female rock star with her behavior and how shocking she was for her time.

But this book is really about Cora and her journey.  She follows society’s way of thinking, is upstanding and tries to teach Louise how to act and what to do and say in the few weeks they are together, but ultimately realizes she needs to look internally before she is fit to do any teaching.

“There was something entitled in the girls voice, something proud and unthinking.” (pg 40)

Oh Cora, if only she could see how today’s kids treat most everyone… Louise is a handful and is NOT respectful at all.  She thinks Cora is ridiculous, rolls her eyes, basically hates her and tries to act as shocking as possible.  She does what she wants to get attention and ultimately get what she wants.

Ultimately Cora does realize she herself is being taught by Louise.

“The young can exasperate, of course, and frighten, and condescend, and insult, and cut you with their still unrounded edges. But they can also drag you, as you protest and scold and try to pull away, right up to the window of the future, and even push you through.” (pg 157)

Cora, at 36 years old grows up and into herself.  In a way, it is her coming of age as she begins to understand herself and her desires and realizes that you have to fight for what you want sometimes and not let life and your family, friends, expectations and society’s morays steamroll you into an automaton sleepwalking through a half existence.

She’d always assumed that this first, unremembered loss, even before she was sent out on the train, was the root of her unhappiness. (pg258)  She’d lived too much of her life so stupidly, following nonsensical rules, as if she and he, as if anyone, had all the time in the world. (pg 273)

What this book really did for me, was help me further understand my grandparents from their silent generation, and make me wonder what we don’t know about their lives! We here in the US are encouraged to spill everything we are feeling, thinking and have experienced, but it wasn’t always like that.  This book shows a juxtaposition of the WWI & depression era generation with the flappers and jazz age kids who flaunted and exposed because it was real, not just expected.

On a side note, I personally have never ever felt such loneliness until I moved to New York and didn’t know hardly anyone and really didn’t know the city yet.  It is a great way to find out who you are. Moriarty captures that beautifully.

“But even then, even in her wonder, she couldn’t help but think that from up in the high and quiet, behind the glass of the observation booth, the city finally looked and sounded as apart from her as it felt.” (pg 201)

The book spans Cora’s life, and while it was interesting to see what she does and where everyone ends up at the end, it rambled a little bit for me and lost some steam.  I called it “floppy” at bookclub and everyone agreed.  But other than that, I really enjoyed this book. It illuminated and it didn’t answer every question about Cora’s life to make the reader think and guess and, I assume, to make it closer to real life.  I would recommend it, it was wonderful, has many more themes than I mentioned and really does make you think, 4 black and white stars bouncing around making faces to the happy sounds of the orchestra, enjoy the icy air and listen to the audience laugh.

Advertisements

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

patient zerioPatient Zero (Joe Ledger, Bk 1)

by Jonathan Maberry

I seem to be on a major zombie kick lately.  It is fun, I haven’t read too many yet, but this book is more of a non-stop thriller, FBI-ish procedural, save the world from megalomaniacs and terrorists. But these are well-funded with nasty smart scientists who mess with mad cow type diseases to create, yep, you guessed it, zombies.

This book is serious and seriously messed up.  But Joe Ledger is an awesome nearly superhero-esque character with amazing cop, warrior and army skills and also armed with snarky comments.

“He finished his cookie and took another vanilla wafer. I’m not sure I could trust a man who could bypass an Oreo in favor of vanilla wafers. It’s a fundamental character flaw, possibly a sign of true evil.” (pg 13)

The timeline is crazy fast because you read about Joe’s inclusion in a super secret government agency, as well as the six days ago count-down to present day movements of the terrorists. If you can keep it all straight in your head, you are revealed tantalizing bits of information that no mere mortal could possibly thwart…except for that fact that Joe is so kick-ass.  His new boss is a bit of a scary bastard, mostly because you don’t get in his head to know how or why he does things.

“That wiped the smile off everyone’s face. We all knew he meant it, and I was starting to get a pretty good idea that he was a total whack job.

But he was our whack job.” (pg 116)

I really enjoyed this book, it was a mile a minute, wild ride that just happened to include the possibility of a zombie apocalypse.  There are some extremely violent scenes, but the people involved are human, they have a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact they just had to kill a bunch of civilians that had been changed.  Maberry juxtaposes real people who are genuinely trying to do good with money hungry jerkwads that don’t care except how much money they are going to make. Maberry doesn’t really let you get that immune to the violence because his characters can’t wrap their heads around it very well either.  Plus there is a psychiatrist in on the top secret save the world stuff helping them cope.

“He turned back to me. “I hope they’re not so tough that they’re hardened, Joe. We’re not just fighting against something…we’re fighting for something and it would be a shame to destroy the very thing you’re fighting to preserve.” (pg 135)

I am definitely going to pick up the other three books and his YA zombie books.  I am a fan! 4.5 stars, one has the virus, the other 3.5 are trying to shoot off its head before it infects them all.

Anyone have any good recommendations for other zombie reads?

Review – Unwind

Unwind

by Neal Shusterman

After reading this book I am extremely disturbed.   It is a YA dystopia and there was a second civil war and some reason, it doesn’t really matter why, the two sides decided that all people have a right to life until age 13.  Between 13 and 18 a kid can be unwound, sold for parts (a sort of later in life abortion) if they are wards of the state, their parents decide they are too much work, or their guardian signs them away.  There has been a breakthrough in medicine so arms, skin, teeth, muscles everything can be harvested and implanted on people who need new parts.  There are tons of cops making sure these unwind kids don’t run away because it is big business for the government.  But the kicker and rhetoric is the kids are still alive because around 95% of each kid has to be used by law.  They are just disassembled and they live on in the people who need their body parts.  Yay!  I didn’t have my kid killed, he lives on in hundreds of different people.  Isn’t that wonderful?  Shusterman makes sure you know if the kid is still “there” and it is a little bit horrifying.

The adults in this world allow this to happen knowing that it isn’t a wonderful thing, regardless of the rhetoric spouted by the government and they all feel guilty when they send a kid to be unwound.   However, they spout the same marketing BS to try to make the kid and themselves feel better about it, because many parents send their kids for unwinding.  The other issue is that you can stork a baby (leave it on someone’s doorstep and they are required by law to raise the child if they don’t catch you leaving it).  So many families have more kids than they can handle.  YA books usually have adults as clueless or evil or stupid and the kids know better, but wow, these adults can be quite harsh, though not all of them, because some are amazing.  But society has deemed it acceptable, so there you go.

Read this book.  It is horrible, it is tough and it is so well done.  Some terrible decisions are made by all sorts of people young and old.  I liked it from the first few pages.  So, think back on your life, when you were 13 or 15, not the best of years for many of us.  You go through puberty, you fight with your folks, you feel sullen and removed…how many of us would have ticked off our folks and been unwound?   Or had a sibling unwound?  Seriously.  There is this scene, well a couple of them actually that are so intense.  I think some of them will haunt me for some time to come.  Much like an after image of a bright light on my retinas.

This book is well-written, makes you think, has full, well-rounded primary and secondary characters and has a crazy idea but shows you how it could really happen.  It also has dangling storylines that get woven together seemlessly.  I loved that certain things were brought back up and answered or just came full circle.  There will soon be another book and I imagine any open-ended storylines or remaining questions will be answered.  Also, discord has been sown…I am hoping we will eventually see the fall of this unwinding business.  This book scared me, was well written, had characters I cared about and made me think, I give this book 5 stars.

Review – Wishful Drinking

Wishful Drinking

by Carrie Fisher

This short little memoir was hilarious, even though it doesn’t seem like it should be since it is full of family disfunction, drug addiction, mental illness and electric shock therapy.  Basically she says “If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.” (pg 17)  I guess she has had a one woman show which is basically the contents of this book which she claims started out as a “singles ad – a really, really detailed personals ad…” (pg 149).  Chelsea Handler is doing something like this too.  I read one of her books about her insane sex life.  Funny.

If you are at all interested in Hollywood intrigue, she explains how her daughter and Elizabeth Taylor’s grandson might be related since they were dating at the time.  She includes a marriage chart and everything, which I had to flip back to quite a few times!  She also expounds on how being Princess Leia changed her life in many interesting ways.  She definitely gets TMI from some of her fans, young male fans especially.  She includes a few funny parts about filming the movies, such as, did you know why there is “no underwear in space according to George Lucas?”  Find out what she wore under that white flowing dress.  Ultimately, it is a fun read to laugh along with a woman who could just as easily be crying with all the crazy stuff that has happened in her life.

It is funny, a bit moving, interesting, though fairly surface about certain things and super short short.  It made for an enjoyable afternoon.  3 stars.

Review – Speechless

Speechless

by Kim Fielding

If you are looking for a sweet little romantic love story, look no further!

Travis is working a crappy machine shop job in Portland, OR.  He has no friends, no car and not much of a life.  Every day on his way home from work he passes a handsome man playing guitar on his front steps.  Drew has aphasia and cannot speak or write.  The boys meet, become friends and have a wonderful romance.

You would think that because Drew can’t speak that you don’t understand what he is thinking.  But Fielding is great, we get expressions, gestures and Travis figuring it out.  It works really well and Travis talks enough for the two of them.  But the dialogue doesn’t overwhelm the story either.  It is quiet, thoughtful and lovely.  It makes you slow down and realize there are many ways to communicate, we just tend to talk too much to notice.

Speechless is a short story, around 60 pages, but it doesn’t feel rushed in any way.  The romance is adorable but there isn’t much smexing.  It happens but there isn’t much description or play by play, so if that is what you are looking for, you won’t find it here.  Instead you find two men, who both have disabilities, that find love and acceptance.  But while they have disabilities they aren’t disabled.  They don’t allow it and find ways to be better and stronger than what other people “see” and expect.  This novelette was well written and even though there isn’t a ton of conflict, there isn’t meant to be.  It is more of a “don’t stand in the way of your own happiness” type thing due to fear or expectations.

I read another review of this story who said it was “cute with a side of angst”.  I couldn’t say it better myself.  So sweet!  4 star short story.  It even gave me little happy tears (though I warn you that I am a sap!).

Review – A Kiss Before the Apocalypse

A Kiss Before the Apocalypse

by Thomas E Sniegoski

Dusty gem from my bookshelf

This is the beginning of a series about Remy Chandler, a private investigator who also happens to be an angel.  He lives on earth like a human because he wants to, which is a big deal.  Remy normally hunts down cheating spouses and during a routine case finds the husband of the woman who recently hired him, but the case takes a dramatic turn when the man recognizes his angelic nature, then kills himself.  But he can’t die regardless of the trauma.  The Angel of Death is missing and neglecting his duties.  Seraphim visit Remy and ask him to find the Angel of Death, the missing scrolls and to stop the Apocalypse.  The Four Horsemen are on their way, heaven wants to stop it and a host of others want to see it happen.

Quick side note:  There are a whole bunch of fallen, exiled and hiding angels living in Boston – is that why it is a fun city, or are they there because it is?  Something to ponder…

This was a gritty adventure and the apocalypse is just around the corner.  Remy has a dog, who he can converse with (angelic superpowers and all), which is a very sweet relationship.  The conversations were well done.  Also, as an angel Remy is immortal but his human wife is nearing the end of her life.  It is interesting that this first book in the series is about both the end of the world and the end of his married life.  But I think it opens the field to Remy taking on dangerous jobs in future novels.  Most of the other characters Remy deals with are immortals of some type, usually angelic or fallen.

The story is full of action, but it really made me think about love. If you lose someone you love, how do you cope? What would it be like to be immortal and how they may eventually desire for life to end. What are angels really like? Are they emotionless? Do they need to be to live as long as they do? What would happen if they felt emotion? Sniegoski plays with the concept of angels, their motivations and their desires. What event may have turned an angel to live amongst the humans instead of the heavenly host? The book is bittersweet…there is another book in the series, so I am sure you can guess whether the apocalypse happens, but his wife is dying and there is no stopping death once he is doing his job.

I cried a couple of tears at the end and look forward to picking up the next in the series.  I give it 3.5 stars.

Teaser –

“His eyes burned like pieces of the sun, jammed into the fleshy sockets, but he did not cry.  He never could cry.”

Review – The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain

by Garth Stein

borrowed

If you want a quick read that makes you weep and gives you pointers on life, this is the book for you!  It is narrated by Enzo, a philosophical dog and is about his family and his life.  His owner, Denny, is a race car driver who knows how to drive well on a wet race track.  There is a special art to racing in the rain which can be applied to how you live your life as well.

So, to add rain to this man’s life, a whole sh*t load of problems and horrible things descend upon him.  How he reacts to the rain in his life, his focus to make it through the curves leads to whether he will crash and burn or make it through for the win.  It is allegorical and all that good stuff.  It is told simply and well.

So, I read the first 3/5’s of this book in one sitting, then I threw the book down in an emotional tizzy because I felt so manipulated because so much crap gets piled on this poor guy.  It is a little heavy handed, so I suggest you read this for the interesting POV and the emotional rollercoaster it takes you on.  I picked it up again to finish it and didn’t have another freak out, so that was good.  I enjoyed it.  I think if I read it in smaller chunks I would have had a better time of it.  Since it goes so quickly and the chapters are short and easy I ate too much of the book all at once and got a tummy-ache.  I wept, dang it, I laughed, it was nice and it ultimately makes you feel good.  3 stars.

This sort of summed up the book for me:

“No race has ever been won in the first corner,” he said.  “But plenty of races have been lost there.”  …

“That’s right,” he said to me, “If we’re going to be a cliche, let’s be a positive cliche.”

Review – Black Wings

Black Wings (Black Wings #1)

by Christina Henry

Purchased

Madeline Black is an Angel of Death.  She has a gargoyle friend who protects her house, her mother died when she was 13 and she never knew her father.  Her mother’s job was passed to her when she died, so Maddy is part of the bureaucracy that helps ferry souls to the ever after.  And a bureaucracy it is.  There is paperwork, supervisors and she doesn’t get paid.  Luckily she can rent out the bottom floor of her house.  She rents it to a gorgeous guy, Gabriel Angeloscuro (nice last name, hint hint).  But right after she rents it to him demons begin showing up trying to kill her.

This was an enjoyable book, I read it quickly and with zeal.  It is jam-packed full of action, world building, demons, souls, blood and mayhem.  Her lineage is revealed to her, and it is colorful and an important part of the story.  There was a little romantic tension, but she is a virgin, so don’t expect much there.  It makes me wonder what Henry has in store for Maddy.  It also ends looking like there will be a love triangle in the next book.  Hmmmm.

There is a lot of action and a lot of names to remember.  In fact a couple of times I got a little lost but just kept reading.  When the bad guy puppeteer is revealed, I wasn’t really sure if I should have known more about them already, but I soldiered on and the story made perfect sense.  I found I did that a lot with the Cassie Palmer stories too, I would get lost but keep going and things tended to straighten themselves out.  It was a good start for a new paranormal urban fantasy and I will be looking for the next book in the series, Black Night.  I liked it, 3 stars.

Review – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

Source: Purchased (reading for bookclub)

I really enjoyed this book.  It was simply lovely.  It is a historical fiction but books and discussing books bring the characters together.  Because it is told through a series of letters between the characters it reminds me a lot of 84 Charing Cross Road, which I also loved, but there is more history and meat to this story.  WWII recently ended, Guernsey (part of the Channel Islands across from London) had been occupied during the war, and the people on the island created a literary society to have a reason to assemble and avoid trouble from the Germans.  Juliet, the main character and an author, receives a letter from one of the islanders asking for a bookshop recommendation, her name and address was in one of the books he now owns.  This opens up a friendship between the society members and Juliet, who asks they write to her to tell her their experiences during the war.  You really get to know the characters, and they are strong, determined, amazing and funny and feel very real.  There is not a huge amount of action but instead is a quiet, reflective type of book.

Besides being interesting history and character driven, they share a love of books that I can so understand!

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit will lead you onto a third book.  It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” (pg 11)

Ultimately, Juliet decides to write a book about Guernsey and the Society and goes there to interview everyone properly.  It is so interesting to see how much you can learn about people from their correspondence.  It is happy, sad, romantic, funny and heart-warming.  It had me laughing and crying, for both happy and sad and horrifying reasons.  It discusses WWII and the atrocities the people faced and lived to tell about or not.  It does take a little work to get to know all of the characters because there are a lot of them.  I spoke to one of my friends who compiled a list of characters and who they are to keep her straight as she reads.  I just plowed on through and figured out who characters were as I went.  I was a little confused a time or two, but it didn’t really matter.  Things are revealed as you dig through the letters, so you have to have patience and an open mind going in.  But it really is worth it if you like historical fiction, ever read and enjoyed Griffin and Sabine (though this is without magic) or 84 Charing Cross Road.  Read it!!  For me, it is a 5 star book and a keeper.

Review – Immortal in Death (In Death #3)

I have been on a mystery kick lately.  These are always good and I think I have 30 or so to swim through…

Immortal in Death (In Death #3)

By JD Robb

Borrowed from a friend

These are mystery/police procedurals set around 40 years the future.  The police detective lead, Eve Dallas is about to marry her intense romantic interest Roarke.  They are really hitting their relationship stride in this book.  Eve fights his love less and since she is of course too busy to pick out dresses, flowers and the like, her best friend Mavis is helping.  Mavis brings Eve to Leonardo, a talented designer who will create her dress and who also happens to be Mavis’ new boyfriend.  I love Mavis, she is a free spirit, outrageous and has a heart of gold.  Unfortunately, Leonardo’s previous girlfriend Pandora wanted to end the relationship, (no one ever leaves her!), so she is going to start trouble for him.  Since she is a high powered model with tons of connections, she can ruin Leonardo before his career truly takes off.  Before you know it, Pandora is murdered and Mavis is in the wrong place at the wrong time and all the evidence points to her.  Eve is the lead investigator for the case, even though she is emotionally involved.  She has to use all of her skill to figure this one out.

“Eve’s life had never been easy.  In her career as a cop she had seen and done too many nightmarish things to count them all.  But nothing had ever been more difficult for her than taking Mavis into Interview.” (pg. 47)

I really enjoy these books.  I get a great mystery with police procedural with some steamy romance and it takes place in 2058, so things are just different enough from my world that it satisfies my love of fantasy/UF.  They are my new go-to for when I don’t know what else to pick up.

So this mystery was great.  There are only a few players and still figuring out who did what is difficult.  Helping Mavis, coupled with Eve’s remembering of the abuse she suffered as a child, this is the most emotion we get from her in the series so far.  She isn’t pushing people away as much and has almost come to terms with loving and being loved.  (So sweet and I think at one point I had tears in my eyes.)

There is a new drug on the street, this one with regenerative effects, but two big drawbacks.  It will kill you with repeated use for 4-5 years and it is highly addictive.  Models, street folks and designers all are interested in this drug.  Someone, with ties to the new drug, is killing people, Pandora included and Eve, with her team and Roarke’s occasional help, figures out the link and search for the supplier and ultimately the killer.

When the bad guy reveals him/herself I thought “Yes!  I knew there was something weird about that character”…they never sat easily with me, but I didn’t KNOW.  But the reveal doesn’t come easily and the last few hours before the wedding are touch and go.

These books keep me riveted.  What is the genre, Mystery/romance?  I like the combo, whatever it is.  Eve is growing on me, and Roarke is the ultimate fantasy man, gorgeous, loving, self-made super rich, brilliant and a bad boy.  Sigh.  I will be picking up the other books eventually, 4 stars.

%d bloggers like this: