Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

First, let me give props where they are due.  Thank you to my friend Lora for recommending this book.  We at The Family Addiction (TFA, as we call ourselves) LOVE when our followers recommend books for us to read.  We especially love when our followers recommend a really good book like this one.  Reading and reviewing a book is far more fun if we know you are waiting to hear what we thought about it.  Um, and it also keeps us accountable and helps us post on time.  These are good things.

Billed for readers grade 7 and up, Unwind is set in the future. The second civil war, which broke out over abortion, has just ended thanks to a treaty called "The Bill of Life."  To satisfy both the pro-life an pro-choice camps, the Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched until the age of 13.  However, between the ages of 13 to 18 a parent may choose to retroactively abort their child. The process of retroactively aborting a child is called "unwinding." Connor, Risa and Lev, the three "unwinds" that have escaped their unwinding, are the main focus of the novel and are our tour guides through their quest to stay alive.  If they can reach the age of 18 without being caught, they are free to live a normal live and will not be unwound.  If caught, they will be unwound and their organs and limbs will be harvested and used for transplants. 

You need to read this book.  No matter what your beliefs, your views and opinions on life and our species will be challenged.  I won't sugar coat it.  It made me uncomfortable.   It was impossible to be engaged with these kids as they faced the end of their lives and not compare it to my life.  Would this have been an option for me if my life had turned out differently?  What if we really did have a second world war?  What if retroactive abortion was available in our society today?   What would our world look like?

One of the reasons I was so involved was that the author made these teens and their stories so personal.  Not only do I know kids like these, I used to BE a kid like this.  The only difference  is that at one time or another, their parents decided they didn't want them anymore and signed an order to have them unwound.  Let's face more incident like the one the summer I turned 17 and I'm pretty sure my mom would have signed that order.

The beauty of this book is that the author doesn't take one side or the other.  There are pros (diseased children can get a perfect transplant from an unwind) and cons of the process.  There was no preaching, no hidden agenda.  I swear, the internal dialogue this book promoted was scary.  I finished the book over a week ago and still think about it on daily basis.  So how did it end?  The end was the end.  Except for me the end was the beginning and the beginning is a whole new way of looking at life. 

Pin It

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Heat Rises by Richard Castle

There's something odd about reading a book "written" by a television character.  Of course, when I use the phrase "television character", I don't mean someone who's quite the character on television like Craig Ferguson (although, he is quite fun and he did write two books). No, no. I mean an actual fictional character on television.

(Uh, can you have an actual fictional anything?  This post was NOT supposed to be a philosophy test.)

Heat Rises  is the third book attributed to Richard Castle, the eponymous main character of the television crime show, "Castle", on ABC.  Richard Castle is portrayed, with great humor and charm, by Nathan Fillion.  The  person who ghost writes the books for Richard Castle is unknown.

Let me first say that I love "Castle".  It's fun and silly and witty all while solving a crime.  Oh, and did I mention Nathan Fillion?  (Yum.) That means there are many, many lovely things about the television show.  If you're not watching it, and you like mysteries or cop shows, you should be watching it.  If you're not watching it, but you enjoyed Nathan Fillion in "Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog" or "Firefly", you should be watching it.

(I would like to take this moment to thank my sister for introducing me to "Castle."

Thanks, Sarah!  You were totally right.)

Now, let's get back to this thing where there are three books purported to be written by a fictional television character.  I really can't think of another instance of this happening other than the series of murder mysteries written by Jessica Fletcher, Angela Lansbury's character on "Murder, She Wrote."  I think we can just agree it's odd and then move on.  (Which is ironic because I've taken six paragraphs to get past my first point. Can we all also agree to do as I say and not as I do for the duration of this post?  Thanks.)

I want to move on because I think the books are worth reading even if you don't watch "Castle."  It's not a requirement. I do think, however, that "Castle" fans will like the Richard Castle books better because of their familiarity with the characters.  In the books, Nikki Heat (the fictionalized book version of fiction television character Kate Beckett) gets stuck with Jameson Rook (Rook, Castle, Rook, Castle.  Get it?), an investigative journalist, for a series of ride-alongs.  The ride alongs only take place in the first book.  After that, it's Rook's and Heat's personal relationship that keeps them solving crimes together.

Heat Rises, like the other two Richard Castle books, are fun, easy reads.  I would call them beach reads.  They're light on the crime scene science and heavier on basic cop work and personal relationships.  "Castle" fans will find some corollaries between the last season of the show and this book.  Although, they are not one in the same.  The books are not mere re-hashing of episodes of "Castle". There are hints of corruption, unseen influence and connections between crimes past and crimes present.  In Heat Rises, Nikki Heat tries to solve the murder of a priest found in domination and submission dungeon.  The stakes are high as Heat is up for promotion and a target for those who don't want internal corruption exposed.  She puts her life and her career on the line.  The crime is solved, but not without great cost to those who love Nikki Heat.

Heat Rises ends with a bit of cliff-hanger, so I won't post anything about the final pages.  I will end by saying that this book is a great way to spend time enjoying characters I normally only see on Monday nights on ABC.

Other books by Richard Castle include Heat Wave and Naked Heat. Pin It

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

So last night I labored over the world's best book review.  It was tough, I was working from my iPad while I was trying to ignore the Cardinals beating themselves up.  I'm not fast or accurate on the touch pad keyboard, so it was slow going.  However my desktop was "updating" for like seven days and only now is available to me because I gave it the stink eye and told it to quit futzing and update already.  The review was sooooo well written.  I laughed, I cried, I never dangled a single participle or broke up the grammar world's "it" couple; the infinitive.  Then I went to link the book title to Amazon, cause I don't know if you've noticed but we're all polite and make it easy for you to share our book habits, and Blogger ate my review.  I was mad.  I still am.  And now you have to suffer because I'm not capable of writing TWO amazing reviews in two nights.  You would have loved the other review.  Trust me.

I'm still reviewing the same book, but probably more abruptly.  Not because the book doesn't deserve praise, but because I'm not giving Blogger another chance to make like an amateur magician damn it.  Carrie gave me this book to read several months ago.  And I should have read it when she gave it to me because every time she hands me a book and says "I really think you'll like this.", she's usually right.  This is especially true when it comes to romances because I don't naturally gravitate them on my own; me being the Debbie Downer of this book blog and all.  Carrie has recommended other Jennifer Crusie books to me and I liked all the ones I have read.  Carrie can correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure she's read all of them.  I might too when I'm in the mood for something fun and fast.

What I like about Ms. Crusie as an author is that she seems to truly understand that ordinary people don't have to be boring.  Her characters can have personalities without having to have supernatural gifts or love affairs with people who have supernatural gifts.  There are, of course, extraordinary circumstances in most of her books but that's more for providing plot points rather than providing a situation in which to create substance.  The substance is in her characters and it's fun to read about how her characters navigate through the ordinary and extraordinary.  That makes total sense in my head.  It is my sincere hope it also makes sense in words.  Mr. Mayer is an author who also happens to be former Special Forces.  Clearly I don't know much about him other than he and Ms. Crusie make a lovely writing team.

Agnes is in the middle of planning her god daughter's wedding while trying to renovate her newly purchased, secluded mansion, and still write her food column before her deadline.  Things aren't going swimmingly and that's before the not-so-professional attempts on her life occur.  Fortunately Agnes can wield a frying pan like none other, and help is nearby.  The help part is essential as the hitmen become more and more professional and the mansion and the wedding are really more than one person should have to deal with in a week as it is.  As an added bonus, help happens to be pretty hot.  Turns out South Carolina is a hotbed of a mob retirement community and just about everyone involved - even remotely - in the wedding has a secret.  Never fear...our hero hitman has it covered.

The characters are fun, the action is fast, and the ending is happy.  What more could you ask for?  Ms. Crusie and Mr. Mayer have written two other books as a writing team; Wild Ride and Don't Look Down.  I read those after I finished Agnes.  I liked them both, particularly Wild Ride, but I liked Agnes the best.  OK, I'm hitting "Publish" now.  Fingers crossed!  If this doesn't work I'm going to need a hitman myself. Pin It

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Hunt by Jan Neuharth

Look at that!  I taught myself how to insert a picture of the book cover!  Fancy, huh?  Sadly, this may be the most exciting part of this review. 

The Hunt is set in Virginia, just outside of DC, and tells the story of a wealthy lawyer and horseman named Doug Cummings.  Poor Doug becomes the victim of a scheme to frame him for murder when his lover and horse groom are killed.  (I didn't know what a horse groom was either, don't feel bad).  The local sheriff's deputy has it in for him and it appears the media does too.  Doug must take matters into his own hands in order to prove his innocence because even his own attorney thinks he is guilty.

Sound kind of lame?  It was.  I found that it started slow and never really picked up speed.  If it is a good mystery, I'm usually hooked by at least Chapter 3.  By Chapter 3 of The Hunt I was already planning my next read. The biggest issue stems from the fact that I never felt connected to Doug.  The author depicted him as a single, distinguished lawyer who kept to himself and whose favorite pastime was hanging out in the barn with his horses.  As a result, he came across as aloof and uncommitted.  The deputy sheriff in the novel was a modern-day Barney Fife with an anger management problem, if you can wrap your mind around that.  Honestly, the only character in the book that struck a chord with me was the housekeeper.  Her commitment and loyalty to Doug throughout the story was the lone highlight, in my opinion.

The extremely predictable ending lends itself to a sequel, or worse yet, a series. Figures. I finally read the first in a series and it turns out to be a dud. I think I'll go back to reading a series out of order.  I have better luck that way.

Pin It

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Moon Dance by J.R. Rain

If you're a Kindle person, act now.  Follow this link and Moon Dance is free right now.  At that price, it's totally worth it.

Oops.  That was a little meaner than it should have been.  Moon Dance is worth at least the 99 cents I paid for it at Barnes & Noble.

Moon Dance is a paranormal-mystery-romance with characters that I either didn't like or wouldn't as well developed as I would like.

Samantha Moon is the main character, and she's a former federal agent who has become a private investigator.  Her job change followed an even bigger change from typical suburban mom with kids and carpools to atypical suburban mom with vampirism she's trying to disguise as an intense allergy to the sun.

Samantha gets hired to find out who shot a famous defense attorney.  She struggles to find the culprit just as she struggles with her new condition.  Her marriage is in upheaval, she's falling for her client, she's got a quasi-friendship, quasi-romance going with someone online, and her client has a major secret.  To top it all off, she allows her husband to blackmail into giving up the kids in their upcoming divorce based on some of seriously flimsy logic.  He claims that no judge will allow her access to her kids if he shows video evidence of her vampirism, but this book's "world" doesn't acknowledge vampires and werewolves and such.  So how in the world can a father file a "my ex is vampire and a danger to our kids" motion?  He'd be laughed out of court.

Samantha didn't elicit a lot of sympathy from me.  Her client wasn't a well-developed character, and the most interesting person in the story is one we never meet--the online pal.

Samantha does solve the mystery in the end, and she works on accepting her vampiric state.  This is  the first book of a four-book series, but I don't plan to stick around to see how much progress she makes. Pin It

Monday, October 10, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue

In honor of Columbus Day, I'm reviewing a book about finding a whole other world.  It's just that the whole other world in Room happens to be everything outside of the 11 ft by 11 ft room where the narrator, Jack, and his mother are being held.  And just to clear this up:  No, I don't think Columbus "discovered" America first. No, I don't think he was probably an amazing altruistic explorer just really digging some new scenery.  But also, no, I don't think he knew that he was about to wipe out a significant portion of an indigenous population with venereal disease.  Weapons probably, but I don't think we can honestly paint him as a mastermind in biological warfare.  You know, seeing as how germ theory and comprehension of the immune system amounted to "What theory?" and "Beg pardon?" during Columbus's time.  Not to mention that personal hygiene was pretty much watching where you stepped around livestock and that was about it.

Anyway, back to the book.  Jack narrates the story of how he and his mother live in and escape from Room, as well as how they adapt to Outside.  Ma (five-year-old Jack's mother conveniently) was abducted when she was 19.  She's been living in Room for the past seven years of her life.  Room is well concealed, soundproof, and where she is beginning to think she will raise her son and then die.  If you're doing the math, then you realize that Jack is born in Room.  He knows nothing of the outside world with the exception of what he sees on their television.  And Ma tells him that none of it is real; it's all stories made up from different planets.  Room is truly the only thing in Jack's world.  Ma does her best to give him "normal" under the circumstances.  She does some amazing things with what little they are given by their captor.

Ma figures out a plan to escape which involves pretending Jack is dead.  That part was hard to read, as I kept thinking that she was asking WAY too much of the boy.  That even if they managed to fool "Old Nick" (their captor) then Jack would be so confused by the outside world that everything would fall apart and end badly for everyone involved.  Fortunately, the escape is rocky but successful.  What follows next is Jack's account of living in the outside world.  There are many, many things that are foreign to him - for example, he's never seen of had to climb up/down stairs before - and many of them are unpleasant to a little boy who has only known physical and emotional closeness to his mother.  Everyday noises seem sudden and too loud to him.  Shoes hurt his feet.  The sun is too bright (there was a small soundproof skylight in Room but that was it for natural light) and the air is too breezy.  During this part of the book, I couldn't help but think they should seek out some autism parents as most of us can now identify potential stimuli hazards from a mile away.

The book also touches on the difficult transition for Ma, though it's from Jack's perspective so we don't get all the details.  Her family, after searching and searching for her, held a funeral for her.  Now she's back with a five-year-old son.  Her parents have divorced, her brother has his own family, and she's not sure how she's supposed to fit in.  They're different and she's different.  In the end, nothing is perfect but there is hope that it will get better as time passes.  I have to say that I enjoyed this book after I was initially a wee bit annoyed by the narration (Jack capitalizes a lot, but then I realized that was actually what he should do.  When you think that the light shining on the table is the only one in existence, you should call it Lamp.).  Once I got into the feel of it though, it was a pretty fast read.  For those worried about child abuse issues, Jack and "Old Nick" rarely have any interaction.  "Old Nick" never abuses (in any way) Jack.  Obviously holding him captive is an issue, but Ma is really the one meant to be in Room.  A very interesting book and, in my opinion, worth the time to read. Pin It

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Until Proven Guilty by J.A. Jance

Thank you, Barnes and Noble, for yet another cheap/free book.  This one was by far my favorite "ebook for cheap" and deservedly so.  It had all the elements of a winner for me.  Crime drama?  Check.  In depth police investigation?  Check.  Ruggedly handsome, almost middle-aged, sensitive detective?  Check.  I must admit,  I swooned while reading this book.  It didn't hurt that it was a fast page-turner as well.  I read it in a weekend.

J.P. Beaumont (the detective I swooned over) is investigating the murder of a 5-year-old girl who seems to have been an innocent victim of a fanatical cult.  Detective Beaumont must make heads or tails of this investigation in fast order and it won't be easy.  Her mother is being closely guarded by cult members, the head of the cult is a highly suspicious character and the girl's biological father is a recently ousted cult member.  Struggling to find answers, J.P. runs in to a beautiful, intriguing woman at the victim's funeral.  She captivates J.P. from the first moment he sees her and she offers to lend a hand with the investigation.  A self-proclaimed victim's advocate, Anne Corley helps J.P. with many aspects of his case and they eventually find themselves in a relationship.  Unfortunately, a tragic accident in the last 5 pages of the book leaves J.P. back where he started.  And this time, we just aren't sure if he will find the answers.  We have to read the next book, Injustice for All to find out.

For me, this book had the right balance of crime/mystery/romance.  Well, not so much romance...more like what I call "a helping of romance on the side."  If I wanted to read romance, I would read romance.  Duh.  But straight-up crime novels would get boring after a while, so I like my books with a helping of romance.  On the side.  No mustard.  Also, I was afraid I wouldn't get through the book when I found out it was about a murdered five-year-old girl.  I try to steer clear of anything to do with violence against children (I can't even watch most episodes of Law & Order SVU) because it makes me too emotional.  This book didn't go into too much detail surrounding the actual murder, so I was okay with it. 

Hands down, my favorite part of the book was J.P.  (And no, it's not because that was what my husband used to go know, before he insisted that people call him Joshua).  He is everything a good male detective should be.  Driven, considerate, empathetic, and downright cool.   He is a good partner.  He's been unlucky in love, but it doesn't consume him. The author spent a lot of time on J.P. and it worked.  All other detectives will now be compared to him.  I can't wait to read more.
Finally, let me apologize for recommending yet another book in a series.  Really though, it seems like all books these days are one in a series, so I can't be blamed.  Plus, think of it as my gift to you.  You can now spend more time reading and less time working, doing laundry, or any of the other important tasks you should be doing instead of reading a book that Amy Trimble thinks you should read.  You're welcome.

Pin It

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone by W. H. Auden

Some of my favorite people are grieving right now or are remembering their initial grief as they acknowledge the anniversary of a loss. My heart and prayers go out to them all.

What strikes me at these times is that the world is such a rude place.  While you hurt that deep ache of loss, while the pain makes you curl up into a ball, the world keeps on turning.  The sun rises, clocks tick, grass grows, and time goes on.  And still you grieve.  More than likely you have good friends and family who know of your pain, but there's never any acknowledgment by the Universe (and, yes, I meant for that to be capitalized).  How can that be?  Surely your grief can blot out the sun. The Universe should be obligated to acknowledge THAT.

I'm not doing a very good job of describing this, but I'm not sure anyone could articulate it better than W.H. Auden did in his poem "Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone".

I first heard this read as part of the script of the movie "Four Weddings and a Funeral".  I thought the movie was uneven, but that the poem was pitch perfect.  In those words--that I've included in this post--Auden highlighted the hugeness of grief, how it seems, surely, that the world is changed by our hurt.  The words are meant for the grief of your beloved, but I think most of the sentiment is shared whenever  you lose someone close.

"Stop all the clocks" ends on a harshly pessimistic note, but I think that's fair.  I think that's despair, and I pray that all your despair be temporary.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone by W. H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good. Pin It