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.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Luck of the Devil by Patricia Eimer

I hesitate to say this aloud because I'll jinx myself, but if I've ever had the luck of the devil it was in inheriting my mother's ability to avoid traffic tickets.  I think it still makes my sister's eye twitch a bit to hear this, but I've been pulled over seven times since I start driving without ever receiving a ticket.

No, Officer, it wasn't me.
To be fair, a couple of those stops were small-town nuisance stops*.   The first of those happened because (I am QUITE sure) the cop thought he was pulling over my little brother.  The second was for a bad tail light.  I was also once pulled over for failure to turn on my head lights, but it wasn't my car, and I was playing designated driver.  That time the officer must have simply felt sorry for me as he watched my passengers "help" me during the traffic stop.

*Not from a small town?  Where I grew up the town cops didn't have too much to do other than check on local high school students. Sometimes they were a little too vigilant.  I most definitely did come to a complete stop, but it's as good excuse as any to check to see if a 16-year-old has booze in the car.  Not that I knew anyone who did that. ;)

I have, however, been pulled over once for speeding in a well-known speed trap (Villa Grove) and been pulled over once for speeding on the open road (U.S. 36, just outside of Newman).  Both times I got off with written warnings.  That's Miss Binnie's luck shining through.  All in all, it's not a bad inheritance.

A perfect beach read
Faith Bettincourt, our heroine from Luck of the Devil by Patricia Eimer,  has a different type of inheritance.  From her father, she received horns, black wings and a tail.  She can also phase from one place to the next. (Think, Beam me up, Scottie, but with the Devil's magic, not Scottie's technology.)  Faith is a demoness, the offspring of a kookie human and Lucifer Morningstar himself.  She also a pediatric nurse trying to live in the human realm.  She's trying to start her vacation but she's got problems.  She's got sibling problems, parental problems, roommate problems, and "someone is trying to take my powers and kill me" problems.  Her vacation begins with some seriously bad luck, not at all the luck of the devil.

Luck of the Devil is a fun and irreverent romp of a romance.  Faith's geeky-cute neighbor has a pretty big secret, but that just means he's quite comfortable with Faith's secrets and all her assorted problems.  (A girl's gotta hide that tail and those horns, right?  And how do you casually introduce your date to your demonic dad?)

I found the author's blog through the BettyVerse and clicked around enough to find this book.  I'm so glad I did.  I would call this a perfect beach read.  Fun and light.  If you take all discussions of good and evil seriously, this probably isn't the book for you.  But if you like a lot of irreverence in your reading, Luck of the Devil you're in for a treat. Pin It

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Not for the faint of heart.
Generally speaking, I acquire the books I read in one of two ways; I either get them from a friend who recommends them (ahem...Sharlene or Tami) or I buy them at my children's school book fairs. This one came from the last book fair  and I just finished it a few days ago.  It was wonderful, but in a spiritually and emotional draining type of way.  It had me on an ugly roller coaster of emotions for a solid week, just ask my poor husband. 

 It is difficult to review too much of the story without spoiling the book. Simply put, a traditional family of five has what seems like the perfect life. Dad and mom love each other and their three teenage children are all on their way to being productive members of society. Their middle son Max, seems a bit depressed, but nothing that some extra love, attention and an occasional therapy session can't fix, right? Their home is a peaceful setting that revolves around family dinners, sporting events and teenage sleepovers. All is right with the world until secret relationships are exposed and love goes awry. It is ugly. The pain is real. The grief is numbing. The healing must begin. As a reader I felt every bit of the pain, grief and eventual healing. As a mother and wife I felt those emotions amplified by 100. In other words, put on your big girl panties before you read this book. 

Sound heavy?  Yeah, it was.  Really heavy, in fact.  But it was also beautfully written and breathtakingly real.  I must not have paid much attention to the story line on the back cover when I picked up the book and as a result I wasn't ready when the tragedy hit.   And because the writing was so realisitc I didn't see it coming, either.  I didn't feel the overwhelming sense of dread that I normally feel when reading a book and I know something tragic is about to happen.  I was too caught up in the characters and their everyday lives that so mimicked mine (or what mine could be in a few years) that I was stunned when things went wrong. 

For those of you that are Jodi Picoult fans, think Jodi on steroids.  When I read a Jodi Picoult novel, my guts hurt and I need to stop after every few chapters and take a break.  When I read this novel, my heart ached but I couldn't put it down.  It made me want to lock my children in the their rooms and not let anyone into my house again.  Tempting?  Yes.  Realistic? No.   What is realistic, then?   After reading this, it has to be love.  Lots and lots of love.

Who else has read this book?  What did you think?  Tell us...
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore

Fabulous book!
 Little known fact #1:  Carrie and I are art thieves.  That may be a bit of an exaggeration, I mean it's not like we were in The Thomas Crown Affair or anything.  But we have managed to look at some lovely art without paying for the privilege.  Before our parents start gnashing their teeth and pulling out their hair (which, sorry Dad, our dad can ill afford to do) over the fact that their daughters became ne'er do well, liberal, freeloaders, let me just say that it was an accident.  We were at the St. Louis Art Museum to see the traveling exhibit featuring works by Van Gogh and Gaugin.  Carrie has long been a fan of the Impressionists, and I was planning on bringing my high school French classes to the exhibit at a later date.  And anyone who has ever tried to appreciate a thing of beauty surrounded by teenagers knows, their disdain and general ennui will suck the beauty out of anything and everything.  I once saw a hot air balloon collapse into its own basket under the gaze of a high school physics class.  I swear the air escaping made the sound "I used to feel pretty." as it escaped its cloth confines.  So it's best to see the thing of beauty first, or plan to never appreciate it.  We walked into the museum and found our way to the special exhibit gift shop - shopping being a prerequisite to art appreciation, of course - and then I walked through an unattended doorway.  Carrie also walked through and we wandered around a bit before moving to the next room.  About three rooms away from the gift shop (and if truth be told, I'm sure about three rooms away from the point of realization), we looked at each other and said something to the effect of "Uh, I think we're looking at the exhibit that we should have paid for.  Why didn't someone stop us?  Do we look guilty? Cause we've come this far, what's the point of going out and paying?  Really it's their own fault for not posting someone at that door."  And we continued on our way vowing to spend more money in the gift shop.  What I remember from the exhibit, besides the lack of security and that feeling guilty does not diminish a work of art, was the amount of paint Van Gogh used on his canvases.  It quite literally comes off the canvas in swirls and lines, leaving the viewer with the impression that this was a man who felt so much he couldn't use an average amount of paint to express his feelings.  It was amazingly beautiful.

Little known fact #2:  I've been in a reading slump lately.  I'm blaming all the non-fiction I've been ingesting.  But it happens sometimes....I just start to feel like nothing I'm reading is special/creative/original/fun.  I usually go back to an old standby (HHGTG or The Phantom Tollbooth in most cases) to pick me up again, but this time I happened upon a new-to-me author.  I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say.....I'm in love.  I even took a picture of some dialogue from Sacre Bleu and sent it to Carrie.  I bought this book on Saturday and I finished it Monday night.  Slump is officially over.  Thank you, Christopher Moore.

How these facts go together:  Sacre Bleu is the tale of the color blue.  Or the muse that has inspired artists for centuries.  Or both, as they are one and the same.  The book centers around the Impressionists that found homes, models, and inspiration in the bohemian atmosphere of Montmartre, but it encompasses all great works of art and their artists.  The cast of characters is large and the chronology a bit jumbled, but that just enhances the story rather than detract.  Lucien (son of a baker and wanna be patron of the arts) and Henri (Toulouse-Lautrec, bien sur) are on a quest to understand why their friend Vincent (Van Gogh, to be sure) would have committed suicide, especially in the odd manner in which he did.  Why would he shoot himself in the chest and then walk a mile to the home of a doctor?  During their quest for truth, Lucien encounters his old love, Henri renews his enthusiasm for cabarets, brothels, and alcohol, and we meet The Colorman and Bleu.  

What I loved most about this book was the quick-witted and fast-paced dialogue.  I hate books that slow things down by explaining plot points through laborious dialogue.  We don't need to have every.single.detail spelled out for us when the characters have a discussion.  We're smart; we'll catch on. I also loved that there were paintings thrown in throughout the book.  Mostly because I have absolutely no artistic talent and therefore admire those who can create something in such a manner.  But I also love that we get an imagined glimpse into the inspiration for these particular moments.  It's fiction, but the tales behind the paintings are plausible(ish) and it makes a great story.  Pictures are supposed to be worth a thousand words, right?  I'm not giving any more of the plot away because I'm imploring you to read it for yourself.  It's fast, funny, a bit raunchy, and a charming tale.  It's as if Dave Barry and the collective body of Monty Python had a love child; what could go wrong with that?  Read this book if you like to laugh, learn, appreciate art and absurdity.  Now, I'm off to buy more of Mr. Moore's books and to mail SLAM my exhibit fee before Dad is officially bald. 
Starry Night by Van Gogh
Starry Night - So much blue.
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Monday, April 16, 2012

Timeless by Gail Carriger

Subtitle--A Post In Which We Bid Adieu to Lady Maccon

Somebody pass me the Kleenex.  (Well, Puffs, preferably.)

Tootsie Roll Steampunk Cupcakes
A good and lovely series has come to a close.  Normally, I try to avoid reviewing books from a series that I've already covered, but this is the end of a series.  A series I adore.  A series I'm going to miss greatly.

And THAT deserves it's own post.

Some of you may have read on Facebook about the general gnashing of teeth that Timeless' release caused me.  It came out at the beginning of Lent, JUST when I had started my annual self-ban on buying new books.  Only this year, I had pre-ordered Timeless like any good fangirl would and hadn't realized where its release fell on the Lenten calendar.  That meant a book of some of my favorite characters, arguably* the LAST book centered around some of my favorite characters, was sitting on my nook for 40 days whilst I ignored it.

Yes, I clearly hate myself.

*Gail Carriger is starting two new series.  One of them features Prudence, Lady Maccon's daughter.  Surely my favorite characters will have, at least, peripheral roles in this new series, The Parasol Protectorate Abroad.  One can hope.  Can't one?

Even after Easter had come and gone and my Lenten self-ban ended, I didn't dive right into Timeless.  In part because allergies set in, but in part I was delaying the inevitable.  The series is ending, and I don't want it to.  I didn't want to get to the part where there were no more Alexia (Lady Maccon) adventures to look forward to.  Eventually, though, I caved and devoured the tale that had been taunting me throughout Lent.

Timeless is the fifth book of the Parasol Protectorate series.  I found it to be one of the strongest, in part because Lady and Lord Maccon do work together, to a degree, in this book.  (For a better description of the background of the series, check out my July review of the fourth book, Heartless.)  Also, there is some strong character development of some of the supporting characters, like Prudence and Biffy--the vampire attendant turned werewolf--that was quite delicious.  Biffy's romantic interests aren't for the traditional at heart, but I challenge anyone to find fault with his basic character.  In fact, Biffy discovers a great deal of his own potential in Timeless, and it was a delight to read.

The plot of Timeless sends Lord and Lady Maccon to Egypt to visit the oldest vampire queen and to investigate the God-Breaker Curse they first discovered in Changeless, the second book of the series.  Much danger greets the Maccons including a babynapping, hostile vampires, a tussle at a bazaar, and nomadic air travel by balloon.  The Maccons face most of this danger in the company of their two-year-old daughter, Prudence, Madame Lefoux, and the acting troupe to which Alexia acts as a patroness.  That leaves Professor Lyall, the pack Beta, and Biffy, the newest initiate to the Parasol Protectorate, to manage things on the London homefront.  Lyall and Biffy have their own troubles with an irate Scottish alpha and dead Scottish Beta and a trusted butler trying to uphold two long-held promises.

I can't mention too much more without a spoiler alert, so I'll simply say this; Timeless is full of action.  The immediate mystery must be resolved, and steps are put into place that will allow for a (possibly) peaceful retirement for the Maccons.  If a series must end, author Gail Carriger allowed it to end with grace and a neat segue into Prudence's own stories.  So go read your own copy of Timeless, and I'll pass you the Puffs as you say your own adieus.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

This is my life right now.
Here I sit at 9:30 on a Sunday night, three days late on this blog post.  Now seems like as good a time as any to catch up on all the things I should have done earlier this week, right?.  And I have plenty of time you see, since my daughter JUST told me that she would like to wear a certain dress for spring picture day tomorrow.  Where is said dress, you ask?  That's the bottom of her hamper.  So since I will now be up for a full wash cycle (50 minutes) and subsequent dry cycle (35 min), I have plenty of time to share my review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. (Side rant:  why are we parents now subjected to TWO picture days a year?  Do the school photographers of the world hate moms?  Is one $50 picture package a year not enough?  And of course they just have to make the class picture available during the spring only.  Jerks.)

Now that I have that off my chest, let me get back to more important matters and tell you all about this book.  First, it is written from the perspective of Christopher, a 15 year-old boy who is investigating the death of his neighbors dog.  Christopher discovered the dog and was immediately considered a suspect.  Knowing he is innocent, Christopher embarks on an investigation to find the real killer.  Against his father's wishes Christopher interviews neighbors, follows up on leads and eventually finds out way more than he bargained for.  His journey leads him to find hidden letters addressed to him from his mother (a mother he was told had died).  From there he discovered tales of an affair between his father and another woman, the real story behind the murder of the neighbor's dog, and eventually a reunion with mother in London.  The story ends with Christopher moving in with his mother and simply visiting his father a few times year.

Quite a series of life-changing events for anyone, let alone a 15-year-old boy.  What if I told you Christopher also has Asperger's Syndrome?  Having Asperger's, Christopher now has a whole other set of issues to deal with that go along with his discoveries.  When he becomes a suspect in the dog's murder, he assaults the police office who questions him because he is sensitive to touch.  That leads to an arrest (and eventual dismissal of charges).  Unable to process the fact that his mother is really alive and that he had been lied to for so many years, Christopher spends hours upon hours in his bed sick and vomiting.  After he decides to go and try to find his mother in London, he is rendered almost catatonic in the train station.  The abundance of stimuli is too much for him and it is only due to a series of near miracles that he makes it out.
Although Asperger's is not mentioned specifically in the book, Christopher describes himself as "a mathematician with some behavioral difficulties."  It is clear from the book summary written by the author that Asperger's and high-functioning autism are a central focus of the book.

The mystery surrounding the murder of the dog and the familial relationships were actually enough to make this a decent book.  But Christopher and how he navigated his series of tragedies is really what made this book great.  It wasn't what I would call a "fun read."  But then again, autism spectrum disorders aren't fun.   They are real.  They are real for so many people and sadly, they are becoming real for more and more people every day.  What this book does is remind us that everything is not always what it seems and we need to be more aware.  That child screaming in the grocery store might be having a meltdown because he can't process the sound of the wheels of the cart on the linoleum floor.  That girl in the waiting room chewing her collar and soaking the front of her shirt in drool may be dealing with the fact that she is anxious.  We can't presume to know everything, we can only be aware.

April is Autism Awareness Month.  I encourage you to make yourself aware if you aren't already.  You could start by doing something easy like clicking on the link above or by reading this book.  Reach out to a friend that is a parent of a child with autism or better yet, drop by with a cup of coffee.  How we treat these children and their parents will shape the future for generations to come.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

So Carrie has set up a calendar for the three of us.  It sends us reminders that it's our turn to post.  It was incredibly thoughtful of her to do so.  Of course I'm her sister, so I know it's really just her way of being bossy by proxy.  My point is that I got my reminder that I was to post on Monday.  Then Monday came and went with post-Easter sugar coma and getting back to the routine and other family issues.  Then Tuesday came with a malevolent, post-eating Blogger and then a mysterious lack of internet connectivity.  So, despite Carrie's best intentions, I am two days late posting.  My original post was on A Team of Rivals.  It's a great book about Lincoln's Cabinet members.  I'm fairly certain my review was great as well, but it is floating somewhere in the interwebs trash ring.  I will re-write a review for it next week.  But for now, here's my review that I did over on BeTween Books.  If you haven't checked it out yet, you should.  Really.

Why We Broke Up
If it's been awhile since you were in high school, prepare yourself.  This book is written from the perspective of a sixteen year-old girl.  A sixteen year-old dramatic girl.  A sixteen year-old dramatic girl that has been rather unceremoniously dumped.  Well sort of.....anyway, expect to spend a couple of pages thinking "Wow.  She is self-absorbed and needs to ratchet it back a bit."  Also, "This is not going to win any Grammarian Prizes due to the proliferation of sentence fragments and run-on sentences." (One could say that about this review as well, I suppose, but then you're being awful picky aren't you?)  And then try to remember that she's a sixteen year old girl.   A sixteen year-old dramatic girl.  A sixteen year-old dramatic girl that has been rather unceremoniously dumped.

I ended up liking this book quite a bit, but our relationship was pretty tenuous at the beginning.  Like I said, sixteen year-old and whatnot.  This book is a letter that Min (short for Minerva) writes to Ed after their relationship has dissolved.  Min is a theater kind of girl; not Drama Club, but film buff.  Ed is the high school basketball star.  Ed is a year older and about twenty high school relationships wiser than Min, and when they meet at Min's (male) best friend's Bitter Sixteen party (natch) they are intrigued by one another enough to go on a date.  From that a relationship is born fraught with high school drama and the tension that is walking a tight rope of clique social norms.  In other words, Jock meets Film Girl and the only two happy about it are Jock and Film Girl.
This is the box that Min leaves for Ed along with the letter.  It is one of many lovely illustrations within the book which is printed on lovely high gloss paper.  The book weighs approximately one ton due to aforementioned gorgeous paper.  Well, the paper and the earnest teenage emotion.  What's in the box? I'll let Min tell you.  "Every last souvenir of the love we had, the prizes and the debris of this relationship, like the glitter in the gutter when the parade has passed, all the everything and whatnot kicked to the curb.  I'm dumping the whole box back into your life, Ed, every item of you and me."  See what I mean?  That's on page 3.  And it is absolutely appropriate for the sixteen year-old dramatic girl to have these feelings about a relationship that lasted little over a month, but I had to remind myself of that for the first 30 or so pages. 

Once you get past that, though, Mr. Handler (or Lemony Snicket to other Series of Unfortunate Events fans) writes a lovely and true account of a high school relationship between a not-quite-perfect-match.  I included the Pretty in Pink photo at the top because I am 90% sure if John Hughes were still around, he would option this book as his next teenage-centric movie.  There's a basketball game, bonfire, and two Halloween parties that he would capture pretty gloriously (and I know Min would approve of all the movie talk), and some family issues that he would know how to handle.  Then, of course, there's the male best friend that most people assume is either gay or simply too marginal to be an individual with an individual's feelings.  He also happens to be smitten with the (fairly naively) unknowing Min, which is a story line Mr. Hughes already did well (looking at you, Ducky).  It would have to be PG-13 because there's underage drinking and sex.  The sex is not graphic and is actually written in the perfect kind of way, but it happens. They also drink more than a healthy amount of coffee, though really it's just warm creamer and sugar.  Ultimately, I kind of fell in love with this book.  But the book ended.  And that is why we broke up.

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb

Subtitle: The Blog Post Wherein I Insist That TV Writers Should Read JD Robb

Earlier this week, Sarah and I had a conversation that went a little something like this :

And this and this:

In that conversation I repeated something I said in this blog post, and it's something I'm just going to holler right now.


There's this myth about the "Moonlighting effect" that suggests that allowing two main characters to become successfully romantically involved will be the death of a show.  I HATE it when people trot out this tired excuse for why romantic or sexual tension should never be resolved. (Honestly, it's best that you're not reading this over my shoulder.  The sound of my grinding teeth would horrify you.)

First, let's address the Moonlighting myth. Yes, the show's popularity dramatically declined after Maddie and David got together. Was that the fault of a happy couple?  How the hell would we know?  We never really saw them as a happy couple.  Because of outside commitments by the actors, the new lovers were rarely in a scene together the entire season after they became a couple.  The show was ending anyway.  Both actors (Cybil Shephard and Bruce Willis) were using their Moonlighting acclaim to land other, bigger gigs.

Second, did you read those screen shots? At some point, your characters start acting like imbeciles just to avoid hooking up.  That makes them lack credibility and likability.  I find it hard to believe that's effect the writers of Castle are going for.

Which brings us back to the book at hand, Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts). Like Moonlighting and Castle, J.D. Robb books center on solving a mystery.  This is the 36th-ish story about the life and solved crimes Lieutenant Eve Dallas, a New York homicide detective who lives some time in our future.  Dallas had a very rough childhood, but through her own grit and determination became an upright citizen and stellar cop.  She's rough around the edges, but dedicated.  Over the course of these 30-some-odd books, she meets, falls in love with and marries Roarke, an Irish street rat turned gajillionaire entrepreneur.  Both of them had every excuse to turn out poorly.  Neither did.  Celebrity in Death, like every other book in this series, involves at least one homicide case that Eve must resolve.  This one's kinda fun because it references an earlier case of Eve's that became fodder for a best-selling true crime book and, eventually, screenplay.  This time an actress is killed at a party Eve and Roarke attend.  Solving this crime, and the subsequent related crimes, involves a deep background of secrets and power plays.
A fun mystery WITH romance

There's a certain formula to the crime-solving portions of these books just like there is to an episode of CSI  or  Law & Order.  What drives the stories and makes them real page-turners is the development of Eve's relationships (her friendships as well as her marriage).  Eve and Roarke grow throughout the series.

So, does the growth of that relationship cause the J.D. Robb books to suffer from the Moonlighting effect?  Let's see. Celebrity in Death was released at the end of February. It's currently listed as #26 for Kindle mysteries, #113 in the Kindle sales overall, #10 in mystery sales and #74 overall sales.  That's right. The 36th-ish book in a series is one of the top ten best selling mystery novels IN HARDCOVER.  Don't you think the writers of Castle or Bones would kill for the equivalent in television ratings? So, no Moonlighting effect for Eve Dallas.

So there.

To recap, television writers should read J.D. Robb books and so should you. Pin It

Monday, April 2, 2012

goodbye lemon by adam davies

See?  No capital letters.  Boo.
If we used a different font on our blog you would be able to see that the title of the book is printed in all lower case letters.  Typo?  No.  Unfortuantely, that is how it is printed on the cover of the book.  The lack of grammatical correctness on the cover should have been my first clue that this book was going to annoy me.  Having to look up an unfamiliar word every five mintues should have been my second.  Really, though, it was the main character that drove me batty and caused me to speed read to get to the end of this book.  Following is a synopsis and review so you can judge for yourself.

Jack has harbored ill feelings (more like intense hatred) for his father for more than 20 years.  Now he has been summoned home by his mother to help care for his father who has been diagnosed with "locked-in" syndrome.  Being back in his boyhood home he is surrounded by his completely dysfunctional family.  The cast of characters include his control freak of a mother, alcoholic older brother, bed-ridden father and worse yet, the memories of his dead younger brother.  Jack is finally forced to deal with the reality that is his heart-wrenching past and it's not pretty. Adding to the mix is his girlfriend of two years and a free-spirit of a home health nurse.  Each has their own way of dealing with the situation, all of which contribute to a very surprising ending. 

What irritated me the most is that for the first two-thirds of the book Jack WOULD NOT deal with his feelings. He does everything BUT deal with them, in fact. He comes up with multiple excuses as to why he cannot help his father and when that doesn't work he tries to commit suicide. After that fails, he turns to the bottle and actually takes up residence in the basement with his brother (and yes, this is when the girlfriends leaves). I wanted to reach through the book and shake the man many, many times. 

When I read this book last week I was taken on a journey of emotional lows like I have never read before. Jack didn't want to go see or help take care of his incapacitated father, but his girlfriend kind of pushes him to do so.  Hahva, the girlfriend, decides to accompany him, not knowing all of dysfunction she is about to encounter.  The poor girl found out some deep family secrets on this trip that she knew nothing about causing her to eventually leave.  It was sad. Before she leaves however, they find Pressman, Jack's older brother, drunk and living in the basement.  That was even more sad.  Furthermore, Jack's mom is so cold she can't be bothered with caring for Jack's father, so that leaves Bess, the home-health aide/therapist, as the only one who really seems to care about the poor man.  Really, really sad.  (None of this helped me with staying cheery and positive for the two birthdays and anniversary I had last week, by the way).

And finally, I would like to point out that I loved vocabulary when I was in school.  I also love to read.  But when authors use so many difficult words in one book that you feel the need to keep a dictionary at your side, it's overkill.  This wasn't a book about medicine or scientific studies. This was a book about a dysfunctional family that all needed a good kick in the rear.  And for that reason, it was annoying to have to look up the words polyphonic tunelet and fimbriated in the same chapter.   I would rather he have kept it simple and stuck to the basics.

I will say that I enjoyed the last 60 pages or so of this book.  It had a somewhat happy ending and I didn't feel the urge to want to shake someone as badly as I did in the first 220 pages. However, I tend to stay away from the sad books.  I know that not all families are perfect (have you met Sarah and Carrie's brother?) but I would rather spend my time partaking in a more blithesome* activity.

*blithesome = lighthearted, cheery

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