Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

We all know how society is now - in America at least with its first world problems related to magnet schools and education (#firstworldproblems anyone?!) - but it's so easy to overlook the passive (or in some cases not so passive) competitiveness of parenting and education and to shove it into the back of your mind.  How often have you (or myself for that matter) found myself thinking: "That's totally not me?"  Well, this book doesn't let you get away with that and for that reason, I loved it.

This book also couldn't have come at a better time:  we learned of stars like Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin buying their children spaces at prestigious universities, resulting in the arrest and prosecution of said celebrities.This novel revolves around a very similar and comical version of it. The action all revolves around a fictional Colorado town where the protagonists are all addicted to privilege and hoarding it. The town has found out that it is getting a school for the "gifted" and the main theme is that the children of these elite should get in, not on their own merit or gifts, but because they are simply the children of the elite. There is a group of four female friends that form the core of the elite circle that Holsinger satirizes. These women all met at a baby swim class - how typical.

All four have a child that they believe and hope will get into this school. Two will lie and cheat their children into the school.

I found the book to be useful in the sense that it draws attention to things that are going on currently.  But honestly? I found the book to be so overtly predictable and stereotypical that it was downright boring. It also moved along at a snail's pace.  I mean really?  300+ pages is not needed for a story like this.  It just wasn't a book that I was particularly fond of.  

Saturday, September 7, 2019

My top book podcasts

So it shouldn't be a shock to you that I am passionate about reading, books and all things bookish.  I am an unabashed lover of reading and am also not shy in telling people that I'm an absolute geek. I get an immense amount of satisfaction out of geek culture - reading specifically - but I can appreciate a good piece of Star Wars fanfic when I come across it (yes, I'm more Star Wars than Trekkie but I will take Buffy over both any day).

Anyways, one of the geek culture things that I love engaging in are podcasts. These are shows that are literally about anything and can be as professionally done as any radio show but can also be a person recording an episode on their phone. And they are on every topic under the sun. I love listening to podcasts- they are food for my brain - and books/reading is a main topic of some of the podcasts that I listen to. I have come across a few in my day but there are some that you absolutely have to listen to. They're listed below = please subscribe and rate them positively:

1. The BookRiot Podcast - firstly, BookRiot is a readers' wet dream.  Go there immediately to read their blog if nothing else.  The podcast is just amazing.

2. Modern Mrs. Darcy has a podcast called "What Should I Read Next" that is to DIE for.  Um, anyone who has a blog called Modern Mrs. Darcy though?  Come ON readers - need I say more?! Surf on over there.

3. Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books - Zibby Owens hosts this podcast in addition to being a mom of four and a writer. Can you say badass?!  Get it done and go over there!

What bookish podcasts do you listen to?!

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Girl Who Lived Twice by David Lagercrantz

Lisbeth Salander is one of my all time favorite fictional characters (as is Ellen Ripley quite frankly). So even though the original author is no longer with us (RIP Stieg Larsson!), I love Lisbeth enough to stick it out.

In this book, we continue with Lisbeth as she dukes it out with her Russian mafia allied sister while also helping Mikael B. (as I affectionately call him) solve an ancillary mystery that has nothing to do with Lisbeth's thirst for revenge. In particular, Mikael is attempting to solve the mysteries related to a climb up Mount Everest.

I don't feel like I can give much more away without ruining the book because a large part of these books is the slow unfolding of the plot.  What I an say is that I really missed Salander's physical presence. She's so awesome and so badass that only having her kind of sort of present was a bummer. I was also way more intrigued by Mikael's storyline than Lisbeth's - which just seemed old.  I found myself saying - oh just get ON with it.  IF this really were Lisbeth it would have been done with already in a cold and calculating way and clean too. Unlike with the previous books, I didn't find myself gripped and could have easily walked away from the book and not shed a tear about it.

If you're going to start anywhere with Lisbeth, start with the original trilogy.   Just like Star Wars, the originals contain something that subsequent  books have yet to capture. 

Monday, September 2, 2019

My TBR List for September 2019

I recently saw this post over at Never Enough Novels and thought I would join in.  I have a few books on my TBR pile this month - I'm usually very ambitious - likely that my eyes are bigger than the time that I have to actually read.  There are a few books that I really, really, really am looking forward to getting through this month:

1. The Girl Who Lived Twice - Millenium #6 - yes, this is the Lisbeth Salander series that carried on after the tragic death of the original author and yes, I've remained loyal even though it isn't quite the same.

2. The Black Ice - by Michael Connelly and featuring Harry Bosch.  The second book in the series. While I do have two series going on, it's actually quite hard to get Harry confused with Lisbeth. Ha!

3. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood.  I love Margaret Atwood - she's my all time favorite and The Handmaid's Tale is one of my favorite novels - so this could be either a really awesome sequel or a complete flop, a la Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird). Atwood is so awesome though that I am confident she'll knock it out of the park.

I will likely read more than these, but these three gems are the ones that I want to get through.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Black Echo by Michael Connelly

So, let's talk about Harry Bosch. I first got into this because of the Amazon original series, Bosch. One of my friends recommended that I watch it when I needed something to watch in the (limited) downtime that I had and boy were they ever right. I don't know if  it's because I have a thing for the actor that plays Bosch - he nails the role - or just a thing for cops but it hooked me. I also really love True Crime and crime books in general so this seemed like a complete natural for me.

For those of you that don't know, the main character is Harry Bosch, a Vietnam war vet and tunnel rat. We are introduced to him in this book and he, in his current iteration, is a homicide detective with the LAPD. In this particular book, the death of a fellow tunnel rat has drawn Bosch's attention. Bosch thinks it's tied to a robbery that uses underground tunnels.

I don't want to give away too much more of the plot because that's the whole point of crime fiction right?  But the character of Bosch is so attractive to me.  He's so multi-layered. He's a loner that wants some company and loves jazz and good art and can shoot a gun and doesn't give a frig about anything (at least on the surface! Deep down I'm convinced he's a softy). And ultimately, he's one of THE most realistic and perfectly flawed protagonists I've ever seen and I love him and Michael Connelly for creating him like this. I loved that Connelly knew enough about police work to be able to combine the differences in police and state procedurals and do so in a way that wasn't heavy handed at all.  There is also humor in this novel in spite of the ultimately very serious subject matter but it's dry and subtle and I really believe you have to be in the know to get it.

I'm already reading the second book in the series. SO good. Grab it!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Farenheit 451 by Ray Badbury

I have always had a thing for dystopian fiction, dating back to middle school when we had to read Animal Farm by George Orwell (8th Grade honors English - Mr. Borman!). I make no bones about it - The Handmaid's Tale by Atwood is one of my favorite books of all time. These dark books always fascinated me in some deep way.  I remember reading Farenheit 451 as well but thought that it warranted a re-read, particularly in the troubling times that we currently live in, so I picked it up again.

For those of you that don't know, Ray Bradbury wrote and had this book published in 1953. Bradbury is writing about a society that looks to be American at some point in the near future. In this society, books are outlawed and firemen are the people that go out and burn the books that are found in the hopes that society will eradicate them. The protagonist is Guy Montag, a fireman who becomes severely disillusioned with his role of burning books and with the banning of books to begin with.

I can see why people love this book:  it takes on themes of voyeurism, censorship and what it means to be a "true believer" in a job.  It also takes on themes of government thought control and groupthink at its worst.  In the period when it was written - right after the Nazis and World War II - I think that these things were very much on people's minds in a different context then they are now.  I think that then, Americans were likely to read the book and apply it to the people "over there" in Europe, across the ocean, who had let themselves be swayed by Mussolini or Hitler, whereas I think today people may read this book and internalize it to America more.

The measure of a brilliant book, in my mind, is a book that you can read at different points in your life but which is still relevant today and which you can read and re-read at various points in your life, yet still take something away.  Farenheit 451 is one of those books.  In 1953 when it came out, it acted as a tool in which to discuss the political occurrences and a terrible war that occurred overseas. And yet, it is still as relevant today as it was back then.  It is a brilliant tool with which to discuss the themes and challenges that we have on both macro and micro levels of our own society.  And that is why it such an important and magnificent work.

Kudos Mr. Bradbury.  May your book be read continuously by future generations.  

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Why Shopping Local is a Value I Have

I know that this isn't strictly a review, but it's tangentially related, I promise. On Thursday, I went to an amazing and inspiring event at the LaBelle Winery in Amherst, NH. It was called "She Built This" and was put on by Kristen Hardwick (the badass photographer that took our photos for my real life job) - and Emily Aborn This was the second annual panel discussion featuring three female entrepreneurs.  This year, the panelists were Rebecca Hamilton (who owns Badger Balm and Machina Arts), Jennifer Desrosiers (who owns Laney and Lu) and Jessica Terzakis.  Jennifer also owns an adventure company.

It was such a good event and while there, I saw one of my favorite vendors - Her Tribe Athletics.

Anyways it got me really thinking about the importance of supporting local vendors and local businesses.  Whenever I go to a new city, I really make an effort to visit a local bookstore and buy something.  And I actually really feel good about doing so because, on some level, while I did realize how much of a help that one purchase may be, I don't think I truly appreciated the blood, sweat and tears that went into creating this business.  There's a certain drive and commitment that it takes to do something like this and rewarding  person with my business, especially another woman, is vitally important to me.

On that note, I wanted to say the following:  I love Her Tribe Athletics.  I buy from her as much as I can. I love her clothing. I love her messaging, and she's at all the races that I run. Rock on sistah!

Over the last few months I have had to access local services and I can't say enough of them. My car needed some work lately and I utilized Merrimack Auto Center.  I left a message requesting an appointment - I suspected there were  brake issues - and they got me in first thing on a Monday morning and I had a car that felt like new that afternoon.  They were the true consummate professionals (and had two VERY sweet dogs that I got to love on while I waited!). The second service I had to utilize was when my fridge started to go - I needed someone to come in to take a look at and repair it.  I used Derry Repair - Fred came out after his sweet wife scheduled the appointment for me and my fridge was good to go right after. Fred was the type of repair person that I would trust to come into my home for all of my appliance repairs when I wasn't home.  He was quick, affordable and I have no issues to date.

It's so important to support your neighbors.  

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

We all know how society is now - in America at least with its first world problems related to magnet schools and education (#firstworldprob...