THE IMPROBABLE THEORY OF ANA AND ZAK by Brian Katcher: A Review (YA)

A book I started during the PWR Reading Marathon was The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak.  I read it in one day, picking it up off and on during a major housecleaning. (Well, yes, it was a YA novel, and a very fast read–all the more reason for choosing (AND REALLY ENJOYING) this book.)

The back cover covers it all (pun intended)  with an pictogram that includes Ana plus Zak, plus 24 hours, plus a wild SCI FI Convention, plus an impossible manhunt, plus thousands of costumed nerds, plus an angry viking, times lots of trouble, divided by first impressions, is unequal to anything they ever expected!   The quote next to the pictogram says, “Perfect comic timing and outrageous twists.” And the book delivers!  It is very, very funny, sweet, outrageous and just a darned good read.  Some subtler ideas are introduced than just the madcap 24 hour chase, but the book is never preachy. Young adults are respected and even admired, SOME adults are “almost ok”, and surprises in ALL the relationships abound.

I would recommend it to a friend of any age.

PWR MARATHON and Rae’s Reading Race

You are invited on this loose, lax ,reading marathon, and here’s how you can participate:

Start reading tomorrow (Thurs. Oct 13th) as soon as you can and read as much as you can as often as you can whatever you can (Here’s a chance to finish those books you’ve started and laid aside until later.) until 6:00 p.m. Saturday (the 15th) evening.  Keep a log if you like. If you are in the vicinity, show up at 1:00 p.m. (Sorry, ladies only) Sunday for Rae’s Reading Race where you will share what you have read and what you are reading and take notes on what you want to read. Others may report in to this blog on-line; however, sandwiches do not translate well on line, nor do cookies and coffee…sorry!

On my Sunday (Evening) Post, I will make a short report  and will give a detailed report on Monday’s post.  Get your own report/log/accomplishments from the marathon in by Sunday evening.

Join us if you can.

Three Cozy Mysteries by Lorna Barrett

Stonehaven New Hampshire is  a small town whose …”streets are lined with bookstores…and paved with murder.” Recently a cousin who is a “book buddy” sent me the third book in this quick-to-read and hard-to-solve murder mystery series.

Tricia Miles, the owner of a mystery bookstore, “Haven’t Got a Clue”, has it all:   her own bookstore with an nice apartment above, a bookstore cat named Mrs. Marple, and a retro cafe just across the street owned by her older sister Angelica.   Angelica has recently sold her bookstore, “The Cookery”,which exclusively sells cookbooks to open “Booked for Lunch,” a fifties cafe  and “…somehow manages to remind everyone she talks to–in nearly every conversation–her own cookbook is about to be published.”  These sisters have seen trouble before.

Although I jumped in on the third in a series, Bookplate Special reads well as a stand alone.  Its predecessors, Murder is Binding  and Bookmarked for Death received good reviews, and although there are a few references to the previous books (two other murders solved), the reader catches on without a lot of tedious backtracking–a skill any series writer needs to cultivate. Two “love interests” appear, Russ, a writer for the local newspaper (of course) who has come to take Tricia for granted; and a “new man,” Captain Baker, who will investigate the murder of Tricia’s “sort-of” friend, Pammy, whom Tricia finds “crocs up” in the dumpster behind Angelica’s cafe. At first, Grant Baker seems a polite relief from Sheriff Adams who was sure in at least one previous book that Tricia was the murderer, but then the love/hate fireworks, a sure fire technique in a love story ,begin as Grant tells Tricia to “stay out of it.”

This mystery is definitely an escape read and is full of twists and turns as well as interesting information: a Senior Citizen wedding, freegans searching local dumpsters, family secrets revealed and complicated family dynamics.  Of course at one point Tricia is in danger and the pace is quick and scary. Set during the autumn tourist season and featuring The Great Pumpkin Festival in a near by competitive (crucial to one plot) small town, the book is the perfect Fall Read.

P.S. A fourth mystery in the series Come Chapter and Hearse is forthcoming. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun!)

Sunday (Evening) Post

Okay, so it’s Sunday morning, but it’s ready, so here goes…

What I just finished:   Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue (Review was posted 10/6/16 on PWR.)   I also read a cozy mystery which serendipitously turned out to be set during the Great Pumpkin Festival in Stoneham, a fictional town of specialty bookstores, cafes, and other small town niceties. I could smell the pumpkin pie spices in the air as I read. (Review to follow later today)

What I’m still reading:   The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas by Anad Giridharadas. It’s borrowed, so I should get cracking, but the owner said I could keep it as long as I needed, and other books keep “popping up.”

What I’ve started:   The Gulf Coast Read for 2016 and the selection for this month from my Third Tuesday Book Club at the library.  It tells the story of “FDR’s secret prisoner exchange program and America’s only family internment camp during WWII.” I’m only on page 29 and it is already fascinating, just the right mix of history-politics and anecdote.

What I’m going to read next:   Our on-line book group, Powerful Women Readers, will have its quarterly get together a week from today at my house, and we will all hold a mini-marathon from Wed. the 12th until we meet Sunday the 16th ,with instructions to read as much as we can every minute we can, and then come and tell what we read.  The purpose is to finish as many books, we’ve already started (We all admit to reading more than one book at a time!) as we can. We’re calling Wed. through one o’clock Sunday a Marathon and the party (for that’s what it really is) our Reading Race at Rae’s. Hopefully, we’ll have a good turnout and note good book recommendations. I need to do some serious reading on books I’ve started or temporarily laid aside (so I can start some new reads!)

What I’ve watched:   The Hours and also The Shipping News.  I had read The Shipping News first and am still debating whether I liked the book or the film best. They were both excellent.

What I’m watching:  I saw the first two episodes of Bull on TV and am already hooked.

I helped with our AAUW brunch yesterday and had doctor’s appointments in addition to class day Wed, so this has been a very full week for me.  This week, with mid-term papers coming in, preparations for the Reading Race, and time consuming promotions at my Little Free Library promises to be more of the same.

 

 

Review:BEHOLD THE DREAMERS by Imbolo Mbue

Many good novels have been written about immigrants in America who came to this country seeking a better life. Many are based on personal experience, so when we see the author’s glamor-shot photo (typical book jacket photograph), we expect her novel to end “…and they lived happily ever after in America.”  Spoiler alert:  You may not want to read the next three sentences. This novel does not end that way. And, a life lesson we learn from Jede and Neni, our protagonists, is that living happily ever after may not require living in the United States. Let me add one qualifier, the individuals of the happy couple are not equally happy with the ending decision they make.

I am an aficionado of debut novels, and this one is outstanding.  Jende and Neni, our protagonists, are  immigrants to the United States from Cameroon.  They have big plans, hopes, and dreams for their infant daughter, born in America, and therefore an American citizen, and their son, young enough to begin school in America.  Liomi , their son seems more American than some of his “real” American classmates, comes to love living in the States, but he was raised on joyous tales of his father’s boyhood in Cameroon. Therefore,he would probably be able to live happily in either country.

As the book jacket states, it is a”… dazzling, fast-paced, and exquisitely written” novel. And indeed, Mbue is an excellent storyteller. I grew to love the characters and their family and friends, suffered when they suffered, and rejoiced when they rejoiced.  I can hardly wait to read this outstanding author’s next effort.

Sunday (Evening) Post

What I just finished: Daring Greatly by Bene’ Brown–perhaps the best self-help book I’ve ever encountered

What I’m still reading: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue–a story of immigrants in America, a story of happy times and scary times

What I’ve started: The True American (Murder and Mystery in Texas) by Anand Giridharadas–required reading for a friend’s history class.  I am reading his copy which means it’s loaded with teaching notes, margin-marked insights and explanations of terms I don’t have to look up in a dictionary

What I’m going to read next: Three cozy mysteries a book buddy read then sent to me

What I want to see: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children–I have read the first three books, and I will go realizing the movie is adapted from or based on the novel(s)

This has been a great week, and the new one, starting tonight promises a fine week as well.

DARING GREATLY by Brene’ Brown: A Review

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…” Theodore Roosevelt

This is the quote which inspires twelve years of research on Brown’s part into vulnerability, trying, and daring greatly.  Brown, who is one of Houston’s own, holding a PhD and LMSW from University of Houston, and often teaching as well as researching there, hit number one on the NY Times Bestseller list when this book was published in 2012. It “hit a spot”/resonated with everyone who read it. Its anecdotes (often from the author’s own life) read easily and fast and leave an impression.

I first “met” Brown in a Ted Talk and was impressed at how the speaker was so open–so vulnerable.  My thoughts were, “I could never do that,” but perhaps the author’s message is that we should. One blurb says Bene Brown, “Transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead,” and indeed, this book is helpful in all these aspects of our lives.  It is and it isn’t a self-help book; it is one as far as the reader will let it be.  If nothing else its Manifesto for Parents and Manifesto for Leaders are memes we want to pass along and hang on our wall.

 

READING RACE COMING UP

Plans are now underway for the on-line PWR group to get together.  We are going to focus for approximately three days before our Sunday Afternoon Reading Race at Rae’s on those TBR piles and stacks that have filled up our bookshelves, book closets and various and sundry baskets or file containers in every room of the house. the idea is to set aside serious reading time to concentrate on finishing, starting, or completely reading as many books as possible during those three days, then report back on our successes on race day.

Sunday afternoon in a come and go format seems to work best for our group.  We have had so far a more or less formal buffet/party, a meeting at a local tea room, an all out Book Bash, and now we’re looking at our own little marathons and a race day celebration. This would work for any book club or as a one time thing for a civic group, PTO, Sunday School class, or any organization that respects literacy and agrees reading is the doorway to lifelong learning–all important goals.

Let us hear from your group, and after we have ironed out the details and met, I’ll report back on the winners and participants in the PWR Reading Race.

PWR TURNS ONE

I can’t believe it, but as September ends,the Powerful Women Readers group turns one year old.  The group was (re)formed in September of 2015 (See “Introduction” March 4, 2016), and the blog took life last March.  The name, which someone graciously commented on liking, was the result of a contest to select the name in our Alvin, Texas, Branch of AAUW. We were originally organized as an on-line group, and decided to meet face-to-face once every quarter.  We haven’t stuck to that plan, but we have had three get togethers and the fourth (overdue) is coming up the second week in October.  We have read, put books in a big pile in the middle of my living room floor and greedily taken what we wanted to read, and have more than once replenished my LFL (Little Free Library) with books for adults and children alike.  One of us has established her own LFL, and although it has been vandalized once, she is spreading literacy in nearby Manvel, Texas.

Even more important, we have formed bonds as “girlfriends” and have alerted each other to issues of literacy, women’s empowerment (or lack thereof), and just “been there” to encourage each other toward reading and life-long learning.  It has been a good year, full of fun, great food, and a special fellowship.

In the approach to the six month birthday of the blog, I would like to see two things: guest posts from the group about what they are reading and how reading more books is affecting their lives and more commenting/sharing about books we have read in common.

Contact me, either by clicking the contact line on this blog or at my personal e-mail address to volunteer or to make suggestions to improve either the blog or the group as a whole. I am looking forward to your reply.

RAE

THE PASSENGER: A REVIEW

This 1999 novel by Patrick A Davis came to me via a box of donations for my LFL (Little Free Library) from a friend who was moving. My husband confiscated the book for his own reading as he helped unpack the box, and after finishing it, said, “You’ve got to read this book.” And, I’m so glad I did. It was an action-packed mystery which included a military cover up and was a thriller in every since of the word.  Although written some time ago, the events could have been today’s headlines.

The blurb on the cover catches one’s attention, “A military jet crashes and Washington insiders scramble to cover their tracks.” Oh, and did I mention that the passenger of the title was the President’s half brother?

Colonel John Quinn, our protagonist, was declared, “not good enough to fly” after being shot down by an Iraqi missile, and when the novel opens, he is assigned to the Pentagon. His position leads to the “biggest investigation of his life.”  Ted, his disgraced, techie friend, who now owns a bar is called in to aid the investigation as a consultant. And Quinn’s ex-wife, Jennifer, shows up as a participant in the investigation as well.

The author was a military man, an Air Force Major, and is still a pilot for a major airline.  One can’t help but feel as he/she reads that the reader is getting the “real skinny” on what we don’t read in the headlines.