I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

The Aviator's Wife is a fictionalized book about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the wife of Charles Lindbergh who was the first person to fly across the Atlantic on a solo flight in 1927 inside his plane The Spirit of St. Louis.  This book picks up at Christmastime of that same year as Anne and her two sisters, Elisabeth the older and glamorous one and Con the cute rambunctious kid meet up with Dwight, their brother who falls, age-wise, under Anne and is breaking under the pressure of having to represent the family and live up to his father's expectations.  Elisabeth is expected to marry well and have a fabulous life, but until then she is opening up a school for young kids with her childhood friend Connie. Nothing is expected of Anne except to not disgrace the family name and to marry somebody suitable at some point.  Anne is basically a nobody or a non-entity in her family and she is rather introverted.  The one time she tried to stand up for herself was in trying to tell her parents she wanted to go to Vassar rather than Smith, but in the end, she caved because the women in her family go to Smith.  I mention these things and the year, 1927, because they are important if you want to understand Anne and why she does, or not does some things.  You may become frustrated with her, but you have to put yourself in her shoes first. She is not a strong woman at the beginning of this book.  If her family or Charles is the leader, she is the follower and in this life, there must be both, though you do hope she will stop being one.

It opens with Anne's family having Christmas in Mexico at the Embassy as her father is now the Ambassador to Mexico and Charles Lindbergh will be there with them because her father convinced him  to do a Latin America tour in one of his planes which will promote relations with the U.S. and these countries.  Charles barely says boo around them unless you get him talking about airplanes and then he will give a monolog answering whatever you asked of him still without having a conversation with you.  He is especially reticent around girls.   At the Christmas party, Elisabeth is paired up with Charles as she is the one expected to catch his eye and Anne is added as an afterthought.  Anne barely says anything herself and lets her sister do the talking, but when her sister asks Charles to take her up on his plane, he automatically turns to Anne and asks her if she would like to go up as well.  Anne gives an enthusiastic yes until a group of people comes over to see Charles and suddenly she becomes shy and unsure about going up. Later she dances with her brother Dwight, which she loves to do on the crowded dancefloor, but she ends up feeling Charles' scrutinizing gaze and believes that she has made a fool of herself in front of him and runs off to bed early.  Not long after she receives a letter from Charles saying that he understands that maybe she would rather have a flight up when no one, like the press, can her go up and get her reaction, whatever that might be, and that if she wants he could take her up at four-fifteen a.m. when no one would notice.  Anne is won over by how Charles understood the reason why she wobbled that night about going and meets him that morning and falls in love with flying with her first time up.

After Christmas, she goes back to college and doesn't hear from him. She invites him to her graduation, but of course, he does not come, she finds out later because he does not want to turn her graduation into a fiasco.  Her mother asks her to spend the summer overlooking the building of the new house and watching over Dwight's mental health.  One night, Charles calls for her and she cannot believe that he wants to talk to her and not her sister. This is a recurring theme; that he picked her over everyone else.  He wants to take her up again as he promised to do so back in Mexico.  Charles lets Anne fly the plane while they are up in the air, but they lost a wheel on take off which means that the landing will be a crash one.  When Charles pulls up to Anne's house he gives a very odd marriage proposal.  He is impressed with how she handles herself in the air and he wants her to be his co-pilot and wife.  Anne is a bit shocked to get the proposal, seemingly out of nowhere, even though Charles it seems has been thinking about it over the months they have been apart.  She tells him she has to think about it.  The interesting thing about this proposal is that the word love is never mentioned.

Preparing for the wedding is a horror as the press is hungry for news about it. Anne has to fire a maid for selling personal letters and she has to hide her diary.  Her entire trousseau is printed in intimate detail in the papers.  Charles decides that the wedding will be a very small one with just immediate family only because he can't trust anyone not to sell photos or information about the wedding. There was also no official wedding photographer so she had no wedding photos.  When they went on their honeymoon they went on a boat off of Florida to try to fool the reporters. After an amazing wedding night, she wakes up to a man who is demanding she gets breakfast fixed now because they are behind schedule since she slept in. Anne has no real idea how to cook, so this is something she will have to quickly learn.  Charles is all about lists and schedules. He is obsessed with them.  They're what got him over the Atlantic and what get him around to the various places he flies to so he depends on them.  When they stop by an island to get supplies it's a relief not to be recognized. But that relief is short-lived as when they leave the store they are mobbed by people and reporters who have surrounded their boat.  The only thing to do is to wait them out in the boat until the police can come and help out.

Charles insisted that Anne gets her pilot's license so he pushed her to do so and she loved flying.  He also made her learn navigation, both instrumental and celestial.  The celestial gave her a devil of a time.  She also got her radio licence and became the first woman to get a glider plane's licence.  He slingshotted her off a mountain when she was learning to fly the glider and she was utterly terrified of doing it, but she didn't want to let Charles down. In the end, she was glad she did these things, even if the way Charles went about making her do them was tedious or scary.  She became his co-pilot and the two flew on many missions, including a trip to the Orient after Anne had had baby Charlie.  Lindbergh was by her side the entire time talking to her and reassuring her during her labor.  It was a rare gift from him.

The book does go into the kidnapping of little Charlie to a small extent (the book is about her entire life, of which this is only one part) and you get to meet Colonel Schwarzkopf, the General's grandfather, who was supposed to be in charge of the investigation, but at first everyone deferred to Charles who insisted on doing everything himself.  Charles followed every crackpot lead and got involved with gangsters, which Schwarzkopf was against and that was when he and his men began to  run their own investigation with Anne's permission since she knew Charles was not going in the right direction.  The newly formed FBI also had men in town following leads on their own.  The press and public were unbelievable.  Anne was pregnant with their son Jon, then would come Land, Anne Jr (Ansy), Scott, and then spoiled daughter Reeve.  After Land was born, Anne slowly stopped going on long distance flights with Charles because she could not bear to be away from the children. This is when things really began to change between them.

And once Anne could never have children, Charles was rarely around anymore, but his presence was felt in the lists and expectations he had for his kids and Anne, when he wasn't around, let things go.  When he was around he could be warm with the kids and rough house with them and do sweet things for them, while being a tyrant at the same time.  Everyone walked on eggshells when he was at home.  He fixed up a small cabin for Anne to do her writing, but she couldn't seem to find the energy or the inspiration for it at first.  Anne would help him write his autobiography that would go on to win a Nobel prize where he would thank the Wright Brothers but not her, though on the dedication page of his book he thanks her and tells her she has no idea how much of this was done by her.  Anne would eventually write the, for her time, the groundbreaking Gifts From the Sea, a book of essays about the stages of women. It is considered to be a proto-feminist book and touched so many women's lives over the years.  She wrote an account before this of their travels to the Orient and published her letters and diaries.  She is a very talented writer for those interested.        

Sometimes you are going to want to take a frying pan to Lindbergh's head.  The way he treats Anne is deplorable at times.  Keep in mind, though, that he does push her to do things that she would never have done otherwise, such as fly a plane and write.  He believed in her and saw something in her when it seems that no one else did.  Anne was looking for a hero and she got the ultimate hero, which was more than she bargained for.  Anne evolves across the book and grows into her own woman.  The two of them had a very hard life and sometimes the only thing that kept them connected was their need to be away from the press. The author says that the way Anne was hounded was as bad as the way Princess Diana was when she was alive.  It's hard to explain how important the two of them were, the First Couple of the Air.  They belonged to the world. What Lindbergh did was so unthinkable at the time and he continued to make his mark in aviation.  They will look at what we would consider some horrid options to avoid the press.

This book reads like a memoir and sometimes you forget that it is a fictionalized account of someone's life.  I was very interested in learning more about Anne Lindbergh as I knew she was a fine writer and that her life had been overshadowed by her husband.  I was also prepared to hate Charles as I knew of his anti-Semitism.  I wasn't prepared to like him a little bit.  But people do have qualities we like even if they have a lot of qualities we don't.  And I learned a great deal about Anne, whom I could really relate to and understand.  Yes, you do want to shake her a bit and tell her to snap out of it, but you have to remember what year she was born in, how she was raised, and what her personality is.  She first has to find her inner strength before she can fly on her own.


 Flying is perfectly safe. Up there on the currents, like the birds—it’s a holy thing. Nothing has ever made me feels so—so in control of my own destiny. So above all the petty strife and cares of the world. It’s down here where the danger is, you know—not up there.
-Melanie Benjamin (The Aviator’s Wife p 29)

As much as I told myself that life was no fairy tale, I had always hoped, deep down, that it was. What young girl doesn’t dream of the hero rescuing her from her lonely tower? I had been no different, only more diligent, perhaps, than others in constructing that ivory tower of my own design—a foundation laid of books, the bricks formed of the duty drilled into me by my parents; dreams may have been the paintings on my walls, but doubts and fears were the bars on my windows.
-Melanie Benjamin (The Aviator’s Wife p 45-6)
  And there were good times; odd though as the years went on, the details of those lsot their sharpness, so that they became impressionistic paintings compared to the unmistakably photographic images of the bad.

-Melanie Benjamin (The Aviator’s Wife p 322)
 I was Mom. I was Wife. I was Tragedy. I was Pilot. They all were me, and I, them. That was a fate we could not escape, we women; we would always be called upon by others in a way men simply never were. But weren’t we always, first and foremost—woman? Wasn’t there strength in that, victory, clarity—in all the stages of a woman’s life.

-Melanie Benjamin (The Aviator’s Wife p 340)
 You need to …stop looking for heroes, Anne. Only the weak need…heroes…and heroes need…those around them to remain weak. You’re…not weak.

-Melanie Benjamin (The Aviator’s Wife p 341-2)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Aviators-Wife-Novel-Melanie-Benjamin/dp/0345528689/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1469804737&sr=1-1&keywords=the+aviator%27s+wife+melanie+benjamin

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Fire, and the Hunt For America's Youngest Serial Killer by Roseanne Montillo

This book is much more than about Jesse Pomeroy, who in 1874 was arrested for the brutal murder of a boy, and eventually they would charge him for the murder of a girl who had going missing when they found her body.  He was only fourteen when this happened.  This book tries to explain how such a boy and these events could come about, in Boston.  It is also the tale of the horrific fire of 1872 that could have been prevented and the exploration of madness in general, and most especially in himself, by Herman Melville.   This book puts you firmly at a time when things are changing and the environment that these events occurred.

Jesse Pomeroy was the second son and was routinely beat while naked, black and blue, all over his body, while he was barely a child.  Eventually his mother divorced her husband over this, but in a way, it was too late.  A "monster" had been born.  When Jesse was twelve he began to lure younger boys away to quiet places, unclothe them, and beat them with a belt, making them say filthy things while he masturbated.  By the time of the last boy, he was starting to use a sharp object to inflict pain.  The boy was able to recognize Jesse because of his eye.  When he was a child, he had an illness that caused his eye to become albino white and prompted much bullying by other children that he began to act out and was forced to drop out of school.  But he was an avid reader of the penny dreadfuls, full of violence and sex, and Herman Melville's first book Typee.

Melville's father left his large family in dire straights when he suddenly died.  He had possibly suffered from a mental illness and his mother was often depressed.  When Melville would write, he would shut out the world and often in his book he studied madness, because he suspected he might also be afflicted, and his family was sure he was.  Melville would use clinical terms in his books, that captured the eye of Jesse.  And if you really want to stretch things, Moby Dick was an evil white whale, just as Jesse had a white eye that people saw as evil. 

The Fire Chief of Boston had been complaining for years about how unprepared Boston would be if a fire occurred.  They needed updates and improvements.  After the Chicago fire of 1871, he examined that fire and noticed that town had similar layouts to Boston and that such a thing could easily happen in Boston, but no one would listen to him.  Unfortunately, when the fire struck in the business district, the horses all had influenza.  It was a disaster.  The Fire Chief was trying to fight the fire the best he could, but was being overridden by the Mayor and Council on how stop it, which only made it worse.  And who was the one everyone blamed?  That Fire Chief.  Rebuilding was going on in 1872 when strange things began to happen.

After being caught, Jesse readily confessed to what he had done to the boys and was sent to that era's Juvenile Delinquent facility.  He was supposed to remain there until adulthood, but he was such a model inmate and his mother and brother really needed him to help run their business, that two men, one a cop, legally petitioned to have him be able to leave.  It never made the papers.  Not long after was when a ten-year-old girl went missing.  There was a search, which yielded nothing and police gave up on the case.  Then a four-year-old boy is found in the water, beaten and cut up.  The detective in charge thought this reminded him of Jesse and when he found out Jesse was out, he had him arrested.  Eventually Jesse would get a lawyer who would try for the insanity plea, a new idea at the time, but instead, he was found guilty.  Now the governor had to determine whether to hang such a young boy or give him a life sentence instead.  No one believed he should be roaming the streets and most had such moral outrage they believed hanging was to good for him.  Eventually after two years he would be placed in prison in solitary for the rest of his life.  This did not seem to bother him even though he made numerous escape attempts (and almost made a few of them).  He spent his time reading and learning and trying to get released.  But that was not meant to be.  He would spend over fifty years there before being sent to a farm for the infirm, which he was completely against.

The author asked a retired FBI Forensic Profiler to examine the evidence and try to come up with a diagnosis.  His was sexual sadism.  And the profiler said that if they had not caught him, he would have continued, but only gotten better and harder to catch.  Its hard to believe that someone so young could be so bent and twisted and oddly enough, more boys began popping up around New England committing similar crimes after Jesse was sent to prison.  Some, like today, blamed the boys reading materiel, but there is a lot more to it than that.  Nothing is ever that easily explained.  This is an incredible book.  It even made me want to read Melville, which is quite a feat.  People rather quickly forgot this notorious young man and I have never heard of him.  I think that would have made him unhappy; not to be remembered, and perhaps that is for the best. 

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Wilderness-Ruin-Madness-Americas-Youngest/dp/0062273485/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1469731872&sr=1-1&keywords=a+wilderness+in+ruin

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Double Fudge Brownie Murder by Joanne Fluke

In this latest Hannah Swenson mystery, the owner of a cookie shop in Minnesota (yes, all her books contain deliciously easy recipes, both desert, and dishes) who is always, to her mother's consternation, finding yet again another dead body.  Over the books, Hannah has begun dating both Mike, a handsome flirt of a police detective, and the sweet and sensitive dentist, Norman.  Both have proposed to her and she has turned both of them down.

In this book, Hannah's widowed mother has found love for the second time in her life and her husband-to-be, Doc, has planned a surprise wedding in Vegas flying her and her daughters Hannah, Andrea (who is married to the chief of police), and the youngest, Michelle, who is still in college, as her bridesmaids.  He then plans to whisk her away on an Alaskan cruise for a honeymoon.  His best man's identity is being kept secret from Hannah.  It is Ross, an old college friend, that filmed a movie several books back, in her hometown, and something sparked between them, but he lived on the other side of the United States, and while they occasionally stayed in contact, nothing ever came of it.  Now, however, Ross is planning on applying for a job at a local TV station and wants to rekindle a romance with her.

When Hannah returns from her magical weekend, she has to face going to court for accidentally hitting someone with her truck.  Judge Colfax, who is the presiding judge in her case, has asked her and her attorney to come to his chambers before the trial.  While she is outside waiting, she hears noises and opens the door to see what is wrong, and of course, stumbles upon his dead body.  The Judge, it turns out, was calling her in to tell her he was dismissing her case.  So Hannah's in the clear for the murder, not that anyone thought she really did anything.

Judge Colfax, though a good Judge and a good man, made some enemies in his life.  His ex-wife and their child, his mistress with whom he had a child, and even his second wife who wanted desperately to have a girl, that the mistress she supposedly knew nothing about, had one.  There are also the felons and lawyers he has come up against in his career with whom he has clashed, or was it some mysterious person from his past?

While the mystery is cute and cozy, the ending is really nice, with Hannah receiving three wedding proposals all on one day from Mike, Norman, and Ross, who will she choose, if anyone?  She's gone this long without marrying anyone and she does not want to lose the close relationships she has with all of them.  It will take more than a super double fudge brownie to solve this mystery and figure out whose proposal she has decided to accept.  This is such a delightful series.  Hannah is a very real person who hates getting up in the morning and cannot speak without first drinking a cup of coffee.  She has an adorable cat named Moishe that attacks you when you open her door and spends his afternoons watching Animal Planet.  Even though her mother keeps trying to push her into marriage, she has resisted so far.  Now in her thirties, will she feel the clock ticking on how long she has? And these guys will not wait forever.

Link to Amazon: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51DpHA5DKcL._SX304_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Monday, July 25, 2016

Margot by Jillian Cantor

This book is a fictional imagining of what if Margot Frank, Anne Frank's sister, had survived the camps and what might have happened to her.  In this book, she stays with Eduard, a friend of her mother's in Germany after the war for several years before deciding to head to America to stay with his cousin, Ilsa and her husband in Philadelphia, the city where she and Peter had promised to meet each other if they got caught in the attic and separated. In Margot's version of events, she and Peter loved each other. After the war, she saw his name on the Red Cross lists of the dead, but her name was on there too, so she doesn't give up right away and calls the operator looking for a Peter Pelt, as that is the name he wanted to go by. They both agreed to leave their Judaism behind and become Americans.  This idea is reinforced when Margie Franklin (the name she has chosen) reads in the paper about a flaming flare nailed to a door with anti-Semitic words, kids beating up Jewish kids, a firebomb thrown into a synagogue, and of course the swastikas. She had thought Philadelphia to be the "City of Brotherly Love", but realizes that it is no different than where she came from. 

Margie hides her tattoo behind sweaters she wears even at the height of summer.  She gets a job that she loves working as a secretary for a Jewish law firm, which makes her feel like she did before the war.  She is taking classes to become a paralegal and is supported by her sweet and handsome boss, Joshua Rosenstein. Joshua is not happy working there for his father, defending murderers and crooks, so when an old woman who survived the camps comes in and wants his help in getting equal pay for her and the other Jews at the factory she works for, he jumps at the chance to do something good and right.  He has Margie there to help with any translation if necessary as the woman is Polish and Margie has let  everyone believe she is Polish, though she knows very little of the language, but telling people she was born in Germany is a rather dangerous thing to do right after the war.  The woman, Bryda Korzynski sees right through Margie and is disgusted with her for hiding her past, but she says nothing to Joshua.  Joshua tells her he needs more people to join her in order to do a class action suit.  He uses Margie's number as a contact number when he prints an anonymous ad in the paper to get names from the other plants. It is all being done in secret as his father is against the suit.

Margie, of course, is freaking out having to deal with some of these people, especially Bryda, who were in the camps just like she was and the memories come back to her.  On top of this, she knows her father is alive because of the book he published of her sister Anne's diary and she realizes that Anne must have found her diary and copied parts of it and put it in her diary.  To her, Anne is an annoying little sister that she loved dearly and ultimately failed to keep alive as she promised her mother she would.  She believes she killed Anne and is living with that burden.  She also knows that if she contacts her father he will sweep her up in the whole fame of being the sister who knows the rest of Anne's story and she does not want to be known. She also wonders why her father did not publish her diary.  And she knows that her dear father, Pim, loved Anne more than her.  So she has not told her father she is alive.  Now there is a movie out and she decides to call the operator to see if Peter is in Philadelphia and she tells her there is a P. Pelt.  When she calls a woman answers and suddenly she wonders if Peter found someone else.  Hope is an amazing thing. When the gods unleashed all the horrors upon the earth when Pandora opened that box, hope was at the bottom of that box for a reason, because without it humans would have a hard time going on.

But Peter isn't the only one she is thinking about. She can't help but care about Joshua, even if, as her co-worker, Shelby says that he will never think of her like that since she is who she is, a secretary and a non-Jewish one at that.  Besides Joshua is expected to marry the truly awful Penny, whom he grew up with and is not only Jewish but of his class.  Joshua, however, keeps giving out mixed signals: a touch of the hand, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear, standing too close. Margie seems to be worried that by having feelings for Joshua that she is somehow betraying Peter. By this time she is taking the bus to the house where P. Pelt lives hoping to catch a peek at him or his life; imagining all sorts of scenarios in her mind.

In the end, will Joshua be able to stand up to his father, the only family he has left? Will Margie ever admit her feelings for him? Is Peter still alive and if he is, how does Margie feel about him now? Will Margie ever reveal who she really is and come out of hiding, finally? There are lots of questions to be answered in this riveting book.

Cantor read The Diary of Anne Frank first when she was thirteen and thought "this could be me". She re-read it again as an adult, and older sister, and began to wonder about Anne's older sister Margot who also kept a diary and who gets little mention in the book. When she began to do some research on Margot, there was very little to be found, so Cantor decided to write this book to give Margot her "voice" as Anne has had hers all these decades.  I do believe she has succeeded. 


 But the smell in hallway is not much better than in the stairwell. The air is stagnant and I fight the urge to vomit as I wrap my sweater tighter around my chest. I reach my hand up to knock on her door. Apartment 3C in the north section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America. It is a long was from Auschwitz, Poland. But as I knock, I understand it is not as far as you might think.

-Jillian Cantor (Margot p 76)
 Over and over again. Bryda, her voice, the smells of her terrible apartment, our shared horror, they are everything about my past that I am running from, all the things I try to avoid in my American life. And now I understand that these terrible things, they are only a bus ride away from the safety of the Jewish law firm, which in so many ways reminds me of the comforts of my childhood, before the war. This is perhaps the most terrifying thought of all.

-Jillian Cantor (Margot p 79)
 Judischausen [Synagogue] had not just been destroyed by the war, but decimated by it: stripped, shaven, beaten down, tattooed.  “I’m done with being a Jew.” I spoke to Eduard softly, but with certainty.  “But…your mother?” he said, and his voice cracked on her name. It was religion that had kept them apart, I was certain of it. And religion that had taken her away.  “My mother is dead,” I said.  Eduard shook his head. “You are who you are. This you cannot change.” “What is religion,” I asked him, “if it cannot protect you? If it kills you?” “You are who you are,” Eduard repeated.

-Jillian Cantor (Margot p 176)
 This synagogue is a flat, square cement building and, I am relieved to see, almost unidentifiable as a Jewish place, except for the small green Star of David etched into the front of the wooden door.  There are no large stained-glass windows, and maybe that is better. Nothing to shatter.
-Jillian Cantor (Margot p 177)
 “What a creeper,” Shelby says. “Shhh,” I whisper to Shelby now. “He might hear you.” She shrugs. “What’s he going to do?” she asks. “Kill me?” It is such an American thing, to talk of death as if they are so far from it’s reach. Perhaps it is their in ability to understand that murder, it is easy for some people. These people, they will kill, and they will kill again, and it will mean nothing.

-Jillian Cantor (Margot p 188)
 Saturday is the Shabbat day, the day of rest. God created the universe in six days, and on the seventh day He rested. The seventh day, it is holy. I am across an ocean, a lifetime, housed within a second skin, no longer a Jew. No longer a believer in God. My candle, my whispered Hebrew prayer, my day of rest, they are a comfort in their steadiness, their ability to stay unchanged. Every single week. It is not religion; it is ritual. Religion is breath, Margot, Mother said.  But what I have come to understand as I watch the lonely flicker of my candle and listen for the faintest echo of Mother’s voice is this: sometimes we breathe because we have to, not because we want to.

-Jillian Cantor (Margot p 225)
 It is possible that no matter who you once were, what your past is, how terrible that past is, that you can somehow transcend it?

-Jillian Cantor (Margot p 305)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Margot-Novel-Jillian-Cantor/dp/1594486433/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1469453528&sr=1-1&keywords=Margot

Friday, July 22, 2016

We're Just Like You, Only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle by Celia Rivenbark

Once again, Rivenbark delivers her brand of Southern wit to the everyday life of a wife and mother, living in Wilmington, North Carolina.  In this book she examines the Southern Family, Kids,  and Couples Therapy, Southern Style, the Southern Woman, and Gravy on Grits.

In her look at the Southern Family she talks about how white trash is now "in".  How do you be white trash?  Watch a lot of bad TV, like infomercials, get a mullet, talk about "your baby's daddy" (even if you're married to him), don't file a tax account (but if you do go, go to a storefront one), dress your young'uns in NASCAR T-shirts (but NOT Jeff Gordon), buy money orders, and take up smoking.  She also looks at "how the Sopranos could never survive down south", the Southern Wedding, a reason for getting a divorce being your husband dressing your daughter in pajama tops and Tweety Bird swim socks (again), and Southerners preoccupation with death.

In kids, she tells of her experience at Chuckie Cheese, the drama of feeding something your kids not healthy for breakfast when you have no time to do so and hope the teacher and the other "pre-school Nazis" doesn't ask, getting people to come to your kid's ballet recital, and how you should keep your kid at home from school when they're sick so they don't infect the entire school.

In the Southern Woman, she talks about dieting through visualization, the "fat virus" and how we should hold telethons for it, and that she's going to sneeze on all of her skinny girlfriends, manicure and other beauty addictions, and the wisdom of menopause.  Gravy on Grits is a scattering of various topics such as the "evils" of gossip, the good trashy TV to watch, and silly lawsuits.

In Southern Style, the reason given for why the Soprano's cannot "make it" in the South is because you can't shoot up a bunch of people after having a wonderful dinner of chicken and pan pie, okra, tomatoes, and spoon bread.  

This book is side-splitting hilarious, just as her others have been.  She has her hand on the pulse of the Southerner and their take on many topics ranging from what it means to be Southern to kids (and the many things we endure for them and because of them) and what is now "en vogue".  She has several more for me to read and I can't wait.


Is it a small wonder that hurricane season and wedding season are one and the same?  As a former bridal-page editor, I can honestly say that I’ve seen some category 5 wedding disasters.
---Celia Rivenbark (We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle p 32) 

The amicable divorce is an urban legend.  You believe there’s such a thing?  Then you also believe that some loser really did find an entire fried chicken head in his KFC snack pak.
------Celia Rivenbark (We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle p 35)

Another study, this one by Working Mother magazine, reported that women discuss an average of forty topics when they get together for a typical night out, while men discuss only four…Men have the whole conversation thing condensed to the final four: beer, sports, women, and work.
-----Celia Rivenbark (We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle p 121-2)

Women have long realized that the mere mention of their “females” can get them out of just about anything, the notable exception being a very insensitive North Carolina highway patrolman who once refused to believe I was speeding because “my uterus told me to”.
-----Celia Rivenbark (We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle p 126)

…that which does not kill us merely maims us.
-----Celia Rivenbark (We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle p 141).

Martha [Stewart] is the Antichrist of Simple.  Or maybe she’s just the Antichrist, period.  I finally let my subscription lapse after she made me feel irrationally guilty for not sewing my own shower curtain.
-----Celia Rivenbark (We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle p 181)

And my favorite, which wins points for creativity of expression, comes from the manual for my kid’s bike helmet: “Helmets can’t prevent damage from shaking, just as an egg can be completely scrambled inside its shell just by shaking it.”
-----Celia Rivenbark (We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle p 260)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Were-Just-Like-Only-Prettier/dp/031231244X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1469190753&sr=1-1&keywords=we%27re+just+like+you+only+prettier


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices From the Titanic by Allan Wolf

Okay. Let's get this part out of the way. This book is a long poem. Now don't leave me. Hear me out. This isn't the poetry your high school English teacher tried to stuff down your throat. And speaking of which, I have placed at the end of this review, a list of poets and some of their poems if you are interested in reading something truly worthwhile.  First of all, the book is separated into twenty-five voices. When once voice is speaking it takes up a page or two, then stops. Technically it is poetry as it is written that way, but when you read it you quickly forget, because your mind just reads and goes with the flow of words and you stop noticing that they are on shortened lines.  You fall into the rhythm of the book.

Now, the voices. Two of them are going to seem odd choices and they don't appear often, but they do have very good reasons for appearing. One is the Iceberg, who is quite cold and calculatingly evil, in a way that only Nature can be. The other is the rats. They act like some kind of Greek chorus, but as I said, they do have a much deeper reason for being there.  The other voices are those of people who actually were on the Titanic.  The author used what information he had on them to help form their narrative and story, but there will always be some creative license when it comes to writing about the dead.

It is hard at first to open yourself up to these people because you don't want to like them as "characters" since you know they might die at the end.  However, I found myself breaking down and letting them into my mind to root for them to live or to go down with the ship.  Some of the voices you know, such as John Jacob Astor, Margaret "Molly" Brown, and Captain E. J. Smith.  He also includes the Spark, the Baker, a Junior officer, the Lookout, the ship's Postman, the Navigator, the Second Violin, the Entree Cook, the Stoker, and the Bagpiper. Among the passengers there is a the man who designed the Titanic, Thomas Andrew, Bruce Ismay, the man who owned part of the company that owned the Titanic, an Immigrant, a Gambler, a Dragon Hunter, a Tailor (who is not who he says he is), the Tailor's son, and a Refugee and her brother. Outside of the Titanic there is the Carpathia's wireless man and then there is the Undertaker who much later would be helping to identify,  embalm or preparing for burial at sea the bodies from the Titanic.

It's hard to choose which people to mention here as they are all so interesting in their own ways. The Refugee, Jamila Nicola-Yarred and her younger brother Elias were supposed to be there with their father, but he couldn't come because they wouldn't let him on the ship with this infected eye. They missed their other ship by some quirk of fate.  Jamila is the eldest, but she is Lebanese and she is expected to walk behind her father and her younger brother.  But before they get on the boat, her father gives her all the money he has and entrusts her with taking care of the two of them, which is quite an honor and really ticks off her annoying brother.  On the ship, someone tries to steal the money, but a young man, Alfred (the Dragon Hunter's older brother), gets it back to her, and with a look the two fall in love as only teenagers can.

The Second Violin, John "Jock" Hume, is on board because he needs to make a lot of money and he needs time to figure out which lady he wants to keep: the Eberle or the Guagadnini violin.  It will be the instrument he will play for the rest of his life.  He is engaged to be married to a woman named Mary back home who is carrying his child, which is another reason he needs the money.  Jock also finds himself in hot water quite often with the conductor by playing with flourishes, as he is testing the violin.  He also goes out, as all the musicians do to play to the people on the ship for tips. He meets up with Frankie Goldsmith, the Dragon Hunter (the kid is wonderful) and tells him the truth about what is dragon's blood on a ship and then plays him the Debussy song "Frankie and Johnny" to try to cheer him up as it has their names in it.  Jock is a delight to read as he is so passionate and fun. He makes you feel like dancing as you can almost hear the music that he plays.

There are some questionable people on the ship and they include Louis Hoffman, a man who is sailing under someone Else's name, as he has stolen his children after divorcing his wife.  Thomas Hart, the Stoker, is also traveling under another name, but you don't know why for a very long time. He realizes that one of the members of the crew can identify him and he spends his time avoiding that person. George Brereton, the Gambler is working on conning Charles Stengel, an American. He goes by the name Lord Brayton and at first his plan is one based on gambling, but then he sees an opportunity for a much longer con.

It is fascinating how he writes some of the dialogue for some of the voices that reflects exactly what they do.  The Postman, Oscar Woody's words are interrupted with the words "Sort. Shuffle-Shuffle. Slot. Shuffle-Shuffle" as that is exactly what he is doing as he talks to the other postman, Mr. March. With the Spark, it's dots and dashes as he has to send messages on the wireless for the passengers.  When the rats dialogue shows up it scurries across the page, just as they would. It really puts you inside their skin. Except for the rats. And later, when the Ship Builder is speaking after the Titanic has been hit, the words tilt this way and that on the page as though you were on the ship that is listing about as it takes on water.

There have been many books about the Titanic over the years, but none have been like this. This is such a unique and wonderful book that I really enjoyed reading. It was a true surprise and delight.  At the end of the book, the author tells you where he took liberties and what exactly happened with these people, which by the time you get to the end of this book, you are completely invested in their lives and will want to know. This is the Titanic book you want to read above all others. I highly recommend it.

Titanic Facts:
Total Number of People on board: 2,207 (712 survived)
First class: 324 (201)
Second class 277 (118)
Third class 708 (181)
Crew: 885 (212)
Musicians: 8 (0)
Postmen: 5 (0)
Dogs: 12 (3)
Married couples: 107 (together 22)
Female and child survivors: 389 or 54.6% of total)
Male survivors: 323 (45.4% of total)
Men who survived after going down with the ship: 52
Women who survived after going down with the ship: 1
Total people lost: 1,495
Total recovered: 330
Number of boats it could accommodate: 64 (had 20/18 launched)
Total potential capacity: 1,178 (actual on boats 659)
Age of Titanic: Three Years
Age of Iceberg: 10,000 Years


You see, I’m trying both instruments out, runnin’ each through her trials if you like, in order to decide which of the two will be Jock Home’s “life instrument.”  The choice is much the same as choosing a wife—maybe even more difficult. Choosing a wife was easy enough for me. Mary Costin will soon be the mother of my child. So Mary will be the lady of my house, but my violin, she will become the voice of my soul.
-Allan Wolf (The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices From the Titanic p 74)
 And I wondered how the word boy could possibly apply to both my vile annoying brother and the pretty thing before me, standing on the crane.

-Allan Wolf (The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices From the Titanic p 78)
 Mrs. March and I will be reunited soon enough. She left me her forwarding address. And we both have the same destination label. [postman]

-Allan Wolf (The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices From the Titanic p 84)
 Man’s fatal flaw is misplaced optimism: through hubris, it refuses to understand that chaos is the ruling law of Nature while order’s just a futile dream of man.

-Allan Wolf (The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices From the Titanic p 95)
 I knew in my heart that dragons do exist. I didn’t care what the older boys said. Or how they laughed. Maybe as boys grow up, they lose their ability to see.

-Allan Wolf (The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices From the Titanic p 134)

Mrs. Candee commented that all of us passengers reminded her of a fancy-dress party in hell. And I quite agreed. Everyone wore a hodgepodge combination of sleepwear, evening wear, and winter wear—all of it layered in disarray. The orchestra added to the effect when it assembled on deck and launched into an endless series of ragtime tunes.
-Allan Wolf (The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices From the Titanic p 323)
 Poetry Recommendations:
Edgar Allen Poe: The Raven (of course) Annabel Lee, Dream Within a Dream, The Sleeper
Stephen Crane: (Forget Red Badge of Courage his poetry is ten times better): Once There Came a Man, In the Desert, Should the Wide World Roll Away
Herman Melville: (Same thing applies): Shiloh: A Requiem (April 1862), Misgivings, After the   Pleasure Party:Lines Traced Under Amor Threatening
Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken (of Course), Mending Wall, Fire and Ice, Love and a Question
Uncle Walt Whitman: Song of Myself, A Noiseless Patient Spider, Are You the New Person Drawn Toward Me?, Oh Captain, My Captain
Carl Sandburg: Chicago, Fog, Cool Tombs, Doors, Choose
Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson: Claribel, The Lady of Shalott, Charge of the Light Brigade, Locksley Hall
The Romantic Studs:
   Lord Byron: And Thou Art  Dead, As Young and Fair, Darkness, She Walks In Beauty, Don Juan (If you have time
   Percy Bysse Shelly: Alstor; or The Spirit of Solitude, Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats, Art Thou Pale For Weariness
   John Keats: La Belle Dame Sans Merci (The Beautiful Woman Without Mercy), Ode On a Nightingale, Fancy, Modern Love
The Lovely Ladies:
   Edna St. Vincent Millay: First Fig, Ebb, Departure, Ashes of Life, What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why, I Think I Should Have Loved You Presently
   Emily Dickinson: "Hope" is the thing with feathers, After great pain, A Formal feeling comes, Because I could not stop for Death, Crumbling is not an instant's act, Forever is composed of Nows
   Margret Atwood: Eye, In the Secular Night, Marrying the Hangman, Siren Song, The Circle Game, They Eat Out
   Marge Piercy:  The Token Woman, Rape Poem, Morning Half-Life Blues, The Cat's Song, Implications of One Plus One
   Sylvia Plath: Blackberries, Elm, Lady Lazarus, The Applicant, Tulips
  Anne Sexton: Old, From the Garden, Eleanor Boylan Talking With God, The Wedding Night, The House, The Black Art, The Operation

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Watch-That-Ends-Night-Titanic/dp/076366331X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1469034667&sr=1-1&keywords=the+watch+that+ends+the+night+voices+from+the+titanic

Monday, July 18, 2016

Make 'Em Laugh: Short Term Memories of Longtime Friends by Debbie Reynolds and Dorian Hannaway

In 2013, Debbie Reynolds published her autobiography "Unsinkable". Over the years, however, people encouraged her to write another one because they knew that she had more stories to tell, and boy does she! Now in her eighties, she has finally decided to retire from doing her cabaret shows in Vegas and such places and last year, with her two children, Carrie and Todd, and her granddaughter, Billie Lourd (also an actress who was on the show Scream Queens and in The Force), she did her finale show and went out in style.

In a lot of ways, Debbie Reynolds is a woman who is a class act, but in lots of ways, she is the class clown, sometimes even dressing up as one. She began her career in the 1940s, but grew up in Texas, so she has a Texan's fearless/crazy way of just doing things the way they want to and damn the consequences.  She also has had no problem telling off anyone if they are doing something she disagrees with, even if they are in a position of power.  Don't get me wrong; she did get the name "America's Sweetheart" for a reason. She really is a sweetheart. She is a kind and caring woman, until you do something that isn't right, like make comments about her breasts, then she will report you to the higher ups because she won't put up with sexual harassment. She does have a huge sense of humor though and can let something go when need be.  Luckily she took gymnastics. It got her out of a lot of sticky situations.

Girl Scouts was always important to her. She will proudly tell you that she earned 47 merit badges if you ask her.  She was the scout leader of her daughter Carrie Fisher's troop. Carrie, however, was not as enamored with scouts as Debbie was.  When Debbie signed up to be a leader there was some confusion as she showed up in her nun costume that she was wearing for the movie she was filming, The Singing Nun. When she was on The Joey Bishop Show he asked her about the troop and she told them how she was teaching them the steps to follow if someone's clothes caught fire.  Joey wanted to see it and Regis offered to be the "victim".  Debbie said she "jumped out my chair, flew across the stage, and pounced on  him, tackling Regis to the floor...It took me a minute to get him pinned. Then I rolled him back and forth, to put out the imaginary fire, just like I taught my Girl Scouts to do. I was wearing a pale green beaded dress that cost several thousand dollars. It wasn't worth five cents at the end of the show."  A picture of her "putting the fire out" on Regis became front page news. Ms. Reynolds has done much more over the years to support the Girl Scouts.

She has a chapter where she covers comedians she has met and worked with. Lucile Ball opens that list, as they were friends. As everyone knows, Lucy was a brilliant comedian who owned her shows, including "I Love Lucy" and the studio, Desilu Productions, and she revolutionized the way shows were filmed on television, all while making us laugh with her.  Lucy never felt the need to be "on" all the time, either, and had a lovely deep voice. Unfortunately, Lucy's weakness was her first husband, Desi Arnaz, whose weakness was booze and women.  When he would go missing she would hit the phones trying to find him and once called Debbie hoping to find him there, even though Debbie would never dream of doing something like that. Lucy was just that hopelessly crazy to find him.  She would find a much better husband the second time around with Gary Morton, but when Desi was on his death bed, Lucy was right there by his side. 

"Uncle Milite", or Milton Berle owned Tuesday nights in the 1950s.  He was also a rather self-centered, vulgar man who couldn't stand for anyone else to be in the limelight. Ms. Reynolds has a good deal more she could say about the man, but she leaves it at calling him an SOB to his face one night when he was being particularly cruel to another comedian performing.  She encourages the readers to go to Youtube and look up the old Burns and Allen Shows because they were decades ahead of their time.  As for Jack Benny, he was "adorable, polite, cuddly. Everybody loved him."  Jack knew timing better than anyone in the business and he taught Debbie the art of waiting for the right moment to deliver the line. He also told her "don't try to be a comic. Be an entertainer. Don't just tell jokes. Tell stories. Your life is ridiculous and madcap and absolutely crazy. Tell the truth about your life."

In her "kiss and tell" chapter many names get tossed about including Eddie Fisher, Shirley MacLaine, Hedy Lamarr, Jean Simmons, Richard Burton, Stewart Granger, George Peppard, Buddy Hackett, Jack Lemmon, Glenn Campbell, and Jim Nabors.  There is also the story of the cruise she took with her high school friend and her husband that she went on with Donna Reid's third husband, a retired military man who ended up falling overboard, drunk after she refused to sleep with him.  Of course, there was also the much younger man whom her friends disapproved of her dating as it could be fatal. Her response? "What the hell. If he dies, he dies."   

On her chapter about friends, she mentions the Gabor sisters with whom she was so close she was considered a fourth sister by their mother.  That doesn't mean that she doesn't make fun of them herself, though.  While she was closest to Eva, there is plenty of material here on all of them to keep you laughing for a long while.  She was also close to Jonathan and Eileen Winters.  Jonathan could keep you laughing as long as he was around.  He was also a very good friend to have.  There was also Madame, a puppet controlled by Wayland Flowers. She loved to wear "hats and turbans--with feathers, the bigger and showier the better. Her tiara was always nearby. She was only three feet tall, but her voice could shatter glass. As often as not, she used it to shock people as well as make them laugh." Wayland was turned down by Henson and went on to create Madame who would appear on Hollywood Squares, Solid Gold, and the top places in Vegas.  Wayland would die from AIDS.

Don Rickles, she writes, was the only one allowed to talk fast and still be funny. She also writes about her friendships with Ava Gardner and yes, Elizabeth Taylor.  She offers some insight behind those violet eyes from a woman who betrayed her and who later patched up a broken friendship.  There's also a cool story about meeting Bette Davis and a hilarious one about a night for Lana Turner where she was to appear at a fundraiser for the Thalians (A group she has been long passionate about since the 1960s that raise money to help the mentally ill.).  At another fundraiser, she has a horrid experience with the mean spirited Shelly Winters.   She also had a very interesting and kind encounter with, of all people, Eddie Murphy, whose comedy she loves.

I cannot recommend this book enough. I am a huge fan of Debbie Reynolds and "old Hollywood" so it was a delight to read such delicious tidbits and kind words about people I've heard of and stories about people I've never heard of, but were important to her, and for a good reason.  Debbie Reynolds really is a clown and "America's Sweetheart" because even when she says something mean about someone you know she could say much worse, but her upbringing and goodness won't allow her to lower herself to their level.  But she will give them a good poke because they do deserve it!  For the most part, this is a hilarious book with only a few sad moments when you think of those who have passed on--some too soon.


The handlers led me over to her [Shamu], and asked me to put my head inside her mouth…Shamu didn’t chomp me. But on the way home from Sea World I still couldn’t shake the fresh orca smell. I had noticed that many of the restaurants at the park had a seafood theme. Was this the final fate of the fish who misbehaved?
-Debbie Reynolds and Dorian Hannaway (Make ‘Em Laugh: Short Term Memories of Longtime Friends p 56)

I decided to commission the artist Ralph Wolfe Cowan, to paint my portrait as a surprise gift for him[Eddie Fisher]. Unfortunately Eddie left me before the paint was dry. He heard that Elizabeth’s portrait had never been claimed, bought it as a gift for her, and left me for the real thing…When my painting was finished, I called Ralph to tell him I didn’t want it, even though I’d already paid for it. Ralph sent it to me sometime later anyway…So, ladies, if you’re reading this remember: when you’re thinking of a birthday gift for your husband, buy something that you can return—in case he doesn’t.
-Debbie Reynolds and Dorian Hannaway (Make ‘Em Laugh: Short Term Memories of Longtime Friends p 213)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Make-Em-Laugh-Short-Term-Memories/dp/0062416634/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1468850671&sr=1-1&keywords=make+em+laugh

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The title of this book pertains to Andy's inability to forget what he saw in the war and his daughter Haley's refusal to remember what happened before age twelve, when her mother died and first her grandmother helped take care of her as her father was off fighting in either Iraq or Afganistan, and then his girlfriend Trish, the alcoholic who ended up leaving them.  Andy, a Ranger, was injured in the leg and head and discharged from the Army due to disability, so he then took his daughter on the road with him while he was a truck driver and taught her himself. She quickly fell into having to take care of him when he drank, or lost jobs, due to his PTSD. Underpasses and overpasses and dumpsters could become dangerous to him because of the possibility of snipers or IEDs. The worst day was always the day before Veteran's Day. It seemed to bring it all back to him.  When Haley was seventeen, Andy decided that she should spend her senior year at a school as it would be good for her chances at colleges. So they moved into her grandmother's house that she had stayed in all those years ago.  Gracie, a girl that remembered her from long ago, brought a casserole over and the two became instant friends.

Haley has a theory about people; that they fall into two classes: zombies and freaks.  Everyone is born a freak, it's when they become teenagers that things get complicated and the zombification process happens.  She, with her wild blue hair and her constantly correcting her history teacher and refusal to do homework (especially calculus which she thinks is useless), believes herself to be the ultimate freak.  But is she?

Then one day at first period lunch she meets  Finnigan, "Finn", Ramos, who moved to the area last year and helped the school win the state championship in swimming, but dropped off the team this year.  When she refuses to tell him her name, he simply calls her Miss Blue.  He is trying to keep the school newspaper from ending up on the chopping block (Lots of things already have, like gym teachers. Instead, they have gym assistants that they barely pay anything. They also got rid of all but one of the librarians.).  He wants her to write an article for the paper, which she is against, however, the teacher in charge of the paper is the calculus teacher and he would look favorably upon her is she did this and also if she got a tutor, so Finn decides to tutor her as well.

Finn is a delightful character. He is always saying things like "I gave the best years of my life to the CIA." Or in a text: have you been kidnapped by aliens? are they torturing you? helicopter gassed up and ready I can rescue you.  And then there are the bad math puns like "I think we should take each other to the limit to see if we converge." It's impossible NOT to fall for Finn.  Haley's problem though is she has zero experience with the opposite sex and does not know the social mores and cues and therefore is floundering clueless. On top of this is the problems with her dad.

On the homefront, things are erratic and getting worse than they ever were. He can't seem to keep a job like he said he would and he's drinking and smoking pot more on than off and one night it seems he took something even stronger. There are days on end when he can't get out of bed.  When Haley is called to the Guidance Councillor's office at the beginning of school, Ms. Bendetti, who knew her dad as he had hung out with her younger brother, wants to talk to her father, which is not very likely to happen. On top of that, she drops the bombshell: Trish has been talking to her and has left Haley a letter.  Haley goes into condition red and destroys the letter without reading it.  The last thing they need is Trish coming back making things worse.  Ms. Bendetti also wants her father to participate in the Veteran's Day celebration at school and Haley doesn't know how to tell her that that is the last thing in the world her father wants to do. That those celebrations only make the people giving them feel better, but that they are torture for her father.

As Haley believes her life to be getting better with Finn giving her rides to school in his Plymouth Acclaim that I don't believe ever really saw a good day.  It's burning oil and barely being held together.  Finn drives like an old person, barely going the speed limit, turning the turn signal on long before he needs to, and stopping at yellow lights.  All of which drive Haley nuts.  Haley doesn't have a driver's licence but that doesn't mean she hasn't driven for her dad before.

Haley isn't the only one with secrets. Finn has his own dark family secret of his own.  Hardly anyone in this book has a normal family life, except Topher, Gracie's boyfriend, which in itself is normal, because we are all different and have different families.  As the book goes on, though, the families in it come closer and closer to imploding.  And Haley and her dad are both walking along that thin knife of memory, which is tricky and not always what we perceive it to be, where she is coming to remember more and he is unable to stand to remember what he does and that knife is quite sharp.


 The difference between forgetting something and not remembering it is big enough to drive an eighteen-wheeler through.

-Laurie Halse Anderson ( p 8)

People who have to announce that they are trustworthy deserve to be lied to.
-Laurie Halse Anderson ( p 23)

How many of them believed what they were saying when they blathered on about what college they’d go to and what they’d major in and how much they’d earn and what car they’d buy? They repeated that stuff over and over like an incantation that, if pronounced exactly right, would open the door to the life of their dreams. If they looked at their parents, at their crankiness and their therapy and their prescriptions and their ragged collections of kids, step-kids, half-kids, quarter-kids, and the habits that had started in secret but now owned them, body and soul, then they might curse that spell.
-Laurie Halse Anderson ( p 193)
 Odysseus had twenty years to shed his battle skin. My grandfather left the battlefield in France and rode home in a ship that crawled across the ocean slowly so he could catch his breath. I get on a plane in hell and get off, hours later, at home. I try to ignore Death, but she’s got her arm around my waist, waiting to poison everything I touch.

-Laurie Halse Anderson ( p 301)
 I’m worried. You’re both so weird and incompatible with anyone else that you’re perfect for each other. When he stops touching you and when you stop teasing him, it screws up the universe, know what I mean?

-Laurie Halse Anderson ( p 316)
 Because you can only be brave if you’re scared.

-Laurie Halse Anderson ( p 390)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Impossible-Knife-Memory-Laurie-Anderson/dp/0147510724/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1468509873&sr=1-1&keywords=the+impossible+knife+of+memory

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Silver Master by Jayne Castle

This book is one of Jayne Ann Krentz's science fiction Harmony books written in the 1990s,  when a group of humans left earth and landed on the planet Harmony and set up a base there.  But the curtain between the planet and earth would close and these colonist would be stuck with each other, for better or worse.  Aliens had once lived on this planet long ago and left it.  They are believed to have lived underground in the catacombs that are made of some kind of green mineral.  Over the years, the humans began to develop psi abilities which allowed them to use amber to "rez up" things such as cars, microwaves, cell phones, locks, etc... Some would develop particularly strong psi talents, such as tuning amber (it has a unique frequency and if you go into the catacombs without tuned amber you will wander around until you go mad and die), read auras, handle and create "ghosts" (electrical energy that manifests in the form of a ghost) in the catacombs, music talents, botany talents, the ability to find and handle minerals, the ability to use alien technology.  The list is pretty endless. There are also dust bunnies, mysterious creatures with an endless apatite, who come and go as they please, collect the oddest things, and form attachments with humans. They have the loyalty of a dog who always knows when you need him and the independent streak and the insistence that you take care of his needs first of a cat. They're adorable.

Celinda Ingram closed her matchmaking business after a lurid scandal and fled to Cadence City to work at Promises, Inc. an exclusive matchmaking service. Celinda has a rare psychic ability that she keeps secret. She can read other people's psi-waves. It isn't mind reading, but it does mean that she can tell what their strengths and weaknesses are, and she can recognize them by their psi-wave alone (which is like a fingerprint). No one wants to be with someone who can discover what your weaknesses are, so she keeps quiet about it.  When she comes back from a disastrous lunch with her dust bunny, Araminta, there is a Detective Alice Martinez and a strange man, Davis Oakes, waiting in her office. When she walks up to the door, she can sense Oakes' strong psi talent and that he could be Mr. Perfect.

Detective Martinez is interested in a dead body found outside an antiques shop Celinda visited the other day when she went in and bought a red plastic looking thing Araminta was interested in.  Once she finds out that Celinda knows nothing about the body, she leaves. Oakes, meanwhile, is interested in the cheep object she bought. He owns a high end security company that is investigating the theft of an artifact from the Guild.  Celinda's heart stops. The scandal that ruined her business involved a high ranking Guild member in Frequency City, Benson Landry (who falls in the crazy category), who didn't take it too kindly when she refused to find him a Covenant Wife. The last thing she wants is more Guild trouble.  Of course, that's exactly what she gets, when Araminta takes the relic and runs off with it.  Davis understands this, though, because he too has a dust bunny named Max. Davis himself, doesn't like matchmakers. He hired one and was set up with a woman with whom he became engaged to be in a Covenant Marriage. She basically left him at the alter.  It was a very expensive lesson for him to learn.

After dinner, the two are attacked by a strange man who produces a doppelganger ghost.  Davis, who comes from a hunter family, but is not one himself, makes the ghosts disappear. Celinda had rushed out to help him and was almost run down by the get-away car. She was able to get the driver's psi wave pattern, which showed him to be psychotic.  Davis explains to her that he is able to wield silver light, which is rare and makes ghost hunters nervous, which is why he went into the detective business. What he doesn't tell her is that he can also become invisible and make anyone he holds invisible for several minutes. The problem is it burns amber and if you are in the catacombs that can be dangerous. Also, one time when he did it, he stayed invisible too long and went into a coma and was put into a hospital, which was a total nightmare for him.  Between that experience and the embarrassment of his wedding, his business has suffered, and this is his first case in over six months.

He has his bodyguard, Trig, a really delightful guy who spends his time reading while watching over things, and always has your back, keep an eye on Celinda after her apartment is broken into.  Oddly, her very nosy neighbor, Mrs. Furnell, noticed nothing, but has an odd headache. They don't stay long, because Celinda has to go be a bridesmaid at her sister's Covenant Wedding in a truly hideous pink dress.  Davis insists on going with her as her boyfriend, which is crazy because her family is going to pounce on him and give him the third degree.  As they are driving his amazing car to Frequency City, they start passing billboards for The Haunted Alien Ruins, which very much remind me of South of the Border (I really have to wonder if Krentz, who lives in the Northwest, has ever seen it).

What the two of them do not know, is that there is a doctor who has a relic, the twin to the one the Guild owns, who is determined to have both.  He lost his license for doing highly unethical experiments, that he is continuing to do in secret. It takes a special talent to use the relic; a talent like his.  The relics can give you power over another human being, including their thoughts and actions.  He has his own ideas for what he wants to use that power for and turns to Benson Landry for help.

Celinda and Davis find it harder and harder to deny their attraction to each other, even as they fight like cats and dogs over what they do.  But after a night of passion, he calmly picks her up and puts her in her own bed to sleep, telling her he prefers to sleep alone.  That of course, does not sit too well with Celinda and she gives him a bit of the cold shoulder until he kisses her again and she forgets. Of course he has a reason for this, a very odd one, but a good one.

The wedding goes off without a hitch in all it's pink glory, with only her brother finding out the truth, but promising not to tell.  When they are driving back that night, they are being chased by cars and hide in the Haunted Alien Ruins, where they fight it out and Celinda learns that she can use the relic and what it actually does and determines that the Guild must not have it as they will misuse it, but that it should be given to a hospital to help people and researched more fully. Of course, they have to first get out of the Ruins and there is the matter of the mysterious doctor who has the other relic.

I really like this book, but then I like all of her Harmony books. Celinda and Davis are such sweet characters who got screwed over in the worst way and they both start off with such prejudices against each other, while at the same time, having an instant attraction.  Her dust bunny Araminta gets into more trouble than the typical dust bunny. She won't give up the relic and she eats everything in sight, including what's on another person's table.  It's also hilarious every time something comes up and Celinda or someone will ask how are we going to pay for that, and Davis will just say we'll put it on the Guild's tab. I really don't want to see what their bill was by the end of the book.  Celinda has what I would call spunk. Both her and Davis are alike in that they know what it's like to fall to the bottom and have to climb your way back up and to be different than everyone else. This was just a truly delightful read.

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