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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I, Death by Mark Leslie

This review is based on a pre-published copy of the book. Nonetheless, I was very impressed with the creative way in which it was written. Most of it is written as a blog complete with comments from people out there on the internet, which provides in an interesting way, dialogue. Peter O'Mallick, the blogger, started the blog at the suggestion of his school guidance counselor. Peter believes that he can cause the death and suffering of those around him in some way, starting with his mother who died giving birth to him and his father who died when he was seven by getting run over by a car when he followed Peter who disobeyed and ran across the street to play with his friends. He also believes he killed his childhood friend in a hunting accident when the kid ran ahead and tripped and shot himself.

At the beginning of his blog his girlfriend, Sarah, won't speak to him. Her father had recently caught her performing a sexual act on him and when he confronted Peter he didn't yell at him, he just expressed his disappointment, which angered Peter. Right after that, he ended up with a brain tumor. Peter believes that Sarah must blame him for her father's tumor and that that is the reason she is not speaking to him. He loves her so much he is almost stalking her at school. The internet commenters tell him to give her some room and that she just got some bad news about her father and needs to process it. So he is trying to give her the room she needs. He is also having these horrific nightmares that follow him throughout the book.

At this same time he is falling in love with Shakespeare. Especially Hamlet and goes to the English teacher to ask for suggestions on what to read when he sees her with Sarah and becomes jealous of the teacher who has been spending so much time with her. That night the teacher and Sarah are in a car accident and the teacher ends up in a coma, while Sarah is lucky to walk away with just some cuts and bruises.

They get a new teacher, Robbie who introduces Peter into the world of books. Be prepared to add many authors to your reading lists here such as Sean Costello, Richard Layman, and Robert J. Sawyer. He feels a real rapport with this teacher and he even starts to stop thinking of Sarah some and start thinking of a girl named Monica instead.  The day after he asks her out and she blows him off something has happened to her and Peter blames himself once again whether it's his fault or not. And yes, more bad things will happen. And there's a mystery man who is in search of Peter for his own nefarious purposes.

By this time he is interacting more with the people who comment on his blog. Sometimes this will be an antagonistic relationship as he feels as though some of these people do not understand him or are giving him bad advice. This book shows how intimate we can become with complete strangers online and how angry and emotional that relationship can become when we feel we are not being heard or understood.  Yet, it's hard to convey an emotional conversation online (though in this case, Leslie conveys these conversations and actual ones recalled rather well). It is easier to get your meaning across if you are face-to-face with the person. But even then, while you might be understood, you still could be wrong. Leslie masters this unique way of writing in blog form with comments.

There will be times when you will want to give Peter a hug and tell him it will be alright and at times you will want to shake him and tell him to snap out of it. He's a teenager, so that's a common feeling when dealing with teenagers. This book quickly had me hooked and I did not figure it out so I was surprised by the ending. I cannot recommend it enough.

But he never hated the old man for his actions. On the contrary, the slaps and punches and spankings were virtually the only physical contact Brecht had with anyone, and he’d grown to look forward to them as a sign that the old man loved him.
-Mark Leslie (I, Death p 179)
Link To Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/I-Death-Mark-Leslie/dp/1927609038/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480524900&sr=1-1&keywords=I%2C+death+mark+leslie

Monday, November 28, 2016

Tomlinson Hill: The Remarkable Story of Two Families Who Share the Thomlinson Name--One White, One Black by Chris Tomlinson

I have put off writing this review for about two weeks now.  Its difficult to write a review about a book that covers 150 years of Falls County, Texas history in a few paragraphs.  This book, only 379 pages, contains so many nuggets of information you want to write about them all.  To set this book, I feel I must explain my feelings about Texas.  Texas is a unique state that is slightly crazy, and I'm not saying that just because I have relatives who live all over the state who are, but because Texas has flown under six flags, one of which was its own as a country.  Also, a county over is Waco where David Koresh had his compound and the sniper killer who used students at a college in Texas as shooting targets in the 1960s.  I rest my case.

James Tomlinson left Alabama in the late 1850s during the land rush after the Mexican-American war.  His sister had moved there with her husband and was making money hand over fist.  He built his house on Tomlinson Hill in Falls County, with the county seat of Marlin.  He would have eight children, one of which died during the Civil War, of which Texas saw little action.  Robert Edward Lee Tomlinson was but a small child during this time and he would become the author's great great grandfather.  R.E.L, as he was known, would go to Texas A and M, as his brothers did, but he would also seek further education in order to become a teacher.  He and his brothers, however still grew cotton and cattle.  Their main source of income was the cattle.
After the war, the Tomlinson's would keep blacks on as share croppers.  They would let them work the land, charge what they needed at only specific stores, where the owners were in collusion with the plantation owners, to charge as much as possible for goods and clothes.  By the time the crop came in, the share-cropper would not have a cent to his name, after he paid off the plantation owner.  Some, however, worked for small wages in the fields as laborers.  Peter Tomlinson and Josephine, born slaves, would work as share-croppers on the Tomlinson land.  Chris Tomlinson was told as a  child that the slaves on the plantation loved their masters so much that they had taken their name.  LaDamian, a decedent of Peter's , a young man today, grew up believing that Tomlinson's Hill was named after his family.

In Texas, times were turbulent for many years after the war.  Texas would not re-enter the Union until 1870, the last state to do so because they did not want to give the slaves their freedom or the right to vote.  During the 1890s there would be the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan that would cause all kinds of problems.  Though he has no proof, Chris believes that his relatives were involved in some of the terrorization of the blacks in Falls County at this time, as nearly everyone was.  When they put dynamite under the house of a share cropper, killing nearly everyone in it, including women and small children, the county became enraged and searched, in vain for the killers, and the Klan slowly died down.  But the blacks of Falls County knew not to rock the boat.  The first school to be set up in western Falls County would be one for the blacks, as white children were taught at home.  The Tomlinson family would set it up on their land.  High ranking blacks, such as George Washington Carver believed in not asking for Civil Rights, but instead, try to get an education so they could go further than the fields for a living.

R.E.L's son, Tommy, would move to Dallas to look for work, as he wasn't interested in farming.  He would marry and have a son named Bob, whose only interest was bowling and who had no ambition.  He was Chris's father and he would raise him to be without prejudice.  Chris recounts growing up in a Texas that was fighting desegregation and would end up going to many schools, some mostly black.  The whites would flee to the suburbs to avoid sending their children to school with blacks.  So, in the end, you still ended up with a lot of schools that were mostly black or mostly white.

On the black side of the Tomlinson's Peter would have a grandson, Vincent Jr., who would make a small success out of his life.  His son, O.T., first married Jewel and had four children by her.  Then when Jewel wanted to leave Tomlinson Hill for Waco, he would divorce her and marry Loreane and have three children by her, one of which is LaDamian, who would go on to become one of the most famous wide receivers in NFL history, while he played for the Chargers (you might have seen him in the Campbell's Chunky Soup commercials with his mom).  He didn't have much of a relationship with his dad, as when his dad fell off a ladder twelve feet and landed on his back, damaging it, he would become hooked on pain pills and later other stuff as well.  Loreane left him and moved the family to Waco.  LaDamian worked hard and made a success of his life.  His brother, LaVar, not so much.  He was blessed with a modicum of talent, but not enough to be a success at it and the black school he attended had left him woefully unprepared for college.

The author, stumbled into journalism, while in Africa.  He covered all the horrors of Africa in the 1990s and then the Middle East after 9-11.  When one too many of the people he worked with died, he quit and went home and began to become curious about his family history and thus this book was born.  There is so much to learn about a small microcosm of American history here and it is truly incredibly fascinating.  From the 1850s to the 1980s a Tomlinson, white or black, has always lived on Tomlinson Hill.  This book shows how their lives interact with each other and the land that came to mean so much to them.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Tomlinson-Hill-Remarkable-Story-Families/dp/1250005477/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480347396&sr=8-1&keywords=tomlinson+hill

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Prayers For the Dead by Faye Kellerman

In this tenth Lieutenant Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus Decker mystery, a famous surgeon and transplant doctor is found shot several times in the head and stabbed multiple times in the chest and left in his car behind a restaurant.  There are many sides to this man:  there's the benevolent doctor, the motorcycle riding weekend warrior, the devout Fundamentalist Christian, and the mostly absentee father to his family of six children.

This book does not lack for suspects.  Dr. Azor Sparks's three oldest children, triplets, with a set of twins, Luke, a reformed drug addict who cannot get his life together and asks his dad for a loan on the night of his death, Bram, a Catholic priest, which really ticked off his dad, who is also the "golden child" whom everyone looks to for support, and Paul, a stockbroker who is in massive amounts of debt and needs lots of money now.  Then there's Dana, whose Jewish husband will not convert and whose businesses are doing poorly and they have also asked her dad for money.  The last two children are Michael, a twenty-five-year-old med student, trying to get his dad's attention, and the baby, Maggie who is eighteen.  Their mother is a former pill addict, which is no wonder, seeing as how she had to raise six children all by herself and could not ask for help from her church.

There is also the doctors at the hospital.  Dr. Sparks had discovered a new drug for use with transplant patients for when they have had their surgery and must take immunosuppressors to help the body accept the new organ.  He worked with Dr. Reginald Decameron who had an argument with the doctor when he was last seen and was the go-between with the drug company and the FDA, Dr. Myron Berger, a man he had gone to school with and who was now working for him in this study and would now be taking over his patients, and Dr. Elizabeth Fulton.

To complicate matters, Rina knows Bram from when she was married to her first husband.  The two were best friends as he tried to teach Bram the Torah and other Jewish texts and then became an indispensable helpmate to Rina during the last year of her husband's life as he battled cancer.  She could not have made it through without him.  When Decker finds this out, he withdraws himself to a more supervisory position when evidence at another murder scene incriminates Bram, who refuses to speak at all, not even to ask for an attorney.

This book has so many twists and turns in it, but you never get lost.  Just when you think it is one person, another person seems to be a better candidate.  After all, his wife inherits his estate and retirement, while his children receive a million dollars each in inheritance money and the doctors could be sitting on a big pile of money if they play their cards right with the drug company.  I was not prepared for the ending.  It came as a complete and wicked surprise to me.  This is a great novel and one really worth reading.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Prayers-Dead-Decker-Lazarus-Novels/dp/0062087878/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479908745&sr=1-1&keywords=prayers+for+the+dead+by+faye+kellerman

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

In this now Christmas classic, North Carolina writer, David Sedaris, has written a book of hilarious essays mostly about this holiday, but also includes one on Halloween and one on Easter (in France they don't believe in the Easter Bunny, they believe in the chocolate bell.  And I thought the Easter Bunny was a weird idea).  These essays include his time as a Macy store Elf, the worst Christmas letter/card ever, Christmas plays, two families that do the utmost to outdo each other during the holidays, Dinah the Christmas Whore, and the Dutch version of Santa Claus.

During his time at Macy's as an elf, sometimes it was a hellish job, but he always made it fun by doing things his way.  There are many stations at the wonderland area where the different Santas are (some people get ticked off when they get the "wrong" Santa, be it the black one, the tan one, or the white one).  At one such location, the elf is supposed to encourage people over to get their first view of Santa Claus.  This got old quick, so he started naming celebrities and people would run over to see, only to be disappointed.  However, there were a fair share of celebrities who would come in with their families and he would let the rest of the parents know so they could get a look.

There was one Santa who really believed he was Santa Claus and one Santa that was so loveable and made the experienced so magical that parents would break down in tears.  One bad Santa would make him sing the child's favorite Christmas song.  At his breaking point, he was forced to sing Away in a Manger, so he sang it in Billie Holliday style.  That Santa was more cautious of him from then on.  At the film station, they would unfortunately, have to tell people, if it was late in December, that their photos wouldn't come in until January.  But this was before the digital age when you can now get instant pictures.  Many parents weren't interested in what, if anything, their child had to say on his lap.  But one mom coaxed her son into saying that he wanted Proctor and Gamble to stop animal testing.  Though he never did this job again, it was quite an experience.

In the Christmas card/letter, a woman is trying to put a smile on the awful year she has had.  Her husband's love child from his years in Vietnam appears on his doorstep, a twenty-two-year-old girl who wears a lot of makeup and barely anything else.  She claims not to understand you when you try to get her to help around the house.  Then there's her daughter who married a loser and had a baby with him.  When things go south and her daughter goes into rehab, she takes in the crack baby to raise.  When she leaves to go shopping for a few hours to buy the Christmas gifts she has yet to get, she leaves the baby in the incapable hands of Kheh San and bad things happen.  Her court hearing is after Christmas and she hopes that her friends can come and be character witnesses.

The Dutch version of Santa Claus arrives by boat and horse in November to spend a few weeks there asking people what they want.  He is accompanied by six to eight black men, who were at one time considered his slaves but are now considered his helpers.  If the child was bad, Santa would beat him, kick him, and take him to Spain.  If they were good, they would receive toys in their shoes.

I really loved these stories,and I can't wait to read his other books.  These were hilarious essays and made me really get into the holiday spirit.  This is a must read for those this Christmas.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Holidays-Ice-David-Sedaris/dp/0316078913/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479662897&sr=1-1&keywords=holidays+on+ice

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

In full disclosure, I saw the movie first, and I must say that I liked the movie more, just because it was so much more vivid and colorful and spectacular.  The movie remains very faithful to the book, which is why I can also honestly say I loved the book.

This book is written in letters by Charlie to a person unknown to him that he heard about at school and with whom he feels the need to write to.  The year before Charlie became a freshman, his best friend committed suicide.  That almost sent Charlie back to the psych doctors where he went on his seventh birthday, December 24, when he found out his favorite aunt had died in a car accident going out to buy a birthday gift for him.

Charlie starts out the school year alone but soon makes friends with seniors and step-brother and sister, Patrick and Sam.  They introduce him to a new world and bring him out of his shell and get him to "participate" in life more as his English teacher keeps telling him to do.  During the school year, this teacher would give  him extra books to read and have him write essays that had nothing to do with his grades but would improve his writing and expand his horizons.

Sometimes Charlie has uncontrollable rages, where he can absolutely destroy someone.  When he is picked on by a bully during his first days, he beats him up.  Because of this rage, that rarely comes out, he doesn't play sports, like his college freshman football playing brother, Brad.  His Senior sister dates a guy who once hit her, even though she's not supposed to do so.

Charlie, Sam and Patrick often meet at the Big Boy and talk about everything going on in their minds and in their lives.  They also do the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Sam is dating an older guy named Craig who doesn't appreciate her and Patrick is secretly seeing the quarterback of the football team, until things go horribly wrong and Charlie must save Patrick, for once.

Sam knows that Charlie loves her, but at the very beginning she tells him that it would never work and to give up on the idea.  So, when Mary Elizabeth, one of their friends, asks him out to the Sadie Hawkins Dance, he goes.  He doesn't really like her that way and all she does is talk.  Soon, unable to tell her no, he finds himself dating her, and ultimately resenting her, until one night when he royally screws everything in his world up and almost loses all of his friends.

This book is about friendships, family, what its like to be in high school during those horrid years, and how a young man is trying to open himself up to the world instead of staying inside and being an observer all the time.  This book will touch your heart and break it with the climax at the end.  It will remind you of all those times you didn't belong and the one time in your life when you did.  Will Charlie survive high school after all his friends have graduated?  Who knows?  But his journey through this year he thought would be really tough, opens him up to a new world.

Sometimes, my dad calls her beautiful, but she cannot hear him.
--Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower p 16)
-Do you always think this much, Charlie?
-Is that bad?
-Not necessarily.  It’s just that sometimes people use thought to not participate in life.
-- Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower p 24)
Not everybody has a sob story, Charlie, and even if they do, it’s no excuse.
-- Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower p28)
The only thing she asked me the whole time was whether or not I wanted to kiss her good night.  When I said I wasn’t ready, she said she understood and told me what a great time she had.  She said I was the most sensitive boy she’d ever met, which I didn’t understand because really all I did was not interrupt her.
-- Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower p 114)
I almost didn’t get an A in math, but then Mr. Carlo told me to stop asking ‘why?’ all the time and just follow the formulas.  So, I did.  Now, I get perfect scores on all my tests.  I just wish I knew what the formulas did.  I honestly have no idea.
-- Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower p 165)
We accept the love we think we deserve.
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Perks-Being-Wallflower-Stephen-Chbosky/dp/1451696191/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479480552&sr=1-1&keywords=perks+of+being+a+wallflower

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Black Tower by P.D. James

It's been almost ten years since the last Adam Dalgliesh mystery was written and we find that he got married and lost his wife and baby during childbirth.  Now he's in the hospital with a diagnosis of leukemia and he has gotten all his affairs in order and settled himself to his death, when the doctor says sorry, but you only had a bad case of mono.  Now he doesn't really want to go back to being a detective and plans to retire.

While at the hospital he receives a letter from an old family friend, Father Baddeley who is asking for his help.   He is staying at a disability commune/hospital and so, when he is able to travel, Dalgliesh sets out to visit him at Troydon Manor, which is run by the very odd, slightly mean warden, Wilfred Anstey, who claims to have had D.S. and went to Lourdes and bathed there and came back healed.

Says those of Troyden "There were a hundred better places for convalescence than this claustrophobic, self-regarding community dedicated to love and self-fulfillment through suffering, where people sent each other poison pen letters, played at childish and malicious pranks or got tired of waiting for death and hurled themselves into annihilation."

When he arrives, he learns that one of the patients "accidently" rolled off a cliff on to the rocks below and that his friend Father Baddeley died of a heart attack.  Dalgliesh wants nothing to do with the place or its people, and frankly, you won't either.  Soon, people start dropping like flies, but the police still don't suspect murder and Dalgliesh don't feel like trying to solve the mystery.  However, the people that die are likable people and you want justice for them and for someone, anyone, to wake up and yell "murder!"

At the end, Dalgliesh has a sudden lightning bolt of insight that comes from god knows where since he hasn't been paying much attention to anything the entire book, so caught up in his grief he is, and figures out who the killer is and soon finds himself in a sticky situation hat has the book picking up speed and interest as you wonder how he gets out of this one, because ten years later James writes another Dalgliesh mystery,

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Girl With a Clock For a Heart by Peter Swanson

This bizarre book follows the life of George Foss during two times in his life, his first semester of college at Mather, and his current life forty years later.  At a college party at the beginning of the semester, George meets Audrey Beck and falls hard for her.  The rest of that semester they spend every available moment together.  Then George finds out, when he comes back from winter break, that Audrey committed suicide.  Unable to accept this, he takes a bus down to her home in Florida and discovers that the girl he was in love with was not Audrey, but a girl named Liana, who quite possibly did something really bad.  For the rest of the next twenty years, George would spend time looking into crowds for her, even hunting down a porn star that looked like her, only to be disappointed.

During this time, George works as a manager of a literary magazine and has had an on-again-off-again relationship for the past fifteen years with Irene who works for the Boston Globe.  They're best friends who date other people and are always there for each other.  One night at their usual bar, George sees Liana and sends Irene home so he can find out for sure if it's her.  She says she needs him to do her a favor.  She's in trouble and needs his help.  George, of course, can't resist.

She stole money from a man she was sleeping with who was married but made some of his money illegally, and now some threatening guy, named Donnie Jenks, is after her to kill her if she doesn't turn in the money.  After George returns the money to the man, he runs into the real Donnie Jenks and now wonders who the guy is that he met, who nearly ruptured his kidney that he thought was Donnie Jenks.  He meets Liana later that night for dinner and she spends the night with him but leaves before he wakes up.

That morning, cops show up at his door.  The man he returned the money to is dead and the diamonds in his safe are now missing.  George feels as though he has been played the fool by Liana once again.  And confesses all he knows to the cops, of whom, one actually believes him.

This tale of love, lust, and betrayal is truly wicked.  You have no idea just who Liana really is and neither does George, until its too late.  The twist at the end might leave you a little frustrated--it did me.  This is one smartly written book that I definitely recommend.

Approaching forty, George felt as though his world had been slowly drained of all its colors.  He’d passed that age when he could reasonably expect to fall madly in love with someone and raise a family, or to take the world by storm, or to have anything surprising lift him out of his day-to-day existence.
--Peter Swanson (The Girl With a Clock For a Heart p 6-7)

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Clock-Heart-Novel/dp/0062267507/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479144050&sr=1-1&keywords=the+girl+with+a+clock+for+a+heart

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Justice by Faye Kellerman

Peter and his wife Rina, are Modern Orthodox Jews, meaning that they practice kosher and Sabbath.  In fact, Sabbath is the only day he gets off from work.  They have a one-year-old daughter Hannah, a fifteen-year-old and thirteen-year-old son from Rina's previous marriage (she was a widow when Peter met her in the first book, Ritual Bath, which I highly recommend), and Cindy, a college-aged student that is Peter's daughter from a previous marriage.  The police call him Rabbi, in a good way.  Unfortunately, his partner Marge is on vacation in Hawaii, and her character is sorely missed.

In this ninth Detective Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus mystery, a young woman is found in a cheap hotel tied up in a Christ-like pose and is strangled to death.  There is evidence that two men had sex with her (two condoms, yet semen in her vagina as well as different pubic hairs), but the Peter's Lieutenant refuses to look farther than the girl's kinda boyfriend Chris Whitter, the adopted son of a mob boss, who has drawings of the real girl he loves, Terry, in as much he is able to love someone, tied up in exactly the same way.  He is engaged, in an arranged marriage, to another mob family daughter and tries to stay away from Terry because of this.

On Prom night, a group of them go to the hotel and have a party, before going into separate rooms.  While he says he doesn't remember what happens, Chris admits to killing Cheryl in order to have the pictures taken out of evidence, so that Terry won't have to go through the ringer with the press and the publicity of the pictures.  But did he really do it?

Terry dogs Decker to reopen the case two months later because she believes he is innocent of this crime.  Maybe not other crimes, but this one.  When Decker begins to look into the case with fresh eyes and follow up on leads and talks to witnesses who were never talked to, one of which has died the same night as the girl, he finds himself doubting the boy's guilt.  Will true Justice be done?

She died of breast cancer.  She had it for a long time, but was afraid to go to the doctors.  She was afraid of losing her breast, disfiguring the body he loved so much.  She just let it go until it was way too late.  Stupid.  He later told me the sexiest thing about her chest wasn’t her breasts but her heartbeat.
---Faye Kellerman (Justice p 48)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Justice-Decker-Lazarus-Novel-Novels/dp/0061999369/ref=sr_1_14?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479056654&sr=1-14&keywords=justice

Friday, November 11, 2016

Visions in Death by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts)

In this exciting mystery featuring Lieutenant Eve Dallas, her partner Detective Peabody, and her husband Roarke, a sadistic killer is on the loose in the New York of 2059.  In central park, near the castle, on a rock at the bottom of a hill, a woman is found naked with a bright red bow around her neck and her eyes cut out.  She has been severely beaten, raped, and then strangled.  This will not be the only woman to be found this way in different parks around the city.

For those who read this series, they will be happy to know that Peabody gets them a really sleek car from the car pool, something Eve has never been able to do, perhaps due to her habit of wrecking cars.  Also, McNab fixes her computer temporarily and promises to build her a new one if she promises not to hit or kick it.  Those who read this series are also aware of the severe abuse Dallas went through as a child.  When a licensed psychic comes in with information only she and the killer know, she finds it hard to doubt her, especially when she comes recommended by Louise as a close friend, a doctor who is a friend of her and Roarke's.  When she goes to Louise to check out the psychic, she has to go to Dochas (Gaelic for hope), a woman's shelter Roarke built that is run by Louise.  Dallas barely makes it out emotionally.  Between what she saw there and the killings, her nightmares return full force.

Soon, Dallas and Peabody find out the connection between the women is that they have long light brown hair and are into knitting,  crocheting, and crafts.  They believe he haunts craft stores, stalking women to find his victim.  From a shoe imprint and help from the psychic, they believe the killer to be very tall and extremely strong and probably works out in a "real gym".  They also theorize that he probably practiced on other women and finds matches in the missing persons' files.  The psychic agrees to go under hypnosis to reveal details she believes she is blocking.

The third victim is slightly off than the others.  She wasn't into crafts but went with her sister when she shopped at the stores.  Her hair is also slightly off.  There's something that Dallas feels is wrong about this one.

Toward the end, be prepared to have the rug pulled out from you.  I was completely shocked and unprepared for what happens.  It will leave you tearing through pages to get to the end.  Overall, this was a fabulous book.  I really enjoy this series, but this one stands out from the rest.  I've never been so surprised before.  You don't have to read the other books to read this one, but I highly recommend reading them because they are really good.  This book is a must read.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Visions-Death-J-D-Robb/dp/0749957395/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1478871868&sr=8-1&keywords=visions+in+death

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Unslut: A Diary And a Memoir by Emily Lindin

Emily Lindin (not her real name), is the founder of The Unslut Project, an online community where survivors of sexual bullying and "slut shaming" can share their stories, and where girls who are currently suffering can find support.  This book is her diary from her middle school years where she was branded a slut, was bullied and bullied others herself.  In the margins of the book, she has written comments that either explains what a particular passage meant or to make sarcastic comments about some of the stupid things she says in her diary.

She starts the book with a list of the people (whose names have all been changed, of course) who appear in the diary and a brief explanation of who they are.  The diaries themselves begin on November 21, 1997, and end on June 15, 2000.  This is the dawn of the internet age, but it is still the time of kids using landline phones to communicate and passing notes in school.  However, as the book progresses, AOL Instant Messenger rears it's ugly head and the kids start to experiment with the horrible things they can do with it.

Emily's main love interest is Zach, with whom she dates on and off with during middle school. In sixth grade, he would break up with her and then get back together with her as if it were a game.  As school dances whether or not they kissed was determined by the other kids around them who would egg them on to do it whether they wanted to or not.  After they had been dating a long while (on and off, depending on the day) they were at his friend Matt's house and begin making out when Zach put his hand down her pants.  This was considered third base.  And of course, he told people about it, which branded Emily a slut for the rest of her school years.

It also didn't help that Emily began developing "boobs" in fifth grade and that she was growing into a large pair during a time when most girls were still flat chested.  And once labeled a slut, it meant that guys could touch her inappropriately without her permission, such as slapping her on the ass, or one time during the summer before seventh grade a group of them wanted to strip her and throw her into the pool, but she refused and they relented for some reason. But as they were leaving, one of them puts his arm around her and cops several feels of her breast and she told him weakly to not do it, but she didn't want to be too forceful so as not to hurt his feelings. At this time she was dating another boy, who, when this hit the school crowd making her reputation worse, broke up with her even though she explained what happened. She also blames herself and comes to believe what others are telling her: that she is a slut.

At this time it is the dawn of the internet and people are getting those free AOL disks in the mail and kids are starting to explore with AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) and go into chat rooms and talk with each other.  It's considered more fun and easier than the phone because you can always blame something bad you said on a sibling.  It's also the dawn of cyber stalking.  Emily finds herself being attacked by someone whose screen name is DieEmilyLindin what says things like "why haven't you killed yourself yet, you stupid slut?" Before this time home was a safe haven to escape the crap you went through at school and now that was bing violated in a way that couldn't be punished.

Emily finds herself in a position of wondering if a guy is going out with her because of her boobs or her reputation as a slut or if he's interested in her.  Sadly, it's usually the first two. Of course, the dating rituals are so bizarre to me. I didn't date in middle school and the guys I dated in high school didn't go to my school.  These kids break up and get together though the help of a friend. They could be going together and have never said anything to each other ever. Then there are the hierarchy of friends and trying to get in with the popular ones even if it means throwing another friend under the bus. Her best friend Melanie (even today) seems to have one role to her at this point and that is to listen to all her problems and fix them.  There are times when she treats even her terribly.   And don't think she wouldn't call another girl a slut because she does and at one point in her diary she calls one guy a pervert, which could be considered the male version of a slut. Of course, once a girl who had been dating her boyfriend for a month and supposedly gave him a handjob got labeled a slut. Emily reached out to this girl who had been ignoring her for over a month now in sympathy because she didn't consider her a slut since she was in  love and in a long term relationship.  Emily never once thought to consider if the rumor was true.  They also have these passive-aggressive fights that are more for something to do to bring on some drama in their lives. Rarely would a real fight break out.

This book shows how easy it is to destroy a reputation and a life with one word. There are many times in the book when Emily considers committing suicide because she can't find a way out of this situation she's in.  It also shows how easy it is to manipulate someone into doing something as some of the girls and boys in this book show they are capable of doing, which is a real mind screw.  Even Emily wishes she herself was capable of manipulating boys, into doing what we have no idea, though.  When Emily makes it to high school she meets a really nice guy and they start dating and they date throughout high school and her slut designation disappears and she becomes known for other, more important things.  But this doesn't happen for everybody.  She was lucky. Which is why she started up the Unslut project to help the girls who really need it so they can navigate the treacherous waters of schools. She says today it has gotten worse than when she was a teen due to the internet, twitter, texting, and stuff like that. People do not feel connected to what they say and therefore feel no responsibility for their words and the damage they do.  It's easier to stalk and slut shame and there's nowhere to hide from it anymore. But there is help.

Self-Harm or Self-Injury: http://m.kidsheatlth.org/teen/your_mind/mental_health/cutting
Sexual Health: http://www.scarleteen.com
Crisis Help For Bullying:  800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863
Suicide Prevention: http://twloha.com
                                 http://www.thetrevorproject.org 866-4-U-TREVOR (488-7386)
                                  http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org 1-800-273-TALK

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/UnSlut-Memoir-Ms-Emily-Lindin/dp/1942186002/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1478707302&sr=8-1&keywords=unslut

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly

I first read this book over ten years ago and now that I have discovered Hambly's other series, the Abigail Adams series under the name Barbara Hamilton, I decided to go back and read this series as I remember enjoying it very well.  I am glad I did.

First off, this book takes place in 1833, in the special demi-monde of New Orleans where to call a man of mixed race black would be an insult, whereas he would rather be called colored, unlike today.  In this world, a child born with one black and one white parent, is a mulatto.  A child born between a mulatto and a black, is a griffe, or sambo; quadroon for the child of a mulatto and a white; octoroon for  a quadroon's baby by a full white; musterfino or mameloque for an octoroon's child by a full white.  Creole's had their own hierarchy too and words to categorize each other.  When a white man, be he French or Creole, takes a mistress, he goes to Blue Ribbon Balls to seek an arrangement with the  mother of the mixed-race free young woman.  The mistress, or placee, in many cases, had more say in their lives than the wives of the  men who were signing legal documents that would dictate how much money she would receive, servants, a house, care for any children produced from this union, and many more.  A wife was the property of her husband and had no say in any of his affairs and was forced to pretend that he did not have a mistress.

Enter into this society, Benjamin Janvier, whose mother was a mulatto and father a black.  He, his older sister Olympe, and his mother were bought and freed by a doctor when he was young.  The doctor saw to his schooling and piano lessons as he had an aptitude for it.  He became interested in being a doctor and the only place that would take him in to study was in Paris.  After he graduated, he practiced for three years at a hospital, but gave it up, since he would never have the money to open his own shop.  He went back to playing piano and met an Algerian dressmaker and married her.   When she died, he could not stand to be in Paris anymore, so after being away for seventeen years, in a country that treated him better than his own, a country where he was allowed to look any man in the eye without fear of consequence, he moves back to New Orleans and finds that things have changed.  The Americans have arrived and are slowly taking over.  He now has to carry his free papers with him at all times, and even then, can be kidnapped into slavery.  Those in New Orleans think the uncouth Americans do not even know how to get a proper mistress, in that they just take a slave and when they are done with her, put her back in the fields. 

This book takes place during the Mardi Gras season, which lasts around a week of celebrations and balls.  The Blue Ribbon Ball, with the placees in it would be next door to the Theatre Ball, with the wives and family, so the men could come and go to each as he pleased.  Janvier is playing piano at the Blue Ribbon Ball, when he meets his old piano student, Madeline, who is now the widow of Arnauld Trepagier.  Trepagier, gave away some of her jewelry, clothes, and slaves to his mistress Angelique Crozat.  She is there to try to get her jewelry back, because the house and land is leveraged to the hilt and she is about to lose everything if she can not pay the bank.  Janvier agrees to give Angelique a message, if Madeline will please go home, before she is spotted and her reputation ruined.

Angelique, against social mores for one whose lover has just died two months ago, shows up at the ball flirting with all the men, but especially trying to make Galen Peralta jealous.  After Janvier delivers his message, Peralta storms into the room and shuts the door on them.  Janvier goes back to playing piano.  His other sister, Dominique, or Minou, the daughter of his mother and the doctor, has been looking for Angelique for a while for the entertainment section they will be doing.  She sends Janvier to look for her.  When Janvier finds her, she is stuffed in a coat closet, her neck devoid of jewelry, and strangled.  The manager of the building the ball is taking place in does not want to call the police, but while examining the body, Janvier sends a note to his sister to call the police.  A Lieutenant Shaw, a backwoods Kentuck arrives to investigate.  As Angelique was a citizen of the town, they are obliged to investigate.  At first there is a fuss about questioning the rich men, who are costumed and do not want their identities known, but Minou provides the identities for Shaw.

Then, the police suddenly drop the matter, until Angelique's mother, whose lover is a high placed man in New Orleans, insists on having the matter solved, the police become interested again.  Unfortunately for Janvier, people remember seeing him going up to speak with Angelique but not seeing anyone after him.  The police are quite happy to pin this murder on a colored man, rather than a white one and set out to do just that.  Janvier finds himself hiding from the police and trying to seek out the truth, with some help from Shaw, who does not believe he did it, but will arrest him if he has no choice.  From the swamps of the country to the dark alleys where voodoo is practiced, this mystery takes many twists and turns, as Janvier finds that some people are not telling him the whole truth about that night.  The ending will come to a very climatic climax when Janvier tries to prevent a killer from killing again and keeping his head out of the noose.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Free-Color-Benjamin-January-Book/dp/0553575260/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1478540648&sr=1-1&keywords=free+man+of+color

Friday, November 4, 2016

Fool Moon: Book Two of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

This book picks up a few months after the book Storm Front and Harry Dresden is not doing so well. He is barely making ends meet, mostly because his biggest client--the Special Investigations Unit of the Chicago police--haven't been calling much lately to give him work and Murphy, the head of the unit, is still not speaking to him at all after he made the mistake of shutting her out to protect her from an evil wizard.  Dresden can be a bit overly chivalrous. Murphy, though only five foot high, can very much take care of herself, especially if she has been given the knowledge she needs to do so.  Now, the trust between them is broken.

Kim, a college kid Dresden has been helping to learn how to use her magical abilities, comes to him with a drawing of three circles, wanting him to explain them to her as an "intellectual exercise". He reluctantly gives her the very basic information about the circles, but tells her emphatically that she has no business messing with this as it is way beyond her skills and dangerous. Kim leaves when Murphy shows up and tells him she needs him to come look at something.  It seems there is a lot she hasn't been telling him, like how IA has been breathing down her neck, looking for a way to take her down, and him with her if they could, which is why she has kept her distance.

The crime scene is in the county and technically  not in her jurisdiction, but she tells him that she is working on similar cases that have happened in the city and has permission to be there. What is left of the mangled body is that of crime lord Marcone's bodyguard.  Dresden pockets a piece of glass with blood on it from someone who crashed through the window.  This is when the Feds show up, who it seems are the ones really in charge of the serial murders. Things get heated and Agent Benn goes at Murphy, who blocks her, so Benn grabs her gun to take a shot at her and Dresden grabs Murphy and tackles her. Murphy tells the cops who come to investigate that it was an accident and makes no charges.  She can't afford to make waves.

Back at her car, Murphy tells him the whole story. Every month, around the full moon, several people have been brutally murdered. It started out with petty criminals, then one night it was a little old lady walking home one night (Yes, "Werewolves of London" by the late-great Warren Zevon does start to go through my head at this point. ("Little old lady got mutilated late last night/Werewolves of London again") I wonder if Butcher put that in intentionally?).  She called in the FBI early on because they have a better lab and there was hair left at the scene and other forensic evidence to be examined. It didn't occur to her that it could be supernatural until later. Harry sadly tells her that he knows zilch on werewolves, but he can find out and give her a report the next day. On the way back to his place, they are tailed by a woman.

Harry remembers the piece of glass with the blood on it and realizes that if he does not use it now before the blood dries, he cannot track it back to the person. He promised to not keep anything from Murphy, but there's no time. With his compass, he makes his circle and says the words and follows the arrow, which leads to an abandoned department store. Inside is a group of college nerds, who call themselves Alphas, and are some sort of wolf.  Then the woman who had been tailing him and Murphy comes in to tell them they need to leave because she was tailed. When the lights go out, Dresden goes forward to follow them, hoping to get a license plate number off a car, or something for Murphy, when something furry knocks him down at the knees. He hits it with his blasting rod, which it sends flying, then the creature disappears.  Dresden heads for the backdoor and runs right into Murphy.  She's ready to believe that these are the killers, but Harry's not so sure. The kids came off as totally harmless and the creature who attacked him could have easily killed him but chose not to.  He urges her to hold off on going after them and she agrees, for now.

When he gets home, Harry goes down into his basement where he works and wakes up Bob, the centuries-old spirit, who has worked with many wizards and knows a lot but is a pain in the ass, who lives in a skull.  Bob explains that there is more than one type of werewolf.  The classic werewolf is a human being who uses magic to turn himself into one. Of course, this is the only magic they are able to do. They can be put down just like regular wolves. Transmogrification is when someone else turns you into a werewolf and it will destroy their personality and self and is highly illegal. The hexenwolf is someone who has made a deal with a demon or powerful sorcerer. They give you a wolf belt that holds on to your spirit, you say some magic words and then you turn into a wolf.  "A huge wolf with human-level intelligence and animal level ferocity."  "A lycanthrope is a natural channel for a spirit of rage. A lycanthrope turns into a beast, but only inside his head. The spirit takes over...They also tend to be very resistant to pain or injury, sickness; they heal rapidly".  These wolves are born, not created.  Then there is the loup-garou, the worst of the worst. When the moon is full they become monsters and slaughter everything in sight until the sun rises. The only thing that can stop them is a weapon made of inherited silver.   No one has seen one of those since the 16th century France.

When he goes to the station to drop off the file for Murphy, he runs into Susan, the woman he has been kinda seeing for several months now. Dresden has trust issues with women after he was betrayed by one year ago, and he just cannot seem to be able to move past that.  Susan is a brilliant journalist for a tabloid who is determined to get the truth out there. He also runs into Agent Denton, the lead FBI agent on the case, who warns him not to go into Murphy's office right now because IA is in there.  Murphy likes Denton because he has a reputation as a solid cop, even if he is a non-believer. Most cops are.  So Dresden gives him the file to give to Murphy and calls her to make sure she got it. Agent Harris catches him before he leaves to let him know that Denton wants him to check out the Streetwolves, a tough gang causing lots of trouble, who could be the culprit.

Of course, this gang turns out to be a group of lycanthropes, who are a bit crazy. He has just stumbled onto their turf and really ticked them off.  The leader, Parker, is getting old and is now barely able to control them.  The group starts to chant and as they do, the energy in the garage grows stronger. Dresden does what he has to to get out of there and away, but he knows that Parker will be after him, because he threatened his authority of the pack and for Parker to keep his position he will have to kill Dresden.  So, this is just one more thing to worry about.  And worse, it seems that the Streetwolves had nothing to do with the killings, so he went there for nothing.

That night, Marcone shows up and offers Dresden a job as bodyguard, because he seems to believe that he will be the next one to be killed. Dresden refuses, of course, but Marcone does offer up the name Harley MacFinn and the Northwest Passage Project as something he should look into.  Bob struck out using the local sources of fairies and spirits, so Harry was forced to go to the underworld for answers and summons a demon. Chauncey is the one he has been using and he not only offers the answers to his questions about MacFinn and the Northwest Passage Project but also information that could save his life and others. The price, though is one of his names.  Names are very valuable and you do not want anyone to know your full name because they can use it against you. A demon can do nothing itself with your name, but there are others who can.  He agrees to the deal.  MacFinn comes from a long line that started in Ireland who was cursed by St. Patrick to turn into a "ravaging beast" every full moon and would be passed down from generation to generation, never to end.  MacFinn is a loup-garou who is trying to buy up lots of land in the Rockies to donate to the government and remain untouched. James Harding was one of the businessmen who strongly opposed him and had come into town last month to meet with him, but was killed by the serial killer before the could meet.  Marcone, his business partner, inherits the business they had together, which gives him a motive for the murders and also a reason to be worried about being next to die.

Just as the demon gives him MacFinn's address and he sends it on it's way he gets a call from Murphy to come to that very address because someone has been brutally murdered there.  The body is that of Kim.  MacFinn had a silver circle in a vault in the apartment, but it had been destroyed by someone and Kim, who likely met MacFinn through her environmental activities, tried to help him with the very circles she had asked Harry about. She had not been strong enough and did not have enough information, perhaps, to hold the circle and keep MacFinn in it and he escaped and killed her.  Dresden blames himself, of course, but the worst surprise is when Murphy pulls out Kim's drawing she had left at the restaurant and is beyond angry, because she believes that he has been involved in the whole thing from the beginning and has been lying to her. She slaps cuffs on him, takes his wizard gear, socks him on the jaw, and he is put into a cop car. He is too upset to put up a protest.  While sitting there, he does realize that there is no way MacFinn killed all of those people, especially the people last month or the one the other night, because the moon was not full.  

This is when the woman with the Alphas, who is acutally Tera West, MacFinn's fiance, shows up at the police car to spring him because MacFinn still needs a wizard to hold him in a circle for as long as the moon remains full. He does't want to leave, but he knows that MacFinn could be a huge threat and he is the only one that can actually do anything about it, so he leaves with her, still handcuffed. As they make a run for it, he is shot in the shoulder. She patches him up and takes him into the woods to one of MacFinn's special hiding places where she thinks he'll be. They find him and before he agrees to help Dresden demands answers. It seems he was right about MacFinn not being the one who killed the people last month or the other night and that someone sneaked into his house last month and destroyed his circle, which means that someone knew what he was and was possibly trying to set him up.   MacFinn also tells him that he begged Kim to leave when he realized that she wouldn't be able to hold the circle, but she refused to leave. When Harry mentions the names of those in the Alphas, however, MacFinn has no idea who they are. And when he had tried to do a soul gaze with Tera he found that she had no soul. What kind of wolf is she and what is she up to? Dresden tells MacFinn they need to move now, because while MacFinn thinks the FBI does not believe in werewolves and will not come to this forest to look for him, Harry knows Murphy will and at that moment, they hear Murphy and her men approaching. They split up and agree to meet at a gas station nearby. When Harry gets there he calls Susan to give them a ride. Tera shows up and tells him that they got MacFinn and Murphy has taken him to holding at the Special Investigations Unit building.

Harry sneaks into his place to get his potion that will make him blend into the background, some clothes that look like a janitor's, and his wizard's staff. He manages to get into the holding cells part of the building, but its too late to put MacFinn into a circle. He has already changed and is killing the prisoners. Harry has never been more scared in his life.  He does what he can to keep the beast from coming forward, but gets knocked back against the wall by the door to the opening of the cells.  Expecing to die now, the door flies open and Murphy comes in shooting silver bullets made from earrings her aunt gave her. The beast is bleeding now and has moved into another room. Murphy will not accept his help, though, and sends him away with another cop. A group of cops go after the beast.  Harry is in shock, beat up, bitten, bleeding, and running low on magic. The new cop puts him in Murphy's office where Harry finds his magical things that Murphy took from him. He realizes how he can stop the beast but he needs a stuffed animal and the new cop gives him a snoopy dog.  Harry is determined to make this right. When he goes out, there are dead and wounded cops lying around everywhere. Then he sees Murphy get her arm broken. He uses his magic to send the beast flying backward through many buildings, but that doesn't put him down. So, he forms a circle made of blood from the beast with snoopy in the middle and binds it's mouth, eyes, ears, and body from doing harm. This will keep the beast from also doing anything as well. In the chaos, he limps out of there and Susan and Tera take him away.

By this time, though, Harry has figured the whole thing out, mostly. To try to save himself, he blows out his magic, so to speak, and it's gone. Maybe for good. He is beaten to a pulp, shot, bitten, generally put through hell multiple times in this book, but he gets up and keeps going because someone has to. That's what I love about him. He knows that someone has to stand between the evil and the good out there.  But what is a wizard without magic? How can he stop the bad guys and keep MacFinn from killing anyone else without it? He is so determined to fix this whole thing by himself, because he blames himself for the death of all those cops and for Kim's death. He's not, of course, but if you were in his position you would probably feel just as guilty too.  Can he trust Tera? What is her agenda? What is she? Will he ever get Murphy's trust back, if any of them survive this? What about Susan? All these questions and more are answered. This is definitely not your typical werewolf book, though, and that's a really good thing. I so enjoy this series and must now get my hands on the next one.

 Sometimes I hate having a conscience, and a stupidly thorough sense of honor.

-Jim Butcher (Fool Moon p 3)
 There’s more magic in a baby’s first giggle than in any firestorm a wizard can conjure up, and don’t let anyone tell you any different.

-Jim Butcher (Fool Moon p 86)

I didn’t want to believe that killing was deep inside of me. I didn’t want to think about the part of me that took a dark joy in gathering all the power it could and using it as I saw fit, everything else be damned. There was power to be had in hatred too, in anger and in lust, in selfishness and in pride. And I knew that there was some dark corner of me that would enjoy using magic for killing—and then long for more. That was black magic, and it was easy to use. Easy and fun. Like Legos.
-Jim Butcher (Fool Moon p 86)

It’s all right to be afraid. You just don’t let it stop you from doing your job.
-Jim Butcher (Fool Moon p 94)
 Pain is to be endured. It ends or it does not.

-Jim Butcher (Fool Moon p 127)

I can’t be under arrest right now. I don’t have the time.
-Jim Butcher (Fool Moon  p 183)
 Instead, as my vision started to fade, I began to chant nonsense syllables in a low, musical refrain, focusing the energy I would need inside the circle I had closed around me. It wasn’t until later that I would realize that I was babbling a chant of “Ubriacha, Ubrius, ubium”, to the Peanuts theme music.

-Jim Butcher (Fool Moon p 192)
 I wanted to deal with my pursuers myself, to deal with my own mistake myself, and not to make an innocent bystander like Susan pay for it.  So I, uh, sort of threw myself out of the passenger seat of a moving car. Don’t look at me like that. I’m telling you, it made sense at the time.

-Jim Butcher (Fool Moon p 209)
 Okay, Harry, I told myself. Keep calm. Do not panic. All you need to do is to hold them here until the cops get here, and then you can bleed to death in peace. Or get a doctor. Whichever hurts less.

-Jim Butcher (Fool Moon p 215)
 There’s a point after which one cannot possibly continue doing complicated things like thinking and keeping one’s eyes open.

-Jim Butcher (Fool Moon p 220)

It figured someone else had been trying to kill me the whole while, and I hadn’t really noticed.
-Jim Butcher (Fool Moon p 253)

I know I don’t know a lot, compared to you. But I’m not stupid. I’ve got eyes. I see some things everyone else tries to pretend aren’t there. The vampire craze sweeping the nation. Why the hell shouldn’t there be some genuine vampires in it? Did you know that violent crimes have increased nearly forty percent in the last three years, Mr. Dresden? Murder alone has almost doubled, particularly in heavy urban areas and isolated rural areas. Abductions and disappearances have gone up nearly three hundred percent….I’m sort of a pessimist, Mr. Dresden. I think that people are almost too incompetent to hurt themselves so badly. I mean if criminals were trying, they couldn’t increase their production by three hundred percent. And I hear stories, read the tabloids sometimes.  So what if the supernatural world is making a comeback? What if that accounts for some of what is going on?... Somebody has to do something. I can. So I should.
--Jim Butcher (Fool Moon p 263)
 I’m with the FBI. I don’t do anything that could be construed as funny, Mr. Dresden.

-Jim Butcher (Fool Moon p 297)
 It was eerie, the way he said the words—so matter-of-fact, calm, rational. There was no doubt in him, when he should have been afraid. Only fools and madmen know that kind of certainty. And I had already noted that he was no fool.

-Jim Butcher (Fool Moon p 299)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Fool-Moon-Book-Dresden-Files/dp/0451458125/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1478275715&sr=8-1&keywords=fool+moon

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Caitlin Doughty grew up on the island of Oahu, on Hawai'i.  When she was eight years old she was at the mall competing in a Halloween costume contest, which she had just won first prize.  She went to the rail to look down on the first floor, thinking of how she was going to spend the money, and looking for her father, when she saw a young girl fall from the escalator and land with a thud on the ground, dead.  That thud sound would reverberate throughout her childhood in her head.  She began displaying signs of OCD in order to cope with the Post Traumatic Stress she was experiencing from the incident.  Eventually, the OCD went away, but the frightened girl, hiding under the covers at night, remained locked deep within herself.  After graduating with a degree in Medieval History, she made a momentous decision.  She decided to apply to mortuaries for a job in the hopes of coming to terms with her fear of death.  After an exhaustive search, she was taken in at Westwind Crematory and Burial as the person who operates the crematory machine.

This book explores not just how a crematory works, or an embalming table, or the picking up of bodies, or body parts, as the case may be (a woman with diabetes who lost her leg, asked for it to be cremated), but about a young woman exploring life by coming to terms with death and death practices and how our fear of death is warping our culture and calls for a better way of dealing with death.  There are many examples from other cultures, historical tidbits that are truly fascinating, and her own experiences working at the crematory.

The crematory takes a while to heat up in the morning, so adults are usually the ones to start the day.  Later, at the end of the day, if they have any babies (if the baby is born in utero, the hospital pays for a cremation) they go at the end of the day since it does not take much fire to transform them to ash.  In this job, you see it all.  They have one gentleman who is too large to fit the casket the family ordered for him.  Rather than charge the family extra (and explain why), Mike, the manager, has Caitlin stuff him into a casket, which amazingly they did.  Also, if you want one final viewing of your loved one before they are cremated, there is an additional fee.  This is for your own good.  It goes toward making your loved one look more human, than rotting corpse.  One such woman's mother had swelled after death and her daughter brought an old favorite dress her mother had worn when she was slimmer.  They had to use saran wrap on her arms and legs to get her into the dress, plus a few other cosmetic secrets to help her look better.

There are sometimes witness crematories, where the family and loved ones are there, such as in a Buddhist ritual, or a unique one.  At a Chinese ceremony, she had the misfortune to be wearing a red dress that day.  In the Chinese culture, red represents happiness.  She had no idea they were coming in that day, or she would have definitely dressed differently.  They gave her dirty looks and such, so she stayed as much in the background as she could.

Sometimes there is a death that gets to her.  She had cremated m89any babies, but one, a blonde one and a  half year old, whose hair she had to shave so her parents could have the hair, really affected her and she broke down in the crematory.  Sometimes a comedy of errors occurs, as when they had just gotten the crematory redone and she placed a rather large woman inside.  Something happened and her fat  began to ooze out of the door.  She and Mike grabbed buckets to collect it all.  It destroyed her outfit.

The longer she works there, she begins to feel that Americans are not facing death and preparing for it.  She comes up with a unique view of how to face this dark end with dignity and how to embrace life.  This journey she sets out on awakens her to a new worldview and a way to make the death business better.

*Note: Here are some things you should really consider doing now if you haven't already.
1. Make a will.  This is highly important.  If you don't want to go to a lawyer, there are websites that will do it for a cheap price.
2. Get life insurance. You do not want to leave your family paying for your death and debts after your death.
3. Make a decision about whether to get a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) and make a decision about whether you want to be hooked up to a machine for your survival.
4. Decide what you want to have happen to your remains after death and write them down.  There are more options than you can believe possible.  Read the book Corpse by the incredible author Mary Roach for ideas.  The entire book explores every possible option.


Fearing death, I wanted to reclaim control over it.  I figured it had to play favorites; I just needed to make sure I was one of those favorites.
--Caitlin Doughty (Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: Other Lessons from the Crematory p32)

The Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran said that suicide is the only right a person truly has.  Life can become unbearable in all respects, and “this world can take everything from us….but no one has the power to keep us from wiping ourselves out”.  Perhaps not surprisingly, Cioran, a man “obsessed with the worst”, died an insomniac and recluse in Paris.
-- Caitlin Doughty (Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: Other Lessons from the Crematory p52)

Exposing a young child to the realities of love and death is far less dangerous than exposing the to the lie of the happy ending.  Children of the Disney princess era grew up with a whitewashed version of reality filled with animal sidekicks and unrealistic expectations.  Mythologist Joseph Campbell wisely tells us to scorn the happy ending, “for the world as we know it, as we have seen it, yields but one ending: death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our hearts with the passing of the forms that we have loved”.
-- Caitlin Doughty (Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: Other Lessons from the Crematory p144-5)

In many ways, women are death’s natural companions.  Every time a woman gives birth, she is creating not only a life, but also a death.  Samuel Beckett wrote that women “give birth astride of a grave”.  Mother Nature is indeed a real mother, creating and destroying in a constant loop.
-- Caitlin Doughty (Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: Other Lessons from the Crematory p172)

The only thing that’s certain is that nothing ever is.
-- Caitlin Doughty (Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: Other Lessons from the Crematory p198)


Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Smoke-Gets-Your-Eyes-Crematory/dp/0393351904/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1478093497&sr=8-1&keywords=smoke+gets+in+your+eyes