Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Oh my! Wow! Wow! This may well be the best book I've read this year! Written unpretentiously with emotion and realism, this is a book that grabs you by the heart and doesn't let go until the final sigh. I love this book so much I don't have much to say that isn't just plain gushing. My most telling comment can be to explain that for several pages just past the middle of the book, I *actually* wept! This is not something I do. I don't cry at movies and certainly not over books. I'm autistic, Asperger's to be precise, a logical person who can talk and explain emotions without expressing any emotion and make-believe just *does not* bring me to tears. Yet there was a point in "Torn Away" when a lump formed in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes and for several pages they streamed down my face. My highest praise. Bravo, Jennifer Brown. I will most certainly be taking a look at her other books.

ETA:  Just got the only two they have out of my local library.  Yeah!


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Saturday, June 21, 2014

The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate De Goldi

The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate De Goldi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This is a slow book; a gentle story with eccentric characters. It reads a lot like a book from the fifties, only the characters have modern attitudes. It is sweet and clean ... and real. Peggy is an only child whose parents keep her over involved by having scheduled activities to fill her time. But Peggy doesn't have any friends her age, is a bit of a loner and a nerd, but has a healthy dose of attitude. When one of her scheduled activities is cancelled due to instructor illness Peggy suggests she go visit her Grandmother in full throws of dementia, against her parents better judgement. Thus starts a new chapter in Peggy's life where she becomes a part of the community at Santa Lucia. Her grandmother never knows who she is but they become friends, partners in mischief. Peggy becomes friends and close to all the other residents and the staff. While on a two-week school break she works on a school project with the residents making an alphabet book about the residence which brings everyone closer. A lovely meeting of the minds between old and young, but a quiet story with no great events that might not be exciting enough for the intended audience. The artwork is interesting but abstract and surreal at times, not exactly my thing.



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Monday, June 16, 2014

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This book has been on my tbr since it first came out. I'm glad to have have finally read it. I did enjoy the book. I have some personal experience with dementia and currently am watching two friends going through it with loved ones. The book is extremely readable and a quick read in that it has no chapters but is written in very short paragraphs which are journal entries, thoughts from the patient's mind and dialogues. There are no quotation marks though, so sometimes it can be confusing as to which method is being used though the use of italics at times does help. This is an extremely intriguing way to get inside someone's head and I find these types of literary devices very rewarding. Personally I find the most satisfaction from characterization within a book and can happily read a book where nothing happens as long as it is filled with interesting people and here in Turn of Mind, not a lot really does happen. There is the plot, the murder, the Alzheimer's patient (Dr. White) is the main suspect and from beginning to end we find out 'whodunit', but as a mystery/thriller reader I found that part of the plot dull. What I did enjoy and find fascinating was seeing where Dr. White's mind went, what triggered certain remembrances, sudden outbursts, just how much she was aware what was happening to her and at other times how utterly terrified and helpless she was. Even though I would call this a slow story, it was a quick read and kept me steadily attached to its pages, having a hard time thinking of little else. If you don't mind a meandering story with a unique variety of narrative devices, for those with any interest in dementia this proves to be a thought-provoking read.



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Friday, June 13, 2014

Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave


Cemetery Lake
by Paul Cleave

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Christchurch Murders, 3

This is my 4th book by Cleave and I can't say enough about how pleased I am to have found this author. I started with his last (to date) book "Joe Victim", then went back and started at the beginning. This series is very unique in that they feature the same police department but not the same main characters and the books do not take place one after another. I'm totally surprised by each book. Cemetery Lake takes place concurrently with book 1 "The Cleaner" and mentions the case going on in that book along with including some detectives from the first two books but the main character is a private detective who has been briefly mentioned in the previous books, but whom we've never met ... until now. And what a unique, provoking character is Theodore Tate, ex-cop turned PI. Tate takes on a case the police are working on as he feels some responsibility to it as it ties into one he was working on before he left the job. But Tate is much more of an anti-hero than the usual main character of police procedurals. This guy has his own brand of justice, loose ethics, and yet personally validates his choices as morally ethical. I couldn't help but liking him to some degree and am looking forward to the further two books he is featured in. The story really kept me guessing. I had no idea where it was going and when I did, it surprised me by going somewhere completely different; the twist was unexpected. There were several shocks along the way and I ended up reading this very fast. It's also quite refreshing to read a thriller series set in New Zealand, where things are done just a little bit differently, for a change of pace from my usual US, UK and Scandi thrillers.



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Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Son by Jo Nesbø


The Son
by Jo Nesbø

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I've (almost) read every Jo Nesbo book that has been translated into English {1 adult and 1 kid's book to go} and at this point I expect an intense thriller with a flawed, troubled main character. The Son met my expectations and did not disappoint on any level. This is Nesbo's second stand-alone book, not part of the Harry Hole series, and it was refreshing to step back from that character and enter into a whole new plot. Nesbo still manages, in just one book to portray a multi-faceted detective with personal demons that both hinder and drive his professional life. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning just turning the pages. This is something I've come to expect with Nesbo's thrillers and I'm pleased to say he did it again. The book is populated with characters that I couldn't ever really like but Nesbo still had me feeling sympathetic towards them. If you've never read this author before "The Son" would be a great one to start with as it will give you a feel for what you can expect from his other books.



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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman


Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
by Bill Dedman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I have Asperger's and this is my take on Huguette Clark. I absolutely thoroughly enjoyed this book which is a biography of two people, father and daughter, while also being a history of the Gilded Age and a brief overview of the 20th century. I had heard of Ms Clark when she was in the news and concern was raised about whether she may be a case of elder-abuse by those in charge of her financial and medical care, since she was a reclusive centenarian. I then forgot about her until I read a few reviews of this book. Reading those couple of thought-provoking reviews it crossed my mind as to whether Huguette might have been Aspergian; did she have Asperger's.

I thought of this because I myself have Asperger's, am a loner and for a certain period of my life was house-bound by choice. My reading interests (naturally?) involve recluses and mental health and historically I'm well-read in the Victorian age and early 20th century. Thus, could not pass up this book.

Starting off historically we are given the story of W.A. Clark's life, born 1839, a copper baron and once possibly the richest man in America. The history follows his life, then his second wife, 40 years his junior and their two children, progressing on with his youngest daughter Huguette who lived until the ripe old age of 104 and died in 2011. It absolutely amazes me that the two people, father and daughter, only two generations of a family cover the time period from the 8th President of the US of A, Van Duren to the 44th President, Obama. Hugette herself barely escaped two world disasters, the sinking of the Titanic and the attacks on the World Trade Center. Fascinating!

I don't feel Huguette had a sad life at all. Of course, she suffered sad events such as the death of her elder sister at only 17 years of age and perhaps Huguette's life may have been different if this very close sisterly bond had been able to continue into her adulthood. Yes, she had empty mansions and several apartments but many of them were inherited and one especially was dear to her because of it's meaning to her mother. She had many obsessive hobbies and was a very talented painter. Her hobbies included doll houses, normal sized-dolls, miniature house replicas, expert knowledge of Japanese cultural history and cartoons. Painting was more of a profession, though she didn't sell her work; she did consider herself an artist. Huguette may have inherited astronomical amounts of wealth, by today's standards, but this was obtained for her and the family by her father during the Gilded Age, a time when money practically grew on trees for the rich and their extravagance matched that ideology.

Huguette herself, like and even more so than her father was passionate about charities and donated millions during her lifetime to the arts, artists, animals, Israel and Girl Scouting. She also was a tremendously giving person and gave away millions to those she called friend. She was a loner, a person who preferred solitude to company but it wasn't until her 50s when her mother died that she truly become reclusive and even then she continued to have occasional visits from a handful of the closest friends. Because of the traits I've mentioned so far, I do come away from this believing that Huguette may very well have been Aspergian. The facts as presented in the book tell that all doctors who examined her diagnosed her free of any mental illness, she was always a lucid person, combine this with the intelligence, talent, "eccentricities" intense hobbies and self-induced reclusiveness, while at the same time being a content person I certainly can identify with her and feel quite confident she may well have been on the Autistic Spectrum, namely Asperger's. Choosing to live in a hospital setting once she no longer had anyone to look after her, she had outlived all her doctors, makes perfect sense to me.

The only parts of the book that didn't interest me were the detailed descriptions of the insides and contents of the mansions and apartments. I did find truly absorbing though the life, thoughts and doings of Huguette, a person who on one hand held onto many, many objects (including empty mansions) for sentimental reasons while at the same time handing out cheques for hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars to friends and acquaintances with families and children who needed the money when she herself had no personal use for it except for feeding her hobbies and obsessions; the latter being a typical way of life for aspies. Absolutely loved this book! And am glad Huguette had the money to be able to fulfill herself, during an age when she was not understood, and also able to spread that money to the charities and people she felt could use it and needed it more than she.



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