Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Not reading lately?

I feel like I haven't been reading lately, but when I think about it, I actually have.  It just hasn't been much of what I really want to read. 

Last month our book club read The Cherry Cola Book Club.  It's about Maura Beth Mayhew, a librarian in Mississippi, who is struggling to keep the library open.  To bolster attendance and impress the city council, she decides to start a book club.  This was a cute book, best read with an internal southern accent.  However, it was a bit too sweet and saccharine for my tastes, with minimal character development.  Very light, fluffy read.  Would recommend for fans of cozy mysteries.

I also picked up the graphic novel, Lumberjanes.  Written for a YA audience, Lumberjanes follows a group of teens attending the Lumberjanes summer camp.   The Lumberjanes are similar to the girl scouts in that they earn badges for various activities.  This group of girls ends up getting into quite a bit of trouble, sneaking off in the middle of night and encountering some very strange paranormal creatures.  

My favorite books to read are non-fiction, so I picked up The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose.  The Danish resistance to the Nazi invasion was started by a group of 8th grade boys who formed a club called the Churchill Club.  They would ride around their bicycles and plan ways to sabotage the Nazis.  
They started by stealing Nazi weapons and eventually the group planned bigger acts like sneaking into headquarters and burning blueprints, and even destroying vehicles, and train cars.  They were captured, but their small acts of resistance inspired the rest of the country to begin a larger  movement. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ms. Marvel

With my limited alone time at home, I have found it hard to get into a good long book.  I'm usually
asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.  This is when I turn to comic books and graphic novels to satiate my reading appetite.  They are fast to read because the stories are short, so I can consume an entire book in one quick reading session.  I headed up to Iowa City to shop at Daydream Comics to pick up a few new issues. 
My first read was Ms Marvel in graphic novel form.  (I also picked up the newest issue.)  Ms. Marvel has been around for sometime.  After Captain Marvel died, Ms. Marvel became Captain and this series introduces a new Ms Marvel in the form of Kamala Khan.

Kamala is the first Muslim- American character to headline a book for Marvel Comics.  Her transformation into Ms Marvel comes during a mysterious mist that envelops her after sneaking out of her house to go to a party.  Her religion and culture play a role in how she must hide her powers from her parents and how they react to her suddenly strange behavior and disappearances. 
Readers will learn of a strange man called The Inventor who is manipulating local teens into committing crimes.  Kamala will eventually team up with Wolverine to help take down the Inventor. 

This is a great book to grab that allows readers to get into a character's story right from the origin.  Her heritage puts a unique spin on the alter ego struggles familiar to superhero stories.  I'm very excited to see where Kamala's story is headed. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015


I have now read 3 of the 4 books by Bill O'Reilly in his assassinations series.  The latest is Killing Patton, which works on the theory that Patton's death by car accident was, in fact, no accident.

All three books read like fiction.  They are fast paced and character driven.  They are not complete biographies, they cover the last few years of their lives, leading up to their deaths.  The slowest one for me was Patton.  The war scenes dragged on and Patton was a bit... unlikeable.

My favorite was Killing Kennedy.  I think the authors' memories and emotions of that time were reflected in that book.  However, you will also find their political leanings coloring the description of Kennedy and his administration.  This seems to be the biggest criticism of these books from other reviewers.  Additionally, the authors suggest a conspiracy and cover up of his assassination. 

These are easy to read and move at a fast pace.  I recommend these to fans of popular history, though some on the left might not be pleased. I have not read Killing Jesus, the other book in this series. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Beat the Reaper

I occasionally will foray into the world of fiction and sometimes I am forced, like when my book discussion group chose Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell.  Most of them didn't like it, but I actually did.

Beat the Reaper is about a man in witness protection who chose to become a doctor.  He is known as Dr. Peter Brown and works at "Manhattan's worst hospital."  Through a series of flashbacks, readers learn of Peter's past as a hitman for the mob.  I found it a stretch to believe that a hitman who killed dozens of people ended up a Dr. in witsec, but I went with it.  The flashbacks were full of violence and action which I don't particularly like, but I tried to imagine the scenes as a movie, like Goodfellas.  For some reason, that made the violent scenes easier for me to swallow.

In the present day, while under witsec protection, Peter walks into a patient's room only to discover that it's his former colleague from the mob.  One that wants him dead.  Peter promises to do his best to keep Eddie Squillante alive, but only if Peter's own life and new identity is spared.  However, chances of Eddie's survival are slim and the mob doesn't always stick to its word. 

This is a fast paced book filled with action and dark humor.  As with most fiction books, I skipped to the end to see what would happen, and still found myself engaged in the story.  I recommend this to readers of action novels, but beware of the graphic violence and strong language.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Man Who Killed Kennedy

I love a good conspiracy theory and the assassination of JFK is surrounded by many.  The Man Who Killed Kennedy by Roger Stone details why the author believes Lyndon B Johnson was behind the assassination. 

The book begins by describing LBJ as a womanizing sociopath.  Several sources confirm that he more affairs than Kennedy himself. (I guess some women are attracted to....power?)  He was crude and dismissive towards anyone who stood in his path to political power.  The times were different back then, and the press kept his personality undercover.  

The real question though, is why would LBJ conspire to kill Kennedy?  Among other reasons, Bobby Kennedy and LBJ despised each other, and a plan was put into place for Kennedy to dump Johnson in '64 and for RFK to indict him on corruption charges.  According to Stone, LBJ was able to partner with the mafia and CIA to orchestrate the assassination.  The author also calls into question the lone gunman theory.  With his massive amount of notes and his history as a close confidant of Nixon, Stone makes a compelling case.

So am I convinced by this theory?  Surprisingly, yes.  But then again, history can and is written and rewritten from different authors who all share the same evidence and sources.  Fans of 20th century history and/or conspiracy theories should enjoy this scathing book.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Andy Cohen Diaries

I wanted to read something light and funny to combat the cold dark days, so I chose this diary by Andy Cohen.  Honestly, if you don't know who Andy Cohen is, then stop right here.  You probably won't be interested. 

Andy is a television producer/NYC socialite/St Louis native responsible for the addictive Real Housewives series and several other Bravo shows.  He hosts his own late night show, Watch What Happens Live on Bravo.  This is a diary of his life from 2013-2014. 

I found myself breezing through this book, I think Andy is entertaining and he  spills a lot of gossip about celebrities.  He regularly hangs with Sarah Jessica Parker, the Seinfelds, reality TV stars, and Anderson Cooper.  It's kind of amazing how celebrities live, staying out til wee hours of the night, flying cross country every week, and taking vacations every month. 

Andy uses self deprecating humor and sarcasm throughout the book, keeping it light and fun.  He also talks extensively about his newest love affair...with his rescue dog Wacha.  Wacha really helps Andy "think about something other than myself."

I recommend this book for reality TV fans and readers of celebrity biographies and memoirs.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

How Dogs Love Us

Do dogs love their humans like humans love their dogs?  One dog lover and neuroscientist decided to find out.  Gregory Berns' book, How Dogs Love Us is about his research into the canine mind.  To find out how dogs "felt" towards humans, he and his team of researchers had to design and conduct several experiments with their dogs.  The first and hardest part was training a dog to enter an MRI machine, and then, sit still long enough to get an accurate reading.  They measured brain activity when dogs were presented with certain stimuli, such as sweat from their human beings. 

What did they find out?  I don't want to spoil it, but, I think any dog lover will tell you that dogs do love their humans.  They reciprocate certain emotions shown towards them.  For example, the dogs that were presented with sweat samples had parts of the brain activate only when presented with their particular owner's smell.  

As a dog lover and owner of two overly protective corgis, I can corroborate his findings.  If you are a dog lover as well, check this one out to learn more about the ways your dog relates to you.  If you are a cat lover, well, don't hold your breath.

Visit the author's website here