May 022017
 

If you want to catch up on old book reviews I’ve done, there is a page for that! Just go here!

1 ) Kill Shot (Mitch Rapp #2) by Vince Flynn

Book #2 in the series starts off with a bang! Super-bad-ass Mitch Rapp is now a “seasoned” assassin, after a year on the job, and is in Paris for what should be an easy task. Of course it goes wrong. Very wrong, and then Mitch isn’t sure who to trust. All signs point to a leak in the dark organization he’s a part of. And he definitely has an enemy who is out to get him.

The book reads super fast. I read the book in one day. The action is non-stop and the double-crossing of everyone is really good. I loved how the book ended. It was very satisfying and made me want to immediately read book #3. Ā I can totally see these books as movies. But knowing our luck they’d cast Tom Cruise and ruin it…like they did with my beloved Jack Reacher!! šŸ˜›

 

2 ) Juniper: The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon by Kelley and Thomas French

“Our baby was born at a unique window of time, at twenty-three weeks and six days gestation. She was an averted miscarriage, not yet fully her own person with her own standing. Because the questions were so unanswerable, the decision to put her on life support and allow her a chance to live had belonged to Tom and me, not the doctors and not the state. [pg 111]”

Don’t worry, the baby lives. I don’t think they could have gotten people to read this book had they not been upfront in the description that the baby lives and is healthy. Because this is a HARD book to read. I heard an interview of Tom and Kelley on a podcast and it was such an amazing story–a miracle, really–that I had to read the book!

The story begins with a little background into Tom and Kelley’s relationship and how they met, the rocky road that tore them apart a few times, their eventual marriage and the struggle to get pregnant. They ended up getting an egg donor (from a friend) and everything seemed to be going well until…little Juniper was born early. Way too early.

“Babies born this young almost always exceeded $1 million in medical expenses. If she lived, there would be deductibles, therapies, maybe even long-term care. Ability to pay did not determine who got treatment and who did not. Most of the babies ended up on Medicaid. [pg 114]”

“The card on the foot of her incubator said, simply, ‘French, Baby Girl’ and gave her birth weight: 570 grams. I’ve eaten burritos at Chipotle bigger than that. [pg 115]”

Each chapter is told from either Tom or Kelley’s point of view and I really enjoyed that. You got a different perspective on the entire thing with each chapter.

It was very, very touch and go for Juniper from the start. The 190+ days or so she was in the NICU were not easy ones and it was a roller-coaster of horrific ailments and then recovery and growth. Kelley was pumping at home and bringing milk in for her every day, even though should couldn’t really drink it.

If you’re squeamish, don’t worry–while the book is very descriptive, they do a really excellent job describing what’s happening medically without going over your head, bogging down the story with medical jargon, or being gross.

“None of our friends knew what kind of card to send. Were we celebrating or grieving? Even we didn’t know. [pg 116]”

Tom and Kelley basically live in the very special wing of the NICU for micro-premies. Juniper has so many procedures and surgeries done in the beginning of her life…and what helped them all were the amazing doctors and nurses who became like family for them. It was really heart-warming to read.

“Even if she died, trying to save her had been the right decision. We’d gotten to know her. We’d let her hear our voices, and hear music, and feel our hands on her. Some of the greatest moments of my life had been tucked inside this misery. Memorizing her face. Holding her hand. Feeling her warm and weightless form on my chest. Reading her a story. [pg 185]”

During Juniper’s stay in the NICU, Tom read her the Harry Potter series. Kelley read Winnie the Pooh.

“‘A story is a promise,’ Tom had told me, ‘It’s a promise that the end is worth waiting for.’ [pg 199]”

And the ending is worth it. I cried many times during this book. The story is amazing, terrifying, heart-breaking, heart-warming and in the end, wonderful. I hope you read this book!

 

3 ) The Nature of The Beast (Gamache #11) by Louise Penny

I went into this book a little skeptical. In the last book Chief Inspector Gamache has retired and moved to Three Pines with his wife. I wasn’t sure how the books could continue with him retired. It wasn’t quite the same BUT it was still pretty good because Armand gets sucked into a new mystery in Three Pines. The usual characters are still present, with a few new ones, and it’s a satisfying read but not the best book in the series. The story was a bit confusing at times but the author wrapped it up at the end.

 

4 ) The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

The sort-of memoir by Carrie Fisher is a fast read, a short book, and very open. She talks about her time filming Star Wars as a 19 year old girl who wasn’t sure she wanted to be an actress. The role defined her life in big ways.

“I had never been Princess Leia before and now I would be her forever. I would never not be Princess Leia. [pg 31]”

“The hairstyle that was chosen would impact how everyone–every filmgoing human–would envision me for the rest of my life. (And probably even beyond–it’s hard to imagine any TV obituary not using a photo of that cute little round-faced girl with goofy buns on either side of her inexperienced head.) [pg 34]”

It was interesting how she looked back at that role fondly, and I think with a little resentment. She made peace with the fact that that was who she would always be to people–Princess Leia.

In the book she also reveals that she had a short-lived affair with Harrison Ford. At first it was a little off-putting to me. Harrison Ford was 35, she was 19, and he was married with kids. Apparently his marriage was failing, but…still…it made me look at him a little differently.

Carrie started the story about Harrison with talking about how she’d never thought she’d be the other woman. Especially after seeing what it did to her mother–she briefly discusses what it was like when her father left her mother for Elizabeth Taylor. Yet at 19 Carrie does become the other woman, at least for one summer in London on the movie set.

“We have no feeling for one another. We lie buried together during the night and haunt each other by day. Acting out something that we don’t feel and seeing through something that doesn’t deserve any focus. [pg 114]”

She tried to make it seem like the affair wasn’t that big of a deal and they both moved on…but…she was very much in love with Harrison Ford and a bit obsessed. In the middle of the book she included excerpts from her diary during that time and it was what you’d think–the sad, longing, obsessing thoughts of a teenager in love, who can’t move on.

“I wish you would love me more so that I could love you less. [pg 118]”

I think every woman could relate to that!

She also discussed aging and how that effected her life, her identity and her career. I found this quote particularly wonderful:

“I didn’t like my face when I should have and now that it’s melted, I look back on that face fondly. [pg 241]”

I feel the same way, when I look back at old pictures and think “I looked great!” and yet at the time I didn’t appreciate it and I was very critical of myself.

I liked this book. Sometimes Carrie’s writing style was a little difficult for me to read. She would often ramble in stream of consciousnessĀ run-on-sentences. But I did like the book. She came across as very open and vulnerable and shared a lot!

 

5 ) Venomous by Christie Wilcox

If you get the creepy-crawlies easily, this book may not be for you. She discusses a lot of venomous creatures–from the platypus (who knew they were venomous?!) to spiders and snakes and sea creatures, bees and zombie wasps and bullet ants.

There was even a chapter about mosquitoes. Why not just get rid of ALL the mosquitoes on the planet? Well, the author kind of maps out what could happen if we didn’t have mosquitoes. One example:

“In the arctic, mosquito populations can be so dense that caribou herds will alter their migration course just to avoid them…even small alteration by such a large herd have dramatic effect on the land they trample…[pg 36]”

Bummer. I’d love it if the mosquitoes were wiped from the planet.

The stories about bullet ant stings, and the horrific initiation rites of the Satere-Mawe people of Brazil that include the ants…are just cringe-worthy.

“Bullet ant stings are so insanely painful because unlike snakes or spiders, which use their toxins to capture or digest prey, the little ant has one goal: defense. [pg 68]”

The book sometimes gets a little too technical and there were definitely medical and scientific things that went over my head, but that didn’t impede me from reading and enjoying the book and I learned a LOT.

The author also did a good job describing what these venomous creatures can do, what the toxins feel like, and she shared anecdotal and personal stories that were very interesting.

“You feel dizzy, nauseous, lightheaded. There’s a coppery taste in your mouth, like you’re rolling pennies around on your tongue. Then it’s like a truck has hit you–massive bruises appear throughout your body…massive internal hemorrhaging…you’ve just had a close encounter with aĀ Lonomia moth caterpillar, one of the most venomous insects in the world. [pg 96]”

There were a lot of near-death stories in this book. I did a LOT of googling of creatures that she described to see pictures of these things. YIKES.

When you think about venom, your first thought is probably snakes. And she does talk a lot about snakes! Rattlesnake bites are common in the US but rarely lead to death. But in other parts of the world, especially poor parts, vipers that are even more venomous are often fatal because the victims don’t have access to doctors or anti-venom. She goes into great deal about snakebite necrosis–I will spare you the description here, but it was gross and fascinating at the same time.

I have a very hard time with spiders. Seeing them, reading about them, YUCK! But I was able to read about them in this book. I found this interesting:

“30% of people who thought they had spider bites actually had the potentially deadly methicillin-resistantĀ Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA. [pg 129]”

(MRSA scares the shit out of me, so that was very scary to read!)

The book also covers a LOT of sea life, and talks a lot about things found off Hawaii! That scared me to death! Apparently there are cute little blue-ringed octopuses off Australia that are just as deadly as pufferfishes:

“Tetrodotixin is among the deadliest compounds known to man. It’s more potent than arsenic, cyanide or even anthrax. It’s 120,000 times as deadly as cocaine and 40,000 times as deadly as meth. [pg 137]”

The book ends with a chapter talking about how different venoms are being tested for medical cures. That sounded really interesting to me and there were a few stories about that I won’t share here (too long) but are fascinating if they are true!

It’s a good book! Definitely recommend it.

 

6 ) Eleanor & Park by by Rainbow Rowell

Oh man! Loved this book! It takes place in the 80’s and it was a walk down memory lane…the music, making mixed tapes and sharing your favorite songs with friends, endlessly talking about bands like The Cure and The Smiths…be still my heart! Great nostalgia!

The story is absolutely sweet and heart breaking and romantic and lovely at the same time. The writer really wrote Eleanor’s story well–the horrible home life, the awful stepdad…I felt every emotion of anger and fear that Eleanor felt.

“Richie had been drinking all day again, so he was all kinds of festive at dinner–laughing too much and too loud. But you couldn’t enjoy the fact that he was in a good mood, because it was the kind of good mood that was just on the edge of a bad one. They were all waiting for him to cross over… [pg 198]”

The bullying that Eleanor experienced at school–the horrors or riding the bus, the misery of gym class…Very well written.

The love story was great.

“Thinking about going out with Park, in public, was kind of like thinking about taking your helmet off in space. [pg 173]”

I also loved Park’s parents. They were wonderful and, no spoilers, the ending where his parents step up and help them is so good. I was not a huge fan of how the book ended but at the same time, it kind of worked.

Happy reading!

These posts have Amazon affiliate links.

Nov 152016
 

I recently had the pleasure to read a book of poetry and interview the author, who is local to Portland. I was sent the book by the publisher but I enjoyed the book of poetry so much I wanted to write a post about it and hopefully turn on some readers to it.

Here is an excerpt from my favorite poem in the book:

Beside the Sea

It’s peaceful here beside the sea,

Where waves crash on the sand incessantly.

The sand just sifts and throws them back

To echo in the mist.

 

The ghostly moon throws shadows faintly

Upon the phosphorescent crests,

Silently weaving endless thought

As to and fro it pulls the mind.”

The reason the above poem was my favorite in the book was because it made me immediately imagine the Oregon Coast. I grew up in Seattle and as a kid we spent summer vacations at Rockaway Beach every year. I grew up feelingĀ home whenever we were at the beach. I’d wander the dunes, dip my toes in the thick, wet, soft sand and feel the wind on my skin and just feel content and happy.

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What I loved about the book was that each poem was a different little story and the author was very good at evoking so many different emotions with each poem. What I found as a common theme through most of the poems was love. And I’m a sucker for a good love poem.

Donald Elix is a local author, which interested me further, and I love supporting local people. Here is the link to his book:

Poetry to Challenge the Senses by Donald Elix

Poetry to Challenge the SensesĀ explores life, death, love, solitude, relationships and nature, and their meanings from his perspectives. Elix connects thoughts from his imagination and applies them to the real world, offering an array of insight on subjects like self-discovery and family.

“The book explores various historical places and time periods, in both the past and present, through brief yet thought-provoking verses,” Elix said. “My hope is to spark inspiration in those who are looking to explore life’s meaning and learn and develop from other’s experiences.”

I was happy to interview the author because as a writer myself, I want to know what the process is for other writers. What inspires them? Where do they write? How do they stay focused? Here is that interview:

  1. How do you begin a poem?

    I usually begin a poem by first selecting a title and writing to the title.

  2. When did you realize that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

    I realized that creating was absolutely something I had to do, when I wrote a poem in 30 minutes in an art class to submit in the English class that came next, while in high school. That poem titled ā€œSpringā€ was published in the national high school poetry book for that year.

  3. Ā What kind of creative writing routines or rituals do you have?

    I am establishing new creative writing routines and rituals to get back to writing, as I have not done much for awhile. My plan is to disappear to a quiet sport for 2 or 3 hours on a Sunday to allow for creative thoughts to flow as I did several years ago.

  4. What are you reading right now?

    Richest man who ever lived.

  5. What’s the worst advice you’ve heard authors give to other writers? What’s the best advice?

    Your book will sell itself, don’t stress out about it, is the worst advice I’ve heard authors give to other writers. The best advice Iā€™ve heard authors give to other writers is to keep writing, keep publishing, and stay in touch with your readers.

  6. Who inspires you?

    Iā€™m inspired by people who are positive, who work hard and have varied interests.

  7. Love seems to be a common thread in your poetry. Do you find it easier or harder to communicate these emotions in your poetry vs. real life?

    I don’t find it easier or harder to communicate love emotions in my poetry vs. real life, although when face to face it is more inspirational for me to express love than with pen to paper.

  8. I love that you are a local author. Are there particular places in Oregon that bring you the most inspiration?

    The Oregon coast is the place that brings me the most inspiration, although the forestĀ and the mountains are a close second.

  9. One of my favorite poems in your new book is “Escape to Imagination”. What was the inspiration for this poem?

    The inspiration for ā€œescape to imaginationā€ was scenes remembered from my homestate of Ohio and visits to mountain areas in Oregon. Additional inspiration was derived from the need to escape urban areas that I worked in, both Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.

  10. As a writer I know the habit of starting and stopping something, putting it away, coming back to it, maybe never finishing it. How do you know when a poem is finished? How many half finished poems do you have stashed away?

    Most of my poems were done in one sitting. I may have a half-dozen poems sitting in the file unfinished. They are there mostly because I found I didnā€™t have a good title. I know a poem is finished when the ideas cease to come to me. I do not stop writing in a sitting until ideas to continue cease to come to me.

I really appreciated the author taking the time to let me interview him and share his process with me and my readers. I’ve read his book several times now, relishing the poems and finding different meaning in the poems each time I read them.

I hope you check out his book!