Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg

home-repairTitle:  Home Repair

Author:  Liz Rosenberg

Paperback:  352 pages

ISBN:  9780061734564

Challenges:  ARC Challenge

But it was more than facing the clutter and the mess, this grip of cold gloom that surrounded her.  She had never been prone to depression, not even after Ivan died, but what she suffered now felt like a disease of the soul.  She wandered aimlessly around the house.  The flowers in their clay pots out on the front porch were long dead and withered.  A few brown leaves stuck out from the stems.  She seemed to be staring at the demise of everything.  Everything she’d already lost, all the losses still to come.  It all headed toward grief in the end.  Humans were soap bubbles, clinging to any solid surface.  They rested briefly, then were gone.  Her mother would be gone soon, and not long after, it would be herself, and one day even her own children…

A chill stabbed her heart.  Why on earth bother?  Why clean, take out the trash, make the beds.  Why not let it all alone to rot?

- Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg, pages 183-184 (ARE)

I’d first like to thank Jennifer, aka Book Club Girl, for the opportunity to read Home Repair and participate in a discussion with Liz Rosenberg, the book’s author.  You can listen to her July 8th broadcast on Blog Talk Radio with the author by clicking here.  It was my first time participating in a live discussion with an author, and was an interesting experience.  It would definitely be more interesting to have the author’s voice at a book club discussion more often.

One of the things that sticks out most for me with Home Repair is that it truly has a feeling of authenticity.  Often in books, when the tragic or fantastic occurs, it feels contrived or manufactured, a vehicle for the author to get the characters from one point to another, or to teach a lesson.  However, with this book, the events feel natural.  When Eve and her seventeen-year-old son, Marcus, get into a fight about him going for a ride in his friend’s new sports car, it had a very familiar feeling to me, a mother of two teens of my own.  The events that followed the argument also felt familiar and made me think back to something that had happened within my own family.  Another aspect of Home Repair that I kept thinking of while reading it was that the characters were very real to me.  At times I could see my own mother in Charlotte, Eve’s mom, with Eve playing my part, at other times Mrs. Dunrea could’ve been me.  Also, Rosenberg has set Home Repair in her home town of Bignhamton, New York, adding even more realism to the book.

Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg begins on a bright, sunny and unseasonably mild day as Eve holds a garage sale to clear out some of the clutter in her family of four’s life.  As the day progresses, she becomes aware that her husband, Chuck, has taken the opportunity to clear out for good.  Eve is left with the task of explaining to her two children, Marcus and Noni, that he’s left them, and to somehow manage to dig down within herself and soldier on.  The book takes us on a year journey as Eve rediscovers who she is, develops friendships and connections with new and different people, and deepens her relationships with those she already knows.  When her mother moves up from Tennessee to “help,” Eve is faced with her mother’s own eventual mortality and humanness, as she struggles in the in-between land of mother caring for her own children while being a child caring for her mother.  Home Repair is the story of healing, family and friendship that will stay with you and gives hope that “This too shall pass.”

“Why does anyone get married?  Why do middle-aged men leave their wives, or women abandon their families and run off to Tahiti?  Why does anyone bother to become friends with anyone, or adopt a child, or own a pet, for that matter?  We’re all going to die sooner or later, if that’s what you’re thinking,”  Charlotte said.  “That’s life.  Nothing we do can change that.  We’re all going to someday say good-bye.  We’re all going to have to cry, little girl,” she said, putting one hand out to touch Eve’s hair.  The touch did not quite happen, but hovered, and then settled back down, like a butterfly, still quivering.  “We might as well be happy while we can.”

-Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg, page 324 (ARE)

Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg is a comfort, homey read that reminds us that we’re not alone and gives us hope.  It tells us that we’re stronger than we think and love is the best home repair.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Title:  Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Author:  Jeff Lindsay

Paperback:  275 pages

Date Published:  2004

Publisher:  Orion Books Ltd

ISBN:  9780752865744

Moon.  Glorious moon.  Full, fat, reddish moon, the night as light as day, the moonlight flooding down across the land and bringing joy, joy, joy.  Bringing too the full-throated call of the tropical night, the soft and wild voice of the wind roaring through the hairs on your arm, the hollow wail of starlight, the teeth-grinding bellow of the moonlight off the water.

All calling to the Need.  Oh, the symphonic shriek of the thousand hiding voices, the cry of the Need inside, the entity, the silent watcher, the cold quiet thing, the one that laughs, the Moondancer.  The me that was not-me, the thing that mocked and laughed and came calling with its hunger.  With the Need.  And the Need was very strong now, very careful cold coiled creeping crackly cocked and ready, very strong, very much ready now – and still it waited and watched, and it made me wait and watch.

-Dearly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, page 1

Dearly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay is the first book of the Dexter series, and the basis for the first season of Showtime’s Dexter.  I’ve definitely decided darling Dexter is a delightfully delicious diversion :-D (Okay, Lindsay does the alliteration-thing a lot better than me ;-) )

For those who might not know, Dexter Morgan is a forensic officer specializing in blood splatter for the Miami police department.  He’s a nice guy, well-groomed, a quiet gentleman with a witty repartee.  He has a sweet and shy girlfriend who has two young children.  And to keep the stress levels down and help him stay centered and focused, Dexter has a little hobby.  He likes to hunt. 

People.

Dexter has a Dark Passenger that demands he kill, but Harry, Dexter’s adopted father, recognized the predator in him at an early age and gave him a code of conduct.  He must be 100% sure the person is guilty before killing him.  Dexter is a serial killer who kills serial killers.  A monster with a conscious.

But Dexter is deeply impressed, one artist of another’s talent, when his sister Deb calls him to get over to the scene of a recently discovered, BLOODLESS, disassembled body.  He knows that, according to the Code of Harry, the Tamiami Butcher (as he is called in the book) deserves to be caught and killed, yet there is beauty in his presentation and work, Dexter wants to meet his new playmate.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay is a fun and compelling page-turning.  Showtime was good enough to make the show different enough from the book that you can still be surprised by the book if you’ve seen the series.  And I’d have to say Michael C. Hall is the best actor for Dexter I could think of (their Deb is perfect, too).  Of course, since I saw the show before I knew of the book (in fact, that’s how I found out about the book, it’s mentioned in the credits), so naturally I see the shows faces in the roles as I read the book.

Another beautiful Miami day.  Mutilated corpses with a chance of afternoon showers.  -page 164

Darkly Dreaming Dexter has a bit of a paranormal mystery to it, where as the show seems to lean more on logic.  The Dark Passenger is a character, a spiritual being, with a connection to other dark passengers and silent watchers in other killers, which enable Dexter to have something of a psychic understanding of them.  It’s this skill that make the detectives, and even his cop sister, turn to him on solving the serial murders.  It’s also what creates a crisis within Dexter, as he is unsure whether he himself is the Tamiami Butcher, killing his victims while sleeping.

I give Darkly Dreaming Dexter 4 out of 5 stars.

*************************************************************************************

I’m so excited! Season 3 of Dexter comes out on DVD August 18th… Oh, how wonderful! Kids go back to school and Dexter comes home with me for my viewing pleasure :-D

The Appeal by John Grisham

campaignhTitle: The Appeal

Author: John Grisham

Hardback: 355 pages

Publisher: Doubleday

Publish Date: 2008

ISBN: 9780385515047

Mr. Trudeau slapped the table and barked, “What went wrong?!”

Well, Ratzlaff thought to himself and wanted to say aloud except that he very much treasured his job, let’s start with the fact that our company built a pesticide plant in Podunk, Mississippi, because the land and labor were dirt cheap, then we spent the next thirty years dumping chemicals and waste into the ground and into the rivers, quite illegally of course, and we contaminated the drinking water until it tasted like spoiled milk, which, as bad as it was, wasn’t the worst part, because then people started dying of cancer and leukemia.

Than, Mr. Boss and Mr. CEO and Mr. Corporate Raider, is exactly what went wrong.

“The lawyers feel good about the appeal,” Ratzlaff said instead, without much conviction… “We still have the money, Carl,” Ratzlaff said. “It’ll be years before a dime changes hands, if, in fact, that ever happens.”

Mr. Trudeau was pacing dramatically. “Forty-one million dollars. And there are how many other cases out there, Bobby? Did someone say two hundred, three hundred? Well, if there were three hundred this morning, there will be three thousand tomorrow morning. Every redneck in south Mississippi with a fever blister will now claim to have sipped the magic brew from Bowmore. Every two-bit ambulance chaser with a law degree is driving there now to sign up clients. This wasn’t supposed to happen, Bobby. You assured me.”

Ratzaff had a memo under lock and key. It was eight years old and had been prepared under his own supervision. It ran for a hundred pages and described in gruesome detail the company’s illegal dumping of toxic waste at the Bowmore plant. It summarized the company’s elaborate efforts to hide the dumping, to dupe the Environmental Protection Agency, and to buy off the politicians at the local, state, and federal level. It recommended a clandestine but effective cleanup of the waste site, at a cost of some $50 million. It begged anyone who read it to stop the dumping.

And, most important at this critical moment, it predicted a bad verdict someday in a courtroom.

Only luck and a flagrant disregard for the rules of civil procedure had allowed Ratzlaff to keep the memo a secret.

Mr. Trudeau had been given a copy of it eight years earlier, though he now denied he’d ever seen it. Ratzlaff was tempted to dust it off now and read a few select passages, but, again, he treasured his job.

Mr. Trudeau walked to the table, placed both palms flat on the Italian leather, glared at Bobby Ratzlaff, and said, “I swear to you, it will never happen. Not one dime of our hard-earned profits will ever get into the hands of those trailer park peasants…. If I have to bankrupt it or break it into fifteen pieces, I swear to you on my mother’s grave that not one dime of Krane’s money will ever be touched by those ignorant people.”

and with that promise, he walked across the Persian rug, lifted his jacket from a rack, and left the office.

-The Appeal by John Grisham, pages 16-19

The Appeal by John Grisham is a compelling, at times frightening, look at the appeals process, big business, the new and growing trend of buying elections, and a grim outlook at where it is all taking us. The book begins where most legal fictions end, with the verdict and then follows the appeal through corporate maneuvering and the campaign to plant their man on the Mississippi Supreme Court who will rule in their favor.

While the company in this story is clearly liable for the injuries cause by their gross negligence, flagrant disregard for mandated disposal of their product and illegal dumping of class I carcinogens that eventually leeched into the towns water supply, claiming the lives of nearly 70 residents and another 140 on their way to the graves, it is important to remember that there area great number of frivolous personal injury lawsuits and stacked class action suits filed everyday in this country. Grisham does show this to some extent with Bintz, the Philadelphia (that’s Pennsylvania, not Mississippi), but the fact does seem to be glossed over with the book’s focus on the more sensational and legitimate cases being rendered by the stacked court.

One thing I have learned in my 30+ years of life is that nothing is simple, nothing is all of one and none of the other. Business, the legal system, and politics, like life, are a complex mix of facts and interested parties, and as many outcomes to factor into account as the causes that brought things to that point. Grisham well displays, though again somewhat slanted, how people with beliefs and causes can be whipped up into a frenzy with campaign rhetoric, half-truths, and sound-bytes. I generally try to defer discussing politics and religion in my blog and reviews, but I imagine regular readers have picked up on the fact that I am a Christian with a moderate-to-conservative Republican view on politics. To a degree, Grisham seems to hold up the liberal side of things as being the thinking side and the Christian conservative side as being the easily manipulated simpletons who are ushering in the ruination of the country.

To be fair to the author, Grisham doeshave Denny Ott, a non-denom pastor who thinks for himself and chastises a fellow church leader for his use of the pulpit as a campaign tool. Also, the protagonists of the book, married partners of the law firm Payton & Payton, are also practicing Christians who pray before going into court, donate legal advice through Ott’s church, and sacrifice everything for what they believe is right; Krane should be held accountable for their heinous conduct that has destroyed the lives and even the town of Bowmore.

The Appeal by John Grisham is the first Grisham novel I have read, though I have seen several of the author’s books-to-movies. I definitely enjoyed the easy to read writing style, and was captivated by the storyline. Grisham is an excellent storyteller, and The Appeal will not be my last of his books. I give it 4 stars out of 5, it’s a good, solid book that makes you think and consider the world around you.

Here is a clip of Border’s interview with John Grisham about The Appeal. Very interesting and eye-opening:

Blaze by Richard Bachman

Title: Blaze

Author: Richard Bachman (pen name used by Stephen King)

Hardcover: pages 286

Publisher: Scribner (A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc)

Publish Date: June 2007

ISBN: 9781416554844

One hungover Saturday morning when not much was doing, Clayton Senior staggered out of the bedroom in the second-floor apartment he and his son shared while Clay was sitting crosslegged on the living room floor, watching cartoons and eating Apple Jacks. “How many times have I told you not to eat that shit in here?” Senior inquired of Junior, then picked him up and threw him downstairs. Clay landed on his head.

His father went down, got him, toted him back upstairs, and threw him down again. The first time, Clay remained conscious. The second time, the lights went out. His father went down, got him, toted him upstairs, and looked him over. “Fakin sonofabitch,” he said, and threw him down again.

“There,” he told the limp huddle at the foot of the stairs that was his now comatose son. “Maybe you’ll think twice before you tote that fucking shit into the living room again.”

Unfortunately, Clay never thought twice about much of anything. He lay unconscious in Portland General Hospital for three weeks. The doctor in charge of his case voiced the opinion that he would remain so until he died, a human carrot. But the boy woke up. He was, unfortunately, soft in the head.

So began the life of Clayton “Blaze” Blaisdell, Jr. the main character of this noir homage to Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Stephen King, Richard Bachman’s real name, writes in the foreword that Blaze is a “trunk novel,” which is to say a manuscript written long ago which the author decided was unworthy of publication at the time, but now that he’s a famous author he’s pulled it out, dusted it off and shipped it to print. Well… not exactly. Actually, Blaze went through some rewriting and editing and updating. Where as Blaze had grown up in post WWII America, the new-and-improved, modernized Blaze grew up in “America, Not All That Long Ago,” as King calls it. It’s an interesting mix of old and new: George says “Shag, baby,” others say “far out” and the money goes a LOT farther in the book with dime payphones and $200 buying a complete baby outfitting, from the ground up (crib, changing table, clothes, formula, the works!).

Blaze is, as I said, a noir homage to Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Just imagine what that classic novel would have been like if Stephen King had written it: George is a small time con-artist looking for that big score he can retire on, Blaze… well, he’s still a huge hulking man with the mentality of a 10 year old who doesn’t know his own strength and who relies on George to know what to do. George is still a gruff, insulting, small man for whom (Lenny) Blaze would do anything for, including jump off a building or in Blaze’s case, take 2 years in prison and not rat out his friend. And oh yeah, in King’s version of OMaM, George is a ghost and Blaze has a sixth sense about things.

Blaze is a character you can feel sympathy for. A rough childhood in Hetton House, lovingly dubbed “Hell House” by John, Blaze’s only friend, the state-run orphanage. He’s huge, standing 6’7″ and 270 lbs, with the power of life and death literally in his strong hands. As a kid and teen he stands up for his friends and protects them, even pursues vengence for them from their bullies. He’s lonely and alone, with George as his only friend. Blaze could have turned out to be a good, law abiding person had he had the right influence, as it was he fell in with criminals and therefore became one himself, though never really grasping the morality of the right and wrong of their activities.

When Blaze decides to carry out “the big score” that George had planned out before his untimely death, which was the kidnapping of a wealthy couple’s six-month-old baby, he inevitably fails to cover all his tracks, thus dooming the caper before it’s even begun.

Blaze has no desire to hurt the baby, but George tells him he has to because the baby will just slow him down. He grows very attached to little Joe and decides to collect the ransom and run away with the money and the baby, like he’s a puppy to carry off (and remember what Lenny did to his puppy ;-) ).

As I loved Of Mice and Men, and Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, you will no doubt guess that I also loved Blaze. Though it’s more like a crime thriller than say, a psychic psychotic murderous prom princess, it’s still noticeably King. And though it’s not my favorite SK book, it’s definitely an excellent read that never gave away it’s ending. The book also includes a short story called “Memory,” which later became Duma Key, the book that I believe is King’s masterpiece. Well written and constructed, Blaze gets 4 out of 5 stars.

The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver

Title:  The Sleeping Doll
Author: Jeffery Deaver
Hardcover: 398 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: 2007
ISBN: 9780743260947

I see violent crime like dropping a stone into a pond. The ripples of consequence can spread almost forever.

-The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deavers, page 40

The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaversis an amazing labyrinthine crime thriller. Intelligent and highly suspenseful, the twist and turns of this novel kept me guessing and surprised me again and again to the very end. There were a few things here and there I could guess at, which is a nice thing for the author to do so I don’t feel completely stupid, but I could not anticipate many of the plot twist and revelations. It is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and Deaver might supplant Coben as my favorite crime thriller writer.

Set in scenic Monterey, California, The Sleeping Doll is the action packed story of Kathryn Dance, human lie detector and Kinesic Interregator for the CBI (California Bureau of Investigation). The first line of the book,

The interrogation began like any other.

Sets the reader’s feet on the track… let’s you know to lace up your running shoes… and quickly takes off. The interrogation is with Daniel Pell, dubbed “Son of Manson” for his cult-family set up, his belief he was a Svengali, and the clippings and books he had about the infamous La Bianca mastermind, Charles Manson.

When this sociopath is sprung from the minimal security of the county jail in an explosive and elaborate jail break, Pell begins racking up the body count while Dance and her team desperately hunt for him. They use everything at their disposal, including reuniting Pell’s “girls” and speaking with the sole survivor of the Crayton family murders for which Pell was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Theresa Crayton had been found sleeping among all the toys on her bed and had been dubbed by the media, “The Sleeping Doll”.

With the help of the women, among others, Dance nearly catches him a few times, but he always manages to be five minutes ahead of them. Is he that smart and lucky? or is someone helping him? Dance wonders. Throughout all this action that comes with the job, she also must balance children and family, and as a widow and mother, not to mention an attractive thirty-something woman, she must balance honoring the memory of her late husband, father of her children, with the practice of dating. I’m not sure which is tougher: Chasing maniac killers or raising teenagers while trying to date and meet people.

For me, this book was a blessing. After reading the disjointed and dull One More Year and the rather sleazy (but fun.. sort of… in that “caught touching yourself” way) Tan Lines, The Sleeping Dollwas a fantastic page-turner that was an absolute thrill to read! The kinesics (the interpretation of body language such as facial expressions and gestures) that is throughout the book made me very aware of my body whenever I spoke, and aware of others, too. It is a fascinating study, one I’ve always been interested in.

It does contain some profanity, a bit of sex, including forced and S & M, as well as violence, kidnapping and death. This book is not for those who are sensitive to violence, and is wholly inappropriate for anyone under the age of 16 (IMHO). I would rate this book R.

However, anyone seeking an exciting thrill ride of a book, The Sleeping Doll would make an arresting book to read! :-D

5 out of 5 stars

Fred Discovery

Completely NON-BOOK related post:

Through random surfing and Google, I found FRED. I’m generally behind times on videos and viral videos in particular. No one ever sends them to me. I get the Glen Beck‘s latest or Burger and Fries the psychotic cat, but never anything I’d really like. I have to find them myself. It sucks. Because I know there are a million great videos out there I’ve never seen.

But back to Fred… Fred is six years old, has a abusive, partying, prostitute mother and his father’s in the state pen. He has a crush on Judy, who hates him, but admits she’s a brat (but so attractive!). Judy’s boyfriend Kevin bullies Fred and had started to beat Fred up but the neighborhood stray cat with rabies bit Kevin, so Kevin doesn’t pick on Fred as much anymore. Honestly, though… For whatever reason, I think Fred’s hilarious. My 14-year-old and I sat here and watched ever Fred video on his YouTube channel. We’re addicted to Fred now, and can’t wait for season two in August.

Here is a sample of Fred. Watch it and tell me what you think:

Other highly addictive, must watch every so often videos are:
Charlie the Unicorn My kids and I do the words to this at random moment.

The Mean Ktty Song (and really, any Mr. Saftey video… Mr. Saftey’s hot)

So now you know what’s worng with me. Leave the URL for your favorite vids and share with me!

Two For the Dough by Janet Evanovich

Two for the Dough cover art

Title: Two For the Dough: A Stephanie Plum Novel
Author: Janet Evanovich
Publisher: Pocket Books (div. of Simon & Schuster, Inc.)
ISBN: 0671001795
Publication Date: September 1996

“…Sweetie pie, you are the worst bounty hunter in the history of the world.”

“That does it. I have better things to do than to stand here and take your insults.”

I pushed him out of my foyer, into the hall, slammed the door closed, and threw the bolt. I pressed my nose to the door and looked through the peephole.

Morelli grinned at me.

“This is war,” I yelled through the door.

“Lucky for me,” Morelli said. “I give good war.”

My first experience with Stephanie Plum was Plum Lucky. I had never read anything that hilarious for adults, and could only compare the experience to reading Junie B. books with my nine-year-old. Stephanie is a sassy, independant woman bounty hunter with a helicopter mother, crazy Grandma Mazur, and over-sexed reluctant partner Morelli.

In Two for the Dough, the second Stephanie Plum novel, Stephanie is still learning the ropes of the fugitive recovery business. Her car is stolen, forcing her to use an obtuse eyesore she lovingly refers to as “Big Blue”, making stakeouts and tailings near to impossible. What starts out as a simple recover turns into a mad murdering lunatic with his sights set on Stephanie AND Grandma Mazur. There are funeral homes, corpses’ body parts lurking for Stephanie to find (at one point an embalmed “Johnson” is overnighted to her, causing her father to announce his desire to be cremated so he’ll go out with all his parts). The coup de gras of the book is Morelli standing in a darken parking lot in nothing but his unbuttoned shirt and socks, Stephanie’s taillights disappearing into the night.

Janet Evanovich’s writing is sarcastic and playful, and gets down to business when appropriate. She turns on a dime, one minute laughing at the antics of Grandma Mazur, next minute a frantic search for her. At one point in this book, I literally laughed off my chair, hitting the floor with a thud, so I can say I was actually “ROFL”.

There’s a cat found trapped in Rex the Hamster’s cage, Rex no where to be found. A severed foot in the fridge. Stephanie hits Morelli’s car four times (Stephanie, Morelli and a car… never a good mix!). Grandma Mazur with a gun, AGAIN. Stephanie in the backseat of a ’53 Buick with Morelli. Gradma Mazur on the slab in the funeral home. All these ingredients make up a recipe for a fast and fun read!

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