Friday, February 24, 2017

Season of Stories: Free Streaming

Penguin Random House is offering up 6 weeks worth of stories, streaming freely to you! If you have an iPhone you can download the app. Otherwise, us Droid users can use the website at the link below.

The first stories are from Yaa Gyasi. You might remember how I gushed over Homegoing. No? Check out my review here.

Click me for stories!


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Uncaged by John Sandford and Michelle Cook

I'm a big fan of Sandford so I grabbed this from the library without reading anything about it. I wasn't terribly far into the audiobook when I had to stop and read up on it. It's not technically a typical Sandford, it's a YA Sandford! I thought the characters seemed awfully young....

The plot and premise were intriguing enough for me to continue, despite the youngness of it all. We start off with some animal rights activists who break into the Singular lab, which swears it's researching a cure for Parkinson's Disease, and let all the animals free. Thanks to an insider, they also know to steal the thumb drives with research and the hard drive to a computer to help decrypt the thumb drives.

Odin, a shy IT geek of a kid, is on the raid and ends up taking home a dog that has been experimented on. The crew heads off into the night after a gun-happy security guard starts shooting. The group is on the run.

Shay is Odin's sister who is staying with a new set of foster parents. Odin gets in touch to tell her what happened and that he's running and Shay is off, running away from the foster home in Oregon to LA to find her brother. Odin and Shay briefly meet up so Odin can hand over the dog. Shortly after the meeting, Odin is abducted off the street by Singular people.

Singular isn't quite the company they want you to believe. As Shay falls into a group of runaways and their "parental figure", Twist, they all start planning on how to take Singular down and get Odin back. Along the way, we find out more about what Singular is up to and why the dog is so special.

I had 15 minutes left of the audiobook when I decided they clearly couldn't wrap this up in time. Another check on Goodreads and hello! it's a series!

Don't let the YA label turn you off. This is a Sandford book through and through.

Underground Railroad: Free streaming!

The post below strongly encourages you to read Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Well, the BBC is making that easy on you!

Click the link to find a free stream of the Underground Railroad: Click me!

Free until March 22nd!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Typically, when I read one of Oprah's magazines, I pay attention to books she recommends. There have been hits and misses (she doesn't have the home runs like Books on the Nightstand had) but her interview with Colson Whitehead was very interesting. His new book, Underground Railroad, is historical fiction that re-imagines the Underground Railroad that we all (should) know as an actual railway system that spirits away slaves to freedom. I had never read any of Whitehead's book so I made a Goodreads note to try this out.

Then, Whitehead and this book were featured in the book review section of the New York Times. I can't possibly ignore this now, can I? This book is chasing me everywhere. I put myself in line for it at the library. And then, there it was on NPR. Alright! I'm getting it!

The actual underground railroad was a series of secret routes and safe houses.

In Whitehead's world, the railroad is literally underground and comes complete with station agents who help the escaped slaves continue on to a new life.

I don't want to make this book sound cute. It's not. It's brutal and painful to read. It may be fiction but it's based in history and what slaves endured is horrifying at best. The book follows Cora, a slave on the Randall plantation. Her grandmother, Ajarry, was kidnapped from Africa and brought over to work to the cotton fields. Ajarry had Mabel who had Cora. The chapters are broken up in a way that we learn about Ajarry, Mabel, Ridgeway (a slave catcher), Caesar (Cora's runaway companion), Ethel, etc. interspersed with chapters about the various states Cora ends up in.

Mabel is the only slave to have successfully escaped the Randall plantation. She left Cora behind and that has been burning inside Cora ever since she became a stray. When the somewhat decent but still bad Randall brother died, the absolutely horrible and tyrannical brother took over his plantation. This prompted Cora and Caesar to run away to freedom. Lovey, Cora's friend, realizing what they were doing, took after them to find freedom herself. After a skirmish with night hunters, Cora kills a young white boy who was trying to capture her. Caesar and Cora get away, Lovey does not. We find out Lovey's fate later in the book.

Once Caesar and Cora find the first tunnel to the railway station, they are on their way to South Carolina. From here, the book follows Cora as she assumes a new identity, works for wages and tries to make a life. Ridgeway, the slave catcher who failed to catch Mabel, is not letting Cora get away.

Being that this is fiction, I am very curious if the chapter about North Carolina is true. While all of the book is difficult to read, the North Carolina chapter was particularly horrific. I've never been able to wrap my mind around how people could be considered property and how humans could treat other humans so badly. Yet there it is, in our history, repeated over and over and over again continuing on to present day.

I've said a few times that this book is hard to read. It is but it's worth the read. Our history is painful and it should never be shoved under the rug because we don't want to acknowledge how horrible our ancestors acted towards other human beings. Whitehead hit this one out of the park. Thank you for writing this, Mr. Whitehead!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Full of Life by John Fante

When I really love an author, I try to find out who inspires the author because chances are very good I'll love their inspiration as well.

When I found at the Charles Bukowski was inspired by John Fante, I picked up a few of Fante's books and started reading. I, once again, show my skill for picking books out of order because I don't realize they are a series and read Ask the Dust right off. Way back in 2006, I remember enjoying the story a great deal but wondering how Bukowski was influenced by Fante.

I found Full of Life in my stacks and decided to get back to Fante. Almost 10 years later, here's what I see now: Fante is a storyteller and the story is every day life. In the three books I've now read, Fante shows us his life as a struggling writer who finds some success. I do feel, now, that Fante and Bukowski are branches on the same tree (maturity on my part? who knows).

Full of Life gives us a snippet of Fante's life with his very pregnant and emotional wife, Joyce. An atheist, something about having a baby turns her to Roman Catholicism, and she insists on John joining her. Already a lapsed Catholic, John doesn't immediately run back to church.

By this time, Fante has sold some books and has some money. He also, unfortunately, has bought a house with termites. He fetches his father, Nick, to help fix the damaged flooring. Nick is a dramatic curmudgeon who truly loves his son but gives absolutely no end of grief to Fante.

So here we go. Basic life as told by Fante. No explosions. No mysteries to solve. No plot, really, to speak of. It's a book, and author, worth reading.

The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide by Francine Jay

So, per Goodreads, I started this in April 2016 and finished it February 2017. Don't let that influence you that this was a bad book!

Around 2014, I got a desperate need to purge things from my house that I no longer needed. I was shoved in this direction by my friend's sudden death and all of her things left undone, with her family sorting through her belongings. I really felt the urge to get my space organized and minimized. I was on a good kick for a while (paycheck stubs from my first ever job at 17 years old? Yeah...gotta go!) but lost my steam. Everything seemed very overwhelming. And my house continued to feel very FULL.

I downloaded this book on a recommendation and appreciated the breaking down of the pieces of getting rid of clutter and keeping it away. The reason it took so long to finish is because I was putting it down and going to a room and starting to declutter. See? It works!

Jay tackles every room and occasion (including your wedding clutter, if you have it) as well as mental clutter. Becoming a minimalist in body, soul and home is an aspiring thing. I'm happy that I've already made some good changes, but looking around, I have a ways to go.

Moving forward towards that minimalist lifestyle!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Chase by Janet Evanovich

The second in the Fox and O'Hare series. While some of the circumstances these two get into are a bit far-fetched, I love them. I love that Kate is a kick ass woman who doesn't need saving and that her ideas are often the ones that "save the day". These two characters really work well together and play off of each other nicely.

The Heist is all about a bronze rooster. Donated by the Chinese and living in the Smithsonian, the Chinese want it back. They send someone to come get it and while, normally, this isn't a problem, it's a problem. The rooster at the museum is a fake and we can't send a fake back to China, can we? Enter Fox and O'Hare, to steal back the real rooster and replace the fake before the rooster heads to China.

They are up against an asshole of a guy who is basically a rich, well protected jerk who buys stolen art. Thankfully, Fox and O'Hare know how to handle him. Which they do in quite a clever way, until the asshole, Carter Grove, realizes he's been robbed of the rooster. He sends an assassin their way, the Chinese pick up guy arrives early and the fake rooster is already on it's way to China and ....well, heck breaks loose.

Kate and Nick....they got it handled.

I'm enjoying this series more and more. Can't wait to get on to the next one.