Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The End of Normal

Just finished reading this nonfiction piece for book club - could not put it down. I fully expected to not like it because I was so skeptical of Stephanie Madoff Mack's story. I'm still kind of skeptical, but now I also just feel bad about the whole thing.

This goes through Stephanie meeting her husband, Mark Madoff, falling in love, having a family, being rich and peaceful - and then having the bottom drop out. Mark, upon finding out about his father's business wrongdoings, turns him over to the authorities. From there, their lives are put on hold as things are sorted out. They have to deal with public fall out, anger, media, lawsuits. Stephanie points out that her husband ran the legitimate end of the Madoff business and had no idea about Bernie's ponzi scheme. However, I'm still not sure about all of that.

About 70% of the way through the book, Mark, no longer able to deal with the pressure, commits suicide, leaving Stephanie and two very young children to cope with what is left.

The family dynamics throughout are rocky and uncomfortable (though Stephanie and Mark seem normal enough). Once the Madoff scheme is unveiled, it goes to drama town quickly. And there are a lot of relationships to deal with in this book - none of them are easy. Makes me happy for my own family and our non-scandalous savings accounts/investments.

I started this book around 12am while Jason was traveling and finished it around 2:30. It's a quick read. I kept saying - I'll stop at the next chapter - but the chapters were so interesting I didn't want to put it down. Truthfully, I had no interest in the family before reading this, I still don't; it's a riveting look at sociology. Read it!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dead Reckoning

The year is 1867. Jett Gallatin, age seventeen, has one mission: find her missing twin brother. Posing as a gunslinger, Jett pretends to be a man in order to travel freely while on her quest. While having a drink at a saloon in a small Texas town, Jett comes face to face with a hoard of the undead. She narrowly escapes the zombies, but is able to flee with the help of her trusty steed. Her exodus from town leads her directly to some unlikely allies: a scout for the U.S.Army, White Fox, and a liberated woman inventor/investigator/scientist, Honoria Gibbons. Gibbons doesn’t believe Jett’s story about the undead, it is not scientifically possible. There has to be a logical explanation. Using White Fox’s tracking skills, they find that the hoard returned to a local ranch, Jerusalem’s Wall. All three begin different aspects of investigation: Gibbons finds out about how Jerusalem’s Wall has been acquiring large tracts of land. Gibbons also finds something suspicious in the town’s drinking supplies. Jett and White Fox investigate the farm itself and find that the leader of the sect, Brother Shepherd, claims to be able to raise the dead. Using their combined talents, they have to figure out how to stop Brother Shepherd and his zombies before it is too late.

Secret Letters

Dora is a proper young English woman who has discovered
something scandalous about her past: Sherlock Holmes
is her biological father.
When Dora's cousin,
Adelaide, seeks out Holmes to help
her with a blackmail issue, Dora, a budding sleuth herself,
jumps at the chance to travel to the city to meet the great detective.
Upon arrival at Holmes' door, however, Dora finds that
Sherlock Holmes is dead.
She is bereft, but after a few fiery words with Homes' apprentice,
Peter Cartwright, she is able to recover.
Adelaide still needs help and uses the services of another
detective, one that Peter Cartwright has recommended.
Through some unintentional snooping, Dora finds herself
embroiled in a kidnapping case. She decides to go undercover
in order to help Peter, but also,
to get to the bottom of
Adelaide's predicament - the two cases
are tied together.
Dora uses her skills to piece together the truth behind the mysteries,
but not before putting herself in danger.
She, of course, prevails and solves the case.
She and Peter have a romantic thing that starts up,
but the author leaves untied ends, perhaps hinting at a sequel?

Violins of Autumn

Violins of Autumn begins with British trained spy Adele paratrooping into occupied France during World War II. She links up with the French Resistance and begins her work, deconstructing the German stronghold in France. Adele and her spy pal, Denise, end up saving a downed pilot and getting him safely into the city of Paris. They are separated for awhile and have to find their own way of getting established in Paris, but are eventually drawn back together. Moving from city to countryside, they find themselves involved in one precarious situation after another, anxiously awaiting the code words that will signal the start of D-Day. Eventually, Adele is captured, tortured, and starved, but gives up no information that will help the Germans. After months and months in captivity, her friends are able to rescue her and return her to safety. Not long after, the Allied powers retake France and all is well; a nice tidy package with a happy ending. With tidbits of accurate historical information peppered among her harrowing tale, readers will be drawn into the intense situations in which Adele repeatedly finds herself.

Fifty Shades of Grey

One of my sister's good friends recommend that I read this book at the exact same time that my cousin recommended it.
Two recommendations and lots of media hype = something I had to look into.

Christian Grey is into some kinky bedroom business. He always has been. He even has a contract for all future love interests to read and consent to before getting down to brass tacks (or whatever other tricks he has up his red-room sleeve...).
When Christian meets Anastasia, he immediately hopes to make her a conquest. However, negotiations and other matters take them further down the relationship course than he's ever been.

Fifty Shades of Grey is book one of a trilogy and I will say that I picked up book one on a Monday and finished the set by Thursday. The premise didn't seem too outlandish or preposterous. It even sparked up a few conversations (and I do mean conversations) between me and my husband about relationships.

Definitely worth the read. I hear, too, that the movie rights have been purchased. I don't know how on earth they would make this into a movie, will be something to keep an eye on in the future.

Grace and Power

My scholarly friend, JP, recommended Grace and Power, so I digitally checked it out from the library (very cool!). This follows the trail of the Kennedy's from the beginning of their White House stay until John F. Kennedy's untimely death.

I imagined the Kennedy's to have a great marriage and to be such a shining beacon, kind of the like the Camelot allegory they created. Turns out that their White House was something far different. Smith's patchwork of memos and biographical information from primary sources shows the Kennedy's more as petulant teenagers than leaders of the country. JFK's drug use, womanizing, and alcohol consumption left me wondering how he was able to run the country at all. Sheesh! It was disappointing to see the unvarnished Kennedys, but also interesting. We always look back at things with nostalgia and yet, I suppose the world is no different today than it was back in the 60s, STDs and all...

Easter Reading

The usual rotation of night-night reading goes: Punk Farm, Llama Llama Red Pajama, Are You My Mother, etc...and we have been stuck on some semblance of that line up for AGES.
I decided it was time to spruce up W's bedside table with some Easter/Springtime reading, and it has worked so far! Here is an annotated look at what we are reading.

Dewdney, Anna. Llama Llama Nighty-Night. 2012. .12pp. $5.99 hc. Penguin Young Readers Group. 9780670013272.

In traditional Llama Llama fashion and rhyme scheme, we run down the list of night night chores before falling into bed with one final "nighty-night" from mama. I like this abbreviated version of the Llama tale (12 pages!), with all of the same colorful cuteness.

Hills, Tad. Duck and Goose: Here Comes the Easter Bunny. 2012. .18pp. $6.99 hc. Random House, Inc. 9780375972808.

If you like Duck and Goose tales, this one is cute. Duck and Goose find out that the Easter Bunny is on the way and they want to hide in order to catch him...but all of their hiding places are lacking imagination. Thistle gives them a great disguise, but they end up falling asleep and missing the Bunny all together. Luckily, the Easter Bunny still leaves lots of fun eggs to help Duck and Goose celebrate.

Katz, Karen. Where Are Baby's Easter Eggs? 2008. .12pp. $7.99 hc. Simon and Schuster, Inc. 9781416949244.

It is baby's first Easter egg hunt, and she looks all over the yard trying to uncover those eggs! She finds an Easter basket, some chicks and bunnies, a few jelly beans, a bonnet, and finally, the eggs. This is a lift-a-flap book, which makes the search for the eggs more entertaining. Eggs are different colored foil, very bright and cheerful, but not easy to destruct.

Loupy, Christophe and Eve Tharlet. Hugs and Kisses. .2001. 12pp. $6.95 hc. North South Books. 9780735820197.

Hugs (the puppy) wants to know more about kisses, so he enlists the help of the farm animals to show him. Each page has a textured patch to touch, which keeps the book interactive for your little squirt.

Magsamen, Sandra. Peek-a-Book, I Love You. .2009. 10pp. $7.99 hc. Little Brown & Company. 9780316003896.

These lift a flap books really keep W interested in the story. "What's under there?" he wants to know! Who is hiding all over the house? My favorite things, including YOU baby. Very cute and easy to read.

Magsamen, Sanda. Peep, Peep, I Love You. .2012. 10pp. $7.99 hc. Little Brown & Company. 9780316070065.

What animals are on the farm? These mamas and babies tell you all about it - but the favorite baby is still...YOU! The lift a flap tabs in this book contain animal sounds. Fun.