April Books

14. Where’d You Go Bernadette – Maria Semple
15. Today Will Be Different – Maria Semple – Both books were excellent, and I may have a new author to keep tabs on. I haven’t had that since Chuck Palahniuk over 15 years ago. They both take place in Seattle, with a tie in of the same school being featured in both, but they are not a series. Quirky female leads star, without being the typical bang wearing ukelele playing hipster nerdy quirky girl we’ve gotten used to (Eleanor and Park, Star Girl, Zoe whatshername Deshanel?) The storytelling style made you want to keep reading, and I finished “Today” in less than 3 days (another thing I haven’t done in years and years). They weren’t mind blowing, twist filled, stories like Palahniuk’s were, to grab my attention, they were just so well written, and entertaining. Loved.
16. Incontinent on the Continent – Jane Christmas – (non fiction) A travel memoir of a mid 50s woman taking her elderly disabled mother to Italy for 6 weeks. It was amusing, and sometimes sad, and sometimes funny. I can’t imagine what kind of insanity took over to even think that a trip like that was a good idea. In 20 years when I’m in my mid 50s, and my mom, if still alive is mid 80s, I can’t think of a worse idea than to try to go on vacation to Europe with her for a week, let alone 6 weeks.
17. Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson – (non fiction) Interesting book, with lots of history and environmental info, about hiking the Appalachian Trail.
18. The Lost City of the Monkey God – Douglas Preston – (non fiction) Enjoyed this very much. Story of the rediscovery of a jungle city in Honduras, and the trials and disease the team faced in finding and excavating it. Fascinating.

March Books

9. My Seinfeld Year by Fred Stoller – a very short Kindle published “book” about the author’s year on the Seinfeld writing staff. He wrote the “soup is not a meal” episode. It wasn’t that interesting, but it was quick…more like a long magazine article.
10. How to kill 11 million people – Andy Andrews – a short essay published as a book, asking how the public could stand by while the Nazi’s killed so many, and why standing up for truth matters. Seemed a worthwhile read for the times.
11. Station eleven – Emily St John Mandel – a post apocalyptic book following a handful of interrelated characters as they survive through a flu pandemic that killed the majority of the world’s population. With so many end of times books out, it was a refreshing interesting page turner.
12. Hidden Figures – book the movie was based on, telling the story of the black women mathematicians working for the government in aeronautics. Good stuff.
13. The All Girl Filling Station – Fannie Flagg – one of my fav books ever is her Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man. This one didn’t approach the humor level, but it kept to her style of telling a story about strong women and women discovering themselves. An easy fun read.

book: ghetto girls

I use the overdrive app on my phone to borrow ebooks from my library. It’s pretty great. Browsing new book options after finishing the last Nazi book, I decided on Ghetto Girls. As I said, I was hoping for another Merivale Mall book. It was not that.

It was written by a black man, but it reads like it was written by a white suburban girl who’s only knowledge of ghetto life is from early 90 gangsta rap lyrics and watching Friday. In other words, I could have written it. Without getting into poor editing and continuity problems, it was tough. From the slang used, to the story line, it was out of a music video. In talking about it to Carolyn she said it almost sounds racist, if it hadn’t been written by a black man. And she’s right. It’s like a caricature. 2 thugs raping young girls, gang banging a stripper, doing drugs, shooting people who “do them wrong”. 3 young girls in a singing and dance group trying to make it. Rich uncle based on Puff Daddy. Crack head informants. One of the girls killing herself after banging one of the thugs, who killed her boyfriend just before that. It was ridiculous. I finished it, but it had no real ending, because there are 5 books that follow, which I’m going to pass on. I have a long reading list to get to.

I am surely no ghetto expert, and I know these kinds of people did exist but….really? Apparently it was pushed as a must read (or something) in Essense magazine, and it did well. Ok great, it got people to read, perhaps people who don’t typically read, but it’s garbage. Surely “hip hop” literature has something more to offer their target audience than this.

Unless I completely misread it and it was meant to be a lighthearted comedy. But it was pretty dramatic for a comedy.

Books: I sense a theme

I’m stuck in a subject. Nazi books. I feel like given the current political climate, I need to know about the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. I’ve just finished my 4th, 3 non-fiction and one novel. First was “In The Garden of Beasts” about the American ambassador in Berlin as Hitler became Chancellor. Next was “Night”, which I read in school at some point, but thought I should remind myself of the horrors of the Holocaust. Followed by the novel “Mischling” which centered around twins who were used in Nazi experiments. Most recently, I finished “The Nazi Officer’s Wife”, a memoir of a Jewish woman who spent the war “underground” with a false identity, and ended up getting married to a Nazi.

It’s amazing how many things sound parallel, which I screen shot (since these were all ebooks from the library) and post to facebook. Some things sound trivial, like Hitler being concerned with his crowds, but IT’S ALL THE SAME AS NOW! ugh.

Because of Mischling, I bought one of the books it used as reference, The Nazi Doctors, the psychology of genocide. Something like that. But I needed to lighten things up a bit, so I found a book called Ghetto Girls from the library so I’m tackling that… LOL….as I said to Carolyn I was hoping it was “Merivale Mall” with black girls. It’s not quite that, but it is as badly written/edited. Even thought it’s apparently written by a black man from NYC, it reads like it was written by a white girl who’s knowledge of the ghetto is rap lyrics. It’s as if *I* wrote it purely from Death Row rappers songs from 1992. The slang, the activities…or maybe gangsta rap really did reflect the realities of ghetto life!

January/February Books

1. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
2. Dust – Hugh Howie
3. Mischling – Affinity Konar
4. Ghetto Girls – Anthony J Whyte
5. Shit My Dad Says – entertaining book by the guy who created the Shit My Dad Says twitter.
6. Night by Elie Wiesel – I’ve read it before, high school or college I can’t remember, but I thought I needed to read it again as a reminder.
7. Floodmarkers by Nic Brown – a novel about a single town during Hurricane Hugo. Not quite what I expected from the description, it was supposed to be a book about the people of the town and how they all are connected. Which I guess it was, but it wasn’t a full story – each chapter being about a single character, with only a few getting more than one chapter to flesh out their story. They don’t overlap the way I was expecting, with just passing mentions of some of the others. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I wanted. At least it was short.
8. A Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) – I’ve never described myself as a mystery reader, but I guess I do like them, and I quite enjoy JK’s detective series.

Books: Dust

A few years ago the short story/novella “Wool” by Hugh Howey was recommended to me. It was post apocalyptic, which I love, and available as an ebook (self published I think) on amazon. I loooooved it. I recommended it to everyone (with varying results). I thought the twist was fantastic, and its popularity lead to Howey writing 4 follow up stories, later published together as the Wool Omnibus. It continued the story, and added to the mystery, but nothing was as thrilling as just reading that first part on it’s own.

He then added a prequel, “Shift”, 3 more novellas combined into an omnibus, followed by “Dust”, an epilogue. I just finally got around to reading them.

“Shift” explains the world that created the silos and “Dust” continues the story at the end of “Wool”. They were both worth reading, but still not as mind blowing as “Wool 1”.

People may be tempted to read them in the chronological order of the story, but I don’t think that’s the intent. Starting with “Shift” would be really confusing, as I think it assumes you know about the world of “Wool” already, especially as you get past the “First Shift” portion. And it gives away some of the twists and surprises of “Wool” which made it so good.

It had been years since I read “Wool”, I sort of feel like I should have read it again first, as I forgot a lot of the details beyond the main plot, which would have helped. Part of me is still confused about the reasoning behind The Legacy and The Pact. Perhaps more will be coming. It’s a good series though, and I recommend it for anyone who likes apocalyptic fiction.

Books! “Born to Run”

It’s a new year, and a year since I redid this page. I don’t think I came anywhere near posting as much as I wanted to, or about the things I wanted to. But since no one reads it, I suppose it doesn’t matter. But I have a resolution! I’m going to post about every book I read this year. So let’s start now.

“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen

I like memoirs, or auto-bios, non-fiction travel stories, etc, so when this book showed up on Overdrive as available from my library I “borrowed” the ebook. I appreciate Bruce Springsteen’s talent, and I enjoyed seeing him live several years ago with LeighAnne, but I really know nothing about him other than he came from Freehold NJ. The book isn’t a play by play of every year of his life, with every little detail like a bio by someone else may be, but he tells his story very well. It’s his life story, covering the important moments that created him and his career, and it is sooooo very well written. I know a lot of auto-bios are ghost written, but given how good he is at songwriting I assumed he actually wrote it himself, and it does appear to be so. There were some parts, some lines, that were like poetry. A ghost writer, no matter how good, I don’t think would have been able to tell Bruce’s story this way. It was interesting to hear about his struggles with depression, and how he works through it all. It was a memoir worth reading.

Tell All

Finished reading Tell All by Chuck Palahniuk….I used to call him my favourite author, but when you only like 3 of 10 books by said author, can he really be your favourite? I keep giving him another chance to produce brilliance and it just falls short.

Tell All is about a woman who essentially takes care of an aging movie star. I *think* it takes place in the past…in the golden age of the silver screen. The book is written like a gossip column, with lots of name dropping, text of the names emphasized, and really it’s lots and lots and LOTS of names from the past, most whom I didn’t know. The aging movie star meets a young stud, and the narrator warns her not to “fall” for him because he’s just using her to make a name for himself when she dies. That’s it, mostly.

It’s in 3 acts, and then several chapters in each. Act one could be 2 chapters, but instead is like, 15. It’s extremely boring, repetitive, with no plot. The plot doesn’t kick in until Act 2, with only a little bit of Act 1 intro needed. Then Act 2, which has a plot, is just as repetitive. Act 3 (which I didn’t realize had started), has a minor twist, but one that is not all that shocking or unexpected. Not like the way I was blown away with the twist of Invisible Monsters.

It is not funny, or slightly amusing, or clever. It’s unfortunately not really worth reading. It just annoyed me. I’d recommend passing on it.

possibly the worst book i ever read

One day I was surfing YouTube and some Michael Jackson conspiracy video (possibly how the Illuminati killed him, or how he predicted 9/11) had a link to the web page for this book, “Michael Jackson Backdoor to Neverland: Exposing the King of Pop’s SECRET Mindsets” and I thought “Ok, I’ll bite.” I found the website to be entertaining, and I figured, why not. I was hoping the book would be terribly amusing, but instead it was just terrible.

Where to even begin? I could point out inaccuracies, or pure idiocy on every page. Let’s start with something that I just found irritating. Mr Gautier claims that Michael Jackson was nicknamed “Bambi”…I’ve been a Jackson fan for over half of my life, and do not remember him ever being called Bambi. But that’s ok, maybe I just missed that along the way, no big deal. But Mr Gautier insists on calling Jackson “Bambi”, “The Thriller”, or just “MJ” throughout the book which is not only disrespectful but completely unprofessional.

As for the content, Mr Gautier bases his arguments about Jackson’s “secret mindsets” on single lines from interviews out of context, information from Jackson’s ghost written auto-biography, and questionable books from supposed associates of Jackson. Not only are his theories about Jackson’s mental state completely “out there” with no evidence, and no basis in real psychology, his facts are sometimes COMPLETELY wrong (see also: page 120, writing about the 2005 criminal trial and describing Janet Arvizo’s testimony regarding how she urged her children to lie in a previous lawsuit, suddenly he claims it’s the Chandler family, which is incorrect).

Really, this book is a joke. I find it hard to believe that Mr Gautier has any formal training in psychology, as claimed. He insists that Jackson thought of himself as an orphan, the son of a king, that he WAS a king, that he was suicidal and murderous, and that he hates his family and worked to ruin their careers (all with zero evidence). He claims Jackson bought the ATV music catalog, which includes The Beatles catalog, and others for ego reasons (it couldn’t possibly have been a good business move) and he married Lisa Marie Presley to symbolically “dethrone” the King.

Lines such as “And with his shortened pants, MJ seems to tell us: My body has grown too fast, but my heart is still that of a child! These shortened pants similarly reflect an asexuality common to fairytales, comics or cartoon characters.” make you think to yourself, “seriously??” And it only gets worse, with the author trying to make a comparison between Jackson and Elvis Presley based on the fact that Elvis had a twin who died, and Jackson had a brother with a twin who died, and comparing Jackson to Aleister Crowley.

I would love to get into more of the insane and idiotic things in this book, but it’s making my head hurt and I don’t want to have to read it again to find the choicest paragraphs to speak about. I can only warn you that the book doesn’t even deserve 1 star. It was in no way amusing or entertaining, definitely not enlightening or educational, and while reading it I just kept thinking, “Really? Seriously? How did this even get published?”

Please don’t waste your time on this garbage.

the michael jackson conspiracy

a few weeks ago Laura mentioned that the Discovery ID channel has a show called True Crime with Aphrodite Jones which was doing an episode on the Michael Jackson trial. She is a true crime author and reporter who covered the trial for Fox News (i think – don’t hold that against her haha). the show was a 1 hour overview of all the problems that the DA’s case against him had, and went through the evidence (or “evidence”) and how the aquittal came about. Laura mentioned that she had the book Aphrodite Jones had written called Michael Jackson Conspiracy and she let me borrow it.

The book is based upon all of the trial transcripts and officially submitted evidence. Jones wrote the book because once the trial was over she realized that the media’s coverage of the entire trial was completely biased to the prosecution, and that the media had already convicted MJ and only reported things that would make people believe he had done the crimes. They ignored, or glossed over all of the many many holes in the prosecution’s case, as well as testimony from defense witnesses that supported MJ. So the book goes through the entire trial, all the major witnesses, and does a really good job at showing that MJ was innocent.

The Arvizo family who made the accusations are/were nutcases, and that is really really clear in the transcripts of their testimony. Especially the mother. It is pretty obvious they were targeting various celebrities to give them money and “stuff” by using Gavin’s cancer to make people feel bad for them. It wasn’t just MJ….MJ was just the most naive, and most easily taken advantage of. And of course, there is the seed that was planted in 1993 that he was a child molester which makes it that much easier to target him.

Now when I became a fan in 95 and learned about the 93 allegations, I decided they weren’t true. Having read the GQ article “Was Michael Jackson Framed?” http://www.buttonmonkey.com/misc/maryfischer.html it’s pretty clear that the Chandler family (or maybe just Evan, do not RIP) was pretty shady and out to extort money from MJ. Well they succeeded and MJ was branded as a pedophile despite the fact that a settlement does not imply guilt (in fact, in Jones book, his defense attorney thinks the reason for the settlement was that MJs handlers thought that $20 million was a drop in the bucket compared to what MJ would earn through tours and merchandise if he wasn’t involved in a trial…and thus money THEY would be making as well). Having one family succesfully extort money from MJ, and MJ’s continued preference to spend time with children and help those in need…the door was left open for other opportunists to show up. And that’s what the Arvizos did.

I’m not sure that their initial intention was to bilk him of millions through a settlement…or that they even planned ahead to accuse him of molestation, but it is totally clear that they were using him and other celebrities (George Lopez, Jay Leno and Chris Tucker testified about the family in the trial). MJ made it convenient for people to take advantage of him.

The book was very interesting, and included some things that were a bit surprising to me.
1. MJ was a porn freak. LOL this is not something I ever expected to hear about him, as to me, I never thought he was gay, I just thought he was asexual. He could dance sexily on stage and in videos, but in real life it just didn’t seem to me that he was that interested in any one, men or women. But apparenly he had quite the collection of porn mags kept in briefcases in the back of his closet. I guess he had a thing for playboy and hustler LOL. Well good for him, makes him seem like a normal dude. Now if only he had some Girls Gone Wild dvds in his collection….
2. MJ drank alot of alcohol. Again, this is not something I expected to hear because he always said that he didn’t drink or do drugs (well I guess we know now he was a bit of a drug addict). In trying to make the case that MJ was giving alcohol to kids, it came out that he drank on flights, he drank in his room, he drank with guests…he drank. Wine, vodka, tequila, jack daniels…The DA wasn’t able to prove that MJ ever gave the Arvizo kids alcohol, and in fact witnesses stated that the kids had broken into MJ’s wine cellar on their own.

Something not quite as surprising, as I always suspected it…MJ seemed to not have a clue what people around him were doing. The DA tried to make the case that MJ held the Arvizos hostage, or conspired to…which…even without knowing anything about the trial and evidence always seemed preposterous. The book makes it clear the charge was pretty much entirely made up by Janet Arvizo. But in the testimony, witnesses talked about MJs handlers, and how it seemed that they did whatever they wanted, were greedy, and MJ didn’t know what was going on. It always kinda seemed like that to me, because the last 15 years were filled with alot of seemingly bad ideas.

Since the book used the court transcripts and official evidence, it’s pretty clear why the jury acquitted MJ of all charges. The DA just wasn’t able to prove anything, and the things that they considered to be “smoking guns”, Tom Meserau (MJ’s lead lawyer) poked full of holes. The media made it seem like it was an open and shut case, and that he was guilty, but in reality it was not even close.

Once again I am convinced of MJ’s innocence. I do have to admit when the accusations were made for a 2nd time, I had to give pause to really think if he was capable of it. But it’s clear that both the Chandlers and Arvizos were looking for cash. MJ made it easy for them to try to get it.

I have to wonder though…if he had been conviced and gone to jail, would he still be alive? Would it matter if he was alive, but in jail? I suppose not, since even when he got out, I doubt anyone would have supported him or his career after that. I always thought he’d die in jail if he had gone, or comitted suicide, but maybe he was stronger than we all think. Or if this accusation and trial had never happened, would he have had so many problems that led to his insomnia and Conrad Murray and the propofol. What if the 93 allegations had never happened, would he have continued to be the massive superstar he was in the 80s and early 90s, or would his career have dropped off for some other reason. I would really love to hear from Jordie Chandler, as he would not cooperate with the 05 trial in any way…Clear MJ’s name, from the horses mouth, because the general public is never going to read this book, and never going to know the truth.