My laptop is dying, after only three years. I'm on my phone at the moment, but it is difficult to post much this way. Hopefully all my data - thousands of baby pictures of my girl, and my book!! - can be saved, and a new hard drive installed. Until then, I won't be posting much, which absolutely guts me. But I will be responding to all comments as soon as I can, thank you!
This week's topic is "Series I Don't Plan To Finish". At first I was not going to participate, because the books I read do not come in a series. I rarely read fiction. But, the more I thought about it, the more I decided to share a not-so-secret secret: I dig some cozy mysteries. I am tweaking the topic this week to fit my parameters, and it is about the one cozy mystery series I will read until the bitter end.
Cozy mysteries in general are often exactly what I need when I am in a rut and can not interest myself in any of the 4,000 books on my TBR. So, using BookBub, I stumbled across this little gem of a series Mercy Watts by A. W. Hartoin. So, being honest, I kind of hated the first book. I gave it a 2 Star rating based almost exclusively on the fact that the author really screwed up her presentation of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Lincoln in general. I raged on the book pretty hard for those mistakes, but I also kept reading because I kind of had a thing for Mercy's hot cop not-cousin, Chuck. Yes, I have a book boyfriend. (And they are not actually cousins. Her uncle married his mom and they got divorced like, two years later.)
As the series has gone on, it has greatly improved. There are some inconsistencies that bug the ever-loving crap out of me, such as when Mercy and Chuck became not-cousins (ages vary, like the author has not done her own research on her own characters). There are others too, but I overlook them because I heart Chuck so. And Mercy isn't half bad either, once I started to get to know the character. There have also been some pretty interesting cases and the author has a talent for the genre. Some of those discrepancies just need to be fixed, and then it will be a pretty darn good series.
Here they are, in order even. Check Amazon for a deal. I got the boxed set at one point for $.99 that included the first short, and books 1, 2, and 3.
6 7 8
I absolutely CAN NOT wait for book 9. Or a short, or SOMETHING. Who would've guessed, right??
The summary given on Goodreads says this book "contains detailed case summaries on some of the high profile shootings that have taken place and examines the shooters in detail." That part might be accurate, but not once are we given so much as a footnote to tell us where the author got any of her information. There is no bibliography, no resources, and much of the information contained could probably be found on most Wikipedia pages for the shooters. The author makes huge leaps of judgment, with zero research to back up anything she is claiming. It is true that the author takes quite a detailed look at each shooter, but once I came upon the section for Columbine and read several incorrect statements, it made me question just how accurate the information was in any of the other sections. Columbine was a big deal for me, as a sophomore in high school at the time, and having to deal with the aftermath and the multiple bomb threats called in through the end of the year. While we're on that subject, I think this is an important distinction to make. Klebold and Harris were not school shooters, they were failed school bombers. It might sound silly in the aftermath, because innocent victims still lost their lives, but so often Columbine has been held up by would-be shooters as the Gold Standard of mass school shootings. Klebold and Harris FAILED in what they attempted to do, which was to detonate bombs in the cafeteria and kill as many people as possible. But, by looking at them as school shooters, they come off looking pretty successful. Let's stop doing that, okay?
I was unfamiliar with most of these shootings, which I suppose is a good thing because the less attention we give to these scumbags, the better. At first I appreciated what seemed like fantastic attention to detail in creating a portrait of the shooters before their "rampages". But as I said, once I got to the Columbine entry, I saw many errors. Still, there are common denominators throughout for most of the young men who carried out these deadly assaults. Many were bullied in one way or another, many had dysfunctional home lives, some were diagnosed with various disorders, some on meds and some not.
The summary of the book also says that "By examining previous shootings, however, it is possible to gain a general idea of actions and behaviors to look for when trying to recognize a potential shooter." This is also extremely important, something I recognize as necessary, being an educator myself. The thing is, the author again cites no research for the conclusions she has come to. There is literally NOTHING at the end of the book, besides the author's acknowledgments, and then an 'About The Author'. We are told here that the author enjoys all aspects of researching and writing...but we see no concrete proof of the research part. I could take this book so much more seriously had the author cited sources and quoted the massive tomes of research available today, based on all these shootings and a myriad of others. The writing itself was not terrible, but there were a few places that could have used a bit more polishing before publication. Sweeping generalizations were an issue, as was repetition from case to case. This came in multiple forms, mainly the woulda/coulda/shoulda that was discussed every time. If this had been reported, or parents had been notified of this, or this, that, or a million other things happened, maybe the shooting could have been prevented. Maybe, maybe not. When we go too far into scenarios like that, it feels to me like we are shifting some of the blame off the shooter and onto others. Ultimately, we are responsible for our own actions. This is obviously different for those with mental illnesses, and I am speaking solely of day-of occurrences. One thing the author does well is point out the dozens and dozens of red flags that were flying high leading up to the shootings. In some cases, friends knew ahead of time that "something" was going to happen. Some knew exactly what was going to happen. In those cases yes, those who knew bear some responsibility for not reporting what they knew. And good Lord, the amount of bullying that was ignored by so many. I was especially appalled by the gym teacher who supposedly joined in teasing one of the students and made him play with the girls during class. One, what a horrible human being. Two, what schools still have gym class divided by gender? The instances I am specifically speaking of were things such as, "If the school had notified the parents that so-and-so wasn't at school that day..." At that point, no, the blame rests solely on the ones who chose to commit murder. Playing that kind of what-if game does no one any good in any of these situations.
Here are a few examples of the issues that stood out most to me. They mainly come from the Columbine section, as that is the one I know the most about.
At 53% the author discusses Klebold being placed in a gifted and talented program. She also mentions a 'close' friend of Dylan's who had "fond memories" of their time in the program. This completely contradicts what Brooks Brown wrote in his own book about Columbine. Brown says the bullying was just as bad in the program, especially from the kids who had bought their way in as opposed to testing into it. The author states that Klebold thrived in the program, but again there is no source to say that this is accurate. Brown paints a much different picture, and it was not nearly as happy.
At 54% the author discusses Klebold and his older brother, saying that they had been close when they were younger, "but they had grown apart as they got older and Byron was an active participant in tormenting Dylan at school." Again...source? I have often wondered this, particularly when I read Klebold's mother's book about Columbine and the aftermath. And of course no mother would throw one son under the bus for another that turned into a killer, but I believe I recall something about them growing apart as they got older. Perhaps Byron did "torment" Dylan at school, but if someone is going to make a claim like that, it needs to be backed up with proof.
At 60% there was an error so glaring, I can not ignore it:
"Brooks Brown was heading outside to have a cigarette when he ran into Eric and Dylan in the parking lot. Irritated that they had cut class and missed a philosophy test, he started giving them a lecture, but was immediately silenced. Eric just looked at him and said, "It doesn't matter anymore. Brooks, I like you now. Get out of here. Go home." Something in his tone made Brooks uneasy, and he lit a cigarette and continued in the opposite direction. Though he was confused by their behavior, he had no idea that it would be the last time he would see Eric and Dylan alive."
Brooks never saw both young men. He only talked briefly to Eric in the parking lot. It is odd to me that the words Harris spoke to Brown are documented correctly, but the rest of the details surrounding those few words is not. Klebold parked in a different area and Brown states very clearly in his own book he only saw Eric when he was going out for a smoke. This seems like an easy thing to get right, so I have not explanation for this. Additionally, there was some repetitiveness here to be found in other sections. There is always some reference to each shooter "leaving home for the last time" or doing this or that for the last time. And this treatment is not only applied to the shooters, but to the victims also. So often said victims at first do not "grasp the gravity of the situation", or some other way of saying the victims don't fully comprehend yet what is happening around them.
I feel if there were to be massive changes to this book, for it to be updated with relevant material regarding sources and documentation, it could be a valuable tool for educators especially. However, in its current state, I can not recommend it at this time.
I was contacted by the publisher, Wise Ink Creative Publishing, and offered a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Rating: 3.5 Stars
This is a story that far too many women of all ages can relate to. For a multitude of reasons that are most often deeply private, there are women who are forced to make a decision that they don't want to make - to give a baby up for adoption. In the author's case she was eighteen at the time, and had just started college when she discovered she was pregnant. I can imagine how scary this would be to someone who is legally an adult, but has only recently struck out on their own for the first time, away from family. I connected to this story because, though I was not 18 at the time (I was 29), finding this out was so overwhelming for me. I too was far from my family and in a new city where I knew no one. I had just started a new job, so there had been many changes going on. My daughter's father and I had broken up the very week I found out I was pregnant with Eleanor. Luckily I was in a better situation - I already had two degrees and a secure job. Still, there were so many emotions that come along with "those three words", it was a rough couple of weeks. I never considered any option besides having and raising my child, but I received a lot of advice from a lot of people. I was simply better equipped to be able to do so, and I think Bauer made a gut-wrenching but correct choice.
The author's journey from considering suicide to making the decision to give her baby up for adoption was incredibly moving. This is a decision that will impact the rest of her life, and really is a testament to a mother's love. Bauer knew she was not capable of caring for a child when she was still a teenager herself. How could she, when she had just started college and had yet to gain the necessary knowledge and skills to obtain employment that would comfortably support herself and a child?
The aspect I was most interested in was when Bauer and her daughter, Katie, made contact later in life. I found this to be a great reinforcement of the decision Bauer made. Katie had been placed in a loving home and had thrived. I found myself worrying a bit that the reunion would not happen, or that Katie might not want to attempt a relationship. I think the fact that Katie's family was supportive of that relationship is another testament to that same parental love.
Here we go, a slew of reviews on books I have read recently and a few thoughts I want to share. When possible, books will be grouped in posts by subject.
Rating: 2 Stars
The cover is creepy AF though, right? I actually had to keep this one face-down when I was not reading it. It ended up being a tough one to rate at first, because some of the stories were really interesting, but the title was misleading. Some of the places discussed had nothing to do with the Underground Railroad. Other stories had great background and activity reported. Still others were simply stated, "We think the ghost might be a slave who helped others escape." I am of the opinion that when you don't have enough information to even provide much background, it is not a story to include. That is the very issue with writing about ghosts and the UGRR (as the author referred to it several times); we don't know so many of the names of the men, women, and children kept in captivity, worked to near-death. There is simply no way to ever recover those names. I did, however, appreciate the use of contemporary documents when they were available. It really aided those stories an fleshed them out a bit more.
The one flaw I can not forgive is the mention of Ghost Adventures being on SyFy. NO. Ghost HUNTERS is on SyFy. Ghost Adventures and that ridiculous are are on Travel (at least, when I had cable a few years ago, that was the case).
Rating: 3 Stars
I think I enjoyed the historical background as much, if not more then, some of these hauntings. There were tons of great places included - some of my favorites that have been investigated by my favorite team, Ghost Hunters. There were also plenty of places I was unfamiliar with, that would be amazing to explore.
My only complaint is relatively minor. In the introduction one of the authors discussed how the book was originally intended to be about hospitals, prisons, and such. They found that they had enough material on hospitals alone, which made sense. What did not make sense though, was the inclusion at the end of brief snippets related to a few prisons. I found this unnecessary because the authors could easily do the same, and write a new book focused just on haunted prisons.
Rating: 5 Stars
I could not put this one down. It still sends shivers down my spine when I think about it, and I read it a few months ago. This is one of the only paranormal books I have read that has thus far been able to spook me - to the point I turned on all the lights in the apartment just to read it. Yeah right, as if some light is going to stop a ghost from being spooky. I feel like one of the reasons it did get under my skin so was that it was about one location and incredibly in-depth. The documentation of the building as a former jail, the consistent reports of the activity going on there, made it so much more real - real enough to make the hairs on the back of neck stand up! I'd love to know so much more about the history of The Cage, but given the length of its existence, much of that has been lost to time. While I remain skeptical of certain communication techniques (dowsing rods, Ouija boards, anything easily manipulated by human touch), I still found much of their evidence credible.
The only thing I don't really understand is why the owner stayed so long, especially when her mother lived only two minutes away. There is no way on earth I could live there as long as she did, even with roommates. Not s chance. And I absolutely could not have been able to bring a newborn into that place. I'd have been moving out the minute I found out I was pregnant.
There you have it, my first set of mini reviews. Hopefully this strategy will help me be more productive.
A couple weeks ago I had a mini-freak out over just how behind I was on everything. Yes, EVERYTHING. I am writing a book about Eleanor of Aquitaine, which requires a lot of time and effort into research and writing, and the ability to speak Latin (which I can't. Yet.) I also strive to do quality reviews whether it is a book I picked up on my own, or it was one offered by an author or publisher. I also try to do weekly/monthly features (Top Ten Tuesday, Would You Rather..., First Line Friday, Stacking the Shelves, State of the ARC) to keep in contact with my fellow bloggers who I have come to know and enjoy conversing with. PLUS, my most important job is a full-time Momma to a scary-smart almost-five year old, while also teaching Special Education students who are diagnosed with emotional disturbances. Thank goodness it is summer vacation.
I appreciated the feedback I received from my 'regulars', and have realized that if I keep making this blog into a job, I am eventually going to lose my passion for it. I will burn out on the very thing that keeps me sane when my students are going through difficult things that I can't protect them from, and when my daughter has decided sleep is for the birds.
One of the changes I have decided to make is how I do reviews. It is tough for me to read a book and never write a thing about it. It is also becoming more difficult to write massive reviews touching on EVERY. SINGLE. ISSUE, positive or negative. Going forward, I am still going to review much of what I read, and will always provide a full-length review for ARCs received directly from authors or publishers. (This part will not necessarily be true for all ARCs from NetGalley, as I have to prioritize.) For books that have been published a few hundred reviews ago (and usually this means at least five years ago also), I will now be providing a shorter review. This may be just a few sentences. It might be a paragraph. OR, it might just be a yay or nay. I don't even know yet and for once, that kind of cavalier attitude toward reviewing feels incredibly refreshing. I will still aim to to be constructive (unless it is nonsense that deserves some snark), but this time in fewer words.
Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature co-hosted by Tynga's Reviews and Reading Reality. It is a chance to showcase all the goodies you've collected throughout the week, whether they're bought on-line or in-store, an ARC or a final copy, borrowed from a friend or the library, physical or digital, etc. Never has my addiction been more obvious than when I am now keeping track of every single book I acquire. I wasSO CLOSEto not hauling ANYbooks this week. But we went to the library on Thursday and they had a cart FULL of books that had been pulled from circulation and were available for patrons to take. What kind of monster says no to free books? (I had no cash on me at the time, but when I do I will be making a free-will donation for all of these lovelies - that way they can buy new books, AND pull more from circulation for me!)
The Scott Peterson one and Sybil Exposed are on my TBR at least, so that helps, right??
Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature co-hosted by Tynga's Reviews and Reading Reality. It is a chance to showcase all the goodies you've collected throughout the week, whether they're bought on-line or in-store, an ARC or a final copy, borrowed from a friend or the library, physical or digital, etc. Never has my addiction been more obvious than when I am now keeping track of every single book I acquire.
(Gift cards from Mom are the best!)
This almost never happens! ONLY TWO! And, these were actually ordered about a month ago and only arrived on Monday. What did you add to your stash this week?
This week's topic is "Books that awaken the travel bug in me". Safe to say this is another super easy one for me to throw together quick, seeing as how all the places and people I read about are real and I will actually get to see all of these places at some point in my life. One of my favorite types of non-fiction is a special little category I call 'City Biographies', so here are just a few of the many places I can't wait to visit, or visit again.
New York City
Only the Parts of France that Have to do With Eleanor of Aquitaine
England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland
(To visit again, especially London - had zero time in there and only saw Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath on a day trip outside London before flying home. Saw lots of Scotland and Ireland, and now just want to wander to see what I can find that is not typical of tourists, but travelers.)
The Middle East
All of Egypt
Let me know what you think, and leave a link to your TTT so I can stop by and visit.
(If you did not see my previous post, this week is Vacation Bible School at church. I will do my very best to get around to your blogs ASAP, but it may not be as quick as usual. Thanks for understanding!)