Saturday, December 31, 2016

Red: A History of the Redhead by Jacky Colliss Harvey

  • THE BOOK
    • Red: A History of the Redhead by Jacky Colliss Harvey
    • Published June 9, 2015
    • First book by author. Upcoming book in 2017 My Life as a Redhead: A Journal

  • THE PREMISE
    • A history of red hair and its genetics with special emphasis on art and culture.
    • The author herself is a redhead and also includes a few personal stories about it, including her trip to the Netherlands for Redhead Day.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I am not a redhead myself but I know several: my best friend, her daughter, my husband's grandmother, one of our nieces and her children. I can't think of anyone on my side of the family who is a natural redhead though so we must not have the gene for it.
    • This was an interesting book and had some interesting information on the subject.
      • Red hair is a genetic mutation that seems to have helped as humans moved into the areas of the planet with less sunshine. Pale skin often goes along with red hair and this helps the body take in more Vitamin D.
        • Unfortunately, it also means more incidences of skin cancers.
        • Many red-haired people have different pain tolerances than brown-, black- or blond-haired folk: some studies say more tolerant, some say less.
      • It tended to show more strongly in populations on the edges of civilization, hence why it shows more in the Scots, Irish and other Northern European groups. It also existed in Jewish populations as they generally didn't marry outside their religion in centuries past.
        • Smaller populations give the genes more chances to express themselves.
      • With red hair came generalizations in history: 
        • Wimpier men (probably due to their pale skin which was somehow considered less manly. 
        • Bad tempered, males and females both.
        • Sexually aggressive females.
      • Many artworks feature redheads, at a greater percentage of the general population.
        • It is supposed that painters just liked painting redheads more because it was more challenging or they just liked mixing red paints.
        • Mary Magdalene was almost always painted with red hair even though The Bible does not mention her hair color at all.
          • She was often portrayed as a fallen woman, thus the sexual aggressiveness generalization meant she had to be red-haired.
    • The author, based on her own experience and her interviews of other redheads, thinks that most children disliked their red hair color as children, when people tease them about it or often comment on it, but love having red hair as adults because it stands out more.
      • Red hair dye shades are supposedly the most popular colors purchased today.
    • Fun, quick read, but lots of art history is covered. Paintings are mentioned and while some are included in the photos section of the book not all are. I looked up a few so I could follow along more easily.
    • Recommended for those interested in art, culture and the existence of red hair.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

I'm Your Biggest Fan by Kate Coyne

  • THE BOOK
    • I'm Your Biggest Fan: Awkward Encounters and Assorted Misadventures in Celebrity Journalism by Kate Coyne
    • Published June 14, 2016
    • First book by author

  • THE PREMISE
    • The author has worked for the New York Post's "Page Six" column and Good Housekeeping editor and currently works at People Magazine as Executive Editor.
    • This is her story of a career as a celebrity journalist. Lots of stories about different A-list celebs in every chapter: Tom Cruise, Michael Douglas, Neil Patrick Harris, Mariska Hargitay, Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Jennifer Lopez, and more. Some are not quite A-list: Kate Gosselin rates a chapter too as reality stars invade the celeb world.
    • It also documents how magazines changed their cover focus once celebrities learned that appearing on the cover of Good Housekeeping was a good thing. 
      • Twenty-six million readers!
      • More people will buy a cover with a celebrity on it than with just a still life of Halloween pumpkins or Easter eggs or what have you.
      • Now try to find a magazine that features any kind of celebrities without a celeb on the cover. Good luck!

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • The author's gossipy and frank stories about her bosses and the celebrities she meets are lots of fun to read. So many of these types of books might tend towards coy rather than dish the goods. This author dishes everything, including her own missteps over the course of her career.
      • Nothing is terribly mean, just amusing accounts of how certain celebrities behave better than others.Just like regular people!
      • Some celebrities come off better than I expected. 
        • I'm not a big Tom Cruise fan but he does seem like a nice guy here. 
        • George Michael --- can't believe he's gone now --- was awfully kind to the author when she was an awkward teen.
        • Even Kate Gosselin engenders sympathy as she navigates her new kind of celebrity: the reality star.
      • Some not so much.
        • Kate Gosselin's ex-husband. 
        • After interviewing Mariska Hargitay the author is invited to her home to join in charades night. Mariska even asks for her phone number to make arrangements but then never calls. Why would she ask for a phone number and then never call?! I guess she just got caught up in the moment because she seems completely nice and down to earth. This particular anecdote is a running thread throughout the book as the author runs into the actress again down the line.
      • Some celebs are in a class by themselves:
        • Tom Hanks only proves that he should be canonized immediately.
    • The author does seem to have lived a charmed life and her talk of annual summer trips to the Caribbean and her private schools were a bit much as she herself admits but as a celebrity watcher and wannabe writer, I definitely envy her work life!
      • I assumed most celebrity journalists become more jaded about celebrity meetings but that doesn't seem to be the case with the author.
        • She seems like a great person and fun to be friends with. I think she'd call you with an official invitation to game night if she asked for your phone number!
      • Meanwhile I'm following celebs less and less with every passing year. 
        • Yesterday at the Sprouts Market I saw a copy of Newsweek's special issue celebrating Harrison Ford's 50-year career at the checkout line. In days of yore I would have snapped that puppy up but I guess I just know what I need to know at this point. 
        • Getting older is the buzzkill here. I used to vaguely pay attention to my husband's sports teams and to keep myself entertained I picked out a player or two to follow and have pretend "crushes" for them. Now that the players are around my son's age --- early to mid-20s --- it just seems too creepy! Same for male celebrities but in this case the "players" don't "retire" when they reach 35!
          • I noticed this when watching shows like "Outlander" or "Game of Thrones". Outander's Jamie (Sam Heughan, age 36) is gorgeous, no doubt, but it's Dougal (Graham McTavish, age 55) that causes a bunch of us middle age women to sigh with lust! And my favorite guy on "Thrones" is Davos (Liam Cunningham, age 55). 
        • I used to love People Magazine but last time we had a subscription (a couple of years ago) I didn't anymore. I have no interest in paparazzi photos of celebs on vacation or walking their dog. And too many celebrities I have never heard of when you factor in all the reality TV stars!
          • That said, it's always the first magazine I pick up in my doctor's waiting room first because glancing through the pictures is better than starting --- and never finishing --- an article before my name is called.
        • On the other hand, I still need to keep up with celebs in general so I can answer "Jeopardy!" clues! It's a fine line between general knowledge and obsession!
        • A line in a "Weird Al" song called "TMZ": "LOOK who's picking up DOG poop!" 
          • So true. I have actually seen pictures in celeb magazines with stars carrying their dog's poop bags. Seriously?!
    • Recommended to me by my best friend's bestie. Thanks! This book was right up my alley. It took weeks to get it from the library as they only had two copies for three counties! (First world problems, right?)
    • Recommended for anyone who is interested in celebrity stories and a closer look at the publishing industry and how those celebrity-wrangling jobs work.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Star Talk by Neil deGrasse Tyson

  • THE BOOK
    • Star Talk: Everything You Ever Need to Know About Space Travel, Sci-Fi, the Human Race, and Beyond by Neil deGrasse Tyson
    • Published September 13, 2016
    • Other works by author include Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries, The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet, and many more.

  • THE PREMISE
    • The author has a TV show called "Star Talk" on the National Geographic Channel. 
    • This is a distillation of the various discussions by Dr. Tyson and his guests on that show and organized into topics: 
      • Space Travel, Colonizing Mars, Science Fiction, Black Holes, and so many more.
    • A companion book to the television series.

  • MY THOUGHTS 
    • This is a fun and quick read. Lots of science facts and lots of pictures.
      • To be crass, it would make a great bathroom book. 
      • Each page has several little blocks of text on it and you can delve in and out without necessarily reading it cover to cover.
    • Recommended for science fans and Neil deGrasse Tyson fans, who are basically the same group of people, right? I mean, the Venn diagram would practically be a circle!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Julia and the Hand of God by Eleanor Cameron

  • THE BOOK
    • Julia and the Hand of God by Eleanor Cameron
    • Published November 1977
    • Second book in the Julia Redfern series
      • Book one --- A Room Made of Windows --- review here

  • THE PREMISE
    • It's Julia's 11th birthday and she and her mother and brother are on their way from Berkeley to San Francisco to have dinner with her aunt and uncle.
    • Julia is obsessed with the San Francisco earthquake in which her uncle was caught in 1906. Her grandmother refers to it as the "hand of God" coming down on the wicked city. 
    • Julia, her widowed mother and 13-year-old brother all live with her grandmother. The grandmother is often exasperated with Julia and seems to favor her grandson over her granddaughter.
    • Julia makes friends with a retired and widowed doctor. She helps him out when a devastating fire threatens Berkeley. 
      • Spoiler: Julia believes the "hand of God" saved her life from the fire as she was napping in the woods near where the fire began.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • This book was perfectly fine and an interesting read but I was SO disappointed!
      • Here are the books in order of publication:
        • 1971: A Room Made of Windows (Julia is 12)
        • 1977: Julia and the Hand of God (Julia is 11)
        • 1982: That Julia Redfern (Julia is 8)
        • 1984: Julia's Magic (Julia is 6)
        • 1988: The Private Worlds of Julia Redfern (Julia is 15)
      • The author wrote in reverse until the last book!
        • I have nothing against books about little kids but I get a Ramona Quimby vibe from Julia and I hate Ramona with the heat of 10,000 suns!
          • By the way, apparently Beverly Cleary is still with us at this writing and is 100 years old! I read so many of her books as a child. She's awesome, despite my Ramona hate.
        • I preferred Ramona's older sister Beezus because I was an older sister and had sympathy for her and having to deal with a pesty younger sibling (no offense to my 2 younger bros!).
      • If I had known this I might have read them in character age order. I am totally looking forward to the last book. As a wannabe writer I enjoy stories about people becoming writers, even fictional people!
    • At one point in the story Julia needs to go down to Berkeley's "Shellmound Park" and deliver a package to a man who lives on a side street. The man turns out to be the doctor she will befriend. 
      • I'm thinking, Shellmound? That sounds familiar!
        • This is because the Ikea store closest to me is located on Shellmound Street in Emeryville.
        • In 1923 it apparently had an amusement park and dance hall literally built on top of the mound of shells which was a sacred burial space for the local Ohlone people. (Naturally.) It closed in 1924 as business fell off after Prohibition began.
          • None of this information is in the book; it's just here for your edification!
          • Here's a link to the Wikipedia article about it: Emeryville Shellmound. It has a few pictures!
    • The big fire in the book was huge and I wondered if Berkeley really did have a fire in the early 1920s. It did indeed, on September 17, 1923, destroying 640 buildings.
    • I'm ambivalent about reading the books that go back in time but they are pretty short children's books so I will take a stab at getting through them.
    • This one is recommended for middle school readers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Room Made of Windows by Eleanor Cameron

  • THE BOOK
    • A Room Made of Windows by Eleanor Cameron
    • Published March 1971
    • First book in the 5-book Julia Redfern series
    • Other works by author include several children's books including the Mushroom Planet series

  • THE PREMISE
    • Julia Redfern wants to be a writer. She lives in Berkeley, California, with her widowed mother and 14-year-old brother. Julia is 12.
    • The books are semi-autobiographical as the author lived in Berkeley as a child and was born in 1912. This means the story takes place in 1924.
    • Julia's father was a pilot who died during World War I and Julia idolizes him, especially because he had built her a desk knowing she wanted to be a writer like him.
    • The story involves Julia meeting and coming to know the neighborhood recluse, making a new friend, losing an old one and dealing with the possibility of a new step-father.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I was very happy to read a series by the author of the Mushroom Planet books that featured a female character as the lead. The Mushroom Planet books are a little too boy-centric but that was typical of science fiction stories written in the 1950s and 1960s.
    • Julia can be a bit of a brat --- the story actually opens in the middle of a small tantrum during an argument with her mother --- but she is ultimately endearing and interesting as she begins her journey to become a writer.
    • There are hints that her father is not the hero Julia thinks he is but the specifics aren't made clear. Perhaps in a future book Julia will be old enough to face the real story.
    • Her brother is an oddball character, always with his head in a book and working on an Egyptian history. Her mother is young, only 35 and thus was widowed in her 20s, but Julia naturally assumes she's old and beyond marrying again.
    • The title refers to the room Julia has at the top of the house the Redferns rent. It only has room for her desk and a cot to sleep on.
    • One plot point features a friend of Julia's who has a younger brother, a cowed mother and a raging alcoholic father. At one point the father grabs Julia's arm and tries to bring her into his room and those of us in the modern day start to assume "bad things" about him. But a book about a girl in 1924 published in 1971 does NOT include child molestation in its framework: the father knows he has alienated his own children and he just wants to show off his books to Julia. Still kind of scary: he's drunk.
      • Meanwhile there's the possible new step-father. Julia thinks he's a creep but this is definitely a case of an unreliable narrator: he is actually a reasonably kind man albeit exasperated by Julia's moods.
        • There's a missing cats episode and a suspicious modern mind (mine) starts to think the step-father-to-be is the culprit! (Spoiler: he's not.)
    • I look forward to watching Julia move through her teen years in the next four books.
    • Recommended for those who enjoy old-fashioned stories about girls who want to be writers (practically a genre at this point). Aimed at middle school readers (ha, I actually typed "middle aged" first! If the genre fits...).

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The World That Made New Orleans by Ned Sublette

  • THE BOOK
    • The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square by Ned Sublette
    • Published January 2008
    • Other works by author include The Year Before the Flood: A Story of New Orleans (I read this one in 2013), Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo, and The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry (with Constance Sublette)

  • THE PREMISE
    • This is a history of New Orleans from before its founding in 1718 until approximately 100 years later.
    • New Orleans, founded by the French, was under control of France until 1763 when Spain acquired it after the Seven Years' War. It was reacquired by France in 1802 in time for Napoleon to sell it to the United States.
    • As a result of this colonial mix of languages and cultures, along with those supplied by slaves and free people of color, New Orleans developed into the city it is today.
    • There is a lengthy section devoted to the French colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) which had a large impact on the city and its attitudes towards slavery. 
      • The Haitian Revolution had all other slave owners in the Western Hemisphere shaking in their boots that their own slaves would revolt and more strictures were put in place.
      • Many of the French refugees from Saint-Domingue ended up settling in New Orleans too.
    • The book also covers the history of slavery in New Orleans which is somewhat different that in the rest of America due to the influence of the French and Spanish rather than the British.
      • French and Spanish laws regarding the rights of slaves were less harsh than those of the British, at least until the Haitian Revolution.
      • New Orleans was an important port where slaves were imported from everywhere.
    • The development of music in New Orleans, a fusion of so many cultures, is highlighted and the author is an expert in that area. You can see the pieces coming together in the 1700s and early 1800s that will ultimately lead to the creation of jazz late in the 19th Century.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I was born and raised in New Orleans and its suburbs so this was an especially interesting read for me. I knew the bare bones history but not the details. 
    • The author points out (I think; I might have read this elsewhere!) that we don't learn many details in school because there are a few too many unsavory parts not fit for the ears of the young.
      • Such as this: The French settlers took Native American women, and later, African women as their concubines or even as wives.
        • "Concubines" were probably not a subject for those of us in Catholic OR public schools!
        • This might explain why I have the teensiest bit of Native American heritage according to 23andme. One of my (male) French ancestors must have had children with a Native American woman, or possibly a Spanish ancestor who then married a French ancestor. Who knows?
      • Anyway, I am always amazed by how people are always so worried about African-American men who supposedly want to rape every white woman within reach when the real rapists were the white men of the past. They raped African-American women either because they could or because they were trying to increase the "stock". 
        • No one ever seems to bring this up. There's a reason so many African-Americans today have European DNA. It was not an isolated incident; it was brutal, evil and systemic.
        • I have the author's most recent book, The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry on hold at the library.
          • Nothing like some righteous anger for the holidays.
        • One of my great-grandfathers (about 4 or 5 generations back) had children with at least one of his slaves so I, a white woman of French, Irish and German background on my Louisiana side, have distant African-American cousins. I think this is great but I feel so sorry for the woman back before 1865 who had NO CHOICE about it.
          • I will look up her name in the family genealogy and add it to this blog entry later. That would be the final indignity: if she is a nameless slave.
        • Obviously this is a hot button topic for me.
    • It was interesting learning about the people behind the names of things in New Orleans:
      • Example: William Claiborne, for example, has a main street named for him as he was the first governor of Louisiana, among other things.
    • Anyway, I really enjoyed the book. There are a few slower passages and you kind of wonder what the whole Saint-Domingue segue is heading towards but I found it ultimately fascinating.
    • Recommended for history buffs, those interested in the experience of Africans and slavery in the New World, music and New Orleans.
      • I would love a follow up volume covering history from 1820 to today!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

  • THE BOOK
    • Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
    • Published January 5, 2016
    • Other works by author: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and Life-Changing Magic: A Journal: Spark Joy Every Day.
      • I have read and reviewed the first book here. You will need to scroll down to get to it.

  • THE PREMISE
    • The KonMari method of tidying up involves piling up your possessions by category and then decide if each individual item "sparks joy". If it does, keep it. If it does not, thank it and let it go.
      • This means EVERYTHING: underwear, toenail clippers, stapler, photos, hammer, etc...
      • "KonMari" because names in Japan go last name-first name.
    • This book is more of the same advice with the addition of cute little diagrams.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I had not intended reading this book but I found it at the library on the "Lucky Day" shelf.
      • Our library places a copy of most popular books that aren't available for interbranch loan. You can only check them out if you happen to see it on the day you are at the library. Hence, Lucky Day!
    • The obsessive need to determine whether an item of clothing "sparks joy" --- a term you may come to loath as you read the book --- and then fold it for storage? It's not the method for me but I am fascinated with how committed the author is with this approach.
    • I am fascinated also by the fact that the author's name is rendered "Kondō" on Good Reads and Amazon. I assume the line over the second O indicates a long o sound (i.e. "oh").
      • Is it necessary? Would there be any confusion on how to pronounce it? Kon-dah? Kon-due? Kon-doe? Is this a specific Japanese language thing? 
    • A quick read but it tends to be repetitive. A pamphlet would probably be enough for most people rather than a book.
    • Recommended for those interested in a way to tame clutter and find a new method of tidying. Which is NOT the same thing as cleaning, KonMari points out!
      • You are either going to love this book or hate it.
      • There is an amazing review on Good Reads by a woman named Diane. It is HILARIOUS. (I don't know if you can read reviews on Good Reads without signing up.)
        • One quote that my pun-loving husband will especially enjoy: "I don't own a camisole but it's good to know that if I had one I shouldn't "criticize it for its failure to stand up." This criticism would be very bad for the cami's soul. I totally get that but am I missing out on something big by not having a camisoul?"
        • One more: "Exactly what vibes do your clothes give off that let you know whether they're happier being folded or hung? Mine just don't seem to care. Do I need to stop buying my clothes at Walmart?"

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston

  • THE BOOK
    • A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston
    • Published October 11, 2016
    • First book by author

  • THE PREMISE
    • Bryan Cranston is an actor known for the following roles:
      • An original cast member of the soap opera "Loving"
      • Playing dentist Tim Whatley in several "Seinfeld" episodes
      • As the dad Hal in the Fox sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle"
      • Walter White in AMC's "Breaking Bad"
      • Portraying LBJ in both the play and film of "All the Way"
      • Dalton Trumbo in the film "Trumbo"
    • He covers his childhood --- not a happy one with a father who abandoned the family to an alcoholic mother coping with being left alone with 3 children to raise.
    • His job history from youth to award-winning actor is a large part of the book, and he also shares stories of his romances and ultimate happy marriage.
    • He shares his tips on acting and life throughout.
    • The "parts" refers to his roles in acting jobs as well as son, brother, friend, husband and father.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • This was a quick read but interesting and cohesive.  It skips around a bit but is basically chronological.
    • There aren't tons of anecdotes about "Breaking Bad". A behind-the-scenes book about that series, this is not. In other words, his role on "Loving" is given equal weight in the anecdote department. Mr. Cranston is an equal opportunity anecdote teller!
      • Perhaps he will write a future book on "Breaking Bad" eventually to satisfy all the avid fans.
      • I only watched the first few episodes of "Breaking Bad" when it began. If I recall correctly it was touted as a dark comedy rather than the meaty drama it became.
        • I didn't find it to be a dark comedy and stopped watching --- silly me --- but always kept an eye on the plot. Someday I will binge watch it all.
    • If you like Bryan Cranston -- and who doesn't? --- then you will enjoy this book about his life.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Wonderland by Steven Johnson

  • THE BOOK
    • Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson
    • Published November 11, 2016
    • Other works by author include How We Got to Now and The Ghost Map, both of which I've read and several others I haven't gotten to yet.

  •  THE PREMISE
    • In six sections the author shows how the pursuit of play and pleasure (he excludes sex specifically) influenced technology and innovation.
    • Example: The pursuit of spices boosted exploration as the different superpowers of the day tried to get in on the trade, leading to good --- the age of discovery --- and bad --- colonization of the people already living in the discovered lands.. 
      • Christopher Columbus famously searched for a route to more easily obtain spices for Spain when he ran into the Western Hemisphere instead.
      • Nutmeg and cloves were indigenous to only one place, located in the "Spice Islands", now known as the Maluku Islands, today part of Indonesia.
    • The book also covers music, games, taverns/pubs and more.
      • Pubs were instrumental in helping along the American Revolution because they offered a convenient meeting place for all people.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I enjoyed this book quite a bit and kept picturing it as a video in my head.
      • PBS showed a series based on the author's last book How We Got to Now and I really hope they make a TV show out of this one too!
    • Recommended for those who enjoy general history as well as micro-histories.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Time and Mr. Bass by Eleanor Cameron

  • THE BOOK
    • Time and Mr. Bass by Eleanor Cameron
    • Published in 1967
    • Fifth book in the Mushroom Planet series
      • Good Reads lists it as Book #6 because there is an e-book available that includes 2 short stories published in 1964 thus by chronology it could be considered Book #5.

  • THE PREMISE
    • The final Mushroom Planet book really amps up the adventure and fully involves Mr. Tyco Bass and his past.
    • An ancient scroll and necklace are stolen from the Mycetians (the Mushroom people who live on Earth) and begin causing problems. Mr. Bass and the two boys, David and Chuck, go searching for them in England and Wales.
    • Meanwhile, an ancient enemy of Mr. Bass is also on his trail.
    • David and Chuck learn the story of Mr. Bass and why he has such amazing powers.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Mystery for Mr. Bass by Eleanor Cameron

  • THE BOOK
    • A Mystery for Mr. Bass by Eleanor Cameron
    • Published in 1960
    • This is the 4th book in the Mushroom Planet series. Other works by author include the Julia Redfern series and many other books for children

  • THE PREMISE
    • Continuing the series in The Mushroom Planet books, fossil bones are discovered in Pacific Grove by the two boy protagonists, David and Chuck.
    • The bones turn out to be 500,000 year old and glow green. They are the bones of a Mushroom person, like Mr. Bass, and are only supposed to be interred in the secret burial grounds hidden from human eyes in Wales.
      • Removing the bones from their resting place is supposed to bring terrible luck to the person who removes the. Prewytt Brumblydge, introduced in an earlier book, is having a bad run of luck. Is he the culprit? Mr. Tyco Bass is on the case!
    • The council of the Mycetians, another term for the Mushroom People, meet in Wales, putting Prewytt on trial. David and Chuck accompany Mr. Bass to the trial in their spaceship.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • This was probably my least favorite of the books so far. I thought the plot was a little confusing and I never really understood why the bones were stolen in the first place.
      • I was also wondering if the presence of Mushroom People on Earth was supposed to be known or a big secret.
    • Mr. Bass is always popping in and out of the first four books so you like his character but you never really get to know him well. (Spoiler alert: I am currently reading the last book in the series and Mr. Bass is front and center and you finally learn all about him!)
    • The books are very 1950s in their science and customs as the stories take place before 1957 and Sputnik and the space race. The author is refreshingly modern in her sensibilities, however, and the science is accurate for its time.
    • I only read the first book in the series as a kid which is too bad. I would have loved to read the whole series as a kid. I guess I didn't know there were more books.
    • I have the 5 books of the author's Julia Redfern series from the library and I am looking forward to see her work with a female protagonist despite the fact that it's not science fiction.
    • Recommended for middle school ages and up.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thanks for the Money by Joel McHale

  • THE BOOK
    • Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be by Joel McHale
    • Published October 25, 2016
    • First book by author

  • THE PREMISE
    • Joel McHale, actor and comedian, has written a sarcastic/satirical memoir and self-help book.
    • There are lots of anecdotes that are true and there are several that aren't. It isn't always easy to figure out which is which.
    • He has starred in the TV shows "Community", "The Soup", and "The Great Indoors" and has been in a handful of films.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I was an avid "Community" fan and watched the last several years of "The Soup" so I was familiar with his work.
      • "The Soup" is especially notable for it gave me the only exposure I had to shows like "Keeping Up with the Kardashians", "The Real Housewives of [your town here]", "The Bachelor/ette", "Hoarders" and especially, "Gold Rush Alaska". 
    • This was cute and a quick read. I enjoyed the memoir portion more than the self-help portion.
      • My favorite thing --- because I truly laughed out loud at it --- was when he began by referring to his two sons as "Boy 1" and "Other Boy". My husband and I have always referred to our son as "The Boy" and I have a feeling we might very well have used "Other Boy" had we had another son.
    • The illustrations and photos are amusing and add to the overall amusement of the book.
    • He actually expounds on the difficulty of working with Chevy Chase on "Community". Many memoirists tend to shy away from this type of detail so it was interesting to see it in here.
      • It would have been nice, as a fan of the show, to have even more "Community" anecdotes, even though they may not be scandalous as the Chevy stories. Maybe next book.
    • Recommended for fans of Joel McHale and people who enjoy celebrity books. You'll recognize the tropes he makes fun of, including the Scientology chapter.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

  • THE BOOK
    • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
    • Published July 26, 2016
    • Other works by author include:
      • Good Behavior (TV adaptation started November 15 and stars Michelle Dockery)
      • The Wayward Pines series (also a TV series)
      • The Andrew Z. Thomas/Luther Kite series

  • THE PREMISE
    • Jason Dessen, physics professor for a minor college, happily married husband to Daniela and father to teen son Charlie, is kidnapped by a masked man. Jason gets knocked out and wakes up in a world where his wife is not his wife and his son has never been born and where he is a brilliant physicist who might have figured out the impossible.
    • He goes on the run to figure out what happened to him and to try to return to his life.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • This vaguely reminded me of the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode called "Parallels" where Worf keeps shifting into different universes.
    • I liked it and think it would make a good TV series like some of the author's other works.
    • A couple of plot points bothered me. For example, a woman who helps him in his quest is a huge part of the story and then she's just...not. 
    • It has a good ending. This is huge in the time of so many good books with terrible endings out there.
    • I hadn't heard of the author before seeing this book but I may need to check out some of his other works.
    • Recommended for science fiction readers and those who enjoy a fast-paced adventure story.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Shady Characters by Keith Houston

  • THE BOOK
    • Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols and Other Typographical Marks by Keith Houston
    • Published September 24, 2013
    • One other book by author: The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time (my review here)

  • THE PREMISE
    • The author shares the history and usage of a selection of punctuation marks and other symbols.
    • The list: 
      • Pilcrow ¶
      • Interrobang ‽
      • Octothorpe #
      • Ampersand &
      • The "at" symbol @
      • Asterisk *
      • Dagger †
      • Hyphen ‐
      • Dash -
      • Manicule ☞
      • Quotation Marks " "
      • Symbols for irony and sarcasm ;)

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I LOVED this book! I have been boring any family member within reach about it.
    • The story of the pilcrow is this: the ancient Greeks, Romans and other early writers did not put spaces between words when they wrote.
      • This is called scriptio continua in Latin.
        • Itisdifficulttoimaginetryingtoreadsomethingtodaythathasnopunctuation
      • When ancient scribes wrote things down they didn't include a symbol for something not heard!
        • As an example, if you hear someone speaking a language you don't know, doesn't it seem as if there are no breaks between words? To one's ear it sounds all run together. We wouldn't know where to put breaks or spaces because we wouldn't hear them even though they are there.
        • Because people didn't read in those days so much as recite there was a need for marks to indicate pauses, stops and inflection for the orators. From these marks rose our modern punctuation.
        • The first marks were three dots. One was the familiar period. The other two were placed in the middle of the line and at the top of the line (sorry, can't make those two; I tried!).
          • These dots were called, respectively, the komma, periodos and kolon. Sound familiar?
      • To indicate new topics or theses they began using a "K", short for "kaput" which meant head. As language changed from Greek to Latin the K became a "C" for "capitulum" meaning "little head". 
        • In the days of fancy lettering of the monasteries a vertical line or two were added and the mark we know today arrived.
        • Capitulum was eventually the root of the word "chapter".
        • Thus was the pilcrow created! Ad then usurped by indenting!
        • From Greek through Middle English the name kind of went like this: paragraphos to paragraphe to pelagraphe to pelagreffe to pylcrafte to pilcrow.
        • And the pilcrow is now usually used by editors but I did notice an instance in the last Entertainment Weekly. An article about the new movie "Beauty and the beast" had a bunch of text formatted together and it used a pilcrow to indicate a paragraph break in the middle of the it! The pilcrow lives!
      • And this was just from the first chapter!
    • Hyphens and dashes aren't the same thing. There are hyphens, hyphen-minuses, minus signs for math, dashes, em dashes, en dashes, and figure dashes. 
      • All different in usage but basically the same to our ignorant eyes! Much of this is because the modern typewriter --- and then the keyboard --- generally only include one version of a dash/hyphen.
    • Ampersands are stylized representation of "et" which means "and" (still does in modern French).
      • The name is a corruption of "and per se and" (per se means "by itself") because at one time people recited the alphabet ending with "...x, y, z and per se and".
    • Some symbols don't make or or catch on. Symbols to indicate sarcasm and the interrobang are two of those. 
      • The interrobang is an invention of the 1960s. It is a combination question mark/exclamation point. 
        • Are you kidding me‽
        • Are you kidding me?!
        • We seem to do fine with using them separately.
    • Some symbols took on new life with the rise of the Internet: # and @.
    • The author has a blog and I started following it last week just as he posted an entry about how he was taking a couple of months off because he and his wife just had their first child!
    • Recommended for punctuation nuts like me and any readers interested in a history of several punctuation and symbols.
    • Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Hell Bay by Will Thomas

  • THE BOOK
    • Hell Bay, a Barker & Llewelyn Mystery by Will Thomas
    • Published October 25, 2016
    • Other works by author include the first 7 books in the Barker & Llewelyn series of mysteries, all of which I've read.

  • THE PREMISE
    • Private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker and his assistant Thomas Llewelyn (the narrator) are requested to provide security for a meeting between Lord Hargrave and the French ambassador on a private island off the coast of England in 1889. The meeting occurs under the guise of a house party for the week.
    • Once the visitors arrive on the island two murders occur: Lord Hargrave and the French ambassador's head of security. The boat has been sent away, the signal flagpost has been destroyed and the island's lighthouse has been sabotaged.
    • Meanwhile, Cyrus's special lady friend is one of the guests. He needs to protect her too but she proves resourceful in her own right.
    • Can Cyrus Barker and his trusty assistant figure out who the murder is and why? You bet!

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • For the last book in the series I had put in a special request to the library which only has books 1 to 3 in the series. I was excited to see that book 8 appeared as soon as it was published. 
    • I just really like this series. It generally takes place in 1880s London. This volume is a bit of a departure, taking place on a distant private island in the Scillies.
    • I had read somewhere that this book would be a kind of Agatha Christie/And Then There Were None homage. 
      • While both take place on a secluded island and murders occur, the differences are enough to make that comparison moot. 
      • Everyone on the island thinks they are at risk of death but the killer has a specific agenda rather than out to murder everyone.
    • It was nice getting to know Cyrus Barker's lady friend better as she has been a fleeting presence in past books.
    • The downstairs staff play a part too as a butler, a cook, housemaids, footmen and valets make appearnaces.
      • I thank "Downton Abbey" for teaching me the rules of how the servant class is structured!
    • One odd thing that I don't remember from past books is that Thomas Llewelyn makes comments indicating he is writing about this adventure at some point in the 1900s, not 1889. 
      • No big deal but I wonder what it means overall. I often wonder if mystery series writers have a grand plan to finish a character's story or if they just write until they are dead.
    • Recommended for those who enjoy mysteries.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Mr. Bass's Planetoid by Eleanor Cameron

  • THE BOOK
    • Mr. Bass's Planetoid by Eleanor Cameron
    • Published 1958
    • Other books by the author include 4 other Mushroom Planet books and many other books for children.
    • Book 1: The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (review here)
    • Book 2: Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet (review here)

  • THE PREMISE
    • Mr. Prewytt Brumblydge has invented the Brumblitron and it may destroy Earth.
    • Dr. Frobisher needs help finding Brumblydge. Mr. Tyco Bass, a long-time friend of Dr. Frobisher's, is still off traveling the Universe and can't help, and that causes David and Chuck make plans to search for Mr. Brumblydge from a small Earth-orbiting rock named Lepton. Then they plan to stop him and his dangerous weapon.
    • We are introduced to "infragreen" technology and the (fictional) element Brumblium.
    • SPOILER: It's not a weapon after all! It's a device to convert saltwater to fresh water. Oops!

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • Another cute story with David and Chuck and their handy-dandy rocket.
    • My only complaint was that Dr. Frobisher, the boss of Horatio Peabody in the last book, never once mentions his erstwhile assistant.
      • I understand this as these stories need to be standalone volumes with minimal reference to prior books but I wanted to know if Dr. Frobisher sacked Mr. Peabody!
    • I still love how the adults just go with the flow and allow the boys to travel into space.
    • Two more books to go!
    • Recommended for science fiction readers of middle school age and up.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron

  • THE BOOK
    • Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron
    • Published 1956
    • Other works by author include many children's books including the 5 volume Mushroom Planet books.

  • THE PREMISE
    • Protagonists David and Chuck have inherited the use of Tyco Bass's house and contents after the events of the 1st book in the series, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (see my entry here). It is clear that Mr. Bass isn't dead; he's just gone traveling for a while.
    • The boys start up a club for young scientists and space enthusiasts like themselves.
      • When they call an esteemed astronomer to give a talk they reach his unscrupulous assistant instead. 
      • The assistant is named Horatio Peabody. A great name for the bad guy!
    • Mr. Bass's cousin Theo comes to visit and the boys again plan a trip to the Mushroom Planet which is located about 50,000 miles above Earth's orbit and unseen by human telescopes. Mr. Bass had a special filter to see it.
      • Horatio Peabody stows aboard the rocket and has dreams of exploiting the Mushroom Planet for his own personal gain and glory.
    • All ends well, except maybe for Horatio.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I am in process of reading this series of books. Luckily my library has copies of all five books as they have been in print since the 1950s and 1960s.
    • I love the fact that David's parents and Chuck's grandfather are so supportive of the boys' adventures, even seeing them off as they take off into space for this second trip.
    • I could personally wish for a girl adventurer joining the boys but alas, the 1950s were a different time. 
    • The story itself is fun and while you know going in that Horatio will get his comeuppance, the suspense comes in finding out exactly how it will happen.
    • On to book 3!
    • Recommended for science fiction readers, especially those in middle school.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

  • THE BOOK
    • Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
    • Published August 2, 2011
    • Second book in the Seeds of America trilogy
      • See book 1 entry, Chains, here.

  • THE PREMISE
    • The first book took palce in New York City beginning in 1776 and is narrated by Isabel, a 13-year-old slave girl, owned by Tories, those loyal to the King of England. She becomes friends with a boy named Curzon, who is 15 and also a slave but to a man on the side of the rebellion.
      • Curzon is imprisoned with the rebel soldiers after the loyalists retake New York City. Isabel saves Curzon's life and also gets him out of jail so both can escape to New Jersey across the river.
    • This book is told from Curzon's point of view as this book takes place about 9 months after the first one. Isabel has run off to search for her missing sister and Curzon has joined the rebel army. He ends up at Valley Forge when conditions were at their worst.
    • Then his owner shows up one day in the spring, sees Curzon and re-enslaves him.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I remarked in my entry for Chains that these books, despite their Young Adult status, came out too far apart.
      • It turns out that the author was caretaker of her mother before she died, and then the author herself got sick for over a year. By the time that she was on the mend she needed to take care of her dad before he died. So sad.
      • This is why the 3rd book came out over 5 years later. 
    • In this book you learn about the conditions at Valley Forge. The main characters are fictional but they interact with real people.
      • Curzon meets a Dutch-speaking slave couple named the Baumfrees. They would eventually have a daughter named Belle who grew up to be Sojourner Truth, a former slave and abolitionist activist.
    • For a while the only food was a "cake" made with flour and water cooked on a hot stone. That's it. Meanwhile the men still needed to chop down trees and build the cabins, among other duties. Their clothes and shoes were rags or non-existent.
      • Curzon makes friends among the soldiers in his unit and one bad enemy.
    • SPOILERS: Curzon's former master refuses to honor their original agreement and re-enslaves him and you get to see that side of the story too. Isabel shows up too, having not gotten far when she ran away from Curzon.
    • I am looking forward to the conclusion of the story in the final book, Ashes, which I just picked up from the library.
    • Recommended for American history buffs and readers who enjoy Young Adult series.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

  • THE BOOK
    • Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
    • Published July 5, 2016
    • Other works by author include the books Snobs and Past Imperfect, the screenplay for the film "Gosford Park" and the TV series "Downton Abbey".

  • THE PREMISE
    • At the great ball of the Duchess of Richmond's home which occurred in June 1815 the night before the Battle of Waterloo, a nouveau riche family's fate is inextricably entwined with that of an aristocratic family.
    • After a brief scene at this ball the story shifts almost 30 years ahead to the early 1840s where the rest of the story takes place.
    • The scions of the two families are threatened by the appearance of a young man named Charles Pope, raised outside of London by his minister father and his wife.
    • Belgravia is a fancy section of London with ritzy homes.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • According to the book blurb I thought the main character would be the daughter of the nouveau riche family but it turned out to be her mother Anne and the matriarch of the aristocratic family, Lady Brockenhurst, who were the main characters as well as the aforementioned Charles Pope.
    • Secondary characters cause much trouble and all is resolved happily by the end.
      • I noticed that some reviewers didn't like how neatly and quickly all is wrapped up but I think this is to be expected from Julian Fellowes so it didn't bother me. I was more disappointed that the June 1815 section of the story is only about a chapter long!
    • Given Fellowes popularity from "Downton Abbey" I wonder how long it will be before this becomes a "Masterpiece Theatre" show!
    • Recommended for those who enjoyed "Downton Abbey" --- there are servants involved in the story, just like in "Downton" --- and anyone who likes stories that take place in London in the 19th Century.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Trainwreck by Sady Doyle

  • THE BOOK
    • Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear...and Why by Sady Doyle
    • Published September 20, 2016
    • First book by author

  • THE PREMISE
    • The definition for trainwreck (besides the literal one) is this:
      • A chaotic or disastrous situation that holds a peculiar fascination for observers.
    • The author covers the women we consider as trainwrecks:
      • Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Paris Hilton, and more, along with women from history who were the trainwrecks of their day:
        • Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte, Billie Holiday, Sylvia Plath, Monica Lewinsky, Marie Antoinette and several more.
    • Society seems to want their women to be "good girls" and when they step off that path they are "wrecked", mostly splashed across tabloids and websites for our voyeuristic enjoyment.
      • Many of the people who seem to enjoy the trainwrecks most are fellow women.
        • We can look at one wrecked woman and think, "At least I'm better off than her."
  • MY THOUGHTS
    • Lots of good quotes from this book:
      • "So, to reiterate: Someone followed a woman to her hotel, then waited in a concealed location, watching her, until she began to have sex, then photographed the sex, then promptly sold the photos to a public outlet, causing the press to then rebroadcast those photos, while explaining they had no choice in the matter, and making sure to add a link to the appropriate porn site so that the full invasion of privacy could be accessed by their readers. And somehow, in this whole chain of stalking, bad decision-making, and borderline sexual assault, the person who would up getting the harshest condemnation was the woman who'd done nothing but have sex with her boyfriend." Pages 4-5
        • I will ignore the use of "So" to begin a sentence in a book --- I know this particular thing drives some people crazy; it doesn't bother me particularly --- and all the places I would not have necessarily used commas. The point of the quote is still a good one.
      • A quote by Kathie Sarachild from 1973 included in the book about studies to establish womens' intelligence: "For every scientific study we quote, the opposition can find their scientific studies to quote...We know from our own experience that women play dumb for men because, if we're too smart, men won't like us. I know, because I've done it. We've all done it. Therefore we can deduce that women are smarter than men are aware of." Page 155
        • "I know, because I've done it." So have I many times in my life though not with my dad, brothers or the man who became my husband!
          • My dad likes having smart children (my mom, too, when she was alive) and my brothers also appreciated having a smart sister. I am also positive my husband would prefer a smart wife to a dumb wife.
      • "You could even make a case for Hillary and Monica themselves as the scapegoats for second- and third-wave feminism, respectively: The second wave told women to work for equality and advance in the workplace, which Hillary did, and was hated for doing, and the third told women to embrace their sexuality and see femininity as a source of power, which Monica did, and was hated for doing." Pages 205-206
    • In general, men who crash and burn are welcomed back with open arms, according to the author. I think this is true based on the examples she cites --- Robert Downey Jr and Chris Brown to name two --- but I also think this might change as time goes on.
      • Or not, as the Trump groping allegations seem to have made no difference to his candidacy as the Republican presidential nominee.
    • I have a new appreciation for what these celebrity women go through. I'm not one to wallow too deep in a celeb's downfall but it's hard to miss when they are all over the entertainment websites. The kind of coverage these women get makes it so easy to pass judgement on people I don't even know! Crazy. I vow to stop doing this. 
    • Recommended for those who follow culture and especially those who enjoy the whole trainwreck phenomena.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Baby Name Wizard by Laura Wattenberg

  • THE BOOK
    • The Baby Name Wizard, Revised 3rd Edition: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby by Laura Wattenberg
    • Published May 7, 2013
    • Other books by the author are the first two editions of this book published in 2005 and 2008.

  • THE PREMISE
    • There are several baby name blogs (Nameberry.com, AppellationMountain.net, and BabyNameWizard.com to name just a few). The author is responsible for Baby Name Wizard blog and she writes about weekly on various topics related to naming children.
    • The book is a compendium of the more recent trend of distinctive names (Jayden or Adilyn, for example) as well as the old favorites (Jack or Rose, for example). It also offers advice on sibling names and how to navigate among many naming criteria.
    • Names are sorted by boy and girl lists in alphabetical order and in the second part of the book names are sorted by type. 

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I actually tried to get this book in 2013 but my library only had the 2008 version. 
      • Popular names have changed even from such a short period of time ago!
    • I have only one child and he's in his 20s with a nice classic Irish name so I am not interested in naming a baby myself but I do love seeing how the trends are changing baby names.
    • I also enjoy seeing how cultural trends are responsible for new favorites and how some old-fashioned names are starting to make a comeback.
      • On the author's blog she discusses the trends in names especially as the Social Security Administration releases name data every year for newborns.
      • Also found on the blog site (babynamewizard.com/voyager) you can enter your name and see its popularity ranked over the last 130 years. Here is my name as an example:
    • This book is recommended for those expecting a baby or those just interested in names of today.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

  • THE BOOK
    • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
    • Published October 2008
    • Other works by author include Catalyst, The Impossible Knife of Memory, Twisted, Prom, and several volumes of the Vet Volunteers series (veterinary, not veterans). She generally writes Young Adult books.

  • THE PREMISE
    • This is volume 1 of a book series called Seeds of America.
    • The main character and first person narrator is Isabel, a 13-year-old in 1776 America. She and her mentally challenged and epileptic 5-year-old sister Ruth are slaves of a Rhode Island owner who plans to free them at her death but the owner's inheriting nephew refuses to honor the agreement and sells them instead to a couple in New York City.
    • The new mistress is harsh and cruel. Once Ruth has an epileptic fit the cruel woman drugs Isabel and steals Ruth away to sell her to someone else.
    • The owners are also Tories, loyal to the King of England. Isabel meets Curzon, a boy slave who works for a Mr. Bellingham on the Rebel side. He encourages her to spy on her owners.
    • Isabel wants to run away and search for Ruth. Meanwhile the Revolutionary War is raging all around as first the rebels and then the loyalists occupy New York.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I really liked this book and look forward to learning about more of Isabel's story.
    • Each chapter begins with a quote from various contemporary sources, for example, a letter or diary entry, a slave sale notice or the Declaration of Independence. Isabel and her owners are fictional but the things that happen to her are similar to things that happened to real slave girls of the era.
    • This series seems to be aimed at readers about junior high age and that's fine but the second book didn't come out until 2011 and the 3rd book came out this month. That's a lot of time between volumes.
    • The next two books (Forge and Ashes) are waiting in my current library pile so stay tuned for more.
    • Recommended for readers who enjoy history about the American Revolutionary War, especially as related to (fictional) slave narratives.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Lynching by Laurence Leamer

  • THE BOOK
    • The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer
    • Published June 7, 2016
    • Other books by author include The Kennedy Women: The Saga of an American Family and The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963, among many others.

  • THE PREMISE
    • After a hung jury in an Alabama trial of a black man accused of murder of a white man two Mobile Klansmen randomly selected a black man to kill him in retaliation, leaving his body strung up in a tree.
    • Both killers were convicted but a lawyer named Morris Dees, a founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), went after the Klan organization because he realized that the killers acted on coded instructions from the Klan leadership.
      • He won a $7 million verdict that forced the United Klans of America, then the largest Klan organization, into folding.
    • The lynching occurred in 1981. The victim was a 19-year-old man named Michael Donald.
      • He was murdered before he was strung up on the tree so by definition he was not lynched per se but the reasoning of the Klan made it an equivalent crime.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • The book is made up of three main sections: the murder, the background and the trial.
    • The background gives a rough history of lynching, the civil rights battles, the virulent racism of many whites as it ramped up during integration, and the political career of George Wallace.
      • Wallace, a governor of Alabama for several terms and a presidential candidate several times, early realized he could get votes by pandering to the whites by opposing integration.
        • His most famous quote is probably "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" during his inauguration for governor in 1963.
          • Even though he recanted later in life for fomenting such virulent racism, his words fostered the environment where the Klan could thrive.
        • Alabama did not allow consecutive terms for governor in his early career so his wife Lurleen ran in 1966.
          • Lurleen died of uterine cancer about a year after her inauguration. She had been diagnosed in 1961 during the birth of her last child but in those days they only told the husband and Wallace chose to keep her in the dark. A few years later another doctor told her she had cancer which came as a complete surprise to Lurleen. It had spread too far by then.
          • I remember as I was growing up everyone was TERRIFIED of cancer and if it was discussed at all it was only in whispers. When I was 10 my mother had a tumor that turned out to be benign but I remember overhearing someone whisper, "Those poor children," about my brothers and me because they thought my mother was on the way out. (She lived another 40 years.)
    • I recently read a book called White Trash and some of this book made sense in relation to the Klan members. So many poor white men felt more powerful being part of an organization that focused invective on people who they considered much lower than they were on the class spectrum.
      • They were welcomed into the Klan and embraced its quasi-military structure and the rituals involved.
      • Racism was especially strong after decades of civil rights advances, integration and many of the same things we are still dealing with today from a several hundred year history of slavery.
    • The SPLC continues to go after hate groups and other civil rights-violating groups.
    • You can't really "enjoy" a book about a murder but this was a quick read and an interesting one.
      • I can never understand how people violently hate another group of people and yet it must be part of our human makeup. It seems the human psyche needs to have someone to look up to as well as have someone to look down on, doesn't it? No one ever wants to be on the bottom rung of society.
      • Personal rant: this is why education is so important and why I think there should be some way to offer the same class of education to every child. Education often gets people out of poverty. I fear this would mean a radical overhaul of education in general which is probably not gonna happen any time soon. 
    • Recommended for history buffs, especially those interested in African-American history.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mother-Daughter Book Camp by Heather Vogel Frederick

  • THE BOOK
    • Mother-Daughter Book Camp by Heather Vogel Frederick
    • Book 7 of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series and the final book of the series
    • Published May 3, 2016
    • Other works by author include the series Pumpkin Falls, Patience Goodspeed and Spy Mice, and several standalone novels for middle grade readers.

  • THE PREMISE
    • The girls from the earlier books in the series, which started when they were middle schoolers, are now spending the summer before college working as camp counselors at Camp Lovejoy.
    • The mothers don't figure as much in these books, mainly visiting on the camp's parents' day and appearing near the end of camp.
    • Several girls, as young as 7 or 8, appear as campers who make a big impression.
    • To combat homesickness in their young charges the main characters revive their book club using the book Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, first published in 1916.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I have read the first 6 books of the series as well and thought that book 6 was the last one. I stumbled across this one at some point recently and had to read the final book.
    • I have never heard of Understood Betsy! I have requested it from the library so stay tuned for an entry on it soon!
      • I don't think my mother read many books when she was a kid. She played sports instead. Thus I don't ever remember her recommending any specific books to me although she bought me everything I wanted from Scholastic Books.
      • The Catholic school I attended had a very small library and if it had this book I never ran across it there. I remember most of the books were old and looked dull so I never checked much if anything out from it.
      • When we moved to California when I was 12 we started going to the local library and that's where I discovered the Little House books and read all the Beverly Cleary books too (I HATED Ramona, that pesky brat to poor older sister Beezus!).
      • I knew about Nancy Drew but never picked one up for some reason.
      • And then it was the also the 1970s so there were a lot of angsty books available to read.
      • I am still amazed to find out the names of books that lots of readers loved as children and teens and I somehow missed them!
        • My very best friend introduced me to the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace when I was in my 20s. Isn't it amazing that I had never heard of those either?!
    • As for this book, it was a little difficult to get back into it in some ways because you really need to have read the first 6 books to get all the references to the main characters families! I enjoyed them but I had forgotten the details. And then introducing a whole bunch of new characters!
    • But like stories set at boarding schools, who doesn't like a good summer camp story?
      • This story was cute and that camp sounded awesome!
      • Some of the younger characters have potential and might be a way for the author to create a new series down the line with a new group of girls.
    • I feel this was a good wrap up to the series. Now that the main characters are all 17 or 18 they really can't be middle grade series leads anymore.
    • Recommended for readers of the first 6 books and those who like a cute summer camp story. If you focus on the camp story and ignore the comments relating to past books then a new reader will be able to enjoy this book too.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Star Trek: The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years by Altman & Gross

  • THE BOOK
    • The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years: From The Next Generation to J.J. Abrams: The Complete, Uncensored, and Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross
    • Published August 30, 2016
    • Other work by authors together: The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years
    • Separately they have written numerous books on Star Trek and its spin-offs as well as other TV shows and movies.

  • THE PREMISE
    • See title.
    • Both of the authors have had ties to Star Trek over the years, interviewing numerous cast and crew of the TV and movie series.
    • This book takes the interviews and organizes them into sections relating to "Star Trek: The Next Generation", "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine", "Star Trek: Voyager", "Enterprise" (changed title to "Star Trek: Enterprise" eventually), the films featuring the cast of "Star Trek: The Next Generation", and the recent films of J.J. Abrams. 

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • First, this book does not have a consistent title compared with part 1:
      • Book 1: The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years
      • Book 2:  The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years: From The Next Generation to J.J. Abrams: The Complete, Uncensored, and Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek
      • It's a small thing, true, but certainly noticeable when you type out the full titles.
      • And goodness, no need for THREE subtitles!
    • I will never be a fan of oral histories but this one had its virtues compared to the first book.
      • Book 1 was 576 pages about the original series of "Star Trek" and its movies. There was a LOT of repetition involved with the same actors and producers quoted ad nauseam about the tiffs they constantly had. Snore!
      • This book covers several different casts so that added some variety even though the production crew stayed basically the same.
      • Book 2 was therefore longer than Book 1, clocking in at 864 pages, having that much more ground to cover.
    • The producers and writers make up the main interviewees with several of the actors making up the rest. Some actors are quoted often and others never appear at all. 
      • Some comments are puzzling when there was no follow up. It is entirely possible that some of the actors were being facetious or joking but you couldn't tell from the context.
        • Example: One "Enterprise" actor makes a comment how difficult it was to work with an actress in the cast but she is never quoted for a response and the actor never elaborates so you have to wonder if he was joking.
    • One thing that was fun to read was the story behind "Deep Space Nine", the "middle child" of the spin-off series. As such they were able to get away with more serialization --- story arcs spanning several episodes and seasons --- which was a no-no in the Star Trek world.
      • It's a no-no because for syndication purposes they want viewers to be able to jump in at any point without knowing the backstory. Serialized stories generally need to be watched from the beginning.
      • On the other hand, the very serialization they loathed is the same thing that increases the interest in it because it lends itself very well to the binge-watching methodology of today.
      • And now almost all of the greatest dramas are serialized!
    • There was a lot of turmoil behind the scenes in the writers' rooms as they needed to balance the wishes of the Paramount executives, the show producers and Gene Roddenberry.
      • Roddenberry decreed that in the future there would be no conflict among the crew, for example, because humans would have evolved beyond that. This makes it difficult to write certain dramatic stories because conflict is inherent in character situations.
        • "DS9" got away with it more because most of the characters weren't human (Starfleet), and Gene Roddenberry had died by the time it went on the air.
    • Recommended for those interested in the shows and movies that came after the original "Star Trek" (see Book 1 for that story) and those interested in behind-the-scenes look at how television was run in the late 1980s through the early 2000s.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Star Trek: The 50-Year Mission: The First 25 Years by Altman & Gross

  • THE BOOK
    • The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman
    • Published June 28, 2016
    • Other work by authors together: The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years: From The next Generation to J.J. Abrams: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek
    • Separately they have written numerous books on Star Trek and its spin-offs as well as other TV shows and movies.

  • THE PREMISE
    • See title.
    • Both of the authors have had ties to Star Trek over the years, interviewing numerous cast and crew of the TV and movie series.
    • This book takes those interviews and sorts them in a chronological scheme. Starting with the original creation of the 1966 TV series by Gene Roddenberry through the 6th film featuring the original crew, all bases are covered.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I have mentioned before how the oral history is not my favorite thing to read. I love Star Trek and most of its incarnations though.
      • I have not yet watched every single episode of the original series but I have seen most of them. I have watched every episode of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine (my personal fave), Voyager and Enterprise. I have seen 9 out of 10 of the movies, all except the last one (Nemesis) and I have only seen the first movie from the re-boot. 
      • I have no recall of watching the animated series but my brother and I were big Saturday morning cartoon watchers and I imagine we saw a few episodes. If so, it would have been my introduction to Star Trek, one I can't remember!
    • My issue with oral histories are these:
      •  You don't know when the interviews occurred.
        • An interview with William Shatner in 1968 would be different from an interview in the 1990s, say.
        • Several of the early participants have since died, some as long ago as the 1960s and 1970s, so that's always a bit disconcerting.
      • You lose the context when you have only snippets of interviews parceled out.
      • You are at the mercy of the editors who decide which tidbits to parcel out.
    • The authors did help by inserting several sections of text to clarify some things. It was in a smaller, different font than the interviews which I found distracting. A different font is fine but smaller is not good for old fogey eyeballs!
    • There are a plethora of comments from Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, several of the producers and writers but a mere smattering from the other actors.
      • I would have loved more perspective from Nichelle Nichols, Majel Barrett and George Takei, who got very few lines overall. Perhaps they weren't interviewed as much by the authors?
      • Yvonne Craig, a guest star on the original series, had some great comments.
    • The early years of the saga are a constant litany of backstabbing, jealousy and bitching from the men.
      • As such, so much of it was repetitive. On EVERY series or movie Shatner and Nimoy get pissy about something. And Gene Roddenberry is either loved or loathed depending on who is commenting. Gene apparently complained a lot and alienated the networks and his producers. But just a few examples would have been enough of all this.
      • I think the next book in the series might benefit from having to cover so many actors and series that the repetition factor should be limited.
    • I didn't learn much that is new but I did enjoy hearing from some of the women who worked in the background who were working in a male-dominated, misogynistic field.
      • I knew this fact but the book did expound on it more and that was the fact that Star Trek would never have happened without Lucille Ball!
        • Lucy ran Desilu in the 1960s and the studio wanted more programs that were company-owned rather than renting out studio space to other shows.
        • She was the one who overrode her board of directors to green light Star Trek!
        • She eventually sold out to Gulf & Western because Desilu was cash poor. Many comments say that if she could have held out financially for 6 more months she would have had complete control over the two most syndicated shows ever: I Love Lucy and Star Trek.
    • Recommended for Star Trek fans only.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

White Trash by Nancy Isenberg

  • THE BOOK
    • White Trash: The 400-Year Untold Story of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg
    • Published June 21, 2016
    • Other works by author include Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr, Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America, and Mortal Remains: Death in Early America

  • THE PREMISE
    • This is a study of class from the time of America's colonization in the 1600s until today, specifically those who are considered to be "poor white trash".
    • The United States, in general, considers itself to be a classless society, rejecting the system of England during the American Revolution. Unfortunately for the poorest people this is patently untrue.
      • We see celebrities, athletes and other rich people treated better than everyone else. We see poor people treated like garbage (and this is leaving out for the moment the matter of race). Class is everywhere.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • This book is quite thought provoking. When you accept the "middle class" you inherently accept the existence of upper and lower classes too.
      • Once people have made it into the upper or middle classes they like to "pull up the ladder" so the lesser fortunate have a harder time following in their footsteps.
    • The founding document of the nation extols "All men are created equal..." but that is not the reality. There are always poor people. We see them every day and feel superior to them.
      • Assumptions are made that they are lazy, dirty, uncouth, uneducated, and so forth.
      • These assumptions go back to the 1600s when the writers of the time referred to these poor as "rubbish", "waste people", "crackers", "lazy lubbers", "clay eaters", "rednecks" and "trailer trash".
        • There WERE people who were lazy, dirty, uncouth and uneducated. Society was such that it was almost impossible for them to rise above their circumstances.
        • Many of them were living in the South and the Appalachian Mountains.
    • During the Civil War the slave owners worried that the non-slaveholders would not fight for the Confederacy and needed to be convinced that freeing slaves would make it worse for the poor whites.
      • It seems to be a fact of human nature that we like to know we are better than someone else. No one wants to be on the bottom rung.
    • I remember using and referring to people as "poor white trash" when I lived in the South as a child. There was a way they dressed or acted that immediately identified people as such. 
      • I burn with shame to think of this. Overall this name-calling was done behind their backs and not to their face but that still doesn't make it right, does it?
        • People are people and they were just trying to make do in a difficult world with less money. 
        • My family was lucky. The suburb I lived in (in the New Orleans, Louisiana, area) was not a wealthy area and we were middle class even though my parents lived from paycheck to paycheck like everyone else. The difference comes in that they owned their home and home ownership practically defines a family as middle class.
    • Anyway, this book was quite interesting. The early chapters are a bit of a slog until you reach the pre-Civil War years. Then it picks up speed until the end.
    • One interesting point made is the vast popularity of "The Beverly Hillbillies" about a family who become millionaires due to an oil strike. The author has us try to imagine a group of hillbillies trying to move into Beverly Hills without the money. It would never happen, would it?
    • Recommended for those interested in American history.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Games by David Goldblatt

  • THE BOOK
    • The Games: A Global History of the Olympics by David Goldblatt
    • Published July 26, 2016
    • Other works by author: The Soccer Book, Futebol Nation: The Story of Brazil Through Soccer, The Game of Our Lives: The English Premier League and the Making of Modern Britain, and The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer.
      • These books may be my insomnia cure: What's worse than watching or playing soccer? Reading about it! (Sorry, I'm not a soccer fan. I'm not a sports fan in general except for the Olympics!)

  • THE PREMISE
    • This is NOT a book recounting the great athletic feats of the Olympic Games. Some athletes are mentioned but only at a superficial level.
    • Instead the book covers the founding of the modern games, with a look into the ancient games. It also covers over 100 years of Olympic history, specifically the political part of the story.
    • The Olympics are often viewed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as above politics. They are deluded as this book makes clear.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • The premise of this book is a good one. A non-political organization that reeks of politics (and corruption) is a fascinating topic. Unfortunately this is a slog in many chapters. 
      • Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement, was an interesting character but you'd never know it from the first chapters. Some major tightening and focusing would have been helpful.
      • All the presidents of the IOC are interesting in their ways, especially Avery Brundage and Juan Antonio Samaranch, but they seem to get short shrift when compared to de Coubertin.
    • Generally each section (after the founding years of de Coubertin) has a chapter with an overview of the selection of host cities followed by individual chapters on each individual games though this distinction is often blurred.
      • Example: It's difficult to focus on the Moscow 1980 Olympics without specifically comparing them to Los Angeles 1984 due to the boycotts of those years.
    • Almost every city that wants the Olympics has a political reason for wanting to stage the games. Berlin 1936 to show off the Nazi world; London 1948 to show how they survived the war; Seoul 1988 to show their technological development; Barcelona 1992 to make the city a tourist destination; Sochi 2014 to show off Putin's Russia; and so on.
      • The Winter Olympics are somewhat shortchanged and get very little real estate in comparison to the summer games. 
    • There is the argument of the amateur vs. the professional, something the IOC wrestled with for decades. It's difficult to maintain that the games are for amateurs only when the USSR, for example, definitely paid their athletes. The IOC turned a blind eye, just like they did for the rampant corruption and the doping issues that were evident from decades ago.
    • Towards the end of the book is a fascinating look into the cities that host the games and end up with white elephant stadia or decades of debt. 
      • It took Montreal 1976 thirty years to pay off Olympic debt!
      • Sochi 2014 cost $51 billion, the most expensive Olympics ever.
    • Women's sports are mentioned as they were added, subtracted and then added again.
      • From page 109: "[Baron] Cobertin...in 1912 argued, 'The Olympic Games must be reserved for men...We must continue to try to achieve the following definition: the solemn and periodic exaltation of male athleticism, with internationalism as a base, loyalty as a means, art for its setting, and female applause as its reward." 
        • Naturally.
      • From page 114: Regarding the two women who had just completed the race in first and second places, "both, like all 800-meter athletes after a sprint finish, were exhausted. 'This distance is far too strenuous for women.' On this kind of evidence, pretty much alone, no more women's races of longer than 200 meters were run at the Olympic games until 1968."
    • The book is poorly edited and/or poorly written. 
      • Generally when you introduce a person you will insert pertinent information to identify them which you won't need to do in subsequent mentions.
        • Page 165: "one of Clarke Gable's dance partners"
        • Page 166: "heart-throb Clark Gable"
          • And yes, his name was misspelled in the first use or the author was referring to a completely different person named Clarke. 
      • In a book with minimal mention of individual athletes it was important to mention the same anecdote twice:
        • Page 184: "...while disgraced American Olympian Eleanor Holm - excluded from the US team by Avery Brundage for getting drunk on champagne cocktails with the press corps on the steamship that brought them across the Atlantic - was reported to have been swimming naked in the pool."
        • Page 199: "Brundage won his spurs as the head of the American Olympic committee after defeating the anti-Nazi Berlin boycott campaign and by banning the swimmer Eleanor Holm for being her own woman and drinking champagne on the trans Atlantic crossing to the 1936 games."
          • An anecdote so nice the author used it twice!
        • Page 158: "In Berlin, four years later, Sohn Kee-Chung, the Korean marathon champion, would bow his head in shame as the Japanese anthem was played, appalled that he should have run and won under the flag of the colonial oppressor."
        • Page 183: "Two Koreans, Sohn Kee-Chung and Nam Sung-Yong, gold and bronze medalists respectively in the marathon, bowed their heads in 'silent shame and outrage' as the Japanese flag was raised."
          • This example really caught my eye as I had stopped reading to look up Sohn Kee-Chung on Wikipedia. So to read it again 25 pages later? Did no one read this book before it went to the printers?
      • The author uses the terms "bourgeois" and "demotic" way too often.
        • Bourgeois means middle class.
        • Demotic means colloquial speech.
          • Each has several synonyms. A thesaurus can be a useful tool for some writers.
      • One factual error I found involved the name of the winners of the coxless pairs for rowing at the London 1948 games. This struck me because actor Hugh Laurie's dad won this gold medal with his partner for Great Britain and his was not the name mentioned in the book. The author meant double sculls, also a gold medal won for Great Britain.
        • Granted, I can't tell the difference between rowing teams --- and perhaps I know too much about Hugh Laurie --- but this was a simple fact to check. Once I see incorrect facts the rest of the book becomes suspect.
      • The book had randomly hyphenated words, as if the book was typeset one way and then changed but the syllable breaks weren't removed.
    • And my very favorite sentence from the whole book:
      • "Yet, despite the warning, Italy's press remained captivated by the female presence at the games, giving extensive coverage to the many celebrities who attended — like Elizabeth Taylor and princess grace of Monaco — as well as the olimpidaine, a core of bilingual young women, hailing from the very elite of Roman society, smartly dressed and extensively briefed, who served as interrupters during the games."
        • Hahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!
    • Recommended for people who want the nitty-gritty of how the games came to be. Otherwise I highly recommend Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World by David Maraniss. Excellent book that makes you wish for a volume of this caliber for every games.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Book by Keith Houston

  • THE BOOK
    • The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time by Keith Houston
    • Published August 23, 2016
    • One other book by the author: Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks

  • THE PREMISE
    • This is the history of books: from scrolls to cheap paperbacks. It also covers the general history of paper, inks, and illustrations. There's also an overview of the history of writing along with every method of printing technology.
    • Clay and wax tablets, papyrus, parchment, vellum, linen paper, wood paper, wood blocks, etchings, lithography, and more are covered.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I have read a few books about fonts. I read a book called Paper earlier this year. I am the ideal reader for a book like this!
    • I have only one complaint: reading descriptions about the various printing and illustrating processes is not necessarily easy to picture if you have no idea what any printing process looks like. 
      • Ideally, embedded videos would be nice! I bet this is a thing that will exist someday.
      • Google and YouTube are great for finding videos to fill in those gaps, however.
      • There are several illustrations which bring the topics alive even without videos!
    • The hardcover book itself is beautiful: book terms are defined on the cover and all through the book itself. 
    • There are copious footnotes which indicate the high level of research. Bonus: the footnotes are not the type where extra stories are included in them so you don't need to keep flipping to the back constantly while reading. 
      • I appreciate this because I find it interrupts the flow when I need to keep referring to the footnotes in the back of the book as I read. Those newsy kind of footnotes should be on the bottom of the text pages!
    • I loved this book and have already requested the author's first book, Shady Characters, from the library!
      • He has a blog that I may start following too.
    • Recommended for people who enjoy micro-history and/or the story of how books came to be.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

  • THE BOOK
    • The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
    • Published August 30, 2016
    • Author's debut novel

  • THE PREMISE
    • In Manhattan in 2118 there is a 1000-story building that covers many blocks. (For comparison, the original World Trade towers were each about 110 stories while the current tower is 104.)
    • This is a young adult novel featuring characters about 17-18 years old.
    • One genetically perfect girl lives in the 1000th floor penthouse and is in love with a boy she can't have. Another girl who lives "up-tower" is a drug addict who loves the same boy. A third up-tower girl experiences a circumstance change that takes her down tower.
    • And then there are the characters who live down the tower. The floors in the 100s and 200s are practically considered slums.
    • The main characters are named Avery, Eris, Leda, Atlas, Watt, Cord, Mariel and Rylin. 
      • Three of those come straight from Greek mythology. Isn't that kind of a high percentage?
    • In the prologue chapter one girl is falling to her death from the top of the tower so it's a mystery of sorts.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • Nowhere on the book itself does it tell you that this is the first book of a trilogy. If I had known that going in I might have waited until they were all out first.
    • But the fact that this will be a trilogy means that it explains the book's biggest issue: no real plot other than "who jumps or fell or gets pushed" off the tower. 
    • Most of the reviews I perused all described this as a combination of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars. I have neither read nor watched the TV programs based on them so I couldn't tell you if this is correct from personal experience.
    • This type of story generally seems to take place on a spaceship or generational interstellar space station. There are always haves and have-nots and there is always a class system. There are always lower class teens hooking up with upper class teens. These are always the tropes that go along with this type of story.
      • This is in a self-contained building rather than a spaceship. 
      • The characters can and do leave the building on occasion as apparently the rest of the world is still the same.
    • The world-building could be better because I could never quite picture how things fit together. 
      • As an example, using characters from a non-illustrated book, take Jamie and Claire from the Outlander books. Author Diana Gabaldon describes Jamie and Claire in great detail. Interestingly, my version will not necessarily look like anyone else's version --- imaginations are such individual things --- but we can all easily picture them in our mind's eye.
      • The same should be true of a 1000-story building and its layout. Perhaps that is not the focus of a book aimed at teens (Diana G. was certainly writing for adults and she had hundreds of pages to include descriptions) but it's a new type of locale and the descriptions should be easier to picture.
      • Plus we never understand why or how a thousand floor building became possible. Again, this is a book aimed at teen girls so heaven forfend they are given the nuts and bolts of building construction or its history...yes, pun intended.
    • I enjoyed this until the very end when I realized it would be at least another two years before the story completes.
      • I'm never a fan of stories where the characters sole being is based on the boy they like and/or how much money they have. These are all characters about to finish school and I don't recall a single instance of what they plan to do once school is over with the exception of the two "poor" kids. Hmph.
        • As a high school junior/senior I was all about college and planning my future as well as liking boys. 
    • Recommended for teen girls who want nothing to do with how a building --- or gravity --- works.