Sad Books Say So Much

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I love books that challenge my assumptions and make me think.







5 - "This book is outstanding!  I need to tell everybody I know about this fabulous book!"


4 - "This book is really, really good!"


3 - "This book is good, but not great."


2 - "This book is not impressing me."


1 - "Burn it!  Shred it!  Or better yet, blow it up!"

I caved

I've been back at Goodreads for about a week.  Reading had become something I had to persuade myself to get theough, rather than something that gave me solace and joy.  It was time to return to the familiar.


There is a fair bit of hypocrisy attached to this decision, since all the old irritants remain, but I will still vehemently express my views when the opportunity arises, and focus on books the rest of the time.


If you're on GR, please add me as a friend - over there, I'm Jennifer (Sad Books Say So Much).  I may still post my reviews here - I haven't decided.


Sorry, but this is just something I needed to do.




Completed July 29, 2016

Irreparable Harm - Melissa F. Miller



This book really should have been a movie.  That way, I could have sat back, relaxed and enjoyed seeing the action unfold.  I tend to be more willing to suspend disbelief when it's on the screen playing out in front of me.


Truth is, I quite enjoyed the first part of this book.  Author Melissa F. Miller does a great job of skewering the law firm culture, exposing the greed for money and power, and the way it sucks the life and the humanity out of lawyers and clients alike.  I've always been very comfortable with my choice to make three times less than my colleagues by following my passion and serving the public interest in a government job, but that choice was also based on personal considerations.  I wanted to travel.  I wanted to sleep in on weekends.  Hell, I wanted to eat lunch!


Then we get bogged down in this mystery that isn't one, and Miller loses me completely.   She takes a likeable character and turns her into a pawn.  The character must now break away from her normal environment, which was interesting in and of itself, in order to solve a crime and outwit the crimnals, but there is virtually no suspense.  We know what the crime is.  We know when it will occur.  We know who the perps are.  So we are locked into pages and pages and pages of fake intrigue before we finally get the outcome we predicted long ago.  SO disappointing.


And then there is the narrator, who makes tough-as-nails Sasha sound hesitant and girly, and commits the ultimate sin of dumbing down every person of colour in the book by having them spout ebonics.  To say I was not impressed would be an understatement - and I'm not one of those listeners who is hard on narrators.  Just know your characters!


So I can't recommend this book, because it was a crash course in what NOT to do.



Completed June 15, 2016

Etiquette & Espionage - Gail Carriger

In which an unloved youngest child, unrecognized for her shrewdness, unappreciated for her eccentricity, finds a new and improved family while learning to ignore considerations of convention, tradition, class, race and sexual orientation, in favour of one abiding principle - do unto others as they have done unto you.


OK, so it wasn't outstanding.  All right, so it probably would go over the heads of its target market (12 year old girls!)  It was cute, funny, sweet and satisfying - and sometimes, that's all you need.


Completed May 5, 2016

Six Years - Harlan Coben

I have never read a book with a more annoying male protagonist than this one.  He is pretentious, frumpy, arrogant, selfish and delusional.  Yet the story is compelling, because who doesn't want to believe that a lost love can be recaptured, against all odds?  It's just is more complicated than that.


Human beings face challenges.  Some of those roadblocks can't be overcome.  Coben seems to believe in the law of attraction - if you want it badly enough, you can get it.  Well, no matter how much I want to drive, I am never going to be able to obtain a driver's license, because I am visually impaired.  But there are other things in life that I can have - do have - because I worked hard and earned them.  Dream big, but back up your dreams with action.  Don't sit and wish for what can never be.  More importantly, destroying other people's lives so you can get what you want is vicious.  Jake is no better than his adversaries.  In some ways, he is worse, because he cloaks his cruelty in charm and bravado.  "I love her," he says.  His actions say, "Don't get in my way or you'll regret it".


I found this a fast-paced read, and was excited to learn the outcome of Jake's quest. But really, he should have left well enough alone.  Sometimes sacrifice is far more noble than treacly declarations of undying adoration.


Completed March 28, 2016

The Children's Hour - Douglas Clegg

We all face demons.  We are all haunted by malevolent forces we cannot even begin to understand or control.  But in the end, there is love, family, community...home.  Home is not a building, nor is it a fixed place.  It is where we are when we are with the people who know us better than we know ourselves, and yet still find the strength and the courage to help us fight our demons and to forgive us again and again and again if we cannot overcome them.


Our childish innocence of old may lurk deep beneath the surface, but if we unlock the chains that bind us to cynicism and despair, we can return home and find a way to rebuild our shattered hearts, dreaming new dreams to replace those that are gone forever.


Completed March 2, 2016

The Diary of a Young Girl - B.M. Mooyaart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Anne Frank

She was spoiled, whiny, arrogant, rude - yet she lives on in the hearta of millions.  Why does the tragic story of Anne Frank so deeply affect us?  Because we know how difficult it is to be young, yearning to grow up and make our own decisions, but lacking the experience and judgment to acknowledge all that we do not know and understand.  And then, to be at the mercy of the cruelest tyrants that history has ever known, fearing that with every strange noise, death and destruction are knocking on the door.  How did she take the emotional and physical suffering of captivity with such grace?  How did she write so eloquently about horrors beyond anyone's imagination - and yet manage to find entertainment and even humour in a daily life that was so crippling?  We can only wonder at such bravado.


Anne has left us an enduring legacy.  We must do as she did - find the good in everyone and everything, even if it seems oh so distant.  Most of all, we must never forget the atrocities she and so many others endured, and we owe a duty - to Anne and to them all - to fight tyrants wherever their iron fists may thunder down on their innocent, defenseless people.  "Near, far, wherever (they) are..."


Completed January 13, 2016

Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering - Meredith Baxter

Money doesn't buy happiness - and fame can't make you whole.  Meredith Baxter discovered that the hard way.


Deeply damaged by an upbringing fraught with parental indifference, three poisonous "traditional" marriages and battles with drug addiction and alcoholism, Baxter worked steadily because work was the only thing that kept her going.  Figuring out in her 50s that she was a lesbian saved her from further torture and brought her the love and joy she so badly needed.


Revealing.  Compelling.  Not your typical celebrity autobiography!


Completed December 22, 2015

Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng

Dear Louisa,


I think you knew, back then, that my fractured heart was not yours for the keeping.  Thank you for backing off and making it possible for me to reclaim my life.  Shattered by loss and grief, bewildered by the evaporation of my most cherished dreams, I turned to a familiar face when looking in the mirror could have provided greater insight.


My remaining children have never quite emerged from their sister's shadow.  Nathan - focused, driven Nath, who sought to avenge his sister's death, only to find there were no easy answers - was hired by NASA in the late 1980s and holds the distinction of being the youngest astronaut ever selected.  He now specializes in space tourism, and is currently hosting a group of travel agents who want to check out the amenities available on Mars.  He is more comfortable on another planet than he is in our home.  Hannah - intuitive, sensitive Hannah, the child most affected by the sins of her father and her mother - became a child psychologist and a professor at Columbia University.  She is adored and respected by her patients and her students, but does not plan to have children of her own.


Why am I telling you this?  Louisa, I am an old man now, and Marilyn was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.  While her condition has (ironically) granted her the peace of mind and serenity she sought for so long, it has also meant the deterioration of her brilliant mind.  When she looks into my eyes, she sees a stranger, and I, gazing at her, am once again reminded of the years we both wasted.  I cannot change a thing, but what I CAN do is offer you my sincere apologies for using you so blatantly and then discarding you so abruptly.


I wish you well, Louisa.  I hope you found what you were looking for.  Most of all, I hope it was all that you thought it would be.




James Lee 




Completed December 3, 2015

Kitty Genovese: A True Account of a Public Murder and Its Private Consequences - Catherine Pelonero

This book is about evil in all its ugly flamboyance.  It is also a stark reminder that no one can truly claim to be a "good person" if - when tested, when confronted with the ultimate choice between right and wrong - they set off on a path of self-serving, malevolent destruction.


Damaged though he clearly was by childhood trauma, Winston Moseley CHOSE to inflict pain and suffering on the innocent.  In the end, he could not evade the consequences of his carefully planned, deliberately constructed mayhem.  Nevertheless, the fact that he is still alive, and the brave souls who apprehended and prosecuted him have almost all left this world, is a cruel twist of fate.


Similarly, the witnesses of Kew Gardens CHOSE to look the other way while one of their own was brutally erased from their midst.  They were afraid???  So was Catherine Genovese - and she was alone with a monster.  Their fear did not dissuade them from lying repeatedly to law enforcement, the media and themselves.  They willingly aided and abetted a perpetrator because alerting the police was inconvenient.  For SHAME.


This thoroughly-researched and well-reasoned book is a must read for anyone who believes that callous indifference is excusable because someone might have lived an exemplary life prior to a fateful choice.  Obstruction of justice is NEVER excusable.  Despise Winston Moseley for his crimes, yes indeed!  But don't ignore the "upstanding citizens" who made that nightmare possible.  To do so is to put a further nail in Catherine Genovese's coffin.


Completed October 22, 2015

Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn

As I read this book, I thought to myself that there were almost certainly people I knew who could relate to Camille's story, individuals for whom this work of fiction too closely resembled their truth.  To the damaged, the broken and the lost, I offer you my deepest condolences.


The Divine Miss M said it best:


Some say love, it is a river, that drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed


It's the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance
It's the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance
It's the one who won't be taken, who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live


When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed, that with the sun's love in the spring becomes the rose.


Completed September 30, 2015

The Silent Wife - A.S.A. Harrison



He turns 18 in seven hours.  At 11:04 AM, he will become a man, shedding childhood's shelter forever.  Continuing to protect him from the truth seems pointless.  He's a smart kid; he starts his B. Comm. at Northwestern in the fall.  He'll figure it out - which is why I've been up all night trying to find the words to explain.  If he hears it from me, all of it, perhaps it will soften the blow.


Zebediah Gilbert Kovacs (yeah, really!) - Zeb for short - believes his father died in a car crash.  Todd was such a reckless driver that the lie was easy to tell.  Anybody who had ever been in the car during one of his frequent bouts of road rage had a story to tell, and Zeb ate those tall tales up as if they were candy.  I never tried to turn him against his father.  Never said a bad word about him.  On that point, at least, my conscience is clear.  Zeb knows that I was very young when I met Todd, that our relationship was stormy...and also that we were just about to marry.


In describing my brief relationship with Todd, I've never told Zeb that we loved each other.  The reality is that I enjoyed chasing him and got bored once I caught him, while Todd was seeking yet another fling and got a fiancée.  When he was little, I would say "Mommy loves you very much, and Daddy wanted to meet you so badly."  He seemed satisfied with that.  If he asked for details about the "accident", I would change the subject.


So telling him his father was murdered will break my heart, but it must be done.  I owe Todd that.  His son should have an opportunity to properly mourn his loss and to understand the talent and the drive that were stolen from this world on that horrific day.  After what I put Todd through, after all the drama and all the chaos and all the conflict, Todd should live on in the eyes of his boy as the force of nature he was.   He was indestructible and irrepressible.  It took evil to remove him from our midst, because he wasn't going anywhere.


The obvious question is - who did it?  My Dad was convicted, but I never quite bought that scenario.  My Dad was every bit the philanderer Todd was, but less subtle and considerably less smooth in covering his tracks.  He was prone to drunken confessions of adultery at the drop of a hat, and Mama always took him back.  He swears up and down he didn't hire those hoodlums, and seems genuinely devastated since Todd's death.  If he'd done this, I'd know it.  I'd sense it in every fiber of my being.  I look in that man's eyes every time I visit, and he never cracks.  He meets my gaze straight on, especially when we discuss the glory days of his and Todd's youth.  It's a subject of which he never tires.


Which leaves us with the bitch.  And there's my biggest problem.  A few years ago, she re-entered my life in the most bizarre fashion possible - as the new Guidance Counsellor at the high school Zeb attends.  How can I warn her to stay the hell away from my child when she's invigilating the SATs and teaching college prep courses he needs to graduate?  What's worse, she's wormed her way into a weird sort of friendship with Zeb.  He's told me he considers her his mentor.  He wants to invite her to dinner next week!  "You should meet her, Mom.  Mrs. LeGroot is AWESOME."  Yeah, son, and she had motive and opportunity and the cojones to keep her hands clean.


I may have to tell the poor kid.  God knows it won't be easy.  But I don't know how much longer I can stand to hear her name.


Completed September 9, 2015

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

Oh, how I wanted a happy ending for her.  I thought of her as June, because that was the last name she mentioned when she identified her roommates in Chapter 1.  I desperately wanted June to rediscover her beloved Luke, to reunite with her daughter, to reconnect with her mother, to gloriously return to the life she had known before.


But 'twas not to be.  Even if she did manage to escape, even if Nick's motives were pure (or, at the very least, not entirely self-serving) she was not going back.  Her past was done, over, finished - and her future would be precarious and tinged with grief.  So much had been taken from her, and none of it would truly be restored.  That is the outrage inherent in this handmaid's tale.


Which brings me, gingerly, to the political overtones of this story.  They cannot be ignored, because Atwood proves to be such a perceptive prophet.  9/11, Homeland Security, Al Qaeda, ISIS, they're all here, although this book was written long before those events transpired.  The Holocaust and the Iron Curtain, relatively recent history at the time of publication, are here too.


The religious right did not begin with the modern Republican Party, but its dangerous ideology has found a home there.  When we long for a return to traditional values, when we mourn what used to be, do we realize how dangerous it is to try to recreate the past?  To erase difference and replace it with homogeneity?  I fear we will learn the consequences of our actions when it is too late to repair the wounds.  Yes, we are all "entitled" to our beliefs, but we are also required to account for our creed, to fully comprehend its logical extensions before we seek to impose it on others.


So I bid a sad farewell to June, who sought only love, and witnessed only hate.  May we always remember you, and create a world that pays tribute to your sacrifice.





Completed July 26, 2015

Divergent (Divergent Series) - Veronica Roth

They say adolescence is the best time of our lives.  "Enjoy it while it lasts," they say.


They are lying through their teeth.  Adolescence is hell on Earth.


Beatrice Prior knows this all too well.  Ripped from her home and her support system at 16, that most vulnerable of ages, she must make a choice for which she is ill-equipped and entirely unprepared.  Like many, she picks the option she perceives as the most "fun" and "daring"...and ends up plunged into a political crisis at which she inadvertently is the centre, subjected to unspeakable brutality, and boldly forging a new path which will lead her to the last thing she ever expected - the sweet blush of first love.


This book is so much more than mere YA pseudo-fiction.  It is insightful and, at times, brilliant.  It should be taught in high school classrooms because of author Veronica Roth's blunt assessment of human nature, because of its powerful message that one should never stop fighting for truth and justice, and because the romance (usually my least favourite part of any book) is allowed to develop slowly and sweetly, without pretense or contrivance.


Please read this book. It's infinitely better than the movie.


Completed June 16, 2015

Kane and Abel - Jeffrey Archer

This book caused me great sadness.  So much left unsaid, so many misunderstandings.  The wasted, misspent years that left bitterness to fester where acceptance could and should have crept in.  Were these two individuals related, I could have made sense of it all.  Goodness knows family dynamics are complicated.  But to lose it all for the sake of money and power?  What a shame.  What a disgrace.


This was truly an epic novel.  Its pacing was rapid, its plotting unpredictable, and its characters captivating.  I have left out one star because in today's vastly different world, it feels dated, and because the e-book and the audiobook differed in various idiosyncratic, inexplicable ways, making the story harder to follow.  But the journey was definitely an enjoyable one.

The number one sign you're rewinding an audiobook too much?

When you dismiss a character's thoughts and words because "What does she know?  She only has four chapters left to live!"

One more reason to love Audible!

"Congratulations! You've earned a $10 Listening Rewards coupon for purchasing four books with a regular price of $14.95 or more between the dates of April 1, 2015 and April 30, 2015. This coupon can be used towards the purchase of any title in our store!


We've already dropped this gift of savings into your Audible account, so you can spend it right away. Please remember, your $10 coupon expires on May 31, 2015. Happy listening!"


*happy dance*

Currently reading

The Banks of Certain Rivers by D Jon Harrison
Progress: 65%
Building Bridges (Footprints Series) by Victor C. Goldbloom, Graham Fraser
Progress: 38%