Book Review: Ink Flamingos by Karen E. Olson

Ink Flamingos (Tattoo Shop Mystery, #4)Ink Flamingos by Karen E. Olson
Publisher: NAL
Release Date: June 7, 2011
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Dee Carmichael, lead singer of the hot pop sensation that was the Flamingos, is one of Brett’s most dedicated customers – or was. Dee has been discovered dead in her hotel room, surrounded by ink pots and needles. And a tall redhead matching Brett’s description was seen leaving the crime scene. Now Brett has been branded the prime suspect. This can’t be good for business.

Meanwhile, a blog has been showcasing Dee’s deadly tattoo. Things get worse when pictures of Brett start appearing on the site. Turns out, someone isn’t merely following Brett, but impersonating her all over town. Now she must act fast to find out who’s out to get her before the killer puts the dye into dying once again…

My tattoo. I am a bad-ass.

My tattoo. I am a bad-ass.

Ink Flamingos is the fourth and last book in the Tattoo Shop Mystery series, a cozy mystery series set in a Las Vegas tattoo shop. I didn’t know when I read it that it was the final book in the series – I didn’t even know it was part of a series! To be honest, the reason I chose this book is because the word “flamingos” is in the title and I love flamingos. I even have a flamingo tattoo myself! A flamingo tattoo is integral to the plot of this book. Anyway, even though Ink Flamingos is part of a series, I had no trouble jumping right in and figuring out who all the characters were. It definitely can stand alone.

When tattoo artist Brett Kavanaugh’s famous client Daisy (Dee) Carmichael turns up dead, Brett takes it upon herself to find her killer. After all, someone is impersonating Brett and making it look like she’s the killer. Brett’s brother Tim is an actual police officer on the case and Brett’s interference into his investigation is frustrating him to no end. I got the sense that this isn’t the first investigation she’s inserted herself into.

This was a well-crafted mystery with several red herrings that kept me guessing up until the end who the killer was. There was also some romance thrown in for good measure. I don’t read a lot of cozies but I liked this one enough that I’ll probably read the other three books in the series – even though they don’t have the word “flamingo” in their titles!

Book Review: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The InterestingsThe Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Paperback Release Date: March 25, 2014
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.

The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful—true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.

Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestings explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life.

Ethan, Ash, and her brother Goodman, Jonah and Cathy are five privileged friends who have been attending Camp Spirit-In-The-Woods for years. It’s a camp for artistically gifted kids and the friends only half-jokingly call themselves The Interestings. One summer, they accept a girl new to the camp into their little circle. Julie, renamed Jules by the group because it sounds cooler, is there on scholarship. Her father just died and she needed a distraction.

The six teens are the best of friends, even keeping in touch and visiting each other throughout the rest of the year. As they grow up and outgrow camp, their friendships are tested. Members betray other members. Some find success as the artists they wanted to be, while others must choose, or settle for, different career paths.

The Interestings raises several interesting questions. (See what I did there?) What is a friend’s obligation to you if they are significantly better off financially than you? What should your expectations be? Is it ever okay to keep secrets from a friend? What about your spouse? If one member of the group hurts another, should the remaining members shun him or her? Or is it none of their business?

The characters are well-developed and multi-dimensional. I think I both loved and hated each of them in turn. Well, there was one that I didn’t ever like. You’ll know which one when you read it.

I love it when a novel has great characters that I get to follow from their youth into middle age or beyond. The Interestings is one of those sweeping stories.

Book Review: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Girl With All the GiftsThe Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publisher: Orbit
Paperback Release Date: April 28, 2015

Publisher’s Description:

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

The Girl With All the Gifts is one of those books that I can hardly say anything about without spoiling it and giving up the big twist. I mean, look at the publisher’s description. It hardly says anything either! I can’t even tell you which sub-genre of thriller it falls into but it is definitely a thriller from beginning to end.

Why is Melanie taken from a cell every morning with a gun pointed at her head? The answer to this question is the biggest surprise in the book. Clues are given but I never would have guessed what it was before it was revealed.

What can I tell you? I can tell you that this book is scary, creepy and haunting in all the best ways. I can tell you that it takes place in the future and has great world-building but I can’t tell you anything about that world.

I know my review is short and cryptic but I hope it’s enough to convince you that you must read this book.

 

Week-End Ramblings

This was a pretty low-key week. The absolute highlight was graduating pulmonary rehab. I have very poor lungs for a variety of reasons. I’m hospitalized for pneumonia at least twice a year. The latest theory from my doctors is that my Crohn’s disease is the most recent cause of the inflammation. This is after being in the hospital for over two weeks in November. I even spent Thanksgiving there! I came home from that stay with instructions to wear oxygen whenever doing any activity more strenuous than just puttering around my house – so shopping, going on an outing with my kids, etc. I was super uncomfortable every time I left the house with my portable oxygen machine because I felt so conspicuous. I even scared a baby on an elevator and made him cry!

My doctor ordered pulmonary rehab for me, which is basically physical therapy for the lungs. It was eighteen sessions long and we mostly focused on cardio to build up endurance. Pulmonary rehab is usually for people with COPD. My class consisted of me and five to seven crusty old male ex-smokers in their late 70s and early 80s. I fit right in. Halfway through the program, I was able to ditch my oxygen machine during the day. I still have to wear it on the treadmill and when I sleep at night but that’s fine. I’m down to only one-liter on the treadmill and I hope to get it down to zero soon.

IMG_2780-001When you graduate, they play Happy Trails over the speaker system and you get a certificate. This is me with the fabulous RN and exercise physiologist that I worked with. There is also a respiratory therapist that monitors you.

I spent this weekend watching Oscar nominated movies. More on that later – I’ll be doing at least on Oscar post soon!

What have you been up to? Tell me in the comments or link up a post.

 

Book Review and Giveaway: To Burp or Not to Burp: A Guide to Your Body in Space by Dr. Dave Williams & Loredana Cunti

To Burp or Not to Burp: A Guide to Your Body in SpaceTo Burp or Not to Burp: A Guide to Your Body in Space by Dr.Dave Williams & Loredana Cunti
Publisher: Annick Press
Release Date: October 11, 2016
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Dr. Dave brings his first-hand experience with two flights on the Space Shuttle and three spacewalks on the International Space Station to the kind of “gross” questions that intrigue and amuse middle schoolers: How do astronauts use the bathroom? What happens when they pick their noses? What kind of underwear do they wear? Why is burping in space dangerous? How do they get water? (Answer: advanced systems treat and purify liquid waste, turning it into drinking water – bottoms up!). He also explains the science behind the strange physical phenomena astronauts experience, such as floating in midair, getting taller, and losing bone density (hint: it all has to do with microgravity).

 By simplifying complex concepts with age-appropriate language and featuring actual photos of astronauts like Dr. Dave in space, quirky cartoon illustrations, fun fact sidebars, an index, and further reading suggestions – this jam-packed guide will keep young readers learning both in and out of the classroom, whether they’re aiming for the moon or studying the stars.

 

To Burp or Not to Burp: A Guide to Your Body in Space not only answers questions that kids may have about life on the International Space Station (ISS) but it answered mine too! Come on, haven’t you ever wondered how astronauts go to the bathroom in space? I had a general idea but this book gave me the complete low-down! It also explains eating, basic hygiene, and sleeping, among other things. My favorite part was learning that when you want to take a nap in space, you basically just close your eyes and drift off to sleep because you’re already floating, which is really comfy. I would love to be able to do that!

This book is written in simple language that kids will have no trouble understanding. It has a great mix of both illustrations and real-life photographs from inside the ISS. And it actually wasn’t AS gross as I thought it would be. Kids and parents alike will love this behinds-the-scenes look at life on the ISS.

I’m pleased to be able to givaway one copy of To Burp or not To Burp to a lucky reader with a US mailing address. Just fill out the form below. I will take entries until 11:59pm CST on February 16, 2017 Good luck!

 

(I received a complementary copy of this book for review.)

For more reviews of books for children and teens, check out Booking Mama’s feature, Kid Konnection, posted on Saturdays. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, you can go to her site to leave a comment and your link .

 

Audio Book Review: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Wishful DrinkingWishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: December 11. 2008
My rating: 4.5of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Finally, after four hit novels, Carrie Fisher comes clean (well, sort of) with the crazy truth that is her life in her first-ever memoir.

In Wishful Drinking, adapted from her one-woman stage show, Fisher reveals what it was really like to grow up a product of “Hollywood in-breeding,” come of age on the set of a little movie called Star Wars, and become a cultural icon and bestselling action figure at the age of nineteen.

Intimate, hilarious, and sobering, Wishful Drinking is Fisher, looking at her life as she best remembers it (what do you expect after electroshock therapy?). It’s an incredible tale: the child of Hollywood royalty — Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher — home wrecked by Elizabeth Taylor, marrying (then divorcing, then dating) Paul Simon, having her likeness merchandized on everything from Princess Leia shampoo to PEZ dispensers, learning the father of her daughter forgot to tell her he was gay, and ultimately waking up one morning and finding a friend dead beside her in bed.

Wishful Drinking, the show, has been a runaway success. Entertainment Weekly declared it “drolly hysterical” and the Los Angeles Times called it a “Beverly Hills yard sale of juicy anecdotes.” This is Carrie Fisher at her best — revealing her worst. She tells her true and outrageous story of her bizarre reality with her inimitable wit, unabashed self-deprecation, and buoyant, infectious humor.

Wishful Drinking is Carrie Fisher’s memoir with having both bi-polar disorder and a drug addiction as well as growing up as the daughter of two very famous parents – Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. She starts out boldly by disclosing that she has had electroconvulsive therapy or ECT, as part of her treatment for her mental illness. Because of this, some of her memories are fuzzy or have been wiped out. One of her reasons for writing this memoir is to record the memories she has left in case they go as well.

Carrie has written this book with her trademark sense of humor. What easily could have been a depressing book what with her mental illness, an absent father, two-failed marriages and a drug addiction is actually really funny. I listened to the audio book, which she narrated herself. Her delivery makes her story all the more humorous. In fact, the book is based on her hit one-woman show, also called Wishful Drinking.

I just wish she would have included more details. For example, she talks about her on again/off again relationship with her first husband, singer/song writer Paul Simon, but doesn’t say what they fought about, just that they fought. And how did she find out her second husband was gay? I need to know! The book was pretty short at only three hours so there was room for more. Perhaps the details were foggy for her due to the ECT and that’s why she didn’t elaborate.

Carrie jokes about her death a few times and what she wants people to say about her after she dies. These parts were hard to listen to. Of course she didn’t expect to die so young. I’m so glad she wrote this book and narrated it herself so I could spend some more time with her. I recommend this book to her fans, which should be all of you!

Page to Screen: Hugo

Hugo poster

I had high expectations going into watching Hugo, the movie adaptation of Brian Seltzer’s book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which I reviewed yesterday. If you read my review, then you know I loved the book. Also, I’m big fan of Chloë Grace Moretz who plays Isabelle. I was excited that she’s in it.

The movie is a fairly faithful adaptation of the book, yet somehow manages to be really boring! I’m not sure why either because the book is anything but. Maybe it loses something without all the wonderful illustrations?

The one major change from the book is that the Station Inspector has been changed from a dark, looming presence always one step behind Hugo, to an incompetent, bumbling idiot whose slapstick mistakes are supposed to be funny. He’s played by Sascha Baron Cohen, who I have always though is mostly annoying and not very funny. If you’re a fan of his, then you may like this movie better than I did. Kids will probably like him since they are usually fans of physical comedy.

Hugo was nominated for and won a ton of Oscars but I think it’s telling that it wasn’t nominated for any of the major awards, like acting or directing. It actually is probably a good family movie to power through for your kids’ sake but I wouldn’t recommend it otherwise.

Book Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Release Date: January 30, 2007
Publisher: Scholastic Press
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is the story of Hugo, a young boy who secretly lives in the train station. There are several mysteries to be solved about Hugo and the man who own the toy shop that keep the reader turning page after page. I can’t even tell you what most of the mysteries are because that would be spoiling other mysteries!

Don’t be intimidated by the books hefty 511 pages. Probably at least half of that are pages of Selznick’s illustrations. And they are wonderful. The amount of detail in these gorgeous pencil drawings is amazing. He has a gift for drawing facial expressions too. Even without reading the words, the reader knows exactly how the characters are feeling in any given drawing. He also includes a few sketches done by the real Georges Méliès. While Méliès was a real person, Hugo is fictional and therefore so is the story. The acknowledgements at the end clarify which elements of the story were based on facts and real-life events.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is an entertaining and original book and would be even without the illustrations. The inclusion of the pictures make the book down-right amazing.

Check out my review of Wonderstruck, also by Brian Selznick.

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Week-End Ramblings

I’ve decided to start a new feature whereupon every Friday, Saturday or Sunday, I post something about what I’ve done during the week, whether or not it’s bookish. And I’d like to hear from you about what’s going on in your life! You can tell me in the comments or link up a post you want to share. I’m trying to think of a catchy name (let me know if you have suggestions!) so for right now it’s just Week-End Ramblings.

IMG_2767-001The absolute highlight of the week was my daughter’s fifth anniversary of joining our family. She got to choose what we did to celebrate. She prefers store bought cake over my homemade cake (the nerve!) so she picked a Secret Life of Pets cake. The bakery lady thought that was a “very out-of the ordinary” choice for an anniversary cake. I’m sure she assumed it was for a wedding anniversary. Neve chose getting take-out and watching the Johnny Depp version of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at home. She and West got McDonald’s and since Travis, Cash and I have good taste, we got 54th Street. It was fun. Neve has brought so much love and joy to our family, it’s nice to take the time to honor that.

IMG_2772-001The next highlight was my Mommy/Son date with Cash. We went out to a fancy dinner at McCormick and Schmick’s and then to see the show Stomp. Cash got a lot of attention at the restaurant for his dapper outfit.

IMG_2774Cash ordered a fish called Bronzini, which came whole. The entire time he was eating it, I had the song Fish Heads in my head. I’m really glad he’s grown out of being a picky eater – even if it does mean that his meal is giving me the stink-eye from across the table.

Stomp was great. Cash loved it. He plays the drums and is always pounding on things around the house. It drives me nuts! I’ll probably regret taking him if it makes him pound even more, but we had so much fun that it’s worth it.

IMG_2776Finally, I got to have lunch with my BFF Nerdy Apple. She brought me these fabulous Christmas gifts and I brought her nothing! Except for some books I had borrowed from her and an ARC of Laura Lippman’s new book that I ended up with two copies of. To make it up to her, I bought her lunch. I’m not THAT bad of a friend.

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Book Review: Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell

FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: September 10, 2013
My rating: 4 .5of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life–and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Cath and Wren are identical twins who have always been close. They are both huge Simon Snow (a Harry Potter-esque book series) fans and write popular Simon Snow fan fiction. However, when they start college Wren wants to branch out, try new things and meet new people. Thus, she doesn’t want to room with Cath in the dorms. This means Cath has to room with a Reagan, a stranger. Cath, already a socially awkward introvert, retreats even more into her comfort zone of Simon Snow forums and fan fiction.

Rainbow Rowell has done it again. Fan Girl is an authentic look at life for a college freshman. Just like Eleanor and Park took me back to high school, this book took me back to college. I could remember just what it was like to be scared, excited and anxious about going away to school. The characters were just so real. And Levi – wow. Rainbow creates the best boyfriends! He was so sweet and funny, I wanted to cuddle him and muss his hair. I loved his girlfriend and Cath’s roommate, Reagan. She had great dry, sarcastic sense of humor and she and Cath played off of each other fantastically. Reagan’s one-liners were the best.

Excerpts of both “real” Simon Snow books and Cath’s fan fiction are interspersed throughout the book. Honestly, I thought they were unnecessary and I skimmed most of them. I think they were supposed to have some symbolism related to what was going on in Cath’s life but whatever it was wasn’t clear to me. However, Rainbow now has a book out called Carry On, which is a REAL Simon Snow book. I’ll read that eventually, although I’m not as excited for it as I was when Fan Girl came out.

Fan Girl is another fabulous book from Rainbow Rowell.

Check out my reviews of some of Rainbow Rowell’s other books:
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