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review 2016-04-01 07:01
Long Shadow of Small Ghosts
The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City - Laura Tillman

In Laura Tillman's debut book, she covers the 2003 murder of three young children in South Texas. Murdered by their parents, the short lives of Julissa, John Stephan, and Mary Jane, have left long shadows over the community of Brownsville, TX.


In an heartwrenching look at the ramifications of murder on a small community, Ms. Tillman exposes more about humanity than expected. She communicated with John Allan Rubio for a number of years after his conviction of murder in the case of his stepdaughter, son, and daughter, and this book is a result of her continued reporting. Ms. Tillman spent countless hours walking the streets of Brownsville, talking to Mr. Rubio's neighbors, family, friends, and community leaders in her efforts to tease out why this tragedy unfolded.


Rubio grew up poor and hispanic in a Texas border town, those were the first two strikes against him. His potential learning disabilities and mental illness were additional strikes, and his "falling through the cracks" seemed to seal his life and destiny up. This book explores how circumstances beyond ones control can really can control ones life. The injustice of being poor, uneducated, fragile, Mexican...Of being different. All these things are polarizing in the American judicial system.


I can't really begin to pick apart this book. I vaguely remembered hearing about this murder case, and immediately deciding that Rubio must be a monster. How could a father brutally murder his three children? How could he possibly be allowed to life after ending the lives of such young children? The babies were 3 years, 14 months, and 2 months. They were found in squalor, drug using parents, brutalized. These were the words in the headlines in March 2003. Rubio never denied killing the children, why shouldn't he be put to death? 


Why indeed? What brings a person to that point, where they seem to crack, and commit an atrocity? Maybe the answers really aren't cut and dried, maybe they are firmly rooted in that person's past. Maybe the seeds of destiny, fate, predestination, are planted into us by our very surroundings? These are some of the questions posed to the reader by Ms Tillman. And questions to which there are no answers, easy or not. In fact, just trying to answer these questions for yourself tugs at our beliefs of what makes up a person.


I cried reading this book, on a few different occasions. I'm still asking myself questions about what might have happened under different circumstances. If Rubio had made it into the Army, if he'd not come from a poor family, if he'd been able to access care for his probable mental illness...Would the children have ever been in this kind of situation? Would the children be here today? Where would Rubio be in his life? But these are only questions. Ones that there can never be an answer to, because of circumstances falling together into a pattern that affects millions of people every single year. Poverty, skin color, lack of access to education to health care, drug use...Things that so many of us take for granted.


I'm recommending reading this to pretty much everyone. It should be required reading for sociology courses, for psychology classes, for people going into law, into political science...For people who care about other people, people who have begun to realize how polarized our thinking is, how "other" people aren't deserving of anything. I deeply wish that this book wasn't needed, that we as humans were advanced enough to believe that people are *all* deserving of an equal shot at life. But we're not, we won't ever get to that place.


This book hurts. It hits from so many different places in so many different ways. But all of them are needed.


In the interest of disclosure, I was provided with an ARC of this book from the publisher.

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review 2015-11-27 21:23
Review Catch Up: The Rosie Project (Simsion); Where'd You Go, Bernadette (Semple); The Rosie Effect (Simsion); Funny Girl (Hornby)
The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion
Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple
The Rosie Effect: A Novel (Don Tillman Book 2) - Graeme Simsion
Funny Girl - Nick Hornby

I'm hitting another block when trying to talk about the last few books I've read, because here's another batch of very overdue takes on some good books (and one not).


The Rosie ProjectThe Rosie Project

by Graeme Simsion

This was charming, witty, and had plenty of heart -- even without the romance, which just took it all to another level. It was just plain fun to read.


Don Tillman is just a great character -- he's likely someone with Asperger's, if not fully Autistic. Which is mentioned once or twice, and then not brought up again. He's then treated as a stubborn, curious, character with behavior patterns no one can seem to understand, but most people in his life figure out hot to cope with. Sometimes they laugh at him, sometimes they get frustrated or angry. What he's not treated as is someone with anything. He's not treated by his symptoms, he's just treated as this guy. Simsion's treatment of Don reminds me of Abed Nadir, from Community (which is high praise from me).


The only complaint I had was that the last chapter wasn't really needed, and maybe would've been best left to the imagination. But, setting that aside, it felt rushed, while the rest of the book was so well done, it just stuck out like a sore thumb.


Still, whatever -- one of my favorite books of 2013, and still one of the best RomComs I can remember. 5 Stars

Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere'd You Go, Bernadette

by Maria Semple 

Do you get seasick? People who don't get seasick have no idea what it's like. It's not just nausea. It's nausea plus losing the will to live.

I should get that embroidered on something.


This starts light and breezy, a little strange, a little typical "these crazy (white) suburbanites with too much money"; but you know it's going to get dark eventually -- probably nasty dark, but first it's going to lull you into a false sense of fun. I don't think it gets as dark as it felt like it could've, it didn't need to, and I'm glad it didn't -- but there was a whole lot going on that the whacky beginning didn't indicate.


You don't have care about the story because these characters are strength enough to carry your attention for quite awhile with nothing happening -- and Semple's style is just as strong. But there is a sorry here, a story of a daughter discovering just who her mother was -- as is -- a story about a talented woman who ended up loving a life she'd never have expected or picked for herself or her family. So you do care about the story -- especially the way it's told, in bits and pieces, jumping back and forth through time, from multiple perspectives -- particularly when you get two or three perspectives painting a picture of an event -- as Bee digs into her investigation.


Fun story, quirky characters, well-told story, with plenty of heart -- and too many quotable lines. I jotted down a few that I can't resist sharing, even in this abbreviated post.

You probably think, U.S./Canada, they're interchangeable because they're both filled with English-speaking, morbidly obese white people. Well, Manjula, you couldn't be more mistaken.
Americans are pushy obnoxious, neurotic, crass -- anything and everything -- the full catastrophe as our friend Zorba might say. Canadians are one of that. . . To Canadians, everyone is equal. Joni Mitchell is interchangeable with a secretary at open-mic night. Frank Gehry is no greater than a hack pumping out McMansions on AutoCAD, John Candy is no funnier than Uncle Lou when he gets a couple of beers in him. No wonder the only Canadians anyone's ever heard of are the ones who have gotten the hell out. Anyone with talent who stayed would be flattened under an avalanche of equality.
Really, who wants to admit to her daughter that she was once considered the most promising architect in the country, but now devotes her celebrated genius to maligning the driver in front of her for having Idaho plates?"

4 Stars

The Rosie EffectThe Rosie Effect

by Graeme Simsion

"To the world's most perfect woman." It was lucky my father was not present. Perfect is an absolute that cannot be modified, like unique or pregnant. My love for Rosie was so powerful that it had caused my brain to make a grammatical error.

Don and Rosie are living in New York, getting used to married life, and expecting a kid. None of which goes well -- so, of course, Don tries to tackle things the same way he did in the last book. Instant sequel, just add water.


This sequel was written with the same wit and skill as The Rosie Project, but the story wasn't there -- and more importantly, neither was the heart.


Mostly, I think, because Rosie wasn't around for a lot -- and when she was there, she wasn't a character, she was an obstacle.


Other than really liking the occasional line (maybe more than occasional), I just didn't like how Rosie or Don were written, the plot was shoddy and contrived, and I was just glad to be done with it so I could move on.

2 Stars

Funny GirlFunny Girl

by Nick Hornby

How on earth could he love her? But he did, Or, at least, she made him feel sick, sad, and distracted. Perhaps there was another way of describing that unique and useless combination of feelings, but "love" would have to do for now.

Everything I know about this era of British culture and TV comes from The Hour and An Adventure in Space and Time, so I just have to trust that Hornby did his homework on this. I thought the behind-the-scenes stuff was great, it felt real -- it felt like the kinds of conversations that writers and actors should be having anyway.


The love story turned out a lot different than I was sure it would - thankfully. Actually, most of the book did. This wasn't the rags-to-riches-to-wreck story that it seemed like it was going to be, but a story of some people with dreams and talent doing what they could to get going in a cutthroat business. Dreams were chased, many were caught, others changed/grew -- as did the dreamers.


In the midst of the discussions about the nature of their show and the stories they told -- both during the making of the show Barbara (and Jim) and in later chapters where it was being looked back at, I kept wondering if tucked away in all that was an apologia for light fiction like Hornby writes? If so, I appreciated it. (it also reminded me of some similar comments John Cleese has made lately, after coming to terms with being someone who makes people laugh, and not saving the world or something grander)


Thoughtful, heartfelt, charming -- this is Hornby at his most confident and mature. I can see why some aren't liking it, but it really clicked for me.

4 1/2 Stars

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2015/11/27/review-catch-up-the-rosie-project-whered-you-go-bernadette-the-rosie-effect-funny-girl
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review 2015-07-23 02:28
Pushing the Envelope: The Career of Fighter Ace and Test Pilot Marion Carl - Marion E. Carl,Barrett Tillman

This concise book represents the story of a unique individual. Marion E. Carl was, perhaps, one of the finest aviators who ever lived - FULL STOP. A natural pilot, he soloed after 2 hours of dual instruction. He later went on to become the U.S. Marine Corps' first fighter ace, seeing action at the Battles of Midway and Guadalcanal during the Second World War. (A little more than 20 years later, Carl commanded a Marine combat air wing in Vietnam, flying several missions himself.)


Carl became known for achieving a number of "firsts." He became the first Marine to fly a helicopter, the first Marine to land a jet on an aircraft carrier, and he also set a number of altitude and speed records. Carl also was an outstanding test pilot, and by the time, he retired from the USMC (United States Marine Corps), he had flown 14,000 flight hours.

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review 2015-07-06 00:00
Steady - Nicole Tillman Steady - Nicole Tillman This one made me bawl like a baby!
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review 2015-06-21 09:52
On the Day You Where Born Review
On the Night You Were Born - Nancy Tillman

This book was wonderful and I'm so very glad Mim added it to my ever growing collection.  The pictures were lovely and the words flowed beautifully throughout the entire story.  I think it's a great book to add to a child's collection, or even an adults collection.  Can't really lie on this on, I may have cried a little while reading it.  Because of many reasons this will a hold a special place on my shelves, one of which is because it was beautifully done.

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