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text 2018-07-11 15:21
Parenting/baby question

This is a more personal post, but also related to my current reading.


Babies make me nervous. I'm not sure what it is about them, exactly, but I don't react to them the way nearly everyone else seems to - when there is a baby in the vicinity, I don't feel an urge to rush over, admire it, and ask if I can touch it. I didn't even feel this way about my sister's children when they were babies, although I was more willing to give fighting it a shot with them. My feeling about babies is one of many reasons I decided that I should probably never have children. Okay, so they grow up, but you have to get through the baby stage first before you can get to the rest of it.


However, the author of the book I'm currently reading seems to have felt the same way about babies and yet still wanted children so badly that she eventually tried in vitro fertilization. To me, there is a disconnect here, but the author doesn't seem to think there's anything odd about, on the one hand, wanting children really badly and, on the other hand, not really wanting to be around babies (in her words, she was "scared" of them). So I'm wondering, is the disconnect on my end? Does having kids even though babies freak you out make sense to other people?


Not that this will change my mind about my own decision not to have kids (I'm seriously fine just living with pets), but I'm curious.

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review 2018-07-08 12:11
It's a Question of Space
 It's a Question of Space: An Ordinary Astronaut's Answers to Sometimes Extraordinary Questions - Clayton C. Anderson

[I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.]

I’m going to admit I had no idea who Clayton Anderson was when I requested this book, but it sounded interesting, and interesting it turned to be, indeed. There were plenty of little things I never suspected regarding life on the ISS, and in space in general, and I feel like I’ve learnt a lot. Which I’m sure is absolutely not going to be useful if I write a sci-fi story someday. Never.

It’s a fast read, in Q&A format, which is ideal when, like me, you read a lot during breaks at work, or while commuting. No long chapters that make it difficult to stop (almost) any time. These cover a lot of various things, from how the human body reacts in space to the kind of operations astronauts have to be trained in, from the former space shuttle program to little things like ‘how to you wash yourself in micro-gravity’.

While I felt that Anderson might have misinterpreted a couple of questions (I’m thinking more specifically about the one regarding ‘what do you think of people who say the moon landing is a conspiracy’), overall his answers were simple and often full of humour. The man doesn’t hesitate to make fun of himself, and admits when he goofed on the station. He doesn’t always get into details, and he doesn’t hide it when he doesn’t know something, so perhaps some of the answers were a little lackluster; still, in general, this was fairly informative for me.

Conclusion: 3.5 stars. And I wouldn’t mind reading his other book, for sure.

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review 2018-07-06 01:43
Samuel Answers a Question a G-g-g-g-host
The Question of the Dead Mistress - Jeff Cohen,E. J. Copperman
"Is my husband having an affair with a dead woman?"

That doesn't seem to be the kind of question that Samuel and Ms. Washburn would tackle as Questions Answered. They typically take on things that require esoteric research, problem solving, and occasionally something that takes some investigation that looks a lot like the kind of thing a P.I. would do. Paranormal investigation is not in their wheelhouse. Samuel is almost reflexively dismissive of the idea -- but his associate, Ms. Washburn makes him listen to the prospective client's story. And then he tries to reflexively dismiss the question, but she won't let him. While Samuel is convinced there's nothing supernatural afoot -- in fact, the notion is impossible -- Ms. Washburn had an experience she can't explain as a teenager, and refuses to rule it out.


So Samuel let's her try to come up with an answer to the question and goes back to whatever he was doing before. Before she can get very far into her research, the husband is murdered. Suddenly, the question doesn't matter as much as the replacement question, "Who killed my husband?" Given Ms. Washburn's involvement, Samuel gets interested in things again -- and the two get involved in a very twisty and complicated mystery. As far as twisty-turny-keep you guessing-mysteries go, this is the best that the duo has encountered and will easily satisfy the most puzzle-obsessed of readers.


What makes this even better -- is that given the supernatural/supernatural-adjacent nature of the instigating question, the two are approaching things in very different ways and decide to operate largely separately. Samuel interviews people with assistance of other to drive him places or via the Internet, while Ms. Washburn goes on her own, trying to use Samuel's methods. This change in modus operandi is refreshing for the characters and the readers, and will lead both Samuel and Ms. Washburn to re-evaluate the way they do business in the future.


The danger level in this one is great -- and there are direct threats made against Ms. Washburn and Samuel's mother and father. Which just makes Samuel more determined to come up with definitive answers quickly. The possible supernatural elements stay with the story throughout and it's only near the end that all the characters come to the same conclusions about it. This novel features a great puzzle and the solution is very satisfactory -- and one I didn't see coming (but in retrospect makes complete sense).


So much for the mystery -- there's also plenty going on in Samuel's personal life. On the whole I thought they dealt with it well, but...


I appreciated Samuel pointing out that Asperger's is no longer a diagnosis, but he still claims it s a shorthand way to describe the way he acts/thinks to others. Which is just a great -- and realistic -- way to handle the change in status for the label. Let me follow that observation with this one -- what frustrated me about this one -- and I will admit I was very frustrated at times -- is how little Samuel's mother seemed to understand him. Ms. Washburn, too, but she hasn't known Samuel as long -- or as well as his mother. Dealing with the father who abandoned his family decades ago suddenly reappearing and trying to merge back into his life, would be difficult, complicated and messy. For someone like Samuel? Well, I'm guessing it'd be just as difficult and complicated -- but he'd tell you exactly what's going on with him. And Samuel does so -- repeatedly. His father doesn't believe him; Ms. Washburn seems to try to believe him, but doesn't; neither does his mother. His mother has been with him every day of his life, devoting more of her life and energy to her son than most parents do -- how does she not know him well enough to not double-guess his emotions? If Samuel says he feels "X," then that's probably exactly what he feels -- unless you force him to look at things another way. Over and over again, his mother shows less awareness of Samuel's reactions to things than almost anyone. It just didn't ring true. Samuel's Asperger’s isn't new to her (or Samuel) -- she shouldn't act like this.


I should add -- the authors know a whole lot more about all of this than I do, and their depictions of this are probably spot-on, I guess they just didn't convince me about those depictions like they usually do. Also, in the overall-scheme of things, this was a relatively minor quibble and didn't detract a lot from the pleasure I had in the book -- it just took a lot of space to describe.


The trick to Samuel is to give him a little personal growth, a little greater awareness, a little understanding of himself and the emotional needs of others. Yet, only a little bit. I do think this is depicted faster (possibly unrealistically so) in the books -- because outside of Nero Wolfe, Sherlock Holmes, or other Golden Age/Golden Age-like characters who don't grow and evolve by design, we expect some sort of noticeable personal growth in our series characters (particularly the central characters) from book to book. Samuel shouldn't give us much in that way -- his evolution/growth/whatever you want to call it is going to happen on a glacial pace. And over the last three books (I really need to double back and read the first two in the series), he's taken significant steps forward -- so much so it's like Ms. Washburn has slipped into forgetting that he's not neurotypical a few times here. That makes sense, because their relationship (in every sense) is pretty new. Thankfully, she catches herself and deliberately attempts to accept that -- and generally does - and recognizes when he's trying. Because we readers get a direct pipeline to Samuel's thoughts, we might have an easier time with it than she does, but she does a decent job (and his mother usually does, too). It's a heckuva trick to pull off narratively, and Copperman/Cohen nails it, time and time again.


Another clever mystery, well-told with one of Crime Fiction's most original and convincingly written characters (not a detective, just someone who can easily be mistaken for one) -- this series is a consistently pleasant and rewarding read. The Question of the Dead Mistress is a great jumping-on point, and a welcome-return read for those who've spent time with the crew from Questions Answered before.


Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Midnight Ink via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this. My opinions are my own, however.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2018/07/05/the-question-of-the-dead-mistress-by-e-j-copperman-jeff-cohen-samuel-answers-a-question-a-g-g-g-g-host
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review 2018-05-01 01:56
Rebus Deals with Gun Violence on Multiple Fronts
A Question of Blood - Ian Rankin

I'm torn between quotations to open with, on the one hand, you have this one which captures the environment this novel takes place in -- it's a perfect encapsulation of the frustration of so many civilians. Particularly the ones in the town near the focal crime.


Fear: the crucial word. Most people would live their whole lives untouched by crime, yet they still feared it, and that fear was real and smothering. The police force existed to allay such fears, yet too often was shown to be fallible, powerless, on hand only after the event, clearing up the mess rather than preventing it.


On the other hand, this seems to be the perfect encapsulation of the sentiments of Rebus, Clarke, Hogan and so many (most?) of the police in this novel (and most police novels in general):


He checked the radio to see if anything bearable was being broadcast, but all he could find were rap and dance. There was a tape in the player, but it was Rory Gallagher, Jinx, and he wasn't in the mood. Seemed to remember one of the tracks was called “The Devil Made Me Do It.” Not much of a defense these days, but plenty of others had come along in Old Nick‘s place. No such thing as an inexplicable crime, not now that there were scientists and psychologists who’d talk about genes and abuse, brain damage and peer pressure. Always a reason . . . always, it seemed, an excuse.


So the story is, an ex-SAS soldier walks in to a school, shoots three students and then kills himself. One of the students -- the son of a local politician -- survives. His dad sees this crime as an opportunity to get himself out of some PR trouble and some prominence -- so he keeps popping up in inopportune places to grandstand and shine a negative light on the police. Which goes a long way to make a complicated situation worse for Bobby Hogan -- the detective running the investigation. There's not much to investigate, the only surviving witness has told his story, the culprit is dead -- but there's a lot of why questions floating around, Hogan's got to try to answer some of them. Hogan knows two things: 1. His friend John Rebus was almost an SAS soldier, so he might understand the mindset of this man better than the rest, and 2. Rebus could use an excuse to get out of Edinburgh for a few days. The Army's in town, doing what it can to shape the narrative -- i.e. "this isn't the way we train our men to be, maybe there's something else going on." Hogan's having trouble getting anywhere, the press isn't helping, and the evidence isn't doing wonders for anyone at all.


I liked the fact that we're dealing with Rebus's military past again -- it's largely been untouched (at least to any real depth) since Knots & Crosses, and conversations between Rebus and Clarke show that he hasn't talked to her about it at all. As much as the first book might have helped Rebus deal with some of what happened to him, it's clear that there's more t do. Hopefully, this is the start of it -- at least to help him.


The more this crime is investigated, the less it looks as cut-and-dry as it was at the beginning. This was all wonderfully constructed, a strong multi-layered story that'll keep the reader glued to the action to find out what happened (or why it happened). And it's really not the best part of the novel -- it could've been, easily. But no.


The reason that Rebus could use a few days away from home base is that he has a mysterious injury. One that could have a completely innocent explanation -- or one that puts him at the center of a suspicious death investigation. There's this creep who's been stalking Clarke, threatening her. Rebus is seen at a bar with him one night, and the next day, he's dead and Rebus is getting medical care that suggests he could have been present at the time of death. Clarke and Hogan believe him because he says he didn't do it. Good ol' Gill Templar isn't sure (raising the question: who knows him best? Siobhan or Gill?), and frankly, none of Rebus' legion of enemies in the police or press are less sure than Templar. There's a little question about letting Siobhan fight her own battles rather than take the avuncular and/or misogynistic approach of helping her. The two get past that pretty quickly, but Clarke harbors a doubt or two about Rebus' involvement.


Rebus, actually, wasn't that concerned with protecting Clarke -- he just used that situation to help him with another investigation. Which is typical of him. It's this last story that's really -- in a way -- the center of the whole novel. The events investigated, the motives for a lot of it, and the emotional core are all tied (at the very least) to this story. Rankin's structuring of the novel in this way shows him at his best. And that's really all I can say without ruining the experience for anyone (in fact, I arguably said too much).


Then there's the last chapter == which is all I'm going to say about it -- I'm torn. On the one hand, it seems to undercut a lot of the emotional weight of the climactic moments. But that doesn't mean it wasn't believable. It's probably more believable than the alternative. Still .. . it left me dissatisfied. On the other hand, Rankin seems to be setting us up to revisit many of these characters in the future. I bet that'll be worth it.


It's hard to come up with things to talk about in a series that's 14 books-old. It's got to be hard to come up with things to talk about with a character that's 14 books-old. Which might be part of the reason that Rankin circled back for another look at the end of Rebus' time with the SAS, which definitely could use another look. How he did it -- and the situations the characters found themselves in regarding that case,and all the others going on -- is what makes Ian Rankin the modern legend that he is. A Question of Blood is one of those books that improves, the more you think about it.


2018 Library Love Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2018/04/30/a-question-of-blood-by-ian-rankin-rebus-deals-with-gun-violence-on-multiple-fronts
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text 2018-03-29 18:46
"The Chalk Man" Buddy Read & Ask a Question with CJ Tudor: March 29 - April 26, 2018



Readers are loving The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor. Have you read it? Did you love it? Or maybe the title is sitting on your TBR plie? Or maybe you haven't heard about the book? Eee, impossible! ;)


Regardless of your reading experience, feel invited to join The Chalk Man Buddy Read! Let's read The Chalk Man together, and share your thoughts and opinions, find the clues and make the guesses. And find the killer, together!  


Join the book club by clicking the following link and then clicking Join, and start reading!



Make sure to add your reading experiences in The Chalk Man discussion group. Beware of the spoilers! 


And if you have any questions about the book or C.J Tudor's writing inspirations and plans, we have a great surprise! C.J. Tudor agreed to answer the questions from BookLikes readers!


Add your question(s) in the following discussion group and we'll forward them to C.J. Tudor! Isn't that exciting!?!


Go to the Ask a Question with C.J. Tudor group and post your question! 


Still not sure if The Chalk Man is for you? Just check those reviews! 


The Chalk Man - C.J. TudorThe Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor 

It began back in 1986, at the fair, on the day of the accident. That was when twelve-year-old Eddie met Mr Halloran - the Chalk Man. He gave Eddie the idea for the drawings: a way to leave secret messages for his friends and it was fun, until the chalk men led them to a body. Thirty years later, Ed believes the past is far behind him, until an envelope slips through the letterbox. It contains a stick of chalk, and a drawing of a figure. Is history going to repeat itself? Was it ever really over? Will this game only end in the same way?


BookLikes bloggers book reviews: 

This is pretty dazzling debut, especially given all the clunky "just OK" mysteries that litter my house, library history, recommendations and my Read piles. I'll take a mystery no matter what, but it's very nice to get a good one... read more on "So it goes." blog



What a crazy book. I loved it from start to finish... by Heather's Book Blog



"The Chalk Man" has a plot, constructed around violence, secrets, fear, transgression and revenge, that is intricate and not fully disclosed until the final chapter. Yet it is not the plot but the depth of the characterisation of Eddie as child and man that makes the book special... by Audio Book Junkie



This was an excellent book that had me guessing throughout. At one point, maybe twice, I had reason to point a finger at all the boys involved in the book. I just kept going back and forth. It was crazy!The author did a great job... reviewed by debbiekrenzer



THE CHALK MAN is a gripping exploration of the dark places within the human mind and an impressive debut. Filled with horror. Frightening, compelling, taut, creepy and chilling! A shocking spine-tingling conclusion... read more on JDCMustReadBooks 



I liked how we learn more information about the past and individual’s true colors were shining through. It’s funny how some individuals never change and how some people think they have changed but they haven’t. I enjoyed the novel.. read more on My Never Ending List



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