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review 2019-05-15 16:41
This is America
Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive - Stephanie Land,Barbara Ehrenreich

This was a tough book to get through. Reading about Stephanie Land's experiences of trying to parent her daughter while dealing with being homeless and broke was eye-opening. The main reason why I didn't give this five stars though is that I wish that Land had touched more upon on how the country looks down upon those that they see as stealing (immigrants) are just lazy and don't want to work (POC). She brings it up here and there about how terribly she sees other people who are not white treated, but I don't know if it sunk in that she was considered a good poor person because of her skin color and because they didn't see her doing "wrong" things like daring to buy expensive cuts of meat with her EBT card. I was glad though that Land included things such as the fact that immigrants don't qualify for assistance so a lot of people were just mistaken believing that and it's just a way to be little "r" racist. 


I sadly have heard about all of this though due to some friends and family who are going through hard times and doing what they can to raise their children and take care of them. I also for a period of time when I was growing up, was poor. My parents couldn't afford to pay for heat or hot water and in the winters they would close off rooms in the house in order to conserve heat. They would boil water on the stove and then take it upstairs for us to wash. I remember being constantly sick as a kid and my mother just sitting with me and giving me medicine and wrapping me in a ton of blankets. To this day, blankets mean safety to me and I can't go to bed at night without being weighed down by at least two of them. Things eventually got better for my family when my mother went back to work after my youngest brother went to Kindergarten. That said, I know how lucky I was even though we were poor for about 4 years. I had two parents who loved me and my brothers. We had grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins nearby who would watch us and pack away food for my parents to take home to eat. We even had our backyard garden where my mother would grow vegetables and we would eat a ton of during the summer. 


Back to "Maid" Land details how her life got off-kilter from what she wanted to do. She had plans to go to college in Montana and then became pregnant. Deciding to go forward with the pregnancy ended up costing her a lot it seems. Besides deferring her dream, she had a child with what it sounds like was a mentally and physically abusive man. And then she really had no one to turn to. She's not close to her brother. Her mother didn't want to be a parent anymore and her father was way too similar to the boyfriend she finally breaks up with and leaves. Land deciding to be a single parent meant having to be homeless, live in assisted housing, and then living in a studio apartment that has black mold all over it. 


I tend to judge memoirs by how open the author is that is writing it. And Land is quite open about her triumphs and failures. We read about how she beats herself up for getting into a relationship with someone that she moves in with because she's lonely and wants to just feel safe. We also read about how when she got the jobs that she did cleaning, she would snoop around and think about how these people's lives really were. 

Some of the people in Land's life were terrible. Her mother and father were pretty much absent and her stepfather was a straight up asshole. Even when Land would tell people what was really going on with her, she was judged by some and told that she should be thanking said people because their taxes paid for her food and housing. In a nutshell a lot of people are assholes. There I said it, I am flabbergasted in this country that we do our level best to punish poor people and treat them as less than because they need assistance. Shining light on the hill my ass. Okay, that's out of my system, let's continue.


The writing was very good. I liked how each chapter seemed to represent a house/memory that impacted her. Land in some cases becomes friends as much as she could with certain clients. I thought the flow got better after the first couple of chapters. The first few chapters felt a bit hesitant and I had a feeling as I was reading that the story was being told backwards here and there. 

The book takes place in Washington State and it's weird that I just see that area as being very rich. However, when I visited Seattle and Portland last year I recall being shocked at the homeless population. Appearances can definitely be deceiving.

The ending has Land moving on to a new place with her daughter where it seems like they are going to make it. I have to say that the ending was a bit abrupt for me and I went and was nosy about Land's life now. I went to her website and enjoyed the updates and knowing she went and had another daughter.


I think in the end this book made me sad and mad. Sad that we have so many working poor in this country (I don't care how well the economy is supposedly doing) and how we shame those same working poor. 

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review 2019-05-02 16:14
Stone Mothers
stone mothers - Erin Kelly
I was confused when I first started this novel but because I loved He Said/She Said so much, I continued reading and I am so glad that I did. Although, you can promise never to speak about your past, that doesn’t mean that it ever goes away or that the repercussions of it are gone. Your past will always be there, somewhere.
As the story began to unwind, I finally understood Marianne’s reaction when she was presented with her own apartment at Royal Park Manor. These luxury units are now sitting on the site of a former mental hospital which she had ties to, when she was younger. Seeing this Manor, brings back a memory of something that had occurred when Marianne was younger. Becoming nervous, Marianne’s afraid that a secret that was shared with a few other individuals, will be exposed. I liked that the author included here, a flashback of Marianne with the events surrounding that secret, so that I could witness the event and understand Marianne’s fear.
We also get to hear from Marianne’s daughter and a character named Helen, who have an important part in Marianne’s mysterious secret.
There were a few surprises for me as I read, things that I didn’t expect to occur but which I totally enjoyed and then, there were the twists that the author added. I ended up having a great time with this novel. This was not a fast read for me as the author describes some of the scenes in detail and I didn’t want to miss anything. I also found that in the beginning it was confusing and I ended up rereading that section again but this book is really great overall. I look forward to Erin Kelly’s next novel.
Thanks so much to MacMillan Publishers for a copy of this novel in exchange for my own honest opinion.


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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-11-27 22:35
Ballard and Bosch: A Michael Connelly Mini-Binge
The Late Show - Michael Connelly
The Late Show - Michael Connelly
Two Kinds of Truth - Michael Connelly
Two Kinds of Truth - Michael Connelly,Titus Welliver
Dark Sacred Night - Michael Connelly
Dark Sacred Night - Michael Connelly,Titus Welliver,Christine Lakin

I managed to fall behind on 3 books by Michael Connelly over the course of the past 2 years -- how in the world did that happen?  He's one of my most consistent go-to authors for reliably high quality crime fiction ... as well as for taking me right back to L.A., if only inside my head.  So, high time to catch up, especially since everybody else whose reviews I trust seems to have already read and reviewed these three.  In sum, I find that I'm mostly happy to have returned to what's come to be known as "the Harry Bosch universe" ... though the obvious question is how long Connelly is going to be able to keep Bosch going.  Are we seeing a changing of the guard, with Renée Ballard and Mickey Haller -- and possibly Maddie Bosch -- eventually taking Harry's place?  Last year, Connelly still said no, but 14 months on from that interview, I'm not sure that's still the answer he would give now.  Ultimately, time and the next books will have to tell.


To take each book in turn:


The Late Show (2017)


Renée Ballard's debut.  Her character is based on a real cop, LAPD Detective Mitzi Roberts, who is an advisor to Connelly (and, I think, the Harry Bosch TV series), and who once worked the "late show" -- the night shift -- in the Hollywood division herself; so Renée's character and work environment comes with a lot of personal insight, and it shows (even if it's not Connelly's own, first-hand insight). 


Obviously Connelly had to give Ballard a motivation to want to hang on to the cases we see her confronting in the first pages of the book instead of just handing them over to the relevant "desks" tasked with these kinds of crimes in daytime hours, and it just about works here -- but even in this first book I wasn't wholly convinced, and I can see several problems with this scenario going forward.  To name but two: (1) Detectives on the "late show" simply do not handle cases to the end, and at some point the reasons Connelly gives Ballard for wanting to hang on to her initial investigations are almost necessarily going to stretch credibility -- in and of themselves as well as in terms of their overall frequency.  (2) Anyone who's ever pulled several allnighters in a row, or existed for a sustained period on a maximum of 3-4 hours of sleep (with irregular sleeping times at that) knows that this sort of lifestyle is a virtually guaranteed shortcut to a crashing burnout -- and I don't mean the kind that can be cured by a few good nights of rest or an extended vacation.  So I think at some point Connelly won't have any other option than making Ballard return to daytime hours if he wants to keep her storyline credible. 

I can see why she'd reject the option at the end of this particular book, coming as it does from a completely unapologetic Lt. Olivas, but eventually she'll just have to find a way.  Maybe her guilty feelings about Lola and about having to kennel her all the time are going to make a difference?

(spoiler show)

That all being said, I mostly like Ballard -- she's smart, tough and straightforward; just what I want my heroines to be, not least if they are cops.  She's also a bit reckless, though, and that's another thing that could turn out a problem eventually (not only for herself, for obvious reasons, but also in the meta-world, with Connelly's readers).  The book's writing and plotting are Michael Connelly at his most atmospheric and empathetic, however, and the three interwoven cases / storylines are classic L.A. -- murder, corruption, fraud, and the shady side of Sunset Boulevard.  What's not to like about that ... as crime fiction fodder, at any rate?



Two Kinds of Truth (2017)


Much as I liked Renée Ballard, I confess I was more than happy to return to Harry Bosch in this book, who still finds himself where recent events have landed him ... as a volunteer with SFPD (that's San Fernando Police Department, not San Francisco) in "the Valley" on the other (= northern) side of the mountain range separating the City of Los Angeles from, well, the San Fernando Valley.  (And yes, "from the Valley" and "Valley girl / boy" still has a similar connotation as "hillbilly" does elsewhere in the U.S. -- or anyway, it still used to have when I was living in L.A.  Despicable cliché aside, not that there's actually much justification to this, what with easily half of L.A.'s white collar workforce now living either in "the Valley" or elsewhere outside the City of Los Angeles proper, but I guess old stereotypes die hard.)


In essence, I was pretty happy, too, with the way Connelly managed to find a way for Bosch to keep his hand in "proper" police business even after his inglorious exit from LAPD -- permanently becoming an investigator for a defense attorney, even for his half-brother Mickey Haller, simply would not have suited him.  Connelly overplayed the "experienced RHD detective" card a bit at the beginning of this book, I thought: surely, even in a small police department like SFPD that sees few murders by L.A. standards (which, let's face it, still doesn't necessarily mean "few" in absolute terms), officers securing a murder scene would not have to be told by a volunteer retired detective (a) to completely cordon off the entire scene and (b) to secure the scene by watching / looking outward, not inward, from their positions at the cordon.  And if I didn't have reason to believe Harry was keeping himself fit for his activities at SFPD (because even clearing cold cases isn't exactly a 9-to-5 desk job), and if I hadn't also watched him bluff himself out of a critical situation often enough over the course of his career, I might have disbelieved the final "showdown"

in a small passenger plane while flying over the desert

(spoiler show)

at the end of one of the book's interwoven investigative strands.


But by and large, it made sense to me for Harry to be involved in an investigation specifically making use of his advancing age by having him go undercover in a prescription drug smuggling sting as an allegedly addicted retiree; and it also made sense to me for his complicated relationship with the LAPD to play out the way it does here in an old case threatening to bite him in the rear.  And although the final courtroom scene in that case has distinct overtones of Law and Order (which is not necessarily a statement on its verisimilitude -- though for the record, I love Law and Order), and it moreover relies on a near-deus-ex-machina-style coincidence and on a manipulation on the part of Haller bordering on the unethical and perilous to Harry to boot, I can't help but root for Haller and Bosch as a team, and for Haller to take down the bad guys in court at the end, every single time.  As a side note, I was also happy for a former partner of Bosch's to make a surprise reappearance here.


So all in all, I was a pretty happy camper with this book, and given that the writing and plotting here is easily up to Connelly's best, I'd have been completely willing to overlook minor quibbles like the "should SFPD officers really need Harry Bosch to tell them how to secure a murder scene" bit ... if the book hadn't ended on a note playing straight into one of my growing grumbles with the series as a whole,

namely, Harry's penchant for "fatal" women.  (Which is not necessarily the same as "femmes fatales", btw, though he sure has had his share of encounters with those as well.)

(spoiler show)

  Which leads me straight on to my review of the currently latest book in the series, and since one particular narrative strain (and especially the ending) of Two Kinds of Truth also sets up the core premise of Dark Sacred Night, I'm going to put the better part of my review of that book into spoiler tags, because there's no way I can address my quibbles with that book without also addressing those narrative elements -- they are in fact what gives rise to my quibbles.



Dark Sacred Night (2018)

Given that Michael Connelly's fictional extension of L.A. is essentially a homogeneous universe in which all of his main characters meet sooner or later, it was only a matter of time until Renée Ballard would run into Harry Bosch.  She does so here ... and lands another investigation that takes her out of her "late show" duties; a cold case that nobody is seriously pursuing, not even Lucía Soto, Bosch's final partner at LAPD, who is officially the lead investigator but who has been pulled into the Department's #MeToo task force. 


And let's get this one out of the way first, if I had slight concerns where Connelly might be going with Ballard's "moonlighting at daytime" in The Late Show, they certainly didn't get any less here.  I'm not a cop, but I have had, in my own life, more than one day-night-day(-night-day) sequence of the sort that Ballard is giving herself here, and I know for certain fact that there is no way she'd still have had the mental and physical alertness she is showing here on day 2, let alone on day 3 of that sequence.  And yes, I realize that Ballard does indeed have moments where she doesn't exactly act like the sharpest knife in the LAPD's drawer.  Those, though, don't even begin to do justice to the state of exhaustion she actually should be in; even less so would she have been fit enough to fulfill the critical role she keeps playing, especially towards the end of the book.


My bigger concern here is with Harry Bosch, though.  And not so much on account of his age as such -- I actually liked how Connelly shows him literally being wrong-footed in a situation he had underestimated,

to the detriment of the investigation and of a witness's life and well-being, and to the point of being given the can by SFPD. 


But Jesus f*cking Christ, Harry, won't you ever learn a single lesson when it comes to women?  And it's not even like your readers can't see this one coming on 10 miles against a stiff headwind.  The moment I learned in Two Kinds of Truth that a woman he met there, Elizabeth Clayton, had turned to drugs to blunt the emotional trauma of the unsolved murder of her teenage runaway daughter Daisy (addicted to "hard" drugs herself and selling herself on the street), I knew what to expect next:


1. Bosch would go after Elizabeth, get her into detox and therapy and just generally "rescue" her from addiction.

2.  Bosch would then get involved with Elizabeth once and for all, which would include:

a)  Starting a cold case investigation into Daisy's murder, and

b)  Having a(n ultimately physical) relationship with Elizabeth -- without ever wondering whether she was actually ready for this or, for that matter, what exactly it was he felt for her ... or she for him.

3.  The whole thing would come crashing down on both Bosch and Elizabeth with disastrous results for both of them.


And boy, did I wish that for once I had been wrong.  But, alas, I wasn't.


Now, obviously helping a prescription drug addict to overcome her addiction and even offering her shelter in your own home is an act of major altruism, and if this had been my first Bosch book, I'd probably have been pretty favorably impressed with him.  As it was, though ... it just felt like we've all been down this sort of road way too often already.  And it's not like Harry is completely incapable of forming functioning close relationships; he has overcome considerable hurdles to build one with his daughter Maddie, and he's managed to work closely with many of his partners on the job: Connelly himself, in Two Kinds of Truth, uses the analogy of being able to go blindly into an intersection in a high speed car chase solely on the "all clear" of your partner, and there is not a partner in Bosch's entire career who would not have been able to trust Bosch to precisely that extent.  So for however messed-up Harry Bosch personally may be (and he assuredly is, plenty), it's not like he'd be lacking any and all social skills -- or were uncapable to take a step back and critically reflect on his own actions.  Because without either of these abilities, he would unquestionably have screwed up his relationship with Maddie to a royal degree, and nobody would have lasted long as his partner at LAPD, either.  Yet, when it comes to the women in his private life, he gets it wrong every single time.  And I'm past caring why or rationalizing based on Harry's childhood, the murder of his mother and what he later found out about it, his absent father, his Vietnam "tunnel rat" experience, and whatever else.  Harry is past retirement age.  He should have found a way to deal with his ill-perceived "saviour" complex eons ago.  It's overdue for him to finally find that way out now.


Thankfully, the book does actually include another investigation, and it's this one that eventually gets Bosch into trouble -- in more than one respect.  Yet, here, too he ought to seriously take a step back and critically reassess his own position.  He himself has made the resolution that, if he should ever find he's no longer up to the job, he would quit and leave the field to others.  But he's barely out on his backside from SFPD ... and what does the man do?  He walks up to Ballard and suggests an informal "cold case" partnership to her, with her being inside LAPD and him freelancing on the outside.  Which isn't only entirely unprofessional -- on both their parts, incidentally, in addition to which Ballard will be breaking pretty much every single rule of investigative and department protocol -- but also goes straight against Bosch's own resolution, because it's not like he doesn't know full well that he's out on his ear because he himself has screwed up.  Fatally.  To thine own self be true, Harry?  Ah, well ... anything to continue the series for yet another book or two, Mr. Connelly?


Now, if only Ballard hadn't accepted Harry's "informal partnership" offer.  But alas, she did.  And I'm currently hoping and praying that this is all we'll be seeing of them in the next book(s).  Because I got a very funny vibe at the end of Dark Sacred Night, and it's not like Ballard hasn't her share of personal issues, either ...

(spoiler show)


Character quibbles aside, Connelly probably couldn't write a thoroughly bad book if he tried, I'm still right back in L.A. with every word that he writes, and I actually did like the second (gang-related) narrative strain of Dark Sacred Night.  And since a key character, Elizabeth Clayton, is a mother, I'm also claiming this one for the Russian Mother's Day square in 24 Festive Tasks.


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review 2018-11-26 19:40
Historical figures: Awesome ladies edition
Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation - Cokie Roberts

This book was just what was needed to pull me out of a reading slump. Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts is an account of the women who supported and helped shape the development of the democratic government in the United States. While I initially thought that this would yield minimal new information considering how heavily this period of time was covered during my schooldays I discovered just how wrong (and ignorant) I was especially in regards to the women. I realized that it had never occurred to me to wonder just how long the absences of these women's husbands were during the creation of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution (including the Articles of the Confederation), and the U.S. government as a whole. Not to mention how absolutely strong-willed and informed these women were about the affairs of state (which was beneficial as they passed on the latest news to their husbands through extensive letter writing). Best couple award goes to George and Martha Washington who were the most well-adjusted and steadfast couple of the lot. Martha went everywhere George went including Valley Forge where she was instrumental in keeping the morale of the men up (and getting them to stay at all) as well as organizing other women into organized sewing groups to keep the troops clothed. Favorite woman of the many discussed was hands down Abigail Adams who not only had the keenest mind but also the sharpest tongue. She had no problem telling John where to go and letting him know that just because he was away didn't mean that the romance in their relationship needed to suffer. In fact, theirs was the most strained relationship of all as John was in high demand and for the majority of their marriage they were separated as he worked tirelessly in his work as a member of the Continental Congress and then later as the Vice President. If you, like me, love reading about confident women and relish learning new things about a slice of history you thought you had thoroughly mapped then I must point you in the direction of Founding Mothers. 10/10


PS Benjamin Franklin was the worst.


What's Up Next: Mary B. by Katherine J. Chen


What I'm Currently Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond


Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-10-23 18:46
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
The Mothers: A Novel - Brit Bennett

I’ve been doing research for my upcoming novel, the good kind that means I can read a load of books (guilt free!) that concern the topic I’m going to write about. My novels going to have a sub-plot concerning the recent referendum that just took place in the south of Ireland, namely about repealing the eight amendment. It’s a contentious issue at the best of times, so I’m not going to go on about it here, except to say this book was one of the top one’s that supposedly treated the issue realistically. And I can confirm that it definitely did treat it realistically and sensitively, at that.


The story is set within a contemporary black community in Southern California and concerns Nadia, a seventeen-year-old girl who’s just lost her mother to suicide. In her grief-stricken state she takes up with the local pastor’s son, Luke. The pregnancy that results and the subsequent cover-up has a ripple affect that’s felt throughout the years and effects many relationships. Nadia’s best friend, Aubrey, becomes an integral part of the story a bit later on and even her relationship with the former is affected by the decisions made in her youth.


I couldn’t believe this was a debut novel and had to keep reminding myself of that fact. It kept a steady footing throughout and wove together seemingly isolated incidents in a way that felt very authentic.


I did have a few issues with it, even though I thought it was well done, such as the tendency to show rather than tell. I find this indicative of how much I love and think about a book after I’ve set it down. It’s so much more fulfilling as a reader to draw your own conclusions from the evidence, rather than being led there. Secondly, while Aubrey (Nadia’s best friend) was rather sweet, she didn’t fare particularly well when having to rely on her own esteem, rather than when she was reflected through Nadia. Luke, who was very much key to the narrative, also struggled to assert himself adequately. Every character seemed to falter when operating solo of Nadia and since this was written in third person multiple, it was felt quite viscerally. I would love to have seen how this book read in first person. I think it may have been ever-so-slightly stronger.


The religious theme was woven throughout, but at no time did it become preachy. Most of the main characters were involved in the church, but there was never that intrusive feeling you sometimes get. Nadia didn’t even seem particularly religious, neither did Luke.


The novel was more about an abstract notion rather than a concrete one, the what if’s in life and if they can sometimes mean more than reality.

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