Thursday, April 23, 2015

Review: ROCK ISLAND LINES by Dean Klinkenberg

From therapist to travel writer to murder suspect. How the heck did that happen?

"I’ve never been one who believed that the sins of the ancestors had to defile the whole family." (202)

For Frank Dodge, it was just supposed to be an evening of sipping beer, but somehow it turned into one hell of a night. What started off as simple research on an infamous gangster and his descendants turns into murder. But who would want to kill Miguel Ramirez? Curiosity beckons the reader to find out.

Author mixed a frothy brew of mystery and satire interlaced with the murky swirl of a dark biography. The story crosses between the history of crime boss John Looney, a synopsis of Dodge's last night with Miguel Ramirez, and an extensive murder investigation with the FBI. What's the connection and what is it that Dodge isn't sharing?  

Overall, the story is a compelling ride with occasional intervals of tedium, complexity, and general lag. There was a lot of history, and what was with Dodge's obsession with the river? I guess even in the face of a life in prison, a person could still find solace in flowing water. But, nonetheless, the reader has to find out what happened.

My rating: 3.5 stars

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review: BOOKS, BLOGS, AND REALITY by Ryan Ringbloom

“It’s not uncommon for people to have two sets of friends. The “real” friends; these are the ones who live nearby, the ones you see or talk with occasionally (less and less as time goes on.) Then there are “virtual” friends; these are the one you talk to (well, type to) every day…You’ve never actually met any of them and yet you trust them with some of your deepest, most intimate thoughts and details of your life. You share way too much information and in return, they over-share way too much back.” (Prologue)

Story was told from the POV of all four girls (Brooke, Rachel, Lizzie, and Jessica)—each with their own love woes. All are hard-core readers, which is something I can TOTALLY relate to. They read, they review, they love, and they virtual-chat about ALL of it later. It’s funny how they orgasm more from the men in books than the men in real life. Actually…yeah, I can see that.

Brooke is the shy, reserved gal who wants the hot, sizzling, sensual romance that can only be found in books. “It had been a long time since anyone had ‘expertly explored’ Brooke’s body.” (6)

Rachel is the down-right kinky broad who wants to test out the moves she reads about. Oy! I don’t know what BDSM is and I don’t want to know.

Lizzie is the bored housewife with a baby and all she wants is a little more action every now and then.

Jessica was the studious science geek looking for the “un-gettable get.”

Since we’re living in a technology-driven age, adding the emails between the four girls made it more contemporary and relatable in today’s society, not to mention that it was instrumental to the plot. Besides, it’s so much better to text and email as you never have to talk to the people. It’s amazing how raunchy the discussions can get and with only a few words/letters no less. My goodness!  It’s true though: people do share the most intimate things online.

The reviews were fun and gave a better insight to the girls’ individual desires.

Written in a combination of emails, reviews, and story, Books, Blogs, and Reality was enjoyable and funny, albeit a tad lewd sometimes. I thoughts the girls were silly and naïve to think that they can turn their real lives into the fantasy lives they read about. Still, the fun part was seeing them try. After all, don’t we book lovers read to escape from our own lifeless reality?

You’ll love watching these girls toil in their love lives and commiserate about it.

A must-read for all those “mental cases” that so easily get lost in a world of fiction!

My rating: 4.5 stars

Monday, April 20, 2015

Review: HER DEAR AND LOVING HUSBAND by Meredith Allard

The first thing that caught my eye about this was the concept of the Salem witch trials—a subject that has always fascinated me.

Sarah has moved to Salem, where even the warnings of “[ghosts] always [coming] out at night” from the landlady can't hinder Sarah from staying. (62) Why? Well, apparently, Sarah was on a quest to learn more about the ancestor who fell prey to the witch trial executions. Maybe then she can finally put those dreams she’s been having to rest.

“You are not who you say you are…He will find you?” What!? What could that psychic mean by that?

Then Sarah meets the man of her dreams—literally, a strange man she’s been dreaming of. That James was spooky crazy—sweet one minute and creepy the next. Was he bipolar or something? Still, Sarah was drawn to the man. But what was James’ secret?

I didn’t quite understand Sarah’s dreams at times. Sometimes that along with some of the dialogued history were kind of LONG.

Once I found out that James was a vampire, I discovered that this was basically a rehash of Twilight, relaying the two connected beings by having them stand and stare at each other for long periods of time.  Of course, I found the notion of a vampire making a life with a human completely ludicrous.

Still, the story was filled with words of dark beauty, like entering the worlds of Poe and John Keats.

The love between James and Sarah was soulful and endearing. Even though I’m not a firm believer of “undying” love, I found myself rooting for those two. Theirs was a sweet love story.

The landscapes were so vividly detailed that I am inspired to visit Salem one day. In fact, it’s on my itinerary.

My rating: 3.5 stars

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review: CHOICES by Pnina Baim

"Everyone is so busy with their happy little lives and then there’s me, being pushed by forces I can’t control. I feel like I just drift through life, without actually doing anything. Things just happen to me and twist me in circles and it is the most I can do just to keep up." (51)

Fresh out of a foster home, an aspiring 16-year old girl is a "fish out of water," struggling to survive and combating the differences that alienate her from society. Emma doesn't really consider herself "normal," but she doesn't let that stop her from achieving her goal: early graduation, then early college admission, and, finally, legal independence (emancipation.) Right away you admire this girl and want to root for her. 

"There is a specific type of loneliness that comes from being surrounded by indifferent people and then there’s the loneliness that comes from being alone. I prefer the latter." (31) Work and study are about the only things centered on the mind of this bright and dedicated girl, one that often preferred to spend her school recess reading a book (like me!) Then Reagan comes along. Even though Reagan seemed nice, I couldn't help but feel that he was distracting Emma, messing with her focused head. Suddenly the pressure's on. She must find a way to meet her goal while also contending with her wretched past and sheltered cynicism.

A quick and simple story, Choices opens up barriers. Readers will find Emma to be a true role model--one that falls but gets back up, one that's made mistakes but learns from them, one that is not "normal" but is "exceptional."

My rating: 4 stars

Review: A LIFE WORTH LIVING by Pnina Baim

Gaby and her family are reluctantly making the move from New York to Israel due to financial distress. Hey, living in the U.S. can be expensive.

Of course, Gaby is not too thrilled about it, but it's admirable that she tries to make the best of it, albeit with a mechanical and surly attitude. But why join the Israeli army? Girl is crazy!

A Life Worth Living is the story of a young girl traversing through unfamiliar and perilous territory with wide-eyed curiosity and stamina. Surrounded by a flat and multifaceted cast, Gaby seemed to be a daring and somewhat flippant character, and I definitely thought that she had an unhealthy fixation with Benny, which then quickly gets transferred onto Saar.

Of course, I couldn't understand any of the Hebrew and Arabic phrases, and the lengthy history pertaining to the Jews had no interest to me. Surely this multicultural tale has an inspiring message, one of resilience and valor, and it definitely extends the barrier to a different part of the world, but, for me, this was just an okay story.

My rating: 3 stars

Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: THE BROKE ASS BRIGADE by Don Romonov

"The Broke Ass Brigade" is a sarcastic account of the employment of The author Don Romonov in one of the larger retail chains in the world. Don entered the workforce as a young man barely out of High school, full of enthusiasm and Idealism. He was soon to receive an abrupt reality check of what corporate America is all about. Raised in the middle class, Don believed in the value system of working an honest day’s work for an honest wage. That by doing what was “right” and working hard he had no choice but to succeed. The Company Store however had other plans for Don and his coworkers- the American working class. Terrorized by crazy and vindictive bosses Don manages to maintain his sanity and sense of humor while dealing with the masses that frequent the Company Store.

My thougths: From the very first page, you can’t help but laugh your butt off—it’s that hilarious!

From day one, Don has hated his job at the Company Store. He describes his day-to-day operations with vivid and humorous detail. The reader learns of incidents with customers, managers, and co-workers. “I just found it somewhat unfair that they could slack harder than I and get away with it.” (19) Welcome to the job! It’s all about a man’s struggles, working a dead-end job that he hates. It is an honest and cynical view of the work world.

The anecdotes come from the daily entries of his journal, which actually reads like it. Sometimes the writing was long-winded; the author tended to babble on and on. Why couldn’t he just get to the point? It was a LONG book.

The message: Work sucks! Yeah, like most of us didn’t figure that out already. But did you really need 500 pages to say that?
My rating: 3 stars


Wednesday, April 8, 2015


This book is just what the title suggests—stories from a teacher that are enriched with an honest and jocular tone. They are a brief recollection of a man’s career, a quest to bring knowledge and enlightenment to impressionable minds and to “save the world one-by-one.” (283)

In his first lesson plan, Jonathan learns to be flexible and “go where the learning happens.” (373)

In “My Answer,” Jonathan must battle his position of being “too young” with probing questions from kids and colleagues.

In “Where do I fit in,” Flores recalls being put in ESL classes as a kid because of his name, even though he was a native who was fluent in English. I know that feeling.

I liked how he relayed personal anecdotes into his lessons—that’s a good teacher! The obnoxious inappropriateness from the kids gave this book a solid dose of reality. It was amazing how the information goes in one ear and then out the other. Oy, kids!

I thought Flores had it right when he said that “there are fundamental flaws with the way these [kids] are being raised…These kids speak too aggressively…[and] instead of asking, they’ll declare.” (1542) That is so true! Sometimes I worry about society with kids being our future and all. It they are our future, then the world is in trouble.

These stories are a poignant and clever reminiscence; however, at times, the subject matter became too vulgar and obscene.

I was a little bothered by the overuse of the phrase, “I slapped my palm to my forehead.” In fact, a lot of these stories were quite repetitive. Some were not even stories; some were essays, letters, or just quizzes. Additionally, there were some issues on sentence structure, which was surprising considering the author was an English teacher.

Overall, this was an okay read. My favorite part was when he stated: “You must take care of yourself. You should be your own first priority.” (3128)

Teachers have to put up with a lot of crap by students, parents, and the school board, and Flores did a fairly decent job in showing that in his book. But, in the end, “is it worth it?” (3128)

My rating: 2.5 stars