Friday, March 25, 2016

THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET - Nancy J. Cavanaugh [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library, e-book [2013]

Description: This is a middle grade book, formatted as the language arts journal of a homeschooled 11yo girl, Rachel. Her mother is deceased. She lives with her hippie father who works on cars and is an environmental activist. Because she helps her father fix cars, and she's good at it, he calls her Ratchet. 

Plot: The book tells the story of Ratchet's 6th grade year. She wants to learn more about her mother. She wants to have a friend. She wants to belong and have a “normal” life, which is difficult because her father embarrasses her with his activism. The main goal of the book is Ratchet learning about her mother, making friends, and becoming her own person. 

Characterization: Rachel/Ratchet and her father are well-developed, quirky but realistic. The secondary characters are not as well-developed, but they did have their own personalities. 

Setting: A regular neighborhood, which includes a park. I don't recall any specific mention of a city/state name, but the author is from Florida so perhaps that's where the book is set. 

Other: My husband and I homeschool our children, and I get tired of reading about the “solution” to kids having friends is to enroll them in a traditional school environment. So I was a little apprehensive about how the author would handle this. It starts with Rachel as 11yo and having no friends. I was disappointed in this aspect, because when my kids were 11yo they all had a boatload of friends, because they participated in lots of activities like church, scouts, sports, etc. However, I was very impressed that the author had Rachel becoming her own person and making friends without the requirement of enrolling in a traditional school setting. 

Overall: Good book. With the exception of the beginning when Ratchet doesn't have friends, it shows homeschooling in a reasonably positive light, which I appreciated. 

Grade: B+

Monday, March 21, 2016

A to Z Blogging Challenge 2016 Theme Reveal

This year for A to Z Challenge,

My theme is MILITARY DEFINITIONS, hopefully with a little humor.  So each day in the month of April [except Sundays], check here for a post on the letter of the day. 

Background: My #1 son is almost 22yo and enlisted in the Navy when he was 18. He has 1-1/2 years left of his 5 year commitment. As of today, he plans to re-enlist for another 5 years. He is a Seabee, a Construction Electrician. He has been deployed overseas twice. His current rank is E-4, a Petty Officer Third Class. 

Disclaimer: I'm a Navy Mom. I've never been in the military. All I know I learned on the internet and from my son. So although I've tried to give accurate definitions, I don't guarantee these are perfect. But I learned a lot and had fun writing these 26 posts, and I hope you do too.

I cruised around the internet to find an appropriate and fun site to include on this Theme Reveal post, and found this one. 

Surprise Military Homecomings 


AtoZ Themes
2015 - Legal Definitions
2016 - Military Definitions

Friday, March 18, 2016

THE SOUND AND THE FURRY - Spencer Quinn [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library, Audio book [2014]

Description: Chet and Bernie investigate a missing person in Louisiana. Book is narrated by Chet the dog.

Plot: Chet and Bernie travel to New Orleans to find Frenchie's brother, a reclusive inventor who has gone missing, along with his houseboat and dog. Along the way they discover a family feud reminiscent of the Hatfields and McCoys, and find a shady oil company.

Characterization: Chet is a really funny narrator, going off on tangents and getting distracted by the things that would be important to a dog. Bernie is a good detective altho not good with money management. All of the secondary characters were well-developed.

Setting: Louisiana. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene.

Other: This is the sixth book in the series. Chet tends to notice all of the same types of things, but it is sufficiently humorous and varied that it didn't get boring. Bernie really needs to learn money management.

Overall: A fun story.

Grade: B+

Friday, March 11, 2016

DEVOTED IN DEATH - JD Robb [Book recommendation}

Book obtained from: Library, new audio books shelf, Audio book

Description: This is the 41st book in the series, which is set in the year 2061. New York police lieutenant Eve Dallas investigates a torture-murder, the latest in a long line of torture-murders. This book is mostly a police procedural, with several interesting inventions not known to those of us here in 2016. Also, the reader knows who the murderers are, because chapter 1 begins in their POV. 

Plot: Eve and her team investigate the torture-murder of a young man who plays in an orchestra. Along the way, they learn this is at least the 20th victim of two sadistic, psychopathic killers. The reader knows who these killers are, and it's interesting to learn how the police put all the clues together. 

Characterization: Eve Dallas is the protagonist. Her husband Roarke and her partner Peabody are the main secondary characters. There are several other police characters, and a few side stories including one officer who is preparing to take the detective exam. Quite a few of the reviews I've read, indicate the character development isn't as good in this book as in the previous books, but I was able to get a feel for the individual personalities of each character, even though this is only the second book in the series I've read.

Setting: New York City. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene.
Other: I've only read one of the previous 40 books in this series, but this book did well as a stand-alone. About half-way thru it, I did some research online to get more of the backstory, and I do believe it helped me with the enjoyment of the story, but I think I would have enjoyed it anyway. 

Overall: One note of caution: There is a LOT of torture in this book. In most places, it's not too gory, but from the dialogue and other information you're given, some of it seems over-the-top. Apparently, JD Robb [aka Nora Roberts] had some serious nightmares that she obviously needed to get out of her head and onto the page. Don't read this book if you don't like reading that sort of violence. It was almost too heavy for me.
Grade: B+

Friday, March 4, 2016

THE SCAM - Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library, new audio books shelf, Audio book

Description: Kate O'Hare is an FBI agent with the unenviable task of using not-quite-legal methods to snag major bad guys who can't be snagged any other way. Nick Fox is a crook “on the lam” who helps Kate. Their cover story is that Kate is still searching for Nick, but actually Nick helps her catch the bad guys. In this story, Kate and Nick are scamming the scammers, a high-rolling gambling ring.

Plot: Kate and Nick travel to Las Vegas and Macau, trying to bring down Evan Trace, a high-powered con man running a money laundering scheme, including the drug money of other high-powered bad guys, through his casinos.

Characterization: Nick and Kate are reasonably well-developed. There is a cast of secondary characters, including Kate's father who is really crazy retired military, plus several other characters of questionable ethics who love helping with these not-quite-legal schemes. All have their own personalities and are a lot of fun.

Setting: Southern California, Las Vegas, Hawaii, and Macau. The descriptions were good, somewhat minimal at times, but I was able to picture every scene.

Other: This is the fourth book in the series. I haven't read the previous books, but I was able to follow along without the benefit of all that backstory. I'm sure I missed some things, but overall it was a fun read even as a stand-alone. It does end on a cliffhanger which I'm not sure I appreciated. I dislike when authors leave something major hanging, presumably to entice [force] the reader to buy the next book.

Overall: A fun story, with a few twists and a bit of suspense.

Grade: B+