The Winter Place by Alexander Yates

This story is a fantastical mix of family, death, loyalty and the ties that bind.  Yates’ writing was wonderful, but I was too caught up in the story to give myself time to write down favorite quotes.  I wanted to know what happened next.  The action is subtle and dream like as the characters move between the worlds of the living and of the dead.

The author is a courteous tour guide as he leads readers onto a mysterious path.  We are in good company with Tess and Axel as the path spirals downward and the pace quickens.  Answers don’t so much unfold as they unravel like a ball of yarn and it is all Tess and Axel can do to not be tangled inexorably.

A beautiful blend of realism and folklore, this book is for those who loved Patrick Ness’s “A Monster Calls” or Neil Gaiman’s “Odd and the Frost Giants”.

A recommended read!


Public Enemies by Ann Aguirre (Book 2 of the Immortal Game Trilogy)

This story, like many book twos, ups the ante for our main character, Edie Kramer, her boyfriend is now free of his servitude to the Winter King, however, he’s bargained his life for Edie’s protection.  Now time is running out for a personal ‘happily ever after’ as Edie battles for her life and the lives of those she loves with uncertain allies and danger around every corner.  Edie wonders more than once if everyone would have been better off if she’d succeeded in stepping off that bridge.  She can’t look back now, she can only try to right the things that went so wrong.  This is a beautiful set up for the final book and I look forward to reading it.


weird girl

Weird Girl and What’s his name by Meagan Brothers

This is the story of a young gay man and his best friend. They are both obsessed with the X-Files even though it was off the air before they were born. Outcasts everywhere will relate to this duo! My favorite line so far…Rory has been talked into going out for football and, although he’s a big guy and can run alright, has no reference for football jargon and keeps doing the wrong thing. “After a while, it became funny…The whole thing was so stupid macho, and probably the gayest thing I’d ever done in public. All the grunting, everybody’s butt in the air. And all the drills had these super gay names like “The Man-Maker”, “The Machine Gun”, and “The Rodeo”. (p.57)

Trying out for football isn’t the only thing he hasn’t shared with his best friend, Lula, and when things blow up between them, they both feel regrets.  Here, Lula creates an accurate metaphor of the situation from her perspective,

“I’m more like a…like a big dumb puppy. Whipping around with its tail and its giant paws, making a mess, destroying everything without even meaning to, just trying to jump up on everybody’s lap and see who loves me best.” (p.147) – I feel you, sister!

Her step-father, Walter express it this way,

“‘See, the thing about driving is, you can understand it intellectually, but your body has to learn, too. You gotta get used to the sound of the gears, get your hand-eye coordination to where you know how quick to put on your brakes. That’s what’s good about learning on a stick shift, too. When you’re young, you get so damn excited by the thing, you wanna get out on the open road and go faster than your reflexes are ready for. Having to shift gears keeps you honest.” (p. 261)

And with these words, Lula describes the crux of what we look for when we try to connect with other humans,

“‘Deep down, I want…I want somebody who sees me. Sees everything I am, even all the horrible things I am. … but …loves me anyway.'” (p. 305) – yep

As I said, anyone who has felt like an outcast will relate well to these beautifully flawed main characters.


Breaking Night by Liz Murray

New book…new quotes…”Breaking Night” is a memoir and the heartbreaking detail of children in poverty, and neglect, due to parental drug use is not easy to read. However, here is a lovely tableau of Liz Murray’s connection with a Puerto Rican family;
“I’d forged my way into numerous appearances in family photo albums and home videos….My favorite images were of Rick’s and my mutual birthday parties. Liz always remembered to have the bakery write both our names in scripted frosting along the top of the pineapple Valencia cakes. Dozens of pictures captured the two of us blowing out double the amount of candles, Liz clapping wildly over us, her hands frozen in a streak of motion, vivid and persistent as hummingbirds’ wings.” (p.77)

As Liz grows, she is eventually drawn into the system, when she is truant more than she is attending school, Social Services comes to remove her.

“If someone had just talked to me like a human being and walked me through what was happening, that would have helped so much, made it so much less frightening. Bet instead, she talked to me with a stiff office voice that told me I was not a person, but a job, to her.” (p.131)

Liz becomes enthralled with Carlos and lives with him on the street because, “The outside world was no hurdle for him; it was a platform.”

The most important memory of Carlos that Liz shares shows a deep human connection and understanding of pain and grief, “When Ma had first come in, he ran to hold on to her arm and back-to support her, not reluctantly, but warmly, as though he saw right past the ugliness of the disease and through to her, the person beneath it all.

‘Jean, you seem to need a little help.  I’m going to help Liz help you.’

‘Who are you?’ she’d stammered through her crying.

‘I’m someone who loves Liz very much, someone who’s been wanting to meet you,’ he told her. … ‘Jean, Liz told me about how you call her pumpkin.  I think that’s adorable.  I call her Shamrock ’cause she’s the luckiest thing that’s ever come my way.  I know you talked to her a lot at night, too, always sitting at the foot of Liz’s bed to keep her company.’  Ma’s eyes opened wearily.  Tears tolled out of them as she and I listened to Carlos’s deep voice vibrate in the bathroom. ‘My moms has an issue with drugs, too, you know.  I wish she could have cared as much as Liz tells me you do.  I think it’s great that you look out like that.  I know Liz loves you, too, and she’s proud that you haven’t’ used coke in so long.  You’ve come a long way, Jean.  You should be proud of yourself.’ …When I’d tucked my mother in and was ready to leave, Carlos sat on the side of her bed.  From the doorway, I watched in amazement as he held my mother’s hand and spoke reassuringly to her until she drifted to sleep.” (pp.177-178)

Beautiful and tender, this isn’t an easy book to read, but it is well written and moving.

“I became distracted by how removed I felt, divided between the physical part of me that I shared with him, and my mind, which drifted. But he didn’t notice; he only moved and moved on top of me. For a moment, I resented him for it. In an effort to reverse the bad feeling, I decided to search his eyes, but they were closed. That’s when I realized that sex was not necessarily a shared thing. Sex was something you do with someone else, yet you can experience it separately from each other. It didn’t necessarily bring you closer. In fact, it could highlight the parts of you that feel most separate. Sex could reveal to you your own isolation.” (p. 204)

” I realized then that I didn’t know (whether to be calm or angry) because I was waiting to see what he felt first. I was used to that, sensing my own feelings only in relation to others.” (p. 222) This insight that the author expresses speaks loudly to gender expectations, in my opinion. Many women are trained to sense their feelings in relation to others.

“Gene Murry, the box said, underscored by bold letters reading, Head, and Feet, to note the direction.  Carlos knew how much that bothered me.  With his black marker, he drew a flowing angel on the front of your box, and filled in all the correct information: Jean Marie Murray.  August 27, 1954-December 18, 1996.  Beloved Mother of Lisa and Elizabeth Murray and Wife of Peter Finnerty.” (p. 229)

“After what I’d seen at St. Anne’s-the mean girls, the indifferent staff, and the prison-like environment-I was never going to a place like that again.”  (p. 235)

Until Liz is driven back by a horrific realization.  After Carlos threatened violence, Liz watches a news report about, “…a gruesome murder of a woman at a dive on the New England Thruway.  The motel maid discovered the body, which at that very moment was being wheeled silently into an ambulance behind the wide-eyed reporter.  … Rosa Morilla, age thirty-nine, mother of five, had bled out on the floor of her room in the Holiday Motel, just three doors down from my room.  I jumped up to look out the window, lifted the curtain, and saw the reporter. …I looked back and forth between the television and out my window to see the same view: Ms. Morilla in a body bag, the ambulance doors slammed, the reporter’s blinding portable light shining on her overly made-up face. … Just a few hours later, you could have never guessed it happened.  With the reporter long gone, the police packed up and departed, the whole motel was back to business as usual, as though Rosa Morilla never existed.  As though she was not the mother of five children; as if she had not been someone’s daughter or sister; as if she didn’t even matter.”(pp.237-238).  Liz knows that she has to leave, and she does.

“The thought of a clean slate was thrilling, especially after looking at the mess I had created.  With all the things that had been difficult, it was one blessing to count on, the knowledge that what I did from this moment on didn’t have to depend on what I had done before.” (p.263)

This book is beautifully written.


The Martian by Andy Weir

I know…I know…the last book I reviewed was called “MARTians” but give me a break, I don’t control when my holds come in.

This book was so much fun to read!  Hilarious inner dialogue, well explained science (even for a liberal arts grad like me) and an easy to relate to human drama combine to make this a fast read.  The only bit that throws a wrench in my ability to recommend it across the board (considering parents), is the language.  The wonderful hooking first line of the book is, “I’m pretty much f**ked.”  So, yeah, a bit of a hard sell for parents of teens looking for sci fi, but I have encouraged my own 18 year old to read it, and I do not think the language detracts from the story.

My favorite quotes From The Martian by Andy Weir.

“If ruining the only religious icon I have leaves me vulnerable to Marian vampires, I’ll have to risk it.” (p. 33)

“I wonder what NASA would think about me f**king with the RTG like this. They’d probably hide under their desks and cuddle with their slide rules for comfort.” (p.77)
“I can’t wait till I have grandchildren. ‘When I was younger, I had to walk to the rim of a crater. Uphill! In an EVA suit! On Mars, ya little shi*! Ya hear me? Mars!” (p.295)
“I’ll be at the entrance to Schiaparelli tomorrow!…I’m so close to Schiaparelli, I can taste it. I guess it would taste like sand, mostly, but that’s not the point.” (p.308)

by Blythe Woolston

MARTians by Blythe Woolston

I was really anticipating this book and I felt like it had a really strong start, but ultimately, I was unsatisfied with the story.  I liked many parts of the story and also the dark humor throughout, but at the end, I wasn’t feeling confident about the narrator’s ability to sally forth.

Some of my favorite lines were:

“Ms. Brody spools out another yard of tissue.  If I knew how many yards of tissue she has stashed, I could predict the future with accuracy.  I could tell you if she’s going to run out of tissue before she runs out of tears.” (P.3)

“…do not badger the AllMART badger.  It’s a bad idea to badger the badger…” (p.24)