April Reads

April was a very good month, but boy did it go fast.  I got away to Calgary, Alberta last weekend to have some fun, shopped and visited with friends.  Went to the Calgary Opera and saw The Magic Flute while I was there and quite enjoyed it.  It was also a good reading month.  I managed to listen to two audio books, read four e-books and four paper books.  The following are my April reads:

Without a Doubt by Marcia Clark – 4 stars – ebook

Buried by Graham Masterton – 4 stars – trade

Dear County Agent Guy by Jerry Nelson – 1 star – ebook advance copy being released May 3, 2016

Atonement by Ian McEwan – 3 stars – hardback

The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths – 4 stars – trade

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (a reread) – 4 stars – hardback

Hit By A Farm by Catherine Friend – 3 stars – audiobook

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell – 4 stars – ebook

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – 4 stars – ebook

The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower – 3 stars – audiobook

Happy reading everyone!

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Book Review – Hit By A Farm

Catherine and Melissa are a couple who reside in southeastern Minnesota who decide to go farming – more specifically, raising sheep and poultry and starting a vineyard. Catherine was an author prior to her and Melissa starting this endeavour and going farming was really Melissa’s dream. I listened to this book on audio with Catherine being the narrator. I found her voice so similar to Cheryl Strayed that at times I had to remind myself that Cheryl wasn’t narrating.

I enjoyed the book, but it certainly is not my favourite of all the different farming adventure books that I have read. At times Catherine spent large amounts of the book complaining about farm life and how it was interfering with her writing. After a while the complaining became a bit monotonous and I began to wonder why she just didn’t leave. Eventually Catherine was able to set boundaries with respect to the amount of farm work she was willing to take on so that she could get back to her writing life and this book is the result.  Three stars out of five on Goodreads.

Book Review – Dear County Agent Guy

Dear County Agent Guy

I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book will be published on May 3, 2016.

Dear County Agent Guy is a book comprised of a series of essays that originally appeared in newspapers across the Midwest. They were written by Jerry Nelson who operated a dairy farm with his wife in South Dakota.  They raised two sons on this farm and these essays are antidotes of living the “rural life”.

I had high hopes for this book as I had just recently finished reading a laugh-out-loud funny memoir of a similar fashion set in England. Unfortunately, my hopes were soon dashed.  Although the author does try to inject humor into each story, I feel it is humor that mostly would appeal to a white male audience aged 50 to 75.

The main thing that bothered me about this series of essays is how sexist they are. Now, I was raised on a grain farm in the 1960s, 1970s and early 80s in Saskatchewan.  I understand that farmers think differently than “city folk”.  I also grew up in a time, and a setting, where women were not acknowledged as equals.  However, it is now 2016 – if some of these essays were written a number of years ago, shame on the publisher for not having the author update them.

The essays that I found most offensive were:

  • The farmer had to call in a vet as he had a cow that had a displaced stomach. The essay was three pages long and he referred to the vet as the “lady vet” eleven times on three pages. I guess it was really important for his audience to know that he let a “lady vet” work on his animals.
  • When they were expecting their first son, his wife insisted that he attend Lamaze class with her. The instructor was a woman that he described as being “one of those high-strung types”.
  • And the worst one yet, he described going to a mall at Christmas time and seeing men there with their wives. In his opinion, men don’t want to be at the mall but were there to ensure that their wives don’t spent too much of their (the husband’s) hard-earned money. At one point, the farmer found “his manhood stripped away” because he found himself in an aisle filled with feminine products. I just wanted to reach through my I-pad and slap this idiot silly.

The author was going for a charming, folksy read. He got the folksy part right but certainly not the charming.  One star.

Book Review – Without A Doubt

Without a DoubtI read this book in 1997 when it was first released. I was 31 years old at the time and like many people in North America, followed the O.J. Simpson trial very closely, and again, like a lot of people, was angry at the verdict. I immersed myself in many of the books that were written after the trial and read the accounts of Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden, the family of Ron Goldman, and Jeffrey Toobin.

FX has been airing American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson and I have been impressed with how closely it is following what happened at trial and what has been described in various books. Watching this program rekindled my interest in Marcia Clark’s book and I decided to re-read it.

It is interesting how you experience or interpret things differently with the distance of time. Twenty years later (and twenty years older), I found the book more fascinating than I did the first time I read it and clearly see some issues that I either didn’t notice the first time or feel much differently about now at this point in my life.

The first issue that made more of an impact with me the second time around is the domestic violence aspect of this case and how little support Nicole actually had. The violence started at a very early stage in their relationship with a witness telling of a time that he heard strange noises coming from the apartment next to him and then a day or two later, seeing Nicole in the elevator with two black eyes. She was 18 or 19 at the time. There were numerous times the police were called to the residence due to these fights and so many times, the police were enamored with O.J. and nothing was done. So the next logical question is, why did she stay – why didn’t she just leave? The answer is that she left several times but she had virtually little or no support system to assist her. O.J. apparently had been providing financial support to Nicole’s parents and so they were not pleased to hear that the relationship was in trouble. On one occasion when Nicole did leave O.J., her father went as far as refusing to speak to Nicole until she reunited with her husband. I cannot imagine being in a situation where it is expected that the child (or their husband) is to financially support their parent(s). In America, normally each generation of parents take pride in the fact that they can provide their children more than their parents were able to. Apparently this was not the view of Nicole’s parents.

Another factor that hindered Nicole was her lack of education. She met O.J. when she was eighteen and didn’t further her education after high school. She waitressed for a bit but that was really all the work experience she had. How do you make a life for yourself when you have little education, no work history and two small children? She was financially dependent upon O.J. even after their divorce. Marcia Clark described Nicole as a “lost little girl”. I don’t know if I agree with this description but she certainly had very few options when it came to having the ability to support herself and her children in order to lessen her ties with her ex-husband.

The other issue that I just didn’t pick up on during the trial or my first read of this book was the sexism levelled at Marcia – the worst coming from Judge Lance Ito. There were many names that Marcia called Ito in the book, none of them flattering (my favorite was dunderhead) and he deserved every name she called him. There were several occasions that Ito humiliated Marsha by asking her in open court why she couldn’t sit late (maybe because she was a single mother and had to pick up her children!!), commenting on her new hair style (again in open court) and while addressing the other lawyers as Mr. Cochrane and Mr. Shapiro, he often referred to her as Marsha and not “Ms. Clark”. Being in 2016 and looking back at 1994, it is hard to believe that he actually got away with that. Thankfully, this behavior would not occur today in a courtroom full of cameras and if it did, there were would severe backlash in regular and social media.

My last comment about the trial is with respect to the LA criminologist, Dennis Fung. He was incompetent in his position and should have been fired after the trial but apparently LAPD kept him on (not surprising considering the ineptitude of the LAPD at that time). Just one of his blunders was that he did not wear rubber gloves when collecting a lot of the blood evidence. If he had worked at a private corporation in today’s world, he would have been fired.

I really enjoyed revisiting this book and give it four out of five stars review.

April TBR

So, there are two books that I was reading in March that I didn’t get completed by the end of the month, therefore, my first goal for April is to complete these and then dive into a batch of new books. These are my reading plans for April:

April TBR

Buried by Graham Masterton (currently 83% complete)

Without a Doubt by Marcia Clark (currently 74% complete)

The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths

Illuminae by Annie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Dear County Agent Guy by Jerry Nelson (I received an advance reader copy from NetGalley – publication date is May 3, 2016)

Atonement by Ian McEwan

One of my reading goals for this year was to read one e-book a month. For a number of years, I was a big e-book reader, however, in the past year I have gone back to mostly paper.  There is just a special feeling of having paper in my hand when reading and after being on a computer a good part of the day, I enjoy being able to pick up paper rather than reading on a screen.  Back when I was reading a lot of e-books, I would purchase them whenever I saw a good sale on Kobo.  I have approximately 9 e-books currently waiting to be read and I just keep putting them off because I love paper so much, but I would like to get some of these completed.  I have The Nightingale in e-book and my advance reader copy of Dear County Agent is in e-book format so those are two for this month I hope to get through.

I also have been pretty negligent about getting my advance reader copies of books from NetGalley read before the publication date so that is another goal I want to work on over the next few months.

Happy reading everyone.

Gwen

Weekend Reading Plans

So unless something derails my plans for the weekend, I anticipate that I will finish two books that are both already more than half read.  I am currently reading Buried by Graham Masterton and Without a Doubt by Marcia Clark.

Without a DoubtBuried

Buried is the sixth mystery/psychological thriller book in the Katie Maguire series by Graham Masterton.  I really enjoy reading about the setting (Cork, Ireland) and the author is always coming up with inventive ways to torture (or kill) his victims.  This book is somewhat gruesome and has some trigger issues (rape, torture, bloody scenes) but I have to give this author credit that he is not using the same old methods over and over so you feel like you are reading the same story again and again.   I am currently 83% through Buried.

The next book I plan to finish off this weekend is Without a Doubt by Marcia Clark.  This is a re-read for me as I had read this book when it was first published in 1997.  Since FX has been airing American Crime Story:  The People v. O.J. Simpson, I became interested in re-reading this book and I find that being twenty years older has given me a different perspective and while I enjoyed reading it the first time, I am really engaged and fascinated this time around.

If I finish these two books off before the end of the weekend, I will start in on the books I plan to read in April (blog to follow).  Have a good weekend and happy reads!

Gwen

March, 2016 Reading Wrap Up

In the month of March, I read and rated the following books:

What’s Left Behind by Gail Bowen – 4 stars out of five on Goodreads

Violent Ends by Shaun David Hutchinson – 3 stars

What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey – 3 stars

In the Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride – 5 stars

The Martian by Andy Weir – 4 stars

Pigs in Clover by Simon Dawson – 5 stars

Friday on My Mind by Nicci French – 3 stars

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 4 stars

Most of these books I have either done separate reviews or mentioned them in previous blog postings so if you would like to read more about my thoughts about these books, please check them out at:  https://indydriven.wordpress.com/

Gwen