We love the Cannonball Holiday Swap!

The kids made us all wait until Christmas Eve to open our Cannonball goodies under the tree. What a treat!

Thanks Malin and The Mama. What a wonderful way to start off the holiday!

Again, our thanks to Jen K for organizing. Hope this becomes an annual tradition!!

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Look What We Got!

When Malin sent a package to Joemyjoe and Bunnybean right at the start of the wonderful Cannonball Holiday Swap, they decided to leave the presents under the tree and open them on Christmas Eve.

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And today, when I opened up a delightful package from The Mama, I was told I MUST DO THE SAME.

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We will report in after opening, but they look wonderful and we are all happy as can be. Thanks!!

 

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 52: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Unknown-1Longtime readers may remember that Neil Gaiman and I have a bit of an up-and-down relationship. Sometimes (Stardust, Neverwhere), he and I are on the same page. Sometimes (Coraline, The Graveyard Book), I have trouble deciding what I think about him. And sometimes (hello, American Gods), I just can’t even. I think a lot of my issues with Neil Gaiman boil down to the fact that I am a geek, and therefore, I am supposed to love Neil Gaiman. And while I think he is a wonderfully talented and imaginative writer, he just might not be the writer for me.

And this is pretty much how I felt while reading TOATEOTL (how’s that for an acronym?). I liked it just fine. I thought parts of it were quite lovely, actually. But did I love it? No. Would I put it at the top of a list of my books of the year? No. But should you read it? Sure. Yes. Indeed.

By now, almost everyone knows the story. An unnamed narrator returns to his childhood home for a funeral. While visiting his former neighborhood, he starts to remember things he hasn’t thought of in 40 years…and the story takes off from there.

Mostly told from the perspective of a bookish, lonely, 7 year old boy, we are soon thrown into a story of memories. And the thing about memories is…are they always completely reliable? Does our now-grown narrator actually believe the things he’s started to remember once he pulls up to the Hempstock farmhouse? Or does he just not want to believe these things, because, really, how could they possibly be true?

I liked the fact that the bulk of the story was told by a 7 year old. I liked his innocence and the complete trust he had in his new friend Lettie. I loved his ability to be bowled over by a delicious piece of honeycomb, when really, he had other things he should have been worrying about. And I loved the pure way that he looked at the world and its people, in a very black/white, good/evil manner.

And to be honest, I liked a lot more about the story. And I found it pretty scary. The stuff with his dad and the bathtub? Terribly frightening. The woman made of pink and grey cloth? Eek!

So what am I so “bleh” about? Honestly, I’m not even sure. But I just don’t “enjoy” the Neil Gaiman experience as much as I would like. This wasn’t a very long book, but I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me over a week to read it. I just didn’t really care. The pages (some of which, yes, were beautifully written), just didn’t call out to me. Sorry.

But I’ll keep trying. One of these days the right Neil Gaiman book might just come along, and I’ll be ready for it when it does.

You can read more of my reviews — Neil Gaiman included — on my blog.

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 51: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

UnknownI never read The Silver Linings Playbook, but I did see the movie and liked it. But now, having read Matthew Quick’s more recent book, I’m wondering…do all of his books have to do with young people and mental illness? I’m just curious.

Leonard Peacock is a high school senior with a somewhat strange family life. His father was a huge one-hit wonder back in the 80s, but has since disappeared to somewhere in South America in order to evade the IRS. He is also an alcoholic and drug addict, and all around irresponsible adult. Leonard’s mom is a former model, and now a fashion designer who lives in New York City. She tries to visit Leonard on the weekends sometimes, but often forgets. Leonard lives alone in his suburban Philadelphia home, trying his best to figure out life.

He’s not doing a very good job.

As the book starts off, on the morning of Leonard’s 18th birthday, Leonard is packing his backpack for school. Not with books, but with a gun he can use to kill his former best friends, and then himself.

As the story goes on, we learn all about Leonard and his former friend Asher. We also meet Leonard’s other “friends” — including the one teacher Leonard trusts and respects, and the elderly neighbor that Leonard spends a lot of time watching old Bogart movies with.

No doubt at all that Matthew Quick is a great writer. But something about this book just rubbed me the wrong way. I think my major problem was reading it as a parent and being constantly furious at Leonard’s parents — his mother, in particular — and not being able to get past their absence. However, there were many parts where Quick’s brilliance got the best of me. Leonard writes himself letters from the future, in order to try and convince himself that his life will indeed be better someday. I loved these parts, and almost wish the entire book had been written as such.

I’m curious about Quick’s other works, and will probably give him another try…just not anytime soon.

Two and a half stars.

You can read more of my reviews on my blog.

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 50: W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

Unknown-3Like meatloaf, mac & cheese, or hot chocolate, Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone books are a comfort food that always satisfies.

Grafton has been working her way through the alphabet with her series of private detective novels, and I’m happy to say, I’m still enjoying them as much now as I did back when I picked up A is for Alibi a few years ago.

What I really love about the little universe that Grafton has created is that its stuck in a bit of a time warp. While Grafton has been writing about Kinsey for over 30 years, only about 5 years have passed in the fictional town of Santa Teresa, CA. Its still the mid-1980s. No cellphones. No internet. Private detectives have to actually, PHYSICALLY do work to solve their cases. They use microfiche at the library and make calls on payphones. They leave messages on answering machine tapes and pound the pavement to find potential witnesses to talk to.

And I love that Kinsey is such a pain in the ass. She’s such a curmudgeon, and I love her for it. She hates to get dressed up (her single black dress has made an appearance in every single novel), she doesn’t like to cook (unless its peanut butter and pickle sandwiches), she has very few friends that aren’t in their 80s (like the lovely Henry and his family), she has issues with men (three boyfriends over the years, and all three shockingly are around this time), and she has MAJOR problems with family. She’s prickly and very set in her ways, but I’m glad she never changes.

This time around, Kinsey has to solve a mystery regarding a homeless man found dead with her name and number in his pocket. Who is he and why was he trying to contact her? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. I really just enjoy visiting Kinsey’s world every few years and seeing what’s going on with her.

Looking forward to finding out what X stands for…

3 1/2 stars.

You can read more of my reviews on my blog.

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 49: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

doctor_sleep_coverWhen I was at summer camp between 7th and 8th grade, a friend told me that she was reading The Shining, a book I had never heard of, by some guy from Maine named Stephen King (please note, I am super old, so this was when King was sort-of-famous, but not yet a global literary force to be reckoned with). I loved Maine and I loved to read, so I immediately got on board and read this book in about 2 days and very, very long nights. And I was hooked. That same summer, I read The Stand, Salem’s Lot, Pet Semetary, and Carrie. And I was hooked. I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written ever since.

Last year, I had the chance to go see King speak nearby. He talked about the changing publishing industry and he talked a lot about himself and how his writing had changed over the years, and how he was trying to get back to basics. And then he gave a reading from his upcoming sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep.  Wouldn’t it be cool, he said, if we had a chance to peek in on Danny Torrence’s life right now, and see what became of him? Find out what kind of man he was?

And the answer is yes. It was pretty cool.

Whatever was “wrong” with King’s writing in the early 2000s has clearly been fixed. Remember Duma Key, Lisey’s Story, Dreamcatcher, Cell, and the horrible, awful Song of Susannah? The stories were pretty good, but the endings. My god, the endings. Terrible. Under the Dome? WORST OFFENDER OF THEM ALL. He simply could not end a story.

And then, he went and published some more short stories (always his forte), a short Dark Tower novella, Joyland, and 11/22/63. And he really nailed the ending with those last two, and all was right in the world again.

And luckily, I think Doctor Sleep continues on that path. The story was good — yes, thanks, Stephen, it was interesting to see what kind of man Danny had become — and the ending worked. Of course, I did have a few “meh” moments. TEENY TINY SPOILERS TO FOLLOW. For one, I thought it was too long (a familiar complaint with King, I’m sure). And secondly, I admit, I think King was a bit soft when it came down to the “big battle” section of the story. Old Stephen, like Joss Whedon, would have killed off a few of the supporting good guys (our favorites, of course), and thought nothing of it. But this time, everyone I pegged as a potential sacrifice for the greater good made it out alive. I definitely thought Doctor Dave and old Billy would be casualties of the fight with the True Knot, and was seriously surprised to find them more or less alive and well at the end.

I know not everyone here in Cannonball land agrees with me — looks like reviews of this have been fairly divided. But I really enjoyed it, and devoured it over the course of a weekend. Which, when you have three little kids, birthday parties, homework, sports, etc to manage, is actually quite a feat.

You can read more of my reviews on my blog.