*Not My REAL Bookshelf

*Not My REAL Bookshelf

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"Storm Warning: The Story of a Killer Tornado", by Nancy Mathis

Shortly before my 17th birthday, the movie Twister was released in theaters. I've always had a morbid fascination with these mercurial storms, and have had more than a few very close shaves with their presence in my lifetime thus far. So of course, when a blockbuster movie about tornadoes was released in theaters, I HAD TO SEE IT. And it did not disappoint, though the quality of the graphics has not quite held up over time. LOL

My best friend and I drove an hour away to the closest theater for the privilege of watching the film, and we walked away that night even more in love with tornadoes than ever. I began studying all the information on these meteorological beasts that I could lay my hands on, and became quite obsessed.

Fast forward two years, almost exactly to the day that we made the trip to that theater. We were all grown up, graduated, and I had met the man I (foolishly) believed I was going to spend the rest of my life with. While babysitting my cousins for the evening, the TV programming in our tiny Texas Panhandle town two hours northwest of Lubbock was interrupted for a special news bulletin about Oklahoma City, of all places, and the current state of affairs in their neck of the woods. All it took was one little word: TORNADO. I was officially hooked to that screen for the duration of the evening. I watched in abject horror as the city was devastated by wave after wave of large-scale twisters, one right after another. It was, and remains to this day, a weather outbreak phenomenon unlike any that had come before it. By the time I left for home, I was shell-shocked by all the weather carnage I had witnessed. That day has stayed with me for all the years since, tempering my reckless regard for the power of these storms. The date was May 3, 1999.

In the spring of 2007, I was working at a Home Depot not far from my home here in Austin. During a particularly humdrum day, a new copy of Reader's Digest was left in the break room for us to enjoy. I was thumbing through the pages when I came across a book excerpt for a novel called Storm Warning: The Story of a Killer Tornado, by an author named Nancy Mathis. I've never found an RD story about tornadoes to be anything less than captivating, so I settled in to read. By the time my break was over, I knew I had to own the book. It was a chronicle of the weather events that had helped to shape the history of Oklahoma City on May 3, 1999. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I had the book in my hot little hands in no time. It now holds a place among my all-time favorite books, and very likely always will.

The story begins with the narrative of the elderly grandmother of the author, a member of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, performing her annual Native American traditions to ward off the evil wrought by these capricious storms. On the heels of that comes the tale of one Ramona Kolander, and her heartbreaking experiences with deadly Oklahoma tornadoes. These stories have a natural segue into one another, serving to weave a tale of the history of not only twisters in Oklahoma, but of the science of meteorology in general and the National Weather Service as we know it today -- through ALL of its various incarnations over the years based on whatever politics were prevalent at the time. Threads of this tale include the United States Air Force, the WWII nuclear attacks by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (or NOAA), the Texas Tech University Wind Science and Engineering Department, and a host of brilliant scientists and meteorologists such as Gary England and the late great Tetsuya "Ted" Fujita. Somehow, this novel encompasses and ties together the scientific and the personal so seamlessly that you can't help seeing the innate connections between them.

Of the 74 named tornadoes that touched down that day across Oklahoma and Kansas, the most devastating by far was the F5-rated A-9 storm. The bulk of the storytelling regarding the destruction of OKC and its southern suburbs of Newcastle, Moore, and Bridge Creek were in reference to that single funnel. Eyewitness accounts from residents and visitors alike combine to tell a tale of such frightening complexity that it will leave you breathless with sorrow and dismay. I cannot imagine enduring such a thing and surviving. The book engenders a myriad display of emotions, from fear to sadness, and from hope to righteous anger. I walked away from the experience of reading this book with a wealth of knowledge that leaves me both floored and humbled. I would honestly give it ten stars, rather than my usual five.

If you're searching for a meaty read that will leave your brain well-fed and sated, this is exactly the book I would recommend. The author calls it "a little book about a big tornado". It is equal parts enthralling and educational, and it will stay with you after you're done.

Rating: ★★★★★

Monday, February 27, 2017

"Bad Boy", by Olivia Goldsmith

Next on my list of literary gems is Bad Boy by Olivia Goldsmith. This is another book that I've owned for many years, and have read dozens of times over. It is also a book that brings me humor and heartache in equal measure, along with the hope that the main character may actually exist somewhere out there in the world.

Hapless Jonathan Delano is the sweet and loving guy that women the world over bemoan the lack of, while simultaneously pursuing cad after asshole after jackass. He's independently wealthy, humble, fiercely loyal, selfless, thoughtful, and intelligent -- everything a woman should want, yet not a single one does. Meanwhile, his WASP-y best friend Tracie Higgins is as clueless as she is shallow, inventing merit for her hopeless loser of a boyfriend where none exists and blatantly ignoring an obviously better choice for her affections. Seeing how Tracie openly flouts her preference for these "bad boys", Jon makes a deal with the devil and asks to be made into one for the sake of his love life.

Hilarity ensues as his training progresses, though it is a hilarity filled with empathetic groaning at the embarrassing means he employs to pick up women at the outset of his journey. But soon enough, he finds himself right where he had always hoped to be -- smack in the middle of a gaggle of groupies, without an end in sight to his queue of new and potential paramours. His behavior alienates almost everyone in his life that he actually cares about, and does wind up costing him a great deal in his work. His race to correct his missteps nearly ends in a dangerous disaster.

After the fallout begins to settle, these two friends begin a journey of rediscovery. New alliances are formed, lives are changed, and realizations spring to life in regards to what each wants to gain in the future. I won't be so disgraceful as to spoil the ending, but suffice it to say that all is right with the world when the final page is read.

Full Disclosure: This is not some masterpiece of classical literature, as many other reviewers will be quick to point out. It is a chick flick in book form, and would make a delightful romantic comedy someday. Be that as it may, I don't love this book for its ability to further my education in any way. It is comfort food for my soul, and that's all it needs to be. If you're looking for something highbrow, perhaps a book with a hot pink cover called "Bad Boy" is not going to suffice. Just saying.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Thursday, February 23, 2017

"Midnight", by Dean Koontz

If you know me, then you know that my favorite author is one Dean R. Koontz. I have a massive collection of his works, of which my favorites are Lightning and Midnight. The subject of this review is Midnight, the book that introduced me into the world of Koontz, which I have read somewhere between 200 and 300 times. I simply can't get enough of it!

The book begins with a solitary beach runner, lost in thought. The descriptions of the foggy night air and the peaceful coastal terrain make Moonlight Cove sound like a small piece of paradise. But she then endures a strange and gruesome attack, and it sets the tone for the events yet to unfold in the chapters that follow. A billionaire recluse turned mad scientist, an undercover FBI agent, a paraplegic war veteran with a brilliant service dog, a tenacious documentary filmmaker, and a spunky child of eleven round out the main cast of characters who are left to complete the puzzle of what is going on in this sleepy town where nothing is as it seems.

Their small corner of the world is being overrun by crazed beasts, whose attacks are becoming more frequent and savage as the days pass. It quickly becomes apparent that not even the local police can be trusted to deal with the problems these creatures present, and the people must come together to wage war against the unknown. The four main storylines become more closely interwoven with each page, and finally come crashing together for the ultimate showdown.

This book has it all -- action, romance, murder, comedic timing, Native American folklore, and even science! The balance between the powerfully fluid descriptions and the simplistic turn of phrase is flawless and wildly entertaining. I can't recommend it highly enough! Once you enter the world of Moonlight Cove, you won't be able to put it back down until you've come to the end of the final page.

Rating: ★★★★★

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"Big Little Lies", by Liane Moriarty

In the past year, I've joined a lovely group of like-minded ladies in a book club affectionately called Book Nerds. Most of what we've been reading since I joined has been the sort of material only to be read on a Kindle if you're out in public, because it's pretty racy stuff. *hubba hubba* LOL

Lately, though, we've turned to several less erotic choices, when said choices were being brought to life either on the big screen or for prime time entertainment. The most recent of these is Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty, which is also currently being aired as a miniseries on HBO. Having seen the premiere episode of the miniseries, I can confidently say that the book is better. (YES, already! I knows it when I sees it.)

Big Little Lies opens up with a confrontation, which leads to a rather unlikely friendship between three women in a small Australian town. We soon learn that not all is as it seems in picturesque Pirriwee, and a great majority of the book is spent exploring backstories and jumping between storylines. It does start off slowly, as the details of the character personalities are filled in and connections made between them. But once the action picks up, you're certain to find yourself swept away in the intricacies of the approaching climax. When that climax arrives, it will shock you to your core -- I literally screamed out loud! Once I reached that point, there was no putting it down until I had read every last word. The betrayals, the secrets being laid bare, the intrigue, and the feeling of being amongst friends all combined to create a book I liked immensely! It's difficult not to find yourself rooting for Madeline and Jane, as they battle against injustices and petty gossip to protect young lives from being destroyed. Loyalties and bonds are tested and broken, and even those you think are without hope of even a scrap of redemption prove themselves trustworthy in the end.

I do wholeheartedly recommend this read, and can't wait to add more of Moriarty's work to my To Be Read pile.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Monday, February 6, 2017

"The Vasectomy Diaries", by Rodney Lacroix -- A MAIDEN VOYAGE

Hello all, and welcome to my newest foray into the Blogosphere! Since reading is a YUGE passion of mine, I've turned my focus to book reviews to share my thoughts with an unsuspecting public. (Hardy-har-har)

I've been following Rodney Lacroix since his salad days, when his blog was the only thing I knew about who he is as a person. Anything that goes by the name of Mental Poo is bound to tickle my funny bone, and he certainly succeeded at that! These days, the published purveyor of the hilarity of human foibles is all grown up, married to a smoking hot catch of a woman, and co-parenting a small gaggle of kids and teens who appear to be primed to give him a run for his money in the laughs department. His newest book, The Vasectomy Diaries, is set to be published this week, and it is this newest gem that bwings us here togevvah, today. I was sent an ARC in exchange for an honest review, which follows here.

The Vasectomy Diaries is a hard-hitting novella packed full of advice and anecdotes for those who are considering a turn under the knife, as well as a commiseration with those who have already taken one for the team. In his usual winning style, Rodney creates a tale that is easy to fall into...and impossible to put down! I laughed until I cried, and had a coughing fit that left me without a voice for a good half hour.

The true genius of his work is the brutally detailed honesty he puts into every sentence, no matter how inappropriate it may happen to be. (Inappropriate is my bread and butter, so I find all of his books enormously entertaining.) The book is also the lucky home to a host of utterly fantastic illustrations by the talented Noreen Conway. These drawings serve to hammer home some of the finer points in a way that had me cackling like Broomhilda from old episodes of Looney Tunes!

I honestly can't recommend this feisty nugget of a book highly enough, and I hope that all of you reading will find it as hysterical as I did.

I would caution that it's NSFW, and probably not the best choice of reading for children and small-minded adults. That said, I was charmed by this novella, and I'm certain that you will be too!

Rating: ★★★★★