Read this in the middle of the day.

A Silence of Mockingbirds, A Memoir of Murder by Karen Spears Zacharias2012;$25.00; 322 pages; Macadam Cage, San Francisco, CA; 978-1-59692-375-1; 364.1523092 Z16s; Checked out from Multnomah County Library, Troutdale; 1/20/15-1/23/15

Back in October of 1984, 5 months before I got married, 17 months before Daniel was born I read a book that kept me up all night.  I read Pet Sematary by Stephen King.  I remember turning the radio and a light on and trying to sleep, I think between then and now another book has not bothered me to do that do me.  Until now, it is 12:50 AM as I type this and I can’t sleep, I don’t want to sleep, but I have to go to work in the morning and work a full day.

At 1:53 PM, Friday, June 3, 2005 Karly Sheehan died.  She was 3 years old. She was beaten and tortured by her mothers’ boyfriend until she died.  It could have been prevented, if the system had worked the way it was supposed to.  Too many people took the abusers word for what had happened, too many people believed the narcissistic mother, too many people wanted to blame the father, too many people didn’t want to deal with it.

Karen Spears Zacharias had given the mother a place to live when she was a teenager and so was very familiar with the mother in the story.  Karen I don’t know how you did the research and wrote this, I would have been crying through the entire research and writing.  This is a story of a system that betrayed a young life.  The story of Karly Sheehan changed laws in Oregon so hopefully no child falls through the cracks.

The story is well written and compelling to read, it was like watching Titanic, I knew what the ending was going to be but I kept hoping someone would step and change things.  Unfortunately this is real life and not a novel. There is no happy ending.

I really enjoy Karens’ writing but as the grandfather of a three year old I shouldn’t have read this because I kept seeing my granddaughter.

I went to bed at 1:30 after finishing the book, starting this review and starting my next book.  I never felt like I got to sleep just hovered somewhere on the border of being asleep and being awake.  Several people at work today commented on how tired I looked.


What is with the title of the review?  This is not a book that should be read in the evening or just before bed.  This book is scarier than anything Stephen King could write, because it is true and shows the inhumanity of man.

Mel, I am done with it, you can have it now

DSC04220Girls of the Factory, A Year with the Garment Workers of Morocco by M. Laeititia Cairoli; 2011; 264 pages; University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL; 978-0-8130-4441-5; purchased from Multnomah County Library Title Wave Used Bookstore; 1/9/15-1/20/15

An interesting look at the life of a few young women in Fes, Morocco.  The author, an anthropologist, works with the girls and gets to know and is invited into their lives.  Rather dry, it reads much like the research paper that it is.  If it had been written as narrative non fiction it would have been much better.  Much of the material seems to be repeated over and over, and the number of girls written about seems rather small.

Did I learn anything?  I learned that in the cities of Morocco there is a great deal of poverty and that women are oppressed, find subtle ways to fight that oppression, although they never seem to get completely out from under it.  There is a great deal of contradiction in what some of the girls say and how their lives are actually lived.


What is with the title of the review?  My sister Melodie is interested in reading this so I am just letting her know that I am done.

awful communication

Communicommunicationcation: Communication: Communication: The Key to Your Marriage by H. Norman Wright; 1981; $1.95; 194 pages; Regal Books, Ventura, CA; 9780830707263; purchased from Powell’s Books on a recommendation by Dennis Simons; 1/8/15-1/9/15

This book may have been well received in 1974 but now it is a cliche ridden, work book, with lots of excerpts from other books.  He quotes long passages from the Bible and passages from way too many other books.  I would have not finished this book except for the fact that my good friend.


Did I enjoy it/learn anything?  Yes I learned a couple of things but did not enjoy it at all.

What is with the title of the review?  For a book that purports to be about communication, I didn’t feel that it communicated well at all.

Lots of blame to go around

Blood and Thunder, An Epic of the American West by Hampton Sides; 2006; $26.95; 460 pages; Doubleday, New York, NY; 0-385-50777-1; purchased from Warrenton Community Library, March 30, 2013; 12/30/14-1/8/15

In the two decades he had lived and wandered in the West, Christopher Carson had led an unaccountably full life.

The mythology of Kit Carson has buried the reality of Kit Carson somewhere deep within the American psyche.  Hampton Sides digs deep to uncover the reality of the life of Kit Carson and the burying of the Native Americans and their culture. This is a riveting account of the white mans’ conquest of the American West and their decimation of the cultures of the west.  The story follows Kit Carson as he travels around the company, as a trapper,with the Army of the West, and as an officer in the US Army.  It shows the contradictory sides of him as he deals with the Native Americans understanding many of their ways and also wiping some of them out.  It shows his family life and how much he cared for his wife and children.  It is an really interesting look at that time of the country.


Did I enjoy it/learn anything?  Yes it was really well written and enlightening.  I have read lots about this time in our history but I still learned more.

What is with the title of the review?  The United States was full of people from President Polk on down who believed in Manifest Destiny and just steam rolled over so many tribes and eliminated them.


As Julie Andrews would say

 Of the 129 books I read last year 85 books got an A or better, 16 got an A+ or better and one got an A++.  So you know at least one of my top ten.

Honorable Mention, listed alphabetically: 

Good Soldiers, The by David Finkel.  This and its sequel Thank you for Your Service follow members of an Army company that goes to Iraq, fight and return to the United States. A+

My War Killing Time in Iraq by Colby Buzzell.  Colby Buzzell is a veteran who writes in the tradition of Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac.  His sequel Lost in America tries to retrace On the Road. A+

Orchardist, The by Amanda Coplin.  A hauntingly beautiful story of a man and a child he raises at the turn of the 20th century in Eastern Washington. A+

Service, A Navy SEAL at War by Marcus Luttrell.  Luttrell author of Lone Survivor, follows up with a book detailing his return to service as a Navy SEAL and stories of others who have also served their country. A+

Soft Spots, A Marine’s Memoir of Combat and Post Traumatic by Clint VanWinkel.  VanWinkel combines his travails in combat and with the Veterans Administration after he returned from Combat. A+

The Top Ten, alphabetically

Becoming Bea. by Leslie Gould.   The final book in the Courtship of Lancaster County, based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  It is an intense, but fun romance set in Amish country.  A+

Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy; A Righteous Gentile vs. The Third Reich by Eric Metaxas.  A fascinating biography of German theologian and patriot Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was executed by the Nazi’s for his part in a plot to assassinate Hitler.  He wrote one of my all time favorite books about living in community, Life Together.   A+

Dancing to Almendra by Mayra Montero.  An exciting noir mystery set in Havana and New York City just as the revolution overthrows Batista.  A+

Hour of Lead by Bruce Holbert.  A wonderfully written account of one mans life in the Palouse of Washington State from 1918 to the late 1950’s. This is a time when the western frontier was becoming civilized.  Bruce is a writer who uses words the way Bob Ross used a paint brush.  A+

Invention of Wings, The by Sue Monk Kidd.  A fictionalized story of Sarah Grimke an abolitionist who grew up in a slave owning family in the early 1800’s in the United States.  A+

League of Seven, The by Alan Gratz.  A young man,  his robot manservant, Tesla and friends battle Thomas Edison in a steampunk version of the United States of the late 1800’s.  A+

Long Walk, The; A Story of War and The Life That Follows by Brian Castner.  Brian Castner was an Explosive Ordinance Disposal soldier in Iraq.  He lived for the adrenaline rush of defusing bombs.  He details his deployment and the how his life returned from that deployment.  A+

 Residue Years, The by Mitchell S. Jackson. An African American Mom and Son trade chapters detailing their life in Portland of the early 1990s.  A+

Yellow Birds, The by Kevin Powers.   I read the first paragraph of this multiple times to myself and then out loud to the coworker I share an office with and then out loud to Ruth Ann when I got home.  Libby and Vailey both recommended this and the story is poetic in its telling.  A++

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