Parkland

Let me start this off by saying that if you think the Parkland kids need to stay in their lane, are crisis actors, or don’t support any kind of gun reform, stop reading. This post isn’t for you.

I was in my first year of teaching when Columbine happened. I came home from a day with my sixth graders to terrible news. I was riveted, watching children running, crying, climbing out of windows, and I had no idea how much my world would change. We had drills, needed key cards to get into locked doors, students had a stricter dress code with no black, no concert shirts, no trenchcoats allowed. Even though we had drills, I have taught in some very unsafe buildings, though.  Doors were unlocked, no police presence, and it terrified me. And the thought of arming teachers is sickening, as one teacher says in this book, (paraphrasing) “how can you ask me to kill one of my own students?” and it’s true. Teachers are nurturers, provide guidance and support, and in an instant, we would be expected to shoot one of ours. It’s unthinkable.

I followed the Parkland story closely, but I had no idea what all these kids accomplished. And I call them kids with the utmost respect. They are. It’s simple. Most of them were 16 or 17 when they were forced into adulthood, well before they were ready. Many didn’t handle it well, although some did, finding their voices overnight, some within hours, even. A dozen of the survivors came together in a perfect storm of media and made a life-changing decision. They were going to tackle gun reform.

These kids handled themselves brilliantly. They took on lawmakers and politicians. They rallied millions in March For Our Lives. They recruited other teens across the country to join their cause. And they did it with very little adult help. Simply, they are a true inspiration. I was absolutely in awe of these amazing young people.

Written by Dave Cullen, the same author who wrote one of the most important, yet harrowing books I’ve ever read, Columbine, this book has a very different tone. Columbine is hard to read. It is as gut-wrenching and painful as it is gripping and horrifying. The story is about HOW. How could the Columbine shooting have happened? How did the shooters come together with this plan? How did the survivors manage their lives? How have we changed because of this event? Because it was published ten years after the shooting, Cullen had plenty of time to research and draw conclusions. Parkland is simply about these kids and all they have accomplished. Clearly, Cullen supports gun reform (just check out his twitter feed) and this book makes no bones about what the kids are trying to accomplish. But Cullen also simply reports. He watches the kids, follows them on tours, interviews them, and, on occasion, gets into their inner sanctum office. This book isn’t a profile of any particular kid, even though the movement definitely has it’s more well-known faces, but an excellent portrayal of how they worked together to change the country, and I’m a firm believer that these kids have.

I only teared up once. My gut was never wrenched. My heartstrings were never pulled. Instead, I was motivated, proud, inspired, and in awe of these amazing kids.

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Jurassic Park

We’ve all seen the movie. If you haven’t, there will be some spoilers here. I’m not sure how that’s even necessary, given how old the movie is, but there it is anyway. I saw the movie in the theatre when it came out. Instant classic and just the most fun movie. But I had never given the book a second thought. So when the reading challenge had a requirement of “a book with an imaginary or extinct creature,” I decided to give it a shot.

I was pleasantly surprised at how great this book is. The first half is more or less the same as the book. There are a few more characters, a few different scenes, but overall it feels very familiar. The only big change was the ages of the kids. Tim is the older kid, still a dinosaur nut. Lex is younger in the book and a completely useless and annoying character. I can absolutely see why they made her older in the movie and more relevant. The actors were really well cast for the movie, also. Of course, I kept picturing them as I was reading, but it wasn’t a far stretch.

I won’t give away much about the book difference, but I will say there’s a plotline through the book that wasn’t at all in the movie.  The difference is an interesting one and I would like to see a direct sequel to it. From what I understand, the actual sequel, The Lost World, doesn’t follow-up the first entirely. In Jurassic Park, once the dinosaurs start attacking, a lot changes. I didn’t mind the changes at all, because it was still some great dinosaur attacking humans action. There was a lot more about the dinos breeding than in the movie, which was really interesting. The most surprising part of the book was how technologically advanced it was for the time. Written in the late 80s and published in 1990, Crichton included so much more about computers, DNA, genetic engineering, etc than I was expecting. My jaw dropped when he mentioned a touch screen computer. He really did an amazing job researching this book, which impressed me so much.

I wasn’t necessarily looking to read this book, and without the book challenge, I probably never would have read it, but I ended up loving it. It’s different enough from the movie to keep you reading (big changes in the ending. BIG…) and I kept marveling at how well thought out it was. Excellent book.

Birdman

I heard about this book at some point and all I remember hearing was that it was really graphic. And yea. Wow. Not the worst I’ve ever read, but definitely not for the faint of heart. That said, it’s a great book, and I was sucked in really quickly. I like a good detective story, and they are hard to find. I’m glad to say there are seven books in this series, but it’s also great because the first book is pretty well complete and you can read one without having to read the rest.

Jack Caffrey is a detective with a past. When he was a child, his brother went missing and was never found again. Jack lives in the same house, his parents are estranged, and he struggles with the loss of his brother. Jack is convinced his neighbor was the one who kidnapped his brother, but he can’t prove it. The neighbor constantly taunts Jack, not making the situation any easier. This plot line might be carried through the rest of the series, I don’t know. But the main plot is wrapped up by the end of the book.

Several prostitutes turn up dead with birds sewn into their chests. Yep. It’s pretty awful. The police have a few leads, but with the victims being ones who don’t have a lot of family or anyone reporting them missing, it’s hard to stay on top of the situation. Jack and his partner are able to put some pieces together, but the killer keeps eluding them. I will say that everything is solved (sorry, but I don’t think that’s really a spoiler) but I will give you zero clues as to who is behind this killing.

The ending is very tense, and I couldn’t put the book down, waiting to find out the fates of some of the characters. The characters aren’t as well developed as other books, but I imagine over the course of the series, you get to know Jack very well.

The Woman in the Window

Friend after friend after friend told me to read this book. I was really excited to start it, but quickly discovered the entire plot is based around my least favorite trope- I’m an alcoholic and can’t remember things. I absolutely despise it. Other than alien abduction, it’s my least favorite plotline in a book. It’s not creative and is way overdone.

And not only is this main character, Anna, an alcoholic, she is also medicated due to severe anxiety and agoraphobia (she can’t leave her house). A while ago, she and her family were in a car accident, leaving Anna house-bound. Her biggest forms of entertainment include watching old movies, playing online chess, and spying on her neighbors. Side note: There’s an old movie called Copycat about this very thing. Sigourney Weaver is a house-bound woman in this movie and is so after a brutal attack. It’s not a great movie, but worth watching if you can catch it. Harry Connick, Jr. plays a delightfully awful murderer. Anyway, Anna is a psychotherapist (or psychiatrist, I forget, but you get the idea) so she’s fully aware of what is happening to her.

One night, she sees something terrifying. But she can’t convince anyone that she wasn’t hallucinating. Plot twists (some obvious, some not), more alcohol, plenty of crazy revelations, and finally an explanation as to what, if anything, happened. I can’t believe this book is so popular. I gave it three stars for the couple of plot points that did fool me, but overall, I was so disappointed in this book. A movie of it is coming out later this year, and I have zero desire to see it. Blah.