Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King

I read this one based on a recommendation from The Perpetual Page-Turner.  Jamie’s blog is new-to-me, but has already moved on up to my list of favorite blogs and bloggers.  Her taste is very interesting and eclectic, so when she started talking about Please Ignore Vera Dietz on Twitter and it made her top books of 2010 survey, I knew I had to read it.  Pair that with the fact that it was lounging on the library shelves, just waiting for me to pick it up, well, it was just meant to be!  Plus, her review of Please Ignore Vera Dietz is just so clever, I could never hope to top it.

Vera Dietz’s best friend Charlie has died.  But worse than that, right before he died, he did something to make her hate him.  As Vera says, “If you think your best friend dying is a bitch, try your best friend dying  after he screws you over.  It’s a bitch like no other” (7).   And that kind of frank language is just one reason to love Vera Dietz.  She’s honest and flawed, a perfect narrator for her imperfections.  Vera Dietz does not sugar coat or patronize and I loved it for it.

This is the kind of book you read in one sitting, because there is  a mystery, but also because the mystery is not the center of the novel.  I read Vera Dietz in one sitting because I loved the relationship between Vera and her father and the way it developed.  Like any relationship, it has its ups and downs, but is one based on love and respect.  It was such a healthy portrayal of a parent-child relationship, something that is unfortunately rare in novels.

I liked the different perspectives in the novel.  Though it is mostly told from Vera’s point of view, her father, Charlie and a community landmark (the Pagoda) all have their own parts of the novel to narrate.  And I know that sounds weird and at first I didn’t understand or like that the Pagoda was narrating sections, but looking back on it it was kind of funny.  And that’s what’s so remarkable about this book – it deals with incredibly heavy topics, but it is also humorous.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz reminded me a lot of Say the Word by Jeannine Garsee for a lot of reasons.  Though Say the Word deals with GLBT issues, both main characters are young women, unhinged by a recent death, who turn to alcohol to dull their sorrow.  Though I loved both novels, I loved Vera Dietz slightly more because it dealt with the alcohol and, as I have mentioned, the positive father-daughter relationship.   One of my biggest problems with Say the Word was that the main character drinks and drives and there are no consequences.  Beyond that, she doesn’t even think it’s wrong.  Here, the same thing happens, and even though Vera never truly gets in trouble for drinking and driving, she acknowledges that what she was doing was wrong and that is so important to me in a novel like this.

But above all, I loved Please Ignore Vera Dietz because of Vera Dietz.  She’s such a great narrator.  I mean, there’s a chapter, at the beginning of the novel, entitled, “You’re Wondering Where My Mother Is” that begins like this:

“My mother left us when I was twelve.  She found a man who was not as parsimonious as my father and they moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, which is two thousand five hundred miles away.  She doesn’t visit.  She doesn’t call.  She sends me a card on my birthday with fifty dollars in it, which my father nags me about until I finally go to the bank and deposit it.  And so, for all six years she’s been gone, I have $337 to show for having a mother.

Dad says that thirty-seven bucks is good interest.  He doesn’t see the irony in that.  He doesn’t see the word interest as anything not connected to money because he’s an accountant and to him, everything is a number.

I think $37 and no mother and not visits or phone calls is shitty interest.” (13)

See?  Heartbreaking and funny.  How is that even possible?  But King pulls it off.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR pile

Perpetual Page-Turner, Booking Mama, The Story Siren, Reviewer X, The Book Lady’s Blog,  Presenting Lenore, Sarah’s Random Musings all wrote posts on Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Did you?  Please leave your link in the comments and I’ll add it here.


TSS – The Dog-Ear Manifesto

I always get a lot of flack for being an unapologetic dog-earer of book pages, library and personal copies alike.  (I can hear you all gasping right now, as I type.)  But please, hear me out.  I have here for you today, The Dog-Ear Manifesto.  The top six reasons that dog-earing a book should not only be accepted, but embraced!

1) You have a bookmark wherever you are!  No more tearing up old receipts or your child’s school art project.

2) When you dog-ear a page, there’s never any fear that you will lose your place!  Your bookmark can’t fall out when it’s part of the page.  Even if the page becomes un-dog-eared, you can still usually tell where you dog-eared a page.

3) It does little to no real damage to a book.  So the page is bent a little, it’s not the end of the world, but usually you can’t even tell!

4) Instead of writing in a library book, or using up a ton of paper, I can mark a page with a fabulous quote without hurting the book.

5) It saves the environment! You don’t have to make extra bookmarks, there’s one built right in to your book!

6) Whenever I see a library book that has been dog-eared, I immediately begin thinking about that other reader.  Are they a kindred spirit?  What did they think about this page, why did they stop here?  Was it just a good place to stop or did something interrupt their reading?  Did they find something particularly moving on this page?

A dog-eared book is a well-loved book.  Pass it on.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

I keep telling you that I am not a mystery reader.  You know, “Blah blah blah, mysteries meh, but this one was really good!”  Okay, at some point I have to admit that I’m loving on the mysteries, even with all of the things about it that were really “mystery-y”; all the tropes, like formulaic plots, uncanny coincidences, etc.  But really, you try and read about Flavia de Luce and tell me you don’t like her.  It’s not possible.

Flavia and her family live on an old estate in post-war England.  It’s a picturesque countryside where nothing very exciting happens.  Until Flavia wakes up one night and hears her father arguing with an unfamiliar man.  The next morning, as Flavia is walking outside to begin her day, she finds that same man laying in the garden.  He takes a breath and says the word, “Vale!” and promptly dies.  As Flavia says, it is the most exciting thing that happens in her life.

There are so many things to like about this book, but the best part is Flavia herself.  Her one passion in life is poisons and using them to get back at her evil sisters.  When her father is wrongly accused of murdering the mysterious man, she decides that she is going to find out who the killer is herself to save his name.

As for the rest, I’ll let you discover it.  Just know that I have totally jumped on this bandwagon.

One of my favorite quotes:

“As I stepped to one side to peer in the window, I noticed a handmade sign crudely drawn with black crayon and stuck to the glass: CLOSED.

Closed?  Today was Saturday.  The library hours were ten o’clock to two-thirty, Thursday through Saturday; they were clearly posted in the black-framed notice beside the door.  Had something happened to Miss Pickery?

I gave the door a shake, and then a good pounding.  I cupped my hands to the glass and peered inside, but except for a beam of sunlight falling through motes of dust before coming to rest upon shelves of novels there was nothing to be seen.

“Miss Pickery!” I called, but there was no answer.

“Oh, scissors!” I said again.  I should have to put off my researches until another time.  As I stood outside in Cow Lane, it occurred to me that Heaven must be a place where the library is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

No… eight days a week. (58)

So go read this!:  now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Other reviews: everyone and their mother.

PS: Is not Flavia an amazing name?

PPS: I’m totally going to start saying “Oh, scissors!”

Flyaway by Suzie Gilbert

If you’re skipping this review because this cover doesn’t interest you (which it should, because it is darling), or because you think a book  about wild bird rehabbers won’t interest you, or because you don’t read non-fiction or memoirs all that often, please let me stop you.  Flyaway is one of the funniest, captivating memoirs I have read in a long time that manages to find the perfect balance of emotion, information, fact and well-written prose.  I can’t recommend it enough!

Let me begin by saying that the world of wild birds is completely foreign to me, especially wild songbirds.  My closest connection to the world of birds was my parrot named Clyde.  I got him in the fifth grade and we adored each other, even though he bit me when I tried to feed him.  Didn’t he know the rules?  I think he would have just enjoyed it more if I let him camp out on the edge of my plate and eat my food.  It was heartbreaking when, for reasons completely outside of my control, we had to part ways.  In that sense, I understood the tiniest bit what Suzie Gilbert was talking about, but other than that, all of the information in this book was new to me.

Suzie Gilbert begins her life as a wild bird rehabber by volunteering at an already established center, but once she caught the rehabbing bug, she couldn’t give it up.  Thanks to the donations of several people, Suzie was able to begin her small organization that eventually she names Flyaway Inc. to help injured birds and raise babies and fledglings.  With two young children of her own, Suzie vastly underestimates the amount of time being a bird rehabber will take, but with grace and an unfaltering love for the wildlife she protects, Suzie makes rehabbing not only a full time job, but also a lifelong passion.  Suzie’s husband and children play a large part in this book and I grew to love them as much as I did Suzie and her birds.

This book is a roller coaster of emotions, from hilarious moments, to touching moments, to downright tear-inducing, tragic moments, but it ebbs and flows so naturally.  Not only did Gilbert entertain me, but she educated me.  I was briefly considering making my cat an outdoor cat, but Oscar will have to be satisfied watching the birds from the window because Gilbert carefully explained the dangers house cats (and the growing population of feral cats) pose on endangered bird species.  Outside of her personal stories, this memoir is filled with information about all the wild birds that Suzie rehabs and about the resources available to people who find injured birds.  Though I wouldn’t classify this book a “how-to”, the information within is wonderful for anyone who shares the land with wild birds.  So, you know, everyone.

This book is compellingly readable, taking only a few hours to finish, and I have to admit that I was addicted to it this past weekend.  I found myself unable to sleep one night until I knew what happened to Suzie and her birds.   If I had any complaints, they would be that I would have liked even more information.  I wanted to know more about the birds and more about her family.  I was also unsure about how much time had passed between the first page and the last.  I couldn’t tell how old her children were by the end, but I’m sure that’s a question she could easily answer.  These are incredibly minor complaints that do not take away from what a wonderful reading experience this was.  I really enjoyed reading this book and I think that everyone who enjoys a good story will too, even if you thought a story about wild birds could never be that interesting… trust me, it is!

Favorite quotes:

A moment when Suzie Gilbert made me laugh –

While most people’s protective instincts are aroused by cuddly creatures such as puppies and ducklings, mine are also triggered by homicidal raptors with records of assault. (56)

A quote that made me tear up a little –

We clean, feed, study, attend conferences, amass arcane knowledge, and learn to handle the creatures who fear us.  Our triumph is to accept an injured wild animal, treat its injuries, carefully learn each one of its quirks and preferences, help it heal, and then let it go.  If things go according to plan, we will never see it again.

Somehow, this is enough.

“Do you ever fall in love with the animals you take care of?” I asked a rehabilitator, naively, years and years ago.

She gave me a small, rueful smile.  “Every single one,” she said. (127)

And, finally, just a passage I thought was particularly lovely –

Time flew toward the summer sky.  The small spot of orange became a string of orange lights draped festively around my flight cage, shining into the darkness.  The roof opened and fireworks shot straight up into the night and fell as birds, swooping upward before they reached the earth.  The string of lights turned into a flock of orioles.  And in place of the sound of explosives was a voice so beautiful it could ease a troubled mind and wash it all away.  Like rain. (255)

If you are looking for an organization to donate to, or would like more information about what resources are available in your area, please check out the Wildlife Rehabilitation directory.  You can type in your zip code and there is a directory including the rehabber’s phone number, location and which animals they take in.  Check it out!

Also please check out Suzie Gilbert’s website to watch a video of her releasing a hawk that has been rehabbed!  It’s amazing!!

So go read this!: now| tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Thank you to TLC book tours for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Other reviews: Bookfoolery and Babble, DogEar Diary.  Previous stop on the tour: Raging Bibliomania.  Next stop on the tour: Farmgirl Fare.