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"Old Before My Time" by Hayley Okines was really heartbreaking. Hayley was born with progeria, which is an extremely rare genetic disorder that causes the sufferer to age seven times faster than normal. Most children who have progeria don't make it past the age of thirteen. Hayley's parents did a lot to raise awareness of the disease and Hayley participated in some drug trials that may have help extend her life (she died last year at the age of 17). She was a positive, upbeat little girl who had a lot of adventures packed into her short life.  
I've read a few other things by Suzannah Dunn and enjoyed them, and since this one was about Lady Jane Grey, who is really fascinating, I was eager to read it. It was pretty good. After Jane's nine day rule as England's Queen, she is taken to the Tower and imprisoned by Queen Mary. Mary most likely would have let her live, if not for the Wyatt rebellion. After that she had to appear strong and put down any would be pretenders to the throne. This book was about Elizabeth, a young Catholic girl who attended Jane during her captivity. Elizabeth doesn't expect to like Jane, but after spending time alone with her she comes to admire her commitment to the Protestantism she believes so strongly in. The thing that really surprised me about this book was how she portrayed Jane's husband, Guildford Dudley. Everything else I've ever read about him makes him out to be a spoiled, obnoxious little brat who no one had much use for. Dunn portrays him in a sympathetic light, a boy who had no say in his own fate but was determined to stand by Jane because he didn't think she'd been treated very fairly, either. Elizabeth finds herself falling for Guildford, since Jane won't go see him she goes instead and they strike up an unlikely friendship, so it's doubly heartbreaking for her when they are both executed.

Vinegar Girl

"Vinegar Girl" by Anne Tyler was a really fun retelling of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" (one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, too). Kate is twenty-nine and single, a preschool aide who keeps her widowed father's house and is in charge of her pretty fifteen year old sister, Bunny. Her father is a scientist and his research assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported since his visa is almost up. Kate's father suggests she marry him so he can stay in the country, since, after all, it's not like she'll ever get another offer. Kate is naturally offended but sees the opportunity to start a life away from her father and as she gets to know Pyotr discovers he's not really so bad. It was really cute, I enjoyed it.

I read the review for this one and ordered it for my library, and it was pretty good! It was fun to read about bad vampires again after so many books about good ones (and yes, I love "Twilight", I'm not making fun of it). Judith and her husband Robert are driving one night when a car comes out of nowhere and one of the occupants reaches over and pulls her son Glendon out of the car and into theirs. Judith and Robert end up crashing in an attempt to catch up to the kidnappers and Robert later dies from his injuries. Judith survives and decides to become a nun. While in the abbey, she's visited by a former priest who has made it his life's work to go after these vampires. He convinces Judith to leave the order and come help him on his mission. It was gory and exciting and they wrecked a whole lot of awesome muscle cars. If there's one thing I love more than vampires, it's muscle cars.

Ryan North's Choose Your Own Adventure style retelling of "Romeo and Juliet" was really fun. There were even some endings where Romeo and Juliet got to live happily ever after, although they mostly ended up dying. It put me in the mood to rewatch Baz Luhrmann's 1996 "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet", which, I know, is a terrible, terrible adaption but I personally love it (as an undergrad, I took a Shakespeare class and my professor could not stop talking about her disdain for this version). Jesus, Leonardo DiCaprio was young! Of course back in 1996 so was I.
At any rate, I enjoyed this book and I hope he has the opportunity to do more Shakespeare. "Othello" would be great, that's one of my favorites.

 "X Child Stars" is one of those books you read for fun to find out what happened to the kids you used to watch on TV all those years ago. Garver was pretty adamant that not every former child star ends up going down a bad path, most end up successful, if not in show business then in some other profession.

"City of Mirrors" by Justin Cronin is the conclusion to his "Twelve" trilogy. I really enjoyed how it ended. In this one, we find out how the virus started that wiped out 7 billion people and through flashbacks we meet the man responsible for it. The survivors have had nearly 20 years without attacks by virals, so they assume they're gone and they start moving out of their safe walled cities, homesteading and establishing colonies farther and farther away. Turns out the virals were merely hiding underground, waiting for the right moment to come back. After killing off nearly everyone again, the few hundred remaining board a ship and head for a deserted island to start again while a few brave souls sail to New York to confront the man responsible for the carnage.

"The King and Queen of Malibu" by David K. Randall was very interesting. Back in the late 1880s, Frederick and May Rindge bought the Malibu Rancho, intending to use it as their family get away from the hustle and bustle of the ever expanding Los Angeles area. Unfortunately, Frederick died young, but May was determined to keep his dream alive. After decades of court battles, fights with homesteading neighbors, newspaper editorials calling her the most hated woman in Los Angeles, May finally lost the battle to keep Malibu underpopulated when the Great Depression wiped her out financially. Because of May Rindge, we have the Pacific Coast Highway. Today wealthy residents of Malibu are still fighting to keep people off their "private" beach. It really raised some interesting questions about what rights property holders have versus the good of the community at large.

 I read about this graphic novel in a blog somewhere about the new Archie comic (did you know there's a new Archie comic? I didn't). The person writing about it described it as a cross between the Walking Dead and the Breakfast Club, so of course I had to read it. Volume One: Reagan Youth starts out with a homeless boy named Marcus being pulled off the street and offered a spot in a super secret boarding school to train future assassins. Classes include how to behead, how to poison, things like that. I enjoyed the first volume so much I went online and ordered volumes 2 & 3.

I've never seen a movie with Marlene Dietrich, and I knew absolutely nothing about her life. I picked this one up because I've read other books by Gortner and enjoyed them, and this one looked interesting. It really was. I don't know how true it was, but she seemed like a fascinating woman. Marlene was German and started out in the cabarets in Berlin after World War I. She came to Hollywood in the early 1930s and was a sensation. She spent World War II traveling with the USO and entertaining the Allied troops, rallying them against the Nazis she saw destroying her beloved homeland. She certainly had an unorthodox life: she was bisexual, unashamedly so, had affairs with many of her male and female costars, and remained married her whole life to one man, who lived apart from her and had a lover of his own. It was a lot of fun and now I'm dying to see some of the films she made.
"Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" is one of my all time favorite books, I've read it many times. I read "Little Altars Everywhere" not long after it was published, with the original author photo of Rebecca Wells with blonde hair. I've looked for many, many years for a copy and can't find one anywhere :( I'd love to have it.
Siddalee Walker spoke imprudently during an interview and now her mother, Vivi, has cut her off. Sidda and Vivi's relationship has always been complicated, but now that Sidda is getting ready to direct a play based on female friendships, and she would love her mother's advice and pleads with her to forgive, but Vivi stands firm. She does however send her a scrapbook she's kept of her lifelong friendship with a group of women who call themselves the Ya-Yas.
I love the Ya-Yas. Every time I reread this book, it makes me wish so bad that I had a group of friends like these ladies. They weren't afraid to *live* and take chances and be bold and I wish I could be more like them.

And finally, "Dave Grohl: Times Like His" by Martin James. I was really looking forward to this one, but it was pretty disappointing. I'm not a musician, and it wasn't a traditional biography in any sense. It talked more about his musical influences, bands he played with, things like that. I knew about 10% of the people and bands James mentioned, and I understood absolutely nothing about the recording processes he described. There were a few editing errors that just jumped out at me: basketball star Codi Bryant attended his second wedding (I'm assuming he meant Kobe), Jean Paul Jones was in Led Zeppelin (again, I'm assuming he meant John). Things like that. And of course I had to skip over all the Kurt Cobain suicide nonsense. He went on and on about what might have driven him to it. It's too bad he didn't spend more time looking at the evidence! Oh well. I'm sure this would be a very good book for a professional musician, but for a layperson it was just too much for me. There's a more traditional biography of Grohl that was published a few years ago, I might give that one a shot.


This is one of those books I can relate to. Alicia "Plum" Kettle has been battling her weight her whole life, trying every fad diet and weight loss method under the sun. She's finally decided to have weight reduction surgery and is just counting down the days until her "real" life as skinny Alicia rather than fat Plum can begin. But then she notices one day that she's being followed, and she's surprised to be recruited by a sort of feminist fight club organization that's determined to change society's objectification of women and ridicule of overweight people. Lofty goals indeed. Plum soon finds herself ensconced in a house full of militant feminists. I don't hate men, and I certainly don't think they're all jerks, but then again I've never had some of the painful experiences with men that these ladies have. I do find it very ironic that women go to such extremes to make ourselves attractive to men, when we have what *they* want. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't they be doing everything they can to make themselves a good catch? At any rate, it was a good story and I found myself really rooting for Plum while realizing I should be rooting for myself a little bit more, too. I'll try :)

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