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The city is demolishing a public housing complex near downtown. Before being torn down, they allowed two days for people to come by and tour the place, past residents as well as the public. I’d driven by quite a number of times. It’s often reminded me of places I’ve grown up in, military housing.

Being curious of what the apartments, townhouses, looked like, I went. The brick buildings stood silent. Weeds and flowers grew from the cracks in the sidewalks. The buildings were empty of the life that once surged in them. Talking to someone, I found out they’d been built in the 1940’s. The exteriors sure didn’t show their age.

Some of the doors were open for visitors to walk in. I stepped in. Directly ahead, as one entered, steep stairs led upward. To one side was the living room, an old heating unit exposed.

As I walked through the small rooms, I found myself treating the apartments reverently, thinking of those who used to live here. These were someone’s home.

It kind of gave me a bit of peace, as if being able to say goodbye again to the past homes that I will never, can’t ever, see again. Where I used to live in Fort Bragg is long gone. The townhomes in New Jersey are slated for the wrecking ball, if they haven’t been already torn down. The places in Germany have been remodeled several times over and now lived in by others than American. Even if I go to see them, it won’t be the same.

Other places, the ones I’ve lived in more recently, I don’t think twice about, but those from my childhood hold a special place. Strange

 

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Seventh grader Alan Cole is a quiet boy who refuses to make a friend. If he makes a friend, something bad will happen to them, mainly through Alan’s bullying older brother, Nathan, who torments his younger brother. And now Nathan has something new, a Cole Vrs Cole competition to see who is the best Cole. It’s not Alan and he doesn’t want to compete except Nathan has found out his deepest secret and no way can Alan let that be known.

The two of them have to compete seven tasks, one of which is to stand up to their demanding, emotionally abusive father. As Alan sets out to do them all, it takes asking people for help along the way.

What a ride. I thought Nathan was bad and then I met the father. A double whammy. It’s easy to understand why Alan is how he is. There are no easy resolutions here, and as Alan grows, the author explains it all in such a smooth way, it makes sense. Mr. Bell shows clearly how one person can damage an entire family. As I read it, I thought of the words: The sins of the father. Because it is the father here who is destroying the family. It’s nicely explained how he, the dad, got to be the way he was too.

I enjoyed the characters. There’s Zack who just does his own thing. He says whatever, does whatever, and things work out even if people call him a loser. There’s Madison Wilson Truman, who’s a guy, and a bit chubby, and has his own dealings with his parents. He also sits at the loser table, or unsteady table as Alan calls it. I also enjoyed Talia who wants to be class president. She’s a force to be reckoned with.

I see my mom do this quite a bit, flipping to the back of a novel to see how it comes out. I admit I’ve done it myself, but only because a) I don’t like the story and want to see if it’s worth reading to the end. It never is. Either the story is just as muddled in the last chapter as the first few ones, or everyone dies and what’s the point then in going further? b) I need to make sure a character, usually an animal, doesn’t die. If the animal, usually a pet, dies, I’m not reading the book. End of discussion.

I’m not quite sure why my mother reads the last chapter. She’ll have a quarter of the book down and then flip to the back. She’s given several answers why, but I don’t remember them all. Sometimes she continues reading, sometimes not.

I’ve heard other people do this as well and they seem quite happy with the arrangement. They like knowing where they’re going. I prefer to let the story take me there. There are times where I really, really, want to know how it ends. Will the main character make it (not die, reach his destination, etc), or be successful (solve the mystery, save someone or something, etc), but no. I am firm. I march on, page after page, relishing in the fact that I. Do. Not. Know. I want to be surprised. This is especially true when I haven’t a clue what’s going to happen, where all the foreshadowing doesn’t enlighten me or the author creates a huge puzzle.

And that’s how it should. The journey of reading a fiction book is one page at a time, sequentially.

Dear Hamish,

Thank you for your Christmas Skype. It’s always nice to see those from back home. And nae, I didn’t really notice your black eye. Well, maybe a little. Okay, a lot, but I’m sure it’s better now. A pity Heather had to duck and it was your face the candle hit. A good thing it went out after Peatmoss threw it.

You asked about, ‘You-Know-Who’, aka Pawnee Kitty. I recently found a book that listed several attributes on kitties. They are all so true. Here is my chart.

Slitty eyes – yes

Smelly – yes

Stares at others – a big yes

Takes notes – probably

Thinks about food ALL THE TIME – yes (she even asks me food questions and I’m VEGAN)

Loves only those who has food in their hand – probably.

Pawnee Kitty, of course, refutes all this. Aud will not respond. Later, Pawnee asked for proof. She added that, technically, she is not a kitty, but a separate species that is native to this continent. I came, of course, prepared.

Slitty Eyes. I have a photo. Definite snake eyes. Pawnee Kitty says her eyes are normal and who’s eyesight was better, hers or mine? I did not answer.

Smelly. She pressed me whole nose in her fur and made me take a good whiff. In truth, she smelled like hay, but that may have been because she’d been sleeping on my bed because she does that, you know, takes a nap on it.

So, okay, she’s not smelly. But she does have an odor and at times smells like a meat item.

Stares. She cannot refute this. She does stare. A lot. I can sometimes feel her eyeballs on me, studying me, mentally dicing me up as a potential snack. Pawnee points out this is me paranoia speaking. She never did say she didn’t stare. That is so totally a kitty thing.

Taking notes. I found them and flapped them in her nose. Unfortunately they were not in English so I don’t know what they said.

Thinks about food ALL THE TIME. She asks me food questions ALL THE TIME. She is so nosy. That should be on my list. Cats are nosy. They are nosy, nosy, nosy.

Loves only those who have food in their hands. I didn’t try this out. I do not need Pawnee to love me. Or even like me.

I must go and spy some more on Pawnee,

Will text later,

Yours, from the colonies,

Angus. McSheep

Thirteen-year-old Miranda’s defied the odds and became one of the six kids from around the world, out of thousands, who qualified to be one of the astronauts to Mars. In nine plus years, she and the others will take the nine month journey to another planet. If she survives that long and with attempts being made on her life, that may be debatable.

Miranda won her position by using her mind and her abilities. Her robot, Ruby, is a main reason. But there are those who believe the United States pushed to have her included over someone else. One of those groups fires upon the ship taking her to the mission center in Antarctica. From there, things get even scarier.

This was a page turner to the end. I was kept wondering who was after Miranda. And was it just Miranda they were after? Clues made it possible to do some guessing, but when the revelation came, I was blindsided. Didn’t expect it.

The book is set in the future, after a major conflict between the U.S. and it’s allies and Russian and it’s allies. Ms. Slivensky doesn’t go into details and she doesn’t have to, the story is about the afterwards and about the space mission. In the Author’s Notes, she, who runs planetarium shows, explains the research that went into the book. It made me appreciate the book even more.

If I have a complaint about the book, it’s that I wish there was more of Ruby, the robot. I thought she/it was really neat.

This would be a great book for anyone who wants to be an astronaut or an engineer.

Upon the news of her father’s death, young Amelia is sent to America. She’ll be the care of her cousin Basil, a man she’d never heard of, much less met. Another cousin, an unpleasant, sullen woman who never takes off her hat, accompanies Amelia on the ship voyage. Except she promptly disappears leaving Amelia along on deck of the ship where anything can happen and does.

This is a Victorian mystery with subterfuge and kidnappings. Here, things are never as they seem. Think you got the mystery figured out? Think again. There are twists and turns to make you dizzy. Ms. Wallace made the Victorian era come alive with her descriptive text. You could even nearly smell it. There are good characters in here. My favorite, Choppers, the cat.

This book sort of reminded of a Horatio Alger, Jr. Story although those are much easier to figure out.

When I started this blog, it was for my writing. I don’t quite feel I’ve been doing that these last couple of years and I want to go back to that. I also want more Pawnee Kitty and Angus adventures. That’s another aspect of my writing, so that fits in too. Book Reviews. I’ll still do those.

I feel that I swayed from my path too much with more posts in the Whatever file. I will not go forego those because interesting things happen.

Starting next year, 2018, in January, I’ll be writing more on writing. It won’t be every post, but at least once a month there’ll be one for the Writing Rambles category. Stay tuned.

And Happy Holidays.