Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

I’ll Meet You There

Finished I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.”

This book snuck up on me.  While I immediately loved Something Real (and especially Chloe and Benny and Patrick Sheldon), this book took me a while.

A big part of it is the fact that Josh offhandedly used gay slurs a handful of times, and that made it really hard for me to like him or to see him as this big romantic hero.

So yes, it was hard for me to get past that.

And yet, eventually I did.

I did immediately like Skylar.  I come from a small town, too (although not as small as Creek View) and I know how it feels to be desperate to leave the first second you can (and also to be afraid that something will happen, last second, to keep you from going).  And eventually Skylar’s feelings for Josh made me start to see him in a new light.  (Although by the end, he also helped.)

I love Heather Demetrios’ books.  They’re sweet and romantic, but they’re also incredibly real and not always pretty.

Highly recommended.

Canary

Finished Canary by Duane Swierczynski.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

It’s dangerous enough when an ordinary college girl turns confidential informant. Even more dangerous when she’s smarter than the killer, kingpins, and cops who control her.

Honors student Sarie Holland is busted by the local police while doing a favor for her boyfriend. Unwilling to betray him but desperate to avoid destroying her future, Sarie has no choice but to become a “CI”–a confidential informant.

Philly narcotics cop Ben Wildey is hungry for a career-making bust. The detective thinks he’s found the key in Sarie: her boyfriend scores from a mid-level dealer with alleged ties to the major drug gangs.

Sarie turns out to be the perfect CI: a quick study with a shockingly keen understanding of the criminal mind. But Wildey, desperate for results, pushes too hard and inadvertently sends the nineteen-year-old into a death trap, leaving Sarie hunted by crooked cops and killers alike with nothing to save her–except what she’s learned during her harrowing weeks as an informant.

Which is bad news for the police and the underworld. Because when it comes to payback, CI #137 turns out to be a very quick study…”

I am a huge fan of Duane Swierczynski (so much so that my phone actually auto-corrected something to his last name, which is pretty awesome) and even so I keep forgetting just how awesome and fun his books are.

This one replaces Severance Package as my new favorite.   A huge part of that is due to Sarie.  When the book begins, she’s basically your average college student whose biggest worry is being able to ace all her exams.  And then she makes a random decision to give a guy a ride…and THEN all hell breaks loose and all of a sudden her worries are much more stressful.  (Like, say, will I go to prison? Will I even still be alive for my last exam? Will I get murdered and dumped in a river?)

I’m hoping for a sequel.  Highly recommended.

Hush Hush

Finished Hush Hush by Laura Lippman.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The award-winning New York Times bestselling author of After I’m Gone, The Most Dangerous Thing, I’d Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know brings back private detective Tess Monaghan, introduced in the classic Baltimore Blues, in an absorbing mystery that plunges the new parent into a disturbing case involving murder and a manipulative mother.

On a searing August day, Melisandre Harris Dawes committed the unthinkable: she left her two-month-old daughter locked in a car while she sat nearby on the shores of the Patapsco River. Melisandre was found not guilty by reason of criminal insanity, although there was much skepticism about her mental state. Freed, she left the country, her husband and her two surviving children, determined to start over.

But now Melisandre has returned Baltimore to meet with her estranged teenage daughters and wants to film the reunion for a documentary. The problem is, she relinquished custody and her ex, now remarried, isn’t sure he approves.

Now that’s she’s a mother herself–short on time, patience–Tess Monaghan wants nothing to do with a woman crazy enough to have killed her own child. But her mentor and close friend Tyner Gray, Melisandre’s lawyer, has asked Tess and her new partner, retired Baltimore P.D. homicide detective Sandy Sanchez, to assess Melisandre’s security needs.

As a former reporter and private investigator, Tess tries to understand why other people break the rules and the law. Yet the imperious Melisandre is something far different from anyone she’s encountered. A decade ago, a judge ruled that Melisandre was beyond rational thought. But was she? Tess tries to ignore the discomfort she feels around the confident, manipulative Melisandre. But that gets tricky after Melisandre becomes a prime suspect in a murder.

Yet as her suspicions deepen, Tess realizes that just as she’s been scrutinizing Melisandre, a judgmental stalker has been watching her every move as well. . . . ”

I’ve loved Laura Lippman’s novels for years, and while I absolutely adore her standalones, I have a major soft spot for her Tess Monaghan novels.  But Tess has been largely absent for years (completely out of most of the books, although she’s had a few cameos).  Now, though, she’s finally back.

It would have been easy to expect her to be gone for good.  Now she and Crow have a young daughter, Carla Scout.  So how can Tess do her PI work with a three-year-old around?  Oh, ye of little faith.

The woman at the center of this novel is Melisandre Dawes, who was found not guilty (by reason of insanity) of killing her baby daughter years ago.  She left the child to die in a hot car (on purpose) and fled the city (and state and country) as soon as she could.  But now she’s back and she wants to have a relationship with her two older girls, who are now in their teens.  There’s a lot more going on, of course, but that would be spoiling things.

Tess Monaghan is one of my favorite characters, someone who is clearly the literary descendent of my beloved VI Warshawski.  Like Vic, Tess fights for the underdog and is much braver than anyone could reasonably expect to be.  And like Vic, the city she lives in plays a major part in the book.  But while VI lives in Chicago, Tess lives in Baltimore.  (And in this book, I was happy to see that I knew where every place mentioned was.  Love this city!)

If you’ve already read Laura Lippman’s books, I don’t need to sell you on them.  If you haven’t, this is an excellent one to start with.

Highly recommended.

The Third Twin

Finished The Third Twin by CJ Omololu.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Identical twins. Identical DNA. Identical suspects. It’s Pretty Little Liars meets Revenge in this edge-of-your-seat thriller with a shocking twist.

When they were little, Lexi and her identical twin, Ava, made up a third sister, Alicia. If something broke? Alicia did it. Cookies got eaten? Alicia’s guilty. Alicia was always to blame for everything. The game is all grown up now that the girls are seniors. They use Alicia as their cover to go out with boys who are hot but not exactly dating material. Boys they’d never, ever be with in real life.

Now one of the guys Alicia went out with has turned up dead, and Lexi wants to stop the game for good. As coincidences start piling up, Ava insists that if they follow the rules for being Alicia, everything will be fine. But when another boy is killed, the DNA evidence and surveillance photos point to only one suspect: Alicia. The girl who doesn’t exist. As she runs from the cops, Lexi has to find the truth before another boy is murdered. Because either Ava is a killer…or Alicia is real.”

The Third Twin was just really fun.  I read it in one sitting, unable to put it down and trying to figure out exactly what was going on and whether it was possible that Lexi was crazy or an otherwise unreliable narrator.

I did guess part of the end reveal (there are enough twists and turns that I feel confident in saying that it’s very unlikely someone will correctly be able to guess everything) but that didn’t affect my enjoyment at all.

Highly recommended—and now I want to read her entire backlist.

A Work of Art

Finished A Work of Art by Melody Maysonet.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Shy, artistic Tera can’t wait to attend a prestigious art school in France to prove to her famous artist father that she can make something of herself. But Tera’s hopes for the future explode when the police arrest her dad for an unspeakable crime. Her father’s arrest must be a mistake, so Tera goes into action, sacrificing her future at art school to pay for his defense. Meanwhile, she falls head over heels for Joey, a rebel musician who makes her feel wanted and asks no questions about her past. Joey helps Tera forget her troubles, but he brings a whole new set of problems to Tera’s already complicated life. Then, to make matters worse, as her relationship with Joey deepens and as her dad’s hotshot lawyer builds a defense, fractures begin to appear in Tera’s childhood memories–fractures that make her wonder: could her father be guilty? And whether he’s guilty or innocent, can she find a way to step out of the shadows of her father’s reputation and walk free? Can she stop him, guilty or innocent, from tainting the only future she ever wanted? “A Work of Art” is a deeply felt story about self-image, self-deception, and the terrible moment that comes when we have to face the whole truth about the myths of our childhoods.

This is an incredibly good book but also an incredibly hard one.  I liked Tera immediately, and because of that I felt protective—and because of THAT, a lot of things in this book made me angry.  Like a lot of teenage girls (okay, like a lot of people in general), she doesn’t always make the best decisions.

Anyway, Tera’s entire life, she’s wanted to become an artist.  (As in professionally, not as a hobby.)  Her dream’s very close to coming true…until her dad is accused of a crime that she’s sure he didn’t commit.  She’s convinced that it’s a mistake (one that’s actually her fault, and so something she’s duty-bound to correct).  Except…what if it’s not?

While her life is awful and seems to ricochet from bad to worse and back again, she clings to the things she knows for sure, and to her art.  Horrible things are happening around her, but Tera refuses to completely give in.  She’s a heroine you can’t help but like and root for.

Highly recommended.

The Question of Miracles

Finished The Question of Miracles by Elana K. Arnold.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Following the death of her best friend, Iris and her family move to Oregon for a fresh start in this middle-grade story of miracles, magic, rain, hope, and a hairless cat named Charles.

Sixth-grader Iris Abernathy hates life in Corvallis, Oregon, where her family just moved. It’s always raining, and everything is so wet. Besides, nothing has felt right since Iris’s best friend, Sarah, died.

When Iris meets Boris, an awkward mouth-breather with a know-it-all personality, she’s not looking to make a new friend, but it beats eating lunch alone. Then she learns that Boris’s very existence is a medical mystery, maybe even a miracle, and Iris starts to wonder why some people get miracles and others don’t. And if one miracle is possible, can another one be too? Can she possibly communicate with Sarah again?”

I absolutely adored this MG novel.  Grieving is hard for everyone, of course, but I feel like it’s probably worse when you’re young and when you lose your best friend.  I felt so horrible for Iris, because you know probably nobody her age has any sort of experience with losing anyone.  (And even if they do, it’s probably a grandparent, not someone their own age.)

I loved the questions this book raises (are miracles possible? If they are, who does God give miracles to some but not to others? Are there ghosts? Can you talk to the dead?) and everything was handled in a respectful and authentic manner.  I never thought that Iris was behaving unrealistically.  She seemed like any sixth grader in the world, even though she was obviously dealing with things most sixth graders wouldn’t ever have to deal with.

I need to read her earlier books, and hope to make my way to them at some point this year.

Highly recommended.

My Heart and Other Black Holes

Finished My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner.

Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.”

Oh, this book.  First off, I love everything about it.  I love Aysel and Roman (together and separately), and I love their families and I love how Aysel even managed to make physics interesting and accessible to me (I do not have a science brain).

Ultimately, this reminded me of Butter by Erin Jade Lange, which is also suicide on a deadline.  As the book progressed, I got increasingly tense, waiting to see what happened. (No spoilers here.)

This is also one of the best descriptions of depression I’ve ever read.  I am prone to melancholy, but I have no problem getting out of bed and going about my daily activities (whether I want to or not).  Obviously it’s hard to understand things that you don’t experience, you know? But reading this book, I totally got it.  (And it’s horrible.)

Highly, highly recommended.

The Forgotten Girls

Finished The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In a forest in Denmark, a ranger discovers the fresh corpse of an unidentified woman. A large scar on one side of her face should make the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. After four days, Louise Rick–the new commander of the Missing Persons Department–is still without answers. But when she releases a photo to the media, an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago. Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a “forgotten girl.” But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates over 30 years ago. As the investigation brings Louise closer to her childhood home, she uncovers more crimes that were committed–and hidden–in the forest, and finds a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed.

I don’t read many mysteries any more, and when I do, they tend to be part of a series.   I mention  that because Sara Blaedel is writing one of my favorite series now.

According to the letter included with my ARC of this, a full fifth of Denmark residents love her books.  I can’t think of an American equivalent.

This book is one of my favorites of hers.  While it’s set in Denmark, it could just as easily be set here.  Both places have had less than stellar histories where people deemed deficient could be institutionalized and forgotten by their families.  One of those people is at the heart of this story: a “forgotten girl” who was left in an institution as a small child and who was declared dead long before she actually died.  So who is she? How did this happen? And how do you figure out what happened when, as far as anyone knows, she was dead for decades before she actually died?

(The answer is brilliant, although at this point, I expect nothing else from Sara Blaedel.)

If you haven’t read Sara Blaedel, you need to start.  She’s just as good as her famous fans (Karin Slaughter and Michael Connelly among them) would have you believe.

Highly recommended.

 

The Price of Blood

Finished The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Menaced by Vikings and enemies at court, Queen Emma defends her children and her crown in a riveting medieval adventure

Readers first met Emma of Normandy in Patricia Bracewell’s gripping debut novel, Shadow on the Crown. Unwillingly thrust into marriage to England’s King Æthelred, Emma has given the king a son and heir, but theirs has never been a happy marriage. In The Price of Blood, Bracewell returns to 1006 when a beleaguered Æthelred, still haunted by his brother’s ghost, governs with an iron fist and a royal policy that embraces murder.

As tensions escalate and enmities solidify, Emma forges alliances to protect her young son from ambitious men—even from the man she loves. In the north there is treachery brewing, and when Viking armies ravage England, loyalties are shattered and no one is safe from the sword.

Rich with intrigue, compelling personalities, and fascinating detail about a little-known period in history, The Price of Blood will captivate fans of both historical fiction and fantasy novels such as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.

This is the second book in a trilogy and I hope I don’t have to wait two more years to see what happens to Emma.  I am so in love with this series, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.  (Yes, I know that it is a true story and I could easily Google it…but that would be cheating, right?)

As in the first book, this is the story of two different women: Emma, the queen of England, and Elgiva, the king’s former mistress.  Emma wants to be a great queen; even though she doesn’t particularly love (or even like) the king, she loves her people, and is determined to do her best for them.  Elgiva, though, just wants power.  She isn’t very concerned about whose side she’s on or if she has to hurt someone, either.  She wants to fulfill the prophecy she’s heard her whole life: that she will be queen and her sons will ultimately be kings.

This is almost like a royal version of Dangerous Liaisons, too—there is a lot of intrigue and scheming, and a lot of people using sex to get what they want (okay, that last is all Elgiva).

I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Highly recommended.

 

The Tragic Age (an excerpt)

I’m so happy to be kicking off the excerpt tour of The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe! I have the first chapter, but you can read the rest here:

Excerpt 2: Saturday, February 7th: Amaterasu Reads

Excerpt 3: Tuesday, February 10th: The Young Folks

Excerpt 4: Friday, February 13th: Unbound Books

Excerpt 5: Sunday, February 15th: Books and Whimsy

Excerpt 6: Thursday, February 19th: Stories & Sweeties

Excerpt 7: Monday, February 23rd: As I Turn the Pages

Excerpt 8: Saturday, February 28th: Novel Novice

I’m linking it toward the top, because you will want to keep going.  Now, without further ado, the first chapter!

“Pick a subject. Grab a word or headline or rumor. Read about it. Google it. Wiki it. Search and surf it. Stuff it. One site leads to another and then another. A new subject or word or phrase grabs your attention. It takes the place of the first one and you follow that trail, moving on and on, subject to subject, site to site, skimming the surface, never really digging deep, adhesive picking up lint, on and on until you’ve forgotten what it is that got you started in the first place.

In real time. In real life.

In Antarctica, an iceberg larger than the entire city of Chicago breaks off a glacier and begins floating happily across the southern ocean toward Argentina. Unimpressed, suicide bombers in Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and Mozambique blow themselves up, killing both neighbors and complete strangers.

Again.

The market crashes. Reforms. Crashes. And so on.

An Indian billionaire builds a twenty-seven-story house  overlooking the slums of Mumbai and then abandons it because it has bad karma. A neuroscientist shoots seventy people in a Memphis auditorium. Another neuroscientist tells us you can’t blame him, it’s just the way his brain is wired.

There are Asian carp in the Great Lakes and walking snakes in Florida. In Australia they’re losing the Great Barrier Reef to horned starfish while in France bus drivers abandon their vehicles and go on strike, shutting down public roadways, because their uniform pants are too tight.

In Switzerland, they’re crashing subatomic particles into each other at the speed of light, searching for the glue of life. Why not? It’s better than predicting global disaster, designing new varieties of pink slime, and replicating human proteins in cloned goats.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Enough of real life. Take a break. Turn on the television. Television is pretend life. And with basic cable you can watch it all day long. Desperate Housewives. American Idol. An idol is a cult image, venerating the spirit it rep- resents. The cult that is American venerates desperate singing morons. Shooting cops. Forensic cops. Female cops. Wisecracking cops. Singing cops. Cops wearing sun- glasses. Emergency room doctors. Student doctors. Drug- addicted doctors. Plastic surgeons on Viagra and steroids. Meth dealers. Zombies. Vampires.

Reality shows. What is reality? Is it tanned Italians in a Jersey beach house? Barbie dolls married to has-been rock stars? Housewives of Miami, New Jersey, Beverly  Hills, Greater Pomona, and Baton Rouge? Or is it Las Vegas pool parties, celebrities in rehab, and politicians on Meet the Press?

We are all avid spectators at a car crash.

I should know. My name is Billy Kinsey. I’m seven- teen years old. I watch a lot of TV. Often all night long.

I live in a nice house. It has five bedrooms, eight bath- rooms, and a four-car garage. More than enough room for three people. We have a nice view. When I come out to stand in our backyard in the morning, I can see the Pacific Ocean in the distance. The Coronado Islands are somewhere to the south. Hawaii is two thousand miles to the west. Hollywood is . . . we won’t mention that again.

Ours is the kind of neighborhood where men and women in expensive workout clothes walk expensive designer dogs that don’t shed. People know the dogs’ names but they don’t know each other’s. The dogs take dumps on random lawns and sniff each other’s assholes. This is a dog’s way of introducing himself to his friends. It’s how they tell each other how they’re feeling, what they’ve eaten lately, and whether they’re dangerous, pregnant, or just plain crazy. The nose does not lie, and when you get right down to it, maybe we should all be sniffing each other’s butts as well.

This is also the kind of neighborhood where on week- ends a lot of people who should know better put on uncomfortable helmets, skintight Lycra emblazoned with European logos, and go riding around on titanium bicycles that cost as much as small cars. Sometimes they come to a stop and can’t release their shoes from the pedals and fall over. They lie there groaning, still attached to their bikes.

For those who don’t bike, there’s a pleasant little Ferrari dealership in the village. There’s also a Maserati dealership, a Rolls-Bentley dealership, a Ferrari dealership, and a Lamborghini dealership. There’s a Tesla dealership. A Tesla is an energy-saving, ecofriendly, fully electric sports automobile. In this case, one that has a carbon-fiber body, goes from zero to sixty in 3.7 seconds, and costs over a hundred and ten thousand dollars. Talk about friendly.

We used to have a Segway dealership selling two- wheeled, self-balancing, personal transports but then the British billionaire owner of the company inadvertently drove his off a cliff and died. Sales inexplicably declined.

It wasn’t always palm trees, luxury cars, and the blue Pacific. Till the age of four, I lived in Tulare, California, in the San Joaquin Valley. The crop of choice is hay. People enjoy beer, methamphetamine, and looking for bodies in irrigation canals. Tourists come for the retail outlets.

I’ve seen photos in old family photo albums. Our house was small. Dad—Gordonworked construction. Mom— Linda—was a housewife. There’s one photo that shows me as a toddler playing in a pile of bagged mulch. In the foreground, Mom is planting nonindigenous flowers that will inevitably die. She looks happy doing it. Her hair is brown and messy. She’s on her knees and you can tell she’s having fun getting her hands dirty.

On March 18, 1999, Dad won 37 million dollars in the California lottery and everything changed.

Fate.

Seven months later, a stranger in a bowling alley told Dad that if he was smart, he’d invest in a company called Qualcomm. This was the equivalent of a guy in a bowling shirt giving Jack the magic beans to the golden goose for free. Qualcomm is now the biggest producer of semiconductors and cell phone technology in the world.

Inevitable events.

A year after that, worn out by friends with business ideas, acquaintances asking for loans, and complete strangers showing up on the doorstep begging for handouts, Mom and Dad moved south to the fourteenth-wealthiest community in the United States, a place where begging is discouraged, loans are kept private, and where, even though they shared similar physical characteristics with the residents, they were as different as Tagalog-speaking hermaphrodites from Mars.

Providence. Zahmahkibo from the Book of Vonnegut and Bokonon.

We’ve acclimated.

Mom’s name is still Linda but Linda is now a lean, tawny blonde with a tan and perfect nails. Mom is now part of this group of women who call each other all day long, making and breaking appointments and talking behind each other’s backs.

“Well, I think it’s silly,” Mom will say. “She’s spending more on the invitations than she is on the— It’s supposed to be for charity, right?”

Stuff like that. They also play tennis, meet for lunch, do yoga, and shop.

“Hold on, Jen.”

Mom always interrupts her phone call when she sees me, like she wants me to know that I’m every bit as important as whoever it is she’s talking to.

“Hey, honey,” she’ll say. “Sleep well?” “Great,” I’ll say. “Like a baby.”

“I thought I heard you up.” “Not me.”

“Where are you going?” “Siberia by bus.”

“Take your cell phone!”

And then she’s back into her conversation, not even realizing that I wouldn’t own a cell phone if you paid me.

Fact.

Cell phones emit radiofrequency energy, a form of non ionizing electromagnetic radiation. Why take the risk?

Sidebar.

When you answer the phone there’s usually someone on the other end who wants to talk. Why take the risk?

She tries, Mom. She really does. It’s her nature to. But for Dad—Gordon—it’s officially too late. It’ll be a Sunday afternoon and we’ll be in the garage next to the Range Rover, the Jaguar XJ Supersport, and the customized Ford F-150 pickup that Dad likes to drive because it re- minds him of his “roots.” Dad will have recently gotten back from riding his titanium bike, and after complaining about all the cars that don’t stop for downed riders, he’ll have been going on about his impoverished youth for at least ten minutes now, all because, on some nostalgic whim, he’s bought a push lawn mower.

“Give me one good reason,” he’ll say, “why I should pay some Mexican twelve bucks an hour to mow the lawn when I have a kid who does nothing but sit around on his ass all day doing nothing!”

Actually I don’t just sit around on my ass all day doing nothing. I sit around on my ass and read. I like knowing things. Just don’t make me talk about them.

Dad doesn’t read or know anything and all he does is talk.

“When I was your age, I worked, kiddo. I didn’t have the advantages you have!”

On and on he’ll go. At some point along the line, Dad—Gordon—decided he’d earned everything we have, and after a successful career in the construction biz followed by a brilliant investment career, he decided it was time to smell the roses, watch the kids grow, and coach a little baseball.

Point of reference.

Baseball must be the most beef-witted game ever in- vented.

I’m, like, eight, and Dad has made me join Little League. And they have me in this stupid uniform which comes complete with what Aldous Huxley in his dystopian novel Brave New World referred to as a “prole hat.” Prole, short for “proletariat.” Meaning moron. Anyway, because I’m such a reluctant ball player, they’ve stuck me in right field and I’m standing there with this big, stiff, brand-new, expensive glove that Dad has bought me and all I can think about is when I’ll finally get to go home. And then, wouldn’t you know it, some dumb, fat kid actually hits the ball and it bounces through the infield and comes right toward me. And I’m not remotely paying any kind of attention, and even if I were I wouldn’t be interested, and so it goes right past me. And all my so-called team- mates are screaming and their parents are screaming and Dad, who, yes, is “coaching a little baseball” and who looks even more ridiculous in his baseball uniform than I do, is screaming too.

“Billy, what’s the matter with you! Goddammit, Billy! Get the goddamn ball!”

The only sane thing to do is ignore them all and so that’s what I do. I just stand there, watching the dumb, fat kid run around the bases.

And now I’m seventeen and in the garage and nothing’s really changed. Dad’s still yelling.

“Good Christ Almighty, Billy, are you listening to me? Are you paying attention? Have you heard one goddamn word I’ve said?”

“Thirty,” I’ll say. “What?”

“To mow the lawn. I want thirty dollars an hour. With a three-hour minimum.”

This is called capitalism.

Dad will snort and make a face that says “You’re so such an idiot, you’re almost funny.” He makes this face with Mom—Linda, his wife, my mother—a lot.

This is called derision. “Anything else, your majesty?”

I stare at the lawn mower. The hand lawn mower that he—Gordon—wouldn’t cut his toenails with.

A couple of hours later, I’ll be in our backyard, which is lush and green and beautiful, and I’ll be riding around on a brand-new tractor mower, the one we’ve traded the hand mower in for. Dad’s the kind of guy who will up- grade anything mechanical at a moment’s notice and call it a good investment. And maybe it’s because the thought of this annoys me or maybe it’s because it really wouldnt be a bad thing for me to push a mower, but I’ll begin driving in this random, haphazard path across the lawn, leaving crazed swathes of uncut grass behind me.

“Billy, what the hell’s the matter with you! Goddammit! Billy!”

I hate money. People who make nothing but money, make nothing.

Still.

It’s money that pays for the drum room.”

Pretty amazing, right?