Reviews of the books I've read

A list of all the books I've read this year. For these reviews, this is my book review scale:

burn Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.
mock This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.
don't Don't read this book.
desert If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.
fan If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.
worth This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.
strongly I strongly recommend this book
amazing OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.

Post date:

A Canticle For Leibowitz

Book Review

In reading The Knowledge, several of the quotes at the beginning of chapters were ones from A Canticle for Liebowitz. Given the book was one of Paul's favorite books in high school, I thought I would read it again. I mean, really, it's been so long since I've read it that it is almost as if I hadn't read it, so it could be new for me again. Though, let's be real, reading a book as a kid, then reading it as an adult means you are reading a new book.

One of the defining ideas of the book is that, well, humanity pretty much destroys itself with a nuclear war, sending the world back to the dark ages where anarchy rules along with mutants and the church. No surprise there, the book was written in the sixties when the overt threat of nuclear war was far more in the front of people's consciousnesses. I would argue that the threat isn't really that much reduced, people as a whole have just moved on a bit. The threat of a nuclear bomb is sufficient, no one REALLY wants to use it.

In Canticle, people used it. People destroyed the world. Humanity survived. Humanity rebuilt. Humanity had the same stupid existential arguments, the same pettiness, the same everything that makes us human. Which means, of course, that we would regain the world, only to destroy it again.

In reading the book this time, I was struck with just how much of the discussions we had as a group in high school included the arguments and discussions from the book. I suspect just as my world was shaped more than I'd like to admit by the books I read in high school, this book shaped Paul's world. I could be projecting.

Many of the philopsophical discussions stuck with me, and I had to pause reading to think about them. I wish I had someone reading the book at the same time, so that we could talk about it.

My favorite quote: "No, you don't have a soul. You ARE a soul. You have a body."

Anna and the Swallow Man

Book Review

My short summary of this book to Rob was, "Mom picked it out. About an orphan girl surviving WW2 Poland by wandering the wilderness. There's a mystery about who the swallow man is. Has been good, if sad," which pretty much sums up the book.

It's a quick read. I hadn't realized until just as I'm writing this review that it is a young adult / teen's book, which pretty much explains the quick read, short number of pages, and easy plot. That all said, it is a moving book, sad not only because of the horrors going on around a seven year old girl who understands much and understands so little about human nature and the war raging around her in Poland during World War 2, but also because of the personal heartache of the loss of a friend, trusted companion, and father-figure, even as he is still there physically.

I liked how the characters began shallow and deepened as the book progressed.

And how the reader is reminded, as the characters are, that life is more than just existing.

Career of Evil

Book Review

This is the third of three books currently published in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith / J. K. Rowling. This one was also the most grisly (which, well, given all the violence in the world, isn't actually THAT grisly), and the one I read the fastest. Picked it up last night, finished it today.

Continuing in the series, we have Robin Ellacott still unable to communicate effectively with Cormoran, about needs and wants and desires. Cormoran isn't special, though: she can't communicate with her fiancee, Matthew Cunliffe either. We have the continual male-female tension between Cormoran and Robin, both attracted to each other but neither admitting it or moving forward with it, the tension made doubly so with a shocking (not shocking) revelation from Matthew early(-ish) in the book.

My enjoyment of characters and plot development in the last book lead me to believe I would enjoy this one, which I did for the most part. We learn a lot more of Robin, which is great, and a bit more of Cormoran, which is also great. We don't really learn that much about Matthew, other than he's still a money-obsessed asshat, but I suspect that's what J.K. want us to feel, so shrug on that one.

The delivery of the bottom half of a woman's leg, along with a couple other incidents of violence against various women, made parts of the story uncomfortable, but I think that's likely the point. The mystery's solution was revealed slowly, and in a good way to not have the reader going WTF, NO, which is good. I hope there's another Cormoran Strike novel, I'm enjoying the mysteries.

The Silkworm

Book Review

After reading The Cuckoo's Calling, I started reading Anna and the Swallow Man, managing all of 10 pages before I really wanted to read more about Cormoran Strike and his assistant, Robin. I guess that means that CC was a good enough book that I wanted to follow the characters again, dropping another book for it.

I did not see this book's mystery revelation coming. I love that about this book, and Rowling's adult mystery writing. I did think "SO MANY WORDS" when I read this book, as with all of Rowling's latest books it seems, and that Rowling really needs an editor to help cut down on how many words she likes to write. I thought this of the last four Harry Potters, and I think that about CC and this book. So. Many. Words.

This book continued the life of Cormoran Strike, after he started to gain success from the previous book's mystery's solving. After dealing with a lot of soul sucking cases, Cormoran takes the case of a distraught woman looking for her husband to come home. Her motivation wasn't punishment or anger or suspicion, but a desire for her family to be whole again. This hit a nerve with Cormoran causing him to take the case. He finds the husband, and a who-done-it mystery at the same time.

I'm enjoying these Strike books, and look forward to reading the third one, too.

The Cuckoo's Calling

Book Review

The first of three Cormoran Strike detective mystery books, I have this book on my list because, I know you'll be shocked here, Mom selected it. I know, I know. Shocking.

Suffice it to say, I managed to read about a third of it before I thought, "So many words," and had to look up the details of this Robert Galbraith author dude. Last time I thought "so many words" was from the last four Harry Potter series, so maybe this was a British author kind of thing?

Turns out, yep, not only a British author kind of thing, the same British author kind of thing: Galbraith is a pseudonym / pen name of J.K. Rowling.

So, there you go. Another book that needs an editor's hand. Read it fast enough, and you might mind less. I did. I read it fast, and enjoyed it. I TOTALLY missed the boat on who the bad guy was, which is ALWAYS delightful. Having an author who can lead you down the wrong path and still have the correct path make sense, is just totally delightful.

I went ahead and checked out the next book in the series. The physical description of Cormoran reminds me a lot of Jonathan, which contributed, no doubt, to my enjoyment. I'm curious where the series (of three books so far) goes.

Remains of the Day

Book Review

I have to say, this one was a rough read. Seems that the books I'm reading as of late are all about people who are incapable of expressing their love and, while also craving it, affection. I might have to start reading my non-fiction in-progress books just to move away from these tragic love stories.

Remains of the Day is nominally about the several journey of a post World War 2 butler, Mr. Stevens, as he goes to visit a former housemaid of the manor. On the journey, Stevens reminisces about the past, through which we learn about Lord Darlington, Darlington Hall, the decades of Steven's service, and Darlington's political views. The movie, which I haven't seen in years, does the book good justice, if I recall it correctly. It may lose some of the nuances, but I seem to recall most of the major plot points when reading the book.

Yeah, so, the idea of unrequited love, two persons incapable of expressing their fondness for each other, their inability to communicate, these things really hit me hard. I've struggled with vulnerability, both in the giving and the accepting in others. Being vulnerable is the only way you can be with someone when you want to be intimate. Knowing, trusting, feeling in your bones that the other person has your best interest at heart, that arguments aren't for winning but for understanding the other person better, is hard, really hard sometimes. Really really hard, and worth the effort.

Unsurprising, as much as I struggled with this book, I, of course, recommend it (or the movie, since I'm less dogmatic these days about books being the better way to go).

Power of Vulnerability

Book Review

This isn't a book review, even though the content type under the title of this page says "Book Review." This is more of a rambling set of thoughts about why I picked up this book, and why I want you to read it too.

Okay. So.

It has been a long while since I've read a book that moved me to tears as well as to laughter. It has been a long time since I've read a book that left me feeling that the world can be a better place, that my life can be a better life. It has been a long time since I've read a self-help book that I has been as inspirational as this one is (which is kinda saying something: I've read a lot of self=help books).

The big caveat of this is, of course, that I didn't read this book, I listened to the audio book, and am very thankful I did. The book is a series of six lectures by Brené Brown as she goes through her research on shame and vulnerability, some the findings, and many of the ways that one can improve one's life. Not improve it in the "have more wealth" way or "eat this, lose pounds, get laid" way (though, maybe the same result could happen), but in the base, fundamental joy one has in being alive.

Ooof, now there's a big promise to make.


Okay, so, why did I read this book?

I've seen Brené Brown's Ted Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, when it went viral back in 20111. Ugh. Five years ago.

The audio book was on sale, and I recalled the video when I was buying a book for my mom, so I threw this one into my cart, too. I don't know what lured me to the book specifically, to be honest, so let's go with impulse purchase.

Which is to say, when the student is ready...

Brené's style of speaking, and way of interleaving personal experiences, hard times and humour together, makes this an amusing listen. The studies she cites, her motivation for her research in this world of shame, and the permission she gives too the listener to _be_, is just amazing.

That permission, that you're allowed to say no, that you're allowed to say yes, that choosing discomfort (for the briefest of times) over resentment (for a much longer time) is worth the effort, that breathing and mindfulness and calm and understanding, and shit, I just can't list all the of amazing parts of this book without trying to cite the whole thing, so, yeah.

I'm going to add this this book to my recommended, repeat-read, buy-many-copies, hand-it-out-to-all-my-friends list that currently includes "The Happiness Hypothesis" and "The Antidote: Happiness for People who can't stand Positive Thinking."

This book is a series of lectures that Brené Brown gave when her book Daring Greatly was coming out. I plan to read that one soon.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Book Review

Yeah, as much as I think the author could be considered certifiably insane based on her obsession with tidying up, I will say that this is the book that can seriously help to declutter a life, if the reader is willing.

Gone With The Wind

Book Review

Before reading

This book has been in my to-read pile for, well, um... uh.... 20 years? No, that's not quite right, but let's go with it. I have it in paperback and audiobook form, and finally decided that, dammit, I am going to read or listen to this book and finally remove it from my to-read pile. In reality, I want to read it because I want to see if my "If you see the movie, and someone tells you the book is better, don't bother to read the book, because you already know the high points" theory, formed after reading This Is Where I Leave You having seen the movie first, is valid. I've seen the Gone With The Wind movie. I saw it waaaaaaaaay long ago, before I was old enough to understand the nuances of the plot, story, messages. I plan on watching the movie again after finishing the book.

After reading

I was not expected to be moved by this book, as Scarlett O'Hara really isn't a nice person. As Rhett puts it, she has one of those flexible consciences that allows her to survive, but said conscience doesn't make for a pleasant person. That said, the whole Southern genteel society which seems to use gossip as its internal fuel, is one that I am REALLY sure I would have suffered greatly in.

I also struggled with this book. The language bothered me a lot, even though it was acceptable language at the time. The whole "I'm bothered by this" is also amusing to me. I curse like a sailor, using f--- and sh-- ALL THE TIME in my language, yet reading "niggers" and "darkies" bothers the crap out of me. The descriptions of life in the South around the Civil War era bugged me, too, until I realized that both THE BOOK IS FICTION, and it really didn't portray the bad stuff well at all. There was no whipping or abuse at Tara, the O'Hara plantation, because Ms Ellen was, of course, a lady. There was no physical retaliation when the original Tara foreman was fired (for getting the next door's "white trash" daughter pregnant, but come on, let's be real, in real life, it was probably a slave who was pregnant). The book seems to make slaves an okay thing to own (but hiring convicts for manual labor isn't).

The book had various classifications of people, including field niggers, house niggers, white trash, crackers, and those received. The house niggers looked down on field niggers and the white trash (poor white people), while the white trash envied the house niggers, and I was all, what, really? Then I remembered, the book is fiction. I couldn't tell if this happened, it could, why not given human nature, but, really did they? And then I thought, maybe, even though this is fiction, it might be true. Or, it really might be what Mitchell projected happened, she was born into a rich family, she heard Civil War stories on the knees of Confederate veterans, she formed her image of the Civil War South when she was six. So...

Yeah, reviewing Wikipedia, "Perhaps the most enduring legacy of Gone with the Wind is that people worldwide would incorrectly think it was the true story of the Old South and how it was changed by the American Civil War and Reconstruction. The film version of the novel "amplified this effect". Scholars of the period have written in recent years about the negative effects the novel has had on race relations by its resurrection of Lost Cause mythology." As for the Lost Cause, it is the "belief was founded upon several historically inaccurate elements. These include the claim that the Confederacy started the Civil War to defend states' rights rather than to preserve slavery, and the related claim that slavery was benevolent, rather than cruel."

Yeah, so, back to the book.

The book wasn't what I was expecting it to be, even though I've seen the movie way back when. The book is a tale of longing, duty, and loyalty. It's a book about surviving, about accepting the present as it is instead of living in the past. It is a cautionary tale about the loneliness of a life lacking vulnerability. It's about the stupidity of a woman unable to see beyond herself.

And, it's the story about a lifelong desire for a love that can never be fulfilled.

That is what caught me off guard. The yearning, wanting of one person, while the beauty and love of another (better fit) remained at arm's length.

I mean, think about it, the need of the Civil War to end slavery is enough of a tragedy. This whole book is a tragedy. Those dreaming of a lost past that never really existed. Those with unrequited love. Those who died for a cause not their own. The whole thing. A tragedy.

A tragic love story. Huh.

So, other parts of the book that stood out for me.

When Scarlet was describing Ashley, she notes, "He was as proficient as any of the other young men in the usual county diversions: hunting, gambling, dancing, and politics." In an era without television (parents generation) or the internet (our generation), without telephones or cars, what did people do to fill their days? Right. Diversions. Though, Ashley did also read a lot. (Books. Bah.)

There's a part about, at 10 years, boy slaves were sent the cobbler, the cow man, the mule boy, the wheelwright or carpenter, to see about their aptitudes. If they "showed no aptitude for any of these trades, they became field hands and in the opinion of the negroes, they had lost their claim to any social standing at all." Again, "Huh." True? Not true? Makes sense, but it makes the assumption that slaves were "happy" workers. It sounds good on paper, but was it true?

And the description of Scarlett's mother's world:

Ellen’s life was not easy, nor was it happy, but she did not expect life to be easy, and, if it was not happy, that was woman’s lot. It was a man’s world, and she accepted it as such. The man owned the property, and the woman managed it. The man took the credit for the management, and the woman praised his cleverness. The man roared like a bull when a splinter was in his finger, and the woman muffled the moans of childbirth, lest she disturb him. Men were rough of speech and often drunk. Women ignored the lapses of speech and put the drunkards to bed without bitter words. Men were rude and outspoken, women were always kind, gracious and forgiving.

I live in a world of gender inequality, yes, but I have not know the level of inequality that existed even 100 years ago: women haven't yet been able to vote in the United States for 100 years, that's coming up in 4 more years. Again, "I can imagine, but is this real?" How could a family survive in the wild West without some level of equality? Ehhhhh... uncomfortable about this, too.

“That’s not courage,” he said tiredly. “Fighting is like champagne. It goes to the heads of cowards as quickly as of heroes. Any fool can be brave on a battle field when it’s be brave or else be killed..."


Yeah, so there's a repeating pattern in Scarlett's behaviour and that's in continually wanting what she doesn't or can't have. Sometimes, the longing is for "Home! If she were only home, Yankees or no Yankees. Home, even if Ellen was sick. She longed for the sight of Ellen’s sweet face, for Mammy’s strong arms around her." The entire book is a longing for Ashley. There's a longing for a man to be strong and take away her burdens. And, of course, the longing for security and love. At no point is Scarlett satisfied, nor does she ever seem grateful for what she has. I want to believe this was a deliberate choice by Mitchell, to create an ironic character who scoffs at those pining for a past that will never be restored, while simultaneously striving for a future that will never be.

In this book, the only person I could relate to or even like was Rhett (also, likely written this way). Seriously, the man kept dropping truth bombs. "Then you’ve made the only choice. But there’s a penalty attached, as there is to most things you want. It’s loneliness.” Even the passing remarks have "Huh. Yes." truths in them.

And then, there was this line, "And she could understand his shrewd caginess, so like her own, his obstinate pride that kept him from admitting his love for fear of a rebuff."

If ever two characters unable to communicate were written, it was Scarlett and Rhett. Together, they would have been unstoppable. And neither could be vulnerable to the other. Right, this book was written 150 years too late for these fictional characters. More's the pity.

So, the book.

I enjoyed it. I'm glad I read it. I'm more glad I remembered THE BOOK IS FICTIONAL as I was reading it. It's an entertaining book and easy to think it was non-fiction. It wasn't. Made up from 70 years after the fact, from a winner's perspective. I'm looking forward to watching the movie again.

Above All Men

Book Review

I cannot figure out why I have this book. I thought maybe it was on some Book Riot list, but I can't figure out which one. Can't say I liked this book. I can say I didn't enjoy this book.

The premise is post-apocalyptic world (most of which are usually interesting), a war veteran is home trying to take care of his wife and son, while still fighting his own demons. The back of the cover says, "When a girl in town is murdered, David tracks the killer, while battling his own past." That back of the cover fails to mention said girl is his son's best friend. Also fails to mention that said girl is the neighbor girl.

So, why did I not enjoy this book? Couple reasons: the world described was hazy and completely unclear. I know what a farm looks like. I know what a dust storm looks like. I feel I should have been able to picture this world given my experiences with both, but I couldn't. The world was hazy. The characters were hazy. I didn't connect with any of them.

The author's style of writing also put me off. Ala Ulysses, quotes were absent from the characters words. I would have to stop and reread parts of the books (many, many, many times) in order to understand what was said and who said what. Each reread broke me out of the flow of the book. The no-quotes thing might be good for the author, it is crap for the reader.

The ending was reasonable, even if sad in the many lives changed. One hopes the characters can draw strength from doing the right thing in a seriously messed up world. That there are people who do the right thing, even at great personal cost, makes this book somewhat compelling.

My copy will be going into the Little Lending Library out front of Andy's house. I hope someone else enjoys this book more than I did.

The war was hard on him. It was hard on both of us. You come back and still see problems and you think you ought to fix ‘em.

One More Thing Before I Go

Book Review

On my little mini-Tropper kick, I picked up this book and read it quickly. I can still claim this to be a Mom-stack book, in a fashion, given how nearly all the other Tropper books I've read were Mom-stack books. Or not: I read it because I enjoy his writing style.

This book wasn't as outrageously amusing as Tropper's other books, though it still had some laugh-out-loud parts. I'm not sure how much amusement you can put into the story of a man who has a short time to live if he doesn't have an operation to save his life, but Tropper manages a good amount.

The thing that sticks with me with these last two Tropper books is the idea of falling in love with the girl walking by. Trooper describes Judd and Silver as both falling in love with the imagined story of this girl as she rides by, or that girl as she serves coffee. The idea of falling in love, of having those crushes, and enjoying the emotion, basking in the warmth of it, just rings delightful with me. It is in such contrast with the idea of One True Love That Survives The Ages™ that is this gold standard, impossible ideal of the lonely heart.

I enjoyed this book, as with all the Tropper books (just don't read them one after the other, they lose their delight). The ending was perfectly ambiguous.

This Is Where I Leave You

Book Review

You know when you go see a movie, and all the readers who have read the book the movie is from say, "Ugh, the book was better!" and you think, "Okay," and decide you won't ever read the book?

Right. Because reading the book, THEN seeing the movie is the correct order to experience a plot. Really.

Really really.

When I started this book, which I deliberately picked up because it is by Jonathan Tropper and I have enjoyed his other books, I keep thinking, "Ehhhhhhhhhhh, I feel like I have read this book," but I couldn't find it in my list of read books, so maybe I hadn't read it. Which is to say, I read this book at lightning speed because I really really really really felt I had already read the book.

Turns out, no, I hadn't read the book, I had seen the movie. Well, the last two thirds of the movie, anyway. I came across it while channel surfing and watched it because Timothy Olyphant is in it, and, well, after Sheriff Bullock and Marshall Givens, I'll pretty much watch most things Olyphant is in (and because, come on, he has a really cool last name, too).

So, yeah, the movie is STUNNINGLY close to the book. I knew all the plot twists and many of the jokes, and I have to say, if you've seen the movie, skip the book. If you've read the book, skip the movie, because the book has how the movie should have ended.

Will Grayson Will Grayson

Book Review

I have no idea why I had this book in my to-read stack. NO. IDEA. Could have been a mom-book, which would explain a lot, actually, given that it's by one of my mom's favorite authors. Could have been a free book I picked up. I have no idea. I think I said this.

This book was, regardless of possession origin, a delightful read, both delightfully quick and delightfully entertaining. I laughed out loud a number of times reading this book, which is a good sign, I'd suspect.

This book is about two boys, both in high school, both named Will Grayson, who meet under odd circumstances. One is coming-out gay kid, the other is the best friend of an out gay kid, and oh boy are there issues with being gay in the horrors of high school.

I can't say I'm the same level of John Green fan that Mom is, which is why I'm willing to say I'm glad I read it. I can also say I'm okay not reading all of his other books, being astutely avoiding The Fault in our Stars. And I can also say, while not overly recommended, it's a fun read.

The Peripheral

Book Review


Rob recommended this book, after I mentioned that I have been reading The Knowledge 10 pages a day in the morning while trying to absorb enough sunlight to make a dent in my vitamin D levels. He had just finished it, and mentioned that it's an entertaining read.

It is.

Imagine a future where only the rich survive some apocalyptic event, where everything around is a power game, and you can talk to the world 75 years in the past. Essentially, go with the assumption that subatomic particles can be be sufficiently quantum entangled that information can flow both through time both ways up and down stream, and that the game you're playing isn't really, let's say, a game.

Both Rob and I agree that the story takes a bit to get into, but once the action starts happening, it's a ride.

I enjoyed it. If you like Gibson's work, of course read it. If you don't know who Gibson is, wait a couple years, this will surely be a movie.


Book Review

This is book 7 of the Alex Verus series.

I realized only two nights ago that it was out, and kicked myself for not realizing it a month ago. Good thing I was ordering that tea on Amazon and the site recommended the book. Also, added Jacka to my list at Author Alerts.

I really liked this book. I really like this series (though, maybe the last one I didn't like as much). It was recommended by Jim Butcher at some point, and I'm glad I read them. I like tales Jacka spins and the mage world he has created. I like the recurring characters and the intrigue developing.

The one was pretty much all action. Verus had very little time to relax and little time to brood. The book ends on a cliffhanger, WHICH IS GREAT, as it means there's another book to follow.

I am looking forward to it.

Recommend the series.

The Circle

Book Review

Okay, I understand the world described in this book: the one where no one has any privacy because, well, a shit named Zuckerberg declared privacy is dead and no longer the social norm, then spent $100,000,000 protecting his own privacy, but it doesn't mean that I agree with it or like it or didn't struggle to throw this book across the room when I was reading it.

The gist of it is there's this big social media payments company that forces its users to log in with real names then promptly begins absorbing everything so that it knows everything about its users and peer pressures its users into sharing everything, connects everything, tracks everything, until the concept of privacy is destroyed. It follows the journey of an idiot 20-something woman, Mae, as she becomes a sheep and stops thinking for herself, acting only on the whims of others, the opinions of others.

I wanted to throw this book across the room a thousand times, pick it up, and throw it across the room another thousand times. Sure, "sharing is caring," fine, yes, but forced sharing is bullshit. And "privacy is stealing"? YES, the obvious conclusion of a surveillance state, which is the direction the world is going, where, again, those in power stay in power.

Related: instantaneous, required democracy is called a lynch mob.

Eggers got his point across with this one. Problem is, the people who are listening already knew, and the people who refuse to listen? Well, they kinda deserve the future they get.

I recommend this for the rage inducing stupidity of the sadly realistically written main character, and the cautionary tale told.

The Oregon Trail

Book Review

Okay, really now, why I am reading this book, I don't know. It is so far outside of my normal reading patterns that at this point you need to shake your head and say, "Because it is on your mom's reading list?" and I answer, "YES! THAT IS IT."

The Oregon Trail is the recounting of the author's and his brother's recent (like 8 years ago) traversing of the United States in a covered wagon along the (you guessed it) Oregon Trail. And while you did guess "the Oregon Trail" you'd be only mostly right, since parts of the trail don't exist and longer, parts were only hand-wavy sketchily defined, and part have been obliterated by the Mormon marketing machine for their own money-making history-cleansing needs.

I tend to read fiction books, and I read far less biographical material than history, and I don't read much history. Which is changing, I'll admit. I'll also admit the only reason I actually read this book is because it is the last of the books from Mom's recent reading list.

I really enjoyed this book.

I liked how history lessons of the Oregon Trail were interwoven through Rinker's and Nick's travels.

I appreciated how Buck didn't stick to a chronological telling of the Oregon Trail history, but explained important parts of history as they related to the part of the trail they were on.

And I enjoyed learning about the growth the two brothers had on their journey. A reminder, perhaps, that a complete shift away from the mess one has made of one's life, coupled with a stupidly hard goal, is just the thing needed to accept one's past and move on.

Night Strangers

Book Review

WHY DID I READ THIS BOOK? Had I not learned from Guest Room?

Okay, here's the thing: I'm plowing through all of the seven books Mom bought, mostly so that I can go back to my two meter tall stack of books I've selected, and didn't look at the author of this book. When I was 90% of the way through before I noticed the author of the book. I did a double-take, checked that this author indeed had written Guest Room, and then groaned. Pretty sure Chris Bohjalian takes his writing cues from George R.R. Martin, because I didn't like this book's ending, either.

The good guys don't win!


Anyway, this book was another psychological thriller, complete with ghosts and pains and witches and potions and kids and tragedy and all sorts of situations that I find uncomfortable (which is to say, those where you KNOW that someone is taking serious advantage of another someone and a kid's sense of fairness in this world just rages).

This book won't be around in 10 years, or kept as fine literature. It's a creepy romp for a weekend read. If you like his style, read it. Otherwise, skip it.


The Farm

Book Review

What? Another book recommended by Mom? Yeah.

Again, not the book I was expecting. Again, a book that surprised me.

This book deals with an older woman's difficulties moving with her husband to a new location (back to her home country), depression, interpretations, and dealing with family secrets and the past.

A son's mother comes to him in a panicked, paranoid state, with wild accusations of what had happened with her move with her husband, the son's dad. The dad follows shortly, while the mother tells the son convincingly in chronological order of the events on the farm the parents had moved to. While the mother's interpretation of events is plausible, so are the father's rebuttals of what was happening. How is a son, who is also hiding his own secrets from his parents, to choose or know which is actually true.

Okay, yeah, that's the gist of the plot. The telling, however, is remarkable. We are conditioned to believe what we read, so of course the mother is telling the son what happened. Yet, interpretation, paranoia.

I wasn't expecting to like this story as much as I did. The ending is haunting.

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Book Review

What? Another book from Mom's list? I know, I know, I can't believe it either. Thing is with this book, I can't believe this is a book Mom would read either. I mean, I can understand why she read some of the other books she's read, they fit various themes of what I believe she reads. Except, she reads what she wants to read, what she finds interesting, and this is one of those, "Wait, what?" books that she wanted to read.

I guess.

I'm not giving anything of the book away when I say the book centers around two sex slaves escaping after killing their captors while working a bachelor party, because this particular part of the book happens in the first paragraph of the book. The rest of the book is about the aftermath of that act: the why, the history, the emotions, the recovery, the fall. It is told from the first person viewpoint of one of the sex slaves (ex sex slaves) and from the third person omniscient view of the father-husband-brother-of-the-groom, his wife, and his daughter.

The causal violence in the book threw me off.

The sex slaves in the book threw me off.

The description of the emotional journey of the wife threw me off.

The emotional attachment to help someone in need totally resonated.

The book is lingering with me. I'm not sure I recommend the book, nor am I sure I'm glad I spent the time reading it. It is lingering, though.