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Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction, race, Uncategorized

Book Review: Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

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“My memories of him, though few, are mostly pleasant, but memories of people you hardly know are often permitted a kind of pleasantness in their absence. It’s those who stay who are judged the harshest, simply by virtue of being around to be judged.”

Gifty is a fifth-year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her mother’s pastor calls to let her know that her mother is going through a depressive episode and she asks him to send her to California.

While Gyasi’s outstanding debut novel, Homegoing, zooms out with its broad story spanning generations across Ghana and the United States, Transcendent Kingdom zooms in to a specific Ghanaian immigrant family in Huntsville, Alabama as the family explores grief, faith, racism in the evangelical church, addiction, science, and trying to develop a sense of belonging.

“You cannot go around claiming that an idea or an item was imported into a given society unless you could also conclude that to the best of your knowledge, there is not, and never was any word or phrase in that society’s indigenous language which describes that idea or item”

This book is written in a first person point of view. Gifty tells us the history of her family as best as she can remember it reading as a stream of thoughts. It’s not chronological in its retelling as it jumps between present day California and her family’s history in Alabama. We know from the very first page and the novel’s blurb that her brother, Nana, died from a drug overdose so every time she comes close to getting to his addiction you almost hold your breath, dreading it.

Reading the kind of child and kind older brother Nana was, made you dread his inevitable end that you know is coming. Nana was kind, smart and talented and had no history of previous misdemeanors. He was a star in whatever sport he decided he wanted to be a part of. Already attracting college scouts by the time he was 15, his future was so bright and promising. Gyasi paints a picture of Nana so heartbreaking that just like Gifty, even you are praying for his death to come and go already to spare us the anticipation distress.

“…We humans are reckless with our bodies, reckless with our lives, for no other reason than that we want to know what would happen, what it might feel like to brush up against death, to run right up to the edge of our lives, which is, in some ways, to live fully.”

Gifty’s family is the only black family in their congregation. Her mother, not knowing the politics of race in Alabama figured the God in Ghana was the same as the God in Alabama and did not have second thoughts about sending her family to a congregation that feared God but hated them. I liked the juxtaposition of the head pastor – who was so kind to Gifty’s family and the congregation – who treated them badly and traded on racial stereotypes to justify Nana’s dependence on drugs. The most heartbreaking being when Gifty overhears a conversation where one of the women in church says – “these people have always had a taste for drugs”. Everything is tinged in racial bias, from the praises heaped on Nana for his brilliance in sports to the insults after his fall from grace.

“They are skeptical of the rhetoric of addiction as disease, something akin to high blood pressure or diabetes, and I get that. What they’re really saying is that they may have partied in high school and college but look at them now. Look how strong-willed they are, how many good choices they’ve made. They want reassurances. They want to believe that they have been loved enough and have raised their children well enough that the things that I research will never, ever touch their own lives.”

I genuinely enjoyed this book and pondered so many of the questions Gifty raises as she straddles the fence between christianity and science. Ultimately, I felt that this book was too short. I wish she had talked more about her mother’s recovery or non recovery. The book ends rather abruptly, the last chapter a wrap up of her and her mother’s life but I was curious. Did she ever get help? Did she ever get out of her depressive episode? What led Gifty to the place her life ended up? How has she reconciled her faith with her career?

I feel like Gyasi left so many questions unanswered. This book is less than 300 pages. I think 267 to be exact so it’s not like she ran out of pages. I still highly recommend this book. This is nothing like her first book but I think she escapes the sophomore slump by drilling down instead of writing yet another sprawling book that can be compared to her fantastic debut novel. I gave this one 4 stars on Goodreads.

Leggy

Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, romance

Popular Books I Couldn’t Get Through

I’ve mentioned many times how Leggy taught me that if I don’t like a book, I don’t have to make it to the end. It’s okay to drop it and find something else that brings me joy. The lesson didn’t sink in until sometime last year and it was hard but it was so freeing anytime I dropped a book I felt trapped in.

Going into books blind means that there is a high chance of being stuck with books I might not enjoy. I am also a shiny, new book person. What that means is, I always want to read the new books that everyone is talking about. You see them everywhere and you see all the high praise and I feel like something is wrong with me when I just can’t get into it. I am sure this happens to a lot of people where you wonder what it is everyone sees in a book that you just can’t see. I decided to share with you guys some popular books I read but just couldn’t make it to the last page.

Educated by Tara Westover

I almost didn’t include this book on the list because it’s a real popular one with the masses and I got really far. I only had about two chapters left before it returned to the library. I didn’t bother renewing it because I figured I had the gist of it and ultimately the story had me so angry. Reading the abuse she endured while her parents did nothing had me fuming. I didn’t think it was healthy to be that angry at characters I did not know so I just let it be. You can read our review on the book here.

The Unhoneymooners by Lauren Fox

I went into this because it was everywhere, the cover was pretty and I liked the title. Deep down, I am sure I knew this was a boy meets girl book but I overlooked it and kept reading. By the time I got to where they hate each other but have to pretend like they are a couple as the protagonist posed as her twin sister, I knew I had to free myself. I never made it to the inevitable “realize we love each other” part because I had tapped out.

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

You guys don’t know how badly I wanted to like this book. I still have no idea why this book didn’t work for me. It has all the elements I love in a book. It has immigration, family, poignant writing. This was Leggy’s favorite book in 2018 and as soon as she read it, she recommended it to me. I tried to read it twice and couldn’t make it through. I even got the audio to see if it would make it better and still nothing happened. I think I made it to about a quarter. It’s one of those books that nothing really happens so its more enjoying the journey. I’m not good with back list titles but I still have some hope deep down that I will get back to it someday. But, who knows? You can Leggy’s review of the book here.

Things You Save In A Fire by Kathreen Center

Another fomo moment for me. I picked this one up and my heart sank when I realized it was basically a romance novel. I did like that the heroine was a bad ass firefighter kicking boys asses but by the 100th description of the heroine overreacting to the future love interests actions, I quickly exited. This book in particular, I know I didn’t give a chance but I don’t think I missed out on much.

That’s it folks! I do want to caveat that just because I did not finish these books does not mean I think they were bad books. I do think they were well written but for various reasons such as timing, head space, preference some times books just don’t work for people and that’s okay. I’d love to hear in the comments what popular books you couldn’t get yourself to finish.

Taynement

Book Related Topics, Fantasy, Fiction

4 Kick Arse Female Fantasy Books!

I loveee fantasy. It’s my favorite genre and gives me so much escape from reality especially in these very, very strange times we live in. This is a very male dominated genre and the types of characters I enjoy in fantasy don’t help matters. I adore ruthless characters in fantasy. I want them to be single minded about their goals and to cut their way through their enemies.

The problem is that I read a lot of male heroes because there isn’t that many female characters written that way. I do not enjoy romance in my fantasy. I can stomach a little bit of it, but I do not want it to be the main plot. I just want a lot of world building and violence (Yikes!). Yes, there may be something wrong with me.

I decided to make a list of 4 fantasy books that I think have my version of a kick arse female character in fantasy.

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang:

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“Nothing is written. You humans always think you’re destined for things, for tragedy or for greatness. Destiny is a myth. Destiny is the only myth. The gods choose nothing. You chose. At every critical juncture you were given an option; you were given a way out. Yet you picked precisely the roads that led you here. You are at this temple, kneeling before me, only because you wanted to be.”

Rin aces the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—and finds herself at Sineguard, the most prestigious military school in Nikan. Being a dark-skinned peasant girl, she is targeted immediately by her classmates and bullied by teachers who don’t believe she should be there. Rin with the help of a seemingly insane teacher realises that she possesses a lethal power everyone else at Sineguard believes is a myth. War breaks out in Nikan and her set graduates into a political mayhem and an all out war.

Why I love this character – Rin is absolutely ruthless and very focused on her goals. She is very single minded when she decides on a destination. She doesn’t get into any romantic entanglement even though I feel like there were some makings of one. She is a complex and complicated character who absolutely smashes all expectations. She is involved in some absolutely terrible deeds, but you rarely ever see women written like that so I was absolutely pulled in from beginning to end. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence:

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Your death has not been waiting for your arrival at the appointed hour: it has, for all the years of your life, been racing towards you with the fierce velocity of time’s arrow. It cannot be evaded, it cannot be bargained with, deflected or placated. All that is given to you is the choice: meet it with open eyes and peace in your heart, go gentle to your reward. Or burn bright, take up arms, and fight the bitch.”

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, young girls are raised to be killers. Nona Grey is rescued from being hanged by one of the convent’s sisters after being accused of murder (and being guilty of much worse). She is just 8 but has made powerful enemies by the time she enters the convent. We see the young girls get trained in every art of killing imaginable. It takes about 10 years to be considered a sister.

Why I love this character – This is a convent so there are basically no men around. You get to have a book that is based solely on female characters interacting with each other for the most part. I love training schools a la Harry Potter, but this time for assassins. I love seeing how our characters develop from this absolute clueless person, to the end of the book where they are powerful and strong. This is a trilogy and I’ve read the first two books.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden:

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“I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me”

Vasilisa is growing up in the Russian wilderness totally inhibited. She spends her days exploring her environment, listening to her old nanny tell her stories of the various gods and spirits with her older siblings and honoring the spirits. After an incident, Vasilisa’s father decides that she needs a mother figure and marries a new wife who is a deeply devout christian and bans them from honoring the Russian gods and spirits with devastating consequences.

Why I love this character – Vasilisa is independent and strong and everything you hope your girl child will be but she is severely punished for it and called a witch. She never lets anything stop her from her goal of liberating her village even if it meant honoring the spirits with her own blood. She rejects the fear and holds on to bravery. She was just a kick arse character and you will enjoy rooting for her.

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie:

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“You were a hero round these parts. That’s what they call you when you kill so many people the word murderer falls short.”

Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, is the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso’s employ. Her victories have made her popular but too popular for her employer’s taste so he betrays her, throws her off a mountain and leaves her for dead. This is a simple revenge story. After she is nursed back to health and is now half the woman she was, she vows to kill the 7 men present when she was betrayed at whatever cost. Even though this is the 4th book in an already established world, this is still a standalone that I think you can read whether you read the first three or not. So, yes, you can just jump into this book and it’ll still be an amazing read.

Why I like this character – I think my description says it all for me. She’s a woman with a one track mind bent on revenge – think Kill Bill on acid. There’s a bit of a romantic partner here but it’s barely there and doesn’t really affect the plot too much.

Let me know if any of these titles catch your fancy. I hope you enjoy this post, 4 for the price of one. Have a great week!

Leggy

Chick-Lit, Fiction, romance

Book Review: The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

Sloan Monroe is still mourning the loss of her fiance, two years after his death. She has lost her zeal to do the things that used to make her happy like her cooking blog and her art. On the anniversary of his death, she gets an unexpected gift in the form of Tucker, a puppy that literally hopped into her life. As she gets attached to Tucker, she finds out that he has an owner. Enter, Jason Larsen. A rising musician who is currently on tour in Australia.

The two get in contact to discuss ownership of Tucker starting with texts and moving on to calls. The two form a connection and begin to catch feelings. While Jason is all in and is willing to do all he can to be with Sloan, Sloan is wary for many reasons. Is she ready? Can she fit in?

As you may have guessed this book is a literary rom com and you may be wondering how I read this, given my thoughts on this genre. I actually don’t know how or why this was on my wait list but it checked out to me and I read it and found myself sucked in and actually liking it. So yep, I liked a romance novel. I liked it because it didn’t have all the things I dislike about romance novels in that, it wasn’t corny. It was an adult romance novel that didn’t tip toe around being PG.

Jimenez does a good job of writing out the characters and the plot and I did not even realize till afterwards that it was a pseudo sequel to a novel about her best friend in the book titled The Friend Zone. There is a cliche story line that involves the standard break up required in a romance novel but while expected, it did not turn me off on the book. I knew how it would end but the journey was interesting enough to keep me on.

You’d enjoy the makings of Sloan and Jason’s relationship which explores grief, self doubt, lust and troubled exes for the dramatic effect. For anyone triggered by the death of a loved one, while it varies for everyone, it is not heavy on the grief and it isn’t a center focus. If anything, the emotions she grapples with might be familiar and relatable. Jimenez was able to not define her by her grief and I liked how she made Sloan a woman who had a full life with her own interests before she met Jason.

In these chaotic times we live in, I recommend this book for a fun and light-hearted read. For the readers who are also music fans, Jimenez adds a nice touch with each chapter being titled after a song to make your own playlist (get it?). I gave this book 3 stars which is pretty much the equivalent of 5 stars for me given that it is a romance novel. Let us know if you have read this or have it on your TBR list.

Taynement

literary fiction, Mystery, romance, thriller, Uncategorized

Book Review : The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

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“When school kids are shot by a random shooter, nobody asks whether the victims should have taken more precautions. Nobody suggests that maybe the victims should have skipped school that day. Nobody ever blames the victims. So why is it that when women are attacked, the onus is on them?”

Rachel Krall has become an overnight sensation and household name after her true crime podcast freed a man accused of killing his wife on honeymoon from prison. She is determined to keep topping herself so she chooses a rape case as her next subject. She knows rape is a very divisive topic where everybody sees a shade of gray and is determined to exploit it. Even if she doesn’t free anybody from jail this time at least her show is going to trend.

The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student. Rachel moves to Neapolis for the case and throws herself into investigating and prepping for the trial, until notes start showing up in strange places for her.

“Yes, I have been a victim of a sexual assault. Well, probably several really. Funny how we were conditioned to accept these situations as unpleasant instead of outrageous.”

By all accounts, Jenny Stills died by drowning in Neapolis 25 years ago but the notes insist that she was murdered. Rachel Krall might be a household name but her face isn’t. She is scared when the notes start to turn up in even more private places including her hotel room. But, she is intrigued by how much people do not want to talk about Jenny. Against her producer’s advice, Krall starts digging into Jenny Stills’ murder and starts finding connections between her case 25 years ago and the rape case currently in court in Neapolis. Everybody might be all grown up and 25 years older but they’re all still holding on to the same secrets and lies that seem to be manifesting in the younger generation.

I enjoyed this book. I thought it was very well written and a fast read. I read this book in one sit down session for 4 hours because I just wanted to know how it would end. I found the characters compelling and I also liked how the author made Krall’s motivations for investigating this case as simply to get her podcast to trend. There was no airs to make it seem like she was trying to help people. On the flip, the way the court case was being handled really annoyed me. Hearing the rape victim being cross examined in court and humiliated utterly made my blood boil.

What I had a problem with is the marketing of this book. I expected it to be more plot twist-y and mind blowing than it was. I kept waiting for the plot twist because all the people who I thought were guilty at the beginning were really guilty. I figured out everything way too early and finished it in a hurry to confirm my suspicions. While I personally don’t have a problem with straight to the point mystery books, the marketing made me feel like I was going to be reading a very different book than I ended up reading.

All in all, I would recommend this book. It’s such a fast paced book and you’ll be done in no time. If you’re a sensitive reader, you might want to skip this one especially those who are triggered by rape. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy

 

Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, romance, Uncategorized

Book Review: Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan

Sex and Vanity: A Novel - Kindle edition by Kwan, Kevin ...

Sex and Vanity begins 5 years earlier than the main story of the book. We are introduced to the protagonist, Lucie Churchill who is the daughter of an American- Chinese mom and an American white father of Churchill fame, so she is considered a blue blood. She is 19 and at a society wedding in Capri, Italy. She is being chaperoned by her cousin on her dad’s side, Charlotte, to make sure she is on her best behavior and represents the family well.

Lucie meets George Zao, who is also from a prominent family. She finds him and his mom annoying but can’t deny her growing feelings for him. They get caught in a compromising position and Lucie never sees George again till 5 years later. This time she is older and engaged to a wealthy man who is all about society and image. The story progresses as we watch Lucie fight the past she thought she had left behind.

When I saw Kevin Kwan, author of the widely popular Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, had a new book out, I immediately put myself on the wait list of my library. I was a huge fan of Book 1 of the trilogy.  Unfortunately, my excitement was for naught as this book did not meet any of my expectations.

For one, I found the title grossly misleading. There was barely any sex and yes there was vanity but it was not even from the main character. I had no idea till I was done with the book that this was a retelling of A Room With A View, so my review has no comparison and is strictly based on the book alone.

If you have been a reader of the blog then you already know my thoughts on romance novels. It’s just not my thing and that is exactly what the book reads like – boy meets girl, girl finds boy annoying, boy and girl start having feelings…and you know the rest. Nothing about the story line was compelling. If you read the CRA trilogy then you know by the third book, the story had been told too many times and you had the “been there, done that” feeling. This extended into this book because it also reads as an extension of the trilogy with some characters from there making cameos here.

Like most authors these days, Kwan felt he had to include a social conscious message with Lucie’s biracial heritage. She was caught between pleasing her white WASPy family and fiance and recognizing her Chinese heritage and the way it read seemed like Lucie was trying her best to be white passing even though she knew some of the comments from her family weren’t okay. For example, when Charlotte realizes that Lucie might have feelings for George Zao, she makes this comment – “Your mother is Chinese so it’s no surprise you’d be attracted to someone like him”. I didn’t even want to bother with figuring out why Kwan would decide to go this route but it brought me to another reason I didn’t like this book, the writing was amateurish.

I suspect a lot of people will pick this one up for nostalgia sake but I don’t think it will be satisfying. To be honest, Lucie was not interesting enough and seemed juvenile. The book was campy but not in a good way and there was not enough likeable characters. Not all predictable books are bad but I don’t know if I’d even recommend this as a fluff read.

Taynement

Chick-Lit, Fantasy, Fiction, literary fiction, Mystery, race, thriller, Uncategorized

Book Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

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“He thinks we’re what we look like on the outside: nice Southern ladies. Let me tell you something…there’s nothing nice about Southern ladies.”

Patricia Campbell is a housewife in Charleston who can’t catch a break. She gave up a career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor who’s never home. She doesn’t have any help, her kids are ungrateful and on top of that, her mother-in-law just moved in with her. The only thing Patricia looks forward to during the week is her true crime book club. They read the filthiest of murders and discuss them in great detail even though their husbands believe that their group is a church group getting together to discuss the Bible.

A mysterious and handsome stranger moves into the neighborhood and the women spend a lot of time during their meetings speculating about him. Patricia finds him very attractive at first and invites him over to her house for dinner often. Until a few children over on the black side of town go missing and the car seen around the neighborhood looks exactly like his. Patricia starts having doubts about him and starts investigating what is really going on in their town.

“A no-good man will tell you he’s going to change,” she said. “He’ll tell you whatever you want to hear, but you’re the fool if you don’t believe what you see.”

I had a very different idea of what this book would be before I went in. I thought it would be funny and heartwarming. I mean the premise is ridiculous and I thought the author was going to run with it but he didn’t. I found this book to be way more serious than it needed to be, given the subject matter – for crying out loud, middle class women fighting a vampire .

It started out that way and I personally think it took a turn for the worse. I found this book to be both gory and gross. It’s very, very gory so, if you are a sensitive reader, I don’t think this book is for you. For example, there is an entire scene with rats eating someone alive. I found that terrifying and I don’t know why I kept reading it.

I also found this book to be over written. There were so many details that the author included that didn’t need to be in the book. This book is 400 pages when it didn’t need to be more than 300 with the dumbest characters I’ve read about in so long. All the men are super sexist while all the women are housewives and demure except the black woman who is a – I’ll wait for you to guess – housekeeper!

The main character presented enough evidence proving that their new neighbor wasn’t who he claimed to be and everyone just turned a blind eye at it. Sure, if it was real life and someone told me that my new neighbor is a vampire, I’d be skeptical too, but what is the fun in a book where a couple dead kids mean nothing.

One part of this book that rang true and mirrored real life to me was the fact that the vampire started out killing and sucking on black kids. It was easier for the white characters to ignore because it wasn’t happening to their kids and Patricia told them that bluntly. As long as it wasn’t happening on their side of town, they were content to do nothing. They only acted when he started coming after them and their kids and they were appropriately called out and the subject was well addressed in the book.

This book just did way too much. It has vampires, housewives, abusive husbands, sexist men, Nazis (yes, Nazis!), racism, book clubs, raccoons, rats and the list keeps going. I gave this book 2 stars on Goodreads. You can read it if it checks out to you on your library app on a day you’re bored and have nothing else to read.

 

Leggy

Fantasy, Fiction, literary fiction, Mystery, thriller, Uncategorized, Young Adult

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: 4 Quick Fire Reviews

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It’s been so long since I did this. I’ve been reading so much during this pandemic and can’t wait to share some of the backlist books I’ve been reading. Anyway, here are four books that I’ve read lately that you might enjoy!

  1. Sea Wife by Amity Gaige:

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“Everyone is hard to love, if you do it for long enough.”

Michael convinces his wife, Juliet who is failing to juggle motherhood and her stalled-out dissertation, to up and go sailing for a whole year with their two kids—Sybil, age 7 and George, age 2. This book opens up with a promise of a mystery but ultimately fizzles out. On the very first chapter of this book, we are told that they’re back from their sailing trip and Michael is dead.

Told from dual perspectives – Juliet’s first person narration and Michael’s Captain’s log, that sometimes doubled as his diary. I found Michael’s Captain log narration to be a bit ridiculous towards the end because there were things he couldn’t possibly have written down that the author took liberties with. We see how strained their marriage is, how different their political opinions are and how the sailing trip affected all these things including their children.

I thought this one was okay and gave it 2 stars on Goodreads. If you like literary fiction that’s very atmospheric and well written, you should give this one a try.

 

2. Cradle Series by Will Wight:

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“When a traveler cannot find a path, sometimes he must make his own.”

I’ve been reading through the Cradle series during this pandemic. It’s an escapist read for me. There are currently 7 books in this universe and I’m currently on number 4. This series revolves around Lindon. Lindon is an unsouled which means forbidden to learn the sacred arts of his clan. He is treated like a pariah and forced to compete against people half his age bringing shame to his family until a horrible event takes place in his village and he meets an immortal who shows him the paths his life could possibly go. The story focuses on Lindon’s determination to be the best sacred arts wielder the world has ever seen. I really enjoy these books and totally recommend them. I haven’t given any of the books less than 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

3. Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker:

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“I like to let them talk things out, but fact isn’t a democratic process; if a thing isn’t true it isn’t true, even if everybody votes that it is.”

Orhan is an engineer who has more experience building bridges than fighting wars but he is his city’s only hope. A siege is coming. The army has left the city to fight an unknown enemy, leaving the city unguarded and open for the taking. The people have no food and very little weapon and the enemy has sworn to slaughter them all. It will take a miracle to save this city and Orhan who is a liar, cheater and enjoys history and engineering, is the perfect man for the job.

This book is the kind of fantasy I call competent porn – this is where the characters are extremely good at what they do. I really enjoyed watching Orhan come up with very interesting ways to defend a city and also stop the citizens from tearing it down from within. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

4. Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy:

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“There’s no such thing as winning or losing. There is won and there is lost, there is victory and defeat. There are absolutes. Everything in between is still left to fight for. Serpine will have won only when there is no one left to stand against him. Until then, there is only the struggle, because tides do what tides do–they turn.”

Stephanie Edgley’s weird but rich and famous uncle just died and left her his entire estate to the chagrin of her other relatives. She’s just 12, what is she going to do with all that money and house? Due to some circumstances beyond her parents’ control, Stephanie is forced to spend the night alone in her uncle’s house. At first, she is excited to spend her first night all alone, until there is a break in and she is thrust into a world of magic and excitement and danger. She joins forces with her uncle’s friend, the weird and completely skeletal, Skulduggery Pleasant to solve the mystery of her uncle’s death.

This book is the first book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series. I was quite excited to read this but I didn’t enjoy it as much. I thought 12 was way too young for some of the things they got up to. There was actual danger involved in a lot of these. I also think if she was doing all these with kids her own age (like Harry Potter), I’d be more likely to overlook a lot but she’s completely running around with adults and I found it disconcerting. I gave this one 2 stars on Goodreads but I’m sure younger audiences wouldn’t have the same reservations I did.

These are some of what I have read lately and I hope you enjoyed these quick fire reviews. Let me know if you’ve read or intend to read any of these books in the comments. Have a great reading week everyone!

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics, literary fiction, Mystery, thriller, Uncategorized

Book Review: The Last Flight by Julie Clark

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“I’m not very good at forgiveness.” Liz nodded. “Not many people are. But what I’ve learned in life is that in order for true forgiveness to occur, something has to die first. Your expectations, or your circumstances. Maybe your heart. And that can be painful. But it’s also incredibly liberating.”

A chance meeting at an airport bar brings two women together, each running away from the circumstances in their lives, and leads to a switch in travel plans. Claire Cook is married to a very charismatic and well liked politician from a great political family and her life looks perfect. She lives in a fantastic townhouse in Manhattan, surrounded by staff and wealth but behind closed doors, nothing is as good as it seems. Her publicly adored husband is an abuser – both physical and emotional – and does not hesitate to use his loyal staff to clock and monitor her every move.

Eva is also running from something and just wants to not be on a flight to Oakland, so she proposes a change in travel plans to Claire at the airport. Eva to Puerto-Rico and Claire to Oakland instead of vice versa. But, when the flight to Puerto-Rico goes down with Claire’s name on the manifesto, she has to figure out who Eva was and if remaining hidden is the best cause of action.

“Identity is a strange thing. Are we who we say we are, or do we become the person others see? Do they define us by what we choose to show them, or what they see despite our best attempts to conceal it?”

Told through the women’s perspectives, we find out about the lives they’re trying to escape from. Both characters were very well developed and their stories were very compelling and interesting. I was rooting for these women to get what they wanted out of life.

You can feel the fear and tension in Claire’s life when you read her sections in the book. Being without a family for so many years and not being able to have any friends except those pre-selected by your husband, while he physically abuses you with all your staff in the know of what is going on but staying quiet, is a difficult thing to read about.

Eva feels lost and isolated in her life. One mistake in college (even though I thought it was a very dumb mistake and couldn’t believe she did it all for a boy) cost her the degree she had worked so hard for all her life. She is thrust into a life of drugs and crime just to survive. I was intrigued by both storylines and found them easy to follow. Both characters being likable didn’t hurt and made the characters easy to root for.

I found this book to be a well written and fast paced thriller but if you do not enjoy reading alternative point of views in books, then you’re probably not going to enjoy this one. With the book being less than 300 pages and getting straight to the point, I read this book in 4 hours.

I can’t really say too much about this book so as not to reveal any spoilers but I completely recommend this book. The epilogue wasn’t what I was hoping for and it completely broke my heart, but I understood why the author made that decision. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Historical, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized

Book Review: Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

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“We are more than just our genes. We are, in some way, a product of the people who surround us—the people we’re forced to grow up with, and the people we choose to be with later.”

Don and Mimi Galvin were an average middle class family living out what seemed to them at the time, their American dream. After World War II, Don moved his family to Colorado for his work with the Air Force and there, they created their large catholic family. Mimi went on to have 12 children, the oldest born in 1945 and the youngest in 1965.

Mimi tried to create a good domestic life for their children. Encouraging structure, hard work, and an interest in sports. Their family was huge enough to be well known and also well respected in the community but behind close doors was a different story – psychological breakdowns, abuse that went unnoticed by the parents, violence between the boys. By the mid 70’s, 6 of the 10 boys had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and were in and out of hospitals.

“And so I was crushed,” Mimi said. “Because I thought I was such a good mother. I baked a cake and a pie every night. Or at least had Jell-O with whipped cream.”

The Galvins became popular in the debate of nature vs nurture in the psychiatry field concerning schizophrenia. A lot of the theories in those days, laid a lot of blame on the mothers. A lot of psychiatrists, even without a suitable peer reviewed study, were quite convinced that children developed schizophrenia because they had an overbearing mother that they tried so hard to please that they lost touch of reality. This was a very sexist theory and completely discounted the presence of fathers in the house. The theory also prevented a lot of people from going to get help early because a lot of mothers feared they were going to be blamed for their children’s condition.

“They have been warehoused where nobody can really deal with them,” he said. Here was the real reason, he thought, why big pharma could afford to be fickle about finding new drugs for schizophrenia—why decades come and go without anyone even finding new drug targets. These patients, he realized, can’t advocate for themselves.”

What went on inside the Galvin family house led to them being one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. We see the medical field move and evolve as we follow their family story over the years. As we talk about the past and present protocol for schizophrenia patients from lobotomies to institutionalization and the ebb and flow of shock therapy in mental health.

We also see the harm this sickness brought to even the healthy people in the family and the innocent bystanders too. We follow scientists as they start looking for genetic markers for schizophrenia and find a compromise to the nature/nurture debate.

“For a family, schizophrenia is, primarily, a felt experience, as if the foundation of the family is permanently tilted in the direction of the sick family member. Even if just one child has schizophrenia, everything about the internal logic of that family changes.”

This book contains a lot of abuse, so consider this a trigger warning. There’s a lot of domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse (we also see abuse from a catholic priest) etc. I found this book to be very compelling and very readable. I did this one on audio which is how I do most non fiction books I read. Even though there is a lot of science in this book, I do not think it bogs down this book in anyway. I actually think the science elevates it.

I completely recommend this book and hope we as a community think about the way we treat our mentally ill. This book is also a huge indictment of the pharmacology industry for their non interest in putting money into developing more drugs to help with a wide variety of mental health illnesses because of how difficult the trial process is. I gave this one 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy