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Let's Talk About Books

An out of practice reader discussing the books I get around to reading. 

Currently reading

The Spider and the Fly: A Reporter, a Serial Killer, and the Meaning of Murder
Claudia Rowe
The More They Disappear: A Novel
Jesse Donaldson
Progress: 81/320 pages
Help for the Haunted
John Searles

Too Spooky

The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren - Gerald Brittle

So we all know I am fascinated by the warrens. When this book came off the conveyor belt at work, I couldn't resist checking it out and read it during my lunch breaks. It wasn't what I expected but interesting none the less. 


The Demonologist discusses the work of the Warrens, the nature of the supernatural, and how paranormal investigations and exorcisms really work. Apparently it is the main work the cast and crew of The Conjuring films used for research, which makes sense. The book does discuss the Annabelle case, Amityville, and the Enfield Poltergeist, all of which are famous cases that are brought up in the movie. Also briefly discussed is the history of how exorcisms, ghosts and demons were viewed in the past. 


I expected this book to be a collection of stories about their different investigations, like Ghost Hunters was. Instead what I got was more of a text book on paranormal investigations and demonic activity. That's not exactly the right term, text book, but a lot of the book was dedicated to simply explaining how demons can be recognized, the different types of spirits, etc., with anecdotes used to prove the points. That kind of disappointed me, because I wanted less of their religious philosophies and more stories of spooky ghosts, but it was interesting to read none the less. 


The biggest drawback to the book is the Warren's opinions themselves. I'm a big believe in the paranormal - ghosts, possession, the whole shebang. I won't touch a Ouija board and firmly believe I captured an EVP. But there were times during the book where I couldn't help but go, "Do you seriously expect me to believe this?" And everything was demons with them, which could get frustrating, especially in the case of Annalise Michel.


It wasn't just the stories they told, like of ghost cars. What was more frustrating was the fact that frequently the Warrens claim to have captured entities on film, but refused to put the pictures in the book. That was just teasing and I didn't like it. I understand their philosophy is, "If we show you these images it can put you at risk", and I do honestly believe they 100% believe that and aren't just saying that to get people of their backs. But if you're not going to show the things you mention, then why bring them up in the first place, especially in a book that's supposed to educate? It was frustrating and irritated me on more than one occasion. 


Final rating: 3.5 out of 5. It's a good book for those interested in the Warrens and the Paranormal. Definitely helps you to understand their methods more. I'll stick to the collections of spooky encounters though.

Over the River and Through the Woods

Through the Woods - Emily Carroll

This book has been on my TBR list for a while but I didn't realize exactly what it was when I added it. I thought it was a collection of short stories involving spooky stuff in in the woods. I did not realize it was a collection of stories by the same lady who did His Face All Red. That discovery when I found it in the return bin at the library instantly made it a must read for me. 


Through the Woods is a collection of short stories told in graphic novel form. All have some connection to the woods and are  horror/supernatural related. Emily Carroll is perhaps best known for His Face All Red, one of my all time favorite webcomics, and so each of the stories are told in similar styles with similarly creepy twists and ends.


I LOVED this book. I plan on going out and buying it ASAP, especially since today was pay day. Her comics are so good, such creepy yet beautiful fairy tale-like stories. Her style is amazing. It really is. So, here's a play by play of the different stories:


An Introduction:  4/5. It's an intro, but it's a very well told intro. Creepy but an excellent set up.


Our Neighbor's House: 5/5. Amazing. Just amazing. The end left me going, "What?!" in the best way possible. I reread it a couple of times just to make sure I loved it. It was creepy and sad and just amazing.


A Lady's Hands Are Cold: 4.5/5. A little predictable but I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of a cross between Bluebeard and the Juniper Tree, which are both bizarre but fun fairy tales. 


His Face All Red: 5/5. As I've already said, I love this one. It's really good and inspired one of the stories I'm working on now. 


My Friend Janna: 4/5. A little slow in the buildup but it was all worth it. I think I'd like to reread it because I'm sure there was stuff I missed upon the initial read. 


The Nesting Place: 5/5. I legit went "Oh Jesus" when the twist was revealed. It was creepy and unexpected. The story was sad and sweet and the ending made me cringe. 


In Conclusion: 5/5. Seen this one before. I love it. Such a creepy ending and such an amazing way to end this book. 


Final rating: 5/5. Love this book, love her comics, definitely recommend. 


Are You Cold?

The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel - Katherine Arden

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I LOVE Russian fairy tales. Absolutely adore them. I have a picture book of the story of Vasilisa the Brave and it's one of my favorites. So when I first saw this book discussed on here, I knew I had to read it. 


The Bear and the Nightingale is a fairy tale centered around wild child Vasilisa in her small village. Vasya's stepmother and the new priest scare the villagers away from their old traditions which leads to disaster and death visiting the village. Always a believing in the old stories and creatures, Vasya works to protect her family and her village. 


I loved this story. It was everything I could have hoped for in a new fairy tale. I couldn't predict the plot and in did the ending didn't fit my expectations. Which, to be honest, kinda chuffed me a little but I'll talk about that more towards the end. It was a original story, with notes of other Russian stories without being just a made over version of one. It was it's own original story and I loved that. 


All the characters were amazing, Vasya being my favorite. Well, I actually loved Solovey more because I'm a sucker for a talking horse but he didn't come in until about part 3. Vasya was a great protagonist. She's adorable and quirky and I loved watching her grow up throughout the story. The other characters were equally interesting and all were sympathetic, even Anna and Konstantin despite being the stories villains. 


The biggest drawback to the book for me is the ending of the climax did feel a little rushed and brushed passed. Like, there was kind of a deus ex machina I felt towards the end. The resolution fit with the overall build up the story had, which I appreciated, but I do think the execution could have been better. Like the pendant. It didn't seem to have anything to do with the resolution, which is what I kept expecting. Maybe I missed something and need a reread. 


I wasn't a fan of Vasya ending with "I will never get married because I'm a strong independent woman", simply because I'm tired of female protagonists in modern fairy tales making that declaration. It'd be nice to have a fairy tale where that wasn't a big concern, and while it wasn't out of character for Vasya, it also felt like it was added just to make her a "modern" hero. Like, her not wanting to get married had no impact or bearing on the overall plot at all. And her leaving her family to travel did feel out of character for her since all throughout the story we see how important her family and her village are to her, to the point she's willing to die for them. Then she's suddenly like, "I'm out, bye"? I just feel like if Arden was committed to the story ending this way, which clearly she was, she could have made these decisions clearer and more relevant throughout the whole novel.


This is completely a me problem, though, since what I'm getting at is the decisions at the end are just things I personally don't like in the story. Overall she wrote everything well and I'm just SUPER picky about my fairy tales. And I loved the relationship between Vasya and Morozko and wished she had shown us more of that. That to me would have been more interesting than her failed betrothal, but again, personal taste here. 


Final rating: 5 out of 5. When I push past my pickiness, this story is amazing and damn close to being a perfect story.


Final thought: Wish Baba Yaga was in it but I guess we can't have it all.

Have the Llamas Stopped Screaming, Clarice?

The Silence of the Llamas - Anne Canadeo

As previously stated, I'm a sucker for a good pun. So how the hell was I supposed to resist this title? I do have a killer headache so this review will be kept short and sweet. 


In The Silence of the Llamas, the Black Sheep Knitting crew come together to help a friend when her farm is being vandalized and her llamas harassed. Turns out the neighbors aren't big fans of the new llama yarn farm and there are land disputes to boot. Just when things can't get any worse, a murder occurs and the crews' friend's husband is the prime suspect! It's up to the squad and the llamas to discover the truth and clear the innocent's name.


This was a light read. I did have a hard time taking it seriously because of the llama aspect but that's literally just a personal issue. In some ways it made it more fun. The characters were likable. In particular I was a fan of Lucy and am very curious as to whether she'll ever finish the Argyle sweater for her boyfriend. The story was enjoyable and it was a fairly quick read for me. I enjoyed it, it took me away for a few hours, and that's what a book is supposed to do, right?


As a mystery, though, it falls short. More of the plot was about personal drama and just the characters chatting over knitting rather than crime solving. While there were enough clues that I was able to solve it all by the end, there weren't really that many, which bothered me. It seemed more like a drama or a chance to talk about issues like organic fibers and open space laws than a mystery. To top it all off, the big AHA! moment was very underwhelming and felt like a copout. 


So overall all, it was okay. Kinda failed as a mystery but if you want a light, mystery infused novel full of llamas to take you away, you'll enjoy it. 


Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars.


Now I am off to sip tea and wear my pa-llamas (they have llamas on them).

Welcome to the Land of Nod

Nod - Adrian Barnes

This book has been on my radar for a little bit. A Buzzfeed quiz told me it should be my next scifi read and I decided to take it up on that. For once, Buzzfeed did not disappoint. 


Nod takes place in a world where the majority of people on the planet are unable to sleep. Not like, "Oh, gonna toss around for a bit" or "I slept for five hours but it feels like even less". No, it's point blank no sleep. And if you didn't know, going without sleep for too long will make you go crazy and eventually die. A small population of humanity, though, are able to sleep and all share the same dream. Paul, our narrator, is one of those few and he tells the tale of how the world and his partner, Tanya, descend into sleep-deprived madness. 


This book was amazing. I really enjoyed it. The concept itself is just incredible. I get really sick when I don't sleep well enough for one night. I can't imagine the Hell the characters go through in the 24 days this book takes place during. The book also is just as much an exploration of linguistics and the nature of reality as it is what happens when you sleep deprive people for too long. Seriously, the language and exploration of language in this book is seriously beautiful. 


The plot of Nod is seriously sound and well constructed. There were twists and turns but nothing that felt thrown in there for the sake of drama. It all served a purpose and fell into place. The characters themselves were seriously well constructed. Charles was an incredible villain and I can't decide if I liked him or was frightened by him. Paul himself wasn't necessarily the best character but he was an amazing narrator. All the characters were interesting and awesome. The scares were incredible, the laughs were great, it all was just great. 


I'm sure you're wondering why, if I liked this book so much, why only 4 1/2 stars? Why not the full 5? Well, it could drag a little. Paul's writerly style, while awesome and poetic, could get a bit monotonous at times and I'd find myself skimming. It picks up fairly soon, but the first couple of chapters, while not bad by any means, did take away from the book as a whole. 


Final rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Really good, definitely recommend and will probably buy since payday is Friday. 

Reading progress update: I've read 54 out of 250 pages.

Nod - Adrian Barnes

Just go to through the most awkward yet well written sex scene I've ever read. I feel uncomfortable now. I think I wanna be celibate now.


That said, I'm liking this book. Very interesting and unlike anything I've read before.


The Twilight Wife

The Twilight Wife - Lisa A. Banner

I'm not saying this book could be a soap opera, but...


The Twilight Wife follows Kyra Winthrop as she recovers from a diving accident that cost her at least four years of her life. Helping her is her husband, Jacob, as they live a charming life on Mystic Island, off the coast of either Seattle or British Columbia, not sure which. As time goes by, though, and as Kyra's memories come back to her, she starts to realize that things, especially Jacob and the nature of her accident, are not what they seem.


This book is advertised as a psychological thriller and it does get there. The last third of the book was awesome and I finished it fairly quickly. The twists were original and while I saw the final twist coming, it was still a good one. Not some weird copout twist. Banner did a really good job of leaving all the clues and connecting them all together in the end. 


The characters were okay. I did like Kyra though she easily got on my nerves in a lot of places, since she reads as really naive and a total pushover. Which, there are people like that in the world, so it was realistic, just frustrating. Jacob I disliked from the start. He was creepy and controlling and it was so obvious. I wish Banner had been much more subtle with him because it is obvious that he's up to something sinister. Part of the reason the final twist wasn't that surprising. The other characters were okay, just nothing really memorable. 


My favorite thing in this book is the setting. I love the sound of Mystic Island. The Pacific Northwest is my favorite kind of landscape and I would love to have a vacation place up there. We're going to the area in May and this book only made me more excited for that. Her descriptions of nature and the island are really incredible and I give her full credit for that. 


The reason I'm giving this book 3 stars is because, enjoyable as it was, it was so dramatic. It reads like a soap opera, especially with the amnesia thing. Most of the book is just Kyra feeling like a burden because she can't remember things she and Jacob did in the past. The plot is there, the execution is just full of melodrama where it makes it hard to get into it as a psychological thriller. For example, the overwhelmingly obvious fact that Jacob is not a great guy. Just a little more subtlety would have done wonders for this book. 


Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars. It's okay. Nothing spectacular, a fun read, and one I might pick up again if I need a quick read but I'm not in a hurry to get to again any time soon.

Freedom: My Book of Firsts

Freedom: My Book of Firsts - Jaycee Dugard

One of my reading goals this year is to read more nonfiction. Mainly true crime but other stuff too. This book falls into the other stuff category as well as being an impulse check-out from the library. 


For those who don't know, Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped in 1991 and was held captive by her kidnappers for eighteen years before she was found in 2009. I was in high school at the time and remember my parents watching the story unfold on the news and talk about it, but I didn't really know what the fuss was about until I listened to a podcast on the case last year. After that I became interested in Dugard and her life and put her books on my "Want to Read" list. Thus, reading Freedom.


Freedom: My Book of Firsts is Dugard's accounts of her life after she was rescued. There's not a particular direction the book takes, just multiple short stories about the things she's seen and done. She does frequently talk about her foundation, JAYC, and the work she does with that, as well as her recovery process. It's a book about who she is now, which is really an interesting perspective to read about. 


The most endearing thing about this book is Duagard's honesty. She talks about some experiences that are really embarrassing and you'd think she wouldn't want to talk about how her horse got her in trouble or her panic over a cancelled flight, but she does and it makes her a real person. She's not just this figure that was on the news, she's a person who I feel like I've gotten to know through reading this book. 


The other aspect of this book is the optimism in it. She really comes across as a happy, optimistic person. So often when I hear people talk about those who have been through a traumatic experience, it's with a lot of sadness and anger and this general tone that nothing can be okay. Living in Salt Lake, I heard a lot from Elizabeth Smart (blurbs in the paper, friends talking about speeches she gave, etc.) and every time she always came across like an angry, bitter person. Which, don't get me wrong, she has every right to feel the emotions she does. Everyone does. It's just really refreshing and much more preferable to hear from someone who lived through Hell go, "Hey, I'm okay. I'm doing okay and life goes on." There's still trauma, of course. Dugard talks about the anger she still feels sometimes and the nightmares and panic she gets as a result of her captivity, but this book seems like her way of saying, You can be okay. Your life doesn't end and you won't turn into this angry, broken person. You can be happy even if something terrible happens to you. Overall, it's a message I much prefer because it is more hopeful. It's nice to know people can be okay.


The biggest drawback to this book is the writing style. Dugard has kind of a childish style and repeats herself a lot. The stories are also not told chronologically, 'cause each chapter seems to have been written at different times while she was thinking of it. I didn't mind it too much, because it did make her come across more genuine and like she was talking to me, rather than me reading what someone else wrong. I just wish an editor had guided her just a little bit more so it could be more polished, since there were times where I was like, "You've said that three times already, I know that this happened". It could be just me though.


Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Overall I really recommend reading this book, especially if you're curious about Dugard and her story. It's a great story and made me smile in more than one place. 

Puns and Death

Dead, Bath, and Beyond: A Victoria Square Mystery - Laurie Cass, Lorraine Bartlett

This was a fun read. It was light and silly and kinda Lifetime-y movie at times, but I enjoyed it. 


Dead, Bath, and Beyond follows amateur detective Katie as she tries to figure out who killed her former boss and planted his body in the bathtub of her friends' Bed and Breakfast. Along the way, she must juggle her struggle to balance her priorities in life, a new manicurist next door who's fumes are stinking up her shop, and a messy love life. 


There's a lot to like about this book. The characters for the most part are lovable and relatable. I particularly felt sympathetic to Katie's struggles with her boyfriend since I had some relationship troubles myself while reading it. She's kind of a frustrating protagonist at times, like you want to shake her and be like "stop being so stupid!", but it was in a relatable way. It was the kind of stupid you'd expect from an amateur detective. She's actually very smart in other ways. I also liked Ray. He was pretty funny. 


The plot was also pretty solid, which was impressive since there was a lot going on. At the end it all wrapped up nice and neat, which I was pretty impressed by. Bartlett builds everything up well and it has a solid foundation. I didn't feel cheated by the reveal of who-done-it in the end and I actually was able to keep up with most of the clues, which I enjoyed. 


There were some faults to the story. The story got a little melodramatic sometimes. Like, it felt like a Lifetime movie. There was also a lot going on in it and I feel some of the plot points got in the way. Like, there's the murder, there's the new nail lady, there's Katie's personal problems, there's her relationship problems, etc. I feel like if one of those elements had been taken out, the story itself would have been a lot tighter and more enjoyable. There were also so many characters that some did come across as shallow, giving kind of an impression of "why are you in this story?". So it just needed some trimming down I think.


Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars. It's a fun read and I'd be happy to read it again while on vacation.


Final thought: The cats were the best part. 

Reading progress update: I've read 12 out of 304 pages.

The Twilight Wife - Lisa A. Banner

This was on the New Fiction shelf at the library and the premise sounded interesting to me. Plus I had checked it in several times before so I figured I might as well read it. Maybe I'm just in a mood tonight, but the first chapter has left me with an uneasy feeling, as if this book is headed for a dark direction. I'm looking forward to finding out.

Reading progress update: I've read 129 out of 528 pages.

We Have Your Daughter: The Unsolved Murder of JonBenét Ramsey Twenty Years Later - Paula J. Woodward

I don't think I'll be finishing this one.


It's not bad. a lot of the information is interesting. My problem is it's not meeting up to my expectations. I thought this would be a neutral look at the case and present information no one has seen before. Instead it seems to be an extensive defense for the Ramsays and most of the information is old news.


If I had known that before going in, maybe I wouldn't mind or maybe I wouldn't have checked it out in the first place. But I just feel kind of disappointed in it and I have other things I'd like to read. It's not due until the 19th so I'll hold onto it until then. Maybe I'll change my mind. Probably not but maybe. 

A Natural History of Hell

A Natural History of Hell: Stories - Jeffrey Ford

Saw this one at the library. I like stories having to do with demons and the supernatural, so I thought it would be worth a try. Since it's a collection of short stories, I'll rate each story and the average of that will be my final review. Overall though I liked these stories. Ford has a good imagination. 


1. The Blameless: 4.5 out of 5 - Really silly and I LOVED the concept. The idea of people having exorcisms as part of a fashion trend was ridiculous and amazing at the same time. It felt like an SNL skit, which I liked. It did get a little too silly at times, more than I think Ford aimed for, but I really enjoyed this story. 


2. Word Doll: 3 out of 5 - It got better as it went on. I liked the idea of the Word Dolls and the image of Mower Manc was spooky. Got a little two dry at points and it could have been a lot spookier than it ended up being. 


3. The Angel Seems: 5 out of 5 - The imagery and mythology of this one was just amazing. The whole thing read like a fairy tale and I really enjoyed reading it. I found it to be a great story.


4. Mount Chary Galore: 2.5 out of 5 - I liked the writing style and the voice of this piece a lot, but the story itself was just all over the place. Didn't feel like it had much focus. 


5. A Natural History of Autumn: 3 out of 5 - It was written really nicely and I liked the Japanese demons it presented. Definitely a different perspective. It got a little out of hand though and I think it needed another draft before publication. 


6. Blood Drive: 2 out of 5 - I actually read this one before in it's original publication After. I didn't really like it then and didn't bother rereading it now. It's written well enough and the concept is decent, it just reeks of political agenda, which ruined the story for me. Made it feel cliche/run of the mill, which made it overall lackluster.


7. A Terror: 2.5 out of 5 - This is based on my favorite of Dickenson's poems, so I found it a little disappointing. Parts of it were very good, especially the description of Death. That said, the story was all over the place and didn't run very smoothly. 


8. Rocket Ship to Hell: 4 out of 5 - This one was fun and creepy. Space frightens me so it hit on that fear rather well. It could ramble a bit though and needed some fine tuning, but overall it was nice. 


9. The Fairy Enterprise: 4 out of 5 - Awesome concept and it felt like a fairy tale while I was reading it. Felt a little too on the nose at points but overall it's a fun, creepy story. 


10. The Last Triangle: 4.5 out of 5 - Really liked this one. The characters were good and I like the perspective of Thomas, the recovering addict. I also liked the way magic was used in this story. The end was kind of confusing but over all it was really good. 


11. Spirits of Salt: A Tale of the Coral Heart: 3 out of 5 - A cool story, felt like a myth in the way it was told. Got kind of boring at points though and I wish the story had gotten to it's bare bones sooner and more clearly. 


12. The Thyme Fiend: 5 out of 5 - I really liked this story. It was a sweet story, a mystery, and just written really well. This one is probably my favorite story out of the whole book. 


13. The Prelate's Commission: 3 out of 5 - I liked the mythology of this one and the way the Devil was characterized himself. It got confusing at many parts though and was a little wordy at points. Could have used some trimming. 


Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. That's what the math tells me, anyway. A good book if you're looking for some fun, supernatural stories. 

Reading progress update: I've read 10 out of 304 pages.

Dead, Bath, and Beyond: A Victoria Square Mystery - Laurie Cass, Lorraine Bartlett

I know. Why did I check this book out when I have so many others to get through?


The answer: I have no impulse control and the pun on the cover and the cat were too hard to resist. 


I don't think I've ever read a true cozy mystery. I think this'll be fun.


Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight - Travis Langley

So, since I was a kid Batman has always been one of my favorite superheroes. Grew up with the cartoons, Subzero was one of my favorite movies, etc. I also love psychology, thus why I majored in it. So when I learned that there was a book on the psychology of Batman's universe, I knew I had to read it. 


As the title suggests, Batman and Psychology is about the psychology of the Dark Knight and other characters in the universe. Topics discussed are the love interests (Bats and Catwoman 5Ever!),  the different Robins and how their relationship with Bruce reflects him, and whether or not a man running around in a rubber suit is "crazy". 


There isn't actually a lot to say about this book. I liked it. I thought Langley did a wonderful job of explaining psychological theories and applying them to the characters in the universe. In particular, I loved how he operationalized Batman, since that's the first thing we learned in my Quantitative Research Methods class. It was very scientific and covered all different areas of psychology, from personality theory to abnormal psychology to attachment theory. It also gave me new insights into many of my favorite characters, which I believe will make reading the comics (something I plan to actually start doing) more enjoyable. 


It's hard to say how accessible this book is to someone not familiar with psychology and it's theories since I had already studied most of what was discussed. I do think Langley explained things in a simple way without dumbing it down. In some ways that did bug me, since I did already understand them and so would have liked less explanation of the theory itself and more on how it applies. So it's a Catch-22, I think, since I think if he had skipped things then laypeople wouldn't understand. There were also sections that got a little dull, just because of how much explanation there was, though it wasn't too horrible. 


Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars. I might not read it cover to cover again for a while, but I'll definitely be referring to it and rereading specific sections. 

Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight - Travis Langley

At long last I am done! At work now so I'll post a more complete review when I get home. Just happy I finally finished.

Reading progress update: I've read 13 out of 528 pages.

We Have Your Daughter: The Unsolved Murder of JonBenét Ramsey Twenty Years Later - Paula J. Woodward

I've been fascinated with the case since I first heard about it a few years ago. It'll be a little tricky reading it with a neutral mind since I do have my theories on what happened, but I'll do my best.