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Let's Talk About Books

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

Currently reading

Adrian Barnes
Progress: 54/250 pages
The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel
Katherine Arden
Progress: 118/336 pages

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. 


No Electric Sheep Were Harmed in the Making of This Book

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick, Robert Zelazny

Finished this earlier today but then I had to run to work. 


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? follows bounty hunter, Rick Deckard, as he hunts down illegal androids who have escaped to Earth. The androids won't go down without a fight, of course, and they won't go down without raising some serious existential questions in Deckard and the reader. There's a lot more going on in it as well but it's all a little too tricky to sum up nice and neat. 


This book was interesting and overall very enjoyable. I know it inspired Blade Runner, which everyone says I should watch, and I figured I should read the book before I watched the movie. I wasn't sure how I'd like the book but I was pleasantly surprised. The questions of what it means to be human and about empathy in particular were my favorite parts of the book. It got me thinking and while I wouldn't say it blew my mind, it came pretty close. 


There were several scenes in particular that made it impossible to put the book down. Dick had a good way of inspiring tension and horror. When Rick goes to the police department and they're all like, how do you know YOU'RE not an android, I was just like, dude. How do we know he's not? And in fact I kept reading and felt distrustful of Rick, which made me HAVE to know if I could trust him. It was a great way to keep me invested. I also loved the scene where Pris was torturing the spider. I don't like spiders but that scene horrified me as much as it horrified Isidore, which I think was clever on Dick's part. Made us recognize that in fact empathy is what makes us human (maybe). 


While this book was interesting and could be tense, it did have one big flaw and that's it does get bogged down with details some time. The whole concept of Mercerism was strange and was difficult for me to follow in particular. Dick doesn't dumb down anything for the reader, which normally is fine, but what the hell is a mood organ? I think he should have elaborated a little on his details, since without the explanations it bogs down the story and makes it difficult to follow at times. 


Final rating: 4.5/5. Overall this is a really good book and I'd like to read it again. I feel it's the kind of book that needs to be read more than once to really understand it, which is fine with me.


Speak of the Devil

The Jersey Devil - Hunter Shea

So. This was definitely a wild one. Wasn't entirely what I expected and there were many parts that had me going, "Excuse me, what?!" but at the same time it was definitely enjoyable. For a Jersey Devil fan (the monster, not the hockey team), this book was a lot of fun.


The Jersey Devil follows the Willet clan as they face off against the titular monster. Sam "Boompa" Willet had an encounter with the monster sixty years previous that left his whole family essentially cursed. Well now JD is back and he's bringing the whole damn family along for a feeding frenzy that makes Black Friday look like a tame day at the mall. It's up to Boompa and his family and a cryptozoologist to stop them and end the curse once and for all. 


There were quite a few things I enjoyed about this book. The plot was decent and I found the story compelling and difficult to put down at times. In particular I found the horror really good. Nothing that I think will give me a nightmare, per say, but the scenes where people were being swarmed and eaten alive by the Devil and it's babies sent a chill down my spine. In particular I applaud Shae for not being afraid to go there. There is literally a dead baby at one point. Human baby. It's a gut punch and it made the situation even more terrifying. I'm glad he wasn't afraid to write things that were really terrifying, even if they were unseemly or taboo. Same goes for things like animals found splatted on the roads and such. It's a gorey book so if that's a major turn off for you, be aware. If you like that sort of thing, though, I think you'll really enjoy the terror Shae creates.


I also really appreciated his unconventional choices with some of his characters. I mean, who would expect the heroes of a horror novel to be a senior citizen and a completely dorky monster nerd? I laughed a bit at Norm's description, just because as someone who binge watches shows like Finding Bigfoot, he's the last person I'd expect to be a badass killing monsters. 


In regards of what I didn't care for in this book, there were quite a few issues. Now, I almost never say this and, no offense, it's one of the critiques that always makes me roll my eyes when I see people use it, but here it goes: You can tell this book was written by a man. Damn you, Shae, for making me say it. But seriously, there were a lot of sex crazed couples and almost every woman that wasn't elderly was described as having Pamela Anderson-figures and being red-neck fantasy women. I just...It got annoying. One or two described that way, whatever. I'm a curvy gal myself, that's never really bugged me. But every woman? That's just lazy. I don't like lazy.


Another odd moment that felt like it was related to the above issue was quite the description of the Jersey Devil's junk. Not an image I really wanted in my head. Sometimes subtlety is okay.


More plot related, it did feel overstuffed. Not like he was cramming too much into it necessarily just that there was a lot going on that at times it made it more of an action story than a horror one. The detail of the toxic chemicals really didn't fit in. Shae's writing about a really interesting cryptid, one that could be considered demonic itself if that's the story you buy regarding Mother Leeds. Having mutant monster babies really made it feel more like a Michael Bay movie than a horror movie, which is a shame because I do think this guy can write horror. The ridiculous actiony parts made the novel less interesting for me, taking away from my enjoyment of the novel.


There were other plot elements that just seemed there for the sake of making it as action packed as possible. The fact that everyone in the Willet party is basically Rambo and the family has an arsenal was really off-putting to me, though I'll be fair and admit that there are people like that, several of whom are in my family. There were also scenes like the one with the Piney family that just kind of felt thrown in without any real impact to the story. The concert was also along those lines, since it wasn't mentioned until the last fourth of the book. Felt more like he just kept throwing out ideas until he was done, rather than keeping it a simple and clean story. 


Overall I enjoyed the story and all of it's ridiculousness. It was a fun monster story and I'd love to see it adapted into a SyFy channel movie. It really is the perfect source material for them. And I love those movies. 


Final Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. It's a fun, light read, just a little too stuffed and ridiculous at times. Also the Jersey Devil's nasty bits. Really didn't need to know that. 


Final Thought: There was a Predator reference. 99.9% sure he intentionally made a Predator reference. It's ridiculous but I'm not mad either. 


Reading progress update: I've read 152 out of 352 pages.

The Jersey Devil - Hunter Shea

There's a plot twist and it's odd but you know what, I'm up for the ride. 

Reading progress update: I've read 18 out of 352 pages.

The Jersey Devil - Hunter Shea

I don't know if I've shared this before but I'm quite the fan of cryptids. Jersey Devil is probably my absolute favorite. Love it. So yeah, when I learned this was a book I put it on my list and saw it at the library. Once again used my library staff privileges to check it out. I'm excited. 

Reading progress update: I've read 0 out of 244 pages.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick, Robert Zelazny

This book came in on our returned book sorter at work (coolest machine ever, I call it my pet) and I decided to use my library assistant privileges to snag it. It's not very long and I'm in kind of a scifi mood. Seems like the right choice to me.