Archives

“The Night Strangers” Book Review


Author: Chris Bohjalian

Publisher: Crown Publishers

Type: Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Thriller

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Chris Bohjalian’s creepy thriller tells the story of the Linton family: Chip, Emily and twin ten-year-old daughters Garnet and Hallie. The Linton’s have moved to New Hampshire for what they hope will be a fresh start for their family, following Chip’s tragic plane crash of his regional jet into Lake Champlain. For Chip, the day started off like any other, with a normal taxi and take-off; unfortunately, the flight quickly went wrong when the plane hit a flock of geese causing dual engine failure and the inevitable crash into the lake. Despite Chip’s best efforts to safely land the plane, a la “the Miracle on the Hudson”, the majority of the passengers and crew aboard his flight die upon the initial impact or shortly thereafter due to drowning.

While Chip works to cope with the crash and discern what the ghosts who now haunt him want, Emily and the twins find themselves the center and focus of a group of herbalist women who are viewed as being witches by others in the town. As the ghosts push Chip closer towards harming his own family, Emily finds that not only does she need to protect her children from the father who has become distant and a stranger in their own home, but also from the neighbors whom she kept telling herself were just a harmless group of herbalists, yet are showing themselves to be anything but.

Thoughts:

From the very first sentence to the final page of the book, I was hooked on The Night Strangers. I found the depiction of the crash to be both engaging and wonderfully described, so much so that it caused me to reflect on my training as a flight attendant the different scenarios I’m trained for, to think about what kinds of actions I would be performing in that scene as part of the cabin crew. As I followed the family in their journey to their new town and house, I couldn’t help but pick up on what I viewed as influences on the author from other pieces of literature. The haunted house with whispers in the dark to the father, slowly driving him mad and pushing him towards murder made me think of both The Amityville Horror  and The Shining; I further thought of The Shining in the depiction of the twins. Although Garnet and Hallie are in no way shape or form as creepy as the twin girls in The Shining, there was still something about them and the keen interest the women of the herbalist club took in the girls that made me feel that there was something possibly supernatural within the girls themselves.

Anyone who has read a book by Chris Bohjalian will tell you that he is an amazing writer who really brings his characters to life and has an unbelievable knack for writing the female voice, but of all the books I have read by him I think that this may be my favorite in how he tells it. Most authors will tell and entire story in either first person narration, or third person; in The Night Strangers, Chris not only utilizes both first and third person narrations, but he also incorporates the second person narrator which was a truly unique and enjoyable method of storytelling to encounter as the reader. For those who are not familiar with second person narration, it is typically encountered in how-to books and cook books, for it’s when you as the reader are told what to do. In The Night Strangers, the second person is used when the reader is alone with the father, Chip. In these scenes, the reader is made to feel as though they themselves are Chip performing the different actions throughout the house. These scenes were some of my favorite parts of the book as it made me more sympathetic towards Chip as I was literally placed into his shoes.

In the end I was very satisfied with The Night Strangers, in no small part because it was an interesting and unique read which held my attention, but also because of how it was told. The only thing I had to complain about, it you can even call it a complaint, was a brief section in the book when Chip is reflecting on how if he hadn’t had the crash, he was on track to go from being the Captain on a regional jet to one day flying a Boeing 777. The issue I had with this is that that’s not how it works. In the airline industry, regional pilots can only transition from a regional plane (United Express, American Eagle) to a mainline aircraft (Airbus A319/A320 and Boeing 777, 747, etc.) if they interview with a mainline carrier (United Airlines, American Airlines) and are hired by that mainline airline. This was such a minor issue, and one that unless the person works in the airline industry or has family who works in the industry, the average reader wouldn’t even pick up on this, which I do recognize.

Despite my nitpicking of a truly minor detail to the larger story as a whole, I continue to be an avid fan of Chris Bohjalian. I will continue to read more of his books, and I’ll probably even return to this story at some point as I know that there are things I will pick up on with future readings.

 

 

Advertisements

“Raven Song” Book Review

Displaying Cover.jpgPhoto courtesy of: Author Assistant

Author:  I. A. Ashcroft

Publisher: Lucid Dreams Publishing

Type: Dystopian, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Rating: 🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Raven Song is a post-apocalyptic story in which the world as we know it burned and society has had to rebuild and find a way to survive in the charred remains of the time before. The story centers around Jackson, a smuggler, and a man with no memory of where he comes from. All that Jackson knows is that he is able to see ravens wherever he goes, this despite the fact that ravens are a long extinct bird. In contrast to Jackson is Anna, a woman out of her time. Anna is a woman who went to work one day, only to then wake over a century later in a box. Scared, unable to breathe, Anna finds herself being saved from the box she’s in by none other than Jackson.

What ensues is a story of two humans who despite being from different times, find themselves drawn to one another through an unspoken and not entirely understood connection. With government officials and those who believe in and practice magic working to track them down and do all that they can to either control, or if need be, kill them, Jackson and Anna come to realize just how much they need the other one to survive and to find out who they are, why they’ve been brought together, where Jackson came from, and what happened in Anna’s past that has caused her to be present 100 years in her future.

Thoughts:

I received a free copy of this book from Author Assistant in exchange for an honest review. I really wanted to like this as the premise sounded interesting and like something that would blow my mind. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my expectations. I found it to be painfully slow-moving, and there were many times where I wanted nothing more than to walk away from it never to return; but, I persisted in pushing through in hopes it would pick up and get better. Despite reading the occasional paragraph or even page where my attention was fully captured, these moments of enjoyment did not last long and sooner than I would have like, I was back to plodding my way through the book.

Not only did the plot move way too slow, but I found that it posed more questions than it answered. I know that this is the first book in a series and that this book is laying the ground work for the later books, but it would have been nice is some of the questions that were posed were answered instead of sidestepping the issue and creating more questions. Having finally finished this book, I currently have no plans to finish the series.

“Girl in Pieces” Book Review


Cutting is a fence you build upon your own body to keep people out but then you cry to be touched. But the fence is barbed.” Girl in Pieces

Author: Kathleen Glasgow

Publisher: Random House US

Type: Young Adult, Mental Health, Advanced Readers Copy

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Kathleen Glasgow’s début novel Girl in Pieces is a first person narrative which tells of teen Charlotte “Charlie” Davis whose life is in shambles. At the age of seventeen Charlie is: homeless, a cutter, has a best friend who will spend the rest of her life in a vegetative state, a mother who doesn’t want her, a father who is dead and currently residing in a mental institution. Charlie is a seventeen year old who is broken in more ways than one can count; yet, despite being broken, the reader can’t help but root for her to find a way through her pain and to come out a stronger person on the other end.

When the book opens, Charlie is lying on a hospital lawn reflecting upon the stars shining down upon her: I remember the stars that night. They were like salt against the sky, like someone spilled the shaker against very dark cloth. As the blood seeps out of her veins, Charlie’s story is only just beginning. Over the next first third of the book, the reader is taken within the walls of the mental hospital Charlie finds herself in following a cutting experience which was in fact a suicide attempt. Here, amongst other teenage girls who are dealing with their own forms of addictions, from alcohol and drug abuse to self-mutilation, Charlie begins to take her first steps towards acknowledgment of who she is, where she has been, her experiences and finally to begins to see a way to move forward.

Following Charlie’s stint in the hospital where she meets others who are similar to her, she is discharged and finds herself leaving the cold and pain of Michigan for the warmth and sunny sky of Tucson, Arizona. Arriving in Tucson, Charlie finds work as a dishwasher in a restaurant  along with an apartment. As Charlie fights to remain sober and not to give in to the need to cut, she enters into what evolves into a toxic relationship with one of her coworkers,  Riley, a once famous musician who lost his way to drug abuse. Although the reader can argue that Charlie and Riley love one another and want to save each other, ultimately their relationship fails and they find that they are unable to save the other without first saving themselves.

The final part of the book, can be viewed as a rebirth for Charlie. Like the phoenix rising from its own ashes, Charlie falls and yet is able to climb her way out of the inferno. With the help of her friends and her art, Charlie finally comes to understand what she needs in order to survive and have fulfilling relationships.

Thoughts:

I was extremely fortunate enough to receive and advance readers copy of this book from Random House Children’s Books and I can’t begin to thank them for giving me the opportunity to read this emotionally charged book. From the description of the book and comparisons to 13 Reasons Why and Girl, Interrupted (both of which are stories that I thoroughly enjoyed), I couldn’t help but be intrigued and slightly skeptical about this new young adult story by a début author. Luckily, I need not have been so skeptical as the book was everything I could have hoped for and so much more.

This was a book that I found hard to put down as I recognized that the story was not only tragic and heartbreaking, but beautifully written and one that needed to be told. Although Charlie is a very flawed character and there were times that I wanted to reach out and shake her while yelling “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!?”; I couldn’t help but feel empathy for Charlie, a young woman who had been without any kind of affection for so long that it was the physical pain she brought on herself that allowed her a way to cope with her feelings of worthlessness.

Girl in Pieces is a human story that tells of the darker side of humanity, the story that many in society do not want to acknowledge exists or is even possible. It serves as a harsh reminder that there are teens in this world who are dealing with very real pain who believe that they have nowhere to turn other than to harm themselves in some physical way. In the publisher’s letter to me, they said that Girl in Pieces is “a haunting, beautiful, and necessary book that will stay with you long after you’ve read the last page.” I have to say that I agree with the publisher, I have already recommended it to my book club (a group of women where ages range from 22-80s) as well as other friends. It’s a book that I have yet to stop thinking about, despite having finished it five days ago. The story is raw and emotional and will definitely remain with me for a long time to come.

Girl in Pieces will be published in the United States on August 30, 2016.

 

“Green Island” Book Review

Author: Shawna Yang Ryan

Publisher: Knopf

Type: Historical Fiction

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸. 5 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸  

Synopsis and Thoughts:

Green Island opens with the events leading up to the February 28, 1947 uprising in Taipei which led to decades of martial law in Taiwan. As the streets of Taipei erupt into riots and murder, Dr. Tsai finds himself having to deliver his youngest daughter with the aid of his oldest daughter. Over the course of the next few weeks following the unnamed narrator’s birth, Dr. Tsai is taken from his home and imprisoned for more than a decade. With no memory of her father and her only true knowledge of him coming from family stories and a picture in a frame, it is more than a decade before Dr. Tsai finally manages to make his way home to his family.

Haunted by what he experienced while in prison, and the knowledge that he is still being watched by members of the government, the narrator comes to understand that her father not only is her father not crazy and imagining things, but that her father’s troubles follow her through adolescence and eventually to the United States where she has married another Taiwanese and begun a family. As the world moves into the decades of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and the Vietnam War, the citizens of Taiwan continue to live under martial law and the underground organization fights to turn Taiwan into a democracy. With her husband placing their family’s lives in danger, the narrator is faced with the difficult decision of whether it’s better to aid her husband and his cause, or to help the government in order to curry favors for her family both in the United States and at home in Taiwan. As she ponders what to do, knowing full well her every move is being watched, she reflects on the fact that:

The loss of freedom isn’t a restriction of movement; it’s the unending feeling of being watched.

I received an ARC of this from the publisher as part of Penguin’s First to Read Program, after reading the synopsis I decided to give it a try as it covers a rather large and pivotal span in world history that I knew nothing about. As I read of the events leading up to the 228 Massacre, an event which I knew nothing about, I was reminded, yet again, that my knowledge of Asian history is seriously lacking and I need to work on rectifying that. It was heartbreaking to read of all the families that were torn apart by the government, all in hopes of ridding itself of those who opposed it and its policies:

Thousands of husbands disappeared in those weeks. Sons as young as twelve. Brothers. Friends. What better way to remake society, my mother thought, than to eliminate the teachers and principals, the students, the lawyers and doctors-truly, anybody who had an opinion and a voice? Beyond the river, execution grounds, field after field irrigated with blood, waited to be discovered. Buildings would crush the bones.

 

Although this was an insightful and interesting read, I found that at times the book became weighed down and I was plodding my way through it. It really wasn’t until more than halfway through the book, when the narrator is living in the United States and she is first approached by Mr. Liu to provide information to the Taiwanese government about any plans those who wish to overthrow the current structure, such as her husband, that I finally found myself at that point where I didn’t want to put the book down because I had to know what happened next. Not that I wasn’t interested in the events which took place earlier in the book, but I found myself absorbed and appealed by the fact that the Taiwanese government followed it’s former citizens to the United States and continued to spy on and threaten them with no recourse from the United States government.

I came to not only love these characters but to fear for them and what would happen if any of them were to step out of line. Shawna Yang Ryan has written a beautifully descriptive story in which the reader feels the humidity, fear, love and loss of the characters within it’s pages. I look forward to reading other books by this author, as well as to conducting some of my own research into the events discussed in the book.

“House of Leaves” Book Review

IMG_1021

Author: Mark Z. Danielewski

Publisher: Random House

Type: Horror, Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery

Rating: 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸 out of 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸

Synopsis and Thoughts:

A few months ago I got together with some of my sorority sisters for brunch. Over our plates of eggs, pancakes and salads; as almost always happens, our conversation turned to that of books. The discussion started out with talk about our book club and what books we were looking forward to reading, to book recommendations to one another. It was my friend Shannon who suggested I read House of Leaves as she knows that not only am I an avid bookworm, but a lover of the horror genre in both literature and film. Agreeing that Danielewski’s story of a house that is bigger on the inside with unknown monsters in its dark depths was something right up my alley, I immediately placed it only to be read list on Goodreads.

About a month later, I found myself at the Tattered Cover Bookstore when I came across a copy of the book on the shelf. Squealing with delight, my mother came over to find what I had found that had made me so excited. As I showed her the book and some of the pages IMG_1024 to better display the unique way in which Danielewski crafted his story, I told her that the book had been recommended to me over brunch. I immediately purchased the book with a plan to take it with me on my upcoming trip to Hawaii, as it would be perfect to read on a long flight and while relaxing on the beach.

I did in fact take this book with me on my vacation and began to delve into it, a reading venture which would end up taking me a little over two months to read as it is a rather hefty tome to make one’s way through. IMG_1022

Having finally completed House of Leaves two days into the New Year, I have to say that I my sorority sister Shannon was right that this was a book I would enjoy. I loved both the story of the family and the events which unfold while they are living in a unique and horrific house, as well as the truly creative way in which Danielewski wrote this story. Once I got into the flow of the book and used to having to read the footnotes, go forwards and backwards in the book and turn the book every which way in order to continue reading the story, for there were times when I thought I would never finish it; I persevered and am so happy that I did for I feel as though I really accomplished something. House of Leaves is a book that not every reader would be able to get through nor is it something that would appeal to every bookworm.

The only reason why I didn’t give this a full five out of five rating is because of the very end of the book. I found that the poems at the very end didn’t fit into the flow of the rest of the story. I also felt that the letters from Johnny’s mom to him would’ve been better placed throughout the story to coincide with when the reader first read about Johnny’s childhood, rather than have them all at the end one after the other; granted the inclusion of the letters and all of them coming one after another did help to better illustrate just how fractured her mind was and the delusions she suffered from.

Despite these few items which failed to fully satisfy me, I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed reading this and I am even entertaining reading Danielewski’s One Rainy Day in May (The Familiar, #1), another book which is just as hefty and intricately written of a story.

Reflections on Banned Book Week

Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week Display

As with many avid readers, I have loved books and reading for as long as I can remember. I have many fond memories of my parents reading to me: before bed at night, when I was sick in bed, or when I just walked up to them with book in hand and asked them to read to me. Nightly readings to me turned into my parents teaching me how to read as part of my homework when I was in kindergarten. As I grew and my reading comprehension and vocabulary improved, I found myself wanting to tackle larger and harder tomes, many of which my sister, who is eight years my senior, was reading in her high school and college lit classes.

It wasn’t until I was in the fourth or fifth grade that I first learned about Banned Books Week, an event which has been around since it’s founding in 1982 by First Amendment and library activist, Judith King. My initial response to this event, which is held annually the last week of September, was one of absolute shock and horror. Shock and horror that individuals and groups alike would try to ban a person’s First Amendment right of Free Speech and subsequently the right to read and have access to the book of their choosing. This concept was so foreign to me because my parents had never said that I “couldn’t read a book because of x, y, or z reasons.” When I was in the sixth grade and wanted to read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood all my parents said was to come to them with any questions and we would discuss the book when I was done.

This was something my parents would say to me on many occasions over the course of my informative years. There were even times when my parents or sister would mention or suggest a book that others have taken issue with. It was my dad, backed up by my mom, who suggested I read Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 following my confused tirade about the banning of books in the United States. Written in 1953, Farenheit 451 tells the story of Guy Montag, a fireman whose job it is to set books on fire due to society having determined that books cause “discord and unhappiness.” Since its initial publication, Farenheit 451 has faced numerous challenges and bans, making it a true story of irony. Ray Bradbury was inspired to write the popular book about the harm of book banning after viewing footage of the Nazi book burnings as a child. Needless to say, as a strong opponent of those who would ban books from school and library shelves, Farenheit 451 became to me an instant favorite.

Facebook-20151001-062600

Thus it was due to my initial introduction to Banned Books Week that I have made it a point to read at least one banned or challenged book during this week every year. This year, Banned Book Week runs from September 27th – October 3rd and the focus is on young adult books. Young Adult books as the theme was chosen because, as the Chair of the Banned Books Week Committee, Judith Platt, said: “Young Adult books are challenged more frequently than any other type of book. These are the books that speak most immediately to young people, dealing with many of the difficult issues that arise in their own lives, or in the lives of their friends. These are the books that give young readers the ability to safely explore the sometimes scary real world. This Banned Books Week is a call to action, to remind everyone that young people need to be allowed the freedom to read widely, to read books that are relevant for them, and to be able to make their own reading choices.” http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/node/8805

As it is, six of the top ten most challenged or banned books in 2014 fall into the young adult category:

  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  2. Persepolis by Marianne Satrapi
  3. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  4. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  5. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robin Harris
  6. Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  7. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  9. A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard
  10. Drama by Reina Telgemeier

http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10

With these titles in mind, it is my hope to read three of the six books (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Drama) not only to add to the number of books I read in a year but also to show my support of Banned Books Week. I continue to show my support of banned books by checking banned books out from my local library, by purchasing books that have been banned or challenged, by having discussions about these books with other readers and by attending Banned Books Week events at the library and book store.

#WhyIRead

#Pages4Progress

#Pages4Progress

In honor of this year’s #Pages4Progress campaign, a program which through the sponsorship of World Education and the readers of the world who are working to promote literacy and make education more accessible around the world, that I would take this time to reflect on #WhyIRead.

Firstly, I read because when I reflect on my life and childhood, I have nothing but positive memories of being read to by my parents at bedtime and when I was sick. I remember being introduced to such childhood classics as: If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Joe Numeroff, the fairytales of Hans Christian Anderson, and the wonderfully entertaining rhymes of Dr. Seuss. As I grew and learned to read myself, I read and re-read The Mouse and the Motorcycle trilogy by Beverly Cleary, The Indian in the Cupboard series by Lynne Reid Banks and Encyclopedia  Brown books. I was fortunate, in that my parents never restricted my reading, dictating what I could or could not read, instead my parents encouraged my reading and would take me every week during the summer to the library to participate in their summer reading program.

I read for those who are unable to: the children who lack the schools and proper education in which to learn basic reading skills, the individuals who suffer from reading disabilities such as dyslexia and out of frustration, lack of encouragement and help have given up on and turned their backs on learning to read, and I read for those who are told their too dumb and shouldn’t even try.

I read because I recognize that I am lucky to live in a country where the government allows me, a woman, to read and receive and educatuon. I know that there are countries in this world where girls and women are restricted from an education and the influence of books based solely on their gender. I read for those who it is outlawed.

This is #WhyIRead and why I take part in #Pages4Progress.