Monday, October 09, 2017

The Good Doctor by Damon Galgut

Fiction/Literature

Frank Eloff is a doctor in a poorly funded hospital in remote South Africa. He is coasting in life and career, with his marriage just a signature away from divorce and his career moving nowhere in this small town. When a new doctor shows up for a year rotation, Frank is forced to share his room. Laurence Waters ends up being an idealist, wanting to make a difference in the world. Frank tries to tell him that's not the way things work in this hospital, but Laurence won't take that for an answer. Frank doesn't completely shut Laurence down though. Laurence is able to chip away at Frank's exterior, but it's not just Frank he's fighting against.

An interesting premise, but I'd be lying if I said I understood the ending. The whole book has a pretty depressing feel to it and the final state that everyone found themselves in was probably the most depressing of all. The more things change, the more they stay the same is very true for this book. Though the people of the village weren't discussed too much in the book, I can't help but feel like they were the real victims in this entire story.

First Line: "The first time I saw him I thought, he won't last."

Rating:
(3/5)

Thursday, October 05, 2017

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Memoir

Jeannette Walls had a very unusual childhood. She lived with her 3 siblings, alcoholic dad and artist mother traversing the country, hardly sticking around in a city for very long. Her father dreams of making it rich off gold but can't hold a steady job while her mom has a teaching degree but doesn't want to fit in be pigeon holed in to that lifestyle when she just wants to be free.

The kids are very smart, but not from schooling as they keep moving around and living unconventionally. However they are pretty much left entirely to their own devices. At the age of 3, Jeannette is trying to making herself a hot dog and sets herself on fire, having to go to the hospital. There are at least three times mentioned in this book where one of the kids almost dies due to the neglect of their parents, though it's not presented that way at all in the book. Jeannette clearly loves her parents though by the time she grows up she's completely exasperated by the way they choose to live. I honestly cannot understand how parents who love their children can let them go hungry (by choice) and leave them completely to their own devices so that they risk injuring themselves.

Though Jeannette never presents herself as the victim in this book, it's hard not to come away feeling angry at her parents for her. It's also unbelievable how well the children turned out given the environment they were brought up in.

This was a very interesting and engaging book. I picked it up pretty cheap at a used book sale and it was definitely worth the price!

First Line: "I was sitting in the taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster."

Rating:
(4/5)

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

Mystery

I always pick these books up after a serious or slow read. It's like a little treat to get you ready for your next serious book. I'm not sure whether these can really continue to be called mysteries as there isn't much of a mystery. It's always Stephanie trying to find a bond only to learn that the bond is nowhere to be found. And having no luck with those she can find. Yes, it's the same thing over and over again but it's fun. Would I like some more progression with Stephanie and whomever she picks as her boyfriend? Absolutely. But chances are I'll still read without that.

First Line: "'I don't know why we gotta sit here baking in your car in the middle of the day, in the middle of the summer, in the middle of this crummy neighbourhood,' Lula said."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

In the Woods by Tana French

Mystery

In the small Dublin suburbs, Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox are called to the scene of a murder, where a young girl was raped and murdered. It just happens to be on the edge of the same forest where, as a child, Rob was playing with his two best friends and they disappeared while he was found covered in blood with no memory of what happened. This case stirs up memories of his childhood and that horrible day when his friends went forever missing. As Ryan and Maddox investigate what happened to the young girl, they find something amiss with the family. Is there abuse in the family? Was it one of the parents that killed the child?

This is two mysteries in one as we unfold what happened to Rob as a child and what happened to the murdered young girl. We also learn of the relationship between Maddox and Ryan, which is abnormally close for how short a period the two have known each other and how they work together. The first chapter grabs you instantly and makes you hungry to learn what happened all those years ago. I was actually more intrigued by that mystery than the child mystery, which was pretty standard murder-mystery story fare.

The ending is where this book died for me. I don't mind there not being some resolution but literally nothing was resolved in this book. There's a relationship left off the rails, one mystery is solved and the other isn't, and the one that is solved has a shitty (though realistic) ending. One of those and maybe even two of those would have been ok with me but all three was a let down.

First Line: "Picture a summer stolen whole from some coming-of-age film set in small-town 1950s."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald

Fiction/Literature

The Piper family on Cape Breton starts when James meets 13 year old Materia. The two fall in love, despite Materia's family who wants her to marry a good man from Lebanon rather than a local English boy. The family disowns Materia and she's left on her own with James to start their family. She gives birth to a beautiful baby named Kathleen. James and Kathleen instantly connect but Materia can't find love for this child. As father and daughter grow closer, Materia realizes that James' love for his daughter may not be natural fatherly love. Materia takes it upon herself to keep Kathleen safe from her father.

Two more girls are eventually birthed; Mercedes and Frances. Lily also is born, but does not survive. As Kathleen grows older, she shows talent for music and is a beautiful singer. James sends Kathleen to New York for voice lessons but gets an anonymous note stating the child is in danger. James immediately brings home Kathleen, who is pregnant, and eventually gives birth to Lily and Ambrose. Ambrose dies but Lily thrives despite having Polio as a child.

Lily is raised as a sister to Mercedes and Frances. At times, it's as if they have no father. Mercedes being the mom to the other two, Frances being the rebel, and Lily being innocent.

The books starts off very interesting, with a lot of drama. The first half of the book plays out with a common problem and tension on whether James will keep his hands of Kathleen. However once Kathleen is out of the picture, the book starts to fall apart for me. It becomes chaotic with too much going on, many things that I don't understand why they are happening. I had to google a synopsis of the book once I finished to understand why Frances was acting out. Once getting the answer to that, I still didn't understand why. The book ended in a confusing, muddled mess for me, which is too bad since the first part was quite engaging.

First Line: "They're all dead now."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Saturday, September 09, 2017

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

Memoir

Jaycee Dugard was 11 years old when she was kidnapped by a stranger and kept in a shed in his backyard for 18 years. During this time she was sexually assaulted and ended up giving birth to two children while captive. She was very dependent on her captors (husband and wife) and critical of how the system let him get away with this for 18 years when he was a registered offender.

This book very simply tells Jaycee's story, focusing primarily on how she was kidnapped and her first few years in captivity. It seems that after a while, everything just blurred together for her and there wasn't much to tell about her last years there.

Some chapters have reflections that tell the reader what she has learned from her therapy since that time. I'm surprised at how normal and well adjusted she seems to be now. However, the writing is very very simple, which matches the grade level that she last was before she was kidnapped. This book was written quite soon after Jaycee was back in a normal life. As mentioned, she seems to have adjusted very well, but I feel like this book would have been better with another year or two of normality under her belt, which would have given her even more perspective on what happened to her.

First Line: "Let's get one thing straight!"

Rating:
(3/5)

Saturday, September 02, 2017

The Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Alder-Olsen

Mystery

In the forth book of the Department Q series, Detective Carl Mørck and his rag tag crew of Assad and Rose are back to solve cold cases. This time, they are investigating the disappearance of a few people from many years ago. They search for other similar crimes in the same time and find that there's actually a handful of people that went missing all within a few days of each other, and on investigation even further, that there are some connections between them. One of the connections is the head of a new political party called the Purity Party that has some rather conservative views.

As Mørck learns more, strange things start to happen around him. Someone tries to blow his house up, and Mørck knows he is getting close. He has to piece together how all these disappearances are connected.

In addition to Mørck, we also get the view from Curt Wad of the Purity Party and what he is willing to do to protect his legacy, plus we get the view of Nete Hermansen, who is involved with the disappearances. At first, it was difficult to see how these three stories all fit together and I was having problems getting through the book. After about a third of the book I had a better handle on it and enjoyed the story much more.

I don't think this is the best in the series but it was still good. We learned a tiny bit more about Assad, who is definitely the best character in the book.

First Line: "The feeling could get the better of her in an unguarded moment."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Death Factory by Greg Iles

Mystery

This short novella is an add on to the Natchez Burning trilogy from Greg Iles. In this book, Penn Cage's father has had his heart attack and is called to the hospital. While family members come in from around the USA, Penn ends up driving his uncle around in a car so his uncle can explore his old town of Natchez.

Penn tells his uncle of a story from a certain part of Texas called the Death Factory because of the volume of death row cases. The story is told entirely as Penn speaking to his Uncle. It's about a case of a young girl who is raped and the accused gets a super easy plea deal due to the lab screwing up. A different worker from the lab tells Penn about the error and Penn tries to right the wrong.

An interesting little book. I would recommend reading it after the Natchez Burning trilogy.

First Line: "When you're told that your dying father has something important to say to you before he passes, two feelings flash through you: first, the sense that you're in an Alexandre Dumas novel, that some momentous family secret is about to be revealed - the lost inheritance, your true paternity, something like that."

Rating:
(4/5)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Charlemagne Pursuit by Steve Berry

Mystery

Cotton Malone's father died when he was a child. He was the captain of a submarine which malfunctioned and was never able to be recovered, during an expedition to the Antarctic. As an adult, Cotton knows there is more to the story but has never been able to find out what happened, until now. His friend in Washington provides him with classified information stating that there was never a recovery mission except for a handful of Navy personnel. The sub was supposed to find evidence of a very early super culture, one we know nothing about.

Once Cotton gets this classified information, he is almost immediately assaulted by two people. Other people want this information two.

Cotton finds twins whose father was also on the sub and they want the truth as much as Cotton, but possibly for other reasons. The search takes them from Germany to France down to the Antarctic.

This book lays out its premise as a search that Charlemagne created. I had never heard of him and knew nothing so I'm not sure if this was why I couldn't appreciate the quest or whether it was the author's fault for making it rather convoluted. The suspense wrapped up in the last quarter of the book but the first third was tough to get through.

First Line: "The alarm sounded and Forrest Malone came alert."

Rating:
(3/5)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunrise at Kusatsu Harbor by Dan Maloney

Fiction

Mieko and Tori are young lovers, determined to spend the rest of their lives together when WWII starts. Mieko is sent off to work in a prisoner camp in Japan and come up with a weapon that the Japanese can use to end the war. While Mieko is at the camp, the bomb is dropped on his home of Hiroshima. He sneaks out of the camp so that he can go home to see if his family or Tori has survived. Tori did survive, and starts making her way to the camp to find Mieko as he's the only one she has left. The two end up missing each other and then the Nagasaki bomb is dropped, which severely injures and disfigures Tori. She decides she can never be with Mieko because he will only feel sorry for her and Mieko decides he must make the Americans pay for what they did and goes to the USA.

This book is a short one about love and forgiveness. It's a nice love story and the message of forgiveness is quite strong, on both the Japanese and American side. There's a twist at the end of the book that I didn't mind but can understand why some would not like it.

First Line: "I have always loved my wife."

Rating:
(4/5)

Friday, August 11, 2017

MonkeeWrench by P.J. Tracy

Mystery

A couple is killed in a church and when the officers arrive at their house to investigate, they find the house completely booby trapped. An officer dies trying to get in to the house and the police wonder why an elderly couple has a home rigged up so well. They soon find out that this family has moved from city to city, changing their name every time they moved.

At the same time, a jogger dies in a park with no evidence and then the next day a girl dies posed on a statue of an angel. The police are contacted by software company Monkeewrench, who have posed these exact crime scenes in a new video game of theirs. The problem is that there are many more murders in the game and at one a day, the cops need to figure out who is up to these before many more people are killed.

The cops in this book were good characters with interesting personal lives to transition between major plot points. It wasn't too hard to figure out who the murderer was as there were pretty limited options. There was also some unnecessary romantic tension that took a little away from the book. Overall a good debut though.

First Line: "The brandy had been absolutely essential."

Rating:
(3.5/5)