Mini-Reviews: The ones with shark attacks, monsters, and wars.

It’s been awhile since I wrote a Thursday recap of my reading week. But I need something to help distract me while I’m recovering from kidney stone surgery, so here we go!

Book142Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916, by Michael Carpuzzo (2001, Broadway, 336 pages, paperback). You know how much gory, non-fiction, recounts of  animal  accounts are my jam, so I was more than excited to dive into this one. Reviews from my bookish community raved. The copy on the back of the book used words such as “page-turner” and “gripping” – I found neither to be true. The book is meticulously well-researched and a certain fastidious air is given to establish the moment in history (I could tell you, for instance, which cereals and breakfasts were popular at the time, and who would have served them). However, the pace at which such information is meted out is painfully slow and isn’t worth the payoff. Not with so many other books out there about the same topic. 1 of 5 stars.

Book139The Boy Who Drew Monsters, by Keith Donahue (2014, Picador, 273 pages, paperback). I published a short little write-up about this one not that long ago when I implored you to check out ten scary books that weren’t from the King of Scare, Stephen King. I wrote: I maybe bought this book for myself as a gift from the Easter Bunny, and I maybe did it because after I read the first page in the book store (to make sure I’d enjoy it), I sat down in the aisle and kept reading until Jeff was ready to leave the store. The writing is that compulsively readable. And then I promptly forgot about the book because the Easter Bunny hid it really well, and then I found it, but had to wait for daytime because IT’S ABOUT SCARY THINGS COMING TRUE. And I maybe believe in magic way more than I should. Monsters are vindictive, you guys, and if you don’t believe in them, I’m afraid they would do their very best to prove they were real. Yep, nope – no more drawing in my house. Pencils and paper and crayons – all hidden. But now I’m thinking maybe I should burn them all, just to be safe. 4 of 5 stars. 

Book143Kissing in Manhattan, by David Schickler (2001, Dial Press, 288 pages, used hardcover). Kissing was supposed to be about a bunch of love-starved New Yorkers who all inhabit the same gothic building, their stories connecting a la six-degrees of separation. So the premise sounded great – I just couldn’t get past the writing. It was pretentious and stuffy and just so flippin’ full of itself. The writing was hyper-aware of itself, and couldn’t find a way around itself. So I did what most would – I DNFd. 1 of 5 stars.

Book144Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys (2016, Philomel Books, 391 pages, library e-book). I had to double check the number when I looked up how many pages the book was – there was no way it was nearly that long. The book read like a dream; certainly much more readable than almost-400 pages would suggest. The story is not about a cruise gone wrong- teach me to base conclusions based on cover art – but about a handful of kids with secret, Nazi-defying information as they all race to secure a spot on the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that was supposed to mean freedom, but instead became one of the biggest tragedies of World War II. Compulsively readable, great crossover audience, and a good entry point for the YA set into WWII history. 4 of 5 stars.

Book145I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak (2005, Knopf Books, 357 pages, ebook). I have heard so many good things about this book from so many different corners. I wanted to like it and usually that’s enough to keep your interest going. Usually. It didn’t help this time. I adored The Book Theif, also by Zusak, and was looking forward to some more deep insight into what makes us tick as a culture, what keeps us moving forward (or holds us back). I wasn’t able to find any. Ed Kennedy is an underage cab driver who plays a minor in foiling a bank robbery. After that day, he’s sent cryptic cards with weird messages on them to help him help those around him. It reminded me a bit of vintage Robert Cormier, only not as meaningful. 2 of 5 stars.

Book140State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett (2011, HarperCollins, 353 pages, paperback and library e-book). A bunch of bookish friends and I participated in an informal #readalong, and I had such a good time! And, still, even though it was a re-read for me and knowing what happens in the story, I couldn’t put the book down for the last third. Anyway who has read it completely understands. Want to hear what else I have to say about it? Go read my spoilerific review!

There you have it. A post that only took me….God. Two hours to write. Because I kept nodding off mid-sentence. Hopefully the ones I left in there make sense. Now I’m off to listen to an audiobook until I fall asleep. Thank god for books for getting me through the rough patches, and for bookish friends, who keep feeding me ideas about what I should read next!


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