Mini-Reviews: With vacation reads!

Good morning, Constant Readers! It’s been awhile, but I’m back with a few books, including three or four I read on vacation – you know, when I wasn’t playing Rummikub with my sisters. It was a pretty decent selection…

Book163Imagine Me Gone, by Adam Haslett (2016, Little, Brown, & Company, 368 pages, library hardcover). I picked this book up because it’s supposed to be one of the it books of the year. I almost bought it from the bookstore for my trip because I’ve heard so many rave things. I’m glad I only borrowed it and read it before I left. The story is great, the tension is great, I cared (ish) about the characters. It’s very Franzen-esque. But, with all that said, I couldn’t lose my feeling of reading. It felt like a chore. There was no rabbit hole. It was work, every dang page. So all the great psychological insight wasn’t doing it for me when I had so much mucky slogging to do. 2 1/2 of 5 stars.

Book164The Man in the Monster: An Intimate Portrait of a Serial Killer, by Martha Elliott (2015, Penguin Press, 336 pages, digital loan). Yes, yes, yes – another dark and twisty book. It was how I was coping with all of the craziness going on in Turkey and France and German and everywhere else. I submerged myself. This book certainly fit the bill: there was explicit descriptions of the crimes (Michael Ross raped and killed eight women and stalked countless others), interviews between author and Mr. Ross, and an overall gloom to the book. One of the important questions Elliott struggles with is whether it’s okay for her to see and accept this serial killer as a person. I agree with her that it is okay, and her mission to talk to Mr. Ross extensively in order to help us understand the mind of a killer is valiant. The degree to which the author begins to befriend and care for Mr. Ross is not. It interfered so much, I couldn’t look beyond it; it colored every single thing I read. If you’re looking for true crime for whatever reason, I recommend skipping this one because I just can’t trust anything Elliott wrote because of the bond she developed with her serial killer. 2 of 5 stars.

Book165The Other Side: A Memoir, by Lacy Johnson (2014, Tin House Books, 222 pages, paperback). This was my plane read for my way to vacation, and I devoured it. It’s another book not for the faint of heart: the author, Ms. Johnson, was kidnapped and raped by an ex-boyfriend and spent most of the book discussing and analyzing the fallout from that tragedy. Her analysis was always sharp and on point, but never depressing even though she suffered greatly from depression herself. I liked her matter-of-fact tone when discussing sensitive details because a lot of victims will read that and feel not only un-judged, but less alone. There was also a lot of philosophical and political discussions of body and self and whether it’s ever okay to criticize or judge another. It was an absorbing read, much more intellectual and philosophical than I thought. 4 of 5 stars.

Book166The View from the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman (2016, William Morrow, 522 pages, very large paperback). This was the perfect book to read at night before bedtime while on vacation. It’s a collection of non-fiction essays and reviews, making one or two (or ten) the perfect size for me before I fell asleep. The reviews were largely about books or movies for which I haven’t yet had the pleasure, so those weren’t really my bag. The essays about reading and library, though – god, I started wondering how I could tattoo the entire essay on my body. Highly, definitely recommend for those essays alone (and the rest of the collection if you’re a sci-fi or horror fan). 3 1/2 of 5 stars.

Book167Marilee, by Mary Francis Shura  (1985, Scholastic, 368 pages, paperback). I needed a comfort read when I got home, and this re-read fit the bill. It’s a wonderful little historical romance, with our title character journeying across the ocean from London after her father’s death, and finding a new home with her brother in the brand new settlement of Jamestown, Virginia. It’s formulaic, yes, but the characters are vivid, the plot is strong, and I get carried away by it every time. (And I’ve read it about twenty times.) 5 of 5 stars.

Book168What She Knew, by Gilly Macmillan (2015, William Morrow, 512 pages, digital). Another crime thriller I couldn’t put down (I’m beginning to worry!). This one was about an English mum who let her 8-year-old run ahead of her at the park and he disappears. I didn’t guess who did it – or anything else about the ending – but I did guess an important bit that happens in the middle, so I was happy. It was a fun read if you’re looking for a good beach book. 3 of 5 stars.

And that’s it! I’m working on Dreamcatcher for my SK Re-Read Project and a book about hoarders and if I’m really good, I get to start my thriller I bought for vacation but never got to. Because rum slushies.

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