The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry tells the story of its namesake beginning shortly after his wife died. A.J. comes across as a curmudgeonly old man, but is only in his early 40s when the story begins. A.J. is stuck in a pattern of self pity and self righteousness about proper literary books versus any other type of book out there.

When life circumstances change, A.J. surprisingly changes with them. He develops a community of support that helps him and builds a better community around him, all dedicated to reading. Interspersed in the chapters are educational asides meant for his daughter to read certain books and what each meant to him at the time that he read it.

This was a sweet tale of a man who asks for nothing, but gives so much and ends up getting a family.

Read July 2017

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The Winter Foundlings

Holy hell, The Winter Foundlings is an addictive read. Kate Rhodes takes a horrible story of a child murderer and somehow makes it worse. In The Winter Foundlings, we follow Alice Quentin, a psychologist who transfers to the high-secutrity prison to study the treatment methods for the worst criminals, outside of London. While there, Alice is hoping to meet and study the treatment for Louis Kinsella, a child killer with no remorse, when back in London a child is found murdered in a way that matches Kinsella’s murders.

Quentin must remain impartial and clearheaded as she’s pulled into Kinsella’s world and manipulated by her own mentor and premier crime psychologist.

Rhodes tells the story of Quentin’s investigation interspersed with an abducted child who’s fighting for her life in whatever way she can. The details of the murders are horrific and hard to read, but Quentin’s devotion to them and finding their killer is hypnotizing.

There’s a similarity between this novel and Silence of the Lambs, not that I’ve read that recently, but the feel is the same with a male psychotic killer manipulating a woman investigating a current crime. There’s more of a copycat killer in this novel than in the other. But it doesn’t matter. This story feels so original and is so gripping, I can overlook the similarity.

Read July 2017

The Balmoral Incident

Alanna Knight’s The Balmoral Incident gives insight into a royal getaway with the royal physician and his sister, Rose McQuinn. While traveling with the King gives Rose luxuries she’s not accustomed to, it also leads to several unexpected deaths which Rose cannot help but investigate. With a side detour into the feminist movement of 1905 Scotland, that was mostly a ploy to continue to storyline.

While I enjoyed reading this book, the ending was left hanging for me. It’s probably what would have happened in real life, but this is fiction and someone should have been punished.

Read March 2017.

Finding Me – A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings

Michelle Knight survived the unimaginable. She was held captive by a lunatic for over 10 years in deplorable conditions. In Finding Me, she tells her story of survival from childhood abuse, kidnapping, rape, beatings, abortions, and so much more. Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus were held captive by Ariel Castro in a normal neighborhood where family members and band mates came and went from the same home.

This is a disturbing story for so many reasons, most of which is how alone Michelle is. She came from a large dysfunctional family and when kidnapped spent years chained to the same bed as another person, and now that she’s out, she’s utterly alone. How can anyone cope with what she endured? How can anyone trust? Michelle had very few good things happen in her life that it seems amazing that she’s functioning at all, yet she seems ok. She’s not nearly as resentful as I think she should be. She has a childlike quality to her writing and stories, which makes some of the horrific things weirdly easier and harder to read. This is not someone with a depth of knowledge of the world and yet she knows how horrible people can be and still walks one.

Interesting read. I wouldn’t recommend due to the highly disturbing contents of her life, but I hope writing this book helped her.

Read January 2017

I Let You Go

Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go is a mystery broken into 2 parts all defined by a dark night one November night in Bristol when a Jacob dies in a hit and run accident. How does anyone cope after loosing someone they love.

After that night, we see Jenna Gray escaping from the death by running and hiding from everyone. She ends up in a small coastal town where she rents a secluded cabin. She slowly starts to allow people into her life while still grappling with her nightmares.

Far from the shore, in Bristol, the hit and run investigation hits a stand still. DI Stevens and his subordinate Kate, have a hard time letting go of this crime after no leads are found. Their relationship also changes throughout the investigation as Stevens sees Kate as the young, optimistic officer he and his wife used to be.

Mackintosh brings the reader into this world and then mid way through changes the entire back story of the characters. While we no longer see Jenna as an innocent mother in this case, her story becomes even more sad and pathetic.

Great read with an unexpected twist to the story. All the characters are fully flushed out and have a depth to them not common in mysteries.

Highly recommended.

Read January 2017

10% Happier

10% Happier- How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works- A True Story, by Dan Harris, tells his own story of how he came to mediation but it also serves as a reference for many other religious or self-help books. He includes brief synopsis of what the main teachings are for many of the teachers out there.

I found this book after spending a weekend at a meditation retreat. It was recommended for beginning meditators by several different participants. I was able to read it faster than any other book in the last couple of months. It helped clarify some aspects of meditation that I was working on, like clearing my mind, how to get comfortable, how difficult mediation can be, etc. He includes many helpful types of mediation and I really enjoyed the compassionate meditation, where you focus your compassion on others as part of your practice.

I really enjoyed how honest Dan Harris was about his approach to meditation and how others in his life viewed this new passion of his. He’s helping mainstream meditation and showing how meditation can help with real life challenges.

Great read and exactly what I need in my life right now. Highly recommend for anyone having a hard time turning off their inner voice.

Read November 2016.

Carthage

Carthage, by Joyce Carol Oates, is a crazy story of a seemingly perfect, public family gone awry. When the oldest daughter’s engagement to a PTSD stricken Iraqi veteran ends, it seems like the family will be able to recover. Until the younger daughter goes missing.

She was last seen with the ex-fiance who was later found drunk in his car and blood stains in the passenger seat. Due to his heavy medication and his use of alcohol, he remembers nothing of the last evening. The whole search for the daughter and the conviction of the vet tears the family apart.

It seems like a sad family ending but we’re only halfway through the book. The twist is sad and strange and changes the whole perception of the perfect family.

Great, slow read.

Read October 2016