Normally I’ve avoided discussing my personal life on this blog for several reasons: keep this website semi professional, uphold the privacy of other people, and my mission that this blog be centered around books. However, I must digress for a little bit to explain my absence. It’s not that I haven’t been reading, quite the opposite in fact. Before my recent literary marathon, I moved back to the US a month ago, adjusted back to American culture, and went through two heartbreaks.
I felt (and still do to a degree) sorry for myself and sorry for the people I’ve hurt and have had these crushing feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and failure on my shoulders.
Where there is loneliness and lamentation, literature awaits with open, non-judgemental arms. It was thus that I admitted defeat in the romance department and threw myself into the world of words.
With thanks to the reader for bearing with me through my tangent, I present to you what I’ve read so far this summer:
- Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
While I awaited my mother’s arrival at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, I had about eight hours to kill. Within that time, I read this book on my I-Pad. It was that addictive.
Short summary: a woman wakes up older than she was the day before with no memories. She finds out that she has short term memory loss and amnesia due to a car accident. As she tries to unravel her past and piece together shards of her memories, she starts to realize that not every one is who they say they are and she cannot trust everyone around her.
This book was creepy on many levels and the suspense built slowly, always leaving you wanting more. Highly recommended for fans of Hitchcock and Gillian Flynn looking for a quick summer read.
PS: If you saw the movie already, it doesn’t hold a candle to the book.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
- Help for the Haunted by John Searles
John Searles used to live in the same town as Ed and Lorraine Warren, who inspired the movies “The Conjuring” and “Annabelle.” In this book, it is clear this couple also inspired the parents of the main character. Sylvie Mason’s parents are psychics/paranormal experts that help people who are haunted/possessed. A year after their tragic death, Sylvie tries to piece together the night of their murder as she also discovers her parents had secrets haunting them as well.
This book reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” in that it shows a character looking back on his/her past which at the time seemed magical and at times frightening with a new adult perspective. It’s a coming of age story of sorts that I think many people can relate to. As we age, we see our parents and our child hood memories differently.
Equal parts scary, touching, and tragic, this book is another great summer read.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Another heart pounding, addictive book is “The Girl on the Train.” Fans of Gillian Flynn will also like this book for its unreliable characters, plot twists, and suspense.
Recently divorced and alcoholic Rachel rides the train every day at the same time. At the same stop, she has a quick glance into a couple’s home whom she believes to be the epitome of marital bliss. One day however she witnesses something that shatters her perspective of the couple. With that, the tension builds as she tries to figure out what happened to the couple and weave together her alcohol soaked memories.
If I hadn’t been working full time, I would have easily read this book in a day. There’s a good reason why this book is currently a best seller and that’s because it’s an easy read that hooks you at the beginning and is the perfect book to stay up late on a summer night reading.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
- Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
My mom and brother were discussing this book together until it got to a point where I told them to stop their discussion until I could join. When two people won’t stop talking about a book in my family, I know that I can’t be left out.
A little bit about Nickolas Butler: he is from my home state (Wisconsin) and like all Sconnies, he really really loves Wisconsin. It’s evident throughout the pages as he paints with words scenic pictures of Wisconsin farmlands, small town life, and describes in detail the smells, the textures. As a Sconnie, I could easily picture the scenes and recall the scents. If anything, this book is well worth a read for the great descriptive writing.
A short summary: four friends grew up in the same small town. As they grow up, their lives part ways and intertwine. One friend becomes a famous rock star, one takes over his fathers farm, one gets married and moves to Chicago. Another becomes the town (recovering) drunk.
As someone who grew up in Wisconsin, I could relate to this book. The desire to go out into the world and make a difference, but the constant pull towards home and nostalgia for the past. This book isn’t exactly a coming of age story, but more of an aging story. As the characters get older, leave their home town and come back, you see how their relationships with each other and their town change. It’s a book that I think anyone over 18 could easily see a part of themselves in.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
- Looking for Alaska by John Green
I read “The Fault in Our Stars” and loved it and laughed and bawled my eyes out. This other book by John Green however was somewhat of a disappointment in comparison. While Green does a good job of relating to teenagers and how they cope with grief and growing up, I found this story somewhat subpar. I think teenagers would enjoy this book but as an adult, I was looking for more.
Basic summary: Pudge goes to a boarding school where his life is changed by meeting a fellow classmate, Alaska.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
- An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Another John Green book. Since I’m too poor right now to buy “Paper Towns,” I figured I’d read his other books while waiting for my library copy. My sentiments about this book were similar to “Looking for Alaska,” an enjoyable book, addresses teen issues and romance appropriately, but not his best work.
Short summary: Colin sets off on an impromptu road trip with his Arabic friend after being dumped by the 19th Katherine he dated while trying to create a formula to predict how a relationship will end.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
- The Fifth Child by Debra Lessing
Just shy over 100 pages, this book manages to pack a punch without wasting a single word. While reading, I was reminded of “Rosemary’s Baby’: a happy couple whose world is turned upside down by a demon baby. However this book is unique in that it is about a couple who wants to have many children. They succeed in procreating right after marriage. When their fifth child is born however, he is…different.
This book is just plain creepy. The way the fifth child is described, both in mannerisms and physically, is sure to give you nightmares. Besides ruining your chance of a good night’s sleep, this book is excellently written. Lessing manages to achieve great character development, build a chilling plot, and end with a bang all without hitting 200 pages. When you’re in the mood for a scary night, pick this up instead of switching on Netflix.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.