Review: All My Friends Are Dead

I am not really going to review this illustrated 90 page “children’s book” that is more appropriate for twisted parents or teens who enjoy irony because that would be ridiculous! BUT, I had to share this page because it made me laugh so hard:

Click on the cover for my Goodreads review (not that it matters at all!) and here is an entertaining story about how this silly little book came to be: http://www.urlesque.com/2010/08/27/all-my-friends-are-dead-interview/

3.5 stars for a 2 minute escape!

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Audiobook Review: Defending Jacob

Summary from Goodreads: Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.

Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.

Really, not much more to say than that. It was a typical “lawyer book”– complete with a despised ambitious lawyer trying to take the district attorney down a notch, explosive courtroom transcripts, evidence that leads in the wrong direction for a spell and a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. I wasn’t crazy about the whole “murder gene” angle that was explored in the middle (Andy’s father and grandfather exhibit a history of violence that may or may not be an inherited trait passed from generation to generation– lots of scientifically sounding psycho-babble that essentially leaves it up to the reader to determine whether or not Jacob was doomed from birth to be a violent killer) but overall it was entertaining enough. Definitely well written but I don’t think it is going to win any great literary prizes. A solid 3 star read for me– perhaps my fellow Hoarders, who enjoy this genre more than I, may rate it higher. Penny? Liz?

Review: The Double Bind

It isn’t every day that a book throws a Hoarder for a loop.

You’d think that I would see the twist coming.

You’d think that after reviewing so many books, the outcome of this novel would have been predicted.

My mistake, however, was in underestimating Mr. Bohjalian’s talent for yet another well crafted dénouement.

The Double Bind grabs the reader from the start with the horrific attack of Laurel Estabrook, who is targeted by two men while she’s riding her bicycle on the back roads of Vermont.  Understandably, the attack leaves Laurel dramatically changed, and withdrawn.  After her recuperation, she commits herself to a job at a homeless shelter, and occupies herself with her photography hobby.  Her quiet persona consistently reminds those around her of her attack, and they treat her with careful kindness and great empathy.

It’s Laurel’s friendship with Bobbie Crocker, a man who winds up at the homeless shelter, that brings about a new fascination for her.  When Bobbie passes away, he leaves behind a history of mental illness, and a box of photographs (which he would not permit anyone to see).  Laurel suddenly finds herself the keeper of these photographs, and what starts as an interest in Bobbie’s past photography career soon becomes an obsession.  Laurel becomes convinced that Bobbie’s photographs are a map to a dark family secret.  The novel then travels between present day and the Roaring Twenties.  More specifically, the reader begins to move back and forth between Laurel’s quest for Bobbie’s past, and the world of the photographs, which include Jay Gatsby’s Long Island.

I wish that I had had my High School copy of The Great Gatsby for reference a number of times, as I was reintroduced to Tom and Daisy Buchanan, their daughter Pamela, and the renowned Gatsby.  Recalling the finer details of this famous novel would have shed even more light on the links that Laurel made via the photographs, and the heritage that she believed Bobbie to have.  Her conviction that Bobbie’s roots were linked to the Buchanans leads her on a sleuth’s mission, and she stops at nothing to bring the truth to light.

I have to confess that I had moments during this book where I could not figure out how the plot could be resolved.  For the bulk of the story, I had 4 stars in mind for my review.  Then, the book came to its close, and reminiscent to Bohjalian’s Midwives, I was left with a total double take.  He got me again.

Writing more would tip the story’s hat, and you’ll not find any spoilers in this review.  All I can say is thank you to Mr. Bohjalian, for another cleverly written surprise.  5 stars from this Hoarder, and great expectations for his newest book The Sandcastle Girls!

Review: The Girl In A Swing

In my continuous quest to be creeped out by a smart read, I followed a recommendation by my mother, who read The Girl In A Swing years ago (first published in 1980).  To this day, she shudders a little at the thought.

I started this beautifully written story with some reservations; if I could think that the end of Rosemary’s Baby was goofy, then how would this one fare?  How could the celebrated author of Watership Down, Richard Adams, put a shiver up my spine?  His most famous book is about bunnies.  Surely this would be a disappointment.

Wrong.

The brilliance of this novel is in its exquisite prose, and its subtle incidents.  On the surface, it struck me as a quiet story about a ceramics dealer who falls in love with a German woman.  A layer deeper, you notice that cultivated and reserved Alan Desland not only falls for the stunning and wildly mysterious Käthe, he becomes utterly smitten.  Her response is the same.  They marry not too long after their introduction.  They’re hopelessly devoted to one another, and are endlessly passionate.  Käthe moves to England with Alan, and starts her new life as Mrs. Desland.  She fits into his immaculately organized life like a round peg.  She impresses his friends and endears herself to his family.  She learns the ceramics trade with incredible speed, and eventually finds and purchases The Girl In A Swing; an old and invaluable piece that will put to rest any financial concerns the couple will ever have.  A simple life, no?

Did I mention that Alan has a touch of ESP?

Did I mention that Käthe refused to be married in a church?

Did I mention that you’ll start to feel an eerie sense of danger?

Richard Adams’ writing comes close to lyrical as he details everything from the plush English landscape, to an organized family business of fine ceramics, to the fascinating characters who revolve around Alan and Käthe.  It is remarkably easy to get caught up in the details of the novel, without realizing that you’re being led down a path.  When the pieces start to fall together, the quaint quality of the story vanishes.  Ultimately, Adams shares levels of despair and horror so profound, that the book’s entirety leaves an indelible mark on the reader.

This book is not something that should be gobbled up in one sitting.  If you’re a reader who’s in a hurry, best to leave this one for now.  Unless you pay close attention, you’ll miss how the story builds.  You’ll miss how it brings you in, encircles you, makes you feel comfortable… and then proceeds to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand, and fill you with a sense of dread.  There is no gore.  There is no blood.  I have no interest in today’s version of horror, where it’s more important to induce people’s gag reflexes than it is to get under their skin.  This book is proudly the opposite.

Without giving any more away, I will just note that there is a scene in this book that will forever be burned into my psyche.  To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t mind forgetting it.

When I told my mother that, she laughed… because she remembered.

Parting words from Käthe Desland:

‘You heard it, didn’t you?’ she whispered.  ‘You heard it?’

Well done, Mr. Adams.