Becky’s One Hundred and Forty-Seventh Book Review: “Déjà Dead” by Kathy Reichs

“Déjà Dead” by Kathy Reichs is the first book in the series that the television show Bones is based off of. I have been curious about this book for a while and finally got around to reading it. I was pretty underwhelmed with the book to start with but soon found myself absorbed in the story. I found the way that Reichs writes the story to be very interesting and unusual, this probably stems from the fact that she was a forensic anthropologist first and a novelist second. There was a lot of technical language that I found to be confusing and I also disliked the fact that there was so much French in the book. That aside, I did find myself drawn into the world of Dr. Brennan.

“Déjà Dead” follows a forensic anthropologist, Temperance Brennan, who is called in to assist when a body is discovered that is too decomposed for a standard autopsy. Brennan begins to work on the body and soon believes that the murder is the work of a serial killer. This theory is not well received by Detective Claudel who believes that Brennan is just stirring up trouble and will cause unnecessary panic. Claudel spends a lot of time trying to curb Brennan’s investigation and it is only when more bodies start to pile up that he considers her theory.

There were several instances when I was reading “Déjà Dead” where I was taken up by the writing and how powerful it seemed. For example, “I’ve long suspected that many of my memories of childhood are actually drawn from old pictures, that they are a composite of snapshots, a mosaic of celluloid images networked into a remembered reality. Kodak cast backwards. Maybe it’s better to recall the past that way. We rarely take pictures of sad occasions.” (Déjà Dead, loc 677). I remember actually pausing when I read this passage and just reflecting on the words that she had written. I found this happening multiple times when I was reading. “Was he relishing what he’d done today? Was his blood lust satiated, or was his need to kill heightened by the act itself?” (Déjà Dead, loc 1144). Another quote that I really enjoyed was, “The wind had stopped during my labors, leaving an unsettling hush. The quiet pounded on my ears.” (Déjà Dead, loc 2426). I felt this was a quote that anyone could relate to. Reading that sentence I could place myself in Brennan’s shoes.

Would I recommend this book? Not to everyone. I think that there are some people that might find this book to be very entertaining and there are others who dislike having to read something that takes a while to develop. I don’t think this is a book that I will pick up to reread; however I am going to continue reading the series. “Déjà Dead” definitely got exciting after the first third of the book or so. I hope that the series improves steadily.

Becky’s One Hundred and Forty-Sixth Book Review: “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

Every once and awhile, a book comes along that is so fantastic that you just don’t know how to go on with your life when it is over. For me, this was “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. It is a book that changes you when you read it.

“The Book Thief” is told from a unique perspective. The story is told by Death and the story he tells is of a girl he has run into a few times. The story he tells is hers. We meet Liesel when she is on her way to a foster home. She is on a train with her mother and little brother. It is the first time that Death meets Liesel, when he comes to collect her brother. “Yes, the sky was now a devastating, home-cooked red. The small German town had been flung apart one more time. Snowflakes of ash fell so loveily you were tempted to stretch out your tongue to catch them, taste them. Only, they would have scorched your lips. They would have cooked your mouth.” (The Book Thief, pg 13). Throughout the story, Death remembers the colors that he sees and it creates a very visual story telling that I couldn’t help but be captivated by.

Death takes the time to tell Liesel’s story despite the fact that war is a very busy time for him. It was very different reading about WWII from the perspective of Death. It was horrible and fascinating all at the same time.

Liesel becomes a book thief for the first time when she is putting her brother in the ground. The first book that she steals is “The Gravedigger’s Handbook” and she does it almost unconsciously when she sees the book dropped in the snow. Thus begins her life of crime. Her passion for books builds greatly as she discovers the freedom in reading. She also discovers the power that books have and she shares this when she can. “Where Hans Hubermann and Erik Vandenburg were ultimately united by music, Max and Liesel were held together by the quiet gathering of words.” (The Book Thief, pg 248).

Part of what I enjoyed so much about this book is the way I was able to relate to Liesel so well. The way that she feels about books is exactly how I feel about books. I could totally see myself in her shoes. She is a very likable character. “She said it out loud, the words distributed into a room that was full of cold air and books. Books everywhere! Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate shelving. It was barely possible to see the paintwork. There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the gray, the every-colored books. It was one of the most beautiful things Liesel Meminger had ever seen.” (The Book Thief, pg 134). This is frequently how I feel when let loose in a bookstore or my personal library.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely, it was such a good read. I really admire how Markus Zusak writes and I look forward to reading more of his work. I think that reading “The Book Thief” made me see just how war affects the individual. It’s quite different to read about a girl who had the war happen around her as she grew up. How differently it affected her and those she knew. The uncertainties that she was forced to live with. The fear. And through all these trials, she found solace in reading. It was a fantastic read.

 

Becky’s One Hundred and Forty-Fifth Book Review: “House Rules” by Jodi Picoult

“House Rules” by Jodi Picoult is a book that I stumbled upon and had in my possession for quite some time before starting to read it. The copy I own is electronic and on my iPhone; one day, I finished the book I was reading at lunch so I opened “House Rules” for my train ride home. I was amazed at how quickly I found myself sucked into the story. Say what you will about Jodi Picoult, but she certainly knows how to write a captivating novel.

What makes “House Rules” so interesting? The intimate experience it brings to readers in regards to its characters, one of who is an eighteen-year-old autistic boy named Jacob. Being inside his head was astounding. “We understand when someone else is in pain; it just affects us differently than it affects other humans. I see it as the next step of evolution; I cannot take away your sadness, so why should I acknowledge it?” (House Rules, ch6 Jacob, pg 8) The apparent coldness that Jacob functions under is what made his character so interesting to read about. I think Jodi Picoult did a fantastic job with regards to his character.

There are several different characters in “House Rules” that tell the story. First, we meet Jacob and his family. Jacob, his younger brother Theo, and his mother Emma all take turns telling the story along with a few other characters. I really enjoyed focusing on different individuals within one family as well as outsiders. It really lets you get involved with the whole world of the novel.

Seeing the world through Emma’s eyes was a different experience, “I know how to handle their morbid curiosity; it’s their kindness that might break me.” (House Rules, ch1 Emma, pg 14). It really makes you wonder how insanely difficult it would be to handle not just life with an autistic child, but the morbid curiosity of strangers, not to mention their pity. There are a lot of challenging questions raised when reading this book and it really did make you think.

I don’t want to go too deep into what the book was about beyond mentioning the characters because I don’t want to give too much away. I will say that a girl turns up dead and Jacob becomes the main suspect. It was certainly a different read.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, to most people I would; I found the book to be mesmerizing, I couldn’t put it down. That being said, there were some faults I found in the book. For one thing, I thought it ended a little abruptly, but the more I reflected on the book the more I thought the ending worked. What really irked me about the book was how a few characters went on rants about vaccinations causing autism. I almost put the book down when I read that because my frustration level shot through the roof. There was one guy who started this whole theory and he has been debunked thoroughly. Most of his ‘research’ was just made up. Vaccines do not cause autism, not even a little bit. But, if you can get past that ridiculousness, the book is quite a good read. 

 

Becky’s One Hundred and Forty-Fourth Book Review: “Deep Water” by Patricia Highsmith

“Deep Water” by Patricia Highsmith was the most recent book assigned for the Wall Street Journal book club. This is the third book that the club has taken up and while I very much enjoyed the first book (“Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel), the second book (“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” by Ben Fountain) did not pull me in the same way. So I was not sure how to feel about the newest assignment and ended up getting the book from the library and putting it in my ‘stack to read’. It wasn’t until I discovered that I could not renew this particular book from the library that I picked it up to read. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down.

“People who do not behave in an orthodox manner, Vic thought, are by definition frightening.” (Deep Water, pg 18). I loved this quote because it gently lets the reader know that “Deep Water” is a very different kind of thriller. The further you get in the novel, the more true you find this to be. The main character Vic is a very calm, quiet, simple man; one who could easily be described as an introvert. Melinda, his wife, is his complete opposite. She is loud and active and always making herself the center of attention. They have an odd relationship to anyone outside their home and even their young daughter Trixie does not find anything unusual about her mommy bringing home a new gentleman every few months.

An unsolved murder is the catalyst that changes everything in Vic and Melinda’s world. As a joke, or perhaps because he really did want others to believe it, Vic softly spreads the rumor that he was the one who killed the victim in the unsolved murder. Nothing comes down on Vic for this rumor but Melinda’s gentlemen callers stay away for a time. During this time, Vic finds himself even cheerier than usual and this spell is only broken when the murder is solved. Now Vic’s secret reputation is gone and Melinda is once again acting up. What happens next was part of what made the book so easy to devour. I don’t want to give too much away because the book was so exciting but I will say that the main character was eerily calm throughout the book no matter what the circumstances were that you couldn’t help but see him in a positive light. He was a really fun character to follow and it was equally entertaining to read about his thoughts regarding what he believed others were probably thinking of him. “He’d just tell her that he thought Vic Van Allen was cracked, judging from the snails in the garage and from his insane enthusiasm for glaciers.” (Deep Water, pg 139).

I couldn’t get enough of Patricia Highsmith’s writing and I found so much of what she wrote to be true. This one sentence I just loved, “There was something demonical and insuperable about typographical errors, as if they were part of the natural evil that permeated man’s existence, as if they had a life of their own and were determined to manifest themselves no matter what, as surely as weeds in the best-tended gardens.” (Deep Water, pg 53). This is how grammatical nerds feel ALL THE TIME! Well said Patricia Highsmith!

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! It was so well written and so exciting that after I finished the book I immediately put it on my amazon wish list and ordered myself more books by Patricia Highsmith. I was happy to find out that she has written about twenty novels. I was less happy to discover that she has since passed away and will not be sharing any more novels with the world. Alas, I will have to cherish the books that she has written but from what I can tell, her books are the kind that you can lose yourself in more than once.

 

Becky’s One Hundred and Forty-Third Book Review: “Bridesmaid Lotto: McMaster the Disaster, Book 1” by Rachel Astor

This is a book that I picked up to read because it was being offered as a free download on ibooks. Sometimes, I like to read a book that requires little-to-no brainpower and that is what I expected when I downloaded “Bridesmaid Lotto”. It seemed like a book that was going to be completely predictable and probably one that I wouldn’t read with any sense of urgency. I surprised myself when I devoured the book.

The premise for “Bridesmaid Lotto” is Josie McMaster, the main character, is entered into a ‘bridesmaid lottery’ by her meddling mother. There is a contest going on for a celebrity that is getting married, she is going to have four bridesmaids pooled from those who pay $10 to enter their names. The appeal? A possible date with the movie star Jake Hall (whose brother is the one getting married). Josie hears about this and thinks it’s crazy and doesn’t even consider entering. Her best friend/roommate is spellbound by the idea and does enter, as do thousands of other girls. It was obvious from the start that Josie was going to win the contest since the title of the book is ‘bridesmaid lotto’. Of course she does win, but the aftermath was different from what I was expecting. Although the plot did follow what I kept expecting to happen, it did so in a way that was still really enjoyable.

Although it seemed rather predictable, I couldn’t help but keep going back to the book. In order to keep her head on straight, Josie decides to keep a ‘disaster diary’. The idea is that anytime she feels like she is letting the experience inflate her ego too much, she can write an entry in her diary about something embarrassing that happened to her. After all, her nickname in school was McMaster the Disaster. I found myself really enjoying these blurbs from her past. They were funny and lighthearted and pretty much stuff that everyone has experienced at one time or another. It kept the book interesting when I thought I would instantly get bored.

I thought that Rachel Astor did a good job developing most of the characters as well. Josie becomes a very likeable person that most women will be able to relate to. Jake Hall – movie star and love interest is just the right amount of down-to-earth coupled with Hollywood lifestyle to make him interesting and still likeable. The supporting characters were fun; I especially liked Mattie although he could have used a little more development. Josie’s mom was a terrible person – the big thing that I was unable to relate to since I’ve only known my own mom who is wonderful. But overall I think it was enjoyable.

Would I recommend this book? Yes – to some. I think that this is a great book for someone looking for a fun read. There isn’t any depth to this book and thankfully, it doesn’t try to force some in. It’s a beach read for sure, but I find myself oddly drawn back to Josie and wanting to know more about her life. Happily, this is the first book in a series so I can find more out about her. I just may.