Becky’s One Hundred and Fifty-Second Book Review: “Inferno” by Dan Brown

“Inferno” by Dan Brown was quite an interesting read. It did take a long time to read, but that was mostly due to the fact that I was reading it aloud with Future Husband on long drives. We had several hours in the car the other day however, and were able to finish it once and for all.

I do like Dan Brown’s work, I think that it is fun and quick to get through while at the same time, it makes you think. “Inferno” is a novel that once again follows Robert Langdon and the crazy stuff he gets mixed up in. This time he has been brought to Florence to help stop a monumental disaster. The only problem is, he wakes up with no memory of how he got where he is, whom he can trust, and what the reason is that he has been brought to Italy. He only knows the clues on his own body and has to trust in the doctor who helps him to escape the hospital in a flurry of gunfire. The clues he finds quickly send him down a path where using his knowledge of Dante’s Divine Comedy, he is able to get closer to the truth.

The novel is full of twists and turns and just when you believe you are figuring out what has happened all the truths you know change. It was an exciting read, despite the fact that I read it over the span of several months.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes, to someone looking for a fun, quick read full of twist and turns. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who doesn’t have a lot of free time. If I had been reading it myself, I would not have put it down until I had devoured it all. It is quite an interesting read full of historical facts tied up with Dan Brown’s own fiction. The only thing I didn’t love about the book was the fact that there was a substantial amount of Italian in there. I don’t speak Italian, so reading it aloud was that much more of a challenge. Either way though, it was a good book.

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Becky’s One Hundred and Fifty-First Book Review: “The 13 Clocks” by James Thurber

“The 13 Clocks” by James Thurber was the most recent book for the Wall Street Journal book club. I have to say, it was a weird book. One of the strangest reads I’ve ever undertaken – and that is saying something. Neil Gaiman recommended “The 13 Clocks” to the WSJ book club and while I haven’t read any of this work before, I am fairly certain Gaiman’s work is going to be strange to read as well.

“The 13 Clocks” is a children’s book although it seems inappropriate for young ones. This is also true of Anderson’s Fairy Tales, and most children books in general from the past. The premise of the story is there is a cold Duke that lives in Coffin Castle with 13 clocks, all broken. The only one with warm hands in the castle is his beautiful niece, Saralinda whom is a few days away from turning twenty-one. There have been many suitors in the past that have traveled to Coffin Castle to ask for the beautiful Saralinda’s hand in marriage. The cold Duke always sets to the men an impossible task to keep Saralinda – the only one with warm hands – his prisoner.

Although the book was strange, I did think that Thurber wrote it well. His words sometimes rhymed but always had a fun rhythm to them. “The cold Duke was afraid of Now, for Now has warmth and urgency, and Then is dead and buried. Now might bring a certain knight of gay and shining courage – “But, no!” the cold Duke muttered. “The Prince will break himself against a new and awful labor: a place too high to reach, a thing too far to find, a burden too heavy to lift.” The Duke was afraid of Now, but he tampered with the clocks to see if they would go, out of a strange perversity, praying that they wouldn’t.” (The Thirteen Clocks, pg 19). I liked this quote because it really portrays how insane the Duke is.

It is a traditional story of good verses evil with a strange twist on it. Prince Zorn of Zorna arrives in town disguised as a commoner, Xingu, to attempt to win the beautiful Saralinda’s hand. The cold Duke sees through his disguise and Prince Zorn is given an impossible task as all previous suitors have had set. Prince Zorn is determined to triumph over the cold Duke.

Would I recommend this book? Not to most people. It was such a strange read. I don’t believe that most people would enjoy it. I wouldn’t pick it up again and I wouldn’t rave about it to others. It was a strange read.

Becky’s One Hundred and Fiftieth Book Review: “A Walk in the Park” by Jane Green

Short stories are not my favorite. I love to get lost in a story and I just find that hard to do with a short story. When you get into it, then it is over. It’s almost not worth reading them at all. That being said, I really enjoyed “A Walk in the Park” by Jane Green.

The main character, Olivia, is out in the country after having lost her job and catching her ‘boyfriend’ cheating on her with her best friend. She retreats to her parents’ summerhouse to lick her wounds. The story opens up on her feeling sorry for herself while out walking with her mom’s tiny dog, Pippin. A devil dog owned by a handsome stranger’s grandmother attacks her dog. The stranger is quick to apologize and make amends. When he inspects Pippin’s injuries he reveals a fair amount of blood, which causes Olivia to faint. When she comes to she finally gets to meet the handsome guy. “He extends a hand, which I just look at for a second, before remembering this is how you introduce yourself outside of Williamsburg, where you just raise a hand with a ‘hey’.” (A Walk in the Park, 39). I think this is a great example of the comedic touch that Jane Green puts into her writing.

Once Olivia has been introduced to William, they get talking and realize they have a spark. He asks her out to dinner and she promises to pick him up since his car isn’t working. When she comes to pick him up, that is when the story gets really interesting. I don’t want to give the whole thing away, but it took a crazy turn.

Would I recommend this story? Yes, I found it to be a lot of fun. I probably would not have gotten a copy on my own; it was available from Book Shout for free. I wouldn’t recommend dropping a ton of money on it though. It was over in a few very short pages. The story was a lot of fun and took an interesting twist, which I always appreciate. It is definitely more of a chic-lit story, so it might not appeal to all audiences, but it was a fun read never the less.

Side note: I just checked and the short story is still available from Book Shout for free. It is also available from Amazon.com as an ebook for free. I do not know if this is an always price or not.

Becky’s One Hundred and Forty-Nine Book Review: “Mother, Mother” by Koren Zailckas

“Mother, Mother” by Koren Zailckas is one of the more disturbing books that I have ever read. That being said, it was a really good read. I’m not sure why exactly having a happy, loving childhood makes me enjoy reading disturbing books so much. I certainly was not disappointed by what I got when I picked up “Mother, Mother”.

Two siblings, William Hurst and Violet Hurst, narrate the book each doing a chapter at a time. I really enjoy this writing technique because I am able to learn how differently each character feels about the same situation and the same people. It was especially interesting to read this book from the perspective of two siblings since the ‘villain’ in the story changes depending on who is narrating. Violet’s villain is their mother, Josephine. William’s villain changes a few times between their older sister Rose who ran away, or their father Douglas, or his sister Violet, or whichever person comes into the story with the goal of separating him from his mother.

William is home schooled because of his recent diagnosis of Asperger’s and epileptic seizers and is very loyal to his mother. Their relationship is a little icky at times. Even though he has been diagnosed with special needs, the amount of babying that his mother does is excessive. She does everything from choosing his clothes, to cutting up his food, to flossing his teeth, to helping him pull up his pants after going to the bathroom. There is a difference between helping someone who needs assistance and making sure that they are completely dependent on you.

Violet is considered the screw-up in the family. She does drugs, she goes through different phases of religious worship, she starves herself, and her most significant rebellion, she doesn’t just do what her mother tells her to do. When we first meet her, she had been hospitalized because she had a psychotic breakdown after doing ‘seeds’. (Having done zero research on this, I am not sure if this is really a thing or not but Violet takes morning glory seeds with the intention of having a hallucinatory experience, similar to LSD). During her drug trip, Violet allegedly cuts William’s hand with a knife that she was waving around. Violet has no memory of doing this or of anything else that went on during the drug trip that resulted in her being locked up. “She’d been evicted from her life and – shitty as her life had been, willing as she had been to throw it away – that still sucked. Hospital life didn’t feel like living. It felt like an airport, some dehumanizing, transitional space where the flights were delayed and most people treated each other with less care than they gave their luggage.” (Mother, Mother, pg 183). Violet has to find a way to determine what happened the night that Will got hurt and what her mother was making up. Her father was blackout drunk that night and doesn’t have a clue. It isn’t until Violet informs him that CPS (child protective services) came to see her in the hospital that he begins asking questions.

It was surreal reading about a father so removed from his home life that he didn’t know CPS had come to the house and didn’t know what happened the night that his daughter had a psychotic break down. It was ridiculous how easily Josephine was able to manipulate her husband to her side or easily blame him for missing something. Josephine is the worst kind of mother and I think that Zailckas did a fantastic job displaying that over and over again. “Violet felt for her father in his confusion, she really did, because she was beginning to understand why it had once felt so good to be thinner than the skeleton in her science classroom. Those old symptoms – that twisting pain in her stomach, the migraine headaches, the heart palpitations, the dizzy feeling that made the whole world look like it was positioned on a slant – had been comforting because she’d known exactly what caused them: lack of food. By comparison, life before starvation was agony without logic, bafflement without any identifiable cause.” (Mother, Mother, pg 169)

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely I would recommend it, but not to everyone. I think that the disturbing nature of “Mother, Mother” would turn a lot of people off from reading it. That being said, it is a really well written book that I could not put down. As long as the topic itself doesn’t turn you away, I think this book would appeal to anyone. I am definitely going to get my hands on more of Koren Zailckas writing when I have the chance.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review

Becky’s One Hundred and Forty-Eight Book Review: “The Demonologist” by Andrew Pyper

“The Demonologist” by Andrew Pyper is a book that I picked up on a whim. It truly was one of those moments when I judged a book by its cover alone. It looked interesting and a quote on the front from Gillian Flynn said it was “Smart, thrilling, and utterly unnerving.” I determined that it was something that had a very good chance of holding my interest so I commenced buying the book with just the faintest idea of what it was about. I am so glad that it caught my eye.

“The Demonologist” focuses around David Ullman who is a professor at Columbia University that specializes in Milton’s Paradise Lost. He is a man whose career is focused on an epic poem about Satan and yet doesn’t believe in anything himself. Then one day a thin woman approaches him. She proposes a job, provides minimal details, and offers a large amount of money. His expertise is required in Venice. He almost doesn’t go, but at the last minute decides it might be fun to get away, just him and his daughter Tess. This proves to be a dangerous mistake.

Ullman goes to Venice with Tess. He leaves her at their hotel and goes to take care of the job. He wanders through the streets trying to take care of what he was hired to do. After a lot of confusing directions, he eventually ends up in a room where he meets a man who has been possessed and he records the whole thing on camera. The confrontation with the demon leaves him confused and shaky. “All at once I’m doubled over, retching onto the bricks. An ache in my bones, angry and unforeseen. It bears a similarity to every other flu I’ve ever had, though there’s something distinct about it in addition to its suddenness. The nearest I can come to describing it is that it’s not physiological, not an illness at all, but a thought. The infection of a virulent idea.” (The Demonologist, pg 63). When he recovers, he knows something is wrong and that Tess is in danger. He returns to the hotel and tries to flee Venice as quickly as possible. That’s when the demons take his daughter. Everyone is convinced that she is dead, but David knows that there is still hope. He has to follow clues from Paradise Lost in order to find her or risk losing her forever to a fate worse than death.

The story shows just how far a father would go to get his daughter back. His love for her is absolute, even though he is a man who struggles to experience happiness in his life; his daughter is the one aspect of his life that makes sense to him. You can see this over and over again in the book. At one point he is looking at a picture of the two of them at the beach. “The pictures shows the pleasure in our being together in the sunshine, on vacation. But it also shows the joy in taking on a task with someone you love, even if that task is too great to be achieved.” (The Demonologist, pg 93)

One thing that I really enjoyed about David Ullman was how different he was from most protagonists. He is a man who has always struggled to feel normal. When we first meet him and the more we get to know him it seems like he suffers from a sort of undiagnosed depression. It was interesting reading about his difficulties connecting with other people and at the same time, his unstoppable drive to save his daughter. I thought that the way he describes having his daughter taken away from him was very well done. It is obvious that Pyper is a father himself. “Missing someone feels like hunger. An insatiable emptiness right at the core of yourself. If I linger here, thinking about her, it will swallow me up.” (The Demonologist, pg 123).

Would I recommend this book? Yes, it was a thrilling read and it was very different from what I had initially expected. I found Andrew Pyper’s writing to be addictive. I also enjoyed the fact that the book was different in general. It focuses on a character that doesn’t believe in anything who is then suddenly confronted with demons in a way that he can’t ignore. It is a crisis of faith for a man who has never believed. It was a fascinating read and I look forward to reading more of Pyper’s work.