Becky’s One Hundred and Sixty-Second Book Review: “Forever Amber” by Kathleen Winsor

“Forever Amber” by Kathleen Winsor is an unsung classic in my opinion. It was given to me by my mom only to be neglected on the bookshelf for years. I finally got around to reading it while on vacation this summer. Within the first few pages I knew that this was a book I would read again and again. Kathleen Winsor writes beautifully. Her world and those in it quickly captivated me. “She had never seen anyone like him before in her life. The clothes he wore, the sound of his voice, the expression in his eyes, all made her feel that she had had a momentary glimpse into another world – and she longed passionately to see it again, if only for a brief while. Everything else, her own world of Marygreen and Uncle Matt’s farm, all the young men she knew, now seemed to her intolerably dull, even contemptible.” (Forever Amber, pg 19).

The main character Amber can be challenging to like at times. She is young and foolhardy and quick to want things but difficult to please. There were times while I was reading “Forever Amber” that I just wanted to shake her and get her to see some sense. Still, I couldn’t help but find myself cheering her on in all her crazed adventures. One thing that Amber is without fail is opinionated. Her mind and her thought process was fascinating to follow. “She was already convinced that people had a better opinion of you if you pretended to be something more than you were than if you used them honestly.” (Forever Amber, pg 87). One thing that I found myself relating to in regards to Amber’s opinions were her thoughts on women. “But Amber had never believed that other women were important to her success and happiness, and she did not intend to let them trouble her now.” (Forever Amber, pg 173). I liked the way that Amber was upfront about her dislike of females. I don’t feel quite as strongly as she does, but nevertheless, I can relate.

“Forever Amber” begins in the countryside. When Amber first sees Bruce, she begs him to take her with him. Theirs is a passionate love affair and one that never ends. Their desire for each other burns brightly and I believe that is part of what makes their love so difficult to maintain. “By now Bruce had been back long enough and she had seen him so often that the jealousies and worries that beset her when he was away had begun to encroach upon the pleasure she found in being with him. She had begun to feel more discontented over what she was missing than grateful for what she had.” (Forever Amber, pg 322). This excerpt is a great example of what Amber is like. She wants things so badly that when she has them she doesn’t know how to enjoy it. It is part of what makes her so charming and infuriating at the same time.

Would I recommend this book? I would, most definitely – but not to everyone. It is a book that would appeal much more to the female population. That is not to say that men would not also find this book enjoyable. It was a great read and after writing this review, I want to go pick it up and begin my first reread of “Forever Amber”. Alas, there is not time for that right now. Perhaps next summer.

Becky’s One Hundred and Sixty-First Book Review: “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis

“American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis is one of the most disturbing books that I have ever read. It took me a very long time to read it just because I had to keep putting it down every time the book went into awful territory. It’s interesting. I read a lot of books that are disturbing, I love true crime, I love horror, and I love thrillers: the more disturbing the better. Yet when it came to reading “American Psycho” I found myself sick to my stomach multiple times. For whatever reason, I felt the need to push through and finish the book. But it’s hard to describe just how twisted Bret Easton Ellis writing is and even more so why I felt the need to finish his book.

““I’m resourceful,” Price is saying. “I’m creative, I’m young, unscrupulous, highly motivated, highly skilled. In essence what I’m saying is that society cannot afford to lose me. I’m an asset.”” (American Psycho, pg 3). I liked this quote because it captures the essence of the kind of people that surround Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho”. Everyone in and around his world spend all their time trying to prove how hip, how in demand, how rare they are. His world is full of phonies so it really comes as no surprise that Bateman finds himself going a bit mad. That’s really an understatement for what Bateman is and what he does. He is a serial killer.

What was really interesting about reading “American Psycho”, which is narrated by Patrick Bateman was being privy to his psychotic thoughts. He doesn’t shift personality when he goes between meeting colleagues for lunch to chopping someone to bits. Everything he does is cool and calculated. “…Vaguely disappointed, I made a few more calls, but only halfheartedly, opening today’s mail while doing so, and I finally hung up in midsentence when I came across a personalized reminder from Clifford, the guy who helps me at Armani, that there was a private sale at the boutique on Madison…two weeks ago! and though I figured out that one of the doormen probably withheld the card to piss me off, it still doesn’t erase the fact that I missed the fucking sale, and dwelling over this loss while wandering down Central Park West somewhere around Seventy-sixth, Seventy-fifth, it strikes me profoundly that the world is more often than not a bad and cruel place.” (American Psycho, pg 162). The way that he reacts to missing a sale, I just thought this illuminated just how crazy he is.

Throughout the novel, Patrick Bateman is unraveling more and more. He quickly becomes reckless in his homicidal behaviors. “Life remained a blank canvas, a cliché, a soap opera. I felt lethal, on the verge of frenzy. My nightly bloodlust overflowed into my days and I had to leave the city. My mask of sanity was a victim of impending slippage. This was the bone season for me and I needed a vacation.” (American Psycho, pg 279).

Would I recommend this book? I honestly don’t know. Bret Eason Ellis does spin an interesting tale, however this book is not for everyone. It’s not something most people, in fact, would enjoy. It’s a disturbing book, and even after having finished it I’m not sure how I felt about it. I know that I’m glad that I did not buy it. This was a good use of the library. I sincerely doubt I will ever pick this book up again. That being said, Bret Easton Ellis’s writing intrigues me and I have put another book of his on hold. “American Psycho” is not a good book to share with most people. I will not be recommending it to my parents. I will not be recommending it to most, but there is something there, something addictive in his writing that makes me want to keep reading his works.

“We stare at each other endlessly. I’m convinced she sense I’m about to say something. I’ve seen this look on someone’s face before. Was it in a club? A victim’s expression? Had it appeared on a movie screen recently? Or had I seen it in the mirror?” (American Psycho, pg 369)

Becky’s One Hundred and Sixtieth Book Review: “Shutter Island” by Dennis Lehane

I had no idea that the movie Shutter Island was based off of a book when I first saw it. I have watched this movie time and again and it was only by accident that I found out that it was based off of a book. Of course as soon as I found out I put “Shutter Island” by Dennis Lehane on hold at the library. It was a very quick, entertaining read and I was surprised at how much of the content of the book was preserved during the movie.

I liked Dennis Lehane’s writing style, there was nothing overly complicated about it but there was enough drama and mystery to keep me turning the pages. On the very first page I knew that I was going to enjoy the way the book was written once I got to this quote: “…time is nothing to me but a series of bookmarks that I use to jump back and forth through the text of my life, returning again and again to the events that mark me, in the eyes of my more astute colleagues, as bearing all the characteristics of the classic melancholic” (Shutter Island, pg 1). There were multiple times throughout my reading of “Shutter Island” that I was impressed by the writing and the thoughts and images that it conjured up in my mind.

“Shutter Island” follows U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels on an investigation in the middle of nowhere. Teddy Daniels and his new partner Chuck have been brought to Shutter Island to investigate into the disappearance of a mental patient, Rachel Solando. Right from the beginning, the Marshalls can tell that something odd is happening on Shutter Island. Their visit is extended unexpectedly when a hurricane strikes and forces those on the island to be completely isolated from the rest of the world. Strange things continue to happen on the island. And the longer that the Marshalls are there, the more the reader is able to get to know them, especially Teddy Daniels, the narrator whom we quickly learn is a widower. I don’t want to give everything away though, so I’ll be vague.

At one point, Daniels is talking about fighting in WWII and how you come back from that, how you get married and raise a family and try to get them to understand what it was like over there. “Answer is – You can’t tell ‘em. They’ll never understand. Because what you did was for the right reason. But what you did was also wrong. And you’ll never wash it off.” (Shutter Island, pg 145). I really liked this quote. It’s harsh, and it’s honest. Beyond the war, Teddy Daniels also spent a lot of time talking about his dead wife and the love that they shared.

The way that Dennis Lehane writes about love in “Shutter Island” was heartbreaking. When Teddy Daniels lost his wife, he lost all the light in his life. The way that he describes the love that he felt for her was really wonderful. “…and he wanted to ask her what sound a heart made when it broke from pleasure, when just the sight of someone filled you the way food, blood, and air never could, when you felt as if you’d been born for only one moment, and this, for whatever reason, was it.” (Shutter Island, pg 242). The passion that he felt for his wife is so clearly displayed throughout the book during flashbacks and retelling of tales for his partner.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I thought it was a pretty good read although it wasn’t extraordinary. I will probably pick up another of Dennis Lehane’s work to see if I enjoy it better when I do not know the ending. That is the big downside to seeing the movie first. This is probably one of the few situations where I think the movie came out better. But I do think that Dennis Lehane is an exceptional writer, I look forward to reading some more of his work.

Would I recommend the movie this book is based off of? Yes, most definitely. It is a great movie. It’s a little long, but is so thrilling and mysterious that you cannot help but sit and watch the whole thing.

Becky’s One Hundred and Fifty-Ninth Book Review: “Derpy Dirk and the Fight With the School Bully By the Flagpole At Lunch: A Derp Sandwich Chapter Book” by Jack Thomas

“Derpy Dirk and the Fight With the School Bully By the Flagpole At Lunch: A Derp Sandwich Chapter Book” by Jack Thomas was a free ebook offered at apple. Since I love collecting books – physical and electronic – I downloaded it with the smallest glance at the title just glad to have something to read. That was my first mistake. My second mistake was to continue reading it to the end once I realized I did not enjoy the book at all.

This is one of the worst books I have ever read. Really, I should have guessed from the book title that it was likely not going to be a winner, but I thought it might be a fun, quick read. It was quick, it wasn’t really fun, and I feel like I walked away from reading this book a little stupider. The disclaimer at the beginning of the book warning children and adults that this is not a book for children actually gave me hopes that this book would contain entertaining adult-level humor. Really, it was just a book written at an adult level, but with a severe lack of humor.

The book is about Derpy Dirk, a complete and total loser who is marked by the school bully for a fight. The whole book follows him as he worries about his imminent demise at the hands of the school bully. Meanwhile, all teachers and parents look on as if this is all in the natural order of things. His parents react to the news of his upcoming fight with the school bully as something he deserves. It was almost enough to make you feel bad for the character, except he was impossible to like.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely not. It was a terrible read and a waste of my time. There is a lesson here though, not all free ebooks are good ebooks.

Becky’s One Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book Review: “Waking Kate” by Sarah Addison Allen

“Waking Kate” by Sarah Addison Allen is a short story that I got for free from BookShout. I really like the fact that a lot of authors are making short stories available for free, it gives you a taste of the author’s writing and allows you to decide if you want more without spending the initial money. You can find out if you like an author with a shorter time commitment as well.

I really enjoyed “Waking Kate”, especially for a short story. I think Sarah Addison Allen has a real gift for writing, which shone throughout the story. I found a lot of what she wrote to be relatable as well. This quote I really enjoyed when Kate is sharing her opinion on the television. “She thought it generated a buzz that made the hot air in the house seem hotter somehow. More crowded. Matt thought she was crazy, but it was true. Everything had a presence. Even small things. Even things you took for granted.” (Waking Kate, pg 1)

“Waking Kate” is about a housewife, Kate. Her daughter is away for the weekend and Kate is trying to put together a romantic meal for her and her husband Matt to share. As she goes through the motions, putting in the effort to make a really nice meal for her and her husband, it is clear that she is unhappy. “She wasn’t sure exactly when it happened, when she had realized that she could only make one of them happy. She only knew that she had chosen him.” (Waking Kate, pg 2). I found this sentence to be so sad. I can relate to it as well. I always find myself putting others happiness first, especially my significant other. It is something that I have always done. I just hope I never get to a point where I stop being happy because of it. It can be a difficult thing to keep a balance in your life when you have a personality like that.

Since it is a short story, I do not want to go much further into the plot because that will give it all away. But I will say that Kate meets someone who gives her some advice and tells her a story. It helps Kate see things differently. “Some people simply have the ability to make it seem like they need you. All they really want is the attention.” (Waking Kate, pg 16) How true this can be. I have had many people come into my life that I believed were my friend until I realized they just wanted people around them. My friendship was a collectable to them. It’s a tough lesson to learn.

Sarah Addison Allen’s writing reminded me of Alice Hoffman. It’s beautiful and truthful. I couldn’t help from devouring it despite the fact that I like to savor writing when I find it this good. I really enjoyed this quote as well, “She felt disoriented, the way sleep that crosses from daylight to darkness always seems to confuse you, making you wonder what time it is, what day, what year.” (Waking Kate, pg 17)

Would I recommend this short story? Yes, I believe a lot of people would be able to connect with it as I did. It opens your eyes up a little; helps remind you what is important in relationships. I loved Sarah Addison Allen’s writing and was very pleased to find out there is more of it out there. I am looking forward to reading her novels and already have one ordered!