Sunday, November 29, 2015

Horns by Joe Hill

Horns by Joe Hill



                Ignatius Perrish got rip roaring drunk on the one year anniversary of the death of his girlfriend Merrin. She had been bashed in the head with a rock, raped and left to die in the woods. Ig was the only suspect and even though he was never charged with her murder, he remained a person of interest and everyone in his home town believed he did it. He went back to the place her body was found, destroyed all of the memorials placed there in her honor, pissed on his own feet and now, the next day has no idea how he got home. He also has no idea why he has small horns coming from the top of his head. Or why people kept telling him things that they would never say out loud, let alone confide to the guy they believed capable of murder. Yet here they were, everyone he encountered, spilling their guts. That’s how he found out who really killed Merrin. Now all Ignatius wants is a way to make that person pay for the pain he felt. The horns were the answer. The horns were the way.
                This novel was a very dark, intense, suspenseful mystery. It was so easy for me to fall into this book. Ignatius felt like a wronged character from the beginning, so when I realized he was coming into his own I got excited. I wanted to see him be a bad ass. I wanted to see him embrace the horns and open up a can of whoop ass, which he does ever so methodically. I think the love story between Ignatius and Merrin added a certain necessary level of depth. His need for revenge had to feel real. The love between the two characters, the future that was in store for them and the reasons why everything went south, all felt real. They were well crafted and smart characters. All of the characters were for the most part and their experiences with Ig and his horns said a lot about human nature. I almost feel like the horns in itself became a character. As much as Ig embodied the change, the more the horns took over Ig and started influencing his character. The horns were such a great tool and mystery throughout the story. Was Ignatius really turning into a devil, or some demon? Questions regarding that were slowly revealed in the plot which helped moved the story along.

                Hill chose to write this novel in the third person which worked incredibly well for this story. Ig is a great character to follow and observe. His inner workings while revealed didn’t need to be a constant factor. Looking from the outside in simply made this more fun. It also allowed Hill to observe some of the other outlying characters as well. Hill also has great comedic timing. This novel was full of moments that caught you off guard because of the dark comedy littered within. Horns kept me entertained, kept me turning the pages and kept me invested. This was another really well done novel by Hill. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb


                Malala Yousafzai is a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. She is a young Pashtun girl who was raised in the Swat Valley in Pakistan. Her father, Ziauddin, dreamed of creating a school and ended up residing over three schools in the Swat Valley. His love for education was passed on to his daughter and she became an advocate for educating women in Pakistan and all over the world. Her love of education made her a target for the Taliban. Malala had experienced fear under Taliban rule years earlier when they took over the Swat Valley in 2009. Bombings and gun fire rang out in her village and the fear was palpable. Her school was closed and she began speaking out alongside her father for the need to educate youth, including girls. She would eventually leave her home in Swat Valley as the military fought to take back the valley from the Taliban. She would return 3 months later to her home, school and would continue to speak openly. Three years later she would be shot by the Taliban. Malala left Pakistan for medical care, never to return again. She was only 15 years old.
                I could never imagine having to live the life described in the pages of I Am Malala. I never experienced a hostile takeover. I have never seen my government completely taken over by terrorist. I have never feared for my life because of the sound of gunfire ringing through the night or feared that a suicide bomber may be lurking around the corner. Malala spoke about all these things and how she watched the world around her slowly be destroyed. With each page Malala wrote of her world very honestly and from the heart. She spoke of her faith and how her family lived. She explained her culture and what life was like living in her beautiful Swat Valley. She discussed how life changed when the Taliban slowly took over and how the government seemed to allow it. It was obvious throughout that Malala wanted people to understand everything that happened to her, how these things were allowed and what led to her shooting.

                To hear of a young girl fighting for her education and the education of women around the world was inspiring. It was that passion and drive that made me want to read Malala’s memoir. I remember hearing of her shooting in 2012 but I wasn’t aware of the impact she had been making in Pakistan. I was shocked and disgusted that the Taliban would stoop so low as to attack a child. Now after reading her book I understand that they were afraid of the message she was spreading. You can’t manipulate people if they educate and think for themselves. Reading this memoir there were so many moments that I could only commend Malala for not only her bravery but her faith. At a time when many people look at Islam as a threat, she showcases what her religion is supposed to embrace and it’s not what the Taliban showcases. I’m glad Malala chose to write this memoir and that she told not only her story, but the story of her people, the history of Swat Valley and of the terror everyone experienced. I give this memoir 5 out of 5 stars. It was educational, inspiring and full of the hope of a young girl fighting to make a difference.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Unteachable by Leah Raeder

Unteachable by Leah Raeder




                Maise has slept with older men before. She has accepted the fact that boys her age would never meet the cut. She is eighteen, about to start her senior year of high school and is determined to conquer her fears. The night she met Evan on the roller coaster, she didn’t expect anything to come from it. He was hot, the sex was hot and she was gone. Until she walked into her Film Studies class and there he stood. Evan Wilke. Her teacher. She had no idea. He had no idea. Yet here they were together and the temptation was too much to resist. The affair had begun before either of them had a chance to stop it. But now the secrecy begins and the teacher and student fall fast into each other and into a deception they may not be able to climb out of.
                Well this caught me completely by surprise. From the very first page I was lost in Maise’s life. This book was so many things: intoxicating, thrilling, sexy, addicting, detailed and forbidden. I wanted to get lost in a story and I did. I was completely lost in this forbidden but legal relationship between Maise and Evan. The adult in me wanted to hate the idea of a teacher and student ever being intimate in any shape way or form. But the teenager in me, that was attracted to older men, and was intrigued by the mystery of being with someone even a few years older and the mystique that age can cast, loved every single second of it. Raeder captured the voice of an 18 year old like I’ve never seen before. Maise is witty, flawed, beautiful, confident and frightened all at the same time. She is a ball of emotions and insecurity and can be a walking contradiction but she felt so amazingly, wonderfully real. Her relationship with Evan was intense and passionate and hot, oh so hot. These characters were so well developed and so beautifully sculpted. The plot unfolded amazingly. When I thought something was slightly predictable it imploded in my face to show the reality and I was forced to stay on my toes. I couldn’t stop reading. I didn’t want to stop reading.
                Raeder’s Unteachable easily gets 5 out of 5 stars from me. I crashed into this book and loved every second of it. My heart was racing through this story. There were just so many beautiful elements to Raeder’s writing. She created a novel where the intensity was palpable in every page, along with lust, fear, love and danger. There are so many things I didn’t even mention like the druggie mom, the forgotten father, the nuances of being in high school but it’s all there adding intensity and depth to the story. I couldn’t get enough. Some people may not be able to get past the idea of a teacher secretly dating his eighteen year old student so that could scare people away. I completely understand. But this is fiction and I got lost in the story. I loved it and I would take that ride again. If Raeder can keep producing books like this than I may have to get every single one.

                

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Solo: A Memoir of Hope by Hope Solo with Ann Killian

Solo: A Memoir of Hope by Hope Solo with Ann Killian



                I consider myself to be a casual soccer fan. I’m probably not going to watch every DC United game or catch Major League Soccer highlights, but when the World Cup and the Summer Olympics come around, I am watching every match and cheering for the team. With that being said I have been aware of Hope Solo’s presence for a while now, at least the last five or six years. I think she is a powerhouse on the U.S. Women’s National Team and an amazing goalkeeper. She has also been in the media quite a lot over the last few years for a variety of reasons, not many of which are positive. After randomly finding this memoir at a Dollar Tree store I decided it was time to learn more about her so I gave it a try.
                Solo: A Memoir of Hope is intense. Solo is unapologetic and frank about her life. She talks about her chaotic upbringing with an alcoholic mother and a father who was homeless for many years after their divorce. She discusses playing soccer at a young age and loving the thrill and drive it gave her. Being a professional soccer player was always her goal and she joined an Olympic Development team while in middle school and gained traction as a goalkeeper. Solo then discussed what I found to be the most revelatory statements about what it was like joining the national team. The drama surrounding the newcomers and the veterans of the team: the controversial statements she made after being benched after winning three games in the World Cup and the fallout that ensued, the changing of coaches and the team dynamic that developed after those changes. She went into great detail about all of these aspects of her life explaining her frame of mind and why she will always defend her actions.

                This was a pretty well written memoir. I appreciated her honesty. I liked the way Solo framed this around her entire life and didn’t simply highlight what it was like playing soccer. She introduced in the prologue the 2007 World Cup controversy and the story took its time getting to that point. From the beginning Solo stated that she didn’t believe in happy endings and how that belief was a reflection of her life. I enjoyed this memoir and it made her more relatable. There has been quite a bit of controversy around Solo since the release of this memoir from issues with her husband and drinking, to a domestic violence case against her. After reading this I want to hear more of what she has to say. I am more inclined and interested in her side of the story. I’m also more interested in the dynamics of the U.S. Women’s National Team. I didn’t expect the revelations that came out of Solo’s memoir. My interest is now peaked in many ways. I give this novel 4 out of 5 stars. It’s definitely something I can recommend. 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller



Patroclus remembered seeing Achilles when they were both children. Both boys were princes but while Patroclus was the child of a simple woman, Achilles’s mother was the sea nymph Thetis. Achilles was to be the greatest fighter the world had known. Patroclus would have no such destiny. When he accidentally killed a young boy he was exiled and sent to live in the home of Achilles and his father. There, Patroclus would become Achilles most trusted companion and much more. They would be by each other’s side for over a decade even in the mist of the war that lasted ten years. 
I had no idea that The Song of Achilles would center on the romantic relationship of Patroclus and Achilles. Not a single clue. Patroclus is the narrator throughout the entire novel and I found his point of view extremely fascinating from the beginning. After about 40 pages I realized the attraction between the two characters would take center stage. Their growing relationship, its intensity and the love they obviously shared was genuine but I just didn’t expect this to be a romance novel. I wanted action, fighting, and intense inner monologue. I didn’t get that. I got quite a bit of intimacy, a lot of longing looks and some sex. All fine and dandy just not what I was looking for. This was a really easy read and regardless of the romantic element I devoured it. The characters were well developed. The plot moved easily. The imagery and world creation were all there. The story came to life. 
So what rating do I give Miller’s The Song of Achilles. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. Why, if the story came together so well and was such an easy read? I didn’t connect with it in the way that I thought I would. Was I invested in the outcome of the characters? Yes but the novel started off slowly and I honestly got really tired of Patroclus’s yearning for Achilles. It was never ending and it overwhelmed way too much of the plot. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn


                When I picked this book up from the bookstore I was looking for something dark and twisted. Well, this novel hit that nail right on the head. Camille Preaker is a reporter for a small newspaper in Chicago. She has been sent on assignment to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri to cover the murders of two young girls. Their deaths are about a year apart but they were both found strangled with all of their teeth removed. Fully aware that this could be a big break and absolutely huge for the newspaper, Camille heads back to Wind Gap begrudgingly. Her relationship with her mom Adora is non-existent and has been irrefutably fractured since the death of her younger sister over a decade ago. Camille’s return home opens old wounds and reveals new ones in the shape of her 13 year old sister Amma, who is both beautiful and terrifying.
                There were a lot of things I really loved about this novel. It moved well. I easily fell into the pages of this frightening and eerie landscape. The question of what in the world is going on in this small town haunted every single page. Not to mention the fact that Camille is a really complex characters with wounds and scars that won’t heal. The mysterious deaths were affecting everyone in Wind Gap and was raising questions about everyone’s behavior and motives. The first hundred pages of this novel I was fully immersed in this novel. Then I just got irritated. Camille started making decisions that made me want to bang my head against a wall. Amma was a pain in the ass and just seemed extremely shallow and exaggerated. Then I started guessing who the killer was and it became so painstakingly obvious to me that the small twist at the end barely registered with me.

                I’m giving this novel 3.5 out of 5 stars and in my opinion they are well deserved. I started this novel loving it. By the end I was underwhelmed. I probably would have really enjoyed this novel if it revolved around Camille but wasn’t first person. I don’t know if I would have been as annoyed near the end if I wasn’t as privy to her thoughts. I am still going to recommend it because it was so dark and it was such an easy read but I had my misgivings.