A Review of The Town and the City by Jack Kerouac

No one appreciates the love of their family and small town life until they find themselves out of it and making their way in the big wide world. Adventure awaits the Martin family as the older boys, Joe, Peter, and Francis leave their small town of Galloway to go to college. Joe decides against college and instead becomes a truck driver travelling the united states. Peter is the star football player at high school and despite his worries of being a little fish in a big pond now, he makes the university team. Soft spoken and sickly Francis is not the sports type which doesn’t exactly make him popular with his sports obsessed family. He finds himself being sucked into the literary circles of the big city when he leaves for university.

This is a really long book and the problem I had with it, is that it takes so long for anything of value to happen it became a chore to read. There is an extremely long back story to each character in this book and so much unnecessary information is given that I feel like I am just spying on a family in their day to day lives. Ordinary conversations that does nothing to further the plot reigns supreme in this portrait of small town life. I really thought I would like this one because Kerouac is such a well known author and I grew up in a small town and thought I could relate.

I gave this book a 3 out of 5. For me, this book never really delivered after the slow and monotonous lead up. It is very much suited to a previous time when people were in a slower mindset, when slow build up was the norm. Because of the generational gap I never felt like I related to any of the characters or cared what happened to this. I was disappointed and have crossed Jack Kerouac off my list of authors to read more of.

A Review of Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

The narrator of this story is a man utterly bored with his life. Because he feels it has no meaning and we’re all living to pretty much die he can’t sleep. His extreme somnia leads him to visit a doctor so he can get sleeping pills. His doctor doesn’t want to prescribe him anything. He tells him instead to visit a support group for people with serious illnesses. That will put some perspective into his life. Out of desperation, he takes the doctor’s advice. What he finds at these support groups helps. When he sees death right in front of him he suddenly feels reborn and crying in the arms of these people on the brink of death gives him the ability to once again sleep like a baby. Until Marla Singer shows up. He recognizes right away that she is also a “faker” there to feel alive and he knows that she knows that he is also a faker. Suddenly his safe haven is no longer safe and insomnia returns. Until he meets Tyler on a beach. After a night drinking he asks the narrator to hit him. Reluctantly the narrator does and the fight club is born. But after awhile this isn’t even good enough and things start to escalate… chaos ensues.

This is the second book by Chuck Palahniuk that I have read. While this one wasn’t as disturbing as Haunted, this is an exceptional book. I had previously seen the movie many times, so the twist ending isn’t much of a twist for me. It probably isn’t for anyone at this point with Tyler Durden being so deeply enmeshed in pop culture at this point in time. This book was the author’s debut in 1997 and was born from a short story he wrote when he was bored at work one day. Not only is the writing good, but there’s actually some really good social commentary about how we deal with others and our own self involved society.

The only thing I really didn’t like about this book is the abrupt ending. While there was resolution to the major plot, I feel like it didn’t give a real resolution to the character relationships. The end left me wanting a whole lot more and I got excited when I saw there was an afterward but it really didn’t address anything from the story.

I really enjoyed this book. I give it a solid 5 out of 5. I think the social commentary is even more relevant today than it was when it came out 20 years ago. He calls it a single serving lifestyle and in today’s world everything is meant to be thrown away. We are even more self absorbed than we were when it was first written. I highly recommend this book. I think it would make a good book club read as well. There are a lot of social and personal issues worth discussing. It is very graphic in its descriptions of violence and some sexual activity.

A Review of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the revised edition

I read this book with my Facebook book club, The Writer’s Block: A Book Club. When this book was chosen I was really excited because it’s been a classic on my TBR pile for a long time. This was finally the push I needed to actually get into it. After we voted on the book the next order of business was the edition: The Original or The Revised. I didn’t even know there was more than one edition, so this took some research on my part. I discovered that the revised edition is the version that Mary Shelley herself has proclaimed the true edition, so that is the one I decided we would read.

The basic premise for this story is well known to most people. Victor Frankenstein is obsessed with the pursuit of knowledge and the understanding of science. His goal becomes to bring to life one who has surpassed death. He creates a homunculus and then through science brings it to life and the monster is then so horrifying to him that it becomes beyond his control and havoc ensues.

I quite enjoyed this book but more when the tale is told through the monster’s perspective than Victor’s. I feel that Victor is a slightly insane, narcissistic, selfish individual and the monster a victim of circumstance and what the depths of loneliness can drive a man to do. There is nothing worse than rejection and the monster knows nothing but this in its pitiful life even among the destruction it causes.

I don’t feel this book to be much like any of the Frankenstein movie/tv/comic adaptations at all. I came into this book thinking I knew exactly what was going to happen but I was wrong. I think this story is much more of a sad tragedy than a real monster/ghost story. I do recommend this book to lovers of classics but it’s not a book for everyone. It is definitely written in a gothic antiquated style of writing. And Victor is extremely self absorbed so he tends to rattle for chapters on inner monologue.

A Review of Outlander (Book 1) by Diana Gabaldon

While exploring the Scottish countryside while on a scholarly trip with her husband, Frank, Claire Randall finds herself on a hill wrapped in mystery called Craigh na Dun. After witnessing what appeared to be a pagan ritual involving possible witches she goes back to see if she could figure out what was happening. Wandering through the rocks, she somehow gets sucked through a crack and comes to amidst a skirmish of some sort. She meets a man who happens to be an english soldier of some kind. She quickly realizes this man looks exactly like her husband Frank. The man quickly attacks her and tries to rape her. She is suddenly rescued and whisked away but finds she is also now a captive to a band of cattle thieves who think her an english spy.

After awhile she puts things together and realizes she’s been spirited away to 1740s Scotland. After being taken to Castles Leoch and establishing that she is in the lands of the clan McKenzie, Claire settles into castle life while still plotting her way back to the standing stones and her husband Frank. But the ruggedly handsome Jamie Fraser is a huge distraction to that plan. Will Claire find her way back to Frank and her time or will she fall in love with the young Highlander and give up all she knows for the past?

There are many things about this book that I absolutely loved. The slow burning romance between Claire and Jamie was fascinating. The very confusing way the McKenzie and Fraser clans were related was interesting. There was a lot of mystery within the different characters and what was going on with them, like whether or not characters were good or bad. The character development was phenomenal.

But, on the flip side of that coin, I felt like the way the characters responded to each other in certain situations was outside how they would behave when you consider how they’ve been presented up to that point. I felt I got to know these characters and Claire and Jamie especially. I came to see them as friends that I was rooting for and while most of their actions were very much them, some were far too unbelievable. The other problem I had with this one is that it was far too long. I thought parts could be cut out that seemed to be more filler than actual necessary pieces to unravel the story.

I give this one a 4 out of 5. This book won’t be for everyone. It contains strong language and strong sexual content. It is also more romance than history, though there is quite a bit of action. So much happens that it seems more like an epic than a novel. I hope if you read it, that you enjoy it like I did.

A Review of The Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Malorie and her children are leaving their house and sanctuary for the first time since she was pregnant. Almost 5 years after an event that changed the course of humanity as she knew it, she had to raise her children in this new post cataclysmic world where your eyes could be your undoing. There is something out there that is causing people to go crazy and commit suicide the second they lay their eyes on it. This narrative goes between present time and the time before, while she was pregnant, and just learning about the events as they slowly take over the whole world.

I read this book in a day. That’s how good it was. I normally don’t have time to read but I put everything aside to finish this one. The story was gripping. I was compelled to read it after I was told by quite a few people how weird and interesting it was. I couldn’t put it down. There were no lulls in the book and the author gave hints at the characters back stories, developing them in a way that made me care about their safety and what happens to them.

The only thing I didn’t like is that I felt there were a few discrepancies within the story and I don’t feel like there was a complete explanation or resolution to what was going on. Many theories were given but none were fully satisfactory to me and they never once said that any of the theories were what was happening.

I loved this book. I will give it a solid 5 out of 5. It’s rare for a book to capture me so much where I can’t stop reading it. There is some parts of fairly graphic gore so it may not be for you if you are squeamish. But for someone who is into post apocalyptic survival type books, it is fully engrossing, and will knock your socks off!

A Review of Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

Stingo is a young writer trying to make his print on the writing world. He comes from a decently wealthy family and his father has options for him to become a peanut farmer in Virginia but that lifestyle is not for him. He moves to Brooklyn into an apartment building run by a Yiddish woman and filled with a conglomeration of of interesting individuals. Two of these individuals are a couple that live across the hall from Stingo, named Nathan and Sophie. Nathan is a scientist and music lover and Sophie is a polish holocaust survivor plagued by tragedy. The trio meet and their lives become intrinsically linked and their lives are forever changed. This book is Stingo’s book about the events that happened in the few months he got to know the couple and their volatile relationship.

I started this book in January and I just finished it this morning. It was an incredibly grueling read for me. It is apparent that this author loves words and the written language because he uses an over abundance of them. His sentences drag on forever and he uses so many adjectives and so much description for everything that I found my mind wandering. Not only that, but he would begin a narrative about a certain past event which would then go off on a tangent into unrelated events and personal histories on characters that are only in the narrative for a few sentences. I felt there was a lot of unnecessary information, which the author, writing as Stingo, often talked about being unnecessary but he felt compelled to write it anyway. This doesn’t always translate to good writing. In this situation, I believe the less is more rule applies.

The biggest tragedy of this book is that a really greatly tragic story is hiding beneath all the drivel. Styron talks about Sophie’s time at Auschwitz and Birkenau and how it affected her and her family and it was incredibly heart breaking. The lengths she went to and the choices she had to make were things that would kill most people mentally. But just as I became emotionally invested in what was happening then suddenly the story went into something else and I never felt totally felt fully connected or invested in the characters. I feel it is sad that I never cried during such a tragic tale.

My overall thoughts on this book is that it was just okay. I would give it a 3 out of 5. This is because of the various reasons I already listed. A wonderful story was drowned in too many words. This booked was listed under books that have previously been banned in the United States and I can only guess that at the time this was first published it was because of the content and the strong sexual situations, which I found to be quite vulgar and over the top. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy history, especially the holocaust, as more than half the book is written about Sophie’s time there. But if you don’t like an overabundance of description than this book is definitely not for you. It can get almost painful to read at times.

A Review of In the Kingdom’s Name by Amy Jarecki

I was gifted this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I received this one awhile back but upon finding it was a sequel, I purchased the first book in the series and read it first. You can find the review for that book in this blog as well.

In the Kingdom’s Name finds Eva still in medieval Scotland, during the war to free themselves from English rule. Andrew Murray is on the brink of death and William all but forces Eva to use her newfangled healing to save him, something time does not want her to interfere with. Because of this, she is spirited away back to modern day and is desperate to get back. Will fate let her go back? Can she change time to save William Wallace’s fate.

This was a really good follow up as it helped to further develop Eva and William’s relationship but aside from the historical aspects of where the story had to go in order to still be true, the rest was kind of a let down. Jarecki explains her decision in the author’s notes and it makes sense but it didn’t feel right to me. I thought there were many things that could’ve happened to make the outcome more enjoyable. The last chapter of the book felt very forced to me and I never gained any real emotional connection to the resolution.

Another thing that bothered me, is that William Wallace is an extremely pious man. He had decided that he was going to take his vows into the priesthood until he decided to take up arms to fight the cause of his country. That being said, he very quickly jumped into a sexual relationship with Eva from the very beginning. While men can change their minds, he continued to read his psalter and to quote scripture all while this is taking place. So for me, I don’t feel like his character stayed true to himself and the whole sexual relationship was contrived to help the story further along.

This was a decent read but I liked the first installment of this saga better. I give it a 3 out of 5. This decision was mainly based on the fact that the ending was completely lost for me. I felt the author couldn’t figure out a way to make her original ending work and so this was plan B and everyone, including Eva, got the second best option. ┬áThis book has strong sexual scenes so reader discretion is advised.