Book Review | Watch Me by Jody Gehrman

watch me cover.jpgAt a small college in Ohio, Professor Kate Youngblood leads a writer’s workshop. Her student, Sam, creates a tension that makes her feel alive, but also sets off inner warning signals. As relations with a student are forbidden, Kate struggles to maintain ethical behavior. Sam quickly insinuates himself in Kate’s personal life and after a body turns up, she questions which warning sign will be enough to force her to extract Sam for good.

Watch Me is a good read. The book is inviting from the first chapter. Chapters alternate narrator between Kate and Sam, with Sam writing as if he is speaking to Kate using the second person. This stylistic choice works well. The writing itself was enjoyable, with certain sentences adroitly crafted. The story progresses quickly and tension builds. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*Fans of Watch Me, may be interested in The Book of You by Claire Kendal (2014).


Book Review | Insomniac Dreams : Experiments with time by Vladimir Nabokov; Gennady Barabtarlo

IMG_3742.jpegIf you miss reading papers in grad school, this will be a friendly reminder. Insomniac Dreams is made up of five sections, and includes much text from the editor, Barabtarlo. The first section introduces the ideas that led Nabokov to his dream study project. This section is quite scholarly. The following two chapters, much easier to progress through, focus on Nabokov’s and his wife’s dreams. Then, two more heavy sections include dream examples from Nabokov’s previously published works.

This book is a challenging read, both in good ways and bad. Full concentration is needed for continuing clarity while reading. Some of the ideas presented about the passage of time are thought provoking. An average reader will likely need a dictionary at least once and probably feel s/he does not have enough background knowledge of Nabokov’s literature to make the most of this book. Be prepared for a scholarly academic text here, more than just dreams by Nabokov. Check it out from a library near you.

The Polygamist’s Daughter : a memoir by Anna LeBaron

lebaron daughter cover.jpgBased on her experiences as one of more than 50 of Ervil LeBaron’s children, The Polygamist’s Daughter relays Anna’s life story from it’s beginning growing up as a cult member to her exit from the cult as an adult. The book recounts many of Anna’s specific memories about activities that she was involved in as a youth, as well as her emotional and spiritual journey into adulthood. The first part of the text focuses on her difficult time living with a type of host family in Mexico. Next she moves often in the US between Colorado and Texas as she attends school. Finally, she breaks away from the cult and finds God and a family of her own.

As a memoir, this book serves as a keyhole looking back on another time. The recounted details were mostly interesting and kept the story going. Times in Mexico and unconventional activities provided the best insights in this text. Though the book flowed decently, adjectives are often overused and result in frequent repetition. The repetitive sentences also appeared in several chapters, making the book ultimately seem more like a YA text than an autobiography. A shorter, more direct book may have been a better choice. The religious emphasis is quite heavy in the book’s second half. This book would appeal to those interested in polygamy, religious coming of age stories, or Christian non-fiction. Check it out from a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Shadow Man by Alan Drew

shadow man cover.jpgIt’s the mid 1980’s and there is a serial killer in the fancy planned communities just south of Los Angeles. The Night Prowler sneaks in through an unlocked door or cuts through the screen to find a victim he can overpower and then strangles her with his bare hands. Residents are instructed to keep their windows locked while the body count rises. Meanwhile, a high schooler is found dead in a field just outside town. The bullet hole means the MO is not a match for the serial, but is it a suicide? It seems darkness is hiding in more than one place in this community.

Shadow Man was definitely a good read. The story held my interest from beginning to end. The small cast of characters was easy to keep straight and I appreciated the way Drew alternated focus between the various plot lines and character perceptions. Though not as suspenseful as I had expected, there was appreciable tension. Highly recommended for fans of noir crime or literary crime fiction. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance reader’s edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Best & Worst of the 46 Books I read in 2017

During 2017 I expanded my reading horizons to include many books I wouldn’t normally choose. The selection contained mostly novels, a few memoirs, other various non-fiction works, an art book and a screenplay. In an attempt to make this post useful to readers, I’ve created sections to group the books based on my overall enjoyment of the texts. Most, but not all of the books I read during 2017 were released in 2017. The overall selection was heavily influenced by copies I received freely from publishers through Goodreads giveaways. A full list of titles appears at the end of the post.

My six favorite books:

Taduno’s Song – An African musician must find his lost voice in order to rescue his lover from a corrupt government.

The Clairvoyants– A Cornell student who sees spirits of the deceased unravels the mystery surrounding a missing persons case.

Songs of the Baka* – A writer and photographer share their travels to several uncommon destinations.

Spaceman of Bohemia* – A man on a solo mission in space is abandoned by his wife and encounters a strange creature aboard his ship.

Shelter in Place – A bipolar man falls in love with a woman who comes and goes after his mother is imprisoned for killing a man with a hammer.

The Fortunate Ones* – A painting stolen from a Jewish home by the Nazis during World War II resurfaces in Los Angeles decades later and brings together an unlikely pair of women.

After those six, my next nine top picks:

Under the Harrow – A suspense thriller involving the murder of a woman in England.

The One Eyed Man – After becoming a widower, a man lets his true self shine through resulting in his own reality TV show.

Brussels Noir* – Short stories, some bizarre, that take place in Brussels.

Soldier Boy* – Based on a true story, this YA book relays the stories of two boy soldiers in the Ugandan civil war.

Men without Women – Short stories from Japan focused on men without women.

Oola* – Thought-provoking story of boy meets girl and their hermetic existence.

Twig* – A woman coming of age in 1950’s America deals with life’s struggles.

A Fortune Foretold* – A woman coming of age in 1950’s Sweden deals with life’s struggles.

Sourdough – A tech industry workaholic is transformed into a breadmaker after being gifted a unique sourdough starter.

Four books that should have been better:

The King is Always Above the People* – Short stories involving Latinx characters.

O Glorious City : A Love Letter to San Francisco – A collection art commissioned for the anniversary of San Francisco’s City Hall.

A Loving, Faithful Animal* – A girl in Australia comes of age in a broken home.

As Red as Blood* – Scandinavian teens find a bloody bag of money.

Four books I feel would be better to pass on:

We’ll Sleep When We’re Old* – An Italian media mogul plots and schemes to hype an upcoming film failure.

Malafemmena – Short stories focusing on female protagonists in untraditional situations.

Schadenfreude, A Love Story* – A memoir by a German major about her time abroad and PhD struggles.

A Life of Adventure and Delight* – Short stories of everyday life involving characters of Indian descent.

All titles appear below in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Title links above and below are to book reviews I’ve written. Carey, Currie, Maksik, Murakami and Sloan are the only authors I’ve read before this year. I’m happy to answer any questions about these books or provide suggestions for further reading if there’s a certain title you’ve particularly enjoyed.

So Much I Want to Tell You* – Anna Akana
The King is Always Above the People* – Daniel Alarcón
The Leaf Reader* – Emily Arsenault
Taduno’s Song – Odafe Atogun
Mexico Stories* – Josh Barkan
Under the Harrow – Flynn Berry
The Clairvoyants*- Karen Brown
Wrong about Japan – Peter Carey
The Hanging Girl*- Eileen Cook
We’ll Sleep When We’re Old* – Pino Corrias
Book of Moon* – George Crowder
The One Eyed Man – Ron Currie Jr.
The Slave* – Anand Dilvar
Brussels Noir* – Michael Dufranne
Malafemmena – Louisa Ermelino
The Sunlight Pilgrims* – Jenni Fagan
O Glorious City : A Love Letter to San Francisco – Jeremy Fish
Soldier Boy* – Keely Hutton
Songs of the Baka* – Dennis James
Spaceman of Bohemia* – Jaroslav Kalfar
White Fur* – Jardine Libaire
Bluebird, Bluebird* – Attica Locke
The Infinite* – Nicholas Mainieri
Shelter in Place – Alexander Maksik

The Beauty of the Fall* – Rich MarcelloBright, Precious Days* – Jay McInerney
Leopard at the Door* – Jennifer McVeigh
Men without Women – Haruki Murakami
Wolf Haven* – Annie Marie Musselman & Brenda Peterson
The Gun – Fuminori Nakamura
Oola* – Brittany Newell
Twig* – Madelon Phillips
A Fortune Foretold* – Agneta Pleijel
Rebels like Us* – Liz Reinhardt
A Loving, Faithful Animal* – Josephine Rowe
Fantastic Beasts Original Screen Play* – J.K. Rowling
Schadenfreude, A Love Story* – Rebecca Schuman
Lola* – Melissa Scrivner Love
A Life of Happiness and Delight* – Akhil Sharma
As Red as Blood* – Salla Simukka
Sourdough – Robin Sloan
Our Own Private Universe* – Robin Talley
A French Wedding* – Hannah Tunnicliffe
The Fortunate Ones* – Ellen Umansky
Fraulein M.* – Caroline Woods

*These titles were given to me through Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review | Schadenfreude, A Love Story by Rebecca Schuman

schadenfreude coverAs a memoir, Schadenfreude, A Love Story introduces the reader to Rebecca Schuman and many years of her life experiences. After meeting her high school boyfriend, join Rebecca in Münster as she lives the roll of misfit with a well-off host family. Then, travel along to Prague where she courts a dirty traveler from the train station. Enjoy her love of Kafka as time goes on, and then return with her for a stay in Berlin. After leaving the cool neighborhood and loft life, return to the States to suffer through her MA, PhD and seemingly never-ending job search.

Reading this book was more entertaining than I had expected it to be. I admit to laughing aloud several times, meaning the author’s humor and sarcasm were well-received. The book may not have fit together as well as I would have liked, with certain chapters being much more inviting than others. Shorter chapters with more frequent breaks would have made it easier to progress through this text. Recommended for those who’ve studied abroad in Germany and have a strong connection to academia. Check it out from a library near youI received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Soldier Boy by Keely Hutton

soldier boy coverBased on a true story, Soldier Boy recounts Ricky’s initiation into Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Ricky is just a child when his village is stormed and he and his brother are forced to watch as his parents and sisters are burned to death in their family hut. Taken captive, the two boys become model soldiers for the LRA as they are shaped into valuable resources with prominent positions fighting government troops and raiding other villages. Simultaneously told is the story of boy soldier Samuel, recovering from traumatic leg injury many years later in the Friends of Orphans compound.

Hutton has crafted a very successful novel in Soldier Boy. This YA book deals with a very heavy topic and breaks it down into digestible chunks for younger readers. The terror and violence suffered by the Ugandans comes across clearly in this tastefully written account. The text carries along at a good clip with clean writing and visualizable descriptions. This book would be a solid supplement to a history class dealing with Uganda or an English class looking to broaden world views and understanding. Check out this highly recommended read from a library near you.

I received an advance reader’s edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.