Tuesday, August 2, 2016

June & July Book Reviews

Ah - so behind on book reviews!  Combining June and July so that I can be caught up!

Room by Emma Donoghue

Room is the story of a woman kidnapped as a college student and held prisoner in a shed.  She gets pregnant and has a child.  The book begins on his fifth birthday and is told from his perspective.  The readers see the ways that the mother tried to protect him from her captor, the ways that she lied to him to make their situation easier to bear, and her desperation as he becomes more curious and harder to manage in their tiny space.

Although told by the child, who doesn't understand these things, we find out how she's been treated all this time, how she has tried over and over to escape and been unable to, and how she hides the constant abuse from her young son.

This book is well thought-out.  Donoghue manages to convey a multitude of information through the voice of a young child who doesn't really understand it.  She shows us his shortcomings as a result of being raised in a small room with no knowledge of the outside world.  We see his mother who, with no resources at her disposal, did her very best to care for her child and make sure that he would one day have a normal life.

Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

I read this book a while ago - as a teenager, probably.  It's the story of a young girl with an abusive father who decides to find a family for herself and all of the terrible situations she has to deal with along the way.  What I didn't remember is that the book is set in the 1960's and also deals with race issues and Ellen's own prejudice learned from her community that she slowly overcomes throughout the story.

It's a decent book but not especially interesting.  I don't find it very realistic, although the character of Ellen is detailed and fun to read.

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan

This book is the first in a trilogy, and also a tv series directed by Guillermo del Toro.  The book is written so visually that I actually thought I'd seen it before in a movie, but I think that's just because del Toro writes that way as a screenwriter.

This is the least cheesy vampire story I've ever found.  It describes the vampirism as a virus carried by tiny worms that pass from one host to another through the blood.  The infection begins at the airport, brought from Europe by a very old and powerful vampire, and is rapidly spread throughout New York City.

The main characters are a man from the CDC trying to contain the infection, a rat catcher who finds evidence of the vampires underground and helps to find their nest, and an old man who has hunted vampires after the Holocaust and recognizes the signs of them.

The book is large but so fast-paced.  I read it in just a few days and I'm now waiting for the second one to show up.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

This seems to be the month of books that are also movies that I haven't seen.  This book tells the story of a young girl and her African-American nanny who run away together for their own safety.  They find a place to stay with three women who teach them about bees and about life.  It's not as sappy as it sounds.

The story takes place in the 1960's and deals with the treatment of African Americans (surprise, it was crappy) the main character's treatment by her father (also crappy) and her journey to find out more about her dead mother.

I really loved this book, although I can't pinpoint the reason.  It's very rich with the culture of the small family it focuses on.  The characters are not stereotypes, they are individuals.  And not everything has an easy or happy solution; there are problems that can never be solved and just have to be survived.  The three women teach the girl how to survive those things and how to forgive herself for the things she can never change.

A Member of the Family by Cesar Millan

This book had a lot of helpful information, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting.  Cesar describes how to find a rescue dog that's compatible or how to find a puppy and how to bring that dog into the family.  He talks about common problems, the most likely culprit being a high energy dog in a low energy household.  And he deals with the entire lifespan of the dog, talks about his rehabilitation center, and how dogs interact with families.  I found is less helpful as a resource than I thought I would, as a large portion was about his personal story and that of his family.

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