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Listening to the Silence

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The Owl Killers
Karen Maitland
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
Daniel James Brown
Cloud Atlas
David Mitchell


Frankenstein - Mary Shelley, Maurice Hindle Victor Frankenstein has lived a charmed life. When he leaves behind Geneva for the colleges of Ingolstodt and his study of the natural sciences he is excited and gifted. Before three years are out he has surpassed all his teachers have to teach him and endeavors to discover the secret of life. To this end he creates for himself a man, cobbled together from the bits and pieces of cadavers. Yet his great success will also prove to be his demise.
An epistolary novel, we learn this story as Frankenstein tells it to Robert Walton, a ship's captain on a voyage of discovery as Walton records it in letters to be sent back to England for his sister. I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. Normally Gothic novels and horror don't work for me, but in this case, I found it quite enjoyable. I do think that it suffers a bit from the fact that everyone already knows this story. If I had been reading it for the first time shortly after publication I think I would have enjoyed it more. I am not disappointed that I finally read this book and will definitely explore more by Mary Shelley.


Epitaph - Mary Doria Russell Continuing where Doc left off, Epitaph follows the Earps and Doc Holliday to Tombstone, site of the famous battle at the OK Corral, an event that would shape our perception of the American West. So much happens in this book for any summary to do it justice, but at the center is a nation divided by politics, on the verge of war with Mexico, and the town that epitomized all of these differences.
Russell is a fantastic storyteller. She has that special ability that only comes along every once in a while. She is also meticulous with her details. It is clear this book was thoroughly researched as it peels away the layers of myth and lies that cloud this story. I am beyond impressed at her ability to breath new life into the most famous 30 seconds of the West, as well as bring all of her characters to life. I had the pleasure of listening to this on audio and I found it to be quite well done. I do think the accents of the Mexicans sounded a bit too similar to the accents of the Austrian Kate, but otherwise each voice was well differentiated and it was never hard to follow along.
Unfortunately for me, I had to return the audio partway through my reading and couldn't get it back for another three weeks. That long break broke the story up too much for me and likely without it this book would have definitely garnered 5 stars. If you haven't yet read this book and the previous one in the series, Doc, I highly recommend you do. I promise, even you if you aren't a fan of westerns, you will still enjoy these two novels.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War - Max Brooks In the wake of what came to be known as World War Z, following the apocolyptic zombie infestation, Max Brooks was driven to record the first hand experiences of those on the front-lines. He traveled across the decimated world to record their stories, from New Dachang, China where it all began to Yonkers, New York, Israel, South Africa, Siberia, and everywhere in between. These recordings are the stories of thos lucky few who survived the war.
I listened to an audio recording of this novel, and I have to say it was the perfect medium for this book, which is after all "an oral history." Dozens of people came together to make this possible, so that each person with whom the author spoke was given their own voice. I am sure it was quite good in print, but this is a story that I think needs to be brought to life by audio and I am quite glad I read it this way.

Overall I found the story quite good and I think the author handled the various ways in which the world would react well, both militarily and personally. It made what may seem to be an unbelievable scenario more than believable, and the accounts of those who "lived" through it chilling. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of post-apocolyptic fiction, horror, and zombies in general


Tinkers - Paul Harding DNF - Despite being well written, this book just didn't hold my interest. One month was too long to spend trying to force myself to read it.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Vladimir Nabokov, Dan Chaon, Robert Louis Stevenson I think everyone knows this classic tale of good and evil. A brilliant doctor begins a series of experiments that helps him to unlock a powerful transformation, allowing a person to become something he is not, or at least not on the surface.

I have to say right up to the confession I was really enjoying this book. Though written in the 19th century it wasn't as formal and overly explanatory as many books written in the Victorian era. The language was smooth, and despite knowing what would happen due to a cultural familiarity with story not owing to a previous reading of this novella, the author kept me engaged throughout. In many ways it reminded me, from a story standpoint, of The Picture of Dorian Gray, without all the negative qualities which made the latter a book which I skimmed through numerous portions.

The confession at the end of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, however, was everything I don't like about books from this time period. It was wordy, overly concerned with detail, and the language stilted. Ultimately as this was the last impression I had of the book, it dropped my rating from a solid four stars to three. I do believe it is a book people should read, and will likely recommend it to others, particularly those who enjoyed Dorian Gray and other books of this era, but the change in style really impacted my overall enjoyment of the book.

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green You remember that scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts and Richard Gere are sitting in the bathtub together, and she has her legs wrapped around him while he tells her about his father and how much therapy it took him to say the words "I am very angry with my father?" That is how this book made me feel. I will need many thousands of dollars of therapy to properly express that I am angry at John Green. How can you write a book about two kids with cancer falling desperately in love and then even though you know one of them is going to die, rip the carpet out from under the reader?

This book was amazing, beautiful, and really just defies words. I found myself crying several times. Not the loud notice me sobs with the ugly face, but the really sad tears that just slip silently down your face unheeded. I couldn't have stopped them if I tried. Hazel is a sixteen year old girl with terminal cancer. Her mother, thinking her daughter must be depressed, forces her to go to a support group. It is here that she will meet Augustus Waters, her star crossed lover. They get each other in a way that no one else can. He think she looks like mid-millennial Natalie Portman, she thinks he is so hot. He spends his Wish, because she already spent hers, on a trip to Amsterdam where she can meet and question the author of her all time favorite book, An Imperial Affliction. And then...

I mean seriously WHAT THE ACTUAL F*** John Green. Do you see this? I am driven to foul language by this book. I am very angry at this book. There, I said it. I will say it again. I am very angry at this book.

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel - M.L. Stedman Following World War I thousands of soldiers returned home broken, many bodily, but there were also those whose spirit was broken. Tom Sherbourne was one such soldier. He suffered from extreme survivor's guilt and the only way he could think to survive was through a solitary existence, so he trained as a lighthouse keeper. When he took the posting on the remote Janus Point, 100 miles from the Australian coast, he didn't expect to fall in love. Life was hard for both him and his wife and it seemed a gift from God when a boat, occupied by a dead man and living baby appeared on their shores. Making the child a part of their lives and homes would have far greater consequences than either Tom or his wife Isabel could have ever anticipated.

Let me start with what I did like, the writing. I loved reading about the landscape of the coast of western Australia and Janus Point as well as the ocean and skies. The story however just about killed me. I can put up with emotional manipulation in books geared towards a young audience, but I cannot accept it in a book meant for adults. There are better ways to tell a story than this. The whole time I was reading I felt like the author was trying too hard to force a particular emotional response. This left me annoyed and this annoyance left me not caring at all what happened to any of the characters except for the child. I found Isabel and Hannah's characters particularly hard to sympathize with, though I'm sure, as a mother, they are the two for whom I should have had the most empathy.

I read this novel for my book club, and I already know that my opinion is definitely not shared by the others in the group. Though the discussion has yet to take place, there has been much mention of tears and heartbreak. So perhaps it would be wise to take my opinion with a grain of salt. This is a debut novel, and the author's skill as a writer is definitely evident, so I would consider giving them a second chance, but I would think long and hard before I picked up another book.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou A modern classic, this book traces the early life of renowned poet Maya Angelou. Growing up in small town Arkansas wasn't easy. Segregation and racism were the rule and it was so accepted that any sort of rebellion was unheard of, despite the downtrodden nature of a people who still worked the cotton fields.

Angelou writes with a breathtaking honesty about her life, sharing her pains and her joys in the same steady voice. However that voice transforms as she experiences the wonder of the big city, first for a year in St. Louis, which would shatter her, and then in San Francisco where she learned to view the world with new eyes.

I took my time reading this book, because while it was stunning, I have no ability to relate. My life and experience as a white woman growing up fifty years later, is so vastly different. My privilege will forever separate me from the experiences of a black woman, of any era, but especially one growing up under the shadow of Jim Crow. I think this is an important book and one that everyone in the United States should read, most especially now due to the recent increase in racial tensions. Only through sharing their experiences can we even begin to understand how different life is for the African American.

The Fall of Princes: A Novel

The Fall of Princes: A Novel - Robert Goolrick In this semi-autobiographical novel, author Robert Goolrick takes us to Wall Street in the boom era of the 1980s. For those men on the Street, life was a never ending party. Loose women, fast cars, high fashion, and an endless supply of drugs and alcohol fueled their nights. But it was also the advent of the AIDS epidemic, and all around them they watched their friends die, fearful of the disease, but also unheeding of the choices they were making.

I was fascinated by this book from start to end. It is brash, bold, and incredibly in your face. The language that Goolrick chose to tell the story was perfectly suited to the time. Told in the first person, Rooney, who lived his life on top of the world before it came tumbling down after one wrong choice on a night like any other, tells us his history and also his present.

This story shares many similarities to the author's own life, though it his not his entirely. I was quite impressed by his ability to fictionalize his story in this manner, giving over just enough elements to lend authenticity, but also not making it all about him. Previously, I had not entertained any thoughts of reading Goolrick's memoirs, The End of the World As We Know It, but it is now solidly on my radar.

This is the second book I've read by this author, and despite their differences in time and content, stylistically they have much in common. I am more than a bit impressed by his ability to write such vastly different stories and yet allow his voice as an author shine through so clearly. His second book, Heading Out to Wonderful, has been taking up space on my Nook for a couple of years, but I will now be making plans to read it very soon. Goolrick has rapidly become one of my favorite contemporary authors and I look forward to reading any future publications.


Plainsong - Kent Haruf In Plainsong we are shown a picture of life in a Colorado ranching community. The novel focuses on the lives of teacher and his two young boys dealing with the loneliness after their mother leaves, two old cattle ranchers, and a teenage girl who is kicked out of her house when she discovers she is pregnant.

I suppose this story was supossed to be about life growing up in just such a small town, but to be honest I wasn't feeling it. The writing was terse and slow, almost plodding. one storyline involving the teacher, Tom Guthrie, was never wrapped up. I don't expect my books to be tied up in a pretty little bow at their end, but there was no rhyme or reason to not giving this storyline some sort of conclusion since so much time was spent on it. I also struggled to place when in time this book was set. it was published in 1999, and while the behavior of the teens in the book was consistent with that time-frame, the children Ike and Bobby and the McPherson brothers seemed out of place, as if they belonged to a much older era. I grew up in a Colorado ranching community, similar to this one, and was nearly the same age as the teenage girl Victoria at the time of publication, and I recognized nothing of my community in Haruf 's book. Not all experiences and towns are going to be identical, but there should have at least been some similarities.

This all sounds like I hated the book, but I did not. I just feel rather apathetic about it. I have heard so many good things about this author, and this book in particular, that I was certainly expecting more, even though I knew going in that it was a book in which nothing but life happens. Clearly Haruf is not for me, and I won't be seeking out his other books in the future.

The Greener Shore: A Novel of the Druids of Hibernia

The Greener Shore: A Novel of the Druids of Hibernia - Morgan Llywelyn In this sequel to Llywelyn's earlier book Druids, we are told the story of Ainvar and his remaining clan members as they flee Gaul. Despite having no experience with the sea they rent a couple boats and travel first to the shores of Brittania, before moving to the more westerly isle known as Hibernia. Here they seek to ma key a new home among the Celtic tribes who inhabit the island. These people while in many ways similar to his own people, are also a mystery to Ainvar, yet he insists that his clan must assimilate to their ways. None is more successful than his wife Brigid, while Ainvar struggles with the loss of his powers and successful integration with the local druids.

I struggled with this book. In the past I have always enjoyed Llwelyn's novels about early Irish history and myth, however I could not connect with this one. The story was told from a first person perspective by Ainvar and was filled with his philosophic ramblings . Additionally there was a lot of references back to events of the previous book in a manner that suggests the author didn't trust the reader's recall ability. The book was a lot of tell and not show, which really bugged me. Personally I found Brigid to be a more interesting character and think that the story, if Llwelyn really wanted to stick with a first person narrative, would have been much improved from her perspective. Overall, I was quite disappointed in this offering by an author whose numerous books I have read all but two.

Three Brothers: A Novel

Three Brothers: A Novel - Peter Ackroyd Harry, Daniel, and Sam Hanway were born in Camden Town, a postwar estate in London. Each of the brothers share a birthday, born exactly one year apart. Life however for the boys was not easy, and while once close, as they get older their lives move in different directions. They live lives entirely apart from each other, and yet their lives intersect in a myriad of ways seen and unseen.

I thought that this book started out strong. I liked Ackroyd's writing style and was interested to see what happened to the Hanway boys after a defining moment early in their life. However, as the story progressed I began to feel less engaged. You never really get to know any of the brothers, but it felt almost as if the author was intentionally holding the reader at arm's length. I personally found Harry and Daniel unsympathetic characters. While I don't need to like a character to enjoy a book, if I'm going to like the book, then I least need to be able to engage with the character and due to the author's style, I was unable to do so. The addition of supernatural elements that really went nowhere also detracted from my overall enjoyment. I couldn't quite understand why he included these details as it didn't really add much to the story line, were never explained, and in the end left me confused as to their purpose.

Despite these flaws, I didn't dislike the book. It had some redeeming qualities that kept me reading. I thought the mystery of the critical event that defined their lives was handled well, and I was interested to see how the plot line concerning one of the secondary characters played out. The author's knowledge of London is quite evident, and allowed him to vividly bring the city to life. I've seen a lot of criticism for the number of coincidences and connections that the three brothers shared despite their separate lives, yet for me that was one of the novel's strong points. It added something to the overall atmosphere and claustrophobia of the novel as it moved towards the denouement. I am still puzzling over the ending three days later, and if a book can still have me thinking about it several days after completing it, then it definitely has merit.

Overall, I think this was a good book, but it had some major flaws that impacted my enjoyment. It was my first book from Ackroyd, and while not a raging success, I am interested enough that I'll be sure to try another of his books in the future.


Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time. A veteran of World War II, an optometrist, and a survivor of an alien abduction, he travels back and forth through time. He opens a door into the past, closes his eyes and wakes up on another planet, has a nervous breakdown and discovers a two bit science fiction author who later becomes his friend.

To be honest, I didn't get it. I know it is supposed to be an anti-war novel, and I found the parts dealing with his wartime experiences quite good, but the Tralfamadorian storyline and the time travel didn't work for me. I am operating under the theory that the time travel was an excuse to write the story in a non-linear format and to highlight the confusion of a man who is clearly experiencing PTSD. It is my belief that the aliens work in much the same fashion, he is mingling the storyline of his life with that of a novel by his favorite author in order to make his own life bearable. I think that if Vonnegut had picked one or the other it would have made more sense to me.

Or maybe not. This is my second Vonnegut novel and I cannot say that one made much more sense to me. I just keep getting the feeling that I am missing something because his books go right over my head. He is an obviously skilled writer, and despite my confusion I will likely continue to read his books. I just don't think that Vonnegut and I are destined to be besties.

Fables, Vol. 5: The Mean Seasons

Fables, Vol. 5: The Mean Seasons - Tony Aikins, Jimmy Palmiotti, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Bill Willingham ***Spoilers if you have not read the previous volumes***

The results are in for the mayoral election, resulting in some major changes. In the midst of all of this Snow White gives birth to a litter of babies, and due to the nature of the children she is forced into exile on The Farm to raise them. With Snow White gone, and himself forbidden from The Farm, Bigby disappears, but sends his father in his stead.

I'm definitely getting a sense that these past couple books are leading up to something much, much bigger. Unfortunately that makes it seem as if not much is happening, but in the case of The Mean Seasons the anticipation made it more interesting than the previous volume. I was disappointed in the lack of forward movement in Frau Totenkinder's storyline, however the introduction of Cinderella was quite interesting. I'll definitely be reading Volume 6 sooner rather than later.

Standard Fare for the Genre

Someone to Love - Jude Deveraux

It's been three years since Jace Montgomery's fiancee Stacey was found dead in an English inn. Her death was ruled a suicide, but Jace refuses to accept this and is unable to move on with his life. When he finds a cryptic note in an old book of hers written on the back of a sales flyer for a large English estate he impulsively buys it in hopes of solving the mystery of Stacey's death. True to the genre's form though, he not only manages to find a reason to live, but love as well.


This book was everything I remember Jude Deveraux's books to be, light and fluffy love stories, with just a touch of intrigue to keep you interested. I really liked the female lead in this book, Nightingale. She was sassy and independent, with a touch of vulnerability. Jace was typical of all the Montgomery men, kind, intelligent, and extremely good looking. This book was a paranormal romance, and while I could have done without some aspects of the ghost story it was a good way to set up the interaction between Jace and Nigh and the revelation of the mystery behind Stacey's death. Like all genre romances it was over the top and completely unrealistic, but not a bad way to pass an afternoon. It wasn't enough to convince me to start reading romance novels regularly again, but it was a nice reminder of what I enjoyed about them.


The Buried Giant: A novel - Kazuo Ishiguro

I was really excited about this book. Ishiguro hasn't released a new book in a number of years and this one has ties to Arthurian legend, so I was thinking it would be right up my alley. Unfortunately it just didn't work for me. On the surface, The Buried Giant tells the story of an elderly married couple who makes the decision to leave their home to find their son whom they've not seen in a number of years. However, it is clear from the beginning that there is more to it than that. A mist of forgetfulness lies over the whole land, preventing them and everyone else from accessing their memories, even of the recent past. As the story continues it morphs into something greater than just a trip to visit their son into a quest to dispel this fog and recover their lost past.


This summary actually makes the book sound really intriguing, and it could have been. Yet it was lacking something. It felt like the same veil preventing Axl and Beatrice from their memories also prevented me from fully connecting with their story. The pacing of the story was quite slowe and even events that should have been exciting and instead made me feel tired and at times bored. As a result it took a long time to complete this book. If you are a fan of Ishiguro, I would recommend you read it, however for those who have not enjoyed his books in the past it is one I suggest you skip.