Friday, April 29, 2016

Movies with Brian: "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (No Spoilers, but there is a corgi dressed as yoda!)

Duhdadadaaaadaaaa duhdadadaaaadaaada…. Star Wars! Let’s be honest you weren’t really sure what that onomatopoeia was all about at first, am I right?
The Force Awakens is the most recent installment of an ever-expanding fictional universe, and has finally made its way to DVD/Bluray/Digital for your home viewing pleasure. Originally I saw the movie in theaters with my wife, and left somewhere between disgruntled and disappointed. There were several reasons for that:
  1. We got to the theater late and ended up sitting in the second row – Han Solo’s face was so droopy we wondered if he’d had a stroke.
  2. The crowd wanted the movie to be good, and listening to the desperately forced laughter at parts that were not worthy of a cackle or guffaw made me resent paying money for this “experience”.
  3. My expectations were off base because of how well reviewed it was. I lost sight of the fact that you really need to suspend your disbelief; granted there are significant moments that, even in that state, this movie stretched too far.
Suffice to say my initial descriptions of the movie fit into the four-letter category. Has anything changed since then? Yes.
It’s not that the DVD presented a different, more palatable film, but I watched it with my kids (ages 6, 4, and not quite 2). They were enthralled and excited by the action, the story, the world, the universe they were viewing did not have the staleness it did for me (somebody familiar with the first Star Wars films). Was it perfect? Not by any means, but it became a family experience. It was something fun that added value because it was shared, because the story itself (although a complete rehashing of  A New Hope, although filled with logical flaws that cannot simply be explained away “because the force”) is about good versus evil, and the reality of danger and pain and suffering, but in a safe way.
In a world that is growing more and more confused about everything from gender identity, to just wars, or even if there is such a thing as right and wrong anymore it is good to be able to tap into something with an underlying absolute value at its core.
With all my thoughts I still hold that the Honest Trailer is the most accurate assessment of this movie. It is not perfect. It does not capture the mystique of the original three, but it is a good sequel. In the end I think this movie will have been a perfect gateway into something bigger and more expansive than George Lucas was able to create. With a preview for Rogue One now out, and the knowledge that there are seven films to be released over seven years this is an exciting time for the Star Wars franchise and its fans.
Overall this movie was good, well worth watching, especially in preparation for the coming expansion.
Happy viewing,

Can't teach an old dog new Jedi mind tricks...:
Addition by Wesley. This is as close as I've gotten to a Star Wars movie. #realtalk

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rapid Fire Book Review #9

The Job by Steve Osborne - A short story collection from the author's long career as a member of the NYPD. You get the whole range of emotions reading this book - you laugh, you cry, you get to see that sometimes buying a hot dog is an act of kindness people don't expect. Officer Steve also talks about his 9/11 experience which serves as a reminder about how we need to support the people who ran into danger on that day. There's also a sad story about a dog. (Don't read this book, Rita!)

Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss and Hope in an African Slum by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner -
Im going to kind of sound like a jerk about this book, but it is what it is. The best part of this book is Kennedy and hearing about how he overcome and all caps UNFATHOMABLE childhood in Kenya. He worked hard and saw things that needed changed in his community and helped to start the changes needed. And then this girl comes over from middle-upper class America and they fall in love and blah blah blah. They are trying to do big things and I wish them all kinds of success but she was all kinds of clueless sometimes and it drove me nuts.

Book of Aron  by Jim Shepard - A story about a young boy who works as a smuggler in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. This book is not for the faint of heart. There is talk of kids with so much lice their hair looks silver, dead bodies on the street, and a kid who has to pull gold teeth from his dead Dad's body so he can use them to buy food. Not an uplifting book, but an interesting story told from an angle I hadn't heard before.

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savrit - I really liked this book, but somehow it fell threw the cracks on getting reviewed, as happens occasionally. Anna finds herself alone on the streets of Poland after her dad gets picked up by the Nazis for being an intellectual. She is in desperation when a friendly stranger on the street starts talking to her. Through a series of weird events and near captures by the Nazis they spend the next few YEARS roaming the countryside together trying to stay away from the Nazis AND the Russians and others who mean to do them harm. The writing in this book was just so fantastic. I loved it. It's "technically" a YA book, which surprised me because some sh*t goes down! Anyway, thought this great book with it's magical realism element (my favorite!) was truly great)

And we finish on a low note, haha:


You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexanda Kleeman. I picked this one up from the library for readathon and just couldn't hack it. I gave it the standard 100 pages and it just wasn't drawing me in. I probably would have just stuck with it and finished it but I have a pile of other great sounding books that need reading and I just didn't want to spin my wheels on something. Others have raved about this book though, so if you're intrigued give it a try!


Monday, April 25, 2016

Things I Never Thought I'd Say at Work

So, way back in late June/early July I started a job at a medical school. I'm the administrative go-to for a group of faculty whose primary area of research is the brain. Having come from a law firm background, this was ALLLLL new to me and I find myself saying things that I never thought that I would say. Like.....

"I know this (human organ/or other organic part that used to come off of something living) is in a box of dry ice and sealed or whatever, but I feel like we need to get it in the fridge just in case. I'm not dealing with a leaking box with a (whatever) in it."

"Is today brain moving day?"

Me: "Is that dangerous?" (Motioning to colorful vials of liquid)
Coworker: "Well it depends what you mean by dangerous."
Me: "If I drank all of them at once would it kill me?"
Coworker: " Well, no. I mean you'd get really sick and probably wish that you were dead but you wouldn't die"

(I would NEVER EVER EVER put anything REMOTELY near my face that was in the lab area - even though most of it is probably harmless but I'm always so curious. Though I guess I might ask this question too much because I have one coworker who, whenever I walk past him and he's holding a vial of something says "Wesley, don't drink this, ok?". He might have real worries that I taste test things when everyone is in seminars or something).

And then there are the things that I say all the time:

"I only understood about half of what you just said. Can you run that by me again?"

"I don't know the answer to that question, but I'm sure I can find out for you. Can I call you back?"

"If that is what you are doing today can you warn me so I don't accidentally walk by and see it?"

and the by far most popular

"I'm not a scientist. You'd have to ask someone who does the science".


Friday, April 22, 2016

Dewey's 24 hour readathon is taking place this Saturday!

One of my favorite days of the year is happening tomorrow! It's readathon day!

If you are unaware of readathon, it's basically that participants across the globe sit and read for 24 hours straight. Or try to. It's a pretty impressive feat to make it 24 hours. My personal best is not anywhere near that. Or if you want to double your fun, you sign up to be a reader AND a cheerleader. Cheerleaders are sorted into teams (I'm #TeamGoldfinch!) and you are given a group of readers to cheer on and encourage in their quest for 24 hour domination. I obviously love reading, but cheering is my jam. There are also PRIZES, twitter chats, mini challenges and more! So you might see some extra action from me here on the blog, on instagram or on twitter. I will be on twitter A LOT this weekend.

Major props go our to Andi, Heather, Katie and everyone who puts an astounding amount of time and energy to get this enterprise up off of the ground twice a year. We all appreciate it greatly!

All of the information that you could ever need is on their wonderful website and don't forget to use the hashtag! #readathon.

My TBR stack for readathon is pretty small because I'm probably going to focus my energy on cheering, but what I do have I am excited for:

I was supposed to be done with this a few days ago for Jamie's Inklings discussion but I fell behind due to work insanity. Will be finishing up this guy first and then getting over to Jamie's blog to discuss!

I walked past this book in the library and I feel like I heard good things about it from people (I feel like maybe Julianne or Shannon) So I thought I'd give it a whirl.

I am so so so so excited for this book. Got approved for the ARC on Netgalley and I can barely wait until Saturday to get my hands on it. It will be grand! (I hope! Fingers crossed)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Book review: "The Never Open Desert Diner" by James Anderson

Ben Jones is the antihero of this slow burn of a novel. Ben is a truck driver on an almost deserted stretch of highway in Utah. Ben doesn't have many customers (paying or otherwise) on Route 117 but the ones he does have are, uh, colorful. Walter is the man who runs the titular diner and is probably Ben's best friend, though Walter can be "a cranky asshole" sometimes he will surprise you with an offer to make you breakfast.There is also two brother who live in train boxcars very far from any railroad, and a preacher with a migrating cross, and more. Ben has a lot on his mind one day when he pulls of the road to take a pee  break when he stumbles across a naked woman playing a beautiful cello in an abandoned model home.....

The book unravels slowly, but in a pleasing way not a "oh my gosh get on with it already" type of way. Everything, including some very interesting stories in regards to the backgrounds of Ben's customers and Ben himself. The fun fact that Ben is half Native American and half Jewish would be interesting enough but there's so much more!) There is also the most disgusting recipe for a "birthday cake" that I've ever heard. And someone gets cut in half by barbed wire.

I enjoyed this book because of: realistic and complex characters, interesting and unexpected twists and an ending that was surprising but satisfying. (Though I'm still on the fence on the cover. I like the silver and black and white but is it too many fonts on one cover? I don't know....) A high 3.5 stars out of 5 from me!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books

Monday, April 18, 2016

Book review: "Finding George Orwell in Burma" by Emma Larkin

For this month's Ex-pat read, our ex-pat is a famous one. George Orwell. You may know him from such incredibly classic books like "Animal Farm" and "1984". I have to say that after reading this book my fingers are itching to get a hold of and reread those two. What you might not know about George is that he lived for a time in Burma, and though it wasn't a topic of many of his writings (though there are some) it effected his writing, and life, a lot.

For the sake of continuity I will call Burma Burma and not Myanmar, because that's what it was called when it was under British colonial rule. Burma is really the centerpiece of the story, a whole character unto itself. I should also note that this book was published in 2004 and that some changes have happened with Burma taking tiny steps closer to freedom but it remains a very closed off place with a staggering history of  human rights abuses. (Examples: imprisoning anyone who protests the government, censoring of press, basically no free speech. Please see here , here  and here for more information). 

Ans just in case someone doesn't know where Burma is....

Map of Myanmar (Burma)

Our author travels to Burma to see the places that Orwell had lived and worked and to see if there are people reading Orwell. Orwell was, basically a British policeman during his time in Burma and there seems to be a lot of differences between how he felt about Britain's colonization of Burma and how other British officers felt. He sounds like he was kind of a loner, not much of a party animal like some of his compatriots could be. Author Emma goes to some of his old haunts but they totally have the Miss Havisham vibe going on -  if they are still around they are decrepit and empty but you can see how beautiful they used to be. Mostly there is nothing there. And sometimes she gets followed around and watched by government spies basically. 

I think the most interesting parts of the book is her interaction with the Burmese. Whenever they talk about Orwell and his writings it has to be in very hushed tones because his books are pretty subversive. I don't want to give too much away but to a lot of the Burmese, Big Brother isn't some frightening dystopian fantasy, it's their everyday life. I wonder how Orwell would feel if he saw Burma now.

This book made me want to reread some classics that I haven't read since mmy early teens,and it educated me immesnly on a country that I knew very little about. It's worth reading just for a short little Burmese parable about the knights and the dragon (page 107 in the paperback). I give it 3.5 stars!


Friday, April 15, 2016

Rain boot bonanza!

I have a slight obsession with rain boots, which is good because our springs in Wisconsin have a tendency to be rainy and therefore muddy. So here are some cute rainboots that I rounded up from the internet! Click on the pictures for links! Happy Friday everyone!

Chooka Top Solid Mid Rain Boot 




 Moschino rain boots

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Book Review: "The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic" by Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury

I was listening to one of my BFF podcasts - Stuff You Missed in History Class- a few weeks ago and they did an episode on the Nome serum run. I put off listening it for awhile because I have this strange heart tugging bias to this story that I can chalk up to three different cases of familial attachment - 1) I was born in Alaska and still have family there 2) Growing up my family had a Siberian Husky named Rocky who was beautiful and strong and it was incredibly easy to picture him in front of a sled running through the snow. (Having said that I don't think he would have been much of a sled dog, listening to commands was not his favorite activity) and 3) I have incredibly clear memories of going to the movies with my Dad to see the movie Balto (in 1996, GULP) and I remember in the movie there is a scene where the local carpenter was building child sized coffins and I was horrified. Between that and the fact that there were doggies in danger means that I white knuckled it through the whole movie but I loved it. (Also as I was just watching the trailer I see that Kevin Bacon was the voice of Balto which is just hilarious. Also, here's the trailer, you know you want to see the 1996 animated goodness.Goes without saying the movie is NOT factually accurate).

Wow, sorry for that jaunt down memory lane. But when Holly and Tracy said that they had read today's book for research on their podcast I knew that I was going to pick it up.

In case you aren't familiar with the story, here is the gist.

The town of Nome (in northeastern Alaska) was founded by gold miners who arrived in the early 1800s. By 1925 a lot of the gold miners had fled but the town remained, I think the population was about 10,000 people. A few kids had come down with a scary disease: diptheria. Diptheria kills you by greyish membrane-y splotches form in your mouth and throat and you eventually suffocate. It's apparently often called "the child strangler". This is highly contagious and the one doctor in Nome didn't have enough serum to treat the amount of people that could potentially get sick. The problem was that it was winter and Nome was unable to be reached by water. The two options were by land and by plane. For many reasons, land was the best option.

The antidote was able to get to a city that was 674 miles away from Nome. To get it the rest of the way a series of dog teams were asked to basically do the deadliest relay race that anyone had seen. The man who had the longest leg was a badass Norwegian immigrant named Leonard Sepppala. His lead dog was Togo. Leonard and his team mushed for 91 miles over 4 days in temperatures that were about -30F. They barely cheated death several times. Gunnar Kaasen and his team, lead by Balto had the last leg of the relay. It was snowing so bad that Gunnar was temporarily blinded and relied completely on Balto to lead the whole team to Nome. Which he did.

I seriously could go on and on (the amount of notes I made for this review is a little scary) but I want you to find out more about these heroic men (the youngest was 18) and their efforts to save this town.

This book talks about the mushers, their teams, the horrible conditions that they road through, personality clashes, and stories of other dog teams that illustrate the extreme dangers of making these types of journeys. (Like the story of a musher who went through the ice with some of his dogs, got everyone out but then froze to death trying to light a fire and his lead dog stayed with him and when people found him he was alive but his little paws were frozen to the ground :(

What makes this book so interesting is that it is so multi faceted.You learn about: Native culture, how frontier sounds get established and why some stay around and some don't, being a doctor on the frontier, a scary disease that most people in the world won't die from anymore and almost anything that you need to know about dog sledding. There's even a hint about what to do if you get lost in a snow storm (stay calm and sit your ass down!).This book is the complete package and even though the information about Balto was upsetting to my overly attached self this book is completely worth the read. 4 stars out of 5!


Monday, April 11, 2016

Book review: "The Girl With All the Gifts" by MR Carey

This book busted me out of a reading slump. I feel like that's just about the nicest thing that a book can do for you, right?

You know something is up basically from the get go because Melanie is getting ready to go to school, which is pretty normal for a ten year old. Buuuuut then you find out that that means that means getting throughly strapped into a wheelchair. And that she and her fellow classmates only have to eat once a week....and are showered once a week with chemicals...and they don't sleep...and that one of their teachers always seems to be pouring something from a flask into his coffee that makes him talk funny when he's done with it.

Yep. Zombie kids.

At first I was disappointed when this was revealed in the first one or two chapters.

Really? Zombies again?

But for every "same old thing" (oh really, a zombie apocalypse where people are staked out at a government outpost not sure if they're the last person alive in the world or not) there is an interesting twist.

Also, the villain is sympathetic. She's a mad scientist but I get where she is coming from.

Well developed characters, vivid world building, a surprising amount of greek mythology talk, and genuinely scary moments. Even if you're like me and are feeling "over" the zombie thing pick this book up. It brings up the big questions: what makes a person human? In time of extreme crisis what happens to our moral compass? At what point is humanity past the point of saving?

Also, going to dreamcast this book real fast:

Melanie: I don't know anyone young enough, because she's ten....hmmm...anyone have suggestions? The little girl from the Narnia movies would have been great.... too old now.
Gallagher: Asa Butterfield
Sgt Parks: Jason Isaacs
Miss Justineau: Kerry Washington
Dr Caldwell: Nicole Kidman


Friday, April 8, 2016

Mini Graphic Novel Review: "Displacment: A Travelogue" by Lucy Knisley

You guys, I'm not going to lie to you - I was stressed through almost all of this read. And that's not really a usual thing with Lucy's graphic novels and me.

So Lucy's grandparents have booked themselves a cruise with their retirement/nursing home. Lucy's whole family thinks this is a bad idea because her grandparents are both becoming senile and get confused easily. And the boat is a standard ocean cruise boat, which is to say that it's HUGE. Lucy volunteers to go with her grandparents and to make sure that they stay safe and don't get lose.

Lucy is shocked at "how far gone" here grandparents are mentally. Her grandfather defecates in his pants almost every day. Sometimes they forget who she is. They can't find their room. She becomes highly stressed and feels like she can't leave them alone for 10 minutes or else she will never find them again. (She is not wrong). But as she cruises with her grandparents she re-reads her grandpa's WWII era memoir and it helps give her perspective on who her grandparents used to be and still are.

So this isn't really a book about a cruise. It's a book about mortality, and relationships and making sure we spend time with our loved ones.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Author Interview with Steven Greenberg

If you enjoyed the book we discussed yesterday, here is the promised interview with the author!

I love that you talk about the difference between collaborating and just doing things to insure survival, because that's something that I've contemplated too. In my head, I guess collaborators were people who reveled in their position of power and benefited in a way that went beyond just survival; prosperity and gloating vs. survival and discomfort with what you had to do. Can you expand more on your thoughts on this?

This is a great question, and one I wrestled with throughout the writing process. I think the dilemma is best expresesed in this passage from Galerie:

Theirs was the “grey zone,” as Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi called it—a place in which black-and-white morality, in the absence of the social contract, faded to uniform grey. Who was more guilty, the “collaborating” kapo that ensured all prisoners in a barracks received equal portions of food, even if this involved beating prisoners to keep them from stealing, or the individual prisoner, who stole food from his weaker companions? Who caused, and who prevented, more suffering?

To get a better grasp of the collaboration issue that is so central to Galerie, I researched the “Kapo Trials”, which were held in the 1950s in Israel—more to assuage public outcry than to seek true justice, it seems. I also focused on the Judenraat, the Jewish councils appointed by the Nazis in the various ghettos who were often charged with impossible life-and-death decisions. These were so widely-despised that the term is still—inaccurately and unfortunately—used derogatorily today in Israel.

There were certainly abuses by Jews in positions of power. The head of the Judenraat in the Lodz Ghetto, Chaim Rumkowski—who in his demagoguery actually had stamps issued with his portrait—comes to mind. Yet when you read other firsthand accounts—like the diary of Gonda Redlich, who was among the Jewish leadership in Theresienstadt—you see people deeply committed to helping their fellow Jews and agonizing over each impossible choice they are forced to make.

My conclusion from all this, and from my own personal experience with Holocaust survivors, is this: when the moral framework in which we all operate—Rousseau called it the social contract—is so radically upended, questions of right and wrong can be judged only in their temporal context. What seems “wrong” from our perspective may not have been so in its context. I tried to bring this moral ambiguity to play in Galerie—especially in the final scene of the epilogue.

My interest was piqued by the locations that you picked. Obviously, Prague had to be one setting, along with Israel. But then Wisconsin and Indiana were interesting choices. (Maybe I liked the choices because I spent summers in Indiana and live in Wisconsin. I totally know where the Grateful Dead concert in the book took place, haha) What made you pick them as settings?

Like any writer (although we may not all admit it), I “cheated”. In other words, I blatantly used my personal experiences to enrich the book.

I grew up in northern Indiana, and worked for several summers at a camp in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. And I was at that Dead concert, too. So, addition to drawing on my more recent experiences visiting Prague, and of course living in Israel for 25 years, I drew on my past to bring Galerie to life. I did the same thing, perhaps even more blatantly, in my upcoming novel, Enfold Me (launching next month, by the way).

Uncle Tomas and other Holocaust survivors are living in pretty unfortunate circumstances in the book, is that a real problem?

Sadly, yes. This is an issue that receives a lot of media attention here in Israel, even today. I had always been curious as to how the situation came about. To figure it all out, and try to build a more realistic story, I took several days and read a 2008 Israeli government Commission of Enquiry report about the state of Holocaust survivors and the assistance they received. I won’t burden you with the details—but suffice it today that mismanagement and political opportunism played—and still plays—a large role. But this is the “how” of the treatment of Holocaust survivors in Israel, and I really wanted to understand the “why.” I think this passage from Galerie best illustrates my conclusions:

When facing the horror of the Holocaust, it was still easier to strip it of corporeality. It was simpler to regard its inanimate symbols rather than its fading, yet still living, human face. One could look at the remains of Auschwitz, and see the piles of shoes and eyeglasses—tangible, horrifying, yet less emotionally threatening than Moshe, the ninety-year-old Auschwitz survivor, with his liver-spotted hands, creaking walker, ratty slippers, and empty refrigerator.

I thought that the husband as the narrator was a good choice. I felt like it gave some objectivity to the story that you wouldn't have been able to have had if the story was told from any other angle. How did you make that choice?

The choice of narrator was an easy one for me, but the implementation (as my editor can attest) was challenging.

I was married to (and later divorced from) the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, and can speak firsthand to the deep psychological scars the second generation carries. By choosing a narrator with whom I had such deep personal affinity, it was easier to conceive and create the characters and their interactions.

Where we got into trouble was with the narration voice, specifically the suspension of disbelief. How could the narrator have known the intimate details of what happened to Vanesa in Terezin, for example? Both in the writing and (especially) in the editing, maintaining a believable depth of knowledge while still keeping the narrator objective and removed was a challenge.

What was your biggest challenge in writing this book?

There were two major challenges, actually, one logistical and the other personal.

Logistically, I am a stickler for detail. I took great care in the research for Galerie—likely more than strictly necessary. I worked with researchers from several museums, for example. I read more than ever thought I’d want to know about Vanesa’s father’s profession (I won’t reveal what it is, to avoid spoilers). And I even vetted all the Czech phrases with a native Czech speaker. Because of this, I found the writing process often frustrating and slow. In many scenes, I found myself chomping at the bit to write the story, but getting bogged down in historical details for days at a time. I know this comes with the genre, but it’s still a challenge.

The personal challenge was opening the wounds that shaped my own experience with the second generation of Holocaust survivors. It was a truly painful, but ultimately healing, process.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Book review: "Galerie" by Steve Greenberg (HFVBT)

*Come back tomorrow for an interview with the author!*

This book covers many countries, many time periods but with a core group of characters. We follow Vanessa Newman from a young visiting camper in Wisconsin to a woman in Israel with a mysterious and fractured family. Her mother dies when she is young, so she is surrounded by the men in her family, her father and her Uncle Tomas. But they have conflicts and when one dies the other seems strangely relieved. Kinda weird, right? Vanessa begins to dig in her past, seeking answers and what she gets is a lot more questions, and danger!

In general I don't think the circumstances of Vanessa's family disconnectedness is unusual. When people see horrible things or are forced to participate in horrible things - things like drinking, drugs, isolation and guilt can be constant companions. And sometimes no matter how much time has passed they might never be ready to talk about their experiences.

One of the things that I thought was most thought provoking about this book was the argument between Vanessa and her husband (our narrator) about the difference between collaboration and survival during war time. (But that will come up in the interview tomorrow, so I will just let that sit.)

I also obviously love the fact that the book is set in Prague. Although not very many things that happen there are nice!

This book has something for nearly everyone: interesting locations, mysterious symbols, people stalked through the old cobbled streets of Prague, a pretty high creepy factor and murder most foul!

About the Author

Steven Greenberg is a professional writer, as well as a full-time cook, cleaner, chauffeur, and work-at-home Dad for three amazing young children, and the lucky husband of a loving and very supportive wife. Born in Texas and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Steven emigrated to Israel only months before the first Gulf War, following graduation from Indiana University in 1990. In 1996, he was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, where he served for 12 years as a Reserves Combat Medic. Since 2002, Steven has worked as an independent marketing writer, copywriter and consultant.
You can find more information at Steven Greenberg’s website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, April 5
Review at Library Educated

Wednesday, April 6
Review & Giveaway at Man of la Book
Interview at Library Educated

Thursday, April 7
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Friday, April 8
Review & Giveaway at Singing Librarian Books

Monday, April 11
Guest Post & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews

Tuesday, April 12
Review at Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne

Wednesday, April 13
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Thursday, April 14
Review at Bookramblings
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, April 15
Review at Book Nerd

Friday, April 1, 2016

Book review: "The Ruins" by Scott Smith

Let's start this post by saying that you should DEFINITELY go to Mexico. But, maybe, if the locals seem really really intent on waving you off of a location, you might want to listen.

-Also, if you're thinking "I feel like that's a movie...." you are correct. It is a movie that (SHOCK) deviates from the book a fair bit, even though the script was partially written by the books author. Here's the imdb page for it.-

Two couples (Eric + Stacy, Amy + Jeff) are on vacation in Mexico. The girls are best friends, and it seems that the guys are just kind of along for the ride. (One of these couple has a cheater in the mix, I won't divulge who.) They meet a German guy named Heinrich and hang out together along with a group of 3 Greeks who speak no Spanish or English, so it's mostly just drinking. Matthias reveals that his brother has run of with a cute archeologist (as one does) and he has to go get him because they are due to go back to Germany soon. The two couples, Matthias, and Pablo (one of the Greeks) all decide to go look for him, and to do a little site seeing in the process.

They follow the kind of half-ass map that Matthias' brother left him and wander into a Mayan village where they are stared at with intense curiosity. It is unsettling for our motley crew so they start to wander and eventually find the path up a hill to a clearing. There's no sign of recent activity, or Matthias' brother. The strangest thing is that the Mayans from the village, now armed, have encircled the hill. It becomes clear that the Mayans are not going to let them leave. But they hear a cell phone ringing from a well in the hill so they decide to go get it and call for help. But, after a scary accident it is revealed that there is no phone....but that the vines are mocking them with the sound of a cell phone ringing and then the disconcerting sound of laughter.

 What follows is a frightening tale of evil vines, at home amputations, how the worst of us can come out in scary situations, why you should always wear the right shoes for the situation, and a study of relationships that you don't want to be in.

What I think makes this book enjoyable is that even though the villain is supernatural (and super creative, I mean, evil plants that mimic you and get you in trouble?) the strongest thread in the book comes down to humanity under pressure. How long do you hold on hope when you are facing nearly certain death? Is hope ever a bad thing? Is it better to be realistic? 

 I'm not a frequent reader of the horror genre (and when I say this I mean, like literally never) but this was kind of a fun divergence from my normal reading life. I give it a 3 stars out of 5!

And I love the cover