Monthly Archives: August 2020

Curse of the Boggin

I am quite enjoying the simplicity of children’s books, lately. And I don’t mean that the books or plots are simple, because they are as engaged and twisty as some adult books, but it’s nice to have good guys and bad guys, right and wrong, and to be able to actually like the protagonist. And also, they are just fun and easy to read.

D.J. MacHale’s Curse of the Boggin is the first in the Library Book series. Marcus O’Hara lives a normal life, until the day when he doesn’t. At first he thinks he’s imagining things, or maybe hallucinating. He’s seeing things that can’t be real. But soon he has to accept that ghosts, hauntings, and even monsters are real, because he’s experienced all of them. Armed with a mysterious key that takes him to a strange, other-dimensional library, Marcus and his friends need to find a way to put and end to his haunting and conclude a story that started long before they were involved.

This is exactly the kind of book I would have loved as a kid (and still love as an adult). It’s got mystery, suspense, a little bit of drama, all combined to make a fast-paced adventure. It’s easy to read, written in a conversational way, no highfalutin words or unnecessarily complex structures.

Curse of the Boggin was a fun read, and I’m probably going to end up reading other books in the series, just because it’s a nice break from the adult fare. So whether you’re looking for a fun and slightly spooky book for kids, or the same for adults, this might be the way to go.

Contact

As I’ve said before, I’m always on the hunt for a good science fiction book to fill that strange void that’s been left by my favorite movies and shows. And so, when I saw Contact by Carl Sagan when browsing one of my 10 for $1 book sales (I’ll miss those), I went ahead and grabbed it.

Contact follows the life of Ellie Arroway, a radio astronomer who spends her life looking for some sign that there is life beyond earth. When her radio telescopes finally pick up a transmission coming from the star Vega, she, along with her whole team, are launched into action to decipher the message. Once deciphered, they discover the blueprints to some sort of machine, which they build without knowing what it will do. Ellie is selected as one of the five scientists to crew the machine, for whatever kind of journey it takes. What she finds is that she must now balance science and faith in ways she’s never had to before.

I had such high hopes for this book, but I’ve gotta admit that it fell pretty flat. The book took so long to get going. Though moments of action are sprinkled throughout the book, the majority of it felt like filler, and not even particularly good filler. And I didn’t really care for the science vs. religion theme, even though I know it’s realistic. I will say, it didn’t end up being as prevalent throughout the book as I expected from the beginning.

Perhaps it’s that it has been so long since the book was written that it’s just not revolutionary or fantastic enough, in terms of science fiction. Or maybe I’m just picky even though I don’t quite know what I’m after. All I know is, the book was slow and didn’t grab me the way I expected it to. And as an avid reader of astronomy/astrophysics books (when I get my hands on them), I know it’s not because of the heavy science contained within the book.

What I can say is that Sagan’s writing is clean and comprehensive. I’d be really interested in reading some of his scientific writings. And perhaps if he wrote another novel, I’d find it much more engaging.

Behind Her Eyes

The best kinds of thrillers are the ones that play with your mind, and Sarah Pinborough definitely does that with Behind Her Eyes.

LouDSC00835ise is a single mom working part-time at a psychologist office when she discovers that the man she hit it off with in the bar is the new doctor–and he’s married. Louise determines to put it behind her and not give it another thought, but then David’s wife, Adele, bumps into Louise and wants to be friends. Instead of running as fast as she can, Louise lets herself get drawn deeper and deeper into the middle of David and Adele’s marriage, obsessed with uncovering the truth, because it’s very clear one or both of them have some secrets. And besides, Adele is helping Louise learn about lucid dreaming, the only solution to Louise’s night terrors.

But Louise could never imagine the truth at the core of David and Adele’s relationship, no one possibly could. Louise doesn’t realize the danger until it’s too late, and now everyone she loves could suffer for it.

I have mixed feelings about this book. First, the amount of profanity in the book was unpleasant. It wasn’t even the kind of book that it felt reasonable. It made the characters just seem course and unrefined. But then, none of the characters were the kind I could relate to anyway. It’s the kind of book you read to watch the train wreck drama unfold, not because you identify with the characters (I hope, anyway).

That said, the writing was good and Pinborough moved the story on at a quick pace. I wasn’t certain about the time jumps in the beginning, I think it’s a technique that should be used sparingly, but I think it worked to a degree in this story. My main issue with the book was that it didn’t seem like the ending was thoroughly teased throughout the book. I don’t mind if I miss all the clues, but I should be able to recall the hints woven through the book. The final twist seemed really out of the blue, blindsided me, actually. Had the book left out the final two chapters, I would have been more satisfied, and it still would have had a solid twist.

But the theme of lucid dreaming throughout the book took the story to a new level, playing a little bit with the mind, in the sense that you’re not quite sure where it leads but it’s definitely going somewhere.

All in all, it was a good book, but too many pieces were not my taste. The profanity and the condoning of affairs were major turn-offs, and I wasn’t able to really get into the rest of the story and forget about them.

The Great Gatsby

DSC00834Yes, this is actually my first time reading this book. I managed to never have to pick it apart for school, but still felt like I was missing out by not reading it.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, looks at the American dream and lost love. Jay Gatsby is a secretive young man living extravagantly in a huge mansion. He has nurtured his young love for Daisy Buchanan for years, biding his time until he can reveal himself to her. Believing she will forsake her husband and cling to her lost lover, Gatsby has committed his recent years to building a life Daisy can’t refuse. Everything falls apart, however, when he reveals himself to Daisy and Daisy’s husband, Tom.

Whether a comment on the impossibility of regaining what’s been lost or a comment on the comfort of familiarity over impulsive desire, Fitzgerald writes a compelling story. Though no one is really an upstanding character, you start to feel a little bit for them, recognizing the ways they’ve trapped themselves in their circumstances and the feeling of doing all you can but still being unable to make a change.

Gatsby’s life of chasing the one thing he lost, believing that it will give him ultimate happiness, is certainly relatable, and comes with a warning that people and things change. What may have made you happy before isn’t necessarily what will make you happy now. Looking back isn’t the way to move forward.

Sometimes I think it’s impossible to read classic books without getting into an analytical mindset, at least to a degree. Perhaps it’s just that so many of them were purposely written as commentary, whereas a lot of books today are entertainment (and I’m OK with that). Sometimes you want a book that makes you think, and sometimes you want a book that takes you to another place altogether. The Great Gatsby does a little bit of both.