LIKELIEST TO RECOMMEND TO OTHERS
LIKELIEST TO RECOMMEND TO OTHERS
Title: Ghost Ship
Author: Brian Hicks
Genre: Nonfiction / history
Rating: 3 / 5
I was accompanying someone to a medical appointment when I saw this book sitting in the magazine basket. I had enough time to read part of the prologue, which was super gripping. Maybe it’s because the prologue was great, maybe it’s because it was during work hours, but it was really interesting! I took it home with me.
The Mary Celeste was a ship slated to transport alcohol from New York to Genoa. It was found sailing, without its crew, in pristine condition. The last entry on the log, ten days previously, noted calm weather. There were no signs of struggle, there was very little water in the bilge, six months of provisions… so what happened?
I only gave this book 3 stars because I really wanted to focus on this mystery, but the book has a little extra padding besides that, which for me detracted a bit from the enjoyment of reading it. It’s not important to me whose first cousin is sisters-in-law with who and how many siblings the father of the captain’s wife had or whatever. It’s tedious and doesn’t add much. If you just want the goods, you can read the prologue and then skip the first two chapters (as well as seven and eight, which were more relevant but I still found kind of tedious).
The author does a good job of telling a pretty interesting story without sensationalizing it too much. Of course there are many things like “and that would be the last person to see any of the 10 ever again” scattered throughout for dramatic tension, but overall it felt pretty respectful to those involved. Many theories are gone over, some more plausible than others, and in the end the author puts forward a satisfying (if super tragic and distressing) solution to a problem that has been hailed as the “greatest maritime mystery of all time.”
If you’re looking for a real world mystery this fall, this one might fit the bill.
Title: The Bean Trees
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Rating: 2.5 / 5
In the same week, someone gave this book to me and someone else checked it out of a library for me to read. I figured that was good enough reason to give it a shot.
Leaving her rural community after the huge accomplishment of not getting pregnant before she graduated, Taylor Greer’s car breaks down on a Cherokee reservation where a local promptly gives her a small child. Taylor travels on and ultimately settles in Tuscon, where she tries to start her new life.
It’s a quick story and reads easily enough. Maybe too easily? For a book that deals with such weighty issues as immigration and totalitarian governments and poverty and adoption and sexual trauma and etc etc etc, not much is explored with any real depth. Even more frustrating because, while I don’t disagree with the author’s views, she presents her politics in a pretty ham-fisted way.
The writing leaves something to be desired. The characters don’t have a whole lot of oomph. The folksy charm laid on a little too thick. Also do all of her books have naive white women from hick towns becoming romantically fascinated with educated, unattainable men of color?
This is her first book and I think it kind of shows. Although I criticized Flight Behavior for being heavy-handed with its politics as well, the characters in that one felt a lot more developed and the way the issues were presented seemed to have more weight than in this one.
This book is not bad, I just don’t think Barbara Kingsolver is my jam. It’s a quick read and is kinda topical right now, due to the immigration theme. But overall, for me, it was a little too fluffy, a little too flat, but still a passably enjoyable way to spend some reading time.
Title: Shutter Island
Author: Dennis Lehane
Genre: Fiction / thriller
Rating: 2.5 / 5
Time slips by and I neglect to write reviews. However, I’m realizing how much I forget about books I’ve read and also how much I do enjoy talking about the books I’ve read. The best way to do that is in a book discussion with actual other people, but it can be hard to find people who are reading what I’ve been reading. And so, the blog.
I read Shutter Island this past weekend while flying out to the East Coast and back. The trip was not for the happiest of circumstances and the layovers and flights were long and tiring. So this book probably did not have my full, undivided attention as most books I read too, and maybe that factored in to how I felt about it. However, many other people in the airports looked as if they were reading similar fare–best sellers and thrillers, mysteries or “chick lit” that is easy to get through. This seemed like it would be a good airplane book, which is why I chose it.
The story centers around Shutter Island, a combo prison/mental health treatment facility. It’s set in the early 1950s, probably so that the author would have somewhat of an out when people like me, who work in the mental health field, go “pfft.” I say “somewhat” because, really, come on. There has been a prison break at Shutter Island, and two US Marshals arrive on the eve of a huge hurricane, turning over their weapons as the last ferry leaves and the island loses radio contact. Once they start investigating, odd things keep cropping up–codes from prisoners, behaviors from staff that contradict the story they were given, refusals to turn over standard documentation. What could be going on…
Like a lot of bestselling thriller/action/mystery books, it’s kinda cheesy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; like I said, I chose it with the plane rides in mind. Often Peter would look over and snicker and say “wow, so graphic, feces” or because chapters started with “Are you fucking crazy?” or “BULLSHIT!” It was fairly enjoyable, although it didn’t stop me from falling asleep a couple times; however, I was pretty tired, and maybe this should not be held against the book.
It brought up questions of humane or appropriate mental health treatment, ideas of truth, and the effects of trauma. I think there is enough of this stuff in the book that would make for a fairly lively discussion in a book club setting.
Spoilers below the cut.