Review: Living Dead Girl

living-dead-girlTitle:  Living Dead Girl

Author:  Elizabeth Scott

Published:  September 2, 2008

# of Pages:  176

ISBN:  978-1416960591

Rating:  5/5

“Alice” was abducted by Ray when she was ten years old.  She is now fifteen, and he has held her captive ever since.  He starves her so that she’ll remain small, skinny, and child-like, he rapes her on at least a daily basis, he physically abuses her any time she doesn’t do exactly as he wants – to the point of unconsciousness, and  he promises to kill her entire family if she tells anyone or leaves him.  “Alice” lives her entire life in a state of utter misery – put simply, she has no hope of getting out and is just waiting for death.

Living Dead Girl is a very short novel, written in sparse prose, that will absolutely haunt you long after completing it.  I could not put this book down, but I badly wanted to because the content was so upsetting.  The book made me feel so many different things – shock, anger,  sadness, disappointment, nausea – yet I could not turn away, I read it in one sitting.  Elizabeth Scott did such a terrific job making such a horrific subject into a compelling and interesting novel, and the writing was fantastic.  It was raw, gritty, and graphic but not overly or unnecessarily so.  I especially liked the style of writing – I really felt like I was in Alice’s head, understanding her, feeling what she was feeling, etc.  It was so hard to read but truly amazing at the same time.

SO, I have two questions.  First, for those of you who’ve read Living Dead Girl – I am DYING to discuss the ending.  So please, comment away, what did you think of the ending? For everyone else – how do you feel about reading a book that causes extreme discomfort? Would you bother reading something that you know will be disturbing – even if you are pretty curious and/or interested in the subject matter?

More reviews -

Review: We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families

wish-to-informTitle:  We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Famlies: Stories from Rwanda

Author:  Philip Gourevitch

# of Pages:  353

Published:  September 1998

ISBN:  978-0374286972

My Rating:  4/5

In April of 1994, the government of Rwanda called on everyone in the Hutu majority to kill everyone in the Tutsi minority.  Over the next three months 800,000 Tutsis were murdered in the most unambiguous case of genocide since Hitler’s war against the Jews.  Philip Gourevitch’s haunting work is an anatomy of the killings in Rwanda, a vivid history of the genocide’s background, and an unforgettable account of what it means to survive in its aftermath.

Wow.  This is an extremely powerful book.  I had read some about the genocide in Rwanda before, I knew the basic story and the most general aspects of what happened, but I had nowhere NEAR the amount of knowledge about it that is packed into this book.  This is a fantastic book to read for people who enjoy history and/or politics, as well as world events in general.  There is so much information in these pages that truthfully I feel like I should read it again because I know it didn’t all sink in.  I’m not going to lie to you guys, We Wish to Inform You… is not an easy read.  Not even close.  It took me quite a while to get through it, just because of the sheer depth of information presented here – I had to read much more slowly than I normally do to make sure everything sunk in.  But I think it’s an important read… this does happen.  This did happen, and something similar is happening in Darfur as well.

One thing that makes this book different from many others in the same genre is that it specifically points out all the opportunities the world, the United States in particular, had to intervene in the genocide and stop it from happening, and every time nothing was done.  It is difficult to fully grasp the fact that not only did the world know this was happening, the major world powers did everything they could to deny that it was an actual genocide and to point blame at everyone but their own governments for not helping.  This information is not easy to read about, but at the same time, very important to know about.  The book also goes into extensive detail regarding the aftermath of the genocide, when Hutu killers were living in “refugee” camps and receiving foreign aid, and when surviving Tutsis had to go back to their homes, and carry on their lives living next door to the murderers of their parents, spouses, and children.  Can you imagine – having to look EVERY DAY at the face of the person who murdered every single person you love?  It is absolutely unbelievable.  Yet very few of the killers were put to justice, and the book covers a lot about the broken country of Rwanda after the genocide was “over” (I am putting “over” in quotation marks because there were plenty of killings for a long time after the genocide was thought to be over by the world).

Gourevitch is an amazing journalist – the way he brought this time to life for the reader is stunning.  He did a great job mixing politics with stories of genocide survivors – although there is a LOT of politics in this book.  His language is fantastic and kept me interested even when I wanted to put the book down because of how sad I was feeling.  I am very interested to see what else he has done, or what else he is currently working on.

Highly recommended.  We Wish to Inform You is not a peaceful, easy read by any means, but one that is absolutely worth your time.

More reviews -

TSS/Review: Oblivious

Oblivious – Cyndia Depre

Oblivious Cover

From the back cover -

Eccentric Olivia Chatham has found her life’s calling.  Crime Buster.  

Tucker Monroe, the small Wisconsin town’s mysterious new resident, discovers he, too, has a mission.  Keeping up with her.

That was probably the shortest summary I have EVER seen on a book jacket.  To be a little more helpful, I’ll attempt to summarize a bit more.  Basically, Olivia is this super-sweet, much-adored rich girl in her small town.  Everyone knows her, and everyone loves her because of her generous, loving ways.  Oh, and even though she’s been divorced three times, she’s still incredibly innocent and doesn’t “get” the most obvious social cues – hence the title “Oblivious”.  One night, she meets Tucker, newly settled in her town, who is at a party her parents are hosting with a very well-known, beautiful and smart woman who lives in town, Cheryl Mecklenberg.  Later that evening, Cheryl is found dead in her home.  Olivia’s first instinct is to comfort Tucker to help him through his loss, but it turns out Tucker had just met Cheryl and wasn’t personally acquainted with her – so once Olivia gets it through her head that Tucker’s not grieving, she enlists him to help her and her best friend, Josie, solve the mystery of who murdered Cheryl.  

The above summary is why I usually just borrow from book jackets – as you can see, I’m not very good at writing my own summaries.

Anyway.  Most of you probably remember when I was supposed to post a review of Oblivious, a few weeks ago, but unfortunately it got lost in the mail so I just did a guest post by Ms. Depre instead.  Well, it finally came and I’m glad I got the opportunity to read this book because I enjoyed it a lot.  I found Olivia to be so funny and charming – I loved reading about the adventures she got herself into and the random way she went about “solving” the mystery.  I enjoyed how the people in her life were so protective of her since she was so innocent and trusting and had a hard time understanding when someone was being hurtful toward her.  It was fun to read how the relationship between Olivia and Tucker developed so slowly, and how much he really liked her but tried so hard to respect her dating “rules” and not move too quickly.  And of course, the mystery.  I liked the way it wrapped itself up, and the ending, to me, was not at all obvious.  I didn’t guess who the culprit was and I liked that I was surprised by the ending.  One aspect of the ending was a little too sticky-sweet, in my opinion, but I’ll let that slide because it was kind of cute, I suppose. 

Anyway, I really enjoyed Oblivious.  It was a fun and light read, certainly not great literature, but very entertaining.  I’ve seen this book compared to the Janet Evanovich books, but as I’ve never read them, I can’t agree or disagree with that, I can only suppose those people know what they’re talking about. :)  Oblivious is good though, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a fun read with likable characters and a plot that moves along pretty well.

Also reviewed by:

Review: Songs for the Missing

Songs for the Missing – Stewart O’Nan

songs

From the back cover -

“It was the summer of her Chevette, of J.P. and letting her hair grow.”  It was also the summer when, without warning, popular high school student Kim Larsen disappeared from her small Midwestern town.  Her loving parents, her introverted sister, her friends and boyfriend must now do everything they can to find her.  As desperate search parties give way to pleading television appearances, and private investigations yield to personal revelations, we see one town’s intimate struggle to maintain hope and finally, to live with the unknown.

Stewart O’Nan’s new novel begins with the suspense and pacing of a thriller and soon deepens into an affecting family drama of loss.  On the heels of his critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling Last Night at the Lobster, Songs for the Missing is an honest, heartfelt account of one family’s attempt to find their child.  With a soulful empathy for these ordinary heroes, O’Nan draws us into the world of this small Midwestern town and allows us to feel a part of this family.

My thoughts -

I have a hard time saying that I “enjoyed” this book because it was very… somber.  And sad.  And kind of hopeless, actually, which is not an easy emotion to feel while reading a book.  But it was very well-written and engrossing and I definitely flew through this novel, never wanting to put it down for any length of time.  Also, the characters were incredibly real.  I especially liked Lindsay, Kim’s sister, and I enjoyed reading about both her mourning for Kim and later her transformation into a young adult, dealing with the idea of live without her sister, and finding herself through all the chaos.  The other characters were also interesting and I liked most of them, but some of them were a tad one-dimensional, in my opinion (most notably, Kim’s parents).  While I am so glad I read this book, and I think O’Nan is a fabulous writer, it was honestly a very sad story and it wasn’t the easiest to read.  Because truthfully, very little in the book is hopeful in any way.  Other books I have read about disappearing or missing children or adults, such as The Year of Fog, have a positive quality to them – no matter what, the expectation throughout the book is that the missing person will be found (regardless of the actual outcome of the book), and that idea is what propels the majority of the story.  In this case… well, not so much.  It’s just much more bleak.  Not that anyone gives up on Kim, it’s just that the general feeling of the novel is one of despair.  I can’t describe it very well, but just don’t be surprised if the book depresses you somewhat.  I DO recommend it, it’s a very well-written book that will keep you turning the pages, but it’s not the easiest read.

Songs for the Missing was also reviewed by:

Review: 1st to Die

1st to Die – James Patterson

Click image to view full cover

published 2001 – 424 pages

From the back cover -

Enjoy the riveting debut of The Women’s Murder Club – James Patterson’s most exciting series ever.  In San Francisco newlyweds are being stalked – and slaughtered.  Enter four unforgettable women, all friends… Lindsay, a homicide inspector in the city’s police department, Claire, a medical examiner, Jill, an assistant D.A., and Cindy, a reporter who has just started working the crime deck of the San Francisco Chronicle.  Joining forces, pooling their talents, courage, and brains, they have one goal: to find, trap, and outwit the most diabolical and terrifying killer ever imagined.

My thoughts -

I picked this book up because I’ve been having a bit of a reading slump lately, and I thought that an easy, fast-paced book like this would sort of help kick me into gear.  While I can’t say that I’m completely recovered from my slump, 1st to Diewas exactly what I anticipated, and exactly what I needed.  I haven’t read a Patterson book in forever – I read all of his in high school, and I especially loved the Alex Cross series – but I really haven’t been as into these types of books the last 4-5 years.  Patterson writes what I typically think of as “mind candy” … books that are pretty enjoyable, you can wolf down really quickly, but don’t require much energy or thought to get through them.  I haven’t really read a lot of “mind candy” books lately, but this one totally hit the spot.  In fact, I enjoyed the story and these characters so much that I think I’ll continue with the rest of the series whenever I feel the need for a quick and easy read.  I think that although some of these books tend to be a little cliche, the characters in this one were pretty well developed (especially for a book that is the first in a long series) and the story was a decent one, with unpredicted twists.  I’m glad I picked it up and I’ll be grabbing the next one at the library sometime in the near future.

Review – We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver

 

In this gripping novel of motherhood gone awry, Lionel Shriver approaches the tragedy of a high-school massacre from the point of view of the killer’s mother.  In letters written to the boy’s father, mother Eva probes the upbringing of this more-than-difficult child and reveals herself to have been the reluctant mother of an unsavory son.  As the schisms in her family unfold, we draw closer to an unexpected climax that holds breathtaking surprises and its own hard-won redemption.  In Eva, Shriver has created a narrator who is touching, sad, funny, and reflective.  A Spellbinding read, We Need to Talk About Kevin is as original as it is timely.

 My thoughts –

This book has left me a tad bit stunned and I’m not quite sure what to say about it.  Having just finished reading it a few minutes ago, I can easily say that it is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, but at the same time I am so incredibly disturbed and upset by the content that I don’t know how to properly review it for all of you.  The character of Eva, the mother of Kevin and the narrator of the story, is SO absolutely believable and real that by the end of the book, my heart truly, truly broke for her and all that she had been through.  I’m sitting here, marveling at how a person can live through this kind of unspeakable grief that she has, only to remember that this is a novel, and Eva is only a character, not a real person.  The tragedies in this book felt so freaking real to me that I am just very, very sad right now.  Obviously, I know this is just a novel, but Shriver does do a creepily good job of highlighting all of the real school shootings that have taken place in America in the last few years, making We Need to Talk About Kevin not just disturbing in the far-off sense, but in the sense that although this particular story isn’t real, Eva could be any number of mothers in this country whose children have done the unthinkable.  Of course that’s what makes all scary stories truly scary – they have an element of truth to them that cannot be explained away.  This book is amazing – I strongly recommend it.  But don’t say I didn’t warn you – I’d be shocked by anyone not left feeling pretty upset after having read this book.

10 stars.

check out what these other bloggers had to say:  Lynne at Lynne’s Little Corner of the World, Raych at books i done read, litlove at Tales From the Reading Room, Care at Care’s Online Book Club, Lisamm at Books on the Brain, Bibliolatrist at Bibliolatry, and Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf.

Review – In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood

From the back cover -

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts froma  shotgun held a few inches from their faces.  There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.  As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy.  In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

My thoughts -

It is actually difficult for me to put into words how I felt about this one.  Capote takes what could have been a simple, easy reading smut type true-crime story and turns it into what reads like a literary masterpiece of a novel.  The characterization of the killers is impeccable, and the novel’s description is right – the novel generated true empathy from me for the murderers.  So yes, this book was very well written, with just the right amount of suspense, shock/horror, and empathy all at once.  For some reason, however, it took me a very long time to get into the book.  I just was not drawn in from the beginning like I had expected I would be.  In addition, the only reason I really finished it is because it was one that I had been meaning to read forever after hearing so many good things about it.  Nothing really stuck with me from the first 100 pages; I could have just as easily put it down at that point and never went back.  The final third was what kept me going, once I got to the capture of the killers I couldn’t wait to find out what their fate actually was going to be.  The thing is, this novel truly is an excellent book, and I’m glad I did read the whole thing.  But do I think it’s amazing and everyone will love it?  Unfortunately, no.  I’d still recommend it, as long as you’re patient.  But again, that’s just me.

Rating - 7 out of 10

Read Eva’s review here.

The End of Alice

The End of Alice by A.M. Homes

Summary:  In this deeply disturbing novel, Homes seems to be attempting to create as repulsive a protagonist as possible-a nameless pedophile serving his 23rd year at Sing Sing. Alongside his narrative is the tale of a 19-year-old college coed obsessed by a preteen boy. A large part of the novel centers on the half-real, half-imagined ties that develop between the convict and the college student as a result of her increasingly graphic letters to him. The rest is a reminiscence of his affair with a 12-year-old seductress named Alice that ends in her gruesome murder. Deliberately shocking and confrontational, Homes’s purpose seems to be to force the reader into a kind of Dostoevskian identification with the blackest and most perverse elements of human nature.

My thoughts:

Normally, books that are a little weird or twisted in some way are very enjoyable to me, as I am always interested in the seemingly odd, different, psychologically backward, etc. (that sounds bad… but it’s true.)  In this case, however, I was not enthralled with the book in any way.  It was simply TOO disgusting, TOO graphic, TOO unbelievable in such a messed up way as to be believable at the same time… it was just … yuck.  I also had expected to at least feel some sort of empathy, understanding, or maybe even pity for the narrator (since he was at the center of the entire book, you’d think you would get to know him a bit), but I felt nothing… he fell completely flat in my opinion.  The few snapshots of his childhood, which were supposed to provide some insight into why he was the way he was (you know, the whole pedophile thing), were I guess not illuminating enough for me, or there was not enough of them, but those sections of the book did not help me get to know him at all.

The only good thing I really have to say about The End of Alice is that the writing was very excellent and poetic without being poetry-ish.  I think I will take a look at some of Homes’ other work and perhaps give her another shot.  But for this book in particular, I was just not a big fan.

Rating: 4/10