Monthly Archives: September 2018

Homer & Langley

I’m going to be honest here. This is the first E.L. Doctorow book I have read, which seems wrong, given how big he was. This is the story of two brothers – one blind and the other potentially driven mad by mustard gas in the great war. They end up living together and become hoarders. They live as shut-ins in a decrepit mansion.

I did not like this book. First, it was boring. Really, really boring. Second, I did not like the writing. To me, it was stuffy and stilted. Maybe it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I would not recommend this book.

 

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The Misogyny Of Thrillers

I love a good thriller. I love spy novels, police thrillers, military thrillers, and detective novels. Always have. But, of late, I have noticed that many, many books in the genre are very misogynistic. And I am having an increasingly hard time with that.

I have noticed that women in these books – for the most part – fit into three categories: (1) tough-as-nails broad who doesn’t need help, but who men can’t help but notice her “smoking” body, (2) damsel in distress, or (3) devious evildoer. Or they are side characters like wives or evil, ambitious politicians whose mission is to destroy the men who are trying to protect our country. All of the women are vapid and superficial. They serve the purpose of being a bitch or a sex object.

I used to read these books in the same way I listen to old-school hip-hop or 80s hairbands – knowing they are misogynistic, but excusing it because I was entertained. (Side note: one of the reasons a lot of women like Tupac is because he didn’t rap about women as objects.) I used to be able to look past the horrible caricatures and enjoy the ride. But, as of late, I am having a hard time ignoring just how horrible women are written in these novels.

Not all thriller writers do this. Some write really good female characters, who are human. (The Russian badass in the Grey Man novels comes to mind.) But the vast majority do. (See my review of Brad Thor’s Code of Conduct.) I understand that the world of military badasses are primarily men. But. That doesn’t mean that female characters HAVE to be sex objects or bitches. There is a middle ground. A human ground.

One of my favorite television shows in recent history was The Brave, which of course, did not get renewed. What I liked about this show was that the female member of the team was truly a badass. Not only was she truly a badass, the men she worked with saw her not as a sex object, or a lesbo bitch, but as a teammate, capable of doing her job just as effectively as they do. Certain thriller writers could take note of this. If you want a larger female readership, write some decent women into your worlds.

Yes, I keep reading these books, just like I keep listening to “Golddigger” and other misogynistic music. It probably makes me a hypocrite, but humans are full of contradictions. And good writers write their characters that way. I just wish that more thriller writers would do the same.

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Trust Me

Mercer Hennessey is a journalist. She has been out of the game for a while. She is trying to recover from losing her daughter and husband in a car accident when her friend asks her to write a “true crime” book about the trial of a mother accused of killing her toddler daughter a la Casey Anthony. As Mercer delves into the case, she decides that Ashlyn, the mother, killed her daughter, Tasha. Lo and behold, the jury acquits Ashlyn and Mercer’s editor shows up at Mercer’s house with Ashlyn in tow, talking about writing a book about Ashlyn’s redemption. But is Ashlyn really innocent? If so, why can’t she offer a coherent story about what happened?

Trust Me by Hank Phillipi Ryan is a page-turner. I loved the plot. It is tightly wound and was hard for me to put down. Ryan is a master at making you think one thing, when something else is actually going on. This novel is a crime thriller and a psychological thriller. You never know what is really happening. You think one thing, but in the back of your mind you think, “But maybe Ashlyn is right…” just like Mercer does.

There were several times in this book when I thought that Mercer should do something different or confront Ashlyn, or… anything than what she was doing. You second-guess things that are happening, just as Mercer does. Ryan does an excellent job of making you think one thing while something else is going on. I like that. I like to think I have it figured out, only to find something different is going on.

I really liked this book and I recommend it to anyone who likes crime thrillers or psychological thrillers.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no other compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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Rocket Men

Robert Kurson did his homework. Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon is a comprehensive and entertaining examination of the first manned space flight around the world.

I love all things related to space and astronauts and memoirs relating to space. This book is among the best I have read. It is written as narrative nonfiction and tells the story of the trip around the moon from many perspectives. What I liked about the story was the fact that Mr. Kurson included discussion of other things that were happening at the time this mission happened – the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Viet Nam war, the Cold War. He discusses how volatile the U.S. was in 1968 and that this mission – run over Christmas – brought some healing to the country and brought people back together. He weaves all these events into the compelling story of how we flew men around the moon – 250,000 miles from Earth – in a rushed mission to beat the Soviets to the moon and fulfill Kennedy’s promise to land a man on the moon before the end of the 60’s.

Kurston doesn’t sacrifice space for the political and social happenings of 1968. He weaves the events together to provide the reader with a fantastic overview of all the events that were happening at the same time. This is important to me, because I was not born when all of this happened and it helped me to understand how big this mission was when put into the perspective of all of that. I loved the stories of the astronauts, naturally. But I found myself liking the stories of the wives and children who had to wait all those days to see if their husbands were going to make it back to Earth. At the time Apollo 8 launched, NASA was unsure of whether these three men would live through this mission. Things were predicted – and amazingly happened – to the second. The amount of technical knowledge and forethought that goes into a space flight is described with poetic beauty in this book.

I loved this book. It was informative and entertaining. If you are at all interested in how we got to the moon and probably the most important space mission we have undertaken to date, read this book.

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Code Of Conduct

I have read all over the Scot Harvath books to this point. A couple have been okay. Some have been outstanding. Some have been bad. I know this one has gotten some great reviews from people I respect, but this book just didn’t do it for me. I think Brad Thor is getting a bit preachy about things and I don’t understand why thriller writers have to be high and mighty and political in their books. They would be much better without it. I also do not like the way, in this particular book and in most of the Harvath books, he is trying to seem “enlightened” about women’s rights, but still come off as caveman and misogynistic.

Harvath is tasked to go to Africa to check out a situation for CARE. He meets a group of British mercenaries on the ground and a doctor, who is female. And I’m just going to say right here that I HATED the doctor. I liked the fact that she demanded to be treated with respect because she’s a doctor, but really? Who cares if they look pretty in the jungle? Ugh. Only a man would write a woman like this. I also was offended by the way Thor made comments like, “Harvath was taught not to hit a woman…” He wanted to hit her because she would not bend her ethics and do something unethical. Thor makes it sound like she’s the one in the wrong for not being “morally flexible.” I found that offensive.

The plot revolves around an American Pro-Palestinian who sets a virulent virus on the loose, which is meant to wipe out half the world’s population, especially all of Israel, and allows a coup to be performed in America, which, of course, Harvath (and Harvath alone) can stop.

I found the plot to be a bit ridiculous, though, I guess somewhat feasible. I just didn’t like the preachy tone of the book and how Thor makes Harvath the put-upon hero who is irritated when others don’t see his point of view. I would have preferred more action to philosophizing. And while I’m on the critical bandwagon, I would also like to say that anyone who reads this particular genre is used to a certain amount of “salty” language. Anyone who knows me knows I swear worse that the worst sailor you know. So “Harvath was thinking of a word that started with “f” and rhymed with truck” is about the stupidest thing I have read in a adult book. Really? 6-year-olds are not reading this book. I think we can dispense with the cuteness. It’s not cute.

Maybe this book was bad timing for me. Sometimes, I have to be in the mood to read a certain book and maybe this book hit me at the wrong time. I may read it later and decide it wasn’t so bad. But for right now, I am not impressed. I hope the next one is better. I don’t like giving up on a series, but I will if I read another book like this one.

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An Anonymous Girl

Jess is a makeup artist in New York. She moved there from Pennsylvania. She helps her parents support her sister, Becky, who suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was little. Jess goes to a makeup appointment for two NYU students and finds out about a psychological study that will pay $500. Jess needs the money so she goes to the study, even though she wasn’t invited. Enter the mysterious Dr. Shields.

Jess answers some fairly invasive questions about herself based on morality and honesty. As Jess gets drawn further and further into the study, her life becomes no longer her own. Jess finds out that Dr. Shields wants Jess to tempt Dr. Shields’ husband, who has cheated on Dr. Shields in the past. Jess gets completely wound up in Dr. Shields’ life and tries to find out what happened to subject number 5, who died.

I read The Wife Between Us and loved its twisty-turny nature. This book is similar, in that it takes a while to get going, but once it does, you don’t want to put it down. It also kept me guessing until the end. In fact, I didn’t see that ending coming. The book is suspenseful and entertaining.

The only reason it didn’t get five stars is because it was slow in spots and some of the writing was spotty. Otherwise, it was a fantastic, suspenseful read.

I won this book from goodreads and received no other compensation in exchange for my review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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