Tuesday, September 13, 2016

From the Bookshelf: Recently Read - September 2016 Edition

I know this is probably a really lame thing to say, but I seriously feel like I blinked and half of September had flown by. This is my first post this month, and it's the 13th. The 13th. Where did the time go?

To be perfectly honest, things have been a little hectic in my life lately. And it seems that any time things get kind of crazy, blogging takes a major backseat. I love blogging, and I love connecting with other bloggers ... But sometimes I just don't have the time (or the energy).

But anyway, I don't want this post to be all about my failures as a blogger. So, in an effort to at least sort of get back on the blogging train, I'm linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books!

I will say, though, that I won't really be very active with the link-up until this upcoming weekend. I'm in DC for a work conference for the entire week, so I'll be tied up most of the time. It's true that I won't be doing conference stuff all day and all night, but Eric is flying in to spend part of the week with me so we'll be out doing touristy things and eating tons of food when I'm not busy. I'm hoping to learn a lot and enjoy my free time, so that means I probably won't be doing much (if any) blog stuff while I'm away. I'm planning to get caught up when I return, though, so expect lots of comments! (Even if I haven't been commenting, I've been reading ... So I'll probably go back and respond to at least a few of the posts I really enjoyed along with the posts in this link-up.)

Until then, here are my shorter reviews for the books I've read since the last link-up. I finished the Semi-Charmed Summer Book Challenge and started Book Challenge by Erin 5.0, so this month's installment is filled with a wide variety of genres. Something for everyone, I guess! (Maybe.)

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Child of God by Cormac McCarthy - 197 pages - 3 stars

Lester Ballard spends his days and nights roaming the hills of his rural Tennessee home, engaging in violent and depraved acts. In Child of God, readers are given a front row seat to his strange and disturbing lifestyle.

It's so difficult to rate and review a book like this. On the one hand, McCarthy is clearly a talented writer. He managed to create one of the creepiest characters I've ever encountered and make me feel completely disgusted multiple times within a mere 197 pages. However, I also felt like this book was lacking in some ways and had some trouble with the language of the rural South. (I'll talk a little more about both of these things in my more in-depth review on Sunday.)

I would most definitely not recommend this book to just anyone. Make no mistake: Lester Ballard is one fucked up dude. If reading about murder and necrophilia isn't your thing, please do yourself a favor and don't bother with Child of God. If, however, you enjoy disturbing stories that focus on the darker aspects of mankind, it might be worth checking out. Just know that, as Erin said in her review of this book, you might feel like you need a shower after reading this.

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan - 467 pages - 3 stars

It's a mother's worst nightmare: while out walking in the woods with her young son, Rachel allows him to run ahead of her. It's a simple decision she will forever be haunted by because in the couple of minutes it takes her to catch up, Ben has suddenly vanished. As the days go on with no hope in sight, everyone in Ben's life becomes a suspect ... Including Rachel.

I was really hoping for more from this book. While What She Knew isn't a bad book, it didn't deliver the way I'd hoped. When I finally reached the last page of an epilogue that felt painfully long, I just kind of felt "meh" about the whole thing.

There were a few suspenseful moments, but there were also plenty of times that the story just dragged. This is Gilly Macmillan's debut novel, and, while I mostly liked her writing style and the story she created, it sometimes felt a little clunky or fell a little flat. That being said, I didn't feel like I completely wasted my time on it and I'd be open to reading more Gilly Macmillan books in the future.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach - 303 pages - 3 stars

Mary Roach spent two years devoting herself to the study of sexual physiology, the history of sexual discovery, and modern sexual research. The result is Bonk, an often hilarious and always interesting look at what's really going on down there.

If you've never read Mary Roach, I recommend checking out her work ... And I say this as someone who doesn't read a lot of nonfiction. (I've previously read both Stiff and Spook and both were enjoyable, though Stiff was much better than Spook.) She writes about science, but she does it in a way that's humorous and engaging. She also writes for the masses: you don't need to have a degree in a scientific field in order to understand or enjoy her books. (Though as someone who does, I appreciate that she manages to do this without completely dumbing it down.)

Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley - 272 pages - 4 stars

Nick Naylor is the face of the tobacco industry. After numerous appearances on talk shows (during which he lies through his teeth about the "health benefits" of smoking), he finally may have met his match: a direct threat from a caller during his latest appearance on Larry King Live. As Nick becomes the target of both anti-tobacco terrorists and the FBI, he struggles to hold on to his job and the often crazy life that goes along with it.

Thank You for Smoking is filled with absurd situations, wacky (and often unlikable) characters, and dry, dark humor (my favorite kind). Occasionally offensive and often hilarious, this is satire at its best.

Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life by Roald Dahl - 179 pages - 3 stars

Roald Dahl, best known for children's classics like Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, wrote a collection of oddball, sometimes funny, sometimes horrific tales set in a rural English community (and loosely based on some of his own youthful misadventures), publishing it under the title Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life.

The stories vary from the horribly boring (like the title story, which is about breeding cattle, of all things) to the disgusting (like "The Ratcatcher," which is definitely not the kind of story you will enjoy if you can't stomach reading about cruelty to animals) to over-the-top silly (like one of my personal favorites, "The Champion of the World"). It's a strange little collection that I didn't love but liked a little more than I thought I would.

The Merciless by Danielle Vega - 279 pages - 2 stars

Sofia just wants to fit in at her new school, so when popular girl Riley takes her under her wing, she feels like she just might be able to handle being the new girl (again). But when Riley and her friends involve Sofia in "saving" Brooklyn, a girl they believe to be possessed, she begins to wonder how far she's willing to go to be part of their group.

The Merciless is an odd mix of teen drama, mean girls, religious fanaticism, and B-horror slasher flicks. And, honestly, it really didn't work. The only thing saving it from a 1 star rating was the fact that I was interested enough to keep reading (even if it was only to see what kind of crazy shit might happen next).

I was really excited to read this book, but I was so disappointed once I actually picked it up. Instead of being scared, I found myself rolling my eyes ... A lot. It was ridiculous and over-the-top, and I mostly just felt like I was watching a really bad teen horror movie.

Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield - 219 pages - 4 stars

In this memoir, Rob Sheffield uses music as the backdrop for the love story that changed his life. He and his wife were brought together through music, and it was music that helped him survive her sudden, tragic death. Heartbreaking, funny, and sweet, Love is a Mix Tape is perfect for anyone who understands the power of music.

This book brought me to tears several times, and I absolutely loved all of the musical references (even if I didn't always agree with his choices). It's been sitting on one of my bookshelves for years, but Erin's latest book challenge finally got me to pick it up. I just wish I hadn't waited so long to read it!

Unless something awful and crazy happens (like the last time I flew back to Omaha), I'll be back this weekend to comment, respond to comments, and post my more detailed reviews on Sunday.


  1. i hope everything is okay :) i hope you enjoy being a tourist in DC and eat all the food!
    is thank you for smoking what the movie is based on? i think i saw it then, didn't realise it was a book.
    i love roald dahl and i am not sure i want to ruin my perfect bookish relationship with him by reading that collection lol

  2. I always wanted to see the Thank You for Smoking movie but haven't gotten to it. The book sounds like it may be even better, though. I love Roald Dahl but his adult stuff is mixed in how much I like it. I read a collection of ghost stories that he curated (didn't write, not sure the right phrase), and they were not my taste at all. Very slow.

  3. I need to read Child of God. It's on my TBR and it's short so maybe I'll put on my Kindle for my travels next week. I anticipate finishing the other two while I'm flying and I'll need a third as a back up.

    Love is a Mix Tape is a beautiful book. I loved it so much and I read it years and years ago and I'm thrilled to see people reading it now so I can discuss or share sentiments.

  4. Love is a Mix Tape sounds like a really good book! I hope you are having a great time in DC. :)

  5. I love DC. So much to do and see and plenty of good eats too! Child of God both intrigues and repulses me. I'd probably be in a WTF state while reading it, but I'm adding it to my TBR! Thank You for Smoking also sounds interesting and I like dark humor. Love is a Mix Tape will make me cry, but in a good way, I hope. :)

  6. Love is a Mixtape sounds really fun. I am off to goodreads now. Love your diverse picks here! :) XO - Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  7. I thought Rob Sheffield's book is such a lovely tribute to his relationship, his love of his wife combined with their love of music.
    Sometimes, I forget that since I was raised in the South (and yes, I've been around my share of rednecks) that some "Southern" colloquialisms are easier for me to read and understand, so that's a good point that you make with Child of God. I still think Lester is SUCH a creepy character, and in a time that creepy characters are a dime a dozen, I think Cormac McCarthy may have been a little ahead of his time in that regards?

  8. Love is a Mix Tape sounds so sad and beautiful!! I didn't realize Roald Dahl had written anything that wasn't a children's book!

  9. It's crazy how fast this year seems to be going by, which is crazy because I feel like the next three months usually go by the fastest! You read such a good variety of books, which is one of the things I love about book challenges! I haven't read anything by Mary Roach, but I'm definitely intrigued.

  10. Bonk sounds like my kind of book. I actually keep a history of sex, etc type book in our guest bathroom because I find it amusing.