The Family Gene: A Mission to Turn My Deadly Inheritance into a Hopeful Future by Joselin Linder

The Family Gene: A Mission to Turn My Deadly Inheritance into a Hopeful Future

(Caidyn)

4/5

This book took me a long time to listen to because it was interrupted by my finals. No work means no listening to books. Even though it was good, I couldn’t listen to it on my free time thanks to being a responsible college student and doing this dreadful thing called “studying”. Warn your kids about it. It can get pretty terrifying.

As I said, this was a good book. It was fun and I really enjoyed how it was read. Just very upbeat and light most of the time. When this book focuses on a family illness that is currently untreatable and has killed everyone who has it — the author’s father, uncle, and other people — that’s really impressive. It’s a very light book. It’s fun to read or listen to because it simply flows so well.

Starting in the 90s, this book chronicles a family illness. It begins with Joselin’s father, a doctor who gets ill. Very ill. I think ill is an understatement to it. Then, as he gets worse, then it comes out that other people in his family had the same symptoms that he does. They also died of this mystery disease. They don’t know what it is, but know that everyone who has had it has a heart murmur, testing people in the family for it.

At times, it was heavy with technical terms, but Joselin explained them perfectly. (I’ve taken enough classes and read enough books to know most of the terms.) She just told it what it is in non-doctor speak. It’s accessible to anyone, really. All you have to know is the basics and anything beyond it, she explains. Hell, even the basics get explained.

It largely focuses on Joselin’s experiences. She’s not a doctor, after all. She’s a woman who watched various members of her family get sick and die. It’s focused on her experience of this and the stages of grief that she went through. While I’m not sure I would have liked Joselin as a person for a good part of the story, I could appreciate it. She reacted in a way people only can. Still, hearing about her healing process didn’t quite interest me as much as hearing the journey of discovery about their disorder.

All in all, a good book that had very minor flaws for me.

 

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

The Abyss Surrounds Us cover

(Chantel)

5/5 – The first official five-star rating I’m giving to a book and I’m about to explain why. There are three characters in this book that I think are very well written. One is our protagonist, Cas. The second is Swift, the love interest. The third is Santa Elena, the antagonist. Except, the three of them don’t fit neatly into those categories at all. This is one of the few YA novels I’ve read that deals with complicated moral codes. I’m not saying there aren’t others out there, but this was one where all three of these characters were morally gray and I loved it. I particularly loved Cas’s journey throughout the book. Which, I won’t say much more about, but when I saw the bold The End on the last page I wasn’t sure what to think. Was I rooting for her? Was I disappointed? I don’t know, honestly and that questioning of the protagonist’s choices is excellent.

Despite their decisions being seen by some as wrong, there are legitimate reasons behind doing what they do and all three of them are protecting someone. Wouldn’t you do anything for someone you loved? Our world isn’t black and white and even though we’re in a time where it’s easy to get caught up in that dichotomy, it’s not that simple all the time. In the world of The Abyss Surrounds Us, it’s the same thing. The people Cas thinks are horrible people, the pirates who capture her and imprison her, they are human and are out to protect themselves and their families.

Now, there’s one more point I’d like to touch on and that’s the romance aspect. This is a f/f romance and I have a type, let’s be honest, so that’s why I picked up this book. However, this book intertwines the relationship between Cas and Swift so well that it’s not a YA romance where two people instantly fall in love and live happily ever after. It’s incredibly complicated. In fact, their relationship isn’t romantic at all, because they are not on equal footing. Cas is a prisoner and Swift is part of the crew holding her captive. In fact, Santa Elena the Captain of the ship, intertwines their lives so if Cas fails in training the Reckoner, they both die. So, not only are Swift’s intentions unknown to Cas (the book is in first person perspective), but when Swift’s feelings are revealed it’s not a warm reception.

In fact here’s an excerpt from that scene:

“Swift,” I start, but I don’t know what to finish it with.

“Forget…forget I said anything. It was off base. I-“

“Swift, I’m a goddamn prisoner on this ship.”

“I know. I-“

“We aren’t on equal footing, not in the slightest. You realize how messed up this is?”

“Cas, I didn’t mean I want to-“

“I’m in no position to be thinking about any of that shit right now. I’ve got bigger problems to deal with than you and your feelings.” (Skrutskie, 166)

End. Fucking. Scene. Holy shit! This is absolutely a realistic reaction to your captor telling you they have feelings for you. Even if you are starting to have feelings for them too. When both of your lives are in danger you don’t go on a whirlwind romance, you fight to stay alive and that is just one more reason I loved this fucking book. It was amazing, and I can’t wait to see how the story concludes in The Edge of the Abyss.

Penance by Kanae Minato

Penance

(Caidyn)

3.5/5

This book was (sort of) recommended to me by Edward Lorn. He wrote a fantastic review for it and I really do go by his recommendations. If he says a horror book is good, then I know it is.

While this book was an utterly fantastic read for him, it was just good for me. Certainly not bad, just not as good as I wanted it to be. I love Asian horror and I think that they do it right compared to the rest of the world’s bloody and gory mess, so I had high hopes going into it. As I said, this is aΒ good book. I would recommend it to people if they want something that’s creepy, not too violent, and is told in a unique way with great writing. The translation for this was fantastic. I didn’t feel as if I lost anything in it. The writing remained as beautiful as I’m sure it was in Japanese.

However. This book is a bit confusing to get through. I didn’t know the phrase until I read Ed’s review, but this is a mosaic novel. There are five main stories in this book and they all intersect. Every single story tells the general information of the catalyst for this story: Five girls went out to play, one went away with a man and was murdered. I’m not giving anything away by saying that. Each story/chapter is a different person telling that day to you, along with what has happened to them over the fifteen years since the crime occurred. In each story/chapter, you learn a little bit more about that day, a little closer to finding out what really happened. For me, it was hard to figure out who was talking. The voices, for me, were indistinct and blended together in my mind, so I had to really think about who could be telling their story.

The horror also didn’t catch me much. I found it creepy and I wanted to know what happened, but it didn’t hold me on the edge of my chair. I could read it, then set it down. Read some more, set it down. It never quite hooked me in, even though I was interested in finding out. The stories are creepy, but I never felt it became the tone of the book, even as I found out more about that day and the circumstances.

There were also some personal problems I had with it. Japanese culture is, I will say, sexist. That shines through in this book. It usually made my nose wrinkle, but the first story was rough for that exact reason. Which brings me to my second point. This isn’t a trigger warning or anything, just saying that there is stuff to do with menstruation. That’s a topic that gets to me, but not necessarily one everyone has a problem with. It really bothered me, especially the context it was in.

For me, this was a good book that had some flaws — mainly personal ones — that detracted from my reading experience. While I think that it’s a very interesting story and told in an interesting way, I think it still needs a bit of work to really hook me in. One day I know I’d like to reread this to see if I can pick up the nuances, but not right now.

The Mind of God: Neuroscience, Faith, and a Search for the Soul by Jay Lombard

The Mind of God: Neuroscience, Faith, and a Search for the Soul

(Caidyn)

3/5

I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley for an honest opinion.

I thought that I would like this book better. It basically combines my major and minor — psychology (with a bit of a focus on biological) and religious studies — in a way to try and talk about how science and religion work together. That’s something I do believe. I’ve had my moments of odd experiences, ones that I can’t explain. I do think that there’s a higher power and some sort of afterlife. Whatever those are, I have my opinions and you have yours. We’ll all find out one day, after all.

But, this book focused more on philosophy than science at times. I know and like science more than philosophy. I’ve taken my mandatory philosophy classes and that’s all I want in my life. It’s not my area. Too dense. So, that, for me, was rough. For such a short book that was written in a very accessible way, if it got past the anecdotes Dr. Lombard had, my eyes would glaze over. I really had to concentrate to understand. Some chapters were easier than others, but it was a bit too dense for my liking. I know, it’s a topic that’s supposed to be dense

But when I have a basic understanding of religion, neuroscience, and a touch of philosophy, it’s not a good sign for people who don’t have that. A lot of what Dr. Lombard wrote as interesting, just that the way it was written didn’t work for me. He had a set of questions he wanted to answer in scientific ways, then would begin the chapters with anecdotes. Those anecdotes didn’t always lead back to the topic as a whole. The connections he made didn’t meld with my brain.

This book is a case of: “It’s not you, it’s me.” It’s a topic that I personally enjoy reading about. And it’s full of interesting topics that I’m actually familiar with, at least on a passing level. It’s just the way it was presented didn’t work for me.

A Long Way Home: A Memoir by Saroo Brierley

A Long Way Home: A Memoir

(Caidyn)

3.5/5

I read almost all of this in one sitting. Like, by the time I had to actually get up and do something, I had a few chapters left. For me, that’s revolutionary. I don’t have the time to just sit and read these days. But, it was the day after I had takenΒ three finals. I had gotten up at 5AM and didn’t get home/done until after 5PM, so 12 full hours of studying and tests.

This book isn’t a difficult read. Saroo isn’t the best writer, but he’s good enough. After having a very long day, I just needed a book that I could read without thinking too hard about. This was perfect for it. I could read it and experience it, then go on with my day. I didn’t want a book that would make me piece life together and concentrate too much.

And, as I said, Saroo isn’t the best writer. There are times where he could have seriously taken advantage of emotions and hit things home more. Told us his emotions rather than just telling the story. Give us, the readers, a glimpse in. I wish that had been in there more because it just would have emotionally destroyed me rather than make my face pucker up a few times.

I loved him talking about his life in India. That was my favorite part of the book. After he was adopted and went to Australia, it wasn’t as emotionally impactful for me, so I just coasted. When he got to India again, that was another emotional part for me where I was so drawn into the story.

A good book, but it could have been written in a more emotional way to draw me in as a reader. Still good, but I have a feeling that the movie (when I watch it) will give a more emotional punch.

The Stone House by A.K. Benedict

The Stone House (A Class Novel)

(Caidyn)

2.5/5

Oh, this book. I checked it out on a whim. I like Doctor Who and this is a book based on the new spin-off series. I just thought: Why not? What’s the worst that could happen? I should have thought more about my relationship with Doctor Who.

  1. I hate what Moffat did to the show. He ruined two shows for me because he ran them, and Doctor Who is one.
  2. I don’t like YA. Class is a show based on a bunch of teens.
  3. I have never seen the show.

I still have no clue who anyone is. And, they’re 14???? So fucking unbelievable. I know. It’s YA, so teens do tons of shit. It’s sci-fi, so there’s no real reason why they couldn’t do it. It’s Doctor Who, so you can’t use logic. Yeah, yeah. But still. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief about it.

The writing also wasn’t that great. It could have been better with some editing. There’s no need to put “so-and-so says” after almost every line of dialogue. Vary it up. Or just keep a flow going without saying who said what. If we know the character’s voice, it should be obvious to us as a reader.

Back to what I originally said, I had no clue who anyone was. There were five main characters, then some random teacher lady who is probably an alien but “watches” after them. Then, the five main characters. There are two girls and three guys. Two of the guys are in a relationship. Charlie and Matthias? I think? Then there’s either Gram or Ram (never could tell what the narrator said for him) who is dating April. Then Tanya who is “lonely” and definitely is supposed to be a love triangle between Gram/Ram and April. Did I get the characters?

This book assumes that you know the show. That you have some idea who these people are, how they’re related, some of their back story. I don’t have that, so I was at a severe disadvantage. I hate books that assume you know because I always feel like I have to do research to understand them. Either explain it all in the book or, like one of my favorite authors does, have a little section of a run-down before the book begins if it’s a sequel.

The whole plot was okay for me. When it’s all said and done, I really didn’t like the first half, which largely focused on the five members of this little group. Their whole teen drama and lingo annoyed the hell out of me. I mean, seriously. I swear there was one line that said something like: “snapchattingΒ of memories”. And then their little drama of finding themselves and not feeling lonely and whatever. I get that it’s important for teens — it is the major conflict in Erikson’s model during the teenage years — but I’m no longer a teen and I don’t like hearing it.

So, I liked the second part better. I loved hearing more about Amira’s past. A Syrian refugee who went through hell to get to England, and then faced even more hell once she was there. Leave out a creepy house that was either haunted or had aliens and it was perfect for me. I would have loved to hear more about her. I also loved Alice, the person who owned the house. Her story broke my heart and I just wanted more. It was so beautifully written and poignant for me. Those were the strong points of the book and, sadly, they took up very little of it.

I’d only recommend it to someone who likes YA and is familiar with the show. (Aka my fellow blogger, Chantel.) It has potential to be a good book, just that I’m not the reader for it, even if I thought I could be.

Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government’s Investigations into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokenesis by Annie Jacobson

Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government's Investigations into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis

(Caidyn)

3/5

When I was a kid, I watched a show called Mystery Hunters and I totally wanted to be one. Never heard of it? I don’t blame you. It was a Canadian show on Discovery Kids. They basically took different things and discovered if these mysteries were true or not. One episode I remember vividly was Araya looking into extrasensory perception. He specifically did remote viewing, where he had to guess a location and know things about it. All without ever seeing it before. I don’t remember how he did, just that I found it fascinating.

This book is all about things like that. Remote viewing, implanting thoughts, bending spoons, etc. Think of a Stephen King book and it’s probably in here. Jacobsen looks at these phenomena and how the U.S. government had a huge interest in them. They tested them for decades.

Now, it’s not really a secret. I’m pretty sure that a few people have heard about this. Whatever their opinions are, that’s their thing, but they know about it. Personally, I think that there is some veracity in psychokinesis and extrasensory perception. I think it’s probable that there’s something going on, just based on different anecdotes, research findings, and perhaps your own experiences. We all have had those gut intuitions about things or a sense of deja-vu.

So, I obviously find this topic interesting. (I sure hope so since my senior seminar for psychology is all about intuition.) I’d probably have rated this four stars. However, this only gets three stars because, like the title, this book is too long. Sure, it’s interesting, but there was just too much information and I think that if she had narrowed it down, it would have been better. It’s the same type of information over and over again. There are too many names and people in this for me to keep things straight, especially since this book goes from the 20th century to the 21st century.

Narrowing the focus would have improved my opinion of the book, even if it was full of interesting facts and details.

Ghost Hunt, Volume 9 by Shiho Inada and Fuyumi Ono

Ghost Hunt 9

(Caidyn)

3/5

Where do I begin with this? It’s the same plot and just finishes it up. That’s all the thing is. This one wasn’t as creepy. Maybe because I had gotten used to it and I started remembering more the closer we got to it. I enjoyed the focus on research since I absolutely adore learning about different myths/legends/folklore. It’s all so interesting to me, even when it’s a part of a larger cultural system of beliefs. #religiousstudiesnerd

It’s the same plot and just finishes it up. That’s all the thing is. This one wasn’t as creepy. Maybe because I had gotten used to it and I started remembering more the closer we got to it. I enjoyed the focus on research since I absolutely adore learning about different myths/legends/folklore. It’s all so interesting to me, even when it’s a part of a larger cultural system of beliefs. #religiousstudiesnerd

The same characters were annoying. Naru is just too damn perfect. It’s completely unrealistic to me that he would be so perfect AND everyone still likes him. Sorry, but if a guy’s an asshole, I wouldn’t keep around him. I don’t need him risking my life when he could have solved everything pretty easily and recovered from it. Mai annoys me more and more. She’s just so young and is presented as such. How they want me to believe her to be a legitimate romantic interest for Naru, I don’t know.

My biggest complaint in this volume is the “friendship” between Mai and Masako. It’s so childish that I can’t even describe it. The only reason they get along is because of Naru. They *~~loooooooovvvvveeeeeeee~~* him. That’s complete bullshit. It’s infatuation. You don’t really love him because love is comprised of many different things. Trust me. I’ve taken classes that discuss this concept in depth. What they have is full-on infatuation. But, they’re friends? No. They sort of get along and still are competing for his affection. Mainly they just talk together about him and their *~~feelings~~*.

Their relationship wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test one bit since they only talk about Naru together. It reflects the sexism still embedded in Japanese culture. (Yes, it’s a modern culture. Yes, women still hold jobs. But it’s still a sexist culture when you learn about it.) This series is targeted towards teenage girls and it shows since they draw on stereotypes that they’ll like.

This volume was good, but there are many ways it could have been a lot better.