Category Archives: 2.5 stars

The Wrath & The Dawn – Renée Ahdieh

Review (Amazon): Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

My Review (Spoilers):

Wow, I really could not get behind this book. I typically like YA, but this one had confusing (and/or bad) writing, and the plot never went anywhere. There’s a sequel, so presumably the author thought that she’d sell some more books by not revealing anything in book 1, but not from this reader. Typically a series has a plot which finishes in the specific book, and then an overarching plot which finishes in the series. This book was missing the first part of that, and I will never know if it’s also missing the latter.

I will admit that I wasn’t familiar with the story of 1001 Nights/Arabian Nights. I’m not sure how I missed that, but alas. Maybe that would have filled some gaps for me.

The book begins with “a young man” and his father, General al-Khoury, having a conversation on a rooftop. I think it was supposed to be the hook to get you interested in the book, but it did not reveal enough to leave me with anything but confusion about who these characters were and what they were alluding to. (At the end of the book, I still don’t know.)

Then we meet Shahrzad. She’s getting all done up by her hand maidens, but we know there’s something going on. The suggestion is that she won’t live til morning, and there’s mention of another girl, Shiva, who we eventually learn is Shahrzad’s best friend. Shahrzad’s father comes to visit, and she promises that everything will be fine, and he should go home to her sister and be strong. She then meets the king, or caliph, and reveals to the reader that she intends to live to the following day, and her intention is to kill the king.

Cut to Tariq and Rahim, who we eventually piece together (sort of) that Tariq is Shahrzad’s boyfriend (sort of?) and Rahim is (I guess) his friend. Shahrzad sent Tariq’s family a letter, which he goes home to receive. We learn that Shiva was Tariq’s cousin, and upon her death, which Shahrzad is apparently avenging, Shiva’s mother, Tariq’s aunt, killed herself. Not much is revealed in the letter except that Shahrzad apologizes to Tariq for “her betrayal”. (aka we still don’t really know what is going on)

Cut back to Shahrzad. She’s waiting in her chamber for the king to arrive, and when he does, he makes a bit of small talk and then asks her why she volunteered. Is she willing to throw away her life at sixteen? (Finally, we are getting somewhere.) She begins to tell Khalid a story, and says that at the end, she will answer his question of why she volunteered. She begins the story of Agib and Mount Adamant, and talks until dawn when she stops as she has made it through the night. Khalid grants her one more night.

Meanwhile Shahrzad’s father and sister are preparing to go into hiding, but not before her father stops to pick up a book. I think this is important, but the whole story line of the father is exceptionally confusing.

When Shahrzad awakes, we’re introduced to Despina, her hand maiden, who although claiming to be curious about Shahrzad (as she’s the only one who has made it through the night) as well as a spy, she’s just an annoyance throughout the whole book and is not a spy in any way. Once Shahrzad is ready, she is escorted by “the best swordsman in Rey”, the Rajput, who is basically her bodyguard/watcher to the courtyards where the soldiers practice. She’s hoping to see the caliph in action as he is “the second best swordsman in Rey”, but when he’s not there, she awkwardly pretends she wants to learn how to use a bow and arrow. The caliph’s (only?) friend, Jalal, “teaches” her, and he’s fully aware that she already knows what she’s doing. He does give her a little insight into Khalid – he became a different person once his mother died. Jalal wants Shahrzad to help Khalid go back to the person he was before her death. Khalid finally enters the training field, and upon leaving, he tells Shahrzad that he’ll “see her tonight”, and when her stomach flutters, we know that her original plan won’t happen.

He meets her again that night, and they have sex, although he doesn’t kiss her (which she is thankful for because she’s already smitten with him but still has some small hope that she will still avenge Shiva’s death), and then she continues the story. Again, she makes it til morning. And again, she wants to go see the caliph fighting. There’s a tournament going on, and she watches as Khalid fights with his specialty weapon, two shamshir swords. The following evening, he doesn’t visit, but instead, she’s visited by the soldiers who take her to be killed. The cord is tied around her neck, and she is dropped…only to be released at the last minute.

Khalid comes to visit her to make amends and to tell her that he’s leaving for a week and she won’t be bothered while he’s away. Not much happens while he’s away. Shahrzad evades an attempted poisoning, and she meets Khalid’s childhood tutor who tells her of a troubled childhood, and then gives her a threadbare carpet because she possesses magic power. (Huh?)

When Khalid returns, Shahrzad takes him out into the city without a bodyguard, presumably to kill him although there’s no suggestion of how she plans to do that. They’re attacked in the street, but come out unscathed, and are so overcome with emotion that they kiss in the alley, and they’re now inexplicably in love.

We learn that Despina is pregnant, and it’s Jamal’s baby, and despite (I think) this book being set in ancient times, Shahrzad takes the modern stance and continues to push Despina to tell him and make things right which I found really out of period.

Shahrzad has moved on from trying to figure out a way to kill the caliph, but now instead is trying to figure out why the wives have to die (because she loves him now). She tries telling him another story about a wife trying to figure out her husband’s secret, but Khalid easily catches onto what she’s doing and beyond not telling her anything, gets really upset.

There’s a big event where a bunch of different emirs across the kingdom are coming to the castle, one of whom is Tariq. He’s there to get Shahrzad out, but she doesn’t want to leave because she hasn’t figured out the mystery, but also she’s in love with Khalid. At the same time, her father is presumably learning how to do some sort of dark magic with the book that he took from the library. He’s sacrificing animals, but beyond that, we have no idea what he is doing. When Tariq returns with the news that he did not bring Shahrzad back with him Jahandar (Shahrzad’s father) tells Tariq that he can help him get her back. Dunh dunh dunh

Another attempt is made on Shahrzad’s life, but of course is again foiled. But Khalid takes her to his chamber to recover – the first time she’s ever been there. Once Khalid leaves, she snoops around and finds a book of letters of apology to the families of every wife who he killed. No reasons were given as to why they had to die, and it’s obvious that the letters were never intended to be sent. She finds the one for Shiva’s family which breaks her, and then she finds one partly written and abruptly stopped to her family. He has to answer for what he did!! (Even though she still loves him and doesn’t want to kill him any more)

She intends to ask Khalid, but a confusing unexplained situation occurs where his headache is unbearable (presumably related to his lack of sleep?) and his uncle comes in and cures the headache with some sort of magic. After the headache goes away, he then tells her why all these women had to die. He married his first wife Ava when he was very young through an arranged marriage. She grew more and more withdrawn and he wasn’t giving her the attention she needed as he was trying to figure out how to rule the kingdom. He told her he loved her but she knew he didn’t mean it, and she kills herself.

After Ava’s burial, her father curses Khalid. “One hundred lives for the one you took. One life to one dawn. Should you fail but a single morn, I shall take from you your dreams. I shall take from you your city. And I shall take from you these lives, a thousandfold.” He tried to resist but the rains stopped, drying up the city, but Shahrzad mentions that it has rained since she’s been there, and that maybe the curse has weakened.

It seems like things are going well between the two until Shahrzad’s father follows through on his plan and lights a bunch of fires using his magic allowing Tariq to enter the castle and get Shahrzad while Khalid is gone for a few weeks. She is torn between resisting and not, but she wants to find her father and stop what he is doing. They encounter Jalal, and he tells Tariq to take Shahrzad out of Rey and make sure she never comes back. And the book ends.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

Many things are discussed but not followed through or explained properly. These include the magic, the caliph’s headaches (and the treatment for them), the fact that the caliph’s people are looking for Shahrzad’s family (why?) but can’t find them (are they actually looking?). Also, the curse. What? It doesn’t say marry a new woman every night and then kill her. Why not kill a hundred prisoners? The whole thing just felt very amateur and jumped around quite a bit which made it really hard to keep track of. Also it was a lot of staring into tiger eyes and leaning forward and taking “his lower lip between hers”. There are many other better YA books to spend your time reading, but it’s unfortunate because it’s always nice to read a book with non-white characters. I really wish this one had been better.

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Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give – Ada Calhoun

Review (Amazon): 

We hear plenty about whether or not to get married, but much less about what it takes to stay married. Clichés around marriage―eternal bliss, domestic harmony, soul mates―leave out the real stuff. After marriage you may still want to sleep with other people. Sometimes your partner will bore the hell out of you. And when stuck paying for your spouse’s mistakes, you might miss being single.

In Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give, Ada Calhoun presents an unflinching but also loving portrait of her own marriage, opening a long-overdue conversation about the institution as it truly is: not the happy ending of a love story or a relic doomed by high divorce rates, but the beginning of a challenging new chapter of which “the first twenty years are the hardest.”

Calhoun’s funny, poignant personal essays explore the bedrooms of modern coupledom for a nuanced discussion of infidelity, existential anxiety, and the many other obstacles to staying together. Both realistic and openhearted, Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give offers a refreshing new way to think about marriage as a brave, tough, creative decision to stay with another person for the rest of your life. “What a burden,” Calhoun calls marriage, “and what a gift.”

My Review:

Executive Summary: meh

I am so ahead of the game this year. First book club book of the year, and I’m already writing the review. Let’s see how long I can keep this up!

I thought this book was really just kind of snarky and not in a good way. The premise of the book is how all wedding toasts are sappy and unrealistic. Well, duh. No one wants to hear a wedding toast that talks about how marriage is incredibly challenging to make work, and how most marriages don’t last. Why would anyone want to hear that on their wedding day? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the most sappy and sentimental person in the world. My now-husband and I went out to dinner before we got engaged to talk about whether we wanted to have kids, how we were going to handle the finances, and whether I was going to change my name. Maybe I should write a book.

Anyway, back to the book. Ada talks us through how marriage means paying for not only your mistakes but also your spouse’s mistakes, how you have to compromise, how sometimes (a lot of times) things are boring, how sometimes your spouse does things that you hate but you have to think about the good things so that you can stay married. Nothing newsworthy here. Marriage 101.

The book just sort of flits along with stories about someone she knew or the weird old timey summer camp where she worked (which I don’t know why that was included), and some more relevant stories of her own life. I enjoyed the part about the pre-Tinder type of mail in dating service where she worked because I thought it was a fascinating glimpse into a tiny flash in the pan in time. Some of them are good, some of them not so much. I didn’t need a whole background about her cousin Jeremy to be introduced to his friend who was Ava’s “soul mate” when she was 15 for her to then explain that soul mates are overrated.

She goes into a little detail about how her husband, Neal, had an affair. It took a lot to get over but they did (she honestly goes into more detail about her trip to Gettysburg than she does about his affair), and then a lengthy bit about how she made out with an old boyfriend while on a book tour, and when she told Neal about it, he mentioned that he flirted with someone they both knew, and how they talked through her makeout session and moved on.

She talks about love and death, and then at the end of the very short, 192 page book, she writes a lengthy wedding toast which she would give at a wedding which is completely unlike the rest of the book, incredibly serious and dry. I get the point wrapping the book up that way, but unfortunately it didn’t work for me. I can’t imagine a person who wrote this book also writing that speech.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

On the plus side, this book was a quick read, and it wasn’t boring or anything that should warrant such a low rating, however, it just didn’t strike me as a book that needed to be written or to be read. I felt a bit like I had wasted my time, and I rarely feel that way about reading even if it’s a book I don’t like that much.

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The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

Review (Amazon): 

EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

My Review (spoilers):

Executive Summary: pathetic and boring

I have NO IDEA what the hype was all about regarding this book. It is similar to Gone Girl, in that there’s not a single likable character in this book. But Gone Girl was actually interesting, not about a pathetic alcoholic creepily watching people while riding on a train. If I hadn’t been reading it on vacation, I’d have put it in my charity donation box unread.

Rachel, the main character, divorced from her husband 2 years prior after he was caught having an affair with Anne. Rachel moved in with a friend, started drinking heavily, and her train ride into work drives her past her old neighborhood where she had lived with her ex-husband Tom. The train always stopped so that she could look out the window and see one of the houses that was a few doors down from her old house. The couple who lived there had moved in after Rachel moved out, so she didn’t actually know them, but she concocted a story about their happy life.

Eventually Rachel’s drinking gets her fired, but she doesn’t want to tell her roommate, so she just keeps taking the train to and from the area where she worked, and mostly just drank all day. One day instead of seeing the couple outside their house, she sees the woman with another man, kissing.

When that woman goes missing, Rachel feels compelled to help the investigation. She doesn’t feel like the investigators are taking her seriously (she is an alcoholic and because she happened to be in that neighborhood at the same time as Megan went missing but was too drunk to recall anything) so she decides to reach out to the husband herself. It starts as just to try to figure out what had happened the night that she could not remember, and also to tell the husband about the mystery man, who turns out to be the shrink that Megan was seeing. Pathetic Rachel can’t let it go though because it’s really the only thing in her sad life so she keeps going over to visit the husband, but Anne keeps seeing her around the neighborhood and reaches out to the police about it. Tom was “supposed to take care of it” but he obviously hasn’t done so. She keeps calling him at all hours and now she’s hanging around. And to add to Rachel being a pathetic weirdo, she decides that she should also start going to the same shrink that Megan went to so that she can make her own assessment of whether or not he’s a killer.

As Rachel starts regaining some memories of the evening that Megan went missing, she realizes that she saw Tom near the train station, and she sees a woman get into the car. She thinks that it’s Anne, but eventually she realizes that it can’t be Anne because Anne has a baby, and she didn’t have the baby with her, and she wouldn’t have left the baby at home. So she realizes that it wasn’t Anne getting into the car, it was Megan.

She goes over to Anne’s to tell Anne that she and the baby need to leave! Anne doesn’t really believe her, but then Tom shows up. He tells Anne and the baby to go upstairs which they do, and he tells Anne how sorry that he is and that he was only sleeping with Megan when Anne was tied up with the baby. Anne realizes that Tom is just a shady person and has been using all the women he’s been with and telling them lies of his family, his military service, among other things. So once she puts the baby up, she goes back downstairs to find Rachel stab Tom in the neck with a corkscrew. Anne helps to push it in, and when the investigators come by, they have a perfect self-defense story.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

This book was so boring. It felt like a terrible reality TV show. All of the characters were pathetic and dull, and the story itself wasn’t any better. When I was at the beach, a woman asked me whether I’d recommend the book (because she like probably everyone else has heard of it), and I said definitely no. Another woman who was nearby gushed about how much she liked it, but she said that the movie was not worth seeing. Not that I was planning on it, but good to know. Even for a beach read, this book was mediocre.

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My Name is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout

Review (Amazon): Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

My Review (Spoilers!):

Executive Summary: blah

Yes, that is two “blahs” in a row. Not great. This book is our literary fiction book for the year, and it might actually just be that I don’t really like literary fiction. On the plus side, this is a very quick read. I just happened to really dislike Lucy Barton.

As you probably figured out, the main character is a woman named Lucy Barton who is presumably in her early 30s. She lives in New York City and is married with two children. For some unknown reason she is in the hospital and has been for a little while when her mother arrives.

Lucy and her family (mom, dad, brother, sister) grew up very poor. Lucy’s mom did sewing and alterations and her dad, who had PTSD (although this wasn’t described in extensive detail) wasn’t able to hold a steady job. They had no TV and little climate control. Lucy would stay at school late to take advantage of the heat and space and did very well–well enough to go to college.

She ended up getting married to what seemed like a upper middle class husband and basically spent her entire life in complete denial of where she ended up. It was like mentally she couldn’t believe where she was and seemed somewhat intent on sabotaging it. She was separated from the rest of her family mostly due to the vast difference in their current statuses so it was a surprise that her husband (who doesn’t come to see her much because he hates hospitals) called her mother to come see her.

When her mother arrives, Lucy interacts with her through gossip and stories about people who they used to know. When she tries to bring up painful childhood memories, her mother moves on without addressing them or she simply just cannot remember what Lucy is talking about. However through these stories we learn a slight bit more about Lucy and her life. She wants to be a writer, attending writing workshops with an author she loves. She also has basically only one friend in New York City, an older gay man named Jeremy who ended up dying of AIDS while she was in the hospital.

Eventually Lucy gets out of the hospital from whatever mysterious illness she had. She still doesn’t keep in touch with her mother because she is busy with her own life and children and her best-selling novel (but also mostly just because she doesn’t really want to). She only visits her 9 years later when her mother is dying. She sees her father there as well, and he dies the following year. When Lucy’s children go off to college, she and her husband end up getting divorced. Lucy ends up getting married to a man who also grew up in poverty but now is a cellist in the Philharmonic Symphony.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

This book was not for me. If it had been any longer, I would have not made it through it. It was challenging to even write a review for it because literally nothing happened. I probably could have summed it up in about 3 sentences. When we discussed it at book club, we didn’t really seem to be able to answer any questions because the story was just so vague and focused on a bunch of trivial stories instead of anything important. Although, maybe that is the point? I don’t know.

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Hedy’s Folly – Richard Rhodes

 Summary (Amazon): Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes delivers a remarkable story of science history: how a ravishing film star and an avant-garde composer invented spread-spectrum radio, the technology that made wireless phones, GPS systems, and many other devices possible.

Beginning at a Hollywood dinner table, Hedy’s Folly tells a wild story of innovation that culminates in U.S. patent number 2,292,387 for a “secret communication system.” Along the way Rhodes weaves together Hollywood’s golden era, the history of Vienna, 1920s Paris, weapons design, music, a tutorial on patent law and a brief treatise on transmission technology. Narrated with the rigor and charisma we’ve come to expect of Rhodes, it is a remarkable narrative adventure about spread-spectrum radio’s genesis and unlikely amateur inventors collaborating to change the world.

My Review:

Executive Summary: zzzzzzz

Holy cow was this book boring. I was really excited about reading this because I’m an engineer myself, and I thought it would be really interesting. Unfortunately, no.

Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil worked together during WW2 to create a patent for a radio frequency hopping torpedo, the technology from which helped form things we use today like GPS and wireless technology. Sounds cool, right? And Hedy Lamarr is a famous movie star, the most beautiful woman in the world. And George Antheil, who you maybe have never heard about (I hadn’t), wrote an autobiography called The Bad Boy of Music so he has to be cool (or at least crazy and therefore interesting). Somehow a Pulitzer Prize winning author managed to turn this story into something less interesting than reading a phone book.

Hedy was born in Austria to progressive parents. She dropped out of school to pursue theater and star in a risque German movie. She married Friedrich Mandl, who was involved in munitions during WWI. He forbade her to continue acting, and eventually she had had enough, left him, and moved to Paris. There she met the head of MGM who encouraged her to move to Hollywood.

Through a mutual friend, Hedy and George meet and begin to realize the joining of their skills could be very useful. George spent many years trying to figure out a way to join player pianos together to create a sort of orchestra. Hedy spent time listening in on munitions secrets of her first husband’s. Together they realize that they can come up with a design for a frequency hopping torpedo which cannot be jammed. They apply for the patent which is filed as secret and is sent to the Navy, who decides not to implement it. In the 1970s, it gets revived and is used to progress computer technology leading to wireless, cellular phones, GPS and more although no money ever trickles down to either original inventor as the patent has expired by that time. In 1997, posthumously for George, they are given an award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

As a memoir, also specifically titled to Hedy, you’d expect her to be the star of the book, when in fact, upon finishing, I knew almost the same about her as when I started. Over half the book talks about Antheil, which while fair since he is the co-author of the patent, was not in any way alluded to by the title of the book. And it is strange that the author spent more time talking about Antheil and the patent itself than he did about Hedy. Basically, I expected and wanted this to be a book about a powerful woman inventor, and it spent more time on her male lecherous partner. Fail.

 

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The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

  Summary (Amazon): The Three Musketeers is a novel by Alexandre Dumas. Set in the 17th century, it recounts the adventures of a young man named d’Artagnan after he leaves home to travel to Paris, to join the Musketeers of the Guard. D’Artagnan is not one of the musketeers of the title; those being his friends Athos, Porthos and Aramis, inseparable friends who live by the motto “all for one, one for all”, a motto which is first put forth by d’Artagnan. In genre, The Three Musketeers is primarily a historical novel and adventure. However Dumas also frequently works into the plot various injustices, abuses and absurdities of the ancien regime, giving the novel an additional political aspect at a time when the debate in France between republicans and monarchists was still fierce. The story was first serialized from March to July 1844, during the July monarchy, four years before the French Revolution of 1848 violently established the second Republic. The author’s father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas had been a well-known general in France’s Republican army during the French revolutionary wars. Although adaptations tend to portray d’Artagnan and the three musketeers as heroes, the novel portrays less appealing characters, who are willing to commit violence over slight insults and through unquestioning loyalty to the king and queen, and treat their servants and supposed social inferiors with contempt and violence.

My Review (Spoilers!!)

Executive Summary: snooze

So for some foolish reason, I read my two longest books of the year back to back. While I loved The Goldfinch, I could not motivate myself to work on this one. It was our classic for book club, and no one finished it. I may be the only one and three weeks after the book club meeting.

I can probably summarize this 400 page book in a few paragraphs, because in the 1600s, it took a lot of time do to anything. And if you were writing a serial, you may have been paid by the word. I don’t know.

The main character, d’Artagnan, goes to Paris with a letter for the captain of the Musketeers. While there, he is challenged by three Musketeers to duels in succession, and when the duels are over, they become good friends. (d’Artagnan is not a Musketeer until much later in the story so it is more like the Three Musketeers + 1). There’s some political drama going on in France at the time involving the Cardinal, the King, the Queen, and England (particularly Lord Buckingham). The Queen loves Lord Buckingham. The Cardinal wishes to embarrass the Queen in this matter, and he gets the help of “Milady”, apparently the most swoon-worthy cunning woman in all of history. d’Artagnan falls in love with his landlord’s wife who is a helper for the Queen who is kidnapped by the Cardinal. d’Artagnan wants to find this woman, and along the way encounter “Milady” who enchants him (even though he’s supposed to be looking for his lover). He realizes that she is evil and branded, and he sets a trap for her. However she’s too clever and basically the rest of the book is d’Artagnan and the three Musketeers trying to catch Milady. Finding the woman is a plot afterthought. It turns out that at some point, Athos was married to Milady, and he helps carry out a scheme to have her sent to England to be punished by Lord Buckingham. However, the guard becomes enchanted with her, helps her escape back to France and kills Lord Buckingham. When she arrives back in France, she ends up at a convent which happens to be the same one that d’Artagnan’s lover is hidden. As her original plan is foiled last minute, Milady ends up poisoning Bonaciex. The group arrives just as Bonaciex is dying and split up to find Milady. Eventually they do, paired up with her brother-in-law who was keeping her in England, as well as an executioner who has been hurt by Milady’s trickery. They try her and execute her. They return to Paris and the cardinal pardons d’Artagnan and makes him a lieutenant in the Musketeers.

The end.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

Not for me. I easily tire of classics, but I expected this one to be a lot more action packed than it was. I suspect too if I were more interested in history, I might have been more interested, but, alas, I am not. For me, there was not much in this book to interest me.

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Innocence – Dean Koontz

photo (1)Book Description (Amazon):

In Innocence, Dean Koontz blends mystery, suspense, and acute insight into the human soul in a masterfully told tale that will resonate with readers forever.

He lives in solitude beneath the city, an exile from society, which will destroy him if he is ever seen.

She dwells in seclusion, a fugitive from enemies who will do her harm if she is ever found.

But the bond between them runs deeper than the tragedies that have scarred their lives. Something more than chance—and nothing less than destiny—has brought them together in a world whose hour of reckoning is fast approaching.

My Review (Spoilers):

Executive Summary: weird

I have never read a Dean Koontz book before, and it seems like this might not have been a good one to start with. This was our “New York Times Best Seller” for the year (which essentially balances our classic). I had no idea where this book was going for most of the book, and when the ending finally happened, I was sorely disappointed.

The story begins with Addison, possibly human, who lives alone after “Father” has died. I say possibly human because there’s something different about him that makes people fear and attack him. A disfigurement perhaps but what sort of disfigurement would cause people to do that?

Addison lives in some sort of bomb shelter of sorts–a secret home below the city. He was born and lived his early life in the country with his natural mother (his father was worthless and left her before he was born). When he was born, the midwife tried to kill him, but his mother pulled a gun on her. Addison’s mother tried very hard to love him, but she spent less and less time with him as he aged (and also spent more time with drugs and alcohol). Luckily he was a mature child as she told him to leave the home at age 8 and then she subsequently killed herself. Ouch.

He found his way into the city where he luckily came across “Father”, another like him in the midst of a fight. Father showed him some of the lays of the land including welcoming Addison into his home (where he had been welcomed in by another many years before). They lived in relative peace until an accident involving some police officers led to Father’s death. (This is technically where the story begins. Addison’s history was pieced together throughout the story with awkward flashback chapters).

Addison, now 26, is in the library one night after hours (he knows when/how to enter buildings at night so he won’t be seen or caught) and there is a girl in there as well. She is being hunted by a man but manages to evade him. Addison knows the library well and seeks her out of her hiding spot after the man has left. Her name is Gwyneth and she is dressed like a goth. She’s 18 and has a similar social anxiety to Addison. Addison hates to be looked at, whereas Gwyneth hates to be touched.

They become friends seemingly out of necessity. Gwyneth’s mother died in childbirth and was raised by her loving father until he was poisoned to death by the man who had been chasing her in the library. She lived alone after that, moving between a series of apartments that her father set up for her.

The book continues in an overly descriptive manner but honestly nothing really happens. They spend their time trying to avoid Ryan Telford (the man from the museum) who is hunting them. In the end, Telford tracks down the mysterious secret girl who Gwyneth has been hiding and kills her guardians. Addison and Gwyneth appear in time before the girl is killed, and they find that Telford is dying due to some genetically engineered Ebola+flesh eating bacteria. They take the girl back to Teague Hanlon’s. Teague had been her guardian since her father died, and it is revealed that he is also the priest who allowed Father, and then Addison, to shop in the food pantry and thrift store after hours.

It turns out that Gwyneth and the young girl whose name is Moriah are both the same as Addison. And it isn’t that they are disfigured; it is that they are devoid of the original sin. The reason people fear and resent them is that when they are looked upon, people see all their sins revealed to them which makes them very angry.

So then Addison and Gwyneth get married. They take Moriah and three other children, given to them by “the clears” who presumably are angels and they leave and go to the country while everyone else dies from the plague. The end.

No, I’m serious. That’s how it ends.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

This book was so strange, and not in a good way. The entire middle 80% or so of the book was nearly impossible to get through, and in the end, the plot lines that occurred during that section didn’t matter anyway because everyone died. In addition to that, this book actually had potential to be a good religious novel, but not by killing off all the “regular humans” (because, we as readers would fall into the “regular human” category even those of us who aren’t pedophiles (there was an unusual attraction to that particular sin in this book)). The characters in the book who were perfect already did not attempt to help any of the “normal” humans either physically or by teaching them how to be better people. This paints a pretty bleak picture that unless you are born without sin (which is no one) you cannot be saved. Yikes.

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