The Life We Bury

Finding a book I haven’t read shouldn’t be that hard, but when the librarian tried to give me recommendations, she went with the most popular books as of late, all of which I have read. For the 2017 book challenge, I have to read a book recommended by a librarian, so I approached the desk with my query. She recommended The Nightingale, Gillian Flynn books, The Girl on the Train, etc. Check. Check. Check. So, she went to Amazon to look for books that are similar to these and came up with The Life We Bury. So, not officially librarian recommended, but I’m sticking with it.

Joe Talbert is a college kid with the assigned task of writing an older person’s biography. He has no one in his life that fits this bill, so he heads to a local assisted living facility and finds Carl Iverson. Carl has been let out of prison because he’s dying of cancer. And, even though he was convicted of rape and murder, letting him out to die seemed to be the right thing to do. Unlike the other residents, Carl is fully lucid each day and is willing to tell his story. Joe isn’t really sure he even wants to hear this story, but the assignment is pressing. Joe lives two hours away from home, leaving behind an alcoholic mother and an autistic brother. As his mother pulls him back home for various reasons, we see Joe as a caring, protective brother. One night Joe has to bring his brother back home with him, to his tiny apartment, and runs into a neighbor, Lila, who is great with his brother and ends up getting sucked into Carl’s story as well.

Of course, being a thriller, there are twists and turns. Did Carl really commit this horrible crime? If not, who did? Carl has a very mysterious past, going all the way to Vietnam, and he has never been the same since. But has whatever happened in the past affected him so greatly that he would rape and murder a teenage girl? I felt like Joe’s brother was more of a catalyst to get Joe and Lila together rather than an actual important part of the story. But that might just me being overly critical. I really did enjoy the author, Allen Eskens’, writing style. I wouldn’t say the plot was predictable, but writing an original thriller is hard to do these days. However, his writing was really great. Sadly, I returned the book to the library already, or I would type up a few phrases that stood out. My apologies. But I have looked up his other works on Amazon and hope to read some of them soon.


Rise by Katherine L. Evans (update)

I posted my review Here of the amazing book, Rise, that I was a beta reader for. And great news that the book is available to purchase. Even better news, 100% of the author’s royalties from this novel will be donated to charities benefiting Syrian refugees and to organizations working to improve safety conditions for conflict journalists. I was absolutely blown away by this book.

Sweet Valley Confidential

There are books that I really want to read, but know better than to spend any money on them because the expectation level is so low. So when I saw a copy of this book at a Friends of the Library sale, I knew it was my chance to get it for dirt cheap. Sadly, I think the dollar I spent on the book would have been better spent elsewhere, because, folks, this book is awful. No lie.

I LOVED the SVH books when I was a kid, so when I had to read a book from my childhood for the books challenge, I was excited to have an excuse to revisit the twins. Elizabeth is my spirit animal. Jessica annoyed me so much, and even though they were twins, I was always frustrated with Elizabeth for not having a backbone and standing up to her sister’s nonsense. Well, this time around, that backbone was made of steel. Mild spoilers, but this happens in the beginning of the book, so it’s not that big of a deal. Elizabeth lives in NYC, having fled Sweet Valley because of the biggest betrayal she could endure. Behind her back, Jessica has stolen the one and only Todd Wilkins. WHAT???? Todd has realized his true feelings aren’t for Elizabeth, but instead, her twin. And out of sheer heartbreak, Elizabeth runs away to find herself, start a new job, whatever. She hasn’t spoken to her twin or Todd since she fled 8 months ago. Elizabeth is pissed.

Through a series of flashbacks from multiple perspectives (in a different font, just in case you get confused) we learn the whole story of how Jess and Todd fell in love. We also see our old friends again, Lila Fowler, Bruce Patman, Caroline Pearce, however most have small roles. Missing from the narrative is Enid, though. Maybe I didn’t read that particular book, but she and Elizabeth are no longer speaking and Enid is only referenced. Remember the one where Enid was in the plane crash?? That was my favorite SVH book!

Anyway, yada yada, side stories about the twins older brother Steven, Liz meets a new guy in NYC, there’s a big showdown at a party between Liz and Jess, nonsense really. Maybe I was naive back in the day, but I don’t remember the books being this nonsensical. This one felt way too edited to make sense. I don’t even really care that the plot was such a big cliche, but the writing itself was just terrible. I am fine with revisiting the characters, but at least try to realize that your audience is no longer 14 years old.

Parable of the Sower

I’ve had Octavia Butler on my radar for awhile. Several friends have recommended her. And, at some point, her books were really cheap on Amazon, so I stocked up on some ebooks. So when I had to read a book written by a person of color, I immediately though of her and chose Parable of the Sower, knowing absolutely nothing about it.

The story is in my favorite genre, dystopia, and even though I’m a bit burned out on these books, I still appreciate a well written one. Butler isn’t a YA writer, but her book falls mostly into this category. It doesn’t explain how the world is the way it is (takes place in the years 2025-2027) but the world has fallen apart and life is hard. She makes some adjustments to the world by creating fictitious illegal drugs. One drug makes people obsessed with fires. Another leaves people with hyperempathy. Lauren, our main character, has this ‘sharing’ because her mother took the drug while pregnant. Lauren feels others’ pain. When a person is shot, it feels like she has been shot.

Lauren’s family lives in a cul-de-sac in California, and even though they have a gate and guard their property, one night, several homes are set on fire and all the homes are robbed. Lauren is lucky to escape, but most aren’t so fortunate. She and a few survivors travel north, looking for a place to resettle and gather other travelers along the way. Lauren, even though she has never lived outside her cul-de-sac, is very street smart and knows not to trust others. However, the people she meets along the way prove just how desperate they are for help as well.

Lauren sees God as Change. And through her religious teachings, her God evolves into something not good or evil, but as simply the natural process of the world. She calls this new belief Earthseed. While traveling, she tells her group about Earthseed and her beliefs.

Butler skillfully tackles important issues like gender, feminism, sexuality, and motherhood with such creativity and honesty.  Every decision the characters made felt authentic and sensible, given their situation. There is a sequel to this book, and I’m really excited to revisit Lauren and her fellow travelers.


It’s rare these days that I read a book as soon as it is published. I usually wait awhile, grab it from the library when I can, and go from there. However, when Jeff VanderMeer publishes a book, I will be first in line. And thankfully my library already had it on order and I was first in line to reserve it. I’ve read book the Southern Reach trilogy (fantastic) and the Ambergris trilogy (not so great), so I was curious to see where Borne fell within my judgements of his work, and wouldn’t you know, I’d say it is smack dab in the middle, maybe leaning a little closer to Southern Reach.

Rachel and Wick live in the Balcony Cliffs in a world that is governed by a giant flying bear named Mord. Yep, you read that right. However, when Mord sleeps, Rachel can climb on him and scavenge for things. And one day she found Borne. The size of her fist, appearing to be plantlike or some sort of anemone, she names him Borne because, although she didn’t give birth to him, he was “born” under her watch and care. And of course Borne doesn’t stay small. Rachel soon noticed that he’s growing quickly and never producing any kind of waste. Eventually Borne begins speaking and learning and their relationship is pushed to the limits. Wick doesn’t approve of Borne because he has no idea what Borne truly is (neither do we, but Rachel accepts him) and tensions arise.

There is a side story about the Company which is a, well, company that created Mord and assorted biotech. There is also a woman named the Magician who unofficially rules the lands where Rachel and Wick live. I promise this book is easy to follow; I’m just not good at explaining how crazy the world is.

Overall, I liked the book. It was compelling and you really get sucked into the world, even with its implausible giant bear. There are definitely remnants of Area X in this world, unintentional I’m sure. At one point, Rachel and Wick are traveling a long dark corridor and I kept wondering if some crazy language would be written on it, like in Annihilation. I feel like this world and Area X reside next to each other in alternate realities. I definitely recommend this book, especially because it’s just a stand alone book and well written, but if you really want his best work, go with the Southern Reach trilogy.