Jurassic Park

We’ve all seen the movie. If you haven’t, there will be some spoilers here. I’m not sure how that’s even necessary, given how old the movie is, but there it is anyway. I saw the movie in the theatre when it came out. Instant classic and just the most fun movie. But I had never given the book a second thought. So when the reading challenge had a requirement of “a book with an imaginary or extinct creature,” I decided to give it a shot.

I was pleasantly surprised at how great this book is. The first half is more or less the same as the book. There are a few more characters, a few different scenes, but overall it feels very familiar. The only big change was the ages of the kids. Tim is the older kid, still a dinosaur nut. Lex is younger in the book and a completely useless and annoying character. I can absolutely see why they made her older in the movie and more relevant. The actors were really well cast for the movie, also. Of course, I kept picturing them as I was reading, but it wasn’t a far stretch.

I won’t give away much about the book difference, but I will say there’s a plotline through the book that wasn’t at all in the movie.  The difference is an interesting one and I would like to see a direct sequel to it. From what I understand, the actual sequel, The Lost World, doesn’t follow-up the first entirely. In Jurassic Park, once the dinosaurs start attacking, a lot changes. I didn’t mind the changes at all, because it was still some great dinosaur attacking humans action. There was a lot more about the dinos breeding than in the movie, which was really interesting. The most surprising part of the book was how technologically advanced it was for the time. Written in the late 80s and published in 1990, Crichton included so much more about computers, DNA, genetic engineering, etc than I was expecting. My jaw dropped when he mentioned a touch screen computer. He really did an amazing job researching this book, which impressed me so much.

I wasn’t necessarily looking to read this book, and without the book challenge, I probably never would have read it, but I ended up loving it. It’s different enough from the movie to keep you reading (big changes in the ending. BIG…) and I kept marveling at how well thought out it was. Excellent book.

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Birdman

I heard about this book at some point and all I remember hearing was that it was really graphic. And yea. Wow. Not the worst I’ve ever read, but definitely not for the faint of heart. That said, it’s a great book, and I was sucked in really quickly. I like a good detective story, and they are hard to find. I’m glad to say there are seven books in this series, but it’s also great because the first book is pretty well complete and you can read one without having to read the rest.

Jack Caffrey is a detective with a past. When he was a child, his brother went missing and was never found again. Jack lives in the same house, his parents are estranged, and he struggles with the loss of his brother. Jack is convinced his neighbor was the one who kidnapped his brother, but he can’t prove it. The neighbor constantly taunts Jack, not making the situation any easier. This plot line might be carried through the rest of the series, I don’t know. But the main plot is wrapped up by the end of the book.

Several prostitutes turn up dead with birds sewn into their chests. Yep. It’s pretty awful. The police have a few leads, but with the victims being ones who don’t have a lot of family or anyone reporting them missing, it’s hard to stay on top of the situation. Jack and his partner are able to put some pieces together, but the killer keeps eluding them. I will say that everything is solved (sorry, but I don’t think that’s really a spoiler) but I will give you zero clues as to who is behind this killing.

The ending is very tense, and I couldn’t put the book down, waiting to find out the fates of some of the characters. The characters aren’t as well developed as other books, but I imagine over the course of the series, you get to know Jack very well.

The Woman in the Window

Friend after friend after friend told me to read this book. I was really excited to start it, but quickly discovered the entire plot is based around my least favorite trope- I’m an alcoholic and can’t remember things. I absolutely despise it. Other than alien abduction, it’s my least favorite plotline in a book. It’s not creative and is way overdone.

And not only is this main character, Anna, an alcoholic, she is also medicated due to severe anxiety and agoraphobia (she can’t leave her house). A while ago, she and her family were in a car accident, leaving Anna house-bound. Her biggest forms of entertainment include watching old movies, playing online chess, and spying on her neighbors. Side note: There’s an old movie called Copycat about this very thing. Sigourney Weaver is a house-bound woman in this movie and is so after a brutal attack. It’s not a great movie, but worth watching if you can catch it. Harry Connick, Jr. plays a delightfully awful murderer. Anyway, Anna is a psychotherapist (or psychiatrist, I forget, but you get the idea) so she’s fully aware of what is happening to her.

One night, she sees something terrifying. But she can’t convince anyone that she wasn’t hallucinating. Plot twists (some obvious, some not), more alcohol, plenty of crazy revelations, and finally an explanation as to what, if anything, happened. I can’t believe this book is so popular. I gave it three stars for the couple of plot points that did fool me, but overall, I was so disappointed in this book. A movie of it is coming out later this year, and I have zero desire to see it. Blah.

Baby Teeth

As much as I love books, I rarely have a physical reaction to them. I read them, I get sucked in, but I rarely have any kind of physical reaction to them, including crying. No matter how tense or horrifying a book is, my brain can usually separate it as fiction and just let it go. This book is the exception. Every time I picked it up, my guts twisted up. I felt myself clenching the book harder in fear of what was going to happen next. I had to read it only in short burst because I had trouble keeping myself calm. Basically, it horrified me to my core.

The story is told in alternating chapters from a mother’s, Suzette, perspective and a daughter’s, Hanna. Suzette is a doting, loving, stay-at-home mom, while the father, Alex, works hard, loves his family deeply, but doesn’t fully see Hanna’s behavior as troublesome. She loves her father and is perfect around him, so there’s a struggle between what Suzette and Alex know about their child. Hanna is a mute 7-year-old with borderline psychotic behavior. And once you learn her internal dialogue, you realize how deeply disturbed she is. As far as we know, Suzette doesn’t do anything to deserve the rage Hanna shows her. And the number of schools Hanna has been kicked out of had every reason to do so.

As the plot unfolds, the tension grows. Hanna comes up with a plan to fully rid herself of her wretched mother, and the results are deeply troubling. I was constantly fearful of Hanna, and as a parent of a 7-year-old myself, I was easily able to put myself into Suzette’s place. What would I do if Hanna were my child? I just can’t even imagine that life, honestly. I was happy to finish this book so I can put it behind me, but Hanna will stay with me for awhile. It is hard to shake the thought of a psychopath 7-year-old.

The Book of M

Holy smokes, this book. I am a dystopian snob. I have read dozens of them and most are fair or good. But this one was absolutely amazing. Downright excellent. I felt like I was reading Stephen King, Robert McCammon, and Jeff VanderMeer in one book, but it was still its own unique concept.

The Book of M tells the story of what happens when you lose your shadow. One day, a man in India turns around and his shadow is gone. Then a few more people. Then an entire marketplace. Then entire cities. No one knows why this is happening or why some people lose theirs and why others don’t. But once you lose your shadow, your memories begin to fade. You forget parts of your past, people you know, who you are, how to read, how to talk, how to breathe. And while you are forgetting, you know it’s happening. It’s like a modern-day version of Flowers for Algernon, in some sense.

However, there’s a man who can possibly help you. His shadow is quite unique due to an unusual meeting, and if you can find your way to New Orleans, there will be refuge and hope. However, you have to battle various groups of people who are misguided, shadowless, and hopeless. This book absolutely floored me in the end. I was holding my breath and just had to put the book down when certain things were revealed.  This one is a must read.

An Anonymous Girl

Through the Popsugar book challenge, I’ve discovered it’s really hard to find books that fit into a certain category. Some just are really narrow and not many books fit into the category. Do you know how hard it is to find a book written by two female authors? I have already read the Beautiful Creatures series (very good!) written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Apparently, there are two women who write under a pseudonym, but I had trouble finding any of their books. While flipping through my People magazine, I noticed a favorable review of An Anonymous Girl written by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. Whew. Problem solved.

The eponymous girl is Jessica, who signs up for a psychological trial to earn a few extra bucks to send home to her parents. She lives in NYC and has a special needs sister, so she tries to send money home when she can. Jess works as a traveling make-up artist, doing the make-up for socialites headed for parties, so she has a hard time turning down the extra money. When Dr. Shields selects Jess for further trials, Jess realizes she is into something deeper than a simple study. Twists and turns abound, but this book never hooked me.

I liked Jess well enough and the writing style was interested with some chapters told in the second person from Dr. Shields to Jessica, but the story just never captured me and kept me engaged. I didn’t care how mean Dr. Shields was, and I didn’t care about all the plot twists that I saw coming a mile away. Nothing shocked me. And I’m not saying this because I’m so clever, no one can fool me, ha ha ha. I just wasn’t as captivated as I hoped I would be.

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

Trigger Warnings. Some people abide by them, request them, honor them. Some feel like they are useless, a waste of time. catering to a “wimpy” generation. However you may feel about them, it’s almost impossible to escape the fact that our society has its problems that many are uncomfortable discussing or dealing with. Maybe people have pasts filled with trauma, which can be brought to the surface at any moment by something as small as a photograph, a smell, a word. Whether you include trigger warnings in your writing or discussions is entirely up to you. But how do you escape being triggered when your entire career is filled with them? Alexandria Marzano-Lesnivich deals with this very question in her memoir/true crime book.

As a child, Alexandria was molested by a family member for several years. The description is gut-wrenching and difficult to read, even for a person who has never been through a similar experience. And when Alexandria becomes an adult, she decides to be a defense attorney, having to defend the very same kind of person: a child molester. She is a law student when she first encounters the story of Ricky Langley, a convicted child molester who also killed a young boy. The story of Ricky isn’t as cut and dry as you might think. When Ricky’s mom was pregnant, she was in the hospital following a car accident, pumped full of dozens of drugs. She nor the doctors knew she was pregnant. Ricky has been mentally troubled since he was a child, thinking his older brother, though dead from the same car accident, would come and speak to him. And although Ricky wasn’t found legally insane, Alexandria asks whether or not he deserves the punishment bestowed upon him.

As the story evolves, more of Ricky’s story and Alexandria’s story unfolds. In her effort to try and understand Ricky and his motivation, she is forced to deal with her own trauma and her feelings towards her own molester. As difficult as the subject matter of this book is, I still highly recommend it because of how beautifully it is written, how well-researched it is, and how far Alexandria is willing to go in her own discovery of herself and of this case. I love a good true crime book, and this one is one of the better ones I’ve read in awhile.