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books and reading

The Residence

Thank you Netgalley for this book!

This book is described as “gripping and terrifying” so I gave it a chance via Netgalley. I saw it was about a haunting at the White House, but really didn’t skim past that. It wasn’t until I started reading that I realized it was historical fiction, about the real death of Franklin and Jane Pierce’s son, Bennie. Now, how much else of the book is real is up to you. Some events, like Jane writing letters to her dead son, are documented, but I’m guessing that most of the story is fiction.

Sadly, I was neither gripped not terrified while reading. Even though the characters were real people, I felt like they weren’t developed enough. As a mother, I can only imagine the loss Jane felt, and her sadness was noted at length, but Franklin seemed cold to the event.

As a child, Jane saw an entity in her home she named “Sir.” He would visit and guide her from time to time. After Bennie’s death, Sir visited Jane again, and through a series of events, Bennie was resurrected, of sorts. His ghost was corporeal, solid, with a scent, and the ability to move things. As creepy as this sounds, I was never really scared. The events just moved too quickly. I think the scare factor could have been ramped up a lot with some character and plot development. It felt like every event just happened so fast that there wasn’t enough suspense to be truly horrifying. If people like low burn horror, I guess this is a good one, but it just didn’t work for me.

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books and reading

Sarah’s Key

A few friends recommended this book to me last year. And for my 2016 book challenge, I needed a book set in Europe. I’m not a big historical fiction fan, but books about WWII and the Holocaust are too important to avoid, so I took the plunge and read this book, even though I was told that it would rip my heart out.

And let me tell you. It didn’t. At a couple points in the book, I thought, “Oh, that’s sad,” but that’s about it, honestly. Partly because the big reveal that usually happens toward the end of the book happens in the middle. I wasn’t invested enough in the story to be truly emotionally hooked. That said, I’m not like post people. I don’t cry about books, really. But if you are looking for an emotional upheaval, this book probably fits most people.

A good chunk of the book is told in alternating chapters, past and present. I enjoyed the present day ones more, but I really don’t have a reason why. The main character is writing a story about a particular event in Paris history,  (The Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup ),  but people aren’t talking. So she has to do some investigative work. The story from the past is Sarah’s, who was one of the children picked up in the roundup. Why she has a key is a particular tragedy, and one that is eventually resolved in the book.

Overall, this was a good book. Not as good as others, but still worth reading. I’m happy to report that I do not need therapy (as was suggested) after reading it.

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books and reading

Save Queen of Sheba

In my online book club, we have been having some great book discussions. One was about books from our childhood that we remember, had an impact, reread, etc. Mine were Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume books, RL Stine, Christopher Pike, Sweet Valley High, and VC Andrews. There were a few standout books like Autumn Street (still in my top 10 of all time), Dead Birds Singing, and Save Queen of Sheba. I didn’t really hit more mature reading until college.

I had completely forgotten about this book until our discussion and another member brought it up. So, I went to my local library and somehow they had a copy, complete with an old style checkout card and everything. I took my time and read slowly, given it’s 116 pages, I could have read it in an hour. But even looking at the cover, I was completely taken back to middle school. I must have read this book half a dozen times. And all I remembered with scalping.

It’s not a very politically correct book, but I read it in the 80s in Oklahoma, so I think it wasn’t meant to be for the time period. Indians AKA Native Americans are the bad guys in this book, killing at will, scalping everyone, and the poor innocent white people suffer. The Native American involuntary relocation isn’t really an issue. This book is definitely on the fiction side of historical fiction. But, I enjoyed it nonetheless. King David is a great character, suffering tremendously, doing all he can to stay alive. Queen of Sheba, being a 6 year old, is completely insufferable, but her behavior makes you appreciate KD even more for putting up with her.

This might not be the most spectacular book ever written, but it kept my attention as a kid enough that I wanted to read it multiple times. I’m not even sure if it is still in print, or how hard it is to find, but it would be great for young readers to learn how the world worked long ago.