Before She Knew Him

I chose this as my March 2019 Book of the Month. I’ve been trying to stay away from the classic genres I like, such as mystery and suspense, but I said screw it, we are doing the damn thing.

Enter Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson.

I chose this book mainly because the title was interesting. I wish I had some more insightful reason for my choices, but I’m a simple person y’all.

Let me go ahead and post the inside covers for you!

As I was reading this, I was almost kicking myself in the ass for picking something so predictable. I was bored with the story probably half of the book…..then shit hit the fan!

Overall, the book was OK. It wasn’t my favorite and I’m not going to be like “OH MY GOSH GO BUY THIS NOW”, but I was an ok read. I finished the book which I wasn’t convinced I was going to be able to do. It did surprise me which is great if you’re looking for something shocking but I don’t think it’ll win any awards. It might make a good movie though.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

*DONT READ IF YOU WANT TO READ THE BOOK YOURSELF ***

This is freaking Dexter meets Split. Like no joke, this ended up being SUCH a surprise for me. Like, I did not see a split personality element coming into play for this story.

That being said, I still wasn’t 100% in love with this story. It was a story with hints of sexual assault, domestic abuse, psychologically disturbed aspects that almost seems over played as character background stories. I know that sounds weird to say, but you can almost 100000% predict that there’s going to be a huge in- depth backstory of abuse if the writer is using the perspective of a murderer. I know that it helps understand motives to some extent, but this novel was a little too graphic and dove into the back story too much for my taste.

I appreciate the element of mental health awareness in here – how any history of mental illness pretty much blacklists a person from being a reliable source of information. I think that as a writer, Swanson poses an interesting aspect of what the implications to the story would have been if the main character had been believed the first time she raised suspicions and accusations….but then again we wouldnt have had much of a story to read!

So there we have it. I haven’t given up faith on murder mystery suspense stories, but I also won’t be rushing out to buy another.

Til next time!

Into Thin Air

I really debated if I even wanted to write anything about reading this book. It almost feels morally wrong to write or review or even comment about this book because there was SO much loss. How do you even say anything about a story that impacted so many lives beyond comprehension? The more I debated that question, the more I wanted to say something because talking about this story really feels like honoring the memory of those lost and honoring the other people who were impacted who still suffer.

Without any more rambling, this is my reflection of reading Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

I can’t say there was a good reason for choosing this book – I had a free book credit to use through Book of the Month and wanted to pick something a little different than I normally read. Usually, I am not a fan of nonfiction. Honestly, in writing this, I am not really sure what I am a fan of in terms of this book. I guess I chose it because climbing Mount Everest is something I will literally NEVER do in my lifetime. I don’t think I began to even comprehend the story that was about to unfold. Maybe the words didn’t sink in that this story was about the loss of living, breathing, human life… but this book seriously impacted me more than I ever began to imagine.

Told from the point of view of a journalist and climber, you really get a feel for the atmosphere of Everest, the technicalities of climbing, the relationships and backgrounds of the other climbers. I mean Krakauer is in fact a writer so obviously he is going to paint a very vivid picture of what happened – it’s not just someone who tried to write a book who had no previous experience. There were times reading this when I could scarcely breathe because it felt like I was experiencing this with the other climbers.

Reading this narrative made me experience so many emotions. There were so many times where I was mad about what I was reading. I was mad people would risk their lives to do something so arbitrary in the scale of things. I was mad at the mistakes that were made that cost people their lives. I was mad about the fact these people devastated the lives of their family, friends, and readers. I was shocked and admired the resolution of these climbers to defy the odds, to defy the physical limitations of their bodies, to have the will to live. I was emotionally devastated reading of their struggle – there were countless times where I would cry or have to put my book down because I couldn’t handle it. I felt anguish, devastation, frustration, loss. I became attached.

How do you even say anything that impacted so many lives beyond comprehension? I don’t think you can. I could never begin to imagine what these climbers were seeking when they risked their lives to climb Everest. I could never imagine the loss that was felt by each individual. I could never imagine the strength it took to write this book. Krakauer is obviously working through survivor’s remorse in this story and maybe that caused him to be overly critical about decisions made during the climb, but who am I to critique a story like this?

I didn’t want to tell anyone I read this book because it made me feel too much. I hate to imagine this story from the point of view of a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend. But, here I am attempting to make sense of what I just read and finding the only outlet for my emotions is to try to honor the story of the people who experienced such a traumatic event.

This book, although very emotional and painful to read, made me appreciate how people can come together to accomplish something that defies nature. It also made me appreciate that sometimes boundaries shouldn’t be pushed. There are reasons life doesn’t exist in some places – why do we as humans or even as a spec in the biology of life feel the need to conquer everything? I read this story and I wonder why anyone would do what these climbers did, and I realize that there is some innate drive to exist fully within the scope of what we can do and what we cannot do. There is some drive to blur the fine lines that define the limitations of our humanity or of our biology.

These climbers will forever exemplify the risks associated with pushing boundaries but they will also define the bravery and humanity that comes with that struggle as well. Although I can’t say I enjoyed this book, I am happy to have gotten a glimpse into people much more daring than myself and feel privileged to share in some part of their stories.

The Night Tiger – Mystery and Forbidden Love

In my pursuit to do better at making myself happy, I’ve tried to expand my reading – both in genre and quantity of books. I’ve subscribed to Book of the Month which has been a little hit or miss for me, but I wanted to go ahead and share a book I recently finished.

Let me go ahead and preface this by saying I’m not a well read literary critic. I literally picked this book because I loved the cover art and I can’t say I’ve read many Asian authors. That being said, this is a review of The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo. I also think that through Book of the Month, this book was available through the site before it was actually published (which makes me feel like a badass because I got it before everyone else).

Let’s dive in!

This cover grabbed my eye instantly. Is that a good reason to pick a book? Probably not, but hey, I’m not disappointed.

An utterly transporting novel set in 1930s colonial Malaysia. A world of servants and masters, age-old superstition and modern idealism, sibling rivalry and forbidden love.

I’d say that about sums this book up perfectly. Now, I’m not well versed in Asian culture, let alone colonial Malaysian culture, but the author really does an AMAZING job of submerging the reader into a lush, vibrant setting where you can feel the thick humidity and ancient mysticism with every page. I adore the fact this is so outside of my normal wheelhouse and appreciate that Choo defines terms that I wouldn’t normally understand in a way that isn’t an annoying footnote or glossary in the back of the book.

The author’s ability to seamlessly define foreign language and explain Malaysian culture really helps the reader understand the characters throughout the book. This book really has everything – suspense and mystery while trying to find a lost finger; forbidden, taboo love; murder, lust, historical fiction, ancient folklore, and a plethora of characters to keep the reader entertained.

With all that going on though, I did think this book crammed almost too much into the storyline that it almost became predictable. I wish the author could have edited out some of the subplots to really focus on the main characters BUT Choo did a great job of tying everything in.

Maybe I’m too sentimental but I really didn’t want this book to end. There definitely seemed like an ending that hints at a sequel so I’ll be following up. I adore these characters and their struggles. I also love that I get a glimpse into a culture I am not familiar with that seems so rich and vibrant. I feel like that’s the most accurate way to review this book – just like the cover art, this whole story is rich and vibrant, leaving you drenched in the multifaceted perspectives of characters who have to balance their own needs and desires within the confines of their culture. It’s truly a beautiful book.

So, I’m really happy I read this because and I highly recommend! Go pick up your copy!

Also, if you’d like to join Book of the Month, here is a referral link! This let’s you get a hardcover book for about $15 PLUS another FREE hardcover book.

Referral Link

Ancient Greece Meets Modern Struggles

For the year of 2019, I decided to read more. It’s part of my self help initiative where I do a little more for myself than I did last year. I’m going to feed my brain as well as my face. Let me tell you, I don’t even know when I actually finished a book last. Also, let me go ahead and tell you I am no literary critic with super in depth analytical reviews. I just like to read and talk about what I got out of it!

When I was trying to decide what book I wanted to start 2019 out with, I had no idea where to begin. I didn’t know what genre I’d like to kickoff with – so I stuck to good ole fiction. I got myself typing on the internet “best books of 2018”. How did I choose Circe by Madeline Miller? Well. I liked the cover art. Much like I choose a fine wine. I picked the one with the pretty picture.

Let me go ahead and tell you this book is so much more than beautiful cover art. I won’t bore you with a synopsis because you can find that anywhere on the Internet, but I think this excerpt from the book description on Madeline Miller’s page describes this book perfectly:

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.

Madeline Miller – Circe

My favorite thing about this book is the interpersonal reflection of what it means to be immortal – to have to live continuously mulling over every action, thought, and decision you’ve made in your lifetime. The character Circe is constantly reminded of how she doesn’t fit into the life she was born into, while also constantly reliving the major mistakes she has made throughout her life trying to prove she is someone of worth. I think that even though we aren’t gods who have an immortal life, there are so many instances where this same struggle can be felt. Miller’s story is a celebration of mortality and the intricacies that come along with a finite life.

The language Miller uses paints scenes as vivid and realistic as experiencing them in person. I felt as if her words truly submerged me into this ethereal, immortal lifestyle which it is centered around. This book is truly poetic in its writing. I can see how this was voted as a New York Times bestseller and a book of the year for 2018 because it seems so original and thoughtfully written. Like a piece of truly elevated literature. There were times while reading that I felt the heartache, the triumph, and slights from other characters. I could feel what Circe felt. I also cried during the last pages of the book. There was a part of me that didn’t want this book to end but there was also a part of me that wanted to keep this in my collection so I could read it again. Naturally, when the book ended, I thought I should go for her other book, The Song of Achilles.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

Madeline Miller – The Song of Achilles

I wanted so badly to like this book more than I did. I feel awful just writing that. Don’t get me wrong – this book is still beautifully written (shoutout to the fact this was her first novel) and you can really see the depths of character development in this book……..but it wasn’t my favorite.

Let me go ahead and put this out there again: I am not a well read literary person. I also think it might be because all I pictured was Brad Pitt and Eric Bana BUT I also didn’t feel as if it was enough of a new spin on the book. I guess I was expecting this book to be a little more action packed than emotion packed. I appreciate that this story focuses on the love between Achilles and Patroclus but it was still much of the same tale that everyone knows. The last chapters became a bit tedious for me to read and I was ready to move on… did I feel the heartache and struggles in this book? Yes. Did I look forward to reading a little more into the story every day? Yes. Could I see myself reading it again and telling everyone about how they should stop what they are doing and read this book? Not so much. I mean Circe left me in tears…this book left me wanting a little more.

So, final verdict. GO PICK UP CIRCE NOW!! While you’re at it, pick up The Song of Achilles as well if you enjoy Greek mythology and the battle of Troy. Both novels are beautifully timeless, even if one shines a little more than the other (I mean did you see the shimmering covers).

The next book I will be reviewing is a little more nature related (I think the term is “cli-fi”?) or maybe it’s just more apocalyptic than anything. Anyways, it will be The Road by Cormac McCarthy….which I did not know was also a movie.

Til next time!

Also, feel free to see why I started this blog in the first place! The First Blog!