Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End is a solid zombie novel - and if you are a fan of the genre (as I occasionally am), it is a good read. The protagonist is a lawyer who lost his wife two years previously and bestows his affection upon a temperamental cat named Lucullus. When the world begins to end - first seen through news reports, then in an underlying current of fear, and finally with the banging of dead people pounding on his gate and lusting for his blood - he makes one decision at a time to survive.
Each decision seems completely rational, each consequence of his decisions are logical. This, more than anything, makes the story stand out and resonate.
The only quibble I have is in the actions of the former Russian military pilot, who despite years of military service and training, broke down and was more emotionally fragile than the lawyer who had never experienced combat hardships previously. It just wasn't tremendously believable, even given the circumstances which led up to it. (less)
The second-and-a-half generation from the Holocaust...
Amir's extended family consists of family that is loosely tied by genetics, but strongly tied th...moreThe second-and-a-half generation from the Holocaust...
Amir's extended family consists of family that is loosely tied by genetics, but strongly tied through experience and need. They are Holocaust survivors, who cope in different ways with their experiences. And as he grows, he knows something happened, knows of the Shoah, knows it was terrible beyond imaging. And yet, despite being surrounded by those who survived, he knows little of what happened to individuals. How did they survive? Why? What series of circumstances and events led to the late-in-life travels and mitzvahs of Grandpa Yosef vs. the ramblings of Hirsch, who would stop in various places in the neighborhood and and scream, "Only saints were gassed?!"
The book reveals to the reader as the stories were revealed to Amir. At first he knows something, but it is a tenuous knowing, one that is not-defined. It is merely a dark cloud of something bad. As he gets older - but still not "old enough"!- he and Effie search out something to understand, to place the actions of their elders in context and to understand.
And finally he is "old enough", and the stories come flowing out, with a twist that Amir was not expecting and which let him floundering.
Our Holocaust is illuminating, bringing out the story we rarely see, hear, or consider - how the children of the survivors were affected, and it is well written.
The only issue I had was separating truth from fiction, and in books of this sort, such a thing can be dangerous. This book is a novel, and two of the most colorful and shaping characters are fiction, along with a supporting character of great importance. Gutfreund takes great care to sort all this out in his afterword, but by using himself as a character, he blurs the line between fact and fiction.
Historical fiction is a powerful tool in relaying history, because it relates the feeling and essence of a time in more vivid color than the bare facts are capable of relaying themselves. This book succeeds marvelously in this effect. I just wish the fact/fiction line had been more clearly drawn, because the end effect is that the two are muddled together in my head, leaving me feeling that I don't have a firm grasp of either.(less)
Unlike those she jumped in to torture and murder, she has a family. She has three beautiful children and a...moreKarla Homolka is a prisoner in her own home.
Unlike those she jumped in to torture and murder, she has a family. She has three beautiful children and a husband and has tried to remove herself from the eyes of the world that sees her as a monster who was barely slapped on the wrist for her horrible crimes. She left quietly and covered nearly all her tracks.
Except the one that led Paula Todd to her.
The voyeur in me was fascinated with the descriptions of how Homolka now lives. But the meat of the story - the whys and hows and how do you live with yourself now? - was never delved into. Homolka herself never answered them, although Todd certainly did try to encourage her to say something to that effect.
As a single this worked very well. There simply wasn't enough for a full length book. And there is no doubt that people have questions about Homolka.
But anyone reading this book hoping to find some kind of justice will be disappointed. Homolka managed to escape real justice and live the life she denied others. She may never leave her home, but being self-imposed imprisonment on an island surrounded by family is far more than anything her victims (including her own sister) were allowed to have. (less)
This story is not easy to read. Above all this story is not pleasant.
This is a story about child sexual abuse. It is a story about male prostitution....moreThis story is not easy to read. Above all this story is not pleasant.
This is a story about child sexual abuse. It is a story about male prostitution.
But above it all, it is a story about finding love - the true love that makes a person want to be better, want to do more, and want to fiercely protect their beloved at all costs. But it is also a love that can be willfully blind.
Against the backdrop of an orphanage in Turkey, Ramazan, a beautiful boy who has been in an Istanbul orphanage since shortly after birth. For years the headmaster of the orphanage has sexually abused him, and through this he learned how to earn extras by prostituting himself.
When Ali comes to the orphanage after the death of both his parents, Ramazan is struck by how well the two of them fit together to make one whole person. For the rest of their lives, the two are intertwined. They are separated only when the mandatory army service takes one then the other away, but the two find their way back together.
I wish I could say that this story ended happily, that Ali and Ramazan overcame their demons through their love. I also wish I could say that there was some sort of real punishment for the abusive headmaster. I can't say either of those things, but I can say that this story stayed with me even after I finished it - and I finished it in less than two days.
Magden's writing would seem angsty and overwrought in any other setting, but for this story and for that time and for that place it was perfect. (less)
A person gets in a mood for short stories sometimes. You want to start and finish something in one sitting - maybe you don't feel like extended concen...moreA person gets in a mood for short stories sometimes. You want to start and finish something in one sitting - maybe you don't feel like extended concentration or your mind isn't retaining much for very long these days.
Cannibal Nights is several short stories which take place among the islands of Oceana. We are with the women of Rapa Nui as their civilization tries to outsmart the slavers. We are with the Aborigines of Australia as the most promising among them learn what happens to the nail that sticks out further than the rest.
We are on Samoa and in the Marquesas, we go from Tahiti to France...
And while the stories don't have an overriding theme, other than the islands of the Pacific, they share a realness of the breadth of life in a place most of us would call paradise and which the characters in the stories call home.
Davenport's writing excels at setting the scene, without being heavy handed or overblown she recreates the scenery so well you can almost feel the ocean breezes caressing your skin and smell the lush vegetation. It is easy to lose oneself in the story, to see it unfolding before you rather than simply reading.
And oh how she makes me long to return to Hawaii! (less)
Warrant Officer Templeton Ngubane, black police officer in apartheid-era South Africa becomes the center of the apartheid storm.
Targeted as a traitor...moreWarrant Officer Templeton Ngubane, black police officer in apartheid-era South Africa becomes the center of the apartheid storm.
Targeted as a traitor by the ANC, his house and everything in it burns. He is assured that he will be taken care of, that his loyalty to South Africa will be acknowledged, but the emotions underpinning the apartheid system run deep, and he finds himself losing everything.
From the moment of the burning, a chain of events unfold that leaves Ngubane with few options, and those options are heartbreakingly grim.
People are dying in Juarez, and the discovered bodies of dead women have ignited outrage.
People should be outraged at murder, but is the outrage selec...morePeople are dying in Juarez, and the discovered bodies of dead women have ignited outrage.
People should be outraged at murder, but is the outrage selective? And what about the dead men of Juarez?
Hawkin does a brilliant job of laying out research, research he put together while actually living in a town that looms large in the current discussion of the drug wars. His writing is not only readable, but actively engages the reader. Although he really gives no actual new information, he brings it together in a way that orders facts and makes them stick.
Most of all, he tackles an ongoing story that most Americans are aware of, but few actually research and understand. (less)
Allie Fox - Father - thinks America is focused on the wrong things and on the verge of annihilation. With no explanation to his family he moves them t...moreAllie Fox - Father - thinks America is focused on the wrong things and on the verge of annihilation. With no explanation to his family he moves them to Honduras.
Not that anyone in his family knows where they are going - Father makes them leave everything in their snug house and puts them on a boat where they find out their destination from the other passengers.
Father doesn't believe in school education. Father thinks the best place for his family is in the middle of nowhere, building their own self-sufficient society. Father simultaneously preaches the nobility of the undeveloped societies while treating the local Indians he contacts with extreme contempt. Father believes the secret to a better world is ice.
Father is crazy and Mother is weak and the four children are caught in the grip of his insanity without any hope of being rescued.
I struggled with the rating for this book. On the one hand, I absolutely detested the story. It was too much like Heart of Darkness for my comfort, but told from the viewpoint of a child caught in the middle of the growing craziness. Father was a horrendous person, and I had absolutely no sympathy for him or for any of his wild schemes. The way he treated people throughout the book had me spending most of my reading time hoping someone would punch some sense into him.
Mother was weak. So weak that she only made token efforts to protect her children from her husband's growing insanity. Several times, even in the beginning of the book, various children were put into life threatening situations and she only rarely made even the smallest protest. She didn't even demand to know where the family was headed, just gave up everything she owned and headed off into the sunset without a fact or question.
The story was horrible and I could find nothing redeeming in it.
But Theroux's writing is absolutely brilliant. It takes a great writer to make a terrible story compelling enough that a person keeps reading to the end, which is exactly what happened with this book. I kept reading it, despite hating Father much more than is warranted for a fictional character. Despite wanting to shake Mother into stepping up to her parental responsibilities, I kept reading.
And, at the end, I was left wondering how everything really turned out - what happened to the children? Did they stay in Honduras? Go back to the US? Did Mother grow a spine?
The story was less than a one. The writing was more than a five. (less)