Posts Categorized: Psychological

May 04

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, Psychological, Zombies 1

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

Got a case of the Mondays? Perhaps you’re feeling a bit… zombie-like? You’re in luck, because today we’re going to talk about Colson Whitehead’s novel Zone One (yes, there are zombies!) As with any number of the books I read, I was recommended this book by the brilliant Sarah Says Read. That girl never steers me wrong.

zoneoneZone One is set in the post zombie-apocalyptic world. The US government is a bit rag tag at this point, but the remaining population is pulling themselves up by the bootstraps and trying to take back some of their cities. Mark Spitz is on a team of sweepers tasked with clearing the zombiefied remnants out of Manhattan.

In a rather novel approach to zombie trope, Whitehead focuses on the aftermath of the event rather than the gory horror of the apocalypse itself. (There still is some gore, though, so it will satisfy your blood lust.) What is more interesting to me is the psychological cost of survival. A MASSIVE portion of the remaining population suffers from a condition known as PASD (Post Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, natch.) How can your brain possibly reconcile having watched your zombified mother feast upon your father’s entrails? That’ll leave a scar, yo!

I’ll admit that Whitehead’s prose was a little stodgy for my taste. It felt a little like he was trying to overcompensate for the subject matter of the novel by burying it in elaborate turns of phrase. Of course, I’m desperately plebeian when it comes to language, so take the criticism for what it’s worth. All in all, though, Zone One is definitely a book zombie fans should check out.

Talk to me, Bookworms! When reading genre fiction, do you prefer authors stick to an established mythology or do you like it when they step outside the box (or coffin, or re-animated corpse. Whatever.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Apr 13

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

Family, Psychological, Science 17

Hey Bookworms,

How’s it going? Read any good books about devastating neurological disorders lately? No? Well, you’re in luck! Lisa Genova is at it again and Inside the O’Briens is pretty fab. And not JUST because one of the main characters is named Katie. She’s actually named Kathryn (with a “y”) because apparently her parents and mine were both illogical enough to pair Kathryn with a “y” with Katie with an “ie.” Doesn’t it seem like Katie should go with Katherine and Katy should go with Kathryn? Am I the only person troubled by this? I should have considered this when I was getting married. I mean, if Princess Consuela Banana Hammock could happen I could have changed my Kathryn to Katherine. Sigh. Live and learn. (And no, changing to Katy with a “y” simply is not an option for me. It. Just. Isn’t.)

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Inside the O’Briens follows an Irish Catholic family living in Boston. Joe O’Brien is a hardworking police officer and father of four children now in their twenties. He married his high school sweetheart and they’ve lived their entire lives in an insular Boston neighborhood. When Joe begins to have odd symptoms like muscle ticks, difficulty concentrating, and flashes of temper, he attributes it to his stressful job. I mean, he’s a cop for heaven’s sake. As the symptoms become more difficult to ignore, he finally agrees to see a doctor and is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. It’s a rare degenerative neurological disorder with no treatment, no cure, and a 100% fatality rate. What’s worse is that Huntington’s Disease is genetic, and there’s a 50/50 chance that each of Joe’s four children will inherit the gene and suffer Joe’s fate. Katie O’Brien and her siblings are faced with the decision to find out whether or not they carry this genetic mutation and live with the knowledge.

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Talk about your impossible situations, right? Sure, it would be a great relief to find out you were gene negative, but if you were gene positive, how would you live your life knowing exactly how it would end? Or, even if you weren’t a genetic carrier, how would you feel knowing that your siblings might not be so lucky? Would it affect your decisions on having your own family? Would you wallow in despair? Become reckless and self destructive? Genova rose to fame with Still Alice (review) in large part because Alzheimer’s Disease is so prevalent, but Huntington’s Disease is every bit as heartbreaking. (Okay, in fairness, Still Alice is an amazing book, so the fact that Alzheimer’s is prevalent isn’t the only reason Genova is famous.) Still though, the journey of the O’Brien family packs a serious emotional punch. I’m not going to tell you that you should read this book, but… You should read this book. If you want to learn more about Huntington’s and perhaps make a donation to help fund research into treatments, visit Lisa Genova’s Readers in Action page.

It’s time for you to sound off, Bookworms. If you found out that you might be a carrier for a disease like Huntington’s, would you want to know for sure, or would you rather not find out?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Of course, I will also be making a donation to help fund Huntington’s research, because I’d feel like a total douche if I didn’t.*

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Feb 05

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Psychological 21

Greetings Bookworms,

There’s little that drives me as crazy as when EVERYONE is raving about a book and I haven’t read it yet. Right now, that book is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and heck yes I read it! How could I not? I mean, everyone is calling it the next Gone Girl (review). I wouldn’t necessarily go there, but it’s still a good book, so let’s get to it!

thegirlonthetrainSo there’s this gal named Rachel. She commutes into London on the same train every day. She’s a bit of a sad sack, mourning the loss of her marriage and drowning her sorrows in booze. (Uh, side note. Since when are pre-mixed gin and tonics in a can a thing? Is this only available in England? I love G&T but I don’t drink often so my seltzer always goes flat before I use it up. I need these in my life.) She spends her commute fantasizing about a couple she often sees out on their terrace, as one does. One day, she sees something that shatters her view of the perfect couple and a whole lot of crazy goes down.

You know thrillers aren’t normally my thing so I don’t have a much in the way of grounds for comparison, but I thought The Girl on the Train was pretty great. I wasn’t wouldn’t say I was fully gobsmacked at any point during the book, but I certainly didn’t see where things were going until Hawkins was good and ready for me to know where things were going. It really irks me when I figure things out way ahead of time, so this was a HUGE factor in me digging this book. Well played, Ms. Hawkins! If you’ve got a hankering for a little psychological thriller goodness, you need to check out The Girl on the Train

Talk to me, Bookworms! Do you ever make up stories for people you regularly pass? Perhaps people watch and make up lives for folks? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Which I will spend in my quest to find canned Gin and Tonics stateside!*

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Oct 13

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

Coming of Age, Psychological 7

Greetings Bookworms!

You may have noticed over the past month or so that I’ve been on a little bit of a Native American author kick. Since it’s been such an awesome ride so far, when I was contacted by Open Road Media to check out Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson, I jumped at the offer. *I received a complimentary copy of this book for review consideration. This in no way reflects opinions expressed on the novel.*

monkeybeachMonkey Beach centers on a Native American family in British Columbia. (I can still say Native American when referring to native peoples who reside in what is now Canada, right? I mean, the US kind of bogarted the term “American” despite the fact that there are TWO FULL CONTINENTS who have a claim on it.)

20 year old Lisamarie Hill had a crazy childhood. She finds herself reliving her life’s journey in a speedboat while she travels to meet her parents in the place her brother Jimmy went missing (and is presumed drowned.) The Haisla community Lisa hails from has seen its own share of trials including alcoholism, poverty, domestic violence. and untimely deaths. Lisa’s own predicament is complicated by the fact that she deals not only in the physical world, but the spiritual world as well. She doesn’t understand her “gift” and struggles to reconcile Haisla traditions with contemporary Canadian life.

This book was pretty intense. I mean, what IS IT with the Native American authors bringing the pain? Travelling back and forth between Lisa’s past and present was a bit jarring, but I think it stylistically served to demonstrate how scattered Lisa is feeling while reeling from yet another potential loss. Robinson also has some mad skills with describing scenery. I felt like I could see the beaches and channels and forests described in this novel. Plus the cuisine? I mean, I can’t say that I’m aching to try oolichan grease, but you’ve got to respect a writer who can describe fish grease, soapberry foam, and the intricacies of blueberry picking and make it INTERESTING. Respect.

If you’re looking for a book to break your heart and teach you more than you ever really wanted to know about fish grease, Monkey Beach is where it’s at!

Talk to me Bookworms! What’s the last gut-wrenching book you tackled?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 22

Banned Books Week & Diversiverse: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Banned Books, Diversiverse, Psychological 20

Hey there, Bookworms!

It’s one of my FAVORITE weeks of the whole year. That’s right kiddos, it’s BANNED BOOKS WEEK! This week I’m going to be basking in the glory of books that have been banned and challenged. I’m planning to, as my friend Shelli is fond of saying, “feed two birds with one scone” (because why would you want to kill the birds?) and chose banned books by authors of color. It’s a Banned Books Week/Diversiverse hootenanny up in here!

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I’m going to start this party with The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. It is challenged ALL THE TIME. A few pages into the novel and it’s clear why. You’ve got naughty language, sex, booze, alcoholism, incest, child molestation, rape, domestic violence, bullying, poverty, and basically every other horrible thing people do to break each other. Why you gotta bruise my soul, Toni?!  The Bluest Eye is a book designed to make you uncomfortable. How could it not? The fact that it makes people uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s without value though. Not by a long shot!
thbluesteyeThe vast majority of book banning and challenging takes place with regard to school curriculum. This book is not an easy read, and I wouldn’t recommend reading it aloud to a 4th grade class. (I do have some common sense, I promise.) I would, however, defend The Bluest Eye as a choice for an advanced high school English class.I know, I know. I don’t have kids. I was, however, a teenager, and I remember that whole experience keenly.

As far as profanity goes, I heard more casual swearing in my high school hallways than I have anywhere in my adult life. I knew kids who would drop F-bombs to punctuate phrases the way I’d say “like.” I know what you’re thinking! “I don’t mind the profanity, Katie, but what about all the sex and incest and violence and general horribleness?” To which I respond, “Why, this book is chock full of cautionary tales!” All the things you should NOT do in order to be a decent human being are represented. It’s also got a hefty dose of what I like to call getting-inside-other-people’s-crazy-heads. For every broken psyche, you find out what happened to the character that contributed to their particular problems. Empathy! Teenagers need it!

My teenage self would have eaten this up. You know what was not at all interesting to my teenage self? A ginormous book about a freaking whale. Kids get burned out with all the classics. That doesn’t mean they’re without value either, but changing it up every now and again with something that’ll make a teenager’s jaw drop? That’s amazing. Take your pitchforks elsewhere, book banners, The Bluest Eye is here to stay! On the off chance you know nothing (Jon Snow), here’s a little about Toni Morrison:

Toni Morrison (born Chloe Anthony Wofford), is an American author, editor, and professor who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature for being an author “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed African American characters; among the best known are her novels The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. In 2001 she was named one of “The 30 Most Powerful Women in America” by Ladies’ Home Journal.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Are there any books you wish you’d been assigned to read in school? Is there a classic you’ll hate forever on principle because you were forced to read it? Inquiring minds and all that…

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 05

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Audio Books, Contemporary Fiction, Psychological 34

Greetings Bookworms!

Today we’re going to talk more about my new found obsession with audio books, and a book turned Oscar-winning-movie (which OF COURSE I haven’t seen, because I am the WORST at being relevant when it comes to cinema.) You guessed right. It’s time for The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick!

silverliningsplaybookAudio books typically begin with a short musical interlude. I rarely take notes while I’m reading/listening to something, but when Kenny G was chosen as the introduction, I had a rather visceral reaction. My notes: “What is WITH the Kenny G at the beginning? There’d better be a contextual reason for this. Harumph.” A little while later… “Oh there’s a reason. Thank God. My reaction isn’t as intense as Pat’s, but sheesh. I can’t handle the Kenny G.”

Okay. So. Pat Peoples is our protagonist. He’s recently been sprung from a long term care facility for people with brain injuries and/or intense psychological problems. He comes home with his eye on a single goal- to reunite with his estranged wife Nikki. Only, things are weird. Whenever he brings up Nikki, people change the subject. His relationship with his father is strained to say the least, with the only subject they can broach being the Philadelphia Eagles. To add to the weird, he’s being relentlessly pursued by the enigmatic Tiffany (who has her own cartload of baggage) and his therapist seems to think spending time with this other woman is a good idea. Oh yeah. Kenny G is a demon specter who tortures Pat. You know. As he does.

I really enjoyed this book! I went into it with tempered expectations because the movie had gotten so much hype and everyone loved it so much. I found the book charming, tender, and real. I’ve got a soft spot for broken psyches and I couldn’t help but love Pat and Tiffany.

Talk to me Bookworms! Have you read The Silver Linings PlaybookSeen the movie? How do they compare? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Mar 26

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Book Club, Coming of Age, Psychological 24

Hidey Ho, Bookworms!

Remember last month when I got all philosophical about choosing a book for book club because last month’s selection in my neighborhood book club (cleverly named My Neighbors Are Better Than Your Neighbors) hit a sour note? You can click HERE if you’re interested. But you’ll be happy to know that this month’s selection worked out infinitely better for me. This month we read Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, and WHOA.

ReconstructingAmelia hc c.JPGKate is a high powered lawyer living with her teenage daughter Amelia in Brooklyn. Kate has raised Amelia on her own since unexpectedly finding herself pregnant in law school. Kate has done her best to balance her career and single motherhood, though she feels guilty much of the time that her career has won out. When she’s called to Amelia’s hoity toity private school in the middle of an important meeting, she is frustrated. The situation that awaits her is more tragic than she ever imagined. Amelia fell to her death from the school’s roof.

Because dealing with the death of your child isn’t horrifying enough, Kate begins to get mysterious text messages saying that her daughter didn’t commit suicide. Kate embarks on a journey into investigating what was going on in her daughter’s life leading up to her untimely demise and what she uncovers is a whole lot more than she bargained for.

The hoity toity private school is a hotbed of elitism, secret societies, bullying, and all kinds of psychological warfare. Reading about this school, I have never been so grateful to have been raised thoroughly middle class. I went to high school where nobody gave a crap. Seriously. Heck, my school could barely even muster the energy for a traditional social hierarchy, never mind an elaborate set of secret social clubs.

As you probably know, psychological thrillers and murder mysteries aren’t typically my jam, but the addition of the scandalous school elements, really sucked me in. Two thumbs up, kiddos!

Alright Bookworms, I’ve got to know. Was your high school experience ANYTHING like what you’ve seen in pop culture?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Mar 19

King’s March: The Green Mile

Contemporary Fiction, Psychological, Supernatural 36

Greetings Bookworms,

Let it never be said that I am not susceptible to peer pressure. When I saw that Rory from Fourth Street Review and Wendy from Wensend were putting together a Stephen King event for March, I decided to throw my hat in the ring. Now, if you’ve been here a while, you’ll know I’m a big ridiculous chicken about my Stephen King. I have to be careful about what I read because of nightmares. I figured The Green Mile would be a safe choice for me, since I’d seen the movie and remained nightmare free. (Tear free? Not so much, but that’s another story.)

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The Green Mile is narrated by an aged Paul Edgecombe. In 1932, Paul was middle aged prison guard in Alabama… Paul isn’t just your garden variety guard, though. He oversees “The Green Mile” where inmates condemned to die in the electric chair serve out their last days. As an added bonus duty, Paul and his crew have to carry out the sentences. Because strapping convicted murderers into Old Sparky is still better than being unemployed during the Great Depression.

When John Coffey is brought onto the Mile, strange things begin to happen. John Coffey is remarkable. He’s and enormous African American man, standing 6’8 and full of muscle. Coffey landed in prison after being convicted of raping and murdering a pair of young white girls. Something about the story never quite adds up for Paul. Coffey is accused of the most horrific crime, but is mild mannered and sensitive to the point of being afraid of the dark. His mannerisms are remarkable enough, but Coffey’s hidden talents are mind boggling.

This book, you guys. THIS is what people need to read when they think Stephen King only does horror. Holy cats, this foray into magical realism was LEGIT. Because I’d seen the movie before I read the book, I had a pretty clear idea of what was going to happen, but I’ve never been particularly bothered by spoilers. For a dude who does so much scary and horrible, King’s got a soft spot for redemption and goodness. I doubt I’ll ever feel warm and fuzzy after reading a King novel, but this one came pretty close… Hot sticky tears and warm fuzzies are basically the same thing, right?

Alright Bookworms, sound off. Have you read any Stephen King? What’s your favorite? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small  commission.*

 

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Feb 17

Humboldt: Or, the Power of Positive Thinking by Scott Navicky

Humor, Psychological 14

Greetings, Bookworms!

Have you ever read a book that left you completely bewildered, but kind of happy about it? I just finished Humboldt: Or, the Power of Positive Thinking by Scott Navicky and I am having a heck of a time putting my feelings into words. Before we get to my rambling, let’s take a break for the FTC Disclosure. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I must mention that the pitch email I received for this book is probably the best one I’ve ever gotten. CCLaP, Lori deserves a crap ton of credit. Give her a raise or something, she’s doing it right! 

humboldtSince I’m having such a hard time coming up with a description of this book and articulating my feelings, I’m going to resort to comparisons. If A Confederacy of Dunces and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas had a moderately dimwitted but incredibly lucky love child, that might come close to Humboldt: Or, The Power of Positive Thinking. Plot-wise they have nothing in common. Feeling-wise, I got the same “what in heaven’s name is going on here?!?!” vibe from all three books.

Let’s move beyond my initial disappointment that this book had nothing to do with penguins (because there are 17 varieties of penguins, Humboldt among them. That is where my mind went first, natch.) Humboldt is a kid with an 8th grade education. He waxes philosophical about soybeans and is perfectly content to live his life with his father on their Ohio farm. He’s got a little Forrest Gump going on, but when the farm is in trouble, Humboldt is shipped off to college to figure out how to save the place. IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW HE GOT IN, JUST GO WITH IT!

(Source)

HUMBOLDT PENGUIN. BOOM.  (Source)

Humboldt is met with a barrage of oddball encounters and chance occurrences. He tends to be wherever the action is, and his utter lack of grasp on every situation is continually interpreted as savvy educational/emotional/business acumen. Humboldt’s inner monologue is kind of like reading drug addled hallucinations, just more wholesome.

My favorite thing about this quirky little book? Crazy cultural references, y’all! Humboldt’s butchering of history, literature, and pop culture phenomena was both hilarious and fascinating. SO MUCH WORD PLAY! Humboldt’s love interest is named Elle en Noise, for crying out loud! (Land of Lincoln, REPRESENT!) I was especially excited to read an entire segment dedicated to the early to mid 1990s Chicago Bulls. I know jack about sports, but I KNOW the Michael Jordan era. I had a mad crush on Steve Kerr.

To sum up this disjointed review, I just don’t even know. But. If you like your reading a little off the wall, Humboldt: Or, the Power of Positive Thinking is your book. Go read it, then come back and talk to me about Fergus. Because man. That guy. Whew!

Alright Bookworms, this is one of the craziest, head scratching-est books I’ve ever read. What are some books that left you slack jawed? 

 

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Jan 23

Jazz Age January: The Other Typist

Historical Fiction, Psychological, Roaring 20s 34

You know what’s the bee’s knees, Bookworms?

The Roaring 20s! I had such a great time reading The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty (my review) that I thought I’d participate in Jazz Age January (put on by the very cat’s pajamas, Leah at Books Speak Volumes) again and tackle The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. What can I say? When the giggle juice is flowing freely in the speakeasy, I get a little carried away.

jazzageThe Other Typist begins with  young woman named Rose telling the story of her life. She grew up in an orphanage, but thanks to some enterprising nuns championing her cause, she was able to attend good schools and soon secures a position as a typist in a New York City police precinct. Unaccustomed to wealth and privilege, Rose is quickly enthralled by the glamour of the newest typist at the precinct, Odalie Lazare.

Odalie is a force of nature, sweeping through the city and dabbling in moonshine and bootlegging. She is the quintessential flapper, from bared knees to bobbed hair. Odalie invites Rose to move from a modest boarding house and into her swank digs. Rose accepts her offer and is drawn deeper into Odalie’s luxurious, freewheeling, and potentially dangerous lifestyle. As often happens in these sort of arrangements, things begin to get complicated…theothertypist

Odalie may not be all she appears to be. Then again, perhaps Rose isn’t either. When I picked up The Other Typist, I was expecting some charming historical fiction, and the slow drift into psychological drama territory caught me by surprise. The ending left me reeling (and frankly, kind of confused…) If you like to dabble in madness and bathtub gin, The Other Typist may just be your new best friend.

Bookworms, I simply must know. If you lived during Prohibition, do you think you’d have partaken in a little tippling under the table? Who among you would’ve hit up the speakeasy? (I probably wouldn’t have turned my nose up at a good sidecar, I can tell you that much… )

*If you make a purchase through a link in this post, I’ll receive a small commission… Which will probably go toward the purchase of some cocktails, to celebrate the legality of it and all.*

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