Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | October 8, 2012

on books and reviews

Hello. My name is Michelle and I am a book addict. But you probably already knew that. Describe a perfect day all by myself? Either at the spa or on the beach with a book and possibly my knitting. I brought my knitting to book club a few days ago. Yes, I am a geek and quite proud of it. Not only that, when I write blog posts and articles for Outreach, I write them by hand first. Ok, enough of that, back to topic…

These days there is a proliferation of social media sites, personal blogs and all of the other websites out there. With all of these sites come a slew of book reviews, both good and bad. The thing is, unlike this site, many of the other sites out there are relying on audience hits to garner advertising dollars and in order to get more hits, people throw out buzz words and focus on hot topics to get traffic. The problem with this is that sometimes books get publicity that is not always 100% deserved. The other problem is that some people, like me, can get lured into a book for the wrong reasons. That doesn’t mean that some of these books don’t turn out to be great, but it can be frustrating when blogging buzz words and hype don’t live up to your expectations.  In the last number of weeks I have read a few books that have gotten a ton of press. Some have been great and some have left me flat (see my review of Wild). The thing is that I love books. I get a strange sense of excitement when I find a new book to read, even though my current “to read” list would probably take me over a year to read if I didn’t have other responsibilities, let alone 2 kids I’m supposed to be raising.

So where am I going with this? Well, as I mentioned, in the past few weeks I have read a number of books and couldn’t get my thoughts organized enough to actually write review, in part because a group of library books all became available at the same time. One of the books that I had been waiting for was The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler. This was an enjoyable enough read, but the blogospheres and marketing men compared it to Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy. In my personal opinion, The Hypnotist couldn’t hold a candle to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Why the comparisons then? It seem that it was simply because both books were mysteries and written by Swedish authors. This felt like a major case of one riding on the tail feathers of another.

My problem with The Hypnotist was that it was like two separate books that tried to be written as one. Okay, I guess this is also somewhat similar to Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but Larsson made it work so much better.  In The Hypnotist, you have the story of Eric Bark being asked to hypnotize a young boy who appears to be a victim in a multiple homicide – his father, mother and sister have been brutally murdered in two separate locations and the police were surprised to find him alive. For some reason, Bark stopped doing hypnosis ten years earlier, but agrees to hypnotize the young boy. Then part way through the novel, Bark’s son is kidnapped and the reader is sent back in time 10 years to see why he stopped practicing and we meet a whole separate group of characters. Another reviewer on Goodreads put it perfectly:

The plot takes a weird twist halfway through that doesn’t end up going anywhere close to where it seems like it would originally. Ordinarily, I’d say that’s a good thing, but the first half of the book sets you up to think one thing, and then there’s a new development completely out of left field. It doesn’t feel organic or earned, it just feels like a cheat.

The mystery and dynamic that I found more interesting, that of the young boy Joseph Ek and his sister Evelyn, suddenly just stopped so that the story could focus on Eric’s past patients, which had it’s own mystery that I’m trying hard not to give away. At times it this extra story was hard to follow and I didn’t feel like the reader was truly meant to connect with any of the characters, even though this was the first in a series with the detective who was working on the cases. The Hypnotist felt choppy and, while I enjoyed it, I never was truly sucked in.

On the completely flip side of the literary world, a few days ago I finished Still Alice by Lisa Genova. This was an amazing book that I don’t believe got much press at all. This was a work of fiction by an actual professor of Neuropsychology about Alzheimers. Told through the eyes of Dr. Alice Howland, a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard, it is a beautiful yet disturbing portrait of a woman dealing with Early Onset Alzheimers Disease. This might have been the best illustration that I have ever seen of what someone with AD must go through and, to a lesser extent, how their family deals with it. Alice comes to grips with her diagnosis and struggles to maintain her identity in light of the fact that she must give up being a Harvard professor, limit her daily runs to when her husband can accompany her and has difficulties recognizing her own children. The writing was done in such a way that the reader is able to experience Alice’s memory slipping away. It was such a wise move to organize the books by month so that there was a steady progression of loss.

I personally have not had a great deal of exposure to anyone with Alzheimers, even though I volunteered for years for a run that raised money for a local assisted living facility and adult day care for AD patients. This book made Alzheimers more real and more frightening then any factual news article might have. It also made me truly appreciate all that care givers go through. My husband’s uncle suffers from AD and this book made me want to call his aunt and talk to her about all she has been through. It also just made me want to give her a big hug and let her know how amazed I am by her. My own grandmother had dementia, but she was older and had lived a full life and by the time she was suffering, I lived across the country and didn’t truly have to confront it. Still, I find it so hard to be around someone who is lost in their own world. On many levels, I think that reading this book gave me a new appreciation for aging adults and those that care for them. I know that I will make more of an effort in the future. It isn’t a light and easy read, but I would highly recommend this book.

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Responses

  1. i prefer to write by hand first as well. just one of the many reasons i love you 🙂


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