The Never List by Koethi Zan

After surviving a car crash together, eighteen-year-old Sarah and her best friend Jennifer are grasping for control of their world. The girls compose a list of things that they should never do in order to keep them safe from any additional harm. The list contains such warnings as “Never be stranded,” “Never act impulsively in an emergency situation,” and “Never get in the car.” By the time the girls start college, however, they start to ease up a bit, and they do “get in the car.” Thus begins a tortuous three year ordeal in which the girls are kept chained in a psycho’s basement with two other young women. Continue reading…

Good Morning, Mr. Mandela by Zelda la Grange

I never knew very much about Nelson Mandela; I mean, I never mixed him up with Morgan Freeman or anything, but my knowledge level was comparably dismal. Good Morning, Mr. Mandela brought me up to speed, although Zelda la Grange’s perspective is biased, to say the least. After working with Mandela for twenty years, la Grange addressed Mandela as “khulu,” or “grandpa.” Despite her simplistic and repetitive writing style, la Grange’s memoir is heartfelt and her affection for this man is clearly genuine. Continue reading…

Never Coming Back by Tim Weaver

Never Coming Back is the American debut of British author Tim Weaver. Weaver’s protagonist, David Raker, is a missing persons investigator with a sorted past. What kind of sorted past, you ask? I would love to tell you, but I don’t know. While this is Weaver’s first American novel, there are three other David Raker books that have been published in England. Raker’s background is not vital to understanding the plot of Never Coming Back, but it didn’t get us off to a very good start. Continue reading…

James Madison: A Life Reconsidered by Lynne Cheney

This is not my type of book. I rarely read biographies and I don’t read books about American history. I’ve never been particularly interested in the genesis of the United States, thus I know embarrassingly little about our country. Prior to reading this book, I wasn’t even positive that James Madison was a president; therefore, I’m not sure if Cheney presents any new information here, as it is all new to me. Although political biographies are not my forte, I can say that this one has been painstakingly researched, and that Lynne Cheney knows her shit. Continue reading…

Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary

Detective Inspector Marnie Rome and her partner DS Noah Jake are conveniently at a women’s shelter when a resident attempts to murder her husband. Despite the plethora of witnesses, however, this case is not as clear-cut as it seems. Being a crime novel, Someone Else’s Skin takes readers through a variety of twists and turns, but the end result is ultimately lackluster. Continue reading…

Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck

Kelsey Hayes is an insecure eighteen-year-old who has just landed a summer job at a circus. The position includes room and board, and entails that she care for a pack of dogs and a white tiger. I would think that one might need some sort of experience in caring for large cats, but apparently a high school education suffices. Kelsey immediately takes to Ren the tiger, and begins feeding him special snacks and reading him Romeo and Juliet as well as poetry about cats. One day, Ren is purchased by a Mr. Kadam, who plans on taking the tiger to an animal reserve in India where he can roam free and stuff. Mr. Kadam asks Kelsey to accompany Ren on the journey. After all, she’s been working at the circus for three days or something at this point, so clearly she is qualified to travel from Oregon to India without any pushback from her foster parents or even her employers. Once in India, Kelsey learns that Ren is actually a centuries-old Indian prince who has been trapped in a tiger’s body because of a wizard’s curse. Yeah. Kelsey was tricked into this trip because the tiger king felt a special connection with her and decided that she is the special girl to help him break the curse. He tells her so when he transforms into a man, something that he is able to do for 24 minutes a day. Thus begins a magical journey of melodramatic teenage angst and supernatural adventure. Skiddley-dee. Continue reading…

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

The Enchanted relates the story of a death row inmate and the details of prison life that he observes. The main players are unnamed and only referred to as “The Lady” and “The Priest.” This contributes to the hazy tone established early on by the narrator, which is ideal for someone with a perception blurred by countless years of incarceration. In spite of the intriguing atmosphere and the lulling quality of Denfeld’s writing, however, I can’t help but feel that I entirely missed the point of this novel. Continue reading…

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker

“A good book, Marcus, is not judged by its last words but by the cumulative effect of all the words that have preceded them. About half a second after finishing your book, after reading the very last word, the reader should be overwhelmed by a particular feeling. For a moment he should think only of what he has just read; he should look at the jacket and smile a little sadly because he is already missing all the characters. A good book, Marcus, is a book you are sorry has ended.”The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair

This is some of the advice that famed novelist Harry Quebert gives his protege, Marcus Goldman, towards the end of The Harry Quebert Affair. It is sound wisdom regarding how a good book should end, and one would think that the author of the book containing this passage might follow his own advice. Unfortunately, Joel Dicker’s well-received novel does not leave one mourning the characters, but rather celebrating the fact that they no longer have to be tolerated. I am not in any way “sorry” that this book ended. In fact, I was relieved that it had finally been put out of its misery after 656 grueling pages. Continue reading…

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

I was initially drawn to Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother because of an inside joke that I have long shared with my sister. For years, we have joked about our “strict Asian upbringing,” referring to our mother’s high academic expectations. Perfect grades were not an option, they were a requirement. At the time, my mother’s methods seemed questionable, at best. However, years later, I can finally appreciate her motives, and I do feel that I owe my impressive educational achievements to her efforts. I essentially feel the same way about Amy Chua’s book, a nonfiction account of raising her American daughters through Chinese parenting. Had I read this book in middle school or high school, I would have assuredly perceived this woman as some sort of medieval tyrant. Now, though, I can appreciate what she was trying to do, even if her tactics often lean towards the extreme. Continue reading…