Book Review: Inside the Outside

Inside the Outside

by Martin Lastrapes

Published 2011 by Cannibal Press

571 pages

lastrapes

Goodreads Synopsis:

By the time Timber Marlow is fifteen years old, she has already killed three men. Despite the bloody and violent nature of their deaths, Timber is hardly a murderer. She has lived her entire life as a cannibal within a cult tucked away in the San Bernardino Mountains called the Divinity of Feminine Reproach. The Divinity keeps itself isolated from the Outside, which is the mainstream society beyond its invisible borders. When the opportunity presents itself, Timber escapes into the Outside, bearing witness to some dark and unsettling truths about the world around her and the integral role she plays in it. But no matter how long she stays away, Timber finds out the past isn’t as far away as she thinks it is. In this debut novel, laced with scenes of horrific violence and uplifting humanity, Martin Lastrapes has written a one-of-a-kind story about love, friendship, sacrifice and cannibalism

My Review:

This book was unlike anything else I’ve read recently. I was intrigued by it once I read the synopsis and Inside the Outside lived up to my expectations and then exceeded some.

First, the book took readers inside the cult, the Divinity, as it is referred to. The concepts of cults fascinates me, so I was completely captured by the source and beliefs of the Divinity. I’m happy Lastrapes offered a brief, yet detailed history to the origin of the cult. I believe this made it easier for readers to buy in to the story.

The characters were great. They were just like you and I, yet raised on a vastly different belief system. Even so, Lastrapes does a great job exploring human nature and death. While the cult dealt with a lot of death – sometimes eating their own kind – it was obvious that the deaths affected the hearts and minds of some of the cult members. It’s important to understand that while the cult was raised on the belief that human flesh in a necessary sustenance, there’s still a struggle with death and evil.

Timber, the heroin of the story, was fully developed. She was twisted with love and murder. She had a deep knowledge of human kind and no understanding of society. When she gets thrust into the ‘outside’,the story takes on a whole new dynamic. I really liked the fact the story changed settings as it did. It developed the idea of the story and allowed for the larger themes to be explored.

It is difficult to separate good and evil in this book, but it is obvious who the antagonist is. Daddy Marlow is perfectly revolting, and while we know little about his boys, readers aren’t exactly inclined to like them either, but there is certainly sympathy there. The character I most struggled with was Luna. She knows full well the murder and rape happening all around her, yet chooses to stay for the simplicity of life in the Divinity. Regardless of her disregard for the things happening around her, she cares deeply for Timber, and she is a necessary catalyst to the story.

Let me return to the whole murder and rape thing. This book really isn’t for the faint of heart. It tackles big issues, but in doing so Lastrapes includes some graphic imagery. The cannabalism is horrifying, but the rape is by far worse. Sexuality is a major theme of this novel. In the Divinity, Timber and her friends learn about their bodies, but then their bodies get taken advantage of. Once Timber is on the outside, living with a porn star, she carries on this warped sense of sexuality until she finally finds and understands love. It’s a long journey for her, but the character Timber becomes is far from the one at the start of the novel. It’s a truly remarkable journey.

I really loved this novel. It was tough to deal with at times because despite my love for Timber, she wasn’t all that good despite her best efforts. Even Luscious had a shady past. That said, there is no good character in this book, but their flaws are what attracts us to them.

I thought Lastrapes did a great job on this novel. There was some predictability with the way the story developed. With heavy foreshadowing and titled chapters, it was difficult to be really surprised by the story, but it was no less enjoyable. It took me forever to read this book because of moving cities and starting a new job. I think I would have been more impacted if I could have read larger chunks of the story at once, but I was still engrossed with the story even when I wasn’t reading it.

Like I said, it was unlike anything I’ve read before. It tackled big issues such as Good vs. Evil, human limitations, power, money, homosexuality, and love but never truly dwelled on any of them. The story was actually a very easy read, despite the more graphic scenes. It was well written. It read more like young adult fiction in that it the plot moved quickly and the main characters were quite young, but I would definitely classify it as adult fiction because of some of the graphic imagery.

Before I finish this review, I want to give props to Mr. Lastrapes. I had difficulty getting my epub to read correctly on my Nook. A number of sentences ran off the page and I would miss valuable pieces of the story. He reached out to me and offered me a new version of the story. I re-downloaded the new epub on my Nook and I happened to have the same problem. I did find that I could read the story on my iPad through iBooks. I might have been annoyed that I had to read it that way, but since Lastrapes was genuinely concerned with my inability to finish the story, I was happy that he took the time to reach out to me. The story was capturing and I often would find my place on my phone and read in the waiting room of the doctors office, in my car before work, or anywhere I had a few minutes to spare. It actually worked out perfectly and I’m very happy to have finished it.

 

I give Inside the Outside by Martin Lastrapes a 5 out of 5 stars.

5 Stars

Book Review: The Last Werewolf

The Last Werewolf (Bloodlines Trilogy #1)

by Glen Duncan

Published 2011 by Random House Audio

were

Goodreads Synopsis:

Meet Jake. A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but you’d never suspect it. Nonstop sex and exercise will do that for you—and a diet with lots of animal protein. Jake is a werewolf, and after the unfortunate and violent death of his one contemporary, he is now the last of his species. Although he is physically healthy, Jake is deeply distraught and lonely.

Jake’s depression has carried him to the point where he is actually contemplating suicide—even if it means terminating a legend thousands of years old. It would seem to be easy enough for him to end everything. But for very different reasons there are two dangerous groups pursuing him who will stop at nothing to keep him alive.

Here is a powerful, definitive new version of the werewolf legend—mesmerizing and incredibly sexy. In Jake, Glen Duncan has given us a werewolf for the twenty-first century—a man whose deeds can only be described as monstrous but who is in some magical way deeply human.

My Review:

I enjoyed listening to this book. The deep throaty voice of the narrator, Robin Sachs, brought out the character of Jacob, the werewolf. Unfortunately his American accent wasn’t all that great and some of the other characters seemed silly when they definitely should not have. Also, his voice was much too tenor to narrate a woman, but he gave it a valiant effort.

Duncan is certainly insightful towards metaphors. I truly enjoyed many of the figures of speech although some made me cringe; others made me shake my head. They just weren’t a good fit. Unfortunately I don’t have the text to draw back on, so I can’t recite any. I will say one thing, even for the metaphors that didn’t quite fit. Duncan (perhaps with the husky voice of Sachs) made valiant efforts and managed to make everything seem poetic. Speaking of poetic, the descriptive narrative gave the story major appeal. Even though some description of scenes was downright horrifying. I guess that’s to be expected in a story about monsters.

There was a lot of back-and-forth in this book. And yes, that is double entendre. First, there’s a tangle of people to keep straight and to remember who wants Jake dead vs. who wants him alive. It can be difficult to keep straight in some of the chaos, so stay sharp. But of course there is also quite a bit of sex. Not that it drives the plot in any way. Nor does it really seem all that useful towards the story at all. It’s not romantic, although you get the sense you’re supposed to believe it is. I wouldn’t call this book “steamy”, which is good since I prefer it that way, but if the romance is your thing, I wouldn’t recommend this read.

This one is graphic actually. Duncan never shied away from his imagination. Every gory detail is laid out – from the intimacies of sex to the gore of the kill, often awkwardly in the same paragraph. Speaking of killing, it happens often and quite casually. I suppose 200 years of being a werewolf can have that effect. The premise of this story is Jakes acceptance of his monster, even his delight in it. It’s raw with human emotion and detachment. Before you can feel anything, it get brushed away. While reading, I wish there had been a deeper emotional connection to Jake, but the dismissal of emotion made it difficult to feel sorry or hopeful for him.

I thought the story was paved very well. There were moments when I was completely lost for what was happening which is partly due to my distractions while listening. Still I think it was difficult to catch back up since roles changed and characters were constantly invading the story of Jakes life. I can’t be blamed for getting it backwards once or twice. I do wish there had been less secondary characters, but I’ll allow that it was important to build the chaos this novel thrives on.

Oddly, Duncan liked to compare his story to what might happen “in the movies”. This is all fine and well but the story actually was laid out like film at its moments, which for lack of imagination, the author simply described it’s coincidence as being like film. Unless, of course, it was conveniently unlike film. The whole theme was loosely paired with the events of the story and didn’t follow any recognizable pattern.

I think a part of me wanted to like this book more than I actually did. The prose was so tempting. Duncan knows how to craft words so they flow beautifully. However, the meaning was often too shallow or confusing to appreciate deeper. I liked the gore, but wish the sex and romance had been left out as they were fairly useless throughout the story anyway. However, the ending was very good. I was getting bored and worried I would be tempted to not finishing the book, just when the twist of the story came and led to an epic ending for the novel.
3 Stars

I choose to give The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan a 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train

Paula Hawkins

Published 2015 by Riverhead Books

336 pages

Girlontrain.jpg

Goodreads Synopsis:

EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

 

My Review:

The story of Rachel and her predictable, boring life takes an unpredicted turn when she becomes the only witness to a change in a stranger’s routine.

Rachel is kind of down and out you could say. Her recent divorce and addiction to alcohol haven’t helped, and she’s living in a sort-of friend’s flat with no prospects of moving out. She doesn’t have much to live for except brief moments of attention from her ex and a gin and tonic from the off-license.

The highlight of her day is riding the 8:04 train to London in order to witness Jesse and Jason, the couple she’s been observing for months. Then one day she sees something wrong from her view on the train, and she thrusts herself into the story of Megan and Scott – the true identities of the couple revealed to her. And she soon discovers that Jess and Jason – Megan and Scott – aren’t quite what she imagined them to be.

When I say she thrusts herself into the story that is exactly what I mean. Rachel is the protagonist in this story, but in many ways she is deeply troubled. Her struggle with loss concedes terrible coping methods, including her need to be actively involved in he disappearance of Megan Hipwell and her suspected husband, Scott.

The story is told from the perspective of three characters – Rachel, who is the girl on the train, Megan, the girl who’s disappeared, and Anna, the new wife of Rachel’s ex. Rachel is an extremely complex character which made the story interesting and helped drive the plot. Megan and Anna were less complex characters, but not un-interesting. The story was driven by the psychological processes and histories of these three women.

The Girl on the Train took me some time to finish. Granted this is mostly due to my own scheduling, but I can’t help but think part of it was due to the fact I was already in tune to how it was all going to end. I knew from the beginning that all three stories were going to be important – Rachel, Megan, and Anna. Rachel and Megan’s parts were obvious, but Anna’s part meant it had another kind of importance and because of this truth, I had a harder time reaching the end because I knew what was waiting there. I’m trying not to give too much away.

However, the ending proved to be an addictive one. Once I reached a certain point in the story I absolutely could not put the book down. I was enthralled and when I finished the book I was a satisfied reader. Paula Hawkins knows how to pull a story together!

4 stars (2)

I give The Girl on the Train a four out of five stars. The characters were unique, particularly Rachel and her dark, blotchy past. The story had a steady build with a gripping end.

Book Review: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

By Neil Gaiman

Harper Collins, 2009

GB

Goodreads Synopsis:

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family . . . 

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

 

My Review:

Well, I loved it. As a fan of Gaiman’s works, this did not disappoint.

The story of Nobody Owens, while flecked with spine-chilling terrors, is a Romantic story of adventure and bravery. Not to be presumptuous here, but I think that every child dreams of a life in the wild; Gaiman’s approach is a delightful little twist on that imagination. Bod is raised in a nature preserve, one that happens to be a long forgotten graveyard. The home of the dead becomes Bod’s life and protection. From  a toddler tumbling through the overgrowth to a teenager protecting a land he memorized in his youth, Bod’s life is anything but ordinary to readers, yet he is an ordinary boy. Gaiman tells of a whole new adventure, one I’ve never even fathomed.

The premise of the book is fascinating with old devils and myths retold. Bod’s strange friends make the book exciting on every page, but his encounters with some pretty nasty men and the supernatural (beyond ghosts, of course)are absolutely captivating. I hated putting this book down. You know, one of those books that’s so good you become so anti-social your friends and family begin to murmur concerns about your well-being. It’s a quick read though, unless you have to keep putting it down for work.

Bod faced new struggles everyday- learning which of his neighbors whom not to disturb to having to deal with lessons and homework when there was so much exploring to do. In so few pages, all of Bod’s youth was covered. And in doing so, much of time was completely passed. One chapter Bod would be five years and the next chapter he was eight. It could get difficult to follow. Along with that, some scenes seemed to have been written early and didn’t quite match the flow of the novel. Entire chapters took a complete turn from the previous one with little to no transition, it made the story seem like it might take a new turn, only to end up back on the same storyline as before. The story itself never falters to engage readers, but it does include some scenes that don’t seem to fit the entirety of the novel. Not to say they were distracting, they were great, just a bit curious is all.

The Graveyard Book is a great read, another Gaiman classic. It intrigues the imagination while covering important coming-of-age issues. It is a story of a boy raised in a graveyard, but it is a story for boys and girls alike. If you have children, I recommend this one as  read-aloud. It is a great story to share with the family. It has supernatural elements, romance, growing up sympathies, adventure and danger.

 

I give The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman a four and a half out of five stars!

4.5 Stars

 

Book Review: Anya’s Ghost

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Goodreads Synopsis:

Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part.
Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.
Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.
Or so she thinks. Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining debut from author/artist Vera Brosgol.

AG

 

My Review:

Anya’s Ghost is a story that embraces the many fears of coming of age. Anya, the protagonist, is no extraordinary girl – except when she is. She worries about her weight, getting boys attention, approval from her peers, clothes, nationality, making friends, and understanding familial values. Really, Anya is just an ordinary teenager with some likeable and some rather unlikeable traits. For an unextraodinary girl, something extraordinary happens to her. Anya falls into a well. Yes, a well. And just when things couldn’t get worse, Anya’s hit rock bottom – literally. But maybe the fall was exactly what she needed. In a supernatural turn of events, Anya befriends a ghost. Well, actually, the ghost kind of follows Anya. But Anya’s disdain for her ghostly friend disappears when she realized her new friend’s physical, or rather non-physical form, has its perks.

The problem is that Anya is still a teenager. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a teenager, but she’s just an average-minded girl with the hopes of impressing the student body (and one boy in particular). There’s an even greater problem than Anya’s misguided whims – and its sitting (or floating) right next to her.

This story is a wonderful YA read because it addresses several fears of the average teenager without the overwhelming diction that makes readers aware they are being lectured. It’s just a good story with an edgy, supernatural twist. Readers will understand Anya, and if they don’t relate to her themselves, they probably know someone who would. Anya is the kind of friend we’ve all been, or had as a friend. The fight for attention leads to disappointment and betrayal, which Anya is quick to discover.

Besides Anya’s problems at school, there’s that whole ghost stalker thing she has to worry about. It appears she’s not the only one begging for someone’s affection, but Anya has to be careful or she might be in grave danger. The supernatural twist to the story is sure to engage readers. It is fearsome and fascinating – perfect for the teen or preteen reader.

I give Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol a five out of five stars

 

5 Stars