Spin (Captain Chase #2), by Patricia Cornwell

Seven stars

Master storyteller Patricia Cornwell is back with the second book in her Captain Chase series. Pulling the reader into the middle of a cyber-tech thriller, Cornwell uses the exciting world of space and the threat to NASA as a whole to keep readers on the edge of their seats. Building on the momentum from the opening novel in the series, Quantum, Cornwell utilises her masterful way of developing a plot to make Spin a novel that is a must-read for those who love her style.

A member of the US Space Force, Captain Calli Chase is following up on a lead involving a murder at a NASA testing facility. Trapping in the middle of a snowstorm, Chase finds herself feeling testy and significantly on edge when she is targeted by a potential killer and saved only when her twin sister, Carme, appears out of nowhere.

Before Calli knows what’s going on, she’s drugged and whisked away to a facility, where she is given more upgrades that she knows how to process. Emerging as a sort of Bionic Woman, Captain Chase is now armed and ready to work at new levels, as she seeks to assemble all the pieces to help her crack the case wide open.

With everything literally at her fingertips, Calli is tasked with locating a young boy who has hacked into NASA and procured a special computer chip, one that could have significant consequences if it falls into the wrong hands. While the lad denies being guilty of anything, the jury is still out. With this chip, control of the internet and other significant technologies could be changed forever. Calli learns that one woman, Neva Rong, has sinister plans when she gets her hands on the chip and will stop at nothing to get it.

As tensions mount, Chase will have to protect the boy and try not to show her cards before it’s time. Rong’s power has already been seen, as she is likely the culprit behind the murder at the NASA facility. Rong’s power in the aerospace world and connections all the way up the political ladder makes her even more deadly, while Chase seeks to reveal all before it’s too late.

There is no doubt that Patricia Cornwell did extensive research for this book, having proven that she understands the topic throughout both novels. She is also not one to slowly offer what she knows, for spoonfeeding has never been what she does best. That said, it is also not presented in a condescending manner. Rather, space becomes exciting in this tech-thriller, for those who have a penchant for all things scientific.

Calli Chase is a likeable character, or so it would seem. She is on point when it comes to her navigation throughout the book and she handles much of what is tossed before her. While she wrestles to understand how she fits into the larger picture, Calli does well to dodge the major issues that occur throughout this piece. The reader will find her learning much about herself, as well as a past she did not know existed.

Cornwell does well to develop a number of other characters throughout the piece, keeping them all complementary of Captain Chase, but never putting the protagonist on too high a pedestal. Cornwell develops her characters to entice the reader, contrasting well with one another at various points. The reader can learn much about the story and Captain Chase through those who cross her path throughout this piece.

While many have come to know Patricia Cornwell for her Kay Scarpetta character, this is far from that domain. While both women thrive on action, Captain Calli Chase is nothing like literary predecessor. Cornwell has taken things in a significantly different direction here and thrives on making waves in a new and exciting domain. Some will love it and others will likely find it too ‘techy’ for their liking. The writing is comprehensive and the plot is somewhat easy to decipher. However, if the reader’s interest is not space, technology, or artificial intelligence, this book may implode before the plot is able to capture their attention. With mid-length chapters, Cornwell develops her story well and tries to keep things on the level, but it missed the mark for me, in that I could not find myself wholly invested. I enjoyed parts of it, but felt out of my element in others. Still, it was a decent effort, even if it’s not entirely my sort of book.

Kudos, Madam Cornwell, for a great leap away from the type of writing I have come to expect from you. While it did not engage me as much, I hope you find many fans and keep your readers guessing where things are headed next.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Deadly Cross (Alex Cross #28), by James Patterson

Seven stars

Alex Cross is back for yet another adventure along the streets of D.C., which means James Patterson has been at it again. When the former wife of a high-ranking politician turns up dead, Cross is on the case. He’s also working with his partner to discover who’s been kidnapping and murdering a number of young women. This is sure to be one summer that will keep Cross busy. A decent addition for series fans, but there’s something lacking in this latest novel.

Alex Cross loves nothing more than spending time with his family, but when work calls, he knows where he’s needed. The former wife of the current vice-president has been found murdered and Cross is willing to step up to help. It would seem that their past acquaintance is not going to help as much as Cross had hoped, as tabloid journalists try to use it to smear her and leave Cross in an awkward position.

While working that case and taking direction from the Chief of Detectives—Cross’ own wife, Bree Stone—Cross and his partner, John Sampson, begin working on a series of kidnappings of young women. What’s worse, some of the women have turned up murdered, leaving little doubt that there’s a serial killer on the loose. Cross and Sampson begin a thorough analysis of the case, but a personal tragedy strikes, sidelining the affable Sampson.

As Cross splits his time between cases, he’s not getting the traction he had hoped, which is causing a significant amount of pressure up the chain of command. Bree is feeling the heat from her own superiors and loses it at one point, wondering if police work is really for her. It’s no easy decision, but, like Cross, family comes before the badge.

After Cross finds himself in rural Alabama working some leads, he learns something that could solve the case that has those on Capitol Hill buzzing. It could be a red herring, but there’s no time to leave anything to chance. What Cross learns blows the case wide open, forcing everyone to question what they know and who they can trust.

Back in D.C., it’s anyone’s guess who could be killing young women, but Sampson bounces back, using work as a salve, and discovers a few breadcrumbs of his own. With so much set to chance in the Cross sphere, solving these cases might help with what’s on the horizon.

I have long enjoyed the work of James Patterson on this series, one of the few that he has kept for himself. While Cross does not seem to lose his finesse, there’s something about this book that left me less than fully enthralled. I have mentioned it before and will do so again, might it be time for Dr. Alex Cross to hang up the cuffs and let others handle things?

Alex Cross returns to reprise his role as protagonist, though there is little backstory or actual development to be had. Cross lives for the moment, watching his family continue to grow and the cases pile up. He’s still likeable, works hard, and loves his family. I guess I expected something new to rejuvenate him as a character all his own. I did not dislike him whatsoever, but there’s something lacking that left me almost indifferent throughout the novel.

With a core of close knit supporting characters, Patterson does well to keep the large story arc going. There are the requisite new faces who appear to keep the cases flowing well and leave the reader with others to explore. A little backstory appears here and there, but the reader gets much of their narrative development with the police work that is being done throughout the book.

I always find it hard to stay loyal to a series when things seem to taper off. Not that this collection has fallen into horrible disarray, but it lacks what it once had, hardcore crime work and cliffhangers that leaver the reader wondering. Patterson is able to keep his protagonist moving and guessing, though there is a lack of spark that I remember from earlier novels. Surely, Cross is aging and his family is getting more independent, but if that means it’s time to fade into the sunset, let’s take that route and move along. Other series that have lasted this long have their protagonist moving into retirement. I wonder if this is an option that Patterson’s considered. Not that he’s not busy enough overseeing others writing books with his name on it.

The writing itself is still fairly strong and the story he’d my attention throughout. I was eager to see how Cross would handle things and was happy to see the narrative’s momentum did not lag. Short chapters kept me pushing ahead, wondering what was to come next, though I was not as riveted as I would have liked. Those who have dedicated themselves to the series may also see the writing on the wall. I’ll keep reading, but I can only hope that Patterson ties things off with dignity for this long-serving detective, and we don’t have him perishing in an alley, blood pooling around him.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for keeping Alex Cross going. Perhaps it’s time for a mega crossover (with Women’s Murder Club and Michael Bennett) before calling it a career for the Metro detective.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrats’ Defence of the Indefensible, by Donald Trump Jr.


I have decided to embark on a mission to read a number of books on subjects that will be of great importance to the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election. Many of these will focus on actors intricately involved in the process, in hopes that I can understand them better and, perhaps, educate others with the power to cast a ballot. I am, as always, open to serious recommendations from anyone who has a book I might like to include in the process.

This is Book #19 in my 2020 US Election Preparation Challenge.

I sought to read some books on both sides of the political spectrum, in hopes that it would enrich the challenge experience for me. Unfortunately, this backfired with this book, in the largest possible way. While I had hoped to get a strong and complete argument from the right about how things have been going well and what we have to look forward to, it was a hot mess from the get-go.

Imagine holding a voice-to-text app up to either Donald Trump and then publishing what spewed out of their mouths. This book is just that, full of rants and non-sensical blather about a variety of topics. Toss in a few slanderous comments and curse words and you have the entire book. This is not a book seeking to explore America from the right, but rather a smear campaign in the shadow of the worst president America has seen. It was painful to read… oh wait, I bailed after the first chapter because my head hurt so much.

I am all for books and self-publication. I applaud those who seek to use their own blood, sweat, and tears when it comes to getting a book to market. However, in the case of this book, it speaks volumes that it was published by Donald Trump, Jr. No one else would touch it! And.. the audiobook was read by Donnie’s own girlfriend (something he repeats throughout the portion I could read while dry heaving). If this is not a red flag, I am not sure what could be.

For those of you who want to try something that has no merit and little substantive value, go ahead. I cannot believe I am saying this… but I may actually need to find Lou Dobbs’ book. It CANNOT be worse than this one!

Kudos, Matt Pechey, for suffering through this pile of steaming Trumpism.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Grownup, by Gillian Flynn

Seven stars

In this short story by Gillian Flynn, the reader meets the unnamed narrator, whose life working as a quasi-sex worker pays the bills, but really doesn’t bring too much glory. Working as a ‘psychic’ on the side, she encounters Susan Burke, who has quite the story of familial worry and concern. After visiting the old, Victorian home, the ‘psychic’ is not longer sure that this con will work, as some of the things that take place are quite disturbing. With a sociopathic step-son, Susan passes along a haunting story of previous inhabitants of the house, where a bloody break with reality led to some horrible press. As the step-son begins spouting off some violent ideas, our protagonist is all but sure she will be one of the next victims and has little to show for her life. A great filler between larger reading commitments, Flynn keeps the reader hooked throughout. Recommended to those who need a twist or two as they read, as well as the reader who does not want a linear experience.

Having never read any Gillian Flynn before this, I was surely quite curious to see what all the hype might be about. Flynn pens quite the piece, opening with some narration that had me do a double take. From there, things progressed away from the bawdy and into something a little paranormal, though nothing too off the wall. Those characters who were presented served their purpose, though none leapt off the page for me. The story held my attention throughout, something that needed to happen early on, as there was little time to develop an affinity for all the essential elements. I enjoyed the hour or so I invested, but I was not gobsmacked. Still, I’ll try something else and plunge into the mix of reviews again to see where I find myself.

Kudos, Madam Flynn, for entertaining me. I like your writing and can only hope your other work is just as intriguing.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Midwife Murders, by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo

Seven stars

With another collaborative effort, James Patterson and Richard DiLallo present a thriller that will touch on some of the most panicked possibilities that many parents could imagine. This book will help pass the time, though should not be considered one of their stronger efforts. Working in the heart of New York City, Lucy Ryuan is a senior midwife. She helps women all throughout their pregnancy journey, culminating in live births and the joy of parenthood. When two babies are kidnapped from the hospital while she is on shift, Lucy is highly concerned and can only imagine the horror that follows for two mothers. When a woman is found cut open, clinging to life as her newborn is nowhere to be found, Lucy knows that she will have to help the authorities take action. She learns of a case where someone has been trying to purchase babies from mothers, wondering if there may be a connection. While Lucy is eager to follow a few leads, the detective on the case wants her out of his hair and sends her on a temporary vacation. Lucy and her son make their way to West Virginia, where Lucy’s family resides. While her mind is off the kidnapped babies, Lucy is forced to face some skeletons in her familial closet and come to terms with a past she hoped to put on the back burner. When the authorities learn of a potential new baby sale, Lucy’s called back to New York, where she can help with a sting operation. However, this is no regular couple looking for a baby and Lucy may find herself in a great deal of trouble. A decent book to add to the massive Patterson collection. Recommended to those who like the quick Patterson style, as well as readers who like a unique-style mystery.

While I know that this book has received mixed reviews, I tried to go into the experience with an open mind. I did not feel the book was as horrid as some panned it in their reviews, but I was also not left in a state of awe at the superior writing style. Patterson and DiLallo offer up an interesting mystery, told from a unique angle. Lucy Ryuan proves to be a decent protagonist, bringing a unique profession into the spotlight. Serving as a midwife, she educates the reader throughout the novel about her profession, while showing a great deal of compassion for the mothers and babies with whom she deals on a regular basis. The authors paint a well-rounded picture of Lucy’s life as a single mother, though some of the more rom-com moments proved to be a little over the top. She is gritty and shows where her priorities lie as she fights for the newly-born in a world where the lives of babies are sold for a price. Others who grace the pages of the book offer their own perspectives, flavouring things and keeping the story going. I cannot say that there were any that stuck out tremendously, but most could stand on their own. The story was decent enough, trying to find out who was kidnapping babies and then selling them, though there were some overly stereotypical discussions and antagonist labelling throughout. I was pleased to see Patterson and DiLallo tacking the ongoing issue with opioid overdose in a tangential plot line while Lucy was in West Virginia. This is an issue that has received much attention in the news, though it was also handled with grace here, neither diluting it nor making it into some sensational revelation. Overall, it was an enjoyable reading experience, though I am not sure it will resonate for months to come with it. Still, Patterson books tend to be good fillers between larger reading experiences.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DiLallo, for this interesting piece of writing. Your parental sides are surely shining here, though I suspect you needed help with some of the more technical birthing terms.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett

Seven stars

In my ever-growing attempt to expand my reading parameters, I turned to my latest reading challenge book. A great fan of detective novels, I was eager to try Dashiell Hammett’s famous novel that depicts sleuthing at its finest. Full of dated references, this is a story that fans of the genre will love, while those who are easily offended will surely be pulling out their hair as they cite sexism on every page. Sam Spade is a decent investigator, who does not take himself too seriously. Miss Wonderly—a damsel in distress who is easy on the eyes—walks into Spade’s office and tosses money around to hire him. Her sister’s disappeared with a crook by the name of Thursby and Wondely wants answers. Spade is not sure he believes the tall tale, but if someone’s willing to pay him, he and his partner will take the case. Spade’s partner is killed, alongside the aforementioned Thursby, and our protagonist PI is a little concerned. With a penchant for his partner’s wife, it might appear that Spade knocked him off to have the woman all for himself. Spade brings Miss Wonderly back in and learns that she’s been lying to him all along. Her real name is Brigid O’Shaughnessy and Thursby was her partner in crime. Turns out Spade is actually needed to sell a priceless statuette from O’Shaughnessy to her former gang members, and promised a large commission. He’s leery, especially when he meets the beefy men who are involved. After being beaten, drugged, and harassed, Spade can count on no one, save his faithful secretary to keep him safe. Spade will have to stay one step ahead of all these goons and keep himself from succumbing to the wiles of Brigit O’Shaughnessy while making sure the Maltese Falcon does not end up in the wrong hands. A classic piece of sleuthing that is just as entertaining ninety-some years after its original publication. Recommended to those who love a good mystery, as well as the reader who enjoys taking a journey back to a time when gin joints and smoky rooms were all the rage!

While I have heard all about this book, I never took the time to sit down and enjoy it (the joys of reading challenges)! Penned and published in 1929, the book is understandably dated, but that only adds to its superiority over many of the books within the detective genre today. Sam Spade is the ideal detective of the era, winking at women and piecing things together while not hiding his rough edges. Spade may not share his emotions with ease—how many men did at the time?—but he certainly connects with the reader. Spade’s inquisitive mind may not be Sherlockian, but he certainly is able to take things one step at a time and finds himself forging ahead in the case, no matter what obstacles are put before him. Hammett does a great job at adding those obstacles, in the form of both people and actions against his protagonist. The story is full of these dicey moments, where the reader is to wonder how Spade will survive. Hammett creates a wonderful cast of secondary characters, all of whom help in their own way to better the story. There are some stereotypical roles here, certainly some that will anger those espousing liberation, as well as some wonderfully nuanced individuals that only the attentive reader will discover. The story itself is quite good, with some interesting plot twists. I felt that Hammett had some wonderful sparks in this piece, though there was no raging fire as some would have me believe. Sure, this is a ninety-one year old story and things were done differently then, but I found that I could not completely connect to the story of the characters as I might have liked. Perhaps I am too inundated with ‘popcorn fiction mysteries’ in my reading adventures, but something about this ‘classic’ did not resonate with me. That being said, I am but a single voice, so choose to take my opinion with a grain of salt.

Kudos, Mr. Hammett, for this great piece of detective work. I liked the banter and even those ‘faux pas’ comments that are peppered throughout. I will have to check into more of your work in the coming months.

This book fulfills the September 2020 requirement of the Mind the Bookshelf Gap reading challenge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Malorie (Bird Box #2), by Josh Malerman

Seven stars

After enjoying The Bird Box a great deal, I was eager to get my hands on this sequel by Josh Malerman to see how things progressed. In a story that offers some interesting continuity and progression, Malerman did some things well and others that I could have done without. Malorie has been living at The Jane Tucker School for the Blind over the past number of years. With all the protections in place, her children, Tom and Olympia, have come to accept that this is how things will be forever. When census data comes to the school and Malorie learns that her parents are listed as still alive, she is overjoyed. With a little convincing, she agrees to take Tom and Olympia on the journey to reunite with them. It will be dangerous and the Creatures are still out there, sure to target them. Using as much safety as possible, they begin the journey across Michigan. It is slow and arduous, but Malorie is able to learn a great deal about herself, while also remembering the ‘old days’ and living with her family as a girl. When they discover a train system running throughout Michigan, they agree to ride it, though there are soon some revelations that cause things to ‘go off the rails’. Tom exerts his teenage angst relating to the prison in which he feels he lives and Olympia seeks to push boundaries she is sure need a nudge. Will Malorie make it to her family home with her own next generation, or will the Creatures strike her independently-minded children and cause chaos for everyone? An interesting addition to the highly popular novel, though it might be one of the few times I felt a sequel did not pull me in just as much!

There are some novels that end on such a cliffhanger that the reader begs to know more, scrambling to see if another novel will tie things off and provide some closure. While Josh Malerman was surely looking to do that with this follow-up piece, I wonder if this is one sequel that should never have been penned. The attentive reader will always posit what should come next or will likely occur to solve some of the situations that are left dangling, as is common at the end of a novel. The means by which Malerman sought to fill in the gaps and offer his own conclusions (or extend some of the threads) were less exciting for me than I might have hoped. There is a great deal of backstory in this piece when it comes to Malorie, offering the reader some insight into her life as a child and the way in which she grew up. This is projected forward as Malorie must now parent her two children and hope for the best. There are ups and downs throughout, though Malorie has the added worry of Creatures ready to turn her children (or anyone they might encounter) mad and ruin a good thing. There were a number of interesting characters found herein, which kept the story moving along, but I did not feel the creepiness that I had hoped to discover. While I admit the ‘bird was out of the box’ in this piece, the wonder and eerie nature of the narrative seemed almost tame and everyone acted as though there was a chance they could live or die, without the worry or paranoia that came front and centre in the first book. While Malerman held my attention throughout, I wanted something more… something scarier that would leave me panting by the end. Instead, I was left nodding my head and wondering if the sequel interpretation might have been better left in the minds of those who adored The Bird Box!

Kudos, Mr. Malerman, for a valiant effort. Alas, I ended up in the review group that was somewhat underwhelmed!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Near Dark (Scot Harvath #19), by Brad Thor

Seven stars

Never one to turn away from a Brad Thor thriller, I turned to the latest in the Scot Harvath series. In a novel that picks up where the last conveniently ended, Thor thrusts the reader into the middle of yet another tactical battle. When Carl Pedersen is found murdered, Scot Harvath can only wonder if it has something to do with one of his past missions. News emerges that Harvath has a massive bounty put out on him, forcing him to take significant precautions. This is an open bounty, where anyone who is successful collects a massive sum, leaving Harvath to always peer over his shoulder. Without knowing where his enemies await, Harvath must forge ahead with reckless abandon and hope for the best. When Harvath finds himself in Lithuania, he learns a little more about Pedersen and some of the missions he undertook in the past. There are some whispers that the Russians might have taken action in retribution for a recent dust-up, but Harvath cannot rest on his laurels. Working with a sly agent whose background comes from the Scandinavian countries, Harvath seeks to extract as much information as he can in order to neutralise the largest threat. With the bounty still in play, he will have to be careful not to make a misstep, for it may be his last. A must-read for series fans, though this one lacked a little of the spark I had hoped to find. Recommended to those who enjoy Harvath and his thrills, as well as readers who like a little international flavour to their novels.

Every series has its best before date and it is up to the writer to keep things fresh, or tap out before they expire. While the first eighteen books in this series proved to be ‘edge of your seat’ thrillers, Brad Thor may have let his foot off the gas with this one, sure to displease ardent fans. Harvath has lived a long and productive life, as can be seen by those who have long followed the series. He has had victories and utter failures in his personal and professional lives, all of which are recapped here throughout a constant flashback narrative. With little to develop except that which is before him, Harvath loses some of his appeal, as though he is simply going through the motions and trying not to die. If I can be so bold, it seems as though Harvath is at the point where it might be time to hang up the tactical vest, as he is no longer able to forget the scars and the numerous aches. The list of strong secondary characters include some returning faces and many new ones as well. Thor hints at some possible new leaders or spin-off series with some who receive both backstory and character development, which might help revitalize the larger Thor universe and breathe new life into his writing. There was nothing overtly wrong with the writing or inherently poor with the plot, but it lacked the depth, sharpness, and twists that series fans have come to expect. I can only surmise that Thor is wondering if he wants to go in a new direction and yet seeks to tie things off before departing, or if this was a last kick at the can in hopes of getting one more book out of Harvath. There is no shame in moving on, but one can hope that Brad Thor will effectively shift things to a new series and not leave his fans with an abrupt cessation after a score of novels bearing Harvath’s presence.

Kudos, Mr. Thor, for another interesting book. I have a feeling this book was meant to convey something to your fans without you bluntly putting it out in a press release. Am I wrong?

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

Seven stars

Perhaps one of the only people in the world who never read this book in high school, I thought that it was high time that I tested the waters. William Golding has created quite the novel, using young adolescents to develop key societal themes while being isolated from the world. After their plane crashes on a deserted island, the surviving young boys gather to determine how they will survive. Using a conch shell as both a gathering tool and one that denotes speaking power, the boys elect Ralph as their leader. From there, it is a delegation of duties to ensure everything is done, something Ralph discovers is not as easy as he would like. His greatest rival for leadership, Jack, begins to instil distrust and rallies those around him not to fall into line with Ralph. As time progresses, cracks occur in the unified group and they splinter off, with Jack taking some of the older boys into his own ‘savage’ camp. The two groups are forced to devise new ways to procure the needed skills for survival. Ralph agrees to attend a feast held by the saved group, only to discover that they are ruthless and end up killing one of the boys. As outside assistance remains bleak, tough choices will have to be made and the lives of all the boys lay in the ever-shifting balance of power. A clever novel that touches on many important issues and has stood the test of time. Not sure I would call it stellar, but surely worth my time and effort.

I never do well when a book is called a ‘classic’, feeling the pressure is always too high that I should like it. I rarely turn to the classics, finding my enjoyment of reading halted when I am supposed to find themes and symbolism. Then again, I love to learn when I read, something Golding does somewhat subtlety with this piece as he speaks about the roles and differences that adolescent boys have within society. The story is both well-paced and overly detailed in places, as Golding seeks to lay the groundwork for a great deal in short order. Some say the downed airplane was part of a nuclear situation that saw the world on the cusp of World War Three, while others surmised it was just a freak accident that left all the adults dead. By thrusting the boys into the role of leaders, Golding posits that their leadership and follower roles would become more apparent over time, though there is a fine line between leading and dictating. As can be seen throughout the piece, the give and take between Ralph and those under him comes to fruition, causing strife and anxiety, which Jack uses to his advantage. The need to survive also pushes the boys to take drastic measures, something they might not normally do, as has been seen in other books and stories of groups stranded and away from help. The use of longer chapters seems needed for Golding to lay some necessary groundwork on different topics. Rather than a constantly evolving flow to the narrative, he chose to tackle these major issues in a single chapter, forcing the reader to push on to understand the concepts being discussed. I suppose it works, but not the approach I might have taken. There were times I also felt the dialogue was slightly jilted, though I am not sure if that is due to the time it was written or a stylistic choice by Golding. I know the way in which young boys speak has devolved of late, but I kept asking myself if I could properly picture boys bantering and ordering one another around in this way. Golding speaks in the introduction about how boys were the only option, that girls could not have played a role in this piece. While I can see what he means, to a degree, wearing my 2020 glasses and not those from 1954, I think much has changed and would love someone to take a stab at the story from the girl-centric approach. I’m sure it would be a refreshing look at this tale that everyone seems to know.

Kudos, Mr. Golding, for a decent read that kept me thinking throughout.

I never do this, but I recently read a novel that takes some influences from Golding’s piece. Do check it out once it is published:


A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Good Earth (House of Earth #1), by Pearl S. Buck

Seven stars

Tasked with reading this award-winning novel by Pearl S. Buck, I was a little apprehensive, but ready to read with an open mind. Buck takes the reader into imprecise time in China’s past and presents a story of a farmer who saw more than was before him. As the novel opens, a young Wang Lung is preparing for his marriage to a local slave girl. Wang Lung is not a rich man, but has a parcel of land he cultivates the best way he knows how. While he and his wife, O-lan, work the fields, they discover prosperity in the fruits of their labour. Earning a decent amount of silver, Wang Lung and O-lan work as hard as they can, beginning a family when possible. After a few sons, Wang Lung is gifted with a daughter, though this is nothing worth celebrating in his eyes. He struggles with what to do, but has little time to contemplate it, as poor weather makes it harder to farm. When a drought overtakes the land, Wang Lung looks out of his northern village to the south, in hopes of finding something to help him get back on his feet. He sees the glitz and glamour of the big city, even taking up running a rickshaw, but does not feel comfortable away from farming. When he returns to the field, he tries not to get discouraged and works even harder. He may be poor, but he is able to provide for his family. As his sons grow, they show propensities for things other than farming, which Wang Lung privately praises, but cannot condone outwardly. A clash occurs when one son seeks to define himself in unique ways, which can only end with a father forcefully putting his son back in line. There is much to learn for them both, but Wang Lung realises that this is one time when profits for a good harvest cannot solve the trouble. A well-written piece that obviously earned Pearl S. Buck some notoriety, though I am not sure it was that amazing. Open to those who want to travel back in time, though surely not worth staying up late into the night.

I often struggle when a book receives many prestigious accolades, as though this makes it a must read or standard when it comes to literature. I struggle understanding why classics get that label and this is the second novel in my reading group that has earned a Pulitzer without my being blown away by its content. Buck does well to paint a picture of Wang Lung and his humble beginnings. The story works well as he and his wife begin a life together, as well as some of the personal developments that form him into the protagonist. He does his best and tries to put his family above all others, struggling at times to prosper. As Buck seems to indicate throughout, it is the age-long story of a man trying to exert his authority and keep his pride, no matter what stands before him. The attentive reader will likely see how Wang Lung develops as he ages, struggling with new ideas and societal views, while still wanting to keep control of his small parcel. If the earth that Wang Lung cultivates could have a personality all its own, it would be a strong secondary character, interacting on a yearly basis with the farmer and presenting struggles throughout. The handful of secondary characters in the novel prove useful to tell the story injecting their own ideas while flavouring the narrative, though I was not entirely captivated by any of them. Buck can spin a tale, of that there is no doubt. She can craft a piece that needs little technology or specific time to keep the reader wanting to know more. The themes she presents are worth understanding, but the book was not sensational. Rather, like its title, it was good earth, decent soil from which a plot can sprout and fertilise the mind of the reader. That’s about it! While this is the first of a trilogy that explores the cultural and societal changes in China, I’ll let others continue the journey.

Kudos, Madam Buck, for a decent piece. Your foreshadowing and foreboding work well, but I don’t think the praise is necessarily worthy.

This book fulfils the August 2020 requirements of Mind the Bookshelf Gap’s challenge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons