Thursday, March 31, 2016
The first book in the Jack Reacher series, this is some fun, unrealistic entertainment! We have insta-love and a hero who is the toughest Mamma Jamma around. Law enforcement (those who aren't corrupted at least) tend to trust Jack Reacher after a few clever witticisms in just one or two conversations. He inspires loyalty from the good guys immediately with his Sherlock-ian deductions, thus opening up endless, often seamless connections when most needed. If this is something that doesn't bother you, settle into a fast-paced and larger-than-life adventure story.
Aforementioned disclaimer aside, the book was really compelling. I loved the foreword by Lee Child where he explained his career prior to being an author, and the specific principles he devised for Reacher to follow. Specifically, that he would be an intriguing enough character to be sustained over a long running series- with an imposing physical build and background to tackle issues with unapologetic brute strength. Reacher's name development was a funny and surprising story. Child wants his readers to feel victory in this fictional setting, especially because it often eludes in real life. This escapism reading is meant to feel victorious in the end, with lots of violence and mayhem sprinkled throughout. I also found the finance angle of this story line a fun topic.
I enjoyed Reacher being morally ambiguous, mostly unemotional, and totally focused. I thought the mystery was fun and fast paced. Literary fiction this is not, but the writing was strong and suited the book's style. This worked for me, even though Reacher is straight forward and simplistic in aim. Get the bad guys, and kill them if necessary. Also, there are at least 20 books in the series.. so I'm sure his backstory and personality will evolve as the series continues. I mean, he's not a robot. At least, I don't think so.
You was one of my favorite books of 2015. I don't remember the last time I bought an anticipated read on release day. On February 23, I downloaded this from Audible as soon as I could. The release day was five weeks ago. I've been listening in small snippets everyday so it wouldn't end. This one is difficult to discuss without spoiling the first book, because Joe's journey is dependent on the events that transpired in You, and there are references that won't be appreciated as well.
I've got to admit I was nervous for this installment. I was worried it would be rambling without a certain element present in the first. I was crossing my fingers the magic of his personality wouldn't dissipate over the course of the novel. I also dreaded the location change.
Luckily, I needn't have worried. Joe's diabolical character assassination of each person he encounters continues with his journey to the West Coast. The chapter where he meets his landlord and Delilah are prime examples. Joe must assess everyone to see what immediate value they have to him and his schemes. Thankfully, he also has a mission.
Then the mission shifts a bit, with the story meandering as he meets certain influential personalities in the Los Angeles area. Surprisingly, I found this to be the strongest part of the book- the meandering, with a few key, genius scenes that kept me on my toes. Sociopaths are often charismatic and scheming a few steps ahead....so the floating around made sense for that profile. If you don't mind some graphic content and sexually explicit scenes, Kepnes is a brilliant writer who has created one of my favorite literary characters to date. I want the third book immediately, but know Joe can't be rushed. If you haven't already gathered, I highly recommend to any thriller/suspense fans who crave captivating, unique characters.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
I expected to be disturbed by this book. The subject is quite clear. I thought I had prepared myself through other literature and movies to hear the worst kinds of depravity that human beings can inflict on each other. However, I still found myself repeatedly shocked at the details in these cases.
John Douglas was one of the original profilers, who worked tirelessly to integrate behavior profiles into narrowing the focus of a complex case. The much-used phrases of modus operandi and signature were compared and contrasted, and I had previously had a much different idea of what those terms meant. Finding a criminal's "rock" or vulnerability point is a painstaking and necessary strategy for apprehension. Some common sense conclusions end up being anything but, and even if they do turn out as planned, conviction is a tricky tight rope.
By far, the most difficult and simultaneously uplifting section had to do with a 17 year old girl's last will and testament written to her beloved family at 3:10 AM in preparation for her death at the hands of her captor. She talks about loving God and family, not letting the situation break their faith, and professing the joy she had in her life. Utterly remarkable, and Douglas marks it as the most impressive thing he's seen in his 25 year career. There are instances of grace and good character, but this book is primarily chock-full of inadequate personalities and perversions. A review couldn't possibly provide an adequate summary.
On a positive note, I'm impressed by the dedication of officers and profilers in studying their craft and doing the best they can with the resources given. The analysis and staging to draw out suspects was a fascinating topic. The integration of the media to help the cases, as well as "face saving strategies" employed (when interrogating subjects) was mind boggling. I'm interested in reading more of his up to date work, since the forensic technology has advanced monumentally in the last twenty years since publication. I recommend to anyone interested in psychology and true crime.
Kondo should be proud of her accomplishments in helping people tidy their living spaces using her KonMari method- and she is. The first few pages outline the importance of this process, as well as giving the reader testimonials of her past clients. She isn't afraid to pat herself on the back, but I suppose that's okay since she displays a genuine passion for her work. This quote demonstrates her interest in the subject: "I made drawers out of tissue boxes and broke my piggybank to purchase nifty storage items....in high school I even called up the manufacturer of particularly intriguing items and pestered the receptionist to tell me the story of how they were invented." That's dedication!
Tooting her own horn aside, I did find the book informative. It's important to note that her approach is heavily influenced by Japanese culture (yeah, I know, it's in the title:-), and thus might seem strange at times for those who aren't used to viewing their home/objects through this lens.
Kondo personifies inanimate objects in a laughable, but oddly sensical way (sometimes). If it doesn't bring you joy, get rid of it. Buying storage containers aren't in themselves a solution. If you don't need the objects in the containers, it's still clutter. "Putting things away can create an illusion that the clutter problem has been solved." I found this the most useful revelation to my cleaning life, as well as the entire section on discarding and then storing clothing in a particular folded method to maximize space.
While the style can be off-putting on occasion, I think these tips are useful if you keep an open mind. We can all improve our lives through organization, and if a book can help me put my favorite place in order, then it is well worth a read.