The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When this book came across my book of the month email, I wasn’t really sure if it were fiction or non-fiction. From the description it’s not entirely clear. The premise of a man walking into the woods at the age of twenty and living in solitude for twenty-seven years is fascinating to me. I’ve personally daydreamed on more than one occasion about walking away from all of my stuff and just wandering into the woods (sorry Mom). I crave solitude most of the time and sometimes I’ll go entire weekends without any human interaction. I’m constantly surrounded by people every single day at work. I have to sit in the middle of a floor with hundreds of cubicles. Constant noise bombards me and I have to do what I can to tune it out. So…I dream of days where there is no one and nothing making any noise. Just me, my books, and my dog.
You could say that I related to Chris Knight. He became known as the North Pond Hermit. He set up a camp and lived off the land and the homes from which he stole to survive. The author is a reporter who caught wind of this story when Chris was caught and decided that he needed to know more about what makes this man tick.
The book is old school style storytelling at its best. You can almost imagine yourself sitting around the campfire listening to the tale of the legend of the Hermit of North Pond.
The author at times skirts the lines of acceptable behavior. The entire tome was written based on the author inserting himself into Knight's life while in jail. Yes, Knight could have turned him away at any point but I did have some trouble reconciling my understanding of Knight's wanting to be left alone with the author's need to understand. What would make someone do this?
Also touched on in the book are quotes from some of the people Knight stole from. Some were angry at the fear he caused. Others were in awe. When I first finished the book I was supportive of Knight's reasoning and methods. The longer I think about it though, the more it irks me. Because he didn't feel like participating in society he became reliant on society to take care of him in his theft of food and supplies. As much as I envy the peace he found in his solitude, it rankles me that he lived off people who were working hard to provide for themselves.
I suppose whether you agree or not, it's an interesting story. The book itself is well written and provides additional research into what drives a person to hermitage as well as some history of hermits. If you enjoy stories about real people who do things outside of the norm, then you'll likely enjoy this book.
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The Operator by Kim Harrison
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I finally got around to finishing the Operator today. I’ve yet to read any of Kim Harrison’s works as actual text. Everything has been an audiobook so far and this was no exception.
In this, our heroine is still being pursued by Bill and Opti. Now with the addition of a psychopath name Michael who is also a drafter. Peri just wants to live a quiet and normal life, but is unable to do so because of Bill. There is also the addition of a highly addictive super drug that hooks the user immediately but allows them to remember all their wiped information.
I hate to say it, but I was disappointed in this book. I really enjoyed the first in this series. Peri Reed is a dynamic character and the premise that she can reset time is fascinating and I’m not really entirely certain I understand how it works. That’s OK though, generally with sci-fi or fantasy books, the science is already iffy to begin with so I just accept it and move on. In this, her second appearance, Peri is kind of blah. Right from the beginning she seems to be a whinier version of herself than I remember from the first time. The entire book seems to take place over the course of a few days. It contains questionable travel in which the characters seem to travel geographically entirely faster than they should be.
I disliked how often the characters ditched each other in order to save each other. The characters jumped loyalties seemingly every other page and it was hard to tell who was turning on who and when. It wasn’t particularly gripping either. Considering that there were no loyalties, when the characters would turn on each other it wasn’t treated with any weight and I found myself not really caring.
The addition of LB to the cast of characters was an interesting one and I wouldn’t mind seeing him in future books.
I’m still struggling with Bill’s motivation to get Peri hooked on the drug. To start with, the idea that there is a drug that after two doses can hook you to the point of deathly withdrawals is incredibly far-fetched, even for this kind of novel. The fiend that the author turns Peri into once she’s had the first dose makes it clear that the author does not understand addiction. Peri goes from barely noticing any effects to become some raging monster hollering “GIVE ME MY DRUGS NOW!!” OK, this is an exaggeration but someone who is actually addicted to the degree that Peri is supposed to be would be thinking about the drugs constantly.
I got off track. Back to Bill’s motivation. Supposedly he wants Peri back and compliant. This is the reason he wants her hooked on the drugs, so that she’ll have to come back to him for a fix. But they mention that there hasn’t been a single successful trial of the drugs and that everyone they hooked on it ends up in a medically induced coma because of the psychosis it causes. There didn’t seem to be any logic behind any of it.
I guess when it comes down to it, I’ll stick around for book three if there is one. But if it’s more of the same then I’m tapping out.
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The Dream Life of Astronauts: Stories by Patrick Ryan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
So incredibly disappointed in this book. I should have read the reviews first.
I grew up on the Space Coast, so I was excited about the prospect of a book of short stories set around my hometown. The majority of the stories get only a casual mention to Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island...Cocoa gets a very brief glance. The ONE story that discusses the shuttle program in any depth is dry and factual.
There is no heart of the Space Coast in these stories. There is no thru-line to them either. Random people, random things happen, random time periods.
Overall it was just blah. If you were looking to recapture a but of the excitement of the youth you had watching rockets and shuttles launch from your backyard, you'll have to look elsewhere.
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Thunderbird by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Miriam Black is BACK! Book four in the series from Chuck Wendig is finally out after an exceptionally long break. We pick up the story shortly after the end of the last. I would recommend that if your memory is even remotely spotty on the history, you go back and read the last one before starting this one.
Miriam is trying to find a woman that may be able to help rid her of her curse. Of course, in true Miriam fashion, things do not go as smoothly as they should. She gets caught up with some bad guys on accident (as she does) and gets sucked into their drama.
While the base of the main character is there, I felt like Wendig took her down a couple of notches. Perhaps this is meant to be part of the character’s development, but it seemed as though some of the fight and sass that we know and love has been toned down. Whether this was done purposefully or not it provides another layer of depth to Miriam as a person. It shows that a person can’t be “on” 100% of the time.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m still a little confused about the bird portion of things. Is she turning into birds? Or just occupying their minds? How is this meant to lend itself to the story other than to take up space?
I liked the story-line but I wanted something more intricate and complicated. My other issue is that the titles of the chapters weren’t as entertaining as they have been in the past. I’m not even sure that’s a real complaint though. Even though I was moderately disappointed with the book overall, that ending rocked me. I don’t mean the resolution to the plot, I’m talking about the set up for the next book, whenever that might be. “Oh, Shit” indeed.
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The Turn by Kim Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Kim Harrison is at her best when she writes about the Hollows. I absolutely loved this trip back to where everything began. The basic plot takes the reader through the release of the plague that brought about the Turn where all of Inderland is exposed.
Honestly, it took me about half way through the book before I realized that the Trent Kalamack that I was reading about was NOT the Trent that we all fell in love with in the Hollows series. And even then, it took me reading spoiler reviews on Goodreads to figure it out. Elves live longer and look younger in general, right? It seemed totally plausible that OUR Trent was alive in the 60s.
Kal (as he’s called in this book) is completely awful. He’s so well written as the villain that you can almost see his side of things. Trix is definitely my favorite character in the book. She’s the strong and independent woman fighting for her work and her own name not just in a world of old-school thought amongst her people but also 1960s society.
As I do with all of Harrison’s work, I listened to this as an audiobook and having Marguerite Gavin back for this prequel was a lovely treat. She’s honestly half the reason I love this series so much. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the Harrsion/LaVoy combo Audible has for the Peri Reed chronicles, but it’s not quite the same.
This book made me want to go back and listen to the entire original series again just to refresh on all the connections. Quinn, Piscary, Kormel, Tecatta, Saladan. Forgive, if you would, any character name misspelling along the way. Having only listened to the Audiobooks, I have no idea what the proper ones are.
I only have two criticisms. The first is more of a lament…the books are never long enough. I always want more immediately. In a world of binging on media, the end of a book without an immediate replacement is painful. Secondarily, and this is stupid…I grew up in Cocoa Beach, the town where Kal lives at the beginning of the book. There’s a line that says that Cocoa Beach is only a 10 minute drive from Daytona Beach. That drive is more like 60-90 minutes. See…told you it was a stupid gripe.
READ THIS BOOK. If you’ve never read the Hollows series, this would be an excellent book to read first. If I had had the option I would have done it that way.
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