Goodreads Challenge complete! (and a short book review…)

Yes, it’s true: I’ve just completed my first ever Goodreads reading challenge. My jubilation is significantly dampened by the paltry number of books it was–a mere 20. Still, this is the first time I’ve made the effort to track my reading, and I’m pleased with myself for bothering.

Looking back on 2017’s books, I think I would choose Ready Player One as my favorite. The main character, Wade Watts, felt very true, and the book was appropriately epic. I’m apprehensively excited for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming adaptation.

So, what was the last book that I read? Here it is:

Title: Stripes of Gehenna
Author: Lara Hues
Genre: YA Sci-Fi Adventure
Print Length: 158 pages

Kathryn knows a few things about human growth hormone and steroids: (1) when used to enhance performance in a sport, they are absolutely, wholly illegal, and (2) her estranged Uncle Richy ruined his life doing just that.
Outside of the occasional awkward Thanksgiving dinner, Kathryn barely knows her uncle. But when Richy unrepentantly invited her to his research lab, Kathryn can’t help herself. After all, Richy’s drug-abuse days are far behind him – replaced by decades of research on how the illegal GH10 compound that destroyed his sports career and marriage, can enhance a pair of Siberian tigers. And the experience would look great on her college applications.
It isn’t until Kathryn is whisked away to Richy’s private island research lab that she discovers the tigers aren’t the only ones receiving GH10…
To survive the trip, Kathryn will have to be more than strong. She’ll have to be cunning, brave, and determined to beat the odds.

Stripes of Gehenna was a fun sci-fi adventure story. There were a few places where the pacing felt a bit rushed, but overall the writing was smooth and pleasant. Kathryn was a good protagonist, and most of the supporting characters felt very fleshed out as well, especially for such a short book.

It was an entertaining read. 4/5
Amazon Page
Author Page
Goodreads Page

A super short review, I know. But, I just had to say something about the book that got me to complete my reading goal for the year! I think I’ll go for 30 books in 2018….

Thanks for dropping by!

Lord of the Flies by William Golding – Book Review

Title: Lord of the Flies

Author: William Golding

Publisher: Penguin Books; originally published in 1959

At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate. This far from civilization they can do anything they want. Anything. But as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far removed from reality as the hope of being rescued.

I think your favorite books may be the most difficult to review.

My first encounter with Lord of the Flies was when I spied my mom’s copy in her bedroom. I picked it up and asked her about it. She said, “That’s not a nice book. Don’t read it.” Or, at least, it was something like that.

Ah, the allure of a banned book! I didn’t read it just then. But years later, as a senior in high school, I decided to finally read it. I’d picked up the copy again and again in the intervening years, but had never actually cracked it open. When I did finally read it, I found it difficult to part with. I read it very quickly, and only set the book down a few times–something which is perhaps more commonplace for other readers, but is very rare for me.

Golding’s book is loaded with meaning, yet still flows easily and moves quickly. As the blurb says, boys are stranded on an island. At first, it’s an adventure. Eventually, it’s a nightmare. Why? Because of human nature. Of the novel, Golding said, “The theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on an political system however apparently logical or respectable.”

When the boys–British schoolboys–are first stranded on the island, they form a simple yet rule-structured society. Ralph, one of the older boys, is to be the chief. He has a large, beautiful shell–a conch–which he can blow like a trumpet to call a meeting. When gathered at the meeting, only the person holding the conch may speak, and the conch is passed about to allow all voices to be heard.

They quickly decide that the most important thing is being rescued, and that the only way to be rescued is to keep a signal fire going, in hopes that a passing ship will see the smoke.

The problem is that there is more than one boy who wants to be in charge, and not all the boys are agreed on what the priorities ought to be.

The other problem is the presence of the beast–a monster who shares the island with them, but whose existence is never confirmed.

Now what about that title? Why is it called Lord of the Flies? “Lord of the Flies” is a translation of the Hebrew word Ba’alzevuv, or Beezlebub in Greek, one of the names or titles of Satan or the devil. The hunters in the book kill a pig, remove its head, and place it on a stake as an offering to the island’s Beast.

Later, a boy named Simon, dehydrated and hallucinating, has a conversation with the severed pig’s head, which by that point is covered in flies. The head–the “Lord of the Flies”–speaks with the boy in a pivotal scene, confirming Simon’s prophetic fears he had voiced earlier in the novel.

“Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!” said the head. For a moment or two the forest and all the other dimly appreciated places echoed with the parody of laughter. “You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?”

As the boy’s civilization further crumbles, the Beast’s words become more and more true.

What Genre is it? You’ll find it classed as YA often. It’s a bit odd in that classification, because none of the characters are very old. YA tends to focus on people about 16 years or older, whereas Lord of the Flies doesn’t have any character older than 13 (and it may only be 12, actually).

It’s a story of lost innocence, the darkness of the human heart, and the fallen nature of man. And it’s excellent.

5/5 – Will certainly read again.

 

Have you read Lord of the Flies? Did you have to read it in high school? Do you agree that society’s problems are problems inherent in human nature? If you were on a paradise island with a bunch of your same-gendered peers, do you think you could keep things civil, or would you start killing each other?

Happy reading!

Book Review – Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney

Every family has problems. Every family has secrets. The Glass family, however, is exceptional. Beneath the facade of perfection lies a web of lies and false faces. When their patriarch dies and the facade breaks, a perfect storm of family drama threatens to swallow the Glass family whole. They might survive, but they’ll need more than honesty and a little courage to see it through the tempest: they’ll need each other.

I give Watching Glass Shatter a 4-star rating. While it may not be for every reader, there are many (and I do mean many) who will find this book to be a literary treasure.

Why This Book

I like finding quality book blogs to follow and contribute to. It was through the book-blogging community that I found the writings of James J. Cudney, in the form of his blog, “This Is My Truth Now.” I enjoyed his honest, open, and prolific writings on his blog, and was curious how his work would translate into novel form. When he asked for early readers for his debut novel, I answered the call. Since I’ve enjoyed his own book reviews so much, I’ve decided to mirror his style in my review of his own book.

My other reason for reading Watching Glass Shatter is that I am experimenting with new genres. This book is outside of my normal reading genres, and so it seemed like a good opportunity to try something new.

Plot, Characters & Setting

Benjamin Glass has been harboring a secret from his wife—a secret he’s kept close to his heart for a lifetime. One of their sons is not their own. The secret has eaten away at him for decades, but no matter how he’s tried, Ben simply cannot summon the courage to tell his wife the truth: that he switched their stillborn son out for another baby while she was unconscious.

But then Ben dies, and a letter he left behind discloses the truth to his wife, Olivia, leaving her with the burden of telling her unknowingly-adopted son the truth. But there’s a catch: Ben never said which son was switched out. While the trusted family attorney tries to seek out the woman whose baby Olivia has raised, Olivia is determined to spend time with her five sons, reconnect with each of them, and try to determine which one is not her own, before the attorney finds the missing woman and reveals the truth.

But the apple never falls far from the tree, and Olivia soon discovers that her husband wasn’t the only one keeping secrets: each of her sons have secrets of their own, secrets that are forcing the family apart. Secrets which, once revealed, may shatter the Glass family irrevocably.

Set with extravagant detail in the lavish homes, offices, and retreats of the wealthy, Watching Glass Shatter follows the six remaining members of the Glass family and their partners.

Approach & Style

Watching Glass Shatter is written with a third-person omniscient narrator. I read an advanced copy, and the narrator may have switched to be third-person limited between my draft and the final draft. Head-hopping was fairly limited in my copy, but did occur, and was distracting once or twice.

The story’s chapters were focused on specific characters, with each character getting a few dedicated chapters. The characters were introduced very quickly at the beginning, and all at once. This usually doesn’t work, and it didn’t come off super great here, either. However, it made perfect sense for it to happen that way in the story, and my early worries about not getting to know the characters well were soon washed away. Perhaps Cudney’s greatest strength in this book is creating a fairly sizable cast of well-managed, well-defined, recognizable, and consistent (but growing) characters. Not all of them were likeable, but they were unlikeable for the same reasons I don’t like some real people. Many of the characters were likeable, though, and all of them felt genuine and fleshed out.

The other thing that stood out to me was the depth of Cudney’s descriptions. A few times early on, it felt a bit heavy handed. This may have been addressed in the final copy. Either way, the issue largely disappeared after the first few chapters, at which point the descriptions were rich and often poignant.

Key Thoughts

This story had a number of different secrets waiting to be revealed; if one didn’t suit your fancy, another one might strike a chord with you.

I believe my own family heavily influenced my perception of this story. The main secret is that one of the boys was adopted (in a slightly clandestine manner, though not an immoral one). The mystery of which son it was had perhaps less appeal to me than other readers, but I attribute this mostly to my own experiences. I come from a large family (I’m talking more than 10 siblings, folks) and many of them, though not all, are adopted. Many of my cousins, too, are adopted. So, personally, the adopting issue wasn’t as interesting. But knowing the characters, I didn’t feel like their reactions to the issue were disingenuous. The other secrets—the ones the sons have—I personally found much more engaging. Perhaps that’s because many of them are in the same life-stage as I am. Who can say?

Another thought that I had for this is more a critique of the publisher than the author. The author knew his target readers, and knew them well. This book, I have little doubt, will please those readers. The cover art, however, seems evocative of something more sinister than the family drama (albeit an intense family drama) that this book is. I personally feel like the cover art is a bit misleading as to the nature of the novel, and may draw in some unintended readers, while perhaps alienating some of the target audience. But I’m no expert in such matters.

Author & Other Similar Books

James J. Cudney—Jay to many—is a prolific blogger and debut novelist. Watching Glass Shatter is his first book. He’s currently working on Father Figure, a new novel whose details and progress can be found on Jay’s blog, thisismytruthnow.com. He’s very reachable and approachable, and will quickly earn your respect—not only as a writer, but also (and more importantly) as a gentleman.

As for similar books, I’m largely at a loss. As I said before, this was me delving into a new genre. While I’m sure there are similar books, I’m also equally sure that this one is unique.

Summary

If you like family dramas, you will love Watching Glass Shatter. The plot is complex, personal, well crafted, and deeply moving. The characters are relatable, real, and down-to-earth. Cudney’s writing starts out strong, and then transitions into a natural storyteller’s flow.

If you’re curious about family drama’s, this book is a great one to experiment with—a solid, quality read.

Watching Glass Shatter is available for purchase on Amazon.com.

About Me

I’m Chauncey Rogers. I’m (supposedly) qualified to teach history, government, geography, psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Aside from my education degrees, I also studied linguistics and editing. My first novel, Home To Roost, was published in March 2017; and my second novel, Cleaving Souls, was published in October 2017. My third novel will (hopefully) be published in January 2018.

I believe in the power of storytelling and in the importance of quality writing—both in content and style. You can follow my adventures as an author at chaunceyrogers.com.