Year 4, Book 50

50. Dead Until Dark (Sooke Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris
Paul and I started watching the show True Blood on HBO when it started last year. I really enjoyed it, but had never read the series of books that the show is based on. I went back and forth on whether or not I should read them because I didn’t necessarily want to spoil the show for myself by knowing everything that was going to happen by reading the books. I finally read enough stuff about the books saying how good they were and how they were not exactly like the show that I decided to pick up the first two books in the series. I read the first one on my trip to RI this past weekend. I must say that I am so glad that I never read the books first because I probably never would have watched the show. Perhaps I am just a book snob, but I have never read a book aimed at adults that was so poorly written. I’m sure there are worse ones out there, but luckily I’ve never read any of them. The book (at least the first one, the later ones may differ more) was very similar to the TV show in my opinion. Aside from a few minor characters that appear in the book that aren’t in the TV show everything that happens in the book happens in the show. Although on the other hand the show creates a much richer tapestry in my opinion and there are several main characters that are not in the book and some minor characters that are much more fleshed out in the show leading to some additional plot lines as well as more details or slight changes in the ones that are the same. Obviously the basic plot has merit since it is the back bone of the show, which I do like. However I couldn’t really focus on that since having already watched the show I knew basically what was going to happen plotwise. Instead I remained very focused on the pitiful writing style. It totally reminded me of reading a children’s book like The Babysitter’s Club or the Sweet Valley High books I used to read. Not the plot points obviously, but the writing style of the book. I’ve think I’ve read kids books with more depth and a larger vocabulary. Having never read another vampire book other than Twilight, which despite all the horrible things I’ve seen said about its writing I think is ten times better, I don’t know if other books in this genre are comparable or if this is just particularly bad. Or perhaps I just care more about good writing than most people since I’ve seen nothing but raves about this series of books. I’ll just stick to the TV show and for once say that the adaptation is way better than the book. 2 out of 10.

Year 4, Book 49

49. American Rust by Philipp Meyer
I saw several good reviews of this book, plus the author is a local Baltimorean, so I decided to check it out. I thought the story might take place around Baltimore, but instead it is set in a small steel town outside of Pittsburgh. The story is told from the alternating perspective of several characters Isaac, his friend Poe, Isaac’s sister Lee, Poe’s mom Grace, Isaac’s dad, and the town police chief/Poe’s mom’s on and off boyfriend Harris. The story basically revolves around an incident involving Isaac and Poe that results in an accidental murder and how this affects all the aforementioned characters. There are also lots of undercurrents about the state all their lives have ended up in as a result of living in a dead-end former steel town that reminded me a lot of some of Richard Russo’s writings. I did enjoy reading the book, but the ending fell flat for me. I can’t explain why without telling you what the ending is, so I won’t. It’s still worth a read though if you enjoy character driven novels or novels based on the decline of manufacturing in small-town America like Russo’s. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 4, Book 48

48. Making Marriage Work: A History of Marriage and Divorce in the Twentieth-Century United States by Kristin Celello
This book is definitely not for anyone who is not a big sociology dork like I am (or unless they have to read it for a class or use it for research). The book is based on the author’s dissertation and basically follows the institution of marriage and the roles expected to be held by each partner in the marriage through the 20th century. I enjoyed it, but as I said it is not for the average reader. I give it a 6 out of 10.

As an aside while reading the acknowledgments I discovered that the author is a fellow Wake Forest alumni. I didn’t know her, but apparently she graduated 2 years earlier than I did, so we were there at the same time for a few years. Just a fun little piece of trivia there for you.

Year 4, Book 47

47. Squint: My Journey with Leprosy by Jose P. Ramirez
This book was sort of interesting, sort of informative, and sort of frustrating all at the same time. I had two big issues with the book. First, I don’t think it was written very well. The narrative is rather dry even when the author is describing very emotional things. It was a lot of this happened, then this happened kind of writing. That may partially be as a result of English not being the author’s first language (or at least I assume it isn’t based on the story). My second criticism can only partially be blamed on the book. Like most Americans my knowledge of leprosy is pretty much limited to stuff from the Bible and the movie Ben Hur. Obviously not the most factual, or up-to-date information. The author continuously points out how wrong people are about leprosy and how hurtful it is to be stigmatized and called a leper, but I never really felt like he gave much information to combat it in the book. There is a FAQ section about leprosy at the back of the book, but it was kind of annoying to have to wait to get to that section to have some of my questions answered. Although some of them still remain unanswered because they just are. For instance no one really knows for sure how people catch leprosy.

I learned a lot about the effects of the disease reading the book, but despite the author’s best efforts he did not eradicate my fears about leprosy (not that I really think about leprosy all that much), but if I ran into someone who had it I would be afraid. He says that only 3% of people are even capable of catching the bacillus responsible, but if you don’t know if you are one of that 3% it’s kind of scary because trust me after reading about what he went through I would never want to take the chance.

I rate the book 5 out of 10.