Sunday, November 19, 2017

Ms. Hen reviews LIAR









Liar
Rob Roberge
2016
Crown Publishers

Ms. Hen had first heard of Rob Roberge when she went to a reading at AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) in 2013. She went to a bookstore to see someone she knew from graduate school, and Mr. Roberge was reading also. She was so impressed by his reading that she bought his novel, THE COST OF LIVING. She read it and loved the novel about mental illness, because she is a hen who likes to read those types of things, for reasons she will not disclose right now.

She had read about this memoir when it first came out, and was curious. She finally got around to it, and wow! She doesn’t know if she’s ever read a book like this.

The entire memoir is written in second person, which is unusual. There aren’t many entire books written in this point of view. Instead of saying “I” or “he” the author chooses to write “you,” which gives the book a more intimate feeling, as if the author is writing a letter to himself. Ms. Hen is a fan of writing in this style, but she does not know if she could handle writing an entire book like this.

Another aspect of this book which is unique that it is written in short vignettes, all out of chronological sequence. At first, Ms. Hen thought this was jarring, but then she got used to it. It paints the picture of a man whose mind is scattered, and whose life is all over the place, and does not know what is happening to him a lot of the time.

This memoir is about a man who has drug addiction, bipolar disorder, and memory problems. He is told he is losing his memory from all the concussions he’s had in his life. He lives a wild life of sex, drugs, and rock n roll, outrageous parties, and traveling around the country, and lying about his life and the scars on his body. But most of all, he lies to himself.

He is a musician and a writer, and has had major psychotic episodes and does not seem to get better. Some people with bipolar disorder can recover, and appear to be normal, but this author does not. Ms. Hen feels sorry for him, but not too sorry. He has lived an adventurous life, unlike some people Ms. Hen knows. Ms. Hen doesn’t think he wrote this memoir to have people feel sorry for him, or to convince people into thinking he’s cool; she believes that he wrote this to help himself remember his life before he loses his memory, and is not the same person anymore.


Ms. Hen does not think this memoir would be an appropriate book for delicate hens to read, but Ms. Hen herself is used to reading difficult books. She liked this book, but it made her think about how truly screwed up some people can be, and it made her pause to consider whether or not she’s happy with her own life.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ms. Hen reviews THE WONDER






The Wonder
Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown and Company
2016

Ms. Hen decided to read this because her hen-sister lent it to her. Ms. Hen had read another novel by this author, ROOM, and she loved it. This book is very different, which shows the versatility of the author. It is also about a child, but it takes place in Ireland in the nineteenth century, not that long after the potato famine.

THE WONDER is about an English nurse named Lib who travels to Ireland to take care of an eleven-year-old girl, Anna, who has refused to eat. Her family and the people in the parish believe that it is a miracle and God is helping her to live. Anna claims to be fed from manna from heaven. It is Lib’s job along with another nurse, a nun, to make sure Anna is telling the truth that she is not really eating.

Lib scours Anna’s room and house to try to discover if food is hidden. She takes Anna’s vital signs, and attempts to understand how Anna has survived without food for four months, from April to August. Lib doesn’t understand the superstitious tendencies of the Irish, and their strange rituals. The housekeeper leaves a bowl of milk under the cabinet, and Lib inquires as to why, and the housekeeper said it is for the fairies.

(Ms. Hen is an Irish hen, and she doesn’t know if her relations were as ridiculously religious to the point where they believed in magic and little people. She has a suspicion that they were, and she thinks it could be fun, but if it ruled your life, it could make you seem a wee bit crazy. But if everyone else is like that, then you might not seem that unusual.)

One aspect of this novel which Ms. Hen liked is that it is primarily about a nurse. She hasn’t read that many novels that are mainly about nursing. She has read CALL THE MIDWIFE, which is a memoir, and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, which is not principally about nursing. Lib had been a student of Florence Nightingale, and at that time, the profession of nursing was in its infancy. Nurses were mostly meant to take care of people, and not interfere with doctors, or give their input about diagnoses. Nurses were all women, and some were volunteers.

There are several hens in this novel. Ms. Hen finds that Irish novels are usually brimming with hens and chickens. One example, “Silence as she let herself in the door. Rosaleen O’Donnell and the maid were plucking a scrawny chicken at the long table.” This takes place near the end of the novel and Lib thinks that the women were talking about her, about how afraid they are of her.


There were times in the beginning of THE WONDER when the narrative dragged and Ms. Hen wanted more action. But when the action picked up, she was dazzled. She didn’t know how it would turn out in the end, whether the story was magical or not. She would recommend this novel to anyone who wants their breath taken away, and who want to believe that people are basically good.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Ms. Hen reviews THIRTEEN REASONS WHY the novel






Thirteen Reasons Why
Jay Asher
Razorbill
2007


Ms. Hen watched the Netflix show, as everyone else
did this year. She was moved, yes, and saddened yes, and when she
saw this book at the Little Free Library near where she lives, she grabbed
it and made it hers. She took a while to read it, but wow, when she did…

The book is different from the show; there is not much outside Clay listening
to the tapes and reminiscing. Two narratives drive the story
concurrently, his and Hannah’s. Even though
Ms. Hen knew what would
happen in the end, she still adored this book,
its intensity, its rawness,
it made her glad she is not a young hen
anymore and does not live in that fishbowl called high school.

Ms. Hen came to the conclusion after reading this novel
that she is glad she does not care what other people think
of her as much as before, because if she did, she would have ended up like Hannah
many times over. Ms. Hen thinks that youth is a time when we think
the whole world is watching and judging us, but when time passes
we should grow up and realize that all the horrors that happen to us
and in the world
are small
and insignificant
and sometimes things don't make any sense,
but there’s nothing we can do
except wake up tomorrow
to face the next day
even if it sucks
and continues to suck
and never seems to get better
we just have to live
and deal with the shit
and hope that something better than shit
will come our way
someday.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Ms. Hen reviews THE BOY WHO DREW MONSTERS






The Boy Who Drew Monsters
Keith Donohue
Picador
2014


Ms. Hen decided to read this novel because she loves Halloween books and wanted to read something scary. She had read another book by the author, THE MOTION OF PUPPETS, last Halloween season, and enjoyed it immensely. She didn’t realize that THE BOY WHO DREW MONSTERS actually takes place during Christmas, but Ms. Hen thinks it’s also a perfect novel for Halloween.

This novel frightened Ms. Hen. Books don’t usually scare her, but this one is genuinely terrifying. The other two books she read for Halloween this year were not as scary. They were interesting and insightful, but Ms. Hen wasn’t shaking in her feathers. But, she couldn’t stop reading THE BOY WHO DREW MONSTERS. There are certain books that Ms. Hen cannot put down, those that she reads every minute of the day, and this is one of them.

This novel is about a family that lives by the ocean in Maine. Holly, the wife, and Tim the husband, worry about their son, Jack, or J.P. because he has Asperger Syndrome and is on the high functioning end of autism. Jack had an incident in the ocean with his friend Nick, and he does not leave the house anymore. He became an inside boy. Jack and Nick play in the house, they go through phases of what they do, they play war, and Jack starts drawing monsters. He draws them constantly.

One of the aspects of this novel that Ms. Hen likes is that the secrets do not reveal themselves all at once. The reader can guess what is lurking beneath, but the truth about everything is not known right away. We can imagine the monsters; the adults try to prove that they are not real, and they are just imagination, but Ms. Hen knew the what was real the whole time. Ms. Hen liked that the story of why Jack was an inside boy was not explained at first. And Ms. Hen guessed about the situation with Nick and his parents, but she was not sure until the end. This novel is a magnificent example of how to write with suspense.

This book is full of characters placed for a reason. The priest is a kind man who wants to listen; his housekeeper, Miss Tiramaku, helps Holly understand things about her son that she needs to see; the police officer named Pollock is a comic atypical cop; the Wheelers are happy drunks, but hide a sad story. All of these characters play out the parts of the story that need to be told.  

There were no chickens in this novel, sadly, but the family did eat turkey on Christmas. Ms. Hen was so scared by the monsters that she did not pay attention to the lack of chickens or hens.


Ms. Hen has become a big fan of the author Keith Donohue. The two books she read by him are perfect for Halloween. She loves how both books do not have predictable endings; they are not tied up nicely in a package for the reader. Ms. Hen likes being upset and jolted by a book, because that is what life is like, not everything is neat and perfect. Especially in today’s world. But Ms. Hen admires the dark parts of things, and if you do too, you will love this novel.


Chai and a cannoli, Ms. Hen stayed at home

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Ms. Hen reviews THE WILDERNESS OF RUIN







The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Fire, And the Hunt for America’s Youngest Serial Killer
Roseanne Montillo
Harper Collins
2015

Ms. Hen decided to read this because she thought it would be appropriate for the Halloween season. It’s not a scary book about ghosts and magic, but rather a scary book about a boy who lived a long time ago in nineteenth century Boston, who tortured and then murdered other children.

Ms. Hen thinks this book is graphic, and may not be suitable for children or adults who get disturbed by descriptions of gross things. Ms. Hen is not squeamish about things when she reads them, but only when she sees them in real life. This is the reason she could never be a nurse, because the thought of sticking a catheter into someone or wiping someone’s bottom is something she couldn’t bear to do.

Ms. Hen enjoys reading about upsetting things. She also likes the descriptions of Boston in the nineteenth century. She knows a lot of the places and landmarks in this book, and she learned things she didn’t know before, such as Mount Vernon Street on Beacon Hill is where the brothels used to be located. She has been to that street, and she can’t ever imagine it being dangerous. It’s a lovely quiet street in an upscale neighborhood.

This is a true story of a serial killer, Jesse Pomeroy who killed two children in South Boston in the 1870s. He got caught, but he denied ever killing the children. His mother didn’t believe he did the crimes. Intertwined with Jesse’s history are parts about the Great Boston Fire of 1872, and Herman Melville’s life. The book talks a lot about madness and how it was perceived in that day. Jesse was thought of as mad. Herman Melville’s novel BILLY BUDD is supposedly based on Jesse’s story.

One thing that Ms. Hen thinks is fascinating was the idea that the so-called “dime novels” that Jesse read caused him to commit his crimes. (They were small books about violence and other macabre subjects.) People say that these days, not about novels, but about movies and video games and pornography. The literati in the nineteenth century thought that the dime novels were ruining quality literature, and people, especially young boys, were drawn to them for the quick thrills they gave.

A publisher, James Thomas Fields, wanted to find out if the dime novels did cause Jesse to become a murderer. He visited Jesse in the Charles Street Jail, and he talked with him. Fields came to the conclusion, which is still true today, that reading cheap novels does not make a person commit crimes. If the inclination is there, the person will become evil, and reading dime novels simply makes the person more attuned to the dark side of nature.

Ms. Hen had a couple of moments while reading this novel. She was riding the subway, and she read the opening to one of the chapters about the prison in Charlestown, and the golden light that shines on it, and suddenly, she was in the exact place the prison was located, where now stands Bunker Hill Community College, and the golden light of the afternoon was shining. She also decided to visit the Liberty Hotel, which is the former Charles Street jail, and took some pictures. A family walked through the lobby, the parents drinking flutes of champagne, and the father saying to a little boy of about five, “These rooms used to be jail cells,” laughing. Ms. Hen doesn’t think the men who were jailed there would think it was funny. She wonders if the ghosts of the inmates haunt the hotel, with all the laughing that goes on about it now, it was a terrible place to be for over one hundred years.

Ms. Hen does not read a lot of nonfiction because sometimes it can seem a little too lecture-like for her. But she liked this book because it was about a piece of her city's history. She likes the parts about madness and murder, and also learning how people and their attitudes have changed.




Ms. Hen didn't come to The Liberty Hotel, but her alter-ego went there during her lunch break. She works next door.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ms. Hen reviews THE NIGHT COUNTRY





The Night Country
Stewart O’Nan
Picador
2003

Ms. Hen decided to read this because she loves Halloween books, and she wanted to discover new ones. She did a search online and most didn’t interest her, but she had read another book by Stewart O’Nan, LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER, about working at a restaurant, and she enjoys his writing, so she bought THE NIGHT COUNTRY.

She didn’t read that much about the book before she got into it, but when she first started, she didn’t understand what was happening. She had to read a little bit get into it. The novel is about a group of friends, three of whom died in a car crash on Halloween: Danielle, Toe and Marco. The novel takes place on Halloween the next year, and the three kids who died are haunting different people in the town: their friend Tim, who didn’t die in the crash; the police officer Brooks, who first arrived on the scene; Kyle’s mom, the mother of their friend who didn’t die, but became brain damaged; and their other friends, Greg and Travis.

Brooks feels guilty about the crash; he was chasing the kids and they crashed into a tree. His wife left him with the house, which he is trying to sell, but nobody is offering the price he wants. Kyle’s mom is devastated that she has to take care of her son like he’s a child for the rest of his life. Greg and Travis are angry that their friends died. The ghosts follow the people around, and they know what they’re thinking, and they try to do things to influence them, but it doesn’t always work.

This is reviewed as a horror novel, but Ms. Hen doesn’t think it is. It’s a literary novel about ghosts. Ms. Hen thinks it’s a realistic novel about what ghosts could really be like. When she was reading this, Ms. Hen couldn’t help but wonder if there are any ghosts following her; if there is anyone she has known who could be stalking her, and watching her. She doesn’t know if she believes in angels, but ghosts could be more realistic. Angels are considered benevolent, and want to help people, but ghosts are just there, watching, knowing, and possibly judging.

One thing Ms. Hen loves about this novel is the writing, which is very clean and descriptive and original. The author knows how to put a sentence together; his writing is tight and crisp, and every word is perfect. Ms. Hen admires that.

There are two mentions of chickens on the same page, which Ms. Hen doesn’t count as being chickens. The kids were in the car, “From the backseat you can’t see the tree, or only at the last minute, if you happen to be backseat driving, chickenshit.” And then after being chased, “It is a game of chicken.” Ms. Hen doesn’t consider these chickens, because she considers chickens brave, but she is only a purse. But this is an important part of the novel, because it’s where the story begins.


Other than the lack of real chickens, Ms. Hen thinks this is an exceptional book. She has her favorite Halloween books, and this one might now be esteemed in their company. This isn’t spooky, but it’s a perfect for Halloween, right for autumn days with the leaves falling and pumpkin spice in the air.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Ms. Hen reviews THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY







The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
2009
Random House


Ms. Hen picked up this book at a Little Free Library near where she lives;
she had heard
it wasn’t that good, but wanted
to pick out a free book. She read the novel in letters,
the epistolary novel, if you will,
about the woman writer in post-World War II England;
she makes pen pals on Guernsey, an island occupied by Germans in the war;
she wants to write a book about it,
but she doesn’t know where to start.

One thing this novel does well is that it reeks
of charm, which shines on every page, but does charm
make a novel work? Ms. Hen thinks a person without charm is worthless,
but a book stuffed with it doesn’t always cut the chocolate cake.

The problem Ms. Hen had with this book is that it doesn’t
know what it wants to be.
It is a romance novel, a novel about war and occupation,
the horror of concentration camps,
and a humorous novel?
Oscar Wilde materializes suddenly;
this novel is too many things for one book.
It’s not the letters which make it difficult; it’s the story:
there’s too much happening all at once, and it is not to Ms. Hen’s taste.

Ms. Hen didn’t like this book enough to write a real review,
so she wrote this review,
to let everyone know this book isn’t good enough for her,
you would be better off walking in the woods,
or making chili,
or watching movies, 
than reading this book.