Book Corner

Book Review: The Sholes Key

Amazon Kindle link

My Grade: C

Author’s Website

Plot / Premise

All across London, single mothers are vanishing. Margaret Hill, mother of two, walked out of her house two months before, never seen again. A month later, Carrie-Anne Morgans takes her two-year-old son for a walk in the park and disappears leaving him alone in his stroller. Lorna McCauley leaves her London flat in the early hours of the morning to buy medicine for her sick child and disappears.

Newly promoted Detective Inspector Theophilus Blackwell is assigned the case of Lorna McCauley, which, on the outside seems to be a simple case of mid-life crisis and child abandonment. Elsewhere in London, MI5 analyst, Sophia Evans, is working undercover to catch an animal rights group responsible for targeted bombings.

As her case (and her personal life) fall to pieces, she receives a strange envelope in the mail. It contains a picture of Lorna McCauley s lifeless face along with a daunting code. Now the police and MI5 are forced to work together to stop the murders, and Sophia must find her way into the terrifying mind of a serial killer

My Thoughts

I would have given this book four stars save for one thing: the whole sub-story with Marc. What was the purpose of that? I thought it detracted from the whole story. If the author wanted to give Theo and Sophia an opportunity to meet, there would have been easier, less awkward ways of doing that. I would have preferred to see the entire Marc/bombing story deleted and a blooming interest between Theo and Sophia develop throughout the story. There would have been plenty of emotional conflict given Theo’s wife’s situation. I felt like the whole Marc story was thrown in there as an afterthought and it just didn’t add anything to the story, in my opinion. In fact, it was distracting and a bit annoying, if you want the truth.

Other than than, the story was interesting and moved along nicely.

Book Corner

Book Review: The Do-Over

Amazon Kindle link

My Grade: B-

Author’s Website

Plot / Premise

Just before her fortieth birthday, Mara Jane Mulligan, devoted wife and mother, runs out of bubble bath, and the ensuing panic attack drives her to Canada for more. She realizes that one foamy soak probably won’t cure what ails her, so she takes a 30 day vacation from her life. (What woman doesn’t need one of those?)

Surely her family will understand. Her son’s visiting Grandma, and maybe her husband won’t even miss her. Unfortunately, her husband doesn’t miss much and tracks her to Abundance, a Vancouver bubble bath company.

As her 30 days sail by, Mara Jane Mulligan discovers she has a decision to make that even Dorothy couldn’t avoid… Will she click her heels for home or kick them up for good?

My Thoughts

I liked this story – I was scared to really like this story.

I’m pushing 50, half my life is over. (Because I fully intend to live until I’m 100, with mind and body intact, thank you very much). So this story really resonated with me. It’s human nature to sit back and wonder .. what if? What if I had made different choices? What if I make a change now? What if I choose door B instead of stepping through door A. And what lies behind door C? I think we can all relate to the age-old question – is there more??

I confess, I almost stopped reading a few times. The character’s thoughts were all over the place and it was hard to stay in this character’s head, let alone try and empathize with her, for very long – there were times she wouldn’t finish a thought before another, even less rational thought, would pop into her head.

But that’s what happens when we’re confused. Nothing makes sense. When our normal day-to-day life changes, whether with, or without, our conscience consent, it’s hard to find a firm hold on an alternate reality. So … the character’s messy thoughts somehow … seemed appropriate, given what she was going through.

But here’s what I really liked about this story – the character didn’t just give up and walk away from her responsibilities or her life. She didn’t simply focus on her selfish motivations – she bathed in the sweet-smelling fragrance, liked it, didn’t want to give up her new-found happiness, but then made the decision to go back anyway. She gave her husband a chance to change WITH HER. She didn’t just write him off and decide she didn’t love him anymore, she made her wishes for change known, granted, she went about it in an overly drastic fashion (one would have to be completely dense to miss the furniture out on the lawn and the entire house painted yellow not to GET THE HINT), but she was not only brave enough to take the first step for change, she was even more brave to ask her husband if he would make the journey with her.

How many women would have simply written off the old in favor of the new?


It was refreshing to follow a character who made a responsible choice for a change. I get so sick of selfish characters, whether fictional or real, who think of nothing but, “I want a change and screw everyone else” mentality. (This of course, does not apply to women who decide to leave an abusive, or unhealthy, relationship – then one MUST be selfish in those instances to maintain one’s health, or even life).

I’ve been married for almost 24 years. Life DOES get stale after a while and change can be good. If there is one thing everyone can count one in life, its change. The beautiful part about this philosophy is when you have a partner who is willing to change right alongside with you.


Book Corner

So Many Books, So Little Time

comfy-chair I can’t read enough.

According to my account, I’ve read 43 books this year (so far). I’m assuming that’s correct, why would Good Reads lie to me?

Honestly, I would have guessed half that many. I really feel like I’ve dropped the reading ball this year. But right now? I can’t read enough. I’m absorbed. I CRAVE reading. I CAN’T WAIT to bury my nose in a book.

I CAN’T WAIT to get away from real life.

Not that real life is bad, per se. I have a great life. But it’s dull – wait – no it’s not. Not really. I’m not unhappy. The boys are living their lives but not causing us stress. Kevin and I are fine. Its just … I don’t know – I like to use my imagination. I love submersing myself in a really good story. I love picturing the characters and quietly inserting myself into the story somewhere – a shadowy character with no lines.

I’ve been reading a lot of ebooks – in fact, I haven’t held a real book in … months (years?) I ADORE my Kindle. It’s not a fancy one – just the no-frills, cheap, paperwhite basic Kindle that comes with ads because I was too cheap to pay the extra price to remove them. It’s no bigger than a real paperback book and I take it with me everywhere – it no longer bothers me to wait for anything, in fact, I sort of hope I HAVE to wait so I will have an excuse to pull my Kindle out and bury my nose in a book. (Or stare at a screen).

I read it on my lunch hour (actually, it’s only 30 minutes and that’s when I actually take a lunch). In fact, I often find myself going over my 30 minutes because I just need to finish this one paragraph / page / chapter.

I used this website a lot at the beginning of the year – they give away ebooks from lesser-known authors. I actually like that, it gives me a chance to read stories on the fringe of society.

But they’re not professionally edited and after a while, I just got too impatient with the misspelled words and sloppy format.

Then I discovered that my local library checked out ebooks and I’ve been in HEAVEN ever since. I haven’t paid for a book in probably two years.

However. I feel that trend is nearing the end, too. There are many books I’ve been interested in that are part of a series and the entire series is not available through my local library, so, I’ll most likely splurge and buy the ebook sequels on Amazon.

Which is why many authors like having their books being loaned out by the libraries – because then someone like me comes along and BUYS more of their work.


Even now, I’m thinking about the current story I’m reading and feeling antsy to get back to it. It’s not exciting and not especially easy to read, but it’s interesting in a sort of drowsy, charming way.

But only 43 books this year? I feel like I’ve failed. It should be higher. My goal is to make it higher next year.

But I feel overwhelmed sometimes – there are SO MANY good stories to read and SO LITTLE time.

I better get busy.

Book Corner

Book Review: The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back


Amazon Kindle link

My Grade: A-

Author’s Website

Plot / Premise

Everyone knows how all those fairy tales go. The princess gets beautiful, nabs her prince, falls instantly in love, lives happily ever after and leaves her evil stepsisters in the dust.

But what happens when you’re the ugly stepsister and your obnoxiously perfect—read pretty, smart, and, worst of all, sickeningly nice—stepsister is dating the charming, tall, devastatingly handsome guy you’ve had a thing for since you were nine years old?

Quirky, artistic and snarky Mattie Lowe does not lead a charmed life. Her mother is constantly belittling her on Skype. Mercedes, the school mean girl, has made it her personal mission to torment Mattie. But worst of all? Her stepsister Ella is the most beautiful, popular girl in school and is dating Mattie’s secret longtime crush, Jake Kingston.

Tired of being left out and done with waiting for her own stupid fairy godmother to show up, Mattie decides to change her life. She’ll start by running for senior class president against wildly popular Jake.

Ella can keep her Prince Annoying. Mattie’s going to rule the school.

And no one, not even a cute and suddenly flirty Jake, is going to stop her.

My Thoughts

I’m really not that into YA, but I have been reading more of the genre lately. It’s refreshing to read about quasi-innocent characters and it often takes me back to my teenage years and reinforces how incredibly naive I was.

I can sum this story up in two words: cute and predictable.

I got this book for free – it’s one of the few I’ve downloaded free that I would have actually paid for.

The main character, Maddie (Tilly to those that love her), is absolutely adorable. She’s sweet, yet tough, wise, yet naive, smart, yet clueless, strong, yet vulnerable. She is funny (there are parts I literally chuckled at) and easy to relate to.

Like I said, there’s nothing unusual about this story – in fact, I sort of pictured a Disney movie in my head while reading it.

What I really liked about the story was the writing. And the tone. It was fresh, funny, and really well written. I felt like I was Maddie’s best friend, following her around and getting a pretty good glimpse of her personality, her issues and her thoughts. I empathized with the character and enjoyed everything about her. Ms. Wilson did an excellent job with characters, flow, tone …

It was an interesting, cute, fast read and I would definitely like to read more from Ms. Wilson.


By the by: I just found out that local libraries allow members to check-out ebooks. *SQUEE!* Check out this link and see if your local library participates. Or – go to your local library website and see if it’s possible. I borrowed two ebooks today and I have two weeks to read them. GAME ON!

Book Corner

Book Review: Beyond Nostalgia


My Grade: D

Plot / Premise

Born with blue in his collar instead of his veins, best-selling author Dean Cassidy chronicles his soul-scarring rise from New York’s darkest alleys to a place high atop the literary world. As difficult and unlikely as such a climb is, there’s yet another force working against Dean. He’s forever haunted by treasured memories of his long-lost teenage soul-mate. Theresa! Theresa! Theresa! She just won’t go away! Despite all Dean’s hang-ups and mental baggage, he eventually does marry another woman. And for twenty years his wife, Maddy Frances, remains so giving (and forgiving) she deserves to be canonized a living saint. Even after she finds Dean unconscious at a botched suicide attempt–a time-faded photograph of Theresa clenched in his hands-her love never wavers. But is Maddy’s loyalty enough to keep them together? Or will a force far stronger than fate alone change everything?

My Thoughts

Though I can appreciate the character working hard for his success, and the fact that he ultimately grows up and makes the right decision (which, by very definition, comes with maturity), I could not get past the preachy-bankers-and-business-type-people-are-evil segments of this book. I have no patience for characters, or authors, who can’t resist pushing their political agendas on to their readers. I know it’s hard to separate the author from the story, but at the very least, insert a counter character into the story that brings up the other side of the (author’s) issue so that the reader is not left with a bitter after taste.

Look. Life is full of hard knocks and when people work hard, make good life decisions, and finally achieve success, we should be happy for those individuals, not begrudge their hard work. Being envious is a natural feeling, but to harbor resentment and use that bitterness as a roadblock toward a better life, is counter productive. For ultimately, Dean finally achieves success from his hard work and he has every right to savor that success – should he feel guilty for that success? Should he hand his hard-earned success off to someone who hasn’t made good life decisions or who has chosen not to work as hard?


Now that he’s one of the successful people he has resented all of his life – now what? It’s suddenly okay to have money and be successful because it happened to him?

Dean was selfish, immature and a punk. Though I understand his deep love for Theresa and his regret that it didn’t work out and his guilty conscience for his role in the break up, I felt the most sorry for Maddy, she had to deal with the left overs.

I thought the character was weak in so many ways – sure, his childhood was rough, but he allowed that experience to define him instead of giving him strength and courage to grow up and move past it.

I will say, the writing was pretty good. There were some editing glitches, but for the most part, it moved the story forward and the author did a great job depicting all of Dean’s conflicting emotions.

Though I didn’t care one whit for Dean, I’d be willing to read more of this author’s work.

Book Corner

Free E-Books This Week

HURRY! THEY WON’T BE FREE FOR VERY MUCH LONGER! (click on the book to download)

Here are the ones that caught my eye this week …

Fancy Gap
by C. David Gelly
4.4 stars on 111 reviews. Mystery, thriller,murder
The Leopard Tree
by Lisa Brochu, Tim Merriman
4.6 stars on 102 reviews. YA and Literary Fiction
Reckless Nights in Rome (A Ludlow Hall Story)
by CC MacKenzie
4.5 stars on 24 reviews. Contemporary romance
The Dead Room
by Robert Ellis
4.4 stars on 190 reviews. Mystery. Suspense
Courageous: A Novel
by Randy Alcorn
4.6 stars on 101 reviews. Contemporary fiction
Fatty Patty (A James Bay Novel)
by Kathleen Irene Paterka
4.4 stars on 38 reviews. Romance
Some Day Somebody (La Fleur de Love)
by Lori Leger
4.7 stars on 27 reviews. Women’s fiction
There are many, many, MANY more free books to choose from at this site. Happy Reading!
Book Corner

Free E-Books I Downloaded This Week

HURRY! THEY WON’T BE FREE FOR VERY MUCH LONGER! (click on the book to download)

Maternal Harbor
by Marie F Martin
4.2 stars on 108 reviews. Contemporary fiction.
Dead Man’s Hand
by Luke Murphy
4.5 stars on 55 reviews. Mystery. Thriller
Chihuahua Karma
by Debby Rice
4.5 stars on 44 reviews. Contemporary fiction. Humor
by Lenore Skomal
4.3 stars on 101 reviews. Literary Fiction/Suspense
WICK (Wick Series)
by Michael Bunker, Chris Awalt
4.6 stars on 105 reviews. Thriller
There are many, many, MANY more free books to choose from at this site. Happy Reading!
Book Corner

Book Review: Let’s Meet on Platform 8

Let’s Meet on Platform 8 by Carole Matthews
Publisher: Headline Review (May 14, 2009)
ISBN # 0755346602
298 pages
Author Website

My Grade: D

Plot / Premise

I’ve decided to copy and paste the plot summary from the below source. I always feel like I don’t do plot summaries justice and I’m only regurgitating what other people have said and … okay, fine. I’m lazy. I’d rather concentrate on character development and writing style.

From author’s website:

Teri Carter thinks she’s found the one, but is it possible that someone else has found him first?

After knowing her down while rushing to catch the 6.07 from London, Jamie Duncan bandages Teri Carter’s knee, buys her new stockings, seats her on the train with her foot in his lap and taxis her home from the station. Who says chivalry is dead?

Not only is Jamie a romantic hero – tall, dark, with greeny-gold eyes and a Scottish burr – he’s witty, charming and eager to share their daily commute. Suddenly Teri’s life is Brief Encounter meets Wuthering Heights. But then she discovers Mr Right is also Mr Married. Jamie’s not the type to cheat, and Teri doesn’t want him to… or does she? After dating Mr Lazy, Mr Greedy, Mr Completely Selfish and Mr Downright Pervert, can she renounce Mr Perfect?


First, let me say, I like Matthews’ books. I’ve enjoyed them all up to this point and though I didn’t hate this book, I just couldn’t bring myself to really like it, either.

I’m an old married woman. I’ve been happily married for 22 years now and though I won’t say my marriage is perfect, it’s pretty darn close. We are best friends and we enjoy being together. We finish each other’s sentences and there’s honestly not another human being out there I’d rather be with. He’s a male version of me. We like the same things, we feel the same way about many, many issues and I don’t think anyone else could stand me, quite frankly. So I’m coming from a pretty happy relationship background. I realize not everyone is as fortunate as I am in the love department. I get that. But I simply can not stomach that this book tries to justify marital infidelity, however clumsily.

Granted. I see where Ms. Matthews is coming from. She’s trying to write a more down-to-earth piece of chick lit and honestly? She nearly pulls it off. I get that old married couples, such as myself, get into ruts and yes, there are times I’m bored with my marriage – I’m sure Kevin would agree as well. And I understand there is temptation out there – we’re human after all. And I know that people get themselves into sticky situations and that’s reality, so I can appreciate Ms. Matthews trying to keep the story realistic.

However. I think she drops the ball on this story because she spends more time inside the slutty home-wrecker’s head than she does the poor wife’s head. I’m not saying that the wife is blameless, oh contrare, she certainly doesn’t help matters by forcing her husband to stay in a job he loathes to pay on a mortgage for a house he can’t stand and then to further humiliate him by only communicating with him by serving him nasty meals with snotty one liners in Alpha letters.

But the bottom line is: they’re married. They’re committed to one another and though I understand the temptation to stray from the marital vows, the fact that not only does Jamie stray, he doesn’t seem too overly sorry about it really chaps my ass. Sure. He struggles, but he spends way too much time trying to please his mistress’s feelings rather than putting that energy into trying to make his marriage work.

It’s hard to sympathize with two people who are pretty set on tearing a family apart.

Pamela, the wife, is way too understanding and calm throughout this ordeal. She finds out and yes, she’s upset, but she doesn’t have the passionate reaction I was looking for. She claims to love her man, but she’s perfectly okay with him going over to her house to break it off and have one last romp in the sack???? That seemed way too civilized, and weird, for my taste. I wanted to see some serious butt kicking going on, quite frankly. The tart who was determined to steal him away from his wife and children didn’t deserve the respect that was afforded her.

This is the first time, in a long time, I’ve actually hated the main character.

Even though I thought being inside the heads of Teri (mistress), Jamie (husband), and Pamela (wife) gave the story more depth, I think it would have been more satisfying if the reader spent more time inside Pamela’s head than Teri’s – especially given Jamie finally comes to his senses and dumps Teri to be with his family.

The minor character stories were necessary, though a bit drawn out, in order to show the reader how messing with someone’s relationship takes a huge, and sometimes dangerous, toll on the people involved. These stories were necessary to show Jamie just HOW much he was risking by humping the whore. (I’m sorry, but I’m not sympathetic to home wreckers. Especially to people who KNOW what’s going on and CHOOSE to pursue it anyway – to hell with the other partner as long as that one person finds his/her happiness. Talk about a self-centered, selfish attitude!!)

The writing itself was engaging, if not a bit stilted. I got the impression that Ms. Matthews was feeling a bit hesitant when she wrote this story. She took a chance, and I know she knew she was taking a chance, and it was as if she got halfway through the story and then realized how her reader would likely react and she faltered. Her writing was hesitant and a bit lukewarm – as if she was proceeding with caution because she wanted to push the envelope, but she didn’t want to totally lose her reader in the process of writing something a bit out-of-the box.

I admire her tenacity, but I think she fell short because I just wanted to throttle the b*tch by the end of the story.

And speaking of ending … WTH?!? Yet another reason not to succumb to extramarital affairs because just when you think it’s over – IT’S SO NOT OVER.

Responding to Negative Reviews

This could have been a riveting tale…the problem is the story has no depth whatsoever. I would even say it is badly written. We dont get any insight as to what Jamie found lacking in his marraige. We read about Jamie’s dreams’ being shattered ….but what wexactly were those dreams? to be a race car driver? And how did having a family stifle him? these issues are never explored.

And when he decides to go back to his family, what made him do that. A pep talk from his friend? Guilt? I wish the story had delved more into what happens to the husband and wife when they get back together and how they decide to rebuild their shattered lives. The story was very sketchy and it simply didnt delve into different emotions. There was more time spent on commuting details than the actual affair. And after all that, it seemed like Jamie went back to his wife more out a sense of duty than because he loved her.

The final straw is that the lead characters are totally unlikeable. Jamie acts like a total jerk and seemed to be more considerate towards his mistresses’ feelings than his wife’s. And Teri seems to relish the affair with no thought to the consequences of what they were doing including throwing her best friend out.

I hope Matthews doesnt write a sequel to this story…the heroine is totally unsympathetic and I doubt if many readers will identify with her.

I couldn’t agree more with this one-star review.

Let’s Meet on Platform 8 features a cast of some of the most hateful, loathsome characters I’ve encountered. The plot centers around a woman, Teri, who meets the man of her dreams: Jamie, a liar and a cheat, with a tired wife and little children at home. He lies to Teri and starts a flirtation with her, because for reasons that are not explained, his marriage to Pamela is getting… stale? I have no idea.

O, the turmoil! As Jamie grapples to fight his physical attraction to Teri while his wife tries to raise her children as best she can with an unattentive husband. Teri, who dives eagerly right in, without a thought for the wife, the children, the family structure she is destroying.

I hated the characters so much! Jamie, a spoiled and ungrateful liar. Teri, who decides selfishly to pursue this married man. Pamela, who decides to make Jamie think she’s also having an affair, and then actually does: stupid and irritating.

Two points of major contention: Teri throwing her cheated-on best friend out of her apartment, because her friend is making her feel badly for the affair. And Jamie, in the hospital to visit his friend who has attempted suicide, still nattering about his pathetic guilt over his complicated love life.

These characters were selfish beyond belief. I kept hoping that maybe they would slip and fall onto the tracks on Platform 8, and be run over by one of the oft-and-unnecessarily described trains. Were we supposed to LIKE and ROOT FOR Teri and Jamie? Impossible. There was nothing sweet, romantic or beautiful in this book at all.

Again. Good points and I agree.

This story would be better left ON the platform. Don’t waste your time. (Unless you want to buy it from me. *grin*)

By the way, I have this book for sale in my book store if you would like to purchase it. It’s only been read once and is in very good condition.

Book Corner

Fall Reading Challenge ’11

Ready to read? As usual, I’m trying to read more … I go through spurts where I will read two books a week and then nothing for two months. It’s terribly frustrating to ME because I want to read more, I enjoy reading, always have, but I just can’t seem to tear myself away from the computer.

I complain that the boys spend too much time on their computers, and yet, here I am setting a STELLAR example. Since I’ve vowed to be a good example for my boys, I’m going to really try and read more so they will look back on this time period and say, “Man, mom sure read a lot,” as opposed to, “Mom, you sure goofed off on the computer a lot.”

At any rate, my average reading rate is two books per month, (and when I say average, I mean average in the loosest since of the word), so I’ll keep it realistic and list six/seven books I plan on reading before December 21st. However, since I’m working full time now AND November is National Novel Writing Month and I’d like to attempt to reach that 50,000 word line, AND I’m still maintaining NINE school websites after work, AND we’ll be traveling out of town every Saturday in October for band competitions, AND we have three birthdays in November AND the normal holiday rush to get things done, I honestly don’t know how much time I’m going to have to read. But I’ll do my best.


In addition, these books will be for sale in my Amazon book store after I read them, if you’re interested.

Happy reading!

More from Write From Karen

Book Corner

Book Review: A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father

A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; First Edition edition (April 29, 2008)
ISBN # 0312342020
256 pages
Author Website

My Grade: B+

Plot / Premise

I’ve decided to copy and paste the plot summary from the below source. I always feel like I don’t do plot summaries justice and I’m only regurgitating what other people have said and … okay, fine. I’m lazy. I’d rather concentrate on character development and writing style.

From Amazon

A searing, emotional portrait of a son who wants nothing more than the love his father will not grant him, Burroughs’s latest memoir (after 2004’s Dry) is indeed powerful. Absent is the wry humor of Running with Scissors and the absurd poignancy of Burroughs’s years living with his mother’s Svengali-like psychiatrist. Instead, Burroughs focuses on the years he lived both in awe and fear of his philosophy professor father in Amherst, Mass. Despite frequent trips with his mother to escape his father’s alcoholic rages, Burroughs was determined to win his father’s affection, secretly touching the man’s wallet and cigarettes and even going so far as to make a surrogate dad with pillows and discarded clothing. Only after his father’s neglect—or cruelty—leads to the death of Burroughs’s beloved guinea pig during one of the family’s many separations does the son turn against the father. Avoiding self-pity, Burroughs paints his father with unwavering honesty, forcing the reader to confront, as he did, a man who even on his deathbed, refused his son a hint of affection.

So. I’m not crazy about autobiographies. And it’s doubly hard to critique autobiographies because how can you critique a person’s life? And let’s not forget that even though autobiographies are about the author’s life, how much of the memoir has been exaggerated?

In other words, take autobiographies with a grain of salt. A LARGE grain of salt. Because you really just never know how much is truth and how much truth has been stretched.

Remember the whole Frey fiasco? I think that episode turned a lot of people off autobiographies, myself included.

At any rate, I saw this book at the book fair and I picked it up. And I read the blurb. And I admit, I was intrigued. And it was mainly because I read Burroughs’ “Running with Scissors” in college. It was a literature class and we were instructed to read an autobiography and give an oral report on it. I thought the cover of Burroughs’ “Running with Scissors” was interesting and after delving into the book, I couldn’t put it down. And then I wish I had never picked it up.

This man has had a very disturbing life (if what he writes is indeed true. I can’t help it, I’m a cynic). He was abused, but not so much physically (though there were moments), but rather emotionally. In fact, it’s safe to say that I’m rather surprised Burroughs’ is still with us today because no human being should ever have to live with two parents who were as crazy as Burroughs’ parents.

Overall Thoughts

I’m pretty sure I frowned throughout this whole book. In fact, I caught myself frowning quite a few times and Kevin even commented on my expression at times.

My emotions ran the gamut: anger, frustration, horror, disbelief, sadness … and there might have even been a moment when I would have gladly strangled Burroughs’ father for being such a poor excuse of a human being.

But even though the events were horrifying, and I certainly felt sympathetic toward Burroughs’, I have to admit, Burroughs did an excellent job of balancing the events with how he reacted to the events. His memoirs could have easily morphed into a pity fest for himself, but you can tell, by the tone of his story, that the man has true strength. Through all of his terrible ordeals, he still manages to hang on to a shred of dignity, strength and even humor.

Burroughs’ has a way with words. His prose is magical and it’s at once both lyrical and practical. He was thinking as a child when he wrote this, so a lot of his descriptions was like listening to a child talk. Though some people criticized him for that, I think that was his intention when he wrote this book – he’s telling the story of his childhood, therefore, he’s keeping his writing at a childlike level. His writing is innocent and his childish thoughts are direct and almost endearing as he walks us through his life and I often caught myself grinning in places because of Burroughs’ young imagination and how he would explain, or justify, the horrific activities around him.

I thoroughly enjoyed his writing style. Not to mention, his mental strength of character.

I also admire the man’s determination to make something of himself even though his father did his best to make him feel less than a human being.

Responding to Negative Reviews

Is this book an example of “Creative Nonfiction?”

The thing I find most disturbing about this ‘memoir’ is that I saw Mr. Burroughs at a book reading when Magical Thinking was released and he spoke about his father and how they had reconciled. During the Q&A, an audience member asked what he thought of “creative nonfiction” writers like David Sadaris (a writer who admits to changing his stories based on audience reactions at readings) and Mr. Burroughs said he had no problem with either the term or concept as long as the book is entertaining.

Yes actually, that’s exactly what this book is. In fact, I would even go so far out on a limb to say that a lot of autobiographies could be classified as “creative nonfiction.” Autobiographies are like the movies that have “based on a true story” at the very beginning. There’s a kernel of truth in the story, but it’s been embellished to make it more dramatic and/or more interesting.

It just comes with the territory. I think people who take autobiographies so seriously are honestly setting themselves up for disappointment.

Grain of salt, people.

Does this guy really think he was abused? I felt more compassion for his father who seemed to suffer from not one but two crippling diseases, as well as being “blessed” with a narcissistic psychotic wife. (Think that would make one tend to be a little preoccupied?) Yet in recounting all the horrors his father endured, all this author can seem to feel is pity for himself. Except for enlightening the reader as to what a self absorbed whiner considers to be “abuse,” this book is a waste of time and money.

Actually, I sort of agree with this one. Burroughs’ father obviously had health issues, which isn’t an excuse to neglect your children, but it’s definitely a factor. It sounds like Burroughs’ father reached a point where the pain just sort of ruled his life and he went crazy trying to manage it. He took his frustrations/pain out on Burroughs’ because he was an easy target. I’m not excusing the father’s abusive, cruel behavior, but there is definitely a flip side to this story, too. Children are annoying under the best of circumstances, they are nearly intolerable when one is in constant physical pain.

I can’t figure out why A.B. wrote this book. It was painful to read. I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to be getting out of this book; there is no life lesson, nothing entertaining, nothing compelling. He actually pulled off an amazing feat: He wrote a book that is harrowing and boring at the same time. Furthermore, because he writes about his father as a shadowy, mysterious figure, I never got a real sense of who (or what) his father was. This is just a series of painful stories about a horrible, abusive father. I didn’t get it.

There were several negative reviews along this vein: “I didn’t get it,” “not very compelling,” “boring,” “self-indulgent” (I’m pretty sure self-indulgent is the definition of an autobiography, duh).

I guess the father wasn’t abusive ENOUGH for these people. I find that a bit disturbing, actually.

At any rate, they’re missing the point – the “life lesson” in this book is that parents need to be more aware of how they treat their children. Children are not pets, they’re people. They have thoughts, feelings and how they’re interacted with determines their personalities. Parents are responsible for shaping their childrens’ personalities and I think too often, parents forget that fact. Children are not disposable, they are not made to sit in a corner and be ignored. If people don’t want to sacrifice themselves and their time, they shouldn’t have children.

That’s right, I said it.

Burroughs’ father was written as a shadowy figure in this story because that’s what he was to Burroughs. This reviewer never got a real sense of who his father was because Burroughs never got a real sense of him either. He wrote this story from the point of view of a child – as HIMSELF as a child. It would be ridiculous to expect him to have any sort of insight into what sort of man his father was at that young age. The fact that Burroughs’ father remains a mysterious character even into his adulthood speaks volumes – HE NEVER KNEW THE MAN.

Burroughs’ memoirs are depressing but thought provoking. They really make you appreciate a happy childhood and they’re a lesson on what NOT to do when you’re a parent.

By the way, I have this book for sale in my book store if you would like to purchase it. It’s only been read once and is in excellent condition.