A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan – Book Review

 

I really found this book to be both chilling and thrilling. It’s the story of Mr. Heming, a successful real estate agent who as a side-line of his business keeps copies of the keys from all the houses he has sold and “visits” these houses whenever he feels like. He will sometimes be in the house when the family is there, but they will be unaware of him. Mr. Heming has the ability to fade into the background and often people who meet him have no recollection of having done so.

While telling us his story, we become familiar with how Mr. Heming satisfies his curiosity about his neighbors. Not only does he cook meals in their kitchens (without their knowledge); he riffles through their bills and diaries; while snooping in their closets. In fact, there is no part of their lives that are hidden from him.

If this was all Mr. Heming did though, the book wouldn’t be nearly as unsettling as it is. Through the use of memories, we eventually get to the root of what Mr. Heming’s interference has caused in his past. I won’t give you any spoilers, but will share that not only is Mr. Heming one of the creepiest characters, he is also one scary dude. Thank goodness he’s just a character in a book. Also, thanks to Phil Hogan I won’t be giving out my house keys to anyone in the near future.

 

This book is a good read, and a great portrait of a chilling character. Be prepared for a psychological thrill as you follow this character’s story!

The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison – Book Review

I must admit that when I first picked this book up, I wasn’t sure that I would like it. After all, this is about Mormons and I was worried that it would be like the few “Christian Fiction” books that I’ve read – they pray a few times, and then everything magically works out for the best. But this book wasn’t like that at all.

First of all, this book is basically a thriller with misogyny, spousal abuse, incest and possible murder all wrapped up together. I really found myself liking the main character, Linda Wallheim. She’s a stay-at-home Mormon wife; along with being the “Bishop’s Wife”. How many women are either “the spouse of” or “the mother of”? When my kids were young, I was simply known as my sons or daughters mother. No name; just their mother. This is true in social situations with my husband’s work mates. I’m just “his wife”. I seem to have lost my own name. The same happens on a routine basis to Linda. Her life revolves around her sons and her husband. So, when she questions her life choices and the teachings of the Mormon Church I understand exactly what she’s saying. In fact I’ve asked myself many of the same questions that she asks herself.

As is true of many people, I don’t really understand much of the Mormon religion, but that was never much of a problem with grasping the workings of the church since Harrison does such a good job with explaining exactly what she’s talking about. I was pleased to see how she worked the truth of misogyny and abuse into the novel. With great power, such as the power that the Mormon Church (and many of the “Born Again” varieties of Christianity) gives to the husband, there is a definite need to watch for abuse of this power, as this book points out.

 

So, do I recommend this book? Oh yes! There is a possible murder (or two), possible spousal abuse, and mysteries to unravel. The best part of this book as far as I was concerned, was the story of Linda Wallheim. A woman who questions her life and choices is a woman I want to know more about. And to top it off, she’s trying to solve the variety of mysteries that she encounters. A good book, and I encourage you to read it!

The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue – Book Review

While I’m not usually a fan of the Gothic “turn of the screw” type book, I found this one had just the right mixture of intensity, mystery and skin-crawling creepiness. I found it hard to put the book down, since I really needed to – nay – had to find out What Happened!

 

This is the story of Jack Peter Keenan, a boy with autism who is smart, but troubled. He needs to be home schooled by his father who keeps insisting that Jack is improving; while his mother is convinced that Jack will never improve. The stresses placed on this family of course, is just one turn of the screw; and they keep on coming.

 

There are the drawings that Jack does; the monsters that seemingly appear out of thin air; and then the various “sounds” of something creeping around their house. Not to mention the invading tapping that Jack’s mother hears.  Even the weather conspires to further isolate the family alone in their house.  Alone with monsters, Jack’s best friend, and the sound of someone creeping around outside.  Add to this mixture a rather odd minister and his very strange housekeeper.  The screw keeps turning, and you keep reading…who, what, where?

 

All this along with a possible drowning that took place three years ago, and which somehow is tied to the drowning of every person aboard a ship over 100 years ago. What is real and what is a ghost? Who or what is bringing these strange monsters to life?

So, if you want to find the answers to those questions, I suggest that you read this book. It will be well worth your time.

West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan – book review

 

As someone who was always interested in the story of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, this book threw off some of the dust from the last three years of Fitzgerald’s life. I really liked the way that O’Nan wrote about Fitzgerald’s life, incorporating all the problems he had to deal with; from Zelda’s mental issues, to their daughter Scottie, and severe money problems.

 

Even though I knew how Fitzgerald’s life had unraveled, it was disheartening to read how far he had fallen. Stewart O’Nan doesn’t ever try to manipulate our emotions; he simply lets us see the difficulties facing Fitzgerald at this time of his life.

 

While I found this book hard to read at times, since most of Fitzgerald’s problems were his own fault; such as the drinking and inability to hold onto the money he had previously made, it also made me angry. The need to drink while being a writer, whether a novelist, screenwriter or journalist, ruined so many of our fine writers. The other major problem that made me angry was how little value artists are given in our society. Some of our most celebrated novelists were earning very little as screenwriters in Hollywood. This was their way of making ends meet while at the same time they were acclaimed as brilliant writers for their novels.

I was pleased with how O’Nan told Fitzgerald’s story with such a soft touch. He simply told the story, and left it to us, the readers to decide what to do with it. There was no moral judgment, just the telling of the tale and leaving us to feel whatever at the end. My feelings were sadness and anger – sadness with how Fitzgerald’s life ended, and anger at such a waste of a fine writer. I recommend this book since it’s based on the facts and brings that period of time into wonderful focus for us.