Book Chat

This month’s book reviews, which may contain affiliate links.
book chat

Bellman and BlackI was anxious to read an advanced reader copy of Bellman & Black (thanks, Atria Books!), having read and enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale by the same author a few months back.

Bellman & Black is another excellent book, although I didn’t like it quite as well as Thirteeth Tale. Both have beautiful writing and are real “reader’s books,” with allusions to other books. Bellman & Black channeled a bit of A Christmas Carol and Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” It’s the tale of William Bellman, a “golden boy” who can apparently do no wrong. Our look at William begins when he is a boy and skillfully shoots a rook (note: a rook is a black bird. This book revolves around them) from a tree. This is seemingly a small event, but it reverberates throughout the story. William goes on to take over a successful fabric mill. It becomes wildly profitable under his leadership, but his personal life is touched with tragedy. Over and over again, death visits his family and relatives. And on each of those occasions, William notices a stranger who seems to notice him as well — a man in black.

William becomes obsessed with “Mr. Black” and makes a secret deal with him. Afterwards, he’s still successful, but he begins to change. He is obsessed with time, money, rooks — and death. It all swirls together into a well-written tale I think you’ll enjoy reading.


The Road McCarthySo, while we’re depressed, let’s just continue with that theme, eh? Let’s walk along The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which my oldest daughter read at her lit teacher’s suggestion. It looked intriguing, there on the “return” pile by the back door, yet when I picked it up she said, “It’s just so depressing!”

That it is. “The Road” tells about “the man” and his son, “the boy.” No names, but that’s the least of their problems. They live in America after some huge disaster. We’re not talking your standard terrorist attack or anything. No, in this world the daylight is gray. Corpses litter the landscape. The few trees you might see are burning. There are no animals, except for the stray mutant creature. By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp.

We’re never told exactly what happened, but we do know that the man did live most of his life when things were “normal.” The boy was born, and the mother apparently couldn’t handle things to come and did away with herself. So it’s just the man and the boy, walking along the road in an attempt to get to the coast. Why, it isn’t exactly clear — once they reach the coast, things don’t seem much rosier. And along the way, they are in fear of “bad guys” who sometimes appear in truly terrifying ways, but mostly they don’t run into anyone at all. When they do, the man wants to get away from them as quickly as possible. The boy, who truly seems too good for the world he’s landed in, always does want to help the others.

The writing in this book is usually spare, but there are a whole slew of “big words” scattered throughout too (like catamite, which I looked up and then wished I hadn’t). Punctuation is scattered — no quotation marks, and most contractions dont have apostrophes. However, almost immediately this seemed okay: in a world where pretty much everything has fallen apart, who cares if you’re using the proper writing conventions?

So, although the setting is pretty much pure desolation, I thought this was an excellent book and I’m glad I read it. The writing is really good; good in a way that makes me want to give up writing anything: He thought that in the history of the world it might even be that there was more punishment than crime but he took small comfort from it.

Or this exchange between the man and the boy:

Do you wish you would die?

No. But I might wish I had died. When you’re alive you’ve always got that ahead of you.

Or you might wish you’d never been born.

Well. Beggars cant be choosers.

You think that would be asking too much.

What’s done is done. Anyway, it’s foolish to ask for luxuries in times like these.

I guess so.

Nobody wants to be here and nobody wants to leave.

And I loved this description: Still there was something perverse in his searching. Like exhausting the least likely places first when looking for something lost. See, McCarthy described a feeling so well. I can totally relate to that. Love when an author does that.

The Road: bleak. Depressing. Excellent.


Younger Next  Year for Women

My mom gave me Younger Next Year for Women: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond at my last birthday. It’s written by a doctor, Henry Lodge, and Chris Crowley, an energetic guy in his 70s. These two previously wrote a “Younger Next Year” book focused on men. I’ve been reading the book little by little over the past year.

Basically, here is almost 400 pages condensed into what you really need to know:

  • Exercise 6 days a week for the rest of your life
  • Do serious aerobic exercise 4 days a week for the rest of your life
  • Do serious strength training with weights for 2 days a week for the rest of your life
  • Spend less than you make
  • Quit eating junk food
  • Care
  • Connect and commit

There! Now you, too, can be younger next year.

I liked the book overall; it didn’t really present anything I didn’t know, but was a good reminder to do what we all know we need to but often resist doing, either for laziness or whatever reason. I found Crowley’s tone a bit annoying (referring to one’s husband generically as “old Fred,” throwing in the rah-rah ‘damn, girl!’ type comment often, etc). Others may find it cute/motivating.


One Light Still ShinesRemember the Amish schoolhouse shooting? I do, and figured it was probably a couple of years ago. I was pretty shocked to realize that it happened in 2006 — 7 years ago now. One Light Still Shines: My Life Beyond the Shadow of the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting tells the tale, not of what happened during the shooting, but of what happened afterwards to the wife of the shooter.

She (Marie) was a 28-year-old mom of 3 young kids. She’d been raised in the church and was a classic “good girl,” so when she learned that while she was at a prayer meeting, her seemingly good guy, Christian husband had shot up a nearby Amish schoolhouse, killing 5 little girls and injuring others, and killing himself as well, she couldn’t believe it.

In the days and weeks following the shooting, she and her children were showered with goodwill from all the people you’d expect, and many you might not: the day of the shooting, several Amish men (including some whose children had been killed) came to the house where she was staying and offered their full forgiveness to her, as well as offers to help her in any way they could.

Marie makes some observations about the whole incomprehensible situation: God believed in me enough that he allowed me to be Charlie’s wife, even though he knew that these circumstances would arise and threaten to destroy everything I held dear. He allowed me to walk the road that led here anyway. Another time she sensed God telling her, You know only limits. I am limitless.

God richly blessed Marie, giving her an almost unbelievably caring and optimistic family (her mom, who was with her throughout, commented shortly after the shooting, “I can’t wait until God does something grand in this situation.” Wow — that is pretty much not what I would be thinking!

Within a month, God also led Marie to another godly man whom she married and now they’re all happy. Thanks to the incredible generosity of those around her, the coming months also presented her with a trip to Europe, a Disney Cruise, and piles and piles of donations and cards from friends and strangers alike.

This book made me think about our lives, our sorrows, and God’s overseeing of it all. We will all face trials: some, like Marie, face theirs all in one horrific day, and then get a happily-ever-after, complete with a great guy, travel, a book deal, etc. Others of us face the sadness of a longer, drawn-out sorrow that promises no happily-ever-after this side of heaven and no recognition from others. But no matter the path He calls us to, this book is a reminder that God will walk faithfully beside us if we’ll only open our eyes to see His presence.

Thanks to Booksneeze for this book to review.

More reviews over at 5 Minutes for Books.



9 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. Ooh, real “reader’s books”–I like that. Bellman & Black sounds intriguing.

    Thanks for the short take on Younger Next Year–I am 50 so I don’t have a lot of time left to read unnecessary stuff. “Quit eating junk food”–that’s the toughest thing on the list.

  2. I’m with you, wish I hadn’t looked up the meaning of “catamite,” but you know me! I HAD to look!! I want to try Bellman. And, thank you to for the PSA that saved me weeks of slaving thru that Younger book. It’s really saying YOU ARE FAT AND NEED TO MOVE AROUND A LOT!!! lol…… And, yes, for ME that’s surely true!!!!

    Great post!

  3. Thanks for the summary of the Younger Next Year book. It does sound like what I already know – doing it is the problem.

    The first two books sound intriguing…but depressing. 🙂

    It would be so hard to be the family member of a person who did what that shooter did. But it kind of bothers me a bit to get Disney trips and European cruises out of it, though I know she wasn’t seeking such things.

  4. I think I would enjoy reading One Light Still Shines. None of the others interest me. I’m not into dark things, and I know I can’t do the exercises advocated in the third book, so that leaves only the last one.

  5. At first I thought a book about the shooter’s wife might be interesting… now, I’m not so sure. I agree with Barbara; why is she being showered with gifts? That seems a bit odd. I think I’d rather read a book about one of the families that lost a daughter and how they are coping. I am doing some of the things in the Younger Next Year book. Maybe not enough of them to actually be younger, but perhaps I can hold my own. 🙂 The other books don’t sound like my cup of tea. And I have no desire to know what catamite means – thanks for the warning in case I’d been curious.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing your thoughts.