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Monday, August 31, 2009

The Invisible Man (review)

The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
Reason for Reading: In the tbr stack
Rating: 2.5/5

Summarize the plot: A mysterious stranger appears in the town of Iping. He never uncovers his face, his temper is ferocious, and it seems he is experimenting with some kinds of chemicals. What could be his secret?

One sentence review: Excessively moralizing plot makes what could have been a fascinating read a bit dry

What I liked: Since, like it or not, the Invisible Man has entered the pantheon of cultural icons, appearing in all sorts of movies, comics, books, and the concept having reappeared in all sorts of other places, it was interesting to see where it all started. The simple countryfolk that the Invisible Man takes advantage of are meant to provide comic relief, and I did find myself smiling at their innocent theories about what the strange man's secret was.

What I didn't like: I just could not understand how someone who was smart enough to figure out how to turn themselves invisible couldn't figure out how to walk quietly enough that he wasn't always being caught by everyone. People, even the simple folk of Iping, kept hearing mysterious sneezes and footsteps, and eventually connect the dots. Likewise, I think I would have found him a little more sinister if he was actually could at manipulating people or actually terrorizing them. Even at his best, he's not very good at scaring anyone. He seems to incite anger, rather than cowering. And once he finds a homeless tramp that he wants to turn into his lab assistance, his only method of control is to say "I'll kill you?" Meh. As soon as his "assistant" gets away, he's shouting for the police. The Invisible Man is clearly shown by the end to be insane, but I think the book might have been more interesting if it was more of a horror read or if the Invisible Man had succeeded at more than just turning himself invisible.

Should I read it? There are 1. better classics to spend your time on and 2. better H. G. Wells books to read.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Sunday Salon: So Edjamucated

I feel so edjumacated lately. I normally don't read much nonfiction, but I just finished Guns, Germs and Steel and actually liked it. I finished a business book (Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done) and liked it. Earlier this summer I read a book about the nature of evil and mostly liked it (The Lucifer Effect). Thank goodness for nonfic challenges to get me motivated.

My weekend has flown by. How 'bout yours? This weekend, in MN we had this insane cool weather (down to the 50s). Despite rumors that we have arctic weather year round, it isn't usually until mid or late September that we are supposed to have such cold weather. I've been out and about, visiting family, going to our city's annual festival, talking the dog for a walk. This week, I'm looking forward to a shortened workweek. Then I'm going to spend some time at the State Fair and the Renaissance Festival. OMG. I really can't wait until Friday.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Fluff

This week's question:

What’s the lightest, most “fluff” kind of book you’ve read recently?

That would definitely be Audrey Wait! Although it is light, breezy fun, by the time I got to the end, the whole thing receded from my mind because there wasn't much substance and ultimately it reminded me a little too much of The Princess Diaries. The comparison is both a good and bad thing. I loved The Princess Diaries, and Audrey Wait! had the same brand of humor, and lively characters. But at the same time, when I realized that almost every predictable event from Audrey Wait! occurred in some fashion or another in The Princess Diaries, I was less interested.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

After Five Solid Weeks of Shredding

After six solid weeks of dragging myself out of bed at 6 am to have my ass kicked by Jillian Michaels (evil 30-Day Shred), I finally have some progress to report.

The boots, the ones I bought when I was studying abroad in Spain, the ones that fit me back during the time period that I spent almost all of my days walking and had these amazingly toned calves, the ones that stopped fitting almost immediately when I got back to the US and haven't fit me for six years, the ones that I can't bring myself to giveaway because although I am not normally sentimental about items of clothing, but are the last clothing item I got in Spain and they still look terrific...

those boots, if I don't mind the circulation being cut off a little, fit my calves once again. Now I'm ready at last for the cold weather. BRING IT ON. I've got the boots to deal with it.

Monday, August 24, 2009


For those who were wondering, here is the recipe for the baklava hubby and I made this weekend. It is so tasty, we were going to share at first, but couldn't bring ourselves to give any away. Mwuh ha ha.

1 (16 oz) package phyllo dough (in the refrigerated pie section)
1 pound chopped nuts (the recipe called for this much, but 1/2-3/4 pound would probably work just fine. Also, it doesn't specify what kind of nuts, but we used pecans and they were delish)
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13 inch pan

Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer shouldbe about 6-8 sheets deep.

Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into four long rows to make the diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.

Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. It freezes well, but should be left uncovered as it gets soggy if wrapped up.

My notes:
This worked well as a team effort. Hubby buttered each layer, I unwrapped the phyllo dough and laid it out, then ran around cleaning up dishes while he buttered. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Zombies and Such

I just recently finished The Walking Dead #9 and I haven't done a proper review of any of the previous graphic novels in the series, so today we're going to talk about zombies!
I usually try to keep my reviews concise, but I might have spend a little more time talking about The Walking Dead. I had this graphic novel series recommended to my by an uncle who's really into graphic novels. I checked out the first one to see if I'd like it. That was oh, June. It's been less than two months later, and I've completely gobbled up the next eight books in the series. For me that's really fast, especially considering I have to go to a different library to get these graphic novels.

The important thing to know about me is that prior to blogging, I didn't read graphic novels, nor did I read zombie novels. This one is both. And I love it. At first, I thought it might pale in comparison to World War Z, which is like the magnum opus of zombie novels (my review here). Both are about zombies, yes, but World War Z is a big, all-encompassing novel that spans the globe. The Walking Dead zooms in on a few characters and really develops them, so that I became really engrossed in the story of how they survive in a world over-run by zombies.

Rick is the main character. He's a cop, and while on duty one day he gets shot and winds up in the hospital. When he wakes up from a coma, he finds himself all alone. Then he tries opening the door to the cafeteria, and finds... living corpses. Surviving that, he discovers that he is all alone. His family has presumably fled, there's no government, TV, radio, and so he finally hits on the idea of heading to the nearest big city in hopes that he'll find his wife and son.

Rick eventually finds a group of people and because of his take-charge attitude, ends up becoming the de-facto leader of the group. He comes up with the survival plans. He ventures into a zombie-infested city to find weapons and teaches everyone how to shoot guns. He organizes everyone so that they are keeping watches, hunting for food, and, when living in the countryside becomes too dangerous, he convinces everyone to look for a more permanent home. Eventually, the group does find what they hope will be their new permanent home, and things start to look up. They have to clear out the zombies living there, but supplies are plentiful and there's a nice sturdy fence.

It's at that point that the series takes a decidedly dark turn. Rick has spent most of the time racing after one important thing after another without even taking the time to tell anyone where he's going. He's always sure of himself, and so far, his hunches and his dangerous missions have tended to end up well, but his tendency to play cowboy finally catches up to him. In the fourth novel (The Heart's Desire), the group spots a helicopter land nearby, and Rick sets off searching for it, hoping to find a hint that civilization has returned. He and two others from the group end up blundering into another encampment of survivors, similar to their own. While Rick has made some tough choices for his group, he's always managed to hold onto his moral compass. The leader of this other encampment, who calls himself the Governor, is the type of person who tends to rise to the top in crises. Strong, smart, sadistic, with the singular goal of survival, he calmly does whatever it takes to keep control of his people. Murder, rape, torture, and the complete destruction of Rick's group if it means he can take their resources. Books 5-8 deal with the fallout from Rick's encounter with the Governor.

The world of The Walking Dead is an unforgiving one. People die. Zombie attacks, fighting with other survivors, gun battles, freak accidents. Throughout the series, though, the biggest danger comes from other survivors. The zombies are an ever-present threat, but they're slow, stupid, and predictable. Humans are the ones who will kill you over a couple of supplies, or pretend to need help and shoot you in the back.

Despite the bleak tone, however, I couldn't help but notice that over all, the novel is optimistic (especially at first) about the capacity of people to work together for the greater good. Rick and his ragtag group do their best to help other survivors who find their way to their camp, and among the core group, there is surprisingly little competition for control. Loved ones are reunited. Babies are brought into the world. People find love again and get married. Friendships are made.

This is definitely an action-packed series, and it seems like every novel ends on a cliff-hanger that makes it impossible for me to not get the next novel. But what really makes this series worthwhile are the characters. I haven't gone into too much detail about them, but there are really quite a few supporting characters who all have different story arcs. Michonne, for example, is one of my favorites. She is a serious badass, fighting zombies with a sword. When she's being tortured by the Governor for information on their camp, she spends her time plotting revenge. Okay, so I wouldn't want to get on her bad side, but in the zombie apocalypse, she's the one I'd want in my group.

There's others: Andrea, once a blonde coed, now the group's best sharp-shooter; Tyrese, the former NFL star; Glen and Maggie, who manage to find love despite the desperate situation they're in, and many others. There's actually so many, I had trouble keeping track of all of the characters at first, but by the end, they all felt like familiar friends.

I'm at a point in the series where I am very nearly caught up with all of the books published so far, and I really don't know how I'm going to wait for more. I hope you will like this one as much as I do! (Oh, and P.S.: do not read these before bed. Heart-stopping action+zombies =/= good, restful sleep.

Novels in the series:

#1 Days Gone Bye
#2 Miles Behind Us
#3 Safety Behind Bars
#4 The Heart's Desire
#5 The Best Defense
#6 This Sorrowful Life
#7 The Calm Before
#8 Made to Suffer
#9 Here We Remain

From Bold. Blue. Adventure.

From Bold. Blue. Adventure.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Baklava Weekend

Here's how my weekend goes (as is typical):

8am: Man I have the whole weekend ahead of me to catch up on all sorts of things I need to do. Blogging, writing, homework... tons of stuff!

9am: Okay, time to put the book down and get some productive things done

10am: Really time to get around to doing something productive

11am: Good, I've started cleaning. This is great. This is productive.

12pm: crap, lunchtime.

1pm: lunch done, dishes done, laundry started. Now I can start thinking about homework, blogging, all that other stuff I need to do.

2pm: Take a walk outside! Enjoy the weather.

3pm: Okay need to be productive again.

4pm: Man, that was an awesome nap.

5pm: Grocery store run, right.

Several hours later: I have not blogged. I have not done homework. But hey I made some baklava!

A few hours later: Oh man. I should not have eaten that much baklava. Oh well.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Recent Best

This week's question:

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
(Tell me you didn’t see this one coming?)

Man, that is a toughie. I've been reading a lot of books I really like, and depending on how I quantify "recently" would completely change my answer to this question. So I'm just going to pick books I've read within the past few weeks, and my answer would be the Walking Dead series. It's a graphic novel series set during the Zombie Apocalypse and it manages to be dark, but not too depressing, action-packed, but full of little moments for the characters to grow and develop, and each novel ends on a cliff-hanger that keeps me gobbling up this series. I just finished book 9, and eventually I'll get book 10 from the library (I'm on the waiting list).

In other news, my book club's pick for our next meeting is The Time Traveler's Wife. I read this book about two years ago or so, before I started my blog and began tracking my reading habits. I really loved it back then, but now that my tastes have become more sophisticated, I'm curious if I'll love it as much, or if it will pale in comparison to other books I've read and loved lately. I did try pushing for Persepolis for next month's read, but I didn't have any takers. I guess TTW is pretty hot right now, with the movie and all.

And man, is it Thursday already? I'm totally unprepared for it to almost be the weekend. I've had stuff going on after work all week so tonight is the first time in a while I've had to sit down at the computer. How has your week been?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Saloning... Me? Like Non-fic? No way!

I don't hate non-fiction, but when I'm in the mood for comfort reads, the first thing I go to is definitely not non-fic. I typically pick up a sci fi/fantasy or YA read.

But I committed myself to reading Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, and so far I've really been liking it. I'm already a third of the way through the book, and so far I've been really fascinated by his explanation of why various human societies progressed at different rates and the ultimate consequences.

I did manage to find time to cram in some good comfort reading too. I have been trying for several months to check out Thessaly: Witch for Hire from the library, but it seemed like it would always take too long to get to the pick up library, then I wouldn't get the email in time, and they'd send it back. Finally on Saturday, I got to check it out, and I loved it. A great Sandman spin-off.

Other than reading, I've been busy this weekend shopping, and hubby and I went to see District 9 yesterday. With the extremely hot weather we've had lately (in the 90's, and the kind of humidity where you practically have to drink the air, not breathe it), the air conditioning was nice. And the movie? Not quite what I expected, but a solid sci-fi thought-provoking action flick, with a level of intelligence sadly lacking from most of the other summer action block-busters.

How was your weekend?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Links... randomosity ahead

I really love it when other bloggers post interesting links once a week. So I'm totally going to be a copy cat. Be forewarned, I'm easily amused, so I doubt any links I come up with will be very intellectually stimulating. As long as we've got that straightened out, I present, with no further ado, my Friday Link Collection:

**Neil Gaiman, who is of course already awesome, gets a little awesomer with a Hugo win.

**Just another reason why reading a map will continue to be a necessary skill in the age of GPS. Tourists trying to get to the Isle of Capri go 400 miles off course when they typed "Carpi" into their GPS by mistake.

**Sonograms and frosting... the perfect combination... or who doesn't want to eat a picture of your unborn child? (on CakeWrecks)

**On a related note, the world's first (and so far only) breastfeeding doll.

**Is it bad that I find STFU Parents wildly amusing? People I'm glad I'm not friends with, people that make me glad the internets weren't around when I was a kid, and people that just plain need help. (WARNING: threats to contented dining ahead, DO NOT proceed if there is food anywhere near you. Just sayin')

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Booking Through Thursday

This week's question:

What’s the worst book you’ve read recently?
(I figure it’s easier than asking your all-time worst, because, well, it’s recent!)

Of books I didn't actually finish recently, Away by Amy Bloom was one I really didn't like. Obviously, it could have gotten better towards the end, but I did sit in on the book club discussion, and those who finished it didn't have that exciting of things to say either.

Of books I did manage to finish, I really, really didn't like Eclipse One, which was a collection of science fiction-themed stories. I say science-fiction themed because some of them really didn't strike me as being very science-fictiony at all.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Storm Front (review)

Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Reason for Reading: Sounded interested
Rating: 3/5

Summarize the plot: Harry Dresden is a wizard. He also solves crimes.

One sentence review: For some mindless escapism, this book didn't annoy me, but it didn't really make me keep reading the series either.

What I liked: Harry Dresden is an interesting character, and I liked the fantasy element in an otherwise pretty typical police procedural.

What I didn't like: I didn't hate the book. I didn't even dislike it. But it was such complete fluff that I can barely remember the plotline now that it has been a few weeks since I read it. I don't really like police procedurals very much, and despite the inclusion of fantasy, there isn't too much originality in this book. Yes, it's entertaining. My husband read this one after me, and in the past month has read like six more of them. But I just wasn't that into it.

Should I read it? Plenty of other people have really enjoyed this book. If the combination of fantasy and crime novel sound like your thing, you'll probably enjoy it more than me.

Other opinions:
1330V, stephanie's confessions of a bookoholic, Rhinoa

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Brave New World (review)

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Reason for Reading: My Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge
Rating: 5/5

Summarize the plot: Welcome to the future. People are now created in test-tubes, and trained from birth via sleep-hypnosis to know their place in society. Sexual promiscuity and consumption are the highest societal values.

One Sentence Review: The classic dystopian novel is still thought-provoking, if not as horrifying as it was considered when it first came out.

What I liked: For being a relatively short novel with few characters, and very little action, Brave New World describes a unique dystopia, where families are considered pornographic, and "everyone belongs to everyone else". While I kept hearing the phrase "horrifying vision of the future" along with this book, I didn't find it horrifying. Maybe I'm influenced by some of the dystopian novels I've been reading lately, but this version of the future didn't seem nearly as bad as say, The Road. That's not to say it isn't a disturbing book. It doesn't paint a pretty picture of the future, that's for sure. The Savage, a character who lives more in accordance with our own societal values and is dropped into the Brave New World, finds himself unable to function in a world where no one is allowed to care too deeply for anyone else.

I found it interesting that none of the characters in the novel are especially likeable. Bernard, arguably one of the main characters, is petty, contrary, and cruel. Even the Savage, who the reader would probably identify with the best, says and does cruel things because of the tension between his upbringing and his life in the Brave New World. Lenina, the other main character, is just vacuous. Despite this fact, the book kept me interested because I wanted to know what was going to happen to them.

What I didn't like: This is an idea book. The characters, as I mentioned, aren't particularly likeable, and very little action occurs. This is the kind of book that if it had dragged out any longer than it did, would have gotten boring.

Should I read it? It's a classic

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Back to School Books

I recently went back to school. I don't think I've mentioned it here on this blog because to be honest I've been dreading it more than looking forward to it. I love learning, I think the degree I'm pursuing will help my career, but gosh-darnit, I'm going to have to cut back on my writing and blogging time.

It was a lot easier to handle when school was this far-off thing, but all of a sudden the summer ended and before I knew it classes were starting. So now my usual reading style is going to be a little more cramped by business books. I just got a stack of them in the mail and since I was kind of in a lull with my usual reads, I decided to try skimming through to see if any of them were worthwhile.

The first book I tried was actually a pretty nice, quick read with lots of practical advice. Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, while geared towards the CEOs of large businesses, had plenty of good advice for leaders at any level of how to create concrete business plans that succeed.

It also included the one thing that keeps me reading an advice book: plenty of good examples. While I get lost when a non-fic author goes on and on about theories, if they can give good examples of their ideas in action, I'm a lot more likely to remember.

The second book I skimmed through was Strengthsfinder 2.0, which also included a test to find your strengths. The book was an okay reference, but I'm getting kind of tired of personality tests. Okay, really tired. Okay, I was ready to start telling the computer screen I really didn't care about whether I relate better to people or ideas and I sure don't care about whether I study the history or the future, whether I like organization or creativity, and so on and so on.

I really think my results were skewed by the fact I started talking back to the computer half-way through. Oh well. I've done two personality tests for school, and I've got another one to go. Sigh.

Other things I've been doing this past week include catching up on the final season of Battlestar Galactica. So far I'm ranging from just being grateful my most hated character, Gaius Baltar finally has less screen time to loving the action-packed episodes, to wondering if the writers ever even had direction for the Cylon plotline or if they made it up on the fly, to falling in love all over again with my favorite characters.

Two more discs to go and I'll finally have to say goodbye. I haven't decided whether I have the self-control to space them out so I can savor the end or whether I'll just gobble the whole thing up as soon as possible. We shall see.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

This is Me, Three Years Ago Today

I'm the one holding the bouquet in the white dress, hubby is the one in the tux. Just to clarify.

Bluebeard (review)

Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut

Reason for reading: Literary crush on Kurt Vonnegut

Rating: 4.5/5

Summarize the plot: Rabo Karabekian is a retired painter, and he's been bullied into writing his memoirs by the incomparable Circe Berman. Like the Bluebeard of old tales, he keeps a secret locked in his barn.

One sentence review: Vonnegut's wizardry with words makes this character-heavy, plot-light novel completely and utterly readable.

Longer review: I completely gushed over my first Vonnegut read, Slaughterhouse Five, so I figured I would probably enjoy this book as well. I LOVED Bluebeard. Ordinarily, I would not get so excited about a book that jumps all over the place, and barely has a plot, but Vonnegut sucks the reader in with his uniquely enjoyable writing. He has a literary style, but somehow he manages to be so much more accessible than your typical literary novel. Okay, here's the opening lines. I mean, who wouldn't want to keep reading after this opening?
Having written "The End" to this story of my life, I find it prudent to scamper back here to before the beginning, to my front door, so to speak, and to make an apology to arriving guests: "I promised you an autobiography, but something went wrong in the kitchen. It turns out to be a diary of this past troubled summer, too! We can always send out for pizzas if necessary. Come in, come in!"
Rabo Karabekian is a fictional painter who came of age during the American Abstract Expressionist era. His great works of art were created with Sateen DuraLuxe, a paint so toxic and short-lived, his paints have crumbled to dust and no hazardous waste facility wants them. His wife and children are no longer part of his life, and he lives alone in an old mansion.

What I liked: I liked the format of this book. It is split into short sections, and Rabo skips between the past and present, completely nonlinearly, but somehow you never feel lost. I think it helps that he hones down on a few of the themes of his life that are the most important to him, and goes back and forth between how it was in the past and what actually happened.

Rabo's character hooked me in. All of the main characters in his life were vividly written. Although some were outlandish, they never felt unreal. Especially the violent relationship Rabo describes between his painting master and his lover, Marilee, who Rabo secretly loves too. The woman he can't have, the one who gets away. The majority of the novel is focused sharply on her.

What I didn't like: Duh, it wasn't long enough! No, I mean, it was the right length, but when I got to the end, I felt like I didn't really know much more about some of the other people who were important in Rabo's life, like his family or his best friend, a painter who shot himself in the head. By sheer amount of words dedicated to her, it appears that the only important person in his life was Marilee, which I suppose was the point.

Should I read it? In a word, yes.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Angels, gods, and steampunk

I just managed (quite recently) to finish Scar Night by Alan Campbell, which is all full of angels, gods, deadly assassins, a city suspended over an abyss on chains, and... steampunk? Yup, steampunk. Air ships and all sorts of fun stuff like that.

It rocked. I was totally caught up in reading all weekend, during every spare minute that I wasn't dashing around like a mad person seeing plays. Because here is the other awesome thing I got to do this weekend: attend the Fringe Festival!

Minnesota does have some pretty awful winters, but probably as a result, the Twin Cities has an awesome, vibrant arts scene. And a really awesome Fringe Festival. In eleven days, there are 160 performances at 22 different venues around the Twin Cities. Hard-core fringers can buy this ultrapass thingy and see as many plays as their legs can take them to, but hubby and I opted for a bit smaller of a dose.

We went and saw a madcap comedy sketch, a ballet, and a satire called Cigarettes for Jesus. All for about the price of two discounted tickets to a regular performance! My hubby, who loves theatre, but wasn't sure if he was going to enjoy so much of it at a time, is thrilled to go back and do the fringe again next year.

As for me? I had a crazy adventure with the husband, a nice dinner afterward that included a wine tasting, and now I'm settling in to enjoy the last remnants of the weekend. Life is good.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Beautiful Child (review)

A Beautiful Child by Matt Birkbeck
Reason for reading: Recommendation from my sister
Rating: 4.5/5

Summarize the plot: A Beautiful Child is the true life story of a girl named Sharon. In high school, she was at the top of her class, she worked as a Lt. Colonel in the ROTC, won a scholarship to Georgia Tech, and seemed to have everything going for her. But behind the facade, she was forced to hide a terrible secret about the man she called her father, a secret she kept so well even those who knew her best never guessed the truth.

1-Sentence Review: A tightly written book that examines a tragic young life, the man who took it from her, and the search to find out her true identity.

Longer review: A Beautiful Child was an interesting choice to read around the same time as another book I reviewed earlier this week, The Lucifer Effect. The latter is a lengthy academic contemplation on the nature of evil, and the potential for evil within everyone. A Beautiful Child, on the other hand, is a short, true-crime, journalistic look at a person who can only be described as pure evil.

Without giving away too much from the novel, Shannon Marshall, likely kidnapped as a child, was forced by a man named Franklin Floyd to live out a life with him that became ever more horrifying as his grip over her intensified. It is a tragic story, through and through, and yet because Birkbeck writes with a terse, journalistic style, I felt like I could handle reading it. I felt an emotional connection to the story, but I never felt that the book was emotionally exploitive, shoving my nose into a situation that is already horrible enough.

Shannon Marshall's life defies understanding. As Birkbeck unraveled the layers to her life, the lies she was forced to enact, and the sheer number of people who sensed something was wrong but didn't intervene in time, a huge question emerges that Birkbeck only briefly addresses. How could something like this happen? While giving a serious answer to a complicated question like that is outside the scope of this book, I think most readers will walk away from the book at the very least, contemplating that question. Hopefully it will be a wake-up call for anyone who encounters an exploited child to take signs of abuse seriously.

Should I read it? It is a quick, thought-provoking read, but be forwarned that the details are shocking and some may find them disturbing.