Book Reviews: May 2020 Reads

Confession: I’ve neglected reading for frivolous interests. The Animal Crossing epidemic has reignited my interest in Switch gaming, where I am also once again in the calvary boots of Geralt of Rivia. Nevertheless, three 5-starrers managed to steer me away from my console. Thankfully!

Black Sun (by Owen Matthews, 2019)

No complex motives, nothing that Holmes and Watson would ever feel the need to light a pipe to ponder, ever appeared in the files that landed on Vasin’s desk. […] Only thieves’ pathetic ideas of honor, profit, and survival. The desperate things human beings with no options left did to each other.

Sent to investigate a gruesome lab murder in Arzamas, Major Alexander Vasin never imagined the scale of the ploy at play. What he uncovers sets him on an intense race against time to save himself – and the world. Of dogged dissidents, misguided scientists, and a femme fatale, Black Sun has everything a political thriller should, and more.

The page turner hooks you in with an intriguing plot that never slows down. Rare authenticity also makes it a unique read. As a journalist and historian, Owen Matthews draws inspiration from incredible true events and in part, his experiences. Where he truly succeeds is lending it just the right amount of cinematic varnish, creating the perfect blend of fact and fiction.

Good Kings Bad Kings (by Susan Nussbaum, 2013)

Then Ricky drove up with more people he picked up from the funeral. First he honked at me, like he was saying hello. Then, the Lord strike me dead if I’m lying, he must have read my sign, because the boy’s mouth just dropped open like someone smacked him in the face.

Good Kings, Bad Kings introduces a diverse cast of disabled juveniles through their common residence at the Illinois Learning and Life Skills Centre. As in every coming-of-age journey, they learn to find their place in the world, but also cope with challenges that are often invisible to the able-bodied.

Cracks soon show beneath the institute’s facade, revealing horrifying abuses behind the profit-driven business. As the children suffer, some employees start to realise what they are inadvertently perpetuating.

This is a world we don’t often see, simply because the voices of the disabled aren’t heard enough. Susan Nussbaum’s powerful debut novel offers that rare perspective. As an activist, she lends her own voice and calls out such systemic failures. Her multi-faceted characters also goes beyond tokenism, making a strong call for more grounded representation of the disabled in fiction.

With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa (by Eugene B. Sledge, 1981)

Slowly, the reality of it all formed in my mind: we were expendable! It was difficult to accept. We come from a nation and a culture that values life and the individual. To find oneself in a situation where you life seems of little value is the ultimate in loneliness.

With The Old Breed is an astounding first-person account of Eugene Sledge’s harrowing WWII experiences. This has been on my shelf since I watched The Pacific, and I’m glad I finally read it. His powerful words captured his emotional state behind the killing on the fields, out of enmity that seemed so necessary at that point in time, but irrational on retrospect.

Eugene Sledge never shied away from what the war brought out in ordinary men, the cruelty that Man is capable of. He spared no detail on the cruelty the Marines became attuned to, if only for their physical and mental survival. Such is the ugliness of combat.

Lined up next is a lighter read in Claire North’s The Gameshouse. The promising trilogy may just fit in my schedule in June neatly, if only I learn to stay away from the virtual islands. As always, I am open to suggestions across the board. Cheers for reading and keep well!

3 thoughts on “Book Reviews: May 2020 Reads”

    1. Haha! I could never match you in the number of albums you listen to and collect, so it evens out. Plus, your reviews always help me narrow down my to-listen list, so I get more time for movies and books. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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