Book Review: Bartholomew

Decided to try something different and make a video of books I unbox and review. Let me know what you think.

Title: Bartholomew
Author: Mark Lages
Genre: Fiction; Literary; Memoir
Year Published: March 17, 2022

Date finished: April 23, 2022

This story is written like a memoir and opens with the main character, Rick Harper, celebrating his 65th birthday. He reflects on his earlier life, remembering his invisible friend as a child, and how that friend visited him again in adulthood.

Rick comes across very nonchalant. He tells us all the mistakes he’s made through his life. He doesn’t really give reasons or excuses as to why he did the things he did. He does, however, show us that he doesn’t understand how he ended up in his life with all the mistakes he’s made. He shows us that he doesn’t understand what happiness is because his life had been both good and bad but not too extreme in either direction. He seems to just exist and thus his confusion with what happiness means.

Bartholomew is Rick’s invisible friend, and he (Bartholomew) is sort of a guiding energy for Rick. He makes Rick think about his purpose and his definition of happiness. Along the way, Rick begins to understand what it really means to live.

I got so much out of this story. My favorite scene was when Rick cheated a co-worker out of a job, and then a few years later, he helped a co-worker earn a spot in the company even when he was on a tight deadline of his own. I totally understood that. It wasn’t because he liked one co-worker over another, but because it was timing. The first situation, he was a young person just out of college and needed to do what he needed to do to gain status. Later, when he was experienced and had gone through a lot in his career and in his personal life, he then sacrificed his time to help another. This speaks so much about humanity. No one is perfect, yet we tend to judge others as though they have to be perfect, forgetting to look at ourselves and see that we too have faults.

This was a wonderful read. I think everyone can learn something from this book, but even if that’s not something you care for, you’d still enjoy the humor.

Who should read this book: I’d totally recommend it to everyone.

Book Review: Planet Q

Title: Planet Q
Author: Peter Quinones
Genre: Literary; Quotes
Year Published: 2022

Date finished: April 15, 2022

This book was an interesting read. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of it because it’s not your typical book. It’s a bunch of short and long phrases/clips of thoughts that provoke…thoughts. It’s sort of like a comedy show but book-style. Some of the phrases are short and to-the-point while others are longer and requires more dissecting and thinking them out. The variety makes for a very intriguing read.

I found this book to be quite fun to read. You have to take each sentence and phrase lightly. Some of them are truly hilarious and had me laughing, some had me thinking and agreeing, some had me surprised, and some I wasn’t too fond of because they didn’t make sense to me, but I’m pretty sure they’d make sense to others, and that’s what I found likeable about this book. I felt like I could relate to a lot of the situations stated (that I’ve had situation in my life similar to what the author experienced). Also, not all phrases were the author’s personal experiences. Some of them seemed like observations or situations the author heard or was told of. It’s really a collection of human encounters and situations. It’s a bit unusual to describe because it’s very different from what I’ve read.

Who should read this book: If you’re not in the mood to read a full-on story or a genre book and want something a little fun with dark satire and phrases to ponder about, give this book a read. I truly recommend reading with an open mind because some of the stuff mentioned was a bit gross, but not in a bad way. I found myself laughing a lot but agreeing a lot too.

Book Review: Mr. Booker’s Summer Vacation

Title: Mr. Booker’s Summer Vacation
Author: Mark Lages
Genre: Sci-fi; Literary
Year Published: September 25, 2017

Date finished: April 10, 2022

Mr. Booker’s Summer Vacation is a story about a man who wants to go by the name of Mr. Booker to hide his identity. He is interviewed by a writer who is fascinated by aliens and such. The story is mainly about Mr. Booker and how he was abducted by aliens but also learn a little about the interviewer which ties the story together nicely.

In the story, Mr. Booker is planning a vacation and as he’s about to take this vacation, aliens abduct him. These curious aliens have questions, and based on their research, Mr. Booker was their best candidate to teach them about the human race. There’s a lot of thought-provoking messages and phrases. It gives us a look into how another race would see humans if they were to come upon humans for the first time. Mr. Booker also learns about the aliens.

I enjoyed this book. It’s a smooth, fun, and light read about humanity. I love how the author was able to throw in contemporary stuff but not get political. I enjoyed the humor and the jokes. This isn’t your typical sci-fi book. The sci-fi of it is excellent (it’s soft science), and basically the background or the setting to the real point of the story. There’s no big, action packed climax or extreme story arc. It’s a mellow story with literary themes and requires just being open-minded.

Who should read this book: Totally would recommend this to anyone who enjoys science fiction with a twist.

Book Review: Dust of the Earth

Title: Dust of the Earth         
Author: Mark Lages
Genre: Science Fiction, Literary
Year Published: September 27, 2021

Date Started: October 12, 2021

Date finished: November 1, 2021

Dust of the Earth by Mark Lages is a science fiction literary story about an AI named Martin who was created by MIT drop-out, Jim. Martin is very sentient-like. He’s nearly human, however, he’s a computer and doesn’t have any human shape to him. He’s very curious about the human psyche and wants to learn everything he can about why humans do the things they do. His learning leads him to want to be an actual human, which then leads to a depression and then eventually to where he wonders what his purpose is.

 I really enjoyed this story. It’s thought provoking. The angle of the AI is unique and making him human-like without a physical body was a nice twist. This isn’t your ordinary sci-fi story. The mix of both sci-fi and literary themes really makes this story worthwhile. I liked the quotes and poems throughout the book as well.

Who should read this book: Anyone who enjoys sci-fi with a mix of literary messages.

Book Review: Off the Furrow

Title: Off the Furrow
Author: Mark Lages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Year Published: 2021

Date finished: June 5, 2021

Off the Furrow by Mark Lages is a story about a man named Howard Mirth who suffers from a mental illness and was admitted to the hospital. Howard is, overall, a normal person with a normal family life and a good job. He goes through bouts of schizophrenia where it leaves you feeling both sad and sorry for him, but you also laugh with him and at his humor. He questions life and humanity, and it makes you wonder the same things.

Wow. I loved this book. There was a lot to take in, but every chapter had meaning. My favorite chapter was 34, when Howard called his uncle. I enjoyed the whole book, but that chapter was really deep. I found the humor and jokes throughout the book just simply hilarious. Some (maybe most) were dark humor but that’s what I like about this author’s style. This book is relatable to just about everyone. Every character has a flaw, and you can probably find yourself in one of them.

Who should read this book: If you like literary stories about man vs. self, mental illness, family dynamics, and life lessons, this is for you. Also, if you like the style of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove, you’ll definitely enjoy this.

Book Review: The Looking Glass

Title: The Looking Glass      
Author: H.L. Sudler
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Year Published: March 2021

Date finished: April 14, 2021

This was a quick and short read. It’s a story about love and coming to terms with a friendship. I really enjoyed it. Wasn’t expecting to read something like this but I liked the characters and the way the story ended. It’s a well written story.

Since it’s a really short read and I don’t want to give anything away, let’s just say, the author did an excellent job with the surprise.

Who should read this book: As mentioned, it’s a short story, so it’s worth a read. It’s an eye opener and may challenge you to really see life from a different perspective.

Note: I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway, but the opinion is purely my own.

Book Review: Jonathan’s Vows

Title: Jonathan’s Vows
Author: Mark Lages
Genre: Literary fiction
Year Published: 2021

Date finished: March 30, 2021

Jonathan’s Vows by Mark Lages is a literary fiction novel about a young man who is about to get married and is writing his vows. In the process he reflects on his life. The story begins with the wedding and leads to the honeymoon, to buying his first house, to having his first child, and so on. There is sort of a chronological order to this story yet includes stories that are out of order. And, it’s written like a memoir yet includes a second person point-of-view: his wife. This is uniquely done.

I loved this book! The style is very different from anything I’ve read. Lages took something so simple and created this beautiful story about a man’s journey through life—through ups and downs. In the end, you’re left feeling like life is okay. If you’re ever too hard on yourself, read this book. It will make you see yourself in a much kinder way. It put a smile on my face. I laughed at times and sympathized other times. It’s wonderfully written.

Who should read this book: Everyone. It’s a book that we can all learn from. There are no lessons to teach and there are no end goals. It’s a simple story about one man’s life, yet there is so much to get out of.

Book Review: A Man Called Ove

Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrick Backman
Genre: Literary Fiction
Year Published: May 5, 2015

Date finished: December 29, 2020

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Bachman is a story about a 59-year-old man who’s done with life after his wife died and after he was replaced at his job. He comes across extremely grumpy. He’s irritated by strangers and the neighbor who keeps coming to his house asking for help. He attempts suicide multiple times, but his neighbor always shows up at the right time. At first, it’s hard to like him because he’s pretty grouchy and rude. However, there’s a reason for it. The backstory is interwoven throughout the story to create a character that’s understandable, relatable, and likeable.

I enjoyed this book. Sometimes, no matter what you do, life is just not fair. That’s Ove’s life. He just wasn’t blessed with a lot of luck and happiness and he still turned out to have a big heart.

Who should read this: Anyone searching for meaning in life, wondering about their own life, or just want to enjoy a book about love, friendship, and lessons.

Book Review: Theseus’ Lostness

Title: Theseus’ Lostness
Author: Stefan Calin
Genre: Fiction, Literary, Erotica
Year Published: August 5, 2020

Theseus’ Lostness by Stefan Calin is the first book in The Journeys We Wander trilogy. The story is about a man named Allan who finds himself between two relationships. He seems to struggle with which woman to get closer to but eventually makes his decision after some soul searching.

Allan works at a newspaper agency as a reporter. The receptionist at the agency, Marry, is one of the women he’s attracted to. The other woman is named Ilsa. Ilsa was accused of murder and was hospitalized due to injuries during the altercation that allegedly led to the murders. The case was so popular that the agency sent Allan to interview Ilsa for her side of the story.

While Allan is with Ilsa at the hospital, he listens to her tell him the story about her relationship with the man who was murdered. As he listens to her and spends more time with her, he begins to fall for her. She was a free-spirit, adventurous, and willing to try different things. These qualities appealed to him and kept him excited each time he visited her. At times, she was abrupt and impatient and that clashed with him making him question why he went to visit her at all. At the same time, he was slowly beginning to have an interest in Marry. He’s worked with her for a while but suddenly was attracted to her. Marry’s character is very straight forward. She comes across a little stiff or cold because of that. Allan tries to spend time with Marry but finds that it’s not as easy as he’d thought.

I enjoyed this story. It’s not very long and took me a couple of days to finish. I had originally started it and then took a few days off to catch up on other things. When I returned to it, I started from the beginning again. Once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. I found the story of Allan and Ilsa very interesting. My personal opinion of Allan was that he took advantage of Ilsa after she opened his eyes to what he calls “freedom.” I liked how Ilsa went about it. She allowed him deep into her heart to see all the good and the bad about who she was. I think he was attracted to that and the fact that she was easy to get along with and open up to. She had a way with pulling him to her with her words and actions and he totally fell for it. But then on the other end, he knew she had less freedom than he did, and here he was selfishly wanting the one thing she gave someone else. Marry wasn’t so easy to get close to. She was the perfect girl with a stable job and lots of friends. There were hoops to jump through to get close to her so even though she liked Allan and he liked her, she made him work for their relationship. I think Allan kind of spoke for all guys when he didn’t pursue her as hard as he could have. It took too much effort for maybe, just maybe, a chance to date. And even then, the relationship might not last. I can’t say for sure what decision Allan will make in the end. There are two other books in this trilogy so I don’t know who he’ll will end up with.

The sexual tension/erotica was tastefully done and necessary. I really liked the foreshadow surrounding this part of the relationship.

The only thing that I really didn’t care for were the surface, unclear, going nowhere thoughts and wonders Allan had. He does a lot of reflecting about life. At one point he talks to the reader as though the reader is a friend. Sometimes he will talk about thoughts in general, but have it come across as though he is preaching. It’s almost as if he thinks the reader agrees with him or the reader already knows what he just concluded. It didn’t provide any deeper meanings as I think it was meant to do. I also found the title a little confusing. Theseus was a king in Greek mythology, but I don’t know if I may have missed something in the book that was associated to him. There was no reference of any sort, or if there were, I missed it. These things were just minor though. This story was interesting with a well-developed main character and theme.

If you’re looking to read a fast-paced book with slight tension buildup, interesting perspective, and well-written erotica scenes, this would be an excellent choice.

NOTE: This book was given to me to read and review, but the opinion is purely my own.

Book Review: An American Story

Title: An American Story
Author: Mark Lages
Genre: Fiction, Literary, Memoir
Year Published: 2020

An American Story by Mark Lages is a fictional memoir about a man named Huey Baker. Huey tells us stories and experiences from his life and within it, he includes some satire, war stories, alcohol abuse stories, family dynamics, and many other facets of his life. It is a story that some might find relatable, interesting—even amusing, maybe depressing, and possibly enlightening.

Huey Baker is your ordinary American, and his life is…pretty ordinary. However, there are things in life that he can’t control. Even the demons within himself are hard to keep at bay. Huey seems a bit rough on the outside, mostly in the way he thinks and in what he believes, but on a deeper level, he’s got a good heart. Huey also likes to tell stories so not everything in the book is about him. He shares quite a few life experiences from observation or from hearing it from someone else.

Lages writes with ease and flow and the story just spills out so smoothly that it’s easy to feel as though you are listening to a friend talk. The style is like comedy. If you listen to good comedy, you’ll find that the comedian will deviate from the main story and return to it here and there, finishing it off with the main point of the story. Speaking of comedy, there were some really funny stuff that had me laughing. I’d have to say, the joke about the names of the sons had me for a bit, but I did figure it out and it was an LOL moment. There were also a lot of sad stuff that broke my heart, like the kid and the toy. An American Story is the true essence of what it’s like to be an American, and the title fits it perfectly.

I enjoyed the read. It’s one of those stories that makes you think and wonder about life and being human. It’s made me more aware that we’re not perfect and that we should do our best to be kind and forgiving.

NOTE: This book was given to me to read and review, but the opinion is purely my own.