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The Farm

The Farm
Tom Rob Smith

In his first book since wrapping up the Child 44 trilogy, Smith proves his skill again in this entirely different -but equally engrossing- novel.

Daniel stayed in London when his parents retired to Sweden, the land of his mother’s childhood. He put off visiting until his father Chris called him, telling Daniel his mother Tilde had been committed to a mental hospital. Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother shows up with a battered satchel full of evidence and her side of the story, desperate to have Daniel believer.
And oh what a story it is! Hakan, the neighbor of Daniel’s parents is a powerful man in the small Swedish town. Tilde comes to believe that he is harassing his adopted daughter, Mia. Hakan befriends Chris while attempting to make Tilde look like a mentally unsound stranger. Woven into the tale are elements of folklore: trolls, elk, deep cold lakes, and dark foreboding woods. Tilde knows her husband believes her to be insane, but has explanations for everything.
Who should Daniel believe: his mother or his father? Tilde’s story is just realistic enough to be true – but it’s also just twisted enough to be the dark imaginings of a troubled mind.
Daniel makes a surprising choice, but the story doesn’t end there. He eventually travels to Sweden, hoping to discover the truth for himself- and finds out there is yet another version of the story.

I read The Farm in two days, because once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. The most engrossing part of the book was Tilde’s story as she told it to Daniel. I kept going back and forth in my mind between “yes this seems plausible, I can totally see how this woman was a victim of conspiracy” and “this is totally paranoid and she is clearly imagining things.” But Smith makes you read to the very last pages of the book to find out which story is true.

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XL Love

XL Love: How the Obesity Crisis is Complicating America’s Love Life
Sarah Varney

I actually became aware of XL Love a couple of months before it was published. This article on CNN didn’t seem to have good things to say about the book: http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/22/living/obesity-sex-xl-love-relate/ So naturally, I had to read XL Love when it came out.

Varney explores sexual development, marital happiness, and intimacy across age,  gender and race line with one common factor- overweightness, or obesity. Since 2 in 3 Americans are overweight- and 1 in 3 are obese- its a perspective that can’t be ignored.

The single biggest factor in plus-sized love,  Varney concluded, isn’t body size-  it’s body image. While many factors play into a happy married sex life, the biggest component seems to be a  compatible spouse who values their partner at any size.

Varney is the first to admit that XL Love doesn’t have all the answers. Studies on weight, sex, and race are in the early stages (relatively speaking.) But as body sizes in this country continue to balloon, this is a subject that can no longer be ignored. Varney addresses plus-sized love with not only medical studies but also  insight and understanding.

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The Broken Eye

The Broken Eye (Lightbringer Series #3)
Brent Weeks.

I admit I am intimidated just trying to review this 795 page novel. It’s so complex, the characters are so well-developed, and so many things happen! I enjoy different fantasy authors, but every time I read a new book by Brent Weeks, I am reminded again why he is my favorite.

The Broken Eye picks up in the aftermath of the epic battle that ended The Blinding Knife.
Gavin, unable to draft at all, escapes on captivity only to end up in sucessively worse imprisonments.
Karris, no longer a Blackguard, finds herself stuggling to fit in as the right hand of the old, wise White.
Teia, learning more about her paryl drafting abilities all the time, ends up a double-agent spy, while also maintaining her place as a Blackguard trainee.
Kip, who appeared mostly as Gavin’s son at the start of the series, is now clearly established as the main character. Once a fat, outcast bastard child; he is now a powerful drafter, an acknowledged heir of the promachos, and a leader among his Blackguard peers. But he struggles with power, struggles with authority- always seeing himself as the unwanted fat boy.
Kip has to figure out how to truly become a leader- not just to rule through power or command but with wisdom and by example.

The Broken Eye brings all the elements that fans of Weeks’ work enjoy: the complex and well-developed mythos. The scheming. The battles. The sarcastic and humorous lines.
But while the story ranges all over the map of the Seven Satrapies, I think its greatest strength lies in the characters that Brent Weeks has taught us to love and hate. I can’t wait for the next book to find out who they all- ultimately- become!

Well done, Brent Weeks. You deserve every bit of success you have gained and more. But oww, my wrist…

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A little bit of reflection on my part: I can’t help feeling that there are times when Kip’s inner monologue reflects Brent Weeks’s own experience. He is not a small man, and I imagine as a teenager, he probably saw himself as a fat ginger nerd. Now he is a bestselling and well loved author. As far as I know, Weeks has never lead an army or gone green golem, but I think he lends a little bit of his heart to Kip.
I also can’t help thinking, in bits and pieces of his well-drawn female characters, that he is loaning them qualities that he loves in his wife. Not all of them (and never the evil ones!) but there were occasional lines when I thought, “that must be Mrs. Weeks.”