A Country Doctor by Franz Kafka

I was in great difficulty. An urgent journey was facing me. A seriously ill man was waiting for me in a village ten miles distant. A severe snowstorm filled the space between him and me.

I had a carriage—a light one, with large wheels, entirely suitable for our country roads. Wrapped up in furs with the bag of instruments in my hand, I was already standing in the courtyard ready for the journey; but the horse was missing—the horse. My own horse had died the previous night, as a result of over exertion in this icy winter.

My servant girl was at that very moment running around the village to see if she could borrow a horse, but it was hopeless—I knew that—and I stood there useless, increasingly covered with snow, becoming all the time more immobile. The girl appeared at the gate, alone. She was swinging the lantern. Of course, who is now going to lend her his horse for such a journey? 

I walked once again across the courtyard. I couldn’t see what to do. Distracted and tormented, I kicked my foot against the cracked door of the pig sty which had not been used for years. The door opened and banged to and fro on its hinges. A warmth and smell as if from horses came out. A dim stall lantern on a rope swayed inside. A man huddled down in the stall below showed his open blue-eyed face. “Shall I hitch up?” he asked, crawling out on all fours. I didn’t know what to say and bent down to see what was still in the stall. The servant girl stood beside me. 

“One doesn’t know the sorts of things one has stored in one’s own house,” she said, and we both laughed. 

The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch

Book: Journal of Best Practices
Author: David Finch

Why I Read It: I love reading pretty much anything related to psychology.
First Line: "I was thirty years old and had been married five years when I learned that I have Asperger syndrome, a relatively mild form of autism."

First Impression: I love the layout and format of this book.
Last Impression: This was amazing. Such an uplifting read full of valuable insight and useful tips for respecting the requirements of marriage. Finch discusses the needs of yourself and your spouse, the weight of 'what marriage is supposed to be,' balancing love and family, communication and the commitment of two people despite the difficulty of the situation.

Overall – 4 Heart Skipped A Beat It is heartfelt, insightful and great advice for every married couple, even us "neurotypicals" as Finch refers those without a syndrome or imbalanced neurochemistry.
Characters – 4 David portrays his wife Kristen in a very realistic way, and speaks about himself just as honestly. It would be easy to paint himself as a hero, but he doesn't pull any punches and relates events in a way that lets the reader understand Kristen's frustration. 
Story – 4 The novel is about the discovery of Finch's Asperger syndrome at a moment of crisis in his marriage. It's more soul searching journey than story and pulls you in.
Narration – 4 Finch is straightforward and poetic in relating his impressions of the world and how he interacts with it.

Read Again? Unlikely, but simply because I don't reread memoir or nonfiction very often.

Tell Others to Read? Yes and yes. This was a well-written easy read from a unique perspective on a topic many of us can relate to.

Excerpt: Then we married each other and things changed. When you're in love, you can't beat the motion of two souls uniting, two lives becoming forever one. Sooner or later, though, the romance fades. one day you realize you are two souls united...but there's only one cupcake left in the Tupperware container in the fridge. That's when reality sets in: We're going to have to deal with stuff, and it might not be easy. Whether Kristen and I were ready for it or not (which, clearly, we were not), our relationship changed after we were married, and the nature of what we needed to express changed with it: How shall we handle our finances? What's your philosophy on child rearing? What do you mean you have interests and aspirations beyond being my wife?!
     We weren't alone. Most couples don't consider or discuss these types of things until they have to, until they're both staring at the same cupcake, wondering what they've gotten themselves into. Kristen and I would learn that these were the things we would have to talk about if we wanted our marriage to work. As we got farther into married life, we'd also discover that I was particularly unprepared - unequipped, it seemed - to do that.

Content property of Simon and Schuster.

The After Effects of World War Z

If you like George Romero’s movies, the mythology of the zombie and are addicted to watching The Walking Dead, then you cannot miss this book. And even if you aren’t really a big horror or zombie fan, you should still pick this up.
World War Z is a journalistic-style retelling of the plague years and the ensuing zombie war. For zombie fanatics, like myself, this book presents a unique version of the zombie apocalypse. The world Brooks created is realistic; it retains vestiges of the world we know, with enough realism in the new details to seamlessly tie the two together. This is how the world could be after a zombie apocalypse. Each character tells their own story within the framework of the disaster and there are enough gaps in the overall tale to make it realistic. Not all parts of the story are intact, because not everyone survived and those viewpoints simply cannot be represented.
The book is constructed from individual characters and their personal accounts of World War Z. The stories of the characters take the reader from the International Space Station to the depths of the ocean (the undead don’t drown apparently); from the first interaction when patient zero is discovered in China, to a veteran reflecting on his battle memories. Through the varying viewpoints, the history of World War Z is fleshed out. It was a pleasure to read such a refreshing take on zombies. A work must be quite good to stand out from the ever-increasing body of zombie media and this stands out.

Even if you don’t love zombies or horror, I would still recommend this book. The narration is strong and unique, the characters are dynamic and engaging, and the pacing draws you in, creating an addictive pull towards the pages. And after reading it, you’ll have your own 10 cents to put in during the next inevitable zombie discussion.

The book is broken down into sections - Warning, Blame, Great Panic, Turning the Tide, Homefront USA, Around the World and Above, Total War, and Goodbyes. The last section, entitled Goodbyes, is a wrap-up of some of the characters, sometimes only two lines. It leans toward the sentimental, but is not as powerful as it could have been. It is difficult to keep track of the each individual character introduced in the previous seven sections.

But this is my only hesitation in what is otherwise resounding praise. I had to go back and find the character's original story and reread it, then follow it up with the "goodbye." And if the only negative thing I have is that you must reread this book, well, that's not so bad.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Book: Warm Bodies
Author: Isaac Marion

Why I Read It: My little sister loves romance movies and I love zombie books, so this was the perfect entertainment for us to share. We agreed to read the book and then see the movie together.

First Line: "I'm dead, but it's not so bad."
First Impression: Huh. I am genuinely surprised by how funny this guy is. I'm liking the zombie sense of humor.

Last Impression: Oh, so close! There was a great idea here but just not enough follow through. They keep saying they are going to change the world, but have no ideas, no direction and no clue that it is already happening.

Overall – 3 Resting Heart Rate As a huge zombie fan, this felt like a combination of the movies Fido and Wasting Away, with a little bit of Shaun of the Dead sprinkled in. I love the dialogue about humanity. What makes us human? Is it the desire to connect with one another or the blood in our veins? Here it's the desire to connect and embracing the idea that love can heal all wounds; even being undead. It's not on the same level as other zombie texts, such as World War Z, but it's playful and unique. 
Characters – 4 The main character, R the zombie, is definitely a 5 for me, but Julie, her father and other main characters were 2s and 3s, so we're settling on 4. R is an engaging, funny and refreshing protagonist. Everyone else is mainly around to keep him company.
Story –  3 The story was a bit typical for the zombie overridden post apocalyptic world. She's the daughter of the deranged general running the zombie-free zone, he's a zombie. It's not stretching very far beyond the typical tragic archetypes, but it works.  
Narration – 4 I loved the language. I was not expecting much in terms of elegant phrasing from a teenage zombie love story, but Marion continually surprised me. The tone was somber yet light-hearted and felt genuine. The main character, R, related social faux pas, the daily routine, and emotional experiences of the zombie world.

Read Again? No. There is only enough substance for one read through, but it was a great read.

Tell Others to Read? If they are zombie or romance fans, yes. If not, then no. 

Excerpt: "No one I know has any specific memories. Just a vague, vestigial knowledge of a world long gone. Faint impressions of past lives that linger like phantom limbs. We recognize civilization - buildings, cars, a general overview - but we have no personal role in it. No history. We are just here. We do what we do, time passes, and no one asks questions. But like I've said, it's not so bad. We may appear mindless, but we aren't The rusty cogs of cogency still spin, just geared down and down till the outer motion is barely visible. We grunt and groan, we shrug and nod, and sometimes a few words slip out. It's not that different from before.
     But it does make me sad that we've forgotten our names. Out of everything, this seems to me the most tragic. I miss my own and I mourn for everyone else's, because I'd like to love them, but I don't know who they are."

Excerpt content property of Simon and Schuster.

Signs and Symbols by Vladimir Nabokov

For the fourth time in as many years, they were confronted with the problem of what birthday present to take to a young man who was incurably deranged in his mind.

Desires he had none. Man-made objects were to him either hives of evil, vibrant with a malignant activity that he alone could perceive, or gross comforts for which no use could be found in his abstract world.

After eliminating a number of articles that might offend him or frighten him (anything in the gadget line, for instance, was taboo), his parents chose a dainty and innocent trifle—a basket with ten different fruit jellies in ten little jars.

At the time of his birth, they had already been married for a long time; a score of years had elapsed, and now they were quite old. Her drab gray hair was pinned up carelessly. She wore cheap black dresses. Unlike other women of her age (such as Mrs. Sol, their next-door neighbor, whose face was all pink and mauve with paint and whose hat was a cluster of brookside flowers), she presented a naked white countenance to the faultfinding light of spring. Her husband, who in the old country had been a fairly successful businessman, was now, in New York, wholly dependent on his brother Isaac, a real American of almost forty years’ standing. They seldom saw Isaac and had nicknamed him the Prince.

That Friday, their son’s birthday, everything went wrong. The subway train lost its life current between two stations and for a quarter of an hour they could hear nothing but the dutiful beating of their hearts and the rustling of newspapers. The bus they had to take next was late and kept them waiting a long time on a street corner, and when it did come, it was crammed with garrulous high-school children. It began to rain as they walked up the brown path leading to the sanitarium.

There they waited again, and instead of their boy, shuffling into the room, as he usually did (his poor face sullen, confused, ill-shaven, and blotched with acne), a nurse they knew and did not care for appeared at last and brightly explained that he had again attempted to take his life. He was all right, she said, but a visit from his parents might disturb him. The place was so miserably understaffed, and things got mislaid or mixed up so easily, that they decided not to leave their present in the office but to bring it to him next time they came.

Outside the building, she waited for her husband to open his umbrella and then took his arm. He kept clearing his throat, as he always did when he was upset. They reached the bus-stop shelter on the other side of the street and he closed his umbrella. A few feet away, under a swaying and dripping tree, a tiny unfledged bird was helplessly twitching in a puddle.

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