Book review: The Jesus Cow by Michael Perry

The Jesus Cow by Michael PerryThe Jesus Cow: What it is about

From Harper Publishers: “Life is suddenly full of drama for low-key Harley Jackson: A woman in a big red pickup has stolen his bachelor’s heart, a Hummer-driving predatory developer is threatening to pave the last vestiges of his family farm, and inside his barn is a calf bearing the image of Jesus Christ. His best friend, Billy, a giant of a man who shares his trailer house with a herd of cats and tries to pass off country music lyrics as philosophy, urges him to avoid the woman, fight the developer, and get rich off the calf. But Harley takes the opposite tack, hoping to avoid what his devout, dearly departed mother would have called ‘a scene.’

Then the secret gets out—right through the barn door, and Harley’s “miracle” goes viral. Within hours pilgrims, grifters, and the media have descended on his quiet patch of Swivel, Wisconsin, looking for a glimpse (and a percentage) of the calf. Does Harley hide the famous, possibly holy calf and risk a riot, or give the people what they want—and raise enough money to keep his land—and, just possibly, win the woman and her big red pickup truck?

Harley goes all in, cutting a deal with a major Hollywood agent that transforms his little farm into an international spiritual theme park—think Lourdes, only with cheese curds and t-shirts. Soon, Harley has lots of money . . . and more trouble than he ever dreamed.”

The Jesus Cow: What I thought

This was a humorous story about a man who only wanted peace and quiet. What he got was a veritable theme park in his back garden. He was trying to hide the calf with the Jesus image on its side, but didn’t manage. There come the crowds!

A fun read about a small town with its awkward relationships, secrets, and envy. Although only a few people are highlighted, it feels like a (small) town full of individuals. They all have their own interests at heart, and they clash. When the cow is discovered, for a while it seems the winners and losers have exchanged places. But are there really any winners now?

No one really knows what to do with all the crowds, until the men from Hollywood come in and sort it all out (including the money!). Poor Harley is more interested in his new girlfriend. Will she stay with him?

The ending is a little abrupt but is also the only way it could really have ended.

A real adventure involving a small town and is townspeople. And a cow.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (good to very good)

Number of pages: 288

First published: 2015

I got this book: for review from the publishers, Harper

Genre: contemporary fiction


Book Review: Aquarium by David Vann

Aquarium by David VannAquarium: What it is about

From the publishers: “Twelve-year-old Caitlin lives alone with her mother -a docker at the local container port – in subsidized housing next to an airport in Seattle. Each day, while she waits to be picked up after school, Caitlin visits the local aquarium to study the fish. Gazing at the creatures within the watery depths, Caitlin accesses a shimmering universe beyond her own. When she befriends an old man at the tanks one day, who seems as enamoured of the fish as she, Caitlin cracks open a dark family secret and propels her once-blissful relationship with her mother toward a precipice of terrifying consequence.

In crystalline, chiselled yet graceful prose, Aquarium takes us into the heart of a brave young girl whose longing for love and capacity for forgiveness transforms the damaged people around her. Relentless and heart-breaking, primal and redemptive, Aquarium is a transporting story from one of the best American writers of our time.”

Aquarium: What I thought

Wow, I liked this a lot! I started out being a fan of David Vann with his first few books. With Dirt I had a few issues, and Goat Mountain, his last book before Aquarium, I didn’t finish. But with Aquarium, Vann is back high on my list of favorite authors!

Caitlin has a difficult life living in poor housing with her mother, who has a job that is barely enough to keep them housed, clothed, and fed properly. She spends a lot of her time waiting. She arrives very early at school because her mother drops her off 90 minutes before school starts (so she can go to work), and she picks her up from the aquarium, where Caitlin spends time after school, until her mother is finished with her job.

In the aquarium she befriends a man, but when her mother finds out, she is furious. Caitlin’s mother finally starts talking about her past. A family drama ensues. There are some unpleasant scenes (of the blood and gore type), as we can expect from this author, but close your eyes and they’ll pass soon.

Eventually, this story starts to feel like a fairy tale (which is actually acknowledged by some of the characters!). Some of it is highly unlikely, but it makes a very good story. One point of complaint: Caitlin seemed a lot younger than twelve to me.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (very good)

Number of pages: 272

First published: 2015

I got this book: for review from the publishers, Random House, via Netgalley (eBook)

Genre: contemporary fiction

Also read by this author: Sukkwan Island, Caribou Island, Dirt, Goat Mountain


ArmchairBEA: Winner of the Giveaway

ArmchairBEA Logo

 Armchair BEA is for those people who cannot visit Book Expo America but still want to join in the fun. This week, May 27th to 31st, there are celebrations for those who stay at home rather than make it to New York. 

Armchair BEA is over! I still owe you the winner of the giveaway, though!

The winner, who couldn’t yet choose between win Mind of Winter and Arms Wide Open is…

Ashfa !

She was recovering from eye surgery this weekend. I hope you’re OK, Ashfa, and that by the time your book arrives, you can read again! I’ll contact you for your address.

Thanks to all who joined in and let me know what you did this weekend. It was fun to read!

Did you win anything during Armchair BEA?

I’m curious!  :-)

Armchair BEA Day 4: Giveaway Time!

ArmchairBEA Logo

 Armchair BEA is for those people who cannot visit Book Expo America but still want to join in the fun. This week, May 27th to 31st, there are celebrations for those who stay at home rather than make it to New York. 

Today, Saturday, we’re all giving away books. Go have a look when you’ve finished entering my giveaway.

What you can win:

The winner can choose one book from this selection, some five-star books that I loved. Click on the covers to go to my reviews of the books.

All the Birds, Singing by Evie WyldThe Third by Abel KeoghArms Wide Open by Tom WinterMind of Winter By Laura Kasischke


I’m going to give one entrant one book (your choice). I’m going to send via Bookdepository, so make sure they deliver to your country (cover may vary).

How to enter:

1. In the comments, let me know what book you’d like to win. Also, let me know what fun things you’re doing (have done) this weekend. I’ll be working most of the time, so let me enjoy reading about your great weekend!

2. If you’d like to tweet about this giveaway, that would be so nice! You’ll get one extra entry if you do. Add the tweet link to your comment (click on Expand under the tweet, and then on Details, copy the link from the Address bar).

3. If you’re holding a giveaway for Armchair BEA yourself, leave the link in the comments, and you’ll get one extra entry. Note: only counts if the giveaway is especially for Armchair BEA, not a giveaway that you happen to run at the same time.

You can get a total of three entries for this giveaway.

Anyone can enter, whether you’re taking part in Armchair BEA or not. You don’t need to be a follower of this blog. On Tuesday June, 2nd, I’ll draw a winner. I will send the winner an email and they have 3 days (72 hours) to reply or a new winner is chosen.


Leave a comment,

then go to Armchair BEA headquarters 

for more giveaways.


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