February 19, 2017

Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
Themis File #1
Science Fiction
2016 Random House Audio
Read by Andy Secombe, Eric Meyers, Laurel Lefkow, Charlie Anson, Liza Ross, William Hope, Christoper Ragland, Katharine Mangold, and Adna Sablyich
Finished on October 14, 2016
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

"This stellar debut novel [...] masterfully blends together elements of sci-fi, political thriller and apocalyptic fiction.[...] A page-turner of the highest order." -Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Publisher's Blurb:

A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

I initially picked up a copy of Sleeping Giants at the recommendation of a coworker, and after reading the chilling prologue, I was instantly hooked and decided to download the audio book to my phone. I was shocked (and a bit concerned) that the audio has nine readers, but I was quickly sucked into the story and the characters are distinctive enough with their own quirks and personalities that I didn't have any trouble keeping track of each individual. The chapters are told in alternating points-of-view, most of which are in the format of interviews with a nameless interrogator (I was never sure if he was actually human or a robot...). The novel has been likened to World War Z and The Martian, neither of which I've read, but I did enjoy the movie adaptation of The Martian and would love to see this on the big screen. I kept picturing Katee Sackhoff in the lead role as Kara Resnik.

Great praise from another recently discovered author:

“First-time novelist Sylvain Neuvel does a bold, splashy cannonball off the high dive with Sleeping Giants. It bursts at the seams with big ideas and the questions they spawn—How much human life is worth sacrificing in the pursuit of scientific progress? Can humanity be trusted with weapons of ultimate destruction? And the biggest: Are we alone? But all that really matters is that this book is a sheer blast from start to finish. I haven’t had this much fun reading in ages.”—Blake Crouch, author of Dark Matter and the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy

Final Thoughts:

This is a great audio book with compelling characters and an inventive, thought-provoking plot. I look forward to reading the sequel and may just have to re-read the book before then. The audio took me a little over a week to complete, but after thumbing through the paperback edition, I realize it can be easily read in a day or two. I've forgotten a lot about the ending, so a re-read is probably in order.

(from the author's website)

Yay! I just discovered this on Neuvel's website:

The movie rights for Sleeping Giants have been optioned by Sony. David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Spider-Man, Mission Impossible) is writing the script. Josh Bratman and Matt Tolmach are producing.

In addition to the author's personal website, be sure to click here to see the site devoted to the trilogy. I love the graphics!

February 17, 2017

Looking Back - Riding the White Horse Home

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Riding the White Horse Home: A Western Family Album by Teresa Jordan
1993 Vintage Departures
Finished on March 4, 1997
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

"A haunting and elegant memoir, evoking the ghosts of... family and those spirits inherent in the landscape.... Riding the White Horse Home becomes the story of us all. ~ Terry Tempest Williams

In 1887 Teresa Jordan's great-grandfather bought a ranch in the Iron Mountain country of southeast Wyoming. Four generations later her father sold it, under the economic pressures that have made ranching a dying way of life. This superbly evocative book is at once Teresa Jordan's family chronicle and a eulogy for the West her people helped shape.

Riding the White Horse Home is about generations of women who coped with physical hardship and killing loneliness in a landscape at once beautiful and inhospitable. It is a book of practical information--how to keep a cold from shying; how to tell when a cow is about to calf--conveyed with such precision that reading it is like a fast gallop across the prairie. Teresa Jordan has made a gift of her heritage--and has taught us something about our own.    

My Original Notes (1997):

Marvelous! I love this book. Makes me want to write my own memoirs. I identified with so much of the author's views and feelings. Very sad in places - brought tears to my eyes, yet also humorous. Great look at life on a cattle ranch in contemporary time. Insightful. Touching. Spellbinding.

My Current Thoughts:

Yes, I still own a copy of this wonderful memoir and plan to read it again. I read it for my Great Plains Lit class, many years ago, but still remember how much I enjoyed it. Flipping through my copy, I see a lot of underlined passages and notes jotted down on the pages... far too many to share here, but this particular passage caught my eye and I think it speaks to the author's love of the land she grew up on:
When my family tells the story of the ranch, we say we left because we had to--we could not afford to pay the estate taxes after my grandfather's death. This is true, but it is only part of the story. My family left the land because for four generations we had yearned to leave. We had lived in a culture that taught us that a professional life is more respectable than one tied to the land. This attitude shaped the decisions my family made, and it continues to shape the larger political and economic decisions, made by educators and policymakers far removed from the land, that affect the few who still hold on.

My sadness over the loss of the homeplace is my dark side, my grief, but it is also the source of my deepest knowledge. Perhaps it is only through this experience of loss that I can value a sense of place, that I can question how thoughtlessly--even how contemptuously--we are taught to cast it aside.

I'm willing to bet that none of you have heard of Teresa Jordan or this book. If you enjoy memoirs or novels such as A River Runs Through It (Norman Maclean), Dancing at the Rascal Farm (Ivan Doig) or All the Pretty Horses (Cormac McCarthy), this is sure to be one you will love. I'm so happy to see that it's still available for purchase.

February 13, 2017

The Bridge Ladies

The Bridge Ladies by Betsy Lerner
2016 HarperAudio
Read by Orlagh Cassidy
Finished on October 4, 2016
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A fifty-year-old Bridge club provides an unexpected connection across a generational divide between mother and daughter. Betsy Lerner tells a funny, intimate, and deeply affecting story where we learn a little about Bridge and a lot about life.

After a lifetime of defining herself against her mother's Don't Ask, Don't Tell generation, Lerner, an enthusiastic member of the Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll generation, found herself back home in her suburban Connecticut town. It represented everything she had wanted to flee: namely the traditional life her mother stood for. Yet when Roz needed help after surgery, Betsy stepped in. She expected a week of tense civility; what she got were the Bridge Ladies. Impressed by their faithful visits and home-cooked meals, she saw something her own generation lacked: Facebook was great, but it wouldn't deliver a pot roast.

Tentatively at first, Betsy became a regular fixture at her mother's Monday Bridge club. Before long, she braved the intimidating world of Bridge--a game, she writes, "that well acquaints you with your deficits"--and fell under its spell. Unexpectedly, the Bridge Ladies became a Greek chorus, a catalyst for change between Betsy and Roz as they reconciled years of painful misunderstandings and harrowing silences. The Bridge table became the common ground they never had.

Darkly funny and deeply moving, The Bridge Ladies weaves the histories of the ladies with those of Betsy and her mother across a lifetime of missed opportunities. The result is an unforgettable story of a hard-won--but never-too-late--bond between mother and daughter.

I almost gave up on this audio, growing more and more tired of the author's complaints about her relationship with her mother. But about halfway into the book, I started to care about the Bridge Ladies and their relationships with each other and their families. While at times a bit depressing, or maybe it's just that I couldn't relate to Betsy and her mother, it wound up being rather touching and thought-provoking as the conclusion drew near. Bridge, though? No thank you! Mahjong is much easier!!

February 10, 2017

Looking Back - Second Hoeing

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Second Hoeing by Hope Williams Sykes
1982 University of Nebraska Press (first published in 1935)
Finished on March 1, 1997
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

"Papa’ll work her till she drops in the field!" The backbreaking labor of German-Russian immigrants in the sugar beet fields of Colorado is described with acute perception in Hope Sykes's Second Hoeing. First published in 1935, the novel was greeted in all quarters as an impressive and authoritative evocation of these recent immigrants and their struggle to realize the promise of their chosen country.

My Original Notes (1997):

Very good, yet depressing and bleak. Somewhat predictable. Not a great artistic author, although a gripping story. Good look at German-Russian history in Colorado.

My Current Thoughts:

I only have a vague recollection of this book, but I do remember comparing it to My Antonia, feeling a little less impressed than I had been with Willa Cather's prose. Cather's novels are full of beautiful images and Sykes' novel, while informative and gripping, didn't evoke the same sense of creative drama as Cather's. I no longer own the book and have no inclination to read it again.

February 8, 2017

February 6, 2017

Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
2016 Simon & Schuster
Finished on September 27, 2016
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

From the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Little Bee, a spellbinding novel about three unforgettable individuals thrown together by war, love, and their search for belonging in the ever-changing landscape of WWII London.

It’s 1939 and Mary, a young socialite, is determined to shock her blueblood political family by volunteering for the war effort. She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin.

Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.

A sweeping epic with the kind of unforgettable characters, cultural insights, and indelible scenes that made Little Bee so incredible, Chris Cleave’s latest novel explores the disenfranchised, the bereaved, the elite, the embattled. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is a heartbreakingly beautiful story of love, loss, and incredible courage.

One of my favorite subjects to read about is fictional accounts of World War II. Just this past year, I read City of Thieves (David Benioff), The Storyteller (Jodi Picoult), and The Nightingale (Kristin Hannah). I loved each one, not only for the well-drawn characters, but for the light they shed on specific areas of that terrible war that I had not encountered in other books. When Chris Cleave's latest novel was released, I was intrigued. I enjoyed his bestseller, Little Bee (reviewed here), and so I had high hopes for another outstanding book about World War II. It took me a while to get interested in the story, but I was eventually drawn in, once the relationships between the three characters were established. While not as good as the above mentioned novels, I enjoyed the book and came to care about the characters and their sad predicaments, particularly those of Mary and her students. 

On the children of the war:

Since Mary must neither bump into her mother nor anyone who conceivably might, she had a day to fill on her own. Autumn had come, with squalls of rain that doused the hot mood of the war. She walked along the Embankment while the southwesterly blew through the railings where children used to rattle their sticks. In the playground at Kensington Gardens the wind scoured the kiteless sky and set the empty swings rocking to their own orphaned frequency.

How bereft London was, how drably biddable, without its infuriating children. Here and there Mary spotted a rare one whom the evacuation had left marooned. The strays kicked along on their own through the leaves, seal-eyed and forlorn. When she gave an encouraging smile, they only stared back. Mary supposed she could not blame them. How else would one treat the race that had abducted one's playmates?

On hope:

They leaned shoulders companionably and looked out to sea. Perhaps it was true, thought Alistair, that Septembers would come again. People would love the crisp cool of the mornings, and it would not remind them of the week war was declared. Perhaps there would be such a generation. Blackberries would ripen, carefree hands would pick them, and jam would be poured into pots to cool. And the jam would only taste of jam. People would not save jars of it like holy relics. They would eat it on toast, thinking nothing of it, hardly bothering to look at the label.

Alistair let the idea grow: that when the war's heat was spent, the last remaining pilots would ditch their last bombs into the sea and land their planes on cratered airfields that would slowly give way to brambles. That pilots would take off their jackets and ties, and pick fruit.
Final Thoughts:

It took me a while to get interested in this novel, but once I did I was hooked. The ending felt somewhat anticlimactic, but I can't explain what it was I had been hoping for. All in all, a worthwhile read. Recommend.

February 3, 2017

Looking Back - My Antonia

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

My Antonia by Willa Cather
Great Plains Trilogy #3
1995 Houghton Mifflin (First Published in 1918)
Finished on February 21, 1997
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

An enduring literary masterpiece first published in 1918, this hauntingly eloquent classic is an inspiring reminder of the rich past we have inherited. Willa Cather's lustrous prose, infused of the immigrant pioneer woman on the Nebraska plains, while etching a deeply moving portrait of an entire community. As Jim Burden revisits his childhood friendship with the free-spirited Antonia Shimerda, we come to understand the sheer fortitude of homesteaders on the prairie, the steadfast bonds cultivated there, and the abiding memories that such vast expanses inspire. Holding the pastoral society's heart, of course, is the bewitching Antonia, whose unfailing industry and infectious enthusiasm for life exemplify the triumphant vitality of an era.

Kathleen Norris says in her forward that My Antonia is in many ways "a perfect evocation of childhood," guided by a remarkable friendship. Willa Cather has wondrously captured a measure of our collective youth, and her classic remains an ode to the pioneering soul and the romantic possibilities of the land.

My Original Notes (1997):

What a beautifully written book. My very first Cather and I enjoyed it so much, I bought a bunch more by her to read this summer. (Also, a couple of biographies.)

I was a little disappointed when I first began reading the book, because it seemed so simplistic. As I got further into the novel, I realized how eloquent Cather wrote. It's basically a plotless novel, yet rich in description of the characters and the beauty of the land.

Lots of symbolism & imagery. 

My Current Thoughts:

Like most high school students of the 70s, I read authors such as Hawthorne, London, Austin, Bronte, Steinbeck and Melville. It wasn't until I moved to Nebraska in the early 90s that I even heard of Willa Cather, let alone read one of her famous novels. Again, thanks to a wonderful reading list in my Great Plains Lit class at the university, I was introduced to My Antonia, which I have since read a second time. I have also read O Pioneers! and The Song of the Lark, which complete this Great Plains trilogy. 

As I thumb through my copy of My Antonia, I find myself reading the highlighted passages and notations from my first encounter with the novel, eager to make time to read the book a third time.

If you've read any of Cather's novels and find yourself in Nebraska, do make time for a visit to Red Cloud. I went for a Cather symposium many years ago and loved seeing so many of the landmarks mentioned in My Antonia. You can view several wonderful video clips by clicking here

My husband and I have now lived in Nebraska for almost 25 years. These are just a few of the photographs I've taken of the wide open sky and prairie.

February 1, 2017

Wordless Wednesday

The woods of Little Whale Cove
Depoe Bay, Oregon
December 2016

January 31, 2017

The Boys in the Boat

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Nonfiction - Nautical
2013 Penguin Audio
Read by Edward Herrmann
Finished on September 19, 2016
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

For readers of Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit and Unbroken, the dramatic story of the American rowing team that stunned the world at Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics

Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.

Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam's The Amateurs.

This really should have been a 5-star book for me, what with the perfect ingredients of boats and the Pacific Northwest setting. I love being on and around the water and have spent a bit of time on Lake Union in Seattle. 10 years ago, I sat on the aft deck of my dad and stepmom's boat, watching several groups of rowers make their way back and forth across the lake. I was quite envious! I've never rowed in a scull, but I owned a kayak for a few years and enjoyed paddling around on a local lake. I've always thought rowing would be a great way to be out on the water, not to mention the great workout.

So when I first learned about Brown's book, I was intrigued. Hearing that the book reads like a novel made it even more appealing. I started out with the print edition, but couldn't get interested, so I moved on to the audio. I thought the book started off a little slow, but I stuck with it, hoping things would pick up as the Olympics drew closer. I was interested in the sections that dealt with Germany and the preparations for the Olympics, but otherwise, the details about the rowing and the boys' lives became tedious to listen to. Edward Hermann did a fine job with the narration, but I found my mind wandering and really had to force myself to pay attention. 

Final Thoughts:

It took me almost three weeks to listen to 14 1/2 hours of narration and I have to say, I was glad to be finished. It's certainly not a bad book, but it wasn't what I was expecting. I thought I was in the minority, but my husband (who loves everything nautical and preferably nonfiction) didn't even finish reading it, so I don't feel too badly for giving it such a low rating.

January 27, 2017

Looking Back - Bless Me, Ultima

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
1972 TQS Publications
Finished on February 10, 1997
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Stories filled with wonder and the haunting beauty of his culture have helped make Rudolfo Anaya the father of Chicano literature in English, and his tales fairly shimmer with the lyric richness of his prose. Acclaimed in both Spanish and English, Anaya is perhaps best loved for his classic bestseller ... Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. She is a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under her wise wing, Tony will test the bonds that tie him to his people, and discover himself in the pagan past, in his father's wisdom, and in his mother's Catholicism. And at each life turn there is Ultima, who delivered Tony into the world-and will nurture the birth of his soul.

My Original Notes (1997):

Another book assigned in my Plains Lit. Class. Very good! A story of a seven-year-old Chicano boy growing up in New Mexico around 1945. Very interesting look at the devotion of Catholicism blended with pagen mysticism. Suspenseful. Sad. Beautifully written. Lyrical. I'm ready to read more of Anaya's works, such as Tortuga and a collection of short stories. Beautiful descriptions of the llano and nature in New Mexico.

My Current Thoughts:

I remember how much I loved reading and studying this novel for my Great Plains Literature course at the university. It was my first exposure to magical realism and I was spellbound! Thumbing through my copy, I have to chuckle at all the notations and underlined passages. I was such an eager student, wanting to understand everything about this book--the symbolism, biblical imagery, and the legends and superstitions of Antonio's people. There are a lot of untranslated Spanish words and phrases, which required careful translation, but now that I have those noted in the margins, reading it a second time shouldn't be too difficult. This is definitely a book I will read again!

January 26, 2017

The Woman in Cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
2016 Gallery/Scout Press
Finished on September 1, 2016
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

From New York Times bestselling author of the “twisty-mystery” (Vulture) novel In a Dark, Dark Wood, comes The Woman in Cabin 10, an equally suspenseful novel from Ruth Ware—this time, set at sea.

In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another intense read.

The Woman in Cabin 10 starts off very well. I think the opening chapters are even better than those of her debut novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood. Unfortunately, by the halfway mark, the pacing begins to slow down and I start to grow impatient with Lo's internal whining. The first person narrative is what ultimately ruined this thriller for me, not to mention yet another drunk girl as an unreliable witness. I'm tired of this set-up!

Final Thoughts:

I love thrillers and was pretty disappointed that Ware couldn't maintain the momentum of her story line. Having recently read Murder on the Orient Express, I found myself comparing this modern thriller to that of Agatha Christie's classic, curious if the author was inspired by Agatha. Too bad she can't ask her for some pointers.

January 24, 2017

They May Not Mean To, But They Do

They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine
2016 Macmillan Audio
Read by Cynthia Darlow
Finished on August 31, 2016
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Joy Bergman is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her children, Molly and Daniel, would prefer. She won't take their advice, and she won't take an antidepressant. Her marriage to their father, Aaron, has lasted through health and dementia, as well as some phenomenally lousy business decisions. The Bergman clan has always stuck together, growing as it incorporated in-laws, ex-in-laws, and same-sex spouses. But families don't just grow, they grow old.

Cathleen Schine's They May Not Mean To, But They Do is a tender, sometimes hilarious intergenerational story about searching for where you belong as your family changes with age.

When Aaron dies, Molly and Daniel have no shortage of solutions for their mother's loneliness and despair, but there is one challenge they did not count on: the reappearance of an ardent suitor from Joy's college days. They didn't count on Joy suddenly becoming as willful and rebellious as their own kids.

With sympathy, humor, and truth, Schine explores the intrusion of old age into a large and loving family. They May Not Mean To, But They Do is a radiantly compassionate look at three generations, all coming of age together.

Recommended by a fellow blogger (JoAnn, I believe), I decided to give the audio version of this book a try. It wasn't bad, but I didn't love it. The reader did a great job, but some sentiments and thoughts about aging rang true and were painfully sad to hear. At times, the reality of this book made me uncomfortable as both a child of an aging parent and as a parent of an adult child. This would be a great book to discuss in a book club along with Being Mortal. Overall, They May Not Mean To, But They Do is both a sad and humorous look at aging.

January 22, 2017

Dark Matter

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
2016 Crown
Finished on August 26, 2016
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher's Blurb:

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

This book should come with a warning on the cover: Do not read at night if you are susceptible to bizarre dreams about alternate universes and questionable realities. If this doesn't present a problem for you, read away, but beware. You'll feel exhausted from lack of sleep, as you won't be able to put the book down! Dark Matter is an utterly engrossing thriller with perfect pacing and intensity. It's the proverbial page-turner. While I didn't understand a lot (ok, most) of the science, I didn't get bogged down by it either. Crouch's snappy dialogue and pacing create an experience that is sure to play out on the big screen, hopefully in the not too distant future. Or in a not-too-distant alternate reality.

January 21, 2017

The Sixth Idea

The Sixth Idea by P.J. Tracy
Monkeewrench, #7
2016 G.P. Putnam's Sons
Finished on August 20, 2016
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

The peaceful Christmas season in Minneapolis is shattered when two friends, Chuck Spencer and Wally Luntz, scheduled to meet in person for the first time, are murdered on the same night, two hours and several miles apart, dramatically concluding winter vacation for homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth.

An hour north of Minneapolis, Lydia Ascher comes home to find two dead men in her basement. When Leo and Gino discover her connection to their current cases, they suspect that she is a target, too. The same day, an elderly, terminally ill man is kidnapped from his home, an Alzheimer’s patient goes missing from his care facility, and a baffling link among all the crimes emerges.

This series of inexplicable events sends the detectives sixty years into the past to search for answers—and straight to Grace MacBride’s Monkeewrench, a group of eccentric computer geniuses who devote their time and resources to helping the cops solve the unsolvable. What they find is an unimaginable horror—a dormant Armageddon that might be activated at any moment unless Grace and her partners Annie, Roadrunner, and Harley Davidson, along with Leo and Gino, can find a way to stop it.

This highly anticipated installment in the Monkeewrench series was a terrible disappointment. The story lacked tension and seemed unnecessarily drawn out. I was curious enough to finish, but overall, it was not worth my time.  If you're a fan of the Monkeewrench crew and want to see what's in store for these characters, I suggest you get a copy of the book at your library. I doubt it's one you'll read twice.

January 20, 2017

Looking Back - Absolute Power

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Absolute Power by David Baldacci
1995 Warner Books
Finished on January 31, 1997
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Absolute Corruption. In a heavily guarded mansion in a posh Virginia suburb, a man and a woman start to make love, trapping a burglar behind a secret wall. Then the passion turns deadly, and the witness is running into the night. Because what he has just seen is a brutal slaying involving the President of the United States.

Absolute Danger. Luther Whitney is the career break-in artist who's in the wrong place at the wrong time. Alan Richmond is the charming U.S. president with the power to commit any crime. And Jack Graham is the young attorney, caught in a vortex between the absolute truth--and...

Absolute Power. A tale of greed, sex, ambition, and murder, this is the novel everyone has been talking about...the shattering, relentlessly suspenseful thriller that will change the way you think about Washington--and power--forever.

My Original Notes (1997):

Excellent novel! Right up there with Patricia Cornwell and John Grisham. Very suspenseful. I read it in about a week, whenever I could squeeze it in between school work and housework. Can't wait to see the movie (Clint Eastwood's in it!).

My Current Thoughts:

I have no recollection of this book at all. Glad I was entertained by it, but I don't have any desire to give it a second read. Brain candy.

January 19, 2017

The Girl with All the Gifts

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Science Fiction
2014 Hachette Audio
Read by Finty Williams
Finished on August 16, 2016
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her "our little genius."

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

The Girl with All the Gifts is a sensational thriller, perfect for fans of Stephen King, Justin Cronin, and Neil Gaiman.

I chose to read The Girl with All the Gifts after hearing two of my coworkers give it high praise. After listening to a sample of the audio on Audible.com, I decided to go with the audio, as the reader is outstanding. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, eager to return to it whenever time would allow.

I love the way the author describes the following scene in which the children see flowers, perhaps for the very first time in their young lives.
...It's kind of ugly, Melanie thinks, but absolutely fascinating. Especially when Miss Justineau explains that the little green balls are buds--and they'll turn into leaves and cover the whole tree in green, as though it's put a summer dress on.

But there's a lot more stuff in the bag, and when Miss Justineau starts to unpack it, the whole class stares in awe. Because the bag is full of colours--starburst and wheels and whorls of dazzling brightness that are as fine and complex in their structures as the branch is, only much more symmetrical. Flowers.

"Red campion," Miss Justineau says, holding up a spray that's not red at all but sort of purple, each petal forked into two like the footprint of an animal in a tracking chart Melanie saw once.

"Rosemary." White fingers and green fingers, all laced together like your hands clasped together in your lap when you're nervous and you don't want to fidget.

"Daffodils." Yellow tubes like the trumpets angels blow in the old pictures in Miss Justineau's books, but with fringed lips so delicate they move when Miss Justineau breathes on them.

"Medlar." White spheres in dense clusters, each one made out of overlapping petals that are curved and nested on themselves, and open at one end to show something inside that looks like a tiny model of more flowers.

The children are hypnotised. It's spring in the classroom. It's equinox, with the world balanced between winter and summer, life and death, like a spinning ball balanced on the tip of someone's finger.
The ending was somewhat anticlimactic and I was left wanting more (perhaps there's a sequel in the works?), but overall it was a very good book. It's not for the faint of heart, but it will more than likely appeal to fans of The Walking Dead and Justin Cronin's Passage trilogy. I'm eager to see the movie, but after watching the trailer I know it will be something I'll want to watch on a weekend afternoon. I'm too easily scared and don't want to have nightmares!

M. R. Carey is a pen name for an established British writer of prose fiction and comic books. He has written for both DC and Marvel, including critically acclaimed runs on X-Men and Fantastic Four, Marvel’s flagship superhero titles. His creator-owned books regularly appear in the New York Times graphic fiction bestseller list. He also has several previous novels and one Hollywood movie screenplay to his credit.