Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Fireman by Joe HIll

The Fireman by Joe Hill

                The official name for the infection was Draco incendia trychophyton but most people simple referred to it as Dragonscale. You can see it on the skin, black lines swirling across the body with gold flecks. It becomes really apparent when someone has it if they happen to burst into flames or simply start smoking. The first burner Harper saw was outside of the school where she worked as a nurse. School closed after that incident. Then Harper decided to volunteer at the hospital which was severely understaffed after the outbreak. It wasn’t until after Harper found out she was pregnant that she saw the black lines on her own body. Her husband Jakob was disgusted with the thought of contracting the infection and even more disgusted with the idea of Harper keeping the baby. He leaves furious and returns with the twisted notion to take both of their lives. The Fireman had other plans. Harper had only made his acquaintance on one occasion while working at the hospital. But the night he showed up to rescue her was the night everything in her life changed and she slowly began to learn the power coursing through her own Dragonscale.
                The Fireman is intense from beginning to end. From the very first page I was intrigued and fascinated and most importantly invested. Dragonscale seemed to be a devastating and uncontrollable infection that was destroying the world as we know it. Harper was a well-developed, thoughtful character who I immediately liked. I felt the exact opposite about her husband Jakob. Then there was the Fireman, who was completely cloaked in mystery. Character building and development was on point and well executed. World building was just as incredible. Just the right amount of fear and desperation, mixed with a little fundamentalism. I was hooked.

                This book was so damn good. The story was constantly moving forward and the pacing was perfect. There was never too much going on at one time but there were never any dull moments either. I really enjoyed the characters. I enjoyed the concept and how the story played out. The ending wasn’t totally unexpected but still enjoyable. This book is over 700 pages and I finished it in three days! I couldn’t put it down. I was so compelled by the story and I wanted so badly to see how everything ended. Hill did a great job in creating and developing this story. The literary references were a plus that I definitely enjoyed. I give this novel 5 out of 5 stars.  

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb (1998)

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

                Dominick and Thomas, the twins. Different in so many ways. Identical in nature and yet opposites in life. Dominick the teacher turned house painter. Thomas the paranoid schizophrenic that cut off his right arm in a public library to try and stop a war. This is Dominick’s story, his narrative, his examination of how his life turned out the way it is. Failed marriage, the guardian of his crazy brother, the man who never even knew who his father was. Dominick is the man still fighting for answers and to fulfill his last promise to his now deceased mother, to protect her favorite and to watch over him. But at what cost! Was he supposed to sacrifice his own sanity after fighting so hard to not be Thomas?
                From the very first page of this novel I was hooked. Dominick was a very straight forward character who told it how it was and didn’t pity himself. What I loved most about his character was that he was fighting for his brother and himself. He didn’t understand how he made it unscathed while his brother thought he was a prophet for Jesus. He didn’t understand why Thomas could never function normally and yet, here Dominick was putting one foot in front of the other. Dominick was flawed and he knew it. He even partially blamed himself. But this whole novel was about him, his brother, and family in general. Self-examination is really what this novel was about. What had his life become and why?
                I Know This Much Is True was extremely interesting and very well told. Dominick was a very powerful narrator and a very well developed character. I could see life through his eyes and it was all very intimate. It was easy to blame him and yet feel his pain. I was trying to understand what made him the person that he is at the same time that he was trying to figure everything out. But all of the characters were well thought out, believable and flawed. Everyone’s presence throughout the novel left a profound impression on Dominick’s life and added to the narrative. The plot for this story moved well and stayed interesting. There was a pretty drastic change in story telling half-way through the novel that took some getting used to though.

                Overall, this novel was amazing. I really enjoyed it. Great world building and a main character with a great presence can do that to a novel. I was on the same quest he was: a quest for answers. I love when I can fall into a story and just get lost in the narrative and this was that kind of book for me. Lamb is great at creating characters that have a lot of depth and aren’t easily understood. I give this novel 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ghosts From Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal by Erin Gilbert and Abby L. Yates with Andrew Shaffer

Ghosts From Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal by Erin Gilbert and Abby L. Yates with Andrew Shaffer

                Erin and Abby have come a long way since being known as “Ghost Girls” at their high school. They want you to know just how far that is. In Ghosts From Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal Erin and Abby start from the beginning of their fascination with the paranormal to their current standings. This newly revised and somewhat updated version included their current finding and techniques while still holding true to the information in the original publication.  

                I’m not sure what I was expecting from this movie tie-in but at the very least I was entertained. This book “written” by the characters of the 2016 film “Ghostbusters” is meant to have an in depth look at their methods, their history and the history of paranormal findings around the world. I like the way the book was structured. It was very obvious from the beginning that this book was written by fictional characters about their own fictional lives and careers. The characters were spot on with those in the movie. I could hear their voices throughout and there were definitely some funny moments throughout. This is a book that fans of the “Ghostbusters” will definitely enjoy. But the only driving force for this book is how strong the characterization is. This is an easy read with some interesting information but there really isn’t much else to it. The humor is there but extremely predictable. Overall, I found it entertaining but it isn’t a page turner. 

Thank you Blogging for Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

                Have you ever wondered what your life could have been if you changed one simple thing? If you hadn’t taken that class, went to that bar, introduced yourself to the person who would be the love of your life? Jason Dessen has had those thoughts and wondered about how different life may have been. But he lives a good life now with his wife, Daniela and his son Charlie. But all that is taken away from him. He had simply went to meet an old friend of his and on the way home was forced into a car at gunpoint and made to drive to a location he didn’t even know existed. He awakes to find himself in a warehouse where everyone has been anxiously awaiting him. No one had seen him in 14 months and there are so many questions? But he doesn’t know any of these people. He has never met any of them in his life. His home is completely different than the way he left it and it’s obvious that whoever lives here, lives alone. There is no Daniela or Charlie or even proof of their existence. The answer is simple and yet extremely complicated. This isn’t the world where he married Daniela and had a son. This world is not his own.
                Yep. Let that marinate for a second before I move on. Jason woke up in an alternate reality where things are similar to the world he knows but his situation is completely different. That is the basis of the story but it becomes extremely complicated and I won’t even try to explain it in this review. Crouch does explain it and he does an excellent job explaining it. And that is my first major compliment of this novel. There are some highly scientific topics discussed in this book (I’m a bit of a science geek so I loved it) and he did a great job making those topics easy to understand and comprehend. Crouch also did a great job in creating these characters and filling them with a lot of depth and emotion. Most of this novel is narrated by Jason and the lengths he was willing to go to get back to his wife and child were heart wrenching and emotional. Crouch also made a highly improbable situation seem extremely plausible and ultimately terrifying.
                This novel wasn’t perfect though. It is full of suspense and a lot of high powered action which kept the story moving. But there were moments when the pace was almost too fast, too extreme. Situations occurred where I would have loved to have seen more development and instead Crouch just kept moving right along. I hate to say it but parts of the novel just felt rushed. It made me question some of the circumstances and the decisions that were being made. This ending though was really well done and unexpected. I have to applaud Crouch for how he handled and executed the ending.

                Dark Matter deserves all the praise it’s receiving. This was a completely different type of reading experience and I found it highly enjoyable. It opens the door to so many possibilities literally and figuratively. It is extremely well imagined and well executed. If you are in the mood for a suspenseful, science fiction novel with a dash of danger and alternate realities than this is for you. I could honestly recommend this for anyone just in the mood for a quick, joyride of a novel. I give this novel 4 out of 5 stars. 

Thank you Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (1997)

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

                Many people have heard the biblical story of Jacob, the man who fled from his home after stealing his brother’s blessing. He fled to his mother’s family and met Rachel by the well. He offered to work several years for Rachel’s father, Laban, in exchange for her hand in marriage. He would eventually sire many children through many wives but it was Rachel’s only child Joseph who would eventually be sold by his brothers into slavery, rise in the ranks to eventually become an adviser to the king. This story is the one that is known. The Red Tent is the story people don’t know. This is the story of Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter and the last child of his first wife Leah. But this is not only the story of Dinah, it is the story of her mother, her aunts and the many other women she met while sitting in the red tent. The tent where women gathered with the changing moon and the coming of their life’s blood. Where they made sacrifices shared stories and learned from one another.
                So in short this is a retelling of a biblical tale with the focus being on the woman of the family. The story begins with Jacob’s arrival in Rachel’s village and continues into the story of each of the wives and how their marriages to Jacob came to be. Their jealousies, insecurities and friendships were explored as well as their place in Jacob’s heart. Then comes Dinah and readers learn what is expected of a daughter compared to that of the sons. Women are very much the focus of this story and it breathed life into the biblical tale told for thousands of years. World building was the strength of this novel. Diamant was able to build a world in ancient times that felt alive. The politics and customs felt real. Through the eyes of Dinah we meet all the characters and for the most part they were well developed. At the very least you could understand them and their struggles and what life may have been like for them.

                This novel was ok. I can’t think of a better phrase than ok. I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it. I simply read it and found the idea of a biblical retelling fascinating. This was my second attempt at this novel. It’s been at least a decade since I tried reading this the first time and for the life of me I couldn’t do it. This time I was more intrigued by the minute details and was able to read it quickly. This is by no means a bad book but I simply wasn’t able to invest myself in the day to day lives of these women. I give it 3 out of 5 stars. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (1996)

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

                Francis McCourt was born in America to his mother, Angela and his father Malachy. His father was a drunk who would spend any money he made in bars and leave his wife at home with the kids. Eventually they would have to move back to Ireland where both of Francis’ parents were from. But the cycle of his father’s drunken stupors continued and the children would live in unbearable conditions. This is the childhood of Francis McCourt, Frank. His story is sad but his experiences speak of time when many others new loss and it was a struggle to survive and many children would never make it to adulthood. Told through the eyes of Frank himself we see his story unfold.
                This novel was full of lows and blows. It starts off unveiling the devastating circumstances of a horrible childhood, with an irresponsible deadbeat father. His mother is always pregnant, then depressed and it becomes an endless cycle of hunger, dire conditions and loss. I know what my life was like at the age of four and there is no way I would have survived, especially not in the 1930s and 1940s. Frank as the narrator was an observant child that explained everything he saw, even those things he didn’t understand. What makes this book so good is the way in which Frank listens to the other characters and absorbs everything he hears. The way the information is processed and the childlike understanding is done very well.

                McCourt’s childhood is one I would never want to experience but the one thing I can appreciate is Frank’s lighthearted manner. Earlier portions of the book were filled with despair. It wasn’t until midway through the book, as Frank matures and understands how pitiful life has become, that any humor creeps into the book. But once it does this book becomes more enjoyable. Frank’s outlook on life and his determination is something to behold. He has such a sense of humor and it radiated throughout the latter pages. That along with his amazing world building really helps make this story the well written piece of work that it is. This story does become repetitive and at moments I was at a loss but overall I give this 3.5 out of 5 stars. An interesting, look at life in Ireland told in a way that resonates. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

From Potter’s Field by Patricia Cornwell (1995)

From Potter’s Field by Patricia Cornwell

                From Potter’s Field is the 6th book in a crime series revolving around forensic pathologist Dr. Kay Scarpetta. In this novel an old foe by the name of Temple Gaunt is back to haunt and terrorize Scarpetta. The first body is found in Central Park on Christmas Eve. From there the bodies continue to add up and the connection between the case, Gaunt and Scarpetta continues to add up. Not only his her life in danger, but that of her niece who developed an artificial intelligence computer system known as CAIN. Scarpetta must work quickly to catch Gaunt before she finds herself or her niece in harms way.
                This started off really strong. Scarpetta was in a high powered position, well respected, good at her job and was a character with a lot of wit and humor. I instantly liked her. The action started off right away and I was instantly intrigued. As the story progressed I found my interest waning. The action stayed constant and the plot kept progressing but Scarpetta lost some of her personality. Few of the other characters were very well fleshed out and I’m not sure how many of them I even liked. The Gaunt case was the goal but there were little facts and entries that were made that served as only distraction. Then the ending happened and it all seemed very rushed.

                The one thing I truly liked about this novel was that it felt like a stand-alone novel. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not having read the previous novels. I felt like enough information was alluded to and provided so that readers could enjoy it as is. I wish the ending hadn’t been rushed. I wish Scarpetta’s voice and character had continued to shine throughout the book like it had in the beginning of the novel. The ending in my opinion could have been so much better. I’m not sure if I would read any of the other novels in this series. I give this 3 out of 5 stars. Could have been a lot better but it had its interesting and exciting moments and a character who could really shine if allowed. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mama's Curse by T.M.Morris

Mama’s Curse by T.M. Morris

Full Disclosure: I know the author, T.M. Morris, personally. She has been a part of my life since I was a young girl and she is ingrained in my world as a mentor, friend and aunt. I am mentioned in the book and listed in the acknowledgements. My personal relationship with Morris has no standing on the review to follow.

                Within the pages of Mama’s Curse there are stories that needed to be told. It is the story of a young girl who watched her mother struggle to raise three children. It is the story of young woman finding herself while she watches her brothers’ struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. It is the story of a woman making her way in the Los Angeles Police Department. It is the story of a wife and mother working hard to balance her family and a career. This isn’t the story of one woman’s fight against cancer. It is the story of a life lived with love, courage and the strength to continue to endure even when faced with repeated bouts of adversity. Even when your body has turned against you. Though written by Morris this isn’t the story of one woman, but many women who have and will encounter that same adversity.

                Let me start off by saying that this memoir was really well done. It is concise and powerful. Morris starts with her day to day life around the time she was diagnosed with cancer then send readers back in time to 1907 and the life of her own grandmother. There she explores her family’s history and the world that existed before Morris was even thought of. This was life in Coffeyville, Kansas in 1907 and these are the events that led to Carmen falling for Paul and having three children, the second of which would be Tia, the author and narrator. From there Morris continues to bring readers through the years of her life and back to the pivotal moment in the hospital as she learns that she, like her mother and other women in her family, have cancer.

                Racism, sexism, and misogyny in the police force; drug abuse, domestic violence and alcoholism; family, legacy, parenting and cancer are all issues discussed in Mama’s Curse. Over a hundred years of history in less than 400 pages and every single character lives through the voice of Morris. They live through her recollections and the stories she tells. Morris managed to infuse humor, passion, frustration and love throughout these pages all while developing the different characters and recreating the world as she knows it. Her honesty and no nonsense tone make her a force to be reckoned with. I really enjoyed getting lost in these pages. This is well told, well written, heartfelt and easy to recommend. This is her story and it so easy to relate to and recognize those characters that we all seem to have in our lives. I give Mama’s Curse 4 out of 5 stars. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Apache Wars: The Hunt for Geronimo, The Apache kid and the Captive Boy Who Started the Longest War in American History by Paul Andrew Hutton

The Apache Wars: The Hunt for Geronimo, The Apache kid and the Captive Boy Who Started the Longest War in American History by Paul Andrew Hutton

                What do you remember learning in history class about the late 1800s? More specifically what do you remember learning about the settling of what would become the Western United States from the 1860s to the 1890s? If you are anything like me then you aren’t very aware of the dark history that inhabits that entire time period. You may have heard some of the names, like Geronimo or the Apache Kid. And you are more than likely aware of the reservations that exist or existed at that time. But the history as I remember learning it, is nothing like the history revealed within the pages of The Apache Wars: The Hunt for Geronimo, The Apache kid and the Captive Boy Who Started the Longest War in American History. Hutton offers an in-depth look at the lives of the many different Native American tribes settled in the Arizona/New Mexico area as they fight against the Americans encroaching on their territory. One name will be mentioned often, Mickey Free, who as a child was kidnapped from his home and raised as an Apache. His history and story is interlaced throughout the history of the many different tribes. But of course, his kidnapping is what they say started it all.
                Hutton packs a lot of information into this account of American history. If you are like me and wasn’t very educated on the settling of these territories, well then this will definitely be a crash course history during the years of 1860 to the late 1890’s. The information is giving chronologically with the events starting near the time the southern states were considering seceding from the Union. Americans trying to settle the land on the Western front were beginning to engage in their own war, that against the Native American Tribes. The abduction of the young child who would be known as Mickey Free was definitely one catalyst that began the war but tensions had been running high. The Americans or “White Eyes” as they were referred to then, were trying to make Native Americans dependent on them while also trying to settle their land. Naturally those Native Americans didn’t want to give up their land and were willing to fight to the death, somewhat brutally, to stay on their land. But the work of the White Eyes would eventually force the Native Americans to settle on reservations but that would take decades of warfare and betrayals before it finally happened. Legends like Geronimo would fight until he was no longer able to. While the Apache Kid would be a scout for many years before finally going on the run. Mickey Free would work for the government for many years and would be seen as traitor by many. Each of these histories intertwined to tell this unnerving and horrifying part of history

                What readers have here at the hands of Hutton is a really interesting and educational book that describes the difficult history of Native Americans and their relationship with Americans. It is extremely brutal and a lot of the facts I simply don’t want to imagine. It makes you question humanity and the lengths that people would go in the name of conquest and greed. Unfortunately this story starts off really slow. It did take me a while to really get in to the story but overall I thought this was really well done. It is a lot of information and at times it can get a little overwhelming but Hutton presents a well- researched and well-structured nonfiction book. I give this 4 out of 5 stars. 

Thanks Blogging for Books for this copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson

The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson

                He called her Maya, but that wasn’t her name. That was the name he gave her, after he tattooed the butterfly on her back. He gave all the girls names. That would make them his after all. They would be his from now on. They would stay with him in his garden, preserved in all their beauty. She knew him as the Gardener, as did the rest of the girls. That’s what Maya is trying to explain to the FBI agents now that they have been set free. She tries to explain how they were kept, how their lives were taken away from them, how they all wore the butterflies on their backs, how no one had ever left, how they had been abused, how it was they continued to live. How they were all Butterflies in his Butterfly Garden.
                I’m not sure where to begin with this review. Do I start with the extremely haunting and unsettling tone of this novel? Or do I begin with the incredible world building and eerie imagery? What about the main character who brought this story to life and made this such an intense mystery? I just honestly don’t know because this novel was amazing on so many different levels. Imagine what could come of kidnapped young women forced to become a family in order to survive, in order to live through the rapes and the abuse.  Imagine a man who loves each of these girls in a sick and perverted manner, so demented that he literally preserves them so he can treasure their beauty forever. That’s what this novel is and Hutchinson does this so well. It is told in three different parts with the narrative changing from third person, to that of Maya, the girl who could be considered the Gardener’s favorite. She was so full of depth and had an overwhelming presence. It was obvious that she wasn’t broken regardless of the pain the passing years had dealt her. Her strength and her courage juxtaposed with her acceptance of her dire circumstances was unnerving and yet said so much about the plight of these young women. All of the characters had depth and seeing these people and their lives through Maya's eyes was alarming and revealing. I loved the way the story was told. The change in storytelling kept me aware of how dire the circumstances were and continued to be for these women.
                The imagery in this novel was so vivid. Hutchinson did something amazing and yet so painful by naming the butterfly each woman had tattooed on her back. I found myself looking up the images and imaging the pain that came with each tattoo and the knowledge of what those butterflies meant regarding their fate. It was heartbreaking. The descriptions she provided about their day to day lives. And the wait. The counting down. The knowing. It was painful and there was no reprieve from this knowledge for them. Then there was the garden itself, which was really their home and their cage.

                I finished this book in one sitting. I genuinely could not stop reading this story. The tone of this story was so unbelievably disturbing that I couldn’t look away. I had to know what happened. There was no way to predict what was happening in the story. The only thing the reader knows is true is that the butterflies somehow escaped the garden as a result of a fire. The rest is a mystery. I was trying to understand that mystery. I was trying to understand how these girls could live in these conditions, how they could become a family, how they could survive the never ending abuse and psychological damage. Hutchinson just did an amazing job in every aspect of this story. It is a thriller in every sense. I’m unsettled after reading this. I am physically jarred and my reality is shaken. This is a book that I will definitely recommend to anyone in the mood for an amazingly eerie thriller. I give this 5 out of 5 stars. Well done. 

Thank you Netgalley for this book in exchange for an honest review.