Category Archives: review

Review: Dark Matter

Dark Matter
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m ten minutes out from the end of this book, and I’m grieving. I’m fairly sure that this story was not meant to end already, and I can’t wait for Blake Crouch to write sequel upon sequel for us. I read this book FAR too quickly, and I’m sort of angry right now that it’s over.

There’s a quality to his writing that causes, for me, utter captivation. I read all three of the Wayward Pines books in two weeks’ time, and while that may not seem like an accomplishment, it is quite difficult for me to become so absorbed by a book. Dark Matter is no different. I forced myself to slow down in some spots because I didn’t want it to end, but then I got to a point where I just couldn’t hold back — I devourrrrred it.

On to the review – I will try to keep this as spoiler-free as humanly possible.

Jason Dessen is a dude living his life as many dudes do. As his life unfolded before him in a typical choice-making sort of way, those choices he made resulted in a path that might not have been the same had he gone a different direction. All normal. Sometimes we all wonder,

– “Hey, what might have happened if I taken that year off and gone backpacking in Europe?”
– “What might my life look like now if I’d not been afraid of pre-med?”
– “What if I had accepted his marriage proposal a few years out from high school, before he landed that main role in that huge movie?” (dammit)

Jason Dessen wonders how things might look different if he hadn’t made the choices he made to get to where he is today: husband, father, physics professor, home renovation non-starter. I didn’t get the feeling that he regretted any of his life, even a little bit. I think he had a healthy amount of curiosity. However, curiosity does kill the cat, and in this case Schrödinger’s cat carries the most relevance. Jason gets to experience the things he wondered about, even though it happens under duress.

I finished this book with a few lingering technical questions ricocheting around my noggin:
(please see Goodreads review for spoilery technical questions)

Overall, deeply satisfying book that I will recommend to everyone I know. Thanks for the ride, Blake!

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Review: The Fold

The Fold
The Fold by Peter Clines
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Really: 3.5 stars here… 4 stars for the first 75% of the book, and the last 25% closer to a 3.

Mike is a high school teacher with an eidetic memory, which means he has near-perfect recall of everything he’s ever seen. He can re-watch movies in his brain as though they’re playing on a screen in front of him. He has to endure the horrific things he’s seen in his life along the way, replayed when the memory is nudged by something else.

So, good or bad, it is what it is, Mike’s oddity of memory is viewed as an asset to his friend Reggie, who asks Mike (for apparently the umpteenth time) to be a part of some top secret government project. His memory and pattern recognition skills, “they” are eager, will suss out the invisible-to-others differences that can elucidate any issues with this particular government project.

Once he arrives on scene and begins to settle in, the clues to the project’s shortcomings start pouring in. Just like when I watched Sixth Sense and knew “the secret” far too early, this book betrays the truth pretty damn quick and is frequently reinforced with subtle clues that might be missed if the reader isn’t actively looking.

As the characters begin to realize the secret of The Fold, the story quickens and is enjoyable. Once we get to the point of the story’s climax, however, the integrity of the story is becoming less and less complete. My ability to stay connected to the story was really impaired, and I started taking more frequent breaks due to incredulity.

The end of the book is clearly setting us up for a potential sequel, but barring a sequel that ties up loose ends, there are many things that I didn’t feel quite satisfied with in this story. I love the premise, and many of the ways we were shown the anomalies of the project were fun and creative. There is quite a bit of explicit language, so just a heads up on that.

Otherwise, it’s a solidly enjoyable book, and I am glad I finally got around to it!

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Review: The Road

The Road
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Road, make no mistake, is very bleak. It begins bleak; it ends bleak. The world Cormac McCarthy thrusts us into is a world where civilization has ceased to exist. Its last gasps, living solely as memories and habits in the few people remaining, are snuffed out one by one, steadily hurtling the planet’s surface into a state of total desolation.

Our main characters are never named. The boy and the man (whom we know as Papa) are walking towards something – towards somewhere. They don’t even know where it is they’re going or if they’ll even recognize it when they get there, but they have to keep moving, all the way to the end.

As I read this book, I am filled with deep anxiety. The reviews I have read have been a mix of highest praise and profound criticism, but I can’t say anything without first mentioning how deeply uncomfortable I feel when reading this book. This book succeeds at painting the ashen, grey tasting their hubris for centuries past. Who the hell do we think we are, anyway? We think we know and that we can control it, and this book is a good example of what it might feel like when you’re reminded, quite brutally, that you’re just along for the ride.

We aren’t sure how the apocalypse came about in The Road, and I find it best as the details of the how/why/when don’t clutter up the gaping maw of the impending eternal extinction of the human race. But the boy and the man travel through the lands battered insidiously by ash. Ash permeates absolutely everything. Their hair, the rain, the atmosphere, their breath… It can’t be avoided. Sunlight can’t break through the ash in the air, and the rain will try its best to clean what it can, but never to any significant degree.

I read and I find myself wondering how the characters are going to find the golden island of freedom, far from these harsh elements and living conditions. No hope of long-lasting amnesty in sight, page after page, encounter after encounter, night after night. There are little bites and sips of mercy, but nothing permanent, and each day feels like a half step forward only to slide back 200 steps soon after.

Bleak. So bleak. Coughing. Lungs infiltrated by the guck. The man knows he’ll have to make a choice whether or not to allow the boy to be alone in this world without him after he’s gone. The hard choices have to be made whether to hold on to the human condition of hope for a better day or to exercise mercy from a world that wants to hammer you down for daring to have hope in the first place?

I finished this book both depressed as hell (tho really glad it was over) and impressed by the totality of blackness enveloping me. I’m going to be haunted by this for a while. Better go find something light and airy to follow up with.

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Wayward by Blake Crouch – a Wayward Pines #2 Book Review

Wayward by Blake Crouch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Following my finishing of Pines, I was lucky enough to have the e-copy of Wayward ready to go. I dove in and consumed this book almost as quickly as I did Pines. The pace of this book is incredible and it’s a fun read. I never felt it a chore to continue.


Now that Ethan Burke is Wayward Pines’ Sheriff, we get a bit more in-depth view of the inner workings of this mysterious place. We see the origins and the heartbreak of the deep sleep. We see the dark and twisty parts of betrayal and fear. The depth of darkness in Wayward Pines will surprise you.

As a reader, I’m constantly questioning the decision Pilcher made to off Pope and bring Burke into the position of Sheriff. Burke is a wildcard whose termination is in effect and Pilcher chooses to put him in the position of power in the town? There’s a lot of strife and unrest within Ethan as he navigates his new position.

But he tries, or he gives the appearance of trying. He reads the reports on the various citizens of Wayward Pines and follows the orders of Pilcher when they’re handed down.

But then the slow unraveling of another intricate layer of tapestry begins and Ethan learns what motivates Pilcher, and how far he’ll go to protect his creation and the way of life those within have become accustomed to.

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Pines by Blake Crouch – a Wayward Pines #1 Book Review

Pines by Blake Crouch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is right up my alley. I can’t tell you how much I dug the out-of-sync vibe I got from this book right away. If you know me, I love “wtf is going on?” books as much as anyone possibly can, and this book hooked me in and I sank right down through the reveal, which did not disappoint.

Ethan wakes up next to a river…

Wait, let me skip ahead and then back up.

Ethan Burke is a Secret Service agent -slash- husband & dad to Theresa and Ben (age 6). He’s been unfaithful, but they’re working through it. He was unfaithful with his previous partner Kate who has inexplicably gone missing (~4 days ago)(along with another agent named Bill Evans), and Ethan has been dispatched to locate them. On their way into a quiet little town called Wayward Pines, they’re hit by a Mack truck.

Ethan wakes up next to a river…

The book is a whole bunch of Ethan trying to figure out what the hell is going on in Wayward Pines, why he can’t seem to escape, and how Sheriff Pope & Nurse Pam seem to be omnipresent and ominous figures. He finds an ally and a few answers, but when the truth is finally brought to light .. Wow.

My head exploded at least a couple of times while reading this book.

There are shades of Hugh Howey here. Sometimes the shades are uncanny.

I learned of this series thanks to Fox airing the television adaptation which, by the way, pales in comparison to the book. I recommend, as always, reading this book first before watching the show. The show orders things differently and to the detriment of the story, in my opinion. But it’s a fun sort of parallel universe of the same basic story.

I was provided a free copy of the book in return for an honest review by NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer via Amazon Publishing. Thank you!

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Book Review: The Shell Collector by Hugh Howey

The Shell Collector
The Shell Collector by Hugh Howey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve just finished this book, and as always I’m digesting my feelings on it. I love how Hugh Howey writes regardless of whether or not I love the story itself. I have gone from “holy crap” to “meh” and hit every emotion in between while reading his works, so I feel comfortable giving a lukewarm review on this one.

Part of my struggle with this story is my inability to really sync up with the premise of shells being so rare and coveted that there’s a market for them, let alone high value placed on top notch specimens. I can go along with the idea of global warming and the effects that has on the Earth pretty well, but the fallout from that was hard for me to sink my teeth into. And that, really, was the build-up in the first half of the book. I felt very disconnected from Maya and Ness because I didn’t care about either of their plights.

I appreciated that Hugh spent time building up the relationship between these two. By the time they finally hopped on over into romance land, I felt like the tension was sufficient, and that alone takes talent.

The layout of this story is very very formulaic, and other reviews have done an excellent job in expounding upon that. It was easy to see what was coming and how the romance would crash down before it would rebound back to the resolution long before it happened. I don’t want to say it was predictable, but it was definitely made clear in the text leading up to it.

Maya’s behaviors were maddening at times. I didn’t find her particularly clever or inspiring. I found her to be kind of annoying and immature. Calling up the FBI following her night at the Bahamas house was really weird, and I really expected someone in that position to have struggled a LOT with decisions like that. She seemed on one hand to be completely blown away by her feelings for him and on the other hand to consider them unimportant. I wanted more inner conflict for Maya than I saw when it came to her relationship with Ness and how it affected her outward decisions.

Overall, I started feeling interested in this book around the 50% mark – about the time that they went SCUBA diving. Before that point I had to force myself to keep reading. Following that point the story flowed much easier. I liked Ness exponentially more than I liked Maya. I felt mildly preached-to about the environment. Hugh Howey writes his face off, and any of his books can and should be read for the quality of prose alone.

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Review: California by Edan Lepucki

California by Edan Lepucki
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Wow, where do I begin?

I was excited to see the blurb for this book in Netgalley’s list of offerings. Dystopia is just about my favorite genre, especially post-apocalyptic dystopia. I’m a fan of the quiet (or not-so-quiet) desperation associated with end-of-the-world scenarios where humanity fights like hell to survive.

California didn’t have that, though.

Let me back up a second… The premise of the story is about a married couple, Cal(vin) and Frida who are living in “The Afterlife” which is just an area they’ve coined with a cute nickname. The world as we know it went away with a whimper (not a bang) and the life we’ve grown accustomed to just faded away. Now this couple lives alone with a couple neighbors near-ish by and a traveling dude who brings them goods now and again.

By the way, I don’t know of any Vicodin pills that come at a 750mg dose. Pretty sure that’d put someone down for a very long time. Details. Anyway.

Frida’s brother died a long time ago by blowing himself up to prove a point, and her parents are MIA. Cal’s family was in the midwest and died when it got crazy-cold where they lived. These two are all alone. They have nearby neighbors, though they aren’t around long in the book.

Cal and Frida go on a bit of a search for life beyond The Afterlife. They find it.

I half-read it and half-listened via audiobook. If I were to have rated this book by audiobook performance alone, the whole she-bang would have received 0.5 stars. That narration was BAD. It made the book, which is hard to give a crap about to begin with, loathsome. I wanted to quit 650 times per chapter while listening along with the audiobook compared to wanting to quit reading a mere 225 times per chapter while letting my eyes do the work.

Now for spoilers….

Her brother isn’t dead. He’s the sort-of Governor of Woodbury (TWD fans will recognize). Seemingly magnanimous and the hero to all, but actually kind of slimy and not someone we should trust.

The pregnancy was deeply annoying throughout the whole book and, aside from being the catalyst for their leaving The Land, was nothing but a complete waste of time.

The whole story about Micah (brother) getting rid of all the kids of The Land is incomprehensible to me. The parents just let the kids be taken away to another city? This doesn’t make sense. It defies parental logic, which, even in the post-apocalypse probably follows similar trajectories.

The “fear of the color red” and its manifestation when there was blood, or a shirt’s color, etc, and that fear being based on the fact that Pirates have red belts/sashes was silly. PTSD doesn’t quite work that way.

Anika’s reaction (and extended to the whole town’s instant change of heart) to Frida’s declaration of pregnancy was stupid. To act so broken and betrayed really pushed the limits of “reasonable human behavior”.

The prose of the story was very difficult to follow. The writing phased in and out of current narration and flashbacks, and there was NOTHING to delineate between the two. I found myself unsure when a transition took place, and I’d have to re-read to try to discern what the author meant to be happening. IF (and only if) the author intended to demonstrate how life was a meandering switching back and forth between past and present until the duo arrived to The Land … she was successful. Any other purpose for that kind of writing is just to confuse the reader.

So many things about this book were bizarre, unnecessary, unexplored… It’s filled with loose ends that very much felt like time-wasters. Words to fill a quota less than words to tell a coherent story.

Finally, the ending blew my mind. Suddenly, following the announcement of the pregnancy to the people of The Land, Cal and Frida are exiled yet sent to live in another Community called the Pines where everything is shiny and new and there are comforts of the world before everything went to hell, and they’re all available to everyone. What? And they were there much longer than they were at The Land, too.

I don’t know. I walked away from this book completely disappointed. I don’t care that Colbert said it rocked; it made no sense and left me with questions that will never get answered.

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#Review: Lexicon by @MaxBarry – Word salad punctures impenetrable walls? (3.5 stars)

Lexicon by Max Barry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My emotions while reading this book ran the gamut from engrossed to utterly confused to painfully bored and back to engrossed. I spent most of the time somewhere solidly in the middle, and thus rate Lexicon somewhere between 3 and 4 stars.

I’ve not read anything by Max Barry before reading Lexicon, but I was honestly impressed by the readability of this book. The subject matter would not have been something I’d have been interested in by itself, but this writing held my attention (for the most part). I am interested in other books he’s written, hoping that maybe the subject matter is a bit more in line with my interests.

The basic story here is about a group of lyrical gangstas in our midst. They train together and work together, seek out new recruits to further their lineage, and educate them to the best of their ability. Language, they believe, has the ability to pierce the filters and walls of the human psyche. Every person alive is vulnerable to a specific subset of these “magical” words, depending on their personality “segment”. This segment must be identified by the poet, or the linguist expert who’ll be doing the compromising, and the education to do so is acquired at a special & secret Academy. Invitation-only.

In Lexicon, the focus shifts so much from character to character that you’ll find yourself a wee bit whiplash-ed in deciding who you’re rooting for. Emily? Wil? Eliot? Harry? You wouldn’t believe it, but Bronte, too. Never Yates, though.

My biggest complaint about the book is the timeline. The two timelines in the book jump around quite a lot, with the endpoint being their convergence. I found myself believing that the converging had already taken place a couple of times only to realize that we were still in the past. It was at that point the “boredom” piece of this puzzle clicked in. If I was misunderstanding the time, then I was completely misunderstanding the events that just took place. I checked out for a bit, mentally.

But I returned. I completed.

The book ends with a bit of an eye roller about the depth of love and the vulnerability it brings. By this point I was D-U-N with the book and a bit relieved it was over. I wished that the love story had been a bit more developed, or the characters a bit more human. A couple of tangents about a brain tumor and delegates threw me for a loop, but overall this book is an engaging read written very well and worth the investment of time.

Maybe keep a piece of paper handy to keep the timeline written in visual form so that it’s easier to follow.

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#Review: The Here and Now 3/5 stars

The Here and Now
The Here and Now by Ann Brashares
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve not read the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and I’ve never seen the movies, so I’m very new to Ann Brashares.

To sum it up, I enjoyed this book up until about the 90% part. There were some things missing, a bunch of glaring plotholes, and unbelievable coinky-dinks, but whatever, it’s nice to have easy fiction now and again.

Basically, Prenna, a 14-year old girl from the future comes back in time with a group of contemporaries to escape an apocalyptic scenario unfolding in her native time. Mosquitoes bring and distribute the most devastating blood plague of all time, taking with it her two brothers – one a baby. She arrives in our present, attends high school, and aims to live as benign a life as possible. Three years pass and she’s now 17 and our story begins.

The rules of the Community are very specifically set so that the future group interacts with the present group as little as possible, NEVER falls in love with “time natives”, and has very little effect on the progress of time. How does that make sense, though? Shouldn’t the goal of this flavor of time travel be to change the future by having a gigantic effect on the past?

The pieces fall into place way too easily in this story. The hero is the hottest, super smart, a lab tech at a pivotal location in the book.. Fake phone calls are believed without suspicion.. The leaders of the Community pose NO resistance to Prenna’s Declaration of Independence… It’s all just way too utopian from the point of view of the teenage girl.

The real sour spot for me in this whole story was the ending. After building up the whole story in one singular direction, there’s a moment of epiphany and a sudden, unlabored unraveling that abruptly cuts the whole thing off. I was really put off by how quickly things changed then ended, and by reading other reviews, it appears I am not alone. I wish it had ended differently.

Overall, though, the first 90% of the book was really pleasant and built up pleasantly. I can’t recommend it because the ending kinda blows, but if you can hunker down and prepare for it from the get-go, you’ll be solid.

**This book was provided by the publisher free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
via NetGalley

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#Review: The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

The Uninvited
The Uninvited by Liz Jensen
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really don’t know what happened here, but damn. This book was just bad. I didn’t enjoy 95% of it, and if it wasn’t for a NetGalley review, I would have put it down close to the beginning. The cover picture and the blurb set me up for a book I thought I’d really like. I did not.

A frightening phenomenon is occurring. Kids are killing grown-ups. The reason or the rhyme is not established until the very end in hurried fashion as if it were an afterthought. I’ve seen it called dystopian, but meh. It really isn’t. Some bizarre role-switching of the main child in the book, the story told through the eyes of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, and a lot of boring in between.

I really disliked this book. It didn’t flow well at all.

NetGalley & the publisher provided the book and I provided my honest opinion.

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