Thursday, January 21, 2016

Shutting Down the Blog and Moving to Goodreads

Friends, when something that you do in your spare time becomes a chore, it's time to move on.

While I have taken pleasure in writing my book reviews, of late it has been hard to motivate myself to set fingers to keyboard. So, I will no longer be updating this blog.

Fear not! I will continue to track my reading activities on Goodreads and will start writing more robust reviews there. I encourage my bookish pals to sign up for Goodreads and become my reading friend (my profile picture is jars of fruit).

Yes, even you, Mom. Goodreads rocks. It's easy to keep lists of books to read and books read. There are reading recommendations for every genre imaginable, author pages, giveaways, and more. Plus it's a low key site that won't bombard you with ads or spam email.

While Goodreads doesn't provide an Animal Lover Rating, I will be sure to always include warnings for sensitive readers in my reviews.

And now, onward!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Two Super Quick Reviews

Just not feeling the full review love today, so I'm keeping these two very short.
One five star book, one single star book.

The Bees
by Laline Paull
1 star - ugh

Here's the thing. If you're going to write an allegory, you still need to write well. Ms. Paull does not.

On the other hand...

Caliban's War
by James S.A. Corey
5 stars - way cool awesome

Galactic politics, action, romance, science, vomit zombies, alien slime, what more could you ask for?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

On the Island
by Tracey Garvis Graves
2 stars - yes, I read the whole thing (so you won't have to)
ALR Green - golden retriever arrives late in the book

What gremlin put this in my reading queue? Friends, this is possibly one of the worst books I've ever read. Heck, I would gladly have substituted another Fifty Shades of Grey book for this had I known.

Here's the setup. Thirty year old high school English teacher takes a gig to tutor 15 year old cancer boy (now in remission). Boy's parents decide to spend the summer on an island in the Maldives so that junior can focus on his studies. Plane crash. Teacher and student wash up on a deserted island. Stuff happens.

Hey, except for bad writing, dim-witted characters, implausible plot points, and "twists" that might as well have been announced on the dust jacket, not bad.

Here are some highlights (warning, contains spoilers, like that matters).

  • Teacher's suitcase of necessaries washes up on shore. Phew. Good thing she packed enough baby oil, shampoo, and soap to keep two people neat and clean for three years. Oddly, she only packed two boxes of tampons because, um, why?
  • Teacher shaves her legs. Yes she does. For three years because who wouldn't, right?
  • Junior removes his own braces. What? Must have had those special wax on / wax off style braces because I know when mine were removed it was quite an effort. Luckily, he gets his off with no dental damage.
  • They kill three (or was it four) chickens before realizing that it might make sense to keep a chicken and eat the eggs (ah, the value of a liberal arts education).
  • No sex until junior is 18. Junior is OK with that, I guess. Don't want protective services swooping in.
  • Let's see, you find an abandoned cabin on the island and instead of moving in, you disassemble it and rebuild it on the beach. Yeah, that makes sense.
  • Finding two people bobbing around in the middle of the ocean after a tsunami that wiped out big chunks of civilized places. Sure.
  • Last time you were on a plane, it crashed in the ocean and you almost died, but hopping back on board doesn't cause any twitch of anxiety. What?
  • Junior almost gets eaten by a shark, but then, dolphins! 
  • Speaking of dolphins. You're starving to death and you never thought to eat one?
  • Never did figure out that crabs come out at night, did you? Nope just had to wait around until you found one or two a year that didn't quite make it under the sand before the sun came up. Duh.
  • Where did those chickens come from? 
  • Hey, not like I'm all about sex scenes, but the encounters in this book were so benign that these two might just as well been sitting around comparing notes on who has the stinkiest farts (in fact, that would have been more stimulating).
Well, I could go on and on, but reliving the book is hurting my brain. The author alternates narration between Teacher and Junior. Why bother? They both speak in the same voice. No way to tell them apart.

Nary a meaningful conversation or serious conflict to be found. As the years on the island go by, we only visit the characters when something "big" happens. 

After their rescue, Teacher and Junior go back to temporarily live with their respective families. The only "real" part of the story was when folks started questioning whether or not they had sex before Junior was 18. Sadly, yes, I believe that would be a moral issue for some people. Get over it!

Back home, Junior and Teacher get married and live happily ever after. They even have kids, thanks to Junior's conveniently frozen sperm prior to chemotherapy. Aw, so adorable. Barf.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Third Grave Dead Ahead by Darynda Jones

Third Grave Dead Ahead
by Darynda Jones
5 stars - slow start, fantastic finish
ALR Green - trust me, OK?

Charley Davidson is Back! And she's drinking copious amounts of caffeine to stay awake because every time she closes her eyes she sees him. Reyes Farrow, the part-human, part-supermodel son of Satan. Yes, she did imprison him for all eternity, but come on. How is she supposed to solve a missing-persons case, deal with an ego-driven doctor, calm her curmudgeonly dad, and take on a motorcycle gang hell-bent on murder when the devil's son just won't give up his plan of seduction... and revenge?

Total guilty pleasure cannot stop reading series. This one did get off to a slow start and for a bit I was worrying that Ms. Jones had lost her touch. Not so. Things wind up after the first hundred pages and don't stop until the end. Woo hoo! Plenty of surprises, all of them totally cool awesome. 

It isn't often that I am so smitten with a heroine, but, gosh, I do like that Charley Davidson. Mainly, because of her dry wit as in this phone exchange she has with her partner right before she wanders off into the woods in search of clues.

I sighed. Nothing I could do about it now. "Okay, I'm heading that way. I'll call back if I get eaten by a bear."

"Play like a rock."


"No, if a bear starts eating you."

I thought a moment before replying. "Do they have screaming, sobbing rocks, 'cause that's probably what I'll be doing if a bear is gnawing my arm off."

"It would be difficult to just lay there and be eaten alive, huh?"

"Ya think?"

Here's another one.

Utterly annoyed, I sat up, pushed a dampened strand of hair out of my face, and headed to the bathroom, hoping a splash of cool water would help and wondering how the heck the night got so sultry. It was freaking November. Maybe global warming had amped up its game. Or a solar flare had pushed through the magnetosphere and was cooking us all alive. That would suck.

I'm popping book #4 right in the queue and once I get through the stack of three that I already have, it might just jump to the head of the list.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Accident by Chris Pavone

The Accident
by Chris Pavone
2 stars - great writing doesn't make up for a dull story
ALR Green - no animals

Literary agent Isabel Reed receives a manuscript by Anonymous. It's a damning biography of media mogul rich guy. Hayden Gray, CIA operative is on a mission to destroy the manuscript. The author is on the run. Over the course of a day, the lives of these three intersect. Stuff happens.

There is no doubt that Mr. Pavone knows how to write. He's got the right pacing to keep you turning the pages. Sadly, in this case, he doesn't have the right story. I found the plot dull and the surprises, when they finally came, not very surprising at all. The characters were bland and while I expect people to be killed in a thriller, the murders in this book were awkward and icky.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Red Mars
by Kim Stanley Robinson
4 stars - space opera
ALR Green - very few animals, some die, but that's space travel for you, don't worry, you won't be attached to any of them (I guess space people don't keep pets)

You know what's really cool? I might see a human landing on Mars in my lifetime! Wow! It's starting to seem like a possibility. So awesome!

Now, where was I?

Red Mars is book one of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy. It follows the first few decades of the colonization of Mars, starting with the crew of one hundred sent to get things started. After nine months in space, they land and get to work. 

Their primary goal is to warm up the planet and start to make it more inviting to humans. As time goes by, people still can't walk around outside, but cities have sprung up, the atmosphere is slowly getting thicker and warmer, and the natural resources are being harvested.

But then, uh oh, well, things aren't so hot back on planet Earth. Way too many people, not enough stuff, so governments and businesses get more and more involved in the whole Mars thing. Now you've got significant migration from Earth to Mars as well as parties with differing agendas and, well, people, right? Stupid people always messing things up.

Sadly, despite being written over 20 years ago, the politics of the story are still very relevant (because people just don't learn from history and don't seem able to get along, whatever the consequences).

Almost five stars, but I'm deducting one because I found the middle of the book to be too heavy on politics and light on day to day technology for me. The characters are also a little bland. No worries. Still an epic space opera!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Descent by Tim Johnston

by Tim Johnston
5 stars - flat ending, but otherwise great
ALR Yellow - some sad dog scenes

The Courtlands, a family of four, decide to take a holiday to the Rocky Mountains before their oldest child, Caitlin, goes off to college. Caitlin goes out for a jog one morning, with her younger brother Sean, following along on a bicycle. Only Sean returns. And so it begins...

The story focuses on the lives of Caitlin's father and brother after the disappearance of Caitlin. Mom is only a minor character.

What I found both compelling and disheartening with the story was how it showed that events in one's life can be so pivotal and, yet, pedestrian. The search for Caitlin never ends, but as months, then years go by, life must, somehow, go on. Who can tell if any of the subsequent events were caused by the disappearance or would have happened anyway? Violence, loss, suffering, these things come to all of us. It's the human condition. Even the horrific loss of a child is, sadly, not extraordinary in the great scheme of things.

I was a bit disappointed by the ending, but since I couldn't think of a more satisfying conclusion, no stars deducted for that.