At the heart of this cerebral, hallucinogenic, and haunting new novel lies a relationship story of Mother and Daughter. And beauty and beauty products. Belle comes home to bury her mother, who accidentally fell into the ocean. It all begins innocently enough, but when Belle begins to pack up her mother's things, her mother's pair of red heels seem to guide her to an opulent, strange spa called Rouge. Trust in Mona Awad to take you on a bizarre, fairy-tale story that has seriously horrible things to say about the beauty industry. It’s also a wonderful story about miscommunications and missed moments between parent and child. Rouge never let me go - this is Mona Awad's best yet!
Black Ball: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Spencer Haywood, and the Generation that Saved the Soul of the NBA (Hardcover)
In 1967, the ABA was formed to compete against the NBA and give basketball players the possibility of a voice, particularly Black athletes. This was the era when the Black athlete began to be the face of basketball and, in the NBA, owners were trying to keep any form of socio-economical compensation from them. We've been trained to think of 1970s basketball as the ‘dark ages,’ which so unfairly mars what contributions those players made and fought for. The cases in the book are well researched, but the Connie Hawkins chapter is probably the most damning and wrenching story of abuse of power over high school athletes. A great social history of sports and how it affects more than just the game.
The Scythian Empire: Central Eurasia and the Birth of the Classical Age from Persia to China (Hardcover)
In his new book, Christopher Beckwith's main argument is that Scythians were everywhere and were, in fact, the cause of civilization happening. They were not just a collection of savage tribes as history sometimes portrays them, but a group of people with a shared root language and religion. There are a number of ideas about the Scythian’s reach, including the rise of Persian, Indian and Chinese cultures all the way to the Greeks. A lot the basis for this is linguistics, which I am not so versed in, but Beckwith's arguments seem to hold some weight. And the Zoroastrian parts are intriguing, particularly the suggestion that monotheism may have started in this ancient civilization, a thought that will lead me to many more hours of reading. Such a fascinating read!
Martin and Parker chronicle a little-known attempt by Spain's Phillip II to invade England. In theory, with all the details that Martin and Parker offer, the Spanish fleet has everything stacked in their favor, money and ships-wise. However, the proof is in the pudding. Innovation in English naval warfare far outstripped anything the Spanish fleet could handle. While the English stymied the Spanish fleet, mother nature also unleashed its fury upon them and pushed their inept fleet all over the North Sea. Communication, or lack thereof, factored in as well; it was slow and unreliable. The Spanish fleet would sit around waiting for new orders or for a meetup (the infamous Gravelines) that had changed but was never successfully conveyed. At the end of the day, this marked the beginning of Spanish decline.
I know I'm not the target audience for this book, but on a whim, I opened up Claire Duplan's graphic novel because I thought the artwork had an interesting, DIY punk vibe that looked like something from the nineties. Who is this for? Twenty-something feminists with a strong bent toward political and social consciousness who still hope for radical change in our world. Especially on a personal level, Constance has some reservations about taking her own feelings and pleasures into account over her boyfriends or other male-aggressive types. On the surface, this book has a message that I think will ring true with a lot of other people, but the art style is what really drew me into the story and help land the message better.
Proctor is a Ferryman, an individual who helps citizens ‘retire’ to a mysterious island when their time comes. On the island, they become reborn as a younger version of themselves, ready to join the world anew. The first day we meet Proctor, he is called in to help his father ‘retire,’ and things pretty much going bonkers afterwards. Justin Cronin has crafted a strange world that has connections to our own (both historically and philosophically), but then he veers off into a dystopian/utopian world hidden behind leagues and leagues of brilliant blue ocean. This is by far my absolute favorite book by Cronin, from the surprises he unleashes, the trippy sequences that he lulls you into, to the frenetic, anxiety-driven ghost chases.
David Lipsky chronicles climate change, from the beginning of our awareness of it all the way to the screeching of its deniers. With humor (I laugh because it hurts to cry after reading some of these sections) and exhaustive research, Lipsky does not hide the fact that he is a strong believer in human-caused climate change. He points out how climate change (and denialism) became very, very political. Deniers took their lead from the tobacco industry (they lost, right? but I still see people smoking) and repeated the phrase, 'We need more research on this.' Even though climate change has been talked about since the 1880s, we still need more research. Right? Our newspapers from earlier in the 20th century heralded climate change in our future - yet fast-forward a few decades to find them backtracking as special interest groups took control. As Lipsky points out more than once in this book, 19 of the 20 hottest years have happened since 2000. Sobering, but still not enough for the deniers.
Claire Fuller gave me PTSD at the very outset of this book as Neffy went into a vaccine trial to combat a pandemic. When virus mutates rapidly (cue more PTSD), and Neffy wakes up from fighting off the virus with the experimental vaccine, the world is gone. But there are other people trapped with her in the medical building, and this is the heart of the story: how they relate to and end up relying on one and other. It's a novel about the human condition during a crisis, but Claire Fuller also looks at the trip Neffy took to get to this point. The future is a frightening place, but we can't live in the past.
This book was an outright trip to read. So many red herrings and mind swaps that I had to read several passages more than once. Great near-future imagery with space elevators and neuro-implants created by a Korean tech business and its single-minded CEO, who has perished before the story starts. The space elevator holds the keys to the future, but the dead CEO’s memories are needed to find them. Using a ‘worm,’ the CEO's memories are melded into a simpleton who loves studying butterflies. He quickly becomes the most sought-after individual. Yes, this is one crazy trip.
Miranda’s brilliant career as a stage actor was halted by a fall that broke her hip. After surgeries and therapy, she is still in chronic pain. Hobbled, she has become a teacher for a theater department, and they put on a Shakespeare play every year. Everyone seems to have written off Miranda’s pain as in her head, and they (her ex-husband, her best friend, and her physical therapist) can barely hide their disbelief that she has any pain. After a mutiny lead by student who wants a different Shakespeare play, Miranda is distraught and in pain. She drowns her sorrows at the pub, where she meets three mysterious men who know all about her and her pain. After a golden drink, Miranda is able to start transferring her pain to others, and her life takes on a new light. Much like Mona Awad’s Bunny, All’s Well starts to get more and more surreal and fantastical. I loved every minute of this crazy, amazing novel - Mona Awad is madly creative and inventive. Bravo.
I can barely contain myself when a Victor LaValle book is announced, and Lone Women doesn't disappoint at all. Adelaide is running away from a horrifying situation in California; she treks to Montana with a secret and a big, locked trunk. Montana is a huge land with few people, and Adelaide hopes that she can hide her secret away, until the secret escapes to terrifying consequences. She meets people who aren't who they say they are and don't have her best interests at heart. Who can she trust? Does she really understand her burden that she has been saddled with? This brilliant historic, horror novel will bring questions like these into focus.
In this novel, we follow Tamon, a dog displaced by the earthquake and resulting Tsunami that hit Japan in 2013. Each section he has a new person who needs to help Tamon and also needs Tamon's help. Seishu Hase has written a tale about the hard journey it takes to come back from tragedy, the sacrifice and will, and the knowledge that what’s happened will never be erased, but family helps.
Bobby Western is at a crossroads when we meet him, diving in the Gulf of Mexico and trying to find a sunken airplane. He is haunted by the memories of his sister, who committed suicide some time ago, and whom he harbors some unbrotherly feelings for. Cormac McCarthy introduces us to a plethora ingenious and complex characters that philosophically propel Bobby towards making a decision that he can't bear to consider. This is an amazingly original story that McCarthy weaves together, one that will have me thinking for quite a long time.
Now we get Bobby Western's sisters tale. Alicia commits herself to a psychiatric hospital because, as we know from The Passenger, she has had delusions for most of her life. In a series of discussions with her psychiatrist, we are dazzled by clever wordplay, math, and the relationship between a sister and brother. This is a fast and challenging read. Cormac McCarthy has deftly fleshed out a brilliant mathematician in Alicia, who struggles with the world and how it works.
This story was amazing. Told through three alternating timelines: 1) In the 1790’s with a pair of brothers (one is a faun) trying to make their fortune by planting apple orchards ahead the coming expansion of humanity into the Ohio Valley; 2) one of the founders of a corporation attempting to save the planet from humanity basically cooking it to death, attempting to stop said corporation from playing god; 3) and way in the future, most of North America is covered in ice, there is a lonely person keeping watch and ready to reprint the world. Have we gone too far down the climate change path that our only option is to store up the natural world in computers in hopes of one day being able to repopulate? Have we ignored all the warnings that the world has sent us? I loved the way each of the stories played off the others, thematically and directly. It was pure brilliance. This will be on my list as one of my favorite reads of the year.
This book was thrilling, crazy, and pure fun. Using COVID as the starting point, we follow Jamie Gray as he’s ousted from his tech job only to become a delivery person for that same company. Then he delivers to an old friend who offers him a job of a lifetime - a dangerous and unbelievable job. An easy choice for Jamie; he takes it! I couldn't put this book down - it was exactly the book I needed right now.
River of the Gods: Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile (Paperback)
Candace Millard delves into the history of the expeditions of Burton and Speke as they try to discover the source of the White Nile. The logistics were mind-boggling, and the amount of supplies and the number of people it took to make the trek seemed like overkill - until it wasn't. And then the food began to run out. The amount of illness and its severity visited upon everyone made me wonder what form of insanity these explorers had to have suffered. The individual personalities and vistas are fascinating. Candace Millard follows the fortunes of these two British fellows along with Sidi Mubarak Bombay, who was brought in to handle working with local African groups. Bombay is the real reason this expedition didn't fail spectacularly as the two Europeans worked against each other. Another great historical adventure that opens our eyes to an era that I just don't understand anymore but found amazing.
Christopher Buehlman hasn’t just written a really good epic fantasy; he has taken the reader and dunked them into a world full of joy, wonder, heartbreak, foulness, horror, and hope. Once I started the book, I couldn’t put it down. The prose! And the dialogue was so perfect, I was laughing out loud from the snark that Kinch Na Shannack narrated his story with, and I was cringing from vicious, nasty goblin attacks or towering giants tossing trees. Kinch owes the Takers Guild for his education, and when they tell him to accompany a knight on her quest, he has no other option – he must go. Know that there is so much to this book; Buehlman will take you down crazy paths that will delight and fright, but I will not say any more about the surprises that are in the book. Go read it now!
Okay, so Stephen Graham Jones has written his love story to slasher films. This has it all: gore, suspense, red herrings, and a Final Girl. However, this book has more in it than just another horror novel - it has underlining message about trust. Who is safe to trust? Are they trustworthy? Is there anyone to open up to and trust? Because trust has been shattered and is never able to be reformed. Jade is a half-Indigenous girl of 17 who is obsessed with slasher films. She knows them all, knows their individual story arcs. And now she feels like she is living in one and knows who the Final Girl is. Her job is to prepare her for the bloodbath that is destined to come. Perhaps. I've come late to the Stephen Graham Jones game, but his last two books have been real gems.
Todd, a high school teacher and single Dad, runs into Jack; his high school bully. Todd is hesitant to interact with him, but his son really takes to Jack. Remembering his high school days, Todd begins to seethe with pent-up emotions and feelings. His ex-wife is attempting to get a hold him (she misses her son and wants to reconnect), Jack reminds him of the humiliations and uncomfortable situations of the past, and his son is bonding with the man who made his life miserable. It's all too much, and what comes next is dark and horrific but only takes a moment. The spiral of the story whips the reader down and down until the final resting place is revealed in all its shocking and damaged depths. Hawk Mountain consumed me with its brutality and wonder.
Erin's on-again-off-again boyfriend Silas finds a drug that allows him to see the dead. When he suddenly dies one day, Erin and her friends attempt to contact him. Clay McLeod Chapman amps up the anxiety and suspense in this drug-fueled horror novel about love and loss. Both Erin's friends and the Richmond scenery that they inhabit have storied pasts with sins in abundance. When the end came, it leveled me - such a great book!
WOW - this was one amazing flashback of a read. I got hooked into Chuck Klosterman's prose as he walked us all through the decade's touchstones: from Nirvana to Garth Brooks (my Mom was a huge fan), from Reality Bites to American Beauty, from George HW Bush to, um... George W Bush, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the fall of the Twin Towers. It's that and so much more. Klosterman really delves into what it meant to live during the Nineties, an era with virtually no internet, no cell phones, or cable choices, and why so many things are impossible to happen again. I learned so much I ignored on my first go around through the decade! Such a great read!
Winston Barnes, Sheriff of a tiny North Carolina community, is awoken one night in 1984 to news of an unknown airplane coming in at the local airport. Upon investigating, he finds the plane is empty, barely contained to the runway, and there’s a dead body near it. Wiley Cash spins his tale out from this tight moment in time to explore everything from racial tensions to drug smuggling to families being upended by tragedies. This is more than just a mystery or whodunit, it’s a story about relationships between fathers and daughters, husbands and wives, and brothers and sisters. This seven-layer salad of a novel surprises with each unfolding scene, and the last layer has the punch to your gut that will leave you mute. I am such a fan of Wiley Cash, and you should be too.
January Cole works at the Paradox Hotel across the way from a time terminal. Yes, the super-rich can now travel back in time (though not to the future, for various reasons). January used to monitor the timeline to make sure that nobody tried anything disruptive, like maybe trying to kill or help Hitler. Or bring dinosaurs back. She had to stop when she began displaying symptoms of becoming 'unstuck,' meaning at random times she would be thrown back into her own timeline to relive random events. So now she runs security at the hotel, while the government is trying to sell it. Sadly, her disease ramping up, she thinks there is a dead body that only she can see. So many moving parts, this was one fantastic time travel mystery.
Mirin Fader lays out the unlikely, hollywood-esque story of the rise of Giannis, from living in poverty in Greece to the top of the NBA as a two-time MVP of the league. This is a look at how Giannis is Giannis. How Milwaukee was the perfect city to fit his blue collar work ethic and humbleness. It's about how family is the most important thing to him, and where you come from doesn't define you but can be a spring board to fight for a better life. Mirin Fader did hundreds of interviews, far and wide, to cast the largest possible net. Reading some sections of the games Giannis played, I remember being there, sitting in my seat, cheering and watching it unfold. Now, though, I have more perspective. I am even more in awe of Giannis and his family. At the end of it all, one major takeaway for me from this book is that nothing else matters if your family is not there supporting you and you lifting them up, too.
American refugee Ron Patterson fled the country as the U.S. descended into civil war. Kalfus doesn't expound upon the causes or the specifics of the conflict; rather, he boils it down to us versus them, which seems like what is ready to happen about a million times every year. No other nation wants America's castoffs, so Ron has to keep his head down and not draw attention to himself. It's a very uncomfortable turning of the tables, seeing our emigrants treated the way we treat the immigrants coming into our country. There is a very unfinished quality to the book that I loved. Nothing is overly detailed, Ron could be any American, and we are left wondering what becomes of him at the end. An interesting thought experiment that casts American exceptionalism in its true colors.
Anne Heltzel has put a disturbing ring to the term Mother in this book. Maeve is born into a cult called The Mother Collective, which has extreme views on motherhood. Maeve’s best friend is her cousin, Andrea, who makes Maeve promise she will never leave. When Maeve is caught in a tight spot, she flees and enters foster care. Years later, Andrea reaches out to reconnect with Maeve, and that is when some real creepiness reintroduces itself. There are some very graphic scenes that left me squeamish, but Heltzel does an amazingly dark job of weaving a perfect trap for her character and not triggering it until Maeve is almost too far inside. Really looking forward to what twisted ideas she can come up with for what should be normal, comforting life experiences. Mother will never mean the same thing to me.
Claire Kohda has written a coming-of-age story, but it's about a vampire. Lydia is a young vampire living on her own for the first time, having just put her mother in home for her signs of dementia. Lydia doesn't know any vampires except her mother, so that is where all instruction has come from. Her mother taught her the vampire side of them was evil and needed to be suppressed. Their food of choice: pigs blood, never human. Out into the world, by herself for the first time, Lydia navigates a new job at the Otter, a new studio that she has all to herself. She befriends new people awkwardly. As it becomes harder to source her food, and her job becomes less interesting than hoped for, Lydia struggles with her human half versus her vampire half; her constant hunger versus social conventions. A brilliant book about an outsider trying to fit into a community that doesn't exactly fit who they are or who they hope to become.
A good portion of my youth was spent playing D&D and reading Dragonlance and Forgetten Realms novels. I went to Gen Con and ate up all that was RPG culture at the time. Before reading this book, all I ever knew of TSR was their initials on the spines of their products. Ben Riggs has done a deep and extensive dive into TSR history, charting their beginnings in Gary Gygax's basement all the way to Wizards of the Coast rescuing their legacy with an epic buyout. He discovered that it was not just one mistake or symptom that caused the unraveling of the Lake Geneva gaming company but a series of them that over time trapped them in a corner with no way to free themselves. First, though, Riggs tells the story of the rise of TSR, how they broke ground and started something that people desperately wanted. Then TSR doubled down on their ingenuity to start a publishing book line to help deepen the lore of their products, which brought us some of the greatest writers in their genre and era. That small town in Wisconsin housed some of the greatest creatives and artists working in the gaming industry. Riggs does an amazing job of highlighting both the success and failure of one of the great iconic gaming companies.
After terrorist attacks quiet and travel bans are lifted, Bertie and Kate take a trip to Paris to see the Louvre. They meet a stranger who tells them he can get them into the Louvre on a day that it is closed. So they enter the museum and are soon stuck in a time loop. They lose each other, but only Bertie realizes it. This is a quiet and disturbing view of how relationships change, happen, and end. A really brilliant novel.
Logan Ramsey is attempting to live a life that makes up for his Mom's ultimate failure, which caused a massive famine and killed millions. Twenty years later, he is part of a government organization that hunts down scientists and others modifying DNA. On a mission to recover an illegal package which they think contains altered DNA of some form, Logan is caught in a bomb blast. The blast introduces a virus into his system that begins changing his DNA. Logan's life is about to turn upside down as he must flee from family and friends for their safety. Blake Crouch uses this novel as a platform to express our collective anxiety of the future of homo sapiens and Earth. The science is fascinating as always with his books, and the dire warnings are completely well researched and accurate. Another blast of a book from Blake Crouch.
At the start of Covid, Sean and his wife are battling both a health scare (the math teacher, as Sean calls her often, was in recovery from breast cancer) and lack of jobs. Jamie (her actual name) gets it into her head to bike the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Towpath Trail. Sean steadfastly refuses, yet he still ends up in Pittsburgh on his trike looking for the start of the journey. Told with great humor that will have you laughing out loud, Sean also has a way of making himself the butt of his own jokes.
Bill Bear lives in a future that has gone through several Covids and Ukraine War-like instances. The US is a bit of a disaster, and Bill makes a living as a courier. He mostly moves people and objects and does the odd cleanup and assassinations if called upon. He is a master of living on the fringes, outside the system, a ghost with no real identity. So, when he is in the middle of a contract job and one of his burner phones goes off, it freaks him out. Nobody should have any of the numbers of his phone at this point, but that's when more of them go off, with a very insistent person on the other end about to change Bill's outlook on life and royally piss off Bill’s employer. Dan Chaon provides a road novel, a rundown, and a harsh future world. While I don't want to live there, I loved reading this bleak future of ours.
Ashley Hutson's absurd debut novel is a revelation. Bonnie wins the lottery, and not just a little win - think the biggest win you can remember, then triple it. She suffered some major trauma which has blended into the background of her life. Upon winning the lottery, she buys a remote piece of land and builds a replica of her dream sitcom show, Three's Company. Bonnie wants to disappear so completely into the sitcom, and she has every little detail replicated that she possible can. From the decor to the TV shows, Bonnie spares no expense for historical accuracy. This book is a deep dive into a person's mental illness brought on by life's many dangers and her attempt to escape from them.
I am a relative newcomer to Andrew McMahon's music career. I only discovered his amazing music when “Cecilia and the Satellite” was released. I was hooked, listening to everything he produced, from his earlier bands to his newest stuff on constant repeat. Now I’ve seen him in concert at least a dozen times, and while the music has some difficult material being sung about, Three Pianos really gives the fans a backdoor glimpse at what he experienced in his life while the music was happening. Take a dive with Andrew and experience this heart-wrenching and painful memoir of a life that led to such inspirational music.
Did you like Mark Watney? Then, you will absolutely love Ryland Grace. Who is he? Waking up in a strange environment, Ryland can remember little about his life other than his name. He’s in a bed with tubes running into pretty much every bodily opening he has, and the other two other beds have dead people in them. In short order, he figures out that he is humanity’s last hope to save Earth. The writing is funny and pitch perfect, the science is wildly creative and carefully explained. This is the book I was not expecting to be blown away, by and I loved every second of it.
One day, four Native Americans go off hunting where they shouldn't have been. They slaughter a bunch of elk. One was pregnant at the wrong time of year, and Lewis has a hard time of it. He moves off the rez and tries to leave the past behind. He finds out the past is never too far away and that it can hold grudge forever - even off the rez. The other hunters have similar fates in-store that befall Lewis. They all see the Elk-Head Woman and know what it means. Stephen Graham Jones depicts Native Americans on and off the rez; the hardness, the bleakness and briefness of life there. There's some beauty in there, too. The sweat lodge scene and the meaning behind it was really engaging and great, until the killing started. This book will kick out at you when you least expect it to, and you will love it.
Nate and Mads move to rural Pennsylvania with their son, Olly, after he has some unfortunate breakdowns at his school in Philadelphia. Not so bad until you find out that they are moving into the house where Nate grew up with an abusive, evil father. On top of that, this area has some real scary history - serial killers, a haunted tunnel, an old mine disaster, and a park filled with weird moving boulders. Olly meets an older kid named Jake, and from there stuff starts to get real creepy as the past starts to catch up to the family. So much happens in this twisty tale - I loved this book, it took me back to horror of the eighties, from King to McCammon to Koontz.
After a virus put animals on the brink of extinction (humanity helped by killing all animals they thought could get them sick, too!), you would think we would become Vegans. Guess again. Cannibalism has become state sanctioned, and Marcos heads up one of the meat processing plants. Agustina Bazterrica takes us brutally by the hand and drags us through the entire process, from the ranchers that raise the ‘cattle’ to the meat processors and tanneries. To say that some of the descriptions are disturbing is putting it mildly. The story really kicks off when Marcos gets a gift from El Gringo, a female FGP. Not understanding what to do with her (as he says, 'he kills head, he doesn't breed them'), he ties her up in the barn and goes off to work. Through Marco's eyes we see and hear all the horrific ways humanity has created 'special meat' for the world to eat, and how that meat is treated, hunted, and used. This book is not for the squeamish - I LOVED IT!
Here’s a story of two best friends who are attempting to move beyond the bubble they have kept themselves inside with the same routines ruling them. Leonard’s mother has passed away, and he is caught a bit off guard when he realizes a woman has taken an interest in him. Hungry Paul is comfortably still living with his parents, though his sister is getting married and attempting to get him to move on with his life. Through their friendship with each other (and Hungry Paul’s parents and sister) these two socially insecure men are able to move onward without changing who they are or what they believe. A heartwarming tale that will cause you to smile and laugh as you read. It did for me.
The third book in the Lady Astronaut series turns its focus from Elma York, who was hurtling toward Mars in the last book and still is in this one, to Nicole Wargin. Married to the Governor of Kansas, which is where the capital is located due to the meteor strike in the first book, she is a fierce astronaut in her own right living on the moon colony. With the climate starting to heat up, the stakes in this book do as well. The Earth Firsters are up in arms about the space program eating the money up and being used to save the few, when the many will never get off the planet. Shouldn't the focus be to save as many people as possible? When extinction is on the table, then all bets are off. Nicole Wargin is trapped on the moon with at least one member of the Earth Firsters, who is bent on sabotaging the space program at any cost. Mary Robinette Kowal does an amazing job at looking at the personal ramifications as well as the political and social ones of a world hurtling towards disaster. Can't wait for the next volume!
There are instances in this book that make you cringe, that make you want to toss the book to the side and scream, and for all that Jeannie Vanasco tells us, I still couldn't put down her story of confronting the person who sexually assaulted her in college. It was person she trusted, a person she counted on as a friend. It wouldn't be the last time. Yet, Jeannie does an amazing and courageous feat of contacting him years later and engaging him in a meaningful dialogue. She examines her own feelings around the assault, and she sees with more clarity as time has given her space. She's not giving him a voice but rather making him own up to what he did and finding out what his motives were. He destroyed more than trust and more than friendship. Jeannie's writing grabbed me as few memoirs ever do, and it brings such strength to her story.
There's a cafe, and in that cafe there's a seat, and from that seat a person can travel in time. There are a lot of rules (you can't leave your seat or you are instantly transported back), a time limit (you must finish your coffee before it gets cold) and you must except that you can't change the present, no matter what you do. Before the Coffee Gets Cold is a story told in four parts, four different people have a desire to travel in time for various reasons. There are some seriously sad moments in this book, but overall it's really a story about these characters having a moment they wanted back just so they can move on in their life without the a huge what-if weighing on them. The story is simple, the emotions complex, and I really enjoyed my time spent in the hole-in-the-wall cafe.
We could learn a lot about the times we live in (while dealing with Russia and Putin) if we took the time to read about Stalin. Stalin was playing the long game in the 1930s and balancing his schemes on what he was seeing in Nazi Germany, France, and Britain. His goal was never to get into a war to just win it, but to gain as much political advantage as he could while forcing the other powers to battle each other. We know about the antisemitism that plagued Germany at this time, however we gloss over how much Stalin purged his own ranks throughout the 30s. Letting Hitler run amok in Europe was, as Sean McMeekin details, allowed by Stalin (or at least Stalin didn’t care to get involved, see the non-aggression pact signed between Hitler and him) to stir up as much turmoil as possible. In the end, it worked. World War II causalities were huge on the Russian population, but Stalin would be fine with that (in fact, he was good at killing his own people in the large amounts as well). It helped Stalin secured enough political capital, slave labor and new territories to grow the Soviet Union into a world power.
Wow - this book sneaks up on you. I thought it was one thing, then the story turns and barges off in another thrilling direction. Vern has fled from Cainland, a commune led by her cultish husband, Reverend Sherman. She is pregnant as she flees into the woods, and she will stay there for the next four years. As long and as far as Vern gets from Cainland, its tentacles have latched onto her and won’t let go. She begins to transform because of her life lived there. She is hunted because of what she might become and fears for her children. It’s enough to get her moving back into civilization to rejoin the world. It’s not easy, as the hunt is quick to pick up again as soon as she leaves her forest home. Rivers Solomon has written a magical novel that is steeped in so much hard history to acknowledge: from American government sanctioning cruel experiments on black citizens to general hatred of the unknown or different. This is a book of transformation and redemption.
Anthony Doerr intricately weaves together three story lines, scattered throughout time, in a brilliant tapestry of wonder. What holds this all together is an ancient Greek text that should’ve been lost to time. As we bob in and out of the different characters’ stories, we see how the text moves and influences their decisions and actions. We see the power of a written text and how people will devote resources and lives to the discovery and protection of the written word. There is so much to talk about in this book; please read it so I can discuss it with you. An amazing, epic novel!
James Kennedy bent my brain into odd shapes with his stellar novel, Dare to Know. The protagonist works for a company that can tell you when you are going to die. Down to the minute. It takes a lot of math and an understanding of physics, particularly of thanatons, a particle that is present when each person dies. The big no-no in the company is looking up your own time of death – but when the protagonist is stuck in a situation where he thinks he has the potential to die, he runs the assessment to find his death date, only to find out that he already passed it and died minutes ago. Which can’t happen; the math is never wrong. Except that it is. This knowledge leads the reader down the rabbit hole of how this death-telling business came to be. We follow the protagonist through his life in flashbacks, from his summer with Renard in science camp to his girlfriend, Julia, in college, and on to his early days at the company. They have puzzling, bizarre effects on him as he makes his way through a new non-death world. I couldn’t put this book down, and I had to reread the end twice to figure out the mind melting conclusion that the author spun.
Tales from the Café takes us back to the time traveling of Before the Coffee Gets Cold. Familiar faces bustle about the café, and one in particular still haunts the time traveling chair. Four stories again weave together to further the myth of the café, and so many questions I had at the end of the first one are answered here. There's a bit of calm and patience that permeates the stories, which unfold through various characters’ empathy towards others that they can't connect with in the here and now. Such an amazing story - I really hope the last book will be translated as well.
K is fascinated about coincidences and random facts that continually pop up. Enter Rabbits - a game you only know you are playing when you are already neck deep into it. K meets the legendary, Alan Scarpio, who is reported to have won the sixth iteration of the game. Why? He tells K the game is broken and needs to be fixed before the next iteration starts or there could be deadly consequences. Before more can be discussed, Alan ends up missing and K starts finding clues everywhere. When the game begins, people start disappearing and dying all over the world. The world, the human civilization depends on this game, even though nobody knows who started it or how old it really is. A brilliant idea that kept me plowing through the book looking for clues trying to see how or if K could save the world. So many twists and mind games going on in this one, I feel like the Terry Miles really can surprise everyone who reads this.
Max Barry's take on a first encounter with aliens is quite brutal but fantastic. This book is a perfect mix of Aliens meets Enders' Game, with a bit of 2001 thrown in for good measure. Four human crew members travel on the ship Providence Five. Their only job is to make sure the AI runs the ship smoothly as they jump to battles with aliens who are out to murder every last one of us. As things begin to go awry, and the humans are cut off from communication with Earth, the aliens become smarter and the AI becomes bolder; each of the crew becomes isolated by their own beliefs and mission objectives. Everything is battling each other, and in the end there's an awakening and retribution of sorts among the crew and AI. This is one of the most interesting, philosophical science fiction romps that I've read in a long time!
Noah Turner's family has been haunted by a monster since before he was born. It has been around since his grandmother and has been keeping track of his father and his family for quite awhile. His father attempts to come to terms with feeling of being watched and haunted. He's a horror connoisseur, introducing his wife to the best horror has to offer: from movies to books to haunted houses. When things start going really weird with him, he begins building a haunted house at their home. Along the way the family suffers many set backs. Noah, though, befriends the monster and learns to be friends with it. This book is the ultimate homage to classic horror like H.P. Lovecraft and his kind. Shaun Hamill brilliantly unravels the story over the course of many encounters, which caused me to doubt what I thought I knew about the story. The end of the story was sucker punch for me as well as for others. Can't wait to see what comes next from this author!
Willis Wu has aspirations to become Kung-Fu Guy on a cop show called Black and White. He's not Kung-Fu Guy yet, but maybe someday, if he can move up the ranks of bit Asian roles given to him. Willis wants this so bad that reality has blurred a bit for him and his real life shows signs of being a scripted as well. I started to question whether Willis really knew what he wanted or if he was presetting himself a path that would be difficult for him to veer away from. Charles Yu made this book look so easy, smooth and fun to read, which he's demonstrated in all his past works as well. This book is dripping with pop culture references, stereotypes and lots of lots of humor. Interior Chinatown delivers several knock out punches at our culture and society.
A green utopian community, Greenloop, is nestled out in the wilderness not too far from Mt. Rainier. The story unfolds via a journal found in the aftermath of a volcanic explosion. The demise of the community is not linked to the volcanic activity but to an ancient myth that becomes frighteningly real to the residents. The strength of this novel lies with the characters. Max Brook built a complex cast that leaves you reeling when the Sasquatch arrive. As the group is surrounded, they must come to terms with what must be done if they are going to survive. A seat-of-your-pants reading experience - brilliant!