August 31, 2011

August 2011

I did better this month than last month, but I'm still not reading as much as I could or would like to.  I read 10 books this month, for a total of 3389 pages.

1. The X-Files: Goblins by Charles Grant (8/10)
2. Lucky by Alice Sebold (10/10)
3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer  (7/10)
4. Void Moon by Michael Connelly (8/10)
5. Children of the Night by Dan Simmons  (6.5/10)
6. The Face of the Deep by Jim Young (10/10)
7. The Last Child by John Hart  (9.5/10)
8. The Uncanny by Andrew Klavan (6/10)
9. The X-Men: The Last Stand by Chris Claremont (4/10)
10. The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton  (8.5/10)

There are 3 Science Fiction, 3 Fiction, 3 Thrillers and 1 Horror.  I can't remember the last time I didn't read a fantasy novel during a month.  However, I was very happy with these choices for the most part.  My To Be Read Pile is at 513 today, which is only 3 less than last month.  I have to stop getting new books.

It's a hard choice this month for favorite book, but I really think it's got to be Jim Young's.  It was just so darn good.

Favorite book of the month:  The Face of the Deep by Jim Young

The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton

Title:  The Terminal Man
Author:  Michael Crichton
Format:  PB
Pages:  261
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Ballantine, 1998
ISBN-13:  978-0345354624
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  Obviously, nobody would ever try to build such a computer using current technology.  New methods would have to be found -- and there wasn't much doubt in McPherson's mind what the methods would be.  Living tissues.

Synopsis (Amazon):  Harry Benson suffers from violent seizures. When he becomes part of an experimental program that sends electrodes to his brain to calm him, he is in recovery. Until he discovers how to get those soothing pulses more frequently, and then escapes the hopsital--on a murderous rampage with a deadly agenda....

Review:  I love this author.  I especially love finding a book I haven't read by an author I love for sale on the ten cent table at the library.  This book takes a look at how far science could go in the area of mind control.  When I say mind control, I do not mean these doctors are trying to control Harry.  They are trying to help Harry control his seizures using a new and experimental technique.

Of course, it backfires in the most astounding fashion.  The technology was probably ahead of the times when this book was originally published in 1971.  Unfortunately, we have surpassed much of the computer related technologies described as nearly futuristic.  It didn't hurt the story one bit though.  Since I'm not a computer scientist, I could read the story for what it was -- a terrific and horrifying look at how far we might be willing to go to cure what ails humanity.

The characters are well-written.  The action is fast-paced.  The storyline is absolutely believable.  I highly recommend this story.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

August 27, 2011

X-Men: The Last Stand by Chris Claremont

Title:  X-Men: The Last Stand
Author:  Chris Claremont
Format:  PB
Pages:  336
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Del Rey, 2006
ISBN-13:  978-0345492111
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  "We strive because we must, that is reality.  But why we strive must never be forgotten."

Synopsis (Amazon):  TAKE A STAND.

The world has acquired a lethal new weapon against X-gene mutants, whose superhuman powers separate them–for better, for worse, forever–from ordinary mortals. Now, for the first time, mutants have a choice: retain their godlike abilities, though their powers may isolate and alienate them, or surrender them and become human. The mutant antibody is called a cure, but its invention may trigger a struggle that destroys every living soul on Earth.

As Magneto declares all-out war against humanity and its dreaded cure, the U.S. president mobilizes the military. But it is Charles Xavier and the X-Men who truly must brace for the ultimate battle, for they alone are powerful enough to determine the outcome.

Lessons of the past are useless in the coming life-and-death conflict, as new players–mutants possessing unprecedented, unearthly skills– take center stage. With so many joining forces with Magneto’s evil Brotherhood, the X-Men will face their ultimate test against an enemy whose forces far outnumber their own.

Now, as the world trembles, the Phoenix slowly rises. . .

Review:  Well, the movie was much better.  But, I didn't really expect much since I realized after starting it that this was a novelization of the screenplay.  That said, it was a pleasant revisit to a story I already loved.  The characters are well-known and well-loved.  The purpose of the X-Men remains true.

I was touched in all the places I should have been and found myself drawn into the action and conflicts.  It was a super quick read.  For a bit of fluff, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.  I really don't think this was a fair judge of this author, so I will try to read something original of his one day.

Rating:  4 / 10

August 26, 2011

The Uncanny by Andrew Klavan

Title:  The Uncanny
Author:  Andrew Klavan
Format:  PB
Pages:  401
Genre:  Thriller
Publisher:  Island, 1998
ISBN-13:  978-0440225775
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  "I am the Everlasting Thing," he said.  "I feed on the marrow of time.  I was here before the oceans turned black with life, and when the deserts are white with death I will remain."

Synopsis (Amazon):  Richard Storm is passionate, hot-blooded, and running out of time.  Sophia Endering is cool, beautiful, and haunted by a centuries-old mystery.  Now the Hollywood filmmaker and the troubled young woman have come together in a race against the unbelievable, the unthinkable, and. . . The Uncanny.

Richard Storm reached the top of his profession producing horror films based on classic English ghost stories.  Now, with his life beginning to unravel, Richard is searching for something to believe in.  Fleeing Hollywood for London, he embarks on a desperate quest: to find evidence that the great old stories bear some truth, that the human spirit lives on after death.

What he finds is Sophia, a woman caught in a nightmare more chilling than any of his film horrors.  Propelled by a furious love, haunted by a terror he can barely confess to himself, Storm pursues Sophia through the labyrinth of her family's madness and their involvement in Nazi art thefts, down a trail formed by the classic ghost stories themselves--into the very heart of the uncanny.  .  .  .

Review:  This book is quite different than I expected.  It's not as scary as I thought it would be, but it was still quite good.  I loved the character Harper the best.  She was smart and witty.  I am still not really sure what The Uncanny is, but it didn't matter.

Much of this novel revolves around a strange take on The Holy Grail and the fact that it can give immortality.  I've certainly never read a more imaginative or original story on this subject.  It also touched on paganism, Satanism, human sacrifice, and ghosts.  This wasn't one of my favorite books, but it was well worth the read.

Rating:  6 / 10

August 20, 2011

The Last Child by John Hart

Title:  The Last Child
Author:  John Hart
Format:  PB
Pages:  419
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher:  Minotaur, 2010
ISBN-13:  978-0312642365
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  No crows, Johnny thought.  God knows.

Synopsis (Amazon):  Thirteen year-old Johnny Merrimon had the perfect life: a warm home and loving parents; a twin sister, Alyssa, with whom he shared an irreplaceable bond. He knew nothing of loss, until the day Alyssa vanished from the side of a lonely street. Now, a year later, Johnny finds himself isolated and alone, failed by the people he'd been taught since birth to trust. No one else believes that Alyssa is still alive, but Johnny is certain that she is---confident in a way that he can never fully explain.

Determined to find his sister, Johnny risks everything to explore the dark side of his hometown. It is a desperate, terrifying search, but Johnny is not as alone as he might think. Detective Clyde Hunt has never stopped looking for Alyssa either, and he has a soft spot for Johnny. He watches over the boy and tries to keep him safe, but when Johnny uncovers a dangerous lead and vows to follow it, Hunt has no choice but to intervene.

Then a second child goes missing . . .

Undeterred by Hunt's threats or his mother's pleas, Johnny enlists the help of his last friend, and together they plunge into the wild, to a forgotten place with a history of violence that goes back more than a hundred years. There, they meet a giant of a man, an escaped convict on his own tragic quest. What they learn from him will shatter every notion Johnny had about the fate of his sister; it will lead them to another far place, to a truth that will test both boys to the limit.

Traveling the wilderness between innocence and hard wisdom, between hopelessness and faith, The Last Child leaves all categories behind and establishes John Hart as a writer of unique power.

Review:  This is an incredible novel.  Issues of belief and trust are at the root of this story.  Johnny doesn't believe in much anything or trust much of anyone.  Except he believes he can find his sister.  His journey to do so forces him to confront and battle many harsh realities:  his mother's drug use, his father's disappearance, and his own lack of faith.

There was quite a bit of action.  I loved the characters, especially Detective Hunt and the escaped convict, Levi.  No one in this story is untouched or blameless, but in the end it is more about forgiveness than blame.  This is not a happily ever after type of story.  But it ended just as it should, with hope for the future.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

August 17, 2011

The Face of the Deep by Jim Young

Title:  The Face of the Deep
Author:  Jim Young
Format:  PB
Pages:  222
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Pocket, 1979
ISBN-13:  978-0671829308
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  For I am opening the great gateway into the center of the galaxy, just as I closed it when a murderous people came through it to lay waste this world and its inhabitants.  But do not think there is no murder in your people, for if I did not open this largest of our channels, you too would be so confined as to become like Cinala's petrified demon and that demon's race.

Synopsis (Back Cover):  The earthly expedition breathlessly awaited it's arrival on Bok II, home of the galaxy's one other intelligent race.  They had wanted to study its medieval culture, view its Citadel God-head, and warn of the impending explosion of its sun.

But the leaders of Bok II -- found no kinship with their visitors, found only danger and threat, and so they brutally imprisoned these brothers of the mind.

With the aid of the friendly aliens of Nalcq, two of the prisoners escaped.  Rafe O'Sullivan and Lea Bennington had one chance to radio for help; they begin a torturous push to the "far speaker" in the city of Vuul.  They did not know that in their path the Citadel waited, the sight of which could instantly kill, or helplessly enslave....

Review:  This book reminds me why I love good Science Fiction.  The aliens are so like us, yet so different.  From the culture, to the religion, to the system of laws, they are alien and yet not.

The main character, Rafe, is believable and likable.  The aliens are wonderful.  The world is not Earth and absolutely enthralling.  This book is a gem and took less than 24 hours to complete.  It is done in the grand old Sci-Fi style only much more approachable and easy to read than some of the better-known authors.  I loved it.  Completely.

Rating:  10 / 10

August 16, 2011

Children of the Night by Dan Simmons

Title:  Children of the Night
Author:  Dan Simmons
Format:  PB
Pages:  451
Genre:  Horror
Publisher:  Grand Central, 1993
ISBN-13:  978-0446364751
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  "I swear upon the Blood of Christ and the Blood of the Chalice," I cried, my voice not breaking, "that Vlad Dracul will be avenged, that I will personally drain and drink the blood of Vladislav, and that those who planned and committed this treachery will lament the day when they murdered Vlad Dracul and earned the enmity of Vlad Dracula, Son of the Dragon."

Synopsis (Back Flap):  In a desolate orphanage in what remains of post-Communist Romania, a desperately ill infant is given the wrong blood transfusion -- and flourishes when he's supposed to die.  The discovery of his unique immune system may hold the key to the long awaited cure for cancer and AIDS.  For a dedicated American doctor, he promises the medical breakthrough of a lifetime, as well as a very special love she's never been able to find.  But he also conceals a shockingly intimate link to a clan of vampires and their legendary leader -- the fiend the world calls Vlad Dracula, who, for centuries, has triumphed over countless rival tyrants, including death itself....

Review:  I'd really consider this story more of a Medical Thriller than Horror.  Just because there are vampires in it does not make it Horror.  These vampires are not from legends.  They are normal people with a genetic disease that forces them to consume blood to survive.  A good bit of the book is spent with Dr. Kate Neuman and her efforts to identify and cure this disease before it kills her adopted son.  Even during the more exciting portions of the book, there is quite a bit of medical jargon being tossed around.  This is not to say that it wasn't a good thriller.  It was.  It just wasn't scary.

I will say that I was enthralled by the historical facts about Vlad Dracula.  But, while this was a thrilling read, it was not quite what I expected.

Rating:  6.5 / 10

August 11, 2011

Void Moon by Michael Connelly

Title:  Void Moon
Author:  Michael Connelly
Format:  PB
Pages:  447
Genre:  Thriller
Publisher:  Vision, 2001
ISBN-13:  978-0446609142
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  "Remember what you said before about there being a jinx?  It was the void moon, Cass.  That was the jinx."

Synopsis (Amazon):  In L.A. Cassie Black is another beautiful woman in a Porsche: except Cassie just did six years in prison and still has "outlaw juice" flowing in her veins. Now Cassie is returning to her old profession, taking down a money man in Vegas. But the perfect heist goes very wrong, and suddenly Cassie is on the run--with a near-psychotic Vegas "fixer" killing everyone who knew about the job. Between Cassie and the man hunting her are a few last secrets: like who really set up the job, why Cassie had to take the change, and how, in the end, it might all be a matter of the moon...

Review:  I just love finding a new author who I love.  This was a great read.  It was fast paced and thrilling, full of plot twists and unexpected turns.  Up to the end, I wasn't sure what would happen.  It was really a surprise, and a good one at that.

It's not quite on the same level as a really great Grisham thriller, but it's good, even great in some areas.  I loved the heroine, Cassidy Black, the ex-con.  I loved the bad guy, known in Vegas as the Jack of Spades.  I especially loved the fact that there was absolutely no romance in this novel, except in Cass' memories.  This was not a romance novel disguised as a thriller.  It had fast cars, lots of action and quite a few deaths.  It was a thriller.

Rating:  8 / 10

August 7, 2011

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Title:  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Author:  Jonathan Safran Foer
Format:  PB
Pages:  326
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher:  Mariner, 2006
ISBN-13:  978-0618711659
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  "I changed the course of human history!"  "That's right."  "I changed the universe!"  "You did."  "I'm God!"  "You're an atheist."  "I don't exist!"  I fell back onto the bed, into his arms, and we cracked up together.

Synopsis (Amazon):  Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.

Review:  This is one of the strangest books I've ever read.  There are blank pages, odd pictures, and type that can't be read at all.  Told mostly from the point of view of nine-year-old Oskar, it switches viewpoints and swings between the past and the future so often that I wasn't always sure what was going on.  But, it was still an incredible work of fiction.

While this story is obviously about healing and the paths we take to find it, I came away mostly with a real appreciation for the little coincidences that make up our lives.  Take one random action away and a whole life is changed.  I didn't adore this book, but it certainly made me think.

Rating:  7 / 10

August 3, 2011

Lucky by Alice Sebold

Title:  Lucky
Author:  Alice Sebold
Format:  HC
Pages:  250
Genre:  Non-Fiction / Memoir
Publisher:  Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999
ISBN-13:  978-0684857824
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  No one can pull anyone back from anywhere.  You save yourself or you remain unsaved.

Synopsis (Amazon):  Enormously visceral, emotionally gripping, and imbued with the belief that justice is possible even after the most horrific of crimes, Alice Sebold's compelling memoir of her rape at the age of eighteen is a story that takes hold of you and won't let go.

Sebold fulfills a promise that she made to herself in the very tunnel where she was raped: someday she would write a book about her experience. With Lucky she delivers on that promise with mordant wit and an eye for life's absurdities, as she describes what she was like both as a young girl before the rape and how that rape changed but did not sink the woman she later became.

It is Alice's indomitable spirit that we come to know in these pages. The same young woman who sets her sights on becoming an Ethel Merman-style diva one day (despite her braces, bad complexion, and extra weight) encounters what is still thought of today as the crime from which no woman can ever really recover. In an account that is at once heartrending and hilarious, we see Alice's spirit prevail as she struggles to have a normal college experience in the aftermath of this harrowing, life-changing event.

No less gripping is the almost unbelievable role that coincidence plays in the unfolding of Sebold's narrative. Her case, placed in the inactive file, is miraculously opened again six months later when she sees her rapist on the street. This begins the long road to what dominates these pages: the struggle for triumph and understanding -- in the courtroom and outside in the world.

Lucky is, quite simply, a real-life thriller. In its literary style and narrative tension we never lose sight of why this life story is worth reading. At the end we are left standing in the wake of devastating violence, and, like the writer, we have come to know what it means to survive.

Review:  I admit it.  I did not believe that Ms. Sebold could touch me again as she did with her novel, The Lovely Bones.  I was wrong.  This book is full of sorrow, danger, suspense, and pure horror.  It should be required reading for every young woman.  The tale told here and the lessons to be learned from it are just incredible.

While I still think I really do like the previous novel better, this is a true story.  It is hard to imagine a worse true story, but the author does not sugar coat it.  It is harsh and hard to read a times.  The truth is often hard to bear, but this author does not shy from truths even when they are about herself.  It also has lighter, funnier moments.  The writing is fluid and the book is impossible to put down, making it a quick read.

I usually will pass by non-fiction because I find it boring.  This book is the exception to that rule.  I loved it and will not ever forget it.

Rating:  10 / 10

August 2, 2011

The X-Files: Goblins by Charles Grant

Title:  The X-Files: Goblins
Author:  Charles Grant
Format:  PB
Pages:  276
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Harper, 1994
ISBN-13:  978-0061054143
Series:  X-Files, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  He didn't take offense, although he knew she wanted him to.  "There are lots of things that are no such thing, Licia.  Some of them aren't, some of them are."

Synopsis (Amazon):  Opening the X-Files...
Meet Mulder and Scully, FBI. The agency maverick and the female agent assigned to keep him in line.

Their job: investigate the eeriest unsolved mysteries in modern America, from pyro-psychics to death row demonics, from rampaging Sasquatches to alien invasions. The cases the Bureau wants handled quietly, but quickly, before the public finds out what's really out there. And panics. The cases filed under "X."

Review:  I loved this TV series.  I didn't actually expect this book to be as good as it was.  It surprised me.  I had forgotten just how much I love Mulder and Skully and the odd cases they investigated.  There are Goblins, also known as human chameleons, running loose.  Part of a government experiment gone awry, the Goblin in question is killing people without a trace.

Enter my two favorite FBI agents and their humorous partnership of belief and disbelief, imagination and science.  The story is a romping fast read, full of action and suspense.  It may not be the best book ever written, but it's certainly not the worst.  And, I had a blast reading it.

Review:  8 / 10

July 2011

I've had a really tough month again this month.  I cannot seem to focus on reading these days.  I only read 8 books, for a total of 2646 pages this month.

1. Killing Moon by Rebecca York (4.5/10)
2. The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold (9.5/10)
3. Celestis by Paul Park (7/10)
4. A Gift of Dragons by Anne McCaffrey (9.5/10)
5. The Juror by George Dawes Green (8.5/10)
6. Moonfeast by James Axler (8/10)
7. Downrigger Drift by James Axler (8/10)
8. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (7.5/10)

I read 1 Romantic Suspense, 2 Fantasy, 3 Science Fiction, 1 Thriller, and 1 Fiction.  At least I was able to finish every book I started this month.  My To Be Read Pile is at 516 today, which is only 2 less than last month.  I've had quite a few books come my way lately.  

Favorite book of the month:   The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold

August 1, 2011

High Summer Read-A-Thon Wrap-Up

For the High Summer Read-A-Thon, I finished The English Patient (301 pages) and started The X-Files: Goblins (186 pages).  I really expected to read more this past week, with the read-a-thon, but life does tend to get in the way, especially since I was at work most of the week.  Either way, I'm glad I joined my first read-a-thon and I plan to join more in the future.  I didn't think to keep track of the hours I'd read, but I'll remember for next time around.  Thanks to Michelle for hostessing it!  It was fun!

Total pages read:  487
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