May 27, 2016

What An Animal Reading Challenge IX ~ Wrap-Up

Well, I finished the What An Animal Challenge IX (hosted by Yvonne at Socrates' Book Reviews) today.  I got Level 4 (read 21 or more books with or about or with pictures of animals).

I saw everything from a Demon, to Beshti (space camels), to a Selkie -- eight different types of animals in all!  Dogs were the animal I saw the most often, in eight different books.  Dragons came in second place.  I think the animal character I liked the most was Manchee, a dog from The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.  But I met so many wonderful (and sometimes scary!) critters that it is a hard choice.

Either way, this challenge was fun and it's only May and I'm done.  I had no idea I read so many books with animals in them!  I'll probably keep tracking just to see how far I get though!

The Taking by Dean Koontz

Title:  The Taking
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  410
Genre:  Horror
Publisher:  Bantam, 2004
Series:  Stand Alone
"Yimaman see noygel, see refacull, see nod a bah, see naytoss, retee fo sellos."
Synopsis:  On the morning that will mark the end of the world they have known, Molly and Neil Sloan awaken to the drumbeat of rain. It has haunted their dreams through the night, and now they find an eerily luminous and golden downpour that drenches their small Californian mountain town.

As hours pass they hear news of extreme weather phenomena across the globe. An obscuring fog turns once familiar streets into a ghostly labyrinth. By evening, the town has lost all communication with the outside world. First TV and radio go dead, then the Internet and phone lines. The young couple gathers together with some neighbors, sensing a threat they cannot identify or even imagine. The night brings strange noises, and mysterious lights drift among the trees. The rain diminishes with the dawn but a moody grey-purple twilight prevails. Within the misty gloom the small band will encounter something that reveals in a terrifying instant what is happening to the world -- something that is hunting them with ruthless efficiency. Epic in scope, searingly intimate and immediate in its perspective, The Taking is a story of a strangely changed and changing world as apocalypse comes to Main Street.

Review:  I was so sure I knew what was happening in Black Lake, California, and all over the world.  I thought this was another scary story about aliens taking over the planet.  I was wrong, in a way.  This story was far more and far scarier than I expected.

Every time I turned a page, a new horror, even worse than the last, was waiting for me.  But somehow, there was hope and faith and I didn't understand why, when everything was going so very badly.  By the end, I understood....but I wasn't especially comforted because it left me asking, 'what if...?'.

This story was so scary and original that I'd give it a higher rating, but the end was just a little disappointing.  That said, if ever a book should have a theme song, this one should.  It kept the lyrics to It's the End of the World as We Know It by REM rattling around inside my head even after the story was done.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

May 25, 2016

The Master of White Storm by Janny Wurts

Title:  The Master of White Storm
Author:  Janny Wurts
Pages:  413
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  ROC, 1992
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  After escaping from the slave-galleys of the bloodthirsty Murghai, Korendir, a man whose past is shrouded in mystery, sets off on a series of extraordinary quests: to battle the sorceress Anthei; to challenge the elemental Cyondide and win the lost hoard of the dragon Sharkash; to free the people of Northengard from the wereleopards that are decimating their population ...

Always Korendir's goal is treasure: but never for its own sake. A driven man, Korendir determines to build a fortress at Whitestorm, impregnable against all comers, be they human or supernatural, to protect himself from the dark secret of his ancestry.

Review:  I fell in love with this author when I read her Cycle of Fire trilogy back in 2011.  It's been far too many years since I revisited her writing and I remember now why I started getting all of Ms. Wurts' work that I could get my hands on.  Her fantasy is wonderful.  Her characters are unforgettable.  The action is thrilling and scary.  Even the romance is memorable.  All in all, this book is a terrific read.

It ended on a bitter-sweet note, but I wasn't at all disappointed.  I was just genuinely happy to have found a refreshingly new fantasy novel to love.  It just doesn't get a whole lot better than this.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

May 22, 2016

The Second Opinion by Michael Palmer

Title:  The Second Opinion
Author:  Michael Palmer
Pages:  376
Genre:  Medical Thriller
Publisher:  St. Martin's, 2009
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis: Dr. Thea Sperelakis, diagnosed as a teen with Asperger's syndrome, has always been an outsider. She has a brilliant medical mind, and a remarkable recall of details, but her difficulty in dealing with hidden agendas and interpersonal conflicts have led her to leave the complex, money-driven dynamics of the hospital, and to embrace working with the poor, embattled patients of Doctors Without Borders.

Her father, Petros, is one of the most celebrated internal medicine specialists in the world, and the founder of the cutting-edge Sperelakis Center for Diagnostic Medicine at Boston's sprawling, powerful Beaumont Clinic.Thea's rewarding life in Africa is turned upside-down when Petros is severely injured by a hit-and-run driver. He is in the Beaumont ICU, in a deep coma. No one thinks he will survive. Thea must return home. Two of Petros' other children, both physicians, battle Thea and her eccentric brother, Dimitri, by demanding that treatment for their father be withheld. As Thea uncovers the facts surrounding the disaster, it seems more and more to be no accident. Petros, himself, is the only witness. Who would want him dead?  The answers are trapped in his brain . . . until he looks at Thea and begins slowly to blink a terrifying message.

In "The Second Opinion," Michael Palmer has created a cat-and-mouse game where one woman must confront a conspiracy of doctors to uncover an evil practice that touches every single person who ever has a medical test. With sympathetic characters and twists and betrayals that come from the most unlikely places, "The Second Opinion" will make you question...everything.

Review:  This book was pretty standard fare as far as thrillers go.  I admit that I didn't know who was to blame until the very end...but that is because the guilty party was so unlikely.

Meanwhile, Thea has met and fallen in love with an ex-police officer all within about two chapters.  As if that isn't enough to make it all seem like a bit of fantasy, people are getting killed by magnets.

This book was entertaining enough and a fairly quick read, but it follows such an expected formula.  I wouldn't go out of my way to read another one by this author.

Rating:  3.5 / 10

May 19, 2016

One Year After by William R. Forstchen

Title:  One Year After
Author:  William R. Forstchen
Pages:  302
Genre:  Dystopian Thriller
Publisher:  Forge, 2015
Series:  John Matherson, Book 2

Synopsis:  The story picks up a year after One Second After ends, two years since the detonation of nuclear weapons above the United States brought America to its knees. After suffering starvation, war, and countless deaths, the survivors of Black Mountain, North Carolina, are beginning to piece back together the technologies they had once taken for granted: electricity, radio communications, and medications.

They cling to the hope that a new national government is finally emerging. Then comes word that most of the young men and women of the community are to be drafted into an "Army of National Recovery" and sent to trouble spots hundreds of miles away. When town administrator John Matherson protests the draft, he's offered a deal: leave Black Mountain and enter national service, and the draft will be reduced. But the brutal suppression of a neighboring community under its new federal administrator and the troops accompanying him suggests that all is not as it should be with this burgeoning government...

Review:  This tale did not touch me in quite the same way as the first novel, but it was still very, very good.  It all seems so much like what would happen and could happen.  I will have to wait for the final novel to come out in January of 2017 and I'll be waiting impatiently to find out what happens next.

Anyone who hasn't read these books, I say again, please do.  They are eye-opening and scary and realistic.  The first one will take your breath away and this one will make you wonder about how our country would ever manage to come back from such a tragedy.

Rating:  8 / 10

May 14, 2016

Mid May 2016 Wrap-Up

This wrap-up runs April 12th through today.  Biggest news ~ I completely revamped my blog's look.  I decided to go with a standard template (with edited colors) because I just got tired of trying to force blogger to work with the non-standard one. I'm still toying with the details, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

I finished six more challenges ~ Dusty and/or Clunky Challenge, Dystopia Challenge, Finishing the Series Challenge, Literary Loners Challenge, New Authors Challenge, and Pages Read Challenge - that's a total of 8 challenges completed so far!  Some of them, I'm still keeping track on...others, not.

My favorite book this time around is easy!

William R. Forstchen's One Second After was the best novel by far.  It's in the running for best novel this year.

I've visited three new states, for a total of 19, and one new country, for a total of 10.  I think next year, I'll have to take on more mini challenges for the Around the World Challenge!  I had no idea my books would take me to so many different places!

I only need 15 more books to complete what has always been the hardest challenge for me -- the Outdo Yourself Challenge.  I'm very excited by all the great reading I've been doing!!

One Second After by William R. Forstchen

Title:  One Second After
Author:  William R. Forstchen
Pages:  511
Genre:  Dystopian Thriller / Horror
Publisher:  TOR, 2009
Series:  John Matherson, Book 1
"...Suppose the old America, so wonderful, the country we so loved, suppose at four fifty P.M. eighteen days ago, it died.  It died from complacency, from blindness, from not being willing to face the harsh realities of the world.  Died from smug self-centeredness.  Suppose America died that day."
Synopsis:  New York Times best selling author William R. Forstchen now brings us a story which can be all too terrifyingly real...a story in which one man struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town after America loses a war, in one second, a war that will send America back to the Dark Ages...A war based upon a weapon, an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP).  A weapon that may already be in the hands of our enemies.

Months before publication, One Second After has already been cited on the floor of Congress as a book all Americans should read, a book already being discussed in the corridors of the Pentagon as a truly realistic look at a weapon and its awesome power to destroy the entire United States, literally within one second. It is a weapon that the Wall Street Journal warns could shatter America. In the tradition of On the Beach, Fail Safe and Testament, this book, set in a typical American town, is a dire warning of what might be our future...and our end.
"Oh, say can you see, by the dawn's early light..."
Review:  This book contains a Foreword by Newt Gingrich and an Afterword by Captain Bill Sanders, U.S. Navy.  Both of these writings made me realize that this novel is not really fiction.  It's a story about group of fictional characters set against the backdrop of what will happen to America if we are ever struck by an EMP weapon.  It is classified as a thriller and it is certainly that.  It is also horrific.

The novel opens just before the EMP hits and every chapter is entitled with the number of days it's been since.  I was shocked by how quickly everything just fell to pieces.  By Day 18, it was scary, but surely help would come soon.  By Day 63, things were becoming so grim that I wasn't sure I'd be able to stand reading the rest of the book if it got much worse.  By Day 365, I knew I could not and would not survive if we were attacked by this weapon in real life tomorrow.

This is one of the most important and most heartbreaking novels I've ever read.  Everyone should read it.  It should be required reading in school.  It's just that important for all of us to know what can and probably will happen.  We need to be prepared.  I wish I could say that we need to be better prepared, but the sad fact is....we aren't prepared at all.

Rating:  10 / 10

May 9, 2016

A to Z ~ Reflections

When I started out, I was going to write about fantastic beings I'd met in books and movies.  By the letter 'H', I realized two things.  One, I didn't love my theme and two, I was getting very little feedback.  I was burnt out and disappointed in myself.

I decided to stop, drop out and call it a day.  Then, one awesome visitor came by with a suggestion I couldn't resist ~ thanks, Alyssa!  After missing 'I' and 'J', I came back and wrote 'K' about my almost-meltdown.  I was determined to try again.  Starting with 'L', I spotlighted favorite books of mine (and a couple of authors that I couldn't resist).

So, I went from A is for Aslan to Z is for The Zero Game.  I skipped two letters, but I made it.  I still didn't get many people visiting, but the difference is that I loved what I was writing about and, at the end of the day, that's what matters.

May 8, 2016

The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton

Title:  The Great Train Robbery
Author:  Michael Crichton
Pages:  281
Genre:  Thriller
Publisher:  Ballantine, 1975
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  In teeming Victorian London, where lavish wealth and appalling poverty live side by side, Edward Pierce charms the most prominent of the well-to-do as he cunningly orchestrates the crime of the century. Who would suspect that a gentleman of breeding could mastermind the daring theft of a fortune in gold? Who could predict the consequences of making the extraordinary robbery aboard the pride of England's industrial era, the mighty steam locomotive? Based on fact, as lively as legend, and studded with all the suspense and style of a modern fiction master, here is a classic caper novel set a decade before the age of dynamite--yet nonetheless explosive....

Review:  This book is based on real events.  It's full of great little details about what it was like, living in Victorian London.  It's written like a historical account, except that it's also very approachable and exciting.

I had too much going on this week to give this book the full attention it deserves, but it is a fast read with plenty of great characters, most of which are based on true people.

Rating:  7 / 10

May 1, 2016

Mulengro by Charles de Lint

Title:  Mulengro
Author:  Charles de Lint
Pages:  400
Genre:  Horror / Thriller
Publisher:  Tom Doherty, 2003
Series:  Stand Alone
"Bater. So be it."
Synopsis:  A tale of magic and murder.  The increasingly bizarre murders have baffled the police - but each death is somehow connected with the city's elusive Gypsy community. The police are searching for a human killer, but the Romany know better. They know the name of the darkness that hunts them down, one by one: Mulengro.
"Wind just played a couple of riffs from the Beach Boys' 'Good Vibrations' -- what do you think of that?" - Zach
Review:  This is a dark and twisty tale of magic and evil.  Many of the main characters are Gypsies.  This book makes it clear that the Rom (Gypsies) still exist today and it helps the reader understand their culture a little better.  It's also an incredible tale that forces you to question your own beliefs on the occult and magic and the afterlife.

Janfri Yayal, a Gypsy who has possibly strayed too far away from his people, knows that it will ultimately be up to him to defeat Mulengro.  Ola Faher, a Gypsy witch, will try to help him face the evil.  And two disbelieving police officers, Patrick Briggs and Will Sandler, are drawn in while investigating the murders.  Will and his partner will soon come to believe, whether they want to or not.

My favorite character though, hands down, was Zach Acheson, who calls himself Dr. Rainbow.  He's a 60s hippy living in the 80s and he is such a wonderful, refreshing character.  He is, like, full of good vibes and is the brightest light in the whole book.

Between vividly described deaths, vengeful ghosts, packs of wild dogs and Mulengro himself, this is a very dark, disturbing read.  If you love good, scary stories, give this one a try.  But leave a light on.

Rating:  9.5 / 10
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