December 27, 2016

2016 Wrap-Up

Yes, I know, there are still a few days left in 2016, but I'm taking a reading break until the first of the year.  I've had a string of books that just weren't easy to read (or easy to enjoy in some cases) and I'm ready for a little vacation.

I've already got my first book for 2017 picked out and I'm ready to begin fresh.

My favorite book of the year was nearly impossible to pick.  So, I picked two....for two completely different reasons.

One Second After by William R. Forstchen opened my eyes to the fact that the world and our country are not safe.  As I said in my original review, this book should be required reading.  It's just that important.

The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke was probably the most enchanting and wonderful book I've ever read of any genre.  The fact that it was science fiction just made it that much better.  Mr. Clarke taught me what science fiction is supposed to be like.

I had a fabulous year.  I read more books than I've read since 2011.  I finished 22 reading challenges.  I *almost* finished the remaining two.  I've broken through my 'readers block' into a new love and passion for reading.  I'm so grateful and will mark this year as the year I made it out of the dark times and back into really living again.

The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker

Title:  The Great and Secret Show
Author:  Clive Barker
Pages:  550
Genre:  Horror / Fantasy
Publisher:  Harper & Row, 1989
Series:  Book of the Art, Book 1

Synopsis: Clive Barker's bestseller Weaveworld astonished worldwide readers with his visionary range, firmly establishing him as the reigning master of fabulist literature. Now, with The Great and Secret Show he rises to awesome new heights.  Fantasy, horror story, love fable -- in this one unforgettable epic, Clive Barker wields the full power and sweep of his extraordinary talents. "Succinctly put," says Barker, "it's about Hollywood, sex, and Armageddon."

Memory, prophecy and fantasy, the past, the future, and the dreaming moment between are all one country living one immortal day To know that is Wisdom. To use it is the Art.

Armageddon begins with a murder in the Dead Letter Office in Omaha, Nebraska.

A lake that has never existed falls from the clouds over Palomo Grove, California.

Young passion blossoms, as the world withers with war.

The Great and Secret Show has begun on the stage of the world.

And soon, the final curtain must fall.

Review:  This was the longest 550 pages of my life.  The story was good and sometimes even great.  It had scares and thrills and dark fantasy.  It should have breezed by.  However, I've sadly discovered that very little by Clive Barker breezes by.  His writing is so convoluted and goes into so much description, that I find myself reading and re-reading (and re-reading) passages over and over to make sure I understand what I just read.  It's frustrating and exhausting.

I have another book from this series, but the second one isn't a sequel to the first from what I understand.  It's just another story about The Art.  I can't take another story like this one, so I'm removing that book from my shelf.

I've also got two other very long novels by this same author.  I'm afraid they are coming off my shelf, too.  I just can't bear another two-week-long book that seems more like a work-out than enjoyment.

I love long books.  I'm an avid reader and I hate when books end.  But, somehow, this author always leaves me relieved that the book is done and the hard work over.  The only exception to this rule was Weaveworld, which I adored.  So, I'm finally giving up on his novels.  They just aren't for me.

Rating:  4.5 / 10

December 7, 2016

War of the Black Curtain by James Dashner

Title:  War of the Black Curtain
Author:  James Dashner
Pages:  285
Genre:  Juvenile Fantasy Fiction
Publisher:  Sweetwater Books, 2012
Series:  Jimmy Fincher Saga, Book 4

Synopsis:  The Black Curtain has ripped open, massive and dark.

The Stompers swarm all through it, elusive and frightening.  The Black Coma consumes the people of the Earth.  The Shadow Ka rule the lands with a mighty vengeance.

Jimmy Fincher is the only one who can save it.

To accomplish the impossible, he must solve the Riddle of the Red Disk.  He must find the Dream Warden and receive the Fourth Gift.  He must go to a place where nightmares live - and face them alone.

But most important of all, Jimmy must face the shocking and terrible truth of what lies beneath his enemy's true nature.

The war has just begun.

Review:  Well, this ending surprised me.  It was happy in one way, but so sad in another.  I didn't expect it at all.  I probably should have seen it coming, but I just didn't.  It's a really great story with plenty of scares and excitement.  I just wish the ending wasn't quite so sad.

This book was just as good as the last one and I'm sorry the series is over.  I'd like to know what happened next.

Rating:  9 / 10

December 5, 2016

The Tower of Air by James Dashner

Title:  The Tower of Air
Author:  James Dashner
Pages:  280
Genre:  Juvenile Fantasy Fiction
Publisher:  Sweetwater Books, 2012
Series:  Jimmy Fincher Saga, Book 3

Synopsis:  Jimmy Fincher has been given two powerful gifts and with them a responsibility he wouldn't wish on his worst enemy.  Time is running out and Jimmy, along with his family and the Alliance, finds himself in a desperate search for the Third Gift.  Their journey will take them from the depths of the ocean to the scorching sands of the desert.

The entire world is on the edge of chaos.  The Shadow Ka are evolving.  The skies are growning dark with the mysterious taint of the Stompers.  The Black Curtain is ripping once again.  And the most terrifying secret of all is about to be revealed at last -- the identity of the Stompers.

They are no longer coming.  They are here.

Review:  Well, this was a really great book!  It was exciting and funny and full of plain good storytelling.  I believe I liked this one even better than the first.  I'm so glad I continued this series.  I'm ready to start the final book tomorrow and I can't wait to find out what happens!

Jimmy Fincher, his family and his friends are wonderful characters, each completely original and believable.  And, I admit, this one was a little scary.  It was, even to me, and I do love a good scary story.

Rating:  9 / 10

December 2, 2016

Challenge Additions, Part 1.5

Monthly Keyword Reading Challenge
I just finished this one for 2016 and it kept me on my toes!  I'm back in, even though I'm pretty sure it'll mean doing some of the months out of order.....or getting some new books....or both!

Start of December Wrap-Up

This wrap-up runs from November 4 until today.  Well, I visited one new state and one new country this time around!  I'm still not reading like I was earlier in the year, but I'm doing fine.  I've finished three new challenges this month:  The Monthly Keyword Challenge, The Title Fight Challenge, and What's In A Name Challenge.  The rest should be finished when the year is done, with the exception of Mount TBR Challenge which I mistakenly upgraded back in June.  And, really, I finished my original I'm not being too hard on myself about it.

My favorite book this month was a non-fiction.  I read so few of this genre that I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book!  Haunted Heart was really, really good!

A Gift of Ice by James Dashner

Title:  A Gift of Ice
Author:  James Dashner
Pages:  224
Genre:  Juvenile Fantasy Fiction
Publisher:  Bonneville Books, 2004
Series:  Jimmy Fincher Saga, Book 2

Synopsis:  In an impossible place under a door in the woods, Jimmy Fincher received the first of four gifts - contributions of a mysterious and desperate people trying to save the world from a ruthless enemy.

Not much is known about the enemy, but a haunting warning has been spoken:  The Stompers are coming.

Now Jimmy has fled to Japan in search of The Second Gift.  Peril will be inescapable, mysteries will abound.  Nothing can be assumed and help will be found from a most unlikely band of strangers.

And they have secrets of their own.

Review:  I didn't have quite as much fun with this book as I did with the first.  They seem to follow a pretty standard plot line.  Jimmy has to find a gift.  Bad guys want to stop him.  Jimmy has to use the gifts he has to save himself (and his friends and family) from the bad guys.  Then he has to solve a puzzle and get a new gift.

I understand that these are books written for younger readers.  It just feels like I read almost the same story all over again, only set in Japan with some new characters.  I've decided to keep reading because I really am curious how it all ends up.

Rating:  7 / 10
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