Posts Tagged ‘book review wednesday’

I first heard about this book when the series based on it came out. I stopped watching after a couple episodes because it didn’t seem to be going anywhere, but the idea behind it was interesting.

All across the world everyone blacks out for two minutes, seventeen seconds. Millions die as you can imagine. Cars veering off roads, planes crashing, people falling down staircases. But what’s more interesting is what most of those who survive experienced in that time. For that short patch of time their consciousness got to see out of the eyes of who they’d be in twenty years.

In the series things changed around a bit. The characters saw less far ahead, and no one seems to know what’s behind it. In the book our characters trigger the event by running an experiment to try and create a higgs bosen. They don’t know how their experiment triggered it all to happen, but find out through some detective work in the book. I didn’t watch far enough to see if they discovered some whys and hows in the series.

This wasn’t a perfect book, but it was very good. The characters had depth, but weren’t as deep as they could’ve been. It was neat to see how the world dealt with their glimpse into the future. I liked the science. There are some interesting hypothesizes about time that provided something nice to wrap my brain around.

The plot is interesting, but not edge of your seat kind of stuff. I’d say the best thing about this book is the idea. The science used to explain the idea is also up there. Everything else is good, but not brilliant. So, this is a good book, but not one I’m going to rave on about and say everyone should read. Just scraping four stars.

If the idea intrigues you enough to read it, go ahead. Don’t expect perfection. Expect an all right book, and you and said book should get on fine.

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First of all for those looking at the title and wondering, this is not about zombies. This is about three very unlikely heroes who trip over a sex trafficking operation and try to do the right thing.

Here’s the blurb:

An unlikely bond is forged between three men from very different backgrounds when they serve time together in prison. A series of wrong turns and disastrous life choices has led to their incarceration. Following their release, Mangle, Decker and Tazeem stick together as they return to a life of crime, embarking on a lucrative scam. But when they stumble upon a sophisticated sex-trafficking operation, they soon realise that they are in mortal danger. The disappearance of a family member and the murder of a dear friend lead the three to delve deeper into a world of violence and deception. In their quest for retribution and justice, they put their lives on the line. Their paths cross with that of Tatiana, who has left her home country for a better life in the West – or so she thinks. She soon realises she is in the hands of ruthless, violent people, who run an operation supplying girls to meet the most deviant desires of rich and powerful men. Will she survive the horrors of The Zombie Room? Are Mangle, Decker and Tazeem brave enough to follow her there, in an attempt to set her free?

I very much appreciated the knights being less than shining in this story. Heroes can be from all walks of life. All you need to do is have the courage to do the right thing. Their distrust of the police, and worry they wouldn’t be believed upped the stakes nicely for the story since they had to dive in and get proof before they could even consider getting help.

The plot is engrossing. There’s a sense of brutal reality to it all. The characters are varied enough to keep track of. Despite showing everyone’s pov, I only felt I got a deep look into Mangle and Tatiana’s thoughts. Though I did see into the other guy’s heads enough to understand their motives in all this. There are some good twists in here.

This whole book has a gritty feel to it. So if you don’t like that kind of book, you won’t like this one. I did like that it very much captured the powerlessness most people have over the doings of that rich one percent. For that reason I felt the end did a good job. Not everything goes right. I won’t say how it ends, but it echoes the brutal reality of the rest of the novel.

I’m on the fence about a big event that Tatiana causes near the end of the book. It was a nice echo of something that happened at the beginning, but it felt a little empty. I’m not sure if that’s just because it was incredibly sad. You can make up your own mind.

Plot = good, characters = good/great, world = fascinatingly gritty, themes = awesome.

Four stars. A nice read if you like gritty books and can stand a lot of bad things happening to decent people. Don’t expect a picture perfect ending. This isn’t that kind of book.

One last nitpick. Tatiana spends most of the book deaf. This is awesome as I do like it when books remember there are different kinds of people out there, but after a short period of learning she manages to lipread perfectly. She’s hearing for most of her life, learns how to read lips, goes to a foreign country, and can understand what everyone is saying by reading their lips.

Dude, not even people born deaf have 100 percent accuracy reading lips. So, this irked me a little, but hey, at least I didn’t catch her understanding someone not looking at her (though she was strangely good at keeping up with multiple people talking at once). Small detail. I can live with it.

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This was quite possibly my favorite read of the year. It’s definitely up there among the top ten.

Five stars, no question. This has cool time travel with science behind it that didn’t contradict itself. We get some interesting ideas of how time travel might work, how it would relate to the theory of relativity, and a great hypothesis about time having a sentient aspect to it. Our characters are varied and deep. Their relationships to each other are interesting.

We also get to see the future and past versions of some of the characters. I can’t get over how fascinating it was to see the similarities and differences between them. They’re four years apart, but they’ve changed so much. It makes me wonder how much I’ve changed in recent years.

Anyways, before we go further, let’s look at the blurb:

What would you change?

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it… at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

Cool idea, check. Deep, complex, and consistent characters, check. Brilliant plot, check. Heart-wrenching everything, check.  Believable world, check. Plus there are a lot of themes running through this book about morality. Should you kill the few to save the many? What does it take for a person to be considered evil? Because that’s the thing. There are no evil characters in this book. People do things that can be considered evil, but everyone thinks they’re doing the ‘right thing.’

This is one of those brilliant books that shows very clearly that everyone is a hero. Even the villains are heroes in their own minds. It’s all left quite open as well, so we’re not told that our guy’s side is the right one. They believe it’s the right one, but I imagine if we were on the other side their conviction would be just as strong. This book left me with a lot of thoughts, and tons of feelings.

The words kept me gripped from start to finish, so go read it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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There were a lot of things I liked about this book, and a lot of things I didn’t. Part of it might’ve been my big expectations after watching the movie. The movie ‘children of men’ wasn’t perfect, but it was very interesting, and entertaining to watch.

By contrast I found the book rather slow. A lot of it is the main character telling us about the world. Now, the world he lives in is interesting, but I’d rather see it than be told about it. The style also switches between third person and first (when we get snatches of his diary), only there doesn’t seem much point in the switch. We get the same kind of information either way, and the diary gets thrown away part way through the book and doesn’t get mentioned again. I kind of feel the author should’ve stuck to one (probably third) and not bothered with the diary bits.

Before we go further, a quick summary of the book: Jaded professor guy is asked to help a rebel group in a world where no children have been born for over twenty years. It’s thought everyone is infertile and the human race will end.

The main character was unlikable. Now I love loveable characters, and I love foul-mouthed jerks who everyone but their best friends hate. But a character needs to have some redeeming qualities. Take Jon, my self-declared jerk from my novella ‘when the world ends.’ He’s blunt, rude, slashed other kids bike tires when he was young. He’s the sort of guy to turn his back on the world when things go belly up, and look out for only himself. Except for one thing. There are two people in the world he loves, and he’ll do anything for them, including trying to grow a conscience.

The main character in this book didn’t have much going for him. He had a wife who he never loved, a child who he also never loved. He’s formed some friendships, but none of them are close, and none with nice people. He first starts trying to help people because he has a crush on one of them. Then it’s like he feels he has obligation. He shows a bit more in the way of feelings toward the end. That was nice, but because he’s spent so long being shallow I couldn’t quite connect with what he was feeling.

It’s a shame because there was a lot of opportunity. He was childhood friends (though from reading his feelings it’s more like acquaintances) with the main bad character. A closer connected soured by their differences in opinion could’ve made him a deeper character. Or, like the film did, merging the rebel lady he’s attracted to with his ex-wife, and you have a whole boat load of emotions to play with. I mean, they lost their kid, and this is a world without kids. Plus, in the book the slave immigrants are mentioned, but we see none of them. In the film, we actually had one as a main character. And the prison island where everyone who commits any kind of crime is shipped off to. That annoyed me because we hear so much about it, but we never go there. In the film going there is a huge part of the plot.

In fact in the book the plot starts off very slow. It speeds up toward the end, but this is not an action packed book.

So. Plot = slow. Characters = shallowly developed and unlikable. Writing = ok, but a lot of telling (particularly at the start). Feels = not that much. I get that the author might’ve gone for a desolate feeling, but the whole book feels way too empty feeling-wise. slightly more feelings toward the end.

What saved this book for me was the world. This is a fascinating world. With no new babies about, it’s become the kind of place where middle age women are congratulated in the streets for their baby dolls by strangers who coo over the models as they would a real infant.

Baby animals are christened and treated as children. There are even fights over custody. And most fascinating of all was the thought put into how the youngest members of this society turned out. As you can imagine, they were doted on, and until they were found to be as sterile as the rest, they were treated as the future saviors of the human race.

The result? sociopaths who believe themselves better than anyone else. They murder people for fun (and get away with it because of their status), and make no efforts to better themselves. The parallels between those worshiped children and how some of the more spoiled children in the real world turn out was a little scary.

I give this book three stars over all. Brilliant world. Fascinating idea. Not so good execution of said idea.

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I read this partly for interest, and partly as research for a future character. It stood up to both purposes really well.

We follow several hackers, most from Australia in the 1980/90s. They all have one thing in common. They like to hack.

It was interesting seeing into their mindsets. Often they’d get some kind of clue that the police were onto them and try to give up the habit, then go right back to it after a few weeks / months. Two who managed to stay away from hacking picked up drugs instead. They were that obsessed. They needed something to fill the void.

Addictive is a word used a lot in this book describing hacking. For a lot of cases in this book that seems spot on. Even those who didn’t think they were addicted admitted they were pretty darn obsessed.

The stories are engrossing and entertaining. They veer from depressing to humorous. The fact that it’s based on true stories makes it all the more interesting. This was the time when hacking was starting to become a thing. So the police didn’t have a clue how to deal with it, and the judges didn’t know how to sentence a crime like that, since it’d only recently become a crime.

Meanwhile the underground hackers were growing in number and skill. What I loved most was most of the hackers (but not all) seemed to be good guys. They were just curious. They didn’t want to hurt anything. They turned up their noses at carding (credit card fraud) and wouldn’t even consider selling any of the valuable information they found on company and military systems. One of the guys caused a problem on one of the systems by accident. Later on he entered the system again in order to fix it.

The book is well written, and rich with detail about each of the people interviewed. Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those dry biographies that reads like a list of stats. We get into each of the guy’s heads and experience what they felt, why they did what they did, how their lives outside hacking influenced their behavior.

Fascinating stuff.

If you have an interest in this period of computer history, go check this out. Four stars from me. It lost a star because the ordering of some of the stories wasn’t that smooth. It’s mostly a good read though. Some of the transitions are just a little off.

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This one had a lot of hype, and I think it was worth it. It’s about the life of black maids in 1960s Mississippi. Here’s the blurb:

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step….

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women–mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends–view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

Let’s start with the negatives. Most people’s problem with this book seems to be that the black characters are stereotypical. I’m not sure they are. Most have extreme dialects. I don’t know how accurate they are, so I won’t comment. Minny is sassy and stubborn, while Aibileen is more refined.

I’ve heard criticisms that while the black characters speak with a dialect, they think without it. Supposedly this is because the (white) author couldn’t commit or was seeing it too much from their point of view. In defence of the author, she grew up in those times with a maid she was very fond of (much like Skeeter). Minny speaks and largely thinks in dialect. Aibileen thinks in slightly more standard English, but often speaks with some dialect.

I found this made perfect sense. Aibileen is a big reader, so it would make sense that her internal voice is more like the formal english in those books. She also writes, and again this is much like her internal voice.

Some have accused the author of racism, as her language about Minny’s youngest Kindra is a lot more negative than that of Aibileen’s white baby she cares for. I think that’s more down to pov character. Aibileen lost her own son, and she dotes on May Moe, and feels guilty for the neglect and abuse the girl suffers by her mother. Her main attention is her charge, and they spend a lot of their time together. May Moe is also on the whole quite sweet (aside from some horrible tantrums caused by her mother).

Kindra is mainly seen through the eyes of her overworked mother who has been out working most of her life. She’s one of a large brood, and they have little to no time to bond due to circumstances outside their control. Kindra acts out. Some look at this and see a well behaved white child and a badly behaved black child.

However, May Moe isn’t sunshine and roses. She has her bad and her sweet moments. More importantly the rest of Minny’s children are talked about in positive terms. Minny singles out Kindra as a problem because Kindra is basically a copy of herself. I think the lack of words spent on her more well behaved children reflects the lack of time she’s used to spending with them. It might’ve been better for the author to spend a little more time expanding one of Minny’s more well behaved children to spell this point out, but I don’t think that’s necessary. Aibileen spends a lot of time thinking on her own son just as positively as May Moe.

This is more of an emotional journey than an action packed book. It’s a very interesting look at the racism of the times, and the positive relationships. Some of the stories were so touching, like when an employer took her maid to the hospital when a relative was a victim of a hate crime, and stayed with her for hours to see if the boy would be alright.

There were some truly sweet relationships. Then there were horrible moments, like when the bus driver stopped because his route was blocked. After seeing what it was, he ordered the people with dark skin off. Turns out someone with dark skin had been murdered. Yet he told them to walk home like their safety didn’t matter.

Overall this book does what the book the pov character wrote. It tells a tale of love and hate between those with light skin, and those with dark. It tells us that really, we’re all just people. So we shouldn’t be drawing lines on things that have no relevance to anything.

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Here’s my review of the first book:…-adams-5-stars/

And here’s the second:…kers-2-5-stars/

The third I didn’t enjoy as much as the other two. I found it funny, just not as much. It has a different feel to it, and in a chunk of the book nothing seems to happen. Our main characters spend a lot of the book split off from each other, and that wasn’t so fun. So that was what made this four instead of five stars.

For what I did like. There’s this great story behind planet Krikkit. They were peaceful folk who sang songs, and were very friendly to each other. Due to circumstances discussed in the book they believe they’re the only group of people in the universe. They find out they’re wrong, that there’s a whole universe of people out there. And of course, their natural reaction is to want to kill them all.

I wonder if this is Adams’s view of religion at play. Whether it is or not, there’s a whole other layer to think about beneath this idea. Consider the reaction of any invading group of people to the residents living there. Or any ingroup (for example most religious groups, most races of people) and their reactions to any outgroup (any other religious or non religious group, any race of people not their own). Think of hate crimes against minority groups like homosexuality, transgenders, disability. Some people too focused on their ingroups want to get rid of anything they dub as other.

Or, from another angle. Imagine a devout christian stumbling across unequivocal evidence there is no such being as god. It doesn’t add up with what they believe. They don’t want to understand it. They want to destroy it. And they’d probably put that down to a good work so others faith wouldn’t be shaken. (Note: I’m not saying every christian would do this. But I am saying there are some who would, much like anyone with a strong belief system based on faith).

I’ve said this in previous reviews, but I do like how Adams uses humor to allow us to look at aspects of our society in a different way.

So, a little slower than the other books, but there’s still some good stuff in here. Worth a try if you really liked the past books.

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Our story starts with ten-year old Sarah in world war two, who is arrested with her parents by the french police, who intend to send them to Germany, and the death camps. Before she goes she locks her little brother in a cupboard, thinking she’ll be back in a few hours.

Then we meet Julia Jarmond in Paris 2002. She’s been asked to write an article about the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup. Through her investigations she finds a family secret connected to Sarah, and is determined to find out what happened to her. The more she finds out, the more she starts to question her place in France, and reevaluate her marriage, and life.

Our two protagonists share the book, each one leading us chapter by chapter through the story.

I found this fascinating. Both in Sarah’s experiences, and in Julia’s . They’re both very determined and at odds with their own situations. Sarah thinks everything that is being done to them is wrong, and that her father should fight so they can get back to her brother. Julia similarly is annoyed by everyone’s desire to sweep the whole Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup under the rug and never speak of it. She thinks the victims don’t deserve to be forgotten, and she’s determined that at least Sarah will not be.

They’re fighters in passive worlds. The passivity of most of the french, standing by while people are taken (though there are a few people who do take action. And their determination to fight against the herd to make some kind of stand is all the more poignant because of the risk it involved to themselves.) Julia fights against the culture she lives in where most want to forget the whole incident because it shows their country in a bad light.
So many said things like ‘why would you dig that up?’ ‘Can’t you just let it rest?’ Yet she carries on.

I enjoyed both the characters. Both of them went through some major development through the trials they face. Though I wish Sarah didn’t have to go through so much. She should’ve had the chance to be a child longer. You understand their motivations, and what drives them. Julia goes through emotional turmoil herself and comes out of it much stronger. Sarah ends up stronger too, but in a broken, brittle kind of way.

The tension stays high. With the story flipping between Sarah’s journey, and Julia trying to find out Sarah’s journey, there’s the danger of information repeating itself or pacing being off. The pacing was spot on and kept me engaged.

This is more an emotional tale than an action one, so go into it expecting that. I’m glad I read it. I’d never heard of the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup before this book and the related film. This is a very emotional and honest tribute. I think also it has a great message. Not to go with the flow. Question things. Do things you feel are right, even if they are difficult.

There’s a moment when a woman pushes through the jeering crowd to give Sarah a hunk of bread while they’re being marched away. That was truly touching because here’s this woman, she could just stand there, but she does what she can. In another scene a man speaks out against the police dragging them away. One of the officers assigned to keep them locked up before shipping them out to death camps does something very courageous. I won’t say what because I don’t want to give away too much.

These people are single voices in a crowd of people saying the opposite. They remind me of a picture I saw once. A huge crowd of people are saluting Hitler, and in among them is a single man with his arms crossed across his chest, and a defiant look on his face. Sometimes single people can make a difference. Not everyone may see the same thing, but that was the message I took away from this book.

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This one followed on well from the first book (reviewed here):…-adams-5-stars/

All the same quirky humor as the first one, so if you liked that one you should like this one. In this second book our characters decide to get something to eat, which as it does leads to a trip across time, space, and parallel dimensions on a mission to speak to the man who runs the universe.

This book scores slightly higher on the weirdness scale than the first book. Since that one involved super intelligent alien mice, you can safely say this is a weird book. Enjoyable, but weird.

A warning. Some dislike these books, and call them random and disorganized. If these things annoyed you about the first book, you can guarantee they’ll annoy you about the sequels. For me, I have a soft spot for random humor, so enjoyed these books a lot. I also love how the author manages to make very insightful points about culture and religion in a humorous way.

Don’t read these books for the plot. The plot is even more random than the last book, and we still get no concrete answers about 42. Don’t read these books for the characters. The characters are funny but quite flat, and undergo little to no development. Read these books for the humor, and maybe for Douglas Adam’s neat way of making you think twice about things you take for granted.

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Way better than twilight.

So, this is a story about two adolescent kids who meet each other and fall in love. And one of them is a vampire. No-one sparkles. If Edward was this type of vampire, twilight would be a lot cooler. There’d also be a lot more dead people.

Here’s the blurb:

It is autumn 1981 when the inconceivable comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenage boy is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night….

The variety of vampire portrayals in books and media is fascinating.  On the one side you have the overly romanticized vampire of twilight. On the extreme other end of things, you have the kind of vampire from the book series ‘The Strain’ (which is also a TV show that I highly recommend). The Strain vampires have no redeeming features whatsoever. The infected turn into these gross things full of worms, and they shoot this strange stinger like something from their throat (usually at people they love), which drains them of blood. Plus, aside from this killing instinct, most have the brainpower of a particularly bright potato.

Eli (our vampire from this book) is somewhere between the two. They’re scary. Eli could break Edward like a twig. But they’re also capable of thoughts, of fear, and of love. Eli is even more interesting than the rest of their kind, because they were turned as a child, and their body and mind is still very much a child’s.

They like playing games, they don’t like hurting people, they make choices they haven’t thought through (very much like a child). You get to know Eli through Oskar’s eyes, and in many ways Eli is younger than Oskar, and in other ways much older. You come to fear them, and also love them, much as Oskar does.

Now some warnings. While this is a very raw, beautiful book, one of the pov characters is a pedophile and thus has some not beautiful thoughts. It’s an interesting contrast with the much more innocent povs of Oskar and Eli. We don’t see the pedophile guy do anything too icky (apart from once later in the book – but he gets just deserts for that).

If you’re a vampire fan, or a fan of raw feeling books, I think you’ll like this one. The characters are anything but two dimensional. Even the guy who’s a pedophile is really quite decent at times. He strangely enough has a very strong moral code. Oskar who is downright innocent in a lot of ways fantasizes about killing people. Eli who has the power to kill and does kill, gets no pleasure out of it, and seems to regard it as a sad fact of life.

It’s these complex characters in their desolate seeming setting that makes this book grip so strongly. Four stars. It lost a star because the pacing seemed a little off to me, but not disastrously so. I really enjoyed reading it. For more reviews on this book go to:

P.S: There are two films based on this book. They’re pretty much the same except one was made in Sweden, and the other America. Both are awesome. Go watch.