Three Mini DNF Book Reviews

As a follow up to yesterday’s discussion post, it only seems fitting that I follow it up with my three DNF reviews.  I’ve decided not to rate these, because although I know why I’m not finishing, I don’t want to say I’d recommend or not recommend them, not knowing how they end.

Overthrow by Caleb Crain

I was so excited for this book when I first heard about it.  It seemed like a dystopian novel with some fantastical elements (ESP) and a bunch of dreamers for characters.

What it actually is, is contemporary literature.  This is not my thing.  If I had realized that’s what it was I would have NOPED it right away.  

I made it to page 140 before I decided I didn’t want to continue.  In that time, we read three chapters, so that was strike number one.  Chapter one is 72 pages long.  That’s not a chapter.  It’s a novelette.

In that time I actually did grow to like Leif and Matthew, who I originally thought were the two main characters in the book.  If the book had continued to keep Matthew as the POV character, I actually might have continued.  Unfortunately, it jumped POVs to a character named Chris, who at that point, was one of the least interesting characters.  Chapter three switched POVs again to a character named Elspeth.  Chapter four, the point at which I decided I had no desire to continue, saw yet another shift in POV, to Julia.  Whose presence in the novel at all is questionable, nevermind the utter lack of necessity to give her a POV.  The POV shifts were strike number two.

And the final nail in the coffin was the world building, or lack thereof.  These characters seem to be protesting something, belonging to a wider movement called Occupy.

I have no idea what the hell they were protesting.

Their smaller group within the larger group, whose name I can’t recall (but whose initials are something ridiculous like RFTGFP) believes that people should strive to perceive other people’s feelings.  Leif is really good at it.  He can sense your email password. Chris cannot do it, but believes in it and believes that it’s the most important thing ever.  Or something.

I just didn’t get it.  I mean- yeah I get the larger message, we’d all be better people if we stopped to put ourselves in other people’s shoes once in awhile, but I don’t know why or how the government fits into it.  There’s some talk of Homeland Security, and tapping phones and monitoring computers… but no indication that any of it was done prior to the group hacking someone’s email.  The whole premise is bizarre, and seems overly complicated while also being too simple, and ultimately just not what I wanted.

Just a note on the writing- the author appears to be some kind of literary journalist, so he uses a lot of obscure words and fancy language that feels superficial at best because he didn’t give us a lot of insight into what the characters were actually feeling.  I consistently felt like I was missing some of the context.

Anyway- this is probably going to be a wonderful book for someone, just not me.

I won a free copy of this book in a giveaway on GoodReads.  Links if you want to check it out for yourself: GoodReads and Amazon.

tld_cs

This book has the misfortune of being one more science fiction horror novel in a long list of science fiction horror novels I’ve read this year.  I’ve read at least two other books (and one novella) this year that, simply put, did it better.

This was a buddy read, which is usually sufficient reason for me to push through (no person left behind!), but my two fabulous buddies finished it in a couple of days while I was still hanging out on page 94.  At which point they advised me it did not get better and they’d forgive me for DNFing.

I happily took their advice.

I don’t have any specific complaints except that this felt more like a set up to a bad romance than there was any actual horror being included and I was extremely bored.

The setting was cool.  But I saw almost this exact setting done in The Last Astronaut by David Wellington and Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky, both of which were far more atmospheric than The Luminous Dead (not to mention less time consuming).

It’s a shame because I think it could have been good if it had been a novella, or if it had booted the romance and pitted our two MCs against each other as hero and villain.

I am not finishing and I have no regrets.  Links: GoodReads and Amazon.

A Hero Born by Jin Yong

This is the one I feel guiltiest about, because I don’t even think there is anything particularly wrong with it, except that we are just not jiving right now.

I attempted to read the introduction three times before I decided it was way too dry and skipped to the beginning.  In the beginning, we meet two heroes, Skyfury Guo and Ironheart Yang, that feel earnest in their desire to be heroes, but also a little like SpongeBob and Patrick in their competence.

SpongeBob and Patrick Gif

I hate saying that- because I know this is a cherished piece of literature in China, but the whole thing just felt a little cartoonish.

The part that I read was technically all backstory for the hero: what happened in the months leading up to his birth.  I might have continued if the introduction were dropped and the back story was reduced to 10-15 pages.  (If we’re looking at the blurb: “Guo Jing, son of a murdered Song patriot” this is as far as I got in the book, the murdered Song patriot.)  If the pacing is this slow, 15% of the book is back story, I just don’t want to continue.

The action scenes weren’t very exciting to me.  I read once, that the difference between a good action scene and a bad one, is that a bad one will only describe what is happening.  Good action scenes will describe how a character feels when they are in the action.  This is a case where the movements are described adequately, but entirely without feeling.

I had a hard time envisioning the setting and the characters.  The villains, from what I read, seemed like they weren’t going to be very fleshed out at any point in time.  Just hooded figures, evil magistrates, maybe a shadowy emperor or something.  It’s a dated method of story telling.  Understandable, since it was originally written in 1957, but also something I don’t want to read right now.

I might come back to this at some point, knowing what I know and skipping the back story because the premise does sound very exciting (Genghis Khan!) but it’s not going to be any time soon and I don’t want to leave the book unreviewed on NetGalley.  I attempted it.  I made it through 70 dense pages or so.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley who provided a copy in exchange for review.  A Hero Born can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

Have you read any of these?  What did you think?

Book Review: Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Rating:  ★★★★

I’m going to write a spoiler laden review here, because this book is older than I am.  You’ve been warned.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King.  That one time, the movie was better than the book.

I can’t believe I just said that about a Stephen King book.  The thing is- most movies based on Stephen King books just suck.  Sometimes, if we’re really lucky, like in the case of The Green Mile, the movie will be at least as good, but I’ve never, ever, said the movie was better. (I’m excluding IT, because I’ve never technically finished reading IT.)

I always read the author notes or introductions or whatever else there is to read in a book.  There was a wonderful little intro to this, a letter from Stephen King to his constant readers, in which he introduces Pet Sematary as the book he personally thinks is the scariest he’s ever written.  The one book in which he felt he might have actually gone too far.

And having already watched the movie, I could completely understand.  Because the movie was fucked up.  In a good way.  I was pretty much stunned into silence at the end.  It did feel like the movie went too far.  It was one of the best horror films I think I’d seen in a long time.

And with the ending in mind, I happily jumped into the book.  I patiently waited through 400 pages of the mundanities (spell check is telling me this is not a word, I’m making it a word) of everyday family life in small town Maine.  And I actually did enjoy most of it.  I liked Louis as a character.  I loved Jud.  I loved the backdrop and the creepy Pet Sematary, and loved knowing how King came to write the novel.

There is very little action in the book.  Sure we get a few glimpses of the horror to come- Church the cat, Pascow’s ghost, the ORINCO truck.  But nothing really happens until the end.  This is the slow burn he’s so well known for.

I think, maybe, if I had read the book before the movie, I might have felt more surprise and more suspense.  I watched Pet Sematary knowing nothing about it.  I read Pet Sematary thinking I knew what was going to happen.  So all the parts where Louis is in the graveyard digging up his two-year old, Rachel forging ever onward to her untimely demise, I get the sense the reader was supposed to be thinking, OMG NO!, but the impact might have been a little lost on me.

The thing is- I was expecting the book to languor in the horror of an evil two year old going all stabby stabby.  I was expecting there to be some slow realization by Louis that what he’d brought back was, in fact, not his son.  I was expecting there to be a longer ending.

What actually happened, is that Louis seems to surface from whatever fever dream possessed him to bring his son back from the dead in the first place, makes a very clear choice to undo his mistake, and then lapses right back into the fever dream.

It almost felt like, to me, King thought, “Oh shit, I’ve gone too far.  I should probably wrap this up.”  And then wrapped it up.  The whole ending, in this 500+ page book, takes maybe 30 pages?  It was disappointing to say the least.

Especially knowing what I know about King’s work.  There are times when it seems like he’s gone too far.  The opening to Mr. Mercedes for example, exploring all the gory and gruesome details of a sociopath driving a car into a crowd of people in need.  Or that short story he wrote, Survivor Type, which I read 15 years ago at my mother’s kitchen table on a sunny summer day and still gives me nightmares.

This, in comparison to those things, in comparison to it’s own movie, seemed tame.

That being said, though I was disappointed with the ending, I did enjoy most of the book.  And I read through all 500 pages insanely fast.  So- it’s worth reading, sure.  Just don’t read it after you’ve seen the movie.  Or if you can’t wait, just don’t expect the book to match the movie.  You’ll end up a little disappointed.

Pet Sematary can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

Book Review: Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

Rating:  ★★★1/2

I enjoyed most of this humongous book a lot more than I normally enjoy what I would rate as a three star read- so I gave it an extra half star.  I don’t know if I’ve ever said this before- I think I have my ratings broken down on my about me page, but for me: three stars is what I think of as “safe to skip”.  1 or 2 stars is a recommendation to avoid and 4 and 5 stars is recommended to read.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend skipping Imaginary Friend, especially if you were looking forward to it, but I was a little disappointed with this.

I want to start by saying the first 60% or so is really pretty good.  I loved the picture we were painted of Christopher and Kate Reese and their lives together.  I loved how we got to know the town and all the little folks populating it.  It actually reminded me a lot of one of my favorite authors, Stephen King, in that way.

Here’s another way it reminded me of one specific book by King, what started out feeling like Under the Dome with a less evil villain, ended up feeling like The Stand with a scarier villain than Randall Flagg and a whole lot more confusion.  There’s a heavy dose of religion and Catholic guilt in this book, and it frustrated me, because I wasn’t prepared for it to be included.  As someone who doesn’t identify with any particular religion, it just isn’t my favorite way to present a classic good vs. evil story.  

I was around the 500 page mark or so, thinking the ending was coming soon, wondering what in the heck was populating those last 200 pages.  Well.  The end.  The climax.  The climax is 200 pages long.

It was confusing and it bounced around a lot (multiple POVs) and at times I wasn’t sure if the characters were actually experiencing the events of the book or if it was all in their imagination.  I was frustrated with my inability to pay attention to the events, distracted by the amounts of symbolism and questioning the meaning of the whole story.  It just wasn’t what I want in horror.  I think that’s why the term “literary horror” is one we don’t often see.

The author uses baby teeth as a recurring theme, and while it’s probably the ultimate symbol for childhood lost, or adulthood gained, I wasn’t sure it was entirely necessary, and it felt like an odd choice.  I mean, who really describes a tree house ladder as looking like baby teeth?  I do think there were some other interesting events that were meant to be metaphoric, that provided plenty of food for thought, but I won’t spoil them here.

I did like the pacing.  It’s 700 pages but most chapters were only a couple pages long.  This is 100% my favorite way to structure a book.  It makes me feel accomplished because I’m reading so “fast” and it’s easy to pick up and put down.  I realize this is a silly thing to get hung up on, but I just find reading a book like that much more satisfying.

On another positive note, there was no way I ever would have guessed the ending, so be wary of spoilers as you read reviews for this one.  The book does reference some child death’s, though I don’t recall any of them being too graphic, just a heads up for people who are sensitive to that.

Overall this is a long book that reads quickly and would make for good, creepy October read.

Imaginary Friend releases on October 1, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher for providing an ARC for review.

 

 

Book Review: The Institute by Stephen King

Before I get to that review I know you’re simply dying to read- I just wanted to note that I know I haven’t been as consistent in keeping up with the comments not only on my blog but just generally following what all of you are doing.

Remember back in June when I was unemployed?  It only lasted a month (it’s a good thing, but also an exhausting thing).  I am now commuting an additional hour each day to and from work, getting home an hour later than I used to, and rushing to get the dog walked and dinner on the table and the kid ready for bed.

So please forgive me!  I am trying to keep up with everyone still.  Don’t feel obligated to reply to my flurry of comments on last week’s posts.  I know I can be kind of obnoxious returning to comment again and again, but the conversations about books is why I blog. Sure I love the reviewing and stuff- but I honestly just don’t have enough people in my day-to-day life to chat books with, which is why I come and bug all of you :).  On to other things.

The Institute by Stephen King

Rating:  ★★★★

I added myself to the library waitlist for this back in April.  Not kidding.  And by then I’d already been checking to see if I could add myself for a few months.  That’s how long I’ve been waiting.

Anyway- while it wasn’t the epic I’ve been wanting to read since the last time I read Under the Dome, it was still thoroughly enjoyable and well worth reading.  The opening was perfect.  We meet one of the side characters, Tim Jamieson, as he finds his way to the small town of Dupray, South Carolina.  Slowly, we are introduced to some of the background characters.

It was everything I love about King’s characters, the subtle detailing that brings them to life.  The homeless woman who follows conspiracy theories and wears a sombrero, the motel owner who’s too nosy for his own good, the brothers who no one can tell apart and run the convenience store… it never ceases to amaze me how he can paint a full portrait in just a few lines and make the world feel as populated and colorful as the one we live in.

I was so enchanted by these opening chapters and feeling like I was going to get exactly what I’d been hoping for, it was really jarring to switch to Luke’s POV and not see Jamieson again for another 300 pages or so.  I just kept thinking, yeah, but what’s going on in Dupray?  Surely there’s a reason we were introduced to Jamieson so early?

But sadly it wasn’t.  And I think I was so taken with Jamieson as a character and Dupray as the setting that it detracted a little from my enjoyment of Luke and his friends.

A heads up to all the parents out there- this novel focuses heavily on kids, and nevermind happy endings, they don’t have happy stories, period.  What they are put through is horrible.  I think it was made more tolerable by the very fantastic premise, feeling like it was a far departure from reality, but it was still difficult at times.

The pacing was pretty quick, with shortish chapters, and I was never really bored at any point in time.  I made the mistake of thinking I knew how it would end, and I was terribly, horribly, wrong.  I wish I had let my expectations go a bit, so that I would have felt more of the suspense.

WARNING: If you are uber sensitive to spoilers- I recommend stopping here.  I won’t actually talk about plot or events, but more themes and ideas.

 

The ending was pretty shocking, and I don’t often say that of a King book.  Usually I have an idea… good wins out over evil… the villains are served their just desserts…

This ending is much more ambiguous- but it was ambiguous in a good way that made me think.  I know what physically happened to all of the characters, I don’t feel like I’m left wondering about where they’re headed.  But I was given a lot to think about.  Right vs. Wrong.  Moral and Immoral.  How one weighs the greater good against the rights and freedoms of a few.

All in all – this felt like classic King while also feeling like something new.  I enjoyed it for the most part even if it won’t go down as an all time favorite.  If you like King, this is definitely worth checking out!

The Institute can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

 

That one where I read all the samples

I’m stealing this idea in part, from Jolien @ The Fictional Reader, but the concept isn’t too new to this blog. I’ve reviewed opening chapters on some of my ARCs and book hauls in the past, and it usually gets me excited to read the book!

Here I’m just more determining whether I really want to add these books to my TBR.  As if adding another book to a 700+ made much of a difference.

Battlestar Suburbia by Chris McCrudden: The premise of this Battlestar Suburbia by Chris McCruddenone sounded very “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” but the execution is clunky and somehow boring, and the humor wasn’t really my cup of tea.  Are we really saying hair dryers and toasters rule the world? Is that what’s really happening?!  Listen, I know I read Science Fiction and Fantasy, but there still has to be some semblance of reason in it.  I’m guessing this is supposed to be satirical, but I’ll also be the first to tell you, satire is usually not my thing.

Aftershocks Marko KloosAftershocks by Marko Kloos: I was seeing this all over the GoodReads advertisements not too long ago, but I was hesitant because I’d never heard of the author before.  This was actually a pleasant surprise!  On the one hand, I enjoyed Aiden’s character, on the other, the battle scenes were pretty cool.  (Reminded me a lot of Halo, or the power suits in Fallout).  I think I will go ahead and add this one.

Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore: This one Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore sucked me in the most.  I love the idea of music being used to transmit secret messages or entrance people or whatever that was.  The writing was accessible, and the music blogger aspect of the MC made them instantly relatable (though I still haven’t figured out whether they are male, female, or queer).  Either way- definitely adding this.

The Hunger by Alma KatsuThe Hunger by Alma Katsu: I didn’t even finish the sample of this.  I didn’t realize it was a Donner party retelling.  I thought it was something more modern where a group of people followed the path the Donner party took.  Maybe I just hadn’t gotten to that part yet, but too much of the historical story line was included that I just didn’t want to continue.  Nothing otherwise wrong with it, I just don’t want to read about the Donner party.  It freaks me out.

Book Review: Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Rating:  ★★★★

Blurb from GoodReads (minus the spoilery parts): Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and are sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.

Wanderers is far from the first novel of its kind- an epic, sprawling, apocalyptic story, that evokes memories of Stephen King’s The Stand, Justin Cronin’s The Passage, or Robert McCammon’s Swan Song (admittedly, the latter two of these I have not read).  And I don’t think anyone would be wrong to compare this to any of those that came before- Wendig often mentions many of these books by name, almost poking fun at the derivative nature of his own story.  But I would say there is one key difference between Wanderers and the others.

Wanderers spends a lot more time on the actual downfall of man kind.  It isn’t really until 75% of the way through that readers get to see what the world looks like when most of humanity is dead or dying.  For that reason, some might find this to be slower paced than those others, but for me it amped up the stakes.  It forces the reader to think about what it would really be like to know human civilization is coming to end, the enormity and devastation of that statement. It doesn’t skip straight to the part where the survivors are just trying to survive.  You spend most of this book wondering if there will be any survivors at all.

The characters were full of depth, likes and dislikes, talents and flaws, hopes and desires.  They grow and they change.  It has been a long time since I’ve seen a full cast of characters in which I felt each was given sufficient attention.  None of them feel like background characters.  None of them feel unimportant.    There was one that made me groan a little when his parts came along- but I think it was more the nature of his character than it was that anything was wrong with him, but his arc is probably one of the better ones in the book.

The pacing on this story is pretty slow- I’d say it’s driven forward by the mystery/intrigue of what’s happening to the sleepwalkers more so than the action.  But the way the mystery and the plot unfolds is so natural, and even as we gain answers we also gain more mysteries, until most of the mysteries are solved and the action starts to ramp up.

There was a surprising bit of science in this book that I expected to fall more in the realm of horror or fantasy.  I really enjoyed it and it added a level of “realness” to the story that made it all the more terrifying.  I can’t dive into this too much without spoilers, but I read the acknowledgements at the back and Wendig’s research seemed pretty thorough, though he admits he’s not sure how accurate it ended up.  It sounded real enough for me so… *shrugs*.

Finally, without spoilers, I will say the ending disappointed me a bit.  It was way too ambiguous and the reader doesn’t get any closure to some of the character’s story lines.  It kind of crushed me to get that sort of ending in a book I invested 780 pages worth of my time into.  It felt like a cop out.  So I deducted a star.

Otherwise, I think this is absolutely worth reading, especially if you enjoyed these sort of books or are a fan of Wendig’s work.  I’ve been craving an epic I could sink my teeth into and get lost in, and this hit all the right notes.

Wanderers can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

 

Three Quick Book Reviews

I’ve actually finished several quick books the past week or two and I’ve been avoiding reviewing them because they were just the sort of books I didn’t have much to say about afterwards.  So I’m going to just give quick impressions here.

avld_amo

Rating:  ★★

Alien Virus Love Disaster by Abbey Mei Otis (or: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” my tag line, not the book’s.) This is the review I’ve been dreading most because I wanted so badly to like it and just couldn’t connect with it at all.  It’s a collection of bizarre short fiction mostly incorporating some kind of romance and/or alien contact.

With a title like Alien Virus Love Disaster– I was expecting something weird, yes, but also something funny.  Like the Stephanie Plum of alien books.  And it was just dark, depressing, despairing.  There isn’t a single shred of hope in the whole darn book.  Not one tiny story.

I gave it two stars instead of one because on the upside, the stories are unique and inclusive.  I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like them, and I can see how they would be right for someone, just not me.  I wanted to laugh, I wanted to be uplifted, and instead I ended up dragged down in a way I wasn’t prepared for.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Rating:  ★★★★

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (abridged, narrated by: Rupert Degas):  I know what you’re thinking.  “But Sarah, didn’t you just completely rip apart the last book you read by Cormac McCarthy just a few short weeks ago?”

Why yes, blogger friends.  Yes I did.  But I rewrote that review three times because I couldn’t get Blood Meridian out of my head.  And to me, the hallmark of a good book is one you can’t stop thinking about. (It’s the best 2 star book I ever read, lol.)  So I borrowed this on audio on a whim from my library.  Unfortunately all they had was the abridged version, so I can’t tell you what I missed out on, but I can tell you I would give this a go eye reading the full version.

The narrator, Rupert Degas, did a phenomenal job (except for his girly voices, which are weird, but only a small part of the book).  His voice is perfect for this kind of grim, desolate, post-apocalyptic world.  Hearing it instead of reading it solves a lot of McCarthy’s style choices.  The narrator was able to convey dialogue and made the issues I had with a lack of punctuation almost nonexistent.  I think audio is a good way to be introduced to McCarthy.

Anyway- our two MCs are Man and Boy.  They are traveling The Road to get South.  America’s population has been decimated by some kind of sickness.  What’s left are the good guys and the bad guys.  Man and Boy are “good” guys, as good as good can be in this world anyway.

The environment itself is the biggest challenge, lugging around supplies, enduring weather, falling trees (I got the sense the trees were all dying).  And when they encounter bad guys, it gets grim and dark real fast.  The message of the book is that hope and beauty can still be found in even the darkest places, I think, because despite all the many, many low points, there were still some significant high and happy points.

McCarthy’s writing really is beautiful and often reads like poetry.  I wasn’t glowing or gushing when I finished it, but I didn’t find my mind wandering too frequently when I listened, and that’s usually a challenge for me.  I’d definitely recommend this if you enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction.

Trigger content: again, if you have them I sort of must insist that you avoid McCarthy at all costs.  Nothing is off limits for him.

Stephen Kings N. by Marc Guggenheim

Rating:  ★★★★

Stephen King’s N. by Marc Guggenheim, illustrated by Alex Maleev – This is a graphic novel adapted from Stephen King’s novella of the same name found in his collection: Just After Sunset.

I enjoyed this- the art work was great and dynamic, and the mystery sucks you in right from the start.  It starts with a letter from a woman to an old friend talking about her brother’s death.  From there we flash back to where it all started.  The brother was a psychologist working with a patient who developed OCD after visiting Ackerman’s field in Motton, Maine.

It wasn’t quite a full five stars for me because the whole story is pretty ambiguous, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, and will definitely check out the novella.  If you decide to pick this up, don’t skip the foreword.  Guggenheim pays a beautiful tribute to a good friend and makes clear his fondness for King and his excitement over this project.  I’d love to see more of King’s short stories adapted into Graphic Novels turned into Graphic Novels.

 

 

Book Review: The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

Rating:  ★★★1/2

Blurb (from GoodReads): Sally Jensen–once a famous astronaut–thought her days in space were over. She was wrong.

The object entered our solar system, slowed down off the rings of Saturn, and began a steady approach towards Earth. No one knows what its purpose is. It has made no attempt at communication and has ignored all of NASA’s transmissions.

Having forsaken manned flight, the space programs of the world scramble to enlist forcefully-retired NASA legend Sally Jensen–the only person with the first-hand operational knowledge needed to execute a mission to make contact.

With no time to spare she must lead a crew with no experience farther than mankind has ever traveled, to a visitor whose intentions are far from clear…and who, with each passing day, gets closer to home.

The Last Astronaut doesn’t waste too much time getting to the heart of the issue, which I loved. it maintained a pretty quick pace throughout the book, alternating between bouts of action and bouts of discoveries about this alien object. The setting and tone are consistently dark, grim, desolate, and lonely. The image of lights on a space suit cutting through a misty darkness were used repeatedly, which is perfect for this kind of book.

Which is why it baffles me that I didn’t love it more than I did? Unfortunately, and this could just be the mood I was in, I found it really easy to pick this book up, but I also found it really easy to put the book down. I never dreaded picking it up again, and I definitely wanted to finish, but I wish it had compelled me a little more, kept me up late at night because I just had to see what happened next.

I will say the last 25% had me glued to the page so it ends much stronger than it started. If I had to pinpoint where I struggled with this book I can point to two factors, one of which is a spoiler, but the other of which is the characters. I did like all of them, but I think the character I connected to most, Sunny Stevens, the guy who kick starts the whole book, is absent from the 2nd half. He is the comic relief, he is the character that feels most alive to me. All the other characters are serious, grim types. Which is fine- most scientists probably are that way, but I really needed his jolt of personality to keep me caring about the events of the book. The other characters all feel human enough, I wouldn’t say any of them feel shallow or flat, but they just weren’t characters I connected to. Your mileage may vary.

The writing is great. Descriptive enough to give you the idea and convey the tone without lingering too long on it or slowing down the pace. The length also feels just right. At 400 pages, we’re given just what is needed to tell the story, it’s not bloated but it doesn’t feel like any details were left out either.

The format of the book is that we are reading an in-world book that has been written about these events after they have happened. It’s interspersed with little side snippets of what I thought of as confessions or transcripts from the characters themselves talking to (who I presume) is NASA. I personally enjoyed the format, and it definitely added a layer of impending doom to many of the scenes, but I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

The ending is perfect, and I won’t lie, it made me tear up a little. Overall a good read that’s well worth checking out if you like a good alien, sci-fi horror mash up. Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit for providing me with an eARC for review.

The Last Astronaut releases on July 23, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.

Book Review: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Rating:  ★★★

Lord of the Flies is an example of what might happen when boys are isolated without adult supervision for an extended period of time.  I read the deluxe edition in which Stephen King wrote a wonderful intro.  The book’s influence on King, one of my favorite authors, was obvious right from the beginning.  Their styles and the element of supernatural happenings all felt incredibly familiar (in a good way).

I can also see how this book inspired the many other fantasy dystopians that came later.  It felt like a prototype for The Hunger Games and Red Rising.  What happens when we are reduced to our basest selves?  Who do we become?  What is necessary for group survival?  Would you change yourself to become a part of that group and what does it say about you?

There is a lot of ominous foreshadowing, and the symbolism goes on for days, but in the end, I just wasn’t all that entertained or even shocked by it.  It gets off to a very slow start, with nothing really terrible happening until halfway through.  And then when things start happening, they really aren’t all that shocking.

I’m sure it was shocking in 1954.  But that’s where the book dates itself.  If you’ve read anything by Stephen King.. there’s really not much to see here.  I don’t want to say it’s not graphic, because it is, but Golding also manages to dance wonderfully around specific actions.  There’s no doubt in your mind about what’s happening, but the how of it is vague.  For example the scene with the mother pig… I had to read in one of the essays at the back what Golding was trying to tell me.  I knew what was happening- the boys were killing her with their spears- but not where the spears were going.

I just think scenes like that are more powerful when they’re direct.  Make me cringe, make me look away, force me to put the book down for a few minutes because I need a break.  Instead, I kind of shrugged, said “poor momma piggie” and moved on with my day.  The essay at that back?  Yeah, that made me cringe.

Anyway- I’m glad I read it, and I didn’t find it to be a difficult read at all (which I always worry about with classics).  But if Lord of the Flies is not something that interests you for its literary importance, it’s pretty safe to skip.  It’s been done better in more recent years.  If you do decide to pick it up- I highly recommend the deluxe edition.  I got a lot more out of it with the intros and extra texts.

Lord of the Flies can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

Library Book Haul

How do you bust a reading slump?

Read ALL the books.

So I went to the library and got ALL the books.

Okay not really.  Here’s what’s up next:

Witchmark C.L. Polk

Witchmark by C. L. Polk

Initial impressions: The writing is excellent.  I only read the first chapter but it was super atmospheric.  It was very easy to picture the setting: people riding bikes and horse drawn carriages in the streets.  A bustling city with soldiers coming and going.  The shadow of war hanging over them all.  The intrigue level is super high.  Nothing is really explained.  It starts out normal enough with a doctor leaving work for the day, and an emergency patient coming through.  And then the magic and witchery starts.  I was expecting more magical realism than straight up magic (which honestly is not really my thing) but I like it so far.  It seems to be hinting at an underground mage society so I’m excited to see where that leads to.  A promising start!

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Initial impressions: First of all- GoodReads told me this was 182 pages long.  It’s not.  I’m willing to forgive it in lieu of the fabulous introduction from Stephen King.  When he found this book, he said he was looking for a book about “how boys really are.”  Golding’s influence on King is obvious.  As I read through the first chapters I kept thinking it felt familiar. Finally I realized it was because it feels like King.  The characters feel real, the prose isn’t overly flowery (though more flowery than King’s).  I’m a little confused about how these boys got to this island, but so far that first chapter is the one that resonated with me the most, so I’ll be continuing with this one before the others.

Initial Impressions: This is confusing as hell.

Seriously- why do authors think writing without quotation marks is a good thing?  Not cool man. I had to re-read a paragraph like eight times, move on, and then double back when I realized there weren’t any quotation marks (and honestly I’m still not sure I understood the conversation).  Otherwise, the prose is spot on.  I’ve highlighted a couple quotes I love already, and if it wasn’t for Lord of the Flies, this would have been my second pick to continue reading.  I’m not sure what the judge’s deal is. I know he’s the big bad in this novel though, so I’m excited to see what it’s leading up to.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Initial impressions: I just read a book where a man gets shot in the chest, kills another man dead for taking his shoes, but pulling the wings off a fat little bumblebee bothered me more.  There’s something wrong with me right?  Anyway- I was immediately sucked in by the premise.  A little girl meets a strange man.  There’s something sinister happening with the strange man (Harper Curtis).  That much is obvious from the start.  He seems to hint that he’s acting under orders from some other organization, but that doesn’t make you like him any more.  The writing is great and I’m curious to see where it goes.

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

Initial impressions: I think I’ve only really read the introduction and the prologue so far, but I’m a little disappointed.  I’m still coming down from the high that was The Mere Wife, so I had high expectations.  My favorite type of writing, my favorite type of book, is one that I like to describe as unapologetic.  The author writes in a way that’s bound to make the reader uncomfortable, exposing all the ugly truths within a person or a society or practice, but so far this isn’t that.  It doesn’t carry the same level of force that The Mere Wife does. Still, I haven’t read much so I’ll remain hopeful.

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

Initial impressions: I wasn’t really interested in The Queens of Innis Lear when it first released.  The title, the name… it seemed like a pretty generic fantasy to me.  It looked and sounded similar to Four Dead Queens and Three Dark Crowns, which all released at about the same time. But I recently stumbled across the title Lady Hotspur which I added strictly because of the title.  When I checked out the blurb of that, it referenced this.  So I doubled back to TQOIL and read the blurb, and thought what the hell.  I liked King Lear, who not give it a go?  I hope it maintains the humor and wit of King Lear throughout.

So that’s ALL the books.

Have you read any of them?  Are they on your TBR?

Also- please send help.