February 2017 Reading Wrap-up

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Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson: This was an enjoyable sci-fi novel with fascinating science, a great premise, and excellent world-building. Intelligent beings have put the earth inside a type of bubble, making time pass on earth much more slowly than outside the planet. The main characters are twins Diane and Jason, and their childhood best friend Tyler, who is a little boring as the narrator. But the story rises above that and was a real page-turner. VGR

Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton: I really wasn’t interested in reading this book, but my book club chose it so I buckled down to it. Wow, was I in for a surprise! I could not stop reading, and although I haven’t seen the movie I gather that the book is much, much better in terms of details and storylines. It’s a real thriller, and Crichton goes into lots of detail on the science to make you feel like this could actually happen. VGR

 

Gemina, by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff: Gemina picks up right where Illuminae left off, but it focuses on the Jump Station Heimdall and has two new lead characters. Hanna is the pampered captain’s daughter, and Nik is a member of a notorious crime family. A BeiTech strike team invades Heimdall, and Hanna and Nik have to work together to save the station as well as save the Hypatia, where Kady and Ezra from Illuminae are. Like Illuminae, Gemina is told entirely through a dossier of emails, transcripts, schematics, and classified files. And like the first book, it took me a little while to get in to the story, but once I was in I was completely hooked. VGR

I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh: Fantastic book with some great twists. I can’t write too much about it without giving away a lot of great plot twists, but Mackintosh gets her hooks in you from the very beginning with the tragic death of a 5-year-old, victim of a hit-and-run. The story alternates between different characters, all told in the first person. VGR

 

 

The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden: An expertly crafted, atmospheric fantasy set in a version of medieval Russia. Christianity has arrived and is clashing with the old gods and spirits of Russian folklore. VGR

 

 

 

Small Admissions, by Amy Poeppel: This novel opens with 20-something Kate languishing in a deep depression over a bad break-up. She ends up getting a job in admissions at an elite NYC private school and eventually gets her life back on track. The book gives us several chapters narrated by Kate’s friends and sister for further insight into Kate’s past and present. I never really connected with any of the characters and found Kate mostly just annoying.

 

A Torch Against the Night, by Sabaa Tahir: This picks up right after An Ember in the Ashes ended, with Elias and Laia running for their lives from the Martial soldiers. They embark on a perilous journey to break Laia’s brother out of the infamous Kauf prison. The story alternates among Elias, Laia, and Helene. Wonderful complex characters, heroes and villains alike, and excellent tension and plot pacing. I’m crushed that the next book isn’t out until 2018. VGR

 

Enchanted Islands, by Allison Amend: Amend took two real people, Ainsley and Frances Conway, and the general details of their lives, including several years living on the Galapagos Island of Floreana during World War II, and spun a novel around those facts. She paints them as spies gathering intelligence on Germans also living on Floreana. However, the title is misleading, as the true story of this novel is the lifelong friendship of Frances and Rosalie. It was definitely an interesting book although it dragged in a few sections.

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, by Seanan McGuire: This novella is about a girl from a small Kentucky town in the 1970s who died before her time and became a ghost. Fast forward to the present, and Jenna is living in NYC and volunteering at a suicide hotline. Premise: ghosts are people (and other creatures, as well) who died before their time, and they take time from the living to eventually reach their fated death day. Jenna teams up with a local witch when all the ghosts of NYC go missing, and their search takes them back to her hometown.

The Secret of a Heart Note, by Stacey Lee: A YA novel with an interesting premise. Mimosa comes from a long line of aromateurs who have highly developed senses of smell and mix up love potions (“elixirs”) for worthy clients, but are never supposed to fall in love themselves lest they lose their sense of smell. Mim has recently started high school after years of homeschooling, and she’s dealing with a best friend who is scared to come out, a soccer star she’s attracted to, and his bitchy ex-girlfriend, not to mention accidentally dosing the wrong client with an elixir. Cute story that falls flat in a few places.

My Not So Perfect Life, by Sophie Kinsella: Kinsella never fails to entertain me. Her newest offering focuses on Katie, a farm girl trying to make it in London working for a branding company. After Katie is let go at work, she goes home to the farm and helps her dad and stepmom start a successful glamping business. Her former bosses show up – one was a previous love interest and the other a monster to work for – and a lot of secrets are revealed. I loved the way the story played out – the romantic trajectory was expected but the other plot points were really wonderful. VGR

Loner, by Teddy Wayne: Stalker novel that isn’t nearly as good as Caroline Kepnes’ You. David is a freshman at Harvard. He’s always been a misfit, and that doesn’t change when he enters college. He becomes obsessed with a beautiful, popular, rich girl, and even starts dating her roommate to try to get close to her. Interesting ending, but overall the story falls flat.

 

A Harvest of Thorns, by Corban Addison: This novel starts with a horrific fire in a Bangladeshi garment factory and goes on to skewer the global manufacturing industry in tightly plotted, action-filled narrative. The story alternates between Cameron, general counsel for an American corporation whose clothes were being made at the factory, and Joshua, a disgraced journalist trying to save his career and marriage. VGR

 

Solo, by Jill Mansell: An early Mansell novel that is abysmally, horribly awful. I’m so disappointed, as she has never let me down before! But the heroine, Tessa, an unassuming artists, ends up with the worst “hero” ever, a complete philanderer who we are supposed to believe will finally settle down and stop his cheating ways, even though he was sleeping with another woman the night Tessa was giving birth to his child! The supporting characters and relationships were god-awful, as well. Should have passed on this one! I will stick to her new releases only from now on.

The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher (Audiobook): This was, obviously, bittersweet to listen to. Like David Sedaris, I only ever want to hear Fisher’s books instead of read them, because she narrated them all herself. This memoir focuses on her time filming the first Star Wars, and pulls on journals she kept at that time. I’m amazed her affair with Harrison Ford was able to be kept secret for so many decades! Her insight and self-awareness impressed me, as did the eloquence with which she expressed herself when only 19 years old. VGR

Beacon 23, by Hugh Howey: Interesting sci-fi novella about Digger, a war veteran tending a beacon lighthouse in outer space. It’s a lonely existence, and Digger suffers from PTSD and has a tenuous grasp on reality. A thoughtful book about war and sacrifice.

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