Saturday, December 03, 2016

“The Girl With All the Gifts” by Mike Carey - Feel the Burden of a Blessing

The Girl With All the Gifts by Mike Carey - book cover
Release date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Orbit
Pages: 448
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Judging by the amount of post-apocalyptic literature that's being published every year, I'd wager to say that we just can't wait for the end of the world to come around for the chance to prove that we are indeed important renegades who can save the world, lead humanity and all that jazz. Let's face it though: the overwhelming majority of us would be ground to dust in virtually any post-apocalyptic scenario, whether it's an alien invasion, a virus or some good old-fashioned zombies. We seldom take the time to imagine what life in this kind of society would be like and look at it from beyond the confines of our own narrow viewpoint. No matter which way you decide to look at it, the world would become a hellhole without convenience stores, physiotherapists, running water or electricity, and the worst of all, no television and internet. That's more or less the kind of devastating setting we're dealing with in Mike Carey's The Girl With All the Gifts .

Friday, November 18, 2016

“The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead – How to Outrun Death and Slavery

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead - book cover
Release date: August 2, 2016
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 320
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Slavery is without a doubt one of the least pleasant parts of American history, forever casting a shadow of guilt and shame on future generations, one that persists to this very day. As much as we would all like to forget any of that ever happened, we owe it to all the ones who suffered as well as ourselves to remember forever the brutal and unforgivable mistakes of our ancestors... after all, if we don't keep our own history in mind, we are indeed doomed to repeat it.

We can take many approaches to re-telling that history, but ultimately what's important is to have people empathize and connect with all victims, unjustly-tortured and murdered. Colson Whitehead decided to broach the subject by writing a novel about it, telling the story of slaves who are escaping from a plantation in Georgia in hopes of finally finding freedom and safety; the novel is rather appropriately-called The Underground Railroad.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

“The Bone Tree” by Greg Iles – How Does Your Murder Garden Grow?

The Bone Tree by Greg Iles - book cover
Series: Penn Cage
Release date: September 13, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 832
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Despite the fact that the country has been in existence for a rather short amount of time, the United States of America already has quite a rich history to it, one unfortunately filled with many tales of violence and oppression. Racial strife is something that has always been present in some parts of the country, and though some may not be aware of it, a whole lot of blood was spilled in the Deep South when the people resisted “integration”. There was also the assassination of John F. Kennedy, an event that made headlines around the entire world and gave conspiracy theorists decades upon decades of work to keep themselves busy.

It seems to me that every author has his or her own reason for tackling certain subjects, and whatever Greg Iles' may be, I hope he never loses them as they are driving him to put out some powerful literature, and I'm talking about The Bone Tree, a Penn Cage novel and the fifth in the series. While it would definitely give you some more background information, reading the novels in order isn't necessary at all; they all stand on their own and can be fully enjoyed without any other knowledge.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

“Two by Two” by Nicholas Sparks – The Parent's Journey

Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks - book cover
Release date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 496
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One of the many questions we are going to keep asking ourselves as we go through our lives is: what's actually important? We are surrounded by so many people and material possessions that we often lose track of what it is that truly defines our existence and makes it worthwhile. Unfortunately, some people go through a personal hell of loss to find the truly meaningful elements of their lives, as does Russell Green in Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks.

We are introduced to Russel from the beginning, a successful man in his early thirties with his recently-pregnant wife, Vivian. As the latter quits her job to becomes a stay-at-home mother, the former also does the same, but to start his own business. Eventually Vivian goes back on the job, and the two start to slowly drift apart, as so many people tend to do. With his wife working, Russell took it upon himself to take care of their daughter, London, giving her all the attention and affection he possibly could. Then finally comes the day when the inevitable happens: the marriage between Russell and Vivian comes to an end. It only takes a few months for things to fall apart even more as Russell finds himself in the precarious situation of having no job and caring for his daughter all on his own. And so begins Russell's horrifying and yet hopeful voyage through the world of single parenting and uncertainty, one that will ultimately show him what it is that is truly important to him in life.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

“Ninth City Burning” by J. Patrick Black – Invaders of Reality

Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black - book cover
Release date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Ace
Pages: 496
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The alien invasion trope is perhaps one of the most often portrayed invasion scenarios in popular culture, and it's quite possible that it won't get stale anytime soon; as long as we haven't encountered anyone out there in the great beyond, the possibilities remain limitless. With so many books revolving around the topic, it really does take something special for an author to get themselves noticed, but debuting writer J. Patrick Black has certainly done that with his first novel, Ninth City Burning.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

“Private Paris” by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan – The French Powder Keg

Private Paris by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan - book cover
Series: Private
Release date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 448
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Paris has been known for a long time as one of the cultural capitals of the world, the place where love, art and wine thrive until the end of time. In recent years though, reality has caught up with the idealistic image as it always tends to do, with numerous heavy public crimes putting the city's people on edge. Tensions are running high, and there is no telling how far things will go before it all comes to an end. In Private Paris by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan, we are introduced to this city in a very dark hour as Private Jack Morgan's talents are needed.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

“The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman” by Robin Gregory – A World to Fit In

The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman by Robin Gregory - book cover
Release date: November 1, 2015
Publisher: Mad Mystical Journey
Pages: 294
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While life certainly likes to throw a few curve-balls at everyone at some point, it's undeniable that most of us have what we need not only to survive, but to actually enjoy life itself. As you well know, there is always the other side of the coin, the people whose survival on this planet has been challenged from the moment they set foot in it. Whether they end well or badly, there is something special about such people who defy all odds until the very end, as is the case of the titular Moojie in The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman by Robin Gregory.

With the first strike against him being his name, Moojie was already in for a rough start. He was also born with physical disabilities, takes a while to start talking, and when he does another problem piles on to the list: stuttering. He lost his mother, and keeping in line with Moojie's luck, his father refused to take him in. And so he's sent off to St. Isidore's Fainting Goat Dairy, run by his terribly-tempered grandfather whose favourite past-times seem to be drinking, cursing, threatening to send Moojie back to the orphanage, and hating on the so-called hostiles in the surrounding forest. As Moojie discovers though, these hostiles are actually a magical race who hopes to show the world what harmony is. He deeply hopes to be accepted in their world, but trust doesn't come easy, not for the broken nor for the otherworldly.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

“The Last Days of Jack Sparks” by Jason Arnopp – The Skeptic's Inferno

The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp - book cover
Release date: September 13, 2016
Publisher: Orbit
Pages: 400
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Whether you exclusively believe in the tangible and observable or allow for the existence of anything that cannot be disproved, there is a skeptic hiding within you, no matter if he's big or small... and that's perfectly normal. Skepticism is actually a handy survival tool in a world where there are more than enough shady characters trying to lie and deceive you. Of course, like most things in life, it's only beneficial when practiced with a certain moderation, and in The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp, we get to witness what happens when it's taken to the greatest extreme possible.

The titular Jack Sparks is a writer who has tackled a large number of topics, including gangs, drugs, himself, and even jumping on a pogo stick. He is a popular reporter and has many followers yearning for his next article across all social media platforms. To put it mildly, he's worldwide sensation and is letting it go to his head. He is extremely self-centered and immeasurably confident in his knowledge of literally everything. As his next challenge, he sets to prove that everything supernatural is a hoax, all while being the biggest jerk possible. And so he begins with an exorcism of a 13 year-old girl in Rome, on Halloween night, an event which he mocks through and through, generating all that precious social media controversy he's yearning for. Unbeknownst to him though, there is more to the world than he imagines, and mocking the devil himself bears with it some rather grave consequences.

This book may be classified in the horror genre, but if you're looking for a scares, blood and guts galore, then I'm sorry to say that you'll probably be a tad disappointed with what you'll find in here. The horror elements are certainly present throughout the whole story, but there is a heck of a lot of humour to be found here as well. Whether it's in the way Sparks perceives and describes the world or tries to brush off with increasing desperation the supernatural phenomenon around him, there's always something to keep a smile on your face. In the last quarter of the book, things do begin to escalate and intensify, with the comedy slowly fading away and taking a back-seat to an atmospheric kind of horror, one that inspires dread and discomfort rather than going for shock value.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

“Dictator” by Robert Harris – The Great Orator

Dictator by Robert Harris - book cover
Release date: August 23, 2016
Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 416
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The job of public speaker, or orator as some would prefer to call it, is one of those things that looks much easier than it is. At the surface, it's just about reciting a speech to a bunch of people in front of you. However, digging deeper it becomes apparent that there are countless factors to take into account when speaking in front of the masses, from treading carefully on taboo subjects to using the right words to elicit the desired emotions from the audience. With so many throughout history having tried their luck at this job, it should say a lot that Marcus Tullius Cicero is considered the greatest orator of his time, if not of human history.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

“Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd” by Alan Bradley – On a Reclusive Trail

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley - book cover
Series: Flavia de Luce Mysteries
Release date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 352
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Despite being only twelve years of age, Flavia de Luce is the kind of girl who would put most adults to shame with her deductive skills as well as her highly-developed common sense. Even though she is basically a genius for her age, she still finds herself rejected from Miss Bodycote's Female Academy, and so Flavia sets out on the long trip back home to England.

Though she is happy to return, the homecoming isn't exactly going as smoothly as planned with her father having suddenly fallen ill and moved to the hospital where he is expected to recover, but cannot take visitors. Her life now ruled by boredom, Flavia relieves it in any way possible, which one day entails delivering a message to a reclusive wood carver from the Vicar's wife. Upon making her way to his cabin, Flavia immediately senses something is amiss, and her suspicions are confirmed when she finds the man's body hanging upside down on the back side of his bedroom door... The only witness being an indifferent cat.

Friday, September 23, 2016

“Narcissus and Goldmund” by Herman Hesse – Flesh and Spirit Collide

Narcissus and Goldmund by Herman Hesse book cover
Release date: February 1, 2003
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 315
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Different authors write for different reasons, and there certainly is no shortage of them; some want to simply tell a story they have on their mind, others want to shed light on an issue... and a select few like to use the writing medium as a tool to study life itself. I believe Herman Hesse can definitely be classified amongst them, with his novels often being a bit more reminiscent of parables where he meditates on the more profound aspects of human life. While Hesse may be known internationally for novels like Steppenwolf or Damien, he does have many excellent works that have flown under the radar, such as Narcissus and Goldmund.

The concept behind this book is rather simple: Hesse follows the lives of two young men with drastically different ideas about how life ought to be lived. The first one is quite content with his quiet, ordinary and uneventful pious life devoted to the development of his spirituality. The second one has the complete opposite view, far preferring the decadent artistic lifestyle of physical pleasures, adventure and debauchery. We are shown the journey travelled by both of them through the plague-ridden Middle Ages and the many surprising teachings they come to acquire until the day of their reunion.

Monday, September 19, 2016

“The First Hostage” by Joel C. Rosenberg – No Free World

The First Hostage by Joel C. Rosenberg - book cover
Release date: December 29, 2015
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Pages: 448
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The Middle East is a place known equally for its beauty as well as for being a hotbed of conflict for the past few decades. There are always violent tensions and volatile situations that lead to pain and suffering for one group or another, and what's worse is that there is absolutely no end in sight. The majority of us only know of what's happening there and what the future could bring thanks to short news snippets (often biased) and minutes-long documentaries that heavily generalize everything. As such, it's pretty rare and fascinating to come across an author such as Joel C. Rosenberg who has plenty of first-hand experience living in the Middle East and dealing with the situation there. What's more, he puts all of his knowledge to great use as fuel for some fantastic stories, as is the case with The First Hostage, the second book in the J. B. Collins series.