Release

If you haven’t read a book by Patrick Ness, you are really missing out. He is one of my favorite authors, and everything I’ve read from him has been a hit, including Release. I’ve previously reviewed one of his books¬†More Than This review¬† but I cannot recommend his Chaos Walking trilogy enough. Published the same years as The Hunger Games, it was a pioneer in the modern young adult dystopia genre and is FINALLY getting a film adaptation. I plan to reread the series next year. He also wrote A Monster Calls, which is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in a long time. You might have also seen the very well done movie. So, anytime a Ness book comes out, I clamber to get my copy.

I had no idea what Release was about, and honestly, I didn’t care. That’s how convinced I am to read his books. The story is simply one day in the life of a teenager named Adam. Adam is like most teenagers, struggling with his family, his love life, facing a senior year he isn’t prepared for. But one added element to his story is that he’s gay, in a relationship with another boy, and has seriously Christian parents who condemn gays. He has been hiding his relationship to his parents, but his best friend Angela and her family are there for him in ways no one else is. There are several uncomfortable scenes in the book that deal with adults, namely his boss and his parents, forcing their ideas onto Adam, And Adam doesn’t handle these ideas well, as you would expect, but he never betrays himself or agrees to change who he is.

This book should be required for any parent with a gay child as what NOT to do. I have two kids, both still very young and exploring who they are. They love Transformers and My Little Pony equally. I bought my oldest a Love is Love pride shirt yesterday. Because no matter who they end up loving, they will still be mine. Nothing could ever change that. I am so thankful for authors like Ness who give teenagers a character that is so familiar to them. There are thousands of kids like Adam out there, struggling with being gay, with parents who refuse to accept this, who deem their children broken, who turn their backs, but maybe slowly, through books like this, voices like Adam’s, and people with open minds, we can change how LGBTQ people are viewed and treated in this country. Happy Coming Out Day.

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Carrion Comfort

When you read an 800 page book, sometimes it truly feels like an 800 page book. On and on and on, plodding and dull. I’m happy to report this was most definitely not one of those books. I couldn’t believe how quickly I was able to fly through this one. For the 2017 book challenge, I had to read an 800 pager, and this one had been on my list for awhile after Stephen King said this is one of the greatest horror novels of the 20th century. If that doesn’t convince you to read it, maybe I can just sway you a bit.

When I first read the blurb and saw the word vampire, I just sighed to myself and thought “ugh” because I am SO over vampires. And even though I just read The Historian (review The Historian) which is about tracking a vampire, it’s really not a vampire book. Same with The Passage series. Vampires play a role, but they don’t dominate the plot. Well, vampires are the entire plot of this one. Hear me out, though. These aren’t your traditional blood sucking creatures of the night. These vampires can control your mind. I know it sounds cheesy, but I promise it is terrifying.

The story follows a handful of these vampires and the people who are trying to track and kill them. The vampires can simply enter your mind and control your body. Your will is gone. You have no ability to resist. They use you as a toy. After some innocent people are killed in a suspicious way, a small group of everyday people uncover the truth of these vampires and vow to take them down. As the chase progresses, they gain a few more helpers and lose some along the way. But the vampires and their soulless acts are what really make this story horrifying. They have no problem using and destroying people for their fun and games.

I have read much more graphic books like The Troop (also recommended by SK), but this one was wholly terrifying. Yes, it could be descriptive in parts, but overall it was just so creepy what some people are capable of. Of course, these mind control people don’t exist, but their ability to kill with no conscience isn’t unique to fiction.

In the Woods

I’ve heard of the Dublin Murder Squad books for awhile now and have been meaning to read them for awhile. I finally sat down and made a point to read the first one, In the Woods. I like a good thriller/murder mystery, and was really pleased with how well done this one is. It seems like most thrillers are cheap, predictable, and churned out so quickly that much thought isn’t put into craft. However, there were some really great passages in this book that made the reading experience much more enjoyable than the average thriller.

Det. Rob Ryan is a member of the Dublin Murder Squad, meaning his job is to investigate murders. His partner, Cassie, is like a sister and together, they make a great team. However, Rob’s secret has the ability to hinder his perspective. When he was a kid, three kids went into the woods to play, and only one, Rob, came out. The other two have never been found and Rob doesn’t remember much. He now goes by his middle name, went to boarding school and acquired a different accent, so he flies under the radar and no one, save Cassie, knows his story.

Their newest case is the death of a 12 year old girl whose body is found near the woods were Rob was found. His memories are triggered, and he wonders if the two situations are connected. The book is full of several twists and turns, some of them I saw coming, but most I didn’t, and by the end, I was reading as quickly as I could to see who killed the young girl and whether or not Rob was able to put all the pieces of his own childhood together. There are several other books in the series, all are spin offs of the previous one, and I can’t wait to delve back into this series.

IT

I read this book over a decade ago and didn’t remember much, aside from the vivid memories I have of the miniseries, all hail Tim Curry. So with the upcoming movie, I wanted to revisit the book this year. And for the 2017 book challenge update, I needed a book set in two different time periods, so this book fit perfectly.

The story takes place in Derry, Maine (of course) and follows 7 kids, AKA The Losers’ Club, and one summer in their lives. Kids keep disappearing, including Georgie Denbrough, brother of one of the Losers, Bill. Slowly, the kids discover they have all been seeing a terrifying entity, a clown, werewolf, leper, etc and that something strange is happening in Derry. One of them, Mike, does some research into Derry’s history and realizes random disappearances and murders happen every 27 years, and have been happening for over a hundred years. They take it upon themselves to kill IT, as it comes to be known.

Interspersed with the childhood stories, we also see these Losers as adults. Because they vow to return to Derry if ever IT returns (no spoilers…this happens in the first few pages), they will get back together to rid the world of IT once and for all. However, since they have left Derry, they don’t remember their childhoods there or each other, even. Mike has stayed behind and does remember, so he has the job of gathering the Losers again. Once the Losers return to Derry, their memories begin to unlock.

This is such a basic synopsis for an 1100+ page book. King really does lead you down some terrifying paths of childhood trauma, horrifying events, and the power of friendship. There’s no way to capture all of these in one review. I’ve read more than half of his books, and this one is easily one of his best. He definitely has some duds in the bunch, but IT is worth reading.

I also saw the movie. It’s not like the book, understandably. There are some big changes between them, and I really was disappointed in them. But, overall, I’m glad the book was translated to the big screen. Maybe more people will read the book now.

The Golden Compass

I’m just going to tell you this in advance. This is my all-time favorite trilogy. I would name my daughter Lyra, if I had the chance. Back when I taught middle school, my students raved about this series. I was quite skeptical because I just don’t enjoy much fantasy, and make no bones about it, this is quite fantastical. But the series has so much heart, that it was impossible for me to forget. And I ended up with a son who could be Lyra’s male counterpart. As much as I wanted to see this book on the big screen, I was completely disappointed with the end result. I have high hopes for the BBC series, though. Last I heard there will be 40 episodes (8 each season for 5 seasons) to cover the entire trilogy.

The basic story isn’t unique: the chosen child goes on a quest, however, the fantastic elements make the story memorable. First the humans have daemons who are essentially their souls who live outside their bodies as animals. Children’s daemons shift shapes until puberty, then the daemons fix. Some daemons take on the human’s future career, dogs are servants, water animals are fishermen, etc. Daemons and humans can only be separated by a few yards and are connected by an invisible thread. Lyra accidentally hears about Dust and ends up traveling north to the Arctic on a mission. She has one tool with her: The Golden Compass, also known as an alethiometer. This device, which is one of 6 in the world, can only be read by a few people, Lyra being one of them, of course, being the chosen one. The alethiometer can give her answers to questions. It’s a truth telling machine.

Along the way she makes friends with gyptians, talking Arctic bears, witches, and a man with a balloon. To get deep into the plot is to give many spoilers, but what is happening in the north involves Dust and is horrifying. Keep in mind this book is for young adults, so it’s not graphically horrifying, but more symbolically horrifying. And in the center of it all is Lyra, brave, clever, kind, selfless Lyra. She is impossible to tame, but would do anything for her those she loves. She hates formal education, but is very wise. She is a truly perfect character. I cannot recommend these books highly enough.

 

Mycroft Holmes

I have been a fan of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s since I was a kid. Some of my formative years were spent in front of the tv with my dad cheering for the Lakers. Magic was my favorite, and Kareem was my dad’s. But as I got older, I grew to appreciate KAJ for the intelligent, thoughtful, humanitarian that he is. I’ve been following his essays for awhile now. You can find many of them here in Time Magazine. When I heard he had published this book, I thought I would give it a try. Let me preface that I have read a sum total of one Sherlock Holmes book, so reading this little off shoot was a shot in the dark.

I’ve been told that Mycroft is Sherlock’s older brother and much more likeable of a character. And while Sherlock is in this book very briefly, I can say that I did think Mycroft was a great character. Very insightful and thorough, but with a good heart and nowhere near as eccentric as his brother. The story follows 23 year old Mycroft and a friend, Cyrus Douglas, who is from Trinidad. Douglas tells Mycroft about certain supernatural mysteries that are happening on the island and the two travel there to solve said mysteries. There is also a pretty clear political element going on with the setting in Trinidad. Douglas is a black man and Mycroft is his white friend, but they work together to free some slaves. The politics aren’t in your face, but definitely not ones to be ignored.

The book was a quick reader and kept me guessing. Some of the people involved were clearly playing a double role, and they were fairly easy to spot, but the story was still engaging. I appreciated all the historical details that seemed to be well researched. Overall, this was a really fun read that kept me guessing, but wasn’t too far fetched.

The Winter Over

I started Winter’s Tale a couple of years ago, but never finished it. I got about 1/3 of the way through and was just so utterly bored that I gave up. And for the 2017 book challenge, I had to have a book with one of the seasons in the title, so I made the commitment to giving it another shot. And, obviously, by the title of this post, I didn’t do it. I just finished 2 700+ page books and am working on another (IT….wow….just wait for that review) and I just couldn’t make myself try this book again. So, I headed to my kindle to see if I had another book that would qualify. Thankfully, through the Kindle First program you get with Prime, I had The Winter Over downloaded and ready to go. Fortunately, this was just a mere 300+ pages. Totally doable.

I really hate cold weather. I live in a relatively warm state and I can barely stand the winters. So books about cold weather really make an impact on me. And this book oozes frigidity. Not just the cold weather, but the characters themselves are standoffish and cold to each other. You know something suspicious is going on really quickly. The story revolves around a science expedition in Antarctica where they are transitioning between the summer season where there are dozens of crew members to the bare bones winter season with just over forty members. Just before the last flights out, one of the members is found dead, outside frozen to death. And let me just say this book isn’t about monsters or aliens or anything supernatural. The book is very straightforward and you know early on that people are the natural enemy. There is a mystery to be solved and the author, Matthew Iden, gives you a lovely trail of breadcrumbs to follow to figure out just what in the hell is happening.

I truly selected this book simply for the title, but I really enjoyed it. I’m a big fan of a well written thriller and this is one. I was able to solve a few of the mysteries along the way, but overall, was pleasantly surprised with how everything turned out. This is a new release, and I recommend you get your hands on it. Be sure to bundle up first because the icy descriptions can permeate your brain, sending you into the shivers.