The Fireman

Now, we all know I’m a blazing fan of Stephen King. I’ve said this fact a number of times in this blog. When I heard this new author, Joe Hill, was igniting the horror book world, I thought I would check him out. It wasn’t until much later that I learned the searing knowledge that Hill is King’s son. I have previously read NOS4A2 and liked it a lot, but it was truly a scorching, horrifying book. I needed a previous Goodreads Reader Choice winner for the book challenge, found The Fireman on my Kindle and chose it for the category.

I’m always curious how a title is chosen for a book. Is it a spark from the author’s mind or something just occurs naturally? Because the fireman isn’t even the main character in this story. The first character we meet is Harper, a nurse married to Jakob, living in a world where people are literally catching on fire thanks to a new fungus called Dragonscale. Preliminary investigation shows the ‘scale is ignited by your emotions. If you get scared, angry, upset poof. Combustion. Harper gets infected and gets pregnant, Jakob leaves her, tries to kill her, and in walks the fireman (also known as John) to help keep her from burning to death.

John takes her to an abandoned summer camp where the members have found a way to survive and not burn to death. They sing. The Dragonscale feeds on positive emotions as well, so singing unites the people, they begin to glow, and the ‘scale doesn’t harm them anymore. What’s more is some people can manipulate the fungus to their benefit, causing searing damage to those not infected. The main problem in the book is keeping Harper alive long enough to give birth, but there are many obstacles in her way, namely her husband, who isn’t infected but is still poisoned in his own way.

I couldn’t put this book down. Hill does a smoking great job of keeping you on the hook with Harper’s fate. And the ending doesn’t disappoint. I didn’t see it coming, either. So far, Hill is two for two in my book and I can’t wait to read more.

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Homeland

I read Little Brother ages ago and have zero memory of it. I read it solely because it’s a modern retelling of 1984 (maybe not a retelling, but a companion book, I’m not sure what to call it exactly) But for the book challenge, I needed a cyberpunk novel and had Homeland on my Kindle, so I went ahead and tackled it, knowing it was a sequel to a book I had long forgotten. And, even though there were references made to what happened in the first book, I was able to pick up the second one fairly easily.

The basic plot is that our main character, Marcus, is a cyber expert. Terrible things happened to him and his friends in the first book and they are wary about trusting others. However, while at Burning Man, Marcus runs into old friends who entrust him with a flash drive of information to be released if they disappear. And, of course, they do, so Marcus has to decide what to do with the information. He has a new job working for a campaign he believes in and doesn’t want to jeopardize that, but knows what he has on the drive has to be released. So, rock, hard place…what to do?

For being a YA book, this was a very mature one dealing with real-life terrors in our society. Cory Doctorow writes some really interesting plots with likeable characters. I hope to revisit Marcus and his friends for a third installment.

The Power

For the 2018 book challenge, I had to have a book about feminism. Originally, I was going to read Alias Grace, but my online book club selected The Power for the book to read in April, so I made the switch. I had heard nothing but great things about The Power and was really excited to read it. However, I was really disappointed in the book overall.

Obviously, the “Me Too” movement is huge right now, as it should be. Women have to deal with awful things nearly every day, whether it be stabs to their self-esteem from unattainable supermodel looks to full-on sexual harassment or worse. So, when I started The Power and discovered it really is about women being given the power in the world through a genetic mutation that allows them to shoot electricity from their bodies, I was excited to see what all these women would accomplish. And the answer really is not much. Each of the main female character didn’t make the world better in any way. One was a drug runner, another a televangelist-like manipulative prophet, anohter a dictator, and finally a local politician with a secret. The only male character in the book was the kindest one in the entire story.

Through the discussion with my group, I realize I’m in the minority with these thoughts. I was just really hoping that the female characters would use their new power for good rather than destruction. To try to be better and make the world better rather than to be criminals and manipulative. One book club member pointed out that the power was so new that the women just didn’t handle it well (like a kid in a candy store) but with time, everything would probably settle into normalcy, which is a fair point. But I was just really disappointed that the author chose for women to be portrayed so negatively.

The Sun is Also a Star

Who doesn’t love a good Romeo and Juliet story? This one is a modern tale, taking place in NYC between a Jamaican teenage girl who is about to be deported and a Korean teen boy who is struggling with being put into a box by his parents. Natasha is literally being deported this very night, but she runs into Daniel first. They end up chatting and helping each other get out of some jams. Natasha is very skeptical of love at first sight, she’s a scientist at heart ruled by logic, but she can’t deny her connection to Daniel. He, however, is a poet at heart, totally believing he has been lovestruck and will do anything for Natasha, including helping her fight her deportation, even though she doesn’t reveal it to him until well into the book.

And, spoiler alert, this doesn’t end the same as Romeo and Juliet (no suicides, whew), but it doesn’t exactly end how you expect either. At least it was a bit of a surprise to me. Nicola Yoon has written a very sweet book with teens who aren’t the least bit annoying like many teens are portrayed in books these days. Natasha isn’t just a mushy girl who can’t think for herself. And even though Daniel is pretty starry-eyed for Natasha, he is brave and bold and can hold his own against her sometimes sharp tongue and skepticism.

This was a very quick read that left me giggling at how sweet these characters were toward each other. If the Romeo and Juliet story is one you enjoy, I recommend this book along with Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. Both very sweet, delightful books.

Big Little Lies

I was very skeptical about this book. I am usually leery of ridiculously popular books having been burned a number of times because I have higher expectations in books than a lot of people. I’m not a big fan of chick lit, silly plots, etc. There is absolutely a place for those books, but just not for me. I needed a book from a celebrity book club, and this may or may not actually be in Reece Witherspoon’s book club, but I’m going to fudge it and say that it is. And I actually listened to this book over the course of two months. the chapters are short, which makes for a perfect book to read in small chunks.

The main plot of the book is just one of friendship. There’s a murder that appears at the beginning of the book through clues, but you don’t find out what actually happens until the very end. The friendship between the female characters is completely relatable. The woman are flawed and real and just doing the best they can for their children. Having young children myself, I was really able to relate to these women and their situations. One of the major themes of the book is abuse. One of the female characters is being abused by her husband, and there’s a parallel theme of a bully in the kindergarten class.

I thought this book handled such difficult topics very well. The abused woman, Celeste, is the quintessential victim. Every thought she has was very familiar, from what I have read from actual women dealing with abuse. She is a victim, but always takes responsibility for the abuse, as if she deserved it, or earned it somehow. I think having the book written by a female makes a big difference. Liane Moriarty did an excellent job handling a sensitive topic with grace.

I would absolutely recommend this book. Having the murder revealed slowly, letting the reader try to solve it was really clever. But the best part of the book was simply the friendship of the women. They could have been any set of friends, entirely recognizable and very true to life.

The Fifth Season

I’ve been following N. K. Jemisin on Twitter for awhile and put this series on my “to-read” list because a friend recommended it to me. Back when I was selecting all the books to read for the 2018 book challenge, I needed a book written by someone of a different ethnicity, and I had originally selected the next book in the Young Elites series. I got about 20% through and just hated it. I was so disappointed with the first that I really shouldn’t have bothered, but I wanted to give it another shot. I loved the Legend series, but this one just isn’t nearly as good. So, I dropped it and gave The Fifth Season a shot.

I’m not a huge sci-fi/fantasy fan. I usually need to have some reality mixed in with my fantasy. And this book had very little of the reality aspect, so that was a bit of a turn-off for me, but for absolutely no reason other than personal preference. But Jemisin is a fantastic author. She has created a world that is honest and heartbreaking and fascinating. The book follows the storyline of three women, one is a child, the other two are adults, in a world where orogenes exist. Orogenes can move earth plates, channel energy, and prevent (or cause) earthquakes. Set several hundred years in the future, we see what Earth has turned into.

And without giving any spoilers, I saw one little plot twist coming, but I didn’t see the second. Jemisin let me think I was so clever to figure one out, but then dropped the hammer on me with the second. Jemisin has won the prestigious Hugo Award for this book, and it is absolutely deserved. The writing is tight, the characters are wholly developed, and the plot is pieced together masterfully.  Announced last Aug, this trilogy will be getting a series on TNT, as well. I will absolutely be finishing the series and will eagerly anticipate the television series!

Midnight Assassin

I’m a big fan of true crime stories. I have seen more episodes of Forensic Files than I can tell you,  I subscribe to several podcasts on the subject, and I’ve read a number of books. At some point, I bought Midnight Assassin for my Kindle and when I needed a book with a time of day in the title, I selected this one to fulfill that category.

Midnight Assassin follows the brutal murders of several people, mostly women, in Austin, Texas, in the late 1800s.  The initial targets were black women, and even though slavery was over, clearly equality wasn’t happening. The white families who “paid” these women for their housekeeping services weren’t all that troubled when several of them were murdered in their own servant quarters. The murders became so frequent that servants were begging to sleep in the kitchens of the white homes for protection rather than their own quarters.  But then two white women were murdered on the same night and things changed. People started caring and trying to solve these crimes was put on the forefront.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. The story of the crimes was put into historical context, and it was clear the author had done his homework. I would definitely recommend this book to any true crime junkie.