Science Friday: The Martian

Posted 11 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Science Friday: The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
Published by Crown/Archetype on February 11th 2014
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fiction, Hard Science Fiction, Science Fiction, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

What a fabulous book. This is one of the great benefits of living in the era of self-publishing though it will be re-released in hardcover edition by Crown Publishing on Feb. 11, 2014.

Assuming the science is correct — I think this would be fantastic required reading for upper grade high school science students. That is unlikely to happen, as the language is rated ‘M’ for mature. (Though, seriously, it’s not any worse than anything found on HBO.)

The only thing sci-fi about it is Americans using the metric system. The story is extraordinarily realistic (at least to this layman) and it made me excited about science. ALL kinds of science. Astronomy, engineering, chemistry, physics… The Martian makes all those disciplines look plausibly sexy.

The going gets a little slow around the 75% mark, but then the action picks back up again and rallies to the end. 

Excellent read. Recommended for everyone. Maybe one of the best books I’ve read all year.

Signature

April @ The Steadfast Reader

2 Comments/ : , , , ,

Divider

Terrifying Thursday: Interview With the Vampire

Posted 10 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Terrifying Thursday: Interview With the VampireInterview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Published by Random House Publishing Group on November 17th 2010
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, General, Horror, Paranormal, Psychological, Sagas, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-stars

Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly erotic, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force—a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses. It is a novel only Anne Rice could write.The Vampire Chronicles continue in Prince Lestat. Look for a special preview in the back of the book.Praise for Interview with the Vampire   “A magnificent, compulsively readable thriller . . . Rice begins where Bram Stoker and the Hollywood versions leave off and penetrates directly to the true fascination of the myth–the education of the vampire.”—Chicago Tribune   “Unrelentingly erotic . . . sometimes beautiful, and always unforgettable.”—Washington Post   “If you surrender and go with her . . . you have surrendered to enchantment, as in a voluptuous dream.”—Boston Globe   “A chilling, thought-provoking tale, beautifully frightening, sensuous, and utterly unnerving.”—Hartford CourantFrom the Paperback edition.


I first read Interview With the Vampire maybe 12 to 15 years ago… I thought it was just okay. 

The second reading either opened up new revelations for me or perhaps being older I was better equipped to fully understand it. Whatever the reason, I now consider this book to be one of our modern classics. I’m almost tempted to say timeless. 

I’ve always loved the way that Rice’s vampires struggle with their own humanity attempting to reconcile their need for blood with the ideas of good and evil. Her vampires have depth and feeling that other vampire stories lack. Dracula will always be an amazing book, but I prefer my vampires with brains. 

Something else I want to touch on in this review is the rise of the YA paranormal romance vampires. They generally annoy me, Twilight in particular. But I think I might craft a whole post on that
Signature

April @ The Steadfast Reader

0 Comments/ : , , , ,

Divider

World War II Wednesday: Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account

Posted 9 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

World War II Wednesday: Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness AccountAuschwitz by Miklós Nyiszli
Published by Arcade Publishing on 1960
Genres: General, History
Pages: 222
Goodreads
five-stars

When the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944, they sent virtually the entire Jewish population to Auschwitz. A Jew and a medical doctor, the prisoner Dr. Miklos Nyiszli was spared death for a grimmer fate: to perform "scientific research" on his fellow inmates under the supervision of the man who became known as the infamous "Angel of Death" - Dr. Josef Mengele. Nyiszli was named Mengele's personal research pathologist. In that capactity he also served as physician to the Sonderkommando, the Jewish prisoners who worked exclusively in the crematoriums and were routinely executed after four months. Miraculously, Nyiszli survived to give this horrifying and sobering account.

This is a fabulous book. I’ve read a lot on the Holocaust and the Nazi death camps. This is the only first hand account on Mengele and the way the crematoriums functioned that I’ve ever seen. The writing is simplistic but clear — and horrifying.


I didn’t particularly appreciate the forward in this volume as I found it to be a bit … sanctimonious. Demanding to know why the only Sonderkommando that ever attempted to rebel was the 12th? Seriously? You’re going there?

This is a must read for everyone with any interest at all of WWII and should be a must read for everyone.

Signature

April @ The Steadfast Reader

1 Comment/ : , , , , ,

Divider

Advanced Review: Lazarus, Book One: Family

Posted 8 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Advanced Review: Lazarus, Book One: FamilyLazarus by Greg Rucka
Published by Image Comics on 2013
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Dystopian, Fiction, General, Science Fiction
Pages: 96
Goodreads
two-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Collecting the first four issues of the Eisner-winning team of Rucka and Lark's critically acclaimed new series about Forever Carlyle, the Lazarus of the Carlyle Family. Included is the previously only-available-online, four-page short, "Family: Prelude." In a dystopian near-future, government is a quaint concept, resources are coveted, and possession is 100% of the law. A handful of Families rule, jealously guarding what they have and exploiting the Waste who struggle to survive in their domains. Forever Carlyle defends her family's holdings through deception and force as their protector, their Lazarus. Shot dead defending the family home, Forever's day goes downhill from there...

Maybe I’m just not the graphic novel type. 

Lazarus is conceived in a genre that I generally love — the dystopia, but I just didn’t feel any power behind it. This is often my complaint when it comes to graphic novels, that they lack the depth of a ‘real’ novel. 

That being said, the dystopia created in Lazarus is a truly frightening one because it is actually true in so many parts of the world today. A few wealthy individuals and their families fight for resources while the rest of the human population is merely considered ‘waste’. Great concept, I’d like to see it more fleshed out.

The artwork was underwhelming as well.

Signature

April @ The Steadfast Reader

2 Comments/ : , , ,

Divider

Monday Madness: Thumbprint

Posted 7 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Monday Madness: ThumbprintJoe Hill's Thumbprint by Joe Hill
Published by IDW Publishing Pages: 126
Goodreads
three-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Private Mallory Grennan had done terrible things as an Abu Ghraib prison worker. After being discharged from the army, Mal thought she was leaving her sins behind to start a new life back home. But some things can't be left behind -- some things don't want to be left behind. By Joe Hill and Jason Ciaramella, the writing team that brought you the Eisner-award nominated one-shot, The Cape, with art by Vic Malhotra. Thumbprint will turn your guts inside out.

I’m going to take this entry and review both the short story ‘Thumbprint’ by Joe Hill, which has already been published, and also provide an advanced review for the graphic novel adaptation of the same name. 

Short Story: Kindle Single

 
Delicious! Joe Hill is an amazing short story writer and a good novelist. If he keeps up this show of talent he may rival his father one day! …meaning I should be buying signed copies of his books, now.
 
This is ultimately a suspense story, but there are deeper themes at work here.
 
This is a story that resonates with me as an ex-military member. It touches on the disturbances that war can cause in our psyche and the terrible things that people are able to do in the name of patriotism or freedom. PTSD is real and terrible. 
 
 

Graphic Novel

 
I read the short story first and I LOVED it. The graphic novel is not nearly as powerful – for some reason the two share the same ISBN on Goodreads. The illustrations are underdone and it lacks the power and the pain of a soldier who has done terrible things and is suffering for them. Just like with movie adaptations I find that it’s more difficult to convey the thoughts, feelings, and insights into characters the way that a novel or a short story can. 
Signature

April @ The Steadfast Reader

0 Comments/ : , , , ,

Divider

Sequel Sunday: Doctor Sleep

Posted 6 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Sequel Sunday: Doctor SleepDoctor Sleep by Stephen King
Published by Simon and Schuster on June 10th 2014
Genres: Fiction, General, Horror, Supernatural, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 560
Goodreads
four-stars

Stephen King returns to the character and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals. On highways across America, a tribe of people called the True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, the True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the steam that children with the shining produce when they are slowly tortured to death. Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel, where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant shining power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.” Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to this icon in the King canon.

Another fabulous book by Stephen King. This is a perfectly executed sequel to The Shining.

I love that little Danny Torrance has grown up and manages to get some hard sobriety time in AA. In the afterword King speculates what might have happened to Jack Torrance if he had found AA instead of trying the ‘white-knuckled method’ of sobriety. Danny’s ‘bottom’ is powerfully written and is a story that many struggling with addiction can relate to.

I would have loved to get more time in with old Dick Halloran, but I guess this wasn’t really his story anyway.

Rose the Hat and The True Knot were formidable foes for Danny and Abra, also just scary people.

I found The Shining scarier for different reasons. King really addressed serious family issues and the horror that addiction can wreak upon people. Doctor Sleep is excellent and definitely worth the read but it lacks some of the depth and power that The Shining has because Danny, while always struggling (as addicts are forever doomed to do ) to stay sober, does stay sober, and while his ‘bottom’ is terrifying and terrible, it’s nothing compared to what Jack Torrance’s bottom was. (That is, of course, almost murdering his family while employed as a winter caretaker at a certain Overlook Hotel.)

Anyway, read it. It does not disappoint.

Signature

April @ The Steadfast Reader

0 Comments/ : , , ,

Divider

Stephen King Saturday: The Shining

Posted 5 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Stephen King Saturday: The ShiningThe Shining by Stephen King
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group Genres: Fiction, Horror
Pages: 464
Goodreads
five-stars

With an excerpt from the sequel, Doctor Sleep.Terrible events occur at an isolated hotel in the off season, when a small boy with psychic powers struggles to hold his own against the forces of evil that are driving his father insane.


I re-read this book in anticipation of Dr. Sleep and holy poop on a stick is this book scary.

I had read it years ago and during the intervening years watched the Kubrick film countless times. Since I had forgotten much of the book, I couldn’t understand why Stephen King was rumored to be so displeased with the Kubrick film. 

Well after completing the re-read, I completely understand! The film, while brilliant, is nothing like the book.

The Shining explores addiction, child abuse, wounds we harbor from our own parents aaannnd ghosts! (But aren’t all those old mistakes and scars from childhood ghosts? So deep and important.

Fantastic. Don’t short yourself by only watching the film and if you haven’t watched the film… READ THIS FIRST!! 

Signature

#295 – 1001 Books to Read Before You Die (2010)

April @ The Steadfast Reader

0 Comments/ : , , , ,

Divider

Frightening Friday: Heart-Shaped Box

Posted 4 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Frightening Friday: Heart-Shaped BoxHeart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Published by Harper Collins on May 1st 2007
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 528
Goodreads
four-stars

Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals . . . a used hangman's noose . . . a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest purchase, an item he discovered on the Internet: I will sell my stepfather's ghost to the highest bidder . . . For a thousand dollars, Jude has become the owner of a dead man's suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no metaphorical ghost, no benign conversation piece. Suddenly the suit's previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door . . . seated in Jude's restored Mustang . . . staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting—with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one hand . . .

I figured since I plan to have finished and reviewed Doctor Sleep by Sunday (fingers crossed – some family things have come up), we might as well just have another Joe Hill. (I hear he’s divorced, my husband already knows I’m leaving him if I can find a way to get into the King family :>) ANYWAY. 

This is one of the best books that I have read in a long time. It takes you places you didn’t think you were going and turns somewhere else just when you’ve figured out where you are. For those with a penchant for suspense/horror/supernatural novels, this is a must read. 

Many people preferred Horns, but I like Heart-Shaped Box better because in its deepest essence it is an old-fashioned ghost story. It’s written to make you feel that old thrill of ghost-stories around the campfire that’s so hard to capture in adulthood.

Hill’s writing style, while dealing with horror elements, is all his own. Definitely a force in his own right. Lovelovelove.

Signature

April @ The Steadfast Reader

0 Comments/ : , , ,

Divider

Thursday Thriller: Horns

Posted 3 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Thursday Thriller: HornsHorns by Joe Hill
Published by Harper Collins on February 16th 2010
Genres: Fiction, General, Horror, Thrillers
Pages: 624
Goodreads
four-stars

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He awoke the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and two horns growing from his temples.

Horns is an absolutely fantastic novel. It presents an idea of what becoming a devil might be like. Not necessarily an ‘easy’ read, but enjoyable and propelling nonetheless. What I find fascinating about Hill’s novels (the two [including this one] that I’ve read) depict a protagonist that comes from money. At first I thought that Ig was trailer trash. He was not in the least, though Lee still came off as that. Anyway. Great. Excellent. 

Hill is a writing force of his own. Extremely distinct from his father.

Definitely should be a to-read.

Signature

April @ The Steadfast Reader

0 Comments/ : , , ,

Divider

World War II Wednesday: Hiroshima

Posted 2 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

World War II Wednesday: HiroshimaHiroshima by John Hersey
Published by Wildside Press LLC on 2010-12
Pages: 126
Goodreads
five-stars

On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima was destroyed by the first atom bomb ever dropped on a city. This book, John Hersey's journalistic masterpiece, tells what happened on that day. Told through the memories of survivors, this timeless, powerful and compassionate document has become a classic "that stirs the conscience of humanity" (The New York Times).

Almost four decades after the original publication of this celebrated book, John Hersey went back to Hiroshima in search of the people whose stories he had told.  His account of what he discovered about them is now the eloquent and moving final chapter of Hiroshima.

…and now for something (mostly) different. My inquires into WWII generally tend to focus on the war in Europe, but this is the account of what happened in the aftermath of The Bomb being dropped on Hiroshima. In a word:


Heart wrenching.

I believe that this account is something that everyone should read at least once, much like Eli Wiesel’s Night. It gives humanity the destruction caused by the bomb being dropped on Hiroshima.

Even today the debate rages on about whether or not dropping atomic weapons on Japan helped to save lives by ending the war sooner than it otherwise would have ended. Regardless of whether that’s true or not, the sheer power of nuclear weapons is examined and the human toll of those who survived are all examined in Hiroshima.

Signature

April @ The Steadfast Reader

0 Comments/ : , , ,

Divider