Tag: science fiction


For the Birds Mini-Reviews: Tournament of Books 2017

Posted 13 February, 2017 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reading, Reviews

for the birds

The time has come, (the Walrus said), to talk of many things!

Or, y’know, for me to finally get around to writing a few reviews for the fast upcoming Tournament of Books. (The Rooster waketh!) Let’s get started. This is the bird inspired group of mini-reviews.

Grief is the Thing With Feathers by: Max Porter

Brief Synopsis: The sudden death of a wife and mother gives rise to a ‘sentimental bird’, The Crow, joining the family for a period of time.

Brief Review: Look. No synopsis anyone can ever write about this book is going to do it justice. This book is part poetry, part allegory, and all beautiful. This slim book took me completely by surprise. What Porter manages to do with language from the point of view of the husband, the boys, and the crow is nothing short of breathtaking. This is a quick – though not necessarily easy – read. I highly recommend it to everyone.

Brief Rating: Five stars. For sure.

All the Birds in the Sky by: Charlie Jane Anders

Brief Synopsis: Two childhood friends. One drawn to magic, the other to science. When the world goes to hell in a handbasket, will these two work together to save the world, or are magic and science mutually exclusive?

Brief Review: This book is another weird one. It defies all genres. At some points it reminded me of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy, at other times it was a science fiction, dystopian nightmare. Still, at other times it was a love story. Despite this book pulling me in about a thousand different ways, I still found it ultimately enjoyable. I’d like to recommend it to people who love Harry Potter, science fiction, and dystopian end-of-the-world novels. However, for some of these people it just might pull in too many different directions.

Brief Rating: Three and a half stars. Maybe four.

That’s all I have right now, Reader! What is with Tournament of Books and bird novels? One of my favorites from years past is All the Birds, SingingAnyway, tell me all your thoughts on these two. How do you think they will fare in the Tournament?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Release Day Review: Dark Matter

Posted 2 August, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Release Day Review: Dark MatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch
Published by Crown on August 2nd 2016
Pages: 352
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.

“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”
In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable--something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

So my mother has been pimping Blake Crouch to me for quite awhile now. “Scarier than Stephen King!” she says to the Stephen King fangirl. So when Dark Matter was on offer at BEA I thought it would be an excellent time to check him out.

Dark Matter isn’t a bad book, in fact it’s probably an ideal book if you’re looking for something light and easy to read on a plane. I suppose my biggest problem with Dark Matter is that it’s so darn predictable. Even with beach reads, I expect a few things from an author: That the writing be solid and that the author stays true to the genre s/he’s writing in. What I’m trying to say is that if you’re trying to write a suspense novel – there should be suspense. I shouldn’t be able to pick up a suspense novel and see the entire trajectory of the book twenty-five pages in.

Pretty much after Jason wakes up from his abduction, everything becomes readily apparent. I did love the sweet little touches of science fiction that Crouch infuses into this very standard suspense novel. There were times it felt a little like Stephen King’s 11/22/63, which is good.

Dark Matter, is a book that is going to fall into my category of, “You could do worse on a plane.” Blake Crouch, at least for now, is relegated to the minor leagues of horror and suspense writing, with the likes of Dean Koontz. Sorry, Mom!

Whatcha think, Reader? Do I have any Blake Crouch fans out there? Anyone want to recommend a different title by him?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Wednesday Wow: The Fireman

Posted 29 June, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Wednesday Wow: The FiremanThe Fireman by Joe Hill
Published by HarperCollins on May 17th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Horror, Thrillers, General, Psychological
Pages: 768
Format: Kindle Paperwhite
Goodreads
four-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.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.
Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.
Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.
In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

Shortly after starting Joe Hill’s The Fireman, I loved it. Shortly after finishing The Fireman, I loved it. There were times in the middle where I didn’t love it as much. I think that the strengths and the weaknesses of this novel relate to how heavily Hill leans on certain elements of other novels.

Let me elaborate. The start of this novel feels an awful lot like Stephen King’s The Stand, down to the fact that Harper, the female lead’s middle name is Frances (as in Frances Goldsmith, a significant female character in The Stand). More importantly Harper shares personality and inner life characteristics with Frannie Goldsmith. They both have a certain naivety and (unrealistic in the circumstances) belief in the better part of people. They’re also both survivors. Also, much like The Stand there is a separation of the populace into camps of good versus evil. At first I found this obvious homage to Father King (Father Storey?) to be charming but as the pages wore on I found the homage to be more predictable and wished for Hill to strike out on his own.

To be fair, Hill readily admitted this in a recent NPR interview, and he really cracked me up:

My book does carry a lot of echoes of The Stand, which is a novel that I adored, and you know, I sometimes joked that the book is The Stand if it was soaked in gasoline and set on fire.

I eventually did shake the idea that this was just The Stand set on fire. The latter part of the novel turns into something a little different and although it does end a little predictably it’s still a hell of a good ride. The fact that this is the first novel that really calls on Hill’s chops to world-build (let’s face it, NOS4A2 didn’t require full world-building) is actually really impressive.

Overall, this is a great read for those who love the apocalypse-by-disease genre and it’s also a fairly good twist on the genre with the creation of the Dragonscale fungus. Naturally, this book comes highly recommended to all Stephen King and Joe Hill fans as well.

What do you think, Reader? Any end of the world junkies out there?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Science Friday: Seveneves

Posted 5 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Science Friday: SevenevesSeveneves by Neal Stephenson
Published by Harper Collins on May 19th 2015
Genres: Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic, Fiction, General, Genetic Engineering, Science Fiction
Pages: 880
Goodreads
five-stars

What would happen if the world were ending? A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remains . . .  Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . . to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

First, let’s get the title pronunciation for Seveneves out of the way, it’s Seven Eves. Yeah, if I hadn’t ‘read’ the audiobook I never would have gotten that. Prior to starting it, I keep reading it as ‘Sevenses’ (Like multiple sevens…). I know Book Worm Problems.

Anyway, despite the rather awkward title, Seveneves is a phenomenal masterwork of hard science fiction. It reminded me of The Martian because it takes highly technical science details and makes them exciting. It brings science closer to the reader, which is especially astounding when that reader is me, a liberal arts focused attorney. I like science, but in my every day life I don’t science (or math, for that matter). So when a book can bring astronomy, engineering, biology, etc and help me to understand them better in some way – without the dryness of a textbook – well, I’m thrilled. It’s unlike The Martian in that there are many more characters and much more going on.

The story itself is excellent as well, it starts with the moon being broken into seven pieces by some unknown ‘agent’… then a popular scientist, reminiscent of Neil deGrasse Tyson,  realizes that all hell is about to break loose on Earth in about two years – at which point the world gets to planning. It’s full of action, suspense, and spacewalking with added bonuses of politics and sociology to boot.

I thought this was a fantastic read. It’s a chunkster for sure, but I think every page is worth it.

As to the audio, it was well done and not distracting from the story – which is exactly what I look for in my audiobooks. I’m not sure the switch between a female and male narrator for part two of the book was necessary, but in the end it worked.

What about you, Reader? Have any real science people taken a gander at Seveneves? How does it sound?

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Mmmmkay Monday: The Only Ones

Posted 1 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Mmmmkay Monday: The Only OnesThe Only Ones by Carola Dibbell
Published by Two Dollar Radio on March 10th 2015
Genres: Dystopian, Fiction, Literary, Science Fiction
Pages: 344
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Inez wanders a post-pandemic world, strangely immune to disease, making her living by volunteering as a test subject. She is hired to provide genetic material to a grief-stricken, affluent mother, who lost all four of her daughters within four short weeks. This experimental genetic work is policed by a hazy network of governmental ethics committees, and threatened by the Knights of Life, religious zealots who raze the rural farms where much of this experimentation is done.When the mother backs out at the last minute, Inez is left responsible for the product, which in this case is a baby girl, Ani. Inez must protect Ani, who is a scientific breakthrough, keeping her alive, dodging authorities and religious fanatics, and trying to provide Ani with the childhood that Inez never had, which means a stable home and an education.

The Only Ones for Carrolla Dibbells’ first novel is actually quite good. I want you to think of a cross of The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night meets clones and dystopia.

Inez’s first person prose reminds me very much of what I have come to expect from authors attempting to recreate voices from the autism spectrum. The way that The Only Ones is unique is that it takes that sub-genre of mental health literature and catapults it into a near future scenario where  pandemic flus and diseases are common and ‘dome’ communities are typical.

Quite frankly, I found The Only Ones is an interesting commentary on parenting, the way Inez refers to herself as ‘I.’ feels highly symbolic (maybe as parents we’re all struggling to do the best we can and should stop judging the way each one of us does it?)

On motherhood and other mothers:

So that’s it. They just wanted to watch what I do and tell me what is wrong with it.

C’mon, who among us with kids hasn’t felt that way in the presence of ‘superior’ moms?

The Only Ones is very different from your standard dystopian/epidemic/apocalypse novel. It’s about a society that is functioning, if barely and the grit, determination, and sacrifices that it takes for one poverty stricken woman to subsist in it, with a child no less.

Science minded readers might also be interested… or infuriated. I don’t know enough about genetics or cloning to know how viable (ha! get it?) the science behind it is.

Surprisingly, I found that I really enjoyed this book, Readers. There were points where it lulled just a bit but for the most part it is extremely readable. Has anyone else read it? Anyone else interested?

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Whatever Wednesday: The New World (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 27 January, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Whatever Wednesday: The New World (A Tournament of Books Selection)The New World by Chris Adrian, Eli Horowitz
Published by Atavist Books on August 12th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Psychological, Technological, Thrillers
Pages: 158
Goodreads
two-half-stars

What is the purpose of life? If you could send a message to the future what would it be? Why do you deserve, not desire, to live forever?

Acclaimed author Chris Adrian (The Children’s Hospital, The Great Night) joins the award-winning creators of The Silent History – Eli Horowitz and Russell Quinn to create an innovative digital novel about memory, grief and love. The New World is the story of a marriage. Dr. Jane Cotton is a pediatric surgeon: her husband, Jim, is a humanist chaplain. They are about to celebrate their eighth wedding anniversary when Jim suddenly collapses and dies. When Jane arrives at the hospital she is horrified to find that her husband’s head has been removed from his body. Only then does she discover that he has secretly enrolled with a shadowy cryogenics company called Polaris.Furious and grieving, Jane fights to reclaim Jim from Polaris. Revived, in the future, Jim learns he must sacrifice every memory of Jane if he wants to stay alive in the new world. Separated by centuries, each of them is challenged to choose between love and fear, intimacy and solitude, life and grief, and each will find an answer to the challenge that is surprising, harrowing, and ultimately beautiful.

I wanted The New World to be so much better than it was. For the first half I was absolutely entranced by the idea. It was complex and beautifully written. I liked the alternating viewpoints between Jim in the future and Jane grieving in the past. The world building was done well and the idea of cryogenics as something real and sustainable – eventually to the point where people are able to be ‘resurrected’ was even believable to a point.

The anger that Jane felt towards the Polaris Corporation was palpable and extraordinarily well done. I loved the attempt she made at suing the company and the subsequent consequences. I enjoyed Jim as a ‘humanist chaplain’, this naturally appealed to my atheist side – seeing how Jim handled people grieving with faith as an atheist and how he handled grieving in the future in the same way.

About …. ‘eh … 60 to 70 percent of the way through the novel it seems like something gets lost. All the interesting and compelling plot points kind of fall to the floor and the authors of The New World just seem to lose interest. It meanders for awhile before ultimately taking a nosedive and leaving me wondering what the hell just happened to what was such a gorgeous little novel to begin with.

I felt the way that many Goodreads reviewers seemed to feel that this novel(la) would have been better off as a short story because it was only towards the end that things got bad. Sometimes a quick and mysterious ending is better for me.

Anyone out there read this one? It’s a contender for Tournament of Books 2016, how do you think it’s going to do?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Must Read Monday: The Beautiful Bureaucrat

Posted 10 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Must Read Monday: The Beautiful BureaucratThe Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips
Published by Henry Holt and Company on August 11th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary, Thrillers
Pages: 192
Goodreads
four-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.

In a windowless building in a remote part of town, the newly employed Josephine inputs an endless string of numbers into something known only as The Database. After a long period of joblessness, she's not inclined to question her fortune, but as the days inch by and the files stack up, Josephine feels increasingly anxious in her surroundings-the office's scarred pinkish walls take on a living quality, the drone of keyboards echoes eerily down the long halls. When one evening her husband Joseph disappears and then returns, offering no explanation as to his whereabouts, her creeping unease shifts decidedly to dread.As other strange events build to a crescendo, the haunting truth about Josephine's work begins to take shape in her mind, even as something powerful is gathering its own form within her. She realizes that in order to save those she holds most dear, she must penetrate an institution whose tentacles seem to extend to every corner of the city and beyond.

I just finished this little tome and holy poop on a stick guys – it knocked my socks off. I feel like The Beautiful Bureaucrat has something for everyone. It’s full of intrigue, a dash of magical realism,  and a whole lot of excellent writing.

It felt a little bit like a grown-up Wrinkle in Time, though why exactly it felt that way — I can’t exactly put my finger on it. But I loved the slightly science fiction feel that didn’t necessarily go overboard and take The Beautiful Bureaucrat into the realm of genre fiction. Admittedly, the characters are a bit flat, but because of the slimness and the surreal feeling of the novel, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I love the wordplay within the novel, which screams of symbolism – perhaps Josephine’s descent into madness working her job. I love how she eventually started referring to her husband by his social security number. I love the Every Place feeling of The City vs. The Hinterlands.

Some reviewers found The Beautiful Bureaucrat to be somewhat Orwellian, I didn’t necessarily have that feeling — though there was definitely the sense that Josephine was being watched.

Anyway, I don’t want to oversell The Beautiful Bureaucrat, but I think that the length of the novel makes it accessible to everyone and to me it was completely delightful.

What do you think, Reader? Does this sound like something that might be up your alley? 

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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1001 Mini Reviews

Posted 24 July, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

So, as you can see from my tabs above I’m attempting the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010) challenge. I’m not reviewing every book, but when I get low on other things to talk about they make for some good backlist discussion. I have three recent reads turned mini reviews for you.

1001 mini

Zorba the Greek by: Nikos Kazantzakis – #573

Short Synopsis: Two men travel to Crete together. The narrator opens a lignite mine and Zorba talks a lot.

Itty Bitty Review: This book was definitely not my cuppa. I know it was originally published in 1946 but I found Zorba’s attitudes towards and about women to be nearly offensive. The meandering conversations between the narrator and Zorba feel absolutely dated and dull. Maybe something was lost in translation, but this book didn’t work at all for me. 2/5 stars.

Neuromancer by: William Gibson – #233

Short Synopsis: Gritty sci-fi, dystopian future where data thieves and hackers are major players in the criminal underworld and one hacker has to take on an AI for a mysterious employer.

Itty Bitty Review: This book was almost too gritty for me. I have to disagree with comparisons to 1984 and Brave New World, those are way better than Neuromancer. By no means is this book bad, I read it in a matter of days, but it was kind of ‘meh’ for me. I think that people who really enjoy this genre will really enjoy this book. 3/5 stars.

Underworld by: Don DeLillo – #71

Short Synopsis: … I can’t even. Here’s Goodreads:

While Eisenstein documented the forces of totalitarianism and Stalinism upon the faces of the Russian peoples, DeLillo offers a stunning, at times overwhelming, document of the twin forces of the Cold War and American culture, compelling that “swerve from evenness” in which he finds events and people both wondrous and horrifying.

Itty Bitty Review: I know… what? Which is pretty much my reaction to the whole book. Anyone who cares to explain this book to me I would greatly appreciate it. For real. I missed something deep AND important with this book and I love DeLillo’s White Noise. I can’t even rate it because I don’t know what the hell it’s about.

Read any big classic or modern classic novels lately, Reader?Does anyone understand Underworld?

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Annihilation: A Tournament of Books Selection

Posted 13 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Annihilation: A Tournament of Books SelectionAnnihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
Published by Macmillan on February 4th 2014
Genres: Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, General, Literary, Science Fiction
Pages: 195
Goodreads
three-stars

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.     The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one anotioner, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.     They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.

This is a great horror novel for people who don’t like horror novels. By that I mean that this novel is delightfully atmospheric without a lot of blood or killer clowns jumping out at you. Some readers may find the story to be a bit slow – but I thought that Vandermeer did a great job in creating a slow burn, but be warned Reader – this is the first of a trilogy (Southern Reach trilogy) and honestly that’s the downside. 

As a Tournament of Books selection – this doesn’t stand alone very well (the good news is that all three books in the trilogy were published in quick succession and therefore are all available). There is a slow building to a climax and then … more mystery. Which is fine – just go get the other two books (or have them on hand before you start). I liked the fact that the expedition was made up completely of women, which enabled Vandermeer to avoid the common sci-fi/horror trope of women being there solely for the men to rescue. 

The characters are interesting and compelling. What’s the biologist’s deal? What the hell is the psychologist’s problem?

Overall, this is an incredibly readable book, but it can’t be read as a standalone – there are just too many questions left open. Area X is described in detail so that the reader can almost feel it closing in around her. 

Added bonus, each book in the trilogy is also short enough (no more than 350 pages) that they can be read in just a few sittings so ideally a reader can get through the whole thing in about a week or so.

As far as The Tournament of Books goes – I don’t see this one lasting long because it simply can’t stand on its own.

Also, here’s a great tell all from Vandermeer in the Atlantic on his writing of The Southern Reach Trilogy. (Spoilers)

Finally, Michael at Literary Exploration has an excellent review on Annihilation here.

What about you, Reader? How do you feel about atmospheric novels? Read any good ones lately? 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Must Read Monday: Four Books for Four Different Palates

Posted 1 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Bellweather Rhapsody by: Kate Racculia
Genre: Suspense/Coming of age

Why I picked it up? Rory’s at Fourth Street Review review.

Quick synopsis: (Goodreads!) A high school music festival goes awry when a young prodigy disappears from a hotel room that was the site of a famous murder/suicide fifteen years earlier, in a whip-smart novel sparkling with the dark and giddy pop culture pleasures of The Shining, Agatha Christie, and Glee.

Thoughts: I found this book to be utterly delightful. Partially because I was one of those All-State band kids all four years of high-school, partially because I love haunted house stories. But do not fret my scaredy cat friends! While this book is suspenseful (and I know referencing The Shining is scaring you away) there’s lots of humor, mystery, and a beautiful coming of age novel that takes Bellweather Rhapsody out of the ‘horror’ genre and makes it something else entirely. Definitely worth the read for everyone, but people who grew up in and around the music all-state scene will find it especially nostalgic. 

Dear Committee Members by: Julie Schumacher
Genre: Epistolary fiction

Why I picked it up?  Recommended by a <gasp!> non-blogging friend.

Quick Synopsis: A curmudgeonly, yet lovable English professor at a second rate school tries to save his department as demonstrated through a series of letters of recommendations.

Thoughts: This book is funny, witty, and sharp and while Professor Jason Fitger can come off as bit of a passive aggressive ass, I found him to be lovable. There are moments of laugh out loud absurdity in this novel such as when Fitger battles technology to give letters of recommendation in e-format that won’t allow him to use his usual style of meandering on and off the topic of the person he is actually recommending. I also particularly enjoyed the letters on non-recommendation that he sent out. This is an epistolary novel that flew far too far underneath the radar this year and probably should have its own review. Again, everyone can enjoy this novel, but those working in college academia or in a position where they are called upon to provide endless references or letters of recommendation absolutely must read it.  

The Hundred Year House by: Rebecca Makkai
Genre: Literary fiction

Why I picked it up?  I heard Makkai speak on a panel at The Decatur Book festival (so I had to get a signed copy) and it came highly recommended by Shannon at River City Reading (among others).

Quick Synopsis: A generational saga, told in reverse that covers the lives of the Devorhs. Zee of the current generation (set in the nineties) living in the carriage house of a huge estate owned by her mother, Gracie, to the house being an in residence artist’s colony and  finally the story of her great-grandmother, Viola, who was rumored to have met some sort of untimely end.

Thoughts: An absolutely brilliant book. The format at the style make it something that is completely unique and worth reading. Makkai uses this backwards format skillfully and in the hands of a lesser author the book would have been a train wreck. Instead the device pushes the momentum forward (or backwards, if you prefer) leaving the reader desiring to uncover just one more secret before she puts it down. While the characters in the novel never get the whole story, you, lucky reader do – and it’s phenomenal. Read it.

Lock In by: John Scalzi
Genre: Near-future speculative fiction

Why I picked it up: Again, I heard Scalzi speak on a panel at The Decatur Book Festival and Michelle at Reader’s Respite told me I’d be totally missing out if I didn’t see him speak. She was right.

Quick Synopsis: A virus has swept the globe, leaving 1% of the population ‘locked in’ to their own bodies, awake and aware but unable to move, speak, or respond to stimulus. But then two new technologies emerge, a virtual-reality environment in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not, and the invention of ‘threeps’ robots that can be controlled by those ‘locked in’ to interact and participate in the outside world. Plus. A murder.

Thoughts: This book sounded like a fluffy speculative fiction murder mystery when I picked it up, which admittedly is right up my alley. But Scalzi does more with this book than just that. He explores what it means to be human, the deeper prejudices that we harbor and why. I totally enjoyed every part of this book, the world building was well fleshed out and believable enough. The characters were interesting and complex enough to keep up with the higher ideals that Scalzi seemed to be aiming for. Plus. Murder mystery is always fun. It should also be said that this is my first Scalzi novel, which I have heard is quite different from the rest of his body of work. I intend to read Redshirts next. People who enjoy speculative fiction are going to enjoy this most, but I think there’s something for everyone here.

All of these books were purchased by me for the express purpose of free-range reading.

Annabel asked me last time I used the ‘Must Read Monday’ title if this was new meme. It’s not really, but what the hell. If you have a book that you need to share your feelings about with the world, go ahead and link it up! We’ll see how it goes (and probably watch our TBRs grow exponentially).

Anything here look tempting, Reader? Have you read any of these? Do you have any must – reads for me? Link them up! 


April @ The Steadfast Reader

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