BOOK REVIEW: Memory Man by David Baldacci

23153154Title: Memory Man

Author: David Baldacci

Book Length (Audiobook): 13 hours 17 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime

Read Start Date: August 30, 2019

Read Finish Date: September 7, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Amos Decker’s life changed forever–twice.

The first time was on the gridiron. A big, towering athlete, he was the only person from his hometown of Burlington ever to go pro. But his career ended before it had a chance to begin. On his very first play, a violent helmet-to-helmet collision knocked him off the field for good, and left him with an improbable side effect–he can never forget anything.

The second time was at home nearly two decades later. Now a police detective, Decker returned from a stakeout one evening and entered a nightmare–his wife, young daughter, and brother-in-law had been murdered.

His family destroyed, their killer’s identity as mysterious as the motive behind the crime, and unable to forget a single detail from that horrible night, Decker finds his world collapsing around him. He leaves the police force, loses his home, and winds up on the street, taking piecemeal jobs as a private investigator when he can.

But over a year later, a man turns himself in to the police and confesses to the murders. At the same time a horrific event nearly brings Burlington to its knees, and Decker is called back in to help with this investigation. Decker also seizes his chance to learn what really happened to his family that night. To uncover the stunning truth, he must use his remarkable gifts and confront the burdens that go along with them. He must endure the memories he would much rather forget. And he may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.

My Review: I am giving this book 3 stars out of 5 because I liked it, but didn’t love it. I haven’t read really anything by Baldacci before, but as an author he reminds me somewhat of James Patterson, except that Baldacci’s books are about twice as long.

Amos Decker as a main character is interesting — he is overweight (about 350 lbs) and has Synesthesia and Hyperthymesia, which basically gives him perfect memory and picture perfect recall. Amos uses his perfect recall to help him solve the cases — because I guess it makes him so much smarter than everyone else in life ever (that is purely sarcastic by the way). Baldacci tries to portray Amos Decker as a modern day Sherlock Holmes, but fails because Sherlock Holmes is much more likeable. Basically, the only thing that Decker seems to have going for him is his picture perfect memory — otherwise it seems like he would be a terrible detective.

The female protagonist, Alex Jamison, is a journalist who at first did not like Decker, but by the end of the book becomes his unlikely partner.

The plot kept me interested enough to keep reading, but I wouldn’t say it was enthralling or anything. The ending (and the motive for the crime) was a bit of a head scratcher — seemed really far fetched and a bit unrealistic.

The audiobook production was not so great, and this book is probably better as an actual book the audiobook. I found it really distracting that they had a female reader who only read the dialogue of the female characters (and children) in the story and a male reader for everything else (including narrative about the female characters).

This book would be good to read on the beach or in an airplane.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Death Cure by James Dashner

7864437.jpgTitle: The Death Cure

Author: James Dashner

Book Length (Audiobook): 8 hours 55 mins

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Read Start Date: August 25, 2019

Read Finish Date: August 30, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: It’s the end of the line. WICKED has taken everything from Thomas: his life, his memories, and now his only friends—the Gladers. But it’s finally over. The trials are complete, after one final test. Will anyone survive What WICKED doesn’t know is that Thomas remembers far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what they say. The truth will be terrifying. Thomas beat the Maze. He survived the Scorch. He’ll risk anything to save his friends. But the truth might be what ends it all. The time for lies is over.

Past Reviews:

You can find my review of the first book, The Maze Runner, here.

You can find my review of the second book, The Scorch Trials, here.

The Death Cure is the third and final book of the series.

My Review: This book was terrible. I mean, really. For so many reasons. The synopsis of this book makes it sound like some thrilling adventure — in reality it was so boring. For example, the main characters seriously spent pages looking for a hotel, finding a hotel, and then going to sleep in a hotel. Snore. And, how is there such a thing as a hotel in the first place? The whole Earth has been more or less wiped out by a virus, but don’t worry guys, the Hilton is still operating!

The characters also went into a Cafe. Again, seriously? Where do they get coffee from? It sure doesn’t grow in Denver (where the Cafe was). This did not make any sense. Also, the characters spend time looking for a taxi — need I say more?

Lastly, this book was utterly pointless. So Thomas survived the trials, good for him. And for what, oh yeah, I forget the variables and the patterns to build a “blueprint” for a cure. Ugh. Not how vaccines are developed. Besides this, nothing happens in this book. Basically, the characters just going around in Denver and the author describes how the virus is affecting people. Okay, that’s interesting I guess, but not for the FINAL book of a TRILOGY! This book is supposed to wrap things up, not introduce new concepts. It really seemed like the author had no concept on where to go with this book and so just did more world building — but again, not appropriate for a final book.

I was super disappointed in this book and it really made me question why I even wasted my time reading the whole series.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

36809135Title: Where the Crawdads Sing

Author: Delia Owens

Book Length (Audiobook): 12 hours 12 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery

Read Start Date: August 22, 2019

Read Finish Date: August 25, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

My Review: I did not know anything about this book before reading it, but added it to the waitlist at the library simply because it seemed to be pretty popular. I was not disappointed. We first meet Kya when she is just a young girl living in the marsh with her family. Very early on in the book, her mother and older siblings abandon her, and she is left all alone with her abusive, alcoholic father. Instead of leaving herself (because she was only a child), she stays in the marsh, skipping school to earn a living (basically just surviving) by selling muscles that she had caught herself.

The book follows Kya as she grows up, and alternates between that and “present day” when the police have discovered the murdered body of the town’s Golden Boy. The two plot lines are brilliantly weaved together, leaving you sitting on pins and needles to know what will happen next. Did Kya do it, or is she just a victim of public prejudice?

I normally do not love characters as much as I loved Kya. Although she never had a day of formal education, she is smart and resourceful. As she grows up, she blossoms into a mature (yet innocent) young woman, ready to explore her sexuality, but not quite knowing how. The tragic events in her life do not define her, but rather make her stronger and more resilient.

Rarely does a book stay with me after I put it down, but I thought about this one for many days after finishing it. If you read any historical fiction this year, this one should top the list.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

7631105Title: The Scorch Trials

Author: James Dashner

Book Length (Audiobook): 10 hours 23 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Read Start Date: August 17, 2019

Read Finish Date: August 22, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Thomas was sure that escape from the Maze would mean freedom for him and the Gladers. But WICKED isn’t done yet. Phase Two has just begun. The Scorch.

There are no rules. There is no help. You either make it or you die.

The Gladers have two weeks to cross through the Scorch—the most burned-out section of the world. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Friendships will be tested. Loyalties will be broken. All bets are off. 

There are others now. Their survival depends on the Gladers’ destruction—and they’re determined to survive.

My Review: This is the second book in the Maze Runner series. At the end of the first book, the Gladers are rescued and taken to a WICKED facility. The start of the second book puts them back into another “trial”, where they have 2 weeks to reach the “Safe Haven”. The Safe Haven is a long way trek across arid desert lands. Along the way the characters meet up with “Cranks” who are people infected with the virus “The Flare”, who become crazies. Oh and Thomas slept. Like a LOT.

I didn’t really like the first book because I thought the whole premise of the books was stupid. Essentially, a virus has broken out globally and the Gladers were put through this first trial (the Maze) to find a cure? I mean, that makes literally no sense at all. How does going through a maze and fighting creatures help develop a vaccine? Did Dashner not pass high school science classes? Does the CDC set up Mazes to find the cure for Ebola? No. They don’t, because that’s stupid.

But ok. Being a glutton for punishment, I decided to give this series another shot and I read The Scorch Trials. Was it a huge mistake, eh. The book was entertaining, I will give it that. There was a lot more action than in the first book (although I have read reviews that say otherwise), which was good, and the author started to give more clues as to what was happening. But that is again where it got really stupid. Okay, so now, the Gladers have to get through these trials because the scientists at WICKED are looking at “variables” to try to find a vaccine. Again, I have to ask myself — huh? That is not how viruses work, sorry. Which is why I gave it only 3 stars, because the plot is not just unbelievable, it is totally ludicrous.

As for things like character development, I don’t really feel anything for the characters. Teresa betrays Thomas, oh well. (Although maybe she doesn’t because it was all an act?) There is a sort of love triangle now? Ho hum. I’m just unimpressed. And to be honest, if I have to hear the word “Shuck” (meaning F***) one more time, I will scream. It was like everything was a Shuck. This Shuck door. Shut your Shuck Face — I mean the word isn’t even used correctly! And it is SO NOT COOL! Sorry, but this book is not Battlestar Galactica.

BOOK REVIEW: The Lonesome Era by Jon Allen

45179333._SX318_Title: The Lonesome Era

Author: Jon Allen

Book Length: 424 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Comic

Read Start Date: August 19, 2019

Read Finish Date: August 19, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Cute animal characters tell the tale of an awkward, coming-of-age, unreciprocated queer crush in Rust Belt America.

Camden is a cat! Camden is also crushing hard on his best buddy and terrible influence, Jeremiah. Young, bored, and trapped in their slowly decomposing Rust Belt town, Camden tamps down his burgeoning feelings for the local ne’er-do-well and allows himself to be dragged along with every awful idea, every hair-brained plan, and every threat to life and limb Jeremiah can come up with. The cartoon cast belies the ever-increasing volume of stupid and dangerous risk-taking Camden allows himself to be swept up into, endangering life, limb, and reputation. How much longer can this go on?

My Review: A fast and cute read! I really liked the artwork and found that the main character Camden was relatable. Who hasn’t had a teenage crush on a person that was bad for you? Since I was able to get through the book in about 30 minutes, I didn’t spend too much time thinking — only enjoying. I read a lot of reviews that said that they didn’t like the overall story because Camden is crushing on a guy that makes him feel worthless — but I think that this is all part of the teenage experience (at least mine) and it makes the story even more relatable because of it.

Anyway, you should check this book out and form your own opinions.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

 

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

18143977Title: All The Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 2 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, WWII

Read Start Date: August 6, 2019

Read Finish Date: August 16, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

My Review: Living in Austria / the Netherlands, and having been to Normandy, France, a few weeks ago, it is really surreal to read about WWII events. As I was listening to the book, I was running in a place where abandoned WWII Nazi bunkers were. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl living in Paris with her father, who works at the Museum of Natural History. They are forced to flee Paris when the Germans start bombing it. Werner, an intelligent orphan German boy, is recruited into the war by the Nazis. The book alternates between the stories of these two characters, but it isn’t really until the last part of the book that the stories intersect.

The identities of these main characters makes the book more interesting because you experience two very different sides to the war. The Germans are of course portrayed as the bad guys, but Werner is somehow a sympathetic character, as he was brought into the war unwillingly and I got the feeling that he does not agree with what the Germans are doing. I really liked the character of Marie-Laure, as she is a courageous young woman despite her disability and able to accomplish things that not many others were brave enough to do.

When the novel begins in 1934, Werner and Marie-Laure are children. As the story progresses and the children age, the author gives you a window into growing up under the shadow of war.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

32191710._SY475_Title: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Author: Neil deGrasse Tyson

Book Length (Audiobook): 3 hours 43 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Science

Read Start Date: August 4, 2019

Read Finish Date: August 6, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson. But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

My Review: This book might have been relatively short, but it was definitely not simple to understand. There was a lot of technical terms and hard to grasp concepts, which when listened to as an audiobook, was a little bit difficult. I know that he tried to make it more simple for people like me who don’t really know anything about science, but it was still very technical.

I usually listen to most of my books while exercising, driving, or otherwise doing something else besides listening. Maybe that is why this book was so difficult for me to understand and get into because I only had half a brain to pay attention to it.

I am therefore giving it only 3 stars, because my mind drifted away while listening to it, but I didn’t dislike it either.

This book fueled my workout on Day 7 of “Couch to 5K”.

BOOK REVIEW: Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

40591267._SY475_Title: Girl, Stop Apologizing

Author: Rachel Hollis

Book Length (Audiobook): 7 hours 37 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Self-Help, Personal Development

Read Start Date: July 31, 2019

Read Finish Date: August 4, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Rachel Hollis has seen it too often: women not living into their full potential. They feel a tugging on their hearts for something more, but they’re afraid of embarrassment, of falling short of perfection, of not being enough.

In Girl, Stop Apologizing, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of a multimillion-dollar media company, Rachel Hollis sounds a wake-up call. She knows that many women have been taught to define themselves in light of other people—whether as wife, mother, daughter, or employee—instead of learning how to own who they are and what they want. With a challenge to women everywhere to stop talking themselves out of their dreams, Hollis identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviors to adopt, and the skills to acquire on the path to growth, confidence, and believing in yourself.

My Review: This is the second book that I have read by Rachel Hollis. The first book was Girl, Wash Your Face. You can read the review here. Within the first 18 minutes of listening to the audiobook, I already liked it. She was speaking real truths, and I could totally understand her point. In the first part of the book, Hollis expounded on her theory that adults are the product of how, as toddlers, they learned to get attention. Over-achievers gained attention as children for doing well. Some toddlers get attention by being affectionate, so they learn to become dependent upon affection. Some toddlers get attention by making others laugh, so they learn how to entertain…and so on. This made perfect sense to me.

Her book only became better as it went on.

At about 1.5 hours into the book, Hollis had already laid down some really good advice. This book is really resonating with me so far. Hollis talks about setting realistic goals for yourself, and how to realistically achieve them. I have the goals to get more fit and to finish writing my first novel. My book currently has about 25,000 words, and I have not been able to get much done in the past few weeks. Hollis suggests that one should plan to work on her goals, at a time that works best for her regarding these goals. After working for 10 hours a day, I am usually so tired from work, that I cannot muster the motivation to do anything. Therefore, for the next week, I will give it a go and try to wake up early in the morning — maybe that will help.

So, I tried it for one day, and it didn’t help, because, well, I am not a morning person. So taking Hollis’ advice, I switched back to evenings — although it really seems that only weekends work for me.

After finishing her book, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hollis is a really smart woman, and gives some really good advice on life and how to become your best self. I even started following her instagram! This book also helped me get through some tough workouts, so this book is a big YES for me!

This book also “fueled” my workout on August 3rd and August 4th.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston

198505._SY475_Title: The Demon in the Freezer

Author: Richard Preston

Book Length: 283 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Science, History, Medical, Health

Read Start Date: September 2, 2018

Read Finish Date: August 2, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The first major bioterror event in the United States-the anthrax attacks in October 2001-was a clarion call for scientists who work with “hot” agents to find ways of protecting civilian populations against biological weapons. In The Demon in the Freezer, his first nonfiction book since The Hot Zone, a #1 New York Times bestseller, Richard Preston takes us into the heart of Usamriid, the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, once the headquarters of the U.S. biological weapons program and now the epicenter of national biodefense.
Peter Jahrling, the top scientist at Usamriid, a wry virologist who cut his teeth on Ebola, one of the world’s most lethal emerging viruses, has ORCON security clearance that gives him access to top secret information on bioweapons. His most urgent priority is to develop a drug that will take on smallpox-and win. Eradicated from the planet in 1979 in one of the great triumphs of modern science, the smallpox virus now resides, officially, in only two high-security freezers-at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and in Siberia, at a Russian virology institute called Vector. But the demon in the freezer has been set loose. It is almost certain that illegal stocks are in the possession of hostile states, including Iraq and North Korea. Jahrling is haunted by the thought that biologists in secret labs are using genetic engineering to create a new superpox virus, a smallpox resistant to all vaccines.
Usamriid went into a state of Delta Alert on September 11 and activated its emergency response teams when the first anthrax letters were opened in New York and Washington, D.C. Preston reports, in unprecedented detail, on the government’s response to the attacks and takes us into the ongoing FBI investigation. His story is based on interviews with top-level FBI agents and with Dr. Steven Hatfill.
Jahrling is leading a team of scientists doing controversial experiments with live smallpox virus at CDC. Preston takes us into the lab where Jahrling is reawakening smallpox and explains, with cool and devastating precision, what may be at stake if his last bold experiment fails.

My Review: This book is scarier than any horror book, because you guys, this book is NONFICTION! Imagining that a terrorist group may be able to weaponize a virus like smallpox to decimate the population of a major US city in the blink of an eye is terrifying. This book opened my eyes to an array of grim possibilities that I had never before even though about. Viruses, epidemics, etc. have always fascinated me for some reason — and movies about such subjects are my favorite kind of film in the horror genre (closely followed by zombies).

The descriptive way that Preston writes about viruses, really gave me a clear picture in my mind of what he was talking about. Sometimes, this was not such a good thing — and unless you grew up listening to your mother’s ER stories at the dinner table like me, this book might not be a good thing to read while eating.

“The inflamed area in his throat was no bigger than a postage stamp, but in a biological sense it was hotter than the surface of the sun. Particles of smallpox virus were streaming out of oozy spots in the back of his mouth and were mixing with his saliva. When he spoke or coughed, microscopic infective droplets were being released, forming an invisible cloud in the the air around him.”

Seriously, you guys, I will never look at people coughing again without imagining all the tiny virus particles spewing into the air from their mouths.

 

BOOK REVIEW: A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle

77276Title: A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Book Length (Audiobook): 7 hours 24 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Classics, Science Fiction, Children’s Fiction

Read Start Date: July 24, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 31, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: When fifteen-year-old Charles Wallace Murry shouts out an ancient rune meant to ward off the dark in desperation, a radiant creature appears. It is Gaudior, unicorn and time traveler. Charles Wallace and Gaudior must travel into the past on the winds of time to try to find a Might-Have-Been – a moment in the past when the entire course of events leading to the present can be changed, and the future of Earth – this small, swiftly tilting planet – saved.

This is the third book in the Time Quintet series.

My Past Reviews:

See my review of A Wrinkle in Time: Time Quintet Book 1 here.

See my review of A Wind in the Door: Time Quintet Book 2 here.

My Review: 9 years has passed since the last book. Meg and Calvin are married and expecting their first child. Charles Wallace is now 15, and Mr. Murry still gets calls from the President. On this particular evening, the call he received warns of an imminent nuclear war started by Madog Branzillo. In order to save the world, a time traveling unicorn and Charles Wallace (aided by Meg through Kything) must go into the bodies of the ancestors of Branzillo to change the course of history.

I found this book to be really interesting, as it chronicles the history of a family through several hundred years. I do not want to give too much away, but it starts out with a man and his brother (Maddoc and Gwydyr) coming from Wales to America before even Christopher Columbus. There is a struggle between brothers, which Maddoc wins, and thereafter marries into an indian tribe, and that is where the history begins. Both lines flow with magic, but only Maddoc’s line are “good”, whereas the line of Gwydyr is portrayed as “evil”. The legends of the Indians and the magical myths of the Welsh are passed down through the generations — with each generation using a magical incantation to help them (which is in truth the Rune of St. Patrick).

The Offbeat Unicorn wrote a really good review / summary of the book and its themes. You can read the blog entry here. Frankly, this blogger wrote a better review of A Swiftly Tilting Planet than I ever could, so I urge you to click on the link.

In closing, I liked the book, and I hope that you will too.