BOOK REVIEW: Beach Read by Emily Henry

52867387._SY475_Title: Beach Read

Author: Emily Henry

Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 13 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction

Read Start Date: May 15, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 19, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.anted. Unable to trust the police, he begins to suspect a cover-up. It’s only when he meets a young Inuit woman, Tupaarnaq, convicted of killing her parents and two small sisters, that Matt starts to realise how deep this story goes—and how much danger he is in.

My Review: This book was a fun and easy read. I listened to the audiobook version mostly while doing chores around the apartment, which made such mundane tasks seem almost delightful.

January Andrews (was it just me or was anyone else reminded of the poem from It by Stephen King “January embers, my heart burns there too”?) is a romance writer with writers block. In her personal life, she is dealing with the death of her father (who she finds out was cheating on her mom) and the break up of a long term relationship. These two failed relationships have her questioning whether romance exists in the world.

Enter Gus Elliot, her rival / arch nemesis / secret crush from college. He is also a writer, but his books are much darker.

They enter into a bet, where each has to write a book in the others’ normal genre. Each weekend they go on outings to learn about the others’ genre for research. E.g., January takes him out on “romantic” outings. And, duh, they fall in love. Who could have seen that coming??

Despite the obvious ending, the journey was fun. The only thing I didn’t like, however, was the bit about the father. It just got really sappy toward the end and made me want to barf. January finally reads the letters her father left for her (at the beginning of the book we find out he died suddenly) and we the readers have to endure the barftastic sap that are the contents of these letters.

Plus, did anyone else feel NOT sympathetic to the mistress or the father like, at all?? I felt that they were VERY selfish!

Mistress: Oh January, you must let me tell you / listen to the explanation of why your father and I were together. I feel so bad and you have to make me feel better.

Father: Please understand why I cheated and forgive me.

NOPE!

But anyway, despite this little part of the book coming mostly at the end, this was a delightful read that I think readers of the genre will like.

BOOK REVIEW: Still Life by Louise Penny

338691Title: Still Life

Author: Louise Penny

Book Length (Audiobook): 14 hours and 54 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime,

Read Start Date: March 20, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 21, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines – a place so free from crime it doesn’t even have its own police force.

But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets…

My Review: This is the first book in a series of books about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. This book takes place in French Canada, in the small village of Three Pines. It was interesting to read a book about this location, as I don’t really know much about it. I generally liked the character of Gamache (although in one review I read it was pointed out that he spends a lot of time in cafes, eating pastries, or discussing them — I hadn’t thought of this while reading, but with hindsight this is so true!)

The murderer was not obvious, or at least not to me, so this kept me guessing the whole book. The clues were not so obvious that a monkey could figure it out (no disparagement to monkeys meant of course), and the discovery of the said clues were organic (following the pace and plot of the book), rather than forced. In other words, I could see that this investigation would actually unfold as it did in real life, with one piece building upon the previous.

The one thing that I did not like was the portrayal of the only female officer — she was portrayed as an arrogant upstart who thought the whole world was out to get her, that life was unfair, that Gamache was unfair etc. Basically, she was depicted as a whiny little fly, who only messed up the investigation but never furthered it. Way to throw your fellow woman under the bus, Louise Penny!

Other than that it was an entertaining read and one that I would definitely recommend.

BOOK REVIEW: The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora

42360844Title: The Paper Wasp

Author: Lauren Acampora

Book Length: 289 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Thriller

Read Start Date: March 5, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 20, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: An electrifying debut novel from the acclaimed author of The Wonder GardenThe Paper Wasp is a riveting knife-edge story of two women’s dark friendship of twisted ambition set against the backdrop of contemporary Hollywood. In small-town Michigan, Abby Graven leads a solitary life. Once a bright student on the cusp of a promising art career, she now languishes in her childhood home, trudging to and from her job as a supermarket cashier. Each day she is taunted from the magazine racks by the success of her former best friend Elise, a rising Hollywood starlet whose life in pictures Abby obsessively scrapbooks. At night Abby escapes through the films of her favorite director, Auguste Perren, a cult figure known for his creative institute the Rhizome. Inspired by Perren, Abby draws fantastical storyboards based on her often premonitory dreams, a visionary gift she keeps hidden.

When Abby encounters Elise again at their high school reunion, she is surprised and warmed that Elise still considers her not only a friend but a brilliant storyteller and true artist. Elise’s unexpected faith in Abby reignites in her a dormant hunger, and when Elise offhandedly tells Abby to look her up if she’s ever in LA, Abby soon arrives on her doorstep. There, Abby discovers that although Elise is flourishing professionally, behind her glossy magazine veneer she is lonely and disillusioned. Ever the supportive friend, Abby becomes enmeshed in Elise’s world, even as she guards her own dark secret and burning desire for greatness. As she edges closer to Elise, the Rhizome, and her own artistic ambitions, the dynamic shifts between the two friends–until Abby can see only one way to grasp the future that awaits her.

The Paper Wasp is a thrilling, unexpected journey into the psyche and imagination of a woman determined to fulfill her destiny from one of our most unique and incisive writers

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review in 2019. I am only getting to this book now, in 2022. I am somewhat addicted to books, so made the mistake of requesting too many books from Netgalley, all of which I did not get to. When the pandemic hit in 2020, I took a break from reviewing and therefore did not read any books from Netgalley. I am trying to rectify that now.

I am sorry that I didn’t read this book earlier, and I think that the Goodreads review of 3.32 as of the writing of this review does not give the book justice. The book is written in the 1st person, but is told as though it is a conversation or a letter to another person. The narrator is looking back at the past from her position in the future.

So for example: “The airplane seat beside me was unoccupied, so I was able to spread the drawings out on my lap. All at once you were there with me, resplendent on the sofa in your starry dress, the fiery wave of hair over your shoulder. Your eyes were the green of a forgotten lake, your sweet mouth quirked and curved.”

This writing style was okay, but not my favorite. Although it was interesting to see a character (e.g. Elise) wholly from the subjective perspective of someone else (Abby), I have never read a book written quite like this before and it took some getting used to. Additionally, it kind of led me astray, because you are only getting to see the inner working of the mind in so far as the narrator (Abby) wants you to — this led to a wholly unexpected twist at the end, which I did not see coming at all.

That being said, as you can tell from the above quote the author gives great descriptions, which I really liked.

SPOILER ALERT: I get into the plot here so don’t read on if you intend to read this book, which I highly recommend.

So at the beginning of the book, Abby seems obsessed with Elise, a childhood friend turned famous actor, even going so far as to keep clippings of Elise from magazines and the like. Abby and Elise haven’t been in contact for a while, but reconnect at the High School reunion, where Elise gives Abby her phone number. Abby, taking it upon herself, just shows up at Elise’s house in California, where after a moment of trepidation, Elise invites her in — and then to stay long term, first as a guest and then as Elise’s personal assistant.

This arrangement struck me as a little weird — but ok, maybe Elise is the whimsical Hollywood type who just does weird things. Would a normal person just invite someone they haven’t seen in a decade to stay long term? Abby seemed lonely in her old life, so she agrees. As the story goes on, we see that Elise is kind of a train wreck, and into herself. Eventually Abby starts to feel used and devalued, so she ups and leaves (after spilling all Elise’s secrets to the press) just when Elise needs her most (Elise is pregnant), Abby ignores Elise and basically runs away to pursue her own art.

There was also a backstory involving a cultish movie director, Perrin. Elise and Abby were obsessed with him as kids — Elise wants to star in one of his movies, and Abby wants Perrin to use her drawings as a basis for one of the movie plots. There is a place called the Rhizome where actors / artists go to hone their talents, get spa treatments, have dream therapy sessions, etc.

The falling out of the two came as a direct result of the Rhizome, wherein Elise wanted to restrict Abby’s access (after paying for several treatments for Abby as a gift), and Abby took this to mean that Elise did not want Abby to advance in her own career and that Elise was just a self centered ass. This led to the one side falling out of the friends (Abby just ghosted Elise and Elise was desperately trying to get in touch with Abby).

All of the above I can believe and seems pretty consistent…but then Abby goes and kidnaps Elise’s baby and moves to Europe to live with Perrin on his compound. Up to this point, Abby was the sympathetic character — all of a sudden she is the villain, having stolen the child because she believed that she could raise the baby better than Elise. I had always had the impression of Abby as the quiet mouse who didn’t think very much of herself–all of a sudden she thinks she can parent better than Elise? Granted Elise is more or less and alcoholic at this stage, but that doesn’t mean she deserved for her baby to be kidnapped, and it doesn’t mean that Abby is all of a sudden stable. I don’t know, I have very mixed emotions about this turn of events.

Anyway, I finished the book a few days ago and am still thinking about it, so that must say something, right?

This book is definitely worth checking out.

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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: Last Resort: A Zombicide Novel by Josh Reynolds

57694631Title: Last Resort: A Zombicide Novel

Author: Josh Reynolds

Book Length (Audiobook): 8 hours and 52 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Post Apocalyptic

Read Start Date: March 13, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 15, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Hordes of zombies threaten to wipe out all of mankind in this first action-horror novel set in the exciting (yet horrifying) world of the Zombicide games.

The zombie apocalypse has driven humanity up into the Adirondacks. Enter Westlake, hardened career criminal on the path of “the Villa”, a legendary mafia hideout where he can escape the devastation. When he’s ambushed by the undead, an old FBI “friend” and his squad of survivors rescue him… and then force him to reveal his secrets. The jokey myth of the Villa suddenly becomes salvation for the settlements scattered around Saranc Lake. Reluctantly, Westlake is saddled with an oddball team to navigate mine fields, trip wires, and flesh-eating zombies at every turn to find their safe haven. Shame there’s already someone living there…

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. While I liked this book, I didn’t find it to be anything special. I am currently in the process of watching The Walking Dead for the first time, and this book reminded me a lot of that, i.e., the world is at an end, there are lots of zombies around, and the survivors are trying to find a safe place to live. That is, in a nutshell, what this book is about. Last Resort even uses the term “walkers” just like in The Walking Dead.

I have never heard of the game that this book is based upon, so maybe for fans of the game this book would rate higher than 3 stars. Don’t get me wrong, the book is a fun read, but it’s par for the zombie course. That being said, if you like other zombie stuff (books, movies, shows), then you won’t be disappointed.

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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: The Shadow Glass by Josh Winning

58661569Title: The Shadow Glass

Author: Josh Winning

Book Length (Audiobook): 10 hours and 16 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Read Start Date: March 10, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 13, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Jack Corman is failing at life. Jobless, jaded and facing the threat of eviction, he’s also reeling from the death of his father, one-time film director Bob Corman. Back in the eighties, Bob poured his heart and soul into the creation of his 1986 puppet fantasy The Shadow Glass, but the film flopped on release and Bob was never the same again.

In the wake of Bob’s death, Jack returns to his decaying childhood home, where he is confronted with the impossible — the puppet heroes from The Shadow Glass are alive, and they need his help. Tipped into a desperate quest to save the world from the more nefarious of his father’s creations, Jack teams up with an excitable fanboy and a spiky studio exec to navigate the labyrinth of his father’s legacy and ignite a Shadow Glass resurgence that could, finally, do Bob proud.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I wanted to read this book because it was likened to stories such as The Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth, all stories which I remember fondly from my childhood. From the very beginning of this book, I was enthralled. Jack Corman, son of film maker and creator of the Shadow Glass cult film Bob Corman, is desperate for money and intends to sell Dune, one of the puppets from the film. But when he arrives at his father’s home to collect the puppet after Bob Corman’s death, Jack finds more than what he bargained for. The puppets are alive! The world that his father created is real and it is in danger, and only Jack can save it.

To be honest, it’s a little hard to write a review about this book. I really liked it, but can’t place my finger exactly on what about it I liked (other than just everything!).

I was invested in the story. I was sad when characters died. I WANTED Iri to be saved. I was rooting for the evil puppets to get what was coming to them. This book made me feel so many things…much more than I was initially expecting.

I was never bored reading this book; it is action packed from beginning to end. The characters are also great, from the Shadow Glass fanboys to the Kettu puppets. Winning really captures the truth of these characters. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I felt like I knew the characters, like nothing about them was fake. Fanboys really would help in the quest to save Iri. A warrior Kettu really would call Jack a a manchild. I don’t know…I just really liked it.

The narrator’s voice makes the book all the better; it was a pleasure to listen to.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you are into 80s nostalgia.

P.S.: I listed this as “science fiction” because that is how it is tagged on Netgalley, but honestly, I don’t see it. I didn’t see anything particularly “science” about this work of fiction. Fantasy seems to be the appropriate tag here.

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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: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

20170404._SX318_SY475_Title: Station Eleven

Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Book Length (Audiobook): 10 hours and 41 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic

Read Start Date: March 7, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 10, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Set in the days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

My Review: Although another book about a plague, it was far enough removed from COVID, that I wasn’t turned off. This book was published in 2014, but in 2022 was listed as one of the most popular books at the library, which is why I checked out an audiobook copy. I think the recent popularity of the book is due to the release of the limited television series on HBO Max. Unfortunately, in Austria I do not have access to this channel, so I am a little disappointed that I won’t be able to watch it.

One of the opening scenes in the book, a group of people gather at a bar. The author informs us that within three weeks, all of them would be dead. Not from COVID, or even a corona virus, but from a deadly strain of the flu. I loved the foreshadowing in this sentence.

This book reminded me a little bit of Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (you can see my review of Cloud Cuckoo Land here), in that a book–in this case a graphic novel written and illustrated by Miranda, the first wife of the famous Hollywood actor referenced above–connects the stories of several of the main characters.

In general I liked the story, the writing was great, and the overall premise was intriguing. However, the reason why I couldn’t give it 5 stars, was that it fell flat for me in several places. For example, I would have liked more background into the prophet and his community. Secondly, the book takes places almost 15 years after the plague wiped everyone out, but it still felt like the plague had just happened. There are huge unexplained gaps between pre-plague and 15 years on in the stories of the characters. What happened in the middle? Why was civilization still fractured? Was no one left alive that could figure out how to turn the power back on?

Additionally, we the readers know the connection between the characters, but the characters themselves seem to have missed it, which was a little disappointing.

In any event, all in all its a great book and I would recommend it.

BOOK REVIEW: Killing Floor by Lee Child

78129._SY475_Title: Killing Floor

Author: Lee Child

Book Length: 474 pages

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime, Suspense

Read Start Date: January 15, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 3, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Ex-military policeman Jack Reacher is a drifter. He’s just passing through Margrave, Georgia, and in less than an hour, he’s arrested for murder. Not much of a welcome. All Jack knows is that he didn’t kill anybody. At least not here. Not lately. But he doesn’t stand a chance of convincing anyone. not in Margrave, Georgia. Not a chance in hell.

My Review: Okay, so there are spoilers in this review because I’m giving it a 1 star and no one should read this book. I picked up this book because of the movies and the series about Reacher. They are pretty decent, and since books are usually better than the on-screen adaptations, I figured I was in for a good time. Wrong!

First of all, the summary from Goodreads is not what the book is about. Reacher convinces the police that he wasn’t the killer in the first part of the book, and then spends the rest of the book investigating the murders alongside the police. It’s totally misleading.

Additional plot points: It turns out that Reacher’s brother Joe (who worked for the treasury department) was investigating the biggest counterfeiting ring in the US and it got him killed. Reacher has to find out the who, the why, and the how, to solve the case.

While the premise sounds ok for an action book, I just couldn’t get into the story. The first main issue with the book is that the prose was terrible. I felt like I was reading a freaking Trump speech. A prime example of this is below:

“We found the right street. Found the right house. Decent Place. Well looked after. Neat and clean. A tiny one-storey. Small yard, small single-car garage. Narrow gate in the wire fence. We went through. Rang the bell. An old woman cracked the door against the chain.”

This is how the WHOLE BOOK IS WRITTEN! It made it really hard to read without wanting to tear my eyes out. Would it kill the guy to use a freaking comma once in a while?

The second and third issue that I had with this book, was that the main character Jack Reacher is completely unlikeable and the premise behind the plot is just ridiculous. Jack Reacher is a highly trained army veteran who got laid off from the army, so he just wanders around the country. In one of the biggest coincidences of all time, he ends up in some small backwater town in Georgia the day his brother (who he hasn’t spoken to in years) is murdered. Seriously? I think the odds of winning the lottery are better.

After being mistakenly arrested for this murder, and killing a few guys in the county lockup, he is removed as a suspect. He then hooks up with the hottest girl in town, Roscoe, who happens to also be a cop.

Their relationship is on the fast track. Then we start to get scenes such as the below:

“So we showered. Put us in a better frame of mind. We soaped up and started fooling around. Ended up making love in the stall with the water beating down on us. Afterwards, I just wanted to curl up in the glow.”

So we go from hardened army veteran willing to kill remorselessly and violently (ok it was in self defense, but still) to snuggle bunny. Is this the author’s way of making the main character balanced or well rounded or something? Guys, he might be a viscous killer, but he also likes to cuddle! He has depth!

And speaking of depth, Reacher doesn’t even know how to do his own laundry…he just throws away his clothes! He’s so cool (not).

“Next stop was the basement. I fiddled around with the furnace until it kicken in. Then I stripped off and shoved all my clothes in Charlie’s electric dryer. Set it on low for an hour. I had no idea what I was doing. In the army, some corporal had done my laundry. Took it away, brought it back clean and  folded. Since then, I always bought cheap stuff and just junked it.”

Even though Reacher has fallen head over heels for Roscoe, in the last chapter of the book, after a night of talking (so he’s a snuggle bunny AND a good listener…), we get this. I have to say, I thought: “WTF?” Reaches waxes eloquent about this woman for the whole book and then after a night of talking is like, oh well. What happened to the snuggle bunny? What happened to the sensitive guy he was supposed to be? Doesn’t he care at all?

“It didn’t work out for Roscoe and me. It never really stood a chance. There were too many problems.”

The main problem? Apparently Roscoe doesn’t like that Reacher is capable of remorselessly and viscously killing like 10 people. Makes her a little uncomfortable. I wonder why. What annoys me a little bit, is that the reader is supposed to think that this guy is cool or a major badass or something. He just comes across as a little bit of a psycho. This book is written in the first person, so these thoughts are HIS thoughts, what REACHER is thinking. It’s not the narrator giving us a blow by blow of what is happening. So like, when the book is describing how he has to saw the knife into the guys neck to kill him, this is what REACHER is thinking about as he’s doing it.

“Hauled his head back. Cut his throat. You don’t do it with one elegant swipe. Not like in the movies. No knife is sharp enough for that. There’s all kinds of touch gristle in the human throat. You have to saw back and forth with a lot of strength. Takes a while. But it works. It works well. By the time you’ve sawed back to the bone, the guy is dead. This guy was no exception.”

Serial killer much? Would have been fine just to stop at “cut his throat.”

And all these problems made it really hard to get into the story, let alone enjoy it. It wasn’t even that the background story was so interesting either. Sigh.

Would I recommend this book? No. Do yourself a favor and just watch the movie instead.

BOOK REVIEW: Last Exit by Max Gladstone

57693437Title: Last Exit

Author: Max Gladstone

Book Length: 21 hours and 3 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBT, Horror

Read Start Date: February 26, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 2, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Ten years ago, Zelda led a band of merry adventurers whose knacks let them travel to alternate realities and battle the black rot that threatened to unmake each world. Zelda was the warrior; Ish could locate people anywhere; Ramon always knew what path to take; Sarah could turn catastrophe aside. Keeping them all connected: Sal, Zelda’s lover and the group’s heart.

Until their final, failed mission, when Sal was lost. When they all fell apart. Ten years on, Ish, Ramon, and Sarah are happy and successful. Zelda is alone, always traveling, destroying rot throughout the US. When it boils through the crack in the Liberty Bell, the rot gives Zelda proof that Sal is alive, trapped somewhere in the alts.

Zelda’s getting the band back together—plus Sal’s young cousin June, who has a knack none of them have ever seen before. As relationships rekindle, the friends begin to believe they can find Sal and heal all the worlds. It’s not going to be easy, but they’ve faced worse before. But things have changed, out there in the alts. And in everyone’s hearts.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC. First, I want to talk about the pros.

The cover: wow. I just love it. It’s so eerie and beautiful at the same time.

The writing: Love it. The writing is simply amazing. I loved the style. I loved the way that it made me see the story.

The plot: In general, I was positive about the plot and the execution of the story. The book is heavy on character development and the background of the characters, which I liked. You really get a feeling for who these characters are and how that plays into the story as a whole. That being said, I would have liked to have more background into the alternate worlds, the rot, etc. It felt like that this was the sequel to a book that was never written. What is the rot? Why was it unmaking worlds? I’m still not 100% clear on that.

While trying to save Sal, the characters come across this evil entity, known only as the “cowboy”. He wears a white cowboy hat. Sometimes people were turned into his pawns, signified by their wearing of a  white cowboy hat. Who is this cowboy? What is he supposed to signify? I’m still a little confused about this.

This is were the con for me comes in. This book is LONG: 21 hours of listening time. I found that at least the first 30% of the book was dedicated almost only to character development / backstory, so it dragged a little bit in the beginning. I also found the book confusing at times and had to backtrack and listen again (sometimes 3 times) to what had happened in order to understand what was going on.

I’m not going to blame the author here for this because I am the mother of a 6 month old who I was also taking care of while listening. Was I maybe too distracted for this book? Possibly. Sometimes my baby was crying and I missed a key part and had to rewind. Other times my mind just wandered elsewhere and when it returned, I was totally lost. I will say that this book takes concentration to read and fully understand. I think I just didn’t have the bandwidth to really give this book the justice it deserved because it really is a great story.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. If you are a fan of the Dark Tower series from Stephen King, you will not be disappointed in this book. However, I would not suggest to multitask when reading, as it takes full concentration. Therefore, I would suggest to read the book rather than listen to it as an audiobook.

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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: Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

56783258._SY475_Title: Cloud Cuckoo Land

Author: Anthony Doerr

Book Length (Audiobook): 14 hours and 52 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Read Start Date: January 27, 2022

Read Finish Date: February 2, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Thirteen-year-old Anna, an orphan, lives inside the formidable walls of Constantinople in a house of women who make their living embroidering the robes of priests. Restless, insatiably curious, Anna learns to read, and in this ancient city, famous for its libraries, she finds a book, the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky. This she reads to her ailing sister as the walls of the only place she has known are bombarded in the great siege of Constantinople. Outside the walls is Omeir, a village boy, miles from home, conscripted with his beloved oxen into the invading army. His path and Anna’s will cross.

Five hundred years later, in a library in Idaho, octogenarian Zeno, who learned Greek as a prisoner of war, rehearses five children in a play adaptation of Aethon’s story, preserved against all odds through centuries. Tucked among the library shelves is a bomb, planted by a troubled, idealistic teenager, Seymour. This is another siege. And in a not-so-distant future, on the interstellar ship Argos, Konstance is alone in a vault, copying on scraps of sacking the story of Aethon, told to her by her father. She has never set foot on our planet.

My Review: This book is told from the point of view of various characters, who’s stories eventually come together in the end. Each story is connected through the long lost Greek story of Aethon, a man who wants to turn into a bird and fly to a heaven-like place called Cloud Cuckoo Land (hence the name of the book).

I read a lot of reviews which stated that Doerr’s language / description is overdone, but I actually like it. Especially in audiobook format, the descriptive language really flows nicely, like it’s singing to you.

As far as the individual storylines go, my favorite was that of Konstance. We meet Konstance as she is alone in a vault (save for the AI robot tasked with keeping Konstance safe), piecing together the story of Aethon, which had been told to her by her father. At the beginning of the book we do not know why Konstance is all alone on a interstellar ship hurtling through space, but we come to find out piece by piece. The twist at the end was very unexpected and left me a little annoyed, and with more questions then answers. I wanted more, but the book was over. Sigh.

While I was the least enamored with Anna’s storyline (I didn’t find it all that interesting), hers is perhaps the most important, as it is the catalyst for the story itself. Without her act of stealing the book of Aethon’s story, it would not have been damaged, rearranged out of sequence, and barely readable 500 years later. The physical state of the book is almost as important as the story itself, as the message of the story has been misinterpreted for years, the truth to be rediscovered only by children in the present day.

I don’t want to give too many spoilers, so I will just say that the way that the storylines are interwoven was really clever, especially that of Seymour and Konstance. In general, I really loved the characters and there were definitely tear-jerking moments in the stories of Omeir and Seymour.

Although fiction, each storyline, even that of Konstance, was believable. Each story could have really happened (or could really happen in the future). Therefore, I’m not sure why the book is marked as “fantasy” on Goodreads. This seems incorrect to me, but okay.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you liked Doerr’s other book, All the Light We Cannot See. You can check out my review of that book here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom

56922594Title: The Stranger in the Lifeboat

Author: Mitch Albom

Audiobook Length: 4 hours and 52 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Christian, Religion, Spirituality, Contemporary

Read Start Date: February 12, 2022

Read Finish Date: February 14, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Adrift in a raft after a deadly ship explosion, nine people struggle for survival at sea. Three days pass. Short on water, food and hope, they spot a man floating in the waves. They pull him in. “Thank the Lord we found you,” a passenger says. “I am the Lord,” the man whispers.

So begins Mitch Albom’s most beguiling and inspiring novel yet.

Albom has written of heaven in the celebrated number one bestsellers The Five People You Meet in Heaven and The First Phone Call from Heaven. Now, for the first time in his fiction, he ponders what we would do if, after crying out for divine help, God actually appeared before us? What might the Lord look, sound and act like?

In The Stranger in the Lifeboat, Albom keeps us guessing until the end: Is this strange and quiet man really who he claims to be? What actually happened to cause the explosion? Are the survivors already in heaven, or are they in hell?

The story is narrated by Benji, one of the passengers, who recounts the events in a notebook that is later discovered—a year later—when the empty life raft washes up on the island of Montserrat. It falls to the island’s chief inspector, Jarty LeFleur, a man battling his own demons, to solve the mystery of what really happened.

A fast-paced, compelling novel that makes you ponder your deepest beliefs, The Stranger in the Lifeboat suggests that answers to our prayers may be found where we least expect them.

My Review:  The summary of this book makes it sound like it is just such an inspiring book. I mean, “Now, for the first time in his fiction, he ponders what we would do if, after crying out for divine help, God actually appeared before us?” Not to spoil the book, but what happens when “the Lord” appears? Everyone in the lifeboat basically dies, commits suicide, etc. How inspiring. This is because the “Lord” can only save them if all 9 people believe that this guy is really who he claims to be i.e. God. But I guess they don’t so they all die. Nice. So the message, believe in God or die? Only when you believe in God can you be saved? Eye roll. I fail to see how this is supposed to thought provoking or emotional?

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of religious books. I read this book for the story, as a fiction novel. I had no feelings other than apathy. Even with regards to the plot the book was only just okay. The book was separated into 3 story lines: The Sea, The Land, and The News.

The Sea: 10 passengers are on a lifeboat. The luxury yacht they were on exploded and they are the only survivors. Somehow no one comes to rescue them, so they float around for weeks, months. Then each person in the lifeboat begins to die, one by one, until there is only Benji, the narrator of the story, left. This plot seems ridiculous. Why were they not rescued? The owner of the yacht was a BILLIONAIRE! Where was the cavalry?

The Land:  An inspector finds the notebook written by Benji which chronicles the time spent on the lifeboat. He is trying to figure out what happened to the ship i.e. why it exploded.

The News: Gives some background on the yacht.

I think the story could have been so much better. It just felt like the author was trying to hard to send a religious / faith message rather than worry about the plot, the character development, or whether his story actually made any sense.

Is it worth reading? Eh. I’m not sure. I guess if you have nothing else to read and are looking for something quick, then maybe give it a try. Otherwise, there are many other, better books out there.