BOOK REVIEW: Snow by Ronald Malfi

Title: Snow

Author: Ronald Malfi

Book Length: 311 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Sci-fi, Folklore-Monsters, Paranormal

Read Start Date: October 23, 2022

Read Finish Date: October 29, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Todd Curry wants nothing more than to spend Christmas with his son. But when a brutal snowstorm cancels his flight from Chicago to Des Moines, Todd and a few other stranded passengers decide to rent a Jeep and make the trip on their own.

During the drive, they pick up a man wandering through the snow, who claims to be searching for his lost daughter. He is disoriented and his story seems peculiar. Strangest of all are the mysterious slashes cut into the back of the man’s coat, straight down to the flesh…

When they arrive at the nearest town, it appears deserted. Windows dark, car abandoned, fired burning unattended. But Todd and the rest of the travelers soon learn the town is far from deserted, and that they are being watched…

My Review: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I couldn’t wait to crawl into bed so that I could read it again, and that rarely happens.

Todd Curry is traveling to Des Moines to see his young son. HIs connecting flight in Chicago is cancelled due to a bad snow storm, but he is anxious to get home. He promised his son that he’d be there by morning. Todd and his son’s mother are separated, and he rarely sees the boy, so it’s important to keep his promise. Todd has the idea to rent a car and drive to Des Moines. Storm be damned.

The woman in front of him at the rental car counter gets the last SUV. Kate Jansen, a woman Todd had met at the airport bar while waiting to hear the fate of his flight, offers to give Todd a lift. He accepts gladly. Fred and Nan Wilkinson, a “silver-haired couple in their late sixties”, are also stranded at the airport. They decide to join Todd and Kate and together all 4 set off to Des Moines, with Todd at the wheel.

They have barely left the city, when they encounter a strange man in the middle of the highway, alone in the snow storm. “Suddenly, the figure was in the middle of the road, only a few yards in front of them as if he had materialized out of thin air.” Todd crashes into a snow bank and wrecks the SUV. They climb out of the car, to find a lone man standing in the road. The man’s name is Eddie Clement and his daughter, aged eight, is lost somewhere in the storm.

Something isn’t right about Eddie, or his story. “Kate put a hand on Eddie’s broad flannel back and led him to the Cherokee. Todd noticed two rips in the fabric of Eddie Clement’s flannel coat, one at each shoulder blade, each one perhaps five inches long. The fabric around each slit looked frayed.”

They four-some in the vehicle are skeptical. A man out in the bitter cold, alone, looking for his daughter for who knows how long…how isn’t he a popsicle? Why would his daughter run off in this weather? Nothing seems to make sense. As a reader, you get the feeling that something is terribly off with Eddie and it adds a layer of tension to the story. At this point, we are only 39 pages in, and the tension only increases with each page.

Seeking shelter, they walk to the nearest town. What they find there would change their lives forever, if they manage to survive that is.

By page 69, we learn that the town is virtually deserted. Where did everyone go? And then they encounter someone:

“A man was standing directly behind Nan, no more than five feet away. His clothes hung off him in tattered ribbons and were splattered with blood. The man’s eyes were dead in their sockets, his face as expressionless as an Egyptian mummy.” …

“The sound of the rifle fire was almost deafening.

In the street, the man’s head evaporated into a red mist. The body sagged forward, then dropped straight to the ground, its legs folded neatly beneath it.

Nan screamed and Fred cursed. Kate clawed at the back of Todd’s neck, gripping a fistful of hair.

Then something else happened. The headless body in the street bucked once, twice, three times. Hot blood spurted from the abbreviated neck and coursed like an oil slick across the ice. There was the impression of levitation, although the dead man never actually left the ground; rather, something from within the man’s body was rising up, up. For one insane moment, Todd actually believed he was witnessing the dead man’s soul vacating the body.

But this was no one’s soul. What rose up was a hurricane swirl of snow, funneled and compacted so that it was nearly tangible. It held the vague form of a human being, though as it continued to withdraw itself from the man’s body, Todd could see its arms–or whatever served as arms–were nearly twice the length of a normal person’s. It had no definable characteristics beyond the vague suggestion of humanity. And as it peeled away from the corpse–from out of the corpse–it hovered briefly above the body, nearly solid and comprehensible, before it dispersed into a scattering of snowflakes and was gone.

The silence that followed was thundering.”

Snow by Ronald Malfi, pages 68-69

I got chills reading that again — soooo good! At this point in the story, I was already hooked, but this entrenched me in the story further.

This book is probably one of the best horror stories I’ve read this year. I would give it 10 out of 5 stars (if that were possible). The writing is fantastic. I love the way Malfi paints the picture. The monsters were super cool, the storyline creepy as hell. I had a hard time putting this book down. A must read.

BOOK REVIEW: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Audiobook Length: 13 hours and 52 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Contemporary

Read Start Date: October 6, 2022

Read Finish Date: October 11, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In this exhilarating novel by the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry two friends–often in love, but never lovers–come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

My Review: I had no idea what to expect when I checked this audiobook out from the library, as to often happens to me with audiobooks. It was filed in the “popular global” category, and I thought, why not. I’m glad I did.

Sam and Sadie met as children at the hospital following an accident which left Sam disabled. Sadie’s sister had cancer and so was at the hospital often. Initially bonding over video games, their friendship ended when Sadie hurt Sam’s feelings deeply. They didn’t reconnect until college, when Sam saw Sadie coincidentally on a train platform. They created a video game, which launched their careers, and the events which flow from this success will shape their lives.

This book is largely character driven and despite having taken place over a time period of 30 years, nothing much happens from a plot perspective. The characters make a video game, then another, and another. Sadie falls in and out of a negative / abusive relationship. Sam and Sadie are friends, then they are not. They seem to always either be “on” or “off”, often fluctuating with whether they are making a game together or not. This book has no thrills (except maybe one scene toward the end), and is one of those books that is meant to be more beautiful than action packed.

In other words, with books like these, that focus on character rather than plot, the characters have to be well developed and the writing great. I had no complaints about the writing while listening and found the story to be engaging even though it could be at some points mundane.

The characters were at times not great people. I’ve Read This states: “The characters of Sam and Sadie aren’t all that likeable – both are selfish and self-absorbed the majority of the time.” I can’t say that I had feelings toward the characters one way or the other, but for some reason that didn’t seem to detract from the overall story for me. I think that the characters were meant to be flawed, and this made them more real somehow, more relatable.

I really love BOOKSHELF FANTASIES‘s take on this book: “Over the course of the years covered by Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, we learn about their backstories, their families, their traumas, and of course, their brilliance. There’s so much to absorb here about culture, wellness and disability, reality and virtual worlds, intelligence and academia, and more. Sadie, Sam, and Marx are unforgettable characters, beautifully described and developed. We know these people and what makes them tick; we understand their joys and their pain, and when bad things happen, it hurts deeply.

The writing is beautiful, often funny, often pensive, filled with oddball characters in a world that many of us (anyone not involved in gaming and coding) may find alien. We’re given entrance into this world through these characters’ experiences, and it’s fascinating.”

As of the writing of this review Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow has a 4.35 rating on Goodreads. Seems about in line with the 4 stars I am giving it. I would recommend this book for people who like character driven novels, especially those who are interested in video games and 90s nostalgia.

BOOK REVIEW: This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

Title: This Time Tomorrow

Author: Emma Straub

Audiobook Length: 8 hours and 31 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Time Travel, Contemporary, Magical Realism

Read Start Date: October 1, 2022

Read Finish Date: October 4, 2022 

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: With her celebrated humor, insight, and heart, beloved New York Times bestseller Emma Straub offers her own twist on traditional time travel tropes, and a different kind of love story.

On the eve of her 40th birthday, Alice’s life isn’t terrible. She likes her job, even if it isn’t exactly the one she expected. She’s happy with her apartment, her romantic status, her independence, and she adores her lifelong best friend. But her father is ailing, and it feels to her as if something is missing. When she wakes up the next morning she finds herself back in 1996, reliving her 16th birthday. But it isn’t just her adolescent body that shocks her, or seeing her high school crush, it’s her dad: the vital, charming, 40-something version of her father with whom she is reunited. Now armed with a new perspective on her own life and his, some past events take on new meaning. Is there anything that she would change if she could?

My Review: I liked this book, but I wouldn’t say I loved it. After a few too many drinks on the eve of Alice’s 40th birthday, she finds herself passing out in the guardhouse of her childhood home. The next morning she wakes up on her sixteenth birthday, in her sixteen year old body, but with her forty year old mind. She has the chance to do it all over again — the infamous night when she didn’t hook up with the “one that got away.” What strikes Alice about her sixteen year old self, is her forty year old father, who is, in the present day, dying. He seems so young, so full of life, and she finds herself just wanting to be close to him. To spend time with him.

Nevertheless, Alice goes to the party, sleeps with the one that got away, and wakes up on her 40th birthday to find that she is now married (to the one who (previously) got away) with children. What I didn’t like about this reiteration of Alice is that she almost despises her children. She has no memory of the past 24 years of her “new” life, which I find strange — wouldn’t she have remembered both time lines? Since she has no memories of her children, she feels no connection with them. She doesn’t feel like their mother, and so, she doesn’t want to be their mother. She doesn’t want the life with the husband she must love, right? Did Alice at 39 and 364 days love her family and then when she wakes up at 40 she is a different person (because she doesn’t remember her new past)? This just doesn’t square with me.

Anyway, Alice goes back in time again and does it all over again and again trying on new lives like new jackets. Each time she doesn’t remember how she got there — she is perpetually the original Alice in a new life she doesn’t remember living. Then she compares her old life with the aspects of the new life and makes a determination about which life is better — I don’t think this is a fair comparison. She has no memories, no emotions, etc. of her new timeline. How can she really judge which is best?

While it was nice that she got to spend time with her father again and again in the past, I was ultimately dissatisfied with the ending. I won’t go into too much detail, but it felt like the book was about a futile journey. Since the father didn’t remember each timeline, the only one developing a longer, lasting relationship was Alice. And what happened from the age of 16 to 40 in the timeline she chose last? All of the new memories she would have had with her father, anything she started to build on the do-over night of her 16th birthday, was just nonexistent in her mind.

As of the writing of this post, This Time Tomorrow has a 3.83 rating on Goodreads, which seems to mean that it has mixed reviews. So I guess on this one, I’m not that far off the mark with my assessment. Nevertheless, I think that if you like time traveling stories with themes of father-daughter relationships, then this book is for you.

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Storm by Tim Lebbon

59431951._SY475_Title: The Last Storm

Author: Tim Lebbon

Book Length: 368 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Post Apocalyptic

Read Start Date: May 30, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 7, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: A gripping road trip through post-apocalyptic America from Tim Lebbon, New York Times bestseller and author of Netflix’s The Silence.

Struck by famine and drought, large swathes of North America are now known as the Desert. Set against this mythic and vast backdrop, The Last Storm is a timely story of a family of Rainmakers whose rare and arcane gift has become a curse.

Jesse stopped rainmaking the moment his abilities became deadly, bringing down not just rain but scorpions, strange snakes and spiders. He thought he could help a land suffering from climate catastrophe, but he was wrong. When his daughter Ash inherited the tainted gift carried down the family bloodline, Jesse did his best to stop her. His attempt went tragically wrong, and ever since then he has believed himself responsible for his daughter’s death.

But now his wife Karina––who never gave up looking for their daughter—brings news that Ash is still alive. And she’s rainmaking again. Terrified of what she might bring down upon the desperate communities of the Desert, the estranged couple set out across the desolate landscape to find her. But Jesse and Karina are not the only ones looking for Ash. As the storms she conjures become more violent and deadly, some follow her seeking hope. And one is hungry for revenge.

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book took me so long to finish because the first 20% or so was a little slow going. But wow, after that it got really good, and I ended up finishing it in only a few days. The Last Storm follows the POV of several characters: Jesse, a Rainmaker. Katrina, Jesse’s wife. Ash: Jesse’s daughter, who is also a Rainmaker. Cee, a woman who befriends Ash, and Jimi, a son of a murdered man out for revenge against Jesse.

I loved the characters in this book. Jesse, a Rainmaker who gave it all up when his gift accidentally killed three people. To make rain, Jesse plugs himself into an “apparatus” of his own construction, transporting him to what seems to be an alternate reality. From this reality, the rain is brought to our reality through Jesse, as though he were a conduit of some sort. In his last attempt it all went wrong, and creatures came with the rain. He tried to teach his daughter in the ways of Rainmaking, to avoid the same mistakes, but when she started to bring down creatures, just as Jesse had, he became afraid. “What if it got much, much worse than anything [he] was ever capable of? What if she did that in a city?”

Jesse injected her with a serum, trying to suppress her rainmaking abilities. “She was far more dangerous than me, even at that young age. What happened to me was worse than anything my mother brought down, and her father before her. It’s a pattern, a degeneration that seems to follow what’s happened here to the climate. The effect we’ve had on the world. I believe it was reflected in my place, the Shore. Maybe Ash’s Skunkville is even more affected. And no on can control that.”

Mistaking it for attempted murder, Ash ran away — and did not come back. For nine years Jesse lived alone, apart from other humans, tortured with the guilt that he had killed his daughter. His wife, Katrina left in search of Ash, and followed her without success for nine years. Hardened by her time of the road, Katrina is barely recognizable to Jesse when she appears on his doorstep. Ash is trying to assemble another apparatus to start bringing down the rain again, and her parents must find her before its too late. Will they succeed? Or will Ash bring down unimaginable terror with the rain?

Rainmaking is in Ash’s blood and the storm is calling for her. When she’s trapped in the tumult she blacks out for days, weeks, months at a time, finding peace only in the eye of the internalized storm. Ash needs to get it out, but at what cost? She thinks she can control it with the help of Cee, a woman she finds on the road, but she will soon realize that the storm is just too dangerous.

Jimi, the son of the one of the three people Jesse killed all those years ago, thought that the Rainmakers were gone. When he finds out that Ash is alive, he seeks her out to exact his revenge of her and Jesse.

As the character’s paths come closer and closer to crossing, the tension mounts, making for a fantastic page turner.

I also loved the world building in this book  — near future US where climate change has reduced parts of the country into desert — basically wastelands where only the most hardened of people can survive. I also really loved the alternate reality, different for each Rainmaker. A place of tumult and creatures, waiting to use the Rainmakers as a gateway into our world. Will Ash be the Earth’s salvation, bringing only the rain? Or will she instead bring destruction?

I highly recommend this book.

10 Book Reviews

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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: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Title: Sea of Tranquility

Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Book Length: 5 hours and 47 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction

Read Start Date: June 17, 2022

Read Finish Date: June 19, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:

A novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

My Review: I’m honestly not sure how to feel about this one. I checked it out from the library because it was written by the same author as Station Eleven (see my review here), which I liked. However, there are a lot of moving pieces in the story and at times it gets a little confusing. There are several smaller stories, which are part of the larger over arching story…but what this means essentially, is that the smaller stories don’t really get too much attention, while at the same time getting too much, if that makes sense.

So for example, the first part of the book is about the character Edwin from the early 1900’s. We get to learn a lot about his character, but in the grand scheme of things, Edwin himself, as a character isn’t all that important. Do we really need to know that Edwin is the son of an Earl who was exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party? Not really. What is important, is his role in the over arching story, i.e., that while in exile he happened to glimpse an anomaly in the time continuum. On the other hand, maybe we do need the background so that we know what Edwin was doing in the woods that fateful day. In this case, however, I would have liked to have more of the story behind the lesser characters themselves.

The book is short, less than 6 hours of listening time. Perhaps it could have benefitted from being longer.

Additionally, like Station Eleven, this book touches on the theme of pandemics. The character Olive Llewellyn is stuck in a lockdown for 100+ days — however, this storyline takes place in the 2100’s, so it’s not COVID-19. There is also mention of various other plagues e.g. Ebola 10 (a made up plague) and a passing reference to COVID-19. I didn’t feel exhausted by this like some other books that have COVID-19 as their central theme.

On the other hand, despite the above, the concept behind the book is intriguing. Time travel, the affect on the time line by such travel, etc. I just wish there had been more of this and less of the other things.

I only gave the book 3 stars, but that’s not to say that there aren’t people out there who absolutely loved the book and gave it 5 stars, for example Theresa Smith Writes.

All in all, I’d have to say it was an entertaining read that is definitely worth it if you have the time.

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.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

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: 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.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

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: Scarecrow Has a Gun by Michael Paul Kozlowsky

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Title: Scarecrow Has a Gun

Author: Michael Paul Kozlowsky

Audiobook Length: 8 hours and 10 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction

Read Start Date: February 21, 2022

Read Finish Date:

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Sean
Whittlesea was there when his wife was murdered. He saw the light leave her eyes. He held her dead body in his arms. He knows he wept, but he cannot recollect a single other detail. Tormented by the tragedy, Sean relives the horror over and over again. As he struggles to recall what really happened, his imagination serves up an endless chain of scenarios. The truth, however, remains hidden in the vault of his memory, and
the key is nowhere to be found. Nearly two decades later, Sean, now remarried and a father of two, wins a bizarre contest hosted by his eccentric boss. The prize is the Memory Palace, a state-of-the-art black box that purportedly allows its possessor to relive every moment he has ever experienced, playing out all the memories on a screen.

While the small machine at first appears to be the answer to the mystery surrounding the death of his wife, it instead upends Sean’s life. He pushes his family further and further away as the Memory Palace forces him to confront harsh realities and difficult questions that he lacks the strength to face or answer. Spiraling downward, Sean encounters increasingly harrowing challenges that force him to
realize that his memory is not the only thing at stake. To recover the truth about his past, Sean must fight for his very life.

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC Audiobook. I gave this book 4 stars, as my overall impression of the book was positive. Let’s start with the cover. My first impression, having not read the synopsis of the book, was that the book was a mystery / thriller starring a detective. I was under this impression due to the title “Scarecrow Has a Gun.” I was not correct in the slightest. The title is actually an obscure reference to the fact that in the movie Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow at some point in the film has a pistol, but that nobody seems to remember this fact. This reference is so obscure, that until the author made reference to it in the last 25% of the book, I had no idea. And even when the character in the book explained this reference, I am still not 100% sure I understand it in the context of the book — maybe that memories are not what they seem? That reality is not what we remember? I wasn’t too impressed either with the cover image itself. 34430839I think it is supposed to be a picture of the memory palace, but when I compare it to the cover of e.g. Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King (see the image on the right), which is another book about a mysterious box, then the cover of Scarecrow Has a Gun seems rather dark and does not draw the eye. Based upon the cover, I’m not sure I would have picked it up at the bookstore.

Regardless, of my initial impression of the cover and title, I have to say that I really enjoyed the book overall. We meet Sean
Whittlesea as he is competing for a prize in his boss’s “widowers club.” Essentially, this is a invitation only exclusive club which is only open to widowers. Every so often (and at random intervals) the widowers compete in a contest to win an undisclosed prize. After several attempts, Sean finally wins. His prize: the memory palace. The memory palace is a box that when plugged into your brain, shows you past memories. Upon seeing such memories, Sean is convinced that there is something wrong with the box because nothing is as he had previously remembered it. Unfortunately, it is all too real and what the box reveals about his wife’s death will alter his life forever.

I really liked the premise of the book: memories are not what they seem. What we actually remember is only an illusion. It made me think whether there are certain memories of mine that are incorrect, or that I am not remembering correctly. Did I really see my grandfather being driven away in an ambulance when I was four? Or is this a memory I have reconstructed from stories told by my parents?

Although this book purports to be science fiction, I didn’t really see any elements of that. To me it would have been better classified as a “mystery” or even a “thriller”.  I mainly listened to this book while feeding my 6 month old baby or going for walks, cleaning the house, etc. It is an easy read and doesn’t require too much concentration. It is a great story to pass the time. The story is engaging and I definitely did not see the twist at the end coming. However, the ending left me a little unsatisfied. It seemed a bit rushed. I would have liked to have it drawn out more. It’s like we waited the entire book to find out what happened, and then in one or two scenes everything is explained and then its over.

The most interesting part of the book for me was actually the widowers club, and how the person running this club (Sean’s boss) was essentially “creating” better people so that they could benefit the company. It reminds me of certain cults. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more regarding the widowers club in the book. I would be interested to read more books in a series about the widowers club. I wonder if the author has this in mind, or if this book was just a one off.

This book will be published in August 2022. I would definitely recommend adding it to your TBR list.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

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.